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.

SCREAM OF STONE  *  setting: other
(1991) (/German/France) Vittorio Mezzogiorno, Stefan Glowacz, Donald Sutherland, Mathilda May, Brad Dourif, Al Waxman, Gunilla Karlzen, Chavela Vargas.....Story of two mountain climbers (Mezzogiorno and Glowacz), one who claims to have made it to the top of a dangerous mountain, and one who didn't even try, and how both eventually try again. Good looking but dreadful drama does have a story, too bad all the crucial scenes are missing and the actors wander around poker-faced and confused. The kicker ending is the only saving grace. May's thankless part only seems to exist for sex appeal. a.k.a. Cerro Torre. sc: Hans-Ulrich Klenner, Walter Saxer, Robert Geoffrion (original idea Reinhold Messner). dir: Werner Herzog. - casual female nudity.- 97 min.

SCREAMERS  * * 1/2
(1995) (/U.S.) Peter Weller, Roy Dupuis, Jennifer Rubin, Andy Lauer, Ron White, Charles Powell, Liliana Komorowska.....The remnants of warring colonies on a desolate planet decide to make peace after realizing earth has betrayed both sides...only to discover their automated weapons, Screamers, are self-evolving, capable of mimicking human forms as a disguise...and out-of-control. Melancholy s/f thriller wants to be thoughtful and more than simply the "Aliens"/"The Thing" clone it was sold as, but falls short of its own ambitions, as if the filmmakers had trouble understanding their own ideas. It actually makes less sense the 2nd time around! Sporadically suspenseful and poignant, but overly understated performances and slick-but-superficial direction sometimes sap the emotion right out of it. Interesting, but frustrating, too. Violent opening, but overall more restrained than one would expect. Low-budget by U.S. standards, but you'd hardly know it. And, of course, though the story is set in a distant future, far from earth, a scene is thrown in to make it clear that the characters are American (God forbid Canadians should ever emigrate to the stars, eh?). Followed by a belated sequel...reviewed below. sc: Dan O'Bannon, Miguel Tejada-Flores (from the story "Second Variety" by Philip K. Dick). dir: Christian Duguay. - extreme violence, really brief female nnudity.- 108 min.

SCREAMERS: The Hunting  * *
(2008) Gina Holden, Jana Pallaske, Greg Byrk, Stephen Amell, Christopher Redman, Tim Rozon, Lance Henriksen, Holly O'Brien, Dave La Pommeray.....A small squad of space soldiers investigate a distress signal sent from a planet where all the humans were presumed wiped out by man-killing machines called Screamers. Sci-fi/horror flick, a belated follow-up to the original Screamers (reviewed above -- though it does not require having seen the first), is modestly budgeted (but not quite low-budgeted, so there's money for costumes and sets...and decent lighting). It's a shameless rip-off of "Aliens" and its type (right down to the guy who stays behind to watch the ship and so is among the first to die!) but is considerably gorier than successful movies in the genre, and than the first Screamers was (and you realize the gore isn't an unavoidable part of the story...but is clearly intended as a selling point!) But it forgets to counter balance the cliches with a few fresh ideas of its own, lacking even the philosophical pretension of the first Screamers -- or much true tension. The acting is competent (Holden is an appealing enough lead, and American genre veteran Henriksen is good in a too small part) but uneven and the characters have just enough shading to distinguish them from each other, but are there just to get killed off. All that combines -- with plot and logic holes (like who were those guys who sent the distress signal in the first place?), and the fact that the few twists are more surprising for the characters than the audience -- to scuttle its launch. A bad movie can just be dismissed as a lost cause...but a mediocre movie is almost more annoying, because you can believe if a little more effort was expended by all concerned, they could've made a decent little time killer. The blame, then, perhaps lying more with the executives, and with producer Berry who is credited with the basic story. sc: Miguel Tejada-Flores (story Tom Berry). dir: Sheldon Wilson. - extreme violence.- 95 min.

