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Mary Queen Of Scots (Extended Version)
Mary Queen Of Scots (Extended Version)
Price: $1.29

5.0 out of 5 stars OMG., January 18, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
"You are Mary, Queen of Scots??"
"I am...."

It's just wrong, wrong, WRONG, is all. I probably heard this for the first time 25 years ago on a friend's record. At that time I really didn't understand the manaiacal popularity of MP, but thought the recording positively insane, with its non-stop SFX of things crashing, banging, breaking, and always pausing for a swelling of music that sounds like something off of a 70's game show. (Though there is a different, more classical soundtrack from [perhaps] the original British recording, it's the game show music that takes this over the top and into the realm of loony-bin-genius.) At any rate, at the ripe old age of 48, I finally relented and purchased the MP3 for downloading. You just have to.

JFK: 3 Shots That Changed America DVD
JFK: 3 Shots That Changed America DVD
Price: $12.75
31 used & new from $7.87

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You are there- as the networks would say., January 18, 2012
Though it is a relatively fresh documentary from 2009, I'd gone into this certain I'd seen this TV special before- but perhaps that is because hundreds of Kennedy-assassination-speculatives have been done since virtually the beginning of this 49-year-old tragedy. But this one separates itself from the lineup almost immediately, with all real footage of Kennedy and told in almost all real-time; there are no God-awful reenactments which are supposed to represent the actual history (the stuff we are so often subjected to in storm chaser videos and such). This special- especially for the first 25 minutes- is absolutely amazing: plain black boarders with a teletype clock click minute-by-minute as the events of November 22, 1963 unfold: Kennedy's breakfast speech in Fort Worth, a quick flight to Love Field in Dallas, and the start of the motorcade into Dealey Plaza. And all the images are true documentary: black-and-white and color film- both newsreel and home movies- interspersed with some fantastic quality 2-inch b&w videotape, a medium which was still relatively new in 1963.

And then, perhaps the most genius edit of all: the moment the cars turn onto that small expressway past the Texas Book Depository at the strike of 12:30 pm CST, the scene switches *not* to the famous Zapruder film that we all know, but to the start of "As The World Turns," in monochrome videotape, with the first CBS Bulletin (voiced by an off-camera Walter Cronkite) interrupting the soap opera- just as it had 49 years ago.

Not seeing the event actually made this more frightening to watch.

When the action resumes from the bulletin interruption, the cars have already begun their sprint to the hospital, but we already know it will be to no avail. A few minutes later, the docudrama gives the same treatment on the ABC network, as a ladies' fashion show (also in its original black-and-white videotape) is interrupted by ABC/WFAA's "out-of-breath" program director Jay Watson. (Watson's ABC footage, it seems, is given more air time than the CBS Cronkite footage- perhaps because Cronkite's now famous on-camera reaction had been aired many times before.) Incredibly, horribly, it's all over at the strike of 1:00 pm, just a scant 30 minutes after it began, as the death knell tolls all over the country and the world falls into sorrow. Almost without a break, we are then given a minute-by minute blow of the antics of Lee Harvey (Harold?) Oswald- arrested almost immediately and transferred to what looks like the police station's night court. But by the time we can begin to process his back story, he, too, is gunned down by Jack Ruby (nee' Rubenstein)- this even caught on both film AND videotape. The remainder of the docudrama, somewhat predictably, delves into the never-ending Warren Commission analysis of what really happened to the president, and the ensuing speculation as to whether or not there was more than one assassin- a speculation that continues to this day. For 4 grueling hours we are transplanted into a block of time, the events of which seemed to have happened in a matter of minutes. And, echoing a famous newsreel from the 1960's, we are there.

