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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars It's Hard To Believe How Terrible This Film Is, April 19 2004
I had high hopes for this film but none of them were realized. I absolutely hated LOST IN TRANSLATION and I think it's a complete waste of both time and money. The premise was a good one, but both Coppola's screenplay and her direction were so terrible they have to actually be experienced to be believed. I don't have words to write how bad this film is.
LOST IN TRANSLATION is the most flat, trite and banal film I've ever seen. It's so rough--and not just around the edges. There's absolutely nothing polished about this film. I don't need a lot of plot in either books or film, but I need something besides people mumbling inane drivel and performing meaningless actions, which is really all LOST IN TRANSLATION offered. The dialogue was awkward and clumsy and consisted mostly of mumbled, meaningless phrases. The camera angles were strange and gave me a sort of sick sense of vertigo and I don't even suffer from vertigo. The transitions from one scene to the next were awkward. There was no character development. The set up was far too long and then, after Coppola finally "got to it," nothing happened. I mean nothing. I think both filmmakers and novelists can learn a good lesson from the failure of LOST IN TRANSLATION--absolute reality doesn't translate well to film.
If Coppola had given me characters I could care about, I wouldn't have cared that LOST IN TRANSLATION was totally lacking in plot. But she didn't. Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson did their jobs well, but Coppola didn't give them anything to work with. Their talents were wasted in this piece of inane drivel that Coppola calls a film.
If you want to be bored to tears, if you need a soporific or if you just want to see how bad filmmaking can be, then, by all means, see LOST IN TRANSLATION. It won't let you down. If you want something entertaining or enriching, however, steer clear, because you certainly won't get it here.
I have to agree with all the reviewers who said when critics say something is good, everyone else just wants to jump on the bandwagon instead of making up his or her own mind. If I could give LOST IN TRANSLATION negative 10 stars, I would. It is, by far, the worst film I've ever seen and it's demeaning to the Japanese people as well, who are, in reality, wonderful hosts. LOST IN TRANSLATION is something to be ashamed of. Definitely. Coppola should really learn how to write before foisting such trash onto the public.

Cieli Di Toscana
Cieli Di Toscana
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Bocelli's Best, April 17 2004
This review is from: Cieli Di Toscana (Audio CD)
Although I don't live in Tuscany, I do live in Italy parttime now, and I love the music of Andrea Bocelli more than ever (I have all of his CDs and DVDs). Bocelli, a Tuscan, himself (he was born in Lajatico), isn't my favorite when it comes to opera, but I think his voice is perfect for the songs on CIELI DI TOSCANA. He's a singer who puts his heart and soul into everything...and it certainly shows.
The fourteen songs on CIELI DI TOSCANA were written by Bocelli and others and they are all pure joy to listen to. They all evoke the blue Tuscan skies, the rolling hills, the groves of olive trees, the hidden treasures tucked away in the ancient villages.
Bocelli's voice on all fourteen tracks is at its best. The CD showcases his full range and his full range of abilities. The orchestra is never overpowering and compliments Bocelli wonderfully. And, wonderfully, the lyrics are included in the liner notes. I've learned enough Italian now to understand the songs without the notes, but I need the notes to sing along...something I like to do...but something my family might not like so much. "Il Diavolo e L'Angelo," written by Bocelli, is one of my favorites. It's a bit glossy, but it's so much fun, I didn't mind. And, for those of you who prefer Bocelli "mellow," there's plenty of that on this CD as well.
I definitely think CIELI DI TOSCANA is a much more accessible CD than ROMANZA and if you're new to Andrea Bocelli (you shouldn't be), I would begin with either this CD or SOGNO. Both are wonderfully evocative of Italy and both showcase Andrea Bocelli's talent, warmth and love for the country of his birth.

