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The 13th Warrior [DVD] [1999]
The 13th Warrior [DVD] [1999]
Dvd ~ Antonio Banderas
Offered by 247dvd
Price: £3.98

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Give it a second chance!, 21 Jun. 2006
As other reviewers have said, this is one of those films that fares better on DVD than on the big screen. At the cinema you notice some of the ropier dialogue, the cheaper SFX shots (of which, to be fair, there are few) and the instances of heavy-handed editing which create a rather unwanted comedic effect ('Is there a cave?!'); but on DVD these flaws are easily forgiven and instead you can sit back and enjoy a very satisfying actioner directed by a man who knows his onions.

The plot (a curious mixture of historical record and the legend of Beowulf) is basic - outsider joins Viking band to destroy a monstrous brood terrorising a village - so here are a few reasons why you should give this film another chance - or even a first one!
1. Antonio Banderas: convincing in the action scenes, excellent with the lighter moments (see Zorro), and handsome - plus an accent that could melt ice-caps;
2. The supporting cast: a number of familiar Brits (including Clive Russell from Spaced) doing decent Norse accents, plus some genuine Scandinavian actors, of whom Dennis Storhoi is the standout - shame he hasn't appeared in more English language films;
3. The action scenes: short on SFX, high on energy, particularly the shield-duel between Storhoi and a huge ginger Viking, and the rain-soaked finale in which the last stand of Buliwyf and the shouted Norse prayer for courage even tugs at the heartstrings a little;
4. The musical score: rousing, bombastic, with shades of Poledouris' Conan the Barbarian; evocative stuff.

True, the film falls short in several places - historical authenticity got left at the back door (not too criminal), some of the dialogue clangs alarmingly, Diane Venora is completely wasted and there are a couple of cringe-worthy implausibilities (can you really learn a language simply by listening? - but at least they acknowledge that these people spoke different languages to each other, which is often glossed over!). It is a pity there are no extras on the DVD - a longer cut of the film, for instance, or at least some deleted scenes would be welcome, as would some info on the real Ibn Fadlan and perhaps Beowulf for the uninitiated. So, not perfect - but a movie with enough good stuff to warrant a Saturday night watch. Solid entertainment.

Infernal Affairs [2004] [DVD]
Infernal Affairs [2004] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Andy Lau
Offered by Qoolist
Price: £5.98

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another quality export..., 22 Aug. 2005
Asia has been turning out some fantastic films of late, from Korea (OldBoy) down to Thailand (Ong-Bak). From slap-bang in the middle - Hong Kong - comes this marvellous little thriller, already (sadly?) snapped up by Scorsese for the ubiquitous Hollywood remake. Unsurprising really, as the concept is so simple yet so effective - moles in the police force and triads try to smoke each other out.
However, the tale is more complex than that, and while action-heads seeking wall-to-wall explosions may find themselves tapping their fingers at times, the rest of us get to enjoy some wonderful character-work: the triad having worked for the police so long that his loyalties have become impossibly mixed; the policeman so long in the triads that he must go to a shrink's office to sleep. Indeed, the film's trump card must surely be the central pairing of Andy Lau and the mesmeric Tony Leung, known now to more mainstream audiences thanks to Hero. There are some beautifully acted scenes here: Leung and his boss on the roof, discussing Leung's birthday; Lau moving house with his sweet girlfriend; Leung and Lau chatting in the electrical shop; Lau in the lift at the end. At times unbearably tense, at others genuinely moving, this is a masterful thriller with real heart - a rare beast for Western audiences, used to all-out action fests that, more often than not, leave a rather hollow feeling. Not so here.
A very accessible Asian classic, and one that deserves to tempt more westerners into discovering the rich pickings currently on offer from the Far East. Escape Hollywood and watch more World Cinema - you won't regret it.

Oldboy (Two-Disc Special Edition) [DVD] [2003]
Oldboy (Two-Disc Special Edition) [DVD] [2003]
Dvd ~ Choi Min-Sik
Offered by HalfpriceDVDS_FBA
Price: £9.93

