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Themis-Athena (from somewhere between California and Germany)

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Sense and Sensibility (Special Edition)
Sense and Sensibility (Special Edition)
DVD ~ Emma Thompson
Price: CDN$ 5.97
34 used & new from CDN$ 5.97

5.0 out of 5 stars "Is Love a Fancy or a Feeling?", Feb. 10 2003
When Emma Thompson was approached with the suggestion to write a screenplay based on Jane Austen's first novel "Sense and Sensibility" (1811), she was somewhat doubtful because, as she explains on the DVD's commentary track, she felt that other Austen works, like the more expressive "Emma" and "Persuasion" or the sardonic "Pride and Prejudice" (already the subject of several adaptations) would have been more suitable. Four years and 14 screenplay drafts later (the first, a 300-page handwritten dramatization of the novel's every scene), "Sense and Sensibility" made its grand entrance into theaters worldwide and mesmerized audiences and critics alike, resulting in an Oscar for Thompson's screenplay and six further nominations (Best Picture, Leading Actress - Thompson -, Supporting Actress - Kate Winslet -, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Score - for 20 minutes' worth of composition - and Costume Design); and double honors as Best Picture and for Thompson's screenplay at the Golden Globes.
More than simple romances, Jane Austen's novels are delicately constructed pieces of social commentary, written from her rural Hampshire's perspective. Mostly confined to life in her father's parish, she was nevertheless well aware of early 19th century England's society at large, and fiercely critical of the loss of morals and decorum she saw in its pre-industrial emergent city life. Moreover, experience and observation had made her acutely aware of the corsets forced onto women in fashion terms as much as by social norms, confining them to inactivity and complete dependency on their families' and their (future) husbands' money. And among this movie's greatest strengths is the manner in which it maintains that underlying theme of Austen's writing and brings it to a contemporary audience's attention. "You talk about feeling idle and useless: imagine how that is compounded when one has no hope and no choice of any occupation whatsoever," Elinor Dashwood (Thompson) tells her almost-suitor Edward Ferrars, and when he replies that "our circumstances are therefore precisely the same," she corrects him: "Except that you will inherit your fortune - we cannot even earn ours."
Rescuing much from the first draft dramatization of Austen's novel and amplifying where necessary, Emma Thompson and director Ang Lee ("who most unexplainably seems to understand me better than I understand myself," Thompson said in her mock-Austen Golden Globe speech) produced a movie scrupulously faithful to what is known about Austen's world and at the same time incredibly modern, thus emphasizing the novel's timeless quality. Paintings were consulted for the movie's production design, and indeed, almost every camera frame - both landscapes and interiors - has the feeling of a picture by a period painter. Thompson cleverly uses poetry where the novel does not contain dialogue; and again, she does so in a manner entirely faithful to Austen's subtleties - most prominently in the joint recital of Shakespeare's Sonnet 116 by Marianne Dashwood (Kate Winslet) and John Willoughby (Greg Wise), where an ever so slight inaccuracy in his rendition of a sonnet he claims to love foreshadows his lacking sincerity.
"Sense and Sensibility" revolves around Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, their quest for a suitable husband, and the sisters' relationship with each other. Emma Thompson maintains that she did not write the screenplay with herself as Elinor in mind and would not have been accepted for that role but for the success of her previous films ("Howards End," "The Remains of the Day"); yet, it is hard to imagine who could have better played sensible Elinor: "effectual, ... [possessing] a coolness of judgment, which qualified her, though only nineteen [and thus considerably younger than Thompson], to be the counselor of her mother." And real-life 19-year-old Kate Winslet embodies sensitive, artistic Marianne: "eager in everything; [without] moderation ... generous, amiable, interesting: ... everything but prudent." (As an older actress was sought for that part, her agent presented her as 25.) An early scene in which Marianne recites Hartley Coleridge's Sonnet VII ("Is love a fancy or a feeling? No. It is immortal as immaculate truth") symbolizes the sisters' relationship and their personalities, as Marianne mocks Elinor's seemingly cool response to Edward's budding affection. (Mostly taken from the novel, the scene is embellished by the screenplay's sole inexactitude: Coleridge's sonnets were only published 22 years later). Yet, when all her hope seems shattered, Elinor, in a rare outburst of emotion, rebukes her sister: "What do you know of my heart?" - only to comfort her again when she sees that Marianne is equally distraught.
Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman similarly perfectly portray the sisters' suitors Edward Ferrars and Colonel Brandon, both embodying the qualities Austen considered essential: simplicity, sincerity and a firm sense of morality. Willoughby, on the other hand, while entering the story like the proverbial knight on a white horse who rescues the injured Marianne, does not live up to the high expectations he evokes; he causes Marianne to unacceptably abandon decorum and, just as he misspoke in that line from Shakespeare's sonnet, his love eventually "bends with the remover to remove." Similarly, Lucy Steele (Imogen Stubbs), the near-stumbling block to Elinor's happiness, ultimately proves driven by nothing but an "unceasing attention to self-interest ... with no other sacrifice than that of time and conscience" (Austen) and is, despite a fortuitous marriage, as marginalized as the Dashwoods' greedy sister-in-law Fanny (Harriet Walter). Conversely, the boisterous Sir John Middleton and his garrulous mother-in-law, while annoying in their insensitivity, are essentially goodnatured; and marvelously portrayed in their flawed but warmhearted ways by Robert Hardy and Elizabeth Spriggs.
"Sense and Sensibility" came out at the height of the mid-1990s' Jane Austen revival. Of all movies released then, and alongside 1996's "Emma" (which has "Hollywood" written all over it) and the BBC's "Pride and Prejudice" (which finally established Colin Firth as the leading man in the U.S. that he had long been in Britain), Emma Thompson's "Sense and Sensibility" is one of those adaptations that future generations of moviegoers will likely turn to in years to come. And it is truly an experience not to be missed.

