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.
 
 
PR (TV series)

(2001)  * 1/2  Diane Flacks ("Alexandra Reed"), Ellie Harvie ("Jill Hayes"), Fiona Reid ("Deirdre Duncan"), with Mike Beaver ("Benny"), Julia Paton ("Marci Reed"), Alan C. Peterson ("Manny Fornier"), others.....Sitcom set at a Toronto public relations firm, with Flacks as the obnoxious do-anything-for-a-deal head of the firm and Harvie as her more demure partner. Reid plays the enigmatic receptionist (upper crust British and clearly rich, the other characters constantly wonder about her past). Peterson played a rival agent, and the others workers in the heroines' firm. 

Continuing the trend in Canada of doing media satires (begun by The Newsroom and continued by Made in Canada and Big Sound), this series eschews the dry, low-key humour attempted by those other shows for broad, attack-it-with-gusto slapstick. At times it's appallingly bad, while at other times it's just moderately bad. One can admire the enthusiasm of those involved, but the gags just aren't very funny, and the supposedly farcical plots, where schemes snowball out-of-control until the denouement, often fail to seem that clever -- not unlike in Made in Canada and Big Sound. In fact, except for the Newsroom, these "media comedies" have been more misses than hits. Perhaps a problem in a series which satirizes both the main characters and their clients, is that you end up with a rather mean spirited, unpleasant show in which the creators (and the audience) are supposed to feel superior to everyone on screen...or, perhaps worse, we're supposed to admire these unsavoury characters. Continuing the trend of Canadian networks seeming to give carte blanche to actors to create vehicles for themselves, this was co-created by star Flacks with Kevin Sullivan (a producer known more for dramas). Half hour episodes on the CBC. 

P.T. BARNUM  (TVMS)  * * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1999) (/U.S.) Beau Bridges, Henry Czerny, Cynthia Dale, George Hamilton, Jordan Bridges, Natalie Radford, Art Kitching, Stephanie Morgenstern, Charles Martin Smith, Josh Ryan Evans.....Story of the life of 19th Century American showman P.T. Barnum (both Bridges). Spritely mini-series can't decide if it wants to focus on his professional life, or his personal, and ends up not quite focusing on either. The larger-than-life schemes and dealings can be a bit confusing, while the family problems are often choppy and unconvincing (admittedly, the filmmakers have to squeeze a huge time frame into four hours). Ultimately, it's moderately entertaining thanks to the brisk tempo, fruity performanes, and lavish production, but not much more. There's also something a bit off-putting about the American jingoism -- reams of dialogue celebrating America as the greatest country on earth, and Americans the uber-people -- when the writer is a Canadian and the director an Australian...and the movie itself fails to prove its own case (Barnum seemed to earn a lot of his money, either by touring Europe, or by bringing European acts to America). And was Barnum really just a loveable showman, with an egalitarian philosophy, as the movie asserts...or an amoral conman whose most famous quote ("There's a sucker born every minute") is never addressed in this film? 4 hours. sc: Lionel Chetwynd. dir: Simon Wincer.

THE PACT
(1998) Adam Frost, see Tales of Intrigue
 
PACKAGE DEAL (TV series)

(2013-)  * *   (2013) Randal Edwards ("Danny White"), Julia Voth ("Kim Mattingly"), Harland Williams ("Sheldon"), Jay Malone ("Ryan"), with Jill Morrison ("Nikki"), Pamela Anderson.....Sitcom about a young lawyer (Edwards) and his new girlfriend (Voth) and his two oddball brothers, the uncouth older brother who raised them (Williams) and the nerdier one (Malone) -- the girlfriend having to acclimatize to the fact that the three guys are the eponymous "package deal." Morrison plays the sole employee at the tea shop "Kim" runs. Anderson cropped up a few times as "Ryan"'s therapist (and reflecting the series' seeming default sensibilities, much of the humour around her revolving around her looks and sex appeal).

