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.

LOVE  * 1/2  setting: ?/USA.
(1982) Gordon Thomson, Joni Mitchell, Winston Rekert, Nicholas Campbell, Toni Kalem, Marilyn Lightstone, Moses Znaimer, Linda Rennhofer, Lawrence Dane, Janet-Laine Green, Charles Jolliffe.....Six tales of relationships, love, and, uh, something, by female filmmakers. The first instalment starts things off with a painful thud -- despite a decent performance from Thomson -- and the overall effect is less than compelling, hurt a little by the low budget, but mainly by the kind of pointless episodes themselves. There's a sense a lot of them want to be things where it's all happening under the surface, in the sub-text -- but the text still needs to be interesting. The best instalment is the one written by singer-songwriter Mitchell -- perhaps an ironic comment on the film, when the best story isn't written by a professional scriptwriter. Though Ullman's final instalment leaves a certain something...though it's still rather thin and obvious. Filmed in Canada (though not explicitly set in Canada, and one story is set in the States) with a Canadian cast including Mitchell as well as TV personality/media mogul Znaimer, playing opposite then-wife Lightsone as a couple of would be swingers. sc: Nancy Dowd, Gael Greene, Joni Mitchell, Edna O'Brien, Liv Ullman, Mai Zetterling. dir: Mai Zetterling, Nancy Dowd, Annette Cohen, Liv Ullman. - partial female nudity, male nudity, sexual content.- 96 min.

LOVE AND DEATH ON LONG ISLAND   * * 1/2  setting: other/USA
(1998) (/U.K.) John Hurt, Jason Priestley, Fiona Loewi, Sheila Hancock, Maury Chaykin, Harvey Atkin, Gwan Grainger, Elizabeth Quinn.....A reclusive British writer (Hurt), largely cut off from modern pop culture, develops an obsessive romantic infatuation with an American teen actor (Priestley) and goes to great lengths to subtly insinuate himself with him at his Long Island home. Quirky drama (with shades of "Being There" in Hurt's unfamiliarity with 20th Century reality) is moderately interesting, drolly amusing in spots, and well acted by Hurt, and Priestley's reaction in the diner scene is a stand-out piece of acting. But the movie is also kind of uncomfortable (not that we're to infer Hurt is dangerous or anything). Superficial and slight when it's trying to be complex and profound. With a title like that, didn't ya just know Canadians were involved? Since Priestley (in a relatively small part) is a Canadian-born American pop star, couldn't he have played a Canadian-born pop star? sc./dir: Richard Kwietniowski (from the short novel by Gilbert Adair). - brief male nudity.- 93 min.

LOVE $ GREED   * *  setting: USA.
(1993) Melissa White, Frank Bruynbroek, Dick Monday, Lori Eastwood, David Charles, Ivan Roth.....Their inheritance predicated on conceiving a child together, a now-estranged American couple (White and Bruynbroek) and their current partners move into a mansion and try to fulfill the, uh, requirement.  Low-budget comedy has some clever dialogue and a strong cast but there's not enough here for a feature and the characters remain distant, never really becoming people.  Filmed in California.  sc: Bashar Shbib, Gabor Zsigovics. dir: Bashar Shbib. - sexual content, brief female nudity.- 880 min.

LOVE AND HATE: The Story of Colin and Joann Thatcher (TVMS)   * * 1/2 setting: Sask.
(1989) Kenneth Welsh, Kate Nelligan, John Colicos, R.H. Thomson, Brent Carver, Duncan Ollerenshaw, Noam Zylberman, Cedric Smith, Lenore Zann, Victoria Snow.....Fact based story of the bitter custody battle between politician Colin Thatcher (Welsh) and his wife JoAnn (Nelligan), and his eventual conviction for her brutal murder.  Chilling with a strong cast, but the broader issues (like how did he get away with so much?) are ignored, making it pretty schlocky.  Won Geminis for Best Mini-Series, Actor (Welsh), Script and Direction.  This was the first CBC (and all-Canadian) special to be sold to a major U.S. network (where it was subtitled "A Marriage Made in Hell" and was a ratings hit).  4 hours.  sc: Suzette Couture (from the book A Canadian Tragedy by Maggie Siggins). dir: Francis Mankiewicz. - violence.-

