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K. Gordon
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BOY WHO COULD FLY (1986)
BOY WHO COULD FLY (1986)
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 18.45
14 used & new from CDN$ 18.45

4.0 out of 5 stars Gentle, touching and intelligent 'family film', Jan. 29 2015
This review is from: BOY WHO COULD FLY (1986) (DVD)
Sappy? Yeah, I guess at times… but this also mostly earns its big heart, and treats early teens with more far dignity and insight than most films.

Lucy Deakins is terrific as an intelligent, thoughtful 14 year old, who slowly grows to care for the autistic boy next door. He doesn't speak, but dreams only of flying away, a condition brought on by the deaths of his parents in a plane crash years before. Now he's in the care of an alcoholic uncle (the always wonderful Fred Gwynne), and the powers that be think he might be better off being institutionalized.

Almost all the acting is top notch, which is crucial in this character based story. Jay Underwood walks various fine lines as the titular boy, named Eric. By turns mysterious, locked in, charming he seems believable as an emotionally isolated adolescent as well as a possible source of magic. Colleen Dewhurst doesn't have a lot of screen time, but makes something rich and real out of a concerned teacher who doesn't want to see Eric locked away, knowing it will kill his spirit. And Bonnie Bedelia makes a touching warm and understanding widowed mom.

There are some scenes where the comic relief is more than a little forced, and a sub-plot about a little brother taking on neighborhood bullies seems grafted on from a far more Disney-ish film. But this Capra-esque gentle, bittersweet fantasy is a great 1980s film for tweens even today, and not a bad one for adults as well.

Breaking Through
Breaking Through
DVD ~ Various
Price: CDN$ 21.99
18 used & new from CDN$ 11.61

4.0 out of 5 stars Very positive doc on the growing ranks of LGBT people in the U.S. govenment, Jan. 23 2015
This review is from: Breaking Through (DVD)
Very upbeat documentary on the ever growing numbers of open LGBT people serving in U.S. government. The list goes from the national Senate, where Tammy Baldwin not long ago became the first openly gay non-incumbent elected, to multiple state and city politicians, not just from obvious places like New York or San Francisco, but from places one doesn’t think of as so gay friendly, like Texas.

This could be a great film for teens – LGBT teens get to see that there’s nothing they can’t do, and straight teens could get a positive lesson on tolerance and openness.

All the men and women interviewed are smart, honest, sometimes very funny, and occasionally sad when revealing moments where they were rejected by friends or family, or threatened with violence. But all have gone on to flourish and excel, and now share their variations on the watchwords ‘it gets better’.

One could carp – by trying to get to as many people as possible, the film can’t go very deeply into anyone’s life story. But that really isn’t the aim here. It’s more an affirmation than an expose, More a celebration of change than a rigorous examination of national prejudice.

Beast of the City [Import]
Beast of the City [Import]
DVD ~ Walter Huston
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 14.95
18 used & new from CDN$ 14.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Uneven, but interesting, Jan. 18 2015
This review is from: Beast of the City [Import] (DVD)
This story of a tough cop turned chief of police is an uneven mix of entertaining and very clunky moments.

Walter Huston did a lot of very good work in his career, but here, as the 'hero' (almost an anti-hero), he's pretty flat and one note. It's interesting in theory to see a cop in a film this old who's bends the law to get 'justice', but the lack of electricity in the writing and the performance make a number of his scenes a bit of a chore to sit through.

Also, the much discussed climatic gunfight, while impressively violent for the day, is also pretty silly on anything but a symbolic level. I find it hard to believe a real gunfight in the 1930s (or ANY time) could have looked anything like this.

On the plus side, Jean Harlow is a lot of pre-code fun in a supporting role as a gun moll, seducing the chief's cop brother in an extended scene that's both sexy and funny. When Wallace Ford as the brother asks her 'you don't like to be hurt, do you' after he accidentally grabs her too hard, she comes back with "I don't know, it can be fun if it's done in the right spirit", said with a gleam in her eye hot enough to melt an ice cube at the north pole.

There's also some very interesting and evocative photography sprinkled through the film. Moving the huge blimped cameras was never easy in these early sound films, but there are some nice tracking shots here, along with good use of shadows.

That said, there are many better films from this era than MGM's awkward attempt to get into Warner's patented cops and robbers territory, but with a almost proto-fascist, slant. But if you're interested in pre-code films, and the subject matter, you could also do worse for a piece of film and period history.

