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National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation [VHS]
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation [VHS]
Offered by Michael Belfield
Price: $7.95
241 used & new from $0.75

171 of 185 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's Christmas, and We're All in Misery . . . ., December 30, 2000
With apologies to Jimmy Stewart and Ralphie Parker, this is my favorite Christmas movie of all time. If you are reading this because you have never seen "Christmas Vacation", stop right now and go to the video store and rent it. Then come back here and order your own copy because you'll want to watch it over and over again each holiday season.
The undisputed gem of the National Lampoon 'Vacation' series, the plot can be summed up very simply: idealistic family man Clark Griswold wants to host the perfect old-fashioned fun family Christmas. As all of us idealistic family men have discovered, there is no such thing as a perfect holiday, and that just about sums it up. The appeal of this film is that we can all relate to the disasters that holidays can become, regardless of how well-meaning we are and how hard we work to achieve them.
The cast is terrific. Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo (Ellen) are back as the Griswolds, with Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki assuming the roles of Audrey and Rusty. John Randolph and Diane Ladd are Clark's parents, while E.G. Marshall and the ultimate mother-in-law, Doris Roberts are Ellen's parents. Nicholas Guest and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss are Todd and Margo, the yuppie neighbors. William Hickey and Mae Questel (the voice of Betty Boop and Olive Oyl) nearly steal the show as Uncle Lewis and senile Aunt Bethany. Randy Quaid does steal the show - his "cousin-in-law" Eddie is one of the all-time great characters in recent comedy history.
The self-inflicted situations that befall Clark in his holiday quest are peppered with memorable dialogue and slapstick, yet believable enough to bring flickers of recognition to most viewers. Witness his mishaps on the roof putting up the lights; getting trapped in the attic; spending his Christmas bonus before he gets it; dealing with his snooty neighbors; and getting hilariously tongue-tied at the lingerie counter and being remarkably eloquent when he gets his "bonus". Admit it. We've all been there.
A holiday movie should be one that holds up to repeated viewings, and this one does. Besides the excellent cast and the familiar situations, there is a great score by Angelo Badalamenti (Twin Peaks), the animated opening credits sequence, and some fine tunes such as "Hey Santa Claus" by the Moonglows! There are numerous little touches that you might not catch the first several times - check out the shape of the packages in Mr. Shirley's office when Clark gives him his gift, and see what happens to the light bulbs Clark puts in the cart at the Wal-Mart.
I suspect, like in our home, "Christmas Vacation" has become a sort of institution in many homes each holiday season. We like to get together with friends to watch it, with everyone dressing as a character from the movie. We eat green jello with "cat food" in it, stand and join in the Pledge of Allegiance and the Star Spangled Banner, recite the lines along with the characters, and give thanks that our holidays are at least a little better than the Griswolds'.
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Live in Paradise [VHS]
Live in Paradise [VHS]
6 used & new from $4.24

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rare look at a bluesman practicing his craft, December 27, 2000
This review is from: Live in Paradise [VHS] (VHS Tape)
The concert video "Luther Allison, Live in Paradise", provides a rare look at a true bluesman practicing his craft. Allison's live performances, as captured on several live cd's, were legendary. (When he was young, it was not unusual for him to perform nearly 4 hours onstage!) This particular video was filmed on the island of La Reunion, east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean; for much of his career, Allison lived in France and made only occasional appearances in the United States. Despite the concert clocking in at just about 2 1/2 hours, Allison's stamina and energy make it hard to believe that he would die of lung cancer less than 4 months later.
Allison had relatively recently returned to the US to record two cd's for Alligator records - "Blue Streak" and "Reckless". Highlights include "Cherry Red Wine" and "Move From the Hood" from the former, and "Pain in the Streets" and "It's a Blues Thing" from the latter. His longtime writing and performing partner, James Solberg, does not appear, nor do his bandmates from those recordings. Instead, he introduces "The New Luther Allison Band", a group of younger players that sometimes has a hard time keeping up with him, with one exception. The young Dutch keyboard player, Roel Spanjers, displays exceptional talent. The same cannot be said of the horns, Boney Fields on trumpet and Gib Monks on tenor, who appear sluggish at times and seemingly suffer from fatigue. An unusually ragged rendition of "Just As I Am" comes a bit past midway through the concert, but Allison redeems himself with some nice slide guitar on son Bernard's "Low Down and Dirty" and an extended version of Elmore Jame's classic "The Sky is Crying". On the latter, Allison wanders through the appreciative crowd. He also shows he can rock and roll with a lively crowd-pleasing rocker called "Parking Lot".
The encore numbers include a solid "Serious", during which Allison introduces his band, and short renditions of "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and "You Are So Beautiful". Allison seems to be enjoying himself very much and could probably have played all night if only the band could have kept up.
I have enjoyed Luther Allison's music for several years and enjoyed this chance to see him perform. Despite his fellow performers, Allison does not disappoint; his singing and playing are just as strong and emotional as ever. The man alone earns 4 stars for putting everything he had into the performance. Had he had a better band behind him, it would have been 5 stars, easy.

