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Profile for Fred W. Armstrong > Reviews

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Content by Fred W. Armstrong
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Fred W. Armstrong (Maple Ridge, BC)

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Sherlock Holmes (Bilingual)
Sherlock Holmes (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Robert Downey Jr.
Price: CDN$ 4.88
42 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great start, April 13 2010
This review is from: Sherlock Holmes (Bilingual) (DVD)
I have the books, I have the old radio shows and I have the great Jeremy Brett Holmes DVDs from the English series. Each of them is different and brings something to the 'Holmes' legend. I liked the film and I enjoyed Robert Downey's interpretation of this iconic character a lot.

I noticed a comment from one of the reviews that talked about how gritty London was portrayed, and I echo that observation. The London of this film is not some idealized version often portrayed in period pieces, but a dirty, crowded city filled with normal looking people in the midst of of the industrial age. I loved the look of the film both from the backgrounds and costumes to the way the film was shot, the colour palette of the film (backgrounds and costumes) and the lighting, which was strongly evocative of the Victorian era.

Robert Downey Jr. is a very talented actor, and his physicality in this film is icing on the cake. His take on this character easily stands with the many other portrayals, and as this franchise plays out I think we'll see some of the aspects of the characterization by Downey played out to greater effect. Jude Law was also very solid in this film, and in the context of a film that had a very fast pace and lots of action, i thought that he and Downey had very good on screen chemistry.

I was not able to see this in the theatre, but picked up the DVD based on the trailers and promotion around the film, and I enjoyed it a ton. The extra features were also very good and showed the viewer some of the behind the scenes aspects of the film's production. Grab it and enjoy a great adventure that hopefully will lead to a couple of sequels.

Hitler's Spy: A Novel of Deception
Hitler's Spy: A Novel of Deception
by Colin Minor
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 38.88
8 used & new from CDN$ 36.42

5.0 out of 5 stars A Smart and Utterly Enjoyable Historical Fiction, May 25 2009
Hitler''s Spy works on two different levels. The first is the main plotline of the book that involves an assassination attempt on Roosevelt and Churchill at the 1943 Casablanca Conference. The second level on which the book is successful is a superb account of the rather unique setting of Casablanca and how this wonderful setting was much more than the location for the Conference and this wonderful story.

The characters involved in the main plot are very well developed and, as a reader, I developed an emotional tie with both the heroes and villain due to the author''s skill in fleshing out the main characters. What was particularly enjoyable is the characterization of some of the historical figures of this story. There are some mythic figures at the core of this story. For anyone who has taken the time to read biographies of Churchill, Roosevelt, Patton and Eisenhower, you will enjoy their interactions in this novel. Documentaries allow us to get a glimpse of these historic figures 'in 'real life'' but the author allows us the luxury of seeing these people in a different light. We think of them as heroes of history, but in this novel we get to see them interacting as people - warts and all.

The second aspect of the book is the author's descriptions of Casablanca. This too splits into two levels. One is the description of the city itself '- it's people, history, architecture and social life. The second aspect that the author brought to the novel was the description of the city and it's unique historical role at that particular moment in history, but also that it has been a prominent setting for cultural change for centuries.

Without spoiling a fun part of the book, I will tell readers that apart from ''Animal Farm'' I''ve never read a book where an animal's thoughts are expressed in the 'first person'. I remember crooking an eyebrow when I got to the first chapter where the animal is introduced, but I''m glad I suspended any judgment because the payoff was worth it.

I was going to say that this is a great read for history buffs, but I''d like to make an unqualified recommendation that this is a great read for anyone who likes a great mystery, enjoys books where many story threads come together to a tight and suspenseful conclusion and for readers who like intelligent writing that entertains and educates without compromise to a great plot.

