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.

GRAND LARCENY   * *  setting: USA.
(1991) Jennifer Dale, Kenneth Welsh, Robert Joy, Catherine Disher, Victor Garber, Damir Andrei.....Turn-of-the-Century con artist Betsy Bigley (Dale) schemes her way out of prison, then plans her revenge on the double crossing lawyer who left her there.  Light-hearted, frothy romp forgets that protagonists (even crooks) have to be likeable.  A sequel to Love and Larceny, though most of the returning characters have been re-cast...and Welsh, who was in the first film, plays a different character!  Like most of Bowie's work there's nothing especially wrong with this film, but nothing right either.  Made for CBC TV.  sc: Douglas Bowie. dir: Stephen Surjik. app. 100 min.

GRANDE OURSE (TVMS)  * * *  setting: P.Q.
(2003) Marc Messier, Normand Daneau, Julie McLemens, Anne Dorval, Fanny Mallette, Guy Nadon, Jacques Godin, Elise Guilbault, Maxime Denommee, Gilles Renaud.....Serio-comic mystery/supernatural/soap opera set in an isolated small town, Grande Ourse, in Quebec and the various relationships, secrets, and strange things afoot, from the conventional (crimes and cover ups) to the supernatural (characters having weird dreams and the town itself being bombarded by weird TV transmissions). Big ensemble cast includes Mercier as a bitter Montreal TV journalist, sent to the town on a frivolous assignment, who gets caught up in the weirdness, and echoes of his own tragic past; Nadon as the owner of the town's mill, its major employer, but also involved in various corrupt dealings; etc. Quebecois answer to Hollywood's "Twin Peaks", though with a brisker tempo, and with a greater (not always comfortable) mix of tongue-in-cheek comedy with the drama and suspense. But, ultimately, an interesting, quirky, delightfully off-beat watch, with some solid performers...though the dialogue shoots by so rapidly in some scenes, the subtitles can flash on and off too quickly (the translator maybe should've occasionally gone for the pared down gist of the conversations, rather than faithful, more verbose, translations). English title: Great Bear. Hour long episodes, shown (subtitled) on the CBC.

THE GRAND SEDUCTION   * *   setting: Nfld.
(2014) Brendan Gleeson, Taylor Kitsch, Gordon Pinsent, Liane Balaban, Mark Critch, Peter Keleghan, Mary Walsh, Margaret Killingbeck, Cathy Jones, Matt Watts.....An impoverished Newfoundland island community needs a resident doctor to land a factory contract, so they decide to woo (and con) a big city doctor (Kitsch) by pretending to be whatever he likes (he's a cricket fan, so they pretend they have a cricket team; he likes Indian cuisine, so they add it to the local restaurant's menu). Comedy is a remake of an earlier French-Canadian movie also called La Grande seduction -- reviewed just below (though its English title was Seducing Dr. Lewis) -- and which has already been remade in other countries. And it's certainly a cute, high concept premise (if familiar). And this version boasts good performances, and a glossy, expensive look, with periodic chuckles and laughs...but can best be described as pleasant rather than compelling. It hasn't diverged from the original (same scenes, characters, progression) while suffering from similar flaws. It's a really thin plot and is emotionally shallow, even nihilistic (the whole movie based on the characters exploiting the doctor) with female characters (like Balaban as the young postmistress, or Jones as Gleeson's semi-estranged wife) peripheral. A "comedy" should be jaunty (brevity being the soul of wit), but too many sequences ramble on like they're set ups for jokes that never occur -- while, conversely, it can seem disjointed at times, as though other scenes (or segues) were left on the cutting room floor! Admittedly, whether this is (subtly) inferior to the original (which I recall liking) or simply suffering from being the second time around, I'm not sure -- but it's a movie that despite the strengths (the acting, the look, the good intentions) can leave you remembering its weaknesses rather than its strengths. Too bad. sc: Ken Scott, Michael Dowse. dir: Don McKellar. - sexual content.- 113 min.

LA GRANDE SEDUCTION  * * *  setting: P.Q.
(2003) Raymond Bouchard, David Boutin, Benoit Briere, Pierre Collin, Rita Lafontaine, Clemence Desrochers, Lucie Laurier, Bruno Blanchet, Donald Pilon.....Economically depressed small island town has a chance at prosperity when a factory considers opening there, but in order to seal the deal, they need a resident they go about trying to woo a big city doctor (Boutin), coerced into visiting, by pretending to be whatever they think he wants (he's a cricket fan, so they pretend to have a cricket team...even though they know nothing about the sport). Likeable, good natured comedy covers familiar, almost British terrain of movies about eccentric small towns (not to mention the conceptually similar Hollywood film, "Doc Hollywood" -- though this is told from the point of view of the townsfolk, more than the big city doc). Restrained, while also engaging in some amusingly goofy sequences (particularly as they find themselves having to con both the doc and the factory owner), with a particularly nice performance from Bouchard as the level headed ring leader. Though Laurier probably should've had a bigger part as the town beauty (giving the movie more of a romantic thread). A big hit in Quebec and, unlike some Quebec comedies, its temperament is easily accessible by an English-Canadian audience. English title: Seducing Doctor Lewis. Spawned various international re-makes, including an English-Canadian one under the title The Grand Seduction (reviewed above). sc: Ken Scott. dir: Jean-Francois Pouliot. - sexual content.- 109 min.