For some reason in 2013, Canadian networks and producers became convinced the next great Canadian TV wave was going to be -- sitcoms! Specifically "American-style" sitcoms (as they marketed themselves), ie: not quirky, or wry (like, say, the critically acclaimed but low-rated Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays). And it's a particularly "middle brow" school of American comedy -- and old fashioned, with an attitude toward sex, leering innuendo, and gender that hasn't changed since the '70s. Following on the heels of Seed and Satisfaction came Package Deal. Like those other series, part of the "American-style" meant not being too obvious about being set in Canada. The occasional courtroom scenes are modelled after American courts, and there aren't too many obvious Canadian references (in the first episode, Voth's character is identified as being from California). The other thing it shares with many of these other American-style sitcoms -- is it's not very good, seeming more like a clumsy attempt to imitate a U.S. sitcom, rather than the real thing, with obvious set-ups and mugging. Admittedly, comedy is a more delicate art than drama, and it could be argued at times this isn't so much bad as just not that good, mustering the occasional chuckle, but often needing the plots to seem less self-consciously contrived, the actors to find the proper rhythm, the lines to settle on more sly phrasing -- and less reliance on sex jokes that seem ripped off from an old "Carry On" film. Sometimes guest stars like Eugene Levy proved the funniest part of an episode. Created by Andrew Orenstein. Half-hour episodes on City TV.  


 
PAINKILLER JANE (TV series)

(2007)  (/U.S.) * *   Kristanna Loken ("Jane Vasco"), Rob Stewart ("Andre McBride"), Noah Danby ("Connor King"), Stephen Lobo ("Seth Carpenter"), Sean Owen Roberts ("Riley Jensen"), Alaina Kalanj ("Maureen"), with Garwin Sanford, others.....Action/science fiction set in, more or less, modern America, about a covert government organization that tracks down and captures rogue neuros -- people who mysteriously begin to manifest a variety of super powers (mutants by another name). "Jane" is, herself, a neuro, with the ability to heal from almost any wound. 

A few years previous to this, there was a whole cottage industry in Canada of these kind of series -- U.S. co-productions, action/sci-fi, intended for syndication and/or U.S. cable. But by the time of this series, that trend was almost extinct. A kind of frustratingly uneven series that isn't wholly bad...as it isn't quite good, either. Like, say, Nikita, the series touched on the moral ambiguity of the "heroes" actions even as, like Nikita, it meant the series had a kind of unpleasant undercurrent. Despite the action and f/x, it has a low-budget look and feel which seems to hamper it a bit. That is, the acting, writing, direction isn't great...but not so bad that you can't think maybe with a few more hours to rehearse, a few more drafts, a little more time to set up a shot... Stewart is certainly capable enough, and the others have their moments. Based (loosely) on a comic book series, the property had previously seen life as a significantly different TV movie (starring Canadian Emmanuelle Vaugier as Jane). A lot of modern comics seem to exist, less as themselves, than simply as something to be optioned to Hollywood. In this case, even with a brief revival of the Painkiller Jane comic to cash in on this series, this one-season TV series still produced more episodes than there are Painkiller Jane comics! 22 hour long episodes shown in Canada on CanWest-Global. 

PAINT CANS   * *  setting: CDN./other
(1994) Chas Lawther, Robyn Stevan, Bruce Greenwood, Nigel Bennett, Don Francks, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Lex Gigeroff, Andy Jones, Paul Gross.....A sometimes pompous, sometimes put-upon executive (Lawther) at a film funding agency is hounded by an avant garde film that won't go away: Paint Cans.  This Canadian-film satire is rarely as biting, clever, or funny as the advanced critical praise suggested, and suffers from the static pacing that plagues so many domestic movies.  At one point a character in the film decries the "competent mediocrity" of most Canadian movies -- ironically, he could have been describing this one.  Not terrible, but flat.  Look for Gross' atypically outlandish performance as a writer.  sc./dir: Paul Donovan (from his novel). - really brief female nudity.- 103 min.

PALAIS ROYALE  * *  setting: Ont.
(1988) Kim Cattrall, Matt Craven, Kim Coates, Brian George, Dean Stockwell, Michael Hogan.....In 1959, a bored accountant (Craven) falls for a model (Cattrall) and becomes involved with her gangster friends (led by imported Stockwell) who all hang around the Palais Royale night club.  Stylish, well-acted and sometimes quite amusing film noire suspenser limps along aimlessly until you're begging for it to end.  Close, but no cigar.  Great blues sound track.  Trivia note: the real Palaid Royale re-opened in 2006. a.k.a. Smokescreen.  sc: Hugh Graham. dir: Martin Lavut. - sexual content, partial female nudity.- 100 min.

