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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.
(2007-2008) * * 1/2 Andrea Menard ("Tara Wheaton"), Peter Stebbings ("Harley McPherson"), Kevin Jubinville ("Bob Venton"), Peter Kelly Gaudreault ("Ollie Frenete"), Monique Mojica ("Martha"), Patrick Bird ("Simon Blackhores"), Booth Savage ("Stanton Martinsky") (1st) .....Supernatural-suspense about a police constable (Menard) relocating to the enigmatic town of Rabbit Fall with dark secrets and mystical happenings, much of the underlining villainy connected to a corrupt fellow cop (Jubinville) and a sinister local shaman (Bird). Stebbings plays a bit of a bad boy with whom she becomes involved; Gaudreault another on again/off again beau. Mojica a local woman; and Savage the police chief.
Despite (one guesses) a modest budget, Rabbit Fall is a moody, coolly stylish series that looks slick and relatively expensive, boasting a good cast (a mix of Native Indian and white actors). The half hour running time easily means the episodes don't over stay their welcome, even as it maybe is part of the problem, as they're trying to cram essentially an hour long series into a half hour format. And the enigmatic, occasionally supernatural undercurrent the series is hinting at (angling a little to be a "Twin Peaks" wanna be) is a little too underplayed. Even watching a few episodes, it's not clear if there really is anything that strange -- or supernatural -- going on. But then the second season seemed to tilt too much the other way, with the overt mysticism sometimes undermining the believability. Worth a look, but never fully found its ideal tone. Two seasons of half-hour episodes on APTN (totalling about 12).
* 1/2 setting: P.Q.
(1977) Marilyn Chambers, Frank Moore, Joe Silver, Howard Ryshpan, Patricia Gage, Susan Roman, Robert O'Ree.....A skin graft on an accident victim (Chambers) gives her a vicious appendage under her armpit, a hunger for human blood, and the side effect of spreading a rabies-like epidemic. Cronenberg's 2nd major release seems, in many respects, just a (slightly) bigger budget remake of his first (Shivers) and continues his George Romero fixation. Slow, largely characterless, and downright silly at times (thanks to Moore and Ryshpan's poker-faced delivery) and not particularly scary. Silver delivers a nice performance though and look for Miguel Fernandes, Louis Negin and a host of other then-largely-unknown faces in bit parts. Chambers is better known as an American porn actress who was trying to go mainstream...if one can call Cronenberg mainstream. sc./dir: David Cronenberg. - extreme violence, partial female nudity.- 91 min.
RACE FOR THE BOMB (TVMS)
* * * * setting: other/USA.
(1987) (/France) Miki Manojlovic, Jean-Paul Muel, Denis Manuel, Tom Rack, Maury Chaykin, Peter Dvorsky, Michael Ironside, Denis Forest, Rosemary Dunsmore, Geza Kovacs.....Fact-based epic about the events leading to the creation of the atomic bomb during W.W. II, and on into the fifties -- focusing on Edward Teller and Leo Szliard (Manojlovic and Muel) initial friends who come to represent political opposites. Quite simply, this CBC film is one of the best mini-series ever produced, anywhere. Something this wordy, technical and potentially confusing has no right to be as riveting as it is, but the focus is always on the human drama, with elements of the mythic. Thought-provoking, superbly acted (despite awkward dubbing of the foreign stars -- though well-acted by the voices of David Calderisi, Chuck Shamata and others) with humour and wonderful human touches. Arguably the best version of what is an oft-told story -- interestingly, most interpretations choose to focus on Robert Oppenheimer and General Groves (here played by Rack and Chaykin) such as the U.S. productions "Fat Man and Little Boy" (film), "Oppenheimer" (PBS mini-series) and "Day One" (a U.S. TV movie which was filmed in Canada and co-produced by a Canadian company but still falls short of qualifying for this site). Another Canadian-made take on the same events was Hiroshima. 6 hours. Superb in either hour or two hour segments. dir: Allan Eastman, Jean-Francois Delassus.
RACE TO FREEDOM: The Underground
Railroad * * * setting:
(1994) (/U.S.) Janet Bailey, Courtney B. Vance, Michael Riley, Ron White, Dawnn Lewis, Glynn Turman, James Blendick.....Story of a couple of escaped slaves (Bailey and American Vance) in the 1800s and those who help and those who hinder them as they flee across the U.S. to freedom in Canada. Drama starts out a bit drily but picks up. The inherent power of the story carries it over occasional obviousness. American actor Tim Reid co-executive produced and has a cameo. sc: Diana Braithwaite, Nancy Trites Botkin, Peter Mohan, story Braithwaite and Botkin (loosely inspired by the novel Underground to Canada by Barbara Smucker). dir: Don McBrearty. 93 min.
