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Themis-Athena (from somewhere between California and Germany)

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Casablanca - Special Edition [DVD]
Casablanca - Special Edition [DVD]
Dvd ~ Humphrey Bogart
Offered by CSC Distribution
Price: £24.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You must remember this ..., 17 Jan. 2007
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 (with his "Casablanca"'s Rick Blaine alone, one of the Top 5 guys on the AFI's list of greatest 20th century film heroes); looking unbeatably cool in white dinner jacket or trenchcoat and fedora alike, a glass of whiskey in his hand and 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.

Triple-Oscar-winning "Casablanca," directed by Michael Curtiz, was and still is without question Bogart's greatest career-defining moment, the movie on which his legendary status is grounded more than on any other of his multiple other successes. The film's story is based on Murray Burnett and Joan Alison's play "Everybody Comes to Rick's," renamed by Warner Brothers in order to tag onto the success of the studio's 1938 hit "Algiers" (starring Charles Boyer and Hedy Lamarr). Building on the success of 1941's "The Maltese Falcon" and further expanding Bogart's increasingly complex on-screen personality, it added a romantic quality which had heretofore been missing; eventually making this the AFI's Top 20th century love story (even before the No. 2 "Gone With the Wind"), while second only to "Citizen Kane" on the AFI's overall list of Top 100 20th century movies; with a unique, inimitable blend of drama, passion, humor, exotic North African atmosphere, patriotism, unforgettable score (courtesy of Herman Hupfeld's "As Time Goes By," Max Steiner and Louis Kaufman's violin) and an all-star cast, consisting besides Bogart of Ingrid Bergman (Ilsa), Paul Henreid (Victor Laszlo), Claude Rains (Captain Renault), Dooley Wilson (who, a drummer by trade, had to fake his piano playing as Rick's friend Sam), Conrad Veidt (Major Strasser), Sydney Greenstreet (Ferrari) and Peter Lorre (Ugarte). And the movie's countless famous one-liners have long attained legendary status in their own right ...

Looking at this movie's and its stars' almost mythical fame, it is difficult to imagine that, produced at the height of the studio system era, it was originally just one of the roughly 50 movies released over the course of one 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 movies themselves and in their trailers, was at least partly responsible for its lasting success. In fact, the screenplay for "Casablanca" was constantly rewritten even throughout the filming process, to the point that particularly Ingrid Bergman was extremely worried because she was unsure whether at the end she (Ilsa) would leave Casablanca with Henreid's Victor Laszlo or stay there with Humphrey Bogart (Rick).

Little needs to be said about the movie's story. After the onset of WWII, Casablanca has become a point of refuge for Jews and other desperate souls from all corners of Europe, fleeing the old world with the hope of building a new life in America. Unofficial center of Casablanca's society is Rick's "Cafe Americain," where gamblers, refugees, French police, Nazi troops, thieves, swindlers and soldiers of fortune come together on a nightly basis, to make connections, conduct their shady business, or simply forget the uncertainty of their fate for a few precious hours. And presiding over this mixed and colorful society is Rick Blaine, expatriate American without any hope of returning to the United States himself (for reasons never fully explained), officially not interested in politics but only the flourishing of his business, but soft-hearted underneath the hard shell of his cynicism. From Rick's perspective, everything is going just swell and the way it is meant to be: he is reasonably well-respected, has a good working relationship with Captain Renault, the local representative of the Vichy government (based on mutual respect as much as on the fact that Renault is a guaranteed winner at Rick's gambling tables and, by way of reciprocation, turns a blind eye to whatever less-than-squeaky-clean transactions Rick may be tolerating in his cafe, always ready to have his police round up "the usual suspects" instead of the truly guilty party of a crime if that person's continued freedom promises to be more profitable); and although aware of Rick's not quite so apolitical past, the Germans are leaving him alone as well, as long as he stays out of politics now. Until ... well, until famous underground resistance leader and recent concentration camp-escapee Victor Laszlo and his wife Ilsa walk into Rick's cafe, into his place "of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world" - and with one blow, administered to the melancholy tunes of "As Time Goes By," the carefully maintained equilibrium of his little world comes crashing down around him.

The movie's two-disc special edition is unquestionably superior to any prior single-disc edition; featuring not only an improved video transfer but also, and notably, a new introduction by Lauren Bacall, additional documentaries ("Bacall on Bogart" and "The Children Remember" with Stephen Bogart and Ingrid Bergman's daughters Pia Lindstrom and Isabella Rosselini) besides the excellent "You Must Remember This" already included on the one-disc edition, newly-discovered deleted scenes, treasures from the production history, commentary tracks with Roger Ebert and historian Rudy Behlmer, as well as several audio documents and fun stuff like web links and the "Looney Tunes" homage "Carrotblanca."

