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Four Feathers [Import]
Four Feathers [Import]
VHS
2 used & new from CDN$ 27.95

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A timeless classic!, May 21 2004
This review is from: Four Feathers [Import] (VHS Tape)
Alexander Korda's "The Four Feathers" (1939) is perhaps one of the greatest triumphs of British filmmaking -- a crowning achievement in Imperialistic propaganda and a nostalgic testimony to the societal traditions which once inhibited us as individuals. Simply put, "The Four Feathers" is a cinematic masterpiece in the vein of "The Drum" (1938), "Kim" (1950"), "The Jungle Book" (1942) and "Gunga Din" (1939). It also represents a rare instance in which a film is far superior to the original novel.
The original novel upon which the film is loosely based was penned by A.E.W. Mason and has an actual excuse for being somewhat flimsy: Following the bloody outbreak of World War I, Mason wrote the story as a mere identity cover while doing espionage work for the British government. He was able to scout northern Africa under this guise of an accomplished author gleaning material for the plot of the novel.
The plot of "Four Feathers" is simple yet engrossing: A young man, Harry Faversham (the dashing John Clements), is brought up by his distant father (Allan Jeayes) in a lonely household steeped in Imperial tradition which values courage and honor above happiness or life itself. His natural human instinct of self-preservation is accentuated into possible cowardice by the horrifying war stories told around the dinner table by old veterans. As he matures, Faversham falls deeply in love with Ethne Burroughs (the radiantly beautiful June Dupréz) and decides that he would rather spend his life in his own way than be trapped in the futile repetitiveness that is a soldier family. On the eve of his unit sailing for Africa, he resigns his commission and is branded a coward -- one of the worst labels in Victorian England -- by both his friends and his betrothed. To reclaim his honor and prove both to himself and others that he is not a coward, Faversham sails to darkest Africa.
In Africa, our dauntless hero is embroiled in unfolding military history as General/Lord Horatio Kitchner ventures into the blistering Sudan with 20,000 British personnel against the varied 50,000 warriors of the Khalifa (John Laurie). The film terrifically climaxes in the breathtaking Battle of Omdurman, a historical engagement which a young Winston S. Churchill witnessed and, in one of his most famous literary pieces, fittingly described as a "victory snatched from the jaws of peril!"
When I was very young, my parents would show me this particular film as an example of a forgotten way of life: of lavish ballrooms where uniformed officers and young ladies in ornate Victorian gowns danced the night away on the eve of war amidst whispered pledges of love and marriage. The film taught me that a true gentleman never insults another in public; a leader must be able to command his own self before he can command others; to honor your word even if it may kill you in the process and to be unafraid of whatever befalls you as long as you are true to yourself.
Film Rating: ***** (five) out of ***** (five) stars.
A mesmerizing period piece.

Adventures of Tom Sawyer [Import]
Adventures of Tom Sawyer [Import]
VHS
3 used & new from CDN$ 37.85

