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Louise Stanley (Reading, Berkshire United Kingdom)

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Keep The Aspidistra Flying [DVD] [1997]
Keep The Aspidistra Flying [DVD] [1997]
Dvd ~ Richard E. Grant
Price: £19.98

27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bed of Aspidistras, 21 Mar. 2005
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To anyone who has read the book: it's a complete travesty of Orwell's gritty and sleazy style which makes you need a shower after you finish it. It's Merchant Ivory from start to finish, with rosy cheeked cockneys and "My Fair Lady"-style costumes, and Orwell should be spinning in his grave fast enough to keep the National Grid ticking over for a fair few years to come.
To anyone who hasn't read the book - don't, and enjoy what is one of the most interesting and romantic films I've seen come out of the UK (forget Bridget Jones!). Richard E Grant is amazingly intense as Gordon Comstock, who could be the hero of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" if he stopped writing bad poetry and started taking up investigations into canine homicide. His jade green eyes light up the whole production, and he goes onto my lengthening list of sexy male actors. Helena Bonham-Carter is just perfect as his feisty girlfriend Rosemary, and the sex scenes are just tantalising enough to be believable, yet the whole thing is done with exquisite taste.
One star off for the lack of Orwellian grittiness, but I enjoyed it immensely once I got over the lack of shadows.

The Scar [DVD]
The Scar [DVD]
Dvd ~ .
Offered by FilmloverUK
Price: £4.99

19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pole to Pole, 21 Mar. 2005
This review is from: The Scar [DVD] (DVD)
Definitely for die-hard fans of Soviet-bloc cinema only and a chance to see just how far artistic criticism of one of the more liberal Communist regimes could go, for any historian out there.
This is one of Kieslowski's early films, and it shows that he had previously worked in documentaries, as the film is made in the style of an extended edition of Polish Panorama on the state of the chemical fertiliser industry. There is little of the trademark Polish wit or humour in it (there is one joke where they pull the wool over the foreman's eyes about just how far they are from the plant, and one breathtakingly silly minute when Bednarz leans on a button and can hear an army operative swear loudly and profusely about how ...useless his machinery is), and while a good story, I can't imagine that many people went to see it even in 1970s Poland (and I've had the dubious privilege of watching snippets of Polish TV from the 1970s, thanks to the Telewizja Polska 50th anniversary telethon).
For fans of Polish film, a very young Jerzy Stuhr plays Bednarz' comrade. Stuhr developed into a very good comic actor and some say he reached the pinnacle of his career when he was chosen to play the donkey in the Polish dub of "Shrek", which couldn't be further removed from this dull and undistinguished film.
Kieslowski's later films are much better and much less phlegmatic than this. It is a testament to the openness of pre-Solidarity Poland that this can get away with portraying government ministers in a bad light and question the rampage of industrial blight across the land in an effort to improve the standards of living, but for an evening's entertainment you could do much better even sticking to the same director. Polish film has also thrown up some brilliant comic films ("Mis"/"Teddy Bear", "Spis Cudzolozek"/"List of Adulteresses", "Obywatel/Citizen Piszczyk" and "Miec Wielblad"/"To Have A Camel" - the latter three featuring Stuhr at his best) which, although not available on the same label, are much more worth seeking out than this film and demonstrate the marvel that is Polish cinema much more adeptly.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 1, 2010 3:11 PM GMT

Max [DVD] [2003]
Max [DVD] [2003]
Dvd ~ John Cusack
Offered by Discs4all
Price: £7.45

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sympathy for the Devil, 17 Mar. 2005
This review is from: Max [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
I never thought I'd see a movie that actually tried to portray Hitler as a decent chap, but this one pulls it off in style. It would have been good with a "happy" ending, but maybe that's just too far-fetched for what the film was trying to do - understand the conditions in which young(ish - Hitler is already thirty) minds are so easily warped and twisted until they become monstrous.
Cusack is Max Rothman, and he makes a good job of it - I didn't realise he could do both this and "Being John Malkovich" and ace them both. Noah Taylor makes a convincing Hitler (without the trademark moustache), a small grey splotch in an otherwise colourful milieu. The director has gone to inordinate lengths to distinguish between Rothman's whirling, fresh, high society, and Hitler's miserable, colourless and ugly barrack life.
The film is expertly constructed, with every second filled with tension, and a genuine question mark over the ending. I have never watched such an unpredictable film; there are shots which play with this ambiguity throughout and the characterisation of the Jews as loyal subjects is pleasing, having seen so many films in the past where history is projected backwards, the most obvious of these being the line in "Onegin" where early nineteenth-century gentlemen "predict" the Russian revolution.
A word of warning, though - make sure you have something lighter to watch (e.g. an episode of your favourite comedy) afterwards, as you will need reassurance that the world is not all bad.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 18, 2012 11:13 AM BST

