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Content by Bruce F. Webster
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Reviews Written by
Bruce F. Webster "geek in a suit" (Parker, CO USA)

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Cold Comfort Farm
Cold Comfort Farm
DVD ~ Eileen Atkins
Price: CDN$ 14.88
31 used & new from CDN$ 4.63

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An affectionate, funny film, April 19 2004
This review is from: Cold Comfort Farm (DVD)
I saw this film soon after its 1995 release and thought it wonderful, all the more so because Kate Beckinsale's interpretation of Flora Poste reminded me very much of my oldest daughter. So I was pleased to see that it has finally come out on DVD; I bought a copy, watched it again, and still think it wonderful.
You should be warned that you may have a hard time understanding what some of the inhabitants of Cold Comfort Farm are saying. However, that's intentional and straight from the novel, where the accents and strange word usages often leave Flora puzzled. Here's an exchange (from the novel) that I believe is reproduced pretty much verbatim in the movie, when Reuben comes in after working out in the fields not long after Flora has started living at Cold Comfort Farm:
...After another minute Reuben brought forth the following sentence:
'I ha' scranleted two hundred furrows come five o'clock down i' the bute.'
It was a difficult remark, Flora felt, to which to reply. Was it a complaint? If so, one might say, 'My dear, how too sickening for you!' But then, it might be a boast, in which case the correct reply would be, 'Attaboy!' or more simply, 'Come, that's capital.' Weakly she fell back on the comparativel safe remark:
'Did you?' in a bright interested voice.
Speaking of which, the original novel (written in 1932 by Stella Gibbons) is just as wonderful, and the film is a remarkably faithful adaptation, if (understandably) a bit trimmed and modified. I read the book for the first time after watching the DVD release of the movie and was delighted to see that most of the dialog comes straight from the book, including my favorite line (the interchange between Neck, the movie producer, and Aunt Ada), if a bit punched up.
Finally, for the reviewers who are frustrated that we never find out what Ada saw in the woodshed, what wrongs were done to Robert Poste by Amos Starkadder, and what Flora Poste's rights were...well, the novel leaves us pretty much in the dark as well. In the book, Aunt Ada _does_ answer the second question for Flora--though we as readers don't get to hear the answer--and Ada is interrupted before she can answer Flora's intriguing follow up question, "And did the goat die?"
The movie and the book are both delightful; enjoy. ..bruce..

20th Century Cold Comfort Farm
20th Century Cold Comfort Farm
by Stella Gibbons
Edition: Paperback
45 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant, affectionate book, April 19 2004
Parody is easy to do but hard to sustain or do well, and almost always done as an end it itself--the author saying, "See how wicked and clever I am, and how silly the thing I'm mocking is!" Gibbons' genius is that she while she pokes fun at specific genres and authors (including herself), she actually writes a complete (and well-done) novel, and she treats the characters with affection and a certain dignity. The result is a book that's not only clever, funny, and well-written, but that is also unexpectedly, in the end, sweet and romantic.
For those wondering, the 1995 film adaptation (available on DVD right here on Amazon) is remarkably faithful (with understandable trimming, folding and tucking), and likewise hilarious without ever being mean spirited. Both have my highest recommendation. ..bruce..

Price: CDN$ 18.85
57 used & new from CDN$ 1.28

5.0 out of 5 stars One of my Top 10 albums, Sept. 16 2003
This review is from: Flood (Audio CD)
That's not to say that this is one of the 10 greatest albums ever produced. Instead, if I were banished to the archetypical desert island, this is one of the 10 albums I would take along, both to keep my spirits up and to sympathize with what would be occasional bouts of self-pity and perhaps madness. (Hey, didn't any of you see Tom Hanks in "Castaway"?) In this album, TMBG manage to be goofy without being stupid and edgy without being pretentious. No mean feat, that.
The irony is that I ran across this album because one of my daughters had left it behind after she went off to college. I ran across it a few years later, popped it in the CD player, and was hooked by the end of "Birdhouse." I have several other TMBG albums now, but this remains my favorite. ..bruce..

Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science
Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science
by Atul Gawande
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 32.50
38 used & new from CDN$ 0.11

5.0 out of 5 stars Should be required reading for any adult, Jan. 20 2003
Gawande is an outstanding writer who gets right to the heart of some of the most difficult, painful, and controversial issues in modern medicine. Is there any way train new doctors without giving them the chance to work on real, live people (and thus make potentially fatal erros)? Why do even experienced doctors make serious mistakes, and why do we expect them to be infallable? Who should make critical medical decisions: the patient or the patient's doctor?
Both my mom and my former wife were register nurses (RNs), so I tend to have a somewhat skeptical view of doctors. Gawande did much to give me greater sympathy for the medical profession and the challenges it faces, without understating or rationalizing away the critical issues within the profession. Read it. ..bruce..

Scrooge [Import]
Scrooge [Import]
5 used & new from CDN$ 6.75

5.0 out of 5 stars A family Christmas tradition -- at last on DVD, Oct. 29 2002
This review is from: Scrooge [Import] (VHS Tape)
Most on the previous reviews say everything I'd like to say: this is a wonderful movie with memorable songs and a great performance by Albert Finney (as well as much of the cast). Yes, it takes liberties with Dickens' text, but so does almost every other version of "A Christmas Carol". But "Scrooge" captures the heart of Dickens' message--of regret, repentance, and redemption--and still moves me deeply even after 30+ years of seeing it. Many of my (mostly-grown) children say that "Scrooge" is their favorite Christmas film (along with the hilarious "A Christmas Story").
I saw this film in its original theatrical release back in 1970; there is a lot of visual impact lost in the VHS pan-and-scan version. (I still remember my acute disappointment seeing it on TV the first time.) I'm thrilled it's now out on DVD; we bought copies for all our childen (ages 18-30) for Christmas. Thank you very much. :-) ..bruce..

Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 41.00
62 used & new from CDN$ 3.66

2.0 out of 5 stars Too much jaw-jaw -- Weber needs a firm editor, Oct. 4 2002
This review is from: WAR OF HONOR (Hardcover)
I am a great fan of the Honor Harrington books--I've read the entire series either two or three times--but I was frustrated by _War of Honor_.
David Weber spends the first 600+ pages with little more than conversations among groups of people. In fairness, he _is_ having to set up a new round of imperial conflicts, and he does enjoy illustrating various political and military mind-sets and their consequences, usually providing relevant parallels to current issues and mindsets, including the current debate on Iraq.
But he could have achieved the same in far less space. Indeed, he has done so in previous Harrington novels. This book only contained about 200-250 pages' worth of story (if that much), but was expanded to 750 pages. It was a chore to read, not a pleasure. Someone at Baen (Jim? are you reading this?) needs to have the backbone to make Weber remember that one of the foundations of good writing is to cut out every word that isn't essential. There were whole chapters in this book that weren't essential, that could have been reduced to a paragraph somewhere.
In short, this is not a novel I would recommend to anyone except die-hard Harrington fans who are willing to endure the padding for the all-too-brief glimpses of Harrington herself. I hope Weber does better in the next book, or the series itself may start to decline. ..bruce..

Boy's Life
Boy's Life
by Robert McCammon
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 10.40
74 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars An underappreciated American classic, Aug. 20 2002
This review is from: Boy's Life (Mass Market Paperback)
I'm not sure what prompted me to pick up _Boy's Life_ many years ago. I certainly hadn't been impressed by McCammon's horror fiction, which--of what I had read--mostly seemed to be third-tier echoes of Stephen King. But I was not just pleasantly surprised--I was stunned at what an outstanding work _Boy's Life_ is.
Indeed, I fully believe that if McCammon had never published _Stinger_ and _Wolf's Hour_ and _The Swan_ and the rest of his horror novels, _Boy's Life_ would have been trumpted as a great work of American Literature. But modern critics can't endure someone pedestrian enough (as they see it) to write for money, so _Boy's Life_ has never gotten the critical recognition it deserves.
Which is truly a pity, because _Boy's Life_ is one of the finest American novels of the 20th Century and a worthy successor to _Tom Sawyer_/_Huckleberry Finn_. It puts to shame similar modern works, such as Stephen King's _IT_ and Dan Simmons's _Summer of Night_. It is a book that one lives and lingers in, pushing ahead to see what happens and yet never wanting the story to end. Simmons may never write another novel like it--but he's already done more than the vast majority of published authors, living and dead. ..bruce..

