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.

2103: The Deadly Wake  * 1/2
(1997) (/U.K.) Malcolm McDowell, Michael Pare, Heidi von Palleske,  Mackenzie Gray, Hal Eisen, Gwynyth Walsh......In the future, a disgraced boat captain (McDowell) is given one more shot by being put in command of a rundown tub and a motley crew on simple cargo run...but sabotage reveals there's more to the manifest than he thought. In some respects, a well-intentioned science fiction suspenser (more ambitious and individualistic than you'd expect for a straight-to-video sci-fier) -- basically an old fashioned sea-adventure moved ahead a hundred years. But it's hurt by poor direction, sluggish pacing and characters who, ultimately, you don't care about. Too bad. The obvious budget-limitations don't help, either. Gray is memorable as the British 2nd mate. sc: Andrew Dowler, Doug Bagot, Timothy Lee (idea G. Philip Jackson). dir: G. Philip  Jackson. - violence, brief nudity, sexual content.- 1100 min. (video)

20, 000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA  * * 1/2
(1997) (/U.S./U.K.) Richard Crenna, Ben Cross, Julie Cox, Paul Gross.....In the 1800s, a trio of castaways are taken prisoner aboard a fantastical submarine, the Nautilus, ruled over by the enigmatic Captain Nemo (Cross). Handsome, made-for-U.S.-TV version of the classic story boasts nice f/x and is moderately entertaining...but also disappointing. Adapting Jules Verne's novel is problematic (since, frankly, it was pretty dull) but the filmmakers haven't fully realized their own embellishments...and seem to have lost sight of some of the finer points of the original along the way -- if they aren't outright hostile to them (like turning the novel's intellectual hero -- Crenna -- into a dupe). Cox's character, the star here and forming the basis of a romantic triangle, didn't exist in the novel. This might not technically be Canadian, but with its writer, director, and one of its principles (Gross) all being Canadian, it probably deserves that label more than some officially "Canadian" movies; and who but Canadians would take a classic, century-old novel, and imply its Canadian and French characters are Americans? Something even the (superior) 1954 U.S. version didn't do! Filmed partly in the Red Sea. Just a few weeks later, another U.S. network aired an even more lavish mini-series based on the same novel; it was even less faithful (although, more entertaining). sc: Joe Wiesenfeld (from the novel by Jules Verne). dir: Michael Anderson. 90 min.
 
TWICE IN A LIFETIME (TV Series)

(1999-2001) (/U.S.)  * * 1/2 Gordie Brown ("Mr. Jones") (1st), Paul Popowich ("Mr. Smith") (2nd), Al Waxman ("Othniel") (-2nd).....Fantasy drama about a (nondenominational) angel (Brown, replaced by Popowich) who comes to people who've just died and gives them an opportunity to go back in time to a pivotal moment in their lives and change things for the better (usually resulting in the character, then, not having to die since the circumstances that led to their deaths no longer occurred). The catch is, they can't go back as themselves, knowing what they know now, but as another person who has to try and persuade their younger self to make the right life-choices. Waxman, who sadly passed away during the 2nd season, played the heavenly judge who decides at the beginning of each episode whether the person in question will get this second chance or not.

This cross between various "heavenly" series like "Touched by an Angel" and the SF time-travel series "Quantum Leap" is like an anthology. The star of an episode is the (usually imported) actor playing the person given a second chance, with the regulars in supporting roles (perhaps explaining why the producers deigned to give those roles to Canadians). Surprisingly, it isn't bad. Admittedly, it has weaknesses -- once you get through the (lengthy) "heavenly trial" scenes at the beginning, the viewer basically knows the whole story, leaving little room for genuine surprises while in "Quantum Leap", for example, the hero often had to learn what and who (along with the viewer) over the course of the episode. Still, it maintains a moderate level of interest, and is largely innocuous. The premise also leans toward employing middle-aged actors for the leads, which is admirable in youth-conscious TV, and can be fun (depending on your P.O.V.) in that it provides work for once sort of well-known American actors who you don't see much anymore. Though, I would've preferred seeing Canadian actors. And the stories are generally set in the United States (I guess the producers figure all us canucks are going straight to hell, eh?). Created by Stephen Sohmer. Hour long episodes, shown in Canada on CTV. 

TWICE SHY  * *  setting: other
(1989) (/Ireland) Ian McShane, Patrick Macnee, Niail Toibin, Stephen Brennan, Kate McKenzie, Dearhbla Molly, Geraldine Fitzgerald.....Investigator Dave Cleavland (McShane) goes to Ireland to investigate the murder of a friend. Easily the best looking of the Cleavland films, with some funny bits, but why do these movies feel a need to give away the entire story in the first few minutes, robbing the film of any suspense...or point? See Dick Francis Mysteries. sc: Miles Henderson (from the novel by Dick Francis). dir: Deirdre Friel. 92 min.

