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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.
* * 1/2 setting: CDN./USA.
(1992) (/Japan) Gail Travers, Macha Grenon, Eiji Okuda, Dorothee Berryman, Maury Chaykin, Ralph Allison, voice of Carl Alacchi.....Two sisters (Travers and Grenon) become infatuated with their one-time neighbour (Okuda), a famous pianist, but as they grow older, it comes between them. Drama is often clunky and unconvincing with Travers inparticular too inexperienced to carry it, but gets better as it goes along. Even then, though, it seems to work only inspite of itself. sc./dir: Claude Gagnon (from the novel A Certain Mr. Takahashi by Ann Ireland). - sexual content, casual male and female nudity.- 112 min.
THE PIANO MAN'S DAUGHTER
* * setting: CDN./other
(2000) (/U.S.) Wendy Crewson, Christian Campbell, Marnie McPhail, Stockard Channing, R.H. Thomson, Sarah Strange, Dixie Seatle, Deborah Pollitt, David Hemblen, Joel Keller.....Generational saga of a young man (Campbell), in the late 1930s, trying to establish his own life while struggling with his mother's instability. Through various flashbacks, he learns about her life, and the life of her mother. Channing and McPhail play the mother at different ages and Crewson his grandmother. Sprawling-but-episodic drama was filmed as mini-series, but saw its initial release as an edited 124 minute movie. It seems to be juggling too much material, resulting in seeming truncated scenes, and plot information that drops out of nowhere (like that the young man has a mysterious patron in shades of "Great Expectations"). Yet, strangely, these problems remain in the full, unedited mini-series! Including a heavy -- heavy -- reliance on voice over narrations that make the thing seem more like a talking book with illustrations, rather than a true dramatization. The main difference between the movie and the mini-series is simply that supporting players like veteran actor Chris Wiggins turn out to actually have dialogue! Not uninteresting, and the very audacious scope of the thing can be appealing, but it suffers from heavy handed dialogue and mannered performances (the latter, at least, a hallmark of director Sullivan's other works). And for a movie called the "piano man"...music plays very little part in the proceedings. Ultimately, as a movie, it can encourage you to seek out the source novel...because there's a feeling there's a great story in here somewhere but this isn't quite bringing it to light. American actress Whoopi Goldberg was one of the executive producers. sc./dir: Kevin Sullivan (from the novel by Timothy Findley). - brief male nudity, violence, sexual content.- 124 min...and a 4 hour mini-series.
PICHÉ: Entre ciel et terre
* 1/2 setting: P.Q./other
(2010) Michel Côté, Maxime LeFlaguais, Sophie Prégent, Normand D'Amour, Isabelle Guerard, Vincent LeClerc, Michele Sirois, Sarah-Jeanne LaBrosse, Gilbert Sicotte, Michel Perron, Frederic Pierre.....Fact-based story of airline pilot Robert Piche who becomes a celebrity when he saves a plane load of people, but struggles with alcoholism and memories of a criminal past and a gruelling prison term. Biographical dramas can be tricky to review (you're not opining on the subject's life -- merely the dramatization of it) and, equally, to make in the first place. Here, one can't help but think the filmmakers optioned the story because it seemed rich with drama when read about in a newspaper...but they were stumped when it came to shaping it into a feature drama. Jumping back and forth in time, it can seem like a bunch of different movies: an air disaster pic, a crime-drama-cum-gritty-prison-drama (including themes of prison rape!), an addiction/rehab drama, and a dysfunctional family drama. None of which are original on their own, and seem particularly perfunctory and undeveloped when squeezed together (and sometimes suffer from awkward dialogue and unconvincing scenes). Above all, they never really make the lead character interesting, or especially endearing, or even entirely fathomable (they sort of want to suggest his alcoholism is a result of events in his life and/or the stress of his job -- but he was a heavy drinker right from the earliest flashbacks!). Still, the sequence during the air disaster/rescue (held back till the end) is moderately effective -- though even then, just feels like a Reader's Digest version of other movies (ie: Falling from the Sky). In French (with some English). sc: Ian Lauzon. dir: Sylvain Archambault. - casual male nudity, brief female nudity, sexual content.- 108 min.
PICK-UP SUMMER a.k.a. Pinball Summer
PICTURE CLAIRE *
1/2 setting: Ont./P.Q.
