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Live Era: 1987-1993 (2CD)
Live Era: 1987-1993 (2CD)
Price: CDN$ 18.81
56 used & new from CDN$ 7.47

4.0 out of 5 stars Awesome live G N'R, must have for fans, July 12 2004
Live Era is a fantastic collection of live Guns N' Roses tracks. "Recorded across the universe between 1987 and 1993" as the booklet says, it presents a pretty awesome portrait of the band as a live act. For those of us who were too young to catch G N'R in their prime, this set is most welcome. The song list is great, just about any Guns song you most want to hear live is included. Every track from Appetite For Destruction except for two ("Think About You" and "Anything Goes") are performed on this CD, as well as some of the best tracks from Use Your Illusion. "Patience", "Used To Love Her" and "Move To The City" from G N' R Lies are here and a cover of Black Sabbath's piano-based "It's Alright".
The performances are high energy and hard rocking. Axl is in good voice (most of the time), Slash plays with his usual intensity, Izzy (sometimes Gilby Clarke) provides the solid rhythm guitar and Duff and Steven/Matt anchor the band very well. The only problem really is the fact that the performance dates and locations are not listed, so what performances these are is anybody's guess. Still, it's great stuff and should be welcome in any rock fan's collection.
Guns N' Roses was an electrifying hard rock band and these two discs give us a glimpse of what this rock behemoth sounded like at the peak of their power. Hopefully more live performances will be released from the vaults in the future. As the success of the recent Greatest Hits collection shows, the world is hungry for more Guns N' Roses.

NEW Election (DVD)
NEW Election (DVD)
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 34.33
13 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant dark comedic skewering of high school life, May 26 2004
This review is from: NEW Election (DVD) (DVD)
Don't be deceived by the MTV logo on the box. Election is no ordinary high school movie. It is so far removed from the typical "teen movie" that it's sure be viewed with hostility from fans of those dreadfully stereotypical movies. What Election is, however, is a sharp, hilarious, on-target satire of high school life from the point of view of both the students and the teachers. Probably more so from the teachers' point of view, as the film focuses on Jim McAllister, played to perfection by Matthew Broderick as a man so stuck in the routine his daily life that director Alexander Payne visually compares him to a caged rat. He is a popular teacher who really desires to help his students, but is overcome by his spite for over-achieving student Tracy Flick. Reese Witherspoon (possibly giving the best performance of her career) has created a truly memorable character with Tracy Flick. Everybody knows someone like her, and is either irritated by her or exactly the same as her. Witherspoon's luminous performance is the heart of the film.
The story is pretty simple and revolves around Mr. McAllister's contempt for Tracy which leads him to attempt to sabotage her chances of being class president. The real meat of the film, however, is the characterization. Director Payne gets us deep into the minds of the characters, and lets us know their innermost thoughts, desires and regrets. Typical teen and high school movies rarely have characters this deep and fleshed out. Election is essentially a character study in which we see three or four main characters deal with issues of morality and conduct. Jim McAllister is dissatisfied with his job and his marriage, Tracy Flick is dissatisfied with her obsessiveness and ambition. Paul Metzler (Chris Klein) is dissatisfied with being a dim-bulb football player, and Tammy Metzler (Jessica Campbell) is dissatisfied that the girl she loves ditched her for her brother.
It could be said that Election is about any number of things: The rigors of high school life, the consequences of one's actions, the corruption of politics, the impossibility of changing destiny, being envious and jealous towards others, the tedium of one's career, or just being miserable. Everyone will take something different away from it. That's one thing that's great about it. The themes are implicit and require interpretation on the part of the viewer. Personally, I think it's an indictment of obsessive ambition, represented equally by the Jim McAllister and Tracy Flick characters.
Alexander Payne is a brilliant director. No other film director that I know of can so effectively find profundity in the simplicity of every day occurrences. His films focus on small town life (usually Omaha, Nebraska since that's where he's from) and dissect the ins and outs of every day life. He manages to bring out profound questions that spring up from the inanity and frustrations of life. In addition to Election, he made another brilliant movie called About Schmidt starring Jack Nicholson. It's a film which again philosophically explores the tedium and rituals of ordinary life in Middle America.
Election is a sharp, biting character study that is immensely deeper than the average high school movie. It makes the viewer question the choices they've made and will make in the future. It features Oscar-worthy performances by Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon, is expertly directed, has brilliant sharp dialog and a look and feel of authenticity that isn't usually found in high school movies. By looking at the lives of these flawed people, we can perhaps learn something about ourselves and our life decisions.

