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.
 
HICCUPS (TV Series)

(2010-2011)  * *   Nancy Robertson ("Millie Upton"), Brent Butt ("Stan Dirko"), Laura Soltis ("Joyce Haddison"), David Ingram ("Taylor Rymes"), Emily Perkins ("Crytal Braywood"), Paula Rivera ("Anna Dirko").....Comedy about a successful children's book author (Robertson) who is basically a big child herself, whose tendency to act on any impusle that pops into her head gets her into trouble -- such incidents euphemistically referred to as her "hiccups". Butt plays a would be "life coach" who tries to help her rein in her behaviour. Soltis plays her publisher, Ingram her agent, and Perkins the surly receptionist at the publishing house. Rivera plays "Stan"'s wife. 

The first of two CTV sitcoms emerging out of the end of the hit Corner Gas (the other being Dan for Mayor). Unfortunately, Butt (who created) retains some of the key flavours of Corner Gas, but doesn't get the ingredients quite right. So like with Corner Gas, the characters are pretty thin, basically existing to serve a function or deliver a punch line (most sitcoms, characters can still feel as though they have a foot, or at least a toe, in reality -- that they might exist outside the needs of a gag). As such, you don't really care about them beyond their ability to make you laugh. As well, Corner Gas was kind of the show about nothing, where "plots" would arise out of minor, incosequential events (like the U.S. series "Seinfeld") -- which works if you're cutting between various non-plots per episode. But Hiccups feels thin, where you find yourself saying: are they really trying to get a whole episode out of Millie painting her door or of Stan trying a new wardrobe? Okay, usually they would be cutting between two such plots -- but they needed three or four to keep the tempo up. The series can be mildly amusing, and Robertson assumes centre stage comfortably, but it's just not very compelling. One could even quibble and say "a character who is funny because she has no emotional filters" is a bit odd to use as your defining premise -- I mean, aren't many comedies based around characters who say and do inappropriate things and have no filters? That's why they're funny. Butt and Robertson are married in real life (though that didn't seem to prevent him from invoking creator/star perogative and casting a hottie as his on-screen wife). Created by Brent Butt. Two seasons of half-hour episodes on CTV.  


HICKEY AND CO. * * setting: USA.
(1987) (/U.S.) Zach Galligan, Nicholas Rowe, Albert Schultz, Tony Van Bridge, Edward Herrmann, David Orth, Stephen Baldwin, Josh Hamilton, Hans Engel, Cindy Preston (a.k.a. Cyndy Preston).....Hickey and the gang continue their series of mischievious pranks and schemes at their boarding school. Third and final Hickey comedy (following The Return of Hickey) is like its predecessors: handsome, but dry, rambling and not very funny. Co-produced with American PBS. sc: Jan Jaffe Kahn (from the Lawrenceville Stories by Owen Johnson). dir: Allan A. Goldstein. 90 min.

HIDDEN AGENDA  a.k.a. Secret Agenda

HIDDEN DIARY  see Mères et filles
 

THE HIDDEN ROOM (TV Series)

(1992-1994) (/U.S.) * * 1/2 Cast: various.....Anthology series, sometimes supernatural but often just revolving around characters having dreams and fantasies...and favouring (though not exclusively so) stories with female protagonists. Originally introduced by the Woman in the Hidden Room (Mimi Kuzyk) but that was soon dropped.

Good-looking, technically well-put together TV series was so low-key as to lack much dramatic punch, with obvious plots, and endings that just kind of fizzled-out. Set in the U.S. (natch) and starring the usual American no-stars, although occasionally episodes slipped through featuring Canucks -- and not just expatriates, but genuine home-bodies! Best bets: the comical "Rogue in the Bathroom" with Sheila McCarthy as a bored housewife and Brent Carver very good as her fantasies come to life...an episode not as cloying as it sounds. 33 half-hour episodes originally shown in Canada on First Choice (The Movie Network), though not taking advantage of that venue -- the episodes were standard PG-fare.

