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guillermoj (Washington, DC United States)

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Under The Tuscan Sun (Bilingual)
Under The Tuscan Sun (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Diane Lane
Price: CDN$ 9.66
31 used & new from CDN$ 5.51

3.0 out of 5 stars While not a must see, it's a can see. Fun fluff = 3+ stars, July 7 2004
Hey any movie with Diane Lane and filmed in Tuscany warrants consideration. Although I agree with many of the criticisms that many reviewers have about "Under the Tuscan Sun," my take on it is that, while not a great movie, watching Miss Lane do her thing in the middle of a gorgeous setting is not a bad way to spend a couple of hours.

In a nutshell, the movie deals with Lane's character doing something that few of us would do after discovering that her hubby has been playing outside the home. I hope that this is not sexist cinematic punishment for her Oscar-nominated role in "Unfaithful." That thing is does is take off to Tuscany for a vacation that turns into something else. While it certainly is no "Shirley Valentine," there are times when your diet may require some fluff without the gritty realism or intellectual challenge that a "better" movie requires.
Lane's character winds up falling in love with Tuscany and of course she discovers a bunch of things about herself via the beauty of the place and its quirky characters (at least to the U.S. eye). Many clichés are shown, and the cynic in me could have dismissed this movie for being too frothy while attempting to tackle the pain of divorce. I wound up giving in to the movie due to its beauty, some original touches (particularly the tour group), some funny secondary characters (particularly Sandra Oh), and a few truisms that are thrown here and there. While not getting into too many details, I agree with those who dislike the ending as it is totally unearned and I think that there were better choices that the story could have taken with regard to what I am not being too specific about so as not to spoil it. This movie earns 3+ stars and while not a must see, it's a can see.

Ocean's Eleven (Widescreen) (2001)
Ocean's Eleven (Widescreen) (2001)
DVD ~ George Clooney
Offered by WC Mediatec
Price: CDN$ 5.26
72 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Loosen up folks. Great escapism and pure fun. 4+ stars, July 7 2004
Some people are really taking this movie way too seriously, but I am glad that I read many reviews on this site before taking a chance on it on DVD as I did not get around to see it when it first came out.
Where do I start with this ultra-cool flick (which by the way is a remake of a movie that I did not see)? I can safely say that it's the most fun I've had seeing a movie in a long time. The cast is sublime and just they sink their teeth into these ultra-cool characters and don't let go until the final frame. I am always impressed by George Clooney's quiet strength and humor, but I was knocked out by Brad Pitt. I have not seen him this self-assured since his star-making supporting performance in "Thelma & Louise". In my opinion, although this is an ensemble cast from heaven, Pitt's role is just to cool for school and with the aforementioned exception, I've never been a big Brad Pitt fan. There is a scene in which Pitt is teaching something (I won't give it away) some current teen stars in Hollywood (playing themselves) that is priceless. The only casting choice that I question is Julia Roberts. She has an amazing stage presence and deserves to be the major movie star that she is, but I just don't see the sparks fly between her and George Clooney (to see an example of scorching chemistry with George Clooney catch "Out Of Sight with Jennifer Lopez, when she was not annoying beyong belief and looked like a really promising actress, but I digress) and this movie is all sparks. However, her relationship with Andy Garcia is believable.
This movie is a hoot and I found myself wanting the movie not to end as it moves at lazer speed but it's not like some movies where the stars are secondary to the screen. Here the effects support the actors and give them a playground. The cinematography is gorgeous as are the director's choices with colors. The scenary is lavish and as is the case with movies from directors like Martin Scorsece, here you never doubt that you are where you are supposed to be. I can smell the money and the Vegas mood in a way that is rarely accomplished by lesser directors.
Possible spoiler: Some reviewers have qualms with a couple of story limitations and I never noticed the first one and there is some validity the comments. With regard to the ending, although part of me wishes that the movie had ended with the group watching the fountains dance; I don't agree with those who claim that the ending is flawed. Do you think that the story really ends that way? I think not, there will be a price to pay and the goons in the car are not going to play nice. I think that the director chose to focus on the dance, while the price that they will pay belongs in a different genre and I am glad that we got all dance.
In a nutshell, if you want to put aside all your everyday troubles and enjoy some well cast escapism performed by actors at the top of the craft and directed by one of the most interesting directors working today, see this movie now. Unlike others in the genre, it does not try to be all things to all people and just focuses on being a thrilling ride. I usually reserve 5 stars to classics, but I give this almost 5 stars because it manages to go exactly what it set out to do and made me want to watch it again as soon as I finished it. Not many movies, if any, have given me that thrill.

