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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.

H  * * *
(1990) Martin Neufeld, Pascale Montpetit.....A heroin addict seals himself and his junkie girl friend in their basement apartment in order to kick their habit by going cold turkey. Off-beat, hauntingly atmospheric drama, made for about $60 000, is intense, occasionally quirky, and absolutely riveting thanks, in no small part, to Montpetit who is stunningly brilliant in her film debut (and deservedly earned the Best Actress Genie). sc./dir: Darrell Wasyk (his first feature). - female and male nudity, explicit sexual content.- 94 min.

H.P. Lovecraft: Out of Mind see Out of Mind

H2O  * * * 1/2  setting: Ont./P.Q./other
(2004) Paul Gross, Leslie Hope, Guy Nadon, Martha Henry, Callum Keith Rennie, David Boutin, Kenneth Welsh, Peter MacNeill, Louise Portal, Jeff Pustil, Gordon Pinsent, Macha Grenon, Michael Murphy, Tantoo Cardinal, Jeff Seymour, Barry Flatman, Yves Jacques, Hrant Alianak, Doug McGrath.....After a sitting prime minister dies mysteriously, his charismatic son (Gross) is wooed to take his place, while the investigators begin to expose elements of a far reaching conspiracy...and the son, now prime minister, may have his own hidden agenda. Gripping CBC-TV mini-series is an audacious, apocalyptic, near future political thriller with Shakespearean overtones that sets out to be THE Canadian political thriller...and pretty much succeeds, working in coy echoes of real life Canadian political history so that the extraordinary events don't seem far fetched at all. An intriguing, provocative, challenging thriller, where it takes a long time to even figure out who are the good guys and who are the bad ones, and that tackles serious concerns while still being an edge-of-the-seat, pulpy suspenser. Smartly written with some sharp dialogue, stylishly directed -- Ottawa has never seemed so sinister -- and well acted, particularly from the central players. Occasionally confusing -- sometimes intentionally, sometimes not -- and with a downbeat ending, but arguably a one of a kind experience. And more's the pity. For a more extensive review (albeit with spoilers) see the editorial here. Followed by a loose sequel: The Trojan Horse. Four hours. sc: Paul Gross, John Krizanc. dir: Charles Biname. - violence.-

HABITAT  * 1/2  setting: USA
(1997) (/The Netherlands) Balthazar Getty, Tcheky Karyo, Alice Krige, Laura Harris, Kenneth Welsh, Brad Austin, Christopher Heyerdahl, Kris Holdenreid, Daniel Pilon.....Years after the deteriorating ozone has devastated much of America, a teen (Getty) moves to a new town where his biologist father (Karyo) mutates into a new lifeform, his mom (Krige) acts weird...and he gets into a feud with the local bully and his high school coach (Welsh). Really! Science fiction flick seems like "The Karate Kid" meets "Creepshow" with a dash of metaphysical monologues, and other scenes that seem like they're lifted from a sitcom. And it's every bit as lame as it sounds. Maybe the disparate ideas could've been blended into a compelling story, but you'd need a filmmaker with a better grasp of characterization and coherence, not to mention his themes. And the scary thing is: this is actually the second movie (Hysteria) Daalder (a non-Canadian) has gotten Canadians to finance! Krige appears topless near the beginning, and Harris near the end, but that's about it for aspects of interest (well, Welsh also shows some skin if you're interested). You know it's a Canadian movie 'cause characters constantly remind us it's the U.S. in awkward dialogue. sc./dir: Rene Daalder. 103 min. - partial female and male nudity, violence.-

HAIR OF THE BEAST  see Le poil de la bete

HAIRSHIRT  a.k.a.Too Smooth

Half a Lifetime  * *  setting: USA.
(1984) Nick Mancuso, Gary Busey, Saul Rubinek, Keith Carradine.....Story of four buddies, approaching middle age, and how a poker game leads to some unsettling self-discovery. So-so hour long serio-comic drama trys real hard to seem authentic, but ultimately never does. Even the performances never click, except Busey.

