Profile for Gary Fuhrman > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Gary Fuhrman
Top Reviewer Ranking: 30
Helpful Votes: 428

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

Reviews Written by
Gary Fuhrman "gnox" (Manitoulin Island)
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-16
pixel
Hidden Kingdoms [Blu-ray]
Hidden Kingdoms [Blu-ray]
Price: CDN$ 21.99
2 used & new from CDN$ 21.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars High adventure on a small scale, July 10 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This three-hour series represents a bit of a new departure for BBC Earth. They've already taken spectacular high-definition cinematography of the natural world about as far as it can go, and this series certainly delivers in that respect. But they've also taken some techniques from fictional film-making to make the storytelling as dramatic as possible. First, they've chosen to tell day-in-the-life stories of individual young animals: an elephant shrew, a grasshopper mouse (who eats scorpions in the Arizona desert!), a chipmunk, a tree shrew; and in the third part, a marmoset in Rio de Janeiro and a rhinocerous beetle in Tokyo. Supporting characters include dung beetles, several lizards, and various predators trying to eat the stars. But the greatest achievement of this series is to present the action from the perspective of these tiny creatures.

To do this with maximum dramatic effect, the filmmakers use storyboarding, masterful editing, suspense-building narration by Stephen Fry, and some "special effects": no CGI, but some staged action shots against a blue screen background so the appropriate backgrounds can be filled in later. There's also a very dramatic musical score (which thankfully is not dubbed in too loud, as it often is in feature films). Each episode interleaves two main stories, usually switching from one to the other at a "cliffhanger" moment to keep up the suspense. The result should be very engaging for younger viewers, although there's plenty here that is new and interesting even for older folks like myself who have seen scores of nature documentaries. (My own favorite is the adventures of the "scorpion mouse".) Happily, the BBC producers have not oversentimentalized or anthropomorphized the creatures we see here -- except maybe by too many references to them as "heroes" or "superheroes", nor have they compromised their high standards of photography or accuracy. The raw brutality of nature is muted somewhat (all the stories have happy endings), but the series makes it easier to identify with the struggles of these miniature lives. The making-of extras also show how it was done.

What's lost in all this is the sense of context, the larger ecosystemic view that we get in a David Attenborough series, or in other BBC Earth productions such as Galapagos, Yellowstone etc. The sense of scientific discovery is also sacrificed somewhat to the demands of drama. But the series achieves very well what it sets out to do, without lowering the BBC Earth standards. It's not one of my personal favorites but I would highly recommend it, especially to families curious about the 'life in the undergrowth' which is all around us but usually unseen.

Cutie and the Boxer
Cutie and the Boxer
DVD ~ Ushio Shinohara
Price: CDN$ 21.98
2 used & new from CDN$ 21.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Artists, lovers and survivors, May 5 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Cutie and the Boxer (DVD)
This documentary puts a new and very engaging spin on the battle of the sexes. Ushio and Norika Shinohara both emigrated from Japan to New York in their youth and have lived there ever since; he achieved a degree of fame, but not enough sales to lift them out of poverty. Meanwhile Noriko had to sacrifice her own artistic ambitions to her partner's career. But that's only the background story of this film: by the time Zachary Heinzerling started filming their domestic life together, Noriko was becoming the stronger of the two. Artists are notoriously hard to live with, and Ushio (now aged 80) is no exception, yet their relationship comes across as a very healthy one despite all the troubles they've gone through -- or maybe *because* they (and especially she) managed to survive it all without becoming embittered. It's essentially a love story, made all the more satisfying by Noriko's emergence as an artist in her own right (and arguably a better one than Ushio). Maybe this film is especially appealing to seniors like me (I'm pushing 70), but young Zach Heinzerling has a bright future as a filmmaker for all the ages, judging from this one.

Heritage Farms Vista Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder
Heritage Farms Vista Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder
Offered by HorseLoverZ & EasyPet Canada
Price: CDN$ 43.75
5 used & new from CDN$ 43.75

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Raccoon resistant, too!, Nov. 28 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I chose this one after checking out several "squirrel proof" feeders online (including prices), and when it arrived I wondered if it would be tough enough. Since I hung it out (from the washline) a couple weeks ago, the raccoons have given up trying to get anything out of it. (In the past years here, both squirrels and raccoons have learned to get to the feeder by moving along the washline. Now they can get to it but can't get anything out of it. I also wondered if wet snow would clog it up for the chickadees and nuthatches, but that hasn't happened. I did fasten the lid down with a bungee cord to make it even harder for the coons. Blue Jays can get seeds from it, but they don't like it much because they have to do some awkward maneuvering to manage it. The perches which close off access when too much weight is put on them, are adjustable, and it holds enough that I only have to fill it once a week or so. It's worth the expense!

