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Reviews Written by
A. R. Karpe "ARKendall" (New York, NY)

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Best in Show (Widescreen)
Best in Show (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Parker Posey
Price: CDN$ 6.60
32 used & new from CDN$ 1.28

5.0 out of 5 stars The Genius of Christopher Guest, May 7 2001
This review is from: Best in Show (Widescreen) (DVD)
Although this isn't as cultish as "This Is Spinal Tap" or as laugh-out-loud-funny as "Waiting for Guffman," "Best In Show" once again showcases Christopher Guest's brilliance as a writer/director of "mock-umentaries," as well as his impeccable taste in assembling the perfect cast. Guest takes the least-showy role of soft spoken Southerner, Harlan Pepper (a far cry from Guffman's flamboyant Corky St. Clair), and surrounds himself with the likes of Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy as a woman with a dubious sexual past and her hapless husband; Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock as a strident yuppie couple who tear into one another mercilessly over what's best for their beloved dog; Michael McKean and John Michael Higgins as a middle class gay couple who sing their dog lullabyes over the phone; and the hilarious Jennifer Coolidge (in a send-up of Anna Nicole Smith) as a vapid fortune hunter married to an ancient millionaire while maintaining a curiously close relationship with their dog trainer played by Jane Lynch. The movie has a gentle, lilting feel, humorous but not screamingly funny, and takes time to develop these characters fully while exploring the tense and cut-throat world of dog shows. Fred Willard nearly steals the show as a pompous, ignorant commentator. There are so many wonderful moments in this film, you have to check it out for yourself. Not for everyone, I'm sure. The story is fairly basic and, like Guest's other films, this is more a character study than anything else. If you're a fan of his earlier work, this is a must-see.

The Color Purple (Widescreen)
The Color Purple (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Danny Glover
Offered by OMydeals
Price: CDN$ 41.02
10 used & new from CDN$ 7.07

5.0 out of 5 stars A Film That Improves With Age, Feb. 1 2001
I hadn't seen this film in many years and when it was released on DVD I was curious to see if the story and the performances had the impact I remembered. Let me assure you, they have. Alice Walker's novel (a masterpiece) is faithfully translated by director Spielberg and a perfect cast. It tells the story of two poor sisters, Celie and Nettie, growing up in the South of the early 1900's. All these girls have is one another having been abused and torn apart first by a monstrous stepfather and then by the manacing Mister, who marries Celie when he is forbidden to have Nettie. When Nettie refuses Mister's advances, he separates the sisters and Celie is doomed to spend a lifetime caring for her husband and his wild children, all the time waiting for word from her beloved Nettie which never seems to come. Enter Mister's mistress, the singer Shug Avery, at first Celie's nemesis and then her champion who helps reunite the sisters. Whoopi Goldberg delivers a soulful, devastating performance developing Celie from downtrodden girl to proud, strong woman. Danny Glover's Mister is a fully realized portrait of an abusive alcoholic who turns out to be not as evil as we suspected. Oprah Winfrey, Margarey Avery, Dana Ivey and Adolph Caeser complete the superlative ensemble, and Spielberg wisely focuses on storyline and character, giving us just enough visual beauty to make this a modern classic on all levels. Ms. Walker's message is universal: all things want love, even, as Shug Avery tells Celie, the color purple. Ultimately it is a celebration of life and the human spirit, something with which each of us can connect.

Small Time Crooks [Import]
Small Time Crooks [Import]
5 used & new from CDN$ 9.97

3.0 out of 5 stars Fun, But Not Vintage Woody, Jan. 30 2001
Woody Allen is in fine form in this uneven comedy that features a fabulous cast (typical for an Allen film)including Tracy Ullman, Hugh Grant, Jon Lovitz, Elaine Stritch and Elaine May. Lower class con artists (Allen & Ullman) strike it rich, lose it all and find one another all over again in this goofy romantic comedy. Ullman is particularly fine as the brassy, uncouth wife who falls prey to Grant's slithering opportunistic rich boy. Elaine May, however, walks away with the film as Ullman's daffy, kind hearted sister, May. This is nowhere nearly as good as Allen's previous work, but it's still fun with many stand out moments that are worth the price of a Blockbuster rental.

