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.

MASALA   * * 1/2  setting: Ont.
(1991) Saaed Jaffrey, Zohra Segal, Srinivas Krishna, Sakina Jaffrey, Madhuri Bhatia.....Story of various East-Indian characters, including a Hindu god, living in Toronto and revolving around an embittered young man (Krishna).  Satirical comedy/drama (more comedy than drama) is frequently hilarious, if a little broad, and decidedly off-beat and ambitious.  But it's a little too unpolished and the drama never quite comes together, leaving the viewer unsatisfied.  Performances vary, with Segal, as a grandmother, stealing the show.  sc./dir: Srinivas Krishna. -- sexual content, female nudity and casual male nudity.- 106 min.

THE MASCULINE MYSTIQUE   * * *  setting: P.Q.
(1984) Stefan Wodowslawsky, Char Davies, Saverio (Sam) Grana, Eleanor MacKinnon, Mort Ransen, Annebet Zwartsenberg, Ashley Murray.....Four guys get together periodically for group therapy to talk about their lives and their successes and failures with love and relationships.  Off-beat, enjoyable serio-comic pic, though there's no real conclusion and the line between fact and fiction is blurry.  Sequel: 90 Days.  sc: Giles Walker, David Wilson. dir: Giles Walker.

THE MASK   * *
(1961) Paul Stevens, Claudette Nevins, Bill Walker, Martin Lavut, Ann Colings, Leo Leyden.....Psychiatrist (Stevens) finds himself in possession of a mask that allows the wearer access to his inner soul, at the same time that it drives him mad.  Thriller tosses around some interesting ideas (and a not-so-subtle drug metaphor), but has trouble deciding what to do with them and tends to drag.  Strong performances from Nevins and, especially, Stevens.  Originally shown in 3-D.  a.k.a. Eyes of Hell.  sc: Frank Taubes, Sandy Haber, Franklin Delessert, Slavvo Vorkapich. dir: Julian Roffman. 83 min.

MASK OF DEATH * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1996) Lorenzo Lamas, Rae Dawn Chong, Conrad Dunn, Billy Dee Williams, Jerry Wasserman, Heather Hanson, Kevin McNulty, Thomas Cavanagh, Dave "Squatch" Ward, Tim Henry.....American cop (Lamas) is persuaded to undergo plastic surgery to make him look like a dead assassin in order to trap the mobster (Dunn) who murdered his wife. American actor Lamas has made a number of low-budget, usually pretty awful Canadian-made action movies, but this movie, with its High Concept premise and its better than usual cast of Canadian (and American Williams) actors, promised to be better. Unfortunately, the promise is mainly unfulfilled. Despite the interesting (if familiar) premise of the impersonation, and even a fish-out-of-water, the filmmakers do next to nothing with the idea -- most scenes you wouldn't even realize that Lamas isn't who he pretends to be! Instead there are a lot of shoot outs and fights-for-the-sake-of-a-fight scenes that seem there just to pad the running time since the (sometimes illogical) story alone won't do it. A psychological sub-text, with Lamas brooding that he's becoming the man he's impersonating (after being responsible for a substantial body count) is, likewise, never developed into anything. Look for Dean Haglund (Lone Gunman Langley of "The X-Files") meeting Lamas in a back alley. sc: A.C. Rossenfier. dir: David Mitchell. - violence.- 89 min.
 

MATERIAL WORLD (TV Series)

(1989-1993)   * 1/2  Laura Bruneau ("Kitty"), Linda Sorensen ("Mom"), Jayne Eastwood ("Bernice") (-4th), Angela Dohrmann ("Angela") (3rd-), James Kee ("Martin Weinstock") (3rd-), Karen LeBlanc ("Lucy") (5th), with Chris Potter ("Tim").....Comedy about a young, small scale Toronto fashion designer (Bruneau) and those around her: Sorensen played her intrusive mom; Eastwood the acerbic book keeper; Dohrmann was added later as her roomie and Kee her business partner; and LeBlanc as an assistant.  Potter played her next door neighbour and romantic interest.

This TV series started out as a conventional sitcom in its first season, then dropped the laugh-track and tried to be more of a dramedy -- well, you can paint the house...  Its biggest problem, aside from the fact that it was bland, unfunny, and the drama awkward and uninsightful, was its consistently lethargic pacing, as if the cast was on valium, the director asleep and the editor had arthritis.  The creators worked on the U.S. sitcom "Family Ties".  Its longevity was due more to the nationalistic desire to prove Canadians can do a sitcom -- even if it's not very good -- rather thhan any real ratings success.  Originally the theme was sung by Taborah Johnson, then Bobby Wiseman.  Half-hour episodes on the CBC. 

