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.


(1998) * * Ken Finkleman ("George Findlay"), Leah Pinsent ("Diane"), Hrant Alianak ("Shaffik"), Arsinee Khanjian ("Andrea"), Larissa Laskin, Lou Thornton ("Nikki").....Satire about an unscrupulous TV news producer (Finkleman). Pinsent played his reporter; Alianak a friend he'd have coffee with; Khanjian his wife; and Laskin and Thornton his mistresses.

Finkleman (who wrote, directed and produced) was given carte blanche by the CBC to create a new project after the surprise critical and commercial success of his sitcom The Newsroom. This was the result. Proponents (and flak catchers) were quick to argue that it was better, more sophisticated, and more edgy than the similar The Newsroom...and anyone who didn't think so was just dumb. Hmmm. Unfortunately, saying doesn't make it so. Everyone agreed the big laughs were no longer in evidence, but the problem was, the media/political satire wasn't any more perceptive or cutting than in The Newsroom and, in fact, it seemed almost less so at times, with some pretty broad delivery, lack of character-insight, and claustrophobic direction. Finkleman's fascination with European and Fellinesque art films was also much apparent, leading to vacuous sequences of him wandering around, squinty-eyed and poker-faced, bedding woman half his age (story elements that seemed more narcissistic than anything)...and can a comedy (or a drama, which this more closely resembled) really work when the main character is a blank slate, unimpacted on by events around him?

To be fair, Finkleman probably genuinely thought he was doing a cutting edge satire detailing the decline of Western Civilization, but he only rarely succeeded, with the best sequences being Alianak's coffee house political monologues (Alianak, too, played a middle-aged guy bedding nubile young things). Though Finkleman played "George Findlay", TV news producer, he claimed it wasn't the same George Findlay he'd played in The Newsroom. Huh? Three half-hour episodes and one 90 minute episode (which probably means 6 half-hours) and the first episode was shown without commercials, making it literally about 30 minutes long. Shown on the CBC.

Morgentaler: A Difficult Hero, the biography by Catherine Dunphy, served as the source for the TV movieChoice: The Henry Morgentaler Story

MORNING * * 1/2 setting: Ont.
(1990) Michael Hannigan, Andrea Moodie, Dawn Gilmour, Kris Ryan, Maria Piccoli, Cynde Harmon, Michael Kennedy.....A man (Hannigan), arriving at a cottage on an island, discovers it inhabited by two mute women (Moodie and Gilmour) -- victims, unbeknowst to him, of government mind experiments. Low-budget drama is O.K. if you're looking for atmosphere over story. Benefits from Hannigan's performance (and Moodie and Gilmour are fine too, not that their roles give them much to do). Curiously, no scriptwriter is listed. dir: Darek Banasik. - female nudity.- 80 min.

MORNING GLORY * * 1/2 setting: USA.
(1993) Christopher Reeve, Deborah Raffin, Lloyd Bochner, Nina Foch, Helen Shaver, J.T. Walsh.....Story of the relationship between an ex-convict (Reeve) and a reclusive single mom (Raffin) in the Southern U.S. at the end of the Depression. Atmospheric, nicely acted drama starts out fine but bogs down a little in the last half-hour (ironically, when it gets more melodramatic) with a tired trial sequence. sc: Deborah Raffin, Charles Jarrott (from the novel by Lavyrie Spencer). dir: Steven Hilliard Stern. - sexual content, brief female nudity.- 96 min.

THE MORNING MAN * * * setting: P.Q.
(1987) Bruno Doyon, Kerrie Keane, Alan Fawcett, Mark Strange, Rob Roy, Damir Andrei.....Convict (Doyon) escapes from prison, intending to stay free for one year and prove to himself that he can go straight. His former partners, however, have trouble seeing it his way. Fine made-for-CBC TV suspense/drama is based on a true story. sc: Clark Wallace. dir: Daniele J. Suissa.