Hide and Seek * * 1/2 setting: Ont.
(1984) Bob Martin, Ingrid Veninger, Dave Patrick, John Friesen, Alan Scarfe .....High school computer genius (Martin) discovers a computer program he wrote years ago has attained consciousness and is now dangerously out of control. O.K. hour long suspense drama is obviously a poor man's "WarGames", but not bad. Made for For the Record. sc: Barry Wexler (from the novel The Adolescence of P-1 by Thomas J. Ryan) dir: Rene Bonniere.

HIGH BALLIN' * *
(1978) (/U.S.) Peter Fonda, Jerry Reed, Helen Shaver, Chris Wiggins, Chris Longevin, David Ferry.....Some independent truckers (Fonda and Reed) butt-heads with road pirates who're trying to scare them out of business. Fairly inane action pic might appeal to truckers because of the premise. It seems to be set in Canada but everyone talks like they're in the southern U.S. sc: Paul Edwards (story Richard Robinson, Stephen Schneck). dir: Peter Carter. 100 min.

THE HIGH COST OF LIVING * * 1/2 setting: P.Q.
(2010) Zach Braff, Isabelle Blais, Patrick Labbé, Julian Lo, Aimée Lee, Pierre Gendron.....Shiftless, fringe-dwelling (but relatively good hearted) prescription drug dealer (American Braff) accidentally hits-and-runs a pregnant woman (Blais) with his car, causing her to miscarry (though still left to carry the stillborn fetus until it can be surgically removed) -- and out of guilt he befriends her, with her unaware he was the driver. Brooding drama is well-acted (particularly by Braff and Blais) and capably put together (by its first time director) but suffers from two key points (that are, in a sense, interconnected). The story (plot and character development) struggles to justify a feature length, and the core idea isn't entirely fresh (A wrongs B, anonymously, then befriends B, aware that if the truth came out it would destroy whatever relationship they have now built). The movie basically unfolds as you'd expect. Lo's character (a supporting part as Braff's teen friend) adds some interest just because it injects a random element into the scenario. Ultimately a film that kind of teeters on the edge, but can squeak by on its empathy. Set in Montreal, there's a nice use of multilingualism (English and French), and of making Braff's American-ness part of the story (he's in the country illegally). French title: Le prix à payer. sc./dir: Deborah Chow. 97 min.

THE HIGH COUNTRY * * setting: CDN.
(1981) Timothy Bottoms, Linda Purl.....An escaped city-bred convict (Bottoms) joins up with a mildly retarded runaway (Purl) who knows how to live off the land, and they take off into the wilderness. Awkward serio-comic flick suffers because Bottoms' character remains largely obnoxious for most of the film. It improves as it goes along, but a couple of attempted-rape scenes -- handled glibly! -- don't make the film any more appealing. Nice scenery. sc: Bud Townsend. dir: Harvey Hart. - casual male nudity, brief female nudity.- 101 min.

High Country * * setting: Alt.
(1992) Jessica Steen, Kenneth Welsh, Dean McDermott, Jackson Davies..... While dealing with poachers, and worried her boyfriend might be involved, a game warden (Steen) clashes with her estranged dad (Welsh). Flat, uninspired hour long drama, though the moutainous scenery is nice. This CBC-aired drama served as a vague forerunner to the Global TV series Destiny Ridge.

HIGH LIFE * * 1/2 setting: USA.
(2009) Timothy Olyphant, Stephen Eric McIntyre, Rossif Sutherland, Joe Anderson.....In 1983 America, a quartet of mismatched fringe dwelling junkies (led by American actor Olyphant as the default brains, simply because he's not quite as fried as the others) decide to pull a caper heist...which, naturally, goes awry. Slick comedy-drama boasts crackerjack performances, a good tempo, and some nice, amusing scenes...but in service of a story, and a milieu, we've seen a zillion times before. There are only really the four characters, none developed much past their archetypes, and the plot is equally minimalist and straightforward (there are twists and turns in the final act, during the actual bungled heist, though even they tend to be reminiscent of other films). There's no real emotional core to the film (even when it veers into drama with betrayals and infighting...it veers out again immediately, implying we weren't really supposed to take even that aspect too seriously) without it quite being an out-and-out comedy-comedy. The result is stylish and entertaining enough to not strain its short running time...but about as substantial as a junkie's fix itself. Mark McKinney has a cameo at the beginning as a doctor. sc: Lee MacDougall. dir: Gary Yates. 80 min.

