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The Hour (2004)
Finally ... the CBC has a winning program
It's been a very long time since there's been a Canadian late night talk show. Mike Bullard was probably the last one on the air and that was over five years ago. Strombo has picked up where Bullard left off and has an interesting line up of guests including many US actors filming up here in the great Hollywood North. But more importantly, he's provided a forum for conversation with many Canadian celebrities, including the final interview with writer/activist June Callwood. And it's a real hoot when the Trailer Park Boys are in the studio! George is a fast talking host and his show moves along very quickly, but he's got a good sense of humour. Comparable to the late Brian Linehan of City TV, he knows his subjects well and his questions are thought provoking and he can put the guests on the spot, but it's all in good fun. The Hour with George Stroumboulpoulos is one of the reasons we tune into our public broadcaster, the CBC. Should be a Gemini winner.
The Associates (2001)
Good Canadian drama despite its short run
Very well done Canadian legal drama series that apparently had not so good ratings in its original run, but the writers managed to put together broad story lines revolving around criminal law, insurance and fraud, personal injury, family law, and medical negligence. Unlike current shows such as Close To Home where much of the focus is on criminal law, here we get to see a broad spectrum of work performed by a young team of lawyers at the firm Young, Barnsworth & King (YBK).
The show is made for a Canadian audience with its setting in the Canadian courts with numerous references made to the controversial Charter of Rights & Freedoms. Consisting of only two seasons (31 episodes), the latter season shows off an important Toronto landmark, the CN Tower, and the finale episode leaves viewers on a happy note tying together previous story lines while adding a story about a very popular Canadian sport and utilizing both criminal and civil law. Fans of Traders and Street Legal should find some good entertainment in this series.
Akeelah and the Bee (2006)
Learning to excel in spelling can be cool
Excellent family entertainment combining both drama and some comedic moments about a working class 10 year old African American girl who is encouraged to enter a national spelling bee contest. Though she is coached by a retired award winning professor and does make it to the finals, success never gets to her head. The school and the community rally behind her and she finds a way to fit into popularity without looking like a geek. In fact, she encourages her competitors who are also her peers during the contest to do their best despite all the stress everyone feels in their efforts to win. This is a good message for young adolescents who excel in school activities. Good sportsmanlike conduct is important and little four eyes Akeelah was not only a competitor but also a coach and a leader.
Manners of Dying (2004)
The different faces of one actor in one role
How interesting it was to see Roy Dupuis in a film in which he presented different versions of the death-row inmate character Kevin Barlow in this film which was filmed in two versions, English and French. As other reviewers have mentioned, each version starts with the inmate's last meal and what could have happened and his behaviour affected the prison director and staff in how they carried out his execution by lethal injection. The director always maintained that he had a rigid schedule and followed a specific script, but depending on Barlow's attitude and resulting behaviour and how he interacted wth the staff, the outcome was the same. An interesting concept that leaves viewers with room to debate about why Kevin Barlow acted the way he did and what may have been going through the warden's mind as he carried out the sentence.
Goin' Down the Road (1970)
One of the best retro Canadian films
After reading so many good reviews on this film and seeing an in-depth and up-to-date documentary with some of the cast members and Trailer Park Boys' writer/producer/director Mike Clattenburg I finally caught an airing of this film on the IFCC. It's more a drama than a comedy though you can't help but laugh at these poor guys. Pete and Joey are a pair of East Coast bumpkins who come to Toronto for a better life, but they now face a new series of hurdles as they try to fit in to the metropolis but only land a string of short term manufacturing jobs. Life gets tougher and eventually becomes worse as they drift through a period of structural unemployment.
Cool to see the backdrop filming locations along the downtown Yonge/Dundas street corner and an old Loblaws sign. And when did grocery packers last wear bowties? Then there's a cameo with Stompin' Tom Connors who looks almost exactly today as he did back then. Few copies of a DVD release but one must see the televised documentary (seen on Star! and the Drive-In Classics channel) to complete the whole story.
