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Customer Reviews: 43
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Ryle Shermatz RSS Feed (Cedar Rapids, IA)

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars OK, So It's NOT "Schindler's List"!, May 4, 2014
This review is from: Swinger (Amazon Instant Video)
Amazon Prime streaming video connected me to this astonishing 1966 "period piece" of kooky sex-farce kitsch, and I have to say it blew me away with its surrealistic caricature of romantic comedy. For those of us with a taste for such things, "The Swinger" is a slap-in-the-face burlesque of jaw-dropping "WHAT were they THINKING" incredulity. Even so, the talent and beauty of Ann-Margret at her absolute pinnacle carries the day and makes the entire experience FUN and worthy of repeat views. (So WHY is this NOT available on DVD?)

The set-up: aspiring writer Ann-Margret is frustrated because her short stories are being rejected by smirking men's magazine editor Tony Franciosco. "Too Ladies' Home Journal", he sniffs dismissively after (understandably) initially mistaking the fully-ripened AM for a wannabe model. Determined to get her stories accepted, Ann does what any of us would do: she goes for a rewrite to "sex up" her work by plagiarizing the steamy paperback novels of the day, AND (most importantly) recasting her own life and conduct to LIVE the "swinger" lifestyle, all the better to demonstrate her worthiness for inclusion in Tony's pages.

Obviously this is all just a sketchy scenario for Ann to strut her stuff, singing and dancing in full Vegas-style, and giving us males plenty to admire, most conspicuously in her "orgy" scene, where she lures Tony & the local vice squad to bust her and her co-conspirators. This staged "happening" features a bikinied AM writhing seductively on a huge canvas, as she's slathered with multicolored paint while her beatnik pals caper lasciviously to the beat of erstatz psychedelic rock. Important to note, though, that propriety is NEVER fully breached; that could NEVER actually happen in such a movie at such a time. Imagine (if you can) a Reader's Digest-written screenplay treatment of Playboy's Party Jokes, as transposed onto a black velvet painting on display at a sunlit shopping center parking lot on a Saturday afternoon.

I can't fault the other reviewers for slagging "The Swinger". This entire style of comedy is as dead today as Vaudeville, and "The Swinger" can EASILY be seen as sexist and offensive now. OBVIOUSLY I'm a lot more tolerant and forgiving. As a HUGE fan of other such movies of the '60's ("Sex and the Single Girl", "Pillow Talk", "The Love God", "Boy's Night Out", "Ask Any Girl", etc.) I LOVE these manic expressions of that bursting-at-the-seams era, and YES I find considerable sociological merit in the reflection they cast of their times. I fully understand if other viewers can't "get" these movies on those terms.

But full confession here: I'd be remiss to not admit that Ann-Margret was most conspicuously SPECTACULARLY gorgeous throughout, and in support of that assertion, let me highlight the unusual "shopping spree" segment, shot at Saks Fifth Ave. in LA, where Ann models a fascinating selection of the "high fashion" of the day, and I might add, does so MOST effectively. The choppy editing of this sequence--with short clips of Ann in various "looks" flashing between long shot/medium shot/close up and alternating with different angles and costumes was quite unique and modern for its time.

I'll close with another appeal to the video release deities: WHY is "The Swinger" not available on DVD? I'm appropriately grateful to have Prime streaming access to "The Swinger", a movie I was previously COMPLETELY unaware of. However having now experienced it, it's like finding a gigantic nugget of gold along the riverbank that you weren't even looking for! I WANT to collect it and have it as part of my "permanent library" for enjoyment at any time, but alas! So far as I can tell, this has NEVER had a formal video release AT ALL, beyond this Amazon Prime streaming option. --This is what the studio "Archive" series of releases is for, and I can only hope that this little treasure receives its official release in the very near future for my enjoyment AND I suspect for others as well, who are likewise fully receptive to the exotic charms of these 1960's pop-culture guilty pleasures.

History's Verdict
History's Verdict
Price: $29.99

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Objective Overview for History Buffs, April 12, 2014
"History's Verdict" is a series of one-hour documentaries focusing exclusively on WW2 leaders, and intends to provide a big picture assessment of their lives and impact with the benefit of decades of hindsight and continuing historical research and scholarship. I found the entire series interesting and informative, and recommend it WITH the important caveat that modern viewers must have a high tolerance for savagely low-resolution black & white newsreel (or worse quality) footage, AND it helps enormously if you have a general knowledge of the historical person profiled in order to better appreciate the context of the mild revisionism offered here.

Mostly I LIKE documentaries and history, so all of "HV" went down smoothly for me. No big surprises were exploded, but it was interesting to hear the narrators offer up nuggets praising (for example) Hitler's talents as an artist and orator, Himmler's dogged work ethic, Stalin's calculating craftiness, or decrying Douglas MacArthur's preening egomania. NONE of these qualities were or are exactly thunderbolts of revelation today, but it did remind me of how we ONLY tend to think of these now over the horizon textbook figures as either "white hats" or "black hats" in our American cowboy parlance. Let me hasten to add that it's not wrong to classify Hitler, Himmler, Stalin as "black hats" or MacArthur as a "white hat"--just remember the extremely canny observation that "the winners write the history" and if nothing else, "HV" should shock us to consider how RADICALLY different 2014 would be had the Axis won WWII.

