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Mark Pollock "educator" RSS Feed (Davis, CA United States)

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Charlie Chaplin at Keystone and Essanay: Dawn of the Tramp
Charlie Chaplin at Keystone and Essanay: Dawn of the Tramp
by Ted Okuda
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.55
32 used & new from $11.16

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good, somewhat sparse, December 30, 2007
I'm not sure what I expected, but I assume that, when a book has a narrow focus, such as this one, there should be a very in depth discussion and understanding of the material covered. That, unfortunately, is not the case here. Some of these reviews are just as cursory as the ones in the 40 year old "Films of Charlie Chaplin" book. It's a shame, really, as all of these films are now available in some form (the Keystones on a multitude of cheap crummy ripoff dvds, and the Essanays on the superb series produced by David Shepard.).

Part of the problem with this book is that the audience is undefined. Is this book written for the rapidly diminishing group of fans who are still collecting 8mm films of Chaplin? Then a large portion of the book serves some purpose, as it is a listing of all the known films and their alternate titles. Most people, however, are content to watch this on dvds, so this section of the book is almost useless.

Also, I purchased this book expecting a new insight into the films as I watch them. Instead, many of films are quickly dismissed. I can dismiss a film quite easily by myself, thank you, I need help appreciating them!

It's a good read, but not really what I expected.

Perhaps the wierdest moment of all was realizing that several of my old Amazon reviews had been quoted (and fully acknowledged) in this book! It's a shame, really - they aren't even very good reviews!

Citizen Kane (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Citizen Kane (Two-Disc Special Edition)
DVD ~ Orson Welles
Offered by too many secrets
Price: $50.99
82 used & new from $3.49

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A film I enjoy., December 4, 2006
Okay, I hadn't looked at the reviews for Citizen Kane before, and, well, they are about what I expected. Love and hate.

No problem. This film is not for everyone.

That said, I love it. It draws me in, and I think it does so because it makes me curious. I want to know more about the characters, and I am ultimately disappointed as much as the reporters are.

That said, I'm not too happy with this dvd. I had the GREAT pleasure of seeing aphenominally high-quality print at the Crest theater in Sacramento 15 years ago, a print that was used to the 50th anniversary video tape. It was clear, and very detailed.

This dvd is clear and detailed, but somehow just doesn't look right. It's too clean, too clear, and at times I feel that not just dust and scratches have been removed, but also details in the film. Somethings are just plain missing - raindrops disappear, and the opening newsreel seems to have been too cleaned up as well. It needs to look beat up!

So, four stars. Nice try, too much restoration.

For those who don't like the film, don't buy it.

For those who do, stop arguing, and go watch the film again. :)

Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends - Platinum Collection (Best of Thomas/James/Percy)
Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends - Platinum Collection (Best of Thomas/James/Percy)
DVD ~ Michael Angelis
4 used & new from $16.95

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not that great, December 4, 2006
As stated before, the dvds open with several minutes of commercials. My experience was that we could fast forward through some of them, except on the Thomas dvd, which forces you to watch them all. There are also several logos that you are forced to watch.

Let me tell you something - when your two-year-old son has just had surgery and has to stay at home to recover, and wants to see Thomas, the last thing he wants is a bunch of logos, fbi warnings, and commercials.

The narrators are inconsistent. I prefer the british narrators, especially Ringo, but this set is a real mess, mixing the actors and wandering in and out of sequence.

There also seems to be an emphasis on big messy accidents in this set, which gets a bit scary for the little ones.

Okay, but not great.

Kind Hearts and Coronets (The Criterion Collection)
Kind Hearts and Coronets (The Criterion Collection)
DVD ~ Dennis Price
Offered by Brand New Rarities
Price: $106.97
9 used & new from $45.94

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh boy!!, December 4, 2006
Wow - this package has so much good stuff, it's hard to know where to begin.

First of all, the film presentation is first-rate. It's an excellent transfer, and the sound quality is top-notch as well. The film looks and sounds as good as possible.

The bonus features are excellent as well. There is a nice documentary of the Ealing studios, and also an excellent interview with Alec Guinness as well, shortly after the first Star Wars film.

The film itself is quite the dark and understated comedy. It's a sick comedy in the 50's and 60;s sense of the word, with lots of dispassionate murder and bad behavior.

