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.

(2001-2002) (/U.K.)  * * 1/2  Adrian Paul ("Cole"/"Daggon"), Amy Price-Francis ("Mel Porter"), Leanne Wilson ("Jess Brown"), Geraint Wyn Davies ("Zin"), Richard Yearwood ("Nestov"), with Dean McDermott ("Det. Victor Bruno").....Science fiction/adventure set in Chicago, USA, about an alien from another planet (Paul) who has adopted human form to track down a couple of hundred alien criminals who have possessed the bodies of earth people. The hero, naive and ignorant about human customs (allowing for plenty of fish out of water gags) also possesses various (not always clearly defined) super powers, of which the most singular is to stop time around him, allowing him to move about unnoticed at super speed. Price-Francis plays the owner of a bar, The Watchfire, who befriends him and helps him in his mission...and who slowly learns secrets of her own family history. Wilson plays a libidinous waitress, unaware of his alien origins. Yearwood joined the cast part way through the first season as a street hustling alien, who decided to help "Cole". Wyn Davies plays the recurring villain, the alien master mind who seems to be in charge of most of the other alien villains. McDermott plays "Mel's" cop-boyfriend, suspicious (and jealous) of "Cole". Paul and Wilson are British, everyone else is Canadian. 

This was Paul's -- a Hollywood-based British actor -- third Canadian-made series. Following on the heels of his long running Highlander series, this is obviously meant to capitalize on some of the same fandom with its not dissimilar premise. To be fair, the series isn't just a repeat, particularly as his personality here is rather different from his Highlander role. Like a lot of modern SF/fantasy series (many Canadian-made) the series suffers from its rigid, narrow premise of the same bad guys doing, more or less, the same thing every week -- resulting in somewhat thin plots where often the whys of an episode are left unexplained (relating as they do to Wyn Davies' master plan which formed a self-contained story arc for the first season). Not particularly smart or clever, it nonetheless has managed to deliver a few more original, off beat plots than some of its contemporaries (Cole is captured by government soldiers and must join forces with a bad alien; Cole is framed for murder; Cole is trapped in a hostage situation). The humour is applaudable, though often seeming a touch belaboured. Paul is a competent, if not exactly charismatic actor (though he's undeniably a heart throb for members of the opposite sex -- a fact unaplogetically exploited in this series) and Price-Francis is an engaging co-lead. Ultimately, it's watchable enough, if you're in an undemanding mood. Cancelled after only one season, the story arc with Wyn Davies concluded in the penultimate episode, allowing the series to end with a reasonable sense of closure. 

Ironically, both Paul and Canadian actor Wyn Davies had starred in conceptually similar, cult series (Wyn Davies in Forever Knight) -- yet here, Paul continues being the hero, while Davies is relegated to the villain part. Should one suspect discrimination against Canadian actors? A movie was edited together from a couple of episodes under the title Alien Tracker. Based on a short story by Gil Grant and Jeannine Renshaw and developed for TV by Grant. One season of hour long episodes, shown in Canada on Space. 

THE TRACKER  * *  setting: USA.
(2000) Casper Van Dien, Francoise Robertson, Russell Wong, Jason Blicker, Lexa Doig.....Private eye (Van Dien) and an ex-friend (Wong) reluctantly team up when a New York gang war results in the latter's sister (Doig, in a small part) -- who is also the former's ex-girlfriend -- is kidnapped after her mob connected hhusband is murdered. Humourous action flick boasts a brisk tempo and is decently budgeted (as far as straight-to-video action movies go) but still manages to be a tad...dull. Maybe they needed to spend less time on the "clever" banter and bickering (which is only occasionally amusing) and more time on the plot, which is just a tad too rudimentary, and on character development. Still, this is one of Geoffrion's better scripts. Though there are some curious attitudes expressed, like Van Dien and Wong initially not wanting to hire Robertson (playing a spunky cab driver) apparently because she's a woman (uh, isn't that sexist?) or Wong telling Van Dien that his relationship with Doig didn't work out because she's of Chinese heritage and he isn't (uh, isn't that racist?). Van Dien and Wong are American imports -- Wong even starred in his own short lived action series in the mid-'90s. sc: Robert Geoffrion. dir: Jeff Schechter. - violence, brief female nudity.- 93 min..

