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A Christmas Carol [DVD] [1938] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
A Christmas Carol [DVD] [1938] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Offered by RAREWAVES USA
Price: £8.26

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Christmas, Humbug?", 6 Aug. 2006
'A Christmas Carol' is not only the greatest Christmas story of all time, it is one of the greatest stories, alone, ever told. But when asked what I think the greatest adaptation of the novel is, I turn not to Alastair Sim's "Scrooge" which is, indeed, brilliant but to the 1938 Reginald Owen film.

"Why?", you might ask. It strays so far from the book, the writers literally rewrote the story in parts. However, for me, the spirit of the film is wonderful, evoking the Victorian England that Dickens was looking to portray. Indeed, being such an old movie, the film makers seemed to have a good idea of Victorian times. Reginald Owen was, of course, borne of the Victorian Era and seemed very at home in the role. He is the truly definitive Scrooge: old and convinced that he cannot change whilst seeming too miserly too eat enough to improve on his slight stature.

As mentioned, the script strays far from the novel and large parts are simply cut out (it is only around an hour in length). Bob Cratchit is fired, the Ghost of Christmas Past is a young woman, Tiny Tim and Peter become acquainted with Fred at the start in a snow sliding contest, and Scrooge comes bearing gifts at the end like an old Santa Clause. But the movie is filmed brilliantly, each shot escorting you back to the Victorian Christmas and each scene played with faith and good heart. The black and white quality gives the film a timelessness but if there is one thing that provides the movie with its undoubted atmosphere, it is the brilliant score and choice of music. It opens with "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and smoothly runs into the melodic music that is present throughout. In the scenes where Marley's ghost appears there is a terrifying quality but in the uplifting scenes, the music is joyful and bouncy. There is also a wonderful sequence in church with Tiny Tim and his father singing "O Come All Ye Faithful". I guarantee you will be humming the score for the rest of the day.

The effects in the film are primitive and this is a treat. It only serves, in its black and white nature, to bring an even scarier, supernatural quality to the scenes. All four of the ghosts play their parts well especially Marley who looks forever regretful of his selfish past. In addition, all the other actors are solid, especially Gene Lockhart as the beaten down Bob Cratchit.

I simply cannot recommend this film enough: it evokes a sense of wondrous Christmas that can no longer be mustered up in modern adaptations. To be honest, I can't quite put my finger on why this is, but that is irrelevant. I first saw the film after waking up at around five o' clock on a Christmas morning some ten years ago when it was on television. Its magic has not faded since. Buy it and watch alone in the dark by the fire around Christmas time. You won't regret it for a second, I promise.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 25, 2009 3:23 AM GMT


Enter The Dragon (Special Edition) [DVD]
Enter The Dragon (Special Edition) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Bruce Lee
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £8.38

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars. But not for the film, 29 July 2006
For any martial arts enthusiast, this double disc "Enter The Dragon: Special Edition" is compulsive buying. However, it is not the film itself which is the reason for its purchase. Indeed, "Enter The Dragon" is not a great film at all. It is, for the most part, dull and the only reason for watching it is to see Bruce Lee kick the bejesus out of a thousand other men using his bare hands and an array of weapons. To be fair, it looks and sounds amazing on this disc: a lot of painstaking effort has gone into its restoration and this makes it worth watching. But far more compelling are the extras which you will have to pinch yourself over when you see.

The incredible extras are the reasons for buying this DVD. On Disc One, there are three short documentaries including one 1973 featurette and the making of "Enter the Dragon". There is also an interview gallery with Lee's faithful wife Linda and a short reel of Bruce kicking the bejesus out of a punch bag on his back porch (poor Bob Wall in that scene!). Also on the first disc is a rather boring commentary by producer Paul Heller who actually seems to pop out of the room every now and then and return to provide the same statement that Lee was in top shape during "Enter the Dragon". But Heller is very happy to be there so all respect to him.

