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Miles D. Moore (Alexandria, VA USA)
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Siren Song
Siren Song
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 34.95
5 used & new from CDN$ 6.89

5.0 out of 5 stars An entrancing CD, full of poignant beauty., May 30 2004
This review is from: Siren Song (Audio CD)
It's a world of enchantment that Grace Griffith and Cathy Palmer, the duo that comprises the Irish music group Connemara, reveal to us in their CD, "Siren Song." Every cut on this CD is so lovely that it's hard to choose a favorite, though any number that features Griffith's pure, exquisite mezzo-soprano is a standout. "Siren Song" is a must-have for anyone with even the slightest interest in Celtic music.

The Sopranos: The Complete Second Season
The Sopranos: The Complete Second Season
DVD ~ James Gandolfini
Price: CDN$ 26.99
18 used & new from CDN$ 14.36

5.0 out of 5 stars Every time I think I'm out, it pulls me back in!, May 30 2004
Things are going pretty well for Tony Soprano at the beginning of the second season of "The Sopranos." With most of his enemies safely sidelined, he is the unchallenged boss of the New Jersey mob, with lots of lucrative business opportunities presenting themselves. Yet, as always, new problems present themselves. His kids Meadow and A.J. are as rebellious as ever, and wife Carmela is increasingly fed up with Tony's absences, infidelities and fits of temper. Janice, his hippie-dippy sister, shows up unexpectedly. Richie Aprile, a mobster so greedy and violent that he scares even Tony, is released from prison and starts muscling in on Tony's business. Dr. Melfi, Tony's shrink, refuses to talk to him. And then, as always, there are the feds... As always, "Sopranos" creator David Chase and his superb team of writers cook up a fascinating, mesmerizing witch's brew of money, murder and various misbehaviors, enacted by what may well be the best ensemble cast in the history of television. (If there were a Nobel Prize for TV acting, James Gandolfini and Edie Falco certainly would be on the short list every year.) Once again, if you're offended by rough language, nudity and violence, stay away. Otherwise, be prepared to get hooked.

The Radetzky March
The Radetzky March
by Joseph Roth
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 16.89
24 used & new from CDN$ 6.18

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unforgettable portrait of a dying family and empire., May 29 2004
This review is from: The Radetzky March (Hardcover)
"The Radetzky March," first published in 1932, is a tragicomic elegy for the Austro-Hungarian Empire of the Hapsburgs, as seen through the eyes of three generations of a family caught up in that empire's inexorable decline. From Baron Joseph von Trotta--a simple peasant soldier ennobled after saving Emperor Franz Joseph's life at the Battle of Solferino--the Trotta family's torch passes to son Franz, a dignified, meticulous, unimaginative regional official, and finally to grandson Carl Joseph, a decent, weak-willed young army lieutenant totally unsuited to the life he was forced into. Carl Joseph tumbles into drink and debt as ossified bureaucracy and resurgent nationalism pushes the far-flung, anachronistic empire toward its doom. Author Joseph Roth, though clear-eyed about the empire's many faults and injustices, nevertheless found it preferable to what came after it. (It is no surprise upon reading this novel to learn that Roth drank himself to death on the eve of the Nazi takeover of Europe.) While I have some questions about Joachim Neugroschel's translation--for example, did Roth really switch so haphazardly between the present and past tenses?--there is no denying the dark, poignant power of "The Radetzky March." The Everyman's Library hardcover edition includes an astute and illuminating introduction by Alan Bance, as well as a useful timeline of Roth's life.

Poolhall Junkies (Bilingual) [Import]
Poolhall Junkies (Bilingual) [Import]
DVD ~ Mars Callahan
Offered by Imagine This Music
Price: CDN$ 29.99
18 used & new from CDN$ 13.35

3.0 out of 5 stars The poolhall from Mars., May 25 2004
So what's this guy's name, anyway? The director-writer-star of "Poolhall Junkies" is listed as Mars Callahan on the movie credits, but as Gregory "Mars" Martin on this Web site. In any case, "Poolhall Junkies" is Mars' attempt as self-mythologizing, taking bits and pieces from other, better movies--"The Hustler," "Rocky," "Diner," "Saturday Night Fever." Nevertheless, the movie has just enough energy and talent to make it worth a look. Mars plays a young pool hustler who breaks off with his treacherous manager (Chazz Palminteri), only to find that life in the straight world isn't easy for him. To get his gifted but unstable brother (Michael Rosenbaum) out of a jam, he must take up his cue again to play Palminteri's new flunky (Rick Schroder). Mars has a way with writing tough-guy dialogue, and the scenes where he and Rosenbaum hang out with their posse (Phillip Glasser, Anson Mount, Ernie Reyes Jr.) have a certain charm. The pool scenes also have a certain razzle-dazzle; if Mars and Schroder really can play that well, they should go on the pro tour immediately. But Mars either is too confident in his directorial abilities, or not confident enough; he undercuts the basic tension of the pool matches with arty camera angles and fast-motion effects. He also overestimates his gifts as an actor--he is good-looking and moves well in front of the camera, but his eyes are dead--and he saddled himself with an inept leading lady in Alison Eastwood, Clint's daughter. Palminteri is stuck in a standard-issue thug role, and Schroder has little to do, as does the late Rod Steiger as the kindly owner of the poolhall. (IMHO, the movie would have been better if Schroder and Mars had switched roles.) The film's best performance by far is by Christopher Walken, as an affable, wealthy lawyer who takes a shine to Mars.

