Profile for The Sentinel > Reviews


The Sentinel's Profile

Customer Reviews: 17
Top Reviewer Ranking: 21,770,238
Helpful Votes: 416

Community Features
Review Discussion Boards
Top Reviewers

Guidelines: Learn more about the ins and outs of Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
The Sentinel RSS Feed (Vancouver, British Columbia Canada)

Page: 1 | 2
Duran Duran - Greatest - The Videos (1999) [VHS]
Duran Duran - Greatest - The Videos (1999) [VHS]
Price: $30.00
7 used & new from $6.95

82 of 87 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good entertainment value...surprisingly satisfying., July 21, 1999
Featuring twenty-one songs, and clocking in just short of an hour and forty-five minutes, this compilation of Duran Duran's "greatest" videos is a much more generous and comprehensive overview of the group's wildly inconsistent 17-year career than anything currently available on CD. Well, let's face it, with Duran Duran the videos were always an essential part of the package that completed the (new) romantic promise of their already (fairly) good music.
"Planet Earth" (from 1981) looks amusingly quaint now: the Edwardian frill shirts and Kabuki makeup - along with the stiff-spastic-marionette dancing and Futurist sets - mark this early clip as a quintessential Blitz Kid time-capsule.
The uncensored "Girls on Film" still arouses us as an ever-dubious attempt to merge sub-Roxy Music decadence with a barrage of mid-Eighties Playboy-channel cliches (and I DO continue to relish the sweet sight of that LUSCIOUS boudoir tart straddling a feather-covered phallic pole in her sheer black scanties!). Still, "Girls" never transcends the surface titillation offered by its self-consciously chic litany of soft-core S&M-lite posturings, nor does it really have the guts to explore or confront its own darker implications.
The next video, "The Chauffeur," is the collection's darkly gleaming gem. Shot in intimate, otherworldly black-and-white, this insinuatingly erotic mini-epic about a femme-lesbian rendezvous at a desolate London underground parkade in the dead of night is, I believe, this group's musicodramatic masterpiece. Fluid, rhythmic crosscutting blends together the stark, luminous chiaroscuro imagery to devastating effect. And the ghostly sight of those three sculptured beauties swaying and undulating in their fetishistic undress...ahhh, you won't find anything as deeply or blissfully kinky as THAT on late-night cable these days!
The next three clips, "Hungry Like the Wolf," "Save A Prayer," and "Rio," are all well-known and still entertaining to watch. "Wolf" is the best of the three - as yet another tale of lustful pursuit and orgasmic conquest/submission, it combines cinematic allusions ("Gunga Din," "Bridge Over the River Kwai," and "Apocalypse Now") as camp signposts on a journey into the jungle heart of feral eroticism. "Save A Prayer" has some nice romantic images of Buddhist monuments and native youths stilt-fishing in the Indian Ocean, as well as a few panoramic aerial shots of a sacred plateau and a final procession of saffron-robed monks illuminated by torchlight. "Rio" is exuberantly naive and amateurish - this is the one with them posing on a yacht in the Caribbean, a neat trick which (unfortunately) convinced many that the group really did inhabit a continuous episode of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous."
