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Nearly Normal

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Angel Heart (Special Edition) [Import]
Angel Heart (Special Edition) [Import]
DVD ~ Mickey Rourke
Price: CDN$ 12.65
21 used & new from CDN$ 5.50

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A CRISP, CHILLING TREAT OF THE OCCULT, July 18 2004
Let's see. A mesmerizing Mickey Rourke in his element. A brief but blood-curdling cameo from DeNiro sporting overgrown fingernails, dark flowy suits and a baritone drawl. A starkly bold turn from the beautiful Lisa Bonnet who exudes sexual abandon..
Cut to the chase, Angel Heart is a riveting psychothriller with cojones. It absolutely boggles me, then, why this is not the cult classic that it so richly deserves to be!
What begins as a fairly innocuous sleuthing adventure quickly takes on the contours of a supernatural drill, replete with mythological and biblical symbolism, as our private-eye discovers the true nature of his horrifying engagement.
Trevor Jones' riveting score and Parker's immaculate direction could be some of the reasons why this grand nightmare lingers in your thoughts long after the credits have rolled, but whatever the motivation, I highly recommend getting a hold of this classic with an unforgettable twist.

Zentropa [Import]
Zentropa [Import]
3 used & new from CDN$ 4.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Zentropa [Import] (VHS Tape)
In his typical scattered narrative, von Trier crafts a hypnotic tale of an American in the post-WWII rubble of Germany, as he gets entangled with a stunning local woman. Problem is, the woman is revealed to have been a dangerous operative during the war with far-from-simple roots.
Sounds like a fairly comprehensible theme to wrap a thriller around, but no, not under the sly lens of von Trier! His screenplay copiously employs his characteristic symbolism, effortlessly morphing between black & white and technicolor, using double-exposures, backprojections, and some fascinating trick photography such as superimpositions.
The resulting murky, obscure atmosphere of psychological disorientation may lead a casual viewer to much the same frustrations as the film's protagonist -- of never quite finding a footing in the surrealistic, trancy goings-on.
But if you prefer ambitious enigmas to lacklustre boxoffice hits, then give this truly challenging film a chance.

All That Jazz (Bilingual)
All That Jazz (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Roy Scheider
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 45.50
15 used & new from CDN$ 4.55

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE JAZZY, SNAZZY, MORBID UNDERBELLY OF SHOWBIZ, July 18 2004
This review is from: All That Jazz (Bilingual) (DVD)
What a dazzlingly engaging experimentation with the medium of film as we take an evocative peep into the life of a showbiz-obsessed director Fosse -- the hedonistic man behind the actual stage version of "Chicago."
Apart from being a truly sexy turn-on of a musical, it hits one out of the park as an exploration of an artist at war with himself. Somewhat indulgent, yes, but it is the brutally honest potrayal of the many imperfections (girls, gin, glitz) of a perfectionist, in all his triumphs and trials, that makes this film a very, very endearing experience.
The bleak undertones may scare the faint-hearted but for them there's all the riveting stage action. A wholesome film that belongs in your own collections, not just in your Blockbuster records.

Offered by murray speer
Price: CDN$ 69.95
11 used & new from CDN$ 1.74

4.0 out of 5 stars FUN ALBUM FOR JAZZ LOVERS, July 18 2004
This review is from: De-lovely (Audio CD)
Not sure why this album has attracted so many negative reviews. For people who are into classical jazz, or into having some creative fun with popular numbers (e.g., Alanis Morisette taking "Let's Do It, Let's Fall In Love" for a spin), this is a fairly enjoyable compilation.
From Natalie Cole's heart wrenching "Every time we say goodbye", to the nasal cover opener by Robbie Williams "It's De-Lovely", to a smattering of out-of-tune but cheeky renditions from, er, Kevin Kline (!) -- the album is a very good buy for what it is worth.
Of course the songs will mean more if you actually see the movie itself, which may make even pseudo-plaintive croonings of Ashley Judd in "In the Still of the Night" come alive with sentiment. I recommend it to be quite an enjoyable album if you know that you're stepping into unusual singers having fun with jazz, perfectly reflecting the intent of the movie it was set together for.

Elephant (HBO)
Elephant (HBO)
DVD ~ John Robinson
Price: CDN$ 9.95
34 used & new from CDN$ 2.03

1 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars THIS IS, LIKE, SO DEEP AND STUFF, July 17 2004
This review is from: Elephant (HBO) (DVD)
I'm amazed a film like this could sweep awards at Cannes, or any festival. The camera floats around an ordinary school, tracking students' lives, nothing special, your average day stuff, in what seemed like a thinly veiled take on the Columbine tragedy of school shootings.
There are no good guys and bad guys, every character is made sympathetic simply by being real, by being himself, by being human. This includes the two weirdos who go on a rampage, who played violent video games (like most teenagers) and watched documentaries on Hitler with rapt attention. Not sure if this was an implied cause, or just a nonchalant and thus somehow artistic trope.
That's it. That's the plot. One of the "spotlight reviews" on this site mentions how the lack of a point was in fact the point. Well that's good for life but capturing life as-is on film, without any perspective or any cinematic accoutrement at all, is a bit pointless if not outright stupid.
"Elephant" seems like a deliberately point-of-view-less film, much like its title, which has nothing to do with anything in the movie.
So if you, like the French, have a taste for a sequence of screens that do not necessarily need to hinge around a semblance of a theme or purpose, you'll be in entertainment heaven. Grab your six packs and discuss motives and perspective and all those lovely film theory things long into the sunset.
For the rest of us, thank god there's a 16x skip functionality on my DVD that's like a fast forward on steroids, or better still, there are a billion other more interesting + intelligent ways to waste time.