Divine Trash [Import]
Divine Trash [Import]
DVD ~ John Waters
Offered by 5A/30 Entertainment
Price: CDN$ 69.25
6 used & new from CDN$ 19.97

5.0 out of 5 stars A Cause for Waters' Fans to Celebrate!, Jan. 26 2001
This review is from: Divine Trash [Import] (DVD)
These days "sick and twisted" animation festivals are very popular around the country, especially in college towns. There's something subversive and anti-establishment about them. Well, John Waters was turning out sick and twisted entertainment years before it was fashionable, and he used live actors, not animated characters, to play out his acid-trip stories in his belovedly filthy Baltimore. "Divine Trash" is an extremely interesting and well made documentary following Waters, his cast and crew during the filming of the infamous "Pink Flamingos," the film in which Divine ingests dog excrement to prove she is "the filthiest person alive." It's fascinating to see Waters interviewed today, as a more grounded middle aged man, as well as then, as an obviously chemically altered young director without a care in the world other than getting his vision on film. Actors Mink Stole, David Lochary, Edith Massey and the late, great Divine (on set and in drag during "Pink Flamingos") are interviewed as are various crew members, friends, and even foes, most notably a board member responsible for viewing Waters' work before assigning it a motion picture rating. Many might dismiss Waters' films as talentless trash, but I stand in awe of a writer/director who can plumb the depths of bad taste and create hilarious dialogue for actors who are not quite actors playing characters we've never seen before and are surely never to see again. It's also interesting to see the grass roots beginnings of a film maker who would eventually go on to make more mainstream comedies like "Polyester," "Hairspray" and "Serial Mom." Waters may not be your cup of tea, but "Divine Trash" is fascinating for documentary fans.

Cookie's Fortune
Cookie's Fortune
DVD ~ Glenn Close
Offered by 5A/30 Entertainment
Price: CDN$ 114.68
9 used & new from CDN$ 39.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Altman's Ensemble Is Top Notch, Jan. 23 2001
This review is from: Cookie's Fortune (DVD)
Robert Altman has done it again. With a terrific ensemble of wonderful actors headed by Glenn Close, Julianne Moore, Charles S. Dutton, Liv Tyler and Patricia Neal he has crafted "Cookie's Fortune," a dark comedy brimming with laughs and plenty of heart as written by the talented Anne Rapp. When local matriarch "Cookie" (Neal) commits suicide, her image-obsessed niece, Camille (Close), rearranges the scene of the "crime" to resemble a robbery/murder so that the stigma of suicide won't mar the family's good name. Camille talks her kind but simple sister, Cora (Moore, in a beautiful performance), into going along with the ruse despite the fact that Cookie's dear friend and handyman (Dutton) is charged with a crime he didn't commit. Ned Beatty, Courtney B. Vance, Liv Tyler and Chris O'Donnell round out the ensemble. For those of you looking for a quirky, well made film, check this one out, you won't be disappointed.

Sweeney Todd
Sweeney Todd
Offered by USA_Seller_4_Canada
Price: CDN$ 44.12
6 used & new from CDN$ 10.07

