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Reviews Written by
J. N. Mohlman (Barrington, RI USA)
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Armageddon  [Import]
Armageddon [Import]
DVD ~ Bruce Willis
Offered by PaperbackshopCA
Price: CDN$ 15.69
26 used & new from CDN$ 4.56

4.0 out of 5 stars A fun popcorn movie, Jan. 23 2001
This review is from: Armageddon [Import] (DVD)
Off the bat, this isn't a movie that's going to challenge you intellectually. However, it is a lot of fun, and features breathtaking special effects. The acting is solid; none of actors take the movie more seriously than they should, and as a result, give performances perfect for this kind of summer blockbuster. Are they over the top? Absolutely, but it only adds to the fun of the film! It's like watching "The Dirty Dozen" in outerspace.
The Criterion edition of the film on DVD does offer a lot of nice features. In particular, the directors cut of the film offers some much needed heart. However, it's awfully pricey, and if I hadn't received it as a gift, I doubt I would own it today. Still, for a big fan of the movie, or a serious DVD collector, it's probably a good buy.

Rules of Engagement (Widescreen)
Rules of Engagement (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Tommy Lee Jones
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 40.98
30 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Not your typical P.C. war movie, Jan. 23 2001
This is really the movie "The Siege" should have been. It tackles a complicated issue, and doesn't back away from it. The director shoves the brutality of war in your face from the get go, and doesn't let up. He makes the compelling case that combat is not easy, and innocent people might suffer. He also, in no uncertain terms, points out the appalling betrayal the men and women of our armed forces are daily subjected to by the politicians who are supposed to stand up for them. Finally, all this violence and intrigue is juxtaposed against a smart court room drama, in whcih Samuel Jackon's character is being court-martialed essentially for protecting himself and his troops.
This is a smart, exciting movie that is bound to ignite controversy. But that is what good movies do, and this one carries a powerful message about duty and honor.
As for the DVD, it's nothing special, extra feature wise. However, with all the battle scenes in this movie, it benefits from the high quality A/V features that come with any DVD.

Henry V (Widescreen)
Henry V (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Kenneth Branagh
Offered by Warehouse105
Price: CDN$ 77.83
9 used & new from CDN$ 49.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Branagh at his best!, Jan. 23 2001
This review is from: Henry V (Widescreen) (DVD)
Unfortunately, Kenneth Branagh's career thus far has been somewhat hit or miss, but "Henry V" is a solid hit. In fact, it is far and a way the best film adaptation of Shakespeare I have ever seen, surpassing even Polanski's "Macbeth". Through the use of lavish sets, beautiful costumes and old fashioned blood and guts battle scenes, Branagh brings the work alive in a way no one else could have. I particularly enjoyed his conception of the narrator as a modern day man wandering around the sets in between takes. Furthermore, the cinematography, is outstanding. By using many tight shots, Branagh captures the feel of a play being acted out. Branagh himself offers a mind-blowing performance as Henry, bringing tremendous emotion to the role. Finally, "Henry V" features, to my mind, the greatest original score ever recorded for a movie.
While the DVD doesn't offer much in the way of features, it does bring you the film in beautiful widescreen with outstanding sound, so you can experience the film the way it was meant to be. This is a must have for any DVD collection.

Braveheart (Widescreen) [Import]
Braveheart (Widescreen) [Import]
DVD ~ Mel Gibson
Offered by Tons of Clay Music
Price: CDN$ 18.99
61 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Great historical epic, Jan. 23 2001
"Braveheart" is the tale (with some poetic license) of William Wallace, a thirteenth century Scottish warrior who leads a Scottish rebellion against the English. Make no mistake though, this isn't just a blood and guts feature. It is also a tale of star-crossed love and political intrigue.
Gibson gives a great performance as Wallace, but he's not alone. Sophie Marceau and Catherine McCormack both offer great performances as his love interests, and Patrick McHoohan is outstanding as King Edward. Also, the musical score is beautiful and profoundly moving. This movie really puts one in mind of the great epics of Hollywood, and it is every bit as enjoyable.
As for the DVD, I enjoyed Gibson's commentary, but there's not a lot else other than the usual A/V features. Fortunately, a film of this caliber doesn't require any bonus materials to make it a worthwhile purchase

Gladiator (2 Discs)
Gladiator (2 Discs)
DVD ~ Russell Crowe
Offered by Round3CA
Price: CDN$ 0.01
65 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing movie in the best Hollywood tradition, Jan. 23 2001
This review is from: Gladiator (2 Discs) (DVD)
First off, everything about "Gladiator" is big: the sets, the plot, the cast of characters, the battles, even the dialogue. Everything about this movie harkens to the classic epics of Hollywood. Don't mistake admiration for theft though, this movie is pure 21st century and very original.
Through the lavish use of computer graphics, as well as masterful costume work, the viewer is vaulted back to ancient Rome. Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix both offer Oscar caliber performances, and the supporting cast is likewise excellent (of particular note is Djimon Hounsu of "Amistad"). The film is packed with action, but also relates a tale of political intrigue, and also deftly deals with issues of love and faith. Finally, the soundtrack is outstanding; in particular, some of the vocal arrangements are nothing short of haunting.
As for the DVD, it offers some outstanding feautures. I particularly enjoyed the TLC documentary on gladiatorial games, which does much to ground the movie in some historical fact. I also enjoyed the deleted scenes with commentary from the director. I enjoyed them all for what they added to the film, but I really liked the insight into the editing process that Scott's comments provided.

