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K. Gordon
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Benda Bilili [Blu-ray] [Import]
Benda Bilili [Blu-ray] [Import]
Price: CDN$ 20.53
21 used & new from CDN$ 5.91

5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Wonderful, March 11 2015
Ridiculously inspiring documentary about the coming together of a musical group formed by homeless street people, most of whom are older paraplegics, in the poverty ridden Congo. They take in a young man with his home-made, one-stringed instrument as a sort of protégé. They practice for years (the film was made over a 5 year period) before finally getting to play in Europe. The music and performances are amazing, the people even more so.

Often I find ‘warm your heart’ docs too sticky and manipulative. But these brave and wonderful musicians earn every bit of our admiration, respect and joy. We see the downs as well as the ups, and the film never short changes just how much work and luck have to come together for these artists to have any hope of success.

The film-makers make no pretense at staying removed and objective. They are just as won over, and in time actively become a part of trying to raise enough money to help these men live their dream, to record, and to travel with their music. (But in an understated way – this never feels like a film of self-aggrandizement). A true triumph of the human spirit story, filed with smiles against all the overwhelming odds.

Starlet [Blu-ray]
Starlet [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Dree Hemingway
Price: CDN$ 36.55
15 used & new from CDN$ 15.05

4.0 out of 5 stars A surprisingly touching, funny and idiosyncratic little indie, if a bit uneven., March 7 2015
This review is from: Starlet [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
One would think there's not much more to say about the empty life of druggy, fringy youth in L.A.'s San Fernando valley. But this film messes with our expectations in lovely ways, and ends up as a comedy-drama that's human and surprising.

Calling a film like this 'little' is no pejorative. If it was 'bigger' (budget, stars) it probably would have had it's jagged edges shorn off, and with them would have gone much of it's special-ness.

The acting is terrific. Dree Hemingway makes the air-headed, hottie lead wonderfully vapid and annoying – at first – and lets us only slowly come to appreciate her humanity underneath. Besedka Johnson, in her film debut as the 85 year old that Hemingway stumbles into an uneasy friendship with makes her character equal parts spiky defensive exterior and vulnerable, needy center, giving reality and depth to this sad, touchy recluse.

The photography is also very evocative; its ugly, bleached color and slightly off-kilter but deliberate framings are far more interesting than is common in a micro-budget indie. And the film makes some brave choices, like a few seconds of extreme and un-simulated sexuality that makes points about character and our perceptions by being both shocking and banal at the same time.

My only real frustrations were that a few of the plot twists felt forced – too neat and coincidental for a film this grounded in feeling 'real'. But that was nowhere near enough of a problem to keep me from feeling very warm indeed about this odd-ball character study.

Archer: Season 5 [Blu-ray] (Sous-titres français) [Import]
Archer: Season 5 [Blu-ray] (Sous-titres français) [Import]
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 30.26
19 used & new from CDN$ 30.24

5.0 out of 5 stars It had to keep growing, so it did, March 5 2015
The 5th season was particularly impressive for taking the show in a new direction, just when it seemed like it might start to feel like it was repeating. It even managed to have a genuine moment of emotion or two amidst the glorious absurdity and wonderful filth.

The gang is the same (though Cheryl's personality takes a very surreal twist), but now they're working as cocaine dealers, after the FBI shuts down ISIS minutes into the season opener. Hence the addition of 'vice' to the title.

For those unfamiliar with the series: this is a very funny animated spy spoof series. By nature this kind of wild, raunchy, clever joke a second romp is going to be a hit or miss affair, but the batting average in ‘Archer’ is surprisingly high, and some of the wordplay is really sharp. The show grew each of the 1st 5 seasons, getting ever funnier, and having the characters and situations branch out in some great unexpected ways. From what started out in season 1 feeling like it would be a one joke idea that would quickly wear out, this somehow found a way to transcend and use the audience familiarity with the characters not to just repeat the same jokes, but to walk a great tightrope of giving what is expected, but then finding a way to just push it one step further.