HAMMER DOWN  *  setting: USA.
(1992) Matthew Almond, Isabelle Mejias, Tony Peck, John Ireland, James Lem, Rachel Walker, Shelby Gregory.....L.A. cops (Almond and Peck) investigate the connection between a street gang drug deal and the murder of a music video dancer. The less said about this ultra low-budget action flick the better.  sc: Simon Abbott. dir: James Shavick. - violence, sexual content, partial female nudity.- 83 min.

THE HANDYMAN  see L'homme a tout faire

THE HANGING GARDEN * * *  setting: N.S.
(1997) (/U.K.) Chris Leavins, Troy Veinotte, Kerry Fox, Sarah Polley, Seana McKenna, Peter MacNeill, Joan Orenstein, Christine Dunsworth, Joel S. Keller.....Man returns home to his troubled, dysfunctional family, stirring up memories of the time when he ran away, ten years before. Drama is very well-acted all around and has an odd, but effective atmosphere, created by vibrant colours and by dense foliage and tight close ups creating a strange sense of claustrophobia, even out doors, making the low-budget work for it. Bleak and coarse, but leavened with a wry humour. Drags at times, particularly as, at first, a narrative drive isn't in evidence...but does begin to have a story to tell, particularly once it gets into flashbacks. But whether you want to spend time in this environment is an individual choice. Prominently-billed Polley has just a small part as British import Fox's younger self. Fiddler Ashley Issac appears as the fiddler at the wedding. sc./dir: Thom Fitzgerald (his first feature). 91 min.

HANK WILLIAMS "The Show He Never Gave" * * *  setting: USA.
(1982) Sneezy Waters, Dixie Seatle, Sean McCann.....On the night he died, American country music superstar Williams (Waters) fantasizes about giving a concert at a road-side cafe. Off-beat and effective little film is recommended to fans of Williams and country music. Lots of music and anecdotes. Waters, reprising his stage role, is quite good in what is, essentially, a one man show. sc: Maynard Collins (from his play). dir: David Acomba. 86 min.

HANNAH'S LAW  * 1/2  setting: USA
(2012) (/U.S.) Sara Canning, John Pyper-Ferguson, Greyston Holt, Kimberly Elise, Ryan Kennedy, Danny Glover, Billy Zane, Brendan Fletcher.....Wild west tale of a young, female bounty hunter (Canning) who hangs out in Dodge City with a young Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and Stagecoach Mary and of her showdown with the outlaws (led by Pyper-Ferguson) who left her an orphan years before. Made-for-TV western unfolds with a banal predictability and is kind of oddly constructed, as though one of those movies cobbled together from two or more episodes of a TV series, borrowing from other movies (notably "High Noon", not to mention the whole Earp/Holliday thing). It seems as much interested in who she's dating, and other talky bits, as in the occasional action scene, as if we're already supposed to know and care about these characters and their relationships, when we've only just met them. The plot is episodic, the climax kind of goofy, and logic is tenuous (including with minor, extraneous characters like Zane). Some of the supporting actors/characters are more interesting than the leads, including Fletcher, and American actors Glover and Zane. And Kennedy as Doc Holliday but, then, Doc Holliday always tends to be a scene stealer in these sorts of movies. sc: John Fasano. dir: Rachel Talalay. 83 min.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME  * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1981) Melissa Sue Anderson, Glenn Ford, Tracy Bregman, Lawrence Dane, Frances Hyland, Matt Craven, Lisa Langlois, David Eisner.....Series of murder/disappearances has a prep-school student (imported Anderson) wondering if she is responsible. Film trys to be a schlocky dead-teenager-flick and a genuine mystery-suspenser, and ends up not really succeeding as either. sc: John Saxton, Peter Jobin, Timothy Bond. dir: J. Lee Thompson. - extreme violence.- 108 min.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS MISS KING  * * 1/2  setting: P.E.I.
(1998) Jackie Burroughs, Lally Cadeau, Mag Ruffman, Cedric Smith, Gema Zamprogna, Molly Atkinson, Zachary Bennett, Patricia Hamilton, Zachary Ansley.....Follow up to the successful family series, Road to Avonlea, revists the inhabitants of the fictional P.E.I. community at Christmas time during the First World War. Felix (Bennett, in a small part) has gone missing in action, leaving his family much concerned, while overbearing school marm, Hetty King (Burroughs), wants to land a star guest to perk up the school's Christmas pageant, among other plot threads. Yuletide comedy-drama is a decent enough return, bringing back most of the principals and giving them one or another of the storylines to be prominent in (though fans of the series will note the actors who don't appear, or appear in small parts, such as Bennett). Done in the same style as the series, it remains a little broad at times, and the veering between serious plot threads (perhaps a bit darker than the series, what with the war in the background) and comical ones isn't always an easy mix. Ultimately, it plays a little like a couple of episodes edited together, with a number of plot threads that resolve more than they climax -- particularly the Hetty King stuff which seems, at times, as though it's going to be Avonlea's answer to "a Christmas Carol"...but she doesn't really seem to change over much over the movie. sc: Raymond Storey. dir: Stefan Scaini. 90 min.

