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Robert Badgley (St Thomas,Ontario,Canada)
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Birdman (Bilingual) [Blu-ray]
Birdman (Bilingual) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Michael Keaton
Price: CDN$ 24.96

2.0 out of 5 stars How does a poor film like this rate an Academy nod?, Feb. 28 2015
Birdman(Aug/14)stars,among others,Michael Keaton,Zach Galifianakis,Edward Norton,Emma Stone and Naomi Watts.This movie is a real hodge podge of events and emotions,where small things are elevated beyond their worth into something of...little meaning at all.If you understood that,then you might get this movie.
Keaton is a film actor who had a huge film franchise going years before in Hollywood.The films were called "Birdman", which became his bread and butter and claim to fame.The offers dried up and Keaton has now decided to make a comeback on the New York stage.But throughout the film his past haunts him in the form of the voice of his former character.He is so full of insecurities and self loathing,that one never knows when and if the play he is putting on will ever get through rehearsals, let alone be performed in front of an actual audience.Zach plays his long time manager who mollycoddles Keaton through his ever-below-the-surface tensions and flare ups.To add to the dysfunctionality of the proceedings are Stone,his daughter,who has just gotten out of rehab.We also have Norton who plays a self righteous stage-only actor who thinks he's too good for the show and Keaton one minute,to eventually fooling around with Keaton's daughter and trying it on,on stage,with his lady co star,Watts.
Throughout we see Keaton seemingly with the power of psycho-kinesis and later the actual ability to fly.But other scenes make us realize it must be his imagination,just part of his delusional self loathing and doubt.Well,the play finally gets through rehearsals and on the preview night Norton throws a tantrum on stage and the show closes early.Later at a bar Norton and Keaton meet up with a local newspaper critic.She says she is going to demolish/close the play in her review even though she will never see it because she hates shallow Hollywood actors who know nothing about REAL acting.
The show hits its opening night and lo and behold all Keaton's worry and insecurities have been for naught.The play is an actual bona fide hit.Keaton's "delusions" however have become more real to him as we see him actually conversing with his old character and even "fliying".His character tells him he should be back in Hollywood making films that the public crave.He should come back in a new Birdman film.The next night Keaton is ultra calm between acts.He goes out on stage for the final scene but is in a less than normal state.The finale calls for Keaton to shoot himself.This night he carries out his gun as usual but we suspect it is real.He reads his lines,raises the gun,it goes off as per usual,and he goes down.The crowd stands on its collective feet.
We are now at the hospital.It seems our suspicions were correct about the gun.It was real and Keaton,while alive,shot his nose off.His manager drops by to give him the"our future's so bright,we're going to need shades" spiel.Eventually Keaton is alone,as he removes his head wrapping.A bruised and bloated faced Keaton stands by the window in his room looking out.He then opens the window and steps out onto the ledge.When his daughter comes in shortly after, Keaton is nowhere to to be seen.She runs to the open window and looks down,seeing nothing.She slowly looks up,smiles and slightly laughs in astonishment.Fade to black.
In the end the director pulls the rug out from under us all as if to say"fooled you".Give yourself a cookie Iñárritu.
The film is full of critical references to the shallowness of Hollywood and its making fast bucks off of expensive shoot em' up and destroy films,with direct reference to the Spiderman and Transformers franchises.It also looks at the age old snobbery of "legitimate"actors of the stage,compared to those of lesser credibility eking out a living behind in the flickers.On top of this there is a look at"critics" and their place in amongst the mix of the entertainment world.
This is one of those films,and there have been plenty of others over the years,that make me scratch my head and wonder who Iñárritu had to pay off to get an Academy nomination for this dud,let alone ANY award.It is mind boggling how pedestrian a film as this one is gets such buzz.No performance or production value in this film came within 50 light years of an Academy Award worthy performance.NONE.It's as if Hollywood collectively said "Yeah,we've got big shoulders.We can take this kind of criticism.Just to show you how big we are,here,take this Academy Award".And it seems even the actors involved got into their own hype,with Keaton seen pocketing the acceptance speech he would never give for best actor.That's Hollywood all the way folks.
Technically the film is in its w/s a/r of 1:85:1.There is commentary and some short featurettes.
All in all while not a complete waste of film,it does show that Keaton is still around after being absent in anything of worth for quite some time.His acting sure hasn't improved all that much as he deservedly lost in his bid for best actor this year at the Academy Awards.The rest of the cast did a good job,and yes I got the "clever" innuendos and critical jabs at the entertainment business in general.However,overall this is a lame duck of a film as far as this reviewer is concerned.

