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John Kwok (New York, NY USA)
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WELSER-MOST, FRANZ - NEW YEARS CONCERT 2013 [Blu-ray] [Import]
WELSER-MOST, FRANZ - NEW YEARS CONCERT 2013 [Blu-ray] [Import]
DVD ~ Welser-Most
Price: CDN$ 28.99
32 used & new from CDN$ 14.30

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great New Year's Concert from the Wiener Philharmoniker and Conductor Franz Welser-Most, Jan. 2 2013
In a concert emphasizing both the festive nature of the music being performed and the music of Josef Strauss, the middle brother, in the Strauss family dynasty of Austrian composers noted for their exceptional compositions of waltzes, polkas and other dances, this year's "New Year's Day Concert", should be noted for both the excellent playing of the Wiener Philharmoniker (Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra) and the fine conducting of Vienna State Opera Music Director - and Cleveland Orchestra Music Director - Franz Welser-Most. Most of the pieces performed include lesser known waltzes and polkas composed by Josef Strauss, regarded by his peers as the "Schubert of Waltz composers", with his best known work, the waltz "Music of the Spheres" among the highlights of the program; if for no other reason this is a concert that should be remembered for emphasizing Josef Strauss' exceptional gifts as a composer, surpassed only by his brother Johann Strauss II. It is followed later by a piece I have heard performed live by the Wiener Philharmoniker and other American orchestras before, the Prelude to Act III from Richard Wagner's "Lohengrin", in honor of the forthcoming bicentennial of his birth, but this is an especially distinguished interpretation emphasizing the warm, sonic qualities of the great hall of the Musikverein itself. Of course, the program concludes with the traditional encores of Johann Strauss II's "The Blue Danube" waltz and Johann Strauss I's "Radetzky March". To my surprise, this is the second consecutive year in which the Wiener Philharmoniker has opted not to issue the video and the CD by Deutsche Grammophon; instead, Sony is releasing both. The video may include scenes of Vienna State Opera Ballet dancers performing to the strains of several pieces, most notably those composed by Josef Strauss, scenes of the Danube River shrouded in snow-covered forests - during the performance of the "Blue Danube Waltz" - and a brief interview with the program host, again this year actress Julie Andrews, discussing with conductor Franz Welser-Most, Viennese reaction to Wagner's music. (The annual program is shown worldwide and, in the United States, is broadcasted as a co-production of public television station WNET and ORF, Austrian national radio and television.)

Courtesy of the Wiener Philharmoniker's website, here is the program, not including the three encores of which the first was a brief Josef Strauss piece followed by the "Blue Danube Waltz" and the "Radetzky March":

Josef Strauss: The Soubrette, Fast Polka, op. 109
Johann Strauss, Jr.: Kiss Waltz, op. 400
Josef Strauss: Theater Quadrille, op. 213
Johann Strauss, Jr.: From the Mountains, Waltz, op. 292
Franz von Suppé: Overture to the Operetta "Light Cavalry"

Intermission

Josef Strauss: Music of the Spheres, Waltz, op. 235
Josef Strauss: The Spinstress, Polka française, op. 192
Richard Wagner: Prelude to Act III of the Romantic Opera "Lohengrin", WWV 75
Joseph Hellmesberger, Jr.: In Confidence, Polka mazur, op. 15
Josef Strauss: Hesperus' Paths, Waltz, op. 279 Josef Strauss: The Runners, Fast Polka, op. 237
Joseph Lanner: Styrian Dances, op. 165
Johann Strauss, Jr.: Melodies Quadrille, op.112
Giuseppe Verdi: Prestissimo from the Ballet Music in Act III of the Opera "Don Carlo"
Johann Strauss, Jr.: Where the Lemon Trees Bloom, Waltz, op. 364
Johann Strauss, Sr.: Memories of Ernst or The Carnival of Venice, Fantasy, op. 126

Roadside Picnic
Roadside Picnic
by Arkady Strugatsky
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.57
32 used & new from CDN$ 12.17