The Honorable Woman
The Honorable Woman
DVD ~ Maggie Gyllenhaal
Price: CDN$ 22.88
13 used & new from CDN$ 22.88

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Complex, smart, challenging and beautifully made on all fronts, Jan. 16 2015
This review is from: The Honorable Woman (DVD)
Stunning, beautifully made 8 hour mini-series that attempts to humanize a situation as impossibly knotty as the middle east, and against all odds, succeeds. The biggest triumph here is by writer/director/producer Hugo Blick, who creates an amazingly dense and cinematic landscape of characters and tragedies.

Nessa Stein (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a tremendously wealthy Israeli determined to use her wealth and influence to try and bring together Israelis and Palestinians. Her father – assassinated before her eyes as a child – was an arms merchant amassing a huge fortune, but at a human cost Nessa finds hard to live with. Now, as an adult, along with her brother, she plans to bring the high-speed internet to the Palestinian areas of Israel to help jump start their economy and self-sufficiency.

But, understandably this plan raises hackles and suspicions on both sides and before you know it Nessa's brother's Palestinian housekeeper (and Nessa's friend) has her son kidnapped. Thus begins a complicated, tense, tremendously intelligent and demanding trip down a rabbit hole of lies, secrets, hidden histories, violence, spies and counter-spies and the sadness of watching your ideals hacked to pieces by all those around you.

The series deserves credit for many things, among which is managing not to take sides, but to examine the madness on all sides of living in perpetual war.

The acting is tremendous. Maggie Gyllenhaal cements her position as one of our finest and most versatile actresses. Her Nessa is an admirable if deeply flawed woman. Gyllenhaal deftly melds all the character's sides; absurdly smart, brave, afraid, powerful, hidden, foolish, naive -- into a great tragic heroine. Stephen Rea is endlessly fascinating as a very smart UK spy attempting to uncover the many hidden truths. Quiet yet immensely powerful, watching Rea's Sir Hayden-Hoyle interrogate and manipulate those he interviews is a master class in loaded understatement in performance.

But the whole cast is absolutely first rate; the brilliant and under-appreciated Janet McTeer as Rea's boss, Andrew Buchan as Nessa's brother, Lubna Azbal as the mother of the kidnapped boy, etc.

Just as wonderful is the cinematography, editing and music, combing to create a show that feels stylistically far more like a top flight auteur film than TV. This is challenging, complicated stuff. You will inevitably get lost at times. But have faith Blick and crew will bring you back around if you pay attention. And you'll want to. I greedily watched the 8 hours in 2 days.

My biggest complaint? No blu-ray so far. For a show this well photographed that seems downright stupid.

This also lead me to watch Blick's previous BBC mini-series "The Shadow Line" -- a tale of police corruption and drug dealing that's almost a complicated and great as "Honorable Woman". If you responded strongly to this, you should check out that earlier work as well.

Foxcatcher [Blu-ray]
Foxcatcher [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Channing Tatum
Price: CDN$ 32.79

5.0 out of 5 stars A deeply chilling and disturbing tone poem of a film, Jan. 16 2015
This review is from: Foxcatcher [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
I can't remember when a non-horror film has made me feel so uncomfortable and tense for it's whole length. It's a quiet film. Slow. Subtle. Almost dreamlike. Much of what happens occurs without dialogue. But there is always a heavy feeling of doom floating over it's sad characters.

And what a fascinating bunch of characters. Based on real people, I found myself wondering if a novelist could come up with a trio so laden with emotional and social meaning.

John DuPont (Steve Carrell) is the mega millionaire who is vaguely 'off', and clearly fighting mental demons. He dreams of being a wrestling coach and somehow coaching the U.S. to glory, so he essentially buys a now down on his luck ex-champion Mark Shultz (Channing Tatum) to come and wrestle for him. The two men have a complicated and tricky relationship. There is admiration, father and son bonding, resentment and even seemingly unspoken sexual attraction. But neither man is able to communicate about almost any of it, or deal with any of the feelings themselves.

The third member of the triumvirate is Shultz's older brother Dave (Mark Rufflao). Less of a painful introvert than his brother, Dave has been Mark's coach and only friend. They have a complex filial relationship, captured beautifully by director Bennett Miller and writers Dan Futterman and E. Max Frye in the lengthy, almost wordless opening scene where Dave leads Mark through a training session. Just as messy, if healthier, than Mark's relationship with DuPont, we see in the scene the love, admiration, jealousy and rivalry that exists between these two quiet men.