MATINEE   * * * 1/2  setting: B.C.
(1989) Ron White, Gillian Barber, Jeff Schultz, Beatrice Boepple, Timothy Webber, Stephen E. Miller, Don S. Davis, R. Nelson Brown, William B. Davis.....Two years after an unsolved murder at a film festival, a town becomes nervous at the prospect of another horror-movie revival.  Don't let the (intentionally) schlocky opening fool you, this is a classy, laid-back suspenser, part drama, part character study.  Strong performances and direction, brilliant dialogue and atmosphere.  Slow moving and hurt by being more of an ensemble piece rather than having an obvious main character, but definitely a must see.  The closing shot is something else, too.  a.k.a. Midnight Matinee (presumably to avoid confusion with an American film, "Matinee", that came out a couple of years later).  sc./dir: Richard Martin. -- violence, partial female nudity.- 94 min.

LES MATINS INFIDELES   * *  setting: P.Q.
(1989) Jean Beaudry, Denis Bouchard, Laurent Faubert-Bouvier, Violaina Forest, Louise Richer, Nathalie Coupal.....Story of the ups and downs in the lives of a shiftless photographer (Bouchard) who is supposed to photograph the same street corner at the same time every day for a year, and his friend (Beaudry) who is writing a novel based on the pictures.  Good-looking drama is reminiscent of Beaudry/Bouvier's Jacques et novembre -- an interesting "high concept" but just a muddled, so-so execution.  Lots of oblique scenes (seeming unintentionally so).  Look for actor Gabriel Arcand as an unspeaking passenger on a subway.  English title: Unfaithful Mornings.  sc: Jean Beaudry, Francois Bouvier. dir: Francois Bouvier. -- sexual content, brief female nudity.- 84 min.

LE MATOU   * *  setting: P.Q.
(1985) (/France) Serge Dupire, Monique Spaziani, Jean Carmet, Julien Guiomar, Guillaume Lemay-Thivierge, Miguel Fernandes.....Story of a young couple (Dupire and Spaziani) who buy a diner at the encouragement of a mysterious European man, their eccentric friends, and how they're manipulated and then fight back.  Serio-comic drama is long, meandering, and frequently disjointed...as though a longer soap opera edited down to movie length.  Mildly interesting, but goes on too long.  Spaziani stands out.  The film (and the original novel) encountered some accusations of racism and xenophobia when first released.  English title: The Alley Cat.  sc: Lisa Lemay-Rousseau (from the novel by Yves Beauchemin). dir: Jean Beaudin. -- partial female nudity.- 129 min.
 

MATRIX (TV Series)

(1993) (/U.S./U.K.)   * 1/2  Nick Mancuso ("Steven Matrix"), Phillip Jarrett ("Billy"), Carrie-Anne Moss ("Liz").....Suspense-drama about a U.S. hit man (Mancuso) who has a near death experience where he sees Hell, and then an otherworldly spirit (played by Colin Fox) offers him a chance at redemption by changing his ways and accepting assignments helping people. Each episode featured a different guardian angel who would give him his assignments -- played by a variety of often well-known actors (usually imported). Jarrett played his partner who'd research the targets and Moss was the manager of the health club he owned -- unaware of either of his real professions (killing or saving people). Unusual for this kind of series, all three regulars were Canadian. Trivia note: a few years later, Moss would co-star in the Hollywood box office hit which was also called "The Matrix" (unrelated to this series).

What's wrong with this premise: an only slightly repentant killer and his unrepentant partner perform good deeds using violence and intimidation? Uh, did no one making this TV series think that maybe it lacked a little sincerity? Thin, dim-witted plots, too, with an annoying pop music score and Mancuso had trouble getting a grip on his character (a problem with the scripts as well). Almost rates higher because even a confused Mancuso is interesting to watch. John Vernon narrated the preamble. Filmed in Toronto, pretending it was the United States. Trivia note (part 2): this was created by people who had worked on the earlier U.S. series, "The Equalizer" -- and in an episode of that series, there's a scene where the hero meets a hitman...who reformed after a near death experience wherein he saw Hell! (Series inspired by ideas tossed off in earlier series may not be uncommon -- the sci-fi series "Quantum Leap" was probably inspired by an episode of the original "Battlestar: Galactica"). One season of hour long episodes, shown in Canada originally on CTV.

