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.

FEARLESS  * *  setting: other/USA.
(1999) (/New Zealand) Kavan Smith, Belinda Waymouth, Gregory Storm, Natalie Mendoza, Kelson Henderson, Zoe Naylor, Dean O'Gorman.....After a stunt goes terribly wrong, a Hollywood stunt man (Smith) retreats to his sister's home in Queenstown, New Zealand -- the "adventure vacation capitol of the world" -- where he meets her eccentric friends and spends a lot of time sky diving, running rapids, falling in love, etc. Glossy flick has a good cast but seems like what it apparently was: a pilot for a never realized TV series (albeit one with some nudity and occasional cussing). Actually it seems like a couple of episodes edited together -- with various characters and sub-plots, none of which are developed especially thoroughly or are meant to be anything but light-weight (despite the "intense" opening). The cast is engaging enough, and Mendoza is an attractive love interest, and there are a couple of moderately exciting rescue scenes, and the film is fairly innocuous, but overall...a bit too fluffy. Frankly, it seems like it's intended as a commercial for Queenstown first, and a drama second. Still, armchair fans of Extreme Sports will get a kick out of it. All the North American accented characters are supposed to be American in this Canadian co-production. sc: Larry Mollin. dir: Charlie Haskell. - partial female nudity, brief male nudityy.- 93 min.

LA FEMME DE L'HOTEL * *  setting: P.Q.
(1984) Paule Baillargeon, Louise Marleau, Marthe Turgeon, Serge Dupire..... Filmmaker (Baillargeon) becomes fascinated with a woman (Marleau) who resembles the spiritually destroyed heroine of her current project.  Slow, lifeless film suffers from little characterization and the fact that the actors just wander through their roles.  Baillargeon won Best Actress Genie.  English title: A Woman in Transit. sc: Lea Pool, Michel Langlois. dir: Lea Pool (her first feature). - brief female nudity.- 87 min. 


LA FEMME NIKITA (TV Series) see Nikita


LA FENETRE   * 1/2  setting: P.Q.
(1992) (/France) Anne Letourneau, Jean-Francois Balmer, Albert Millaire.....A troubled painter (Letourneau) returns to Montreal and has surrealistic flashbacks and imaginings while observing her neighbourhood through her window.  Episodic, dreamlike film might appeal to Art-house fans, but not others...and wasn't some of this done in Anne Trister?  Millaire provides a burst of energy, but only has a few scenes.  Many prominent Quebec actors crop up in bit parts.  English title: The Window.  sc./dir: Monique Champagne. - sexual content, brief female and male nudity.- 87 min.

THE FESTIVAL  (TVMS) * * 1/2
(2005) Nicolas Wright, Miranda Handford, James A. Woods, Sarah Carlsen, Jean Nicolai, David Pryde, Trevor Hayes, Linda Smith, Anatoly Zinoviev, Sergei Prisselkov, Larry Day.....A first time director (Wright) has his arty film (The Unbelievable Truth About Butterflies) accepted by a prestigious independent film festival, MUFF (The Mounted United Film Festival), and the ensuing mix-ups, backroom deals, and general chaos is chronicled by a documentary crew (Handford). Mockumentary satirizes any and all, from huckster distributors to pretentious filmmakers to the festival directors -- and the result is a cute, generally amusing effort...but with plot points that are too obviously just that: plot points (as opposed to rising logically from the characters and scenes) and an emotional undercurrent that, though touched on (with the documentarian supposedly losing her objectivity) never quite becomes developed enough to truly involve. It's enjoyable enough...but, for instance, it's no Slings & Arrows. A good cast, particularly Wright. Wright, Woods, Hainsworth and Price had all previously worked together on the movie Hatley High. Six half hour episodes. sc: Myles Hainsworth, Phil Price. dir: Phil Price. - partial female nudity.-

