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Unplugged
Unplugged
Offered by TOMMY's STORE
Price: £19.07

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Barenaked Blues., 2 Nov. 2008
This review is from: Unplugged (Audio CD)
The debate whether, when learning to play the guitar, you should begin with an acoustic or an electric instrument, is probably as old as the history of the electric guitar itself; regardless which event you associate most strongly with its invention, and which of the enterprising souls who began experimenting with the amplification of the six-string sound way back in the 1930s you most credit therewith. Many find the sound of an electric guitar more impressive than that of an acoustic; and I'll freely admit that few pieces of music make my inner membranes resonate as instinctively as those featuring a really well-played e-guitar solo. Purists, however, argue passionately in favor of the acoustic guitar, and maintain that you're simply not going to learn to play "cleanly" if you don't start out that way. And there is definitely something to be said for that, because it is much easier to conceal a sloppily-played chord behind an electric guitar's amplified volume or a clever-sounding solo (or behind both) than in the unadulterated sound of an acoustic guitar. The discussion about the early 1990s' trend towards "unplugged" recordings centers around similar arguments. Some pieces of music are of course simply not meant to ever be played on an acoustic guitar. Others, however, live from their amplified soundeffects more than from their intrinsic musical values, and they simply fizzle when reduced to their core and performed acoustically.

And then there is that rare category of pieces which sound equally fantastic both ways, and that rare category of players who manage to dazzle you regardless what type of instrument they're playing. Eric Clapton is such a musician, and some of the songs on the playlist of his "Unplugged" album are such pieces of music. Most notable among those, of course, is "Layla," Clapton's intensely personal dedication to one-time wife Patty Boyd; written in 1970 and at a time when he saw no chance of ever winning her for himself. From the memorable opening riff of the song's original recording to its guitar solos, screaming with despair, it is extremely hard to imagine how this song could ever work in an acoustic version. Yet on a whim and at the last minute, Clapton decided to include it in the "Unplugged" playlist. And transposed by a full octave, reduced to a languid and almost upbeat, somewhat jazzy blues rhythm, it works out wonderfully; and Layla/ Patty finds herself miraculously transformed from an object of desire to one of reflection instead. In fact, that track alone, which won the 1992 Grammy as Best Rock Song, turned out to be responsible for a good share of the enormous popularity of this album which (together with 1989's "Journeyman") reestablished Clapton as an artist to reckon with, after his career had threatened to slump over the course of much of the previous decade. And similarly responsible for the success of "Unplugged" was the inclusion of another and more recent piece performed from the bottom of Clapton's soul, the triple Grammy winning "Tears in Heaven;" dedicated to his son Conor who had tragically died after falling from the open window of a 53rd floor apartment in New York City the preceding year. (The studio version of that song is contained on the soundtrack of the movie "Rush," likewise released in 1992.)

But "Unplugged" is to large extents a classic blues album, from the twelve-bar rhythm of Bo Diddley's "Before You Accuse Me" (featuring only Eric Clapton himself and one of the most modest and supremely talented living guitarists, Clapton's trusted friend and touring partner Andy Fairweather Low) to Jimmy Cox's "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" (the second cut besides "Layla" from the famous album recorded under the name Derek and the Dominos), Delta Blues king Robert Johnson's "Walkin' Blues" and "Malted Milk," Jesse Fuller's upbeat "San Francisco Bay Blues," and the traditionals "Alberta" and "Rollin' and Tumblin'" (the latter, here attributed to the great Chess blues man M[cKinley] Morganfield a/k/a Muddy Waters, who made it famous). Three more of Eric Clapton's own compositions stand out among the songs which round up the album's playlist: the introductory lighthearted "Signe," which reflects his love of Brazilian music, the melancholic "Lonely Stranger" and finally "Old Love," a cut from 1989's "Journeyman."

Few white artists understand as well as Eric Clapton that the blues thrives, first and foremost, on a live atmosphere - preferably in a smaller setting like the one used for this recording, which allows for plenty of spontaneous interaction between stage and audience. And few artists are as unafraid of the gaffes that are almost invariably associated with a live appearance, even in the case of Clapton and his outstanding backup band; and manage, time and again, to turn them into a light moment. The garbled beginning of "Alberta" is an excellent example here; you can almost hear Clapton grinning when he says "Hang on, hang on, hang on" and simply starts over. Similarly, "Layla" is merely introduced with the words "See if you can spot this one" - and instantly greeted with the enthusiastic cheers of an audience which doesn't even need to hear the famous five notes of the song's introductory riff to recognize it.

Asked whether he, too, would ever consider an "unplugged" appearance, e-guitar legend Jeff Beck, who with Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page forms the trinity of "guitar gods" that emerged from Great Britain's famous Yardbirds, reportedly once responded that he couldn't imagine such a thing because it would make him feel "naked." And listening to Eric Clapton's "Unplugged" album, you can't shake the impression that Beck does have a point. These are pure, naked blues songs, supremely performed - and a pure joy to listen to.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 22, 2013 8:04 PM GMT


From the Cradle
From the Cradle
Offered by Founders Factory JPN4UK
Price: £18.62

5.0 out of 5 stars About retracing one's steps, one blue note at a time., 2 Nov. 2008
This review is from: From the Cradle (Audio CD)
"All along this path I tread, my heart betrays my weary head; with nothing but my love to save, from the cradle to the grave ..." Summing up his thoughts on a recently failed relationship, Eric Clapton jotted down these words one night in early 1994, and they eventually made their way into the cover booklet of the album he released later that same year, the last line also providing the album's title. And "there's anger and love and fear on this record," Clapton told Billboard Magazine about the self-evaluation he was undergoing at the time, explaining that in recording this album, he had sought to once and for all break the - partially self-imposed - barriers and trappings of fame and fortune, girls and glamour, drugs and booze, in order to just "get out and ... say what I want to say, be what I want to be [and] love what I want to love."

What he had loved from his earliest years on, of course, was the blues; and a real blues album was thus what he had always wanted to record - ever since his days with the Yardbirds (which he left when they strayed towards more mainstream, commercial sounds) and with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, the training ground for much of Britain's blues elite of the 1960s and 1970s. So in a major way, this album constitutes a return to Eric Clapton's roots.

