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.

SELLING INNOCENCE * * *  setting: Alt.
(2005) Sarah Lind, JR Bourne, Mimi Rogers, Joanne Kelly, Fred Ewanuick, Tamara Hope, Mike Lobel, Charisse Baker.....Aimless teen (Lind) lands a job at a seeming legitimate modelling agency, and gets enamoured of the money and life, even though she finds the job involves her doing few magazine gigs, while posting racier and racier pictures of herself on the agency's website. Cautionary made-for-CTV drama is kind of being torn in different directions, from being an earnest "After School Special" warning about social a sort of thriller, with a sub-plot involving a a polemic about objectifying women that, at times, can slide into just old fashioned reactionary prudishness. And the unavoidable problem with trying to tackle the subject matter is that, in order to do a movie about sleaze and sexploitation, isn't the danger the movie becomes precisely what it's criticizing? (Although others criticized the movie as unrealistic...because the "shocking" photos weren't all that extreme). Add to that the issue is about the exploitation of minors...which is hard to remember because Lind is clearly a young adult (but then, if they had cast a minor, that would raise its own issues). With all that being works more than it doesn't and where even a few scenes that seem silly, or illogical, make more sense as the story unfolds. Generally well put together, with strong performances from Bourne, American import Rogers (as the mom), Kelly (as a jaded, "older" model) and, especially, Lind. And as an "issue" movie, it's worth a look, as you gradually realize this isn't an attack on modelling agencies, but a warning how illegitimate businesses can masquerade as legitimate ones. Look fast for Instant Star's Alexz Johnston as a model kidnapped at the beginning. sc: Aaron Martin, John Moffatt (story Moffatt). dir: Pierre Gang. app; 90 min.

SENIOR TRIP see National Lampoon's Senior Trip


(2014-)   * * 1/2  Kim Cattrall ("Davina Jackson"), Don McKellar ("Al Jackson"), with Nicolas Wright ("Orlando Jackson"), Colm Feore ("Roger"), Joanna Gleason ("Veronica"), Clé Bennett ("Theodore"), Elliott Gould ("Dr. Cass"), Bob Martin ("Sam").....Comedy-drama about an up-scale urban couple (she works at a gallery, he's a columnist) approaching the north side of middle-age with she, inparticular, sinking into a kind of mid-life melancholia. Based on a 2005/2007 U.K. series of the same name (starring Joanna Lumley), apparently rumours of a North American re-make were floating around as early as 2008! -- already with Cattrall's name attached (though possibly that might have been intended as an American production). It eventually hit the air on HBO Canada, and the characters located in Toronto (initial reports suggested it would air on The Movie Network). Wright plays their embittered, self-obsessed adult son. American actress Gleason plays "Davina"'s sisier, and Feore her husband; Bennett an erudite drug dealer; American actor Gould plays "Al"'s doctor who exploits "Al"'s hypochondria (the series referring to how much these appointments "cost" despite being set in Canada) and Martin (who is the series' chief writer) recurred as "Davina"'s gallery co-worker.

This is one of those series where it's kind of hard to review, because it is basically the series it wants to be -- but whether that'll catch your fancy is the question. Low-key, the humour is often intended more to be wry and subdued, while the tone is deliberately meant to blend whimsy with fatalism. On one hand, the series was certainly presented as being "bold" for its willingness to unstintingly present such a melancholic vision, confronting the dejectedness some people feel on facing the second half of their lives (and feeling the best is behind them). The series has a slick, expensive look, and the actors are good, and there are some chuckles. But equally, the series could be accused of being too immersed in its world of up-scale, self-involved, yuppie bourgeoisie -- the audience may empathize with the characters' sense of disaffection, but that doesn't mean you exactly empathize with the characters or necessarily want to spend a lot of time with them (at least without wanting to smack 'em!) A joke in one episode about a bizarre, Art nouveau couch might've been funnier if the couch didn't look so obviously bizarre. There's also an unfortunate racist undercurrent when the only recurring non-white character (played by Bennett) is the local drug dealer; worse, the "joke" is that McKellar's character identifies him as a drug dealer even before knowing he is one! A series that definitely will play best for people who self-identify with the characters and their socio-economic milieu. Half-hour episodes on HBO Canada.  