John Wick (Bilingual)
John Wick (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Keanu Reeves
Price: CDN$ 19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A nice action film,bound to please., Feb. 28 2015
This review is from: John Wick (Bilingual) (DVD)
John Wick(released Oct/14)stars,among others,Keanu Reeves,Michael Nyqvist,Alfie Allen,Ian McShane,John Leguizamo and Willem Dafoe.This is a hard action romp starring Reeves,which is actually reminiscent of Jean Claude Van Damme's Wake of Death in intensity.In fact at times I could see JCVD in Keanu's place.However h(Reeves)e handles himself well here and the tension is nicely built throughout, until the final climactic moments.
The story starts out with Reeves severely injured,exiting his SUV and laying bleeding on the ground with a phone video playing of his wife.Time reverses as we now begin to discover the events leading up to this moment.Reeve's had a deep and loving relationship with his wife until tragically she was struck with a terminal condition which led to her being on life support.We are there to witness Reeves giving the ok to the doctor to pull the plug on his bedridden wife.After the funeral and at home he receives a package and in it is a cute little female Beagle pup in a cage.It is a gift from his departed wife.The two bond instantly.
At a gas station Reeves is filling up his /69 Mustang when he is approached by a Russian thug who wants to buy his car.Reeves refuses (in their language-something we will find out more about later),and drives away.Later that night Reeves home is burglarized by the very same group who now beat Reeves,kill his pup and steal his car.The Russian's take the car to a garage but the owner refuses to deal with it.It seems the thug who wanted/stole the car is the son of the head of the Russian mob in NYC.His father after contacting the garage owner to find out the why and wherefores, summons his son for a meeting.The father puts a beating on his son and tells him that he has stolen from a man he should never have.One who will stop at nothing to get revenge after what he has done.
True to the Russian's fears Reeves IS on a mission of revenge.Reeves was involved in a seedy underworld before he was married.Now he returns to this world in order to act out his plans of revenge,knowing that the Russians will try and stop him.They first storm his home but he dispatches each man(about a dozen) with rapidity.Reeves decides to check into a "hotel" which discreetly handles Reeves and his ilk.He now uses this as his home base from which to work.He goes after the Russians where they hang out in a nearby hotel,going after the son who is thickly guarded.By some stroke of luck the son manages to escape his clutches.After this his father puts him into a safe house for his own protection.
Reeves has a contract put out on him but an assassin sent to kill him fails.However another one who has been watching him and has had plenty of opportunity to do him in(an old friend and fellow assassin) is now warning him with missed shots from his scoped rifle.Reeves again takes the offensive and attends a church which is just a front that the Russians use to funnel all their assets through.Reeves burns their"assets".He waits outside for the Russians to come and they do.But Reeves gets captured and almost killed.After escaping(with his friends help once more) he confronts the mob father,who he spares for information on the location of his son.Reeves goes to that location and finally gets his man.
The Russian however now has Reeves friend (the one who has saved Reeves all along) and kills him.Reeves gets a call from the owner of the hotel he was staying in.Reeves learns that he not only dispatched the assassin who unsuccessfully tried to take him out(no "business" is ever allowed to be conducted on the hotel premises),but tells Reeves of the Russian father who is trying to flee the city in a helicopter .Reeves rushes to the area and catches up to two SUVS in transit to the helipad.He takes out one by pushing it over a wall with a fatal drop,and then slowly takes on each man from the second one until all that is left is the Russian father.The two fight hand to hand and Reeves is severely injured,but the mobster is worse off.Reeves leaves the scene and the story now comes full circle.Reeves slowly gets up and finds refuge in a nearby vet clinic.As he "repairs"himself he spots a caged pitbull.He opens the door and takes him out.The film ends as we see Reeves and his new companion walking back home.
The film's opening moments move along well,as the makers build us the foundation upon which the rest of the film will sit;Reeves injury,the death of his wife,the killing of Reeves' only living expression of his wife's devotion,his Beagle pup, and as a result,his forced return to his old life.From here the tension builds constantly throughout.I have heard some criticism and/or "funny" remarks/jabs about the point of Reeves seeking revenge for just a dog.Well this is totally unfounded nonsense.It is what the pup represented and stood for, that the Russians rip away from him for a lousy car jacking.It is totally believable and within reason.There are always those who are quick to tear things down to their lowest common denominator,aren't there?.The main body of the film deals with Reeves revenge and his immersion in his old "world"in order to exact it.The fight scenes are well choreographed and help us tremendously in the believability of the situations Reeves faces.The entire cast does a great job.
Technically speaking the film is in its w/s a/r of 1:85:1 and is clear and crisp.There are no extras.
All in all a wonderful action film,full of the latter with a good supporting cast.Reeves does well in his brooding and dark character.A solid 4 stars,maybe even a bit below 4 1/2.

