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.

THE VACANT LOT  * 1/2  setting: N.S.
(1989) Trudi Petersen, Grant Fullerton, Barbara Nicholson, Caitlyn Colquhoun, Rick Mercer.....Story of a teen (Petersen) in an aspiring all-girl punk/new age rock group, and her relationship with an older musician (Fullerton). Weak, amateurish performances in this low-budget drama. Lifeless, with a script -- padded with long pauses -- that's just the bare bones of a story. The title is the band's name, but it isn't explained in the movie! MacGillivray wrote some of the songs. sc./dir: William D. MacGillivray.

Les vaisseaux de coeur, a novel by Benoit Grault, became the movie Salt on Our Skin

VALERIE  * 1/2 setting: P.Q.
(1968) Danielle Ouimet, Guy Godin, Andree Flamand, Kim Wilcox, Claude Prefontaine, Henri Norbert, Hugo Gelinas.....Young woman (Ouimet) runs away from her Catholic school, becomes a go-go dancer and a prostitute, then meets a nice guy but can't decide whether to tell him about how she earns her living. This cinematic milestone ushered in a mini-wave of soft-porn Quebecois films (dubbed Maple Syrup Porno) becoming a commercial hit and helping to pave the way for a more mainstream French-Canadian film industry. Unfortunately, its main interest now is purely historical. Extremely mild by todays standards, mainly just a lot of toplessness (and not all that sexy even on that level) with a story and characters that just aren't interesting if taken simply as a drama. Nice music by Michel Page and Joe Gracy, though. sc: Julien Parnelle, Denis Heroux, dialogue. Louis Gauthier. dir: Denis Heroux. - partial female nudity, sexual content.- 96 min.

VALMONT (Webisodes)

(2009) (/U.S.)  * * 1/2   Kristen Hager, Dillon Casey, Nikki Blonsky, Eric Balfour, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Tyler Hynes, Zachary Bennett, with Rob Stewart, others.....Supernatural-suspense most notable for the off-beat format -- instead of hour or half-hour episodes, the episodes tended to only be between two and four minutes long, initially aired in place of commercial breaks -- then the later episodes shown exclusively on the internet. When her brother dies under mysterious circumstances, a young woman (Hager) goes undercover at the university he attended to investigate...a university where strange things occur and she learns many of the students are actually vampires.

Despite a decent, mainly Canadian cast (save Balfour as the bro, and Blonsky as her humorous new best friend -- uh, I don't mean they aren't decent, merely that they aren't Canadian) the result isn't terrible, but not really great either. The makers haven't really found a way to make the minutes-long chapters a necessary part of the storytelling -- that is, it just feels like a regular old teen vampire drama (Vampire Diaries, Twilight, etc.) except where the sequences are broken up into smaller parcels. As such it just feels a bit like a standard TV series...except with less room to develop the plot, themes and characters. The series did build to a climax, but a slightly unsatisfying one, presumably to leave the door open for future seasons. Still, it's not like the running time is taxing, so maybe worth a look (the whole amounting to the length of a single movie). Each instalment would usually begin with a message on the dead brother's cell phone, sometimes a video message left by the brother (providing a clue) or a current text from another charccter -- and presumably indicated a product placement deal with a cellular phone company! 35 mini-episodes.  

(1992) .....Documentary examining Canada's efforts during World War II. Like with Terrence and Brian McKenna's earlier The Killing Ground, it mixed a voice over narration with actors, appearing in costume on camera, reading first person accounts from letters and diaries, as well as contemporary interviews and archival footage. Interesting, but a bit dry and repetitious.
        Probably the most controversial documentary series ever produced in Canada -- certainly in English. The firestorm (if you'll excuse the term) erupted mainly over the episode about allied air bombing of German cities, in which the McKenna's claimed that the carpet bombing of German cities was to destroy and demoralize the civilian population, rather than truly aimed at military targets. The furore created by outraged veterans groups led even to a House of Commons inquiry into the accuracy of the mini-series. But some of the attacks, frankly, seemed spurious and petty given that the issue was whether they were correct in reporting the historical events and political motives (some of the more frivolous accusations included denouncing the films because an actor in period costume may've been wearing the wrong watch, or another's haircut wasn't quite right). In the third episode, an incident suggesting German POWs may've been killed by Canadian troops, also raised some ire. Interestingly enough, the first episode, depicting the fall of Hong Kong to the Japanese, aroused controversy for its claim that ill-prepared Canadian troops were knowingly sent to the slaughter....but no one seemed to object to the curious artistic choice that when Japanese figures were depicted, they addressed the camera in Japanese, with English sub-titles, yet when German (and French-Canadian) characters spoke, it was in lightly accented English. Why the discrepancy? Particularly as (so I'm told by a graduate of film studies), the use of sub-titles can be viewed as an attempt to distance the viewer from, and ultimately, dehumanize the speaker. I mean, why portray the different peoples differently (O.K., maybe the filmmakers just lucked into finding some Japanese fluent actors, but couldn't dredge up any German speaking ones)? Still, it's curious that in the fuss and outrage, all those righteous pundits never questioned that at all.
       Ironically, the film was criticized for demonizing British Air Marshall "Bomber" Harris as a blood thirsty fellow in love with the idea of bombing...while in the later, fictionalized drama, Dieppe, Harris is also pilloried...this time, for his reluctance to order a bombing!
       Anyway, the McKenna brothers clearly set out to take a hard, unflattering look at warfare and the government's actions during same, and despite the outrage and public inquiries, little was produced to suggest any wholesale fabrications. Incendiary interpretations? Perhaps. Hypotheses derived from flimsy evidence? Maybe. But that's not the same as saying they lied or made things up. Still, in the name of fair discourse, it should be mentioned that a book attacking the series was published called The Valour and the Horror Revisited (by David J. Bercuson and S.F. Wise) -- and the series and the contrary book would, presumably, make interesting companion pieces, and allow the viewer/reader to decide where, in the middle, the truth lies. 6 hours.