SCTV (TV Series)

(1976-1983) (/U.S.)  * * * 1/2...* 1/2  originally: John Candy, Eugene Levy, Joe Flaherty, Andrea Martin, Catherine O'Hara, Harold Ramis, Dave Thomas, subsequently: Martin Short, Rick Moranis, Robin Duke, Tony Rosato, John Hemphill.....Sketch comedy in the foremat of an imaginary U.S. TV station -- with both recurring characters and parodies of TV shows, commercials, news events, etc.

This successful, critically revered TV series was spun off from a theatrical comedy troupe. Its determination to pretend it was American was often embarrassing -- even Thomas and Moranis' quintessential Canucks, the MacKenzie Brothers, were intended as a mean-spirited jab at Canadian-Content rules...but the joke backfired on them when the characters became the show's most successful creations, spinning off into a hit record album, comic strip and the feature film, Strange Brew (but did anyone learn a lesson from that?). Unfortunately, it was really great only in the beginning, when Harold Ramis was head writer and the sketches were concise, biting, and frequently sophisticated. Later skits seemed unfocused and self-indulgent, with unfunny parodies that were little more than duplicates of what they were supposed to be ridiculing and original characters were phased out in favour of celebrity imitations -- only some of which the cast could pulll off. A compilation TV movie was called The Best of SCTV. Aired originally on various networks (including the CBC) and at various lengths, it was subsequently repackaged for syndication as half hour episodes. 

SCTV ON TRIAL a.k.a. The Best of SCTV

The Sea is at Our Gate, a book by Tony German, served as the inspiration for the Global TV movie Lifeline to Victory

SEA PEOPLE  * *  setting: USA.
(1999) (/U.S.) Hume Cronyn, Joan Gregson, Tegan Moss, Shawn Roberts, Ron Lea, Arlene Mazerolle, Don McKellar, Cedric Smith.....Teenage girl (Moss), in a coastal fishing town, befriends an eccentric elderly couple (Cronyn and Gregson) who are mermaid-type beings (they don't have fins). Family fantasy-drama is well put together and well acted, with particularly nice performances from Cronyn and Gregson, and moments of charm...but the plot lacks much in the way of dramatic conflict -- y'know, obstacles to be overcome, conflicts to be resolved. Not a bad movie, but one that seems undeveloped (most of the supporting characters are just there to occupy space). The less demanding your mood, the better it will seem. So how can you recognize a Canadian movie? The heroine idolizes American marathon swimmer Gertrude Ederle rather than, say, a Canadian like Marilyn Bell! sc: Wendy Biller, Chrisopher Hawthorne. dir: Vic Sarin. 91 min.

THE SEA WOLF  * * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1993) (/U.S.) Charles Bronson, Christopher Reeve, Catherine Mary Stewart, Len Cariou, Marc Singer, Clive Revill.....After capsizing in the 1800s, a gentleman and humanitarian (Reeves) finds his ideals put to the test when taken aboard a scummy sealing vessel whose captain (Bronson) believes only in survival of the fittest. Old-fashioned made-for-TV drama is nice-looking, generally well acted (though Bronson was an ill-conceived choice) and boasts strong, intelligent dialogue, but it never creates the emotional intensity needed. Consistently interesting and ambitious, but not great. sc: Andrew J. Fenady (from the novel by Jack London). dir: Michael Anderson. 93 min.

(2003)  * 1/2  Seán Cullen ("Sean"), Theresa Pavlinek ("Frau Foch), Winston Spear ("Winston the cellar dweller"), Jennifer Robertson ("Betty"), Ted Ludzik ("Sonny"), Adam Sternbergh, Jason Belleville, Ryan Belleville, with Dylan Goodhue, Ian Goodhue, Great Bob Scott, Meher Steinberg, and Stephen Hart.....Off-the-wall comedy/quasi-sitcom with a show that's aware of itself. Cullen acts out sitcom style plots with guests dropping by, and -- unbeknownst to him -- locked in a feud with his megalomaniacal neighbour (Pavlinek), a would be world conquerer (and dominatrix)...while addressing the audience, bringing audience members down to play impromptu games, breaking into musical numbers, throwing in celebrity cameoes, etc. All the while engaging in an "anything goes" surrealism. Spear plays a guy who lives in his basement, Robertson his perpetually upbeat housekeeper and Ludzik her sinister, mentally handicapped adult son, Sternbergh a door-to-door canvaser, the two Belleville's critics who kibitz from the audience. Hart (or at least his arm) appears as a sasquatch sidekick for "Frau Foch", and the others are Cullen's on-stage band. The basic concepts (or the lack of basic concepts) should make this a delightfully off-beat, hilariously bizarre experience. 

