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Taxi Driver (Collector's Edition)
Taxi Driver (Collector's Edition)
DVD ~ Robert De Niro
Offered by OMydeals
Price: CDN$ 59.19
17 used & new from CDN$ 5.34

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Taxi Driver - A disturbing experience, July 13 2004
After watching the classic 1976 film "Taxi Driver," viewers may be interested in their reaction. It can be depressing. Martin Scorsese directed this open-sore of a film and of his many classic works, this is the one most obsessively analyzed. "Taxi Driver" is such a raw, visceral experience that after viewing its nightmarish terrain one must decompress.
Seedy does not begin to describe the horror of "Taxi Driver," which details a world of pimps, prostitutes, drug addicts and a loner psycho brilliantly portrayed by Robert De Niro. This film established some of the great talents in motion picture history including De Niro, Scorsese, Albert Brooks and Jodie Foster. I wonder about disturbing epics like "Taxi Driver," "A Clockwork Orange," "Straw Dogs" and "Natural Born Killers." Whenever I visit the video store, I notice these films are usually checked out, empty boxes leaning against the shelf. Who's watching these films, and why so often? The films share a common thread in that they have likable actors (De Niro, Malcolm McDowell, Dustin Hoffman, Woody Harrelson) playing despicable men prone to violent rages. Alienated one and all, these characters have become anti-heroes for a world severely lacking in heroes. There are so many ways to view this film, with multiple levels serving as proof to its complicated brilliance. Urban alienation, cultural emptiness, veiled racism, Watergate analogy and Oswald repression are just a few of the metaphorical doors one can open in this nightmare.
De Niro's Bickle is a Vietnam veteran suffering from insomnia. He takes a job as a cab driver to work nights, driving through the most dangerous New York neighborhoods for fares. He becomes infatuated with a beautiful woman (Cybill Shepherd) who works at the campaign office of Palantine. Bickle takes the woman to a porno theater on their first date, and she dumps him immediately. To no one's surprise, Bickle soon begins to stalk her. He purchases a deadly arsenal of hand guns and intensely works out in preparation for his assassination of Palantine (and most likely the woman too). Along the way, Bickle stumbles across a 12-year old prostitute (Foster) whom he befriends. His attempted assassination fails and he walks over to the prostitute's home and kills her pimp (Harvey Keitel), landlord and an unlucky gangster. "Taxi Driver" unbelievably ends with the prostitute having been returned to her parents and Bickle becoming an inner-city folk hero. Shepherd's character tries to make a date with Bickle, but he's now at peace with the inferno around him and drives on disinterested.
This ending has been debated for years. It is so controversial that when the film first ran on television, stations posted warnings stating they did not consider Bickle a hero. They're right. Bickle's a whacked-out cultural icon, granted, but he's no hero. He wants to be a hero, and perhaps the final scene is Bickle at the moment of death dreaming of a happy ending. He's essentially saved the day and rescued a damsel in distress. Bickle was seriously wounded after the shootout, having been shot in the neck. So it could have been a dream sequence, though Scorsese purposefully made it too vague to be entirely sure.
It's clear Bickle wishes to be a cowboy hero in "Taxi Driver," as seen by the boots he wears and the guns he straps on like an inner-city John Wayne. His famously improvised "You talkin' to me?" speech is in fact a line of dialog lifted from the classic 1953 western "Shane." And the final showdown has Bickle taking on three men (outnumbered a la Cooper in "High Noon") in a bloody, ferocious battle that to this day is one of the most violent scenes in history. Bickle, adorned in Mohawk and Army jacket, fires at random. The violence is so sloppy one gets the feeling they are viewing an actual crime scene. There is no music, only the jagged noises of constant screaming and guns blasting within closed-in spaces. While we love the balletic violence of the final shootout in "The Wild Bunch," we turn away from the gore in "Taxi Driver." It's as repellant as reality.
Scorsese's masterpiece is not intended for the young or emotionally disturbed. Bickle is not a hero in a film populated by an army of non-heroes. Still, viewers just might get confused. I know Bickle is crazy, but I feel sorry for him. At times, I even identify with him. And that can be depressing.

