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Mr. D Burin

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Blood in the Mobile [DVD]
Blood in the Mobile [DVD]
Dvd ~ Frank Piasechi Poulsen
Price: 8.99

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Raging against the machine, 26 Jun 2012
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This review is from: Blood in the Mobile [DVD] (DVD)
Frank Poulsen's 'Blood in the Mobile' analyses the uncomfortable use of minerals from regions known for violence and exploitation, by the world's phone companies - with a specific focus on Nokia, in this instance. The film is beautifully shot, and brings to the viewer a real sense of the places Poulsen travels to; from the oppressive, claustrophobic landscape of the Bisie mines (and to an extent, the DRC in general), and the distanced, yet sometimes compassionate view, of interviewees from young activists, to a US congressman, and representatives of Nokia. The mosaic of interviewees is also helpful in providing the viewer with a real sense of the different sides and angles from which the issue is viewed, and the inclusion of corporate representation in the form of interviews with Nokia workers and executives, saves the film from appearing as too much polemic, as well as rightly humanising, but also criticising some of Nokia's figures, and their stances.

The downside to 'Blood in the Mobile' is that Poulsen simply isn't a good documentarian. His conclusions on the issue of conflict minerals, are repetitive and simplistic. His interviewing technique is also poor. Poulsen also seems incapable of understanding the way a company like Nokia works, and this means that he ends up asking quite a lot of pointless, or otherwise misguided questions. Also, for a filmmaker working in English, his grasp of the language is rather poor, which also heightens the sense that he is not the man to present this film. It's a shame, really, because the breathtaking footage of the DRC, the fascinating stances of quite a few people whom Poulsen meets, and the remarkably well-wrought sense of the corruption, violence and paranoia, yet also sometimes the friendliness, of the Congo, are all superb facets which are readily evident in 'Blood in the Mobile'. If issues of social responsibility, or the behaviour of corporations are topics which interest you, I'd say there is still enough to interest and provoke thought, in 'Blood in the Mobile' - it's just a shame that the documentary feels like a bit of a missed opportunity, at times.

NB: The English subtitles on the DVD seem impossible to turn off, which is obviously fine for the sections when French is being spoken, but can become a bit irritating when English is both being spoken in the film, and also displayed, written on screen, at the same time.


Jason Manford Live 2011 [DVD]
Jason Manford Live 2011 [DVD]
Offered by filmrollen
Price: 2.16

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars On fine form, 23 Jun 2012
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Bringing his well-wrought, deadpan, observational comedy back to our screens, Jason Manford's latest DVD, 'Live' is another excellent (if slightly flawed) performance from the likeable Manchester comic. Manford draws on similar themes to previous shows, but provides a fair bit of fresh material. His musings on matters such as 24-hour supermarket staff, Prince Philip's racism, and his mum's penchant for using phrases which don't actually exist, are all superb, and provide an interesting view into Manford's comic way of viewing the world. Having seen Jason perform live earlier in his career, it's fair to say that his delivery has become slicker, and the jokes on 'Live' flow excellently; although with this added slickness, has come a slightly irritating habit of namedropping, which is in evidence, on this collection.

There are plenty of excellent moments on 'Live', and Manford's skill at delivering surprise twists and one-liners to end his stories, mean that there are plenty of genuine laugh-out-loud moments on display, here. The personal anecdotes tend, here, to be the best in his repertoire; from watching a German porn tape labeled 'World Cup Italia' by his Dad, to finding out his Nan once swore in the blitz. There is a bit of a double-edged sword here, though, as whilst tales like this are endearing and humorous; and often painfully relevant to those of us who can look back on our awkward teenage years with humour, there is a bit too much focus on his telling stories about his wife and kids, some of which aren't that funny. Still, on balance, 'Live' is a highly amusing and well-wrought live performance from a man who is currently amongst the nation's best comics. For fans of Jason Manford, or just for those looking for a smart, dry-witted and fun comedy DVD, I would definitely recommend 'Live'.


Spring Breakdown [DVD] [2009] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Spring Breakdown [DVD] [2009] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Amy Poehler

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A few laughs, but it's a film which never really develops, 16 Jun 2012
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Whilst the premise for Ryan Shiraki's 'Spring Breakdown' is a tired and cliched one; three thirtysomething nerds getting to have a second shot at College life, the inclusions of Amy Poehler and Parker Posey amongst the leads, is a promising one indeed. Sadly, 'Spring Breakdown' is fairly mediocre fare. Both Poehler and Posey are competent, and the former's comic delivery is excellent as usual, but Rachel Dratch (who wrote the script, along with Shiraki) is hugely irritating, in her role as Judy, a lonely, 'eccentric' woman who seems unable to comprehend her husband's homosexuality. The jokes aren't particularly good in 'Spring Breakdown', either. There are a handful of witty one-liners, but they are adrift in a game which goes for all the easy jokes without any creativity or wit - there are gun-toting, redneck politicians, dumb sorority girls, unrealistic and unfunny sub-plots (plenty of those!) and jokes about promiscuity; all of which raise the occasional smirk at most, and many of which fall flat entirely.

