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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.
* * 1/2 setting: CND.
(1989) Sara Botsford, Art Hindle, Mark Humphrey, Jonathan Welsh, Neil Dainard, Karl Pruner, Cynthia Belliveau, Theresa Tova, George R. Robertson, Sherry Miller, Jim Millington, Mary Beth Rubens, Rachel Crawford.....A TV news show producer (Botsford) must contend with a new boss (Hindle) as well as a hostage-taking...involving one of her camera men (Humphrey). First episode of the successful CTV drama series. Competently put together drama-suspenser but, like the series, it's a little too cold and cynical. sc: Bryce Zabel, Brad Markowitz. dir: Mario Azzopardi. app. 93 min.
Slick Street Legal-inspired TV series had a decent cast and gets top marks in the technical department, but the petty characters weren't all that likeable and issues were often short-changed in favour of the regular theme of journalistic irresponsibility -- declawing episodes about racism, corrupption, etc. Sometimes liberal stances, sometimes conservative and its lack of consistent non-white actors (given the size of the cast) was disturbing, particularly when combined with its attitudes in episodes about racism. Alternately, it did do some progressive things, like making Welsh's character gay (albeit he was a stereotypical "wimp" nor did he come "out" until the 3rd season). Trivia note: Maria Del Mar cropped up occasionally as "Jake"'s ex-wife in the first few seasons, but had to be replaced when she joined Street Legal. Best bets: the episode starring Maurice Godin (who won a Gemini) as an AIDS victim, others. 96 hour long episodes originally on CTV.
* 1/2 setting: other
(1998) Aamir Khan, Nandita Das, Rahul Khanna, Maia Sethna, Kitu Gidwani, Arif Zakaria.....Story of the turmoil surrounding India's independence from British rule and separation into India and Pakistan in 1947; its effects on a border community and how ethnic clashes and racial violence tear apart former friends. The story focuses on a wealthy family of ethnically neutral Parsees, their young daughter (Sethna) and her beautiful Hindu nanny (Das) who is romanced by two Muslims (Khan and Khanna), and other threads. Good-looking, well-intentioned drama is certainly provocative and disturbing, and provides some insight into events that might seems far removed from most Canadians (while being disturbingly familiar). But filmmaker Mehta seems so intent on chronicling the bigger social and political upheavals that she kind of short changes the human drama, rendering the characters, and the romantic triangle, kind of undeveloped. Eric Peterson has a bit part at the beginning as an Englishman. In a mix of Indian (with subtitles) and English. The same historical period was also used as the backdrop for the movie Partition. sc./dir: Deepa Mehta (from the novel Cracking India by Bapsi Sidhwa). - violence, sexual content.- 101 min.
The Earth Abideth, a novel by George Bell,
became the TV mini-series, Seasons
This TV series was highly anticipated because it was based on a 21 year old unfilmed script and series proposal by the late American TV producer, Gene Roddenberry -- the creator of the enduring "Star Trek" franchise. Ostensibly ambitious, the series often seems a mishmash of unfocused ideas, becoming increasingly chintzy as the seasons went by, as if Gil Gerard would come walking around a corner at any moment. Essentially, it seems like a smart series, done by, frankly, dumb people. Attempts at ambiguity inherent in the pilot episode, with the hero unsure which side to trust (resistance or aliens), and good guys who weren't necessarily good, and bad guys who weren't altogether bad, could have been intriguing and mature, but too often just seem a product of a muddy, unfocused narrative direction and a kind of ethical rudderlessness. And such, arguably ambitious, ambiguity became less and less as the series progressed anyway (until it was entirely absent by the fifth season). The series was also extremely difficult to just jump into with its elaborate back story, with too many episodes hard to figure out what was going on or why (even though many of the episodes featured, supposedly, self-contained plots). It also suffered from the repetition that has marred so many modern SF series, where every episode seems like every other because it's always the same bad guys and the same basic story ideas every week. The cast, overall, is blandly competent, nothing more, and desperately needs one or two strong actors to anchor the thing. Flores, often a dynamic actor, is wasted in a thankless part. The replacing of the personable but admittedly bland American actor Kilner by fellow American Leeshock was hardly an improvement, nor was the subsequent promoting of Heitmeyer to the starring role. The aliens often fared better, with Parker, Van Sprang, etc., delivering decent performances.