Yeah, it should. Unfortunately, beyond the initial concepts, Cullen rarely manages to shape them into funny jokes. Or, put another way, to an audience weaned on "Monty Python" and even "South Park", Scottish Jesus doesn't quite cut it. It's the glimmer of a gag, it's the beginning of a gag...but it's not a gag in and of itself. It's almost as if someone told Cullen anything he says is he figures as long as he mugs and wiggles his eyebrows exaggeratedly, it'll be funny (I should point out: I do find Cullen and his brand of absurdism funny doing stand up and the like...though even then, in measured doses). Cullen seems to be creating a show that's a distillation of the last few decades of comedy, unapologetically borrowing from earlier sources (the critics in the audience evokes "The Muppet Show", a gag with Gordon Pinsent Deriding a Cat seems like a (less funny) version of a Four on the Floor sketch with Dan Redican patronizing a tractor, etc.) and the very idea of the character aware of his audience has already been used in "The Burns and Allen Show" and "It's Gary Shandling's Show". 

One wants to like the series, to encourage eccentric programing...but even wild n' crazy ideas need to be funny, while this series only occasionally can induce a chuckle (The William Shatner Self-Defense Course video promo being one -- though you have to recognize its simultaneous parody of "Star Trek" and old Charles Atlas ads). With the show's as-long-as-it's-weird-it-must-be-funny mentality, and the campy delivery of the actors, if it wasn't for the frequent sex jokes and occasional black humour you might wonder if Cullen's hoping the series will have a post-production revival on Saturday mornings, sandwiched between reruns of The Hilarious House of Frightenstein and You Can't Do That on Television. And -- yes -- this is an awfully in-depth review for something that only ran a handful of episodes. Created by Sean Cullen. Half hour episodes on the CBC. 

SEARCH AND DESTROY  * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1978) Perry King, Don Stroud, Tisa Farrow, Park Jong Soo, George Kennedy.....Ten years after being left for dead, a South Vietnemese official (Soo) trys to kill off the U.S. soldiers (King and Stroud) who deserted him. Poorly done actioner has its moments, but not many. sc: Don Enright. dir: William Fruet. 93 min.

Season of the Witch, a novel by Hank Stine, was turned into the somewhat unsuccessful film Synapse a.k.a. Memory Run

SEASONS OF LOVE  (TVMS)  * *  setting: USA.
(1998) Peter Strauss, Rachel Ward, Rip Torn, John Finn, Chandra West, Robert Joy, Hume Cronyn, Nick Stahl, Justin Chambers, Emily Hampshire, Laura Bertram.....Decades spanning saga of an American farmer (Strauss) and his wife (Ward) in the 19th Century and the trials and tribulations they face. Odd mini- series starts out as though it's intending to be an inspirational family drama, but gets increasingly soap opera-y and occasionally lurid as it goes along: kind of like "Little House on the Prairies" as written by Harold Robbins! Slick enough to be fun on that level, though extremely episodic, with many plot threads and conflicts not extending beyond a few scenes. But eventually it starts to wear. Strauss' character gradually erodes away viewer empathy (as he has an affair or becomes increasingly curmudgeonly) as does Ward (to a lesser extent) but there aren't other characters to replace them, with most of the rest of the cast in hastily sketched roles. The actors are good, that's not the problem. Even Torn (as Strauss' best friend), Finn (as a local bully) and Cronyn (as a hermit) have minor, thankless parts. Strauss, Ward, Torn and Finn are all imported from Hollywood. Produced by Kevin Sullivan. 4 hours. sc: Joe Wiesenfeld (from the novel The Earth Abideth by George Bell). dir: Daniel Petrie.

