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All Is Lost [Blu-ray]
All Is Lost [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Robert Redford
Price: $18.76
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing, but something's not quite right., February 12, 2014
This review is from: All Is Lost [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
* The problems minimalist films like "All Is Lost" run into - happen when they crash head-on into customers who feel justifiably ripped off because their expectations fell way short.

* Despite the high praise this film has received from critics - putting that praise next to negative reviews from actual customers - exposes a reality that can't be ignored. Something's not right. And keep in mind, NO viewer invests good time and money in something like "All Is Lost" - and roots for it to fail.

* The tip-off that "All Is Lost" is NOT a mainstream picture came last year - when I noticed it playing at mostly art-house theaters - and NOT at my backyard multi-plex. Uh-oh. "Indie picture, low-budget, not fast-paced, non-linear structure, probably lacks a strong payoff."

* So when I finally saw the picture last night as a rental - I was ready. I got into "All Is Lost." It gave me an idea of what it might be like to die on the ocean. (By the way, that last sentence was not a spoiler.) I could not turn this movie off. I already knew there would be little to zero dialogue - and yet I was engrossed with the idea of an almost entirely visual story whereby I would be forced to experience everything through Robert Redford, the only actor who's in "All Is Lost." I didn't feel I had to know much about his character, where he came from, how he got on the boat, etc. I understood what the director was trying to do.

* Note that most of the praise from critics has been about Robert Redford's "near dialogue-free" performance. Well, in my view, despite his status as a beloved icon, there are only so many ways Redford can express puzzlement and frustration. Deprived of an internal monologue, it's hard to emotionally invest in him beyond just wanting him to survive. If I was stranded on the ocean, I'd be talking to myself ALL THE TIME, with a lot of looney things running through my head. We get none of that from Redford.

* As a result, I think director J. C. Chandor's decision to move forward with an existential story without dialogue isn't a total success. His film is technically brilliant, jammed with wondrous sounds and images of a nature at war and peace.

* But the theme of "All Is Lost" never seems more ambitious than just showing what it's like to survive nature's fury. I've already seen that story elsewhere. In my view, a picture that tries to ask big questions without covering old territory - really requires an internal monologue or a moody atmosphere - or abstract images like what's found in "2001" or in "The Tree of Life" - films which force us to think beyond survival and more about our small place in this awesome universe. "All Is Lost" was NOT boring - but I did feel a little "clipped" at the end, and not in a good way.

Blue Jasmine (+UltraViolet Digital Copy)
Blue Jasmine (+UltraViolet Digital Copy)
DVD ~ Cate Blanchett
Price: $17.72
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The fine line between being rich - and being doped up and homeless., February 9, 2014
* There's no need to go into my problems with this film, from its non-linear structure - to its jarring Jersey accents in a San Francisco setting - to its "perky" jazz soundtrack laid over scenes of emotional trauma.

* However, for viewers upset about the darkness throughout this film, and its lack of an emotionally satisfying ending, or more to the point, the lack of any ending at all, I say it's better to frame this picture as a portrait of desperation, of how you can be wealthy with status and condescension towards others - and still end up being mentally ill, hooked on pills and alcohol, mumbling to yourself on a park bench, shunned by strangers.

* The last shot in "Blue Jasmine" felt stunning to me, the irrationality of what Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) says, how she says it - juxtaposed with how raggedly terrible and old she looks after appearing spectacularly elegant throughout the film. In my view, how a second person in that last shot behaves toward Jasmine, without saying one word - before the screen goes suddenly black - told me enough about what's going to happen to Jasmine, without needing to see it. The decision to NOT "tie up loose ends" feels intentional, leaving some viewers justifiably angry about being deprived an ending.

* I don't think it's helpful to compare this movie to "A Streetcar Named Desire" - nor to read national critics praising this film. Expectations matter. Your complaints are justified. To me, "Blue Jasmine" is a sketchy story about how an unlikeable and snobby woman - after losing all of her money - will do ANYTHING to climb her way back up the status ladder. It's one version of how quickly a person can fall from the penthouse to the outhouse, ending up like some homeless person who looks deranged, doped up and dangerous, babbling to herself - without projecting any suggestion of a past once filled with prestige and glamour.

* So who's the real loser if your self-worth is defined by money and material things - and not by love and forgiveness - which Jasmine's sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) has by the truckload? Despite the low opinion Jasmine has for "unsophisticated" Ginger, who's a single mother living from paycheck-to-paycheck - who dates men who are, in Jasmine's view, "losers" - Ginger won't be dragged down. She may not be rich nor stylish, but you're not going to find Ginger dependent on drugs and alcohol, emotionally devastated and homeless on the streets.

* Yeah, Cate Blanchett's performance is electric. Her facial expressions, her ability to suggest bravado, arrogance and crippling self-doubt - are off the charts spectacular. I never got the impression she was delivering lines from memory. The scene where she's "baby-sitting" her sister's kids in a restaurant, "confiding" shallow pearls of wisdom about the human condition and about her own situation - illustrates the extent of her increasing madness.

* But given the rave reviews from critics and the depressingly mixed reactions from audiences, I went in with low expectations. I'm glad I did. "Blue Jasmine" - despite its flaws - is an insanely watchable story about a human train wreck without wheels.

Johnny Carson
Johnny Carson
by Henry Bushkin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.67
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why was Johnny Carson a tortured genius who died alone?, January 26, 2014
This review is from: Johnny Carson (Hardcover)
* On January 24, 2005, the man America knew as "The King of Late Night"- died of complications of emphysema at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. No close friends were with him, nor his estranged wife Alexis, nor his surviving sons - nor - to anyone's surprise - Henry Bushkin, Carson's attorney of eighteen years, who wrote this book.

* Bushkin's chosen title, "Johnny Carson" - at first gave me the impression this might be a biography about Johnny himself - from his birth in Nebraska in October 1925 - to his retirement in May 1992 as the richest man in television - to his death in 2005.

* Instead "Johnny Carson" is a memoir of Bushkin's years with Johnny, from the day he was hired in 1970 to the day he was fired in 1988. A better title for this book could have been, "My Joyous and Humiliating Years Working for the King of Late Night."

* In fairness, you can argue all you want about how this "tell-all" book was a way for Bushkin to "cash in" with his lurid tales about a seemingly "amiable and humorous man" that millions of Americans saw on TV - who was anything but in private. You are equally allowed to speculate whether anything in this book was embellished to increase sales.

* However, in my view, Bushkin has written a readable and credible accounting about Carson - that makes the pages fly by - and the clock melt away.

* Despite the "me-me-me " framing of this book, the fact is - other than the wonderful PBS documentary from 2012, American Masters - "Johnny Carson: The King of Late Night", there hasn't been ANYTHING else to date that's been near as intimate as Bushkin's book - covering the wonderful highs - and the frightening lows - associated with working with a tortured genius like Johnny Carson.

* Despite the warm words comedians have always said about Carson - especially those whose careers were made by appearing on the Tonight Show - I could not help feeling that no matter how great Carson's achievements, working for him had to have been terrifying. He demanded a standard of loyalty from others - which he never applied to himself, especially when it came to his four marriages, his numerous affairs and other petty grudges and peeves that he took to his grave.