THE MORRISON MURDERS * * 1/2 setting: USA.
(1996) John Corbett, Jonathan Scarfe, Maya McLaughlin, Gordon Clapp, Tanya Allen, Alex Carter.....A small town Georgia family is murdered in their home, and the authorities suspect one of the remaining sons, much to the consternation of the eldest (American Corbett). One more made-for-TV "shocking true story" is slick and oddly watchable in a non-think way, as long as you don't mind inconsistent characterization and just the overall sordidness of such enterprises -- movies like this are not made for social relevance, to expose important facts, or even to enlighten about famous incidents (who in Canada had even heard of the case?). They are made to exploit human misery and serve it up as a Sunday's entertainment by writers, directors and producers with nothing better to do. As Corbett's wife, McLaughlin's performance and character works best, but Corbett is too often opaque and his role not well delineated. sc: Keith Ross Leckie. dir: Chris Thomson. 87 min.

THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: City of Bones * * 1/2 setting: USA.
(2013) (/U.S./Germany) Lili Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan, Jemima West, Kevin Zegers, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Lean Headey, Jared Harris, Kevin Durand, Aidan Turner, CCH Pounder, Godfrey Gao.....A teenage American girl (Collins) discovers there's an invisible subculture in Brooklyn of demons and demon-hunters (as well as vampires, werewolves, etc.) -- a world she discovers she's a part of after meeting a broody young demon-hunter (Bower) and her mother (Headey, in a bit part) is kidnapped and she's drawn into a search for a mystical chalice. Fantasy-adventure is a big budget extravaganza, with striking sets and f/x and good performances all around. Though based on a young adult book series, it's sufficiently adult-friendly (and not really juvenile in terms of action and creepy stuff). It keeps a brisk tempo and is professionally mounted, yet it all seems too familiar -- almost generic -- in its mix of Harry Potter, Twilight Saga, and others, without quite coming up with something to distinguish itself (maybe because they are rushing through it, not taking time to give things an individual quirk). Everything about it is good -- but no individual aspect is great. And as it moves into the climax, it can hold your eyes, but if you pause to think about it might leave you going "Why are they doing that?" and "What's that device?" and "What happened there?" Intended as the start to another teen blockbuster franchise (ala "Twilight", "The Hunger Games") the box office was tepid and the reviews fairly dismissive, so a sequel was announced before this premiered, then it was announced the sequel was cancelled, but at the writing of this, a sequel is tentatively back on. This received the Golden Reel Award at the Canadian Film Awards given to the Canadian movie with the biggest (domestic) box office -- an award intended to honour and encourage commercial success. Yet surely it's meant to recognize commercial success of Canadian movies -- not movies that are simply co-produced by a Canadian company, but otherwise aren't Canadian in any substantive sense (story, lead actors, setting, director, writer, etc.). sc: Jessica Postigo Paquette (from the novel by Cassandra Clare). dir: Harald Zwart. - violence.- 130 min.


(1987) * 1/2 Mike McDonald, Dan Redican, Maria Vacratsis, others.....Domestic sitcom about a family (headed by McDonald) summering in a cottage on a lake in Ontario.

This TV series about cottage life just never managed to be funny, with stand-up comic McDonald's broad style seeming unsuited to an acting role and the talented Redican wasted in a supporting part as his dimwitted buddy. Half-hour episodes originally on the CBC.

A MOST DANGEROUS METHOD, the book by John Kerr, was part of the source for the movie, A Dangerous Method

MOTEL * * 1/2 setting: USA.
(1998) Scott McCord, Martine Charron, Frank Bonner, Earl Pastko, Jacob Tierney, Len Carlson, Tamara Bick, Gerry Quigley.....A good natured crook (McCord) witnesses a murder while staying at a motel, wrestles with his conscience since he can't go to the police, and eventually decides to take the law into his own hands. Quirky serio-comic pic has trouble sustaining enough narrative momentum to carry it over the dull spots, but eventually emerges as a refreshingly clever, amusing little effort. Not an unqualified success (it needed tightening), but worth sticking with. It's another one of those Canadian movies with a split personality: Parker-the-writer throws in Canadian gags (like the hero muddling the Lord's Prayer and the national anthem) but Parker-the-director makes sure the currency is American and the Sheriff uniforms and has a token American actor (Bonner in a thankless part but, like the rest of the cast, he's good). sc./dir: David Parker. - partial female nudity, violence, sexual content.- 95 min.