5.0 out of 5 stars Sondheim's Perfect Creation, Jan. 22 2001
This review is from: Sweeney Todd (Audio CD)
Inspired by old British folklore and a melodramatic play about a murderous barber whose neighbor bakes his victims into meat pies, "Sweeney Todd" is not only a true musical thriller, a blood chilling piece of theater, but the very best score composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim has given us to date. Set against the back drop of industrial revloution London, "Sweeney Todd" tells the tale of Benjamin Barker, a good man sent to prison by a lecherous Judge Turpin who covets Barker's wife, Lucy. As the musical begins, Barker has escaped prison, assumed the name Sweeney Todd, and returns to London with revenge in his heart and a need to find his wife, Lucy, and their daughter, Johanna. Todd turns to Mrs. Lovett, his pie baking neighbor from his former life, and enlists her in his plan to hunt down and dish out vengeance to his enemies. What follows is a heart racing thrill ride of epic proportions, and Sondheim uses the story to illustrate that in a society where we are surrounded by Sweeneys, none of us are exempt from the razor blade of retribution. This is not for the mild mannered listener looking for a pleasant musical diversion, although the score is glorious and a feast for any music lover. The performances, especially those of Tony Award winners Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou, are perfect. The show was later put on VHS with Lansbury and George Hearn as Sweeney as well as several of the cast members featured here. In whatever version you experience it, you will not be able to deny that this is one of musical theater's most important works.

Into the Woods
Into the Woods
DVD ~ Bernadette Peters
Offered by 5A/30 Entertainment
Price: CDN$ 67.62
18 used & new from CDN$ 14.05

5.0 out of 5 stars Sondheim & Lapine Improve Upon The Brothers Grimm!, Jan. 22 2001
This review is from: Into the Woods (DVD)
On the surface it sounds silly and simplistic: Cinderella and her Prince, Little Red Ridinghood, her Granny and The Wolf, Jack and his Beanstalk, Rupunzel, a Witch, a Baker and his Wife all come together in an enchanted wood to play out their famous stories...and then we get to see what happened AFTER the "happily ever after." But "Into the Woods" is anything but silly or simplistic. It is one of Sondheim's funniest and cleverest scores and this DVD version blessedly captures the sterling performances of the original Broadway cast headed by the incomparable Bernadette Peters, Chip Zien and Tony Award winner Joanna Gleason as the Baker's Wife. Sondheim and James Lapine dig deep and make us take a look at the consequences of getting what we wish for, since there truly is a price for everything, and the "ripple effect" of our desires touch the world in ways we may never imagine. It is also a musical about accepting loss and moving forward (a common theme in Sondheim scores, but one eloquently explored here in heartfelt numbers such as "Children Will Listen" and "No One Is Alone."). As an entertainment, you will get more than your money's worth, and along the way, you may learn a thing or two about yourself and your world. I have seen this show about a dozen times and learn something new each time. If you are a Sondheim novice, this would be a wonderful introductory show before jumping into the more complex pieces like "Sweeney Todd," "Assassins," or "Passion."

Price: CDN$ 18.24
25 used & new from CDN$ 1.45

5.0 out of 5 stars Memorable Conclusion to Finn's "Marvin" Trilogy, Jan. 22 2001
Written a decade after "March of the Falsettos," "Falsettoland" picks up the story of Marvin, Trina, Jason & Company as Jason prepares for his Bar Mitzvah. It's the early 1980's: yuppies reign supreme, Ronald Reagan is in the White House and a mysterious killer virus (as yet unnamed) seems to be killing predominantly young gay men. As Marvin's lesbian neighbor, Dr. Charlotte puts it, "something bad is happening," and she and other members of the medical profession are helpless to stop the virus. And so it is that the shadow of AIDS crosses the paths of our lovably dysfunctional Jewish-American family, bringing down Whizzer Brown in his prime and drawing the extended family together in support of a bereft Marvin. "Falsettoland" addresses the question of true family values and what constitutes a family. It also raises awareness in an age when AIDS is still a threat after twenty years with no cure in sight. No matter who you are, you can identify with one or more of these characters. While not as wacky as "March of the Falsettos," "Falsettoland" achieves a depth and a pathos not as evident in the two previous chapters (the first being "In Trousers"). The cast is uniformly strong, headed by Michael Rupert whose chemistry with Stephen Bogardus is unmatched. By the way, if you enjoy the "Marvin" stories, you'll also enjoy Finn's warm and wonderful "A New Brain," also on CD. Add him to your musical library if you haven't already.

