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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.
* * * setting: N.W.T./USA.
(1994) (/France) Charles Dance, Adamie Inukpuk, Seporah Q. Ungalaq, Matthew Jaw-Saviakjuk, Natar Ungalaq, George Claisse.....True story of American filmmaker Robert Flaherty's (Dance) 1919 attempt to make a film about Eskimo life, and the friendship that evolved between him and an Inuk hunter named Nanook (Inukpuk). An irresistible concept for a filmmaker: do a movie about the making of the world's first -- and arguably most famous -- feature documentary: "Nanook of the North". Though thin on plot, this film gradually entrances thanks to its moody ambience, breathtaking scenery, and strong performances. Inukpuk is actually related to the real Nanook! The title means 'white man'. Filmed in Canada and Russia. sc: Claude Massot, Sebastien Regnier. dir: Claude Massot. - brief female nudity, sexual content, violence.- 108 min.
KAENA: The Prophecy *
(2003) (/France) voices of Kirsten Dunst, Richard Harris, Anjelica Huston, Michael McShane, Greg Proops, Keith David, Dwight Schultz, Tara Strong, Tom Kenny.....Computer animated fantasy about a young woman (voiced by Dunst) on a primitive world who begins to question her people's devotion to their gods and sets out to learn the truth of her world. Striking, beautiful production design...at least it would be, if the visuals were clearer, and scenes not shaded in the same hue. As it is, the lavish visuals are often muddy and hard to make out, and the story isn't much better which, like a lot of European fantasy cartoons, gets lost in its own airy New Age-ism -- not to mention some question as to its target audience (sort of juvenile, sort of aimed at older people what with the voluptuous heroine often in skimpy clothes...possibly even with brief nudity in the French language version). A lot of talent and effort went into this, but the result is more frustrating than fascinating. It's a France/Canada co-production...so of course most of the vocal actors, in the English version, are nether French nor Canadian! According to some reports this was meant to tie into some cross media versions, such as a video game...which I'm not sure ever ended up being made. sc: Chris Delaporte, Tarik Hamdine...and about six or seven other names! dir: Chris Delaporte, Pascal Pinon. 87 min.
* * setting: P.Q.
(1988) Remy Girard, Marie Tifo, Tony Nardi, Gaston LePage, Jacques Marcotte.....Flighty, incurable romantic (Girard) becomes infatuated with a woman he's never met (Tifo) and is determined to find and woo her, even though she has a lover (Nardi) already; and he encounters a mermaid who looks just like her. Unusual romantic-fantasy is sparodically amusing but tends to make the viewer feel...uncomfortable. sc: Marc-Andre Forcier, Jacques Gendron. dir: Marc- Andre Forcier. - sexual content, partial female nudity and casual male nudity.- 88 min.
* setting: P.Q.
(1973) (/France) Genevieve Bujold, Richard Jordan, Marcel Cuvelier, Philippe Leotard, Suzie Baillargeon, Huguette Oligny, Camille Bernard.....In the 19th Century, while her current husband is on his deathbed, a woman (Bujold) recalls her first arranged marriage to an abusive, mentally unstable man (Leotard) and how she plotted with her lover (American actor Jordan, speaking French) to murder him. Period drama was indifferently received when it came out, but nonetheless has gone on to be regarded as a semi-classic...which is perhaps more due to everyone's expectations that it be a classic than its actual achieving such. Heavy handed and extremely slow, with poor lighting and static direction, which may be a result of budget problems (though it was the most expensive Canadian movie of its day -- almost one million dollars) or maybe intentionally to emphasize the theme of oppressive society. But if the latter, the filmmakers succeed too well, making a movie that is claustrophobic and stifling to watch and lacking in passion (despite concerning an illicit affair). Originally released in an edited form, even the restored version seems oddly structured and illogical in spots, as if scenes are missing. Even the point is bewildering: though we can sympathize with the heroine's reasons...we aren't meant to sympathize with her as a person. A disappointment. In French. sc: Claude Jutra, Anne Hebert (from the novel by Anne Hebert). dir: Claude Jutra. - male nudity, sexual content, partial feemale nudity, violence.- 173 min.
