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Reviews Written by
Brian W. Fairbanks "Brian W. Fairbanks" (Lakewood, OH United States)

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A Christmas Carol (Original B&W
A Christmas Carol (Original B&W
by J.K.Rowling
Edition: DVD
15 used & new from CDN$ 30.80

5.0 out of 5 stars The perfect Scrooge, Dec 20 2003
Charles Dickens' timeless tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and his redemption on Christmas Eve has been endlessly adapted but never more effectively than in this 1951 production in which the great Alastair Sim lays claim to the miserly Scrooge as decisively as Boris Karloff did the role of the Frankenstein monster. Aside from Sim, what makes this version so special is director Brian Desmond Hurst's ability to convey both the grim aspects of the tale as well as the joy. Until the climax, this is, after all, a dark tale of one man's journey from bitterness and greed to a truimphant rebirth as a man of love and compassion.
Perfectly cast, with Mervyn Johns splendid as Bob Cratchit and Ernest Thesiger (Dr. Pretorious of "Bride of Frankenstein") delightfully morbid as an undertaker as cadaverous as his clients, no other version succeeds as well as this one. And in black-and-white, it's as glorious as the first snowfall of winter.

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (Sous-titres français) [Import]
The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (Sous-titres français) [Import]
DVD ~ Don Knotts
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 10.95
23 used & new from CDN$ 10.94

4.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious Don Knotts comedy, Dec 17 2003
Even an excruciating sunburn, acquired earlier in the day at the beach, was forgotten on that long-ago summer night when I saw Don Knotts in "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" when it played as the supporting feature to "Munsters, Go Home" at the drive-in. Now, many years and hundreds, if not thousands, of movies later, I still find it hilarious.
Knotts is one of the funniest comics of all time (it's not for nothing that he won 5 Emmys for "The Andy Griffith Show"), and he's at his best here. He also recieves terrific support from a fine cast of familiar character actors. In some ways, I could even identify with the hapless hero. Like him, I, too, ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from the inside out, avoiding and throwing out the crust (now my favorite part, but you probably don't care about that).
"The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" even manages to be genuinely spooky at times (that organ music - yikes!). Knotts made quite a few movies after this, but none approach the silly charm of this comedy classic.
"Attaboy, Luther!"

Sherlock Holmes Coll 2
Sherlock Holmes Coll 2
DVD ~ Basil Rathbone
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 56.45
19 used & new from CDN$ 38.65

5.0 out of 5 stars The late, late show lives again, Dec 16 2003
This review is from: Sherlock Holmes Coll 2 (DVD)
One of the most pleasant memories of my youth were the summer vacations from school when I stayed up late to watch Universal's Sherlock Holmes films on the Late Night Movie. There was no better way to wrap up a day than by watching Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson sleuthe their way through the misty marshes in pursuit of the glowing creature of "The Scarlet Claw," or engaging in one of cinema's great battle of the sexes in "Spider Woman."
These 1944 Holmes mysteries are the highlight of this collection, and though Conan Doyle purists have been known to argue that the two Twentieth Century Fox films ("The Hound of the Baskervilles" and "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," both from 1939) are more faithful to their source, it was the Universal films that were the most popular and with good reason. Having made their name with the legendary horror films of the 30s, the studio was better equipped to handle tales of the macabre or simply stories of suspense than almost any other studio. Even the lesser films in the Holmes series benefited from tremendous atmosphere that more than compensated for the more awkward aspects of the studio's attempt to contemporize the legendary detective. The other films in this set, "The House of Fear" and "The Pearl of Death" are also among the best. You won't hear many critics praise these films as classics, and perhaps they do miss the mark, but if it's entertainment you seek, Rathbone and Bruce provide it in abundance.
And a special thanks to another famous pipe smoker, Hugh Hefner, the legendary founder of Playboy who donated the money necessary for UCLA's restoration of these films. Is Hef a fan?

Plastic Ono Band
Plastic Ono Band
Offered by @ ALLBRIGHT SALES @
Price: CDN$ 30.22
14 used & new from CDN$ 11.93

5.0 out of 5 stars One artist's fight for survival, Dec 16 2003
This review is from: Plastic Ono Band (Audio CD)
In retrospect, 1970 was the year of the great 60s backlash. The Beatles demonstrated that love is not all you need when they disbanded on less than friendly terms, and Bob Dylan seemed to be rejecting everything he represented by releasing the controversial "Self-Portrait." But it was John Lennon's first legitimate solo album, "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band," that really hit home with its simple declarative statement: "The dream is over."
Lennon's greatest solo work (and, in my view, the best solo album from any of the Fab Four) may no longer be shocking, which it certainly was upon its initial release, but it still stands as a powerful artistic statement. The honesty that was always Lennon's most admirable trait, demonstrated in such songs as "I'm a Loser" and "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," reached its peak here, as Lennon howls with fury at his painful childhood in "Mother," and bandages his wounds by rejecting all the illusions in his life (the remarkable "God" with its rejection of Elvis, Dylan, and, most dramatically, the Beatles).
Simply produced, and stark in its instrumentation, this album survives because it wasn't made to shock, which seems the only motive for much of the music that has been deemed shocking since, but to document one artist's fight for survival. It's one of a kind.
(And if Capital wants to add "bonus tracks" to an album, they should expand "Shaved Fish," the greatest hits collection. "Power to the People" and "Do the Oz" are out of place here.)

