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J. H. Sweet
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A Tree Grows In Brooklyn [1945] [DVD]
A Tree Grows In Brooklyn [1945] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Dorothy McGuire

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Preserves the Integrity and Flavor of the Book, 14 Feb 2006
Though a bit fast-paced and somewhat similar in style to a stage play, this movie very much brings Betty Smith's characters and their plights to life and does not leave us wishing they had treated the written work with more care. My mother was born and raised as a city girl, and her descriptions of growing up in Philadelphia remind me of this portrayal of life in Brooklyn. I very much envision a reflection of many things my mother described about her childhood in this movie. For example, that some children she grew up with had never seen a cow. A parallel of this exists in the film when Francie writes about going to see cotton fields. The longing behind this is very similar to the stories my mother related to me.
The opposites attract theory is wonderfully done in this story, and I ache for Dorothy McGuire's character, and her struggles, especially her iron will to do what is right for her family's survival. The conflict of Pipedreamer versus Realist is well balanced, so that we are not judgmental of either's actions. The interplay between the characters leads nicely to the heart wrenching loss of one and the anguish of the other over what could have been done differently. The devastating effects of alcoholism are featured in this film, but in contrast with a strong element of hope. Additionally, the reality of the numbers of children born at home and the infant mortality rate of the time period are also presented, but not stressed so overwhelmingly as to take away from the happiness of the new additions to the family and the positive direction of their future.
Joan Blondell's portrayal of Aunt Sissy is my favorite part of this movie. She is charming, funny, steadfast, quirky, and absolutely perfect.
What is interesting about this film in comparison to the book is that only about two-thirds of the family's story is told. I would definitely recommend reading the novel if you want to know about Francie and Neeley as far as their careers after graduation, and what happens to the rest of the family. The book also goes into much greater detail as far as the extent of the struggle with poverty and the multitudes of families who experience similar situations. For those who enjoy this movie, I also recommend I Remember Mama.
J.H. Sweet, author of The Fairy Chronicles


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory & Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory & Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
by Roald Dahl
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Set is Perfect for Collectors, 14 Feb 2006
This is a review of this particular boxed set, not a review of the stories themselves.
These are large books and very substantial. The slipcase is thick, glossy, and sturdy. The slipcase and both dust jackets are beautifully illustrated. The illustrations both inside and out are by Joseph Schindelman, which is particularly important to me since I first read the books when I was in 3rd grade (in the seventies) and these are the illustrations I remember and love, ones I will always associate with these classics. I definitely recommend this set for Roald Dahl fans and collectors of children's books.
J.H. Sweet, author of The Fairy Chronicles


Mrs. Dewinter
Mrs. Dewinter
by Susan Hill
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Sequel, 14 Feb 2006
Mrs. deWinter is well written and an interesting read, especially for fans of Rebecca who want to know what happens to the family. Though I would have preferred some happiness in the lives of the characters created by Ms. Du Maurier, I believe this author did preserve the dark and moody aspects of the original novel. I read most books I like more than once, but I likely will not read this again because I prefer happier books. However, this story is believable as far as what happened to this family and their acquaintances, and the information is worth knowing. I did enjoy reading this book and definitely recommend it. I especially like the fact that we still do not know, and never will, Mrs. deWinter's first name. This preserves the continuing mystery surrounding this fascinating woman and the course her life has taken.


Jim Henson's The Story Teller: Volume 2 [DVD] [1988]
Jim Henson's The Story Teller: Volume 2 [DVD] [1988]
Dvd ~ John Hurt

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique Collection of Fairy Tales, 14 Feb 2006
This collection includes some of the more obscure fairy tales from many different lands. One is a Cinderella story, Sapsorrow, but the others are all lesser-known tales.
John Hurt is perfect as the Storyteller: His voice, mannerisms, humor, and interaction with the dog (to whom he is telling the stories) are all perfect and engaging.
The Henson/Muppet expertise is wonderfully done and really brings the creatures and the dog to full life in expression, movement, voice, etc. My favorites of this collection are Hans, My Hedgehog and The Luck Child. The use of traditional staging, costuming, props, make-up, etc., rather than high-tech graphics, makes these tales true treasures.
I remember enjoying this series on HBO; the DVD collection has fantastic picture quality and sound and includes all of the fairy tales of the series, but does not include the Greek Myths. (They are available on a separate DVD, also recommended.)
I absolutely love this style of storytelling and particularly this collection of beautifully staged fairy tales. Watching them makes me feel as though I am sitting cross-legged on the floor (with other kids at heart) in front of John Hurt, listening to his lyrical voice and getting lost in imaginary lands and fantastical adventures.
J.H. Sweet, author of The Fairy Chronicles


The Basket Book
The Basket Book
by Lyn Siler
Edition: Paperback

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough and Easy to Learn From, 14 Feb 2006
This review is from: The Basket Book (Paperback)
Until I bought this book, I had never made a woven basket, only coiled ones. This book has made it easy for me to progress from one to the other. It has great technical drawings, easy to understand instructions, and beautiful photographs. The sections covering terminology, helpful hints, and resources have also been useful to me. This book also has a great variety of patterns, of which "Feather Basket" and "Potato Basket" are my favorites. I recommend The Basket Book for beginning basket makers.
J.H. Sweet, author of The Fairy Chronicles, and basket maker