Fans of The Trailer Park Boys TV series may enjoy this film for the story, though fans of the original cult horror hit Black Christmas, another Toronto filmed project that included Doug McGrath among the cast, may find Going' Down The Road interesting just to catch a glimpse of the city of Toronto, the way it was in the seventies.
Million Dollar Babies (1994)
Tragic tale about the exploitation of children by government and big business
This is an extremely sad movie from beginning to end. It's heartbreaking to see a poor Depression era family raise five children on the farm and then add another five all at once to their roster. Initially, it's a blessing when the family doctor takes over the Dionne quintuplets to ease the burden of looking after the underdeveloped babies with very little medical equipment and staff. But the doctor goes overboard when worldwide attention is given to the infant girls, and this translates into advertising endorsements for which he is handsomely rewarded but the earnings are not shared with either the parents or the quintuplets. Instead, the girls are put on display for the next five years, raising the doctor's profile and career to new highs.
Great performances by real-life couple Roy Dupuis and Celine Bonnier as the parents and also Beau Bridges as the unscrupulous doctor. The official DVD offers some commentary by the surviving quintuplets. Presented in two parts as a three hour mini series, it's lengthy and could have been shortened to a two hour movie. But it's a shocking story and is of interest not only to Canadians but perhaps to anyone who may have some ideas about placing their children into the business of entertainment. Yeah, the money may be good, but being part of the industry at such a young age may also be viewed as being part of a freak show.
The Man Who Lost Himself (2005)
Read the novel, watch the film, and then watch the actual documentary
This docudrama is based on the life of former CFL great Terry Evanshen after his horrific auto accident in the late 80s. The story is based on the novel by June Callwood and is an accounting of the events in the family's lives from the viewpoint of Terry's wife Lorraine who is played by Wendy Crewson. The role of Terry Evanshen is played by David James Elliott, well known to American audiences for his long running series JAG. Lorraine is the supporting wife who never gave up after a poor medical prognosis following her husband's post rehab report. Though the events took place over a period of several years in which the strong and supportive Evanshen family nursed Terry back to health, the film speeds up the events and concludes at a happy point, their daughter's wedding.
This made for TV movie had one of the highest viewer ratings for CTV in its original run. For viewers who have yet to see this film, it's recommended that you also read the Callwood novel and watch the actual biography on the Evanshen family produced by a series called W5 which is a more accurate and detailed account of the events in the Evanshen saga. The W5 documentary includes a visit to the Evanshen farm, and provides interviews with family members and friends.
In Her Defense (1999)
Can a lawyer tell the truth?
A "chance meeting" between a wealthy and beautiful but deaf woman and a struggling single family lawyer leads to a torrid affair when the woman learns how much wealth she could accumulate should she leave her abusive husband. Drama and suspense film set in the beautiful province of New Brunswick, in east coast Canada with Michael Dudikoff, well known for his leading roles in action and martial arts films, playing the role of defense lawyer Andrew Garfield.
Refreshing change to see Dudikoff in this role and he plays it well, as a man in love with a mysterious woman, who is a suspect in the murder of her husband. Film is actually set in Canadian courts with references to the Crown, and the lawyers appear in black robes and white neck tabs, a setting which differs from the American courts. Small blooper in one scene approximately 30 minutes into the movie, a police van with a logo "New Brunswick Sheriff" appears at the scene of the crime. In Canada, I don't think there are sheriffs. Provincial and federal levels of crime enforcement including the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police).
Excellent tale of deception that questions a lawyer's ethics vs. his or her personal feelings.
Learning can be fun!
