The Great Canadian Guide to the Movies (& TV) Presents...

X, Y, Z

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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.



(2015-)  (/Hungary/U.K.) * * *   Evelyne Brochu ("Aurora"), Jack Laskey ("Alfred"), Warren Brown ("Neil"), Dustin Milligan ("Tom"), Connor Price ("Harry"), Hugh Dillon ("Col. Sinclair"), Lara Jean Chorostecki ("Krystina"), Torben Liebrecht ("Faber"), others.....Espionage/adventure drama about a team of allied spies operating in Europe behind enemy lines during WW II, comprised of Canadians, Britons and Americans. Part of the hook for the series is to root it in Camp X -- the real life Canadian spy training facility that was a major school for allied spies (although in real life actual operations were unlikely to have been run from the camp itself which, after all, was an ocean away from the theatre of operation). The squad is comprised of the nominal team leader (Brochu); a tough British/Shanghai ex-copper (Brown); a smooth-talking American (Milligan) whose background is in advertising; a teen (Price) who's an expert at electronics and bombs; and the team's secret weapon, a meak Englishman (Laskey) suffering from Synesthesia (cross-wiring his senses) which makes him a problematic field agent (neurotic and easily flustered) but also imbues him with photographic recall, ideal for secret missions. Back at Camp X is their military overseer (Dillon) and his aide (Chorostecki). Liebrecht plays a deeply conflicted German officer pursuing the team.

From the creators of the seminal Flashpoint, this series reflects a similar nice mix of high brow and low brow. It's an old fashioned, pulpy adventure-suspense series with the very epitome of cinematic villainy -- Nazis. Yet usually offering a few twists and turns to the plots to keep them surprising and with an eye to characterization, emotional nuance, and even moral ambiguity (sometimes the Nazis are just average guys in uniforms rather than always one-note black hats, and sometimes the heroes have to do questionable things). The actors are good, imbuing their characters with humanizing sympathy, though maybe with no clear stand-out role (and, frankly, Dillon is a bit unconvincing as a 1940s colonel with his shaved head and hands casually in his pockets!) The large cast keeps the plots clipping along (as each mission often has two or three threads we cut between) even as it maybe means it can't really slow down to focus too much on any one character. Still, a good hour of television mixing its aspects of action, espionage, human drama, and historical period. Created by Mark Ellis & Stephanie Morgenstern. Hour long episodes on the CBC.

XCHANGE  * * 1/2  setting: USA.
(2000) Stephen Baldwin, Pascale Bussieres, Kim Coates, Kyle MacLachlan, Charles Powell, Janet Kidder, Sean Devine, Arnold Pinnock, Larry Day, Tom Rack, Judah Katz, Amy Sloan, Lisa Bronwyn Moore.....In a future where the rich can travel across the United States by exchanging bodies with someone in another State, an executive has his body stolen by a terrorist, forcing him to inhabit another body (Baldwin) while trying to track him down, while also being pursued for a murder he didn't commit. Coates plays the hero at the beginning, but spends most of the movie as the villain, MacLachlan also essays the role before it goes to Baldwin for most of the film. Confused? If you go into this expecting a standard, straight-to-video B-movie (you know, the sort of thing Michael Pare would star in), you'll be pleasantly surprised. It's decently budgeted and a real science fiction movie, having fun exploring its core idea, as well as surrounding concepts in its dystopic future. It veers between being a thriller, a sci-fi film, a social satire, and even an outright comedy at times! But that almost becomes the problem: it meanders with a lack of discipline to the ideas -- things are thrown, but not developed properly, from the idea that the world is divided between the haves and have nots (which is expressed, but not portrayed) to the characterization itself. Some sex is thrown in, as well, including for comic relief -- in fact, just about every actress who has more than five lines in this film also takes her clothes off! And there's something distracting about a Canadian movie like this when you realize they probably spent as much on their "American" props (blue mail boxes, American flags) as they did on their sci-fi gadgets! sc: Christopher Pelham. dir: Allan Moyle. - partial female nudity, sexual content, extreme violence.- 110 min.