Runaway Jury (Widescreen)
Runaway Jury (Widescreen)
DVD ~ John Cusack
Price: CDN$ 6.98
67 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Fast pace and strong acting almost make up for plausibility, July 7 2004
This review is from: Runaway Jury (Widescreen) (DVD)
Although this movie is by no means a masterpiece (3+ stars, rounded up to 4), you'll find yourself engaged almost from the onset and this feeling lasts almost all the way through the movie. In a nutshell, this movie is an adaptation of a book written by the prolific John Grisham. In this case, the story centers how far several stakeholders in a tragedy caused by a gun will go to secure a verdict. The main focus is on jury consultants and makes a compelling case that the presentation of the facts and even the facts themselves may be MUCH less important than securing a jury which may be predisposed to vote in a particular fashion no matter what.
Grisham's book used to tobacco industry as a backdrop and serves the story quite well. For some reason, some say because of the movie "The Insider," the movie's focus was changed to the gun industry and in my opinion does not service the movie as well but it's not a deal breaker for me. The direction by Gary Fleder keeps the action moving along at a fast pace and although the script has several holes/coincidences, the non-stop camera movement and strong performances will keep you interested in the outcome.

Gene Hackman steals the show playing the sleaziest and most capable jury consultant in the field. The resources this guy has at his disposal to me make the movie. The lawyers on both sides are almost secondary characters in the film as the focus is on how these consultants may ultimately be more important than the best lawyer. Although the marketing of this film went out of its way to highlight that this was the very first time that legends (and prior real-life roommates) Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman were sharing the screen for the very first time, with the exception of one scene, they don't get have a real act-off. As usual Hoffman is good, but here the role is too small and there is very little to dig into. He does the best he can and thankfully does not overplay a character that needs to appear to be quite ordinary. Other highlights include John Cusack, who is one of the best and most naturalistic actors in an industry focused on abs and marketability. Rachel Weisz, previously unknown to me does a convincing job and gets to play some great action scenes usually not given to women. She's no one's sidekick.
You may find yourself having a hard time believing how Gene Hackman gets his information, but I chose to suspend judgment and give in to it because it was fun to watch. What I could not give into is the alleged "surprise ending." Although I've already revealed much more than I usually like to in movie reviews, I won't give away the alleged "real" motivation of one or more of the characters for doing what he/she/them do as it almost sinks what had until this "revelation" been a story of paranoia that managed for once not to be too biased one way or another. Maybe we are all evil. The grey area and skepticism give in to a sentimentality that feels all wrong in this movie. Notwithstanding, I can certainly say that if you are the in the mood for something that won't strain your brain too much and will kept you entertained, you could do much worse than "Runaway Jury." This release easily earns 3+ stars and I am upping it to 4, just because of Gene Hackman's performance and change of pace of most Hollywood blockbusters.

Fast Times At Ridgemont High
Fast Times At Ridgemont High
Price: CDN$ 16.37
21 used & new from CDN$ 14.28

5.0 out of 5 stars 5 stars whether you saw the movie or not. Love Rules!, July 1 2004
This soundtrack to one of the early 1980's most enjoyable teen flicks is without a doubt a 5-star effort. Most soundtracks as a whole tend to miss the boat because they (especially these days) seem to be put together by a marketing team to try appeal/sell to as broad an audience as possible no matter how uncohesive the final product turns out or how tired or bad the song selection turns out to be. In the worst of cases, soundtracks wind up including songs "inspired" by the movie (talk about a stretch!!!!) or songs that only appeared in the credits after the audience is long gone. An example of the latter is the soundtrack to one of the "Batman" movies, as there were at least 3 different songs that were never part of the movie and only appeared one after the other in the bloated closing credits.
Fortunately, this soundtrack plays fair by compiling a generous 19 songs that not only worked beautifully in the movie, but they also work well as part an independent musical product. What is also interesting about this collection is that almost all songs were either written specifically for the movie (best exemplified by Billy Squire's "Fast Times (The Best Years Of Our Lives") or had never appeared on any of the artists' respective releases to date. Highlights include Jackson Browne's "Somebody's Baby," Don Henley's "Love Rules," and Timothy B. Schmit's take on "So Much In Love." I also loved Ravyn's "Raised, The Go-Go's "Speeding," and the contagious film-ending "Goodbye, Goodbye," by Oingo Boingo.
Some may see this diverse song collection and think that there is no way that it's any different than many of today's marketing-focused soundtracks, but the difference is that these songs were all an integral part of the movie and their diversity is based not only on what the movie needed, but also due to the different most influences that were still around from the late 1970s as well as a new-wave tidal wave that would soon sweep the musical charts. This is one collection that periodically keeps coming back to my CD player and I wanted to share the wealth with fans who may not remember how good this release was.

