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.

THREE AND A HALF  * *  setting: Ont.
(2002) Kim Huffman, Don Allison, Barbara Gordon, Walter Alza, Santino Buda, Matt Lemche, Matthew Ferguson, Dragana Varagic, Valerie Buhagiar.....Three stories are inter cut about various lonely, melancholic people. Art House drama is slow moving but, if you're patient, eventually delivers a little in the story/character department...but even then, many won't find the result worth the time, with thin stories, plenty of brooding silence, and a mixture of drama and oblique, symbolic imagery. Even the basic conceit of the movie is hard to figure out -- namely that three artists, a painter, a filmmaker, and a writer, concoct these stories around strangers they observe on the subway...hence why the same actors play different parts in the separate stories (sometimes confusingly so). A decent enough cast, especially Huffman and newcomer Buda (as the respective leads in two of the tales), but the real star seems to be the cinematography, as the good looking film is more an excuse for a lot of carefully, and artfully, composed shots. Ferguson, Varagic and Buhagiar have what amount to little more than unspeaking cameos as the artists who, supposedly, are envisioning the stories. Gordon, too, has a relatively small part, considering her billing. sc: Boris Mojsovski, Ryan Redford, Mike Thorn. dir: Boris Mojsovski. - brief female nudity, sexual content.- 84 min.

THREE CARD MONTE  setting: Ont.
(1977) Richard Gabourie, Chris Langevin, Lynne Cavaragh, Valerie Warburton, John Rutter, Tony Sheer.....Hustler-with-a-heart-of-gold (Gabourie) reluctantly takes an orphan under his wing. Weakly acted, morally ambivalent comedy-drama blends simple-mindedness with scenes that really aren't for kids. One of those films with the "precocious" child who's really annoying. Gabourie won Best Actor Etrog. sc: Richard Gabourie. dir: Les Rose. - partial female nudity, sexual content.- 93 min.

THREE INCHES * * * setting: USA.
(2011) (/U.S.) Noah Reid, Stephanie Jacobsen, James Marsters, Kyle Schmid, Brandon Jay McLaren, Antony Del Rio, Andrea Martin, Naoko Mori, Alona Tal, Julian Richings, Tamara Hope.....Good-natured slacker (Reid) develops telekinetic powers after an accident and is recruited to join a secret organization of misfits possessing super -- if somewhat quirky -- powers (the hero himself can move any object...but only three inches, hence the title). Made-for-TV mix of comedy, drama and adventure is an enjoyable effort (putting one in mind of the short-lived 1980s American series, "Misfits of Science") -- granted the first half is more just comedy-drama, with the suspense/adventure plot not kicking in until half way through. But to its credit it still works, the characters and scenes engaging. Intended as a pilot to a never-realized series (the Sy-Fy network going with "Alphas" instead -- a less light-hearted take on a similar premise...and a series also shot in Canada). McLaren, arguably, steals a few scenes as the hero's best friend. sc: Harley Peyton. dir: Jace Alexander. 86 min.

THREE NIGHT STAND  * * * 1/2   setting: P.Q.
(2013) Sam Huntington, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Meaghan Rath, Jonathan Cherry, Reagan Pasternak, Anne-Marie Cadieux, Aliocha Schneider, Dan Beirne.....A young couple (Huntington and Rath), papering over the cracks in their marriage, plan a romantic week-end winter getaway to a cosy B&B resort only to discover it's owned by his ex (Chriqui) -- the one he never quite got over -- and secrets and complications ensue, further exacerbated by other eccentric guests. Clever and funny comedy is part full-on farce, and part sobering dramedy about relationships. It's well-paced, never losing its momentum, and benefits from mostly strong performances (especially Rath and American actor Huntington who have maybe honed an on-screen chemistry after co-starring in Being Human) and from its unapologetic Canadianness, from the quintessential setting, to an unself-conscious bilingualism (with sub-titles). A sure-footed comic ride from actor-turned-filmmaker Kiely. sc./dir: Pat Kiely. - sexual content.- 93 min.

The Three Roads, the novel by Ross MacDonald, became the movie Double Negative (a.k.a. Deadly Companion)

3 Themes-Hamster .....Production label for a series of Canada-France thrillers produced for pay-TV, headed on the Canuck side by Daniele J. Suissa. The ones filmed in Canada had the unfortunate feel of a Hollywood North production (ie: scripts carefully avoiding any Canadian reference -- even to the point of awkwardness). Generally, the films ranged from mediocre to truly bad. Good casts, but generally with derivative scripts that lack even an elementary understanding of structure or strong characterization. titles: Double Identity, Frame-Up Blues, The Phone Call, The Secret of Nandy, The Thriller, etc.

