Go to Bottom
Sample: Title; rating (out of 4); principal setting; year of release; international co-producer (if any); cast; description; scriptwriter; director; content warning; running time.
THE DIAMOND FLEECE
(1992) (/U.S.) Ben Cross, Kate Nelligan, Brian Dennehy, Tony Rosato, Janet-Laine Green, Ron Lea, David Huband, Kurt Reis.....Convicted jewel thief (Cross) is hired to evaluate the security around a precious diamond, but plans to rob it instead -- despite a suspicious cop (Dennehy) and falling in love (with Nelligan). So-so suspense-drama is competently assembled, as long as you don't expect much, but a crucial twist is pretty obvious and attempts at grittiness clash with the film's generally breezy tone. Nelligan won Best Actress Gemini. sc: Michael Norell. dir: Al Waxman. 93 min.
* * 1/2 setting: USA.
(1998) (/South Africa) Joely Collins, Jonathan Cake, Kevin Otto, Denise Virieux, Blair Slater, Royston Stoffels, Dyan Cannon.....U.S. para-legal (Collins) is slightly infatuated with her likeable, goof-off boss, then his no-nonsense brother shows up (Cake), horning in on a deal to sell the family winery. She can't stand him at first, but then... Things get even more complicated when he wants them to pretend to be involved to shake-up his brother. O.K. light romantic drama has more complicated ideas than some, and is energetic, though the plot itself isn't always riveting. Good cast; Collins initially seems a bit out of her depths, but has enough low-key charm to compensate. See Harlequin. sc: Charles Lazer (from the novel by Diana Palmer). dir: Timothy Bond. 91 min.
The first season (made with a U.S. partner) was obviously intended to emulate the wave of romantic/comic detective series in the States ("Remington Steele", "Moonlighting") and was vastly superior to the previous year's Hot Shots. The episodes were often quite funny mystery-comedies emphasizing wit over mayhem, and at their best with the chemistry and comic interplay between the leads (including Rosato). But the 2nd season brought in French financing and suddenly the series wanted to be gritty and serious and it fell apart completely. The lightweight characters, great for comedy, weren't right for drama and the stories themselves were flat and cliched and really tedious. A real shame. Based on a concept by Keith Johnson. Best bets: the first season one about the baby; others. Two seasons of hour long episodes, the first season made for CBS late-night, and both shown in Canada on Global.
DIAMONDS (TVMS) *
* setting: other/CDN.
(2009) (/U.K./U.S.) James Purefoy, Judy Davis, Derek Jacobi, Joanne Kelly, Louise Rose, Stephen McHattie, Mbongeni Nhlapo, Njabulo Qobore, Kris Holden- Ried, Ben Ayres.....Trans-global drama revolving around the diamond industry, including the ruthless head (Purefoy) of a diamond company, a U.S. senator (Davis) in Africa investigating the murder of her daughter by mercenaries, a geologist (Kelly) in northern Canada, and a child soldier/diamond courier on the run in Africa. Mini-series follows on the heels of a number of other big budget, ensemble dramas about earnest, international issues (such as Human Cargo, Burn Up, Whiskey Echo -- which also featured Kelly -- , etc.) -- not to mention the Hollywood film, "Blood Diamonds", Unfortunately, in cutting between its large cast in separate (but interconnected) stories in different parts of the world...they aren't too often interesting characters in interesting stories. The actors are good, including Rose (appealing as a British super model) and, interestingly in a big international co-production, the Canadian cast in the Canadian scenes (including Kelly, Holden-Ried and McHattie) are among the most interesting. And there are some good storylines, notably one following a child soldier on the run in Africa. But too often the characters are straightforward, with obvious motives, in simple, straightforward stories lacking surprise twists and turns. Four hours. sc: David Vainola (suggested by the non-fiction book by Matthew Hart). dir: Andy Wilson, with John McKay. - violence, brief nudity, sexual content- .
DIANA KILMURY: Teamster*
* * setting: B.C./USA.