The Sopranos: The Complete First Season
The Sopranos: The Complete First Season
DVD ~ James Gandolfini
Price: CDN$ 34.97
27 used & new from CDN$ 11.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Is this the best TV series ever, or what?, May 22 2004
I don't subscribe to HBO, so my recent purchase of a DVD player has opened to me the crazed, profane, fascinating world of "The Sopranos." After having watched the complete first season and most of the second, I have no doubt that this show is unique--and uniquely excellent--in the annals of television. Each episode is as tighly written and superbly acted as an excellent movie, but the series structure allows creator David Chase and his writers to expand and complicate the characters as you would in a serialized novel. The effect is like a collaboration between Martin Scorsese and Charles Dickens! You feel that "The Sopranos" gives the most complete picture of life in the mob of any movie or TV series ever; "The Godfather" and even "GoodFellas" seem hopelessly romanticized by comparison. (Tellingly, Tony's crew quotes "The Godfather" constantly, trying to make their sordid lives into the stuff of movie glamor.) Virtually every character on the show is complex and interesting enough to devote an entire column to, but you can't write anything meaningful about "The Sopranos" without discussing the central character, Tony Soprano. Greedy and violent, yet also possessed of charm and organizational ability, Tony seems to have compartmentalized his life comfortably into his "business" life--i.e. stealing and murdering--and his family life. That is, until he starts having blackouts... In any case, Tony is a larger-than-life character, and James Gandolfini does an incredible job in bringing him to life, with all his contradictions, doubts and sudden rages. As Gandolfini plays him, Tony is Henry VIII with a Joisey accent, or Ralph Kramden with a .38. All the other performers--Edie Falco as Carmela, Lorraine Bracco as Dr. Melfi, Michael Imperioli as Christopher--likewise manage incredible balancing acts with their characters. But special mention must be made of Nancy Marchand--formerly famous for playing patrician roles--as Livia, Tony's bitter and paranoid mom, an emasculating mother if there ever was one.

Frailty [Import]
Frailty [Import]
DVD ~ Bill Paxton
Price: CDN$ 11.01
36 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Knocks the breath right out of you., May 15 2004
This review is from: Frailty [Import] (DVD)
"Frailty," Bill Paxton's directorial debut, is a swift, tightly focused and darkly compelling thriller that leaves us with a lot of fascinating, disturbing questions at the end. Screenwriter Brent Hanley's story begins simply: Dad Meeks (Paxton) is a friendly, uncomplicated blue-collar guy in small-town Texas who adores his two small sons, Fenton (Matt O'Leary) and Adam (Jeremy Sumpter), whom he raises alone after the death of his wife. Everything goes smoothly until one night when Dad tells his sons that he's been visited by an angel of the Lord, who has told him the world is about to end. To further the Lord's mission, Dad must become an avenging angel himself, slaughtering demons in human form with the help of his sons. Fenton and Adam have very different reactions to their father's revelations, and it's absolutely no fair to reveal anything else about the plot, except that it uses the framing device of one of Dad's now-grown sons (Matthew McConaughey) relating the tale of slaughter to an FBI agent (Powers Boothe). The story can best be described as Hitchcockian, with liberal dollops of "The Usual Suspects" and the "Left Behind" novels; intellectual snobs may even detect a whiff of Borges. Paxton gives the film's best scenes a Hitchcockian clarity and breathlessness. The actors are also very, very good, particularly Paxton and young O'Leary, a real find. The DVD extras--including deleted scenes, a making-of-the-movie documentary and an analysis of one of the movie's key scenes that ran originally on the Sundance Channel--are fascinating and testify to the astuteness of Paxton's choices in this movie. Here's hoping his first film isn't his last!

