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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.
* 1/2 setting: Ont.
(1987) Christianne Hirt, Colm Feore, Rosemary Dunsmore, Patricia Hamilton, Stuart Hughes, Cec Linder, Wanda Cannon, Stephen Marshall, Tom Butler, Tom Harvey.....Talented young figure skater (Hirt) is exposed to the back stage obsessions and manipulations of the professional figure skating world. Technically well-done made-for-CBC TV drama is too cold and clinical, but has some strong performances. Hirt is exceptional in her first major role. Won three Geminis including Best Movie/Special. a.k.a. Blades of Courage. sc: Suzette Couture. dir: Randy Bradshaw. 98 min.
* 1/2 setting: B.C.
(1990) Dean Cameron, Tom Breznahan, Patrick Labyorteaux, Stuart Fratkin, Darlene Vogel, Ava Fabian.....Hi-jinks at a ski resort -- and you thought they stopped makking these kind of films. The cast seems better than their dreadful material, which isn't hard. Followed by a sequel. sc: David Mitchell. dir: Damian Lee. - partial female nudity, sexual content.- 87 min.
SKI SCHOOL 2
* * 1/2 setting: USA.
(1994) Dean Cameron, Heather Campbell, Brent Sheppard, Bil Dwyer, Wendy Hamilton, William Sasso, Noah Heney, Doug Copithorne.....Ski bum (Cameron), learning his ex-girlfriend (Campbell), whom he never got over, is getting married to Mr. Wrong (Sheppard), decides to intervene with the help of his buddies. Comedy is less obnoxious than a lot of its type with a decent cast and some genuinely funny jokes (even witticisms) among the usual sophomoric gags. sc: Jay Naples. dir: David Mitchell. - partial female nudity, sexual content.- 90 min.
SKIN DEEP *
1/2 setting: Ont.
(1995) Natsuko Ohama, Keram Malicki-Sanchez, Dana Brooks, Melanie Nicholls-King, David Crean.....Lesbian filmmaker (Ohama), working on a psycho-sexual thriller about tattoos, befriends an enigmatic, troubled person (Malicki-Sanchez) for insight into the fascination with body art. Well-intentioned drama -- and sort of suspense flick -- seems like one of those things where the filmmakers either know too much about their subject matter, and fail to convey that to their audience, or not nearly enough. Has some interesting character ideas, but doesn't quite pull them off convincingly. Suffers from its low-budget, with uneven performances and an, at times, choppy narrative. Malicki-Sanchez and Brooks, as the manager of a local drag club, come across best. sc: Midi Onodera, Barbara O'Kelly. dir: Midi Onodera. - sexual content, partial female nudity, representative male nudity.- 82 min.
* * setting: USA.
(2006) (/U.S./German) Jason Behr, Elias Koteas, Rhona Mitra, Matthew Knight, Natassia Malthe, Sarah Carter, Kim Coates, Tom Jackson, Shawn Roberts, Lyriq Bent, Barbara Gordon, Rogue Johnston.....Prophecy says a 12 year old boy (Knight) will bring about a cure to all Skinwalkers (ie: werewolves), causing conflict between two opposing werewolf factions -- a vicious gang that likes being werewolves (led by Behr) and want him dead, and those protecting him who wish to reclaim their humanity (led by Koteas and Mitra, the latter as the boy's initially unsuspecting human mother). Mix of supernatural horror and a kind of John Woo-esque modern western (the action often involving gun fights in city streets between the characters in their human forms), has a slick look and a surprisingly respectable cast all around (Canadian save imports Behr and Mitra) -- heck, when Wendy Crewson can appear in only one scene, or Carl Marotte (as a sheriff) can appear briefly without any dialogue at all, you know they've got an embarrassment of actors on hand. All of which makes it a shame it isn't better! There are one or two twists, and a few attempts at emotional scenes, but overall it fails to rise above a generic, bare bones fight-and-flight plot, with characters that never really become interesting (Behr, as the villain with slight flashes of conscience, comes closest to having an intriguing personality). And for all the monsters and mayhem, it rarely manages genuine thrills or chills. Despite being co-produced by the Stan Winston Studios (a U.S. special effects company) the skinwalker effects are basically just humans with wolfish make-up that's not very convincing. Bottom line: it's not egregiously bad...just bland. The U.S. release was apparently trimmed of some gore, profanity and raciness (not that the racy scene is that racy even uncut!) -- but not to the point of significantly affecting the running time. The uncut version (which is what I'm reviewing), though arguably warranting an "extreme violence" warning...is still pretty mild by modern horror movie standards. sc: James DeMonaco, Todd Harthan, James Roday. dir: Jim Issacs. - extreme violence; brief sexual content; casual male nudity.- 89 min.