LOVE AND HUMAN REMAINS   * * 1/2  setting: CDN.
(1993) Thomas Gibson, Ruth Marshall, Cameron Bancroft, Mia Kirshner, Joanne Vannicola, Matthew Ferguson, Rick Roberts, Aidan Devin.....Story of various 20-somethings searching for love and sex -- and not necessarily in that order -- focusing on a gay, ironic ex-actor (American Gibson) and his love-starved roomie (Marshall); while in the background lurks a serial killer.  Once-shocking play seems a tad milder as a film (though still not for everyone).  An O.K. dark serio-comic drama with some great lines (in among the cliches) but it's presented with a kind of lethargic profundity and deliberate delivery that saps a lot of the energy.  Fraser picked up the Genie for Best Adapted Screenplay and this was Arcand's first English language theatrical release.  sc: Brad Fraser (from his play "Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love"). dir: Denys Arcand. - sexual content, partial female and male nudity, violence.- 100 min.

LOVE AND LARCENY  * * 12  setting: CDN./USA.
(1985) Jennifer Dale, Douglas Rain, Ken Pogue, Sheila McCarthy, Brent Carver, Kenneth Welsh, Peter Dvorsky, William Colgate, Ross Petty, Chris Wiggins, Damir Andrei.....Story of real-life Bettsy Bigley (Dale), a turn of the century schemer, entrepeneur and con artist.  Over-long made-for-CBC TV comedy-drama is amusing at times, with some spirited -- if broad -- performances, but is too mmeandering and episodic...and lacking a sympathetic protagonist...to be entirely compelling.  O.K. if taken on its own level.  Followed by the sequel Grand Larceny.  sc: Douglas Bowie. dir: Rob Iscove. 146 min.

LOVE AND MURDER   * 1/2
(1990) Kathleen Laskey, Todd Waring, Ron White, Wayne Robson, Theresa Tova, Laurie Paton.....Photographer (Waring), who runs a kind of amateur dating service, finds that he may have witnessed a murder in the next apartment building.  Nothing wrong with the performances in this suspenser, but it's dull and, frankly, hard to care.  The central character is obnoxious and the solution obvious if you know your Canadian actors.  sc./dir: Steven H. Stern. - violence.- 87 min.

LOVE AND MURDER  * * 1/2  setting: CDN.
(2000) Wendy Crewson, Victor Garber, Caroline Goodall, Claire Bloom, Rudiger Vogler, Kenneth Welsh, Tammy Isbell.....University prof. Joanne Kilbourn (Crewson) investigates when a one-time friend (Goodall), a painter, is implicated in the murder of her estranged gallery owner husband. First of a proposed 6 Joanne Kilbourn TV movies is good-looking and very well acted, though the mystery fails to be entirely...intriguing, lacking sufficient clues and suspects. Sub-plots of police hostility (particularly involving Garber) are handled awkwardly and even by the end you might find yourself scratching your head. Still, entertaining enough and Crewson is fine, as usual, though not remotely convincing as an ex-cop (a change from the novels, presumably as a concession to the modern "Law & Order"/"NYPD Blue" crowd that might bristle at the idea of a fully civilian investigator). sc: Rob Forsyth, R.B. Carney (from the novel Murder at the Mendel by Gail Bowen). dir: George Bloomfield. app. 90 min.