Philadelphia (Bilingual)
Philadelphia (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Tom Hanks
Price: CDN$ 8.25
36 used & new from CDN$ 3.16

5.0 out of 5 stars A good start., Feb. 4 2003
This review is from: Philadelphia (Bilingual) (DVD)
"This is the essence of discrimination: Formulating opinions about others not based on their individual merits, but rather on their membership in a group with assumed characteristics." (School Board of Nassau County v. Arline, 480 U.S. 273 (1987) (Brennan, J.), on remand, 692 F. Supp. 1286 (M.D. Fla. 1988)). This rule, reaffirmed by the landmark Supreme Court decision which, over the dissent of Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice Scalia, first recognized the infection with a contagious disease (tuberculosis) as an actionable handicap under federal law, forms the initial bond between star litigator Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) and ambulance chaser Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), the unlikely team at the center of this movie. Because through these words, black attorney Miller begins to realize that his colleague Beckett faces a handicap which, in essence, is not so different from that confronted by many of his fellow African Americans. And because this is an incredibly effectively scripted Hollywood movie, we, the audience, easily get the point as well; even if we're white, and even if we're not gay and/or suffering from AIDS like Beckett.
Of course, the insidiousness of the AIDS virus places those afflicted with it in a class of their own, and while the movie spares its viewers the pictures of some of the virus's most graphic effects, it does go to considerable length to show the physical decline associated with it - not only in the person of Beckett himself, for whose role Hanks literally almost starved himself. Some of the patients surrounding him in the movie's earlier emergency room scenes really were AIDS patients, whom Hanks had approached when preparing for the movie, and who had subsequently agreed to participate; and as Hanks emphasized during an appearance in Bravo TV's "Inside the Actors' Studio," not all of them are still alive. - Denzel Washington's appropriately named Joe Miller, middle class everyman in everything but the color of his skin (one of the movie's obvious bows to political correctness), displays an attitude uncomfortably familiar to many of us; shunning gays in general and the HIV-infected Beckett in particular, out of a mixture of ignorance about AIDS, prejudice against those suffering from it, and prejudice against gays. Both Hanks and Washington give strikingly emotional, profound performances that rank among the best in their respective careers - Hanks deservedly won both the Oscar and the Golden Globe for his portrayal of Beckett, but Washington unfairly wasn't even nominated for either. Yet, neither of them would have been able to shine as much as they do without their exceptional supporting cast; to name just two, Jason Robards, commanding as ever as Beckett's homophobic former boss (and role model!), and Antonio Banderas as his devoted lover.
By the time of "Philadelphia"'s release, some of the early myths about AIDS had begun to disappear, and the yearly growing numbers of newly infected patients had brought it out of its erstwhile obscurity as "the gay plague." But indepth knowledge was still far from widespread, and therefore the movie not only brought awareness to the disease in general, but also made a couple of important points, from educating the public about the disease's method of transmission to emphasizing that it is by no means limited to gays and can even be contracted in something as life-affirming as a blood transfusion. (Indeed, several European countries were rocked by transfusion-related AIDS scandals right around the time of the movie's release). One of "Philadelphia"'s most quietly powerful scenes is the testimony of a female witness who was infected by just such a transfusion, and who emphasizes that having AIDS is not a matter of sin or morality: "I don't consider myself any different from anyone else with this disease. I'm not guilty, I'm not innocent, I'm just trying to survive," she responds when asked to confirm that in her case "there was no behavior on [her] part" involved and contracting AIDS was something she was "unable to avoid." - Moreover, four years before Ellen DeGeneres rocked the showboat with a kiss during an episode of her sitcom, and Kevin Kline and Magnum macho Tom Selleck locked lips in "In and Out" (the screenplay of which was inspired by Hanks's Oscar acceptance speech for "Philadelphia"), it was by no means a given that a movie would get away with letting Hanks and Banderas exchange acts of tenderness from caresses and kisses on the hand to a slow dance at a gay party.
Given "Philadelphia"'s fundamental message and the memorable performances of its protagonists, it is a pity that the movie doesn't entirely avoid Hollywood pitfalls, such as its soggy ending with grease literally dripping off the screen and the undeniable taste of a sugar-coated afterthought, transmitting the message that even dying of AIDS is really not so terrible, at least for the surviving family who can still unite around the television set and wallow in their memories of their lost loved one. And while I do buy Joe Miller's transformation from a (somewhat stereotypical) homophobic male to a reluctant supporter of gay rights, I don't really see why Beckett suddenly assumes a cliche gay look the second he has been fired; not to mention that I suspect not everybody in his situation would have enjoyed such overwhelming support from his family.
But ultimately, it is the movie's overarching message that counts. "Ain't no angel gonna greet me; it's just you and I my friend ... and my clothes don't fit me no more: I walked a thousand miles just to slip this skin," sings Bruce Springsteen, the movie's other Oscar winner, in "Philadelphia"'s title song. And Justice Brennan wrote in the Supreme Court's Arline decision that in amending federal law, Congress was motivated by "discrimination stemming not only from simple prejudice, but also from archaic attitudes and laws." This movie goes a long way in dispelling such attitudes. It alone isn't enough - but it is, as Andrew Beckett jokes about the 1000 lawyers chained together at the bottom of the ocean, a good start.

Dead Man Walking (Widescreen/Full Screen) [Import]
Dead Man Walking (Widescreen/Full Screen) [Import]
DVD ~ Susan Sarandon
Offered by _betterworldbooks_
Price: CDN$ 8.63
26 used & new from CDN$ 4.74