For Multi-titled Dvd
For Multi-titled Dvd
DVD ~ George O'Brien
Price: CDN$ 20.07
23 used & new from CDN$ 16.33

4.0 out of 5 stars Two underrated Ford's., Feb. 14 2015
This review is from: For Multi-titled Dvd (DVD)
This double sided DVD contains two of John Ford's silent films,Hangman's House(released May/28) and Three Bad Men(released Aug/26).Both are melodrama/potboilers,the former set between Algiers and Ireland,and while the latter in the old west.Ford deftly directs both and it shows Ford's penchant early on for having strong leading characters.
Hangman's House stars,among others,Victor McLaglen,June Collyer,Larry Kent and Earle Fox.It concerns McLaglen who is an officer in the Foreign Legion.He receives a letter that compels him to take a temporary leave of absence to go back home to Ireland.He arrives but is disguised as a wandering monk.He is a wanted man there.Next we in turn delve in to the private life of a hanging judge whose life is nearing an untimely end.Before he goes he wants his daughter Collyer to marry a man other than the one she currently sees and is in love with(Kent),a guy played by Fox.Fox is a low down skunk of a stool pigeon.Putting her own feelings aside for her father's sake Collyer marries him,but it is a loveless affair.Kent,is not impressed,but does the gentlemanly thing and steps aside.
After her father passes away Collyer decides to run the family thoroughbred in an upcoming race.The horse is well known throughout the county and most all bet what they have on her.However Fox,desperate for money, not only bets all against the horse but has the jockey kidnapped to boot.Kent steps in to ride the nag.Just before the race Fox spots McLaglen and has him arrested by the British Army. Despite all the pre-race drama,Collyers horse wins the race,much to everyone's delight,except for Fox.As everyone is gathered around the horse in a cheerful mood the despondent Fox comes out and shoots the horse dead.The crowd immediately swirls around him and without the army's help he would have been killed also.
Fox goes into seclusion at the daughters home(Hangman's House).Meanwhile McLaglen has been freed from jail by friends and is now hiding out.Collyer and Kent meet with him to find out that the letter he received in Algiers was from his sister who passed away in anguish over the husband that left her.The husband was none other than Fox.Kent meets with Fox and gives him money to leave the country and never come back.That night when Collyer returns home Fox beats her and she is forced out and over to Kent's place to stay with his mother.This is the last straw for Kent.He heads for Collyers home.
Meanwhile ,and free, McLaglen is just about to board a ship to return to Algiers when he gets word that Fox is at Hangman's House.McLaglen heads for the house and actually beats Kent there.They both confront Fox who manages,after a scuffle, to flee to the upstairs.However he knocks over burning candles on the way,which starts a deadly conflagration.Kent and McLaglen get out just in time, but Fox is trapped and ends up dying when he falls to his death.The film ends as Collyer and Kent are now together and a satisfied McLaglen wishes them well as he heads for port to return home.
Melodramatic yes but in a good way.Ford manages to bring the two stories,McLaglens and Collyer/Kent's nicely together.The tension builds throughout as Fox who is desperate for money,loses all,shoots the horse and loses any respect whatsoever, and now remains in hiding with no where to go, and then the two men who eventually track him down.Watch for a cameo of John Wayne in the horse race.3 1/2-4 stars.
Three Bad Men stars,among others,George O'Brien,Olive Borden,Lou Tellegen,Tom Santschi,J. Farrell MacDonald,Frank Campeau and Priscilla Bonner.This is again a melodrama set in the old west,around 1874 when the Dakota's were opened up for settlers seeking a new life and above all,gold.Ford weaves a nice tale of desperate men,with desperate lives seeking gold ,some in a good way,others bad.
The film opens as a wagon train travels across the open plain.One covered wagon in particular breaks down with a pretty girl on board(Borden) and her father.O'Brien comes to their rescue and is immediately smitten with the tough brunette.He gets them going again and they part, not to meet until both reach their destination of Custer,N.D.