RACE TO MARS (TVMS)
* * *
(2007) (/France) Michael Riley, Lothaire Bluteau, Pascale Bussieres, Frank Schorpion, Claudia Ferri, Kevan Ohtsji, Ron Lea, Macha Grenon.....A six person, international expedition makes the first manned space journey to the planet Mars and back, to collect water samples for evidence of possible life -- weathering crises and malfunctions along the way. Made for The Discovery Channel, going in one can suspect this mini-series is intended as a (quasi)-realist exploration of its speculative scenario...as opposed to some fantasy/sci-fi adventure (no Martian princesses, no mystical obelisks). And the result could, frankly, be kind of dull -- an educational procedural more than an "adventure/drama". And, at times, it can seem like just a check list of various plausible crises the characters have to deal with (power shortages, hull damage, etc.) as though based on a NASA report on the problems of manned space flights. Yet, to its credit, does start to work. A generally good cast (all-Canadian despite playing international roles) playing sympathetic, reasonably nuanced characters, with time for development of character conflicts/friendships -- with Bluteau particularly memorable as an aloof intellectual. Moody and quite atmospheric, with some genuine tension and suspense (particularly in the second half when a mysterious illness threatens the crew, creating dissension). Decent budget and effects (the Martian landscape looks like an effect...but that adds to its eerie otherworldliness). Lags here and there, but ultimately draws you in -- with enough soap opera and pulpy suspense to make it entertainment. Granted, the conceit of doing a semi-"realistic" speculative science drama isn't unique, having been done before and since (including by Canadians, such as the earlier Escape from Mars and shortly after, Defying Gravity), all usually with their own technical gaffs and inaccuracies (this being no exception). And even pulpier sci-fi flicks will work in some of these sorts of scenes, anyway, making it perhaps not quite as original as it's supposed to be. Still, perhaps the best compliment you can say about it is, once you've seen it -- you can find yourself surprised it wasn't better publicized and isn't better known! 4 hours. sc: Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens. dir: George Mihalka.
RACE TO MIDNIGHT *
* setting: Ont.
(1985) John Tench, April Johnson, Simon Richards, Patrick Myles, Austin Schatz.....Young man (Tench) stumbles across some money, which he decides to keep, unaware that it belongs to some very nasty crooks. Shoe-string suspense-drama has some O.K. performances and good ideas. A better than average Emmeritus-CHCH production. Filmed on video. sc: Dave Toms. dir: Peter McCubbin.
Rafferty's Rules, a novel by W. Glenn Duncan, was the source for the third Snake Eater film
* setting: P.Q.
(1990) Marcel Leboeuf, Denis Bouchard, Claude Bouchard, Guy Thauvette, Remy Girard, Raymond Legault.....After a robbery goes wrong, a novice crook (Leboeuf) wanders hopelessly through Montreal during a Christmas blizzard, followed by an ambitious reporter (Bouchard) hoping to exploit things for his career, leading, eventually, to a hostage taking. Suspense-drama starts out moody, but is ultimately too slow moving and too thinly developed. The basic ideas are fine...but hardly unique. It's basically a character drama where, by the end, you don't really feel like you know the characters. English title: Blizzard. sc: Denis Bouchard, Marcel Leboeuf, Andre Melancon. dir: Andre Melancon. 84 min.
* * setting: USA.
(1994) Nicholas Lea, Bobby Dawson, Jennifer Clement, Jay Underwood, Mark Hamill, Teri Lynn Rutherford, Alex Bruhanski, Babz Chula.....Three friends (Lea, Dawson and Clement) try to become rich with a world-wide contest to find the most beautiful woman, then selling raffle tickets for a date with her. Meandering and kind of sexist comedy (despite frequent denials) isn't egregiously bad, but it isn't very funny either. It's also a study in dichotomies: slick-looking with decent performances and globe-hopping montage sequences...yet clumsy with dialogue not synced in spots and props falling over (though Dawson's coin add-lib is pretty inspired), and when Lea relates some statistics on a talk show -- the numbers are reversed (which may havve been an editing mix-up)! So is this an expensive film, marred by incompetence, or a low-budget one raised up by professionalism in the face of fiscal adversity? As well, the film's generally a PG affair...except for a couple of seemingly inserted montage sequences of naked women. Notable as perhaps the only mainstream Canadian film in which is glimpsed the female genitals. sc: John Fairely. dir: Gavin Wilding. - female nudity.- 102 min.
* * setting: Ont.