Not only to Bogart and Bergman fans all over the world, "Casablanca" is film history's all-time crowning achievement, a "must" in every movie lover's collection, and one of the few films that truly deserve the title "classic." If you don't already own it, this box set is a great occasion to remedy that omission!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 19, 2010 7:25 AM GMT


Longitude [DVD]
Longitude [DVD]
Dvd ~ Michael Gambon
Price: £4.97

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Fourth Dimension., 28 Dec. 2006
This review is from: Longitude [DVD] (DVD)
In the 18th century much had already been achieved in the exploration of the world: In addition to the achievements of Columbus, Cabot , Vespucci, Cartier, da Gama and others in the discovery of the Americas, Portuguese sailors commissioned by Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460) had sailed along the western African coast; Bartolomeu Dias (1457-1500) had circumnavigated the Cape of Good Hope; Vasco da Gama had been the first explorer to reach India by sea (1498); 1518-19 had seen Francisco Magellan's almost-complete global circumnavigation; in the mid-16th century Portuguese merchants and Jesuit missionaries had made contact with Japan; and about 50 years later the Dutch had established their first trading posts in South-East Asia. On their voyages, these early explorers had overcome storms, hunger, scurvy and uncertainty about their exact course and the feasibility of their aim; and they had suffered from a severe navigational handicap: For while it is comparatively easy to determine latitude, the exact determination of longitude requires consideration of the world's fourth dimension -- time. Only the knowledge how long the rotation of the earth vis-a-vis the sun takes from one point to another enables a seaman to determine where precisely he is at any given moment; wherefore he needs to know both the time at his departure port and the time aboard ship. The inability to make that determination invariably adds the danger of getting lost at sea to the perils of every naval voyage (and in fact, even da Gama's Indian expedition was almost derailed by the navigator's miscalculation of his position off the African coast).

Having emerged from the shadow of the continental European powers and become a major seafaring nation in its own right, the England of the Age of Reason was no longer willing to sacrifice thousands of sailors to the inability of determining longitude. After the 1707 death of over 2000 men under the command of Admiral Sir Clowdisley Shovel, who had mistaken his ships' position for the coast of Brittany while in fact sailing right into the Scilly Islands off the coast of Cornwall, Queen Anne in 1714 signed an act promising a reward of 20,000 pounds (today, approximately $5 million) to the discoverer of a "practicable and useful solution to the problem of finding longitude at sea." Among those taking the bait were proponents of rocket signals, would-be scientists working with injured dogs and a so-called "powder of sympathy" -- and a self-taught Yorkshire carpenter named John Harrison (Michael Gambon).

"Longitude," based on Dava Sobel's novel of the same name, tells the story of Harrison's quest; expanding the book's premise, however, and contrasting it with that of Navy Commander Rupert Gould (Jeremy Irons), who -- having suffered a nervous breakdown in WWI -- unearthed and restored Harrison's by then almost-forgotten chronometers. Originally a TV mini-series, this is in fact one single coherent film; realized with the broad vision of a big-screen approach to filmmaking. Part naval adventure, part historic docudrama, the movie first and foremost explores the two lead characters' hearts and souls: That of the mercurial (yet, with his chronometers infinitely patient) Harrison and that of the fragile Gould; the former a puritan on a scientific mission, the latter searching for his peace of mind, hoping to regain it by giving new life to Harrison's timekeepers. They are united by their infinite respect for all watches and clocks, which to them are living things -- dearer, in a way, than their own flesh and blood -- and by a screenplay joining their stories into a single rhythm of discovery, setbacks, apparent triumph, despair and fulfillment; seamlessly cutting between the 18th century's candle-lit world and that of the 20th century and its technical advances.

Both Harrison and Gould are at odds with society's established rules: Harrison, in the eyes of the Board of Longitude created to oversee the 1714 act, is utterly unworthy of receiving the prize; awarding it to him, according to board member Lord Morton, would be letting "the longitude prize [be] stolen by a country toolmaker." Gould on the other hand, by sacrificing his marriage to the work on Harrison's chronometers, risks scandal and social isolation. And the juxtaposition of Harrison's ever-more practical approach (eventually resulting in the creation of a chronometer just a little over 5 inches in diameter, capable to measure longitude within the revolutionary degree of approximately 1 minute or about 1 mile) and the method favored by the astronomers on the Board of Longitude (lunar observation, soon earning them and their darling, Astronomer Royal-to-be Reverend Nevil Maskelyne (Samuel West) the nickname "lunatics" in the Harrison household) is a classic tale of David vs. Goliath, and remains so even after Harrison Sr. is joined by his son William (Ian Hart). Although his benefactor Graham has once suggested that, after having convinced the Admiralty and the Royal Society's initial appointees to the Board, Harrison's real test will be the politicians, it finally falls to Parliament to come to his aid, more than 50 years after he has begun his work; and after the intervention of stout Harrison supporter First Lord of the Admiralty and Secretary of State Lord Sandwich, Australian explorer Captain James Cook, and eventually even King George III, who likewise fancies himself a scientist.

