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Content by Larry VanDeSande
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Reviews Written by
Larry VanDeSande (Mason Michigan USA)

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Runaway Train (Widescreen/Full Screen)
Runaway Train (Widescreen/Full Screen)
DVD ~ Jon Voight
Offered by OMydeals
Price: CDN$ 61.57
13 used & new from CDN$ 19.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars High drama and intensity, July 19 2004
Jon Voight's riveting performance and his battle onboard the train with a prison warden are the most compelling moments in this otherwordly movie about escaped convicts and a railroad employee on a runaway train headed for disaster in the Alaskan wilderness. This film begins with a prison riot -- filmed at an actual prison in Alaska -- and the white hot pace never lets up for a moment...until the closing scene where Voight takes the engine to oblivion.
Along the way, viewers are treated to one of Voight's best performances since "Midnight Cowboy". The cast is comprised of character actors Eric Roberts and John P. Ryan in significant roles with sexpot Rebecca De Mornay playing the railroad employee on board the runaway with convicts Voight and Roberts. They stir up a lot of mayhem running through a red light and crashing with another train and going over a rickety bridge about 100 MPH before facing the inevitable when they are pushed onto a siding with only a fatal end in sight.
This movie has an extraordinarily high intensity level comparable to another great train movie, 1974's "The Taking of Pelham One-Two-Three". The intensity and drama never relents throughout the 111 minutes of screen time. The script isn't much and the plot is lean but the action, violence and high voltage footage will keep you locked to the screen during this most exciting movie.

The Blues Brothers: Collector's Edition (Widescreen) (Sous-titres français)
The Blues Brothers: Collector's Edition (Widescreen) (Sous-titres français)
DVD ~ John Belushi
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 24.09
40 used & new from CDN$ 1.95

5.0 out of 5 stars I feel good and you will too!, July 19 2004
Here is one of the few movies in my lifetime that qualifies as a "feel good" flick, one where I left so fulfilled I actually missed the characters, story and fun when the movie is over, wanting it all back again. Fortunately, through the miracle of tape and DVD, you and I can both do that!
This production was the linchpin event for the Saturday Night Live characters that wore black suits and sunglasses before the equally fashion-challenged "Men In Black" showed up. Along with "Animal House", this flick reminds me what a great comedy career John Belushi would have had in cinema had he lived more safely (as long as he stayed away from bombs like "1941").
Back to the film...this is loaded with great music, music from many 20th Century ages, music that makes you want to hum, tap your toe, dance, delight, smile, kiss your girlfriend and say hello to God. The plot -- something about getting money for an orphanage -- is superfluous but the movie has memorable scenes and characterizations equal to the equally uninhibited "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad World" from 1963.
A hyperactive musical street scene coming out of a music store -- led by the late Ray Charles doing a great blues tune -- is a typical venue in this film. Another time, Aretha Franklin takes a break from her waitress job to sing threateningly to Jake and Elmore. Still another time, Cab Calloway entertains kids so the brothers can get their cash to Chicago. In another scene, the Blues Brothers band does it up good in a honky tonk but drinks too much beer and ends up in a police-car-RV chase with some good old boys known as...the Good Old Boys!
This movie destroyed about 200 cars in and around Chicago and has one of the funniest car crash scenes and accompanying lines in American film history. The line is: "We're in a truck!" Watch the movie to get the joy from it. You'll laugh out loud and enjoy it almost as much as those Nazis driving off the end of the incomplete freeway overpass in Chicago!
If you want to experience mayhem disguised as two hours of uninhibited escapism filled with great fun, a thousand car chases and car crashes, lowlifes, ex-convicts and rednecks, and some of the best choreographed music sequences ever, buy, rent or borrow this DVD today and get set to ENJOY YOURSELF!

Mystic River (Bilingual) [Import]
Mystic River (Bilingual) [Import]
DVD ~ Sean Penn
Offered by vidco
Price: CDN$ 19.99
26 used & new from CDN$ 0.76