FESTIVAL EXPRESS * * * setting: CDN.
(2004) (/U.K./Netherlands)....In 1970, there was a cross-Canada concert tour, uniting many then A-list acts (The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Band, Ian & Sylvia, etc.) where, instead of the bands flying from concert to concert and barely meeting each other backstage, a whole train was rented and the groups travelled together for many days, resulting in 24 hour jam sessions and an experience that many of the performers recall fondly as a one of a kind experience. Footage was shot of the event at the time, but not assembled into a documentary until decades later. The result is a reasonably interesting film, showing some of the troubles as well as the good times (riots broke out because, in the spirit of the times, some fans felt the concerts should be free -- and the tour, ultimately, lost money) bbut most of the film is just generic concert footage -- of classic performers, to be sure. But the real gems are the on-the-train material, showing unique jam sessions involving these disparate performers...but there's only really a couple of songs involving that. And the snippets of talking head interviews are a bit shy of real insights -- the performers remember the tour with nostalgic fondness...but only a few specific anecdotes (ironically one of the organizers of the tour remains bitter towards the fans). Still, a decent enough concert movie. Look fast for actress Jackie Burroughs (who was working as one of the camera assistants) in some of the on-the-train part footage getting booze squirted into her mouth! dir: Bob Smeaton. 88 min.

FETCHING CODY * * * setting: B.C.
(2005) Jay Baruchel, Sarah Lind, Jim Byrnes, Lucas Blaney, Neil Denis, Liam McGuigan, Robert Kaiser, Chilton Crane, Barclay Hope.....When his girlfriend (Lind) ends up in a coma, a street kid (Baruchel) uses an impromptu time machine to go back further and further into her past, hoping to find, and change, pivotal events in her life, in order to alter the present -- sometimes visiting the same event multiple times until he gets it right (ala, say, "Ground Hog Day"). Modestly budgeted comedy-drama is an odd melange, mixing a low-key, almost cinema verite realism at times with its sci-fi concept, semi-gritty aspects of street life (drugs, prostitution) with whimsy, sly wit and, once, black (though funny) humour, an odd mundanity (one of the "events" he hopes to change involves her having her first period in a public place) with some more obviously traumatic incidents -- and it works more than it doesn't, being funny, clever, nicely acted by the two leads, and even packing a bit of an emotional wallop by the end. Worth a look. sc/dir: David Ray (story Ray and Carolyn Allain). 86 min.

A FEW ACRES OF SNOW see Quelques arpents de neige

FIDO * * 1/2 
(2006) Carrie-Anne Moss, Billy Connolly, K'Sun Ray, Dylan Baker, Henry Czerny, Tim Blake Nelson, Jennifer Clement.....In an alternate reality 1950s suburbia where flesh-eating zombies have been (more-or-less) domesticated (after the zombie war!) and are used as household servants, a boy (Ray) befriends his family's zombie (Connolly). Clever black comedy/social satire is handsomely mounted with a striking production design (of bold colours and 1950s minutia) with good performances (including Scottish actor Connolly who does more with the role than you might expect for a, well, a zombie). At the same time, it's one of those things where they've got a creative vision and deliver on it, with slightly mannered, affected performances meant to evoke a camp version of a 1950s movie, but as such, you can find yourself appreciating the production...more than involved in the story, or fully caring about the characters. Still, definitely worth a look. sc: Robert Chomiak, Andrew Currie, Dennis Heaton. dir: Andrew Currie. - extreme violence.- 92 min. 
 
THE 5TH QUADRANT (TV Series)

(2001) * * 1/2 Lee Smart ("Garland Vivian Freewin").....Satire/parody of reality and investigative paranormal shows. Smart (who also wrote and directed) hosts usually two segments per episode, "investigating" (fictional) claims of global conspiracies, vampirism, men who communicate with animals and the like. 

Amusing comedy, where some of the humour you have to pay attention to, as it's kind of wry and understated, as guilelessly wide-eyed Smart delivers rapid fire commentary in a cleverly soft, deadpan style where you can almost miss how absurd is what he's actually saying. Not, perhaps, out-and-out hilarious...but good for a few chuckles that justifies its half-hour length. Though it didn't really say where it was set, an occasional use of American pronunciations suggested they were hoping for an American audience. Produced by Smith & Smith productions (Steve Smith's company). Created by Lee Smart. Half hour episodes. 

The Fighter   * 1/2  setting: Ont.
(1992) Real Andrews, Chris Owens, George Touliatos, Justin Louis.....A blinded boxer (Andrews) must overcome his own depression and handicap in order to help a troubled teen stay on the straight and narrow.  Cliched, pedestrian hour long drama never manages to come alive.