"Is There Something I Should Know?" is a rather vague and arbitrary bit of classic New Wave kitsch-cryptic surrealism featuring men in Magritte bowler hats and forbiddingly spare Cubist décor, while "Union of the Snake" is merely a flaccid and indigestible boondoggle of Oriental menace and crude forced sexuality.
While a dandy little song by itself, the video for "New Moon on Monday" badly flubs its potentially intriguing premise - revolutionaries organizing an underground resistance movement in some unidentified Eastern European police state. In what has to be one of the most painful moments in all of music video history, our lads end up feebly pantomiming their exultant chorus like earnest teenage wannabes at a talent(less) competition...while several megatons of pyrotechnics detonate everywhere around them!
"The Reflex" is a colorful and well-made attempt at a fake "live" video - but the teenybopper quotient renders it just a little cringe-worthy. The legendary "Wild Boys" now looks like an hysterically overblown slab of "Thriller"-era excess - complete with absurd post-apocalyptic jungle-gym-cum-torture-rack sets; dizzyingly baroque camera angles and vertiginous cutting; snarling, shaven-headed zombies in alabaster body paint, tribal-dancing and somersaulting with atavistic abandon; our hero suspended from a tattered old windmill and...oh, I could go on, but why bother? On the other hand, "A View to a Kill" - the famed James Bond theme - compensates with a simple self-deprecating wit that makes it stand out as one of Duran X 2's most cleverly inventive and enjoyable videos. "Bon...Simon Le Bon," indeed!
After that we get "the new Duran Duran" - a bit less flashy, a bit more "mature." "Notorious" has some nice footage of lean, wiry female models jiving and strutting but the video is ruined by way too many herky-jery camera movements and worsened by frenzied, dissonant cutting. "Skin Trade" has a more controlled rhythm and makes an appealing use of vivid bright colors and matted backdrops. "I Don't Want Your Love" is still surprisingly fresh and fun...perhaps more so than it was the first time around. "All She Wants Is" is a vaguely DEVOesque domestic statement with a lot of blinding, distorted, hypnotic strobe-neon effects and a pretty, pouting girl that I can either love or leave.
The mid-tempo yawner "Serious" (the only semi-bearable moment from their gawdawful "Liberty" album) is the most negligible of the bunch here, as is the rather pointless retrospective sampling, "Burning the Ground."
"Ordinary World" is a triumphant return to form - gorgeous, melancholy romanticism beautifully realized with classical guitar and the lyrical image of a bride wandering amidst golden-toned boughs of weeping willow trees. "Come Undone" is another great song, although I'm not quite so sure about the video. aquarium full of exotic sea creatures, a ginger-haired young siren chained underwater, a middle-aged dowdy inserting disparate household objects into a blender, a tortured transvestite confronting himself in the vanity mirror...are these folks all meant to represent displaced personalities who have "come undone"?
The recent (and mildly scandalous) "Electric Barbarella" is a catchy electronic dance ditty that brings Double D full circle (cf. Roxy Music's "In Every Dream-home a Heartache"). This last video - about a battery-operated, remote-controlled, life-sized Barbie-doll that suddenly animates to dizzy, ditzy life - is light-hearted and witty, it's also perversely, artificially sexy like a Pedro Almodovar film. Zap me, Barbie!