(1977) (/U.K.) David Warner, Honor Blackman, Trudy Young, Lois Maxwell, Tim Henry, Cec Linder, Jon Granik.....A British conscientious objector (Warner) takes a job at a rural Ontario prep school after W.W. I and falls in love with the headmaster's daughter (Young). Drama is nicely rooted in its time and place, but despite some good ideas, including a love triangle and politics, seems kind of rambling with the characters not sufficiently fleshed out. Obvious budget problems are reflected in some choppily edited scenes. Maxwell has just a bit part. Music score composed by Lucio Agostini . sc: Ratch Wallace. dir: Alan Bridges. - partial female nudity.- 97 min.
RAIDER OF THE SOUTH SEAS*
* setting: other
(1990) (/New Zealand) Martin Henderson, Rachel Crowther, Dean O'Gorman, George Buza, Andy Anderson, Roy Billing, Pete Smith, Ruth Springford..... During W.W. II in New Zealand, the appearance of a mysterious old ship causes a town, and some kids, to worry about spies. So-so family film is never quite as exciting as the mix of period, location, and "Hardy Boys"-like story would suggest, though thoughtful undercurrents dealing with racism are admirable. Probably plays better, and more coherently, as 8 half-hour episodes of a mini-series, from which this film was edited together. sc: Roger Simpson, Chris Hampson. dir: Chris Bailey. 102 min.
RAIDER OF THE SOUTH SEAS (TVMS) see Raider of the South Seas
The Rainbow Bar and Grill see Short Films
THE RAINBOW BOYS *
1/2 setting: B.C.
(1973) Donald Pleasence, Kate Reid, Don Calfa.....A trio of losers (Brit Pleasance, Canuck Reid, American Calfa) reluctantly go in search of a gold mine. Dull, predictable and somewhat abrasive comedy never clicks, despite a cast that's game. Pleasence is especially good. sc./dir: Gerald Potterton.
RAMONA (TV Series)
A gimmickless, but nicely done, light-hearted limited TV series. Based on the books by Beverly Cleary. Some episodes are available on video. 15 half-hour episodes.
* setting: Alt.
(1988) Andrew Stevens, Gary Fjellgaard, Lou Ann Schmidt, Bruce McInnes, Marlene Fedorah.....Down-on-his-luck, New York yuppie (Stevens) inherits an Alberta ranch, and its inhabitants, and decides to turn it into a back-to-nature health spa. Somewhat obnoxious, weakly acted comedy. sc: Neil Gordon, Madeline Hombert. dir: Stella Stevens. 96 min.
(1998) Elizabeth Berkley, Joel Wyner, see Tales of Intrigue
THE RANDOM FACTOR
1/2 setting: Ont.
(1995) Andrew Divoff, Dennis Hayden, Gloria Pryor, William Richert, Victoria Morsell, Reeko, voice of Dan Aykyroyd.....After a scientist's (Divoff) rejuvenating invention saves his life, he finds he perceives words in reverse and fears he's been relocated to a mirror reality. Meanwhile, bad guys want his device for sinister purposes. Oddly ambitious (given its really low-budget) science fiction comedy-thriller suffers because the comedy is more often just awkward and clumsy...and so are the drama-suspense aspects, with the usual low-budget film problems of uneven performances (though Divoff and Richert -- as a sci-fi writer he befriends -- are O.K.) So why is it that Canadian filmmakers often tackle big, ambitious, fantasy ideas when they don't have much money...yet the filmmakers who are working with decent budgets tend to just do parochial, kitchen sink dramas? Filmed in Ottawa. sc: Tristan Russell, Bryan Michael Stoller. dir: Bryan Michael Stoller. - violence, sexual content, brief female nudity.- 94 min.
RANDOM PASSAGE (TVMS)
* * * setting: Nfld./other
(2002) (/Irish) Colm Meaney, Aoife McMahon, Deborah Pollitt, Daniel Payne, Darragh Kelly, Mary-Lynn Bernard, Mike Daly, Michael Sapieha, Michelle Rex, Jessica Pare, Ryan Black.....Saga of Irish and British immigrants who arrive in a tiny Newfoundland fishing port in the 18th Century (so small, the arrival of one family literally doubles the population). Atmospheric, handsomely mounted drama generates a genuine epic feel and, despite some of the cloyingly earnest press releases, does a decent job of straddling the needs to be a respectful, critically-approved historical drama, and something of a soap opera which, particularly as it goes along, throws in a few secrets and illicit affairs. Powerfully acted (particularly Irish actress McMahon who, apparently, was only fresh out of drama school!), though some of the Newfoundland accents may be out of place on characters that aren't supposed to be Newfoundland-born. The rugged, breathtaking scenery threatens to overwhelm the story and characters at times. However, for an 8 hour epic with only a finite cast, many of the supporting characters aren't well defined (it's even hard to keep track of who's related to whom) nor do even the principals (with the exception of McMahon's character) really evolve much, despite the story spanning a couple of decades. Lots of plot threats just kind of fizzle out, too. Still, it's a whopping 8 hours, and remains consistently watchable throughout. McMahon received the Best Actress Gemini. sc: Des Walsh (from the novels Random Passage and Waiting for Time by Bernice Morgan). dir: John N. Smith. - sexual content.-
RARE BIRDS *
* setting: Nfld.
