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Benjamin (ATLANTA, United States)

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Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner [Import]
Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner [Import]
DVD ~ Natar Ungalaaq
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 43.39
11 used & new from CDN$ 19.48

5.0 out of 5 stars You've never seen anything like it before., Feb. 3 2003
"Atanarjuat - The Fast Runner," the first-ever film done entirely in the Inuit language, is a three-hour-long epic, ultimately rewarding if you're willing to indulge in it. Done on digital video and filmed by actors from the native tribe near regions of the Arctic, the filmmakers capture images onscreen that were impossible to do before this technology became available. Because digital video doesn't use tape that wouldn't have survived the harsh temperatures of the region, we are able to see things like a group of Inuits on the hunt or a man running completely naked across entirely frozen regions of land. For that alone, the film is fascinating, a landmark in film history.
The story the film portrays, though, is equally as compelling, for it's a tragedy as twisty as anything Shakespeare wrote. Set in a time shortly after the Ice Age, it tells a story that has passed down as folklore.
A tribe becomes infected by evil when a curse hits them. The ruling family of the tribe is particularly corrupt. One member of the tribe, though not a great hunter himself, has two sons of promise, and, when the two grow into men, they hold the fate of the tribe in their hands.
Atanarjuat, the younger son who grows into the fastest runner and best hunter in the tribe, is the object of envy and scorn from the son of the ruling family. Atanarjuat's even in love with that son's intended bride, whom he wins after a tribal duel. Resentment grows within the ruling family as a result of this. And Puta, the daughter from the ruling family, is also in love with Atanarjuat, and she's capable of schemes and machinations.
As time passes, trouble brews, and "Atanarjuat" becomes a sort of Eskimo "Melrose Place." (You're not going to BELIEVE how Puta tries to commit adultery with one brother while the other's sleeping next to her in the same teepee. That was one of the best scenes I saw last year.) It's always compelling, and it works as effective soap opera. But the ambition surrounding the film makes it far greater than that.
Though I don't speak Inuit and likely will never see another Inuit film, I feel as though this was well-acted, well-written and a labor of love for all involved in its making. (The difficulty of the filming is exhibited over the film's end credits, showing how exactly "Atanarjuat" was done.)
It's an interesting, important film, compelling because of its story and significant because it even exists.

Come Undone
Come Undone
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 84.16
5 used & new from CDN$ 33.55

4.0 out of 5 stars The nudity is beautiful. So is the plot., Feb. 3 2003
This review is from: Come Undone (DVD)
OK, I'll admit it. I rented it for the nudity. Done as a gay coming-of-age story, "Come Undone" seemed like a pleasant enough excuse to show some well-toned guys romping around together on a beach. So I popped the DVD in the player, and I did what I usually do with gay softcore (or with something I think is trying to pass itself off as gay softcore), which is to say that I went straight for the chapter searches and to find the film's most explicit scenes. (It's not something of character, but, c'mon, you know you've done it.)
The scenes I jumped into, though as explicit as I'd hoped, left me wondering about the context of the film. As with most ambitious French films, "Come Undone" follows a non-linear plot where not everything that happens is explainable or explained away. When I stopped jumping from scene to scene, I started the film at the beginning, and I found "Come Undone" to be a somewhat complicated, resonant and smart film. I'm really glad I decided to watch the whole thing.
The majority of the film is told in flashback. From the scenes that take place in the "present," we can tell that the film's main character Mathieu is depressed, just out of an institution and reluctant to talk about what's happened with his first gay relationship, which involved a boy named Cedric.
The film, sometimes without warning, flashes back and forth along the timeline of their relationship. We see how they met, with Cedric staring down Mathieu on the beach. We see their first dates, their first fights. We see Cedric telling Mathieu about his more colorful past as a gay man. We see him meeting Mathieu's family.
Occasionally, these scenes frame what happened a year later, after Cedric and Mathieu's relationship, which we learn became serious, is over.
The film leaves it for the audience to decide what happened between the two summers, hinting that Cedric and Mathieu's courtship and breakup will be more important to who Mathieu is than how the relationship went. I fought my urge, as an American moviegoer, to have more of the loose ends of the film tied up, and I found "Come Undone" to be ultimately rewarding.
So watch it for one reason. Then watch it for another. You'll find it worthwhile either way.