How much the series really reflected Roddenberry's original idea is questionable, given the changes the series underwent and that, by the second season, two of the main actors, Leeshock and Chevolleau (who became increasingly prominent), weren't even in the Roddenberry-scripted pilot episode...and by the fifth season nothing was left from the pilot story save Flores' character! The first season, with its ex-cop hero working for an enigmatic boss, was reminiscent of TeKWar, from the same Canadian producers (play "spot the parallel" and you'll see what I mean). The series spawned some spin-off novels. Great, almost transcendent theme tune by Micky Erbe and Maribeth Solomon. a.k.a. Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict. Hour-long episodes, shown in shifting timeslots, and somewhat sporadically, in Canada on CTV and then Space when CTV dumped it.
* * *
(2004) (/U.S.) Shawn Ashmore, Kristin Kreuk, Isabella Rossellini, Sebastian Roche, Jennifer Calvert, Christopher Gauthier, Danny Glover, Mark Hildreth, Alan Scarfe, Emily Hampshire, Alessandro Juliani, Erin Karpluk, Katherine Isabelle.....In a fantasy world, a headstrong young wizard (Ashmore) sets out to study magic, unaware that his destiny is entwined with that of an order of women who protect the world from ancient evil, and threatens the plans of a conquering tyrant (Roche). Loosely based on a series of popular novels, this adaptation was reviled by fans and publicly disowned by the novelist...but fidelity to the source books aside, the result is an enjoyable fantasy epic, avoiding the "classics illustrated" woodeness that mars so many TV productions by the American producers Robert Halmi Sr & Jr (curiously, another better-than-usual effort from them was also filmed in Canada -- their Snow White, which, coincidentally, also featured Kreuk). Lavishly mounted, certainly by TV standards, with mostly good performances, the plot is a bit choppy and muddled in spots, but still an enjoyable fantasy-adventure epic. Are the books better? Probably...they usually are. More troubling is the filmmakers' offensive decision to recast the mostly non-white characters of the novels with mostly white actors. But I'm not reviewing the behind-the-scenes process, or the integrity -- or lack thereof -- of the filmmakers. And taken on its own, it's an enjoyable enough, if rather transparent, hybrid of The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter books. Though the books were marketed for young adults, the mini-series features some intense scenes and mature subject matter. Amanda Tapping has a brief cameo as the ghost of a previous high priestess. Does this count as Canadian? Probably not. But filmed in Canada, with a mainly Canadian cast (only Rossellini, Roche, and Glover are imports), I'm including it on this site just for the heck of it. Four hours. It aired in Canada in 2005. a.k.a. Legend of Earthsea. sc: Gavin Scott (from the books by Ursula K. LeGuin). dir: Rob Lieberman. - violence; sexual content.-
* 1/2 setting: CDN./USA.
(1997) Jack Palance, Rick Schroder, Albert Schultz, Amy Locane, Daryl Shuttleworth, Richard Comar, Michelle Thrush, Aaron Peel.....In western Canada circa the 1800s (feeling suspiciously like the American wild west), a cheat and skinflint, Ebenezer Scrooge (Palance), is visited by ghosts on Christmas Eve to persuade him to change his ways in yet another variation on Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" (uncredited!). Serio-comic TV movie boasts fine performances from Palance and Schultz (as Cratchit), though some of the supporting performances are uneven. But it only works in fits and starts, and never quite lets the audience feel Scrooge's transformation. O.K. as a novelty, but not really something you'd want to make an annual event. If you're looking for a cinematic shot of Christmas spirit, you still can't beat the 1951 British version of "A Christmas Carol" (in moody black and white!) with Alistair Sim -- despite many pretenders, still the definitive adaptation and performance. Still, nice to see, despite American imports Palance and Schroder (as a cowboy hustled out of his land by Scrooge) a CTV TV movie actually set (partly) in Canada. Interestingly, an earlier TV movie, An American Christmas Carol (set in Depression-Era U.S.A.), was also partly Canadian. Another Canadian variation on the story was The Ghosts of Dickens' Past. sc: Donald Martin. dir: Ken Jubenvill. 94 min.