(2001) Juliette Lewis, Gina Gershon, Callum Keith Rennie, Kelly Harms, Camilla Rutherford, Peter Stebbings, Tracy Wright, Raoul Bhaneja, Elena Kuduba, Barbara Eve Harris, Mickey Rourke, Gary Reineke.....Story of confusion, coincidences, and mistaken identity when a unilingual French-Canadian (American actress Lewis) arrives in Toronto and, unbeknownst to her, keeps crossing paths with a smuggler (American Gershon) on the run from her partners. Serio-comic film noire's plot twists, though admirably Byzantine at times, can be more aggravating than entertaining, and the same can be said for much of director McDonald's technical experiments (split screen, etc.) which only occasionally seem to enhance a scene. The movie juggles a large cast of characters, but fails to flesh out any of them (leaving you to wonder if scenes were left on the cutting room floor), and it's too often too silly to be serious, but not actually funny enough to be a comedy. The movie hinges on the notion that Lewis doesn't speak any English...and no one she meets understands so much as a word of French -- what? did none of these people go to high school? British actress Rutherford appears briefly nude, which might momentarily bolster the viewer's interest level. Not a total misfire, but it doesn't come together, either. Rourke, another import, has about three minutes of screen time. This $10 million effort (big budget by Canadian standards) became sufficiently infamous that even director McDonald cobbled together a yet-to-be-released behind-the-scenes documentary, Planet Claire, dissecting what went wrong. sc: Semi Chellas (story Bruce McDonald). dir: Bruce McDonald. - female nudity, violence.- 89 min.
* 1/2 setting: other
(1991) (/France) Mark Hamill, Catherine Wilkening, Jean-Pierre Malo, Michael Goldman, Jesse Joe Walsh, Jean-Pierre Maurin, Jacques Ferriere .....U.S. photographer (import Hamill) in Paris finds himself on the run from spies when he takes pictures of a shoot-out involving a beautiful model (Wilkening). Light-hearted, paint-by-numbers suspenser has a couple of funny lines, but is mainly a dud -- and wasn't the cold war over by '91? Only Hamill's voice actually seems to be coming from his mouth. sc: Gary Freedman, David Preston, adapted by David Preston, Jean-Claude Missiaen (story Gary Freedman). dir: Jean-Claude Missiaen.
PICTURE WINDOWS (TV Limited Series)
Limited TV series featured episodes that were expensive, professional, and, well, O.K. None were terrible, and none were particularly brilliant either. Curiously, the paintings were supposed to be the inspiration for the directors, but most episodes were adapted from existing works (short stories, operas) and, in all but one case, written by people other than the directors. Go figure. Four of the episodes were filmed in Toronto (though none explicitly set in Canada) and all featured non-Canadians in the lead and, with the exception of "Language of the Heart" (dir: Jonathan Kaplan), most of the supporting parts as well. This was particularly ironic since the series was sold as being the brainchild of Canadian-born Hollywood director Norman Jewison, a self-styled champion of Canadian film, yet his episode was among those that featured almost no Canadian on-screen participation -- with friends like these, Canuck film needs few enemies.
"Song of Songs" and "Two Nudes Bathing" featured partial female nudity, and in "Armed Response", Canuck Cyndy Preston briefly shows some skin. The various episodes ran between 30 and 34 minutes, making it probable they will be edited if ever shown on commercial television (the norm for a half-hour program is actually around 23 minutes to allow for commercials). Created by Scott J.T. Frank, Dan Halperin, David Wesley Wachs. Six episodes, originally aired in Canada on Bravo! - partial female nudity.-
PICTURES AT THE BEACH
* * * setting: Ont.
(1989) Paul Babiak, Bob Bidaman, Christopher Crumb, Ann Curran, Tamara Guner, Catherine Kuhn, Benson Simmonds.....A group of friends who haven't seen each other for a while get together for a day at the beach. Low-budget but very nicely done, likeable serio-comic pic about relationships and self-discovery. Atmospheric and memorable. sc./dir: Aaron J. Shuster. 78 min.
PIG'S LAW see La loi du cochon
PILE OU FACE *
1/2 setting: P.Q.
(1970) Nathalie Naubert, Jean Coutu, Diane Arcand, Monique Belisle, Pat Foster, Jacquleine Fellay, Jean-Denis Leduc, Patrick Peuvion, Jerome Tiberghien, Georges Carrere.....Jet-setting group of couples get together for their annual vacation of spouse-swapping; the cracks in their happy, free-love facade start to show when an extra woman shows up who's not part of their circle, and the men fall all over themselves to be the first to seduce her. Light-drama is more ambitious than the usual soft porn films out of Quebec at that time, but it still falls short of being a real drama...or particularly sexy, despite plenty of male and female nudity. Good cast. English title: Heads or Tails. sc: Gerald Tasse. dir: Roger Fournier. - male and female nudity, sexual content.- 93 min.
