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harsil (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

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Szco Supplies 242508 Leather Tri-Fold Wallet, Black
Szco Supplies 242508 Leather Tri-Fold Wallet, Black
Price: CDN$ 7.78

1.0 out of 5 stars These are really cheap!, Jan. 11 2015
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These are really cheap! The credit-card slots are too narrow and ill-made to actually take a credit card properly; and the black dye comes off all over your hands when you try to put one in. I imagine it will come off on your clothes as well.

Hamlet
Hamlet
VHS
3 used & new from CDN$ 15.75

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Far from definitive, Dec 31 2014
This review is from: Hamlet (VHS Tape)
The chief virtue of Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 film is that it’s essentially complete, though this could be construed as a mixed blessing, given that Shakespeare is unlikely ever to have produced a complete production himself and that it may never have occurred to him that anyone would ever try to do so. Its key weakness, though, to my mind, is the flip side of its ambition: Branagh has a tendency to focus on gorgeousness over interpretation (or faithfulness) in his Shakespeare films, and in this case, all the luxury and the focus on beauteous film-making distract (both him and us) from the substance of the play, and take the whole thing down several notches. The play, as written, has a heavy atmosphere of darkness and sickness and paranoia and claustrophobia, and this atmosphere is a key element of the play; this film has too much glamour and glitz, too much space, and way, way too much light. It completely excises the flavouring that ought to overhang the play. (The film was shot at Blenheim Palace, which is, admittedly, gorgeous; but it’s too bright and spacious to act as a setting for this play.)

I’m not sure that Branagh is all that strong an actor, either, and in this case his talent doesn’t match his ambition; though there’s nothing really wrong with his performance, there’s nothing particularly special about it either, and you never get the feeling that he’s really gotten to the heart of the character; he misses much of the nobility, as well as the existential angst; there’s nothing underlying his antic, and you lose sight of the method and the seriousness, the melancholy and the nobility — and the point. Having said that, there are several good passages: he’s strong in the scene right after the play within the play, for example, if not so good during it.

Hamlet and his friends also seemed to me to be too old for their parts; they’re supposed to be university students (albeit oldish ones), and making Hamlet look older (not to mention Horatio, who looks like a prosperous accountant who should be at home with his very proper wife and his two lovely young children, not skulking around Elsinore with someone like Hamlet) takes away from the whole philosophical-university-student-suffering-from-melancholy-and-idealism thing, which is a pretty important context of everything he says and does.

There are other misjudgements. The sex scenes between Ophelia and Hamlet are highly questionable. The fight scene at the end starts off ridiculous, passes through ludicrous, and ends up just plain laughable (think balcony, rope, chandelier…). Fortinbras is made to take Denmark by force, which undermines the character’s role in the play, and seems to me to explicitly contradict the text. Music is frequently used poorly; it’s often sentimental and well beneath the tone of the play, and sometimes the mood of the music contradicts the spirit of the scene it’s in. Music is also sometimes used to add unnecessary emphasis to a scene, in keeping with Branagh’s tendency to point up key scenes too much; it doesn’t work, and just seems silly. The music in the Act 4 soliloquy struck me as ridiculous.

As for the other actors, Brian Blessed is absolutely fantastic in the role of the ghost, once he starts talking in Act I (the film’s almost worth watching for those few minutes alone); the initial appearances of the ghost struck me as a little bizarre and incoherent, though. Derek Jacobi is fine as Claudius, though it doesn’t look like a very difficult role to me. Julie Christie could have been a little wispier as Gertrude. Kate Winslet is strong as Ophelia. As usual, the Americans can’t quite hold up their end alongside the British actors. Billy Crystal seemed particularly weak to me as the Gravedigger; the fellow who plays his second fiddle would have been a better choice.

For all my carping, the film’s probably worth seeing — just — because of its completeness; but it’s certainly not a definitive performance, and I sometimes wonder how much Branagh really cares about Shakespeare.

Romeo and Juliet (Special Edition) (1996)
Romeo and Juliet (Special Edition) (1996)
Price: CDN$ 6.99
5 used & new from CDN$ 6.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Amusing but odd, Dec 30 2014
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The 1996 Baz Luhrmann Romeo and Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio and Clare Danes features L.A. drug gangs and lots of guns, and can’t really be taken seriously as Shakespeare; but it does have a certain lurid appeal. There are some good Shakespeare moments, too; but mostly it’s just odd. Neither lead is much of a Shakespearean.