THE FIGHTING MEN  * * *  setting: N.S./Nfld.
(1977) Allan Royal, Robert Lalonde, David Ferry, Yvan Ponton, Henry Beckman, Sara Botsford, Michael J. Reynolds.....Two military men (Royal and Lalonde), one Anglo the other Franco, crash in the cold north and must work together to survive.  Nicely played suspense-drama takes a long time to get going but, once it does, it's pretty effective.  sc: Tony Sheer. dir: Donald Shebib. - casual male and female nudity, violence.- app. 77 min.

LA FILLE DE MAQUIGNON *  setting: P.Q.
(1990) Andrea Parro, Rejean Lefrancois, Emmanuel Charest, Marcel Sabourin, Denise Filiatrault.....Story of a star-crossed romance between an Irish orphan (Charest), raised by the local Monsignor, and the daughter (Parro) of a sinister horse trader (LeFrancois) in 19th Century rural Quebec. Archetypal Quebecois period melodrama has lots of nice scenery, but seems as though most of the important scenes -- not to mention 90 percent of the dialogue -- was left on the cutting room floor (including Sabourin's death scene!) making for a thin premise that's largely undeveloped...and not even very coherent at times. The young lovers seem to be the main story...but hardly have any lines! Bizarre. English title: The Horse Trader's Daughter. sc: Pierre-Yves Pepin with Mazouz. dir: Mazouz. 76 min.

LES FILLES DE CALEB (TVMS) see Emilie

FINAL ASSIGNMENT   * 1/2  setting: CDN./other
(1980) Genevieve Bujold, Michael York, Burgess Meredith, Colleen Dewhurst, Richard Gabourie, Len Doncheff.....TV reporter (Bujold), in Russia to cover a meeting between the P.M. and the Soviet leader, falls for a Soviet bureaucrat (York) and gets involved in espionage.  Unconvincing suspenser is badly written and weakly acted.  A couple of good scenes are buried under all the bad ones.  Ironically, this movie has been criticized for its "cardboard" Kremlin, and substituting Montreal for Moscow, when in fact its weakness have nothing to do with the location filming (and did critics really expect the Kremlin to allow this flick to be shot in the U.S.S.R?)  sc: Mark Rosen (story Gail Thomson). dir: Paul Almond. 92 min.

THE FINAL CUT  * * 1/2
(2004) (/U.S./Germany) Robin Williams, Mira Sorvino, Mimi Kuzyk, Jim Caviezal, Stephanie Romanov, Thom Bishops, Brendan Fletcher, Vincent Gale.....In a near future where a deceased's memories can be saved (and the bad and unsavoury edited out) for a "re-memory" tribute/wake, a repressed cutter/editor (Williams) finds his life complicated by urban activists opposed to his very profession, and something in the latest memories he's editing that may relate to his own troubled past. Science fiction drama/sort-of-suspenser has a great concept...and knows it. But the filmmaker spends so much time wanting to explore the various permutations of his speculative idea that the basic story can seem almost secondary, particularly as it's told in a deliberately paced, meandering way. Even then, there are so many ancillary possibilities associated with the premise that some go undeveloped (at one point someone muses whether people act differently knowing everything they do might be being recorded for posterity...but there's no indication people act differently). Basically it's a great idea, but only an okay (if intriguing) movie -- but holds together better than some detractors seemed to feel. Kuzyk is memorable as a fellow cutter. Sorvino, in a kind of small, undeveloped part as Williams' girlfriend is too young for her role...or Williams is too old. Only peripherally a "Canadian" movie -- most of the principal actors are American -- but it's filmed in Canada and, interestingly, doesn't actually say it's not supposed to be Canada. sc./dir: Omar Naim. 94 min.

