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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.
HOT SHOES a.k.a. The
Lame TV series, generally unfunny and uninteresting, was obviously modeled after the then-hit U.S. series "Moonlighting". Savage gave the best performance...and he was miscast! The genre was given another try by the same producers in the subsequent series Diamonds. Based on a concept by Keith Johnson. Best bets: the one about a costume party at an isolated mansion. 12 hour long episodes made for CBS late night and shown in Canada originally on CTV though recently rerun on Showcase.
Hotel Babylon *
* setting: CDN.
(2005) Awaovieyi Agie, Soo Garay, Rishma Liv Malik, Pedro Salvin, Tom Masek, Brenda Kamino, Greg Odjig.....A robbery at a hotel staffed mainly by immigrants brings out the hidden talents of some of them as they investigate (one used to be a cop in the Old Country, another a forensics expert). One- hour drama made for Vision TV -- intended as a possible series pilot -- is more a drama (or comedy-drama) than the mystery the premise implies. An interesting premise, arising from Canada's immigrant, multi-cultural reality, with a nice cast, but the story itself just kind of meanders, and suffers from a curious obliqueness and narrative uncertainty, where you aren't always sure what's going on or why. sc: Annmarie Morais (concept by Gerry Atwell). dir: Charles Officer.
THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
* * * 1/2 setting: other
(2000) Matt Frewer, Kenneth Welsh, Jason London, Emma Campbell, Robin Wilcock, Leni Parker, Arthur Holden, Gorden Masten, John Dunn-Hill, Linda Smith.....Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson (Frewer and Welsh) investigate the case of a legendary family curse that threatens the newfound heir to an English estate. If a bunch of Canadian actors putting on fake British accents, filming in Quebec pretending it's England, to tackle perhaps the most oft-portrayed (and parodied) character in Western literature in his most filmed story sounds like a recipe for disaster...then this pretty faithful made-for-CTV adaptation is a pleasant surprise. Told with energy and sprightly enthusiasm, this is actually one of the best versions of the story. The cast is good and Welsh does fine as Watson in a story where he's expected to carry the lion's share (Holmes, traditionally, spends most of the story off stage...and here even moreso than usual). Good fun! The first of a series of Holmes movies with Frewer and Welsh (see Sherlock Holmes). Ironically, American actor London plays the Canadian heir...a characterization that was in the original novel (what, you thought Canadian filmmakers would willingly add in a Canadian reference?). sc: Joe Wisenfeld (from the novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). dir: Rodney Gibbons. 91 min.
THE HOUNDS OF NOTRE DAME
* 1/2 setting: Sask.
(1980) Thomas Peacocke, Frances Hyland, Barry Morse, David Ferry, Larry Reese, Lenore Zann.....Story of real-life Father Athol Murray (Peacocke), an unorthodox (yet rather conservative) principal at a Saskatchewan college in the '40s. Serio-comic film suffers because none of the characters are very likeable (or fleshed out) and the plot has no point. Seems more like the outline to a film, rather than the real thing. Peacocke won Best Actor Genie. sc: Ken Mitchell. dir: Zale Dalen. 95 min.
1/2 setting: Ont.
(1995) Daniel MacIvor.....An eccentric man (MacIvor) performs a series of monologues before a bemused small town audience (comprised of some familiar actors like Patricia Collins, Ben Cardinal, Kathryn Greenwood, etc. who also appear in pantomime sketches as MacIvor narrates). Translating stage to film is a balancing act: if it's too faithful, it can come across as, well, stagey, but if you re-invent it cinematically, it can loose the intimacy of its theatrical origins. And this serio-comic flick seems to err too far toward the latter. With its play-within-a-play framework, cutaways to mini-enactments, and funky edits and camera work, you lose what is surely the point of a one man show...a guy talking to you (the audience). But even MacIvor's performance is a little too mannered -- he seems like an actor, playing a part -- and the monologues too obviously constructed (with repeated phrasings, etc.) and too few of the anecdotes are that interesting or insightful (though some are O.K.). Ultimately, as a play and a movie, it all seems wa-ay too self-conscious, trying too hard to convince us it's edgy and provocative. If you want to see a Canadian film of a one man show, mayhap The Cockroach That at Cincinnati would be a better bet. Music score co-written by Michael Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies. sc: Laurie Lynd, Daniel MacIvor (from MacIvor's one man show). dir: Laurie Lynd. 86 min.
