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Films of Twentieth Century Fox
Films of Twentieth Century Fox
by Aubrey Solomon
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A valuable archive reference, 22 May 2014
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Having been originally published some 35 years ago, this volume is now quite naturally rather dated. But the wealth of content it holds makes it continue to be extremely worthwhile. Tony Thomas and Aubrey Solomon compiled this important book with extensive support from the studio itself, so it has a strong factual basis. A hardback volume of more than 450 pages, it begins with an expansive essay on the people and events involved in the development of this major Hollywood film studio, which is both informative and entertaining to read. Then we are immersed into a year by year trawl of all the movies made between 1935 and 1979 when the book was published. Within each year, the films are listed alphabetically, giving details of the producer, director, writer, cinematographer and cast, plus sometimes others, and a summary of the film's plot. After listing the films for each year, there is a list of Academy Award nominations and wins received. There are plenty of good quality photographic images provided, all black and white and generally quite small - often eight to twelve on a page. Mostly these pictures are grouped together, slightly separate from the film's written detail, which can be a little tiresome as it necessitates flicking back and forth. Next, we come across simple lists of films from the earlier years: between 1914-1935 Fox Films were extremely prolific, but the detail here is considerably less - for the early films merely the film's title, director and star; for later releases a few ore details, but no plot summaries. Finally we are provided, reverting to essay format, with details of the pre-merger releases of 20th Century Pictures up till 1935. Disappointingly, the book's index restricts itself to film titles, when it would have been so much more helpful to have included directors, producers, performers and so forth. The other downside for this reader was the scarcity of information (other than Academy Award data) on how films were critically received. 20th Century Fox remains one of the biggest movie-making studios and was responsible for pioneering many important technical advances within the film industry, aspects which mostly we today take for granted. It would have been pleasing to see more done to attribute such advances to individual films and key personnel, although I suspect the authors recognised such an approach would have made the volume too unwieldy. So, overall, a helpful and reliable pictorial history of the films of 20th Century Fox up to the book's publication in 1979.


Los Ambulantes
Los Ambulantes
Price: £16.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Superb modern production values, 11 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Los Ambulantes (Audio CD)
This recording features innovative ensemble playing by Mexican classical guitarist Morgan Szymanski and a group of collaborators collectively known as Machaca. With the repertoire for the classical guitar being fairly limited in comparison to some other instruments, such as piano or violin, it's not hugely surprising that we've not the same availability of great tunes for any combination of instruments. The other key consideration for the classical guitar is that it tends to be relatively quiet and easily swamped by some other instruments when they play even at moderate volume levels. Modern techniques allow amplified guitars to compete on a more equal basis, which must surely be a good thing? (In actual fact, some artistes disagree fundamentally with the principle of amplifying acoustic instruments). You do, of course, still need a good enough set of tunes to perform, otherwise what's the point?

Here we have a great set of tunes, possibly more light pop than high classical, but pleasant on the ear and terrifically well played nonetheless. Highly recommended.


The Sea in Spring
The Sea in Spring

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful music, immaculately played, 11 Mar 2014
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This review is from: The Sea in Spring (Audio CD)
Born in London in 1949, Carlos Bonell has been one of the world's finest classical guitarists for the past four decades. He also has been a senior professor at London's prestigious Royal College of Music. Despite such a worthy pedigree, plus his many successful international tours, television appearances and so forth, his recordings have often been on smaller, lesser-known record labels that lacked the big marketing budgets of their rivals, resulting in the wider public largely remaining unaware of his great talent.

The Sea In Spring is a wonderful collection of tunes. On several pieces Carlos is joined by an ensemble of other instruments, although is solo on others. The collection is sprightly and uplifting, made up of mostly shorter pieces of music that are lively and melodic, played joyfully. The eighteen tracks come from all musical eras and from all corners of the globe. This CD gets a lot of regular listening in my house and I particularly enjoy the arrangements of Aaron Copland's Hoe-Down, Leo Brouwer's Danza Del Altiplano, and Gaspar Sanz's Canarios.


Kalifornia [Blu-ray] [1994]
Kalifornia [Blu-ray] [1994]
Dvd ~ Brad Pitt
Price: £8.13

4.0 out of 5 stars Dark psychological thriller, 11 Mar 2014
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Astonishingly, it took me twenty years to get around to watching this film. I remembered that a few friends had urged me to see it when it first came out, but then it seemed to fall off the radar. But I had definitely noticed how it regularly seemed to be included in advertising campaigns by the big retailers, so I figured it must have built up a strong fan-base.