FINAL DAYS OF PLANET EARTH (TVMS) * *  setting: USA
(2006) (/U.S.) Daryl Hannah, Gil Bellows, Suleka Mathew, Beau Starr, Patrick Gilmore, Campbell Scott, Tygh Runyan, Tina Milo, John Cassini, Serge Houde.....A gruff urban archaeologist (Bellows) and others (pretty entomologist Mathew, grieving widower Starr, illegal immigrants Milo and Runyan, etc.) uncover evidence of a covert alien invasion that has infiltrated the city government and the police, forcing them to go on the run together. Disappointing mini-series could've been a grand, unpretentious SF thriller, mixing aspects of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", "V" (with its plot involving disparate strangers thrown together) and others, and it's decent looking with a strong cast -- ironically, less top-billed Hannah and Bellows, than the rest of the ensemble: Mathew, Starr, et al (with Scott stealing a few scenes in the second half). But it's hobbled a bit by workmanlike direction and especially by the script, which too often substitutes exposition for character development, and suffers from loose logic and never rises above the generic cliches of this sub-genre -- or even evinces much ambition to do so! There are good bits: the waiting room scene, Scott's idiosyncratic character and, as mentioned, an engaging cast, but not enough to overcome the weaknesses. And though not slow, per se, like a lot of mini-series, it can feel like half the scenes are padded to justify the length. Mathew's name is misspelled in the opening credits! Funnily, it's supposedly set in the U.S. but a few shots show a building in the distance with a Canadian flag (which may have been a sly nod to the show's Canadian origins, since it seems odd they would have missed it repeatedly in post-production). And while nitpicking: Starr is a bit young to be a Korean War veteran! Bellows would be down this same route a couple of years later in the (lower-budgeted) Infected. 4 hours. sc: Christian Ford, Roger Soffer. dir: Robert Lieberman. - violence.-

Final Edition   * * *  setting: Ont.
(1981) Michael Hogan, Neil Munro, Donald Davis, Alan Scarfe, Robert Clothier, Angelo Rizacos.....While investigating a story of corruption, a newspaper's staff must worry about whether the paper will be closed.  Down beat hour long drama is an effective, strongly acted, written and directed slice-of-life.  Made for For the Record. sc: Tony Sheer. dir: Peter Rowe.

FINAL JUDGEMENT  setting: USA.
(1989) Michael Beck, Catherine Colvey, Maurice Dean Wint, J. Winston Carroll, Michael Copeman, Patricia Collins.....Thirty years after a brutal slaying, a small town U.S.A. Sheriff (Beck) investigates a series of new murders.  Nothing new in this uninteresting suspenser, save technical glitches like labelling the modern sequences as 1959.  Beck's a write-off but the rest of the cast deserves better.  sc: Brian Dick, Jeff Woolnough. dir: David Robertson. 92 min.

FINAL OFFER   * * 1/2  setting: Ont.
(1984).....Documentary chronicling the difficult contract negotiations between General Motors and the Canadian branch of the United Auto Workers headed by Bob White.  Interesting film benefits, more than anything, from the surprising amount of access the filmmakers seem to have been granted, even to high-level negotiations.  Narrated by Henry Ramer.  sc: Robert Collison. dir: Sturla Gunnarsson, Robert Collison.

FIND THE LADY * 1/2
(1976) (/U.K.) Lawrence Dane, John Candy, Dick Emery, Mickey Rooney, Peter Cook, Alexandra Bastedo, Richard Monette, Bob Vinci, Eric McNamara, Tim Henry, Rummy Bishop.....Two bumbling cops (Dane and Candy) investigate a number of kidnappings...all of the same woman (Bastedo).  Largely unfunny slapstick comedy.  Dane and Candy played the same characters before in supporting roles in It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time (which had a similar premise), making this one of the first movies to be a sequel to a Canadian film.  a.k.a. Call the Cops.  sc: David Main, John Trent. dir: John Trent. - brief female nudity.- 79 min.

FINDING MARY MARCH * * 1/2  setting: Nfld.
(1988) Andree Pelletier, Rick Bolland, Tara Manuel, Yvon Joe..... Photographer (Pelletier) comes to Newfoundland to get some pictures of Beothuk Indian graves and encounters a distraught widower guide (Bolland) and his metis daughter.  Nice looking and watchable little drama, but unconvincing and not well thought out.  It seems to think it's spooky, but it isn't, and why are some of the natives just painted whites?  Nice folk music.  sc./dir: Ken Pittman. - brief female nudity.- 98 min.

