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 QUALITY OF LIFE: A Dominick Da Vinci Movie  * *  setting: B.C.
(2008) Nicholas Campbell, Hugh Dillon, Mary Walsh, Michael Murphy, Brian Markinson, Venus Terzo, Patrick Gallagher, Tinsel Korey, Bruce Ramsay, Ben Ratner, Ron Lea, Eugen Lipinski, Alex Diakin.....The murder of a maid occurs under murky circumstances at the home of a corrupt media mogul (Murphy), while Vancouver mayor Da Vinci (Campbell) is hosting a mayor's conference. TV movie spun off from the earlier Da Vinci series (Da Vinci's Inquest and Da Vinci's City Hall). For fans of those shows, it'll probably be a nice return of familiar characters (even if it doesn't fully gel with the earlier shows -- in Da Vinci's City Hall, he was involved in a bitter feud with the police, they're quite chummy!). Though it maybe lacks some of the stylish panache (it's perfectly well put together, just with less of a distinctive style). But ultimately, for doesn't really cut it. For something that wants to seem smart and sophisticated, it's peopled by obvious characters and cartoony villains, the themes heavy handedly explained in pedagogical monologues rather than subtly explored through scenes and nuanced motivation. The basic mystery isn't especially interesting or intriguing...and, in true Da Vinci fashion, resolves in a shaggy dog fashion where you're still not really sure -- precisely -- what or who. The plot is thin, the scenes repetitive, an emotional heart largely absent, and the threads not well integrated (the murder has next to no relevance to the mayor's conference). If you're not a devotee of Haddock and his (almost universal) critical accolades -- this ain't going to make you a convert. sc: Chris Haddock, Alan Difiore. dir: John Fawcett. - sexual content.- 90 min.

Qualthrough, a novel by Angus Hall, became the movie Sweet Killing

(1989) Beatrice Boepple, Garwin Sanford, Jerry Wasserman, Tom McBeath, Michele Goodger.....In a plauge infested future, a rebel (Boepple) struggles against a fascist government (run by Wasserman) that imprisons carriers. Some good ideas in this intelligent SF thriller, but it's sluggish and not well put together. sc./dir: Charles Wilkinson. - violence, partial female and male nudity.- 92 min.

THE QUARREL * * 1/2 setting: P.Q.
(1990) (/U.S.) Saul Rubinek, R.H. Thomson, Ellen Cohen, Arthur Grosser..... In 1948, two Holocaust survivors -- and one-time friends --, a Jewish atheist (Thomson) and a Rabbi (Rubinek), meet and resume their heated philosophical debate during a walk in the park. Minimalist drama is provocative, dramatic and occasionally amusing, but never as riveting as the subject matter would suggest. Thomson is fine but Rubinek just isn't quite strong enough to carry what is, almost, a two character film. sc: David Brandes from a play by Joseph Telushkin (based on the short story "My Quarrel with Hersh Rasseyner" by Chaim Grade) dir: Eli Cohen. 89 min. (video)

QUEBEC - CANADA 1995 a.k.a. 1995 Quebec - Canada

QUEBEC-MONTREAL  * * 1/2  setting: P.Q.
(2003) Patrice Robitaille, Jean-Philippe Pearson, Stephane Breton, Francis Letourneau, Isabelle Blais, Julie LeBreton, Pierre-Francois Legendre, Benoit Gouin.....Story cutting between various characters driving from Quebec City down to Montreal, discussing relationships and sex. Quirky drama has strong performances, convincing dialogue, and is energetically directed -- almost making you forget most of it's just characters sitting in cars, talking. Almost. It's basically a 21st Century -- and twentysomething -- version of Le decline de l'empire americain. As such, though well done in many respects, there isn't that much that's fresh or unexpected here, with none of the narratives that satisfying as stories per se, nor characters you especially care about. In French. sc: Patrice Robitaille, Jean-Philippe Pearson, Ricardo Trogi. dir: Ricardo Trogi. - sexual content.- 104 min. (video)

(2000-2001) (/Spain/U.K./U.S.) * * 1/2 Tessie Santiago ("Tessa Alvarado/The Queen of Swords"), Anthony Lemke ("Capt. Marcus Grisham"), Elsa Pataky ("Senora Vera Hildago"), Peter Wingfield ("Dr. Robert Helm"), Paulina Galvez ("Marta"), Valentine Pelka ("Col. Luis Montoya"), with Tacho Gonzalez ("Don Hildago").....Adventure set in Spanish California circa the early 19th Century about a noble woman (Santiago) who, after the murder of her father, moonlights as the masked Queen of Swords to fight local corruption and, and...heck, do we have to be coy? It's a female Zorro. Period. Pelka plays the local tyranical Commandant, and Lemke his chief henchman, an American; Galvez plays the heroine's confidant, her maid servant (with occasional flashes of mystical insight). Wingfield plays the troubled doctor, an ex-British agent during the Napoleonic Wars, but who's foresworn violence and is intended as something of a romantic interest (though he didn't seem to like the heroine in either of her guises). Gonzalez plays a local nobleman and Pataky (prominently billed considering her small part) his philandering wife.