I remember reading Tom Clancy''s ''Hunt for Red October'' in it's first printing from the Naval Institute Press. That was his first book, and it took about a year for it to generate the buzz that made Clancy a household name. This is Minor''s first novel, and it''s as solid, in every respect, as Clancy''s, and I suspect that this book will someday be made into a movie or a multi-part BBC Drama (and that first editions will be a prized part of many collections). This is, simply, a fantastic story. Once I started, I literally couldn''t put it down. Enjoy!

Fawlty Towers: The Complete Series (3 Discs) [Import]
Fawlty Towers: The Complete Series (3 Discs) [Import]
DVD ~ John Cleese
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 213.76
14 used & new from CDN$ 16.93

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't mention the war, March 31 2009
This series, written by John Cleese and, his then wife, Connie Booth is based on John's actual experiences at a hotel when he was doing some location work for Monty Python. With only 12 episodes, this series packs more comedy 'gold' than five seasons of most US sitcoms. These episodes demonstrate how great writing and a solid cast can deliver one of the best TV series ever. The shows revolve around Basil Fawlty, a hotelier who is not satisfied with the calibre of guests or staff at his establishment and who tries, unsuccessfully, to control his environment. His wife, the chamber maid, chef and the ultimate comic foil - Manuel - the waiter/bellman of hotel all manage to push Basil to the edge of a nervous breakdown over and over again, not by intentionally sabotaging Basil's plans, but trying to execute them with the perfection that Basil demands, but no one can deliver. This show demonstrates Cleese's capacity to deliver lightning fast dialogue along with his uncanny physicality, and when combined with stellar performances by the actors playing his wife and Manuel make one laugh out loud. I'd be remiss if I didn't compliment the background players, the guests and trades people that Fawlty has to deal with. They lend a certain chaos and charm to an already amazing program. If you are assembling a library of the best comedy available, this has to be in your top five or ten selections. For me, the German Tourists episode has always been a favourite. I was married to a lady of German descent, and when we visited Germany I was instructed "don't mention the war". I had to explain why this made me laugh so hard... you'll get it when you see the episode

Whose Line Is It Anyway: Season 1, Vol. 1 and 2 (Uncensored) [Import]
Whose Line Is It Anyway: Season 1, Vol. 1 and 2 (Uncensored) [Import]
DVD ~ Drew Carey
Price: CDN$ 59.09
26 used & new from CDN$ 48.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comedians are the New Rock Stars, March 17 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
'Whose Line' started in England and showcased some of the most gifted English comics and actors (who you would have seen in numerous English films and BBC shows on PBS) but at the end of the English series run there were two Canadian Improv actors, Ryan Styles and Colin Mochrie who dominated the show with their fearless performances. Ryan was cast on the Drew Carey Show, and at a point when ABC was having a difficult time in the ratings, Carey and Styles managed to bring the show to America, and the rest is history. This first collection showcases the comic genius of Mochrie, Styles and eventually we get to see Wayne Brady emerge as a powerhouse. I love these shows. They make me laugh over and over again, and I love how the cast pick on each other. There's a point where you know that they are trying to make each other laugh, and this reminds me so much of the Carol Burnett Show, whereby Tim Conway would tear into a scene with an abandon that would have the rest of the cast working hard to keep up and keep composed. I hate reality TV, but the unscripted aspect of this show made this a must see each week. This Show was great, and I hope the rest of the episodes are released soon. When ever I feel a bit down I just slap this into the DVD player and sit back. In no time I'm laughing my butt off. Well worth the price!