Live 1964: Concert At Philhamonic Hall (2CD)
Live 1964: Concert At Philhamonic Hall (2CD)
Price: CDN$ 17.45
28 used & new from CDN$ 13.16

5.0 out of 5 stars "It's just Halloween. I have my Bob Dylan mask on.", April 1 2004
So says young Bob Dylan on October 31, 1964 after wowing his audience with a new tune called "Gates of Eden". Just one of the many highlights of this new set, Bootleg Series volume 6: Concert at Philharmonic Hall. Previously this excellent series gave us the legendary 1966 "Judas" concert, then a sampler of Dylan's 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue, both excellent releases which I truly cherish. Volume 6, Live 1964 might be my favorite so far, however. It gives us a rare glimpse at a young 23-year-old Bob Dylan in the awkward transition between folky protest singer and poetic wordsmith. That juxtaposition is only one of the fascinating things about this concert. At this concert, Dylan was less than a year away from "Like A Rolling Stone" and the Highway 61 Revisited album. However, there's folk music a plenty, "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues", "Who Killed Davey Moore?", "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll", and also a good taste of the genius that Dylan was to display in the next year: "Gates of Eden", "Mr. Tambourine Man", and a stunning nine-minute "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)".
This is Bob Dylan as many fans have probably never heard him. A young, energetic singer who seems genuinely excited to be performing for an audience. His banter with the audience is worth the purchase price alone, as he jokes and giggles between songs. Quite a contrast from the reclusive curmudgeon that we know nowadays. But ultimately the music is what it all comes down to and it is thoroughly excellent. Dylan's voice, guitar and harmonica, nothing more. Yet it is riveting. Joan Baez lends her beautiful voice on four songs, which is always welcome in my opinion.
Bob Dylan's music moves me like very little other music does. Never before has one man achieved so much with just a voice, a guitar and a harmonica. If you feel the same way, this CD is a must-own. This was Dylan at a pivotal point in his music career, and a portrait that we will probably never see the likes of again. Highly, highly recommended.

21 Grams (Widescreen) [Import] (Sous-titres français)
21 Grams (Widescreen) [Import] (Sous-titres français)
DVD ~ Sean Penn
Offered by Warehouse105
Price: CDN$ 6.37
24 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent; One of the year's best, March 18 2004
2003 belongs to Sean Penn. He gave two of the best performances of the year in two of the year's best movies, Mystic River (for which he won the Best Actor Oscar) and 21 Grams. 21 Grams, however, has gotten far less attention than Clint Eastwood's film. I, personally, find it the better of the two. It was directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, director of the excellent Amores Perros from 2000, and it bears the mark of its skilled director. In 21 Grams, as in Amores Perros, Inarritu handles heavy subject matter - life, death, loss and regret, and weaves seperate storylines together. I don't want to talk about the story, but Sean Penn, Naomi Watts and Benicio Del Toro play three characters all connected by a tragic incident. The acting is uniformly excellent. The leads give three big staggering performances that are incredibly moving. Alejandro Inarritu does a solid job directing, giving the film a distinct look and feel that separates it from more mainstream fare. He has the potential to be a major director and I can't wait to see what he's doing for his next film.
There has been some debate over whether or not it was necessary to tell the story out of chronological order. I don't think 21 Grams would be a lesser film if it were told in chronological order, but do I think it does contribute to feel of the movie. It gives us somewhat of a sense of confusion and helplessness like that of the characters'. I also like the way that the structure makes the film a series of individual moments without concern for time.
I feel that 21 Grams is one of the best movies of 2003. Anyone who is looking for a gripping, exhilarating, moving film experience need look no further. If you are looking for bland, mindless entertainment, this is not it. This is a powerful film of real emotional substance. It is not a "fun" movie. If you appreciate real filmmaking with brilliant and honest acting, 21 Grams will be a riveting, unforgettable experience.

