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K. Gordon
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First Cousin Once Removed [Import]
First Cousin Once Removed [Import]
Price: CDN$ 22.49
17 used & new from CDN$ 18.31

5.0 out of 5 stars Deeply moving and thought provoking documentary, Aug. 26 2014
Talented and off-beat film-maker Alan Berliner documents the mind of his much older first cousin, the poet and translator Edwin Homing, as he slowly loses the battle against Alzheimer's.

Of course, any film about that subject can’t help but be touching, but Berliner goes well beyond the obvious tragedy to raise questions of; what is memory, time, family? We see and hear both the good and bad about this man, hear (and sometimes see) his poetry, hear the anger he put on his children as they were growing up, to end of not with a portrait of a disease victim, but of a man and an artist. Berliner jumps around in time, so we see Edwin in bad and good moments. In the end, this isn’t a linear portrait of a man’s decline, but an thoughtful and even darkly entertaining exploration of what is communication, thought, love.

Omar [Blu-ray] [Import]
Omar [Blu-ray] [Import]
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 22.24
14 used & new from CDN$ 22.24

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific smart, emotional and human thriller, set against a political back-drop, Aug. 16 2014
This review is from: Omar [Blu-ray] [Import] (Blu-ray)
Though it has it's occasional flaws (some overstatement) this is generally a terrific political thriller.

A young Palestinian radical is put through the emotional, moral and physical wringer after being blackmailed into becoming an informer (or at least professing to) for the Israelis, following an arrest that could put him in jail for life. While Abu-Assad's sympathies clearly lie with the Palestinians, his characters and situations are much more complex and human than good guys and bad guys. He sees the damage that being in a constant state of war and occupation does to both sides.

Beyond that, this is not a 'political' film first. It's complex web of betrayal, love, fear, bravery, and paranoia could be anywhere two sides are facing off in a morally and politically complex situation, especially where one side is a guerrilla uprising, the other an established government. It could be Ireland and the IRA, or South Africa in the more militant days of the ANC. The beauty and terror of Abu-Assad's film is that it's about people not ideology. And the reality that people on both sides are capable of great good and great evil, often for reasons personal as much as political. I happened to see this within days of the also critically acclaimed "Bethlehem" which tells a remarkably similar tale, but from an Israeli point of view. Seeing both heightened the power of each -- for where they overlapped and where they differed. I'd recommend seeing both to anyone interested in good, human thrillers and who is interested in examining the middle east conflict in more than simple 'right and wrong' terms.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Bilingual) [Blu-ray]
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Bilingual) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Ralph Fiennes
Price: CDN$ 13.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Very funny, extreme;y inventive, and wonderfully acted, Aug. 15 2014
A wonderfully funny fable of the adventures of world’s greatest hotel concierge (a brilliant, inventive and hilarious performance by Ralph Fiennes) and the friendship he strikes up with the hotel’s new lobby boy (a strong debut by newcomer Tony Revolori).

The story goes in many unexpected directions, every one entertaining and eccentric, and the cast is full of first rate highly comic performances by F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, with terrific cameos by Bill Murray, Harvey Keitel, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson, Jude Law and others I feel bad for forgetting here.

While not Anderson’s most profound film, it may be his most joyful. I don’t think I stopped smiling from first frame to last, and I laughed out loud quite a few times. And yet, as in any good fable, there is some real poignancy as well. A top notch marriage of a lovingly crafted art-film and a wacky human comedy, something rarely pulled off with such panache. Even my friends who don’t enjoy Anderson’s work in general had nothing but good things to say. The sweetest treat of the movie year so far.

Billy Crystal 700 Sundays
Billy Crystal 700 Sundays
DVD ~ Various
Price: CDN$ 14.99
8 used & new from CDN$ 14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Sweet, gentle and touching, Aug. 6 2014
This review is from: Billy Crystal 700 Sundays (DVD)
Unabashedly sentimental, at moments arguably shticky, but there’s a lot of heart and laughs, along with a good set of smiles in Billy Crystal’s one-man show remembering his youth, especially the 700 Sundays he had with his father before his untimely death.