SENTIMENTAL REASONS  * 1/2  setting: Alt.
(1982) Jorge Montesi, Elaine Lakeman, Peter Haynes, Arvi Liimatainen, Isreal Manchild.....Contract killer (Montesi) arrives in Edmonton for a hit and becomes overly involved with a prostitute (Lakeman) who's in trouble. Weak performances and it takes the story forever to get anywhere, though Lakeman's nude scenes aren't without interest. Nice title song. a.k.a. Death Target. sc. Peter Haynes. dir: Jorge Montesi. - female and male nudity, sexual content,, violence.- 72 min.

SEPARATE VACATIONS  * 1/2  setting: USA./other
(1985) David Naughton, Jennifer Dale, Mark Keyloun, Lally Cadeau, Blanca Cuerra, Tony Rosato, Laurie Holden.....Bored with his marriage, American (American Naughton) goes to Mexico to try and have an affair, leaving his bewildered wife (Dale) to mind the kids. Repetitious, predictable, raunchy sex comedy seems to derive most of its humour watching Naughton get into one embarrassing situation after another. Well, it's your money. Holden's first official role (as the baby sitter). sc: Robert Kaufman (from the novel by Eric Weber). dir: Michael Anderson. - partial female nudity, sexual content.-- 91 min.

SEPARATION * * 1/2  setting: CDN./other
(1978) Emile Genest, Paul Hecht, Alexandra Stewart, Robert Rivard, Monique LePage, Sabina Maydelle, Lois Maxwell, Daniel Pilon.....Quebec threatens to separate if Canada accepts two million British refugees, leaving the Prime Minister (Genest) to try and keep the country together while dealing with a caucus revolt. Cheap-looking made-for-TV political suspense flick is fairly well thought out and manages to be pretty riveting (if cerebral). sc: Richard Rohmer (adaptation by Sandor Stern). dir: George McCowan.

SEPT FOIS...PAR JOUR * 1/2  setting: other
(1971) (/Israel) Rosanna Schiaffino, Jean Coutu, Dalia Friedland, Avner Hizkyau, Jacques Ben-Sira, Ebba Kaiser, Suzanne Valerie.....Canadian sexaholic (Coutu) working in Israel struggles to curb his libido, succeeds, but then finds he has trouble committing when a possible relationship presents itself. Sex comedy is inoffensive enough, with a decent performance from Coutu and an unusual setting, and boasts some quirkiness at times. But as a movie it seems unevenly structured and fails to resolve. Ted Allan (!) is credited with the story. a.k.a. 7 fois...par jour, 7 Times a Day, Seven Times a Day. sc./dir: Denis Heroux (story Ted Allan). - partial female and male nudity, sexual content.- 85 min.

SERAPHIN: A Heart Made of Stone see Seraphin: Un homme et son peche

SERAPHIN: Un homme et son peche  * * *  setting: P.Q.
(2002) Pierre Lebeau, Karine Vanasse, Roy Dupuis, Remy Girard, Celine Bonnier, Robert Brouillette, Benoit Briere, Yves Jacques, Normand Chouinard, Anne-Marie Cadieux, Louise Portal, Marie Tifo.....In 19th Century rural Quebec, young lovers (Vanasse and Dupuis) find their happiness shattered when she is promised in marriage to Seraphin (Lebeau), the sinister and miserly mayor of the town. Familiar Quebecois period rural romantic tragedy, surprisingly, became one of the highest grossing domestic films, provincially, in Quebec history. Not, perhaps, special enough to warrant such success (then again, neither was "Titanic"), nonetheless, if you're looking for a tearjerker -- if occasionally hokey -- melodrama, this is reasonably well down, with nice performances and a certain grandeur to its intimate story. Done before as a novel, radio series, and TV mini-series! English title: Seraphin: A Heart Made of Stone. sc: Pierre Billon, Charles Biname, with Antonine Maillet, Lorraine Richard (freely adapted from the work by Claude-Henri Grignon). dir: Charles Biname. - sexual content; casual male nudity.- 128 min.