LES GRANDS ENFANTS * *  setting: P.Q.
(1979) Gilbert Sicotte, Julie Vincent, Robert Gravel, Jean Mathieu, Marielle Bernard.....Story of a footloose unemployed man (Sicotte) who wanders about visiting with various friends.  Drama has good dialogue, direction and performances (especially Sicotte) but lacking a plot, it just kind of, well, lacks any impetus.  The film could also be seen as playing into right-wing paranoia by portraying the unemployed as shiftless and lazy.  English title: Day by Day.  sc./dir: Paul Tana. - brief female nudity.- 83 min.

GRASS  * *  setting: USA
(1999) Narrated by Woody Harrelson.....Chronicle of the 20th Century's hysteria toward marijuana and various legal crackdowns...despite even government studies which indicated it wasn't that serious a drug. Funky documentary, told with plenty of wild edits and quirky animation, comes at its subject matter with a pro-grass agenda, and the wealth of unearthed archive material is truly impressive (including bizarrely alarmist old public service films warning marijuana will turn users into homicidal psychopaths). But there's little context to much of the footage, and no interviews to corroborate what's being said in the narration. There's little attempt to go beneath the surface and ask "why?" -- why has grass been so demonized? Or how did it become so socially accepted despite government propaganda? Blame is laid almost entirely at the feet of early American anti-drug czar Harry Anslinger -- which might be true, but seems a tad simplistic (no mention is made of one theory, that the crackdown had nothing to do with moral concerns about the drug, but rather because of commercial lobbyists hoping to ban its commercial use as hemp fibre products). A worthy subject for a film, but maybe it needs a more disciplined filmmaker, rather than light-weight pop chronicler Mann (Comic Book Confidential, Twist). As with his previous films, Canadian Mann is only interested in chronicling the American experience (at one point a headline is flashed showing that a Canadian drug documentary was banned in the U.S. -- but we're never told why or what the film contained!) Ironically, this film stirred up its own controversy with censors...not for its subject matter, but for use of old documentary footage of marijuana tests on animals which censors felt might contravene modern rules about cruelty to animals (the objections were dropped). sc: Solomon Verta. dir: Ron Mann. - brief female nudity.- 79 min.

GRAVE HALLOWEEN   * * 1/2   setting: other
(2013) (/U.S.) Kaitlyn Leeb, Cassi Thomson, Graham Wardle, Dejan Loyola, Jeff C. Ballard, Hiro Kanagawa, Jesse Wheeler, Tom Stevens, Kevan Ohtsji.....A pretty Japanese-American university student (Leeb), at an international university in Japan, and some of her friends, head to a cursed forest notorious for its long history of suicides, both to shoot a documentary, and so she can attempt a funeral ritual for her mother who killed herself years before. Given the long list of, frankly, bad Canadian-made horror movies produced for the U.S. Sy-Fy Channel, the fact that this one doesn't completely suck is, in a way, a real compliment! It's an interesting attempt by North American filmmakers to try a Japanese-style horror flick (not as a remake or a transposition of a Japanese flick). It has a decent (mainly Canadian) cast (with Kanagawa particularly memorable as an older man they meet in the woods) and tries the ambitious route of, initially, trying to generate chills simply through mood and atmosphere (though the requisite cheesy Sy-Fy Channel gore comes into play as it goes) -- unfortunately without always shaking off its TV movie vibe. And the plot is basically what it seems -- group of teens get killed off one by one by supernatural means -- rather than having a complex story or characterization to be developed. The result isn't great, or even that good, but given the pluses, if you keep your expectations modest, might be worth a look for the movie it's trying to be, as much as the movie it is -- particularly (as the title suggests) as a Halloween confection. sc: Ryan Smith (story Sheldon Wilson). dir: Steven R. Monroe. - extreme violence.- 85 min.

GRAVEYARD STORY  *  setting: Ont.
(1990) John Ireland, Adrian Paul, Cayle Chernin, Keith Vinsonhaler, Christine Cattell, Courtney Taylor.....Private eye (Paul, but not the Adrian Paul of Highlander TVS fame) is hired by a retired doctor (Ireland) to look into the history of a little girl buried in the local cemetary.  What starts out as a supernatural thriller soon turns out to be a standard detective story -- and a badly done one at that.  Actting, script and direction are all a write-off.  sc./dir: Bozidar D. Benedikt. 94 min.

