Auto boutiques-francophones Simple and secure cloud storage Personal Care Cook All-New Kindle Paperwhite Music Deals Store Fall Tools
Profile for harsil > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by harsil
Top Reviewer Ranking: 6,857
Helpful Votes: 12

Guidelines: Learn more about the ins and outs of Amazon Communities.

Reviews Written by
harsil (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5
pixel
Fox Run Brands Porcelain Butter Keeper
Fox Run Brands Porcelain Butter Keeper
Price: CDN$ 17.15
3 used & new from CDN$ 17.15

1.0 out of 5 stars Useless, Aug. 29 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Not surprisingly, the butter plops out of the holder into the bottom part due to gravity. If you put water in the bottom as they say, then... the butter gets wet. It's thus completely useless. I would stay away from this one; personally, I'm demanding a refund.

Shakespeare: Two Gentlemen of Verona [Blu-ray]
Shakespeare: Two Gentlemen of Verona [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Arends
Price: CDN$ 35.99
26 used & new from CDN$ 28.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Mostly captures the spirit of the play, Aug. 19 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The Royal Shakespeare Company's new film of The Two Gentlemen of Verona moves the action to something resembling early-twentieth-century Italy, for no apparent reason but without causing any real problems. Sometimes the effect is quite charming, sometimes a little odd. The film captures the spirit of the play for the most part, despite changing a few details of setting and clothing as well as the sex of some of the minor characters (again, in ways that don't really matter).

Having said that, though, some parts that are generally seen as lightly comical are made quite dark and rough here, which seems a bit off at first. This is especially true of the ending, which is surprisingly dark; but it tends to come together in the end in what has to be acknowledged as a valid interpretation, one that appears to be an effort to make sense of the problematic fifth act. The bottom line is, it works, even if it is pretty unusual.

The cast is fine, though the Turio is too young for his role, which is that of a pantaloon. And I'm not really clear on why Julia is made to go around like an unmade bed in the first part of the play; it seems to me that she could have put on a pair of shoes, or at the very least combed her hair.

The switch of scenery from Verona to Milan is signalled by a disco production number, which is totally extraneous to the text, but remarkably fun nonetheless. The tune to which "Who is Silvia?" is set is inappropriately and blandly modern; but the staging of it is a lot of fun as well.

There's nothing of substance wrong with this production, even if it doesn't stand out as absolutely brilliant. It captures the spirit of the piece without shrinking from adding its own interpretation.

The Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition on CD-ROM Version 4.0: Windows/Mac Individual User Version
The Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition on CD-ROM Version 4.0: Windows/Mac Individual User Version
by John Simpson
Edition: CD-ROM
Price: CDN$ 296.07
18 used & new from CDN$ 235.68

5.0 out of 5 stars Immensely worthwhile, Aug. 14 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I've been very happy with this. I use it mostly for going in-depth with Shakespearean usages, and it's immensely useful to get precise definitions and examples (though for some reason Macbeth's "sere" doesn't appear in his sense). It's full of words that are no longer in use, for the benefit of those who read literature. The interface is a bit old-fashioned, but it doesn't matter; it's just a dictionary. A very worthwhile purchase.

Tempest - Shakespeare's Globe Theatre on - Screen [Import]
Tempest - Shakespeare's Globe Theatre on - Screen [Import]
Price: CDN$ 21.88
16 used & new from CDN$ 21.88

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A great Caliban, but otherwise pretty average, Aug. 14 2015
The Globe production has a lot to recommend it, but it has some weaknesses as well; though I might not have been as conscious of the weaknesses if I hadn’t already watched the Stratford film, which in many respects outshines the Globe’s.

The best thing about the film is the Caliban, who’s magnificent; the film is probably worth seeing for him alone. The way he’s treated by the others is also well done. The Miranda also really looks the part, which helps quite a lot; too often the role is taken unconvincingly, and this Miranda is far preferable to Stratford’s in this respect. Her acting itself is fine, without necessarily being exceptional. The clowns are good as well.

I found the Ariel to be a bit more problematic; the whole approach to the character seemed off to me. He doesn’t move around at all, which comes across as strange; he’s just very static all the time, even when he’s talking of how he flitted about the ship during the storm. The whole look and feel of him felt wrong to me as well.

There are problems also, in my view, with Roger Allam’s Prospero, not unlike the issues that arose with his performance as Falstaff in the Henry IV plays. He never really inhabits the character, and often seem as though he doesn’t quite know what to do with himself as he delivers his lines. This is particularly the case in the long expository scene in act 2; he has trouble sustaining interest and attention, though it’s partly because the scene itself is so awkward. He’s not as commanding as he could be, or as Christopher Plummer is at Stratford. He doesn’t read the big speeches with much poetry, either, and the mood he puts into the Epilogue strikes me as bizarre.

