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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.
TREACHEROUS BEAUTIES *
* 1/2 setting: CDN.
(1994) Emma Samms, Bruce Greenwood, Ron White, Catherine Oxenberg, Mark Humphrey, Tippi Hedren, Rachel Crawford, Ian D. Clark.....To investigate her brother's murder, a photojournalist (Samms) ingratiates herself, incognito, with the wealthy, small town family who runs the stable where he had worked. Mystery/suspenser isn't bad, but remains largely...bland. A little slow-moving and the killer is obvious long before the end. Still, if you're in the right mood... See Harlequin. sc: Naomi Janzen, Jim Henshaw (from the novel by Cheryl Emerson). dir: Charles Jarrott. 91 min.
TREASURE ISLAND *
* 1/2 setting: other
(1998) (/U.K./U.S.) Jack Palance, Patrick Bergin, Kevin Zegers, Christopher Benjamin, David Robb, Malcolm Stoddard, Philip Whitchurch, Walter Sparrow.....Possession of a treasure map sends an English boy, Jim Hawkins (Zegers), off on a ship in search of the titular island, unaware many in the crew are pirates led by Long John Silver (Palance). Umpteenth adaptation of the classic period adventure is workmanlike but briskly-paced and reasonably lavish. Rowe fails to tell the story through the characters, though, meaning you observe the scenes, but don't really feel them or even understand motivation. Kind of gritty and violent, to, for what is, after all, generally seen as a family film...and the movie skews some of the characters, making some of the good guy adults from the novel into decidedly more deplorable characters. Bergin has the small but pivotal role of Billy Bones. Zegers is the only Canadian in the cast (though Stoddard, as the ship's captain, used to star in the Canadian family series, The Campbells). sc./dir: Peter Rowe (from the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson). - violence.- 95 min. (video)
TREASURE TRAIN a.k.a. Odyssey of the Pacific
TREED MURRAY *
* * setting: Ont.
(2002) David Hewlett, Aaron Ashmore, Cle Bennett, Kevin Duhaney, Jessica Greco, Carter Hayden.....An uptight executive (Hewlett) takes a wrong turn in the park, crossing a gang of punks. Mind games on both sides ensue when he ends up chased up a tree, unwilling to come down, and they at the bottom, unwilling to leave. A clever, minimalist premise for a suspense film with a limited budget, but can it fill out a movie? Surprisingly...yes! Suffers from a few plausibility lapses, and the suspense is more low-key than truly nail-biting. But it's decent looking and tightly paced, mixing humour with the drama. And, despite the limited locale and premise, it avoids seeming repetitious and never encourages you to glance at your watch. Which, really, is what storytelling is all about. Nice performances from Hewlett (the veritable king of independent Canadian cinema) and a charismatic one from Bennett as the leader of the gang. sc./dir: William Phillips. - violence.- 89 min.
UN 32 AOUT SUR TERRE *
* * setting: P.Q./USA.
(1998) Pascale Bussieres, Alexis Martin, Serge Theriault, Richard S. Hamilton.....Emotionally discombobulated after a car accident, a single woman (Bussieres) decides she wants to have a baby, sired by her platonic best friend (Martin) -- putting him in an awkward position, both because he's involved with somone else, and because he's really in love with her; eventually taking the two of them on a spontaneous odyssey to the Utah desert. Off-beat, quirky drama is surprisingly compelling, thanks to some well written, often minimalist, scenes. It creates its own, hypnotic rhythm, managing to be both focused and eccentrically meandering at the same time, though the resolution seems a tad trite. Well acted. English title: August 32nd on Earth. sc./dir: Denis Villeneuve. 89 min.
TRIAL AND ERROR
* 1/2 setting: USA.
(1993) (/U.S.) Tim Matheson, Helen Shaver, Eugene A. Clark (Eugene Clark), Sean McCann, Page Fletcher, Michael J. Reynolds, Ian D. Clark.....Five years after winning a murder conviction, a U.S. prosecutor (Matheson) reluctantly reinvestigates the case...and risks his budding political career. Weak, often illogical drama cum suspenser manages to tip-toe around anything too provocative, and, just to reinforce how inane it is, throws in a pointless car chase and some false "boos". sc: Rick Way, Jim Lindsay, Nevin Schreiner (story Andrew Marin). dir: Mark Sobel. 89 min. (video)
TRIAL AT FORTITUDE BAY
* * setting: N.W.T.
