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Steven Aldersley (Oshawa, Ontario, Canada)

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The Hateful Eight
The Hateful Eight
DVD ~ Channing Tatum

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars My favourite director disappoints, Jan. 24 2016
This review is from: The Hateful Eight (DVD)
Comedy, Crime, Drama, 179/187 minutes
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, Walton Goggins, Demián Bichir and James Parks

It's been three years since Quentin Tarantino released Django Unchained, so I have been starved of the dark humor and intelligent writing that appears in so many of my favorite movies.

Before I review The Hateful Eight, I want to explain what I think of Tarantino. His previous seven main features have delivered some of the most entertaining cinema of the past 20 years. His dialogue is unmatched and the screenplays have the ability to tell compelling, entertaining stories, while making me laugh at the dark humor. He also has the ability to choose the perfect music to fit the scenes and he uses actors in ways that they have never been used before. He boosted the careers of people like John Travolta and Pam Grier, and introduced us to Christoph Waltz. Tarantino is a genre all his own and his body of work probably makes him my favorite director.

However, The Hateful Eight is a huge disappointment.

Tarantino has explained how he used to anticipate the release of films from his favorite directors, such as Brian De Palma. He always wanted to see the film for himself before viewing it with friends. It was a much-loved ritual. That's how I feel about Tarantino's own movies. They are gifts to be savored and I deliberately waited a few weeks for the fuss to die down so that I could experience the movie without a large audience ruining the experience for me. Today's morning showing gave me that opportunity and I managed to find a quiet spot from which to devour this latest Tarantino treat.

As with his previous films, The Hateful Eight is broken down into chapters. The opening chapter introduces bounty hunters Major Marquis Warren (Jackson) and John Ruth (Russell) Ruth has captured Daisy Domergue (Leigh) and allows Warren to hitch a ride to Red Rock where he will turn in the three dead criminals he is transporting. This opening exchange is quite promising, although it lacks some of the punch of Tarantino's dialogue from other movies.

A blizzard forces the party to seek refuge and it's here that the other characters are introduced. The majority of the film's three-hour running time takes place in a single building.

As with many celebrated directors, Tarantino has his favorites when it comes to actors. Michael Madsen and Tim Roth are a welcome presence, while Jackson and Russell are the most important characters for much of the story.

I found myself grinning as the White Stripes' Apple Blossom played when we met Daisy; it fit the scene perfectly as I have come to expect. Ennio Morricone won a Golden Globe for his original score, so what was lacking?

I find it strange that Tarantino would make consecutive Westerns. Is he finally running out of original ideas? The trademark foul language and excessive violence is present as it is in his other films, but this time it feels forced and, at times, even unnecessary. The tongue-in-cheek humor is sparse at best. I found myself thinking that Tim Roth's character was written for Christoph Waltz, although Roth did a decent job and was one of the better characters.

The whole thing was just off. I cared about The Bride, Butch and Jackie Brown, but I didn't care about any of these characters. I'm at a loss to explain Jennifer Jason Leigh's various nominations, as her character contributed very little to this struggling story. It's as if Tarantino tried to make a Tarantino movie, but forgot how.

I thought Django Unchained was brilliant in places, but bloated in others. The Hateful Eight feels bloated throughout (even the title sequence) and I have to wonder how much the loss of editor Sally Menke has affected Tarantino's last two films.

My Blu-ray cabinets contain all of Tarantino's movies, but I am not certain I'll even add this one to my collection. I would rather watch Death Proof than revisit The Hateful Eight. I'm sorry Quentin; I love your previous work, but I can't lie. Let's hope for Kill Bill 3 and a return to form in another three years or so.

Strangers to Ourselves
Strangers to Ourselves
Price: CDN$ 10.00
53 used & new from CDN$ 6.22

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unmistakable Modest Mouse, but with a slightly different sound, March 17 2015
This review is from: Strangers to Ourselves (Audio CD)
1. Strangers to Ourselves
2. Lampshades On Fire
3. Sh*t in Your Cut
4. Pistol (A. Cunanan, Miami, FL. 1996)
5. Ansel
6. The Ground Walks, with Time in a Box
7. Coyotes
8. Pups to Dust
9. Sugar Boats
10. Wicked Campaign
11. Be Brave
12. God is an Indian and You're an A*$hole
13. The Tortoise and the Tourist
14. The Best Room
15. Of Course We Know

Modest Mouse graduated from a place in the middle of my Top 10 to my favorite band in the summer of 2014. I played their albums to death for about three months in preparation for Toronto's August 1 concert and I'm having trouble playing anything else at the moment.

