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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.
KILL FOR ME *
(2012) Katie Cassidy, Tracy Spiridakos, Donal Logue, Torrance Coombs, Anthony DiMarco.....A university student (American actress Cassidy) with a stalker ex-boyfriend gets a new housemate (Spiridakos) with her own dark secrets and troubled relations -- leading to murder and other deeds. Thriller is one of those things that seems like it should be better than it ultimately is. Reasonably slick-looking, with a capable cast, it wants to keep you on your toes, unsure where it's headed or whether things are what they seem -- but only sometimes succeeds, while other times plays out how you expect. It can seem a bit too obviously like it's borrowing from other films (notably a mash-up of "Strangers on a Train" with "Single White Female") including throwing in a minor lesbian twist that never really seems to have any impact on the story or the relationships, as if left over from an earlier draft (or is just thrown in for titillation). Perhaps a problem is the main character never sufficiently connects so that you actually care what happens to her, making it more an intellectual thriller, rather than an emotional one. Not bad, really, just doesn't fully click. sc: Christopher Dodd, Michael Greenspan, Christian Forte. dir: Michael Greenspan. - violence; sexual content.- 95 min.
* * setting: USA.
(1994) (/U.S.) Anthony LaPaglia, Mimi Rogers, Matt Craven, Peter Boyle, Monika Schnarre, Joseph Maher.....Burned-out New York hit man (LaPaglia) is sent to murder an enigmatic woman (Rogers) -- who's nonchalantly expecting him! Off-beat, very funny dark serio-comic drama boasts interesting characters and excellent performances, not just from the principles (including Craven as LaPaglia's bumbling sidekick and Boyle as the mobster who orders the hit) but also Schnarre and Maher in bit parts. Great dialogue and quirky scenes (even if the overall story is familiar ground). Think Quentin Tarrantino only with smarts and heart and eschewing the shock violence. a.k.a. Bulletproof Heart. sc: Gordon Melbourne (story Malone). dir: Mark Malone. - partial female nudity, sexual content.-- 98 min.
* * setting: USA.
(1992) M. Emmett Walsh, Michael Ironside, John Pyper-Ferguson, Krista Errickson, Chantelle Jenkins.....U.S. photographer (Pyper-Ferguson) discovers his murdered brother took some photos that the brother (Ironside) of a Senator (imported Walsh) will do anything to get his hands on -- including murder. Thriller is more a collection of striking images and interesting scenes than a solid whole, with too little dialogue. Nor does it explore its characters the way it wants to. Close but no cigar. sc: Stan Edmonds, David Winning, Jaron Summers. dir: David Winning. - violence, partial female nudity, sexual content.- 97 min.
KILLER INSTINCT *
1/2 setting: USA.
(1981) Henry Silva, Nicholas Campbell, Barbara Gordon, Ralph Benmergui, Gina Dick, Joy Thomson, Sam Malkin, Allan Royal.....American university students (led by Campbell) get on the wrong side of some inbred rednecks (led by American Silva) after witnessing a murder. Obvious, supposedly ironic "Deliverance"-styled suspenser is so bad it almost seems like a parody. Almost. Benmergui is better known, nowadays, as an interviewer on radio and TV. sc: John Beaird. dir: William Fruet. - female nudity and casual male nudity, violence.-
* * setting: USA./other
(2011) (/U.S.) Emmanuelle Vaugier, Aaron Douglas, Torrance Coombs, Paul Campbell, Andrew Airlie, Crystal Lowe, Byron Lawson.....An ex-mountaineer (Douglas) is coaxed into heading a mountain rescue mission after a previous team, led by his ex-wife (Vaugier), has gone missing while on a mysterious mission, and with deadly monsters lurking in the heights. Made-for-TV adventure/horror flick boasts an above average cast all around that boosts the film onto a higher plateau, and with variable production values (scenes at base camp, or of the characters clambering over boulders, look slick...even as some of the action and CGI effects remind you they have a limited budget). Still, better made than a lot of comparable films...unfortunately without quite achieving critical mass, never pushing past the stock cliches, or making you care. There are less well made films, that somehow manage to be more engaging. Funnily, a strength is its all-Canadian cast (when often in these films they'd hire a few imported actors to headline)...yet they still felt they had to play Americans. sc: Peter Sullivan (story Sheldon Wilson, Peter Sullivan). dir: Sheldon Wilson. - violence.- app. 85 min.