Final Cut: Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven's Gate, the Film That Sank United Artists
Final Cut: Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven's Gate, the Film That Sank United Artists
by Steven Bach
Edition: Paperback
27 used & new from CDN$ 1.41

4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating account of a filmmaking disaster, July 12 2004
It was called a "runaway," and never has a term been more appropriate. In this case, it was a movie running millions of dollars over budget with an end nowhere in sight. The 1980 film "Heaven's Gate" has become synonymous with failure, its very name punned whenever big-budget productions flirt with disaster. Steven Bach's "Final Cut: Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven's Gate, the Film That Sank United Artists" gives a terrific blow-by-blow account of this gargantuan flop. A former producer at United Artist who suffered the ax after "Heaven's Gate," Bach penned this detailed tome a couple of years after fallout.
The book should be a fascinating account for film lovers. "Final Cut" details the history of United Artists and filmmaking in the 1970s - a truly golden era. At United Artists, Francis Ford Coppola premieres "Apocalypse Now," Woody Allen helms "Manhattan" and Martin Scorsese prepares "Raging Bull." But the man of the hour in 1978 is a quiet guy named Michael Cimino. He just won an Academy Award for directing "The Deer Hunter," and now he wants to make a western - a big, big western.
Bach accurately reveals the difficulties United Artists was going through at this time, losing several long-time executives who jump ship to form the Orion film company. Bach and company, wishing to re-establish United Artists as a major player, take on Cimino's western project. Cimino sets up shop in Montana, the location work a two-hour's drive from the nearest cement road. He ships an antique train across five states to the Montana wilds. He hires over 700 extras. He signs a cast of mainly unknowns including Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, Isabelle Huppert, John Hurt and Sam Waterson. And he films only during the twilight hour, a period right before dusk so scenes will have a golden hue. But what terrifies United Artists most is Cimino is filming 50-60 takes per scene, and printing almost every take. Such obsession was unheard of.
As Bach reveals in "Final Cut," Cimino's western (now hovering around $25 million) was going to have make blockbuster numbers just to turn a profit, performing in the "Jaws" and "Star Wars" neighborhoods. United Artists attempts to fire Cimino, at one point even asking David Lean to take over. Cimino realizes the dire situation, finally bucks up and finishes the film. With promotional and post-production fees, "Heaven's Gate" cost United Artists $44 million - the most expensive film in history up to that time.
Heaven's Gate is premiered in New York, a three-and-a-half hour monstrosity that receives devastatingly bad reviews. It is eventually released to the theaters and makes $1.8 million. It is the biggest bomb in motion picture history (cue dead elephant hitting the cement). Heads roll at the studio, Cimino's career is finished and United Artists, a film company created by Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, is purchased by MGM to disappear forever into the sunset.
Cimino's "Heaven's Gate" spelled the end of the free-spirited, amazingly creative decade of the 1970s. Producers and studios took the reins out of the hands of superstar directors (Coppola's "Apocalypse Now" ran a similar "Heaven's Gate" route, but he pulled success from the fires of disaster, perhaps inspiring this debacle as much as anything else). "Final Cut" is a tragedy exposing the end of a golden era of filmmaking and a once-great studio. It's as good as an Irwin Allen disaster film, and a lot cheaper.

