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Good Morning Vietnam & Dead Poets Society [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Good Morning Vietnam & Dead Poets Society [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Artist Not Provided

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Robin Williams on the Double., 2 Nov. 2008
GOOD MORNING VIETNAM: Wakeup Call, Williams Style.

1965 was the year when, as a result of the Congressional Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, American military buildup in Vietnam began in earnest, and troop strength grew by a factor of no less than eight; from 23,000 at the beginning of the year to roughly 184,000 at the end. 1965 was also the year when a new AFN DJ arrived in Saigon, which over the course of that same year would transform itself from a sleepy French-Vietnamese colonial town into the nightmare it has since come to be in the memory of countless vets.

The new DJ in question was Adrian Cronauer; fresh from an assignment in Greece.

But while the idea for a fictionalized account of his Vietnam experience was Cronauer's own, fueled by the popularity of "M*A*S*H," the script for Barry Levinson's "Good Morning Vietnam" was ultimately penned by screenwriter Mitch Markowitz with only some input from Cronauer himself, who has since gone out of his way to underline the fictional nature of the account and stress that his true stance was not so much anti-military as "anti-stupidity." Thus, the film has to be taken with a considerable grain of salt; both as far as the portrayal of 1960s' armed forces radio and as far as the movie's plot is concerned. But that doesn't make it any less poignant; nor does it take away one iota of Robin Williams's performance as Cronauer: Indeed, the role of an irreverent, unstoppable DJ seemed tailor-made for Williams, who had burst onto the scene with his inimitable brand of lightning-quick ad-libbing ten years earlier in "Mork & Mindy" - and of course, all of Cronauer's hilarious broadcasts in this movie are ad-libbed, too.

The film follows Adrian Cronauer from his arrival in Saigon in the spring of 1965 to his forced departure about a half year later (although the real Cronauer in fact stayed for a year and was not forced out but left when his regular tour of duty was over). While a comedy, and although not trying to be anywhere near the "definitive" take on Vietnam, it does take a close look at the year when the conflict escalated and, in particular, at the resulting toll on human relations. Robin Williams earned his first of to date four well-deserved Academy Award nominations for this role (the others were for "Dead Poets Society" [1989], "The Fisher King" [1991] and "Good Will Hunting" [1997], the movie for which he finally scored on Oscar night). And in his inimitable way he provides pointed comic relief not only over the microphone but also, and always with a unique ear for the situation's mood, whenever the script would otherwise threaten to veer off into melodrama; such as after his discovery that his Vietnamese friend Tuan is actually a Viet Cong fighter named Phan Duc To ("It's unbelievable. Five months in Saigon, and my best friend turns out to be a V.C. This will not look good on a résumé!!"); and in scenes that would otherwise be burdened with a bit too much cliché and/or deliberately funny writing, such as the conference after Cronauer's first broadcast, where Bruno Kirby (Lieutenant Hauk) gets to deliver such gems as "Don't say that the weather is the same all the time here, because it's not; in fact, it's two degrees cooler today than yesterday" and "I hate the fact that you people never salute me - I'm a lieutenant, and I would like salutes occasionally. That's what being a higher rank is all about." Even if Kirby himself gets to make up for these a little later in the same scene with the comment "We are not going to escalate [Vietnam into] a whole war so we can get a big name comedian" (Bob Hope who, as the men have informed him, does not "play police actions"), it takes Williams's/Cronauer's final weaving of the lieutenant's preferred abbreviations into a single sentence to truly pprovide the finishing touch.

Although "Good Morning Vietnam" is clearly first and foremost a star vehicle for Robin Williams, he is joined by an outstanding supporting cast, including inter alia, besides Bruno Kirby, Forest Whitaker as Cronauer's good-natured sidekick PFC Montesque Garlick, the ever-reliable J.T. Walsh as his second great nemesis, Sergeant Major Dickerson (whose stock character of a straight-laced white middle class guy would probably not have come off convincingly as a villain vis-à-vis anybody but Robin Williams) and, in particular, Tung Thanh Tran as Tuan and Chintara Sukapatana as his sister Trinh: Her plea with Cronauer not even to seek her friendship, let alone more, because for her such an association with a man (particularly a foreigner) is culturally unacceptable, is one of the movie's most quietly powerful scenes. Exceptional is further Peter Sova's cinematography, which convincingly captures the daily realities of a city and a country on the brink of an all-out war, and is brilliantly complimented by the editing, which in turn also uses the soundtrack - more or less a mid-1960s "greatest hits" compilation - to maximum effect; be it in framing daily military routine, the soldiers' enjoyment of Cronauer's style of broadcasting or combat action: Indeed, hardly any image could make a more powerful statement on the cruel absurdity of war than seeing a village blown up to the tune of Louis Armstrong's "It's a Wonderful World."

Thus, "Good Morning Vietnam" is in its own way as poignant a wakeup call as any other movie about Vietnam - or about World War II, or any other war for that matter. It deservedly netted the Political Film Society's 1988 Peace Award, in addition to Robin Williams's Oscar nomination and his Golden Globe and American Comedy awards, as well as the movie's ASCAP soundtrack award. And it certainly bears revisiting - for its overall quality, for Robin Williams's performance, and also for lessons learned and deserving never to be forgotten.

______________________________________________________________________

DEAD POETS SOCIETY: "And what will your verse be in the poem of life?"

"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!