I didn't discover the band until around 2005, when I moved to North America. Although I was able to anticipate the release of We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, this is the first time I have looked forward to a Modest Mouse album while they were my Number 1 band. I've been listening to whatever live versions of the songs I could, as well as the few official tracks which were made available early. Now I actually have my hands on all 15 tracks and I feel compelled to share my thoughts.

Bear in mind though that I think it's impossible to fully appreciate any album on one or two listens. Until you know a song well enough to know what's coming from beginning to end, any initial impression is something that can easily and will most likely change.

That said, what do I think of Strangers to Ourselves?

The title track was completely new to me as of this morning. It eases in slowly, with Brock's vocals thoughtful and subdued. It's a reflective song which introduces us to the album. Unlike Brock's more abrasive vocals, Strangers to Ourselves isn't a song that a non-fan might hate. More than anything, it leaves me anticipating the inevitable explosion of energy that is surely present on the album as a whole.

Lampshades On Fire has been on my playlist since it surfaced late last year. I love the rhythm and the way that the seemingly chaotic structure seems to flow together. It's actually quite catchy! I could imagine casual listeners wanting to hear more from the band after being exposed to it.

"We'll kill you off and then make a clone
Yeah, we got spines, yeah, we have bones
This is how it's always gone
And this is how it's going to go"

Sh*t in Your Cut contains a lot of heavy bass. I'm extremely familiar with the song after seeing it performed at Echo Beach at the concert and hearing various live versions on YouTube. Brock's vocals are measured, but forceful. Unlike the live renditions, the album version reveals more layers of sound. The drums in particular are more prominent, and the swirling guitar fits perfectly. The backing vocals work well, and are less jarring than on songs like Florida from the last album. I could imagine this song becoming a favorite of mine.

"I guess we'll ride this winter out"

I'm really loving the extra depth on the studio versions so far.

Pistol (A. Cunanan, Miami, FL. 1996) begins with a disco drum intro (gulp) and it makes me think of Blondie's Tide is High. But Brock's vocals are more of a growl on this track and it carries plenty of weight. That said, this is easily the weakest track so far.

Ansel begins with Brock saying "Here we go" and it feels like the beginning of a musical journey. That matches the theme of the song, which is about a trip to New Mexico during which a brother is lost. The song is reportedly inspired by the death of Isaac Brock’s brother. The structure feels like vintage Modest Mouse.

"The last time that you ever see another soul
No, you never get to know
No, you don't know"

The Ground Walks, with Time in a Box is a sprawling jumble of layers with a funky beat reminiscent of Talking Heads. The songs are more polished than on early Modest Mouse albums, but Brock's vocals still have that unmistakable feel. I can see how fans might be divided by this album if they are hoping for another Lonesome Crowded West. Make no mistake, this is a BIG sound. The track is dense with all kinds of percussion, but it holds together well.

"Our predecessor left this box
and something's crawling around
I think it really wants out"

Coyotes is raw and beautiful, with Brock in reflective mode again. The song features layers of backing vocals and stark acoustic guitar. There's a lot to like about this structure, but it isn't typical Modest Mouse. I must have heard it a hundred times over the past few weeks and it's still growing on me.

Pups to Dust begins like a trail song, but then emerges as the Modest Mouse sound that we know and love. More backing vocals on this one. There's a lot going on, so it's hard to take in everything on just a couple of listens. It's a pretty slow song, and quite accessible for the casual listener.

Sugar Boats has been available on YouTube as a live song for a long time, but none of those versions sound like this one. There's more depth, keyboards, and Brock's vocals are much clearer in the mix. I've noticed that a few songs on the album have a carnival quality to them, but with guitars rather than a fairground organ. The driving guitar is hypnotic and it's a strong track.

Wicked Campaign is a synthesizer-laden track which ebbs and flows. It ranges from tribal drums to stark vocals. It sounds...strange. The more I listen, the more I get a feel for the structure. The last minute is blatant Modest Mouse with Brock in full flow. Yeah, I like it.