In addition to director Charles Sturridge's vision, "Longitude" benefits from the great sense of authenticity displayed by cinematographer Peter Hannan, production designers Eileen Diss and Chris Lowe and costume designer Shirley Russell -- and from a cast list that virtually reads like a "who is who" of contemporary British cinema; featuring inter alia, besides Gambon, Irons, Hart and West, Gemma Jones (Elizabeth Harrison), Anna Chancellor (Muriel Gould) and Brian Cox (Lord Morton), as well as brief appearances by Stephen Fry as "powder of sympathy" proponent Sir Kelnhelm Digby and German actress Heike Makatsch as King George's wife Charlotte. -- This is a complex, fascinating movie; one of televisions's finest hours in recent years: Nothing for the mere casual viewer, but truly rewarding to anyone willing to join Harrison and Gould in their voyage of discovery.


Reptile (+Bonus)
Reptile (+Bonus)
Price: £52.45

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoy it on its own merits!, 4 Oct. 2006
This review is from: Reptile (+Bonus) (Audio CD)
When Eric Clapton and B.B. King planned the production of the album that would eventually become "Riding With The King," they scheduled three months of studio time -- much to B.B. King's team's surprise because the King of Blues usually takes much less than that to finish an album. And lo'n behold, they were done in roughly a month, recording almost exclusively live, with very little editing involved. So Clapton decided to "tag on" an album of his own and take advantage of the outstanding group of musicians they had assembled, and the magical atmosphere of the cooperation with them. He had however, he says, "underestimated" how big exactly the effect of B.B. King's presence had been, and things just didn't seem to go together anymore as they had before. Besides, there didn't seem to be a real theme and a purpose to the album. So he took a break from recording and, when meeting with relatives in Canada, was reminded of his uncle Adrian (a.k.a. "Son") who had recently passed away, and whom he hadn't seen at all during the last years before Adrian's death; although growing up, this had been one of the most influential persons in his life. Like those of many outstanding musicians, Eric Clapton's albums often reflect the stage he is in in life; and remembering his uncle, it suddenly became clear to him that his new album had to be a re-examination of his early years, and of his relationship with "Son," a "local James Dean," as Clapton recently described him to Rolling Stone Magazine, and a true "Reptile" (i.e., "one of the guys") of his native Ripley.

I think it is important to take an album for what it is and not look for things which, given the album's history and meaning to the artist who has recorded it, cannot be there. This is obviously neither "Layla" nor "Fresh Cream" nor "Journeyman." Clapton has long since made his mark on blues and rock music, with these and other albums, with and without psychedelia (and he has never really been comfortable with the God-like status to which he was elevated early on anyway). He is no longer chasing Pattie Harrison. He has overcome drug and alcohol abuse; recovery from the latter prompting the doubtlessly difficult separation from his family in Ripley, including and in particular his uncle Adrian. He has founded "Crossroads" and taken control of both his private and his business life. His personality has evolved, and he doesn't exclusively have to rely on his music any longer to express what he wants to say. ("The only personality I had was within my fingers," he told Rolling Stone Magazine about his years with Cream and Blind Faith. "I could play it, but I couldn't say it. When we didn't have a song, I'd just think, 'Let's get stoned.' Which we did when we didn't know what we were doing.")

"Reptile" reflects the joy of Eric Clapton's cooperation with outstanding musicians such as long-time friends Andy Fairweather Low, Billy Preston, Steve Gadd and Nathan East (who have joined him for the tour promoting the album -- special kudos to Billy Preston who, back from the hospital bed and his fight with chronic liver disease, literally danced on the stage when I saw them) ... and, yes, the Impressions, whom Clapton values so much that he has already announced that they will be featured on his next album, too. Clapton has called "Reptile" an "electric unplugged album" (with an "unplugged" feeling, but "plugged in" instruments) and compared its production to that of "461 Ocean Boulevard," his comeback studio album of 1974, in that during the recording of both albums, he and the other musicians would jam a lot, just playing songs of other artists they liked, and a fair share of those covers eventually made it into the final cut of the album. J.J. Cale's "Travelin' Light," Ray Charles's "Come Back Baby," James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" and Stevie Wonder's "I Ain't Gonna Stand For It" are examples here, and Clapton impresses his very own mark on each of them. And although he took some time to remix the album after the initial recording, it still maintains much of the atmosphere present during its production (witness, for example, that spontaneous "Have mercy!" at the end of "Come Back Baby.")

