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R Jess "Raymond Jess" (Limerick, Ireland.)
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The Complete RCA Victor Recordings
The Complete RCA Victor Recordings
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 48.55
4 used & new from CDN$ 7.64

5.0 out of 5 stars Boppin!, Dec 5 2003
Dizzy Gillespie's style was the nemesis of Miles Davis's. Introspection doesn't seem to have been a word often used in Diz's vocabulary, musical or otherwise. His playing did have a 'dizzying' effect always putting speed, dynamism and drama at the forefront of his performances. On this collection Gillespie's talent as a bandleader and musical arranger also come to the fore. He had of course a great theoretical knowledge of music and wasn't afraid to pass this on to other musicians by way of help and encouragement. With the big bands here he manages to register bebop lines in a larger sound and the over-all enthusiasm shows through.
Throughout this collection Gillespie never loses sight of the desire to swing despite his revolutionary tendacy to subvert traditional chord structure. 'Hot Mallets' swings like hell over great xelophone playing that also features on 'Blue Rhythm Fantasy'. The first version of '52nd Street Theme' is amazingly fluent while the second version goes in for greater improvisation. The bebop standard 'A Night In Tunisia' gets its greatest rendition here in its original form with Diz's no-holds emphatic sound. Gillespie's generosity to other musicians can be heard on 'Ol' Man Rebop' where each soloist takes his turn exercising his own bop interpretations. The most incessantly driving tracks on these CD's are the two versions of 'Anthropology' which rock like crazy. I also loved the rolling end of 'Ow!' and the swinging shout of 'Cool Breeze'. With 'Cubana Be' and 'Cubana Bop', Gillepie moves into even greater experimental territory. Each display a menancing rhythm like the growing stampede of an elephant herd backed up by Gillespie's elephant sounding shrieks on the trumpet.
More brash and emphatic playing on 'Minor Walk' and 'Lover Come Back To Me' proves to be yet another shining example of Dizzy as a great arranger. The backing brass jumps about at its own frenetic pace while Gillespie's trumpet bursts with energy and of course there's also the tight technical arrangement of the 'Overtime' tracks. The footstomping 'I'm Beboppin' Too' could be a manifesto for the whole bebop movement, while tracks like 'Jump Did La Ba' shows an early example of bop scat-singing. In contrast you have tracks that still swing (almost violently in Dizzy's case) like his interpretation of St. Louis Blues.
What always shows through in Dizzy's playing is his total enjoyment and utter euphoria, something that he shares with few other jazz players (the most notable exception being Louis Armstrong). All in all a marvellous collection for Dizzy fans.

Last Temptation of Christ [Import]
Last Temptation of Christ [Import]
VHS
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4.0 out of 5 stars Those damn Prods!, Dec 5 2003
'The Last Temptation Of Christ' has to be Martin Scorsese's most unintentionally funny film even just for the accents alone. The funniest being Harvey Kietel as a pseudo-sounding gangster Judas e.g. "Don't touch me!" As usual all the bad guys have British accents from Pilate to Satan.
Scorsese does his best to try and give us a picture of Jesus the man. I'm sure many educated Catholic theologians would welcome such a film as this as it deals with issues that go all the way back to the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D., when they discussed how much of Jesus was divine and how much of him was human. The point of the picture as far as I can see is to try and portray Jesus as a man of the everyday world, he does after all drink wine and hang out with prostitutes (unlike John the Baptist). If he felt none of the passion or fears of the human flesh then this causes major problems with his cruxifiction. If he was beyond the petty foibles of the flesh then his cruxifiction becomes no sacrifice at all because he doesn't feel fear and pain.
I have to say though that Scorses's movie does come across more as a Catholic interprtation rather than a Protestant one. You could almost say that Satan tempting him off the cross was an analogy for Martin Luther's rebellion against the established church. Jesus then lives his life as a good Protestant minister, denying the virgin birth, getting married and having kids etc. Fortunately Christ sees the evils of the Protestant Satan and remains on the cross, a good and noble Catholic. (Owch! had to get that one in.)

The King Of Comedy
The King Of Comedy
DVD ~ Robert De Niro
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 19.34
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4.0 out of 5 stars Long-time reward., Dec 5 2003
This review is from: The King Of Comedy (DVD)
This movie is a forgotten classic. What's most unusual about it is the fact that everyone seemed to want to bury this movie from the moment it started production. Scorsese's previous movie 'Raging Bull' had bombed at the box office and marked the end of that great period of American film-making, the 1970's.
'The King of Comedy' was made in a period where film companies wanted to keep a tighter hold on the film-making process, keeping a close eye on budget and 'commercial value'. Even before Scorsese had finished editing the movie, 20th Century Fox told him that they felt uneasy about the commercial prospects of a movie called 'The King Of Comedy' that featured Jerry Lewis in an unfunny role.
The impetus behind making this film came from Robert DeNiro who wanted to extend his range beyond aggressive or introspective characters. Ironically shades of Rupert Pubkin would resurface in 'Casino' where DeNiro appears as Ace Rothstein in an extravegant wardrobe and as a lousy presenter of his own T.V. show.
Despite identifying with Pupkin in his incessant passion to get on in showbusiness, Scorsese felt that 'King of Comedy' was a personal failure from which it took him over 5 years to recover. It was certainly an experimental film for him in that his camera work is almost totally conventional -where is the moving camera that is his trademark?- I suppose he thought that if he made a 'conventional' picture then it should automatically do well at the box office. In contrast to when it was originally released, most people I've watched this movie with today thought it was hilarious.