Wonderland [Import]
Wonderland [Import]
DVD ~ Val Kilmer
Offered by CAMusicFiendz
Price: CDN$ 29.96
13 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Be prepared for a sleaze-fest, June 24 2004
This review is from: Wonderland [Import] (DVD)
Before viewing 2003 sleaze-fest "Wonderland," be prepared to wallow in a Hollywood-created world of drug addiction, bad hair, crappy clothes and blood-splattered walls. All of this excess is spiced with frenetic quick-cut editing in order to create the drug high of freebasing for three straight days. I liked "Wonderland," but then again I have a morbid fascination with crime. The story plays out in a he-said-she-said, "Rashomon"-like fashion confusing more than aiding. Three versions of this story are shown, so the viewer can decide for themselves. Director James Cox has gone to great lengths to make a stylish film about the most unsettling cretins in Hollywood history.
"Wonderland" is a true story that happened in 1981. Four people are found brutally murdered in a house on Wonderland Avenue, pounded by lead pipes and a baseball bat or two. Johnny C. Holmes, one of the most famous porn stars in history, is a prime suspect. The Wonderland house was a drug den, and Johnny who hadn't made a film in two years, hung around often. Investigators haul Holmes in and get a convoluted story detailing robbery, double cross and dope. It appears the Wonderland victims had robbed the home of Eddie Nash, Los Angeles nightclub owner and drug king. Nash suspected Holmes was involved, and forced the weaselly drug addict to lead his own goons over to the Wonderland house to exact revenge.
Everyone in this film is sleazy, and it's surprising such a strong cast to include Kilmer, Dylan McDermott, Lisa Kudrow, Josh Lucas, Kate Bosworth, Jeneane Garofalo, Carrie Fisher and Christina Applegate would take on such shady roles. The performances are uniformly good, though a lot of fine actors disappear in the shadows of communion dope smoke and coke snort. Some of the best scenes in "Wonderland" are when Kilmer (as Holmes) is figuratively flogging himself for the unparalleled loser he's become. He repeats over and over, "Please forgive me. I'm sorry. Please forgive me." But you will have to look quick to see this great scene because Cox, in obsessive MTV fashion, cuts away as quickly as possible. We eventually see the entire scene, only in snip-snip pieces, inter cut with Holmes' girlfriend sleeping with another man.
If you pick up the "Wonderland" DVD, you have a lovely little extra which is the actual LAPD crime scene video taken at the scene. In all its crimson, hand-held glory, you can see the infamous Wonderland pad, complete with close-ups of the dead kids. I turned it off quickly, and am frankly stunned such an insensitive extra would be included. Dope dealers and criminals granted, but these kids deserve a bit more respect than to have their indecent murders serve as an extra on a DVD.
There's not much character development in "Wonderland," and motivation is about as thin as a sheet of recycled toilet paper. Brief stardom and falls from porn grace have been brilliantly documented in Paul Thomas Anderson's 1997 film "Boogie Nights." In fact, Dirk Diggler was based on Johnny Holmes. The robbery of Eddie Nash was covered in the unforgettable scene where Alfred Molina dances around to Night Ranger in sweaty speedos. I suppose "Wonderland" is the seedy next-day truth to "Boogie Nights," as Diggler-er-Holmes is forced to go to Wonderland Avenue and pound out a bloody revenge against his friends. To "Wonderland's" credit, we never see Holmes' member. He is forced to pull it out at one point - away from camera view - for party guests.
"Wonderland" accurately portrays a horrible crime and the days leading up to its resolution. Like watching a crime scene video, you'll find yourself wanting to look away. But like the party-goers staring wide-eyed at Johnny's infamous member, you won't.

The Day the Earth Caught Fire
The Day the Earth Caught Fire
DVD ~ Edward Judd
Offered by BuyCDNow Canada
Price: CDN$ 34.84
13 used & new from CDN$ 18.81

4.0 out of 5 stars A disaster classic from England..., June 16 2004
With the summer hoopla of the end-of-the-world saga "The Day After Tomorrow" smashing theaters, I'm reminded of one of the great disaster films of all time. You probably haven't heard of the 1962 flick, as it was made in England of all places. But it was a brilliant little suspense drama, told from the viewpoint of a bustling London newsroom. Called "The Day the Earth Caught Fire, this terrific disaster drama did not have great box office success, but critics rightfully regarded it as a diamond awaiting discovery. The special effects are minimal, as we see littered abandoned streets, thick London fogs, a few burning buildings and drunk beatniks dancing on cars.
The beauty of this film is emphasis on story and character rather than special effects. British science fiction from this period leaned towards respectability, and "The Day the Earth Caught Fire's" writer/director Val Guest was responsible for many of these films. His "The Quatermass Experiment" began the trend in 1955, and he continued with "Quatermass II: Enemy From Space" (1957) and "The Abominable Snowman" (1957).
"The Day the Earth Caught Fire" has been a favorite of mine because most of the intense drama is played out in the confines of the newsroom. Edward Judd plays a down-on-his-luck reporter suffering the trauma of divorce, writer's block and alcoholism. His buddy and mentor, wonderfully played by Leo McKern, covers for him and even writes a few stories under his friend's byline. The dialog crackles in "The Day the Earth Caught Fire," and alert viewers will find themselves rewinding the film just to catch lines a second time. Witty conversations move at a quick clip, reminiscent of Howard Hawks' classic overlapping dialog in "The Thing" (1951) or "His Girl Friday" (1940).
Judd stumbles upon the story of the century as he discovers a paranoid meteorological scientist attempting a cover-up. With temperatures rising to record numbers, twisters forming in London and floods wrecking havoc across the globe, Judd realizes something is amiss. It appears the Soviets and the West detonated nuclear tests simultaneously, and the double-barreled explosion knocked the earth off its axis. Our doomed planet is moving closer to the sun.
Judd finds time to romance the lovely Janet Munro, a part-time phone operator at the newspaper. The scene where she and Judd consummate their attraction is surprisingly sexy. Due to an oppressive heat mist fog which shuts London down, the two fledgling lovebirds find themselves stranded at Munro's apartment. With temperatures hovering around 90 degrees, they strip to their underwear as night begins to fall. A bedside phone rings, Judd speaks to the newspaper, and the sweaty pair end up in each other's arms.
I love the frantic activity of the newsroom as reporters scurry to make deadline. These British reporters go about their job with energetic professionalism, the scenes as realistic as any seen in the classic newspaper film "All the President's Men." Arthur Christiansen, an actual newspaper editor, plays himself. He has the best line when he asks a reporter for a story. The reporter snidely replies, "Isn't it too late to still be writing stories?" Christiansen answers, "It's never too late for a good news story well written."
"The Day the Earth Caught Fire" predates global warming and other environmental terrors by several decades. It's a shockingly good film for those unacquainted, with some of the best dialog ever written for the genre. By most accounts, "The Day After Tomorrow" is all special effects and little dialog. With "The Day the Earth Caught Fire," you get all dialog and little special effects.
It's never too late for a good film well written.