* Like the PBS documentary, the take away I got from Bushkin's book is this: Nearly every genius we know on earth - must also have some nebulous insecurity or flaw that somehow acts as a propeller to greatness. In Johnny's case, the roots of his aloofness and pettiness - and his insane drive to succeed - can be traced almost entirely to Ruth - his stern and impossible-to-please mother. I believe Johnny died an unhappy man because Ruth poisoned his life from infancy to adulthood.

* The irony of this is underlined independently of Bushkin's book - when you learn that after Ruth died at 85, Johnny discovered that his mother had kept every single clip and notice of her son's titanic career hidden in a box, withholding her pride from her son. Bushkin writes, "Johnny did not attend her funeral. He just said, 'The wicked witch is dead.'"

* The picture that once again emerges of Carson - is a man who wielded incredible power - but who was not so much a "lonely man" as much as he was a man who loved "being alone."

* Here is just one of many examples cited by Bushkin - of how wild, mercurial and imperious Johnny was, hurting the people around him more often than expressing true generosity (which he also did for people in need, as long as you didn't beg him for help):

* Bushkin writes, "Johnny Carson enjoyed the adulation of millions, but his mother could not love him. He carried that pain, and spread it (to others), all his life." In 1987, Johnny married his fourth wife Alexis. A short time later, at a festive dinner in Europe with friends, "Alex said something Johnny disliked, a remark so inconsequential that it didn't even register with me. But Johnny looked her straight in the eye and said, 'We've been married for three weeks. If you say something like that again, this marriage won't last another three weeks.' It was as nasty a rebuke as I have ever heard, akin to a slap, and I don't know why any of us remained at the table, particularly Alex. (Our) dinner was, of course, ruined."

* Bushkin intriguingly notes that in "Toxic Parents," author Susan Forward wrote, "All of us develop expectations about how people will treat us - based on our relationships with our parents. If those relationships are...emotionally nourishing and respectful of our rights and feelings - we'll grow up expecting others to treat us in the same way...But if childhood is a time of unrelenting anxiety, tension and pain - then we'll develop negative expectations and rigid defenses."

* To me, this is EXACTLY what happened to Johnny. "Never have I met a man possessed of a greater abundance of social gifts - intelligence, looks, manners, style, humor - and never have I met a man with less aptitude for or interest in maintaining real relationships," writes Bushkin.

* In the end, we find ourselves taking the good with the bad. The comedic genius, joy and American cultural significance of Johnny Carson - during the last third of the 20th century - are too compelling to ignore. Carson's life demands our attention. Johnny had a HUGE number of skeletons in his closet - which do not, in my view, diminish his achievements.

* But Johnny had enormous riches and things of luxury that most of us will never have. And at death's door, he could not buy his health nor find a way to cure his innate discomfort with people. In sum, Johnny Carson had a magnificent and horrible life - which still feels painfully sad.

It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (Criterion Collection) (Blu-ray + DVD)
It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (Criterion Collection) (Blu-ray + DVD)
DVD ~ Spencer Tracy
Offered by newbury_comics
Price: $33.59
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ** PLEASE READ - Before ATTACKING this Criterion release, please WATCH the "Restoration Demonstration" Feature, January 23, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
** DEAR FRIENDS: BEFORE ATTACKING THIS PRODUCT, PLEASE WATCH THE "RESTORATION DEMONSTRATION" buried on disc 2 (Blu-ray), feature #12 - and on disc 4 (DVD), feature #7; see details below.

Dick Shawn: "Man, you're buggin' me! Cut out, cut out, cut out!
Jonathan Winters: "What is this 'cut out' talk?"
Dick Shawn: "Out baby, out baby, out baby, out baby, out!"
Jonathan Winters: "Don't call me baby."

* HERE'S A LIST OF WHAT COMES WITH THIS PRODUCT. There's no need for me to go into the plot of this film nor to explain how funny it remains, especially to baby boomers who saw this in a Cinerama or in a second-run theater in 1963 or in 1970 - or saw it chopped up on television.

* All twelve (12) features on two (2) Blu-ray discs - have been spread across three (3) DVD discs that are included in this set.

* Some of the bad reviews about the cardboard packaging of this five-disc set are justified. However, I feel complaints specific to the content of this Criterion product should be counter-balanced with this fact: Much of the footage from the original roadshow production of "Mad World" is LOST. As in FOREVER.

* I am guessing that most writers of the "three-star-and-below" reviews of the extended version of this film - wrote them BEFORE watching a key, five (5)-minute special feature called "Restoration Demonstration." (See below, Blu-ray disc 2, item #12.) It's the only place where customers can get the best idea of the titanic troubles Robert A. Harris's team ran into while trying to restore "Mad World" using lost color footage that had faded completely to deep magenta. This "pinkish" footage had to be stripped, de-saturated and reassembled without adding "colorizing" effects which are taboo when they involve restoring vintage classic films.

* Yes, you have every right to deserve perfection for your dollars. But unless you wanted the restored "Mad World" to be computer generated and "Avatar-ed" to death - you can correct things such as color fading, warping, shrinking and sound drops only so much - before unnecessarily intruding, by creating out of whole cloth - something completely at odds from director Stanley Kramer's original first cut of this film.

* Hence Mr. Harris (best known for his restorations of 1954's "A Star is Born" and of 1958's "Vertigo") has pulled material from all over the world, even from the Far East - to cobble together a film that gives us the most educated vision of what the original "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" looked like - when it world premiered on November 7, 1963.

* Please scroll down to Disc 2 of 5 below - and read item #12 - which summarizes the "Restoration Demonstration" feature. I am NOT associated nor friends with any of the film's makers nor with the distributor of this Blu-ray / DVD set.

* "Nothing succeeds like excess." - This is the title of a 10-page essay about the film's importance - written by Lou Lumenick, chief film critic of the New York Post. Lumenick's essay appears in full in the 18-page booklet that accompanies this product.

* Included is a 6 5/8 x 10 7/8" map - with illustrations of 25 locations throughout Southern California - where the film was shot in 1962-63. According to the liner notes, "Sadly, the Big 'W' where the loot was buried, which was located on private property, no longer stands."

* I took a star away because the original 1991 documentary, "Something a Little Less Serious: A Tribute to 'It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" - which ran 61 minutes on prior home video releases of this film - is NOT on this product.

DISC 1 OF 5 - (Blu-Ray) - SIX (6) FEATURES.

1) RESTORED GENERAL RELEASE VERSION (2 hours, 43 minutes) - This is a restored digital film transfer of the general release version of the film, with a 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack (2 hours-and-43-minutes). This version is superb throughout, rendered for the first time in a high-definition picture and booming DTS sound. This is the more commonly-seen version of "Mad World" - and has been rendered in a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.76:1 - and has been broken up into nineteen (19) chapters.