Shakespeare: Romeo & Juliet
Shakespeare: Romeo & Juliet
DVD ~ Megan Porter-Follows
Offered by VideoWorks
Price: CDN$ 19.99
3 used & new from CDN$ 19.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Why was this released?, Dec 30 2014
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This review is from: Shakespeare: Romeo & Juliet (DVD)
I can’t say that I was much taken with the 1993 Stratford Festival Romeo and Juliet with Megan Follows and Antoni Cimolino. It isn’t exactly bad, but I can’t think of a single reason to prefer it over the Globe, the Zeffirelli, or the Castellani.

The leads seem seriously mismatched: Follows comes across as way too serious and mature for the character (except, oddly enough, at the very beginning, where she seems appropriately youthful), older even than her own 25 years, let alone Juliet’s 13; while Cimolino plays Romeo as a goofy adolescent, too much so to be taken seriously as a romantic lead. His approach neither meshes with Follows’s Juliet, nor works in itself, in my view; and there’s really no chemistry between them, either. Neither reads the lines particularly well, and they seem to forget to fall in love before launching into the ball-scene sonnet.

Also, the costumes jump around between historical periods, which is jarring in itself; and some of the styles, notably a sort of 1920s look that starts off the play and that evolves to include Mussolini-style uniforms, just seem bizarre, and in contrast to the play.

Colm Feore, as Mercutio, is a lot livelier than he usually is, and is probably the strongest of the group; but he dies at the beginning of Act III. The Nurse stands out a bit as well. Most of the actors always seem to be acting, though, and they rarely read their lines with anything more than basic competence.

I’m not too sure why this was released on DVD.

Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet
DVD ~ Norma Shearer
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 45.44
7 used & new from CDN$ 39.95

2.0 out of 5 stars Get the Globe, the Zeffirelli, or the Castellani, Dec 30 2014
This review is from: Romeo and Juliet (DVD)
If your idea of the leads in a film about the passions of youth is a semi-catatonic 43-year-old man and a woman who’s pushing 30 but who thinks that behaving like a simpering twit the whole length of the movie (to predictable effect) will make her convincing as a 13-year-old girl, then the George Cukor Romeo and Juliet from 1936 is undoubtedly the film for you. If you’re still having trouble deciding, note that the first shot of Juliet has her wearing a fairy-princess dress and feeding her pet deer while holding a toy bow and arrow that she soon starts to wave around pointlessly.

Unfortunately, the acting doesn’t redeem these two. Although it’s sometimes fairly good (especially on the part of that 43-year-old man), it never really fully inhabits the characters or the play; it’s often strangely bloodless. Oddly, though, the Juliet does develop a genuinely child-like quality at exactly the point in the play when she’s supposed to start to grow up. They read their lines fairly well, but again, oddly dispassionately and academically; the ballroom sonnet is professionally done, but no more. They appear to be somewhat in love, but at the same time, they lack chemistry. The whole thing is more professional than animated. (Maybe it’s just me, but I never find that North American actors quite manage to pull Shakespeare off; they just don’t have the material in their bones the way the British actors do, and the language is often awkward for them.)

The other characters are a mixed bag. Tybalt and Capulet seem quite strong to me, though the Nurse is grating and irritating, even though she acts well at times, such as in the fake death scene. (The parents don’t get too worked up about that death, though; nor does Romeo for that matter, when he finds out about it.) Mercutio appears to be Irish, for some reason. He’s also 54 years old.

The best thing about the film is probably the fact that it benefits from the tendency in Hollywood in those days to lavish money on productions of this sort; some of the public and crowd scenes are rich and authentic-feeling, filled with extras and great costumes and having elaborate sets. The first scene of the film is great (despite that fact that it reassigns lines), and due emphasis is put on the main fight scene, which is well done. Unfortunately, this all seems be in lieu of the other aspects of the play, mainly the acting; it seems as though the producers thought that if they lavished money on the scenery, that would be enough. The fight scene at the mausoleum is too long, and is made too much of; it should be fairly brief. The last two acts are rushed, and much is lost as a result.

Overall, a deeply uninvolving production, though it might have played better eighty years ago than it does now.

Romeo & Juliet [Import]
Romeo & Juliet [Import]
Price: CDN$ 16.85
21 used & new from CDN$ 10.26

3.0 out of 5 stars Worth seeing for the leads and the sets, Dec 30 2014
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This review is from: Romeo & Juliet [Import] (DVD)
This film has by far the strongest Romeo and Juliet of the available films, though some may feel they have a little too much 1950s prissiness to them. That aside, though, they read the lines very well, particularly in the intertwined sonnet at the ball (truncated here) and the dialogue (heavily edited) in the so-called balcony scene (actually a window in the text); and they manage to generate something resembling genuine chemistry throughout. (They’re the only ones who do, in my view.)

The authentic settings are generally very attractive; they and the cinematography were expressly designed to recreate the look of a Renaissance painting, and the result is quite appealing.

