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.

O Rugged Land of Gold, the journal by Martha Martin, became the TV movie Rugged Gold

Oakmount High   * * 1/2  setting: Alt.
(1985) Susan Hogan, Thomas Peacock, Saul Rubinek.....A mother (Hogan), shocked by her son's anti-Semitism, trys to stop the small town teacher (Peacock) who'd been preaching it, and alienates those around her -- including her son.  Reasonably effective hour-long drama, with a good performance from Peacock.  Made for the CBC's For the Record.

OBSESSED   * * 1/2  setting: P.Q./USA.
(1988) Kerrie Keane, Daniel Pilon, Saul Rubinek, Lynne Griffin, Ken Pogue, Colleen Dewhurst.....Canadian mother (Keane) becomes obsessed with getting the American hit-and-run driver (Rubinek) who killed her son, especially when he is protected from prosecution by treaty.  Good performances (though a bit grisly in the accident scene) in this so-so suspense-drama, but it's unconvincing, especially Keane's character.  Dewhurst (in a tiny part as a judge) received the Best Supporting Actress Genie.  sc: Douglas Bowie (from the novel Hit and Run by Tom Alderman). dir: Robin Spry. - violence.- 105 min.

OCTOBER GALE   * *   setting: Ont.
(2014) Patricia Clarkson, Scott Speedman, Tim Roth, Aidan Devine, Callum Keith Rennie.....A melancholy widow (Clarkson) returns alone to her family's cottage on an island on the Georgian Bay, but finds trouble when a man (Speedman) washes ashore during a storm suffering from a gunshot wound...with bad guys eventually following behind. Slow moving drama-cum-suspenser is good looking with some nice scenery and capable performances. But it suffers from the same problems as a lot of Nadda's films: a minimalist approach to a fairly generic premise, as if she had a concept but went into production before fleshing it out properly. It's ostensibly a thriller, but the suspense scenes are few and far between and never generate much tension. Yet as a character drama it doesn't have much to say, with characters who aren't especially well developed. Given American actress Clarkson's signature performance style is to be rather somnambulant, that's a good metaphor for the film -- like it sort of has an idea of the movie it wants to be, but can't really be bothered to get out of bed. sc./dir: Ruba Nadda. - brief female nudity.- 91 min.

OCTOBER 1970 (TVMS)  * * 1/2  setting: P.Q.
(2006) Patrick Labbe, Karine Vanasse, Denis Bernard, Hugh Thompson, Hugo St-Cyr, Mathieu Grondin, Fanny LaCroix, R.H. Thomson.....Retelling of the tumultuous events of the October Crisis in which terrorist kidnappings led to martial law in Quebec (already covered in movies like Les ordres and Octobre as well as Trudeau and Rene Levesque and others), but this time treated more as a thriller/procedural, less concerned with pushing a political agenda than simply portraying the various people and events on both sides -- kidnappers, cops, sympathizers, kidnapppees, and (low level) politicians (the FLQ aren't demonized but, ultimately, our sympathies lie mainly with head cop Labbe). Decidedly ambitious and worthy effort to treat Canadian history as something exciting and pulpy (some comparing it to the U.S. TV spy series "24"). And the episodes themselves are well acted and generally well done and compelling...but, strangely, doesn't entirely drag you back week after week. It also scored notoriously low ratings. Perhaps the problem was that those unfamiliar with the story didn't care, and those familiar with it, well, were too familiar with it. Because it's history, it can't really offer too many surprises or character twists (there's a nice plot and character turn towards the end where an FLQ supporter, growing disillusioned with her colleagues, turns informant). And at 8 probably could've been tightened up into, say, six. Ultimately -- good and well done, but not quite great. 8 hours. sc. Wayne Grigsby, Peter Mitchell. dir: Don McBrearty.