(2016-) (/U.S.)  * * 1/2   Kelly Overton ("Vanessa"), Jonathan Scarfe ("Axel Miller"), Trezzo Mahoro ("Mohamed"), Christopher Heyerdahl ("Sam"), Vincent Gale ("Flesh"), Paul Johansson ("Dimitri"), Aleks Paunovic ("Julius"), Laura Mennell ("Rebecca"), Rukiya Bernard "Doc"), others.....Sci-fi/horror about a post-apocalyptic world where vampires have overrun civilization (after unprecedented volcanic eruptions create a semi-permanent cloud cover) and human survivors are left to wander the countryside and bombed out cities (save those kept in servitude to the vampire clans). The hook is that "Vanessa," though with spotty memories of her own past (and trying to find her daughter) has mysterious abilities -- including that her bite actually turns vampires back into normal humans (making her an existential threat to the vampires). Overton is American, most of the other actors are Canadian, though playing Americans and with the series set in the States. It's billed as being based on an American comic book -- but the connection in terms of characters/premise seems a bit vague (the comic isn't even set in a post-apocalyptic reality).

This series is basically a kind of middle-brow version of the popular U.S. series, "The Walking Dead," only with vampires substituted for cannibalistic zombies. Although some of the vampires are traditional talking vampires, allowing for machinations among the villains, others are mindless zombie-like "ferals" -- in that sense making it also akin to the earlier U.S. series "Dominion" (in which evil Angels have overrun a post-apocalyptic earth and include both talking, strategizing Angels...and feral zombie-like Angels). And the reason I say it's "middle brow" is because the series doesn't go for the outright Drive-In movie cheesiness you might expect, but instead takes itself seriously and plays up the angst and grittiness reminiscent of "The Walking Dead" (including employing a high cast turnover and the occasional use of character-exploring flashbacks) without playing on the same level as "The Walking Dead." The actors are solid, the production values good, but the characters are a bit broader, the moral debates clumsily handled at times, without really offering a fresh perspective on the post-apocalyptic/survivalist genre (including recycling common pro-authoritatrian undercurrents). The recurring vampire villains are a bit bland (not necessarily a fault of the actors, just the generic way the roles have been conceived) and the series' core gimmick raises ethical problems (namely: if "Vanessa" can reverse the vampirism, every time she chooses to simply stab one is her deciding to kill rather than cure). Though, equally, it's maybe a little faster-paced, with a slightly higher action-to-talk ratio than "The Walking Dead." Which might be its own recommendation (hence my "middle brow" label: not too dumb, not too smart). Though there is a tendency to revel in the nastiness and brutality (the vampires, for the most part, are just sadistic villains, so the scenes with them are written as such). Also it's worth reiterating my usual beef: a Canadian series that is almost jingoistically American (and is there a subtext to the fact that villains often have accents?) Hour-long episodes.  

VANDERBERG (TVMS)  * *  setting: CDN/other
(1983) Michael Hogan, Allan Royal, Jan Rubes, Jennifer Dale, Susan Hogan, Yvan Ponton, Barry Flatman, Stephen Markle.....Story of a go-get-'em Alberta business tycoon (M. Hogan) and his attempts to ship natural gas to Europe, including run-ins with rival companies, government red tape, and the strain it puts on his family. CBC drama suffers from largely uninteresting, bordering on unlikeable, characters pursuing a goal that fails to become more than what it is: a simple business venture. You might get by with one, but not both. As storytelling, it would make a fine business article. Six hours. sc: Rob Forsyth. dir: Peter Rowe. - casual male nudity.-