Midsomer Murders Set 5 [DVD] [1997] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Midsomer Murders Set 5 [DVD] [1997] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ John Nettles

5.0 out of 5 stars Successful entry in a great British mystery tradition., 2 Nov. 2008
They are amateurs and pros, London dwellers moving equally comfortably in international society as in that of their occasional forays into the English countryside, and lifelong inhabitants of those rural settings. They investigate crimes in the Thames valley and cities as large as Oxford, midsize towns like a certain Kingsmarkham, and villages with such all-English names as St. Mary Mead or King's Abbot. And they have been portrayed by some of Britain's finest contemporary actors, from Jeremy Brett and David Burke/Edward Hardwicke (Sherlock Holmes & Doctor Watson) to Roy Marsden (Commander Adam Dalgliesh), Patrick Malahide and William Simons (D.C.I. Roderick Alleyn & D.I. "Br'er" Fox), John Thaw and Kevin Whately (D.C.I. Morse & D.S. Lewis), David Jason (D.I. "Jack" Frost), George Baker and Christopher Ravenscroft (D.C.I. Reginald Wexford & D.I. Mike Burden), Peter Davison and Brian Glover (Albert Campion & Magersfontein Lugg), Edward Petherbridge and Harriet Walter (Lord Peter Wimsey & Harriet Vane), David Suchet/Albert Finney (Hercule Poirot) and last but not least Joan Hickson as Miss Jane Marple, the grandmother of all English village detectives.

To that illustrious group, British author Caroline Graham in 1987 added another sleuthing couple, the middle-aged D.C.I. Tom Barnaby and his young colleague D.S. Gavin Troy, coppers in a cluster of villages which, collectively, make up an area known as Midsomer County, and which could easily rival Agatha Christie's very own St. Mary Mead in per-capita occurrences of treachery, crime, and bloodletting. The series' first entry, "The Killings at Badgers Drift," was so successful that it won a Macavity Award for best first mystery and, for its author, an instant loyal following. Before long, the books had spawned a television series, which at almost 50 episodes has long since outrun the number of its print originals. Starring as Barnaby and Troy are Royal Shakespeare Company alumnus John Nettles, best known to TV audiences as Jerseyan Detective Sergeant Jim Bergerac in the 1980s' series of the same name (based on the books by Andrew Saville), and Daniel Casey, whose most notable other roles to date have been appearances in the BBC's "Our Friends in the North," ITV's "Steel River Blues" (for which he gave up "Midsomer Murders" in 2004), and the 1998 Catherine Cookson adaptation "The Wingless Bird." Nettles and Casey are an engaging team, not quite faithful to their characters' literary versions - which however works well to their advantage; particularly in the case of Daniel Casey's Troy, who despite a certain learning curve in political correctness is less brash than in the books, and who presents a good foil for Nettles's emphatic Barnaby; in turn overall more reminiscent of George Baker's Wexford than of Nettles's own Bergerac, whose domestic bliss is spoiled, again and again, by the callings of his job, to his regret as much as to that of his culinarily-challenged wife Joyce (Jane Wymark) and theater-bound daughter Cully (Laura Howard); yet, he is to much of a professional not to heed those callings every single time.

Inexplicably only released as the fifth "region 1" DVD set, the series's first five episodes (contained in this collection) provide a most welcome opportunity for fans of the series to reacquaint themselves with the very first cases solved by this winning pair of detectives, as well as the not-so peaceful, albeit wonderfully filmed setting of rural Midsomer County. Crucially, they also include the TV version of "The Killings at Badgers Drift," which (re-)introduced the characters of Barnaby and Troy (as had Caroline Graham's book, ten years earlier), and among whose high profile roster of guest stars were screen luminaries and TV regulars such as Elizabeth Spriggs, Jonathan Firth, Rosalie Crutchley, Julian Glover, Christopher Villiers and Renee Asherson. In addition to the 1997 pilot, this set features the series's complete first season (1998) and one episode from the second (1999) season:

The Killings at Badger's Drift (1997)
Written in Blood (1998)
Death of a Hollow Man (1998)
Faithful Unto Death (1998)
Death in Disguise (1999)


Jeremiah Johnson [DVD] [1972] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Jeremiah Johnson [DVD] [1972] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Robert Redford
Offered by supermart_usa
Price: £2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars "The day that you tarry is the day that you lose ...", 2 Nov. 2008
He was a big man, maybe even growing in physical stature with the growth of his myth; deadly with his Bowie knife and his gun alike. Formerly a fighter in the U.S.-Mexican war, he had left the lowland's ways behind in favor of a mountain man's: the lonesome hunt, the wild outdoors, and the confrontation with nature rather than his fellow men. And he came to be known as "Crow Killer" and "Liver Eating Johns(t)on" when he took war to the Crow nation after they killed his wife.

Based on Raymond Thorp/Robert Bunker's "Crow Killer" and Vardis Fisher's "Mountain Man" and scripted by John Milius and Edward Anhalt - with input from frequent Redford/Pollack cooperator David Rayfiel - Sydney Pollack's and Robert Redford's 1972 movie loosely traces the mythical hunter's legend, opening with his arrival at the fort where he buys his first horse and gun. "Ride due west as the sun sets. Turn left at the Rocky Mountains," is a trader's goodnatured answer to Johnson's naive inquiry where to find "bear, beaver and other critters worth cash money when skinned." But soon he finds that his lowland skills no longer do him any good, almost starving in the freezing mountainous winter before being taken in by old "griz" hunter Bear Claw Chris Lapp (Will Geer in a stand-out role - his and Redford's deadpan exchanges alone make this movie worth its price).

