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K. Gordon
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Nixon in China [Blu-ray]
Nixon in China [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ John Adams
Price: CDN$ 37.67
28 used & new from CDN$ 24.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Mostly strong filming of a terrific modern opera, Jan. 7 2015
Ce commentaire est de: Nixon in China [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
It was fun to see this opera come to life after being familiar with it on CD. Certainly it makes the experience more emotional on both ends; the humor and wit are much clearer, as are the darker and sadder elements of change and loss.

Peter Sellars, who directed the stage production also guided the filming during a live performance. Sellars relies a great deal on close-ups, only going to wide shots occasionally. I found this surprising, and occasionally annoying, since his own careful theatrical visual compositions get cheated in the process. Also, extreme close-ups are not the most forgiving way of seeing stage wigs and make-up. On the other hand, it was nice to really be able to see the emotions on the singers' faces, and to realize what good actors most of them are. Even though they're playing in a large theater, most are subtle enough that these tight shots don't reveal tremendous over-acting, and give the opera a wonderfully intimate feel. Since a lot of the emotional drama of this opera is really internal, especially for both Richard and Pat Nixon, this close-up approach emphasizes the human as opposed to the spectacular, to strong effect.

On second viewing, the constant close ups seemed even more problematic. It struck me that much of what's going on in the opera is about the counterpoint in simultaneous 'conversations' and interactions. You might have Pat and Richard Nixon on one side of the stage, and Chairman Mao and his wife on the other. Or multiple groups at once in the 'big' scenes, all singing right over each other, 3 and 4 stories occurring simultaneously. But by relying so much on close ups and tight 2 shots, we lose some of the juxtapositions built into the music and staging. It works well in the truly intimate one-on-one scenes, but when there are many people on stage the close ups start to feel like they're interrupting the appreciation of the big picture.

The interviews conducted between acts are also less than thrilling. They tend to be very rushed, not giving time for any thoughtful or complex answers, and the interviewer has an irritating habit of chiming in and cutting off even those brief answers. I found myself skipping the interviews altogether after about the half-way point.

Beeswax [Import]
Beeswax [Import]
DVD ~ Tilly Hatcher
Price: CDN$ 36.81
13 used & new from CDN$ 18.75

4.0 out of 5 stars Grew on me..., Jan. 4 2015
Ce commentaire est de: Beeswax [Import] (DVD)
Intelligent, very low key mumble-core comedy/ drama that I liked better on reflection than while I was first watching it.

While I was viewing, the lack of plot and forward motion seemed frustrating. But looking back I found all the little honest moments of human weirdness that Bujalski captured with his (apparently) semi-improvised style gave me more of a real look into the lives of these late 20 somethings than I would have gotten from a more plot driven narrative.

And there IS a plot – about careers, about commitments, and about friendship. The tension over whether two friends who co-own a shop are actually going to sue each other over how the store is run is palpable, if not heart pounding. It's just the focus is more on details than on the big picture -- which is actually a lovely change from most films out there.

Kudos too for having a lead character in a wheelchair and a) not making that the most important thing about her, and b) allowing her to be sexy, sexual, funny, angry, grumpy – all the things people with challenged lives rarely are in movies.

The Order of Myths
The Order of Myths
DVD ~ Michael Simmonds
Offered by DealsAreUs
Price: CDN$ 9.44
7 used & new from CDN$ 5.12

4.0 out of 5 stars A subtle and sad view of race relations on the American south, Jan. 4 2015
Ce commentaire est de: The Order of Myths (DVD)
Thoughtful and quietly disturbing as opposed to having the more open rage of most documentaries dealing with modern racism. In Mobile Alabama, 2007, there are still two Mardi Gras celebration, one white, one black. The weirdly uncomfortable anachronism of two ‘separate but equal’ parades and balls is defended (primarily by the whites) as preserving history, and as not racist, but somehow more inclusive. And it does seem like both sides of the color line are in no rush to lose their own celebration for fear of being swallowed by the other. This is a far more subtle and complex study of the nature of race relations in America than we usually get to see. It’s clear that one day the wall will come down. We see the King and Queen of the black Mardi Gras visit the white celebration, and vice versa -- marking tentative and deeply awkward steps to the time when a future generation will marvel that there ever were two Mardi Gras. But for now we also see how deeply race has split and wounded the town, so that it’s almost as though two worlds exist in different dimensions in one space, occasionally seeing each others ghosts as they float by each other.