If you thought the internet was the source of information on any topic, well, Oliver Cates has an invention which tops it all! A 15 year old computer genius brings back historical figures from the past vis a vis his computer he calls VisiCron to help him with daily issues and questions ranging from school work to everyday life problems. Each mentor lasts 36 hours on earth during which time he/she assists Oliver and his friend Dee tackle with family breakups, tragedy, sportsmanship, etc. Oliver leaves for university at the end of season 2, leaving VisiCron to his younger cousin Simon who tweaks the machine to make it even better and renames it The Time Machine. With the help of his sister Crystal, Simon experiments with virtual reality and time travel. Some darker story lines in the second half of the series as the kids get a chance to meet Dracula and horror author Mary Shelley.
Talented young series' leads with Chad Krowchuk starring as Oliver Cates and Stevie Mitchell as Simon Cates. An outstanding list of guest stars, including Peter Outerbridge as Dr. Milton Bradshaw, a character which seems to parallel the role of lead scientist Dr. David Sandstrom from the adult sci-fi series Regenesis.
Four full season half hour episodes great for family viewing. Mentors is more than just an educational program. Combining sci-fi, drama, and comedic moments the award winning story lines highlight select historical figures including Albert Einstein, Beethoven, Sir Frederick Banting, James Naismith, Nostradamus, Harry Houdini, Mack Sennett and many more.
If the above list of mentors don't ring a bell, it's advised that you tune it nightly on the Family Channel in Canada. Not just a show for kids. Parents and teachers will benefit as well. A great program for audiences of all ages.
The Ropers (1979)
Ropers better as supporting cast
An ambitious effort from Norman Fell and Audra Lindley as they portrayed the hilarious landlord couple Stanley and Helen Roper from the hit series Three's Company. In the spin off show, Stanley and Helen moved from their Santa Monica apartment to the upscale neighbourhood called Cheviott Hills and their new neighbour was not fond of having them as part of the community. The show just didn't seem to be as good as Three's Company. Stanley and Helen were better as supporting cast members rather than as series leads. The cast was small including Jeffrey Tambor as the neighbour Jeffrey P. Brooks III. He's not a likable character, but his dislike towards Stanley and his quirks behind closed doors made the show funny. Recurring cast included Helen's troublemaker sister Ethel, and her mother; these two characters did not appear on Three's Company.
Thank you Drive In Classics!
Oh my! What a treat it is to see this show again now airing seven days per week on the Drive-In Classics channel! For a 30+ year old show, the video and audio quality are simply superb and now to see it in colour and on a big screen. I am one happy viewer! I have vague memories of seeing this show in its first run along with the supernatural cult classic series Strange Paradise, which is also shown on the same channel and airs back to back with HHOF during the week days. I had no idea that Billy Van played so many characters. And I really thought Grizelda was played by a woman back then!
Too bad the Gemini Awards only started in 1987. Billy Van should have received some acknowledgement for his numerous roles on this show. Very pleased to see a fan made production titled "Return to Transylvania". Extensive interview segments with Billy Van and puppeteer Joe Torbay are all we will ever see as extra behind-the-scenes trivia.
Forbidden Secrets (2005)
Well done for a made-for-TV thriller
An okay made for TV movie about a recent divorcée who moves back into her childhood home, where her last memory is the "accidental" drowning death of her aunt. Turns out to be a 'whodunit' and with the limited number of cast, it's not hard to figure out who the guilty party is. Plot moves along fairly quickly. Beautiful filming location in Quebec and it's too bad they don't acknowledge it in the film. Rather, they would like the story set as a generic East Coast U.S. city. My biggest gripe is an obvious spelling mistake during the running of the end credits. The actor who played the psychiatrist is David KEELEY and not David Kelly. I've never seen an on screen typo. Shame on the editor!
Absolutely ... the best !!
Thankfully this program is still in reruns and it takes a long time to get through five seasons, but what a series! A weekly TV series based on the goings on in the financial industry may sound like a yawner, but not at all. The cast is large and varied, but the most memorable cast member is head floor trader Marty Stephens, played by comedian Patrick McKenna, whose eccentric character is never underplayed. Great supporting cast also includes the wonderful David Hewlett as the quirky yet brilliant computer genius who specializes in the derivatives market. Drama, suspense, and even action-thriller in some plots keeps viewers on edge and wanting more.