At the same time, however, it is a marvelous tribute to the artists on whose influence Clapton builds to this day, and who first made the songs recorded here famous. Like any good blues album, "From the Cradle" was recorded live in the studio: with the exception of some dobro and drum overdub on "How Long Blues" and "Motherless Child" respectively, all vocals and instrumental parts are the pure, unadulterated product of the recording sessions involved. With or without extended solos, Clapton's guitar work is stellar as always, and his vocals are as raw and rough as hardly ever before. He may not actually outgrowl the great Chess and Delta Blues men - listen to his 2001 album "Riding With the King" with B.B. King or to Muddy Waters's 1977 version of "Hoochie Coochie Man" if you have any doubts - but this truly becomes apparent only in direct comparison with them, and it really says more about those other musicians than it does about Clapton himself. If it were not for the fact that many of the recordings on this album have long become classics in their own right and that Clapton's voice is not easily confused with that of any other artist in the first place, I'm almost certain that you could fool a fair number of people into believing that they were listening to an album recorded 40 years or even longer ago in Chicago or Memphis. This is the real thing, folks, no question about it; and it is performed with as much skill as soul by Eric Clapton and a tremendous group of musicians consisting of Dave Bronze (bass), Jim Keltner (drums), Andy Fairweather Low (guitar), Jerry Portnoy (harmonica), Chris Stainton (keyboards), Roddy Lorimer (trumpet) and Simon Clarke and Tim Sanders (saxophone) - many of the well-known to Clapton's live audiences the world over as well.

In selecting the songs for this album, Eric Clapton purposely chose the most intense blues songs he could think of, not even shying away from classics that he had heretofore considered "untouchable," like Muddy Waters's (or actually, Willie Dixon's) aforementioned "Hoochie Coochie Man." And in a not entirely surprising turn, they - and "Hoochie Coochie Man" in particular - soon became fixtures in his own live appearances as much as they had been fixtures in the appearances of the artists who had first made them famous, from Leroy Carr's "Blues Before Sunrise" and "How Long Blues" to Lowell Fulson's "Reconsider Baby" and "Sinner's Prayer," Eddie Boyd's "Five Long Years," James Lane's "Goin' Away Baby" and "Blues Leave Me Alone," Elmore James's "It Hurts Me Too," Freddie King's "Someday After a While," another famous Muddy Waters tune, "Standin' Round Crying," and the concluding, aptly titled "Groaning the Blues." And all colors of this blues kaleidoscope also represent shades and aspects of Eric Clapton's own life, because, as he told Billboard, all of them have had a certain meaning to him at some point or another. In that sense, the album is a very personal one - maybe not quite as much as the 1970 Derek and the Dominos recording "Layla and Other Assorted Lovesongs," one of the earliest and biggest highlights of Clapton's career, but certainly close; in expressing "the thing I've loved from day one, the most exciting and satisfying thing I've known."

Coming on the heels of 1989's "Journeyman" and 1992's hugely successful "Unplugged," which had redefined the standards by which acoustic recordings were measured and, in the process, had also given an unexpectedly new meaning to the title track of "Layla," "From the Cradle" was one of a trilogy of albums which injected new life into Clapton's career and ensured that his fans would be able to enjoy his immeasurable contributions to the world of music for - at least - another decade. In 1991, Clapton had also recorded the soundtrack for the movie "Rush," arguably yet another very personal project, and released a CD documenting his marathon 24 live appearances at Royal Albert Hall, appropriately named "24 Nights." And while any Eric Clapton album will to a certain extent be an expression of the point where he sees himself and his career at the time of the recording, it's all about the music again now, and about the joy of playing. Nothing shows this clearer than his dual 2001 releases "Reptile" and "Riding With the King." "From the Cradle" was an important stepping stone in getting to this point, and I am glad we have been allowed, yet again, to share in that experience. Thank you, Eric!


Gandhi [DVD]
Gandhi [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ben Kingsley
Offered by Qoolist
Price: £8.98

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Soul's life., 2 Nov. 2008
This review is from: Gandhi [DVD] (DVD)
It all began simple enough - with the purchase of a first class train ticket by Mr. Mohandas Gandhi, Esq., recently arrived in South Africa, and unaware that as an Indian, he was required to travel third class and not entitled to such a ticket. Literally thrown off the train for his transgression, the young attorney, embodied to perfection by Ben Kingsley, spent a full night sitting on the platform, musing how best to respond to such discrimination. Shortly thereafter, and after consultations with established members of his community, he wrote his first treatises and organized his first demonstrations. And when participants of a protest assembly stood up and proclaimed their willingness to die in the fight against suppression, Gandhi once and for all formulated his doctrine of nonviolent protest: "They may torture my body, break my bones; even kill me. Then they will have my dead body - not my obedience."

Shot largely on four Indian locations, Richard Attenborough's nine-time Oscar-winning biography of Gandhi is a sweeping epic that takes the viewer back to Britain's colonial past, covering all major events of Gandhi's political career from its beginnings in South Africa to the March to the Sea and India's independence, and contrasting the luxurious lifestyle of the foreign rulers with the poverty of those they governed; that India which, as Gandhi soon realized, not only the British didn't understand, but whose population also could not have cared less about the activities of the Indian Congress Party, at the time little more than a group of well-to-do city dwellers mentally and socially almost as far removed from the rest of their country as the British. Twenty years in the making, the movie is clearly reverential of Gandhi's genius, and of the man whose symbolic growth was reverse parallel to his retreat into simplicity, and who for that very reason, and because of his unfaltering commitment to nonviolence on the one hand and India's independence on the other hand, accomplished what only few people would otherwise have thought possible: to convince the world's biggest colonial power to give up the crown jewel among its colonies; and to do so in a gesture of friendship and without civil war. The one aspect of Gandhi's life that falls a bit short here is the effect that his overbearing symbolic status had on his family life, which necessarily had to suffer as a result (unable to cope with his father's fame and chosen lifestyle, Gandhi's eldest son, for example, threw himself into a life of alcoholism and prostitution). But Gandhi is not depicted as a saint, and particularly during his early years, we learn about the struggle that went into the formation of the man who later earned the title "Great Soul" (Mahatma). Even anticipating that he might be killed by an assassin's bullet, Gandhi once said that he would only deserve that title if he could accept that bullet with Rama's (God's) name on his lips: fittingly, the movie begins with his assassination and comes full circle at the end, affirming that Gandhi truly was a Great Soul throughout.

Attenborough found his perfect Gandhi in Ben Kingsley, who not so much plays but truly is the Mahatma; from his appearance to the inflection of his voice, attitudes and gestures. Over the year-long struggles to finance the movie, Attenborough's first choices for the role had grown too old to convincingly play the young Gandhi in South Africa, but eventually Michael Attenborough pointed his father to Kingsley, then with the Royal Shakespeare Company, who reportedly won the role by meeting Attenborough in full Gandhi makeup at their first get-together, thus instantly convincing him that he had found his man. Yet, despite his gift for mimicry and his part-Indian heritage, Kingsley nevertheless turned to his Indian co-stars, particularly Rohini Hattangadi, who plays Gandhi's wife Kasturba, to fine-tune his portrayal; and he recalls in an interview for the movie's DVD release that the skill he found the most difficult to master was to spin and to talk at the same time. The use of the actual British newsreels covering Gandhi's visit to England adds to the movie's sense of authenticity - and emphasizes yet again Ben Kingsley's achievement in transforming himself into the Mahatma.