GREAT BEAR (TVMS)  see Grand Ourse


(1979-1981)   * * * Douglas Campbell ("Insp. Cameron"), with Sandy Webster ("Dr. McCallister"), James Dugan ("Stryker"), Kay Hawtrey ("Mrs. Lutz"),others.....Mystery following the exploits of a roaming 19th century Ontario provincial police inspector (Campbell) -- inspired by the real-life John Wilson-Murray (whose memoirs have been published in book form). Webster played his Dr. Watson-esque coroner friend. Hawtrey played his German housekeeper. Dugan cropped up as his uniformed leg man. 

This appealing TV series, filmed on cheap video, was obviously an attempt to emulate the British detective series, rather than the more rumbunctious U.S. model.  Very evocative of the time period, the series made full use of it in both location and story, but it could be a bit stiff and slow with uneven guest performances (despite an impressive list of actors including Nick Mancuso just shortly before he hit it big).  Ultimately, though, it worked more often than not thanks immeasurably to Campbell's charismatic, humourous performance which propped up the episodes everytime he was on screen.  Webster also helped alot.  Years later, CBC Radio produced a thematically similar radio series called The Investigations of Quentin Nickles starring Neil Munro; and there was a still later (excellent) U.K. radio series called McLevy (starring Brian Cox) that also seemed reminiscent of this series...if only in the hero being a brash, middle-aged Scotsman. The real life Wilson-Murray was also cited as the inspiration for the later Murdoch Mysteries TV series. Hour long episodes (including one two-parter) originally on the CBC. 

THE GREAT LAND OF SMALL  * 1/2  setting: P.Q. \(1987) Karen Elkin, Michael Blouin, Michael J. Anderson, Ken Roberts, Lorraine Desmarais.....Two kids, vacationing with their grandparents, meet up with a magical being.  Patronizing little fantasy is too slow and confused for little kids, but too poorly done to appeal to older ones.  One of producer Rock Demer's Tales For All children's series.  sc: David Sigmund. dir: Vojtech Jasny. 94 min.

THE GREAT MARTIAN WAR: 1913-1917 * * 1/2   setting: other/CDN.
(2014) (/U.K.) Mark Strong (narrator), Jock McLeod, Joan Gregson, Ian Downie, Thomas Gough, Hazel Douglas, Ashley Bomberry, Daniel Matmor, Walter Stegmaier, Briony Glassco, Howard Jerome.....Off-beat riff on H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds telling of an early 20th Century alien invasion as though a documentary looking back, complete with eyewitness accounts, historical experts, and archival footage. TV movie does a nice job of evoking the feel of a History Channel-style documentary, complete with celebrity narrator (British actor Strong), the teasing way it hints of revelations to come later in the program -- even the tendency to re-use the same footage, though possibly just a budget thing, is entirely consistent with these kind of documentaries. Doesn't maybe fully make you forget you're watching a drama pretending to be a documentary (the scenes with McLeod and Jerome as a couple of old army buddies are among the most convincing). And it probably could've done a better job of developing a story (character arcs, etc.) because at almost 90 minutes it can feel like it's stretching its gimmick -- though does build to a clever denouement. It's a bit vague as to what its point is. Is it just a clever idea? Is it a metaphor for the First World War -- tackling the horrors of that war but through the metaphor of Martian invaders (actual wartime footage is included and doctored with alien war machines)? Is it a variation on the found footage horror genre? Still, worth a look, if only as a curiosity. And it's nice that this Canadian co-production actually works in some Canadian characters. sc: Steve Sarossy (concept by Steve Maher). dir: Mike Slee. 88 min.

THE GREEN CHAIN  * *  setting: B.C.
(2007) Scott McNeil, Babz Chula, Tahmoh Penikett, Tricia Helfer, Brendan Fletcher, August Schellenberg, Jillian Fargey.....The logging vs. conservationist dilemma is presented with actors delivering monologues (often in one take) as characters on both sides of the issue. Basically a pseudo-documentary that purports to look at all sides...but only really looks at two points of view, and tends toward pro-logging (at least in that the loggers are generally depicted as earnest, hard working folk...and the environmentalists as flighty bimbos). Good performances and it can hold your interest for a few minutes...but ultimately the monologues are too structured to quite be convincing, but too formless to be compelling narratives. And though there is some overlap (a character in one scene will be referenced in passing in another) not enough to shape the whole into a story that builds to a denouement (though there is some half-hearted attempt in the final scene). Might have been better to intercut the monologues rather than hold on one actor for ten minutes, then move on. Ultimately, comes across as though the filmmaker wanted to do a documentary...but figured this would be easier as he wouldn't have to find interview subjects or do much in-depth research or cite actual statistics (apparently, the film implies, job losses in the logging industry are due largely to nasty environmentalists -- who also cause most of the forest fires! -- and has nothing to do with over-logging, mechanization, or that small towns in general are suffering in an increasingly urban economy). sc./dir: Mark Leiren-Young. 87 min.

