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Spy Game [Blu-ray]
Spy Game [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Robert Redford
Price: $9.96
54 used & new from $1.25

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well done, fast-paced spy thriller with an outstanding cast., April 19, 2009
This review is from: Spy Game [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
I am not a great action movie fan - but I will watch almost anything associated with Robert Redford, whose "Three Days of the Condor" and "All the President's Men" are among my all-time favorites; as is "A River Runs Through It," his first collaboration with Brad Pitt. So, I figured, with these two in co-starring roles I couldn't really go wrong with "Spy Game"; and I certainly wasn't disappointed.

Told from a 1991 perspective - two years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when the CIA changed from an agency run by operatives with field experience to one run by "suits" - "Spy Game" flashes back to the cold war, when American politics' overriding goal was to outmaneuver the Russian-controlled communist block; although Middle Eastern politics eventually did add more complexity. (Shot before, but released after September 11, 2001, as director Tony Scott and producers Douglas Wick and Marc Abraham note on the DVD's commentary tracks, the WTC attack had some effect on the editing process). The story begins with CIA operative Tom Bishop (Pitt)'s capture during an unauthorized rescue attempt in a Chinese prison, resulting in his former supervisor Nathan Muir (Redford)'s summons, on his last day in office, to a meeting of the agency's top brass, for an account of their operations between 1975 (their first meeting in Vietnam) and 1985 (their last operation in Beirut). However, already tipped off to Bishop's capture by an old confidant in the U.S. embassy in Hong Kong, as Muir gives his report his suspicion is quickly confirmed that his information won't be used to save Bishop but to construe a reason to let the Chinese execute him. So it is left to Muir, several thousand miles away, to come to his former protege's aid; and in so doing, break all his rules of survival: Put away some money to retire in a warm spot, never touch that money for anyone, never risk your life or career for an outsider, and if an agent goes "off the reservation" (engages in an unauthorized operation), don't go after him trying to pull him out.

Of course, most of this has been done before; in the aforementioned Redford movies, countless other celluloid tales of the past 50 years and the novels of writers who have built entire careers on this kind of material, from John le Carre to Tom Clancy and Frederick Forsyth. But "Spy Game" was directed by Tony Scott, who, like his brother Ridley, has already left his mark on the genre (see "Enemy of the State" and "Crimson Tide") and, with his arts and advertising background, understands that action movies are about visuals at least as much as about plot and character development: weak editing and camerawork will sink an action thriller as assuredly as weak acting. And Scott's direction is spot-on, in his choice of camera angles, movement and even coloring (providing every chapter with a unique color scheme), as well as his editing, so fast-paced that there are several details you only pick up on in your second or third viewing. Even in the largely static scenes in the CIA conference room, thanks to numerous small tricks, great dialogue and a cast of outstanding actors - including Stephen Dillane as Muir's intra-agency opponent Harker and Larry Bryggman as CIA vice-director Folger - Scott never loses the viewer's interest.

I do have a few issues with "Spy Game" - leaving aside that, as in most spy flicks, there are some sequences where I have to suspend just a bit too much of my disbelief (like the East Berlin sequences of the operation used to set up American mole Anne Cathcart [Charlotte Rampling] and parts of Muir's rescue operation for Bishop), I think it is a pity that a director/producer team otherwise so focused on authenticity didn't realize how many people would remember Robert Redford's looks in films like the above-mentioned ones, i.e. from the mid-1970s, coinciding with this movie's Vietnam and Berlin episodes; for although Redford has definitely gained in class and authority with his growing number of facial lines, which well behoove Tom Bishop's mentor, arguably there should have been at least some visible age difference between Muir's 1975 and 1991 looks. And just as an aside, from a native Berliner: Guys, much as I applaud your choice to substitute nightly Budapest streets for those of cold-war East Berlin, you shouldn't also have filmed the rooftop scene there, because neither the city's overall look nor its topography pans out to those who actually knew Berlin then. (Not to mention the "vopos"' obvious Hungarian accents and a few other details I won't go into here.)

But overall this movie is certainly a cut above the rest of its class, due to great directorial work as much as that of Redford, Pitt and Catherine McCormack as Elizabeth Hadley, the woman who finally comes between them in Beirut: Redford as the inscrutable, controlling master spy - whose past is, unlike in the original screenplay, kept suitably ambiguous -, Pitt as the young gun, aptly codenamed "Boy Scout," who is not above exploiting "assets" for an operation's sake but does fall in love with the wrong woman at last, and McCormack as the tough, no-frills activist whose feelings for Bishop ultimately endanger not only him but also herself. - Last but not least, Harry Gregson-Williams's soundtrack deserves special mention: With an excellent blend of classic rock tunes (Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way" and Dire Straits' "Brothers in Arms" ... where are these on the soundtrack CD???) and a score alternating between middle eastern and Asian melodies, a boy soprano (Bishop & Hadley's love theme) and techno grooves, it is always in tune with the action and provides a perfect frame for the movie's voyage from Langley to Vietnam, Berlin, Beirut and China. This may not be one of film history's all-time greatest moments - but it is a well-crafted thriller and definitely worth watching if you're looking for some action.

Also recommended:
Three Days of the Condor
Sneakers (Collector's Edition)
The Recruit
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Smiley's People
The Day of the Jackal
The Fist of God
Shibumi: A Novel
A River Runs Through It (Deluxe Edition)
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 7, 2011 6:09 PM PDT


3 Days of the Condor [Blu-ray]
3 Days of the Condor [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Robert Redford
Offered by Media Favorites
Price: $13.99
15 used & new from $6.98

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An All But Extinct Bird., April 19, 2009
In his 1979 novel "Shibumi" (part political thriller, part cynical attack on Western civilization and part satire of the thriller genre), written at the end of that genre's possibly greatest decade, Trevanian explains the six parts of the Japanese board game symbolizing the concept of effortless perfection and inspiring that novel's title: Fuseki (the opening stage or strategic premise), Sabaki (an effort to quickly, efficiently terminate a problematic situation), Seki (a neutral standoff where neither side gains an advantage), Uttegae (a potentially sacrificial strategic maneuver), Shicho (a running offensive) and Tsuru no Sugomori (literally, "the confinement of the cranes to their nest:" the elegant capture of the opponent's stones).

