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Reviews Written by
H. A. Weedon "Mouser" (North Somercotes, Lincolnshire, UK)
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Monty Python And The Holy Grail [DVD] [1975]
Monty Python And The Holy Grail [DVD] [1975]
Dvd ~ Graham Chapman
Offered by MCDNgoods
Price: £4.27

5.0 out of 5 stars Laughing at Ourselves: Shows how Silly we all Really Are., 23 Jan. 2015
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I've always felt sorry for those who are unable to appreciate Pythonesque humour. They say it's so silly and even childish; but that's why I like it so much. It's so true to how life actually is and, above all, it teaches us how to laugh at ourselves as it exposes the crankery within ostensibly serious beliefs. Monty Python came around at just about the right time and one wonders if they could get away with it in these days of increased religious sensitivity. I always think that what Monty Python is telling us is that, if it's not worth laughing at, it's not worth anything. For those of us who believe in some kind of deity, and many of us don't, then surely such a deity would have a sense of humour and be able to laugh at him/her/itself? What I do know is that, if everything were to be Monty Pythonised it would spell the end of strife and religious bigotry.

Yes, it is all very silly like when grown men pretend to ride horses, which are not there; but I used to do that. It was more fun than playing with a computer. Monty Python is all about us doing what we really like to do and behaving as we truly want to and not allowing ourselves to be stereotyped into into behaving after certain styles and fashions. It takes the mickey out of pomposity and teaches us to laugh at ourselves. And, of course, the Monty Python team made a lot of money out of doing just that, which is a reminder of how much money is made out of many people by fooling them into smoking, drinking, gambling, drug taking and wasting money by taking holidays in all the wrong places. This is all daft and made worse by religious daftery. (Is that a word?) Python teaches us to laugh at ourselves and realise how silly everything really is. If we all did that there wouldn't be any more wars or religious bigotry. Stars? Of course it's worth five stars, although 'The Life of Brian' is worth five even brighter stars.


In a Bedroom [DVD]
In a Bedroom [DVD]
Dvd ~ Katarzyna Herman
Offered by FREETIME
Price: £5.99

8 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Boringly Dull., 23 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: In a Bedroom [DVD] (DVD)
A good idea that has been utterly ruined by boringly dull and clichéd presentation combined with unrealistic characterisation. .


The Very Best of Emma Kirkby
The Very Best of Emma Kirkby
Offered by positivenoise
Price: £11.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cherished Recording of a Unique Voice.., 23 Jan. 2015
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It's wonderful that we have these recordings of Emma Kirkby whose voice is particularly well suited to singing this kind of music. I cherish all the recordings I have of her voice and never tire of listening to them. This disc plays well and sounds good on the top grade Blu-Ray apparatus I have connected to the TV. Hers is a star that shines among the brightest in the upper echelons of top grade singing. Although this disc has been in my collection for some time now, words have always failed me when it comes to trying to describe the sheer joy of it. It's a privilege to own it.


Northumberland Folk Tales (Folk Tales: United Kingdom)
Northumberland Folk Tales (Folk Tales: United Kingdom)
by Malcolm Green
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly Illustrated, Imaginative Read., 23 Jan. 2015
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Among the outstanding features of this work are the inspiring illustrations by Rachel Edwards, an example of which is the thought provoking drawing of a wolf on page 149. It's like as if the wolf is thinking something out, and this kind of revelation is apparent in many of her other drawings like on page 52 where Ms Edwards has captured a realistic thoughtful look on a woman's face.

There's a large amount of fairy folk in these Northumberland folk tales with the first four chapters of the book being devoted to them. After this there's much about wise women, knights, ghosts and mysteries. Chapters 11 & 12 are mostly tales concerning Saint Cuthbert the famous Northumbrian saint. Broadly speaking, the tales are uplifting, sometimes, among other things, illustrating how simple and honest country folk can overcome all adversity and they reveal a closeness to the natural world often revealed by the insightful way in which birds and animals are depicted in the tales. Considering the cross border strife associated with this part of the world, the tales reveal a mainly positive approach to life with precious little doom and gloom. I wonder if this reveals an East Coast trait? In several ways these tales reflect the same positive approach to life as do Suffolk Folk Tales in the same series, which I also enjoyed immensely. This means I'll have to read the Norfolk, Essex, Durham and Lincolnshire tales in the same series to find out. I have read the Cambridgeshire Tales, which I found to be much more gloomy and depressing although very interesting to read, but Cambridgeshire is not an East Coast County. .