THRESHOLD (i) * * *  setting: USA.
(1981) Donald Sutherland, John Marley, Jeff Goldblum, Mare Winningham, Sharon Ackerman, Michael Lerner, Ken James.....L.A. doctor (Sutherland) helps develop and, eventually, implant the world's first artificial heart. Witty dialogue and strong direction and performances in this moody speculative drama help cover over its superficiality. Despite character scenes, though, this isn't a character movie, and that makes it a procedural...and a little cold and clinical. Film was made just two years before its premise became a reality -- well, the basic concept, that is, but the reality was decidedly less successful. Sutherland received the Best Actor Genie. sc: James Slater. dir: Richard Pearce. - female nudity.- 97 min.

THRESHOLD (ii) * * 1/2  setting: USA.
(2003) (/U.S.) Nicholas Lea, Jamie Luner, Steve Bacic, David Lipper, Teryl Rothery, Karl Pruner, Anthony Sherwood, Brandi Marie Ward, Stephen J. Cannell, James Kee, Joanne Boland.....A NASA scientists and an entomologist investigate when outer space larva take over normal human beings. Budget- restrictions aside, this is a fairly derivative ("Invasion of the Body Snatchers", etc.) B-movie...but if you're in the mood for that, it's a reasonably enjoyable one, thanks to a brisk pace and earnest performances which sell the roles -- and a "genre" cast that's fun for sci-fi buffs, with Lea ("The X-Files"), Bacic (Andromeda) as the chief possessee, Pruner (Total Recall 2070) and Rothery (Stargate SG-1), not to mention TV mogul Cannell in an acting role. A few too many dumb or silly bits keep it from being really good, but it's reasonably enjoyable, and with some scenes written and played with more texture than you'd expect. If you have a fondness for Old School sci-fi thrillers, this is a decent enough romp. Might not actually qualify as Canadian, but filmed in Canada with a mainly Canadian cast (except Luner and Cannell...and even Cannell has spent a lot of time in Canada). sc: Kim LeMasters. dir: Chuck Bowman. - violence.- 82 min.

THRILL OF THE KILL  * 1/2   setting: USA.
(2006) (/U.S.) Shiri Appleby, Chris Potter, Paul Hopkins, James Kidnie, Judith Baribeau, Matt Cooke, Mark Camacho.....After her sister's murder, an American woman (American Appleby) turns to a successful crime novelist (Potter) whose recent novel bears parallels to the crime, seeking his help to investigate the still unsolved case. Appleby is an appealing enough presence (even if she does seem a bit too care free for someone investigating a sibling's murder!) and Potter is an always reliable performer, but this TV movie itself is mainly a misfire, lacking tension, and with an unconvincing plot and scenes -- sometimes a fault of the writer, sometimes the director, some times both. Admittedly, not so much that they seem like either are wholly without talent...merely that they weren't putting forth their best efforts. Oddly self-reflective technique of throwing in nude scenes (not involving Appleby) into this PG movie...by, instead of keeping things just out of frame, blatantly "blurring" out the breasts! sc: John Benjamin Martin. dir: Richard Roy. - violence; sexual content.- app. 90 min.

THE THRILLER  * 1/2  setting: P.Q.
(1989) (/France) Linda Smith, Peter Dvorsky, Wayne Best, Susan Rubes, George Touliatos, Alexandra Stewart.....A novelist (Smith) finds herself embroiled in intrigue when approached by a man (Best) who wants her to write a non-fiction book about drugs and the Middle-Eastern arms trade. The premise sounds promising, doesn't it? Too bad. Aimless, somnambulant thriller never manages to click. A 3 Themes-Hamster production. sc: Donald Martin, Danielle Suissa. dir: Jim Kaufman. - violence.- 92 min.

THRILLKILL  *
(1984) Robin Ward, Gina Massey, Eugene Clark, Laura Robinson, Frank Moore.....Innocent (Massey) is harrassed by assorted criminals who think she knows where their ill-gotten gains have been hidden. Amateurish, poorly done thriller. sc: Anthony D'Andrea. dir: Anthony D'Andrea, Anthony Kramreither. 88 min.