From the telling, Crystal had a remarkable childhood, and came from a remarkable family. His father owned a music store and promoted concerts, and knew and was loved by many of jazz’s all time greats. His family come off as sweet if eccentric. As related here, this was a family without many of the deeply painful skeletons in their closets that most of us grew up with. It’s sort of the Jewish version of Norman Rockwell’s U.S., but I don’t mean that as a put down. Crystal seems to truly appreciate the blessings he’s had, and to honor and love the people who made him who he is. He doesn’t deny that life can be painful, but that doesn’t mean for a second he’s going to say it’s not wonderful and worthwhile.

If a few moments of emotion feel forced in the unforgiving close up lens of a camera, there’s a lot that ring true, no matter that Crystal has performed variations of this monologue on stage hundreds of times.

Computer Chess [Blu-ray] [Import]
Computer Chess [Blu-ray] [Import]
Price: CDN$ 46.45
7 used & new from CDN$ 19.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clever and original, if uneven, July 31 2014
This low key mockumentary is so dry in it’s humor that it’s more likely to produce a nostalgic or rueful smile than a belly laugh. Set at a 1980s man vs. computer chess competition, and shot on what looks like a video camera from the time, it certainly succeeds in capturing a time, place and atmosphere.

On the other hand, some of it starts to get a bit repetitive and meandering. Unlike Christopher Guest’s hysterical mockumentaries, this is so close to ‘real’ for much of it’s length that it started to wear down a bit. And then when it switches to a more ‘over-the-top’ tone, as when one of the young leads is hit on by a pair of middle-aged swingers, it suddenly feels like a scene from another film.

None-the-less, this is an impressive accomplishment, using it’s lack of budget as a plus to create the feel of a truly home made documentary of the time. It may not be brilliant, but it’s sweet, inventive, and fun, which puts it well ahead of most of what’s out there.

Ken Burns: The Central Park Five [Blu-ray]
Ken Burns: The Central Park Five [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Antron McCray
Price: CDN$ 24.98
20 used & new from CDN$ 14.49

5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful, if quiet, condemnation of society's rage, May 27 2014
Any story of justice denied, of people wrongfully imprisoned is inherently dramatic. But Ken Burns uses this case of five frightened teenaged boys prodded and manipulated into confessing to a crime they didn’t commit to dig into some larger societal issues as well. Yes, the police and prosecutors look bad for the way they mislead the kids into confessions, and then steadfastly refuse to look at other evidence. But the press also comes off badly for exploiting the case to sell papers and satisfy a frightened city’s desire for law and order, instead of asking questions when it became clear things simply weren’t adding up. And politicians for expressing condemnation and outrage at these young men before they were even (wrongly) convicted. A strong and pointed warning about those times when society’s desire for revenge overcomes it’s sense of logic, humanity and fairness.

Devdas [Import]
Devdas [Import]
DVD ~ Shah Rukh Khan
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 42.95
2 used & new from CDN$ 42.94

4.0 out of 5 stars Colorful and touching, if a bit uneven, May 17 2014
This review is from: Devdas [Import] (DVD)
Note: As a North American who quite likes, but is not an expert on Indian cinema, I'm the first to admit there may be elements of content or style that I might lack the knowledge to fully appreciate. These are just my personal reactions, take them for what they're worth.

Colorful and touching, if occasionally uneven, this story of a Romeo and Juliet like love affair and it’s aftermath certainly has it’s moments. The performances are strong, it looks great, there’s some interesting social commentary about the corrosive effects of class and social status. and there are a few good musical numbers.

But the musical element is odd – too much or two little for my taste. One song an hour is just enough to make their sudden appearance a bit jarring, not fully integrated into the style. There’s also a tendency to melodrama and overstatement in the plot and even the (quite good) acting, and some important questions about the "whys" behind characters’ key decisions in this tale of love and loss are left unexplored.

I was also frustrated that the DVD transfer quality didn't seem up to the physical beauty of the film. It's not bad, but this is the kind of film that calls out for blu-ray, or at least an absolutely 1st rate mastering.

None-the-less, it works well enough to enjoy as spectacle, and heart stuck melodrama to be enjoyable, almost like an old style Hollywood film, if not up to the level of Bhanasali’s later, quite brilliant and innovative “Black”.