The main weakness is the severe cutting; pretty much everything except the main plot-line is stripped out, and it wreaks havoc with the pacing and with the broader content of the play, which matters.

Romeo and Juliet: Shakespeare's Globe Theatre [Import]
Romeo and Juliet: Shakespeare's Globe Theatre [Import]
DVD ~ Adetomiwa Edun
Price: CDN$ 29.99
20 used & new from CDN$ 23.24

4.0 out of 5 stars Another strong Globe production, Dec 30 2014
This Globe production is very good, sharing the usual strengths and occasional weaknesses of all Globe productions. There are some moments of intense emotion that are really impressive, for example in Juliet when Tybalt dies, and also at Juliet’s faked death. At other times, however, I found the Juliet to be a bit weak. The dark side of the play tends to be emphasized, which to my mind is a good thing in Shakespeare; it’s essential to his vision, both artistic and philosophical, and it’s often white-washed out. I’m always struck by the strength of the pacing in this play, and this production brings that out, too. Some people have complained about a sort of manic hyperactivity in the Romeo, but, while I see what they’re referring to, it didn’t really bother me, and I doubt I would have noticed it at all if I hadn’t read about it before the fact; and he reads the lines very well.

The weaknesses are the usual Globe issues, such as the addition of anachronistic dialogue for cheap laughs, and puerile sexual jokes that lack Shakespeare’s double meanings. The staging of the fights seemed a bit weak to me as well, though the use of music struck me as a strength.

Overall, another strong Globe production, if not necessarily their very best.

Romeo And Juliet
Romeo And Juliet
DVD ~ Various
Price: CDN$ 10.00
25 used & new from CDN$ 8.33

4.0 out of 5 stars Worth watching despite the weak leads, Dec 30 2014
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This review is from: Romeo And Juliet (DVD)
Like most Shakespeare films, this one cuts the text fairly substantially; but it does so much more judiciously than most. The film retains many of the main themes of the play, and it gives a much broader sense of the original than the Castellani does. The sets are also strong and appealing.

Unfortunately, the whole thing is brought low by the casting. Olivia Hussey is simply not an actress; Zeffirelli’s judgement seems to collapse to nothing when confronted with the charms of pubescent girls (Brooke Shields, anyone?), and Hussey doesn’t come close to being up to the job. (She’s had only the most minor of careers since this film, despite having gotten this colossal break.) The Romeo is better, but not by much.

Worth watching, though, because otherwise a worthy representation of the play. The Nurse is good.

OEM Original BlackBerry Standard Lithium-Ion Replacement Battery CM2 for RIM Blackberry Pearl 8100 8110 8120 8130 Smartphone
OEM Original BlackBerry Standard Lithium-Ion Replacement Battery CM2 for RIM Blackberry Pearl 8100 8110 8120 8130 Smartphone
Offered by Cellular Canada
Price: CDN$ 8.93
2 used & new from CDN$ 8.83

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dead batteries, April 20 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The battery I got from this seller was dead when I got it; it didn't charge at all. They were very quick to send a replacement, but unfortunately, the replacement only lasted a few weeks before dying as well; and that's in a cell phone that hardly gets used at all.

I won't be buying anything from this particular seller again (Techmart Electronics).

Snowdrops
Snowdrops
by Andrew Miller
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.89
8 used & new from CDN$ 12.39

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Booker material. And not a thriller., Nov. 11 2011
This review is from: Snowdrops (Hardcover)
I've seen this billed as a thriller in several places, but it sure isn't very thrilling; and to call it "intense psychological drama" is frankly laughable. It's more in the way of a travelogue about life in Russia. It's very fluently written, and if you're interested in learning about life in post-Communist Moscow, you could probably do quite a bit worse. But as it is mostly a description of the city and what goes on there, with some stereotypical, two-dimensional Russian characters and a couple of obvious, run-of-the-mill Russian scams thrown in (I guess they're supposed to be the "thrill"), to me it often dragged.

That it was nominated for the Booker debases the prize. There is no character development to speak of, and no insight into people or human life. The plot is extremely thin. The writing is highly competent, but nothing more. Surely there were higher-quality novels published in the Commonwealth this year.

This year's Booker controversy surrounded the comment that one panel-member apparently made to the effect that they were looking for "readability" this year. That's about all this book has. I've read three of the listed books so far, and only one, The Sisters Brothers, comes anywhere close to being credible as best book of the year, although even there it's a stretch. Pigeon English was a fun read and often funny, and it was better than Snowdrops; but really it's hard to see it as Booker material either. I think the criticisms of the panel are justified, and I agree with the third paragraph of Paolo's review, below.

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