Love Actually (Widescreen)
Love Actually (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Hugh Grant
Offered by Round3CA
Price: CDN$ 9.12
41 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars I liked this valentine of a movie....., May 9 2004
This review is from: Love Actually (Widescreen) (DVD)
I rented "Love Actually" last week and watched it with my girlfriend. The film, released at the theaters last year, was not even my fourth choice. But when one is in a relationship, one finds themselves having to make compromises. In this case, the compromise turned out to be a pleasant surprise - though my girlfriend did fall asleep halfway through.
Anyway, as I watched the fairly complex plot threads slowly weave their way towards a predictably syrupy conclusion, I found myself contemplating this film a bit more than expected. I'll try to cover the bases without boring readers to death.
First and foremost, "Love Actually" boasts an extraordinary cast of actors, many of whom are from Britain, the location of this valentine of a movie. Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman, Laura Linney and Colin Firth, among others, lend an air of respectability to the mainly light proceedings. This ensemble piece examines eight varieties of relationships, all of them involving a form of love.
Richard Curtis wrote and directed this romance/drama/comedy, and it was his first time behind the lens. His previous work included the charming screenplays to "Four Weddings and a Funeral" (a favorite of mine), "Notting Hill" and "Bridget Jones' Diary." After such notable success with the pen, I suppose it was about time for him to sit in the director's chair. He does an adequate job with a fairly daunting screenplay. Not only must this story weave in and out of the lives of 10-20 individuals in modern-day London, but it must walk a fine line between comedy and drama, giving each notable actor enough screen time to flex their professional muscle.
The misfires are many, as the budding love between the porn stand-ins strikes the harmonious note of a wooden nickel. This talkative pair, in various forms of undress, pretend to perform lustful acts while cameramen set the lighting meters prior to the actual actors doing their "business." The odd couple make a date and literally shiver during their first kiss. The symbolism is too obvious - yes Richard, we know lust and love are two entirely different things.
The slovenly Colin, played with nose-picking intensity by Kris Marshall, couldn't find love if it punched him in the face. So the 20-something man decides to travel to America in search of drooling babes entranced by his British accent. Colin lands in snow-covered Milwaukee. Within minutes he finds three single models who take him back to their penthouse to have an apparent romp. Granted, British accents are cute, but I'm not sure it's going to give any man the inside track to winning the fantasy lottery.
Liam Neeson is terrific as a recently widowed father attempting to raise a young son on his own. By utilizing the power of positive thinking, he is lovingly supportive, and it's just a wonderful turn by an actor who normally plays the "hunk." I liked this vignette immensely and would enjoy seeing a film dealing simply with this father and son relationship.
Hugh Grant does a nice turn as the recently appointed Prime Minister of England who's shot by the Cupid's arrow upon meeting the caterer of his new home. Grant goes to great lengths to deny his love for this lower middle-class woman. This vignette gives us one of the finest scenes in the film when Grant stumbles upon a Bill Clinton-like president of the United States (nicely played in a cameo by Billy Bob Thornton) trying to make a pass at the caterer. Grant's character has already been bullied by this important world leader. Now the prez is making a move on the love of his life! Grant stands up to the powerful man during a press conference, and the enjoyable scene will make one swell with British pride whether they live in Olde England or not.
The strongest scenes in the film are delivered by Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, as a longtime married couple. Rickman is being flirted with by a young woman at work, and Thompson catches wind of it. Her scenes where she deals with the infidelity are the most memorable of "Love Actually." This very fine actress reveals the true trauma of what such shenanigans can do to the victim. She delivers the best line in the film when she says to her longtime husband, "You haven't just made me look foolish, but you've made us look foolish." Thompson's work is nothing short of brilliant.
What I liked about "Love Actually" was it dealt exclusively with ADULT romance. Amazingly, there's not a teenager in sight. This is also such a sweet, life-affirming film, without a single moment of cynicism. To me, that's rare in today's movie making world.
"Love Actually" stumbles happily to the semi-truth of life and love and how we cope with all the mundane crap. Love happens when we least expect it, and this film is aware of this. Love is not always fulfilled, and this film knows this sad fact as well. Thank you Mr. Curtis for at the very least attempting to reveal such important lessons.
Thankfully, there's only one wedding scene in Love Actually. It's early in the film. After the bride and the groom have exchanged vows, they begin walking back down the aisle. Suddenly, a choir begins singing, trombone players stand up, someone plays a guitar and a man wails into a microphone. The bride and groom laugh in surprised delight as the impromptu musicians begin performing The Beatles' "All You Need is Love."
Has there ever been a more perfect song for a wedding?