24: Season One
24: Season One
DVD ~ Kiefer Sutherland
Offered by newtownvideo_ca
Price: CDN$ 13.58
30 used & new from CDN$ 4.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Great series that hooks you in early and keeps you hooked., Jan. 31 2003
This review is from: 24: Season One (DVD)
Watching a couple episodes of "24" on TV, enjoying its structure and non-stop plot, I bought the DVD package of the show's first season because I didn't get to see all the episodes. Because I'd missed key twists, I didn't watch the full series, so I was incredibly glad when they released this so quickly.
In my own time and at my own pace, I could watch how the day unfolded for CTU agent Jack Bauer and his family. I could try and figure out the villains of the show, and I could try to understand how presidential candidate David Palmer and his wife Sherry were working against each other on the day of the primary. Using the DVD, as well, I could go back and forth over the twists, analyzing things that I'd missed, and determining what clues could help me figure out what was going to happen next.
"24" is fun - brilliant, suspenseful fun that keeps you enthralled for a very, very long day. It manages to juggle the fates of dozens of characters without much confusion. Few plot twists, with the exception of Teri's late-in-the-game amnesia, are completely out of left field. And the ending shocker is a payoff to anyone who's invested time in the show.
The format and pacing of "24," clever as they are, wouldn't work without the quality acting and directing in the show, though. Penny Johnson Jerald, Keifer Sutherland and Dennis Haysbert are standout talents.
The second season, which I've been watching every week, is even better than the first, so I'm hoping the DVD for that one is released quickly.

Rent
Rent
Price: CDN$ 24.06
54 used & new from CDN$ 5.09

4.0 out of 5 stars The first CD is better than the second, but it's a good show, Jan. 30 2003
This review is from: Rent (Audio CD)
RENT took Broadway by storm in 1996 and introduced the world to Taye Diggs, Jesse L. Martin ("Law and Order"), Daphne Rubin-Vega, Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal. A modernization of Puccini's LA BOHEME, it deals with a group of neo-Bohemian, twentysomething artists who are being forced out of a New York tenement by their now-corrupt landlord.
The soundtrack is catchy, particularly the CD of the show's first act. Taking place over the course of one Christmas evening, the show's first act is its best. It introduces the characters quickly. The music is upbeat, yet its subject matter, dealing with AIDS and remaining true to yourself, is important. And the two-part closing song, "La Vie Boheme," is a rocking ensemble piece.
The second CD is weaker, for the second act of the show is weaker. Set during the year following that initial Christmas, the couples that got together in the first act break up and get back together again ad nauseum. The songs are less upbeat, though the one ballad over Angel's death is heartbreaking. The conclusion to the show is a let-down, I thought. The standout song of the second act, "Seasons of Love," gets nice exposure as a Stevie Wonder pop song at the end of the CD. Still, the second CD is weak.
I got this when it first came out, yet I still know all the words to all the songs of the first act. I still know that I'd rather play Mark than Roger, if I were ever cast in the show, because the part is funnier. And I know that Jonathan Larson, who died shortly before the CD and show hit the stage, has created an enduring piece of Broadway art.

After the First Death
After the First Death
by Robert Cormier
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 8.54
72 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, frightening novel., Jan. 30 2003
Using a narrative tool employed by THE CATCHER IN THE RYE to startling effect, Robert Cormier goes inside the minds of three teens, one of them apparently institutionalized, to tell the story of how they dealt with a terrorist attack in AFTER THE FIRST DEATH. It's a brilliant novel, one of Cormier's most frightening and effective, and it doesn't matter that it's classified as "juvenile literature." Given the realistic and topical aspects of the plot, AFTER THE FIRST DEATH is a page-turner, no matter how old you are.
Two foreign terrorists, one of them a teenager, hijack a bus filled with small children on their way to summer camp. They take the bus to a bridge, announce their intentions and demands and begin to negotiate the release of the hostages with local military. Though they're reluctant, they assure the military that they will kill children if their demands are not met. The teen terrorist, one of the narrators, is both a frightening figure and a confused kid. He's capable of volatile actions, yet, at the same time, he's young, occasionally caring and vulnerable.
Another of the narrators is Kate, the 16-year-old girl who is substituting for the bus driver on the day of the standoff. Thus, she becomes the primary caregiver for the children, who end up drugged, scared and sick. At the same time, she's still just a child herself, questioning her own bravery. Her relationship with the teen terrorist becomes key, as well, for she's the first girl with whom he's had any contact. She senses his feelings and wonders if she can use them to her advantage, if she even dares to do so.
The third narrator, the son of the general who's negotiating the standoff, is the one in the institution, telling the story in flashback. Though this same device was used in THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, it's used for a different purpose here, and it leads to a rather shocking ending. The general's son becomes directly involved in the hostage situation at a point late in the game, and his life is placed at risk while the two sides come to terms with the situation.
The title, "After the First Death," takes on several meanings throughout the course of the book. Taken from a Dylan Thomas poem, it seems to reflect on how the death of a child is no more and no less significant than the death of any person. Additionally, though, the title, if considered in a Biblical context, deals with the "first death" - the murder of Kane - and the ramifications of a juvenile's violent actions.
The book deals with teens having to face the consequences of their own actions, having to face the dangers in a troubling situation where their are adult consequences. There's also a subtext surrounding children trying to please their parents.
The ending passages are shocking, foreboding and heartbreakingly sad. The book stays with you in the manner of a resonant nightmare.
It's a fascinating, layered book thick with plot and harrowing situations, and it's one of the best books I've ever read.