Blues All Around Me: The Autobiography of B. B. King
Blues All Around Me: The Autobiography of B. B. King
by David Ritz
Edition: Paperback
46 used & new from $0.01

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From the Heart, November 28, 2000
Reading "Blues All Around Me" is like sitting down with the man himself and having the good sense to just sit and listen and keep your mouth shut. Speaking candidly, B.B. King reveals himself to be a very down-to-earth and genuinely likeable man who rose from an incredibly humble beginning to become the most beloved bluesman of all time. No subject is off-limits, and King approaches them all with the same honesty that he puts into his music. Despite his struggle to succeed and survive in a rascist world, his views on racism will surprise you. Also particularly interesting to me were his insights into his musical influences, developing his signature sound, and his comments about younger bluesmen like Stevie Ray Vaughn, whom he considered almost a son. The stories and comments in this book will stay with you long after you have put it down.
By the way, contributor David Ritz has also collaborated on autobiographies of Etta James, Ray Charles, and Aretha Franklin. He had the good sense to sit back and listen to these folks as well. Warts and all, these books reveal the artists from the heart.

Let the Good Times Roll: The Music of Louis Jordan
Let the Good Times Roll: The Music of Louis Jordan
38 used & new from $0.97

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fitting Tribute to Louis Jordan, November 5, 1999
I listened to Louis Jordan performing many of these same songs just the other day and couldn't wait to hear how BB's new album would compare. Rest assured that BB has captured the spirit and the heart and soul of Jordan's music. This phenomenal album presents 18 of the master's work with love and affection from an artist who has every right to phone it in at this point in his career. But he's not called the King of the Blues for nothing - these songs are delivered with the utmost care and respect that is obvious from the first few bars. In his autobiography, BB King cites Jordan and T-Bone Walker (along with Blind Lemon Jefferson) as his strongest influences, and he has produced a fitting tribute to an artist well ahead of his time. The band he has assembled for this album reads like an R&B Hall of Fame roster - Fathead Newman and Hank Crawford, Dr. John, and Marcus Belgrave. Though King has recently tossed in a few of Jordan's songs in his concerts and albums, it is a rare and unexpected treat to listen to a whole album dedicated to him. I saw BB in concert in September at his blues festival and can testify to the fact that he is just as good as ever. He seemed to be having more fun than he has ever had, too. This album proves it.

The Van [VHS]
The Van [VHS]
Offered by VHS movies for your VCR
Price: $39.88
16 used & new from $1.94

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful movie, November 2, 1999
This review is from: The Van [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I guess Leonard Maltin just didn't get it. This is a fitting conclusion to Roddy Doyle's Dublin trilogy, following The Commitments and The Snapper. It is in the same class as those two classics in the way that it portrays life in working class Dublin warts and all, with no excuses. Colm Meaney (Larry) and Donal O'Kelly (Bimbo) play two out-of-work regular guys who invest in a "chipper" van to earn some money but mostly to regain some of their self-respect. Neither of the main characters is entirely likeable all the time, but I wouldn't be either if I were out of work. Whether or not the friendship between the two men can survive is the heart of the story. As in all three of the movies in the series, The Van uses mostly unknown actors to tell its simple story of regular people playing the hand they were dealt. If you are a football (soccer) fan, you'll savor the scenes from the 1990 World Cup as seen through the eyes of the rabid Irish fans. As he did in The Snapper, director Stephen Frears has expertly captured the look and feel of Dublin and given us characters to care about. Rent this one and see for yourself, and hope that the video becomes available for a more reasonable price.