* setting: P.Q./other
(1996) Isabelle Cyr, Robert Brouillette, Yves Pelletier, France Castel, Gildor Roy, Robert Cloutier, Sylvie Potvin, Diane Lavallee, Mario St. Amand.....A Transylvannian vampiress, Karmina (Cyr), runs away to Montreal to avoid an arranged marriage. Once there, she is given a potion to allow her to pass as human, falls in love...even as her erstwhile fiancé (Pelletier) is tracking her down. Audacious, imaginative horror-comedy has some good ideas, and is moderately stylish and occasionally amusing, but the meandering, almost stream-of-consciousness plotting wears, and the mixing of elements (slapstick, whimsy, romantic comedy and macabre black humour, as well as some, perhaps, genuine attempts at true suspense) don't always blend well. Of course, comedy doesn't always translate well (in the English dubbed version, some of the mock-European accents are barely intelligible). A nice try, but more miss than hit. Still, successful enough (in Quebec) to spawn a sequel, Karmina 2. The scene at the Country and Western bar is amusing, though, like the film itself, goes on too long. Roy (who's quite good as a hapless customs agent turned vampire stooge) is also a country singer, and that's one of his songs playing during the bar scene. For another Canadian stab at a vampire comedy, see Blood & Donuts. sc: Ann Burke, Yves Pelletier, Andree Pelletier, Gabriel Pelletier (story: Burke, dialogue: Yves Pelletier). dir: Gabrielle Pelletier. - sexual content, violence, brief male nuudity.- 110 min.
KATE MORRIS VICE-PRESIDENT
* * * setting: Ont.
(1984) Kate Trotter, Scott Hylands, Marc Strange, Paul Harding, Sean McCann, Yvette Brind'Amour, Barbara Gordon.....The only female vice-president (Trotter) at a big company finds her male colleagues patronising, hostile, and attempting to undermine her authority when she begins developing a new prototype. What seems more earnest than dramatic turns out, instead, to be a fairly compelling drama. Originally aired as a feature-length episode of the For the Record series. sc: John C.W. Saxton. dir: Daniele J. Suissa. 81 min.
This largely uninspired TV series didn't quite seem to know what it wanted to be: in style and premise, it seemed kind of juvenile, but it liked to throw in murder and mayhem. Whatever, it didn't really work, and the characters were bland though the performances were O.K. Half-hour episodes initially on CTV.
* setting: CDN.
(1995) (/France) Jeff Fahey, Sophie Duez, Lorne Brass, Patrice Bissonnette, Vlasta Vrana, Aron Tager.....Period wilderness story of wolf-dog Kazan and the various people and animals he meets, good and bad, including the woman (Duez) who owns him and a zoologist (Fahey). This drama is better looking and acted, and more stylishly directed, than most of the Tales of the Wild films, but it's meandering and episodic, trotting out many of the expected cliches but handling them perfunctorily. And for a movie with an "environmental" message, it seems to treat its animals harshly in some scenes -- beware films that claim to have safeguarded their animals, but don't have independent observers (ie: the Humane Society) on location to supervise. Followed by a semi-sequel, Baree. a.k.a. Eye of the Wolf. sc: Jonathan Hales (from the story by James Oliver Curwood). dir: Arnaud Selignac. 97 min.
KEEP IT IN THE FAMILY
* 1/2 setting: P.Q.
(1973) John Gavin, Adrienne Larussa, Pat Gage (a.k.a. Patricia Gage), Allan McRae..... Young hippie couple decide to have revenge on their tight-fisted establishment families by seducing the other's parent, but complications arise when one "couple" actually falls in love. Brisk comedy has a few moments that border on amusing, and gets top-marks for actually having a "concept" premise. But that same premise is also one of the problems: who cares about these self-obsessed, manipulative people? a.k.a. Love Brats. sc: Edward D. Stewart (story Stewart and Kent). dir: Larry Kent. - brief female nudity.- 91 min.
KEEP YOUR HEAD UP, KID: The Don Cherry Story (TVMS) *
* 1/2 setting: CDN./USA.