After the First Death
After the First Death
by Robert Cormier
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 8.54
72 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, frightening novel., Jan. 30 2003
Using a narrative tool employed by THE CATCHER IN THE RYE to startling effect, Robert Cormier goes inside the minds of three teens, one of them apparently institutionalized, to tell the story of how they dealt with a terrorist attack in AFTER THE FIRST DEATH. It's a brilliant novel, one of Cormier's most frightening and effective, and it doesn't matter that it's classified as "juvenile literature." Given the realistic and topical aspects of the plot, AFTER THE FIRST DEATH is a page-turner, no matter how old you are.
Two foreign terrorists, one of them a teenager, hijack a bus filled with small children on their way to summer camp. They take the bus to a bridge, announce their intentions and demands and begin to negotiate the release of the hostages with local military. Though they're reluctant, they assure the military that they will kill children if their demands are not met. The teen terrorist, one of the narrators, is both a frightening figure and a confused kid. He's capable of volatile actions, yet, at the same time, he's young, occasionally caring and vulnerable.
Another of the narrators is Kate, the 16-year-old girl who is substituting for the bus driver on the day of the standoff. Thus, she becomes the primary caregiver for the children, who end up drugged, scared and sick. At the same time, she's still just a child herself, questioning her own bravery. Her relationship with the teen terrorist becomes key, as well, for she's the first girl with whom he's had any contact. She senses his feelings and wonders if she can use them to her advantage, if she even dares to do so.
The third narrator, the son of the general who's negotiating the standoff, is the one in the institution, telling the story in flashback. Though this same device was used in THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, it's used for a different purpose here, and it leads to a rather shocking ending. The general's son becomes directly involved in the hostage situation at a point late in the game, and his life is placed at risk while the two sides come to terms with the situation.
The title, "After the First Death," takes on several meanings throughout the course of the book. Taken from a Dylan Thomas poem, it seems to reflect on how the death of a child is no more and no less significant than the death of any person. Additionally, though, the title, if considered in a Biblical context, deals with the "first death" - the murder of Kane - and the ramifications of a juvenile's violent actions.
The book deals with teens having to face the consequences of their own actions, having to face the dangers in a troubling situation where their are adult consequences. There's also a subtext surrounding children trying to please their parents.
The ending passages are shocking, foreboding and heartbreakingly sad. The book stays with you in the manner of a resonant nightmare.
It's a fascinating, layered book thick with plot and harrowing situations, and it's one of the best books I've ever read.

