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.

MY AMERICAN COUSIN  * * 1/2  setting: B.C.
(1985) Margaret Langrick, John Wildman, Richard Donat, Jane Mortifee..... Young girl (Langrick, in her film debut) and her family receive a surprise visit from her seeming exotic California cousin (Wildman) in '59.  She develops a crush on him but he has other things on his mind.  Low-key, autobiographical comedy is well acted by the two young leads and can best be described as "harmless slice-of-life".  Sequel: American Boyfriends.  Won six Genies including Best Picture, Actress (Langrick), Actor (Wildman), Script and Director.  sc./dir: Sandy Wilson. 95 min.

(2012) Jonas Chernick, Emily Hampshire, Sarah Manninen, Vik Sahay, Melissa Elias, Stephen Eric McIntyre.....A mild mannered accountant (Chernick), dumped by his fiancee (Manninen) over his sexual inadequacies, hopes to win her back by recruiting a good-hearted stripper (Hampshire) to guide him in expanding his sexual experiences. Good performances, and slick-looking, this romantic comedy wants to seem provocative with its raunchy sexual themes. But it's in service of a generic (and thin) plot (the final third feels largely extraneous as it's all pretty pre-ordained) and where even the "point" seems vague (how do the sexual escapades lead to him being a better, more confident person overall?) -- ironic given an end credit "thank you" impling the script had been worked on for years! It's amusing more often than funny, with occasional flashes of emotion, but some scenes could've used tightening (and there's an implausible riff on the ol' "You must choose me or her -- right now!" scene...when it's actually a safety issue!) It's not a bad movie, and certainly has its fans, but raunchy antics aside, it's a bit bland. Marketed as being an attempt to emulate the spat of raunchy Hollywood comedies and -- it was implied -- atypical for "safe" Canada...but raunchy Canadian comedies are actually quite common, including Le decline de l'empire Americain, Young People F*cking, The Year of the Carnivore and Love, Sex and Eating the Bones (there was even a book on Canadian film called Weird Sex and Snow Shoes). The "Star Wars" jokes are funny but, not to get all nerdy, Luke did bail in the middle of his training! sc: Jonas Chernick. dir: Sean Garrity. - explicity sexuality, male and female nudity.- 103 min.

(1981) Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier, Neil Affleck, Don Francks, Keith Knight, Cynthia Dale.....20 years after a couple of bloody murders, the killer may have returned to kill anyone who has a Valentine's Day party.  Francks plays the local police officer.  Gory slasher flick isn't bad...for its type.  Nice folk song at the end.  sc: John Beaird (story Stephen Miller). dir: George Mihalka. - extreme violence.- 91 min.

My Daniel, an American children's novel by Pam Conrad, was used as the source for the movie The Dinosaur Hunter.

MY DOG VINCENT  * * *  setting: Ont.
(1998) Chuck Campbell, Ben Carlson, Gavin Crawford, Zerha Leverman, Kyle Downes, Fiona Byrne, Joulie Wheler.....Story of three twentysomething friends in 1993 who still live at home, hang out together, have wry conversations, and grudgingly start to grow up when they begin relationships with the opposite sex; threaded through is the desire of one of them to throw a memorial for actor Vincent Price. Low-key comedy has engaging actors and quirky dialogue that is often genuinely amusing in a Barry Levinson-way (the characters make no less than two references to Levinson films) -- though it can be a little too self-consciously cutesy. It's no "Diner", but surprisingly agreeable. At the same time, it's kind of laidback and aimless. Only gradually do you realize that you're sort, kind of, enjoying it, with Campbell's relationship with deadpan Leverman providing a narrative anchor. One of the first, and one of the best, of a genre that has become dominant among low-budget Canadian filmmakers: meandering, "quirky" films about aimless teens and young adults. Unapologetic Canadianisms are refreshing. sc./dir: Michael McGowan. 87 min.

