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.


(1990-1993) (/U.S.)   * *  Joe Flaherty ("Fred Edison"), Deborah Theaker ("Casey"), Kathleen Robertson ("Tina"), Avi Phillips ("Ike"), George Buza ("Turner"), Mary Charlotte Wilcox ("Idella"), John Hemphill ("Harry")..... Family sitcom about a middle-class family that was normal in every way...except that the father (Flaherty) was an inventor and, through a lab accident, two of the members were a human fly and a six foot toddler.  Flaherty and Theaker played the parents; Robertson and Phillips the teen-aged children; perpetual bad guy Buza got a change-of-pace role as the overgrown three-year old; Wilcox was the aunt married to Hemphill as the housefly with the human head.

This expensive-looking TV series benefited from a genuine gentle sweetness, but the rhythm was kind of sluggish and the jokes more cute than funny.  Inoffensive, but it should've been much better.  Based on, of all things, a video game.  Jane Siberry sang the theme song and director David Cronenberg had a cameo in one episode.  Though filmed in Toronto, it went for the Anytown, North America feel.  Half-hour episodes on YTV. 

Manic   * * *  setting: Ont.
(1993) Ron White, Fiona Reid, Gordon Michael Woolvett, Sharon Bernbaum, Richard Fitzpatrick, Dody Bienenstock.....Professor and family man (White) begins having extreme mood swings as a result of manic depressive syndrome.  Good-looking, hour-long "issue" drama is much better than it sounds thanks to some strong performances (especially White) and good direction.  Though the resolution, depending on your P.O.V., is either important...or grossly irresponsible.  sc: David Laing Dawson, Alex Chapple. dir: Alex Chapple.

(2004-)  * *  Lorraine Ansell ("Victoria Mann"), Tori Hammond ("Ronnie Mann"), Patrick McKenna ("Jerry Noggins"), Chris Clements a.k.a. Christopher Lee Clements ("Ty Lennox"), Ben Kelly ("Terry Broadfoot"), with Derek Diorio ("Serge").....Comedy about an uptight executive (Ansell) who is reluctantly paired with her earthy sister (Hammond) to take over the family business...running a male strip club. McKenna plays a talent agent who gets acts for the club; Clements one of the chief dancers; and Kelly the club's stand up comic. Diorio (who co-created) appeared as the club's regular M.C. Like a lot of recent Canadian series (from Paradise Falls to Show Me Yours), one suspects part of the impetus behind this was just to come up with a premise that might seem a bit naughty (with plenty of oiled male biceps flexing in the background). 

Made by the same team behind the movie, House of Luk, this is a similar mix of vices and virtues. Some witty lines here and there, but the characters are kind of obnoxious and the delivery often seems a bit off, as if they can't quite decide on the tone -- is this a knee slappin' sitcom, or a realist drama with humour? As well, the approach to plotting can seem a bit, well, lax, as if they haven't quite grasped narrative progression, or cause and effect. In one episode, the club hires a replacement M.C. woefully ill-suited to the job; this is dragged out for most of the episode, then they fire him...the end. Uh, I'm not sure I'd call that a plot (or even a sub-plot). Filmed in Ottawa, and using some local talent. Half-hour episodes on Bravo. 

MANUEL, A SON BY CHOICE see Manuel, le fils emprunte

(1986) Francisco Rabal, Nuno Da Costa, Kim Yarashevskaya, Luiz Saraiva, Isabel Serra.....Young boy runs away from home, only to gradually befriend an aging veteran of the Spanish Civil War who tells him something about the war and the politics of anarchism.  So-so little film runs out of story before the end, but the political talk, complete with idealism, ambiguity and hypocrisy, might be good for older kids.  Some of the material might be a bit "mature".  English title: Manuel, a son by choice.  sc: Gerald Wexler (French shooting script Monique Proulx, Nardo Castillo). dir: Francois Labonte.