Like other books published then and influenced by the shocking Watergate revelations, "Shibumi" asks what happens if government is hijacked by a secret association not bound by anything but its own interests and hunger for power. One of the most important novels on whose legacy Trevanian builds in his book is James Grady's "Six Days of the Condor," adapted for the screen by director Sydney Pollack in this hugely successful fourth (of seven) collaboration(s) with Robert Redford; costarring Faye Dunaway, Max von Sydow and Cliff Robertson. But while Grady's novel centered around the Vietnam trauma, the movie's screenplay, besides shortening the critical time frame from six days to three, changes the focus to the era's obsession with oil; thus effortlessly proving one of the story's key points: Assuming a group of insiders truly managed to commandeer key governmental structures, the respective substantive context would be of little import, because *any* such action would constitute a terminal violation of public trust, and the consequences for any individual caught in the resulting web of intrigue and deceit would be equally disastrous.

"Three Days of the Condor" begins with the assassination of virtually the entire staff of a New York CIA office of "reader researchers," agents responsible for the detection of possible clues to actual or potential Agency operations in literature. The massacre's sole survivor is Joe Turner, codenamed "Condor" (Redford), who literally happened to be out to lunch when the assassins hit. After his discovery of the bloodbath, his superiors promise to bring him "home," using his inside friend Sam as a confidence-builder. But at the assigned meeting Sam is shot, too, and Turner himself only escapes by the skin of his teeth - again. Realizing that his own organization is somehow involved in the hit and that he is no longer safe in his own apartment, Turner hides in the home of photographer Kathy Hale (Dunaway), whom he takes hostage, but who is a loner like him and eventually develops a fondness for him, agreeing to help him trying to discover the truth behind the terrifying labyrinth of lies and double standards in which he suddenly finds himself.

While "Condor"'s tale does have a clear premise (the interests of those responsible for the massacre) and both the mass-assassination and the following events are merely moves in the lethal game into which Turner is thrown against his will (and where his greatest advantage is his unpredictability), against the overbearing opponent he faces, he alone has little chances of emerging victoriously; of, in the terminology of Shibumi, "confining the cranes to their nest:" All he can hope for is a long-lasting state of Seki; a standoff and perhaps temporary ceasefire (a conclusion later also reached in John Grisham's bestselling "The Firm"). The inference, of course, is that it takes more than a single individual's discovery of a government-undermining conspiracy to take down the conspirators - and as in Watergate, the press is seen as a crucial vehicle for reaching a mass audience and taking the events out of the perpetrators' control.

Due to the universality of its theme, the importance of "Condor" far exceeds the story's 1970s context. Indeed, it is as relevant now as it was then; and so is the Pulitzer-Prize-winning Woodward-Bernstein account on Watergate and its corresponding movie ("All the President's Men;" also starring Redford, alongside Dustin Hoffman and Jason Robards). But this is also a magnificently filmed movie, sharply edited and using New York City's wintry urban landscape for full dramatic effect. Robert Redford gives a career-defining, tightly controlled performance as cornered bookworm-turned-spy Joe Turner, matched in every respect by Max von Sydow's hired assassin Joubert, who has no cause of his own, finds his occupation "quite restful," never concerns himself with his missions' "why" but only the "when," "where" and "how much," and paints delicate little figurines in his hours of relaxation. Faye Dunaway's Kathy is not merely another victim of Stockholm syndrome (a hostage's identification with their captors' motives); she truly comes to understand Turner because of their likeness: Her photos are expressions of her loneliness as much as Joe's solitary stance against an entire governmental organization; beautiful but sad November pictures of empty streets, fields and park benches, shot in black and white and an intricate, subtle metaphor even during their love scene. Cliff Robertson's CIA man Higgins finally is the perfect foil for both Turner and Joubert; not as far along in his career as he should be but, although sympathetic to Turner's plight, fully buying into the legitimacy of the Agency's "games" and ready to do whatever it takes to keep an embarrassment from becoming conspicuous.

Turner's and Higgins's last meeting is poignantly set against a Salvation Army choir's performance of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and its chorus "Oh tidings of comfort and joy;" ending in a still shot of Turner's face starkly reminiscent of Kathy's photos. Yet, "Condor's" story is open-ended: What would he do, were he still around today?

"What is it with you people - do you think not getting caught in a lie is the same thing as telling the truth?" Joe Turner, "Three Days of the Condor."

"All ... organizations in this book lack any basis in reality - although some of them do not realize that." Trevanian, "Shibumi."

Also recommended:
Six Days of the Condor
Spy Game (Widescreen Edition)
Sneakers (Collector's Edition)
All the President's Men (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Shibumi: A Novel
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Smiley's People
The Day of the Jackal
The Fist of God
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 16, 2010 12:54 PM PDT


Unplugged
Unplugged
2 used & new from $40.66

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Barenaked Blues., November 2, 2008
This review is from: Unplugged (Audio CD)
The debate whether, when learning to play the guitar, you should begin with an acoustic or an electric instrument, is probably as old as the history of the electric guitar itself; regardless which event you associate most strongly with its invention, and which of the enterprising souls who began experimenting with the amplification of the six-string sound way back in the 1930s you most credit therewith. Many find the sound of an electric guitar more impressive than that of an acoustic; and I'll freely admit that few pieces of music make my inner membranes resonate as instinctively as those featuring a really well-played e-guitar solo. Purists, however, argue passionately in favor of the acoustic guitar, and maintain that you're simply not going to learn to play "cleanly" if you don't start out that way. And there is definitely something to be said for that, because it is much easier to conceal a sloppily-played chord behind an electric guitar's amplified volume or a clever-sounding solo (or behind both) than in the unadulterated sound of an acoustic guitar. The discussion about the early 1990s' trend towards "unplugged" recordings centers around similar arguments. Some pieces of music are of course simply not meant to ever be played on an acoustic guitar. Others, however, live from their amplified soundeffects more than from their intrinsic musical values, and they simply fizzle when reduced to their core and performed acoustically.

