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Reviews Written by
Tommy Dooley "Tom" (London, England)
(HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   

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Trail Of The Panda - DVD
Trail Of The Panda - DVD
DVD ~ Daichi Harahsima
Price: CDN$ 8.88
24 used & new from CDN$ 5.38

5.0 out of 5 stars Adorable family film from Disney studios., May 26 2016
This review is from: Trail Of The Panda - DVD (DVD)
Made in 2008 and released in 2009 this is one of those films that are guaranteed to leave not a dry eye in the house. It is about a young boy called LU who has been orphaned but a poor bamboo farmer, Chen, takes him in and uses him as a helping hand in his run down house.

Then one day they spot a mother panda with two twin cubs and both are fascinated by the beautiful creatures. However, Chen is a bit short on cash and he knows a man who wil pay handsomely for a live baby panda – and you can guess what happens next.

This is an amazing film and they used real pandas. This has drama, heartbreak, love and a nice eco massage too. I was moved to tears on one occasion it was so gut wrenching but I simply enjoyed this as if I were achild. Hopefully films like this will help in spreading the message of how important it is to stop these wonderful animals from becoming extinct. It is in Mandarin and the sub titles are good, this is for those who still have an inner child and need to let it out once in a while or just if you like well made films.

Victoria [Blu-ray]
Victoria [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Laia Costa
Price: CDN$ 19.99
3 used & new from CDN$ 19.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Indie crime Thriller from Germany, May 25 2016
This review is from: Victoria [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
I had heard a lot about this so was looking forward to it; the plot is that a young Spanish girl, Victoria of the title played impressively by Laia Costa, is out one night in Berlin when she meets four young and highly spirited young men. She wants to make new friends and so goes along with their schoolboy larks.

Sonne is particularly taken with her and as the night progresses they all learn more about each other and as the booze flows so too do the confessions until a really dark one is revealed that will have consequences that likewise are of a dark nature.

Now to say any more would be entering plot spoiler land. One thing to note is that this is filmed and told in real time. The ‘not a lot happening bits’ are there as well as the other ‘loads happening’ bits. It is all seen from Victoria’s perspective and the actors are all just superb. The direction of this looks minimal as it is all so naturalistic. You actually feel as if this is a fly on the wall documentary at times without the voice over. This has to be a massive credit to director Sebastian Schipper who also wrote this.

The other thing to note is that this takes its time setting the scene set but do stay with it as you will be well rewarded. I was left feeling that I had just seen one amazing and original film that is a credit to all involved – absolutely essential viewing to all European cinema fans.

IRONCLAD 2:BATTLE FOR BLOOD
IRONCLAD 2:BATTLE FOR BLOOD
Offered by Rarewaves-CA
Price: CDN$ 12.11
6 used & new from CDN$ 12.11

3.0 out of 5 stars OK Historical Romp that is big on the romping and very tiny indeed on the history., May 23 2016
This is supposed to be Ironclad 2 and follow on from the siege of Rochester. Instead it is about some family of Norman descent privilege that have built a castle on the border land with Scotland. Then a vengeful Clan Chief leads his bunch of be-woded warriors to wreak revenge and do a lot of gurning.

The plot is that the young master – Hubert – has to go and get help from an estranged cousin who is a bit handy, as it were. This is Guy played rather well by Tom Austen. Then the action begins and to be fair there is plenty of action and it is mostly good.

However, there are some issues that could have been resolved and this would have been soo much better. For starters there is shaky cam during the action scenes and this is Richter scale 8 shaking, so a bit disappointing. Then the use of wode – I mean really this is supposed to be 1221. The spiral staircases in the castle go down on the left giving the advantage to the attacker – sack the architect immediately.

Then during the fight scenes which contain ‘explosions’ for added authenticity they have buckets of straw strategically placed to spread as much fire as possible inside the besieged castle. I could go on but I think that is enough. Most of the acting is good though and they actually manage to engender pathos in parts and I enjoyed 80% of it, but this is one that many will not want to bother with because of the aforementioned issues and a bit more beside – I won’t bother if they make a turd – I mean a third one in this series.