MANUFACTURING CONSENT: Noam Chomsky and the Media   * * *  setting: USA.
(1992) (/Holland/Finland/Norway/Australia).....Documentary about U.S. linguist and social commentator Chomsky and his theories that public opinion is shaped by the media which, in turn, is controlled by a business and political elite.  Film starts out being everything it criticizes: glib and superficial.  But becomes better and more provocative as it gets into concrete examples.  Interesting, even if you don't always agree with him, but the film itself could have been more indepth, providing better background and research.  And the fact that Canada (and other countries) are so interested in an American commentating on, largely, American events, raises its own disturbing questions about the media's avoidance of issues.  This review applies to the approximately 95 min. directors' cut for CBC TV.  dir: Peter Wintonick, Mark Achbar. 185 min.

THE MANY LIVES OF ALBERT WALKER  a.k.a.a.k.a. Albert Walker

THE MANY TRIALS OF ONE JANE DOE  * * * 1/2  setting: CND.
(2003) (/U.K.) Wendy Crewson, Steven Mackintosh, Gary Lewis, Sarah Constible, Jacob Tierney, Johnathan Whittaker, Kristen Holden-Ried, Matt Cooke, Thomas Mitchell, Eric Peterson, Janet Bailey.....True story of a Toronto woman (Crewson) who is raped...then sues the police after learning the police knew she was a potential victim ahead of time but never warned her -- essentially using her, and other women, as bait. Taut made-for-CBC TV movie avoids the lurid/shock value of too many such movies (the movie begins immediately after the rape) and benefits from its unvarnished, warts-and-all approach, and a moody, mesmerizing minimalism (no music score). Well-acted, particularly by a compelling Crewson: she's always been a fine, dependable actress, but this time she truly loses herself in the role. And Ciccoritti only occasionlly lapses into distracting directorial affectations. Provocative and compelling. Received Geminis for Best Actress (Crewson), Script and Direction. sc: Karen Walton. dir: Jerry Ciccoritti. 91 min.

MAP OF THE HUMAN HEART * * 1/2  setting: CDN./other
(1992) (/Australia/France/U.K.) Patrick Bergin, Anne Parillaud, Jason Scott Lee, Robert Joamie, Annie Galipeau, Jeanne Moreau, John Cusack.....Story of an Inuk man and how, as a child (Joamie) in a Montreal hospital in the '30s, he befriends a metis girl (Galipeau), and later they meet again as adults (imports Lee and Parillaud) in wartime London.  Bittersweet romantic drama boasts striking visuals and an ambitious story, but everything is too perfunctory: scenes, dialogue, motivation.  An interesting, pretentious movie that desperately wants to be "important" -- with omens and talk of destiny -- but ultimately is more gloss than substance.  Joamie and Galipeau are more interesting than their adult counterparts.  sc: Louis Nowra (story Vincent Ward). dir: Vincent Ward. -- partial female nudity and casual male nudity.- 108 min.

LE MARAIS  * * 1/2  setting: other
(2002) Gregory Hlady, Paul Ahmarani, Gabriel Gascon, Jennifer Morehouse, James Hyndman, Alex Ivanovici, Elyzabeth Wailing, Karina Aktouf.....In 19th Century europe, two innocent outsiders -- a man (Hlady) and his disfigured, demonic-looking adopted son (Ahmarani) -- become suspected by some of the townsfolk when a local woman goes missing. Parable boasts a more complex story than that synopsis implies, and is off-beat and intriguing for the most part, with decent performances from Hlady and Ahmarani. But its genuine ambitions outstrip its execution, suffering from some technical clumsiness, confusion in the presentation of some scenes (recognizing what's a flashback and what's the present), and the surreal, magic realism aspects overwhelm the narrative in the climax. Still, worth a look, even as it doesn't sustain itself. English title: The Marsh. sc./dir: Kim Nguyen. - sexual content, brief female nudity.- 83 min.

THE MARCH   * *  setting: other
(1990) (/International) Juliet Stevenson, Malick Bowens, Dermot Crowley, Joseph Mydell, Jean-Claude Bouillon, Sverre Anker Ousdal.....A North African messiah (Bowens) leads an exodus toward Europe to protest third world poverty and an EC commissioner (Stevenson) must try to resolve things before they get out of hand.  Seemingly well-intentioned drama ends up more muddled than provocative.  Talky but not saying much with uninspired direction.  Not really Canadian, this is essentially a British movie that was backed by literally a score of public broadcasters from all over the world including the CBC.  sc: William Nicholson. dir: David Wheatley. 100 min.