PALE KINGS AND PRINCES see Spenser: Pale Kings and Princes

PALE SAINTS  * * 1/2  setting: Ont.
(1996) Sean Patrick Flanery, Saul Rubinek, Michael Riley, Rachael Crawford, Gordon Pinsent, Maury Chaykin, Hardee T. Lineham, John Cuthbert.....A couple of small time hoods (Flanery and Riley) try to con their way into a rip-off staged by a couple of middle-men (Rubinek and Crawford) hoping to bilk their psychotic mob boss (Chaykin). Serio-comic crime-drama, mixing Quentin Tarrantino (though not as gory) with a seeming genuine affection for '60s/'70s cinematic styles, is a good, rarely boring film...but not quite a great one. Atypically kinetic (for a Canadian movie), funky, with a good cast, but a little confusing. It strains at times to achieve the quirkiness it's aiming for and, despite emotionally charged ideas, never entirely clicks on an emotional level. Also the endless use of profanity gets pretty numbing after a while -- cuss words are emphatics, but using them every second word negates their effectiveness and puts too many scenes on the same level. Or maybe you need actors who seem as though they'd actually use such language (watching venerable Gordon Pinsent say "F***"-this and "F***"-that endlessly is enough to scar any Canadian). Still, despite the presence of American actor Flanery, this is actually set in Canada (and should've won an honourary Genie for that alone)! An auspices writing/directing debut by actor Wyner...but flawed. sc./dir: Joel Wyner. 89 min.

PAPER MOON AFFAIR * 1/2  setting: B.C.
(2005) Misa Shimizu, Brendan Fletcher, Sebastian Spence, Philip Granger, John Lone, Brenda James.....Story of a Japanese woman (Shimizu) who arrives in a small, redneck B.C. coastal town, and is essentially deserted by her husband, and of a young, uncouth local man (Fletcher) who befriends and becomes infatuated with her. Well-intentioned drama boasts some breathtaking B.C. scenery, but tries too hard to tell its story in minimalist vignettes -- often with brief scenes of deliberately pointless dialogue followed by long stretches of silence showing the actors looking contemplative, or cutting to the shore or clouds. In a sense, this Japanese themed film is a little like a cinematic haiku, trying to build mood and a story out of almost random phrasings. And the result is just too choppy and disjointed (import Lone, as the husband, literally just vanishes from the film), where it's all about the characterization...and the characters feel short changed and their actions not always convincing. You know the lyrical flavour they're going for...but they don't, quite, pull it off. Improves as it goes along, but not enough. sc: David Tamagi, Michael Parker, Jilena Cori (story Thomas Fung). dir: Dave Tamagi. - sexual content.- 81 min.

PAPER WEDDING see Les noces de papier

PAPERBACK HERO  * * 1/2  setting: Sask.
(1973) Keir Dullea, Elizabeth Ashley, John Beck, Dayle Hadden, Franz Russell, George Robertson, Les Rubie.....Small town bully and womanizer (Dullea) leads an aimless life as a hockey hero and pretending he's a gunslinger until his team is shut down.  Interesting, cerebral little serio-comic classic of Canadiana is well-done though unappealing characters make it hard to care.  sc: Barry Pearson, Les Rose. dir: Peter Pearson. - female nudity, sexual content.- 94 min.

THE PAPERBOY   * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1995) Alexandra Paul, Marc Marut, William Katt, Brigid Tierney, Krista Errickson, Frances Byland, Barry Flatman.....Homicidal American paperboy (Marut) fixated on a woman (Paul) he's seen in photographs, manipulates things so that she moves back to town...after her mother's, heh, heh, unnatural death...and he generally does what psychos do in this kind of film.  Dull, uncomfortable little suspenser with uninteresting, and none-too-bright, characters.  sc: David Peckinpah. dir: Douglas Jackson. - violence, brief female nudity.- 93 min.
 