American Beauty (Widescreen)
American Beauty (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Kevin Spacey
Price: CDN$ 14.47
48 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Great movie, great DVD, Jan. 23 2001
This review is from: American Beauty (Widescreen) (DVD)
"American Beauty" is one of the most haunting, beautiful films to come around in a long time. With its stunning cinematography, amazing writing, and outstanding performances form every single member of the cast, it makes an eloquent statement about what's truly important in life. There are scenes in this movie that defy description, but which will capture your heart and touch your soul. "American Beauty" represents everything that modern film-making should be.
As for the DVD, it offers several outstanding features that wisely do not overshadow the movie itself. I particularly enjoyed the director's commentary. Of note, some people were upset that an alternate beginning and ending that were shot and discarded, were not included on the DVD. I, for one, am glad they weren't; to have included them would have irretrievably altered the audience's entire perception of the movie, and by so doing, might have ruined it.
When all is said and done, "American Beauty" should form the cornerstone of any DVD collection.

Red Dragon
Red Dragon
by Thomas Harris
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 10.79
229 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Just as good as "Silence of the Lambs", Jan. 23 2001
This review is from: Red Dragon (Mass Market Paperback)
"Red Dragon" is often overshadowed by "Silence of the Lambs", but make no mistake, it is every bit as good. In fact, what many people don't realize is that Hannibal Lecter makes his appearence in this novel. While not as prominent as in SotL or "Hannibal", his menace is omnipresent.
I actually liked the killer in this novel better than "Buffalo Bill". He was slightly less loony, and the sane edge to his delusions only added to his menace.
As usual, Harris' writing is excellent, and he moves the reader along with excellent pacing. This is really an outstanding, smart thriller that should be considered on the same level with "Silence of the Lambs".

The Silence of the Lambs
The Silence of the Lambs
by Thomas Harris
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.89
172 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Smart, Scary, Jan. 23 2001
Unlike many horror/thriller novels, "Silence of the Lambs" is a smart, well written novel. Harris' excellent use of language and superb pacing grabs you from the start and never lets up. Of course, the centerpiece of this novel is Hannibal Lecter, truly one of the most vivid characters ever to appear in print. While he is not the "main character" his presence is overwhelming, and he is constantly lurking at the edges.
"Silence of the Lambs" is a great read that will keep you up well into the night.

Hannibal
Hannibal
by Thomas Harris
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 10.79
171 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars A literary thriller, Jan. 23 2001
This review is from: Hannibal (Mass Market Paperback)
Perhaps what I enjoy most about Harris' books is his elegant use of language. His choice of words paints a lush, beautifully realized landscape. And it is this use of language that makes Hannibal Lecter such an appalling monster. He doesn't fit any of our presuppositions of what an evil person should be: he's educated, polite, cultured and refined. The reader is constanlty challenged because in the face of overwhelming evil, a small corner of the mind is always hoping he will escape justice.
Ultimately, "Hannibal" is a look at the dark side of human nature. While no sane person would ever commit the acts Hannibal does, his motives aren't mysterious. It's not impossible to imagine a person you know succumbing to the predator buried in their genetic make-up.
This is not an easy book to read. Aside from the gore, parts of it are profoundly disturbing. But it is a smart, haunting thriller, and anyone who approaches it with an open mind will surely enjoy it.

Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals
Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals
by Niall (Editor) Ferguson
Edition: Paperback
31 used & new from CDN$ 2.07

4.0 out of 5 stars Solid Historical Research, Jan. 23 2001
Overall, I found "Virtual History" to be an excellent exploration of the value of counterfactuals in historical writing. There is no debating the quality of the writing in this book. From the rousing introduction, to the various essays, and the clever conclusion, the authors do a superb job of engaging the reader in their various areas of expertise. That said, the work overall is somewhat uneven.
I believe this stems from the fact that the various historians don't all share the same comfort level with projecting the consequences of their counterfactuals. Some barely scratch the surface of what might have been, while others go into extensive detail (in particular, "What if Hitler had Invaded England", my favorite). However, this complaint speaks more to the flow of the work overall, and not to the quality of each essay.
In conclusion, "Virtual History" is an outstanding work, that shows top notch research and excellent writing. My one caveat to the potential reader would be that this is not a particularly light, easy reading book. If you are looking for a somewhat less rigorous, less scholarly look at counterfactual history I would recommend "What If?" (Cowley ed.).

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