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K. Gordon
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Hope & Glory [Import]
Hope & Glory [Import]
Price: CDN$ 19.69
9 used & new from CDN$ 10.57

4.0 out of 5 stars A unique perspective on WW II, Feb. 7 2014
This review is from: Hope & Glory [Import] (DVD)
If on re-seeing this 27 years after it’s initial release, it didn’t quite hold up to all my grand memories, it came pretty close. Whatever it’s forgivable flaws, this is a unique and wonderful film.

Showing life in WWII Britain through the eyes of a young boy, it’s a very odd look at war, filled more with comedy, family warmth and a sense of adventure, than of tragedy (although tragedy always seems to threaten, from just around the corner). The acting is superlative throughout, and Boorman’s camera really seems as though it sees with the senses of his child hero.

The first two thirds of the film, as the family lives through the blitz, with bomb raids a part of daily life and houses all around them being blown to pieces is as remarkable, human, funny, sad and surreal as I remember. Only in the last third, when the family leaves London for the safety of the countryside does the film lose some steam, trading the completely original and honest feeling of a child’s experience of a war, for eccentric relatives in the English countryside – something that feels far more familiar, if still well done.

But, in spite of that slight letdown, this is certainly a film worth seeking out and seeing. It’s very strange – given how popular it was with audiences and critics, and the fact it was nominated for 5 Oscars including best picture -- that it seems to be out of print on DVD in North America (not to mention never having a well deserved blu-ray release). Hopefully someone will rectify that soon. (listening Criterion)?

Star Trek / Star Trek Into Darkness Double Pack [Blu-ray] (Region Free)
Star Trek / Star Trek Into Darkness Double Pack [Blu-ray] (Region Free)
DVD ~ Chris Pine
Offered by Deal Beat
Price: CDN$ 48.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Two good films, but watch out for the price, Feb. 7 2014
It would be much cheaper to but these two films separately, at least as of 02/14, so I'd certainly look at that choice first. That knocked a star off my rating. That said the films themselves are worth seeing. My notes;

Star Trek (2009) Entertaining, with some great effects, and some actual acting and heart. My only disappointment was that, as the film went on the action took over to the point where the emotions got a bit lost, and the climactic battle felt kind of predictable. The action is fun, but it gets repetitive, but the human scenes have humor and freshness. Not a great movie, but much better than most Hollywood junk.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) As much as I liked Abrams’ 2009 re-boot of the Star Trek series, I liked this second installment even better. I think that’s because there was less of an obligation to fill up back-story, and more ability to go deeper both into plot, and into the emotions of these new, younger versions of the characters we now (re) know. Adding to that Benedict Cumberbatch makes a complex and compelling villain, even if the character does borrow from other sources, including Rutger Hauer in “Blade Runner”. The humor is funny, the emotional scenes have a real impact, the battles are exciting, the acting is excellent, the plot twists are clever, and the more epic ‘big’ moments are really effective. There are flaws; some plot twists can be seen coming a mile off, there are a few painful cheats or jumps in logic, and a handful of too-easy coincidences. But for a big summer blockbuster this has more smarts, style, punch and humanity than most.

Star Trek + Star Trek Into Darkness [Blu-ray] [Import]
Star Trek + Star Trek Into Darkness [Blu-ray] [Import]
Price: CDN$ 98.59
9 used & new from CDN$ 29.97

3.0 out of 5 stars A combination of two pretty strong films, but watch out for the price!, Feb. 3 2014
It would be much cheaper to but these two films separately, at least as of 02/14, so I'd certainly look at that choice first. That knocked a star off my rating. That said the films themselves are worth seeing. My notes;

Star Trek (2009) Entertaining, with some great effects, and some actual acting and heart. My only disappointment was that, as the film went on the action took over to the point where the emotions got a bit lost, and the climactic battle felt kind of predictable. The action is fun, but it gets repetitive, but the human scenes have humor and freshness. Not a great movie, but much better than most Hollywood junk.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) As much as I liked Abrams’ 2009 re-boot of the Star Trek series, I liked this second installment even better. I think that’s because there was less of an obligation to fill up back-story, and more ability to go deeper both into plot, and into the emotions of these new, younger versions of the characters we now (re) know. Adding to that Benedict Cumberbatch makes a complex and compelling villain, even if the character does borrow from other sources, including Rutger Hauer in “Blade Runner”. The humor is funny, the emotional scenes have a real impact, the battles are exciting, the acting is excellent, the plot twists are clever, and the more epic ‘big’ moments are really effective. There are flaws; some plot twists can be seen coming a mile off, there are a few painful cheats or jumps in logic, and a handful of too-easy coincidences. But for a big summer blockbuster this has more smarts, style, punch and humanity than most.

