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Terry Downey (Naugatuck, Ct, USA)

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Hook (Bilingual)
Hook (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Dustin Hoffman
Price: CDN$ 6.99
44 used & new from CDN$ 0.15

5.0 out of 5 stars Grownup fun with a serious side..., Sept. 3 2003
This review is from: Hook (Bilingual) (DVD)
I love grownup versions of classic children's stories, such as "Ever After" (a grownup Cinderella) and this movie, "Hook", a very grown-up Peter Pan. "Hook" takes a sobering look at the downside of being "grownup"- our propensity for taking ourselves and our responsibilities far too seriously, forgetting how to have fun along the way, and how it harms our relationships with our families, especially our children. Robin Williams as the grown-up Peter shows what a truly good actor he is in this movie, and that his comic genius is but one of his talents. Dustin Hoffman, always a show-stealer, does not disappoint. His "Hook" is at once funny and a very scary guy, at one point even killing the leader of the Lost Boys - this is definitely not your kids' Peter Pan. The supporting cast do an excellent job as well.
The visuals are imaginative and engaging, such as the child-pleasing bright crayon-colored foods at their banquets, and serve to remind us of how life is different through the eyes of a child - Bright green ketchup? Cool! - and what fun it was to "think outside the box" before it was educated and conformed out of us. Hook himself remembers this, and uses this knowledge to steal Peter's disillusioned son away from him, an act of revenge that forces Peter to re-learn the art of having fun in order to rescue him from the despicable Hook. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie.
On a more serious note, "Hook" is a cautionary tale to which many of us "grownups" need to pay close attention, living in a society as we do that places (or should I say "misplaces") so much emphysis on providing material goods - the newest, the biggest, the brightest, the best of everything - that we are in real danger of neglecting the one and only thing our kids really need - our time - time for guidance, time for teaching, time for discipline, and time for just plain fun. Hook is very real, and he manifests himself in terrifying ways - drugs, alcohol, sex, and the human predators that offer these to our children on a daily basis. I am very glad I bought this video, because I can take it out and watch it any time life gets too serious and I need a reminder of what is really important.

A History of US: Ten-Volume Set
A History of US: Ten-Volume Set
by Joy Hakim
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Easy and enjoyable for reluctant readers., Sept. 3 2003
Customer reviewers alleah and Tom Steinberg (see Spotlight Reviews) sum up this series quite well. I'd like to add that, as a homeschooler of a special needs child who is what I call a "reluctant reader", I find the short, to-the-point entries written in interesting story format not only do-able for my son, but an excellent means of imparting the comprehensive, overall view of American history he will need as a foundation for the more difficult, in-depth work he will be doing in high school. I strongly recommend this series to all families with grammar/middle school students, whether homeschooled or private/public schooled. In addition, I recommend the eleventh book in the series, "Sourcebook and Index: Documents That Shaped the American Nation". (Titles of books should be underlined, not in quotation marks, but, alas, the program doesn't allow for that.) Well worth owning, as these books are hard to find in libraries (at least where I live) and, as reference books, can't be borrowed, only read right there at the library.
If you are going to purchase the series, Amazon has the best price I've seen by several dollars per book.

ER: The Complete First Season
ER: The Complete First Season
DVD ~ Anthony Edwards
Offered by Warehouse105
Price: CDN$ 29.78
16 used & new from CDN$ 10.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Best television series ever aired., Aug. 26 2003
I have been addicted to this series since its first season. As an avid reader, and more recently a nursing student, I've always understood the jargon, which made the show a lot easier to follow than it otherwise would have been, but this past year working as a nurse's aide on a cancer ward drove home just how realistic this show truly is. Posted on a bulletin board at work one day was a list titled "You know you're a nurse when..." that included "...you can't watch ER because it's too much like real life." And that's the simple truth. Every emergency room in every hospital obviously isn't always as hectic and dramatic as this show, but many are, and all are at one time or another. And, taken collectively, true-to-life stories hospital-wide are accurately portrayed, but in the context of an ER so that they can easily be told in the short period of a one hour drama. Being an evening worker on and off over the years, I've missed far too many episodes of this incredible, heartrending, heartwarming show. I welcome this opportunity to buy the entire first season, and I look forward to more seasons being made available. I highly recommend this series for anyone interested in great human and medical drama, and especially for those fans who came to the show in later seasons.