SET ME FREE  see Emporte-Moi

Seven Streams of the River Ota, a play, was the source for the movie, No.

7 THINGS TO DO BEFORE I'M 30  * * 1/2  setting: USA.
(2007) (/U.S) Amber Benson, Christopher Jacot, John Reardon, Julia Duffy.....Feeling her life isn't working out, a flakey 29 year old American woman (American Benson) quits her job, bolts on the boy friend (Jacot) who wants to marry her, and retreats to her home town where she discovers a childhood list of things she had wanted to do before turning 30. Made-for-TV comedy kind of veers between mildly amusing...and cloying and a little too precious, the early scenes inparticular directed a little too campy, the characters themselves not necessarily that ingratiating. But...does pick up as it goes, finding its legs, the characters becoming more than just caricatures, particularly Sutherland as her brother, and Reardon as her childhood sweetheart. And Benson is personable enough. So, maybe on a slow night... Though isn't the movie revealing its own unrealistic-expectations-of-physical-beauty when much is made of the heroine's body image issues, reinforced by her critical mother...when, let's face it, most women would happily look like Benson! a.k.a. Seven Things to Do Before I'm Thirty. sc: Duane Poole. dir: Paul A. Kaufman. app. 90 min.

SEVEN TIMES A DAY  see Sept fois...un jour

SEVEN TIMES LUCKY * * *  setting: CDN.
(2004) Kevin Pollak, Liane Balaban, Jason Chernick, James Tolkan, Babz Chula, Gordon Tootoosis, Aleks Paunovic, Laura Jayne McDonald, Ryan Black.....Story of fringe-dwelling grifters and con artists during the Christmas season, focusing on an world weary pro (import Pollak) and his young protégé (Balaban) -- and the double crosses that accompany their latest scam. Low-key suspense-drama is one of those flicks where there are so many double crosses, lies, and hidden agendas going on you can lose track of whether it really makes sense or not. But it's got a decent cast, an effectively atmospheric melancholy mood, and is told with a brisk enough tempo (without seeming frenetic) that it holds your interest to the end -- and that's kind of the point. The character stuff doesn't fully click the way it wants to, but a generally interesting little film. A deliberate timelessness to the period actually adds to the evocative mood. Received the Genie for Best Song. sc./dir: G.B. Yates. 85 min.

SEVERED  * 1/2  setting: B.C.
(2005) Paul Campbell, Sarah Lind, Julian Christopher, JR Bourne, Michael Tiegen, Leanne Adachi, Benjamin Ratner, Jerry Wasserman, John Reardon, Patrick Gallagher, Zak Santiago.....A small group of loggers and environmental protestors end up trapped together in the forest, surrounded by flesh eating zombies. A decent enough cast struggles with this disappointing horror-thriller that suffers from poor dialogue and muddled direction, and lots of logic/plot holes. The filmmakers bring nothing new to the genre, either in the monsters and plot (borrowing from zombie movies in general to "28 Days Later") and their rather stock, undeveloped characters, or even the milieu (an isolated logging camp was used much more effectively in an "X-Files" episode). But being derivative isn't unforgivable ("28 Days Later" borrowed shamelessly from Day of the Triffids and the zombie genre...while even "Night of the Living Dead" was, itself, more than vaguely similar to "The Last Man on Earth") provided the execution makes up for the lack of freshness -- but that doesn't happen here. Takes a potentially interesting turn 2/3rds of the way through (albeit still just following established templates for the genre) but even then fails to do much with it. One of those movies where you can't decide if the filmmakers were too in love with their genre, and so unable to view their material critically...or didn't respect it at all, and that contempt ends up on screen. Either way...too bad. sc: Carl Bessai, Travis McDonald (story Julian Clarke, Travis McDonald). dir: Carl Bessai. - extreme violence.- 96 min.