Pine Needle Basketry: From Forest Floor to Finished Project
Pine Needle Basketry: From Forest Floor to Finished Project
by Judy Mallow
Edition: Hardcover

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All You Need to Learn to Coil, 14 Feb 2006
This is an absolutely wonderful book that does exactly what it says: You will be able to complete a basket the first time you sit down to make one. I learned everything I needed to know about pine needle coiling from this book, and have made over 50 beautiful baskets in the last two years.
The instructions and illustrations in this book are so good, and easy to learn from, I have only needed to reference it a couple of times since making the first two or three baskets. The basics are taught so well, providing such a solid technique, I have been able to easily branch out to difficult projects. The book does provide information on more advanced techniques and complex baskets, but I have been able to expand my skills just with the basic information. Pine Needle Basketry also has multitudes of beautiful photographs. I believe the instructions in this book are easy enough even for kids to learn from. Judy Mallow is a true artist, and her book is a wonderful teacher.
J.H. Sweet, author of The Fairy Chronicles


The Story of Ferdinand (Reading Railroad Books)
The Story of Ferdinand (Reading Railroad Books)
by Munro Leaf
Edition: Paperback

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely, Timeless, Pacifism Message and More, 14 Feb 2006
This is an enchanting and timeless tale, and is everything a children's book should be. The message is not simply one of peace and commitment to an ideal, but also one of basic karma, existentialist philosophy of choice and responsibility, and the need for all to follow the Golden Rule.
The Story of Ferdinand lets children know it is okay to stay true to their characters, and will encourage them to think their way out of situations, rather than muscle their way out. Ferdinand's peaceful and contented nature is something all human beings should all aspire to.
Having been stung by many bees in my youth, mainly while traipsing barefoot through clover and accidentally stepping on them, I have great sympathy for our hero and the situation he finds himself in. The realization that even small events and actions can have a tremendous impact on our lives, and everything else that surrounds us in this world, is beautifully presented in this story. How Ferdinand chooses to deal with his plight at being taken away to fight is, of course, the heart and significance of this tale. His choice of poetic action is a perfect lesson in morality and provides the lasting appeal for this book.
I recommend this classic for all ages and peoples, especially in our troubled times. It has a wonderful philosophy of life message; and even if readers choose not to apply the lesson to real life, the charming tale of Ferdinand is worth reading simply for its power to delight and entertain.
J.H. Sweet, author of The Fairy Chronicles


The Snail and the Whale
The Snail and the Whale
by Julia Donaldson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 8.39

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting and Heartwarming Adventure, 1 Nov 2005
I absolutely love this book. It is a classic tale with a friendship reminiscent of Wilbur and Charlotte, though expressed in much fewer words. This is an exceptional book with beautiful illustrations and a wonderful story - perfect for all ages. The adventurous spirit and courage of our tiny hero is remarkable, proving that even the smallest of us can make a huge difference in the world. This is truly a prize book for my collection, and one I will enjoy reading again and again for years to come.
J.H. Sweet, author of The Fairy Chronicles


The Chronicles Of Riddick (2 Disc Directors Cut) [DVD]
The Chronicles Of Riddick (2 Disc Directors Cut) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Vin Diesel
Price: 4.80

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Complex & Quality Story, 1 Nov 2005
I am a discriminating Sci-Fi fan, both literature and film, and I definitely do not agree with what professional critics had to say about this movie. I'm glad I didn't pay attention to the reviews and watched it for myself.
The story includes Dune-like intricacies (prophecy, conflicting character motives, foreshadow, plots within plots, human weaknesses, multiple heroes, patience, questionable morality, rituals, inner challenges, sacrifice, etc.) but without the extended, drawn-out politics to slow the story. It is fast paced and entertaining along with the important issues and messages. The art in this film is breathtaking including the rocky fins and caves of the ice planet, the Necromonger ship; the sparkling seas, sands, and architecture of Helion Prime; and the brutal beauty of the jagged, glassy, and blistering Crematoria. The DVD version really showcases the artistic elements of this movie.
The film has a Conan flavor with the non-traditional and non-innocent hero doing the right thing instead of the easy thing, and getting involved though he doesn't have to. The superhero (and regular hero) qualities of the Riddick character are also a nice addition to the story: speed, protection of the weak, strength, ease of killing, frequent flying through the air during attacks/escapes, quick thinking, sense of humor, resistance to Necromonger mental intrusion, enhanced eyes for night vision (Achilles heel being light sensitivity), precision, gracefulness despite bulk, piloting skills, use of varied weaponry, respect for life, risk taking, etc. The combination of weaponry is also interesting - unique craftsmanship blades mixed with Sci-Fi technology weapons. However, the violence in this film is very tasteful, similar to the Zatoichi movies, where our hero is able to kill without a lot of blood and gore. And he only deals out death when forced to, not at whim or randomly. There is also a similarity to Kurosawa stories as well, specifically Yojimbo and Sanjuro regarding the flawed hero and the motives of the characters, with some events and symbolism corresponding to Throne of Blood. The story of The Luck Child is also played out in this film, which is especially nice for those of us who love fairy tales.
The acting is first-rate. All of the actors did a fine job, but Vin Diesel's performance is truly exceptional. I had no idea he was so incredibly talented. (I always thought he was mainly an "eye candy" actor. Not so.) He is amazingly expressive throughout the movie without the use of his eyes at all. (They are surgically enhanced with no pupils and covered with goggles part of the time.) And his voice, diction, and inflection are obviously a product of natural talent, serious training, and careful attention to his craft. I now have a new appreciation for the quality of his work.
I would rank this film right up there with some of the greatest Sci-Fi movies of all time including Metropolis, Blade Runner, and Forbidden Planet; and the story itself merits comparison to classic Sci-Fi books such as the Robot novels, Dune, The Chronicles of Amber, and the Foundation series. I recommend people watch this film and judge its merits for themselves. I don't think the critics of this movie watched it very carefully.
I have great difficulty choosing between Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick as far as a favorite. The stories are both wonderful with important and profound messages, as well as unique and interesting elements; but they are so dissimilar that a side-by-side comparison is not really feasible. The fact that the two are so different from one another is a good part of what makes them both incredibly special and a significant contribution to the realm of Science Fiction entertainment. I truly hope that if more films are added to this saga, they are equally original and surprising in content and style, instead of relying on formula or cookie cutter repetition like many series seem to.
J.H. Sweet, author of The Fairy Chronicles


