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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.
* * setting: B.C.
(1986) Robert Wisden, Joanne McIntyre, Ron White, Rachel Crawford..... Idealistic British teacher (Wisden) takes a job in northern B.C. where his class is made up of the most difficult students. After getting nowhere with the regular course, he persuades them to put on a play. No real feel for the personalities of the students in this made-for-CBC TV drama and conflicts arise and are resolved before the viewer can get interested. Well intentioned, but lacks something. Inspired by a true story. It later became a (much better) short-lived TV series. sc: Grahame Woods. dir: James Swan. app. 100 min.
Though a regular TV series that was cancelled very quickly, since the individual episodes form a kind of coherent whole thanks to sub-plots, it could be thought of as a mini-series. Strong, emotionally dramatic drama was better than the vaguely similar Degrassi series, partly because it was aimed at an adult audience, and partly because of the professional actors and the exotic, quasi-arctic locale. Exceptional performances from all concerned. This was a follow-up to the TV movie. Filmed in B.C. (exteriors) and Toronto (interiors). 5 hour long episodes on the CBC.
-984- PRISONER OF THE FUTURE a.k.a. The Tomorrow Man
* * setting: CDN.
(2003) Benjamin Ratner, Angela Vint, Kari Matchett, Sergio Dizio, Carolyn Taylor, Scott McClaren, Chuck Shamata.....Concluding relationships fizzle after 19th months, a man (Ratner) persuades his girlfriend (Vint) they should amicably split up and seek new partners while they still have the comfort of the other for support, while a documentary crew films the process...but, of course, things don't work out so neatly. Comedy is slickly put together, with nice performances all around, particularly Ratner and Vint. But this isn't a romantic-comedy, but rather an unsentimental satire of nerousies, with Ratner a self-obsessed pseudo-intellectual...and deliberately obnoxious. The result is moderately amusing, but maybe not enough so to compensate for its lack of heart. A borderline call, one that could go either way depending on how easy going a mood you're in. a.k.a. Nineteen Months. sc./dir: Randall Cole. 88 min.
1995 QUEBEC - CANADA *
(1983) Kenneth Welsh, Martha Henry, John Neville, Jackie Burroughs, Albert Millaire, Louise Marleau.....In the future, Canada and an independent Quebec are on the verge of war so the Secretary General of the U.N. (Neville) brings the P.M. (Welsh) and the Quebec president (Millaire) together, along with their wives, to try and solve their problems peacefully. Low-budget made-for-TV allegory raises some good points, but is simplistic, wordy, heavy-handed and not very interesting. Laudable intentions, but a boring movie. Sometimes billed as a comedy! a.k.a: Quebec - Canada 1995. sc: Richard Nielsen. dir: John McGreevy. 84 min.
90 DAYS *
* 1/2 setting: P.Q.
(1984) Stefan Wodoslawsky, Christine Pak, Sam Grana, Fernanda Tavares..... One man (Wodoslawsky) trys to get to know his mail-order bride (Pak) while his best friend (Grana) is thrown out by his girl friend and considers being a sperm donor. Low budget, very low-key comedy that works thanks to superb performances though not a lot happens. Follow up to The Masculine Mystique. Sequel: The Last Straw. sc: Giles Walker, David Wilson. dir: Giles Walker. 99 min. (video)
* * setting: P.Q./other
(1999) Anne-Marie Cadieux, Marie Gignac, Richard Frechette, Alexis Martin, Eric Bernier, Marie Brassard, Patrice Godin, Jules Philip, Jean Charest, Tony Conte, Normand Bissonnette.....In 1970, a French-Canadian actress (Cadieux), in Japan as part of the Canadian pavilion at Expo '70, grapples with the realization that she's pregnant, while back home, her separatist boy friend (Martin) gets caught up in the events of the October Crisis. Comedy-drama is a mixture of many elements: an ensemble following a diverse group of interwoven characters, a political drama-satire, and, surprisingly, a silly farce (but told with restraint). Good looking, amusing and atmospheric, nicely evoking its period in costumes and feel. The disparate elements work better than might be expected. Not for all tastes, but arguably Art House director Lepage's most mainstream, most accessible film to date. The title, NÕ, refers to a traditional kind of Japanese theatre -- though its significance is unclear (otherr than the play on the English word). In French. sc: Robert Lepage, Andre Morency, with the cast (from the play "The Words" based on "The Seven Streams of the River Ota"). dir: Robert Lepage. - male nudity.- 84 min. (video)
NO ALIBI *
* setting: USA.
(1999) Dean Cain, Lexa Doig, Eric Roberts, Peter Stebbings, Richard Chevolleau.....New York executive (import Cain) falls for an enigmatic woman (Doig) while his hustler brother (Strebbings) inadvertently steals goods from a mysterious thug (import Roberts). Suspenser wants to be one of those films that takes its time, so you're not quite sure how the different plot threads relate (including half-hearted stabs at being an erotic thriller, but no one seems much enthused about it). But it ends up more meandering, rarely actually surprising with its twists (including such cliches as the rumbled private eye who gets killed after making the fateful phone call. Y'know, the "I can't talk now but I have important info so meet me later - uurk!" sort of call). Never quite establishes any character's P.O.V., so you never quite get inside anyone's head. The performances are respectable enough and, despite the cliches, if the writers and director had put a touch more effort into it, the basic ideas might've worked better. sc: Ivan Kane, John Schafer. dir: Bruce Pittman. - partial female nudity, sexual content, violence.- 93 min. (video)
NO ANGEL *
(1992) Domenic Cuzzocrea, Susan Hamann, Lynn Blackadar, Paul Amato, Chuck Wood, Les Makita (a.k.a. Lubomir Mykytiuk), Lynette Louise.....Womanizing public relations executive (Cuzzocrea) finds the tables turned when he falls for an enigmatic woman (Hamann) and his life is throw into chaos, complicated by the fact his company's latest client has connections to a mobster (Mykytiuk, billed as Les Makita) who is the woman's ex-lover. Low-budget, light drama suffers from uneven though O.K. performances, but mainly because it can't quite settle on what it wants to be. It's amusing...but not a comedy. It's serious, but not quite a drama. It has elements of suspense -- as it becomes clear the woman has a hiddeen agenda -- but one can't quite call it suspenseful. It has some sex and nudity, but not enough to qualify as out-and-out erotica. The writer-director appears as the bumbling guy shadowing the hero. sc./dir: Frank A. Caruso. - partial female nudity, brief male nudity, sexual content.- 100 min.