But the album wouldn't be named for Eric Clapton's uncle (and dedicated to him and his wife Sylvia) if it wasn't, in large parts, also about the singer-guitarist's re-evaluation of the things that influenced him in his youth. Hence, songs such as the instrumental title track (which is a bossa nova because, Clapton says, he just loves Brazilian music), the closing and likewise instrumental "Son & Sylvia," "Believe in Life" and, of course, "Find Myself," written early on but finding its true purpose only when the album took its final direction. Despite all this, and its tributes to different musical styles - including those favored by Clapton's uncle -- the one thing this album is not is "retro" (Clapton actually fought the record company to keep it from going down that path). It's as much a catalyst for its maker's emotions and state of mind as any of his other albums over the course of the past decades; it's also, blues and beyond, just plain good music ... and incidentally, as if this needed any emphasis at all, Clapton's powers as a guitarist are still fully in place, as not only evidenced on this album but also during his most recent live appearances (with the added benefit of a large screen, concert venue permitting, giving fans an up-and-close view of the man's fretboard wizardry). His latest album should be enjoyed on its own merits, not on those of his numerous past laurels, uniquely important as they are -- and on these terms, there is plenty to enjoy indeed.


Alchemy
Alchemy

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes you wish they'd go on and on and on!, 4 Oct. 2006
This review is from: Alchemy (Audio CD)
Have you ever wondered how many variations of a song, or of a song's theme a band can perform live without ever getting boring? Ever listened to somebody play and wished he'd never stop because he is just that great? "Alchemy" is exactly that kind of experience. Recorded two years before what was probably their most successful studio album ("Brothers in Arms"), this more than 90 minute-long live release easily explains why Dire Straits took off with rocket speed in a time otherwise dominated by disco music on the one hand and punk on the other, and why to this day they are considered one of the greatest rock bands ever to have existed. Listen to the first chords of "Once Upon a Time in the West," and you'll know why Mark Knopfler is, in addition to all his other accomplishments, a much sought-after film score composer. Listen to "Romeo and Juliet," and you'll understand why the greatest love story ever told truly is more than a story of two rich kids born to feuding families a couple of centuries ago in Italy, and holds as much truth for us streetwise teenagers of the late 20th century as it did 400 years ago. Listen to "Telegraph Road," and you`ll find a dark, brooding novel of epic proportions condensed into one song, culminating with as haunting and intense a guitar solo as you'll ever hear - by Mark Knopfler or others.

From their first studio album on, Dire Straits defied the three-minute limits imposed by the conventions of radio airplay. But it has always been in a live venue that Mark Knopfler's talent shines most, and that he is able to fully explore all that his Fender will give him ... and more. Each song on this double CD is extended as compared to its respective studio version; no less than four of them ("Once Upon a Time in the West," "Sultans of Swing," "Tunnel of Love" and "Telegraph Road") are over ten minutes long, three even over 13 minutes - only a Dire Straits live album would make it necessary for "just" 11 songs to be spread out over two discs. But these recordings are not about length. They are about one man's dialogue with his guitar, the poetry of his lyrics, his awareness of society; in short, all that great music stands for and can express. Gifted as he is, Mark Knopfler has always found musicians who are exceptionally talented in their own right to provide a foundation he can build on, and this early (although not the earliest) incarnation of Dire Straits is no exception. Yet this band, in all of its formations over the course of the years, was as dominated by Knopfler's musical genius as few other bands have ever been, and nothing could have made this clearer than their live recordings; an experience only surpassed by actually witnessing Knopfler live on stage, particularly as he just seems to get better and better over the course of the years. "Telegraph Road" alone, the dramatic finale of his unforgettable live appearance during the recent "Sailing to Philadelphia" tour, left me completely stunned and wishing the show would go on and on for hours more.

"Anybody who finds nothing to love here has either got a problem with the essential fabric of rock and roll or cloth ears," writes British music journalist Robert Sandall in the introduction to Dire Straits' greatest hits album, "Sultans of Swing." And while this is true for anything they have ever released over the course of their career, and likewise for each and every one of Knopfler's solo albums and movie scores, you have to have more than cloth ears and a problem with the things that rock music is all about not to be inspired by this incredible piece of live recording.


Thelma & Louise [DVD] [1991] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Thelma & Louise [DVD] [1991] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cult classic -- not just for feminists., 27 Sept. 2006
"BOOM!!" Under fire from Thelma and Louise's guns, the tongue-wagging truck-driver's pride and joy (and extension of his manhood) goes up in flames. Incredulous, its owner stares at the spectacle and lets off a pitifully helpless and, in its helplessness, hilariously comical tirade against the two female outlaws; whose only reason not to shoot him, too, at this point is that it is so utterly more poignant to let him sit all alone by the road side in the vastness of the Southwest, robbed of all attributes of male potency and left to the pity of whoever is eventually going to pick him up and give him a ride back to civilization.

