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Firefly - The Complete Series [DVD] [2003]
Firefly - The Complete Series [DVD] [2003]
Dvd ~ Nathan Fillion
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The one and only, 17 Mar. 2015
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One of the great tragedies of TV programming history - the cancellation of this show. Imagine what might have been. Alas, now it never will be.

I've watched this over and over and its still fun. And cool. And funny. Nuf sed.

Handel - Complete Violin Sonatas
Handel - Complete Violin Sonatas

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 100% YUM, 20 Dec. 2014
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Manze has a distinctive vision for how baroque music should be played, you can pick him out in a crowd. He brings his trademark style to these wonderful neglected sonatas and totally wins us over. Manze is at his best here, singing through his violin, 100% commitment and engagement.

Egarr's accompaniment is better than good. It's right up there with Manze's own playing. Stunning, stylish, sensitive harpsichord playing.

The sound is first rate. The harpsichord is especially ravishing to hear - a physically beautiful sound.

If I have a criticism it's that Manze isn't always strong on the tension/relaxation of his phrases. He shapes each phrase lovingly, but often I'm left wishing for a bit more relax at the end. More light and shade, more colour in the sound. He can be a little over-earnest at times. Compare Reinhardt Goebel playing say Pachelbel or Buxtehude, for a more sophisticated approach.

Having said that, I love these, they are ravishing and deeply moving, and I'm going to be listening a lot.

Corelli: Violin Sonatas Nos. 1-6, Op. 5
Corelli: Violin Sonatas Nos. 1-6, Op. 5
Price: £4.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nearly great, 20 Dec. 2014
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Sad to give a low score to an excellent performer such as Van Dael. But there are problems with this recording. Before I get to them, LVD's playing is quite wonderful, she is so lithe and agile. One feels that she can pull the music any way she wishes. The way she tosses off ornaments is breathtaking at times. Beautiful phrasing, lovely use of vibrato. Real strength and character. Truly expressive music making.

However, you have to cope with her loud nose breathing, which can occasionally amount to a snort. Personally I find that at loud listening levels, it gets a bit much.

The first half of the disc Van Asperen accompanies on organ. Great sound, gives depth to the slightly sharp violin tone. He's a sensitive accompanist.

Second half he switches to harpsichord. Full marks for variety, but the harpsichord is recorded at such a distance, is so weak by comparison with the violin, that it's really quite disappointing after the organ. Bass is especially lacking. Compare this to Andrew Manze's recording of Handel's sonatas, for a truly excellent harpsichord recorded sound that gives proper support to the tone of the baroque violin.

So high marks for the first three sonatas, and lower marks for the latter three.

At this price its worth buying for the earlier ones alone!

Telemann: Flute Quartets
Telemann: Flute Quartets
Price: £14.45

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At the top of their game, 11 Dec. 2014
Out for nine years, and no UK reviews. Come on you Poms, what's wrong with you. Out here in Australia where we appreciate the finer things in life, it is well known that MAK still rule the waves of the early music world. If you're wondering have they lost their mojo, take a listen to this gem.

What's so good about it?

First, the music. When Telemann is good, he's very very good. Seriously under-rated. And this is some of his best. A ravishing set of quartets. Each movement repays close listening, yielding up its delights to those willing to pay attention. There is a nice variety of instrumentation, with oboe and transverse flute as well as recorder at different times. The style of music is more baroque than rococco. Sounds earlier than the Watermusic, for example.

Second, the performance! Goebel pulls another one out of the hat. The players are all virtuosi, no question. They can play so fast. And tuning is perfect. These guys are making seriously lovely sounds on their instruments. They play as if it were no effort. And 100% committed to the music, there are no page-turners here. These are not the same dudes Goebel used to play with, there's been a turnover in personnel - but apparently Germany has stacks of these baroque genius performers just waiting for the big G to give them the nod, and on they go.

But more than the virtuosity is the style. The group is so in tune with Telemann, and plays with such a unity of style. The detail of articulation, the attention to detail, the wonderful phrasing. Melting cadences. Sensitivity the moments of exquisite beauty. The large-scale cohesion of each movement. Deeply satisfying.