VARIAN'S WAR  * * *  setting: other/USA.
(2000) (/U.S./U.K.) William Hurt, Julia Ormond, Matt Craven, Maury Chaykin, Lynn Redgrave, Alan Arkin, Remy Girard, Christopher Heyerdahl, Gloria Carlin, Joel Miller, Vlasta Vrana, John Dunn-Hill, Ted Whittall, Dorothee Berryman.....True story of Varian Fry (Hurt), an unlikely American who helped persecuted Jews escape from Vichy France during World War II. Respectable made-for-TV historical drama starts out a bit weak, suffering from a kind of low-budget look and clunky direction, but picks up as it goes along, though maybe is a tad overlong. Benefits from attention to some of the minutia and the detail, and confronting the notion of American indifference to the plight of the Jews, without quite being especially suspenseful or providing much fleshing out of the characters. And, admittedly, this kind of story has become familiar ground for filmmakers (conversely, the Holocaust is sufficiently relevant that there can't, maybe, be too many movies drawing attention to the subject). Though the movie must face a problematic concept. The lynch pin of Nazi philosophy was the nutty idea of the super man, the master race, and yet Fry's mandate -- to rescue significant artists and intellectuals -- was all about deciding that some people were more "worthy" of rescuing than others. Prominently billed Chaykin has just one scene; Pascale Montpetit, arguably one of the finest actresses of her generation, has a tiny, unspeaking part (!) as the wife of Girard (playing a French soldier). Barbara Streisand was one of the executive producers. sc./dir: Lionel Chetwynd. 120 min.

VARIOUS POSITIONS  * * 1/2  setting: CDN.
(2004) Tygh Runyan, Carly Pope, L. Harvey Gold, Marie Stillin, Michael Suchanek, Terry Chen.....University student (Runyan) falls for a troubled fellow student (Pope), but the relationship creates conflict with his Orthodox Jewish family. Drama (with some quirky humour) is atmospheric and well-acted (particularly Runyan, whose acting style usually sees him playing quirky supporting parts), and, despite the familiarity of the material, manages to inject some freshness into the subject matter. At the same time, for all that first time writer/director Kowarsky manages to invest a real, lush style into things, other times, he seems to have trouble bringing out crucial elements, resulting in some overly oblique sequences, and a disjointedness. And, at the end of the day, for all the occasional freshness, it's still not that fresh. sc./dir: Ori Kowarsky. - sexual content; partial female nudity.- 81 min.

Vengeance, the novel by George Jonas, became the CTV mini-series The Sword of Gideon (and was later turned into the big-budget Hollywood movie, "Munich")

VENGEANCE IS MINE a.k.a. Sunday in the Country

LE VENT DU WYOMING * *  setting: P.Q.
(1994) (/France) Francois Cluzet, Sarah-Jeanne Salvy, France Castel, Michel Cote, Marc Messier, Celine Bonnier, Leo Munger, Donald Pilon, Marcel Sabourin.....Convoluted tale of various relationships and machinations that evolve after a girl's (Salvy) boxer boyfriend takes up with her mother (Castel). Surrealistic comedy-drama is arguably Forcier's strangest to date, but surrealism is very much a subjective taste. In this instance, the characters and their motivations seem so disconnected from reality, and Forcier seems to have such contempt for his own characters, that it's impossible to get involved. English title: A Wind From Wyoming. sc: Andre Forcier with Jacques Marotte, Patrice Arbour. dir: Andre Forcier. - female and male nudity, explicit sexual content.- 100 min.

VERDICT IN BLOOD* * 1/2  setting: Ont.
(2002) Wendy Crewson, Shawn Doyle, Robert Davi, Kristin Lehman, Reagan Pasternak, Sally Kellerman, Ken James.....Reporter/amateur detective Joanne Kilbourn (Crewson) investigates when a retiring judge (Kellerman) is murdered. Sixth made-for-TV Kilbourn mystery is a decent enough flick, reasonably well- paced and nicely acted, if not exactly surprising. A better than average entry in the series. sc: Andrew Wreggitt, Jeremy Hole, Janet MacLean (from the novel by Gail Bowen). dir: Stephen Williams. 90 min. p>"Veterans", a short story by Rachel Ingalls, became the movie Oliver Sherman

Les Veufs, a novel by Boileau-Narcejac, became the movie Entangled

LA VEUVE DE SAINT-PIERRE  * * * 1/2  setting: other
(2001) (/France) Juliette Binoche, Daniel Auteuil, Emir Kusturica, Michel Duchaussoy, Christian Charmetant, Philippe Magnan, Philippe De Janerand.....In the 1800s, on the North American French island of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, a murderer (Kustruica) is sentenced to death, but as the island must wait months for the delivery of a guillotine, the wife (Binoche) of the captain of the military/police (Autueil), takes the convict under her wing, attempting to rehabilitate him in the eyes of the locals...creating consternation for the authorities as he becomes revered and respected. Handsome, moody drama starts out a little too "Art House" (little dialogue, lots of oblique expressions) but begins to weave a compelling tale of dignity and integrity, where, as the story progresses, the focus seems less on Kustruica, or even Binoche, and more on the choices Auteuil's character must face. Told with a controlled restraint that, instead of muting the emotion, serves to accentuate it beneath the surface. Well acted, particularly Binoche and Autueil. Inspired by a real incident. English title: The Widow of Saint Pierre. sc: Claude Faraldo, adaptation Patrice Leconte. dir: Patrice Leconte. - sexual content, violence.- 110 min.