However, it is the second disc where the Special Edition comes into its own. An 83 minutes documentary "Bruce Lee: Curse of the Dragon" has some fascinating footage of a young Lee as it tells his life story all the way through to his death. The standout pieces are: a black and white Hong Kong film where Bruce Lee is asked to demonstrate a kick on national television. He refuses at first but then proceeds to kick the bejesus out of a piece of board. There is also Bruce Lee performing a bit of the Wing Chun form and practising Chi Sau with a student. Following this is another amazing documentary by Lee expert John Little, "Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey" which follows the story of "Game Of Death" and includes unseen footage from behind the scenes (beautiful to see Lee laughing, terrifying to see him angry at himself for not pulling off the nunchaku sequence) and footage from other shows he appeared in such as "Longstreet". The film culminates in the restored sequence of the end of "Game of Death" as Lee intended. The only downside is that the DVD creators did not actually restore the footage. This whole documentary rolls on for 96 minutes and is astonishing.

With this "Enter the Dragon: Special Edition", the creators have surpassed themselves. You really are getting value for money. A testament to a man of natural charisma and ability to whom so much is owed. And, as you may have guessed, you get to see Lee kick the bejesus out of everthing.


Total Guitar: The Complete Guide to Playing, Recording and Performing Every Guitar Style with Over 1000 Chords
Total Guitar: The Complete Guide to Playing, Recording and Performing Every Guitar Style with Over 1000 Chords
by Terry Burrows
Edition: Paperback

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not very good at all, 29 July 2006
This is a warning to potential purchasers of this book: do not! Frankly, after reading it, you get the feeling that Burrows, himself, could not play for toffee. He explains certain techniques in too straight forward a way and vastly over complicates others.

For example, his explanation of hammering on and pulling off is atrocious. He doesn't actually mention that you have to pluck the string as you take your finger away. The result for the unknowing learner is that their guitar makes no sound. An example of his overcomplicating matters can be found in the section on tapping. It is confusing and leaves you thinking that tapping is one of the hardest things you could ever want to accomplish. It isn't. At least, not at beginner level.

The book itself uses ridiculous training exercises that do not really cover what you learn and have no hook to actually make you stick at them. The "interactive" CD (future-tech!) is good for one thing: tuning your guitar. The 1000 chords are also silly: most of them are not utilised by guitarists and are not even shown in their common form. There is some interesting stuff on the history of the guitar and some later chapters on amps and performing/recording might come in useful but this book tries to do too much and collapses under the sheer weight of it all.

Frankly, it would be more efficient to buy a classic guitar book like Burt Wheedon's "Play in a Day". The only tip I would provide is to learn your scales: they are the basis of all playing: chords, lead, tapping, shredding, slide, etc.

But avoid this book. It will only confuse you.


Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde 
[1931 & 1941] [DVD]
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde [1931 & 1941] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Fredric March
Price: £4.50

59 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Free! Free at last!", 27 July 2006
This DVD contains both the 1941 Spencer Tracy version and the 1932 Fredric March version. Believe me, the latter is far superior to the former. In fact, in viewing Tracy's film, the only reason I could find for maintaining my attention was the incredibly magnetic Ingrid Bergman. Basically, Spencer Tracy's acting is not up to scratch. He doesn't actually seem to change much when he becomes Mr. Hyde. He doesn't seem particularly threatening and the film plods along rather than sweeping you up and carrying you with intrigue, terror and delight. In addition, there are lots of irritating Freudian arty scenes which simply do not belong.

But flip the disc over and you'll find the brilliant Fredric March version, never bettered since 1931. Notice how inventively shot it is for the 1930s: Dr. Jekyll is shown from a first person view for the whole of the start of the film including a wondrous mirror shot when he prepares himself. This is later used again when he abuses the very substances that will bring about his transition. The film, too, was pre-censor and is far more daring. The prostitute that Mr. Hyde stalks practically strips off for Dr. Jekyll when he takes her home.

But the reason why the film is so good is that it has insight without ever tripping over itself because of it. Fredric March's interpretation of Mr. Hyde as being primitive and ape-like is incredible. There is simply no resemblance between himself and Dr. Jekyll. People comment on how the make-up looks silly to the modern viewer. But they fail to notice just how much like a primate Mr. Hyde is being depicted as. March's performance itself is astounding. The scene when he beats the waiter in the bar for asking for a tip and then mocking him is terrifying: Mr. Hyde is truly mankind unhinged, at its most dangerous.