One nice touch - the American ending to the film. It's not very good, but I've heard about it, and it's good to have ti available, luckily as a SEPERATE piece, not actually as part of the presentation.


The Complete Ripping Yarns
The Complete Ripping Yarns
DVD ~ Michael Palin
Offered by The Squirrel with the Dragon Tattoo
Price: $134.99
10 used & new from $69.69

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!!, December 4, 2006
This review is from: The Complete Ripping Yarns (DVD)
The work by the former members of Monty Python tends to be uneven at best, and the good news is that this is one of the really great things to have come out from two-pythons. Michael Palin and Terry Jones wrote some fantastic scripts, and were able to find very talented actors to work in these shows.

They have been restored as well, improving the video and film quality and making these shows very fresh. While I don't think that sterling quality is absolutely necessary for enjoying this kind of program, it certainly is nice to not be distracted by scratches, poor focus, or poor sound quality.

Perhaps my favorite moment is the introduction to one show by Michael Palin as an Orson Welles type character. The entire introduction is interrupted by a massive traffic scene, and is perhaps the highlight of any of the shows.

There are some nice touches here, where you can eliminate the audience from the soundtrack, and there are some decent, though rather rambling commentaries here to. The nicest thing about commentaries on dvds such as these is that you don't have to listen to them unless you want to. I mean, do Jones and Palin really have 4.5 hours of anecdotes about this series to tell? Not really.

Great comedy. Highly recommended.

Harman Kardon AVR 340 7.1-Channel A/V Receiver, Silver (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Harman Kardon AVR 340 7.1-Channel A/V Receiver, Silver (Discontinued by Manufacturer)

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NIICE!, December 4, 2006
Okay, I like this amp.

I recently had a Panasonic surround receiver die, and I decided it was time to get a big boy amp, something built to last longer than a couple of years.

So, first of all, the setup.

I hate to say this, but no surround amp is at all easy to set up. All those speakers require a lot of wires, and all the hookups have to be done.

The 340 was no worse than anything else I've done. The microphone for setting-up the volumes and equalization seems to have done a rather nice job, though I see where I can make some practical tweaks based on some of the things I watch or listen to. (I have a tad too much bass at times, probably compensation for the slab floor I'm on.) Regardless, the initial auto-setup did a respectable job, and got me spitting close to where I want to be.

The remote is as complicated an affair as any other, and I have to do some more reading to use it fully. It works, and controls my tv as well so far, though I can't seem to control the dvd player yet.

The on screen display is great, except that every time the digital audio stream is interrupted, say, between programs, it flashes on again. This is REALLY annoying at times, and I'm sure there's a way to work around it, I just haven't done it yet.

Sound quality is excellent, no complaints there.

Video quality is superb as well, I feel like the video quality to my boring old standard television is actually improved.

There is PLENTY of power to drive my speakers, I certainly don't have to worry about that. Harman Kardon is wonderful about giving conservative power ratings to their amps, meaning that you get a LOT of power, even though it's rated far less powerful than other amps.

I really like the power switches - I hate having anything on standby, and the fact that I can not only go to standby but truly shut off all power as well is really welcome.

The implementation of the different audio processors sounds great, they don't bring too much attention to themselves, but simply keep the sound natural, yet expanded. For instance, when using a stereo source but profcessing into 5.1, the changes are not outrageous, but rather natural instead. It's very impressive. Of course, 5.1 and 6.1 sources sound fantastic.

The front connections may be switched to either output or input. Nice touch.

My major con is the lack of a turntable input. Sure, I can get a preamp and set up that way, but I like having it built in. Oh well.

Nice stuff. Highly recommended.

Silent Movie
Silent Movie
DVD ~ Mel Brooks
Price: $6.59
43 used & new from $2.48

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hooray! On DVD at last!, September 20, 2006
This review is from: Silent Movie (DVD)
This is a great, funny movie with many of the best gags of any Mel Brooks movie. The casting is excellent, and there are moments that make me laugh just thinking about them.

The quality of the dvd is also excellent. I would have liked some bonus features, such as a commentary or making of. The movie looks good, the transfer is very clean, and the sound is nice and clear. I'm not so sure if this is really a 5.1 mix, or just the original soundtrack re-jigged somehow - really, it doesn't matter a whole lot.