VICTIM OF BEAUTY a.k.a. Drop Dead Gorgeous

VICTOR: The Victor Davis Story  * * * setting: CDN./USA.
(2008) Mark Lutz, Ron Lea, Peter MacNeill, Polly Shannon, Sasha Roiz, Chris Owens, Adam MacDonald, Christian Laurin.....Bittersweet saga of Canadian Olympic swimmer Victor Davis (Lutz), his triumphs (including record breaking wins), health obstacles, and untimely death. Made-for-CBC movie is well put together, with Lutz doing good wearing two hats as star and writer, and with good performances from all. The scenes are effective (even occasionally powerful) and the movie wants us to like Davis without canonizing him (even implying, without quite saying so, that he might have had ADD). The jumbled chronology trick keeps the energy up and gives the story a bit of a stylistic edginess, but as often is the case with that technique -- and no disrespect to the real lives being dramatized -- it can also be seen as a paint job to cover over the fact that, as a linear story, there isn't too much here that hasn't been seen in any of a zillion other sports bio pics, more a collection of incidents and anecdotes than a plot. With that said: as far as familiar sports bio pics go, it's pretty good. sc: Mark Lutz. dir: Jerry Ciccoritti. app. 90 min.

VICTORY a.k.a. This Time Forever

VIDEODROME  * 1/2  setting: Ont.
(1982) James Woods, Sonja Smits, Deborah Harry, Jack Creley, Peter Dvorsky, Les Carlson, Lynne Gorman, Julie Khaner.....The head of a small cable-TV station (Woods) starts suffering from hallucinations after becoming fascinated by bootlegged copies of a show featuring nothing but torture and murder, which leads him to discover a conspiracy. SF thriller has some O.K. (if obvious) ideas, but is really slow and thin on story. Gets slower, grosser (in Cronenberg's usual outlandish way) and sillier as it goes along. Well acted, though, and Creley is particularly memorable as a media guru. Cronenberg won a Best Director Genie. sc./dir: David Cronenberg. - extreme violence, sexual content, partial female nudity.- 88 min.

LA VIE APRES L'AMOUR  * *  setting: P.Q.
(2000) Michel Cote, Sylvie Leonard, Norman Helms, Yves Jacques, Patrick Huard, Denis Mercier, Guylaine Tremblay, Pierre-Luc Brillant, Dominique Levesque.....Ultra-happily married man (Cote) starts to unravel when his wife abruptly leaves him and he just can't move on. Frustrating comedy has a good cast overall, with particularly funny performances from Cote and Jacques as his eccentric psychiatrist, and is frequently funny in its mix of slapstick, black humour, whimsy and wit...but it's in the overall narrative/plot that it's weak. There just isn't enough of a story here, seeming too much like a collection of thematically related vignettes than an actual story (and sometimes repetitively so: like two scenes of the dentist hero freaking out while with a patient!) -- and without enough underneath to involve us emotionally. Tune into (almost) any random scene and odds are you'll chuckle if not out right guffaw. But as a whole, it starts to sag. English title: Life After Love. sc: Ken Scott. dir: Gabriel Pelletier. 104 min.

LA VIE D'UN HEROS * *  setting: P.Q.
(1994) Gilbert Sicotte, Veronique La Flaguais, Marie Cantin, Marie Eve Champagne, Christopher B. Maccabe, Erwin Potitt.....Story of an ingratiating German P.O.W. (Maccabe) assigned to work on a Canadian family's farm during W.W. II, told in flashbacks while the family prepares for a reunion with him. Energetic drama is hurt more than helped by its jumbled chronology, mixed perspective, and other narrative tricks that just makes much of it confusing. Starts to work in the middle before lagging near the end. Not terrible, and a nice use of obscure Canadian history (P.O.W.s used as labourers), but too uneven. English title: A Hero's Life. sc./dir: Micheline Lanctot. - extreme violence (newsreel footage of German concentration camps), casual male nudity.- 103 min.

LA VIE FANTOME  * *  setting: P.Q./USA.
(1992) Ron Lea, Pascale Bussieres, Johanne Marie Tremblay, Elise Guilbault, Rita Lafontaine, Gabriel Gascon.....Happily married professor and family man (Lea) carries on a parallel liason with a young woman (Bussieres). Pointless drama seems to exist only to say bigamy is O.K. -- or to provide an excuse for Bussieres' nude scenes. Regardless, it's good looking and well acted, but like too many Canadian movies -- and I know I sound like a broken record -- the characters' motivation remain incomprehensible and the story is way too thin. In French with a smattering of English. English title: Phantom Life. sc: Jacques Leduc, Yvon Rivard (from the novel by Daniele Sallenave). dir: Jacques Leduc. - sexual content, partial female nudity, brief male nudity.- 98 min.