Folk tale reading can be more rewarding than novel reading - at least more rewarding than quite a number of novels. I have a sneaking feeling that all the best novels are glorified folk tales. I always think that George Eliot and Thomas Hardy are the authors who are best at writing in the folk tale style, maybe because they write so much about characters in rural settings. At the end of this collection, Malcolm Green, the compiler, has added three new folk tales composed by himself, which I think is a brilliant idea. What would you rather be? A website creator or a creator of folk tales? I'd rather be like Malcolm Green and his imaginative tales. Write some more Malcolm.


Masters Of The Rolls (English Music 14th Century) (Hyperion: CDH55364) (Gothic Voices/ Christopher Page)
Masters Of The Rolls (English Music 14th Century) (Hyperion: CDH55364) (Gothic Voices/ Christopher Page)
Price: £10.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyably Relaxing Music., 20 Jan. 2015
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For some reason I am very fond of medieval music and have a large collection of it in its various styles, which is probably why I've never got round to reviewing all the recordings. This recording concentrates on the works of English composers of the Fourteenth Century. Overall it retains the high standards that one has come to expect of the Gothic Voices who have been recording over quite a number of years now as is reflected in the changing members of the singing team. There's not an awful lot that needs to be said except that, if you love medieval music, you will love this recording.

The wonderful thing about this kind of music is that it lifts us right out of the trials and tribulations of everyday life into a realm in which the true meaning of existence can be rewardingly experienced without having to bother about any silliness and spoiling nonsense presented in the words which, if we could hear spoken in our linqua franca, would bore the proverbial pants off us. Although this recording may not be the absolute best in the series, I still think it's easily worth five stars. The six singers perform in a variety of groupings with some solo performances and most of the pieces are of a religious nature. The singers are Catherine King: alto; Steven Harrald, Julian Podger, Leigh Nixon and Charles Daniels: tenor, and Stephen Charlesworth, baritone with Christopher Page directing. Lots of secular medieval music is also available in these Hyperion 'Helios' recordings.


Love for Lydia - 5-DVD Box Set (in English, with optional Dutch sub-titles)
Love for Lydia - 5-DVD Box Set (in English, with optional Dutch sub-titles)
Dvd ~ Michael Aldridge
Offered by MMRSALES
Price: £9.85

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top Grade Adaptation, but Not to my Taste.., 20 Jan. 2015
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Although this presentation of H E Bates' 'Love for Lydia' is both well staged and well acted, there will inevitably be some who will find it both tedious and repetitive. One of the most interesting things about it is its portrayal of certain sections of life during the inter=war years, especially the Nineteen Twenties and it also reveals the signs of how social barriers were beginning to weaken. although not a lot.

Is this an all time great production? Some may very well think it is, but I am not among them. It would be a boring world if we all liked the same things and this is part of the reason why it does not appeal to me. It's all about a lot of boring people doing the boring things that boring people always get to doing. Another way of putting it, and to give just one example, is that it's the very antithesis of a Thomas Hardy novel. Although Hardy writes about ordinary people, he has the knack of setting their experiences within gripping, inter-active drama, in which the reader is able to relate to both them and their experiences, whereas in Love for Lydia there's no one to whom any truly imaginative person can possibly relate. I would be horrified to think I was like any of the male characters who are in the nature of being clichés or stereotypes rather than the real thing. They are not even caricatures, but merely just a horde of bland bores.

Although my personal taste is against awarding many stars to this adaptation, I think it wrong to mark something down just because it does not relate to one's particular tastes. Good dramatisation, acting, general appeal all need to be taken into account and this adaptation has all of these. Above all it has great 'escapism' quality, which many viewers will find delightfully therapeutic. So it's five stars with the happy thought that it's has given, and still gives, many people a large amount of enjoyment.


Rameau: Hippolyte et Aricie [DVD] [2014]
Rameau: Hippolyte et Aricie [DVD] [2014]
Dvd ~ Le Concert d'Astrée
Price: £17.45

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Watchable, Outstandingly Good Production., 18 Jan. 2015
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Everything about this production of Hippolyte et Ariche is top grade: music, orchestra, staging, costumes, direction, acting, singing and dancing are all of the very best. and it's an absolute delight to watch over and over again without tiring of it. Even though this is not Blu-Ray, both sound and picture quality are of the very best. The inspiring joie de vivre, so typical of Rameau's works, is well portrayed and delivered here. and this period in the evolution of opera deserves to be better known and more popular. I always think that Rameau's music has the ability to both inspire and relax at the same time and this is very true of this production. It's as if we are being told: although life is full of pain, conflict and trouble, it's nevertheless possible to overcome all this if we go about things the right way even in the face of adversity. Music and dancing are all around us waiting for us to join in, always remembering that even the most mundane of tasks has its music.