Dark Passage (Sous-titres français) [Import]
Dark Passage (Sous-titres français) [Import]
DVD ~ Mel Blanc
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 32.12
10 used & new from CDN$ 26.83

4.0 out of 5 stars Sticks in the memory, Dec 16 2003
Bogart's third film with Lauren Bacall is also the third film in as many years to cast him as a man either plotting to kill his wife ("Conflict" and "The Two Mrs. Carrolls") or, in the case of "Dark Passage," a man imprisoned - unjustly - for having done the deed. Perhaps it was studio head Jack Warner's way of expressing his disappoval of Bogart's having romanced his "To Have and Have Not" co-star Bacall while still married to Mayo Methet. (Back in those more innocent times, a film star under contract to a big studio could ruin his career by violating the "morals clause" in his contract.)
Even if "Dark Passage" is not Bogie and Bacall's best (an honor I would bestow upon "The Big Sleep" by default--the superior "Key Largo" was more Edward G. Robinson's film than Bogart and Bacall's), it sticks in the memory, not because of its story, which is full of plot holes and coincidences (how convenient to have Bacall driving by and offer you a ride just after you've escaped from prison), but because of its wonderful noir touches. Bogart is an all too typical noir character here, a victim of the manipulations of others, especially Agnes Moorehead, as wicked a witch as Margaret Hamilton in "The Wizard of Oz." The scene in which Bogart undergoes plastic surgery is a highlight, one of those surrealistic nightmares that were almost a requirement of noirs from the late 40s. (Check out "Murder, My Sweet" with Dick Powell as Philip Marlowe for a similar moment, one memorably duplicated in the 1975 remake, "Farewell, My Lovely.")
Bogart has rarely been so sympathetic on screen as he is here, and Bacall is at her most attractive and appealing. The supporting cast is also first rate. This may not be a great movie, but it's an immensely enjoyable one, highly recommended for fans of the genre and the stars.

Desire (Rm)
Desire (Rm)
Offered by @ ALLBRIGHT SALES @
Price: CDN$ 107.99
4 used & new from CDN$ 19.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Bob, Emmylou, and Scarlet Rivera, too, Dec 15 2003
This review is from: Desire (Rm) (Audio CD)
If I had to choose only one of Bob Dylan's albums for the proverbial desert island adventure, it might just be 1976's "Desire." I'm still a little baffled by "Joey," the song our bard co-wrote in inexplicable praise of mobster Joey Gallo, but I'm also deeply moved by it. Scarlet Rivera's mournful violin and Emmylou Harris' beautiful falsetto duetting with Dylan makes it my favorite track even though I tend to side with the late Lester Bangs' famous essay ("Dylan's dalliance with mafia chic") in which he offered a line by line refutation of every admirable claim Dylan makes on Gallo's behalf.
Elsewhere, "Isis" contains some of the cleverest lyrics Dylan has written, and the often unheralded "Black Diamond Bay" is its equal. Then there's the the hauntingly beautiful "Oh, Sister" and Dylan's unabashed tribute to his ex-wife, "Sara." And I love "Mozambique," which deserved to be a hit single in that year when "Silly Love Songs" by Wings was a number one smash. What's the matter with people? Are they deaf?
Apparently some of them are. I've often read about how "Desire" fails to make the grade because of its lousy production. I admit I'm no audiophile, but it always sounded like one of Dylan's most polished efforts, and it sounds even better now. Sony has done an outstanding job with the remastering, but while they were at it, I wish they had added "Abandoned Love," one of Dylan's most infectious love songs, recorded for this album but shelved (ironically in favor of the aforementioned "Joey") until the release of "Biograph" nine years later.