MATRONI AND ME  see Matroni et moi

MATRONI ET MOI  * *  setting: P.Q.
(1999) Alexis Martin, Pierre LeBeau, Guylaine Tremblay, Gary Boudreault, Pierre Curzi.....A bookish scholar (Martin) gets caught up in the world of a local mobster (LeBeau) during one night, where his philosophical ideals meet the practical world. Energetic comedy has some nice ideas, but has trouble striking the right tone. It starts out seeming a light-drama, except the actors play it like it's an out-and-out comedy, then gets more obviously farcical as it goes along, but then seems to want to get serious at times...or is it just being satirical? A movie that's definitely trying for something...but it's not always clear what. Ironically, the core concept might've made an interesting drama. sc: Alexis Martin, Jean-Philippe Duval. dir: Jean-Philippe Duval. 101 min.

MATUSALEM   * *  setting: P.Q./other
(1993) Marc Labreche, Emile Proulx-Cloutier, Steve Gendron, Jessica Barker, Marie-France Monette, Maxime Collin, Jod Leveille-Bernard, Gabriel Gascon .....A boy and his friends befriend the ghost of a pirate (Labreche) and help him break his curse while being pursued by other ghostly pirates.  Disappointing family fantasy has a larger-than-life premise and even climaxes on a tropical island on board a pirate ship, but the scenes are sluggish and even grating at times.  A shame!  In the dubbed version, too many of the actors mumble.  Nice performances from Labreche and Gascon, in a relatively small part as the chief villain.  That's Andree Pelletier as the school teacher.  Followed by a sequel.  sc./dir: Roger Cantin (from a novel). 108 min.

MAURICE RICHARD  * * 1/2  setting: P.Q.
(2005) Roy Dupuis, Stephen McHattie, Julie LeBreton, Philip Craig, Patrice Robitaille, Michel Barrette, Diane Lavallee, Tony Calabretta, Remy Girard.....Dramatization of the life of legendary hockey player Maurice "The Rocket" Richard (Dupuis), how he rose to become arguably the greatest player of his generation (and a few others) as well as a cultural and political icon to the -- at the time -- disenfranchised French-Canadians. Bio-pic was a box office hit in Quebec, but less so in the rest of Canada (hockey dramas traditionally don't perform that well in English-Canada). Unfortunately, the filmmakers seem to approach their subject with such reverence, the movie can feel too much like a collection of bland Heritage Minutes rather than a compelling, human drama, with Richard himself a fairly blank, opaque character (the movie never even alludes to the fact that Richard's brother also became a top player!). Put another way, if you didn't know much about Richard (or hockey) before hand...this isn't liable to inflame your interest. With that being said, it picks up later in the film, as Richard becomes more articulate about his grievances, making it maybe worth sticking with. Dupuis does his own skating and had previously played Richard in a TV mini-series. In French, but with plenty of English, too (McHattie, as coach Dick Irvin, speaks English throughout). English title: The Rocket. sc: Ken Scott. dir: Charles Biname. - violence.- 124 min.

MAX   * *  setting: B.C.
(1995) R.H. Thomson, Denise Crosby, Fabio Wilkinson, Colleen Rennison, Walter Dalton, Don S. Davis, Byron Chief Moon, Trinna Johnny.....Yuppie (Thomson) starts to unravel on learning his son (Wilkinson) has a pollution-related terminal illness; he takes the boy to the country hoping a back-to-nature lifestyle will be a cure...much to the consternation of his wife (imported Crosby).  Not always convincing drama has good performances from Thomson, Crosby (and Davis, of course) and surprisingly natural ones from kids Wilkinson (the director's son) and Rennison, and nice scenery.  But it's muddled, trying to be too many things (a cross between "Lorenzo's Oil" and "The Mosquito Coast" for one thing) and is so doggedly determined to make the main characters obnoxious that it's hard to get emotionally involved.  Not to be confused with Mon ami Max which was released the same year.  sc./dir: Charles Wilkinson. 94 min.
 