MARGARET'S MUSEUM  * * 1/2  setting: N.S.
(1996) (/U.K.) Helena Bonham Carter, Kate Nelligan, Clive Russell, Craig Olejnik, Andrea Morris, Kenneth Welsh, Peter Boretski.....Story of various characters in a Nova Scotia mining town in the 1950s, focusing on a spirited young woman (Carter) who falls in love with an ex-miner (Russell) who vows never to go back to it, only to have the mine, which has killed half her family, loom over them perpetually.  Dark, although witty and funny, drama has some nice performances (Brit Russell, Canuck Nelligan) and clever writing, but it's a bit lean on story with few real surprises, though the resolution is good.  At its core, though, is the riveting British actress Carter, who holds your interest even when the film falters.  Gritty, but the film never quite evokes the "quiet desperation" that is so much at the heart of all the characters.  Received six Genies including Best Actress (Carter), Supporting Actress (Nelligan), and Supporting Actor (Welsh).  That's director Ransen as the male tourist at the beginning.  sc: Gerald Wexler, Mort Ransen (from the story -- and subsequent novel -- "The Glace Bay Miner's Museum" by Shelldon Currie). dir: Mort Ransen. - brief female nudity.- 114 min.

MARGARITA   * * 1/2   setting: Ont.
(2012) Nicola Correia-Damude, Claire Lauter, Patrick McKenna, Christine Horne, Maya Ritter, Marco Grazzini.....Story of a pretty immigrant Mexican über-nanny (Correia-Damude) who the family regards as "almost" family (she's basically the mom to the daughter), but who they exploit, expecting her to also be the housekeeper, handy(wo)man, etc. -- and the dilemmas (on all sides) when the family's finances take a downturn and they decide they have to let her go. Drama (or comedy-drama or dramedy) has fine performances, an energetic tempo, mostly rounded characters, and good scenes and amusing dialogue -- but when trying to deal with its "issues" of domestic servitude, dysfunctional families, and immigration, can get oddly clunky in its self-conscious earnestness, while making standard points and familiar digs (the parents are presented as oblivious liberals, the mother devoting herself to social causes while neglecting her family -- giving it an almost conservative subtext). It can feel like a cross between a sitcom and an earnest exposé that's been stretched out to movie length. Even the sensibilities can veer about: it's sort of family-friendly (with hardly any profanity) yet then has moments of brief nudity and even sensuality (there's a mild sex scene with Horne as her lesbian lover). It's a tough call because it's a good, likeable movie in execution (in terms of acting, pacing, and some good dialogue) but wrapped around a thin core plot. sc: Laurie Colbert, Margaret Webb. dir: Dominique Cardona, Laurie Colbert. - brief female nudity; sexual content.- 87 min.

MARIE-ANNE   * * 1/2  setting: P.Q./Alt.
(1978) Andree Pelletier, John Juliani, Tantou Martin (Tantoo Cardinal), David Schumman, William Dowson, Gordon Tootoosis.....True story of city-bred Marie-Anne Lagemodiere (Pelletier), one of the first white women to go west with her fur trading husband (Juliani).  Likeable, if not entirely riveting little drama.  Performances vary.  Pelletier is appealing and Juliani is very good (and does a convincing accent too).  sc: Marjorie Morgan, adapted by George Salverson. dir: R. Martin Walters. 88 min.

MARINE LIFE  * 1/2  setting: B.C.
(2001) Cybill Shepherd, Peter Outerbridge, Alexandra Purvis, Gabrielle Miller, Michael Hogan, Tyler Labine, Suki Kaiser.....A good-hearted tug boat captain (Outerbridge) tries to be an emotional anchor for his middle-aged girl friend (Shepherd) and her mixed up kids, some young adults, one not...told, nominally, through the eyes of her youngest (Purvis) -- who dislikes him. Comedy-drama wants to be a rambling, quirky tale of eccentric, dysfunctional -- but lovable -- people. And maybe in defter hands it would be. But the blend of comedy and drama is often awkward and too often the characters are more obnoxious and grating than endearingly quirky (admittedly, American Sheppard isn't unlikeable, just flakey). When Outerbridge strays part way can't entirely blame him (it's his wanting to return to the fold that's harder to credit). Choppy and confusing at times, too, as if scenes -- or at least segues between scenes -- are missing. There's a feeling a good movie is straining just below the surface, but it never quite emerges. Too bad. sc: Rob Forsyth, Lori Lansens (from the novel by Linda Svendsen). dir: Anne Wheeler. - sexual content, brief male nudity.- 95 min.