5.0 out of 5 stars Of monsters, murder and divine mercy., Feb. 3 2003
"Sister, I won't ask for forgiveness; my sins are all I have," sings Bruce Springsteen in this movie's title song while the end credits roll over the screen - giving voice once more to Matthew Poncelet and the men portrayed in Sister Helen Prejean's nonfiction account on which this movie is based; that angry "white trash," those men who are "God's mistake," as one victim's father says, inconsolable over the loss of his daughter; those men locked up in high security prisons for unspeakable crimes which many of them claim they didn't commit. And Matt Poncelet (Sean Penn) is just such a guy; locked in bravado and denial, he proclaims his innocence and would rather take a lie detector test on the day of his execution "so my momma knows I didn't do this" than own up to his responsibility.
With Sister Helen Prejean (Susan Sarandon), we first learn about the crime which landed Poncelet on death row - the rape-murder of a couple on lovers' lane - from the account she receives when she starts writing to him and eventually agrees to visit him in prison. It is, as she will soon learn, a story that anti-death penalty advocates are all too familiar with; a story of unequal access to lawyers and of two defendants, each blaming all guilt for their crime exclusively on the other, regardless what truly happened. And as long as she is assured that even if Poncelet would have a new trial he wouldn't go free (as an accomplice, under Louisiana state law he would receive a lifetime prison sentence), Sister Helen is willing to help him find a lawyer and, when the date for his execution is set, try to obtain a reprieve.
But it does not end there, as she soon finds out; and one of this movie's greatest strengths is the way in which it portrays all sides of the moral issues involved in the death penalty. There are the victims' families, a stunning 70% of which break up after the murder of a child, and who are forever stuck with the unloving last words spoken to their loved ones and the memory of all the little homely details reminding them of their loss. There are the prison guards and nurses, trying to see executions as "part of their job" - with varying success. There are the politicians, barking slogans on TV; promising to "get tough on sentencing, get tough on lenient parole boards, get tough on judges who pass light sentences." There are the convicts' families, marginalized as a result of their brothers' and sons' acts, particularly if they refuse to condemn them publicly. ("Now I'm famous," Poncelet's mother comments bitterly on the dubious celebrity status she has attained as a result of a TV show about Matt. "A regular Ma Barker!") And there is the death penalty itself, shown in all its chilling, graphic, clinical detail, here in its allegedly most humane form: lethal injections, which tranquilize the muscles while the poison reaches the convict's lungs and heart - "his face goes to sleep while his inside organs are going through Armageddon," Poncelet's attorney says at his pardon board hearing. "It was important to us to show all sides of the issue," explains director Tim Robbins on the DVD's commentary track, "not to be satisfied with soundbites, and to present the reality ... Ultimately, the question is not who deserves to die, but who has the right to kill."
At the heart of the story are two radically different individuals: Sister Helen, who has grown up in an affluent, loving family; and Matthew Poncelet, the convicted killer. And their portrayal is this movie's other great strength: without either of them, this film would not have been half as compelling. Both Sarandon and Penn deliver Academy Award-worthy performances. (Sarandon did win her long overdue Oscar, Penn lost to Nicolas Cage for "Leaving Las Vegas" - this would have been an occasion where I would have favored a split award.) Gradually, very gradually we see them get to know each other; and as they do, the visual layers separating them in the prison visiting room are peeled away. Yet, even after he has learned to accept Sister Helen as a human being (not without attempting to come on to her as if she were not a nun - director Tim Robbins's way of dispelling the notion that they might fall in love, as is so often the case in the more cliched versions of this type of story), Poncelet insists that his participation was limited to holding one of the victims down, but that it was his accomplice who raped and killed them both. And even days before his execution, he is still looking for "loopholes" in the bible, as Sister Helen admonishes him, seeing redemption as a free ticket into heaven instead of a means of owning up to his responsibility. ("I like that," he comments when she quotes Jesus's "the truth shall make you free." "So I pass that lie detector test, I'm home free.") Only in his final hour, he slowly, gradually gives up the protective layers of his bravado and lays bare his raw nerve and innermost anguish. And while he speaks, finally, in a complete flashback, we, the viewers, see what really happened that dark and lonely night in the woods, and what all the previous partial flashbacks have not revealed.
"It is easy to kill a monster, but hard to kill a human being," Poncelet's attorney once explains; and Tim Robbins echoes that sentiment on the commentary track. Yet, this movie is not about romanticizing a brutal killer, any more than it is about demonizing his victims. It is, first and foremost, an attempt to bring a complete perspective to one of contemporary America's most pressing problems, and to find a way past sorrow and hate and move towards the future. And even if you're still for the death penalty after having watched it - don't claim ignorance as to what is involved.

Elizabeth [Import]
Elizabeth [Import]
DVD ~ Cate Blanchett
Offered by 5A/30 Entertainment
Price: CDN$ 41.87
17 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Elizabeth from princess to icon: One mistress and no master., Feb. 2 2003
This review is from: Elizabeth [Import] (DVD)
Among Great Britain's monarchs, two queens stand out in particular: Elizabeth I. and Queen Victoria. Both came to power at extremely young ages, and at times of political instability which would have set the odds of survival against any new ruler, but particularly so, against a woman. Both beat those odds in ways few people would have foreseen: They not only persevered but ruled for a nearly unparalleled long time, and during their reign achieved to both strengthen England's economy and international stance and give new direction to its society. We have long come to identify their reign as "the Victorian Age" and "the Elizabethan Age," respectively. Yet, while "Victorian England" is an expression often used synonymously with moral conservativism, Elizabeth I. fostered not only the development of science but also the theater and arts; providing fertile ground for the works of Shakespeare, Marlowe and many others. (Influenced by her husband, Queen Victoria supported the exploration of new scientific developments, but the dominant force of her formative years as a ruler was conservative prime minister Lord Melbourne, who once advised her not to read Dickens because his books were "full of unpleasant subjects.") And while Queen Victoria derived strength from her long, stable marriage to German-born Prince Albert, Elizabeth I. resisted the pressure to marry at all and became known as "the Virgin Queen."
Looking back at Elizabeth's reign, we see less a woman than an icon; the symbol of what her rule has come to stand for. Shekhar Kapur's 1998 movie explores, as the director explains in the DVD's "Making of" feature, the making of that icon; the formative processes, influences and personalities surrounding the young princess's ascent to the throne and her first years in power - and of course, at the center of it all, Elizabeth herself, magnificently portrayed by Cate Blanchett (who should have won the Academy Award for her performance). The princess, as this movie sees her, certainly knew her insecurities about her role in life and in English politics, her people's expectations, and the intrigues of her own court. But she was also, as Kapur has her affirm to her protector and spymaster Walsingham, "[her] father's daughter" - the proud, headstrong daughter of Henry VIII., who quickly learned from her mistakes and assumed true leadership early on. Having inherited a country deeply torn in religious conflict, and having barely survived the machinations of the court of her Catholic half sister and predecessor, "Bloody" Mary I., to find her, the "heretic," guilty of treason and execute her, one of Elizabeth's first acts in power was to have parliament pass the Act of Uniformity, reestablishing the Church of England formed by her father. And while she respected her Secretary of State Sir William Cecil, she eventually came to realize that his advice was overly guided by the hope that she marry and produce an heir to secure her kingdom, and she reluctantly retired him into his status as Lord Burghley.
Indeed, there was not one single man who dominated Elizabeth's life but several, and Kapur was able to secure an extraordinary cast to surround then-newcomer Blanchett. Richard Attenborough plays Sir William Cecil with a humility and quiet dignity that few besides him could have brought to the screen. Christopher Eccleston bristles as the powerful, ambitious Catholic Duke of Norfolk, that key player from the inner circle of Mary's court who retained his position after her death and became the one member of Elizabeth's council most dangerous to her reign. Joseph Fiennes reprises his role as a burning-eyed, handsome lover from the almost simultaneously released "Shakespeare in Love" (which, while a splendid movie in its own rights, eclipsed much of the limelight that "Elizabeth" would so richly have deserved), playing the man most closely romantically linked to Elizabeth, "Sweet" Lord Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, whose love for her - at least, as this movie would have it - is ultimately his own undoing. "You're still my Elizabeth," the erstwhile princess's lover insists at a ball some time after her coronation. "I am no man's Elizabeth," the queen retorts, and affirms for all the court to hear: "I will have one mistress here, and no master!"
Most impressive of all the queen's men is Geoffrey Rush's portrayal as her protector, secret advisor and supreme spymaster Francis Walsingham, the creator of what much later became Britain's MI-5, whose role Rush approached, inspired by the description Kapur had given him, much like the Hindu god Krishna, as "a very wise man who can kill people ... while smiling," as he explains in the DVD's "Making of" featurette - an ability which his young, unfaithful companion in exile learns to know as much as powerful Marie de Guise (Fanny Ardant), aunt to Elizabeth's would-be suitor Henri d'Anjou and mother of her later rival Mary of Scots; who had refused Henry VIII.'s suit remarking "I may be big in person, but my neck is small," only to find herself terminally surrendering to Walsingham's unmatched cunning.
Key to any great historical movie is the authenticity of its production design, and "Elizabeth" overflows with the rich and luxurious colors of the queen's renaissance court and its balls, gowns and pageants. But there are also the vast, high stone halls of the palace and the royal cathedral, symbolizing the perpetuity of the monarchy reestablished by Elizabeth I. At last, when contemplating a statute of the Virgin Mary, Elizabeth wonders whether, to perpetuate her reign, she must be "made of stone;" and it is again Walsingham who answers: "Aye, Madam, to reign supreme, [because] all men ... must be able to touch the divine here on earth" and as yet, "they have found nothing to replace [Mary]." And so, this movie tells us, the icon we all know was created - and like a nun married to God, a dehumanized Elizabeth reenters her council and holds out her hand to her old Secretary of State: "Observe, Lord Burghley: I am married to England!"