Titanic (4-Disc Combo) [Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + Digital Copy] (Bilingual)
Titanic (4-Disc Combo) [Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + Digital Copy] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Leonardo DiCaprio
Price: CDN$ 29.99
8 used & new from CDN$ 21.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A triumph of Hollywood dazzle over an overblown, needlessly trumped up script., Jan. 4 2015
There are a ton of problems in "Titanic" – the cartoon villains, the stilted dialogue, much of it obviously re-recorded in post production. Some weak supporting performances, the betrayal of a number of historical facts, and taking what was already one of the most dramatic nights of the 20th century and needlessly pumping it up with chases, gunfire, theft, scheming, etc.

Yet a lot works. As much as I didn't want to give in, Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio make a great, old fashioned, star crossed romantic couple. Many of the effects and stunts are amazing (although at other times you realize some wide shots are basically giant video-game like cartoons). And it made me cry -- while I felt like a fool for being swept up in it's shameless melodrama.

I can't argue that "Titanic" is art, or deep, or a great film, but I can say it's a terrifically effective entertainment that everyone should see at least once.

Titanic (Bilingual) [2-Disc DVD]
Titanic (Bilingual) [2-Disc DVD]
DVD ~ Leonardo DiCaprio
Offered by Keep It Real
Price: CDN$ 14.78
12 used & new from CDN$ 11.22

4.0 out of 5 stars A triumph of Hollywood dazzle over an overblown, needlessly trumped up script., Jan. 4 2015
There are a ton of problems in "Titanic" – the cartoon villains, the stilted dialogue, much of it obviously re-recorded in post production. Some weak supporting performances, the betrayal of a number of historical facts, and taking what was already one of the most dramatic nights of the 20th century and needlessly pumping it up with chases, gunfire, theft, scheming, etc.

Yet a lot works. As much as I didn't want to give in, Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio make a great, old fashioned, star crossed romantic couple. Many of the effects and stunts are amazing (although at other times you realize some wide shots are basically giant video-game like cartoons). And it made me cry -- while I felt like a fool for being swept up in it's shameless melodrama.

I can't argue that "Titanic" is art, or deep, or a great film, but I can say it's a terrifically effective entertainment that everyone should see at least once.

Titanic (4-Disc Combo Pack) [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy] (Bilingual)
Titanic (4-Disc Combo Pack) [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Leonardo DiCaprio
Offered by Shopville Canada
Price: CDN$ 21.44
16 used & new from CDN$ 13.95

4.0 out of 5 stars A triumph of Hollywood dazzle over an overblown, needlessly trumped up script., Jan. 4 2015
There are a ton of problems in "Titanic" – the cartoon villains, the stilted dialogue, much of it obviously re-recorded in post production. Some weak supporting performances, the betrayal of a number of historical facts, and taking what was already one of the most dramatic nights of the 20th century and needlessly pumping it up with chases, gunfire, theft, scheming, etc.

Yet a lot works. As much as I didn't want to give in, Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio make a great, old fashioned, star crossed romantic couple. Many of the effects and stunts are amazing (although at other times you realize some wide shots are basically giant video-game like cartoons). And it made me cry -- while I felt like a fool for being swept up in it's shameless melodrama.

I can't argue that "Titanic" is art, or deep, or a great film, but I can say it's a terrifically effective entertainment that everyone should see at least once.

Way of the Puck [DVD] [Import]
Way of the Puck [DVD] [Import]

4.0 out of 5 stars If not a great film, an enjoyable and human one, Jan. 3 2015
Ce commentaire est de: Way of the Puck [DVD] [Import] (DVD)
Unfortunately and unfairly this lies in the shadow of the similar, better known, and arguably better made "King of Kong" which came out a year later, Both are funny but compassionate looks at the 'outsider' communities of adults who play a kids game in a serious, competitive way. Both poke gentle fun at those who have made these 'sports' the center of their lives (air hockey in the case of "Way of the Puck", old-fashioned arcade video games in the case of "King of Kong"). But both also show admiration for the dedication and passion shown by those who form these communities of misfits.

"The Way of the Puck" is entertaining, although it does get a bit repetitive at times. It also makes a decent case for why air-hockey really IS a sport, and just how hard it is to play it really, really well. If not quite a great film, it's an enjoyable and human one.