Now Dave joins Mark at DuPont's vast compound to be 'assistant coach' to DuPont's 'coach', which is deeply bizarre as it quickly becomes clear that Dave knows 10 times as much about both wresting and leadership as DuPont ever will. As we watch a frustrated DuPont quietly head into an ever darker place the tension grows as thick as in a Polanski film, and even the film's conclusion provides little in the way of release. I headed back out into the night with a knot still in my stomach. It's the rare film that can pull me into that kind of claustrophobic space of madness and loss.

A word has to be given to the tremendous work done by all three actors, along with Vanessa Redgrave as DuPont's mother -- unforgettable in a role that only gives her a few minutes of screen time. While Carrell has gotten the lion's share of the kudos (and he is terrific, reinventing himself as a purely dramatic actor) both Tatum and Ruffalo also do world class work here, creating inarticulate men who express with their eyes and bodies what they don't quite know how to express with words.

This is not a 'fun' movie, but it is one that you can feel deeply, and end up pondering the nature of madness, success, the American dream, family in a way too few recent films lead you to do.

The LEGO Movie 3D - Everything is Awesome Edition [Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + UltraViolet + LEGO Figurine] (Sous-titres français)
The LEGO Movie 3D - Everything is Awesome Edition [Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + UltraViolet + LEGO Figurine] (Sous-titres français)
DVD ~ Chris Pratt
Price: CDN$ 34.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Wild, creative, smart, subversive, and great fun - with a heart, Jan. 16 2015
One of my very favorite films of 2014.

What I worried would be a feature length commercial is instead a very funny, and somewhat subversive film, overflowing with ideas, puns, perfect music, and wacky 'cameos' by everyone from Shaquile O'Neil, to a wonderfully warped and dark Batman (given terrific voice by Will Arnet).

'Lego' doesn't look quite like any film I've seen before. It has a rough, almost bizarrely low- tech look to it's Lego people -- stop motion that looks like stop motion --oddly (but very effectively) combined with mind-blowingly huge and complicated shots of the Lego universe in action. Somehow in the unlikely mix of slickness and lo-fi something wonderful is created; animation that is wildly impressive, but also clearly human, creative and DIY at the same time.

The film is basically a spoof of every Hollywood vision-quest movie you've ever seen. You know the films. A young character (almost always male) is called on to save the world/neighborhood/kingdom. He's over-matched, and under prepared, but with a kindly older mentor of great power to guide him, you know he will find a way to prevail.

Except here the "special" character at the center really ISN'T very special. He's a young working guy like a million others, who's not very bright or especially brave, and who just wants to live his happy, blank, endlessly repetitive safe life. And the mentor? None other than the voice of Morgan Freeman, expertly spoofing his own image as the ultimate voice of wisdom. He plays a wizard who is far less consistently brilliant and all knowing than he claims or wants to be. He's very, very funny, which is not the first thing one thinks of with Morgan Freeman. The same could be said of Liam Neeson, who also does a great voice job as the good cop/bad cop, who's personality changes depending on what side of his head is facing front. Will Ferrell is also excellent as the villain of the piece, being just silly enough to be funny, but just real enough to give the story some real tension.

Not everything works, and there were a few spots near the end where the energy flagged. But overall this is an exciting and creative (and wonderfully fun) piece of film-making, that manages to attack the near fascist mentality of a society obsessed with consuming, and determined not to question it's own lives (it's not for nothing that the villain's name is 'President Business')-- while still being very funny, and almost never feeling like its preaching.

And without giving anything away, in the last 20 minutes it changes the rules again, and asks a few profound questions about the nature of existence, without seeming like it had suddenly jumped the track as a film for kids as well as adults.

In the end, I walked around with the hysterical, awful (in a great way), and when you think about it kinda dark anthem "Everything is Awesome" banging around in my head for days.

The LEGO Movie 3D [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
The LEGO Movie 3D [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Chris Pratt
Price: CDN$ 23.00
3 used & new from CDN$ 20.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Wild, creative, smart, subversive, and great fun - with a heart, Jan. 16 2015
One of my very favorite films of 2014.

What I worried would be a feature length commercial is instead a very funny, and somewhat subversive film, overflowing with ideas, puns, perfect music, and wacky 'cameos' by everyone from Shaquile O'Neil, to a wonderfully warped and dark Batman (given terrific voice by Will Arnet).

'Lego' doesn't look quite like any film I've seen before. It has a rough, almost bizarrely low- tech look to it's Lego people -- stop motion that looks like stop motion --oddly (but very effectively) combined with mind-blowingly huge and complicated shots of the Lego universe in action. Somehow in the unlikely mix of slickness and lo-fi something wonderful is created; animation that is wildly impressive, but also clearly human, creative and DIY at the same time.

