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JAllen (Canada)

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Elementary: The First Season
Elementary: The First Season
DVD ~ Lucy Liu
Price: CDN$ 42.66
28 used & new from CDN$ 19.95

1 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars No Blu-ray? No sale. Too bad. Excellent show., Aug. 30 2013
This review is from: Elementary: The First Season (DVD)
Wow. No Blu-ray, eh? The people who market this stuff apparently have no clue who their audience is. It's a great show, and I was looking forward to the release of the first season, but I'm damned if I'm going to get stung by a Blu-ray release six months down the road.

Riders of Death Valley [Import]
Riders of Death Valley [Import]
DVD ~ Dick Foran
Price: CDN$ 33.09
12 used & new from CDN$ 17.11

1.0 out of 5 stars WATERMARKED print is unacceptable, June 25 2012
A VCI watermark pops up at very short intervals throughout what would otherwise be an excellent print. Wanting to protect your print from video pirates like Alpha is one thing, but doing so by ruining the print with an incredibly distracting watermark is simply idiotic. Bad enough if the thing was present for the duration, but to have it blink off and then blink back on again a minute later means your attention is continually drawn to the thing, making it impossible to forget that it's there.

We buy commercial prints specifically in order to be able to watch a good print of a film, uninterrupted by advertising or watermarks. This is a disgrace.

VCI, you don't distinguish yourself from your competition by ruining your own product. Let the quality of your reputation and your prints speak for themselves: sadly, your watermark mars both, and I will be researching anything I contemplate purchasing from you in the future to be sure I don't get stung again.

Mischievous Moon
Mischievous Moon
Price: CDN$ 16.90
16 used & new from CDN$ 8.98

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Took Me By Surprise' is, bar none, the best song of the year, June 14 2011
This review is from: Mischievous Moon (Audio CD)
The showstopper is the wonderful 'Took Me By Surprise', which should have been the first single, as it's the best song of the year. The rest of the album can't quite match it, but, then again, nothing on any other album recorded this year does either. So I'm giving it 5 stars to make up for the review from Edmonton.

Too bad Amazon doesn't have a sample you could listen to...

Action Heroes Archives, The: VOL 02
Action Heroes Archives, The: VOL 02
by David Kaler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 92.00
15 used & new from CDN$ 65.00

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Worst reproduction I have EVER seen..., Oct. 8 2009
This volume contains Steve Ditko's fascinatingly mental Question material, which is why I actually felt compelled to pay the outrageous price DC asks for their Archive editions rather than attempting to track down the original Charlton Comics. Charlton being considered the Poverty Row of the comics world, renowned for shoddy business practices and cut-rate printing, I assumed that DC would be able to offer improved reproduction on quality paper stock. Well, the paper is heavy enough (though the finish should probably be matte, and perhaps not so blindingly white), but the artwork has been DESTROYED. Whatever you feel about Ditko's work on its own merits, you aren't getting a fair impression with this book, as the art appears to have been scanned from the original comics, traced over with a blunted black marker, and the original dot colouring replaced with garishly ugly puddles of solid colour.

I'm not exaggerating. I was so appalled by the art in this book that I tracked down a copy of Mysterious Suspense #1(the only full-length Ditko Question comic Charlton produced) and compared them side by side. Poor as the original printing was, it was infinitely superior to what DC has fobbed off on us, with lovely fine line work and only minor color bleed problems that any teenager with a copy of Photoshop on their computer could have remedied. DC's masterly, museum-grade Archive presentation looks like it was 'restored' by your kid sister while bored in math class.

I'm not just bitching here: what DC have done here is simply unbelievable -- utterly disrespectful of Ditko and criminal at any price. And the price is obscenely HIGH.