5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive Tom Sawyer film version., Dec 14 2003
There have been numerous film adaptations of Mark Twain's beloved story, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," but few capture the boyish wonder and childlike bliss which permeates the classic yarn. Luckily, this 1938 rendition is one of the select few that do. The acting is first class; the directing often innovative, and the whimsical screenplay is faithful as possible to the novel.
The novel itself is entertainingly superior to Huckleberry Finn in its lack of a political agenda or societal commentary. Its sole objective is to return us once more to the naivety of youth when our life was far simpler and, in many cases, far happier.
For the older generation of film aficionados, child actor Tommy Kelly was the definitive Tom Sawyer. His winning smile, visible freckles and bright eyes encapsulate the literary character to a tee. After watching this film and re-reading Twain's novel, it is impossible to remove the image of Tommy Kelly from one's mind as he or she remembers Sawyer's antics.
It is in the supporting characters, however, that this film truly shines. The grade-A performances of Walter Brennan as the likeable Muff Potter, a make-up smeared Victory Jory as the menacing Injun Joe and Olin Howlin as the violent schoolmaster are highlights of the film. Brennan seems to infuse a perpetual helplessness in his inebriated character that epitomizes the small town bum of a forgotten America; Jory makes Injun Joe the personification of evil and a red-faced Howlin is superlative as an authoritarian teacher who makes the audience cringe when he canes Tom. Australian-native May Robeson, who portrays Aunt Polly, is able to make smooth, believable transitions from harsh severity to tender leniency as the script demands.
Remarkably, the numerous child stars in this film were destined for unhappy lives. David Holt (Sid) spent his early life as a child actor in poverty as he, much like Tommy Kelly, waited for star-making film roles which never came. Jackie Moran (Huckleberry Finn) soared briefly higher towards elusive stardom when he was cast as the energetic sidekick of Buster Crabbe in a "Buck Rogers" (1939) serial. Immediately afterwards, Moran's career plummeted into oblivion. Perhaps the only exception to this streak of bad luck was Ann Gillis (Becky Thatcher) who found herself always in demand to portray a screen brat. Upon coming of age and legally capable of making her own decisions, Gillis wisely left the film industry to find happiness elsewhere.
"The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" (1938) is also significant in that its talented screenwriter, John V.A. Weaver, died shortly after its release of tuberculosis. His successful but altogether short career included writing screenplays for such cinematic classics as King Vidor's "The Crowd" (1928) and "The Saturday Night Kid" (1929). In a sense, this film was his last hurrah and it is only fitting that Weaver's last project in his old age should be subtly based upon the universal human longing to be young once again.
Film Rating: *** out of **** stars.
A must-view for all devout Twainians!

Dark Angel:S1
Dark Angel:S1
DVD ~ Jessica Alba
Offered by torontomediadvd_com
Price: CDN$ 40.88
19 used & new from CDN$ 5.36

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Jumped the shark after the pilot episode., Dec 10 2003
This review is from: Dark Angel:S1 (DVD)
James Cameron's "Dark Angel," starring Jessica Marie Alba, debuted onto the public television circuit with the glitzy, media-permeating fanfare of a P.T. Barnum exhibit. It was intended to be the Fox Network's answer to "Buffy: The Vampire Slayer," but unlike the latter show, "Dark Angel" never lived up to the glimmers of potential which it displayed in the pilot episode.
The lead character, Max Guevera/X5-452 (Jessica Marie Alba), with enhanced feline abilities was interesting enough despite the all-too-familiar "I just want to be normal" superhero formula lurking underneath. Gratuitous shots of Miss Alba -- dare I say "miss" in our enlightened society? -- in a skin-tight leather outfit was undoubtedly a major selling point with the teenage male audience but often cheapened the series to the level of a D.C. comic book.
The overarching plot involving genetically-engineered super soldiers whose DNA had been artificially created, inserted as fertilized eggs into the wombs of surrogate mothers, born under military supervision, raised in an experimentation compound and then escaped as children was laughably cliché, but still interesting. This was tacked onto a futuristic environmental setting in which a dystopian Seattle has been devastated by an electromagnetic pulse. These two premises were mildly compelling, and the show was at its best when exploring them, but the moment it would veer into alternative plotlines, it would fall from an average weekly thriller to a stinking pile of fungus.
The ensemble cast which populated the show on a weekly basis was by far the worst failing of this short-lived series. The supporting characters were often teenage stereotypes painted in broad, one-dimensional strokes for the sake of political correctness (i.e. Original Cindy) and used the most annoying hip-hop slang. The point of using slang is to make communication quicker, not to use it so much in a sing-song fashion that basic communication itself becomes stupidly incomprehensible. Apparently, middle-aged creators James Cameron and Charles Eglee were trying so hard to make a hip show that appealed to teenie boppers that they didn't realize being too trendy is just as detrimental as being too normal.