By the time of this incident, Thelma has mutated from a subdued and insecure housewife to a self-assured, fearless queen of the highway. ("Something has crossed over" in her, she tells Louise shortly before their final encounter with their truck-driving nemesis.) Louise in turn, who had taken the lead early on in their flight from the police, has overcome her intermittent bout of despair and is back to her old self, too. Now wanted not only for questioning in connection with the death of the rapist shot by Louise but also for armed robbery in another state, knowing that being questioned by the police will inevitably add a charge of murder for the incident which set off their run (and probably also knowing deep down inside that there is not going to be a happy ending to their weekend trip anyway), Thelma and Louise have stopped to care what is going to happen next. Thus emboldened, they make a last great run for it, which ultimately leads them to the vast, endlessly deep gorges of the Grand Canyon.

"Thelma and Louise" is all and none of the things as which it has been described. It is about the friendship between two women, about female independence and male sexism, but it is neither a simple "chick flick" nor a monument to feminism (although I have to admit that watching it can have an almost therapeutic effect when you've just about "had it" again with the male slightly-less-than-half of society). Most of the men that Thelma and Louise encounter are two-dimensional cartoon characters, but "Reservoir Dogs" and perpetual tough guys Harvey Keitel and Michael Madsen (of all people) are cast against stereotype. The movie also features some absolutely stunning pictures of the Southwestern scenery and mostly takes place on the road, but it is not just a "road movie" (feminist or otherwise). More than anything, this is a movie about the things that shape the way we are, and about the consequences of our actions. Had Thelma learned to use her brain before and not after their encounter with Harlan the rapist, she would have seen him for what he was and avoided him from the start. Had Louise not been raped herself, she would probably not have shot Harlan at being provoked by him, after the self-defense situation was already over. Impulse? Fate? Justifiable homicide? Hardly. Thoroughly understandable? Absolutely, at least from a woman's point of view.

It takes two extraordinary lead actresses to carry the movie's theme, and Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis are the perfect embodiment of the characters they portray. Next to them, not even Keitel and Madsen really shine (although this may be in part due to the thankless parts they play); only Brad Pitt, in the role that made him an overnight star, briefly gets to sparkle. Callie Khourie was a deserving winner of the 1991 Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Original Screenplay, and both Sarandon and Davis would have been equally deserving of the Best Leading Actress awards. So would have Ridley Scott for Directing, Adrian Biddle for Cinematography, Thom Noble for Editing and the movie itself, for Best Drama -- in a year that produced many extraordinary films, it might have been more just to split some of the awards among several contenders, and despite the strong competition ("Bugsy," "Silence of the Lambs," "Prince of Tides," "The Fisher King," "Grand Canyon" and "Fried Green Tomatoes," to name just a few), it seems sadly underrated for a movie that has long since become a cult classic to only have won one of the awards it was nominated for, both on Oscar Night and at the Golden Globes.


Brothers In Arms - 20th Anniversary Edition
Brothers In Arms - 20th Anniversary Edition
Price: £9.75

39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An era-defining classic., 27 Sept. 2006
Trust Mark Knopfler not to succumb to platitude, regardless where he is and what's going on around him. There they are sitting on the Caribbean island paradise of Montserrat, and what does the man write? Songs about the pain of separation, love gone wrong and The Blues in general ("So Far Away," "Your Latest Trick," "Why Worry" and "One World"), a part tongue-in-cheek, part grating duet with Sting, who just happened to be available because he was vacationing on Montserrat, on an underdog's gripes about rock stardom ("Money For Nothing"), followed by a more upbeat variation on the "stardom" theme (although even there, we are reminded that "after all the violence and double talk, there's just a song in all the trouble and the strife, you do the Walk Of Life") ... and no less than three songs about war and the abuse of power ("Run Across The River," "The Man's Too Strong" and of course, "Brothers in Arms").

Musically, this album is more diversified than Dire Straits' prior studio albums; there's a sax in "Your Latest Trick," "Walk Of Life" has a rockabilly feel, and the instrumentation of "Run Across the River" is inspired by the Caribbean setting in which the record was produced -- but listen to that song's lyrics and see how they contrast with what at first impression sounds like airy island paradise melodies: "I'm a soldier of fortune, I'm a dog of war and we don't give a damn who the killing is for; it's the same old story with a different name -- death or glory, it's the killing game." ("The Man's Too Strong," which deals with a dictator's thoughts upon being brought to trial, is similar in that respect; although the Caribbean sound is replaced by rhythm and steel guitars, with two single guitar riffs, sharp as bullets, accentuating the chorus.) The band also took full advantage of the advances in production techniques available to them at that time. The result was an album that drove home to even the last uninitiated chump out there that Dire Straits were a musical force to reckon with, and that the success of their prior albums had not been coincidence alone. And the SACD drives this home even more forcefully ... (to the extent this is even possible).