'Spring Breakdown' is also a film which seems to suffer from a short attention-span, with potentially comic and moving scenes alike (such as Dratch's closing speech to her fiancee), which are both poorly handled, and also swept over with unnecessary brevity. The film sometimes feels more like a series of skits, or would-be comic music videos, and it means that neither the film, nor its protagonists, ever materialise into anything particularly special. 'Spring Breakdown' is by no means a terrible movie. It's mildly entertaining, has a good heart and an uplifting message to it, and contains Rachel Dratch riding a giant stuffed chicken. It's just that it's all been done before, and much better. Too fast-paced, too short on laughs, and too weak in its characterisation. The film never breaks down, as such, but it does judder and stall with regularity.


Prater Violet (Vintage Classics)
Prater Violet (Vintage Classics)
by Christopher Isherwood
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.06

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Violets amidst violence, 15 Jun 2012
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Based on Isherwood's experience of working with director Berthold Viertel on the 1934 film, 'Little Friend', 'Prater Violet' is an often likeably subtle and evocative novel, set in a London which has not yet begun to understand the seriousness of the Third Reich. Isherwood portrays a semi-fictionalised version of himself, as the primary character (a wonderfully postmodern touch), in a text which deals with the twin developments of cinema and of politics. 'Prater Violet' analyses expertly both the attitudes and mechanisms of pre-war cinema, with its curious blend of modernising technologies on film sets, amidst the casting of the ex stage-ham Arthur Cromwell in the movie 'Prater Violet'. Isherwood's exploration of the cinema is also written in a characteristically balanced vein, celebrating both the appeal and scope of the art form, whilst criticising the beauracrats whom exploit cinema for selfish gain, at the expense of art (represented here primarily through the sneering, cynical figure of Sandy Ashurst). Isherwood's satire in the novel is also generally successful, though whilst the protagonist's dry one-liners, amongst others, hit the spot, portrayals such as that of temperamental screen-star Anita, are rather one-dimensional.

Written around the close of World War II, the political commentary of Isherwood's novel is rather more questionable. 'Prater Violet''s exploration of the laissez-fair attitude of the British, in relation to the rising German subjugation of Austria, and the initial British indifference to the Jewish Plight, is both spot-on and startlingly brave. The novel's focus of Isherwood's problems as almost overshadowing the war, however, smacks of a kind of insensitivity which the rest of the text manages to refrain from. The novel's ending is also (without giving too much away), both irritatingly obscure, and whilst philosophically interesting, a bit of a cop-out when the heavy themes of the text are considered. For the most part, 'Prater Violet' is a well-wrought, detailed exploration of Britain's initial wish to "do nothing", whilst evil triumphs in Austria (to paraphrase Burke). The relationship between Isherwood and Bergmann is also a powerful and thought-provoking one; albeit sometimes a little over-melodramatic. It is the novel's willingness to apparently put Isherwood's own struggle on a similar level to the atrocities of World War II, however, (and, less disconcertingly, a few one-dimensional, caricatured characters) which stop 'Prater Violet' from being a brilliant book, and instead make it one which is very good, albeit flawed.


Feeling Strangely Fine
Feeling Strangely Fine
Offered by filmrollen
Price: 5.67

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The 'Chemistry''s there, 12 Jun 2012
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This review is from: Feeling Strangely Fine (Audio CD)
Semisonic's 'Feeling Strangely Fine' is an excellent record, but as with all of their releases preceding 'Chemistry', there's a feeling they could have done more. The 12 songs on display here are, without exception, good. On top of this, the lamenting 'Gone to the Movies', 'Closing Time' - a memorable, chugging paeon to the end of a night out -, and the lyrically superb rocker 'This Will Be My Year', are all absolutely excellent, and rank amongst the band's best songs. Still, amidst the tight, radio-friendly rock of 'Feeling Strangely Fine', there is a bit of a lack of variety, and unlike on other Semisonic albums, it can be a little hard to remember songs individually, such is the slightly repetitive framework of the album (especially in its middle section).

