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.

U-TURN  * * 1/2  setting: CDN.
(1973) David Selby, Maud Adams, Gay Rowan, William Osler, Diane Dewey, Robin Ward.....A man (imported Selby) neglects his girlfriend (Rowan) to try and track down a woman (imported Adams) he briefly met, and became infatuated with, four years before. Light drama (and quasi-detective story) gets by with good performances, ambience and some nicely written vignettes, as long as you can get past the largely inane premise. With Rowan, Osler and Ward, all that's missing from The Starlost is Keir Dullea -- mind you, Rowan never showed any skin in that series. a.k.a. The Girl in Blue. sc: Douglas Bowie (story Bowie and Kaczender). dir: George Kaczender. - partial female and male nudity, sexual content.- 105 min.

ULTIMATE DESIRES a.k.a. Silhouette

Unauthorized Action, Brian Villa's book about the disasterous Dieppe invasion served as the source for the CBC mini-series Dieppe

The Unbelievable Story of Elison Spinrad, Aria Von Sniper and the Puzzle of Easy Enlightenment see Short Films

THE UNCANNY  * setting: P.Q./other/USA.
(1977) (/U.K.) Peter Cushing, Samantha Eggar, Ray Milland, Susan Penhaligon, Donald Pleasance, Alexandra Stewart, John Vernon, Jean LeClerc.....Author (Cushing) relates to his publisher (Milland) three supernatural tales involving house cats. Horror anthology starts out O.K. thanks to Cushing, but deteriorates quickly during the first story and doesn't recover. sc: Michel Parry. dir: Denis Heroux. - extreme violence.- 85 min.

UNCLE VANYA  * *  setting: other
(196_) William Hutt, John Vernon, Rita Gam, Roberta Maxwell, Eric House, Patrick Boxill, Winifred Dennis, Nan Stewart.....Drama about the people on a 19th Century Russian estate who, beneath a facade of glibness, are sad and frustrated and bitter. Black and white staging of the Chekov play for the CBC's Festival anthology is professionally mounted, with respectable performances (Maxwell particularly stands out as Sonia), but is, nonetheless, a bit too obvious and mannered, both in the presentation and, frankly, the script itself. A much more compelling version of the material is the much-later American film, "Vanya on 42 St.". sc: the play by Anton Chekov. dir: David Gardner. 87 min.

THE UNCLES  * * 1/2  setting: Ont.
(2000) Chris Owens, Tara Rosling, Kelly Harms, Dino Tavarone, Nicola Lipman, Veronika Hurnik, Walter Alza, Alan Van Sprang.....An uptight restraunt manager (Owens) tries to look out for his misfit family, including his mentally damaged sister (Rosling), given to trying to steal neighbourhood babies, and his irresponsible brother (Harms); meanwhile he's having an affair with the beautiful wife (Hurnik) of his boss' son, but can't quite decide between her and his job. Vivid serio-comic pic starts out as a kind of inner city melodrama, then shifts gears to a mid-film sequence with a gathering at his boss' country farm that evokes more European satires of mores, then back again. The film has a neo-realist energy that evokes a much missed bygone age of Canadian film (before the more mannered, slow moving, style-heavy Art Films became en vogue). Like a lot of actors-turned-directors, Allodi shows an affinity for actors, more concerned with performance and character than "the Shot", resulting in fine, textured performances from all. Entertaining and interesting, but not entirely satisfying. One understands the themes, and why Allodi makes the narrative decisions he does, but they don't quite come together to form a satisfying resolution. sc./dir: Jim Allodi (a.k.a. James Allodi). - sexual content.- 93 min.

Uncommon Will, a book about the life and death of Sue Rodriguez, written by Rodriguez and Lisa Hobbs Birnie, formed the basis for the TV movie, At the End of the Day.

UNCUT GEM * * 1/2 setting: CDN.
(1990) Sam Behrens, Tracy Cunnigham, Lolita Davidovich, Miguel Fernandes, Andrew Gillies, Chuck Shamata, Philip Akin, Ken Quinn.....A gang of thieves, of different agendas and temperaments -- from a roguish nice guy (American actor Behrens) to a complete psycho (Fernandes) -- rob a jewellery store, and end up kidnapping one of the clerks (Cunningham). Suspense flick, with its low-budget, TV movie look and from a production company called "Lovesong TV" might make you think it's in the line of Harlequin Romance movies...but it's actually a better-than-expected little suspenser, thanks in no small part to generally sharp performances. A bit slow to get going, and the epilogue runs longer than it needs, but not a bad little time killer. Biggest problem, though, is the kidnappee -- surely the "protagonist" -- is actually the least interesting charaacter! It even, sort of, admits it's Canada (at least the currency is Canadian) yet a passing reference to the city's "300th" homicide of the year is actually about 3 or 4 times the annual homicide rate in Toronto! sc: Tony Di Franco, Nancy Merritt Bell (story Anne Marie Aleman, Tony Di Franco, Nancy Merrit Bell). dir: David McInnes Robertson. - violence.- 96 min.