The Chronicles Of Riddick (2 Disc Directors Cut) [DVD]
The Chronicles Of Riddick (2 Disc Directors Cut) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Vin Diesel
Price: 4.80

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Complex & Quality Story, 25 Oct 2005
I am a discriminating Sci-Fi fan, both literature and film, and I definitely do not agree with what professional critics had to say about this movie. I'm glad I didn't pay attention to the reviews and watched it for myself.
The story includes Dune-like intricacies (prophecy, conflicting character motives, foreshadow, plots within plots, human weaknesses, multiple heroes, patience, questionable morality, rituals, inner challenges, sacrifice, etc.) but without the extended, drawn-out politics to slow the story. It is fast paced and entertaining along with the important issues and messages. The art in this film is breathtaking including the rocky fins and caves of the ice planet, the Necromonger ship; the sparkling seas, sands, and architecture of Helion Prime; and the brutal beauty of the jagged, glassy, and blistering Crematoria. The DVD version really showcases the artistic elements of this movie.
The film has a Conan flavor with the non-traditional and non-innocent hero doing the right thing instead of the easy thing, and getting involved though he doesn't have to. The superhero (and regular hero) qualities of the Riddick character are also a nice addition to the story: speed, protection of the weak, strength, ease of killing, frequent flying through the air during attacks/escapes, quick thinking, sense of humor, resistance to Necromonger mental intrusion, enhanced eyes for night vision (Achilles heel being light sensitivity), precision, gracefulness despite bulk, piloting skills, use of varied weaponry, respect for life, risk taking, etc. The combination of weaponry is also interesting - unique craftsmanship blades mixed with Sci-Fi technology weapons. However, the violence in this film is very tasteful, similar to the Zatoichi movies, where our hero is able to kill without a lot of blood and gore. And he only deals out death when forced to, not at whim or randomly. There is also a similarity to Kurosawa stories as well, specifically Yojimbo and Sanjuro regarding the flawed hero and the motives of the characters, with some events and symbolism corresponding to Throne of Blood. The story of The Luck Child is also played out in this film, which is especially nice for those of us who love fairy tales.
The acting is first-rate. All of the actors did a fine job, but Vin Diesel's performance is truly exceptional. I had no idea he was so incredibly talented. (I always thought he was mainly an "eye candy" actor. Not so.) He is amazingly expressive throughout the movie without the use of his eyes at all. (They are surgically enhanced with no pupils and covered with goggles part of the time.) And his voice, diction, and inflection are obviously a product of natural talent, serious training, and careful attention to his craft. I now have a new appreciation for the quality of his work.
I would rank this film right up there with some of the greatest Sci-Fi movies of all time including Metropolis, Blade Runner, and Forbidden Planet; and the story itself merits comparison to classic Sci-Fi books such as the Robot novels, Dune, The Chronicles of Amber, and the Foundation series. I recommend people watch this film and judge its merits for themselves. I don't think the critics of this movie watched it very carefully.
I have great difficulty choosing between Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick as far as a favorite. The stories are both wonderful with important and profound messages, as well as unique and interesting elements; but they are so dissimilar that a side-by-side comparison is not really feasible. The fact that the two are so different from one another is a good part of what makes them both incredibly special and a significant contribution to the realm of Science Fiction entertainment. I truly hope that if more films are added to this saga, they are equally original and surprising in content and style, instead of relying on formula or cookie cutter repetition like many series seem to.
J.H. Sweet, author of The Fairy Chronicles


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