 
PARADISE FALLS (TV Series)

(2001-2002, 2004-2005)  * *  Art Hindle ("Pete Braga"), Tammy Isbell ("Rose Bernini"), Chantal Quesnel ("Yvonne Bernini"), Cherilee Taylor a.k.a. Cherilee Garofano ("Pamela Harman"), Cameron Graham ("Nick Braga"), Victoria Snow ("Francis Hunter"), Kim Poirer ("Roxy Hunter"), Bill MacDonald ("George Mansfield") (1st), Allen Altman ("Billy Hunter"), Marni Thompson ("Valerie Hunter"), Ian D. Clark ("Dominic Bernini") (1st), Carla Collins ("Rusty Sinclair"), Steve Cumyn ("Tony Beroni"), Gary Hudson ("Brick Madison") (1st), Michelle Latimer ("Trish Simpkin") (1st), Grant Nickalls ("David Silverman") (1st), Martin Roach ("Ravenheart") (1st), Kim Schraner ("Jessica Lansing"), Dixie Seatle ("Bea Sutton"), Robert Seeliger ("Jeff Bradshaw"),  Jim Thorburn ("Michael Mansfield"), Salvatore Migliore (2nd), Frank Pellegrino (2nd), Josh Pearce (2nd), Sean Bell (2nd), many others.....Night-time soap opera about the various goings on in a small town in Ontario's cottage country. Hindle plays the corrupt mayor, Isbell the the mousey owner of a dress shop and Quesnel her worldly sister back from the big city, Graham plays Hindle's adult grandson, an aspiring writer, Snow the local trailer park drunk and Poirer her daughter, Taylor a practicing Wiccan, etc. Made for the cable station Showcase, the series' additional selling point was employing profanity and nudity. 

When reviewing things, there's always a danger that you end up reviewing what you want something to be, rather than what it is trying to be. In this case, though, it was the advertising around the show itself that advertised it as "Twin Peaks" meets "Melrose Place". And the problem is: it ain't. "Twin Peaks" implies it's a dark, moody, twisty story full of weird people and weirder happenings. Despite beginning with a murder, and throwing in some supernatural bits (like Taylor being a witch given to prophetic visions), Paradise Falls actually seems like a rather tame, quiet town. Read: a dull town. Unlike "Twin Peaks", the murder was never treated as a serious investigation (presenting suspects, clues, or motives)...largely because the solution turned out that it was just a motiveless serial killer. The problem is that, though the makers seem to be enjoying themselves, and were eager to hype the series as just unpretentious, lurid entertainment (which is good), one gets the distinct feeling that they have no respect for their genre or their characters, with the whole thing coming across as campy and tongue-in-cheek, failing to make you care about these people and, by extension, what happens to them. But if it's a parody, it's not funny enough to qualify as a comedy. 

Because it's an evolving story arc, it might be unfair to judge it by a few episodes, the characters and situations needing time to grow...but after watching the first eighteen half-hour episodes, the series actually became more aggravating, rather than less, with few of the on-going plot threads being, well, interesting. The performances are uneven, though mayhap a result of the above mentioned treatment of the characters as being almost parodies of people. Taylor (nee Garofano) emerged as fairly likeable (and tended to provide the series' with its most skin shots as a free spirit given to skinny dipping), and other notable performances include the always reliable Seatle, as a cafe owner, MacDonald, who brought a world weary intensity to his role as a slightly shadey developer, and Clark (though his character was killed off early). Isbell played a fairly broad, cartoony role...but actually managed to invest the character with a certain dignity at times. For a series hyping its sex and nudity, there was a decided lack of passion to the proceedings (and not even that much skin, all things considered). The first season was meant to stand alone, almost like a mini-series, and, likewise, the second season (shot a few years later) also seemed to feature its own story arcs though, since many of the characters are carried over, likewise sub-plots can't help but overlap between the seasons. Created by Paula J. Smith, Alex Galatis (the two serving as the chief writers) and Ira Levy, Peter Williamson. Something like 50 half-hour episodes were made for the first season, though shown two back to back on Showcase to make hour long instalments. - partial female and male nudity, sexual content.- 