In fact, his awardwinning performance so overshadows every other actor in the movie that it would be easy to overlook the fine performances of his costars, all of whom contributed to the movie's unique quality - to name but a few, Sir John Gielgud, whom Kingsley praises as "a national treasure" (British viceroy Lord Irwin), Roshan Seth (Pandit Nehru), Martin Sheen (New York Times reporter Vincent Walker), Candice Bergen (People Magazine's Margaret Bourke-White), Ian Charleson (Gandhi's early friend and colaborator Reverend Andrews), Edward Fox (General Dyer, the man responsible for the massacre at Amritsar, who testified at his court-martial that his intention had been to "teach a lesson that would be heard throughout India"); and Trevor Howard as Judge Broomfield, who had to sentence Gandhi to prison for his outright admission that he was guilty of the charge of advocating sedition because of his belief "that non-cooperation with evil is a duty and British rule in India is evil," and who nevertheless rose at Gandhi's entrance into the courtroom instead of making the prisoner rise for him, and commented on the sentence he had to impose that "if ... his Majesty's government should, at some later date, see fit to reduce the term, no one will be better pleased than I."

The movie ends with Gandhi's affirmation that when he despaired, he remembered that "all through history, the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers; for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of this: Always." Such a belief may be difficult to hold on to, particularly for us who are so much more fallible than the Mahatma. Yet, this movie eloquently pleads that it is, at least, worth our very best effort.


Oscar Wilde Collection [DVD] [2008] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Oscar Wilde Collection [DVD] [2008] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Offered by RAREWAVES USA
Price: £12.85

5.0 out of 5 stars "The truth is a thing I get rid of as soon as possible.", 2 Nov. 2008
Best remembered for his countless poignantly witty epigrams, Oscar Wilde was a leading representative of Aestheticism, a movement espousing the notion that art exists for no other purpose than its existence itself. Born in Dublin and a graduate of Oxford's Magdalen College, he worked as a journalist, editor and lecturer before turning to dramatic writing, and produced his most acclaimed works in the six-year span from 1890 to 1895, roughly coinciding with his romantic involvement with sixteen years younger Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas. "Bosie's" strained relationship with his father, the Marquees of Queensberry, eventually caused a series of confrontations between Wilde and the Marquees, in turn resulting in three trials, Wilde's conviction for "gross indecencies" under a law interpreted to prohibit homosexual relationships, and a two-year prison sentence of "hard labor." Wilde emerged from prison a broken man and, after three years' wanderings throughout Europe, died in 1900 of cerebral meningitis, barely 46 years old.

This marvelous collection brings together four of his best-known works in productions from the BBC's long-running "Play of the Month" series, starring an array of Britain's finest actors; plus a biography with contributions by, inter alia, renowned scholar Isobel Murray, Wilde's grandson Merlin Holland and "Bosie's" great-grandniece Lady Alice Douglas, as well as many well-chosen excerpts from Wilde's works and the trial transcripts, visits to the locations of his life's key stations, and a wealth of photographs.

"The Picture of Dorian Gray" was Wilde's only novel (first published 1890; republished 1891 after widespread condemnation as "immoral," with a preface explaining Wilde's views on art); the tale of an exceptionally handsome young man who sells his soul to maintain his beauty, letting his portrait age in his stead, and soon growing increasingly evil, believing that his beauty will make up for any and all acts of cruelty. Those who know the splendid 1945 adaptation starring Hurd Hatfield in the title role, George Sanders as his seducer, decadent Lord Henry Wotton, Lowell Gilmore as painter Basil Hallward and young Angela Lansbury as Dorian's innocent lover, actress Sibyl Vane, will come to this with high expectations, but the BBC's 1976 cast more than holds its own. Peter Firth is a perfect Dorian, complete with "finely-curved ... lips, frank blue eyes [and] crisp golden hair" (Wilde) - the proverbial golden boy turning ugly under an angelic, albeit increasingly arrogant exterior. Sir John Gielgud, probably the 20th century's best British actor with an uncanny ability to portray *any* character as if he were born to play that role and that role alone, turns in a stellar performance as Sir Henry, dropping some of Wilde's most biting epigrams with an unmatched deadpan expression and impeccable timing. Jeremy Brett, best-known to later TV audiences as Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, completes an excellent leading trio as Basil Hallward. Scripted by noted playwright John Osborne, this dramatization somewhat streamlines the novel's storyline, without, however, straying from its core; and pointedly (but never gratuitously) uses its medium to reveal the three protagonists' homoerotic relationship (as well as that between Dorian and his friend Alan Campbell); only alluded to in the novel and yet, besides its mockery of 19th century society's shallowness, the one factor most contributing to its initial condemnation.

"The Importance of Being Earnest" (1895) is a comedy of manners revolving around two friends, Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff, their love interests, Jack's ward Cecily and Algy's cousin Gwendolyn, and the problems arising from both ladies' preference for a husband with the first name Ernest and from Jack's ignorance about his origin, as he was found in a bag in a Victoria Station cloak-room, which Gwendolyn's mother Lady Bracknell scorns as a show of "contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life that reminds one of the worst excesses of the French Revolution," assuring Jack that she'll never allow her daughter to "form an alliance with a parcel." Again there's a superb cinematic adaptation against which this 1988 BBC production has to compete, the 1952 film starring Michael Redgrave (Jack), Michael Denison (Algy), Edith Evans (Lady Bracknell), Joan Greenwood (Gwendolyn), Dorothy Tutin (Cecily) and Margaret Rutherford (Cecily's tutor Miss Prism). But while this production isn't quite such a class act - nor as visually dazzling as the less faithful 2002 movie starring Colin Firth (Jack), Rupert Everett (Algy), Judi Dench (Lady Bracknell), Frances O'Connor (Gwendolyn), Reese Witherspoon (Cecily) and Anna Massey (Miss Prism) - it does feature fine performances, particularly from Joan Plowright (Lady Bracknell) and Rupert Frazer (Algy).

"Lady Windermere's Fan" (1893), Wilde's first truly successful play, deals with the moral trials faced by a young woman of society whose uncompromising, Puritan views of life are tested when she has reason to suspect her husband of infidelity with a Mrs. Erlynne, a divorced (and for that reason alone, ill-reputed) woman trying to make a comeback into London society after years of living abroad. Helena Little and Tim Woodward acquit themselves well in the BBC's 1985 adaptation as Lady and Lord Windermere, but the true standout performances are Stephanie Turner's (Mrs. Erlynne) and Sara Kestelman's (the Duchess of Berwick, who in a wonderfully ad-libbed line sends her daughter to go outside and "look for" - instead of at - the sunset).