(1991).....Michael Ontkean narrates this sympathetic -- but still fairly even handed -- look at the environmental activist organization Greenpeace; its origins, various projects, and its future.  Interesting, effective documentary.  Music by Bruce Cockburn.  sc: Michael Maclear, Shelley Saywell. dir: Shelley Saywell.

(1988) Fanny Lauzier, Denis Forest, Marina Orsini, Felix-Antoine LeRoux, Jean Lejeunesse.....Story of a young girl (Lauzier), with an affinity for marine mamals, living at a hotel which is about to be sold.  Light-hearted tale, one of Rock Demer's Tales For All children's series, tends to ramble about without much purpose.  Look for (bearded) Demer on a boat of tourists.  English title: The Tadpole and the Whale.  sc: Jacques Bobet, Andre Melancon with Lise Thouin, Jean-Claude Lord. dir: Jean-Claude Lord. 92 min.

THE GREY FOX  * * 1/2  setting: B.C.
(1982) Richard Farnsworth, Jackie Burroughs, Wayne Robson, Ken Pogue, Timothy Webber, Gary Reineke.....True story of aging stage coach robber Bill Miner (Farnsworth), who is released from prison near the beginning of the twentieth century only to take up train robbing in B.C.  Some interesting visuals in this low-key drama, but so-so performances, slow pacing and a general obviousness make it only O.K.  How can anything so pretentious be so superficial?  Won seven Genies including Best Picture, Supporting Actress (Burroughs) and Script.  sc: John Hunter. dir: Philip Borsos. 92 min.

GREY OWL  * * *  setting: CDN./other
(1999) (/U.K.) Pierce Brosnan, Annie Gallipeau, Stewart Bick, Nathaniel Arcand, Jimmy Herman, Vlasta Vrana.....Story of Grey Owl a.k.a. Archie Belaney (Brosnan), a Native trapper and hunting guide in the '30s who changed his ways (thanks to the love of a woman) becoming an outspoken conservationist (long before there was much of an environmental movement) and international celebrity...all the while hiding a secret past. Intellectually, this handsome bio-pic mishandles a lot of elements (even to the point where they can't seem to decide whether to treat his "secret" as a narrative surprise, or assume the audience knows it). But viscerally it's an effectively atmospheric, leisurely-paced drama, with some nicely written scenes; part conservation message, part romance. Hardly the definitive Grey Owl saga -- they ignore his alcoholism and his abandonned wives (including a kid) -- but still an affecting look at one of the more intriguing figures in Canadian history. British director Attenborough has done of number of bio-pics over the years. Lot's of familiar Canadian actors in bit parts, including Graham Greene. sc: William Nicholson. dir: Richard Attenborough. - casual male nudity, brief female nudity..- 118 min.

THE GREENING OF IAN ELLIOTT* 1/2  setting: Sask.
(1991) Anthony Bekenn, Helen Carscallen, Carol Sinclair, Lynne Gorman, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Gary Reineke.....Minister (Bekenn) arrives in a small town and begins to encourage opposition to a proposed dam that would flood much of the area.  This sugary made-for-CBC TV ode to small town life is so awful it does more harm than good.  The dialogue is embarrassing and the acting bad, even from pros like Reineke and MacDonald.  sc: Jennine Locke. dir: Stacey Stewart Curtis. app. 97 min.

GRIDLOCK   * * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1996) (/U.S.) David Hasselhoff, Kathy Ireland, Miguel Fernandes, Gotz Otto, Marc Strange, Tony DeSantis, Alan Scarfe, Jason Blicker, Real Andrews..... Helicopter cop (Hasselhoff) and his spunky girlfriend (Ireland) find themselves alone against a group of high-tech robbers (led by Fernandes) inside a huge New York bank.  Expensive-looking, better-than-expected made-for-TV "Die Hard" riff is brisk, amusing, and Hasselhoff a less brutal hero than is common these days.  But it suffers from a painful reliance on cliches (Hasselhoff as an "unorthodox" cop who can't make a commitment; DeSantis as his too-obnoxious-for-words C.O.; Fernandes as the well-tailored, vaguely European villain; etc.).  Entertaining but slight.  Nice performances all around.  Questions raised though: i) why do the villains create the traffic jams of the title since it doesn't actually relate much to the plot? (other than as an obvious "Die Hard With a Vengeance" rip-off). ii) what's with the baldness motiff? iii) and why does Von Flores not have any lines?  sc: Joe Ferullo. dir: Sandor Stern. 90 min.