Mambo Kings Play Songs Of Love
Mambo Kings Play Songs Of Love
by Oscar Hijuelos
Edition: Paperback
33 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Que Bueno Es!, April 17 2004
While plot is certainly important in a book, what most readers remember are rich, complex characters. One of the best writers of character is Oscar Hijuelos. I admit to being a "Hijuelos junkie," but even if I weren't I'd still have to admire his talent for creating characters and bringing them to life. My favorite "Hijuelos character" was Oscar Levis in A SIMPLE HABANA MELODY, but I also loved Cesar and Nestor Castillo in THE MAMBO KINGS PLAY SONGS OF LOVE.
Cesar and Nestor (who have many brothers and sisters) share a love of music-Cuban music-and more specifically, the mambo, but, in every other respect, they are very different people. Cesar is larger-than-life, he's extravagant, totally masculine and his baritone voice, when singing "songs of love" manages to capture the heart of every woman who hears it. Nestor is Cesar's opposite. Nestor is frail and melancholy and seems to simply recede into the wallpaper. While Cesar beds every woman who dares to look his way, Nestor pines away for Maria, a woman he knew only briefly, to the extent of composing twenty-two variations of his musical tribute to her, "Beautiful Maria of My Soul."
In 1949, Cesar and Nestor decide to emigrate to New York City because "that's where the music is." Cuba was no longer "home" to the habanera, the rumba, the mambo. The music had emigrated to New York, so Cesar and Nestor decide that's where they should be, too.
Arriving in New York City, Cesar and Nestor find plenty of music makers to emulate, but the one they care about the most is Desi Arnaz, who once worked in the same orchestra as Cesar. Cesar and Nestor tour America's east coast in a flamingo pink bus, dressed in suits of black and flamingo pink. Their records (I mean records, this is the early 50s) sell well and in 1955, they achieve their dream when they appear on an episode of "I Love Lucy." As the years go by, Cesar grows more florid and sure of himself, while Nestor grows more and more withdrawn, always retreating into the "self-help" book he carries with him everywhere.
THE MAMBO KINGS PLAY SONGS OF LOVE concerns more than Cesar and Nestor, however. This is a book about their families and friends as well and some of the best sections are narrated by Eugenio, Nestor's son. Hijuelos' writing is as good in this book as in all of his others, i.e., it is perfect. He really takes us back to the 1950s and the era of big bands and Latin music. Most of all, though, he takes us into the world of Cesar and Nestor Castillo and we emerge from the book feeling as if we'd gotten to know real people, people who lived and loved and, most of all, loved music. This is a joyous book, but it's also one that's sad and poignant and bittersweet.
I think Oscar Hijuelos is, by far, the best Cuban-American writing to day. I would certainly recommend THE MAMBO KINGS PLAY SONGS OF LOVE to anyone looking for a book with strong characters, to people who love Latin American literature or simply to anyone who loves a good story.

Love and Reruns in Adams County
Love and Reruns in Adams County
by Mark Spencer
Edition: Hardcover
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Drawn Characters, A Lovely Writing Style, April 15 2004
It really pains me to see only two reviews of this funny, sad poignant and very "real" book here. LOVE AND RERUNS IN ADAMS COUNTY is one of the best books I've read in a long time.
Mark Spencer has remembered what so many authors forget: Readers care about people and it's characters that make a book "come alive" rather than plot (although this book is well-plotted, too, and Spencer hasn't forgotten to give us a story).
I loved the characters in LOVE AND RERUNS IN ADAMS COUNTY, especially because they so often did the "wrong" thing rather than the "right" thing. These are people with troubles, with idiosyncrasies, with failed careers and failed marriages, people who struggle to do the "right" thing yet so often find themselves doing just the opposite instead. They are people like you and me and everyone else in the world. Even though "their" world was a foreign one to me, I could still identify with them and I cared about them deeply.
LOVE AND RERUNS IN ADAMS COUNTY centers around Lon Peterson, a failed baseball player who has returned to Adams County, Ohio for the funeral of his father. He can't help but encounter his ex-wife Pam (now a counter girl at the local McDonald's) and Pam's second husband, Bobby. Bobby is someone who makes me think Pam might have been better off to stay married to Lon. Then there's Lon's new girlfriend, Crystal, who, by the way, just happens to be married to someone else (not Lon).