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Great Return of a Classic Russian Science Fiction Novel, Jan. 2 2013
This review is from: Roadside Picnic (Paperback)
One of the best science fiction novels published last year is, oddly enough, among the oldest; Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's "Roadside Picnic", the inspiration for Andrei Tarkovksy's critically acclaimed film "Stalker". When it was published originally in its abbreviated English translation decades ago, none other than Theodore Sturgeon acclaimed "Roadside Picnic" as the product of "....[the] Strugatskys' deft and subtle handling of friendship and love, of despair and frustration and loneliness [produces] a truly superb tale..... You won't forget it." These are sentiments which I not only share but I believe are strongly emphasized in the newly translated edition of the entire original text of "Roadside Picnic", which is considered still as the greatest Russian science fiction novel of the 20th Century, as an excellent example of the traditional science fiction trope of "First Contact", but as Ursula Le Guin notes in the foreword to this edition, it is a "First Contact" tale in which aliens have visited Earth and ignored us, leaving behind in several areas, "Zones", debris that is potentially useful - and dangerous - to humans, especially to those willing to scavenge - "the stalkers" - it. Set somewhere unspecified in English-speaking North America, most likely Canada, "Roadside Picnic" is a most memorable odyssey of a young stalker, Red Schuhart, who is willing to test the limits of friendship and loyalty, love and desire in realizing that he must return again and again to the nearest "Zone" as a means of finding himself, as a means of finding solutions to all the problems he is facing. As a fictional exploration of the human spirit, "Roadside Picnic" is a science fiction novel worthy of a much broader readership, and one that might be especially receptive to it because it inspired Tarkovsky's brilliant film; it is also a notable novel that should earn a most receptive audience from those who are fans of speculative fiction, especially, science fiction. (As an aside, the surviving Strugatsky brother, Boris, contributes an afterword chronicling the difficult literary gestation that led to the novel's original publication in Russian.)

Little Kingdoms
Little Kingdoms
by Steven Millhauser
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 18.95
17 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Little Kingdoms Of Great Storytelling and Prose Courtesy of Steven Millhauser, Jan. 2 2013
This review is from: Little Kingdoms (Paperback)
Steven Millhauser demonstrates just how elegant a storyteller and writer he is in his novella collection "Little Kingdoms", which emphasizes his longstanding interests in exploring what some might refer to as magical realism, and what others might contend represent realistic fantasy. This is a most fascinating trio of novellas, of which the first one, "The Little Kingdom of J. Franklin Payne", may be the most endearing in emphasizing the emotional impact which Payne's cartoons have upon his life, and, in particular, his relationships with his wife and daughter; the latter becoming a most ardent fan of his animated cartoons. An emotional impact that's so overwhelming that, in essence, Payne loses himself to his obsessive desire in creating the finest animated films ever made, based on his cartoons and distinguished for their realism."The Princess, the Dwarf and the Dungeon", reads like one very long Brothers Grimm fairy tale as re-imagined by Franz Kafka; this is an especially grim - no pun intended - tale about a medieval castle that may startle the reader with its emphasis in depicting, with equal measure, both exultation and horror. "Catalogue of the Exhibition: The Art of Edmund Moorash (1810-1846)" reads like an extended essay from the catalogue of the latest exhibition devoted to the work of this 19th Century Romantic Painter, but one in which the biographical details recount scenes that could only come from the likes of Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft, in emphasizing the dysfunctional psychological nature of the relationships between Moorash and his friends, especially those who are women, in a style that may remind some of Thomas Bernhard's fiction. Without a doubt, "Little Kingdoms" emphasizes why Millhauser is often viewed as among our finest contemporary American writers of fiction, especially with regards to his impressive gifts in storytelling and in crafting elegant, often lyrical, prose.

The Hydrogen Sonata
The Hydrogen Sonata
by Iain M. Banks
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 28.99
22 used & new from CDN$ 4.75