HIGH PLAINS INVADERS * * 1/2 setting: USA.
(2009) (/U.S./Romania) James Marsters, Cindy Sampson, Sebastian Knapp, Sanny van Heteren, Antony Byrne, Angus MacInnes, Adriana Butoi, James Jordan.....A band of survivors get trapped in a western American town (circa the 1800s) when it is overrun by giant, murderous alien machines interested in digging beneath it. Kind of "War of the Worlds" transposed to the Wild West, and it actually anticipated the Hollywood movie, "Cowboys and Aliens" (though not, of course, the comic upon which that movie was based). Modestly budgeted sci-fi/horror/adventure flick has rustic atmosphere, a decent cast, and an eye toward character nuance, making for a better movie than you'd expect. The key is that everyone -- from actors to writer to director all the way to the cinematographer and the costume designer -- actually seems to be putting effort into it! With that said, it still maybe doesn't gel into more than the sum of its parts: it's an agreeable Saturday afternoon time killer more than an undiscovered classic (and maybe a touch gorier than it needs to be -- though even the gore is only occasional compared to some such films). It's nice that they seem to be taking it seriously...but maybe a little more wit and humour is the missing ingredient. Still...a lot better than you'd expect for a Space/SyFy Channel movie. sc: Richard Beattie. dir: K.T. Donaldson. - extreme violence- app. 90 min.

HIGH STAKES * 1/2 setting: B.C.
(1986) David Foley, Roberta Weiss, Jackson Davies, Winston Rekert, Alex Diakun, Blu Mankuma, Jack Webster.....Bumbling, wanna-be reporter (Foley, before the cult success of the Kids in the Hall comedy troupe) investigates the link between a mobster and neo-Nazis, with the help of the mobster's girlfriend (Weiss). One almost needs a standardized checklist to simplify the review of Canadian comedies: unfunny (check), mean-spirited (check), sophomoric (check), annoying fantasy/dream sequences (check), etc. There's actually a plot here, which is a plus, but it's poorly structured and developed. It's supposed to be set in Canada (wow!) but the call letters of the TV station are American (?). Webster is the well-known commentator and look for TV personality/director Ron Oliver as a reporter near the beginning. sc: Bryan McCann, John Sheppard. dir: Larry L. Kent. - violence.- 81 min.


HIGH TIDE (TV Series)

(1994-1998) (/New Zealand) * * 1/2 Rick Springfield ("Mick Barrett"), Yannick Bisson ("Joey Barrett"), Diana Frank ("Fritz"), Cay Helmich ("Fritz"), George Segal ("Gordon").....Comedy-drama actioner about two beach bums based in California (looking a lot like New Zealand), an ex-cop (Springfield) and his surfer kid brother (Bisson), who do freelance jobs for an ex-C.I.A. agent who now runs a restaurant (Segal). Cases would often send them to various exotic tropical places, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, etc. (all looking suspiciously like New Zealand). Helmich played Segal's tough girl-friday, replaced after a few episodes by Frank.

This frothy TV series seemed to have been inspired by Sweating Bullets (now there's a scarey thought), with plenty of leering shots of bikined women, while the leads did their part for equal opportunity by taking their shirts off a lot. On its own, low-brow level it could be amusing and was briskly paced. Springfield and Bisson had a good on-screen rapport. But why a show like this won't bite the bullet and admit it's filmed in New Zealand is beyond me...particularly as it would explain why so many of the "American" characters kept slipping into New Zealand accents.

This series has had only limited, if any, broadcasts in Canada, but apparently the 2nd and 3rd seasons were shot in California, Segal and the German actresses were dropped, and new characters were added. Actually, whether this series actually qualifies as "Canadian" is up for debate, particularly once it got into the All-American subsequent seasons. Created by Steve Franklin and Jeff Waterman. Hour long episodes in international syndication.