"An Ideal Husband" (1895) finally takes a rather darkly sardonic look at blackmail, hypocrisy and corruption in politics. Although brought to the big screen in 1999 with an all-star cast led by Julianne Moore (Mrs. Cheveley), Cate Blanchett (Lady Gertrude Chiltern), Minnie Driver (Mabel Chiltern), Jeremy Northam (Sir Robert Chiltern) and Rupert Everett (Lord Goring), the BBC's 1969 version holds up well; if for no other reason because of young Jeremy Brett's captivating portrayal of Scarlett-Pimpernellish Lord Goring, Margaret Leighton's devious Mrs. Cheveley ... and because it's actually a faithful production of Wilde's play, whereas the 1999 movie, like 2002's "Importance of Being Earnest" directed by Robert Parker, takes several crucial artistic licenses, not the least, the omission of Lord Goring's and Mrs. Cheveley's face-off over a certain bracelet.Best remembered for his countless poignantly witty epigrams, Oscar Wilde was a leading representative of Aestheticism, a movement espousing the notion that art exists for no other purpose than its existence itself. Born in Dublin and a graduate of Oxford's Magdalen College, he worked as a journalist, editor and lecturer before turning to dramatic writing, and produced his most acclaimed works in the six-year span from 1890 to 1895, roughly coinciding with his romantic involvement with sixteen years younger Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas. "Bosie's" strained relationship with his father, the Marquees of Queensberry, eventually caused a series of confrontations between Wilde and the Marquees, in turn resulting in three trials, Wilde's conviction for "gross indecencies" under a law interpreted to prohibit homosexual relationships, and a two-year prison sentence of "hard labor." Wilde emerged from prison a broken man and, after three years' wanderings throughout Europe, died in 1900 of cerebral meningitis, barely 46 years old.

This marvelous collection brings together four of his best-known works in productions from the BBC's long-running "Play of the Month" series, starring an array of Britain's finest actors; plus a biography with contributions by, inter alia, renowned scholar Isobel Murray, Wilde's grandson Merlin Holland and "Bosie's" great-grandniece Lady Alice Douglas, as well as many well-chosen excerpts from Wilde's works and the trial transcripts, visits to the locations of his life's key stations, and a wealth of photographs.

"The Picture of Dorian Gray" was Wilde's only novel (first published 1890; republished 1891 after widespread condemnation as "immoral," with a preface explaining Wilde's views on art); the tale of an exceptionally handsome young man who sells his soul to maintain his beauty, letting his portrait age in his stead, and soon growing increasingly evil, believing that his beauty will make up for any and all acts of cruelty. Those who know the splendid 1945 adaptation starring Hurd Hatfield in the title role, George Sanders as his seducer, decadent Lord Henry Wotton, Lowell Gilmore as painter Basil Hallward and young Angela Lansbury as Dorian's innocent lover, actress Sibyl Vane, will come to this with high expectations, but the BBC's 1976 cast more than holds its own. Peter Firth is a perfect Dorian, complete with "finely-curved ... lips, frank blue eyes [and] crisp golden hair" (Wilde) - the proverbial golden boy turning ugly under an angelic, albeit increasingly arrogant exterior. Sir John Gielgud, probably the 20th century's best British actor with an uncanny ability to portray *any* character as if he were born to play that role and that role alone, turns in a stellar performance as Sir Henry, dropping some of Wilde's most biting epigrams with an unmatched deadpan expression and impeccable timing. Jeremy Brett, best-known to later TV audiences as Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, completes an excellent leading trio as Basil Hallward. Scripted by noted playwright John Osborne, this dramatization somewhat streamlines the novel's storyline, without, however, straying from its core; and pointedly (but never gratuitously) uses its medium to reveal the three protagonists' homoerotic relationship (as well as that between Dorian and his friend Alan Campbell); only alluded to in the novel and yet, besides its mockery of 19th century society's shallowness, the one factor most contributing to its initial condemnation.

"The Importance of Being Earnest" (1895) is a comedy of manners revolving around two friends, Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff, their love interests, Jack's ward Cecily and Algy's cousin Gwendolyn, and the problems arising from both ladies' preference for a husband with the first name Ernest and from Jack's ignorance about his origin, as he was found in a bag in a Victoria Station cloak-room, which Gwendolyn's mother Lady Bracknell scorns as a show of "contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life that reminds one of the worst excesses of the French Revolution," assuring Jack that she'll never allow her daughter to "form an alliance with a parcel." Again there's a superb cinematic adaptation against which this 1988 BBC production has to compete, the 1952 film starring Michael Redgrave (Jack), Michael Denison (Algy), Edith Evans (Lady Bracknell), Joan Greenwood (Gwendolyn), Dorothy Tutin (Cecily) and Margaret Rutherford (Cecily's tutor Miss Prism). But while this production isn't quite such a class act - nor as visually dazzling as the less faithful 2002 movie starring Colin Firth (Jack), Rupert Everett (Algy), Judi Dench (Lady Bracknell), Frances O'Connor (Gwendolyn), Reese Witherspoon (Cecily) and Anna Massey (Miss Prism) - it does feature fine performances, particularly from Joan Plowright (Lady Bracknell) and Rupert Frazer (Algy).

"Lady Windermere's Fan" (1893), Wilde's first truly successful play, deals with the moral trials faced by a young woman of society whose uncompromising, Puritan views of life are tested when she has reason to suspect her husband of infidelity with a Mrs. Erlynne, a divorced (and for that reason alone, ill-reputed) woman trying to make a comeback into London society after years of living abroad. Helena Little and Tim Woodward acquit themselves well in the BBC's 1985 adaptation as Lady and Lord Windermere, but the true standout performances are Stephanie Turner's (Mrs. Erlynne) and Sara Kestelman's (the Duchess of Berwick, who in a wonderfully ad-libbed line sends her daughter to go outside and "look for" - instead of at - the sunset).

"An Ideal Husband" (1895) finally takes a rather darkly sardonic look at blackmail, hypocrisy and corruption in politics. Although brought to the big screen in 1999 with an all-star cast led by Julianne Moore (Mrs. Cheveley), Cate Blanchett (Lady Gertrude Chiltern), Minnie Driver (Mabel Chiltern), Jeremy Northam (Sir Robert Chiltern) and Rupert Everett (Lord Goring), the BBC's 1969 version holds up well; if for no other reason because of young Jeremy Brett's captivating portrayal of Scarlett-Pimpernellish Lord Goring, Margaret Leighton's devious Mrs. Cheveley ... and because it's actually a faithful production of Wilde's play, whereas the 1999 movie, like 2002's "Importance of Being Earnest" directed by Robert Parker, takes several crucial artistic licenses, not the least, the omission of Lord Goring's and Mrs. Cheveley's face-off over a certain bracelet.