Anna & the King
Anna & the King
VHS

5.0 out of 5 stars Jodie Foster just gets better and better..., Aug. 22 2003
This review is from: Anna & the King (VHS Tape)
Having read the book and seen several versions of the musical on film and on stage, and being a true lover of the story of Anna Leonowens' experiences as teacher to the children of the King of Siam, I can honestly say that this is the most beautiful rendering of this tale I have yet to see. Whether or not she got the accent right (it really doesn't matter), Jodie Foster delivers a stunning performance as Anna, and the actor (I'm sorry, but I don't remember his name) who portrays the king is every bit as good as Jodie. This film captures the true emotions of the king and Anna as they struggle with the impossible attraction they have for each other and the frustration they feel at trying to comprehend one another's cultures. Definitely worth purchasing on DVD, as this film is visually magnificent.

First Wives Club, the
First Wives Club, the
VHS
12 used & new from CDN$ 0.79

5.0 out of 5 stars You can't beat this combination..., Aug. 21 2003
This review is from: First Wives Club, the (VHS Tape)
Three of the funniest ladies who've ever made movies, all in one movie, what more could anyone ask for? Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, and Bette Midler are three middle-aged wives who have been dumped by their husbands and set out to get revenge after a fourth friend commits suicide for the same reason. Their ingenious plan succeeds beyond their wildest dreams as wayward husband after wayward husband falls victim to his own folly, unaware that events are being carefully orchestrated by the wives they are cold-heartedly trying to leave behind. Along the way, the three friends learn just how strong and valuable they really are as people, whether or not they have a man by their side.
Side-splittingly funny, this film at the same time captures the real anguish of marriages gone awry. Without getting maudlin, it also promotes the idea that some marriages are worth fighting for, a refreshing notion in our divorce-happy culture.

Nicholas Nickleby [Special Edition]
Nicholas Nickleby [Special Edition]
DVD ~ Charlie Hunnam
Offered by BooksfromUSA
Price: CDN$ 15.61
17 used & new from CDN$ 15.61

5.0 out of 5 stars Delightfully humorous for such a dark tale..., Aug. 16 2003
I love Dickens for the same reason I love Roald Dahl -- good always triumphs over evil (something we see far too little of in real life) and this adaptation of "Nicholas Nickelby" does not disappoint. Charlie Hunnam as Nicholas is wonderfully young but does not shrink from the challenges before him. Jamie Bell ("Billy Elliot") is so good as the abused and crippled Smike he makes me weep -- proving that his mesmerising performance in "Billy Elliot" was no fluke. This young man is the real thing, and I'll be first in line when his next movie ("Undertow," with Josh Lucas and Dermot Mulroney) is released. The supporting characters are flawlessly cast and add the humor needed to prevent drowning in the depressing darkness of Dickens' world. The butler to Nicholas' uncle has the most wickedly droll lines in the entire movie and will move you to fits of laughter at a couple of points.
Nicholas Nickelby is a young man of nineteen when his father dies, thrusting him from his happy life into a world of grief and adversity, and leaving him responsible for the wellbeing of his young sister and his mother. Together they travel to London, accurately depicted as the dark, dreary, and even scary place it was in the nineteenth century, to seek help from their only other living relative, Nicholas' Uncle Ralph Nickelby. Ralph, very well portrayed by the always fabulous Christopher Plummer, is a cold-hearted old codger, evocative of Ebenezer Scrooge from "A Christmas Carol," interested only in furthering his own fortune any way he can, even if it means harming others. He only begrudgingly helps his dead brother's family, shipping Nicholas off to teach in a Yorkshire boys' "school" that is more like a prison camp, and obtaining employment for Nicholas' sister and mother as seamstresses. His behaviour grows even more heinous when he attempts to prostitute his niece, inviting her to his home ostensibly to act as a hostess, but in reality as a potential plaything for his lascivious business cohorts. Meanwhile, Nicholas finds himself doing the best job he can under very distressing circumstances, but eventually escapes the school, rescuing the crippled Smike and taking him under his wing.
If you've read the book you already know the rest, but out of consideration for those who don't know the story, I won't tell any more of it. This movie is beautifully photographed and visually rich; I wish I had seen it in the theatre. I highly recommend this film for anyone over six years old, although sensitive children might be disturbed by the malicious mistreatment of the students in the boys' school. It's also a great way to introduce reluctant students to the classic storytelling of Charles Dickens. I find that as a homeschooler, my own children are inspired to read far more difficult literature than they otherwise would if they have seen a really good film adaptation first.