Strangeways, Here We Come
Strangeways, Here We Come
Offered by rockitman
Price: $13.88
83 used & new from $0.01

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Oh, very nice...but maybe in the next world....", July 5, 1999
This swan-song effort from the Smiths is an unusually baffling, unresolved affair. Indeed, on this album, the increased musical adventurousness of Marr and the ever-oblique knowingness of Morrissey certainly raise some fascinating (not to mention maddening) questions as to where their partnership might have gone had their egos permitted.
The album is full of diverse influences and towering ambition and yet it feels cut short -- strangled in the cradle, to coin a phrase. The opening track, "A Rush and a Push and the Land is Ours" revisits the ghosts of Morrissey's mythic mental landscape -- with the 19th-century banshee-battle cry of legendary Irish rogues and freedom fighters resurrected (via Jungian synchronicity or ouija board, perhaps?) to haunt our perpetually moping, angst-ridden, 20th-century, transplanted-English hero. Hmmm...this ominous opener, and the titualar reference to Stangeways prison, would seem to introduce a prospective outlaw theme. And yet "I Started Something I Couldn't Finish" speaks for itself and would have been a far more felicitous name for this collection.
"Death of Disco Dancer" is Moz's cynical dismissal -- with dry, Bryan Ferry-like epigrammatic ennui -- of bands like Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses, and the drug-hazy, strobe-lit communal utopia dubiously promised by Manchester's burgeoning rave scene. ("I'd rather not talk to my neighbour, I'd rather not get involved....") The cascading epic piano refrain recalls Roxy Music's "Sentimental Fool" while the maniacally-strummed guitar coda is in the manner of the Velvet Underground's "Venus in Furs."
"Girlfriend in a Coma" is a blissfully over-orchestrated soap-opera scenario damn-near worthy of "Coronation Street" (or even "Melrose Place" for that matter) that clocks in at a breathless two minutes and two seconds! -- "Do you really think she'll pull through...?/No I DON'T want to see her!" Well, it didn't take that long for her to expire, did it?
Heralded by a triumphant swirl of vertiginous jangly guitars and syncopated percussion, "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before" is easily "Strangeways'" finest moment. It plays like a vintage Godard film with a lot of jump-cuts: Mozzer, ecstatically on the lam like Jean-Paul Belmondo or Alain Delon, tries in desperation to get himself off the hook and do right by everybody else at the same time. Having "smelt the last ten seconds of life" in an encounter that would "make a shy, bald Buddhist reflect and plan a mass murder," Morrissey isn't running for his life anymore, he's just plain running.... Alas, we find that at the end of this Beckettian/Pinteresque cul-de-sac lies only more frenzied self-parody and absurd, empty, frustrated mimetic repetition.
The album's centrepiece (which would have better served as the closer), "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me," is another lugubrious "Meat is Murder"-era testament of burnt-out, vaguely defined romantic weltschmertz. The vaunting melodrama of the Walker Brothers-style arrangement and the "Revolution 9"-style sound collage only add to its majesty. Indeed, how long must it go on...?
"Unhappy Birthday" is a poison-pen letter "from the one you left behind" that's downright Dylanesque in its sour, ambivalent, passive-aggressive venomousness (imagine a fey "Positively 4th Street"). However, the longest cut -- bequeathed the ostentatiously Wildean title of "Paint a Vulgar Picture" -- is a verbose, elaborate Ray Davies-style jeremiad about the pitfalls of manufactured pop stardom and prefabricated-celebrity worship (which may have been inspired by Boy George's then-recent and highly publicized fall from grace) that's only made all the more thrilling by its blatantly self-serving show of false empathy and arrogant sanctimony. ("Oh, the plans they weave/and oh, the sickening greed..." -- yes, Morrissey, you definitely "please them, please them," don't you?)
After this, things deflate and become decidedly more flaccid and anti-climactic. The penultimate quickie, "Death at One's Elbow" (gee, how many of songs here mention death?), stands out as the weakest track on the album -- indeed, this obnoxiously hackneyed, nondescript rockabilly stomp-and-twang is arguably the most negligible of the entire Smiths catalogue. And then there's the abrupt, icky-sweet accoustic send-off, "I Won't Share You" -- a song so agonizingly earnest and musically slight that it perilously verges on sophomoric saccharine bathos. "I want the freedom and I want the guile" -- really! -- what the hell is THAT supposed to mean exactly, anyway?
Well, what can you say. The sudden demise of the Smiths was certainly a tragic loss -- and in more ways than one, it seems.

Bill Brandt: Photographs 1928-1983
Bill Brandt: Photographs 1928-1983
by Ian Jeffrey
Edition: Paperback
31 used & new from $6.95

14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vivid, starkly beautiful chiaroscuro of "austerity" Britain., June 24, 1999
Bill Brandt's work has a striking poetic immediacy and a potent suggestiveness of mood rarely seen in still photography. Sombre landscapes, brooding portraits of prominent literary figures, and surreal, distorted, abstract nudes are featured in this superb, nearly comprehensive volume of the great man's oeuvre.
Just a slight glance at some of these unforgettable pictures and the viewer is hypnotized--eyes rapt to the page--drawn into a strange, mysterious world of the past and overwhelmed by its melancholy lyricism. One senses a profound humanity in Brandt's treatment of desolation and poverty: a quality comparable to the best work of Expressionist painters like Munch or Schiele.
It is interesting to note that the visual sensibility found in Brandt's high contrast, black-and-white compositions and sometimes startling, baroque perspectives also bears comparison to the cascading, labyrinthine imagery of Orson Welles's films. And the influence of Brandt's work appears evident in a number of other dreamy/nightmarish films: e.g., Ingmar Bergman's "The Silence," Roman Polanski's "Repulsion," David Lynch's "Eraserhead" and "The Elephant Man," and Michael Radford's "Nineteen Eighty-Four," to name but a few.
To put it simply: Bill Brandt is a genius of the lens--a supreme master of light and shadow--and, without a doubt, one of the most vital and innovative artists of the twentieth century.

