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Mr. S. E. C. Norman "pink52" (London, UK)

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Red Beard [1965] [DVD]
Red Beard [1965] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Toshirô Mifune
Offered by jim-exselecky
Price: £7.75

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kurosawa-san's x-ray vision of life isn't at its best, but still penetrates to the core, 13 Dec 2007
This review is from: Red Beard [1965] [DVD] (DVD)
Kurosawa further asserts his place as one of the great geniuses of film with this moving tale of an arrogant young doctor's growth into adulthood under the guidance of the learned and compassionate Kyojo Niide (played by Mifune), the head of a community hospital. Desperately underfunded and overcrowded, the hospital's opening sequences establish both the stench of death and poverty in the air and the young Yasumoto's disdain for his new position. Mifune provides a rock for the film to lean on, but the real power is in Kayama's performance. Kurosawa carefully draws the audience in through his eyes, as we too are subjected to the painful last breaths of a dying man, the pain of his daughter, the death of a selfless but guilt-ridden man and the rescuing of a girl prostitute from a local brothel. Our feelings change to the terrible conditions with cynicism and anger giving way to compassion and finally empathy and hope.
I've yet to see all of his films, but (with perhaps the exception of 'Ikiru') this is his most humane yet. It's extremely powerful: Kurosawa drops a lot of his cold sideline objectivity for a picture filled with close-up views of the suffering and poverty of the society on the one hand and the solidarity of many of the characters, their selflessness for each other, their chances of redemption and the presence of hope on the other. The influence of John Ford's work can be seen very clearly here, as well as in the carefully chosen but strong soundtrack.
It's sometimes over-sentimental, sometimes slow and at 180 mins is a long haul, but Kurosawa is clearly trying to remind us of the importance of personal empathy. Sometimes cold objective cynicism and a feeling of helplessness must be tossed away. There's a kind of futility in a practical sense of the doctors and nurses' efforts: only a minority can be saved from poverty, those who live will die eventually and, in Niide's words, that the doctors may make little difference compared to the forces of Fate and Nature. Yet the struggle itself shows the beauty of humanity and reminds us that our compassion for each other is one of our greatest, if not the greatest, attribute.
Mostly technically brilliant, superbly acted, written and shot, Kurosawa shows few weaknesses in direction, though it is not as sharp, perhaps, as 'Seven Samurai' or 'Ran'. A truly moving film suitable for everyone and a must for Kurosawa fans.

Batman Returns (Two-Disc Special Edition) [DVD]
Batman Returns (Two-Disc Special Edition) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Michael Keaton

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just relax-I'll take care of the wretched pinhead puppets of Gotham!, 3 Dec 2006
Nobody does Gothic better than Tim Burton, and his return to the Batman franchise is superior in almost every way to his first effort as well as being a hair's breadth behind the newest entry.

What makes the Batman films stand out (discounting Forever and Robin) is their dark nature which is as much about the inner conflict of both hero and villain. Keaton's Batman is different to Bale's; like him he is split, troubled and somewhat empty inside-the old wounds of his parents' death have not healed, and he finds it almost impossible to reconcile the two sides of his life. Unlike Bale's spoilt, tempremental, tantrum-figure, however, Keaton brings a more mature, calmer character, albeit with a deal of wit. The effect is to gain our sympathy and empathy for his dilemma in a tribute to Keaton's talent. Likewise, DeVito is quite excellent as the sadistic, destructive but again remarkably witty Penguin, and is suitably frightening and disgusting to boot. He's not quite as good as Jack Nicholson's Joker, but it's a very impressive effort. Perhaps the real gem is the brilliantly electric Pfeiffer, who totally brings Catwoman's duality to life and again gains our empathy. In particular at moments in Bruce Wayne and Selina's (her true name) interplay where Keaton flags, Pfeiffer shows a depth of ability that sustains her for the entire film and is vastly superior to Kim Basinger's lacklustre performance in Batman. Walken provides a further nemesis for Wayne that is understandably priceless.

One must not forget the many other elements that make this film; Burton's superb direction features a whole array of wonderfully dark shots of the city lit by twinkling lights which keeps the sinister atmosphere intact. The moody tone is of course interspersed with some great fight scenes that show a significant improvement of special effects from the original as well as giving the characters a good deal of more gadgets and weapons.

