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.

ON DANGEROUS GROUND  a.k.a. Jack Higgins' On Dangerous Ground

ON HOSTILE GROUND  * *  setting: USA.
(2000) (/U.S.) John Corbett, Jessica Steen, Brittany Daniel, Andrew Kraulis, Peter Stebbings, Derwin Jordan, Eugene Clark.....Geologist (Corbett) warns that New Orleans may be in danger of collapsing into sinkholes, but city officials, including his girlfirend (Steen), don't want to hear about it what with Mardi Gras and all. Paint-by-numbers made-for-American TV disaster pic, but that's not the problem (after all, cliches are cliches because they work)...the problem is the suspense scenes are only sporadically suspenseful and the character scenes (including American actress Daniel as Steen's teen-age niece) -- the stuff that should make us care -- are, frankly, tedious. Steen is a stand-out (as usual) and the cast O.K. (though some Louisiana accents might've bolstered the ambience), but American actor Corbett is pretty bland. Apparently, geologically speaking, New Orleans wouldn't actually have sinkholes! sc: Brian L. Ross (story Brent Reed & Sharon Y. Cobb and Brian L. Ross). dir: Mario Azzopardi. 93 min.

ON MY OWN   * * *  setting: Ont.
(1992) (/Australia/Italy) Judy Davis, Matthew Ferguson, David McIlwraith, Nicolas Van Bruek, Michele Melega, Colin Fox, Jan Rubes, Rachel Blanchard, Lanna MacKay.....Young teen (Ferguson) at boarding school finds his life complicated when he discovers his mother (Davis) is suffering from schizophrenia.  Well-acted, moody and handsome drama is interesting and has an eerie, haunting atmosphere, but has trouble actually going anywhere plot-wise.  sc: Gill Dennis, Antonio Tibaldi and John Frizzell. dir: Antonio Tibaldi. - brief female nudity.- 92 min.

ON THE CORNER  * * 1/2  setting: B.C.
(2004) Alex Rice, Simon Baker, Katharine Isabelle, Gordon Tootoosis, JR Bourne, Brent Staite, L. Harvey Gold, Renae Morriseau, Tina Keeper, Margo Kane, Venus Terzo.....Saga of a prostitute (Rice) and her teen-age brother (Baker) who shows up, wanting to stay awhile. Despite the deceptively cheap, filmed-on-video look, this is a well acted drama with energetic, well done scenes. But its "slice of (street) life" approach could use a slightly stronger push to the narrative. It does build to a climax, but a more obvious "plot" could've provided more of an anchor for the good scenes and characterizations. As it is, it's a good film, but not quite a riveting one. Bourne is particularly memorable as a junkie neighbour. Nice use of Native Indian characters in an unselfconscious, understated way. sc./dir: Nathaniel Geary. - sexual content; brief female nudity.- 90 min.

ON THE NOSE  * * 1/2  setting: other
(2001) (/Ireland) Dan Aykroyd, Robbie Coltrane, Brenda Blethyn, Eanna MacLian, Tony Briggs, Zara Turner, Sinead Keenan.....Custodian (Coltrane) at an Irish university, uses a preserved 19th Century Australian aborigine head to predict the winners at horse races, tips he passes on to friends (he doesn't bet himself, being a recovering gambler). But things get complicated when he learns he desperately needs money...just as an Australian official shows up, wanting to return the head to its people, and local hoods become suspicious of his unerring winning streak. Curious little flick in that, in a sense, it kind of fails on its own basic level -- it's supposed to be a comedy, at times ffarcically so, but it doesn't really engender many out-and-out laughs. Some chuckles, a few grins, but not many laughs. At the same time, it's an amiable enough romp (if a touch macabre)...though whether it's enough to be amiable will depend on your mood. Seems kind of an intentional throwback to the old Ealing Studio-style British comedies of the 1950s (though with modern profanity). The fantasy/comedy aspects sometimes jar with what, after all, are more serious issues (like Coltrane being a recovering gambler...who wants to gamble because he now has a "sure" thing -- and this is supposed to be good!). A capable cast, and talented Coltrane easily holds it together; Canadian Aykroyd has a prominent part as the dean...though the role seems a tad extraneous at times. Although his character isn't identified as Canadian, unlike other such Canadian co-productions, at least he's not identified as American, either. sc: Tony Philpott. dir: David Caffrey. 104 min.


(1989) (/U.S.)   *  Lyle Alzado, Yannick Bisson, others.....Domestic sitcom about a single father and school teacher (U.S. football player Alzado) who moonlighted as a pro wrestler.