THE SEAT OF THE SOUL  see Le siege d'ame

SEAWAY (TV Series)

(1965-1966) (/U.K./U.S.)  * * 1/2 Stephen Young ("Nick King"), Austin Willis ("Adm. Leslie Fox"), with Sydney Brown ("Kimberly").....Drama/suspense set amid the docks and vessels of the St. Lawrence seaway, and so exploiting a certain then-topicality -- the St. Lawrence seaway being a nexus for international shipping (and therefore intrigue) and which had only officially opened in 1959. Young plays the young, cocky American trouble shooter for the Shipper's Association (ie: the people who owned the vessels) and Willis plays the Canadian government overseer of the Seaway itself -- the two working together, though not technically superior/employee. Brown cropped up occasionally as "Nick"'s male secretary. An international co-production and, at the time, the most expensive Canadian TV series made, the scenes can still seem a bit cheap (in terms of stunts, or crowds) but it looks more glossy than, say, Wojeck -- but also lacks that series' authenticity (but then it's not going for the same cinema verité style). And the milieu of harbours and big cargo ships gives it a sense of atmosphere. Young and Willis are Canadian, while the guest cast usually featured one or two familiar Americans or British imports (including a very young Richard Thomas) but also decent roles for Canadians. And it didn't shy away from its "Canadianess," with dialogue freely referring to Canadian cities, institutions, etc.

Apparently this TV series enjoyed decent ratings, but it was cancelled after one season because the producers had been counting on securing an American network slot that never happened (it eventually aired in the U.S. in syndicated reruns). Not a great series but, equally, not really a bad one, and it seemed to get better, and smoother, as it went. Some aspects have dated (from simple direction and writing styles, to social aspects like "Nick"'s womanizing and leering which was typical of such characters at the time) yet in other ways, it holds up (or maybe even benefits from nostalgia, as you might forgive the rough patches because of the time). Though ostensibly marketed as a crime-action series, surprisingly -- or perhaps not so surprisingly -- it was sometimes at its best in episodes focusing on character and human drama, the heroes dealing with emotional dilemmas or even social issues. Episodes like "The Only Good Indian," about Native land claim issues, though a bit clunky and heavy handed, nonetheless reflected a surprising sincerity. While, on a more pulpy hand, episodes like "The Ghost Ship" (with "Nick" stymied when people deny the existence of a ship he saw in the harbour) were suitably moody Hitchockian thrillers. Young's character could seem a bit too impetuous (almost as though a character meant to be younger than himself -- as though the leads were supposed to be a surrogate son-father team, a not uncommon dynamic in TV series at the time) but he and Willis were likeable performers. The series was created by an American -- Abraham Polonsky -- who had been blacklisted during the 1950s HUAC hearings. Not especially well circulated today, nonetheless it hasn't completely vanished from the air, reruns even showing in Australia in recent years (and nice, crisp prints, too). The series ended with a couple of two-parters, one of which -- Don't Forget to Wipe the Blood Off -- was released as a film under that title. Created by Abraham Polonsky. One season of 30 hour-long episodes (including 2 two-parters) on the CBC. 

SECOND ARRIVAL  a.k.a. Arrival II

SECOND SKIN  * *  setting: USA.
(2000) (/U.K./South Africa) Natasha Henstridge, Angus MacFadyen, Liam Waite, Peter Fonda, Norman Anstey.....A used book store owner in an American small town (MacFadyen) becomes involved with a beautiful woman (Henstridge) who has amnesia after being hit by a car, but both have secrets in their past that could be deadly. Film noire suspenser is good looking, but suffers because the characters never involve you -- especially MacFadyen who is too surly and obnoxious by far. For a movie that is, at times, about passion and love, the result is often cold and unsavoury. Some nice twists occasionally, but the ending is annoyingly trite. And director Roodt occasionally tries to get artsy -- jumbling scenes, inserting shots -- but to little point. Filmed in South Africa, pretending it's the United States, and Henstridge may be the only Canadian in the cast (though still playing an American). sc: John Lau. dir: Darrel James Roodt. - violence, sexual content, casual female nudity.- 91 min.

"Second Variety", a story by Philip K. Dick, became the movie Screamers.