The standout scene for myself, however, is when Mr. Hyde walks outside in the rain for the first time. March plays him brilliantly animal-like, absorbing the feeling of freedom, unashamadly gleeful where other Victorians would have fled for shelter. And, for the record, the effects when he changes were revolutionary and still look excellent. They really do.

The extras included are a Bugs Bunny cartoon based (very loosely) on the famous horror tale and a commentary by some American film historian whose calm, controlled voice might just grate with you. However, I believe it is testament to the brilliant 1932 flick that he only provided a commentary for that film and not the 1941 Tracy version.

It really is one of those films that you should see, especially if you are a fan of good horror movies. These people were writing the book that modern film-makers seem to have misplaced.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 11, 2017 8:09 PM GMT


The Beatles - A Hard Day's Night [1964] [DVD]
The Beatles - A Hard Day's Night [1964] [DVD]
Dvd ~ The Beatles
Offered by HalfpriceDVDS_FBA
Price: £11.99

41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece Film, Terribly Weak Extras, 26 July 2006
"A Hard Day's Night" is, and always will be, one of the greatest films ever made. Its irreverent, original comedy ("He's very clean") has never been matched. The Beatles let their natural charisma and wit carry them through and, in 1964, that would have been enough if they just stood still for 90 minutes. Director Dick Lester was the perfect choice: he understood what to do, providing the viewer with the feeling of suffocation that the Beatles had to endure due to their fans and the sheer relief that they feel as they burst out of the fire escape into a field where nobody knows they are ("We're out!").

The comic lines still hold out today, a rare feat for a forty year old film. Indeed, even the slapstick parts hold out thanks to the Beatles's knowing acting. Many critics have compared the Fab Four to the Marx Bros. Fair enough, but I bet Lennon would have loved to have been as sneering as Groucho in the film. Still, he carries off his role with aplomb, especially the parts when he does get to be a cheeky rascal (note his snorting the Coke bottle on the train) and the ad libs (if they are ad libs) are fantastic ("Alright Noddy?"). Ringo is as natural as critics made out: he belonged on screen, the only Fab that seemed to truly ignore the cameras. George, too, carries his laconic, cool style seeing the whole thing as a bit of a laugh ("Well, I'll have a bash"). Indeed, Macca is not actually as bad as people make out. He tries too hard but, when he lets go, is genuinely pretty good: "I'd ask you myself, only I'm shy".

Therefore, the film is brilliant. But the DVD is not, hence the four stars. The fact is, the extras look as if they have been made for a 60+ pensioner audience. Every single one is of somebody talking. There is the odd, rare, clip of the band but this same shot is used over and over in different interviews. The interviews themselves are tedious as hell, barring George Martin's dissection of the album. Why didn't they put the 1998 "Making Of" on: an absolutely brilliant insight into the film with the deleted "You Can't Do That" performance? Where was any sort of evidence of Macca's deleted scene? Why weren't Macca and Ringo, themselves, interviewed? Quite frankly, there were better extras on the VHS version, including rare interviews with the band. Even more insulting is the fact that they have removed the "I'll Cry Instead" collage, shown in cinemas before the film. This, too, was on the VHS. Also, why not ask Dick Lester to provide an audio commentary? I'm sure he has much to say on the film, his greatest work.

Buy it for the film which, to be fair, is brilliantly restored and sounds excellent and then weep over the inadequacies of the extras.


The Prodigal Son [DVD]
The Prodigal Son [DVD]
Dvd ~ Sammo Hung

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the Greatest Kung Fu Film Ever Made, 26 July 2006
This review is from: The Prodigal Son [DVD] (DVD)
When asked what the greatest kung fu film of all time is, people always expect the answer to involve a Bruce Lee film. But, frankly, Lee's films were all pretty weak. Actually, the answer that might be given is "The Prodigal Son".

The film was directed by Hong Kong kung fu master Sammo Hung and utilises stunning sets and scenery, brilliant, unrelenting fight scenes and fantastic acting from the cast. For fans of Wing Chun kung fu, this is a must: the only film in history that has managed to utilise this form of kung fu and make it look good on screen (by combining it with Shaolin stances). The story itself revolves around the real Wing Chun masters Leung Yee Tai, the Chinese Opera performer and his pupil, Leung Jaan. In a nutshell, Leung Jaan is a spoilt "Prodigal Son" whose father pays opponents to lose fights to him. When he realises this, he sets out to become a truly great fighter under the tutelage of Leung Yee Tai. Unfortunately, the opera star is not so willing to be his Sifu.