HARD CORE LOGO  * *  setting: CDN.
(1996)  Hugh Dillon, Callum Keith Rennie, John Pyper-Ferguson, Bernie  Coulson, Julian Richings.....Faux-"documentary" about the reunion tour of a fictional Punk Rock band, Hard Core Logo (complete with false credits at the beginning). Dillon is a real life punk rocker and director McDonald plays himself. Technically slick with a good cast, but though there's some potentially workable stuff involving the dynamics within the band, and a narrative arc eventually rears its head, this seems like the filmmakers wanted to do a real documentary about a punk band, couldn't find one that would agree, so decided to make up their own. Definitely not a satire, or "mockumentary", in the manner of "This is Spinal Tap" (erroneously identified as "Spinal Tap" in the movie). Punk rock fans might enjoy it, but it's pretty interminable in spots following these drunken, abusive characters around doing, frankly, uninteresting things in over long scenes. It seems less like a documentary than the raw footage for a documentary, before it's been edited into something watchable (or like someone's home movies you're forced to sit through). sc: Noel S. Baker (from the  novel by Michael Turner). dir: Bruce McDonald. 92 min.

HARD EVIDENCE  * 1/2  setting: USA/B.C.
(1995) Gregory Harrison, Cali Timmins, Joan Severance, Andrew Airlie, Nathaniel Deveaux, Colin Cunningham, Jon Cuthbert.....American real estate developer (Harrison), cheating on his wife (Severance), discovers his mistress (Timmins) is involved in criminal activities, embroiling him in murder and blackmail. Suspenser isn't egregiously bad, but it is awfully paint-by-numbers, where most of the "twists" you can see coming a kilometre away, and where the movie never quite makes you believe in the scenes (like why Harrison just doesn't go to the police). Harrison does a decent enough job, and the movie tries hard to throw in character sub-text (though see if you can spot the contradiction), but still fails to really define the character enough to make us care (or to justify his infidelities!). Harrison and Severance are both American, though this American-set movie has a fifteen minute sequence where the characters go to Canada, which I guess is meant to be a kindness. sc: William C. Martell. dir: Michael Kennedy. - sexual content, violence.- 94 min.