Among all the excellent songs on this album, it is the title track which stands out mile-high. From the growling thunderstorm opening, the sad and evocative electric guitar intro, and the first verse, more whispered than sung, through the slow and steady crescendo of the song's intensity to the closing guitar solo, Mark Knopfler's ode about war, in ancient Scotland and today, "civil" and otherwise, is nothing short of a true masterpiece. The interplay of Knopfler's vocals and his guitar. The sole riff introducing the guitar part after the line "and we have just one world but we live in different ones," tearing through the song's fabric like a sore wound breaking open. And of course, the closing guitar solo which completely defies description and makes any attempt to characterize it by words like "haunting" or "dramatic" sound like a shallow cliché.

"Brothers in Arms" was Dire Straits' most successful studio album, and one of the biggest-selling albums of the 1980, thanks to an exhaustive tour and the high exposure its single releases received on MTV. But more than anything, it helped define a decade; musically and otherwise. It has made rock music history, and it will always stand right up there with the best that anybody in the business has ever produced.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 6, 2010 11:07 AM BST


Hotel California [International Release]
Hotel California [International Release]
Offered by dutchtoni
Price: £19.74

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The album that forever changed my understanding of music., 27 Sept. 2006
She'd taped a cool new song off the radio, a friend told me a little less than 25 years ago; she'd play it for me when I'd come to her place after school.

The song was "Hotel California," and my perception of music changed then and there, once and for all. I didn't even really understand the lyrics -- I had barely begun to learn English, and apart from everything else I sure as hell didn't know what "colitas" meant. But understanding all the song's words wasn't necessary. From the first chords played by Felder and Walsh, this song was different from anything I had ever heard before. The layers of electric guitar riffs alternating with and ornamenting Don Henley's vocals, soaring in the chorus and culminating in a moving and evocative duet, touched a spot deep inside me that required no further explanation. Nor, really, did the other songs on this album which I instantaneously knew I had to have. I got the message conveyed in the raw edges of "Life in the Fast Lane," Joe Walsh's riffs throughout the song, the two guitar solos and Don Henley's sneering vocals, as well as I could hear the sense of loss in "Wasted Time," "The Last Resort" and "New Kid in Town."

This is not to say, of course, that the lyrics didn't matter to me once I was able to fully understand them. Rather, that understanding deepened my appreciation for the album; and yet another level of insight was added when I came to California for the first time in 1991. By that time I was an ardent fan, and although the Eagles didn't even exist as a band back then, their music has become an inseparable part of my memory of those months - particularly the album which bears the state's name and is so often called the quintessential California rock album (not only of the 1970s) that this description in itself is bordering on clich' now, true as it may once have been.

Since the release of their 1976 studio album, the Eagles have published several other versions of "Hotel California," and I love them all. (I even -- sometimes -- like the ska version Don Henley and his incredible tour band performed during their 2001 "Inside Job" tour.) But ultimately, it all comes back down for me to the duet of those two electric guitars which forever redefined the way I listen to music.


Sailing to Philadelphia
Sailing to Philadelphia

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sheer beauty., 27 Sept. 2006
This review is from: Sailing to Philadelphia (Audio CD)
"Now hold your head up, Mason, see America lies there - the morning tide has raised the capes of Delaware" ... can you see it? Do you hear it in the way his guitar picks up its pace ever so subtly and takes on a lighter shade as he sings these lines?

"Sailing to Philadelphia" is a wonderful piece of storytelling, not only in Mark Knopfler's lyrics and vocals but, even more so, in the album's amazingly beautiful instrumentation. This is no record for those who are only into fast, harsh tunes; although in songs like "Baloney Again," "Junkie Doll," and "Silvertown Blues" Knopfler does take issue with modern society and its problems. More than anything, however, this album is a voyage -- through time and space, from ancient Scottish citadels to 19th and 20th century America, and through musical styles ranging from blues to rock to folk to country; shining in its understated style as only Mark Knopfler's music can.

While "What It Is," the first track on the CD, is obviously reminiscent of the early Dire Straits, Knopfler said during his 2001 tour in support of the album that the song's intro and theme were actually (at least partly subconsciously) inspired by one of the Scottish folk songs he used to hear as a little boy in Glasgow. And indeed, it is hard not to picture Blue Bonnets (Over the Border) when you hear him sing about that Scottish piper standing alone high up on the parapet and the highland drums that are beginning to roll, all the while the garrison sleeps in the citadel "and something from the past just comes and stares into my soul."

From the cold tollgates of Caledonia, Mark Knopfler takes us to Durham and Northumberland and the coaly Tyne (where his own family moved from Glasgow, too, when he was still very young), and introduces us to Pynchon's heroes, the "Geordie boy" Dixon and Mason, the "baker's boy from the west country." While in many respects the guitar play in this song is vintage Knopfler, you can almost hear the waves of the Delaware River flowing out of the instrument. James Taylor's vocals, of course, are an ideal embodiment of Mason's character, and they perfectly compliment Knopfler's own voice which, it almost seems, has never been better than now.

