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.

THE PEACEKEEPER  * * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1997)  Dolph Lundgren, Michael Sarrazin, Montel Williams, Roy Scheider, Christopher Heyerdahl, Allen Altman, Martin Neufeld, Monika Schnarre, Serge Houde.....U.S. military aide (Lundgren) has the codes to the nuclear weapons stolen from him, and eventually finds himself and an ally (Williams) inside a  nuclear missile bunker with the terrorists. Better-than-to-be-expected straight-to-video action pic starts out particularly strong with an unusual idea (the hero's the guy carrying "the button" around for the president, played by Scheider) and some exciting, and unusual, action scenes (including a car chase across the rooftops!) but then settles in to being the usual video-action flick idiom: a "Die Hard" imitator with the hero stuck in a limited locale playing cat and mouse with terrorists (Canadians have done half a dozen similar films). It never quite maintains the tension, but benefits from some refreshing light-heartedness in spots, and it even goes for some philosophizing, and character stuff. Lundgren is O.K., American talk show host Williams seems like that, in spots, but Scheider and Sarrazin are good, as is Heyerdahl as one of the thugs. Schnarre, though, is wasted in a pointless part. Not great, but worth including in a two or three video rental binge. Lundgren, Williams and Scheider are all imports. sc: James H. Stewart, Robert Geoffrion. dir: Frederic Forestier. - violence.- 98 min.

THE PEACEKEEPERS   * * 1/2  setting: other
(1997) Gabriel Hogan, Jeremy Ratchford, Larissa Laskin, Tom Butler, Michael Dolan, Damir Andrei, Don Dickinson, Gordon Michael Woolvett, Shawn Doyle, Aron Tager.....Story of a unit of Canadian U.N. peacekeepers attempting to bring order to a Croatian town.  Ignoring the issues surrounding the timing of this CBC TV movie (coming on the heels of the scandal of the Somalia affair -- when Canadian soldiers were found to have tortured and murdered a Somalian, and the military brass tried to cover it up -- is this tribute to our armed forces a nice antidote to the muck-racking...or grossest propaganda?) it's a surprisingly strong drama for the body of the film, but, frustratingly, ends up just O.K. by the end.  It makes better use of plot and characterization than one would hope for from a movie which was intended, the filmmakers admit, more as a tribute than a movie, but it still falls a little short...and, in the wake of Somalia, there are still some unintentionally disturbing scenes (such as the hero referring to himself as the "King" of the city).  Still, pretty good.  Most remarkably, it was filmed, not in the former Yugoslavia, but the Ottawa Valley!  sc: Pete White. dir: Brad Turner. 91 min. - violence.-

(1985) Mathew Mackay, Siluck Saysanasy, Michael Hogan.....Young boy (Mackay) loses his hair from a fright, then restores it with a magic formula that works all too well and complications arise, including a greedy kidnapper.  Second of the Tales For All children's series is funny but uneven.  sc: Vojtech Jasny, Andre Pelletier, Louise Pelletier, Michael Rubbon. dir: Michael Rubbon. 96 min.

LA PEAU BLANCHE  *  setting: P.Q.
(2004) Marc Paquet, Frederic Pierre, Marianne Farley, Jessica Malka, Julie LeBreton, Jou Jou Turenne, Lise Roy.....University student (Paquet) becomes obsessively enamoured with an enigmatic woman (Farley), only gradually discovering she conceals a dark, supernatural secret. Suspense-horror flick is good looking and has the elements to be a solid, if traditional, little spooker, with a suitably alluring performance from Farley...but leaves you wondering if it was written to be a comedy, then played as a drama -- or vice versa! Whichever, there seem to be missed signals somewhere in this slow moving flick where almost none of the scenes ring true on any level. Perhaps it's trying for a deliberately off kilter, unsettling mood since it's one of those "creeping" horror flicks where you're a long time into it before you can even be sure it's not just a relationship drama -- but it's not the mood that's off kilter, but the characters. You know you're in trouble when the "hero" is creepier than anyone else (talking about how pale skinned women make him want to vomit!). An unusually large number of black characters for a Quebecois film (or a Canadian one in general) which should be applauded -- except the dialogue never lets you forget it! And what are you supposed to make of scenes where the hero's girlfriend says she doesn't like black people, and he reassures her his black friends are "different"??? English title: White Skin. sc: Joel Champetier, Daniel Roby (from Champetier's novel). dir: Daniel Roby. - violence, sexual content, brief female nudity.- 88 min.