The story concerns young urban intellectual photographer Brian (David Duchovny, just before TV series X-Files went massive) and his girlfriend Carrie (Michelle Forbes), who set off to drive to California via the US southern states visiting murder sites to take pictures and do research to maybe write a book. To help pay for the petrol, Brian advertises for companions to join them on the trip. Carrie has misgivings when she first meets Early Grayce (Brad Pitt) and his diner waitress girlfriend (Juliette Lewis), but Brian insists everything will be okay....

Struggling to find any common ground, the two couples share some awkward moments. Then Early's violent nature abruptly emerges, and the terrified Brian and Carrie realise they don't need to go very far to learn about ruthless killers, because they are already face-to-face with one. There are several outstanding and utterly convincing character performances in this film. Quite rightly it remains an 18 certificate (despite many other films having been re-classified during intervening years), since some of the violence is intensely unpleasant to watch or contemplate. Although there are a few scattered lighter moments throughout the film, they merely serve as preparation for the next nerve-shocking episode.

Despite seemingly not being a prolifically busy movie director, Dominic Sena has gone on to direct several other well received films, including Gone In Sixty Seconds (Nicholas Cage, Angelina Jolie, Robert Duvall); Swordfish (John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry); and Season Of The Witch (Nicholas Cage, Ron Perlman, Claire Foy). Audiences familiar with those films will recognise a similar pacing as the plot develops and unfolds. Recommended.


The Unicorn Tapestries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Metropolitan Museum of Art Publications)
The Unicorn Tapestries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Metropolitan Museum of Art Publications)
by Adolph S. Cavallo
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Lavishly reproduced images, 11 Mar 2014
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Amongst other artefacts, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is home to various tapestries, including a famous set of seven tapestries depicting The Hunt for the Unicorn (another famous set of tapestries featuring the Unicorn and the Lady are in Paris, France). This descriptive volume written in 1998 received its fourth printing in 2013. Author of this work expounding upon the tapestries and their context in exquisite fashion is Adolfo Salvatore Cavallo. A native of Boston, Harvard educated, and having served as curator of the collections in several major US museums - Boston, Detroit, and Philadelphia as well as the New York's Metropolitan - he is a specialist in the history of fine textiles, dress and medieval tapestries.

The history of these particular tapestries can be traced back to 1680. Following passage through various ownerships, they were purchased by John D. Rockefeller in the 1920s. In 1937 their display was transferred to a specially designed gallery at the Cloisters branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, at Fort Tryon Park, NY.

This is a slim paperback volume comprising 128 pages of good quality paper, slightly wider than A4 size, with text double columned in a good clear font and a wide white space margin allowing the opportunity to add your own scholarly observations and remarks if desired. There are over 90 photographs and illustrations, around half of which are full-page. Many of the photographs are close-up detail to identify specific points of interest.

Chapter headings are as follows:

Foreword;
Tales of the Unicorn: A new look at the Unicorn tapestries;
History of the tapestries;
The Unicorn: What it was and when it thrived;
The three hunts of the Unicorn;
The tapestries as works of art and how they were made;
An appreciation;
Appendix I: Flora in the Unicorn tapestries;
Appendix II: Fauna in the Unicorn tapestries;
Suggestions for further reading.

A nice volume for general browsing, with helpful commentary that is pitched about right to be sufficiently informative without becoming stifling. Recommended.


The English Fur Trade in the Later Middle Ages: 38 (London Record Society)
The English Fur Trade in the Later Middle Ages: 38 (London Record Society)
by Elspeth M. Veale
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £28.41

4.0 out of 5 stars Superb academic work, 10 Mar 2014
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Elspeth Veale was principal lecturer in history at Goldsmith's College in the University of London. Originally published in 1966 by Oxford University Press, the London Record Society published this 2003 second edition, to which the author has made a few updates.

In order to compile the work, in that pre-internet era, the author must have expended a great energy in gathering her wide-ranging research. Furs were an essential part of the wardrobe during the medieval period, essential garments in unheated castles and palaces. They were also worn by others lower down the social scale. Elspeth Veale gives a detailed account of the culture and trade involved in furs, relations between garment makers and skinners, different values attached to particular pelts, and how this whole industry evolved and changed over time. Rather than merely looking at a trade many today would abhor, the book provides a deeper understanding of life in England during a crucial part of our history.


Medieval Life and Leisure in the Devonshire Hunting Tapestries (VA)
Medieval Life and Leisure in the Devonshire Hunting Tapestries (VA)
by Linda Woolley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compellingly told., 10 Mar 2014
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Linda Woolley has done some excellent research here and put it across in a manner easy to follow and absorb.