SKIP TRACER *
* 1/2 setting: B.C.
(1977) David Petersen, John Lazurus, Rudy Szabo, Mike Grigg, Al Rose, Sue Astley.....Cold-hearted skip tracer -- or repo man -- (Petersen) slowly begins to question his occupation while vying for the Man of the Year honours at his company. Interesting low-budget drama with memorable scenes suffers from weaker supporting performances and a sluggish rythm. A lot more could have been done with the premise in this minor classic of Canadiana. Interestingly enough, the thug in the hockey mask predates the American "Friday the Thirteenth" movies. sc./dir: Zale R. Dalen. - brief female nudity.- 94 min.
SKULL: A Night of Terror a.k.a. Don't Turn Out the Lights
SLEEP MURDER *
* 1/2 setting: Ont./Nun.
(2004) Jason Priestley, Kristin Booth, Natar Ungalaaq, Makka Kleist, Marnie McPhail, Joris Jarsky, Richard Donat, Jeremy Akerman.....Toronto lawyer (Priestley) goes to Iqaluit simply to quickly plea bargain a case of an Inuit man (Ungalaaq) accused of a senseless murder...but then begins to question whether it's quite that open and shut when all the physical evidence points to guilt, but the client has no memory of the crime. Booth plays the psychiatrist called in to assess the man. Made-for-CTV drama is "inspired" by a true incident and starts out promising. It's slick-looking and moderately intriguing at times, but at other times seems to be spinning its wheels, story-wise, as if they had trouble figuring out how to fill 90 minutes (even with the wholly fictional romance between Priestley and Booth's characters). Priestley is personable enough, and Ungalaaq effective, though Kleist steals the show a little as the head of a boarding house. Though based on a real case, the names have been changed...as has the final verdict! This was originally scheduled to air in 2003. sc: David Fraser. dir: Andrew Currie. - violence.- 91 min.
THE SLEEP ROOM (TVMS)
* * setting: CDN./USA.
(1988) Leon Pownall, Donald Moffat, Marina Orsini, Macha Grenon, Nicola Cavendish, Eric Peterson, Gabirelle Rose, Frank Moore, Diego Matamoros, Emmanuel Bilodeau, Nicholas Campbell, Blu Mankuma, Daniel Kash, Bruce Dinsmore, France Castel.....Drama about the infamous mind control experiments conducted in a Montreal psychiatric hospital by Dr. Cameron (Pownall) and the trial, decades later, when the victims sued the American C.I.A. who had helped fund the experiments (as part of the MK Ultra project). Essentially two different movies, the first chronicles Cameron's experiments in the 1950s, and his various patients; the second part follows an American legal team (Orsini and American actor Moffat) in the 1980s as they represent the Canadians against the C.I.A. The first half is exceptional, with Pownall superb playing a character who isn't (quite) the obvious black hat/mad scientist. Despite the grimness of the story, it's compelling, told with subtlety and mood, with shades of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (with Grenon as the rebellious patient) and fine performances from a cast that, with the exception of Grenon, are mainly character actors. By comparison, the second part is weaker despite following a more sure fire template (the David against Goliath court room drama). A bit broader in its presentation, lacking some of the finer human drama points of the first, it improves as the film's target shifts (a bit) from the C.I.A. to the way the Canadian government sided with the C.I.A. against its own people (and some well aimed kicks at the Mulroney administration)! A "shocking true story" that genuinely needs to be told (as opposed to the usual serial killer movies). Like all true stories, there are confusing bits, stories left untold (by focusing on the American trial, it leaves unanswered who finally got the Canadian government to provide compensation) and questions as to the production's accuracy -- particularly when the end blurbs reveal that Orsini's real life counterpart was a man! The first half, in particular, is a nice reminder of the kind of superior dramas the CBC can still, occasionally, turn out when it puts its mind to it. Four hours. sc: Bruce M. Smith (from the book In the Sleep Room by Anne Collins). dir: Anne Wheeler.
