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pjr (London, England)

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Moonrise Kingdom [DVD] [2012]
Moonrise Kingdom [DVD] [2012]
Dvd ~ Bruce Willis
Price: £3.00

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Little Film, 13 Jan. 2013
Billed as Wes Anderson's return to live action film after a five year absence, Moonrise Kingdom has a starry (if slightly hip) cast and an interesting sounding story to tell. Anderson has a leftfield approach to cinema which nods towards the arty which has made him one of the more interesting and adventurous directors working in mainstream Hollywood cinema. What we get is a strange and touching portrait of first love against the odds.

Despite a big name cast the stars of this film are the two young leads, Kara Haywood and Jared Gilman, who play a couple of children who meet briefly one summer whilst Gilman's character is camping on the island where Haywood lives. One year on they plan to meet again running away to a remote part of the island to spend a week together. Upon this discovery the adults and the rest of the scout campers (who don't really like the boy) set off to find them. The story has a twist in that all are unaware of the fact that a severe storm is just 48 hours from hitting land and creating havoc.

This is a gently played film in which the adults all seem to have exaggerated personas which fits the idea that the film not only has child protagonists but also sees the rest of the world from their point of view. The effect is sometimes comic but it is charming throughout. It is a little disorientating but if you're prepared to let yourself go with it, this is a gem of a film.

The young leads are slightly awkward and faintly dysfuntional and played excellently. Their love for each other is strong and filled with innocence. The adults seem more troubled people Edward Norton, as the scout leader, is particularly excellent and Bruce Willis, playing the island's only law enforcement, puts in a nicely understated performance. Frances McDormand plays the mother convincingly and seems the only adult capable of rational thought. There's also a lovely cameo from Tilda Swinton as a meniacal Social Services officer, to highlight a few of the excellent performances.

There's the usual imaginative camerawork and the set (as in all of Anderson's films) has the effect of being played in a doll's house. However many times this is done it remains a jawdroppingly clever visual effect. The film will seem slow in its pacing to some. It builds on the story and its charm, more than pace and action. That said the climax does have a real sense of drama and excitement.

Moonrise Kingdom is a lovely story (nominated for an Oscar for the screenplay) and a beautiful evocation of the innocence of your first love. It's execution is quirky and offbeat and is wonderfully bought to life by Wes Anderson.

Che - Part One and Part Two [DVD]
Che - Part One and Part Two [DVD]
Dvd ~ Julia Ormond
Price: £8.09

4.0 out of 5 stars An Engrossing Study, 3 Jan. 2013
Portraying the life of someone as iconic as Che Guevara isn't an easy task. He was a well educated man dedicated to an internationalist almost Lenninesque form of Marxism and a man who clearly believed the revolution should be both perpetual and perpetuated wherever it could be. Stephen Soderburg's two part biograpy is a long account focusing on some key elements of the life of the man they called Che.

Part One focuses on the battle to start the revolution in Cuba. Che is often seen as a key player in this although, as the film attests, this wasn't the case in the early stages. Fidel Castro comes across as a less impressively charismatic character who sees Guevara as the doctor and not someone who should be placed in charge of men on the front line. As the film shows, he earns the trust of Castro and is an impressive tactician and a brave fighter and leader of his men.

Insight in this part is gained from intercuts taken during a visit to New York in 1964 where Guevara has been invited to speak before the general council of the United Nations during a debate on Cuba and Central America. Using this speech, and interviews from the time, insight is provided into both Che and the battle to take Cuba. Here we see an unconventional man and an unapologetic revolutionary. Played excellently throughout be Benicio Del Torro the passion and charisma of the man shine through. As the battle develops we build through the cuts to the debate and the speech, followed by an equally passionately uncompromising rebuttal of remarks from the American ambassador and those from Panama and Mexico.

What Soderburg achieves is to get across the message and the passion without swamping the whole thing in political diatribes. At no time is this dogmatic or wearisomely idealistic in its tone. The idealist is the wonderful Del Toro as Che. His charisma is shown in the Cuban scenes when he regularly walks out with his armed men and confronts the villagers with a shake of the hand and an explanation of what they are trying to achieve. The effect on the unsuspecting villagers is wonderfully disarming.

The second part focuses solely on the campaign in Bolivia during 1967, which resulted in Che's death. The film opens with the resigantion letter and explanation that Che wants to take the fight and the revolution elsewhere. We then cut to Bolivia and the focus on the attempt to bring about an armed conflict which seems doomed to fail from the beginning.