TWICE UPON A YESTERDAY  * * 1/2  setting: other
(1998) (/U.K./Spain) Lena Headey, Douglas Henshall, Penelope Cruz, Gustavo Salmeron, Eusebio Lazaro, Mark Strong, Charlotte Coleman, Neil Stuke, Elizabeth McGovern.....An Englishman (Henshall) regrets breaking up with his girlfriend (Headey) who's about to get married; then he gets the mystical chance to go back in time and do things right...but things still don't work out the way he expected. Bittersweet comedy-drama benefits from good performances, particularly Henshall and the beautiful Headey, and a plot that doesn't quite go where you think it will. But it's more often amusing than funny, and a little melancholic. And despite personable actors, the characters they play, rather shallow and given to infidelities, aren't entirely endearing. An intriguing film, but an uneven one. American actress McGovern just has a bit part as a bartender. Despite the movie having strong British and Spanish elements (including giving prominent billing to Salmeron and Lazaro for what amount to bit parts), the Canadian co-producers seem to have made no such demands for a Canadian presence. sc: Rafa Russo. dir: Maria Ripoll. - sexual content.- 91 min. (video)

THE TWILIGHT OF LOVE * *  setting: P.Q./other
(1976) (/Italy) Anthony Steel, Annie Belle, Pamela Grier, Hugo Pratt, Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Alain Montpetit, Gerardo Amato.....Middle-aged ad executive (Steel) becomes jealously infatuated with a much younger woman (Belle) he wants for a new campaign, and she alternately leads him on and pushes him away. Sexploitation doesn't have to be sleazy, but this film certainly is, with various actresses (except Grier) doffing some garments and Belle baring all. Of course, taken on that level, it's briskly paced and Belle's an effective object of desire. A film that may not be around much longer based on how scratchy some of the existing prints are. Be warned, though: a gratuitous Martinique-filmed mongoose-snake fight is pretty repellent. sc: Luigi Scattini, Vittorio Schiraldi, Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Claude Fournier. dir: Luigi Scattini. - female nudity, sexual content, violence.- 94 min.

TWILIGHT OF THE ICE NYMPHS  * *
(1997) Pascale Bussieres, Shelley Duvall, Frank Gorshin, Alice Krige, R.H. Thomson.....Surreal fairy tale about a man (Nigel Whitmey, who demanded his name be removed from the credits after he was dubbed by Ross McMillan, who has a non-speaking part as Krige's husband) who returns home to his sister's (Duvall) ostrich farm, and becomes involved with two women, one of whom (Bussieres) is under the sway of a mesmerist (Thomson). Maddin's schtick is to do films badly...supposedly on purpose (from poor sound sync to badly directed actors) while Toles' characters occasionally start to seem plausible...but mainly behave irrationally and incoherently. Surreal, dreamlike, but mainly a curio, and not even that since this is the duo's fourth film. Maddin seems to be going Hollywood since three of the billed actors are imports. Thomson is quite good, blending the needs of the film's style with a consistent, believable performance, but the others are uneven, often seeming as if they haven't had time to rehearse. Ultimately, if you're a fan of Toles-Maddin's stuff, this is probably another success, but others be warned. sc: George Toles. dir: Guy Maddin. - violence, brief female nudity.- 92 min.
 

THE TWILIGHT ZONE (TV Series)

(1988-1989)  * * 1/2  Cast: various.....Supernatural anthology series introduced by the voice of Robin Ward.

In the U.S. an attempt was made to resurrect the late Rod Serling's classic American TV series, but it was short-lived. Then Canadians tried (the same happened with Alfred Hitchcock Presents) -- making episodes that could be shown with the U.S. remake in syndication. Ward even redubbed the voice-over for the American episodes, perhaps to give the series a uniformity (or to allow broadcasters to pass off even the All-American episodes as Canadian-content). Though not great, the Canadian ones, ironically, were better paced and, maybe, a little closer in spirit to the original -- less pretentious and a little more human, with the emphasis on morality tales. But they were hindered by the let's-pretend-we're-in-the-U.S. mentality and the not always stellar American actors brought in to front the majority of the episodes. Also they lacked Serling's crisp, periodically brilliant writing and the moody use of direction and lighting that marked the original.

