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.
JEFF, Ltd. (TV Series)

(2006-2007)  * 1/2  Jeff Seymour ("Jeff"), Inga Cadranel ("Liz"), Jesse Bond ("Gavin"), with Hrant Alianak ("Uncle Kazem"), Sam Taber ("Samir"), Genadijs Dolganovs ("Vladimir"), others.....Comedy about a hedonistic, womanizing ad man at a small-time advertising agency. Cadranel plays his partner, Bond their (sole) employee. Alianak plays "Jeff"'s uncle, a carpet importer for whom they do the advertising, Tabar "Jeff's" cousin. Dolganovs a sinister Russian clown "Jeff" owed money, too. Trivia note: Seymour and Cadranel had co-starred in The Eleventh Hour and Alianak had guest starred once...playing Seymour's father. 

Once upon a time, Canadian TV executives were criticized for not encouraging "stars" -- that is, not providing follow-up vehicles for actors after break through roles. Not anymore. In this case, Seymour (an American actor who had moved to Canada) had clearly made an impression with his role in The Eleventh Hour, and executives green lighted this vehicle for him (which he co-created -- most recent Canadian comedies seem to be vehicles created by the star). And Seymour is a charismatic performer...but this series is, generally, an ill-conceived, unfunny misfire. Even the tone seems odd -- it's kind of low-key, with the laughs few, as if it's maybe trying to be a semi-realist dramedy (complete with plot threads that carry over from episode to episode)...even as its reliance on pratfalls, drunken clowns and, yes, rectal examines suggests it's trying to be a knee slapping farce. Essentially, it's trying to be a very old fashioned kind of screwball farce, especially with its emphasis on the lead's overactive libido -- but somehow Bob Cummings pulled it off better. The lead character is just obnoxious and unlikeable (he's supposed to be a cad...but surely he's supposed to be a loveable cad), and his constant pursuit of women half his age -- sometimes literally teenagers -- is more creepy than amusing (though, again, follows a trend begat by some other star-as-creator series). While supporting actors like Cadranel and Bond are given little to do, and aren't really expected to be funny (yeah -- a comedy where most of the parts are straight parts). A shame, because the touching on an "ethnic" angle of the character's Arab ancestry is a nice nod to multiculturalism. Still, in its first season, following "American Idol", it boasted some decent ratings. Go figure. Two seasons of half-hour episodes on CTV. 

THE JELLYBEAN ODYSSEY (TV Series) a.k.a. The Odyssey

"Jennie's Story", a play by Betty Lambert, became the movie, Heart of the Sun.

Jenny  * 1/2  setting: Alt.
(1992) Lucelle Crichton, Russel Badger, Bud Stilling, Gary Wiens.....Native woman (Crichton) becomes a music star, but discovers fame can't buy happiness when she starts neglecting her family. Hour long drama, low-budget with weak performances, is ultimately nothing more than a story told a hundred times before. sc./dir: Ray Ramayya (story Ray Ramayya, Jerry Hamm).

(2002-2004) (/U.S.)  * * 1/2  Luke Perry ("Jeremiah"), Malcolm-Jamal Warner ("Kurdy Peter"), Sean Astin ("Mr. Smith") (2nd-), Joanne Kelly ("Libby") (2nd), with Peter Stebbings ("Marcus Alexander"), Ingrid Kavelaars ("Erin"), Byron Lawson ("Lee Chen"), Kandyse McClure ("Elizabeth") (1st), Kim Hawthorne ("Theo"), John Pyper-Ferguson ("Sims") (2nd), and Suzy Joachim (1st), Robert Wisden, Enid-Raye Adams ("Gina") (2nd-).....Science fiction set after a plague wiped out most people past puberty. Fifteen years later, the now grown up survivors exist in one of those post-Apocalyptic worlds popular in sci-fi (since it doesn't strain a budget), with small communities existing at a largely pre-industrial level (since most of those who understood technology had been wiped out) -- though, miraculously, clothes and the like look new. Some more technologically advanced survivors have set up shop in an old NOARD base, Thunder Mountain, hoping to restore civilization. The heroes are two drifters (Perry and Warner) who hook up with the NORAD survivors, acting as operatives in the outside world. Stebbings, particularly effective, plays the leader of the NORAD group; Kavelaars his confidant; and Lawson another aide, more hostile to "Jeremiah" and "Kurdy". McClure played a love interest for Jamal-Warner, killed off at the end of the first season, and Hawthorne a villainous lady warlord who gradually became a reluctant ally. Joachin cropped up occasionally as a plague survivor -- and carrier -- who lived in a hermetically sealed area, unbeknownst to most except "Marcus". Robert Wisden plays "Jeremiah"'s vanished dad...ironically, a similar role to his one in The Odyssey (a vanished father for whom the hero is searching). 