"History's Verdict" reminded me anew of what an unbelievably huge and critical struggle WWII was. We are still not so far removed from it that its consequences still don't echo loudly. My father was a WWII vet (USMC served in China) and I suspect all of us have intersected with that "Greatest Generation" directly or indirectly in our own lives. The colossal--and UNBELIEVABLY consequential and apocalyptic battles fought--should shiver us to remember what it REALLY means to be at war. The devastation and horror of WWII, we can only hope, will NEVER be equaled in times to come, so remembering and being shocked at the scale of death and destruction it wreaked NEEDS to be taught and remembered by all succeeding generations.

Side comment: August 2014 marks the 100 year anniversary of "The Great War", WW1, which unfortunately (despite 9 million soldiers dead in the trenches PLUS possibly 25 million worldwide died of the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918) is largely forgotten today, and it most certainly SHOULD NOT BE-- Let's never make the mistake of believing it couldn't all happen again; first step in that journey is to know the past and recognize the danger when the drums of war start to beat again.

Overall "History's Verdict" was an engrossing reminder of humanity's greatest hour of peril, WWII, and the personalities who tipped the scales of decision to bring us into the modern world as we know it. Some of the personal history for each leader profiled will add new elements of interest for history fans like me who already have a decent understanding of these times, but quite possibly "haven't heard that before". I question any documentary that relies on the highly ideologically slanted work of Brit "historian" Niall Ferguson (quoted here on several occasions), but his most dubious revisions are not aired here, and I would NOT let that gripe keep me from otherwise recommending this highly interesting re-evaluation of WWII and its consequences.

Also highly recommended: "Hiroshima" (reviewed separately) the highly unique 1995 Showtime hybrid documentary/drama depicting the development and deployment of the atom bombs to end WWII. Even more dramatized, but still worth seeing is "Emperor" starring Tommy Lee Jones as MacArthur beginning his "Regency" of Japan after the surrender.

DVD ~ Kenneth Welsh
Offered by The Squirrel with the Dragon Tattoo
Price: $39.79
29 used & new from $7.56

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unheralded MASTERPIECE. Where's the Blu-Ray?, February 17, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Hiroshima (DVD)
After watching "Hiroshima" again over the President's Day weekend, I feel compelled to go public with my awestruck praise and appreciation for this knockout 1995 Showtime production, a totally unique hybrid of newsreel documentary, dramatic re-enactment, and modern survivors' testimony about the end of WWII and the new world the atomic bombs inaugurated.

For us fans of the humanities (art, music, history) this production is a feast of spiraling drama and consequential real-life impact. Truman's decision to use the atomic bomb to force the Japanese to surrender and end WWII remains a HIGHLY controversial choice. Here it is all laid out over three riveting hours, examining ALL the political, strategic and moral choices that had to converge to arrive at that terrifying hour of 8:15 AM, August 6th 1945, when the bomb bay doors opened on the Enola Gay and the "Fat Man" was dropped on Hiroshima.

I recommend "Hiroshima" not only to those of us who love and appreciate history, but most definitely for those who DON'T "love and appreciate" history. One would have to be mentally shallow below full-functionality to not be gripped and moved by this story, AND to see its relevance to our world today. I also want to HIGHLY commend the outstanding effort made to illuminate the Japanese perspective, with their own cast of OUTSTANDING actors depicting both the fanatical Generals sustaining the war effort in defiance of reality, vs. the politicians who see clearly the war is lost but can't seize the reins of power back. As they dither, the bomb is perfected, tested, and loaded for its terrible moment of destiny.

Our American side of the story is no less arresting, to be sure. Consider the reservations of the scientists who undertook the bomb project at FDR's request, out of fear that Nazi Germany would develop it first. Once they created a working bomb, Germany was nearly beaten and they now wanted to stuff this genie back into the bottle and not subject the world to warfare this mercilessly destructive. Consider President Truman, ignored almost completely by FDR, who had the choice of whether or not to use the bomb thrust upon him out of the blue when FDR died suddenly in April 1945. Consider finally, the American military planners, already pivoting from the European war, and confronting the reality of an amphibious invasion of Japan. Their plans demanded an invasion force of nearly one million soldiers & support personnel, AND, as the movie demonstrates, the Japanese military was prepared to face the American invaders with schoolchildren armed with spears, along with whatever conventional weaponry they could muster.

I understand that the moral questions of "Hiroshima" will never go away. Someone is not "wrong" for opposing the use of the bombs. My take, though, always has to be that as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, HOW could Truman NOT use the bombs to force the war to end, and AVOID the horrifying casualties (on both sides) that an invasion would have cost? This movie fully lays out as many facets possible of this awful choice for viewers to hear & understand the controversy, and to then commune with their own conscience. I am personally satisfied Truman not only made the RIGHT decision in using the atomic bombs, he made the right decision for the greater benefit of BOTH combatants.

Side note: as you'll see here, those B29 Superfortress bombers were AMAZING pieces of engineering/technology. Consider this was less than fifty years after Orville & Wilbur Wright took their motorized kite aloft at Kittyhawk!

Judging from its current Amazon price, "Hiroshima" is now out of print. Here's hoping that praise from fans like me can help spark some demand sufficient to justify a re-release (blu-ray would be welcome) that will make this OUTSTANDING depiction of humanity at its best AND worst available for a new audience to enjoy and agonize over.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 2, 2014 12:44 PM PST

North by Northwest (Two-Disc 50th Anniversary Edition)
North by Northwest (Two-Disc 50th Anniversary Edition)
DVD ~ Cary Grant
Price: $12.08
59 used & new from $2.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Blu Ray Re-Issue EVER?, August 11, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Fans of NXNW who have not seen this blu-ray version should DEFINITELY make the effort to do so. The clarity of the blu-ray picture and sound surpass the high standard already set by the excellent DVD version and more than justify buying this pioneering spy caper anew.