(1994) Lolita Davidovich, Henry Czerny, Raoul Trujillo, Marcel Sabourin, Robert Ito, Paul Gordon.....White lawyer (Davidovich) comes to the NorthWest Territories to defend a young Inuit man (Gordon) on rape charges, only to find the Inuit's more spiritual idea of justice conflicts with the rigid Canadian one. Made-for-CBC TV drama is earnest in one of those we're-being-important-so-we- don't-have-to-come-up-with-a-compelling-story,-characters,-scenes,-or-conflict sort of way. Dry and obvious for the most part, saying all it's going to say in the first few minutes. Though Trujillo and Ito, as an Inuk elder, are good. sc: Keith Ross Leckie. dir: Vic Sarin. - casual male nudity.- 92 min.
TRIAL BY FIRE
* * * setting: N.W.T.
(2000) Tina Keeper, Tom Jackson, Peter Kelly Gaudreault, Tracey Cook, Graham Greene, Dakota House, Wilma Pelly, Kevin McNulty, Yvon Ponton, Michelle Thrush.....Lynx River mounties (Keeper and Gaudreault) investigate a mysterious fire and death that is linked to her brother's (Jackson) political ambitions to be the next premier of the Territories...and they even suspect his direct involvement. Second TV movie spun off from the successful North of 60 TV series is a slickly put together effort, reuniting many of the familiar characters (many in supporting bit parts and not in a way that you would need to be familiar with the series to follow the story). Granted, the villain isn't too hard to guess, but it's a decent suspense-drama, atmospheric and well-mounted, benefiting from its setting, and some strong core performances from Keeper, Gaudreault and, especially, Jackson. Though the movie fails to articulate a peculiarity of Territorial politics, namely that the premier is elected by the MLAs, not directly by the people -- it's not that important to the story, but it explains why Jackson can be campaigning, but doesn't seem to be hitting any campaign trails. sc: Andrew Wreggitt. dir: Francis Damberger. 91 min.
* * setting: USA/other
(2001) (/U.S.) Luke Perry, Dan Cortese, Olivia d'Abo, Dorian Harewood, David Hewlett, Polly Shannon.....A group of friends charter a fishing boat in Bermuda, end up getting lost in the "Bermuda Triangle", and come upon a derelict, haunted luxury liner that disappeared decades earlier. Made-for-U.S. TV horror film starts out seeming almost as though it's going to be a sedate fantasy story...then becomes out-and-out horror in the final third as it becomes "The Shining" or, more closely, the Canadian horror flick Death Ship. The cast is respectable and there are some creepy bits when they first come upon the derelict, but ultimately the movie is presented in such a glib, sprightly way, there's very little tension, with the characters too often blasé about their circumstances. And the characters are rather ill-defined and never really make you care about them (not that you dislike them, you're just indifferent). The movie throws in so many contradictory elements -- voodoo, Bermuda Triangle, psychic dreamms, and a haunted ghost ship -- that you get the feeling you're seeing left overs from earlier drafts. American movie star Chris O'Donnell was one of the producers. sc: Ted Humphrey (story Bing Howenstein and Ted Humphrey). dir: Lewis Teague. - violence.- app. 88 min.
TRIBE OF JOSPEH
* * 1/2 setting: B.C.
(2002) Shaun Johnston, Steven Grayhm, Kaaren De Zilva, Garry Davey, Giacomo Baesatto, Michael Tayles, Miles Meadows, Neil Denis, Simon Baker, Christopher Attadia.....Self-styled -- and increasingly unstable -- religious prophet (Johnston) retreats from civilization to the woods with his family and forms a primitive, tribalistic cult with young runaways. O.K. suspense-drama doesn't fully realize its own ambitions, but it's decently paced and benefits simply from its off-beat, atypical premise. Nice B.C. scenery, too. Sidebar: in 2003, a couple of brothers in B.C. made the news with claims they had been raised in seclusion in the forests of B.C. by their parents...who called themselves Mary and Joseph (it subsequently turned out to be untrue). sc./dir: Cheetche. - violence.- 99 min. .
* setting: USA.