TRACKS OF A KILLER  * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1995) (/U.S.) Kelly LeBrock, Wolf Larson, James Brolin, Courtney Taylor, George Touliatos.....A wilderness vacation of two U.S. business execs and their wives goes awry when one (Larson), goes the psycho route, and it becomes a one on one conflict between him and the other's wife (LeBrock). Good-looking suspenser, but dull, with Larson's motivation remaining remarkably ill-defined. The film engenders so little reaction that even as it becomes increasingly violent and brutal, it fails even to evoke feelings of revulsion. sc: Michael Cooney. dir: Harvey Frost. - violence, partial female nudity, sexuall content.- 100 min.


(1995-2000)  * *  Sonja Smits ("Sally Ross"), David Cubitt ("Jack Larkin") (-4th), Bruce Gray ("Adam Cunningham"), Patrick McKenna ("Marty Stevens"), Kim Huffman ("Ayn Krywarik") (-3rd), Janet C.W. Bailey ("Suzanna Marks") (-2nd), Rick Roberts ("Donald D'Arby") (-4th), Terri Hawkes ("Monica") (1st), David Hewlett ("Grant Jansky"), Ron Gabriel ("Benny Siedleman"), Phil Akin ("Carl Davison") (1st), Chris Leavins ("Chris Todson"), with David Gardner ("Cedric Ross") (1st), Kristina Nicoll ("Cathy" i) (1st), Sabrina Grdevich ("Cathy" ii) (2nd-), Gabriel Hogan ("Ian") (3rd-), Peter Stebbings (-5th), Alex Carter ("Ryke") (2nd), others.....Drama/soap set at a Toronto investment bank, Gardner-Ross. Cubitt played the hot shot corporate financer -- meaning he tried to create companies. Smits played the novice head partner, who took over from her dad (Gardner) after he got involved in illegalities, and Gray her less-than-welcoming co-partner. McKenna was the head trader; Bailey the head of research; Roberts a junior corporate financer; and Hewlett an eccentric/unstable derivatives whiz who was paid in, um, chocolate bars. Huffman and most of the others played traders and others who worked at the firm. Nicoll/Grdevich played "Jack"'s sister, who joined the firm; and Carter a private eye for one season.

Energetic, slick series boasted a good cast but remained pretty shallow. The reason so many shows are about doctors, lawyers and cops is because there is an inherent drama to altruistic people interacting with different characters and dilemmas each week. This series' chief source of interest was actors standing around shouting technobabble, watching graphs and arguing percentage points that will have little meaning for the lay person. Most "tech" series (medical dramas, science fiction, etc.) recognize that, after all is said and done, the technospeak must be subordinate to the clarity of the story; with Traders, many episodes ended with the whys, hows, and even whats of the story incomprehensible. But then characters and their motivation were often equally poorly delineated. 

The fact that this was one of the most expensive Canadian shows made and was so soundly backed by the guys at Atlantis films and the broadcasters says a lot for why so many Canadian productions aren't very good: the drama is weak, but obviously the decision makers (businessmen themselves) thought a show about money was more interesting than a show about people -- perhaps finally explaining the problems behind so many other programs. Never a ratings success, it nonetheless managed to keep going, becoming an unusual joint production between CanWest-Global and the CBC in its third season, allowing the same episode to be shown twice a week on two networks (giving the audience twice as many chances to ignore it) where even CBC executives admitted it performed less-well than had been hoped -- duh-uh -- and they dropped it. Its longevity was thanks to great critical press, the enthusiasm of the executives, and (presumably) Bay Street lobbying (this was perhaps the only series in the history of TV where even the commercials advertising the series had corporate sponsorship!) and the sad fact that in Canada, it's often considered cheaper to keep an unsuccessful series going than to invest in a new one. And it's legacy will be with us a long time -- a whole generation of filmmakers are arising whose main credentials are that they worked on Traders and, inexplicably, this is seen as a recommendation! Do I sound cynical? Sorry, but it wears after a while. The series even picked up a few Geminis along the way. Developed by Hart Hanson. Hour-long episodes on CanWest-Global and (briefly) the CBC.