Season three storyline about corporate financier Jack Larkin (played by David Cubitt) and bad guy Jean-Paul Brunet (played by Carlo Rota) is one of the best, though new cast additions in the fourth and fifth season and new story lines do not draw away the attention from the main characters.
Viewers not familiar with investment jargon will not be lost in trying to follow story lines. If Marty screams "SELL !!!" he's probably running with the bulls. Throughout the five seasons, we get to see a myriad of stories including some real business scandals made fictional, the popular activity of day trading, insider trading, bankruptcy and restructuring, and others.
Series was nominated and won numerous Gemini Awards in the mid to late 1990s, and most recently listed as one of Canada's Top 10 best shows of all time. Too bad only season one is available on DVD. Series deserves a finale two-hour movie.
Excellent, highly recommended and one of Canada's best for 2005
A beautiful, funny and entertaining story which brings back memories of another indie Canadian film a few years ago called DOUBLE HAPPINESS by Mina Shum. Sabah is the name and film title about a 40 year old single Muslim woman who meets and dates a non-Muslim man and tries to hide it from her domineering brother who's in charge of running the family. Sounds serious but it's a light hearted comedy which has some serious moments. Story is about family loyalty, romance and friendship. Great performances by the beautiful and one of Canada's most outstanding actresses, Arsinee Khanjian as Sabah and Shawn Doyle as her non-Muslim boyfriend, well-known series lead from the Canadian TV series "The Eleventh Hour". Overall, a wonderful film. Thumbs up and hope it's a Genie contender this year.
A Canadian youth in an American jail
True story from 1982 about Bruce Curtis, a Nova Scotia teen, whose visit to the residence of his boarding school friend in New Jersey turns out to be nightmare that led to his arrest for the murder of the friend's mother and sentence to 20 years in prison in a NJ facility for youth. Film is told from Bruce's point of view as he meets with his lawyer prior to the court hearing and his recount of the events of that fateful day in the summer of '82. Excellent script with outstanding performances by Kenneth Welsh (defence lawyer) and John Kapelos (prosecutor). The most exciting scenes from the movie are not the events as Bruce saw them, but the battle between the lawyers in the courtroom. In the end, the winning team was the work of the prosecuting lawyer, a man whose winning streak at 92% conviction rate of cases, adds another one with the Curtis case. It's not just about believing in the truth. It's about who's the smarter lawyer. Available officially in the UK on PAL VHS. Should be rerun on the CBC but haven't seen it lately.
Never trust a Vardian
Though only one season in length, this Toronto-produced series tidied everything up in the end so viewers weren't left hanging waiting for a new season that never happened. Compared to The Highlander TV series, Adrian Paul is much different in this role as the energy sustained alien called a Cirronian. Interesting set of aliens which take the form of everyday human beings which AP's character Cole Hauser hunts down including ones that can disappear, others which need water to survive, and the most evil race called Vardians, one of which was played by Geraint Wyn Davies. An okay supporting cast of characters led by restauranteur Mel Porter and her side-kick Jess Brown, though the latter was written out midway through the season and replaced by a chatterbox yet comical alien named Nestov who was a Dessarian. Due to the cancellation of the series, the relationship between the two main leads didn't develop into anything more than just friendship. And isn't that a shame, since Cole was a fast learner. Good effort by Adrian Paul who combined a great sense of humour in his role of an alien learning to be human while battling aliens with the usual sci-fi stuff. And if you're lucky enough to be watching the series on Canadian TV, look for a behind-the-scenes featurette with commentary by some of the writers and director David Wu.
