The Great Canadian Guide to the Movies (& TV) presents...


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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.

ESCAPE FROM IRAN: the Canadian Caper   * * 1/2  setting: other
(1981) Gordon Pinsent, Chris Wiggins, Diana Barrington, Robert Joy, James B. Douglas, R.H. Thomson, Tisa Chang, Larry Aubrey, Matsu Anderson, Julie Khaner, Les Carlson, Robert Lalonde, Jason Dean.....True story of how, when Iranian students took over the U.S. embassy in Iran in 1979, a handful of U.S. officials were hidden by members of the Canadian embassy.  Made-for-CTV movie, evocative of the CBC's For the Record with it's neo-realist techniques, is interesting, if a little depersonal, and the "caper" element is minor: it's more about the American characters sitting around going a little stir crazy.  A little more of the planning and diplomatic to-ing and fro-ing would've been nice.  The story is more seen from the eyes of the Americans, who are ignorant of what Ambassador Ken Taylor (Pinsent) is arranging.  It's a story supposedly showcasing Canadian heroism, which, at times, seems uninterested in the Canadian characters!  As well, the movie was made when the story was fresh in everyone's minds but, years later, a little more information might have been nice (such as what happened to the people not hidden by the Canadians?).  Lots of familiar faces in bit parts.  Khaner's film debut.  In 1998 the American C.I.A. announced that they had played a bigger part in the behind-the-scenes operation than was revealed at the time, but since, as already noted, this flick doesn't concern itself much with that part of the story, it doesn't affect this dramatization much.  a.k.a. Desert Blades.  sc: Lionel Chetwynd (story Chetwynd and Stanley Rubin based on research by producer Les Harris). dir: Lamont Johnson. 100 min.

ESCAPE FROM MARS * *  setting: USA.
(1999) (/U.S.) Christine Elise, Peter Outerbridge, Allison Hossack, Michael Shanks, Kavan Smith, Julie Khaner, Ron Lea, David Kaye, Peter Kelamis.....Trials and tribs aboard the first manned mission to Mars.  Made-for-U.S. TV SF drama/suspenser has a good cast (though American import Elise seems a bit youngish) but they're stuck in characters that are there more to fill up space than to be flesh-and-blood people.  In a unsplashy effort like this (no bug-eyed monsters, no metaphysical obelisks) the characters and their relationships are everything...and the characters (and the crisises they encounter) are rather blah.  Episodic, too, with no consistent thread to the plot.  A few years later, a similar concept was tried to better effect in the mini-series Race to Mars. sc: Peter Mohan, Jim Henshaw. dir: Neill Fearnley. app. 90 min.

(2002) Ken Finkleman, Jeremy Hotz, David Huband, Leah Pinsent, Karen Hines, Reagan Pasternak, Christina Potenza, Peter Keleghan, Tony Nardi..... Misadventures of a Toronto TV newsroom peopled by often shallow, sleazy people, focusing on the amoral news director (Finkleman)...before everything takes a turn for the surreal. This CBC TV movie was Finkleman's return to the black comedy The Newsroom -- the hilarious TV series that catapulted him to stardom -- and it starts out reasonably evocative of that series' style. But, though moderately amusing, it all seems a bit...tired; the mordant bite of the series has been dulled somewhat, and too many of the lines seem as though they could be funnier. Then Finkleman gets bored with the whole thing, dropping the story (such as it is) in mid-film and spiralling off into his, by now overly familiar, forays into surrealism and a film-within-a-film that marked the last few episodes of the Newsroom, as well as his later series (Foolish Heart, Foreign Objects). Finkleman has trouble distinguishing between sophisticated and self-indulgent, between audacious...and just adolescent. Like with his other series, he tries to turn the exercise into an abstract exploration of character...without realizing you need to actually write a plausible, three dimensional character first. Filmmaker Atom Egoyan and producer Robert Lantos appear as themselves, but whereas such cameos in The Newsroom could seem amusing, here it seems too much like just a shameless product placement ad for their latest film. Actually, the biggest gag is, one assumes, completely unintentional: casually claiming that Egoyan and Lantos are working on a $40 million movie starring Brad Pitt and Nicole Kidman...which is absurd on so many levels (Egoyan's never come close to that size of budget...and it's unlikely he could land Pitt and Kidman even if he did, as 40 mill would probably barely cover their salaries). Like in Made in Canada, it seems the one taboo in Canada is mocking the shortcomings of the Canadian film biz itself. Media commentator Johanna Schneller appears as a CBC executive. sc./dir: Ken Finkleman. 84 min.