Feast II: Sloppy Seconds [Import]
Feast II: Sloppy Seconds [Import]
DVD ~ Jenny Wade
Price: CDN$ 8.87
16 used & new from CDN$ 4.42

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seems a shame to see this languish with a 2 star rating, so..., May 8 2009
Make no mistake: this is crap. But it's energetic crap that does everything it can to try to please (short of actually spending any money to do it, that is). Dimension Films appear to have a sequel system in place, in which every new horror film they put out gets a sequel whether it warrants one or not, and then a third one just in case there's anyone still hanging on who happens to have the price of a rental in their pocket and hope springing eternal in their breast. A very firmly established law of diminishing returns reigns in the Dimension sequel factory, apparently by design: the first sequel gets about twice as much time and money lavished on it as the final film, and in the case of Feast 2 and 3 they may actually have been made back to back, without a break in production. And, at 76 minutes each, and both running far too long, there was just about enough meat to make one pretty damned good little movie if you edited them both together. The editing is the enemy here: it is TERRIBLE, and clearly the product of someone who was told to stretch it to within spitting distance of feature length. Personally, I'd be okay with an hour or less if it meant not having to suffer through fifteen minutes of padding and scenes blown by being dragged past the breaking point in each film.

But you have to admire the Gulagher family for seizing the opportunity to make another movie (and then, after that, a final half-a-movie), and TREATING it like an opportunity rather than a chore. I would venture to say that Feast 2, warts and all, will actually linger longer in my memory than the first one, which I know I saw but remember exactly one scene from, because Gulagher clearly believes, as I do, that a microbudget is better than no budget at all, and not to be sneezed at. Feast 3, on the other hand, feels padded by a full half an hour at only 76 minutes, has an unwatchable underground strobe light battle that seems to go on forever, and contains glaring continuity errors that appear to be the result of footage that never got shot. Still, with the Feast films (#2 in particular), you get more than you really have a right to expect from Dimension, or, for that matter, really deserve.

P.S.: If you bother with them after seeing Pulse 2 and 3, that is. Egad. You'd think some young enthusiastic horror buff out there might have been able to do something with the idea of a world taken over by lonely ghosts -- particularly with the Japanese original to crib from -- but Dimension, rather than finding even an enthusiastic half-talent -- like Gulagher here -- hired directors who had neither interest nor invention, and produced garbage that cut corners to the point of not even leaving the studio for long stretches, choosing instead to stand actors in front of greenscreens, resulting in footage that looked like it had been prepared for a fifteen year old live action video game.

By Dimension standards, Gulagher is Orson Welles. Give the man some credit for at least trying not to rob you, horror fans. Would have been nice if they'd been able to afford the blonde for the third installment, however.

Punisher Max - Volume 1
Punisher Max - Volume 1
by Garth Ennis
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.68
39 used & new from CDN$ 20.68

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Does NOT contain The End, March 6 2009
I'm posting this review for one reason only: the product description is incorrect. I contacted Amazon after receiving my copy to inform them that this volume does NOT contain Punisher: The End, as advertised, but the description has not changed. If, as it was for me, the only reason you're thinking about ordering this book is that you want to get the Richard Corben illustrated The End in hardcover, you aren't going to get it here. Infuriating, actually.

Retribution [Import]
Retribution [Import]
DVD ~ Kôji Yakusho
Price: CDN$ 16.71
15 used & new from CDN$ 9.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Evident post-production tinkering (or pre-International release bargaining) compromises otherwise interesting film., April 19 2008
This review is from: Retribution [Import] (DVD)
I can't believe that Kurosawa would be happy with the ending of this film as it appears on the North American dvd release, and can't help thinking that he was either forced into it or that someone else did it for him. There's a shock scare and a bit of voice over at the very end that are completely out of keeping with the rest of the movie, don't play by the internal rules of the haunting, and smack heavily of money men mixing in in an attempt to make the film more commercial. The ironic thing is that it's too little too late, and the incongruous elements only serve to take some of the glow off of what would have been a very neat little movie indeed if it had ended a scene and a half earlier.

It's still the most interesting Japanese film I've seen this year, but for Kurosawa fans it's definitely going to feel compromised. Makes me wonder what the Japanese release print looks like, or, if it's the same as this one, what a director's cut would look like.