(2010) Jared Keeso, Sarah Manninen, Stephen McHattie, Ian Tracey, Aidan Devine.....Chronicle of the life of one of English-Canada's biggest modern celebrities, Don Cherry (Keeso), from his years as an undistinguished pro hockey player languishing in the minor leagues, before becoming a major league coach, and climaxing with him embarking on what would be his signature career -- as a famous (and infamous) commentator for Hockey Night in Canada. One can question the optics of this CBC mini-series -- a 4 hour paean to a still living, still employed by the CBC, personality written by his son (and it's not like he discovered insulin or anything). Still questions of objectivity aside, it was a ratings hit when first aired, and should please right-wingers as Cherry is arguably the most famous conservative on a network criticized by right wingers for being too left. It's a decent production, well acted all around (and particularly anchored by Keeso and Manninen as his wife) and with a deliberately stylish old fashioned visual look to evoke its periods. But can seem a bit like just a collection of often inconsequential anecdotes writer Tim Cherry no doubt heard around the dinner table (a rat infested apartment, or Don hanging beer cans out the tour bus window to make them cold). But also with more insightful exposes of hockey back in the day -- such as the sequences when Cherry played for the tyrannical Eddie Shore (well played by McHattie, in yet another hockey role). Definitely a largely uncritical puff piece of Cherry, but one that knows not to take itself, or its subject, too seriously, with plenty of quirky humour, and Leeso playing Cherry as an introverted Frankenstein monster, staring at the world with a kind of perpetual bemusement from beneath his beetle brow. Unfortunately the second half is less interesting than the first (maybe because once a coach, Cherry is no longer the struggling underdog), more episodic, more emphasis on interpersonal dynamics with characters that probably make more sense to hockey die hards but aren't fully explained here, and what amounts to a sustained love-in for the days of goon hockey and the idea that games should be won as much by fists as skill! Followed by The Wrath of Grapes. 4 hours. sc: Tim Cherry. dir: Jeff Woolnough.
KEEPING TRACK *
* 1/2 setting: P.Q.
(1987) Michael Sarrazin, Margot Kidder, Alan Scarfe, Ken Pogue, John Boylan.....Bank executive (Kidder) and a TV anchorman (Sarrazin) don't know who to trust after witnessing a murder which they can't prove yet everyone from the Mounties to the CIA to the KGB is covering up. Breezy thriller has trouble mustering genuine thrills or a real sense of paranoia, but benefits, as it goes along, from fast-pacing and good chemistry between the two leads. sc: Jamie Brown. dir: Robin Spry. 102 min.
At the same time, the Kennedys are among the most oft portrayed (and caricatured) families in western culture and the series covers a lot of well trod ground, so that at times it can seem less like a new dramatizations, and more just a restaging of an oft performed play, recycling familiar scenes and situations, where we're comparing these actors takes on the roles to all the previous actors who have essayed them (including various supporting turns like Enrico Colantoni as J. Edgar Hoover, Charlotte Sullivan as Marilyn Monroe, and others). Even the cynical, muck-racking, feet of clay approach to these revered icons isn't really something that hasn't already been done in previous biopics like 1983s "Kennedy" and the Canadian-made Hoover vs. The Kennedys (save maybe suggesting actual bribery and corruption was involved in some of the election campaigns). And curiously, though the mini-series tries to juggle the critical with the idolatry (at times depicting JFK as a womanizer and a bit of an empty helmet...and other times trying to portray him -- and especially Robert -- as progressive idealists) it maybe fails to explore the characters' politics and values, to make us understand what they stood for and why. The result can be sometimes dramatic...and sometimes rather superficial. The dialogue, too, can veer from good...to corny and almost campy, trying to convey characterization and relationships in clumsily obvious exchanges. And, of course, depicting private conversations between people long dead means you can't even be sure how much is true (or at least likely) and how much wholly fabricated. With all that being said, it can be reasonably compelling; it's slick and expensive-looking, the jumping from time periods keeping it lively, and above all it's anchored by commanding performances from Kinnear, Pepper and Wilkinson (interestingly, the only Canadians billed in the opening credits -- Pepper and Booth as Bobby and wife Ethel -- are cast, in many ways, as the show's moral centre). Though wouldn't you think that an eight hour Canadian co-production could've devoted a bit of time to touching on JFK's relationships with Canadian prime ministers Diefenbaker (acrimonious) and Pearson (friendly)? In fact, the Kennedy/Diefenbaker feud could make for an interesting movie on its own -- though, no doubt, Kennedy-infatuated Canadian filmmakers would be too quick to take Kennedy's side (when the truth was more complex). 8 hour long episodes, shown in Canada on History and Global.