L'Auberge Espagnole (The Spanish Apartment)
L'Auberge Espagnole (The Spanish Apartment)
Offered by PaperbackshopCA
Price: CDN$ 5.94
26 used & new from CDN$ 5.92

4.0 out of 5 stars An appealing cast in an enormously enjoyable film, Feb. 15 2004
I watched L'Auberge Espagnole because of the presence of Audrey Tautou, the luminous star of Jean-Pierre Jeunet's masterful Amélie, but it ended up as a complete surprise. Tautou has a relatively minor role, but the film didn't even need her. I didn't know what to expect, but I found it to be one of the most enjoyable movies I've seen in a long time. It sucked me right in from the beginning. The main character is Xavier, a French student who goes to Barcelona Spain to study. There he stays in an apartment with about six other people all from different European countries. He's studying economics, but he finds that he learns more from his roommates than he ever may in school.
This is a bright, dazzling, lovely film. The cast is excellent with many interesting characters. Several different languages are spoken (mostly French, English and Spanish) and the differences between them provide much of the subject matter. Of course there are many romantic entanglements, both serious and humorous, and subplots and side stories which take us deeper into the lives of the characters. By the end of the film, I really felt like I knew these characters and wanted to spend more time with them. It's a two-hour film, but I didn't want it to end. I could have easily sat through another hour of it. At the end, however, I really felt fulfilled, and much like Xavier in the film, felt that I had learned a little about life and how valuable our experiences are.
L'Auberge Espagnole is a wonderful, thoroughly enjoyable film about human relationships and experience that is both comic and poignant. I loved it and I look forward to seeing it a second time. Highly recommended.

No Title Available

4.0 out of 5 stars Seriously underrated Cronenberg sci-fi film, Feb. 14 2004
The biggest strike against David Cronenberg's eXistenZ is the year that it came out - 1999. It was a summer dominated by Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss. Cronenberg's film covers strikingly similar territory to The Wachowski Brothers' comic book/kung fu/sci-fi/action opus, The Matrix. Whereas The Matrix was a big-budget Hollywood movie aimed at a wide mainstream audience, eXistenZ is an independent lower budget Canadian production aimed at a significantly smaller audience. Both movies deal with issues of technology, specifically actual reality versus computer-generated reality. That's where the similarities end. The Matrix may ask profound questions, but it's an action film at heart, and it's only interested in asking those questions so long as they pave the way for a set piece filled with special effects and stunts. Cronenberg is not interested in dazzling the viewer with effects and action. He wants to make the viewer think (and of course, feel completely repulsed and disgusted).
eXistenZ is a smart sci-fi thriller that is thought-provoking, complex and completely immersing. The premise is pure Cronenberg brilliance: A designer of virtual reality games which use living, organic "controllers" that plug into the user's spinal cord, is pursued by a gang of realists who resent her attempt to deform reality as we know it. She enters her game to make sure it wasn't damaged in the attack, and things get interesting from there. Is anyone even after her at all? What is real and what isn't? Cronenberg manages to infuse his usual trademarks into the story, particularly technology versus biology. The part synthetic/part organic game pods are very clever, and I especially liked the completely organic gun made of bones and cartilage which fires human teeth as bullets. Cronenberg loves to combine flesh and bone with technology as illustrated in many of his films. The film has its share of gross-out moments as per usual for the director. The Chinese restaraunt sequence was particularly memorable for me. This film may put you off Chinese food for good.
Cronenberg's vision is decidedly much darker than the comic book universe of The Matrix. I felt that The Matrix had good intentions but took the wrong approach. It's very difficult to successfully merge existentialist philosophy with action shoot-outs. The Wachowskis felt the need to dumb down their subject matter for the action movie crowds and the movie suffered as a result. David Cronenberg is not trying to make an action movie, so the ideas reign supreme here. The subject matter itself, is hardly original, but Cronenberg deals with it in a fresh and unique way adding his own grotesque sense of style. This is not a movie for all audiences, certainly. For those who like their science fiction cerebral, dark and grimy, eXistenZ should be right up their alley. I find it to be an overlooked gem of a film that is a great alternative to that over baked Hollywood cash cow The Matrix.