* The digital transfer was created in 4K resolution with all dirt, debris, scratches, warps and flicker manually removed - and the result is, in my view, the cleanest, sharpest and most beautiful general release version of "Mad World" ever distributed on home video to date. The general release also boasts new, easy-to-read white-font subtitles that are optionally available over the film itself, including the overture (2:48) - (with lyrics to the theme music provided), the intermission (Entr'Acte, 3:42) and the exit music (2:11).


2) INTRODUCTION - TV AND RADIO ADS (4:20) - This introduction provides context for the film's original 1963 roadshow advertising campaign, featuring humorist and voice-over artist Stan Freberg's original TV and radio ads.



* 1963 Original Release Promotional Spots - Radio (4:04) - A collection of six (6) radio commercials voiced by Stan Freberg which mirror the manic pace of the film, tagged with information about its impending November 7, 1963 premiere at the Cinerama Dome Theater on Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles.

* 1963 Original Release Promotional Spots - TV (2:31) - A collection of four (4) television commercials - the first of which is funny as all get-out - with Phil Silvers, Sid Caesar, Ethel Merman, Milton Berle, Mickey Rooney, Buddy Hackett and Jonathan Winters - bickering in a TV studio. All four commercials are in black and white and rendered in their original 1:33:1 aspect ratio for television.

* 1963 Original Roadshow Teaser (1:27) - A text-animated mini-trailer that uses the original Jack Davis art (which is seen in the film's "style B" movie poster and movie program book) as its centerpiece.

* 1963 Original Release Theatrical Trailer (3:27) - A montage of memorable scenes pulled from the film, this trailer - knowing what we know now about the cult classic status of IAMMMMW - is a joy to watch. The trailer also features positive "advance blurbs" from the top critics of the period.

* 1970 Re-release Promotional Spots - Radio (2:29) - A collection of three (3) radio commercials that aren't very good. They're mildly amusing but not as funny as the 1963 spots produced by Stan Freberg. The spots includes the first reference to the Motion Picture Association of America's new rating of "G" for General Audiences - tagged at the end of each spot.

* 1970 Re-release Theatrical Trailer (3:21) - Similar to the 1963 theatrical trailer, with minimal updates.


4) "TELESCOPE" (50:18) - This is a two-part 1963 black-and-white feature from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's documentary program, "Telescope" - which follows the film's press junket and world premiere. The program is hosted by Fletcher Markle, a name that's "now-forgotten-by-most" viewers today.

* Part One - "A Winter's Tale" (24:56) - The episode's name is a play on Jonathan Winters's last name, who dominates most of this otherwise dull documentary about the press conferences promoting the film. Winters, a "new kid on the block" to cinema in 1963, displays his full range of ad-libbing talents for the press, with Merman, Berle and other stars looking on.

* Part Two - "A Junket Into Madness" (25:22) - The more interesting of the two episodes in this two-part feature - includes the arrival of the film's stars and other celebrities at the film's premiere - which includes a pre-screening ribbon-cutting - at the brand new Cinerama Dome Theater in Los Angeles.


5) OPEN-ENDED PRESS INTERVIEWS, 1963 (35:08) - This is described as a black-and-white press interview from 1963 featuring director Stanley Kramer and cast members. But in my view, it's not so much a "real" interview as it is a "staged" attempt to allow local television stations to "customize" their news segments as if their own reporters "were there," asking all of the questions. This historical artifact demonstrates one of the ways films and music were publicized during the 1960s, complete with "open-ended" interviews with the interviewer's questions "cut out," enabling local stations to insert their own reporters "interviewing" the stars. (For this feature, Criterion has added a contemporary voice "asking the questions" based on available transcripts sent to the press.)

* The result is sometimes awkward because, 1) some of the questions are inane softballs tossed up to the stars, and, 2) NONE of the stars - at the time this video press kit was filmed - had seen the finished film. There are lots of scratches, dirt, debris and holes in this feature. What stood out to me the most, however, were the numerous mentions of the film's then enormous $9.4 million budget - with director Stanley Kramer openly confessing that he hoped they could "get that money back" from customers. Because of "Mad World's" extraordinary "3 hour and 15 minute" length - (repeatedly referenced here as the film's running time) - there were genuine concerns that "Mad World" would lose a ton of money, which explains why it was butchered and chopped to accommodate exhibitors almost immediately after the roadshow version premiered in Los Angeles.


6) "STANLEY KRAMER'S REUNION WITH THE GREAT COMEDY ARTISTS OF OUR TIME" (36:46) - Video taped in 1974, director Stanley Kramer hosted this show with Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett and Jonathan Winters - all reminiscing about the making of "Mad World." This is one of the best special features in that even from the point of view of 11 years after it premiered, the legacy of "Mad World" was already being gilded, with hilariously fond memories and anecdotes being recalled by the cast. Surprising to me was how Buddy Hackett ended up being the funniest guy in the room with his impersonations of fellow cast members, capturing the zaniness that took place on location. This special feature is so good that it ended too soon for me.

DISC 2 OF 5 - (Blu-Ray) - SIX (6) FEATURES.

7) EXTENDED, 197-MINUTE ROADSHOW VERSION - (3 hours, 17 minutes, 35 seconds.) - This is a new high-definition digital transfer of a 197-minute extended version of the film, reconstructed and restored by Robert A. Harris using visual and audio material from the longer original roadshow premiere - including scenes that have been returned to the film for the first time since 1963 - rendered with a 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master audio soundtrack, a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.76:1 - and broken up into twenty-two (22) chapters. Unlike the 163-minute general release version, the extended 197-minute version has NO subtitle options.

* The extended version begins with "The Overture" (0:2:27 music with black screen); Part One of the feature begins at the 0:2:28 mark and runs until the "Intermission with Police Radio Calls" at the 1:53:04 mark - which "continues the action" of the film as an "audio only" feature heard in the lobbies of roadshow theaters; the "Entr'Acte musical portion of this Intermission begins at the 1:59:25 mark; Part Two of the feature resumes at the 2:03:04 mark; the film concludes at the 3:15:10 mark, followed by Exit Music (2:25). From start-to-finish, the extended feature runs 197-plus-minutes (3:17:35).

* Contextual Note: The original roadshow version of "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" that premiered on November 7, 1963 - ran approximately 202 minutes (3 hours, 22 minutes) including the overture, intermission and exit music.

* With director Stanley Kramer's help, it was cut to 163 minutes for later engagements. Much of the nearly 40 minutes that Mr. Kramer cut from the film is LOST forever. About 20 minutes of this "cut footage" was recovered from old 70mm prints around the world - or as "audio only" artifacts.

* In 1991, MGM/UA released an extended version of "Mad World" on laser disc and on a 2-tape VHS set that integrated all available footage at that time (182 minutes). This Criterion Blu-ray/DVD set goes further by about 15 minutes (197 minutes). To maintain continuity, Robert A. Harris's team inserted still photos from the film - accompanied by sub-title headings at the bottom of the screen - which identify where only audio is available for footage that remains lost.

* The restoration's limitations start showing up 26 minutes into the extended version, with flickering, color fading and color shifting, audio lags where recovered trims, some as short as a few seconds, were re-inserted into the reconstruction of the roadshow premiere. At the 42-minute mark, we run into the first major section, which runs under two minutes, where lost footage has been replaced with photographs and a subtitle headline at the bottom of the screen noting missing film while dialogue continues to play from audio tracks that still survive. ** For more information about why Robert A. Harris's restoration team decided not to further tinker with color fading, color shifting and audio drops, see "Restoration Demonstration" feature summary below, item #12.