The Red Violin [DVD]
The Red Violin [DVD]
Dvd ~ Carlo Cecchi
Price: £3.80

21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A feast for the senses ... and the everlasting magic of music., 2 Nov. 2008
This review is from: The Red Violin [DVD] (DVD)
"Cinque carte" - five tarot cards servant Cesca (Anita Laurenzi) makes her mistress Anna Busotti (Irene Grazioli) draw in 17th century Cremona when Anna, wife of the legendary violin maker Niccolò Busotti (Carlo Cecchi), asks her servant to tell her and her unborn child's future. And those five cards, along with an auction in 20th century Montreal, provide the framework for the tale that is about to unfold: The Moon - a long life, full and rich, and a long voyage. But there is a curse over her, Cesca tells her mistress as she turns the second card; there is danger to all who are under her thrall, and there will be many ... indeed, the Hanged Man is a powerful card! Then there will be a time of lust and energy, her Lazarus soul will travel across mountains, oceans and time, and she will meet a handsome and intelligent man who will seduce her with his talents "and worse" - in short, the Devil. The fourth card Anna has drawn is Justice: There will be a big trial before a powerful magistrate, Cesca tells her; she will be found guilty ... "beware the heat of the fire!" And indeed, the last card that Anna turns, much to her alarm, is Death - but the card is upside down and Cesca tells her not to worry because at this point this might be good news: She will be carried by the air and furious wind, but then her voyage will come to an end, "one way or another." There is "trouble" in this, Cesca says, "but you are strong now, like a tree in a forest." She will also not be alone; the servant sees a crowd of faces ... friends, family, enemies, lovers and a lot of admirers fighting to win her hand (lots of money, too) - and ultimately, a rebirth.

Each card symbolizes one of the stories told about the travels through time and space made by the Red Violin, Niccolò Busotti's last masterpiece, over the course of the centuries. And each of the violin's owners we meet symbolizes a stage of life: birth, childhood, coming of age, political awakening and maturity. In that, it is not so much the violin's voyage that links the five vignettes dealing with its owners' lives, such as Glenn Gould's life provided the links between the individual parts of writer-director Francois Girard's first film, "32 Short Films About Glenn Gould." Rather, the humans' stories provide snapshots of various stages of the instrument's existence, brought to life by John Corigliano's magnificent and Oscar-winning score and Joshua Bell's virtuoso performance - and of course, it is also obvious throughout that a link exists between Anna Busotti and the violin created by her husband.

"The Red Violin" is feast for the eyes and ears - luscious and true to detail in its costume design and cinematography, it not only faithfully uses the original languages of its various locations but also actors who are native speakers (to the point of having Suisse-born actor Jean Luc Bideau portray the French teacher of Austrian wunderkind Kaspar Weiss [Christopher Koncz], thus choosing an actor who is on the one hand fluent in German but on the other hand speaks it with a "genuine" French accent ... and although I don't speak any Chinese/Mandarin, I wouldn't be surprised if the scenes taking place in China were linguistically as faithful to their location as those set in Vienna and elsewhere).

Unfortunately, the movie's plot lines fall somewhat short of its visual and acoustic splendor. Granted, there was only limited possibility to develop meaningful stories for each of the vignettes. But given the highly symbolic nature of the movie's five parts, too many gaping holes remain. Although we know the violin's story doesn't end with Kaspar, for example, we can only guess as to how it falls into the hands of gypsies. And the following sequence, involving British composer and virtuoso Frederick Pope (Jason Flemyng) and his mistress Victoria Byrd, has rightfully been criticized for the shallow waters it treads: Even if you don't have a whole movie to develop the relationship between a sensual, gifted and somewhat eccentric composer and his novelist lover (such as 1991's magnificent and in the U.S. sadly overlooked "Impromptu"), and even if Greta Scacchi's Victoria is far from being another George Sand, her talent seems ... well, maybe not wasted, but reduced to another "blonde bombshell" role unworthy of her Old Vic training. And don't even get me started on the final scene in Montreal and the "conflict" faced by violin appraiser Charles Morritz ... (although Samuel L. Jackson, at least, gives a finely tuned and sensitive performance which almost manages to smooth out the edges of the script's sometimes scratchy composition.)

But this movie's real star and ultimately, its saving grace, is the Red Violin itself - not the six models physically representing the instrument throughout the film of course, but the personality it gains through Corigliano's score and its uniquely beautiful interpretation by Bell, and the idea the violin stands for; that of music's everlasting magic. For bringing this idea to life alone, the movie is well worth seeing.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 2, 2012 10:14 AM GMT


Red Violin [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Red Violin [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Offered by supermart_usa
Price: £5.30

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A feast for the senses ... and the everlasting magic of music., 2 Nov. 2008
"Cinque carte" - five tarot cards servant Cesca (Anita Laurenzi) makes her mistress Anna Busotti (Irene Grazioli) draw in 17th century Cremona when Anna, wife of the legendary violin maker Niccolò Busotti (Carlo Cecchi), asks her servant to tell her and her unborn child's future. And those five cards, along with an auction in 20th century Montreal, provide the framework for the tale that is about to unfold: The Moon - a long life, full and rich, and a long voyage. But there is a curse over her, Cesca tells her mistress as she turns the second card; there is danger to all who are under her thrall, and there will be many ... indeed, the Hanged Man is a powerful card! Then there will be a time of lust and energy, her Lazarus soul will travel across mountains, oceans and time, and she will meet a handsome and intelligent man who will seduce her with his talents "and worse" - in short, the Devil. The fourth card Anna has drawn is Justice: There will be a big trial before a powerful magistrate, Cesca tells her; she will be found guilty ... "beware the heat of the fire!" And indeed, the last card that Anna turns, much to her alarm, is Death - but the card is upside down and Cesca tells her not to worry because at this point this might be good news: She will be carried by the air and furious wind, but then her voyage will come to an end, "one way or another." There is "trouble" in this, Cesca says, "but you are strong now, like a tree in a forest." She will also not be alone; the servant sees a crowd of faces ... friends, family, enemies, lovers and a lot of admirers fighting to win her hand (lots of money, too) - and ultimately, a rebirth.

Each card symbolizes one of the stories told about the travels through time and space made by the Red Violin, Niccolò Busotti's last masterpiece, over the course of the centuries. And each of the violin's owners we meet symbolizes a stage of life: birth, childhood, coming of age, political awakening and maturity. In that, it is not so much the violin's voyage that links the five vignettes dealing with its owners' lives, such as Glenn Gould's life provided the links between the individual parts of writer-director Francois Girard's first film, "32 Short Films About Glenn Gould." Rather, the humans' stories provide snapshots of various stages of the instrument's existence, brought to life by John Corigliano's magnificent and Oscar-winning score and Joshua Bell's virtuoso performance - and of course, it is also obvious throughout that a link exists between Anna Busotti and the violin created by her husband.