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis [VHS]
The Garden of the Finzi-Continis [VHS]
Offered by Coastal Cali Fun Store
Price: $18.95
35 used & new from $3.91

57 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bittersweet...., May 21, 1999
In "The Garden of the Finzi-Continis" (1970)--based on the autobiographical novel by Giorgio Bassani--legendary Neorealist filmmaker, Vittorio de Sica, dramatizes the human cost of the "racial laws" gradually implemented against the Jews in Fascist Italy during the years 1938-43. The more Bassani's young middle-class Jewish protagonist feels the brunt of Mussolini's anti-Semitic edicts encroaching upon him, the more he feels drawn to the aristocratic Jewish Finzi-Continis' estate--their Edenic "garden"--and to Micòl, the family's beautiful young daughter. Psychologically, this compulsion seems to stem from a deep emotional attachment to a perpetually innocent, untroubled state of childhood, which both Micòl and her garden seem to represent. Throughout the film, there is a marked conflict between childhood and adulthood, between the distant past and the immediate present, between the act of retreating into a world of comfortable illusions and confronting a world of harsh and bitter realities.
I found this particular aspect of the story very fascinating, although too tantalizingly obscure and open-ended--and thus, not quite as illuminating or fulfilling as it might have been were it more clearly explained. (This could the reason why some people find the film--and its heavily symbolic, impressionistic style--a little confusing and underwhelming.)
For Giorgio--both the naive hero and wisened author of the story--Micòl embodies the mystery and allure of the Finzi-Continis, as well as their insularity and their apparent passivity in the face of the escalating Fascist crackdown. She always appears distant and unattainable, with no obvious reasons for her actions, and never really provides a direct, comprehensible explanation for her insistent rejection of Giorgio or for what appears to be a subtle streak of cruelty towards him. Her conversation with him always seems deliberately vague, and her refusal to make any further connection with him has a curious, almost perverse kind of fatalism about it.
Again, this is another feature of the film that is certainly intriguing--and strangely seductive-- but, alas, never quite pays off enough to become fully understandable to either the protagonist or the audience.
When the Fascists finally do arrest the Finzi-Continis and confiscate their estate it comes as something of a surprise. The muted and deliberately spare representation of these characters and their feelings, as evidenced in their unusually restrained behavior, is meant to isolate and heighten the impact of a few devastating strokes of sudden realization and lucidity--pointed indications that the protective spell of the Finzi-Continis has been finally broken.
All in all, well-acted and gorgeously, languidly poetic in its imagery...yet, narrative-wise, the picture seems overly elliptical and ultimately opaque--and leaves just a few too many rough fragments and loose ends lingering at the end of the story (not quite Proustian irony, maybe?). In spite of this peculiar drawback, the film finishes very effectively, and by the final desolate shots, you are left with an unexpectedly intense feeling of loss and anguish.
"The Garden of the Finzi-Continis" is a very unusual and interesting (and thankfully, non-sentimental and non-self-important) addition to the ever-expanding canon of dramatic films about life in the shadow of the Holocaust.
Good show. I give this one four out of five stars.

1984 (For the Love of Big Brother)
1984 (For the Love of Big Brother)
Price: $8.99
53 used & new from $2.37