X-RATED  * * 1/2  setting: Ont.
(1994) Gordon Michael Woolvett, Stacie Mistysyn, Marcia Laskowski, Billy Merasty, Joel Bissonnette, Dean Paras, Richard Chevolleau, Richard Yearwood, Katherine Ashby, Richard Zeppieri, Barry Flatman, Kate Lynch, Reiner Schwarz.....Young man (Woolvett) intending to clear out an apartment building before selling it, encounters the assorted eccentric, young adult tenants. Comedy about "Generation X" from the same group who did the Degrassi series. Cute, but not much more. It's too broad with too many characters. A movie about twentysomethings that seems aimed at pre-teens. It later became the TV series Liberty Street. sc: Susin Nielsen, Paul Aitken (story Nielsen, John May). dir: Kit Hood. 94 min.


listed under "th" (as in Thirteen)

XTRO II: The Second Encounter  setting: USA.
(1990) Jan-Michael Vincent, Paul Koslo, Tara Buckman, Jano Frandsen, Nicholas Lea, W.F. Wadden, Rolf Reynolds, Nic Amoroso.....Underground U.S. research base is invaded by a critter from another dimension, so they bring out the big guns...literally. In-name only low-budget sequel to '83 British film is pretty awful (and incomprehensible) with poor performances. Why did it take four writers to come up with something so blatantly derivative? And no, that isn't Guy LaFleur as a technician. sc: John A. Curtis, Steven Lister, Robert Smith, Edward Kovach. dir: Harry Bromley-Davenport. - extreme violence, brief female nudity.- 91 min.


THE YARD (TV Limited Series)

(2011)  * * * 1/2   Quintin Colantoni ("Nick"), Shemar Charles ("Johnny"), Keana Bastidas ("Suzi"), Alex Cardillo ("J.J."), Devan Cohen ("Adam"), Daniel Lupetina ("Frankie"), Sarah Cramer ("Mary"), Jared Karp ("Pork Chop"), Daryn Karp ("Mickey"), Olivia Scriven ("Patti"), John Fleming ("Cory"), Ajay Gautam ("Ashok"), Cameron Mazzei ("Alistair"), with Paul Gross (voice of documentarian).....Comedy/mockumentary about ten and eleven year old kids in a school yard -- but framed in a mobsters/"The Sopranos" template of rival gangs, black market operations, and turf struggles. Colantoni (son of Enrico Colantoni) plays the conscientious Godfather of the yard, the kid who keeps things running smoothly, and to whom others come to settle problems. His "gang" made up of Charles as a flighty kid (who believes he has magic powers); Bastidas (a bit of a scene stealer) as the enforcer (being a girl, she can hit boys but they can't hit back); Cardillo as his overachiever kid brother; and Cohen as his even younger brother. Lupetina leads the rival, corrupt gang (and the Korys as his henchmen); Cramer plays "Frankie"'s sister, but with a thing for "Nick"; Scriven her best friend, the resident vamp. Gross (who was one of the executive producers) provides the voice of the off-screen interviewer.

One could argue a decent series functions on one level. A good series operates on two. A great series on three. So...what do you make of a series that seems to be functioning on four or five levels at once? On the surface it's a comedy about precocious kids and their schemes and misadventures -- think the Little Rascals or a live-action Peanuts. Yet then it operates as a spoof on mob cliches, like a smuggling operation in banned-from-the-yard "P&J" -- peanut butter and jam sandwiches. That parody aspect will probably be lost on kids -- but then, it's not really aimed at actual kids, particularly given the use of hard profanity (this will test your tolerance for coarse humour as the joke is the kids talk like mobsters, peppering the dialogue with copious "f*cks" and "sh*t" -- but the humour is how nonchalant it is). The language issue is too bad, because kids would probably enjoy it (even if they missed the satirical subtexts) -- though apparently some versions "bleeped" out the swearing. Then there's a third level, as many episodes have an added metaphor or allegory going on, dealing with socio-political issues. One episode spoofing global conflicts and racial schisms might strike some in poor taste (spoofing terrorism!) but equally might raise eyebrows because it really is making some serious points. And the series functions on still a fourth level because, under the jokes, the parody, the surreal whimsy, there is still an element of human drama and gravitas, the characters sometimes prone to real emotions ("Nick" struggling under the weight of his responsibilities), real concerns (Fleming, as a poor kid with an alcoholic mother, both provides some dark humour -- but is also genuinely a figure of pathos). Heck, even acknowledging peanut allergies are dangerous shows an unusual depth of thought for a comedy. There are good series, funny series, but The Yard is those things and something more -- it's a damn clever series, too. It was marketed as just a mini-series, but whether that was true, or they hoped to get further seasons, one season is all that was made. Created by David Eddie, Michael Mabbott. Six half-hour episodes, aired on The Movie Network.