THE KILLING GROUND
* * 1/2 setting: other
(1988).....Documentary about Canada's involvement in the first World War as told by journalist Terrence MacKenna with monolgues by actors reading real-life letters and reports. A tough, gritty look at the horrors of war and governments' disregard for their own people. sc./dir: Terrence & Brian McKenna.
* * 1/2 setting: USA.
(1994) Jeff Wincott, Terri Hawkes, Michael Ironside, David Campbell, Michael Copeman, David Bolt, Jeff Pustil, Calista Carradine, Tyrone Benskin.....A mob hitman (Wincott) wakes from a coma with a new-found conscience in a secret location, only to be pressed into committing assassinations for a sinister U.S. government organization (headed by Ironside). Variation on "La femme Nikita" (which became the Canadian series Nikita) though, arguably, with more depth, is a slow but surprisingly good-looking, better-than-usual Lee/Mitchell effort thanks to some stylish direction and good performances all around. sc: Damian Lee, David Mitchell. dir: David Mitchell. - violence, partial female and male nudity, sexual content.- 91 min.
KILLING MOON *
1/2 setting: USA.
(1998) Kim Coates, Daniel Baldwin, Penelope Ann Miller, Daniel Kash, Denis Akiyama, Tracey Cook, Christopher Bolton, Natalie Radford, Mark Camacho, William B. Davis, Elias Zarou.....An American airliner becomes infected with a mysterious virus. Suspenser has the potential to be a diverting disaster-style movie, but is more often silly, confused, and scientifically suspect with the characters and their relationships inadequately developed. Some decent actors are stuck mouthing inane dialogue. American "names" Baldwin and Miller (both delivering less than stunning performances) are featured in a silly ground-based sub-plot as a sinister government agent with his own agenda and a guileless doctor with the Centres for Disease Control (erroneously referred to in the singular throughout the film). The canucks on the plane are the real stars, for a change, particularly Akiyama as a doctor and Kash as a navy officer. And just an aside on Canadian films (and what's the point of having a Canadian movie site if you don't consider the industry as a whole?): there's a feeling Canadian filmmakers are really screwed up ethically. There's a scene where Coates, as an obnoxious passenger, tries to buy a possible deterent to the disease from another (good guy) passenger, in which the (good) passenger basically taunts a desperate Coates, acting like maybe he'll sell it to him when we know he won't. I mean, come on! This is supposed to be a good guy (egged on by other good guys) and he's taunting a man faced with the possibility of a grisly death. Can you picture a mainsteam American movie with a scene like that? sc: Tony Johnston. dir: John Bradshaw. - violence.- 89 min.
A KILLING SPRING *
* setting: Ont.
(2002) Wendy Crewson, Shawn Doyle, Michael Ontkean, Zachery Ty Bryan, Sherry Miller, John Furey, Bruce Gray, Kim Schraner, Kristen Holden-reid (a.k.a. Kris Holdenreid or Kris Holdenried), Jocelyn Snowdon, Don Francks.....Joanne Kilbourn (Crewson) investigates the murder of a University journalism professor. Fifth made-for-TV Joanne Kilbourn movie is slick enough, and starts out promising, but quickly starts to go nowhere. Kilbourn doesn't do much investigating, and a local cop (Doyle) asks various characters for their alibis...but doesn't do much beyond that. It's as if the writers, knowing most scenes and clues in mysteries are red herrings, figured, why bother? sc: Andrew Wreggitt, Jeremy Hole, Janet MacLean (from the novel by Gail Bowen). dir. Stephen Williams. 90 min.