FIRE   * *  setting: other
(1996) (/India) Shabana Azmi, Nandita Das, Kulbushan Kharbanda, Jaaved  Jaaferi, Ranjit Chowdhry, Kushal Rekhi.....Story of two sisters-in-law (Azmi and Das) living in the same, crowded household in India, both in loveless marriages, who turn to each other for intimacy. Good-looking, moderately interesting drama, but Mehta directs with a ponderous solemnity (perhaps to echo the stifling marriages) that wears after a while and the story itself is awfully straightforward. And for a story all about repressed emotions and illicit passions, there's little of that fire in the leads -- even knowing the premise, the turn in their relationship seems to come out of nowhere and their reaction to it, once it does, is surprisingly blase. Ironically, the supporting (male) characters seem more vivid. sc./dir: Deepa Mehta. - sexual content, brief female nudity.- 107 min.

FIREBALL  * 1/2  setting: USA.
(2009) (/U.S.) Ian Somerhalder, Lexa Doig, Aleks Paunovic, Colin Cunningham, Aaron Pearl, Stephen E. Miller.....An F.B.I. Agent (American Somerhalder) and a small town fire inspector (Doig) team up when a fugitive ex-football star (Paunovic) flees to town, and starts exhibiting the ability to cause spontaneous fires and goes on a killing spree. Made-for-TV supernatural thriller actually tries real hard to enliven the character scenes with quirky leads, inner pain, and lots of humorous banter...but scenes like that should fill out and flesh out the plot...not be the plot. As it is the story itself is thin, a bit directionless at times, and seems a little too keen to be light-hearted, kind of bleeding any potential for tension (Cunningham, as an obnoxious tabloid reporter, is largely comic relief). Kind of comes across as an "X-Files" episode expanded to movie length, but with less panache...or, better yet, with its emphasis on light banter, Haven. Also suffers from some static direction (too few close ups). Some of the banter is cute, some not, and the character-defining exposition kind of clumsy. Doig certainly deserves better vehicles (and gets kudos for delivering the tongue twisting technobabble convincingly). Still, the scene where Somerhalder splits a fireball with an axe is kind of cool. sc: Kraig X. Wenman. dir: K.T. Donaldson. - violence.- app. 90 min.

FIREBALLS  setting: USA.
(1988) Goran Kalezic, Mike Strapko, Eric Crabb, Al Eggen, Danny Wengle..... Party-happy American firefighters work to undermine their hardline new Chief and insure that the new qualifying recruits are all beautiful babes.  No critic would probably give a good review to a sophomoric T&A comedy (well, T, at least) but this low-budget one is truly, truly bad, even for the genre.  More surprising, it's extremely mean-spirited and seeming misogynistic.  sc: Charles Wiener, Mike Strapko. dir: Charles Wiener. - partial female nudity.- 82 min.

FIREBIRD 2015 AD  * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1981) Darren McGavin, Doug McClure, Mary Beth Rubens, Robert Charles Wisden, George Touliatos, Alex Diakun, Barbara Williams, Bill Berry, Frank Pellegrino, Lee Broker.....In the future U.S.A., cars are outlawed and joyriders (headed by McGavin) try to keep ahead of overzealous police (led by McClure).  Slow, plotless actioner has O.K. performances and nice Alberta scenery, and even tries fleshing out the bad guys...too bad we waste our time with the boring heroes and lame drag racing scenes.  And in a world of ozone holes and the green house effect, it's hard to sympathize with the premise that joyriding is a fundamental right.  Oh, and AD is a prefix. For a similar vision of dystopia, see The Last Chase.  sc: Barry Pearson, Maurice Hurley, Biff McGuire. dir: David M. Robertson. - violence.- 98 min.

FIRING SQUAD   * *  setting: other
(1990) (/France) Stephen Ouimette, Robin Renucci, Cedric Smith, Malcolm Stewart, David Hemblen, Justin Louis.....During W.W. II, a disgraced Canadian soldier (Ouimette) has a chance to redeem himself -- career-wise -- by taking charge of a firing squad and executing a fellow soldier.  What's too bad about this made-for-TV morality tale is that it seems to come so close to being brilliant.  Despite some good elements and intentions, though, it never clicks.  Ouimette's character and performance are a weakness, though Renucci is very good.  sc: Jeremy Hole (from the novel Execution by Colin McDougall). dir: Michel Andrieu. 98 min.
 