GRIZZLY   * *  setting: USA.
(2014) (/U.S.) James Marsden, Thomas Jane, Piper Perabo, Scott Glenn, Michaela McManus, Billy Bob Thornton.....Various characters end up running about the Alaskan wilds both hunting, and being hunted by, a murderous, rogue grizzle bear -- including estranged brothers, one an ex-con (Marsden) and one a local deputy (Jane). Action-horror-thriller is one of those frustrating films which is hard to rate because it's not conspicuously bad -- it's just not really that good, either. The acting is fine, it looks good, but can often seem a bit cheesy (even the hardworking score by Marcus Trumpp is a bit too self-conscious). Despite attempts at characterization and relationships it sometimes falls into the, um, bear traps of triteness and without really making the characters that involving. Worse, it never really sustains a sense of tension or suspense. This may have sat on the shelf for a year or two and, funnily enough, was one of two Canadian-made killer bear flicks around that time (the other being Backcountry). The director is Canadian and it even works in a couple of minor Canadian references, but is presumably mainly a Hollywood film with Canadian co-producers. None of the main roles went to Canadian actors, though Perabo films her TV series "Covert Affairs" in Canada (she probably spends more time in Canada than a lot of "Canadian" actors) -- though despite her prominent billing she has a thankless part as a deaf-mute: she's on screen a lot, but with no dialogue (though maybe that can be appealing for an actor!) a.k.a. Red Machine. sc: Guy Moshe, Jack Reher. dir: David Hackl. - extreme violence; brief female nudity.- 93 min.

(1991) Simon Webb, Susinn McFarlen, Nicola Cavendish, Jay Brazeau..... When his mother goes into the hospital, a small town nebbish (Webb) allows another woman (McFarlen) to temporarily move in with him and she starts going into his mother's room and pushing him around.  Slow, simplistic and obvious low-budget little film...which could explain why it was a hit with the critics.  For the rest of us, it's just irritating.  Clumsily edited with little dialogue and ineffectual performances.  Reminiscent of Guy Maddin's stuff.  Filmed in Black and White.  Cavendish picked up the Best Supporting Actress Genie.  sc./dir: John Pozer. - casual male nudity.- 100 min.

GROSS MISCONDUCT   * *  setting: CDN./USA.
(1993) Daniel Kash, Peter MacNeill, Linda Goranson, Doug Hughes, Lenore Zann, Shawn Ashmore, Kristen Kieferle, Shannon Lawson.....Story of hockey star Brian "Spinner" Spencer (Kash) whose life was plagued by violence on and off the ice.  Avant garde presentation, including jumbled chronology and captions, seems a smoke screen for the fact that there isn't enough story or characterization to make a movie.  Strange discrepancies, too, like the fact that "twins" Kash and Hughes don't look anything alike.  Lots of prominent actors in bit parts but only Zann really clicks (but her nude scene so offended (?) the sensibilities of the audience, that the CBC cut it when this made-for-TV movie was re-aired in '95).  Scripter Gross is the well-known actor.  sc: Paul Gross (from the book by Martin O'Malley). dir: Atom Egoyan. - partial female nudity, sexual content.- app. 94 min.

THE G-SPOT (TV Series)
is reviewed here


(2008-2010)  * *  Steve Bacic "Miro da Silva", Jeremy Guilbaut "Andrew Vanderlee", Claudette Mink "Laura Nelson I" (1st), Sonya Salomaa "Laura Nelson II" (2nd-), Zoie Palmer "Carly Greig", Gordon Michael Woolvett "Barry Winter", with David James Elliott (-2nd), Roger Cross (2nd-), Ryan Robbins "Wendell Linham", Eve Harlow "Tina Renwald", others.....Drama series about members of the Coast Guard in B.C. (Co-star Mink was gone by the second season but, instead of simply writing her character out, they kept the character but re-cast it with a new actor -- Salomaa...something Salomaa had neen called on to do in the earlier series, The Collector, too!) 

TV series boasts a solid cast and has the sort of right idea by giving them all their personal troubles and soap opera-y angst -- particularly given that, after all is ssaid and done, there's not too much variety you can milk from water rescues (shots of characters lost at sea, cut to Coast Guard vessel looking for them, cut to castaways, cut to boat -- finally, boat pulls 'em from water, the end). But ultimately, the episodes of the week plots were pretty thinly developed, not really developing the guest stars beyond the needs of the scene. Yet the on going soap opera-y threads involving the regulars...also tend to be pretty thin and repetitive, not really developing or changing much (first episode has "Andrew" traumatized by his failure to rescue of the season just reiterates that he's traumatized) nor are the characters that involving, or endearing -- top-billed Bacic's character doesn't even really seem like the "hero" (seeming to make a mess of both his personal and professional life). Essentially: watch the pilot or, indeed, many of the episodes by themselves, and you'll probably say it's a decent, professionally acted any two or three episodes, and you'll probably get pretty bored, pretty quick. The creators just haven't come up with enough ideas and compelling material to sustain a weekly series. The series opened well (CanWest-Global quick to trumpet its success over the CBC's much hyped The Border) but, unlike The Border, it failed to sustain the numbers, the audience quickly dropping off. Still, the network renewed it despite the ratings remaing consistently, um, water-logged. Hour long episodes on CanWest-Global. 