The Ferdinand seems oddly cast for a romantic lead, and I think he plays the role a little too comically; though that could be said to fit the romantic-comedy side of the play and of the role well enough.

The production makes a mockery of the masque scene, except for the dance; it’s as though they’re spoofing it, which I find hard to understand. It’s disappointing.

Not one of the Globe’s better productions, then; except for that Caliban!

Titus Andronicus - BBC Shakespeare Collection [1985]
Titus Andronicus - BBC Shakespeare Collection [1985]

2.0 out of 5 stars Stodgissimus!, Aug. 11 2015
The BBC’s "Shakespeare Collection” Titus Andronicus is among the stodgiest of the set - and that's saying something. It struck me as heavy and slow-moving, and the sets are lame, even by the standards of this set. The casting is questionable; Trevor Peacock is at his most gravelly ludicrous, and the Aaron is way too tame. Many of the speeches lack all emotion, and the whole burlesque element that is brought out so well in most productions is completely ignored here, though it could be argued that this is a valid interpretative choice.

In fairness, and in spite of the foregoing, it should be added that some of the key scenes were quite well done; the ending is particularly well handled, and it shows why such revenge plays, and this one in particular, were so popular in Shakespeare’s day. Overall, however, I wouldn’t want to have to sit through this one again. Your best choice is probably the Globe's film, though Julie Taymor's is also worthwhile.

Shakespeare: Taming Of The Shrew
Shakespeare: Taming Of The Shrew
DVD ~ Colm Feore
Offered by VideoWorks
Price: CDN$ 19.99
10 used & new from CDN$ 6.36

2.0 out of 5 stars There are better options, May 21 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I had high hopes of the 1988 Stratford Festival production with Colm Feore, at least for a few seconds: against expectations, they include the Induction. Unfortunately, and incomprehensibly, they truncate it at the point at which Sly passes out; in other words, before he gets transformed into a lord and given a wife. So all the themes of transformation and social inversion that the Induction is so obviously intended to introduce are removed from it. So what's the point of including it at all? The only thing I can think of is that by showing Sly to be played by the same actor as Petruchio, they suggest that the play is his dream, which at least retains the idea of the play as a fantasy, to some extent; it's actually not a bad idea as far as it goes, assuming the audience picks up on it. They show him again at the end, waking up, which is a nice touch.

Overall, though, the production is plagued by such interpretative uncertainty, which is compounded by a series of other issues. Gremio is way too old; he has nothing of the pantaloon character about him. Stratford films of this vintage seem to favour costumes evocative of the early 20th century, though the reasoning behind this choice is unclear; here it seems more distracting than illuminating. The lines are often spoken too quickly and indifferently to be particularly intelligible, especially toward the beginning; it's hard to imagine someone who wasn't well prepared having much idea as to what was going on. They slow down for key plot points, though, so they may just be emphasizing the plot, which always seems pretty pointless in Shakespeare, since it hollows out all the thematic material, where all the richness is. Hortensio is played as rather effete; I'm not sure why.

There's some decent stage business in the scene where Kate ties Bianca up, but the dynamic between them and their father is botched. Kate and Petruchio do a 'love at first sight' thing, which is good, but they don't really spark any chemistry, which isn't. Feore is better in this crucial scene than the Kate, who doesn't quite seem to know what tone to adopt; it's almost there, but not quite.

The party scene at the end is probably the best part of the performance; there are some nice line readings and interpretations; though again, there's too much hamming it up at the beginning of the scene.

The Taming of the Shrew [Import]
The Taming of the Shrew [Import]
DVD ~ Marc Singer
Price: CDN$ 20.04
3 used & new from CDN$ 13.58

3.0 out of 5 stars Quite a ride!, May 21 2015
The startling 1976 American Conservatory Theatre of San Francisco production is a very mixed bag indeed.

It takes its cue from the fact that several of Shakespeare’s characters are rooted in the Italian commedia dell’arte (as is the case in many of his comedies), and it makes of the whole play what it sees as a commedia dell’arte spectacle, which in practice means a lot of slapstick and other physical comedy. At times this works well; but it’s worth remembering that while Shakespeare draws on many sources for his plays, he tends to transform them, and to use them only as a starting point. You can’t just reverse engineer his work to make it resemble its sources without losing something essential; Shakespeare is not commedia dell’arte, and, especially at the beginning of the play (though maybe it’s just a question of getting used to it), the play gets seriously garbled. I don’t see how anyone who lacks a certain degree of familiarity with the play could have any idea as to what’s going on. The play occasionally gets lost in something it’s not.