Setting out on his own again the following year Johnson fares better, even gaining the respect of a Crow warrior prosaically named Paints His Shirt Red (Joaquin Martinez), the first person he encountered in the mountains. After assisting a settler's wife who had to watch her family massacred by Indians (Allyn Ann McLerie) and reluctantly agreeing to take charge of her son (Josh Albee) - a boy grown mute by the horrors he witnessed, whom he names Caleb - he comes across white hunter Del Gue (Stefan Gierasch), buried up to his head in sand by a band of Blackfeet. Revenging that act unwittingly leaves Johnson with a wife, in exchange for bestowing the Blackfeet's ponies and guns on Flathead chief Two-Tongues-Lebeaux (Richard Angarola): the chief's daughter Swan (Delle Bolton). Although neither embraces the match enthusiastically, over time Jeremiah and Swan learn to appreciate and, eventually, love each other. But then fate strikes: Against better judgment pressured into guiding a cavalry company through Crow burial ground, Johnson finds Swan and Caleb murdered upon his return. He sets out after the Crow who invaded his home ... and plants the seeds of his myth.

"Jeremiah Johnson" was Redford's and Pollack's second of seven collaborations after 1966's "This Property is Condemned." What most obviously characterizes this movie is the breathtaking manner in which its cinematography uses Utah's mountains (doubling for the story's actual Montana setting): despite studio budgetary limits shot entirely on location, the film had Redford acting as a virtual tour guide to the magnificent Wasatch, which he had recently made his home himself.

But the movie also shows enormous restraint, particularly given its violent underlying story. There's no blood-gushing "Braveheart"-style, no dramatic score; fights are mostly one-on-one, occurring as they would in real life - silently, with only the opponents' grunts being heard - and despite his fearsome epithet we never actually see Johnson eat a dead Crow warrior's liver. (Reportedly a script change on which Redford insisted: wisely so.) Similarly, Johnson's and Swan's relationship builds on small symbolic gestures, moving from his coarse attempts to teach her English and refusal to learn her language to conversations in Salish (Flathead); and from her submissive expectation of his exercising his marital rights on their wedding night (which rather repulses him) to later-exchanged tender glances and smiles: Thus, we only learn about their marriage's belated consummation when one morning Swan points to his beard in response to his question about her reddish cheeks. - Further, there's no dramatic conclusion; no final battle: as Johnson's myth begins to grow and he withdraws deeper and deeper into the mountains, he retraces his steps and meets in reverse order the people he encountered after his arrival: Del Gue, the settler now living in Caleb's mother's cabin, Bear Claw Chris Lapp; and finally Paints His Shirt Red who, although a Crow, created a monument in Johnson's honor and sends him off with a last salute, which Johnson reciprocates; ending the movie in an immortalizing freeze-frame shot - again, a feature insisted on by Redford, doubtlessly reminiscent of "Butch and Sundance" (and repeated one way or another in several subsequent movies).

Despite its languid pace and although just under two hours long, "Jeremiah Johnson" formally takes an epic approach, complete with overture, entr'acte and narrator (uncredited, but I'm told Redford's "Brubaker"-costar Tim McIntire), whose subtle voiceovers and brief songs provide key narrative bridges. While the latter match the movie's overall style and the overture at least corresponds with Johnson's mythical stature - albeit also setting up ultimately unfulfilled expectations of a dramatic finale - adding an entr'acte may have been a bit much, particularly in the middle of the ride through the Crow burial ground (incidentally a screenplay addition designed to give the Indians a reason to punish Johnson and not make them appear as mindless killers). In my view this breaks the dramatic tension rather than enhancing it; problematic insofar as virtually all that remains thereafter is Johnson's gradual withdrawal into the mountains and fights with the Crow. But no matter. This is a terrific movie, featuring great banter with Johnson's fellow hunters as well as some wonderfully delicate scenes with Swan, showcasing some of North America's most dramatically beautiful scenery, and growing on you more and more the more often you watch it.

And some say he's up there still ...

"The way that you wander is the way that you choose. The day that you tarry is the day that you lose. Sunshine or thunder, a man will always wonder where the fair wind blows ..."
(Lyrics, Jeremiah Johnson's theme.)


Agatha Christie's Poirot: The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd [DVD] [1989]
Agatha Christie's Poirot: The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd [DVD] [1989]
Dvd ~ David Suchet

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 TV 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 now finally allowed to move center stage.

And the match is spot-on, not only physically but also, and most importantly, 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 once said in an interview, comparing his real-life persona to that of Poirot, but adding that 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 intimately familiar with Christie's Belgian sleuth and the workings of his little gray 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.

As in most of the TV series's other episodes, Philip Jackson co-stars in this movie-length feature based on Christie's like-named 1926 novel as a rather sturdy, down-to-earth incarnation of Chief Inspector Japp; but unlike in other episodes, neither Pauline Moran (Poirot's epitome of a secretary, Miss Lemon) nor Hugh Fraser (Captain Hastings) make an appearance here; owing to the fact that this particular story takes place at a time when Poirot has -- rather prematurely, as it will turn out -- decided to retire to a village named King's Abbot: an archetypal English village like those that later became so crucial to Christie's Miss Marple mysteries (the first of which, "Muder at the Vicarage," dates from 1930), where the detective is resolved to, henceforth, devote his life to the singular pursuit of growing the perfect vegetable marrow!