MAX GLICK (TV Series)

(1989-1991)   * *  Josh Garbe ("Max Glick"), Jan Rubes ("Abe 'Zada'"), Susan Douglas Rubes ("Brina 'Bubby'"), Linda Kash ("Sarah"), Alec Willows ("Henry"), Melyssa Ade ("Celina Bzjinski"), others.....Comedy about a young Jewish boy (Garbe) growing up in Beausejour, Manitoba in the '60s, and given to flights of fantasy and talking to the camera.  The two Rubes were his grandparents (and the only regular actors retained from the movie); Kash and Willows his parents; and Ade his piano partner and sort-of girlfriend.

This borderline TV series was spun off from the movie The Outside Chance of Maximilian Glick (which was based on the novel by Morley Torgov).  The adult actors were very good, but the kids were often awkwardly (and broadly) directed.  And who was its audience?  It wasn't really aimed enough at either kids or adults, falling instead into the no-man's land inbetween.  Still, it could be sparodically amusing and benefitted from its in-your-face ethnicity.  Set in Manitoba, but filmed in Vancouver.  Two seasons of half-hour episodes initially on the CBC and subsequently rerun on YTV. 

The Mayor of Casterbridge, a novel by Thomas Hardy, inspired the movie, The Claim.

MAZES AND MONSTERS   * * * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1982) (/U.S.) Tom Hanks, Wendy Crewson, Chris Makepeace, David Wallace, Murray Hamilton, Tom Harvey, Clark Johnson.....Quartet of American university students, each from cold homes, get together to play a role-playing game until one begins to lose the distinction between reality and fantasy.  Effective made-for-TV suspense-drama with good atmosphere and nice performances from Hanks and Crewson.  Some famous names (like Lloyd Bochner and Anne Francis) have cameos as parents.  sc: Tom Lazarus (from the novel by Rona Jaffe). dir: Steven H. Stern. 100 min.
 

ME AND MAX (TV Series)

(198-)   * *  Steve Smith, Morag Smith, others.....How's this for a seemingly unworkable idea for a series: do a standard sitcom about a family (played by the Smiths and their two sons) and their various weekly visitors...also played by the two Smiths using a split-screen effect.  Impossible, you say?  Maybe, but they almost pulled it off.  Though hampered by the obvious technical and budget limitations, it could be amusing thanks largely to the very talented Steve Smith.  Half-hour episodes, originally on the independent Ontario station, CHCH, then aired for a time on YTV.

MEATBALLS   * *  setting: USA.
(1979) Bill Murray, Chris Makepeace, Harvey Atkin, Kate Lynch, Russ Banham, Kristine DeBell, Sarah Torgov, Jack Blum, Keith Knight, Cindy Girling, Matt Cravenn (Matt Craven).....Shenanigans at summer camp mixing sophomoric, and really obvious, gags with attempts at heart-warming character stuff.  It's hard to believe this rather bland, and unfunny, comedy was one of the few box office success stories in Canadian film and helped usher in the whole teen comedy genre.  Makepeace's film debut.  Lynch, delivering a capable-but-unremarkable performance in a frankly nothing part, received the Best Actress Etrog.  Followed by an in-name-only U.S. sequel and a Canadian one.  sc: Len Blum, Dan Goldberg, Janis Allen, Harold Ramis. dir: Ivan Reitman. 92 min.

MEATBALLS III   * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1986) Sally Kellerman, Al Waxman, Patrick Dempsey, Shannon Tweed, Maury Chaykin, Isabelle Mejias, George Buza, Mark Blutman.....Nerdy American teen (American actor Dempsey in his film debut) is coached by the ghost of a porn movie star (Kellerman, another import) on how to lose his virginity while working for the summer at the marina.  Standard teen sex-comedy is awkwardly, even amateurishly, put together...though the depiction of heaven is kind of cute.  Kellerman does better than the material warrants, and prominently billed Waxman, Tweed and Chaykin all have just bit parts.  "Rompin'" Ronnie Hawkins appears as part of a bar band.  sc: Michael Peseornek, Bradley Kesden (story Chuck Workman). dir: George Mendeluk. -- sexual content, brief female and male nudity.- 94 min.

MEDICINE RIVER   * * 1/2  setting: Alt.
(1992) Graham Greene, Tom Jackson, Sheila Tousey, Janet-Laine Green, Byron Chief Moon, Tina Louise Bomberry, Ben Cardinal, Micheal C. Lawrenchuk, Jimmy Herman.....Photojournalist (Greene) returns to his native reserve for a funeral and winds up being talked into helping out with a fundraiser by some of the local eccentrics (headed by Jackson) and falling in love (with Tousey).  Made-for-CBC TV romantic comedy is hilarious when being funny, but the romantic plotline tends toward being a little, well, dull.  Greene heads a good cast but Jackson steals the show.  That's novelist King as Lester, the basketball adversary. sc: Thomas King, Ann Mac Naughton (from King's novel). dir: Stuart Margolin. 94 min.