MARION BRIDGE  * * 1/2  setting: N.S.
(2003) Molly Parker, Rebecca Jenkins, Stacy Smith, Marguerite McNeil, Ellen Page, Hollis McLaren.....Three wilful adult sisters reunite when their mother becomes terminally ill, dredging up dark family secrets. Drama is decently acted, written, and directed, and nicely evokes a maritime ambience (with even Parker and Jenkins adopting the appropriate accents), but all the characters just seem to snipe and bitch at each other incessantly (sometimes for comic effect, some times dramatic) and although perhaps all too true of some family dynamics, as a movie, it can just get aggravating, as you don't really care about any of them. However, like another MacIvor script (Past Perfect), later revelations cast the early scenes in a new light, and the movie becomes better, and the characters more sympathetic, as it goes, making it more rewarding if you stick with it. But filmmakers need to realize that just because they know how it will all pay off, the audience doesn't, and therefore has to be coaxed along as the story unfolds. Nice use of Canadiana in the title and its significance to the story. sc: Daniel MacIvor (from his play). dir: Wiebke von Carolsfeld. 90 min.

MARK OF THE BEAST * *  setting: Ont.
(198-) James Gordon, Carolyn Guillet, David Smukler, William Lebans, Charlene Richards.....College kid (Gordon) finds he has an incriminating video tape of an assassination by a secret cult -- and they know he's got it.  Not bad shoe-string budgeted suspenser with an O.K. performance from Gordon.  A better than average Emmeritus-CHCH production.  Filmed on video.  sc: Robert Stewart, Mike Fischer. dir: Robert Stewart. -- violence.-

MARKED FOR DEATH   *  setting: Ont.
(1983) David Sisak, Phil Rush, Karen Cannata.....A man thinks he's witnessed a murder from a train; the killers start to stalk him.  Shoe-string suspense flick.  Filmed on video.  An Emmeritus-CHCH production.

MARKED MAN  * * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1997) Roddy Piper, Miles O'Keefe, Jane Wheeler, Alina Thompson, Tyrone Benskin, Christopher Bolton, Clare Sims, Dennis O'Connor.....American convict (Piper) gets wrongly implicated in a jailhouse assassination, escapes from prison and, while being hunted by the authorities, tries to track down whoever really ordered the murder. Entertaining enough, tightly-paced straight-to-video action pic with mainly competent performances. sc: Thomas Ritz. dir: Marc Voizard. - violence.- 94 min.

MARKER * 1/2
(2005) Iris Graham, Jonathan Cherry, Philip Granger, Eric Johnson, Sonja Bennett, Hardee T. Lineham, Susan Hogan.....A teenage girl (Graham) in a small town begins to undergo an odd mutation and learns her town harbours a secret past. Atypically outlandish premise (for a Canadian movie), this TV movie starts out promising, with good performances, but is rather slow moving, and less horror than fantasy. Unfortunately, the sub-text, where it's partly an allegory for puberty (echoing the earlier Ginger Snaps) is so heavy handed it thumps! Becomes more of a thriller toward the end but, though it has some deliberately humorous bits, it also veers (presumably unintentionally) into out-and-out silliness, either because the writer was picturing something that the director failed to pull off, or because some of those involved just didn't take it that seriously. The result, despite the potential, and the good things about it -- it misfires. sc: Anthony Grieco. dir: John Paizs. 93 min.