THE FIRM (TV Series)

(2012) (/U.S.) * * 1/2 Josh Lucas ("Mitch McDeere"), Callum Keith Rennie ("Ray McDeere"), Molly Parker ("Abby McDeere"), Juliette Lucas ("Tammy"), with Natasha Calis ("Claire McDeere"), Tricia Helfer ("Alex Clark"), Shaun Majumder ("Andy Palmer"), others.....Crime-drama about a Washington lawyer (Lucas) operating a small, private practice that's affiliated with a bigger firm involved in shady doings. Rennie plays his brother...and his private eye operative. Parker his school teacher wife. Lewis the sassy secretary (and "Ray"'s long time girlfriend). Calis plays the "McDeere"'s daughter; Helfer plays the head of the law firm they've allied with, and Majumder her toady, not quite as comfortable with the firm's secret villainy. While trying the usual stand alone episode cases every week (like most lawyer series) -- some revolving as much around ethical dilemmas as mysteries about guilt and innocence -- there was the on going sub-plot involving corruption and malfeasance at his law firm (the early episodes beginning in modern times, as he's being chased and hounded, before flashing back a few weeks to the events of that particular episode)...as well as a secondary sub-plot involving vengeful mobsters hunting him and his family. Lucas and Lewis are American, most everyone else Canadian...though they all play American characters.

This TV series was a rather belated spin-off from the popular John Grisham novel (and the 1993 Hollywood movie starring Tom Cruise as Mitch). Done as a sequel, rather than a remake, turning a one-time novel into the source for an on going series is tricky -- how do you reshape it for TV without losing the key elements of what made the original the original? So here, the premise that the characters have only recently emerged from Witness Protection to reclaim their old lives and identities is basically just shrugged off as a convenient explanation for why nothing much has changed for them despite being set ten years later, rather than as an important make-up of their psyches or motives (we aren't supposed to ask whether a lawyer could really reclaim his practice so easily after ten years, or how "Ray" can talk about his street connections when surely he's been out-of-touch for 10 years). Since the original story was about a lawyer who uncovers corruption and mob ties in his high priced law firm...the new series simply has him unwittingly join another law firm with its own secrets and skeletons. Ultimately, The Firm isn't a bad series...but it isn't really a great series, either. The TV lawyer genre is so pervasive it's hard to find your own corner of it to call your own, and this series can suffer from a bit of genre fatigue...a feeling they are trotting out all the courtroom and lawyer cliches, but as much by rote as inspiration (paling beside the contemporaneous "The Good Wife" or "Suits"). And though ALL lawyer series suffer from technical gaffs and degrees of implausibility, this maybe moreso than a lot, with unconvincing scenes and histrionics -- like actors playing at a courtroom drama, or like scripts are being rushed into production, resulting in scenes that can be funny...when they aren't supposed to be! And the cast is competent, but the characters themselves are a little bland and uncompelling...when a TV series maybe relies as much on the leads, as the stories, to draw you back week after week. Scenes between Helfer and Majumder are often corny in their B-movie melodrama. Ultimately, it can feel a bit like it's hamstrung by its own origins...not wanting to stray too far from the source characters or the premise without a clear idea how to re-fashion it all for a weekly series. Still...as I say, it's not a terrible series. Developed by Lukas Reiter. One season of hour long episodes, shown in Canada on Global. 

THE FIRST CIRCLE (TVMS)   * * 1/2  setting: other
(1991) (/France) Robert Powell, Victor Garber, Laurent Malet, David Hewlett, Heath Lamberts, David Hemblen, Robert Joy, Christopher Plummer, F. Murray Abraham, Marc de Jonge, Coraly Zahonero, Valeria Cavalli, Vernon Dobtcheff.....Saga of various characters in 1949 in the U.S.S.R. during Stalin's (Abraham) reign, focusing partly on the inhabitants of a comfortable prison reserved for dissidents whose value as scientists involved in research warrants preferential treatment. Ambitious undertaking, to adapt Solzhenitsyn's massive novel, but it suffers a bit from budget limitations, making it a bit flat and workmanlike, and with various plot threads not developing all that satisfactorily (one wonders if it was cut from a much longer length, given that American actor Tony LoBianco only has a couple of lines during a society soiree). Veers, not always seamlessly, from grim drama to seeming comedy -- Plummer, as Stalin's security chief, seams to be going for farce in his role. British actor Powell is particularly good as a dissident, still fighting the system, even in prison. 4 hours, first shown in Canada on the CBC. sc: M. Howard Cohen, with Marcel Julian (from the novel by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn). dir: Sheldon Larry. - male nudity.-