(2001-2008)  * * 1/2  Jean Paul Tremblay ("Julian"), Robb Wells ("Ricky"), John Dunsworth ("Mr. Lahey"), Mike Smith ("Bubbles"), Cory Bowles ("Cory"), Patrick Roach ("Randy"), Jonathan Torrens ("J-Rock"), many others.....Comedy about life in a rundown maritime trailer park, focusing on ex-con brothers Tremblay and Wells, the unofficial first citizens of the park, always involved in various, usually illegal, schemes, like growing marijuana, while also juggling more down-to-earth hopes, like "Ricky" eagerly committed to getting his "Grade 10" in an adult education class. Presented almost like a documentary, with lots of hand held camera shots, and occasional instances of the actors addressing the camera directly, and a good way of justifying the cheap film stock. Other characters include Dunsworth as the owner of the park, always trying to get the boys, and Roach as his dimwitted, perpetually shirtless sidekick; Smith (a scene stealer) as the series' most endearing character -- the boys good hearted, thick-glasses wearing, cat-loving buddy; etc. 

Made for the cable station, Showcase, one can't escape the feeling that the main way it was originally sold -- Showcase being on the look out for supposedly "edgy" material -- was the non-stop profanity in the dialogue. A kind of mixed bag, the series seems fringe material, with the misfit characters not exactly sympathetic, and the humour relying on too much hostility and being more quirky or wry than laugh out loud funny anyway. But taken on its own level, it can be kind of amusing, with the actors and the filmmakers seeming to be doing what they set out to do (as opposed to seeming as though they're struggling to find their legs). Worth catching a couple of episodes to get used to and see if it's your bag (it seems to improve if you watch a few episodes). The series has become a favourite among critics as an example of a Little Show That Could, with episodes released to DVD and video, and it having achieved definite cult success with the actors being recognized in public and called upon to emcee concerts (in character) and the like. And my ambivalence notwithstanding, despite the fact that a "hit" show for a cable station like Showcase doesn't require the sort of numbers it would need if it was on a major network, clearly it has secured a strong following. Indeed, when a feature film was released of the series in 2006, it opened number one at the Canadian box office -- a largely unprecedented achievment for a Canadian movie! The numbers quickly dropped off, of course, but still -- nothing to sneeze at, and led to a second motion picture. The series was spun off from an earlier low-budget movie. Half-hour episodes on Showcase. 

TRAILER PARK BOYS: The Movie  * * 1/2  setting: CDN.
(2006) Robb Wells, John Paul Tremblay, Mike Smith, John Dunsworth, Pat Roach, Lucy Decoutere, Nicole Hiltz, Sarah Dunsworth, Cory Bowles, Michael Jackson, Barrie Dunn, Hugh Dillon, Gerry Dee.....The boys from the trailer park get out of jail after 18 months and immediately get back to doing what they do -- most of it illegal -- including Ricky (Wells) trying to reconnect with his family, while Julian (Tremblay) figures they can make a killing stealing small change (since it's harder to trace than bills). A rarity in English-Canada...a motion picture spun-off from a TV series (Duct Tape Forever being possibly the only previous example), as the characters from the profanity-laden cult comedy series hit the big screen -- the formula, and cast, pretty much intact (save for some added nudity to justify the transition, presumably). And as such...hard to assess. If you like the TV series, you'll like the movie. And if you don' won't. The movie boasts a tighter pace, the scenes themselves maybe not quite as meandering as the weekly series could be (with its deliberately cinema verite, seeming ad-libbed style) -- although that's counter-balanced by the fact that it is, well, an hour and a half long! And it is a kind of rambling, episodic story with humour that leans more toward cute than funny. It's opening week-end put it number one at the domestic box office -- probably unprecedented for a Canadian movie. And though its total theatrical gross didn't quite live up to that opening success, it was enough to spawn a sequel. On screen, its title is simply "Trailer Park Boys". Gord Downie (of the band The Tragically Hip) and Alex Lifeson (of Rush) appear as a couple of cops near the beginning. sc: Mike Clattenburg, Barrie Dunn. dir: Mike Clattenurg. - partial female and male nudity.- 87 min.
TRAIN 48 (TV Series)