HIGHER EDUCATION * * 1/2  setting: Ont.
(1987) Kevin Hicks, Isabelle Mejias, Lori Hallier, Stephen Black, Maury Chaykin, Richard Monette, Jennifer Inch.....Arts major (Hicks) falls for a fellow student (Mejias) but also gets seduced by his professor (Hallier). Campus comedy is actually amusing with a decent cast, solidly anchored by Hicks' textured performance (Chaykin, unbilled, is also fun as his roommate's body guard) and the setting within a Fine Arts milieu. Not something liable to enrich Western Civilization -- the jokes'd have to be funnier, and the character stuff, justifying the hero's infidelity, more convincing -- but an agreeable little romp that's a lot better -- and more professional -- than one would expect. Look for Justin Louis as a bespectacled guy entering a bar. sc: John Sheppard, Dan Nathanson. dir: John Sheppard. - sexual content, brief female nudity.- 88 min.
 
 
HIGHER GROUND (TV Series)

(2000) (/U.S.)  * * *  Joe Lando ("Peter Scarbrow"), Anne Marie Loder ("Sophie Becker"), Hayden Christiensen ("Scott"), A.J. Cook ("Shelby"), Kandyse McClure ("Katherine"), Jorgito Vargas, Jr. ("Augusto"), Meghan Ory ("Juliette"), Kyle Downes ("Ezra"), Jewel Staite ("Daisy"), Deborah Odell ("Hannah"), with Benita Ha, Peter Campbell, Jim Byrnes, Dimitri Chepovetsky, Roger R. Cross, others.....Drama about an experimental boarding school cum wilderness boot camp, Mt. Horizon, for troubled and delinquent teens. Lando played the head of the school, an ex-addict himself. Loder a counsellor whose character had a romantic history with Lando's character (replacing Odell, whose character left after the first four or five episodes). The rest of the regulars played the various teens. Ha played the owner of the local restaurant, "Rusty O'Brien"; Campbell the affable sheriff; the rest appeared occasionally as other counsellors/teachers at the school. Lando is American, everyone else Canadian. The series is set in the U.S. (though filmed in Canada) with most of the characters supposed to be American...but in one episode Loder's character was referred to as being from Newfoundland. 

Shades of Neon Rider in this TV series (Winston Rekert even guest starred once, and Jim Byrnes appeared in a few episodes), mixed with, say, "Beverly Hills 90210" (in that the kids are regulars, not guest stars, and the series follows a soap opera formula, developing the relationships and sub-plots over multiple episodes). Okay series blended high and low brow -- or heavy and light -- with not always comfortable results, as we follow light hearted joke plots, or teen romance story lines, then abruptly have one of the kids refer to having been molested or indulge in self-mutilation. In one episode there's a light-hearted sub-plot about a crew filming a promo for the school, with the "real" kids mocking the unrealistically glamorous actors...even as the regulars look equally clean cut and glamorous. Still, the series could be astonishingly -- and applaudably -- gritty at times, and unlike most "famiily" shows, where the message is either that the nuclear family is the font of all wisdom or, if a sitcom, parents are amiable dorks, this presented a darker vision, where the parents were often the root of the kids' problems! But despite engaging enough actors (even if their characters were sometimes bitter), the conflict between the two impulses (too gritty for those looking for a teen/family drama, too hokey for those looking for an edge) may've led to is cancellation...but that mix can be its appeal, as it could deal with darker themes without being too dark itself. Ultimately, it's oddly involving, and with Lando and Loder as significant as the teen characters it's not just a teen-aimed series. Although the final episode doesn't necessarily wrap things up totally (they were, presumably, hoping for more seasons) it does tie up some on going threads, making for a reasonably satisfactory finale. 

Many of the then-teen stars are still active, meaning it's interesting to flip it on and recognize familiar faces -- such as Christiensen, who went on to play Anakin Skywalker in a couple of Star Wars movies. The airing order of some episodes occasionally clashed with the production order, creating some confusion in a series where sub-plots continue over multiple episodes (Odell "reappears" in an episode a couple of episodes after she left). Created by Michael Braverman, Matthew Hastings. One season of hour long episodes. 