THE MARRIAGE BED   * * 1/2  setting: Ont.
(1986) Linda Griffiths, Layne Coleman, Jan Rubes, Martha Gibson, Vivian Reis, Clare Coulter, Lyn Jackson, R.H. Thomson.....Story of a pregnant woman (Griffiths), deserted by her husband (Coleman), as Christmas approaches and the advice she receives from equally unhappy and mixed-up friends and relatives.  Griffiths is excellent in this downbeat made-for-CBC TV comedy-drama, and heads a good cast with good dialogue.  But if slice-of-life isn't your cup of tea, be warned.  Won Best Movie/Special Gemini.  sc. Anna Sandor (from the novel by Constance Beresford-Howe). d. Martin Lavut. app. 97 min.

MARRIED LIFE (movie) see Married Life TVMS

MARRIED LIFE (TVMS)   * * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1995) (/U.S.) Robert Cait, Ken Finkleman, Wayne Flemming, Karen Hines, Rosemary Radcliffe, Jeremy Hotz, Mark Farrell.....A documentary filmmaker (Finkleman) trys to make a weekly series about a newly married American couple (Cait and Hines) and then finds the need for ratings dictates some...alterations.  Comic satire of documentaries and "reality" TV shows has a weak first episode but becomes funnier, and more extreme, as it goes along, but ultimately is more often cute than hilarious and obvious rather than insightful, with a kind of non-ending.  Still, amusing and an interesting precursor to Finkleman's much better weekly series The Newsroom.  Four half-hour (ie: 22 minute) episodes, but also shown edited together as a movie.  sc./dir: Ken Finkleman.

THE MARSH  see Le Marais

MARTHA, RUTH & EDIE   * *  setting: Ont.
(1988) Jennifer Dale, Margaret Langrick, Andrea Martin, Lois Maxwell, Jeff Christensen, Kate Trotter, Helen Hughes, Chuck Shamata, Tom Jackson..... Three woman meet at a seminar and trade stories of self-discovery.  Good premise but with only so-so results.  Second story is the best, if only because the humour is better realized.  sc: Anna Sandor, Janet Maclean, Barbara O'Kelly (from the stories "How I met My Husband" by Alice Munro, "California Aunts" by Cynthia Flood, "Guilt" by Betty Lambert). dir: Norma Bailey, Daniele J. Suissa, Deepa Mehta Saltzman. 91 min.

MARY AND JOSEPH -- A Story of Faith a.k.a. Mary and Joseph: In the Beginning There Was Love

MARY AND JOSEPH: In the Beginning There Was Love * * 1/2  set: other
(1979) (/U.S.) Blanche Baker, Jeff East, Lloyd Bochner, Paul Hecht, Marilyn Lightstone, Stephen McHattie, Colleen Dewhurst, Shay Duffin, Murray Matheson.....Pre-Jesus story of Mary and Joseph (Baker and East), how they met, courted, his flirtation with revolutionaries and other troubles.  Somewhat lackluster drama, with scenes and characterization never reaching the dramatic potential that's hinted at.  Performances vary, with Dewhurst coming across best.  Still, if you're in the mood for a costumed biblical story, and you've seen all the rest, this one benefits from an unfamiliar story.  Another Canadian co-produced take on similar material came twenty years later in The Nativity. a.k.a. Mary and Joseph -- A Story of Faith (with about twenty minutes trimmed off).  sc: Carmen Culver. dir: Eric Till. 120 min.

The Mary Higgins Clark Collection.....The American suspense novelist has found herself a very popular property, at least as far as Canadian producers are concerned. In the early 1990s, four movies were made for the pay-TV station, First Choice (now the Movie Network), and co-produced with France, based on novels and short stories by U.S. suspense writer Mary Higgins Clark. Under the banner title The Mary Higgins Clark Collection, they were largely uninteresting, cliche riddled films and had the same feel as the earlier series of films by 3 Themes-Hamster -- an assembly line mentality with very little soul. The films generally ignored their Canadian and French financers in favour of pretending they were American -- (only one was set in Canada and, even then, the main character was American) often with imported U.S. actors. titles: For Better and For Worse (a.k.a. Terror Stalks the Class Reunion), Double Vision, A Cry in the Night and Weep No More My Lady. Subsequently, Clark's work fueled two later batches of TV movies (by other Canadian producers) in the late 1990s, and early 2000. Among those films was All Around the Town.

MARY SILLIMAN'S WAR a.k.a. The Way of Duty

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