Another big plus is the voice acting. The whole cast is terrific, as are the many guest stars that show up. The fun they seem to be having doing the show is infectious, and they manage to give their characters a surprising amount of range. Special credit has to be given to H. Jon Benjamin, along with the writers, for making the egotistical idiot of a lead not only very funny, but somehow also likable enough that he never wears out his welcome.

Archer Season 5
Archer Season 5
DVD ~ Aisha Tyler
Price: CDN$ 24.97

5.0 out of 5 stars Grow or die, so the show grew!, March 5 2015
This review is from: Archer Season 5 (DVD)
The 5th season was particularly impressive for taking the show in a new direction, just when it seemed like it might start to feel like it was repeating. It even managed to have a genuine moment of emotion or two amidst the glorious absurdity and wonderful filth.

The gang is the same (though Cheryl's personality takes a very surreal twist), but now they're working as cocaine dealers, after the FBI shuts down ISIS minutes into the season opener. Hence the addition of 'vice' to the title.

For those unfamiliar with the series: this is a very funny animated spy spoof series. By nature this kind of wild, raunchy, clever joke a second romp is going to be a hit or miss affair, but the batting average in ‘Archer’ is surprisingly high, and some of the wordplay is really sharp. The show grew each of the 1st 5 seasons, getting ever funnier, and having the characters and situations branch out in some great unexpected ways. From what started out in season 1 feeling like it would be a one joke idea that would quickly wear out, this somehow found a way to transcend and use the audience familiarity with the characters not to just repeat the same jokes, but to walk a great tightrope of giving what is expected, but then finding a way to just push it one step further.

Another big plus is the voice acting. The whole cast is terrific, as are the many guest stars that show up. The fun they seem to be having doing the show is infectious, and they manage to give their characters a surprising amount of range. Special credit has to be given to H. Jon Benjamin, along with the writers, for making the egotistical idiot of a lead not only very funny, but somehow also likable enough that he never wears out his welcome.

The Boxtrolls [Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD] (Bilingual)
The Boxtrolls [Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Elle Fanning
Price: CDN$ 12.49
10 used & new from CDN$ 7.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent blend of the silly and sophisticated., Feb. 24 2015
Delightful, funny, wildly inventive and politically astute, "The Boxtrolls" is like what you might have gotten if Monty Python had made a kid's stop-motion animated fable that was tremendously adult friendly. (Indeed, Eric Idle penned a very funny song for the film). It's full of good puns, bad puns, witty lines, and trenchant but not overbearing social satire about class, rich people, greed, stigmatizing of anyone 'different' and ugly mob mentality.

It was made with wonderfully original, painterly, sometimes beautiful and always playful visuals, that give it a unique look and feel.

The story is simple, a gang of Boxtrolls, odd little creatures that live in abandoned boxes the way hermit crabs take on abandoned shells, is terrorizing the small English town of Cheesebridge, where – for some odd reason - many are obsessed with cheese. The town reacts to these ugly ducklings as dangerous, but really they're more resourceful and sweet then most of the town's inhabitants, who would gladly exterminate these 'pests' without a moment's thought. The Boxtrolls are blamed for kidnapping and eating a young human boy, but really they've raised the child as one of their own, and now, as an adolescent, 'Eggs' tries to bridge the gap between the worlds.

The voice acting is all excellent, with Ben Kingsley earning special note as a terrific villain, his voice unrecognizable.

Critical reaction to this was somewhat mixed, but it all worked really well for me. A lovely blend of silly and sophisticated.