HOUSE OF LUK *
* setting: CDN.
(2001) Pierre Brault, Dan Lalande, John Ng, Pat Morita, Lorraine Ansell, Linda Goodwin, Michael Moriarty.....Story cutting between three different neurotic characters, struggling variously with life, jobs, and relationships, who all frequent a local Chinese restaurant (owned by import Morita). Low-key comedy is the sort of film you want to root for: it's often agreeable, and occasionally even touching, and professionally enough put together (considering a low budget) -- but it's just too long for its slight material, with characters who, the longer you spend with them, the less engaging they become (though the actors are effective). Occasional bouts of crude humour also jar a bit with the overall tone. Not a bad movie...but one that doesn't -- quite -- leap the bar. sc: Dan Lalande. dir: Derek Diorio. 116 min.
HOUSE OF THE DEAD *
1/2 setting: USA.
(2003) (/U.S./Germany) Jonathan Cherry, Tyron Leitso, Jurgen Prochnow, Clint Howard, Ona Grauer, Ellie Cornell, Will Sanderson, Enuka Okuma, Kira Clavell, Sonja Salomaa, Michael Eklund, David Palffy, Erica Parker (a.k.a. Erica Durance).....American teenagers, along with a shady boat captain (Prochnow), arrive on an island for a rave...only to find it deserted and the place overrun by killer zombies. Inspired by a video game, this monotonous B-movie horror-action-thriller apparently didn't even find approval among fans of B-movie horror-action-thrillers! Some of the cast are definitely better than the material, and even the script might have been marginally better...except most of the character/plot scenes seem to have been left on the cutting room floor. Despite an O.K. budget, the movie never seems to know what it wants to be: horror, except it's not scary; action (the kids find some automatic weapons) except the action scenes are tedious; self-knowing camp (with joke homages to earlier horror flicks and cut aways to video game images just to remind us this is based on a video game) except it's not funny. It's gory but, because it's so cartoony and uninvolving, it's not necessarily as gruesome as you'd expect. Reportedly, Grauer (who otherwise keeps her clothes on) was slatted to have a full frontal nude scene, but the director dropped it, and an entire sub-plot relating to the island's history, prior to filming...riiiight, 'cause the audience's interest is in the nuanced characterization and profound plot twists, eh? Prochnow, Howard, and Cornell (as the Coast Guard) are imports; most everyone else is Canadian. Look fast for singer Bif Naked as the DJ at the rave. sc: Dave Parker, Mark Altman. dir: Uwe Boll. - extreme violence, partial female nudity.- 90 min.
THE HOUSEKEEPER *
* 1/2 setting: other/USA.
(1986) Rita Tushingham, Ross Petty, Jackie Burroughs, Tom Kneebone, Shelley Peterson, Jessica Steen, Jonathan Crombie, Don Ewer, Joyce Gordon, Peter MacNeill.....A disturbed, sparodically homicidal housekeeper (Tushingham) comes to live with an American family (Petty, Peterson, Steen and Crombie) and is befriended by the local religious fanatic (Burroughs). Suspenser is better than most of its kind thanks to a good cast and some unexpected elements (like Steen and Crombie's relationship or the fact that there are the two crazies), but loses it with the pointlessly downbeat resolution. a.k.a. A Judgement in Stone. sc: Elaine Waisglass (from the novel A Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell). dir: Ousama Rawi. - violence, casual male nudity.- running times are listed anywhere from 94 min. to 106 min.