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The most overrated Hollywood flop in years, July 19 2004
No film I've seen since Barbara Streisand's "Prince of Tides" was less worthy of it's Academy Award nominations than this turkey. And no film I've ever seen was less deserving of the awards it won. Aside from an average story and murky Boston location shots, there was little else good to say about this film, whose principal theme was eerily familiar to another bad movie, "Ghost Story".
The acting, in particular, was poor. Had Marcia Gay Harden not portrayed an interesting, multidimensional character, there'd have been nothing good to say about any of them.
Sean Penn played the same role he has played since "Falcon and the Snowman" and "Bad Boys" -- the brooding, insolent killer with bad judgment -- yet somehow won an Academy Award for this image. This says more about the Motion Picture Academy and its processes than about this film, which is full of bad acting and direction.
Sadly, Penn's lack of subtlety was only the beginning of the mess. Tim Robbins, who also won an Academy Award as a pitiful victim, was so miscast as a Boston resident it was laughable. The direction given Robbins, Penn, Lawrence Fishburne and Kevin Bacon -- especially in the use of their Boston accents -- was stilted and resulted in unbelievable characterizations.
Boston lifers must have laughed out loud listening to these dimbulbs try to speak Beantownese. No one could be expected to suspend disbelief to that extent!
The fault for this overacting, bad langauge and one-dimensional acting belongs to director Clint Eastwood, a Hollywood insider on scale with "Pretty Woman" Julie Roberts and California Gov. Arnold "Terminator" Schwarzenegger. Had a lesser director or an independent like Spike Lee or John Favreau done this, no Hollywood entity would have rushed forward to reward their effort with awards.
It's great to be Clint Eastwood, I guess. He could at least have used his influence to bring a language coach to the set. One of the elements that makes "The Sopranos" the best program in television history is its language coaching, especially the on-set coach for star James Gandolfini. Even with that, this film would still have been average but would have been more believable had a coach instructed these dummies in the proper use of Boston English. Hell, they even did that with the Louisiana Cajuns in "Southern Comfort"!
Among the movie's other vagueries was the telephone relationship with Bacon's ex-wife. It put a smile on Bacon's face after two hours but played no role in the film. More important, it did nothing to dispel the memory of Bacon competing with Gregory Peck's portrayal of Captain Ahab as the most wooden acting job in Hollywood history. Perhaps Medusa was on the set and turned him to stone for two hours, only to relent once he made up with the wife?
It has been written that the average films that win Academy Awards have the largest advertisinig and promotional budgets and the greatest influence by Hollywood insiders. "Mystic River" is the case study in this postulate, winning several awards and being nominated for many others when it was, in fact, deserving of none.

Con Pno 1/2
Con Pno 1/2
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 54.95
3 used & new from CDN$ 49.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Skip that foolish Amazon review, July 19 2004
This review is from: Con Pno 1/2 (Audio CD)
Never mind that Amazon review of this CD, which was written to spite this delicious record. It helps to be a Mendelssohn lover to enjoy this disc, but you can enjoy piano muisc, Romantic music or Classical music and love it nonetheless. Ronald Brautigam is an expert pianist in Mendelssohn and Haydn and shows his expertise on this CD.
The youghtful Piano Concerto in A Minor, from 1822, is an outstanding piece by the young Mendelssohn, written when he was 13. More than anything on this record it shows how Mendelssohn was the happy life in Classical music. It projects his youthful enthusiam, happiness, poise and training while going on for more than a half-hour. Mendelssohn fanciers not familiar with this piece will enjoy it greatly.
The more well-known Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 are done to the hilt by Brautigam and the New Symphony Amsterdam, with Brautigam using a Fazioli piano that adds to the excitement. With more than 72 minutes of Mendelssohn excitement, this is a disk worth having and holding onto. It is antidote to too much Beethoven and Mahler in your collection and helps you ferret out the joy of music.
If your only experience with the piano concertos of Mendelssohn is the biggest names in the business -- Perhaia, Serkin, Hough, Schiff -- you should try this CD for an alternative view that envelops Mendelssohn's natural joyous appraoch to music. This collection never fails to delight

Price: CDN$ 28.31
41 used & new from CDN$ 15.43

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm sold on it, July 14 2004
This review is from: Creation (Audio CD)
I looked around for a new English language version of Haydn's "Creation" to use for practice before I sang in the chorus for my local choral society's performance of Haydn's "Creation" earlier this year. I am not naturally drawn to Robert Shaw or his work, having been disappointed by him in recordings of Poulenc, Bach, Penderecki and other composers.
I wanted a new recording to replace the one I'd been listening to -- Hogwood's version. It was fine in a hyperactive English way. Many of the choruses were taken at presto and the enunciation of his very large group was never very clear. I considered Rattle and borrowed a copy from my local library. After hearing it I dismissed it from consideration, since I would not enjoy it over an extended period. I tried a couple German language versions, too. The famous Karajan has a starry quartet but is a might overdone in my book. Bruno Weil's traversal if forgettable, as is Gardiner. I found someone willing to sell me the Shaw version for $15 which was a good deal even by resale shop standards.
I would agree with almost everything written in the Amazon review of this music and would add this: what makes this version sparkle, aside from lustrous singing by everyone involved, is Shaw's deep understanding of Haydn and his performance method. Above all things, Josef Haydn was a moderate. He loved a good joke and even fell in love once, but his linchpin emotion was temperance and moderation. Performances of his music that go beyond this fail, in my opinion.
Shaw's version uses judicious speeds and an approach that is consistent throughout. His soloists are all exceptional and I would point out the notable contributions of Heidi Grant Murphy and James McGuire as Eve and Adam, respectively. In performing this music this past Easter, I came to a better understanding of the role these two play in the Creation and the role they must have played in Haydn's mind and soul. In particular, the duet with choral accompaniment "By thee with grace" is one of Haydn's most inspired creations, floating above the Earth like fine mist on a humid morning.
Everything about this performance makes it one of the most treasurable venues for this music. On a final note, I must agree with the critical reviewer that was exasperated by Shaw's score changes. This threw me greatly when I first began practicing with the well-known and time-tested Schirmer score. Still, this is a minor quibble in a recording so good in all respects. Unless you seek a German version of want a more dramatic approach, this version should satisfy you for years to come.