SECOND WIND  * * 1/2  setting: Ont.
(1976) James Naughton, Lindsay Wagner, Ken Pogue, Tedde Moore, Tom Harvey, Louis DelGrande, Cec Linder.....Successeful stockbroker (Naughton) becomes obsessed with seeing how good a track runner he can become, and alienates his wife (Wagner) while he does it. Well done and well acted little drama. sc: Hal Ackerman. dir: Donald Shebib. 94 min.
(TV Series)

(2000) (/U.K.)  * *  Chris Demetral ("Jules Verne"), Michael Praed ("Phileas Fogg"), Francesca Hunt ("Rebecca Fogg""), Michel Courtemanche ("Passepartout").....Science fiction/fantasy set in the 19th Century postulating the (fictional) idea that French novelist Jules Verne based his writings on his experiences. As a young man he hooks up with a British ex-spy, Phileas Bogg, Bogg's French manservant, Passepartout, and Bogg's cousin Rachel, a still active British spy (and given to dressing in anachronistic black leather pants as much as dresses). The four of them travel about in a private airship getting involved in various espionage and fantasy adventures, borrowing ideas, not only from Verne's work (which may've proved a tad dull for the producers), but also H.G. Wells, Bram Stoker, Alexander Dumas, Edgar Rice Burroughs and others. Actor-wise: Praed and Hunt are British, Demetral American (and seeming a bit too much like a modern American young adult), and Courtemanche Canadian. 

The thing is -- this is almost a dream series for me. Honest. I love the idea of Victorian-era science fiction, specifically modern stories, set back then (called, I believe, Steampunk in SF circles). Because of that predisposition, I don't know if I judged this unduly harshly, because my expectations are high, or if I'm being unduly kind, because I want to like it. Ultimately, the episodes are frequently confusing, with lapses in logic and a dimly lit, claustrophobic production design that saps a lot of the fun out of things (despite having a big budget). Some humour would help. Not necessarily out-and-out silliness such as in comparably anachronistic period series like "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" or "The Adventures of Brisco County Jr." (and which Courtemanche attempted to provide as comic relief) but some wit and charm would enliven things. The stars are competent -- particularly the two British stars -- but the characters themselves are rather bland and, in the episodes I saw, the actors had yet to evince the chemistry and easy interplay with each other needed in a series. They barely seem like acquaintances, let alone friends. Still, the series seemed to improve somewhat as it went along. 

Sold as a kids show, it wasn't particularly, with murder and sexual inneundo, though SF has always been in the awkward position of being labelled "juvenile" by those who just don't get it. The series was completed a couple of years before it actually hit the air waves (apparently due to the difficulty of finishing some of the f/x) -- as such, it is unlikely a second season will be made, even if it had done well in the ratings. Some of the principal guest stars were imported American actors. Created by American writer Gavin Scott whose credits include "Small Soldiers" and "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" (what -- those're supposed to be recommendations?). Best bets: maybe the episode which was a "Prisoner of Zenda" riff with Passepartout impersonating a king -- it still didn't quite hold together in regards to themes and ideas, but it was sprightly enough. Hour long episodes, shown in Canada (rather briefly) on the CBC. 

SECRET AGENDA  * * 1/2  setting: other
(1998) (/German) Kevin Dillon, Christopher Plummer, Andrea Roth, J.T. Walsh, Michael Wincott, Daniel Kash, Rod Wilson, Paul Soles, Phil Jarrett.....American (Dillon) arrives in Berlin only to learn his brother died in an "accident"...and pretty soon finds people are after him for something his brother had. Suspense-thriller is, surprisingly, O.K. -- in a B-movie sort of way. It benefits from a decent cast, some exotic locations (filmed partly in Germany, partly Toronto), hints of a few higher themes, and enough twists and double crosses to keep you guessing. Admittedly, it's all fairly generic stuff, which is both a plus and a minus -- it's cliched...but comforting for all that. Dillon and Walsh -- in one of his last roles -- are American imports, most everyone else is Canadian (adopting some occasionally dodgy German accents). Plummer plays one of his usual quirky investigating cop characters. a.k.a. Hidden Agenda. sc./dir: Iain Paterson. - brief female nudity.- 102 min.