Eye of the Beast [Import]
Eye of the Beast [Import]
DVD ~ James Van Der Beek
Price: CDN$ 6.65
9 used & new from CDN$ 3.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Alexandra Castillo is the reason to watch this film..., April 18 2008
This review is from: Eye of the Beast [Import] (DVD)
The movie itself is actually better than expected. No, it does not deliver on the promise made by the box art (which is great if you happen to have any fondness for the cheat art they used to use on Italian Jaws rip-offs in the eighties), so gore fans are bound to be disappointed, but some care has been taken in the writing of the two main characters, and Castillo's character even turns out to be a bit of mystery, which adds much needed intrigue to what would otherwise be a pretty straightforward (and probably actionable) remake of Peter Benchley's The Beast. But, pleasantly, this turns out to be a much more enjoyable film than the adaptation of that book, and a large part of the reason for that is down to the casting of an actress I'd never heard of before.

In one of the lead roles as the Metis fisheries officer, I was first struck by how realistically pretty Alexandra Castillo is -- and by pretty I mean attractive in a human kind of way, not at all the kind of plastic-surgery addicted anorexic horror we're used to seeing in these things. Which was the first surprise.

The second surprise was when she began interacting with the rest of the cast -- who range from okay to pretty bad -- and seemed ABSOLUTELY natural. It literally caused me to sit up and take notice of what I'd assumed was going to be a complete waste of time. James Vanderbeek, the second best actor in the cast, gives her more to work with, and the skill with which she handles her scenes with him is pretty remarkable. She managed to convince even when it meant fighting through the dialogue, which she had to do from time to time. (Though, to be honest, the script was much better than anyone renting this thing has any right to expect, and at no point does anyone say those -- I thought -- inevitable lines regarding the necessity of getting either a bigger boat and/or gun).

I don't know. Maybe there's a problem when you notice the acting -- maybe it should be an invisible art in film, and like the editing or the direction itself it fails if it draws attention to itself. Perversely, every time Ms. Castillo gave me the sense that I wasn't watching an actor, but a completely natural human being, it sort of drew me up short and popped me out of the story long enough to chuckle my pleasure at what she'd just pulled off with such ease. Except it probably wasn't easy, was it? Yes, the special effects in this thing were pathetic, even in comparison to that Peter Benchley's Beast thing, but this little film, with Ms. Castillo's help, proved to me yet again that the small pleasures of even one really good performance, and some obvious care in the writing of the script (which deserves applause even when it doesn't always work out), trump the hell out of a better giant squid in another lesser film.

Right about now I'd be asking myself if this reviewer isn't either related to Alexandra Castillo or wishing to be. No. But someone should congratulate her on her work, and someone else should put her in a better movie. Her five star performance earns this two star video three stars.

Bamboozled (Widescreen)
Bamboozled (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Damon Wayans
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 47.44
13 used & new from CDN$ 7.99

2.0 out of 5 stars One awesomely terrible performance and a conflicted director = one truly weird bomb., Jan. 31 2008
This review is from: Bamboozled (Widescreen) (DVD)
This film is so schizophrenic I spent most of the running time trying to figure out exactly what Spike Lee was trying to achieve, and why it wasn't working. It wasn't until I saw the interview with Damon Wayans in the Making-of featurette on the DVD that it became clear what had happened. Wayans explained that the week before shooting began he had run into a guy who spoke the way his character in Bamboozled ultimately wound up speaking, and said to himself, "I've got to do this character." Which would have been okay on In Living Colour, where it would have been unfunny for the duration of exactly one sketch, and then we'd never have been subjected to that particular impression again. Unfortunately, in this film he foisted a completely unrelated persona onto a character that it is obvious from the dialogue was meant to be played utterly straight, utterly middle class, not with a stupid, phony accent. Time was, television was where the white middle class went to see itself reflected, and Wayans character, as written, appears to have become a TV writer because he's trying to give the black middle class a reflection of itself in mass media. These days, if you aren't represented on television, you have to wonder if you really exist, and he wants the black middle class to be able to say, there, you see, we're real: we're on television. It sounds like a small thing, but when the closest your culture has ever come to that is the Cosby Show and (god help us) the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, you're dealing with a culture that can't see itself in the mirror. But rather than showing us a decent man who begins with the best of intentions but winds up becoming grotesque when the racist wake up call he intended to shame his audience with turns out to be a hit with both whites and blacks, Wayans gives us a character who starts out as subtly nuanced as Steve Urkel and ends the same way. The message gets lost as the audience wonders what the hell Wayans is doing and what they're supposed to be feeling. The movie becomes a freakshow instead of a tragedy.