Price: CDN$ 15.57
24 used & new from CDN$ 11.33

5.0 out of 5 stars The Crown Jewel of Finn's Work, Jan. 22 2001
Although it is the second chapter in the "Marvin" musical trilogy, "March of the Falsettos" is, perhaps, the best known of William Finn's works thanks to 20 years of continued revivals in regional theaters around the country. "In Trousers," the first part of the story, is the most obscure. "Falsettoland" followed "March..." ten years later and then was paired with "March..." as a two act Broadway musical titled "Falsettos" which won critical acclaim as well as a Tony Award for Finn's wonderful score. "March of the Falsettos" tells the story of Marvin, a previously closeted gay man who leaves his wife and son for his male lover, Whizzer Brown. This sets into motion an alternately hilarious and touching turn of events as Marvin's wife, Trina, finds love in the arms of Marvin's psychiatrist, Mendel, and all the adults concerned try to do what's best for Marvin and Trina's 10-year-old son, Jason, who turns out to be smarter than any of his extended family. "March..." is about love and loss, about ecstasy and jealousy, but finally about parents and children. When all is said and done, Marvin shares the stage with his son, Jason, in a touching, quiet finale. "Sing for yourself as we march along," Marvin encourages his son, and therein lies Finn's message: embrace your individuality. Being brave enough to choose what you know is right for you is never easy, but essential.

In Trousers [Original Cast Recording]
In Trousers [Original Cast Recording]
Offered by moviemars-canada
Price: CDN$ 41.96
8 used & new from CDN$ 36.75

4.0 out of 5 stars Part One of the 'Marvin' Trilogy Is Worth a Listen, Jan. 21 2001
William Finn's best known work, "March of the Falsettos" and its companion piece (and sequel) "Falsettoland" found commercial success on Broadway in the early 1990's including a Tony Award for Finn's superlative score. In the Broadway outing, the raucous "March..." made up the first act while the more sobering "Falsettoland" comprised act two. As a pair of one act musicals, these two pieces tell a very complete and emotionally engaging story about a previously "straight" married man (Marvin) who leaves his wife and son for a male lover. His wife, Trina, rebounds by marrying Marvin's psychiastrist, and the entire dysfunctional family deals with love, hate, life and death. But that's not "In Trousers." "In Trousers" pre-dates these two musicals by at least another decade and tells in a much more disjointed fashion the story of Marvin's early years. Marvin appears here in various stages of his pre-Falsettos life, as spoiled fourteen year old, horny young student lusting after the exotic Miss Goldburg, and romantic young swain smitten with a touchingly innocent and vulnerable Trina. Here we get the nuts and bolts of Marvin and Trina's past: the rise and fall of their mistake of a marriage, and Marvin's first meeting with Whizzer Brown (who is only sung about here, and will not appear as a character until "March of the Falsettos"). As a piece of theater, "In Trousers" succeeds musically more than dramatically. The story telling here is more patchwork than anything else, and may be hard for audiences to grasp who are not familiar with the future storyline. There are some extraordinary tunes, though. "Pass the Sugar, Please" details the collapse of a ten year marriage over breakfast while "Love Me For What I Am" is full of hope and longing by people who believe there is life left in a failing relationship. The four member cast is wonderful, headed here by Chip Zien and Alison Frasier. Zien would later go on to play the role of Mendel the psychiatrist in the Falsetto musicals while Michael Rupert took over the role of Marvin. Still, Zien is every bit as powerful and moving as Marvin proving his true versatility as an actor (and if you want to SEE him prove his chops, pick up a VHS or DVD of "Into the Woods" where his performance as The Baker is a real masterpiece). "In Trousers" belongs in your library if you love William Finn's work, especially the moving Falsetto musicals.

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