(1980) Jack Lemmon, Robby Benson, Lee Remick, Kim Cattrall, Colleen Dewhurst, John Marley, Gale Garnett.....Dying, fun-lovin', New York press agent (Lemmon) wants to patch things up with his estranged son (Benson). Good cast but uninvolving, overly long and superficial drama. The main character is too overbearing to be really likeable. sc: Bernard Slade (from his play). dir: Bob Clark. - partial female nudity.- 121 min. (video)
(2002) (/U.K.) Tom McCamus, Lucy Akhurst, Stephen Moyer.....In a totalitarian future, two security officers (Brits Akhurst and Moyer) arrive at an isolated, deserted compound looking for a scientist wanted for crimes against humanity -- and against whom the female officer has a personal grudge. But they find a man (Canuck McManus) who claims only to be a clone of the man they're looking for. Minimalist SF psychological drama is low-budget but doesn't feel cheap; it's decent looking and boasts a decent cast and atmosphere. It wants to be something where things aren't quite what they seem and motives aren't quite what they appear. Except, mostly they are. Worse, the limited characters and questions (is McCamus the man or isn't he? Will Akhurst kill him, or bring him in alive?) mean that very quickly they just seem to repeat the same conversations and arguments over and over and over again. When Akhurt's shower scene near the beginning remains the highlight, you know the story would seem to be wanting. sc./dir: Gary Boulton- Brown. - female nudity, casual male nudity, sexual content.- 83 min.
A TRIP TO SERENDIPITY *
(1992) Donna Larson, James Bell, David Brindle, Don Spino, Patrick Brown.....Corporate climber (Larson) encounters a hobo and various eccentric characters that cause her to re-evaluate her priorities. Engaging performances in this whimsical, but obvious, light-hearted film. It's impossible to dislike, but that doesn't make it engrossing. sc./dir: Nancy Marano. 80 min.
TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE see Belleville Rendez-Vous
TRIPPING THE WIRE *
* 1/2 setting: P.Q.
(2005) Clark Johnson, Alisen Down, Micheline Lanctot, Michael Sarrazin, Peter Stebbings, Brendan Fletcher, Karl Pruner, Hugh Thompson, Joshua Peace, Sabrina Grdevich, Miranda Handford, Al Goulem, Layne Coleman, Glenda Braganza, Benz Antoine.....Troubled police detective Stephen Tree (Johnson) investigates the brutal murder of a disgraced ex-soldier -- and whistle-blower -- while also findinng the ghosts from a shady old case may be coming back to haunt him (in an unrelated sub-plot). Made-for-CTV mystery starts out a little like the filmmakers have seen a few too many cliched cop shows (repeating tired old coroner-and-food gags) but is overall a decent little TV mystery, with some atypical scenes (like a bit set at a medieval theme park). But the sub-plot involving the old case never fully resolves, presumably because they're hoping this will be the first of a series of movies (ala Joanne Kilbourn, Jinnah, Det. Murdoch, etc.). But it makes for a slightly disappointing stand-alone watch (particularly since any sequel is still just hypothetical). Still, enjoyable enough, with some strong performances, and a better sense of Canadiana then some of the above-mentioned mystery movie series. And Johnson, one of this countries most under-valued actors for, literally, decades, finally gets to take centre stage...and the fact that he's black and the lead, though not unprecedented in Canadian movies, is nonetheless not exactly commonplace either. sc: Peter Smith, Greg Spottiswood. dir: Stephen Surjik. - violence; sexual content.- app. 90 min.<
THE TROJAN HORSE (TVMS)
* 1/2 setting: USA./other
(2008) Paul Gross, Greta Scacchi, Tom Skerrit, Martha Burns, Saul Rubinek, Clark Johnson, Stephen McHattie, William Hutt, Guy Nadon, Susan Coyne......After the United States has absorbed Canada, an international cabal, concerned about American imperialism and militaristic adventurism, seeks to manipulate events so that ex-Canadian PM, Tom McLaughlin (Gross) -- now technically an American citizen -- becomes the next president. Loose follow-up to H2O features a large cast in a tale of murder, assassination, multiple conspiracies, and skulduggery on an international field, that wants to tackle real issues (Skerrit plays a George W. Bush-type sitting president) but avoids seeming didactic by virtue of the fact that right-and-wrong are muddled concepts (that is, we can infer we are to sympathize with Gross and the conspirators concerns...even as their actions are clearly villainous). But the result is too few characters to like, let alone root for (chiefly Scacchi as a British investigative journalist). It's a saga of conspiracy and Machiavellian machinations -- but because we are privy to the "secret" plotting, the story plays too many of its cards too soon. The connection to H2O is tenuous at times, so that you don't really need to have seen the earlier mini-series...except that occasional appearances from Nadon (in a small part) and Jeff Pustil (in a couple of scenes) have little context if you haven't seen it. This is meant to be a bigger concept than H2O, shifting the focus from a domestic Canadian conspiracy, to an International/American-centric one...but as such, it actually seems less original and more cliched than H2O (even as one could argue an American filmmaker would probably never make a film from quite this perspective). In fact, the "Canadian" aspect here is rather minor: the whole Canada-gets-absorbed-by-the-U.S. notion is mainly just a catalyst to explain how Gross' character can run in the U.S. election (and to provide his motivation) but is otherwise of little relevance (the film never seriously asks how would the sudden influx of 30 million Canadian voters, with Canadian values and ideology, impact on American politics?). Not uninteresting, with a good cast (particularly Burns, McHattie, and Skerritt who brings some nice nuance to his role as the current president) -- but not as compelling as H2O. Foour hours. sc: Paul Gross, John Krizanc. dir: Charles Biname.
