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G M (Australia)

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Spy Game (Full Screen Collector's Edition) [Import]
Spy Game (Full Screen Collector's Edition) [Import]
DVD ~ Robert Redford
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 15.38
40 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful, June 17 2004
Yet another movie in which Robert Redford gets to reprise his role as an irritating know-all. He has played pretty much the same character for the last ten years, and this time the phoney sagacity emerges though the persona of a CIA commander handing out lines like 'don't ever question my orders again', 'you just lost ten seconds', and (yes) 'you're ten minutes late' to his fawning understrapper Brad Pitt. Yawn. Actually wasn't that last line followed by another admonitory cliché seconds later? Oh yes: 'Don't let it happen again.' By the way, this movie *is* marketed as a thriller.
How behind the times is a film which still tries to portray the embattled North Vietnamese as an enemy requiring murderous force to extirpate? How confused is a movie in which Redford refers in one moment to the 'seventeen sects' in Lebanon and thereafter has to use the cumbersomely neutral locution of 'the Lebanese militia' to refer to the sect the US had sided with? How cliched is a movie which intercuts between a tuxedoed reception at an embassy and a gritty car-chase behind the iron curtain? Plus the enemy du jour is - surprise, surprise - the Chinese.
The moviemakers' meticulous research and attention to detail is evdient throughout: Redford repeatedly pronounces Sheik as 'chic'; a scene opens with a shot of the Szabadság bridge in Budapest while the subtitle reads 'Berlin'; and of course stealing top-secret documents at Langley is simply a matter of distracting the secretary, swiping them off his desk and hiding them under your jacket.
But I suppose you could just watch it for the garbled morals, the inapposite techno/dance soundtrack and director Tony Scott's frenetic swoop-then-freezeframe camerawork...

Happiness [Import]
Happiness [Import]
DVD ~ Jane Adams
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 25.07
25 used & new from CDN$ 8.55

1.0 out of 5 stars Awful, June 18 2002
This review is from: Happiness [Import] (DVD)
This film is a must-see for anyone seeking an illustration of Alfred Hitchcock's observation that actors are cattle. You just sit there for two hours agog, wondering what in the world talented performers are doing in a film such as this. You ask yourself Is there no line an actor will draw when offered a role? It really is as though the entire cast have been conditioned not to detect obscenity before walking onto the set.
I am really loath to lower myself to Todd Solonz's level by discussing the (literally) masturbatory visuals and dialogue, but suffice to say that the movie is indeed explicit to the point of repulsion, and therefore, by modern American artistic standards, must be profound and thought-provoking. You find the sight of a man using his own natural glue to stick postcards to his bedroom wall repulsive? Well, you musn't be thinking hard enough about the deep message of the movie. You're turned off by the sight of a father abusing himself in the back seat of a car while flicking through a children's comic? Well then you musn't be letting the movie challenge your assumptions about yada yada yada ...
It needs to be said plainly. American taste is rapidly descending into a quagmire where the intellectual knee-jerk reaction to obscenity is to immediately, unthinkingly mistake it for profundity. Champions of freedom of expression have sought to make this freedom boundless, such that even what is universally acknowledged to be appalling is given voice, that the demon of censorship may never get a toe-hold. But by now the very act of pushing the envelope of bad taste has itself become a mark of artistic merit, and works that are self-evidently repulsive are considered great for no other reason than that they supposedly reaffirm the sheer breadth of America's freedom of expression.
The point made by almost every advocate of freedom of speech, from Jefferson to Mill, is that suppression of that freedom may exclude us from coming into contact with important ideas. Thus even bad ideas should be given a forum. This is true enough. But that does not mean that the broader the leeway for expression, the more we should jettison our taste and judgement. In fact, the opposite is true: when there is no external quality control, then our own taste and discernment needs to be at its sharpest, to winnow the wheat from the chaff. Happiness clearly crosses a threshold of taste, and when movies such as this are well-received, we are in trouble. But that must just be the repressed prude in me talking. You know - that bad person who doesn't sit back and pensively stroke his chin at the sight of someone masturbating.
When Monsters from the Moon, one of the worst sci-fi B-movies of the 50s was released, one reviewer commented: 'Everyone involved with this film deserves censure.' Likewise, I think any normal person would be embarrassed to have even made the coffee on the set of a film like Happiness.

Life & Times of Michael K
Life & Times of Michael K
by J. M. Coetzee
Edition: Paperback
45 used & new from CDN$ 0.93