(1999) (/Czech) Patrick Bergin, Wendy Crewson, Peter Outerbridge, Michelle Beaudoin, David Nykl.....A couple of scientists (Bergin and Crewson), and the woman's disgruntled teen-age daughter (Beaudoin), all alone on a space station studying a dying sun, pick up a derelict ship, unaware that its inhabitant (Outerbridge) is a homicidal psychopath. Watchable, better than to be expected sci-fi thriller from producer/director Lloyd A. Simandl (not a name one associates with quality). A respectable cast, decent pacing, and some O.K. special effects sort of compensate for sometimes silly dialogue, Simandl's usual penchant for violence and automatic weapons, and the fact that the movie borrows shamelessly from various other films. Though that last actually makes it kind of fun, as you watch it segue from a rip-off of one film into a rip-off of another. sc: Paul Birkett. dir Lloyd A. Simandl. - violence.- 96 min.

ETERNAL  * * *  setting: P.Q./other
(2004) Conrad Pla, Caroline Neron, Victoria Sanchez, Liane Balaban, Sarah Manninen, Ilona Elkin, John Dunn-Hill, Nick Baillie, Romano Orzari.....A Montreal vice cop (Pla), with his own kinky secret life, investigates when his wife vanishes...and the trail leads to a mysterious seductress (Neron). Think "Basic Instinct" with vampires, and you get a general idea for this lurid, somewhat sensual supernatural thriller. Visually lush and, surprisingly, it admits it's set in Canada, and with an effective, all-Canadian cast. It's the sort of movie your head tells you you shouldn't like, but -- call it a guilty pleasure. It's moodily atmospheric and there's something refreshingly traditional, almost gothic, about it in an old Hammer Films sort of way (when too many modern horror thrillers are shoot-'em-ups based on video games or "shock" gorefests). And even the kinkiness, which should make it sleazy and embarrassing, actually gives it a quirky, unexpected edge. Pla nicely takes centre stage, making sympathetic a character that could very easily not be, and Neron and Sanchez (as her Renfrew) are attractive. There's violence and sex, though the violence is fairly restrained and there's little real nudity (and what there is, often involving blood, isn't entirely sexy!) -- yet, despite these "adult" aspects, in some prints dialogue has been redubbed to eliminate swearing! Ironic, given there's a scene where a character is lambasted for his profanity...and he hadn't really used any! Just as Dracula was (supposedly) inspired by Vlad Tepes, this movie takes its nod from the infamous Erzsebet Bathory. sc/dir: Wilhelm Liebenberg, Federico Sanchez. - sexual content, violence, casual female nudity.- 104 min.

ETERNAL EVIL a.k.a. The Blue Man

(1998) Alexandra Paul, Anthony Michael Hall, see Tales of Intrigue

EVANGELINE DEUSSE   * * 1/2  setting: P.Q.
(1984) Viola Leger, Tony Van Bridge, Leo Leyden, Jan Rubes.....A feisty Acadian octogenarian (Leger), recently moved to Montreal, rejuvenates a trio of old men, also transplanted, with whom she meets regularly in a local park.  Good, energetic staged-for-CBC TV version of Antonine Maillet's play.  sc: the play by Antonine Maillet (translated by Luis de Cespedes). dir: Yvette Brind'Amour, Daniele J. Suissa. 82 min.

EVE  a.k.a. Body & Soul

EVE AND THE FIRE HORSE  * * * 1/2 setting: B.C.
(2005) Phoebe JoJo Kut, Hollie Lo, Vivian Wu, Chan Chit Man Lester, Joseph Siu Kin Hing, Shirley Ng, Ping Sung Wong.....Story of two young Chinese-Canadian sisters in the 1970s who, after some family troubles, try to navigate the complexities and conflicts of faith and culture as they try to find meaning in life and they become drawn to conflicting religions. ...which is a particularly dry and pompous description of what is, in fact, a wonderful, textured, off beat film, sometimes melancholy, more often wryly and quirkily funny, sometimes whimsical...and always compelling and intriguing. Lavish-looking, hauntingly atmospheric and well acted -- the two young girls are delightful. sc./dir: Julia Kwan. 92 min.

