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Reviews Written by
Linda Linguvic (New York City)
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Under Fire (Widescreen)
Under Fire (Widescreen)
DVD ~ DVD
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 71.36
7 used & new from CDN$ 31.93

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Danger, adventure and history. But romance is silly., Feb. 3 2004
This review is from: Under Fire (Widescreen) (DVD)
This 1983 film is about journalists in war-torn Nicaragua where President Somoza is losing his power to Sandinista guerillas. Nick Nolte, Joanna Cassidy and Gene Hackman are cast as the journalists. They all love the adventure of their assignments and view the wars as way to establish esteem by having a story on the cover of Time magazine. They're also involved in a love triangle. In the meantime there is the real tragedy of the war going on around them. Nick Nolte has to make some hard choices about his integrity and it made me think about what I might do in the same situation. Ed Harris is cast as an American mercenary and made me aware that such people really do exist.

There's danger and adventure and history here - all rolled up into one film. I just wish they left out the silly romance that slowed down the action. I was much more interested in the politics which seemed an over-simplified "good guys versus bad guys" story. All the actors did a competent job with the exception of Joanna Cassidy who tried hard but just wasn't believable. The cinematography was great though and really gave me a feeling of the place they were in. Some of the opening scenes were set in Africa, and these, too, were excellent.

I generally liked this film but stop short of giving it a high recommendation. I just couldn't care about the characters or the particular war in progress. Good but not great.

Seabiscuit (Widescreen)
Seabiscuit (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Tobey Maguire
Price: CDN$ 11.83
67 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Story that stirred my heartstrings without being maudlin, Feb. 3 2004
This review is from: Seabiscuit (Widescreen) (DVD)
Once and a while a film comes along that has it all - great story, fine acting, and the kind of directing that knows exactly how to stir my heartstrings without being maudlin. I'm also impressed that this is a true story, based on the best selling book by Laura Hillenbrand.

The setting is depression-era America and the film includes all those little details that make that dark period of time come alive. The people needed a hero. And it came to them in the form of a racehorse with all the odds against him. Seabiscuit was too small and not well trained when Charles Howard, a self-made rich man recovering from a personal tragedy, took him on. Jeff Bridges is cast in this role and keeps his performance controlled and understated. Chris Cooper is outstanding in the role of Tom Smith, the trainer who takes care of horses that others would have discarded. "You don't throw away a whole life just 'cause he's banged up a little," is one of his key lines. And it resonates throughout the entire film. Tobey Maguire is wonderful as the jockey, Red Polard. He also fights all odds to get in the game and stay there. Each one of these men is damaged in his own way, just like Seabiscuit. But together they create a champion.

I loved the film and I also loved the extras on the DVD. I enjoyed seeing the writer and director describe their many challenges. I was fascinated as to how they created the close-ups during the exciting races. And I was particularly interested in the old newsreel footage.

Don't miss this DVD. There's something in it for everyone. It's an inspiration for all and the feel-good feeling lasts a long time. Seabiscuit gets one of my highest recommendations. Don't miss it!
Once and a while a film comes along that has it all - great story, fine acting, and the kind of directing that knows exactly how to stir my heartstrings without being maudlin. I'm also impressed that this is a true story, based on the best selling book by Laura Hillenbrand.

The setting is depression-era America and the film includes all those little details that make that dark period of time come alive. The people needed a hero. And it came to them in the form of a racehorse with all the odds against him. Seabiscuit was too small and not well trained when Charles Howard, a self-made rich man recovering from a personal tragedy, took him on. Jeff Bridges is cast in this role and keeps his performance controlled and understated. Chris Cooper is outstanding in the role of Tom Smith, the trainer who takes care of horses that others would have discarded. "You don't throw away a whole life just 'cause he's banged up a little," is one of his key lines. And it resonates throughout the entire film. Tobey Maguire is wonderful as the jockey, Red Polard. He also fights all odds to get in the game and stay there. Each one of these men is damaged in his own way, just like Seabiscuit. But together they create a champion.

I loved the film and I also loved the extras on the DVD. I enjoyed seeing the writer and director describe their many challenges. I was fascinated as to how they created the close-ups during the exciting races. And I was particularly interested in the old newsreel footage.