And then there is that rare category of pieces which sound equally fantastic both ways, and that rare category of players who manage to dazzle you regardless what type of instrument they're playing. Eric Clapton is such a musician, and some of the songs on the playlist of his "Unplugged" album are such pieces of music. Most notable among those, of course, is "Layla," Clapton's intensely personal dedication to one-time wife Patty Boyd; written in 1970 and at a time when he saw no chance of ever winning her for himself. From the memorable opening riff of the song's original recording to its guitar solos, screaming with despair, it is extremely hard to imagine how this song could ever work in an acoustic version. Yet on a whim and at the last minute, Clapton decided to include it in the "Unplugged" playlist. And transposed by a full octave, reduced to a languid and almost upbeat, somewhat jazzy blues rhythm, it works out wonderfully; and Layla/ Patty finds herself miraculously transformed from an object of desire to one of reflection instead. In fact, that track alone, which won the 1992 Grammy as Best Rock Song, turned out to be responsible for a good share of the enormous popularity of this album which (together with 1989's "Journeyman") reestablished Clapton as an artist to reckon with, after his career had threatened to slump over the course of much of the previous decade. And similarly responsible for the success of "Unplugged" was the inclusion of another and more recent piece performed from the bottom of Clapton's soul, the triple Grammy winning "Tears in Heaven;" dedicated to his son Conor who had tragically died after falling from the open window of a 53rd floor apartment in New York City the preceding year. (The studio version of that song is contained on the soundtrack of the movie "Rush," likewise released in 1992.)

But "Unplugged" is to large extents a classic blues album, from the twelve-bar rhythm of Bo Diddley's "Before You Accuse Me" (featuring only Eric Clapton himself and one of the most modest and supremely talented living guitarists, Clapton's trusted friend and touring partner Andy Fairweather Low) to Jimmy Cox's "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" (the second cut besides "Layla" from the famous album recorded under the name Derek and the Dominos), Delta Blues king Robert Johnson's "Walkin' Blues" and "Malted Milk," Jesse Fuller's upbeat "San Francisco Bay Blues," and the traditionals "Alberta" and "Rollin' and Tumblin'" (the latter, here attributed to the great Chess blues man M[cKinley] Morganfield a/k/a Muddy Waters, who made it famous). Three more of Eric Clapton's own compositions stand out among the songs which round up the album's playlist: the introductory lighthearted "Signe," which reflects his love of Brazilian music, the melancholic "Lonely Stranger" and finally "Old Love," a cut from 1989's "Journeyman."

Few white artists understand as well as Eric Clapton that the blues thrives, first and foremost, on a live atmosphere - preferably in a smaller setting like the one used for this recording, which allows for plenty of spontaneous interaction between stage and audience. And few artists are as unafraid of the gaffes that are almost invariably associated with a live appearance, even in the case of Clapton and his outstanding backup band; and manage, time and again, to turn them into a light moment. The garbled beginning of "Alberta" is an excellent example here; you can almost hear Clapton grinning when he says "Hang on, hang on, hang on" and simply starts over. Similarly, "Layla" is merely introduced with the words "See if you can spot this one" - and instantly greeted with the enthusiastic cheers of an audience which doesn't even need to hear the famous five notes of the song's introductory riff to recognize it.

Asked whether he, too, would ever consider an "unplugged" appearance, e-guitar legend Jeff Beck, who with Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page forms the trinity of "guitar gods" that emerged from Great Britain's famous Yardbirds, reportedly once responded that he couldn't imagine such a thing because it would make him feel "naked." And listening to Eric Clapton's "Unplugged" album, you can't shake the impression that Beck does have a point. These are pure, naked blues songs, supremely performed - and a pure joy to listen to.

Also recommended:
Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs
Eric Clapton's Rainbow Concert
Crossroads
One More Car: One More Rider (CD & DVD Set)
Riding with the King
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 8, 2008 6:33 PM PST


Gandhi - His Triumph Changed the World Forever
Gandhi - His Triumph Changed the World Forever
DVD ~ Ben Kingsley

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Soul's life., November 2, 2008
It all began simple enough - with the purchase of a first class train ticket by Mr. Mohandas Gandhi, Esq., recently arrived in South Africa, and unaware that as an Indian, he was required to travel third class and not entitled to such a ticket. Literally thrown off the train for his transgression, the young attorney, embodied to perfection by Ben Kingsley, spent a full night sitting on the platform, musing how best to respond to such discrimination. Shortly thereafter, and after consultations with established members of his community, he wrote his first treatises and organized his first demonstrations. And when participants of a protest assembly stood up and proclaimed their willingness to die in the fight against suppression, Gandhi once and for all formulated his doctrine of nonviolent protest: "They may torture my body, break my bones; even kill me. Then they will have my dead body - not my obedience."

Shot largely on four Indian locations, Richard Attenborough's nine-time Oscar-winning biography of Gandhi is a sweeping epic that takes the viewer back to Britain's colonial past, covering all major events of Gandhi's political career from its beginnings in South Africa to the March to the Sea and India's independence, and contrasting the luxurious lifestyle of the foreign rulers with the poverty of those they governed; that India which, as Gandhi soon realized, not only the British didn't understand, but whose population also could not have cared less about the activities of the Indian Congress Party, at the time little more than a group of well-to-do city dwellers mentally and socially almost as far removed from the rest of their country as the British. Twenty years in the making, the movie is clearly reverential of Gandhi's genius, and of the man whose symbolic growth was reverse parallel to his retreat into simplicity, and who for that very reason, and because of his unfaltering commitment to nonviolence on the one hand and India's independence on the other hand, accomplished what only few people would otherwise have thought possible: to convince the world's biggest colonial power to give up the crown jewel among its colonies; and to do so in a gesture of friendship and without civil war. The one aspect of Gandhi's life that falls a bit short here is the effect that his overbearing symbolic status had on his family life, which necessarily had to suffer as a result (unable to cope with his father's fame and chosen lifestyle, Gandhi's eldest son, for example, threw himself into a life of alcoholism and prostitution). But Gandhi is not depicted as a saint, and particularly during his early years, we learn about the struggle that went into the formation of the man who later earned the title "Great Soul" (Mahatma). Even anticipating that he might be killed by an assassin's bullet, Gandhi once said that he would only deserve that title if he could accept that bullet with Rama's (God's) name on his lips: fittingly, the movie begins with his assassination and comes full circle at the end, affirming that Gandhi truly was a Great Soul throughout.