Largely ill-conceived TV series just wasn't funny.  Half-hour episodes originally on CTV. 

ON THEIR KNEES  * *  setting: CDN.
(2001) Ingrid Veninger, Anais Granofsky, Peter Stebbings, Jackie Richardson.....Two half-sisters -- the repressed, serious one (Veninger) and the wild and crazy one (Granofsky) -- decide to steal their beloved grandmother's body and return her to her east coast birthplace by driving cross country in an ice cream truck. Despite the premise, this is more drama than comedy -- in fact, it's rather dourly self-important, even as it occasionally veers into "Weekend at Bernie's" style dead-body-gags (which don't quite sit well with the notion that this is their beloved granny). Like any road movie, it's comprised of a lot of vignettes...and you keep expecting them to turn into something, but they rarely do, the scenes often spark, but never quite light. Gets better toward the end. Uneven character stuff, too: the sisters bicker, then reconcile, bicker, then reconcile; one minute Veninger is chewing Granofsky out for robbing money to help pay for gas...then is robbing money herself! A great supporting cast is wasted in bit parts and cameos (Maurice Dean Wint, Clark Johnson, Maury Chaykin, Julian Richings...almost every scene features actors you'd like to see more of), with Carlo Rota scoring best as an amusingly milquetoast travelling salesman. Former child actress (and Degrassi alumni) Granofsky has talent and presence on screen, and shows promise behind the camera, but though a decent idea, maybe it needed to stew a while more before being put to paper -- at 75 minutes, it still seems padded! Still, unapologetic multi-racialism is nice. sc./dir: Anais Granofsky. - female nudity, sexual content.- 75 min.

ON THIN ICE: The Tai Babilonia Story  * * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1990) (/U.S.) Rachel Crawford, Charlie Stratton, Chuck Shamata, Denise Nicholas, Christianne Hirt.....True story of United States pairs figure skater Babilonia (Crawford) and her gradual fall thanks to disillusionment and booze.  So-so made-for-TV drama is serviceable but nothing special.  sc. Brian L. Ross. dir: Zale Dalen. 100 min.

ONCE A THIEF  * * *  setting: B.C./other
(1996) (/U.S.) Sandrine Holt, Ivan Sergei, Nicholas Lea, Jennifer Dale, Robert Ito, Michael Wong, Alan Scarfe.....A thief (Sergei), his former partner and lover (Holt) and her current fiance (Lea), an ex-cop, are recruited to work for a covert anti-crime task force in Vancouver; their first target being the Hong Kong-based crime family they both had ties to -- and still have mixed feelings about.  With its good cast, sharp, clever dialogue and imaginative scenes and stunts (though the plot doesn't always hold up to great scrutiny) this brisk, snazzy, funny made-for-TV action pic actually plays more like a theatrical release -- with enough character stuff to keep it ffrom being too fluffy.  Director Woo is known for his ultra-violent Hong Kong and American films, but his Canadian TV debut is fairly bloodless and all in fun.  Loosely inspired by Woo's 1990 Hong Kong film "Zongheng Sihai" (which was also known as "Once a Thief") and utilizing some of the same behind-the-scenes people.  It later became a TV series (listed under its full title of John Woo's Once a Thief).  a.k.a. John Woo's Once a Thief.  sc: Glenn Davis, William Laurin. dir: John Woo. 89 min.

ONCE IN A BLUE MOON  * * 1/2  setting: CDN.
(1995) Cody Serpa, Simon Baker, Deanna Milligan, Mike MacDonald, Cheryl Wilson, Scott Augustine, (voice of) William de Vry.....In 1967 (Canada's Centennial), and imaginative boy (Serpa) and his foster brother (Baker) live with his poor, eccentric family, deal with bullies, and build a rocket ship in their back yard! Quirky, outrageous family comedy gets marks for its unabashed whimsy (maybe with a touch of Jacob Two-Two) and fast-paced energy, but may have trouble finding a target audience. Adults will enjoy the whacky ideas, and the political/period jokes, but will find it still, primarily, a movie aimed at youngsters...whereas youngsters will also like the Little Rascals extravagance but might find it all a bit too confusing, needing adults to explain concepts like "absurdism" and "surrealism". As well, its rapid fire approach and a story that wanders hither and yon can make for some confusion as to how, or even if, scenes relate to each other. A couple of nice, low-key scenes between MacDonald, as the gruff dad, and Baker could've been developed more. Still, funny, the kids are cute, and worth a look. Tygh Runyan apparently appears as one of the neighbour kids (I think one of the kids being chased around the burning leaves). sc./dir: Philip Spink. 96 min.