The Victoria and Albert Museum only became aware of the existence of the Devonshire Hunting Tapestries in relatively modern times, prior to which they had been in private ownership for several centuries. Sadly, many great tapestries that once adorned our great castles and stately homes have been lost to the ravages of time. The significance of this set is perhaps far greater now than it might have been when they first came into being - particularly due to having opportunity for close examination of materials and techniques involved in their creation. Linda's book goes substantially beyond that examination, looking at the designs and into the lifestyles of the people portrayed, which she does in an informative and believable way. The book has lots of excellent close-up photographic detail to help convey the analysis. Recommended.


Charnel House Rock [Explicit]
Charnel House Rock [Explicit]
Price: £4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Chillingly good!, 10 Mar 2014
It's been more than a couple of years since the last full album release from Zombina And The Skeletones, and that wait has created a heightened expectation amongst many within their horde of enthusiastic followers. A few tantalising singles and videos had been released to whet the palate during the wait, plus occasional gigs and a few interesting side-projects to demonstrate the breadth of their musical skills. But now the chains have been released: the band under your bed are here once more, with a strong set of hauntingly memorable tunes to keep you awake at night.

Not for the squeamish, this truly is a skull-crackingly rich set of songs that have been invoked by ZATS' chief writer and guitarist/singer Doc Horror alongside Zombina herself who contributed some of the content. Those familiar with the band's past glories will revel in the usual mixture of gothic horror, science-fiction and B-movie themes, joyously mixed into a splatterfest of up-tempo surf, rockabilly, punk and bubblegum pop. Once you put this disc on play, it keeps coming at you with nary a chance to catch your breath. Fans will recognise that this is also the live style of the band, each song majestically segueing into the next.

As well as the familiar sonic template happily staying consistent with past releases, this album manages to add even more nuances to the overall timbral flavours on offer. Some songs have powerhouse honking sax, others have gripping bass riffs, or some have great sticks-work with the snare driving the song forward. As always there is Zombina's sweetly charming voice holding us in thrall with her bizarre tales, and Doc's accomplished mixture of rhythm and lead guitar. Then we even have some country klezmer sounds that have been added to the party. The real joy of this band is how hard they must work behind the scenes to get all these different elements to work together so effectively. Their enthusiasm is infectious and I heartily recommend this latest release.


Sir Francis Drake: The Complete Series [DVD] [1961]
Sir Francis Drake: The Complete Series [DVD] [1961]
Dvd ~ Terence Morgan
Price: £15.76

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully evocative drama, 8 Jan 2014
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A three disc collection containing 26 riveting action-packed half-hour episodes from the early 1960s. Terence Morgan shows a superb range of actorly skills as the lead character Sir Francis Drake - known to the Spanish as El Draco - in action, negotiation, contemplation and more.

The stories have great variety, based as they are on history, from invasion plots and intrigue, loyalty and betrayal, ambition, piracy, greed; and they contain many fine actors and compelling performances. Jean Kent has a regular part as Queen Elizabeth, at which she is magnificent, switching her emotions in an instant to let some of her minions know she'll brook no nonsense from them. Michael Crawford is regularly seen, although gets relatively few lines at this early stage in his career. A more substantial part was given to Roger Delgado, as Mendoza, the Spanish Ambassador to England - in which he excels as the sinisterly loquacious representative of an uneasy peace between the nations. Other top character actors from the 1960s are featured in individual episodes, including Warren Mitchell, Barry Foster, Patrick Troughton, Michael Ripper, and many others.

A few of the episodes are presented with their French titles (The Queen's Pirate), but otherwise are perfectly watchable. Huge fun!


The Loves of Carmen [DVD] [1948]
The Loves of Carmen [DVD] [1948]
Dvd ~ Rita Hayworth
Price: £4.76

4.0 out of 5 stars The dark femme fatale who bewitches all men, 8 Jan 2014
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The Loves of Carmen is based upon the hugely successful 1875 opera Carmen by Georges Bizet. This film version places Rita Hayworth into the title role, as the wild, unpredictable and irresistible gypsy Carmen. The plot is set in historical Spain, with a strong military presence and bands of lawless roving gypsies, accompanied by a soundtrack from master composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (whose many Hollywood pupils included John Williams, Henry Mancini and Jerry Goldsmith). Glenn Ford plays the soldier who abandons his career and destroys his life in pursuit of Carmen's love, only to realise too late his folly.

Back in 1875 this was a genre-changing revelation in emotional betrayal. Although the storyline may now seem achingly familiar, it's still got the ability to pack a punch when done well. Here, Hayworth is mesmerising and fully convincing in her role. Ford was one of those ever-reliables who never quite reached the upper-echelons of superstardom, but was always a contender - his soldier is educated aristocracy with no real worldliness, and he does a good job in portraying that. There are some nice flamenco dance scenes, brawls and sword fights, some good bandit chases and plenty of dialogue and close-ups. It looks like it was probably all filmed on the studio back lot, rather than any locations, but doesn't suffer for that. Enjoyable.


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