Elemental
Elemental
Price: CDN$ 11.80
58 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Tears for Fears' most underrated release is quite good!, July 1 2004
This review is from: Elemental (Audio CD)
Tears for Fears became a favorite of mine right from the start as they were much more than a cut above many of their synthesizer-powered contemporaries during the mid 1980s. Their angst-driven "The Hurting" was a classic and cohesive debut that signaled that these guys had a lot to say. "Songs from the Big Chair" was a more was a hit-filled production that brought soul into the equation and brought them massive commercial success all over the world. The greatest thing about that release is that it succeeded without relying on any particular pop formula. Any release that includes the anthemic "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" and the jazzy "I Believe," just to name a couple, shows that these guys were going to be much more than a passing trend. Although it took many aborted tries, the duo's third release "The Seeds of Love" was another smash and introduced the world to Oleta Adams and highlighted the duo's softer side. After again struggling to produce their fourth album, Curt Smith wound up leaving the group. Roland Orzabal retained the rights to the duo's name and released "Elemental" as a Tears for Fears product.
Many critics and some fans did not like "Elemental" (although thankfully not most Amazoners), but although it sold well, many found it to be less compelling their any of their first three releases. I only agree to a degree, as "Elemental" may not a 5-star release (the rating that I give to Tear for Fear's first three releases), it easily earns 4 stars on the strength of the first 4 songs (the powerful and addictive "Elemental," the melodic and catchy "Cold," "Break It Down Again" which may be THE song that captures the essence of their first three releases, and the jazzy "Mr. Pessimist"). I love "Gas Giants" and all the other songs, with the possible exception of "Power."
In a nutshell, if you are a fan of Tears for Fears, your collection should not overlook this release. If you are not a hardcore fan, you might be better off going for one of their greatest hits compilations as they flow quite well. So 4 starts it is and be on the lookout for "Everybody Loves a Happy Ending," as it represents Curt's return to the band, but as is always the case with this group something gets in their way of getting their music out there. It appears that the issue is now label-related as Arista (the duo's new US label) changed regimes before the CD was scheduled to come out in mid 2004 and it seems like everything in the pipeline is being questioned by the new regime. Not even the UK version has a release date, but until them enjoy all off Tear for Fears' music, including the underrated "Elemental."

There You'll Be: Best of
There You'll Be: Best of
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 25.77
10 used & new from CDN$ 1.46

4.0 out of 5 stars A great introduction for casual fans. Worth the import price, June 27 2004
I assume that this 2001 "best of" Australian import must have been Faith Hill's label's attempt to capitalize on the massive crossover success of her "Breathe" release to put out a product to showcase her better known work to the rest of the world. It basically grabs the basics from "Breathe," "Faith," and "It Matters To Me," with a few nuggets like "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (which she sings quite nicely) and "There You'll Be" from the Pearl Harbor soundtrack.
In a nutshell, the collection works quite well, although hard core fans will find fault in that it's missing some of their favorites, there is no denying that the worldwide audience should be eating this up as to me it sums up Faith's most popular material. The only thing that I would change is that I would have taken out "Piece of My Heart" as it's too gritty to tackle. Don't get me wrong, she does a fine job with it, but it's been done better.
My favorites here include ALL (but I do have a special place in my heart for "Let Me Let Go") and although I love Faith's voice (which keeps getting stronger with each release), to me the melody and lyrics truly bring it home. Note that this 2001 collection obviously does not have any songs from "Cry" as this collection preceded that release. I am guessing that Faith's US label should be releasing what will probably be a more accurate version of her best songs, but this should more than satisfy most fans and new converts. It easily earns 4 stars.

Rancho Texicano: The Very Best of ZZ Top (2CD)
Rancho Texicano: The Very Best of ZZ Top (2CD)
Price: CDN$ 15.88
33 used & new from CDN$ 4.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Not perfect, but a Texas cut above 1992's "Greatest Hits", June 24 2004
I am not a hardcore fan of ZZ Top, but there are more than a few songs that made this a must buy purchase for me. Although I was familiar with and like some their early hits like "La Grange," "Tush," and "Cheap Sunglasses," it was not until buying their multimillion selling "Eliminator" in 1993 that I started to get into them. I know that some longtime fans disliked it when ZZ Top glossed up their sound with synthesizers, but to me that's exactly when they found their niche. Although I'll get shot by some for writing this, when I am in the mood for something more traditionally bluesy, my first instinct is to go to Stevie Ray Vaughn and not early ZZ Top. They followed "Eliminator" in 1985 with the release of the equally addictive "Afterburner," which includes the massive hit "Roughboy," which may not be the greatest ZZ Top song in the mind of purists, but I could listen to it forever. The same goes for "Stages," "Pearl Necklace," "Sleeping Bag,' just to name a few.
This 2 Disc compilation is sequenced chronologically and breaks down the group's hits into their pre-synth and post-synth periods and it seems to hit all the right notes. Some have correctly mentioned that the last 3 selections on Disc 2 are absolutely unnecessary (these include a second version of "Cheap Sunglasses" (Live), and remixed/dance versions "Legs" and "Velcro Fly," which are already in the collection in their much better original versions) and that by not having them, it could have left room for other songs that may be missing.
If you only like the pre or post synth ZZ Top, you may find yourself disappointed by this selection, but in all fairness it represents their very best and both periods produced worthwhile material. (...) I wound up making a 1 Disc personal version that took what I thought was the very best for me. Almost of the hits are here and if that is what you are looking for, you could do a lot worse. Also, this collection has good inserts that give new fans and may remind some older fans of how these guys got to where they are. I do wish that they would have gotten into some of the behind the song stuff, but it's not a must for any collection. I give this collection a solid 4 stars for its thoroughness, great remastering, and just because I finally have some of my favorites in one place. The 1 point penalty is for the shoddy 3 song choices on Disc 2, but I can live with it now that I have made my own version as I never want to hear these remixes again.