THE TROTSKY *
* * setting: P.Q.
(2009) Jay Baruchel, Emily Hampshire, Michael Murphy, Saul Rubinek, Colm Feore, Domini Blythe, Tiio Horn, Rick Mabe, Jesse Camacho, Anne-Marie Cadieux, Tommie-Amber Pirie, Genevieve Bujold.....Teen-age boy (Baruchel), convinced he is the re-incarnation of revolutionary Leo Trotsky, sets out to live his life accordingly, including romancing an older woman (Hampshire) and trying to stir up the complacent students at his new school against the Draconian teachers (Feore and Blythe). Funny, ambitious comedy that is, in a way, everything most Canadian movies aren't...and should be. It blends both Hollywood and European flavours in its quirky, interesting premise mixing mainstream ambitions (comedy, and feel good spectacle) with a refreshing assumption the audience is as smart and well read as the characters, and with an attempt to say something about society. Yet it's a movie that feels like it should be better than it is. Maybe those very conflicting impulses collide a few times (it's a comedy, but with many of the cast more associated with drama; it's sort of a low-key, serio-comic flick and it's sort of a screwball comedy with some one-dimensional characters). What should be the emotional heart of the film (such as the romance) never quite become more than abstract plot points. And it's trying to be a political film...that is a-political (conservatives needn't fear it's some left-wing treatise). Heck...maybe at almost two hours it just needed tightening. It boasts a great cast...but the parts can be a bit underwritten (like Murphy as a jaded ex-radical) with the likes of Jessica Pare, David Julian Hirsh, and Liane Balaban (in a cameo at the end) in thankless bit parts (that's the director in the final scene, too). It is a good, clever, and quite funny film and worth catching...but just misses being the classic it had the potential to be. sc./dir: Jacob Tierney.
see Sweating Bullets
TRUDEAU (TVMS) *
* * setting: CDN.
(2002) Colm Feore, Polly Shannon, Patrick McKenna, Jean Marchand, Raymond Cloutier, Raymond Bouchard, Peter Outerbridge, David McIwraith, Don McKellar.....The title says it in this much-anticipated bio-pic about Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau (Feore), beginning with his political start in the 1960s, and ending with his re-drawing the Constitution in the 1980s. If Canada has a folklore, Trudeau is probably it -- a good bio-pic needs to be about an interesting person who lived at an interesting time and did interesting things, and Trudeau was all three. The filmmakers try and cover all the key points, from his tumultuous marriage to Margaret (Shannon), and Trudeaumania and the October Crisis, to the Referendum and the Constitutional reform. It's a good effort, anchored by Feore's at times uncannily evocative performance, and tackled in a funky, sometimes light-hearted way, with lots of pop music, and winking nods to other movies (from "A Hard Day's Night" to "Reservoir Dogs") to insure this isn't just a dry docudrama. But those very techniques can also make it distractingly cutesy. At times, gripping and even giddy in its enthusiasm, but at other times it lags a little, and sometimes muddles things, where even if you know the history it can be confusing. The October Crisis, which takes up a good chunk of the film, ends so abruptly you aren't sure what happened! Likewise, the climactic Constitutional stuff can be confusing. And even the intellectual/ideological stuff is sometimes poorly articulated. Lots of noteworthy actors play real life figures, but in small parts: R.H. Thomson as Mitchell Sharp, Geraint Wyn Davies as Bill Davis, etc. Ultimately, is this the best Trudeau drama it could be? Unfortunately, no. But it's still entertaining and pretty good -- thanks as much to the man and the times he lived in -- and will do for now. Just as a sidebar: the shot I assumed was a joke on "Reservoir Dogs" -- with Trudeau and his cabinet striding toward the camera in black suits and sun glasses -- was actually lifted from a real photo of those guys taken in 1968; maybe "Reservoir Dogs" was inspired by it! Received four Gemini Awards, including for Best Actor (Feore), Best Script, and Best Direction. Followed by the prequel: Trudeau II: Maverick in the Making. Four hours. sc: Wayne Grigsby. dir: Jerry Ciccoritti. 192 min. (video)