Lon and Pamela and Bobby and Crystal and the other inhabitants of LOVE AND REURNS IN ADAMS COUNTY are people I really cared about and people I wanted to spend time with...a lot of time. Spencer could have doubled the number of pages in his book and I wouldn't have tired of reading it.
The editorial review expresses some disappointment in the lack of a clear denouement. This didn't trouble me. Sometimes I think a denouement can detract (as it did in THE ENGLISH PATIENT) and, at other times, it's clearly needed. I think in the case of LOVE AND RERUNS IN ADAMS COUNTY, it's simply a matter of personal preference. I didn't feel the lack and I fell in love with the book and with the author's easy, gentle writing style.
If you love character-driven books or are just looking for something "real" to read, something that will tug at your heart and stay with you for years to come, I couldn't recommend a better book than LOVE AND RERUNS IN ADAMS COUNTY. Track down a copy and read it today!

The Romantics: A Novel
The Romantics: A Novel
by Pankaj Mishra
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 18.00
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Stock Characters, Trite Plot, April 15 2004
This review is from: The Romantics: A Novel (Paperback)
I first became acquainted with the writing of Pankaj Mishra when I read, and loved, BUTTER CHICKEN IN LUDHIANA. When I learned Mishra had written a novel, I was very anxious to read it. There was much about THE ROMANTICS that I did like, but, unfortunately, there was more that I didn't like.
THE ROMANTICS is a rather late coming-of-age story of Samar, a Brahmin who has come to stay on the banks of the Ganges to read and "find himself," I guess. He meets and falls in love with a rather Bohemian Frenchwoman, Catherine, who, it seems, has very little love for him. Instead, Catherine focuses her energies on another man of Indian origin, Anand. In this way, THE ROMANTICS seems to be a book about "East meets West," or rather "East is East and West is West." Mishra seems to be telling us that westerners can't possibly understand the East and vice versa.
There's very little plot in THE ROMANTICS and the "love story" between Samar and Catherine isn't really a "love story," at least not in the conventional sense. Despite that fact, the book's very best moments take place when Catherine and Samar travel together to the Himalayan hill station of Mussoorie. This section, which is all too brief, is rather poignant and it does show us the vast differences between easterners and westerners far better than do Samar's encounters with the fiery Rajesh (who seems to be a symbol of the East).
THE ROMANTICS is a quiet book (no Salman Rushdie pyrotechnics here) and, at times, it's a very delicate and gracefully nuanced book. Most of the time, however, THE ROMANTICS is simply boring and trite and downright awkward. Samar is even reading Flaubert's SENTIMENTAL EDUCATION. Mishra also has a tendency to spell everything out, to tell us what he's just shown us and this tendency destroys much of the book's grace. As yet, Mishra certainly lacks the insight of another "quiet" Indian writer, V.S. Naipaul. Mishra, however, hasn't been displaced. Naipaul has.
Overall, I found THE ROMANTICS to be a dismal debut. The plot is "barely there," the characters are stock (Rajesh, the fiery, lower caste political activist; Catherine, the westerner who simply "can't understand the East; Samar, the Braham intellectual who's been so sheltered and protected he's actually startled when he realizes just how materially poor 99% of India is), and there's really nothing at stake.
I didn't find the book completely without merit, however. Mishra has a wonderful eye for detail and a lovely, nuanced prose style...some of the time. At other times he's way too ponderous. While reading THE ROMANTICS, I felt Mishra had a lot of insight into India to share but he needs to work on characterization and coherence...a lot. Readers want characters who come alive, not clichés. I really can't recommend this book to anyone at all.

DVD ~ Ninette de Valois
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Artistry in Motion, April 13 2004
This review is from: Nureyev (DVD)
I love ballet and surely this century's greatest and most dedicated dancer, the ballet's most accomplished artist, was the late Rudolf Nureyev. I was so happy to come across this DVD in my local video store and I bought it immediately. I must say, I loved every minute it.