SEX AFTER KIDS  * * 1/2  setting: CDN.
(2013) Paul Amos, Shannon Beckner, Katie Boland, Kristin Booth, Jay Brazeau, Amanda Brugel, Ennis Esmer, Kate Hewlett, Kris Holden-Ried, Peter Keleghan, Mary Krohnert, Mimi Kuzyk, Zoie Palmer, Gordon Pinsent.....Various people struggle to deal with how having kids affect their relationships -- and notably their sex lives; from couples with babies, single parents hoping to still meet people, and even an older couple trying to re-ignite their sex lives after their kids have moved out. Comedy boasts a fine cast all around, and offers chuckles, some laughs, and occasional poignant moments throughout -- as well as forays into raunchiness and vulgarity as is common in such Canadian movies (albeit more verbal than visual). But it never rises above being a look-in on various permutations of its title (fans of the film applauding its "honesty") so that it can almost come across as an amusing-but-earnest NFB educational film. Even though there is some effort to link the characters it never becomes more than an intercutting of short films, no one thread really emerging as especially compelling, nor building to a shared climax to tie it together (ala "Love, Actually" for instance). Put another way, if you're interested in the premise, you'll probably like it, but if you're not, it's unlikely to win you over just with its telling -- yet a great movie should be one where you can find yourself saying "I didn't expect to enjoy that, but..." Christine Horne, though billed in the opening credits, only has a couple of scenes as Holden-Ried's one night stand (though, funnily, provides the movie with its main -- brief -- nudity). sc./dir: Jeremy LaLonde. - explicit sexual content; brief female and male nudity.- 106 min.

Sex and Sunsets, a novel by Tim Sandlin, became the movie, The Right Kind of Wrong.

Sex and the Criminal Mind, a series of case histories by Norman Winsk, served as the source for the cable TV movie The Man in the Attic

THE SEX OF THE STARS see Le sexe des etoiles

LE SEXE DES ETOILES  * *  setting: P.Q.
(1993) Denis Mercier, Marianne Coquelicot Mercier, Tobie Pelletier, Sylvie Drapeau, Luc Picard, Gilles Renaud.....Introverted, astronomy-obsessed teen (Marianne M.) becomes attached to her long lost father (Denis M.) when he returns, but has trouble dealing with the fact that he is now a she thanks to a sex change operation. Moody, handsome drama is O.K. but ultimately too slow, without enough to sustain a feature. The two Merciers aren't related. English title: The Sex of the Stars. sc: Monique Proulx (from her novel). dir: Paule Baillargeon. 105 min.

SHADES OF BLACK * * * setting: CDN/other
(2006) Albert Schultz, Lara Flynn Boyle, Jason Schombing, Rick Roberts, Amy Price Francis, Jason Priestley, Jeremy Akerman, Cedric Smith, Sharry Flett.....Drama about controversial Canadian business mogul, Conrad Black (Schultz), as he reflects back upon his life while facing charges of fraud and corruption. Fact based made-for-CTV drama is a not wholly unsympathetic portrait of Black, and the writer and director are clearly taking their inspiration, less from "true life docudramas" and more from old style Hollywood melodramas like "Citizen Kane" or even "A Christmas Carol" -- sometimes with scenes and even camera angles seeming deliberately meant to evoke those movies. The result is a lot of stylish, richly drawn scenes, with strong, pulpy performances from Schultz (nicely made up to evoke Black and delivering an uncannily evocative performance), American actress Boyle (as Barbara Amiel), Price Francis (as Black's first wife) and, well, everyone. But does suffer from the usual flaws of both business bio-pics (you're often not quite sure what's going on -- further confused by the jumbled chronology) and of true stories in general, in which, if taken as a simple story it doesn't entirely take you anywhere, but if taken as fact -- well, it's still basically just speculation. The movie also kind of sidesteps politics -- we're told Black and Amiel are right wing, but then given little example of their philosophies. As such, the whole isn't maybe as strong as the parts -- but the parts are pretty strong. sc: Andrew Wreggitt (from the book by Richard Siklos). dir: Alex Chapple. app. 90 min.