This TV series shamelessly rips off the various incarnations of Zorro and the lack of individuality maybe explains some of the problems -- the creators were merely trying to cashh in on the success of the 1998 "The Mask of Zorro" motion picture and marry it with the spate of successful "girl" hero action series ("Xena", "Buffy", etc.). The end result, though maybe passable for younger viewers, is a tad dull and uninspired. Though the theme song is good. 

This was Santiago's first professional gig, and her inexperience kind of shows (and, ironically, her dark hair is apparently dyed). That isn't to say that she's terrible, but as the lead in a weekly TV series, she seems out of her depth -- though, to be fair, her underwritten role would be hard to play. Which was a problem with most of the parts. At least villains Pelka and Lemke seem to be having fun with their roles. But the episodes overall lack humour (or even a rougish twinkle) to counterpoint the solemnity, resulting in a certain turgidity. Though one can admire the attempt at seriousness, the actual results are more uneven.

Lemke is Canadian, and Wingfield British-Canadian. Pelka is British and, like Wingfield, had apparently had a recurring role in the Highlander TV series. Galvez, Gonzalez and Pataky are Spanish. Santiago is American, and since the series' website referred to a "nation wide" casting search, one assumes Canadians weren't even considered for the lead (though I've subsequently been assured that they were). The guest stars, likewise, tended to be American, British, or Spanish (though Canadian directors were frequent). The series is called "Queen of Swords" (minus "The"), but that name was already used for a website, so ironically the series' official website was Filmed in Spain. There was a 1990s Zorro comic book that spawned an earlier character called Lady Rawhide, who was essentially a female Zorro -- but at least her (skimpier) costume had a different colour scheme. Hour long episodes, show in Canada on CanWest-Global.

(1972) Christine Olivier, Daniel Pilon, Mylene Demongeot, Jean Duceppe, Frederic de Pasquale, Jean Coutu.....Story of a rural romance set against the backdrop of the 1837 rebellion in Lower Canada. Ineffectual mix of historical politics (presumably intended to play off of/into then-contemporary politics) and quintessential Quebecois rural, winter, romantic melodrama. Low-budget flick is so heavy-handed in spots, it's actually a little silly. Why is it that Canadian filmmakers have so much trouble turning 1837 into compelling drama? The English language Samuel Lount was also unsuccessful. Look for comedian Dave Broadfoot as an English landowner. English title: A Few Acres of Snow. sc: Marcel Lefebvre, Gilles Elie (story Heroux). dir: Denis Heroux. - violence.- 91 min.

(1981) (/France) Everett McGill, Rae Dawn Chong, Ron Perlman, Nameer El Kadi.....Story of prehistoric people who, after losing their only source of fire, go looking for some more and of their adventures along the way. No actual talking in the whole film (not even subtitles). Some good performances in this critically hailed film, especially Perlman, but ultimately it's nothing more than a curio -- and not even that since it bears more than a passing similarity to the U.S. film "One Million Years, B.C.". Won five Genies including Best Actress (Chong). sc: Gerard Brach (from the novel by J.H. Rosny Sr.). dir: Jean-Jacques Annaud. - extreme violence, sexual content, femalee nudity.- 97 min. (video)

A Question of Guilt, the true crime book by William Scoular and Vivian Green, served as the source for the TV movie,The Death and Life of Nancy Eaton.

QUESTION OF PRIVILEGE  * * *  setting: Alt.
(1999) Jessica Steen, David Keith, Wendy Crewson, Michael Ironside, Eric Johnson, Tom Butler, Benjamin Ratner, Myles Ferguson, Nick Mancuso.....Defense lawyer (Steen) isn't sure what to believe when she becomes embroiled in a sensationalistic case where her teen clients, scions of a wealthy family, are accused of the murder of a teen-age girl. American Keith plays her prosecutor husband. Convoluted and surprisingly smart drama-cum-suspenser manages to keep you guessing and boasts well-rounded characters, well performed by all (particularly Steen in one of her better movie roles). Who'd of thunk it about a straight-to-video quickie, eh? And it's actually set in Canada -- well, sort of, except they say "Lootenant" (and I'm not even sure Lieutenant is a police rank in Canada). sc: David Schultz (story Bruce Harvey). dir: Rick Stevenson. 97 min.

Quick Change, a novel by Jay Cronley, was turned into the film Hold-Up (as well as a U.S. film under its own title).

QUIET KILLER * * 1/2 setting: USA.
(1992) (/U.S.) Kate Jackson, Al Waxman, Jeffrey Nording, Howard Hesseman, Chip Zien, Barbara Williams, David Hewlett, Jerry Orbach, Kathleen Robertson.....Health official (Jackson) must prevent an out-break of the bubonic plague in New York city. Disaster-that-isn't pic is entertaining -- if unpleasant -- on a non-think level, though the medical stuff isn't adequately explained and the sociological factors (like N.Y. being an ideal place for an epidemic) are only touched on -- presumably so's not to offend the U.S. for whom this film is obviously intended. sc: I.C. Rapoport (from the book Black Death by Gwyneth Cravens & John S. Marr). dir: Sheldon Larry. - violence.- app. 94 min.

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