Summer of Night
Summer of Night
by Dan Simmons
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
16 used & new from CDN$ 16.01

3.0 out of 5 stars I struggled with the rating on this book, Aug. 20 2002
Dan Simmons does an outstanding job of writing in _Summer of Night_; he kept me turning pages at 3:30 am, even after a day-long plane trip, until I finished the book. Having tried my own hand (unsuccessfully, so far) at fiction, I know how hard it is and marvel at how well Simmons does it. For that--and in contrast to the vast vats of horror drek out there--Simmons deserves at least 4 stars.
Even so, I ended up giving _Summer of Night_ a 3-star rating. This book has many parallels with _IT_ by Stephen King (though, frankly, Simmons writes a better, tighter novel) and shares some of the same flaws, including children who seem superhumanly composed and determined, monsters who are amazingly incompetent, and an out-of-left-field and somewhat disturbing depiction of pre-adolescent sexuality (particularly jarring given the time setting of both novels). So while the writing was excellent, the story's emotional grip and impact drained away as the novel moved to its end, since I had an increasinly hard time believing in the novel's events.
Too, _Summer of Night_ suffers (as does _IT_ and probably a host of other novels) by comparison to _Boy's Life_ by Robert McCammon, which takes the same setting--a group of kids, playing ball and riding bikes in early 1960's midwest America--and turns it into a kind of magic realism, where you're never quite sure which events took place as described and which are being seen through the eyes of a wistful and imaginative adult.
In short, Simmons did a great job of writing, but never managed to tug at my heart, raise gooseflesh on my arms, or make me believe that these events actually occured. My expectations may have been too high, but Simmons own talents raised the bar. ..bruce..

The Golden Age
The Golden Age
by John C. Wright
Edition: Hardcover
20 used & new from CDN$ 1.13

5.0 out of 5 stars Hugo/Nebula contender (and likely winner), April 12 2002
This review is from: The Golden Age (Hardcover)
For all the talk of 'space opera' and other genre/author comparisons, _The Golden Age_ is one of the most original novels to come out in years. John Wright lays out and tosses away more inventive, imaginative ideas in a few pages than many SF authors manage in a whole book. And not only has he developed a long-term extrapolation of human/technical evolution, he has done so in a story built on various intersections of myth and philosophy.
Wright's writing is intellectually challenging without being condescending or obtuse (deliberately or otherwise). He never forgets the need to be a good storyteller, yet probes close to the bone on such core issues as the determination of truth, the nature of reality and the tension between individual freedom and social good.
Utterly outstanding. I hope Wright gets the accolates he deserves. ..bruce..

Bandits: Special Edition (Widescreen/Full Screen) (Bilingual) [Import]
Bandits: Special Edition (Widescreen/Full Screen) (Bilingual) [Import]
DVD ~ Bruce Willis
Offered by discounts
Price: CDN$ 9.99
46 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Solid comedy -- even funnier the 2nd or 3rd time, April 12 2002
I missed this in the theaters, but my wife, my daughter, and I caught it in a hotel room--and loved it, in spite of the scan-and-pan display and lousy sound. So I rented the DVD, and found the movie even more hilarious than the first time.
I suspect those who don't like "Bandits" were expecting something entirely different--maybe something more like "Dog Day Afternoon". ;-) This ain't it. It's a quirky character comedy that requires a keen mind and a keen wit. Definitely worth the time. ..bruce..

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