Attenborough found his perfect Gandhi in Ben Kingsley, who not so much plays but truly is the Mahatma; from his appearance to the inflection of his voice, attitudes and gestures. Over the year-long struggles to finance the movie, Attenborough's first choices for the role had grown too old to convincingly play the young Gandhi in South Africa, but eventually Michael Attenborough pointed his father to Kingsley, then with the Royal Shakespeare Company, who reportedly won the role by meeting Attenborough in full Gandhi makeup at their first get-together, thus instantly convincing him that he had found his man. Yet, despite his gift for mimicry and his part-Indian heritage, Kingsley nevertheless turned to his Indian co-stars, particularly Rohini Hattangadi, who plays Gandhi's wife Kasturba, to fine-tune his portrayal; and he recalls in an interview for the movie's DVD release that the skill he found the most difficult to master was to spin and to talk at the same time. The use of the actual British newsreels covering Gandhi's visit to England adds to the movie's sense of authenticity - and emphasizes yet again Ben Kingsley's achievement in transforming himself into the Mahatma.

In fact, his awardwinning performance so overshadows every other actor in the movie that it would be easy to overlook the fine performances of his costars, all of whom contributed to the movie's unique quality - to name but a few, Sir John Gielgud, whom Kingsley praises as "a national treasure" (British viceroy Lord Irwin), Roshan Seth (Pandit Nehru), Martin Sheen (New York Times reporter Vincent Walker), Candice Bergen (People Magazine's Margaret Bourke-White), Ian Charleson (Gandhi's early friend and colaborator Reverend Andrews), Edward Fox (General Dyer, the man responsible for the massacre at Amritsar, who testified at his court-martial that his intention had been to "teach a lesson that would be heard throughout India"); and Trevor Howard as Judge Broomfield, who had to sentence Gandhi to prison for his outright admission that he was guilty of the charge of advocating sedition because of his belief "that non-cooperation with evil is a duty and British rule in India is evil," and who nevertheless rose at Gandhi's entrance into the courtroom instead of making the prisoner rise for him, and commented on the sentence he had to impose that "if ... his Majesty's government should, at some later date, see fit to reduce the term, no one will be better pleased than I."

The movie ends with Gandhi's affirmation that when he despaired, he remembered that "all through history, the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers; for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of this: Always." Such a belief may be difficult to hold on to, particularly for us who are so much more fallible than the Mahatma. Yet, this movie eloquently pleads that it is, at least, worth our very best effort.

Also recommended:
Gandhi An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth
The Essential Gandhi: An Anthology of His Writings on His Life, Work, and Ideas
Gandhi: The Man, His People, and the Empire (Philip E. Lilienthal Book in Asian Studies)
HALFWAY TO FREEDOM In the Words and Pictures of Margaret Bourke-White
The Last Emperor - Criterion Collection
Kundun
Anne Frank - The Whole Story
Henry David Thoreau : Collected Essays and Poems (Library of America)
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 10, 2009 3:59 PM PDT


No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars A gift from the Goddess of Mercy., November 2, 2008
Like the famously smoky Lapsang Souchong, Oolong tea comes from mist-enshrouded Wuyi Mountains in the northwestern corner of China's Fujian Province (north of Guangdong [Canton] Province), whose greatest tourist draw besides its mountains is its coast line on the Taiwan Straits, and where tea has been grown at least since the Sung Dynasty (AD 960 - 1279).

In terms of production, Oolong tea takes a middle position between the fully fermented black teas (Darjeeling, Assam, Ceylon, Kenya, Lapsang Souchong, etc.) and the unfermented green teas (Sencha, Maccha, Gyokuro, Hougicha/Hojicha, Gunpowder Green), in that it is part-fermented or "brown" tea. Its long, dark leaves' fermentation is stopped when they are about 30% red and 70% green, after which they are rubbed to promote their aroma and texture and then dried over charcoal.

Ti Quan (Kuan) Yin Oolong takes its name from the Goddess of Mercy (Quan Yin), whose statues can often be found in front of Buddhist temples. Quan Yin is a bodhisattva, i.e. a person who has earned the right to leave this world of misery and enter nirvana, but who has volunteered to stay on earth and assist others in their quest for enlightenment. Legend has it that in a village whose temple was adorned by an iron ("ti") statue of the goddess, one night Quan Yin appeared in a local farmer's dream and guided him to a cave behind the temple. There, she told him, he would find a treasure he was to tend and share with others. The treasure he did find when he went to the cave the very next morning turned out to be a small tea plant, which he took home and nursed. When it had grown to its full size, its leaves produced this particularly aromatic tea with the delicate fragrance of fruits and spices and a rich, golden color. As he had been bidden by the goddess, the farmer shared it with his neighbors, and he also dedicated it to Quan Yin in grateful appreciation of her gift.

Goddess of Mercy Oolong makes for a great refreshment at any time of day and also goes well with meals. It can be enjoyed with or without milk (or cream), and its leaves will even yield a second cup when re-infused.


Master Serie 2003
Master Serie 2003

5.0 out of 5 stars Mesdames et Messieurs: Georges Moustaki!, November 2, 2008
This review is from: Master Serie 2003 (Audio CD)
"Avec ma gueule de métèque, de Juif errant, de pâtre grec" - "with my mongrel's face, [the face] of a wandering Jew, a Greek shepherd," Georges Moustaki introduces himself in his autobiographical song "Le Métèque," which in 1969 once and for all cemented his place in the world of the French singers and songwriters; although at that time, Moustaki hardly needed an introduction any longer, having already written songs for virtually every star populating the eclectic firmament of the world of Paris's chançonniers, from Georges Brassens to Juliette Gréco, Yves Montand and the little sparrow with the big voice herself, Edith Piaf (including the words to one of her most famous chancons, "Milord").

