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Plom de Nume "Rob" (Wolverhampton, United Kingdom)

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Don't Look Now (Special Edition) [Blu-ray] [1973]
Don't Look Now (Special Edition) [Blu-ray] [1973]
Dvd ~ Donald Sutherland
Price: £9.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rediscover this gorgeous classic on a wonderful Blu-Ray copy, 22 Oct. 2011
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Apart from excellent extras, the DVD was a huge disappointment, as many people noted: with Don't Look Now, the film's the thing, very much so - it's one of those rare examples of "pure cinema" in the mainstream. And whilst the imagery looked as recalled from original cinema viewings (complete with grain in the close-ups and washed out areas of unintentional chiaroscuro), the sound was just execrable.

Now with this Blu-Ray, the sound is as remembered, a wonderful collage of music, dialogue and stunningly atmospheric effects (Venice really is a place that sounds as distinctive as it looks); even in mono (you don't notice: decent kit allows the soundscape to resonate impressively). The crackles and inaudibility have been expertly cleaned up; you can actually hear what Donald and Julie are saying now - which is a welcome step, as the dialogue is compellingly naturalistic and beautifully acted.

Even better, the picture is now - with Nicholas Roeg's supervision - of a reproductive standard that allows any decent modern home set-up to render the movie probably more beautifully than any of us will have seen it before. On this disk, the film is back to all its exquisite glory and arguably visually superior to anything we might have been able to appreciate back with the cinema technology of its original release.

It's lovely to have this film back, and - take this the right way - improved. Julie Christie never looked more heart-breakingly lovely; watching this as a married couple, we both found our responses to her and Sutherland's performances going even deeper than before. The restoration is so well done you can forget about the allowances for age and print-wear and just enjoy the charming, profoundly insightful job she does in portraying a grief-stricken mother whose inner child often bubbles out to compensate. As for Donald; well, he just rules as ever!

It all looks incredible, basically. It always did, of course: beautiful people in breathtaking locations magnificently photographed tend to have that effect. But what a joy it is to be able to luxuriate in the full effect of that achingly beautiful cinematography (even - no, especially - of bleaker, non-touristy, out of season Venice in the rain) and exceptionally creative editing. For my money, Don't Look Now is on a direct line, from Citizen Kane through to Let the Right One In, of films that transfix you with pure imagery, that make you look and feel the resonance at a level that is genuinely poetic in its impact.

In this respect, the renowned love-making scene feels more natural and touching than ever, so much less salacious and pure of intent than you'd have imagined from the media yelping that attended its release. It's truly poignant and utterly erotic, an affirmation of love and tragedy with amazing depth, timeless; and how great that the "simple" (excuse me) device of cross-cutting between carnality and routine plays its technical part in the sequence's very human achievement. How could we ever have labelled this "notorious"! It's a quiet glory of domestic sexiness, underlying sadness and sheer lyrical craftsmanship.

(Am I getting this across, my point about the imagery being so artful and essential? I mean, in Kane, when Rosebud is revealed, it's just a sled - but (if you're anything like me) your heart constricts and the little hairs go up when you see it, set against Herrman's music; just the object and the score... and the same applies for so much of Don't Look Now, where we find ourselves riveted by shots of liquid smeared over slides of a church interior, or oil and water trickling onto marble, or shadows and reflections at night along a canal; plus, of course, with this film, there's that supernatural thriller element in the narrative that pulls us in, too.) Roeg's visual rhymes looked and felt positively metaphysical at the time - especially in the murder scene at the end, as aesthetically and narratively climactic as any I've seen - and now they come across more powerfully than ever. Even the early cutting from chuckling mother Laura indoors to giggling daughter Christine outside (soon to drown), and the chucking of the ball/cigarettes - these little ploys (and their psychic overtones so appropriate to the story): these little but striking gestures are that bit more noticeable and appreciable on the new disk.

If they never put anything else on Blu-Ray, just be glad they did this. It's absolutely gorgeous, new-minted and even more revealing of the film's riches, this copy. The package is a true celebration of a masterpiece. Perfection. Enhanced! Essential. Get it and Look Now!

Spartacus: Blood and Sand Season 1 [Blu-ray]
Spartacus: Blood and Sand Season 1 [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Andy Whitfield
Price: £14.99

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They really went for it - you should, too!, 2 Aug. 2011
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You have to admire the utter fearlessness of this project. They really do go for it; and with great success! It would be surprising not to encounter such phrases as "over the top" and "no holds barred" in collected reviews - and they'd be right. The thing to bear in mind, though, is that the actual time and place, let alone the semi-legend built around the historical character, held a fair amount of behavioural licence when it came to sex and death.