Soderburg manages to make the slowly unfolding disaster of the trip utterly compelling viewing. Che, wracked by asthma, is single minded and wilful. He is surrounded by less experienced men than those in Cuba and their loyalty is the key bond. The plot follows The Bolivian Diary: The Authorised Edition pretty faithfully and is as hopeless and futile as the book itself is.

There are far more faults with the second film than the first, yet it is by far the more compelling piece. This isn't the epic the first one tries to be. This is grubby, claustrophobic and futile. Its key flaw is the barely mentioned African adventure which had failed in very similar circumstances to the ulitimate failure of the Bolivian one. Like Marx's own view of history, it seem Che learned nothing from his mistakes. Yet this film doesn't give more than a couple of lines to the African attempt. It does make the story seem more compelling but it does feel slightly dishonest too. It is a factual account which depicts the events yet stays outside the inner mind of Che. It makes it more interesting and engrossing because of this. The viewer here is free to interpret the action in their own way and not just through the eyes of the central protaganist. A bold move and one which takes the edge of the flaw.

The other hollow note is a small but significant detail. The second part is based on meticulous and detailed diary entries and yet throughout the film there is not one shot of one page of the diary being written. This is clearly the primary source material for this film and it just seems a little peculiar that not one word of it is seen being committed to paper.

This is a work of some ambition. Its result is two very good films which are dovetailled by Del Toro's brilliant performance. The films are quite a challenge to watch back to back but both serve as great pieces when seen on their own. The first is an exciting and intresting look into the mind of a revolutionary, whilst the second (although flawed) provides a captivating look at a mission doomed to fail and is the better of two highly watchable films depicting the life of an iconic revolutionary.

The Best Of Disco Demands - A Collection Of Rare 1970S Dance Music - Compiled By Al Kent
The Best Of Disco Demands - A Collection Of Rare 1970S Dance Music - Compiled By Al Kent

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Selection From The Disco Underground, 16 Dec. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Disco means different things to different people. For some it's an excuse to see the 70's as kitsch, others site it as a low point in black music culture - killing of jazz and soul music in the process - whilst others see an inventive and forward looking genre, a much maligned and hugely influential on many modern genres from dance, to Hip-Hop. It's the commercial end that most think of when talking of Disco, but there was a lot of music produced that wasn't successful at the time as it produced a rush of music some of which has languished in utter obscurity. Like its predecessor, Northern Soul, it has been plundered for the most obscure tracks so DJs can show off something that sounds totally new, as well as providing bragging rights on something no one else has.

The "Disco Demands" collection sets out to find stuff many people won't own and, in a lot of cases, ever heard or heard of. The Disco Underground movement is filled with such moments but seriously, who really wants to own five albums of obscure 70's disco, much of it sourced from the vinyl due to no one having any idea where to begin looking for the master tapes? Compiler Al Kent is up for the challenge.

These kind of albums are generally hit and miss, with a fair amount of forgettable material which justifies its return back to obscurity, not the case here. Considering there is about 5 hours' worth of music stuck on here this is a very high return. It is, at times, refreshing low fi in both sound and construction. Much of this put out by obscure little labels very much in the tradition of the Northern Soul scene. Liberal use of strings, multi-voiced choruses, plenty of hi-hats, and percussion to keep the interest high.

The quality is surprisingly good. It's not always as tight as the top end material (but not everyone can boast Nile Rogers, Bernard Edwards, and Tony Thompson as a rhythm section) but there is plenty of melody and a sense of the modern about it. There is plenty of spacey disco to be found here and some absolute gems.

Althea Forrest & Togetherness' "Hey Mister" is a fantastic funky stomper, as is The Legal Defense's "Disco Stomp" which has a very housey rhythm track which has a wonderful 21st Century feel about it. There are some fun almost novelty pieces which actually sound very good, "Doctor Dunk" is basketball themed funk, whilst "Disco Socks" by Omni is a very pointed attack at the people who killed disco. It's a great funky, flute driven gem which deserves its place here and a wider audience. There is literally masses of good stuff here, some of it not quite as obscure as others. The Universal Robot Band (one of Patrick Adams many alias) make an appearance with "Disco Boogie Woman" which whilst not vintage Adams is still a very good - sounding a bit like a cross between the Lafayette Afro Rock Band and Crown Heights Affair. Possibly the best known track here is "I've Been Searching" by Arts & Crafts which many may know from being on Jungle Music here is a totally different version which almost falls apart during its lengthy opening but is probably worth the extremely reasonably priced admission on its own. It's a great collection.