OCTOBRE   * *  setting: P.Q.
(1994) Hugo Dube, Luc Picard, Pierre Rivard, Denis Trudel, Serge Houde..... Chronicle of the 1970 kidnapping of Pierre Laporte by inexperienced FLQ terrorists told from their point-of-view (and based on a book by one of the kidnappers).  So-so drama lacks genuine tension and suffers because the characters aren't fully delineated and their Quebec separatist politics not adequately (or convincingly) explained for an audience 25 years later (especially an Anglo audience).  Perhaps the film should have been as much about the lead-up to the kidnapping as the kidnapping itself.  Falardeau tries to be even-handed, wanting the audience to sympathize with the terrorists while (maybe) deploring their actions -- not an impossible feat, but one the film has trouble pulling off.  sc./dir: Pierre Falardeau (from the autobiographical book Pour en finir avec Octobre by Francois Simard). 97 min.


(1992-1995)   * * *  Illya Woloshyn ("Jay Ziegler"), Ashley Rogers ("Alpha/Donna"), Tony Sampson ("Flash/Keith"), Janet Hodgkinson, with Andrea Nemeth ("Medea/Sierra"), Mark Hildreth ("Finger/Mick"), Jeremy Radick ("Fractal/Nathan"), others.....Fantasy about a young boy (Woloshyn) who goes into a coma after a fall, and finds himself in a fascist Neverland-type place where there are no adults.  With the help of two companions (Rogers and Sampson) -- who look just like his real-world friends -- he goes on a quest to find his dead father, Brad (played by Robert Wisden in some episodes), which, in some ways, mirrors what's happening in the real world.  Eventually he woke up from his coma, but the parallel reality continued.  Hildreth played the leader of the bad guys; Nemeth the villain's girlfriend who eventually joined the good-guys; and Radick the villain's chief scientist.  Hodgkinson played the hero's mom.

Off-beat science fiction TV series (or serial, rather) will appeal nicely to kids, though much more could have been done with the idea, instead of relying on the rather repetitious plots...and as the show went along, the "up-world" sequences (the real world) tended to seem a bit like old Degrassi episodes.  Nemeth and Hildreth, in particular, showed real promise as they got older.  Created by Paul Vitols and Warren Easton.  The pilot was titled The Jellybean Odyssey.  Filmed in B.C. Half-hour episodes on the CBC. 

(2003) Sophie Lorain, Martin Drainville, Pierrette Robitaille, Marc Labreche, Mitsou Gelinas, Danielle Ouimet, Louise Portal.....Single mom (Lorain) finds herself drawn into a fantasy world where, in order to get home, she must travel with a bumbling Prince Charming (Drainville) and wander through off kilter versions of various classic fairy tales. Boisterous musical-comedy boasts an enthusiastic cast and colourful costumes...but suffers from its own rambling, not very coherent story, which seems a little like the writers typed it out while coming down from an acid trip (in one illogical scene Drainville opens some doors to peer in on scenes from other Quebecois films). Might've appealed to kids, just for the running about and slapstick gags -- but the often raunchy nature of the jokes doesn't make it appropriate for kids. Maybe a good movie to see when stoned, but sober people might want to give it a miss. English title: Alice's Odyssey. sc: Sylvie Lussier, Pierre Poirier (story Denise Robert). dir: Denise Filiatrault. 101 min.

