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Sample: Title; rating (out of 4); principal
setting; year of release; international co-producer (if any); cast; description;
scriptwriter; director; content warning; running time.
(2007-2008) * * Ordena Stephens "Novelette Campbell", Trey Anthony "Joy Campbell", Richard Fagon "Nigel", Ngozi Paul "Starr", with Conroy Stewart "Dre" .....Comedy-drama set at a small Carribean-Canadian hair salon in downtown Toronto. Stephens plays the level-headed owner of the shop; Anthony her irresponsible sister; Fagon the womanizing hairdresser; Paul the more repressed apprentice. Stewart plays "Novelette"'s son, only recently come to stay with her.
Derived from a successful stage play (and following in the heels of other black-themed stories set at barber shops, such as the British "Desmond's", and the Hollywood movies "Barbershop") Da Kink suffers -- as some other series have before it -- ffrom a lack of focus at its very core. Essentially, it's meant to be a dramedy, a term initially coined to denote something that straddles being both a comedy and a drama, but too often results in series that are neither very funny, nor that effective as dramas. Here the scripts lean more towards being light dramas...but the presentation too often leans towards the broadness of a sitcom, with largely ineffective results. The episodes try hard to cram a lot into their half hour -- including throwing in flashbacks to a customer-of-the-week's private life (as if "Novelette" can almost mystically read that person's pain while cutting her hair) -- and it can seem like too much. Stephens and Anthony are good, but many of the other actors are more uneven and, as mentioned, the needed tone of the performances (is it a broad comedy or a subtle drama?) isn't really settled on.
An awkward sub-plot also has "Starr" be secretly infatuated with "Nigel", even as she publicly criticizes his philandering ways -- it's done almost as though it's supposed to generate "will they/won't they" romantic tension but, as such, just seems to condone and glamourize the very stereotype (promiscuous black man always on the make) her character ostensibly criticizes. Billed as Canada's first all black series...but, depending on your point of view, in 21st Century Canada is that a healthy thing to have any series be "all" one ethnicity -- previous "black" series in Canada (Lord Have Mercy, Drop the Beat) usually had a few token non-black characters, just as most "white" series usually make the effort to include non-white regulars. Still, the second season reflected a greater sense of pluralism and multi-culturalism (the story about the white mother with the black daughter who wanted straight hair was even kind of touching by the end). Developed for TV by co-stars Paul and Anthony. Two seasons of half-hour episodes on CanWest-Global.
DAILY TIPS FOR MODERN LIVING (TV Series)
This TV series was probably conceived on the basis of how to make a sitcom really, really cheaply...unfortunately, though not horrible, it boasted few real laughs. Much better series have been fashioned around a similar premise from American shows like "Buffalo Bill" (which was a more conventional sitcom, taking the viewer behind the scenes into the characters' personal lives) to "Night Stand" (a short-lived parody of tabloid TV: like Daily Tips... it had basically one set, and an inept host interviewing "guests") to the Canadian Red Green Show (which also had pantomime segments). 6 half-hour episodes on the CBC.
DAMES GALANTES *
1/2 setting: other
(1989) (/France/Italy) Richard Bohringer, Isabella Rosselini, Marianne Basler, Marie-Christine Barrault, Robin Renucci, Ann Letourneau, Alain Doutey .....In 1500s France, soldier Brantome (Bohringer) finds he would much rather reflect on all the women he has loved than fight. Choppy, episodic serio-comic pic -- in which even the episodes seem choppy and episodic -- leaves one entirely unsure why it was even made. The politics, too, will be confusing to those unfamiliar with the period. English titles: Romantic Ladies and Galant Ladies. sc: Jean-Charles Tacchella, Jacques Emmanuel. dir: Jean-Charles Tacchella. - sexual content, partial female nudity.- 103 min.