LOVE AND SAVAGERY   * *  setting: other
(2009) Allan Hawco, Sarah Greene, Martha Burns, Macdara O' Fatharta, Sean Panting, Dylan Smith, Mark Whelan.....In 1969, a travelling Newfoundland geologist and poet -- and atheist -- (Hawco) strikes up a tentative romance with an Irish lass (Greene) who's contemplating becoming a nun, stirring up tension and hostility in her close-knit, small Irish town. Low-key drama boasts striking Irish scenery, and Hawco and Greene are personable enough performers, but it's one of those films where you feel like you can see the kind of movie they are trying to make, rather than the one they fully achieve. It's kind of thin -- thin in terms of plot, thin in terms of character development (and sometimes vague motives), and even the theological conflict that becomes so crucial feels rather superficial (though is deliberately even-handed). And perhaps most problematic, the lead characters never really generate the needed chemistry/romantic tension to make you buy into the star crossed affair. And it is a drama...not the jaunty comedy some promos implied. a.k.a. Love & Savagery. sc: Des Walsh. dir: John N. Smith. 95 min.

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT   * * 1/2  setting: Ont.
(1976) Mary Ann McDonald, Dan Aykroyd, Jane Mallett, George Murray, Jack Mather, Les Carlson.....Story of the romance between a young woman (McDonald) and a blind man (Aykroyd).  Critically despised serio-comic pic is actually O.K., benefitting from nice performances and laid-back ambience, though most of the broader gags (prattfalls, stutterers, etc.) are inane and fall flat.  Slight, but moves along well with nice use of Niagra Falls locations later in the film.  One of Aykroyd's earliest roles, before he went to Hollywood.  Barry Morse has a cameo.  sc./dir: Rex Bromfield. 85 min.

LOVE BRATS a.k.a. Keep it in the Family

LOVE COME DOWN  *
(2000) (/Germany) Larenz Tate, Deborah Cox, Martin Cummins, Rainbow Sun Francks, Peter Williams, Barbara Williams, Jennifer Dale, Kenneth Welsh, Clark Johnson, Sarah Polley, Naomi Gaskin, Jake Le Doux, Travis Davis.....Story of a wannabe comedian (Tate), with an on again/off again drug problem, still struggling with the repercussions of a childhood trauma; as well as those around him, like his half brother, an angry boxer (Cummins), and a singer (singer Cox in her acting debut) Tate loves, with her own family problems. Plodding, frequently interminable drama has too many ill-defined scenes and undeveloped characters, with many of the scenes not really following from each other. Frankly, it's not even clear what it's about! Writer-director Virgo's forte is visually sumptuous, but not always substantial films, but here, trying to tackle a multi-character drama, all about love, loyalty and relationships, family secrets, race, addiction, God...he seems out of his depth. Unfortunately, it isn't even as visually lyrical as his previous films. Import Tate's American accent jars with everyone else; you don't believe he grew up in the same city, let alone the same household, as his co-stars. Though since the movie conspicuously avoids any Canadian references, maybe it's everyone else who's out of place. Comic Kenny Robinson plays a comedy club emcee. Received three Genies including a couple for Sound and one for Martins as Best Supporting Actor. sc./dir: Clement Virgo. - partial female nudity, sexual content.- 102 min.

LOVE LETTERS: A Romantic Trilogy  * * 1/2  setting: Ont.
(2001) Kathy Shower, Brian Frank, Norma Jean Jones, Albert Caverlin, Meeka Majic, Deanna Dizadji, Matt Hummel.....A writer (import Showers) swaps stories of romanic entaglements with two friends. Erotic drama is, surprisingly, not bad. Although the interest in the stories is, admittedly, maintained by the expectation of the periodic nude and sex scenes, the stories are well enough played out that you aren't reaching for the fast forward, either. The stories are of descending quality, with the first being the best, with a moderately diverting tale of marital difficulties (between Frank and Majic), punctuated by frequent flesh shots; the second is a lesbian seduction tale, nicely sensual, but with the nudity more infrequent (though it doesn't stimp on the climax); likewise the closing tale of a ships-in-the-night tryst has a too much talk to sex ratio. More professional than one associates with the (usually American) genre, with mainly credible performances, while being less pretentious than the arty forays into the field (Bliss) it doesn't exactly transcend the genre...but is maybe in the upper echelons. Heck, it even slips in a shot of the CN tower, letting you know it's Canadian. Action-movie guy, Jalal Merhi, was executive producer. sc./dir: Frank Caruso. - female nudity, sexual content, partial male nudity.- 95 min.