Coupled with the annoying overuse of rat-tat-tat Ebonics, a constant "battle of the sexes" theme existed throughout the series which would have been wickedly amusing if it hadn't usually lacked wit and reverted to simplistic invectives. Max saying lines such as, "Girls kick ass, [because] it says so on a T-shirt" was humorous. Max saying lines such as, "Guys are the weaker sex" to a grieving widow who has just lost her beloved husband isn't humorous, even in a morbid sense. A twisted sense of humor can be sickeningly funny, but, if an episode writer is not careful, it often can just be sickening. There is a very fine line to toe. The Dark Angel writers should have remembered Mel Brooks' famous advice, "If I cut my finger, that's tragedy. If a man walks into an open sewer and dies, that's comedy."

For the lackluster action scenes in which Max displayed her "dizzying" superpowers, the Dark Angel crew often utilized a simple fast-forwarding technique. This is an effective trick if executed correctly, but instead it often came across as sped-up footage from a shaky hand-held video camera. In retrospect, far more interesting combat effects could have been created using wire stunts ala the deified choreography of Yuen W. Ping.
Ultimately, the corniness of "Dark Angel" became more and more insufferable; the weekly episode writing didn't improve; the characters became so posh they were borderline snotty. Midway through the first season its Nielsen ratings began to slip. Seeing no quality improvement, viewers abandoned "Dark Angel" like rats from a sinking ship. By the second season, the once-promising series had degraded to having Max slaying Buffy-like monsters and encountering freakish beings that seemed borrowed from the X-Men comics. If only the series writers had aimed for a wider demographic audience other than middle school teenagers and focused less on being devastatingly hip, "Dark Angel" might have lasted a few more seasons.
Tsk! Tsk!

The X-Files: The Complete Eighth Season [6 Discs]
The X-Files: The Complete Eighth Season [6 Discs]
DVD ~ David Duchovny
Offered by The Digital Vault
Price: CDN$ 39.77
12 used & new from CDN$ 21.80