Having said all that, though, I have to add that the production explodes into brilliance in the scene where Katherina and Petruchio first meet, which must be one of the clearest, most thoughtful, most perfect bits of Shakespeare interpretation I’ve seen. It’s the only film where the focus is entirely on the fact that Katherina and Petruchio are shown in this scene to really like each other, and to be birds of a feather who are challenging each other. This is all done with the aid of the above-mentioned physical performing (which extends to the point of including some WWF-style wrestling moves). It’s all brought off with great panache, and the actors’ professionalism in carrying off all this strenuous physical activity while reading their lines clearly and fluently is beyond my imagining. (I might add that it’s the only time I’ve seen American performers seem fully comfortable with Shakespeare’s language, and manage to read the lines with no awkwardness at all.)

Several other key points of interpretation are navigated with great success. Petruchio’s concern with the importance of the interior person and the insignificance of outward appearance is emphasized, and no opportunity is lost to show that these two actually end up in love; and at a certain point, it seems that Kate is shown to find her “turning point”.

On the other hand, I think it was a mistake for Petruchio to look surprised that Kate should show up when he sends for her, at the end; and when she delivers her big speech, she turns away from the widow far too soon.

There are some other negatives. With a running time of a little over an hour and forty minutes, about 40% of the play must have been cut; and the cuts include the Induction, which to my mind is always a serious error. Also, the actors’ manner of speaking is sometimes too stylized; this is especially true of Kate, who is often quite irritating in the way she speaks. And the live audience sounds like a laugh track at times.

Overall, however, this is a lively and extremely well-executed performance, if a little over the top. The interpretation is bold and original, and though it’s too off-the-wall (and too short) to be considered a first choice, it’s certainly worth seeing as an alternative version.

The Taming of the Shrew (Broadway Theatre Archive)
The Taming of the Shrew (Broadway Theatre Archive)
DVD ~ Fredi Olster
Price: CDN$ 24.99
15 used & new from CDN$ 19.08

3.0 out of 5 stars Quite a ride!, May 21 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The startling 1976 American Conservatory Theatre of San Francisco production is a very mixed bag indeed.

It takes its cue from the fact that several of Shakespeare’s characters are rooted in the Italian commedia dell’arte (as is the case in many of his comedies), and it makes of the whole play what it sees as a commedia dell’arte spectacle, which in practice means a lot of slapstick and other physical comedy. At times this works well; but it’s worth remembering that while Shakespeare draws on many sources for his plays, he tends to transform them, and to use them only as a starting point. You can’t just reverse engineer his work to make it resemble its sources without losing something essential; Shakespeare is not commedia dell’arte, and, especially at the beginning of the play (though maybe it’s just a question of getting used to it), the play gets seriously garbled. I don’t see how anyone who lacks a certain degree of familiarity with the play could have any idea as to what’s going on. The play occasionally gets lost in something it’s not.

Having said all that, though, I have to add that the production explodes into brilliance in the scene where Katherina and Petruchio first meet, which must be one of the clearest, most thoughtful, most perfect bits of Shakespeare interpretation I’ve seen. It’s the only film where the focus is entirely on the fact that Katherina and Petruchio are shown in this scene to really like each other, and to be birds of a feather who are challenging each other. This is all done with the aid of the above-mentioned physical performing (which extends to the point of including some WWF-style wrestling moves). It’s all brought off with great panache, and the actors’ professionalism in carrying off all this strenuous physical activity while reading their lines clearly and fluently is beyond my imagining. (I might add that it’s the only time I’ve seen American performers seem fully comfortable with Shakespeare’s language, and manage to read the lines with no awkwardness at all.)

Several other key points of interpretation are navigated with great success. Petruchio’s concern with the importance of the interior person and the insignificance of outward appearance is emphasized, and no opportunity is lost to show that these two actually end up in love; and at a certain point, it seems that Kate is shown to find her “turning point”.

On the other hand, I think it was a mistake for Petruchio to look surprised that Kate should show up when he sends for her, at the end; and when she delivers her big speech, she turns away from the widow far too soon.

There are some other negatives. With a running time of a little over an hour and forty minutes, about 40% of the play must have been cut; and the cuts include the Induction, which to my mind is always a serious error. Also, the actors’ manner of speaking is sometimes too stylized; this is especially true of Kate, who is often quite irritating in the way she speaks. And the live audience sounds like a laugh track at times.

