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Daniel Fineberg (Northridge, California USA)
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Bad Santa [Import]
Bad Santa [Import]
DVD ~ Billy Bob Thornton
Offered by OMydeals
Price: CDN$ 54.45
9 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Filthy, vulgar, and wonderful, June 29 2004
This review is from: Bad Santa [Import] (DVD)
Philip Roth once joked that the songwriter Jerome Kern singlehandedly "de-Christed" Christmas by turning it from a holiday about Jesus into a holiday about snowflakes. Terry Zwigoff's latest movie--the crudest and most bitter I've seen in a long time--may have old J.C. reconsidering his last temptation. Here, Christmas is not about snowflakes but about avarice, lust, gluttony, and all the rest of it. For Billy Bob Thornton's character--a perpetually drunk thief who rips off a new department store every December--seven deadly sins aren't nearly enough. A brilliant array of human depravity is on display in Zwigoff's Christmas, from thievery to prostitution to cursing at kids to drinking on the job to public fornication to perverse Santa Claus fetishes to mocking the afflicted. The movie is held together by Billy Bob at his most eruptive. He chews through his scenes with great gusto, but he also has wonderful support...from little Tony Cox who is 2 feet shorter but is able to go head-to-head and hold his own during their vulgar bickering tirades....from the always-superb Bernie Mac, all attitude and glare, who gives us something new to appreciate in him with each role he plays....from the late and dearly missed John Ritter, who plays the department store manager as an ultra-buttoned-up square whose strange demeanor seems to hide some unfathomably dirty dark secret that the filmmakers graciously leave to our imaginations. Young Brett Kelly plays The Kid, and plays him deadpan and ambiguous. That he latches onto Billy Bob even when he's not in Santa uniform is at once painful and hilarious. The Kid, I suppose, supplies the moral center for the movie, and some critics disapproved of the movie's attempt at some kind of redemption. I was thankful for it, because otherwise it becomes a nihilistic nightmare that might be tricky to recover from. Even as it is, I haven't felt so guilty for enjoying a movie since "Triumph of the Will."

Let It Be... Naked
Let It Be... Naked
Price: CDN$ 15.36
48 used & new from CDN$ 8.55

5.0 out of 5 stars Don't believe the hype..., Jan. 23 2004
This review is from: Let It Be... Naked (Audio CD)
...from either side. Think for yourself, as the Beatles would say. Chances are if people hadn't been aware of the volatile working conditions during the making of this album/movie, there would be no talk of it being a lesser recording. The band is just as hard-driving and just as searching as on other albums. It was a step back only in the most marginal way (that they'd simply play the songs without any overdubs). The songwriting and the musicianship is perfectly in sync with the meteoric ascent that began around Rubber Soul and continued upward. We also hear John handling more of the lead guitars, a position in which I had vastly underrated him until recently revisiting this album.
As for the updated version, it's all a matter of taste. If you prefer the Spector versions, or have lived with them for so long that you feel no need to confuse things, you could probably do without "...Naked." As for me, listening to the new versions, "The Long and Winding Road" still seems perhaps overly sappy and sentimental, but to a much lesser degree without Spector's touch. "Let it Be" and "I Me Mine" are not greatly altered, and in fact these are all great songs in both versions. The best thing about this reissue, however, is the inclusion of John's glorious "Don't Let Me Down" at the expense of the totally superfluous "Dig It" and "Maggie Mae". The second disc, the so-called "Fly on the Wall" disc, is 20 minutes of studio jabbering, and is strictly for the most desperate of fanatics (of which I am proudly one). Now just give us a spruced-up DVD of the film and let us be.

Together
Together
DVD ~ Lisa Lindgren
Offered by OMydeals
Price: CDN$ 67.00
9 used & new from CDN$ 24.91

4.0 out of 5 stars "Tillsammans", Dec 10 2003
This review is from: Together (DVD)
A very strange movie indeed, I had the good fortune to work on the subtitles for the forthcoming DVD, and I was surprised by how sincere and natural all of the performances were, even the children. The basic premise here is that a battered wife leaves her husband and takes her daughter and son to live with her brother, who lives in a small house with other assorted communal hippies. (This all takes place in Sweden during the 70s by the way)
The best parts of the movie involve the characters' reactions when the reality of life clashes with their communist ideals. Take Goran for instance, who is only happy to involve himself in an "open" relationship with his girlfriend, until the reality of it sets in. His growing inability to deal with this leads to a truly volcanic (and cathartic) eruption. Tom Wolfe's idea of radical chic is wonderfully played out when the mother falls under the influence of the resident lesbian--she lets her armpit hair grow out and goes on from there. The lesbian, in turn, is divorced from Lasse, who is being pursued by Klas, an effeminate fellow who is also on a conversion crusade. The movie is filled with great music and great performances, and though it has some shocking moments, it's worth the time.

