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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.

THANK YOU, SATAN see Oh! Oh! Satan

THAT BEAUTIFUL SOMEWHERE  * * 
(2006) Roy Dupuis, Jane McGregor, Gordon Tootoosis.....A centuries old body pulled from a bog rumoured to have healing properties brings together two troubled people -- a local cop (Dupuis), struggling emotionally with memories of his army service and dealing with his comatose mother, and a pretty big city anthropologist (McGregor), suffering from debilitating and escalating migraines. Brooding drama can be a bit hard to figure out what it wants to be at first (opening with cops unearthing a body, you might assume it's going to be a mystery-thriller) and misfires on too many levels. Hurt, presumably, a bit by its low-budget (explaining the small cast and limited sets -- though the scenery is nice) the plot is wafer thin, presumably because it's a "character drama"...yet the characters themselves never become more than their problems. Uneven performances, clunky, unconvincing dialogue, and stilted direction. One of those films where if any one element was stronger or better developed (dialogue, plot, characterization, themes) it might have been enough to lift up the rest. sc./dir: Robert Budreau (from the novel Loon by A.W. Plumstead). 93 min.

That Summer in Paris, the literary memoir by Morley Callaghan of his days with the "lost generation" in Paris, served as part of the source for the mini-series, Hemingway vs. Callaghan.

THAT'S MY BABY!  * *  setting: Ont.
(1985) Timothy Webber, Sonja Smits, JoAnn McIntyre, Lenore Zann, Derek McGrath, Daniel Buccos, Kate Trotter, Matt Craven.....Couple begins to break up when he (Webber) wants to be a house husband and have a baby and she (Smits) doesn't. Well done and the leads are very good but there's a general sense of "so what?" about this light-hearted romantic drama. A true-to-life premise, but that doesn't necessarily make for great viewing. It just goes on and on, too. sc./dir: Edie Yolles, John Bradshaw. - brief male nudity.- 97 min.

THE THAW  * * 1/2   setting: NWT.
(2009) Martha MacIsaac, Aaron Ashmore, Kyle Schmid, Steph Song, Val Kilmer, Viv Leacock, Anne Marie DeLuise.....A small group of research students arrive at an isolated northern research camp, unaware that thawing permafrost has resurrected deadly, infectious parasites that have been dormant for millennia. Given how many cheap, cheesy Canadian horror/sci-fi movies have been made for the Sf-Fy Channel over the years it's a pleasant surprise to realize this isn't one of them -- instead it holds your attention and has a modestly decent budget, a solid cast, and is atmospheric, benefitting from the stark tundra-like landscape. It's uneven, with some awkward and implausible bits, and can't quite decide whether it wants to be a serious -- and rather grim -- suspense-drama about an outbreak or an out-and-out sci-fi/horror flick. And might have maintained more suspense if the audience didn't learn info before the main characters. It seemed to raise the ire of conservatives for its Global Warming theme (though the socio-political subtext gives it a bit of gravitas). But ultimately, if not as good as it could be, it's a lot better than you might expect. It even -- rarity of rarities -- acknowledges its Canadian setting! a.k.a. Frozen. sc: Mark A. Lewis, Michael W. Lewis. dir: Mark A. Lewis. - extreme violence; sexual content.- 94 min.
 
THESE ARMS OF MINE (TV Series)

(2000-2001)  * * 1/2  Alex Carter ("David Bishop"), Shauna MacDonald ("Claire Monroe"), Babz Chula ("Esme Price"), Conrad Coates ("Steven Armstromg"), Byron Lawson ("Amos Lee"), Stuart Margolin ("Miles Rankin"), Colleen Rennison ("Sophie Bishop"), with Ryan Hirakida, Chang Tseng, Ron Small, others.....Drama about various up-scale friends living in Vancouver. Carter is a freelance photographer, MacDonald his girlfriend and media personality, Chula a magazine editor and Lawson her much younger, Asian-Canadian restraunteur husband, Coates a gay drama teacher, Margolin a flakey former American draft dodger and entrepeneur, and Rennison plays Carter's daughter from his first marriage. Others in the cast include Hirakada as Chula and Lawson's young son, Tseng as Lawson's dad, and Small as Coates' dad. 