(2000) Todd Witham, Harrison Coe.....A year after his brother's disappearance, a man (Witham) recalls the last time they went camping together. Low-budget drama has a bit of a student film look to it (though, admittedly, slightly better put together, with decent performances) but is, frankly, dull and can leave you wondering why it was even made. It throws in a few cryptic lines and scenes that can sort of fool you into thinking it's going to be a suspense film (or even a "Blair Witch Project" knockoff) -- but they never go anywhere! Yet it's not much of a drama either, in the sense of the characters evolving much over the course of things. There are aspects (like a reference to a mysterious woman in the lake) that seem to make no sense whatsoever...but maybe the movie was just too subtle for me. Still, one would love to know how a movie like this solicits funding. Sumptuous B.C. scenery, though. sc: Sally O'Neil, Richard Story. dir: Richard Story. 88 min.
ECHOES IN CRIMSON (1987) Greg Evigan, Patty Talbot. See Shades of Love.
Echoes of Celandine, a novel by Derek Marlowe, was turned into the film The Disappearance
* * setting: Ont.
(1994) Von Flores, John Gilbert, Pascale Montpetit, Manuel Aranguiz, Maria Del Mar, Greg Ellwand, Matthew Ferguson, Earl Pastko, Daniel MacIvor, Kirsten Johnson.....Various stories of sex and, well, sex, each connected by a character from the previous vignette, taking place in the days leading up to a solar eclipse over Toronto. Art drama is a poor man's "Short Cuts": it has a good cast and the scenes are reasonably well-done, but unriveting -- meaning the longer the film goes, the more restless the viewer becomes. Though advertised as erotic, it isn't, probably not even for a homosexual audience (the theme around which most of the stories revolve). Like many Canadian filmmakers, Podeswa seems to see sex as something everyone wants, but no one actually enjoys. And isn't there a disturbing undercurrent when Ferguson, of all the characters, is most portrayed as a sex symbol -- and his character is supposed to be under age? Filmed mainly in black and white and in English, but also with some French and Spanish scenes. sc./dir: Jeremy Podeswa. - sexual content, partial male nudity, female nudity.- 98 min.
ECSTASY a.k.a. Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy.
EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS II: Eddie
Lives * * setting: P.Q.
(1989) Michael Pare, Marina Orsini, Bernie Coulson, Matthew Laurence, Anthony Sherwood, Harvey Atkin.....One time rock-star (Pare), believed dead, decides to make an anonymous comeback when his old songs become popular again. For all the brooding pretension and talk of "THE music", this drama suffers from superficiality and music (by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown) which, frankly, is blah -- unlike the songs they provided for the original movie! Bit parts and cameos include American talk show host Larry King, rocker Bo Diddley and others. Loose sequel to the better 1983 U.S. film. sc: Charles Zev Cohen, Rick Doehring. dir: Jean-Claude Lord. - sexual content.- 103 min.
THE EDGE *
(1985) Jan Taylor, Tom Nursall, Simon Henri, Roger Reece.....Mounties must try to prevent a secret mercenary organization from stealing a nuclear warhead at a super-power summit in Toronto. Weak shoe- string espionage yarn filmed on video. An Emmeritus-CHCH production. sc./dir: Allen Levine.
EDGE OF MADNESS
* * setting: Man.