MGM: When the Lion Roars
MGM: When the Lion Roars
DVD ~ Patrick Stewart
Offered by Two Thumbs Up
Price: $19.98
11 used & new from $19.11

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When the lion roared, it was good., February 20, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: MGM: When the Lion Roars (DVD)
I first discovered "MGM: When the Lion Roars" on PBS about 5 years ago. Even then I only saw part of the documentary- and out of order, the last section first. I didn't know how much detail of the MGM history it actually covered until I saw the complete, 3-part documentary on Turner Classic Movies 18 months ago. When I finally digested even part one, I was flabbergasted. The documentary, lovingly narrated by Patrick Stewart, starts at the beginning (to coin a phrase from one of MGM's great fantasy films). We see the formation of Metro, Goldwyn, and Louis B. Mayer's "Mayer," starting from 1924 and the silent film "He Who Gets Slapped." We see the union of the brilliant young Irving Thalberg and Mayer as they concoct a bona-fide production factory- replete with school, hospital, police force, fire department, and commissary. The New York stockholders (headed by Marcus Lowe, later by Nicholas Schenck) are the magnates who actually oversee MGM, as well as the theaters who distribute the films made by MGM. And part 1 introduces MGM's first stars: Garbo, Gilbert, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, Marie Dressler, Helen Hayes, the Barrymores, Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Norma Shearer Thalberg, and the studio logo- the MGM lion. Remembrances by many of MGM's staff- including Samuel Marx, King Vidor, William Tuttle, and Margaret Booth- give a no-holes-barred outline of just how the studio made (and in some instances broke) their stars.

A lot of the veterans interviewed seem almost hypnotic in their praise of the factory and the tyrannical Mayer- which is curious because there are a few pointed recollections by actors (including double-Oscar winner Luise Rainier and swimming star Esther Williams) who did not particularly care for the bullying, manipulative showman- a man not above fainting on cue to get what he wanted, or reminding his contractors that they were his property to do with as he liked. Part 1 ends with the untimely death of 37-year-old Thalberg, and part 2 dives into the 1940's and the war years when Mayer decrees wholesome, pious, family-oriented film only. The child stars are introduced: Jackie Cooper, Mickey Rooney, June Preisser, Freddie Bartholomew, and most of all, Judy Garland (given a particularly long testimony by Rooney, who then curiously denies that MGM held and responsiblity- even in part- for her substance addiction). A sobering begins to creep into the dream factory as stars- particularly the females- are unceremoniously dropped (or at least not picked up) as they begin to age. The new contractors- Lamarr, Allyson, Van Johnson, Greer Garson, James Stewart, Elizabeth Taylor, Tracy & Hepburn- are introduced. A lot of MGM's male stars enlist and fight in the war, which annoys Mayer (of course) to no end. Producer Dore Schary (Mayer's political and spiritual opposite) is brought into the fold as "a new Thalberg," thought to improve movie quality while paring the ascending film costs and tolerate the emergence of the new medium of television.

Finally, MGM's legendary musicals make up a significant part of Act 3. One of the most pointed revelations is the contrast in musical film styles between sophisticated Arthur Freed and schmaltzy, sentimental Joe Pasternak (and they're absolutely right). The 1950's arrive and Mayer's 20-year feud with boss Schenck reaches an unimaginable climax when an "office coup" of sorts terminates Mayer from his own studio- replaced by Schary, who puts an end to all the sweetness and virtuosity and concentrates on gritty message dramas. Many wonderful, stupendous film clips are shown- but amazingly, none of dancer Fred Astaire in the DVD release. (Despite having made some of the greatest musical films from 1948 to 1957- it appears that his widow holds the release rights to all his images, decreeing license fees for the use of his image. Consequently she had all his footage removed from this documentary, which is unforgivable.) The studio shifts management several times in the next dozen or so years, until the factory is more or less liquidated in 1974 and turned over to the MGM Grand Hotel project of Kirk Kerkorian. A particularly sad image is seeing the MGM sign removed from the executive office building in 1986. But what a time it once was.

