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All reviews - Movies (1) - DVDs (5) - Books (4) - Music (6)

Charming romantic comedy

Posted : 10 years, 6 months ago on 4 December 2006 05:11 (A review of I Capture the Castle)

The book (by Dodie Smith) is better. It's usually so, as it has the space to develop the characters, set the setting (as it were) and be more satisfying.

But the movie for me ranks 8/10. Adaptations are always difficult, but here an harmonious compromise has been reached.

The acting is not uniformly good, but each performer gives the best of itself. Particularly Tara Fitzgerald, Romola Garai, Henry Thomas and, yes, Marc Blucas(if you've only seen him on 'Buffy' you're in for a treat).

All in all a wonderful, old-fashioned with the odd touch of XXIst century romantic comedy.



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Timeless Screwball Classic

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 20 November 2006 03:15 (A review of Bringing Up Baby )

It's not just a classic - It's a timeless one! Katharine Hepburn (by her own accounts) was in two minds about playing screwball comedy. But she pulls off the characterization of the mad-cappest heroin/heiress ever portrayed on film. It's NOT Kate. It's Kate brilliantly breaking out of her 1930s typecast. The pace is fast, Cary Grant is brilliant as the professor Kate harasses/helps/falls in love with throughout. And what about Susan's aunt and the major? Priceless! Kudos to Baby, as well. I think maybe a few reviewers have been taking their humor from watching 1930s European comedies. Unless it's all out and out vaudeville or cabaret transpositions you're watching, I wouldn't recommend making those your standards for judging "Bringing Up Baby". Worse still if you're judging by American/European standards of the 21st Century. I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm just saying since you can't compare this to virtually anything of those, just enjoy the ride. The Acting you CAN compare, though. And I put my money & soul on Hepburn, Grant & Baby every time.


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They got the title right! I wish they ha

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 15 November 2006 12:52 (A review of Rip Off [2001])

Alyson Hannigan is the only saving grace in this plotless film. It's supposed to deal with a Scheme, a Russian Job, but Alexis Denisof's accents bugs you beyond belief and Nastassja Kinski is under-used and below form.
One wonders how this excuse for a movie ever got made. Everything in it seems to be a deliberate insult to our intelligence. But Alyson shines, and the 2 stars are solely hers.


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(Another) Royal Fairytale from the 20th

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 15 November 2006 12:47 (A review of Bertie and Elizabeth)

The love story that began awkwardly. The younger brother with no higher expectations than to perhaps be left to pursue its hobbies.
And then the Abdication of Edward VIII and the Royals are in quite a panic. Hence the enthronement of George VI (Bertie) played very subtly by the much under-appreciated James Wilby - making his Elizabeth of the title (tour-de-force performance again this time by Juliet Aubrey). Elizabeth that many generations after the events here depicted knew only as the sweet old Queen Mother.

But there's more to each of the main characters' lives than struggling with Bertie's horror of speaking in public because of his stutter. And we don't get to see Elizabeth, The Queen Mother much in her retiring years.
We do get to see a romantic, epic story against the backdrop of war-torn England.

The supporting cast (if we can call it that and not diminish their achievement) features the likes of Eileen Atkins as Queen Mary to Alan Bates' George V. Robert Hardy as President Roosevelt has less to work with, but it is a pleasure to watch him at anytime.

I admit it. I was moved by this syrupy view of History! And yet I am not so sure the essential tale was not well told.



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Fine BBC Radio 4 dramatisation

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 15 November 2006 12:44 (A review of Murder in Mesopotamia: BBC Radio 4 Full Cast Dramatisation (BBC Radio Collection))

Agatha Christie writing from experience (well, minus the gruesome events one supposes) came up with another of those claustrophobic whodunnits. And all her quintessential elements are there: exotic location, everyone is a suspect, Hercule Poirot (coming only halfway through the novel) has his little ideas.
The BBC Dramatisation is audio-perfect. Although much abridged, nothing vital to the plot is missing and the use of narrative widens the scope of what we are told. We can almost guess who the murderer is... but perhaps not quite.
Good production values / special effects. Soundtrack very evocative but somewhat repetitive. Minor characters are given much less space to develop than in the book.
But overall? Very good!


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great music from some of spain's greates

Posted : 10 years, 8 months ago on 25 October 2006 02:46 (A review of Mucho Mas Que Dos)

Glad that this isn't pigeon-holed as 'latin' music or some other thing that reduces its appeal. The songs are mostly by spanish singer-songwriters, particularly Victor Manuel, of course. But also the catalan Joan Manuel Serrat, the brazilian Djavan, the american Billy Joel (a powerful tour-de-force performance by Ana Belén of "Piano Man").