Story-wise, "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd" is one of the most remarkable entries in all of Christie's canon, not least because of its completely unexpected turntable conclusion -- which is, surprisingly enough, maintained extremely well in this adaptation, by means of a simple but very effective directorial slight of hand.

As the story's title indicates, the case itself centers around Roger Ackroyd, an industrialist, the richest man in King's Abbot and "more impossibly like a country squire than any country squire could really be," as village doctor James Sheppard describes him in the novel. When he is found murdered, Poirot finds himself compelled to step out of his retirement after all, to investigate Ackroyd's death ... as well as its connection to that of Ackroyd's friend, the only recently-widowed Mrs. Ferrars.


Agatha Christie's Poirot: The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd [VHS]
Agatha Christie's Poirot: The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd [VHS]
VHS

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 TV 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 now finally allowed to move center stage.

And the match is spot-on, not only physically but also, and most importantly, 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 once said in an interview, comparing his real-life persona to that of Poirot, but adding that 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 intimately familiar with Christie's Belgian sleuth and the workings of his little gray 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.

As in most of the TV series's other episodes, Philip Jackson co-stars in this movie-length feature based on Christie's like-named 1926 novel as a rather sturdy, down-to-earth incarnation of Chief Inspector Japp; but unlike in other episodes, neither Pauline Moran (Poirot's epitome of a secretary, Miss Lemon) nor Hugh Fraser (Captain Hastings) make an appearance here; owing to the fact that this particular story takes place at a time when Poirot has -- rather prematurely, as it will turn out -- decided to retire to a village named King's Abbot: an archetypal English village like those that later became so crucial to Christie's Miss Marple mysteries (the first of which, "Muder at the Vicarage," dates from 1930), where the detective is resolved to, henceforth, devote his life to the singular pursuit of growing the perfect vegetable marrow!

Story-wise, "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd" is one of the most remarkable entries in all of Christie's canon, not least because of its completely unexpected turntable conclusion -- which is, surprisingly enough, maintained extremely well in this adaptation, by means of a simple but very effective directorial slight of hand.

As the story's title indicates, the case itself centers around Roger Ackroyd, an industrialist, the richest man in King's Abbot and "more impossibly like a country squire than any country squire could really be," as village doctor James Sheppard describes him in the novel. When he is found murdered, Poirot finds himself compelled to step out of his retirement after all, to investigate Ackroyd's death ... as well as its connection to that of Ackroyd's friend, the only recently-widowed Mrs. Ferrars.


Midsomer Murders: The Early Cases Collection [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Midsomer Murders: The Early Cases Collection [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ John Nettles

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Midsomer Murders, 2 Nov. 2008
They are amateurs and pros, London dwellers moving equally comfortably in international society as in that of their occasional forays into the English countryside, and lifelong inhabitants of those rural settings. They investigate crimes in the Thames valley and cities as large as Oxford, midsize towns like a certain Kingsmarkham, and villages with such all-English names as St. Mary Mead or King's Abbot. And they have been portrayed by some of Britain's finest contemporary actors, from Jeremy tBrett and David Burke/Edward Hardwicke (Sherlock Holmes & Doctor Watson) to Roy Marsden (Commander Adam Dalgliesh), Patrick Malahide and William Simons (D.C.I. Roderick Alleyn & D.I. "Br'er" Fox), John Thaw and Kevin Whately (D.C.I. Morse & D.S. Lewis), David Jason (D.I. "Jack" Frost), George Baker and Christopher Ravenscroft (D.C.I. Reginald Wexford & D.I. Mike Burden), Peter Davison and Brian Glover (Albert Campion & Magersfontein Lugg), Edward Petherbridge and Harriet Walter (Lord Peter Wimsey & Harriet Vane), David Suchet/Albert Finney (Hercule Poirot) and last but not least Joan Hickson as Miss Jane Marple, the grandmother of all English village detectives.

To that illustrious group, British author Caroline Graham in 1987 added another sleuthing couple, the middle-aged D.C.I. Tom Barnaby and his young colleague D.S. Gavin Troy, coppers in a cluster of villages which, collectively, make up an area known as Midsomer County, and which could easily rival Agatha Christie's very own St. Mary Mead in per-capita occurrences of treachery, crime, and bloodletting. The series' first entry, "The Killings at Badgers Drift," was so successful that it won a Macavity Award for best first mystery and, for its author, an instant loyal following. Before long, the books had spawned a television series, which at now over 50 episodes has long since outrun the number of its print originals. Starring as Barnaby and Troy are Royal Shakespeare Company alumnus John Nettles, best known to TV audiences as Jerseyan Detective Sergeant Jim Bergerac in the 1980s' series of the same name (based on the books by Andrew Saville), and Daniel Casey, whose most notable other roles to date have been appearances in the BBC's "Our Friends in the North," ITV's "Steel River Blues" (for which he gave up "Midsomer Murders" in 2004), and the 1998 Catherine Cookson adaptation "The Wingless Bird." Nettles and Casey are an engaging team, not quite faithful to their characters' literary versions - which however works well to their advantage; particularly in the case of Daniel Casey's Troy, who despite a certain learning curve in political correctness is less brash than in the books, and who presents a good foil for Nettles's emphatic Barnaby; in turn overall more reminiscent of George Baker's Wexford than of Nettles's own Bergerac, whose domestic bliss is spoiled, again and again, by the callings of his job, to his regret as much as to that of his culinarily-challenged wife Joyce (Jane Wymark) and theater-bound daughter Cully (Laura Howard); yet, he is to much of a professional not to heed those callings every single time.