THE GUARDIAN   * * * *  setting: USA.
(1984) (/U.S.) Martin Sheen, Louis Gossett Jr., Arthur Hill, Tandy Cronyn, Simon Reynolds, Maury Chaykin, Wendy Crewson, Tom Harvey, Sean McCann.....Terrorized by rampant street-level crime, New York apartment building tenants hire a security guard (Gossett) to protect them, but then a tenant (Sheen) becomes suspicious of how far he will go to insure that they obey him.  Excellent, thought-provoking drama.  American imports Sheen and Gossett head a fine cast.  sc: Richard Levinson, William Link. dir: David Greene. 102 min.

THE GUARDIAN  * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1999) Frank Zagarino, Bryan Genesse, Stellina Rusich, Dale Wilson, Robert C. Saunders, James Leard.....Ex-con security expert (Zagarino) is hired to protect a wealthy businessman (Wilson), while also investigating the inexplicable murder of his own mother. For what it is -- a low-budget suspense-drama (filmed on video, though they have enough money for decently choreographed fights and an exploding car) -- the scenes generally avoid being turgid, and the script, though not that good, isn't that bad either (with a decent twist toward the end). But the suspense-plot keeps getting side-tracked in favour of people sitting around, talking. It ultimately can't quite rise above its low-budget foundations of stagnant camera-work and uneven performances -- some are certainly competent enough, but Zagarino wasn't the best choice for lead. Not an embarrassment, perhaps, but not a success, either. sc: Bill Irwin. dir: Gerry Lively. 91 min.

LA GUERRE DES TUQUES * * *  setting: P.Q. (1984) Cedric Jourde, Julien Elie, Mariperre Arseneau-D'Amour, Doc Mink Vu, Luc Boucher.....During Christmas vacation, two groups of kids engage in a mock, elaborate war.  Funny, engaging, allegorical story that, though aimed at kids, should be enjoyable for adults as well.  First of producer Rock Demer's Tales For All children's series.  English title: The Dog Who Stopped the War.  sc: Danyele Patenaude, Roger Cantin, Andre Melancon. dir: Andre Melancon.


(2012-)  * *   Supinder Wraich ("Sandy Rai"), Dan Fox ("Trevor Shale"), with (series one) David Fox, Hrant Alianak, Rosemary Dunsmore, others, (series two) Arnaud Binard, Fabrizio Filippo, Alex Castillo-Smith, Scott Hylands, Christina Jol, Torren Sylvain, others.....Suspense about a couple of Toronto journalism students who uncover evidence of murder and an international conspiracy that ties into the real life Georgia Guidestones. The series has two distinct forms. The first series partly used the format of an electronic journal (where the characters address the camera) and initially the 2 to 5 minute instalments (totaling 34 episodes) would be e-mailed to subscribers in "real time". That is, if a few days passed for the characters between entries, then it would be a few days before the next episode was sent out. Subsequently it was re-presented on-line to be watched at the viewers' own pace and discretion. The second series -- given a new title Guidestones: Sunflower Noir (involving a search for a clue in a lost Van Gogh painting) -- was 18 instalments and now presented more like a conventional drama, dropping the video-diary format and the episodes running 8 or even 15 minutes long!

This series won a number of awards in webseries categories and it's glossy looking, with scenes shot in Canada, the U.S., India and Europe. And Fox and beautiful Wraich are engaging enough (though since Wraich is supposed to be from India, shouldn't she have a non-Canadian accent?) But like a lot of webseries, the format itself (for the first season) is a problem -- the short instalments not really allowing time to develop the characters or the plot, too busy barrelling ahead to the next sequence. The initial e-mail presentation might have added to the mood but any current viewer is going to be watching it in a more conventional presentation. And it fails to generate that creepy "found footage" convincingly pseudo-documentary feel it was perhaps aiming for (throwing in edits and jump cuts even when a lone person making a video blog!) To be honest, it can have a bit of a student film vibe to it, as if the actors (or more likely the director) weren't entirely sure what to do in some scenes. The second season -- Sunflower Noir -- now presenting itself as a more mainstream thriller, wasn't really any better, maybe even emphasizing the problems of budget and inexperience (still retaining a student film vibe) with too many scenes than can feel as if no one's quite sure what they're supposed to be doing in them (despite the cast including pros like Scott Hylands and Fab Filippo). The problem is the characters don't really have much in the way of character for the actors to develop and explore -- and now that instalments are 10-15 minutes long, it becomes more obvious the personalities need to bolster the thin, loose-logic of the movie serial-like plot.