They are sometimes unashamedly pop (I mean both the singers and the songs), sometimes delicately they fuse romantic and protest song - as in "I was also born in '53" and "In a Lion's shade". Sometimes, they are outright bluesy: "Road Blues". Sometimes epic "La Puerta de Alcalá". Sometimes more overtly sexual as in "Lia". Or downright political correct with plenty of rythm to go along with it as in "Contamíname" ("Infect Me" - how about that for promoting contagiating the outrageous? - cultural exchange, rythm exchange, love)
Victor's duet with cuban great Pablo Milanés "Solo Pienso En Ti/I Think Only of You" - a love story between so-called mentally handicapped people taking place in one of those old school mental asylums that thank God are no more is absolutely heartbreaking. As is Ana Belén & Antonio Flores rendering of "Solo Le Pido A Dios / I Only Ask Of God".

This was recorded live in Gijón, Asturias - and the sound quality plus the inclusion of some songs that seem frankly minor compared to so many superb ones is my only reason for giving it 8/10 stars rather than the full (humble) endorsement.



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Excellent Women review

Posted : 10 years, 8 months ago on 23 October 2006 10:23 (A review of Excellent Women)

One of Barbara Pym's wonderful novels set in the almost oppressive environs of the Anglican circles (High Church, of course) and where everyone's life is fair game for scrutiny, gossip and the spread of malicious rumours. As usual, many have found ways out of their confinement. Spiritual ways, lustful ways, or just caring for something other than the next parish bring & buy. Or indeed someone.
The language is restrained and subtle and many-shaded. But it is also funny with hints of rebellion. And never boring.
Conventions here are just the mask behind which the story unfolds.


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Essential to understand the great Poet

Posted : 10 years, 8 months ago on 23 October 2006 09:40 (A review of Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew (Yale Nota Bene))

To my great regret I came to the poetry (and the life story behind so much of it) of Paul Celan somewhat late in life, unpardonably late, even. But from the moment I did I knew that this was not just the Poet of the Holocaust - he was an unparalled poetic genius in the second half of he last century. This is a personal and totally biased opinion, so go read the poems, surely they speak for themselves. Yes they do.

But in this book we have contextualization, translations almost dissected (mostly in the German to English angle) and biographical notes along the way.

Paul Celan was himself a polyglot and a prolific translator. Born in a Romania that has changed borders to a jewish family that did not escape the fate of most others in Eastern Europe, eventually a French citizen, one of the great poets and shapers of the German language of all times.

His legacy is tremendous. His suicide perhaps a powerful statement of guilt or alienation - perhaps something entirely different that need not be dwelt on to enjoy the work.
Though "enjoy" seems to me to be an entirely personal approach.
He leads us to a labyrinth. To the depths of human cruelty. But he can see that all human passions have great surviving power.
Maybe not just after witnessing and enduring their extremes can one hope to reconcile itself with the humanity and the passions within.

The book is extraordinarily well-researched and written in a style I'd call 'academic but unassuming'. It will leave you with a longing to read more from Celan. That alone would justify its writing, apart from all its many merits.


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The Cardigans: back to what they do best

Posted : 10 years, 8 months ago on 9 October 2006 04:41 (A review of Super Extra Gravity)

'Losing a Friend' and 'Don't Blame Your Daughter' are the songs I like best. The album is less *pop* than others in their catalogue, but they always had a dark, heavy, brooding, loud thing going on. It lacks cohesion, but that's no sin, even if it was supposed to be a "concept album". Maybe half the songs are good to excellent. The rest are never above average. Of course an average Cardigans song is still something.


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This is how you sing the blues: live the

Posted : 10 years, 8 months ago on 5 October 2006 04:56 (A review of Downhearted Blues)

Amazing live album by legendary blues singer-songwriter Alberta Hunter. She was over 80 and doesn't sound it at all. Her command of voice, phrasing and her audience is superb. In turns moving, somber, raunchy, classy, subtly humourous, gentle, and cabaret-like. You must listen to reach your own scrambled adjectives, of course. But it will certainly hold your attention for the duration - hopefully for the rest of your life. I admit it: I was hooked. This lady was a genius and one of the greatest (perhaps The Greatest) Blues lyricist of our times.
Hopefully this will have you going through her back catalog and becoming increasingly enthralled at each new gem you find there.


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