KEVIN OF THE NORTH *
1/2 setting: USA.
(2001) (/U.K.) Skeet Ulrich, Natasha Henstridge, Leslie Nielsen, Lochlyn Munro, Rik Mayall.....California milquetoast (American actor Ulrich) comes to Alaska to claim his inheritance, predicated on his winning a cross country dog sled race, while an attorney (Nielsen) will stop at nothing to sabotage him. Typically Canadian slapstick comedy -- and I don't mean that in a good way. Decidedly old fashioned, with lots of mugging and pratfalls, as well as being mean spirited and with modern vulgarity and gross-out gags. They try, one can give them that, and it starts out sprightly at least...but then drags. It just isn't funny (save for a very occasional mildly amusing line) and without enough of a straight-faced anchor to at least make us care about the characters. Mayall comes closest to working as an over-the-top British weasel (who is supposed to be an ex-Canadian Mountie?). A Canada-British co-production, the common wisdom in the industry is that they have to set movies in the United States to be a success -- gosh, so I must've just missed its extended run at the movie house, eh? Archly American to the point of dialogue downgrading Winston Churchill to being Franklin Roosevelt's sidekick! sc: William Osborne. dir: Bob Spiers. 103 min.
(2012) (/U.S.) Jason Patric, Isabella Rossellini, Udo Kier, Louis Negin, Brooke Palsson, David Wontner, Kevin McDonald, Tattiawna Jones.....A gangster (Patric) leads his gang into an abandoned house where he used to live, journeying through the house encountering ghosts of the past, while he seeks his wife (Rossellini) on the upper floor -- or, um, something like that. Madden-Toles' films are basically the sort of thing where if you like them, you'll say they're brilliant, and if you don't, you'll probably turn them off after 10 minutes. Their shtick is to do low-budget, surreal, dream-like movies as if old films. The films can be viewed as homages to badly made movies -- or are simply badly made themselves. Filmed in black & white, there's a kind of 1950s vibe, mixed with over-the-top film student pretensions -- appropriate given the movie was commissioned by Ohio State University. And the result feels deliberately tailored for a film class, full of clumsy camera tricks, weird images, surreal scenes, gratuitous nudity (male and female) and nonsensical dialogue all prepackaged for the students to debate and analyze -- or maybe it's a spoof of such pretentiousness! But if you're not expected to write a term paper on it, it's hard to force any interest because in order to want to decipher the meaning (assuming there is any) the audience has to actually care about what's going on. But the actors themselves veer from camp, to over-wrought seriousness, to just not very good, with only Palsson succeeding in bringing grounding to her role as a blind psychic (not that she has much to work with). Patric, Rossellini, and Kier (in a small part) are imports. It's too bad -- because the conceit of a journey through a house mirroring a journey through the mind and the past is intriguing. sc: GeorgeToles, Guy Madden. dir: Guy Madden. - male nudity, female nudity, sexual content.- 94 min.
KEYS CUT HERE
see ROBSON ARMS
* * * setting: Ont.
(2002) Michael D'Ascenzo, Michele Duquet, Normand Bissonnette, Lynne Deragon, John Ralston, Michael Kanev, Joanne Boland, Gerry Quigley.....When his sickly mother (Duquet) dies, a boy (D'Ascenzo), living in a rundown apartment, decides to cover it up so he won't be sent away. Downbeat but effective drama is vividly realized and energetically directed, with excellent performances from all concerned. Albeit the story, although with some nice threads, doesn't grow that much beyond the premise. But an auspicious debut for the filmmaker. sc./dir: Asghar Massombagi. 81 min.
THE KID *
1/2 setting: USA.
(1997) Jeff Saumier, Rod Steiger, Ray Aranha, Mark Camacho, Bruce Dinsmore, Ted Fennell, Jane Wheeler.....A teen (Saumier) trains to be a boxer with a kindly coach (Steiger) while keeping his hobby secret from his disapproving parents. Family-aimed boxing drama seems a little like they got the go ahead before they had come up with much more than the genre. The main dramatic conflict is the kid keeping his boxing a secret from his parents, which seems like an awfully thin premise to hang 90 minutes on. There are sub-plots (like his best friend who doesn't want to box, but is pressured into it by his dad, and a local bully) but they're either resolved easily, or don't go anywhere. It doesn't even work as a "relationship" drama, since he and Steiger are already friends at the beginning, so their relationship doesn't evolve. There are nice ideas, like the uncontrived relationship with his brother, and some cute concept scenes (the non-Catholic hero in a confessional) but the execution never becomes more than competent. And without a stronger plot, competent isn't enough. sc: Seymour Blicker. dir: John Hamilton. 89 min.