"The Red Violin" is feast for the eyes and ears - luscious and true to detail in its costume design and cinematography, it not only faithfully uses the original languages of its various locations but also actors who are native speakers (to the point of having Suisse-born actor Jean Luc Bideau portray the French teacher of Austrian wunderkind Kaspar Weiss [Christopher Koncz], thus choosing an actor who is on the one hand fluent in German but on the other hand speaks it with a "genuine" French accent ... and although I don't speak any Chinese/Mandarin, I wouldn't be surprised if the scenes taking place in China were linguistically as faithful to their location as those set in Vienna and elsewhere).

Unfortunately, the movie's plot lines fall somewhat short of its visual and acoustic splendor. Granted, there was only limited possibility to develop meaningful stories for each of the vignettes. But given the highly symbolic nature of the movie's five parts, too many gaping holes remain. Although we know the violin's story doesn't end with Kaspar, for example, we can only guess as to how it falls into the hands of gypsies. And the following sequence, involving British composer and virtuoso Frederick Pope (Jason Flemyng) and his mistress Victoria Byrd, has rightfully been criticized for the shallow waters it treads: Even if you don't have a whole movie to develop the relationship between a sensual, gifted and somewhat eccentric composer and his novelist lover (such as 1991's magnificent and in the U.S. sadly overlooked "Impromptu"), and even if Greta Scacchi's Victoria is far from being another George Sand, her talent seems ... well, maybe not wasted, but reduced to another "blonde bombshell" role unworthy of her Old Vic training. And don't even get me started on the final scene in Montreal and the "conflict" faced by violin appraiser Charles Morritz ... (although Samuel L. Jackson, at least, gives a finely tuned and sensitive performance which almost manages to smooth out the edges of the script's sometimes scratchy composition.)

But this movie's real star and ultimately, its saving grace, is the Red Violin itself - not the six models physically representing the instrument throughout the film of course, but the personality it gains through Corigliano's score and its uniquely beautiful interpretation by Bell, and the idea the violin stands for; that of music's everlasting magic. For bringing this idea to life alone, the movie is well worth seeing.


Master Serie 2003
Master Serie 2003

5.0 out of 5 stars Mesdames et Messieurs: Georges Moustaki!, 2 Nov. 2008
This review is from: Master Serie 2003 (Audio CD)
"Avec ma gueule de métèque, de Juif errant, de pâtre grec" - "with my mongrel's face, [the face] of a wandering Jew, a Greek shepherd," Georges Moustaki introduces himself in his autobiographical song "Le Métèque," which in 1969 once and for all cemented his place in the world of the French singers and songwriters; although at that time, Moustaki hardly needed an introduction any longer, having already written songs for virtually every star populating the eclectic firmament of the world of Paris's chançonniers, from Georges Brassens to Juliette Gréco, Yves Montand and the little sparrow with the big voice herself, Edith Piaf (including the words to one of her most famous chancons, "Milord").

Moustaki was born in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria, the son of Greek parents and, exposed to virtually every Mediterranean language and dialect at home and in school (his father spoke five languages, his mother six, and his classmates in the French school were, among others, of Arab, Italian, Greek, Turkish, Armenian and Maltese origin), he was a true cosmopolitan already at a very young age. At the age of seventeen, the self-declared "citoyen de la langue française" (citizen of the French language) moved to Paris, where he soon joined a circle of aspiring actors, painters and writers. Not long thereafter, a mutual friend introduced him to Georges Brassens, and he began to appear in local nightclubs. Yet, for a long time Moustaki had more success writing for others than when singing his own songs; and even "Le Métèque" was unanimously rejected when he first presented the song to record producers. Then, one night, came his appearance at a television show. And the very next morning, the record presses started rolling; to the tune of 5000 copies per day.

Ever since then, with his dark, velvety voice Moustaki has sung his songs of love and tenderness, of nature's vanishing beauty and innocence, of the suffering of the "little people" for the designs of the high and mighty, of friends loved and lost, and of little girls growing into beautiful women. Always a bit melancholy, often with a light twinkle in his eye, his melodies flow like the river which he describes in "La Carte du Tendre," that river of love and its journey from an enchanting, tender source and the happiness of taking off together through the storms of infidelity, lovers' quarrels, jealousy and the boredom of routine, until it finally comes to rest in the vast garden of "the promised land of forgiving and forgetting." Many of Moustaki's songs also reflect his roots in "that pool where black-eyed children play, with its three continents and centuries of history; its prophets and Gods" and where you find "a beautiful summer that's not afraid of fall," as he describes the Mediterranean in one of his best-known songs ("En Mediterranée").

"Les Talents du Siècle" (internationally also known as "Master Series") is a set of "best of" compilations of some of France's greatest singers and songwriters. While not anywhere near complete ("En Mediterranee" is not the only song sadly missing), it is a very good introduction to Moustaki's music, featuring 16 of his greatest successes; among them "Ma Solitude" and "Ma Liberté," both originally written for actor/singer/comedian Serge Reggiani and celebrating, respectively, that faithful companion that is loneliness, and the joys of freedom and adventure which are, nevertheless, easily discarded for "the prison of love and its beautiful jailoress" ("Ma Liberté," here rendered in a live recording). "Le Temps de Vivre," the first track of the collection, is a song underscoring one of the themes to which Moustaki returns again and again, reminding the listener to take the time to really live life, "sans projets et sans habitudes" - "without plans and without routines." "Le Facteur," which tells the heartrending story of a postman whose death, at the innocent age of seventeen, also brings about the end of the singer's romantic correspondence, was the first of several songs recalling Moustaki's friend Manos Hadjidakis. "Les Amis [de Georges]" celebrates the circle of friends assembled around trendsetter Georges Brassens; friends of Georges Moustaki as well; easily recognizable all, looking "as if from the same family" with their hair grown long before that became the fashion; reuniting in famed Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the intellectuals' hub on Paris's Rive Gauche (the neighborhoods on the left bank of the Seine); unhurried, "never losing life in order to gain it;" and their head in the stars, discussing the works of the great poets and writers Paul Verlaine, Victor Hugo and François Villon. "Joseph" is a tender ode to that modest but brave biblical man who, of all the daughters of Galilee, had to take Mary to be his wife, thus subjecting himself to secrecy and exile solely because of the "strange ideas" of the child born to his wife, instead of being able to lead the simple, happy life he might otherwise have been looking forward to. And "Il Est Trop Tard," the collection's last track, takes up the theme of the opening "Le Temps de Vivre," melancholically deploring the lost chance lying in a life not fully lived; wasted between plans, promises and empty talk.