(2002) Caroline Dhavernas, Paul Johansson, Corey Sevier, Brendan Fehr, Currie Graham, Tantoo Cardinal, Peter Wingfield, Francis Damberger, Frank Adamson.....In 1851, a possibly delusional woman (Dhavernas) stumbles into a Hudson Bay Company trading fort, claiming to have murdered her husband; the chief of the fort (Johansson) tries to get to the bottom of things while, through flashbacks, we learn the story. Drama suffers because, for all that the characters in the framing sequence act as if the case is mysterious and enigmatic, it's really a pretty familiar -- even trite -- period melodrama, with the young bride who comes to live in isolation with her cruel, abusive husband (Fehr) and striking up a relationship with his kindly brother (Sevier). There is a bit of a mystery concerning who really done in the hubby (though later scenes, almost hinting at a conspiracy, seem just a red herring). Torn between being an expose of the lot of women in such circumstances (her husband doesn't make love to her...he simply rapes her periodically) and a more pulpy drama/mystery, it ends up being too grim and unpleasant to be fun, but not thoughtful enough to be earnest. Not terrible...just not that good, either, with a feeling the actors are often being rushed through their scenes (sometimes not even getting close ups). Good to see Cardinal in a decent-sized part as the kindly Indian maid servant, and there's nice use of genuine Canadiana for the setting. sc: Charles K. Pitts, Anne Wheeler (from the short stoy, "A Wilderness Station" by Alice Munro). dir: Anne Wheeler. - brief female nudity, sexual content, extreme violence.- 99 min.
(2000-2006) * * * Dominic Zamprogna ("Mark Deosdade"), Sarah Lind ("Jen MacMahon"), Kristin Kreuk ("Laurel Yeung"), P.J. Prinsloo ("Chris Laidlaw"), Grace Park ("Shannon Ng"), Micah Gardner ("Craig Woodbridge"), Elana Nep ("Erin Woodbridge"), Vanessa King ("Anika Nadeau"), Richard Kahan ("Gil Kurvers"), Meghan Black ("Kat Deosdade"), Daniella Evangelista ("Tracey Antonelli"), Brittney "Britt" Irvin ("Paige") (4th-), with Myles Ferguson ("Scott") (1st), Judy Tylor ("Brenda"), James Kirk ("Travis Deosdade"), Chas Harrison ("Kevin"), Chiara Zanni ("Maggie"), Nicole Leier ("Kelsey Laidlaw"), Jessica Lucas ("Bekka"), Jeremy Guilbault ("Derek MacMahon"), Tyron Leitso ("Derek MacMahon"), Andrew Robb ("Wayne") (4th-), others.....Comedy-drama/soap about various teens in a Vancouver suburb high school, but focusing, at least originally, on the love triangle formed by a guy (Zamprogna), the girl he grew up with (Lind), and the newly arrived, somewhat aloof girl (Kreuk). But there are various other plot threads, some dealing with relationships, some more sombre material, like "Mark's" parents breaking up, forcing him to adopt the parental role to his younger siblings, or "Jen's" brother getting in trouble with the law. As an off-beat, slightly surreal element, no adults appeared -- they existed, and were referred to (parents, teachers) but they were never actually portrayed on-screen. Other characters include: Prinsloo initially as something of a Lothario and heel (though evolving and gaining a conscience, becoming romantically involved with "Jen"); Park as the straight-laced over-achiever dealing with her (initially secret) lesbianism; Gardner as the local activist and Nep as his somewhat ditzy sister who was always hanging with King as the Machiavellian-type, usually up to no good. Black was "Mark's" sister; Kirk (yes, really his name) their kid brother. Ferguson, who tragically died in a car accident between seasons, was replaced by Harrison as the same character-type: obliviously up-beat and looking for love. Tylor the beautiful Christian who served as an object of adore for both. Irvin joned the cast in the fourth season as a teen-age single mom "Mark" befriends and encourages to go back to school. Zanni worked at the local coffee shop; etc.