SLEEPING DOGS *
1/2 setting: USA.
(1998) (/Czech) C. Thomas Howell, Scott McNeil, Heather Hanson, Ciara Hunter, Paul Jarrett, Richard Toth, Sean Fuller, Darren Dalton.....In 2029, after a botched job, a thief and a woman (McNeil and Hanson) inadvertently stow away on board a space ship that gets taken over by a psychotic criminal (Howell) and his psychotic gang. Familiar Lloyd A. Simandl production -- he's churned out a bunch of these very low-budget films (Dead Fire, Escape Velocity) seeming recycling the same sets, costumes, lighting, machine guns, plot ("Die Hard" in space) and attitude: lots of cussing, lots of sadism (no one shoots someone once if they can shoot him six times), and where dialogue seems more there just to pad things between the shoot outs. Hanson is okay and American import Howell hams it up (it's not a great performance, but he seems to be enjoying himself). Actually, Simandl apparently has two careers -- as a producer of violent sci-fi shoot 'em ups and erotic soft porn...but the latter films don't seem to crop up on TV or in the local video stores as frequently as the former (darn it!). sc: Christopher Hyde. dir: Michael Bafaro. - violence, partial female nudity.- 90 min.
SLEEPING DOGS LIE
* * setting: Ont./USA.
(1999) Wendy Crewson, Joel Keller, Leon Pownall, Michael Murphy, Eric Peterson, Shawn Doyle, Leslie Yeo, Shannon Lawson, Art Hindle, Cedric Smith.....A private eye (Keller) becomes embroiled in the mystery surrounding the disappearance of theatre impresario Ambrose Small in the '20s when he's employed by the millionaire's wife (Crewson). Fact-based (or, at least, fact-inspired) made-for-CBC TV suspense-drama suffers from unappealing characters, thin characterization, and a failure to really create the murky mood of conspiracies and paranoia that it's trying for. Crewson is badly miscast as a (cliched) femme fatale and baby-faced Keller's "decent" hero is a thug who beats up protesters and slaps women around -- ironic, since he's a fictional construcction and so could have been written as a much more sympathetic (and fleshed-out) figure. It wants to be "Chinatown" more than a sleazy, true-crime-drama, but doesn't pull it off. Ironically, by playing Small's disappearance as a straight crime-thriller, it loses some of the eerie -- even supernatural -- flavour that probably made the case so notorious to begin with. sc: Raymond Storey (from the book The Strange Case of Ambrose Small by Fred McClemment). dir: Stefan Scaini. - violence, sexual content.- app. 90 min.<
SLEEPING WITH STRANGERS
* * 1/2 setting: B.C.
(1993) Adrienne Shelly, Kymberley Huffman (a.k.a. Kim Huffman), Neil Duncan, Shawn Alex Thompson, Scott McNeil.....Story of two rival small town hotels in B.C., the owners (Duncan and Huffman on one side, Thompson on the other) locked in a romantic triangle, and what happens when a sort-of involved movie star and rock star (Shelly and McNeil) arrive. Amusing romantic comedy, though a little too obvious at times, benefits from a good cast and its refreshing lack of pretention. sc: Joan Carr-Wiggin. dir: William T. Bolson. - sexual content.- 105 min.
(2003, 2005-2006) * * * 1/2...* * * Paul Gross (Stephen Ouimette, Martha Burns, Mark McKinney, Susan Coyne, Graham Harley, Michael Polley, Catherine Fitch, Don McKellar, with (1st season) Rachel MacAdams, Luke Kirby, Sabrina Grdevich, others, (2nd season) Geraint Wyn Davies, Leon Pownall, Joanna Kelly, David Alpay, Jonathan Crombie, others (3rd season) William Hutt, Janet Bailey, Chris Leavins, Sarah Polley, others......Comedy-drama about life backstage at the New Birbage Theatre (think Stratford, Ontario), focusing, in part, on the new artistic director -- an unstable former actor (Gross) recovering from a nervous breakdown, and haunted by the ghost of the previous artistic director (Ouimette). Each season involves a myriad of sub-plots but focuses on the mounting of a particular play (Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear, with the plays' themes mirroring the behind-the-scenes action). Burns, stealing more than a few scenes, plays his ex-lover, and the troupe's high strung grand dame. Each season would also involve a different supporting cast of struggling actors and the like.