MOTHER LODE * * * 1/2 setting: B.C.
(1982) (/U.S.) Charlton Heston, Nick Mancuso, Kim Basinger, John Marley .....Couple (Mancuso and Basinger), searching for both a missing friend and a gold mine in the remote B.C. mountains, encounter a mysterious and menacing gold prospector (Heston). Off-beat suspenser, maligned by critics, benefits from breathtaking scenery, good performances (particularly Mancuso), ambience and more than a few heart-pounding moments. Pulpy, old fashioned fun. Fraser (who also produced) is Chuck's kid. sc: Fraser Clarke Heston. dir: Charlton Heston. - violence.- 101 min.

THE MOTHERLODE OF THE YUKON see The Adventures of Smoke Belliou

"Mother Variations" a play by Aviva Ravel, became the movie Mothers and Daughters

(1992) Mary Peach, Claire Sims, Rebecca Nelson, Gordon Day, Aaron Tager, Libby Barrett, Rachelle Nelson.....Story of the conflicts that arise when an independent-minded widow (Peach) finds her middle-aged daughter (Nelson), teen-aged granddaughter (Sims) and baby great-granddaughter move in with her. So-so drama might've been better, but the scenes are often flatly directed and the characters largely unappealing. sc: Linda Jarosiewicz, Larry Kent, additional dialogue William Marsden (from the play "Mother Variations" by Aviva Ravel). dir: Larry Kent. 86 min.

MOTIVE (TV Series)

(2013-) * * 1/2 Kristin Lehman ("Angie Flynn"), Louis Ferreira ("Oscar Vega"), Brendan Penny ("Brian Lucas"), Lauren Holly ("Dr. Betty Rogers"), Roger R. Cross ("Boyd Bloom") (1st), Warren Christie ("Mark Cross") (2nd-), with Cameron Bright ("Manny Flynn") (1st), Valerie Tian ("Wendy Sung") (2nd-).....Crime-mystery series about big city cops unravelling the murder-of-the-week puzzle...but with the twist that the viewers (though not the detectives) are told who the killer and who the victim is/will be in the opening scene -- and the ensuing hour both follows the heroes as they investigate while, through flashbacks, the backstory is filled in. In other words, the mystery isn't "who" did it...but "why", with sometimes even the connection between killer and victim unclear in the opening scenes, hence the title Motive. Lehman plays the lead investigator and Ferreira her parter. Penny the young, novice detective. Holly the sardonic medical examiner. Cross played the initial squad commander, a rather non-descript role, replaced by Christie who was given a more dramatic backstory, being "Flynn"'s ex-lover. Bright played "Flynn"'s teenage son. Tian a precocious, young uniformed constable. Though ostensibly made for Canadian TV, the fact that it was announced it would be picked up by an American network (ABC) seems like the producers were angling for that all along. Although nominally set in Vancouver (occasional close ups of Driver Licenses list "Vancouver"...if you squint) the series otherwise goes for a deliberate "Anytown, North American" vibe -- avoiding any Canadianism (Crown Attorney's are identified by the generic title "Prosecutor"). In one episode about customs agents and drug couriers...the smugglers were still from geographically removed Mexico, and used American currency!