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful, May 1 2002
This book is only about 180 pages long, so you'd imagine I'd have no trouble finishing it. Unfortunately, no. I started giving up on it around page 40, slogged through it some more, and then quit at page 80, unable to take any more.
It's impossible to convey in this space the unrelenting, pointless lugubriousness of this novel. Michael K is a man with a harelip and a stammer who works as a gardener and lives in a damp cellar with a sick mother who works a menial job. Their home is attacked, and he decides to take her away from Cape Town to her birthplace on a farm by wheeling her for tens of miles in hand-made wooden barrow whilst they sleep in fields at night in the rain and nobody gives them a lift. His mother becomes sick, is hospitalized, dies, and is cremated. He continues his journey to the farm, only now his mother accompanies him in a cardboard box. That's just up to page 32. Oh, and to top the cheeriness, there is a war on.
Take this passage:
'He fell into the company of men and women who slept under the railway bridge and haunted the vacant lot behind the liquor store on Andringa Street. Sometimes he lent them his cart. In a fit or largesse he gave away the stove. Then one night someone tried to pull the suitcase from under his head while he was sleeping. There was a fight, and he moved on.'
Now imagine an entire book comprised only of hundreds of passages exactly like this, neither rising nor falling in emotional intensity, 180 pages all spoken in a monotone of misery, and you have a good idea of what it's like having to read Life and Times of Michael K. Scores of characters pass quickly through, faceless, unhelpful, or openly hostile. An endless horizon of rottenness stands before the reader: unrelenting, unrealistic, and utterly meaningless. The author's pen is clearly out of control. Wallowing in awfulness, he has no idea when to stop his characters from suffering.
The only thing I can think of that comes close is Voltaire's satire Candide (also a short novel), famed for taking human suffering to ludicrous extremes. But the ludicrousness was the point, to disprove Leibniz's doctrine that 'all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds'. Coetzee's novel, however, has no point, no moral: it's just the pornography of suffering. Nor is there a clever turn of phrase, interesting characterization, or florid description throughout the novel.
Coetzee's latest book Youth was reviewed in last week's (London) Sunday Times Culture supplement. Surprise, surprise: the central character, apparently autobiographical, 'finds his colleagues uncongenial' and 'socially, ... is grimly alienated'; the book is 'almost funereally doleful'; and Coetzee himself is described as possessing 'a discomfiting personality and an imagination of uncompromising bleakness'. No kidding. Only a mind congealed with pessimism could pour this river of dolefulness out onto paper. I'm sorry to have to say it, but this book's only redeeming feature is the ability to shut it.

State and Main (Widescreen/Full Screen) [Import]
State and Main (Widescreen/Full Screen) [Import]
DVD ~ Philip Seymour Hoffman
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 7.94
14 used & new from CDN$ 0.08

1.0 out of 5 stars Awful, Oct. 15 2001
How does it happen that a cast as terrific as this can be poured into a script as worthless and empty as State and Main? I do not have the space here to convey the awfulness of the pseudo-enigmatic dialogue; the feebleness of the one-liners; the pretension of the attempts at cleverness; the in-your-face vulgarity that subtitutes for satire; the palpable uncomfortableness of talented actors in roles that they barely know what to do with, spouting lines that they simply can't make sound natural. William H. Macy does his best with the ludicrous, mannered dialogue he is lumbered with, but there is no escaping the cage of pretension Mamet has him penned within.
In an attempt to create a funny movie, Mamet seems to have adopted the policy of throwing enough mud at the wall in the hope that some will stick. Almost all of his one-liners fail utterly, and there are whole passages of dialogue that make no sense at all. The characters that you just know you are meant to find engagingly eccentric are just plain annoying after a matter of minutes. A washed-out, watery, unoriginal 'satire' with no style, no class and no invention, every nut and bolt of which has all been done before.

Long March
Long March
by National Book Network
Edition: Hardcover
20 used & new from CDN$ 1.23

4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but a little intemperate., Feb. 9 2001
This review is from: Long March (Hardcover)
There's little doubt that what you could call the 'directionless revolution' (the 60s) had it's fair share of shallow thinkers, drug-crazed charisma-less icons, and bad, bad poets. With this in mind, it'a pity that Kimball puts so much effort into pouring scorn on them. All he had to do was quote them.
His chronicle of the major movements, and main figures of the sixties is very well-researched. I particularly liked the chapter on the disaster that befell Cornell decided to exhibit magnaimity towards minorities, lowered academic standards to increase diversity, and then had to watch as the minorities, far from being grateful, resorted to violence and thuggery to get what they wanted.
Kimball has a lot of wit and he writes well, but he seems somewhat impatient and fractious in this volume, which tends to blemish the critique. This is not as restrained and clever as Tenured Radicals, which I loved, but it's a very enjoyable, consistently fascinating read.