DAN CANDY'S LAW a.k.a. Alien
(2010-2011) * * * ... * * 1/2 Fred Ewanuick ("Dan Phillips"), Mary Astor ("Claire"), Paul Bates ("Jeff"), Benjamin Ayres ("Mike"), Suzanne Coy ("Anita") (1st), Laurie Murdoch ("Alan Duffy"), Agam Darshi ("Brianna") (1st), David Ferry ("Fern"), Lara Jean Chorostecki ("Charlie") (1st) .....Comedy about a slacker-loser (Ewanuick) who spontaneously decides to run for mayor of his home town (the fictional Wessex, Ontario). Astor plays his ex-girlfriend, a successful publicist; Bates his level headed best friend reluctantly recruited as his campaign manager; Ayres plays "Claire"'s coporate climbing fiancee; Coy and Murdoch rival candidates, she a no nonsense small businesswoman, he the current deputy mayor; Darshi plays "Anita"'s pretty niece; Ferry the spaced out owner of the pub where "Dan" works, and Chrorostecki the snarky waitress. With the second season, "Dan" was now mayor. Admittedly, you (probably) couldn't keep a series going year after year set during an election, but the new dynamic maybe hurt it a bit -- oh, the series remains reasonably clever and witty, but lacks some of the freshness of the first season being now just another series about a politician navigating the system. "Dan" is, by default, no longer really the underdog. Murdoch was still around, now acting as "Dan"'s aide, and "Dan" was now back with his ex (with "Mike" now the pining ex) and "Jeff" took over running the bar, with Ferry's appearances more irregular...and Coy, Darshi and Chorostecki gone entirely.
One of two sitcoms hoping to ride the wave of post-Corner Gas (the other being Hiccups) -- this one stars former Gas-er Ewanuick, and was created by guys who had worked on that previous hit series. And the initial result -- was very funny. A nice "concept" premise, with agreeable characters played by personable actors, with just enough shading to give (most of them) dimension and nuance beyond simply delivering a gag. Bates is arguably the stand out, delivering a drily funny turn as a "straight man". The first season plots were interesting, and the dialogue clever, mixing low-key "amusing" bits, with out and out silliness (and occasional black humour) -- not unlike Corner Gas itself, but arguably smarter and more ambitious. Farrell and the co-creators seem to like words, making for some clever phrasings and use of language. Unfortunately, the second season wasn't as strong, lacking the energy and freshness of the first season -- still amusing and clever, but often seeming to be struggling a bit to fill out the running time with rather minor plot lines. It was cancelled after its second season, though probably less because of any consensus that it wasn't as strong, and more simply its failure to improve on the first season ratings (as well as a general house cleaning at the network). Created by Mark Farrell, Paul Mather, Kevin White. Two seasons of half-hour episodes on CTV.
Dan Redican Comedy Hour *
(1993) Dan Redican, Paul Greenberg, Maria Vacratsis, Sheila McCarthy, Deborah Theaker, Dana Brooks.....Hour long sketch comedy featuring ex-Frantic Redican in his first TV special. Funny, inoffensive show proves that Redican is one of this country's most underrated comedians. It works thanks to the succinct, slightly surrealistic sketches and the fact that Redican and co. underplay...unlike so many in this country who feel that mugging is an art-form. sc: Dan Redican, with Tim Burns, Terry Saltsman, Carol Commisso. dir: Perry Rosemond.
THE DANCE GOES ON *
1/2 setting: P.Q.
(1992) Matthew James Almond, James Keach, Bryan Hennessey, Cary Lawrence, Louise Marleau, Elton Hayes, Genevieve Bujold.....Man (Keach) tries to aquaint his materialistic, L.A.-raised son (Almond) with his heritage on a trip to Gaspe. Seemingly from the heart, this drama -- reminiscent of Isabel, but lighter in tone -- is trite, obvious and clumsy, with the actors, both professional and non-professional, never convincing and the film more a travelogue than a drama. Actor Almond is the son from the one-time marriage between the director and Bujold (in a couple of cameos). And since there are obvious parallels to the director's life, implying that it's mainly the mother's fault seems a little mean-spirited. sc./dir: Paul Almond. 104 min.
DANCE ME OUTSIDE *
* setting: Ont.
(1994) Ryan Black, Adam Beach, Lisa LaCroix, Michael Greyeyes, Kevin Hicks, Jennifer Podemski, Sandrine Holt, Herbie Barnes.....Life on an Ontario Indian reserve as viewed by a couple of happy-go-lucky teens (Black and Beach), with love, Native rights, and the murder of a local girl that leads to plans of revenge. Comedy-drama was critically praised (but then, what isn't in Canada?) but is ultimately pretty slight. The comedy rarely becomes more than obvious, let alone clever, and the drama, despite serious topics, remains emotionally unrealized -- and downright scarey, if you take its matter-of-fact approach to vigilantism seriously. Adapted from a collection of short stories, which could explain its lack of focus, and the fact it was turned into the series The Rez could explain its lack of character development: it's little more than a TV episode disguised as a feature film. sc: Bruce McDonald, Don McKellar, John Frizzell (from the book by W.P. Kinsella). dir: Bruce McDonald. 85 min.
