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Reviews Written by
Louise Stanley (Reading, Berkshire United Kingdom)

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La Reine Margot [DVD] [1995]
La Reine Margot [DVD] [1995]
Dvd ~ Isabelle Adjani
Offered by Disc-uk
Price: £9.84

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Rain in France..., 17 Aug. 2005
This review is from: La Reine Margot [DVD] [1995] (DVD)
This is a boisterous and explosive film, a bit like a French version of "El1zabeth", which was almost as explicit and gory but managed to put across a clearer storyline.
A very bold and luxurious film, the director pulls no punches when depicting death and blood, drenching the film in it. The story is hard to follow at times, and if you know French history then it will probably be easier to watch this than if you know very little about the Counter-Reformation. For those who do know little, one comes away not much the wiser if these events actually happened, including the accidental assassination of King Charles IX. As a story, it would be clearer if half an hour had been lopped off. However Margot's bold intriguing and naive desperation is portrayed in wonderful clarity, and when she is speaking the film becomes much easier to follow. The incredible beauty of her costumes also provides a useful contrast between the drab Protestants.
A haunting score at the end redeems the film - sung by Ofra Haza to a tune by Goran Bregovic (who recycled most of his film scores on an album he wrote for Polish singer Kayah). This was worth sitting through over two hours worth of film for!


Girl With A Pearl Earring [2004] [DVD]
Girl With A Pearl Earring [2004] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Scarlett Johansson
Offered by wantitcheaper
Price: £3.34

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rough Diamond, 17 Aug. 2005
This is just a fantastic film - the kind which keeps you guessing as to the reactions and intentions of the main characters until the end. Colin Firth increases his reputation as a dark, and, yes, smouldering leading man with his portrayal of Vermeer (he should beware of being typecast!), and his womenfolk are both well-rounded characters with believable actions as the keepers of a household struggling to maintain a lifestyle well beyond its means.
Scarlet Johanssen as Griet maintains the film's suspense, particularly as regards her hair - the scene where her coif comes off - albeit briefly - is one of the best scenes in the entire film, one that increases the tension of unrequited love maintaining its tense distance. The film is all the better for the restraint it shows in not making it a standard bodice ripper (as other films tend to overdo, particularly "La Reine Margot"). Also the hystrionics of Vermeer's wife at the end and the painter's final romantic guesture are all too believable and maintain the credibility and tension.
One hopes that Griet finds her fortune in the end.


Drop the Dead Donkey: The Complete First Series [DVD] [1990]
Drop the Dead Donkey: The Complete First Series [DVD] [1990]
Dvd ~ Robert Duncan
Offered by All We Ever Look For
Price: £20.00

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dropping stitches, 12 Aug. 2005
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
To anyone who grew up or was politically conscious in the Major era, the art of satire might now seem dead, with topical funny programmes covering Big Brother and David Beckham as much as any of the pratfalls of the Labour government. Although not a big fan of Blair and friends, I remember that extracting the Michael from the Tory government was a huge pleasure - so much so that in May I voted to return a government offering huge potential in that department, if only so that Andy Hamilton would have something proper to satirise again after this magnificent show folded through lack of material in 1998. It's nice to have the entire series on DVD instead of just the "edited highlights and out-takes" version released some time ago.
For anyone not conversant, the show is set in a chaotic and intrigue-ridden newsroom, the show makes do with only one set (later series expanded the milieu a bit more), packed with archetypal journalists of the 1990s, from the sensationalising reporter Damien Day, the aging "serious newshound" and veteran of Cold War news broadcasting Henry Davenport, to the righteously indignant crusader for truth Alex Pate and the gloriously airheaded Sally Smedley. They are watched over by neurotic editor George Dent and Gus Hedges, who speaks in management jargon. The show combines topical jokes inserted on the day and a plotline written beforehand; the introduction to the pilot episode (on the extras disc) features Andy Hamilton himself explaining the method behind the show.
The reason I have taken a star off is that the introduction to the first episode by Hamilton is rather smug and rings hollow to someone who believes satire did not die with the Major government. Evidently Hamilton and his characters have got the government that they wanted, and indeed the last series rang rather hollow. But this intro can be skipped through by those annoyed at recent events and the real satire can begin!