Y'EN AURA PAS DE FACILE  * *   setting: PQ.
(2010) Rémy Girard, Emmanuel Bilodeau, Denis Bouchard, Suzanne Clément, David Boutin, Claude LeGault, Mahée Paiement, Patrice Robitaille, Rachid Badouri, Ève Duranceau, Pierre-Luc Brillant.....Attempting to record a video biography for a dating website, a middle-aged man (Girard) recounts various stories from his life (as well as a story of his prostitute mother). Comedy basically uses the "man reflects on his life" gimmick as a hook for what is, in reality, an anthology intercutting five completely unconnected stories -- different actors even playing Girard's role (though just to make it confusing, occasionally different roles will be played by the same actor!). Even the time periods aren't really portrayed (some stories involve his childhood, presumably forty or so years ago...yet seem to be set in modern times). Presumably the filmmaker had ideas for various stories, none of which would make a decided to just throw them all into the pot. Somewhat modestly budgeted and minimalist -- often talking head scenes of two or three actors in a set location. It's a perfectly fine cast, but the characters don't exactly grab you, and though amusing at times, a lot of the scene/conversations can feel rather stretched, and in service of thin plots ranging from flamboyant (depressed, he hires a hitman to kill him) to more low-key (he goes on a blind date). English title: Tough Luck. sc./dir: Marc-André Lavoie. 94 min.

The Year of the Black Pony, a novel by Waly Morey, became the movie The Wild Pony

YEAR OF THE CARNIVORE  * *   setting: CDN.
(2009) Cristin Milioti, Mark Rendall, Ali Liebert, Sheila McCarthy, Will Sasso, Emily Holmes, Patrick Gilmore, Eugene Lipinski, Linda Uyehara-Hoffman, Kevin McDonald.....A socially awkward young woman (Milioti), feeling her intimacy issues and sexual inexperience are a wall between her and the guy (Rendall) she likes, pursues some unorthodox avenues to gain sexual experience. Quirky comedy boasts a pleasant cast, with engaging leads and scenes themselves that are good...if occasionally (and deliberately) off-puttingly kinky (particularly as it goes). But the whole is less than the parts, and in need of a stronger plot to string it together...rather than relying so much on American actress Milioti's big eyed, gamine charm to carry it (which, admittedly, she very nearly does!) Unfortunately the movie kind of seems set up to explore some ill-defined thesis about sex and relationships, but with the characters saying and doing implausible things to justify it all -- without being quite funny enough to simply work as a good natured farce. Frustrating because it's not bad (the scenes, on their own, are often good) but it runs out of steam long before the end. Actress/director/media personality Lee appeared in the controversial American film "Short Bus", also about relationships and sex, and one suspects that inspired her to make this film (although not as graphic and with considerably less nudity -- indeed, despite the premise, the bedroom scenes are relatively few). sc./dir: Sook-Yin Lee. - sexual content; partial male and female nudity.- 88 min.

YESTERDAY a.k.a. This Time Forever

LES YEUX ROUGES  * * 1/2  setting: P.Q.
(1982) Marie Tifo, Jean-Marie Lemieux, Pierre Curzi, Raymond Bouchard, Denise Proulx, Pierrette Robitaille, Remy Girard, Gaston Lepage.....A serial peeping tom has a community nervous, but when a murder occurs the police wonder if the crimes are escalating. Intriguing suspense-drama is at its best in its moody portrait of a community under siege, and the various characters and their diverse reaction to what's happening. Well acted and there are genuine moments of suspense...but the movie doesn't quite sustain itself, suffering from an awkward, oddly ambiguous ending. English title: Red Eyes and Accidental Truths. sc./dir: Yves Simoneau. 88 min.

YOU CAN THANK ME LATER  * *   setting: P.Q.
(1998) Ellen Burstyn, Amanda Plummer, Mary McDonnell, Ted Levine, Mark Blum, Macha Grenon, Jacob Tierney, Genevieve Bujold, Roc Lafortune.....A dysfunctional family gathers in their father's hospital room. Quirky serio-comic pic boasts a good cast, and Levine is particularly sympathetic (Burstyn, Levine, Blum and McDonnell are Americans and even Plummer and Bujold live in the States -- but at least it's set in Canada). The script can be amusing in spots, but the direction is too heavy. And by the end, all you've got is a bunch of messed up people -- but you knew that from the beginning (and a sub-plot with Bujold remains enigmatic). Forays into seriousness are hard to match with the blatantly surrealistic scenes -- we're supposed to accept the characters as real people even as they behave in sometimes unreal ways. Presumably it all made sense to the filmmakers. Might find an audience among European Art film fans. Working title (?) Hyper-Allergenic. sc: Oren Safdie. dir: Shimon Dota. - female nudity, partial male nudity, sexual content.- 106 min.