Any Given Sunday (Widescreen Director's Cut) [Import]
Any Given Sunday (Widescreen Director's Cut) [Import]
DVD ~ Al Pacino
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 18.23
36 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Blood, sweat, spit, tears, crap, and an eyeball..., Dec 4 2003
Oliver Stone's movie about professional football is very tough, very hard-driving, almost as visceral as "Natural Born Killers", and often very funny as well. It's a movie punctuated by three or four football games, but the meat of the movie is in between, the clash of egos and ideologies. Stone is not afraid (and never has been) to take it to absurd levels, in his style as well as in the content, and if there is any serious flaw in the movie (other than the ridiculous casting of a totally out-of-place Cameron Diaz), it's that he puts in too much and holds nothing back. But then subtlety has not been Stone's M.O. these last few years. The cast, aside from Diaz, is fantastic. Al Pacino must've felt that all the screaming characters he has played in his career needed to be fused into one, and here he is, on the sidelines--Ricky Roma meets Tony Montana meets Colonel Slade meets Sonny Wortzik by way of Bill Parcells. But even with a cast so varied, Jamie Foxx manages a complete takeover of the movie as Steamin' Willie Beamen, fleshing out a complex character with an incredibly varied performance. There's a wonderful and very relevant side-story involving an injured player, while a shady older doctor (James Woods) and an idealistic younger doctor (Aaron Eckhart) clash in their ideas of what to do with him. Dennis Quaid is also great as the injured veteran QB whose wife (Lauren Holly) goes from delightful to despicable all too quickly. Hall-of-famers Jim Brown and Lawrence Taylor also add fire, but the real star of the show, as in all Oliver Stone movies, is Oliver Stone. The movie is best viewed on a big screen, at very high volume, and a six-pack probably wouldn't hurt either.

'Round About Midnight
'Round About Midnight
Price: CDN$ 8.81
20 used & new from CDN$ 5.06

5.0 out of 5 stars The first and best quintet., Dec 4 2003
This review is from: 'Round About Midnight (Audio CD)
This is my personal favorite of Miles' small group records, and his first for Columbia. It's simply a matter of taste whether you prefer the first quintet or the second. Those who tend a little more towards the free jazz choose the second, but I prefer the delicate swing of the earlier one, even though Coltrane was not yet fully formed as a sax player. Still, their rendition of Cole Porter's "All of You" has to be one of Davis' most perfect recordings, where Red Garland's piano block chords work to irresistible effect (as they do on "Bye Bye Blackbird"). Miles told Red that he wanted Ahmad Jamal's style transplanted into his band, and a good argument could be made that it was Garland's swing that set the tone for the direction of the band. At the very least, Miles always turned to Red for suggestions of which standards to play. The other highlight is the downright otherworldly performance of Monk's "Round Midnight" (of which Monk apparently did not approve), where Coltrane shows early signs of breaking through. Not very surprising that it was Coltrane's brief stint with Monk that finally set him loose for good. Also worth noting is a fantastic version of "Dear Old Stockholm" which features an extended and brilliant bass solo by Paul Chambers, who very rarely got any soloing time on Miles' studio records. Great, great music.

Manhattan Murder Mystery (Widescreen/Full Screen) (Bilingual)
Manhattan Murder Mystery (Widescreen/Full Screen) (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Woody Allen
Offered by Mega Media CA
Price: CDN$ 18.20
24 used & new from CDN$ 10.92

4.0 out of 5 stars So long, Mia. Hello, Keaton., Dec 1 2003
After the abrasive brilliance of "Husbands and Wives", Woody wisely lightened up and reteamed with two of his old partners-in-crime, Diane Keaton and writing partner Marshall Brickman. What's amazing is that though the movie seems rather lightweight on the surface, it really juggles a lot of different ideas at once. It is a comedy crime caper, but it toys with the idea that Keaton is imagining the whole thing in an effort to spice up a humdrum marriage. Does Alan Alda's character find the possibility of a murder tantalizing, or does he simply see it as a great way to get closer to Keaton? Does Anjelica Huston's character find the possibility of a murder tantalizing, or does she simply see it as a great way to get closer to Woody? Or both? The only sure thing is Woody, who reminds us that, aside from everything else, he's an absolutely peerless comic actor. He goes from being skeptical and annoyed at Keaton's obsession, to gradually escalating levels of fear, fear of both the murder and of losing his wife. It's great to see these two working together again so effortlessly, as though "Annie Hall" had just wrapped the week before.

