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Gary Fuhrman "gnox" (Manitoulin Island)
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Repo Man (The Criterion Collection)
Repo Man (The Criterion Collection)
Price: CDN$ 27.99
23 used & new from CDN$ 21.86

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Criterion reveals a singular masterpiece, April 23 2013
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Repo Man is one of those films that succeeds beautifully at being uniquely strange, thanks to an odd combination of factors. First of all there's Alex Cox's script, delivered by a perfect cast. Like "Withnaill and I", this film by a first-time director is hilarious for those who "get" the dialogue and incomprehensible for those who don't. Then there's the unique blend of absurdity and realism in its portrayal of the LA punk scene of the early 1980s. And finally there's the implicit political message, which is very much in tune with "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (also scripted by Cox). The result had to be a "cult" film -- although there's also a "cleaned-up" television version included in this Criterion edition (for the curious, or those who prefer films without profanity or drug use). But this sci-fi comedy is one of those "cult" films that doesn't get old.

Criterion, as usual, has given us extras that take us behind the scenes of the making of the film: a recent conversation among the producers and director Cox, a great commentary track, deleted scenes, and interviews with Iggy Pop and Harry Dean Stanton that are worth catching even apart from what they tell us about the film. And last but not least, the 70-page booklet, which includes the comic-book version of the story. Perusing all this, one can't help but be amazed that this film could get made in Hollywood at all. Amazed, but grateful to all involved.

Meet Me At The Crux
Meet Me At The Crux
Price: CDN$ 21.49
9 used & new from CDN$ 14.82

5.0 out of 5 stars Witty pre-punk lyrics and some powerful music, April 22 2013
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This review is from: Meet Me At The Crux (Audio CD)
I found myself inexplicably moved by Dirk Hamilton's song "Billboard on the Moon" when i first heard it on the radio back around 1980. After buying this album on vinyl, i found that the whole thing was very strong, with Hamilton's clever and quirky lyrics carrying some trenchant social criticism. This CD is even better because it includes several excellent tracks that were not on the original album, all of the music on it wears much better than most songs from the 70s (not my favorite era), and the sound is much better than Hamilton's more recent live album which is available on MP3 (this one isn't, at least not in Canada). I'm glad i bought it just to hear all these great songs again!

Waste Land
Waste Land
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 31.99
23 used & new from CDN$ 18.94

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Art and life transforming one another, April 22 2013
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This review is from: Waste Land (DVD)
Another documentary about environmental and social disasters? Not at all. This beautifully shot and edited film documents the three-year project undertaken by world-famous artist Vik Muniz, who was hoping to "give something back" to his native Brazil. In it we meet several of the "pickers" who make a living extracting and sorting recyclable materials from the world's largest landfill, in Rio de Janeiro. The character and dignity of these people is impressive enough in itself, but Muniz and his associates took photos of them and hired them to arrange materials picked from the garbage into gigantic recreations of the photographic images. Then he photographed the results and sold very large prints on canvas to raise a quarter million dollars for the community, especially for the organization formed by the pickers to improve both recycling facilities and their own education.

Together Muniz and the pickers, with patience and humor, worked though the strong emotions and moral questions raised by the work, and the results -- as seen in the extras on the DVD where Muniz revisits the pickers a year later -- were a revelation, not least to Muniz himself. I've shared this film with a dozen friends and we all agree it's one of the most inspiring (and entertaining) documentaries we've seen. If you're interested in the relations between art and community, grab one of these before they all disappear!

Les Nouvelles Polyphonies
Les Nouvelles Polyphonies
Price: CDN$ 24.57
18 used & new from CDN$ 9.37

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent, April 19 2013
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We have here a solid hour of absolutely glorious polyphonic singing set off by Hector Zazou's subtle electronics and contributions from some great instrumentalists, such as Jon Hassell, John Cale, Manu Dibango and others. If you liked the Bulgarian Voices, or Zazou's Celtic "Lights in the Dark", you will love this. I heard one track from it on a complilation over 10 years ago and have been looking for it ever since, and it's even better than i expected. In fact i'd say this is the best of Hector Zazou's many collaborations -- a masterpiece.