Don't miss this DVD. There's something in it for everyone. It's an inspiration for all and the feel-good feeling lasts a long time. Seabiscuit gets one of my highest recommendations. Don't miss it!

El Mariachi (Special Edition) (Bilingual) [Import]
El Mariachi (Special Edition) (Bilingual) [Import]
DVD ~ Carlos Gallardo
Offered by WonderBook-USA
Price: CDN$ 10.24
25 used & new from CDN$ 2.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Shoestring budget, lots of action, weak story., Feb. 3 2004
This 1992 film is best known for its cost of production, which was a mere $7,000. The feature on the DVD was fascinating as the writer-director, Robert Rodriguez, showed us how he planned his shots and then expertly put them all together.

As far as the film itself goes, however, it was a rather slow and simple story of mistaken identity. A young mariachi, played by wide-eyed Carlos Gallardo, comes into a Mexican town carrying a guitar case. Little does he know that there is a gang war going on and that a bad guy is murdering the men of the local warlord. The young mariachi is mistaken for the bad guy and soon everyone is after this innocent young man. Along the way he meets a woman, Consuelo Gomez, who hides him in her room and their romance is inevitable.

Personally, I found the whole thing silly, especially since the film contained unnecessary dream sequences that did nothing to further the action. As a matter of fact, I found myself rooting for the bad guy. Good thing the film was only 81 minutes long.

Desperado (Special Edition) (Bilingual)
Desperado (Special Edition) (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Antonio Banderas
Offered by vidsale
Price: CDN$ 5.99
37 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Fast paced violent film with silly plot. I liked it., Feb. 3 2004
Three years after Robert Rodriguez came along and showed the world how a mere $7,000 and a lot of creativity could make a successful film called El Mariachi, he made Desperado. This 1995 film has a bigger budget and more star quality, but the imprint of this director is certainly there. There's lots of violence - with guns, knives and explosives. And, like El Mariachi, the characterizations are secondary to the constant action. It's all very silly, and a little too long at 106 minutes, but I frankly couldn't take my eyes off the screen.

The film stars Antonio Bandaras as the good guy and Salma Hayek as his romantic interest. There's a cameo performance by Quentin Tarantino and Steve Buscemi has one of the best scenes in the film as he sets up the story at the beginning by his tall tale in a bar.

This is not a film to be taken seriously. It's targeted to teenage boys and the video game crowd.

So why am I watching this flick and enjoying myself so much? I guess it's cause I'm just a film buff and am fascinated by the techniques and constant action. And best of all I loved the extra feature, which shows how one of the scenes was filmed. It's not for everyone, of course. But I liked it.

Future Of Freedom
Future Of Freedom
by Fareed Zakaria
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 19.53
68 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Is democracy the best form of government for everyone?, Jan. 25 2004
This review is from: Future Of Freedom (Hardcover)
The author of this book is the editor of Newsweek International and a political analyst for ABC news. He has a thorough knowledge of history, which he couples with his basic premise -- that democracy, in itself, is not necessarily the best form of government. An excellent example of this is that Hitler was elected in a democratic election. The book, which is really a long essay, gives us an overview of history and brings us right up to today's political scene with its emphasis on populism. He wants us all to agree with his conclusion that democracy and good government are not necessarily the same thing.

I learned a lot from this book, especially about the way that various governments work, but I'll likely not retain much of it because every word was targeted only to advance his particular point of view. I agree up to a point. Our world seems to be run by popularity polls that change from day to day. And it seems obvious to me that when change in legislation is being debated, it is not in anyone's interest to have the public and media aware of every little detail. This is because it is mostly the paid lobbyists and special interest groups that follow these public debates, and their agendas are often in direct conflict with the public good.

Even though there were only 264 pages in this book, it was much too long. Everything he had to say could have been condensed into a few dozen pages. I suspect he's written articles about this topic and decided to expand them into a book. Frankly, I was bored most of the time and struggled to finish it. Therefore, I can only give it a mild recommendation.