TRUDEAU II: Maverick in
the Making (TVMS) * * * 1/2 setting: P.Q./other
(2005) Stephane Demers, Tobie Pelletier, Karl Pruner, Michele-Barbara Pelletier, Gary Levert, Patrick Labbe, Suzanne Clement.....Story of Pierre Elliot Trudeau's early life, from teenager (Tobie Pelletier) to adult (Demers), philosopher, provocateur, dilettante, etc., from his political "awakening" in Quebec, rebelling against the almost totalitarian authority of Maurice Duplessis and the Church, to his eventual entering federal politics and climaxing with his becoming prime minister. Follow-up to the successful Trudeau mini-series (which depicted his years in office), also by Grigsby, this prequel, surprisingly, emerges as genuinely compelling, benefiting, precisely because it's less familiar territory. Avoids some of the cartoony, simplified didacticism of some bio-pics, with its warts and all portrait, showing Trudeau's intelligence and idealism, but also his pettiness, arrogance, social awkwardness and more. It's more personal and character focused than the previous mini-series, but also, ironically, more political, and maybe a slightly more mature, complex film than the original. At the core is Demers' riveting performance that rivals Colm Feore's, thanks to greater humanizing nuance (which may say as much about the material) -- and T. Pelletier is also good. The two mini-series are effective companions, with this one presenting a compelling, plausible look at the flawed man, while the original mini-series effectively depicted the public charisma. Granted, some of the events and personalities might not be as clearly portrayed as they could be for an audience who might be unfamiliar with them, and some of Trudeau's ideological evolutions are skimmed over but, ultimately, truly effective. Demers had previously played Trudeau (in a supporting part) in the mini-series Chartrand et Simonne; Pruner appeared in the first mini-series as John Turner, but here has a more significant part as Frank R. Scott -- other real life figures, depicted in cameos, include Marcel Sabourin as Duplessis, Marie Christine Labelle as author Anne Hebert, Eric Peterson as Tommy Douglas, and Pierre Rivard as Rene Levesque. Diana Leblanc and Lucie Laurier recur as Trudeau's mother and sister, but with otherwise thankless parts. As perhaps an in-joke, Jeremy Akerman appears as a character somewhat reminiscent of his role in Grigsby's fictitious Snakes & Ladders series. Four hours. sc: Wayne Grigsby, Guy Fournier. dir: Tim Southam. - casual male and female nudity, sexual content.-
TRUE CONFECTIONS *
* setting: Man.
(1991) Leslie Hope, Kyle McCulloch, Jill Riley, Judah Katz, Chandra West, Doug Silverstein, Laurissa Kowalchuk, Bernadette Li.....In the '50s, a Jewish teen and wanna-be beatnik (Hope), must deal with anti-Semitism and societal expectations as she searches for a husband. Provocative ideas in this comedy-drama (when dealing with racism and sexism) and Hope is appealing. But the film has a mean streak (established with the opening "gag") and everything's overplayed and really obvious, with unconvincing scenes and a choppy story -- as if stuff is missing. sc./dir: Gail Singer (from the book by Sondra Gotlieb). - partial female nudity.- 96 min.
The Truth About Alex *
* * 1/2 setting: USA.
(1986) (/U.S.) Scott Baio, Peter Spence, Jessica Steen, J. Winston Carroll, Michael J. Reynolds, Jeremy Ratchford, Robin Ward.....American teen (Baio) discovers his best buddy (Spence) is gay and decides to stand by him despite harrassment from their football teammates, and pressure from friends and family. Crisp, extremely effective hour-long drama side-steps the too-predictable. Strong performances with a good script and direction. First shown on Global. sc: Craig Storper (from the novel Counter Play by Anne Synder, Louis Pelletier). dir: Paul Shapiro.