RUDOLF NUREYEV gives us a rare look at the very early life of Nureyev with archival footage of Nureyev at home in the Urals, in ballet class and at the Kirov. The dance segments are brilliantly filmed and Nureyev is nothing less than pure artistry in motion, the closest any human being can come to actually soaring above the ground.
The narration is equally excellent and Patricia Foy does a marvelous job. This is a DVD for people who want to learn about the life of Rudolf Nureyev and for people who simply want a more intimate look at his incomparable dancing.
If you love ballet, you really can't afford to pass this DVD up. It is one you'll watch again and again and again for two reasons: (1) the fascinating look at the complex and complicated Nureyev, and (2) the gorgeous dance sequences.
I love this DVD and I can't recommend it highly enough to anyone with an interest in the life of Rudolf Nureyev or to anyone who simply love ballet.

by Colum McCann
Edition: Paperback
25 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Look at a Fascinating Artist, April 13 2004
This review is from: Dancer (Paperback)
I recently read the "fictionalized" autobiography of Alma Schindler Mahler Gropius Werfel and found it fascinating, so I was really eager to read this "fictionalized" account of the life of Russian ballet star Rudolf Nureyev. Unlike THE ARTIST'S WIFE (the story of Alma Schindler), DANCER isn't a fictionalized autobiography, but more of a fictionalized biography, though DANCER doesn't come close to documenting everything that went on in "Rudik's" life, nor should it. DANCER is a novel, a novel whose main character just happens to be Rudolf Nureyev and, as such, it is fascinating and intriguing.
If you want to know the factual events that made up the life of Rudolf Nureyev, then there are many good biographies of him out there. If you want to know what it might have felt like to be Nureyev, himself, or someone close to him, if you want to get caught up in the emotional rollercoaster world of the ballet, then DANCER is the book for you.
McCann has chosen to paint a portrait of Nureyev from the point of view of the people who were close to him: a fellow ballet student; a nurse in a hospital; the husband of his dancing instructor; Nureyev's own sister. I loved this choice and little by little, piece by piece, we get a view of Nureyev that is fascinating and determined, dark and moody and very, very complex.
McCann takes us from Nureyev's birthplace in the Urals to the Kirov Ballet to Paris to the bathhouses of New York City. We get a totally different view of Nureyev each time and each view enriches our understanding of this complicated and brilliant man.
McCann fills DANCER with wonderful details that really make the book come alive, although sometimes these details can be harsh. This isn't a glittering, shimmering look at the world of ballet; it's a look at an artist, in his glory and in his despair. Some of the details in Russia, in the Siberian town of Ufa, where Nureyev's family tries to exist as the family of an enemy of the Soviet government, are chilling and quite revealing.
It is difficult to describe music in prose and it is difficult to describe dance in prose, but McCann has done a wonderful job of describing the latter in DANCER. Even though I have much interest in ballet and knew many of the details of Nureyev's life before reading this book, after reading DANCER I felt I knew what it might be like to "be" Nureyev, an emotional experience I didn't get when I read the biographies.
I think DANCER is a highly imaginative book that is wonderfully well-written. I actually preferred it over any biography of Nureyev I have read thus far. If you're look for the facts of Nureyev's life and only the facts, perhaps a biography would suit your purposes better. If, however, you want an emotional experience and you want to be entertained as well, then DANCER will fill the bill on both counts and fill it beautifully. I would certainly recommend DANCER very highly.

Martha Peake: A Novel of the Revolution
Martha Peake: A Novel of the Revolution
by Patrick McGrath
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 22.95
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3.0 out of 5 stars Part Gothic, Part Historical, April 12 2004
I was introduced to the writing of Patrick McGrath through the novel, ASYLUM and now I've read everything he's ever published and loved it all (to one degree or another). When I began MARTHA PEAKE, I thought surely this would be my favorite work of McGrath's. For the first half of the book, it was, but then, unfortunately, things changed.