So Spartacus' makers have taken a modern medium we laughably consider "liberated" and given it a good stretching; for which they deserve our admiration. It's misleading to carp on about historical accuracy in this context (for instance, why let the odd Antipodean twang bother you when "realism" would demand a mix of Italian and Thracian accents); what's better accomplished here than in many other pretenders to ""gravity" is credibility and emotional resonance. "Having fun with moral entertainment plus added lust and bloodshed": I can't see the problem - and don't imagine Shakespeare would have, either!

What they've basically done is to reinvent, for TV and in a classical context, the good old pre-Shakespeare "Theatre of Blood" - complete with amazing contemporary graphics that combine verisimilitude with a striking, consistent visual style. Ultimately, the results are absolutely beautiful, a Blu-Ray cornucopia of astonishingly lovely pictures teased out of what's essentially a claustrophobic main locale (the ludus, or gladiatorial school) and a very focused tale to tell. Plus a couple of the most genuinely erotic sequences I've seen (especially the masked interlude that concludes with a literally eye-popping bit of skull-cracking...). And there you have it, really...

But there's more. The defiance of convention extends to our expectations never being cheated by the commercial constraints of the serial format and the dreary necessity for "open endings," over-extended plot-lines and falsely extended longevity of bankable characters. They have a lusty, concentrated story to tell; and never once dilute it. Indeed, in the climactic episodes, the wish-fulfilment count is amazingly high, a really determined effort to tie up threads and leave us gagging... for more, even though we know they're going to have to relocate and replace most of the established characters. Another reviewer mentions shouting at the screen during the last moments, and I can see why: fantastic denouement! ("Are they really going to give Aurelia her revenge for Varro... on a kid? Yes they are!") Yup, I confess to much whoopin' and hollerin' myself at that.

And, given the risks of character and performance being swamped in the sea of (amusing) obscenities, violence and sex, Spartacus triumphs again. Andy Whitfield gives us a tremendously solid hero around whose personal saga the intrigues of the ludus and Roman society are spun. John Hannah is great enough to be playful with his role and still give every scene of his a particular edge. Viva Bianca's vixenish Alithyia is pitch-perfect and offers a fine complement to Lucy Lawless' fantastic anti-heroine, Lucretia (these two both feature on some of the consistently excellent, vivacious commentaries you can enjoy, too). The best study for us is Manu Bennett as Crixus: the man gives an extended workshop on the Brute with a Heart and ultimately has us moved by his struggle with love and violence, a hundred and eighty degrees around from where we're launched into his initial presence as a hissable villain - marvellous, sensitive acting from a man with a killer build and obviously honed martial skills.

It's just great. Hats (and togas) off to all concerned. And encore, please!

Kaspersky Internet Security 2011, 3 PC, 1 Year Subscription (PC)
Kaspersky Internet Security 2011, 3 PC, 1 Year Subscription (PC)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Used to be a fan: Kaspersky used to help, not hinder, 13 Mar. 2011
What a shame this release of the otherwise excellent Kaspersky is so sodding slow. Start-up and Outlook: well, if you like to have an otherwise swift PC turn into a "watched pot" whilst the anti-virus lumbers into action, go ahead and get 2011. If there were any way to revert to 2010, believe me, I would, as this version has made an otherwise efficient computer into a wheezing crock. This is clearly a case of KIS resting on its laurels. As I said: shame!

Collected Poems
Collected Poems
by R. F. Langley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.95

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of our finest poets and teachers, 30 Jan. 2011
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This review is from: Collected Poems (Paperback)
The other reviewers say what is to be said about the work. I can tell you about the man: a true inspiration, without whom I wouldn't be able to write or read with the confidence he imbued through his love of language and people. He died a few days ago. Rest in peace, "Rolf"!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 19, 2011 11:05 AM BST

It's the People!: What Really Drives Great Management and Leadership
It's the People!: What Really Drives Great Management and Leadership
by John Dembitz
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Passion and Pith: the best business cocktail, 13 Jan. 2011
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Shakespeare has Polonius (of all people - the Bard loved his ironies!) recommend brevity as "the soul of wit": the first meaning of "wit" to Shakespeare would have been "wisdom." That's right on the money for this book.

Alexander Pope later gave us one of the earliest indications of an evolving connotation for "wit" as "engaging expression," when he spoke of it as "What oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed." This, again, applies perfectly to what John Dembitz presents here: a concentrated but extremely tasty distillation of business intelligence.

