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K. Gordon
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The Lunchbox [Blu-ray + DVD] (Sous-titres français)
The Lunchbox [Blu-ray + DVD] (Sous-titres français)
DVD ~ Irrfan Khan
Price: CDN$ 30.00
11 used & new from CDN$ 29.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Sweet, sad, funny, and very human "indie" film from India, Oct. 28 2014
Good hearted and well told, subtle 'dramaedy' about the on-paper relationship between a lonely, ignored housewife, and a grumpy older insurance case-worker who starts getting the lunchboxes meant for the woman's husband.

The two soon start writing letters back and forth, which are carried in the filled and emptied lunchbox, and an odd friendship develops. At the same time, the self-isolated insurance worker (Irrfan Kahn in a lovely, understated performance) starts to reluctantly form a friendship with an ambitious, poor young man who has been hired to replace him when he retires. There have been films using the gimmick of two leads having a non face to face relationship before (e.g. 'You've Got Mail'), but this is both quirkier and more low key. The focus is less on romance, and more on these two lonely souls simply getting to know each other, and to tell their stories to someone in a world where no one seems to care.

Nimrat Kaur does a terrific job as the lonesome housewife, as does Nawazuddin Siddlqui as the orphaned worker slowly taken under the wing of his older counterpart.

This isn't a film that will make you laugh out loud, or reduce you to tears. But under the excellent direction of first timer Ritesh Batra, this Indian "indie" film will touch your heart and make you smile as you slowly get to know these sad, sometimes foolish, often wise, and always very human characters.

The Fault in Our Stars (Extended Edition with Limited Edition Bracelet) (Bilingual) [Blu-ray]
The Fault in Our Stars (Extended Edition with Limited Edition Bracelet) (Bilingual) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Shailene Woodley
Price: CDN$ 29.99
3 used & new from CDN$ 24.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Deeply moving, but also very alive and often funny, Oct. 27 2014
If you choose, you could be snarky about this film. Characters about to die of cancer somehow look better than most of us on our best days, and the selection of (excellent) indie songs used as score gets a bit too constant and insistent on telling us what to feel.

But at it's core this is a good-hearted, wonderfully acted, funny, human and very, very sad film about being adolescent and trying to open your heart to love while facing a life span measured in months, not decades or even years.

Josh Boone does a very nice, subtle job as director, getting nuanced performances from all, and finding visual touches that enhance without being self-conscious. Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Nat Wolff and Willem Dafoe all provide terrific work in supporting roles. Ansel Elgot takes a role that is much trickier than it looks – as one critic put it he's an actor playing a kid who himself is playing a character - Gus is doing his best to play the brave, cocky optimist, but there's clearly a much more vulnerable young man underneath. Elgot walks that tightrope very well. And Shailene Woodley brings tremendous depth and complexity to Hazel. She takes a character it would be hard not to love, but makes her something much more; a multi faceted, very real human being.

While it has it's occasional Hollywood moments, it's deeply moving and life affirming without denying the suffering, loss and pain, which is all one can really ask of a film about death.

Belle (Bilingual) [Blu-ray]
Belle (Bilingual) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Price: CDN$ 19.96
8 used & new from CDN$ 19.96

4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful, moving and well acted, Oct. 23 2014
I've read some valid criticisms of Amma Asante's "Belle"; you know how it will end by 20 minutes in, at times it can feel stuffy and Masterpiece Theater-ish, it isn't as edgy as its subject really needs, it talks about the horrific obscenity of slavery, but never makes us face it as more than a concept, it plays a bit fast and loose with history to make its points, its villains are little more than cartoons. Fine, I think all those have some truth.

But… in the end I found the film very moving, thought-provoking and uplifting in a way that felt earned. The film is the fact based story of a mixed race girl being brought up in upper- class England in the mid 18th century by a judge who would eventually make some key legal decisions about slavery.

There is more than a touch of Jane Asustin-equse social comedy in the drama, which observes that women of the time were also no more than property, if wildly better treated than slaves.

The acting writing and direction combine to create some memorable and complex characters. Their complexity becomes all the more apparent on 2nd viewing, when we can catch the flaws in those who are 'good', and the maddening strangeness of being a person alone in their own world in a way few people can imagine.

If the film takes a naive and then intellectual attitude towards slavery, it does so because that is also the experience of the heroine. On some level an outcast in her upper-class world, she begins as an innocent to the horrors around her. As she learns about them they inform who she is and who she becomes in ways that are moving and powerful.

The film may be imperfect, but it does a great job of combining a lush romanticism, with emotional weight, wit and righteous ideas.

I'm so excited!/ Les amants passagers (Bilingue) (DVD)
I'm so excited!/ Les amants passagers (Bilingue) (DVD)
DVD ~ Antonio De La Torre

4.0 out of 5 stars Uneven but a lot of fun, Oct. 22 2014
Uneven, but a lot of fun, with some serious thoughts about politics, class and the economy of modern Spain nicely hidden in the mix of sex and absurdity.