THE EVENTS LEADING UP TO MY DEATH   * 1/2  setting: Ont.
(1992) John Allore, Peter MacNeill, Rosemary Radcliffe, Linda Kash, Karen Hines, Mary Margaret O'Hara, Maria Del Mar.....Young man (Allore) returns to his dysfunctional family for his birthday and they all begin coming to grips with their neurosies.  Low-budget comedy is obvious and tedious -- reiterating the same idea incessantly.  Occasionally funny, but performances are uneven and the characters never become more than ciphers.  The title doesn't seem to mean much either. O'Hara and Del Mar (no relationship to the professional actress) are singers and they, along with Robertson, provided much of the music.  The script was written (and rejected) as a University thesis project.  sc./dir: Bill Robertson. 89 min.

EVEREST (TVMS) * * 1/2 setting: B.C./other
(2008) Eric Johnson, Tom Rooney, Ted Atherton, John Pyper-Ferguson, Meredith Henderson, Vincent Gale, David Bennett, Miguelito Macario Adaluz, William Shatner, Leslie Hope, Jason Priestley.....Drama about the largely Canadian, 1982 expedition that climbed Mount Everest, enduring avalanches, fatal tragedies, and personal in-fighting. Fact-inspired CBC mini-series is lavishly produced, with striking mountain scenery (filmed mainly in B.C., not Nepal), convincing effects, and fine performances all around (especially Rooney and Atherton). But some movies can take the most innocuous event and make it seem like a multi-faceted window on the Human Condition...and some can take big events, and make them seem like not much more than the event. And this kind of leans toward that, as it's basically just a bunch of guys risking life and limb to climb a rock that's been climbed before and since (as a character points out, it's not like they're trying to feed the starving or anything). There is drama, and character bits, and suspense...but not enough for it to quite coalesce into anything more. Ex-pat "name" actors, Priestley, Hope and Shatner are basically just there for their marquee value -- of the three, Shatner has the biggest part (as a reporter covering the climb), and it's still pretty minor and extraneous. 4 hours. sc. Keith Ross Leckie. dir: Graeme Campbell.

(2006) Paul Costanzo, Steph Song, JR Bourne, Gordon Michael Woolvett, Aidan Devine, Tom Bulter, Susan Hogan, Peter Kelamis.....Morose twentysomething (Costanzo) wanders through life, interacting with friends and family (some who run secret marijuana grow ops), while working at the provincial Lottery, and becoming enamoured of a nice girl (Song) and participating in a Lottery scam involving her shady boyfriend (Bourne). Frustrating comedy boasts a good cast and professional scenes, a great sense of place (Vancouver is almost a character), and a use of themes and recurring motifs -- if only it had a plot to wrap all that stuff around. Themes (particularly cliched themes) should underline a story...they shouldn't be the story! When it stays focused on the romantic triangle it holds your attention...unfortunately that often feels like a sub-plot. It's like novelist-turned-screenwriter Coupland was toying with various themes and subjects, couldn't settle on one, so just tossed them all in will nilly. Slow-moving, it's not meant to be laugh-out-loud funny so much as wryly quirky...except it's not that wry and it's not that quirky (and those thinking it was a stoner comedy were disappointed -- some characters may grow drugs, but no one actually uses any). It can feel like an episode of Coupland's J-pod -- only less wacky, less eccentric, and twice as long (Song was in J-pod, as different characters). sc: Douglas Coupland. dir: Paul Fox. 95 min.

(1981) Jack Palance, Frances Hyland, Helen Hughes, Michael Starr, Reginald Love.....Thieving drifter (Palance), with his two kids, plans to rob a house they're staying at that is owned by two elderly sisters (Hyland and Hughes) who are into the occult.  Low-budget, somewhat rambling little thriller doesn't really have any sympathetic characters but is strangely watchable.  a.k.a. Tales of the Haunted.  sc: Louis M. Heyward. dir: George Hessler.