Be Brave has been around a while as a live track. Brock spits out the lyrics and it sounds better on the album than any version I have heard before. The fairground quality is there again, but the vocals are forceful and dominate the song. There's so much depth here. It's definitely one of the highlights from the album. It's amazing how the staccato vocals can still flow so well.

God is an Indian and You're an A*$hole is the shortest song on the album at just over a minute. It wouldn't work well on its own, but it serves well as a link between the other songs, repeating a single idea.

The Tortoise and the Tourist starts off with discordant guitar, before bursting into action when the full band kicks in. It's a towering wall of sound, with Brock's vocals at their shouty best. I'm probably going to love this track after a few more listens.

The Best Room is probably my favorite song from those released early, and I have played it dozens of times. It has multiple phases, ranging from driving vocals to a more laid back sound. There's a great sequence in the middle with Brock's unaccompanied vocals. The abrupt ending always leaves me wanting more.

We all signed the card:
"Get well, but don't you try too hard"

Of Course We Know ends the album as it began, with a multilayered and epic sound. The keyboards and backing vocals don't sound like you would expect Modest Mouse to sound, but Brock's scratchy vocal removes any doubt.

So where does the new album rank when compared to other releases from my favorite band? Well, it's somewhere in the middle. My top three are The Lonesome Crowded West, The Moon & Antarctica, and This is a Long Drive. I would put Strangers to Ourselves in the same tier as Good News for People Who Love Bad News and We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. As my disclaimer mentioned, that could change drastically when the songs are more familiar to me. I'm encouraged by my first impression.

Overall rating: 3.5/5 for Modest Mouse albums, 5/5 when compared to other bands.

Birdman (Bilingual) [Blu-ray]
Birdman (Bilingual) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Michael Keaton
Price: CDN$ 7.99
14 used & new from CDN$ 4.50

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but not my favorite from the 2014 awards season, March 8 2015
Birdman won four Oscars from its nine nominations; best picture, director, original screenplay and cinematography. It also more than doubled its budget at the box office, so it's fair to say that Birdman was a success. That said, I don't think it will have massive appeal.

Why do I say that?

The film does not follow a conventional structure. I would imagine that most people will sit down to watch Birdman expecting to laugh every couple of minutes; after all, it is described as both a comedy and a drama, and Michael Keaton and Zach Galifianakis are involved. What we actually get is something quite unexpected. It feels like we are part of a play.

Iñárritu caught my attention with the way that he weaved together four threads in the excellent Babel, and used a similar structure in 21 Grams. Birdman is nothing like either of those films. Instead, it's shot like a documentary. He uses extreme closeups and we experience just about everything from the perspective of Riggan Thompson (Keaton). He plays an actor who was once famous for playing a superhero. That seems fitting considering Keaton's turn as Batman. Iñárritu is aware that superhero movies are popular, and that most people crave action and special effects over true art. Riggan expands on that idea by pouring everything he has (physically, mentally and financially) into a broadway play that writes, directs and stars in.

Emma Stone plays Riggan's daughter, Sam. She's a bit of a problem child, and that seems to fit Riggan's lifestyle, which is anything but trouble-free. The other actors in the play are Mike (Edward Norton) and Lesley (Naomi Watts), and they provide plenty of conflict both on and off the stage. To add to the overall feel that we are part of a play, Iñárritu uses a series of long takes. The result is almost a superior version of reality TV.

I often use the word 'interesting' as a throwaway word, but Birdman is genuinely interesting. It held my attention throughout and I wanted to know what would happen next. Keaton and Norton deserved their nominations, but there were definitely better performances in 2014. I like Keaton, and am glad that he got so much recognition, but in all honesty, I don't understand why Birdman won best picture. I enjoyed it, and I'll revisit it from time to time, but in my opinion it's not even Iñárritu's best film.

Overall score 3.75/5

Whiplash (Bilingual) [Blu-ray + UltraViolet]
Whiplash (Bilingual) [Blu-ray + UltraViolet]
DVD ~ Miles Teller
Price: CDN$ 10.00
10 used & new from CDN$ 5.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, a role that allows J.K. Simmons to display his full talent, March 1 2015
I've never been a fan of jazz, so why would I want to watch Whiplash? The movie deals with a young man's passion for drumming and his ambition is to be the next Buddy Rich. To answer my own question, I wanted to see J.K. Simmons in his Oscar-winning role.