THUNDER POINT  a.k.a. Jack Hggins' Thunder Point

THUNDERGROUND  * *  setting: USA.
(1989) Paul Coufus, Margaret Langrick, M. Emmett Walsh, William Sanderson, Donny Lalonde, Jesse Ventura.....A con artist (Langrick) and an alcoholic would-be bare-fisted boxer (Coufus) travel through the southern U.S. looking for a big fight, and reluctantly coming to like each other. Langrick is very good and Coufus not bad in this road picture. Some good scenes, but the movie never comes together as a whole, particularly as regards motivation. a.k.a. Boxcar Blues. sc: Damian Lee, David Mitchell. dir: David Mitchell. - violence, brief female nudity.-

TICKET TO HEAVEN  * * * *  setting: Ont./USA.
(1981) Nick Mancuso, Saul Rubinek, R.H. Thomson, Kim Cattrall, Meg Foster, Guy Boyd, Paul Soles, Linda Sorensen, Harvey Atkin.....After being dumped by his girlfriend, a man (Mancuso) goes to California for a visit and is sucked in by a religious cult -- so his friends (led by Rubinek) decide to try to rescue him. Frighteningly real and intense suspense-drama, inspired by a true story, with a nice sense of humour that doesn't detract from the movie's force. Superbly written and directed. Excellent performances! Won Best Picture Genie, Actor (Mancuso) and Supporting Actor (Rubinek). sc: Ralph L. Thomas, Anne Cameron (from the book Moonwebs by Josh Freed). dir: Ralph L. Thomas. 107 min.

TIDELAND  * * 
(2007) (/U.K./U.S.) Jodelle Ferland, Brendan Fletcher, Janet McTeer, Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Tilly.....Surreal prairie Gothic (the characters have southern American accents...though it doesn't explicitly say it's the U.S. as opposed to Canada) about a young, slightly strange girl (Ferland) with a boundless imagination which allows her to embrace the off-kilter -- and off putting -- world around her when her junkie father (American actor Bridges, in a supporting part) moves her to an isolated farm house, the only neighbours being pretty creepy themselves. Over-the-top film is strange even by Terry Gilliam's standards (and that says a lot!). It's "Alice in Wonderland" meets "Deliverance" through an LSD haze and it's atmospheric and stylish, and one doesn't question the creators' imagination, nor the level of talent involved, from the writing, editing, cinematography, direction, acting (young Ferland is nothing short of remarkable)...yet all in service of...what? On their own, the scenes can certainly hold your attention, but as a whole it can outstay its welcome pretty quickly, becoming just a collection off-beat scenes, ranging from quirkily disturbed...to frankly disturbing. And where even those making it seemed unsure what the end result was -- it being described as "horror", while Gilliam himself (in a DVD intro) invites the viewer to "laugh". Indeed, if you feel you have to film an introductory explanation/justification for your film, is that because the audience didn't get it...or because you didn't deliver? Still, worth a look-in just to sample, but most will probably get restless long before the end. sc: Tony Grisoni, Terry Gilliam (from the novel by Mitch Cullin). dir: Terry Gilliam. - violence, sexual content.- 120 min.

TIGER CLAWS  * *  setting: USA.
(1991) Jalal Merhi, Cynthia Rothrock, Bolo Yeung.....Two martial artist cops (Merhi and Rothrock) investigate the murder of a number of martial artists in New York. Stylish direction and some, relatively, interesting ideas vs. weak performances and dialogue. Rates as high as it does, not because it's good, but because it's not as awful as expected. Merhi produced. Some real martial arts masters appears as themselves (and get killed!). Followed by two sequels a few years later. sc: J. Stephen Maunder. dir: Kelly Makin. - violence.- 92 min.

The Time of Their Lives, the non-fiction book about the Dionne Quintuplets by John Nehry and Stuart Foxman, became the big-budget CBC mini-series Million Dollar Babies