 
HIGHLANDER (TV Series)

(1992-1998) (/France) * * Adrian Paul ("Duncan MacLeod"), Alexandra Vandernoot ("Tessa Noel") (-2nd), Stan Kirsch ("Richie Ryan") (-5th), Philip Akin ("Charlie DeSalvo") (2nd), Michel Modo ("Maurice") (2nd), Jim Byrnes ("Joe Dawson") (2nd-), Lisa Howard ("Anne Lindsey") (2nd-3rd), with Elizabeth Gracen ("Amanda"), Peter Wingfield ("Methos").....Actioner about a sword-wielding immortal (Paul), born in Scotland in 1592, now dividing his time between the U.S. and France, who can only be slain by being beheaded, and his run-ins with various fellow immortals and a secret society of mortals who were out to kill them all. Each episode would have flashbacks to historical experiences -- usually the most interesting aspect of the episodes. Vandernoot played his girlfriend, a sculptress who got killed off early in the 2nd season; Kirsch was his juvenile delinquent sidekick, who also turned out to be an immortal...and was killed off at the end of the 5th (and penultimate) season; and Byrnes played a member of a secret information network called the Watchers (not the most original of monikers). Akin was a friend who ran a gym and Modo was a friend in France. Howard played a doctor/love-interest. Recurring characters included Gracen and Wingfield as fellow immortals: she a thief, he the oldest living immortal.

This low-budget cult-hit TV series was spun-off from the U.S. cult movie starring Christopher Lambert (Paul played the cousin of Lambert's character and Lambert even appeared in the first episode). After an atypically steamy premier, the first season settled down to being a rather poorly put together and repetitious show with uneven performances (though heart-throb Paul was earnest enough) usually featuring an imported American guest star. Each episode climaxed with a sword duel, an off-camera beheading, then an overly long absorbing-the-life-force scene. It improved in its second season, becoming more ambitious and character driven, but was still largely unenthalling and overly solemn with thin, repetitious plots that stated their idea in the first ten minutes...and had nowhere to go from there. By the third season it even sometimes used Canadians as its principal guest star; though, of the regulars, only Byrnes, Howard and Akin were Canadian.

The show also produced a series of original paperback novels published by the American Warner Press and spawned a spin-off series, Highlander: The Raven. For conceptually similar series, see Forever Knight and the subsequent The Immortal. Filmed in B.C. (pretending it was the U.S.) and France. Hour long episodes in syndication.

HIGHLANDER: The Final Dimension a.k.a. Highlander III: The Sorcerer
 
HIGHLANDER: The Raven (TV Series)

(1998-1999) (/France) * * Elizabeth Gracen ("Amanda"), Paul Johansson ("Nick Wolf"), with Patricia Gage ("Lucy"), Hannes Jaenicke, Julian Richings, others..... Fantasy/adventure about an immortal thief (Gracen) who teams up with an ex-cop private eye (Johannson). Gage played her (mortal) personal assistant. Jaenicke played Johansson's partner for a time while he was a p.i. Richings cropped up occasionally as a fence, also an immortal. 

This TV series was spun-off from the long running Highlander series, in which Gracen had a recurring part. Unlike the rather dour Highlander, this series, though still a drama, tried at times to evoke more of a witty "His Girl Friday" or "Moonlighting" badinage. Unfortunately, the actors, though competent, didn't quite have the rhythm for snappy patter, nor did they ever quite generate the necessary chemistry together. Like Highlander, the plots tended to be a bit thin and slow-moving. Not awful, but a bit dull.

Despite spinning off from Highlander (a long running series, though I never much cared for it), and trying, perhaps, to woo some of the same teen-age girl demographics with hunky Johansson (despite Gracen being the star, and an ex-beauty queen, there was a sense Johansson was used as the sex object more than she was), this series only lasted a season. Though there was some suggestion behind-the-scenes troubles added to the short life -- Gracen herself suggested in later interviews she had been going through some personal difficulties that she carried with her onto the set. Filmed in Toronto and France. Hour long episodes in syndication.