Echoes of Friday The 13th The Series
A group of public school aged kids are taken to a strange boarding school where the faculty at Creepschool consist of an immortal principal and multi-legged creatures as lab assistants. Half hour animated series which reminds me a lot of an 80s anthology horror series called "Friday The 13th" produced by Paramount TV. Here at CREEPSCHOOL the students encounter unusual objects, not necessarily cursed, but gives them special advantages or makes schooling "fun", including a stopwatch which gives one of the lazy students an extra hour of snoozing time so that he's not late for class. Another one is clay material which forms into a duplicate of the builder in science class. And a special Halloween event which brings more than just trick or treats. And yes ... there's an episode about Friday The 13th. One season series shown now and then on Teletoon in Canada. Available officially on Region 2 DVD in Germany.
Dark Shadows (1991)
Nothing can replace the original Dark Shadows series though Ben Cross is very creepy as Barnabas Collins and the beautiful and elegant Barbara Steele fits the role well as Dr. Julia Hoffman. Strange and miscast actress for the part of Carolyn Stoddard, this one looks like she's stuck in the eighties and with a rebellious attitude. There were some small changes to the revival series. I don't recall seeing the ghost of Sarah Collins as part of the storyline and Maggie Evans had a much smaller role compared to the original series in which Barnabas was initially fixated with Maggie and then turned his attention towards Victoria Winters. And of course the layout of Collinwood was much different.
This Hour Has 22 Minutes (1992)
The news *can* be funny
Let's face it. The daily news is usually boring, upsetting and provokes anger and disappointment with stories presented about government, corporate corruption, etc. etc. The list is endless. This Hour Has 22 Minutes pokes fun at current news events and gives us not only a daily dose of what's happening in Canada and abroad, but how our political leaders and celebrities approach the situations when interviewed impromptu in Ottawa.
Currently on sabbatical, Mary Walsh wasn't shy in character as Marg Delahunty who did a great job hunting down Jean Chretien, Paul Martin, and all the Ministers on their way to their daily meetings. You could see politicians ducking for cover, but she always caught up with them! Mary Walsh and Greg Thomey were also hilarious as Ma & Eddie Reardon, the trailer trash mother and son who hauled their couch to the Gemini Awards to meet their TV celebrities backstage.
Also memorable are the episodes featuring Colin Mochrie doing his Max Pointy routine and he can imitate anyone from any commercial.
The news got you down? Tune into 22 Minutes. The news can be funny!
The best of three
An ambitious effort for the prequel and the final entry to the Ginger Snaps trilogy, Ginger Snaps 3 (The Prequel) takes place in the middle of nowhere in the 19th Century! The poor sisters are lost somewhere in the northern Canadian wilderness. It's not explained why they're hiking through the Fort where they meet up with an Indian hunter and again run into wolves. Supposed to be a prequel to the series, though they look exactly the same and the mannerisms are not 19th Cent. Interesting characters they meet up with including the eccentric Reverend Gilbert (defunct Headstones' front man Hugh Dillon). Better than G2 but just as good as G1.
Strange Paradise (1969)
Excellent - excellent - excellent !!!
A hidden gem for fans of Dark Shadows or any other horror series, Strange Paradise is currently airing on the Drive-In Channel in Canada. Few reviews so it's hard to validate some facts incl. some missing episodes and 195 total episodes vs. 130 (?) and whether or not there was a one-hour pilot !!?? First storyline runs until episode 65 during which the wealthy Jean-Paul Desmond and his sister-in-law Dr. Alison Carr perform cyrogenic experiments in an effort to bring Jean Paul's dead wife, Erica, back to life. It's not explained how she died. However, Jean Paul made a pact with the Devil and this causes him eternal torment and anguish and results in tragedy for everyone.
We're currently working our way through the second storyline where the set is now moved from Maljardin to Desmondton. The family mansion is called Desmond Hall and the members are either reported missing, as in the case of Phillip Desmond, or some have an agenda or something hide as in the case of Jean Paul's second cousin Cort & his overpowering stepfather, Laslo Thaxton. Jean Paul is still cursed; this time he transforms into a murderer shortly after seeing a red star and the Devil's mark appears on his left hand.