The series ties into the whole "gamer" fanbase, the characters handed often arbitrary clues which they then decipher (using a keystone program, or simply by vaguely searching on-line) which sends them onto their next destination (the whole series largely built on "MacGuffins"). In a previous era, fans would collect box tops and send away for de-coder rings to play along with the characters! But though the "multi-platform" and interactive component is part of it, I'm just reviewing it from the point of view of: you sit down, turn it on, and does it tell an interesting and coherent story? Unfortunately, not so much.

"Conspiracy thrillers" when they work -- they're great. But equally can just seem like a re-hash of past scenes and scenarios, and where even the premises are often vague (partway through the fiirst series you expect the leads to look at each other and say: "um, what are we investigating anyway?") or are based on pre-existing theories (such as Murder by Decree or "The DaVinci Code") -- you just have to google "Georgia Guidestones" and you'll already be a few steps ahead of the heroes! Granted, this becomes less so as the story progresses and it develops its own scenario. And some surprise twists towards the end of the first series momentarily bolster interest. However it just becomes problematic in the second series ("Sunflower Noir") because by this point we know what's going on and why, so it's not really about unravelling a conspiracy yet, equally, it's not like the characters have any long term plan to combat it, either. A heavy use of product placements (perhaps explaining how a webseries can afford all the globe-hopping location shooting) can also be a bit amusing when the characters are constantly checking Google Maps or finding clues in Pizza Pizza boxes -- even in scenes abroad, but I don't think there are Pizza Pizza branches outside Canada. (Indeed, for a series about a conspiracy, it's funny the characters don't get suspicious about all those ubiquitous pizza boxes -- bum-dum-dum-daaaa!) Created by Jay Ferguson.

"Guilt" , a story by Betty Lambert, was one of the stories incorporated into the movie Martha, Ruth and Edie

THE GUILTY  * *  setting: USA.
(2000) (/U.K.) Bill Pullman, Devon Sawa, Gabrielle Anwar, Angela Featherstone, Darcy Belsher, Jaimz Woolvett, Joanne Whaley, Bruce Harwood, Hiro Kanagawa.....Unscrupulous American lawyer (Pullman) is blackmailed by the woman (Anwar) he date raped; meanwhile, the son he didn't know he had (Sawa) arrives in town looking to meet his real father...and ends up rooming with Anwar; none of them aware of all the connections between them. Eventually, murder occurs. Convoluted film noirish suspense-drama juggles a lot of plot threads (including Belsher and Woolvett as Sawa's shady best friends) making for a plot that isn't always easy to guess where it's headed. But that can be part of the problem, as some plot threads can seem extraneous, and the movie itself takes too long to get where it's going. But the chief weakness is that it wants to be one of those things where there's a certain underlining nihilism, and where no one's necessarily good or bad, they just are. Pullman's described by another character as an amoral scum bag, though some scenes seem to want to give him depth, but Sawa isn't really any more ingratiating, and seems miscast, too much like he stepped out of a teen comedy/drama into this gritty, grown up world. Ultimately, with too few characters to care about (though Anwar and Featherstone, as her best friend, are O.K.) the movie just leaves you...cold. sc: William Davies (from something by Simon Burke -- the credits don't say what: a novel? a play?). dir: Anthony Waller. - violence, (really) brief female nudity.- 111 min.

GUITARMAN   * 1/2  setting: CDN.
(1994) Nicholas Campbell, Donnelly Rhodes, Shawn Ashmore, Suzy Joachim, Eugene Lipinski, Jack Semple, Andrea Martin.....Story of father (Campbell) and his strained relationship with his son (Ashmore), and of their locust-plagued farming town and what happens when a mysterious guitar player (Semple) shows up, promising to get rid of the bugs.  Muddled made-for-CBC TV updating of the Pied Piper fairy tale has some good ideas...too bad they couldn't have been saved for a better movie.  Some of the actors play it as a comedy, others a drama, some, frankly, can't act and those that can (like Campbell) don't seem to be trying too hard.  sc: Will Dixon, Hart Hanson. dir: Will Dixon. 91 min.


(1996-1998)   * *  Bryan Hennessey ("Calvin Pope"), Brenda Devine ("Iris Hussey"), Michael Wade ("Pis Parsons"), Elizabeth Pickard ("Dolly Pope"), Janis Spence ("Angoar Pope"), Jody Richardson ("Nuts O'Neil"), Philip Dinn ("Bert"), Brian Best ("Russell"), Frank Berry ("Jimmy Gullage"), Mercedes Barry ("Mrs. Clancy"), others.....Sitcom focusing on a St. John's taxi driver (Hennessey) who lives with his mother (Spence), daughter -- and fellow cabbie -- (Pickard), grandchild, and whose ex-wife (Devine) lives next door.  Barry played another neighbour.  Wade played the shifty new owner of the taxi stand, Gullage's, and the others drivers.