With Dan Wilson's evocative, emotionally powerful vocals at their disposal, spearheading an arrangement containing John Munson's slick, virtuoso guitar work and Jacob Slichter's more than competent drumming, there still remains the feeling that Semisonic could do a little more, on 'Feeling Strangely Fine'. The album is uniformly listenable, and all three band members more than pull their weight, in creating a set of well-crafted, guitar-heavy melodies, but the band never seem to use their undeniable talent to branch out, stylistically. Perhaps I'm being a little too harsh on 'Feeling Strangely Fine'. Even on weaker numbers, such as 'DND', Semisonic pull out enough witty one-liners and catchy riffs, to keep the listener interested; it's just a shame that the record ends up feeling a little samey at times, when the band have proven themselves capable of sounding so fresh, on much of the record, and of possessing a keen ear for a memorable tune.


The Penguin League
The Penguin League
Price: 7.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Antarctica, you stole our hearts", 9 Jun 2012
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This review is from: The Penguin League (Audio CD)
With their laid-back melodies, yearning vocals, and restrained sound, Antarctica Takes It are an extremely likeable and enjoyable band to listen; even if there's nothing here which is particularly spectacular. Their sound is a varied one, and this is especially the case on the diverse 'The Penguin League', an album which provides the listener with everything from shaking percussion, in 'Davenport Coast', to snare drums in 'My Friend Sam Saarni', and a folk sound reminiscent of a more chilled out Woody Guthrie, on 'Fog Song' - all of which they manage tunefully, and without ever seeming to be outside of their comfort zone. The album's standout track, 'Antarctica', a paean to the solitary joys of the frozen continent, is one of the loveliest pop songs of the last five years, and would be a fitting closer for the album; though that role is taken up by the rather-too-twee lullaby, Goodbye'.

Whilst 'The Penguin League' is likeably relaxed and tuneful in its sound, it is an album which wears its heart on its sleeve - sometimes a little too much for its own good. Whilst songs such as 'Antarctica' and 'I'm No Lover' are moving in their preoccupations with emotion, 'Goodbye' and 'Heart of Stone', for example, are a little on the wrong side of mawkish. Additionally, whilst the songs on show here are all tuneful and (in some cases) pretty darn catchy, Antarctica Takes It are sometimes limited a bit by their being less than virtuoso musicians. Overall though, the mix of frontman Dylan McKeever's tender vocals, the album's tuneful, calm and eclectic sound, and the generally good (if occasionally overly sentimental) lyrics, make 'The Penguin League' more often than not, a quiet joy to listen.


Youth
Youth
by J. M. Coetzee
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.51

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thoughts and meditations, 7 Jun 2012
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This review is from: Youth (Paperback)
Slowly paced, introspective and disconcertingly downbeat, J.M. Coetzee's 'Youth' is a sometimes powerful, but flawed novel. The narrative focuses on John, a disillusioned mathematics student from Cape Town, who flees South Africa (which he sees as backwards and dangerous) to move to London, with aspirations of being a poet. John's struggle is a largely unhappy one, and whilst this is in keeping with the theme of alienation, which Coetzee has consistently proved himself a master of, this is a novel which sometimes becomes too much a diatribe about the misery of life; something which Coetzee thankfully avoids in most of his novels. The novel's premise is an interesting one, and Coetzee's depictions of the landscapes and histories of South Africa, and of London, are both commendably realistic, and invitingly poetic. Coetzee's use of language is also characteristically excellent, and 'Youth' is a novel which shows a particular knack for complex metaphors, and reveals some both deeply personal and also universal truths about its protagonist, John.

John, however, is the main problem with 'Youth' as a novel. Whilst it is understandable of Coetzee to depict the frustrations and anger of the thwarted intellectual, in 'Youth', his protagonist is a frustrating, contradictory, annoyingly hyperbolic, and worse than all of that - downright dull, narrator. Coetzee's incessant channeling of the book's major themes, through the arrogant John, is not simply a case of giving us an unreliable narrator, it is a case of giving us a largely useless one; a narrator whom constantly divulges into in-depth analyses of Ezra Pound's poetry, whilst he unrealistically (and perhaps misogyny can be leveled at Coetzee, here) seems, without possessing any charm, to be able to bed all manner of women, at ease. It's a real shame, because with its rich use of language and imagery, its fascinating look back at the early concerns and excitement over the bond between man and computer, and superb evocations of its two key landscapes, 'Youth' could be a masterful novel. It is, however, a book which frustrates as much as it delights.


Trans Europe Express [2009 Digital Remaster] (2009 Digital Remaster)
Trans Europe Express [2009 Digital Remaster] (2009 Digital Remaster)
Price: 7.49

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Europe Endless(ly enjoyable), 6 Jun 2012
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One of the most enjoyable and innovative records of its era, Kraftwerk's 'Trans Europe Express' is a masterpiece of eerily beautiful, paranoid synth-pop. The album's general structure is, as one might expect, the journey of the Trans Europe Express train, yet the scope and feel of the album go far beyond the train itself (something that cannot be said for Kraftwerk's later 'Computer World'). There isn't a bad song on the entire album, though some are admittedly stronger than others. Opener 'Europe Endless' is the best piece on the album, and arguably Kraftwerk's finest ever song, awash with infectiously catchy electro beats, vocoder-filtered vocals, and prescient lyrics - "promenades and avenues, Europe endless/real lives and postcard views, Europe endless". The album does admittedly have a few relatively weaker (albeit still good) tracks, such as the slightly over-repetitive, yet hypnotic title track, and 'Metal on Metal', these being the two songs which adhere most strictly to the sounds and concept of the train, and lose out a little, from doing so.