His trademark waving hair and full beard long grown snow white, Georges Moustaki continues to write, perform his songs and travel the world, reportedly rarely staying in the same country longer than a month and instantly at home wherever his travels take him; whether in Latin America, Europe or Asia. Somehow his chançons have escaped mass marketing in North America, which in a way is probably even a good thing. Anybody who, however, has once been exposed to the gentle charm of Moustaki's voice and the deceptively simple melodies of his songs, often accompanied by little more than his own guitar, will not be able to easily forget that experience; and will want to build a larger collection of his music. This record is a very good first stepping stone.


Special Edition
Special Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars Mesdames et Messieurs: Georges Moustaki!, 2 Nov. 2008
This review is from: Special Edition (Audio CD)
"Avec ma gueule de métèque, de Juif errant, de pâtre grec" - "with my mongrel's face, [the face] of a wandering Jew, a Greek shepherd," Georges Moustaki introduces himself in his autobiographical song "Le Métèque," which in 1969 once and for all cemented his place in the world of the French singers and songwriters; although at that time, Moustaki hardly needed an introduction any longer, having already written songs for virtually every star populating the eclectic firmament of the world of Paris's chançonniers, from Georges Brassens to Juliette Gréco, Yves Montand and the little sparrow with the big voice herself, Edith Piaf (including the words to one of her most famous chancons, "Milord").

Moustaki was born in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria, the son of Greek parents and, exposed to virtually every Mediterranean language and dialect at home and in school (his father spoke five languages, his mother six, and his classmates in the French school were, among others, of Arab, Italian, Greek, Turkish, Armenian and Maltese origin), he was a true cosmopolitan already at a very young age. At the age of seventeen, the self-declared "citoyen de la langue française" (citizen of the French language) moved to Paris, where he soon joined a circle of aspiring actors, painters and writers. Not long thereafter, a mutual friend introduced him to Georges Brassens, and he began to appear in local nightclubs. Yet, for a long time Moustaki had more success writing for others than when singing his own songs; and even "Le Métèque" was unanimously rejected when he first presented the song to record producers. Then, one night, came his appearance at a television show. And the very next morning, the record presses started rolling; to the tune of 5000 copies per day.

Ever since then, with his dark, velvety voice Moustaki has sung his songs of love and tenderness, of nature's vanishing beauty and innocence, of the suffering of the "little people" for the designs of the high and mighty, of friends loved and lost, and of little girls growing into beautiful women. Always a bit melancholy, often with a light twinkle in his eye, his melodies flow like the river which he describes in "La Carte du Tendre," that river of love and its journey from an enchanting, tender source and the happiness of taking off together through the storms of infidelity, lovers' quarrels, jealousy and the boredom of routine, until it finally comes to rest in the vast garden of "the promised land of forgiving and forgetting." Many of Moustaki's songs also reflect his roots in "that pool where black-eyed children play, with its three continents and centuries of history; its prophets and Gods" and where you find "a beautiful summer that's not afraid of fall," as he describes the Mediterranean in one of his best-known songs ("En Mediterranée").

"Les Talents du Siècle" (internationally also known as "Master Series") is a set of "best of" compilations of some of France's greatest singers and songwriters. While not anywhere near complete ("En Mediterranee" is not the only song sadly missing), it is a very good introduction to Moustaki's music, featuring 16 of his greatest successes; among them "Ma Solitude" and "Ma Liberté," both originally written for actor/singer/comedian Serge Reggiani and celebrating, respectively, that faithful companion that is loneliness, and the joys of freedom and adventure which are, nevertheless, easily discarded for "the prison of love and its beautiful jailoress" ("Ma Liberté," here rendered in a live recording). "Le Temps de Vivre," the first track of the collection, is a song underscoring one of the themes to which Moustaki returns again and again, reminding the listener to take the time to really live life, "sans projets et sans habitudes" - "without plans and without routines." "Le Facteur," which tells the heartrending story of a postman whose death, at the innocent age of seventeen, also brings about the end of the singer's romantic correspondence, was the first of several songs recalling Moustaki's friend Manos Hadjidakis. "Les Amis [de Georges]" celebrates the circle of friends assembled around trendsetter Georges Brassens; friends of Georges Moustaki as well; easily recognizable all, looking "as if from the same family" with their hair grown long before that became the fashion; reuniting in famed Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the intellectuals' hub on Paris's Rive Gauche (the neighborhoods on the left bank of the Seine); unhurried, "never losing life in order to gain it;" and their head in the stars, discussing the works of the great poets and writers Paul Verlaine, Victor Hugo and François Villon. "Joseph" is a tender ode to that modest but brave biblical man who, of all the daughters of Galilee, had to take Mary to be his wife, thus subjecting himself to secrecy and exile solely because of the "strange ideas" of the child born to his wife, instead of being able to lead the simple, happy life he might otherwise have been looking forward to. And "Il Est Trop Tard," the collection's last track, takes up the theme of the opening "Le Temps de Vivre," melancholically deploring the lost chance lying in a life not fully lived; wasted between plans, promises and empty talk.

His trademark waving hair and full beard long grown snow white, Georges Moustaki continues to write, perform his songs and travel the world, reportedly rarely staying in the same country longer than a month and instantly at home wherever his travels take him; whether in Latin America, Europe or Asia. Somehow his chançons have escaped mass marketing in North America, which in a way is probably even a good thing. Anybody who, however, has once been exposed to the gentle charm of Moustaki's voice and the deceptively simple melodies of his songs, often accompanied by little more than his own guitar, will not be able to easily forget that experience; and will want to build a larger collection of his music. This record is a very good first stepping stone.


Agatha Christie's Poirot: Classic Collection 2 [DVD] [1989] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Agatha Christie's Poirot: Classic Collection 2 [DVD] [1989] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poirot in Perfection., 2 Nov. 2008
Hercule Poirot is one of the most famous detectives in literary history. Yet, strangely, except for his portrayal by Albert Finney in the star-studded movie version of "Murder on the Orient Express," for a long time there did not seem to be an actor who could convincingly bring to life the clever, dignified little Belgian with his unmistakable egg-shaped head, always perched a little on one side, his stiff, military, slightly upward-twisted moustache, and his excessively neat attire, which had reached the point that "a speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet," as Agatha Christie introduced him through his friend Captain Hastings's voice in their and her own very first adventure, "The Mysterious Affair at Styles" (1920). But leave it to British television to finally find the perfect Poirot in David Suchet, who after having had the dubious honor of playing a rather dumbly arrogant version of Scotland Yard Chief Inspector Japp in some of the 1980s' movies starring Peter Ustinov as Poirot, was finally allowed to move center stage in the Granada/ITV series broadcast from 1989 onwards, which was later continued by A&E and includes 36 shorter episodes based on (almost all of) Christie's Poirot short stories, as well as to date 25 movie-length features released on DVD, based on a number of her most celebrated Poirot novels. (Hopefully due to be transferred to DVD in short order are the episodes broadcast in 2008 -- see listing below --, which leaves as yet to be re-adapted for the small screen, most notably, "Murder on the Orient Express" [1934] and Poirot's final case, "Curtain" [published 1975, but written in the 1940s].)