The Uninvited (The Criterion Collection)
The Uninvited (The Criterion Collection)
DVD ~ Ray Milland
Price: CDN$ 21.98
20 used & new from CDN$ 15.55

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully subtle, Nov. 14 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
For a Hollywood film, this is a very unusual ghost story. The script is dry and witty enough to bring some laughs, but there is no trace of the self-parody we often find in the genre. The story, with several twists and turns, has a strong psychological dimension, yet the ghost is not explained away as a figment of one character's imagination. The story builds up plenty of tension, but not to set up sudden shocks that make you jump. The cast, black-and-white cinematography and direction all contribute to an atmospheric masterpiece, far more engaging and less "dated" than most films from the Forties.

The main extra on the Criterion disk, a "visual essay" by Michael Almereyda, brings a very illuminating perspective on this film (and several others), along with some fascinating insights into the lives of actors Ray Milland and Gail Russell. There's also a booklet containing a 1998 interview with director Lewis Allen and a concisely informative essay by Farran Smith Nehme. The extras remove all doubt that this is a 5-star disc -- even if you don't count the two radio-play versions of the story, both starring Ray Milland, included on it in MP3 format. Criterion excels as usual!

Plastic Box-Special Edition
Plastic Box-Special Edition
Price: CDN$ 31.18
22 used & new from CDN$ 16.37

5.0 out of 5 stars The Lydon legacy, Nov. 9 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is one of those collections that I missed when it came out (although I liked PiL) but was lucky enough to find it cheap later on. An excellent wide-ranging collection of John Lydon's work post-Sex Pistols. Through the various incarnations of PiL represented here (the personnel, other than Lydon, kept changing), he was constantly moving in new musical directions, though the prickly attitude remains pretty much throughout. This 4-disc collection includes several live tracks as well as selections from all the albums, and the total effect is to raise my estimation of Lydon and his various bandmates. From the very raw to the almost-slick, this is still powerful stuff. (PiL's 2012 release "This is PIL" is mostly pretty good too, especially as Lydon's singing sounds better than ever.)

EnjoyGadgets HDMI to VGA & Component YPbPr Video Converter Adapter, Support Audio, S/PDIF
EnjoyGadgets HDMI to VGA & Component YPbPr Video Converter Adapter, Support Audio, S/PDIF

5.0 out of 5 stars It works, Nov. 9 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I bought this converter in order to project a Blu-ray movie (via HDMI) using an older projector with no HDMI input. All i had to do was plug everything in and toggle the one switch on the little box, and there was a surprisingly sharp picture on the wall. Much cheaper than buying a new projector!

MaddAddam
MaddAddam
by Margaret Atwood
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.65
16 used & new from CDN$ 6.28

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece, Sept. 2 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: MaddAddam (Hardcover)
This book begins with a four-page summary of what happened in the first two novels of the trilogy, "Oryx and Crake" and "The Year of the Flood". But it's those who have read those two that will be most deeply affected by "MaddAddam", because it is the crown of the trilogy in every way, and the whole trilogy is a unified masterpiece. I'll aim this review mostly at those who are more or less familiar with the first two books.

First, it's all about characters whose lives you care about. Most of this book comes to us through Toby's point of view, but the bulk of the back-story this time is the life of Zeb as told to Toby. His voice makes the Atwoodian satire sharper than ever -- it's a devastating critique of our culture and the corporate-political nightmare it's turning into. Yet it's never preachy -- indeed some of Atwood's deepest barbs are saved for preachers. Nor are the various counter-cultures spared some laughs at their expense. Those familiar with some of the leading spiritual/scientific lights of our time (e.g. Vandana Shiva, Jane Goodall) will be both amused and gratified to see them elevated to the status of saints by the remnants of God's Gardeners. Much of the satire here comes through wordplay, and Atwood's deadpan delivery makes it all the more hilarious.

Besides, the storytelling here is compelling -- both Zeb's retrospective story and the narrative that begins where The Year of the Flood left off. As in every great novel, there are some unexpected turns toward the end which nevertheless make perfect sense in the context of everything that's gone before, even as they throw new light on that context. But I won't indulge in any spoilers here.

But it's not *only* a ripping good yarn. About halfway through the book, Toby is about to resume writing in her journal. "What kind of story -- what kind of history will be of any use at all, to people she can't know will exist, in the future she can't foresee?" I hear this as Atwood speaking for herself, and indeed for all of us who are trying to take a realistic look into the future and realizing how radically unpredictable it all is. All we can be sure of is that the stories we live by will make a difference, because we rely on those stories to make sense of a world that seems to grow more chaotic every day, mostly because of the unintended consequences of human actions. Atwood doesn't offer us simple answers to the moral dilemmas she places in the path of her characters, but she displays for us a healthy range of attitudes and a healing dose of critical common sense tempered with sly humour. I can't think of a better way to face an uncertain future.