This TV series boasts a reasonably intriguing concept premise -- some reviews likening it to the classic American detective series, "Columbo." One could also point to Canadian antecedents, such as Flashpoint (which would begin with the crisis, then show how -- and why -- it began) and even Wojeck, with its frequent use of jumbled chronology narratives. With that said, Motive tends to eschew the flamboyance of "Columbo" -- which was fronted by arguably TV's most singular detective, playing Cat-and-Mouse mind games with A-list guest stars, and the crimes were usually an insanely convoluted Rube Goldbeg-esque (or Heath Robinson-like) tapestry for which Columbo had to find the loose thread. But beyond the "jumbled chronology/show us the killer" hook...Motive is a fairly standard police procedural. The leads are pretty straightforward characters, but Lehman and Ferreira are fine, charismatic actors, and the badinage and warm, on screen camaraderie between them developed nicely as it went. The guest stars are generally quite good -- initially mainly Canadian, then a mix of Canadian and imported Americans in the second season (perhaps to bolster U.S. ratings). And with the principal guest stars often getting meatier, more nuanced parts than in a lot of modern cop dramas. But though sometimes when we reach the solution and learn how/why it all connects, it's been a fairly clever, convoluted ride (like the aforementioned one about the customs agent) others can arrive pretty much where you figured they would. For a series trying to seem most respects it's not (from the quirky coroner to standard interrogation scenes). The result is certainly a well acted, slickly put together and decent detective series...but with nothing that necessarily stands out either. Created by Daniel Creone. Hour long episodes on CTV.

MOUNT ROYAL * * setting: P.Q.
(1989) (/France) Patrick Bauchau, Domini Blythe, Jonathan Crombie, Guylaine St. Onge, Catherine Colvey.....The exploits of a wealthy Montreal family: business man father (Bauchau), reporter daughter, entrepeneur son, etc. This pilot to the short lived CTV series doesn't really come together as a movie onto itself, but deserves credit for trying to suggest one doesn't have to be J.R. to be a successful business man. Bauchau has a lot of charisma. sc. ... dir: Mario Azzopardi. app. 97 min.


(1989) (/France) * * Patrick Bauchau ("Andre Valceur"), Domini Blythe ("Katherine"), Catherine Colvey ("Danielle"), Jonathan Crombie ("Rob"), Guylaine St. Onge ("Stephanie"), with Pier Kohl ("Arnold"), Vlasta Vrana, Emile Genest, Monique Mercure, others.....Drama about a wealthy Montreal family and their company, Valco. Bauchau played the francophone businessman patriarch and Blythe the English classical musician matriarch. Colvey was the investigative journalist daughter; Crombie the entrepeneur son who tended to hang with the wrong people; and St. Onge the fashion model daughter. Kohl was Bauchau's pragmatic assistant; Vrana, Colvey's producer; Genest played Brauchau's father and Mercure the widow of the former's partner.

So-so TV series kind of needed some sort of narrative thrust and never did create an opulent ambience. Still, the idea of a rich guy who didn't believe money was the bottom line and a family that actually got along was a refreshing contrast to Empire, Inc. and U.S. shows like "Dallas". Filmed in Montreal and France. One season of hour-long episodes (including the two-hour opener, reviewed separately) originally on CTV.

THE MOUNTIE  * 1/2  setting: Yuk.
(2011) Andrew Walker, Jessica Paré, Earl Pastko, John Wildman, George Buza, Tony Munch.....In the 1800s, a taciturn Mountie (Walker) arrives at a tiny Yukon village (essentially just a collection of tents) of Russian immigrants under the yoke of a gang of cossacks (led by Buza). Seeming well-intentioned attempt to do a Canadian version of a gritty spaghetti western (with old style Hollywood end titles) -- and not as a spoof or revisionist version. It has the bones of a decent movie but, unfortunately, between its low-budget and some Art House pretensions (or a combo of both) it suffers from a barely minimalist plot and, likewise, minimal dialogue (Pare only has a handful of lines!). Improves a bit in the second half with more dialogue (therefore more character development) and more shooting, and even a plot twist. Strikingly beautiful -- if harsh -- scenery, but even the telling seems choppy and not always coherent (ironic given Clarkson's background is supposedly in film editing). Frankly, can almost seem like a parody, or as if Guy Maddin had turned his attentions to homaging early 1970s westerns. A curiously blasé attitude towards massacres is also odd. a.k.a. The Way of the West (presumably for the U.S. market!). sc: S. Wyeth Clarkson, Grant Sauve, Charles Johnston. dir: S. Wyeth Clarkson.- violence.- 83 min.

