Go to Bottom
Sample: Title; rating (out of 4); principal setting; year of release; international co-producer (if any); cast; description; scriptwriter; director; content warning; running time.
* 1/2 setting: USA.
(1988) Joanna Pacula, Meredith Salenger, Mimi Kuzyk, Nicholas Kilbertus, Peter Dvorsky, Jan Rubes.....After her mother's death, an American girl (Salenger) gets suspicious of her recently arrived aunt (Pacula), who may be a witch. Better than usual direction and pseudo-Freudian undercurrents can't make this more than a bad horror pic with silly f/xs. Actually, it seems more like a diet-Coke commercial (evil aunty only wants her to drink health foods)! British-born Canadian director Densham went on to bigger things as a Hollywood producer of "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" and filmed-in-Canada series like The Outer Limits. Interestingly, although he used his Hollywood clout to do set-in-Britain projects (Like "Robin Hood" and "Moll Flanders"), he's never set anything in Canada...not even this film! sc: Stephen Volk, Tom Ropelewski. dir: Pen Densham. - extreme violence, sexual content, brief female nudity.- 100 min.
(1997) Molly Parker, Peter Outerbridge, Jay Brazeau, Natasha Morley, James Timmons.....Story of a necrophiliac (Parker) -- someone who's turned on by dead thinggs -- who gets a job at a mortuary, and her still-living boyfriend (Outerbridge) who seems increasingly obsessed with understanding her obsession. Odd little film came out the same year as Crash and covers similar ground (weird sexual fetishes). It's technically more accomplished than its higher-profile cousin (better written, directed, and acted, particularly Parker and Outerbridge) but suffers from similar problems. It's slow-moving and, though you're sure it's probably intended as a metaphor somehow/someway, it ultimately just seems like a chronicle of necrophilia...without providing any genuine insight into the character's motivation (despite voice-overs). Some humour might've helped, too. Definitely not for the squeamish. Parker received the Best Actress Genie. Additionally, the movie provides some food-for-thought on gender politics: the film was critically well-received...now imagine the reaction if it had been a similarly sympathetic portrait of a guy who slept with dead women. Hmmm? sc: Angus Fraser, Lynne Stopkewich (from a story by Barbara Gowdy). dir: Lynne Stopkewich. - female nudity, male nudity, sexual conntent.- 79 min.
KISSINGER AND NIXON
* * 1/2 setting: USA./other
(1995) (/U.S.) Ron Silver, Beau Bridges, Matt Frewer, Ron White, George Takei, Kenneth Welsh, Henry Chan, Tony Rosato.....Story of American politician Kissinger's (Silver) attempt to negotiate a peace in Vietnam in '72, despite U.S. president Nixon's (Bridges) obstructionism. Political dramas can be among the most gripping, but this one is just O.K. Decent performances from all, though Silver and Bridges (under heavy make-up that occasionally makes them look more like Muppets than people) do a better job imitating their characters than getting inside them...a problem with the script as well. And the complex issues themselves seem short-changed for the sake of the running time. Still, it's so nice to see Canadian filmmakers devoting so much time to American history instead of, oh, I don't know, something that's actually about Canada! This made-for-cable movie aired just weeks before the release of the big-budget feature, "Nixon". sc: Lionel Chetwynd (from the book Kissinger: a biography by Walter Isaacson). dir: Daniel Petrie. 100 min.
KITCHEN PARTY *
* setting; CDN.
(1997) Scott Speedman, Kevin McNulty, Gillian Barber, Sarah Strange, Tygh Runyan, Laura Harris, A.J. Bond, Jerry Wasserman, James McBurney.....A suburban teen (Speedman) hosts a party in the kitchen 'cause he can't allow so much as a fibre to get out of place in the living room or his neat freak parents (McNulty and Barber) might jeopardize his plans to go away to university; meanwhile, his parents are away at a dinner party. Odd-ball film leaves you wondering what it is: is it a comedy? Certainly the scenes involving the living room are quirky (with the characters studying the carpet, trying to figure out how to match the vacuum patterns after the carpet is inadvertently scuffed). Is it a drama? Except nothing really goes anywhere. Is it a serious examination of disaffected teens and the breakdown of the nuclear family? Or is it just slice of life? The teen actors are good and those scenes evoke a realist feel but Burns writes and directs his adult characters, in cutaways to their party, like he's never even met someone over the age of 20. Alternatingly sort of interesting, kind of boring, and, in the scenes with adults, cringe-inducing in its broadness. sc./dir: Gary Burns. 82 min.
