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Brian Barratt (Melbourne, Australia)

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Pyramid Code [DVD] [2009] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Pyramid Code [DVD] [2009] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Offered by supermart_usa
Price: £11.36

14 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Ahem, 15 Feb. 2013
In a useful analytical review of this series on another Amazon site, the writer sums it up as "fast-food pseudoscience". We could add "soap-opera pseudoarchaeology". Readers of Paul Brunton's "A Search in Secret Egypt", published in 1931 (I read it in 1952), will know that this sort of thing is old hat.

Puccini: La Boheme (Sydney Opera 2011) (Opera Australia: OPOZ56017DVD) (Ji-Min Park/ José Carbó/ David Parkin/ Shane Lowrencev/ Shao-Chia Lü/ Gale Edwards) [2012] [NTSC]
Puccini: La Boheme (Sydney Opera 2011) (Opera Australia: OPOZ56017DVD) (Ji-Min Park/ José Carbó/ David Parkin/ Shane Lowrencev/ Shao-Chia Lü/ Gale Edwards) [2012] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Ji-Min Park
Price: £24.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From the Latin Quarter to the Spiegeltent, 26 Aug. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
In spite of a few small anomalies, I reckon this is a thoroughly enjoyable presentation of a much-loved opera.

It becomes immediately clear in Act 2 that the setting has been successfully moved from Paris in the 1840s to Berlin in the early 1930s. Café Momus in the Latin Quarter of Paris becomes a splendid but decadent Spiegeltent in Berlin. On the somewhat small stage of the Sydney Opera House this presented a far more engaging picture than the overblown, overpopulated street scene revealed in Puccini - La Boheme [The Metropolitan Opera HD Live 2008] [DVD] [2009].

What a joy it is to hear the two young lovers. Rudolfo is played by the Korean tenor Ji-Min Park, who has performed at venues around the world, including La Scala and the Royal Opera, Covent Garden. He isn't just up and coming -- he has arrived. Mimi is played by Takesha Meshé Kizart, a remarkable American soprano referred to in some reviews as a "powerhouse". No doubt she has power, but I loved her intonation, range and purity. And, differing from a couple of reviewers elsewhere, I was moved by the emotionally charged natural acting ability of these two young singers. At times, however, it seemed that the sound of the orchestra tended to push their voices a little into the background.

I was particularly pleased to see David Parkin playing Colline. He was winner of the much-loved 2005 Operatunity Oz competition and it is so good to see him now, and to hear his rich bass voice, acting so naturally on the professional stage. I also relished Taryn Fiebig and José Carbo, as did the audience of this televised performance.

I want to give this DVD 5 stars, but it's those small anomalies that bring it back to 4½. Although the scene changes were cleverly manipulated, I noticed that there was apparent daylight coming through the clerestory windows whatever the location or time of day. The use of a revolving stage was somewhat unnecessary and, in fact, distracting in a couple of scenes. And, although one needs to suspend disbelief when watching the performance of an opera, I did feel sorry for the dying Mimi in the final act when a goodly portion of her comely form was left totally uncovered by a warm shawl or blanket. But I realise that I'm nitpicking. I do recommend this DVD.

Mozart: Die Zauberflote [DVD] [2006]
Mozart: Die Zauberflote [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Ann Christine Biel
Price: £24.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Authentic Magic, 16 Dec. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Magic is the word. We are transported back to the 18th century in the fully restored Drottningholm Court Theatre where the only concession to modern times, when it was restored, is electric lighting. Orchestra members and singers are all in period costume, and wigs. The musical instruments are authentic replicas and I have a feeling that some of them are original, the real thing. The counterpoint between flutes and bassoons, with elegant strings and softer-than-modern timpani, in a relatively small orchestra is sublime, particularly in The March of the Priests.

The singing is good throughout. The voice and acting of Laszlo Polgar, the Hungarian bass playing Sarastro, is more than good -- it is sensitive and beautiful. OK, he is not an Alexander Kipnis or a Wilhelm Hesch, but his is the most smoothly rounded bass voice among the many I have heard in this role. And he's a pleasantly handsome fellow, too.

At the opening of Act II, with the aria "Isis and Osiris", four of the items found in Masonic lodges at the time are authentically portrayed. This setting, the Masonic items, and the acting here are identical to those in the Australian Opera's 1986 production conducted by Richard Bonynge. Not surprising, because they were by the same director and set designer.

There is only one disappointment: the three boys are not played by boys. I don't know whether or not this is "authentic" because, in the first performance in 1791, they were played by two boys and the daughter of Schikaneder. In modern productions available on DVD, the best portrayal of the three boys can be seen in Bergman's brilliant 1975 version and in the 1983 production by Bayerische Staatsoper.