The American sitcom "Seinfeld" was often defined as the show about nothing...in a way, this is kind of the dramatic equivalent. Essentially a slice-of-life series about people muddling through life, tending to shy away from the melodramatic of rare diseases, drive-by shootings, etc. and focusing instead on more run-of-the-mill quirks and foibles. And, as such, it's a series that can engender a lot of ambivalence. It's easy to have a sneaking affection for it, boasting as it does a good cast and good dialogue, delivered with a sprightly tempo (though it maybe emphasizes the friction over the fun of relationships, particularly with Chula and Lawson) but there's an overall lack of drive or, well, anything that interesting about these people and what happens to them. The problem with slice-of-life is that most viewers already get that every day...their own. Spending an hour hanging with people who are nice enough but not especially ingratiating who are probably like people you know, except they don't really exist? Well, it's a limited audience. Only Margolin, always hatching one scheme after another, is colourful. Still the series gets genuine points for its pluralistic cast and atypical relationships, including a surprisingly frank portrayal of homosexuality. Also appealing is an unabashed Canadianess, at once nonchalant and in-your-face, that hasn't been seen in an hour long drama since Street Legal. Created by Phil Savath and Susan Duligal. One season of hour long episodes on the CBC.

THESE GIRLS * * 1/2 setting: CDN.
(2005) David Boreanaz, Caroline Dhavernas, Amanda Walsh, Holy Lewis, Donnell Mackenzie, Colin Barry, McKenzi Scott.....Story of three small town teenage girls who, on learning one of their trio is secretly having an affair with a married man (import Boreanaz), decide to blackmail him into having affairs with all three of them! Brisk comedy is something where, given the somewhat awkward premise (none of the characters are exactly sympathetic per se), kind of needed to be pushed harder in one direction or another -- either by being funnier, an out-and-out comedy with witty one-liners and farcical shenanigans (it's more just light-hearted) or maybe darker, or more sentimental. Still, improves as it goes, particularly in the final act when certain schemes start to snowball out of control. Dhavernas inparticular seems older than her character, which may be deliberate to avoid an "ick" factor. sc./dir: John Hazlett (from the play by Vivienne Laxsal). - casual male nudity, sexual content, brief female nudity.- 92 min.

THEY CAME FROM WITHIN a.k.a. Shivers

THICK AS THIEVES  * *  setting: USA.
(1990) Gerry Quigley, Carolyn Dunn, Amber-Lea Weston, Karl Pruner, Thomas Hauff, Susan Wright, Eric Peterson.....Brother-sister con artists (Quigley and Dunn) face complications when she wants to go straight, he needs money to pay a fine, and they both have to look after their equally nefarious teen-aged cousin (Weston). So-so comedy has a promising cast and a cute script, but the story tends to be unfocused, the pacing off. Too many static scenes. Sara Botsford and C. David Johnson have an off-beat cameo. sc./dir: Steve DiMarco. 92 min.

Think of a Number, a novel by Anders Bodelsen, became the movie Silent Partner

THE THIRD WALKER  * *  setting: N.S.
(1979) Colleen Dewhurst, William Shatner, Tony Meyer, David Meyer, Frank Moore, Andree Pelletier, Monique Mercure.....Story of three brothers, twins (the Meyers) raised by separate families, and the brother (Moore) one of them was accidentally switched with, reunited after the death of their father (Shatner). Original drama is well-acted, but ultimately most of the story elements and character conflicts are fully established too soon...and the film has no where to go from there. Weak ending, too. McLuhan is the daughter of media guru Marshal McLuhen, who provides a voice-over cameo as a judge. sc: Robert Thom (story Teri McLuhan). dir: Teri McLuhan. 86 min.
 