Also watching this endless procession desert trains are three desperadoes,Santschi,Campeau and MacDonald wanted in the States and Mexico for a variety of offenses.They are a motley trio.Suddenly they spy a prospect to rob,a lone covered wagon pulling horses.Before they can even start another band of thieves beat them to the punch.The trio rides in and shoos the bandits away.The girl sobs in Santschi's(the leader's)arms.We see it is Borden,who has now lost her father during the shooting from the other bandits.All alone she asks Santschi and the two others to ride with her,and the gruff old buzzards,their hearts melted, agree.
They finally arrive in Custer a day or two ahead of what will be the great land rush; to allow folks to freely prospect and claim land for themselves.The town is run by a crooked sheriff,Tellegen.He has made a cottage industry of taking advantage of unsuspecting women and families,getting his underlings to rob and extort them,then splitting it all.It is here also that the trio of bandits decide that Borden needs a husband to protect her.The other two go search for a hubby,while Santschi hires O'Brien.After a few close calls O'Brien and Borden finally meet up and renew their acquaintance;falling in love much to the trio's delight.
The night before the great land rush foul things are afoot.A preacher has set up a church and the women and their children are all there praying for a good day ahead.The preacher has been vocal about his stance against the sheriff and the lawlessness that exists there.The Sheriff sends his men to the Church to burn it down.They light the Church and up it goes.At one point the preacher comes out begging for the men to stop as there are women and children trapped inside.Just as he is to be shot a woman steps in front of him asking him to come inside.She is instead shot and falls to the ground.The men flee.The smoke and flames hasn't gone unnoticed and O'Brien,the bandit trio and others arrive to help save the frightened congregation.The lady who inadvertently saved the preacher lies dying, and in her delirium screams out for her brother.Santschi hears this and runs to her.It is his sister.He had recently received a letter from her saying she had fled west with her new love.It turns out her"love" was the sheriff,who had just tricked her and has now nothing to do with her.As he holds his sister the sheriff peaks in and Santschi gives chase, but he cannot get him.He returns to find his sister dead,and with revenge now in his heart.
The next day dawns and all who have reached Custer are now gathered in a vast line awaiting the canon shot from the army to allow them to ride west.The signal comes and it is a race of monumental proportions.Every kind of vehicle imaginable is in it,riding as fast as their rigs will allow.The sheriff has been way passed the starting line in hiding( illegally),waiting for his chance to get the trio,O'Brien and Borden.The latter know the location of a gold mine and the sheriff wants it for himself.When they pass he and his men follow.The trio all know they are being followed so they tell O'Brien and Borden to keep on going,and that they will hold them off.Before the posse can reach them the trio decides to hold them off by a delaying action,one by one.The first gets a few down but is soon overpowered and killed.The next one hides in a shack of gun powder and when they burst in on the wounded man he blows them all up.The last one,Santschi finally has his moment with the crooked sheriff.The film ends as we see a happily married O'Brien and Borden calling out the names of their old three friends.As the camera pans around we see a baby lying on the floor;named in honour of the men who died so they could have a happy life together.
In the end we find the title is a reversal of the truth.In fact the "bad"men are three of the best men.They obviously had done some "bad"things to be wanted in the States and Mexico.But it is the girl's innocence and vulnerability at their first encounter which changes them all for the better.Ford works his magic by interweaving the bad men's story with the girl meets boy story ,and the side plot of Santschi's sister and his ultimate revenge thereof.The shot of the start line just before the land rush is about to begin is phenomenal.It seems to stretch for miles.And the fact it was taken from real events makes it that more compelling to watch. Watch for the sheriff who goes against type,by wearing a white hat! 3 1/2-4 star.
Technically speaking the films are in full screen mode and both look excellent considering their age.There are no extras.The accompanying music was excellently done and compliment the films as they should.
All in all two wonderful "silent" films by legendary director John Ford.Both are melodramas with nicely woven plots that should keep you interested throughout.