The first season was largely comprised of stand alone epsodes, but threaded with sub-plots involving the characters' search for a place known as Valhalla Sector, and "Jeremiah"'s search for his dad whom he suspected had survived the plague -- plots that climaxed in the last couple of episodes of the first season and the first couple of the second, opening the way for a new direction/story arc after that. The second season was more a single story line involving the rise of a rival fascist state, headed by the mysterious Daniel, that threatened the government the heroes were attempting to establish. Joining the cast was Astin, as a guileless man who claimed to receive instructions from God, Pyper-Ferguson as the recurring villain, Daniel's field commander, and Kelly as a love interest for "Jeremiah" -- despite Canadians like Stebbings and Kavelaars playing characters equally as important as Wilson and Warner, Kelly was the first Canadian to receive billing in the title credits...and she was killed off half way through the season. Hmmm. Adams played a young soldier. Perry, Warner and Astin are Americans; most everyone else is Canadian (though they play American characters). Ironically, the central premise of the series is that all the regulars were kids fifteen years before -- yet some of the actors, Perry inparticular, look a little long in the tooth for their parts. 

Post-civilization adventures are pretty common, and this is hardly ground-breaking. The more individual idea -- that civilization fell apart because all adults died out -- is never really used as much more than just the backstory (an interesting idea might've been to have current societies based on childhood models). And the "lawless" future means that the characters spend a lot of time encountering just unpleasant, sadistic villains. The first season suffered from plots that seem ambitious in conception, but are executed rather wobbly. Episodes like "Man of Iron/Women of Glass", in which Jeremiah and Kurdy encounter a man who has retreated into the delusion that he is a comicbook super hero, with the requisite bittersweet resolution, or the one where Kurdy aids an illiterate librarian protecting a library are great stuff on paper...but the actual unfolding of plot and characterization can be weak, even silly. Still, the series is superficially slick enough to while away an hour occasionally for SF buffs. The second season, with its sustained story arc, was slightly more effective (and, indeed, the four or five episode story line that bridged the first and second season was particularly strong). But the series is ultimately more O.K. than anything. And for a series that presents itself as high-minded, with characters given to uttering profound monologues, it was morally problematic, particularly in the second season. With the heroes employing germ warfare against their enemies, arbitrarily establishing themselves as the benevolent heads of conquered communities (which is working out real well in Iraq these days) and cold bloodedly shooting prisoners in a fit of pique, you're kind of left asking: these are the guys who we're supposed to hope will rebuild civilization? 

Made for cable, the series featured frequent cussing and occasional nudity (not generally involving the regulars -- and there was little nudity in evidence in the second season). Like similar shows, the "adult" approach didn't translate into plot and characterization anymore sophisticated than in any other series. Based on a European graphic novel (comic book) series by Hermann Haupmen, and developed for TV by J. Michael Straczynski (an American writer responsible for the ambitious "Babylon 5" and less ambitious filmed in Canada shows like Captain Power and The Twilight Zone) and Sam Egan. (The premise was also vaguely reminiscent of Andromeda, in that it's about people trying to rebuild a civilization after it's fall). Egan was gone after the first season and Straczynski, supposedly frustrated by incessant intereference from executives, announced he'd be leaving at the end of the second -- which turned out to be the final season anyway. Hour long episodes, shown in Canada originally on The Movie Network, the later Space. - occasional partial female nudity, violence.-