Overall, this perfomance, in this setting, is a total delight.

Etre Et Avoir [DVD] [2002]
Etre Et Avoir [DVD] [2002]
Dvd ~ Georges Lopez
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly remarkable, 6 Jan. 2011
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This review is from: Etre Et Avoir [DVD] [2002] (DVD)
I've just been given this DVD as a gift. Angel"azano"'s review reflects exactly what I feel about it. It is an utterly remarkable documentary.

Seven Ages of Britain [DVD]
Seven Ages of Britain [DVD]
Dvd ~ David Dimbleby
Price: £13.33

48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars English rather than Brtish but superb, 18 April 2010
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This review is from: Seven Ages of Britain [DVD] (DVD)
I already have David Dimbleby's "A Picture of Britain" (which I've watched several times) and "How we built Britain", so I was expecting a lot from this new series "Seven Ages of Britain". I was not disappointed.

True, it is about England rather than Britain but I won't complain about that when I see the polished and personable presenter visiting Italy, Germany, Turkey, India and America, sometimes looking for artefacts which are part of British history but which finished up in different countries.

True, Mr Dimbleby is not a professional historian, as one rather nit-picking reviewer told his readers in a London newspaper. But, as someone else has pointed out in these customer reviews, he ranks alongside Sir David Attenborough for his knowledge, skill and manner. We can be thankful beyond measure that the BBC didn't emulate National Geographic and use some unknown "celebrity" in a voice-over commentary dripping with hyperbole.

David Dimbleby has a relaxed natural sense of humour and a ready smile, particularly when something momentarily goes wrong. He has fun when he dances with the elderly but still lively Gilbert and George, and when his face is thrown into muddy water by... no, I shan't explain, but let you have the pleasure of seeing it when it happens.

The episodes might be somewhat arbitrary but I reckon they work very well:

1. "Age of Conquest" AD 43 - 1066
From the Roman Invasion to the Norman Conquest.

2 "Age of Worship" 1170 - 1400
The art of the Church, the Knights of the Garter, and other artworks made during the Age of Worship.

3 "Age of Power" 1509 - 1609
Secrets of some of the most powerful British monarchs, from Henry VIII to the Virgin Queen Elizabeth I.

4 "Age of Revolution" 1603 - 1708
How art in the 17th century reflected the extremist and revolutionary politics of the age.

5 "Age of Money" 1700 - 1805
Art in the age of commerce, the creation of a new `middle' class and the rise of consumerism

6 "Age of Empire" 1770 - 1911
Art and the British Empire, from the earliest colonies in North America to the acquisition of India.

7 "Age of Ambition" 1914 - Now
Art of the modern age, from the paintings of the first World War to the contemporary art of today.

Along the way, we see all sorts of things we've never seen before. Not in a TV programme, anyway. And we learn a few odd snippets of information, e.g., the value of a red haired boy's urine for one group in bygone society.

When it comes to personal tastes and preferences, I was delighted to see the inclusion of Paul Nash, an artist whose work I first discovered in the 1950s. I was less than delighted to see someone's huge heaps of concrete worms and another chap shooting lumps of wax at a wall. This is Art? Hmmm. On the other hand, although I don't really "like" the work of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, David Dimbleby's descriptions and explanations of the context are well worth seeing/hearing.

The remarkable Mr Dimbleby is now 71. It saddens me to think that he might not make any more series such as this, but who knows? He's a lovely chap.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 23, 2012 6:16 PM BST

Oliver Twist (BBC) [2007] [DVD]
Oliver Twist (BBC) [2007] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Timothy Spall
Offered by mrtopseller
Price: £3.50

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Open to debate, 20 Dec. 2009
I'm a bit late with these comments because I've only just seen this version of "Oliver Twist" on TV. I will not be buying the DVD even though Amazon have already reduced the price by 75%, which seems to reflect a need to clear the stock.

I found the changes from the original story to be somewhat problematic.

Fagin and the boys keep calling Oliver "Nolly". This is grating. Dickens used that nickname only three or four times in the novel.

Rose sings "Abide with me". The novel was finally published in 1839. The music for the poem, making it a hymn, wasn't published until 1861.

The dialogue is an uncomfortable mix of mid-19th century street talk and early 21st century slang.

Nancy is described by Dickens as "stout and hearty", not as of mixed race and skinny.

Timothy Spall, as others have commented, turns Fagin into a less-than-believable caricature but he does use the right accent and turns of phrase to suit his character. His costume is extraordinary, but perhaps it would be deemed anti-Semitic to portray him in the same way as he is drawn by Cruikshank in the original novel.