This (very intentionally) harkens back to Almodovar’s anarchic, rough edged early sex farces like Pepi, Luci Bom, but now he's re-approached that kind of story with the technical mastery of a lifetime making ever more sophisticated films.

That cuts both ways. On one hand the gorgeous color-popping polished visuals, and high-level performances make this even more of a joy to watch. On the other hand, it’s very smoothness takes some of the bite out of Almodovor’s early punky biting the hand that fed him, pushing the limits of film in post-Franco Spain.

But forgetting all that serious mumbo-jumbo, this is fun sexual and political farce, 90% of which takes places on an airplane that may be doomed. Led by three very funny, very gay flight attendants determined to keep the upper-class passengers distracted from what’s really going on, using everything from musical numbers to mescaline (the economy class passengers have simply been drugged and put to sleep; a heavy handed but effective comment) – the flight gets wilder and wilder as those ruling class passengers reveal their secrets – sexual, social and personal - and their libidos. As do the flight crew.

Certainly not Almodovar’s best work, but often filthy, funny and smart. And if a good number of the jokes don’t quite hit, those that do, will sometimes make you laugh, while others will make you smile ruefully.

I'm So Excited [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
I'm So Excited [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Laya Martí
Price: CDN$ 30.97
23 used & new from CDN$ 21.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Uneven, but a lot of fun, Oct. 22 2014
Uneven, but a lot of fun, with some serious thoughts about politics, class and the economy of modern Spain nicely hidden in the mix of sex and absurdity.

This (very intentionally) harkens back to Almodovar’s anarchic, rough edged early sex farces like Pepi, Luci Bom, but now he's re-approached that kind of story with the technical mastery of a lifetime making ever more sophisticated films.

That cuts both ways. On one hand the gorgeous color-popping polished visuals, and high-level performances make this even more of a joy to watch. On the other hand, it’s very smoothness takes some of the bite out of Almodovor’s early punky biting the hand that fed him, pushing the limits of film in post-Franco Spain.

But forgetting all that serious mumbo-jumbo, this is fun sexual and political farce, 90% of which takes places on an airplane that may be doomed. Led by three very funny, very gay flight attendants determined to keep the upper-class passengers distracted from what’s really going on, using everything from musical numbers to mescaline (the economy class passengers have simply been drugged and put to sleep; a heavy handed but effective comment) – the flight gets wilder and wilder as those ruling class passengers reveal their secrets – sexual, social and personal - and their libidos. As do the flight crew.

Certainly not Almodovar’s best work, but often filthy, funny and smart. And if a good number of the jokes don’t quite hit, those that do, will sometimes make you laugh, while others will make you smile ruefully.

Breaking Bad: The Final Season [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
Breaking Bad: The Final Season [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Bryan Cranston
Price: CDN$ 44.99
9 used & new from CDN$ 24.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A great end to one of the greatest series, Oct. 17 2014
What can be said about this spectacular saga that hasn't been said before? One of the very
few series that competes with the best films in history for achievement in cinematic storytelling.
Like a great novel slowly unfolding, it's funny, heartbreaking, incredibly tense, deeply disturbing.

A nebbishy high-school science teacher finds he has lung cancer, so becomes a meth dealer to
make money for his family before his death. Often visually stunning, with a breathtaking
performance by Brian Cranston in the lead, and great work from all the supporting roles,
this portrait of a man's decent into hell couldn't be much better, and it just grows darker and
more disturbing each year.

In a way, thematically it recalls "The Godfather I and II" in how that epic charts Michael's journey
from innocence to darkness, along with the moral murkiness of the endless drive for money
and success - how we lose ourselves, so that succeeding and having ever more becomes an
end in itself for which we will pay any price, rather than a route to happiness, trapping us in a
game we can never win.

Kudos too, to creator Vince Gilligan to have the courage to end the show at just the right time
rather than string it out past where the story would bear. This last season brings together all
the shows themes and central characters and finds a way to end it all without ever selling
out the story or the ideas. This brief 8 episode season has some of the series very best episodes.
This is powerful, important and utterly enthralling stuff.

Breaking Bad: The Complete Series Limited Edition 2014 Barrel (Bilingual) [Blu-ray]
Breaking Bad: The Complete Series Limited Edition 2014 Barrel (Bilingual) [Blu-ray]
Price: CDN$ 189.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing series, a well put together collection., Oct. 17 2014
What can be said about this spectacular saga that hasn't been said before? One of the very few series that competes with
the best films in history for achievement in cinematic storytelling. Like a great novel slowly unfolding, it's funny, heartbreaking, incredibly tense, deeply disturbing.

A nebbishy high-school science teacher finds he has lung cancer, so becomes a meth dealer to make money for his family
before his death. Often visually stunning, with a breathtaking performance by Brian Cranston in the lead, and great work
from all the supporting roles,this portrait of a man's decent into hell couldn't be much better, and it just grows darker and
more disturbing each year.

In a way, thematically it recalls "The Godfather I and II" in how that epic charts Michael's journey from innocence to
darkness, along with the moral murkiness of the endless drive for money and success - how we lose ourselves, so
that succeeding and having ever more becomes an end in itself for which we will pay any price, rather than a route
to happiness, trapping us in a game we can never win.