THE TRUTH ABOUT LYING
(1997) John Ritter, Michele Scarabelli, Daphne Zuniga, Tony Nardi, Sophie Lorain, Samantha Eggar, Gabrielle Boni, Linda Roy, Roddy McDowall.....A true-crime writer (Ritter) reluctantly investigates when the baby of a wealthy couple (Scarabelli and Nardi) is kidnapped, only to discover many things aren't what they seem. With Martin as scripter, Goldstein as director, and Daniele J. Suissa as producer, you know it's going to be something special, right?...yeah, in an alternate reality. Seriously, it's better than you'd expect, certainly more ambitious, with a nice cast (half of whom are imports) but very quickly the film stagnates with long, static scenes that don't go anywhere. Part of the problem is Ritter is supposed to be the main character/investigator, but the film seems like two movies: half the scenes are Ritter, dealing with his broken family and alchoholism, and half are the kidnapping story, a story on which Ritter doesn't impact until two thirds of the way through! And by the end, it's still not clear who committed one of the ensuing murders! sc: Donald Martin. dir: Allan A. Goldstein. 93 min.
(2007-2010) * * 1/2 (/Irish/U.S.) Jonathan Rhys Meyers ("King Henry VIII"), Henry Cavill ("Charles Brandon"), Sarah Bolger ("Princess Mary"), Natalie Dormer ("Anne Boleyn") (-2nd), Maria Doyle Kennedy ("Katherine of Aragon") (-2nd), Sam Neill ("Cardinal Wolsey") (1st), James Frain ("Thomas Cromwell") (-3rd), Jeremy Northam ("Sir Thomas Moore") (-2nd), Henry Czerny ("Norfolk") (1st), Anthony Brophy ("Ambassador Chapuys") (-3rd), Nick Dunning ("Sir Thomas Boleyn") (-2nd), Kris Holden-Ried ("William Compton") (1st), Jamie Thomas King ("Thomas Wyatt") (-2nd), Hans Matheson ("Thomas Cranmer") (2nd), Annabelle Wallis ("Jane Seymour") (2nd-3rd), Alan Van Sprang ("Sir Francis Bryan") (3rd), Tamzin Merchant ("Katherine Howard") (3rd-4th), Max Brown ("Earl of Hertford") (4th), Torrance Coombs ("Thomas Culpepper") (4th), David O'Hara ("Earl of Shrewsbury") (4th), Lothaire Bluteau ("Ambassador Marillac") (4th), with Simon Baker, Peter O'Toole, Max Von Sydow, Gabrielle Anwar, David Alpay, Mark Hildreth, many others.........Historical drama chronicling the reign of the notorious King Henry VIII (Rhys Meyers) of England. An international co-production, with its primary broadcaster being the U.S. Showtime cable station, and filmed in Ireland with mainly a U.K. cast (and some episodes directed by Canadians). No Canadian actors had long term roles, but at least one or two Canadians were in the title credits each season, and sometimes others appeared in prominent recurring roles -- and, other than Czerny (with his Hollywood credits), most were largely known for their domestic roles (unlike some such co-productions where the "Canadian" actors...are drawn from the Hollywood ex-pat community and have little to do with the Canadian entertainment industry).
This TV series was part of the trend of such shows as "Deadwood" and "Rome" and others, all being a historical drama series jazzed up for a cable audience by throwing in sex, nudity and profanity. Running four seasons, was it actually one of the more successful of the genre. Yet it's a curiously problematic effort -- perhaps the most vapid and superficial of those series. Despite using the tag line that you don't know the whole story until you know how it begins, as though promising to shake up our views of the era, it never really delivers. Other than being young and thin, this Henry is pretty much in keeping with traditional views of him -- and it's not like the series is offering to illuminate an obscure era of history, as Henry and his shenanigans have been the subject of more films and TV shows than, perhaps, any other monarch, and the roles here have previously been essayed by the likes of Richard Burton, Robert Shaw, Paul Scofield, Genevieve Bujold and other heavyweight talents.