Bringing together the series's first eighteen episodes, this set provides a most welcome opportunity for fans to reacquaint themselves with the initial (and for most intents and purposes, strongest-written) cases solved by this winning pair of detectives, as well as with the not-so peaceful, albeit wonderfully filmed setting of rural Midsomer County. Crucially, this also includes the TV version of "The Killings at Badgers Drift," which (re-)introduced the characters of Barnaby and Troy (as had Caroline Graham's book, ten years earlier), and among whose high profile roster of guest stars were screen luminaries and TV regulars such as Elizabeth Spriggs, Jonathan Firth, Rosalie Crutchley, Julian Glover, Christopher Villiers and Renee Asherson. In addition to the 1997 pilot, this set features the series's complete first three seasons (1998 - 2000) and five of the six episodes from the fourth (2001) season:

The Killings at Badger's Drift (1997)
Written in Blood (1998)
Death of a Hollow Man (1998)
Faithful Unto Death (1998)
Death in Disguise (1999)
Death's Shadow (1999)
Strangler's Wood (1999)
Dead Man's Eleven (1999)
Blood Will Out (1999)
Death of a Stranger (1999)
Blue Herrings (2000)
Judgement Day (2000)
Beyond the Grave (2000)
Garden of Death (2000)
Destroying Angel (2001)
The Electric Vendetta (2001)
Who Killed Cock Robin? (2001)
Dark Autumn (2001)


Heat [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Heat [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Val Kilmer
Offered by supermart_usa
Price: £10.19

5.0 out of 5 stars "All I am is what I'm going after.", 2 Nov. 2008
Two men on opposite sides of the law, both loners obsessed by what they do. Two of contemporary cinema's greatest actors, facing off for the first time in their 30+ year-long careers. A director with an impeccable sense of style. And a tremendous cast, whose every member delivers a truly stunning performance. These are some of the ingredients that elevate Michael Mann's "Heat" high above any average thriller.

The film's mood is set from the very first camera shots, following Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) from a subway station to a hospital, to drive off with an ambulance he'll be using in his crew's next score. While we don't hear him speak a single word, his movements alone are unquestionably those of a leader; a man in absolute control of every situation. Like many of "Heat"'s crucial scenes (including the two lead characters' sole face-to-face encounters in a coffee shop and during the grand finale), the opening shots are set at night; and the hard contrast between almost black darkness and brightly shining neon lights thus established from the start is soon revealed as a hallmark of the movie's cinematography. One of the next shots shows McCauley's adversary-to-be, homicide Lieutenant Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) making love to his wife (Diane Venora). But afterwards there is no coziness; no conversation and no joint breakfast. Their relationship is disintegrating and, although fully aware that his obsession with his job is turning his life into a "disaster zone," it is ultimately Vincent who sacrifices it to that very obsession. Similarly, Neil has adopted a discipline of never letting himself get attached to anything he can't "walk out on in 30 seconds flat" if he feels the heat coming on: a discipline looming in the background even of his growing feelings for Eady (Amy Brenneman), with whom he has gotten involved against the instinct that told him to treat their encounter as a one-night-stand. Also troubled is the relationship between Neil's friend Chris (Val Kilmer) and his wife Charlene (Ashley Judd); but there it is Chris who wants to hold on to their marriage, whereas Charlene, no longer able to cope with his gambling and immaturity, wants out, although she still clearly loves him.

Vincent and Neil are pitted against each other after an armored car holdup of Neil's crew goes awry when a new man named Waingro (Kevin Gage), who will soon be revealed as a ruthless serial killer, escalates the robbery by shooting one of the guards. Knowing that they are now all up for first-degree murder, the gang don't hesitate to kill the other guards, so as not to leave a living witness. Yet, with the police on their trail they still plan two more scores; one at the Precious Metals Depository and one at a downtown bank, the latter of which in particular proves fatal when it ends in a shootout turning L.A.'s business district into a virtual war zone. Further complications arise out of Neil's attempt to sell the bearer bonds stolen in the holdup back to their owner, a shady businessman named Van Zant (William Fichtner), who ultimately pays a high price for underestimating him.

Shortly before the bank heist, Vincent and Neil have a brief but crucial encounter in a coffee shop; and what has heretofore been mere respect developed from afar grows into a feeling of empathy and kinship when they discover their similarities. Yet, neither is willing to cross the lines: He won't like it, Vincent ultimately tells Neil, but if it's between Neil and "some poor (...) whose wife you are going to turn into a widow, brother, you are going down." Neil responds that on that coin's flip side, he, too, won't hesitate to kill Vincent if he gets in his way. And with their positions thus established, the action is up and almost never lets off again, until they meet again during their final chase over LAX's airfield.