(2005) (/U.S.)  * * * 1/2   Karen Cliche ("Jacques/Jacqueline"), Tobias Mehler ("d'Artagnan"), Mark Hildreth ("Sirco"), Zak Santiago ("Ramon"), Bruce Boxleitner ("Cap. Duvall"), Robert Michael Sheehan ("King Louis XIV"), Michael Ironside ("Cardinal Mazarin"), Sheena Easton ("Queen Anne"), with Andrew McIlroy.....Adventure/fantasy set in 17th Century France about four young Musketeers, notably a young woman (Cliche) who has joined up disguised as a man, with the only one of the group who knows her secret (Mehler) being the son of the original d'Artagnan; Hildreth plays the scholar of the group, given to anachronistic inventions and Santiago the poet and culinarist. Boxleitner plays their commander. Sheenan plays the flighty boy-king, and actress/singer Easton his mother (the latter in a rather small role). Ironside plays the sinister power-behind-the-throne, a cardinal also involved with an evil secret society. McIlroy recurred as the king's valet...and had also played a highwayman in one episode! Boxleitner is American, Sheehan Irish, Easton Scottish...most everyone else is Canadian.

In the wake of the success of "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" and "Xena: Warrior Princess" came a slew of similar action/adventure series (from different countries) most incorporating some or all of these characteristics: straddling being youth-aimed but adult friendly; a historical setting (often drawing upon some pre-existing character or property); mixing tongue-in-cheek comedy with drama (some more drama, some more comedy); a deliberately anachronistic tone; a revisionist feminism, usually involving a warrior woman equal to any man; a quirky inventor given to prophetic devices; and a fantasy/sci-fi aspect (sometimes light, sometimes overt); and so on. Actually, in truth the trend probably started a year before Hercules with "The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr." and came to include a Conan series, at least two different Robin Hood series, and more: Canadians were involved with such examples as the Adventures of Sinbad, Beastmaster, Queen of Swords, and The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne (all reviewed elsewhere on this site). And other than Hercules and Xena, none did particularly well, few lasting more than a season. Young Blades -- taking that style and applying it to The Three Musketeers (but set a generation later, and with a cross-dressing twist) -- was a late addition to the genre...and, arguably, one of the best! Sure it's shamelessly cheesy, and hokey, but it's also kind of fun with a goofy-but-genuine charm. The plots are well paced, and seeming adequately budgeted, the comedy sometimes broad, but also sometimes genuinely witty, the actors/characters personable, the action scenes and sword fights surprisingly well staged (not always the case with sword fights in weekly TV series). It ain't sophisticated or High Art...but it is a likeable, guilty pleasure indulgence. Ironside maybe seemed the least suited to the broad, tongue-in-cheek flavour...but arguably that suited his role, as the series' underlining menace. One season of 13 hour long episodes.

YOUNG CATHERINE (TVMS)  * *  setting: other
(1991) (/Europe) Julia Ormond, Vanessa Redgrave, Christopher Plummer, Franco Nero, Marthe Keller, Mark Frankel, Reece Dinsdale, Anna Kanakis, Maximilian Schell.....Saga of the early days of Catherine the Great (Ormond) and how she became Empress of all the Russias. Indifferently put-together historical drama. Won the Gemini for Best Mini-Series (its only competition was The First Circle). 4 hours. sc: Chris Bryant. dir: Michael Anderson.

(1995) (/U.K./France) Michael York, Theresa Russell, Nick Mancuso, Philippe Ross, Polly Shannon, Jack Langedijk, Paul Hopkins, Ian Falconer, David Shaeffer.....Misadventures of a modern American teen (Ross) thrown back in time to the days of King Arthur (Mancuso). Smarmy, at times even appallingly bad made-for-TV comedy-drama suffers from what you'd expect: an unwillingness to be out-right comedy (ala Mel Brooks or Monty Python) or straight dramatic adventure, and instead rambles about in the middle, improving slightly toward the end. Why is it that on the rare occasions Canadians are willing to try something flamboyant and commercial, they blow it with these self-conscious, unambitious little inbetweeners (A Switch in Time is another example)? Langedijk (as a villain) and Falconer (as Lancelot) come out best, while top-billed York has just a small part as Merlin. Mark Twain's novel isn't even credited -- how's that for arrogance?! Funnily enouugh, in 1989 the American's did "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" with a juvenile lead, and shortly after this TV movie aired, the Americans released "A Kid in King Arthur's Court" to the theatres...and it sank like a stone. Conclusion? A lot of film executives think turning Twain's novel into a kiddie vehicle is a good idea, but they may be the only ones. Filmed in the Czech Republic. Followed by Young Ivanhoe, which aired a month later. sc: Frank Encarnacao, R.L. Thomas. dir: R.L. Thomas. - violence.- 93 min.


