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Timothy J. Barron

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Jo [DVD]
Jo [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jean Reno
Price: £8.40

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable Police Procedural with American Accents, 22 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Jo [DVD] (DVD)
Jo is a French produced police procedural television series that aired in 2013, and was recently released on DVD (for Region 2). The series is set in Paris, and stars Jean Reno as Jo Saint-Clair, a police detective leading murder investigations. If you are a fan of British crime and mysteries, the series could be an entertaining view, but it is definitely not in the same league as other contemporaries.

The positive aspect of the show is the casting and the cinematography. Jean Reno is a superb actor, and the rest of the characters are also well cast. His boss is played by Orla Brady, who is commonly known from the BBC series Mistresses. There are many other familiar faces from British crime and mystery series, including Jane Wymark, who played Joyce Barnaby on Midsomer Murders. The filming locations, the sets, and the camera angles are superb.

The show is in English, but the accent choice is odd. Jean Reno is one of the few characters during the entire series that speaks with a French accent. The vast majority of the characters speak in an American accent. It was very strange to see all of the familiar faces from British television speaking with an American accent. The accent choice leads to a definitive loss of “atmosphere,” though the show was filmed in Paris.

There are eight episodes that are about 50 minutes each, which relates to another criticism that I have – that the stories were rushed and abrupt. Each episode has the murder investigation plot, and multiple subplots concerning the personal issues of Jean Reno’s character and his daughter. At times, the story lines take dramatic leaps forward.

As a result of the American accents, and the rushed storylines, the series comes across with the atmosphere of an American produced show, instead of a French or even a British show. Depending on how many British crime and mystery series you have already exhausted, Jo is still worth watching. The ending will be abrupt, though, as a second series was planned, but cancelled shortly before filming was to begin.

The Doctor Blake Mysteries - Series 1 [DVD]
The Doctor Blake Mysteries - Series 1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Craig McLachlan
Price: £13.96

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid Retro Period Crime Drama, 22 Feb 2014
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The Doctor Blake Mysteries is a crime and mystery drama that originates from Australian television. The first series aired there in 2013, and was just released on DVD in the UK. The show was successful enough that it was renewed for a second series.

The show follows the recent "retro" trend of British crime dramas, and set in the 1950s. The primary character is Doctor Lucien Blake, who is a local doctor or physician who also doubles as a "police surgeon," or in other words he also serves as the local coroner or forensic pathologist, etc. As with most police procedurals, there is regular a cast of other characters, and three of them live with Doctor Blake. His residence is also his office, and living with him is his housekeeper, a local district nurse, and one of the police constables. Another recurring character is the police superintendent.

Each episode is an individual case or story, about 55 minutes in length, and there are 10 episodes in total. Dr. Blake is brought by the police to examine the body and the crime scene. The basic premise of the character's personality is that, unlike the police, he never accepts the obvious answer. As the police constable lives in his house, Dr. Blake exploits him to his advantage, and sometimes at odds with the police superintendent. The housekeeper and the nurse also become regularly involved due to their knowledge of the community. There is a lingering attraction between Dr. Blake and his housekeeper, as wells as the local district nurse and the police constable. From a critical point of view, Dr. Blake initiates multiple public controversies that would undoubtedly damage anyone's reputation, especially that of a doctor, but he seemingly survives each unscathed.

The atmosphere of the show is not too serious and not too light, and there is some subtle humor and charm. Many fans of British crime procedurals will find this series an enjoyable view.

Dear River (Ltd Edition)
Dear River (Ltd Edition)
Price: £16.68

5.0 out of 5 stars Unique Gem of a Double Album, 7 Jan 2014
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Take one Australian lass, transplant her to England, add three English lasses, and you have Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo. My first exposure to the band was through the Wallander series on PBS. The utterly haunting theme music is the song "Nostalgia" from the band's first album Despite the Snow.

Since learning of Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo, I have explored and immersed myself through their entire catalog of music. Their sound and style would be best and loosely described as folk, and there are hints and glimpses of numerous genres including bluegrass, madrigal, etc. Their first three albums are entirely acoustic instrumentation, and Despite the Snow was even recorded in 16th century barn in England!

Dear River is their fourth studio album, and was released in July 2013. With this album, the sounds and atmospheres explored by the band continue to grow, and some electric instrumentation is introduced for the first time. The band ventures into a slightly more modern sound infused with folk, rock and pop influences. The album's thoughtful lyrics follow earthy themes throughout the album, such as a water, land, blood, etc.

The album opens with the title track and a subtle introductory guitar riff with catchy back beats. It is followed by the peppy and string laden "Tuesday," and the slow and retrospective choral "Letters." The toe tapping ballad "The Leaving" leads into the subtle electric guitar of the peppy "Everywhen." The stripped down ballad "Sleeping Horses" introduces the album's folk-rock gem, "The Ghost Narrative." This is followed by country picking sound of "A Spadeful of Ground." The album then treats you to the slow and sweet sounds of "The Cormorant and the Heron" and retrospective "In the Winter I Returned." The album closes with the optimistic folk ballad "The Blackwood."

After being used to the all acoustic instrumentation of the first three albums, I will readily admit that I was initially resistant to the introduction of some minor electric instrumentation upon the first listen. This resistance of mine was utterly foolish and unfounded, as it more than complements the style and atmosphere of the songs, and "The Ghost Narrative" is now among my favorites tracks from the band.

The band also did something very unique with this album, where the listener can get the best of both worlds. They released a "Deluxe Edition" of the album which contains a second CD, called "The Dog House Sessions." It is a version of the entire album recorded on acoustic instruments. Emily is quoted as saying "we wanted to have a record of how the songs sounded in this bare acoustic form, similar to how we recorded Despite The Snow. So earlier this year we went into The Dog House studios near Henley-on-Thames and recorded all eleven songs live in one day."

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