(1994) (/Switzerland/France) Valerie Kaprisky, Jean-Francois Pichette, Jolianne L'Allier-Matteau, William Jacques, Mathew Mackay, Elise Guilbault.....Two people, a single mom (Kaprisky) and a man (Pichette) meet and begin to fall in love on a train trip from Montreal to Vancouver. Moody, sensual, quietly compelling and, ultimately, engaging romantic drama with good performances and dialogue. Pool's best film, and certainly her most accessible...though still given to pretentious dream sequences and visuals. But at least they aren't a substitute for story or character this time around. English title: Desire in Motion. sc./dir: Lea Pool. -- partial female nudity, sexual content..- 97 min.

THE MOVIE OUT HERE * 1/2 setting: B.C./Ont..
(2012) Robin Nielsen, Viv Leacock, James Wallis, Katharine Isabelle, Karin Konoval, Gaary Chalk, Nils Hognestad, Artine Brown, Benjamin Arthur, Scott Patey, Raugi Yu, Lisa Durupt, Chasty Ballesteros.....Business takes a good-hearted big city guy (Nielsen) back to his small home town where he ends up trying to help his flaky childhood pal (Wallis) save his home/business from developers -- by organizing a fund raiser party. Raunchy comedy isn't the least bit original in premise -- the "let's save our favourite beach/hotel/camp/hang-out from a greedy developer by throwing a big party (complete with minor celebrity cameos)!" premise dates back decades -- but arguably, that's part of the joke. And the movie has the dubious pedigree of being produced by an advertising company involved in a beer campaign (a certain brand is displayed periodically). But it's actually a good-looking film (when so many Canadian movies are struggling with meagre budgets) with crowd scenes, crane-shots, and just an overall slick professionalism; it admits it's set in Canada (when many movies won't) and it boasts good performances pretty much across the board (heck, even the bit part actresses whose main function is to flash some skin seem competent enough Thespians); and there are some quirky ideas fuelling some of the scenes and banter -- the only real problem is that it just ain't very funny. The dialogue and jokes are incessantly crude and vulgar (if mostly good-natured) but crude and vulgar doesn't automatically make a joke funny -- and a lot of scenes (and gags) run on too long. Still, as a backhanded compliment: the movie can boast an impressive inverse ratio of talent to result -- it seems like it should be better than it is. Celebrity cameos including '90s singer Snow, ex-hockey star Marty McSorley and, of more recent vintage, the band Down With Webster! a.k.a. Frostbite!. sc: David Chiavegato, Rich Pryce-Jones, Matthew Bass (story Catherine Allen, Ian Simpson, Matthew Bass). dir: David Hicks. - partial female nudity; sexual content; extreme violence.- 90 min.

MOVING DAY * * setting: N.S.
(2012) Will Sasso, Charlie Murphy, Gabriel Hogan, Gabrielle Miller, Jonny Harris, Victor Garber, Rachel Crawford.....Story of the day-to-day misadventures of the misfits and troubled losers at a cost-cutting Dartmouth moving company/furniture store combo, focusing on a good hearted schlemiel (Sasso) whose big dreams are simply landing a union job and having a weekend off to spend with his kids. Comedy-drama is slick-looking and boasts a top drawer cast and it's amusing at times, and bittersweet at others. But it can also feel a bit like the set up for a sitcom, or conversely some old NFB-style drama (which would use non-professional actors to improvise dialogue in a rambling, loosely constructed plot -- except this uses professional actors working from a script). Some scenes go on too long, others feel edited so that logic and plausibility is compromised, and though it has a lot of characters and threads most of those threads never really go anywhere unexpected. The movie tries to give all the characters dimension (so no one is wholly "bad"), but only Sasso and American actor Murphy are really that sympathetic (yet it's the characters who are supposed to sustain our interest). The result is a movie with a lot of talent at play, but doesn't quite achieve critical mass. Bit parts include Cathy Jones, Gerry Dee and Shauna McDonald. sc: Mike Clattenburg, Mike O'Neil. dir: Mike Clattenburg. 95 min.