LOVE-MOI   * *  setting: P.Q.
(1991) Germain Houde, Paule Baillargeon, Mario Saint-Amand, Yvon Roy, Lucie Laurier, Sonia LaPlante, Eric Brisebois, Dominique Leduc, Lyne Durocher.....Story of a filmmaker (Houde) working with a group of troubled juvenile delinquents to combine their life-stories into a play.  Gritty film seems earnest, which is part of the problem: it's extremely self-conscious, and the use of glamourous young actors delivering angry monologues about how tough their lives are...well, doesn't gell.  And the film is unwilling to stick its neck out and offer solutions -- maybe there aren't any, but the attempt should still be made.  sc./dir: Marcel Simard. 93 min.

LOVE ON THE RUN   * 1/2  setting: B.C.
(1994) (/U.S.) Anthony Addabbo, Noelle Beck, Len Cariou, Blu Mankuma, Nado Despotovich, Robert Wisden, Byron Lucas.....Bickering, just-married and soon-to-be divorced couple (Addabbo and Beck), owners of an "Adventure" vacation agency, find themselves running through the B.C. wilderness when their clients (headed by Wisden) turn out to be baddies trying to retrieve ill-gotten gains.  Truly inane romantic/adventure/comedy, with dull characters (and kind of blah actors), uninteresting scenes and a really flimsy plot.  Unimaginative and uninspired.  Too obviously intended as a pilot to a never-realized series (which is why the first half hour is just establishing the premise).  Aspects of the film are reminiscent of Due South (another action/comedy TV movie about a Canadian and American duo and a dog with a comic disability) which aired around the same time.  sc: James Orr, Jim Cruickshank. dir: Ted Kotcheff. 90 min.

LOVE ON THE SIDE  a.k.a. Deluxe Combo Platter

LOVE, SEX & EATING THE BONES* * *  setting: Ont.
(2004) Harper Hill, Marlyne N. Afflack, Mark Taylor, Marieka Weathered, Kai Soremekun, Ed Robertson, Kenny Robinson.....Story of the bumpy romantic relationship between a straight laced advertising executive (Afflack) and an affable struggling photographer (Hill) with a video porn habit...a relationship further complicated when he discovers that he's blocked when it comes to his art, and impotent when it comes to real-life sex. Serio-comic romance is, despite some of the seeming crude and racy subject matter, actually a kind of charming, adult look at modern life and relationships. Benefits from the genuinely engaging leads (both imported from Hollywood) and some quirky, well realized scenes, so that even if the story occasionally seems to wander, the scenes themselves can hold your interest. A nicely Canadian entry in the field of the Urban (read: black) American comedy-drama. Robertson is one of the musical group, The Barenaked Ladies. The idea of the symbolically glowing photographs was (presumably) inspired by the same trick in I've Heard the Mermaids Singing. sc./dir: Sudz Sutherland (story Sutherland and Jennifer Holness). - explicit sexual content, brief female nudity.- 100 min.