MEGA SHARK OF MALIBU a.k.a. Malibu Shark Attack

MEMOIRES AFFECTIVES * * 1/2  setting: P.Q.
(2004) Roy Dupuis, Roza Zacharic, Guy Thauvette, Nathalie Coupal, Karine Lagucux, Benoit Gouin, Maka Kotto, Robert Lalonde.....A middle-aged amnesiac (Dupuis) wakes from a coma -- after someone mysteriously tries to kill him -- and tries to re-adjust to a life he doesn't remember; but finds that even his current memories are confused, as people switch what they're saying in mid-conversation. Drama tries to juggle various influences, from being a straight drama/sort-of-suspenser, to a character-study, to a weird, Art House flick (though there does turn out to be an explanation for the reality switches, even if it belatedly pushes the movie in a more fantasy/SF direction). The result is uneven, the filmmakers never quite getting a grip on their own ideas -- ideas that don't entirely answer the questions! With that being said, it does maintain interest, and offers a sort of resolution, buoyed by highly effective atmosphere and nice performances...and, at its core, a surprisingly good, sympathetic performance from Dupuis. Received Genies for Best Actor (Dupuis), Director and Screenplay. English title: Looking for Alexander. sc: Marcel Beaulieu, Francis Leclerc. dir: Francis Leclerc. 100 min.

MEMORY RUN a.k.a. Synapse

MEMORIES UNLOCKED  see Souvenirs intimes

MEN OF MEANS  * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1999) Michael Pare, Kaela Dobkin, Raymond Serra, Austin Pendleton, Mark Hutchinson, Tony Cucci, Ron Holgate, Tie Domni.....Story of a small time American hood (Pare) who wants to get out of his life of crime, so he stages his own little rip-off, intending to skip to Mexico with his brother, but his mobster boss (Serra) is on their trail. Low-budget noirish crime-thriller is briskly paced, with the story transpiring over a limited period, and there are flashes of good dialogue and quirky characterizations. But there's plenty of clunky dialogue too (with characters stating their motivation, just in case we didn't get it), uneven performances, and the largely cliched premise that's been done before, better, and more convincingly. Kind of awkward having Pare want to start a new, crime free life...by gunning down a bunch of guys! Picks up a bit with the addition of Dobkin's character half way through. I'm not sure if any of the actors are Canadian. sc: Shane Perez. dir: George Mendeluk. - violence.- 93 min.

MEN WITH BROOMS  * * *  setting: Ont.
(2002) Paul Gross, Molly Parker, Leslie Nielsen, Peter Outerbridge, Jed Rees, James Allodi, Polly Shannon, Michelle Nolden, Kari Matchett, Victoria Snow, Beau Starr, James B. Douglas.....Ten years after they disbanded, a small town's curling team reluctantly reunites to try for the championship after the death of their former coach. Serio-comic flick was heralded as the Great White (North) Hope. In a film industry drowning in parochial Art House filmmakers, or straight-to-video schlockmeisters, this was unabashedly meant to be a mainstream, commercial comedy, boasting Canada's biggest star (thanks to TV's Due South) working within a tried-and-true formulaic story. The movie still failed to make a profit...but, conversely, it easily managed to be the biggest grossing English-language Canadian film of its year (and a few others), proving that, with a little moxie, a set in Canada movie with an all-Canadian cast could easily do as well as the usual big budget Canadian movies featuring an imported cast and set in the the U.S. (and, indeed, it did better than a lot of those). As a production, the movie is a mix of low-key realist humour, slapstick absurdism, vulgarity, and drama. It's an ensemble where many of the plot threads and characters aren't really developed particularly well or fleshed out -- one of the key plot threads is Gross' relationship with Parker (as his ex-girlfriend's sister who is in love with him)...but they barely have any scenes together! Yet you can still find yourself rooting for the team in the climax. Intellectually, it isn't that good...but viscerally, it's oddly entertaining. The scenes are sprightly, and there are enough chuckles and laughs, and enough unexpected twists and quirky ideas (despite the formula premise) to keep it fresh. Check your brain at the door, and it's fun (and is actually a better movie than the U.K. hit, "The Full Monty", to which it was compared, or another sports-themed Canadian comedy, the mega-hit Les Boys). Now given how successful it was as is, imagine how much more successful it might have been if it really had been a "great" movie! Later spun off into a TV series (maybe a first for an English-Canada movie!) -- reviewed below. And as an aside: the Great Wall of China joke is funny but, actually, a myth. sc: Paul Gross, John Kriznac (story Gross, Kriznac, and Paul Quarrington). dir: Paul Gross. - sexual content, casual male nudity.- 1022 min.
 