MY FATHER'S ANGEL * * *  setting: B.C.
(1999) Tony Nardi, Timothy Webber, Lynda Boyd, Tygh Runyan, Asja Pavlovic, Vanessa King, Brendan Fletcher.....Story of two immigrant families in Vancouver, one Bosnian Muslim refugees, emotionally and psychologically devastated by their experiences in the former Yugoslavia, and the other Serbs who emigrated before the war and think themselves removed from the conflicts. But the Serb father (Webber) begins to realize otherwise when their paths cross. Complex, fairly compelling drama, nicely acted, particularly by Webber and Nardi (who received the Best Actor Genie). The final scene, though, pushes credulity for the sake of the scene. Mort Ransen (one of the producers) appears as the dispatcher. sc: Frank Borg. dir: Davor Marjanovic. - brief female nudity.- 88 min.

MY KIND OF TOWN  * 1/2  setting: B.C.
(1984) Peter Smith, Martina Schliessle, John Cooper, Michael Paul, Michael Marks.....Young man (Smith) wants to get out of his dying hometown after the local mill is shut down.  Meanwhile the Mayor wants to make the town a tourist attraction.  Some moments of "slice-of-life" work in this low budget, low key comedy/drama but are undermined by weak performances.  sc./dir: Charles Wilkinson.

My Life in Court, the autobiography by U.S. attorney Louis Nizer, was the source for the TV movie A Case of Libel


(1996-1997)   * * *  Michael Yarmush ("Eric Johansson"), Callum Keith Rennie ("Johnny"), Marley Otto ("A.J. Burke"), Jennifer Clement ("Zoe"), with Bucky Hill, Joy Coghill, Jay Brazeau, others.....Story of a boy (Yarmush) sent to live with his young aunt and uncle (Clement and Rennie) in Gimli, Manitoba after the death of his mother.  Otto played his best friend, a Tom Boy.  Hill was another friend; Coghill his great aunt; and Brazeau the disapproving manager who ran the hotel "A.J."'s parents owned.  The title referred to a junkyard dog that the hero perceived as kind of a mystical symbol of bad luck.

Slick, expensive-looking family comedy-drama was well done technically, but unspectacular in concept.  More the sort of thing adults and kids would watch together, as a "bonding" sort of thing, than something either group would necessarily seek out on their own -- kind of like a lot of critically revered Canadian family shows.  Still, on that level, it was well done.  Nice theme music by John Welsman.  Based on a Swedish film which, in turn, was based on a book by Reidar Jonsson.  Developed for TV by Reidar Jonsson, Donna Matson-Jonsson, David Brandes, Barbara O'Kelly.  Half-hour episodes originally aired on The Movie Network. 

(2003) (/Spain) Sarah Polley, Scott Speedman, Mark Ruffalo, Deborah Harry, Amanda Plummer, Leonor Watling, Maria de Medeiros, Julian Richings, Kenya J. Kennedy, Jessica Amlee.....A young wife and mother (Polley) learns she has terminal cancer but keeps it secret from her family, instead making a list of the things she wants to accomplish before she dies. Slow moving bittersweet drama has nice performances and goes for an effective neo-realism in its style in some scenes (even as other scenes lack authenticity -- or, just to nitpick, there's a reference to siamese twins of separate genders which I think is an impossibility). But for a movie that is entirely concerned with character and emotion, the characters are a bit vague, and the result is a little aloof and antiseptic, where the plot doesn't really expand much from the initial premise. The heroine makes a list (an awkward scene in that it's hard for the viewer to tell what she's written) then proceeds to act upon them hardly at all (she wants to have an affair because she's only ever been with her nice guy husband...but only ends up hooking up with a guy who initiates the relationship; she promises to find a prospective new wife for her husband then, after making no effort in that direction for much of the movie, suddenly focuses on her next door neighbour -- maybe her list should've been things she wanted to do that didn't require taking more than three steps!) Alfred Molina, quite good, appears unbilled in one scene. sc./dir: Isabel Coixet (from the story "Pretending the Bed is a Raft" by Nanci Kincaid). 106 min.