I've been a fan of Simmons since I saw his humorous cameo in Burn After Reading. He has the ability to make us forget that he's acting. Do you remember him as Juno's father, or as a fired worker in Up in the Air? I once decided that if I ever became an established writer of screenplays, I would write something that featured Simmons so that he could showcase all of his talent. Damien Chazelle has beaten me to it.

It's common to idolize people in our lives, whether it's in the sporting world, music, or whatever your individual interests happen to be. But Peyton Manning didn't just become great; he dedicated himself to the game and worked to connect with his teammates. While Jimi Hendrix had perhaps the most instinctive musical talent, he probably worked like crazy to develop his ability.

Whiplash is essentially about the struggle for greatness.

Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) doesn't seem to care about making friends or maintaining social relationships of any kind. He believes that they are merely distractions which take him away from time he could spend perfecting his drum playing. We see Neiman at Shaffer, which has the reputation of being the best music school in the US.

Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) teaches at Shaffer, and seems to spend most of his time terrorizing his students. His style is reminiscent of a Sergeant Major, making most students afraid of him and unable to look him in the eye. But it would be a mistake to pigeon hole Fletcher because his character is multifaceted and impossible to consistently predict. One minute he's shouting into someone's face, and then he'll shed a tear or say something surprisingly encouraging. His motivation is to discover the next great jazz musician, but his methods are unorthodox and extreme.

As the story unfolds, we watch Neiman try to impress Fletcher. His drumming is just a small part of the equation; Fletcher wants to see Neiman stand up to him and overcome adversity, believing that such qualities are a vital part of the mix in any truly great musician.

I won't give away any more of the story, but I should say that Neiman's journey isn't the smoothest. We are left guessing right up until the final scene (and perhaps beyond) about Fletcher's true motivations and whether Neiman will succeed. I would have to say that it's one of the best movie-endings I have ever witnessed.

I watched Whiplash for the first time just 20 hours ago with two friends who had no interest in the subject matter. We all loved the story. I'm struggling to stop myself from seeing it again tonight. Be prepared for a lot of foul language and an intense experience. It's a unique movie with excellent performances. I hope that you give it a chance.

The Theory of Everything [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
The Theory of Everything [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Eddie Redmayne
Price: CDN$ 8.25
9 used & new from CDN$ 8.25

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Make good use of your time, Feb. 21 2015
Good films can hold my attention even when I have very little interest in the subject matter. I'm sure that most people have heard of Stephen Hawking, but I doubt that many of us think too deeply about what he has achieved. His synthesized voice appeared on Pink Floyd's Division Bell and he featured on an episode of Star Trek Next Generation, but what is he like as a person?

The Theory of Everything answers that question and provides insight about how life would be if we lost the power to walk and talk without mechanical assistance.

You might imagine that Hawking's story is dry and boring. After all, he's a scientist, and they just think about mathematics, don't they? I am happy to say that this film deserves its five Oscar nominations and is anything but boring. At its very heart, The Theory of Everything is a romance, but this is a moving story with moments of comedy. By the end of the film, you will be inspired and uplifted, if you care about any other human beings at all.

At the beginning of the film, Hawking (Redmayne) is young and socially awkward. He meets Jane (Jones) at a party and gets her phone number. He's obviously intelligent, but it's his charm that impresses Jane. Redmayne's performance shows Hawking as a likeable and humorous man. When we learn of his disease, we feel something. However, Jane is not deterred by his gloomy prognosis. The two decide to marry and make the most of whatever time they can have together.

Time is another important theme in the story. As Hawking impresses his Cambridge University professor (Thewlis) with his theories about time and the universe, I couldn't help contemplating my own existence. The film made me realize that everyone has a chance to contribute something to the world. In some ways I feel ashamed that I have wasted much of my own life with trivial matters.

I won't reveal any more of the story, but I want to emphasize how good the film is. It made me think of The King's Speech and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and that's a huge compliment. Jones and Redmayne have good chemistry and their relationship seems real.

If you are worried that the subject matter may be too depressing, I think it's safe to say that the overall feel is uplifting. Yes, you will see some of Hawking's struggles, but you'll also understand the immensity of his achievements.