Some have criticised the cover art, which is quite explicit and borderline soft porn, but the music here is too good to colour judgements. It may not be aesthetically pleasing to some but it would be a shame to base all of one's opinions on a collection of photographs when it's the music which is the reason for purchase here.

There is far too much to mention all of the great music (a selection of tracks based around the dance The Rock are worth a quick mention)suffice to say it's worth investing the time. This is a wonderful collection many new to it will wish they'd owned for years. Dodgy artwork notwithstanding, this is one of the finest re-issued collections of 2012 and an absolute must have for anyone with a love of the obscure end of disco.

Breakout Nations: In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracles
Breakout Nations: In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracles
by Ruchir Sharma
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars The Future? Maybe..., 12 Dec. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Ruchir Sharma could just have written something of the Nostrdamus of the decade, as "Breakout Nations" looks at where the big economic success stories of the next 10 years may come from. This is a book which tries to do the impossible, predicting which nations may join, or rise near to, the world's economic top table. Predictions such as these are fraught with danger. Even a veritible organisation such as the Bank Of England admits it was caught by surprise by the events of the past half decade, so how could one person possibly try and predict the next 10 years?

Well, Sharma does have some credentials (somewhat less complacent than the aforementioned British institution) and as a globe travelling fund manager he's certainly gone there and seen the potential as a regular visitor to all corners of the developing globe. It is this experience which underpins this book. Here the arguements are given, along with statistics, and some anecdotal insight into why Sharma thinks the nations included may perform or, in some cases, not perform as well as the prevailing wisdom might accept.

Sharma is a regular contributior to a number of respectable publications, as well as being a very successful member of the financial community, and his journalistic instinct prevents this being an overly involved work. Instead it is fact filled and written in a spare and concise way which is informative and engaging. He tells a good tale, sets a good arguement and sheds light on some places that don't necessarily spring out as the next big thing in the upcoming economic powers.

Throughout there is an air of caution and nothing is explained as simply something which will happen as a matter of course. It's a balanced read and not one where people will find the path to the next million. That said it provides insight for the novice and some facts for those who like their data. Although it would have been nice if the data was set next to the text (or nation) it referred to, a minor gripe but one which does become a little tiresome as the book progresses.

Predicting the future is a folly, but using experience and fact to consider possiblities is wise. Sharma adopts the latter approach and produces a book which provides some credible insight into a thoroughly unpredictable world.

AmazonBasics 60-Inch Lightweight Tripod with Bag
AmazonBasics 60-Inch Lightweight Tripod with Bag
Price: £16.09

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice If A Little Cheap Looking, 11 Dec. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As a budget price small tripod this is a perfectly acceptable product. Easy to assemble and attatch a camera too, it is also steady on most surfaces. The bag is handy and well fitting. The downside is that that it is plastic and does feel rather cheap. For someone looking for something unshowy, and practical this is a useful piece of kit. If a small, affordable tripod is what you require this is adequate enough to do the job. Functional rather than flashy.

Eset Smart Security (2011)/PC/3 user/1 year/Boxed product
Eset Smart Security (2011)/PC/3 user/1 year/Boxed product

4.0 out of 5 stars A Solid Performer, 11 Dec. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
ESET is easy to install and one of the most unobtrusive packages I've ever tried. It is fast scanning and seems to be keeping my PC in reasonably good shape. It doesn't provide endless updates of re-writes but it does check every single thing you put into your machine, or try and run.

The downside is that it doesn't seem to provide the opportunity to scan automatically or remind you to do so on a regular basis. It's a small point but it does not endear this as much as some others.

That said this is a solid package. There is no discernable effect on performance and it doesn't stop you from doing things you want to do - at least for more than a moment.

Overall this a perfectly respectable product which does all it says it should.

The Wrong Man [1956] [DVD]
The Wrong Man [1956] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Alfred Hitchcock
Offered by The Retro Cave
Price: £8.94

5.0 out of 5 stars A Darkly Pleasing Slice Of Hitchcock, 1 Dec. 2012
This review is from: The Wrong Man [1956] [DVD] (DVD)
Made in 1956, "The Wrong Man" seems like something of a curio in Alfred Hitchcock's film canon. Compare "The Wrong Man" to anything else Hitchcock made in the 50's is difficult as this film sticks out as being a very different story and a very different film. This is much more nuanced, lacking much of the drama and tension of the other films made by Hitchcock at the time.