(1965) Guy L'Ecuyer, Paul Hebert, Suzanne Valery, Monique Joly, voice of Albert Millaire.....On Christmas Eve a snowplow driver (L'Ecuyer) and his supervisor (Hebert) drive about, doing errands, goofing off...everything except plow snow. Famous black & white comedy seems awfully slight in retrospect. Largely harmless, but not really enough of anything to make much of an impression. English title: The Merry World of Leoplod Z. sc./dir: Gilles Carles. 68 min.

View From a Portrait  *
(198-) Mary Ann McDonald, Jackie Burroughs.....A woman's sentient photograph watches and comments on her gradual emotional deterioration. Ineffective hour-long drama. - female nudity.-

VIEW OF TERROR  * * *  setting: USA.
(2003) (/U.S.) Shannen Doherty, Michel Francoeur, Jayne Heitmeyer, Sean Tucker, Charles Powell, Benz Antoine, Tony Calabretta, Vittorio Rossi.....American woman (American actress Doherty) moves into a new apartment...and finds herself receiving harassing phone calls from a voyeuristic stalker presumably living in the apartment building across the street. Formulaic, straight-to-video "TV actress plays woman being stalked" thriller...that actually turns out to be better than average; generating some genuine tension while being told with reasonable restraint. And just when you think you know who the villain have to guess again. It even seems almost sincere in scenes trying to portray the heroine's sense of victimization. sc: Gregory Goodell (story Robert Janes, Gregory Goodell). dir: Louis Belanger. - partial female nudity, sexual content.- 93 min.

(2013-) (/U.K./U.S.)  * * 1/2   (2013-) (/Irish/USA) Travis Fimmel ("Ragnar Lothbrok"), Katheryn Winnick ("Lagertha"), Clive Standen ("Rollo"), George Blagden ("Athelstan"), Jessalyn Gilsig ("Siggy"), Alyssa Sutherland ("Aslaug"), Gabriel Byrne ("Earl Haraldson") (1st), Gustaf Skarsgård ("Floki"), Nathan O'Toole ("Bjorn-boy") (1st), Alexander Ludwig ("Bjorn-teen") (2nd-), Donal Logue ("King Horik"), others.....Historical drama about early Vikings, focusing on a head strong warrior (Fimmel), who persuades his fellows there is looting to be had in the previously unsuspected west (ie: England), and (initially) his conflicts with the tyrannical chief (Byrne) who sees "Ragnar"'s growing popularity as a threat to his power ("Ragnar" becomes chief during the first season). Winnick plays "Ragnar"'s wife; Standen his uncertain brother; and Blagden an English monk he has captured as a slave. This is the third series U.K. filmmaker Michael Hirst has made with Canadian co-producers (after The Tudors and Camelot) and of the three shows this boasts the highest billing for a Canadian actor -- with Winnick second billed! Gilsig and Logue are also Canadian. The cast is certainly capable, with Australian actor Fimmel inparticular bringing an effectively wild eyed, slightly off-kilter feral-ness to his role (he previously starred as Tarzan in a short-lived TV series) -- ironically his casting was, according to reports, a last minute decision. Though this is fictionalized, and historians have complained about inaccuracies and blurring of time periods, Ragnar Lothbrok was a real figure (though even then, I believe historians argue where myth and fact overlap).

This original drama proved a surprise ratings hit for The History Channel (so did a series based on The Bible, the two shows airing back-to-back, ironic given they presented rather significantly different moral visions). Created and mainly written by The Tudors' Michael Hirst, Vikings reflects the problems with historical dramas that attempt to be true to their eras (as opposed to having a hero who, anachronistically, expounds 21st Century values). Namely, the audience is expected to root for and admire guys who are murderers and pillagers! Perhaps the problem is that instead of coming across as simply a swashbuckling romp of all-in-fun kill-or-be-killed heroics where we ignore the moral implications, in presentation it comes across as very sober and serious, the actors often murmuring their lines (almost like a Scandinavian Art House film) and some of the fans clearly took to heart the series' ethics. Others likened it to a non-fantasy, less R-rated version of "Game of Thrones"...except while GOT boasted a huge cast caught up in plots and counterplots and complex allegiances (where the viewer could sympathize with characters on all sides), Vikings in contrast features a rather small cast, with rather simple dilemmas, and characters with as much depth as a Ritz cracker -- and a lot of inconsistency, as if Hirst is rewriting them as he goes! Hirst tends to write scenes because he thinks they'd be neat, or to illustrate a historical point, not always because they make sense or follow logically from each other (consider the sub-plot in a season one episode involving a boy Byrne takes as a hostage), and with a certain predictability. And though the series benefits from majestic scenery, even in visuals it's rather drab and deliberately contrast to The Tudors and "Game of Thrones" which tended to boast colourful visuals! I grew up reading Conan, and Viking novels like Eric Brighteyes, yet I'll admit there's just something a little disturbing about Vikings. Still, as often occurs, the series got better as it went, the second season a (little bit) faster-paced and more exciting and, as mentioned, the series has a passionate fandom. But ignoring ethics, though handsomely assembled, great reviews and ratings aside, it's rather slow for an adventure and a bit dull as a drama. The series is violent (not "Game of Thrones"/"Spartacus" violent necessarily, but violent) and the European version of the series included -- occasional -- nudity, but those scenes seemed to be cut even in the Canadian airings (Canadian TV having loser standards than American, often the Canadian prints will more resemble the European ones). Created by Michael Hirst. Hour long episodes, shown in Canada on The History Channel. - violence.-