In a World [Import]
In a World [Import]
Price: CDN$ 21.71
23 used & new from CDN$ 14.68

4.0 out of 5 stars Smart, funny, big-hearted indie comedy, Feb. 2 2014
This review is from: In a World [Import] (DVD)
It's funny (and kinda sad) that it now takes a little indie film to do what Hollywood once did so regularly and well – make an intelligent, funny, grown-up comedy with idiosyncratic characters and wit. Lake Bell does a terrific job in the tough triple role of director, writer, star
and makes a film that's original, and even has something to say about sexism, fathers and daughters and ego.

A young wanna-be voice over artist who has never gotten support from her very successful father – a star in that universe - we watch her as she tries to find place in the odd and specific world of people who do voice-overs for movie trailers, dealing with her own journey, but also her friends and relationships.

Bell took a risk by casting a lot of people we know more as comics than actors in supporting roles, but they almost all do her proud and pull off the heart in the story, as well as the comedy. (And the couple who don't quite have the needed acting chops don't hurt the film enough to do serious damage).

In the end, this isn't a 'change the world' film - if you go in over hyped you could be disappointed - and not every moment or twist works, but there is a lot of raw talent, passion, smarts, and good humor on display, and that puts it pretty far up the ladder in the
current movie world.

In A World Bilingual [Blu-ray]
In A World Bilingual [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Rob Corddry
Price: CDN$ 16.98
8 used & new from CDN$ 16.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Smart, funny, big hearted indie comedy, Feb. 2 2014
It's funny (and kinda sad) that it now takes a little indie film to do what Hollywood once did so regularly and well – make an intelligent, funny, grown-up comedy with idiosyncratic characters and wit. Lake Bell does a terrific job in the tough triple role of director, writer, star and makes a film that's original, and even has something to say about sexism, fathers and daughters and ego.

A young wanna-be voice over artist who has never gotten support from her very successful father – a star in that universe - we watch her as she tries to find place in the odd and specific world of people who do voice-overs for movie trailers, dealing with her own journey, but also her friends and relationships.

Bell took a risk by casting a lot of people we know more as comics than actors in supporting roles, but they almost all do her proud and pull off the heart in the story, as well as the comedy. (And the couple who don't quite have the needed acting chops don't hurt the film enough to do serious damage).

In the end, this isn't a 'change the world' film - if you go in over hyped you could be disappointed - and not every moment or twist works, but there is a lot of raw talent, passion, smarts, and good humor on display, and that puts it pretty far up the ladder in the
current movie world.

Star Trek Into Darkness [Blu-ray] [Import]
Star Trek Into Darkness [Blu-ray] [Import]
Offered by Rarewaves-CA
Price: CDN$ 14.45
9 used & new from CDN$ 14.45

4.0 out of 5 stars A solid entry, Feb. 2 2014
As much as I liked Abrams' 2009 re-boot of the Star Trek series, I liked this second installment better. I think that's because there was less of an obligation to fill up back-story, and more ability to go deeper both into plot, and into the emotions of these new, younger versions of the characters we now (re) know. Add to that Benedict Cumberbatch makes a complex and compelling villain, even if the character does borrow from other sources, including Rutger Hauer in "Blade Runner".

The humor is funny, the emotional scenes have a real impact, the battles are exciting, the acting is excellent, the plot twists are
clever, and the more epic 'big' moments are really effective.

There are flaws; some plot twists can be seen coming a mile off, there are a few painful cheats or jumps in logic, and a handful of too-easy coincidences. But for a big summer blockbuster this has more smarts, style, punch and humanity than most.