(2015-)  * * 1/2   Tim Carlson ("Ian McKay"), Bruce McCulloch ("Lloyd McKay"), Atticus Mitchell ("Shinky"), Tracy Ryan ("Helen McKay"), Allie MacDonald ("Belinda McKay"), with Shae Keebler ("Diane"), Telly James ("Henry"), James Dugan ("Spud").....Comedy about a self-styled rebellious teen (Carlson) growing up in a 1980s Calgary subdivision. Mitchell plays his sardonic best friend. McCulloch plays his obtuse dad; Ryan his perky mom; and MacDonald his sister. Keebler plays the girl he likes and James and Dugan his dad's co-workers. Based somewhat on ex-Kids in the Hall-er McCulloch's own teen years (and his stage play), this is a solid, professional sitcom, easily muscling ahead of a number of recent attempts at mainstream Canadian sitcoms. And there's probably a lesson there, as part of the show's strength/appeal is its very definite sense of place and period which provides a foundation for the gags and plots -- while so many of the other Canadian sitcoms (and series in general) literally brag about their "genericness." It isn't that the Canadian setting itself (or a 1980s period) makes the jokes funnier, but rather that comedy (or drama) works best when it's unselfconscious and comes from a place of honesty. The fact that the location seems rooted, that McCulloch was drawing upon his own history (albeit fictionalized) gives the jokes more bite, the scenes more dimension.

With that said -- it's also an uneven effort in part because there seems a clash of styles. The teen/young adult characters are basically played "real" (within the context of sitcom), with Carlson inparticular effective at being both cocky but still likeable. But McCulloch and Ryan play it more as caricatures (especially McCulloch, whose background is in sketch comedy) as though, well, characters in an old Kids in the Hall sketch. It can feel like they belong in a different program. Funnily, this lack of settling on the type of comedy has been a recurring problem in some recent Canadian sitcoms. Still, it's amusing and, when it works (and stays focused on the younger characters) is enjoyable and maybe just needs time to settle on the right tone overall. Best bets: the one where "Ian" is trying to make movie. Half-hour episodes on City TV (apparently already pre-sold to the CBC as well).

YOUNG IVANHOE  * *  setting: other
(1995) (/U.K./France) Stacy Keach, Margot Kidder, Nick Mancuso, Kris Holdenried, Rachel Blanchard, Matthew Daniels, Tom Rack, James Bradford.....Teen-aged nobleman (Holdenried) in the Middle-Ages becomes an outlaw, is tutored by a reclusive knight (Keach), and battles an evil Count (Mancuso). Frustrating made-for-TV historical adventure which, though budget-conscious, has crowds, costumes, big sets, a good performance from Keach and a truly great one from Mancuso...but is ultimately weighed down by the teen-aged leads who just aren't up to the task (and, to be fair, are saddled with awkward, coloquial, tongue-in-cheek dialogue -- unlike the adults who are allowed to play it straight). Too bad the filmmakers didn't have the courage to do a straight adaptation instead of condescending to an (imagined) audience. Filmed in the Czech Republic. A follow-up, of sorts, to A Young Conneticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. sc: Frank Encarnacao, R.L. Thomas (loosely based, uncredited, on the novel Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott). dir: R.L. Thomas. - violence.- 92 min.

THE YOUNG MAGICIAN see Le jeune magicien

(2007) Aaron Abrams, Carly Pope, Kristin Booth, Josh Dean, Sonja Bennett, Josh Cooke, Diora Baird, Callum Blue, Ennis Esmer, Peter Oldring, Natalie Lisinska.....Story of five separate couples (well, four couples and a funny threesome) during an evening of sexual trysts -- including the best friends exploring the notion of "benefits", the married couple losing their zing, the exes reuniting for a casual encounter, etc. -- chronicling the before, during, and after. Comedy is of the ensemble genre (from "Love, Actually" to "Valentine's Day" and many others), though with no effort to connect the various storylines, making it essentially an anthology except where they intercut the episodes (like Century Hotel). And the other difference is, of course, it's raunchier than most, with plenty of profanity, nudity, and sex (and sex talk). It's very funny, though definitely not for the prudish, and boasts a strong cast all around (a mix of Canadians, Americans, and Brit Blue) -- with scene stealers including Blue, Esmer and Oldring (the latter two in the most farcical segment). Slickly put together -- the scenes are minimalist, but it avoids a "low-budget" look. But perhaps where it misses is that it doesn't make us care overmuch about the characters, despite what are supposed to be emotional undercurrents ("casual" affairs that clearly aren't as casual for some as for others, etc.) It isn't that you want a brick to fall on anyone, but ultimately it works more as a comedy than as a romantic-comedy. The scenes themselves are funny, the actors hold your attention...but the movie as a whole doesn't consistently. Also, in a country where distribution and marketing can be problematic enough, it might seem a curious decision to use a title that can't even be printed in many publications (the real title doesn't use an asterix!). sc: Aaron Abrams, Martin Gero. dir Martin Gero. - explicit sexual content, partial female and male nudity.- 87 min.