JEROME'S SECRET see Le secret de Jerome

JERICHO MANSIONS * * 1/2  setting: N.S.
(2003) (/U.K./Spain) James Cann, Genevieve Bujold, Maribel Verdu, Jennifer Tilly, Bruce Ramsay, Peter Keleghan, John Bourgeois, Joe Cobden, David Gow.....Story of an odd ball, milquetoast, agoraphobic apartment superintendent (Cann) -- he hasn't stepped foot outside in decades -- and the various eccentric tenants, and how his investigation of a tenant's murder leads him to learning some secrets of his own past. Flick wants to be both a quirky comedy and an enigmatic, psychological film noir thriller, but doesn't fully pull off the mix, seeming better on paper than in the, at times, heavy handed execution. But pulls it off enough to make for a moderately intriguing time killer, particularly once we realize there's more to Cann's character than even he knows. sc: Alberto Sciamma, Harriet Sand. dir: Alberto Sciamma. - extreme violence; sexual content.- 97 min.

(2001) Phil Caracas, Murielle Varhelyi, Maria Moulton, Tin DeVries, Ian Driscoll, Josh Grace, Jeff Moffett.....Ottawa vampires are killing lesbians and have developed a way to walk around in daylight. So, who ya gonna call? Why, none other than the kung fu fighting, lesbian-defending, Son of God -- Jesus Christ! What do you do if you've got almost no money to make a film, not even to sync sound properly? You take a page from Canadian indie filmmaker Guy Maddin's book and do a movie that's supposed to look like an ultra low budget cheapie -- but whereas Maddin does movies as homages/parodies of early cinema, this is a seeming homage to/parody of badly dubbed Hong Kong action flicks and Mexican wrestler movies. Sporadically amusing, but beyond the initial quirky concepts, it doesn't really sustain itself. It just ain't that funny after the umpteenth overlong fight scene. Cheekiness only takes you so far, and then you need to really deliver. And having Jesus cut his hair and dress in modern clothes part way through kind of mutes the central conceit. Presumably the filmmakers were hoping to ride a wave of controversy, but I'm not sure it caused much of a ripple -- maybe it was too obvious in its desire to elicit a reaction (or maybe it's because, in an odd, counter-culture way, it's not actually that profane...after all, Jesus is defending the downtrodden). Moulton, as Mary Magnum, probably should've got more screen time, if only as eye candy. At least the third vampire comedy to come out of Canada in recent years (after Blood & Donuts and Karmina). A few years after this, an American comic book came out utilizing a similar premise (Jesus in the modern world fighting vampires). sc: Ian Driscoll. dir: Lee Gordon Demarbre. - extreme violence.- 85 min.

JESUS DE MONTREAL * * * 1/2  setting: P.Q.
(1989) (/France) Lothaire Bluteau, Catherine Wilkening, Johanne-Marie Tremblay, Remy Girard, Robert LePage, Gilles Pelletier.....Asked to stage the church's Passion Play, an actor (Bluteau) enrages the church by doing it in a humanistic way. All the while, the actor's life seems to mirror Christ's. Excellent comedy-drama is a modernized, agnostic (yet still reverential) retelling of the Christ story with comments on spirituality, commercialization, art and individual integrity. Sometimes too obvious, and other times too subtle, but still compelling if a little clinical. The movie isn't so much a drama where an actor becomes consumed by his role, rather, it's an allegory, where Bluteau is essentially supposed to be a Christ figure right from the opening, John-the-Baptist-parallel scene. Won twelve Genies including Best Picture, Actor (Bluteau), Supporting Actor (Girard), Script and Director. English title: Jesus of Montreal. sc./dir: Denys Arcand. - male nudity and brief female nudity.- 118 min.

JESUS OF MONTREAL see Jesus de Montreal

JET BOY  * * *  setting: Alt./B.C.
(2001) Dylan Walsh, Branden Nadon, Kelly Rowan, Jordan Weller, Lynn Ivall, David LeReaney, Joe-Norman Shaw.....Abused runaway boy (Nadon) blackmails a free ride from a shady fellow (American import Walsh) on his way to a rendez-vous in Vancouver, and the two form an unlikely friendship, particularly as they stop off in the man's old home town, where he's got some history he has to deal with. Modestly budgeted, inexplicably titled drama is pretty grim at times (dealing frankly with child prostitution, etc.) given that the basic premise -- street urchin softens the hard-boiled heart of a loner -- could've been lifted from a dozen different Walt Disney movies. But this ain't no Disney movie! A bit slow, a little more interested in character than plot, but once it lightens up a bit, is a reasonably affecting, sometimes moving, drama, with a strong core of humanity. Nicely acted by the three leads, particularly Walsh. Some nice bits of Canadiana also adds to the feel, including a pathos-tinged contrasting of the boy's gritty life with reruns of the family series, The Forest Rangers. sc./dir: David Schultz. 99 min.