PILGRIM a.k.a. Inferno
THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH (TVMS)
* * * * setting: CDN./other
(1988) David Hewlett, Cyndy Preston, Terrance O'Quinn, John Ferguson, Bronwen Nantel.....Disturbed young man (Hewlett) attributes a consciousness to -- and befriends -- an inanimate medical dummy (Pin, as in Pinnochio) with dangerous results. So-so psychological-suspenser looks good but suffers from poor development of characters and their relationships. sc./dir: Sandor Stern (from the novel by Andrew Neiderman). - partial female nudity.- 103 min.
PINBALL SUMMER *
(1979) Michael Zelniker, Carl Marotte, Karen Stephen, Helene Udy, Tom Kovacs.....Low-budget teen sex comedy, this time revolving around rival American kids and a local pinball tournament. O.K., you didn't really expect me to give this a good review, did you? Lots of montage sequences of teens frolicking in bikinis in the sun while soft rock tunes play on the soundtrack, so if that's all you're looking for, and can fast forward over the talky bits... Normally with this kind of movie, the heroes are supposed to be likeable goofs clashing with the mean gang...but here, the heroes themselves are bullies going around picking on and harassing people. And that's supposed to be fun? At least some of the leads went on to become respectable actors. a.k.a. Pick-Up Summer. sc: Richard Zelniker (story Fred Fox). dir: George Mihalka. - partial female nudity, brief male nudity.- 99 min.
THE PINK CHIQUITAS
* 1/2 setting: USA.
(1986) Frank Stallone, Bruce Pirrie, Elizabeth Edwards, Claudia Udy, John Hemphill, Don Lake.....A world famous p.i. (American import Stallone) stumbles across a small American town that is being taken over by lusty, possessed women. Private eye/sci-fi/"Andy of Mayberry" spoof tries real hard and the cast is game...it's just too bad that it isn't funny. sc./dir: Anthony Currie (story Currie and Nick Rotundo). 84 min.
THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE
* * * setting: other
(1985) Brent Carver, Jeff Hyslop, Caralyn Tomlin, Douglas Chamberlain, Karen Wood....Recorded-on-video version of the Stratford Festival production of the popular comedy/musical about a man (Hyslop), accidentally apprenticed to pirates for his formative years, who sets out on his own and promptly falls in love. Unlikely to win converts to Gilbert and Sullivan (the story is awfully slight), nonetheless, this is an extremely energetic, lively production, with choreography which will leave the audience almost as breathless as the actors. Carver shines as the Pirate King and Chamberlain steals some scenes as the Major-General. Made for the CBC. sc: the musical by Gilbert and Sullivan (with a couple of anachronistic jokes added in). dir: Brian MacDonald (the play), Norman Campbell (the video).
* * * setting: N.S.
(1997) Richard Donat, Denny Doherty, Gabriel Hogan, Jeremy Akerman, Rhonda McLean, Jennie Raymond, Ben Rose-Davies.....Turn-of-the-Century drama about a boy (Rose-Davies) in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia who goes to work in the mine after his father is injured, and his fascination with the ponies that are used to haul ore out of the mine; plus sub-plots involving his sister's (Raymond) tentative romance with a miner (Hogan) and attempts to unionize. Top-billed Donat, as the dad, and Doherty, as kindly farmer who befriends the boy, appear in just small parts. Slickly-produced CBC TV movie maintains interest throughout, though doesn't really demand much involvement. As well, it's one of those family films that's attempting to be a tearjerker, so be warned. Subsequently a TV series. Raymond, in particular, is very good. sc. Heather Conkie (from the novel by Joyce Barkhouse). dir: Eric Till. 92 min.
Places Not Our Own
* * 1/2 setting: Man.
(1986) Diane Debassige, Tantoo Martin-Cardinal, Kirk Grayson, Michael Fletcher, Eli Goldstein.....Story of a poor Metis teen (Debassige) in 1929 Manitoba and her mother's futile attempts to integrate her with the bigoted white community. Atmospheric, memorable hour-long drama, but technically clumsy and obvious. One of the Daughters of the Country series. sc: Sandra Birdsell. dir: Derek Mazur.
* setting: Ont.