This TV series was notable as one of two Canadian-made sci-fi series that premiered within a week of each other (the other being Dark Matter) -- series with a lot of conceptual similarities (both involving mercenaries in outer space in a grungy future torn between rich and poor). And both were notable as ambitious "space operas" at a time when much TV sci-fi was decidedly contemporary and earth-based. And they were also notable for being driven by the Canadian creators/producers, as opposed to being based on or derived from an American source. Killjoys is created by Michelle Lovretta who also created the more low-tech fantasy series, The Lost Girl. Those two series share some similarities, including based around a tough gal heroine who tries to operate as a neutral party between rival factions -- though fans of Lost Girl might feel Killjoys is step back in one respect: the leads seem fairly heterosexual, whereas Lost Girl enjoyed some popularity for its bisexual heroine. That aside -- Killjoys is a strong, enjoyable effort. Though primarily an action-adventure series, there is a suitable sense of genuine science fiction to the culture and the infrastructure, and allegorical/metaphorical real world geo-political themes to the stories. And the plots are, for the most part, fast-paced and with enough twists and turns to hold you through the hour. The leads (actors and characters both) are likeable and engaging, with good chemistry and nuanced motivation (with even supporting layers like Kelly seeming like intriguing, complex figures). And even the guest stars are often given dimension, lending emotional gravitas to the action. Though definitely struggling with a low-budget at times (a lot of the architecture looks a lot like 21st Century North American architecture) in other ways it stretches its dollars well, creating an atmospheric, cinematic mood with shadows and light, and doesn't stint on the big action set pieces (and outdoor filming). Killjoys and Dark Matter can't avoid being compared to each other (premiering almost simultaneously and utilizing similar milieus) but arguably Killjoys is the more mature, more grounded and philosophically complex of the two (within the context of both being, primarily, action-adventure series). Created by Michelle Lovretta. Hour-long episodes shown in Canada on Space. - violence.-
This series certainly accomplishes what it needs to: it's got a good ratio of laughs, as often quirky and wry as they are simple set-up/punch-line, with a good cast playing engaging enough characters. Of course like most sitcoms the plots can be a bit obvious, the dilemmas simplistically set up and resolved by the end of the half hour. As I say: not an unusual problem with sitcoms, but maybe the series' attempt at greater depth (the characters are real people, not just vectors to deliver gags) makes that more obvious. One could also quibble that for all the series is meant to break racial barriers, it falls into its own ethnic stereotyping, with Lee and Yoon adopting thick accents so rendering them, at times, comical caricatures in contrast to their Canadian children (a not uncommon tendency among, for instance, second generation stand up comics who often use the "foreignness" of their parents as grist for their routines). This isn't a dig at Lee and Yoon's performances (both are very good) but a comment on the series' own, perhaps unconscious, "othering" of the characters. Still, that heavy-handed philosophizing aside, it's an enjoyable sitcom. Half-hour episodes on the CBC.
This TV series has a kind of weirdly deliberate 1970s vibe at work in terms of style, camera work, even the jazzy music score -- which is actually kind of appealing if you grew up on old '70s police procedurals and Ernest Tidyman cop dramas. The street scenes themselves are often atmospheric in the use of twilight lighting and snow or rain. It's a drama, but leavened with wit and humour, and briskly paced, with the plots (and mysteries) suitably twisty and turny to make it a legitimate contender lined up against the US examples of the genre from "Bones" to "CSI" -- though with more variety as they're not always about murders, but instead sometimes about burglaries, or assaults; usually mystery/whodunits? but also some more akin to procedurals or suspense plots. And with an underlining human drama/emotional thread that a lot of other (modern) cop series don't have (the episodes are even named for the victims, again suggesting a "human" focus...not that the titles appear on screen). Add that to the on going character stuff involving King's personal life, her marriage troubles (trying to get pregnant and "Danny"'s gambling issues) and her flirtations with "Spears", and there is arguably more of an emotional kick to it than a lot of similar series. Van Sprang is very good. The rest of the cast is fine, too, particularly Hogan and Nardi, and with Sutherland and Robinson making exceptionally strong additions in the second season. Indeed, by the second season, the series arguably boasted one of the best ensembles on TV. The guest star performances, too, tended to be of uniformly high calibre (credit the casting, the direction, or the nuanced writing). And at the series' heart is the title character -- a smart, almost arrogant, force-of-nature who's willfully oblivious to the feathers she ruffles (as one character quips: he assumed she was raised by wolves!), yet retaining her compassion. Uncompromisingly principled in her professional actions, even as her personal life is more muddled. In a way, King is evocative of the seminal Canadian TV hero -- Wojeck. King is an intriguing, dynamic, unconventional heroine -- heroic, yet flawed and vulnerable beneath her tough exterior. And Price-Francis is very much at the heart of that -- a charismatic, attractive presence, and if the plots are straight forward (albeit well done) cop show whodunits and thrillers, she -- and the character of King -- help give the series its own unique tone and identity. Given the series is, in a sense, just a standard cop/crime-mystery series, it perhaps is presumptuous to give it the "Too Good for TV" label...but one can almost feel that way. Slumping ratings (after being moved from its original time slot) lead to its cancellation after its 2nd season (despite, as mentioned, arguably an even better cast dynamic). And, sure, some episodes were no more than average cop-drama plots. But at its best, with its stylish (if understated) vibe, snappy pacing, and above all, some unusual and atypical characterization and refreshingly messy character dynamics it stood out as its own take on the familiar genre. Though some regarded the series' finale as frustratingly "open" -- in other ways it serves as an appropriate climax to some of the on going soap opera sub-plots, allowing the series to feel like an "arc." Created by Bernard Zukermann and Greg Spottiswood. Hour long episodes on Showcase (totalling 21).