Julia Child - The French Chef
Julia Child - The French Chef
DVD ~ Julia Child
Offered by Prime Merchant
Price: $23.53
12 used & new from $13.96

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bon appetit!!, April 16, 2008
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Wow. I'm a FOODNETWORK junkie at heart, and seeing this show puts all those other wild, pretentious, and over-the-top cooking shows in their proper perspective. For my first ever Amazon purchase I chose this marvelous foray into early videotape television. Ms. Child- already 50 at the start of this series and an amazon in her own right with her 6'2" frame- gives you the direct cooking business, without giving you the business. I had seen some of her later shows on PBS in the 80s, but THE FRENCH CHEF had already wrapped by then- save the occasional reruns. (Amazingly, this marvelous show only ran ten years, ending in 1973.) But the episodes don't look any older or younger than any of her subsequent series, which is a testimony to their timelessness. Humble, self-deprecating, and a little wicked, Julia rocks. And cooks. And brandishes a mean cleaver. Watch for the notable kinescope look of her very first show (from 1963) as she prepares Boeuf Bourguignon in real time. Later episodes switch over to B&W videotape, then to color videotape as well as a new, springier theme song, while gliding through such dishes as Salade Nicoise, Pommes de terre (potatoes) au gratain, spinach in puff pastry, lobster, stuffed sausage, roast suckling pig, chocloate mousse, an entire episode dedictated to roasting a chicken, and french onion soup. Purchase the 2 French Chef volumes together if you can-- more Julia at one time!!

Omigod-- "the Chicken sisters!!"

Fame - The Complete First Season
Fame - The Complete First Season
DVD ~ Gene Anthony Ray
Price: $10.99
79 used & new from $1.04

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I now own the DVD package of Season 1, and..., November 9, 2005
...I can officially say it doesn't disappoint.

Purchasing FAME ends a 23-year mystery for me. I watched the original show back in 1982, and was blown away by the first season (the only season, incidentally, of the 5-year run actually on network television) more than any of the subsequent seasons. But when the show went into local syndication, Season 1 seemed to disappear into a vault. And I've been scratching my head since the 80's, wondering if it was really the magical thing I remembered in the first place.

FAME was an improvement on television because it was able to develop its ensemble of characters more fully (over a season at a time), and not denigrate them into stereotypes (the overachiever, the plain-Jane ingénue, the angry hood with a heart of gold, etc.), and do so without resorting to the 'R' factor of swearing dialog and partial nudity. I suspect that the people complaining about the series are missing all the dirty stuff that was in the film, but for a prime-time TV show broadcast in the family hour, the controversial stuff was highly unnecessary. The series wasn't perfect; some of the casting choices were less than inspiring, but once in a while there would be a fine song or an even finer dance sequence. Now I must admit that my bias is showing here because I was an actual art school student- though not in New York (and I was not a performer). I am, however, a fan of musicals from way back, and I think FAME appealed to me because it was something of a ground breaker in network television- the first ever musical series. There were musical variety shows on TV, and musical films done over the last 30 years, but FAME successfully integrated both genres and applied music to a dramatic narrative whose stars are student performers. Quite a brilliant idea. And some of FAME's individual episodes- a teacher's strike (how do unemployed art teachers make a living?), a promising dancer living with MS, a pianist living with stage fright, a competition for a role ruined by backstage politics- were some of the smartest and most imaginative scripts ever created for television.

Finally, FAME introduced some top-notch young performers. It's easy to mock and tease them and the concept 20 years later (we're an entire race of cynics nowadays), but the fact is many of these kids were not much older than the teens they were supposed to be playing, and they had boundless energy. I was especially pleased to see that the show allowed them to craft their individual strengths over time. Though the show was more than a bit biased towards the dance students (and dancing was probably FAME's most visually appealing art), I was always glad to see emerging dramatists (P.R. Paul, Valerie Landsburg), and especially glad to see Lori Singer- at the beginning of her acting career- as the beautiful cellist from the Midwest. My main reason for watching the series though will always be Debbie Allen. Allen- a relatively tiny thing- proved to be a contradiction in terms with her drill sergeant-like commands of the dance department, but when she was allowed to dance herself she was a beautiful force of nature. If you've any doubt of this, check out the very last scene in 'Passing Grade' (where Allen gives tough love to fellow dancer Erica Gimpel) and watch an improvisation between teacher and student emerge into a stunning pas-de-deux that you would only see in a movie musical. It's one of many impessive moments in the series.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 5, 2011 9:58 AM PDT