NXNW is rightly acclaimed as a classic and most definitely still delivers as an engaging and fun relic of its time, abundant in 1959 elegance, style, droll wit, & class. In many ways this (and its Hitchcock/Cary Grant predecessor To Catch a Thief [Blu-ray]) were truly the first James Bond movies, as becomes glaringly apparent after even casual comparison. Sean Connery's Bond was monumental, but it's just hard to imagine how the entire Bond series would have fared without having the suave, debonair Cary Grant there to blaze the trail as "The Cat" John Robbie in "TCAT" and of course as Roger Thornhill in "NXNW".

Now let's concede up front: you MUST disconnect your plausibility radar and just go along for the ride with NXNW and all its howling impossibilities. Let's not even dig into them too much EXCEPT TO suggest that if you're looking to bump off a rival spy, are you REALLY going to try to lure him onto a dusty Indiana highway and try to puree him with the propeller of a biplane? How does it happen that Thornhill (Grant) and the rival agents (James Mason, Martin Landau, Eva Marie Saint) all wind up on the 20th Century Limited after Thornhill goes on the lam from the UN? For that matter, how likely is it that Thornhill even gets OUT of the UN after getting framed for the murder there? --NEVER MIND! You simply have to surrender to the night-at-the-movies popcorn FUN of it, and enjoy the rollercoaster of thrills, chills, romance & spy intrigue Hitchcock serves up here. Sure, it's easy to chuckle at the stratospheric "suspension of disbelief" necessary to properly enjoy NXNW but really I think it's a deliberate part of the fun and not meant to stand up to serious scrutiny.

Cary Grant, in his fourth and final outing with Hitchcock delivers a knockout performance as the Madison Avenue adman on the run Roger Thornhill. James Mason shines here also as the oh-so-elegant (but deadly) "enemy agent" Phillip Van Damme, with outstanding support from his menacing secretary Leonard, played with beady-eyed malice by Martin Landau. Eva Marie Saint obviously owns the role of Eve Kendall, glamorous double-agent torn between her duty to maintain her cover and her growing love for Roger, but I personally still can't fully "buy" Eva as a "femme fatale" as depicted in NXNW. No complaints about her performance--she's excellent, and again, her name goes into immortality for this role, BUT I still think another actress would have been more credible as the "morally flexible" Eve Kendall than Eva Marie was able to project. By her appearance and temperament, I think Eva was much better matched to her "good girl" roles, as in "On the Waterfront (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]", which played to her strengths much more than NXNW would allow. Hitch already had two better qualified actresses "in his company" already in Ingrid Bergman ("Notorious [Blu-ray]") and obviously Grace Kelly ("To Catch a Thief"). STILL--I'm just offering my opinion here; Eva was great and more than nailed the part.

As other reviewers affirm, in many ways "NXNW" was the pinnacle of Hitchcock's career. All the stars converged for this one; OUTSTANDING cast, script, cinematography, locations and all those intangibles necessary to create a CLASSIC which no one can deliberately conjure into being. Let me pay special tribute here to that high-style Frank Lloyd Wright/"Mid-Century Modern" style chateau all the principals converge on prior to their "face-off" grand finale on Mt Rushmore! If such a house doesn't actually exist, well, it should! I'm willing to cast my vote for NXNW as Hitchcock's greatest film, but I respect anyone who prefers "Vertigo" or "Psycho (1960)" or maybe even another. No one's personal favorite is ever "wrong".

HOWEVER--here, in this luxuriant 50th Anniversary blu-ray, we're privileged to enjoy what may prove to be the BEST restoration & presentation of this classic movie EVER. The colors, picture and sound are all STUNNING and exceed the already high standard set by the previous DVD release of NXNW. I see this as an absolute "demo quality" blu-ray disc, a tour-de-force of what the format can deliver to re-ignite our appreciation of these old movies through OBSESSIVELY fastidious restoration and renewal. (Another knockout example of classic movie restoration that will scorch your eyeballs with its beauty: Pillow Talk (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy).)

Blu ray EXTRAS abound here as well, including a fascinating documentary on the life & career of Cary Grant; obviously relevant and well worth viewer's time & interest. The NXNW documentary hosted by Eva Marie is the same one provided on the original DVD, but it is likewise a worthy and a great bonus feature to enjoy after seeing the movie again. My only gripe is that the sole commentary track, by writer Ernest Lehman, while certainly worthy of inclusion, isn't enough by itself. A film of the stature of NXNW deserves one or more commentary tracks by some historians or directors who can offer insight into the historical context of the Cold War, Hitchcock's intentions/techniques, NXNW's influence on its times and later films, etc. Stay tuned to see whether a 4K "Special Sixtieth Anniversary Edition" doesn't hit the Amazon pre-orders in 2019 to pick our pockets anew!

Until such a re-release appears on the horizon, THIS 50th Anniversary Edition certainly remains the ABSOLUTE "Gold Standard" for seeing and re-discovering the excellence and fun of NXNW. If you've never seen NXNW before, maybe watch a Netflix or Amazon download (or check out a DVD from your local library); established fans of NXNW however, MUST see this exquisite blu-ray reissue to be awed by just what the blu-ray format is capable of with a movie you THINK you've already fully experienced and appreciated.