UNDER HEAVY FIRE a.k.a. Going Back

UNDER MY SKIN  * *
(1994) Albert Schultz, Tony Nardi, Bruno Gerrusi, Samantha Follows, Dawn Greenhalgh.....Two-timing soap star (Schultz) is kidnapped by an unstable, homely janitor (Nardi) who intends to kill him as a "symbol". So-so suspenser, which may or may not be intended to be funny, never rises above the expected...nor does it put you on the edge of your seat. The script tries hard to evoke David Mamet, or even Quentin Tarantino, but is never sharp enough, or clever enough, to succeed. Trivia note: Follows and Greenhalgh are daughter and mother in real life, too. sc: Lori Lansens. dir: Milan Cheylov. 82 min.

UNDER THE BRIDGE * 1/2  setting: Ont.
(1998) Scott Sprague, Emily Zimmerman-Huycke, Jamie Racey, Brendan Wall.....Young man (Sprague) lives with his possessive, disturbed sister (Zimmerman-Huycke), and has conversations with a mysterious man (Wall) who lives under a bridge, encouraging him to get rid of his sister...then he starts to fall for a woman recently moved to the area (Racey). Odd, minimalist little suspense-thriller is the sort of thing where, if it was a student film, you'd probably say it shows promise. Unfortunately, it's not supposed to be a student film, but that's the calibre of much of the acting, writing, and direction. Some twists towards the end, but even then, the kind that more just make you go "huh?" rather than are satisfying. Some of the people involved demonstrate enough potential that maybe they'll go on to better things. But this isn't it. sc./dir: James Naylor. - extreme violence.- 79 min.

UNDER THE COVER COPS *  setting: P.Q.
(1980) Harry Reems, Nicole Morin, Geoffrey Bowes, Daniel Pilon, Paul Berval, Greg Swanson, Fiona Reid, Gilles Latulippe.....A less-than-ethical vice squad discovers it has a trouble when the new c.o. (Reems) is a puritanical zealot. Sex farce isn't a porno film, despite the presence of one-time U.S. porn actor Reems, but, then, it's not much of a comedy either. Badly lit, too. sc: Claude Fournier, Marie Jose Raymond (from an idea by John Dunning and Andre Link). dir: Claude Fournier. - partial female nudity, sexual content.- 97 min.

Under the Dragon's Tail see Det. Murdoch Mysteries.

UNDER THE DRAGON'S TAIL * * 1/2  setting: Ont.
(2005) Peter Outerbridge, Flora Montgomery, James Allodi, Helene Joy, Kenneth Welsh, Christopher Jacot, Matthew MacFadzean, Marc Strange, Tammy Isbell.....Victorian detective Murdoch (Outerbridge) investigates the murder of an illegal abortionist. Third made-for-TV Det. Murdoch Mystery is, perhaps, one of the better ones but, like the others, competently put together but a bit plodding -- Murdoch just isn't that interesting a character and the mystery not especially curious or intriguing. Allodi is effective as a more secular coroner and the movie might have benefited from treating it more as a "buddy" movie (ala Holmes and Watson) -- instead, Allodi only appears in a few sscenes. Joy is also good as an aristocratic suspect. Made without a U.K. co-producer, and absent after the first two movies are Kelley Hawes (as the lady coroner and initial love interest!) and Colm Meaney (as the hero's boss). A TV series is supposed to follow. sc: Janet MacLean (from the novel by Maureen Jennings). dir: John L'Ecuyer. - violence.- app. 90 min.

UNDER THE PIANO * * 1/2
(1996) Amanda Plummer, Megan Follows, Teresa Stratas, John Juliani, James Carroll, Jackie Richardson, Dan Lett, Ashley Taylor, Holly Clayton.....Story of a headstrong woman (Plummer) trying to look out for and encourage her autistic sister (Follows) while meeting resistance at every turn from her emotionally reserved music teacher mother (opera singer Stratas). Moody period drama is interesting though a little choppy, with too many of the scenes playing like quick vignettes rather than pieces of a whole. Comparisons to the U.S. film "Rain Man", though not entirely fair, nonetheless leave this CBC TV movie looking a little too straight forward...and simple. Loosely inspired by a true story. Received Geminis for Best Supporting Actress (Stratas), Costume and Sound. sc: Blair Ferguson. dir: Stefan Scaini. 91 min.