MEN WITH BROOMS (TV Series)

(2010-2011)   * * *   Brendan Gall ("Gary"), Siobhan Murphy ("April"), William C. Vaughan ("Matt"), Anand Rajaram ("Pramesh"), Joel S. Keller ("Bill"), Glenda Braganza ("Rani"), Aliyah O'Brien ("Tannis"), with Paul Gross .....Comedy about various characters connected by the local curling club. Although TV series' spun off from movies are frequent in the history of Hollywood, and even Canada has got in on the act with series based on Hollywood movies, this is probably the first time a Canadian TV series has been derived from an English-Canadian movie (French-Canada had already done it once or twice) -- in this case, a belated follow up to the 2003 motion picture. It's an in-name only spin off, utilizing none of the same characters (save the movie's star, Paul Gross, who provided the wry narration, and guest starred one or twice). Actually, the other inspiration was clearly the mega-successful sitcom, Corner Gas -- both series set in a similar small town milieu.

And the results were surprisingly good. Like with Corner Gas, the humour tended to be low-key, revolving around non-events (while eschewing the cruder gags of the Men With Brooms motion picture). But it went for a slicker production style than Corner Gas (flipping it on at random, you might assume from the use of lighting and film stock that it was a drama, rather than a sitcom), and with more of an attempt to play a slightly realist undercurrent to the characters, allowing for romantic tension, whereas in Corner Gas the characters were deliberately more caricaturist. Granted, there's little about the characters or the milieu that really stand out from any other sitcom (despite a nice cast all around), but the sly and wry wit creeps up on you, making for a likeable series you can find yourself chuckling at even before you realize it. But despite a good cast and clever dialogue, like most post-Corner Gas comedies, it failed to really grab any significant ratings. Created by Paul Mather. One season of half hour episodes on the CBC. 

"Menage a Trois", by F. Paul Wilson, was one of the stories used for The Hunger movie, pilot for the TV series.
 
 
MENTORS  (TV Series)

(1999-2003)  * * *  Chad Krowchuk ("Oliver Cates") (-2nd), Sarah Lind ("Dee Sampson") (-2nd), Stevie Mitchell ("Simon Cates") (3rd-), Samantha Krutzfeldt ("Crystal Cates") (3rd-), Barbara Mamabolo ("Glae") (4th), with Shaun Johnston ("Roy Cates") (-2nd), Belinda Metz ("Anne Cates") (-2nd), Jane Sowerby ("Norm") (3rd-), Brian Martell ("Norm") (3rd-), others.....Youth/family series about a teen-age boy (Krowchuk) who develops a machine that can temporarily bring forward historical figures to his time. He and his best friend/girl friend (Lind) -- initially the only other one who knows about his device -- call up historical personalities to help them with dilemmas -- sometimes trivial (getting Edgar Allan Poe to help them plan a Haunted House exhibit), sometimes more serious. But trivial or serious, usually life lessons are learned. Perhaps feeling the actors were a bit older than the show's intended audience, the hero went off to university, leaving the computer with his younger cousins (Mitchell and Krutzfeldt) in the third season. Mamabolo joined the cast part way through the fourth (and final) season as a genetically created girl from the future who ends up staying with them, searching for answers to her own past -- a quest that climaxed in the season (and series) finale (in a way that was, sort of, meant to bring the series full circle...sort of). Metz played the first hero's mom, Johnston his divorced dad; Sowerby and Martell played the second hero's parents. American actor Elliot Gould played Albert Einstein in the pilot, but most of the other actors -- regular and guest stars -- were Canadian. Though only a few of the historical figures were of Canadian origin (but the series didn't mind admitting it was set in Canada). 