FIRST DEGREE   *  setting: USA.
(1995) Rob Lowe, Leslie Hope, Tom McCamus, Joseph Griffin, Nadia Capone, Brett Halsey, Peter Boretski.....U.S. cop (import Lowe) investigates the murder of a business man and falls for his widow (Hope), who might be responsible.  Dreadful, silly and confused suspenser.  Base has yet to demonstrate that his years as a film critic gave him any insight into how to write a good script, while Woolnough's pretentious direction isn't much better.  Lowe and, especially, Hope act as if they wish they were somewhere else -- and it's hard to blame them.  sc: Ron Base. dir: Jeff Woolnough. - violence, brief female nudity.- 92 min.

THE FIRST SEASON  * *  setting: B.C.
(1991) Kate Trotter, R.H. Thomson, Christianne Hirt, Dwight Koss.....A widow (Trotter) and her daughter (Hirt), trying to make a go of a fishing boat, must rely on a drunken drifter (Thomson) she used to know.  Take three really good actors, put them in a story where they seem to have no feel for their characters, add a script that wants to be gritty but comes across as unconvincing and trite and you have this pic.  sc: Brian Koss, Victor Nicole. - sexual content.- app. 94 min.
 
THE FIRST WAVE  (TV Series)

(1998-2001) (/U.S.)  * *  Sebastian Spence ("Cade Foster"), with Rob LaBelle  ("'Crazy' Eddy Nambulous"), Roger R. Cross ("Joshua"), Traci Elisabeth Lords (3rd-), Dana Brooks ("Col. Grace")......Science fiction/suspense about an American ex-burglar (Spence) who becomes a fugitive after discovering a covert alien invasion and they frame him for his wife's murder. His only allies: a conspiracy-buff genius (LaBelle) and a lost manuscript of the 16th Century astrologer, Nostradamus, which predicts his adventures. According to this (fictional) manuscript, the end of the world will come in three waves: the 2nd is invasion from above, the 3rd is Armageddon (which is like saying an indication of death is being dead) but the first wave is already here!!! Cross played an alien bad guy, a little ambivalent about his people's plans, then a (different) evil alien, then back to the first alien, now semi-allied with "Foster" (confused?); Lords joined the cast as the leader of an underground militia, also fighting the aliens. Brooks cropped up in early episodes as an enigmatic (maybe government) agent.

I wanted to like this show, but if derivativeness is a crime, the makers of this TV series would be public enemies. It borrows ruthlessly from previous series, but suffers from bland plotting and, sometimes, just plain dumbness (one episode had a character confined to a decompression chamber to avoid the bends...but other characters kept opening and closing the chamber door!) and repetitive plots where we invariably know who (the aliens), why (to conquer earth), where (wherever he is at the episode's start) at the beginning of every story, and often the what and how is equally obvious...without enough compelling (or convincing) human drama to make up the slack. Some wit would also be nice (the gag about the sword in the 2nd episode is a hoot). Spence is a competent actor, but a little too blandly generic...like his part. The mixing of elements often seem half-baked and contradictory: the hero's both an everyman and a super-thief, without being enough of the former to be ingratiating nor the latter to be fun and colourful.

Ironically, precisely what could make the series bland (the same plot/villains every week) seems to have become the norm in various sci-fi series (many Canadian-made), with First Wave maybe even serving as an inspiration for shows like Code Name: Eternity and others.

Spence is a bonafide Canadian, which is unusual in this kind of co-production, but he plays an American, and the series is set in the United States, despite the hero travelling to a new locale every episode (there was at least one episode where the character came to Canada). Are we supposed to believe that a "global" invasion will only take place in the U.S.A.? La Belle and Lords are American (though Cross appears to be Canadian). The main "freshness" was an added raciness in the early episodes, but whether there is a more explicit version of this series, airing perhaps on a U.S. cable channel, I don't know. This was another one of those series where the first few seasons were guaranteed before the first episode even aired. Executive produced by Francis Ford Coppola. Created by Chris Brancato. Three seasons of hour-long episodes totalling 66 episodes, shown in Canada on Space.