Criticisms: the cello continuo is recorded as nicely as well as the other instruments, sounds a bit compressed at times. Also, 70 minutes of similar texture is a bit much to listen to all at once. A few contrasting interludes would help. Maybe a harpsichord solo? A recorder solo? Or something. Just to refresh the ear.

I have about 20 of MAK's recordings, they are all precious to me and I'd put this one somewhere in the top 5. It's a true delight.

24: Season One DVD Collection [DVD]
24: Season One DVD Collection [DVD]
Dvd ~ Kiefer Sutherland
Price: £12.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A serious lack of ideas, 27 Oct. 2014
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I like some of these american series with a big story arc. Heroes, Lost- yes please. Even Battlestar Galactica was good for a couple of seasons.

But this one was a bit underwhelming. It seemed to be based on Adrenalin. Set up past paced and scary situations where everyone is racing against time. A buzz.

Trouble is its hard to make a series last on adrenalin alone. They just needed a lot more ideas. Here they pretty much had one plot idea: family member gets kidnapped and then rescued. Over and over. I got a bit restless. By the end, I just didn't care.

Creativity - that's what was lacking. Narrative inventiveness. I found myself longing for something new to happen.
Also character interest and colour. Compare all the wonderful characters in Heroes for example. The Senator with no character flaws - is this memorable? The wife who always went behind his back every time. Predictable. The hero who is indestructible. Yawn. Anxious looks from wife.

The actors were pretty good over all. But just let down badly by the writers.

Keifer Sutherland tells us at the end that season 2 will be more of the same. I think I'll pass on that.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug [DVD] [2013]
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ Martin Freeman
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: £6.98

75 of 98 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A film by people who didn't love the story, 6 Oct. 2014
It's ok, if you like big action movies. But emotionally unsatisfying. It's beautifully filmed, the score is lovely. The acting is ok. And yet there are serious problems with this movie. It's not that easy to put my finger on what they are, but I'll have a go.

I don't mind if plot details are changed from the book. A lot is changed. That's ok. It doesn't have to be the book in film. So yes, Jackson is going to put in a romance story. Can't be helped, ok I'll wear that. However, it's worth noticing what effect plot innovations have. Do they help? Is more gained or lost? This is where I think the problem lies.

There's such a lack of mystery. Where characters were fascinating and mysterious in the book, Jackson has the impulse to reveal everything about everyone. We get to hear everyone baring their soul, everyone engage in mundane conversation. Take Beorn for example. By having him tell his backstory to these strangers, he suddenly becomes - ordinary. Even the dragon loses his mojo by talking too much.

The mysterious woodland lights that lead the party off the path in Mirkwood - missing in the film. It's one of the most memorable and emotionally charged parts of the story. In fact Mirkwood in general is lacking in mystery and fear. The mysterious black stream that brings sleep - gone.

Gandalf himself was an enigma in the book. Not here: we get the inside story. He too is stripped of any mystery. In fact part of the charm of the book was its simple, linear story. We pass through interesting places and touch on issues little understood, such as the Necromancer. But they never become the story,we just keep going with the dwarves. The wider world is mysterious and fascinating because it is just barely glimpsed. Jackson constantly fills in all the side information, adds in whole plot lines from LotR to create something much more complex and explained. Subtlety is not Jackson's strong suit. Sometimes things are more interesting if you don't put them under the spotlight for close examination.

Then the lightness and humour of the book is hardly in view here. So much is dark, serious and heavy. All the funny scenes are missing. When Bilbo runs off from home without his pocket handkerchief, its a funny, exciting scene in the book. Not in the film - the music is dark and grim. The introductions to Beorn, one by one. Gone. The argument Gandalf foments between the trolls - gone. Bilbo's taunts to the spiders - gone. All this humour is excised. Jackson is not keen on humour it seems. The result is that instead of the story gradually shifting from light to dark, as in the book, here it's unvaried, dark all the way, and frankly becomes a bit wearisome.