Inherent Vice / Vice Cache (Bilingual)
Inherent Vice / Vice Cache (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Joaquin Phoenix
Price: CDN$ 18.88

4.0 out of 5 stars Even after 2 viewings, this is the Paul Thomas Anderson film I've struggled most with., Feb. 18 2015
I think Anderson is amazing, one of the few directors of our time who can touch film-makers like Kubrick. But while the film is full of wonderful camera-work, production design and performances, and there are some very funny scenes, I couldn't quite get my head around the thing. I get that's the point, and that while Thomas Pynchon's novel has the outer form of a detective story, it's not really about plot but about mood and playful mind-games, details and surreal moments. But somehow the lack of tonal focus made it hard for me to get lost in it's rhythms.

Feeling like a goofy comedy one minute, a subtle satiric elegy for a hippie age that was never quite as fun as we'd like to remember the next, and a story driven detective noir the next, I found myself not getting engaged in the way I kept wanting to.

Given the talents involved, my huge admiration for Anderson, and the generally great critical reaction, I'm open to the idea that I'm missing something. And there are a lot of moments that echo with me, from Josh Brolin's truly gonzo, but yet also somehow understated performance as an uptight, straight-laced cop who is a lot more complex and messed up then he'd like to admit, to the very long single take seduction scene between Joaquin Phoenix and Katherine Waterston that is uncomfortable, sexy, repellent, real, a fantasy and beautifully acted all at the same time.

It's certainly a film worth seeing, but for the first time with an Anderson film I felt locked on the outside looking in, feeling a little sheepish and a little dumb.

Boardwalk Empire: The Complete First Season (Bilingual) [Blu-ray] (Sous-titres français)
Boardwalk Empire: The Complete First Season (Bilingual) [Blu-ray] (Sous-titres français)
DVD ~ Steve Buscemi
Price: CDN$ 42.49
2 used & new from CDN$ 42.49

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully made series, Feb. 9 2015
While it doesn’t have quite the depth, and emotional power of The Wire, Breaking Bad or The Sopranos, its epic view of prohibition era Atlantic City is a wonderfully acted and directed, beautifully production designed and photographed and intelligently written.

It takes a different tack than The Godfather or The Sopranos; it doesn’t focus on the gangster experience as the dark side of the struggling US immigrant dream, the outgrowth of trying to care for your family in a society that places material wealth above all. Steve Buscemi’s Nucky Thompson is already at the top, and he’d rather stay on top through political smarts and manipulation than violence when he can. He’s not an everyman, not a family man. He’s a loner who tried to bury his humanity when his wife died, and now focuses on growing his position as the real power in Atlantic City. He’s not obsessed with honor or codes. He’s more interested in being behind the throne than the focus of the headlines. A man of immense practicality. A charming, smooth, sophisticated businessman who happens to be utterly corrupt and utterly powerful. He’s a great anti-hero for now, when the villains of society are running the corporate-political machinery, not the neigborhood.

It’s also different from it’s predecessors in that its truly an ensemble piece. Nucky may be at the center, but we get to know a huge number of fascinating and well-drawn characters in surprising depth. The series is more mosaic than character study (one of the reasons it’s not really an emotional experience).

I resisted the show the first time through, because it lacked the kind of strange empathy that anti-hero shows like Breaking Bad and Sopranos traded in, But on second viewing, knowing that it was doing something closer to “Nashville” in it’s brilliant if distanced overview of a moment and place in America, I was able to be completely caught up and absorbed in its tremendous attention to detail, and richness of character

Boardwalk Empire: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy] (Sous-titres français)
Boardwalk Empire: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy] (Sous-titres français)
DVD ~ Steve Buscemi
Price: CDN$ 50.99
14 used & new from CDN$ 45.95

5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully made series, Feb. 9 2015
While it doesn’t have quite the depth, and emotional power of The Wire, Breaking Bad or The Sopranos, its epic view of prohibition era Atlantic City is a wonderfully acted and directed, beautifully production designed and photographed and intelligently written.