ONCE UPON A HUNT see Le Temps d'une chasse

(2001) (/France).....Documentary looking at the creation and evolution of comic book super heroes, with interviews with notable creators in the field. No less than the third, serious, Canadian-made look at the often maligned art form of comics (after Comic Book Confidential and Prisoners of Gravity), but this time focusing exclusively on the genre most associated with the medium (yet given short shrift in those other docs) -- the super hero. Interesting and informative, if not as stylistically innovative as those earlier films. Though there's an irony in a film that tries to take the genre seriously, looking at themes and meaning, yet most of the interview subjects are artists, not writers (with the exception of Stan Lee and one or two others). In other words, the very people who give the stories whatever depth and meaning they have are ignored in favour of the people who draw the cool pictures! Not the definitive word on the topic, but still entertaining and interesting. sc./dir: Michel Viotte. app. 90 min.

ONE DEAD INDIAN * * 1/2  setting: Ont.
(2006) Eric Schweig, Dakota House, Stephen McHattie, Gabrielle Miller, Gordon Tootoosis, Gary Farmer, Pamela Matthews, Glen Gould, Frank Schorpion, Bruce Ramsay.....Story of the Native Indian protest and occupation of a provincial park in Ipperwash, Ontario that eventually resulted in the police shooting death of Native activist Dudley George (House). Made-for-CTV docudrama gets marks for willing to stick its neck out and point (some) fingers (without unduly demonizing the "villains") -- when too many such TV dramas tend to seeem watered down and neutral, as if afraid of ruffling feathers. The end-of-movie revelations about the then-Conservative Ontario government are particularly pointed. The movie itself, though, is maybe more okay than anything -- decent cast, and some good scenes, but also a confusing approach to the narrative (jumping back and forth in time) and a sense that, as a movie, its driven more by the headlines than a story. Schweig played an almost identical part in Cowboys and Indians (ie: the real life brother of a Native Indian killed by police) -- which maybe makes its own statement about the plight of Native people. sc: Andrew Wreggitt, Hugh Graham (from the book by Peter Edwards). dir: Tim Southam. app. 90 min.

ONE HEART BROKEN INTO SONG * * 1/2  setting: N.S.
(1999) Linette Robinson, Rainbow Sun Francks, Eugene Clark, Djanet Sears, Ardon Bess, Tara Baxter.....In the '30s, a small town young woman (Robinson), with aspirations to be a writer, is swept off her feet by a stylish drifter (Francks, son of Don) but their life isn't the easy road he envisioned. Made-for-CBC TV movie is well acted (particularly Sears and Bess as her parents) with good dialogue and sensual atmosphere. But like a lot of director Virgo's efforts, the beauty of the film, his love of style, may actually impede the drama. For a movie where everyone's hot and bothered, there's an absence of energy...and passion. Particularly as, other than the the fact that all the characters are black, the film has little that's fresh about it -- though it is a throwback to what was once considered the quintessential Canadian drama. Still, not bad, and probably the first Canadian movie to look at historical black Canada (though Virgo seems to be too influenced by black America -- in look, other than the Union Jack, you'd scarcely realize this was set in Canada). It's been a long time since a CBC movie had this much nudity in it, too. sc: George Elliott Clarke. dir: Clement Virgo. - partial female nudity, violence.- 89 min.

100 DAYS IN THE JUNGLE  * * 1/2  setting: other/Alt.
(2002) Michael Riley, Nathaniel Arcand, Aidan Devine, Peter Outerbridge, Adrien Dorval, Brendan Fletcher, Michele-Barbara Pelletier, Patrick Gilmore, Liisa Repo-Martell, Jonathan Scarfe, Hugh Thompson, Nicholas Campbell, Brian Markinson, William B. Davis.....True story of eight Canadian oil pipeliners who were kidnapped and held for ransom in the Ecuador jungle. Made-for-CTV dramatization is slickly put together, with a good cast (many who are given little to do), but suffers from the problem plaguing a lot of docudramas...namely, if you weren't told this was "true", it might not cut the mustard as a movie. Too little is developed or goes anywhere in character or plot, and it's choppy and episodic with a lot of vaguely realized vignettes seeming cribbed from old World War II P.O.W. movies, without necessarily arising organically from this story. By splitting the drama between the kidnappees (led by Riley), a novice R.C.M.P. agent (Outerbridge) involved in the negotiations, and Riley's wife (Repo-Martell) waiting at home, the movie loses focus. Ironically, the movie opens with a disclaimer insisting it's a fictionalization. In other words we're supposed to forgive its dramatic shortcomings on the basis that it's authentic...even as it admits it's not necessarily that authentic. Nor does it even give you much insight into the social and political circumstances. Still, with all that being said, it is slick with a good cast, and if it doesn't rise to greatness, neither is it awful. Though it seems to be continuing CTV's bizarre trend (following Stolen Miracle) of packaging ostensibly harrowing "shocking true stories" as Christmas movies! Received the Best TV Movie Gemini. sc: Sean O'Byrne (from the book by Shawn Ohier, Vicki Hail). dir: Sturla Gunnarsson. 93 min.