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sheer Brilliance, 5 April 2005
In terms of celluloid quality, Asia is most definitely where it's at these days, and there is no better indicator of this than Oldboy. Warnings abouts its violent content prompted me to eschew it at the cinema, but excellent word of mouth prompted me to check it out on DVD, and I'm infinitely glad I did. True, there are two or three pretty nasty moments, but it is not the violence but the themes that prove shocking. I won't go into these at all, because this film MUST be watched with as little prior knowledge of the story as possible; suffice to say, the plot undergoes a complete reversal at the end, meaning that EVERYTHING that has gone before is turned so utterly on its head that you will never be able to watch it in quite the same way again. Quite literally, the film grabs your wrist and pulls you, whether you want to go or not, into some very dark places indeed; and though it may not be a film you will watch that often, it is an absolute must for any respectable film-fan's DVD collection.
Why? Perhaps the finest thing in Oldboy - aside from the unflinching depiction of vengeance and what it can do to a man - is the performance of the lead actor. Min-Sik Choi is magnificent as Dae-su, by degrees fearless, funny and wholly heartbreaking, he completely nails every emotion of his character, from harmless drunkenness a despair so pure that it leads him to ultimate actions that we can't understand, and yet somehow can. If Hollywood had any guts, he would have dominated the awards season. The direction is equally brilliant, particularly the lengthy corridor fight-scene in which the protagonists tire themselves to point of keeling over - and all in one shot. The neon colours mixed with shadows gives the film an original, nightmarish look that finds perfect symmetry with Min-sik Choi's hollow black eyes; stylish in a way that so many other Hollywood movies wish they were. Speaking of Hollywood, the inevitable remake is already on the way, although it is hard to see how America, being so politically conservative at the moment, would ever have the stomach to go for it in the way that Chan-wook Park has. Still, kudos to the latter for not selling out to the Hollywood machine and accepting an invitation to remake the Evil Dead in America, but to stay in Korea and work on the next in his 'Vengeance' cycle. Very little good has come from brilliant Asian directors 'doing a Woo'!
I'm not going to say that Oldboy the best film ever made, although I think history will see it featuring on many 'greatest ever' lists, but I can say with full confidence that it is easily the finest film I have seen in at least five years. Any film that makes me physically jump out of my seat and invoke the name of the good Lord is worth watching in my book. Buy, watch, and don't let the remake ruin it for you.

The Big Lebowski [DVD] [1998]
The Big Lebowski [DVD] [1998]
Dvd ~ Jeff Bridges
Offered by produXa UK
Price: £5.49

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Let me tell YOU something, pandejo!', 8 Jan. 2004
You can always trust the Coen brothers to deliver a barrel full of dark laughs, and 'The Big Lebowski' is no exception. Perhaps the most accessible of their 'comedies' until 'Intolerable Cruelty', it features a host of typically eclectic but marvellously realised characters brought to life by an excellent non-A List ensemble cast who are obviously having tremendous fun with the material. The clear stand-out is, of course, Jeff Bridge's Dude, an utter waster whom you cannot help but root for and who has subsequently set the gold standard for every slacker of our generation. However, he is more than ably supported by John Goodman, simply fantastic as the Nam-obsessed Walter, and Steve Buscemi as the ill-fated nice guy Donnie. But the whole movie is very nearly stolen by the magnificent and criminally underrated John Turturro as the Latin American paedophile bowling champion Jesus. He has the best entrance (the Gypsy Kings doing 'Hotel California' - genius), the best costume and the best lines, all delivered with hilarious gusto. He only has two very short scenes, but arguably provides the chief laugh-out-loud moments of the picture. Underpinning these fine performances is a sparkling script, replete with blink-and-you'll-miss them witticisms ('you're not the only moron here') and a genius character arc for the Dude (watch how, virtually devoid of a workable mind of his own, he quotes people he has had conversations with earlier in the movie). A crying shame that the DVD is so sparse on extras, but with a movie this enjoyable, it's certainly worth the money.

No Title Available

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five stars - no doubt, 17 Jan. 2002
I was lucky enough to be working across the road from where this remarkable series was shot, and since then I have been excited to know what the series was going to be like, although apprehensive that it might turn out to be just a longer version of Saving Private Ryan's flag-waving sentimentality. I couldn't have been more wrong. This is a far better series of films, with better drawn characters, unbelievable acting and a far more rounded picture - I thought it was perfect to end the series with a German general speaking of his experiences with his soldiers in the war, and how they had grown into a family the same as E Company had. Too often we see the enemy portrayed as Nazis across the board, forgetting that most of them were ordinary young men serving their country, like the Allies. It is so engrossing that you feel like you go through every step of the campaign with the soldiers, you get to know and love them, and worry about them when bullets start to fly, and are devestated when something happens to them. When you look back in the last episode, when Nixon and Winters reminisce, you really do feel as if you've been taken on a journey, which is an extraordinary achievement by the filmakers. However, the actors make it what it is, and they are universally excellent. However, honourable mention must surely go to British actor Damian Lewis - a fine, wholly believable and totally affecting performance as the undoubted hero Major Richard Winters, he commands the attention whenever he is onscreen and was the perfect centrepiece to a marvellous film. Unlike most war films that have come out recently, this one hits you in the guts because it really brings home to you what these men did, how lucky we are to have had them fighting for the lives we live today, making you want to go and ask your grandparents what they did in the war and making you never complain again when they begin to talk about it. Theirs was an extraordinary endeavour, and this film helps us to remember not to forget.

Band Of Brothers - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Band Of Brothers - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Price: £5.45

80 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The perfect accompaniment to a remarkable series, 7 Nov. 2001
You know you're about to watch something quite special when the score first kicks in and something inside you reacts instantaneously. I had the exact same feeling with "Gladiator" that I had with the first episode of "Band of Brothers" - expecting them to be both crash-bang-wallop action extravaganzas, but as soon as the music started, I realised that I was in for something quite different, and quite emotional. This score is fantastic, and again like the "Gladiator" score, perfectly captures the atmosphere of the film. This music really makes something happen inside of you emotionally, both raising your spirits and creating a sense of dread that match exactly the mood of the outstanding series that it accompanies. The standout tracks are the music for the title sequence, the 2 suites (tracks 2 and 3) and Winters on the Subway. Absolutely beautiful. It's one of those rare soundtracks that seem to have been made by the picture rather than for it. If you are as huge a fan of the series as I am, you could do a lot worse than buying this album. The title music is worth the money alone.