THE TIMEKEEPER  * *  setting: NWT.
(2009) Craig Olejnik, Roy Dupuis, Stephen McHattie, Gary Farmer, Wayne Robson, Julian Richings, Gaston Lepage, Vittorio Rossi.....Man (Olejnik) gets a job as the timekeeper (ie: the book keeper) on an isolated railroad crew in the wilds of the North-West Territories under the thumb of its tyrannical and abusive foreman (McHattie). Drama-suspense flick gets marks for not just being a carbon of a bunch of other contemporaneous movies -- partly because it's kind of old fashioned, evoking Jack London (think The Sea Wolf on land) and any of a number of early 1970s chain gang-type flicks. Nice scenery and a good cast all around, with McHattie in particularly good form (though top-billed Dupuis only crops up well into it). But though you know the story they're trying to tell, with themes about survival, personal integrity, taking a stand, etc., they have trouble pulling it off. It's broken up into distinct acts that makes it seem almost like different movies crammed into one plot, yet equally it's repetitive, hammering away at the same ideas and character-types (McHattie turns out to be one of the lesser psychotics!). Olejnik's character doesn't evolve over the course of the film (despite a voiceover suggesting he has) and by the end, whatever "message" it's trying to make is muddled. The problem with emphasizing themes and symbolism over plot and character is you end up not doing justice to character, plot, or theme! sc: Louis Bélanger, Lorraine Dufour (from the novel by Trevor Ferguson). dir: Louis Bélanger. - violence.- 90 min.

TIME RUNNER  * setting: USA.
(1992) Mark Hamill, Rae Dawn Chong, Brion James, Marc Baur, Gordon Tipple, Suzy Joachim.....Thirty years in the future, earth is being invaded by aliens, while in present day U.S.A., a time traveller (Hamill) thinks he can prevent the future war. Violent, largely ineffective science fiction thriller has some O.K. ideas but blows them with a blah script and direction and weak performances, though Hamill, at least, tries hard. Perhaps a clue should be: if you need six writers, it probably isn't working. Big-budget effects at the beginning, then it quickly reverts to being low-budget. sc: Chris Hyde, Greg Derochie, Ron Tarrant, Ian Bray, Michael Mazo, John Curtis. dir: Michael Mazo. - extreme violence.- 93 min.

THE TIN FLUTE  * *  setting: P.Q.
(1983) Marilyn Lightstone, Mireille Deyglun, Michel Forget, Pierre Chagnon, Martin Neufeld.....Story of a poverty stricken family's struggle to survive in Quebec during the beginning of W.W. II. About two hours of demonstrating how much life sucks. Still, if you like that sort of thing... Based on the classic Canadian novel. sc: Claude Fournier, Marie-Jose Raymond and B.A. Cameron (from the novel by Gabrielle Roy). dir: Claude Fournier. - sexual content, partial female nudity.-

TINAMER  setting: P.Q.
(1987) Gilles Vigneault, Louise Portal, Sarah-Jeanne Salvy.....At her mother's death, a woman reflects back on her childhood and her eccentric father and their dreamlike life which was a mixture of fantasy and reality. Insufferably cloying, claustrophobically surreal family drama seems to want to be a modern "Alice in Wonderland"...but it ain't. The airy themes are put ahead of the story and characters, and the latter are unlikeable in any event. sc./dir: Jean-Guy Noel (from the novel L'amelanchier by Jacques Ferron). - sexual content.- 80 min.

TIT-COQ  * *  setting: P.Q./other
(1953) Gratien Gelinas, Fred Barry, Monique Miller, Denise Pelletier, Clement Latour, Paul Dupuis, Juliette Beliveau, Amanda Alarie, Jean Duceppe.....During World War II, Tit-Coq (Gelinas), a bitter bastard (in the literal, rather than pejorative, sense of the word), finds love, then loses love. Early, semi-classic drama is professionally mounted, but ultimately suffers from seeming more like a collection of heavy handed monologues rather than a fleshed out narrative, with the plot, such as it is, kind of thin. Restored in 2000 by the National Archives and the cable station MoviePix. In French. sc./dir: Gratien Gelinas (based on his play). 104 min.