Decent TV series was sprightly played, with nice performances, and presumably accomplished some of its double edged premise -- exploring current ideas and life lessons, while introducing viewers to famous historical people. All the while not being too heavy handed, with humour and well-rounded characters. Best bets: arguably a controversial one about homosexuality/homophobia (that "tackles" the topic without, ever, actually using the words) benefiting from humour and a nicely flamboyant, and atypical, performance from Simon MacCorkindale as Oscar Wilde; a frivolous, darkly funny one with Nick Mancuso as Vlad Tepish -- a.k.a. Dracula. Four seasons of half hour episodes. 

THE MERCHANTS OF VENICE a.k.a. Gold: The Merchants of Venice

MÈRES ET FILLES   * * *  setting: other
(2009) (/France) Catherine Deneuve, Marina Hands, Marie-Josée Croze, Michel Duchaussoy, Jean-Philippe Ecoffey, Carole Franck, Romano Orzari, Gérard Watkins.....Woman (Hands) returns home for a visit with her parents, reviving her strained relationship with her mother (Deneuve), and discovers a diary kept by her grandmother (Croze, in flashbacks) who walked out on the family decades before, and whose disappearance is partly responsible for the alienation between the current generations. Drama is well put together and boasts good performances and some great scenes. But it is deliberately slow, with a thin story (the flashbacks don't so much tell a parallel story as they simply show how unhappy and stifled the grandmother was in her marriage) and it leaves some sub-plots unresolved while climaxing in a revelation that is both obvious yet, paradoxically, kind of out-of-place given the overall tone of the movie. The result is genuinely involving for the things it does so well...and is best forgiven for the things it doesn't do so well. Though set in France, Hands' character is supposed to make her home in Toronto (and Orzari plays her English-Canadian boyfriend). Croze is Canadian (the actress, not her character). In French, with some English. English title: Hidden Diary. sc: Julie Lopes-Curval, Sophie Hiet. dir: Julie Lopes-Curval. 104 min.

MERLIN AND THE BOOK OF BEASTS  * 1/2  setting: other
(2009) (/U.S.) James Callis, Laura Harris, Jesse Moss, Patrick Sabonqui, Donald Adams, Jim Thorburn.....King Arthur's daughter (Harris) and a small band of knights recruit the reclusive sorcerer, Merlin (British actor Callis), to help them fight an evil sorcerer who has conquered Camelot with the aide of an ancient tome. Made-for-TV fantasy/adventure is no doubt sincere in its desire to play in the Arthurian canon, and Harris is fine and Callis certainly goes to town on his gruff hermit Merlin (including adopting a sort of Welsh accent that is occasionally unintelligible) but the actors -- or their characters -- are somewhat...bland. The plot is poorly structured, and with the characters seeming an ensemble, rather than with clear lead characters (even Callis and Harris) and the direction can be flat, the action scenes muddled. Granted, they're struggling with a small budget (there are, literally, only about six speaking parts in the whole film, and a finite number of sets). There are certainly moments when the elements (actors, script, direction) come together for an okay scene, particularly in the second half...but mostly not. Too bad. a.k.a. Book of Beasts. sc: Brook Durham. dir: Warren P. Sonoda. - violence.- app. 90 min.

MERLIN'S APPRENTICE  (TVMS)   * * 1/2  setting: other
(2005) (/U.S.) Sam Neill, John Reardon, Meghan Ory, Tegan Moss, Christopher Jacot, Garwin Sanford, Alexander Kalugin, Jennifer Calvert, Andrew Jackson, Duncan Fraser, Miranda Richardson.....The wizard Merlin (Neill) wakes from a 50 year slumber to learn Arthur is long dead and Camelot a shadow of its former self, the Holy Grail (and its blessing) once more lost, and barbarians are almost at the gate; and finds himself taking on an unlikely apprentice, a young thief (Reardon) with magical apptitudes. Hallmark Entertainment and executive producers Roberts Halmi Sr & Jr produced a slew of made-for-TV classics adaptations (a few of the later ones with heavy Canadian participation) with varying results -- with arguably the best, and best regarded, being "Merlin", a telling of the Arthur legend but focused on Merlin. This sequel brings back Neill and Richardson (as an evil sorceress), but with a new, largely all-Canadian cast, and a lesser budget. And the result is...uneven. Sometimes Neill just seems phoning in his performance, and the young adult Canadians seem a bit too green, other times, everyone delivers nicely textured performances (Sanford as the new king is among the most consistently strong, and Ory is also effective as a girl masquerading as a male squire); sometimes it seems juvenile (particularly with its emphasis on a younger cast), other times, it can be somewhat dark and gritty. With its large ensemble cast and various plot threads and machinations, it really can seem a bit like an epic novel...even as other times it can seem disjointed, like various episodes of a TV series clumsily edited together. Gets better as it goes, ironically once Neill's role has been relegated to the peripheries, and it does tackle some heavy themes. The result: too uneven to be a great movie (or as good as "Merlin") but with enough effective elements to may be worth a try, at least for fantasy fans. Four hours. sc: Christian Ford, Roger Soffer. dir: David Wu. - violence.-