Based on a true story, "The Wrong Man" traces the story of a bass player wrongly accused of a series of violent robberies in New York. Starring Henry Fonda, as the wrongly accused, and Vera Miles, as his wife, the film follows the investigation, accusation, and subsequent trial. Told without the trademark dramatic tensions this is a more serious, sombre piece of work. Fonda is almost blank, his performance a modicom of restraint. There are few moments where he lets the facade drop, one notable one when he confronts his son after being released by the police after being charged. Even when his wife, excellently played by Vera Miles, descends into depression he reamains utterly stoic.

Miles's breakdown is seen by some as the most difficult part of the story to understand but when looking the film as a whole as a study of Catholic guilt, it is much easier to understand. Throughout the film Fonda's character is not without his rosary. From the prison cell (where it is the only thing the policeman lets him keep) to the courthouse, it is never far away. This is a study of guilt, and a deeply personal film for its director. Hitchcock was haunted by an episode where he was locked in a police cell for a few hours at the age of five. This film clearly faces the considerations of that incident head on.

Its style is also very much at odds with the other movies Hitchcock was making at the time. It looks and feels very different. Shot in black and white, and including some lovely shots of New York, it has a dark feel which brings to mind a noirish feel. Yet it isn't noir as there is no really famme fatale and the total lack of melodrama prevent that conclusion. It is much more in line with European cinema of the time. This would fit nicely into the Italian neo-realist films and the then burgeoning nouvelle vague of French cinema, eaisly comprable with an early Goddard, Rossellini, or Truffaut movie. From its almost documentary look and feel, to its understated natural acting style, this is a nod to the people taking a lot of inspiration from one of their biggest influences.

That this film wasn't a hit should come as no revelation. It is a beautifully restrained piece of film making which can be seen as one of Hitchcock's stylistic experiments. Yet, as the excellent documentary included as a bonus attests, there are many reasons to view and enjoy this interesting and understated film, showing another side to the work of Alfred Hitchcock.

Grand 12-Inches Vol.9
Grand 12-Inches Vol.9
Price: £21.03

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Grand Selection, 10 Nov. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Grand 12-Inches Vol.9 (Audio CD)
Ben Liebrand's series of finely sourced and mastered tracks from the disco era and beyond reaches its ninth set. Here is the usual collection of tracks in as pristine form as he can find. This is a very personal series as Liebrand attests, on his website, the songs all have a special place in his heart. Anyone familiar with these collections will know what they are getting, an unusual and sometimes puzzling selection always containing something you won't necesssarily know, something you love, and something you have been after for some time.

This set doesn't disappoint on any front yet it seems to have a somewhat stronger track selection than some of its more recent sets. The strength is in a generous selection of tracks from the Prelude label (many haven't been easily available on CD for a good while). The early sets leaned heavily on this excellent label and its nice to see some of its best output here to fill in some gaps. Best of the lot are the densely funky "Body Music" by The Strikers and Unique's "What I Got Is What You Need" both examples of great post-disco dance music. Two hits from Bobby Thurston and D Train's excellent "Music" plus a hard to find mix of Skyy's "Let's Celebrate" demonstrate the quality here.

Other great addtions aren't so easy to find. Earth, Wind, & Fire's 12" version of "Getaway" (one of their finest ever songs) is very welcome as is the 12" version of Patrice Rushen's "Forget Me Nots" which stretches out for almost 8 minutes. Finally there's Geraldine Hunt's classic "Can't Fake The Feeling" which is difficult to find easily, and always has been.

There are some which really don't excite too much and seem curious additions to the set. Whistle's "Just Buggin'" manages to sound interesting for about one and a half minutes and then reverts to irritating novelty hit mode whilst Godley & Creme's "Cry" seems to have been tagged onto the end of the first disc. Nice, not really essential in an extended format. The same could be said of the 17 plus minutes of Gary's Gang's "Makin' Music". It's pleasant enough but really about twice as long as it really needs to be. Most of the rest of the oddities (Tina Turner and Salt 'N' Pepa, for example) come off pretty well.

Compared to other editions this one contains less in the way of filler material, upping the quality levels and including a lot more hard to find tracks than has been the case in last few editions. The most widely available tracks here are the ones from Salsoul records although Liebrand has plumped for more tracks the label licensed (Silvetti's lovely "Spring Rain" and electronic stomper "War Dance" by Kebekelekrik) than their home grown product.

Truth is volume 9 has a lot to offer and much to recommend. A big improvement on some of the more recent volumes in that it really does contain a lot of material which is very hard to find and is, much more often than not, of very high quality. There are some tracks which could be swapped easily but I'm sure this won't be the last volume in this interesting and high quality series.