Raging Bull
Raging Bull
VHS
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4.0 out of 5 stars Black & White Bloodletting., Dec 5 2003
This review is from: Raging Bull (VHS Tape)
Robert DeNiro's and Marlon Brando's careers seem to be intermittantly linked, certainly their Oscar-winning peformances. They've both won an Academy Award for playing the same character (Vito Corleone) and in this Oscar-winning performance by DeNiro, he quotes Brando's Oscar-winning performance in 'On The Waterfront'. Great as DeNiro's performance is, I don't think it takes an enormous amount of acting ability to just put on weight.
Scorsese shot it in B&W primarily to make it avoid looking like other boxing movies made at the time such as 'Rocky II'. This lack of colour means that the fight scenes take on a more abstract flavour. For instance in the final fight with Sugar Ray, the amount of blood spraying all over the place seems intentionally unrealistic. The absence of red means that Scorsese has to over-compensate LaMotta's beating with enough blood loss for at least 3 human beings.
Maybe this strong focus on blood has something to do with Scorsese's Catholic background. LaMotta in that last fight seems to be willing on his punishment (Catholic) before returning with his pride (Italian) to tell Sugar Ray that he's still standing. These cultural and religious themes make 'Raging Bull' Scorsese's most personal film alongside 'Mean Streets'.
However when one makes personal films and they fail commercially, one can't help but take it personally. 'Raging Bull' came out 10 days before 'Heaven's Gate', the movie that bankrupt United Artists. From here on in movie companies took back the rein of film-making from the directors. Something Scorsese was at the mercy of throughout the 80's.

Bird On 52nd Street
Bird On 52nd Street
Price: CDN$ 15.09
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Impressive despite sound quality., Dec 2 2003
This review is from: Bird On 52nd Street (Audio CD)
Although not a good sound quality recording, 'Bird at 52nd Street does have great historical value giving us some sense of the musical revolutionary times after the war that Parker not only inhabited but helped create.
The record opens with the familiar riff of '52nd Street Theme' and unfortunately the poor sound quality means heavy bass hiss throughout. This is followed by the bebop drumming on 'Shaw Nuff' with added hiss quality making the cymbals crash like a Wagner opera. 'Hot House' sounds like a wonderful synthesis of jazz and bebop. Parker's version of 'A Night In Tunisia' swaggers along nonchalantly, giving us the impression that his performance may have been heroin induced. Parker was such an intricate player that when he was blazae about his performance the contrast could be striking.
As in 'My Old Flame' where Parker sounds flustered over a plodding blues riff. The most impressive track on the record is 'The Way You Look Tonight' which really drives hard, showing an inventive intensity missing from much of the performance here.
As for the rest of the album, the compilers seem to have made a concerted effort to make the 2nd half sound superior to the 1st. The 2nd version of 'Out Of Nowhere' and the third version of '52nd Street Theme' remain the superior ones here. 'How High The Moon' has the most inventive bass playing, while the improvisation on 'Dizzy Atmosphere' is sprite yet formidable. 'This Time The Dream's On Me' doesn't seem to work in either version.

Last Waltz [Import]
Last Waltz [Import]
VHS

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rocking!, Dec 2 2003
This review is from: Last Waltz [Import] (VHS Tape)
I have to admit that before seeing this movie, I wasn't a big fan of the Band, but their performance on this particular night really rocked. Kudos to Martin Scorsese for bringing us closer to the intimacy of the group in live performance. This intimacy is only hightened by the fact that the director seems to have made a concerted effort not to film the audience. There are also some wonderful performances by other musicians such as Joni Mitchell and Muddy Waters.
I have to say though that Bob Dylan had to be the worst performer on the night and I was glad when everybody else got up there to help him out.
Apparently when Scorsese showed the initial cut to Neil Young's manager he was furious as Neil had a huge cocaine booger hanging from his nostril. Somehow Scorsese managed to cover it up.