Finally: in a world overrun with movie kitsch and "Gone With The Wind" Barbies, and other assorted junk, there are only TWO movie props I would like to have for myself: FIRST (and most essential) the gold phone in the lobby of the Plaza Hotel Cary uses to call up to George Kaplan's room. Second (and something I WOULD actually wear), how about one of the "red caps", the scarlet cabbie-style hats scurrying in herds in the Chicago train station where Cary & EMS disembark from the 20th Century. WHERE can I find either (or both) of those for my personal "NXNW" appreciation shrine?

No Title Available

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars XL's Can Buy With Confidence, April 19, 2013
I'll try to be mercifully short: I ordered this cap with some anxiety because as a guy with a BIG head, I have found that what usually passes for "XL" most often turns out to be about a 7 5/8 hat size--IMPOSSIBLY small for my 7 7/8 sized head.

I'm here to tell you that this is a PERFECT fit and other XL guys (and I know you're out there) can heed my testimony and click "Add to Cart" with no hesitation. At $8.99 YES it's a little pricey, but certainly speaking for myself, I'm just glad to find a source. The other "one size fits most" and "adjustable" styles that are most common everywhere else are just sources of annoyance and frustration. THIS is the genuine article, SIZED to properly fit your head.

Let me add: YES it's a little bit of a style affection to wear an engineer's cap. BUT I have found that IF you can get one that fits well, they can't be beat for comfort, sweat absorption, painting, sun protection and general work purposes. I am very habituated to wearing a hat while working and have spared myself multiple head gouges and bruises by having one of these on while I mowed or moved stuff around, etc. My bottom line: you MUST wear a hat while doing physical labor, and for me THIS is the style of choice.

One complaint: Made in China?!? As we say nowadays, WTF?!? Unfortunately we're all going to have to reorient ourselves to a world where manufacturing mostly does NOT happen Stateside--but this is not the forum to grind those axes. This Rothco hat seems as durable and well-made as any old-school Lee or Dickey cap I have previously owned (and worn into tatters).

Whether you're shopping for style, costume, or (like me) for work purposes, THIS is the genuine article, and I promise you'll ALWAYS be happier with a properly sized and fitted hat over these crummy "adjustable" counterparts.

Deep Purple - Perihelion
Deep Purple - Perihelion
DVD ~ Deep Purple
Offered by treasurehunter55
Price: $14.99
24 used & new from $4.97

4.0 out of 5 stars Rocking After Fifty, March 23, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Deep Purple - Perihelion (DVD)
"Perihelion" is a 2002 concert recording of this venerable hard-rock quintet "delivering the goods" to an enthusiastic audience at an unidentified mid-sized indoor venue. Audio & production quality is as EXCELLENT as the quality of the performance. The concert is presented uninterrupted, start to finish plus encore, with some interesting and insightful band interview extras accessible separately. PERIHELION: "the point in the orbit of a planet or comet at which it is nearest to the sun."

After the above synopsis, let me volunteer that I'm NOT a Deep Purple fanatic. However as a fully fledged "boomer" born 1957, I was completely immersed as a rock fan during Purple's peak years, '72-75 and first came to know them well through the Purple Passages Warner Bros. compilation issued at that time recycling much of the best of their Rod Evans years (for their first four albums, Rod was the original lead singer). I LIKED Rod, and certainly had great respect for the talent of (guitarist) Ritchie Blackmore and (organist) Jon Lord. Machine Head was also VERY well known to me "back in the day" and lead track "Highway Star" is surely as much of a "Rock Classic" as "Baba O'Reilly" or "Money" by Pink Floyd. Even so, I found that most of the other "Mark II" Purple albums ("Fireball", "In Rock", "Stormbringer") somehow just didn't do it for me like "Machine Head" did (and does). Maybe I should give these another listen.

I kept up with DP through the '80's as they reformed the "Mark II" line-up and released several uneven releases, including the unusual Slaves and Masters: The Deluxe Edition featuring Ritchie's Rainbow vocalist Joe Lynn Turner temporarily stepping up to the DP microphone (an OUTSTANDING singer, in my opinion). THEN like a thunderclap, around 1990 or so, Blackmore was out and STEVE MORSE of all people was IN as the new DP guitarist. Steve was already well known to me, going all the way back to his band Dixie Dregs' first release on Capricorn Records, circa 1976-77, Free Fall. Steve's amazing talent as a guitarist was justly renowned, but having him step in to Blackmore's place in Purple was an ASTONISHING left-field shock! Nevertheless, I was more than curious to hear what the new band sounded like, and was glad to give unhesitating thumbs-up to their first release Purpendicular in the early 90's. New releases have followed irregularly and are equally worthy in concept & execution; these guys are PROS and even though they're kind of boxed in by their well-established "style", you can ALWAYS be sure they'll "do what they do" reliably and with the dazzling skill & polish we've come to expect.

SO, steeped in all this personal history, I was willing to drop $10 and give "Perihelion" a spin, mostly to sample the Morse-era band onstage, since it's unlikely I'll have the opportunity to see them live. In a word: OUTSTANDING. Despite their seniority, these guys rock with venomous ferocity and tear through their now extensive body of work with stunning authority. Best of all, they are clearly LOVING performing together and for the audience; their enthusiasm is infectious not only for the crowd on hand but equally for DVD viewers years or decades later. The band on stage here, especially given all their troubled history and tribulations, exudes JOY for having passed through those fires and emerging to exalt in their moment onstage, doing what they do best. You would truly have to be a sneering troll to not be inspired by their energy and passion.