Shades of Love  * * 1/2....Series of made-for-cable TV movies produced by the Harlequin Romance novel publishers and adapted from published works. Generally: career woman meets man, they dance around each other for a while trying to decide if it's genuine, then they "get together" -- frequently with some female nudity (perhaps to attract males to a largely female genre?). Not as bad as you might think given the rep of "romance" novels. Not great, but generally O.K. and amusing and not pretentious. Some are better than others and some are available on video. titles: The Ballerina and the Blues, Champagne for Two, The Emerald Tear (one of the best), Lilac Dreams, Little White Lies, Make Mine Chartreuse, Midnight Magic, Moonlight Flight, Sincerely Violet, Tangerine Taxi, others. The company would try again in 1994 with new movies (see Harlequin). - sexual content, partial female nudity.--

SHADOW DANCING * * 1/2  setting: Ont.
(1989) Nadine Van Der Velde, James Kee, Christopher Plummer, John Colicos, Gregory Osborne, Shirley Douglas, Jennifer Inch, Brent Carver..... Novice dancer (Van Der Velde) in a small dance company, finds herself being possessed by the spirit of a dead dancer. Innocuous and stylish supernatural/dance/murder-mystery lacks genuine suspense (until the last 15 min. or so) but has good performances, dialogue, etc. Too many close-ups during dance numbers, though. sc: Christian Foster. dir: Lewis Furey. - sexual content.- 100 min.

SHADOW LAKE  * *  setting: Ont.
(1999) Graham Greene, Joy Tanner, Gabriel Hogan, Roberta Maxwell, Frederic Forest, Shirley Douglas, Michael Hogan, Mag Ruffman, Steve Smith.....The discovery of a 14 year old corpse in a northern Ontario town leads the local police (Greene) and the murdered man's daughter (Tanner) to investigate, particularly when it seems to be tied to a long ago diamond robbery. Lethargic TV movie spends the first half seeming like an old "Murder, She Wrote" episode -- unfortunately, what works in episodic TV doesn't necessarily generate suspense in a stand alone, movie-length format -- then it turns into the standard "girl-trapped-in-a- deserted-hotel-being-chased-by-psycho" genre. A nice cast, with particularly strong performances from Douglas and M. Hogan (though import Forest's American accent doesn't gel with the location), but the characterization never really clicks. sc: Paula J. Smith and Donald Martin, Jane Wylie, Alex Galatis. dir: Carl Alexander Goldstein. 94 min.

SHADOW OF THE HAWK  * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1976) Jan-Michael Vincent, Marilyn Hassett, Chief Dan George, Pia Shandel, Marianne Jones, Jacques Hubert.....Half American Indian (Vincent) must escort his grandfather (George) back to his village to battle an evil witch, plagued by evil spirits all the way. Potentially interesting scenes in this supernatural thriller are ruined by terrible dialogue, awkward direction and poor performances. Still, the scene where a car runs into an invisible wall is pretty nifty. sc: Norman Thaddeus Vane, Herbert J. Wright (story Peter Jensen & Lynette Cahill and Norman Thaddeus Vane). dir: George McCowan. 92 min.

SHADOW OF THE WOLF * 1/2  setting: CDN.
(1993) (/France) Lou Diamond Phillips, Toshiro Mifune, Jennifer Tilly, Donald Sutherland, Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Nicholas Campbell, Raoul Trujillo, Qalingo Tookalak.....In the '30s, Inuk Aguguk (Phillips), the quintessential angry-young-man, kills a white trader and then heads across the tundra with his girlfriend (Tilly). Drama starts out awful thanks to bad dialogue, direction, and performances from the non-Inuit Inuit actors that belong in a B-movie western, then improves slightly thanks to Sutherland. But only slightly. The most expensive Canadian movie made to that point (over $30 million), it has nice scenery, big sets, a $2 million rubber whale...too bad it didn't have a stronger plot. sc: Evan Jones, Rudy Wurlitzer, adaptation David Mihaud, Jacques Dorfmann (from the novel Aguguk by Yves Theriault). dir: Jacques Dorfmann. - partial female nudity, violence, sexual content.- 112 min.