Road Tested
Road Tested
Price: CDN$ 30.37
48 used & new from CDN$ 1.45

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly a live album to talk about., Jan. 28 2003
This review is from: Road Tested (Audio CD)
She had been around for over two decades, appearing live in the Cambridge, MA jazz and blues clubs long before she had her first recording contract. She had been on stage with all the greats of the business. She had received triple Grammies for her 1989 release "Nick of Time." Her fans, ignited by her fiery live appearances, had been clamoring for a live album for years. Yet, it took Bonnie Raitt 25 years, a personal and professional roller coaster ride, and a succession of three bestselling albums ("Nick of Time" and the early 1990s releases "Luck of the Draw" and "Longing in Their Hearts," all produced by Don Was) until finally, in 1995, a series of live appearances in Oakland, California and Portland, Oregon were recorded and blended together in this album, appropriately titled "Road Tested."
When the project was put together, Bonnie called on a number of friends, with whom she had shared the stage many times before and whose songs, having found a whole new interpretation in her performance, had become staples in her live repertoire long ago. And they all came: R&B legends Ruth and Charles Brown ("The jewels in our crown up here," Raitt commented when introducing them on stage), as well as rockers Bryan Adams, Kim Wilson, Bruce Hornsby and Jackson Browne; in addition to her seasoned stage band, led by Ricky Fataar (drums) and "Hutch" Hutchinson (bass), without whom, to this day, a Bonnie Raitt live appearance is simply unthinkable. And as always, Bonnie was deeply appreciative of everybody who showed up for the occasion: "Special thanks ... for coming to add so much to this long awaited project. This was the time and you were the reason," she wrote in the album's liner notes, thanking her musician friends, and in true style, she did not overlook a single member of the audience, either, commenting that "I'd like to thank you up in the balcony, too; I can see you!"
Short of experiencing Bonnie Raitt live on stage, "Road Tested" is the best evidence why rock and blues music, particularly when performed by an artist with such an unmatched passion for her work and skill as a guitar player as is Raitt, is a vastly different experience than listening to a studio album. The blues is meant to be performed live first and foremost; similar to jazz and gospel (and often, more so than rock music) it depends on the spontaneous interplay of the musicians, and the interaction between stage and audience. This is, of course, most obvious in the songs performed as duets here; but just listen to this album's slow, intense version of "Love Me Like a Man;" one of Raitt's oldest songs - it's from her second album, 1972's "Give It Up" - one of those pieces that would have an uninitiated listener, if any such still exist, become absolutely convinced that they're listening to a recording made in a small Southern blues club, not on a big West coast stage. And indeed, immediately after that song follows Mississippi Fred McDowell's "Kokomo Medley," in the introduction of which Raitt quotes her old friend and touring partner's words: "I do not play no rock'n roll" - and she adds that "when he got to playin', man, that's all the rockin' I'll ever need."
Most of the 22 songs contained on this double album are longtime staples in Raitt's live appearances; and given her extraordinary repertoire, it comes as no surprise that this is an outing jam-packed to the brim with gems. CD No. 1 starts with a quintuple slam: Her opening duet with Bruce Hornsby on John Hiatt's "Thing Called Love," one of the standout hits from "Nick of Time" ("When I wrote the song, I had no idea that a pretty redhead named Bonnie Raitt was going to make it such a big thing one day," Hiatt once commented), followed by "Three Time Loser" (originally published on 1977's "Sweet Forgiveness" and one of her trademark "I've had it" songs with lyrics such as "How many hours [for] your love I'm gonna wait? How many heartaches you really think I'm gonna take?"), the Jazz Crusaders' infectious "Never Make Your Move Too Soon" (featuring Bonnie Raitt with Ruth and Charles Brown and Kim Wilson) and one of the hits from "Luck of the Draw," "Something to Talk About." Other standouts on the first CD are "Have a Heart" (likewise from "Nick of Time") and the heartbreaking ballad "Louise" (from "Sweet Forgiveness").
CD No. 2 begins with the title song of "Longing in Their Hearts," Raitt's last studio album before this live double outing, and a small series from that album and its predecessor "Luck of the Draw" ("Come to Me" and the rocking "Love Sneakin' Up on You"), and then Bonnie and crew get ready to bring down the walls again with the Talkin' Heads' "Burning Down the House." Thereafter it gets quieter once more, with Bonnie Raitt's version of "I Can't Make You Love Me" (and again, Bruce Hornsby on keyboards), after which the daughter of pianist Marjorie Haydock Raitt herself takes the keys for the rocker "Feeling of Falling;" followed by a nonstop succession of duets with all her famous guests: from more good oldfashioned rock'n roll in "I Believe I'm in Love With You" to the hard-driving "Rock Steady" with Bryan Adams (who specifically wrote the song for this appearance with Raitt), the ballad "My Opening Farewell" with that song's creator Jackson Browne, and last but not least, perhaps Raitt's biggest signature song, the John Prine classic "Angel From Montgomery," which here becomes an emotional finale, in which she is joined by all of her guests.
"We were going for something really special," producer Don Was, who would pass the helm to Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake for Raitt's next studio album, 1998's "Fundamental," commented on "Road Tested." And something special they created indeed - only to be surpassed by the experience of an entire evening of a Bonnie Raitt live appearance.