KLONDIKE (TVMS) *
* setting: Yuk./USA.
(2014) (/U.S./U.K.) Richard Madden, Abbie Cornish, Sam Shepard, Marton Csokas, Ian Hart, Tim Roth, Tim Blake Nelson, Conor Leslie, Greg Lawson, Augustus Prew, Johnny Simmons, Brian Markinson.....Saga set during the late 19th Century gold rush in Dawson City, Yukon, with the focus on a clean cut New York dilettante (Madden) seeking his fortune as a prospector, as well as the local business woman (Cornish), a priest (Shepard) trying to establish a church, a shifty con artist (Hart), a local mobster (Roth), and the newly arrived Mountie (Csokas) trying to navigate the line between law and expediency, among other characters. This TV mini-series (made for the U.S. Discovery Channel) is big budget, with elaborate sets and striking vistas. The few Canadian actors in the cast are mostly in minor parts, though one can appreciate that an epic mini-series made for U.S. TV actually acknowledges its Canadian setting (although the first indication the Yukon isn't just some no man's land and actually part of Canada is about half way through the second hour!) Unfortunately, the results are pretty tepid. It basically trots out various cliches associated with Jack London/James Oliver Curwood-style Northerns (and American westerns) without really offering a new or an interesting spin on them, with fairly bland heroes and one-note villains in a story with limited plot threads that, like a lot of mini-series, feels like it could've been told in half the length, for all the plot twists and character nuances it offers. Part of the problem is that, made for the quasi-educational Discovery Channel, it's torn between being simply entertainment, and being informative. But it doesn't really let its hair down enough to just be taken as a pop corn soap opera/adventure, yet its claims to being "based on actual events" is pretty flimsy. The central characters are based on real people, though even then somewhat loosely (Soapy Smith -- played by Hart -- I'm not sure was ever actually in Dawson City!), or fictionalized (Csokas' unnamed Mountie was perhaps "inspired" by Sam Steele, but is actually a ficton). While in other ways fact -- and logic -- are tossed out the window, from gunfights in the streets, to Indian raids, to the authorities planning hangings when there hasn't even been a trial (not to mention a seeming misunderstanding of how rules about the sanctity of the Confessional apply -- namely, the confessee has to be repentant). Ironically, the series seemed to engender the ire of right-wingers for its "political correctness" such as Cornish's entrepreneur and proto-feminist Belinda Mulrooney, when she was a real historical person, and for acknowledging there was racism in 1897 (so, um, racists complain its PC to admit there's racism in the world?). The series threw in some nudity by Leslie (or her body double) toward the end of the first hour, but seemed to only do that because that's almost expected of modern cable series -- as otherwise it remained largely a PG affair. 6 hours. sc: various (from the non-fiction book The Gold Diggers by Charlotte Gray). dir: Simon Cellan Jones. - casual female nudity; violence.-
KNIGHTS OF BLOODSTEEL (TMS)
(2009) (/U.S.) David James Elliott, Natassia Malthe, Christopher Jacot, Dru Viergever, Peter Bryant, Mark Gibbon, Christopher Lloyd, Mackenzie Gray.....A quartet of unlikely allies -- a roguish, battle-hardened assassin (Elliott), a beautiful Elven warrior woman (Malthe), a suave con artist (Jacot) and a Goblin cursed with various magical abilities (Viergever) -- are sent on a quest for a mythical mother lode of magical ore -- bloodsteel -- which is also sought by an evil warlord and his minions. Admittedly ambitious attempt to tell a Lord of the Rings style epic for TV (not apparently based on any previous source material), complete with a fantasy world of various races. But the problem isn't that it's poorly written and directed and even edited -- though it is! -- but that it's actually incoherent a lot of the time, almost as though it was originally 6 hours, then cut down to 4 