(2003-2005)  * * 1/2 ... * * *   Raoul Bhaneja ("Pete"), Joanne Bond ("Dana"), Paul Braunstein ("Johnny"), Joe Dinicol ("Zach"), Amy Price-Francis ("Nicole") (1st), Ingrid Hart ("Shannon"), Andrew Kenneth Martin ("Lucas"), Lisa Merchant ("Brenda"), Jack Mosshammer ("Seymour") (2nd-), Paul Sun-Hyung Lee ("Randy"), Krista Sutton ("Liz") (-2nd), Kristin Fairlie ("Jesse") (3rd-), Jason Cadieux ("David") (3rd-) .....Quasi-soap opera/comedy-drama set on a commuter train on the ride home from work. An unusual concept (based on a short-lived Australian series, "Going Home") that is clearly meant for a series on a tight budget. Guest stars became more numerous as the series progressed, but initially the focus was more on the same set characters each day (though each actor usually got at least one day a week off). Each episode was filmed the same day it aired, allowing characters to chat about then-current news stories (refreshing in a country where too few shows admit they're Canadian, let alone are topical or exhibit a Canadian perspective on events -- though it could also skirt good taste as serious news stories were used as just segues and as fodder for jokes). The claim was that the plots for the episodes were blocked out, but despite writers listed, the actors themselves improvised much of their dialogue. Impressive if true, because only occasionally did the actors seem to stumble, and the series boasted some surprisingly subtle character bits. It had a nice cast that grows on you -- some are quite exceptional (Braunstein was a scene stealer as the earthy, very funny, "Johnny") -- and reflects a better than usual ethniic pluralism than a lot of Canadian TV series. The "seasons" aired only a couple of months apart -- Price-Francis was gone after the first season (arguably the show's prettiest face, though Hart also adds a "babe" factor -- not that there's anything wrong with the other actresses...or actors for that matter...or, uh, I'll shut up now); Mosshammer gradually was woven in as a new commuter (and had appeared once or twice in the first season) and others joined still later. Some guest stars appeared as themselves, such as actress Rae Dawn Chong and politician Sheila Copps.

One has to give this series credit -- the proverbial "little engine that could". The initial episodes were awkward, with the characters seeming too much like they were bored or annoyed when other characters tried to strike up conversations. But quickly the series became more like a soap opera, establishing that these characters were friends (in one episode they even throw a surprise birthday party on the train) -- and know each other off the train as well. The series still suffered a little from the fact that, though it could be oddly habit forming, it still wasn't exactly riveting, as even within a given episode, it veered from moderately interesting, to often amusing (it's almost more successful as a comedy-drama), to, frankly, boring. But the series gets stronger and stronger, and more confident, as it goes with the plot threads more flamboyant (love affairs between the characters and even criminal goings on) and the lulls more infrequent. Perhaps it helps to stick with it and let the characters grow on you. But for a series whose origins were anything but pure -- intended to appeal to miserly executives for its low cost rather than any artistic quality, and about which executives bragged that it would be a great forum for product placements (all the characters read the National Post and seem to watch nothing but CanWest-Global TV shows) -- it evolved into a decently entertaining soap. Ironically, the series was cancelled to make way for Global's even cheaper American branch plant series, "Entertainment Tonight Canada" -- yeah, they cancel a Canadian TV show so they can produce a show about Canadian TV shows!

Worth trying, but you should commit to a few consecutive episodes, just to see if you can get into the characters and situations. Theme song is "Train Goes" by Nine Point Landing. Half-hour episodes, shown on CanWest-Global -- initially shown weeknights (four or fuve nights a week, depending whether the network had an Ameican sitcom it wanted to bump it for), rerun later the same night, and rerun twice again in two and a half hour blocks on Sundays!

TRAIN OF DREAMS  * * *  setting: P.Q.
(1987) Jason St.Amour, Marcella Santa Maria, Fred Ward, Christopher Neil, David Linetsky.....Anti-social teen (St.Amour) is put into a correctional institute where he begins to come to terms with who and what he is. Superbly done with excellent performances and nice touches of humanity and humour, though flashbacks and an abrupt ending hurt the narrative structure in this earnest, documentary-styled drama. Poet Ward is no relation to the American actor of the same name. sc: John N. Smith, Sally Bochner, Sam Grana. dir: John N. Smith. - male nudity.- 89 min.