(1985) Teri Austin, David McIlwraith, Richard Cox, Pam Grier, Maury Chaykin, Lynda Mason Green, Denis Simpson, Stephen Mendel, Larry Aubrey, Micki Moore, Catherine Disher.....A scientist (McIlwraith), badly injured in a rigged "accident" and reported dead, is turned into a lethal cyborg in a sinister experiment; he escapes, with only his wife (Austin) to turn to. Sci-fi thriller (with quasi-superhero elements) is sufficiently intriguing (albeit familiar) that it's too bad it wasn't better. Poor direction, uneven performances, and a script that seems a little haphazard in spots hurt it. Costume designed by U.S. f/x man, Stan Winston. McIlwraith's film debut, and watch for Jeremy Ratchford as the leader of some bikers. a.k.a. Frankentein '88. sc: Edith Rey, David Preston. dir: Jean-Claude Lord. - violence, female nudity.- 93 min.

20h17 rue Darling  * *  setting: P.Q.
(2003) Luc Picard, Guylaine Tremblay, Diane Lavallee, Markita Boies, Micheline Bernard.....When his apartment building blows up, a recovering alcoholic ex-reporter (Picard) begins to investigate, learning a bit about his various neighbours and suffering from survivor's guilt. Drama stars out slow, but promising -- until you realize the "mystery" is just a shaggy dog story, and the real point is a drama about the randomness of life and alcoholism. Unfortunately, on that level it's kind of ham handed, as the movie becomes rather episodic, shoe horning characters' lives into convenient little vignettes, and where even the hero's battle with the bottle doesn't really seem all that convincing or insightful. The heavy use of voice-over narration can often take away from the scenes, rather than add to them (as we're being told what we should be shown) and sometimes just because a lot's being said, doesn't mean a lot's being said. English title: 8:17 pm Darling Street. sc./dir: Bernard Emond. 101 min.

VIOLETTE see Violette Noziere

VIOLETTE NOZIERE * * 1/2  setting: other
(1978) (/France) Isabelle Huppert, Stephane Audran, Jean Carmet, Jean Francoise Garreaud, Bernadette Lafont, Lisa Langlois.....True story of a teen (Huppert) who leads a secret life from her parents, and eventually trys to kill them in 1930's Paris. Slow moving but O.K. drama suffers because the filmmakers don't seem to have a point of view. English title: Violette. sc: Odile Barski. dir: Claude Chabrol. - female nudity.- 122 min.

VIRGIN PARADISE *  setting: Ont./other
(1986) Charlene Richards, Zuzana Marlow, Gloria Gifford, Ron Byrd.....Trio of University grads, vacationing in the British Virgin Islands, get a hold of some emeralds, unaware that they belong to pirates. Shoe-string comedy/adventure never really picks up steam. Filmed on video. An Emmeritus-CHCH production. sc./dir: Ron Standen.

(1987) Joseph R. Straface, Stacy Christensen, J.T. Wotton, Anna-Lisa Iapaolo, Bev Wotton.....Nerdy high schooler (Straface) makes a bet that he can get the so-called virgin queen to spend a week-end with him -- but he begins to genuinely fall in love with her. Well-intentioned little comedy (which isn't the sleazy affair the title suggests) suffers from weak performances and a general amateurishness. sc./dir: Francesco Lucente. 85 min.