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Space Opera Science Fiction on Self Determination and Identity from Iain M. Banks, Dec 31 2012
This review is from: The Hydrogen Sonata (Hardcover)
With the "Hydrogen Sonata", Iain Banks has offered readers yet another superb addition to his ongoing "Culture" space opera series of novels. These are novels that are more than action-adventure space opera science fiction epics, but instead, fictional parables on describing the importance of doing good works, the philosophical blurring between good and evil and other notable issues on ethics and morality which, alas, are all too often absent in much of what passes for contemporary mainstream fiction, and, therefore, are important reasons why great works of science fiction like the ongoing "Culture" space opera series deserve as broad a readership as possible, especially when written by one of our foremost writers in the English language, Iain M. Banks, who is well known for writing important works of mainstream literary fiction like his debut novel - as Iain Banks - "The Wasp Factory". "The Hydrogen Sonata" gives readers much of the standard tropes found in the subgenre of space opera science fiction, such as compelling battles between opposing military starships and fast-paced chases between characters in a setting as miraculous as a gigantic dirigible. However, "The Hydrogen Sonata" should be seen as an exemplary fictional exploration of self determination, identity, and responsibility for one's own actions as seen through the eyes of his chief protagonist, Lieutenant Commander (Reserve) Vyr Cossont, a musician who is called unexpectedly back to duty by the Gzilt Regimental High Command to seek out the oldest person in the Culture, who was a participant in the negotiations that led to its founding over nine thousand years ago. She is called back to duty during the final days of Gzilt civilization, one of the founding civilizations of the Culture, when virtually the entire population is ready to embrace the Sublime, the shedding of their physical bodies in exchange for immortality in a transcendent form of existence, emulating other, other civilizations which have gone before them. Banks has conjured one of his most compelling protagonists to date, and especially, a heroine as remarkable as any crafted by the likes of Ursula Le Guin and William Gibson. If nothing else, with "The Hydrogen Sonata", Banks reaffirms the relevance of contemporary science fiction to current literature, in providing yet another epic tale that dares to raise important questions pertaining to identity, self determination and one's own sense of responsibility; questions which are often absent in much of contemporary Anglo-American literary fiction.

The Kissing List
The Kissing List
by Stephanie Reents
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 26.00
17 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Fine Writing, However, I Wasn't Moved by the Characters, Dec 31 2012
This review is from: The Kissing List (Hardcover)
"The Kissing List", Stephanie Reents' critically acclaimed debut short story collection, is a sterling example of what my friend the fantasy writer Ellen Kushner has described as "domestic realism fiction", a somewhat sarcastic observation of what passes for great literature by many writers who seem content to remain strictly within the guidelines of contemporary literary fiction, treating genre fiction as a literary art form not worthy of attention. Reents has crafted an interconnected set of short stories revolving around a group of young American women who meet at Oxford University and move to New York City. These are stories that chronicle their romantic misadventures and how they cope with them. The strongest story is "Roommates" which describes through the eyes of the narrator, her experience living with Laurie, stricken with cancer and how Laurie copes with it, especially during two different episodes of remission. Reents is a very good writer with an especially good ear for dialogue; however, I felt less in awe with her characters, many of whom I regard as virtually interchangeable. While "The Kissing List" should be read for its writing, both its characters and setting seem far less impressive than those described in notable short story collections also published this year from the likes of Dan Chaon, Krys Lee and Charles Yu, among others, who have offered readers compelling, truly memorable, characters and settings as diverse as the dark corners of one's own soul (Chaon), North Korea (Lee) and zombies and outer space (Yu).

Les Misérables
Les Misérables
DVD ~ Anne Hathaway
Price: CDN$ 8.00
10 used & new from CDN$ 3.25