(1996) Barbara Williams, Nicholas Campbell, Robert Wisden, Stuart Margolin, Wayne Robson, Mitch Kosterman, John Gilbert.....Story of the Canadian female trucker (Williams) who helped fight the corruption and lack of democracy in the powerful, U.S.-based Teamsters union, despite personal and professional tragedies. Extremely good-looking, well-acted made-for-CBC TV drama takes a bit to really get going, but is overall pretty gripping. Williams received the Best Actress Gemini. Kilmury and John Vlahovic (Campbell's real-life part) have cameos. Co-scripter Wheeler co-produced. Director Gunnarsson first made a name for himself with the union-themed documentary Final Offer. sc: Anne Wheeler, J.W. Meadowfield. dir: Sturla Gunnarsson. - violence.- 92 min.
THE DIARY OF EVELYN LAU *
* setting: B.C.
(1994) Sandra Oh, Harrison Liu, Shirley Cui, Kenneth Welsh, Eugene Lipinski, Nicholas Campbell, Jay Brazeau.....True story of writer Lau's (Oh) early life as a runaway and a teen-aged prostitute. Pedestrian CBC TV movie has few scenes that manage to spark, and rarely gets inside anyone's head. Neither convincing enough to be gritty, nor constructed enough to be dramatic. And the "stylish" direction is sometimes just silly. Filmed on video. sc: Barry Stevens (from the book Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid by Evelyn Lau). dir: Sturla Gunnarsson. - sexual content.- 93 min.
* 1/2 setting: CDN./USA.
(2001) (/U.K.) Aidan Gillen, Martin Cummins, Gina McKee, Fred Ward, Brendan Fletcher, Callum Keith Rennie, Gary Farmer, Robert Wisden.....A brutal sex murder leads a small town cop (Cummins) and a private eye (Ward) to a sociopathic University professor (Gillen) who likes to mess with people's minds, helping them unleash their inner vices through a "self-improvement" ritual involving the rolling of dice to make choices. This dark, potentially intriguing, crime thriller kicks off with a moody, smartly written first episode, despite the hackneyed and lurid cliche of the rape and murder of a teenage girl (why so many writers like that idea -- "Twin Peaks", "Murder One" -- I'll leave for others to analyze). It boasts a crackerjack cast, but ultimately ends up more a dud than anything. The "stylish" direction can quickly become annoying, and the story drags out for six episodes, only to stagger to a non-ending. Various elements are thrown into the pot (including the idea that the villain both manipulates people into being killers and is a killer himself -- the latter idea kind of undermining the uniqueness of the former) but many ideas never seem to go anywhere, like ghostly kids who keep cropping up, or corrupt cops. Frankly it seems like they started filming before the final episodes were written and everyone working on it assumed it would all somehow come together...but it never does (or wasn't originally intended as a "mini-series", but the first season of an on going series). Too bad. Still, a gutsy move has Cummins' character be gay (well, sort of). A co-production, this is an attempt to do the kind of dark n' gritty crime-thriller mini-series that British producers churn out regularly, except this is, nominally, set in Canada (though most of the references are American!). Six hour long episodes, originally aired on The Movie Network. sc: A.L. Kennedy, John Burnside. dir: Rachel Talalay. - violence.-
Dick Francis Mysteries.....Trio of Canada-Irish co-productions taking novels by bestseller Francis and giving them a common hero -- Jockey Club Investigator, Dave Cleavland (played by Ian McShane who seemed to be doing little more than his character from TV's "Lovejoy"). The Canuck and Irish settings were, surprisingly, not ignored, but the pulpy movies themselves were not the least reminiscent of Francis' character-oriented thrillers -- and were uneven even ignoring their supposed source material. titles: Blood Sport (the best of them), In the Frame, Twice Shy.