MY MOTHER'S GHOST   * 1/2  setting: Man.
(1996) Elisabeth Rosen, Gabrielle Rose, Barry Flatman, Janet Wright, Gordon Tootoosis, Barna Moricz, Frank Adamson.....A teen (Rosen) must deal with moving to a dude ranch run by her father (Flatman), her mother's (Rose) increasing instability, and ghostly apparitions -- all after the death of her younger brother.  Made-for-TV drama wants to be both a youth-aimed drama and a ghost story, but has trouble integrating the two.  In fact, everytime Rosen sees a ghost, the next scene doesn't even acknowledge it.  It also suffers from frequently implausible behaviour and leads who aren't particularly interesting, or even likeable.  A shame, too, because some of the ghost scenes are actually kind of spooky.  sc: Heather Conkie (from the novel by Margaret Buffie). dir: Elise Swerhone. 95 min.

"My Quarrel With Hersh Rasseyner", a story by Chaim Grade, was turned into the movie with the shorter title of The Quarrel


(1988-1991)   * * 1/2  Derek McGrath ("Dr. Benjamin Jeffcoat"), Jerry O'Connell ("Andrew Clemmons"), Wanda Cannon ("Stephanie"), Marsha Moreau ("Erin"), with Christopher Bolton ("Kirk Stevens") (2nd-), others.....Family comedy/drama about a boy (imported O'Connell) who acquires super powers after being zapped accidentally by his inventor neighbour (McGrath).  Cannon played his mom and Moreau his little sister; Bolton was added later as his best friend.

Not really adventures, this well-regarded TV series was O.K. but a little dry at times.  Filmed in Toronto, though not admitting it.  Three seasons of half-hour episodes initially on CTV. 

MY UNCLE ANTOINE see Mon Oncle Antoine


(1995-1996) (/New Zealand)   * *  Alan Scarfe ("Capt. Cyrus Harding"), Colette Stevenson ("Joanna Pencroft"), Gordon Woolvett ("Herbert Pencroft"), Stephen Lovatt ("Gideon Spilett"), John Bach ("Capt. Nemo"), C. David Johnson ("Jack Pencroft"), Andy Marshall ("Pr. Neb Brown")..... Family drama about some Americans and a British journalist who escape a rebel prison in a hot air balloon during the U.S. civil war in 1865.  Blown off course, they crash on a deserted island where the legendary Captain Nemo (here portrayed more malevolently than writer Jules Verne intended) secretly observes and manipulates them with his array of futuristic devices.

Many filmmakers have tried to do a dramatic weekly series about people trapped on an island, and they've never taken off (only the U.S. series "Gilligan's Island" was a success, but it was a comedy).  It's not entirely unworkable, but the severely limited environment would test even the best writers.  But this good-looking TV series, based on Jules Verne's novel, was pretty dreary even for the genre.  It started out fast-paced, but quickly bogged down, suffering from uninteresting, even unlikeable, characters and plodding plots.  The acting was respectable, but largely uninspired -- even Scarfe lacked his usual flare.  The Canadian made The Swiss Family Robinson TV series -- done almost 20 years earlier -- was more interesting.  Filmed in New Zealand.  One season.  When it first aired on the Family Channel, the episodes were hour-long (45 min.), but when it cropped up on Global a year later, they had been broken up into half-hour episodes. 


(1999-2001) (/U.S.)  * *  Adrian Pasdar ("Declan Dunn"), Rae Dawn Chong ("Peggy Fowler"), with Alisen Down ("Miranda").....Fantasy/drama about a University anthropologist (Pasdar) and a skeptical, embittered psychiatrist (Chong) who investigate paranormal occurences in Portland, Oregon, USA. Down plays a deadpan technocrat who helps them in their investigations. Pasdar is American, Chong and Down are Canadian.

This TV series seems like a marriage between "The X-Files" and "Touched By an Angel", in that it follows a believer and a skeptic investigating weird events (like "The X-Files" or the earlier Canadian series Beyond Reality) but instead of being horror or thrillers, the episodes are meant to be uplifting human dramas (ala "Touched by an Angel"). Pasdar and Chong are good and play well together, and Down is also good, but the human drama is often kind of unevenly developed, the shallow plots lacking complexity, relying too much on the supernatural to give the stories heart. You don't need to believe in starships to enjoy "Star Trek", or alien beings to enjoy "The X-Files", but there's a feeling you have to believe in the paranormal to get much out of this series.