8) NEW AUDIO COMMENTARY (3 hours, 17 minutes.) - The audio commentary features "Mad World" aficionados Mark Evanier, Michael Schlesinger and Paul Scrabo.


9) EXCERPTS FROM THE 2000 AFI PROGRAM, "100 Years...100 Laughs." (11:10) - This is the un-cut segment - some of which was never broadcast in full on CBS in 2000 - about the influence of "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," which ranked #40 in the American Film Institute's list of the 100 funniest movies ever made. High-definition clips from "Mad World" have replaced standard definition footage that was originally used for this segment. Original interviews remain in standard definition 1.33:1 aspect ratio, featuring Carl Reiner, Whoopi Goldberg, Alan King, Milton Berle, Mickey Rooney, Charles Grodin and Janeane Garofolo.


10) "THE LAST 70MM FILM FESTIVAL." (37:38) - "The Last 70mm Film Festival" was part of an extended program of 70-millimeter films screened in 2012 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The inaugural event featured a panel interview with the surviving cast and crew of "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" - followed by a screening of the film. Hosted by Billy Crystal, this segment has a bittersweet feeling to it, in that a handful of guests were in wheelchairs and/or needed assistance to get to their seats on stage at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Los Angeles.

* The panel included Carl Reiner, Stan Freberg, Barrie Chase (still looking marvelous, 50 years later), Karen Kramer (wife of late director Stanley Kramer), casting director Lynn Stalmaster, script supervisor Marshall Schlom (who never gets to speak), Marvin Kaplan (who's very funny), Mickey Rooney (who's mostly incoherent) and the late Jonathan Winters (ditto). This event was filmed on July 9, 2012.


11) SOUND AND VISION (36:28) - This is a spectacular, not-to-be-missed documentary about the film's visual and sound effects, featuring never-seen back lot footage and interviews with visual-effects specialist Craig Barron and sound effects designer Ben Burtt. This documentary reminds us that all of the effects seen or heard in "Mad World" were done by hand. There was no computer-generated animation. The stunts were real, the stunt-people themselves risked their lives and all of the sounds were re-created in studio.

* The most fascinating examples to me included: How the plane "piloted by Buddy Hackett and Mickey Rooney" in the film - made it through a low-ceiling hangar AND a full-sized Coca-Cola billboard without crashing; how the interiors of the "condemned building" at the end of the film were created with matte paintings - and "filled in" with studio footage; how the ladder and street scenes at the end were also shot in studio, outside on the Universal Studios lot and integrated with matte paintings and street footage shot elsewhere - from every camera angle imaginable; how the "ladder scene" is a beautiful mix of footage with real actors, real stunt men and miniature puppets. Yes, that's right. Those figures you see flying off the ladder into windows and awnings were puppets. They had to use stop-animation to get them to twirl correctly off the ladder; also amazing is how the shot of the guys hanging from palm trees at the end was done, as well as how a stunt man had to time "Dick Shawn's" fall from that tree perfectly - so that he could appear to slide and plow smoothly onto a very long picnic table. This is truly amazing, off-the-charts stuff.


12) RESTORATION DEMONSTRATION (5:19) - Again, I wish the makers of this Criterion set - had put this special feature FIRST - at the beginning of the extended, 197-minute cut of this film.

* As mentioned above, Robert A. Harris's team had enormous problems restoring this film, unlike anything encountered previously. The recovered 65mm color roadshow negative was in terrible condition, filled with warps and stickiness - and the color separation masters had to be JUNKED because everything had faded to a pinkish magenta. How they got around this is technical, but the nuts and bolts of the restoration involved: scanning and stripping the magenta out, flattening the curvature distortion of the image that was in the negative caused by lenses used to shoot "Mad World" in Ultra Panavision for Cinerama, matching color available from 70mm footage around the world - and from standard definition laser disc and VHS re-issues in 1991 - and finally - trying to get EVERYTHING to "fit back" into the original 2.76:1 ratio of the original roadshow premiere.

* For the extended 197-minute version of the film - recovered footage was pulled from 70mm print trims, which were in turn scanned in high-definition. When necessary, 3D warping technology was used to blend the trims with standard-definition transfers - to compensate for color fading. The results were mixed. Some color could not be fixed, and artificially colorizing using computers was out as an option for this classic vintage film. Meanwhile, the audio for the recovered footage was pulled from the original magnetic tracks from the roadshow premiere - and from the 70mm trims. But as noted previously, because some scenes exist ONLY as audio, photos were inserted with titles at the bottom to keep the story moving.

* In sum, what these efforts mean to me is this: The restorers had a hard decision to make. Should they computer colorize everything that was faded, like the crayon efforts to colorize "Casablanca" in the 1980s - or should they stick to the spirit of the roadshow release and "reconstruct" everything as it was using the BEST tools available - using the roadshow 2.76:1 aspect ratio as the gold standard?

* Harris's team chose the latter. The result to perfectionists is an imperfect result - which angry reviewers have complained about. There are color shifts and washed out images, black-and-white "edges" where color couldn't be restored - because corrected footage in 2.35:1 aspect ratio couldn't be laid over the entire 2.76:1 frame - which also left behind jarring, one-second-long audio drops resulting from mixing 70mm trims with 65mm trims into a single 197-minute version with a consistent 2.76:1 widescreen aspect ratio from start to finish - which matches "Mad World's" roadshow premiere.

* It's all explained in this five-minute feature - and had Criterion pushed this at the forefront - I'm sure there would have been far fewer complaints. Personally, I am blown away with the end product, with all of its "glorious" imperfections. I love it and think the restoration is astonishing. I'm glad Harris's team didn't artificially boost and saturate the color of this lost footage with computers - which would have looked like something from 2014 instead of 1963, artistically different from director Stanley Kramer's original first-cut.

* It's also noteworthy that this special "Restoration Demonstration" feature openly acknowledges "Mad World's" problems. It cites legendary director David Lean's comment about film restoration - (whose own 1962 classic, "Lawrence of Arabia," was also restored by Robert A. Harris to a far less extent). Lean described restoration as a thing stitched together like a Navajo blanket, resulting in something that's "beautifully imperfect." In my view, this accurately captures what this 197-minute extended version looks and feels like: a work of history brought "back to life" in the best possible way.

DISC 3 OF 5 - (DVD) -

1. RESTORED GENERAL RELEASE VERSION (2 hours, 43 minutes) - (See disc 1 of 5 above, item #1.)

2. INTRODUCTION - TV AND RADIO ADS (4:20) - (See disc 1 of 5 above, item #2.)

3. ORIGINAL AND RE-RELEASE RADIO SPOTS AND MOVIE TRAILERS (17:19) - (See disc 1 of 5 above, item #3.)

4. EXCERPTS FROM THE 2000 AFI PROGRAM, "100 Years...100 Laughs." (11:10) - (See disc 2 of 5 above, item #9.)

DISC 4 OF 5 - (DVD) -

5. EXTENDED, 197-MINUTE ROADSHOW VERSION - (PRESENTLY UNDER REVIEW.) - (3 hours, 17 minutes, 35 seconds.) - (See disc 2 of 5 above, item #7.)