DANCING IN THE DARK *
* setting: Ont.
(1986) Martha Henry, Neil Munro, Rosemary Dunsmore, Richard Monette .....Obsessive house-wife (Henry) builds her world around her husband (Munro), then goes crazy when she finds he's not all she thought he was. Interesting idea and well directed but over-long, repetitive and lacking an interesting protaganist. Henry is excellent and Munro fine in a supporting role. Won Best Actress Genie (Henry) and Adapted Script. sc./dir: Leon Marr (from the novel by Joan Barfoot). - sexual content.- 98 min.
O.K. TV series became better as it went along, with a willingness (surprisingly) to deal honestly and seriously with the everyday problems and conflicts of family life. Created by Peter Dixon, Paul Saltzman. Co-produced with the U.S. Disney Company. Half-hour episodes.
* * 1/2
(1998) Andrea Roth, Linden Ashby, Rae Dawn Chong, Ian Tracey, Aaron Pearl, Ian Marsh, Paul McGillion, Maria Delver.....A female executive (Roth) takes a walk on the wild side, becoming involved with a mysterious and dangerous man, while also sort of seeing a more staid co-worker -- all the while murders are occurring around her. Enjoyable suspense-drama with good performances from all the principals (including American import Ashby), and a reasonably good tempo that keeps the thing from bogging down...despite the fact that there's nothing really new or even always plausible here. The movie hinges on an obvious twist, yet it's unclear whether it's meant to be a surprise or not! Roth is fine, but this is an "erotic" thriller...and she, apparently, doesn't do nude scenes. So it's an erotic thriller where all of the star's flashes of flesh are a body double! sc: Michael Hamilton-Wright. d. Penelope Buitenhuis. - sexual content, partial female nudity, violence. - 95 min.
A DANGEROUS METHOD *
* 1/2 setting: other
(2011) (/Germany/U.K.) Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbinder, Sarah Gadon, Vincent Cassel.....Early 20th Century story of pioneering psychoanalyst Carl Jung (Fassbinder) and his relationships with patient/colleague/mistress Sabina Spielrein (Knightley) and Sigmund Freud (Mortensen). Drama is well enough acted and with some good scenes...but can feel oddly structured, as though they had various incidents and trivia they wanted to include for historical significance (from references to Jung's interest in parapsychology to Cassel in a small part as colleague, Otto Gross), weren't sure how to shape them into a story...so shot them anyway and hoped to stitch it together in the editing room. The result can feel like an assortment of scenes, set pieces, and monologues, kind of like "Thirty-Two Short Films About Carl Jung" (that's a reference). All of which presumably reflects the work's origin as a stage play. The result -- perhaps appropriate for a film about psychiatrists and typical of director Cronenberg's aloof style -- is a movie that can feel overly cerebral...while missing out on really exploring the human emotions underneath. You can come away ambivalent about the characters and, for a movie about the pioneers of a school of medical thought, kind of vague on the technobabble (perhaps because, at this point in their careers, psychoanalysism has already become more accepted). Of the cast, only Gradon, as Jung's wife, is Canadian. Received five Genies including for Best Supporting Actor (Mortensen). sc: Christopher Hampton (from his stage play, "The Talking Cure", and the book A Most Dangerous Method by John Kerr). dir: David Cronenberg. - sexual content, partial female nudity.- 99 min.
DANGEROUS OFFENDER *
* * 1/2 setting: Ont.
(1996) Brooke Johnson, Sara Botsford, Patricia Gage, David Fox, Tracey Moore, Maurice Godin, James B. Douglas.....Story of Marlene Moore (Johnson), a troubled woman who'd spent most of her life in jail, and focusing on her period of incarceration while fighting the Crown's attempt to have her declared a dangerous offender and locked up indefinitely -- the first woman to be so labelled -- despite the fact that she had never committed a serious crime. Johnson's brilliantly mesmerizing, uncompromising performance of a truly damaged person combine with a seeming genuine empathy for their subject by Cole & Dale (who both knew the real Moore) to make this a notch or two above most made-for-TV true stories. Eric Peterson appears, unbilled, as a sympathetic psychiatrist. Johnson deservedly received the Best Actress Gemini. Aired on the CBC. sc: Janis Cole. dir: Holly Dale. - violence, casual female nudity.- 92 min.