LE SECRET DE JEROME  * *  setting: N.S.
(1994) Myriam Cyr, Germain Houde, Remy Girard, Denis Lapalme, Viola Leger, Bernard Leblanc, Isabelle Roy, Bertrand Dugas.....In the 1860s, a troubled Acadian couple (Cyr and Houde), who can't have children, have even more difficulty when a mysterious, legless, retarded mute (Lapalme) is brought to them. The opening few minutes of this drama are, ultimately, more intriguing than what follows. Unconvincing and unlikeable characters are a liability in a flick where, after all, the characters are the sole story. English title: Jerome's Secret. sc: Jean Barbeau, Phil Comeau. dir: Phil Comeau. - sexual content, partial female nudity.- 99 min.

(1998) (/U.K.) John Cullum, Carrie-Anne Moss, Charles Durning, Hrant Alianak, Kay Hawtrey, Ivan Vanhecke, (voice of) Kathleen Barr.....Story of middle-aged Algernon (Cullum) who lives alone next to a graveyard, thinks his porcelain cat talks to him, and whose life is disrupted by a visit from an old army buddy (Durning) and, more significantly, a seductive Egyptologist (Moss) who wants to study his late grandfather's collection, but has a hidden agenda. Wryly off-beat and appealing black comedy suspenser keeps the interest up and is nicely acted (Moss inparticular camps it up amusingly). Admittedly the film threatens to overstay its welcome toward the end. Nice music score by Gareme Coleman. Kind of odd in that in its plethora of American references, interspersed with a few token Canadian ones, it's hard to tell where it's supposed to be set! sc: John Gray, Charles Jarrott (from a screenplay by John Cullum, based on the novel The Secret Life of Algernon Pendleton by Russell Greene). dir: Charles Jarrott. - violence.- 106 min.

SECRET NATION  * 1/2  setting: Nfld.
(1992) Cathy Jones, Mary Walsh, Michael Wade, Rick Mercer, Ron Hynes, Kay Anonsen, Geza Kovacs, Ken Campbell, Bryon Hennessey, Mary Lewis.....Woman (Jones) sets out to prove that Newfoundland's entering into confederation was part of a conspiracy and the referendum rigged. Clumsily assembled drama with uneven performances and a subject matter which, though fine for a thesis, is pretty dry stuff for a movie (let alone the thriller it wants to be). Of interest only for its P.O.V. (though its separatist sentiments probably won't play well in the rest of the country) and even then it's not clear what's known and what's made up. Andy Jones has a small part and look fast for former Premier Brian Peckford at a costume party. sc: Edward Riche. dir: Michael Jones. 110 min.

THE SECRET OF NANDY * *  setting: other
(1990) (/France) Bibi Andersson, Michael Sarrazin, Marc De Jonge, Yvette Brind'Amour.....Woman (Andersson) returns to her Paris home only to find that someone is trying to torment her with the death of her crippled sister many years before. Gothic-styled suspenser lacks mood and originality but has good performances. The goofy ending is pretty predictable. A 3 Themes-Hamster production. sc: Pierre Billon, Donald Martin. dir: Danielle J. Suissa.

SEDUCING DOCTOR LEWIS  see La Grande seduction

SEDUCING MAARYA  * * 1/2  setting: P.Q./other
(2000) Dr. Mohan Agashe, Nandana Sen, Cas Anvar, Vijay Mehta, Ryan Hollyman.....Widower East-Indian immigrant (Agashe) thinks he's found the perfect woman (Sen) for his son (Mehta), unaware that his son is gay; and once they're married, the father starts to fall for her himself. Despite a premise that seems like it could be a comedy, this is basically a drama (though with a hint that a gentle comedy wants to break out from time to time). It can't quite shake its low-budget feel, and Hoe directs with a little too much solemnity, but Hoe-the-writer has a lot of empathy for his characters and avoids the cliches and keeps the audience curious to see where it's all headed (particularly with Maarya's cryptic references to her brother in India). Indian actor Agashe is good, and though the Canadian cast is a little unpolished, likewise nicely bring out the heart of their characters. Worth a viewing. sc./dir: Hunt Hoe. 107 min.