Race With the Devil
Race With the Devil
VHS

4.0 out of 5 stars One of the great drive-in classics of all time...., May 4 2004
This review is from: Race With the Devil (VHS Tape)
The 1975 film "Race With the Devil" begins innocently enough. Two couples on vacation in an RV decide to take a turn on a dirt road to spend the night away from the bustle. They park their rocking vehicle out in the wilds of south central Texas. They inspect the beauty of the desolate land, have a candle-lit dinner and a glass of wine, and toast the first night of a needed vacation. The sun sets and a full moon rises. But a funny thing happens.
Across the river they hear an eerie howl and suddenly, a mysterious bonfire roars to life. They grab a pair of binoculars and notice a group of people in black robes dancing around this huge fire. There's weird chanting, a man in a mask with a sword, and nude women at his feet. The dancing becomes more intense, and a woman is stabbed to death in an apparent sacrifice. At that moment, the wife of one of the stunned men turns on the RV light and screams at her husband to come inside. The Satanic cult realizes they are not alone, and furiously charge across the river. Thus begins one long and very creepy chase across the back roads of a Texas landscape.
We've been here before, whether it be with a cannibalistic family in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" or Georgia hillbillies in "Deliverance." The setup is usually the same - a group of innocents, semi-lost, encountering horrid miscreants without a shred of help anywhere in sight. I don't think "Race With the Devil" is as good as either of the two previous films mentioned, but I will say in all honesty this flick scared me as a child.
"Race With the Devil" taps a primal fear we have of being stranded in unknown lands pursued by people with murderous intentions. The inspirations for this little 1975 horror opus are many, as Satan was quite the villain back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Where to begin? Perhaps Roman Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby," one of the most chilling films ever made. And then you have "The Exorcist," "The Devil's Rain" and such TV flicks as "Crowhaven Farm." Which brings us to "Race With the Devil," where you have robed Lucifer hippies clawing at an agonizingly slow RV rolling for the nearest stretch of cement. Peter Fonda and Warren Oates do their best to fight off this beer-bellied horde (I suppose with the exception of the occasional dancing, they get little exercise), using everything from vacuum cleaners to ski poles to hold off the possessed crew.
For a kid growing up in the suburbs of Texas (that would be me), Satanic cults existed out there, and they were waiting in the dark. Out there is an uneducated wilderness, and it's scary. To this day, I have moments of fear when camping alone, remembering that cult from "Race With the Devil." As our society grows each day into an urban setting with farming communities disappearing, what is rural becomes alien and evil. It's out there man! Who knows what shenanigans they're up to!
The Texas-born Jack Starrett directed this little drive-in horror/action hybrid, and he really didn't create much else. A few episodes of "Hill Street Blues," a couple of other B-movie excursions. He's probably best known as the tough cop with a billy club who drives Sylvester Stallone over the edge in "First Blood." He sadly passed on in 1989. Starrett has a funny cameo in Race With the Devil as a nosy gas station attendant.
Warren Oates, the greatest character actor in motion picture history, stars as the unlucky sod who makes the fateful choice to camp in the Texas boonies. He was really too good to be starring in this fare, but he does deliver the best line when the sheriff mentions a local hippie cult that kills cats. With a straight face, Oates replies, "Well, I guess they ran out of cats." By most accounts Oates tilted beers with film director Sam Peckinpah while they made such films as "The Wild Bunch" and "Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia." A huge Warren Oates cult has grown since his death in 1983, and this film is as good as any learn the greatness of this brilliant actor.
In "Race With the Devil," Peter Fonda has a good time shaking martinis while firing shotguns at hillbilly Satanists. And you even have "Hotlips" Loretta Swit as a perplexed wife. She likes to scream a lot and wear colorful bathrobes.
I suppose we could obsess over the stupid decisions our protagonists make before Satan closes in on the RV. We could laugh at the dialog as they marvel over the newfangled microwave and color TV. We could even snicker as by the end of "Race With the Devil," the trashed RV resembles Steve Martin's and John Candy's car in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles." But our laughs are uneasy. When we travel to unknown lands, we are terrified of being preyed upon. In "Race With the Devil," these country folks are out there man, creepy and evil. Part horror, car chase and action, this film is one of the greatest drive-in flicks ever made.