Wolz - Life & Illusion of a German Anarchist
Wolz - Life & Illusion of a German Anarchist
DVD ~ Regimantas Adomaitis
Offered by BonnieScotland
Price: CDN$ 23.25
2 used & new from CDN$ 17.85

5.0 out of 5 stars Amazingly accomplished German film from the Seventies, May 20 2016
This is one of those films that if you are a real cinephiles then you should have heard about – and I hadn’t. It is about Ignaz Wolz who gets injured in World War I and meets medic Ludwig; who only has paper bandages as German industrialists are making more money using the lint to make ladies corsets than provide for the soldiers. Wolz in having a bout of righteous indignation he declares that he will avenge all the German blood left unstaunched because profits were put before people.

Move onto 1919 and he decides to do exactly what he promised and so he starts his own revolution, which is lacking in political dogma being more Robin Hood in its ambitions than real anarchy. As people flock to his cause so does an intelligent, socialist nurse and between Wolz, Agnes and Ludwig a sort of threesome form. The film follows the ups and downs of all of their exploits.

Now this is a real mix of a film. Part comedy at one point, part political statement and a definite swipe at National Socialism, it is very ambitious and it pulls it all off. It has a great musical score too and the music adds to the moods tenfold. The acting is superb and Regimantas Adomaitis as Wolz is a power house. The print is excellent too looking as fresh as a new film today; in German with good sub titles and at a run of 110 minutes – none of which are wasted, this is truly an exceptional film that I can thoroughly recommend.

Xenia [Import]
Xenia [Import]
DVD ~ XENIA
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 20.92
12 used & new from CDN$ 20.92

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and Endearing Greek Film, May 17 2016
This review is from: Xenia [Import] (DVD)
Dany and Ody are brothers who have not seen each other for a while. Then Dany turns up in Piraeus to tell Ody that their flamboyant Albanian mother has dies and that they need to find their estranged Greek father – and to enter Ody in ‘Greek Star’ – a talent show of all talent shows. Oh yes and to get Greek citizenship and thus avoid being deported.

So begins the odyssey and it is necessary to point out that Dany is gay and fairly extrovert and the film takes a few minutes to warm up and I implore you to stay with it – you will be well rewarded. It has surreal moments to including one with a big bunny rabbit – but ‘Donnie Darko’ this aint.

The enthusiasm for the characters and the care in which they are played shines through the screen. There is also a plethora of supporting players and I loved nearly all of them. Plus we get some great song and dance routines and a soundtrack that makes you want to get up and join in. I simply adored this film it left me in a great mood and I was miffed when it ended such is the fun of this journey. If you do not mind a bit of surrealism and can still believe in dreams or you just want a great loving film then this is one you will not wish to miss.

Paging Mr Proust
Paging Mr Proust
Price: CDN$ 13.99
31 used & new from CDN$ 12.82

4.0 out of 5 stars Great Band and another slightly 'great' album, May 17 2016
This review is from: Paging Mr Proust (Audio CD)
I am a bit of a fan and have had this since it was released and have been listening to it since then just to see if it is a stayer like so many of their previous releases. It has a different feel to earlier work but it is still distinctly The Jayhawks. These days it is hardly possible to get an album where there are no tracks you do not like, this is nearly one of such things. However, I just can not get to like 'Ace', but it is more than made up by the rest of the tracks.

'Devil in her eyes' is just brilliant with great lyrics and a tune to fall in love with and the usual harmonies that make you want to sing along ' before you know all the words. 'I'll be your key' is just beautiful and is like lying in the sun on a late summers afternoon ' 'Leaving the monsters behind' is another one that seems simple in its arrangements and presentation but is a triumph of melody, simplicity and brilliance.

'Lies in black and white' is one of those songs that takes a serious subject but makes it sound like a great upbeat song with jangly guitar et al. 'Lovers of the sun' is a nice song ' very casual and a song that would lift other folk's albums but just trundles along here. 'Pretty Roses in your hair' is a mood changer and it's a little corker. It has a brooding power that gets to you in an altogether agreeable way. So to sum up this is a good album, by Jayhawks standards though it is not a great one, I am still listening to it though and think that will be the case for a while yet.

Lesson
Lesson
DVD ~ Margita Gosheva
Price: CDN$ 24.98
14 used & new from CDN$ 19.40

5.0 out of 5 stars Tense and at times mesmerising tale from Bulgaria., May 17 2016
This review is from: Lesson (DVD)
Nade is a school teacher of teenagers; her husband is a man who dotes on their daughter but also on the drink bottle. His nefarious carryings on have plummeted them into serious debt. She also has a side line in translating Bulgarian documents into English. Then one day one of her students has her purse stolen. It is obviously one of the class who is the culprit but Nade is unable to get them to fess up.