Any business peer reading this should be moved, quite rightly, to observe "couldn't have put it better..". And one senses throughout (not really "senses," it's pretty explicit) that putting things into words and putting things into action are inalienable concepts for Mr. Dembitz!

So: back to wit - it's pithy (brief but with all the greater impact for it). It's quick, spare, never lavish; yet revealing and engaging - a sort of "best practice" for conveying ideas. Dembitz' book is bursting with such notions; but very focused on conveying that essential truth - so often reduced to cliché in the engorgement of weighty tomes and verbose gurus - of work: companies are bunches of people before anything else.

Dembitz does a capital (and really witty) job of rescuing that most valuable of realisations from the diluting floodwaters of all those who bang this particular drum without ever really getting to grips with what it actually means in action. Don't look here for whoops and yells and - oh, God - "feelgood" yipees of enthusiasm (another word with a useful older connotation in dilettantism). This book is very much a "real world" guide to business behaviour and lessons from experience.

Much more authentically than many in this arena, Dembitz puts across consistent, unarguable opinions as, well, not opinions but telling anecdotes with advice (oh, all right: action-points) derived thence. All the stories are in the service of doing things right for people at work (and in life, if you pay attention). All the hard-won experience is unerringly pointed at the target of organisational improvement. "Man of Action" doesn't even begin to cover the life in business (and, dare I say, "the business of life") so beautifully portrayed.

As with his views, there is indeed a great deal of the author's admirable character here - but, again, this is way too focused to come across as one of those "me-me" exercises in ego and ostentation. Generous without being lavish describes both the man and his prose.

Far too often, the idea of a "no-nonsense" business approach gets confused with unpleasant, impolite or bullying leadership. Dembitz' book, again, is an object lesson in putting a human face and context to such hackneyed phrases as "Just do it" (the F is silent...) and, a particular favourite, PUtfP (Pick Up the f****** Phone)!

This is a business book that people (well, they are the subject, honestly, for once) can read with pleasure and instruction. Perhaps I can best characterise the style here as one of "stern warmth": I guess that might be Dembitz' take on "firm but fair" and other trite sayings - it certainly gives a flavour of the style, the character and the exceptionally practical content of this book. It puts many "celebrity entrepreneurs" to shame with its honesty.

Finally, Dembitz will not let the reader come away from his words without realising that selling is the core skill in business: what he calls an "evergreen" competence. The beauty of his constant presentation of that knowledge lies in the fact that he keeps it about people. It's one thing to intone "People buy from people"; but quite another to demonstrate the real skill in real time - helping people make good decisions and take useful actions is the honest essence of honest selling, not just a business skill but, when done with generosity and for the common good, an invaluable life skill, too. Dembitz pulls it off here with great aplomb and a very entertaining line in brief, but oh so rich, autobiography. I suspect he would say to you - as, on the strength of this splendid book, he is perfectly entitled to do - Just f Buy It!

The Street: The Complete Series three [DVD] [2009]
The Street: The Complete Series three [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Bob Hoskins
Price: £13.46

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The only cliche you'll encounter with this: "TV doesn't get better" - and it's true, 3 Dec. 2010
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Superlative. Incredibly, this series sustains and builds on the already unmatchable standards of the previous two series. Six engaging stories - of diverting variety and each with the trademark multiple hooks (from a "High Noon" showdown with a thug barred from Bob Hoskins' local, through the story of a determined single mother (a fabulous Anna Friel) compelled into prostitution , via the tale of a soldier disfigured in a suicide bombing, to alcoholism and reluctant bonding with a Downs Syndrome child) - all of this blessed with utterly authentic dialogue and performances from every single actor on screen that quite simply blow away everything else British TV has shown us since the Boys from the Blackstuff. The whole thing culminates in a heart-stopping, moving turn from Timothy Spall, present throughout as a great linking character but ultimately showing us what an absolutely peerless actor he is. Really magnificent work from all involved: six hours' drama of a quality you wouldn't get elsewhere in several years of TV or a long, long time in the cinema. Some disks are recommended as benchmarks for High Definition; I recommend these as the gold standard for every element that constitutes the true art of television theatre. Amazing.