"How I Met My Husband", a short story by Alice Munro, was one of the stories used in the anthology movie Martha, Ruth and Edie
HOW SHE MOVE
* * setting: Ont./USA.
(2007) (/U.S.) Rutina Wesley, Dwain Murphy, Tre Armstrong, Brennan Gademans, Cle Bennett, Shawn Desman, Romina D'Ugo, Melanie Nicholls-King, Conrad Coates.....A teenage girl (American Wesley) reluctantly returns to her old inner city stomping grounds, but with hopes of going to medical school -- and sees a chance to earn the necessary money through urban step dancing competitions, while negotiating emotional minefields involving former friends. Drama mixes urban decay, harsh lighting, and troubled homes (though more with talk of drugs and crime, than actual depictions of same) yet in service of a familiar dance/musical of the plucky kids who practice, get into impromptu dance duels, and eventually set out to win the big competition in the climax (with some decent dance routines along the way). Making for an, at times, odd mix: not gritty enough to be a "serious" movie (and family friendly with little sex or profanity)...yet not light enough to be a fun romp. We've seen it all before, and it all gets down to the execution...which tends to be uneven (and one can't decide if it is trying to cram too many plot threads in...or doesn't have enough!) The cast is personable but the best performances come from the older actors who aren't featured much (with some memorable -- but too few -- scenes involving Nicholls-King and Coates as the heroine's parents). American pop stars Keyshia Cole and DeRay Davis appear as themselves. Nominally set mainly in Toronto (though not that overt about it) the movie nonetheless seems to have generated controversy. At the Internet Movie Database, almost 50 percent of the votes were at the lowest end of the scale (1 out of 10!) -- with some posters bragging they rated it as such sight unseen based simply on the grammatical idiosyncracy of the title! One can't decide if the movie drew the ire of white racists...or black Americans worried about racial stereotyping (though the movie is a more benign portrait of black North America than, say, the average rap video!) or with their own prejudices toward the West Indian background and dialect of Toronto's inner city (for the record, the scriptwriter is Jamaican-Canadian). But I guess the filmmakers can take some comfort from all that: when a fairly innocuous film like this can get that many people PO'd, it must be doing something right! sc: Annmarie Morais. dir: Ian Iqbal Rashid. 92 min.
HOW TO MAKE LOVE TO A NEGRO WITHOUT GETTING TIRED see Comment faire l'amour avec un Negre sans se fatiguer
HUMAN CARGO (TVMS) *
* 1/2 setting: B.C./other
(2004) Kate Nelligan, Nicholas Campbell, Bayo Akinfemi, Cara Pifko, Myriam Acharki, Nthati Moshesh, Hakeem Kai-Kazim, R.H. Thomson, Leslie Hope, Zak Santiago Alam, Lexa Doig, Sam Kalilieh, Hrothgar Mathews, Gerard Plunkett, Eugene Lipinski.....Sprawling, multi-character drama about refugees and Canadian immigration, interweaving various characters and story lines across two continents, including a right wing, racist politician (Nelligan) appointed to a refugee board, her liberal daughter (Pifko) who goes to Africa as an aid worker, a crusading immigration lawyer (Campbell), an African school teacher (Akinfemi) on the run from ethnic persecution, etc. Likened to the BBC mini-series "Traffik" (which became the Hollywood movie "Traffic") -- except about refugees, not drugs -- this expensive CBC drama sinks or swims on, essentially, how classy it can seem; will it be an earnest-but-clunky TV movie, or will it be a slick, professional effort? Despite occasional lapses, it succeeds more as the latter than the former, being an audacious, ambitious undertaking. Well-intentioned, provocative, and even eye-opening, doing what it sets out to do in putting a human face on vague news stories you read over breakfast. But although interesting, as a drama, as -- dare I say it? -- as entertainment, it never quite becomes riveting. Perhaps part of the problem is that the filmmakers kind of resist making it fully a pulpy, soap opera, melodrama. Often even characterization seems there more to illustrate a thematic point, or to serve a plot twist, rather than because these are fully realized people (perhaps explaining why Pifko goes from being lesbian to heterosexual -- her sexuality is defined by the needs of a particular scene). At the same time, because it seems so highbrow, its later veering into melodrama (with shady assassinations) actually seems awkward. And although the filmmakers' compassion and sympathy for their characters can't be questioned, the mini-series, perhaps unintentionally, leaves you with the curious impression that most refugees are murderers, terrorists, and thieves! Received 7 Gemini Awards including for Best Mini-Series, Script, Direction and Supporting Actress (Moshesh). Filmed as six hour long episodes, but first aired over three nights in two hour blocks. sc: Brian McKeown, Linda Svendsen. dir: Brad Turner. - violence, sexual content.-
HUMAN TARGET *
(1993) Lorenzo Lamas, Kathleen Kinmont, Anthony De Longis, Clark Johnson, Stephen Mendel, Arne Olsen, Ian Jacklin, Max Kirishima, Isabelle (Mejias) Jamieson.....A boxer (American Lamas) is kidnapped with a couple of others (Kinmont and Johnson) to be hunted while bets are made on the outcome. Slow, tedious low- budget actioner is pretty unimaginative, and Erschbamer (of Snake Eater fame) still can't direct action scenes. The O.K. performances are better than one would expect (which isn't hard) and isn't that Marianne Filali (The Adventures of the Black Stallion TV series) as one of the bookies? sc: Arne Olsen. dir: George Erschbamer. - extreme violence, partial female nudity,, sexual content.- 91 min.
THE HUNCHBACK *
* setting: other
(1997) (/U.S.) Mandy Patinkin, Richard Harris, Salma Hayek, Edward Atterton, Jim Dale, Benedick Blythe, Nigel Terry.....Story of persecution in 15th Century France, focusing on a fanatical religious figure (Harris) who lusts after a gypsy (Hayek), and of the deformed bell-ringer (Patinkin) who takes an interest in her. Umpteenth, made-for-TV adaptation of the classic novel (timed to cash-in on Disney's animated version) isn't bad and is reasonably lavish, but it doesn't quite come together, and the characters never come into focus. Director Medak tries hard to throw in stylish, symbolic imagery...then botches, or shrugs off, some of the straightforward scenes. Hayek is pretty, but not quite up to the part, and in many respects, she's the central character. None of the actors are Canadian in this Canadian production. sc: John Fasano (from the novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo). dir: Peter Medak. - violence.- app. 92 min.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (original title: Notre Dame de Paris), the classic novel by Victor Hugo, has been filmed many times over the years. Canadians took a stab at it in 1997 with The Hunchback.
* * setting: other
(1987) (/U.S./U.K.) Balthazar Getty, Amanda Ryan, Jamie Foreman; Karen Black, Lena Headey, Daniel Craig; Philip Casnoff, Celine Bonnier, Michael Cimino, Tony DeSantis; Terence Stamp.....Trio of erotic horror stories hosted by Stamp: "The Swords", about a young american man (Getty) and his involvement with an English sideshow performer and hooker (Ryan); "Menage a Trois", about a sinister crippled woman (Black) and her new, live-in nurse (Headey) and handyman (Craig); and "Necros" about a tourist (Casnoff) in Italy who is warned that the woman (Bonnier) he lusts after keeps company with an aging vampire (Cimino). Made-for-cable-TV supernatural flick is confusingly named since it is intended to cash in on the early '80s U.S. film, "The Hunger", without being called something sufficiently different to differentiate (it's sometimes listed as The Hunger Movie Trilogy in TV guides). Film is glossy, expensive-looking, well-acted, and stylish (sometimes too much so)...but it's slow and neither scarey, suspenseful, insightful or especially provocative with stories that are extremely straightforward and predictable. Mildly sexy in spots, but not enough so to really make it more than a cure for insomnia. Pilot for the series. Co-produced by Tony (who directed the original "Hunger") and Ridley Scott. sc: Howard A. Rodman; Jordan Katz, Vy Vincent Ngo; Steven & Audrey Thaler Salzburg (from stories by Robert Aickman, F. Paul Wilson, and Brian Lumley). dir: Tony Scott, Jake Scott, Russell Mulcahy. - female nudity, sexual content, violence, brief male nudity.- 92 min.