ODYSSEUS & THE ISLE OF MISTS  * 1/2  setting: other
(2008) (/U.K./U.S.) Arnold Vosloo, Steve Bacic, JR Bourne, Stefanie Von Pfetten, Randal Edwards, Michael Antonakos, Perry Long, Sonya Salomaa.....During his ten year voyage home from the siege of Troy, Odysseus (Hollywood import Vosloo) and his crew become shipwrecked on a mysterious island plagued by deadly demons and home to a mysterious sorceress (Von Pfetten). Made-for-cable adventure-fantasy is kind of frustrating...because there's a sense they are trying (as opposed to just knocking it out to meet a production quota), and as if the writer really has read Homer. Instead of glib, modern dialogue, it's often pseudo-archaic (save Edwards' lines) as though genuinely trying to evoke the milieu of ancient myths and legends...unfortunately it means the actors are struggling with stilted dialogue that feels left over from some old Ray Harryhausen flick. When the monsters attack, the budget short comings are glaringly obvious...yet it also boasts some beautiful scenery, a decent atmosphere and a genuine attempt to give the principals individual personalities. But overall, it's wildly uneven -- even the actors are sometimes poor...but also sometimes good (a scene between Vosloo and Bourne discussing Edwards' relative courage is a nice scene -- nicely written, nicely performed). Bacic probably comes across best, but even he is uneven. Ultimately more miss than hit...but frustrating because there's a feeling it's leaning in the right direction. a.k.a. Odysseus: Voyage to the Underworld. sc: Brook Durham. dir: Terry Ingram. - extreme violence.- 89 min.

ODYSSEUS: Voyage to the Underworld a.k.a. Odysseus & the Isle of Mists

(2002-2003) (/U.S.) * * 1/2 Peter Weller ("Chuck Taggert"), Sebastien Roche ("Kurt Mendel), Leslie Silva ("Sarah Forbes"), Christopher Gorman ("Neil Taggert"), Tamara Craig Thomas ("Angela Perry"), with Gina Clayton ("Paige Taggert"), and Barry Flatman, Sonja Smits, Phillip Jarrett, Jim Codrington, Lindy Booth, many others.....Science fiction about five people on board the space shuttle Odyssey when the earth, literally, explodes -- the gruff commander (Weller) and his sslightly estranged astronaut son (Gorman), the hedonistic intellectual scientist (Roche), the reporter (Silva), and another astronaut (Thomas). A mysterious alien entity, the Seeker (played by John Neville), gives them an opportunity to stop the destruction by sending their consciousness back five years, to inhabit their younger bodies, but with the memories of the next five years and earth's destruction intact. They learn that earth has already become infested with computer intelligences (sentients), some creating human-looking agents (synthetics) and that there's a conspiracy within NASA -- all of which, may, somehow, be responsible for earth's destruction. Clayton played Weller's wife. While seeking to battle various schemes by the sentients, and to uncover the scheme that will destroy the earth, the characters also try to influence their own past -- "Sarah", who's young son died of a rare cancer, is given an opportunity to try and save him before it's too late...except she can't convince her husband (Jarrett) or doctors of the danger, since he's not yet showing symptoms; "Angela"'s father (Flatman) is a corrupt senator; etc. Smits plays the sinister new head at NASA; Codrington the nice guy "Sarah" divorced her husband for in the previous timeline; Booth plays "Neil"'s high school girlfriend (and he now found himself back in high school). How Canadian this series is is unclear -- filmed in Canada (though set in Texas), but only one of the five principals (Thomas) is Canadian (although most of the supporting cast are) which makes one suspect it's just an American series, filmed in Canada. But some references have labelled it as being partly Canadian. So what the heck, eh?

This TV series borrows ideas, knowingly, from earlier SF sources like "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and even "Quantum Leap" and it's an enjoyable series, boasting a good, ingratiating cast, powerfully anchored by quirky movie star Weller, settling unapologetically into middle-age, with Roche also a stand-out (the others are fine, too), playing unusually idiosyncratic and unconventional characters. In fact, the series could seem a little too into the characters, at the expense of plot. As the series progresses, the sense that it has an actual story arc becomes less convincing, particularly once it becomes clear there's a whole community of sentients, many pursuing their own agendas (resulting in episodes where the characters confront and stop isolated plans that have no relevance to whatever blew up the earth). And the way plot threads are introduced, then forgotten about for many episodes, then picked up again, can be disorienting at times. But it's an enjoyable series, benefitting from some sharp dialogue, and good characters, even if the plots don't always hold up to great scrutiny.