Nashville Skyline (Rm)
Nashville Skyline (Rm)
Offered by @ ALLBRIGHT SALES @
Price: CDN$ 48.52
6 used & new from CDN$ 33.66

4.0 out of 5 stars Dylan's warmest album, Dec 14 2003
This review is from: Nashville Skyline (Rm) (Audio CD)
Most Dylan albums are so long that in the days of the 33 1/3 LP, the needle on my record player would often swing back to its resting place without making it to the final groove. That wasn't a problem with "Nashville Skyline." With a total running time of 27 minutes, Dylan's landmark retreat from rock and roll into the world of country music is one of his most compact works. It's not his most ambitious album, but it is one of his most charming.
The opening track, a revival of 1963's "Girl From the North Country," is a beaut, an intimate duet with the legendary Johnny Cash. It's slightly offkey, and the two singers are not always in synch (with Cash reciting one lyric while Dylan recites another) but there's a warmth to the performance that might not have survived a more studied interpretation.
"Warmth" may be the key word in describing this collection. Having exorcised quite a few demons on his previous albums, Dylan is relaxed here, expressing almost no anger, although there is room for regret in the classic "I Threw It All Away" and suspicion in the lushly produced "Tell Me That It Isn't True." The best tracks are probably "Lay, Lady, Lay" and "Tonight, I'll Be Staying Here With You," but even such simple ditties as "Country Pie" and "Peggy Day" offer their share of fun. This may not be "Blonde on Blonde," but it wasn't meant to be either. Listen to it on its own terms and you're not likely to be disappointed.

Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (Full Screen) [Import]
Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (Full Screen) [Import]
DVD ~ Jim Backus
Offered by OMydeals
Price: CDN$ 50.90
9 used & new from CDN$ 1.28

5.0 out of 5 stars Magoo excels as Scrooge, Dec 13 2003
First broadcast on NBC in 1962 (sponsored by Timex), "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" was the first version of the Charles Dickens classic that I saw. Along with the Alastair Sim live-action film, it remains my favorite. This cartoon achieves a nearly impossible task by being true to both Dickens and the character of the bumbling near-sighted Magoo. The songs, co-penned by the great Jules Stein, are a delight and so is the cast. It's sad to realize that in today's climate of "political correctness," some overly sensitive and humorless viewers may regard the Magoo offensive, so fans of this innocent cartoon are advised to buy a copy as quickly as possible before the Thought Police succeed in having it it banned.

Let It Be Naked
Let It Be Naked
Price: CDN$ 25.00
70 used & new from CDN$ 7.91

3.0 out of 5 stars Let it be, Dec 11 2003
This review is from: Let It Be Naked (Audio CD)
Even though the Fab Four is down to only two living members, it seems the animosity that led to their breakup is alive and well. It's the only justification for the release of "Let It Be - Naked." Paul McCartney seems to still hold a grudge against his former bandmates (as evidenced by his decision to reverse the songwriting credits on his last live disc so that "Lennon-McCartney" now reads "McCartney-Lennon") and this release seems little more than an attempt to kick sand in their faces for their williness to let Phil Spector augment their second to last recording sessions with his famous Wall of Sound.
Thankfully, the recordings are much better than the ghastly cover and the tasteless title, but though the selections sound a little different than they do on the album released in 1970, they have not been improved. In some cases, notably the title track and "The Long and Winding Road," the absence of Spector's production robs them of some of their emotional impact. In other cases, the change is barely noticeable. And if this is, in fact, an untainted document of the album as originally conceived, why have several selections been abandoned (Lennon's inconsequential but amusing "Dig It") and recordings that weren't intended for this record (Lennon again, with the superb "Across the Universe") left in the lineup?
This is an album for diehard completists. Everyone else should probably take the title to heart and let it be.

Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan
Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan
by Edmund Morris
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 22.24
59 used & new from CDN$ 0.71

2.0 out of 5 stars An imagined biography, Dec 11 2003
It's not my habit to review a book I haven't finished reading, but if the book is so bad that it's impossible to finish, it's fair game. "Dutch," Edmund Morris' so-called memoir of Ronald Reagan is a case in point. The cover photograph of the 40th president waving to God knows who while his back is turned is an appropriate image symbolizing what Morris has done. Despite unprecedented access to a sitting president, Morris turned his back on his subject and instead chose to concoct a ridiculous mish-mash of fact and fiction that only left me frustrated and confused. Morris claims he chose this approach because Reagan is just so damned weird and boring that a traditional biography would be impossible. That's nothing but a cop-out. Whatever Reagan's eccentricities, Morris' job was to see beyond them and find the man's soul. If he hasn't got one, Morris could have simply reported his findings. Instead he concocts a bizarre fiction in which the author becomes a character in Reagan's life, often sharing his adventures with a fictional son named Gavin, a 60s activist who is a laughable stereotype of every prominent radical from the period. And Morris documents his communication with the mythical son as if he actually exists. Never before has a book's notes and references been so unnecessary.
All of this nonsense would have been tolerable if Morris admitted that the result is a novel, not a biography. As a fiction, it is well-written and Morris' insights are not without value, but this is neither memoir nor biography. Whether you love Reagan or loathe him, Morris' book is not the one to consult when seeking an objective look at the gipper.

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