Phaic Tan: Sunstroke on a Shoestring [jetlag travel guide]
Phaic Tan: Sunstroke on a Shoestring [jetlag travel guide]
by Santo Cilauro
Edition: Paperback

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Phaicing it, 8 Aug. 2005
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This is a great successor to "Molvania" - although one might think that the joke could wear thin after a couple of pages, I am half-way through already and enjoying it immensely. A real spoof of the kind of Lonely Planet or Rough Guide books many of us student travellers have taken on holiday to far-flung corners, the glossy pages and interestingly captioned photographs are first-rate and the ingenuity of the sections and some of the names is sustained well. Covering an area that I don't know well and have never thought about going to (unlike Molvania - I travel extensively in Eastern Europe, therefore I was more interested in and "au fait" with the location) the book does actually hold my interest. Also the difference in location allows different jokes to those in Molvania.
I particularly like the top tips by four different sorts of travellers, each with their own bee in their bonnets. Readers of Molvania will recognise one of them, but as the different area requires different treatment, again the experience is new even to someone who has read "Molvania".
Well worth the asking price!


Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders [DVD] [1970]
Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders [DVD] [1970]
Dvd ~ Jaroslava SchallerovŠ
Offered by Disc-uk
Price: £21.24

19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Czech it out!, 28 April 2005
This film makes sense in a very strange kind of a way - a bit like a dream does. It isn't very intelligible as a story, but it seems to suck you in nonetheless, the repetitive themes in the music evidently keyed to moods and characters so much so that I would label it a musical. The rhythm of the Czech language also adds to the mysteriousness and "music" of the characters. As far as I can tell Valerie is trying to find her (dead?) mother, assisted by her pasty Babicka (grandmother) and boyfriend (?) Orlik, or Eagle. Her tribulations involve arraignment as a witch and near death at the stake, and the film, although made under an atheist communist regime cracking down on the avant-garde after the events of the 1968 "Prague Spring", is pregnant with religious - or anti-religious? - imagery.
Not one for fans of straightforward action or stories, but a wonderful way of relaxing and being sucked into ones own dreams for an hour or two. Essential also for expressionist artists trying to create a new painting, as I was definitely influenced in my own work by watching this film.


Guest House Paradiso [DVD] [1999]
Guest House Paradiso [DVD] [1999]
Dvd ~ Rik Mayall
Price: £3.96

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bottoming out, 13 April 2005
I love Bottom, and this film would have been better as a half-hour episode rather than a one and a half-hour film. Richie and Eddie are in classic form, particularly in the opening scene (reminiscent of some of the bedroom scenes in the TV series) and when dealing with Gina's "undressed" salad (you don't need me to tell you what hilarity that produces if you are a seasoned fan of the programme!), but the whole film is just too flabby.
Technically speaking the makers have more to play with than just TV studio sets, and the film is less seedy and more atmospheric than the programme without detracting too much from the Bottom experience. In the writing there are echoes of "Fawlty Towers" (the elderly matron who stays there permanently, the scenes in the restaurant), and it continues a tradition of comedy episodes set in crumbling hotels from other series, such as "My Family". However in the end it is never really much more than the sum of its parts, and the lack of a laughter track deprives the film of the momentum it so badly needs to be real classic. A tighter script, a shorter length (perhaps the same length as the later Only Fools and Horses episodes, where the show was stretched from 30 to 50 minutes to enable the writers to expand the storyline a bit and which helped that show become more in-depth while still retaining momentum and character) and fewer dead ends would make this a good film; as it is it disappoints and needs patience to sit through.


Little Otik [DVD]
Little Otik [DVD]
Dvd ~ Veronika Zilkova

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stumped..., 31 Mar. 2005
This review is from: Little Otik [DVD] (DVD)
This is just hilarious. Although over-acted, Svankmajer has created a sickening, terrifying update of the Czech fairytale Otesanek, set in a block of flats in an anonymous Czech town and a country dacha where what begins as a benign wooden doll for a childless couple turns into a ravening monstrosity lurking in the cellar, looked after by a girl whose loneliness turns her into the devil incarnate when Otik begins to get too hungry for leftover soup and dumplings.
The stop-motion animation is worthy of the noble tradition of Eastern European film, and does not attempt to make it too realistic, a fact which tends to jar with the gritty reality of the film (particularly the editing when they cut to Otik can give a bit of a jerky effect to otherwise seamless footage) but it fits with the wild and wonderful nature of European storytelling and the tragicomic story, with a slow transition from a hungry baby to a gargantuan godzilla ripping the vital organs out of passersby.
Bozena Horakova's innocence and naivete give some insight into how the mothers of real tearaways feel when their son or daughter goes off the rails, and helps us understand the powerful bond between mother and child which can forgive everything, even chewing up the postman ("well, he *was* going to retire anyway...") or the social worker ("she *was* an arrogant old busybody..."). Her desperation is contrasted with the nonchalant responses of Stadlerova, her husband and daughter, and the other residents, all of whom stand and watch Bozena's descent into madness and Karel's ineffectual attempts to destroy the creature before it is too late.