The Canadian ones can be identified during the title sequence because they list executive producers Mark Shelmerdine and Michael MacMillan and producer Seaton McLean. The American ones list Philip De Guere as producer. There was yet another revival of The Twilight Zone in 2002-2003, an American series filmed in Canada. Best bets: the light-hearted "The Curious Case of Edgar Witherspoon" with Cedric Smith as a psychiatrist investigating an eccentric old packrat (American Harry Morgan) who claims his scavenging keeps the world together; spooky ones like "The Hunters", with imported Louise Fletcher as an archaeologist excavating a mysterious prehistoric cave and Michael Hogan, in a surprisingly big role, as the local Sheriff; and "Our Selena is Dying" (based on a story by Serling) in which R.H. Thomson plays a doctor troubled by the sinister longevity of a patient. Approximately 30 half-hour episodes shown in syndication (usually mixed in with the American-produced episodes).

Twins, a non-fiction American book by Bari Wood and Jack Gleasland, was the source for the fictional feature film Dead Ringers (and was the movies intended title until the Americans came out with the comedy "Twins" around the same time)

TWIST (i) * * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1993).....Documentary chronicling the evolution of dance in the United States during the early days of rock and roll, focusing, in part, on the twist. Extremely slight film never becomes more than a listing of various novelty dances, despite half-hearted attempts to tie it into a socio-political context. Fun for nostalgia buffs, and not terrible, but the well-trod ground (the '50s-early '60s, the golden age of rock, etc.) has been covered a zillion times before and much better. dir: Ron Mann. 78 min. (video)

TWIST (ii)  * * 1/2  setting: Ont.
(2004) Nick Stahl, Joshua Close, Michele-Barbara Pelletier, Gary Farmer, Tygh Runyan, Stephen McHattie, Moti Yona, Brigid Tierney.....Story of teenage male prostitutes and how the jaded, experienced Dodge (Stahl) takes the novice Oliver (Close) under his wing. Gritty, downbeat story is an updated riff on Oliver Twist (really!), relocated to Toronto and with the focus more on Dodge than Oliver, but complete with Nancy, Faggin, etc. (and Bill Sykes, cleverly, referred to but never seen). Actor-turned-writer/director Tierney draws excellent, textured performances from his entire cast (most fine actors anyway), and directs with a sure hand. The movie is good looking (despite supposedly being low budget), with effective set designs and an understated stylishness. And, scene by scene, it's compelling. But the sum isn't quite as strong as the parts, as the story itself seems to run out of steam, being a tad repetitive, where you don't really feel they're building to a climax. And the denouement -- where most everyone ends up dead, degraded, or miserable -- threatens to be a little over-the-top in its desire to be gritty and downbeat. Still, a good -- if seedy -- movie, and an impressive behind-the-scenes debut for Tierney...but a little unsatisfying. Though aren't there smoking bans in most businesses these days? American actor Stahl (who is particularly good) and Tierney are real life friends, and Stahl apparently did the movie for basically nothing (and earned a Best Actor nomination at the Genies). Emily Hampshire appears briefly as the donut shop clerk. Nice, Leonard Cohen-esque music by the likes of Royal City and others. sc./dir: Jacob Tierney (from the, uncredited, novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens). - sexual content.- 97 min. (video)

A TWIST OF FAITH  a.k.a. Beyond Redemption

TWISTS OF TERROR * *  setting: USA.
(1997) Jennifer Rubin, Francoise Robertson, Nick Mancuso, Carl Marotte, Andrew Jackson, Christopher Heyerdahl, Martin Neufeld, Jayne Heitmeyer, Jack Langedijk, Joseph Ziegler.....A paranoid American shut-in (Ziegler) recounts three tales of macabre suspense: a couple (Rubin and Marotte) find themselves sideswiped in the middle of nowhere; a man (Mancuso) becomes suspicious of the staff at a medical clinic; and a lonely, attractive woman (Robertson) agrees to a rendezvous with a man she just met. Made-for-cable-TV suspense anthology is slicker and more professional than a lot of similar Canadian-made flicks, and even manages a few (mild) plot twists...but not enough to entirely freshen the otherwise familiar and straight forward stories. sc: John Shirley. dir: Douglas Jackson. - sexual content, violence, female nudity.- 90 min. (video)
 

TWITCH CITY (TV Series)

(1998-2000)  * 1/2  Don McKellar ("Curtis"), Molly Parker ("Hope"), Daniel MacIvor ("Nathan"), Bruce McCulloch ("Rex Reilly"), with Callum Keith Rennie ("Newbie").....Sitcom about a fellow (McKellar) who never leaves his house -- he takes out the garbage by tossing it through a window -- and his quest for a room mate to pay the rent when his original roomie (MacIvor) gets in trouble with the law. Parker played his girlfriend, who had been his room mate's girl friend; McCulloch the host of a sleazy daytime talk show that "Curtis" was addicted to; and Rennie a grocery store clerk.