Braveheart (Widescreen) [Import]
Braveheart (Widescreen) [Import]
DVD ~ Mel Gibson
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 36.15
56 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Blood, bravery & idealism in an epic fist punch to your gut., Jan. 25 2003
On a whole number of levels, this movie shouldn't have worked for me. It takes considerable license with historical facts, not only in order to supplement details that are not part of William Wallace's legend but actually, wherever convenient. ("We stuck to history where we could but hyped it up where the legend let us," actor-director Mel Gibson admits on the DVD's commentary track.) It is graphically and unabashedly violent: from throat cuttings to battle scenes that have film blood literally splashing onto the camera, beheadings, a traitor's head smashed with a wrecking ball, and fully 15 minutes of Wallace's "purification by pain," it shows some of the most brutal behavior conceivable. It also engages in some of the most blatant gay profiling in recent film history - not just in the drastic end administered on the lover of King Edward I. "Longshanks"'s son, but equally in the portrayal of both characters and their relationship as such. Last but not least, Mel Gibson plays a man at least 10 years younger than himself, a choice often enough bordering on the ridiculous. (Gibson insists it was the studio's wish that he not only produce and direct but also star in the title role.)
And yet ...
From the first notes of James Horner's hauntingly beautiful soundtrack and the first sweeping camera shots over the Scottish highlands, blending seamlessly into the pictures of the Scottish riders on their way to the alleged truce talks initiated by Longshanks, and the narrator's, Robert the Bruce's (Angus MacFadyen's) introduction - "I shall tell you about William Wallace: Historians from England will call me a liar, but history is written by those who have hanged heroes" - there is no mistaking that this is an epic story, taking up the tradition of the likes of "Spartacus" and "Ben Hur." Like those movies, "Braveheart" is a story of heroism and of having the courage of one's convictions; chronicling the life of its hero from first love to loss, betrayal, battles and final confrontation with his arch-enemy's powers. Like both of them, "Braveheart" won multiple Academy Awards, not least for John Toll's outstanding cinematography. Like "Ben Hur," it also won the coveted awards for "Best Picture" and for "Best Director." And maybe I'm just a sucker for that kind of epos ...
To my surprise, I found Mel Gibson to come across very believable as William Wallace; age difference, Scottish brogue and all. Both his acting and his direction are informed by a clear sense of vision for the movie and its title character. Moreover, although full writing credits went to would-be (?) Wallace descendant Randall W., many little details undeniably show Gibson's hand and mannerisms: to name just a few of the more obvious examples, Wallace's marriage proposal to Murron, his grinning greeting of a group of English soldiers trapped below a cliff, and his response to a doubting Scottish soldier's comment at Sterling that he can't really be Wallace because he's not tall enough.
In addition to John Toll's award winning cinematography, the movie benefits from first-rate production design (Tom Sanders), a score which perfectly captures the mood of every single scene, and a cast of outstanding actors; first and foremost Patrick McGoohan as Longshanks, who portrays the king's utter ruthlessness so convincingly that you completely forget his earlier incarnation as the 1960s' "Danger Man," and who delivers monologues and soliloquies worthy of a Shakespearean king. His musing "but whom shall I send" when plotting to send a messenger to Wallace with another insincere offer of truce, and his chilling announcement of the reinstitution the ius primae noctae because "the trouble with Scotland is that it is full of Scots ... If we can't get them out, we'll breed them out" could have been uttered verbatim by anyone of the Bard's most sinister kings. (Screenwriter Randall Wallace does indeed admit to Shakespeare's direct influence on the script, particularly on Wallace's "Sons of Scotland" speech before the battle of Sterling, which is strongly based on the monologues of King Henry V. at Agincourt).
Equally impressive is Ian Bannen in one of his last roles, starring as Robert the Bruce's leprosy-ridden father and evil spirit, whose first reaction to the tales about Wallace is to deride him ("He has courage; so does a dog"), and who expertly plays on his son's ambivalent feelings, until he finally drives Robert into hating his father for having coaxed him into his own game of scheming and betrayal - whereupon the elder Bruce drily comments: "At last you have learned what it means to hate. Now you are ready to be a king."
Then-newcomer Catherine McCormack stars as Wallace's childhood love Murron, whose scenes with Wallace provide for much-needed tenderness in the first hour of the movie - particularly touching is four year old Murron's gift of a thistle (Scotland's national flower) to orphaned William - and contrast sharply with the bloodshed that follows virtually incessantly from her death onwards. Sophie Marceau matures from teenage party queen ("La Boum") to French Princess Isabelle; Brendan Gleeson stars as Wallace's boyhood friend Hamish, David O'Hara as his heaven-conversing, self-appointed Irish guardian Stephen - one of the movie's most colorful characters - and Brian Cox brings all his extraordinary screen presence to his brief appearance as Wallace's uncle Argyle.
When I left the theater after having witnessed this movie's almost three hours of blood, gore and intense emotions for the first time, I felt as if somebody had given me a fist punch into my stomach. I was so struck that I was almost unable to speak, and dragged my moviegoing companion into the next bar, to revive my spirits with a glass of whiskey. (Scotch, of course). Having seen the film countless times since then, I no longer need that whiskey to overcome its drastic impact - but I still get gooseflesh during many of its key scenes and can't watch it without feeling emotionally drained at the end.

