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Rockies, rivers and Canadian reels

Let our movie picks give you a relaxed red-and-white day

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James Franco (left), Emma Watson and Seth Rogan star in Columbia Pictures� This Is The End.


James Franco (left), Emma Watson and Seth Rogan star in Columbia Pictures� This Is The End.

TORONTO -- From Goon to C.R.A.Z.Y., there's no shortage of fun Canadian movies to get you in the Canada Day spirit, but even more maple flavour can be found by looking further afield -- to Hollywood.

If you're scouring for a crowd-pleasing flick, here's a list of picks that run the gamut from off-kilter indies to slick blockbusters, tender romances and crass comedies. The one thing they all have in common? A strong sense of the true north strong and free.

These films aren't Canadian in the strictest sense -- they'd need Canadian funding for that -- but they are chock full of northern touches. Settle in with one or more of these big screen imports, which have enough red-and-white spirit to make them honorary Canadians this July 1:

1. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery -- Mike Myers' outlandish fictional spy is British through-and-through, but the Toronto-bred comic's sensibilities are all over this campy tribute to 007. The former Saturday Night Live star built a multi-film franchise on observations that could only come from a British expat's son.

2. The English Patient -- This Oscar-winning saga is based on Canadian Michael Ondaatje's Booker Prize-winning novel about an unnamed burn victim with a mysterious past. The international cast includes British star Ralph Fiennes as the titular hero, France's Juliette Binoche as the French-Canadian nurse who remains by his side and the U.S.'s Willem Dafoe as a Canadian spy who may have insight into the amnesiac's dark secrets.

3. Juno -- This Oscar-nominated flick was directed by Toronto's Jason Reitman, stars Halifax actress Ellen Page and Brampton, Ont., actor Michael Cera and was shot in and around Vancouver. But it was still famously shut out of Canada's biggest film awards -- the Genies -- for not being Canadian enough. That's because it was bankrolled in the U.S., but we'll overlook that this weekend.

4. The Fly -- This Toronto-shot horror classic is quintessential David Cronenberg, replete with grotesque disfigurement, escalating depravity and existential angst. Although it's never stated in the film, the proudly Canuck director has suggested the story takes place in Toronto and if you look closely you can see the CN Tower in one shot. Also look out for a cameo by Canadian heavyweight boxer George Chuvalo as a guy who loses an arm-wrestling match to the mutating Seth Brundle, played by Jeff Goldblum.

5. Ghostbusters -- OK, it's set in New York City, but otherwise, this comedy classic feels as Canadian as a cozy Bay blanket. Toronto director Ivan Reitman melds his demented sensibilities with those of SCTV alum Dan Aykroyd, Rick Moranis and Harold Ramis (who's actually from Chicago). The trio co-wrote and co-starred in the film, while Bill Murray brought it all together as the reluctantly slimed hero Peter Venkman.

6. Life of Pi -- The Canadian connections are deep behind the scenes of this eye-popping saga of an Indian boy lost at sea. It's based on Saskatoon-based Yann Martel's Booker Prize-winning novel of the same name, features Oscar-winning music by Toronto composer Mychael Danna and is partially set in Montreal. And let's not forget the reason young Pi is adrift in the Pacific is because of an ill-fated voyage to Winnipeg.


7. The Notebook -- Canadian stars Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams shot to stardom in large part because of their onscreen chemistry in this sprawling wartime romance. And this big-screen adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel in large part succeeds because of their involvement. Canada at its sappiest, most swoon-worthy best.

8. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World -- You can't get much more Canadian than this underrated comic book-inspired comedy starring Cera and Toronto-bred Alison Pill. It is set in Toronto, features a slew of Hogtown landmarks and is based on the cult-hit graphic novels of a Toronto scribe. British director Edgar Wright took pains to recreate actual panels from Bryan Lee O'Malley's first book, while weaving in deft references to anime, Nintendo and the hipster haunts of downtown Toronto.

9. X-Men -- Marvel Comics' most famous Canadian mutant -- Wolverine -- figures prominently in the super-powered franchise that eventually gave the character its own origins movie. The big-screen series kicked off in 2000 with this Toronto-shot instalment, which introduces the sharp-clawed character -- as played by a hirsute Hugh Jackman -- wandering around the snowy Alberta wilderness. The sprawling cast includes Richmond, B.C.'s Shawn Ashmore as Iceman.

10. This Is the End -- What's more Canadian than making fun of Americans? Vancouver's Seth Rogen enlists his Montreal pal Jay Baruchel to co-star with him in this comedy about L.A. celebrities who succumb to wild apocalyptic disaster. Rogen penned the meta-comedy with fellow Vancouverite Evan Goldberg, and they built the laughs around Baruchel's open disdain for Rogen's new Hollywood pals and celebrity lifestyle.


-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 30, 2013 A5

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