Bread and Tulips (Widescreen) [Import]
Bread and Tulips (Widescreen) [Import]
DVD ~ Licia Maglietta
Offered by WonderBook-USA
Price: CDN$ 106.74
7 used & new from CDN$ 36.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Gently hilarious, humane, and refreshing, May 8 2004
"Bread and Tulips," Silvio Soldini's gently hilarious comedy, allows viewers to revel in a lovely story about the renewal of life and hope. It bears some resemblance to "Under the Tuscan Sun," but benefits from a stronger story and more fully realized characters. It also has some similarities to David Lean's "Summertime"--another beloved movie about a middle-aged woman finding romance in Venice--but the mood in "Bread and Tulips" is more sweet than bittersweet. Rosalba (Licia Maglietta), a bored housewife, is left behind on vacation with her crabby family when their tour bus leaves without her. Rather than going straight home to Pescara on the Abruzzi coast, she decides on a whim to head up to Venice, where she has never been. From there on in, the movie is very much about the renewal of the spirit--not only Rosalba's, but also that of Fernando (Bruno Ganz), the romantic restaurateur who falls for Rosalba, and Constantino (Giuseppe Battiston), the tubby, sad-sack plumber who reluctantly spies on Rosalba as a prerequisite for getting a job from Rosalba's bossy husband. These three actors give delightful performances, as do the other players in this quirky romantic comedy. Particularly enjoyable for American audiences is that Soldini places us in a Venice rarely seen in the tourist brochures. San Marco and other wonders are seen only in passing; most of the action takes place in Venice's back streets, among the rainbow-hued houses, tiny fountain-centered courtyards, and toy bridges crossing narrow canals. The photography is lovely, and looks sensational in the DVD transfer. "Bread and Tulips" is a two-hour vacation in a sweeter, gentler world.

A Pastoral Sym/Sym
A Pastoral Sym/Sym
3 used & new from CDN$ 11.99

5.0 out of 5 stars I love Vaughan Williams' music. Period., April 24 2004
This review is from: A Pastoral Sym/Sym (Audio CD)
The critics really make it hard for those of us who love the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams. It's bad enough that Aaron Copland once said that listening to Vaughan Williams' Symphony No. 5 was like staring at a cow for 45 minutes. It's even worse that Tim Page, music critic for the Washington Post, likened The Lark Ascending--my nomination for the most purely beautiful piece of music ever written--to a lovely but vapid woman you're embarrassed to remember you were once in love with. But the absolutely last straw has been broken: the author of a new, violently condemnatory biography of the late Anthony Burgess uses Burgess' choice of Vaughan Williams for his appearance on the BBC's "Desert Island Discs" as proof positive of the essential mediocrity of Burgess' mind.
OK, maybe I'm mediocre too (and I'd be perfectly happy to be as mediocre as Anthony Burgess!). But I STILL consider Vaughan Williams one of the most remarkable composers of the 20th century, and certainly one of the most consistently delightful. His Third (Pastoral) and Fifth Symphonies have a soulful richness and luminosity few 20th-century works can match, and it's hard to imagine finer or more idiomatic versions of them than those conducted by the late Sir Adrian Boult. Particularly at its mid-level price, this CD is a must for anyone interested in English music.

Best Of
Best Of
Price: CDN$ 9.60
19 used & new from CDN$ 5.24

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the great pop stylists of the '80s., March 27 2004
This review is from: Best Of (Audio CD)
"The Best of Joe Jackson" is prime evidence that the '80s weren't as junky a time for popular music as some people would have it. As clear-eyed and worldly as Elvis Costello (though far less angry), as polished and capable as Billy Joel (though far less calculating), Jackson is a master of pop styles ranging from New Wave punk to Big Band. In his '80s heyday, he graced the radio with some of the most tuneful and musically accomplished hits of the decade. (Would he make the Top 40 if he were starting out now? I fear his current low profile against all the Backstreet Boys and 'N Syncs of the world gives us our answer.) While you really need to go back to his original albums--Look Sharp, Night and Day, Body and Soul--to get the full flavor of this versatile singer-songwriter-arranger, "The Best of Joe Jackson" makes a worthy introduction. One CD can't contain all his best work, but any that contains "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" "Different for Girls," "Jumpin' Jive," "Steppin' Out" and "You Can't Get What You Want"--as this one does--at least covers all the important bases.

Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Widescreen)
Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Widescreen)
DVD ~ James Stewart
Offered by boutiquecinemaniac,com
Price: CDN$ 19.95
10 used & new from CDN$ 10.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars John Ford's most profound work of art., March 21 2004
"The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" is for my money the most profound and deeply felt work of art in John Ford's filmography. Lacking the scenic values of "The Searchers" or even "Stagecoach," the movie zeroes in on what may be the most complex and fascinating group of characters in any Western. James Stewart plays Ransom Stoddard, newly credentialed lawyer and greenhorn in the rough frontier town of Shinbone; John Wayne is Tom Doniphon, longtime town resident famous for settling disputes with his fists and his six-gun. Their differing ways of dealing with Liberty Valance, one of the lowest, meanest, most sadistic outlaws in Western movie history (played by Lee Marvin in perhaps the best bad-guy turn of his career) sets up the central conflict from which emanate all the themes of this uncommonly rich, satisfying film. Here in one two-hour film is the entire story of how the Western frontier gave way to civilization, and what precisely was gained and lost in the taming of the West. There are scenes of palm-sweating suspense here--particularly the central showdown with Valance--as well as performances as brilliant as Ford ever coaxed from an ensemble cast. Stewart, Wayne and Marvin at least equal their career bests here, as do such estimable veterans as Edmond O'Brien, Vera Miles, Woody Strode, Andy Devine, John Qualen, Jeanette Nolan and John Carradine. The final, breathtakingly ironic line of dialogue will stay with you for a long, long time.

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