The Astaires: Fred and Adele
The Astaires: Fred and Adele
by Kathleen Riley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 27.95
34 used & new from CDN$ 8.42

3.0 out of 5 stars Not an easy read, but a much needed book on its subject matter, Feb. 13 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
"The Astaires" is a book about two super talented folks;one who by her own volition bowed out of the limelight at the peak of her career on stage for marriage,and the other,her brother,who would go on to further fame and fortune off stage in films and become, who many consider,the greatest dancer in that medium ever.
Much has been written about Fred Astaire in films,so there is little of mystery about the man and his career from that period onward.His pre-film career,along with his sister Adele however has remained,except for sporadic testimony of friends,newspaper clippings,etc., somewhat of an enigma to modern audiences.This book seeks to correct that discrepancy by digging deeper into playbooks,little known newspaper articles,memoirs of those who worked with and/or hired the Astaires along their joint career paths,and much more.The big question of "who was the bigger talent, Fred or Adele?", may never be answered to any one's satisfaction,as both siblings ever claimed it was the other.This book doesn't answer it either,although it does give us all fodder to think about it one way or another.
There are a few things that perturbed,me about this volume.I find the author while knowing her facts will often got out of sync with her timeline,jumping ahead suddenly by a few years then going back without warning.Then there is her vocabulary.She has a tendency to use a bit too many fancy $2.00 words,when the cheaper 50 cent-ers will do just fine.Furthermore I found her writing style overall to be a bit too heavy handed, and as a result it dragged the narrative.To top this she had a bad habit of over killing her points.For example on Page 72 and 73 she describes one George Nathan and his relationship with Adele.That she took more than half a page for a preamble leading up to Nathan and Adele's relationship,is baffling....and irritating.She first describes who Nathan was(a co editor with H.L.Mencken of the Smart Set periodical),his philosophical leanings,the big wigs of the literary set who wrote for the publication,etc.in a 17 line paragraph.She also describes his founding of the American Mercury with Alfred Knoff.Ok we now understand who he was.No this is not good enough.The author then expends another 18 line paragraph describing Nathan once more from the perspective of his co-editor Mencken.Enough already.Not a chance.After another eight line description which fleetingly mentions the real subject matter at hand,Adele,she goes into yet another piece of Nathan character build up by giving us two book inscriptions dedicated to him from a friend.It is only after all this extended verbiage that we finally get to the meat and potatoes of Nathan and Adele's relationship.WAY too much chaff with the wheat.I am of the view that less is more.In this case more editing on the part of the author and/or publishers wouldn't have been amiss here and in other sections of this book.As a result this book,while a welcome look at a neglected piece of entertainment history,is one SLOW read.Be prepared.

My Man Godfrey (1936)
My Man Godfrey (1936)
DVD ~ William Powell
Price: CDN$ 10.00
4 used & new from CDN$ 10.00