Return To Soul City
Return To Soul City
Offered by westworld-
Price: £14.98

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Collection Of Soul Music From The Disco Era, 3 Nov. 2012
This review is from: Return To Soul City (Audio CD)
After the success of last year's Soul City [+Digital booklet] comes a sequel. In this edition the timescale moves to focus on the mid/late 70's period and again crams on many great songs, pretty much all of them spending time in the British pop charts.

The biggest challenge for the compilers here is that dreaded beast Disco. By 1975 the sound of dance music was beginning to morph into what soon would become one of the defining genres of the decade. Disco's roots can be found in both the first edition of this compilation and also throughout this. The real success of this set is how neatly it sidesteps being a full blown Disco album. Here the music is firmly rooted in the soulful end of proceedings.

There are many tracks here which could be classed as having had a major influence on the way the disco movement progressed but there is barely a hint of mirrorball, it's all to soulful for that. A good example of this is the choice of The Jackson's earliest post-Motown hit "Show Me The Way To Go" and no sign of "Blame It On The Boogie". There are songs here which would fit well into discos - contributions from Odyssey, Heatwave, Candi Station, Rose Royce, and The Blackbyrds, for example - but each of these has a funky and soulful edge to them which appealed equally to old soul fans who'd rather drink a pint of glitter than be seen dead in a disco.

The set tries hard to find songs not widely available on such collections but this era has been so well represented in the past that the task must have been much harder than on the first outing. Yet there are some less well represented tracks. Raydio's sublime "Jack & Jill", The Detriot Emeralds "Feel The Need In Me", "Misty Blue" by Dorothy Moore, and "Baby Don't Change Your Mind" by Gladys Knight & The Pips, which deserves to be far better remembered than it is.

Those slections higlight one method used to remain in the soul corner, there are a lot more ballads on this collection than the first one. Aside from Dorothy Moore, there are ballads from The Delphonics, The Manhattans, Denice Williams, and a good few more besides. The great thing is that they are all just about the best you could wish for and clearly chosen with care.

The one other point worth mentioning is unsung hero of this collection. Whilst most artists with a more than one good song are permitted two tracks here, producer Van McCoy gets the most. He's behind the mixing desk on around 5 tracks here, having provided not only his own sterling contributions but also worked on tracks here by Gladys Knight and The Stylistics.

Overall this set provides almost as many pleasures as the first set. It's funky, soulful, and packed with the hits of the time, neatly sidestepping the lights of the mirrorball of pure disco in favour of something with a little more soul.

A Boy's Own Odyssey-Acid House Scrapes & Capers
A Boy's Own Odyssey-Acid House Scrapes & Capers
Offered by mrtopseller
Price: £6.00

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Boy's Own Story Of Junior Boys Own, 28 Oct. 2012
JBO was one of the most innovative and original British dance labels to grow up during the 90's, highlighting the rise and rise of club culture and its gradual invasion of the charts. Over 2 lengthy CDs the label's story is stretched out with love, care, and great music.

The story begins with the roots of the label and the people who made it all happen. As a consequence this isn't just about the record label (as that was just the result of a collective deciding upon another way to express themselves). Many of the included tracks weren't even on the label itself, but by the people who were central in its development and creation. It was a lot more than just the label, and here is the proof.

Early examples include Primal Scream and Happy Mondays which are seminal moments in the development of dance culture in the UK. Although Junior Boy's Own is a dance label its existence was thanks to understanding where the boundaries between indie/rock and dance could blur and connect. Primal Scream's "Loaded", here in its majestic Terry Farley mix form, is a classic example. The fact that there are also ones from James and The Farm there as well just illustrates the point further.

As the music develops, and the time moves forward, the music moves more consciously towards mainstream dance. The inclusion of Outrage's lovely "That Piano Track", Pete Heller's "Big Love", "In Your Bones" by Fire Island and Farley & Heller's "Ultra Flava" are great examples of this. It also higlights the diversity and fragmented nature of the scene. The inclusion of The Chemical Brother's monumental "Leave Home" - a definitive Big Beat anthem - and The Ballistic Brothers "I'll Fly Away", a magical Drum 'n' Bass track show this perfectly.

This is a great history of a label and a scene itself. The track selection is a nice mix of familiar big hits and underground anthems. Something here for most people and a garuntee that if you were out and about in the 90's you may well have leapt about to at least one of these. A great way to celebrate an inspired label at a ridiculously cheap price.

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