* * setting: Nfld.
(1990) Barrie Dunn, Bryan Hennessey, Maisie Rillie, Tony Quinn, Ken Mercer, Mary Lewis, Frances Knickle, Frankie O'Flaherty, Rick Mercer.....A troubled extended family gathers when their father is dying and must deal with personal problems and reflections on the Newfoundland economy. So-so drama lets its (vague) politics get in the way of character and story. Technically clumsy, but O.K. performances. sc./dir: Ken Pittman. 90 min.
* * setting: CDN.
(1988) (/France) Helen Shaver, Stephen Macht, Marie Christine Barrault, Robert Bednarsk, Linda Smith, Joanne Vannicola, Jan Rubes.....Successful fashion editor (Shaver), married (to imported Macht) and pregnant, discovers that she may test positive for the AIDS virus. Well-intentioned but rather toothless, paint-by-numbers made-for-TV drama. It sort of deals with the issues...and it sort of doesn't. sc: Donald Martin, Daniele J. Suissa. dir: Daniele J. Suissa. 90 min.
(1995) Shannon Tweed, Robert Davi, Andrew Clay, Roddy Piper, Nicholas Campbell, John Colicos, James Purcell, Judith Scott, Keram Malicki-Sanchez, Polly Shannon.....Terrorists (led by Clay) take a group of beauty pagent contestants hostage, unaware the host of the show (Tweed, obviously hoping to break away from her sex-symbol roles) happens to be a kick-boxing action movie star. How can you tell the difference between a real action/adventure movie and something like this? The filmmakers seem more interested in violence and sadism for its own sake, rather than as part of a story. Add on poor direction, scripting, and ineffective villains and you have a limp little thriller. Nevertheless, it was followed by a sequel. But if you really want to see a Canadian-made "Die Hard" rip-off, check out Gridlock or even Crackerjack instead. sc: Robert Cooper (from a concept by Arthur Baysting). dir: Paul Lynch. - extreme violence.- 99 min. (video)
No Limit, a book by Gary Ross, served as the inspiration for the movie Owning Mahowny.
NO MORE MONKEYS JUMPIN' ON THE
BED * * 1/2 setting: B.C.
(2000) Tom Scholte, Nancy Sivak, Frida Betrani, Babz Chula, Cam Cronin, Sophie Yendole, Erik Whittaker.....Story of various friends and acquaintances and their dysfunctional relationships, focusing on a nice guy (Scholte) who has trouble with women, and his best friend, a woman (Sivak) whose relationship may be on the rocks. Low-budget serio-comic flick (filmed in black and white on video) covers Bruce Sweeney territory, including utilizing some of the same actors. But though maybe not as polished, it's more human, treating its characters with more compassion. The tendency to use a lot of medium and long shots can make it hard to keep track of who's who, though, and it builds to a predictably non-ending. Prominently billed Chula has just one scene as a character's mother. sc./dir: Ross Weber. 76 min.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME (TV Series)
Low-key but likeable TV series was part drama, with self-contained episodic stories, and part soap, with on going sub-plots. Stylishly directed with a good cast it, unfortunately, didn't last long. An independently produced show, it was financed by a host of local stations, perhaps explaining why it continues to be rerun in odd timeslots despite having only a handful of episodes. Denny Doherty was a memorable guest star in one episode. Created by Thomas E. Stewart. 6 half-hour episodes.
NOBODY WAVED GOODBYE
* * * * setting: Ont.
(1964) Peter Kastner, Julie Biggs, Claude Rae, Charmion King, John Vernon, John Sullivan.....Young man (Kastner), who fancies himself an intellectual and a rebel, rejects his parents' middle-class lifestyle and wants to find a better life with his girl friend (Biggs). This classic of Canadian cinema remains a kinetic, vividly unpolished, true-to-life drama (much of the dialogue was improvised) capturing both the good and the bad of youthful idealism. The two leads are especially good. Followed (20 years later) by Unfinished Business. sc./dir: Don Owen. 80 min. (video)
LES NOCES DE PAPIER
* * 1/2 setting: P.Q.
(1989) Genevieve Bujold, Manuel Aranguiz, Dorothee Berryman, Gilbert Sicotte, Jean Mathieu, Theo Spychalski, Monique LePage, Jorge Fajardo..... Melancholy professor (Bujold) reluctantly agrees to a "paper wedding" with a refugee (Aranguiz) so he can stay in Canada and, while trying to fool the authorities, they grow to like each other. Moody, character-oriented drama is slow and overly pretentious, but lingers long after it's over. Strong performances all around and buoyed by funny bits. Bujold's first real starring role in ages, though, which alone makes it worthwhile. It came out around the same time as the similarly-themed U.S. comedy, "Green Card". Plays better on TV (for which it was originally intended). English title: Paper Wedding. sc: Jefferson Lewis (dialogue Lewis, Andree Pelletier, Helene LeBeau, Alberto Kurapel). dir: Michel Brault. 95 min. (video)
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