DVD ~ Richard Dreyfuss
Price: $9.65
52 used & new from $4.47

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "They...asked me how I knew...", July 29, 2005
This review is from: Always (DVD)
Spielberg deserves a fresh look. I open with that because as I read the decidedly mixed thoughts on this and other films of his, I notice the same thought over and over again. People who review Spielberg usually want to pigeonhole him into a type: the ET-warm-and-fuzzy-alien children's storyteller versus the special-effects-heavy-but-rather-empty-plot dreamer. All the while there is the generic whine of 'why doesn't he ever try to do something else (SCHINDLER'S LIST notwithstanding)?' Then when he does, as evidenced here, there are wails of dissatisfaction that he tried to do something over his head. Oy.

It's so silly to label and categorize a filmmaker so much. ALWAYS is, first and foremost, a love story. A remake of an earlier film to be sure, but even this 1989 treatment looks and feels nostalgic with its amber-tinted cinematography, the sentimental presentation of the devoted fighter pilots, and the appearance of the ageless, magical Audrey Hepburn (sharp as a tack in her last film as a bright-eyed, no-nonsense angel). All of Hepburn's scenes with Richard Dreyfuss are wonderful (especially the first one when she tries- slightly befuddled- to explain his state of existence), as is the leitmotiv of "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes-" used in two dance sequences with Dreyfuss and Holly Hunter: one at a charming birthday party, and the other in a bewitching mourning sequence. And once again, John Goodman rises to the occasion as the best friend anyone could ever have. Just saw it on TCM, rounding out a July 2005 tribute to Ms. Hepburn. You should check it out.

The Band Wagon (Two-Disc Special Edition)
The Band Wagon (Two-Disc Special Edition)
DVD ~ Fred Astaire
Price: $14.49
21 used & new from $5.74

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If for nothing else, for the sublime "Dancing In The Dark.", May 23, 2005
There are many shimmering moments in Bandwagon: Fred Astaire (playing a role close to his own life story; he was 53 at the time), the acidic wit of Oscar Levant ('that'll keep 'em laughing!!') tempered by the sunny Nanette Fabray and musical numbers including "Shine on Your Shoes," "I Guess I'll Have To Change My Plan," and a clever novelty trio called "Triplets." But the musical sequence that stands out the most is the one which has no vocal, no dialog, and gently advances the movie's plot of whether or not oil-and-water dancers Astaire and Cyd Charisse can actually perform together- when he thinks she's too tall and she thinks he's too old. Against a Central Park twilight, the film shows its heroes enjoy a hushed walk through a park (only an instrumental refrain of 'High and Low' is heard), after which they step into an empty courtyard (he in a pastel linen suit and spectator shoes, she in a flared white dress and ballet flats; a necessity to keep her from being taller than him on film) and into the pas-de-deux of "Dancing In The Dark." It's an exquisite sequence, which at times resembles courtship, foreplay, and ultimately a romantic climax- all done in dance. It ends, just as smoothly as it began, with the two leads spinning up a flight of stairs and mounting a hansom cab, without a single hair out of place. Now THAT's entertainment.

1776  (Restored Director's Cut)
1776 (Restored Director's Cut)
DVD ~ William Daniels
Price: $9.98
59 used & new from $2.96