Synecdoche New York [Blu-ray]
Synecdoche New York [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Charlie Kaufman
Offered by DealsAreUs
Price: CDN$ 20.69
7 used & new from CDN$ 8.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars convoluted dream logic, Aug. 28 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
If you liked Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind -- all written by Charlie Kaufman -- you owe it to yourself to see his directorial debut, at least once! Kaufman has done an excellent job of directing a fine ensemble cast, with production design that makes the whole story realistic despite the dreamlike way events unfold. The result has plenty of emotional impact, if you don't get too distracted and disoriented by the hallucinatory qualities of the story.

One of the running gags in the film is the director's absurd attempts to come up with a title for his creation, which grow more and more absurd, and never arrive at the actual title of the film. The "Synecdoche" of the title refers to a figure of speech in which the name of a part represents the whole, and you'll see how that fits; but it's also a pun, because the story begins in Schenectady, New York. This invites comparison (in the literary world) with Joyce's Finnegans Wake, and both seem to give us a whole lifetime compressed (or repressed?) into a single dream; but the characters here don't shift identities as much as they do in FW, and Kaufman doesn't play with the language in Joycean fashion. The dialogue is plain as day, often very memorable and very funny, but it throws its light on a story with all the quirky twists and turns that you'd expect from a writer like Kaufman. Like Adaptation, this is a portrait of the artist (in this case a theatre director/playwright) at work on an oddball project, but here it grows to impossible proportions.

It's also like David Lynch's Inland Empire (and Mulholland Drive) in being a drama about movie-making where the lives of the actors and the characters they play become inextricably and inexplicably entangled. This kind of film certainly isn't for everyone, but if you enjoy watching the boundaries between life and art, or dream and reality, dissolve, then it's for you.

House I Live in [Import]
House I Live in [Import]
Price: CDN$ 15.47
22 used & new from CDN$ 9.49

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What's the American "War on Drugs" really about?, July 15 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: House I Live in [Import] (DVD)
I pre-ordered this DVD for a friend who's interested in drug-abuse laws -- not a subject I had much interest in myself -- and asked if I could view it myself before handing it over. It turned out to be one of the most powerful documentaries I've seen in recent years. Starting on a low-key personal note with family stories, it gradually reveals more and more about how a legal system can go totally off the rails, even in a democratic political system that is supposed to be guided by checks and balances. Some of the most incisive commentary comes from David Simon, the Baltimore crime reporter who co-created the brilliantly realistic TV series "The Wire". But much of it comes from the judges, prison guards and cops who have to enforce the radically misguided U.S. laws on drug abuse. As the sane and sober argument of this doc builds inexorably to its climax, you will be amazed at the impact the "War on Drugs" has had on American society. Just a shining example of the documentary art.

Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life
Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life
by George Monbiot
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.81
5 used & new from CDN$ 14.95

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five good reasons for reading Feral, June 24 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
1. Monbiot has the eye of a naturalist, the soul of an adventurer, and the storytelling ability of a good journalist. His descriptions of his own encounters with the wild make for exciting reading.

2. He makes a very strong argument for rewilding, for "stepping back" to let nature recover the initiative in *some* of the spaces now under human control. He shows very clearly how this is different from "conservation" of ecosystems in their degraded state, such as the "sheepwrecked" hills of Britain. But he also describes many wrong ways of going about it -- some morally wrong and some just impractical.

3. He makes a good case that a preference for wild spaces over domesticated or degraded environments is natural among humans, but that our perception of what's "natural" in a landscape has been warped along with the landscape itself. He calls this the Shifting Baseline Syndrome, and to give us a less myopic perspective, gleans some surprising facts about our distant past from the science of paleoecology.

4. He freely admits that his personal battle against "ecological boredom" is his main motivation for promoting rewilding. But with his usual meticulous research, he gives plenty of solid evidence that it's a good idea not only ecologically and psychologically but economically as well.

5. He deals fairly with the objections to rewilding and clears up some misconceptions about it.

In short, Monbiot does as good a job with rewilding here as he did with climate change in Heat: How to Stop the Planet From Burning. But this time it's a more "positive environmentalism."

However, if you think that the Harper government has done a good job of caring for the environment, you definitely won't like this book (unless it changes your mind). His introduction to this edition describes the Canadian situation as "one of the world's most sophisticated and beautiful nations being ransacked by barbarians," telling us that "in many places your complex and fascinating ecosystems are being reduced to near-deserts of the kind with which we are familiar in Europe." Part of his purpose in this book is to reverse that trend, not only in Britain but in the rest of the world as well.

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-16