with little regard for narrative logic. Characters wander here and there, then back again, with little explanation, have conversations that seem confused, and with the basic underpinnings of the reality poorly articulated. Sure, it's low-budget for the scope of the material...but they still must've spent a lot on the f/x, costumes, make-up, crowd scenes, etc. -- and if you were going to do that, shouldn't you have saved the money for better material? To be fair, the second half is better than the first -- the narrative more coherent, and with more attention to characters and emotions. But it's still a fairly bland, derivative, and thin effort -- the problem with quest stories is too often they can be an excuse for just a story where the characters wander from point A to point B, with a few generic fights along the way, as opposed to a real plot with twists and turns and surprises. Elliott is quite good as a roguish anti-hero (affecting a Scottish brogue) and, indeed, the others have their moments, particularly Viergever (all the mainly Canadian cast adopt U.K. accents). One suspects the fault lies less with the performers and more with the material and direction (and other handicaps, like Malthe having to say her lines through false vampire-like teeth!). A real shame. 4 hours. sc: Sam Egan. dir: Philip Spink.
KOOTENAI BROWN *
* 1/2 setting: B.C./N.W.T./USA.
(1991) Tom Burlinson, Donnelly Rhodes, Michelle Thrush, John Pyper-Ferguson, Brent Stait, Alex Bruhanski, Raymond Burr, Stephen E. Miller.....On trial in 1870, John "Kootenai" Brown (Burlinson) tells of his various exploits; including being a gold miner in B.C. and later being adopted by metis led by Gabriel Dumont, and how these culminated in murder. Fictionalized true story is interesting but a little dry (particularly in the beginning). Could've been better but is buoyed thanks to a surprisingly lively and funny performance from Rhodes as an increasingly sinister Scot. Scripter Gray, better known for writing musicals, has an early cameo as a successful gold prospector. a.k.a. Showdown at Williams Creek. sc: John Gray (story Gary Payne). dir: Allan Kroeker. - violence, partial female nudity.- 98 min.
This action TV series was a far cry from its predecessor, focusing mainly on clumsily staged fisticuffs and macho posturing, and eschewing the mood and character-driven drama of the original...and, as such, is an insult to fans of the more thoughtful and ambitious mid-'70s U.S. series, "Kung Fu" (Carradine plays the gandson of his character from that show). What attempt there is at philosophy is usually hokey and seeming insincere. However, to give the Devil his due, the show developed a loyal fandom and actually ran one year longer that its predecessor... though the ratings needs of a syndicated show vs. a network series (like the original) are somewhat different. Uneven performances, with kudos going to Potter, Lansing, Chan, Dunlop and Snow. Carradine was more uneven...but sometimes he delivered a performance of such genuine empathy that it just emphasized the rest of the show's inanity. 4 seasons, totaling 88 hour-long episodes in syndication (including some 2-parters).
KURT VONNEGUT'S HARRISON BERGERON a.k.a. Harrison Bergeron
KURT VONNEGUT'S MONKEY HOUSE * * * (1991) Kaj-Erik Eriksen; Gordon Clapp, Jackson Davies, Donnelly Rhodes; Len Cariou, Miguel Fernandes.....Twilight Zoneish anthology flick (though only one is fantasy) introduced by author Vonnegut. "Next Door", about a kid, left alone, who witnesses a murder; "The Euphio Question", about euphoria inducing cosmic transmissions; "All the King's Horses", about a U.S. diplomat playing a deadly chess game with a Latin-American rebel. Entertaining pic is well done with a mixture of comedy and drama. Better than the similar Bradbury Trilogy. Followed by a very short-lived TV series (about 4 additional episodes) of similar quality. sc: Jeremy Hole, Jeffrey Cohen, Stan Daniels (from short stories by Kurt Vonnegut). dir: Paul Shapiro, Gilbert Chilton, Allan King. app. 86 min.
Back to The Great Canadian Guide to the Movies & TV