LA PEAU ET LES OS   * *  setting: P.Q.
(1988) Helene Belanger, Sylvie Catherine Beaudoin, Louis Turcot, Hubert Gagnon, Sophie Faucher.....Mixture of documentary and drama takes a look at the problem of anorexia and bulimia in teen-age girls.  Unfortunately, the mixing of fact and fiction doesn't work.  The drama lacks punch and takes away from the facts and -- well -- though serious, the subject matter isn't really suited to a feature film.  Still, useful on an educational level.  English title: Skin and Bones.  sc: Johanne Pregent, Monique Gignac. dir: Johanne Pregent. 89 min.

THE PEDESTRIAN  * *  setting: Alt.
(2003) Gordon Currie, Wendy Anderson, Anthony Lemke, Olivier L'Ecuyer, Andrea Menard.....A traffic light engineer with a foot fetish (Currie) begins a relationship with a woman (Anderson) curious about his obsession. Light-hearted drama boasts a very good cast, and brisk, capably put together scenes (that mostly avoid the static-ness associated with low-budget movies). Given the way Canadian films have promoted their taboo-bustin' kinkiness in recent years, it's unsurprising this flick got funding from agencies more concerned with their edgy image than in narrative. One suspects the filmmaker has more than an abstract interest in his subject matter, and the whole seems to exist to promote tolerance and to say "hey, fetishists are people, too." But is that enough to really sustain a movie? Or might the message be better served with a public service spot? sc./dir: Trevor Cunningham. - sexual content, partial female and male nudity.- 77 min.

(2012) (/U.S.) Sebastian Roche, Nazneen Contractor, Mimi Kuzyk, Carlo Rota, James Kidnie, Rae Dawn Chong, Andrew Jackson.....In ancient times an evil conqueror (Rota) conjures a demonic Chimera to hunt down and kill rebels, while a blacksmith (British actor Roche) and a warrior princess (Contractor) -- who separately lost their fathers to the villain -- summon the magical horse Pegasus as their ally. One of a number of very low-budget sword & sandal adventure movies made by Canadians for the U.S. Sy-Fy Channel. A decent enough cast -- at least, they can be in other things -- and Contractor is fetching enough, though Roche seems a bit bored at times, and everyone is struggling with poor scenes and rather bland parts. At no point do you find yourself thinking this isn't a bad movie -- but it can keep you from drifting because you can empathize with the cast and crew and at least it clips along briskly. Though the plot itself can seem to amount to a lot of wandering back and forth through generic woods (a hallmark of the other Sf-Fy films, too). It's set in Ancient Greece, yet people live in medieval castles, and Contractor seems to be wearing leotards as though she just got out of ballet class. At times it does seem to be trying to evoke a kind of Old School Ray Harryhausen vibe -- just not trying enough. Trivia note: in real life, Contractor and Rota are a couple. sc: Jeremy Levy, Angela Mancuso, Kevin Commins. dir: John Bradshaw. - extreme violence.- 86 min.

The People of the Pines, a book about the Oka Crisis by Geoffrey York, Loreen Pindera, was one of the sources for the mini-series, Indian Summer.

(2003) Tracy Nelson, Michael Riley, Andrea Roth, Thomas Calabro, Sophie Gendron, Vlasta Vrana.....American woman (American actress Nelson) marries a successful thriller writer (Riley) -- unaware that he is unstable, increasingly manipulative, possessive...and homicidal. Slickly put together suspense-thriller starts out a bit low-key, where the heroine isn't that interesting or developed, and the villain seems to get most of the attention...without it really scoring as a psychological portrait (despite Riley's usual twitches and quirks, which at least make the character interesting to watch). Picks up in the second half, as she becomes housebound and it becomes a kind of minor "Misery" riff...but still remains something that's been done before, and better. Gendron, who plays the best friend, is credited with the original story. sc: Ken Sanders, George Saunders (story Sophie Gendron). dir: Douglas Jackson. 94 min.

THE PERFECT MAN   * *  setting: Alt./USA.
(1993) Phyllis Diller, Michelle Little, Garwin Sanford, Janice Ungaro, Brian Jensen.....Woman (Little) struggles with doubts and indecisions over her would-be painting career and her current relationship (with Sanford).  So-so relationship comedy-drama is likeable enough with some cute bits and decent performances from Little and Sanford, but it lacks any real "oomph!" and anything to distinguish it from a zillion other similar flicks.  American comedian Diller appears, in a dramatic role, as Little's mom.  sc: Wendy Hill-Tout, Lynda Shorten. dir: Wendy Hill-Tout. 94 min.