TRAMP AT THE DOOR * * *  setting: Man. (1985) Ed McNamara, August Schellenberg, Joanna Schellenberg, Monique Mercure, Eric Peterson.....During the Depression, a Francophone Manitoba family are visited by a story telling tramp (McNamara) who claims to be a distant relative. Solid, likeable little drama. sc./dir: Allan Kroeker (from the story by Gabrielle Roy). 81 min.
THE TRANSPORTER: The Series (TV Series)

(2013-) (/France/U.S.)  * *   Chris Vance, Andrea Osvart, François Berléand, Delphine Chanéac, Charly Hübner.....Action series about a European-based freelance mercenary (Vance) who will deliver anything -- or anyone -- from point A to point B, no questions asked. Osvart plays his agent who generally arranges the assignments, Berléand a good-hearted French policer detective with whom he butts heads (his jobs not always on the right side of the law), Chanéac a mysterious woman studying him, and Hübner his affable mechanic. An international co-production, none of the lead actors or characters are Canadian...though many of the behind-the-scenes people were, as were many of the guest stars.

This TV series was spun-off from a series of action movies starring Jason Statham and was reportedly one of the most expensive TV series ever to involve Canadian producers. Which is kind of depressing. Because it's not spending that money on some grandiose fantasy/sci-fi spectacle like "Game of Thrones", or some Byzantine globe hopping epic, or even some period heavy historical drama...but just a low-brow action series that can feel like they're dusting off scripts first written for some 80s/90s syndicated action series co-production...only now with bigger explosions and, since made for cable, with added profanity and nudity. Indeed, the Old School sensibility is reflected in the unapologetic sexploitation, with lingerie clad bodies displayed during the opening credits, and most of the nudity in the episodes provided by women only (sometimes the to-be-expected extras and minor parts, but occasionally the principal guest star, such as in the episode "The General's Daughter"). The plots are there just to justify the action scenes, with twists and double crosses pretty easy to spot coming, and character scenes basically just acting as padding. There are light-hearted quips without quite being witty. In that sense, it can be fun for nostalgists who miss those old series...but TV audiences usually require more to lure them back week after week ("action" TV series often proving less successful than action movies). It's slickly done, but not especially well done -- the actors are fine, but not exceptional, the action scenes (big budget notwithstanding) can be a bit confusingly staged, and logic dubious. Still, in a sense it's hard to criticize because one suspects the producers have made precisely the series they set out to make. In short, it has no greater ambition than to simply be a breezy action-movie-a-week, but though not bad, neither are they particularly memorable action movies. And one suspects the ratings reflected this as there were contradictory reports as to whether it would return for a second season (and suggestions, if it did, there would be behind-the-scenes changes). Hour long episodes, shown in Canada on HBO Canada. - violence; partial female nudity.-  

THE TRAP  * * setting: B.C.
(1966) (/U.K.) Rita Tushingham, Oliver Reed, Rex Sevenoaks, Barbara Chilcott, Linda Goranson.....Trapper (Reed) takes an unwilling mute bride (Tushingham) and they must struggle together in the wilds. So-so historical wilderness drama has some good scenes, but seems pretty superficial, especially regarding characterization. Reed's French-Canadian accent is quite good, though. sc: David Osborn. dir: Sidney Hayers. 106 min.
TRAUMA (TV Series)

(2010-)   * *   Isabel Richer ("Julie Lemieux"), Gilbert Sicotte ("Antoine Légaré"), Laurence LeBoeuf ("Sophie Léveillée"), James Hyndman ("Pierre Meilleur"), Jean-François Pichette ("Mathieu"), Christian Begin ("David"), Pascale Monpetit ("Diane Hevey"), Yan England ("Étienne").....Medical drama partly revolving around the emergency department. Richer plays the chief surgeon, Sicotte the avuncular head psychiatrist, and LeBoeuf a pretty, but troubled, young resident. Hyndman a more arrogant surgeon. Montpetit the administrator (and "Sophie"'s mom), etc. French-language series has not been re-broadcast on an English-language network, but unlike some French-language shows, is accessible to an English-speaking audience because (at least some) of the DVD's include English sub-titles.