Moustaki was born in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria, the son of Greek parents and, exposed to virtually every Mediterranean language and dialect at home and in school (his father spoke five languages, his mother six, and his classmates in the French school were, among others, of Arab, Italian, Greek, Turkish, Armenian and Maltese origin), he was a true cosmopolitan already at a very young age. At the age of seventeen, the self-declared "citoyen de la langue française" (citizen of the French language) moved to Paris, where he soon joined a circle of aspiring actors, painters and writers. Not long thereafter, a mutual friend introduced him to Georges Brassens, and he began to appear in local nightclubs. Yet, for a long time Moustaki had more success writing for others than when singing his own songs; and even "Le Métèque" was unanimously rejected when he first presented the song to record producers. Then, one night, came his appearance at a television show. And the very next morning, the record presses started rolling; to the tune of 5000 copies per day.

Ever since then, with his dark, velvety voice Moustaki has sung his songs of love and tenderness, of nature's vanishing beauty and innocence, of the suffering of the "little people" for the designs of the high and mighty, of friends loved and lost, and of little girls growing into beautiful women. Always a bit melancholy, often with a light twinkle in his eye, his melodies flow like the river which he describes in "La Carte du Tendre," that river of love and its journey from an enchanting, tender source and the happiness of taking off together through the storms of infidelity, lovers' quarrels, jealousy and the boredom of routine, until it finally comes to rest in the vast garden of "the promised land of forgiving and forgetting." Many of Moustaki's songs also reflect his roots in "that pool where black-eyed children play, with its three continents and centuries of history; its prophets and Gods" and where you find "a beautiful summer that's not afraid of fall," as he describes the Mediterranean in one of his best-known songs ("En Mediterranée").

"Les Talents du Siècle" (internationally also known as "Master Series") is a set of "best of" compilations of some of France's greatest singers and songwriters. While not anywhere near complete ("En Mediterranee" is not the only song sadly missing), it is a very good introduction to Moustaki's music, featuring 16 of his greatest successes; among them "Ma Solitude" and "Ma Liberté," both originally written for actor/singer/comedian Serge Reggiani and celebrating, respectively, that faithful companion that is loneliness, and the joys of freedom and adventure which are, nevertheless, easily discarded for "the prison of love and its beautiful jailoress" ("Ma Liberté," here rendered in a live recording). "Le Temps de Vivre," the first track of the collection, is a song underscoring one of the themes to which Moustaki returns again and again, reminding the listener to take the time to really live life, "sans projets et sans habitudes" - "without plans and without routines." "Le Facteur," which tells the heartrending story of a postman whose death, at the innocent age of seventeen, also brings about the end of the singer's romantic correspondence, was the first of several songs recalling Moustaki's friend Manos Hadjidakis. "Les Amis [de Georges]" celebrates the circle of friends assembled around trendsetter Georges Brassens; friends of Georges Moustaki as well; easily recognizable all, looking "as if from the same family" with their hair grown long before that became the fashion; reuniting in famed Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the intellectuals' hub on Paris's Rive Gauche (the neighborhoods on the left bank of the Seine); unhurried, "never losing life in order to gain it;" and their head in the stars, discussing the works of the great poets and writers Paul Verlaine, Victor Hugo and François Villon. "Joseph" is a tender ode to that modest but brave biblical man who, of all the daughters of Galilee, had to take Mary to be his wife, thus subjecting himself to secrecy and exile solely because of the "strange ideas" of the child born to his wife, instead of being able to lead the simple, happy life he might otherwise have been looking forward to. And "Il Est Trop Tard," the collection's last track, takes up the theme of the opening "Le Temps de Vivre," melancholically deploring the lost chance lying in a life not fully lived; wasted between plans, promises and empty talk.

His trademark waving hair and full beard long grown snow white, Georges Moustaki continues to write, perform his songs and travel the world, reportedly rarely staying in the same country longer than a month and instantly at home wherever his travels take him; whether in Latin America, Europe or Asia. Somehow his chançons have escaped mass marketing in North America, which in a way is probably even a good thing. Anybody who, however, has once been exposed to the gentle charm of Moustaki's voice and the deceptively simple melodies of his songs, often accompanied by little more than his own guitar, will not be able to easily forget that experience; and will want to build a larger collection of his music. This record is a very good first stepping stone.

Also recommended:
Ballades en Balade: Racines et Errances
Jardins Secrets et Terres Promises
Sagesses et chemins de fortune
Voyages et Rencontres


Moustaki ; Mastrer Serie
Moustaki ; Mastrer Serie
2 used & new from $29.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Mesdames et Messieurs: Georges Moustaki!, November 2, 2008
"Avec ma gueule de métèque, de Juif errant, de pâtre grec" - "with my mongrel's face, [the face] of a wandering Jew, a Greek shepherd," Georges Moustaki introduces himself in his autobiographical song "Le Métèque," which in 1969 once and for all cemented his place in the world of the French singers and songwriters; although at that time, Moustaki hardly needed an introduction any longer, having already written songs for virtually every star populating the eclectic firmament of the world of Paris's chançonniers, from Georges Brassens to Juliette Gréco, Yves Montand and the little sparrow with the big voice herself, Edith Piaf (including the words to one of her most famous chancons, "Milord").

Moustaki was born in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria, the son of Greek parents and, exposed to virtually every Mediterranean language and dialect at home and in school (his father spoke five languages, his mother six, and his classmates in the French school were, among others, of Arab, Italian, Greek, Turkish, Armenian and Maltese origin), he was a true cosmopolitan already at a very young age. At the age of seventeen, the self-declared "citoyen de la langue française" (citizen of the French language) moved to Paris, where he soon joined a circle of aspiring actors, painters and writers. Not long thereafter, a mutual friend introduced him to Georges Brassens, and he began to appear in local nightclubs. Yet, for a long time Moustaki had more success writing for others than when singing his own songs; and even "Le Métèque" was unanimously rejected when he first presented the song to record producers. Then, one night, came his appearance at a television show. And the very next morning, the record presses started rolling; to the tune of 5000 copies per day.