1/2 setting: USA./other
(2010) (/Italy) John Pyper-Ferguson, Elias Koteas, Emily Hampshire, Caterina Murino, Katie Bolland, Karl Pruner, Patricia McKenzie, Frank Schorpion.....Six troubled Americans with dark pasts find themselves prisoners of a man (Pyper-Ferguson) who puts them through live or die ordeals decided by the roll of dice (hence the title: die). Suspense-drama bears an obvious similarity to the U.S. "Saw" films (which themselves bore an echo of the Canadian film Cube) -- albeit without the gore. And it can seem as much like a pretentious drama masquerading as a horror-thriller as it can a "Saw" rip-off with ambitions. Unfortunately despite some atmosphere, the filmmakers mistake having a premise (ie: a concept, a theme) with having an actual plot (ie: that builds and develops and twists). Despite solid performances, the characters aren't particularly interesting nor well explored, while the story is repetitious and unsurprising, not developing or ratcheting up the tension. Cutaways to Murino as a cop investigating the disappearances could add something (at least her character's proactive) but she doesn't really do much and those scenes are written like B-movie cop cliches. A sort of "twist", hinting at a conspiracy, might have added to the plot -- but it's only introduced about ten minutes from the end! Stephen McHattie appears in the opening scene. A movie made by and with Canadians and Italians -- so naturally it's set in the United States. sc: Domenico Salvaggio, with Nick Mead, Andrea Marotti (story Nick Mead). dir: Dominic James. - violence; brief female nudity.- 94 min.
* 1/2 setting: other
(1994) Gary Reineke, Victor Garber, Robert Joy, Peter Donat, Aidan Devine, John Neville, Kenneth Welsh, Gordon Currie, Larissa Lapchinski, Gabrielle Rose.....Story of the disastrous Dieppe invasion of W.W. II and the planning and political machinations that went into it. Dry, leden-paced docudrama engendered some strong emotions from veterans, but for non-vets it suffers from ineffective performances (and largely unconvincing British accents), flat direction, trite characterization and dull dialogue. It almost seems to take the lazy attitude that its earnest subject matter will make people forgive its pedestrian presentation. Ironically, when Canadians do docudramas about foreign events (Hiroshima, Race for the Bomb) they're often complex and thought-provoking, but when they do Canadian stories they come across too often as jingoistic and simple-minded. It won Geminis for Best Music and Best Mini-Series (its competition in the latter category was -- wait for it -- nothing! no one! It was the only nominee!). Four hours. sc: John Krizanc (from the book Unauthorized Action by Brian Villa). dir: John N. Smith. - violence.-
* * 1/2 setting: B.C.
(1993) Adam Hann-Byrd, Joshua Jackson, Barbara Williams, Timothy Bottoms, Olympia Dukakis, Leslie Nielsen.....Story of kid (Hann-Byrd) sent to stay with his grieving aunt and uncle (Williams and Bottoms) on their island home for the summer, and his friendship with a dying, mystical boy (Jackson). Moody drama is atmospheric and mildly engaging, but if it's trying to be a family film, it'll probably be deathly slow for kids...and a lot of adults too (not to mention under-lit). Good cast, though most are imports -- even the (adult) Canucks are expatriates. Only Canadian Jackson, long before his success on the U.S. TV series "Dawson's Creek", was probably still a resident at that time. sc: Rodney Gibbons, with Michael Chandler. dir: Robert Turner. 93 min.
DIM SUM FUNERAL
* * setting: USA.
(2008) (/U.S.) Bai Ling, Steph Song, Talia Shire, Julia Nickson, Russell Wong, Françoise Yip, Chang Tseng, Lisa Lu, Kelly Hu, Adrian Hough, Valerie Tian.....Story of estranged Chinese-American adult siblings who reluctantly reunite after the death of the mother they didn't really like (nicknaming her The Dragon Lady) -- a funeral that will take a week, according to traditional Chinese custom. Uneven, low-budget comedy-drama suffers because the comedy isn't that funny and the drama isn't that well developed. It never really finds a core narrative drive, more a collection of sub-plots. Threads involving family baggage, bitterness, infidelity, and prejudice resolve rather superficially without, in many cases, actually dealing with the issues (including the traditional idea that they discover how they perceived their mother wasn't necessarily how others did). Likewise, the characters themselves aren't endearing enough to compensate. The cast, mainly a mix of American and Canadian actors, is likewise uneven, with Yip (as the realtor sister) and Tseng (as an eccentric old male friend of their mother) the most effective. And Terry Chen, in a bit part, steals a scene as the proprietor of a store that sells Chinese funeral paraphernalia. sc: Donald Martin. dir: Anna Chi. - sexual content.- 96 min.