I was particularly struck by Marcel Marceau's performance. I can't stand most mime, but the guy appears to be an entertainer first, and a mime second. His ability to move is just amazing.

Marty Feldman also excels in this film. He is given many choice bits, and a couple of solo moments that are just great.

Worth it.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 3, 2010 8:32 PM PST

Buster Keaton - 65th Anniversary Collection (General Nuisance / His Ex Marks the Spot / Mooching Through Georgia / Nothing but Pleasure / Pardon My Berth Marks / Pest From the West / So You Won't Squawk / The Spook Speaks / The Taming of the Snood / She's Oil Mine)
Buster Keaton - 65th Anniversary Collection (General Nuisance / His Ex Marks the Spot / Mooching Through Georgia / Nothing but Pleasure / Pardon My Berth Marks / Pest From the West / So You Won't Squawk / The Spook Speaks / The Taming of the Snood / She's Oil Mine)
DVD ~ Buster Keaton
30 used & new from $4.49

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wildly uneven, this is a one-watch special., August 9, 2006
Yes, you will basically buy this collection to watch it once. But then, NO Buster Keaton fan has any excuse to avoid this set, which contains many fine moments interpersed with the crummy overall quality of these films.

First, let's deal with the quality of this set, seperate from the quality of the content.

These films have been pretty well mastered, are clean, and have that typical crummy Columbia sound and sound effects. These were not carefully filmed or recorded, but were done well enough to be acceptable. The transfers are well done, and the commentaries are pretty good.

The package is rather wierd. It's as if we aren't supposed to know what we are really getting. No mention is made of the Columbia Studio on the outside of the box at all, and the era these films were made is only apparent if you look really closely. The front picture is of a Buster who is MUCH younger than he was when he made these films, and the drawing on the back appears to not be Buster as much as James Dean. The shooting script may be the most pointless of bonus materials ever included in a set.

That said, these films have been regularly crucified by various reviewers over the years. It's hard to say whether they really deserve this treatment. Sure, these are pretty weak stuff compared to Buster in his heyday, but there are some absolutely brilliant moments when Buster gets to really have some fun. "General Nuisance" has a particularly funny moment when Buster is doing a dance routine with a visitor, and steps into two brass spittoons. He completes his tap routine incredibly wel using the spittoons as taps! I'm not sure how many other comedians could have done this. "Pest from the West" is a relief from some of his worse work, and "The Taming of the Snood" is a rather bizarre piece that works rather well.

Some other films are merely terrible. "His Ex Marks the Spot" probably should be on a list of films to allow to burn if the archives catch fire. "Pardon My Berth Marks" has a title that by itself should be shot.

The other actors are pretty terrible, and Buster is often just marking time, but those good moments shine through and make it worthwhile, until you think about the actual effort it would take to watch this set and find them again. I suggest that you take good notes about what you like, and store them with the discs, so that if you ever do mistakenly watch this set again, you will be able to watch al the really good parts, and then, 20 minutes later, watch something better.

4 stars for guts in releasing this.

The Chaplin Collection, Vol. 2 (City Lights / The Circus / The Kid / A King in New York / A Woman of Paris / Monsieur Verdoux / The Chaplin Revue / Charlie - The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin)
The Chaplin Collection, Vol. 2 (City Lights / The Circus / The Kid / A King in New York / A Woman of Paris / Monsieur Verdoux / The Chaplin Revue / Charlie - The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin)
DVD ~ Charles Chaplin
Offered by Solo Enterprises
Price: $240.00
2 used & new from $240.00

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good, with few complaints, August 4, 2006
Once again, as with Volume 1, the main pieces of this box are first class, simply great quality reissues of Chaplins greatest (and less great) films. It's the other pieces that leave cause me to scratch my head.

So, let's start with what is good.

We have here some of Chaplin's finest silent work, including my favorite, The Circus. The films are expertly restored and projected at a speed which is about as close to the subjective "correct speed" as possible. The soundtracks are well restored, and there are plenty of cut scenes, outtakes and home movies to go along with the original films.

A couple of films are notoriously weak, and one just has to look at the box to figure out which ones those are. "Monsieur Verdoux" has only one disc, and "A Woman of Paris" and "A King in New York" actually share a 2 disc set. But these films are essential to completing Chaplin's legacy, and it is good to have them well issued and in as nice a presentation as possible.