EVIL WORDS  seeSur le Seuil

THE EX   * * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1996) (/U.S.) Yancy Butler, Suzy Amis, Nick Mancuso, Hamish Tildesley, John Novak, Babs Chula, Claire Riley.....Psychotic (American Butler) stalks her ex-husband (Mancuso), who has tried to put their kinky, S&M relationship behind him. She ingratiates herself with his wife (American Amis) by pretending to be a child psychologist, and generally messes with his life. Standard straight-to-video "urban angst" thriller (Canadians make a lot of them: roomate from Hell, paperboy from Hell, etc.) is a notch above the others thanks to an all around professionalism (you wouldn't realize what a schlocky film it is if you just caught one or two scenes) and, especially, Butler's wry, riveting performance: all coiled intensity (though voyeurs take note, despite doffing her clothes in some scenes, hers only rate a "brief nudity"). Some off-beat ideas, like Mancuso and Tildesley (as the young son) also being a tad unstable, are never really explored. Mancuso seems to be making a career out of characters with an S&M side, he played that in the series The Hunger and in a U.S. movie about the Marquis de Sade. sc: Larry Cohen, John Lutz (from the novel by Lutz). dir: Mark L. Lester. - sexual content, violence, partial female nudity, brief male nudity.- 87 min.

THE EXCALIBUR KID * *  setting: other/USA.
(1998) (/Romania) Jason McSkimming, Francois Klanfer, Mak Fyfe, Francesca Scorsone, Natalie Ester.....Modern teen-ager (McSkimming) is dragged through time to Arthurian England by an evil sorceress (Scorsone) to prevent King Arthur's ascension by becoming king in his stead; once he discovers the ruse, he works to put it right with the help of the magician Merlin (Klanfer). Family fantasy is actually kind of cute in spots, with decent performances, and manages to utilize its budget so that you aren't (always) aware of how limited its money presumably is. And given that there have been a few youth-aimed Canadian movies utilizing medieval themes (Kids of the Round Table, Young Conneticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court), this is better than most. With that being said, it still seems neither fish nor fowl: cute, but not that funny, with the threat rather minimal for an adventure; not splashy enough for little kids, not complex enough for adults. Not a movie that anyone involved in has to be ashamed of, but not quite a success, either. A line of dialogue is thrown in near the end indicating the hero is an American, I guess to reassure us that a Canadian couldn't be involved in such fantastical goings-on! sc: Antony Anderson. dir: James Head. 90 min.

EXCEPT THE DYING  * *  setting: Ont.
(2004) Peter Outerbridge, Kelley Hawes, Flora Montgomery, William B. Davis, Colm Meaney, Kate Trotter, Richard Zeppieri, Steven McCarthy, Matthew MacFadzean.....In Victorian Toronto, a compassionate police detective, William Murdoch (Outerbridge), investigates when a teen-age girl's nude body is found in an alley. First of the Detective Murdoch movies is a competently produced, but somewhat plodding mystery. And, by the end, it still seems a bit confusing as to who did what and why. Nice attention to period detail, though it's a kind of generic period at times (it's unclear when, precisely, it's set, and it tries too hard to evoke a British flavour; having British-accented characters is fine, when some of the cast is from the U.K. and this is an international co-production, but why are a number of the Canadian actors also putting on British accents?) Oddly enough, the script emphasizes the youth of the victim ("a young girl was murdered") and yet the camera lingers lasciviously over the naked, post aerobics-era body of the victim! sc: Janet MacLean (from the novel by Maureen Jennings). dir: Michael DeCarlo. - partial female nudity.- app. 90 min.

(1996) (/Germany) Eric McCormack, Kim Cattrall, Sean Young, William Devane, Diego Walraff, Mark Acheson, Robert Luhan, Stephen Mendel.....A married American diamond broker (McCormack) has a one night stand (with Cattrall), and then finds her blackmailing him. Americans Young and Devane play his wife and boss/father-in-law respectively. Good-looking, decently acted suspenser, but it's slow moving and, frankly, uninspired and awfully formulaic. Beware thrillers with non-descript titles that seem as though they were drawn from a hat (what exception to what rule?). McCormack's a good actor, but we never really sympathize (after all, he did cheat on his pregnant wife). Still, you can admire the casting of a Canadian in the lead (rare for this kind of film)...particularly as this was before his role on U.S. primetime in "Will and Grace". sc: Shuki Levy, Shell Danielson. dir: David Winning. - female nudity, sexual content, violence.- 99 min.