3.0 out of 5 stars Season 8: In Virtute Sunt Multi Ascensus, Nov. 14 2003
The first sentence uttered by Agent Dana Scully upon discovering Fox Mulder's office being searched by FBI agents in "Within" (8x01) is also the first reaction of the viewer towards Season 8:
"What is this?"
It is definitely not the TV show that audiences once loved. Season 8 was drastically different and some say the death knell for one of the most popular shows in television history.
For The X-Files Season 8, the show had been bravely revamped, but most of the changes were not for the best: the slick cinematography was reminiscent of a music video and often tinted orange; the new characters lacked back-story; the average episode pacing was too languid; the new musical themes were too soapy; the standalone episodes were too recycled; the mythology was too explored and, most of all, the humorous spark found in earlier seasons was replaced by a brooding morbidity.
Why the brooding morbidity? There were many critics who felt The X-Files had become too lighthearted by Season 7. I wholly agree with their assessment, but I had expected a reversion to The X-Files Season 3 formula: dark content matter yet sprinkled with underlying humor, occasional quirkiness and an inspirational undertone. Instead, Season 8 is the darkest and goriest of all The X-Files seasons -- often too dark and gory -- and seemingly devoid of its prior uplifting center. Perhaps that missing center was David Duchovny.
For the past seven seasons, David Duchovny's beloved character, Fox Mulder, had been the axis upon which the show spun. His quests to expose a global conspiracy, to find his father's killers and to learn what truly happened to his abducted sister Samantha were overarching subplots which kept the viewer tuned in season after season. By the end of the lackluster Season 7, these various subplots had all been resolved. His character had been explored to its fullest extent. Understandably, Duchovny abandoned his status as the "lead star;" thus, signaled the beginning of the end for this innovative television series. To appease the rabid fans, Duchovny returned for less than half the episodes in Season 8 as part of the ensemble cast. Oddly enough, David Duchovny's timely exodus did not stop the show's creator, Chris Carter, from dragging the show onward.
Chris Carter refused to believe The X-Files centered on Duchovny's Fox Mulder. Instead, Chris Carter decided to introduce the "next generation of X-Files agents" starring the skeptic, Agent John Doggett (Robert Patrick), and the believer, Agent Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish). Both Patrick and Gish are excellent actors, but they lacked the amazing on-screen chemistry of Duchovny and Anderson. In addition to these new characters/actors, a mediocre subplot surrounding half-human / half-metal "super soldiers" was introduced. In short, Carter tried to start from scratch again, but soon found himself mired by drooping ratings and, most of all, an unwieldy budget due to costly U.S. filming locations.
The location switch from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Los Angeles, California, was a smart one when The X-Files was at its peak and had the Nielsen ratings to balance out its steep production costs. This location switch, however, was to prove its ultimate demise. When casual fans did not see David Duchovny at the beginning of Season 8, they stopped watching the series and the ratings went down the drain at a phenomenal rate. The show was no longer a hit. By the end of Season 8, The X-Files was a seldom-watched television show with a jaw-dropping $4 million per episode budget. It was a financial burden to the Fox Network who had far more successful shows at the time which cost far less to make. Had The X-Files remained in Vancouver, British Columbia, a cheaper budget might have persuaded Fox Network to let Carter remold the show with Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish as its new leads. Unfortunately, The X-Files was burning a hole in Fox's pocket and it didn't have the resources to wait for the show to gain a new fan base. Subsequently, the show bowed out with the all-too-swift ninth season.
Now, the inescapable question:
"Is The X-Files Season 8 worth buying on DVD?"
If you are a diehard fan or a pathological completist, yes. If you are a casual viewer, you may have better venues in which to invest your hard-earned money. Although this season does contain some interesting episodes and is better than the disappointing Season 7, it is not worth the expensive price tag and viewing time.
Overall...
The X-Files' Seasons 1 through 3 are excellent.
The X-Files' Seasons 4 through 6 are very good.
The X-Files' Seasons 7 through 9 are average.

Teeth Of The Tiger
Teeth Of The Tiger
by Tom Clancy
Edition: Hardcover
103 used & new from CDN$ 0.36

1.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre Novel . . ., Oct. 7 2003
This review is from: Teeth Of The Tiger (Hardcover)
Tom Clancy, whose pioneering works such as "The Hunt for the Red October" and "A Clear in Present Danger" ushered in a new era for popular fiction, delivers to us this thirteenth novel which is a monotonous, one-dimensional and clichéd yawner.
The greatest fault of this mediocre novel is that Tom Clancy attempts to connect with a younger generation of readers and fails miserably in the undertaking. He introduces new, youthful characters who are uninteresting and their clipped dialogue attempts to be so hip that it is laughable. We can only hope the negative feedback towards this novel will give Clancy a big hint to stay away from using pop culture lingo in the future.
Flag-waving zealotry and political correctness have always been Clancy's hallmark, but he goes further than usual in the "Teeth of the Tiger." His derisory jingoism becomes comically trite (if not borderline psychotic) as the thin novel progresses and raises dubious moral questions in our post September 11th world.
Perhaps the most tragic aspect of "Teeth of the Tiger" is not to be found in the novel itself, but in the emotions of Clancy fans towards it. Many Amazon reviewers admit "Teeth of the Tiger" is barely readable; yet, they award it three to five stars simply because it is written by Tom Clancy. Such devotion in the face of overwhelming disappointment is worthy of a Shakespearean play.
Bottom line: Don't buy this book.