Great personal credit to ALL these musicians who have kept their edge and perfected their skills over decades of striving. Most of us (Shermatz included) give up on music as real life obliges us to "get serious" and do things we don't care about for people who don't like us to earn our daily bread (life isn't really all THAT bad, but you know what I mean). INSPIRING is a word I'll use again for the example Purple's performance here arouses, and elevates this package beyond its musical merits (which are abundant). Without slagging the rest of the band, I certainly want to give special recognition to Steve whose participation restabilized and made Purple viable again after spending WAY too long trying to patch things over with the amazing (but impossibly temperamental) Blackmore. Those who won't accept Purple without Blackmore should ask whether they'd have preferred that the band just break up. "Perihelion" demonstrates, certainly to my satisfaction, that Steve's presence reinvigorated the band and has been GOOD for all parties, certainly including open-minded fans like myself (admittedly an admirer of Steve prior to his Purple association).

Ian Gillan: what's up with going barefoot on stage? Has he ALWAYS done that? That raised my eyebrows. Probably not safe, but I suppose by now he knows what he's doing. Allow me a sentence or two to commemorate the ENORMOUS talent of Jon Lord, who was apparently on his last tour with Purple here (Jon left the band, probably due to health, replaced by the more-than-competent Don Airey). Seeing Jon tear it up live really reminded me again what a huge, HUGE talent he was. He gets overlooked because so many contemporaries were bigger egos and public personas--Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman are the first that come to mind. AND let's concede that Purple's hard-rock tilt certainly favored guitarists more than organists. But try to imagine a Purple record WITHOUT Jon. RIP--Jon died 2012, and we can only say we were all better for sharing his musical legacy.

I wholeheartedly and without reservation RECOMMEND "Perihelion" to not just Purple fans, but to ANY "classic rock" fan interested in a midlife shot of adrenaline that this disc provides in generous dosage. I'm not going the full five stars here only because I'm just not completely on board with all the tracks on the playlist; these were NEVER huge personal favorites of mine, though I hasten to add, they are performed with flawless virtuosity and panache. The band interview extras are VERY interesting and insightful, especially Jon & Steve's remarks about rock music and their mutual experience with the band and life in general. Altogether, there is a great deal more than a blazing rock concert to appreciate and relive here. WELL worth seeing at least once if not purchasing--and I'm very glad to own it to sample over & over. Purple Rules (flick the Bic and hold it high! Flash the Satan horns)!!!

The Day the Earth Stood Still (Three-Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray]
The Day the Earth Stood Still (Three-Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Keanu Reeves
Price: $7.99
114 used & new from $0.91

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worthy Update of a Classic, January 13, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Now that the toxic blisters from the early reviews have healed somewhat, and the haters have found new targets to infect with their rabies, permit me to come out of the wreckage to tell any interested readers: This WAS a good movie AND remake, well worth seeing, as well as a great update of the original sci-fi classic.

First of all, if you haven't already, DO make the effort to see the 1951 original. Yeah, the early special effects look pretty ridiculous now, but the story and performances still surmount the limitations of that bygone technology. The original "DESS" was one of the first movies to impress upon my young adult mind that old movies could be GOOD and that they offered more than just dazzle and a bit of diversion.

So why bother with a remake at all? My guess is that first, the special effects can now fully do the story justice, and here the new version delivers IN SPADES. The flying saucer of the original has been replaced with a shimmering globe of energy, heightening our awe of an advanced alien power possessed of technology vastly ahead of ours. The robot Gort, alien ambassador Klaatu's bodyguard is exponentially more ominous, credible and menacing in his new CGI incarnation than that poor lug in the rubber suit was in the 1951 original.

The second reason to do a remake as I see it is because the central dilemma posed by the original remains even more urgent today. In 1951 the world teetered on the edge of cold war tension, with the USA and Soviet Union locked in a nuclear standoff threatening world survival. Today perhaps three times that worlds' population now boils with dangerous extremes of poverty, ignorance, social and political repression, with many governments unable or unwilling to respond to its peoples' needs. It is hard to argue that we're not actually in need of "intervention" from a higher power, as Klaatu's appearance in Central Park signals.

So the central question in DESS is: has humanity earned the right to continued stewardship of our precious Earth? This is a provocative and relevant idea worth our consideration, even if framed as a science fictional bit of entertainment. Here I'd like to suggest that some of the best mainstream examinations of philosophy and "big picture" consideration of humanity come from science fiction. For example, Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey [Blu-ray] , Contact [Blu-ray], Blade Runner (30th Anniversary Collector's Edition) [Blu-ray], and certainly the highly allegorical work of authors like Robert Silverberg Tower of Glass and Jack Vance Tales of the Dying Earth, whose merits I won't extol here beyond this citation.

No equivocating here: I LOVED the remake, and thought it fully did justice to the classic original. As previously suggested, the production and special effects were the real stars here, and to my eyes were incredibly spectacular, effectively conjuring all the terror and awe such a (literally) Earth-shaking event would create. All the actors gave solid, credible performances--no Academy Awards, to be sure, but I particularly want to defend Keanu Reaves' take on Klaatu. I am sure he gave just the performance his director called for--he's an alien masquerading in a human body after all--and Reaves' detachment was meant to reflect that otherworldly strangeness. Kathy Bates, John Cleese, Jennifer Connelly, John Hamm all filled their roles convincingly and certainly didn't dishonor the original performances by Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, etc. (I am sure DESS has already established itself as Michael Rennie's biggest part ever.) Yeah, the kid was annoying and got way too much screen time, but recall that this was an important part in the original, and ultimately does deliver a poignant twist here in the remake.