Ever since then, with his dark, velvety voice Moustaki has sung his songs of love and tenderness, of nature's vanishing beauty and innocence, of the suffering of the "little people" for the designs of the high and mighty, of friends loved and lost, and of little girls growing into beautiful women. Always a bit melancholy, often with a light twinkle in his eye, his melodies flow like the river which he describes in "La Carte du Tendre," that river of love and its journey from an enchanting, tender source and the happiness of taking off together through the storms of infidelity, lovers' quarrels, jealousy and the boredom of routine, until it finally comes to rest in the vast garden of "the promised land of forgiving and forgetting." Many of Moustaki's songs also reflect his roots in "that pool where black-eyed children play, with its three continents and centuries of history; its prophets and Gods" and where you find "a beautiful summer that's not afraid of fall," as he describes the Mediterranean in one of his best-known songs ("En Mediterranée").

"Les Talents du Siècle" (internationally also known as "Master Series") is a set of "best of" compilations of some of France's greatest singers and songwriters. While not anywhere near complete ("En Mediterranee" is not the only song sadly missing), it is a very good introduction to Moustaki's music, featuring 16 of his greatest successes; among them "Ma Solitude" and "Ma Liberté," both originally written for actor/singer/comedian Serge Reggiani and celebrating, respectively, that faithful companion that is loneliness, and the joys of freedom and adventure which are, nevertheless, easily discarded for "the prison of love and its beautiful jailoress" ("Ma Liberté," here rendered in a live recording). "Le Temps de Vivre," the first track of the collection, is a song underscoring one of the themes to which Moustaki returns again and again, reminding the listener to take the time to really live life, "sans projets et sans habitudes" - "without plans and without routines." "Le Facteur," which tells the heartrending story of a postman whose death, at the innocent age of seventeen, also brings about the end of the singer's romantic correspondence, was the first of several songs recalling Moustaki's friend Manos Hadjidakis. "Les Amis [de Georges]" celebrates the circle of friends assembled around trendsetter Georges Brassens; friends of Georges Moustaki as well; easily recognizable all, looking "as if from the same family" with their hair grown long before that became the fashion; reuniting in famed Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the intellectuals' hub on Paris's Rive Gauche (the neighborhoods on the left bank of the Seine); unhurried, "never losing life in order to gain it;" and their head in the stars, discussing the works of the great poets and writers Paul Verlaine, Victor Hugo and François Villon. "Joseph" is a tender ode to that modest but brave biblical man who, of all the daughters of Galilee, had to take Mary to be his wife, thus subjecting himself to secrecy and exile solely because of the "strange ideas" of the child born to his wife, instead of being able to lead the simple, happy life he might otherwise have been looking forward to. And "Il Est Trop Tard," the collection's last track, takes up the theme of the opening "Le Temps de Vivre," melancholically deploring the lost chance lying in a life not fully lived; wasted between plans, promises and empty talk.

His trademark waving hair and full beard long grown snow white, Georges Moustaki continues to write, perform his songs and travel the world, reportedly rarely staying in the same country longer than a month and instantly at home wherever his travels take him; whether in Latin America, Europe or Asia. Somehow his chançons have escaped mass marketing in North America, which in a way is probably even a good thing. Anybody who, however, has once been exposed to the gentle charm of Moustaki's voice and the deceptively simple melodies of his songs, often accompanied by little more than his own guitar, will not be able to easily forget that experience; and will want to build a larger collection of his music. This record is a very good first stepping stone.

Also recommended:
Ballades en Balade: Racines et Errances
Jardins Secrets et Terres Promises
Sagesses et chemins de fortune
Voyages et Rencontres


THELMA & LOUISE
THELMA & LOUISE
Offered by visionarybook
Price: $39.90
4 used & new from $39.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cult classic -- not just for feminists., November 2, 2008
This review is from: THELMA & LOUISE (DVD)
"BOOM!!" Under fire from Thelma and Louise's guns, the tongue-wagging truck-driver's pride and joy (and extension of his manhood) goes up in flames. Incredulous, its owner stares at the spectacle and lets off a pitifully helpless and, in its helplessness, hilariously comical tirade against the two female outlaws; whose only reason not to shoot him, too, at this point is that it is so utterly more poignant to let him sit all alone by the road side in the vastness of the Southwest, robbed of all attributes of male potency and left to the pity of whoever is eventually going to pick him up and give him a ride back to civilization.

By the time of this incident, Thelma has mutated from a subdued and insecure housewife to a self-assured, fearless queen of the highway. ("Something has crossed over" in her, she tells Louise shortly before their final encounter with their truck-driving nemesis.) Louise in turn, who had taken the lead early on in their flight from the police, has overcome her intermittent bout of despair and is back to her old self, too. Now wanted not only for questioning in connection with the death of the rapist shot by Louise but also for armed robbery in another state, knowing that being questioned by the police will inevitably add a charge of murder for the incident which set off their run (and probably also knowing deep down inside that there is not going to be a happy ending to their weekend trip anyway), Thelma and Louise have stopped to care what is going to happen next. Thus emboldened, they make a last great run for it, which ultimately leads them to the vast, endlessly deep gorges of the Grand Canyon.