Rob Roy (Widescreen) [Import]
Rob Roy (Widescreen) [Import]
DVD ~ Liam Neeson
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 6.31
27 used & new from CDN$ 3.66

5.0 out of 5 stars Scotland's Robin Hood in rustic, lyrical tones., Jan. 13 2003
Popular heroes make for great movies - this adage has held true since the days of Douglas Fairbanks's "Mark of Zorro" (1920) and "Robin Hood" (1922), and Errol Flynn's representation of the legendary Robin of Locksley 16 years later ("The Adventures of Robin Hood," 1938), and it has been reinforced again and again throughout the years. And whenever we go to see yet another screen version of the life of such a hero, regardless whether based on historic fact or popular lore, we carry certain almost instinctive expectations: the hero is to be honorable and his true love virtuous, there is to be a truly evil villain, and an abundance of sword play and other action. "Rob Roy" delivers on all of these counts; yet, it manages to be much more than a colorful costume piece with a storyline in black and white, and it differs considerably from the type of movie coined ever since the adventures of history's great heroes were first brought to the silver screen.
To begin with, Liam Neeson, in the title role, is not the slim, agile hero with lightning-quick, supple movements we have come to expect after having seen leading men such as Fairbanks, Flynn, Robert Taylor ("Ivanhoe," 1952) - and, for that matter, Richard Todd, who portrayed Robert Roy McGregor in the 1953 movie version of this story, after having played the lead in Disney's version of "Robin Hood" a year earlier. No: here, the part of the dazzling and deadly fencing champion goes to Tim Roth, who has the calculating, conceited, blonde-wigged henchman Archibald Cunningham down to absolute perfection - you just love to hate him; yet, he never becomes the embodiment of an ueber villain, and it is his utter fallibility as a human being which makes him all the more evil and despicable. The face-offs between Roth and Neeson (particularly their final duel) almost have something of an inverse David vs. Goliath feeling; making Neeson's much taller McGregor look occasionally more than just a bit disadvantaged vis-a-vis the cat-like Cunningham. Here is a hero whose greatest asset, in fencing as in other encounters with an enemy, is not his speed but his intelligence, his strength, and most of all, his undying tenacity.
Similarly, the love story between McGregor and wife Mary (Jessica Lange) is not one between two young lovers: the movie finds the couple well-settled into their marriage with several young sons. Yet, they are deeply in love, a feeling which is only reinforced by the trials and tribulations they have to overcome. The portrayal of proud Mary McGregor, unbending even in utter disgrace, is one of Jessica Lange's strongest performances careerwide, a match to Neeson's McGregor in acting skill as much as in tone, emotion and courage. And filming on location in Scotland brought an authenticity to the movie which even the best cinematography - and "Rob Roy" had excellent cinematographers in Karl Walter Lindenlaub and Roger Deakins - and costume design (Sandy Powell) alone could not have achieved. Musically, the Scottish highlands' rugged, windswept mountains and cliffs, deep lochs, and endless grey skies are matched perfectly by Carter Burwell's score and Karen Matheson's mournful ceilidhs. Strong supporting performances by John Hurt (Montrose), Andrew Keir (Argyll), Brian Cox (Killearn) and Eric Stoltz (MacDonald) round out an altogether remarkable production.
The movie takes poetic license with a number of key details; for example, the disappearance of the 1000 pounds lent to McGregor by the Marquis of Montrose (in essence, a historic fact; McGregor and the Marquis had dealt with each other in this way several times before) was probably due to the fact that McGregor's agent really did abscond with the money; not due to Killearn's and Cunningham's scheming. But the major elements of McGregor's personal story, as well as the story's historical framework are represented truthfully, taking us back into a Scotland caught between English rule, Jacobites (Scottish loyalists supporting the Stewarts' claim to the throne, like the McGregors and the Duke of Argyll) and rivaling feudal lords. And Liam Neeson, director Michael Caton-Jones and script writer Alan Sharp do an excellent job in portraying the implications of Robert McGregor's personal sense of honor, which not only required him to keep his word once it was given, be it as part of a contract or otherwise, but also forbade him to bear false witness, even at great peril to himself and his family. Because the loss of the money borrowed from Montrose meant much more to the McGregors than a business deal gone bad: as Robert had given his land as security for the money, in 18th century feudal Scotland the loss of the land not only entailed the loss of the family's economic but also that of their tenuous personal freedom, forcing them right back into the outlaw life which their clan had known only too well throughout centuries of rivalry with a powerful clan aligned with the English kings.
1995 was not only the year when Hollywood discovered Scotland's popular heroes - this movie and "Braveheart" were released in the same year, much to "Rob Roy"'s undeserved disadvantage - it was a year of extremely strong movies overall. Between the in-your-face (or rather, in-your-gut) portrayal of Scotland's 13th century hero William Wallace on the one hand and such stunners as "The Usual Suspects," "Dead Man Walking," "Leaving Las Vegas," "Sense and Sensibility" and "Casino" on the other hand, and despite all critical acclaim, "Rob Roy" was not even nominated in most Oscar categories and other awards. Yet, this rustic, lyrical version of the story of Scotland's Robin Hood (like the outlaw of Sherwood Forest, McGregor hit Montrose where he knew he would hurt him most, by going after his money) has found an undying fan base over the course of the years. I hope it will continue to grow even stronger as the years go by.

Bonnie Raitt Collection
Bonnie Raitt Collection
Offered by Rarewaves-CA
Price: CDN$ 6.31
60 used & new from CDN$ 1.27