Four Lions - Special Edition [DVD]
Four Lions - Special Edition [DVD]
Dvd ~ Riz Ahmed
Price: £9.48

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The healthiest dose of "sick" humour imaginable, 1 Dec. 2010
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It takes a satirical genius like Chris Morris to provoke useful thoughts like the ones that abound in this splendid film. Perhaps the best is the realisation of the way some young Muslims can find themselves torn between a decent rejection of certain silly, misogynistic anachronisms of their "tradition," only to find themselves with no other option than to be bounced into an extremism that actually resembles the misguided machismo of their "Western" counterparts. It looks like the only "modernity" they can comfortably embrace, given the hardly ideal society in which they find themselves struggling to function (sorry if that sounds like Social Studies-speak: the film puts it across much more eloquently - and amusingly). The film puts clichés (and excuses) such as "alienation" and "isolation" into a context that's both critical and sympathetic, an achievement much bolstered by fine young actors who, with a scalpel-sharp script to work with, manage to be comedic in a way that invites ridicule and pity at the same time: very observant, accurate and empathetic work from all involved. You can always tell real laughter (as opposed to the forced, lazy stuff) by the way it brings people together. This is an intelligently hilarious movie, often painful and touching, too; probably the best way anyone's yet found to deal with a hideous problem in which we're all involved. Plus the best Heimlich Manoeuvre joke ever!

Imogen Heap's Everything In-Between: The Story of Ellipse [DVD]
Imogen Heap's Everything In-Between: The Story of Ellipse [DVD]
Dvd ~ Imogen Heap

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's nice to be a total fan..., 16 Nov. 2010
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...of someone who actually deserves it. Imogen Heap earns our devotion all over again with this entertaining, fascinating insight into her - oh no - "musical prOcess" (with a short "o" for full pretentious effect). No, never fear: the music does, indeed, come first with this immensely talented lady; as ever. But this intimate look into her creation of "Ellipse" is compelling beyond the music, as it's her lovely character that comes across in huge waves of affection, too. This is a great piece of communication in every way, a real lesson to all those "creative rites of passage" artists who trowel on the "suffering for mah music" portentousness without ever letting us know who they really are or giving us a sense that there's some real pleasure to be shared.

The film captures her high spirits and sheer generosity just as acutely as it does her driven, intense application to the music. If "driven" and "intense" make you wince like me, it's probably because of all those aforementioned agonised, inaccessibly dark studies to which we've become accustomed. Don't get me wrong, Immi works harder and deeper than many, most on the current scene: it's just that she has such natural charm as to make even our accompaniment of her through the late-night/early-morning creative marathons feel somehow warm and rewarding. The film does a fantastically empathetic job in generating an honest, absorbing involvement in her music and life and vice-versa as they're the same thing...

We've come to Imogen Heap in what we think is the right order (I don't mean Royal "we," that's me and my wife): music first. Having heard lots of good things, we still hadn't got around to acquiring any albums (probably because I only "do" singer-songwriters under duress) when we saw her with Jeff Beck on his televised Ronnie Scott's appearance. After that, it was straight into the wonderful "Speak for Yourself," "I Megaphone," the lush majesty of Frou-Frou and, most recently, the incredible "Ellipse," whose making is the main subject of the film. Her music is just fabulous: and you can read up elsewhere on the above albums if you're not there yet. Better still, do an Amazonian "also buy" deal with this DVD, get it all done in one, you won't regret it.

So, after devouring the music, we then had the immense pleasure of seeing her live, in Birmingham earlier this year and, more recently, at her exquisite, magical "Evening With" at the Albert Hall on November 5th (DVD in due course, please!). On both occasions, it was with real joy that we discovered that, not only does she do her fine compositions more than justice with rich, vibrant performances - reminiscent, to me, of the miracles achieved by artists like Fourth World (Flora and Airto), huge, original sounds from a few musicians in great rapport - but she's also a most endearing character (which is really hard to get across without sounding all twee, so you're just going to have to get the DVD again as she gets it across much better than I can). "Engaging" is the best word. Or maybe "enchanting..."

In brief, I - we - haven't followed an artist with such enthusiasm for quite a while. Haven't been able to (plus, we're not natural stalkers, anyway; I'm too old). Imogen Heap, however, finally presents us with someone whose talent we can admire and whose dedication and industry we can respect to the max, without shame or fear of, er, fanaticism. If celebrity were meritocracy, Immi would be the most famous musician in the world (as opposed to on the web). That alone, the music, would be enough: but this film does a fabulous, authentic job in hooking us up with a really warm and thoroughly deserving, inspired and inspiring, endlessly giving person as well. I defy anyone to watch this without smiling as readily as you do when encountering a good friend.