Taxi Driver
Taxi Driver
VHS
Offered by vidsale
Price: CDN$ 24.95
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5.0 out of 5 stars Alienated glory, Nov. 28 2003
This review is from: Taxi Driver (VHS Tape)
I think this is Scorsese's best film by far and great as it is I think Bernard Hermann's score takes it to another level. Travis Bickle's decline into morbid social impotence is the most deftly drawn example of alienation ever put on the screen. Straight out of Vietnam, Travis struggles to connect with the social world around him. This it seems was not an uncommon occurance for most veterans of the Vietnam war, who were often trained with one set of men, sent over to Vietnam with a different set of men and then sent into battle with yet another group of men. This constant uprooting of company alligences meant that many veterans of that war found it difficult to form lasting bonds with their comrades in arms and as such had to suffer much of their post-war psychological trauma alone. The U.S. army has since learnt from its mistakes and now makes sure all its soldiers form a career-long bond with the companies they were initially trained with.
In 'Taxi Driver' Travis's social and personal frustrations become ever more exacerbated as the movie continues, until eventually all the tension is released in the final shoot-out scene. Accepting his incompetance in everyday relationships, Travis sees that the only way he can give meaning to his life is by identifying with a Christ-like mission to save a young prostitute. He ultimately fails in his attempt to deify himself as he runs out of bullets. It is this twist of fate which gives him a second shot at life, a shot that I believe the final scene attests to.
Also, against popular opinion, I think the desaturation was a good idea. It gives that scene a gritty, documentary-style look, rather than a full-blooded gore fest which would have run the risk of making the scene look like a B-movie horror.

Alice Doesnt Live/Anymore              >
Alice Doesnt Live/Anymore >
VHS
Offered by vidsale
Price: CDN$ 18.95
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4.0 out of 5 stars Mean Deserts, Nov. 28 2003
Although a stop-gap movie for Martin Scorsese, 'Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore' proved to be the pinnacle of Ellen Burstyn's career. Her academy award winning performance in this film crosses back and forth between careful tenderness and passionate intensity with intelligent ease. In most of his best work Scorsese encourages the actors in his films to play around with the script and improvise extensively. In 'Alice' he allows Burstyn's instincts about her character to come to the fore in the scene in the kitchen with Kris Kristofferson where she talks of her early showbiz career with her brother. Practically all of the dialogue was improvised by Burstyn herself, so much so that Scorsese had to cut the scene down to 3 minutes from 15! In fact there seems to have been a lot of cutting going on in this film. Alice's husband comes across as a totally unsympathetic character until you realize that much of his more tender scenes with Alice were cut in order to make the film move faster.
And move faster it does, for with Scorsese's deep aversion to static shots and his use of a hand-held camera in the small claustrophobic environments in which Alice and her son are confined, all the characters in this film look deeply unsettled in personality as well as in geography.
Ironically, filming had to be stopped on this movie for a couple of days because Ellen Burstyn had to go to the Oscars as she was nominated for her role in 'The Exorcist' that year. She returned unawarded to the work that would eventually reward her.

Mean Streets
Mean Streets
VHS
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5.0 out of 5 stars But what IS a 'mook'?, Nov. 26 2003
This review is from: Mean Streets (VHS Tape)
Martin Scorsese's most autobiographical movie bestows an energy and a vibrancy that hasn't diminished in the 30 years since it was made. Part of this wonderful energy is created by Scorsese's use of music, a cinematic trait he has continued to use successfully in all of his best movies. In fact in 'Mean Streets', Scorsese's use of 2 different styles of music, Italian and rock, can be seen as an expression of the divergence between the older and younger members of the Italian-American community in which he grew up. Scorsese himself valued the use of music so much, that he was willing to fork out $30,000 just for the rights to use the 2 Rolling Stones songs in the picture and this in a movie which cost $750,000 to make.
Another powerful aspect of the film is the acting. Along with the intense charactarizations created by the actors, there also seems to be quite a lot of improvisation used (especially in the backroom scene where DeNiro tries to explain his losses to Kietel). This creates an air of pathetic authenticity, a welcome attribute in most of Scorsese's films.
Ironically despite the fact that the film is set on the 'Mean Streets' of New York, all the interior shots were filmed in L.A. with a different camera crew than the one that shot the exterior shots in Manhatten.
The film is also a visual document of the decline of Little Italy, much of which today is just an extended part of Chinatown.
A 'mook' by the way is Neapolition for bigmouth.

Sheltering Sky, the
Sheltering Sky, the
VHS
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2.0 out of 5 stars Nice shots but...., Nov. 14 2003
This review is from: Sheltering Sky, the (VHS Tape)
Well the cinematography is great. After only about 10 minutes though, you can see that this has been adapted from a novel and a literary one at that. Literary novels are notoriously difficult to adapt to the screen precisely because they draw attention to themselves as 'literature', their expression is intimately linked to the art-form in which they were created.
The main characters seem to be on a mission to recapture some of the adventure that existed in pre-war America by entering the 'otherness' of North Africa. The realities of life there come to sour their rather naive utopian vision. I would resist from dissing a movie just because it doesn't have an identifiable plot (most of our real lives don't have one anyway), but most of these characters are very difficult to emphatise with. Debra Winger's transformation at the end of the film where she subsumes herself in Port's idealism, carrying on his adventurous nature as a way of coping with his loss is an interesting character development. But I'm sure this transformation is much better explained in the novel. On screen, without previous knowledge of the story, it comes across as inexplicible.
No movie company would dream of financing a film script as rambling as this one if it was made by a first time director. This seems to be a vanity picture indulged in by Warners after the success of Bertolucci's 'The Last Emperor'.

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