"Thelma and Louise" is all and none of the things as which it has been described. It is about the friendship between two women, about female independence and male sexism, but it is neither a simple "chick flick" nor a monument to feminism (although I have to admit that watching it can have an almost therapeutic effect when you've just about "had it" again with the male slightly-less-than-half of society). Most of the men that Thelma and Louise encounter are two-dimensional cartoon characters, but "Reservoir Dogs" and perpetual tough guys Harvey Keitel and Michael Madsen (of all people) are cast against stereotype. The movie also features some absolutely stunning pictures of the Southwestern scenery and mostly takes place on the road, but it is not just a "road movie" (feminist or otherwise). More than anything, this is a movie about the things that shape the way we are, and about the consequences of our actions. Had Thelma learned to use her brain before and not after their encounter with Harlan the rapist, she would have seen him for what he was and avoided him from the start. Had Louise not been raped herself, she would probably not have shot Harlan at being provoked by him, after the self-defense situation was already over. Impulse? Fate? Justifiable homicide? Hardly. Thoroughly understandable? Absolutely, at least from a woman's point of view.

It takes two extraordinary lead actresses to carry the movie's theme, and Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis are the perfect embodiment of the characters they portray. Next to them, not even Keitel and Madsen really shine (although this may be in part due to the thankless parts they play); only Brad Pitt, in the role that made him an overnight star, briefly gets to sparkle. Callie Khourie was a deserving winner of the 1991 Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Original Screenplay, and both Sarandon and Davis would have been equally deserving of the Best Leading Actress awards. So would have Ridley Scott for Directing, Adrian Biddle for Cinematography, Thom Noble for Editing and the movie itself, for Best Drama -- in a year that produced many extraordinary films, it might have been more just to split some of the awards among several contenders, and despite the strong competition ("Bugsy," "Silence of the Lambs," "Prince of Tides," "The Fisher King," "Grand Canyon" and "Fried Green Tomatoes," to name just a few), it seems sadly underrated for a movie that has long since become a cult classic to only have won one of the awards it was nominated for, both on Oscar Night and at the Golden Globes.

Also recommended:
Fried Green Tomatoes (Widescreen Collector's Edition)
Dead Man Walking


Strange Weather
Strange Weather

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glenn Frey's most diverse and mature album: a small jewel; yours to discover!, October 27, 2008
This review is from: Strange Weather (Audio CD)
The year was 1980, and the "Eagles pressure cooker" had neared the point of blowing up several times throughout the production of their studio album "The Long Run," released the prior year after the three grueling years of production which had inspired its title. And now, Glenn Frey finally couldn't take it any longer. He wanted to release solo albums and produce records for and with other artists. He wanted to do things outside the music business. He wanted the fun back in his life. And so one day, shortly after the benefit concert fort California Senator Alan Cranston (D) which would be the band's last live appearance, he called up Don Henley, the other half of the songwriting duo at the core at the Eagles, and told his stunned band mate exactly this. While many other things doubtlessly also contributed to the band's breakup, this phone call played a central role in it.

Freed from the "pressure cooker," Frey in 1982 released an album tellingly entitled "No Fun Aloud," the overall mood of which was set by the light, funky, brass-inflected type of R&B which would be characteristic of his following albums as well. (Frey is from Detroit and counts Bob Seger as one of his earliest musical influences.) Songs such as "Partytown" and "I've Been Born Again" reflect feelings he may very well not have known for a while. Even the satirical "All Those Lies" is a rather tongue-in-cheek take on people who get tangled up in the web of their own lies from time to time, rather than the acid social commentary which Don Henley would churn out in his own first solo release, "I Can't Stand Still," that very same year. And while Frey did sprinkle in that occasionally more pointed note in his follow-up albums (e.g., "Better in the U.S.A." on 1984's "Allnighter," "Smuggler's Blues," written for the "Miami Vice" TV series, and the title track of 1988's "Soul Searchin'"), he mostly stayed true to the musical style coined on his first solo album.

Then came 1991's "Strange Weather." By that time, the temporary ice age between the Eagles' former members was nearing its end, although they (and Frey and Henley in particular) were still resisting big-bucks offers to reunite. But whether or not it is due at least in part to that patching up process, the tone of Frey's last studio album before the Eagles' improbable 1994 reunion is different from his prior releases. While there is still plenty of funk, brass and R&B in songs such as "Delicious" and the only half-joking "Love in the 21st Century," a reflective mode dominates the arrangements of the title track, the inspiring "River of Dreams" (dedicated to Frey's wife Cindy) and the two short instrumentals "Silent Spring" (named for scientist-conservationist Rachel Carson's seminal book on the dangers of pesticides and dedicated to its author) and "Agua Tranquillo" (dedicated to celebrated Chicano writer Sandra Cisneros). The album also contains Glenn Frey's contribution to the "Thelma and Louise" soundtrack, "Part of Me, Part of You," and interpretations of works by Anne Rice and Stephen King, both of which excellently convey the mood set by the two authors' books: While "A Walk in the Park" instantly transposes you into Anne Rice's nightly New Orleans (celebrating the mysterious beauty of the night, however; no word of the vampire's anguish expressed in Sting's "Moon Over Bourbon Street"), in listening to "Brave New World" you cannot help but feel placed right in the middle of a scene from Stephen King's "The Stand" which, as the liner notes explain, Frey was reading when he wrote the song.

Perhaps most importantly, Frey no longer holds back with his opinions about politics and society: "I've Got Mine" and "Big Life" deplore modern society's self-centeredness and materialism, and the words and music to "He Took Advantage" (subtitled: "Blues for Ronald Reagan") could have come right off Don Henley's "End of the Innocence." To an edgy blues rhythm laced with grating guitar riffs, Frey intones his farewell to an obviously not missed president: "He looked you right in the eyes and told those beautiful lies ... He used us and betrayed us and made it seem alright; he turned his back on everyone, I don't know how he sleeps at night. And now he's walking away; he doesn't care what we say. We weren't too hard to deceive; we wanted so to believe. He was too good to be true; he took advantage of you."

Musically and in terms of production, the album benefits from Frey's cooperation with trusted friends Jack Tempchin, Jay Oliver and Eliot Scheiner, all masters in their respective fields; and while it lacks the "all star" cast for which Don Henley's solo releases soon became known - in fact, almost all instruments are played by Frey and Oliver - names such as Ben Tench (organ in "River of Dreams"), Al Garth (sax solo in "River of Dreams"), and Valerie Carter (background vocals) do stand out. All in all, "Strange Weather" is a wonderfully diverse platform for Glenn Frey's musical range, and for the range of his bright tenor which to this day (as last heard in yesterday's Concert for Artists' Rights in L.A.) has lost nothing of its force and still sounds not a day older than when Frey was in his 20s. This album may not be groundbreaking - which it has never pretended to be in the first place anyway - but it would have deserved much more attention than it has received since its release almost 20 years ago.