Out of Sight: Collector's Edition (Widescreen)
Out of Sight: Collector's Edition (Widescreen)
DVD ~ George Clooney
Price: CDN$ 10.60
24 used & new from CDN$ 3.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Why I have a soft spot in my heart for Jennifer Lopez., Jan. 29 2003
Though this made no money when it was first released, director Steven Soderbergh's caper film "Out of Sight" has developed a strong cult following. This well-written, well-acted, beautifully shot ensemble comedy-drama is superior entertainment, and it "launched" Soderbergh's comeback to the world of serious film by proving that Hollywood films can still be smart and artistic.
Taken from an Elmore Leonard novel, the script gives George Clooney his best part to date. As Jack Foley, a moderately successful thief who uses words more than guns, he's given moments where he's supposed to be tough and tender. He's smart but impulsive, and he frequently finds himself in the middle of a jam. During a prison escape, for instance, he ends up sharing a car trunk with a federal marshal named Karen Sisco, played in a sophisticated, ballsy turn by Jennifer Lopez.
From that scene of flirtatious, intense dialogue because they like each other and hate each other, stuck at an impasse where neither one of them can make a move, Sisco and Foley banter and battle throughout the entire movie. When their confrontations come (in the seduction scene and, later, in the final heist), the payoffs to the audience are rewarding.
The supporting cast is uniformly colorful, and all the characters are well-defined. I particularly liked Don Cheadle's work as a scary, insecure prison boxer and Steve Zahn's turn as a hapless criminal obsessed with wearing sunglasses.
But the scenes between Clooney and Lopez set the screen on fire, moreso because of the way they deliver their dialogue than because of the way they look. The editing of the seduction scene, where their dinner dialogue seems to narrate what happens to them after dinner, is what makes it so sexy.
Great movie. Lopez has never done anything yet that's as good.

Swing When Youre Winning
Swing When Youre Winning
Price: CDN$ 18.90
56 used & new from CDN$ 0.48

4.0 out of 5 stars Robbie's swing set., Jan. 24 2003
Encouraged by his work on the BRIDGET JONES' DIARY soundtrack, Britpop star Robbie Williams recorded this Rat Pack-ish album at the same, famous Capitol Records studio in Los Angeles.
All in all, his efforts are pretty good. His voice seems right for the songs, and his use of "special guest stars" like Nicole Kidman and Jon Lovitz on tracks makes the album more fun than other pop star throwback efforts, like the recent Rod Stewart album.
However, and this is key, Williams' take on the songs is so authentic that he seems to have excised a bit of his usual dark, sarcastic personality for it. It would've been nice to have a bit of that injected into the numbers.
There's nothing particularly wrong with this album. It just doesn't rock out as much as I wanted it to or take the chances that I thought it would.
"Somethin' Stupid," which is the Williams-Kidman duet, is something sweet, though.

Nashville (Widescreen)
Nashville (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Shelley Duvall
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 59.69
14 used & new from CDN$ 5.50

5.0 out of 5 stars I love this movie., Jan. 24 2003
This review is from: Nashville (Widescreen) (DVD)
NASHVILLE, which I watched for the first time a couple weeks ago, is the best Robert Altman film I've ever seen. It's the first, I believe, and best of his forays into true ensemble framework narratives. (You know what I mean, where there are 25 characters who all are connected somehow, where not everything ties together, and there are 14 plots instead of one.)
The film takes place over five days in the Country Music Capitol of the World. Some of the characters are in the music business, some of them want to be, and some of them are tangentially linked to the music business. There's a new radical presidential candidate in town, and there are hints throughout the film that an assassination attempt is in the air. Something about some of the characters just isn't quite right, like the way Scott Glenn's character seems obsessed with a singer or how one character gives a long speech about the Kennedy assassinations.
It's a labyrinth plot about people, how they live their lives, how they follow dreams and how they hope to escape the emptiness around them.
It's brilliantly acted. The script is the best. And no one directs this kind of film better than Altman, though SHORT CUTS and READY TO WEAR are lesser films than this one.

Secret History: A Novel
Secret History: A Novel
by Donna Tartt
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 22.95
24 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning prologue, great book., Jan. 22 2003
The prologue of Donna Tartt's "The Secret History" is the best thing about it. It jumps you right into the center of the mystery plot, giving you the basic information that a group of friends has killed one of its own to protect a secret, and it leaves you feeling almost as haunted as the narrator, Richard Papen, feels.
The suspense in this novel comes, though, from wondering not who did it but why.
Jumping then to the beginning of the story, Richard begins to explain how he started taking Latin classes on his campus and how those classes introduced him into an odd clique of friends, all obsessed with their studies, all snobbishly superior to everyone else on campus. But something's amiss with this group of friends, for they share a lot of secrets. And one of the friends, Bunny, is threatening to confess them all.
And so we learn with Richard the basics of the mystery.
The book is well-written and compelling, and Tartt, who took 10 years to write a follow-up novel, became a bit of a legend for a time. Coming out of nowhere, her debut novel garnered tremendous, earned buzz and became a bestseller.
A friend of mine once told me this book made him want to write again.
For me, it kept me up nights and proved to be a rather fulfilling tale. I recommend it highly.

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