This TV series was an eccentric, well-intentioned attempt to do nothing more than a silly sitcom, with oddball characters and situations.  And it was mildly amusing -- with mild being the operative word.  Cute but not much more.  Compared to a lot of Canadian-made comedies, a series which doesn't make the viewer cringe with embarrassment is a definite plus, but that still didn't make it riveting viewing.  Nice Newfoundland ambience with saltier dialogue than most previous series, though never seeming exploitive.  Ironically, this close-but-no-cigar effort aired the same season as The Newsroom -- a considerably more effective Canadian comedy series.  The series was written and directed by William D. MacGillivray.  Two seasons of half-hour episodes (6 the first season, 12 the next) on the CBC. 

THE GUNFIGHTERS  * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1987) Art Hindle, Reine Schoene, Tony Addabbo, George Kennedy.....Two American brothers and their cousin are forced into becoming outlaws by a greedy land baron (American star Kennedy) who is after their ranch.  For die-hard western fans only.  Cliche riddled script, weak performances and an aimless, wandering plot are only some of the problems with this western adventure which was a pilot to a never-realized series.  sc: Jim Byrnes. dir: Clay Borris. 100 min.

GUNLESS   * * * 1/2   setting: CDN.
(2010) Paul Gross, Sienna Guillory, Dustin Milligan, Tyler Mane, Jay Brazeau, Michael Eklund, Melody Choi, Chang Tseng, Callum Keith Rennie, Graham Greene.....An American Wild West outlaw (Gross), circa the 1800s, stumbles into a quiet Canadian town and finds himself regarded with a mix of novelty and bemusement, but not taken too seriously...a state made all the more frustrating (for him) when his "honour" demands a showdown with a local man...but no one else even seems to own a pistol. Meanwhile, a sinister bounty hunter (Rennie) is closing in on his trail... At first blush, the premise sounds cute (the irresistible force of a cliched rough an tumble American gunslinger running into the immovable wall of stereotypical Canadian polite civility) -- but maybe too self-consciously cutesy. Surprisingly, then, the result is actually...very funny. Lots of genuine laughs, but additionally buoyed by some dramatic undercurrents, and a plot that, though deliberately minimalist, nonetheless has a story to tell. And despite the American/Canadian premise avoids just being cardboard cliches. The cast is good, and despite the farcical nature of the material, play it with a low-key restraint...enhancing the comedy. That is, Gross really does come across as a mainstream western movie character who has taken a wrong turn into this odd ball town. Eklund is a scene stealer as a wacky local. Greene is funny, but only has a handful of lines. Funnily enough, by modern standards this is a fairly mild, family friendly film -- but then features more profanity in the bloopers shown during the end credits than in the movie itself! sc./dir: William Phillips. 89 min.

THE GUNRUNNER   setting: P.Q.
(1989) Kevin Costner, Ron Lea, Sara Botsford, Paul Soles, Gerard Parkes, Martin Neufeld.....Returning to 1920s Montreal to buy guns for the Chinese revolution, a man (Costner) becomes mixed up with kidnappings and, uh, stuff.  Even the novelty of a communist hero can't save this incomprehensible, awful suspenser.  It seems to have enough money for the period cars and costumes, but not for decent sound or editing.  Lea and Parkes manage to avoid embarrassing themselves, but imported Costner, who made this before his superstardom, is his usual wooden self.  And isn't that U.S. actor James Hong's voice dubbed in for the Asian clerk?  Filmed in '84.  sc: Arnie Gelbart. dir: Nardo Castillo. - violence.- 92 min.

GUNS (TVMS)  * * *   setting: Ont./USA.
(2009) Elisha Cuthbert, Gregory Smith, Shawn Doyle, Lyriq Bent, Colm Feore, K.C. Collins, Cle Bennett, Rachel Crawford, Richard Chevolleau, Stephen McHattie, Alan Van Sprang, Debra Lynne McCabe, Daniel Kash.....Broad canvased ensemble about guns and crime, focusing, in part, on a couple of cops (Doyle and Bent) seeking to bring down a legitimate arms dealer (Feore) who also controls the illegal gun trade, as well as various other characters, from the gun merchant's son (Smith) and the son's girlfriend (Cuthbert), to a street hood (Collins) trying to go straight, and a reporter (Crawford) covering the beat...who is dating one of the cops; and others. Sprawling made-for-CBC TV crime-drama is well put together and boasts good performances all around (Feore inparticular). Though clearly an issue-driven "relevant" project (as the generic title implies), the characters and plot quickly move beyond just being props to convey a message, so the movie does work, first and foremost, as just entertainment. At the same time, doesn't necessarily offer any particular surprises or curve balls in either characters or story. Still, easily holds your interest from beginning to end -- which is what good storytelling is about. 4 hours. sc: Sudz Sutherland, Jennifer Holness. dir: Sudz Sutherland.

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