6. NEW AUDIO COMMENTARY (3 hours, 17 minutes.) - (See disc 2 of 5 above, item #8.)

7. RESTORATION DEMONSTRATION (5:19) - (See disc 2 of 5 above, item #12.)

DISC 5 OF 5 - (DVD) -

8. "TELESCOPE" (50:18) - (See disc 1 of 5 above, item #4.)

9. OPEN-ENDED PRESS INTERVIEWS, 1963 (35:08) - (See disc 1 of 5 above, item #5.)

10. "STANLEY KRAMER'S REUNION WITH THE GREAT COMEDY ARTISTS OF OUR TIME" (36:46) - (See disc 1 of 5 above, item #6.)

11. "THE LAST 70MM FILM FESTIVAL." (37:38) - (See disc 2 of 5 above, item #10.)

12. SOUND AND VISION (36:28) - (See disc 2 of 5 above, item #11.)
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 31, 2014 1:41 AM PST

Good Ol' Freda [Blu-ray]
Good Ol' Freda [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Freda Kelly
Price: $20.00
38 used & new from $16.09

50 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificently joyous and heartbreaking, with 49 minutes of extras and an A+ soundtrack., December 5, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Good Ol' Freda [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
(HERE'S A LIST OF WHAT COMES WITH THIS PRODUCT.) I am NOT associated nor friends with any of the film's makers nor with the distributor of this Blu-ray / DVD.

* On August 10, 2013, "Good Ol' Freda" was screened at the Fest for Beatles Fans at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare in Chicago. Although the film made its world premiere in March 2013 at the SXSW (South by Southwest) Film Festival in Austin, Texas - the screening in Chicago was the first in front of a huge audience of Fab Four fans, many who traveled thousands of miles to attend, including former Beatles' Fan Club Secretary Freda Kelly herself.

* Director Ryan White's pitch when he approached the surviving Beatles and their wives through their executives at Apple Records was straight-forward: "This is a film about a woman named Freda Kelly who never sold out the Beatles." Translation: If you're looking for a kiss-and-tell documentary about the dirty laundry involving the world's most popular rock and roll band - look elsewhere.

* FEATURE FILM (86 minutes): "Good Ol' Freda" feels like a product approved by the Beatles and released by Apple (even though Magnolia Entertainment is its distributor). It is not a traditional tabloid-style-exposé that critics demand before they anoint it with showers of praise. Instead, the film's appeal has everything to do with the adorability of blue-eyed, brown-haired Freda herself - and her almost pathological, 50-year-aversion to talking about the Beatles. It boasts a killer soundtrack filled with Beatles songs and other material licensed from Apple (stuff that is near impossible for outsiders to obtain), along with images previously never seen.

* The film is visually constructed like a scrapbook of images, whereby the camera is in constant motion, panning and zooming for emphasis, combining interviews with Freda, now 68, going back to visit old haunting grounds in Liverpool (including the Empire Theater, the inside of Ringo's house, etc.) - and wildly wonderful black and white and color footage, some of it familiar (old newsreels) - and some of it brand new (personal stills and clips unearthed from storage). There are interviews with others who were there when it all began, including Tony Barrow, the Beatles' first press secretary (1962-1968) and Billy Kinsley of the Merseybeats.

* Freda Kelly's bond with the Beatles turned into iron when she became the primary conduit between the band and their families, making weekly visits to their homes. Her loyalty never wavered, despite receiving at least six offers to write tell-all books about the in-fighting and the affairs she saw - stuff that, along with her personal collection of memorabilia (most of which she gave away in 1974) - would have made her rich. Today, she still works as an office secretary for an unnamed company to make a living. She still won't talk trash about the Beatles - and her motives for going public, albeit in a non-salacious, non-headline-grabbing way - are revealed late in the film.

* Freda was so hide-bound (despite receiving numerous bribes for information from the British tabloids) - that her own children were almost clueless about their mother's young life until she was well past middle-age. (After the first U.S. screening of "Good Ol' Freda," Freda's daughter Rachel Norris told director Ryan White that "95 percent of the film was completely new to me.")

* The film's final 15 minutes are the most emotionally powerful and gut-wrenching, as the band breaks up - and as the deaths of Brian Epstein, John Lennon, George Harrison, all of the Beatles' parents, two of their wives and many other members of the group's inner circle - are re-counted. Most tragic of all, but unfortunately only alluded to, is the recent death of Freda Kelly's own son Timothy, who goaded her for years to tell her story. His death, along with the birth of her grandson by her daughter Rachel, reluctantly forced Freda to re-think her 50 years of silence.

* Ringo Starr thanks Freda on camera during the film's closing credits, but not Paul McCartney, despite Paul's full endorsement and cooperation. (Without it, no actual Beatle songs would have made it into the final cut. Paul's brother Michael McCartney provided several previously unseen photographs for the film - and Paul's stepmother Angie also agreed to be interviewed on camera.)

* Besides music by the Beatles themselves, the film's spectacular soundtrack includes songs by Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, the Marvelettes, the Isley Brothers, the Searchers, the Shirelles, Fats Domino, the Drifters, the Cookies and Ketty Lester. (Ironically, Ketty Lester's "Love Letters" - proved to be the most difficult song to license - despite arguably being one of the least familiar names to audiences today.)

* FEATURE FILM WITH COMMENTARY (86 minutes): The same as above but with commentary from Freda Kelly and director Ryan White. This commentary is so good that I watched the film twice, transforming this product - along with the other special features below - into a 221-minute bonanza (3 hours and 41 minutes). According to White, Freda saw the Beatles perform more than 180 times at the Cavern from 1961 to 1963, mostly during the group's lunchtime sessions. She was such a familiar figure that the group knew her even before manager Brian Epstein plucked the then 17-year-old teen to become the band's fan club secretary (1961-1972). In Freda's mind, she was hired to help a "local band" she already liked - handling mail, producing a monthly newsletter and responding to fans - nothing more.

* Despite ultimately handling thousands of fan letters, Freda Kelly still had ZERO idea how famous the Beatles had become - until July 10, 1964 - the day she walked with the Beatles and their families to the balcony of the Liverpool civic center - (it was a welcome home reception held in conjunction with the Northern film premiere of "A Hard Day's Night") - and was hit with a wall of noise from 200,000 screaming fans jammed into the square and onto the adjoining streets below. That experience (which in the film includes Freda returning to that old town hall balcony) - took her breath away.

* The commentary track also includes Freda describing how amazed and touched she was when she learned that the surviving Beatles and their wives had given her four songs to use in "Good Ol' Freda" - "I Saw Her Standing There," "Love Me Do," "I Feel Fine," "I Will" - as well as a long audio cut from the Beatles' 1963 Christmas Record that opens the film. She still seems unable to believe that the surviving Beatles and Apple executives - 50 years later - remember her warmly, and on the commentary track, she goes out of her way to personally thank Paul, Ringo, Yoko Ono Lennon and Olivia Harrison for approving the use of the band's material.