The Cuckoo [DVD] [2003]
The Cuckoo [DVD] [2003]
Dvd ~ Anni-Kristiina Juuso

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cloud Cuckoo Land, 15 Mar. 2005
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This review is from: The Cuckoo [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
I bought this expecting something much more gory and dramatic (from the looks of the cover you'd think it was some kind of horror movie) but the film did not disappoint even though it was very slow-paced and mystical.
The premise of the film hinges largely on the mutual incomprehensibility of the three main characters, and it would be interesting to watch it as a Finnish speaker (I speak Russian very badly) to see just how incompatible Sami and Finnish actually are. Anny evidently understands Veiko more than Kartuzov (or "Sholty", as Veiko calls him after Kartuzov misunderstands his original question), but the biggest comedy is naturally between Kartuzov and Anny, over his eating arrangements and her ...proclivities towards the Finn. This is managed beautifully, but the action was too prolonged to be really tight and dramatic, and one started to yell at them to hurry up. Even though it was meant to be slow, the pace could have been quickened just slightly, to enhance the drama and the comedy of errors.
The good thing is that although Anny Juuso plays the part of the peasant woman with great dignity and attention to ethnic detail, there is no glorification of such a lifestyle, with "Cuckoo" being as prosaic as the next, describing her life as being like a fox eating its own dung if she doesn't get enough fish in for the winter, among other earthy metaphors. It is clear from the Russian-language documentary on the DVD that all three main characters are playing themselves, in a sense; Haapsalo and Bychkov are soldier material, and Juuso is earth mother, although in an electric blue catsuit rather than Sami ethnic dress.
The vagueness of the surrounding plot is a drawback, and long periods of silence mean that you have to pay extra attention to every single rustle in every single hedgerow or clump of grass. The sketchiness has evidently confused other reviewers, and although it is made clear that it takes place at the end of the war, the lack of background might put people off who expect a war film to be full of shooting and loud noises.

Tonight's the Night, Live!
Tonight's the Night, Live!
Offered by Telstar Entertainment
Price: £8.95

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Live and dangerous, 15 Mar. 2005
I'm not on the whole a fan of listening to a recording of a band live, but to be honest the quality of this recording is such that it doesn't sound like a live album until you hear the whole audience singing "All around my Hat" or the twiddly bit in the middle of "Cam Ye O'er". I originally bought it for the Steeleye version of "Tam Lin" - one of my favourite ballad-stories, up there with Martin Carthy's "Willy's Lady" (from "Crown of Horn").
The star comes off, however, for the inclusion of "Fighting For Strangers" (which I never warmed to and gave me nightmares) and "White Man" - there are other songs that cover the first theme better, and the second seems rather twee and out of character for Steeleye Span. Also "Ten Long Years" could have been replaced with the similar song from "Storm Force Ten" - correct me if I'm wrong, but that one sounded authentically period and this one suffers from an over-earnest sense of social responsibility bordering on Levellers-like proportions.
That said, just because I don't like them, doesn't mean someone else won't. A brilliant way of introducing a friend to a cross-section of Steeleye's career and one of the best live recordings I've heard.

Songs From The Wood
Songs From The Wood
Price: £5.37

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tull me more!, 15 Mar. 2005
This review is from: Songs From The Wood (Audio CD)
Songs from the Wood opens with the line "Let me bring you Songs from the Wood - to make you feel much better..." - and it certainly does that.
The outstanding tracks are rich and thick like the oral equivalent of clotted cream, and although the others are mostly uninspiring, the ratio is safely in favour of the former. "Hunting Girl", "Velvet Green" and "The Whistler" are very personal songs to me, while "Solstice Bells" and "Fires at Midnight" are definitely for a midwinter pick-me-up. "Crimson Wonder" on the other hand is for that time in summer when the trees are green, the corn is ripening and you spot a hare, fox or pheasant in the meadows, reminding you of nature's splendour for approximately four minutes.
The downside is that the other tracks are - to a non-Tull fan - disappointing. "Jack in the Green" seems to be Tull-by-numbers, and "Beltane"...I'm not sure I've ever listened to it properly after a year of owning this CD. The live version of "Velvet Green" is good - especially the twiddly folk-dance in the middle - but I'm not a massive fan of live recordings, as on record they come across as tinny versions of the real thing.
It's a great introduction to Jethro Tull and I would urge anyone that wants to get into them to listen to this album first. The beauty of most of the tracks make up for the poor quality of some, and this will probably be one of the albums that in years to come I will listen to and be swept back to where I was at the time that I first heard it, which is compliment enough for anyone.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 2, 2015 5:23 PM GMT

Bottom - Series 2 [DVD] [1991]
Bottom - Series 2 [DVD] [1991]
Dvd ~ Adrian Edmonson
Offered by 247dvd
Price: £3.75

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vodka Margarine, 15 Mar. 2005
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Trying to review Bottom in a thoughtful, introspective way is like a blunt pencil shoved up Eddie Hitler's nose - pointless and painful. But I'll give it a try nonetheless.
This is the second of three series and as always Richie and Eddie are in fine form. Guest-starring are Helen Lederer (in best "I so hate poor peepill" Transylvanian countess mode, giving Michael Howard a run for his money with that accent!), Julia Sawalha and Robert Llewellyn trying to resist Richie's charms, as well as Christopher "Mike the Cool Person" Ryan making a return visit as Eddie's mate Dave Hedgehog. In other episodes Richie and Eddie go it alone, during an all-night game of chess and a camping trip to Wimbledon Common; the line "I wonder how much meat you get on a womble" almost beating the quip about "vodka margarine" which is rolled out on cue at our family Christmases ever since the first airing of the show.
The only downside is the special extended version of Holy - not that it's not a great episode, but the scene with Richie's self-portrait was (deservedly) cut from the original broadcast, yet it is inserted into the main episode here *and* the Bottom Fluffs extra, which was unnecessary. However the star I would have taken off for this goes back on because the BF on this DVD is much longer than the one on the first series.