The Great Barrier Reef (2011/ BBC/ BD) [Blu-ray]
The Great Barrier Reef (2011/ BBC/ BD) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Various
Price: CDN$ 27.97
21 used & new from CDN$ 24.20

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Watery wonderland, April 3 2013
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The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure on earth, extending 2000 km parallel to the eastern coast of Australia. Chances are we've all heard of it, but in this 3-hour series we get to know it much more intimately. The beauty and biology of it are equally captivating, with the spectacular 1080p images -- many time-lapse and some slow-motion sequences -- revealing an astonishing variety of creatures, some microscopic and some very strange indeed. In the narrative commentary, beautifully delivered by marine biologist Monty Halls, it's the complex ecology of the reef system that comes across most powerfully. The lives of the thousands of individual reefs that make up the outer reef are interconnected, not only with the fish and other animals that swarm around them, but also with the deep water lagoon and its 600 islands, the mangroves along the coast and even the rainforest inland.

Everything about this series, from script to soundtrack (both natural and musical), shows meticulous attention to detail. In some locations, Halls talks to us underwater (rather than by voice-over), using a mask with a mike inside, lending a greater immediacy to his commentary. Each of the three hour-long episodes can stand alone, and is probably more informative (though maybe a bit less dramatic) than the typical BBC Earth episode. This leaves no room (and no need) for extras on the blu-ray disc. There is a little duplication of content across episodes -- the annual spawning of the coral polyps appears in both the first and third episodes, for instance, but it's worth seeing twice. A few details may be familiar to BBC Earth fans, such as the race of newly hatched turtles to the sea (which was even more beautifully shown in the new Africa series). But by the end of the series, you are likely to feel personally concerned about the future of the Reef, which is uncertain due to climate change and other human-caused factors. This series is as unique as any of the other masterpieces from BBC Earth and its production partners.

Under the Wire
Under the Wire
Price: CDN$ 9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Thrilling and thought-provoking too, March 30 2013
This review is from: Under the Wire (Kindle Edition)
Bill Ash's account of his exploits during WWII is certainly a rip-roaring adventure story, taking us from his beginnings as a penniless hobo through his days as an American/Canadian Spitfire pilot and his years as a serial escape artist from German prison camps. But it's also a testament to the powerful sense of justice and human solidarity that brought him into the war in the first place. His sketches and tales of others involved in the long battle against the Nazis show how such struggles can bring out the best (and the worst) in people. Yet he maintains a realistic perspective, often ironic and playful, on their motivations, and especially on his own. His wartime experience, grim as some of it was, only seems to deepen his youthful idealism. Sometimes his profound philosophical streak flowers into meditations like this one:

"Human beings are surrounded by a universe many sizes too big for them and the ability either to shout out in anger or to laugh in the face of chaos are the only truly noble options available to us. That shout, or that laughter, even in the black infinity of the universe is an absolutely new and pure thing, filling the void and going on, echoing off among the nebula, with an entirely human significance" (Kindle Location 2506).

Thanks to his distinctive outlook on life (and the help of Brendan Foley), Ash's memoir gives us vital insights into what went on in WWII, but beyond that, it's one for the ages, and not just for fans of "The Great Escape".

Gonzo: Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
Gonzo: Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
DVD ~ Alex Gibney
Price: CDN$ 21.00
10 used & new from CDN$ 10.87

5.0 out of 5 stars A balanced view of a careening life, March 18 2013
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This two-hour documentary is almost as entertaining as Terry Gilliam's film of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but presents a much more rounded portrait of Hunter Thompson, carrying us though all stages of his career as a notoriously fast and loose cannon. His legendary drug consumption, his penchant for gunplay and his radical re-invention of journalism are all on display here, along with his unique brand of political idealism and his outrage at the betrayal of the American Dream during the Nixon years.

Despite the fast pace and lively style of the film, director Gibney has not done it in "gonzo" style, sticking pretty much to the evidence and to chronological order rather than inserting vociferous opinions as Thompson himself often did. In addition to the many interviews with Thompson and others (including such public figures as George McGovern, Gary Hart, Jimmy Carter and Pat Buchanan), the film uses old footage masterfully, sometimes adding a bit of re-enactment (including clips from the Gilliam film) when it's needed to keep the story moving. The result is often hilarious, ultimately tragic, and as consistently engaging as any film biography i've seen. There's a generous slection of extras too, including many anecdotes about Thompson and a gallery of Ralph Steadman's "gonzo" drawings. A good disc to own if you want to dig deeply into the soul of late-20th-century Americana.