LOVE SONGS see Paroles et musique

LOVE THAT BOY   * * 1/2   setting: CDN.
(2003) Nadia Litz, Nikki Barnett, Adrien Dixon, Patricia Crosby, Ellen Page, Dax Ravina.....Percociously over-achieving but emotionally stunted university student (Litz) -- she has a checklist of goals to accomplish, ranging from learning languages to foraging for wild mushrooms! -- decides to add "get a boyfriend" to her list (after alienating her only friend, Barnett) but after various false starts finds she most enjoys hanging with her next door neighbour (Dixon)...who's only 14! Quirky, if low-budget, good natured comedy/quasi-romance has a solid core it's wrapped around -- namely, a good actress playing an eccentric character. And there are chuckles throughout, and gets better as it goes, as the plot -- and accompanying ethical dilemma -- coalesces. But suffers -- like a lot of Canadian movies -- from a thin, meandering plot, as if they aren't sure how to fill up 90 minutes. The unconventional relationship is, in a sense, what the movie is about...yet it doesn't even come into play until half way through! And one can question whether the movie would seem so sweetly innocent if the genders were reversed. Still, for the chuckles, the lead character/performance, and the fact that it does, eventually, invite a certain emotional investment...worth a look. sc: Jennifer Deyell, Andrea Dorfman. dir: Andrea Dorfman. app. 90 min.

LOVER   * * * 1/2  setting: other
(1990) (/France/Germany) Valerie Kaprisky, Stacy Keach, Gudrun Landgrebe, Nick Mancuso, Peter Gallagher, Philip Anglim, Yves Jacques, Jacques Penot, Jeanne Marine.....Story of a struggling writer (Kaprisky) and her relationships with various men, including her father (Keach) and the writer Franz Kafka (Anglim), told against the racial and political back-drop of Europe between the wars.  Visually sumptuous, well-acted drama starts out choppy and unconvincing, but gradually weaves a compelling (and, at times, disturbing) portrait of a time and place.  "Inspired" by the life of Milena Jesenska.  sc: Vera Belmont, adaptation Marie-Genevieve Ripeau, with Guy Konopnicky, Dan Frank, Lou Garfinkle, Sally Sockett (from the novel Milena by Jana Cerna). dir: Vera Belmont. - partial female nudity.- 133 min.

LOVING AND LAUGHING * *  setting: P.Q./USA.
(1971) Andre Lawrence, Mignon Elkins, Michele Mercure, Gordon Fisher, Sue Helen Petrie, Celine Lomez, Julie Wildman, Richard Comar.....Story of a preppie who spends the summer on a Quebec hippie commune, sending one of the hippies (Lawrence), incognito, down to New England to spend time with some uppercrust acquaintances.  Low-budget fish-out-of-water (x2) comedy wants to be a raunchy sex farce but, surprisingly, also a genuine counter-culture satire (with more than a strand or two of the musical "Hair" in its conceptual weave).  Too bad it didn't really work, though it is mildly sexy in spots and not as interminable as some early '70s Canuck "sexy" movies.  Uneven performances and production, though Lawrence, Petrie and some of the others are good.  Has a certain guilty pleasure appeal if you're into counter culture comedy-satires.  sc: Martin Bronstein. dir: J. Johnsone. - female and male nudity, sexual content.- 96 min.

LOVING EVANGELINE   * * 1/2  setting: N.S./USA.
(1998) (/U.S.) Kelly Rowan, Nick Mancuso, Winston Rekert, Shari Belafonte, Eugene Robert Glazer, Tom Haney, Karl Bury.....The up-tight head of a computer company (Mancuso) returns to his Nova Scotia hometown to investigate his brother's death, and meets a young marina owner (Rowan).  Made for TV romantic drama/suspenser starts out like most of the Harlequin movies: slow and workman-like at best, though benefitting from the all-Canuck trio (rare for these movies) of Mancuso, Rowan and Rekert (one of the more impressive line-ups) and the fact that it's actually set in Canada (again, rare).  Gets better as it goes along, thanks to the easy, on-screen rapport between Rowan and Mancuso (age discrepency notwithstanding).  Mancuso's affected performance likewise grows on you.  See Harlequin.  sc: Charles Lazer (from the novel by Linda Howard). dir: Timothy Bond. app. 90 min.
 