The Song Of Troy
The Song Of Troy
by Colleen McCullough
Edition: Paperback

28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hard to love, hard to hate!, 20 July 2001
This review is from: The Song Of Troy (Paperback)
I still can't make up my mind whether I absolutely loved or absolutely hated this book, but I have given it four stars because there is no doubt that it is a masterful telling of one of my favourite stories of all time. McCullough certainly sets the scene wonderfully, and the telling of the story through alternating narrators is simply inspired and works like a charm. However, being a tremendous fan of Homer's Iliad, there were things in it that didn't sit quite right with me, and I'm sure I would have liked this book a whole lot more if Homer was not so dear to my heart! Basically, McCullough puts a very plausible and therefore fascinating historical perspective on one of the most enduring Greek Myths - that of the Trojan War - so as you read the book you really get a sense that this is how it could actually have happened, i.e. the war started over trading blockades and not Helen, quite simple explanations for happenings that are usually attributed to the hand of the gods etc. etc. I won't give away her slant on things, but to me I found it a great shame that she neglected to have the interplay between the gods and mortals - surely the crux of Greek Mythology - as a feature in the story at all, and how she completely overhauls some of the greatest moments of the Myth. However, if you can cut yourself off from the traditional tellings of the story, forget the hocus pocus and read it as if reading an account of something that truly happened, there is much to enjoy here. Although I couldn't quite stomach some of the great changes McCullough has made to the essence of an already great tale, her brilliant storytelling more than helps her get away with it and for that reason it should not get less than four stars. Interesting, bold, but somewhat controversial!

Pitch Black [DVD] [2000]
Pitch Black [DVD] [2000]
Dvd ~ Radha Mitchell
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £1.29

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vin Diesel Rules!, 29 May 2001
This review is from: Pitch Black [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
I remember going to see this at the cinema because it had just come out and there was nothing else on, apart from Gladiator, which I had already seen four times. It was one of those lovely experiences when you go into a film, not really knowing what to expect, and coming out having been pleasantly surprised. Pitch Black is a great sci-fi/horror/action thriller, and it is a shame that it did not recieve much attention in the media when it arrived (although it has been a critical success, I believe). I snapped it up on DVD, and I was not disappointed. The film looks pristine on this format, and you really get to appreciate David Twohy's direction; the lighting, in particular, is excellent, especially as the second half of the film takes place in the dark. There are some truly beautiful shots in here, so keep your eyes peeled. The characters are all of a far higher calibre than your usual shocker - the reluctant stand-in captain who initially doesn't give a stuff about her crew (although, of course, she changes!), the good cop who seems just a little bit dodgy, and finally, the piece de resistance, Vin "I'm the coolest man in the universe" Diesel as Riddick, the badass, evil convict who you really don't want to mess with - ironically the only man who can save the stricken crew when the monsters begin their slaughter (if he doesn't kill them all first, that is). Although Diesel's central performance is simply too cool to forget, there are a bunch of excellent character actors rounding it out, notably Claudia Black and Keith David. Watch out for the shocker of an ending too - you won't have seen THAT coming. Make sure you check out the commentary as well, by Twohy, Diesel and Cole Hauser (the dodgy cop) - it is very funny and they tell a lot of great stories about the production. Well worth the money.

Tides Of War
Tides Of War
by Steven Pressfield
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intermittently Excellent, 2 April 2001
This review is from: Tides Of War (Paperback)
I have become an enormous fan of Steven Pressfield's since reading the fabulous "Gates of Fire", and being an Ancient History enthusiast I was very excited about this new book. "Tides of War" is a far more political than out-and-out war story, but the battle-scenes rip along and reach the same breathless intensity of the previous novel. Mr Pressfield transfers his descriptive skills from land to sea battles, and he doesn't skimp on the violence and horror, managing to transport the reader back to ancient times in a very skilful way. Fans of "Gates of Fire" might be a little disappointed as there are not so many heroes to admire in this one, but there are more than enough moments to keep the reader enthralled, the mercenary central character of Polemides is interesting and the political shenanigans well-written.

Chronicles of the Vikings: Records, Memorials and Myths
Chronicles of the Vikings: Records, Memorials and Myths
by R. I. Page
Edition: Paperback

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A highly useful collection of primary evidence, 22 Nov. 2000
Anyone who has studied the Vikings or medieval Scandinavia will know that primary written evidence is often very scarce as the Vikings rarely wrote anything down. This book, which amasses a diverse amount of the primary or early written evidence that we do have, is therefore very useful as well as being highly interesting. The book is divided into sections on the home, religion and so on, mixing such diverse things as records from assemblies and Viking sayings. The simple things like this really bring the sometimes obscure daily life of Vikings to life and it makes it much more enjoyable to learn about them because the things in this book come directly from them. All in all, it is a rich and fascinating glimpse into Viking culture which reminds us that there was much more to them than horned helmets and huge broadswords.

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