Execution, a novel by Colin MacDougall, became the CTV TV movie Firing Squad

(1985) (/U.S.) Jeff Fahey, George Dzundza, Josef Sommer, Morgan Freeman, Kate Reid, Philip Sterling, Linda Griffiths, Laurie Metcalf, Alan Scarfe.....Last night of a prisoner (Fahey) on death row in the U.S. as he and those around him prepare and wait for news of a possible reprieve.  Moody, melancholy drama with strong performances, especially from Fahey, that make it absorbing.  Filmed live when it was first aired.  sc: Mel Frohmam. dir: Daniel Petrie. 104 min.

EXILES IN PARADISE * 1/2  setting: B.C.
(2001) Dimitri Boudrine, Benita Ha, JR Bourne, Tatiana Chekhova, Lindsay Bourne, Larissa Blajko.....Two would-be immigrants -- a Russian actor-director (Boudrine) annd a hard-edged Chinese refugee (Ha) -- whose official status has yet to be decided, hook up and become friends. Low-budget (shot on video) drama is well intentioned, but at times painfully earnest. Every time you think it's starting to turn into a movie, with maybe a plot and character development (like Ha's sort of romance with Bourne as her lawyer) the didactic sermonizing starts up again. Sincerity can be applauded, but it doesn't help get any messages across if the movie itself isn't likely to hold its audience. Ironic captions at the end seem out of place, too. Particularly nice performance from J.R. Bourne. Ha used to be one of the hosts of the CBC youth-aimed consumer affairs series, "Street Cents", and look fast for Tanya Reid (The Eleventh Hour) in an unspeaking flashback as Boudrine's wife. sc./dir: Wesley Lowe. 90 min.

eXistenZ  * *
(1999) (/U.K.) Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jude Law, Ian Holm, Willem DaFoe, Don McKellar, Callum Keith Rennie, Robert A. Silverman, Christopher Eccleston, Sarah Polley.....A virtual reality game designer (Leigh) and her sort-of bodyguard (Law) flee from assassins, then decide to play her latest game -- eXistenZ (pronounced as in existentialism) -- becoming embroiled in its paranoic thriller storyline. Low-tech SF thriller is Cronenberg's first original script in 18 years (since Videodrome) and is reminiscent of his Naked Lunch. Unfortunately, the characters and their reality aren't at all convincing (and that's before they enter the game), with lethargic performances from Leigh and Law, and the movie's a mishmash of undeveloped ideas, some that have been done before, better. The ending's cute, but the movie's an intellectual excercise, nothing more. Cronenberg is supposed to be a daring filmmaker, and the movie has his usual tricks of psycho-sexual imagery and occasional gore, but this Canadian movie is set in the United States (Cronenberg makes sure his actors use the American pronounciation of the letter "Z") and has British actor, Law, adopt an American accent (Leigh, Law, Holm, DaFoe and Eccelston are all imports). Obviously Cronenberg isn't quite the maverick we're supposed to believe (he had more nerve when he was younger, with most of his early films set in Canada and, occasionally, featuring Canadian actors in the lead roles). Presumably inserting umbilical cords into anal-like orifices isn't as provocative as having characters say, "How's it goin', eh?". sc./dir: David Cronenberg. - extreme violence. - 98 min.

EXOTICA   * *  setting: CDN.
(1994) Bruce Greenwood, Mia Kirshner, Don McKellar, Arsinee Khanjian, Elias Koteas, Sarah Polley, Victor Garber.....Story of various characters: a grieving tax auditor (Greenwood) fixated on a stripper (Kirshner), to the chagrin of her ex-boyfriend (Koteas), and a gay exotic pet smuggler (McKellar) who gets drawn into their drama.  Standard Egoyan faire, thin and slow-moving with the usual lack of subtlety.  The actors play ciphers more than real characters, delivering pithy quotables that are supposed to be insightful.  Needless to say, a big hit with critics.  Ironically, the movie was a minor financial success, supposedly because international exhibitors thought it was a porno film -- an anecdote that doesn't exactly reflect well on the filmmakers' integrity, or the film itself if its success truly was due, in part, to misrepresentation.  An uncomfortable undercurrent, largely unremarked upon by critics, was the film's seeming drawing of a connection between paternal and sexual love -- not to mention the simple use of a teen-age stripper to begin with.  sc./dir: Atom Egoyan. - partial female nudity, sexual content.- 102 min.