PARADOX   * *  setting: USA./other
(2010) (/U.S.) Kevin Sorbo, Steph Song, Christopher Judge, A.C. Peterson, Alisen Down, Jerry Wasserman, Michael St.John Smith, David Richmond Peck.....In an alternate reality 20th Century, where magic is the basis for technology, a Los Angeles police detective (American Sorbo) with an interest in the fringe theory of "science" investigates some murders committed using a previously unheard of projectile weapon that doesn't use magic -- a gun! An interesting premise in this TV movie -- admittedly, it was also interesting when a similar idea was used years earlier in "Cast a Deadly Spell" (and its sequel "Witch Hunt"), even utilizing a similar 1940s/1950s ambience of fedoras and trenchcoats (despite a "modern" setting). The fresh twist is the idea of science finding its way into a culture skeptical about it. Unfortunately, it's modestly budgeted and the execution doesn't live up to the concept. It tries for a quirky visual style -- the mid-20th Century ambience, use of split screen, or morphing between live action and comic book stills -- even as it can feel a bit like they're faking a style...rather than feeling it. Even whether it's meant to be serious (as it mainly is), humorous...or deliberate camp (some bad dialogue, cliched scenes). And the mystery-plot itself is rather thin. The result is a movie that isn't really "good"...but isn't direly bad, either, and might be worth a look on a slow night just for the premise. After all, even "Cast a Deadly Spell", though fondly remembered by some, was itself more interesting for its idea than its execution. Sorbo and Judge have both spent a lot of time in Canada with their respective sci-fi series, Andromeda and StarGate: SG1. sc: Christos N. Gage, Ruth Fletcher Gage (from the comic book by Christos N. Gage). dir: Brenton Spencer. - violence.- 82 min.

PARALLELS   * * 1/2  setting: Alt.
(1980) David Fox, Judith Mabey, Gerard Lepage, Kyra Harper, David Ferry, Walter Kaasa, Howard Dallin.....Story of priest (Fox, in a rare lead role), having a crisis of faith, and the angry teen-aged son (Lepage) of his ex-girlfriend (Mabey), who's in an increasingly dangerous feud with the local bully (Ferry).  Nicely done drama unfortunately doesn't entirely sustain itself through to the end.  sc: Mark Schoenberg, Jaron Summers. dir: Mark Schoenberg. 85 min.

THE PARASITE MURDERS a.k.a. Shivers

PARIS, FRANCE   * * 1/2  setting: Ont.
(1993) Leslie Hope, Peter Outerbridge, Victor Ertmanis, Dan Lett, Raoul Trujillo.....Over a weekend, a frustrated writer (Hope) has a sexual tryst with a bisexual boxing-poet (Outerbridge) while her publisher husband (Ertmanis) thinks he'll die in 3 days...because the voice of John Lennon told him so.  Bizarre, talky, sexually graphic (and kinky) comedy benefits from excellent performances, witty dialogue, a brisk tempo and just plain weirdness, but it tries so hard to be off-beat and shocking, and the characters so neurotic, that it fails to work emotionally (or erotically for that matter).  Never boring, but not involoving either.  Savaged by critics (even making a "worst of the year" list) suggesting it certainly managed to push somebody's buttons.  sc: Tom Walmsley (from his novel). dir: Gerard Ciccoritti. - explicit sexual content, lots of male and female nudity, violence.- 121 min.

PARIS OR SOMEWHERE   * *  setting: Sask.
(1995) Callum Keith Rennie, Molly Parker, Chris Owens, Charlene Fernetz, John Vernon.....An American (Rennie), on the run for killing his abusive father, arrives in a small Saskatchewan town where many of the folk glamourize him because of his crime.  Sleepy serio-comic flick is notable for trying to be weird and off-beat, at least in execution, but the blending of quirky humour and drama is awkward and the film's point bewildering.  And the themes (small town losers and dreamers, glorified American) can either be seen as quintessentially Canadian...or really cliched and it suffers from another very Canadian characteristic: characters that aren't especially appealing.  Good-looking and decently acted, especially Rennie, Fernetz and Vernon.  sc: Lee Gowan (based on the play "The Playboy of the Western World" by John M. Synge). dir: Brad Turner. 94 min.