THE KING CHRONICLE (TVMS)
* * * setting: Ont.
(1988) Sean McCann, Sandy Webster, R.H. Thomson, Colin Fox, voice of Donald Brittain.....Story of the rise of the very odd Prime Minister W.L. MacKenzie King (McCann) before and during W.W. II, and of his many eccentricities. Off-beat docudrama throws in newsreel footage, "interviews" with ghosts, as well as a more conventional narrative. McCann's mannered performance is true to King and Brittain's ironic narration is a high point, but we never really understand the man. Albert Millaire has a bit part as Sir Wilfred Laurier, who he played in Laurier. 6 hours. sc./dir: Donald Brittain.
KING JOHN *
* 1/2 setting: other
(2015) Tom McCamus, Graham Abbey, Wayne Best, Patricia Collins, Peter Hutt, Antoine Yared, Seana McKenna, Steven Russell, Noah Jalava, Brian Tree, Jennifer Mogbock.....Filmed version of a Stratford stage production of the play about King John (McCamus) -- not about the Magna Carta or Robin Hood (things he's most associated with today), instead it's war with France and the Church and associated machinations involving various characters. Not one of Shakespeare's more famous works, this is a filmed stage production, capturing the live theatre experience combined with effective close ups and cinematic camera work. This was one of three Stratford-to-film productions released in 2015 (including King Lear ~ reviewed below ~ and Antony and Cleopatra) and this one, arguably, boasts the most consistently fine performances from top to bottom -- with notable turns from Abbey, Best (as Hubert) and McCamus' decidedly quirky, nasally, anti-heroic King John -- with some memorable scenes. But as an overall play the results are mixed, with no driving character or thread. It can feel a bit choppy and rambling with characters dropping in and out, and with some of the scenes (and monologues) going on a bit too long -- perhaps the former a result of too much editing and the latter not enough. As a production it's well done in terms of acting and direction, but as simply an evening's entertainment it can maybe feel a bit too, well, Shakespearey -- or as if even Shakespeare was simply presenting a "greatest hits" collage (with scenes and dialogue sometimes echoing his other works). The result is hard to rate with its undeniably strong individual elements, and worth a look in. sc: the play by William Shakespeare. Dir: Tim Carroll, Barry Avrich. 116 min.
KING LEAR *
* * setting: other
(2015) Colm Feore, Maev Beaty, Evan Buliung, Sara Farb, Jonathan Goad, Brad Hodder, Stephen Ouimette, Liisa Repo-Martell, Scott Wentworth.....Recorded-for-film version of the Stratford Festival stage production of Shakespeare's play about an aging king (Feore) and the machinations and tragedies that ensue when he partitions his kingdom off to his scheming daughters and begins to spiral into senility and madness. There are two ways of looking at a Shakespeare production: is it a good production for Shakespeare fans?...and does it work for itself alone for those not already predisposed toward The Bard? This is certainly a good, solid production, anchored by a great performance from Feore, and some worthy supporting turns (notably Ouimette as the Fool and Wentworth as Gloucester) without offering, perhaps, any especially unique or standout interpretations to make this more than just a respectable staging of an oft-staged play. As well, by filming a live production, it lacks the intimacy and subtlety of a version directed exclusively for the camera. While for the lay-viewer...it never really transcends being just a Shakespeare production, being a bit inscrutable and confusing at times (possibly a result of editing the text for the running time) where you might find yourself unsure what the point of it all is, and why you should especially care about these people (yes -- heresy, I know!). This was one of three CBC Stratford-to-film productions in 2015, intended to be the start of an entire "Canadian" library of Shakespeare Hi-Definition films (past Stratford-to-TV productions had been taped on video) -- a project perhaps inspired by the earlier filmed versions of The Tempest and Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra. The other two in the 2015 cycle were King John ~ reviewed above ~ Antony and Cleopatra. sc: the play by William Shakespeare. dir: Antoni Cimolino, Joan Tosoni. 116 min.