Mad Men - Season 3 [Blu-ray]
Mad Men - Season 3 [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Jon Hamm
Offered by wantitcheaper
Price: £9.51

10 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I really wanted to like MM3 as much as MM2...., 24 Jun. 2010
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...but then, I really wanted to like Series 2 as much as Series 1. You do the math: diminishing returns. If you're contemplating Series 3 then you've probably seen the first two. If, like me, you found attention - yours and the writers - drifting towards the end of 2, then I'm afraid you're in for a further lapse in the latest outing (whilst if you weren't bothered by the loss of direction and irritating fillers as Series 2 finished, then you'll probably find nothing wrong with 3 either).

In 3, the digressions and padding come in between the best episodes that top and tail the season. At its best, of course, Mad Men outshines most other current TV output. You could allow that, even at worst, it's "still better than..." But my personal take is that any flaws come over all the more annoyingly when expectations are set so high; one gets less forgiving when the evidence of much greater capability has been so rich. Indeed, we made what was probably the mistake of rewatching Series 2 in delicious anticipation of 3 arriving. We forgave the silliness towards the end of Season 2. Little did we know.

The problems now are the same that tend to beset programmes more obviously requiring inflation, the likes of Lost and 24 - you know, the need to fill things out. So, in MM3, we get Don pulling at least one too many "lost weekend" excursions into transit and adultery (the last of which, with a "spiritual" teacher, is so risible it required an otherwise unthinkable Fast Forward through its more turgid moments). Come to think of it, we actually had to Rewind to check that this latest dalliance did, indeed, end with the lady just left out in a car whilst the season resumed its dreary course (that would be a spoiler, I know; were it not for the fact that things were already spoiled).

The writers seem to forget that the stuff we really love in Mad Men, the office, the ads, the established characters, the Roger Sterling one-liners, the amazing study that is Pete Campbell, Joan, Peggy... well, that's we want more of, not the unnecessary distractions of yet another constipated foray for Don or the soapy stuff with Betsy's family or irrelevant and ephemeral characters and plotlines drifting vapidly in and out of matters. The real tragedy is that these "new" ideas are so increasingly irksome that, when we finally do get back to the office, we've lost interest.

What a waste. I'm probably overstating it because I regard Mad Men so highly at its best. There's still much to enjoy here. But really: massive return to discipline required for Series 4, if and when! Get it and watch for continuity; enjoy the highlights; tune out the lows. Fingers crossed.

Oh - Blu-Ray: don't bother for this one (I' wish I'd had 1 and 2 in that format, as they truly were "made for Hi-Def"; but not this time, thanks).
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 29, 2011 5:42 PM BST

Feel (Dig)
Feel (Dig)
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £10.13

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essence of jazz-rock! with no small dash of the Dukey-funk to come, too!, 19 Jan. 2010
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This review is from: Feel (Dig) (Audio CD)
Back in the 70s it was good to answer the question on your favourite musical style with an unashamed: "Jazz-Rock!"

People dallied with "Fusion" and dithered over "Funk" - but it was albums like this that came to the rescue; all you had to do was put them on and groove.

If you wanted to hear Jazz-Rock-Fusion in its funkiest possible form, no-one did it like George Duke. Here's the proof, swooningly available again after years off disk. The production is immaculate, the musicianship sublime.

I mean, who's going to argue with Zappa (under the playfully obscure Afronym "Obdewl'l IX") soloing like Woodstock in the middle of a mellow Latin number? Or the magnificent Ndugu (Leon Chancler) hitting his drums with such wonderful precision, power, speed and sheer good taste? Or Airto, hitting everything with a skill and magic no-one's ever replicated, nor ever will? Or Mrs. Airto (Flora Purim) contributing her glorious, beautiful voice?

Most of all, there's no argument at all with George Duke's power at the keyboards. This album has some of the funkiest, grooviest, coolest, loveliest synth and Fender Rhodes ever recorded, whether in immaculately-constructed ensemble workouts or the even more sublime extempore moments (such as, unbeatably, George's incredible, restrained but hair-raising little jam with Ndugu on Cora Jobege).

Fantastic. Duke does great love songs, too, his voice a charming, luxurious growl, with a timbre near Barry White but with extra flexibility. But what should sell you this great album, once again, is the musicianship.

A great platform, too, for a trip into George's other work, often more refined than the raw stuff here but always with an intellectual edge to it, Latin, Jazz, Funk, Rock and Pop, even - all of the above elevated to Big Respect on account of the talent and experience involved. And showcased here in a thrilling, immediate, adventurous form.

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