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Special Edition) (Bilingual)
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Special Edition) (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Graham Chapman
Price: CDN$ 8.88
54 used & new from CDN$ 1.39

5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Release of an Iconic Film, March 17 2009
I can't recite all of the dialogue from scenes like some of my colleagues can, but I do adore this film. I write this review after reading Michael Palin's diaries, in which he describes the filming of the movie. Re-watching the film with his observations in mind, it's clear that the writing process that the Python's used is reflected in the finished film. Pairs of writers from within the group, or individuals, would write individual scenes and pitch them to the rest of the group in a read through. The collective group would critique scenes, and then the writer would rewrite and sharpen the focus of the scene based on the feedback. The ending of the film reflects the fact that there was no single leader of the Pythons, and unlike The Life of Brian, no one really had an ending for the film. In a script book that I bought in the 70s there was a proposed ending based on a chase scene paying homage to those great Italian films with Austin Mini's racing through narrow streets ending with Arthur and Grail driving off a dock into the ocean. I suspect that idea was too expensive for the financial backers of this film that included Pink Floyd and Led Zepplin. The film is like no other. The fact that so many of us can incorporate dialogue from this film into our daily lives shows how much it's become part of the fabric of pop culture. As a DVD release this has a great version of the film that takes advantage of the widescreen format we are all adopting. It also has some extras, including a documentary that was filmed as the movie was being made and a revisit to some of the old locations by some of the Pythons. I'd recommend this DVD for your collection on a number of levels. It's classic Python, it's a funny look at the legend of Camelot and it showcases the talents of a comedy troupe that would inspire a generation of comedians around the world. Plus, when someone quotes a bit of dialogue from the film, you'll be able to smirk knowing what they are referring to. Just look at the reviews - everyone has a favourite scene, a classic quote. For me, the sequence whereby a woman is put on trial for being a witch defines the intelligence of the Python writing. It's a fair cop!

by Ricky Gervais
Edition: Audio CD
3 used & new from CDN$ 176.73

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insanely Great, Jan. 29 2009
This review is from: Podcasts (Audio CD)
I came late to the Gervais podcasts, but have since purchased this and every other one. The key to this collection is a man named Karl Pilkington. These recordings are a conversation between two comic geniuses, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, whose work on the British comedy series The Office and Extras are well known. There has been much written elsewhere wondering if Karl is a genius or an idiot, but the real fun of these conversations is when this quiet little man (with a head shaped like an orange) trumps, confuses and mystifies his two co-hosts with his observations and musings on life. These podcasts are the most downloaded in history thus far, and you need to invest some time in listening to them and understanding that the three men involved are all of humble roots, and their banter back and forth belies a genuine affection for each other. The language is foul, the topics often not politically correct but the sum of these conversations can't help but bring a smile to your face. Ricky's infectious laughter is the icing on this absurdly wonderful collection.

Batman Begins (Two-Disc Special Edition) (Bilingual) [Import]
Batman Begins (Two-Disc Special Edition) (Bilingual) [Import]
DVD ~ Christian Bale
Price: CDN$ 15.76
26 used & new from CDN$ 0.87

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for the kiddies, Dec 9 2008
This is, without question, the best film featuring Batman. This film captures the more gritty Batman that emerged with Frank Miller's Dark Knight back in the 80s. The Killing Joke, another superb graphic novel was also brought to mind with this film. If you are one of the few people on the planet that did not see the theatrical release, I won't spoil the plot, but there is a point in the film when you think it's going to end, and we'll need to see the sequel for the 'rest of the story', but the film just picks up again and the roller coaster ride continues. Heath Ledger's Joker is amazing. The new Joker is unpredictable and pure evil, in a way that is different than any other portrayal. The next strongest performance is by Gary Oldman. This fellow is a brilliant actor who brings Commissioner Gordon to life in a way that adds a great deal of texture to this new franchise. The visuals are amazing and while the film is long, the pacing was splendid, so one does not get bored. Whatever you do, do not show this to any kid under 14. The themes and relationships of the characters are not for the comic book crowd or the Saturday morning Batman cartoon watchers. This is a film intended for a mature audience that will be able to process the strong performances and writing that this film offers. One final note, didn't the Joker sound like Al Franken from the old SNL days... or is it just me?