It's handsomely mounted, with big sets, lush costumes, grand crowd scenes, and capable performances throughout. Yet the problem with historical dramas is that, by modern
standards, often these people were amoral sociopaths whose values and mores
are hard to empathize with (ironic, given that this was also a supposedly
more pious, "god fearing" age). Even so, the series doesn't do a great
job of really developing the personalities, or extrapolating a consistent motivation -- the later Borgias did, arguably, a better job (at least initially) of presenting characters where, even if we didn't agree with the characters' actions, we could better empathize with why they acted as they did. The narrative itself is sometimes choppy and episodic rather than flowing
naturally like a drama (in part a result of trying to squeeze years of history, and a supporting cast constantly in flux, into a handful of episodes per season). Yet, paradoxically, other scenes can feel a bit like place holders, as if they're struggling to pad the story -- lavish sets erected, costumes fitted, make up applied...for a scene where an actor, then, utters a line or two of rather inconsequential dialogue that could just as easily be left on the cutting room floor. And because this is "history" the narrative can't really offer any surprises or unexpected twists, so week after week, for four seasons, it's a series where largely unlikeable, unsympathetic characters go around doing reprehensible things, without even the novelty of clever twists, surprise revelations, and with a considerable amount of repetition (as Henry is notorious for his number of wives, the various courtship plot lines can kind of blur into each other). Presented as fairly straightforward, the dialogue isn't particularly clever or poetic (unlike, say, "Deadwood"), the characters not especially deep or nuanced. Yet, in the end, maybe its primary appeal is just as a visceral guilty pleasure -- lavish sets, pretty costumes, toned, nubile bodies, and the occasional be-heading -- more than to be a modern "I, Claudius".
Ironically, the series at times seems as though
aimed at history buffs, as seeming extraneous characters pop up because they were real figures...even
as, in other ways, the series plays fast and loose with historical fact
(altering the timing of events, casting actors of wildly different ages from the figures they are playing, even re-writing some of the national alliances!) Admittedly, some of that can be nitpicking...you can get the gist of the period, even as you wouldn't want to base a term paper on watching this. Though some changes can certainly influence your interpretation of the events and motives -- scenes of a trim, youngish Rhys Meyers wooing young lassies at a time when, historically, Henry was 300 pounds and past middle age might influence whether you see such relationships as courtship...or creepy. When aired on the CBC, apparently some nude scenes were trimmed
and even cut (though much nudity remained). Created
by Michael Hirst. Hour long episodes on the CBC. - partial female nudity; violence; sexual content -
Ironically, the series at times seems as though aimed at history buffs, as seeming extraneous characters pop up because they were real figures...even as, in other ways, the series plays fast and loose with historical fact (altering the timing of events, casting actors of wildly different ages from the figures they are playing, even re-writing some of the national alliances!) Admittedly, some of that can be nitpicking...you can get the gist of the period, even as you wouldn't want to base a term paper on watching this. Though some changes can certainly influence your interpretation of the events and motives -- scenes of a trim, youngish Rhys Meyers wooing young lassies at a time when, historically, Henry was 300 pounds and past middle age might influence whether you see such relationships as courtship...or creepy. When aired on the CBC, apparently some nude scenes were trimmed and even cut (though much nudity remained). Created by Michael Hirst. Hour long episodes on the CBC. - partial female nudity; violence; sexual content -
TUESDAY WEDNESDAY *
* setting: N.B.
(1986) John Alexander, Liz Dufresne, Penny Belmont, Sheree Fitch, Perley Haynes.....Man (Alexander) returns to town after serving time for a drunk driving homicide and finds that people are less than happy to see him, especially the mother of the dead boy. Admirable in that it's more than just a paint-by-numbers drama about drunk driving, but it's a little too slow. sc: David Adams Richards, Jon Pedersen. dir: Jon Pedersen. - brief female nudity.- 82 min.
* * 1/2 setting: P.Q.
(1981) Gabe Kaplan, Bernadette Peters, Al Waxman, Henry Gibson.....Suicidal man (Kaplan) puts out a contract on his own life but, then, meets and starts to fall in love with a neurotic woman (Peters). Unpolished low-key comedy is nonetheless engaging. sc: Henry Olek. dir: Stan Ferris. 92 min. (video)
1/2 setting: ?