FISH TALE SOUP   * *  setting: CDN.
(1995) Remy Girard, Kathleen Laskey, John Jarvis, Patric Masurkevitch, Michele Muzzi, Carlton Watson.....Couple (Laskey and Jarvis) find their inability to conceive putting a strain on their marriage, while an enigmatic "refugee" (Girard) they take in, alternately hinders and heals their relationship.  One doesn't doubt the filmmaker's earnestness in this serio-comic drama (with touches of magic realism), but half the scenes seem like they're there just to pad out the running time; there's little that's fresh here...or that screams "feature film".  Modest ambitions result in a modest movie.  Nice pluralistic ambience.  Jennifer Podemski has a bit part as Laskey's underling.  sc./dir: Annette Mangaard. - sexual content.- 90 min.

THE FISHING TRIP * * 1/2 setting: Ont.
(1998) Jhene Erwin, Melissa Hood, Anna Henry, Jim Kinney, Diana Tarbak.....A young woman (Erwin) returns home and, with her teen-age sister reluctantly in tow, and the sister's best friend, heads out to find the family fishing cabin to confront the stepfather who molested the sisters years before. O.K., brooding drama cum suspenser is effectively acted. Although, despite a few revelations, and a mid-story shift in the characters' goal, its focused premise is stretched a little to fill its running time (you can't exactly pad things out with a romance or quirky "road movie" vignettes without seeming tactless). And as one character remarks to another: If you don't like tension, you picked the wrong trip. sc: M.A. Lovretta. dir: Amnon Buchbinder. 84 min.

A FISTFUL OF GOLD a.k.a. Gold: A Fistful of Gold

5IVE DAYS TO MIDNIGHT (TVMS)  * * *  setting: USA.
(2004) (/U.S.) Timothy Hutton, Randy Quaid, Kari Matchett, Hamish Linklater, Angus MacFadyen, Gage Golightly, Nicole de Boer, David McIlwraith, Gincarlo Esposito, Rob Stewart.....American physics professor (Hutton) finds himself mysteriously in possession of a brief case from the future -- one containing an unsolved police report claiming he gets murdered, with listed suspects ranging from close friends to a mobster he's never even met; and he has five days to try and prevent this future from occurring. Entertaining SF suspense- thriller is well-paced with enough intertwining threads to keep you interested, and slick enough direction that you can even forgive the at times annoying reliance on slow motion effects. Nicely acted all around, particularly Hutton, an impressive young Golightly (playing his daughter), and Quaid, who can be a bit broad, but is here nicely convincing as a cop Hutton draws into the mystery. Though de Boer has a particularly thankless part, considering her prominent billing. Sure, with a little cutting, this could've just been a movie, but as it is, it never feels slow or padded, and the "limited series" format is kind of interesting -- serialized over five hour long episodes, the climax can seem more climactic 'cause it took five weeks to get to it. Another one of those films which may not be Canadian (though filmed in Canada, of the above cast, only Matchett, McIlwraith, de Boer and Stewart -- as a doctor friend -- are Canadian)...but I'm including just in case. 5 hours. a.k.a. Five Days to Midnight. sc: David Aaron Cohen (story Robert Zappia, David Aaron Cohen, Anthony Peckham). dir: Michael Watkins. - violence.-

THE FIVE OF US  see Elles etaient cinq

THE FIVE SENSES  * * 1/2  setting: CDN.
(1999) Mary-Louise Parker, Daniel MacIvor, Gabrielle Rose, Nadia Litz, Philippe Volter, Molly Parker, Brendan Fletcher, Marco Leonardi, Pascale Bussieres, Richard Clapkin, Tara Rosling.....Story of various loosely interconnected characters (ala "Short Cuts"), looking for love or other human connection, with the theme of one or more of the senses (sort of) interwoven through the stories. Not really as profound as it thinks it is, but moody and watchable enough as an Art House time-killer. Not (quite) as mannered or heavy handed as movies in the similar genre (Atom Egoyan films, etc.), with decent performances overall and MacIvor and American actress Parker, in particular, reasonably lively. But the movie doesn't entirely go anywhere, with some threads half-heartedly resolved, if at all. Perhaps the most affecting story is the one of Volter as an opthomologist who is going deaf. Podeswa received the Best Director Genie. sc./dir: Jeremy Podeswa. - sexual content, partial female and male nudity.- 105 min.

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