Underground to Canada, a children's book by Barbara Smucker, served as the (vague) inspiration for the CTV TV movie Race to Freedom

UNDERSTANDING BLISS setting: Nfld.
(1990) Catherine Grant, Bryon Hennessey, Rosemary House, William D. MacGillivray Sr., Rick Mercer.....Literary scholar (Grant) arrives in St. John's to hook up with her married lover (Hennessey). The thin plot in this low-budget drama is just an excuse for what seems an ode to the oral tradition of storytelling. If so, the makers have sabotaged their own purpose. Decently acted, but as a drama it's incredibly boring and as an advocate...well, you're better off with the real thing (or the cinematic equivalent, rather) like any of a number of documentaries or the U.S. films with Spalding Gray. Filmed on video. sc: Kathryn Cochran, William D. MacGillivray. dir: William D. MacGillivray. - partial female nudity, sexual content.- 80 min.

THE UNDERTAKER'S WEDDING * 1/2
(1998) Adrien Brody, Jeff Wincott, Kari Wuhrer, Holly Gagnier, Nicholas Pasco, Burt Young.....An undertaker (Brody) is coerced by a local mob family to help fake the death of one of their own (Wincott), and he's got to baby-sit the mobster until arrangements are made to get him out of the country. Cute concept in this comedy, and American actor Brody is personable, and there are scenes that are kind of amusing. But the bottom line is, it's a comedy, which means you're supposed to be laughing...and you don't. Thin on plot turns, gags, and energy. sc./dir: John Bradshaw. - violence, sexual content, brief female nnudity.- 85 min.

UNFAITHFUL MORNINGS see Les matins infideles

UNFINISHED BUSINESS  * *  setting: Ont.
(1984) Isabelle Mejias, Peter Spence, Peter Kastner, Julie Biggs, Leslie Toth, Chuck Shamata.....Teen (Mejias), rejecting her parents (Kastner and Biggs) conformist lifestyle, becomes involved with radical anti-nuclear protesters. O.K. as a teen drama, but hampered by so-so performances, a seeming lack of authenticity and an intrusive pop score (including appearances by The Parachute Club and Alta Moda). This sequel to the classic Nobody Waved Goodbye lacks the raw vitality of its predecessor. sc./dir: Don Owen. 99 min.

"Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love", Brad Fraser's popular and controversial play became a movie (scripted by him) with the truncated title of Love and Human Remains

UNIVERSAL SOLDIER II: Brothers in Arms  * * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1998) Matt Battaglia, Chandra West, Gary Busey, Jeff Wincott, Michael Copeman, Richard McMillan, Julian Richings, James Kee.....A super soldier created by resurrecting a dead G.I. (Battaglia), accompanied by a lady reporter (West), are hunted by the remnants of the rogue military project that created him, leading to various captures and escapes...and the discovery that his older brother (Wincott) was part of the same project, years earlier. Despite a different cast, this is a direct sequel to the U.S. movie "Universal Soldier" (which starred Jean-Claude Van Damme in Battaglia's role) and sets up story threads that continue into the next movie. As such, it can feel a little like you've missed the first chapter of a movie serial...though you can pick up most of the pertinent facts as you go (I had seen the original...but have almost no memory of it). For what it is, a low-budget quickie meant to cash in on an earlier U.S. film that wasn't so great to begin with, it's not too bad. Begins and ends with the typical gratuitous brutality, but in between the writer and director actually try to throw in some quirkiness, a hint of character stuff, some fresh ideas (like the brother), plus running about and action that doesn't seem too monotonous. Battaglia, playing a robotic hero, is hard to gauge as an actor, but the rest of the cast is decent enough (including bit parts filled out by Von Flores, Barbara Gordon, and American movie star Burt Reynolds). Yeah, it's a B movie...but, on that level, it's kind of a B+ movie. Followed by Part III (made simultaneously). sc: Peter M. Lenkov. dir: Jeff Woolnough. - extreme violence, casual male nudity.- 93 min.