Initially watching this modestly-budgeted TV series (which, admittedly, is aimed at a younger demographic group than myself) it suffered from a certain stiltedness, and a sense that the characters were written, and the actors directed, incongruously a little too much like mini-adults, rather than teens. This was, perhaps, an intentional aping of the style of the hit US series "Dawson's Creek" ("Dawson's Creek" was also, originally, about a boy and girl who had grown up together and lived next door to each other, and the big city girl who moves into their lives). But after a few episodes, the series, grudgingly, starts to work surprisingly well (and the characters seemed to be "teened-up" a bit as it went along). Call it a guilty pleasure, but you can get genuinely interested in, and care about, these characters and their crisies. Perhaps the series biggest asset is its lack of pretention. Although "issues" are touched on, and worthy subject matter tackled, the series makes no pretense at being "good for you"...it's first and foremost just a briskly-paced soap for teens, with as much comedy as angst. Though the downside can be a rather cavalier attitude toward certain things (like teen sex). The series' Canadianess, though not overt (flags in the background, occasional references to place names), is also applaudable.
Another assest for the series is that the good looking actors (this is a pulpy soap) are truly appealing, though some are admittedly unpolished. Even the "bad" characters are fun. Some of the actors were already accomplished performers, while others saw this as basically a launch for a career, with Kreuk even filming "Smallville" concurrent with this, and Park too has enjoyed some high profile later roles. Unlike many series with young/teen actors, in which each season represents a real year, a potentially problematic creative decision here has one season (so far) follow more or less immediately on the previous. The series has run a few years...but for the characters, only a few months have passed, this despite the fact that the actors are clearly aging faster than their roles (and miraculously their hair can grow a few centimetres, seeming over night!) Still, maybe that's part of a pact the filmmakers have with their audience: don't think about that and just enjoy the plot and characters. In Canada, the theme song is "Start Again" by Anet, but for some reason a different tune is used in the U.S. version. Created by Ian Weir. Five seasons of half-hour episodes on the CBC, about fourteen per season.
EDWIN BOYD * * * setting: Ont.
(2011) Scott Speedman, Kelly Reilly, Kevin Durand, Joseph Cross, William Mapother, Brian Cox, Brendan Fletcher, Charlotte Sullivan.....Story of out-of-work family man, war vet and wanna be actor, Edwin Boyd (Speedman) who, in the 1950s, becomes Canada's most notorious (and arguably flamboyant) bank robber. Low-key but atmospheric character drama-cum-suspenser (set against an almost surreally perpetual mid-winter), boasts some nice, nuanced scenes and fine, authentic performances from all, especially Speedman who holds you throughout, not losing your empathy without white-washing or glorifying Boyd. An occasional use of raucous, modern music on the soundtrack is oddly effective, making the story both a period piece, reflecting its era...and timeless. Unselfconscious use of Canadiana (including some thematically clever references to actor/broadcaster Lorne Greene) nicely root the story when the temptation for filmmakers in such films is often to undereplay or even obscure the fact that it's set in Canada. Boyd had previously been profiled in the dramatized documentary The Life and Times of Edwin Alonzo Boyd. a.k.a. Citizen Gangster (U.S. release title). sc/dir: Nathan Morlando. 100 min.
EIGHT DAYS TO LIVE * * 1/2 setting: B.C.
(2006) Kelly Rowan, Shawn Doyle, Dustin Milligan, Tegan Moss, Brian Markinson, Katharine Isabelle, Michael Eklund, Gwynyth Walsh, Ryan McDonell, Ty Olsson, James Parks.....When her teenage son (Milligan) vanishes during a weekend road trip, his mother (Rowan) tries to stir up concern among the police and even family -- many not immediately convinced there's any reason to be concerned -- and tries to track down who last saw him and piece together contradictory statements. "Inspired" by a true story, this made-for-CTV TV suspense-drama is well acted by all and well put together, cleverly teasing flashbacks to the son's trip throughout the film to prolong the mystery (as opposed to showing what happened at the beginning and then simply following the parents in their search). And without giving away spoilers: it's not going for a downbeat resolution. With all that said, as can often happen with movies inspired by headlines, it can feel a bit like they are struggling to make the running time, and drawing upon the usual tricks of these stories (marital friction, as the husband is out-of-work) and the characters incongruously measure speed and distance in "miles" (as opposed to "klicks") presumably in hopes of securing U.S. distribution (though otherwise it admits it's set in Canada). sc: David Fraser, Peter Smith, Greg Spottiswood. dir: Norma Bailey. app. 90 min.