THE KIDNAPPING OF BABY JOHN DOE a.k.a. Baby John Doe
THE KIDNAPPING OF THE PRESIDENT
* * 1/2 setting: Ont./other
(1980) (/U.S.) William Shatner, Hal Holbrook, Miguel Fernandes, Michael J. Reynolds, Cindy Girling, Van Johnson, Ava Gardner.....The U.S. president (Holbrook) is taken hostage while visiting Toronto by a Latin-American terrorist (Fernandes) and a Secret Service man (Shatner) must try to save him. Psychological suspense flick barely acknowledges conflicting jurisdictions but isn't bad. Too much the procedural, though, and not enough character stuff. Interestingly, the original novel, by Canuck Templeton, was set entirely in the States. sc: Richard Murphy (from the novel by Charles Templeton). dir: George Mendeluk. - violence.- 113 min.
This quintet had a big following in the University crowd and among critics...but like so many modern comics and comedy troupes, their emphasis was on "pushing the envelope" and "shock", but since there are very few real taboos left, the rambling sketches just came across as tired and sophomoric rather than daring...or funny. Still, the show maintained a steady following throughout its run, and running gags like "I crush your head!" (using perspective to pretend to squeeze a person's head between thumb and forefinger) surfaced outside the show. Thompson was one of the first openly homosexual actors to appear on a weekly series in the United States (where this show was also aired). The group got its name from an old Jack Benny reference: aspiring writers would mill about in the hall, calling gags out to him as he went by. Occasionally Benny would use one and credit it to "the kids in the hall". The group reunited in 1996 for the feature film Brain Candy and still later for the mini-series Death Comes to Town. Half-hour episodes on the CBC.
KIDS IN THE HALL: Brain Candy
* 1/2 setting: Ont.
(1996) (/U.S.) David Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, Scott Thompson, Nicole DeBoer, Krista Bridges.....A greedy pharmaceutical company invents a new drug that makes people happy, and releases it before doing the proper testing. Feature film by the cult TV comedy troupe Kids in the Hall (Foley, McCulloch, McDonald, McKinney and Thompson) has a good premise and is less grating than their series, but it still only manages a smattering of chuckles...and the group's sketch-comedy delivery is perhaps a bit at odds with the needs of a feature-length film (particularly McCulloch as the inventor/protagonist). Arguably plays better for fans, though even then it seemed to get mixed reviews. The Kids each play a variety of characters. sc: Norm Hiscock, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, Scott Thompson. dir: Kelly Makin. - casual male nudity, sexual content.- 88 min.
KIDS IN THE HALL present DEATH COMES TO TOWN (TVMS)
* * 1/2 setting: Ont.
(2010) David Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, Scott Thompson.....The comedy troupe reunites some 15 plus years after their sketch comedy series (with a movie and occasional stage reunions inbetween) for arguably their most ambitious effort to date -- a CBC comedy/mystery serialized over 8 episodes. It concerns a series of murders in the small town of Shuckton, Ontario that are precipitated by the embodiment of Death (McKinney) arriving in town. True to their sketch roots, the "Kids" play a variety of roles throughout. The series is full of hit and miss gags, and "shock" humour that maybe isn't all that shocking given modern comedy mores (though they try, even tossing in necrophilia and botched abortions). It maybe isn't necessarily that funny, but it is oddly...intriguing, the very nature of the sustained narrative and the bizarre characters meaning you can find yourself interested to see where it's all headed. And the Kids have maybe fine tuned their acting skills in the interim years, not just their sketch comedy skills (McKinney inparticular has assembled a solid list of roles over the years -- even dramatic roles), so that some of the characterizations don't just feel like improv sketch routines. Still, I was never a big fan of the troupe, so long time fans might have a different reaction (either more positive...or more negative). 8 half hour episodes. sc: Bruce McCulloch, Dave Foley. dir: Kelly Makin.
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