THE MERRY WORLD OF LEOPOLD Z see La vie heureseuse de Leopold Z

MESMER   * * 1/2  setting: other
(1995) (/U.K./Germany) Alan Rickman, Amanda Ooms, Gillian Barge, David Hemblen, Jan Rubes, Simon McBurney, Anna Thalbach, Martin Schwab, Peter Dvorsky.....Story of Franz Anton Mesmer (Rickman) the 18th century Austrian faith healer (from whom comes the term 'mesmerize'), his battles with the orthodox medical profession, and focusing on his treatment of a beautiful, but troubled, blind woman (Ooms).  Historical drama is surprisingly sympathetic to Mesmer -- though that's not that hard to do when one considers the general state of 'approved' medicine at the time -- but suffers from being unwilling to enttirely throw itself behind a definitive P.O.V.  Sufficiently amusing and dramatic to be interesting, but uneven.  Lovely Ooms steals the show.  sc: Dennis Potter. dir: Roger Spottiswoode. 105 min.

MESSAGES DELETED   * *  setting: USA.
(2010) Matthew Lillard, Deborah Kara Unger, Gina Holden, Chiara Zanni, Michael Eklund, Serge Houde.....An American writing professor and struggling screenwriter (American Lillard) is drawn into a series of seeming random murders, the victims phoning him just before their deaths...leading the police (Unger and Houde) to see him as their primary suspect. Good performances in this reasonably slick-looking thriller, with some decent dialogue. But it sets itself up for a fall by the very conceit of opening with the protagonist critiquing B-grade thrillers -- and then proceeding to fall into various trite clichés, plot holes, and implausibilities, while lacking an emotional connection. Not to mention some curious dialogue hiccups, like not seeming to realize that it was Tonto who called the Lone Ranger "kemosabe" (not vice versa). It wants to be the thriller equivalent of the "Scream" movies (in which Lillard had appeared) with the characters themselves self-reflectively commenting on the narrative clichés. But having the characters acknowledge the clichés doesn't stop them from being clichés! You'd need some wry humour or quirky twists on the conventions for that. And then it wraps up with an ending that seems meant to just band-aid over any narrative problems! Too bad -- because it started out promising. sc: Larry Cohen. dir: Rob Cowan. - violence.- 88 min.

METAL SHIFTERS   setting: USA.
(2011) (/U.S.) Kavan Smith, Nicole de Boer, Donnelly Rhodes, Chris Gauthier, Colby Johannson, Paul McGillion, Merritt Patterson, Jesse Moss.....Alien bacteria that is deadly to humans and which animates metal -- including a giant statue made of junk! -- besieges a small American town. Made for the U.S. Sy-Fy Channel, it's got a perfectly respectable cast, and though modestly budgeted, decent production values, cinematography, etc. Which just makes it all the more galling how bad it is -- most of that falling on the script. 90 percent of the dialogue (from folksy banter, heated arguments, or quips) feels like it's just there to give the actors something to say, and to pad the running time, rather than because it develops the story or the characters (de Boer is supposed to be Kavan's ex-high school sweetheart -- and that's pretty much the extent of what we know about their backstory!) The dialogue (and behaviour) is unconvincing and implausible -- from the hero scavenging stuff from someone else's property (which I'm pretty sure is called "theft") to a sheriff who, after the umpteenth report of a killer giant robot, asks the witness to "describe" it (I guess so as not to confuse it with any innocent giant robots who might be passing through!) It truly is so-bad-it's-funny (and I can have a high forgiveness level for cheesy movies) -- but that doesn't make it "so bad it's good." And frequent references to the Golem doesn't lend the movie intellectual resonance -- it just seems like the writers stumbled upon the term in a dictionary! Some movies are bad, yet can be a guilty pleasure, or can boast brisk pacing, while some are unforgivably bad precisely because they seemed to start out with more going for them. sc: Paul Ziller, Gary Hawkes. dir: Paul Ziller. - violence.- 90 min.

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