Originally billed -- misleadingly -- as a "mini-series", the first six episode season is the best, brilliantly capturing a kind of Robert Altman-esque feel -- but Altman at his best. Superbly acted all around, quirky, clever, and involving. The subsequent seasons remained good, but seemed to diminish, the multiple story lines making the whole less focused and more meandering (in the first season, the focus was on the mounting of Hamlet, while in later seasons, the focus is divided between more than one play). As such, it's a series that did seem to lose some of its initial fire -- but that fire can not be overstated. The first season may well be one of the most consistently brilliant pieces of television ever produced in North America, full of sharply drawn, brilliantly textured characters, all played with note perfect perfection by the cast -- it's hilarious, touching, intriguing, compelling, and definitely quirky. McAdams, shortly before attaining Hollywood fame, is especially memorable as the guileless understudy who finds herself winning the role of Ophelia and the heart of her leading man. The second season is also strong, with Geoffrey butting heads with his arrogant lead actor (Wyn Davies) during MacBeth, and the third season boasts some nice, dramatic undercurrents as they try to mount a production of King Lear with only Geoffrey aware their difficult, erratic, ageing star (well played by theatre legend Hutt) is terminally ill. Each season used a different opening theme song, with the first being, appropriately, the best. Six hour long episodes per season, originally shown on the Movie Network (then on Showcase). sc. Susan Coyne, Bob Martin, Mark McKinney (concept by Coyne and Tecca Crosby). dir: Peter Wellington. - sexual content.-
1/2 setting: Man.
(1973) Lew Askew, Patti Oatman, Eli Rill, Scott Hylands, Danny Friedman.....Stubborn, independent d.j. (Askew) alienates those around him, including his conformist-minded producer who doesn't like what he plays. Handsome drama, but really slow and pointless. It wants to be profound, but has little substance to support it. Won three Etrogs including Best Picture. sc: William Fruet. dir: David Acomba. - casual nudity.- 93 min.
SMALL GIFTS *
* * setting: N.B.
(1993) Jessica Steen, Jeremy Ratchford, Richard Waugh, Elizabeth Brown, Brenda Devine, Gerard Parkes, Don Francks, William Dunlop.....As Christmas approaches, a young rural couple (Steen and Ratchford) struggle to make ends meet among oddball friends and relatives. Slight but light-hearted comedy-drama is amusing with good dialogue and performances, especially the two leads. The CBC let this sit on the shelf for a year. It received Geminis for Best Actress (Steen) and Script. sc: David Adams Richards. dir: Eric Till. 88 min.
SMALL PLEASURES *
* 1/2 setting: Ont.
(1993) Lily Zhang, Reimonna Sheng, Andy X. Xu, Phillip MacKenzie, David Chant, Rick Wong.....Story of two Chinese immigrant women (Zhang and Sheng) in Toronto and their various troubles and relationships. O.K. low-budget drama has largely inexperienced performers, but is well paced with some memorable moments (like the Blue Danube waltz) and avoids the pittfalls of being too obvious or cliched. Lock's first feature, and he shows genuine promise. Supposedly the first feature made by a Chinese-Canadian. sc./dir: Keith Lock. 84 min.
SMALL SACRIFICES (TVMS)
* setting: USA.
(1990) (/U.S.) Farrah Fawcett, Gordon Clapp, Ryan O'Neal, John Shea, Sean McCann.....True story of a U.S. mother (Fawcett) convicted of trying to murder her own children, then claiming it was a vagrant. Fawcett isn't entirely convincing (but since her character is supposed to be lying, maybe she is) in this sensationalistic drama. 4 hours. sc: Joyce Eliason (from the book by Ann Rule). dir: David Greene.
SMALL TOWN MURDER SONGS
* 1/2 setting: Ont.