It's not really close to the comics, but the script is cutting-edge, the acting almost perfect and the result is an exciting, often moving, film with the sentimentality of other superhero efforts kept down and an ending that is most satisfying.

Naruto Unleashed - Series 1 Part 1 [DVD]
Naruto Unleashed - Series 1 Part 1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Naruto Unleashed
Price: £24.66

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kage Bunshin No Jutsu!, 25 Nov 2006
A good start to the Naruto DVDs in Britain, and it's great to see it coming from all the way across the world when such things are usually only available on specific websites.

The first thing to say is that the world created is superb. I love the supernatural and the depth of fantasy worlds such as Star Wars with its Jedi, people, aliens, cities, customs, history etc., or LOTR with all the wonderfully conceived magic and wizards and battles and beautiful or horrible lands and worlds and characters. Naruto has a whole wealth of this kind of thing, and that is a prime attraction.

What's more, the drawing is excellent, and the action scenes in particular are superbly created, tense, thrilling and just awesome. There are all kinds of cool powers-shadow and illusion, destruction, fire, frost, conjuration, cloning, water-pretty much manipulation of all the elements-manipulation of everything.

Most importantly, however, the characters are well drawn out-each one has its own history, emotions, desires, thoughts, instincts and the creators draws you into their lives. The script is good, and sets up conflict between them as well as making them three dimensional-in particular with the relationships between the principal characters of Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura.

My only recomendation-this is a 4 star, wait it out and you'll see it gets much, much better. I'm personally waiting on episode 225 which is when the fillers end, and I've enjoyed almost every minute of it.

Goodfellas [1990] [DVD]
Goodfellas [1990] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Robert De Niro
Offered by MusicnMedia
Price: £3.97

4 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I probably have to see it again but frankly it's just not that good, 23 Nov 2006
This review is from: Goodfellas [1990] [DVD] (DVD)
3 stars is a little low-I personally think Amazon should do a half star system because otherwise you end up judging films equally which just aren't-it's unfair that this film gets the same rating from me as 'The Colour Purple' by Spielberg, since this is clearly a superior film.
The film is interesting, to say the least. Scorsese has as much if not more insight into the way the gangster mafia world operates as any other director-he proved that in Mean Streets. We get an honest depiction, and that depiction isn't massive action scenes, sparkling hotels and beaches and incredibly beautiful women, but, in a word, Goodfellas. Groups of guys, going out, meeting girls, having a laugh, getting drunk, playing cards-much more ordinary than what we're used to in gangster films-and fuelling their good times with small time robberies, occasional drug deals and very rarely killing someone. Nothing much really happens in terms of normal plot build up. This can sound deceiving. Big events happen-but Scorsese integrates them as almost just part of the gangster life. There's little build up, little climax; rather the film just moves along, telling the story without building the audience to a fantastic conclusion. There isn't even, really, a beginning, middle and end. I can sympathise to those (few) who found it boring, I didn't find it especially exciting myself, because Scorsese doesn't focus on any particular plot thread, and rather weaves between them. The effect is one of a collection of tense moments that do not connect to give a thrilling feel. While the acting is in general top notch, Scorsese's portrayal of these men as either cruel, crazy, stupid or simply just criminal makes it hard to sympathise with any of the characters. There's very little emotional investment because you just don't care what happens to any of them-a striking contrast with the complex, emotional and tragic character of Michael Corleone in 'The Godfather'.
I can see why those who enjoyed it, enjoyed it. It's believable. It's well written-the script is excellent, and some of the scenes are just superb. But it lacks punch, it lacks thrill, it lacks likeable characters and it is generally inferior to other efforts such as Mean Streets, The Raging Bull, The King of Comedy and Taxi Driver.

The Matrix [1999] [DVD]
The Matrix [1999] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Matrix / Movie
Price: £4.10

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'If you couldn't wake up from that dream, how would you know the difference between the dream world, and the real world?', 15 Nov 2006
This review is from: The Matrix [1999] [DVD] (DVD)
An absolute rollercoaster of a thriller that lifts you up and dosen't put you down until the final credits roll...and beyond.

The unique Wachowski brothers masterpiece, the trilogy would swiftly go downhill from here and descend into what some reviewers dislike about this film, though I would disagree on that count, that being trashy, mindless, hollywood action flicks.