"Heat" is a self-described "Los Angeles crime saga," which by implication almost necessarily means that it's not characterized by down-to-earth realism; nor does it strive to be. Of course you do *not* walk away from a midday shootout with what looks like the better part of the LAPD's Central precinct (and unquestionably the movie's saddest unintended consequence was the real-life shootout provoked in imitation of this scene a few years later). Of course it's doubtful that guys like Vincent and Neil would ever sit down together over coffee - more likely, their encounter would have brought about Neil's arrest for murder, as Vincent by this time arguably had probable cause. Of course a real cop's loyalty would always be with his colleagues, and even respect for an adversary like Neil wouldn't propel him to hold his hand, after that same adversary had shot several of his fellow policemen. But all this is ultimately beside the point. This movie's entire dynamics are driven by the antagonism between its unexpectedly similar protagonists; and on that basis, their mutual feelings of empathy and even brotherhood are entirely credible.

The pairing of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino was a dream finally come true; for their performances alone, "Heat" deserves highest honors. While Pacino is his usual self as a supercharged bundle of dynamite, De Niro shows incredible (mannerism-free!) control, contrasting Pacino's bursts of temper with a chilling coolness that can nevertheless flip into ruthless violence in a split second, or into tenderness and emotion in his scenes with Eady. They are complemented by the stellar ensemble cast, also including, inter alia, Natalie Portman in her U.S. film debut as Vincent's troubled stepdaughter (after her very first appearance alongside Jean Reno in Luc Besson's "Leon"), John Voight and Tom Sizemore as Neil's associates Nate and Michael, Hank Azaria as Charlene's love interest and Mykelti Williamson and Wes Studi as Vincent's fellow cops. All in all, this is a truly outstanding production - and despite almost 3 hours' running time, not a minute too long.


Interview With The Vampire [Blu-ray] [1994] [Region Free]
Interview With The Vampire [Blu-ray] [1994] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Tom Cruise
Price: £8.40

10 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dies Irae; Dies Doloris., 2 Nov. 2008
"Libera me, Domine, de vitae aeterna" - "Free me, Lord, from eternal life": If a movie begins with a choir and boy soprano singing these words, in a requiem's style and overlaying the camera's sweeping move over nightly San Francisco bay, zooming in on a Victorian building's top-floor window after having followed the life on the street below like a hunter follows its prey - if a movie begins like this, you know you're not looking at your average flick, whatever its subject. (And if the first thing you catch is the Latin phrase's grammatical mistake, this is probably not your kind of movie to begin with).

Much-discussed even before its release, due not least to Anne Rice's temporary withdrawal of support and her no less sensational subsequent 180-degree turn, Neil Jordan's adaptation of the "Vampire Chronicles"' first part, based on Rice's own screenplay, is a sumptuous production awash in luminous colors, magnificent period decor and costumes, rich fabrics, heavy crystal, elegant silverware and gallons of deeply scarlet blood, supremely photographed by Phillippe Rousselot, with a constant undercurrent of sensuality and seduction; an audiovisual orgy substantiated by one of recent film history's most ingenious scores (by Elliot Goldenthal). Although the book only gained notoriety after the publication of its sequel "The Vampire Lestat," followed in short order by the "Chronicles"' third installment, "The Queen of the Damned," by the time this movie was produced, Rice had acquired a large and loyal fan base, who would have been ready to tear it to shreds had it failed to meet their expectations. That this was not unanimously the case is in and of itself testimony to Neil Jordan's considerable achievement (only underscored by the botched 2002 realization of "Queen of the Damned"). Sure, some decry the plot changes vis-a-vis the novel and the fact that some of the protagonists (particularly Louis and Armand) look different from Rice's description. But others have embraced the movie wholeheartedly; praising it for remaining faithful to the fundamentalities of Rice's story and for its production values as such. I find myself firmly in the latter corner; indeed, in some respects I consider this one of the rare movies that are superior to their literary originals - primarily because the story's two main characters, Louis and Lestat, gain considerably in stature and complexity compared to Rice's book.

While both film and novel are narrated by Louis (Brad Pitt), giving an interview to a reporter (Christian Slater) in the hope of achieving some minimal atonement for 200 years of sin and guilt, and while Lestat (Tom Cruise) appears on screen barely half the movie's running time, Lestat is much more of a central character than in Rice's novel; and vastly more interesting. For Anne Rice's Lestat only comes into his own in the "Chronicles"' second part, which is named for him and where we truly learn to appreciate him as the vampire world's aristocratic, arrogant, wicked, intelligent and unscrupulous "brat prince," who although completely lacking regret for any of his actions nevertheless shows occasional glimpses of caring, even if he would never admit thereto. *This*, however, is exactly the movie's Lestat; not the comparatively uninformed and, all things considered, even somewhat brutish creature of Rice's first novel. It is no small feat on Tom Cruise's part to have accomplished this; and in my mind his portrayal has completely eclipsed the character's original conception, which was reportedly based on Rutger Hauer's Captain Navarre in "Ladyhawke."

Similarly, while every bit as guilt-ridden as the character created by Anne Rice, Brad Pitt's Louis regains more inner strength - and more quickly so - than the narrator of Rice's book, rendering him more of an even foil for Lestat, and equally lending greater credibility to his initial selection as Lestat's companion, his actions to ensure his and Claudia's escape to Europe, and his later decision not to stay with Armand. (Indeed, Louis's and Armand's separation after the burning of the Theatre of the Vampires makes perfect sense in the movie's context; it would have undercut both characters', but especially Louis's credibility had they gone on to share years of companionship like in the book.)