 

XIII (TV Series)

(2010, 2013) (/U.S./France)  * * 1/2   Stuart Townsend ("Thirteen"), Aisha Tyler ("Jones") (-2nd), Virginie Ledoyen ("Irina") (1st), with Greg Byrk ("Amos"), Stephen McHattie ("President Carrington"), Ted Atherton ("ex-President Sheridan"), Paulino Nunes ("Giordino") (1st), Tom Berenger ("Rainer Gerhart") (1st), Roxane Mesquida ("Betty") (2nd), Ingrid Kavelaars (2nd), Demore Barnes (2nd), and Caterina Murino (1st), Aaron Ashmore, others.....Action-suspense about an independent/rogue secret agent (Townsend) with little memory of his past -- and a new face -- caught (in the first season) between various forces and factions, including the U.S. government, a villainous ex-president, and a mysterious business man (Berenger) as he seeks to unravel the secrets of his past, and track down the plans of a super weapon that he, himself, apparently went to great lengths to hide before he lost his memory. Tyler plays a government agent and his main ally. Ledoyen a freelance assassin working for the bad guys. McHattie the president and Byrk his chief advisor who didn't trust XIII; Atherton the villainous ex-president; Nunes the head of the CIA but really working for Atherton; and Berenger (vaguely reminiscent of a later day Marlon Brando, slipping into a character part far removed from his leading man days) as the mysterious European super-capitalist pulling a lot of strings. All of which built to a climax in the first season finale. The series went on an unusual hiatus (some suggesting that even the producers felt bugs needed to be worked out) only to return with a slightly new title (now called XIII.2) and a new story arc, as XIII gets embroiled with urban activists/terrorists (including pretty Mesquida), a man who looks like him framing him for various crimes, and a quest for yet another super device...this one connected to the work of Nikola Tesla. President Carrington seemed to be going mad, and lost an election to a right wing Sarah Palin-type senator (Kavelaars) and Tyler's character was written out in the first few episodes. Barnes played "Carrington"'s aide.

This TV series was based on a series of European graphic novels (ie: comic books) and was spun off of an earlier mini-series, XIII: The Conspiracy (many of the supporting characters had first appeared there, explaining why you can tune into the first episode...and feel like you're already part way through a season -- though I think the basic plot of the formula for the weapon was original to this series). Stephen Dorff had played XIII in the mini-series (but Townsend's face is explained by plastic surgery). The amnesiac super agent idea is, of course, evocative of the Bourne films (the Bourne films pre-date this series; the XIII comics pre-date the Bourne films, the original Bourne novel pre-dates the XIII comics). This series kind of evokes the sort of cheesy, straight-to-syndication co-production Canadians used to be involved in a few years before (like Counterstrike, Relic Hunter, etc.) and suffered from some weak writing and storytelling, the search for the formula/weapon (and his past) a too obvious "MacGuffin", and not really that intriguing (and has the usual problem of these stories: namely, everyone's waiting for him to retrieve the stuff...so if he stayed home, or destroyed the parts he had, that would put an end to the threat!) The characters are kind of bland (maybe blame the actors, but more likely the non-descript roles) suffering from too much repetition of the same characters having the same arguments week after week, and a very tenuous logic throughout -- relating both to plot and motivation. Still, the nature of the on going story threads meant that it became slightly more interesting as it went along, as the story arc built to a climax -- including a season finale that did act as a conclusion, answering most questions. The break between season one and season two seemed to promise a bit of re-tooling...but there was little upswing in overall quality. Though the second season was, arguably, trying to be ambitious, both in quirky plot threads and wearing its politics on its sleeve, basically left/liberal while painting the "left" characters, like "Carrington", as morally compromised (and the first season had a similar approach). Unfortunately, it could be ham handed and cartoony (there's little subtlety in Kavelaar's role) so that it doesn't entirely succeed as a thought provoking, or sophisticated look at the issues.

About mainly American characters in America (albeit doing some globe hopping) with the three top-billed actors all non-Canadian -- though ironically, one episode that was set in Toronto...was actually one of the series' better, more suspenseful episodes. Irishman Townsend adopts an American accent, but starts to slip into his native brogue unintentionally in a couple of episodes where he's acting with Irish characters (well, Canadian actors putting on Irish accents). Another trivia note: Berenger is also American...but one of his first major roles was in the Canadian movie In Praise of Older Women. a.k.a. XIII: The Series a.k.a. Thirteen. Hour long episodes, shown in Canada on Showcase.