SEE GRACE FLY  * * 1/2
(2003) Gina Chiarelli, Paul McGillion, Benjamin Ratner, Jennifer Copping, Tom Scholte, Megan Leitch.....Man (McGillion) returns home from missionary work after his mother dies and his schizophrenic sister (Chiarelli) runs off, convinced the apocalypse is coming because voices have told her so (and she's also suspected in the mother's death). Modestly budgeted drama tries to hit a lot of targets, from a literal look at an aspect of magic realism/fantasy, as the characters wonder if maybe she isn't as crazy as they thought (echoing, perhaps, the much, more effective U.S. film "The Rapture"); a human drama and with aspects of humour. And the result is an uneven affair that misses as often as it hits, straining too hard to shift gears even within a scene, resulting in some awkward, unconvincing bits. But the cast is good and the energy level high, so that the whole can kind of hold your interest. Nicholas Lea, Jacqueline Samuda and David Lovgren provide the voices in her head (Lovgren also appears briefly as the boyfriend of a junkie) Chiarelli and McGillion produced along with writer/director McComrack. sc./dir: Peter McCormack. - sexual content; brief female nudity.- 90 min.
SEED (TV Series)

(2013-2014)  * *   Adam Korson ("Harry Dacosta"), Carrie-Lynn Neales ("Rose"), Amanda Brugel ("Michelle"), Stephanie Mills ("Zoey"), Matt Baram ("Jonathan Colborne"), Laura de Carteret ("Janet Colborne"), Vanessa Matsui ("Irene"), Abby Ross ("Anastasia Colborne"), William Ainscough ("Billy").....Comedy about a shiftless 30-something slacker (Korson), a sperm donor who now finds himself drawn into the lives of some of the recipients of his "seed" -- to the chagrin of some -- forming a kind of off-beat extended family. There's a lesbian couple (Brugel & Mills) raising a young boy (Ainscough) and an upper crust couple (Baram & de Carteret) raising a teenage daughter (Ross), as well as a single woman (Neales) who has only just impregnated herself. Matsui plays the sassy owner of the bar where "Harry" works.

Series creator Joseph Raso (this marking his first major work!) claimed he had been shopping it around for a few years, which maybe shows how time passes by...because by the time it hit the airwaves one might mistake it for a spin-off of the hit movie, Starbuck, and the idea of the unconventional "new family dynamic" was already at the heart of "Modern Family" and others -- even "The New Adventures of Old Christine," in which a running joke is a young boy with un-boyish interests, and a "family" comprised of friends and uncles and exes (for that matter, the setting at a bar with the sarcastic gal seemed kind of reminiscent of the first season of Dan for Mayor -- a co-developer of Seed, Mark Farrell, worked on Dan for Mayor). All of which isn't that important (other than as trivia) when the real issue is: does it work? Despite good reviews from a number of critics, the truth is...not so much. It's not initially horrible...but it just seems to be struggling to find the right comic rhythm, sort of wanting to be a sly, modern comedy...even as it's played like an Old School farce (you half expect to hear rim shots after each not-that-funny punch line). The cast is agreeable enough (though the characters are less endearing), but they, the scripts, and the direction, can feel like they're trying too hard -- making an imitation of a sitcom, rather a sitcom. And for all that it clearly wants to be perceived as progressive (with its use of sperm donation, lesbians, single moms) in other respects it can feel oddly...conventional, even conservative, with "Harry" an entirely generic good ol' boy arrested adolescent white male Lothario clearly aimed at that demographic!

And after Canadian comedies finally seeming comfortable in their skin (with Corner Gas, Little Mosque and others) the makers -- and fans -- of Seed were quick to brag about how it avoided being obviously Canadian. Which is doublespeak for "it basically pretends it's set in the United States" -- even to the point of naming streets after American presidents and identifying French as a "foreign" language class. Supporters of this model acted as if somehow this meant the series was pursuing a nobler artistic vision than if it admitted it was Canadian (which, they implied, would just be embarrassing)...but really it was a throw back to ill-fated and, yes, embarrassing, sitcoms like On the Ropes! The additional irony is City TV dropped the successful The Murdoch Mysteries (later picked up by the CBC) because they wanted a hipper demographic...yet Seed's initial ratings were lacklustre. Still, the series accomplished what it wanted all along -- getting picked up by an American network (CW) for its second season (the American press releases boasting it was City TV's highest rated original sitcom -- that's because it was City TV's only original sitcom when it premiered!) However the American network dropped it after just two episodes aired! And City TV cancelled it shortly after that. The new season seemed to reflect a bit of tinkering, going for a slightly more subdued delivery on the part of the actors (and the opening credits seemed a little more conservative, replacing a screen of animated sperm with simply the characters sitting around a bar!) But, if anything, it seemed less funny. The series has its fans but for my money the jokes aren't very funny, the plots are largely uninteresting (in terms of wanting to see how it resolves) and, I'll admit, I just don't really like the characters (and I don't think blame lies with the actors). Created by Jospeh Raso, developed by Raso and Mark Farrell. Two seasons of half-hour episodes on City TV.  