* This is why I say that "Good Ol' Freda" - even without the mega-million-dollar budget of, let's say, "The Beatles Anthology" - still feels like an authorized Beatles' production. Again, remember the director's original pitch: "This is a film about a woman who never sold out the Beatles." In my view, any deviation from this would have caused the doors at Apple to be slammed in Ryan White's face.

* DELETED SCENES (12:36): There are five (5) deleted scenes, the most noteworthy for me includes Freda talking about her own marriage in 1968 while the Beatles were in India - as well as what happened when she learned of John Lennon's murder in December 1980.

* POST-SCREENING Q & A WITH FREDA AND FILMMAKERS AT THE FEST FOR BEATLES FANS IN CHICAGO (22:44): There isn't a lot of new information here, making it an almost dispensable feature. However, unless you were there (I was), you wouldn't know that after the screening, the audience was drenched in tears and could barely compose themselves beyond praising Freda repeatedly. Mark Hudson, rock impresario / producer / tutor and former member of the Hudson Brothers pop group, serenaded Freda with a short verse from the Beatles' "I Will." However, this has been cut from the Q & A footage, possibly because of licensing issues. Despite the dearth of information from this mostly "Thank You, Freda, We Love You, Freda" event - the post-screening footage is a good historical record of Freda Kelly (who is as adorable on stage as she is in the film) - meeting a huge crowd of hard core Beatle fans who showed up just for her. Festival chief Mark Lapidos christens the occasion as being among the most memorable in his 40 years of hosting Beatle conventions in the U.S.

* INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR RYAN WHITE (11:17): This outstanding interview reveals the painstaking efforts to get "Good Ol' Freda" made with an initial $50,000 in donations raised from a Kickstarter campaign. After the surviving Beatles and their wives signed off on the project, the word got out and doors opened everywhere, enriching the film's content, expediting its makers' ability to get more footage elsewhere and to license songs by artists from competing record labels. (Most of these songs were later covered by the Beatles on their "Please, Please Me" album released in the U.K. in March 1963 by Parlophone - and on their "Introducing the Beatles" album released in America in January 1964 by Vee-Jay Records.)

* These successes added momentum and a sense of inevitability that "Good Ol' Freda" would become a reality in just three years. (Contextual note: In 2012, the makers of the AMC television drama, "Mad Men," reportedly paid $250,000 to Apple to use less than two minutes of "Tomorrow Never Knows" from the Beatles' album, "Revolver." Without saying how much, director Ryan White infers on the previously mentioned commentary track that NO WAY did his production have to fork over millions to use the four Beatle songs, the lengthy audio cut from the Beatles' 1963 Christmas Record - where Freda is directly mentioned - and for the footage and stills which also appear in the film.)

* PHOTO GALLERY: This section features eleven (11) striking images of Freda, including a 1968 congratulatory wedding telegram sent to her by John and Cynthia (Powell) Lennon and George and Patti (Boyd) Harrison.

* TRAILER (2:31): This theatrical trailer was issued by Magnolia Entertainment in conjunction with the Motion Picture Association of America. It can be viewed all over the Internet.

* What "Good Ol' Freda" lacks in new information is made up, in my view - with a surprisingly emotional story about a shy little secretary's personal recollections of being in the center of a culturally and historically important hurricane - and how she got to stay there for 11 years. In the end, this film feels like a sparkling, five-star gift for Beatles fans around the world.
Comment Comments (11) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 3, 2014 4:47 PM PDT

Sony STRDH720 7.1 Channel 3D AV Receiver (Black) (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Sony STRDH720 7.1 Channel 3D AV Receiver (Black) (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
3 used & new from $150.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars WARNING - Auto Standby "Pass Through" Feature Generates a LOT of Heat When This Unit is Off, November 2, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
* I've had this receiver for about six months now and after a few aggravations (most of them having to do with the clunky graphic user interface), I'm finally comfortable with what I have. The learning curve on this unit is pretty steep because the manual is NOT customer-friendly.

* However, there's something you need to know about one of the most touted features on this receiver. The Auto Standby option, which allows you to run sound and picture to your TV - even when this receiver is OFF - generates so much heat that you might want to consider disabling it.

* The way Auto Standby works in my case is I have a standard DVD player and a separate Blu-ray player. I take the HDMI outputs from each unit and plug them into the HDMI inputs on this receiver. I then run a third HDMI cord from the receiver - and plug it into my TV.

* This "pass through" ability is often confused with the HDMI Control "pass through" feature, which is key to all of this but it is NOT the same as keeping the receiver "ready" and "on" around-the-clock, which is what Auto Standby is all about. You access HDMI Control and Auto Standby via System Settings through the clunky graphic user interface (GUI Mode) with your TV on. You can also access GUI Mode without a TV - but it's a real pain, requiring you to have the manual nearby to guide you while using this receiver's remote control.

* The Auto Standby Mode is "supposed" to save power. But I've had two of these receivers and the FACT is - it doesn't. Since heat is the best subjective indicator of how much power is being used, this receiver should come with a warning label. When you turn your receiver off - and if you have Auto Standby ON or in the AUTO position - you'll see an indicator on the front panel that remains dimly lit around the clock, day and night. This by itself is NOT a big deal.

* What is a big deal is when Auto Standby is activated, this receiver will run HOT. I'm talking about more than 130 degrees HOT. Just run your hands over the top, bottom and side panels of this receiver and you'll discover - that while the receiver is "off" and while Auto Standby is on AUTO or ON - the left side of the metal casing is as warm as it normally is when you're listening to anything "live" while you're in the room. The temperature won't burn your hands, but it's definitely higher than the most aggravating summer day in Death Valley, California.

* Because of the high temperatures generated by this unit when it's "off" and in Auto Standby mode - any electronic gadget you stack above or below it WILL ALSO suffer. (I had to dump my vintage Sony audio cassette deck that worked like a dream for years - because the heat from this receiver, which was stacked below it - dried out the cassette deck's rubber pulleys and springs.)

* I've since disabled Auto Standby, even though whenever I want to play a DVD or a Blu-ray disc - I have to turn the receiver ON to take advantage of the "pass through" feature that runs sound and picture from the receiver into my TV.

* I know my "workaround" is a REAL PAIN, i.e., I can't get picture and sound from video components running into this stereo and out to my TV - unless this stereo is ON. And I also know disabling Auto Standby removes one of the most attractive features of this Sony line of stereo receivers.

* But while I love that I can STILL use fewer HDMI cords to run video into this receiver to get "big sound" - while using a single HDMI cord out from this receiver into my TV - I think you should weigh the cost vs. benefit of having Auto Standby in the "auto" or "on" position, night and day. For me, the hassle to turn this receiver on when I want to watch a DVD or a Blu-ray disc - is nothing compared to worries I have about how much heat is being put out when Auto Standby is on while I'm asleep at night in another room. Sorry.