PERFECT PIE  * * 1/2  setting: Ont.
(2003) Wendy Crewson, Barbara Williams, Alison Pill, Rachel McAdams, Jennifer Pisana, Brittany Bristow, Tom McCamus, Alex Campbell.....A successful opera singer (Williams) returns to her rural home town for a charity concert at the behest of her one-time best friend (Crewson) -- a friend she hasn't seen in decades; and the reunion stirs up memories (with Pill and McAdams playing the characters as teens) -- including of the dark night when they last saw each other. Drama squeaks by on watchability, with a brisk tempo and a decent cast, but it's too choppy, jumping back and forth in time so much that you often feel you're getting snippets of a story, rather than the whole thing (you'd rather they'd just stick with one time period for a few scenes, letting the characters and scenes breathe, then cut to a flashback for a few scenes). And it builds to a kind of shaggy dog ending where the final revelations about that long ago night...aren't revelations at all; and where the characters are supposed to have grown emotionally by the end, but it's unclear how or why. And the drivers here really need to keep their eyes on the road. Scripter Thompson largely disowned the finished filmed (not that that says whether her vision was necessarily any better). sc: Judith Thompson (from her play). dir: Barbara Willis Sweete. 92 min.

THE PERFECT SON * *  setting: Ont.
(2000) Colm Feore, David Cubitt, Chandra West.....Shiftless, recovering addict (Cubitt) must come to terms with his successful, seemingly has it all brother (Feore) -- who he learns is both gay...and dying of AIDS. Handsomely mounted, deliberately paced drama is undoubtedly well-intentioned, but despite an overall professionalism to the scenes, never quite ignites. You never really believe Cubitt's a different person by the end than he is at the beginning...and the character's growth is, surely, kind of the whole point (and affects other characters' motivation, like West as his ex-girlfriend). Still, not terrible. sc./dir: Leonard Farlinger. - casual male nudity, sexual content, brief female nudity.- 93 min.

PERFECT TIMING   * *  setting: USA.
(1984) Stephen Markle, Michelle Scarabelli, Paul Boretski, Nancy Cser, Mary Beth Rubens, Michael Rudder, Kelly Craig, Papusha.....Art photographer (Markle) must come up with rent money or be evicted, while various characters wander in and out of his New York apartment.  Sex-comedy is less aggravatingly bad than a lot of its type thanks to a professionalism on the part of those involved (particularly Markle), though it still ain't particularly funny, or erotic (despite oodles of nudity).  sc: William DeSeta. dir: Rene Bonniere. - female and male nudity, sexual content.- 87 min.

PERFECTLY NORMAL   * *  setting: CDN.
(1990) (/U.K.) Robbie Coltrane, Michael Riley, Deborah Duchene, Kenneth Welsh, Eugene Lipinski, Jack Nichols, Elizabeth Harpur, Patricia Gage..... Story of the friendship between a nebbishy brewery worker (Riley) and a hustling dreamer (Coltrane) who wants to open an opera-themed restaurant.  So-so comedy is visually striking (too much so) but lethargic and more cute than actually funny.  The dropped "l" in the opening title means something.  Received the Best Script Genie.  sc: Eugene Lipinski, Paul Quarrington (story Lipinski). dir: Yves Simoneau (his first English film). - sexual content, brief female nudity.- 104 min.

(1996)  Jimeoin, Diane Carlson, Iona Brindle, Gregor Von Bismarck..... Self-employed perfumer (Jimeoin), wants to steal an addictively potent hybrid plant from his best friend (Carlson) to make an aphrodisiac-ic perfume, largely to attract his employee (the attractive Brindle) who's uninterested in him...and complications arise. Unusually flamboyant, fracical  romp from Shbib, with his usual strengths and weaknesses: low-budget, with semi-improvising, semi-professional actors; sometimes clever, sometimes draggy, but overall engaging. One of his "Senses" films. sc: Diane Carlson, Bashar Shbib. dir: Bashar Shbib. 80 min.