The film is not merely about the special effects, though these are intense and spectacular in a way few films have repeated. The emphasis here is not BIG special effects-Godzilla had BIGGER special effects-the emphasis is slick, cool, well used and relevent to the storyline effects. They are also much more innovative that anything before; most notably the use of bullet time, a veritable treat for the eyes.

The charm of the film is in its mystery-what is the Matrix? The Wachowski brothers keep the suspense rolling by never revealing too much about it and just enough to retain interest. When anything is possible, that is when the audience is most in suspense about what could happen next, since of course, anything could happen next. What's more, the actual events that happen are simple enough to prevent the film from becoming too complicated-when you actually think about it, while the worlds and concepts can be confusing, the plot itself is simple. The photography is masterful; low, up-close, moving shots ensure the audience never sees too much to reassure themselves that there isn't something around the corner (it's not a horror film of course) and the very slickness of the way the film moves from shot to shot, scene to scene through fast-cuts, alternate cameras etc. keeps it in motion. There's almost never a dull moment. Most reviewers have not mentioned the way the directors use sounds to create the suspenseful mood; the ring-ring of a phone, the slow whir of a helicopter, the bang of a gunshot, the menacing thump of footsteps, the heavy patter of rain-all the kinds of sounds that enhance the atmosphere.

This is furthered by the good use of lighting, be it the dingy lamp of an old hotel or the blinding glare of a truck.

Then of course, alongside the thriller, is a whole world of fascinating philosophy that is extremely accessible but also clever; no-one will have their intelligence insulted. The idea of what defines reality is the real base behind the thrills; are we alone-is the world we live in just a result of our consciousness? You people who read my review, who maybe I might meet at some point, bump into on the street-does my brain just imagine you. We know only by our 5 senses-and they are VERY easily deceived. This opens up a whole other floor-how far are we in charge of our own destiny? What is 'fate'? The Wachowskis superbly interweave these different themes into the fates of the characters themselves.

There are weaknesses-Keanu Reeves really plays second fiddle to Fishburne's superior acting and lacks the strength of character to fulfil such a massive hero role (this becomes disastrous later on) but it holds together enough here, just like Carrie Anne-Moss's limited performance, to make it worthwhile. The script is cheesy-but delightfully, slickly so. The one liners are unforgettable are absolutely crucial to the whole mood of the film. A kind of dark comedy does not diminish the gothic/sci-fi background, and Hugo Weaving (is that it?) is just priceless as Agent Smith.

The world of the Matrix is definitely one to rankle with the worlds of Star Wars and other comic-book-style fantasies in its creativity and complexity, and this alone makes it a fascinating film, but coupled with the superb direction, dark thrills, awesome action sequences and moving emotional threads it makes for a quite excellent watch that can be seen again and again.

High Noon [DVD]
High Noon [DVD]
Dvd ~ Gary Cooper
Offered by Champion Toys
Price: £8.69

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Will Kane will go out there at noon and die, and this town will die with him", 14 Nov 2006
This review is from: High Noon [DVD] (DVD)
The greatest and best Western ever made, beautifully dark, real and with almost all of the usually prevalent adventurous and romantic John Wayne style removed. This is a thrilling, emotional and yet truthfully simple film that is directed with all the tense skill that Zinnemann would go on to show in 'Day of the Jackal'. The plot builds and builds in suspense, and while Cooper and Kelly expertly perform the pitiful roles of Kane and his bride that gain our empathy, the other townfolk demonstrate a contrasting cruel cowardice that is just...genuine.

The skill of the acting and direction and stark bleakness of the plot, mixed with a heady infusion of true love and goodness, gives it a reality that puts it above more romantic views of the West such as 'Stagecoach' and 'Rio Bravo'. 'The Searchers', 'Shane' and Eastwood's recent effort 'Unforgiven' come close to reproducing this, but it will take a real act of perfection to tumble 'High Noon' from its pedestal. I salute you!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 31, 2013 6:24 PM GMT

Pom Poko [DVD]
Pom Poko [DVD]
Dvd ~ Isao Takahata
Price: £9.50

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A superbly drawn and colourful, dynamic and magical tale, 14 Nov 2006
This review is from: Pom Poko [DVD] (DVD)
It's not Spirited Away, but for likers of Ahime it's a good choice. Beautifully drawn with some absolutely breathtaking, wonderful scenes of glittering colour it's very watchable to any anime fan and many others too; children in particular will enjoy this. Moreover it's largely free of Disneyfication;it's cheesy but more original than most Hollywood cartoons and has a freshness about it that makes it accessible to more than just kids. The issues are often adult-I won't list them because such breakdown of this kind of film defies the entire point of it, and the characters are sympathetic and engaging, often humorous, while the plot is at times playful, at times sad and at times bleak and dark in a way that Hollywood just isn't. On the other hand, its greatest attribute is its ability to make one believe and hope that there is more to this world than meets the eye and that our lives may be touched by something outside our senses, by different experiences and by things beyond the realms of the physical.