Inheritors (Widescreen)
Inheritors (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Simon Schwarz
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 56.33
9 used & new from CDN$ 14.87

4.0 out of 5 stars The film brought to life the hard life of peasants, Jan. 25 2004
This review is from: Inheritors (Widescreen) (DVD)
This film is set in rural Austria and tells the story of what happens when a cruel farmer is murdered and it is discovered that he has bequeathed his farm to his workers. Of course there's conflict, lots of conflict. The other farmers in the area hate them and force them to pay high taxes to keep the land. There are conflicts between the seven peasants themselves who have never owned anything in their lives. And there's a mysterious woman with a secret who's going to be executed for murdering the farmer.
This film brought to light how hard the life of a peasant was. They worked seven days a week at backbreaking labor and were virtual slaves to the farmer. It was a horrible life compared to that of the farmers around them. In German, with English subtitles, the film is in color but it may as well been in black and white because the story is such a dark and dismal one. There's a bit of humor but it does nothing but underscore the horrible lives that these people led. Of course there's a ray of hope when they inherit the land, but they are naive to think that their culture would let them live in peace.
The tale is centered around a young man named Lukas who romances the three young women peasant women on the farm, most notably Emily, who is a fiery and outspoken advocate of their land ownership. There's also another young man, an older woman and a stable boy on the farm and each is well developed with distinctive personalities. There's a lot of violence and some very sad moments. I was depressed throughout. This has nothing to do with the quality of the film which dealt with some important themes.

Closet (Widescreen) (Version française) [Import]
Closet (Widescreen) (Version française) [Import]
DVD ~ Daniel Auteuil
Offered by OMydeals
Price: CDN$ 68.09
8 used & new from CDN$ 15.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Well paced very funny French farce with really good theme, Jan. 25 2004
This 2001 French farce made me laugh out loud at times. That's because the theme is so funny. A mild-mannered nerd who's been working as an accountant in a condom company for 20 years is about to be fired. In order to keep his job, he takes the advice of a neighbor and lets everyone think he is gay. Here's were the theme of political correctness and its absurdities really take off. Daniel Auteuil plays the lead and he's great. The expressions on his face are worth a thousand words.
The plot thickens, of course, as Gerard Depardieu, a co-worker, macho rugby player, and very stupid fellow, lets himself be set up by some pals of his to befriend Daniel Auteuil. What follows are some really funny scenes. And then, Auteuil's female boss tries to seduce him. The acting and the timing of the jokes were perfect and the concept was wonderful.
It's a good thing it was only 85 minutes long, however, because with a film like this there is only one central joke and there are limits as to how far it can go. It might have been even better if it was cut to be even shorter. I do recommend this film, however. I loved the theme and the acting. And found it a pleasant evening of viewing pleasure.

Cotton Mary (Widescreen)
Cotton Mary (Widescreen)
DVD ~ DVD
Price: CDN$ 14.99
26 used & new from CDN$ 4.62

2.0 out of 5 stars Preposterous story but fine acting and cinematography, Jan. 25 2004
This review is from: Cotton Mary (Widescreen) (DVD)
This 1999 Merchant-Ivory production is set in India in 1954. A wealthy British woman gives birth to a small baby. As she is not able to breastfeed, the hospital nurse, named Cotton Mary, who proudly proclaims that she is half-English herself, makes the woman dependent upon her and moves into the rich woman's house as a servant. Cotton Mary never tells the mother how she is feeding the baby, but the viewer watches Cotton Mary take the baby in a boat each day to visit her own crippled sister who is a wet nurse and lives in a house which the British refer to as an "alms house", where disabled and aged elderly people live.
The plot is ridiculous. How can a mother show no interest at all in how her baby is being fed? Certainly a tiny baby needs to be fed more than once a day. And certainly, they had baby bottles and formula in 1954. The woman's husband, who is a philandering and uncaring journalist doesn't care either. And their older daughter who is about eight years old keeps the secret of these clandestine feedings.
There's more to the story of course. There are the snobby British colonials and the legacy of colonialism. There is the trusted Indian servant who is forced out of his job because of the lies of Cotton Mary. There is Cotton Mary's niece who has an affair with the husband. But mostly the film is about Cotton Mary herself and her descent into mental illness.
The story is awful but the film still had a few things going for it. One was the great acting job of Madhur Jeffrey cast as Cotton Mary. Another was the setting and excellent photography that transported me to a time and place in India that Merchant-Ivory does so well. But the story itself is preposterous and much too long and boring.