Panasonic ES-LA63-S Arc 4 Mens Electric Shaver with Dual Motor and Multi-Flex Pivoting Head
Panasonic ES-LA63-S Arc 4 Mens Electric Shaver with Dual Motor and Multi-Flex Pivoting Head
Price: $136.98
125 used & new from $123.90

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Best Electric Razor On Earth + An Update About Battery Life, October 13, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
(UPDATE 11/20/13 - To research complaints about battery drain, I went ahead and did a battery drain test AFTER the display on my shaver showed "10%" of juice left. It ran for a FULL 35 minutes beyond this point before conking out. I think what's happening is the display drops in 10% increments after each use, giving users the misleading impression that they've got little charge left especially when they hit the "50% left" mark. Based on my "battery drain" test, this is NOT true. The battery in this shaver is GREAT, holding a charge that lasts well within the 45 minutes touted on a single charge.)


* Until now, I've always believed electric razors could NEVER come close to beating hand-held blades. But this Panasonic comes very close - so much so that I rarely use a straight blade anymore!

* Disclosure: I do NOT work for Panasonic and I am NOT being compensated in any way for this review. But this Panasonic ES-LA63-S Arc 4 Mens Electric Shaver is pure, unadulterated awesomeness, blowing every competing Norelco and Braun shaver out of the water!

* Very few people can afford $300 for this machine. But when it comes up for sale for under $150, which is often - you should snap it up because it's worth EVERY penny - and THEN SOME.

* Unlike other electric razors, this Panasonic cuts so close without nicking up your skin that you won't believe your eyes and you won't believe your fingers when you run them over your face after each shave. Neck hair will take longer to shave - but NOT too much longer compared to other electric razors. (And I have coarse dark hair which grows quickly.)

* A blue LED light clocks each session. When you turn it off, it tells you how much battery life is left, i.e., 90%, 80%, 70%, 60%, etc. You'll get about 45 minutes of shaving on a single charge - or about 10 days worth of shaving without reaching for the re-charger. (BTW, the reason this shaver won't work with the cord is common sense! Who wants to be electrocuted in the shower with the cord attached?)

* Cleaning is a breeze. Just press the buttons on the right and left sides of the head - and the foil framework comes off easily. Turn your shaver on and hold the power button down for at least two seconds. Your shaver will go into a "cleaning mode" whereby its blades will vibrate like mad, providing the cleaning equivalent of jumping to light-speed in a "Star Wars" movie - without rattling like the Millennium Falcon. Just run tap water over the blades and all hair cuttings will vibrate off into your bathroom sink.

* I've tried this shaver in both wet and dry modes and its performance is superb. However, shaving in wet mode with a thin cream such as Kiss My Face Moisture Shave Key Lime Cream is supersonic awesome. (Note, shaving "wet" makes cleaning easier because you'll have less facial oil when you clean the heads after every use.) Unlike Norelcos with rotary blades which pivot a little, the head on this Panasonic pivots up and down AND side to side, hugging your face in every direction. It has two (2) motors. One cuts up and down and the other cuts from side to side. It's great at getting rid of 99 7/8% of my neck hair and the nubs in both corners of my mouth. (More about that "1/8" difference later.)

* This shaver comes with a travel pouch and a locking switch (to prevent it from going on while traveling) - as well as a blade cover. It also has a pop-up trimmer for bushy sideburns and mustaches. The head can even be locked to prevent pivoting while shaving.

* Now, about replacement blades. Do the math. Panasonic still wins. If you have to change blades every six-months-to-a-year - well, no offense, but you've got a genetic profile of a werewolf. Most people with "standard" beards won't have to replace the blades on this machine for WAY MORE than a year, and I have a tough, coarse beard.

* The money you'll spend for two (2) Panasonic WES9068PC Men's Shaver Replacement Inner Blades - is TINY compared to the cost of replacement blades for other electric razors. This Panasonic takes two (2) replacement blades - which doubles to four blades - because two additional blades are built into the outer foils - which hook into the base of the replacement blades. Note that the outer foil unit - Panasonic WES9165PC Men's Shaver Replacement Foil - does cost more to replace, but you won't replace it often (unless you break or puncture it) - because the two blades built into them are designed to cut thicker hair. These blades are comparable to what's found on a trimmer for sideburns, but the foils protect you from getting nicked or cut. (And I don't know anyone who's ever replaced the bigger blades on a trimmer.) Don't get me wrong. You WILL change the two-bladed foil unit eventually, but in the long run, you WILL still save money compared to what it costs to buy one 18-multi-blade blister pack locked up in plastic cases in stores. If you want to save even more money, buy the foil and the two blades TOGETHER - which are available in the Panasonic WES9025PC Men's Shaver Replacement Out Foil and Blade Kit for ES-LA63-S. Buying this "kit" should save you around $20 to $30 than buying these items separately.

* I'm taking away a "half-star" (even though fractional-stars aren't allowed here) - for one reason. While this is the BEST electric razor I've ever used - note that in my first paragraph above, I said "this Panasonic comes very close" to beating a hand-held blade. After a wet shave (which I recommend over dry if you're not in a hurry) - I run my fingers over my cheeks, jaw bone and neck. They slide like a sled on snow across my face and jaw line - and over 99 7/8% of my neck.

* But there are always one or two tiny spots on my neck this razor won't completely get. Now, you might ask, "well then what's the point of buying this Panasonic ES-LA63-S Arc 4 Mens Electric Shaver with Dual Motor and Multi-Flex Pivoting Head if it's not as good as a blade?"

* This is my response: Shaving is one of the most aggravating and time consuming chores men face EVERY day. The type of finish you will get with this Panasonic ES-LA63-S Arc 4 Mens Electric Shaver with Dual Motor and Multi-Flex Pivoting Head is EQUAL to using a hand-held blade for, let's say, four minutes. Think about it. During my hand-held "blading" days, unless I was headed to a special event - I did NOT spend as much time to get at every cotton-picking nook and cranny on my neck, especially the area below my ears. I could still FEEL tiny bristles, but I could not SEE them. When 100% smoothness was required, I spent more time WITH A HAND-HELD BLADE to get at those nooks and crannies anyway. Hence the "touch up" conundrum. Today, I STILL keep a hand-held two-blader nearby if perfection is my goal. But most of the time, I don't bother.

* One last thing. Don't mess with electric shaving kits which come with "immersible tubs" filled with expensive cleaning solutions. Panasonic recommends just liquid soap and water to clean the heads. (After shaving in wet mode, I don't even bother with soap. The residual suds from the Kiss My Face Moisture Shave Key Lime Cream and a strong blast of tap water while the heads are in "cleaning mode" does the job for me. If I want to clean after shaving dry, I just use a blast of tap water, no soap.)

* Yes, the $300 price tag is steep and yes, you get what you pay for. But this Panasonic is almost always on sale for below retail. For all these reasons, this Panasonic ES-LA63-S Arc 4 Mens Electric Shaver with Dual Motor and Multi-Flex Pivoting Head still gets a STRONG four and one-half stars.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 18, 2013 2:32 PM PST

Paul McCartney And Wings: Rockshow (1976)
Paul McCartney And Wings: Rockshow (1976)
DVD ~ Paul McCartney
Price: $26.99
22 used & new from $19.94

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Rockshow" Fixed, Gets "Second Release" in Four Months and Now Sounds Awesome, September 24, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
* UPDATE - November 7, 2013 - I am glad that I WAITED until after October 6, 2013 to "re-purchase" this release DIRECTLY from Amazon.