The dragon was wonderfully created. However I thought having the dwarves choose to go in and take him on was just silly. The dragon is supposed to be utterly, paralysingly terrifying. By the end of the dwarves vs dragon fight scene, we don't feel even scared about him any more. He's no match for a handful of dwarves apparently!

Cheap heroics seem to take the place of real feeling and atmosphere again and again. It feels like pretty generic Hollywood fantasy action stuff. Oh, another extended group fight against orcs. Yawn.

Bilbo's gradual transformation into a hero takes patience and discipline to pull off. It means he has to seem a bit useless earlier on. He can only come good gradually. And this is core to the story. But Jackson can't tolerate this. So Bilbo has to be a hero from the first film. Outsmarting trolls, fighting orcs, etc. No room for a transformation!

I found it disappointing that Thorin didn't look like a dwarf.

All the orc fights before they reach the mountain have to be totally one sided, because all the dwarves have to live. So the orcs are laughably easy to knock over. The dwarves and Bilbo sail through swarms of them untouched. Orcs die left right and centre. The orcs come out as pretty pathetic.

The desolation was a bit lacking. The whole territory was sposed to be scorched and barren from the dragon. Actually it looked pretty nice in the film. Good place for a hiking trip! Pity really, given the film is CALLED the desolation of Smaug!

I could go on, but overall my feeling was, this is a film made by people who didn't love the story. The Hobbit story. They often didn't seem to notice what they were losing when they changed the plot. It seemed they didn't value it much in the first place. And so much was lost. For this viewer, the losses far outweighed the gains.
Comment Comments (19) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 24, 2015 12:58 PM GMT

The Imposter [DVD]
The Imposter [DVD]
Dvd ~ Bart Layton
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Spine-tinglingly brilliant, 4 Sept. 2014
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This review is from: The Imposter [DVD] (DVD)
A truly strange and fascinating story.
The device of having the real imposter speak to the camera, surprising at first, turned out to be the show's most memorable feature.

Red Eye [DVD]
Red Eye [DVD]
Dvd ~ Rachel McAdams
Price: £2.64

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars, 4 Sept. 2014
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This review is from: Red Eye [DVD] (DVD)
A bit dumb really. Starts promising enough but descends into mindless sentiment.

Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series [DVD] [2004]
Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series [DVD] [2004]
Dvd ~ Edward James Olmos
Price: £27.00

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two great seasons. Two lousy ones, 4 Sept. 2014
Two great seasons. Two lousy ones.
I don't know if anyone noticed, but after two brilliant, tightly-scripted and satisfying series, this show started to suck. It happened somewhere around the time of the settlement on New Caprica. They ran out of story, it seems, and switched focus to the angsty family relationships and backstories of the main cast members. Yawn. Instead of being interesting, the characters became sour and cranky.
Most of the things we enjoyed about the first two seasons, were lost.

I kept watching, hoping things would get back on track. But they didn't. They got worse. Increasing, meaningless complexity and complications. Increasing levels of religious twaddle, create a fog that simply confuses everything.
The plot becomes directionless, as when Starbuck disappears and reappears in a new fighter, for no apparent reason. This is not Lost, fellas! We are looking for cause and effect in this universe.

I can't understand why more people didn't start complaining.

Two great seasons though... Hence the four stars.

Sunshine [DVD] [2007]
Sunshine [DVD] [2007]
Dvd ~ Cillian Murphy
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £1.69

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hidden Treasure, 5 Jun. 2014
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This review is from: Sunshine [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
Can't believe this didn't go viral around the world. It's just so good. Top five science fiction films. Really.

The star of this film - of you'll pardon an unintended pun - is really the sun. You just get to watch it and watch it. The visuals are so ravishing, you can't stop looking.

Cillian Murphy is gold. They all are.

There are scary bits that made me scared.

The last ten minutes packs an enormous punch. Ends with a bang.

Why wasn't everyone talking about this film?

6 stars

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