The series was sold as the product of British-born Hollywood film directors Ridley and Tony Scott -- how much they had to do with it was unclear, but the episodes certainly smacked of their style: expensive-looking, good performances (from a mix of Canadian and American actors), and stylish (often annoyingly so) but weak when it came to the meat-and-potatoes of story telling. The problem with a "theme" anthology (like The Hitchhiker) is it nullifies the whole point of different characters and stories each week, giving the whole thing a sameness. And by focusing on obsessive infatuation, infidelity, femme fatales and the like, it was hard to empathize with the characters (maybe I just have too rosey a view of human nature) -- again, making the whole thing reminiscent of The Hitchhiker. Perhaps a sexy series would have been a better idea than a series strictly about sex.
Definitely a "guy's" series, with male actors (usually the lead and often middle-aged) generally keeping their pants on, while nubile young starlets (usually the secondary role) doff their garments for the camera. Even then, the series is only mildly sexy -- perhaps it isn't sexploitive enough, since the stories alone aren't strong enough to hold ones interest. Most of the episodes are set in the States, though "Anaiis" was set in Montreal (and was one of the few to touch on arguably risky material with some S&M and full frontal (female) nudity)...which meant we at least faired better than the British who, after the pilot (reviewed separately), were allowed no on screen contribution. Many of the episodes are based on published short stories, which might lead one to believe the filmmakers had a passion for the written word, except American writer Harlan Ellison was obviously so disgusted by the handling of both his script and a short story that he substituted his pseudonym of Cordwainer Bird both times. Created by Jeff Fazio. Two seasons of half-hour episodes on TMN, latter re-run on Showcase. - female nudity, explicit sexual content, partial male nudity, violence.-
THE HUNT FOR JUSTICE: The Louise
Arbour Story * * * setting:
(2006) Wendy Crewson, John Corbett, Stipe Ercey, Heino Ferch, William Hurt, Neville Edwards, Leslie Hope, Claudia Ferri, Jacques Godin.....Story of Canadian Louise Arbour (Crewson) who was brought in to be Chief Prosecutor at the international war crimes tribunal looking into the conflict in Yugoslavia, and of her and her team's fights with red tape and NATO generals more interested in maintaining a peace than in capturing indicted suspects. Made-for-CTV docudrama has good performances from an international cast (including Ercey and Ferch), albeit there is some curious casting (anglophone Crewson as the francophone Arbour, Americans Corbett and Hurt as Brits, etc.) and many in small parts -- like Hurt, Godin and Michael Murphy (Crewson's real life husband) in just a few scenes as generals. Ultimately well done, well mounted, but maybe without finding a clear narrative hook to make it more than a made-for-TV dramatization. And it maybe assumes prior knowledge when the conflict in Yugoslavia, with all its regions and ethnic groups, could use a character carefully explaining it all to the lay person. It's a good, interesting film...but no, say, "Judgement at Nuremberg". As perhaps an "in joke", Hope, in a small part, plays a forensics investigator...while in H2O (also directed by Biname) she played a cop...just back from working in Yugoslavia. sc: Ian Adams, Riley Adams and Michelle Lovretta. dir: Charles Biname. - violence.- app. 90.