The film is basically a spoof of every Hollywood vision-quest movie you've ever seen. You know the films. A young character (almost always male) is called on to save the world/neighborhood/kingdom. He's over-matched, and under prepared, but with a kindly older mentor of great power to guide him, you know he will find a way to prevail.

Except here the "special" character at the center really ISN'T very special. He's a young working guy like a million others, who's not very bright or especially brave, and who just wants to live his happy, blank, endlessly repetitive safe life. And the mentor? None other than the voice of Morgan Freeman, expertly spoofing his own image as the ultimate voice of wisdom. He plays a wizard who is far less consistently brilliant and all knowing than he claims or wants to be. He's very, very funny, which is not the first thing one thinks of with Morgan Freeman. The same could be said of Liam Neeson, who also does a great voice job as the good cop/bad cop, who's personality changes depending on what side of his head is facing front. Will Ferrell is also excellent as the villain of the piece, being just silly enough to be funny, but just real enough to give the story some real tension.

Not everything works, and there were a few spots near the end where the energy flagged. But overall this is an exciting and creative (and wonderfully fun) piece of film-making, that manages to attack the near fascist mentality of a society obsessed with consuming, and determined not to question it's own lives (it's not for nothing that the villain's name is 'President Business')-- while still being very funny, and almost never feeling like its preaching.

And without giving anything away, in the last 20 minutes it changes the rules again, and asks a few profound questions about the nature of existence, without seeming like it had suddenly jumped the track as a film for kids as well as adults.

In the end, I walked around with the hysterical, awful (in a great way), and when you think about it kinda dark anthem "Everything is Awesome" banging around in my head for days.

The LEGO Movie / Le Film LEGO [Blu-ray + DVD + UltraViolet] (Bilingual)
The LEGO Movie / Le Film LEGO [Blu-ray + DVD + UltraViolet] (Bilingual)
Offered by gamerudy
Price: CDN$ 19.95
5 used & new from CDN$ 9.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Wild, creative, smart, subversive, and great fun - with a heart, Jan. 16 2015
One of my very favorite films of 2014.

What I worried would be a feature length commercial is instead a very funny, and somewhat subversive film, overflowing with ideas, puns, perfect music, and wacky 'cameos' by everyone from Shaquile O'Neil, to a wonderfully warped and dark Batman (given terrific voice by Will Arnet).

'Lego' doesn't look quite like any film I've seen before. It has a rough, almost bizarrely low- tech look to it's Lego people -- stop motion that looks like stop motion --oddly (but very effectively) combined with mind-blowingly huge and complicated shots of the Lego universe in action. Somehow in the unlikely mix of slickness and lo-fi something wonderful is created; animation that is wildly impressive, but also clearly human, creative and DIY at the same time.

The film is basically a spoof of every Hollywood vision-quest movie you've ever seen. You know the films. A young character (almost always male) is called on to save the world/neighborhood/kingdom. He's over-matched, and under prepared, but with a kindly older mentor of great power to guide him, you know he will find a way to prevail.

Except here the "special" character at the center really ISN'T very special. He's a young working guy like a million others, who's not very bright or especially brave, and who just wants to live his happy, blank, endlessly repetitive safe life. And the mentor? None other than the voice of Morgan Freeman, expertly spoofing his own image as the ultimate voice of wisdom. He plays a wizard who is far less consistently brilliant and all knowing than he claims or wants to be. He's very, very funny, which is not the first thing one thinks of with Morgan Freeman. The same could be said of Liam Neeson, who also does a great voice job as the good cop/bad cop, who's personality changes depending on what side of his head is facing front. Will Ferrell is also excellent as the villain of the piece, being just silly enough to be funny, but just real enough to give the story some real tension.

Not everything works, and there were a few spots near the end where the energy flagged. But overall this is an exciting and creative (and wonderfully fun) piece of film-making, that manages to attack the near fascist mentality of a society obsessed with consuming, and determined not to question it's own lives (it's not for nothing that the villain's name is 'President Business')-- while still being very funny, and almost never feeling like its preaching.

And without giving anything away, in the last 20 minutes it changes the rules again, and asks a few profound questions about the nature of existence, without seeming like it had suddenly jumped the track as a film for kids as well as adults.

In the end, I walked around with the hysterical, awful (in a great way), and when you think about it kinda dark anthem "Everything is Awesome" banging around in my head for days.