XIII: The Conspiracy N/R   setting: USA.
(2008) (/U.S./France) Stephen Dorff, Caterina Murino, Jessalyn Gilsig, Stephen McHattie, Ted Atherton, Val Kilmer.....Not reviewed (yet).

36 HOURS TO DIE * *  setting: USA.
(1999) (/U.S.) Treat Williams, Kim Cattrall, Saul Rubinek, Carol O'Connor, Scott Hylands, Stewart Bick, Barbara Eve Harris, George Touliatos.....An American brewery owner (Williams), recovering from a heart attack, finds he has only days to prevent a mobster (Rubinek) from embezzling everything he owns and jeopardizing his family. Slick-looking, with clever dialogue and a good cast: imported Williams is appealing, and even Cattrall and Rubinek are good (less unctuous than usual), with strong supporting players, including prominent actors in minor parts -- Hylands as an unspeaking heavy, Daniel Pilon as a D.A., Aidan Devine as one of Williams' buddies, etc. Too bad the story doesn't hold up to any scrutiny and, for a suspense film, there's almost no tension. I'm not even sure the time-factor of the title is accurate! One of the Tales of Intrigue. sc: Robert Rodat. dir: Yves Simoneau. - violence, casual female nudity.- 94 min.

THIRTY TWO SHORT FILMS ABOUT GLENN GOULD * * * 1/2  setting: CDN./other
(1993) Colm Feore.....Well-titled film examines the life and work of classic pianist Gould (Feore) through a variety of vignettes, mainly dramatic, but including brief interviews with those who knew him and animation by the legendary Norman McLaren. Ambitious and hauntingly atmospheric flick is hard to accurately describe but extremely effective and entertaining, given a great boost by Gould's virtually non-stop music and Feore's solid (and engaging) performance...and, of course, its intriguing subject. Won 4 Genies including Best Picture and Director. sc: Francois Girard, Don McKellar. dir: Francois Girard. 93 min.

30 YEARS TO LIFE * * 1/2  setting: USA
(1998) (/Luxembourg) Robert Hays, Hugh O'Conor, Christien Anholt, Amy Robbins, Gabrielle Lazure.....In the future U.S., a teen (O'Conor) is convicted of murder and instead of serving 30 years in prison, the sentence is to be artificially aged (into Hays), and while adjusting to his new situation, he tries to figure out who really committed the crime. Odd-ball SF flick is sort of a mishmash of intentions: the crime-mystery aspect is, at times, more a sub-plot, with another plot focusing on the hero trying to adjust to being middle-aged, ruminating on what he's missed, and a romantic relationship (with Robbins). There's also some cyber-tech stuff involving virtual reality video games. Not great, with none of the aspects (mystery, character drama) that well done on their own, but each props up the other to make for an O.K. time-killer...though the ending is a bit weak (both regarding the mystery, and the hero's personal dilemmas). Hays is personable, as is Robbins, which helps, though the hero as a teen is an obnoxious, spoiled brat...and it's unclear whether the filmmakers realize that! Hays is American, though most of the actors are from the U.K. (putting on O.K. American accents); Lazure, in a bit part as the hero's stepfather's ex-wife, is the only Canadian (and the Canadian band, Pursuit of Happiness, is played on the soundtrack). a.k.a. Nightworld. sc: Shawn Alex Thompson. dir: Michael Tuchner. - 89 min.-
 

THIS HOUR HAS 22 MINUTES (TV Series)

(1993-)  * * 1/2  Cathy Jones (and, variously) Mary Walsh, Rick Mercer, Greg Thomey, and Colin Mochrie, Shaun Majumder, Gavin Crawford, Mark Critch, Shauna MacDonald.... Sketch comedy/current affairs satire, using the format of a TV news broadcast.