The High Window
The High Window
by Raymond Chandler
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.24
37 used & new from CDN$ 3.17

4.0 out of 5 stars A solid Philip Marlowe novel, Aug. 1 2003
This review is from: The High Window (Paperback)
Raymond Chandler's "The High Window" is catchy; far more so than any similar novel penned by Mickey Spillane or James M. Cain. It has all the noirish elements needed to be a great read: a rare coin is the perfect MacGuffin; a sultry, adulterous blonde provides the jaded sexual appeal; an emotionally-abused young lady is the damsel in distress; a psychotic villain is flawlessly despicable and the labyrinthine plot is well-nigh impossible to predict until the very last page.
The above having been said, this well-written novel is not without its faults. My three qualms lie with what essentially was the waste of a spectacular character (Eddie Prue), the retread of "The Big Sleep" formula and the lack of suspense.
Addressing the first qualm, a subtle tension builds between the one-eyed Eddie Prue -- an emotionless bagman -- and wise-cracking Marlowe for the latter half of the novel. This mounting tension is left entirely unresolved and, thus, is dissatisfying.
The second qualm is that the Mrs. Murdock character seems to be carbon copy of General Sternwood from "The Big Sleep." They share far too many characteristics: a very wealthy recluse, physically disabled, world-wearily disillusioned, hampered by ailments, grim outlook, wayward offspring, etc. It seems that Chandler could have fleshed her character's uniqueness out just a tad more.
Lastly, the lack of suspense throughout the novel may bore the casual reader. If it was not for Chandler's lively prose, I would have nodded off. The only time in which I was worried as to Marlowe's well-being was when he first hears Prue's voice in a very well-written piece.
Despite these trivial flaws, it is a first rate novel and well-worth picking up.

The Mike Hammer Collection: Volume I
The Mike Hammer Collection: Volume I
by Mickey Spillane
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.00
35 used & new from CDN$ 0.43

3.0 out of 5 stars Hilariously over-the-top, but very readable., July 24 2003
Mickey Spillane was a unique writer who imbued his hardboiled mystery novels with an over-the-top grittiness that often toed the line between light-hearted pulp fiction and dime-novel trash. His stalwart hero, Mike Hammer, is the personification of the tough guy detective who is tough simply because he probably can't be anything else.
Several of these other reviewers are quite disturbing in their assumptions: Mickey Spillane invented the hard-boiled detective genre with Mike Hammer? How untrue! Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett are the true grandfathers of the hard-boiled detective story and their literary efforts remain timeless. That being said, Spillane is a colorful writer who warrants reading by rabid fans of the genre.

The X-Files: The First Season [7 Discs]
The X-Files: The First Season [7 Discs]
DVD ~ David Duchovny
Offered by The Digital Vault
Price: CDN$ 47.77
17 used & new from CDN$ 7.25

4.0 out of 5 stars Season 1: The Seed is Sown To Be Reaped Two Years Later, July 8 2003
Viewing Season 1 of the X-Files is like watching an enclosed flower of deftly wrought magnificence beginning to bloom: petal-by-petal, episode-by-episode. It would be two more years before the series would reach its leafy pinnacle of creativity, and become one of the defining television shows of the '90s. Yet even this early on the brilliance and potential shines through.
Unlike the later seasons (6-9), Season 1 has an excellent episode every-other entry. The highlights include "Ice" (1x07), "Beyond the Sea" (1x12), "E.B.E." (1x16), "Darkness Falls" (1x19) and "The Erlenmeyer Flask" (1x23). Honorable mention should be given to the "Pilot" (1x00), "Deep Throat" (1x01), "Squeeze" (1x02), "Ghost in the Machine" (1x06), "Eve" (1x10) and "Young At Heart" (1x15).
In contrast to the last seasons of the X-Files, the pilot episode is hilarious due to the awkward -- yet budding -- chemistry between the dyadic stars, the unperfected special effects and the outdated haircuts. Gillian Anderson has a hairstyle intentionally reminiscent of Jodie Foster's Clarice Starling from "Silence of the Lambs" (1991). Her voice is also somewhat unmodulated. On the other hand, David Duchovny, whose wooden minimum acting style approach in later seasons became legendary, emotes normally in this season; thus, appearing as if he is "over"-acting.
In précis, Season 1 is outstanding in spite of its unconscious flaws and is a worthy addition to the collection of any fan or, indeed, the casual viewer. Buy it and you shall take your first toddling steps towards "the truth."
Overall...
The X-Files' Seasons 1 through 3 are excellent.
The X-Files' Seasons 4 through 6 are very good.
The X-Files' Seasons 7 through 9 are average.