Great cast consisting of Colin Fox as Jean Paul Desmond, Jack Creley as Laslo Thaxton, as well as Bruce Gray from the first storyline. These actors still pop up on other Canadian TV series in present day programs. A real treat to see some of these actors "now and then" but even more entertaining is watching this Gothic soap for the first time. Hope to see all the episodes air including the reported "missing" ones. And if there really is a one-hour pilot, someone tell us how to get a copy.
Up to date version of "Seeing Things" (1981)
Medium reminds me a lot of an old CBC series from 1981 called "Seeing Things". Both Louis Ciccone and Medium's Allison DuBois have visions and the ability to look beyond obvious clues and are instrumental in police investigations. Allison has a supportive family unit and is an ordinary mother who tries to balance family life with her part time work for the police. The addition of recurring character Det. Lee Scanlon should prove interesting in future episodes, as Allison & Scanlon did not have an amiable first meeting. And the latest episode titled "Night Of The Wolf" also introduces Allison's youngest daughter as also having a special gift of being able to see dead people. Looking good so far, this series has a good though not original premise. If you're familiar with Seeing Things and also enjoyed the three season series "Millenium" starring Lance Henrickson, give Medium a chance.
Dracula: The Series (1990)
Good Saturday morning fun show
A couple of American kids staying with their uncle in Belgium become vampire sleuths when they discover that the most powerful man by the name of Alexander Lucard, a business mogul in Europe, has minions and other vampires running the entire area where they are staying. The kids are joined by their Uncle Gustav and his charge, Sophie, to fight the evil Lucard using the traditional vampire-fighting agents and interestingly enough, develop their own state-of-the art inventions, one of which was a laser gun called The Boffin. Another was a protein type drink which gave off electrical shocks to keep vampires at bay. Memorable guest stars include Lucard's arch rival Nosferatu, brilliantly played by the late Denis Forest. Full season one ends with a cliffhanger but the series was not renewed. Great cast line up led by veteran stage performers Geordie Johnson as Lucard and Bernard Behrens as vampire hunter Uncle Gustav Helsing.
Trailer Park Boys (1999)
Must see pilot to series
Whether or not you're seeing the pilot before the series or trying to catch this segment in between episodes, it's a must-see for all TPB fans, and though only about 70 min. in length and shot entirely in black and white, the pilot centers around Julian & Ricky, pals from high school. Story is told from the viewpoint of Julian who thinks he has only 5 days left to live after learning his fate from a phone psychic. Ricky balks at the news and the two guys go on with their everyday activities which includes their work as self-employed pet exterminators. This is something not mentioned during the series; the boys are looking for higher profit ventures. The relationship between Lucy & Ricky and Lucy & Julian is explained. Some missing characters which haven't yet been developed include Bubbles, park supervisor Jim Lahey and his pear-shaped shirtless henchman Randy. Actor Patrick Roach appears as a different character. Minor characters Cory & Trevor are introduced and return as series regulars.
Aka Albert Walker (2002)
Made-For-TV Canadian news story
A well written documentary of the story of a Canadian con man named Albert Walker who bilked millions of dollars from his clients in the mid 1990s and hid in the UK with his daughter who posed as his wife under stolen identites. The efforts of one British detective revealed that the body of a local man found in the ocean by some fishermen was not accidental, but was one of homicide, and Albert Walker was the main suspect. Story begins with the discovery of the dead body and how Albert Walker fits into the scheme of things. Doesn't look back farther to his criminal activities which started in Canada. And there remains a mystery about the paternity of the granddaughter. Produced by CTV as a made-for-TV film. Recommended viewing especially to those familiar with the case in southwestern Ontario (London) area where this was a pretty big news item in 1997 and 1998.