(1988) Nanette Fabray, John Cotton, Julie Bond, Chuck Rose, Bharbara Egan.....Story of an overzealous I.R.S. agent (Fabray) and her eccentric family.  Grating, badly done comedy.  sc: Neil Gordon, William Dever, Madeline Hombert. dir: Peter Rowe. 90 min.



THE PHANTOM (TVMS) * *   setting: USA./other
(2009) (/U.S.) Ryan Carnes, Sandrine Holt, Jean Marchand, Cameron Goodman, Cas Anvar, Isabella Rossellini, Ron Lea, Ivan Smith, Luis Oliva, Anthony Lemke, Alain Goulem, Ellen Cohen.....Cocky young New Yorker (Carnes) learns his parents aren't his real parents and he is, in fact, heir to a covert crime fighting organization and a Centuries spanning legacy of fighting evil as the costumed Phantom. The Phantom began as a newspaper strip in the 1930s and is generally viewed as the first costumed super hero (pre-dating Superman, et al) and has branched out into comics, paperback novels, movie serials, theme parks (!), and more with mixed success (a 1996 Hollywood motion picture was uneven, but succeeded as a fun, old fashioned swashbuckler...yet bombed at the box office). This mini-series attempts to kind of re-invent the wheel (making the Phantom part of a James Bond-like hi-tech organization, changing the costume, etc.) yet, arguably, not in a way that ignores the source material. Unfortunately, though slick-looking with decent performances, it suffers from trite dialogue and cliched scenes (in trying to up-grade the franchise, they simply graft on warmed over concepts from other films, without bothering to dress them up or embellish upon them -- while discarding things that made the original unusual, like its mix of urban super hero with Tarzan-like jungle adventure). Because it's an "origin" story (read: a pilot for a hoped for weekly series, and mainly concerned with establishing the premise), the main action-adventure plot is thin and short-changed, and lacks mystery and suspense since we know what the villains are doing long before the heroes do (though it does resolve by the end). Like a lot of mini-series, it feels stretched, like they're padding the running time, indulging in character scenes that are supposed to make it seem like a thoughtful drama...without bothering to make the characters interesting or fleshed out. American Carnes is an okay actor, but as a super hero he's kind of whiny and uncompelling, while Holt, despite her billing, has a kind of thankless part as his chief aide (American actress Goodman plays the love interest). Anvar is fun as the chief villain, though. In true modern cinema fashion, they mock the old purple tights as silly...then introduce a body armour costume (ala the Batman movies or Iron Man) that looks like a cross between a cockroach and a rap star which, presumably, in their minds is the height of chic. 4 hours. sc: Daniel & Charles Knauf. dir: Paolo Barzman. - violence.-

PHANTOM LIFE see La vie fantome

THE PHANTOMS  * * *   setting: N.B.
(2012) Tyler Johnston, Holly Deveaux, Kyle Mac, Greg Byrk, Wally MacKinnon, Joy Tanner, William MacDonald, Jacob Neayem, Wesley MacInnes, Emmanuel Sarpong, Tammy Isbell, Wendel Meldrum.....Drama about small town Bathurst, N.B., melancholy months after a bus accident killed most of the high school basketball team (named The Phantoms). No one's sure if they even want -- or should resume -- a basketball program until a new team of quirky misfits re-inspires the town. Made-for-CBC drama ("inspired" by a true story) boasts good performances and scenes, generally balancing the needs of an earnest drama (wisely set after the tragedy) with sports movie cliches of triumphs and set backs. With that said, as often happens, the roots in a sensitive reality maybe keeps it from letting its hair down and fully throwing itself into movie melodrama. Still, a compelling, heart warming drama. Of course, there's always the question whether such movies are respectful of the real life...or crassly exploitive (given one can't help thinking the producers simply saw the Hollywood movie "We Are Marshall" and looked through headlines for a similar Canadian story). sc: Andrew Wreggitt. dir: Sudz Sutherland. app. 90 min.