Critically acclaimed but uneven TV series can be funny and biting, but also unfunny, toothless and frequently in questionable taste, undermining its pretense of a social conscience by making fun of disasters and human misery (epitomized by the opening credits -- in the early seasons -- where some of the actors have their faces "comically" substituted in photographs of real assassinations -- the fact that Walsh and the others could stare at a picture of a human being being murdered and see nothing but the opportunity for a gag says something deeply unsettling about them and their producers). The use of outright fabrications in early episodes (splicing real interviews with the cast's comic questions) seemed a good way to undermine the show's use of real facts and figures (after all, if they make up one, they must be making up the other). And like so many Canadian comedies, the actors believed yelling, double-takes, and mugging was the best way to get a laugh. But the series has proved enduring and the cast varied over time and the series evolved and modified itself (the mugging a little more restrained). A staple of the series remained the joke interviewer, where various cast members would go out in recurring "roving corresponent" personas (Walsh's "Madge, Warrior Princess", for one) and interview real people and politicians (usually in on the joke). But the series remains, overall, hit and miss -- a problem with a current affairs satire is every week you have to milk headlines for gags...even if nothing particularly gag worthy occurred that week! And a need to be "edgy" has led to awkward sketches that amount to nothing more than characters spewing a racist or homophobic diatribe which, presumably, is meant to spoof such attitudes. The series can also poke fun at itself, such as a spoof of the homosexual fixation of old British sitcoms which was presumably intended to spoof castmate Critch's own obsession with M.P. Scott Brison's sexuality as much as it was a parody of comedy's made before some of the cast were even born.

Mercer enjoyed the most success with the series, particularly thanks to his biting "rant" sequences, and his "Talking to Americans" bits (wherein he would roam the streets of U.S. cities asking absurd questions about Canada) -- which were later repackaged as a one-shot special; concurrent to this he starred in Made in Canada and, after leaving 22 Minutes, he landed his own, not dissimilar series, The Rick Mercer Report (a.k.a. The Monday Report). The title is a joke on the legendary '60s CBC current affairs show, This Hour Has Seven Days. An award winner. Created by Mary Walsh. Half-hour episodes on CBC.

THIS IS MY FATHER * * 1/2  setting: USA/other
(1999) (/Ireland) Aidan Quinn, James Cann, John Cusack, Stephen Rea, Jacob Tierney, Colm Meaney, Monya Farrelly, Moira Deady.....A melancholy American (Cann) goes to rural Ireland to learn (through flashbacks) about the starcrossed romance in the 1930s between his mother and the father he never knew (Farrelly and Quinn). Drama is O.K. but seems a little too much like the filmmaker had seen or read a similiar story and wanted to emulate it, but like a copy of a copy, missed some of the nuances. Various plot threads and characterization don't really come together -- like the fact that Cann and Tierney (as his troubled nephew) are supposed to emerge changed by learning the story; but why? Cusack (as a too-colourful-for-words pilot) and Rea (as a fire and brimstone priest) appear in kind of extraneous cameoes. Other than Tierney, there was no obvious Canadian participation. Wouldn't you think that if Canadians were going to put money into what is billed as an "official Irish-Canadian co-production", they could insist on more...like maybe having Cann's character be Canadian? sc./dir: Paul Quinn. - sexual content.- 119 min.
 
THIS IS WONDERLAND (TV Series)