Africa (2012/ BBC/ Blu-ray) (Sous-titres franais)
Africa (2012/ BBC/ Blu-ray) (Sous-titres franais)
DVD ~ Various
Price: CDN$ 27.97
4 used & new from CDN$ 17.99

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BBC Earth tops itself again, Feb. 28 2013
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No need to describe this 6-hour series in detail, since Dr. Joseph Lee has already done that accurately. However, BBC Earth fans might wonder how much of this new series overlaps with previous work such as the BBC Atlas of the Natural World series on Africa, the Great Rift series, and the African sequences from various other series such as Planet Earth (and i've seen them all). The answer is that most of the content here is completely new -- that is, it documents the lives of animals (and plants) that have not been shown before -- and even the familiar folks (elephants, lions, wildebeest, giraffes, meerkats, chimps) are shown doing things we've never seen before. The few bits that have been covered before are seen and heard here in such intimate and spectacular detail, and with such intense drama (thanks to superb editing and David Attenborough's peerless narration), that each comes across as a whole new experience.

The presence and immediacy of the soundtrack is especially astonishing, as are the night shots, which are startlingly high-def. Equally amazing is the range of scales, from the opening shots which take in the whole continent down to the microphotography of some amazing insect behavior. Add to that the mix of time-lapse and slow-motion sequences and you have six hours of stunning surprises, including 10-minute sequences showing how the dedicated BBC camerapeople got their shots. In short, i can heartily recommend both this new series *and* the previous BBC work on Africa (even if it's 10 or 20 years old) because there is very little redundancy in the whole collection. This new set takes a great tradition into new territory in a way that is more spectacular, more intimate and more dramatic than ever before.

How Art Made the World
How Art Made the World
DVD ~ Various
Price: CDN$ 37.48
22 used & new from CDN$ 20.50

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Trying to explain the power of images, Feb. 7 2013
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This review is from: How Art Made the World (DVD)
This 5-hour series on the prehistory and early history of visual representation raises some interesting questions and attempts to answer them with a mix of archaeological and psychological evidence. The reasoning behind the answers doesn't quite measure up to the dramatic way the investigation is presented, but the series shows us so many little-known facts and artifacts of our ancestors, in such a visually effective way, that it's well worth a close look. Episodes 2 and 4 are especially fascinating, the latter giving us some vital insights into aboriginal Australian art. All are 16:9, well shot and feature some effective special effects.

Echo and Other Elephants
Echo and Other Elephants
DVD ~ Various
Offered by DealsAreUs
Price: CDN$ 53.62
10 used & new from CDN$ 39.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Up close and personal with gentle giants, Feb. 7 2013
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This review is from: Echo and Other Elephants (DVD)
The social lives of African elephants are fascinating, and so are the challenges they face in surviving the late 20th and early 21st centuries. These two BBC discs give us intimate portraits of individual elephants as well as the more general picture of these matriarchal giants and their environment.

Disc 1 has four episodes of about 50 minutes each. The first three feature the work of Cynthia Moss in Kenya's Amboseli Park. She knows over 300 elephants by name, and the series has a special focus on one extended family headed by a female (about 50 years old) named Echo, following their story over a 13-year period. The last is about an elephant family in the Namibian desert. The dates are 1992, 1996, 2005, 2007; first two are 4:3 aspect ratio, other two 16:9. The first three are narrated by David Attenborough, the last by Russell Boulter.

Disc 2 has five half-hour episodes featuring (and narrated by) Saba Douglas-Hamilton, from the younger generation of elephant advocates — she grew up surrounded by them. The first three date from 2001-2 and are 4:3 aspect ratio; the last two (2004), Elephants of Samburu, are 16:9.

These are not high-def discs like the more recent BBC Earth productions, but they give a much more intensive look at elephants, who are easy to relate to, and that gives them more emotional impact. Well worth a look!

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