1980s: Absolutely The Best Of
1980s: Absolutely The Best Of
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 24.95
4 used & new from CDN$ 1.48

5.0 out of 5 stars Great selection of songs. No filler and hard to find gems, June 21 2004
Music compilations are usually hit or miss (generally miss) as they tend to have 2 or 3 must have songs, and then the rest is pure filler. I initially only bought it because I think that Danny Wilson's "Mary's Prayer" is one of the most beautiful songs that I've ever heard and it's hard to find as it was not one of those monster hits that drive a purchase. For every "Mickey" (which is in almost every compilation from the era) you'll find a "Don't Forget Me When I am Gone" by Glass Tiger, which, like "Mary's Prayer," was not a definitive 80s song, but to be these are even better because they amplify the obvious choices.
In a nutshell, if you are looking for a bunch of 1980s songs, tis release is a no brainer. Of course, I am sure that you have a hard to find song to "Mary's Prayer" that you have not been able to to get your hands on. If you are looking for something pertaining to the 1970s or 1980s, I'll be glad to try and give you guidance as there are some songs out there that we HAVE to have. Enjoy!

The Very Best of the A&M Years (1977-1988)
The Very Best of the A&M Years (1977-1988)
Price: CDN$ 16.02
35 used & new from CDN$ 8.16

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly the very best single CD anthology for .38 Special. A+, June 21 2004
This most recent "best of" set is a vast improvement to what was already a good compilation ("Flashback") which was released in 1987. The beauty here is that this release is remastered, sounds GREAT, and it generously expands the song selection by 4, including the must have "Second Chance," which was their last and biggest single period. The CD has great liner notes that are self-effacing rather than the usual self-congratulatory junk that makes you never want to read them again.

I don't need to say too much here because people tend to either really like this group or see it as a watered down version of true "Southern Rock." The Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd received much acclaim, while .38 Special continued doing their thing no matter what the critics said. I love this band and some of their best songs (Hold On Loosely, Caught Up In You, Somebody Like You, Like No Other Night, just to name a few) take me to times in my life where they served as the soundtrack for what was happening at the time. I also enjoy the other acts mentioned, and there may be merit to what some of .38 Special detractors have said, but since this is my review to you Amazoners out there (especially those who remember them well), I can assure you that this release easily earns 5 stars on the strength of its killer singles.

Steppin' Out: The Very Best of Joe Jackson
Steppin' Out: The Very Best of Joe Jackson
Price: CDN$ 22.50
21 used & new from CDN$ 15.60

5.0 out of 5 stars Truly the very best from one of music's finest. A+, June 17 2004
As soon as I heard Joe Jackson's "Look Sharp" (which is a must have for any Joe Jackson fan), I knew that I had stumbled into a great talent. His next release, the smash "Night & Day", which as has been the case throughout his career, sounded very little like it's predecesor, was equally brilliant.
In my opinion Joe Jackson is a very underrated artist and some see him as too pretentious or like a poor man's Elvis Costello and they could not be more wrong. This man is a musical genius and the 2 CD compillation is amazing in that it not only has everything you'd like to hear, but for an artist who tries on some many different hats, the cohesion is amazing.
I am surprised that the Amazon.com review was so sterotypical of those who don't quite know what to make of Joe Jackson. For those who want to dig deeper into the catalogue try the quitely powerful "Body and Soul." Some folks may remember that when this ALBUM came out it highlighted that it was recorded digitally (the first DDD that I remember seeing), but it was more than just about technology... Joe Jackson just poured his soul/heart/brain into some of the strongest ballads of his career.
I am a very active CD buyer and even the most profilic acts have a hard-time releasing greatest hits selections worthy of one CD, much less a 2 CD set. Even some of my favorite groups have released 2 CD sets and I've had to grab them to burn my own best of on a single CD. You'll love this from beginning to end and it really gives a true picture of Mr. Joe Jackson, who is not a poor man's anything. A+ for Joe Jackson and to those associated with compilling this collection.

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