Helter Skelter
Helter Skelter
DVD ~ George DiCenzo
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 23.51
27 used & new from CDN$ 13.57

3.0 out of 5 stars Stagy 1970s production, April 20 2004
This review is from: Helter Skelter (DVD)
I'll never forget the evening I was browsing the local video store. On the shelf I ran across a copy of the 1976 made-for-TV miniseries "Helter Skelter." Since I had never seen the film and had read the Vincent Bugliosi book on which it was based, I decided to rent it. Knowing full well the original series was around 200-plus minutes long, I picked up both copies of the tape assuming they were parts 1 and 2. With a line waiting behind me on that busy evening, the clerk looked at both tapes and screamed across the store, "Is 'Helter Skelter' two tapes or just one!"
Every customer in the store stared at me, and I blushed as if I had just rented "Showgirls." To this day, there's this ghastly boogeyman aura that surrounds Charles Manson and his puppet clique of attractive, promiscuous, murderous teenagers. This video version was only 98 minutes long, and for some strange reason, the store had two identical copies. Stupid me. Oh well, the original version of "Helter Skelter" has now been released on DVD. So friends, family and dogs can now wallow in the full 200-minute criminal epic.
After viewing the full-length version, I was surprised how closely it remained true to the known facts. The trial itself, which takes up the second half, is based entirely on court transcripts. And it gives us the best scene when Manson abruptly decides to make a statement to the courtroom. The jury was appropriately led out of court, though this was irrelevant to Mr. Charlie Boy. His speech was intended for reporters and audience members. The rambling proclamation, in which he discussed his skewed philosophy, is authentic (though I doubt he delivered it with unblinking eyes a la actor Steve Railsback). For the one and only moment of this stagy 1970s production (I was expecting Jack Webb to make an appearance any second) we see inside the demented philosophy of this horrible cult. It's probably as good a clue as any as to why these kids began committing random murders around Los Angeles during the summer of Woodstock, 1969.
Fascination with the Charles Manson cult is nothing new. The book "Helter Skelter" has remained in print for years, making Bugliosi millions. A new made-for-TV movie is to be broadcast, including additional facts unknown in 1976. Fresh converts can now revel in a new-millennium retelling of the Manson mythos. Believe it or not, one can find as many books related to Manson as to the JFK assassination. It's a damn cottage industry. I have read several, the best of the lot being "The Family," first published in 1971.
The book, unlike this film, details the constant use of psychedelic drugs combined with the isolation of Spahn Ranch. Manson and family enter an alternative zone having little to do with President Johnson's Great Society. It became the Cult of White Trash Group Think, formed by the hangover of one endless lost summer weekend. Very little of this is seen in the 1976 film version. Manson is portrayed as some kind of Devil who can stop watches by smiling. The cops, adorned in the best polyester money can buy, eventually take down these very creepy kids - and thankfully so.
There are no truths to be found in "Helter Skelter," just as there are no truths whenever someone tries to understand evil. It's fascinating, no doubt. Why else would we watch Bela Lugosi stand on a cobwebbed staircase uttering "Children of the night. What music they make!" I suppose Charles Manson is the vampire of our generation. He could even be Dracula, if Dracula were a hillbilly redneck who could barely read and write.