25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Les Miserables, C'est Fantastique, C'est Magnifique, Dec 28 2012
This review is from: Les Misérables (DVD)
Director Tom Hooper has literally rewritten the book with regards to filming critically and popularly acclaimed musicals like "Les Miserables" in his riveting, excellent cinematic adaptation of one of the world's most beloved musicals, while hewing more closely to the original text of Victor Hugo's novel; it is both a fantastic and magnificent cinematic adaptation of the musical. Hooper gambled that he could film "Les Miserables" by having the actors singing their roles during the actual filming without having them dubbed later in post-production, and not only has it succeeded beyond the expectations of many, it truly feels as though you are hearing a live outdoor performance of "Les Miserables". The cast is superlative starting with Hugh Jackman's compelling portrayal of Jean Valjean, as a conflicted soul trying to escape from his penal past; his singing is exceptional, most notably in his soliloquy "Bring Him Home", hoping the young revolutionary Marais (Eddie Redmayne) escapes from the Paris 1832 student-led uprising, so he can be united with his adopted daughter Cosette (Amanda Seyfried); so too are Anne Hathaway (Fantine) and Russell Crowe (Javert), with Hathaway giving an especially poignant rendition of "I Dreamed A Dream", widely regarded by many as the unofficial "anthem" of "Les Miserables". (Crowe has been condemned by some critics for his singing, but he shows his ability to sing nearly as well as his co-stars, especially towards the end, and offers viewers an emotionally complex portrayal of Javert that remains true to Hugo's depiction of him as a loyal civil servant intent on upholding French law.) Both Sacha Baron Cohen (Thenardier) and Helena Bonham Carter (Madame Thenardier) are especially memorable as the hustlers who are the guardians of the young Cosette (Isabelle Allen) until Valjean steps in, appearing later towards the end of the film, and so too, Colm Wilkinson - the original Jean Valjean in the London and Broadway stage productions - as the Bishop. Along with the excellent cast of actors, the movie features excellent musicianship from the likes of harpist Skaila Kanga and composer/arranger/pianist Anne Dudley, who has contributed additional music to the film score. "Les Miserables" is one of the best cinematic adaptations of a musical I have seen and will be remembered as such for years to come; without question, it is among the best films of 2012.

No Title Available

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Exceptional Portrait of Lincoln, Dec 28 2012
Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" is destined to be remembered as one of our greatest cinematic tributes to an important figure in American history, President Abraham Lincoln, with Irish actor Daniel Day-Lewis' riveting portrayal of him as perhaps the finest ever depicted on either stage or screen. Acclaimed American playwright Tony Kushner has written a compelling screenplay which documents one of the most important months in Lincoln's presidency, January, 1865, noted for the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution by the United States House of Representatives, banning forever, both slavery and involuntary servitude (except in prisons) throughout the United States and other territories under its jurisdiction. Based in part on American historian Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln", Kushner introduces us to a Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) who is both a crafty, extremely astute, politician and a funny storyteller much like another famous Illinois resident, Lincoln's future successor as President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, but, unlike Reagan, one who is plagued by a mentally unstable wife, Mary Todd Lincoln (Sally Field), still traumatized by the tragic death of their son Willie early in Lincoln's Presidency, and a rebellious older son, Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who wishes to serve in the Union Army commanded by General Ulysses S. Grant (Jared Harris), instead of continuing with his undergraduate studies at Harvard University. Daniel Day-Lewis' portrayal of Lincoln is one destined to be remembered as the finest ever given on stage or screen, giving us a man tortured by his own personal family demons, while remaining both steadfast and confident in his duty to uphold the Constitution of the United States by waging a bloody war against the rebellious Confederate South and in ending forever, the scourge of Afro-American slavery. Having admired Day-Lewis ever since I saw him in his celebrated cinematic debut as Christy Brown in "My Left Foot", I was still surprised that he could give viewers such a compellingly realistic, quite sympathetic, portrayal of Lincoln as the self-educated thinker conversant in American law and the mathematical philosophy of Euclid, and as the brilliant politician and statesman during the worst crisis in American history, the American Civil War; without question this is his greatest performance in an exceptional cinematic career noted already for distinguished work in films as diverse as "A Room with A View", "In The Name of the Father", "The Age of Innocence", "Gangs of New York", "The Unbearable Lightness of Being", "The Crucible" (in which he portrayed John Proctor in the acclaimed cinematic adaptation of his father-in-law Arthur Miller's noted play), and "The Last of the Mohicans" and one which warrants an Academy Award nomination for "Best Actor".