Unfortunately it seems to be universally true that the online face of our nation as manifested in most reviews (not just this one) is a pretty ugly sight. The withering spitefulness of the reviews astounds me with their venomous rage. I mean, really--how is it reasonable that a MOVIE has given you such profound personal affront, as your "review" seems to assert?!? Don't you have anything better to do?

This remake of "Day the Earth Stood Still" didn't deserve to get slagged like it was, and now that the crosshairs of the crank legion have shifted to fresher targets, I hope that I can nudge a few readers into giving this HIGHLY under-rated remake a look. IF you're fair, think you'll agree that the 2008 "DESS" is an enjoyable and thoughtful new riff on the original story which, if anything, is even MORE provocative and relevant to our world of today than the 1951 original movie was in its time.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 23, 2013 1:25 PM PST

BOSS Audio BV7325B In-Dash Single-Din 3.2-inch Detachable Screen DVD/CD/USB/SD/MP4/MP3 Player Receiver Bluetooth Streaming Bluetooth Hands-free with Remote
BOSS Audio BV7325B In-Dash Single-Din 3.2-inch Detachable Screen DVD/CD/USB/SD/MP4/MP3 Player Receiver Bluetooth Streaming Bluetooth Hands-free with Remote
2 used & new from $180.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Where BARGAIN and KILLER FEATURES Intersect!, December 8, 2012
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The Boss BV73258 CD/DVD/MP3/CD in-dash receiver packs a MAMMOTH amount of AV tech fun into a single DIN space AND is very likely an unbeatable value at $100. HOWEVER--read on to consider some important caveats before adding this to your cart.

I'm driving a well-worn 1995 Chevy Beretta that has run up well over 150,000 miles and (as that would imply), ownership of such a "mature" auto is a very mixed bag. On the downside, it needs a fair amount of ongoing maintenance as well as an occasional big dollar repair--and it's definitely cosmetically showing its age, too. However, IT'S PAID FOR and BECAUSE "resale" value is of no consequence to me, I feel I'm at liberty to try things with it that I might be uneasy attempting in a later model car.

I'm not really at all an experienced installer or much of a "gear head" either, but I am a persistent do-it-yourselfer who has successfully tackled all sorts of things over the years, and I should add, the BV7325B is the second head unit I have installed in this car. It's also worth noting that this 1995 model car is not so knotted up with interlocking electronics that trading out a head unit will risk disconnecting the ignition or popping an air bag. So I DID tackle this job with some confidence that I COULD credibly do the install myself. You should proceed VERY carefully here, and be honest with yourself about your level of competence before you start clawing your factory CD player out of your dash to put one of these in.

However, in an ideal scenario, this could be an EASY installation. The BV7325B comes with both insulated wire connectors (to graft onto a harness that then clips into a module under your dashboard to connect speakers, DC current, etc) OR RCA plugs to make the same connections. Thanks to some b*st*rd who burglarized my Beretta circa 2006 (making off with a nothing-special used $80 AIWA CD head unit), I could NOT tap back into the modular plug and instead had to graft connections under the dash with butt connectors, which made for an uncomfortable and long install process. Without that complication, other installers should be able to just purchase the proper harness for your car make/model (probably available right here on Amazon), solder the head unit wires to their corresponding harness wires (I believe the color coding on many harness assemblies even match the head unit wires) then simply swap out your old tape deck/CD player for the new unit and snap the connecting module into place. Voila, you're done! (OR better still--but less likely--to simply disconnect your existing head unit's RCA plugs and make the corresponding connections on the BV7325B, then snap it back into the dashboard.)

Here is an IMPORTANT point to consider: it's near certain that you WILL want to have DVD capability while you're driving. If so you'll need to do the installation yourself to connect the video wire to ground to make that possible. Any commercial installer is going to have to connect the video wire in line with the parking brake so you'd have DVD capability only when the parking brake is set. I completely understand WHY they do this and to be sure: you should NOT have DVD playing while you're driving to distract you from the road. However I also understand that having that DVD capability any time is a large reason to upgrade to this unit! So bear this carefully in mind before proceeding!

Though it certainly works, my install still isn't all I'd like BECAUSE the wad of RCA plugs and harness/head unit wires pouring out of the rear of the unit quickly jams up the avaliable single DIN space and make it impossible for me to fully retract the head unit chassis into its cavity and get it to "click" and lock into place. I may tinker with this some more after mild weather returns, but you may well find the same difficulty with SO much "spaghetti" pouring out of the back of each unit.

NEVERTHELESS--the menu of capabilities this unit is tricked out with are just STAGGERING for $100! You can play audio MP3's/photo JPEG's on a thumb drive OR on an SD card mounted in a slot behind the hinged faceplate; OR play CD's/DVD's also. The tiny display screen pumps out a LOT of light and produces an impressively clear and sharp picture. This video display massively outshines bigger displays like the Power Acoustik PTID-8920B In-Dash DVD AM/FM Receiver with 7-Inch Flip-Out Touchscreen Monitor and USB/SD Input, for example. I like the Power Acoustik concept and design, BUT I had to think long and hard about whether that motorized screen could clear obstructions when deploying OR whether once in position if it would block other dashboard controls as well as AC/heat fans. My measurements convinced me the Power Acoustik screen would indeed bump into the Beretta's floor-console transmission shift while deploying/retracting, PLUS the screen in "up" position would be directly blocking an AC/heat outlet. I also have to wonder that these bigger retracting touchscreens will be more prone to mechanical failure and damage as they contend with weather extremes along with blundering hands of people who can't look away from the road to dig into the menu for disc/other function operation. (The Power Acoustik model IS a worthy and functional gizmo, and I adapted mine for indoor use--but that will need to be covered in a different review.)