8:17 PM, DARLING STREET see 20h17 rue Darling
1/2 setting: B.C./other
(2004) Paul Anthony, Brendan Fletcher, Carly Pope, Mark Hildreth, David Beazely, Clarence Sponagle, Thea Gill, Alan Cumming, Serge Houde, P. Adrien Dorval, Gabrielle Rose, voice of Ian McKellen.....Saga of a troubled street kid (Anthony) and the characters who befriend him, while an audio tape bequeathed him by his grandfather (voice by McKellen) relates something of the grandfather's (played as young man by Fletcher) battlefield experiences during World War II. Well-intentioned, gritty drama juggles a lot of characters and plot threads -- yet still manages to seem often undeveloped and thin. Decent performances and some good ideas, but it's awkward and unconvincing a little too often, from the flashback scenes which are too obviously a couple of Canadian actors struggling with British accents (presumably because the filmmaker landed a "coup" in getting Brit McKellen to narrate the tape) running about the B.C. rain forest pretending it's France, to the pivotal romance with Pope (the token heterosexual relationship), to little, incidental things that pull you out of the narrative. Perhaps most problematic, the main character is supposed to be troubled and emotionally scarred...but comes across too often as just obnoxious, which impacts on the other characters (Sponagle, as a male prostitute, befriends him, and Pope falls in love with him...but, uh, why?) There are good bits, like some cute scenes between Sponagle and Beazely, as a closeted homosexual infatuated with him. Despite my qualms about the verisimilitude of the flashbacks, those scenes could've been developed more. The result is a film where the plethora of ideas and themes needed more discipline. sc./dir: Richard Bull. - sexual content; violence; casual male nudity.- 100 min.
(2009-2011) * * 1/2 Stacey Farber ("Jessie Hill"), Michael Seater (Tom Bellow), Peter Keleghan ("Ben Bellow"), Ellen David ("Judith Bellow"), Alain Goulem ("Phil Hill"), Angela Asher ("Tara Hill"), Jesse Rath ("Carter Boyd"), Erin Agostino ("Ava Turner"), Arielle Shiri ("Wendy Bellow"),
....Comedy about two teen-agers, neighbours and childhood sweethearts, who get married...much to the surprise of their mismatched in-laws -- his uppercrust conservative parents (Keleghan and David) and her hippiesque, bohemian parents (Goulem and Asher). Rath and Agostino play their friends; Shiri "Tom"'s kid sister. Alacchi plays an Iraqi immigrant living with "Jessie"'s parents...a kind of awkward character (no fault of the actor) as he seems modelled after Manuel from the classic Brit-com "Fawlty Towers", but that was a different (more farcical) type of comedy, and was almost four decades ago! Here, now, the goofy man-child immigrant can seem a tad, I dunno, racist?
This TV series has a (mildly) cute hook premise, but the overall tone is basically familiar family and relationship gags and archetypes that date back to "The Honeymooners" (and beyond!). The cast is good, with Farber and Seater appealing leads, and Keleghan nicely effective as the gruff but not unsympathetic parent. And it's slickly produced -- moreso than a lot of recent Canadian sitcoms -- but it's also a pretty mild, innocuous comedy. Arguably, the most radical concept is having the conservative blue bloods be Jewish and the bohemian lefties be WASPs (normally you'd expect the opposite) -- a switch that is little more than rearranging the place settings on an otherwise familiar table. The plots, likewise, tend to be pretty straightforward and predictable. It's not a disagreeable series, but a pretty conservative take on family life when compared to U.S. series like "The New Adventures of Old Christine", "Modern Family" and others -- heck, it makes Little Mosque on the Prairie look radical! In an age where lots of couples aren't even bothering with formal marriages, and "traditional" families are hardly traditional, the core premise -- about married teenagers -- can seem like it could've been written decades ago! At the same time, that isn't necessarily a bad thing, as there can be an appeal to gentler comedy, too. Created by Derek Schreyer,
Two seasons of half-hour episodes on the CBC.