DANS LE VENTRE DU DRAGON*
1/2 setting: P.Q.
(1989) David La Haye, Remy Girard, Michel Cote, Marie Tifo, Monique Mercure, Pierre Curzi, Jean-Louis Millette.....Poor man (La Haye) volunteers to be a guinea pig at a strange research centre (headed by Mercure) and his buddies (Girard and Cote) decide to rescue him. Yves Simoneau, the king of style-over-substance, triumphs again with this visually striking, incredibly boring film. The elements of comedy, drama, suspense, SF and social commentary in other hands could have made a brilliant film. Too bad. English title: In the Belly of the Dragon. sc: Pierre Revelin, Marcel Beaulieu, Yves Simoneau. dir: Yves Simoneau.
THE DARK *
1/2 setting: USA.
(1994) Stephen McHattie, Cynthia Belliveau, Jaimz Woolvett, Neve Campbell, Dennis O'Connor, Brion James.....A creature living below a U.S. cemetery, able to both cure and kill, draws together various characters, including a scientist (McHattie) who wants to capture it. The good news is that this low-budget suspenser is more original than most Canadian made quickies, with a strong streak of humanity (reflected in the absence of graphic violence), attempts at humour and a largely respectable cast. The bad news is that it's still about a half-dozen rewrites away from being any good. McHattie's still in search of that great movie vehicle. sc: Robert C. Cooper. dir: Craig Pryce. - violence, brief female and male nudity, sexual content.- 87 min.
Dark Eyes * *
(1994) (/U.S.) Kelly McGillis, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Roy Dupuis, Kenneth Welsh, Ron White, Michael Copeman.....American police woman (McGillis) takes charge of a disgruntled task force whose last case got an officer killed. Hour long pilot that never became a series, and it's not hard to see why. Not atrocious, but dull and confusing. Imports McGillis and Kelly (as her ex) get most of the lines. It may have been inspired a little by the British series "Prime Suspect" (also about a woman cop heading an all male squad). Shown in Canada on CTV. sc: Wayne Grigsby, Barbara Samuels. dir: Nancy Savoca.
Dark Horse * 1/2
(1991) Christianne Hirt, Wayne Robson, Catherine Disher.....After her own mount is hurt, an equestrian rider (Hirt) is given a second chance with a difficult horse -- and the challenge to prepare it for the Olympics. They say truth is stranger than fiction, but not if this hour long, fact based drama is anything to judge. Dull and flat, with (surprisingly) only so-so performances.
DARK STORM *
1/2 setting: USA
(2006) (/U.S.) Stephen Baldwin, Ron LaBelle, Gardiner Millar, Camille Sullivan, Keegan Connor Tracy, William B. Davis, Carrie Genzel.....American scientists experimenting with Dark Matter energy accidentally set off rogue energy storms, and the lead scientist (American actor Baldwin) gets imbued with mysterious abilities...and bad guys are trying to steal their research. Despite all that going on...this still ends up a frustratingly dull, static made-for-TV flick. Scientific implausibility is the least of the problems here, despite a premise that, on paper, might've made a fun B-movie romp. One of those movies where you can't decide where the root fault lies: poor script, poor direction, or some poor performances -- some of the actors are okay (LaBelle, Sullivan, etc.) but others not so much, notably Baldwin who seems a little like he's on tranquilizers. But ultimately each weighs down the other (maybe a more dynamic star would've energized the dialogue -- maybe a better script would've kindled the actors' enthusiasm). sc: Sean Malcolm, Brett Schneider, John Cherfer, Jason Bourque. dir: Jason Bourque. - violence; sexual content.- app. 90 min.