HIGHLANDER III: The Sorcerer * setting: USA./other
(1995) (/France/U.K.) Christopher Lambert, Mario Van Peebles, Deborah Unger, Mako, Raoul Trujillo, Martin Neufeld, Vlasta Vrana.....The immortal Scot, Connor MacLeod (played by that epitomy of French-Scotland, Lambert), battles an immortal (Van Peebles) with the power of illusion. Sequel to the first U.S. film (while ignoring the second) evokes its predecessor with the same slow, thin and illogical plotting; disjointed scenes; music-video direction; incoherent fight scenes...all reminiscent of a bad dream, though Unger delivers an O.K. performance. Only an unexpectedly steamy love-scene is of interest. Only the first film was a (cult) success, explaining how Canadians and friends got the rights -- the Americans knew it was a dying franchise. And this film's poor box-office proved them right. The film contains plenty of beheadings, but it's all done so bloodless and matter-of-fact that it's hard to give the film anything more than a strong "violence" warning. a.k.a. Highlander: The Final Dimension. sc: Paul Ohl (story William Panzer, Brad Mirman). dir: Andy Morahan. - violence, female nudity, sexual content.- 97 min.

HIGHPOINT * * setting: USA./CDN.
(1980) Richard Harris, Christopher Plummer, Beverly D'Angelo, Peter Donat, Maury Chaykin, Saul Rubinek.....Out-of-work accountant (Harris, miscast) is hired to watch over a wealthy young American woman (D'Angelo), which gets him involved with the mob and the CIA. Awkward action-comedy has the right ideas, but doesn't quite know how to realize them. sc: Richard Guttman, Ian Sutherland. dir: Peter Carter. - violence.- 88 min.

HIGHWAY 61 * * 1/2 setting: Ont./USA.
(1991) Valerie Buhagiar, Don McKellar, Earl Pastko, Peter Breck, Johnny Askwith, Namir Khan, Art Bergmann, Tav Falco.....Nebbishy northern Ontario barber and wanna-be musician (McKellar) agrees to help a wild-living woman (Buhagiar) drive the corpse of her supposed brother down Highway 61 to New Orleans -- unaware that the Devil (Pastko) is following. Clever, funny comedy with some nicely eccentric performances, especially McKellar and Breck, but the movie is more often cute and amusing than out-and-out hilarious. Still, definitely worth checking out. sc: Don McKellar (story McKellar, Bruce McDonald, Allan Magee). dir: Bruce McDonald. - casual male nudity.- 103 min.

THE HIGHWAYMAN * 1/2 setting: Ont./USA.
(1999) Stephen McHattie, Laura Harris, Jason Priestley, Bernie Coulson, Gordon Michael Woolvett, Louis Gossett Jr.....Mild mannered guy (McHattie) has his life fall apart around him, pushing him over the edge. He sets out for revenge when he hooks up with a young woman (Harris), who claims he's the dad she never knew, and her companions, her nice guy boyfriend (Woolvett) and two sociopathic robbers (Priestley and Coulson). McHattie's a fine actor (heck, they're all respectable actors) and he delivers a nice, change of pace performance, but the first part of this movie is interminable; confusing and disjointed (using various flashbacks to tell the story), grating, and with an unrelenting meanness that makes you think scripter Beattie should go a few sessions with a therapist. Worse, it maybe thinks it's a comedy-drama. Picks up once all the cast is together and hits the road, but still suffers because only Woolvett and, to some extent, McHattie are sympathetic. An endless stream of cussing and vulgarity also wears. Some scripters can make profanity seem natural, grown up and even necessary (David Mamet, Quentin Tarantino) but others just seem like they've been hanging out in the schoolyard too long with thirteen year olds. Though set in Canada, great pains are taken to intimate that almost all the characters are American. Ironically, the only American in the cast, Gossett Jr. (as the focus of McHattie's revenge), is one of the few characters we can infer is Canadian. Some good actors are wasted in bit parts, like Tracey Cook as Gossett Jr.'s secretary/wife, and Wayne Robson as a small town garage mechanic. Priestley was one of the executive producers. sc: Richard Beattie. dir: Keoni Waxman. - violence.- 94 min.