Joao Gilberto
Joao Gilberto
Price: CDN$ 24.51
22 used & new from CDN$ 7.97

5.0 out of 5 stars Killer, Nov. 24 2003
This review is from: Joao Gilberto (Audio CD)
Sometimes referred to as The White Album (one of the few modern artists whose greatness can withstand comparison to that of the Beatles), this album was recorded sometime around 1970. Only Joao and a drummer are present, though then-girlfriend Miucha appears on one song. Somehow this album stands apart from all his others--maybe because it is so sparse, yet many of the numbers are up-tempo. He runs through "Eu Vim da Bahia" five times and makes it definitive. He brings a new and unexpected phrasing to "Aguas de Marco." He is at his most playful on "Eu Quero um Samba". And three tunes virtually do away with words altogether--"Undiu" finds him hypnotically chanting the title word, "Valsa" finds him humming a lullaby to his daughter, and an astonishing instrumental version of "Na Baixa do Sapateiro" finds him at his most dexterous on the guitar. It's a near-perfect album.

Money Jungle
Money Jungle
Price: CDN$ 9.80
37 used & new from CDN$ 4.55

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A musical fistfight!, Nov. 19 2003
This review is from: Money Jungle (Audio CD)
This is one of the truly great albums, an album that epitomizes the great preoccupations of jazz--the breaking down and building back up, the fighting between the old and new schools. It is also more evidence of the Duke's continued reign as undisputed champ of music in America; he was willing to do anything, go anywhere. And so he followed Mingus and Max Roach into their world, and what may have turned into a sort of gang initiation for any other musician becomes an all-out musical brawl, a record that is hard-driving and forceful and unpolished but still beautiful. It's not surprising that Mingus, in the presence of Ellington, plays as well as he ever has. No matter how far Mingus reached, no matter how experimental he got, he came from Duke, and worshipped Duke (even though he was the only man Duke had ever fired), and this anxiety is palpable all through this record. And Duke? What can one say... In addition to being a wonderful soul, he was a very smart man, and knew quite well that he was not Bud Powell or Oscar Peterson, and he doesn't try to be, he doesn't need to be. He didn't sign up with Mingus and Roach for a gag, to dip his toes cautiously and quickly into the bebop waters. He wanted--like all great artists--to challenge and to be challenged. So it is not terribly surprising that he sounds at times like Thelonious (another who was deeply touched by Duke)--angular, sparse, very rhythmic. This is above all else a confrontation of styles and ideas and personalities. It is musical interplay at its most complex because it plays off of what we know and what we expect from these musicians, reaching, exceeding, and eventually shattering those expectations.

Big Band/Qrts In Concert
Big Band/Qrts In Concert
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 32.95
5 used & new from CDN$ 26.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Classic, Nov. 11 2003
Hall Overton's orchestral arrangements of Monk are quite simple and wonderful, actually. The orchestra, aside from helping introduce the theme of a tune, adds voicings during the other men's solos that resemble what Monk might be doing on piano in a smaller-group setting. This adds a nice extra layer to the music. My complaint is with Thad Jones, who plays the cornet with the band. I will side with Miles Davis who said that trumpet players simply didn't sound very good behind Monk (though he took it a step further and included just about all horn players). Jones, who is a fine trumpet player, who was a staple with that splendid Count Basie orchestra, simply cannot keep up during this performance. It's not that he doesn't have a melodic grasp of the music, but that he doesn't seem to have the physical chops to pull off a good solo. He always seems to be a step behind, and this comes through quite clearly in his tone, which lacks confidence and punch, and which is in the end, I'm sorry to say, rather wimpy. Though he does have a few good moments, the soloists who really shine are Charlie Rouse on the tenor and Phil Woods on the alto. Woods--who is essentially Paul Desmond with a lot more soul--plays great, adding his own originality and fire to Monk's music, and sounding at times like Cannonball Adderley. And Monk, wonderful singular poet that he is, holds down the keys admirably as always. My favorites are "I Mean You", "Bye-ya", and "Light Blue."

Monks Dream
Monks Dream
Price: CDN$ 8.59
27 used & new from CDN$ 5.26

5.0 out of 5 stars First Columbia recording, Nov. 11 2003
This review is from: Monks Dream (Audio CD)
Monk's first album for Columbia is a quartet session, as so many of them are, and featured what would be his steady band for a few years, with Rouse, Dunlop, and Ore. The highlight is the title song. Monk had such inventive names for his compositions, part of the fun is finding a way to correlate them to the music. "Monk's Dream" seems to me to have a distinctively dream-like quality, though I'm at a loss to describe it coherently with words. No matter. It's vintage Monk--strange, humorous, beautiful. Charlie Rouse's solo on "Bright Mississippi" may very well be the very best solo he's ever played--he begins, quite cleverly, by falling off the cliff of Monk's composition, and spends the rest of his solo climbing his way out and ascending. It's a shame then, that it's followed immediately by an extremely rare poor Monk solo--he seems quite lost and never catches fire. This album also has the wonderful tune "Bye-ya", and Monk's signature solo run-through of "Just a Gigolo".

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