(2011) Peter Stormare, Aaron Poole, Jill Hennessy, Stephen Eric McIntyre, Ari Cohen, Martha Plimpton, Jackie Burroughs.....A rape-murder in a small town unused to such crimes (and bordering a Mennonite community) creates inner turmoil for the local police chief (Stormare) aiding the O.P.P. investigation. He's trying to put his own anger management issues behind him...yet the primary suspect is the local ne'er-do-well (McIntyre) who's sleeping with the chief's ex-girlfriend (Hennessy). Moody, sumptuous-looking drama boasts a solid cast (particularly import Stormare, and Hennessy in a too small part) and striking visuals, but the filmmaker's so focused on the type of movie he's trying to make...he loses sight of the movie itself. It's comprised of self-consciously "arty" scenes that are supposed to seem meaningful: wordless scenes and vistas, and where even many of the dialogue exchanges barely comprise a minute or two...and are often non-sequiturs, meant to contribute to the mood more than develop a narrative. The result is choppy and disjointed where scenes could be rearranged, or even dropped, without impacting on anything! Given how paper-thin the story is, cynically speaking, a lot can feel like it's just there to boost the already brief running time (even resorting to slow motion occasionally). The crime isn't really supposed to be the point, being more a character drama...yet by the end, most of the characters, their motives, and their histories, remain vague and ill-defined. A shame -- 'cause the movie looks good. An intriguing use of a kind of Gospel/folk-punk soundtrack (by Bruce Peninsula), though even it can feel like a crutch after a while. sc./dir: Ed Gass-Donnelly. - partial female nudity.- 75 min.
(2006-2009) * * * Laura McLean ("Natalie"), Siobhan Murphy ("Liz"), Joanne Alderson ("Brooke"), Tricia Braun ("Lana Pearson"), with Riley Gilchrist ("Alistair"), Adam Seybold ("Reggie"), Ryan V. Hays ("Phil"), others .....Odd hybrid series is both a sitcom about the characters at a light information, Women's Television TV news magazine...and a light information series itself, as the topics and daily tips the characters discuss really are meant to be useful, including cameos by real guests (health gurus, self-help writers) and with the characters abruptly addressing the camera, or with little pop ups at the bottom of the screen. Think a less ambitious "Arrested Development" (with rapid fire pacing and an unseen narrator) meets an infomercrial. McLean, appealing, plays the newly hired researcher, Murphy the producer, Alderson the associate producer (and suitably cast as the office bombshell), and Braun the series' prima donna host.
The Women Television Network's first (and belated) foray into an original fiction series, this was first introduced in an off beat marketing ad as thirty second spots that serialized a mini story in commercial breaks. That mini-story frankly, did not bode well, looking cheap and amateurishly acted. But add it to the list of "don't judge too hasty" because the actual series...isn't bad at all. The relatively unknown actors are very good, particularly when you consider the difficulty of the roles -- playing the "reality" of the characters, yet getting laughs from the lines...but also breaking the "fourth wall" by addressing the camera, or trying to toss off helpful life tips in some potentially awkward dialogue. And they generally pull it off! As well, the characters, though stock archetypes (Alderson as the man-eater, Braun as the arrogant on-screen star), are given more dimension than that. In fact, defying the convention of most comedies, in which humour is often derived from put downs and negative characters, all the characters are basically supposed to be likeable, decent people (save Braun's, and even she is supposed to have her soft side) -- that doesn't mean the characters can't be petty or selfish (ie: flawed), but in general, they are nice people -- and it works! And the show benefits froom its manic (but not frenetic) energy so that it bounces along, and with usually three or so plot threads per episode, even when the plots are a bit hokey or hoary, its brisk pace can hold your interest. The dual purpose of the show, to actually impart tips, is more problematic, as often the information shoots by so fast, it's unlikely you'll remember it by episode's end. Yes, the series has an accompanying website which presumably elaborates on the tips...but I ain't reviewing websites, am I? Many of the advice bits, such as make up tips, will clearly be of more value to women viewers than male viewers, but there are also more gender neutral tips and, besides, men can still enjoy it simply as a sitcom and for the engaging cast (and did I mention Alderson was well cast?) The result? Call it a guilty pleasure, but it's an unexpectedly -- refreshingly -- likeable series with a goofy, good natured charm. Created by Allan Magee. Half-hour episodes on the Women's Television Network.
Minimalist, low-budget television proved what could be done with talent and a little chutzpah. This series introduced the character of Red Green (played by Steve) who would later be featured in the very successful The Red Green Show. Half-hour episodes, originally on the independent Ontario station, CHCH.
"Smoke Bellew", a story by Jack London, was part of the source for the cable TV movie Legends of the North and then the movie series The Adventures of Smoke Belliou.
SMOKED LIZARD LIPS *
* setting: Man.