THE HUNTERS *
* setting: USA/other
(2013) (/U.S.) Robbie Amell, Alexa Vega, Keenan Tracey, Kira Clavell, Victor Garber, Michelle Forbes, Dan Payne.....After their parents (Forbes and Payne) disappear abroad, a trio of American teens/young adults -- two brothers (Amell and Tracey) and a female friend (Vega) -- discover they're part of a hereditary line of protective Hunters who seek out, and then hide, mythical objects; and they set out to track down shards of a magic mirror before villains (led by Garber and henchwoman Clavell) do (and, so they hope, reunite with their parents). Made-for-TV adventure movie (and presumably possible series pilot -- though the plot is largely self-contained) is slick, with decent performances (though it's Garber and Forbes who give it an extra level of gravitas) and younger viewers might enjoy the brisk pace and identify with the leads. But not quite a kids show, not quite adult, others will find it too much of a "tweener" program. There is menace -- but mild, not too suspenseful (there are scenes where they think something is dangerous, but it isn't, and others where crises are overcome within a minute or two). There is humour and light banter -- but nothing that funny or witty. The logic is loose (like Clavell told they need the heroes alive, yet still trying to kill them!) and suffering from the usual fatal flaw of these programs (namely, since the objects are hidden, if the heroes didn't seek them out, the villains would never find them!) And there is a problem when you can anticipate the pretty Asian woman is going to betray the white American heroes in the opening scenes simply because she's the pretty Asian woman and they're the white American heroes! Vega and Forbes are American, most of the other principals are Canadian (playing Americans). sc: Matthew Huffman, Jeffrey Schecter (based on the comic book/graphic novel Mirror, Mirror by Josh Williamson). dir: Nisha Ganatra. app. 90 min.
HURT PENGUINS *
(1992) Michele Muzzi, Daniel Kash, George King, Myra Fried, Lesleh Donaldson.....A struggling musician (Muzzi) figures she can finance an album by befriending and seducing a nice-but-nerdy rich guy (King), much to the consternation of her boy friend/band mate (Kash). Slight but enjoyable comedy boasts engaging actors...though the amusing scenes should be a lot funnier than they are. Clever opening credits. Cameos include actor/singer Denny Doherty, singer Ian Thomas, TV personality Denise Donolon and others. sc: Myra Fried. dir: Myra Fried, Robert Bergman. 98 min.
HUSH LITTLE BABY
* 1/2 setting: USA.
(1993) Diane Ladd, Wendel Meldrum, Geraint Wyn Davies, Illya Woloshyn, Ingrid Veninger, Paul Soles.....U.S. couple (Meldrum and Davies) discover the mother (Ladd) who gave her up for adoption is still alive, she moves in with them and, whatayaknow?, turns out to be psychotic. Laughably over-the-top suspenser with bland (and dimwitted) characters in bland scenes. One wonders if the people who make these uninspired fillers can get as bored doing them as some of us can get watching them. sc: Julie Moskowitz, Gary Stephens. dir: Jorge Montesi. 90 min.
(1996) (/U.K.) Patrick McGoohan, Amanda Plummer, Michael Moloney, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Joanne Vannicola, Gregory Hlady, Lorne Brass..... Psychiatrist (Moloney) brings his patient (Vaugier) to a reclusive asylum, unaware that the eccentric psychiatrist (McGoohan) is engaging in mind control experiments and the creation of a communal mind. It's hard to tell whether this is intended as a surrealistic Art House flick or a camp horror-parody or a straight thriller. And the fact that it's unclear which speaks volumes about the film's weaknesses. A genuinely fascinating concept (if played straight) is ruined by lengthy dance sequences (really!), inconsistent characterization, and just plain incoherence, with intriguing ideas that are tossed out, but never developed. If it's a joke, it just ain't very funny. Forays into philosophical ruminations (including Moloney breaking into Captain Kirk-styled impassioned speeches) never gel with anything. Still, it might garner a cult following (and has lots of toplessness). This is a Canada-British co-production so, naturally, it's set in the United States. At least the cast is British and Canadian. In any sensible film industry, Vannicola (sometimes billed as Joanna Vannicola) would be star (at least a low-level one), but this is Canada, so instead she's relegated to a thankless supporting part as one of the inmates. sc./dir: Rene Daalder. - partial female nudity.- 107 min. >
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