Where there is life, there is hope.

Hawking reportedly approves of the film and commented that Redmayne's performance was so good that he felt he was seeing himself on the screen. I have to agree that it is an excellent performance.

Too many movies cater to audiences that demand instant gratification and thrills. The Theory of Everything will make you think and feel something. Ultimately, you will remember the story and take something from it if you are the type of person who likes to think beyond the immediate moment.

Overall score 4.5/5

Firefly: The Complete Series  [Blu-ray]
Firefly: The Complete Series [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Nathan Fillion
Price: CDN$ 14.99
6 used & new from CDN$ 14.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It deserved a couple more seasons at least, Dec 20 2014
I spent most of this week watching the 14 episodes of Firefly for the second time in my life, and I think I appreciated it even more this time around. The TV show was cancelled before all of the Season 1 episodes were shown, although they ultimately aired on The Science Channel.

The series failed for a number of reasons; the main one being that the episodes were not shown in the correct order, which was a stupid decision because the feature-length opening episode introduces all of the characters.

So why do I like it?

Episodes often show the crew taking on a task of some kind to earn their living. These assignments are often illegal, but can also become somewhat noble. If you are a fan of Whedon, you'll know that he uses humor regularly, and it's often present in Firefly. It can be pretty campy at times, but the writing is strong and it never comes across as stupid. Jaynestown is probably the funniest episode, and you'll understand why if you watch the episodes in the correct sequence.

I would have to say that I like every character, and that's rare for me with a cast of this size. The biggest mystery in the series surrounds River (Summer Glau), who plays the sister of the ship's doctor, Simon (Sean Maher). Their relationship is arguably the strongest within the group, and there's always a sense that River's story drives the entire series.

The Blu-ray includes all of the episodes, and the picture quality is good for the most part. Some of the darker images have lower quality, but the series is so good that you won't sit there criticizing the image. The special features include plenty of commentaries, as well as a making of feature, deleted scenes, and other assorted goodies.

If you do become hooked on the series, you'll need to watch Serenity (2005), which was a two-hour movie wrapping up the main story. That's a fantastic science fiction movie, but you'll appreciate it more if you know the characters well. Firefly runs for almost 11 hours, and you'll end up wishing for more. The movie gives the show a proper ending, and won't leave you hanging.

At the time of writing, it's available on for just $12.49. Buy it if you like Whedon, science fiction, or well-written characters. Incidentally, the set is housed in a regular Blu-ray case with room for the three discs, so it won't look out of place on your shelf.

Firefly is a mix of action, drama, romance, and adventure. Although it's science fiction, the characters often talk like cowboys. Josh Whedon (Buffy, The Avengers) created the series, as well as directing three episodes and being involved as a writer.

The characters have real depth, but the development isn't rushed. The origin of the relationships and character traits are explained gradually as the series progresses. Many of the characters are mysterious, and will make you question their true motivations. But, through it all, each character always seems real. You'll meet a married couple, war veterans, a preacher, a doctor, a psychologically damaged girl, a genius engineer, an apparently dumb mercenary, and a high-class prostitute. It's fascinating to see the existing bonds between some of the characters, and the development of new bonds.

Good Will Hunting: 15th Anniversary Edition [Blu-ray + Digital Copy] (Bilingual)
Good Will Hunting: 15th Anniversary Edition [Blu-ray + Digital Copy] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Robin Williams
Price: CDN$ 14.93
6 used & new from CDN$ 11.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great writing with strong performances, Sept. 7 2014
It's been a while since I watched Robin Williams act, and Good Will Hunting is the first time I have seen one of his performances since he died. Although I am a fan of his comedy, I much prefer his serious roles. Movies such as Dead Poets Society, One Hour Photo and Insomnia proved that Williams was more than a comedian. In Good Morning Vietnam, he was able to blend comedy with drama to good effect. It's fair to say that Good Will Hunting would be far less effective without Williams in one of his two best performances (Dead Poets Society).

The story consists of several important elements that are present in all or most of our lives, and one that is far less common:

Will Hunting (Damon) is a genius, but he spends his life hanging out with his buddies from Southie. To him, friendship is far more important than his potential. He works in construction, spends his free time in bars, and isn't afraid to pick fights without any real reason to do so. He's the central character in the film, as you might suspect after reading the title. As the story unfolds, we learn more about his past, his motivations, and his possible future.

