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Reviews Written by
Josef Serf (Brooklyn, NY)

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The Godfather (Widescreen Edition)
The Godfather (Widescreen Edition)
Offered by AscendingVending
Price: CDN$ 23.99
19 used & new from CDN$ 7.94

5.0 out of 5 stars The Godfather is Dead, July 2 2004
The Godfather is Dead, Long Live the Godfather. It is hard to believe that Marlon Brando has died. May he rest in peace.
From now on the scene in "The Godfather" when Vito Corleone dies in the garden will have added significance and meaning to all of us who admired "The Godfather," next to "Citizen Kane," surely the greatest movie ever made.
In Memoriam. Marlon Brando (April 3, 1924 - July 1, 2004)

The Grapes of Wrath (Bilingual)
The Grapes of Wrath (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Henry Fonda
Price: CDN$ 16.98
23 used & new from CDN$ 4.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As good a restoration as possible, June 29 2004
This DVD restoration is probably as good as possible given that the original camera negative was lost. This is the one to get.
By the way, there is NO widescreen version of "The Grapes of Wrath." This DVD release exhibits the full frame aspect ratio of the original (1.33 to 1 ratio). Essentially, films made between 1917 and 1952 were filmed with a full frame aspect ratio. Standard televisions were proportioned 4:3 to copy the standard cinema ratio. Widescreen (Cinemascope, etc) was a gimmick introduced by Hollywood in the 1950s to compete with television. So if a film was made between 1917 and 1952 don't go looking for a widescreen version of it because there isn't any!

Taxi Driver (Collector's Edition)
Taxi Driver (Collector's Edition)
DVD ~ Robert De Niro
Offered by Warehouse105
Price: CDN$ 39.20
23 used & new from CDN$ 2.91

5.0 out of 5 stars A Controversial film that deserves controversy, May 31 2004
A good deal of the controversy about "Taxi Driver" revolves around its ending, and justifiably so. There are basically two criticisms that are particularly valid: The first revolves around the violence in the picture. Even by today's much too jaded standards, Travis Bickel's rampage is quite shocking. The question is: Was that extreme violence absolutely necessary to show the viewer? In other words, there is a sense that the viewer is being merely titillated by violence. Is it just violence for violence sake with no redeeming characteristic? Or isn't that Martin Scorsese's point? Isn't the violence pointless and irrational because Travis Bickle's life is pointless and he is himself an irrational person?
The second point of criticism is of course why the film ends as it does. Should it have ended with the exterior scene of police cars with their flashing lights and the assembled crowd of onlookers? Or is the extending ending just right? Did the post-rampage scenes really happen (in the story)? Or are they a halucination that Bickle is experiencing as he is dying from his gunshot wounds? Does it really matter anyway?
My own position is that, within the context of the story, it really doesn't matter whether Bickle is dreaming those "events" or not because Paul Schrader (the screenwriter) wrote the story that way to, among other things, highlight the nature of fame and celebrity. Aside from the fact that as viewers we know that Bickle is really no hero and therefore doesn't deserve to be treated as one, we recognize the absurdity of the press and its hunger for "red meat" stories and images. As the famous definition of celebrity goes: a celebrity is someone who is famous for being famous. If the film had ended suddenly with the exterior post-rampage street scene, Schrader would not have been able to make this additional point. Scorsese's directorial talents are therefore beyond criticism. In any event, Scorsese and Schrader worked closely on this film and I don't see the point in second guessing them. They are both men of considerable talent and their judgement has to respected. They knew what they were doing.
Besides, if someone wants to know what the film would be like without the post-rampage scenes all they have to do is stop the VHS/DVD player. By the way, the film that was used for Bickle's rampage scene was not chosen as "grainy." The correct term is that the colors were desaturated. It was done to avoid the possibility of garnering an "X" rating which would have severely limited the film's audience at the time. (Even today an "NC-17" rating is the kiss of death for a movie). Sadly, when a search for the original film stock with fully saturated colors was made many years later, it was found to have deteriorated beyond the point of recovery. What a shame! It would have made for an interesting restored version.
In any event, there is no need for me to recommend this film. It recommends itself.