* Yesterday I spent almost four hours watching and re-watching "Rockshow," checking and re-checking everything. Cut to the chase - everything now sounds awesome. The bass drops and audio phase "echo chambering" aggravations are gone. All of the sound mastering errors scattered across the first consumer release of this product in June 2013 - have been FIXED.

* The odd thing - which is EXPECTED - is the audio on "Rockshow" is now BETTER than the video, in both Blu-ray and DVD formats. The reasons why this is so - have already been covered by previous reviewers. Simply put, the original negative used to digitally re-master "Rockshow" - was high speed color film stock shot during the Wings Over America tour in May and June of 1976. As a result, this footage is purposely very grainy in dark areas of the frame - and the primitive spotlighting effects used at live concerts during the 1970s gives "Rockshow" a mostly red-orange-pinkish color cast - which tends to wash out details you normally see in movies that are shot today with high definition cameras.

* This is, in my view, how it should be. I hate when vintage films are morphed into things that look like "Avatar." When older films are re-mastered, I want dirt and debris removed, but I don't want "kids armed with computer toys" to over-enhance the original colors and contrast that audiences saw in theaters when they were first projected brightly onto a big screen.

* Meanwhile, I had forgotten that Wings - that is, the band that performed on stage - was, in some ways, modeled like the Beatles in that its major players like Denny Laine ("Go Now") and Jimmy McCulloch ("Medicine Jar") were given vocal solos, e.g., like how George Harrison and Ringo Starr got to sing at every Beatles concert despite being in the shadow of Lennon and McCartney. Some songs on "Rockshow" have not aged very well, e.g., if you never liked the lyrics to "Silly Love Songs," your opinion won't change today, even though that song still boasts a kick-ass bass line performed by Paul. But other songs, such as "Picasso's Last Words (Drink to Me)" - sound better performed live in "Rockshow" - than what was recorded in a studio.

* Keep video quality expectations realistic and you'll love "Rockshow." It was Wings at their peak - when McCartney was still a titanic force in the music industry, racking up a string of #1 hits, selling millions of records and tapes after the Beatles broke up. Now in his 70s, McCartney is a genius who's no longer a prolific #1 hitmaker - but who can still sell out stadiums around the world. Even if you don't like ALL of the songs on "Rockshow," it remains an important historical record of Paul as he was at age 34, still vigorously energetic with a monster voice. That's why it's in my library.



* For what it's worth, perhaps because of the avalanche of complaints about audio problems associated with both the Blu-ray and standard issue DVDs of "Rockshow," Eagle Rock Entertainment has just updated its website.

* Eagle Rock now says "Rockshow" - which was first released on June 11, 2013 - will have an official "re-release" (though it refuses to call it a re-release) - on Blu-ray and DVD on October 6, 2013.

* You can check this out yourself by going to the Eagle Rock Entertainment site and enter the words, "Rockshow Wings Over America" into Eagle Rock's search engine.

* Note that the new October 6 re-release date for "Rockshow" falls on a Sunday, which is a freakish thing in relation to most DVDs being issued on Tuesdays. Nevertheless, this is the information that appears on the manufacturer's website.

* By October 6, 2013, I anticipate the "mixing" of defective vs. corrected discs in Amazon's inventory will have been purged en masse, to be replaced by corrected products in both Blu-ray and DVD formats.

* It's not quite a "recall" because you still have to be "proactive" if you purchased "Rockshow" before October 6 and find yourself stuck with a defective disc, but to me, the manufacturer's "new release date" is VERY telling.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 10, 2014 6:06 PM PDT

Nizoral Anti Dandruff Solution 50ml, 1.7 Oz
Nizoral Anti Dandruff Solution 50ml, 1.7 Oz
Offered by PARAG Online Store
Price: $5.50
5 used & new from $4.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Nizoral Rip-Offs Are OVER!, August 29, 2013
* During the past five years, Nizoral has only been available via a "black market" of sorts.

* Sellers have been asking for mind-boggling amounts of money for bottles of the original, "gold-standard," Belgium-made-formula - taking advantage of buyers upset over the horrific red tape issues involving manufacturing standards associated with its makers, McNeil, Inc. in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania - and with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This created endless shortages and massive "hoarding behavior" throughout the United States.

* These issues have now been resolved!

* What does this mean to you?

* It means no more daily checking at eBay or at other sites to buy this product at a cost equal to dinner at a five-star Parisian restaurant. No more pain to your wallet, no more paying through your nose to get Nizoral.

* Just check Amazon and/or Drugstore online and watch prices drop to under $16 for a hefty 7-ounce bottle.

* The reasons Nizoral 1% ketoconazole - is still preferred EVEN over the always available (by prescription only) 2% generic ketoconazole - are legion. Its blue-silver-colored creamy 1% formula is silkier to the touch, lightly scented and soaks the scalp in ways the red-orange or other syrupy alternative formulas cannot match. For thousands of people, it's been the only thing that WORKS to treat scalp issues, which in turn created buyer desperation when it disappeared from store shelves, causing "after-market" prices to shoot to the moon.

* Hence breathe a sigh of relief and shop around! If you see a bottle of Nizoral at a retail store this week, don't worry about "stocking up" as if you were at a Costco or a Sam's Club preparing for the Armageddon.

No Title Available

70 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Nizoral Rip-Offs Are OVER!, August 29, 2013
* During the past five years, Nizoral has only been available via a "black market" of sorts.

* Sellers have been asking for mind-boggling amounts of money for bottles of the original, "gold-standard," Belgium-made-formula - taking advantage of buyers upset over the horrific red tape issues involving manufacturing standards associated with its makers, McNeil, Inc. in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania - and with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This created endless shortages and massive "hoarding behavior" throughout the United States.

* These issues have now been resolved!

* What does this mean to you?

* It means no more daily checking at eBay or at other sites to buy this product at a cost equal to dinner at a five-star Parisian restaurant. No more pain to your wallet, no more paying through your nose to get Nizoral.

* Just check Amazon and/or Drugstore online and watch prices drop to under $16 for a hefty 7-ounce bottle.

* The reasons Nizoral 1% ketoconazole - is still preferred EVEN over the always available (by prescription only) 2% generic ketoconazole - are legion. Its blue-silver-colored creamy 1% formula is silkier to the touch, lightly scented and soaks the scalp in ways the red-orange or other syrupy alternative formulas cannot match. For thousands of people, it's been the only thing that WORKS to treat scalp issues, which in turn created buyer desperation when it disappeared from store shelves, causing "after-market" prices to shoot to the moon.

* Hence breathe a sigh of relief and shop around! If you see a bottle of Nizoral at a retail store this week, don't worry about "stocking up" as if you were at a Costco or a Sam's Club preparing for the Armageddon.
Comment Comments (15) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 3, 2014 12:17 AM PST

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