Unfortunately, although it was apparently one of the highest rated shows on the U.S. cable network, Showtime, it was nonetheless cancelled by that network because it didn't fit in with the overall direction the station wanted to move in. And, moreso than some series with continuing plot threads, the mid-story cancellation hurts it a lot, since half the point was seeing where everything was headed. Too bad. The series was also made as an "adult" show for U.S. cable, complete with plenty of cussing and some nudity -- but though Space, in Canada, has shown unedited programs before, they air Odyssey 5 in an oddly edited way, leaving some profanity intact, but white-ing out other words (the dreaded "F" word) resulting in distracting scenes of the actors shouting...but with every second word gone; likewise, any nudity has been cut. Created by Manny Coto. Hour long episodes, shown in Canada on Space.

ODYSSEY OF THE PACIFIC * * *  setting: P.Q.
(1981) (/France) Mickey Rooney, Anick, Johnathan Starr, Ky Huot Uk, Monique Mercure, Jean-Louis Roux.....Trio of kids go for daily jaunts in the woods near their home where they discover an eccentric, retired engineer (imported Rooney) and work on repairing a deserted train so that they can travel to far off places.  Charming children's fable that won't bore adults, either.  Surreal, atmospheric and thoughtful, with a great score.  a.k.a. Treasure Train.  sc: Fernando Arrabal, Roger Lemelin. dir: Fernando Arrabal. 100 min.

OF THE BEHOLDER  see Eye of the Beholder

OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN  * * *  setting: USA.
(1983) Peter Weller, Louie DelGrande, Jennifer Dale, Lawrence Dane, Kenneth Welsh, Maury Chaykin, Shannon Tweed.....While his family is away on a vacation, a New York executive (imported Weller) becomes increasingly obsessed with killing a monster rat that has invaded his up-scale house.  Fine comic/horror film, if a little too laid-back, but benefits from its unexpected ambitions...part horror/thriller, and part social satire, with an undercurrent of "Moby Dick" as Weller gets more and more extreme in his determination to defeat his furry nemesis.  DelGrande is great as a rat expert.  The second of two Canadian-made "rat" movies made around the same time -- the other being Deadly Eyes. sc: Brian Taggert (from the novel The Visitor by Chauncey P. Parker). dir: George Pan Cosmatos. - violence.- 88 min.

Office Party, the novel by Michael A. Gilbert, was turned into the movie Hostile Takeover which, in turn, is also known under the title The Devastator

AN OFFICER AND A MURDERER   * *   setting: Ont.
(2012) (/U.S.) Gary Cole, Laura Harris, Rossif Sutherland, Nahanni Johnstone, Catherine Disher, Micheline Marchildon, Ted Atherton.....Fact-based story of respected Canadian air force colonel, Russell Williams (Cole) -- whose secret perversions escalated from voyeurism and home invasions to rape and murder -- and the cops (Harris and Sutherland) investigating. TV movies are often "ripped from the headlines" but usually producers allow a little grace time to pass (Williams was only convicted in 2010 -- perhaps explaining why the movie wasn't immediately aired in Canada). A competent cast (with American actor Cole arguably better than the material warrants) and professionally put together...without filmmakers Leckie and Bailey finding any particular "in" into the story, stylistically, emotionally, thematically, to justify it as more than a dime-a-dozen "based on the shocking true story" lurid TV movie, relying on bare bones characterization and stock direction tricks. Perhaps they were uncomfortable with the project themselves. At best it's a slick but generic, uninspired programmer, and at worse, it's sleazy and exploitive. Ironically, when so many Canadian movies work hard to hide their Canadianness, this movie -- made primarily for the U.S. market -- practically revels in its Canadian references and setting. sc: Keith Ross Leckie. dir: Norma Bailey. 86 min.