No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful, honest and genuine romantic comedy, Feb. 10 2004
Sofia Coppola follows up her lovely film The Virgin Suicides with this gem of a film, Lost In Translation. For someone such as myself who passionately loathes the tedium and banality of mainstream Hollywood romantic comedies, Lost In Translation is a godsend. It doesn't waste time on a useless, predictable plot like so many romantic movies; this film is out to give the viewer an emotional experience. One thing I love is the way it's shot in a very realistic, almost documentary-like style. The characters feel like real people, not merely big stars who are just collecting a paycheck. The dialog feels truly genuine. That's what impressed me the most the first time I saw it. The dialog is real. It doesn't feel forced or phony and neither do the excellent performances. Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray are truly perfect in their roles as two lonely souls who find each other amid the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. The film tells us much about the characters using visuals. We see Bob and Charlotte spending time by themselves, searching for something or someone, perhaps. They meet and soon become friends, finding that they are in similar situations. In a place that is foreign to both of them, all they have is each other.
In a typical Hollywood movie, things would be familiar and typical. There would be cheap jokes, predictable situations and obvious dialouge. Lost In Translation, however, always keeps things fresh. Bill Murray gives a splendid performance as the weary Bob Harris, who finds a real friend in Scarlett Johansson's lonely Charlotte. Sofia Coppola's direction is perfect. The film feels real. It never feels like a production. The characters feel just like real people. The backdrop of Tokyo forms a wonderful canvas for this story, and it is beautifully photographed.
Lost In Translation is a wonderful film that is sure to delight viewers who are tired of phony Hollywood romance. The film never panders to audience expectations. It keeps things fresh, original, honest and genuine. It is truly one of the best films of 2003.

Meet the Feebles [Import]
Meet the Feebles [Import]
DVD ~ Danny Mulheron
Price: CDN$ 29.96
20 used & new from CDN$ 17.69

4.0 out of 5 stars One of the most bizarre, demented movies ever made, Jan. 26 2004
This review is from: Meet the Feebles [Import] (DVD)
I've seen a lot of bizarre movies. Unusual, weirdo films are one of my biggest passions. I can easily say that Meet The Feebles ranks as one of the most bizarre, even downright crazy films that I've ever seen. It's about a puppet variety show, similar to Jim Henson's Muppet Show from the 1970s, The Feebles Variety Hour. It begins with a little musical number, "Meet The Feebles", complete with a singing hippo, bunny and all sorts of other creatures. Unlike the Muppet Show, however, Meet The Feebles is far from wholesome, as the backstage lives of the performers reveal. The boss, a giant walrus, makes porno films in the basement involving a cow in S&M gear. The walrus also does drug deals with an evil warthog. There's a heroin-addicted Vietnam Vet frog, a hippo with an eating disorder, a rabbit who believes he has AIDS, you get the picture. The film's finale must be seen to be believed. The hippo loses it and goes on a shooting spree while a fox sings a production number about sodomy. At this point, the viewer must think to him or herself, "this is one ... up movie". It will make you laugh, it will make you cringe, it will shock and disturb you, it will make you question the sanity of the filmmakers that made it.
The filmmakers who made Meet The Feebles, oddly enough, are now Academy Award nominees. Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh (director and co-screenwriters of The Lord of the Rings trilogy) were responsible for this sick little film. Who would have guessed that a mere ten years after making Meet The Feebles, Peter Jackson would be directing the greatest fantasy epic in film history. A grand epic completely devoid of vomit, porno and drug-addicted animals. Well, it's a crazy business. Peter Jackson earned himself a large cult of fans with his early films beginning with Bad Taste, a horror-comedy about aliens invading New Zealand and dining on the inhabitants. Meet The Feebles followed, and then came Dead Alive (aka Braindead) in 1992, a film that still ranks as one of the goriest movies in existence. These films cemented Jackons's status as a cult film icon. Now, added to that cult are millions of J.R.R. Tolkien fans, and soon Jackson may even claim the title of Oscar winner.
Anyone who was introduced to Jackson via Lord of the Rings would be interested to see his early films, but they should be cautious. He was a daring low-budget filmmaker. Admittedly, demented at times, he nonetheless displays a true passion for his craft. The title of his first film, Bad Taste, lets you know what to expect from his early films. They display a joyous dementia that is sure to offend prudish types. Those who get the joke however, will be delighted with his audacity and enjoy the ride.
Cult movie fans should certainly check out Meet The Feebles and Jackson's other early films. Just be sure that you know what you're in for.