Least Worst of
Least Worst of
Price: CDN$ 15.44
20 used & new from CDN$ 7.73

4.0 out of 5 stars A great introduction to TON, April 14 2004
This review is from: Least Worst of (Audio CD)
This interesting greatest hits CD of New York Goth band Type O Negative is a great starting point for new converts. Led by gigantic front man Peter Steele, towering over six feet with a voice that would crack a castle door, TON has been touring and recording long enough to impress even the most conservative of rock critics. These guys, including Kenny Hickey, Josh Silver and Johnny Kelly, love their craft. But that's just a small part of the allure of this extremely unique quartet.
One of the greatest Goth bands in history, TON pounds through one hit after another including "Black," "Everyone I Love is Dead," "Christian Woman," "Love You to Death," "Everything Dies" (my favorite) and of course, the David Leanian anthem, "Unsuccessfully Coping with the Natural Beauty of Infidelity." Their confident skill comes only from a band having toured for well over a decade.
When watching these guys live, all eyes are on Steele. Call it mesmerizing intimidation. Put an ax in his hand and a helmet on his head and, by God, you have the mutant son of Thor and Satan. I suppose I have a peculiar fascination with this talented group. Songs last 10 to 12 minutes. Choruses change in mid-verse, riffs slow down at unexpected moments. A silhouetted Steele tells stories into the insanely tall microphone. It's not easy to understand just what inspires this foursome to write such unusual songs played for us mere hobbits.
Type O Negative is not really jamming during their endless numbers more than they just perform indefinable productions within their brooding heads. They are an acquired taste, requiring great concentration before finally reaching the foggy climatic plateau where Christopher Lee crouches and Alice Cooper hides. Once within their wax museum nightmare, welcome to a lost paradise.
"The Least Worst" CD has most of the songs that put these guys on the map. These cuts will never compare to seeing their live performances, but it gives a clue to the fruitful career of a dedicated and immensely talented Goth rock band. For those unknowing, this purchase is well worth your time.

Last Temptation of Christ (Widescreen) (The Criterion Collection)
Last Temptation of Christ (Widescreen) (The Criterion Collection)
DVD ~ Willem Dafoe
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 54.90
39 used & new from CDN$ 12.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Scorsese's extraordinary film..., March 21 2004
I find all the hoopla surrounding Mel Gibson's new film "The Passion of the Christ" to be oddly deja vu. It seems like anytime some unlucky sod decides to make a film about Christ, people are going to complain and picket. In 1988 (was it that long ago?) director Martin Scorsese made an extraordinary film that was greeted with equal fervor - "The Last Temptation of Christ."
The film "The Last Temptation of Christ" is an incredible achievement, with earnest performances, thoughtful dialogue (based on the Nikos Kazantzakis novel of the same name) and the always-imaginative direction of Scorsese. I applauded how human and identifiable Jesus Christ was portrayed.
When watching "The Last Temptation of Christ," one has the feeling if this story truly did happen, then it would have happened much as it did in this film. It is violent, coarse and inspirational. The great controversy was its portrayal of Christ having an affair with prostitute Mary Magdalene (Barbara Hershey). But it's not really an affair more than it is Christ, at the moment of death, imagining life's choices. Just what if he had chosen a life of domestic simplicity and warm security with Mary, rather than take responsibility for his calling?
I think people are so used to Christ being portrayed as this superhuman being, eyes ocean blue and unblinking, gliding across the desert swan-like (like TV's "Jesus of Nazareth"). In one of the great film epics of all time "Ben-Hur," director William Wyler doesn't even show Jesus. Oh, we see his back at one point, his hand in yet another scene. But Jesus is left to our imagination, which is probably the best way to go about this subject matter anyway.
So for Jesus to be played by a relatively awkward looking man in Willem Dafoe, human, with genuine insecurities and fears, is an inspirational and unique stance. For the first time, Jesus was one of us rather than a primping GQ model with the sun behind his back.