(2004-2006)  * * * 1/2...* * *   Cara Pifko ("Alice De Raye"), Michael Riley ("Elliot Sacks"), Michael Healey ("James Ryder"), Michael Murphy ("Justice Declan Malone"), Tom Rooney ("David Kaye"), Siu Ta ("Nancy Dao"), Kathryn Winslow ("Pamela Menon"), Ron Lea ("Jack Angel") (3rd), Yanna McIntosh ("Zona Robinson"), Eric Peterson ("Justice Maxwell Fraser"), Vik Sahay ("Anil Sharma") (2nd-), Jayne Eastwood ("Ronnie Sacks")(2nd-), with Arnold Pinnock (1st), Andrew Tarbut (1st), Stephanie Morgenstern, Janet-Laine Greene, Mung-Ling Tsui, James Kidnie, Alison Sealy-Smith, Gina Wilkinson, Victoria Sanchez, Catherine Fitch, Rogue Johnston, many others.....Dark, edgy comedy-drama about the life and chaos in Toronto day court as the lawyers literally run back and fourth from court room to court room, ill-prepped and sometimes juggling two or three cases in a day. The series focuses on a young, naive lawyer (Pifko) plunged into the maelstrom -- she's "Alice" in "Wonderland" (get it?). Riley is a misfit lawyer, more eccentric, jaded, and sleazy. Healey is "Alice"'s boss, recovering, not very well, from a mental breakdown; Ta a career-obsessed articling student who, reluctantly, runs errands for "Alice". Rooney and Winslow play the principal crown attorneys. Murphy plays an eccentric judge, recently having undergone neurosurgery and, with no guarantee of how long he's got, tends to cut through the court room malarkey (and, yes, he's that Murphy, the American actor married to Canadian Wendy Crewson); Peterson plays the compassionate mental health court judge. Most of the others play various lawyers, prosecutors, and judges...or recurring clients, like Fitch as a bad tempered junkie/schizophrenic, or Johnston (particularly memorable) as a charming schizophrenic with a bit of a Don Quixote complex. Eastwood joined the cast in its second season as Riley's earthy mom, who works as the firm's receptionist and Lea as his ethicless cousin who joined the firm in the third season. Sanchez crops up occasionally as a beautiful-but-haughty Spanish-language translator having an affair with Riley's character. 

Slick, somewhat off-beat lawyer series owes less to the traditional, sedate court room drama of Street Legal, The Associates, "L.A. Law", "The Practice", etc., and more to something like the movie "And Justice for All..." It's a dark series where the humour can arise as much from how not-funny the situations are, as the lawyers and judges struggle with an imperfect process and the various junkies, schizophrenics, misfits and fringe dwellers that are as much victims of the system as they are the victimizers. Pifko, with lots of charm and, yes, beauty, is well cast as the nominal anchor, though its almost more an ensemble, and the cast overall is exceptionally good -- a cast which, with its regular and recurring actors, is probably the largest ever assembled for a Canadian series. Striking a balance between keeping things fast and frenetic, without degenerating into headache inducing cacophony, the series, at times, can seem driven more by its (admittedly effective) style than by the characters or the cases. But it has done a better job of threading compelling stories through each episode as it goes along. Bleak and down-beat, the series doesn't always strike the right note -- on one hand, having characters be outraged by the insensitivity of the system, even as the series itself is trying to milk humour (black humour or otherwise) from those same human plights, and can occasionally go over the top in its silliness, losing the reality that is its grounding. But it works as a compelling spectacle and manages to seem fresh and innovative even as it covers the familiar milieu of lawyer series. 

But it may've seemed a little too edgy to programmers, and the second season, though not dramatically different, did seem a little softer, emphasizing the humour over the pathos, and with a soft rock tune substituted for the original, more off-beat theme (though the song was still thematically appropriate), and a few too many things that seem, well, like cutesy "TV" ideas -- in other words, the raw, edge has been sanded down a little. As well, even Pifko's part seems a little less principal, the filmmakers seeming more fascinated by the quirky, funny characters (like Riley) over their straight-woman lead (particularly as, by the second season, the now experienced "Alice" was no longer a novice in over her head). The result is still a good series...but maybe not as good as it started out. Like most modern Canadian series, it's made with looser standards than most commercial American TV, so there's coarse language and risque material. Created by playwright George F. Walker, Dani Romain and Bernard Zukermann (and Walker and Romain wrote, or co-wrote with third parties, almost all the episodes). Hour long episodes, airing on the CBC. 