Southern Comfort (Widescreen) (Bilingual) [Import]
Southern Comfort (Widescreen) (Bilingual) [Import]
DVD ~ Keith Carradine
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 90.28
11 used & new from CDN$ 29.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An Extraordinary Gem that deserves more prominence, May 26 2004
Whatver I say about this film, I can't admit to being objective about it because I adore it so much. At this point, I have probably watched it about 15 times over the years so I feel something of an expert on it.
Since others have written some very well written reviews of "Southern Comfort" I don't want to repeat what they say however a few points require clarification.
First, what this film is about. It is not, in my opinion, merely about the traditional urban/rural divide. That divide exists in the film as it does in real life. But that is not the point of the film. Nor is it an anti-white or anti-Southern screed. Although it takes place in the South it could take place just about anywhere when one realizes what the film is really about. Also both the "survivors" and the "villains" in the film are white Southerners. The "survivors" being two Lousiana National Guardsman - Spencer (Kieth Carradine) and Hardin (Powers Boothe). The "villains" being Cajun fisherman/hunters out in the swamps of Lousiana.
No, what "Southern Comfort" is really about is what happens when arrogant fools invade another people's land and start indulging in violent and hostile acts, including destroying the livelihood of the indigeneous native people (e.g. cutting their fishing nets and stealing their boats), shooting at, seizing, and taking prisoner innocent locals, blowing up their homes, abusing and torturing them (sounds all to familiar), and then wondering why they are hated so much and why the native people attack them. The message is really that simple.
It was captured in a short dialogue after the "survivors" are shown to be the last two left among the guardsmen. When they are confronted by a shotgun toting one armed Cajun (who was previously their prisoner) brilliantly played by the late Brion James, Hardin asks the Cajun, "Do you mind telling us what this [the war with the guardsmen] is all about?" The Cajun responds, "It's real simple. This is our land. We live back here and no one f***s with us here." For that reason the advertising slogan for the film - "The Land of Hospitality...unless you don't belong" - is wrong. It should have read "The Land of Hospitality...unless you misbehave and start mistreating and abusing the locals!"
If the guardsman hadn't behaved badly then they would not have had much trouble with the locals in the first place. Also, the Cajuns in the small town at the end of the film came across as quite normal and hospitable to me. Only the "swamp rat" Cajuns come across as threatening and THEY were only fighting back against violent intruders. So I have to disagree with the assessment by some that the film is anti-Cajun, anti-white, or anti-Southern. On the contrary, one of the "heroes" (i.e., survivors) is a white Southerner from Baton Rouge (Spencer played by Keith Carradine). As for the Cajuns shown in the small town, they were not actors. They were real people that were shown honestly and fairly - enjoying good food, good company, good music, and dancing.
To sum up, "Southern Comfort" is an outstanding and extraordinary film in its own right. The acting is persuasive and very convincing, especially from Fred Ward who plays a very menancing type and, of course, the much underrated and underappreciated Powers Boothe who plays the "outsider" from El Paso, Texas. The direction by Walter Hill is superb. The cinematography from the first frame to the last by Andrew Laszlo is lush, rich, and luxuriant. (It makes me want to visit the Lousiana bayou to see it for myself.) And last, but not least, the music composed and arranged (and played) by Ry Cooder is both mysterious and seductive. Few films have ever enjoyed such a perfect marriage between image and music as "Southern Comfort." The only other film that has this quality that immediately comes to mind is Carol Reed's "The Third Man" which featured the hypnotically beautiful zither music by Anton Karas. Karas and Cooder both share an indescribable special quality that is evident in both films.
The DVD transfer is outstanding. The only disappointment is the lack of any meaningful extras. Other than the original trailer there is nothing else. Okay, this is a budget priced DVD but still this film deserves better. I hope that MGM will see the light and re-release "Southern Comfort" with some useful extras like filmographies/biographies, behind the scenes photos, a "making of" documentary, and especially an expert commentary. This film definitely deserves it. Halliwell's Film Guide gives it four stars and if you know anything about Halliwell's you know how difficult it is for any film to get four stars.
So on a scale of one to five stars, I give the film five stars but the DVD four stars. Nevertheless because I love this film so much and wish it had a larger audience I will rate it five stars for Amazon.

Citizen Kane (Two-Disc Special Edition) [Import]
Citizen Kane (Two-Disc Special Edition) [Import]
DVD ~ Richard Ben Cramer
Offered by 5A/30 Entertainment
Price: CDN$ 64.37
20 used & new from CDN$ 8.92