Now she is presented with some stark choices as to how to pay off her debts and so begins a very harrowing and exhausting as well as emotionally draining journey that had me increasingly gripped.

I have seen some comments that this is a slow start and I have to agree. However, you need to set the ground rules in order for the later events to have the fullest impact and I must say this really delivers. It is in Bulgarian and a bit of English, and runs to 111 minutes; it has also won a slew of awards and I have to say they are all completely deserved – recommended to lovers of European cinema and those who like their films to be a bit deeper.

War [Import]
War [Import]
Price: CDN$ 24.76

5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning and Compelling Danish Film on the war in Afghanistan., May 15 2016
This review is from: War [Import] (DVD)
Pilou Asbæk of ‘A Hijacking’ fame plays Claus Michael Pedersen a Commander of the Danish forces in Afghanistan. The men have to do the usual patrols and face constant threats from Afghan rebels and IED’s. Then on another patrol he and his men come under heavy and sustained fire and in the fog of battle he makes a fateful decision that will have huge future ramifications.

We also have the story of his wife back home and the daily trials of trying to bring up three kids and hold a normal life together with their father away for months overseas and only having a satellite phone to stay connected.

This is a very intense film that captures the utter fear of war and the awful situations that modern warfare can land people up in. It shows this from all sides. The acting is just superb and the direction from Tobias Lindholm (‘The Hunt’) is very accomplished. They do have wobbly cam a few time but not the full on shaky cam that so many people dislike, but I can live with that. The translation of the sub titles is wrong in a couple of places but generally quite good. This is a film that had me on the edge of my seat, the time flew by and as such I can agree with all the plaudits and easily recommend this as a great one to see.

Lost In Karastan [DVD] by Matthew MacFadyen
Lost In Karastan [DVD] by Matthew MacFadyen
DVD ~ Diane Keaton

4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual Brit Social Comedy of a sort., May 13 2016
Mathew Macfadyen, star of ‘Riper Street and one of my favourite actors, stars as Emil Forrester an award winning film director who has hit a big creative block. With no stimulation and a dwindling bank balance, he is reaching the end of his tether. Then he gets an offer to attend the first ever international film festival in the newly established Democratic Republic of Karastan. A former Soviet state which is rife in the corruption and ineptitude one would expect.

Well once he gets there he sees the nightmare of poverty that exists but is taken by the charms of his chaperone. Then the President asks to meet him and offers him the chance to make a massive film about Krastan’s national hero – and despite his misgivings, he accepts.

Now I enjoyed this, but it still has a few issues. The main one is in its ambition; and that is I found it hard to get what it was trying to be. It started off firmly as comedy and got a few laughs, then it goes into social commentary and then we have the story of a man who keeps making bad decisions who still relies on his own reasoning powers. The three main aspects just do not seem to mesh very well. That said the time did pass quite well and it did have some charm. The acting was all up to muster too. If you are still curious then consider the rental or streaming option as it is still worth a punt.

What We Have (Version française) [Import]
What We Have (Version française) [Import]
Price: CDN$ 32.26
7 used & new from CDN$ 18.48

4.0 out of 5 stars A French Canadian Story of lust, loss and acting, May 9 2016
Maurice (Maxime Desmons) has relocated from Paris to a small North Canadian town. He is running away from a past that he can not face and decides to get a job acting as that is his profession. The pay though is basic so he advertises to tutor in French. His advert is answered by the mother of Alan – a withdrawn but talented teenager.

Maurice seems to alienate all around him despite his abilities but Alan finds him to be inspirational. Meanwhile Maurice is trying to fit in at the theatre but even as his acting is excellent the disaffected youth whom he is tutoring starts to get to him through the boy’s overt needs.

Now this is a really well made and intentioned film. Alex Ozerov as Alan is superb (actually from Russia originally) and the story line is original and engaging, some of the back story is told in flashback and that is done with real style too. This is a film that is gay themed but would be easily for a wider audience as the themes are universal and I have to see I appreciated this very much indeed.

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