4.0 out of 5 stars One of best screwballs....catch it!, Feb. 13 2015
This review is from: My Man Godfrey (1936) (DVD)
My Man Godfrey(released Sept/36)stars,among others,William Powell,Carole Lombard,Alice Brady,Gail Patrick and
Eugene Pallette.This is a classic in the screwball comedy vein.Another of my favourites is The 20th Century and it also stars Lombard, which I hope they one day make a GOOD official release of.This film is,from the get go, a winner,with a brilliant cast from Powell,to Alice Brady who specialized in playing air headed women, to Mischa Auer, who plays a visiting wanna-be composer who never goes away.
The story finds us in the "real" world of the dirty 30s.Powell is a derelict and living at the edge of a garbage dump down by the East River, with dozens of other men.One evening competitive rich sisters Lombard and Patrick are on a scavenger hunt and they come upon this place.Their goal is to get a "forgotten man",the first one who does wins the contest.Well Powell won't go with a down-your-nose Patrick,but is intrigued by Lombard.Lombard transports him back and wins.She then impulsively employs him as the butler of the house.
Powell reports the next day all decked out in a butler suit and commences his duties in what he soon finds out is one screwy and dysfunctional household.Pallette is the put upon business man/father who has to literally pay for all his daughter's drunken indiscretions and his wife's buying sprees.Add to this a wanna composer lounging about the house,Powell soon finds he has bitten off more than he can chew.
At a party, a rich gent from Boston(Alan Mowbray) is there and when Powell offers him some hors d'oeuvres,Mowbray immediately recognizes him.It is his old Harvard school chum! Powell puts the exnay on that and Mowbray comes up with an elaborate albeit phony excuse as to their past relationship.The next day the two meet and Powell explains where he has been(the dump),and why he left to live there(a girl with whom he fell out and was very bitter about).Powell it seems comes from a very rich and influential family and doesn't want them or anyone else to know his whereabouts.
Back home Lombard has developed a crush on Powell which VERY soon develops into love.Powell keeps his distance at all times(or at least tries)and Lombard does everything she can from throwing herself at him,to throwing tantrums to playing pouty girl.To top this she announces at another party that she is getting married,to everyone's shock,just t get back at the unmoved Powell.The unsuspecting bridegroom is played by Grady Sutton.Powell wishes her all the best and she is beside herself with frustration.
Lombard and her sister are sent on a European vacation to forget about things back in New York.When they return things have changed.Behind the scenes Powell is still in touch with Mowbray and both are hatching a brainchild of Powell's to turn the dump into The Dump,a nightclub,as a place of employment for his old friends and a place to live.Furthermore he has worked behind the scenes to assist an unsuspecting Pallette with his failing finances.In the meantime Patrick hatches a scheme to get back at Powell(they have never gotten along since their first meeting).After a short tete a' tete the two had had which didn't sit well with her( the one where Powell met with Mowbray),she now tries to say Powell stole her pearl necklace.She planted it under his mattress.When the cops come around the blame finger is eventually pointed toward Powell.The police barge in and search his room.The necklace is never found and Patrick is left with egg on her face.Powell had found it beforehand,but Patrick at this point doesn't know that.
The day comes when Powell says his goodbyes to the family.No one wants him to go,surprisingly now not even Patrick.Just after Pallette had announced he was in financial straits, Powell steps up to tell him that he had his own people investing money properly in Pallette's name and his financial status is not that bad now at all.Powell leaves and opens up The Dump with Mowbray.The movie ends as Lombard pays a "visit" to Powell at the club.She brings about a weeks worth of food in and plans a permanent stay.The she gets a judge to marry them,without a license as Powell stands there gobsmacked.Fade to black.
The film contrasts the stark "realities" of the 30s in the opening sequences with the richness that surrounds it.Into that"reality"walks the more unreal folks of the rich set,Lombard and her sister.But wait, this is no Pygmalion story, with Lombard resurrecting Powell to bigger and better things.Powell is also part of the rich set.And just as he has learned some valuable life lessons,he will teach these to the family he butler's for.If a Pygmalion theme even runs in this film,it is in reverse.Powell is terrific as he plays along with this dysfunctional unit to see where it takes him,but his time with them enables him to figure out and come to terms with his own demons.Lombard of course nicely plays one of the dysfunctional parts of the family.Pallette and Patrick get changed by Powell's influence, but the mother(Brady) and Lombard never seemed fazed by it all.Lombard knew what she wanted almost right from the get go.Brady is so out of touch with things it would take an atomic blast to change her.But in the end it doesn't matter,as Powell it seems will become a part of the family's lives anyways.The very end has always been less than satisfying to me.Lombard comes into his club and into his room with a couple of baskets of food ready to move in.Powell is perplexed, but I have never gotten the impression he was pleased. On the contrary he had just told Mowbray before Lombard's entrance that he had no intention of marrying her or anyone else.A supposedly happy ending,but was it?That's my take anyways.
Technically speaking the film is in full screen mode and this print,from the UCLA archive,is in wonderful condition.There are a couple of featurettes.
All in all one of the best of screwball comedies from the 30s.Powell and Lombard work well together(they had been husband and wife) and they are both ably backed by a wonderful supporting cast of screen vets.4 -4 1/2 stars.

It Snowed
It Snowed
Price: CDN$ 14.38
21 used & new from CDN$ 11.45

4.0 out of 5 stars A very nice addtion to anyone's Christmas library, Feb. 12 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: It Snowed (Audio CD)
This is my first Meaghan Smith album and I must say I am impressed.This London,Ontario native certainly has a way of vocal phrasing.It is soft, yet compelling.Her singing is also intimate,like she is sitting there singing directly to you.She is ably backed throughout and it is a different take on Christmas songs you have heard in the past,but in a good way.As with many folks,her Christmas hit "It Snowed" is what first grabbed me.In her relatively brief 10 year(so far)career she has already written a song for a film and has been nominated for music awards.Meaghan has a bright future ahead of her and here's to her continued success.

Singin' in the Rain (Full Screen Special Edition, 2 Discs)
Singin' in the Rain (Full Screen Special Edition, 2 Discs)
DVD ~ Gene Kelly
Offered by Mikani Collectables
Price: CDN$ 36.99
19 used & new from CDN$ 5.54