Custer's Last Campaign: Mitch Boyer and the Little Bighorn Reconstructed
Custer's Last Campaign: Mitch Boyer and the Little Bighorn Reconstructed
by John S. Gray
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 26.82
27 used & new from CDN$ 4.89

4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating account of Custer's Last Stand, March 6 2004
Essentially a physicist's interpretation of the Battle of Little Bighorn, author John S. Gray's "Custer's Last Campaign: Mitch Boyer and the Little Bighorn Reconstructed" is a fascinating account of one of the most storied battles ever to take place on American soil. And this was a battle, with more than 350 men, women and children killed in the span of two furious hours on the dusty slopes of 1876 southeast Montana.
This is not a book for beginners of Custer/Montana lore. It can be extremely tedious at times as Gray utilizes time-motion studies to piece together the puzzle of what happened during the Seventh Calvary's final minutes. Since every man of the U.S. Army was killed during this prong of the battle, there are no eyewitness military accounts. Yes, hundreds of Native Americans survived, but few spoke of this battle for fear of punishment and hatred of Anglo historians. Crazy Horse, one of the few Native American leaders during this confrontation, was assassinated a week after arriving on the reservation. So this very important man's account was never taken. Thus, we are left with a hodgepodge of hazy Native American reconstructions.
Visiting the battlefield today, which stretches over several miles, solemn white headstones mark the spot where bodies of the Seventh Calvary were found. The location of these stones are included in Gray's complex, mathematical equations. What he's intricately pieced together, with the help of eyewitness accounts, archaeological digs and his own analytical mind, is a realistic result of this unusual battle. His conclusions are perhaps outside of the realm of what people would consider today.
The myth surrounding Custer and Little Bighorn has been shaped by such matinee films as "They Died With Their Boots On," "Little Big Man" and television's "Son of the Morning Star." These films portray Custer as headstrong, vain, heroic and, in one case, a tad insane. But each version, thematically forged by the decade it was filmed, portrays Custer fighting gallantly to the last, standing alone in buckskins while angrily firing his pistol at the approaching Native American hordes. Custer, as if performing the concluding act of Shakespeare's "Hamlet," falls dead to the ground in bloody, poetic, slow motion. It makes for a great painting hanging above the neighborhood bar.
The reality, revealed by Gray's novel, is Custer did indeed have a battle plan rather than making a vain stab at glory. But his forces were simply overwhelmed, chaos ensued, and panicking men were run down like herds of buffalo. It's not very poetic, but has war truly ever been? To understand America's fascination with this battle, one must first read Evan S. Connell's "Son of the Morning Star," one of the greatest historical nonfiction novels ever written.
Gray discards such weighty wisdom like an old blanket, and scientifically gets to the root of what actually happened. A Last Stand does indeed take place on Custer Hill, where Custer's body was found. Survivors panic, some commit suicide, and Boyer and company frantically run west, fighting and killing in a froth-like animal panic. But west is towards the Native American village they were attacking in the first place. They are then desperately cornered in a ravine, a small gully which can be stared at to this very day.
When the U.S. Army rides into a primitive village, shooting defenseless women and children, the primitive man will fight back if for no other reason than to protect their families. Like poking a stick into an ant hill, Custer and his Seventh Calvary were overwhelmed, the sorry battle ending in a ditch. Men attempted to claw their way out, perhaps asking themselves how they ended up in such a remote location, dying the loneliest of deaths.
This battle haunts us for a number of reasons, mainly because of our inhumane treatment of the Native American people. So we obsessively analyze this epic Homerian battle, trying to find a moment of heroism, a brief glimpse to help salve our morally guilty wounds. But all we find in Gray's account is wide-eyed reality, and desperate men crying in a ditch. Gray's novel details these horrors in scientific fashion, and unknowingly provides a glimpse of the dangers of American warrior vanity.

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