HARD FEELINGS  * * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1981) Carl Marotte, Charlaine Woodard (a.k.a. Charlayne Woodard), Grand Bush, Vincent Bufano, Allan Katz, Sylvia Llewellyn, Michael Donaghue, Lisa Langlois, Joanne Vannicola.....Story of a white American teen (Marotte, in his feature debut) in 1963 Long Island, his quest for (of course) sex, his feud with a truly psychotic bully, and his friendship with a black girl (charmingly played by Woodard). Coming of age drama is an odd mix of elements, from the expected teen sex-comedy scenes, to his troubled family life, to the dark stuff with the bully, to the more ambitious inter-racial stuff...but the parts are stronger than the sum. The elements never come together convincingly...when they come together at all! Nor do they take us anywhere (despite an ending that's supposed to make us believe the hero's learned something over the course of the film). The strongest parts -- the scenes with American imports Woodard (and Bush as her brother) -- are a surprisingly small part of the film. Still, certainly watchable on a take-it-as-it-is level. Though, let me let you in on a dirty little secret that teen dramas (and critics) don't want you to know -- ready? can you take it? Sex ain't the only thing teens think about! sc: W.D. Richter, John Herzfeld (from the novel by Don Bredes). dir: Daryl Duke. - sexual content, brief make nudity, violence- 110 min.

THE HARD PART BEGINS * * 1/2
(1973) Donnelly Rhodes, Nancy Belle Fuller, Paul Bradley, Linda Sorensen, Robert Hawkins, Doug McGrath, Les Carlson, Sean Sullivan, Neil Vipond .....Story of a middle-aged, struggling country singer (Rhodes) who returns to his hometown with his band for a gig; facing old ghosts and anticipating a big-time record deal. This drama is one of those quintessential Canadian films from that period about losers and dreamers (The Rowdyman, Paperback Hero, etc.). Works in fits and starts, with some scenes being subtlely crafted and compelling, and others a little dry. The plot, itself, offers little that's surprising. sc: John Hunter. dir: Paul Lynch. 87 min.
 

HARD ROCK MEDICAL (TV Series)

(2013-) (/Australia)  * * * 1/2   Angela Asher ("Nancy Siebolski"), Jamie Spilchuk ("Cameron Cahill"), Mark Coles Smith ("Gary Frazier"), Melissa-Jane Shaw ("Melanie Truscott"), Stefan Paquette ("Charlie Riviére"), Andrea Menard ("Eva Malone"), Tamara Duarte ("Gina Risso"), Rachelle Casseus ("Farida Farhisal"), Parrick McKenna ("Dr. Fraser Healy"), Christian Laurin ("Dr. Raymond Dallaire"), Kyra Harper ("Dr. Julie Cardinal"), Danielle Bourgon ("Dr. Louise Helvi").....Drama (or perhaps comedy-drama) about the students at a Northern Ontario (Sudbury) medical school -- teaching not just the standard medical curriculum, but preparing them for the unique aspects of the region, where crises might take them into the bush or the bottom of a mine! And the students themselves are a more eclectic bunch, some young, but others already middle-aged or embarking upon a second career. Of course, time seems shoe-horned into an implausibly short time frame with the characters performing autopsies on their first day, and working at community clinics by the fourth episode! (but, hey, if it was all classroom and text books, it wouldn't make good drama).

This TV series was heralded as the first weekly scripted drama made for TV Ontario (the Ontario PBS station) -- though occasional limited series and one-shots had aired before. And as a limited budget half-hour medical drama (in a field glutted with medical dramas, including Saving Hope) and airing on a station more prone to earnest, "it's good for you" documentaries and news programs, one could go into it with trepidation. Surprisingly...the result is actually quite strong, slick and good looking. Although tackling issues and moral dilemmas (as Saving Hope or any similar series would) it remains first and foremost a soap opera-y character drama, with a cast of interesting, well acted protagonists, and a nice balance between drama and humour, with both the medical school premise and the physical setting in rural North Ontario giving it a tone and identity that allows it to stand apart from other medical shows...while being enough like them in tone and style to appeal to the same audience. (In a way, vaguely reminiscent of Jozi-H with its touching on Old World/New World contrast) Indeed, perhaps that should be emphasized: they've done a nice job of making a series that is both eminently mainstream and accessible in a "Grey's Anatomy" way, while also finding a fresh spin or two on the rather creaky medical drama premise. Worth checking out. Created by Derek Diorio, Smith Corindia. Half hour episodes originally on TVO.