"Prairie Wedding," the only love song of the album, carries on the theme of "A Night In Summer Long Ago" from 1996's "Golden Heart" -- the poor medieval Scottish knight has become a 19th century farmer somewhere out on the American prairies, but he still takes his queen from the train station in the small town where she has arrived up the home trail, stunned by her beauty, embarrassed by the simplicity of his own circumstances and wondering, "Do you think that you could love me Mary? You think we got a chance of a life?" (Compare the last verse of " Night In Summer Long Ago:" "Then I did lead you from the hall and we did ride upon the hill, away beyond the city wall, and sure you are my lady still. A night in summer long ago the stars were falling from the sky and still, my heart, I have to know, why do you love me, Lady, why?")

In modern-day America, Knopfler takes up the themes of black migrant workers in "Baloney Again," of a race car driver's tour from Indie track to Indie track and from accident to accident ("but at the Speedway At Nazareth I made no mistake"), and of the "tables haunted by the ghosts of Las Vegas" and the "Sands of Nevada [which] go drifting away." And as always, the song's instrumentation and Knopfler's dark and coarse rendition of the lyrics are a masterful portrayal of the desolation of a Nevada ghost town and a gambler who has met his fate there ("in a wasteland of cut glass my dreams have all crumbled, and I've paid with whatever I had left for a soul.")

The album was released in three different versions, with only the British version containing all fourteen songs Knopfler intended to include on it. ("One More Matinee" was considered inappropriate for the American market, "Do America" omitted on the version published in continental Europe.) Thus true fans are well-advised to make a point of obtaining the album's British edition. Yet, regardless which version you buy: This is Mark Knopfler at his best, featuring guest appearances not only by James Taylor but also by Van Morrison (in "The Last Laugh"), Gillian Welch (in "Prairie Wedding" and "Speedway At Nazareth") and many other artists; including, of course, "honorary 96er" Paul Franklin.

Since the release of "Sailing to Philadelphia," Mark Knopfler has geared down again and changed pace for his more recent solo albums, "Ragpicker's Dream" and "Shangri-La," both diamonds in the rough in their own right; thus proving yet again his versatility and his aversion to being type-cast. But regardless which aspect of Knopfler's amazing musical talent you appreciate most: This album will doubtlessly continue to shine as one of the brightest stars in the firmament of his creativity.


Brother Cadfael 4 [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Brother Cadfael 4 [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Offered by M & L UK
Price: £39.57

5.0 out of 5 stars Sir Derek and the Chronicles of a Truly Rare Benedictine., 27 Sept. 2006
When the decision was made to produce for TV several episodes from her mystery series about Brother Cadfael, that 12th century crusader turned monk turned detective who has been, ever since his creation, one of the most compassionate and unusual sleuths of literary history, novelist Ellis Peters (Edith Pargeter) was not entirely happy. In fact, as the series' star, Sir Derek Jacobi, explains in the extra footage provided on the now-released DVDs, Ms. Peters had very mixed feelings about giving up her brain child and entrusting it to other people who went about cutting and adjusting everything, from the storylines themselves to the way the protagonists speak and even the Chronicles' sequence, to the necessities and limitations set by the new medium. But she eventually acquiesced and at one point promised that "the next one I write, I'll make sure it's easier for you all to film."

While the thirteen episodes that were eventually produced are, thus, not entirely true to the individual Chronicles they are based on, they are closer than many other movie or TV versions of famous works of literature. Most importantly, they maintain not only the core story lines but also the historical authenticity, atmosphere and spirit set by Ms. Peters's books in a marvelous fashion. And Sir Derek Jacobi brings both the wealth of his experience and skill and all of his own shrewdness, intelligence, sense of humor and empathy to the role of the medieval Benedictine sleuth and thus truly becomes Cadfael -- for the thousands of new fans who are discovering the series through its enactment for TV just as much as for us who loved the books before they were ever transposed to a visual medium. A tremendous cast of supporting actors rounds out an overall excellent production; to mention just a few, Julian Firth as the ambitious and narrow-minded Brother Jerome, Terrence Hardiman as Abbot Radolfus and Sean Pertwee (and later Eoin McCarthy) as Under-Sheriff Hugh Beringar, who joins Cadfael in his investigations whenever, as is so often the case, these transcend the world of monastic life and require the administration of secular justice as well as clerical insight. Several episodes also feature noted guest stars.

The episodes are not entirely in the same order as the books; however, as most of the cross-references between the books have been eliminated in the screen versions, this is no great harm (although the lacking cross-references are probably one of the things avid readers of the books will find missing). The DVDs also provide background information on Ellis Peters, Sir Derek Jacobi and a number of the individual episodes' other actors.

Summary of the episodes contained in this set:

"The Pilgrim of Hate" (the tenth Chronicle): A cripple, his sister and two brothers on a painful pilgrimage meet at the Abbey during the annual feast of St. Winifred. Soon, the question arises whether religion is primarily penance or faith in God's love of mankind.