LOVING FRIENDS AND PERFECT COUPLES (TV Series)

(1983)   Ross Petty, Mimi Kuzyk, Lisa Howard, Keir Dullea, others..... Short-lived soap opera was pretty indistinguishable from its U.S. counterparts (including pretending it was set in the states) except for two points: one, it threw in some actual nudity and, two, it was pretty awful.  Soaps aren't the most respected of TV genres, but this was bad even for its type.  And the exposed flesh seemed kind of pointless since the series never managed to be particularly steamy or erotic.  Half hour episodes, originally on First Choice, then rerun, uncut, on Global. - partial female and male nudity.- 

LOW VISIBILITY   * 1/2  setting: B.C.
(1984) Larry Lillo, Penelope Stella, David Petersen, Jerry Wasserman, Susan Astley.....Man (Lillo) is found wandering, almost catatonic, the sole survivor of a plane crash.  While doctors try to help him, a suggestion of cannibalism is raised by police.  Sort of interesting little drama, but confusing and technically not up to snuff.  sc./dir: Patricia Gruben. 96 min.

LOYALTIES   * * 1/2  setting: Alt.
(1986) (/U.K.) Kenneth Welsh, Tantoo Cardinal, Susan Woolridge, Dianne Debassige, Tom Jackson, Christopher Barrington-Leigh.....Strange British doctor (Welsh) comes to Alberta, fleeing a mysterious scandal, and a friendship develops between his wife (Woolridge) and a Metis woman (Cardinal) hired to help them settle in.  Moody, but predictable as a suspenser and unconvincing as a drama.  Thin characterization, too.  sc: Sharon Riis. dir: Anne Wheeler (her first feature). 98 min.

LUCID  * *  setting: Man.
(2005) Jonas Chernick, Callum Keith Rennie, Michelle Nolden, Lindy Booth.....A psychotherapist (Chernick), suffering from insomnia and his own personal problems, gradually begins to find odd things involving his group therapy patients. Odd movie is hard to synopsize...partly because it seems like it's not sure what it wants to be. Sort of quirky funny, sort of a moody art flick, sort of a spooky thriller, but never quite hits the right tone/style (the humour rarely elicits a laugh, the spooky bits aren't that chilling), and where it can seem a bit like it was cobbled together from other films...especially when the different ideas don't really belong in the same story! The plot is too episodic, and it can seem a little like the filmmakers are too focused on their "twist" ending, and much of the body of the thing feels a bit like filler, where the character and his actions are frequently implausible or undeveloped. Ironically, the Hollywood movie, "Stay", was released almost simultaneously and featured a not dissimilar plot and premise (though it was even less effective). Still, nice seeing a movie like this that actually admits it's set in Canada. sc: Sean Garrity, Jonas Chernick, Brianna Williams, dir: Sean Garrity. - brief male nudity; sexual content.- 94 min.

LUCIEN BROUILLARD  * *  setting: P.Q.
(1983) Pierre Curzi, Roger Blay, Marie Tifo, Paul Savoie, Jean Duceppe..... Story of a controversial, working class activist (Curzi), and the effects his constant battles with corrupt authorities has on his family, and of his unlikely friendship with a wealthy government lawyer (Blay). Drama suffers from too many unconvincing scenes, characters and relationships, with uneven direction. An interesting movie could have been made from the premise, but this isn't quite it. In French. sc: Jacques Jacob, Jacques Paris, Bruno Carriere. dir: Bruno Carriere. 89 min.