(2016-)  (/U.S.) * * *  Steven Strait ("Jim Holden"), Thomas Jane ("Joe Miller") (-2nd), Dominique Tipper ("Naomi Nahata"), Cas Anvar ("Alex Kamal"), Shohren Aghdashloo ("Chrisjen Avasarala"), Wes Chatham ("Amos Burton"), Shawn Doyle ("Sadavir Errinwright"), Frankie Adams ("Bobbie Draper"), many others .....Sprawling science fiction saga best defined as the SF answer to "Game of Thrones" -- albeit without the nudity & sex and less graphic violence (although employing occasional four letter expletives). It's a Byzantine, multi-character, multi-locale saga of machinations and interplanetary struggle (based on novels). Set in a grungy Dystopian future with the main powers in the solar system being earth -- the Old School power; Mars as the rising super power; and a middle power group comprised of people born on asteroid colonies and space stations who don't trust either of the planetary powers. Central to the drama is the discovery of a new -- possibly sentient -- proto-molecule which could change the balance of power (especially when used as a weapon). This premiered during a bit of a space opera revival on TV (when often TV sci-fi is modest and earth-based) which included two other Canadian-made sci-fi series: Killjoys and Dark Matter (as well as the short-lived Ascension). Though like Ascension, The Expanse seems more an American series shot in Canada with Canadians as the junior partners in the co-production (unlike Killjoys and Dark Matter which were squarely Canadian series). It features a multi-national cast, initially with Canadian actors mostly in the supporting parts (Anvar received the most prominent billing of the Canadians). Yet the nature of a series like this with its big cast and constantly shifting storylines and focuses (prominent characters get killed off, supporting roles blossom into bigger parts) Canadians certainly settled into pivotal roles over time. (It's also worth noting its relatively racially/ethnically/culturally diverse cast as befits a series about the "human race" -- when a lot of "progressive" SF series can be accused of merely paying lip service to diversity; although it's still weighted toward white male characters).

This is arguably one of the most ambitious science fiction series ever mounted, just in terms of scope and the size of the cast and plot threads, not to mention the use of sets and special effects (earlier U.S. series like "Babylon 5" certainly anticipated it, but even then stayed mostly focused on limited locations). And to its credit it's almost as ambitious in terms of themes and ideas. Although there are certainly (more or less) "good" guys and (more or less) "bad" guys, it embraces ambiguity and grey shades, rather than a black & white world view, with different factions and perspectives colliding. Which maybe makes it odd that the series doesn't fully excite as much as you might expect: it's well acted, well produced, handsome-looking, with a suitable mix of serious talking head scenes side-by-side with action and heroics, and (increasingly) a complex, Byzantine narrative with suitable plot twists. Maybe it's because its "cusp of war" narrative can feel a bit too familiar for these sorts of sagas (even as the characters are opposed to war, the filmmakers seem to present the idea war is an inevitable -- and exciting -- part of the human condition) and with too few characters really pushing to the fore as people you care about (I don't mean you dislike them, just in a ensemble of characters/actors there are too few that emerge as anchoring roles/performances). But those are perhaps quibbles. Because it is a good, ambitious series that answers the call of those lamenting the lack of serious, hard SF on TV -- though its lack of wider crossover appeal is perhaps telling. At least in contrast to "Game of Thrones." Maybe, at the end of the day, people are more comfortable with fantasy and magic than technology, or maybe GOT just has the visual advantage of the open landscapes and scenery, or is just a mite cheesier, whereas The Expanse is maybe too serious for its own good (or maybe it just needed some naked bodies!) Hour long episodes shown in Canada on Space.  