Mindful of all the above, WOW! The array of superpowers the Boss BV7325B brings to your fingertips is OUTSTANDING and the fact that they bring it for a little over $100 still has me shaking my head in disbelief. (The non-Bluetooth model is only $80.) I haven't had the unit up and running long enough to fully appraise all features but I CAN tell you that DVD, CD, SD card and thumb drive playback all work faultlessly and bring a whole new dimension of AV pleasure to your commute. My "go-to" application so far has been playback of an 8G SD card loaded up with audio favorites; playback in "random" mode gives me an uninterrupted stream of my personal "all time top 250" (with plenty of room on the card for more once I get time to convert other LP/CD favorites).

Complaints: The removable faceplate is uncomfortably difficult to install and remove. I fear I'm going to snap the flimsy plastic tabs hinging the unit on either end while wrangling it into place and removing it; it's equally awkward and challenging to get the faceplate down to load/unload discs. I am hoping the open/close function will ease over time and my intention is to MINIMIZE (to the extent possible) having to remove the faceplate. Also, as is true with most made-in-China electronics, the owner's manual is written in baffling "pidgin English" that requires several read-throughs before you can divine what you need in order to properly operate the unit. A small credit-card style remote is also included, and it certainly works, but reading the tiny buttons while on the go is risky, and good luck working them if you're wearing a pair of gloves!

Even with all these cons stacked up I still think the pros pile up considerably higher for this "does-it-all" little unit. I say again that the features the BV7325B provides compared to the COST of the unit just make this an irresistible buy for intrepid AV hobbyists like me who want to optimize their ride without paying a fortune to do it. Now I have to wonder--how long until midrange blu-ray head units become available?!?!

A Summer Place
A Summer Place
Price: $4.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WOW! WOW! MUST READ for Fans of the Movie, October 28, 2012
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This review is from: A Summer Place (Kindle Edition)
A Summer Place has long been enshrined as a personal movie "All-Time-Top-10" favorite--but let me be quick to add that I only saw it after it became available on DVD, circa 2008 or so. To me, the film adaptation resonates on many frequencies. It's a captured-in-amber slice of the fashion, style, and attitudes of the late 50's-early 60's I was growing up in. It's a fascinating reality-check to our presumption of the '50's as a time of conformity and "Father Knows Best" stereotypes. And, the movie is an intensely HUMAN drama of life, longing and the chasm that grows between what you want from life vs. what you actually get--certainly still a VERY relevant and poignant urgency that (for most of us) never stops itching if we're honest with ourselves.

I'm pleased--but not surprised--to report that ALL the qualities that made the movie so appealing are even MORE abundant and gripping in Sloan Wilson's novel than what the movie was able to compress into two hours' screen time. My first "wow" moment was to admire how GOOD of a writer Sloan Wilson was, and how sharp his observations of human behavior were (and are). Here I think is where all story telling--film, novel--REALLY distinguish themselves as art. Depending on the skill of the writer/filmmakers, we engage in the story not as "observers", but as vicarious participants, and our own spectrum of hope, experience, emotion and life are played out even if only as a "what if" scenario that speaks to our own (frequently unrecognized) wishes and desires.

"A Summer Place" provides AMPLE and fertile soil for just such a reverie of personal re-appraisal in its central story of Ken Jorgenson's return to Maine's Pine Island with wife & teenage daughter in tow, his unspoken hope to reconnect with his teenage crush, Sylvia Hunter, with both now well into middle age and chafing badly at the shackles of sour marriages they entered to satisfy the expectations of others. Author Wilson understands the desires, frustrations, and neuroses that drive all his characters, and all are portrayed, to the extent possible, as "fully rounded" personalities and not just "white hats vs. black hats" popping six-guns at each other as in a serial Western.

"Wow" number two for me really should not have been a surprise, because it's ALWAYS true that MUCH of a novel has to be cut to jam it into a feature movie. MANY painful sacrifices had to be made for the film adaptation of "ASP", and those deletions added greatly to the development of the characters and strength of the novel. For this reason primarily I wholeheartedly recommend the novel to fans of the movie, just to appreciate ALL that had to be left out. HOWEVER let me be quick to add that movie writer/director Delmer Davies' adaptation was COMPLETELY faithful to the spirit and general path of the novel, and really, I'd have to say he did an excellent job boiling everything down to the screenplay that became the film.

The novel gave me occasion for many quibbles with the movies' casting, though. Obviously the movie is fully embedded in its place in history and can't be "fixed" retroactively, but reading the book DEFINITELY made me question the casting of Dorothy McGuire as Sylvia and Constance Bennett as Ken's shrewish wife Helen. Physically or temperamentally neither actress comes close to the characters outlined in Wilson's novel--and I'd also suggest that Arthur Kennedy as Bart Hunter, Sylvia's drunkard husband and Pine Island hotelier was also a little off-target for casting. HOWEVER--the entire cast of the movie "killed it" in their performances, and I was unaware of any deficiencies until I read the novel. Read for yourself and see if you agree!

Sloan Wilson was also author of The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, also HIGHLY recommended and an equally compelling slice of modern existentialism in both its novel & film incarnation. Reading "A Summer Place" led me immediately to "Gray Flannel" and I found both to be well-written, insightful and entertaining examinations of the problems of being human. "Summer Place", though, must remain my first and favorite pick. Fans of the movie CAN and SHOULD amplify and enrich their appreciation of this unrecognized modern classic by picking up and rediscovering this gem from a now obscure writer in what is perhaps his greatest work.