"The Potter's Field" (the seventeenth Chronicle): The discovery of the bones of a woman in a field once belonging to a potter turned monk leads Cadfael to unveil a harrowing tale of love, loss and a deadly wager.

"The Holy Thief" (the nineteenth Chronicle): Competitors for the possession of St. Winifred's relics show up in Shrewsbury! Then the holy bones disappear, a monk is found murdered -- and a tonsured troubadour finds his lady love.

Episodes contained in other sets:

First set:

"One Corpse Too Many" (the second Chronicle).

"Monk's Hood" (the third Chronicle).

"The Leper of St. Giles" (the fifth Chronicle).

"The Sanctuary Sparrow" (the seventh Chronicle).

Second Set:

"St. Peter's Fair" (the fourth Chronicle);

"The Virgin in the Ice" (the sixth Chronicle);

"The Devil's Novice" (the eighth Chronicle).

Third Set:

"A Morbid Taste for Bones" (the first Chronicle);

"The Raven in the Foregate" (the twelfth Chronicle);

"The Rose Rent" (the thirteenth Chronicle).


Cadfael: The Complete Series 4 [DVD]
Cadfael: The Complete Series 4 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Derek Jacobi
Offered by wantitcheaper
Price: £3.56

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sir Derek and the Chronicles of a Truly Rare Benedictine., 8 Sept. 2006
When the decision was made to produce for TV several episodes from her mystery series about Brother Cadfael, that 12th century crusader turned monk turned detective who has been, ever since his creation, one of the most compassionate and unusual sleuths of literary history, novelist Ellis Peters (Edith Pargeter) was not entirely happy. In fact, as the series' star, Sir Derek Jacobi, explains in the extra footage provided on the now-released DVDs, Ms. Peters had very mixed feelings about giving up her brain child and entrusting it to other people who went about cutting and adjusting everything, from the storylines themselves to the way the protagonists speak and even the Chronicles' sequence, to the necessities and limitations set by the new medium. But she eventually acquiesced and at one point promised that "the next one I write, I'll make sure it's easier for you all to film."

While the thirteen episodes that were eventually produced are, thus, not entirely true to the individual Chronicles they are based on, they are closer than many other movie or TV versions of famous works of literature. Most importantly, they maintain not only the core story lines but also the historical authenticity, atmosphere and spirit set by Ms. Peters's books in a marvelous fashion. And Sir Derek Jacobi brings both the wealth of his experience and skill and all of his own shrewdness, intelligence, sense of humor and empathy to the role of the medieval Benedictine sleuth and thus truly becomes Cadfael -- for the thousands of new fans who are discovering the series through its enactment for TV just as much as for us who loved the books before they were ever transposed to a visual medium. A tremendous cast of supporting actors rounds out an overall excellent production; to mention just a few, Julian Firth as the ambitious and narrow-minded Brother Jerome, Terrence Hardiman as Abbot Radolfus and Sean Pertwee (and later Eoin McCarthy) as Under-Sheriff Hugh Beringar, who joins Cadfael in his investigations whenever, as is so often the case, these transcend the world of monastic life and require the administration of secular justice as well as clerical insight. Several episodes also feature noted guest stars.

The episodes are not entirely in the same order as the books; however, as most of the cross-references between the books have been eliminated in the screen versions, this is no great harm (although the lacking cross-references are probably one of the things avid readers of the books will find missing). The DVDs also provide background information on Ellis Peters, Sir Derek Jacobi and a number of the individual episodes' other actors.

Summary of the episodes contained in this set:

"The Pilgrim of Hate" (the tenth Chronicle): A cripple, his sister and two brothers on a painful pilgrimage meet at the Abbey during the annual feast of St. Winifred. Soon, the question arises whether religion is primarily penance or faith in God's love of mankind.

"The Potter's Field" (the seventeenth Chronicle): The discovery of the bones of a woman in a field once belonging to a potter turned monk leads Cadfael to unveil a harrowing tale of love, loss and a deadly wager.

"The Holy Thief" (the nineteenth Chronicle): Competitors for the possession of St. Winifred's relics show up in Shrewsbury! Then the holy bones disappear, a monk is found murdered -- and a tonsured troubadour finds his lady love.

Episodes contained in other sets:

First set:

"One Corpse Too Many" (the second Chronicle).

"Monk's Hood" (the third Chronicle).

"The Leper of St. Giles" (the fifth Chronicle).

"The Sanctuary Sparrow" (the seventh Chronicle).

Second Set:

"A Morbid Taste for Bones" (the first Chronicle);

"The Virgin in the Ice" (the sixth Chronicle);

"The Devil's Novice" (the eighth Chronicle).

Third Set:

"St. Peter's Fair" (the fourth Chronicle);

"The Raven in the Foregate" (the twelfth Chronicle);

"The Rose Rent" (the thirteenth Chronicle).


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