Letter To Brezhnev [DVD][1985]
Letter To Brezhnev [DVD][1985]
Dvd ~ Alexandra Pigg
Offered by BlueStringMedia
Price: £18.58

3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sail away, 7 Mar. 2005
A very good film made for next to nothing, spoiled only by the wooden-ness of the leading lady and the cliched actions of some of the supporting characters.
Piotr and Sergei are just the sort of men who I'd want to whisk me away to a foreign country - Alfred Molina has played Konstantin Levin in Anna Karenina and is a real treat, all the more so when here he plays someone for whom English is a baffling and incomprehensible language, so that his smouldering face exudes innocence, vulnerability and "cheecken!".
The Liverpudlians portrayed are rather less convincing, and the Foreign Office official downright scarey. The Russian president - not Brezhnev, perhaps an early impression of Gorby? - is an unnecessary comic turn in what is otherwise a kitchen sink drama worthy of the great "Kes". The film will interest anyone who liked "Billy Elliot", in fact. While not as comic as that one - and with a few extras we could have done without, particularly Elaine's silly sister Josie and Tracey, who does not add much to the story - the film holds its own; Margi Clarke as Teresa is a much better actress than her self-conscious co-star.
On such a budget the film isn't going to be a huge, sweeping period costume panorama or chilling, CGI-laden thriller. What matters is the sensitivity with which it is written - in which both societies come in for criticism, one for holding Elaine back, one for keeping Piotr prisoner - and there is not too much of the anti-Thatcherite polemic that the box threatens, nor an over-blown Cold War anti-Soviet rhetoric.
Worth watching, but only for fans of this kind of movie.

Twelve Monkeys [DVD] [1996]
Twelve Monkeys [DVD] [1996]
Dvd ~ Joseph Melito
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £2.94

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Monkey business, 7 Mar. 2005
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This review is from: Twelve Monkeys [DVD] [1996] (DVD)
A real thriller of a film, carefully crafted and so well-thought out that I used it in a philosophy essay about time-travel at university.
The two main actors - Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis - are so unbelievably good that you can feel both James Cole's anguish and Geoffrey Goines' agitation oozing from the screen. Madeleine Stowe's attempts to rival her male colleagues fall a bit flat - she seems a bit like a jumpy Alanis Morisette in the "Ironic" video rather than the character she is supposed to be playing (it would have been better had Railly remained calmer and more composed as a foil to Cole and Goines' supposed lunacy) but gives a decent performance.
The exquisite location filming and atmospheric use of dirt and decay made me think I was in some Orwell novel - don't watch this without taking a long hot shower afterwards - but the tension between Cole's mission and longing for the "good ol' days" is poorly developed, as is the romance between Cole and Railly - perhaps there isn't supposed to be one, but the on-screen hints were sending confusing mixed messages out, and the film would not have suffered had there been less ambiguity, particularly in the final scenes.
There is an 87 minute "Hamster Factor" documentary also on the DVD but I was so exhausted by the film that to sit through almost as much again immediately afterwards was too much. More information on the cast would have been nice as well, but at the end of the day a good movie should speak for itself - and this one does so at a high volume.

Price: £9.98

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not so Iki, 7 Mar. 2005
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This review is from: Iki (Audio CD)
Nothing could really live up to "Ilmatar".
There are two kinds of albums - one kind that is just a collection of songs shoved any which way onto a CD, and one that "makes sense" - that has been thought out, planned as if it was a classical symphony, and structured. "Ilmatar" was the latter, "Iki", unfortunately, is the former. However, Varttina's previous efforts ("Kokko", "Vihma", "Oi Dai", "Selenniko" and "Aitara") are in my opinion of the first kind too, so I suppose "Iki" is merely a return to form.
As for the "crossover" - I don't think so personally. The songs are recognisably similar to previous Varttina efforts (including the wonderful "Tauti" and "Sepan Poika") and going by themes on other songs, I would say that they have been listening to Hedningarna's "Karelian Visa" too much. "Nahkaruoska" is either "Katariina" or "Iro" from previous albums - not as good as either, but certainly Varttina par excellence.
They certainly could have upped the tempo a little bit, and this is probably not the best introduction to Varttina, but it is certainly no disappointment to existing fans and a necessity for any completist. Those wanting to hear the band at their best should buy "Ilmatar" and "Aitara" first, though.

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