YOUNG TRIFFIE  * *  setting: other
(1995) Fred Ewanuick, Remy Girard, Andrea Martin, Colin Mochrie, Mary Walsh, Andy Jones, David Francis, Jonny Harris.....In 1946 Newfoundland, a green and bumbling police man (Ewanuick) is sent to a small village -- initially to investigate livestock mutilations but, on arrival, is faced with a human murder. Very odd black comedy seems dragged in different directions at once, almost as if everyone (including actress-turned-director Walsh) were attacking each day's filming inspired by a different movie they'd seen the night before. So there's slapstick ala Blake Edward's Insp. Clouseau films, Bugs Bunny-style incidental music, dark satire ala Lindsey Anderson's "Oh, Lucky Man!", creepy weirdness ala David Lynch...while at times it seems to be taking itself seriously, including genuine outrage over church scandles involving abuse, and by the end, seems to want to be regarded as a genuine whodunit?/mystery. But often it's not clear which it's going for in a given scene, with the various tones and styles clashing dischordantly against each other. Intermittently amusing, but even then, often the gags get stretched out beyond their appeal. Maybe has cult potential, and with its familiar all-Canadian cast is liable to catch your eye on the DVD shelf (in a good way)...but will leave most viewers a little slack jawed. Though it's a minor point, they should've stuck with the longer title of the original play, as it better evokes the movie's elements than does simply calling it "Young Triffie". sc: Mary Walsh, Ray Guy, Christian Murray (from the play "Young Triffie's Been Made Away With" by Ray Guy). dir: Mary Walsh. - violence; partial female nudity. - 89 min.

(1991) Kahil Karn, Madeleine Dominique; Attila Bertalan, Richard Raybone; Laird Evans, Isabelle Truchon, Claire Riley; Norman Fell, Victoria Barkoff, Robert Ozares.....Three psychiatrists trade stories concerning three different patients: a teen who thinks his parents are aliens; a TV producer who commits murder; and a nice guy who turns bad. Low-budget and stories that seem too long for their cute ideas work against this anthology-suspense flick. sc: George Slobodzian, Douglas Taylor, Robert Ruffo. dir: Michel Wachniuc. 84 min.


ZEBRA LOUNGE  * *  setting: USA.
(2001) Kristy Swanson, Brandy Ledford, Cameron Daddo, Stephen Baldwin, Dara Perlmutter, Daniel Magder, Vincent Corazza....Married-with-kids American couple (Cameron and Ledford), fearing their relationship is losing its zing, decide to experiment with the "swingers" life-style of spouse swapping with another, enigmatic couple (imports Swanson and Baldwin); but when they want to stop, the other couple proves dangerously more clingy. Late addition to the urban angst / stalker genre -- largely begun with "Fatal Attraction" and which boasts dozens of straight-to-video Canadian made entries. Decent production values and a respectable cast are a plus, but the movie is awfully formulaic, rarely offering any true surprises...except, maybe, for the resolution, which is just plain awkward. Has a couple of reasonably sexy scenes, and isn't bad...but it's a little too paint-by-numbers overall. Top-billed Swanson actually has the least to do of the four leads (and doesn't strip down much past her underwear, leaving the nudity to Ledford and, briefly, Baldwin). sc: Claire Montgomery, Monte Montgomery. dir: Kari Skogland. - sexual content, partial female nudity, brief male nudity, violence.- 92 min.

ZERO PATIENCE  * * 1/2  setting: Ont.
(1993) John Robinson, Normand Fauteux, Dianne Heatherington, Richardo Keens-Douglas, Bernard Behrens, Charlotte Boisjoli, Brenda Kamino, Von Flores.....Victorian explorer Sir Richard Burton (Robinson), alive and well and working in a present day Toronto museum, prepares an exhibition of diseases, focusing on AIDS and a muck-racking approach to Patient Zero -- the French- Canadian flight attendant rrumoured to have brought AIDS to North America. Meanwhile the ghost of Patient Zero (Fauteux) shows up to set the record straight. Billed as the world's first musical-comedy about AIDS, it almost pulls it off, despite its obvious low-budget. Part comedy, party drama, part music video (with some good music by Glenn Schellenberg) and a whole lot of politics relating to AIDS and homosexuality in general, the film is weird, off-beat, well-acted, consistently interesting and not for those easily shocked (the singing anus scene being the best example) but as an overall movie it falls a bit short. Journalist Ann Medina provides some of the narration. sc./dir: John Greyson. - male nudity.- 100 min.