THE DARK SIDE OF THE HEART see El Lado Oscuro Del Corazon
DARKNESS FALLING *
1/2 setting: USA
(2001) (/U.K.) Janet Kidder, Paul Johansson, Jason Priestley, Patsy Kensit.....After her twin dies under suspicious circumstances, a straight-laced lawyer (Kidder) discovers she lived a kinky S&M lifestyle, and is alternately repulsed by, and attracted to, that sub-culture. Dull suspense-drama has a pretty familiar premise but takes so long between the "suspense" bits, it seems more like it wants to be just a drama, but doesn't actually develop its characters enough to succeed, nor does it really seem as though the filmmakers put much effort into understanding their kinky sub-culture. It's definitely just there for lurid titilation...but not enough so to actually makes this an erotic drama. And the climax is handled so sillily, it seems almost a spoof! A twist to the whole twin thing and the killer's motive is nice and Kidder and Johansson (as her fiance) are certainly capable enough. Filmed cheaply on video tape. One of those movies where you can recognize Toronto newspaper boxes, streetcars, and even glimpse a Canadian flag in one shot...yet it still throws in a lingering close up of U.S. flag emblazoned over an American eagle during a brief scene at a police station! Right, like it would've been a worse movie if it admitted it was set in Canada (I'm not sure that's possible). sc: Colin D. Simpson, Bradley Simpson, and Wilson Coneybeare (story Kate Hole, Sheldon Inkol). dir: Dominic Shiach. 91 min.
THE DARKSIDE *
(1987) Tony Galati, Cindy (Cyndy) Preston, Peter Read, John Tench, Charles Loriot.....Cabbie (Galati) becomes involved with a girl (Preston) who's on the lam from some thugs. Weak performances in this badly made and muddled thriller. sc: Allan Magee, Matt Black. dir: Constantino Magnatta. - violence, partial female nudity.- 95 min.
THE DARLING FAMILY *
(1993) Linda Griffiths, Alan Williams.....An unmarried couple who have been seeing each other only for a few months is faced with her unexpected pregnancy...and what to do about it: she thinks maybe she wants it, and he thinks probably he doesn't. Minimalist two character drama is interesting and, surprisingly, amusing at times, though hurt by direction and even performances that can lean toward being self-consciously important. A little subtlety wouldn't have hurt. sc: Linda Griffiths (from her play). dir: Alan Zweig. 85 min.
Daughters of the Country.....Anthology
title for four hour-long dramas made in 1986 by the NFB and produced by
Norma Bailey, exploring Native/white relations by focusing on fictional
metis women at different periods in Canadian history. So-so series, as
a whole, got bogged down in its obvious (and reverse racist) preachiness,
with only a couple of them really working as dramas. titles: Ikwe,
Madeleine, Places Not Our Own, The
(1976) * * * David Steinberg ("David Steinberg"), Bill Saluga ("Vinnie"), with Martin Short ("Johnny Del Bravo"), Dave Thomas ("James MacGregor"), Joe Flaherty ("Kirk Dirkwood"), John Candy ("Spider Reichman"), Trudy Young ("Margi"), others.....Sitcom set backstage at a variety show, with the requisite celebrity guests usually playing themselves (some who mean little almost thirty years later). Steinberg, essentially, played himself (or a fictional version anyway). American comic Saluga played his best friend, the owner of the local diner across the street, "Hello Deli" -- Saluga also cropped up in his then-popullar persona of Raymond J. Johnson Jr. ("You can call me Ray, and you can call me Ray Jay..." -- if you gotta ask...). Others in the cast (many associated with SCTV) included: Short as the show's conceited singer (and Short could actually sing!) who was Dave's cousin; Thomas the Scottish security guard; Flaherty the stage manager; Candy the band leader; and Young the waitress at the deli.
Canadian-born Steinberg had a background as an "edgy" stand up comic from his days as a recurring guest on the ground breaking U.S. variety show, "The Smothers Brothers" (where showbiz folklore has it that it was one of Steinberg's routines that helped lead to that controversial show being axed by a skittish network -- though that may be more fancy than fact). But this series, essentially a sitcom, is pretty innocuous and tame...but also reasonably amusing and unpretentiously goofy. Worth trying a few episodes of to see if you can get on its wavelength: the set-ups are obvious, the gags unsubtle, but that's kind of what makes it good natured fun. The series, arguably, was also a little ahead of its time, with the concept of a show within a show later used (in varying ways) by "The Muppet Show" and "The Larry Sanders Show". However, what this series' relationship is to an earlier, hour-long "David Steinberg Show" (made in 1972 in the U.S.) I've yet to verify.
Although filmed in Toronto with a mainly Canadian cast (except Saluga), the series seemed to try to pretend it was American, with even many of Steinberg's monologue jokes implying he was American...though at least once he referred to being Canadian, and the American comedians Bob & Ray (guest starring) referred to being in Toronto. The celebrity guest stars were usually American, or at least Canadians who were known for their American careers. Half-hour episodes, shown in Canada on CTV and recently rerun on The Comedy Network.