ONE MAGIC CHRISTMAS   * *  setting: USA.
(1985) (/U.S.) Mary Steenburgen, Harry Dean Staton, Elizabeth Harnois, Gary Basaraba, Robbie Magwood, Jan Rubes, Wayne Robson.....Christmas angel (imported Staton) trys to bring the Christmas spirit back into the life of a poor woman (imported Steenburgen) with the help of her daughter.  Handsome but derivative Christmas film is nasty, slow and life-less with too much emphasis on special f/x.  Rough going for kids, too.  A Christmas "classic" made by people who don't seem to understand the true essence of films like "A Christmas Carol" or "It's a Wonderful Life".  Co-produced by the American Disney studio.  sc: Thomas Meehan. dir: Phillip Borsos. 88 min.

ONE MAN   * * 1/2  setting: P.Q.
(1977) Len Cariou, Jayne Eastwood, Carole Lazare, August Schellenberg, Barry Morse.....TV reporter (Cariou, in his belated film debut) investigates a corporate polluter, which jeopardizes not only his troubled marriage (to Eastwood) but threatens his life as well.  Cynical suspense/drama is a little unfocused with all its issues and plot threads, but not bad.  Won two Etrogs.  sc: Robin Spry, Peter Pearson, Peter Madden. dir: Robin Spry.

ONE MAN OUT   * * 1/2  setting: other
(1988) Stephen McHattie, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Aharon Ipale, Ismael Carlo, Dennis Pratt, Michael Champion.....U.S. mercenary (McHattie), working in a Latin-American country, falls in love and realizes he can no longer pretend he doesn't know about the atrocities happening around him.  Good-looking, but often confusing action-thriller suffers from a poor sound mix in some prints, but has an effective performace from McHattie in a rare lead role.  Blending of gritty, realist drama with James Bondy-action isn't always convincing, though, but O.K. "Its" is spelled wrong at the beginning.  sc./dir: Michael Kennedy (story by Manelick de la Parra). - violence.-

ONE NIGHT ONLY   * 1/2  setting: P.Q.
(1984) Lenore Zann, Helene Udy, Taborah Johnson, Hrant Alianak, Ken James, Geoffrey MacKay, Jeff Braunstein, Wendy Lands, Martin Neufeld, Kathy Bain.....Overhearing a hockey team's plans for an after-game party with hookers, a college student (Zann) and her friends decided to make a little extra money by providing the service themselves.  Sex comedy is one of those films where most of the people involved probably look back on it as a learning experience (that's industry jargon for: "I needed the money").  sc: P.Y. Haines. dir: Timothy Bond. - female nudity, sexual content, casual male nudity.- 87 min.

ONE NIGHT STAND  * * *  setting: Ont.
(1977) Chapelle Jaffe, Brent Carver, Dinah Christie, Susan Hogan, Mina E. Mina.....Woman (Jaffe) picks up a man (Carver) at a bar and takes him home for the night, but then begins to worry when he starts acting a little...strange.  Off-beat made-for-CBC TV suspenser blends drama, humour and thrills so that you're never quite sure what's going to happen next.  Strong performances from the two leads.  Brief appearance by the rock group Rough Trade.  sc: Carol Bolt (from her play). dir: Allan King. 93 min.

ONE OF OUR OWN  * *  setting: USA.
(1997) Michael Ironside, Currie Graham, Peta Wilson, Robbie Bowen, Frederic Forrest, Marshall Ball, David Ferry, Paul Coeur, Richard Riehle, Jacqueline Samuda, Jorge Vargas.....Two American cops (Ironside and Graham) investigate the death of a soldier, leading them to an arms smuggling ring at the local army base. Slickly made suspense film is actually kind of ingratiating with likeable enough characters, and decidedly mainstream ambitions (as opposed to being the violent, straight-to-video shoot-'em-up you might expect). But the story just kind of rambles. It's not quite a mystery (since we know most of the bad guys and what they're doing early) but it doesn't quite cut it as a thriller, either (since the heroes are only occasionally in danger). Not bad...but not quite good, either. Ironside and Currie (along with Coeur and Riehle as fellow cops) reprised their roles in Deadly Arrangement. Wilson, then starring in Nikita, has a surprisingly small part as a Military Policewoman. Ironside was the associate producer. sc: David Schultz (story Bruce Harvey). dir: David Winning. 107 min.