McGrath seems to love claustrophobic, Gothic novels (so do I) and, when I began MARTHA PEAKE, it more than filled the bill. MARTHA PEAKE begins when a young Englishman named Ambrose is trudging over the misty, windswept, moors to a decrepit place called Drogo Hall. He has been summoned by his dying Uncle William, who, before he expires, wants to tell him the story of Harry Peake and his fiery, red-haired daughter, Martha. We realize almost immediately, however, that Uncle William is not going to be a reliable narrator, due to age, illness, alcohol and drugs, so it is Ambrose who pieces together the bits of William's narrative into something coherent for the reader.
William is relating events that took place many years ago, and, in some of them, he took no part. Ambrose never knew Harry or Martha, so we are not always getting a first hand account here. To me, this seemed a rather odd way in which to narrate a story, but, for the first half of MARTHA PEAKE, at least, it seemed to work well.
The story of Harry and Martha Peake takes place during the Gothic period and Drogo Hall seems quite Gothic, indeed (though by the time William and Ambrose are "telling" us the story, the Gothic period has ended). It's a sinister, malevolent place, filled with horror and depravity.
Harry Peake's story is filled with horror and depravity as well. Because of his own drunkenness, Harry's wife, whom he loved very much, was killed in a fire and Harry, himself, was terribly injured. His spine was broken in several places and, when it failed to heal properly, he became, physically at least, a sort of monstrous creature with a hideously deformed hump in the middle of his back. With his young daughter, Martha, Harry travels through the most squalid parts of London's East End reciting poetry and displaying his deformity for money like a circus freak. During one of these sojourns, he meets William and Lord Drogo, a well-known anatomist, whose interest in Harry is limited to his deformed spine. Thankfully, McGrath has not psychoanalyzed Harry (or anyone else) during this portion of the book, but, instead, has let the scenes stand on their own.
The above forms approximately the first half of MARTHA PEAKE and it is, by far, the best half of the book. I thought it was absolutely marvelous. The violence, the depravity, the sinister aspects, the musty, moldy Gothic atmosphere...everything about MARTHA PEAKE was pulling me in further and further and, what's more, I wanted to be pulled in. And then McGrath (and William) sent Martha to American and dispensed with Harry. I wanted to cry because I didn't care about Martha in America and I didn't care about her role in the American Revolution.
The first half of MARTHA PEAKE had been near brilliant in its Gothic portrayal of Harry and his wanderings through London's East End. The book was highly atmospheric, claustrophobic, intense and brooding. After Martha leaves for America, however, MARTHA PEAKE doesn't just continue; it becomes a very different, and different kind, of book and one I didn't like nearly as well. Gone was the intense claustrophobia, the depravity, the highly charged atmosphere. America was a far more "open" place than was London and, with the change in setting, MARTHA PEAKE becomes a far more "open" book. This is also where I think the narration runs into trouble. While William knew Lord Drogo and Harry Peake, neither William nor Ambrose had ever been to America, so Martha's story and her part in the revolution there is pure assumption on the part of Ambrose.
It's quite obvious that both Harry and Martha are symbols: Harry of the Old Word and its claustrophobic, narrow minded ways and Martha of the New and its openness and expansiveness. While both Harry and Martha work well as symbols, the book suffers because of Martha's departure and would have been far better (and darker), I think, had McGrath let Martha live out her life in London (or at least close by). McGrath had the chance to spin a very dark tale here and, instead, he let it grow into something much lighter. I really felt let down...and surprised, since McGrath is well-known for his penchant for darkness and horror, especially psychological horror.
At the novel's end, McGrath does bring his diverse storylines together and we learn that all is not as it has seemed. The ending, however, isn't entirely satisfying because McGrath has simply "strung us along" for far too long. The ending seems too brief and a bit too hollow.
I think MARTHA PEAKE is an uneven book. Some parts are simply magnificent, others just "good," and others definitely lacking. Still, if you're a Patrick McGrath "junkie" like I am, MARTHA PEAKE is going to be a book that you'll want to read and one that you won't soon forget. will be Harry you remember, not Martha.
I would definitely give the first half of MARTHA PEAKE five stars and the second half two. Three and one-half, overall.