UN DIMANCHE A KIGALI *
* 1/2 setting: other
(2006) Luc Picard, Fatou N'Diaye, Celine Bonnier, Luck Mervil, Maka Kotto, Fayolle Jean, Natacha Muziramakenga, Luc Proulx.....A Canadian documentary filmmaker (Picard) returns to Rwanda after the genocide to seek word of his Rwandan lover (N'Diaye) -- while, through flashbacks to months earlier, we see how they met amid the building ethnic tension in that country. Fictional drama joins the list of Rwandan docudramas such as "Hotel Rwanda" and Shake Hands With the Devil. Okay and well intentioned film but has trouble settling on a focal theme/issue (the hero is initially making a documentary about AIDS in Africa) with the story itself a bit choppy and episodic, with characters coming and going. And, arguably, the characters aren't fleshed out much beyond the needs of their function in the story (Picard's role included!) Building to a downbeat ending that smacks too much of a dramatist's conceit while, in some ways, being rather insensitive toward survivors of such traumas. And the jumping between the two time periods isn't always as clear as it could be. Ultimately...an earnest film. In French. English title: A Sunday in Kigali. sc./dir: Robert Favreau (from the novel Un dimanche a la piscene a Kigali by Gil Courtemanche). - violence; sexual content.- 120 min.
DING ET DONG, Le Film *
1/2 setting: P.Q.
(1990) Claude Meunier, Serge Theriault, Raymond Bouchard, Sophie Faucher, Yves Jacques, Denis Bouchard.....Story of the misadventures of two bumbling wanna-be comedians, Ding and Dong (Meunier and Theriault). Popular comic duos' first film was a hit in Quebec, but travels poorly. Chief source of humour is word plays (based on the characters' frequent mispronunciations), stuff that, though admirably translated, doesn't play well in subtitles. Add in a largely non-existent plot and you have a film whose interest is as thin as its laughs. The main fun is watching for familiar faces in bit parts such as Gildor Roy (as a cabbie), Jean LaPoint and Jean-Pierre Bergeron (as a rich man and his aide), Robert LePage (as an intellectual at an opening), Stephanie Morgenstern (as a band conductor) and others. sc: Claude Meunier (story Meunier and Theriault). dir: Alain Chartrand. 99 min.
DING ET DONG, THE MOVIE see Ding et Dong, le film
THE DINOSAUR HUNTER *
(2000) Alison Pill, Simon MacCorkindale, Christopher Plummer, Shaun Johnston, Bill Switzer, Enuka Okuma, Wendy Anderson, Joely Collins, R.H. Thomson, Roberta Maxwell.....In the 1930s on the prairies, a girl (Pill) and her brother (Switzer) become caught up in fossil fever, after a government scientist (MacCorkindale) offers a bounty for a complete dinosaur skeleton; while a more sinister fossil hunter (Plummer) skulks about, as well. Family drama has plenty of colourful characters, but the story doesn't really support them, at times more interested in being a "serious" drama about Depression-era hardships (money problems, miscarriages), than it is in the more flamboyant story ideas (concepts that aren't all that plausible or realistic). Even a potential conflict between the palaeontologist and a fundamentalist minister (Thomson) never goes anywhere. And it suffers from some of the usual stiltedness that has plagued a lot of Canadian family period dramas (though it's the modern day framing sequence that's really poorly done and threatens to derail the film before it gets started). Ultimately, O.K. for younger viewers (if you don't mind the occasional grim n' grittiness), but there's a feeling it should've been a lot more. One of those Canadian movies that refuses to say whether it is, or isn't, set in Canada. But since the source book was set in the States, maybe such ambiguity is the best we can hope for. sc: Edwina Follows (from the book My Daniel by Pam Conrad). dir: Rick Stevenson. 90 min.