(2000) Kim Coates, Daniel Baldwin, Janine Theriault, Robin Wilcock, Mark Camacho, Audrey Benoit, Ellen Dubin, Catherine Colvey.....A captured diamond thief (Coates) makes a deal to lead authorities -- including the guy (Baldwin) hired to protect the diamonds in the first place -- to the loot, but double crosses them...all of which is basically just a pre-amble to another "Die Hard" riff, this time set in a sealed up train tunnel. Weak, low-budget action thriller is one of those violent, straight-to-video flicks where the sleazy bad guys, basically, shoot anyone they can, though it tries to counterpoint that with some light-hearted badinage later; a mix that is more awkward than not. Baldwin remains a problematic actor, while Coates does his usual sleazy-sadist shtick. Colvey, arguably the best actor in the bunch (here playing the chief prosecutor), doesn't even get billed in the opening credits! A kind of confused movie, too, from the opening poem that doesn't seem to have any relevance, to the simple logic of the thing (since Coates was captured at the scene...how can he lead them to where the stolen diamonds are hidden?), to geographical schizophrenia: it seems to be set in Canada, with references to "Crown" attorneys, and even Baldwin slipping in French expressions, but makes references to capital punishment (Canada abolished that in the early 1970s) and the F.B.I. Huh? sc: Tony Johnston. dir: Daniel Baldwin (his directorial debut). - violence.- 94 min. (video)
LA TURBULENCE DES FLUIDES*
* setting: P.Q./other
(2002) (/France) Pascale Bussieres, Julie Gayet, Jean-Nicolas Verreault, Vincent Bilodeau, Norman Helms, Ji-Yan Seguin, Genevieve Bujold, Gabriel Arcand.....A seismologist (Bussieres) reluctantly returns to her hometown to investigate a bizarre phenomenon wherein the tide has stopped rolling in. Film, mixing comedy, pathos, romance, and magic realism tries to cover a lot of bases. It's a whimsical, low-key comedy-drama, but presents itself more like a mood-heavy suspense-film (complete with ominous music); it's a supernatural story, but one that isn't meant to be spooky. Ultimately not uninteresting, and Bussieres spends much of the climax naked, but too little really clicks...or makes you care. Frankly, you kind of wish they'd have stuck with the supernatural suspense film it seems like it's going to be at the beginning. English title: Chaos and Desire. sc./dir: Manon Briand. - female nudity, brief male nudity, sexual content.- 112 min.
TURN OF THE BLADE *
* setting: USA.
(1994) Crystal Owens, David Christensen, Julie Horvath, David Keith Miller, Ann Howard.....Struggling American actress (Owens) whose marriage is going through a bumpy period, is rehearsing for a play, lands an audition with a creepy filmmaker (Miller), and receives threatening phone calls; while her hubby (Christensen) is tempted by a mysterious other woman (Horvath). Low-budget suspenser is refreshingly hard to synopsize, but conversely it takes a long time to generate any suspense. Probably plays better if you're in an easy-going mood. sc: Mark Bark (story Bark and Stoller). dir: Bryan Michael Stoller. - partial female nudity, sexual content.- 81 min.
TURNING PAIGE *
* 1/2 setting: N.B.
(2002) Nicholas Campbell, Katharine Isabelle, Brendan Fletcher, Philip DeWilde, Torri Higginson, Nikki Barnett.....Teenage girl (Isabelle) has her life disrupted by the return of her brother (DeWilde), exposing buried family secrets. Drama is very well acted by a crackerjack cast (even if only Campbell bothers with a maritime accent), and the scenes themselves are often well done and unpretentious, with an overall tight tempo. But the sum doesn't quite live up to the parts. No character emerges as wholly bad...but, conversely, no character is really good either, making for sometimes abrasive characters that it's hard to become involved with. You can empathize with their situation, sure, but you don't necessarily care -- when possessive ex-boyfriend stalker Fletcher later becomes the voice of wisdom, you know something's a bit off. An earnest film, which wants to tackle its themes by saying there are no quick 'n easy solutions (themes I can't comment on for fear of giving away some of the story revelations), but the movie kind of wanders about...and then ends rather abruptly. A decent enough watch, but one that seems more like an After School Special than a movie. sc: Robert Cuffley, Jason Long. dir: Robert Cuffley. 112 min.
TURNING TO STONE
* * 1/2 setting: Ont.
(1985) Nicky Guadagni, Shirley Douglas, Jackie Richardson, Bernard Behrens, Anne Anglin, Kim Renders, Lynne Deragon, Erin Flannery.....Caught for smuggling drugs, naive young woman (Guadagni) must adjust to prison life, the hardships, and the threat from other inmates. Fairly effective drama doesn't quite seem to know what it wants to be. Is it a cautionary tale? A character study? An expose on prisons? Or just a drama? It's none of the third and a bit of a mish mash of the other three. Look for Paul Gross at the beginning as Guadagni's no-good boyfriend. sc: Judith Thompson. dir: Eric Till. - violence.- 98 min. (video)
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