Still, many of the numbers here, such as the classically-influenced 'Franz Schubert' and the creepy, yet wonderfully melodic 'Showroom Dummies'; an evocation both of social unrest and of the 'robot' image, which the band attempted to cultivate, almost reach the standard of 'Europe Endless' (whilst both sounding largely different to that track). In truth, there's little to criticise about 'Trans Europe Express'. It is a record which still sounds remarkably fresh and powerful over thirty years later (especially with this latest remastering), and which perfectly highlights why Kraftwerk were such an excellent and an influential band. For anyone looking for a great, early synth-pop record, or even just a hauntingly beautiful, pared-down record, then I would recommend 'Trans Europe Express' unreservedly.


Chariots Of Fire
Chariots Of Fire
Price: 7.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five circles and five stars, 30 May 2012
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This review is from: Chariots Of Fire (MP3 Download)
Whilst there's no doubt that 'Chariots of Fire' is an excellently scripted, acted and directed piece of cinema, Vangelis' soundtrack is the absolute highlight of the film, which chronicles the story of Olympic winning athletes Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams. Vangelis' score is a masterful melding of heraldic, classical music, much of it with pastoral overtones, with the chilly ambient synth music that characterised other Vangelis releases of the '80s, such as 'Antarctica' and 'China'. 'Titles', the piece which will be most familiar to listeners, is the opener - an evocative, shortened variation on the closing theme, replete with tripping synths and a gliding classical melody. The gentle, lilting 'Five Circles', which follows it, is the album's most traditional-sounding piece; a yearning piece, which sounds more the work of Elgar, than of most of Vangelis' other releases. The contrasting character traits of Abraham and Eric, are evoked nicely in their respective themes; the former a memorable, if overly bombastic piece, the latter a reserved one, awash with electronic sounds.

'100 Metres' is probably the only less than excellent track on 'Chariots of Fire', and whilst it is rather aimless and disappointing, it is not so bad as to take away anything really, from the quality of this soundtrack. The version of 'Jerusalem' on show here, is not the one used in the film itself; but is rather an equally captivating, but more modern variation, with the voices hidden behind vocoder. Which leads to the closer, the self-titled 'Chariots of Fire'. It's a long, at times slightly rambling, but fitting close, to a superb soundtrack. Its distinctive explorations of the melody from 'Titles', as well as its near-eerie, opening, makes it a piece of truly Vangelian scope. For those looking for an evocative album which channels both the sounds and spirit of British classical music, and also the synth-soaked electro/synth pop of the 1980s, or just for a thoroughly original and enjoyable classical record, I would highly recommend Vangelis' 'Chariots of Fire'. A record to be played over and over.


Ignore This
Ignore This
Offered by mrtopseller
Price: 8.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Is this who he is?, 30 May 2012
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This review is from: Ignore This (Audio CD)
Despite the prodigious talent suggested by his classically influenced early release 'This is Who I Am', amongst other singles, Salem Al Fakir's 'Ignore This' is a disappointingly patchy effort - albeit one with a scattering of excellent numbers, and some superb classical and pop touches. It is perhaps his least mainstream release yet, something which is commendable in commercial terms, but it is sadly also an album with various weaknesses. Amidst the infectious synth pop of songs like '4 O'Clock' and the lovably kitsch 'Virgin Mary', are quite a lot of not very good songs. Al Fakir tends too often to divulge into weak instrumental squiggles, ('The Song I Never Wrote', 'Don't Want to Talk About It'), and insubstantial, future dancefloor fillers, such as 'Red Rock' and 'Bloody Breakfast'.

He also buries what is an undeniably strong voice behind a wash of vocoder, which makes it both lessened, and near unrecognisable. Sometimes, 'Ignore This' gives the listener hints of the talent which Al Fakir possesses. The gorgeous gospel vocals, catchy beat and cheeky lyrics of 'Part of It', exemplify both the talent and charm his music can have. Still, a lot of the album feels miles away from the sleek, yet fresh, sweeping pop of 'This Is Who I Am', and instead seems full of thumping bass and sweeping synths, without a great deal of direction. There are a handful of really good songs on 'Ignore This', which make the album worth delving into, as opposed to ignoring, but with his most leftfield record, Salem appears to have lost his way a little.


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