TITANIC (TVMS) * * 1/2 setting: other
(2012) (/U.K./U.S.) Linus Roache, Geraldine Somerville, Toby Jones, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Jenna Louise Coleman, Perdita Weeks, Noah Reid, David Calder, Stephen Campbell Moore, many (many) others.....Drama about various characters (some real, most fictional) aboard the doomed cruise ship Titanic...given a slight novel twist on all the previous tales by using its four episode format to basically cover the same few hours from different perspectives. So in one episode, we might focus on certain characters, with occasional cryptic scenes involving supporting characters...then in another episode, we follow those other characters, now fleshing out their story, and seeing that cryptic scene in its proper context. Produced to coincide with the centenary of the Titanic disaster it's primarily a British production with only a few Canadians in the cast -- none playing Canadians -- most notably Reid as a young suitor. While David Eisner and Linda Kash have small roles, albeit as historically significant passengers -- Benjamin Guggenheim and Molly Brown respectively. It boasts its very British sensibilities, playing with themes of class and stiff upper lips, and fine performances all around (perhaps most notably Jones). Albeit the almost sycophantic attitude taken toward America (referred to as "the future" and a place where class doesn't matter...when 1912 America had its share of inequality, class structure, and racial barriers) is telling in a British-Canadian production! But despite its strengths, and a general sense of classiness to the production...it does remain just another retake of a situation told in many other movies and books (even if the individual stories might vary) and which is essentially just an Irwin Allen-style disaster movie, as we are introduced to a group of characters, learn a bit about their lives, their hopes and romantic problems...and then climax in a crisis. Perhaps most frustrating, a lot of the stories don't fully gel into satisfying stories...and many have a kind of forgone conclusion: someone dies. Even stranger, there were a few of the storylines where the final fate of the characters are not clearly shown (I'm not sure we see what happens to Reid...even though his tentative romance with Weeks was a significant sub-plot -- though there are so many characters, maybe I just missed it). The result can maybe be too high brow to just be dismissed as a soap opera/disaster movie...yet not enough of the latter to fully satisfy as a story. And honestly, this constant revisitation of the Titanic can, on one hand, seem nice -- that the victims aren't forgotten a Century later -- but equally can border on rather tasteless ghoulishness, serving up a major disaster time and time again as an evening's entertainment! Indeed, this was one of two Titanic-themed mini-series co-produced by Canadians in the same year, the other being the -- arguably -- more ambitious Titanic: Blood & Steel (reviewed below). Written by Julian Fellowes. 4 one hour long episodes.
 
 

TITANIC: Blood & Steel (TV Limited Series)

(2012) (U.K./Ireland/Italy/U.S.)  * * 1/2   Kevin Zegers, Alessandra Mastronardi, Derek Jacobi, Neve Campbell, Ophelia Lovibond, Billy Carter, Branwell Donaghey, Martin McCann, Ian McElhinney, Valentina Corti, Denise Gough, Chris Noth.....Off-beat addition to the litany of Titanic-themed productions in that it's not a disaster movie scenario set aboard the maiden voyage...but chronicles the building of the vessel in the first place, and using it as simply a catalyst for a historical drama to explore a time and place. The building of the vessel (in Northern Ireland) serving as a backdrop for a sprawling saga of classism and sectarian prejudice, sexism and suffragettes, unionism, Home Rule and the IRA -- as well as soap opera-y drama of relationships and star crossed romances involving mainly fictional -- but some real -- figures. Zegers plays a British Protestant metallurgist (hiding his Irish Catholic roots and searching for the daughter he gave up for adoption) warning of construction problems that could jeopardize the ship, and Mastronardi an Italian immigrant illustrator with whom he begins a romantic relationship. Jacobi the liberal, compassionate head of the company...butting heads with the intolerant prejudices of the board of the directors, etc. It's a well-made, well acted production (Canadian Zegers inparticular nicely settling into an adult, leading role) with a big enough cast and enough plot lines to hold your interest...for a while. Unfortunately, despite its strengths, the series' biggest flaw is simply its length. The characters are interesting, their plots involving...but not necessarily enough so to sustain 12 hour long episodes (you could miss an episode here and there and still pick up on what you missed)! Part of the problem is that because this is set against real history, even focusing on mainly fictional characters, there's only so far the plots can progress. Zegers' character may be the crusading metallurgist, warning of construction flaws...but even that can feel a bit like just padding to keep the episodes going, giving we know how it all ends. Presumably the length was dictated by the budget -- it's a lavish, expensive-looking production, with its big cast, period details, and the impressive effects of the Titanic hull looming in the shipyards...and doubtless the producers needed to produce enough episodes (and accompanying commercial slots) to justify the cost. At 12 hours it's a decent series...at 8 hours it might've been a truly great one. One of two Canadian co-produced Titanic mni-series made in the same year -- the other reviewed above. dir: Ciarán Donnelly.

TITLE SHOT  * 1/2  setting: Ont.
(1979) Tony Curtis, Richard Gabourie, Allan Royal, Susan Hogan, Robert Delbert, Natsuko Ohama, Jack Duffy.....Crook (Curtis), who thinks he has the perfect gambling system, and a cop (Gabourie) butt heads during a boxing championship. Awkwardly played suspense/drama and kudos if you can figure out what's going on. sc: John Saxton (story Richard Gabourie). dir: Les Rose. 89 min.

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