VIRGINIA'S RUN  * * 1/2  setting: USA.
(2002) (/U.S.) Gabriel Byrne, Joanne Whalley, Lindzee Letherman, Kevin Zegers, Rachel Skarsten, Robert Guy Miranda, Jeremy Akerman.....Story of a young girl who loves horse riding and of her kindly dad (Byrne), embittered by the riding death of his wife, who doesn't want her to. Handsome, atmospheric family film is well acted with breathtaking Nova Scotia scenery (pretending it's the U.S.) and is a kind of bittersweet mix of melancholy and humour...but a touch slow, content to just meander about with little obvious drive to the plot (when plot and character turns do occur...they're often a bit abrupt, such as Byrne's later change-of-heart). Then in the last act it veers suddenly into being an over-the-top Disney-esque romp with a climactic race, cartoony villains and machinations, the kids behaving in increasingly reckless ways, and colourful townsfolk...who hadn't appeared before (including joke cameos from some of the cast of The Trailer Park Boys)! It's a little as if two separate movies were grafted together, with the result that those who liked the main body of the film might find the climax a little broad, and those who like the climax might find the build up kind of slow. Gets by on sumptuous visuals, nice performances, and good scenes...even as there's a lot that doesn't invite close scrutiny. Half the cast are imports (including Whalley who has a fairly small part considering her billing). sc: Valarie Trapp, Peter Markle. dir: Peter Markle. 104 min.

(2001) Lauren Collins, Sumela Kay, Sheila McCarthy, Debbie Reynolds, Brittany Allen, Trevor Blumas, Clark Johnson, Robin Duke, Andrew Gillies, Guylaine St. Onge.....Feeling estranged from her daughter, a flaky single mom (McCarthy) accidentally develops the ability to transform into her younger self (Kay) which allows her to ingratiate herself with her unsuspecting daughter (Collins) as her new best friend...but complications inevitably arise. Slick-looking made for CBC TV family comedy-drama has an appealing concept, in an old fashioned, Disney sort of way. But it ends up a bit formless, throwing in various ideas, then failing to realize them properly, and wasting good actors in pointless parts (like Johnson who is prominently billed, but serves no real function). Close -- darn close -- but no cigar. American actress Reynoldss plays McCarthy's mom. Peter Donaldson has a bit part as a kind of Guardian Angel figure (I told you ideas are thrown in willy-nilly) and Stephen Ouimette appears as a waiter. sc: Alyse Rosenberg (story Sheila McCarthy and Brendan Howley). dir: Laurie Lynd. 88 min.

VIRUS  * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1996) Brian Bosworth, Leah Pinsent, David Fox, Eric Peterson, Stephen Markle, Chuck Shamata, Daniel Kash, Phillip Jarrett, Patrick Galligan..... U.S. Secret Service agent (Bosworth) gets caught up in a government cover-up involving a biological warfare spill at a wildlife park. Thriller wants to be a cut above your usual straight-to-video action pics (including the fact that hero Bosworth doesn't kill that many people) but ultimately is too muddled in the beginning and too straight forward later on. Ex-football player Bosworth isn't bad, as these things go, but he's still no actor. Mind you, there's a novel fun in watching usually high-brow actors like Fox and Peterson play action movie bad guys. Originally titled: Spill. sc: Les Standiford. dir: Allan A. Goldstein. - violence.- 90 min.

(1982) Lee Grant, William Shatner, Michael Ironside, Linda Purl, Lenore Zann, Harvey Atkins.....American TV reporter (Grant) is attacked by a psycho (Ironside) who stalks her, and a nurse, even when she's in the hospital. Boring, violent, unpleasant and uninvolving film. Shatner is wasted in a minor supporting role. sc: Brian Taggert. dir: Jean-Claude Lord. - violence.- 103 min.

The Visitor, a novel by Chauncey P. Parker, was turned into the movie Of Unknown Origin

VISITORS OF THE NIGHT * 1/2  setting: USA.
(1995) (/U.S.) Markie Post, Candace Cameron, Dale Midkiff, Stephen McHattie, Pam Hyatt, Susan Hogan, Rob Stefaniuk, Victor A. Young.....A divorced American mom (Post) has strange flashbacks and her teen-aged daughter (Cameron) black outs, that lead her to suspect they've been abducted by aliens. Made-for-TV drama plays like a Based-on-the-Shocking-True-Story, but isn't, and is slick (if suffering from the usual problem with these kind of films of figuring out how to make characters react convincingly to the fantastic) with a good cast, particularly Post and Cameron (both, along with Midkiff, Americans), and maybe, just maybe, thirty years ago it would have worked. But the film is so numbingly generic (dressed up with parent-teen conflict) that only if you've never seen a similar movie -- heck, only if you haven't ever heard off Alien Abduction Scenario -- will it be the least bit interesting. Otherwise, it just treads well-tilled ground without offering anything that's new...or even much of a real story. sc: Michael J. Murray. dir: Jorge Montesi. 91 min.

VITA CANE  *  setting: other/CDN.
(1992) Tony Nardi, Janet-Laine Green, Joseph DiMambro, Deborah Duchene, Colleen Reynolds, Dennis O'Connor, Torri Higginson.....Italian immigrant (Nardi) arrives in a small town, has concurrent affairs with many women, an affair with his cousin's wife (Green), and serves time in prison... Too lethargic and unpleasant to be a comedy, too rambling and muddled to be a drama, and not enough meat to be a character study. An ill-conceived little film. Peter Boretski's voice was dubbed. sc./dir: Carlo Liconti. - sexual content, partial female and male nudity, violence.- 111 min.