Edward Fox was, for me, the greatest disappointment in a rather two-dimensional portrayal of Mr Brownlow.

William Miller, a photogenic boy with a face to tug the heart-strings, had been coached to play a more resilient Oliver but he seemed to finish up without much feeling at all.

The background music is jarring and distracting.

Some of the sets seem to have been borrowed from an earlier film version of the story.

On the other hand, I have no disrespect for people who enjoyed it. The photography and lighting are very good. The essence of the story is still there. It's good entertainment. So I'm not arguing -- just pointing out that it's less than perfect.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 6, 2011 6:57 AM BST

Puccini - La Boheme [The Metropolitan Opera HD Live 2008] [DVD]
Puccini - La Boheme [The Metropolitan Opera HD Live 2008] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Angela Gheorghiu
Price: £11.04

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Splendid, but with reservations, 7 Dec. 2009
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Angela Gheorghiu was about 43 when this recording was made. The only indication of this, for viewers of the DVD, is in the close-ups. Her voice and acting are simply superb. She presents a Mimi we haven't seen before. Not the weak girl from upstairs but a young woman with a will and a measure of wile. Wonderful.

Ramon Vargas seemed to be a little uncertain at first and his facial expressions seemed occasionally to be inapt, but his sweet tenor voice blossomed beautifully. It is, however, rather disconcerting to see two very overweight young men among the starving tenants of a garret. This is a performance during which one has to suspend disbelief!

The sets by Zeffirelli are superb, as one can expect from the master. It's pity that the Met's robotic cameras, moving silently along the front of the stage, gave us so many upward-looking views during the first Act.

I wasn't at all sure about the crowd scene. Impressive, yes, but methinks the stage was overpopulated for the sake of impressing the audience. Perhaps I'm wrong -- it would be interesting to hear what others have to say about that aspect of the production.

Another small point that worried me was the balance of sound. I have a pretty good Kenwood "home theatre" system but most of the singing seemed to come from the right hand side. This was confirmed by the movement of the main speaker on the right. I'll have to view the opera again, with great pleasure, in order to see if I'm right about this.

The occasional shots of back-stage activity and scenery moving were really very interesting and informative, too. It's a pity that the Met and Lincoln Center websites have very little information about that remarkable stage.

With just those small reservations, I heartily recommend this DVD. And, as someone else has written, have a box of tissues handy.

The Ladykillers [DVD]
The Ladykillers [DVD]
Dvd ~ Alec Guinness
Price: £7.50

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Subtitles in Dutch, 7 Dec. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Ladykillers [DVD] (DVD)
I thoroughly agree with all the other reviewers that this is a truly great film. Wonderful cast; excellent sets; engaging plot; hilarious situations; and let's not forget those parrots.

As a hearing-handicapped viewer, I have had to deduct two stars from my rating. One for the fact that there are no English subtitles. The other for the fact that the Dutch subtitles cannot be switched off and are very distracting for someone who does not speak Dutch. This applies to my copy of the DVD. Perhaps Amazon have run out of stock of the English version but did not bother to let us know?

A Good Woman [DVD]
A Good Woman [DVD]
Dvd ~ Helen Hunt
Price: £4.25

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The curate's egg, 24 Nov. 2009
This review is from: A Good Woman [DVD] (DVD)
The 22 (twenty-two) producers and production executives don't seem to have been able to make up their minds about how to handle this adaptation of an Oscar Wilde play.

It is pleasant enough as a film to watch when there's nothing better available, but fails in its effort to transfer Victorian manners and Wilde's witticisms to a different place in a different era. The famous epigrams are scattered through an ordinary script and spoken as if being read by amateurs. They just don't fit. It all reminds me of the classic 1895 Punch cartoon in which the bishop observes that the curate's egg is bad. The curate assures his host that "parts of it are excellent".

Thinking I might be out of step, I checked to see what professional critics had written about it. They were very critical. For once, I am not out of step.

The Prestige [DVD] [2006]
The Prestige [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Hugh Jackman
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: £3.50

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Oh, that background music, 7 Aug. 2009
This review is from: The Prestige [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
I'm a bit late with a comment 'cos I saw this film only last night, on TV. It was worth persevering with it just in order to see and hear Michael Caine. Otherwise it seems to have been designed to impress. As a fan of (black and white) films by David Lean and Ingmar Bergman, well, I wasn't too impressed. But we all have our personal preferences.

Some nice insights into stage illusions but the persistent droning of the background music, to tell us how we should be feeling, was so irritating that from time to time I muted the sound and switched on the closed captions until the scene changed.

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