OH! OH!, SATAN   * 1/2  setting: other
(1989) (/France) Carole Laure, Patrick Chesnais, Marie Fugain, Muriel Brener, Eric Blanc, Sandrine Caron.....At the prospect of her parent's (Laure and Chesnais) separation, a Paris teen-ager (Fugain) buys a lottery ticket and fantasizes about making a deal with the devil.  Uninteresting, light-hearted drama may be aimed more at young teens, though some of the material might be considered unsuitable.  English title: Thank You, Satan.  sc: Nelly Alard, Andre Farwagi with Jean Cosmos (from an idea by Christian Carini). dir: Andre Farwagi.

OH, WHAT A NIGHT   * 1/2  setting: Ont.
(1992) Corey Haim, Barbara Williams, Andrew Miller, Robbie Coltrane, Keir Dullea, Genevieve Bujold, Kristen Kieferle, Diana LeBlanc, Denny Doherty .....Story of two lusty teen-aged boys (Haim and Miller) in the '50s, and one's infatuation with a skinny-dipping married woman (Williams).  Sophomoric comedy-drama pretends it's a Coming-of-Age drama, rather than just a Porky's rehash, but it's basically just about sex, sex and sex never develops the already thin characters beyond the first five minutes, nor story beyond an outline.  Ian Thomas' droning score is equally annoying.  Expensive-looking, but the good cast is wasted, particularly Bujold who has about three lines.  sc: Richard Nielsen. dir: Eric Till. - partial female nudity.- 92 min.

Oka Crisis, the non-fiction memoir by Quebec Indian Affairs minister, John Ciaccia, was one of the sources for the mini-series,Indian Summer.

(2011) Garret Dillahunt, Molly Parker, Donal Logue.....A kindly war veteran (Logue), having fully readjusted to small town family life with his wife (Parker), is visited by an unstable old army buddy (American actor Dillahunt) still scarred by the war. Solid performances in this deliberately minimalist drama...but it is minimalist, with little plot, so that each scene is basically just a rehash of the previous one, striking a tone in the first scene and not seeing much need to change it for the rest of the film. Some reviews called it a "thriller" but that's an exaggeration, more an extended look at an uncomfortable situation with elements of suspense. And a bit of a shaggy dog story. There's also a technical problem with the theme, given Dillahunt's character suffered a brain it about a guy emotionally scarred by the war, or about a guy suffering from physical brain damage beyond his control? sc./dir: Ryan Redford (from the short story "Veterans" by Rachel Ingalls). 82 min.

Oliver Twist, the novel by Charles Dickens, served as the inspiration for the modern-setTwist.

OMERTÀ   * 1/2   setting: P.Q.
(2012) Michel Côté, Patrick Huard, Rachelle Lefevre, Stéphane Rousseau, René Angelil, Michel Dumont, Alan Fawcett, Andreas Apergis.....A joint undercover operation between Montreal police and a private security firm (headed by Côté) investigates a gold counterfeiting scheme. Spun-off from a well regarded Quebec TV series of the same name, it doesn't require any particular familiarity with the source (Côté is the main carry over from the series) but it might explain why this kind of comes across as, well, a mediocre TV episode, not really developing the characters enough here to make us care, but not offering a clever plot to compensate, while generally lacking much suspense in this suspense-drama. Indeed, it manages to be both fairly simple & obvious and muddled & confusing -- confusion sometimes deliberate (as we wonder about loyalties), sometimes a result of storytelling problems and logic holes. Takes a surprise turn about an hour in (surprise is good, but requires writing out a main character) and becomes almost a different movie: going from a police drama to a noirish psychological drama...except it's too late, and still suffers from underwritten characters and confusion. Interesting casting of Lefevre -- a bilingual actress but mainly known for English-language roles (as well as another bilingual Anglophone, Fawcett) -- perhaps in an attempt to broaden its appeal outside Quebec. But it's the bland story itself that is its biggest obstacle to cross-Canada and international appeal. Angelil (playing a mobster) is better known as a talent agent and as Mr. Céline Dion. In French. sc./dir: Luc Dionne. - violence.- 107 min.

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