LUCK  * 1/2  setting: CDN.
(2003) Luke Kirby, Sarah Polley, Jed Rees, Sergio di Zio, Noam Jenkins, Fiona Reid, Peter MacNeill, Randy Hughson.....When the girl he has an unrequited love for (Polley, in a small part) leaves town, a man (Kirby) starts gambling, getting in debt to a loan shark, and (eventually) getting caught up in a scheme by his buddies to try and make money as bookies -- set against the backdrop of the legendary 1972 Canada-Russia hockey games. Serio-comic flick seems like it wants to be a lot of things (a "slacker" dramedy that Canadians make so often, an examination of gambling fever, a sort of comedy, maybe a romance) and ends up doing none of them particularly well. Kirby's a good actor, and the cast is fine, but the scenes just meander listlessly, with little push or drive despite, on the surface, having a nominal story. And too little of the ins and outs of gambling/betting is explained for the lay person. Even the Canadiana of setting it against the hockey championship, though applaudable, can't forgive its shortcomings (and it might've been nice to reflect other aspects of the period). At one point Kirby has a monologue remarking how tired he is of his friends and situation...and one is left thinking that if only the filmmaker had had that insight before he started filming! The fact that this movie has its fans (particularly Polley-philes who don't seem to mind her lack of screen time) isn't strange -- different strokes for different folks -- but what's bizarre is how some critics seemed to regard this as one of the greatest Canadian movies ever made and heralded it as the breakthrough mainstream hit English-Canada has been waiting for -- it wasn't and it's not hard to see whyy. If you're looking for a gambling themed Canadian movie, better bets include Owning Mahowny, Lucky Girl and The Last Casino. sc./dir: Peter Wellington. 91 min.

THE LUCK OF GINGER COFFEY   * * 1/2  setting: P.Q.
(1964) Robert Shaw, Mary Ure, Liam Redmond, Tom Harvey, Libby McClintock, Leo Leyden, Powys Thomas, Tom Kneebone, Jacques Godin..... Story of an obliviously upbeat Irish immigrant (Shaw, in an atypical role) with ambition but little sense of responsibility, who alienates his wife as they struggle to get by in Montreal.  Quintessential Canadian drama, filmed in black & white, is O.K. and certainly slick, but a little one-note.  Well acted.  sc: Brian Moore (from his novel). dir: Irvin Kershner. 100 min.

LUCKY GIRL   * * * setting: CDN.
(2001) Elisha Cuthbert, Sherry Miller, Evan Sabba, Greg Ellwand, Sarah Osman, Victoria Snow, Jonathan Whittaker, Von Flores.....Story of a bright teen (Cuthbert) who, unbeknownst to her parents, becomes addicted to the rush of gambling, and of the increasingly nefarious methods she employs to cover her mounting debts. Tightly paced made-for-CTV drama is, of course, a topical, "issues" flick (supposedly inspired by a real incident), but rises above the pittfalls of being too earnest by being reasonably edgy, gritty, and well put together, with excellent performances all around. Another Canadian-produced take on gambling addiction is 2003's Owning Mahowny. sc: Graeme Manson, John Frizzell (story Frizzell). dir: John Fawcett. - sexual content.- 94 min.

THE LUCKY STAR   * * * 1/2  setting: other
(1980) Rod Steiger, Louise Fletcher, Lou Jacobi, Brett Marx, Helen Hughes, Isabelle Mejias.....In 1940s Holland, a Jewish boy (Marx), with a western-movie fixation, loses his family to the Nazis, goes into hiding and gets it into his head to strike back.  Unusual if leisurely little drama, humourous (without being tasteless), thought-provoking and memorable.  Steiger (in a relatively small but pivotal role) is excellent.  sc: Jack Rosenthal, Max Fischer (story Fischer and Roland Topor). dir: Max Fischer. 110 min.

LULU   * *  setting: Ont.
(1996) Kim Lieu, Clark Johnson, Michael Rhoades, Manuel Aranguiz, Peter Breck, Saaed Jaffrey, Nghi Do.....Story of various messed-up characters and relationships, focusing on an Asian refugee (Lieu), her smalltime crook husband (Rhoades) and his shiftless best friend (Johnson).  The scariest movie to come along in a long time -- uh, not the movie, which is a straightforward, slow-moving Art-house drama with lots of symbolism, metaphors involving video technology, and opaque characters.  No, the scary stuff is behind the scenes.  Writer/director Krishna started out with Masala, an uneven but highly original, funky, comedy-drama...but he's obviously been replaced by an Atom Egoyan pod-person ala "Invasion of the Body Snatchers"!  Ooooh, scar-ry.  Or is it that you can't get a movie financed in this country unless you follow a rigid "art" formula?  Too bad, because there are enough interesting ideas that if the characters had been better dilenated, and the scenes less pretentious and allowed to breathe, it might have worked.  Unabashedly multi-ethnic casting is refreshing, too, since most Canadian films are about ALL white people, and the few that aren't are about ALL black people, or ALL native people.  sc: Srinivas Krishna, Robert Armstrong. dir: Srinivas Krishna. - sexual content, female nudity, brief male nudity.- 89 min.