SEEDS OF DESTRUCTION  * 1/2   setting: USA.
(2011) (/U.S.) Adrian Pasdar, Stefanie von Pfetten, James Morrison, Jesse Moss, Luisa d'Oliveira, David Richmond-Peck, Ben Cotton.....A mutated prehistoric plant overruns the United States countryside with gargantuan roots and vines, threatening global destruction, while separately a botanist and a government agent (von Pfetten and Pasdar) and a couple of young environmentalist/reporters (Moss and d'Oliveira) try to trace it back to the rogue botanist (Morrison) responsible. Made-for-the-U.S. Sy-Fy Channel thriller has a decent enough cast and certainly hits the ground running, despite a modest budget -- but a movie serial-like pacing doesn't really help if the characters and relationships aren't developed, the dialogue clunky (lacking wit or nuance), and the plotting itself unimaginative. Kind of reminiscent of another Ziller-directed effort -- Stonehenge Apocalypse -- which likewise had an audaciously apocalyptic premise, a brisk pace, but still failed to be interesting (not to mention both films have a mix of bogus science and quasi-religious parapsychology). Pasdar and Morrison are American imports, everyone else is Canadian (playing Americans). a.k.a. The Terror Beneath. sc: Mike Muldoon, Paul Ziller. dir: Paul Ziller. 90 min.


(1981-1987)  * * * 1/2  Louis DelGrande ("Louie Ciccone"), Martha Gibson ("Marge Sinclair"), Janet-Laine Green ("Heather Redfern"), with Frank Adamson ("Sgt. Ed Brown"), Ivan Beaulieu ("Jason"), Murray Westgate ("Max"), Cec Linder ("Spencer"), Louis Negin ("Marlon"), Al Bernardo, Lynne Gordon, Ratch Wallace ("Kenny"), John Fox ("Falstaff")..... Mystery/comedy about a middle-aged, klutzy, slightly obnoxious-but-appealing crime reporter (DelGrande) for the Toronto Gazette whose psychic visions helped him solve murders. There were also the running sub-plots of his on again/off again relationship with his ex-wife (well-played by his real-life missus, Gibson) and his mild infatuation with the assistant Crown Attorney (Green). Adamson was the usual exasperated police man. Beaulieu played DelGrande's son; Bernardo and Gordon his baker parents (DelGrande lived above the bakery); Westgate his editor; Negin the food critic; Linder the chief Crown Attorney; Fox a dimwitted cop; and Wallace played Green's none-too-bright hockey player boy friend.

Not as slick or polished as contemporaneous American series (it was filmed on cheaper video), this series made up for it with the hip and adult scripts coupled with DelGrande's brilliant performance (funny, yes, but he could also make the dramatic scenes work, too) and the fact that the mysteries were legitimate. It was, ultimately, a funny detective series (rather than necessarily a straight comedy set in the mystery milieu). The rapid fire dialogue, and a penchant for topical and culture references (Canadian and American) was clearly modelled after the Howard Hawk's style of old classic movies. All of which helped to make this off-beat, edgy and generally quite funny TV series an instant classic. Created by DelGrande and David Barlow. The weird but memorable theme song was written by Phillip Schreibman and performed by Flivva. Best bets: almost any of them. Really. Won a number of Geminis. 43 hour-long episodes (including a two-parter and an hour-and-a-half one) on the CBC. - violence.- 


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