5.0 out of 5 stars Kelly's best., Feb. 12 2015
Singing in the Rain(released Mar/52) stars,among others,Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen,Millard Mitchell and Cyd Charisse.This review is for the 2002 2-disc special edition.This is an excellent film,light hearted and full of energy with tons of memorable tunes from the American songbook.What really makes this edition are all the added features.More on that later,first let's get to the story.
The plot is light fun.Kelly is a star of silent films,and his co star Jean Hagen likes him alot,but the feeling is far from reciprocated.Soon after a party his studio boss had thrown which gave all the guests a sneak peak at the incoming new thing,sound,sound came in in a big way, and everything was thrown into chaos.The previous evening Kelly had snatched a ride with Reynolds trying to get away from adoring fans.She had no interest in films as she was too high hat.The night of the party Reynolds ends up being there,jumping out of a cake and being part of a group of chorines hired for the occasion.She and Kelly have a disagreement and Reynolds instead of connecting a pie on Kelly's face,ends up doing so on Hagen's pan.Reynolds flies into the night.
Kelly back at work three weeks later is still thinking about Reynolds,whom he hasn't seen since.It turns out Hagen had her fired,and Kelly is incensed.Kelly by coincidence soon finds her working on the studio lot in some minor production.They get reacquainted and end up falling for each other.The advent of sound is killing the studio at the box office and Kelly suggests that they turn their most recent production into a musical.That is great except his co star Hagen's voice is totally Brooklyn-ese.What to do? They end up overdubbing her voice with Reynolds.Reynolds is happy to do it at the start but soon tires of how Hagen treats her.At the screening of the film the audience asks Hagen to sing for them.Reynolds,one last time,sings behind the curtain while Hagen lip syncs.While O'Connor,Kelly and the boss are listening off stage,all three of them pull up the curtain and expose the fraud to one and all.As Reynolds runs out of the theatre,Kelly announces to all that Reynolds is the real star of the picture.The film comes to a close as the two stand in front of the now-new picture costar's movie sign....kissing.
I have always been more of an Astaire fan,but I consider this one Kelly's best film and most palatable,for me.It is high energy,full of wonderful songs and O'Connor,Reynolds and Kelly look and work exceptionally well together.It wasn't of course as sweet behind the scenes as it was in front but,hey that's show biz.Kelly's now immortal Singing in the Rain sequence and the trio's Good Morning routine are just two highlights.The famous or infamous jump cut when Kelly and Charisse are dancing is still there.The original footage still remains lost.
Technically speaking the film is in full screen a/r and is exceptionally clear and crisp.This is a marvelous transfer,the best I have ever seen the film look.Extras abound in this two disc set with special commentary,documentaries,stills,an outtake,and much more.
In conclusion for those who love this film,this is the best version yet put out.The picture is phenomenal,while the film itself is now considered one of the best musicals ever done.You'll love it.

Complete Recording 1952-62 (4CD)
Complete Recording 1952-62 (4CD)
Price: CDN$ 28.48
29 used & new from CDN$ 11.23

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must have for all Dearie fans!, Feb. 11 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This 4 CD set of nine of Blossom Dearie's vintage albums are da bomb! The music contained herein are the core base upon which Dearie's rep is what it is today.They have included her first two albums on the Prestige and Emarcy labels,quite rare stuff.
You probably know these are recordings made not from the original sources but from records.The quality of the sources obviously has the greatest bearing on how the final product will sound.I have bought many a CD of this type and some have been terribly poor.Such a case happened to me recently with The Astaire Story.It contained periodic pops and clicks throughout which weren't on the original recordings.Either they did little to take them out, or they did but their record's defects were so bad they couldn't eliminate them entirely.I am happy to report that there is nothing like that here.These recordings are for the most part remastered from the records quite well.Any criticisms I could level would really just be minor and not worth noting here.
The first and second LPs will catch those not entirely familiar with her catalogue a little off guard.In the first she is integrated into a group singing mostly in French.The second has her just playing songs on her 88s,and nothing else.However they are so well done that I just sat and sang along with them.It's like Blossom Dearie karaoke!
The rest are the albums she did from the mid 50s into the early 60s,and her distinctive vocal talents are front and centre.Wonderful stuff no matter how you slice it.Blossom has always been hard to categorize(I have never subscribed to the theory that all music must be pegged into a certain hole).To me she has simply been an original,interpreting the American songbook in her own inimitable fashion,and done it with great aplomb and technical skill.
All in all this is a set that is well worth the more than reasonable price.Nine of her defining albums,with excellent sound...you can't beat it.