THE PARK IS MINE   * * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1985) (/U.S.) Tommy Lee Jones, Helen Shaver, Yaphet Kotto, Lawrence Dane, Peter Dvorsky, Eric Peterson.....Vietnam vet (imported Jones) takes over and barricades Central park as an "everyman" protesting the state of the world, but nasty politicians aren't about to let him get away with it.  So-so flick has good action and a good performance from Jones but it's contrived and sanctimonious without seeming sincere.  sc. Lyle Gorch. d. Steven Hilliard Stern. - brief female nudity.- 105 min.

PAROLES ET MUSIQUE   * *  setting: other/CDN.
(1986) (/France) Catherine Deneuve, Richard Anconina, Christopher Lambert, Nick Mancuso, Jacques Perrin, Dayle Haddon.....Story of a struggling French pop-music duo (Anconina and Lambert) and how the latter's work suffers when he begins an affair with a married-though-separated woman (Deneuve).  Slick drama has some clever writing, but remains strangely opaque and insubstantial...and way too long.  The audience observes, but never gets inside the characters.  English title: Love Songs.  sc./dir: Elie Chouraqui. 107 min.

PARSLEY DAYS  * * *
(2000) Megan Dunlop, Michael LeBlanc, Marla McLean, Kenneth Wilson- Harrington, Marcia Connolly, Shannon Cunningham, Vanessa Maximillian, Bruce Godfree.....Young woman (Dunlop) discovers she's pregnant, and plans to abort it because she thinks she's no longer in love with her doting boyfriend (LeBlanc)...even though all her eccentric friends assure her he's the perfect boyfriend. Low-key comedy is quirky, cleverly unexpected, well-paced, and quite stylish at times. It can't quite shake its low-budget aura at first, but stick with it, because after a while it's the quirkiness and cleverness, and the personable (if unpolished) cast that sticks with you. Actor/tv personality Jonathan Torrens provides the voice of a radio DJ in one scene. Filmed in Halifax. sc./dir: Andrea Dorfman. 78 min.

PARTITION * * * setting: other
(2007) (/U.K.) Jimi Mistry, Kristin Kreuk, Neve Campbell, John Light, Irrfan Khan, Madhur Jaffrey, Arrya Babbar, Jaden Rain, Jesse Moss.....During the partition of Indian and Pakistan into separate nations, and the resulting ethnic/religious bloodshed that occurred, a Sikh ex-soldier (Mistry) protects a Muslim girl (Kreuk) separated and lost from her family after a massacre. Romantic drama/historical epic is sumptuous looking in a way that belies the (presumably) limited budget (director Sarin doubled as the cinematographer). But there are times where the film seems to be going for "elegant" more than "passionate", with a certain minimalism to the plot, character development and even dialogue (Kreuk's character inparticular at times threatens to seem more like a plot device than a fully fleshed out person). But ultimately works more than it doesn't, scoring some memorable scenes and emotional moments in its Romeo & Juliet-style scenario. Campbell is memorable in a prominent supporting part. Ironically, though some was filmed on location in India...much was shot in B.C. (including some exteriors and street scenes) and yet it never loses its sense of period and place. The same historical period was also used in the earlier Canadian movie, Earth. sc: Vic Sarin, Patricia Finn. dir: Vic Sarin. - violence.- 116 min.

PARTNERS 'N LOVE * * 1/2
(1992) Eugene Levy, Linda Kash, John James, Jayne Eastwood, John Hemphill, Debra McGrath, Colin Fox, E.M. Margolese, Stephanie Morgenstern.....Divorced-but-still-friends business partners (Levy and Kash) re-evaluate their relationship when they discover their divorce isn't legal and an offer is made on their business.  Inoffensive film is either a low-key comedy, or else a light-hearted drama.  Likeable but, either way, it's not much more than an O.K. time-waster.  sc: Josh Goldstein (story Goldstein and Jonathan Prince). dir: Eugene Levy (his first feature). 94 min.