(1991) Andree Pelletier, Margaret Anne MacLeod, Victor Cowie, Simon Magana, Kyle McCulloch, Chip Chuipka, Greg Klymkiw, Joe Mercreds, Christina (Tina) Keeper.....Near future story of a depressed Manitoba town that agrees to take in a deposed dictator, and how he begins manipulating the town's folk and members of the local Indian band. Low-budget serio-comic pic is delightfully silly at times, and manages some more serious moments, but also tends to drag. A good premise, but the energetic direction gets in the way of character. John Paizs has a cameo but top-billed Pelletier (as the dictator's wife) is given little to do. sc./dir: M.B. Duggan. 98 min.
SMOKESCREEN a.k.a. Palais Royale
SNAKE EATER *
(1988) Lorenzo Lamas, Josie Hill, Robert Scott, Cheryl Jeans, Ronnie Hawkins.....Unorthodox U.S. cop (Lamas) takes on some inbred rednecks after they murder his parents and kidnap his sister. If I say the acting, writing and directing in this ultra low-budget, distasteful action flick comes across as a really bad high school play, you'd probably think I'm exaggerating. Just don't say I didn't warn you. A sequel was made before this film was even released! sc: Michael Paseornek, John Dunning. dir: George Erschbamer. - violence, partial female nudity.- 95 min.
SNAKE EATER II: The Drug Buster
* 1/2 setting: USA.
(1991) Lorenzo Lamas, Michele Scarabelli, Larry B. Scott, Harvey Atkin, Jack Blum, Richard Jutras, Ron Palillo.....Our hero is placed in an asylum after a vigilante attack on some drug dealers, but manages to continue his vendetta anyway. Added to the mix of violence, profanity, misogyny and really low-brow antics is some silly humour, and at least they hired union actors this time, which helps, but not by much. And, yes, Palillo is Horshack from the old U.S. TV series "Welcome Back, Kotter". sc: Don Carmody, John Dunning, Michael Paseornek. dir: George Erschbamer. - violence.- 94 min.
SNAKE EATER III: ...His Law
* setting: USA.
(1992) Lorenzo Lamas, Minor Mustain, Tracey Cook, Scott "Big Bam" Bigelow, Holly Chester, Chip Chuipka, Tracey Hway.....Cop Kelly (Lamas) takes on bikers. The further astonishingly inept, incredibly moronic and truly tasteless exploits. Most of the cast seem to be friends of the crew, except Cook who probably deserved a Genie Award for managing to deliver a good performance despite the material (and she appears in a love scene). sc: John Dunning (from the novel Rafferty's Rules by W. Glenn Duncan). dir: George Erschbamer. - extreme violence, partial female nudity, sexual content.- 91 min.
SNAKE TREATY a.k.a. Red
Earth, White Earth
This TV series is a mixed bag. It's sprightly, with a good cast, particularly Price-Francis whose talent and beauty can easily carry a scene. The milieu of federal politics is nicely intriguing -- and easily makes this the most archly Canadian series of its day with characters even speaking -- sub-titled -- French! (well, very, very occasionally) But the series' can be confusing in what's going on and why, and isn't as clever as it thinks it is. And the series acts as a curious apologist for all that's wrong in real life politics. Instead of having idealistic characters working the system to make things better for the people, most episodes revolve around the characters scrambling to cover the minister's butt during a crisis (even as Price-Francis' character is supposed to be conflicted about this moral pragmatism). When, at the end of the first (and only) season, Disher's character announces -- apparently sincerely -- that she is the best person suited for her position...the audience is left to say: since when? In what episode, pray tell, had she truly acted as a selfless servant of the people? One could argue that by focusing on, essentially, office politicking rather than social issues, the show's makers are trying to make an apolitical series (much as previous Canadian political shows have tried to be non-political) -- except episodes like the one about the elderly anti-poverty protester (well played by Diana LeBlanc) who turns out to be a con artist seemed clearly meant to appeal to right wingers who claim welfare fraud is epidemic (though studies haven't always born out such claims). In other words, is the series apolitical...or is the lack of altruism actually a political statement?