The Snapper [VHS]
The Snapper [VHS]
Offered by duppyday
Price: $19.95
29 used & new from $0.79

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wickedly funny, November 2, 1999
This review is from: The Snapper [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Based on the second book in Roddy Doyle's Dublin trilogy, The Snapper is a wickedly funny glimpse into the lives of a working class Irish family. The eldest daughter of a large family becomes pregnant and refuses to name the father. Not your traditional comic premise, but in this case it works beautifully. The characters are fully developed and presented in such a manner that you care deeply about them, and experience their pain as well as their joy. Veteran actor Colm Meaney (Star Trek DS9), who appears in the other two films that make up the trilogy (The Commitments and The Van), masterfully carries the story as the father of the unruly brood. He comes across as a good man who tries to do the right thing and loves his family, but is painfully human at every turn. The rest of the cast is mostly unknown but very believable and capable. I highly recommend this film (and the books, too). It may be the closest you ever get to Dublin without actually crossing the Atlantic.

The Commitments [VHS]
The Commitments [VHS]
Offered by tammystunezz
Price: $3.88
57 used & new from $0.01

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Roddy Doyle's modern Irish classic, November 2, 1999
This review is from: The Commitments [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Quite simply, this is one of my all-time favorite films. Based on the first book of Roddy Doyle's Dublin trilogy, The Commitments is more than a story of a bunch of Irish kids forming a soul band. From the harsh realities of poverty to the power of the Irish spirit, this movie is a portrait of life in working class Dublin, and is true to Doyle's book in every way. It is raw and irreverant, extremely funny but also poignant. One of the remarkable aspects of this film is the cast of virtual unknowns - all actually Irish, thank goodness. Andrew Strong, who plays the lead singer, was only about 16 when the movie was filmed, and he did his own vocals. In fact, the cast is extremely musically talented and appears on two very good soundtrack volumes. The one familiar face belongs to veteran actor Colm Meaney (Miles O'Brien on Star Trek TNG/DS9). Meaney also appears in the two other films from the trilogy, The Snapper and The Van. Rent them all and have an Irish film festival! If you want to be entertained with great soul music while being magically whisked away to Dublin, by all means buy this video so you can watch it over and over again.

12 used & new from $0.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funky stuff from the Master of the Telecaster, August 20, 1999
This review is from: Iceman (Audio CD)
The word "blues" here might be a little misleading. Don't misunderstand me - Albert was one of the great bluesmen. It's just that this album doesn't fall so neatly into the blues category. With an incredibly tight band, especially Johnny B Gayden on bass, this CD will make you move. Try to sit still while listening to "Travellin' South" or "Mr. Collins, Mr. Collins". As always, Albert's trademark cool, crisp guitar, punctuated by horns and held together by his distinctive vocals are combined with his unique sense of humor to deliver his own brand of funky blues. Nobody shuffled like Albert. If you don't own a "blues" album, try this one on for size. You'll thank me. And then you'll want more.

Hand Me Down My Moonshine
Hand Me Down My Moonshine
Offered by the_music_store
Price: $19.98
21 used & new from $4.50

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Luther Unplugged, August 20, 1999
"Hand Me Down My Moonshine" is a superb acoustic album featuring Luther and his son Bernard on guitars, recorded while he was still living in Paris. If you are only familiar with his electric guitar playing, this is a real treat. No bells and whistles, only the fine interplay of the two guitars and of course the emotional vocals that are Luther's trademark. The songs on this CD recall the old masters, and you'll hear the influence of Robert Johnson and Lightnin' Hopkins on cuts like "Lightning Bolt", "Don't Burn My Bread", and "You're The One". Put this one on and close your eyes. You'll swear you're sitting on the back porch at the Allison's, a special guest of one of the finest bluesmen that ever lived. A must for any serious Luther Allison fan.

Blue Streak
Blue Streak
Price: $12.68
45 used & new from $2.69

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This will be one of your favorite CD's, August 18, 1999
This review is from: Blue Streak (Audio CD)
Luther Allison's Blue Streak is simply one of the best blues albums around. There is not a disappointing track on the entire CD. From the infectious wood-block beat of "What have I Done Wrong" to the heart-wrenching "Cherry Red Wine", Allison poured his heart and soul into every cut. The combination of Allison's powerful vocals and virtuoso guitar playing blend perfectly; neither takes the back seat to the other. If you have never heard Luther Allison, give this CD a listen. Then, like me, you'll be a fan and want to have all of his CD's. Rest in peace, Luther.

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