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 20 songs from the blues guitar queen's first 20 years., Jan. 12 2003
This review is from: Bonnie Raitt Collection (Audio CD)
Hearing Bonnie Raitt's music, you'd swear her roots were somewhere in the Mississippi Delta - not, of all places, Southern California. And indeed, the red-haired, freckled daughter of Broadway star John Raitt ("Oklahoma!") fit in badly with the crowd of teenagers who listened to the Beach Boys and other representatives of the so-called "California music," went to the beach and learned how to surf; whereas Bonnie "didn't get tanned and ... lived in the canyon," as she recalls in her biography written by Mark Bego, "Just in the Nick of Time." But by that time, she had already found solace in music: "That was my saving grace. I just sat in my room and played my guitar," she remembers. One day she heard a Newport Folk Festival recording entitled "Blues at Newport '63," featuring John Lee Hooker, John Hammond, Brownie McGee, Mississippi John Hurt and other members of the blues's all-time elite. And Bonnie was hooked: "I tell you, once you get exposed to the blues, you can't get enough."
Thus, it was only natural that she would soon be found more frequently in the Cambridge, MA, blues and jazz clubs than in the hallowed halls of Radcliffe College, where she had enrolled to master in African studies. Before long she had an agent, and began to open for her idols Junior Wells, Arthur Crudup, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker and ultimately her mentor, Sippie Wallace, and met singer-songwriters and future soulmates Jackson Browne and James Taylor. In 1971 she was offered her first recording contract. And from her self-titled debut to 2002's "Silver Lining," her over three decades-long career is one of the most amazing examples of personal growth, combined with stellar musicianship and an active voice for society's victims and underprivileged and again and again, for women's rights; even if it would take the music industry until 1989's triple Grammies for the Capitol Records release "Nick of Time" to officially recognize Bonnie Raitt's achievements.
This collection, released shortly after her Grammy-winning album, chronicles all stages of her career until then, drawing on the nine albums she had released on Warner Records before changing labels. It features all-time classics such as "Give It Up or Let Me Go," "Love Me Like a Man," "Willya Wontcha," "Love Has No Pride" (one of her earliest signature songs), her intensely personal interpretation of Randy Newman's "Guilty" (which still cuts so close that she doesn't perform it live as regularly as other songs), the Tex-Mex ballad "Louise," her Al Green-inflected version of Jackson Browne's "Runaway," her hard-driving recording of Bryan Adams's "No Way to Treat a Lady" ("I sing a lot of songs for women who've 'had it,' and this is a powerful dose of that feeling," she comments on the album's liner notes), a rare 1976 live duet with Sippie Wallace on her mentor's "Women Be Wise," and an the Grammy-winning 1985 live duet with John Prine on "Angel From Montgomery," written by Prine but now a signature song for Bonnie Raitt as much as for him.
Much more than a "best of," this is a very personal collection of songs by the singer whose very first female role model was "Gunsmoke"'s red-headed, independent Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake); who learned to successfully compete with boys and men from early childhood on ("I just couldn't stand the way girls got the second best of everything," she recalls in "Nick of Time"), and who now donates the revenue from sales of her signature model Fender Strat to her own project for inner city girls. It amply showcases her feeling for the blues and her extraordinary talent as a guitar player: she is one of the few women who have mastered the bottleneck guitar, a feat she achieved even before her first recording contract, and her slide guitar skills are matched (if that) by only the best in the business.
Bonnie Raitt is rightfully considered part of the all-time elite of blues musicians, and recognized as a peer by the artists she once admired from afar. This album contains excellent examples of her cooperation with many of those artists, who appear on her records again and again - the list almost reads like a blues and rock music "who is who." There are, for example, Junior Wells (harp on "Finest Lovin' Man"), Freebo ([fretless] bass on almost every track and tuba on "Give It Up or Let Me Go"), A.C. Reed (sax on "Finest Lovin' Man"), John Payne (sax on "Give It Up or Let Me Go"), T.J. Tindall (e-guitar on "Under the Falling Sky"), Paul Butterfield (harp on "Under the Falling Sky"), Lowell George (slide guitar on "I Feel the Same" and "Guilty"), Bill Payne (keyboards on "I Feel the Same," "Guilty," "(Goin') Wild for You Baby" and "No Way to Treat a Lady"), Steve Gadd (drums on "What Is Success"), Will McFarlane (e-guitar on "My First Night Alone Without You," "Sugar Mama" and "Runaway"), John Hall (e-guitar on "My First Night Without You" and "Sugar Mama") Jai Winding (keyboards on "My First Night Alone Without You" and "Sugar Mama"), Joe and Jeff Porcaro (percussion on "Sugar Mama"), Norton Buffalo (harp on "Runaway"), Rosemary Butler (backing vocals on "Runaway" and "No Way to Treat a Lady") Waddy Wachtel (e-guitar on "(Goin') Wild for You Baby"), Bob Glaub (bass on "(Goin') Wild for You Baby"), Ricky Fataar (drums/percussion on "Willya Wontcha"), Michael Landau (guitar solo on "No Way to Treat a Lady"), Nathan East (bass on "No Way to Treat a Lady") and countless others.
Intimidated by her mother's skill as a pianist, Bonnie Raitt exchanged keys for steel strings when she was barely eight years old. She later did return to the piano, though, and even if she may not be Martha Argerich (or, for that matter, Marjorie Haydock Raitt), her true gift shines through even there. But even if she had never learned to play anything but guitar ... listening to this album, I doubt we would seriously be missing anything.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination
Tales of Mystery and Imagination
Price: CDN$ 8.40
59 used & new from CDN$ 3.81