New Directions By Night In Chile
New Directions By Night In Chile
by Roberto Bolano
Edition: Paperback
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hallucinatory, Surreal and Satiric, April 11 2004
BY NIGHT IN CHILE is a wonderful book and it's a shame there aren't more reviews of it here.
BY NIGHT IN CHILE is one long monologue given in a single night by Father Sebastian Urrutia who believes he's dying. Father Urrutia is a member of Opus Dei, a failed poet, a marvelous literary critic and a man tortured by a vision of a "wizened youth."
The book opens with Urrutia listening to Pablo Neruda recite poetry at a country estate. Urrutia then makes his way across Europe in an effort to save the continent's churches from pigeon droppings (these scenes are marvelous). On his return to Chile, Urrutia becomes a stellar figure in Allende's Popular Unity government and later teaches Marxist doctrine to Pinochet.
The last section of the novel, however, might be the very best and it's certainly the most chilling. This section involves a woman named Maria Canales who is definitely based on Mariana Callejas. Bolano uses Canales to satirize the Chilean literary scene under Pinochet. While Canales hosts literary "receptions" in her living room, her basement is being used as a torture chamber.
If you decide to read BY NIGHT IN CHILE, don't expect to find some sort of "fluffy" story a la Isabel Allende. Bolano was a much better and more insightful writer that that. And this is real literary fiction, not simply "a good story."
Although BY NIGHT IN CHILE isn't going to appeal to most readers, it is definitely one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. The prose is perfect and is, at times, very lyrical and hallucinatory. At other times, it's crackling with satirical wit. Bolano really managed to dissect literature in this book, especially Chilean literature.
Bolano wrote many novels and books of poetry, but sadly, BY NIGHT IN CHILE in the only one of his works to be translated into English. If you can read Spanish and you love highly intelligent, highly literary novels, I would suggest trying to track down the Spanish language versions of Bolano's other books.
Sadly, Roberto Bolano died in 2003 and his loss was greatly felt in Latin America and in Europe. Hopefully, Chris Andrews will translate more of Bolano's work into English and this writer, who was so tremendously talented, will become better known in the US.
BY NIGHT IN CHILE is a book not to be missed.

Die Another Day (Widescreen Special Edition) [2 Discs] [Import]
Die Another Day (Widescreen Special Edition) [2 Discs] [Import]
DVD ~ Pierce Brosnan
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars May Be The Very Worst Bond Movie, April 11 2004
I love James Bond. They are pure escapism fun, but I hated DIE ANOTHER DAY and think it may well be the very worst Bond movie yet. I have no toruble at suspending disbelief when I watch a movie, but I do like to be entertained, not insulted. In DIE ANOTHER DAY, the writing was terrible and there was really no story at all--just one cheap, glossy stunt after another strung together with some of the poorest dialogue I've ever heard.
I'm no Halle Berry fan, but I don't think she "ruined" this movied as so many others have said. I found her acting wooden and amateurish, but let's be honest, she really didn't have much to work with. I didn't care for her character, Jinx and thought she was "too strong" and "too techno" for a "Bond girl."
M and Mrs. Moneypenny were treated badly by the writers, too. Mrs. Moneypenny was the target of a would be joke completely lacking in humor while M's character was rendered downright neurotic.
And what the heck was Madonna doing in this film? Having her sing (badly and flat, but that that was nothing new) the title song was bad enough; inserting her into the film (even in a cameo) was a slap in the face. If the writers simply wanted to make a bad thing worse, they more than succeeded.
The stunts were ridiculous. I expect the unbelievable when I watch James Bond and I like it, but DIE ANOTHER DAY took a good thing too far. The palace of ice and the invisible care were horrible, but the writers really lost me during that ridiculous parasailing scene. James Bond is very definitely "high tech" but he's not "techno trash." At least, he shouldn't be.
On the plus side, I thought Rosamund Peek (Miranda Frost) was gorgeous but alas, wasted in this film. And much credit has to be given to Pierce Brosnan for remaining "James Bond" despite being given material so lousy it was embarrassing.
Overall, not even worth renting.

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