Unfunny, ennui inducing sitcom/parody-of-a-sitcom was intended (so McKellar claimed) as a kind of homage-to/satire-of the U.S. sitcom, "Three's Company"...and has the dubious distinction of making that earlier series look the height of wit by comparison. Still, by portraying the life of a couch potato as so unappealing, and unentertaining, the series may have encouraged viewers to turn off the tube and get out more, so maybe it should get credit as a public service spot. Still, it may have improved (slightly) in the second season.

McKellar wrote the scripts, Bruce McDonald directed (both demonstrating a surprising lack of comic timing, considering that's their background), and Canadian-born, Hollywood director Norman Jewison has a cameo during the opening credits. Joyce ("Three's Company") DeWitt appeared in one episode, as herself. In the second season, the series landed American actress Jennifer Jason Leigh as a guest star (not a cameo, but the genuine guest star!) playing a woman, decked out in a CBC T-shirt yet, wanting to do an article on Curtis. Leigh doesn't normally do TV series (she and McKellar had appeared together in Existenz). Despite the critical kudos the series has reaped, in its second season, the CBC aired some of the episodes back-to-back...which could be inferred as a move on the part of programmers to just get it over with (the 7 episode season was over in 4 weeks). 13 half-hour episodes on the CBC.


 

TWO (TV Series)

(1996-1997)  * *  Michael Easton ("Gus McLain/Booth"), Barbara Tyson ("Special Agent Carter"), others.....Suspenser about an American University professor (Easton) framed for the murder of his wife (played by Allison Hossack) by the evil twin brother he never knew he had. While running from the law, seeking to prove his innocence by tracking down his brother, he is pursued by a bitter F.B.I. agent (Tyson).

Talk about deja vu all over again, eh? This TV series bears such a strong resemblance to the '60s U.S. hit "The Fugitive" that it's hard to shake the comparison. Slickly put together, but despite the "twin" angle, it seems too derivative of that earlier classic, while not being enough like it in quality to emerge unscathed by the comparison. And the filmmakers seem unsure of their own premise: the series lacks coherence or believability. What does the hero really think he's doing? How is he going to accomplish it? Etc. American Easton is personable, but a bit one note and not at all convincing as an intellectual. Tyson, on the other hand, is very good (compare this performance to her role in Neon Rider). Easton would later return to Canada to star in the series Total Recall 2070. Created by Charles Grant Craig. One season of hour long episodes, shown in Canada on CTV. 

TWO BROTHERS, A GIRL AND A GUN* 1/2  setting: Alt.
(1993) Shaun Johnston, Kim Hogan, David Everhart, Peter LaCroix, William MacDonald, Colleen Wheeler.....A man on the run (Johnston) with his girlfriend (Hogan) returns to his deserted family farm only to discover his brother (Everhart) is planning on selling it; while there, they face the ghosts of their past. Pretentious muddle might have benefited from a little subtlety in scenes and characterization. Unappealing characters make it impossible to care. The film is subtitled A Modern Canadian Western -- which is maybe supposed to be ironic. sc: Grant Dryden, William E. Hornecker. dir: William E. Hornecker. 93 min.

TWO CAN PLAY see Deux actrices

TWO MEN  * *  setting: Ont.
(1988) John Vernon, Jan Rubes, Martha Gibson, Patricia Collins, Lila Kedrova, Chuck Shamata, Patrusha Sarakula.....Hungarian immigrant (Vernon) recognizes a respected business man (Rubes) as the Nazi who killed his family during W.W. II, only no one is willing to do anything about it. Surprisingly listless handling of a powerful idea, with the characters only sketched. Made-for-CBC TV. Won Geminis for Best Supporting Actor (Rubes) and Supporting Actress (Gibson). sc: Anna Sandor. dir: Gordon Pinsent. 96 min.