The sad thing is, scrape away Wayans' performance and the script is much, much better than it seems. If you want to know how it was supposed to play, just imagine the lead played by someone who didn't think he was still doing sketch comedy and suddenly it works. But don't blame Wayans. It's Spike's film, and it's just incredible that he would allow a single member of the cast to hijack and completely subvert the entire intent of the script. The lack of directorial control isn't limited to Wayans performance, either. Jada Pinket Smith gives the best performance in the film -- dignified and very appealing, she comes closest to what Wayans' character was meant to be and what he was hoping to see represented on American television -- but even she doesn't know how she's supposed to be reacting half the time -- sometimes she's in character, but sometimes it appears to be the actress herself reacting to what's going on in the scene and not her character at all. In short, she doesn't appear to have been given any direction, and this weird inconsistent tone is present across the board. But, again, her confusion is entirely down to the fact that she's obviously meant to respect Wayans' character in the beginning -- but he's already such a gross parody that it simply isn't possible that that she could like anything about him. Lee's hatred for what Wayans' character ultimately becomes is so intense that he can't seem to wait for him to become that, and instead of giving us the sad picture of the man becoming grotesque, he's already that way when we meet him, and there's no place for the film to go. Considering the tight control Lee is capable of, you get the sense he just didn't show up on set once things got away from him, and let the actors direct their own performances with no regard for the demands or tone of the script.

I think I know why he relinquished control, too. He knew he wasn't going far enough, and was, ultimately, turning in a futile effort. The only way the minstrel show thing works is if you come right out and acknowledge -- as Michael Franti and the Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy fearlessly did in their song 'Famous and Dandy (Like Amos and Andy)' -- that the minstrel show, unfortunately, can't be revived because it never went away. It's alive and well, wearing gold, rapping about ho's, and making movies buried under latex fat suits. If Flavor Flav isn't the new Stepin Fetchit, then Eminem isn't the new Elvis. But the black Woody Allen, in this case at any rate, appears to have lost the courage to turn that satiric gaze on African American culture's complicity in its own betrayal, and lets that message get lost in a welter of confusion. There's a long, sad montage sequence at the end of the film that strings together racist depictions of blacks on film, from Birth Of A Nation to The Jeffersons, (actually, I think it stops short of the Jeffersons, too, though they're referenced with a clip earlier in the film), but it ends twenty years too soon. Spike had an opportunity to show the continuity between black face and the sad state of affairs today. If he wanted to have another crack at making the film today the perfect final image for that montage would be a crossfade between stills of Manton Moreland and Flavor Flav, in his viking helmet and big clock necklace, in a clinch with Brigitte Nielsen.

Oh, hell no, you dittint say that!

Oh, hell yes, I did. It's a bad time to be black in North America. I certainly wouldn't want to have to do it. But satire has to be unsparing: once you take aim, you can't take prisoners, either. Too bad. Bamboozled could have been an interesting film. It could have been the black Network, as Spike clearly intended it to be. As it is, it's just a strangely futile misfire.

Lovejoy S1: Comp
Lovejoy S1: Comp
DVD ~ Ian McShane
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 98.50
6 used & new from CDN$ 39.99

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best season of Lovejoy, March 17 2007
This review is from: Lovejoy S1: Comp (DVD)
The first season of Lovejoy was also the best one. Some episodes actually adapted the novels, which had true mystery plots and actual suspense, and Lovejoy was more like he was in the books -- much less trustworthy and a good deal more ruthless than he would be in later seasons of the show. A younger McShane had yet to grow the bad hair-do he would sport for the rest of the series, and I don't think he had found that dreadful leather jacket yet, either. I caught the series out of sequence on A&E, and having seen some of the later shows first, found these early episodes to be a revelation. I kept hoping that the show would get its guts back. Sadly, it never did, and while subsequent seasons' episodes were usually pleasant, they were also determinedly light, and the somewhat darker edge was sorely missed. Anyway, this particular box set is the essential one.

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