HARD TO FORGET  * 1/2  setting: USA/other
(1998) (/South Africa) Polly Shannon, Tim Dutton, Nicholas Campbell, Michael McManus, Lois Maxwell, Chad Everett.....American private eye (Dutton), obsessed with a case involving a woman possibly murdered by her husband, goes to a South Africa game preserve in pursuit of a woman (Shannon) who looks just like her -- is it a coincidence? or the woman herself? -- eventually laying a trap for the husband. Despite appealing leads, this is a pretty dreary made-for-TV film. It's supposed to be a romance/suspense film, but the romance never works and there's almost no tension, particularly in the first two-thirds. Too bad, because the basic ideas are sound enough (they should be, it's not like they've never been done before). See Harlequin. sc: Gerald Wexler (from the novel by Evelyn Crowe). dir: Vic Sarin. - sexual content.- 92 min.

HARDBALL * * setting: USA.
(1997) Michael Dudikoff, Lisa Howard, Steve Bacic, Harvey Gold, Pablo Coffey, Tony Curtis, Reese McBeth, April Telek, Dale Wilson.....A U.S. bounty hunter (Dudikoff) and his partner/girl friend (Howard) find a local mobster (Bacic) has put out a contract on him. This sequel to Bounty Hunters is a light-hearted action movie with decent performances, particularly from Howard, Dudikoff, and Gold as the mobster's right hand man. But the bickering humour wears and the loose plot is just an excuse for a series disconnected action scenes. There's a meanness and brutality to the violence that runs counter to the comedic tone the filmmakers are going for. At times it has all the entertainment value of a cock fight. A step up from the Snake Eater films Erschbamer and Dunning used to do, but that's not saying much. Curtis has a small part as crime lord. a.k.a. Bounty Hunters II sc: Michael Ellis, George Erschbamer, Jeff Barmash (story John Dunning). dir: George Erschbamer. 96 min. - violence, partial female nudity.-
 

THE HARDY BOYS/NANCY DREW (TV Series)

(1995) (/France)  * *  Paul Popowich ("Joe Hardy"), Colin Gray ("Frank Hardy"), with Fiona Highet ("Kate"); Tracy Ryan ("Nancy Drew"), Jhene Erwin ("Bess"), Joy Tanner ("George"), with Scott Speedman ("Ned Nickerson").....Essentially two different youth-aimed mystery series, originally aired on alternating weeks. Umpteenth TV versions of the long running American books (at least the 3rd version of the Hardy Boys and the 2nd of Nancy Drew). The premise of the Hardy Boys was fiddled with: still brothers, but Frank is now an investigative journalist, and their policeman dad was rarely around (Highet played the paper's editor). Nancy Drew was a little more faithful, chronicling the amateur sleuthing of Nancy and her two best gal pals (though also minus dad and, like the Hardy's -- and other small screen versions -- they were older than in the books; young adults rather than teens); Speedman played her beau.

On one hand, the series were certainly pleasant enough with engaging, likeable actors, some witty badinage, and a laid back ambience (a little too laid back, actually), but suffered badly from thin plotting (particularly Nancy Drew). Strange given that the writers had scores of (short) novels as a guide and, presumably, even as a source of story ideas. It was almost as if, knowing it was a half hour divided between two series, the writers became confused and thought they were supposed to provide fifteen minute scripts that then had to be expanded. The Hardy Boys was developed for TV by David Cole, Nancy Drew developed by Laura Phillips. Filmed in Canada and France, but set in the United States and France. One season of half-hour episodes in syndication, originally shown alternating, but rerun sometimes back to back.


 

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