All in all, a beautiful experience, albeit one that is full of gaping plot holes where the director's message about environmentalism isn't all that clear, and very worth watching, particularly if you can get it in Japanese with subtitles.

Spirited Away [DVD]
Spirited Away [DVD]
Dvd ~ Daveigh Chase
Price: £14.71

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting, inspiring, powerful, majestic, moving, intense, embracing, beautiful, graceful-prepare to be Spirited Away, 3 Nov 2006
This review is from: Spirited Away [DVD] (DVD)
A life-fulfilling epic that is the majesty of all anime-the height of its glory-the representative of all that is in our dreams, our fantasies, our desire to escape and see beyond the boundaries of our consciousness and our minds and our world. 'Spirited Away' will take you on a journey that is completely unique and yet totally encapsulating.
Really, no review can quite describe what it is about it-the drawing is beautiful, intensely so, and the story is fast-paced, thrilling, comic and moving (in a way that makes it watchable to almost anyone), but it's near-impossible to pin down just what is so enthralling about this film. Perhaps it is because it presents what we all want-to see something beyond ourselves and beyond what our five senses can detect. Another world? Maybe. A love that is so perfect? Maybe so. Or perhaps it is that the execution and direction is so minutely brilliant, so detailed and yet so sweeping that the film has a genuine, real quality that draws us in despite the fantastic nature of the plot.
If I can say anything, it is to repeat the advice of other reviewers to watch this film with subtitles rather than dubbing, which is in my opinion a travesty of betrayal to the makers and the whole idea of the plot, but that may be an exaggeration. As a general fan of anime I can say that subtitles are infinitely superior to the dubbing counterparts.
Otherwise, don't miss a moment. Don't watch in it bits. Just sit down, relax, and let it draw you in. I cannot recommend this film more highly, and hope that it may bring the same feeling to you as it did to me.

The Color Purple (Special Edition) [DVD] [1986]
The Color Purple (Special Edition) [DVD] [1986]
Dvd ~ Danny Glover
Offered by Jasuli
Price: £11.95

5 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Average, overblown Spielberg, 23 Sep 2006
The general problem with Spielberg's attempt to tackle high profile political issues such as African-American oppression, or more particularly, the oppression of African-American women, in films like 'The Color Purple' is that he is not willing to make the film a true account; at its basic level, he is not willing to tell the story just how it happened, or just view the characters as they are with all their depth intact. Instead, he does several things;

1. Whitewashes the three dimensional parts to make them accessible stereotypes to the audience. Goldberg gives a reasonable performance, as does Glover, but many of the others are marked only by a particular mannerism or outward nature. There is often little attempt to truly get to grips with these characters, particularly with regard to the caucasian ones who are merely 'the badguys'.

2. Instead of tackling the complexity of these issues through steady character building, atmosphere and dialogue, he uses elaborate, glossy and good-looking but often empty shots. Spectacular images of rape have no basis to their meaning because he fails to convey the reasons for the cruelty and deprivation except in two ways; caucasians and poverty. The audience is moved by these shots and the story as a whole because of Spielberg's skill with the camera, but there is no rationale behind much of the sadness. We never really understand who Danny Glover is, what motivates him and moreover what motivates the society of the South as a whole.

3. The film lacks a darkness and bleakness wholly appropriate to the time and period of the plot; it dosen't feel real or genuine because it has as much in common with a Disney picture as it does with a film like 'The Pianist'. The excess of soothing music and slapstick comedy scenes (contrasting horribly with the rape and murder) create a sort of sickly melange that fails in striking a dark, oppressive note (surely something which should be aimed for in such a subject). It's like some kind of puppet show where the puppets alternately make funny jokes and stab each other to death.