SHADOWBUILDER  * * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1997) Michael Rooker, Leslie Hope, Shawn Alex Thompson, Kevin Zegers, Tony Todd, Catherine Bruhier, Hardee Lineham.....A troubled, gun-totting priest (Rooker) comes to small town U.S.A. to protect a young boy (Zegers) whom a demon intends to sacrifice to bring eternal darkness. Good-looking, well-produced horror-thriller is presumably a low-budget, straight-to-video quickie...but doesn't seem like it. Not bad (though not great), with a good cast (where even the bit roles are played by respectable actors like James B. Douglas, Paul Soles and Gordon Michael Woolvett), nice f/x and a script that's actually thoughtful at times. A bit slow, though, and suffers from the fact that, except for the priest, there isn't any real characterization. Hope (as the boy's guardian) and Thompson (as her Sheriff boyfriend) and Zegers are basically just generic protagonists. Rooker and genre vet Todd, as a local eccentric, (kind of his generation's Christopher Lee) are American. a.k.a. Bram Stoker's Shadowbuilder. sc: Michael Stokes (from the story by Bram Stoker). dir: Jamie Dixon. - violence, brief nudity.- 100 min.

SHADOWS OF THE PAST* *  setting: P.Q.
(1991) (/France) Erika Anderson, Nicholas Campbell, Richard Berry, Heidi von Palleske, Dennis O'Connor, Lorne Brass, Jacques Herlin.....Partially amnesiac photojournalist (American Anderson) in Montreal finds both cops and shady figures believe she was involved in some criminal plot, but she can't remember. Suspenser has decent enough ideas, and throws in light badinage and romance (with Campbell as a Mountie assigned to watch her). But it's hurt by a low-budget feel that evokes old drive-in movies, where even the professional actors seem unpolished. The plot -- and the questions it provokes -- just aren't that interesting. The movie doesn't sustain what suspense it creates, while the light humour is more good natured, rather than actually amusing. Well-intentioned, but not quite. Brass gets a change-of-pace role as poshly-accented villain. sc: David Preston. dir: Gabriel Pelletier. - sexual content.- 92 min.

SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL * * * setting: other
(2007) Roy Dupuis, Owen Lebakeng Sejake, James Gallanders, Odile Katesi Gakire, Michel Mongeau, Tom McCamus, Deborah Kara Unger, Jean-Hughes Anglade....Dramatization of the events in 1994, when Canadian General Romeo Dallaire (Dupuis) was in charge of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Rwanda, and the trials and horror when the country descends into civil strife and ethnic cleansing...and Dallaire's ability to intercede is limited by a lack of equipment, manpower, and orders not to get involved! Dramatization puts some more flesh on news stories most Canadians are probably vaguely aware of, but only vaguely, and by focusing on the political manoeuvring (and Dallaire's psychological scars) as much as the street level horror, acts perhaps acts as a good companion piece to the movie "Hotel Rwanda" (also based on a true story) and the fictional Un dimanche a Kigali. Rather unsensational in presentation/direction...but that very low-keyness perhaps works in its favour, and the movie becomes more compelling and searing as it goes. In make up, Dupuis genuinely evokes the real life Dallaire. For another take on UN peace keepers caught in a civil conflict, see the mini-series, Answered by Fire. The title, Shake Hands with the Devil was also used for a straight documentary about Dallaire's experiences. sc: Michael Donovan (from the autobiography by Romeo Dallaire). dir: Roger Spottiswoode. - violence.- 113 min.

(1990) Billy Merasty, Eric Schweig, Jim Kewakundo, Peter Read, Don Lamont, Vanessa Dylyn, Denis Nadon, Banito Brown.....Three Ojibway men (Merasty, Schweig and Kewakundo) go in search of a mystical underground spring, with a ruthless industrialist (Read) and his people close behind. Low-budget adventure flick does manage to sustain interest, despite uneven performances, dialogue and direction. Merasty and Schweig almost make it work. sc: John Gregory, Brian Dick. dir: Robert Bouvier. 86 min.