Serial Mom [DVD] [1994]
Serial Mom [DVD] [1994]
Dvd ~ Kathleen Turner
Offered by Disc-uk
Price: £8.50

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Breakfast Serial, 29 Mar. 2005
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Serial Mom [DVD] [1994] (DVD)
A real piece of cheesecake - Hollywood at its absolute best.
Hilarious from start to finish and one of those films which should be watched whenever you need some mindless escapism. Very gory and bloody, and fully deserving of its 18 rating, it nonetheless delivers a brilliant lesson on the morals of small-town life (not just in the US)...but that's not really why you should watch it.
I don't think there is much to moan about really, it's not a screen great but then, sometimes you just need a good old-fashioned romp to relax and unwind.
A true story though?! It's too neat (particularly in the ending) and doesn't need "justifying" in this way.


Time
Time
Price: £13.04

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Harvest of the Moon, 29 Mar. 2005
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This review is from: Time (Audio CD)
This is a fantastic album, and since I first heard it seven or eight years ago my tastes have matured significantly to be able to appreciate the ones I found "boring" last time.
Folk music is at its best when the creative talents of the musicians are stretched to the limit and they are able to create an aura of "other-worldliness" rather than just strumming their guitars and hoping for the best. The best track, "The Cutty Wren", is just such a track, and is the jewel in the crown. The music sounds slightly off-kilter, as if the tape has been slightly mangled in the machine, but the effect is powerful and atmospheric and all true Steeleye fans should buy this record for this song alone.
Of the others, "The Elf Knight" is another goodie, and like most of Steeleye's output doesn't mince words when dealing with the harsh "realities" of life. Again it has a certain ethereal quality. More down-to-earth tracks include "Twa Corbies" (a Steeleye favourite), "The Old Maid in the Garret" and "The Harvest of the Moon", both bouncy singalongs, and other ballads like "The Prickly Bush" and the one about the new baby, whose title I can't remember off-hand but was one of the ones which had grown on me since I borrowed the tape version from the library all those years ago. "Go From My Window" and "The Song Will Remain" are the least bouncy tracks, and not my particular favourites, but still, not too bad.
The only duff track is the excruciating "You Will Burn" - definitely a thumbs down for the screeching and caterwauling and evil lyrics. But since you can skip tracks on a CD, the presence of this one song should not stop you from enjoying this record like a cup of peppermint tea - highly recommended!


Aimee And Jaguar [DVD] [2001]
Aimee And Jaguar [DVD] [2001]
Dvd ~ Maria Schrader

27 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tigress, Tigress, Burning Bright, 29 Mar. 2005
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a beautiful film, full of passion, dry humour and mystery, which poses as many questions as it answers. A real story or not (I don't believe that all these war films can be based on real life, though my own memoirs would make shocking reading and at times a good film, so maybe it really was true), it has its viewers on tenterhooks throughout, partly through wondering whether Jaguar (Felice Schragenheim) will be unmasked, and whether Aimee's (Lilli Wust) love will be powerful enough to save her lover from the fate that almost certainly awaits her.
Although I am unfamiliar with the exact context - I understand the wider backdrop, but had wondered how the Jews in Berlin had managed to survive until 1944 - the film weaves its magic spell so well that one forgets the slightly confusing story-telling (how, for example, did Ilse manage to return to Berlin to tell Lilli of Felice's fate? Surely Felice and Ilse would not be able to enter a concert hall as late as the war years?) and is drawn in. The characters are portrayed sympathetically; since it is a German film, understanding rather than condemnation plays a powerful part, and the film is all the better for it rather than being standard good-vs-evil. Those closest to events are always the best ones to make films of them.
My only quibble would be that Felice's friends appear to have been played by the ugliest actresses they could find. Felice herself smoulders with her dark beauty, and it is her relatively "Aryan" looks that allow her to continue her masquerade for so long. It's not a sin to be ugly, of course, and possibly they are working from real life people, such that they have little scope for artistic licence, but one of the actresses in particular almost confirms the stereotypical "Jewess" of Nazi propaganda and is a little uncomfortable to watch in this particular context. They could have achieved the same effect without going overboard on the actress' makeup.
But this aside, I can't think of a more magical or romantic film to watch.


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