(1995) Billy Blanks, Jalal Merhi, Wolf Larsen, Laurie Holden, Anthony De Longis, Michael Blanks, Geza Kovacs, Real Andrews, Sam Moses.....An undercover cop (Blanks) and an inside man (Merhi) seek to expose a high-tech, almost cult-like martial arts academy as the front for an elite assassination organization.  With an atypically good cast backing up Blanks and Merhi, nifty sets, neat computer graphics, and well-staged fight scenes, this should have been the best of the duo's films -- but ultimately, the story itself is kiind of blah, even dull.  Even a low-budget action flick needs clever concepts and character motivation.  sc: J. Stephen Maunder. dir: Zale Dalen. - violence, brief nudity.- 92 min.

EXPECT TO DIE  * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1996)  Jalal Merhi, David Bradley, Evan Lurie, Laurina Hanson, Kevin  Lund......An American cop (Merhi) investigates a lethal martial arts virtual reality game. Weak Merhi action film (and that's saying something -- see the entry above) tends to lag, with the action scenes kind of dull as well. All this despite some O.K. concepts. What's sad is that this flick is supposedly set in the United States: his other films may not have been great, but at least we could admire his integrity in setting some of them in Canada. But now? Does hanging Old Glory from everything in sight really make this a better movie? Still, not very gory, considering the genre (lot's of shooting and kicking, but no blood), which is refreshing, and Bradley, as the villain, and Hanson, as the wife, deliver respectable performances. sc: Kevin Lund (with additional dialogue scripters), story J. Stephen Maunder. dir: Jalal Merhi. - violence, partial female nudity, sexual content.- 93 min.

EXPLODING SUN (TVMS) * 1/2  setting: USA./other
(2013) (/U.S.) David James Elliott, Anthony Lemke, Natalie Brown, Julia Ormond, Alexandre Weiner, Frank Schorpion, Robert Crooks, Cristina Rosato, Richard Jutras, Mylène Dinh-Robic, John Maclaren, Jane Wheeler, Bruce Dinsmore, Alison Graham.....An experimental commercial space flight goes wrong, leaving those on the ground (including ex-friends torn apart by a romantic triangle Elliott, Lemke, and Brown) to both try and save it and to deal with the repercussions when its experimental engine accidentally triggers a chain reaction in the sun, causing global crises of failing electronics, static storms, and threatening all life on earth! The science is mostly nonsense in this mini-series, so you either forgive that, or you don't (given the premise, it's not like there're obvious "fixes" to the plausibility). It's a broad canvased spectacle that has consistently solid performances from Elliott, Lemke, and Ormond but otherwise veers about erratically, with some of the other actors being good in some scenes and not-so-good in others (perhaps a fault as much of the script and direction as the actors). Likewise just as you conclude the movie is, well, pretty bad, it starts to pick up -- then just as you think it might be passably okay, it dives back into badness, then back up, then down, and so on. Even the plot is oddly split, the first half more a kind of "Airport"-type disaster about the runaway space ship and efforts to get it back on track (which ends up a bit of a Shaggy Dog plot) -- then the second half is the global disaster plot. The problem is we keep cutting between the various characters and their plot threads -- most of whom aren't very interesting or endearing. Like a lot of mini-series it can seem padded (with lots of repetitious and stretched out scenes) while seeming like it needed more time to develop its various threads properly. And it seems like a fairly breezy, cheesy disaster flick -- but other times feels as though it's struggling to be edgier, or provocative (such as a sub-plot involving a town that barricades itself, or Ormond's plotline as a charity worker in Afghanistan that builds to an oddly grim climax) without fully pulling it off. The special effects (sun-spots, space ships, and atmospheric discharges) are pretty good -- yet a lot of the scenes take place in limited and often cheap-looking sets (the Mission Control room looks like it was set up in the basement of a hockey arena). Though interestingly enough, other than Englishwoman Ormond it's an all-Canadian cast (playing Americans, of course) -- too bad it wasn't a better showcase for the actors. Funnily, Elliott had already been a similar route in the earlier (and better) Impact. 4 hours. sc: Jeffrey Schechter. dir: Michael Robison.