Ben Affleck is convincing as Hunting's most loyal friend, and it's obviously a friendship that exists outside the confines of the movie.

Gerald Lambeau is a professor at MIT, and recognizes that Hunting has an exceptional mind, even though he's a janitor and not a student at the institution. Lambeau tries to get Hunting psychological help, while developing and exploiting his genius as a mathematician.

The final key element is romance. Hunting spots Skylar at a bar and manages to win her attention. His upbringing makes him a difficult romantic partner, but I won't ruin the story for you.

As I sat watching the movie, I found that I connected with it on several levels. The writing is superb, and thoroughly deserved the Oscar for best screenplay. The interactions between these very real characters was authentic and easy to imagine. Everything just fits together perfectly. I was reminded why drama is my favorite genre by far. This story is about something important. While few of us understand true genius, we can certainly identify with the problems and obstacles that life throws at us from time to time.

Imagine that you have a similar level of intelligence to that of Will Hunting. Perhaps you do? What would you choose to do with it? Is money your definition of success? If so, you would have numerous paths to pursue to reach that rather easy goal. Would you prefer to make a real difference in the world in your chosen field? Would you take a step back and figure out what truly makes you happy, even if it meant that your genius would be rarely utilized? Would you give it all up for the right romantic partner?

I like movies that reach me emotionally and make me think, and Good Will Hunting does all that and more. The script is insightful when you consider that it was written by two men in their mid-20s. Williams gives a memorable performance and Damon is right up there with him. Minnie Driver is believable as the interesting romantic interest, and the story is well-paced and intelligent. Good Will Hunting will appeal to anyone who enjoys drama, the psychological reasons that drive our choices, and human behavior in general.

Overall score 4.5/5

August: Osage County [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
August: Osage County [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Meryl Streep
Price: CDN$ 8.00
12 used & new from CDN$ 5.95

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a place I would visit very often, April 17 2014
Despite being listed as a drama, August: Osage County produced plenty of laughs. However, most were in sympathy or shock at the darkness of the subject matter. The laughs came because the movie so keenly observes how dysfunctional families can be. The Weston family takes that theme to the extreme and cannot boast a single member that comes close to what we would consider normal.

If you have seen Eraserhead and remember the scene where Henry Spencer meets his girlfriend's family, you might begin to approach how uncomfortable the atmosphere in the Weston household can be. The opening scene introduces us to Beverly Weston (Sam Shepard), who writes poetry when his alcoholism allows. We quickly realize why he feels the need to escape reality when we meet his wife, Violet (Meryl Streep). She's almost permanently high on a cocktail of pills, and has the appearance of a zombie in these opening shots. Her husband decides to leave in the first few minutes of the story, and we eventually learn that he has committed suicide. This sets off an incredible chain of events as family members start showing up to offer their condolences and attend the funeral.

The movie was adapted from a play, and it feels like it throughout the two-hour running time. This is a story which only uses two or three settings, and most of the time we are in the Weston's home. The acting on display is terrific across the board. As much as I admired Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine, Streep's performance was better. I highly doubt that she'll beat Blanchett on Oscar night because of the nature of the story, but the performance is the best I have seen all year. Despite Streep's towering performance, her supporting cast had a lot to contribute. Julia Roberts deserved her Supporting Actress nod, but I would have to say that every character was portrayed well.

The acting took my breath away at times, and I enjoyed seeing the story unfold. I loved listening to Streep, Roberts, Chris Cooper and Julianne Nicholson deliver their lines. I wouldn't consider the movie a fun watch, despite the dark humor, but it does a lot of things extremely well. Like Lincoln, this is one you'll grab from the shelf when you are starving for intelligent dialogue and masterful acting, rather than the sheer pleasure of some movie plots. You'll might well be reminded of chaotic conversations you've had with your own friends or family.

I'll always be amazed at how Meryl Streep seems to become the person she is playing on the screen. It's different every time.

The Lonesome Crowded West
The Lonesome Crowded West
Offered by USA_Seller_4_Canada
Price: CDN$ 34.33
12 used & new from CDN$ 6.48

5.0 out of 5 stars When you get into it, you'll never want to stop hearing it, April 6 2014
What's my favorite Modest Mouse album? Choosing between The Moon & Antarctica and The Lonesome Crowded West is an agonizing decision, and I might make a different choice on another day, but today the latter wins. I discovered Modest Mouse relatively late, but they have become one of my favorite bands. The thing is, I'm not sure why.