ONE WAY OUT  * 1/2  setting: USA
(2002) James Belushi, Angela Featherstone, Jason Bateman, Guylaine St- Onge, Jack Langedijk, Romano Orzari, Jack Daniel Wells.....American cop (Belushi) is coerced by mobsters into helping plan and execute a murder (of St. Onge)...a murder for which his ex-lover (Featherstone) is the lead detective on the case. Suspense-drama has decent enough performances (though some clumsily presented scenes), and some atypical winter scenery, but is one of those things where you feel everyone involved should've written down what they thought it was about (conceptually), who they thought it was about, what the essential motivation was...and then asked themselves if they were bringing those elements out in the scenes. Because it seems kind of the fact that Belushi is supposed to be a decent cop, forced into the situation...but half the time just seems cocky and cold-blooded, which means it's hard to care. Or the fact that he owes the mobsters' money...but they also threaten to kill a loved one if he doesn't help (if they were going to do the latter, why first call in the debt?) And for a suspense film, there are very few scenes that are meant to generate suspense (ie: where he thinks things are about to unravel). Belushi and Bateman (in a nice turn) are American imports, St-Onge appears nude, and prominently billed Orzari has just a minor part as a gangster in the opening scene. sc: John Salvati. dir: Allan A. Goldstein. - partial female nudity, sexual content, violence.- 98 min.

ONE WEEK * * * 1/2  setting: CDN.
(2010) Joshua Jackson, Liane Balaban, Campbell Scott.....On learning he has potentially terminal cancer, a young man (Jackson) who's never done much with his life decides to postpone treatment and, instead, leave his Toronto home for a motorcycle odyssey westward across Canada. Old fashioned, deliberately meandering road movie has been described as a "love letter to Canada" -- and it shamelessly is, showcasing breathless vistas, and little vignettes from the whimsical (involving the Stanley Cup!) to the moving (a stopover at a statue of Terry Fox) -- as well as a character drama and a rumination on life and mortality. But it's also a comedy (as you would expect from writer/director McGowan), much of the humour supplied by the eccentric voiceover, drolly narrated by Scott. As such, though bitter-sweet, brooding and's also very funny and, ultimately, life affirming. It's a deliberately "little" film (no big scenes or grand events) yet in its understated way, sort of epic, too. Jackson is an ingratiating lead, and the film is peppered with bit parts by a variety of familiar performers, like Marc Strange, Chuck Shamata, Fiona Reid, and others, as well as acting turns by singers Gord Downie and Emm Gryner. Ironically, one of Jackson's earliest film roles was in the movie Digger playing a kid...dying of cancer. sc/dir: Michael McGowan. 94 min.

ONLY GOD KNOWS   * * 1/2
(1974) Gordon Pinsent, John Beck, Paul Hecht, Tisa Farrow, Toby Tarnov, Lawrence Dane, Al Bernardo, Nick Nichols, George Touliatos.....A priest (Pinsent), a minister (Beck) and a rabbi (Hecht) who run a cash-strapped rehab center find themselves in a moral dilemma, and physical danger, when a dying mob boss tells them where some mob money is hidden.  Low-budget serio-comic flick has a nice premise and heart, but suffers from uninspired direction and ends up just moderately diverting.  Should've been funnier in the sequence where the minister and rabbi have to pretend to be priests; it's amusing, but could've been sillier.  Dane produced.  sc: Haskell Gray (story Lawrence Dane). dir: Peter Pearson. 92 min.

THE ONLY WAY OUT IS DEAD   * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1970) Sandy Dennis, Stuart Whitman, Burl Ives, Tom Harvey, Robert Goodier, Ron Hartman, Ken James.....U.S. heart surgeon (Whitman) gets a job at a private research centre in the middle of nowhere, but begins to suspect there's an ulterior motive behind the project.  Made-for-TV paranoia thriller starts out O.K. but quickly runs out of plot and is too obvious.  Some good ideas, but it doesn't know what to do with them.  The three principles are all Americans.  a.k.a. The Man Who Wanted to Live Forever.  sc: Henry Denker. dir: John Trent. 100 min.

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