Big (Widescreen)
Big (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Tom Hanks
Offered by OMydeals
Price: CDN$ 62.58
14 used & new from CDN$ 3.30

5.0 out of 5 stars BIG is Tom Hanks at his best, Aug. 16 2003
This review is from: Big (Widescreen) (DVD)
I've had this movie (on VHS) since it was first released, and its on my Movies I Can't Stop Watching list. Tom Hanks portrays a 13 year old boy, Josh, who wakes up in the body of a 30 year old man after wishing he were bigger after not being allowed on a carnival ride and being made fun of by a taller boy. Although this theme is not unique, nobody but Tom Hanks ever gets it quite right. Hanks obviously has not forgotten what it's like to be an adolescent boy, and the results are hilarious! His reactions to adult situations (a really aweful tux at a formal party, making gagging noises and spitting out caviar, playing with all the buttons in the limousine, thinking his workmate just wants to SLEEP when she asks to stay overnight and innocently replying,"Well, ok, but I get to be on top" - meaning the top of his bunkbed) never fail to send me into fits of laughter. On the more serious side, Hanks also poignantly portrays the fear and loneliness of a young boy suddenly thrust into the hostile environment of a trashy hotel (the only place he could afford, with the help of his best friend), where sirens, gunshots, and fights are happening right outside his door. Jared Rushton is perfectly cast as his best friend, and gets a good laugh of his own when he screams his bloody head off when first approached by the adult Josh, thinking he's a pervert bent on doing him harm.
Great for anybody who remembers what it's like to be a child in a hurry to get bigger, and even for those who don't.

Billy Elliot (Widescreen)
Billy Elliot (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Jamie Bell
Price: CDN$ 14.99
37 used & new from CDN$ 2.97

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Billy Elliot shines., Aug. 13 2003
This review is from: Billy Elliot (Widescreen) (DVD)
"Billy Elliot" is one of the all-time best movies I have ever seen. I've raised two boys of my own, and let me tell you, Jamie Bell's portrayal of adolescent angst, boy-style is flawless. I've actually witnessed my thirteen year-old son pound something and then punch the air in impotent rage as Billy did after his father forbade him to take any more dance lessons, and when Billy's teacher chastised him for not practicing and Billy angrily responded that he couldn't do what she was asking, my son, recognizing the problem immediately, sagely stated,"He can't do it because he's angry." When Billy told off his teacher for always telling him what to do "the same as everybody else," I asked my daughter if it reminded her of anybody, and she laughed and said,"Yeah, Brian! (the aforementioned 13 year old). When Billy danced out his anger and frustration at not being heard and at having no control over anything that was happening to him or to his family, and then came smack up against a wall, pounding it and giving it one last elbow-jab before sinking into sullen silence, Brian, again recognizing himself, said, "I make that face." It's hard to believe that Jamie Bell had almost no acting experience before he made this movie. I believe he is going to be a force to reckon with in the movie world.
Aside from Jamie Bell's spectacular acting and dancing, the other characters were perfectly cast and acted. Julie Walters (Educating Rita) as the chain-smoking dance teacher who both mothers and pushes Billy to the limit is at her absolute best, as is Gary Lewis as the grieving, angry, bewildered father.
The story itself was at once heartbreaking and heartwarming without being either contrived or shmaltzy. One does not have to be a boy who has recently lost his mother, and who'd rather dance than box, to relate to Billy's struggle to deal with adversity and to be accepted for who he is. I couldn't stop watching.

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