Kirsten Dunst's Claudia was not only this movie's biggest discovery - not surprisingly, in an interview included on the DVD Dunst calls this "the most prominent role" of her career so far - she, too, embodies the novel's child vampire to absolute perfection; capturing her eternally childlike features as well as her Lolitaesque seductiveness and the ruthless killer hidden under her doll-like appearance. Doubtlessly furthest from the novel's character is Antonio Banderas's powerful and charismatic Armand: But while I do somewhat miss Rice's auburn-haired "Botticelli angel," I always had a problem imagining him as the leader of the Paris coven, in control even of the quicksilver-like Santiago (marvelously portrayed by Stephen Rea in one of his most overtly theatrical performances). Here, too, the movie - if anything - gives the story greater credibility; although it's admittedly hard to reconcile with parts of the "Chronicles"' later installments, particularly Armand's own biography.

In interviews, Neil Jordan and Brad Pitt particularly have mentioned the emotional strain that this movie put on all its participants; due its almost exclusively nightly shooting schedule, and even more so because of its incessant exploration of guilt, damnation and, literally, hell on earth. Anne Rice's vampires truly are the ultimate outsiders; no longer part of human society, they feed on it, can neither be harmed by sickness nor by methods the world has taken for granted ever since Bram Stoker's "Dracula" (which are in fact merely "the vulgar fictions of a demented Irishman," as Louis explains, simultaneously amused and contemptuous) and are thus, if not killed by fire and/or beheading, condemned to walk the earth forever, without any hope of redemption. It is primarily this element which has given Rice's novels their lasting appeal, and which is perfectly rendered in Jordan's adaptation. I'm still not sure I'd ever want to meet them in person, though ...
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 8, 2010 1:58 PM BST


Interview With the Vampire [Blu-ray] [2008] [US Import]
Interview With the Vampire [Blu-ray] [2008] [US Import]
Dvd ~ Brad Pitt
Offered by Moref Designs
Price: £9.72

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dies Irae; Dies Doloris., 2 Nov. 2008
"Libera me, Domine, de vitae aeterna" - "Free me, Lord, from eternal life": If a movie begins with a choir and boy soprano singing these words, in a requiem's style and overlaying the camera's sweeping move over nightly San Francisco bay, zooming in on a Victorian building's top-floor window after having followed the life on the street below like a hunter follows its prey - if a movie begins like this, you know you're not looking at your average flick, whatever its subject. (And if the first thing you catch is the Latin phrase's grammatical mistake, this is probably not your kind of movie to begin with).

Much-discussed even before its release, due not least to Anne Rice's temporary withdrawal of support and her no less sensational subsequent 180-degree turn, Neil Jordan's adaptation of the "Vampire Chronicles"' first part, based on Rice's own screenplay, is a sumptuous production awash in luminous colors, magnificent period decor and costumes, rich fabrics, heavy crystal, elegant silverware and gallons of deeply scarlet blood, supremely photographed by Phillippe Rousselot, with a constant undercurrent of sensuality and seduction; an audiovisual orgy substantiated by one of recent film history's most ingenious scores (by Elliot Goldenthal). Although the book only gained notoriety after the publication of its sequel "The Vampire Lestat," followed in short order by the "Chronicles"' third installment, "The Queen of the Damned," by the time this movie was produced, Rice had acquired a large and loyal fan base, who would have been ready to tear it to shreds had it failed to meet their expectations. That this was not unanimously the case is in and of itself testimony to Neil Jordan's considerable achievement (only underscored by the botched 2002 realization of "Queen of the Damned"). Sure, some decry the plot changes vis-a-vis the novel and the fact that some of the protagonists (particularly Louis and Armand) look different from Rice's description. But others have embraced the movie wholeheartedly; praising it for remaining faithful to the fundamentalities of Rice's story and for its production values as such. I find myself firmly in the latter corner; indeed, in some respects I consider this one of the rare movies that are superior to their literary originals - primarily because the story's two main characters, Louis and Lestat, gain considerably in stature and complexity compared to Rice's book.

While both film and novel are narrated by Louis (Brad Pitt), giving an interview to a reporter (Christian Slater) in the hope of achieving some minimal atonement for 200 years of sin and guilt, and while Lestat (Tom Cruise) appears on screen barely half the movie's running time, Lestat is much more of a central character than in Rice's novel; and vastly more interesting. For Anne Rice's Lestat only comes into his own in the "Chronicles"' second part, which is named for him and where we truly learn to appreciate him as the vampire world's aristocratic, arrogant, wicked, intelligent and unscrupulous "brat prince," who although completely lacking regret for any of his actions nevertheless shows occasional glimpses of caring, even if he would never admit thereto. *This*, however, is exactly the movie's Lestat; not the comparatively uninformed and, all things considered, even somewhat brutish creature of Rice's first novel. It is no small feat on Tom Cruise's part to have accomplished this; and in my mind his portrayal has completely eclipsed the character's original conception, which was reportedly based on Rutger Hauer's Captain Navarre in "Ladyhawke."