UNIVERSAL SOLDIER III: Unfinished Business * 1/2 setting: USA/CDN.
(1998) Matt Battaglia, Chandra West, Burt Reynolds, Richard McMillan, Claudette Roche, James Kee, Jeff Wincott, Juan Chioran, Thomas Hauff.....Zombiefied soldier and lady reporter (Battaglia and West) continue being hunted by the rogue military group from which he escaped, while also seeking to expose it. Although containing aspects of its own plot, this is definitely a continuation of the second movie (complete with a re-cap at the beginning of what's gone before) and is liable to be a tad confusing if you haven't seen part II. Like that previous outing, for a B-movie it boasts some nice attempts at decent scenes, with O.K. dialogue, humour, and capable performances (so much so that when actors like Chioran -- playing West's reporter ex-beau -- are killed off quickly, you can be disappointed, having hoped they'd be around longer). But here the plot itself seems just too much like you're watching three or four episodes of a TV series edited together, with a plot that kind of meanders about, and "action" scenes that aren't very exciting: lots of machine gun fire and slow-motion, as if the director is more interested in violence for its own sake, rather than as an aspect of the story. Disappointing precisely because some of it's not bad at all. Subsequently there was a fourth movie, "Universal Soldier: The Return", made without Canadian participation and which ignored these films, being its own direct sequel to the first film, with Jean-Claude Van Damme reassuming the lead role. sc: Peter M. Lenkov. dir: Jeff Woolnough. - violence.- 94 min. (92, minus the re-cap of Universal Soldier II)

UPS AND DOWNS  * * *
(1981) Andrew Sabiston, Gavin Brannan, Leslie Hope, Eric Angus, Margot Nesbitt, Alison Kemble, Santiago Garcia de Leaniz, Bobbi Permanent, Sandy Gauthier, Steve Wright, Colin Skinner.....Appropriately titled story about life at an upscale co-ed boarding school, following the ups and downs of the teenage characters' lives. Energetic, enjoyable comedy-drama manages to interweave enough characters and interesting plot threads to keep things lively, and benefits from a kind of raw, vivid, almost British-ambience. Though for a boarding school the characters seem to spend little time in class. The large cast of actors is personable, if a little unpolished, which makes it a shame few went on to anything more. Two exceptions are Sabiston, who shortly after this starred in the CBC family series The Edison Twins. And Hope, who actually isn't that great here in her film debut (granted, she's stuck playing the least fleshed-out role as the cliched stuck up b***h), but she would go on to prove herself to be a talented actress and land a number of leading roles in the future. a.k.a. Prep School. sc: Lewis Evans, Paul Amond. dir: Paul Almond. 97 min.
 

URBAN ANGEL (TV Series)

(1992)  * * 1/2  Justin Louis ("Victor Torres"), Paula de Vasconcelos ("Christina") (1st), Vittorio Rossi ("Mino Morrone"), Vlasta Vrana ("Sgt. Drabek"), Dorothee Berryman ("Francine"), Jack Langedijk ("Bob"), Arthur Grosser ("Roch"), Daniel Pilon ("Moorcroft"), with Ellen Cohen, Michael Rudder, others.....Action/drama about a Montreal crime beat reporter (Louis) -- loosely based on Victor Malarek (who was portrayed in the film Malarek) -- whose delinquent background both helpedd and hindered him in his investigations. Attractive De Vasconcelos played his girlfriend. Actor/playwright Rossi was retained from the movie Malarek and played his best friend, a fence he'd taken the fall for...and the scenes between them were often the highlight of the show. Grosser was the cynical older reporter; Langedijk the by-the-book editor; Berryman the pragmatic managing editor; and Vrana the cop who had busted him during his criminal days. Pilon played the publisher (he, too, had appeared in the movie, but in a different role) and the other actors were various people at the paper.

Despite the pretentious title and some gritty realism, this TV series was no Wojeck, choosing to deal with issues simply, safely, and superficially. Even so, the first season (of six episodes) was promising, with a strong regular cast playing complex and interesting characters. But the second batch of episodes (aired later the same year) saw the series lose what little uniqueness it had -- the vivid, multi-ethnicity of the cast was downplayed (gone were scenes of Louis and de Vasconcelos speaking Portuguese), de Vasconcelos was written out, the remaining regulars became cardboard caricatures, the scripts became even more inane and irresponsible, and even the opening shot of the Montreal cross was removed from the credits! -- all coinciding with the series being sold to the U.S. and CBS's Crimetime After Primetime. A shame. 15 hour long episodes (including 2 two-parters) originally on the CBC.

US TWO  see A nous deux

UTILITIES  * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1983) Robert Hays, Brooke Adams, John Marley, James Blendick, Helen Burns, Benjamin Gordon, Jan Rubes.....American social worker (American Hays) romances a cop (American Adams) while, at the same time, leads an "everyman" crusade against the power and phone companies. Comedy isn't particularly good or original. sc: Carl Greenwalt, M. James Kouf Jr. dir: Harvey Hart. 91 min.

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