VIVID  * 1/2
(1997) Stephen Shellen, Kari Wuhrer Salin, Ilene Kristen.....Neurotic painter (Shellen) going through a dry spell, much to the annoyance of his girlfriend (imported Salin), discovers a novel way of making successful paintings: make love, covered in paint, while on a canvas. Weak erotic drama is largely the two characters sniping and bitching at each other between bouts of love making; the talking scenes often seem there just to pad out the running time anyway, while the movie never convincingly evokes the artist's angst that's at its heart. As for the sex, well, the problem with the premise is, it means all the sex scenes have to be the same. They get kind of repetative and lack sensuality (perhaps a result of the characters not even seeming to like each other half the time). a.k.a. Luscious. sc./dir: Evan Georgiades. - female nudity, sexual content, partial male nudity.- 83 min.

VOICES  * * 1/2  setting: USA.
(2007) (/U.S.) Amy Acker, Bronwen Booth, Steve Cumyn, John Ralston, Sarah Allen, Benz Antoine.....After a near death experience, an American woman (American Acker) finds she can see and communicate with spirits...which becomes complicated when a ghost informs her her new neighbour, with whom she's become friendly, is a murderer. The character/human drama scenes are kind of dull in this TV movie basically because the characters aren't that interesting, while the paranormal stuff offers nothing new in its concept/execution -- it's basically just an episode of "The Ghost Whisperer", albeit with a seeming smaller budget. Improves a bit once the focus settles on the main story, which is a little more original, and there are some twists and turns (even if most of which you can see coming). And it does offer a fairly suspenseful climax, and Acker is a likeable enough lead. only in fits and starts, but if you're willing to stick with it, maybe that's enough on a slow night... sc: Helen Frost, Don MacLeod. dir: Don Terry. - sexual content.- app. 90 min.

THE VOID  * *  setting: USA.
(2001) Adrian Paul, Amanda Tapping, Malcolm McDowell, Andrew McIlroy, Kirsten Robek, Roger R. Cross, Michael Rivkin, French Tickner.....American university professor (Tapping) tries to convince her engineer boyfriend (Paul) that the energy project he's employed on (headed by McDowell) may, in fact, destroy the world. Despite a certain cheapness to the look, there's a definite competence to the acting and direction on this suspense film that's a notch or two above most low-budget sci-fi flicks. An interesting mix of ideas ("China Syndrome" meets a conspiracy thriller with a few murders thrown in) but it's ultimately too slow, and too talky. It admirably spends time -- too much time -- fleshing out its characters, but doesn't necessarily make them interesting characters. Still, there's fun in the genre cast, with Paul (Highlander), Tapping (Stargate SG1), and Cross (First Wave) all regulars in Canadian-made SF series, and McDowell a veteran of more than a few such films (though Cross has just a small part). sc: Geri Cudia Barger, Gilbert Shilton. dir: Gilbert Shilton. - sexual content, partial female nudity, violence.- 94 min.

VOILA LE CINEMA  * * 1/2  setting: other
(1994) (/France) Didier Bezace, Yves Jacques, Isabelle Gelinas, Ronny Coutteure, Bernard Alane.....Story of French film pioneer and movie mini-mogul Charles Pathe (Bezace). Light drama is briskly paced and mildly diverting, though Pathe, portrayed as a business man (and a not an especially scrupulous one at that) as opposed to an artist, is not as intriguing a figure as some. English title: The Life of Charles Pathe. sc: Jean Gruault, adapted by Gruault and Jacques Rouffio, from a script by Jacqueline Lefevre. dir: Jacques Rouffio. - casual female nudity.- 105 min.

VOODOO DOLLS *  setting: USA.
(1990) Grace Philips, Nathalie Gauthier, Maria Stanton, Howard Balaban, Brett Halna de Fretay.....Young girl transfers to a private, New Orleans girls school where strange things start happening...eventually. Sigh. Slow moving horror-thriller is pretty bad, though there's some nice use of light and colour. sc: Ed Kelleher, Harriette Vidal (from their novel The School ). dir: Andre Pelletier. - partial female nudity, extreme violence, sexual content.- 87 min.

THE VULTURE  * *  setting: other
(1967) (/U.K.) Robert Hutton, Akim Tamiroff, Broderick Crawford, Diane Clare, Philip Friend.....A visiting American scientist (Hutton) in Cornwall, England investigates reports of a part-man/part-vulture creature that seems to be connected to a curse involving his fiance's family. Appealing in its very traditionalness, with some better-than-expected performances, but ultimately slow, silly, and low-budget. Still, one of the characters is supposed to be Canadian, which probably wouldn't be done if the movie was made today. sc./dir: Laurence Huntington. 92 min.

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