The LEGO Movie / Le Film LEGO [Blu-ray] (Sous-titres français)
The LEGO Movie / Le Film LEGO [Blu-ray] (Sous-titres français)
DVD ~ Chris Pratt
Price: CDN$ 19.96
2 used & new from CDN$ 15.46

5.0 out of 5 stars Wild, smart, creative and great fun -- with a heart, Jan. 16 2015
One of my very favorite films of 2014.

What I worried would be a feature length commercial is instead a very funny, and somewhat subversive film, overflowing with ideas, puns, perfect music, and wacky 'cameos' by everyone from Shaquile O'Neil, to a wonderfully warped and dark Batman (given terrific voice by Will Arnet).

'Lego' doesn't look quite like any film I've seen before. It has a rough, almost bizarrely low- tech look to it's Lego people -- stop motion that looks like stop motion --oddly (but very effectively) combined with mind-blowingly huge and complicated shots of the Lego universe in action. Somehow in the unlikely mix of slickness and lo-fi something wonderful is created; animation that is wildly impressive, but also clearly human, creative and DIY at the same time.

The film is basically a spoof of every Hollywood vision-quest movie you've ever seen. You know the films. A young character (almost always male) is called on to save the world/neighborhood/kingdom. He's over-matched, and under prepared, but with a kindly older mentor of great power to guide him, you know he will find a way to prevail.

Except here the "special" character at the center really ISN'T very special. He's a young working guy like a million others, who's not very bright or especially brave, and who just wants to live his happy, blank, endlessly repetitive safe life. And the mentor? None other than the voice of Morgan Freeman, expertly spoofing his own image as the ultimate voice of wisdom. He plays a wizard who is far less consistently brilliant and all knowing than he claims or wants to be. He's very, very funny, which is not the first thing one thinks of with Morgan Freeman. The same could be said of Liam Neeson, who also does a great voice job as the good cop/bad cop, who's personality changes depending on what side of his head is facing front. Will Ferrell is also excellent as the villain of the piece, being just silly enough to be funny, but just real enough to give the story some real tension.

Not everything works, and there were a few spots near the end where the energy flagged. But overall this is an exciting and creative (and wonderfully fun) piece of film-making, that manages to attack the near fascist mentality of a society obsessed with consuming, and determined not to question it's own lives (it's not for nothing that the villain's name is 'President Business')-- while still being very funny, and almost never feeling like its preaching.

And without giving anything away, in the last 20 minutes it changes the rules again, and asks a few profound questions about the nature of existence, without seeming like it had suddenly jumped the track as a film for kids as well as adults.

In the end, I walked around with the hysterical, awful (in a great way), and when you think about it kinda dark anthem "Everything is Awesome" banging around in my head for days.

The Shadow Line [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
The Shadow Line [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
DVD ~ Chiwetel Ejiofor
Offered by Deal Beat
Price: CDN$ 36.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A first rate, brilliantly done, deeply chilling mini-series, Jan. 16 2015
This is an excellent 7 hour BBC mini-series about police corruption, drug trafficking and human frailty. Pitch dark, and no important character is without fault or sins.

The performances are terrific. Chiwetel Ejiofor does very solid work as a detective returning to the job after having a bullet lodged in his brain when his partner is killed in a shooting. His memory has been damaged, so he can't remember that night, or if he and his partner were doing cop work, or were playing ball with the other side. It's a complex character, a man tortured by literally not knowing himself, not knowing his own secrets. Christopher Eccleston also does great work with an unusual and complicated role. If Ejiofor is a good guy, who may have been a bad one, then Eccelston is a bad guy with the soul of a good one. He just wants to get out with one last big score to help his sick wife, without hurting anyone. Stephen Rea is a lot of fun, if a bit one note as an ice cold super-baddie, and Rafe Spall creates a terrific, very different kind of scary bad guy -- one who is so odd, almost goofy, and quirky that it's hard to know when he's kidding, or when he'll suddenly go off in a big way. All the smaller roles are filled with top notch actors, making this a thriller that relies far more on complex behavior than shoot-outs for narrative drive and tension.

There are a few frustrating plot cheats along the way, but less than most stories in this genre (the fact that it's generally so damn good, makes the few wonky moments stand out more.). Director-writer-producer Hugo Blick has a great eye for color and noirish framing, and a feel for messy morality that serves him very well here -- and even better in his more recent mini- series "The Honorable Woman." If you liked that, there's a good chance you'll like this, and vice-versa.

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