Approved for Adoption [Blu-ray] [Import]
Approved for Adoption [Blu-ray] [Import]
Price: CDN$ 42.60
17 used & new from CDN$ 26.93

4.0 out of 5 stars Creative and original, but I wanted even more, Dec 31 2014
A heartfelt, unique, mostly animated film, this off-beat documentary is the autobiographic tale of co-director Jung's adoption in Korea by a Belgian family when he was a young orphan. It gives a good sense of the strangeness of leaving your homeland and culture at age 5, and the difficulties of growing up in with a family where you don't look like everyone else.

It's particularly effective at capturing the lingering paranoia that you're not always loved as deeply as the 'real' kids, and suggests there may even be some hints of truth in that fear re Jung's adoptive parents, at least from a child's perception. And yet the film is ultimately embracing of his adoption, without denying its challenges.

Jung himself has grown-up to be a successful illustrator, and his drawings form the basis of the animation that make up about 80% of the film (the rest are old home movies and stills, along with shots of the adult Jung pondering, and visiting Korea).

So why don't I love the film more? It's brave, honest, and different. But it sometimes feels both emotionally muted and repetitive. As personal as the story is, the stylistic choices, while interesting, make it feel like a fable more than a person's real experience. This is fed by the adult Jung's narration being read by an actor, not the man himself. And there is something artificial in that performance.

I watched the film twice, and appreciated it both times, but was never quite as swept up in it as I longed to be. That may be my loss, my limitation. I can imagine someone else being deeply moved. One to see for yourself.

The Socalled Movie
The Socalled Movie
DVD ~ Garry Beitel
Price: CDN$ 34.95
10 used & new from CDN$ 19.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Always interesting, but I wanted even more, Dec 30 2014
Ce commentaire est de: The Socalled Movie (DVD)
A likable if sometimes frustrating portrait of the Canadian musician and composer. It’s likable because the artist known as “Socalled” (Josh Dolgan off-stage) is a very creative guy, who mixes hip-hop with Jewish klezmer music, 70s style funk, and multiple other influences in a never ending quest to create new sounds, some of which are terrific. Frustrating because we mostly only get snatches of the music. Enough to see that it’s clearly interesting stuff, but not enough to really get a feel for it.

“Socalled” himself, also comes off as something of an introvert, and while we learn a decent amount about how he approaches his music, he doesn’t let us inside enough to really get a sense of the human being or artist under his skin. Never dull, worth seeing if you’re interested in World music, or very creative mash-ups, but it’s hard not to walk away wanting even more.

Après mai / Something in the Air (Version française)
Après mai / Something in the Air (Version française)
DVD ~ Clément Métayer
Price: CDN$ 23.71
21 used & new from CDN$ 9.89

4.0 out of 5 stars My appreciation grew on a second viewing, Dec 11 2014
Almost 20 years later, Assays returns to his own adolescence, which he examined expertly in 1994's "Cold Water". As if to make it clear that he is coming full circle the main character (clearly based on Assayas himself), and one of the key supporting characters bear the same screen names as their counterparts in "Cold Water".

This grew on me considerably on 2nd viewing. Because I knew not to expect a straight- forward plot, but something much more episodic and tonal, I stopped focusing on the story, and took in all the details, and the mood. I found the film much funnier the second time, catching Assayas' gentle mocking of the over seriousness of these petite-bourgeois youth, at the same time that he captures the sad beauty in adolescence's naiveté and out sized passions.

"Something in the Air" focuses on politics, art and sex, taking place 3 years after the May 1968 riots, as the high school kids of that moment try to live in the spirit of revolution that was already starting to fade into factionalism (some of the film's best humor documents the absurdly intense rivalries between groups who mostly share common goals, and the insane parsing of every word and idea to examine if it was the 'right' thing to foment revolution).

There are some truly great sequences. An early scene of the kids battling the cops is exciting, raw and immersive. And there's a sequence at a party that's pretty breathtaking. Throughout, Assayas uses perfect music from the period, without using the same 6 songs every film about the late 60s/early 70s seem to fall back on. If the film isn't quite a masterpiece it is touching, funny and worthwhile work from one of the most interesting voices making films right now, one who can go from the near operatic "Carlos" to the quiet and intimate "Summer Hours", bringing each their own unique style. Assays is a true auteur, but he hasn't let that trap him into a single style or tone.

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