Also recommended:
Solo Collection
The Eagles - Hell Freezes Over
Selected Works: 1972-1999
Hotel California
Long Road Out of Eden Deluxe Edition


A Few Good Men [UMD for PSP]
A Few Good Men [UMD for PSP]
DVD ~ Association of Former Fish Drill Team
6 used & new from $2.35

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unit - Corps - God - Country., September 9, 2008
How much critical thought can the military allow its rank and file? Certainly most orders must be followed unquestioningly; otherwise ultimately the entire Armed Services would collapse. But where do you draw the line? Does it matter how well soldiers know not only their military but also their civic duties? Does it matter whether trials against members of the military are handled by way of court-martials, or before a country's ordinary courts?

I first saw "A Few Good Men" as an in-flight movie, and after the first couple of scenes I thought that for once they'd really picked the right kind of flick: A bit cliched (yet another idle, unengaged lawyer being dragged into vigorously pursuing a case against his will), but good actors, a good director and a promising storyline.

Then the movie cut from the introductory scenes in Washington, D.C. to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Jack Nicholson (Colonel Nathan Jessup) inquired: "Who the f**k is PFC William T. Santiago?"

And suddenly I was all eyes and ears.

Director Rob Reiner and Nicholson's costars describe on the movie's DVD how from the first time Nicholson spoke this (his very first) line in rehearsal he had everybody's attention; and the overall bar for a good performance immediately rose to new heights. Based on my own reaction, I believe them sight unseen. Or actually, not really "unseen," as the result of Nicholson's influence is there for everybody to watch: Never mind that he doesn't actually have all that much screen time, his intensity as an actor and the personality of his character, Colonel Jessup, dominate this movie more than anything else; far beyond the now-famous final showdown with Tom Cruise's Lieutenant Kaffee. Nobody could have brought more power to the role of Jessup than Nicholson, no other actor made him a more complex figure, and nobody delivered his final monologue so as to force you to think about the issues he (and this film) addresses; and that despite all the movie's cliches: The reluctant lawyer turning out a courtroom genius (as lead counsel in a murder trial, barely a year out of law school and without *any* prior trial experience, no less), the son fighting to rid himself of a deceased superstar-father's overbearing shadow, and the "redneck" background of the victim's superior officer Lieutenant Kendrick (Kiefer Sutherland, who nevertheless milks the role for all it's worth).

Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, who adapted his own play, reportedly based the story's premise - the attempted cover-up of a death resulting from an illegal pseudo-disciplinary action - on a real-life case that his sister, a lawyer, had come across in the JAG Corps. (Although even if I take his assertion at face value that assigning the matter to a junior lawyer without trial experience was part of the cover-up, I still don't believe the real case continued the way it does here. But be that as it may.) Worse, the victim is a marine serving at "Gitmo," the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, where *any* kind of tension assumes an entirely different dimension than in virtually any other location. In come Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and co-counsels Lt. Sam Weinberg (Kevin Pollack) and Lt.Cmdr. JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore), assigned to defend the two marines held responsible for Santiago's death; L.Cpl. Harold Dawson (Wolfgang Bodison) and PFC Louden Downey (James Marshall), who claim to have acted on Kendrick's orders to subject Santiago to a "code red," an act of humiliating peer-punishment, after Santiago had gone outside the chain of command to rat on a fellow marine (none other than Dawson), attempting to obtain a transfer out of "Gitmo." But while Kendrick sternly denies having given any such order and prosecuting attorney Captain Ross (Kevin Bacon) is ready to have the defendants' entire company swear that Kendrick actually ordered them to leave Santiago alone, Kaffee and Co. believe their clients' story - which ultimately leads them to Jessup himself, as it is unthinkable that the event should have occurred without his knowledge or even specific direction.

By the time of this movie's production, Tom Cruise had made the part of the shallow youngster suddenly propelled into manhood one of his trademark characters (see, e.g., "The Color of Money," "Top Gun" and "Rain Man"); nevertheless, his considerable skill (mostly) elevates Kaffee's part above cardboard level. Demi Moore gives one of her strongest-ever performances as Commander Galloway, who would love to be lead counsel herself in accordance with her rank's entitlements, but overcomes her disappointment to push Kaffee to a top-notch performance instead. Kevin Pollack's, Kevin Bacon's and J.T. Walsh's (Jessup's deputy Lt.Col. Markinson's) performances are straight-laced enough to easily be overlooked, but they're fine throughout and absolutely crucial foils for Kaffee, Galloway and Jessup; and so, vis-a-vis Dawson, is James Marshall's shy, scared Downey, who is clearly in way over his head. The movie's greatest surprise, however, is Wolfgang Bodison, who, although otherwise involved with the production, had never acted before being drafted by Rob Reiner solely on the basis of his physical appearance, which matched Dawson's better than any established actor's; and who gives a stunning performance as the young Lance Corporal who will rather be convicted of murder than take an unhonorable plea bargain, yet comes to understand his actions' full complexity upon hearing the jury's verdict.

"Unit - corps - God - country" is the code of honor according to which, Dawson tells Kaffee, the marines at "Gitmo" live their lives; and Colonel Jessup declares that under his command orders are followed "or people die," and words like "honor," "code" and "loyalty" to him are the backbone of a life spent defending freedom. Proud words for sure: But for the "code red," but for the trespass over that invisible line between a legal and an immoral, illegal order they might well be justified. That line, however, exists, and is drawn even in a non-public court-martial. I'd like to believe that insofar at least, this movie gets it completely right.

Also recommended:
Basic
Rules of Engagement
The Firm
The Border
Guantanamo: 'Honor Bound to Defend Freedom'
The Caine Mutiny (Collector's Edition)


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