Daniel Day-Lewis' memorable portrayal of Abraham Lincoln isn't the only reason to see "Lincoln". "Lincoln" is replete with exceptional performances by David Strathairn (Secretary of State William Steward), Tommy Lee Jones (Representative Thaddeus Stevens) and Sally Fields (Mary Todd Lincoln), but there's excellent work too from the likes of Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Robert Todd Lincoln), Lee Pace (Representative Fernando Wood), Hal Holbrook (Preston Blair), Bruce McGill (Secretary of War Edwin Stanton) and , and from James Spader too, who steals virtually every scene he is in as political operative W. N. Bilbo, portraying him as a Civil War version of Watergate scandal mastermind E. Howard Hunt, using dirty political tricks and bribery in persuading lame duck Democratic Representatives to vote in favor of the Thirteenth Amendment. "Lincoln" is memorable too for long-time Spielberg collaborator cinematographer Janusz Kaminiski's exceptional photography of Civil War battles and political intrigue within the White House and on the floor of the House of Representatives. Another long-time Spielberg collaborator, composer John Williams, has a compelling musical score that harkens back to those he composed for "Schinder's List" and "Angela's Ashes" in his excellent usage of both solo instruments (piano and violin) and an entire orchestra (the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the baton of its music director, Riccardo Muti), drawing upon musical influences as diverse as bluegrass and Aaron Copland. "Lincoln" is an excellent cinematic portrait of a man, President Abraham Lincoln, who must decide whether it is more important to end the Civil War by peaceful negotiations with a militarily exhausted, on the verge of defeat, Confederacy or to end forever, the scourge of Afro-American slavery; without question, it will be revered as one of the most important films pertaining to the American Civil War and for its portrayal of Lincoln.

Railsea
Railsea
by China Miéville
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 6.92
45 used & new from CDN$ 2.76

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Most Captivating Borrowing of Melville Courtesy of Mieville, Dec 17 2012
This review is from: Railsea (Hardcover)
Simultaneously compelling and captivating, China Mieville has offered a most brilliant reimaging of Herman Melville's "Moby Dick" in his epic steampunk fantasy novel "Railsea" which will delight audiences of all ages. Here he demonstrates why he is the most important young writer working in Anglo-American fiction of any genre, giving his readers yet another epic tale of swashbuckling adventure worthy of comparison with his iconic "New Crubozon" trilogy ("Perdido Street Station", "The Scar" and "Iron Council"); a compellingly readable saga that will delight audiences of all ages. Sham Yes ap Soorap witnesses his first moldywarpe hunt from the moletrain Medes, seeing the gigantic mole bursting forth from the earth below, as the Medes' harpooners aim their harpoons at their massive prey, poised for the kill. He encounters during a brief visit to a deserted, wrecked moletrain a map pointing to a place where the entire world isn't traversed by rails, finding his fortune and fate intertwining with those of that train's two young survivors, pursued by pirates and naval trains as they journey onward on a seemingly hopeless quest. Mieville offers us a most enchanting cast of characters, starting with the Medes' obsessive captain, Naphi, who demonstrates that she is far more rational and compassionate than Ahab, her fictional counterpart. In plain, tersely written, sentences, Mieville weaves a tale as exciting and engrossing as his recent novels "Kraken" and "The City & The City", that ranks as an instant classic of Young Adult fiction, destined to be celebrated by readers both young and old for generations to come, and one worthy of distinction as among this year's best new works of fiction in any genre.

Insignia
Insignia
by S. J. Kincaid
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 16.03
28 used & new from CDN$ 0.60

5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing Near Future Young Adult Post Cyberpunk Novel Pertaining to War and Individuality, Dec 17 2012
This review is from: Insignia (Hardcover)
Imagine a near future in which humanity has explored much of the solar system, begun extracting its mineral resources, and is using it as a battleground to fight World War III, relying solely on fleets of robotic spacecraft and weapons controlled by technically enhanced adolescent fighters. In "Insignia", S. J. Kincaid's debut Young Adult post-cyberpunk science fiction novel, offers a compelling realistic near future in which war is waged by teams of adolescent fighters who have been transformed into cyborgs with brain-implanted neural processors. Mediocre student and brilliant virtual reality game player Tom Raines is given an offer he can't refuse, joining America's elite military academy, the Pentagonal Spire, and earning a chance to become as gifted and as talented a fighter as those belonging to the elite Camelot Company, not realizing that he's become an unwitting experiment in determining whether these fighters can be as ruthless and relentless as their Russian and Chinese counterparts. Kincaid offers us a world in which the world war between the India-America alliance and its Russian and Chinese adversaries is actually one manipulated by global corporations with different, but related, economic monopolies on basic commodities such as food and water. A compelling storyteller and a good prose stylist whose "Insignia" plot bears echoes of Orson Scott Card's acclaimed "Ender's Game", Kincaid offers us far more compelling and insightful discussions about personal liberty and individual responsibility than I have seen, for example, in Daniel Wilson's "Amped" or other, similar, recently published near future science fiction. Hers is also a tale replete in realism in describing Raines' personal relationships with both friends and enemies amongst his fellow Pentagon Spire adolescent fighters, with opportunities to experience everything between betrayal and budding romance. "Insignia" is a superb start to a Young Adult science fiction trilogy potentially as memorable as the "Hunger Games" trilogy.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey  [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey [Blu-ray] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Cate Blanchett
Price: CDN$ 10.00
22 used & new from CDN$ 4.65