It takes a different tack than The Godfather or The Sopranos; it doesn’t focus on the gangster experience as the dark side of the struggling US immigrant dream, the outgrowth of trying to care for your family in a society that places material wealth above all. Steve Buscemi’s Nucky Thompson is already at the top, and he’d rather stay on top through political smarts and manipulation than violence when he can. He’s not an everyman, not a family man. He’s a loner who tried to bury his humanity when his wife died, and now focuses on growing his position as the real power in Atlantic City. He’s not obsessed with honor or codes. He’s more interested in being behind the throne than the focus of the headlines. A man of immense practicality. A charming, smooth, sophisticated businessman who happens to be utterly corrupt and utterly powerful. He’s a great anti-hero for now, when the villains of society are running the corporate-political machinery, not the neigborhood.

It’s also different from it’s predecessors in that its truly an ensemble piece. Nucky may be at the center, but we get to know a huge number of fascinating and well-drawn characters in surprising depth. The series is more mosaic than character study (one of the reasons it’s not really an emotional experience).

I resisted the show the first time through, because it lacked the kind of strange empathy that anti-hero shows like Breaking Bad and Sopranos traded in, But on second viewing, knowing that it was doing something closer to “Nashville” in it’s brilliant if distanced overview of a moment and place in America, I was able to be completely caught up and absorbed in its tremendous attention to detail, and richness of character

Archer: The Complete Season 3
Archer: The Complete Season 3
DVD ~ Judy Greer
Price: CDN$ 9.99
29 used & new from CDN$ 9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The season where the show started hitting it's peak, Feb. 7 2015
This has some of the absurdist, insane feel of 'Sealab' or 'Venture Brothers', but also grounds it in richer characters.

By nature this kind of wild, raunchy, ribald, gross, un-PC, very clever joke a second romp is going to be a hit or miss affair, but the batting average in 'Archer' is surprisingly high, and a lot of the wordplay is really sharp.

The show grows each season, getting ever funnier, and having the characters and situations branch out in some great unexpected ways. From what started out in season 1 feeling like it would be a one joke idea that would quickly wear out, this somehow found a way to transcend and use the audience familiarity with the characters not to just repeat the same jokes, but to walk a great tightrope of giving what is expected, but then finding a way to just push it one step further. By season 3 the show is really consistently full of surreal hilarity.

Another big plus here is the voice acting. The whole cast is terrific, as are the many guest stars that show up. The fun they all seem to be having doing the show is infectious, and they manage to give their characters a surprising amount of range. Special credit has to be given to H. Jon Benjamin, along with the writers, for making the egotistical idiot of a lead not only very funny, but somehow also likable enough that he never wears out his welcome.

If you like animated insanity, this is very much worth checking out to see if it's for you.

Archer: The Complete Fourth Season
Archer: The Complete Fourth Season
DVD ~ H. Jon Benjamin
Price: CDN$ 17.98
20 used & new from CDN$ 17.87

5.0 out of 5 stars Often extremely funny animated spy spoof. A great season., Feb. 7 2015
This has some of the absurdist, insane feel of 'Sealab' or 'Venture Brothers', but also grounds it in richer characters.

By nature this kind of wild, raunchy, ribald, gross, un-PC, very clever joke a second romp is going to be a hit or miss affair, but the batting average in 'Archer' is surprisingly high, and a lot of the wordplay is really sharp.

The show grows each season, getting ever funnier, and having the characters and situations branch out in some great unexpected ways. From what started out in season 1 feeling like it would be a one joke idea that would quickly wear out, this somehow found a way to transcend and use the audience familiarity with the characters not to just repeat the same jokes, but to walk a great tightrope of giving what is expected, but then finding a way to just push it one step further. By season 3 the show is really consistently full of surreal hilarity.

Another big plus here is the voice acting. The whole cast is terrific, as are the many guest stars that show up. The fun they all seem to be having doing the show is infectious, and they manage to give their characters a surprising amount of range. Special credit has to be given to H. Jon Benjamin, along with the writers, for making the egotistical idiot of a lead not only very funny, but somehow also likable enough that he never wears out his welcome.

If you like animated insanity, this is very much worth checking out to see if it's for you.

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