SHANIA: A Life in Eight Albums* * 1/2  setting: Ont./USA.
(2005) Meredith Henderson, Reva Timbers, Shenae Grimes, Megan Follows, Eric Schweig, Gordon Tootoosis, Darrel Dennis, Lynne Cormack, Lubomir Mykytiuk, Katie Boland.....The early life of Canadian-born country-rock superstar Shania Twain (born Eileen Twain) is chronicled, from her poor childhood to her struggles to get a toe hold in the music business. Made-for-CBC bio pic is okay but maybe has trouble finding a consistent narrative thread or theme (most people's lives don't form a convenient narrative) where even Twain herself remains a slightly vague personality. And though aspects of the movie might be eye opening -- showing her dirt poor childhood and emphasizing a Native Indian heritage (though the filmmakers are a bit coyly ambiguous about the fact that it was her stepdad who was Native, not Twain herself) -- it's not clear how or if that impacted upon her later country-rock pop music, which some might argue is more about baring her midriff than baring her soul (for the record, Henderson only briefly flashes her abs in one scene). And are the vaguely southern accents adopted by Follows (as her mom) and others really authentic for small town Ontario? In the acting, writing and directing, not a bad musical biography...but not a great one, either. Subsequent revelations by Twain that her childhood was more troubled than was publicly known (including abuse) perhaps reveals the problems with making such "unauthorized" biographical films without the subject's in-put. sc: Shelley Eriksen. dir: Jerry Ciccoritti. app. 90 min.

SHAPESHIFTER  * 1/2  setting: USA./other
(1999) (/Romania) Paul Nolan, Bill MacDonald, Catherine N. Blythe, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Teodor Danetti, Serban Celea, George Ilie.....When his ex-CIA agent parents are kidnapped, an American teen (Nolan) goes to Romania to rescue them...and discovers he is heir to a Gypsy magic that allows him to transform into any animal. Youth-aimed adventure movie (kind of "Manimal, the Younger") is brimming -- over-brimming, actually -- with ideas (let's not forget the evil witch who is in league with the Romanian warlord, or the cyber-being from the future!) Might appeal to kids who will enjoy the larger-than-life premise, though older viewers will probably notice the thin plot (despite the above mentioned over-brimming ideas), budget limitations, and indifferent performances (despite a mostly competent cast), and that it's, well, kind of inane in spots. Even the tone is a bit unsettled, ranging from serious, to tongue-in-cheek, to Blythe hamming it up as the evil witch like she's just stepped out of The Wizard of OZ or HMS Puf'n'stuff. And there's something off-putting about a movie that's so jingoistically, propagandistically American...when it's not actually Americans who are making it! Presumably intended to spawn sequels, or a TV series...but it didn't. sc: Thom Richardson. dir: Cristian Andrei. 90 min.

(2010)  * *   Callum Keith Rennie ("Ben Sullivan"), Charlotte Sullivan ("Amy Lynch"), Cle Bennett ("John Holland"), Martin Cummins ("Terry Rhodes"), Karen LeBlanc ("Pam Garrett"), Brian Markinson ("Dr. Ryan DiSilvio"), Ty Olsson ("Super. Kevin Whitehill"), Nimet Kanji ("Dr. Vina Chatterji"), Michael Eklund ("Nick Ducet"), with Molly Parker ("Ella Sullivan").....Crime-drama about a troubled police detective (Rennie) who, unbeknownst to (most of) those around him, suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder -- ie: multiple personalities -- because his son disappeared years earlier. Sullivan plays his new partner, unaware of his condition. Bennett and Cummins fellow detectives (the latter his ex-partner, who is aware of his problems). LeBlanc their supervisor (and another ex-partner). Parker his long suffering wife. Markinson the police psychiatrist, who he sees regularly (but is also unaware of his full condition). Kanji the coroner (playing a strangely similar personality to her role in Blood Ties); Olsson their even higher-up supervisor. Eklund a reporter and "Lynch"'s ex-boyfriend. Though ostensibly set in Vancouver, it's a decidedly "soft" Canadian -- they use Canadian currency (though often folded to make it obscure) but are otherwise pretty unspecific.