Like Pavement and Sonic Youth, the arrangements are unconventional and seemingly all over the place. It took me a while to see some kind of pattern in the chaos, but it was worth the effort.

The album opens with Teeth Like God's Shoeshine, and it's fairly typical of what is to follow. The song seems like three or four different tunes blended together. It's out of tune and a bit of a rant to begin with, but then it builds into something more. Heart Cooks Brain employs a totally different style, creating an atmosphere that's both eerie and compelling. Convenient Parking is repetitive as it bores its way into your brain, and you might find yourself humming it a few hours later.

Three tracks in and the album already feels like the start of a weird and wonderful journey. Lounge is a strange creature, opening with a funky beat before Isaac Brock rants over the top. Like so many Modest Mouse songs, it has a lot of recognizable phases, and it's never predictable or boring. My favorite track has to be Doin' the Cockroach. It builds slowly, with Brock making some interesting observations before the chorus kicks in.

"I was in heaven"
"I was in hell"
"Believe in neither"
"But fear them as well"

I could praise every track, but it's best if you check out the album for yourself. Notice the structure of the songs and how they employ space. Some songs, like S*** Luck, are outright rants; others, such as Trucker's Atlas, take plenty of time to develop into arty jams.

Modest Mouse are not an easy band to get into initially, but it will happen if you give it a chance. When your brain learns the intricate patterns, you'll find yourself eagerly anticipating every song. Unlike some bands, the 15 tracks cover a variety of styles. The Lonesome Crowded West is a great place to visit for 74 minutes. You might find yourself spending a lot of time there.

Unknown Pleasures
Unknown Pleasures
Price: CDN$ 14.04
44 used & new from CDN$ 6.07

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Music so real it rips out your heart, April 6 2014
This review is from: Unknown Pleasures (Audio CD)
I remember the first time I heard this album. A friend at school gave me the tape in 1979 and I played it that night. I have to admit that only a few songs grabbed me on the first listen. Some were too slow and dreary to excite me in the way that most of my favorite music did. However, repeat listens enabled me to see the beauty in this majestic music.

Most new bands at the end of the 70s were young and enthusiastic, and it was more about the style and delivery than the content. Joy Division did not fall into that category. If you have ever seen Anton Corbijn's movie, Control, you'll understand what Ian Curtis went through. He was a young man, in love with two women, trying to come to terms with epilepsy. Like most of my favorite vocalists, he had his limitations.

What separated Joy Division from the pack was the passion. Curtis lived and breathed those songs. His delivery was real in the true sense of the word. You'll never see a singer mean it like Curtis if you only watch American Idol or The Voice.

Joy Division were more than just one man though. The music had a depth to it, with each component a vital part of the sound. Peter Hook's bass was extremely prominent. Sumner's lead guitar dominated a few tracks, while the drums ranged from driving to sparse, with Morris adding to the desolation when appropriate. Insight, New Dawn Fades, and She's Lost Control formed the heart of the album. The ever-present bass added weight to the sound, and it's incredible how much beauty was present. Listen to the slow burn of New Dawn Fades and you'll begin to understand Joy Division. If I had to pick a favorite track, it would probably be Shadowplay.

The album begins with Disorder, which gives you a good idea of the importance of each instrument as they are gradually introduced to the mix. These guys could really play. Day of the Lords sounds sinister and ominous, but there is so much feeling. Candidate is a good example of a song that sounds too desolate to be enjoyable, but it becomes meaningful and almost uplifting once you know it well enough.

If you missed seeing Joy Division more than 30 years ago, it's worth checking out Peter Hook and the Light if they are playing Unknown Pleasures or Closer in your town. The sound is surprisingly close to the original.

Unknown Pleasures is a must-own album, but is too difficult for the casual listener. I would recommend the Heart and Soul box set, which includes all of the albums and singles, plus the Warsaw tracks. The fourth live disc seems to have been recorded at the wrong speed, but the first three discs capture Joy Division brilliantly. It might take a little time, but it's worth getting to know the music of Joy Division. The potential rewards are huge.

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