Bernstein on Beethoven: A Celebration in Vienna
Bernstein on Beethoven: A Celebration in Vienna

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A tribute to Lenny, Vienna and Beethoven, July 14 2004
I wouldn't go as far as the other reviewer and call this one of the greatest music DVDs ever made, but it is excellent and well worth your investment. I taped this program when it aired on A & E a few years back, then bought the DVD when it became available. I am pleased to say everything improved on the DVD.
Bernstein's pilgrimage to Vienna is documented through playing a piano concerto and symphony before getting to practice and performance for "Fidelio". The latter section of this program is what separates it from others of its type, in my opinion. The interplay between conductor, producer, floor director and the artists is an insider's view of a classical music demonstration at the stratosphere of world-class performance.
Bernstein's well-known passion is unleashed in the performance of Beethoven's heroic opera, as well as the manner is which he swings his hips a la Elvis while conducting the choral episode of Beethoven's 9th Symphony.
There were a great many artistic endeavors during the Beethoven bicentennial in 1970 including Deutche Gramophon recording every piece of his music extant. But there wasn't much done then that has the lasting value of this DVD.

Piano Works
Piano Works
4 used & new from CDN$ 46.60

5.0 out of 5 stars Part of the world's most complete piano discography, July 14 2004
This review is from: Piano Works (Audio CD)
No pianist in the 20th century had a repertoire as large as Sviatoslav Richter, who loved Bach, Haydn and Prokofiev as much as Beethoven and far more than Mozart. This collection of Bach rarities -- aside from the Four Duets and Italian Concerto -- mimics a concert performance he gave in Germany about the same time that was released on a Live Classics CD. This recording has more music and more little-played Bach than the Live Classics CD, which had the advantage of being taped live with greater spontaneity. Things are a little more plotted in this disc, with Richter playing more like Rosalyn Turek than Mikhail Pletnev. Never mind that, for this is more Richter gold, mined toward the end of his glorious life.
The main course on this CD -- Sonatas for keyboard BWV 963, 964 and 966, one a transcription from another composer, one early Bach, the other a Bach transcription -- are played in an intensely cerebral manner by Richter. He recorded this disc in Milan the same time he recorded four of the English Suites. I don't think the latter disks were as successful as this one. At the end of his career Richter had lost the fire and command exhibited in his 1962 RCA recording of Brahms Second Piano Concerto. He was no longer the enterprising figure that could spin out the world's most famous version of "Pictures At An Exhibition" and he didn't always demonstrate the same fierce technical command. Yet he could still bewitch, as he did during the dotted argeggios and staccato rhythm of the closing Allegro in BWV 964.
In listening to this sonata, it is almost as if Richter was consumed by the score -- he always played from the score at the end of his career, whether in the recording studio or in darkened concert halls where the only light was the lamp illuminating his music -- then awoke from that slumber to unleash an enegetic allegro. This was always the benchmark of Richter, that he could play anything any way. He could pound the keyboard relentlessly, be the ultimate virtuoso, wax poetic -- as he did in his famous Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1 while Munch pounded away with the Boston Symphony -- or be the most cerebral keyboard player on the planet. In this sonata he demonstrates at least two of those traits.
This is one of the most fascinating Bach CDs in my collection. The Capriccio BWV 993 that follows the Sonatas is another mental exercise for Sviatoslav that engulfs the listener. Until he gets to the Four Duets and Italian Concerto, Richter performs throughout without virtuosity and white heat. He is never boring, however. On the contrary, through him Bach's message is always intact and intelligent. Unlike performers such as Glenn Gould, who blinds the listener with wizardry and technique, or Murray Perhaia, whose tonal beauty is so arresting you foget the music, Richter is never more or less than Bach's portal in this music.
If you love Richter and want to better understand Bach, you'll want to own this CD. For a more illuminating view of Richter, rent or buy a copy of Bruno Monsaingeon's brilliant film, "Richter: The Enigma".