* 1/2 setting: other
(1991) (/U.K.) Wendel Meldrum, Michael Hogan, Ofelia Medina, Michael Riley, Guillermo Rios, Pedro Armendariz, Salvador Sanchez, Maruska Stankova.....Canadian diplomat (Meldrum) arriving in El Salvador to check on an aid project realizes things are more complicated than she had thought. Good looking drama but with poor sound and bad subtitles for the Spanish sequences. The usual cliches (burned-out cynic, naive newcomer, American spy, etc.) only remind you of better films because this one fails to make you care emotionally, thanks to an unwritten lead (flatly played by Meldrum), or even intellectually since too little is explained. You come away knowing less about El Salvador than you did going in. Hogan is a stand-out (natch) and Riley good. Filmed in Mexico. sc: Steve Lucas. dir: Sturla Gunnarsson. - violence.- 93 min.
* setting: B.C.
(1997) Tom Scholte, Babz Chula, Benjamin Ratner, Nancy Sivak, Abby Arnold, Frida Betrani, Marya Delver, Vincent Gale.....Story of various interconnected neurotic, frequently obsessive compulsive, characters -- such as a masochistic sexaholic (Scholtee) and his seeming slightly mentally handicapped roommate (Ratner). Dark serio-comic flick is a tough call, review-wise. It's well acted and well put together...but without something more resembling, well, a plot, or protagonists you can, y'know, root for, or at least empathize with, you have a movie where the parts are much stronger than the sum. One can't even view it as a mordant examination of the human condition because it's too much of a one note exercise and the movie doesn't entirely work on a realist level (the characters and their actions are occasionally so bizarre). sc./dir: Bruce Sweeney (with the cast). - male nudity, explicit sexual content, parrtial female nudity.- 95 min.
DIRTY TRICKS *
1/2 setting: USA.
(1980) (/U.S.) Elliot Gould, Kate Jackson, Rich Little, Arthur Hill, John Juliani, Alberta Watson, Nicholas Campbell, Michael McNamara, Martin McNamara.....American university professor (Gould) tussles with baddies over a letter that may or may not have been written by U.S. president George Washington. Grating, unpleasantly violent comedy-suspenser. And why should Canadians care about a letter written by Washington? sc: William Norton, Sr. & Eleanor Elias Norton and Thomas Gifford & Camille Gifford (from the novel The Glendower Legacy by Mr. Gifford). dir: Alvin Rakoff. - violence.- 91 min.
THE DISAPPEARANCE *
* 1/2 setting: P.Q./other
(1977) (/U.K.) Donald Sutherland, Francine Racette, David Warner, David Hemmings, John Hurt, Peter Bowles, Virginia McKenna, Christopher Plummer.....Hit-man (Sutherland) becomes preoccupied with his obsession for his unstable wife (Racette), whose disappearance may be tied to his next assignment. Good atmosphere, performances and memorable scenes in this suspense flick but slow, confused and not a lot of plot. Hemmings co-produced and Sutherland and Racette are a real-life couple. sc: Paul Mayersberg (from the novel Echoes of Celandine by Derek Marlowe). dir: Stuart Cooper. - partial female nudity, sexual content, violence.- 88 min.
DISTANT DRUMMING *
* * setting: N.W.T.
(2005) Tina Keeper, Tom Jackson, Dakota House, Jennifer Podemski, Ken Pogue, George Leach, Simon Baker, Lubomir Mykytiuk, Lorne Cardinal, Timothy Webber, Wilma Pelly, Jimmy Herman, Tina Louise Bomberry, Angela Gam.....A robbery and a murder in the sleepy town of Lynx River has Constable Kenidi (Keeper) eyeing a local parolee...and weathering political pressure to find a culprit that satisfies the agenda of the local governments. Deliberately-paced North of 60 TV movie scores best as a textured, human drama, focusing on the town, and the characters, as they deal with the notion of a killer in their midsts. Though the mystery itself -- basically an either/or scenario -- is a tad thin, and resolves with a kind of simple-minded solution. But it holds your interest, thanks to the mood and its strong cast. sc: Peter Lauterman. dir: Dean Bennett. app. 90 min.