EXTERNAL AFFAIRS  * * 1/2  setting: Ont./other
(1999)  Victor Garber, Louise Marleau, Henry Czerny, Kenneth Welsh, Domini Blythe, Kate Greenhouse, Richard McMillan.....Set in a kind of early-'70s that-never-was, the Canadian Ambassador (Garber) to Moscow and his wife (Marleau), who's suffering from the beginnings of Alzheimers, are recalled to Ottawa during a diplomatic stand-off after the Moscow police alledge their connection to an unsolved murder. CBC TV adaptation of Timothy Findley's critically acclaimed play is, like the source material, problematic. The main heart of the story can't be commented on without revealing the plot's main twist and it's less a drama (let alone a mystery) than a relationship study of the two leads -- which sort of works, and sort of doesn't. At times too stagey...and other times, not stagey enough. Picks up as it moves more into the straight play stuff (the early Russian scenes weren't part of the original) though, like the play, the resolution is weak. Similar subject matter was covered in the subsequent fact-inspired TV movie, Agent of Influence. sc: Jeremy Hole (from  the play, "The Stillborn Lover", by Timothy Findley). dir: Peter Moss. 90 min.

EXTRAORDINARY VISITOR  * 1/2  setting: Nfld.
(1998) Mary Walsh, Andy Jones, Raoul Bhaneja, Jordan Canning, Greg Malone, Rick Bolland, Ken Campbell, Bryan Hennessy.....John the Baptist (Bhaneja) returns to earth -- specifically, his namesake, St. John's, Newfoundland -- with seven days to find a sign that humanity is worth saving. He is befriended by a troubled couple; an affable social activist (Jones) and his career-driven, talk show host wife (Walsh) -- the latter persuading him to pretend to be a prophet on her show (unaware of who he really is). Unlike so many Canadian movies, this comedy-drama has an intriguing, High Concept premise, and even fleshes it out with interesting, Hollywood-style ideas (like John becoming a celebrity). The bones of the story are solid enough. Unfortunately, the execution is rather...dull, suffering from a clunky stiltedness (partly attributable to the low budget...partly not) and for a comedy-drama, it's not funny, or very touching. Bhaneja is personable enough, as is Jones, without either being exactly riveting, and other performances are more uneven. Mary Walsh has become kind of the lynchpin of Newfoundland cinema...and, frankly, she's just not that good. A frustrating movie that has workable ideas, but just isn't very good. sc./dir: John W. Doyle (based on the short film by John Doyle, Mary Walsh, Andy Jones, Michael Jones). 86 min.

EYE OF THE BEHOLDER * *  setting; USA.
(1998) (/U.K.) Ewan McGregor, Ashley Judd, Patrick Bergin, k.d. lang, Jason Priestley, Genevieve Bujold.....Psychologically troubled British agent in the U.S. (Scottish actor McGregor) accidentally stumbles upon a coldly seductive female serial killer (American actress Judd), also emotionally scarred (obviously) -- but instead of reporting her, he starts following her and observing her. Off beat, arty suspenser has a respectable cast and is sort of interesting in its ideas and motivation (McGregor, as a father who essentially abandoned his daughter, sees in Judd, a daughter scarred by being abandoned by her father, a second chance -- well, maybe)...but never quite becomess convincing. You don't believe in the characters' actions. And since both characters are essentially unhinged, it's hard to empathize with, or even understand, their motivations. In fact, only Bergin is especially likeable in a small part as a blind man who might offer Judd some redemption (until McGregor accidentally ruins it). Not as confusing as some seemed to feel (if anything it's rather simple and repetitive) but it can seem bewildering because sometimes relevant information shoots by or is mumbled. It doesn't help that writer-director Elliott seems to throw in scenes and imagery more because he thought it'd be cool, than because it was plausible. The official title is "Eye of the Beholder", but only the words "of the Beholder" appear on screen..."eye" is represented by a close up of an eye. Still, Judd appears briefly nude a couple of times. sc./dir: Stephan Elliott (from the novel by Marc Behm). - violence, brief female nudity, casual mmale nudity, sexual content.- 101 min.

Eye of the Storm, the novel by Jack Higgins, was made into the TV mini-series, Jack Higgins' Midnight Man.

EYE OF THE WOLF  a.k.a. Kazan

EYES OF HELL a.k.a. The Mask

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