MOVING MALCOLM  * *  setting: B.C.
(2003) Elizabeth Berkley, Benjamin Ratner, John Neville, Jay Brazeau, Babz Chula, Rebecca Harker, Nicholas Lea, Linda Sorensen.....A man (Ratner), still not over being jilted by his ex-fiance (American actress Berkley), reluctantly agrees to help move her ailing father (Neville) into a new apartment while she's out of town. Comedy-drama is meant to be bittersweet...but ends up far more bitter than sweet. One can't decide whether actor-turned-writer-director Ratner is trying to find humour in unfunny matters (the decrepitude of age, dysfunctional relationships, heart break, the mentally handicapped) -- which is probably good -- or whether hhe actually sees humour in it -- which is probably bad. The movie seems like it knows what it wants to be, but can't figure out how to achieve it, so a lot of scenes seem more like place holders to fill out the running time, while characters and their relationships (which is what the movie's about!) don't entirely come into focus, and the resolution is both predictable and disappointing. A few scenes (like the one with Neville and Ratner on the dock) click, but are too few and far between. Some nice performances (particularly Neville), though people like Lea and Sorensen have little to do. But Ratner, the actor, may not be bringing out the elements that Ratner-the-writer intended. sc./dir: Benjamin Ratner (his directorial debut). - sexual content; brief female nudity.- 82 min.


(2014-) * * * Jennifer Pudavick ("Bailey"), Brittany LeBorgne ("Zoe"), Heather White ("Caitlin"), Maika Harper ("Anna"), Kyle Nobess ("Thunder"), Meegwun Fairbrother ("Butterhead"), Rachelle White Wind Arbez ("Vicky"), Christian Campbell ("Jack"), Devery Jacobs ("Lollipop"), others.....Comedy-dramedy set on a Mohawk Reserve near Montreal, focusing primarily on four gals and, a lot, on their search for the right guy, as well as small town (and rez) mores and social expectations: Pudavick, the level-headed one; LeBorgne the professional and over-achiever; White the love-sick one, throwing herself at unsuitable guys; and Harper, just arrived from New York and a stranger to Rez life.

This TV series could be compared a bit to American series like "Sex and the City" or "Girls" in that it's a comedy-drama focusing on female friends and with, it must be said, a big focus on their search for love and sex (so it's sort of a "feminist" series -- and sort of the thing that will have other feminists rolling their eyes) -- as well as exploring First Nation issues and culture (though this is a decidedly more genteel, up-scale Reserve than, say, Blackstone!). And it generally works, and proves that the more you bear down and focus on a specific group or culture (as opposed to trying to be "generic") the more likely you are to uncover the universal. Because ultimately, though the characters may be Mohawk girls, their situations and dreams are pretty universal. Small communities are small communities (you could even liken it, in a way, to a more "adult" version of Corner Gas). It also boasts likeable lead performances. The characters can be flinty, or selfish, or naive, but you can find yourself caring, and rooting, for all four of them in their different ways. It's a bit rough around the edges, and unpolished (including in some of the performances) but it's also sprightly, the episodes unfolding at an easy clip, and with a steady stream of chuckles (yet also an underlying gravitas and even pathos at time). It explores perhaps unexpected "issues" (ie: First Nation prejudice, with the whiter-looking characters sometimes feeling self-conscious of their looks, or with community pressure not to date outside the tribe) even as it isn't necessarily trying to endorse such attitudes (a sub-plot involves "Bailey" grudgingly starting to fall for a white guy). The series can vary in tone, from seeming mainstream "family" humour to "adult," cable-TV scenes (tired of always having to be in control of her day life, "Zoe" starts to experiment with an S&M sex life) -- although there's no nudity or much profanity. Ultimately, at a time when Canadian TV has been inundated with heavily promoted network sitcoms boasting about being "American"-generic in style, this emerges as one of the better, fresher Canadian comedies. Half-hour episodes on APTN.

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