The Son [Import]
The Son [Import]
DVD ~ Olivier Gourmet
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 100.07
7 used & new from CDN$ 16.96

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE AGONY OF MORAL CHOICE, July 17 2004
This review is from: The Son [Import] (DVD)
With some staggery candid camerawork and next-to-none minimalistic soundtrack, which is no doubt rather demanding on the senses, The Son manages to lay a gruelling texture of moral dilemma and the intrigue that goes with it.
Olivier Gourmet plays a carpenter, with an uncanny ability to judge the metric distance between any two points on a board, perhaps a metaphor for his character's moral precision. (I have never seen Gourmet before, but if wins awards, I will know exactly why.)
This carpenter develops a liking to a younger apprentice. It's eventually revealed that this liking is linked to a tragedy in the past, that continues to cast a pall over several of the film's characters. I will not not dilvulge the exact nature of that tragedy, that'd spoil the enigma, but the film is relentless in outlining its ramifications -- the angst, guilt, confusion, and how the carpenter finds himself both drawn to and repulsed by the youngster.
The overall ambience of the film may be bleak and murky, but its pervasive human spirit is very rewaring for all the patience it demands. Not recommended for casual filmgoers, but a very meditative example of arthouse for the more discerning eye.

Badder Santa: The Unrated Version [Import]
Badder Santa: The Unrated Version [Import]
DVD ~ Billy Bob Thornton
Offered by detroit whut (5 STAR SELLER- FASTEST SHIPPING)
Price: CDN$ 6.18
25 used & new from CDN$ 0.70

4.0 out of 5 stars FEARLESSLY BAWDY BUT FUNNY, July 17 2004
Bad Santa has many crass gags, it almost drags you into a dark alley of tasteless humour and thrashes you up. Imagine Billy Bob Thorton in a comic lead role, tough to visualize. But the man is bloody hilarious! Some parts are better scripted than others, but for a film that's so determined NOT to have a heart, it does surprise you with one. A wonderfully perverse treat that goes by in a flash, so it can't be all that bad any way. Recommended!

No Title Available

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Ten minutes into the film I was drawn into the noirish pace and presentation, and a theme of how inconvenient life is when someone who's tainted as an ex-convict wants to straighten himself out. The feeling of paranoia is well achieved, partly because of the brooding score and very well-toned cinematography.
But what kills the movie is its derivative story -- the strinking semblance to Godfather, City Hall, Heat, James Caan's own The Thief, and about a hundred other crime capers is hard to overlook. To make matters worse, the plot is also sloppily constructed such that it can't resolve itself without losing its grip on the tension that it creates.
James Caan is sharp as he brings his snakey charm into the role, come to think of it, all actors do very well to maintain the general grit, including a power-crazed Joaquin Phoenix and the good-hearted criminal Wahlberg.
But about halfway through the movie the denouement already peeped out, making the rest of the proceedings merely a formality. Probably a decent rental for anyone who likes crime procedurals with family businesses going over the top in tandem with public officials, but not exactly an astounding achievement in cinema.

Pollock (Special Edition) (Sous-titres français) [Import]
Pollock (Special Edition) (Sous-titres français) [Import]
DVD ~ Ed Harris
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 12.06
20 used & new from CDN$ 12.04

3.0 out of 5 stars THE DARK SIDE OF ART AND SUCESS, July 17 2004
A gripping biopic that explores events in a real-life artist's life, played intensely to perfection by Harris, who from the director's chair also managed to secure a similarly assured, pointed turn from the other lead: Marcia Harden as a woman who sacrifices herself completely in the service of what she perceives as genius.
Pollock's meteoric rise to glory meant that he succumbed soon to common celebrity ills -- booze, promiscuity, temper -- and this is the area that the film seems to cast a dramatic wide-angle lens on.
Personally, I felt that the film did not really wow me with its somewhat conventional and occasionally even shallow drama potraying a painter's angst, skimping in turn on the insights into what really made him tick. Achieving a delicate balance between these two facets of the artist's life was what made Kirk Douglas' "Lust for Life" or the more recent "Frida" such true classics.
A decent rental for the superlative performances of both the lead characters and its evenhandedness in dealing with a sensitive subject (Harris takes no sides, we never really stop despising Pollock because of his abrasive nature) but don't expect anything you'd call a marvel of film making.

The Lightning Should Have Fallen on Ghalib
The Lightning Should Have Fallen on Ghalib
by G.D. Thapar
Edition: Paperback
Offered by MM Books Ltd
Price: CDN$ 5.60
24 used & new from CDN$ 5.60

Ghalib's playful poetry in Urdu is fascinating, such as the line in the caption of this review, a fact most Indians are privy to. But having his quirky, self-effacing romantic gems in English is a delight of a different order altogether. The translation is thankfully quite interesting in and of itself which lends this book an amusing, page-turning quality.
Couple of notes:
(1) Get the Ecco Press version if you can find it, the paper quality is less annoying. The Amazon site (this page) advertises a publication from "Rupa Co." which has crummy pages that I regret buying.
(2) Also, the Ecco Press version of the book contains interesting translation notes from Sunil Dutta, which are fun to read. Robert Bly is listed as the editor, and while he hogs the credit, he simply performed the role of revising and redecorating Dutta's copious translation notes.
Either way, I highly recommend this thin volume for people who appreciate poetry in general or "shayari" in particular. I'd gladly pay for more than 30 samples of Ghalib's prolific work.

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