Most of the female costumes are low cut, long sleeved, narrow waisted, puffed out and long skirted with the hair worn up and away from face and shoulders, all of which is inexplicably attractive. Some of the female dancers appear clad in what seem to be long knickers or bloomers reaching to just below the knee and over which they wear a lattice framework as if they had forgotten to put on their flared-out skirts. It's all fascinating to watch. Most of the male singers and dancers wear knee breeches under flared kilts and have hairstyles very similar to the female ones. There are lots of arrows carried in quivers on the backs of bow bearing men and women and we have the de rigueur classical conflict between Cupid and Diana.(Diane) Gods and goddesses such as Diana and Neptune always appear comfortably seated from above in the clouds. It's all exceptionally well done.

One of the special delights of this production is Jael Azzaretti in the role of L'Amour (Cupid). who receives an especially warm ovation for her verging on b canto performance towards the end of the work. But everyone and everything about this great production is inspiringly good including Le Concert d'Astree Orchestre et Choeur directed by Emmanuelle Haim. It's so encouraging to see a female conductor. I'm so pleased I bought this and I would be very surprised if there are any opera lovers who wouldn't enjoy it as much as I do.


Strauss: Capriccio [Renèe Fleming, Bo Skovhus, Michael Schade, Angelika Kirchschlager] [Blu-ray] [2014] [Region Free]
Strauss: Capriccio [Renèe Fleming, Bo Skovhus, Michael Schade, Angelika Kirchschlager] [Blu-ray] [2014] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Renèe Fleming
Price: £25.65

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Let the Countess Both Relax and Inspire You., 12 Jan. 2015
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If the costumes in this staging of Richard Strauss's Capriccio correctly depict the fashions of the late Eighteenth Century, women must have been heartily relieved when the empire line came into fashion during the early Nineteenth Century. How ironic that, whilst not performing a work in period costume can spoil it, here we have a case of the precise opposite of that being true. 1930-40's costumes would be much more appropriate as they would fit in with the times in which the work, Richard Strauss's last opera, was composed. Sometimes it seems as if the costume designer had been given instructions to do as much as possible to ruin the beauty of the music and singing, especially with regard to the dress worn by Renee Fleming in the role of the Countess in the final act. It was as if she had been forced to wear large butterflies in a deliberate attempt to distract the viewer from her beautiful voice, which had developed into its very best by this time, it not having begun quite so well earlier on.

I have to confess that, although I am a Richard Strauss fan, this is my least favourite opera composed by him. It has an uncanny escapist quality about it that tends to grate after a while. I don't watch opera to escape; I watch it to be inspired. For me, the inspiration just isn't there, apart from the countess, with this work as it is in so much of Strauss's earlier works. Remove the countess and we are left with a bunch of lost souls wandering around as if not knowing either what they are doing or where they are going. It's also not really helpful to pit the poet against the composer because these two arts are complimentary rather than being opposed to each other. There's a real danger that the viewer will end up not liking any of them very much except the countess, which means that having her sing for some time all on her own at the end is ideal and restores everything to some kind of balance, and Renee Fleming does it all so very well.

I think many opera lovers, especially Richard Strauss fans, will like this production and will not be as annoyed with some of it as I am; but it's a happy annoyance. Sometimes works are either so bad, or badly presented, that they make us angrily annoyed, but the annoyance here is a thought provoking, five star, one recorded with good sound and picture quality. In the end, the countess escapes all those annoying people and we can relax and escape with her from our own dose of annoyers as, all on her own, she sings away, immersing us in all that truly matters in life and giving us strength to cope with every problem.


Verdi: Luisa Miller (Parma 2007) (Surian, Luperi, Alvarez, Demuro, Franci, Siwek, Nucci, Cedolins, Lungu, Nikolic, Villari) (C Major: 722904) (Blu-ray) [2013] [NTSC]
Verdi: Luisa Miller (Parma 2007) (Surian, Luperi, Alvarez, Demuro, Franci, Siwek, Nucci, Cedolins, Lungu, Nikolic, Villari) (C Major: 722904) (Blu-ray) [2013] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Regio di Parma
Price: £29.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can your Dad Sing Like Luisa's?, 12 Jan. 2015
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Fiorenza Cedolins is not entirely convincing in the role of the heroine Luisa, at least, not to begin with. Fortunately, she improves as the performance continues and, over all, this is a top grade one even if it isn't quite my top favourite. I always think that this is one of Verdi's works in which he did not have to include a tragic ending. Luisa could have stopped Rodolfo from drinking the poison just in time. No one could wish for a better father (Miller) than Luisa has and the role could not have been sung and played better than it is here by Leo Nucci, who receives some well deserved ovations. Both picture quality and sound are of the best in this Blu-Ray recording.