Rhythmeen
Rhythmeen
Offered by YesLet Canada
Price: CDN$ 12.99
14 used & new from CDN$ 1.70

5.0 out of 5 stars ZZ Top's best album in ages and one of their best ever., Jan. 13 2004
This review is from: Rhythmeen (Audio CD)
In 1996, long after their 80s MTV heyday, ZZ Top ditched the gloss and the synthesizers to record a back-to-basics, no BS rock album. The result was Rhythmeen, one of the best albums of ZZ Top's career. After seeing the pop-friendly monstrosity that they became in the mid 80s (Afterburner?! Ick.....), Rhtymeen is a breath of fresh air and a reminder of what a great rock band ZZ Top is. Billy Gibbons cranks the amp way up and incorporates various distortion effects to produce Top's heaviest, hardest rocking album ever. Billy's guitar rules the show, his riffs and solos are spectacular and there are several tracks that are quite memorable. "Bang Bang" and "She's Just Killing Me" could have been rock radio hits.
If you like ZZ Top's earlier material (Rio Grande Mud, Tres Hombres) then you must check out Rhythmeen. It's not quite as bluesy as that earlier material; this is more hard rock than anything, and some of the songs are not far from Black Sabbath-style heavy metal. Rhythmeen is a must-own for fans of bluesy hard rock. This is the loudest album ZZ Top has ever made and probably ever will make and it rocks hard.

Owning Mahowny [Import]
Owning Mahowny [Import]
DVD ~ Philip Seymour Hoffman
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 71.08
8 used & new from CDN$ 13.24

4.0 out of 5 stars Phil Hoffman is excellent as always, Dec 9 2003
This review is from: Owning Mahowny [Import] (DVD)
Philip Seymour Hoffman is truly one of the finest actors of this generation. I've been mesmerized by him ever since I saw him in the otherwise-dismal Twister (yes, Twister), where his was the only standout performance. In the years since, he has turned in many memorable performances including Brant in The Big Lebowski, Allen in Happiness, and Lester Bangs in Almost Famous. In the past year or two his status has risen even more, and he's gotten bigger and juicier parts. He appeared in the big-time Hollywood movie Red Dragon, a brief but memorable part in P.T. Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love, Spike Lee's 25th Hour and his biggest role to date in the underrated Love Liza.
Now, Phil Hoffman gets another juicy role to show off his acting chops in Richard Kwietniowski's Owning Mahowny, a portrait of a compulsive gambler that is based on a true story. Hoffman plays Dan Mahowny, a Canadian bank employee who is so helplessly addicted to gambling that his entire life soon revolves around it. He manages to swindle his bank out of hundreds of thousands of dollars and head to Atlantic City to indulge his passion. In the process he endangers his relationship with his girlfriend Belinda (played by a nearly-unrecognizable Minnie Driver), but begins a new relationship of sorts with casino boss Victor Foss (a suave John Hurt).
Owning Mahowny is similar to other movies of this sort (It sort of reminded me of Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can) and it's simple and straightforward. There are really no surprises to be found, it pretty much stays close to the facts of the true story. It's really not about plot, or even story, however. It's about one man's descent into addiction, gambling in this case, and how he is nearly destroyed by it and how he hurts others by it. The script and direction are unremarkable; it's Hoffman that makes the film worthwhile. His performance is harrowing and mesmerizing. Without speaking a word, he can convey unimaginable sorrow and frustration. In fact, Hoffman is at his best when he's silent. With mere movements he creates memorably pitiable characters. Sort of ironic that one of the most gifted actors of our time establishes himself by playing afflicted losers.
For fans of Philip S. Hoffman, Owning Mahowny is a must-see. His performance carries the film and gives it its weight. For general audiences, the film may be unbearably slow and uninteresting. I can't wait to see what Phil does next.

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