Overall, however, this is a lively and extremely well-executed performance, if a little over the top. The interpretation is bold and original, and though it’s too off-the-wall (and too short) to be considered a first choice, it’s certainly worth seeing as an alternative version.

Hamlet (1969)
Hamlet (1969)
DVD ~ Anthony Hopkins
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 37.20
17 used & new from CDN$ 20.83

4.0 out of 5 stars Hamlet the Scot, April 9 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Hamlet (1969) (DVD)
I've read of the 1969 Tony Richardson film with Nicol Williamson and Marianne Faithfull that it’s some sort of admirable but failed experiment; but I saw very little experimentation, and even less failure, in this worthwhile production. It’s really quite good, and has some fine moments. It’s also been described as “low-budget”, but low-budget is usually a good thing in Shakespeare, as he was a pretty low-budget kind of guy himself. The more-or-less total absence of sets — there are some brick walls and I detected a few tunnels, but mostly, I didn’t think about sets, or much notice their absence — focuses one’s attention on the words and the characters and the psychology, and of course mirrors Shakespeare’s own bare stage pretty well; and it all comes off pretty successfully here, in my view. The film is shot in very tight, close spaces, and this emphasizes the all-important atmosphere of the play really quite well. It’s the anti-Branagh.

The cast is remarkably strong, even if the actor playing Hamlet was only a year or two younger than those playing his mother and Claudius (though he actually looks older than them, especially Claudius, and seems a bit old for the part). Once you get past that, though, he is very good in communicating the character, and the soliloquies are mostly well done.

Anthony Hopkins is excellent as Claudius, and does better than any of the other film Claudii in capturing both the character’s cynical-murderer side and his luxuriant-bon-vivant side, as well as his guilty conscience; Hopkins really is a fine actor.

Maybe I prejudged her, but Marianne Faithfull is surprisingly convincing as Ophelia, and also does better than her competition in capturing the character’s fragile-reed-pulled-apart-by-all-the-men quality. Her mad scenes are much tamer than theirs, but are no less effective for that. Hers may be the truest portrayal of the character on film.

The Ghost is interestingly done, just a bright light and a disembodied voice; in itself, it works well enough, but the sound effects that are added on top make it hard to notice the words, which anyway seem to be cut.

The Gertrude has a bit too strong a whiff of Morticia Addams about her to be wholly convincing to me, and is probably the weak link in the cast (not that she’s all that bad).

The big negative, as usual, is the cuts; the film’s running-time is just under two hours, and it feels a bit rushed toward the end. I actually felt that the whole last part of the film was a little weaker than the rest. The graveyard scene is a bit of a jumble, though this may have been intentional; Hamlet and Laertes do a pretty good job of throttling each other in the grave, and overall the scene gets pretty grotesque and macabre. The film closes with a close-up of Hamlet’s deceased head that is arguably the single most ridiculous shot I’ve ever seen in a movie.

Having Horatio and Hamlet played by a pair of shaggy red-headed fellows named Gordon Jackson and Nicol Williamson occasionally had me wondering if there wasn’t something rotten in the state of Scotland rather than that of Denmark; but overall this is a very worthwhile production, taut and dark and focused; as long as you’re OK with the cuts, you needn’t hesitate. No subtitles on my copy.

Hamlet
Hamlet
DVD ~ Laurence Olivier
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 32.33
29 used & new from CDN$ 18.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Solid, but standard, April 5 2015
This review is from: Hamlet (DVD)
Sir Laurence Olivier’s 1948 film is very good, though it didn’t strike me as quite the masterpiece it’s often said to be. The acting is mostly strong and the lines are generally well delivered, and the way Olivier conveys Hamlet’s moods and sensibilities in a subtle and sensitive way throughout is probably the best thing about it. The general atmosphere and darkness are well captured.

But the film didn’t strike me as truly exceptional. This could be in part because I saw it shortly after watching the David Tennant film, which is so human and naturalistic; the Olivier doesn’t really compete. It also has some touches of the mid-century acting style that seem a little over the top today. William Walton’s overwrought score seems ill-suited to the play to me. The soliloquies are delivered unexceptionably but unexceptionally. Jean Simmons (as Ophelia) is a good actress, but she’s made to look and act like a fairy princess here, and when she cries, as she does quite often, she sounds uncannily like a baby.

Having said that, the Polonius is great, and I liked the Ghost as well, especially the way his voice is treated. The sword-fighting looked good to me, though the exchange of rapiers is inauthentic. Overall, a solid but standard production.

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5