13 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Musically it's OK, but thematically it's heavy-handed stuff., February 19, 1999
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
It's not surprising that Michael Radford, the director of that great film of Orwell's novel, "Nineteen Eighty-four," was tearing his hair out when he heard about this proposed soundtrack. Richard Branson, the head of Virgin, the British multimedia conglomerate bankrolling the film, had taken it upon himself to have a contemporary pop act compose some danceable, radio-friendly music for the movie as a means of giving it some more marketable cachet since the production was going wildly overbudget. Ultimately, what they got was this truly strange New Wave novelty from Eurythmics. The director had already agreed on a more appropriate orchestral score by Dominic Muldowney and he vociferously denounced Virgin's behest to use the Eurythmics' music as both a professional betrayal and an infringement on his artistic freedom. As a result, only fragmentary bits and pieces of the pop duo's "soundtrack" were actually used in the film, and Mr. Radford said some none too kind words about Eurythmics and the whole debacle on a televised awards show.
The music that appears on this album (faithfully plugged in the movie's closing credits), is, as the liner notes inform us, merely "derived from Eurythmics' original score for the film, 1984" (go figure). Suffice to say, "1984: For the Love of Big Brother" is not really a soundtrack per se but, more accurately, a collection of contemporary pop songs conceptually BASED on "Nineteen Eighty-four" (think of something along the lines of Madonna's "I'm Breathless" album for the movie "Dick Tracy" and you'll know what I mean), and as such, it doesn't entirely work.
Musically, this album has a certain appeal--it's all doomy, gloomy Teutonic synth mantras and martial electro-beats: if you like New Order or Kraftwerk or the late 70's Bowie-Eno collaborations you might go for this CD. Thematically though, this album is a bit hard to take, especially on two particular songs. The lyrics for "Sexcrime" and "Doubleplusgood" are preposterously silly in their naive, corny literal-mindedness. "Sexcrime" has a self-consciously Top-of-the-Pops-"hit-single"-circa- 1984 quality stamped all over it (the dreadful music video will make you cringe) and Annie Lennox's histrionic vocal obbligato just sounds crudely intrusive in this context. "Doubleplusgood," on the other hand, is even more egregious: it's a very thin, rather stupid, and bludgeoningly repetitive joke based on a trivial bit of background dialogue seriously intended in the film. Mercifully, neither track is featured in the film.
The one track that actually IS used--as a matter of fact, it serves consistently as the movie's romantic lietmotiv--is the gorgeous, haunting accoustic ballad, "Julia." It's a heart-breakingly lovely song that, miraculously, manages to ENHANCE the film's tremendous emotional impact in spades. But for no other reason, Eurythmics' otherwise dubious participation in the movie was worthwhile--this one stand-out six-and-a-half-minute track is the only compelling reason for owning this CD. I give "Julia" five stars, the rest of the songs, one or two, three at best. So, as you can see, I've split the difference in my overall rating.
I just wish that a proper soundtrack including the little sonic snippets of the used Eurythmics music and the whole of "Julia," as well as all of Dominic Muldowney's great, stirring score, was released instead of this generally self-indulgent and sometimes embarassing hodgepodge. What a pity it was not to be. At least they could come out with a CD single of "Julia."
Unless, you're a serious Eurythmics fan or completist, my advice would be to skip this CD--but by all means, for the love of Big Brother AND great art, buy, BUY the video of Radford's wonderful, stunning, passionate film. (You'll hear enough of "Julia" in the movie, and if you have any kind of aesthetic or emotional sensitivity at all, you won't be able to get it out of your head, believe me.)
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 18, 2007 11:47 AM PDT

Macbeth [VHS]
Macbeth [VHS]
Offered by adlibrary
Price: $39.95
33 used & new from $2.39