A hospital settings is such a familiar one for TV series that it has the advantage of being a tried-and-true milieu...and the disadvantage that it can feel a bit like we've seen it all before. In this case, there's the usual mix of medical crises with soap opera drama...but with the mix seeming to favour the soap over the medicine, the cases often -- though not always -- seeming to pose few real mysteries, or strange afflictions that must be investigated, in favour of the trials and tribs of the regulars' lives -- without necessarily being that interesting or involving (despite some decidedly heightened crises and, yes, traumas -- the title referring as much to their personal lives as to where they work). The actors are capable enough, and as with any such series, you can probably groove to them more after watching a few episodes. But there's an unconvincing, cheesy melodrama aspect to a lot of it...and a real lack of verisimilitude when it comes to the medicine and other technical aspects. Whether a deliberate artistic/creative choice -- or a reflection of a modest budget (though the cinematography is slick) -- there's a decided sedateness in contrast to a lot of medical dramas which usually play up the busy-ness of big city hospitals: the characters here often only seeming to deal with one or two cases per episode, and wander surprisingly deserted hall ways. Though interestingly, one wonders if it had any influence on the English-language Saving Hope, not that there's more than a passing echo if it did (both use the emergency room as a kind of narrative focus -- which isn't unusual -- but both feature a psychiatrist as a principal within the ensemble, which isn't as common). Created by Fabienne Larouche. Hour-long episodes.  


(2016-) (/U.S.)  * * 1/2  Eric McCormack ("Grant MacLaren"), Mackenzie Porter ("Marcy"), Reilly Dolman ("Philip"), Jared Abrahamson ("Trevor"), Nesta Cooper ("Carly"), with Leah Cairns ("Kathryn MacLaren"), Arnold Pinnock ("Walt"), Patrick Gilmore ("David"), others.....Time travellers from the future are sent back to modern America -- their consciousnesses inserted into the bodies of people who are about to die (they assume the identity of their host bodies). The series focuses on a particular team but there are other agents on other assignments. Their initial mission (chronicled over the first half-dozen episodes or so) being to prevent a global disaster; but once that is accomplished they find new missions are still being assigned them -- but realize their actions are altering their future reality so they aren't sure if the regime giving them their assignments is even the same as the regime they knew when they left! The team is comprised (in their 21st Century guises) of an FBI Agent (McCormack), a recovering junkie, a high school student, a single mom locked in a bitter custody battle, etc.

This TV series has echoes of some past Canadian-made time travel series such as Continuum (where the characters' actions start to alter the very future they came from) and Odyssey 5 (time travellers' future consciousness are inserted into contemporary bodies). It's slick and well enough acted (particularly by the -- arguably -- chronically underappreciated McCormack) and it wants to affect an air of sophistication -- eschewing wisecracks and cheesiness for dour seriousness, pensive characters, and an often deliberate pacing (which, admittedly, can border on slow-moving). But it suffers from the problem of a number of sci-fi series with too clearly defined "high concept" premises: threatening to get repetitive as basically the plots/dilemmas/conflicts in the different episodes all arise from and revolve around the same core ideas. The result is a slick series that is interesting but doesn't fully click on an emotional/visceral level (of really engaging with the characters or being excited by the twists n' turns). It's also worth acknowledging that a recurring peeve of mine is Canadian series that pretend they are American (ie: promulgating the idea that America is the bestest country in the world and all the greatest heroes are American) -- and those optics are particularly awkward in the President Trump era (especially when the key hero here is an FBI agent -- and the FBI's seeming initial support for Trump has been a matter of much discussion and controversy!) Hour-long episodes shown in Canada on Showcase.  

THE TRAVELLER * 1/2  setting: B.C.
(1989) R. Lewis Morrison, Ginette St. Dennis, Denise Brillon, Phillip Stewart, James Stevens.....White man (Morrison), making a living selling Native carvings, begins questioning his life-style and decides to return to the Native village where he once lived. Moody but unsuccessful drama. Spartan dialogue and low-budget...with performances to match. sc: Bruno Lazaro Pacheco, Jean-Pierre Lefebvre (from an original translation by Deborah Meyers of a French radio script by Guy P. Buchholtzer). dir: Bruno Lazaro Pacheco.

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