YES I have a separate Amazon review for the DVD of "A Summer Place"! Enjoy, and let me again express my hope that Warner Brothers will take it upon themselves to give this great movie a proper & special feature augmented blu-ray "special edition" at some point in the near future!

Mommie Dearest (Hollywood Royalty/Special Collector's Edition)
Mommie Dearest (Hollywood Royalty/Special Collector's Edition)
DVD ~ Faye Dunaway
Offered by 1dandy1
Price: $14.36
93 used & new from $0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Joan Crawford: Eyes Like Welding Torches, August 5, 2012
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With so many other reviews, what can someone add to "Mommie Dearest"? I want to toss my own five stars into the average and offer what I can to persuade interested but uncommitted DVD viewers to take the plunge and experience this AMAZING movie and performance by Faye.

Let me volunteer that Joan's "parenting" as depicted here rings absolutely true to this viewer. I was born in 1957 and our dad was fully and unwittingly invested in the "Mommie Dearest" method. So many of the berserk rages depicted in the movie were played out in our home and echoed throughout our neighborhood and indeed, the nation at large, I'm afraid. Maybe we didn't get smacked with wire hangers or flogged & dusted with cans of Comet cleanser, but I promise you, we got it as badly if not worse. We forget today how common abusive households were; no one was ever happy to see a violent domestic "scene" in the neighborhood, but no one would intervene to make it stop either.

Like our dad, I believe Joan DID want children, and not just to aggrandize themselves. Unfortunately when it comes to children, theory and vague impulses quickly get buzzsawed by the realities of coping with the dependent and imperfectly developing new human being that is a child. As "Mommie Dearest" painfully reminds us--just WANTING a baby and family is no assurance that you're up to the task. Oh sure, no one's perfect, and children will challenge you and test you in every way imaginable, but no provocation justifies the insane domestic brutality depicted here--again, TOTALLY credible to me.

As John Waters correctly observes in his commentary track, for better or worse, Faye will most likely be remembered with "MD" as her "signature" role; NOTHING else she ever did in her long career created such a seismic ripple in popular culture! However, Faye should be PROUD of her work here! We feel Joan's insecurity as she struggles to stay viable as a past-her-prime Hollywood Diva; we see the grit and fire that kept her in the game for so long, as well as how that same vicious intensity and overwhelming vanity made her a bad, BAD parent. We see how she boils over and lashes out--INSANELY--"Mommie Dearest" is flat off her rocker! but we also see that she DID have affection for Christina--even though she was just too high-strung and selfish to ever be a fit parent. SO MANY difficult and piercing psychological elements are skillfully juggled in Faye's performance! The queasiness of the story just made it a hard, HARD sell to recognize on its own abundant merits. Acclaim for Faye in "Mommie Dearest" would have been like giving Ralph Fiennes the best actor Oscar for his role as the Nazi camp commandant in "Schindler's List"! NOT going to happen!

Despite the deserved shellacking Joan's reputation takes here (and she DEFINITELY earned the takedown), I still admire her. She was a UNIQUE and one-of-a-kind presence in American cinema and culture. Many of her movies--and her steely charisma--remain powerful, potent, indeed, ICONIC representations of their times. Joan, I think, mirrored many women's frustrations and sufferings but Joan (unlike most "surrendered bride" housewives of the day) had the fire and ammo to shoot back, and still look glamorous while delivering the smackdown. Oh boy, though--Joan's peculiar "look" is wildly unsettling! Those blazing welding-torch eyes and that sharp hatchet face; here's one lady you don't want to "fork" with, right? Faye Dunaway, to me anyway, is SEVERAL degrees of magnitude more beautiful than Joan was, however Faye certainly channels Joan's scalding intensity (and "look") VERY successfully. Hard to imagine anyone else in the part--though (as the EXCELLENT featurettes on this DVD reveal) ANN BANCROFT was the actress originally envisioned for the part. Ann would have been good--she bore a stronger physical resemblance to Joan--but that's just another intriguing historical "what if" footnote, like Jimmy Stewart in "North by Northwest" or Ronald Reagan in "Casablanca".

What we do have instead, is Faye in "Mommie Dearest"--and what a towering, wrecking ball of a pop-culture artifact it is indeed! I STRONGLY recommend this movie, but let me say that the experience is greatly enhanced if you've imbibed a little bit of Joan as well. Mildred Pierce (Keepcase)--Joan's Oscar winning part as a "helicopter parent" circa 1947 has special resonance here, AND the RIVETING documentary on Joan's life and career on the flip side of the disc provides HUGE insight and back-story. I would also unconditionally recommend Humoresque which, like "Mildred" is a jet-black noirish melodrama, likewise generously laced with Joan's unique mint-and cyanide presence.

However--you don't HAVE to know Joan Crawford or her work to appreciate "Mommie Dearest". It's a tough, unflinching look at a genuine "tough cookie" in Joan, as depicted ASTONISHINGLY here by Faye Dunaway. This is DEFINITELY not a movie for everyone. But for those of us who understand its historical context and appreciate fearless, high-wire acting as Faye delivers, we have a ferocious portrait of a woman crushed in an avalanche of Dionysian fate. Today we have a whole vocabulary of clinical euphemisms for her furies; "bipolar", "OCD", etc. But Joan's unique story--and Faye's daring performance--remind us and oblige us to confront how these afflictions wound and poison our own lives and times. If you think you're up for it--"Mommie Dearest" is not to be missed!

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