Symphony No. 1 in C Minor
Symphony No. 1 in C Minor
Price: CDN$ 27.84
6 used & new from CDN$ 27.83

4.0 out of 5 stars The Saucy Maid?, July 12 2004
I don't know who or what nicknamed the Bruckner Symphony No. 1 "the saucy maid" as listed on Amazon. I have owned many recordings of this music and never heard this moniker before. This recording is a good one, done as part of the Linz Bruckner Symphony's rendering of all nine Bruckner symphonies. This is a set that has never received much acclaim even though it is quite fine. Only the most recent Bruckner overview in American Record Guide -- from 1996! -- lists these as acceptable alternatives to the more well-known sets. The high list price for the entire set -- most of which are no longer availabled in USA or Great Britain -- was one significant inhibition for most listeners. Martin Sieghart recorded a number of the symphonies in the set after Kurt Eichhorn died. Eichhorn was the better conductor of the pair but both did fine in this music. Here, Sieghart delivers the goods in a straightforward Viennese way that will satisfy most listeners. His orchestra is fine and is with him every step of the way. This doesn't displace my favorite of all time -- Eugen Jochum's reading from his DGG set -- but it is much better than the bad reading Abbado had on the European market with Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Most American's will find the inexpensive recording by the late George Tintner on Naxos, which is accompanied by an alternative piece of the Symphony No. 3, will fit their needs for this symphony. For those that don't -- and don't want to have to buy an entire set to get a good Viennese reading of the First Symphony -- this is for you.

Ghost World [Import]
Ghost World [Import]
DVD ~ Steve Buscemi
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 59.87
26 used & new from CDN$ 1.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A movie about ideas and people in the real world, July 12 2004
This review is from: Ghost World [Import] (DVD)
Here's an unHollyowood film about life, roles, friendship and departure that transcends most of the trash available on the big or little screen. I saw this on TV last night, followed by the big screen spectacular "Three Kings". It was more than clear to me which film was about ideas and real life, and which one was a cure for insomnia. I'll talk about the one about ideas and real life.
Unlike the Amazon synopsis and Leonard Maltin's opinion, this movie is not about alienation. It is about a cynical high school graduate's attempt to find a niche to fit into when her world undergoes changes she cannot understand. Thora Birch ("American Beauty") is very good as the high school graduate with a dark view of everything in the world...until she meets milquetoast record collector Steve Buscemi. There is a good deal of cliche in this meeting but it serves to break the holocaust of darkness in her life, which is compounded by her best friend changing roles, her schlemiel father being an empty, vacuous figure in her life, and her indecision about what to do with her own life.
Birch focuses on loser Buscemi, trying to improve his lot in life. She successfully helps set him up with another woman, then injects herself in his life in a way to locate her own life when everyone she knows seemingly abandons her. When this fails, she follows the pattern of the only other stable role model in her life, a mentally ill middle age man who sits at a bus stop, waiting for a bus that never arrives. When his bus one day arrives, she decides to take it, too, as the movie ends.

This is Birch's final removal from the world, the alienation most critics disucssed. I prefer to think of it as role acceptance, as finding her niche, as getting to a place she wants. This very simple film portrays a reality for many high school kids that come from single parent homes and lack direction after school. It tells a real story in an uncomfortable circumstance. People that enjoy nice neat stories in films will be very distrubed watching this. People whose minds look for meaning in film portrayals will become more involved the longer the movie goes on.

The King Of Comedy (Bilingual)
The King Of Comedy (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Robert De Niro
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 6.47
30 used & new from CDN$ 2.30

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of DeNiro's best roles, July 9 2004
This scathing comedy about fame, television and hangers on to both is one of the best film roles Robert DeNiro has taken on. It is easily his best comic role, as he plays a schlemiel that finds a way -- an illegal way -- to worm his way onto network television to give a 5-minute monologue on a late night talk show. What is most telling in this film are the final mintues that document his fame after he goes to jail for kidnapping a talk show host. Few films have so accurately, and cynically, portrayed the world wide news media thirst for fame as these 10 minutes. If your cable system does not get WGN-TV from Chicago, which regularly schedules this movie, you may never have seen it. If so, it is worth your time and trouble. This is a funny, bitter and cyncial look at how fame warps people's minds, including little people, famous people and the media outlets that contribute to creation of fame.

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