5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning rendition of 7 classic tales and poems by E.A. Poe., Jan. 4 2003
I'll never forget the first work by Edgar Allan Poe I ever read: it was "The Tell-Tale Heart," and Poe's short story about a madman who kills and dismembers an old man by whose "evil eye" he feels haunted soon outgrew the high school class assignment it had originally been for me; and the narrator's nightmares began to haunt me, too. (Yes, I was an impressionable 16-year-old, but Poe really *was* the master of horror for all ages.) Alan Parsons's rendition of the story on the third track of "Tales of Mystery and Imagination" does full justice to its sense of lunacy masquerading as clairvoyance, and the urgency of the narrator's acts, driven by the sound of the old man's beating heart, hidden below the floor boards of his room, and symbolized here by the steady bass and drum beat underlying the entire track - except for the deceptively serene bridge ("And he won't be found at all, not a trace to mark his fall nor a stain upon the wall"), after which it returns with all the greater force, accentuated by the grating sound of an electric guitar which, along with the bassline and drums, causes some to describe this song as more of a traditional rock song than the other parts of this album.
The album starts with an instrumental based on the poem "Dream Within a Dream," and the brief Poe quote from 1846's "Marginalia" (where "Dream Within a Dream" was also published), spoken by Orson Welles and added only on 1987's remastered CD. In many ways, this quote sets the theme for the entire album, and for Poe's work in general: "There is ... a class of fancies of exquisite delicacy which are not thoughts ... These fancies arise in the soul, alas how rarely ... at those weird points of time, where the confines of the waking world blend with the world of dreams. ... I captured this fancy, where all that we see, or seem, is but a dream within a dream." (I owned and loved the vinyl version of this album long before the CD was released; but for the life of me I cannot understand why this quote was not included from the start - unlike others I don't find it an intrusion but an enrichment.) And like the quote, the entire track weaves around the listener's thoughts and thus, leads us into the rest of the album, at the end introducing the drum-enforced bassline which also dominates the next two tracks on what used to be the vinyl original's first side.
Thus, "Dream Within a Dream" blends seamlessly into the interpretation of Poe's classic "The Raven" - the epitome of a story about a nightly visitor from hell, come to torment the narrator and to leave Nevermore. (Parsons maintains the poem's gloomy mood, although he makes little to no references to its more explanatory parts.) And like the "The Raven" and "The Tell-Tale Heart," the album's fourth track deals with a soul damned forever, setting to music the tale of "The Cask of Amontillado," that bait used by its narrator Montresor to lure and immure alive in his palace's labyrinthic vaults one pointedly named Fortunado. The song's heavily textured vocals layer Fortunado's pleas for help with Montresor's gloating, while gentle keyboard and string tunes contrast his horrifying act. Horns, guitars and a choir emphasize the story's somber end.
The tales then move on to the chillingly hilarious account of the madhouse reigned by the inmates themselves (insufficiently "soothed" by the prior system and now partying wildly) and the "System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether," administered on their former guards.
The orchestral suite "Fall of the House of Usher," the centerpiece of the vinyl album's second side, puts to music Poe's ghastly tale of an ancient mansion causing the ruin of its owners. Here again, Orson Welles lends his voice to Poe's words, written in 1831, eight years before the tale itself but foretelling it with its references to "[s]hadows of shadows passing," "colour becom[ing] pallor, man becom[ing] carcase, home becom[ing] catacomb, and the dead [who] are but for a moment motionless." (Again, I fail to understand why this was not included on the vinyl version of the CD.) The suite's individual movements mirror the breadth of emotions contained in Poe's tale, with (alternatively and conjunctively) wailing strings, sinuous guitars, and thundering, hard-driving drums and bassline.
And as in anyone of Poe's tales, there simply cannot be an upbeat ending - the album's last track is a melancholy interpretation of the ode "To One in Paradise," mourning the death of the speaker's love.
"Tales of Mystery and Imagination" is a quintessential concept album; the auspicious debut of that "anonymous outfit that never play[ed] gigs," as Parsons wrote in the liner notes of the remastered CD; a "project" whose name was initially not intended to be the name of the band but rather their product, the album itself. In addition to close contributor and keyboardist Eric Woolfson, Alan Parsons recruited a talented group of individuals: conductor Andrew Powell, who later produced Kate Bush's first albums, scored Richard Donner's Ladyhawke and worked with artists as diverse as Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Boulez, Leo Sayer, Chris de Burgh, Kansas and the Philharmonia Orchestra; guitarist Ian Bairnson (now known for his cooperations with George Martin, Mick Fleetwood and again, Kate Bush); actor Leonard Whiting (Romeo the 1968 Zeffirelli film), Elton John's bassist David Paton, 10CC drummer and Bairnson ex-co-Pilot Stuart Tosh, Tina Turner sidekick-to-be John Miles, and Terry Sylvester, Graham Nash's replacement in the Hollies.
If you didn't know this is Parsons's and his "Project"'s first album, you certainly wouldn't be able to tell this from the record's tight, first-rate production and musicianship. I am not the world's greatest fan of electronic music ï¿ but this album has so much more to offer than synthesizers and vocoders. It has been one of my all-time favorites ever since its 1975 release, and I still listen to it with great regularity.

A Christmas Carol (Full Screen)
A Christmas Carol (Full Screen)
DVD ~ Patrick Stewart
Price: CDN$ 18.70
32 used & new from CDN$ 1.44

4.0 out of 5 stars A "Christmas Carol" for the 21st Century., Dec 28 2002
Given the enormous potential for failure, it takes either a lot of guts or a big ego to remake a classic and step into a pair of shoes worn so well by the likes of George C. Scott and Alastair Sim - you don't have to have grown up in an English speaking country to take those two names and their portrayal of Dickens's miserly anti-hero for granted as part of your Christmas experience. And I suspect a good part of both guts and ego was at play in this production; but let's face it: after years of bringing Scrooge to the stage in a much-acclaimed one man show and after also having recorded the audio book version of "A Christmas Carol," a movie adaptation starring Patrick Stewart was probably due to come out sooner or later. Yet, while it does sometimes have the feel of another huge star vehicle for Stewart (even without the self-congratulatory trailer and brief "behind the scenes" features included on the DVD), his experience and insight into the character of Scrooge allow him to pull off a remarkable performance, and to make the role his own without letting us forget who originally wrote the tale. From a "humbug" growled out from the very depth of his disdain and his audible desire to boil "every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips" with his own pudding and bury them with a stake of holly through their heart, to the "splendid" and "most illustrious ... father of a long, long line of brilliant laughs," coughed up and spit out after years of having been out of practice, this is the Scrooge that Dickens described; and Stewart obviously has the time of his life playing him.
This made-for-TV production is sometimes criticized for its use of special effects; I don't find those overly disturbing, though - in fact, they're rather low-key and for the most part used to show nothing more than what Dickens actually described. (This *is* a ghost story, remember?) Scrooge really does see Marley's face in his door knocker; we all know that Marley's ghost does indeed walk through Scrooge's doubly locked door ... and last but not least Dickens himself describes the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come as "shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand." (Granted, no gleaming lights for eyes, though.) The script could have spared a modernism here and there, but again, mostly the lines are exactly those that Dickens himself wrote. Even where the characters don't actually speak them, they are part of their reflections - such as Marley being buried and "dead as a door-nail" (which, after all, is the tale's all-important premise) and Scrooge's rather funny musings how the Ghost of Christmas Past might be deterred from taking him for a flight (where citing neither the weather nor the hour nor a head cold nor his inadequate dress would do). Richard E. Grant, known to TV audiences as Sir Percy Blakeney in the recent adaptations of "The Scarlet Pimpernel," moves to the opposite end of the social spectrum in his portrayal of gaunt, downtrodden Bob Cratchit; and he is a very credible caring father and husband, albeit a bit too well-educated - unlike the rest of his family, who speak and come across as decidedly more cockney. Joel Grey, whose Master of Ceremonies in "Cabaret" stands out as one of those "one of a kind" performances that are few and far between in film history, is almost perfectly cast as the Ghost of Christmas Past, combining the spirit's wisdom of an old man with his child-like innocence, frail stature and luminous appearance. A great supporting cast and solid cinematographic and directorial work round out an overall very well done production.
Many actors are remembered either for one career-making role or for a certain type they have cast. No doubt Patrick Stewart, who as a teenager had to face an ultimatum between a steady job and the theater and chose the latter, will go into film history as Captain Jean-Luc Picard of Star Treck's "Next Generation." But I would not be surprised if the other major role he will always be remembered for will be that of Ebenezer Scrooge - on stage, in audio recordings *and* in this movie adaptation, which successfully brings Dickens's timeless tale of bitterness, sorrow, redemption and the true meaning of Christmas to the 21st century, and which before long, I think, will attain the status of a classic in its own right. I know that I, for one, will be watching it again with renewed pleasure next Christmas.

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