Count Walter is convincingly played and sung by Gorgio Surian and Francesca Franci is excellent as the Duchess d'Ostheim. So much so, in fact, that one might very well wonder why Rodolfo did not want to marry her. In his younger days, of course, Count Walter did a very nasty thing. Rodolfo knows what this is and is preparing to 'spill the beans' when he's deceived into believing that Luisa doesn't want him any more because she loves Wurm, Count Walter's unscrupulous right hand man who wants to wed Luisa. This is all because Wurm forces Luisa to write a letter saying she doesn't love Rodolfo any more and wants to wed Wurm, all this in order to save her father, now imprisoned by Count Walter, from being put to death. It works and she gets her dad back, but Rodolfo believes it all and is broken hearted.

In this performance, Rodolfo is played by 'Marcelo Alvarez who makes up for his plump appearance with his top quality tenor voice; but, for me, it has to be Leo Nucci, Luisa's dad, who steals the show. What a performance! This staging of the work is worth five stars for him alone, good man, brave man and excellent father, that he is. - all brilliantly portrayed by Leo Nucci. In a way, this opera is really about two fathers and the different way in which each of them handles child problems. Whereas all the count cares about is furthering his own interests through a prestigious marriage involving his son, Miller is concerned only for his daughter's welfare and happiness. Whilst Fiorenza Cedolins would not be my favourite Luisa, she gives a credible performance, which I'm sure many viewers will like very much indeed.

Chorus, orchestra and staging are all of the best in this recording and help considerably towards the enjoyment of the performance. and I liked the costumes. For myself, I would have preferred a more convincing Luisa, after whom the opera is named. However, because of the all round high quality of this recording my estimate is that its still worth five stars and I'm glad I own it. The question to ask is: can your dad sing like Luisa's?


The Walking Whales: From Land to Water in Eight Million Years
The Walking Whales: From Land to Water in Eight Million Years
by J. G. M. Thewissen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.19

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Illustrations by Jacqueline Dillard, 12 Jan. 2015
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There's an old saying about a cat on a hot griddle that applies admirably to this work, which jumps around all over the place 'like a cat on a hot griddle.' Worse still, you have to go to page 171 of Richard Dawkins' 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to get a clear, precise and very helpful diagram of the evolution of whales. The one purporting to do this on page 123 in this work is cramped up into just one third of a page with tiny, poorly explanatory text. The diagram on page 202 is a little better, but still accompanied by tiny print and tiny illustrations. The diagram on page 141 is the best one and much more helpful and there's another good one on page 152.. Fortunately, the colour illustrations and line drawings by Jacqueline Dillard are very good.

There are two problems that prevent this work from being a top grade reference work. First, instead of taking the reader step by step through the evolution of whales it goes backwards and forwards and round about all over the place in a most confusing fashion. Second, it mixes up personal data with scientific data in a most irritating manner. The author doesn't seem to be able to make up his mind as to whether he is writing a scientific work or an account of the adventures and personal relationships involved in his fossil hunting activities. All this has the effect of bouncing the reader around in the most unhelpful fashion.

Here is an example of the kind of thing to expect when reading this work. Page 37: 'Arif lost his soap box, and leaves the soap bar lying open on the veranda.' The work is full of this sort of stuff, which often intrudes just when it's getting interesting about whales and the reader is anticipating some proper co-ordination between one of Jacqueline Dillard's excellent illustrations and the text. The author can't seem to make up his mind as to whether he's writing a popular account along the lines of 'the trials and tribulations of a fossil hunter' or a bona fide scientific work. This approach may very well work for some readers, but certainly not for all of us. Fortunately, Hans Thewissen comes across as a really nice, kind hearted guy in love with his work and this certainly does help.

I'm deducting two stars for the reasons as stated above. However, Jacqueline Dillard is a top grade illustrator. It's just a shame that text-illustration co-ordination, and sometimes insufficient space not being given to her diagrams, falls short of using her genius to its best effect.


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