Curiously unremarked upon in Canada, given that this is one of the few Canadian series (and the first since Due South) to be simulcast on a major U.S. network (NBC) -- which Canadian film people, and critics, generally regard as the brass ring. Created by Peter O'Fallon. Hour long episodes, shown in Canada on CTV. 

The Mysterious Moon Men of Canada see Short Films

(1975) Michael MacDonald, Angele Knight, Jean-Louis Millette, Kurt Schiegle, Marthe Thiery, Michel Maillot.....An orphaned brother and sister (MacDonald and Knight) discover a plan to smuggle diamonds in a hockey puck and must alternately flee and pursue the bad guys.  Kid-aimed suspense flick starts rolling in the first couple of minutes and is structured like a matinee why does it seem sluggish?  The scenes themselves are overlong and sparsely scripted, and though extensive use of Quebec City and Montreal locations (including a climax at a Montreal Canadiens hockey game) is interesting, the film plays too much like a travelogue.  sc./dir: Jean LaFleur, Peter Svatek. 88 min.

(1993) Bruce Dinsmore, Miranda de Pencier, Mark Camacho, Burke Lawrence, Ruth Marshall, Macha Grenon, Micheline Dahlander, Felicia Shulman.....Man (Dinsmore) struggles with various relationships, including a woman (Marshall) he loves but who regards him only as a friend, while participating in a sometimes-hostile study on male attitudes.  Comedy-drama is mainly talk, talk and talk with crisp dialogue and some good performances, particularly Dinsmore ...which makes it less ponderous and more interesting than so many Canadian movies.  Not as incendiary as it sounds and vaguely reminiscent of The Masculine Mystique.  sc: John Hamilton, David Reckziegel. dir: John Hamilton. 91 min.

(2001-) (/Germany)  * * 1/2  Meredith Henderson ("Cleo Bellows"), Christopher Jacot ("Alex Bellows"), Wendy Anderson ("Lily Bellows"), Joseph Kell ("Matt Bellows"), with Shaun Johnston, others.....Youth-aimed fantasy about two modern day teens (Henderson and Jacot) whose dad has disappeared, and is accused of having stolen a mystic artifact -- the Gorgon stone -- from a museum. They discover that he was working on a computer system cataloguing ancient myths and legends, and that they can enter the various myths -- though whether they are computer simulations, or reality, is a recurring question in the series. Every episode Jacot enters a myth, searching for their dad, while wheelchair bound Henderson monitors him and kibitzes from their home. Anderson plays their unsuspecting mom, and Kell their missing dad. Johnston cropped up occasionally as a cop investigating the theft. 

Since the hero would manifest inside the myth as an existing character (who Henderson had to research), the series could be seen as a myth-based version of "Quantum Leap". Despite strong performances from the two teen-age leads, this adventure series, with its strong educational quotient, is probably best suited for its younger, target audience, rather than as something liable to have a crossover appeal for adult viewers. Still, not bad for what it is, though for a series that's being so clearly informative, they might try avoiding anachronisms (like re-enacting the Greek myth of Orpheus...but having the hero sing an English folk tune written thousands of years later!) Best bets: the one based on the Japanese folk tale. a.k.a. Mythquest. One season of hour long episodes, show in Canada on Showcase, then the CBC (cut into half-hour episodes).

THE MYTH THAT WOULDN'T DIE   * 1/2  setting: other
(1991) (/France) Erin Gray, Thierry Lhermitte, Jacques Francois, Marc De Jonge, Anne Letourneau, Charles Mayer, Tonya Kinzinger.....American suspense novelist (Gray) becomes embroiled in mystery while staying at a remote French hotel where an auction is being held.  Pretty bad, light-hearted suspenser plays like Agatha Christie -- only badly.  Dumb voice-over doesn't add to the story, and only emphasizes the inanities.  sc: Guy Mullally, Richard Oleksiak, Donald Martin (adaptation Lionel E. Siegel, Philippe Lefebvre). dir: Philippe Lefebvre. 92 min.

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