HIROSHIMA (TVMS) * * * setting: USA/other
(1995) (/Japan) Kenneth Welsh, Tatsuo Matsumura, Wesley Addy, Kohji Takahashi, Ken Jenkins, Hisashi Igawa, Richard Masur, Jeffrey DeMunn, Gary Reineke, George Robertson, Saul Rubinek.....Chronicle of the political maneuvering that led to the dropping of the first atom bomb on Hiroshima in 1945; from both the U.S. and Japanese sides, with Welsh as U.S. President Truman and Matsumura as Japanese Prime Minister Suzuki. Fascinating, and suprisingly ambivalent, docudrama rehashes familiar terrain with remarkable freshness precisely because of the emphasis on the politicians (rather than on the scientists), the bi-national approach, and an odd mixing of dramatization, newsreel footage, and even a few talking head interviews with people who were there. Solid performances (Welsh is particularly good). Clever use of black & white and muted colours to blend the various real and re-enacted footage. Main weakness is length: it starts to lag in the 2nd half, partly as it moves into more familiar territory. Trivia note: Tom Rack, who has a bit part as Ralph Bard, played Robert Oppenheimer in the superb earlier mini-series Race for the Bomb (DeMunn plays Oppenheimer here). Be warned: some of the archival footage is, naturally, pretty gritty. Received Geminis for Best Movie/Mini-Series, Actor (Welsh) and Director (though in a curious, perhaps disturbingly xenophobic move, it was apparently only awarded to Spottiswoode, not his Japanese co-director). 4 hours. sc: John Hopkins, Toshiro Ishido. dir: Roger Spottiswoode, Koreyoshi Kurahara. - violence.-

L'HISTOIRE DE JEN * * 1/2 setting: P.Q.
(2007) (/France) Laurence Leboeuf, Marina Hands, Daniel Pilon, Tony Ward, Annie Murphy, Francis Xavier McCarthy.....Rural drama about the troubled relationships between a teen age girl, Jen (Leboeuf), her young, widowed mom (Hands) and the handyman/drifter (Ward) who moves into their barn. One of those films that's kind of hard to synopsize, both because it's a little hard to pin down just what the focus is supposed to be...and, conversely, because it's sufficiently thinly plotted you don't want to give it all away. Decently acted and atmospheric, with striking wind swept vistas (where the cinematography is as much a character as the people) yet can feel a bit airy -- a character drama where the characterization seems sacrificed in favour of the moody vignette and, as such, you don't necessarily believe the characters exist outside of the frame. And a feeling the filmmaker put his "issues" (including touching on small town prejudice, statutory rape, teen pregnancy, and vigilante revenge) ahead of his narrative. Slick and good-looking enough in an Art House way (with both Leboeuf and French actress Hands maybe a bit too glamorous) to sort of hold your attention...even as it's unsatisfying as a simple drama. The dialogue is in English almost as often as it is in French. English title: Story of Jen. sc./dir: Francois Rotger. - female nudity; sexual content; violence. - 113 min.

HISTOIRES D'HIVER * * *  setting: P.Q.
(1998) Joel Drapeau-Dalpe, Denis Bouchard, Luc Guerin, Diane Lavallee, Suzanne Champagne, Alex Ivanovici, Patrick Thomas, Maude Gionet, Robert Toupin, Sylvie Legault.....Story of a boy growing up in 1960s Quebec and, among other things, his passionate desire to go to Montreal to catch a Canadiennes game and see his favourite player, Henri Richard. Serio-comic coming-of-age tale suffers a bit from the over mined familiarity of the genre (right down to the roguish uncle, played by Bouchard) but starts to work surprisingly well, benefiting from mostly good-natured sentiments. Though some of the plot threads don't really build to any kind of satisfying resolution (like one involving a radical-thinking English language teacher). Nicely inclusive feel (unlike some similar films, Anglophones aren't portrayed as The Devil). Mainly in French, with some English. English title: Winter Stories. sc: Francois Bouvier, Marc Robitaille (from Robitaille's novel). dir: Francois Bouvier. 105 min.

UNE HISTOIRE INVENTEE * * 1/2 setting: P.Q.
(1991) Jean Lapointe, Louise Marleau, Charlotte Laurier, Marc Messier, Jean-Francois Pichette, France Castel, Tony Nardi, Donald Pilon.....Story of various off-beat characters and relationships, focusing on an irresistible woman (Marleau), who's in love with the one man who isn't interested, a jazz musician (Lapointe) who has an eye for her actress daughter (Laurier). Off-beat, slightly surrealistic serio-comic pic has good performances and ambience, though an undercurrent of ethnic slurs sours it a little. English title: An Imaginary Tale. sc: Jacques Marcotte, Andre Forcier. dir: Andre Forcier. - partial female nudity, sexual content.- 92 min.
 