31 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Most Welcomed Return to Middle Earth, Dec 14 2012
Fans of Tolkien and fantasy films rejoice! Director Peter Jackson has conjured the impossible again, in this long-awaited return to Middle Earth, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey", that serves as a most compelling prequel to "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and as a spectacular start to his "The Hobbit" trilogy. Purists may decry the fact that Jackson has added some characters from "The Lord of the Rings" films, but they will have forgotten that virtually all of them are accounted for in Tolkien's appendices to "The Lord of the Rings" and in the "Unfinished Tales". Whatever liberties taken by Jackson and his screenwriting collaborators - including his "The Lord of the Rings" collaborators Philippa Boyen and Fran Walsh, and Guillermo del Toro (who was designated originally as the director of two "The Hobbit" films) - remain consistent with Tolkien's spirit and vision of Middle-Earth, especially with its prior history before the events chronicled in "The Hobbit", and then, sixty years later, "The Lord of The Rings". Once more we are treated to epic filmmaking of a grand scale, with New Zealand standing in for Middle Earth; those who are especially familiar with the first movie, "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring", will recognize much of the Middle-Earth countryside, from The Shire to Rivendell and beyond. But the scenery is merely the stage for the events which unfold, for which Jackson has assembled again a most impressive cast of actors to tell a gripping saga of truly monumental proportions; ample praise should be bestowed on Richard Armitage for his heroic portrayal as the dwarf king Thorin Oakenshield, leading his small band of dwarves on an all but hopeless quest fraught with ample danger, and Martin Freeman as the younger, more vigorous, Bilbo Baggins, portrayed by Ian Holm in "The Lord of the Rings" films. Fans of "Doctor Who" will barely recognize Sylvester McCoy, hidden in his nature-tinged makeup as the wizard Radagast, but his fine performance as the Middle Earth wizard will remind some of his decades-old portrayal of the Doctor. Of the other returning cast members from "The Lord of the Rings" films, Cate Blanchett ("Galadriel"), Hugo Weaving ("Elrond"), Christopher Lee ("Saruman") and Andy Serkus ("Gollum"), are splendid in their all too brief screen appearances; so too are two others whom I won't mention, simply to prevent myself from divulging any further spoilers.

There are intense scenes of physical and psychological combat throughout much of the film; the war of words that persist, with signs of mistrust between dwarves and elves, between a dwarf and a hobbit, are almost as riveting as the sword-fighting between dwarves and orcs, or in a spectacular battle deep within the bowels of one mountain, as the dwarves flee the Great Goblin (portrayed by Barry "Dame Edna" Humphries) and his army. Much of the film's cinematic pacing will remind fans of Jacksons' "The Lord of the Ring: The Return of the King", especially in its battles, which are fast-forward climatic and intense, despite a rather sluggish first half hour or so, accompanied by the familiar sounds of the London Philharmonic Orchestra playing Howard Shore's almost Wagnerian film score, which is compelling to listen in its own right, even with frequent borrowing of musical leitmotifs from "The Ring" films. Jackson, his cast and technical crew, held me spellbound for hours, with barely a dull moment or two, save for the film's first half hour. Don't believe any negative reviews written by professional film critics and others. If "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" can be seen by most as a compellingly first-rate example of cinematic storytelling at its best, then I have high hopes that the other two films in "The Hobbit" trilogy will be compared favorably with "The Lord of the Ring" trilogy; a feat that no visionary Hollywood director or producer has ever accomplished, especially George Lucas in his "Star Wars" prequel trilogy. Welcome back, Peter Jackson, and thank you for leading us on yet another spectacular cinematic adventure through Middle Earth. Long-time Tolkien fans will truly feel like they have left home and come back again; I, for one, know that I will take "An Unexpected Journey" again soon at my nearest movie theatre.

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