(2002) William Hurt, Andy Jones, Molly Parker, Leah Lewis, Bryan Hennessey, Greg Malone, Sheila McCarthy.....A melancholic rural Newfoundland restauranteur (American actor Hurt) is persuaded by his eccentric best friend (Jones) to claim a rare bird was seen in the area, in order to attract bird watchers and bring business to his failing restaurant; as well as roping him into various other bizarre -- and sometimes illegal -- schemes. Whimsical -- occasionally surreal -- comedy has a great "concept" premise, some nicely conceived scenes, and an agreeable cast...and it should've been great. But too many Canadian comedies fall into one of two camps: either they're too frenetic and over-the-top, or they're too slow, even somnambulant. And this leans toward the latter, almost collapsing under its lethergic pacing, and with director Gunnarsson often filming his actors in medium and long shots, when comedy is often reactive. He doesn't always seem to realize a story should be told through, and about, a character, something even the script has trouble with. Why Hurt's character is the way he is, and given to substance abuse, is never answered...nor even asked, really. And the sort of romance between him and Parker is hurt a little by their age discrepency. It's a cute, even clever, movie at times, but it's not funny enough to score as just a non-think comedy, but isn't cohesive enough to get by on its story. Too bad. American Hurt does a better maritime accent than Canadian Parker. sc: Edward Riche (from his novel). dir: Sturla Gunnarsson. - casual male nudity.- 101 min.
RATS a.k.a. Deadly Eyes
RATS & RABBITS *
1/2 setting: CDN.
(2000) (/France) Carole Laure, Nigel Bennett, Veronique Le Flaguais, Paul Ahmarani, Tom Barnett, Andrew Tarbet.....Story of various eccentric misfits -- including a demented doctor (Bennett) involved in experiments -- who live in a slum, and events that occur following the mayor's disappearance/murder in the area. Surreal, absurdist flick with the actors running about, acting weird and quirky in disconnected weird and quirky scenes...and the filmmakers seem to assume the humour will take care of itself. But it doesn't for the most part. Or maybe it's meant to have a serious sub-text. Hard to say. Might have an audience...but not a very large one. An undercurrent of violence and brutality, even for a black comedy, is more off-putting than anything. Laure was also one of the producers. sc: Lewis Furey, Pascal Arnold (from the play "Beyond Mozambique" by George F. Walker). dir: Lewis Furey. - extreme violence, partial female nudity, sexual content.- 91 min.
This TV series went through a number of backers (representing a number of countries) over a surprisingly small number of episodes but to no avail: the scripts were often too thin to fill out a half hour and were presented so solemnly, so pretentiously -- not to mention clumsily -- as to be downright boring. The episodess made in Canada pretended they were in the U.S...giving some idea as to the producer's mentality. The main actors were sometimes actual Canadian and Europeans, but mainly imported Americans and varied from the usual TV actors and no-stars to legitimate stars like Peter O'Toole. As well, the New Zealand-filmed episodes actually provided the series with one of those before-they-were-famous appearances that can make an anthology fun years later, with Lucy Lawless appearing in the episode "Fee, Fie, Foe, Fum" prior to gaining international celebrity as "Xena: Warrior Princess" (Michael Hurst, co-star of the companion series, "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys", also appeared in principal roles in a couple of episodes).
The first three episodes (among the better ones) were released to video as The Bradbury Trilogy -- apparently, so were the next three (featuring O'Toole and other mainly imported actors), but that second anthology doesn't appear to have been as well distributed in Canada. Best bets: "The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl" with Michael Ironside as a murderer obsessed with his fingerprints; the carnival-set "The Dwarf" (an episode, ironically, criticized by Bradbury) with Miguel Fernandes and Megan Follows. 65 Half-hour episodes. The first six episodes (three each in '85 and '86), were made for the commercial-free U.S. cable network HBO and as such are edited slightly for time reasons (not content) when aired on commercial TV. The remaining episodes were made for commercial TV in the States. In Britain the episodes were apparently aired as part of a pre-existing anthology series. In Canada, all episodes were originally aired on First Choice (now The Movie Network) and subsequently re-aired on Global. - violence-
THE RAY BRADBURY TRILOGY a.k.a. The Bradbury Trilogy
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