(1978) Daniel Pilon, Kate Reid, Celine Lomez, Michael J. Reynolds, Brenda Donohue, Barbara Gordon.....Microbiologists inadvertently release an experimental virus on the city with deadly results. So-so suspense flick is helped by a general feeling of scientific accuracy but marred by some real slow moments. Though the microscopic shots of the virus look more like crystal growths. sc: Ed Hunt, Barry Pearson. dir: Ed Hunt. 88 min.
PLAGUE CITY: SARS in Toronto
* * setting: Ont./other
(2005) Kari Matchett, Ron White, Rick Roberts, Lannette New, Rahnuma Panthaky, Merwin Mondesir, Brian Markinson, James Gallanders, Les Carlson, Von Flores.....Dramatization of some of the events surrounding the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak in Toronto in 2003 that threatened to become an epidemic, focusing on a hospital nurse (Matchett), and others involved in the system. Made for CTV movie is basically a paint-by-numbers fictionalized dramatization. Improves somewhat in the second half, portraying some of paranoia and ostracization SARS incurred, but remains seeming too much like a churned out "ripped from the headlines" programmer. And, no, you're not suffering from deja vu: Matchett previously played a nurse caught in the middle of a different outbreak in the CBC TV movie, Betrayed. sc: Colin Friesen, Pete McCormack. dir: David Wu. app. 90 min.
PLAIN TRUTH *
* setting: USA.
(2004) (/U.S.) Mariska Hargitay, Alison Pill, Jan Niklas, Kate Trotter, Jonathan LaPaglia, Alec McClure, Robert Bockstael, Colin Fox.....American lawyer (Hargitay) reluctantly takes on the case of an Amish teenager (Pill) accused of murdering her new-born baby; except she claims she didn't do it...and denies even having been pregnant! "Witness" meets "Agnes of God" in this made-for-TV mystery-drama, but suffers from a thin plot, basically sticking with the same question for the whole movie (most of the "revelations" that occur are completely irrelevant to the case), a dubious presentation of the law and the judicial process (and the Amish as well -- the "plain" people of the title), and other things that just seem rushed or half-baked (like a barely developed romance between the lawyer and a psychiatrist). Decent enough performances (especially Trotter as the girl's mother), but unsatisfying. Hargitay and LaPaglia are American. sc: Matthew Tabak (from the novel by Jodi Picoult). dir: Paul Shapiro. - violence.- app. 90 min.
THE PLANET OF JUNIOR BROWN
* * 1/2 setting: CDN.
(1997) Lynn Whitfield, Martin Villafana, Rainbow Sun Francks, Clark Johnson, Sarah Polley, Richard Chevolleau, Margot Kidder, Tina Su.....Story of two teens, a would-be pianist (Villafana), who's not all there and lives with his unstable, possessive mom (American Whitfield), and his best friend (Francks), a street kid. Sumptuous CBC TV movie is interesting and easy to watch, even lyrical in spots, peopled by eccentric characters...but Virgo-the-director suffers from the problem plaguing a lot of Canadian Art filmmakers: a tendency to direct all his actors like they're rehearsing in a library, delivering muted, often opaque performances that never really expose the emotional guts of the characters. There's no real depth to this pretty film, despite attempts at serious issues (like street kids), and the plot is so half-heartedly developed that you only realize it's reached the climax because the credits start rolling. sc: Clement Virgo, Cameron Bailey (from the novel by Virginia Hamilton). dir: Clement Virgo. 94 min.
* * setting: P.Q.
(1997) Robert Cavanah, Pascale Bussieres, Tanya Allen, Jackie Burroughs, Stewart Bick, Laura Bertram, Kent Waters, Vik Sahay, Carl Alachi, Clare Sims, Maxim Roy.....Independent record company exec (Cavanah) struggles to sign an up-and-coming, petulant rock band (headed by Allen) before they're scooped up by a major label...much to the chagrin of his business partner (Bussieres). Made-for-CBC TV drama could've used more humour, or at least wit, to give a satirical edge to these otherwise often unappealing, and frequently unfathomable, characters. But the main problem is a fundamental lack of human drama (provided only by Bertram's character in a sub-plot) in this business-oriented opus. Essentially a rock drama for the Traders audience. Director McDonald seems equally bored by the material, indulging in camera tricks, spilt screen images (problematic on a small screen), etc. which rarely complement the scenes, and often detract from them. The movie seems to think it's hip, but there's a world of difference between something that's hip...and something which only thinks it is. Cavanah and Bussieres are pretty but a little blank. Plenty of rocker cameos as street people and aspiring musicians, like Mitsou. Pilot for a never realized series. Apparently this was set in the near future...but you can't tell that from anything on-screen! sc: Leopold St. Pierre, Paul Risacher. dir: Bruce McDonald. 92 min.