LE PARTY   * * 1/2  setting: P.Q.
(1990) Charlotte Laurier, Benoit Dagenais, Julien Poulin, Lou Babin, Roger Leger, Andre Doucet, Gildor Roy, Louise LaPrade, Michel Forget.....Story of a troupe of entertainers -- comedians, singers and strippers -- arriving at a prison, and how some of the prisoners intend to use the performance to cover an escape.  Raw, gritty, strongly acted drama is adamantly pro-prisoners, anti-prison (a difficult message given that the characters are so unrepentant), and it's so didactic that, at times, it seems hokey and over-the-top.  The concept comes from FLQer Simard's own experience in prison.  sc: Pierre Faladreau with Francis Simard, Bernard Emond (story Francis Simard). dir: Pierre Faladreau. - sexual content, female nudity, violence..- 104 min.

A PASSAGE TO OTTAWA  * * *  setting: Ont.
(2002) Nabil Mehta, Amy Sobol, Jim Codrington, Ivan Smith, Franceen Brodkin.....Story of an East Indian boy (Mehta), sent to live with his ethnically mixed Canadian relatives because his dying mother can't look after him, who's set on finding a hero figure he can take back to India to look after her. And of the grudging relationship that develops between him and his older Canadian cousin (Sobol), and how they both become interested (for different reasons, of course) in a good natured tour boat captain (Codrington). Serio-comic, bittersweet flick starts out seeming a bit hamstrung by its modest budget, including uneven performances (except Codrington, who exudes professionalism). But pretty soon draws you in where the actors, if not always polished, imbue their parts with depth and nuance, particularly Sobol. An empathetic movie, which is sweet but not sentimental, and emotionally complex, where the characters are likeable but flawedly human. Though Mehta's Canadian accent doesn't quite gel with an Indian-born character. Pluralistic, archly Canadian (in a good way) and with a nice use of Ottawa River locations. Worth sticking with. sc: Jameel Khaja (inspired by the story "Fourth Daddy" by Yuri Nagibin). dir: Gaurav Seth. 90 min.

PASSCHENDAELE  * * 1/2 Alt./other
(2009) Paul Gross, Caroline Dhavernas, Joe Dinicol, Meredith Bailey, Jim Mezon, Adam Harrington, Gil Bellows, Michael Greyeyes.....Story of an injured World War I soldier (Gross) who returns to the homefront, becomes involved with a nurse (Dhavernas), and eventually, because of circumstances, returns to the battlefield and the infamous battle of Passchendaele. One of the most expensive Canadian movies made (that wasn't an international co-production), and by all accounts a labour of love for Gross who spent years trying to get it filmed. And the results are...well-intentioned. By wrapping it around the homefront soap opera the movie tries admirably to be more than just grunts n' guns -- without fully succeeding in making those scenes seem like much more than, well, filler. Gross and Dhavernas are perfectly personable, but their characters are rather bland, Dinicol's character (her brother) is just obnoxious (problematic given the plot), and most of the other characters are either one dimensional, or barely defined at all (Bellows barely has a half dozen lines). The movie skirts plausibility, even becoming -- occasionally -- silly. And Gross' direction is generally no more than workmanlike. Yet, on the other hand, it does have its moments, and the last act battlefield scenes are effectively raw and chaotic. Ultimately, sincere intentions aside, balancing the plus and minuses, the result is...okay. sc./dir: Paul Gross. - extreme violence; sexual content; brief male and female nudity.- 115 min.

PASSION AND PARADISE (TVMS)   * * 1/2  setting: other
(1989) (/U.S./U.K.) Armand Assante, Catherine Mary Stewart, Rod Steiger, Mariette Hartley, Kevin McCarthy, Michael Sarrazin, Wayne Rogers, Andrew Ray, Linda Griffiths.....Fact based story of the events leading up to the still unsolved murder of Canadian millionaire Sir Harry Oakes (Steiger) in the Bahamas in the '40s, focusing on his daughter (Stewart), and of the subsequent trial of his son-in-law (Assante) -- complete with the film suggesting a possible solution.  O.K. drama seems sincere, but there's no real spark to the film.  Hart won a posthumous Gemini for Best Direction.  The Oakes case was also covered, from a slightly different perspective, in a better-than-average Scales of Justice episode.  4 hours but, apparently, also shown in a trimmed down movie-length version.  sc: Andrew Laskos (from the book Who Killed Sir Harry Oakes by James Leasor with additional material by David Reid). dir: Harvey Hart. - violence.-