THE KING OF FRIDAY NIGHT
* * setting: N.S.
(1984) Eric Peterson, Geoffrey Bowes, Andrew Rhodes, Sheree Jearoke, Frank MacKay, Alec Willows.....Reunion of a short lived '60s rock band causes the different members to remember their youth and how it started. Technically innovative made-for-CBC TV musical, but the movie never rises above being a film of a play -- and a so-so one at that. Good rock music. sc: John Gray (from his play "Rock and Roll"). dir: John Gray, Andrew Gosling. - casual male nudity.- app. 90 min.
This TV series was practically the only Canadian situation comedy that was a bona fide success (despite some major changes over its run) and it helped make Waxman a household name. Ultimately it was only O.K. proving, not so much that Canucks could make great sitcoms, as that we could make them no worse than some of the American ones. Curiously, the later altered-premise episodes (in which he got divorced and most of the supporting actors were written out) don't seem to crop up as often in syndication. Catchy ethnic-flavoured theme song ("Wott-a guy!"). Created by Perry Rosemond. Louis Del Grande was one of the head writers. A wopping 111 half-hour episodes originally on the CBC.
KING SOLOMON'S TREASURE
* 1/2 setting: other
(1977) (/British) David McCallum, John Colicos, Patrick Macnee, Yvon Dufour, Ken Gampu, Britt Ekland, Wilfred Hyde-White.....Turn-of-the-century adventurers, led by Allan Quatermain (Colicos, in a rare lead role), encounter dinosaurs and a lost city in their quest for treasure. Nice performances in this adventure flick, and witty dialogue, are lost among a confusing plot and a really low-budget. There's money for the name cast and a big set at the end, but not enough even for reaction shots. Some video versions, taped at LP, don't help. Veronique Beliveau, in a bit part, went on to success as a singer. Look for a couple of scenes which may have inspired "Raiders of the Lost Ark". Allan Quatermain was the hero of a series of novels, including the most famous, King Solomon's Mines (but you knew that, right?). Filmed in Swaziland. sc: Colin Turner, Allan Prior (from the novel Allan Quartermain by H. Rider Haggard). dir: Alvin Rakoff. - violence.- 89 min.
KINGS AND DESPERATE MEN
* * * 1/2 setting: P.Q.
(1978) Patrick McGoohan, Alexis Kanner, Andrea Marcovicci, Margaret Trudeau, August Schellenberg, Frank Moore.....Eccentric radio talk-show host (McGoohan) is taken hostage by revolutionaries (led by Kanner), as is his family, in retaliation for what they see as the un-lawful arrest and conviction of one of their members. Innovative, experimental directing/editing somehow works in this off-beat psychological suspense flick. McGoohan and Kanner, two of the strangest actors ever to grace the screen, are naturally very good...in a weird sort of way. Not for all tastes. A few years later, Kanner sued the makers of the American movie "Die Hard", claiming they had ripped-off this film (not that this is an action flick). sc: Alexis Kanner, Edmund Ward. dir: Alexis Kanner. 118 min.
1/2 setting: B.C.
(1989) Elizabeth Dancoes, Duncan Fraser, Barbara March, Alan Scarfe, Roberta Maxwell, Christopher Plummer.....University prof (Fraser) and his younger girlfriend (Dancoes) have an uncomfortable visit with her dysfunctional parents (Maxwell and Plummer) then head off to a weekend visit with his writer friend, Kingsgate (Scarfe) and his wife (March) which is even worse. Dark drama about dysfunctional relationships and destructive (self and otherwise) people has a decent tempo thanks to a capable cast and the talkiness of the script, and there are moments that click. But overall...not. At times it seems like a parody of a dark drama, with the characters bursting into histrionics and seeming to change personality from scene to scene. Surely the point of the story is that things start out seeming fine on the surface, then the bitterness and venom bubbles up as the story progresses; instead, characters start sobbing and ranting almost instantly. That, along with the fact that the visit with the parents mirrors the visit with the writers, means the movie just seems kind of repetitive. One doesn't object to the intent of the movie, nor its bleak sentiments, but the execution is unconvincing, uninsightful, and even silly at times. Producer (along with Darcus) Tom Braidwood, later achieved on-camera cult fame as Frohickey in TV's "The X-Files". sc./dir: Jack Darcus.
THE KINKY COACHES AND THE POM POM PUSSYCATS a.k.a. Crunch
Kinnip Drumbo see Short Films
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