"The Playboy of the Western World", the famous (non-Canadian)
play by John M. Synge, was turned into the TV movie Paris
PLAYED (TV Series)
CTV had enjoyed some recent success with its Canadian-made series being shopped to U.S. networks -- and the windfall of accompanying publicity (the advanced hype allowing Saving Hope to premier to million plus ratings in Canada). But Played failed to land such a deal and, if you're cynical, that hurt it in terms of publicity and press coverage in Canada. Because it didn't necessarily seem to score a big audience -- despite arguably being an above average effort. Each episode a story onto itself, with a nice use of the cast, giving everyone something to do each episode, while slightly focusing on specific characters in different stories. The characters have personality, without simply being ciphers (though there's bickering between Walsh and West's characters, it's not just a cliched hierarchical pissing match -- they ultimately are supposed to like and respect each other). The actors are engaging, the plots well paced with some twists and turns so they don't unfold with too much predictability. And there's a nice attention paid to the characters -- regulars and guest stars -- in motives, nuance, tension in scenes often based on trying to figure out if their cover has been blown or not, and who suspects what, with the camera lingering on reaction shots and the actors' eyes and expressions. Nothing more than an enjoyable way to kill an hour, perhaps, but worth a look. Created by Greg Nelson. Hour long episodes on CTV.
PLAYING FOR KEEPS *
* * setting: B.C./Ont.
(2008) (/U.S.) Jennifer Finnigan, Roger Cross, Doug Savant, Brian Markinson, Enuka Okuma, Agam Darshi.....A white sports groupie (Finnigan) gets pregnant after an affair with a married, black basketball player (Cross), leading to an increasingly acrimonious custody battle that eventually winds up before the Supreme Court...after he argues a black parent would be more fit to raise a black child than a white parent. Fact based TV movie is compelling and very well acted all around, and doesn't entirely shy away from the feet-of-clay aspects (like the fact that Finnigan's character starts out as a bit of a flighty bimbo). But for what evolves into a "courtroom drama", the movie never quite delivers that satisying court house denouement. The result is a movie that is an effective, above average "based on the true story" movie-of-the- week...without quite leaping out of that particular box. Ironically, the race aspect that made the real life story so notorious...only comes into play in the latter part of the movie. sc: Shelley Eriksen (story Eriksen & Keith Behrman). dir: Gary Harvey. app. 90 min.
PLAYING HOUSE *
* 1/2 setting: USA/Ont.
(2006) Joanne Kelly, Lucas Bryant, Kristin Lehman, Rosemary Dunsmore, Craig Ferguson, Damir Andrei, Michael Murphy.....Career focused, New York editor (Kelly)...discovers she's pregnant, and she's not even sure if the father (Bryant) wants to be part of her life, 'causing her to wing back to her parents' Ontario home. Made for CTV comedy-drama, and semi-romance, boasts an appealing cast, though even when it's trying to be serious and gritty, crises tend to resolve fairly easily, and where, far from being "on her own", she seems to have remarkable support, including caring parents who live on a palatial rural estate! Well done in the writing, acting and directing, but it's the sort of movie that will probably polarize opinions...some will love it as somewhat hokey, slice-of-life...and others will be bored. Andrei gives an atypical turn as her frazzle-haired dad. sc: Michelle Lovretta (from the novel by Patricia Pearson). dir: Kelly Makin. app. 90 min.
LES PLOUFFES see Les Plouffes (TVMS)
LES PLOUFFES (TVMS)
* * * setting: P.Q.
(1981) (/France) Emile Genest, Juliette Huot, Denise Filiatrault, Gabriel Arcand, Pierre Curzi, Serge Dupire, Anne Letourneau, Remi Laurent, Louise Lapare.....Chronicle of the working class Plouffe family in Quebec around the beginning of the second world war. Drama, expanded from a feature film (and based on the hit '50s TV soap opera which was, in turn, based on the novel), is entertaining and very well acted with a strong sense of time and place mixing drama, humour, politics and religion. 6 hours. Followed by Murder in the Family (a.k.a. Le crime d'Ovide Plouffe). English title: The Plouffe Family. sc: Roger Lemelin, Gilles Carle (from Lemelin's novel). dir: Gilles Carle. - brief nudity, sexual content.-
THE PLOUFFE FAMILY see Les Plouffes (TVMS)
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