(2005-2006) * * 1/2 Nicholas Campbell ("Dominick DaVinci"), Mylene Dinh-Robic ("Rita Mah"), Benjamin Ratner ("Sam Berger"), Ian Tracey ("Mick Leary"), Venus Terzo ("Angela Kosmo"), Brian Markinson ("Bill Jacobs"), Stephen E. Miller ("Zack McNab"), Patrick Gallagher ("Det. Joe Finn"), Hrothgar Mathews ("Charlie Klotchko"), Charles Martin Smith ("Friedland"), Gina Holden ("Claire"), Alex Diakun ("Chip"), Hiro Kanagawa ("Roy Komori"), Colin Cunningham, Jim Codrington, Terrence Kelly, others....Drama spun off (or evolved) from Da Vinci's Inquest, as former coroner Dominick Da Vinci (Campbell) becomes mayor of Vancouver. It's sort of a new series (with new characters, and focusing on municipal politics) while also being just a continuation of Da Vinci's Inquest (with many carryover characters -- Tracy, now the new coroner, Terzo, etc.) and with some cops-n'-robbers subplots having nothing to do with politics, or Da Vinci). Dinh-Robic and Ratner play his aides; Markinson the police chief, and Mathews the chief's aide -- the bitter feud between the mayor and the police chief serving as the series' chief conflict. The chief plot threads for the series involved an escalating rivalry between the police and fire services, neither trusting each other...or the mayor; Da Vinci establishing a pilot Red Light district (a plot carried over from the previous series); and a tent city of homeless (headed by Smith) Da Vinci was trying to arrange housing for. Kanagawa, as the chief of a Fire House, was also the series' story editor.
Though this reflects many of the same stylistic characteristics (and flaws) of DVI...it was a bit better, the political milieu more intriguing and unusual for a weekly series (contrasted with DVI's familiar crime drama idiom). But like DVI, Da Vinci's City Hall seemed to latch onto one or two plot threads...and then settle back to see how long they could drag them out, making a slow moving, kind of repetitious show where you could skip a bunch of episodes, and not really miss much. Though, it was, conversely, awfully hard to just jump into, as there was very little effort made to establish who was doing what per episode for any new viewers. Heck, some plot threads were even carried over from the previous series! Cunningham, as a crooked cop, had been a fixture of DVI for many seasons -- yeah, all those years and the characters never did manage to arrest him or even get him kicked off the force! Characterization was minimal (you never saw, or knew much about, the characters' private lives), the focus instead on the machinations...even as that stuff often wasn't all that clever. And the series' point was often vague, as even "hero" Da Vinci was given to questionable moral -- and legal -- lapses. Still, as noted, if you stuck with it, and got into its groove, it was decently acted and could be sort of interesting in a kind of hypnotic way.
Ironically, despite my feeling it was better than DVI, it was cancelled rather abruptly after only one season (as part of mass axing that saw the CBC cancel half its fiction shows). True to the creators' tendency to just drag out plot threads endlessly, the season/series built to a climax...that really didn't resolve much, suggesting a second season would've just been more of the same. Though cancelled, the series produced a TV movie sequel (much as the earlier North of 60 resulted in some TV movie sequels). Created by Chris Haddock. One season of hour long episodes on the CBC.
(1998-1995) * * Nicholas Campbell ("Dominick DaVinci"), Suleka Mathew (Sunita 'Sunny' Ramen) (-6th), Donnelly Rhodes ("Leo Shannon"), Venus Terzo ("Angela Kosmo"), Ian Tracey ("Mick Leary"), Gwynyth Walsh ("Patricia DaVinci") (-4th), Robert Wisden ("Dr. Jim Flynn") (-2nd), Gerard Plunkett ("Bob Kelly"), Sarah Jane Redmond ("Sheila Kurtz") (2nd-), with Jewel Staite ("Gabriella DaVinci") (-3rd), Sarah Strange ("Helen"), Alex Diakun ("Chick Savoy"), Peter Williams ("Morris Winston"), Emily Perkins, Kandyse McClure (6th-7th), others......Crime-drama about an ex-Mountie turned Vancouver coroner (Campbell) and those around him. Mathew and Walsh play medical examiners, with Walsh his ex-wife; Wisden plays his boss, now dating his ex-wife; Rhodes plays a coarse, old-school cop not above breaking the rules (and laws) and Tracey and Terzo younger cops; Plunkett a Crown Attorney who took over Wisden's position after he left; Redmond the cops' boss. Staite plays "DaVinci's" daughter; Strange his secretary; Diakun another M.E. and Williams an investigator for the coroner's office.