This TV series has a (mildly) cute hook premise, but the overall tone is basically familiar family and relationship gags and archetypes that date back to "The Honeymooners" (and beyond!). The cast is good, with Farber and Seater appealing leads, and Keleghan nicely effective as the gruff but not unsympathetic parent. And it's slickly produced -- moreso than a lot of recent Canadian sitcoms -- but it's also a pretty mild, innocuous comedy. Arguably, the most radical concept is having the conservative blue bloods be Jewish and the bohemian lefties be WASPs (normally you'd expect the opposite) -- a switch that is little more than rearranging the place settings on an otherwise familiar table. The plots, likewise, tend to be pretty straightforward and predictable. It's not a disagreeable series, but a pretty conservative take on family life when compared to U.S. series like "The New Adventures of Old Christine", "Modern Family" and others -- heck, it makes Little Mosque on the Prairie look radical! In an age where lots of couples aren't even bothering with formal marriages, and "traditional" families are hardly traditional, the core premise -- about married teenagers -- can seem like it could've been written decades ago! At the same time, that isn't necessarily a bad thing, as there can be an appeal to gentler comedy, too. Created by Derek Schreyer, Karen Troubetzkoy. Two seasons of half-hour episodes on the CBC.
Einstein Tonight *
* 1/2 setting: Man.
(1990) Peter Boretski, Jennifer Malcom.....A man (Boretski) appears on a modern day Winnipeg TV talk show claiming to be Albert Einstein. The weak, low-budget framing story in this hour long drama is little more than an excuse for what amounts to a one man show about Einstein. And Boretski's fine performance, along with subject matter, easily compensates. sc: Gabriel Emanuel. dir: Arnie Zipursky.
* * setting: other/USA.
(2000) (/Germany/U.K.) Simon McBurney, Raymond Coulthard, Jacqueline McKenzie, Jonathan Hyde, Barnaby Kay, Leni Parker, Daniel MacIvor.....Story of the critically regarded, but self-destructive, early 20th Century Soviet Russia filmmaker, Sergei Eisenstein (McBurney). Enormously frustrating bio-pic boasts solid performances, particularly from McBurney, and strong individual scenes. But as a whole, the film doesn't quite come together, seeming too choppy and episodic, where the links between scenes seem to be missing. It's as if the filmmaker knows too much about Eisenstein -- and Soviet history -- and forgets that the audience doesn't and maybe needs things clarified (Eisenstein may be well known as a historical name...but his actual movies are considerably less so). The result can leave you more ambivalent than intrigued. Equally problematic is the end disclaimer suggesting this is a fictionalized biography! Mainly a British cast, with Canadians like Parker and MacIvor in bit parts (though Parker has a nice, mid-film scene, confronting Eisenstein over his neutrality regarding Nazi Germany). sc./dir: Renny Bartlett. - violence, male nudity, partial female nudity.- 99 min.
EKHAYA: A Family Chronicle (TV Limited Series) * * setting: CDN./other (1997) (/South Africa) Eric Miyeni, Julie Stewart, David Meyer, Simon Bruinders, Nakedi Ribane, Mary Twala.....Black South African (Miyeni) living in Toronto with his Canadian wife (Stewart) in 1989, fearing he's being stalked by South African secret police, starts reflecting back on his life growing up under apartheid. Undoubtedly well-intentioned, sprawling drama, mixing soap opera and politics and loosely based on scripter Hamilton's own experiences, is in desperate need of trimming and tightening, both in individual scenes and the series as a whole. Flatly directed and downright plodding at times. Not terrible, but wears away interest after a few episodes. Some people would argue that an "important" subject matter excuses any artistic/entertainment short-comings, but all the good intentions in the world go for nothing if the viewer is bored and turns it off! 12 hour-long episodes. sc: Clarence Hamilton. dir: Clarence Hamilton, Alfons Adetuyi.
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