JET SET see La misere des riches (both a mini-series and weekly series)

UNE JEUNE FILLE A LA FENETRE* * 1/2  setting: P.Q.
(2002) Fanny Mallette, Hugues Frenette, Evelyne Rompre, Rosa Zacharie, Daniel Parent, Louis-David Morasse, Richard Fagon.....Story of a country girl and aspiring musician (Mallette), with a secret but wanting to experience life, who moves to Montreal in the 1920s and immerses herself in the bohemian counter-culture. Drama starts out a little too slow and self-consciously pretentious, but picks up in the later, big city scenes, making for a reasonably affecting, bitter-sweet fable. A nice sense of period and Mallette is appealing enough, (vaguely) evocative of a young Genevieve Bujold crossed with Clare Danes. English title: A Girl at the Window. sc: Marcel Beaulieu, Francis LeClerc, Nathalie Theocharides, Marie-Josee Bastien. dir: Francis LeClerc. 90 min.

LE JEUNE MAGICIEN  * * 1/2  setting: other
(1986) (/Poland) Rusty Jedwab, Edward Garson, Natasza Maraszek.....Boy (Jedwab) discovers he has telekinetic powers and ends up fleeing from the authorities. Pretty good, young-person adventure-drama. One of Rock Demer's Tales For All children's series. English title: The Young Magician. sc./dir: Waldemar Dziki. 100 min.

JINNAH ON CRIME: Pizza 911  * * 1/2  setting; B.C./other
(2002) Dhirendra, Pamela Sinha, Emily Holmes, Christian Bocher, David Lewis, Janet Wright, Scott Hylands.....Vancouver crime reporter Hakeem Jinnah (Canadian-based British actor Dhirendra) investigates a murder victim found in a pizza oven that has connections to his own, East Indian community. Made-for- CBC TV mystery is O.K., and gets better as it goes along once people start taking shots at him and it becomes a little more exciting. But like most of the recent Canadian TV movie mysteries (Joanne Kilbourn Mysteries, Chasing Cain, Harry's Case) it doesn't really seem to be a movie per se, feeling more like just an extended episode of a TV series. Not surprising as it is intended to be just that; the first of a possible series of TV movies. But the main character, though personable enough, is a bit muddled: is he a passionate crusader (as he is in some scenes) or just a reporter who loves a story, but with little personal commitment (as he seems to be in others)? And the plot is a bit confusing and never really convincingly answers what, after all, is its hook: why was the victim killed in such a spectacular and singular way? (Usually killers want to avoid drawing publicity). The character (loosely inspired by real life Vancouver reporter Salim Jiwa) first appeared in the novel, Mister Jinnah: Securities by Donald Hauka, but the plot is original to this movie. Nice to see the CBC embracing Canada's multi-ethnicity, though. Followed by a sequel. sc: Donald J. Hauka, Margaret Bard, Bartley Bard. dir. Brad Turner. 90 min.

JINNAH: ON CRIME "White Knight, Black Widow"  * * *  setting: B.C.
(2003) Dhirendra, Pamela Sinha, Christian Bocher, David Lewis, Janet Wright, Eugene Lipinski, John Ralston, Anne Marie Loder, Cas Anvar, Scott Hylands, Ingrid Kavelaars, Vanessa King, Russell Yuen, Veena Sood, Grace Park.....Crime reporter Hakeem Jinnah (Dhirendra) investigates the suspicious drowning death of a C.E.O. whose company was at a crucial juncture. Second made-for-CBC Jinnah mystery (after Pizza 911) is actually better than the first, with a firmer grip on its main character. It's an agreeable enough whodunit? in a "Murder, She Wrote" sort of way -- but technically it lacks finesse, lacking a certain reality, seeming like, well, a TV movie. Or, even more, like an episode of a TV series. And since the mystery revolves around a lot of business dealings...good luck figuring it all out. sc: Donald J. Hauka, Margaret Bard, Bartley Bard. dir: Brad Turner. 90 min.

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