Although this TV series is, ostensibly, about a coroner, and therefore evoking the classic 1960s Canadian drama, Wojeck, that isn't really the intention. Though, like Wojeck, it claimed to have been inspired by a real life personality -- in this case, Vancouver coroner (and politician) Larry Campbell. But whereas Wojeck was a drama series, tackling controversial social issues, with the occasional sprinkling of lighter weight crime and mystery episodes, Da Vinci's Inquest is much more a cop show that uses the coroner angle to distract attention from the fact that, conceptually, there isn't much new here (particularly coming, as it did, on the heels of CTV's Cold Squad). In many episodes, Da Vinci is actually a supporting character to the detectives -- and even then, Da Vinci himself is an exx-Mountie rather than a medical doctor. Even when it does tackle social issues, they seem more as intellectual abstractions, rather than stemming from any deeply felt social outrage, not really saying anything (save for the series' frequent call for Vancouver to establish a Red Light District, which is brought up so often in the series, one assumes the filmmakers really do feel strongly about it). And unlike the, at least nominally Liberal Wojeck, this series seems decidedly more reactionary, with odiously memorable scenes including "DaVinci" trying to coerce perjury from his ex-wife, and "Shannon" arranging the cold-blooded murder of a suspect. In fact the lead characters frequently abuse their positions and power...and it doesn't seem like the filmmakers see that as a bad thing!
The series overall suffers from a bizarre, laissez-faire attitude toward plotting and character. The opening pilot story -- with Eric Peterson as a necrophilliac serial killer -- seemed awfully thin for one episode...and they stretched it out over three. Other episodes can make you just go, "huh?" as final act revelations...are basically things you kind of inferred in the opening scene! While, at least initially, Da Vinci seemed to be a recovering alcoholic, but drank all the time without it seeming to affect his life or work. Huh? Eschewing the tidier plotting of most series, the series increasingly employs cases bleeding over from episode to episode, so that, in later seasons, in any given episodes, half the scenes have no relevance viewed in the one episode. Indeed, many plots are spread over, not just many episodes, but multiple seasons! Yet the plots aren't sufficiently imaginative or unusual to entirely justify being spread so far. Fans enjoy this low-key approach to story, while others might be put off to turn on an episode and realize the characters are still discussing a case they were investigating two or three seasons earlier! As with all series that indulge in protracted story lines, the bottom line is whether the episodes-of-the-week hold your interest enough to stick around to see how (or frankly if) the story lines resolve.
Easily the most critically acclaimed Canadian series of its day, in a sense, it's hard to evaluate. You don't really watch the series for characterization -- of which there is little -- or for its human drama -- ditto -- nor for its plots -- which are often rudimentary and poorly structured. Instead, it's all about the style. In content, the series isn't saying anything, or doing anything, that other shows don't do...particularly, say, the hit Canadian-financed U.S. series "CSI: Crime Scene Investigators" (with the latters' emphasis on the gradually unravelling of a case through methodology, married to occasional social issues). Da Vinci's Inquest just goes about it at a much, much slower pace. The series is an attempt to bring a realist, cinema verite technique to weekly television, a kind of more-real-than-real attitude (in that sense, evoking the earlier -- and now somewhat lampooned -- American TTV series, "Dragnet"). The thin plots are sttrrretccched out by having the actors repeat their lines, toss in extraneous "right" and "let's go", and recap scenes ("so, what you just told me is..."). It can make you question whether they just don't have enough material to fill up the hour. But what it all gets down to is whether it works for you. Either you're swept up in its edgy reality...or you find it silly and distracting, as they try so hard to seem natural, it actually seems unnatural and goofy. Campbell pulls it off with reasonable aplomb, as do some of the others (Williams), but a lot of the actors, well, don't.
Critically well regarded, but it seems more a case of flash n' sizzle over any true substance. It has repeatedly received the Gemini for Best Series...but it's a sign of the health of the Canadian TV biz that it wasn't clear what (serious) competition it had. Does it win 'cause people think it's great, or because they don't know who else to vote for? An extended sub-plot, of "DaVinci" contemplating political office, culminated in the series morphing into a new series: DaVinci's City Hall. In 2005 the series also gained some added publicity as it was picked up for syndication in the U.S. (presumably with some editing out of profanity) by the cable superstation WGN. Created by Chris Haddock. Hour long episodes on the CBC.