A Time to Kill (Widescreen)
A Time to Kill (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Matthew McConaughey
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 25.70
15 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful, Feb. 9 2001
This review is from: A Time to Kill (Widescreen) (DVD)
Recent episodes of Ally McBeal aside, you'll hardly encounter a greater insult to your intelligence than this film. Listen to this:
The protagonist (Samuel L. Jackson) is a man who guns down in broad daylight the two thugs who have raped his daughter. In the process he winds up shooting the leg off an innocent policeman who was accompanying the prisoners. Jackson is thus the 'hero' of the story. And in case we are in any doubt about it, when the one-legged cop takes the stand for the prosecution, he actually comes right out and bellows at the jury 'He's a hero!'. Thus we are asked to believe that a policeman who was permanently crippled in a murderous attack will commend his attacker for his homicidal actions. Remember, bearing in mind the insult-to-intelligence thing, that this is: (1) a law-enforcement officer (2) in a court of law (3) commending the man who committed a capital crime. Good one, Joel.
But it doesn't end there. The man's lawyer (Matthew McConaghey) decides to cobble together a defence of not guitly by ... temporary insanity. Leaving aside for the moment that this is possibly the weakest defense one can insult a judge with (to wit: 'I was insane, your honour, but just for the few seconds during which I was killing those people and wouldn't have done it otherwise'), there is another difficulty. This 'temporarily insane' defendant seems to have been exceedingly well-prepared for his moment of madness, hiding out in a dark crevice of the courthouse all night with a firearm and suddenly leaping out (in slow-motion of course) to gun down his victims.
But these obstacles are not enough to overcome. McConaghey must be faced with disappearing funds, a highly partial judge, a largely white jury, a killer D.A. making huge political capital out of the case, several failed witnesses, attacks by the Klan which culminate in the torching of his house, and a witness-box performance by the defendant that all but seals the prosecution's case.
The key piece of advice that he needs that might just win the day comes from his own 'temporarily insane' client: he has to make the jury close its eyes (yes, literally) and imagine that Jackson's daughter is white.
So: a story that's presumably all about racial injustice boils down to this: can our heroes get a white jury to agree that if it was their daughter, they might gun down two guys too (and thus not deserve to go to prison)? For Pete's sake, even the title of the film is semi-exculpatory. (Remember: the temporary insanity plea has evaporated at this point.)
It's like the Ladybird book of Race Relations, isn't it? Can McConaghey do it? If you rent this title to find out, I've wasted my breath.

Penguin Classics Fable Of The Bees
Penguin Classics Fable Of The Bees
by Bernard Mandeville
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.59
30 used & new from CDN$ 6.09

3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, Feb. 9 2001
I first read an extract from this in second year English in university, and thought the author had some interesting ideas. Although the blurb casts the book as part of the great age of 17th-century English satire, it's more of a straight critique of society than a sarcastic diatribe, and probably doesn't warrant comparison with say, Swift's A Modest Proposal.
From what I can remember, the book is all about the changes taking place in society at the time, especially with the growth in the importance of commerce. Much of it concerns hypocrisy and some moral paradoxes that seem to go unnoticed. Mandeville's starting-point is to liken society to a hive, wherein the behaviour of the bees, though individually selfish, aggregates to form a kind of common good. The book was banned by the Grand Jury of Middlessex, and I suspect that much of the controversy resulted from readers mistaking description for prescription. In other words, people seem to have concluded that Mandeville was saying that this is how society ought to behave, whereas he was merely making observations.
His ideas are interesting, but I can't agree with all of them. One egregious error occurs when he makes the sweeping generalisation that morality is frequently selfishly motivated, using the following argument. Most people, if they see a baby falling from a high window, will rush to try and save it, not out of the child's interests, but merely to spare themselves the pain of seeing the child injured or killed. The next obvious question never seems to enter Mandeville's mind: if people are truly selfish, how would they have developed the empathy to feel the child's pain that strongly to begin with? So: a good commentator but perhaps not a brilliant thinker.

The Butcher Boy
The Butcher Boy
by Patrick Mccabe
Edition: Paperback
62 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1.0 out of 5 stars Very poor., Feb. 9 2001
This review is from: The Butcher Boy (Paperback)
When books such as this become shortlisted for the Booker prize, we are in trouble. Never before has such a grab-bag of Irish clichès (from abusive priests through drunken fathers to small-minded villagers) been so lauded for originality and profundity. Does any Irish person really need to be reminded all over again of how awful life in rural Ireland supposedly was?
There is not an interesting observation nor a clever turn of phrase in the whole text. The entire novel seems both plotless and pointless - if there were no Manson-like murder at the end, there would be no readership for this novel and no attempts to project profundity onto it. Like the even worse American Psycho, it seems to require Grand Guignol elements and vulgarity to galvanize its readers into thinking that it must be deep.

Complicity
Complicity
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful, Feb. 9 2001
This review is from: Complicity (Mass Market Paperback)
Surely there is a law against prose like:
'It's a Finnish hunting knife, which you think is pretty appropriate since you've used it to finish him off.'
About a year ago I read an article in which I discovered that Iain Banks spends nine months of every year haring around Scotland and having a great time, then uses the remaining three months to write a book. As you would expect, a writer who produces novels as a filler between long periods of hedonistic gallavanting is unlikely to output anything of quality. Hence: Complicity.
It's difficult to convey in this space the awfulness of Banks' prose, the vacuousness of his ideas, the masturbatory content. The book reads like a cross between FHM and a supermarket mystery novel. Avoid.

Russia, America, and the Cold War, 1949-1991 (Seminar Studies in History)
Russia, America, and the Cold War, 1949-1991 (Seminar Studies in History)
19 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, Feb. 5 2001
A good overview of the main events of this period: if you're just generally curious about the Cold War and what the main events and trends in it were, this is quite suitable. However, the sheer brevity of the format of this series of books (and 'Seminar Studies' is very good, believe me) works against a fully fleshed-out account of this topic. There are mentions of certain events but they lack a little background needed to explain them. I kept finding myself reading some remark and thinking 'But *why* did that happen?'. Still, a good read, and well-explained.

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