On Broadway
On Broadway
Offered by Imagine This Music
Price: CDN$ 12.99
7 used & new from CDN$ 11.19

4.0 out of 5 stars A delightful compilation CD, Feb. 10 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: On Broadway (Audio CD)
Not many folks will remember the 60s as a decade full of crooners,but think about it:Robert Goulet,Tony Bennett,Johnny Mathis,Andy Williams,to name a small fraction...and those all on the Columbia label! Add to that Columbia list Mr.Jerry Vale.Mr.Vale always had that laid back,wistful quality to his singing and persona, and this CD fits the Vale persona perfectly.Jerry didn't have that belting out quality of Goulet,or the hip flair of Bennett.Backed by lush orchestrations,he sang each song as if he was singing right to you,in your home.And it is not to say Vale didn't trod some of the same musical paths his contemporaries did,because he did on more than a few occasions.But this is the style I,at least,will always remember Jerry for,and I must say,will always admire him for. He always,it seems to me, treated a song like something that was delicate and not to be manhandled.A tune to him was to be treated like a lady;caressed and pampered.And for that level of dedication to his tunes,he has left us with a pretty remarkable array of albums
Sony has hand picked some real gems for this release.All are from top of the deck musicals,all sang in the gentle,romantic Vale manner.Mr. Vale is certainly underrated and rarely mentioned with the more well known singers.I think that wrong should be righted.Mr.Vale,I salute you and your wonderful talent.

The Franchise Collection: Shirley Temple (Little Miss Marker/Now and Forever/The Runt Page)
The Franchise Collection: Shirley Temple (Little Miss Marker/Now and Forever/The Runt Page)
DVD ~ Gary Cooper
Price: CDN$ 11.83
35 used & new from CDN$ 7.71

4.0 out of 5 stars A must have DVD for all of Shirley's fans, Feb. 10 2015
The Shirley Temple Darling Pack contains two early Temple features and one short.Little Miss Marker,Now and Forever and Runt Page.These films show Temple on the cusp of superstardom,and as such are integral to understanding where she had been before she was to become what she became.
Little Miss Marker(released June/34)stars,among others,Shirley Temple,Adolphe Menjou and Dorothy Dell.The story finds Shirley as the daughter of a man who leaves her behind as collateral/a marker to cover a $20 bet on a horse race.The father ends up committing suicide and Menjou, who runs the betting shop,ends up having to raise her.Between Shirley and Dell,the previously stoic Menjou ends up falling for both dolls and has a happy ending for all.The film overall is a pleasant diversion and Temple was quickly developing into quite the little actress.In a short time she would be box office gold for Fox.This was a loan out to Paramount by Fox ,who up to this point had also been under-utilizing her.When the box office returns came in Paramount offered Fox a cool $50 grand for her contract.Fox declined,much to their later delight.3 1/2 stars.
Now and Forever(released Aug/34)stars,among others,Gary Cooper and Carole Lombard.Cooper plays a wandering playboy who is always short on dough.His moll is Lombard who travels wherever Cooper goes.As the film opens they are in Shanghai and broke,with a big hotel bill to pay.Cooper poses as an accountant and re-adjusts the books/their bill.Cooper gets a letter about his daughter,something he tells Lombard about for the first time.It seems his ex father in law wants custody and Cooper will let him have her for $75 grand.As it washes out,Cooper ends up taking his girl with him instead.They go to France where Cooper ends up again out of money and desperate. He ends up stealing jewelry and hawking it.But due to his little girl's influence he has a change of heart and tries to retrieve the bangle.He ends up shooting the fence and getting shot also.Just before this he had arranged for a kindly rich dowager to take custody of Shirley.Now wounded he says his goodbyes to her and ends up fainting in pain.He recovers and he,Carole and Shirley become a proper family.This is a very cynical film and Cooper plays a nasty,very selfish part.Lombard loves him but many times has second thoughts on their lifestyle and his seemingly cavalier attitude towards his daughter.The plot,to me,doesn't play as smoothly as Little Miss Marker and tends to drag too much.2 1/2-3 stars.
The last film is a one reeler.It was part of the Baby Burlesk series of films;kind of Our Gang rip offs(they weren't the only ones doing it).There were almost a dozen shot,all self contained films.The is the first one shot and a terrible stinker and waste of celluloid.It is a send up of the film The Front Page.The kids just mouth their lines,but all are over dubbed by adults.It's trying to make kids look and act like adults,but fails miserably.The only value is that it contains Temple's very first screen appearance...and that's it brother! 1 star.
Technically speaking all films are in very good condition and are in a 1:33:1 a/r.There is only one one-sided DVD here.
All in all this is a must have for Shirley Temple fans.This showcases the worst and best of some of Shirley's early 30s work.The two films showcase her obvious talents, just as she was on the cusp of stardom.None of the films come up to a 4 star rating,but as a significant part of the Temple legacy,it is a must have and I am glad it is available.

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