22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Blood will have blood...", January 17, 1999
This review is from: Macbeth [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Roman Polanski's notoriously violent film of Shakespeare's notorious "Scottish play" doesn't quite satisfy as it should. His bleak modernist interpretation is ultimately just too limiting, still it's certainly a bruvura piece of moviemaking and can be best appreciated as such. After all, this is not really Shakespeare per se but a Polanski film: the prevailing themes of witchcraft, rampant paranoia, and finally triumphant evil pick up right where "Rosemary's Baby" left off. And life is certainly nasty, brutish, and short in this movie--Shakespeare's poetry takes a backseat to a surfeit of excruciatingly detailed mutilations with plenty of blades slashing through jugular veins, culminating in a truly epic decapitation. This "Macbeth" is a relentless homicidal debauch: Polanski displays the same technical virtuosity and gruesome inventiveness in staging the numerous murders here as he did in "Repulsion." All of Shakespeare's famous metaphors (e.g., "is this a dagger I see before me?") are garishly literalized and deliberately engineered as part of an escalating series of spectacular, cathartic, bloodier-than-hell set-pieces. Visually, the film is rich and vivid: the forbidding images of rain-swept moors and twilit horizons possess a spellbinding primeval quality. And there are a few brilliant, inspired moments such as when our murderous Scot, whilst lying in his bed-chamber, broods "I am so stepped in blood..." and the whole room is bathed in an eerie crimson light. But the scene that truly stands out is when he visits the witches in their lair and is shown his fate: it's a gorgeous, thrilling, and strikingly imaginative surrealist reverie. The actors--nearly all British stage pros--are solid and reliable. As Macbeth, morose, dark-eyed Jon Finch is really quite good--and he certainly does have the diction for the role. But Francesca Annis's sickly nymphet Lady Macbeth is a glaring (and oh-so-characteristic) lapse in judgement on the director's part. Weak-voiced, pasty-faced, and generally irritating, this petulant little urchin has neither the skill nor the presence to adequately bring off one of Shakespeare's most formidable women. Annis's feeble performance renders the basic psychological premise of the play--Lady Macbeth's manipulation of her husband to fulfill her delusions of grandeur--unconvincing to say the least. Finch just looks uncomfortably stricken while Annis acts coy and childish. All in all, Polanski's "Macbeth" is a decidedly thorny piece of work: since it was his first film following the murder of his pregnant wife Sharon Tate and friends by members of the Charles Manson cult, he seems to have had too much to prove here. By dispensing with the Bard's customary knot-tying closing speech and ending instead with an abrupt silent scene suggesting basically that the cycle of treachery and murder will spiral forever through the ages, Polanski overstates his case.

Devils, The [VHS]
Devils, The [VHS]
14 used & new from $15.00

3 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hell will hold no surprises for you, indeed..., January 17, 1999
This review is from: Devils, The [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Ken Russell's film, "The Devils"--based on John Whiting's play of the same name and Aldous Huxley's excellent historical treatise, "The Devils of Loudun"--is a drama set in seventeenth-century France dealing with the tribulations of one Urbain Grandier, a Jesuit canon of a self-governing, fortified, provincial town called Loudun. Because of his opposition to the demolition of the city walls and the subjugation of the resistant Protestant Huguenot population, the priest is accused of bewitching a convent of Ursuline nuns and subsequently tried and condemned by ruthless, conspiratorial Catholic authorities of Cardinal Richelieu's incipiently theocratic nationalist regime. As a film, "The editing is clumsy and disjointed and the murky photography makes everything--particularly the Brueghel-inspired shots of maggot-infested corpses borne up on wheels--look like regurgitated sour milk. Although the aspects of historical drama are potentially fascinating, Russell is just too crude and literal-minded a director--and with apparently too jaundiced an eye--to give the story any real deep sense of tragedy or social injustice. The movie merely sets out to shock and horrify with a monomoniacal emphasis on extremely gruesome forms of physical torture, and needless to say, the cautionary elements of Huxley's complex, thoughtful book get lost amidst all of Russell's garishly overwrought baroque-burlesque horror theatrics. What holds the film together if anything does is Oliver Reed's formidable if slightly (inexplicably?) creepy portrayal of Grandier's spiritual regeneration in the face of the unimaginable pain and death awaiting him. However, it is Vanessa Redgrave who truly inspires dread as Sister Jeanne of the Angels, the perverse, crook-backed, self-loathing yet narcissistically deluded mother superior who becomes violently infatuated with the priest. The most flamboyant of the villains is the grimly fanatical "professional witch-hunter," Father Barre (Michael Gothard), a young, athletic, wild-haired, hippie-Dionysus-type whose raving, crucifix-brandishing hysterics and seemingly insatiable fits of sadism grow repetitive and tiresome--not to mention silly--real fast. "The Devils"' climactic scene of Grandier's burning at the stake--in deliberate imitation of Dreyer's "The Passion of Joan of Arc"--might be the most horrible and graphically overwhelming cinematic immolation ever, but the brazenly sloppy staging and the underlying adolescent vulgarity of the whole conception renders it little more than shallowly sensationalistic on Russell's part. And the final elegiac image of Grandier's bereaved mistress climbing through the destroyed city walls and into the barren wastes beyond is certainly artfully bleak, yet it's also a somewhat pretentious, dispiriting "historical" nightmare with surprising little real insight.

Page: 1 | 2