The standout sequences in this film are whenever Leung Yee Tai is fighting using his Wing Chun, the brilliant Chinese Ninja assasination sequence, the comic/training sequence with Sammo Hung and Leung Yee Tai in the small village retreat and the climactic battle at the end.

Indeed, as is pointed out in the fantastically astute audio commentary by the enthusiastic, mannered Bey Logan, the film utilises shots unseen in Chinese cinema: they have stunning depth, lighting and scale giving the film a vibrant, living feel. My personal favourite is the haunting shot when Leung Jaan offers tea to Leung Yee Tai in the country retreat. Other DVD extras include a great interview with Yuen Biao with, thank god, somebody pointing out just how important he is to his Western fans. There is also an interview with arch villain Frankie Chan and a brilliant interview/sequence about Wing Chun itself.

Also, count how many times you see Yuen Biao stand in for somebody as an acrobat or to perform a kick: the man was unbelievably talented and, according to Logan, can actually be seen to fight himself in several sequences.

Quite frankly, not only a contender for the greatest martial arts film ever, but also the greatest martial arts DVD ever. Hong Kong Legends can be proud of this one. "The Prodigal Son" is one of those DVDs that should be put on to silence those who think that Chinese kung fu films are meaningless nonsense from the 1970s without intelligence or mastery.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 15, 2016 6:50 PM GMT


Unplugged [DVD] [2004]
Unplugged [DVD] [2004]
Dvd ~ Bruce Springsteen
Price: £6.99

6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Other Reviewers Are Exaggerrating!, 25 July 2006
This review is from: Unplugged [DVD] [2004] (DVD)
I don't mean to be the "party-pooper", but this DVD is not as great as the other reviewers make out.

First, I am a huge Bruce Springsteen fan and believe him to be one of the last great rock n roll stars. But this DVD came from the low point of his career. You might give five stars to 'Live In New York City' or the 'Anthology' and, definitely, 'Live in Barcelona' but they were staggering. This, simply, is not.

First, there is no E-Street Band in sight (barring the virtuoso "Professor" Roy Bittan). Fair enough if you can find a solid replacement for them. But what are the odds of that? Springsteen would have to steal Prince's Revolution group or something. None of the group on 'MTV Plugged' is up to the task. The drummer lacks Weinberg's power and energy, the lead guitarist is doing a terrible Slash impression and the backing singers have dated badly (early 90s gospel-esque backing - eeek!).

Second, Springsteen performs some of his worst tunes taken from his worst two albums: Lucky Town and Human Touch. Just think how much better a single album they would have made. 'I Wish I Were Blind'? Are you sure you don't mean "bland"?

Third, referring to the DVD itself, there is a severe lack of good extras (three unremarkable songs) and the gig, itself, is remarkably short for a Springsteen Spectacular.

But that is enough negativity because Springsteen is a master of modern music and live performance and if he needs to carry the band or plaster over inadequacies, he steps up to the challenge with bravado.

Many of the songs are excellent: Better Days and Human Touch were great tunes. Atlantic City is sung with incredible heart and power, Roy Bittan providing a great assist on keyboards. Thunder Road is a rare acoustic performance on guitar. Man's Job is helped along by truly great co-vocals by one of the backing singers who is having a blast. But the true standouts are one of the most angry 'Darkness On The Edge Of Town's you are likely to hear; a stonking Glory Days ("Whatever I do, follow me!"); and a brilliant 'Lucky Town' with good backing vocals and some mean lead guitar from Bruce at the end ("Let's get lucky!").

The sheer atmosphere of the event carries the DVD: there is a bright and breexy early 90s feel of optimism and excitement that the crowd is part of such an exclusive. Plus there is typically interesting banter from Springsteen: I especially like his rant before 'Local Hero'.

To sum up, not as great a DVD as the other reviewers make out. But it has some rare and stomping performances, great banter and is a bargain so who cares?
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 22, 2012 8:58 PM BST


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