Teen Titans: The Complete First Season
Teen Titans: The Complete First Season
DVD ~ Scott Menville
Price: CDN$ 11.99
23 used & new from CDN$ 11.98

5.0 out of 5 stars A ton of fun, Feb. 20 2007
I've always loved cartoons, and I used to collect comics. The new teen Titans cartoons are pure fun. The mix of the japanimation style with north american styles is done superbly, and the writing is crisp (as with a number of Warner's Superhero Animations). There's a great cast of characters with solid back stories, and the show works because the show can feature one or two characters while advancing the overall story arc. The theme song bores into your brain like the old Batman live action TV show theme (there's a short feature as part of the collection on the theme music) and the character's costumes, props and the backgrounds are pretty cool. I think that this stands up very well in the pantheon of Warner Animation, and I've already bought the second season and I'm awaiting the third. This show has some pretty clever dialogue, and as with most good animation, the parent and child can watch this together and both enjoy the presentation (especially if you're a nerdy parent like me!).

Looney Tunes: Golden Collection, Volume Three
Looney Tunes: Golden Collection, Volume Three
DVD ~ Chuck Jones
Offered by Shopville Canada
Price: CDN$ 37.64
23 used & new from CDN$ 20.99

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Relive your childhood, Dec 6 2005
I think other people have already chastized Warner for not releasing these cartoon sets in some chronological order, but that ship has sailed, so let's just focus on the content. I loved these cartoons, and while Whoopi Goldberg had to remind us that the early cartoons are not politically correct, the cartoons are uncut and remastered to look fantastic. I watched some of these and could feel synapses reconnecting and 35 years (or more) of fog lift as I rediscovered some classic toons that I had all but forgotten. Better yet, my five year old watched them with me and fell off the couch laughing at some of these classics. Buy these collections, and if you have young kids (or grand kids) sneak these out when their politically correct, vegan, V-Chip using parents are out and show them to a new generation. I'm still looking for the ACME company catalog for those giant springs and anvils. I'm amazed at how well some of the gags hold up after 50 years. What a treat. I believe, I believe, I believe that's all folks!

Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Documented an Era and Defined a Generation
Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Documented an Era and Defined a Generation
by Chris Turner
Edition: Paperback
17 used & new from CDN$ 3.80

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get a PHD in the Simpsons, Feb. 15 2005
Back when I was in grade school I could never understand why the teacher insisted that we hunt for 'hidden meaning' in stories. I thought I was a 'thicky' because I just enjoyed the story as written. The I grew up a bit and realized that the "Looney Tunes" cartoons were written at two levels - one for kids one for adults (a lecture by Chuck Jones helped me realize the extent of this hidden humour). Now that I'm in my mid-forties I see hidden meaning in everything - mainly because I've made enough revolutions around the sun to get enough life experience and exposure to books, TV and travel to even recognize satire. This book is not a fawning ode to the show, but a very well written look at the show in the context of pop culture, politics, television history and a large number of other areas of our culture. I've always loved the show from its beginnings on the Tracy Ullman Show, and I remember my dad insisting that my half brothers could not watch the show because it was a 'bad influence' (yet they could watch Ren & Stimpy - go figure). I bought some merchandise from the show, but more than that, I have enjoyed many a conversation with peers about the 'stuff' jammed into the show much as Seinfeld fans used to dissect each episode in the 90's. After reading this book I have a deeper appreciation for the more subtle material presented by the show over the years, and while I thought that I had spotted most of the cultural references, I realize now that there was a lot of stuff that was slipping under (or over) my radar. This is not a book for someone looking for an episode guide. This book is like a thesis that someone would write to get their PHD in media studies. It's well organized, very well written and entertaining for anyone who laughed at all the stuff that the censors missed. Sadly, I also realize that I'm more like the 'Comic Book Guy" than I would like, but hell, there's worst things in life. I couldn't put this book down, and I, like the author, realize that this TV show would never be made in today?s TV and political environment. This series is no 'Flintstones'. I doff my hat to Chris Turner for writing the definitive analysis of this remarkable TV series.

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