DIVIDED LOYALTIES *
* setting: CDN./USA./other
(1990) Jack Langedijk, Tantoo Cardinal, Chris Wiggins, Lisa LaCroix, Robert Bidaman, August Schellenberg, Raoul Trujillo, George Touliatos, Alan Scarfe.....Fictionalized true story of native leader Joseph Brant (Langedijk), whose siding with the British during the American revolution divided the Six Nations. So-so made-for-TV historical action-drama is historically confusing and dramatically not overly convincing. The use of painted non-natives (like the lead) hurt its credibility. Cardinal stands out. At the time it was the most expensive Canadian TV movie made. sc: Peter Jobin. dir: Mario Azzopardi. - violence.-
THE DIVINE RYANS *
* * setting: Nfld.
(1999) Jordan Harvey, Pete Postlethwaite, Robert Joy, Wendel Meldrum, Mary Walsh, Marguerite McNeil, Richard Boland, Genevieve Tessier.....Young boy (Harvey) has trouble adjusting to life in early '60s St. John's after the death of his father, while surrounded by his eccentric kin, some accepting, like his roguish uncle (British actor Postlethwaite), some more domineering, like his strictly religious aunts. Quirky drama is nicely done, benefitting from a few secrets and revelations as the story unfolds. Though the movie maybe gets by on making you think that more's going on than actually is, with some plot threads not really going anywhere, and most of the characters not really evolving beyond the first few minutes. The story might not hold up for subsequent viewings, but the first time through it's engaging enough and quirky. sc: Wayne Johnston (from his novel). dir: Stephen Reynolds. - partial female nudity.- 106 min.
THE DIVINERS *
* 1/2 setting: Man./Ont./B.C.
(1993) Sonja Smits, Tom Jackson, Wayne Robson, Jennifer Podemski, Dianne Douglass, Geordie Johnson, Don Francks, Nicola Cavendish, Mairon Bennett, Dakota House, Alicia Panetta.....A writer (Smits) reflects on her life -- her struggle for personal fulfillment; her periodic relationship with a metis man (Jackson); how racism put up a barrier between them and scarred her relationship with their daughter (Podemski). Well acted made-for-CBC TV drama has some fine scenes and nice techniques (like filming the flashbacks almost like faded photographs) but it never comes together as a whole, with the various ideas and relationships only being touched on. Sincere, but lacking the fire of the main characters. Probably should have been longer, like a mini-series. Won Geminis for TV-Movie and Supporting Actor (Robson). sc: Linda Svendsen (from the novel by Margaret Laurence). dir: Anne Wheeler. - sexual content.- app. 117 min.
* 1/2 setting: Nfld./other
(2009) (/U.K.) Shawn Ashmore, David Suchet, Joanne Whalley, Colin Buchanan, Anita Majumdar, Liis Repo-Martell, Anousha Alamian, Karen LeBlanc, Rick Bolland, Greg Malone.....Story of various passengers aboard a British trans-Atlantic flight who find themselves (and literally thousands of others!) stranded in small Gander, Newfoundland when their plane gets re-routed there because of the Sept. 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. Fact-inspired made-for-CBC TV drama finds a low-key, human spin on 9/11 -- and a kind of up-lifting one (the folk of Gander rallied around to help out) -- and boasts good performances all around, beautiful scenery, some nice variety to the dilemmas (the Muslim passenger who feels singled out for suspicion, or Suchet -- in a stand out performance -- as an obnoxious man who becomes more humanized as we learn his story). And effectively captures the sense of confusion and incredulity people felt when first hearing of the attacks. And despite the earnestness, leading to a slice-of-life realism, it indulges a bit in soap opera-y threads of tentative romances (Majumdar as a pretty, young passenger & Ashmore as a local man; Whalley as a widow & Buchanan as a man in a loveless marriage). But they are tentative, the filmmakers still not quite sure whether they are doing an earnest quasi-docudrama (though the characters are fictional) or a movie that just happens to be set against 9/11. The result is a well done production that, as it goes along, feels a bit like it's not quite willing to fully let its hair down. So it's good...but not quite great. Some detractors complained the focus here was too much on the stranded passengers, and not enough on the plucky town folk who rose to the occasion (the town's population almost doubled overnight!) -- fair enough, but that's judging the movie for what it isn't, rather than for what it. sc: Tony Marchant. dir: Alex Chapple. app. 90 min.
Go to Top
Back to The Great Canadian Guide to the Movies & TV