Similarly, while every bit as guilt-ridden as the character created by Anne Rice, Brad Pitt's Louis regains more inner strength - and more quickly so - than the narrator of Rice's book, rendering him more of an even foil for Lestat, and equally lending greater credibility to his initial selection as Lestat's companion, his actions to ensure his and Claudia's escape to Europe, and his later decision not to stay with Armand. (Indeed, Louis's and Armand's separation after the burning of the Theatre of the Vampires makes perfect sense in the movie's context; it would have undercut both characters', but especially Louis's credibility had they gone on to share years of companionship like in the book.)

Kirsten Dunst's Claudia was not only this movie's biggest discovery - not surprisingly, in an interview included on the DVD Dunst calls this "the most prominent role" of her career so far - she, too, embodies the novel's child vampire to absolute perfection; capturing her eternally childlike features as well as her Lolitaesque seductiveness and the ruthless killer hidden under her doll-like appearance. Doubtlessly furthest from the novel's character is Antonio Banderas's powerful and charismatic Armand: But while I do somewhat miss Rice's auburn-haired "Botticelli angel," I always had a problem imagining him as the leader of the Paris coven, in control even of the quicksilver-like Santiago (marvelously portrayed by Stephen Rea in one of his most overtly theatrical performances). Here, too, the movie - if anything - gives the story greater credibility; although it's admittedly hard to reconcile with parts of the "Chronicles"' later installments, particularly Armand's own biography.

In interviews, Neil Jordan and Brad Pitt particularly have mentioned the emotional strain that this movie put on all its participants; due its almost exclusively nightly shooting schedule, and even more so because of its incessant exploration of guilt, damnation and, literally, hell on earth. Anne Rice's vampires truly are the ultimate outsiders; no longer part of human society, they feed on it, can neither be harmed by sickness nor by methods the world has taken for granted ever since Bram Stoker's "Dracula" (which are in fact merely "the vulgar fictions of a demented Irishman," as Louis explains, simultaneously amused and contemptuous) and are thus, if not killed by fire and/or beheading, condemned to walk the earth forever, without any hope of redemption. It is primarily this element which has given Rice's novels their lasting appeal, and which is perfectly rendered in Jordan's adaptation. I'm still not sure I'd ever want to meet them in person, though ...


Key Largo [DVD] [1948]
Key Largo [DVD] [1948]
Dvd ~ Humphrey Bogart

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "When your head says one thing and your whole life says another, your head always loses.", 2 Nov. 2008
This review is from: Key Largo [DVD] [1948] (DVD)
Aaaahhh ... Bogey. AFI's No. 1 film star of the 20th century. Hollywood's original noir anti-hero, epitome of the handsome, cynical and oh-so lonesome wolf; looking unbeatably cool in his fedora, a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. Endowed with a legendary aura several times larger than his real life stature, and still admired by scores of women wishing they had been born 50+ years earlier, preferably somewhere in California and to parents connected with the movie business, so as to have at least a marginal chance of meeting him.

"Key Largo" (1948), directed by John Huston, is the last of four movies starring Bogart and real-life spouse Lauren Bacall (after their legendary collaborations in, first and foremost, "To Have and Have Not" and "The Big Sleep," as well as in "Dark Passage"), by this time firmly established as one of Hollywood's new leading ladies in her own right. At the same time, it also constitutes a reversal of roles between Bogart and Edward G. Robinson, opposite whom Bogart had appeared in 1930s movies like "Bullets or Ballots," "Kid Galahad," and "Brother Orchid:" Whereas in the earlier films, the complexer parts had been Robinson's (while Bogart's characters had had little or no redeeming qualities whatsoever), here it is Bogey's world-weary and reluctant WWII veteran Frank McCloud who finds himself -- half acting on his own accord, half propelled by Bacall's sharp-tongued hotel keeper Nora Temple -- ultimately facing up to Robinson's ruthless gangster Johnny Rocco in the sultry, Hemingwayesque setting of the Florida Keys, under the onslaught of a hurricane; with great supporting performances by Lionel Barrymore as Bacall's father-in-law and Claire Trevor as Rocco's disillusioned, alcoholic lover.

When looking at this movie's and, even more so, its leading actors' almost mythical fame, it is difficult to imagine that, produced at the height of the studio system era, "Key Largo" was originally just one of the roughly 50 movies released over the course of a single year. But mass production didn't equal low quality; on the contrary, the great care given to all production values, from script-writing to camera work, editing, score and the stars' presentation in the movie itself and in its trailer, was at least partly responsible for its lasting success.

All in all, "Key Largo" may not be quite on same the level as those movies which, by the time of its release, had already bestowed on Bogart, in particular, his everlasting legendary status (such as "Casablanca," which would, a few decades later, end up second only to "Citizen Kane" at the helm of the AFI's Top 100 20th century movies list, with Bogey's Rick Blane, at the same time, ranking as one of the 20th century's Top 5 film heroes; "The Maltese Falcon," at No. 23 not far behind on the AFI's Top 100 20th century movies list; and "The Big Sleep," which solidified not only the chemistry between Bogart and Bacall -- who had married even before its 1946 release -- but also Lauren Bacall's own Hollywood standing as well as her sassy, mysterious aura, while also making for yet another entry of Bogey's in the AFI's Top 50 20th century film heroes list as the incarnation of Raymond Chandler's cynical gumshoe Philip Marlowe). Yet, all of this ultimately says more about those other movies (and Bogart's and Bacall's careers as a whole) than it does about "Key Largo" itself. Taken on its own, this is without question still one of the finest hours Old Hollywood ever saw -- and one of the most stellar examples of classic noir film making.


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