4. The first half hour is utterly dire. The appalling child acting coupled with a script that is clearly meant to be what people spoke like but really just sounds like a couple of modern child actors trying to sound like that is almost unbearable.

On the other hand, three stars is three stars; the film is moving, in general well shot and with some good performances, most notably by Goldberg herself, who gives a more convincing and thicker but less glitzy performance than the likes of Winfrey. The story is itself is good, although the plot has some gaping holes which Spielberg again whitewashes with sparkle and glitz, and the overall effect is, if not satisfying, entertaining, sad and even a little charming.

Star Wars: Empire At War (PC DVD)
Star Wars: Empire At War (PC DVD)

17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Seen one, seen 'em all, 2 July 2006
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
It's true what they say; once you've played Rome, there's no going home. Sorry that dosen't really make any sense-the point I'm making is that in essence this game is nothing new, at least nothing new outside the Star Wars universe.

It presented a tremendous opportunity-I know that one strategy type I crave is the ability to command the rebels at Hoth or against the Death Star, but unfortunately this game is still just part of the transition phase.

Firstly the good parts:

-You get to fight with most of the Star Wars units from the originals, including Imperial Walkers, Tie Fighters, AT-ATs, Star Destroyers, X-Wings, Y-Wings etc. The range of units is reasonably impressive.

-This is especially true in space where a large unit capacity allows for pretty awesome battles. Even better, the larger cruisers and ships have different parts to them which can be individually destroyed, depending on whether you want to immobilise the said Star Destroyer by taking out it's engines or take down it's laser and torpedo defences. With different ships being good at different tasks, X-Wings and Corvettes are good against fighters while Y-Wings and missile ships are good against cruisers, a decent tactical element is present. 'Take out the shield generator-Red Squadron, cover those bombers.' 'Incoming!-fall back, fall back!' Each ship has its own special feature; fighters can boost their speed, star destroyers have the tractor beam, Y-Wings have Ion cannons which can temporarily immobilise even the largest ships. Other cool feaures include the ability for ground buildings, such as the Rebel Ion cannon, to fire into space; remember the beginning of 'The Empire Strikes Back'? In turn your space bombers can take part in land battles.

-The graphics are in general quite decent, again particularly in space, and if you have a decent machine (I recommend 1024mb of ram, 2ghz processor and a 256mb NVidia or Ati video card) the battles are fast and exciting; these dogfights aren't slugging matches: the fighters in particular zip in and out between each other. There is a good range of sounds, including lasers, rockets, radio messages and the excellent Star Wars soundtracks.

However, in a world where turn based strategy and RTS is dominated by the Total War and C&C series respectively, this game remains in last place:

-You cannot rotate the maps at all, giving them a rather flat feel. While you can zoom in and go into movie mode (cameras observe the action in complete 3D) you cannot control it and as such the battles are limited in that scope.

-Land battles, there's no going round them, are lacking. Again, like in space they are at first fast and exciting, but there are few tactical options. The battles in general are repetitive, as is the campaign map, which instead of being the excellent 3D map of Rome: Total War, is a stale board-game style like Medieval and Shogun. After a while taking planet after planet just gets dull, and trust me your own generals are so useless you won't ever want to use the 'Automatically Resolve' option, unless you don't mind absurd pyhrric victories. And if you like the idea of diplomacy, empire and city building, monitoring and gaining the support of different peoples and while building enough food supplies and trade routes to keep them happy, then don't even bother with this game.

-The storyline is weak; instead of playing out the films themselves it's a rubbish transition phase between Episode III and IV with the birth of the Rebel Alliance and the discovery of the Death Star. This might have been alright if they had come up with a decent plot, but instead they introduce characters such as Han and Chewie, which just makes it seem silly. The dialogue is stale and cheesy, and frankly the Rebels just come across as kinda irritating-you'll find yourself ready to shoot the screen where Mon Mothma is. Admittedly I haven't played as the Empire yet; but I'm sure it's a lot more fun.

ONE thing that really pisses me off are the Rebel Speeders, while they are quite cool and useful, EVERY TIME that I get them to rope an Imperial Walker the rope just snaps.

It's a step in the right direction that is enormous fun, if only for a short time; if you have 20 pounds and you must have a game now, go ahead. If you don't mind waiting then wait for Medieval 2 or C&C 3.

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