And the match is spot-on, not only physically but also, and more importantly so, in terms of personality. Suchet shares Poirot's inclination towards pedantry: "I like things to be symmetrical ... If I put two things on the mantelpiece, they have to be exactly evenly spaced," he said in an interview, comparing his real-life persona to that of Poirot. But, he added, unlike his on-screen alter ego, "I don't need the same sized eggs for breakfast!" Although previously not interested in mysteries, his habitually meticulous research allowed him to quickly become familiar with Christie's Belgian sleuth and the workings of his little grey cells -- and to slip so much into Poirot's skin that I, for one, can no longer pick up a Poirot book without instantly hearing Suchet's voice as that of the great little detective.

After bringing together the series's 36 shorter episodes in "The Classic Collection, Volume 1," this box set contains the nine movie-length features originally produced by Granada Films and first broadcast on ITV. Next to Mr. Suchet, Hugh Fraser stars as the detective's indefatigable sidekick Captain Hastings, whom the screenplays, alas, make come across as more of a well-educated but vacuous gentleman than do the written originals narrated from his point of view. (This is virtually my only quibble with the series -- and that although Granada and ITV did so well in debumblifying Sherlock Holmes's friend and chronicler Dr. Watson!) Philip Jackson, on the other hand, gives us an admirably sturdy, down-to-earth incarnation of Chief Inspector Japp, and Pauline Moran virtually inhabits Poirot's epitome of a secretary, Miss Lemon; whose role, like those of Hastings and Japp, is added into a number of episodes not originally featuring them, thankfully without greatly disturbing the stories' narrative flow and setting.

The episodes contained in this set are:

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (written 1920; Granada/ITV 1990)
Peril at End House (written 1932; Granada/ITV 1990)
The ABC Murders (written 1935; Granada/ITV 1992)
Death in the Clouds (written 1935; Granada/ITV 1992)
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe (written 1940; Granada/ ITV 1992)
Hercule Poirot's Christmas (written 1938; Granada/ITV 1995)
Hickory Dickory Dock (written 1955; Granada/ITV 1995)
Murder on the Links (written 1923; Granada/ITV 1996)
Dumb Witness (written 1937; Granada/ITV 1996)

The movie-length features later produced by A&E -- and not contained in this collection but available in separate box sets -- are (to date):

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (written 1926; A&E 2000)
Lord Edgeware Dies (written 1933; A&E 2000)
Murder in Mesopotamia (written 1936; A&E 2001)
Evil Under the Sun (written 1941; A&E 2002)

Sad Cypress (written 1939; A&E 2003)
Five Little Pigs (written 1941; A&E 2003)
Death on the Nile (written 1937; A&E 2004)
The Hollow (written 1946; A&E 2004)

The Mystery of the Blue Train (written 1928; A&E 2005)
Cards on the Table (written 1936; A&E 2005)
After the Funeral (written 1953; A&E 2005)
Taken at the Flood (written 1948; A&E 2006)

And, last but not least, the 2008 season consists/will consist of:

Appointment with Death (written 1938)
Mrs. McGinty's Dead (written 1952)
Cat Among the Pigeons (written 1959)
Third Girl (written 1966)
Hallowe'en Party (written 1969)


Dead Poets Society [Blu-ray]
Dead Poets Society [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Robin Williams

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And what will be your verse in the poem of life?, 2 Nov. 2008
"I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." (Henry David Thoreau, "Walden.")

Hands up folks, how many of us discovered Thoreau after having watched this movie? Really discovered I mean, regardless whether you had known he'd existed before. How many believe they know what Thoreau was talking about in that passage about "sucking the marrow out of life," cited in the movie, even if you didn't spend the next 2+ years of your life living in a self-constructed cabin on a pond in the woods? How many bought a copy of Whitman's poems ... whatever collection? (And maybe even read more than "Oh Captain! My Captain!"?) How many went on to read Emerson? Frost? Or John Keats, on whose personality Robin Williams's John Keating is probably loosely based? To many people, this movie has a powerful appeal like few others and has proven inspirational far above and beyond the effect of an ordinary movie experience. And justifiedly so, despite the fact that charismatic Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard), one of the story's main characters, tragically falters in the pursuit of his dreams, in the wake of apparent triumph. Because although Neil's story is one of failure, ultimately this film is a celebration of the triumph of free will, independent thinking and the growth of personality; embodied in its closing scene.

Of course, lofty goals such as these are not easily achieved. Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke) in particular, the last scene's triumphant hero, is literally pushed to the edge of reason before he learns to overcome his inhibitions. And Thoreau warned in "Walden:" "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; That is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." Anyone who takes this movie's message to heart (and Thoreau's, and Whitman's, and Emerson's, Frost's and Keats's) knows that success too easily won is often no success at all, and most important accomplishments are based on focus, tenacity and hard work as much as anything else. And prudence, too - dashing Charlie Dalton (Gale Hansen) pays a terrible price for his spur-of-the-moment challenges of authority; although of course you just gotta love him for refusing to sign Keatings' indictment. "Carpe diem" - live life to its fullest, but also know what you are doing. You won't enjoy this movie if you are afraid of letting both your mind and your feelings run free.

Shot on the magnificent location of Delaware's St. Andrews Academy, "Dead Poets' Society" is visually stunning, particularly in its depiction of the amazingly beautiful scenery (where the progression of the seasons mirrors the progression of the movie's story line), and as emotionally engaging as it invites you to reexamine your position in life. Robin Williams delivers another Academy Award-worthy performance (he was nominated but unfortunately didn't win). Of course, Robin Williams will to a certain extent always be Robin Williams ... "Aladdin's" Genie, "Good Morning Vietnam's" Adrian Cronauer and "Good Will Hunting's" Professor McGuire (the 1997 role which would finally earn him his long overdue Oscar) all shimmer through in his portrayal of John Keating; and if you've ever seen him give an interview you know that the man can go from hilarious and irreverent to deeply reflective in a split second even when it's not a movie camera that's rolling. Yet, the black sheep among Welton Academy's teachers assumes as distinct and memorable a personality as any other one of Williams's film characters.

Of its many Academy Award nominations (in addition to Robin Williams's nomination for best leading actor, the movie was also nominated in the best picture, best director [Peter Weir] and best original screenplay categories), "Dead Poets' Society" ultimately only won the Oscar for Tom Schulman's script. But more importantly, it has long since won it's viewers' lasting appreciation, and for a reason. - As the Poet said: "Camerado! This is no book; Who touches this, touches a man" (Walt Whitman, "So Long!"), this is no movie; who watches this, watches himself!
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