A PASSION FOR MURDER * *  setting: USA.
(1992) Michael Nouri, Joanna Pacula, Michael Ironside, Mickey Jones, Brent Neale, Arne Olsen.....Cabbie (imported Nouri) agrees to drive a mysterious woman (imported Pacula) from Detroit to Seatle, unaware she's being hunted by a government agent (Ironside).  So-so suspenser is watchable with some decent performances (particularly Nouri), dialogue, striking snowy scenery and even some sex early on.  But there's no suspense, nor any interesting turns in the plot.  Nothing more than the bones of an idea for a movie.  a.k.a. Black Ice.  sc: Arne Olsen, John Alan Schwartz. dir: Neill Fearnley. - partial female and male nudity, explicit sexual content, extreme violence.- 92 min.

PAST PERFECT ( i ) * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1996) Eric Roberts, Nick Mancuso, Saul Rubinek, Laurie Holden, Mark Hildreth, Yee Jee Tso.....Hard-nosed, American vigilante-cop (American actor Roberts) and his partner (Holden) find themselves trying to protect a juvenile delinquent (Hildreth) from killers (Mancuso and Rubinek)...from the future.  Frustrating film starts as your usual right-wing straight-to-video cop show where characters can fire a hundred bullets without reloading and no one shoots anyone once when they can shoot 'em a dozen times, then throws in the science fiction element, character stuff, good dialogue and some surprising (and refreshing) liberal-philosophizing, as if it wants to do the Pinnochio-thing and turn into a real movie (with a good cast) instead of a Lorenzo Lamas reject.  But every time it starts to work, the incessant, numbing gun battles start up and boredom sets in.  Too bad.  Presumably there was a behind-the-scenes struggle over what kind of movie they were making, and the schlock-meisters won out.  sc: John Penney. dir: Jonathan Heap. - violence.- 92 min.

PAST PERFECT ( ii )  * * 1/2  setting: N.S
(2003) Rebecca Jenkins, Daniel MacIvor, Marie Brassard, Maury Chaykin, Kathryn MacLellan.....Two somewhat neurotic people (Jenkins and MacIvor), just coming off relationships, meet on a plane trip -- while, through cutaways, we see the seeming dissolution of that relationship a few years later. Intimate, bitter-sweet drama (with some humour) is decently acted (particularly Jenkins) and moderately interesting...but can seem too much like it's just in love with its "bookends" concept (which has been done before) and doesn't have much point. But it eventually delivers a pay-off that even allows you to go back and reconsider the meaning of earlier scenes in light of this later revelation. Knowing that, it's worth sticking with, but it's maybe more a decent film that would've made a great half-hour short. In your face Canadiana is also refreshing. Actor/playwright MacIvor's directorial debut. sc/dir: Daniel MacIvor. 88 min.

THE PATHFINDER  * * 1/2
(1996) (/U.S.) Kevin Dillon, Graham Greene, Laurie Holden, Jaimz Woolvett, Michael Hogan, Dan MacDonald, Stephen Russell, Frances Hyland, Russell Means, Stacey Keach (Stacy Keach), Michelle St. John, Lawrence Bayne, Bernard Behrens.....White man (Dillon) raised by an Indian (Greene) works as a scout for the British in their war with the French, and starts to fall in love with a white woman (Holden).  Decent-looking made-for-TV historical adventure suffers from indifferent writing, direction, and performances from American Dillon and Canuck Greene, but gets better as it goes along, getting a big boost from Holden and the rest of the cast, and just the old-fashioned adventure-story plot.  Though American Keach, in a pointless part, has his name misspelled in the credits!  Based on one of Cooper's "Leatherstocking" novels, of which the most famous is The Last of the Mohicans.  sc: James Mitchell Miller, Thomas W. Lynch (from the novel by James Fenimore Cooper). dir: Donald Shebib. - violence.- 104 min.

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