Triumph of the Will [Import]
Triumph of the Will [Import]
DVD ~ Adolf Hitler
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 23.75
12 used & new from CDN$ 23.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Historically significant, but it gave me the chills., Jan. 19 2004
This review is from: Triumph of the Will [Import] (DVD)
The Nazi regime is over now, but this 1934 film remains and is available on DVD. It was commissioned by Adolph Hitler himself and written and directed by Leni Riefenstal, then only 32 years old. It's a full two-hours and celebrates and glorifies the Third Reich. The film techniques are excellent, given the technology of the time. I understand she used 30 cameras, more than a hundred crewmembers and 61 hours of film. There are shots obviously taken from a helicopter with great views of the clouds. There are distant shots that take in more than 200,000 people. And close-ups that show the love and adoration that the populace felt for Hitler, who had just become the dictator the year before. I
Mostly, there are crowd scenes and speeches by Hitler himself as well as Goebbels, Goring, Hess, Himmler and other villains of the Nazi era which was then a rising political movement. It was several years before the war machine was fully in place as the Nazis didn't march into Poland until 1939. So, at the time the film was made, there was nothing but joy, especially since just a few years prior to that Germany was immersed in a depression that was so bad that people were paid twice a day because the value of money changed from hour to hour that the price of a loaf of bread could double from morning to afternoon.
It's an eerie feeling to sit in the comfort of my rocking chair and travel seven decades back in time. The young people in the Hitler Youth movement reminded me of boy scouts as I watched them horse around and splash water on each other like any other high-spirited teenagers. The small children are all smiling as their parents hold them up to catch a glimpse of Hitler. And the adults themselves seems to be in an ecstatic trance as they raise their arms in a "Heil Hitler" salute. I couldn't help but think if any of them are still alive, and how deceived they must be about the early promise of their youth, and how much devastation it caused for everyone.
Then there were the speeches, always with the utmost theatrical fervor. I read the subtitles carefully. What was Hitler and the others really saying? Yes, they spoke of glory. But they also spoke of themselves as being the party of peace and being told by God that this was their destiny. Surprisingly too, they all seemed to believe it. I had also expected to see more anti-Semitism in their speeches. Jews were never mentioned and although there was some reference to racial purity, it didn't seem to be the leading issue in 1934.
Basically, the film was one big show of pageantry and pep rally for what would come later. Looking back on in in 2003, it gives me the chills.
For students of history, this is an important film. Others will be horrified. And many will be bored as there are no actors and no plot except to glorify their leader.

Assassination Tango
Assassination Tango
DVD ~ Robert Duvall
Offered by Planet Video
Price: CDN$ 49.95
14 used & new from CDN$ 9.25

4.0 out of 5 stars Great dancing, storyline and acting, but too slow paced., Jan. 19 2004
This review is from: Assassination Tango (DVD)
This 2002 film was written and directed by Robert Duvall He also stars in it and gives a really fine performance as an aging hit man who is sent to Argentina to assassinate a general. The plot is more complex than that though. Duvall's character is a complex man. His middle-aged girlfriend back home has a 10-year-old daughter he adores and there are several domestic scenes which show this love. He also loves to dance and is fascinated with the tango. And so, when he is in Argentina and the assassination is delayed several weeks, he meets Luciana Pedraza, a tango dancer at least 40 years his junior. He asks her for lessons and is swept into the world of the tango. We see a lot of dancing and sense the discipline and timing that this special art form requires. He's now definitely in a romantic relationship. But whether it's with this young Argentine woman or the tango itself is difficult to differentiate. There is also the sense of danger as the actual assassination draws near. This is not going to be a simple job and we soon sense a double cross going on.
This is not a simple film. Robert Duvall's role is too complicated for that. It requires great subtlety in his acting to hint at all his inner conflicts. It is clear he is suppressing emotion and we feel his inner tension throughout. And the screenplay's references to the fact that he is aging makes it seem actually quite plausible that this 72-year-old assassin will be able to carry out his job.
I tend to like fast-paced plots and so I found Assassination Tango a little too slow for my taste. And there were several loose ends in the resolution of relationships. But I did enjoy the complexity of the story which exists on many levels. And, most of all, I loved the dancing.

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