Even more problematic, technically, is the "innovative" direction using jiggling cameras and spastic edits, that are meant to make the series seem cool and reflect the supposed chaos of the stories...but is just more likely to induce sea sickness, and gets between the audience and the story & characters, rather than aid in the audience's involvement with same. (And why does the camera need to "find the subject" when the characters are sitting stilly at desks?) The bottom line? The series is watchable enough, thanks mainly to its cast and milieu, but it needed to tone down its direction, and tune up its social conscience. Though set in Ottawa and stock shots of the parliament buildings are used, it's actually filmed in Halifax. Created by Wayne Grigsby. 6 hour long episodes (so far) on the CBC.
* * * 1/2 setting: Ont.
(2005) (/U.K.) Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver, Carrie-Anne Moss, Emily Hampshire, James Allodi, Callum Keith Rennie, David Fox, Jayne Eastwood.....After a random tragedy, a melancholy Englishman (Rickman) finds himself, somewhat reluctantly, embroiled with a high functioning autistic woman (Weaver) and her worldly neighbour (Moss) in small town Wawa, Ontario. Quirky, leisurely dramedy is good looking (and atmospherically set against a spring thaw background) and boasts excellent performances from the principals (and Hampshire is surprisingly endearing in a small but pivotal role) subtle direction and a script that takes aspects that can seem like movie cliches (the hero weighed down by a past tragedy, a stranger in town, autism, etc.) yet mixes them together in a manner, and with scenes, that seem fresh and original. Pathos-tinged...yet equally comic and wryly amusing. And Weaver even says "zed"! Moss received the Best Supporting Actress Genie (arguably the big surprise...is that the film didn't pick up more awards!) sc: Angela Pell. dir: Marc Evans. 112 min.
SNOW JOB (TV Series)
Awkward TV series was mainly notable for the fact that it was actually set in Canada (unlike most "Canadian" shows aired on CTV until recently). Half-hour episodes.
THE SNOW WALKER
* * * setting: N.W.T.
SNOW WHITE: The Fairest
of Them All * * *
Snowlark, a novel by Ronald Sutherland, became
the film Suzanne
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(2003) Barry Pepper, Annabella Piugattuk, Kiersten Warren, James Cromwell, Robin Dunne, Jon Gries.....In the 1950s, a cynical bush pilot (Pepper) reluctantly agrees to transport a sickly Inuit woman (Piugattuk) to Yellowknife, only to have his plane crash in the middle of the tundra wilderness, and they must rely on each other to survive. Lavish-looking, old fashioned adventure-drama, benefiting from the breathtaking landscape, a strong performance from Pepper, and an appealing one from Piugattuk. Doesn't -- quite -- fulfil its own ambitions vis-a-vis the lead character's spiritual growth, and the ending is a tad downbeat, but overall, well-paced and absorbing. Actor turned writer-director Smith apparently spent years, off and on, working on the script and, years earlier, starred in another Farley Mowat adaptation, "Never Cry Wolf". sc./dir: Charles Martin Smith (from the story "Walk Well, My Brother" by Farley Mowat). - violence; sexual content.- 109 min.
(2001) (/U.S.) Miranda Richardson, Kristin Kreuk, Tom Irwin, Vera Farmiga, Clancy Brown, Vincent Schiavelli, Jose Zuniga, Michael J. Anderson, Warwick Davis, Tyron Leitso.....A beautiful young princess (the beautiful Kreuk) engenders the jealous wrath of the evil, sorceress Queen (Richardson). Lush, live-action re-telling of the classic fairy tale is an atmospheric, surprisingly dreamlike (and surprisingly effective) interpretation that avoids some of the overproduced but stodgy flaws of other "classics" TV movies by the American producers Robert Halmi Sr & Jr. Though its "fairy tale" flavour means that those expecting a down-to-earth, kitchen sink take might be disappointed...conversely, there's a nice reality to some of the central performances. And those expecting a re-make of the cartoon will also be disappointed (no singing and dancing this time, folks). Though a family film, there's a decidedly grown up edginess at times, such as Richardson making a stew of (what she believes to be) Snow White's heart, or a few scenes that film students would have a field day analysing for any psycho-sexual sub-text. Nicely acted by Richardson, Irwin (as Snow White's beguiled dad) and Canadian Kreuk (in her first major role). American co-scripter/director Thompson wrote the movie "Edward Scissorshands". sc: Caroline Thompson, Julie Hickson (from the story by the Brothers Grimm). dir: Caroline Thompson. 88 min.
SNOW WHITE: The Fairest
of Them All * * *
Snowlark, a novel by Ronald Sutherland, became the film Suzanne
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