 
THIS LIFE (TV Series)

(2016-)  * * * 1/2  (2015-) Torri Higginson ("Natalie Lawson"), Lauren Lee Smith ("Maggie Lawson"), Kristopher Turner ("Oliver Lawson"), Rick Roberts ("Matthew Lawson"), James Wotherspoon ("Caleb"), Stephanie Janusauskas ("Emma"), Julia Scarlett Dan ("Romy"), Shawn Doyle ("Andrew Wallace"), Peter MacNeill ("Gerald"), Janet-Laine Green ("Janine"), Rachel Crawford ("Danielle Berg"), Marianne Farley ("Nicole"), others.....Drama about an up-scale columnist and single mother (Higginson) who discovers her dormant cancer has returned, this time with a terminal prognosis. But that premise is, equally, just the hook to lead into an ensemble family drama as threads involve her siblings, her teenage children, and her parents, many unrelated to the cancer theme. Smith plays her carefree irresponsible sister, not really accepting the responsibilities of adulthood; Turner her gay painter brother, dealing with the loss of his lover; Roberts her professional, doctor brother (married to Farley's character) but with his own secrets. Wotherspoon, Janusauskas and Dan play her children. Green and MacNeill play her parents. Doyle plays the principal at her kids' school with whom she begins a cautious relationship; Crawford her next door neighbour and (high strung) best friend; etc.

This was based on the French-language Quebec series, Nouvelle addresse (starring Macha Grenon), and followed on the heels of 19-2, another French to English transposition. A few years before English-language remakes had been attempted of Quebec comedies (Sophie and Rumours) without success, but dramas seem to cross the language barrier much more successfully. The English-language 19-2 enjoyed critical acclaim, and likewise This Life is an effective production. (Curiously, this was one of two Canadian series to premiere the same season about a female lead juggling a cancer diagnosis -- the other being Blood & Water).

Higginson nicely anchors the narrative (a compelling, appealing actress, but whose previous series' roles such as TekWar, The City, and StarGate: Atlantis arguably never let her take command of centre stage as well) with a good surrounding ensemble. Although the series has the inevitable theme of taking stock of one's life and making the most of what you have, equally it's just a generic dysfunctional family drama (ala "Brothers & Sisters", "Parenthood") trying to simultaneously be a semi-realist, slice-of-life drama while equally cranking up the melodrama and colourful threads (the family having enough hi-drama for two or three families). These range from "Matthew"'s love-child from an old affair to the attractive "cougar" next door beginning a brief affair with the teenage son to the perhaps too over-the-top (and self-consciously racy) thread of "Maggie" entering into an on-going menage-a-trois! (The fact that such threads often seemed to peter out like shaggy dog stories make it even more obvious they were just thrown in for titillation rather than necessarily driven by a clear artistic intent). Still -- that's the series' strength. Serious and high brow enough to boast nuanced performance and effective drama, without losing sight of the fact that it is, after all, meant to be an hour's entertainment once a week. Hour long episodes on the CBC.

THIS MATTER OF MARRIAGE  * * 1/2
(1998) Leslie Hope, Rick Peters, Shirley Miller, Natasha Greenblatt, Carl Marotte, Michele Duquet, Karl Pruner, Shawn Alex Thompson, Michael Nouri.....Unusually covoluted, multi-character romance with a big cast, focusing on a single architect (Hope) looking for Mr. Right, and her new neighbour (Peters), a recently separated dad. Made-for-TV light romance is slick enough to be mildly diverting, but its chief problem is that Hope and Peter's characters aren't especially appealing...in fact, their both a little obnoxious and shallow. American actor Nouri has just a small part. Surprisingly risque shower scene near the end (at least, for commercial TV). see Harlequin. sc: Peter Lauterman (from the novel by Debbie Macomber). dir: Brad Turner. 91 min.

THIS TIME FOREVER  * * 1/2  setting: P.Q./USA.
(1979) Vincent Van Patten, Claire Pimpare, Nicholas Campbell, Cloris Leachman, Eddie Albert, Jacques Godin.....American university student (Van Patten) in Quebec falls in love with a French-Canadian (Pimpare) in 1967, despite her family's opposition. O.K. romantic melodrama is given a slightly fresh twist by setting it against a backdrop of '60s U.S. and Quebecois politics. a.k.a. Yesterday, Victory and Scoring. sc. Bill LaMond, John Dunning (from a treatment by Carol H. Leckner from an idea by Dunning). dir: Larry Kent. 95 min.

THOSE VOWS OF LOVE see Doux Aveux

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