ZEYDA AND THE HITMAN  * 1/2  setting: Man.
(2004) Judd Hirsch, Danny Aiello, Gil Bellows, Mercedes Ruehl, Conrad Dunn, Reagan Pasternak, Richard McMillan.....A retired, law-abiding business man (Hirsch) befriends a wanna be hit man (Aiello) doing community service, and the two concoct a scheme to bump off the former's obnoxious son-in-law (Bellows) who's keeping him from his grandson. Though inspired by a true story, this CTV movie is played as a comedy (not unlike the earlier U.S. film, "I Love You to Death"). Unfortunately, it just ain't funny for the most part. The filmmakers seem to think that as long as they emphasize the characters are Jewish, it will inherently be funny, and they don't have to bother with witty lines or clever scenes. Picks up a bit in the later half. The movie seems to act as if it has a message...but what that is is unclear (unless it's that if you plot a murder that has humorous aspects, you aren't such a bad person after all!) Heavy use of Aiello's narration kind of makes you wonder why they didn't just do it as a talking book instead. The original case took place in Toronto, but this has been relocated to Winnipeg. Hirsch, Aiello and Ruehl (in a thankless part as Hirsch's wife) are all American imports, as is the director (and actress) Mayron. Mayron has a cameo as a contestant on a TV game show, along with Karl Pruner as the host. a.k.a. Running with the Hitman. sc: Michael Amo. dir: Melanie Mayron. 86 min.
Zoe Busiek: Wild Card (TV Series)

(2003-2005) (/U.S.)  * * *  Joely Fisher ("Zoe Busiek"), Chris Potter ("Dan Lennox"), Rae Dawn Chong ("Sofia Mason") (1st), Loretta Devine ("Pearl McGurire") (2nd), Bronson Picket ("Marcos Morales") (1st), Vikki Krinsky ("Taylor"), Jamie Johnston ("Clifford"), Aislinn Paul ("Hannah"), with Jayne Eastwood ("Jeannie"), Corey Sevier ("Julian"), Yanni Gelman ("Ryder").....Serio-comic mystery-drama set in Chicago, USA about an earthy, ex-Las Vegas card dealer (Fisher) who works as an investigator for an insurance company...while also acting as a single mom to her dead sister's three kids. Potter and Chong play fellow insurance company employees; Picket her nephew's gym teacher, and her ex-flame (a romantic triangle was formed by Potter-Fisher-Picket); Krinsky, Johnston, and Paul play the kids (Krinsky the oldest, a teen, Paul, the youngest) -- Devin Douglas Drewitz played the nephew in the pilot episode. Chong was gone by the second season, replaced by Devine. Eastwood plays the helpful neighbour and Sevier a neighbour teen "Tracy" has a thing for. Of the above names, Fisher, Devine and Picket are American, everyone else is Canadian, though none of the characters are supposed to be Canadian. 

One of a number of TV series co-produced between Canadian and American producers, aimed at American speciality channels catering more toward "family" demographics (Sue Thomas, F.B.Eye, Mysterious Ways). The episodes divide their time between the mystery/investigation cases and the domestic front trials and tribulations of the heroine dealing with the kids' school and social problems. The cases themselves are usually light-weight, generally involving fraud and the like. Even when things stray into the more gritty and adult areas of murder and racy material -- such as an episode about a suspicious death at a strip club -- it's handled discreetly (the death took place long before the story started, and the dance routines aren't focused on). The down side is that the series can seem a bit bland, lacking dramatic impetus occasionally...the up side is that it can be easy going entertainment for those getting a bit jaded by too many crime series that focus on serial killers and the like. The actors are personable, the characters get along, the mysteries are moderately interesting, and the badinage is humorous enough. But it says something about the vagaries -- and ineptitude -- of the Canadian TV industry, that this,, more or less, clean cut series, was originally aired by the network in a 10 PM time slot -- when most of its target audience will probably be getting ready for bed! Created by Lynn Marie Latham, Bernard Lechowick. Two seasons of hour long episodes, shown in Canada on CanWest-Global.

ZOMBIE BEACH PARTY  a.k.a. Zombie King and the Legion of Doom

(2003) Jules Delorme, Jennifer Thom, Raymond Carle, Rob Etcheverria, Sean K. Robb, Nicholas Sinn, Jason Bareford, Contessa Oblivian, Sarah Marr.....Parody of Mexican wrestler/super hero movies as masked wrestlers investigate a zombie outbreak in a small American town. Considering Mexican wrestler movies are a pretty minor sub-genre, this is actually the second (extremely low-budget) Canadian movie made spoofing them (after Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter). It has a few funny lines, at first, but not nearly enough. Of course, that may be because it might also be intended as an homage as much as a spoof. So to fans of those flicks, it might offer something, but to everyone else, it's a (deliberately) bad, campy version of a genre that's already considered pretty bad to begin with. And it's a Canadian movie riffing on a Mexican genre...and still it's set in the U.S.! a.k.a. Enter...Zombie King and Zombie Beach Party. sc: Bill Marks, Sean K. Robb. dir: Stacey Case. - extreme violence.- 76 min.