One can applaud this TV series' attempt to join the "gimmicky" detective genre (joining the US list of obsessive compulsives, ex-cons, mentalists, and others) but it doesn't feel like they had a vision of what the series was supposed to be (some reports indicate they had even scrapped an earlier pilot!). The gimmicky premise (a detective with a psychiatric disorder) makes one think of the US series "Monk", y'know, a quirky mystery series...but in execution it wants to be dour and a "realist" cop drama. But in that context, the premise can seem a little goofy. And it makes the characters unsympathetic...he, because he's concealing a disorder that jeopardizes himself and those around him, and could compromise the investigations, and the others look like poor detectives, because they don't fully realize what's wrong, and are morally compromised as they basically condone the criminal acts some of his personalities engage in. Yet without the "split personality" hook, the series itself is pretty non-descript -- the cases/mysteries are unevenly presented, the supporting characters pretty bland (despite a nice cast -- Bennett, LeBlanc, Markinson, Cummins...most of these guys could easily front their own program...and many have!), and the scenes themselves workmanlike but generic. Cop series are so multitudinous, the telling is everything to stand above the herd (witty interplay, quirky scenes, electric chemistry between the actors) and this doesn't really have that. They try to flesh out the supporting characters by giving them foibles (one's having an affair, another is an alcoholic, etc.) but that doesn't stop them from being bland, ill-defined just makes them bland, ill-defined characters who drink or have affairs. We see little indication Rennie's character is an above average detective (most of the cases are solved by the squad as a whole through simple police work) nor does he have any overall goal (maybe he should've been actively investigating his son's disappearance, giving a motive for him to remain on the job by hook-or-by-crook) -- resulting in a character who's a bit of a blank slate. Instead of it being that his disorder makes him a better detective, or gives him a unique insight into the crimes -- it's largely irrelevant to the cases...well, except that he's more prone to beat up suspects. So, um, is that the series' message: he's a better cop because he brutalizes people? And, to put it cattily, it's a series about a guy with multiple personalities...not one of whom is particularly interesting! Yet, to the makers' credit, and perhaps conscious of the problematic ratings, the first season does form a finite arc, resolving key sub-plots by the season finale. And just as an aside: despite decades of movies and novels about the topic, apparently among real life psychiatrists, it's still debated as to whether Dissociative Identity Disorder is even a genuine condition! Created by Rick Drew. Hour long episodes shown on CanWest-Global.  

SHATTERED CITY; The Halifax Explosion (TVMS)  * * *  setting; N.S.
(2003) Vincent Walsh, Shauna MacDonald, Zachary Bennett, Gordon Michael Woolvett, Paul Doucet, Tamara Hope, Ted Dykstra, Richard Donat, Lynne Griffin, Leon Pownall, Max Morrow, Clare Stone, Graham Greene, Pete Postlethwaite, Joan Orenstein.....Story of the notorious 1917 explosion that levelled much of war time Halifax -- the largest pre-atomic man-made explosion in history -- focusing on the family of a recently returned soldier (Walsh) who's suffering from battle fatigue. CBC mini-series stretches its budget pretty well, looking fairly expensive (while side-stepping, presumably for budget reasons, some of the post-explosion fires, flooding and blizzard). Old fashioned disaster movie doesn't always develop its character threads as well as it should, has largely workmanlike direction, and the climactic trial sequence pushes credibility more than once, but it nonetheless emerges as fairly compelling for all that. It benefits nicely from a genuine attempt to create a thematic thread formed by its shell shocked hero, his disillusionment with war, and likening the chaos of the devastated city to the chaos of the battlefield an ocean away. Some dramatic license can be forgiven, such as having German spies prowling the city, but portraying the harbour master (Pownall) as an arrogant British naval officer when, apparently, he was really Canadian, is downright misinformation. Four hours. sc: Keith Ross Leckie. dir: Bruce Pittman. - extreme violence.-

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