Star Trek (2009) [Blu-ray]
Star Trek (2009) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Chris Pine
Price: CDN$ 27.95
12 used & new from CDN$ 13.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Solid re-boot, Feb. 2 2014
Entertaining, with some great effects, and some actual acting and heart. My only disappointment was that, as the film went on the
action took over to the point where the emotions got a bit lost, and the climactic battle felt kind of predictable. The action is fun, but it gets repetitive, but the human scenes have humor and freshness. Not a great movie, but much better than most Hollywood junk.

Star Trek Into Darkness [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy] (Bilingual)
Star Trek Into Darkness [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Chris Pine
Price: CDN$ 12.49
18 used & new from CDN$ 8.95

4.0 out of 5 stars A fun, smart entry in the series., Feb. 2 2014
As much as I liked Abrams' 2009 re-boot of the Star Trek series, I liked this second installment better. I think that's because there was less of an obligation to fill up back-story, and more ability to go deeper both into plot, and into the emotions of these new, younger versions of the characters we now (re) know. Add to that Benedict Cumberbatch makes a complex and compelling villain, even if the character does borrow from other sources, including Rutger Hauer in "Blade Runner", and more specifically one who is a spoiler that won't be revealed here.

The humor is funny, the emotional scenes have a real impact, the battles are exciting, the acting is excellent, the plot twists are
clever, and the more epic 'big' moments are really effective.

There are flaws; some plot twists can be seen coming a mile off, there are a few painful cheats or jumps in logic, and a handful of too-easy coincidences. But for a big summer blockbuster this has more smarts, style, punch and humanity than most.

Malcolm X  Make It Plain
Malcolm X Make It Plain
VHS

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, if arguably too short (even at 2.5 hours) documentary, Jan. 27 2014
This review is from: Malcolm X Make It Plain (VHS Tape)
An intelligent and well done overview, giving a sense of the many amazing steps Malcolm took over the evolution of his life. And perhaps that was the most admirable thing of all about the man; the fact that he kept learning, growing, changing all through his life. He allowed his strongest beliefs and loyalties to stay open to challenges, something all the human race could gain from.

I only had two minor difficulties with the film. With a life this rich and complex, even two and a half hours feels a bit rushed, a bit sped through. There’s a reason his autobiography runs almost 500 pages. I missed hearing more about the human sides of the man, what he was like away from the crowds. And even much of the public Malcolm, the leader, the speaker, by nature gets a bit of a ‘readers digest’ treatment. I don’t really blame the filmmaker. Malcolm’s life was complex enough that more screen time would likely have been the only way to do any better.

The other thing, perhaps related to the above, was that it didn’t have quite the emotional impact -- at least for me -- of Spike Lee’s bio-pic. I’m not sure if that’s a testament to how strong Lee’s film was, or a sign of something missing in this documentary. But generally it’s much more common for me to respond to the ‘reality’ of a documentary, rather than the dramatized version of the same story. For me, this was a rare exception. The sense of understanding, admiration, and loss I felt with Lee’s film was somehow stronger.

None-the-less, this is still an excellent, informative and well-made sweeping portrait of the life of one of the more important people of the 20th century. Sadly, it’s now out-of-print, and almost impossible to find.

The Strangers
The Strangers
Price: CDN$ 11.74
21 used & new from CDN$ 1.72

4.0 out of 5 stars Well made, but ultimately empty, Jan. 25 2014
This review is from: The Strangers (DVD)
I lie between those who see this as a masterpiece, and those who see it as en empty exercise in clichéd sadism. On the one side, the film is very well made and effective. The cinematography, the acting, the editing, the score and direction work together to create a lot of truly creepy uncomfortable suspense, without resorting to too much gore, especially in the film's first half.

On the other hand, it lacks any thematic core (as opposed to, for example "Territories" a recent low budget horror film that also managed to raise questions about political prisoners and xenophobic paranoia). It also lacks any psychological insight although the first half hints that might be where the film is going. But these horrific intruders aren't ultimately reflections of the main characters inner lives, or a comment on their emotional struggles. They're just generic, unexplained evil. The film does a good job of evoking a nightmare, but by not aiming higher misses the chance to be something more special than an effective scare machine.

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