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A grand opera of American history., May 18, 2005
People today (especially people under the age of 30) might dismiss "1776" as popular entertainment because its book and especially its score of songs aren't exactly...shall we say, toe-tapping, memorable tunes that you can whistle around for the rest of the day. In fact, much of the book is the actors speaking/singing their dialog, making the whole exercise feel more like a grand opera than a musical. I suspect that when this show was transferred from stage to screen, director Peter Hunt and producer Jack L. Warner probably dreaded the box-office returns coming from a modern and cynical audience. Having said that, the film (which I've now seen in the widescreen DVD) is rapturous, extremely witty in dialog, rich in script, costumes, art direction, and especially performances; no words can properly describe William Daniels' stand-out performance as the stubborn, argumentative, passionate, and brilliant John Adams. He is matched by Howard Da Silva's essay of Benjamin 'Franklyyyyyn!!" and Virginia Vestoff's spoken (and sung) performance of the patient but feisty Abigail Adams. The scenes with the married Adamses are the best in the film, especially lovely because they are all done in correspondence. There is an especially bewitching moment when they are missing each other more than usual ("Yours, Yours, Yours"), and John compares the virtues of 'New England girls' to those of Virginia, and the reference is not lost on his wife. The songs? My goodness! "Sit Down, John;" "The Lees of Virginia;" "But Mr. Adams;" "He Plays the Violin (a showcase for the effervescent Blythe Danner Paltrow);" and the powerful Act 2 soliloquy on slavery, "Molasses To Rum," wonderfully sung by John Cullum. I always get chills at the movie's end when the bell tolls and Congress stands in its final portrait.

On the Town
On the Town
DVD ~ Gene Kelly
Offered by Sunday River
Price: $7.50
74 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Do 24 hours in 90 minutes., May 12, 2005
This review is from: On the Town (DVD)
The brilliance of this film is, more than anything else, its energetic, frenzied story and adaptation. Sailors-on-leave movies have been done in the past, but few have been done with this level of exuberance. As a result, the film is upbeat but not always perfect (it slows down in pace in the last 25 minutes, and the re-hash of the plot in the Kelly 'art ballet' is totally unnecessary). But there are unforgettable moments as well: shots of the old Brooklyn Navy Yard which bookend the film; the ravishing opening number/music video of "New York, New York;" the couples reunions on the rooftop of the Empire State Building in Act 2; and ongoing suspense maintained by a crawling timestrip which always reminds the viewer of the remaining time left. Plot-wise, it's a circus: Kelly meeting, than losing sight of, poster girl Vera-Ellen is a perfect springboard for the day-long cab chase which unites Frank Sinatra with the rambunctious Betty Garrett, stopping en route to bring Jules Munshin together with Ann Miller (who performs an electrifying, leg-displaying, tap number in the film's best song, "Prehistoric Man"). By the time the sextet has sung "On The Town" from the roof to the lobby of the Empire State Building, 60 minutes have passed and the film's lighter than air pace comes to a grinding halt. At that point, it doesn't matter. You might as well sit back for the rest of the ride. Get the DVD and dream of old New York.

Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella (1957 Television Production)
Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella (1957 Television Production)
DVD ~ Julie Andrews
Price: $10.49
33 used & new from $8.95

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kinescopically gorgeous!!, December 14, 2004
I just saw it on Maryland Public Television and it was a real event for me. I know both of the remakes, the Disney cartoon (which I never warmed up to), the version with Leslie Caron, the other one with Drew Barrymore, even the Prokofiev ballet. But I'm a vintage T.V. junkie at heart, and more than anything else, this production was a phenomenal achievement (and advancement) of stellar television. Differing from the TV staging of the Broadway musical PETER PAN- and as Julie Andrews herself mentions in the introduction (which I hope is included in this new DVD)- this production was originally written for television by Rodgers & Hammerstein themselves. And it is the slightly quirky, tongue-in-cheek script which is one of the show's delights. The biggest delight by far, is the fact that this was a LIVE performance, with all its warts showing- like a boom mike shadow floating over a curtain wall or a missed song cue in the second act. And this broadcast occurred roughly six months before the first mainstream videotape. No CGI or ILM movie effects here. Once you fully understand that, you can suspend yourself completely into a more innocent and wondrous frame of mind and let the performances and especially the music speak for themselves. A cleaned up, remastered kinescope film, you'll notice the unusually high contrast in some of the darker images and nighttime sequences. But the "Impossible" Act 1 finale with Andrews and gorgeous fairy godmother Edie Adams is still a stellar moment, from the sparkler lighting effects to the final shot inside the coach. I loved it!! So will you.

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