TWO OF HEARTS  * *  setting: USA
(1999) (/U.S.) Gail O'Grady, Rob Stewart, Jane McGregor, Myles Ferguson, Corbin Bernsen, Marla Maples, Teryl Rothery, Alan Thicke.....Single American mom (American O'Grady), reluctantly attends her ex-husband's wedding, only to become interested in a charming guy (Stewart)...who turns out to be the ex of her husband's new wife. And she's not sure if the ensuing complications are worth the relationship. Made-for-TV romantic-comedy is generally sweet and likeable, though presented often with the clunkiness of a sitcom. But ultimately, it just seems to go on longer than it maintains interest. But if you're in the mood for romantic comedy, and aren't too demanding... Of course, having the seeming nice guy romantic interest (a sports caster) seem so enthusiastic about sport's violence seems a bit of a contradiction. Still, Stewart is suitably charming, Bernsen fun as the ex-husband, and Thicke a hoot in one scene as a rival sports caster (yeah, the guys seem to score a bit better than the women). sc: Nancy Silvers. dir: F. Harvey Frost. app. 90 min.

TWO OR THREE WORDS * *  setting: Ont.
(1999) Scott McCord, David Sutcliffe, Noam Jenkins, Sarah McDonald, Michael McMurtry, Danielle Brett, Hayley Hofbauer, Tony Curtis Blondell, Marlene Zisman, John Kalangis, Christopher Cummings.....A guy (McCord) gets dumped by his girlfriend, then hangs out with his buddies, trying to figure out what to do. Quirky, funky Generation X comedy has some amusing scenes and boasts an engaging cast (even if the characters are less appealing) but just wanders about aimlessly and, frankly, pointlessly (even throwing in a mid-film sequence involving a darkly comic shooting...that then has no relevance to anything later in the film). One isn't even sure if we're supposed to be empathizing with, or laughing at, these largely shallow, narcissistic characters. Even Sutcliffe, as a more radical character, is more a cynic than an idealist, ranting against everything without actually doing anything productive about his concerns (other than one scene involving parking meters). sc./dir: Evan Georgiades. 78 min.

TWO SECONDS see Deux secondes

TWO SOLITUDES  * * 1/2  setting: P.Q.
(1977) Jean-Pierre Aumont, Stacy Keach, Gloria Carlin, Chris Wiggins, Claude Jutra, Mary Pirie, Raymond Cloutier, Jean-Louis Roux..... Well-meaning Quebecois politician (Aumont) is crushed by the manipulations and bigotry of the French and English in Quebec near the end of W.W. I. Well-played, handsome drama is O.K. but never riveting. More of a story than the allegory the title suggests. sc./dir: Lionel Chetwynd (from the novel by Hugh MacLennan). 117 min.

2001: A Space Travesty* 1/2  setting: USA.
(2001) (/Germany) Leslie Nielsen, Ophelie Winter, Alexandra Kamp, Damian Mason, Peter Egan, Pierre, Ezio Greggio, David Fox, Michele Scarabelli.....Bumbling U.S. government agent (Nielsen) is sent to a moon base, populated by humans and aliens, to investigate a kidnapping and cloning of the U.S. president (Mason, doing a Bill Clinton impression). Given that Canadian-born Nielsen has enjoyed a career renaissance as a slapstick comedian, it's a wonder it took this long for Canadians to try and reappropriate him for something like this spy movie/sci-fi flick parody. And the movie gets "E" for effort in its imitation of "Airplane" and "Naked Gun" style movies, brimming over with sight gags, pratfalls, bad puns, one-liners, movie references, celebrity impersonations, and way too many bodily function jokes for its own good; plus, instead of going the cheap and easy route, this boasts an outrageous premise, decent sets, f/x, and costumes (at least, as much as is needed for a satire). Which makes it almost a criminal shame that it's not funny, with most gags falling flat. Recognizing that comedy needs a brisk tempo, Goldstein seems to over compensate, with scenes that are so hastily cut together, and with the actors sometimes racing over their lines, that it's even hard to follow what's going on. A shame. sc: Alan Shearman. dir: Allan A. Goldstein. 98 min. (video)

TWO THOUSAND AND NONE  * *  setting: CDN
(2000) John Turturro, Oleg Kisseliov, Katherine Borowtiz, Julian Richings, Carl Alacchi, Pascale Devigne, Jayne Heitmeyer, Vanya Rose..... Palaeontologist (American actor Turturro) discovers he has a terminal brain disease and tries to decide what to do with his last weeks of life, while his friends, including his ex-wife (Borowitz), try to support him. Whimsical comedy-drama has some cute scenes, and benefits from likeable characters, but it's kind of amorphous, rambling about without much direction or purpose. It's as if the filmmaker came up with the core idea...then wasn't sure what to do with it. The main character talks a lot about living life, and making the most of the time he has...but doesn't seem to follow his own advice. sc./dir: Arto Paramagian. - sexual content, female nudity.- 94 min.

TWO WOMEN IN GOLD  see Deux femmes en or

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