LUNA: Spirit of the Whale  * * *   setting: B.C.
(2007) Adam Beach, Tantoo Cardinal, Graham Greene, Jason Priestley, Erin Karpluk, Aaron Miko, Michelle Harrison, Barbara Tyson.....Fact-based story about an orphan killer whale that settles in a B.C. inlet, and the conflicts that arise when the local First Nations band (led by Beach) embrace the whale as a spiritual reincarnation of their dead chief...while others want it removed from the area. Made-for-CTV family drama boasts a strong, engaging cast, beautiful scenery and, of course, a whale (or a reasonable facsimile)! Starts out a bit overly preachy in its themes and motivation, but gets better as it goes, becoming an entertaining movie with various threads (the specific issue of the whale, the general issue of Native/white relations, plus character things involving Beach as the prodigal son returned and reluctantly taking a troubled orphan under his wing). It deals with a Native/white schism...but in a gentler story than some such dramatizations (no barricades, no one gets killed or hurt). At the same time, it arguably reduces the real events to a one-sided Disney movie (Priestley as the Fisheries Officer leading the push to relocate the whale is very good...but a cartoony black hat) when the real dilemmas were less clear cut (it's a bit odd to paint as villains...the ones who want to return the whale to its family pod!). The story has also been covered in books and documentaries. sc: Elizabeth Stewart. dir: Don McBrearty. app. 90 min.

LUNCH WITH CHARLES * * * 1/2  setting: B.C./Alt./other
(2001) (/Hong Kong) Sean Lau, Nicholas Lea, Theresa Lee, Bif Naked, Francoise Yip, Tom Scholte, Philip Granger, Peter Wilds.....Story of various characters and mismatched couples: a Hong Kong man (Lau) reluctantly comes to Canada to win back his estranged fiancee (Lee), a publicist, but they keep missing each other and coincidences abound as it turns into a road movie and he hitches a ride with an ex-singer (Naked) and she with the singer's jilted husband (Lea); and the singer is contemplating making a comeback with a band the publicist is using in a new campaign -- all largely unbeknownst to each other. A breath of fresh air! Warm, genuinely charming romantic comedy is full of likeable characters, gentle humour (and some more absurd), amusing culture clash gags, and clever twists and turns and funny misunderstandings and coincidences. And sumptuous B.C. scenery to boot. The Byzantine plotting is, itself, just a lot of fun to watch unfold. It all works out happily ever after...though not necessarily the way you might expect. Lau and Lee are Hong Kong actors, but Lee was raised in Canada! A fine cast, though real life singer Naked is a bit unpolished (though not without charm). Chang Tseng appears briefly as Lee's boss. sc./dir: Michael Parker. - brief female nudity.- 109 min.

Lunch With Harry's Dancer see Short Films

LUSCIOUS  a.k.a. Vivid

LYDDIE   * *  setting: Ont.
(1996) (/U.K.) Tanya Allen, Christianne Hirt, Simon James, Tom Georgeson, Pat Keen, Danielle Brett, Andrea Libman.....Story of a young woman (Allen) in the 1860s, hoping to earn enough money to reunite her family and regain the family farm by working in an arduous cotton mill.  Disappointing made-for-CBC TV drama makes allusions to Dickens but falls short in the comparison.  The acting, writing and direction all seem a bit awkward and stilted (though Hirt is O.K.) while much of the characterization and issues remain unrealized.  sc: Maggie Wadey (from the novel by Katherine Paterson). dir: Stefan Scaini. 90 min.

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