5.0 out of 5 stars Words cannot do justice to Citizen Kane, April 27 2004
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a motion picture is worth a million words. Unfortunately, Amazon limits reviews to a thousand words only so I'll have to be brief but no amount of words can do justice to "Citizen Kane."
I can't, and therefore won't, pretend to be "objective" about this film. As the great Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci once said, "Objectivity does not exist - it cannot exist ... The word is a hypocrisy which is sustained by the lie that the truth stays in the middle. No, sir: sometimes truth stays on one side only."
In the case of "Citizen Kane" the truth is on one side only: it is a truly great film and deserves to be ranked as one of the greatest films, if not the greatest film, ever made. And anyone who says otherwise is not only wrong but grossly ignorant of this film, the history of film, and its place in the history of film.
A few key highlights on "Citizen Kane."
First, "Citizen Kane" is a work of art. (Yeah, I know that is a cliche, but like most cliches, it's true). Most movies are merely entertaining because that is all they are meant to be and do. "Citizen Kane" tried to be more and do more and succeeded.
Second, Orson was a genius and "Citizen Kane" was his masterpiece.
Third, its screenplay is itself a masterpiece. Just as matter of fact, the actual shooting script was based on two scripts (written separately by Welles and Mankiewicz) that Welles combined into one for the final version. By the way, best screenplay was the only category that garnered an Academy Award for "Citizen Kane." By rights, "Citizen Kane" should have won all the categories but did not because of the efforts of William Randolph Hearst (incredibly, the real Hearst was even worse than the man "Citizen Kane" portrayed!).
Third, the look (and sound) of "Citizen Kane" is glorious. Gregg Toland was one of the greatest cinematographers in the history of film, period, and "Kane" proves it. Without going into the boring (actually not boring) technical details, this film was ahead of its time and used many techniques for the first time that we have long since gotten used to. Unfortunately, we have forgotten where they came from.
Welles and his cinematographer Gregg Toland developed or enhanced techniques for allowing the drama to develop on multiple planes of vision and sound. the film's deep focus photography, which allows actors and objects to remain in focus whatever their distance from the camera, allowed multiple actions to be shown within a single frame and remain comprehensible, allowing for complex interactions between foreground and background.
Welles and John Aalberg created a complex soundtrack that merged multiple dialogues, sometimes spoken simultaneously, and music into a comprehensible whole.
Fourth, Bernard Herrmann. Do I need to say anything more? Although Bernard Herrmann received an Academy Award nomination for his score for "Citizen Kane," he actually won the award that year for his music for ALL THAT MONEY CAN BUY.
Fifth, the film editing was fantastic. Kudos to Robert Wise.
Sixth, the extraordinary cast of actors were drawn entirely from the famed Mercury Theatre troupe, which Orson Welles founded when he was only 21 years old.
Seventh, It was directed by Orson Welles.
Eighth, It was produced by Orson Welles.
Ninth, Charles Foster Kane was portrayed by Orson Welles.
Tenth, "Citizen Kane" was made by Orson Welles. Did I mention that he shared the credit for best original screenplay?
I think there is a pattern here.
Bottom Line: If "Citizen Kane" is not already in your DVD collection, get the two-disc set, you won't regret it.

Sword of the Prophet: Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam
Sword of the Prophet: Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam
by Serge Trifkovic
Edition: Paperback
10 used & new from CDN$ 15.45

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A disturbing and powerful polemic, April 26 2004
Like so much else in life, you have to see (and read) things for yourself in order to judge them. This is certainly true in the case of Serge Trifkovic's "The Sword of the Prophet."
Having read the book, I can categorically state what it is not. It is not a comprehensive history or theological study of Islam. So, in that sense, the title is a bit misleading. (I also wonder why the subtitle does not begin with the word "Its" - but I digress). If you want a comprehensive history of Islam you need to go elswhere. Ditto if you want a theological analysis.
"The Sword of the Prophet" is, in fact, a well-argued and cited POLEMIC. It is not, and does not pretend to be, "objective" (whatever that is). So it has to be read with that in mind. But the author has obviously done his homework and has alot to say about his subject. However, this book has its limitations. There are far too many mispellings for my taste and, therefore, it should have been edited properly. And there are some subjects which I wish the author had expanded upon.
Nevertheless, it is worth reading if only because its author is willing to confront uncomfortable facts about Islam and especially its founder, Mohammed. In that, this book is very politically incorrect. But since I am not interested in political correctness, but factual correctness, that was not an issue for me. The facts that are particularly uncomfortable that this book discusses concern the life and mentality of Mohammed. The bottom line is that Mohammed was no Jesus. Mohammed was a warrior not just a prophet. That story alone is worth the price of this book.
Finally, what sets this book apart is that its author is willing to take a pull-no-punches approach to his subject and his views on his subject. This book is worth reading if only because it presents a powerful and persuasive point of view. It is a shame that more authors aren't willing to stick their necks out as Trifkovic does in this book.

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