HISTORY BITES (TV Series)

(1998-2003)  * * *  Rick Green, Ron Pardo, Janet van de Graaff, Teresa Pavlinek, Bob Bainborough, Sarah LaFleur, Matthew Sharp.....Satire/information series. 

Comedian Rick Green (The Frantics) had previously worked on Prisoners of Gravity, where he used his comic talents in an, otherwise, non-fiction show, with great results. Presumably buoyed by that, he created the surprisingly enduring History Bites -- which can be viewed either as a comedy series, that informs...or as an information series that's quite funny. The premise is to examine history as if TV existed in ancient times. Each episode focuses on a different era, and then explores the events and mores as though channel surfing -- showing snippets of talk shows, sitcoms, news programs, etc., often with the talented cast doing funny impressions of current celebrities (ie: CBC hockey commentators Don Cherry and Ron McLean as commentators on Roman gladiatorial fights). Of course, some of the current impressions will become as much historical trivia as the real history their spoofing (recurring sketches involving a "Seinfeld"-like sitcom set in various historical eras may already be seeming as archaic as gags about Ethlered the Unready). Taken on a surface level, it's just a very funny riff on shows like SCTV or the topical The Royal Canadian Air Farce, except instead of lampooning current affairs, it lampoons historical periods. But underneath...you can actually learn a bit, including more anecdotal stuff that won't always make it into mainstream history books (as they spoof fashion trends and trendy curatives). The successful duality of the show's nature (comedy or information) can be demonstrated by the fact that it has aired on both the History Channel...and on the Comedy Network! Half hour episodes. 

Hit and Run, a novel by Tom Alderman, was the source for the film Obsessed
 

THE HITCHHIKER (TV Series)

(1983-1990) (/U.S./France) * * Cast: various.....Suspense/supernatural anthology introduced by a hitchhiker (played by Page Fletcher, except in the pilot where it was Nicholas Campbell)...whose monologues were often inane.

This TV series tried to be a mixing of The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents (see those entries for Canadian remakes), complete with morality tales, but its single theme of scumbag-gets-his-or-her-cumuppence got real old real fast and robbed the already predictable stories of any real heart -- not to mention variety. Made-for-cablee, and the first couple of seasons featured a decidedly R-rated attitude towards sex and violence, sometimes squeezing in more nudity (mainly female) than comparable feature films -- which, though hardly art, at least gavve it a voyeuristic novelty. But the skin was phased out in favour of a more PG approach (presumably to increase its syndication value) leaving just the weak stories.

Filmed in Canada (pretending it was the States) and France, with most episodes featuring at least one imported American actor...though occasionally the main role went to a Canuck. Created by Riff Markowitz, Lewis Chesler, Richard Rothstein -- though how you "create" an anthology series as vague as this is beyond me. Some episodes are available on video. Approximately 74 half-hour episodes, shown in Canada originally on First Choice (The Movie Network) and recently re-aired, uncut, on Showcase. - partial female nudity, sexual content, extreme violence.-/-violence.-

THE HITMAN * setting: USA./B.C.
(1991) (/U.S.) Chuck Norris, Michael Parks, Al Waxman, Salim Grant, Alberta Watson, Ken Pogue, Marcel Sabourin, Bruno Gerrusi.....U.S. undercover cop (Norris) uses any method to bring down his mobster "boss" (Waxman) and a rival B.C. crook (Sabourin). Good looking but boring, senseless action pic features dull fight scenes and characterization that's more silly than anything. Sub-plot involving a kid jars with the extremely violent material (and the non-stop cussing). And what's a francophone mobster doing in B.C.? Weird seeing The Beachcombers' Gerrusi as a thug who has a gruesome demise. The director is Chuck's bro. sc: Don Carmody, Robert Geoffrion. dir: Aaron Norris. - extreme violence.- 95 min.

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