UN ZOO LA NUIT  * * *  setting: P.Q.
(1987) Roger Le Bel, Gilles Maheu, Lorne Brass, Germain Houde, Lynne Adams.....Just released con (Maheu) trys to make up with his ailing father (Le Bel), while, at the same time, deal with his vicious ex-partners (Houde and Brass). Touching father/son story works better than the ultra gritty crime element. Visually stunning and pretentious, but cliched and marred by its moral ambivalence. Look for filmmaker Denys Arcand as a customer in a sex-shop. Won a record thirteen Genies including Best Picture, Actor (Le Bel), Supporting Actor (Houde), Script and Director. English title: Night Zoo. sc./dir: Jean Claude Lauzon (his first feature). - violence, sexual content, casual male nudity.- 110 min.

ZOS: Zone of Separation (TV Limited Series)

(2008)   * * * 1/2   Michelle Nolden, Rick Roberts, Enrico Colantoni, Allan Hawco, Paul Doucet, Colm Meaney, Lolita Davidovich, Jim Codrington, Peter Mooney, Alan C. Peterson, Larrisa Drekonja, Nick Mancuso, Paulino Nunes, Joanne Boland, KC Collins, Aaron Poole, Genadjis Dolganovs, Damir Andrei, Nicholas Campbell.....Saga set in a post-civil war town in the former Yugoslavia, focusing on a small international team of U.N. Military Observers, headed by a troubled Canadian (Nolden) and the newly arrived troop of Canadian peacekeepers (led by Roberts) -- the two butting heads with somewhat overlapping and contradictory missions: the former to observe and try and broker peace...the latter to intercede and, if necessary, enforce peace. All in a town still torn asunder by ethnic violence between Christians and Muslims...and even factions within those groups! At times a staggeringly ambitious and audacious undertaking of drama, suspense and black comedy, boasting a huge cast of characters, and myriad plots that intertwine around each other, marrying the blistering social outrage of previous peacekeeping dramas (Answered by Fire, Shake Hands with the Devil, etc.) with an unapologetically pulp-entertainment sensibility, mixing a "Deadwood" style narrative (following a large ensemble in an isolated town on the razor's edge between order and anarchy) with aspects of "Apocalypse Now!" and the sardonic absurdism of "M*A*S*H".

Made for cable, it's an R-rated series of profanity, violence, and sex, and veers from heartfelt drama to wacky & whimsical to gritty & horrific...sometimes at the same moment (with Colantoni perhaps the poster child for the series' thematic soul, as "Speedo Boy", a half-mad para-militarist with rock star locks and dressing only in a speedo and a leather trenchcoat, who is both a homicidal psychopath...and comic relief!) And, continuing the "Apocalypse Now!" analogy, that would probably make Mancuso their Kurtz...a character referenced but not seen for much of the series, but embodies the dark heart at the centre of it all. Exceptionally well acted by all concerned (no small feat given the size of the cast and the diversity of characters), and the story veers from deliberately broad and obvious to intriguingly subtle and nuanced, where cryptic motives and obscure agendas only get revealed slowly over time, and where good characters find their principles challenged and reprehensible monsters show flashes of humanity. Well-paced, rarely lagging (in part because there are so many threads being teased along). Occasionally uneven, though probably the biggest misstep is Campbell (toward the end) as an American diplomat who comes across as an over-the-top caricature (not the actor's fault) in a show where, otherwise, most of the characters -- heroes and villains both -- had more nuance. Unexpectedly, for such a big, "global" drama, the cast is mainly Canadian (even when playing multinational characters) with the main imported actors among the principals being Meaney, as the U.K.-raised self-styled leader of the Muslim community...and gangster (comparable to Ian McShane's character in "Deadwood"), and Drekonja, as a pretty translator of uncertain allegiances (both of them effective). Indeed, the casting of Irishman Meaney subtly presents another aspect to such conflicts...the diaspora and foreign sympathizers that gravitate to such situations, for both good and bad (contrasted with Nunes as a foreign-born Imam arriving with his own, seeming altruistic agenda). Ultimately, not for the sensitive, but for those with a penchant for the spat of edgy, made-for-cable dramas, definitely worth seeking out as arguably a gutsy, one-of-a-kind spectacle. Indeed, the fact that it doesn't seem to be better circulated (or was even released to DVD) borders on a criminal shame. Effective use of the song "Celebration Guns" by Stars as the theme song. 8 hour long episodes. Co-produced by Paul Gross. Created by Malcolm MacRury. sc: various. dir: Mario Azzopardi. - extreme violence; sexual content; male and female nudity.-

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