THE DAY * *
(2011) (/U.S.) Shawn Ashmore, Ashley Bell, Shannyn Sossamon, Dominic Monaghan, Cory Hardrict, Michael Eklund.....Quintet of young people wandering a post-apocalyptic landscape hole up in an old farm house where they must hold off a marauding horde of ... (well, that'd be telling). Mix of drama, action and horror is familiar but tightly-paced, stylish and moodily atmospheric (filmed in a quasi black & white) with good performances. Though given the plot revolves around a siege, the characters don't necessarily come up with clever strategies, and given so much of it is the characters...you don't really come to care about them. But the biggest problem is the filmmakers clearly want to revel in a gritty, fatalistic, "Deliverance" meets "Lord of the Flies" mentality (not that post-apocalyptic dramas are cheerfully up-beat in general) which, combined with some inconsistent characterization/motivation, means it can feel like they think they're saying something...but you're not really sure what! The result? Holds your interest while watching (which is half the battle of storytelling) but easily dismissed after the fact. Only Ashmore and Eklund are Canadian in the main cast. sc: Luke Passmore. dir: Doug Aarniokoski. - extreme violence; brief female nudity.- 84 min.
THE DAY BEFORE a.k.a. Control
A DAY IN A LIFE *
1/2 setting: B.C.
(2000) Richard Bull, Barbara Collentine, Vernon Chapman, Frances Bay, Emile Genest, Joy Coghill, Shawn Pyfrom, Ann Turnbull, Norris Domingue, David Glyn-Jones.....Story of various seniors during a day at a retirement home, focusing inparticular on one feisty and slightly embittered man (Bull). Awfully familiar comedy-drama has decent performances from its older performers (though the actors under sixty are sometimes more problematic) but it's a movie that doesn't really seem like a movie, ambling about with various half-realized plot threads, as if the filmmakers figured they'd somehow coalesce into a fleshed out whole. There's a supposedly dramatic, climactic scene where a character reads a letter from his deceased son...but it comes out of nowhere: we didn't know he had a son, deceased or otherwise, earlier in the film! The comedy is often broad, like a clumsy sitcom, and the pathos is almost ludicrous in its heavy handed cloyingness. The overall result is a production that, though undoubtedly well intentioned, seems almost amateurish, as if made by people who haven't quite figured out the niceties of storytelling. And retirement homes are, surely, a place for people who can't look after themselves, so doesn't it kind of skew the argument by casting spry, healthy actors who are clearly not the average inhabitant of such places? sc: Pierre-Jules Audet. dir: Jean Mercier. 95 min.
DAYDREAM BELIEVERS: The Monkee's
Story * * * setting: USA/other
(2000) George Stanchev, L.B. Fisher, Jeff Geddis, Aaron Lohr, Colin Ferguson, Wallace Langham, Stephen Bogaert, Polly Shannon.....Story of the rise of the '60s American rock group, The Monkees; how a TV producer (Ferguson) decided to manufacture a band, throwing together four unknowns culled from an audition, and turn them into both sitcom stars, and music stars. Lively made-for-TV bio-pic tries to juggle being both a realistic docudrama, portraying the artificialness of the process, the behind-the-scenes conflicts, and the groups' struggle to get greater control over their music, while also being a Monkees' type movie itself, with some music and the supposed hijinks of the foursome. As such, it's maybe not enough of one thing or the other, but still entertaining enough. Though, like the original product, the movie may play a bit fast and loose with facts, like letting the viewer infer the band composed certain songs that were actually written by others, or with Ferguson seeming to be playing real life Bob Rafelson...but that's not his character's name! The four principals do a nice job of evoking their real life alter egos (no small feat in that they have to play these comic personas, but make them real in dramatic scenes), and Ferguson is noteworthy as, basically, the straight man. In a global montage scene, showing the Monkees as being no. 1, various places are represented: the U.S., Britain, Australia, South America...but not Canada in this Canadian movie! sc: Ron McGee. dir: Neill Fearnley. 89 min.
DAY BY DAY see Les grands enfants
DAYS OF DARKNESS seeL'age des tenebres
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