X-Files:S7
X-Files:S7
DVD ~ David Duchovny
Offered by The Digital Vault
Price: CDN$ 49.99
13 used & new from CDN$ 16.33

2.0 out of 5 stars Season 7: The Problematic Stepchild of the X-Files Series, July 4 2003
This review is from: X-Files:S7 (DVD)
Season 7 represents the end of the traditional X-Files episode formula and the befuddlement of the established series mythology. For every gem worth viewing, it has two or three low quality imitations to match.
The season highlights include "Hungry" (7x03), "Millennium" (7x04), "The Goldberg Variation" (7x06), and "X-Cops" (7x12). Honorable mention should also be given to "First Person Shooter" (7x13) -- at least for its outlandish action scenes -- "Theef" (7x14), "En Ami" (7x15) and "Brand X" (7x18).
Surprisingly, the episodes penned by David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are oddly flat. Duchovny's "Hollywood A.D." (7x19) is humorous, but lacks the endearing sentimentalism of "The Unnatural" (6x20). Anderson's "All Things" (7x17) attempts to graft her own spiritualism as an actor atop the scientific rationalism of her character. As a result, the defining essence of Special Agent Dana Scully is iconoclastically ruined and the episode instead strikes the viewer as a glorified music video.
Season 7 is also significant in that it was the last full season in which Duchovny starred. In a sense, perhaps the departure of David Duchovny was inevitable. The character of Special Agent Fox Mulder had simply run out of steam: his crusade to stop alien colonization was resolved in Season 6 with the destruction of the Syndicate in "One Son" (6x12), and his quest for his abducted sister was brought to a poetic conclusion in "Sein Und Zeit" (7x10) and "Closure" (7x11). Hence, what more was there left to do? Perhaps Duchvony sensed this as well and left the series accordingly.
In terms of mythology, the X-Files reached its true end with Season 7. The Syndicate was destroyed, Samantha Mulder had been put to rest, the Cigarette Smoking Man had become an outcast and, last but not least, Scully and Mulder had admitted/consummated their affection for one another. All the plot widgets had been sown up. Unfortunately, the show dragged on for two more years and became something quite different. By that time, "the truth" was gone forever.
Overall...
Seasons 1 through 3 are excellent.
Seasons 4 through 6 are very good.
Seasons 7 through 9 are average.

Vector Prime: Star Wars (The New Jedi Order)
Vector Prime: Star Wars (The New Jedi Order)
by R.A. Salvatore
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.49
86 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Beginning of the End, May 27 2003
To many Star Wars bibliophiles, R.A. Salvatore's "Vector Prime" signified the end of a classic literary sub genre. Prior to this particular novel, the Star Wars license had been in the capable hands of Bantam: a publishing house that had remained faithful to the fun-loving essence of the series. With the much-publicized entrance of Vector Prime, the license was transferred to Del Rey and, thenceforward, the story arcs took a darker turn.
Del Rey introduced the deaths of both canonical and expanded universe characters, the quixotic pandering to an even younger audience, the introduction of collectivist ideology and politically correct undertones. Through these both sweeping and subtle changes, the space operatic wonder of earlier Star Wars literature was lost and in its place a mere empty shell remained.
Vector Prime itself is readable, but lacks the exciting flair of the traditional Bantam epics. The previous having been said, I suggest the reader avoid the New Jedi Order series altogether.

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