Kudos too, to creator Vince Gilligan to have the courage to end the show at just the right time rather than string it
out past where the story would bear. It may take a few episodes to get into, but you owe it to yourself to try. This is
powerful, important and utterly enthralling stuff.

As for this special limited edition box-set, at the current price of $189 it's not the rip off many of these sets are. To buy
all 6 sets on blu-ray would cost nearly as much, and there are some cool extras and packaging here for fans of that
sort of thing. That said, to me, if you already have much of the series, the extras may not be so amazing as to warrant
a double dip.

NEW Scream (DVD)
NEW Scream (DVD)
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 15.93
22 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Inventive, scary and fun, if - for me - sometimes uneven, Oct. 15 2014
This review is from: NEW Scream (DVD) (DVD)
I've gone back and forth in my feelings about "Scream" both times I've seen it, almost 20 years ago when it opened, and just now There are times when its meta-parody- but–still-scary approach to teen slasher films works quite well, especially the ending which manages to be funny, scary, over the top, and socially witty all at the same time. Other times it's too self conscious to actually be scary, but not surprising enough in its humor to really be as much fun as it could be.

It's also a hard film to criticize, because the answer to almost every complaint (e.g. the actors playing high school kids all look like they're well into in their 20s) can always be 'but that's the whole point, it's always that way in these movies'. But one thing that does annoy me that isn't so easily shrugged off is that the cast seem to be in a number of different movies. Skeet Ulrich, for example, brings a surprising amount of realism and depth to his character, while Courtney Cox as an 'I'll do anything for a story' reporter plays a cartoon of a cartoon. This isn't of issue of 'good' versus 'bad' acting, but it does make figuring out just what the tone of the film is, more muddy than it needs to be.

Probably the best thing about 'Scream' is it knows when to BE best. The opening and closing 15 minutes are the two strongest sections of the film, so if the middle is a little all over the place and sometimes repetitive, and a little more obvious in it's humor, that's not what you walk away remembering.

Scream / Frissons (Bilingual) [Blu-ray]
Scream / Frissons (Bilingual) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Neve Campbell
Price: CDN$ 8.99
13 used & new from CDN$ 5.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Inventive scary and fun, if - for me - somewhat uneven, Oct. 15 2014
I've gone back and forth in my feelings about "Scream" both times I've seen it, almost 20 years ago when it opened, and just now There are times when its meta-parody- but–still-scary approach to teen slasher films works quite well, especially the ending which manages to be funny, scary, over the top, and socially witty all at the same time. Other times it's too self conscious to actually be scary, but not surprising enough in its humor to really be as much fun as it could be.

It's also a hard film to criticize, because the answer to almost every complaint (e.g. the actors playing high school kids all look like they're well into in their 20s) can always be 'but that's the whole point, it's always that way in these movies'. But one thing that does annoy me that isn't so easily shrugged off is that the cast seem to be in a number of different movies. Skeet Ulrich, for example, brings a surprising amount of realism and depth to his character, while Courtney Cox as an 'I'll do anything for a story' reporter plays a cartoon of a cartoon. This isn't of issue of 'good' versus 'bad' acting, but it does make figuring out just what the tone of the film is, more muddy than it needs to be.

Probably the best thing about 'Scream' is it knows when to BE best. The opening and closing 15 minutes are the two strongest sections of the film, so if the middle is a little all over the place and sometimes repetitive, and a little more obvious in it's humor, that's not what you walk away remembering.

Cassandra's Dream [DVD] (2008)
Cassandra's Dream [DVD] (2008)
Offered by EntertainmentForLess
Price: CDN$ 9.99
35 used & new from CDN$ 2.68

4.0 out of 5 stars Underrated if flawed morality play by Woody Allen. Strong performances., Oct. 13 2014
This is the third time Allen has made a drama dealing with the moral insanity surrounding the possibility of murder. The first - "Crimes and Misdemeanors" - is one of his very greatest films. "Match Point" made only two years before "Cassandra's Dream"
was strong, if not as complex and gut-punching as "Crimes…". While critics liked this film by far the least of the three, I feel this
can certainly stand at least on equal footing with "Match Point".

I will concede that the conclusion is slightly underwhelming and feels rushed. But the strong performances by Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell (who arguably does his best work ever here) as brothers in various financial need -- whose rich uncle will bail out if they kill someone -- make the film upsetting (in the good way) and tense.

Indeed there are some terrific Hitchcockian moments in the film. Allen breaks with his normal style in interesting ways. Instead of only using source music, Philip Glass contributes a powerful and effective score. And the camera-work by Vilmos Zisgmond uses different kind of movement than I usually associate with Allen, including a sort of 'creeping camera' that helps to heighten the tension in a number of scenes.

Make no mistake, this is more moral drama than thriller, and those expecting a thriller's pace will be frustrated. But whatever its flaws,it's an intelligent, well acted attempt to come to grips with moral responsibility in a world where money rules all.

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