PHIL THE ALIEN  * * *  setting: Ont.
(2004) Rob Stefaniuk, Nicole de Boer, Brad McGinnis, Bruce Hunter, John Kapelos, Boyd Banks, Jason Jones, Paul Popowich, Graham Greene, Joe Flaherty.....A human-looking alien (Stefaniuk) crashes in northern Ontario, and is befriended by some local misfits while a sinister American government organization sends spies to find and capture him. Modestly-budgeted comedy acquired some good word of mouth on the film festival circuit and, happily, really does live up to the hype. Funny -- sometimes sly, mainly silly -- imaginative, and even oddly touching...though a streak of black humour prevents it from being too touching. Meanders a bit in the middle, but even the plot boasts some clever twists and turns. Good performances overall (most are familiar faces, even if only some might be familiar names), with Stefaniuk particularly good, making "Phil" both alien, but also strangely believable. Nice score, too. Flaherty provides the voice of a beaver (really!). Cameos include comedian Sean Cullen and Canadian Idol winner, Ryan Malcolm, as a waiter in a restaurant. sc./dir: Rob Stefaniuk. - extreme violence.- 85 min.

(2012) (/U.S.) Nicholas Lea, Michael Paré, Ryan Robbins, Emilie Ullerup, Gina Holden, John Reardon, Malcolm McDowell, Marsha Regis, Chaw Krowchuk, Allison Hossack.....A WW II American navy man (Lea) finds himself in modern times after a botched government experiment, the derelict battleship he was on board also appearing and reappearing throughout the world -- and both hunted by a sinister organization. Okay -- quick background review: the Philadelphia Experiment was a minor urban legend/conspiracy theory in the vein of the Bermuda Triangle or Area 51 which was used as the inspiration for the no-pretence-at-being-anything-but-fiction 1984 Hollywood movie, "The Philadelphia Experiment" (and a largely unrelated sequel). And this TV movie is basically a re-make/reimagining of the first movie (as opposed to a sequel: American actor Paré starred in the original, but here plays a completely different -- and villainous -- character). A good cast, putting in effort (particularly Lea) boosts the thing, and it's decently put together (especially given the presumably small budget) with some good scenes, an eye for character and emotion, and some nice bits of the 1940s hero reacting to the modern age. All of which, ironically, is maybe the problem. It's better assembled than the average SyFy Channel quickie, rising above the "guilty pleasure" category where you can kind of grudgingly admire what's good about it because of the bad stuff...without then being as good as it needs to be playing in that higher league. For all the running about and shooting, it never really generates much sustained tension or suspense, the plot itself is barely rudimentary, and for all there are character moments, the heroes never really become more than generic protagonists. a.k.a. The Philadelphia Experiment Reactivated. sc: Andy Briggs. dir: Paul Ziller. 89 min.


(1986)  * *  Powers Boothe ("Philip Marlowe").....Limited TV series about American writer Raymond Chandler's famous Los Angeles-based private eye, using scripts based on the author's non-Marlowe short stories, then adapting them to the character.

Moody mysteries, filmed on video tape, had everything: budget, period cars, respected directors, well-known guest stars (Helen Shaver, R.H. Thomson, etc.), too bad it was such a dud.  It tried so hard to come across like Chandler's novels, but only succeeded in being somnambulent and obvious, and American star Boothe was an ineffective Marlowe.  Some episodes are available on video.  8 Hour long episodes on First Choice (The Movie Network), then Global. 

PHOBIA   * *  setting: Ont.
(1980) Paul Michael Glaser, Susan Hogan, John Colicos, David Bolt, Patricia Collins, David Eisner, Lisa Langlois, Robert O'Ree, Kenneth Welsh.....A psychiatrist (Glaser) using an experimental treatment for phobics, finds his patients are being murdered and/or dying all around him.  So-so suspenser has an O.K. premise, but not enough to sustain a feature film...and the reason why becomes apparent when the killer, and the motive, are revealed.  sc: Lew Lehman, Jimmy Sangster, Peter Bellwood (story Gary Sherman, Ronald Shusett). dir: John Huston. - violence, female nudity.- 94 min.

Phoenix Without Ashes, a novel by Harlan Ellison and Ed Bryant, was based, in part, on the TV series The Starlost.

THE PHONE CALL  * 1/2  setting: P.Q.
(1989) (/France) Michael Sarrazin, Linda Smith, Ron Lea, Lisa Jakub, Vlasta Vrana.....Married man (Sarrazin) makes a call to a phone-sex business but, through a mistake, connects with a male psychopath (Lea) who then begins to harrass him.  Frequently ludicrous, sloppy thriller has a nasty, almost homophobic undercurrent to it.  Lea shines as the almost sympathetic crazy (the only character who is sympathetic!).  A 3 Themes-Hamster production.  sc: Donald Martin. dir: Allan A. Goldstein. - sexual content, violence.- app. 94 min.

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