There is a 5.1 surround soundtrack, which is really wierd, since these were issued in mono to start with. Why not just colorize the films while you're at it, M2K? (I know, some people just can't watch a film with a mono soundtrack, but this is really excessive.)

The we have the documentary by Richard Schickel, which, which good, is very frustrating. It's great to see brief clips of the Keystone films in excellent quality, but isn't it time to release the ENTIRE collection of Keystones in best-possible quality? WHEN, OH WHEN, WILL THIS HAPPEN!

Some argument could also be made that the short films in this collection could have been better considered. There are several different versions of some of these films, "Shoulder Arms" comes to mind, and it is quite possible that the version sused here are the best pictorial quality, but not the best acting quality. This is a very subjective topic, but I would have liked to see the original "Shoulder Arms" included as well, perhaps the most substantially different of the versions. This is a minor complaint, though.

The "Chaplin Today" documentaries, as in the first box set, are rather pathetic, and self-defeating in their attempts to make Chaplin relevent to today's audiences. If Chaplin wasn't relevent, then nobody would by this box set, and I wouldn't bother writing this review. But he is relevent. Trying to convice people so doesn't work, unfortunately, so we end up with these rather pathetic documentary attempts.

But overall, this is a collection of gems, and complaining about the ancillary pieces of this collection is like complaining about the floor in the room containing the Hope Diamond. It's only the actual films that matter, and they are superb.

The Chaplin Collection, Vol. 1 (Modern Times / The Great Dictator / The Gold Rush / Limelight)
The Chaplin Collection, Vol. 1 (Modern Times / The Great Dictator / The Gold Rush / Limelight)
DVD ~ Charles Chaplin
Offered by The Squirrel with the Dragon Tattoo
Price: $145.99
12 used & new from $68.45

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can't do the impossible..., August 4, 2006
Although this set tries to do the impossible, it cannot. But it is a very good collection of Chaplin films.

So, to start with, let me cover what is great in this set.

First, the films are as clearly presented as possible, with great sound, pretty good mastering, and good clarity of image. The speed of projection, a subjective topic at best, is quite carefully handled, and seems to be quite good for the most part. (This only affects the silent Gold Rush, btw.)

The restoration of the original silent Gold Rush is excellent, and a welcome addition to the canon. I don't bother arguing over which version is better, silent or sound, because they both exist in our world and such arguments end up amounting to mere preferences.

Which brings me to the first impossibility. It is IMPOSSIBLE to present a "definitive" version of most any Chaplin film, due to the cuts and changes he made in them over the years, and the variation in the editions originally issued. In addition, there are some bits from the original release which simply don't exist in a quality comparable to the quality of the current versions, and which could not be edited in without comprimising the quality.

The Chaplin family made a decision, and stuck to it. They decided to issue the films in the final approved versions, with cuts intact. They also decided to include all cuts as additional material, so that we don't lose what was taken out. I'm not sure how I feel about this, but sometimes a decision must simply be made and stuck with, and the Chaplin family went with this. Not everybody will be satisfied, but the choice has been made.

The additional materials are often good, but equally often pointless. The good stuff includes the Great Dictator documentary, lots of home movies and still, and various sequences from older films that are relevent to the title. The bad stuff includes the truly boring "Chaplin Today" documentaries, which are a great example of material trying to prove a point but instead shooting itself in the foot. I regard these documentaries as another example of doing the impossible - by trying to argue that Chaplin is relevent today (and I think he is), the directors end up proving otherwise. Some things can't be won through argument, but only through experience.

One troubling aspect of this set is that, instead of tranferring the movies fresh from film to NTSC video, the films were transferred from film to PAL video, and then converted. This changes film speed a bit, and introduces unavoidable artifacts and degrades the video quality. While not as bad as the HORRENDOUS "Phantom of the Opera" fiasco, it's a shame that we cannot see these films in their top quality without getting imported dvds from overseas in the original PAL format.

That all said, we have here four (or five) Chaplin films in possibly the best quality possible in a neat package with lots of goodies. There are plenty of quibbles with this set and it's companion, but the fact is that this is as good as it might ever get, until an even better format comes along. The films are wonderful, and it's nice to have a good edition of them again.

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