La Notte
La Notte
DVD ~ Jeanne Moreau
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 49.14
11 used & new from CDN$ 19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Difficult, dense, and fascinating, May 1 2014
This review is from: La Notte (DVD)
Challenging and emotionally muted on 1st viewing, I still found this largely a very interesting portrait of a bourgeois marriage crumbling, observed during one afternoon and night.

The couple visit a seemingly dying friend in the hospital, attend a book signing for the husband’s new novel, stop at a nightclub where they barely even react to an erotic floor show, and then head to a party for a rich industrialist who is celebrating the first win by his new racehorse, Both Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau do terrific work as the deadened and estranged couple. He no longer even identifies with his own writing, feeling it’s just a product, like that made by the industrialist. He’s even lost his sense of lust. She no longer feels love for him, and seems locked in loneliness and depression. It’s a tough movie to take, grim, humorless, almost as dead feeling as its leads, but that would seem to be the point.

My only problem, as I’ve occasionally had with Antonioni, is that well before the end I felt I had gotten these themes clearly and powerfully, and there was, after that, a certain sense of hammering home ideas that had already been expressed beautifully with a lighter touch (there’s a key reveal near the end that I saw coming a mile off). But the images (of course) are striking and memorable, as are the performances, and the sad gloom that hovers over this world of people who seem to have it all, and yet feel so little.

Maqbool
Maqbool
DVD ~ Irfan Khan

5.0 out of 5 stars Inventive and intelligent re-imagining of "Macbeth", April 26 2014
This review is from: Maqbool (DVD)
Intelligent and inventive updating of Shakespeare's "Macbeth" to the culture of the modern Indian underworld in Mumbai. Director Vishal Bhardwaj and screenwriter Abbas Tryewala walk the tightrope between fidelity to the original and inventiveness rarely making a misstep. Indeed, you don't have to have any knowledge of "Macbeth" to appreciate "Maqbool" as a well above average gangland film, filled with interesting characters, and tons of politics, violence, alliances and deals made and broken.

The acting is generally excellent. Pankaj Kapur practically steals the film with his performance as Maqbool's boss, a savvy mob leader who has kept power not only through fear, but through inspiring loyalty and even love from not only those around him, but from 'the people' as well, by standing up for India's many minorities, who in turn elect officials inclined to look the other way at mob activities

The film is an interesting mix of old and new for Bollywood. The style and tone is naturalistic, the performances unforced. There are echoes of "The Godfather". And while there are songs, there are only a few, and generally within a context where someone bursting into song actually makes sense – a wedding celebration for instance.

The film does wind down a bit towards the end, but so does (for me) Shakespeare's play – the most interesting thing being Macbeth's (or Maqbool's) seduction by and rise to power, more than the seemingly inevitable consequences.

This is well worth seeing for anyone interested in Shakespeare, or Indian cinema, or just a good tale of power struggles whether in the mob or in society at large.

One frustrating note. The image quality on the blu-ray I bought from Amazon.uk is far from what the film deserves, looking more VHS than HD at times.

Suzanne Farrell:Elusive Muse
Suzanne Farrell:Elusive Muse
DVD ~ George Balanchine
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 1,088.30
6 used & new from CDN$ 373.21

5.0 out of 5 stars Intimate and fascinating biographic documentary, April 25 2014
This review is from: Suzanne Farrell:Elusive Muse (DVD)
Intimate and fascinating biographic documentary on the great ballet star of the 1960s and 70s. A lot of the film is Ms. Farrell herself, admirably openly -- and sometimes emotionally -- relating the her complex story, which included an obsessive, almost scary, but apparently sexless affair with her choreographer and boss, the great George Balanchine (over 40 years her senior), as well as her complex relationships with her mother and a couple of key dancing partners.

But the film is much more than the story of a ballerina's love and home life, it's also about all the growth and change she went through as an artist and human being as the years unfolded. Included are many all too brief clips of Ms. Farrell dancing.

Even someone like me, who knows next to nothing about ballet, can't help but be stunned by her beautiful, flowing, sensual movements. A strikingly strong, and unique documentary about a unique woman.

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