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Wayne Klein "If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.-Albert Einstein" RSS Feed (My Little Blue Window, USA)
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Deadwood: The Complete Series [Blu-ray]
Deadwood: The Complete Series [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Timothy Olyphant
Offered by Nickelflix Entertainment
Price: $129.99
13 used & new from $79.54

5.0 out of 5 stars Deadwood fans and all the hoopleheads in the world will enjoy this boxed set with the (in)complete series on Blu-ray, April 14, 2014
David Milch's "Deadwood" found a strong cult audience and kudos unfortunately it wasn't enough to save the series from being axed by HBO due to cost (HBO wanted to use the money to develop further series) along with the historical drama "Rome" (after two seasons).

SPOILERS:

The high quality writing of the series and the fact the fact that the series was based on real historical characters and situations in Deadwood, South Dakota after prospecting exploded there. Merchant and former U.S. Marshall Seth Bollock (Timothy Olyphant) and Sol Star (John Hawkes) head to the prospecting town to open a hardware store for the miners.The married Bollock becomes involved with Alma Garrett (Molly Parker) after her husband is suckered into buying a gold mine that was believed to be tapped out. Garrett's husband is killed to cover up the scam by Al Swearengen's (Ian McShane) employee Dan Dority (W. Earl Brown).

Wild Bill Hickock (Keith Carradine) asks Bollock to become Garrett's representative as Swearengen and others try and buy the claim from her. When Bollock's wife (Anna Gunn) arrives with her son, things become complicated for Bollock and things become further complicated as George Hearst arrives to try and buyby hook or by crook all the claims.

END OF SPOILERS:

A rich, marvelously written and imagined series (full of profanity, nudity, gore and sex--so be aware!), "Deadwood" may have been shot in the back by HBO of the head much like Hickock but that doesn't stop this from being essential viewing. Although Milch was offered funds (in a half hearted attempt to quell upset fans and Milch) to wrap things up in a pair of two hour movies, the series still stands very well on its own without having all the loose ends tied up. For those who haven't viewed all three seasons--rest assured that the story arc of season three is largely concluded.

The blu-ray looks exceptionally good with a nice transfer with deep, rich blacks and colors that positively pop. You can almost taste the grit and smell the manure of the camp.

The audio is top notch with a strong sounding DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix that is immersive--you are put into the action of the series.

The special features are exceptional for this set. We get a 17 commentary tracks for the entire series ( some episodes feature multiple commentary tracks and usually featuring the actors and/or writer-producer-creator David Milch) . We get four strong featurettes on the making of the first season including one on the real Deadwood.

The second season includes a sequel short documentary on the historical Deadwood specific to the events of the season two along with a 70 minute documentary on the making of the last episode of season two giving valuable insights into the creative process of the show.

The third season likewise features a short documentary on the events that occurred in real life in Deadwood and how they are reflected in the fictional series. We also get a featurette on the evolving relationship between Swearengen and Bollock. The second and third season also has photo galleries comparing the real characters to their fictional counterparts.

The big plus with this three season set is the 13th disc that features exclusive where Milch discusses his reaction to the cancelation notice and the lack of follow through on the a possible fourth season or the pair of feature length films that HBO had offerred to bankroll to close out the series. Milch is surprisingly honest about his feelings regarding all of this given that this was produced by HBO. We also get another historical featurette and a 60 minute question and answer discussion with the cast of the show. Closing out the special features is "Deadwood 360°" where Milch and his production designer give us a tour of the sets and an amusing "Deadwood Audition Reel" where comedian Titus Welliver impersonates famous actors as if they were auditioning for the Swearengen.

The discs are housed in a hardcover "book" and slide out. For the DVD edition this was a bit more problematic as DVDs tend to scratch more easily than Blu-rays. If you're concerned about the discs becoming scratched you could put them in stand alone Blu-ray containers.

Prematurely cancelled, "Deadwood" was (and remains) a terrific series with strong performances and writing. While it won't be everyone's cup of tea, the terrific direction and production values make this a keeper.


All Alone in the End / Thunder Island / Real Life Ain't This Way
All Alone in the End / Thunder Island / Real Life Ain't This Way
Offered by Fulfillment Express US
Price: $19.05
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fine reissue of first three Jay Ferguson solo albums., April 13, 2014
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Although Jay Ferguson makes his living today writing soundtracks (he wrote the theme to the TV show "The Office" for example), he was, at one time, a well regarded rock musician with hits from his two bands under his belt (Spirit and Jo Jo Gunne). This three albums on two CD release features three of Ferguson's best solo albums two of which boasted hit singles when they were released--"Thunder Island" and "Shakedown Cruise"--along with a nice booklet featuring new comments from Ferugson about the making of these albums.

"All Alone in the End Zone" was a surprise departure for those who only knew Ferguson from Jo Jo Gunne--the album moves away from the harder rock boogie of his previous band focusing on a pop-rock sensibility. Produced by Bill Szymczyk (Eagles, Joe Walsh, B.B. King among others), the production adds a sheen that compliments the album. Since Szymczyk had worked with Ferguson before on the second and third Jo Jo Gunne albums, he had a sympathetic approach as a producer to Ferguson's material.

"All Alone in the End Zone" is a fine debut although it isn't quite as accomplished as Ferguson's second (and more popular) album also produced by Szymczyk. "Thunder Island" had a big hit single with the title track although it only drove the album to #72 on the Billboard charts. It's a strong album over all but it's a pity that a second single didn't drive it higher in the charts.

His third solo album (they are pictured out of order on the cover) "Real Life Ain't This Way" had a laid back feel overall and, although it had another single that did well--"Shakedown Cruise"--it also failed to propel the album into the top reaches of the Billboard charts (it charted at #86). Perhaps due to touring and recording, Ferguson seemed to have a shortage of strong original material for the album as indicated by the medley of Stones songs that closes out the album ("Let's Spend the Night Together/Have You Seen Your Mother, Standing in the Shadow"). While "Real Life" isn't quite as strong as "Thunder Island", it does have its moments including "Paying Time" with Joe Walsh on guitar.

As with all releases from Edsel, this features a nice booklet with comments from Ferguson. The albums here sound very close to the Collector's Choice releases for Ferguson meaning that they have very straight forward transfers to CD without digital tweaking, a large degree of compression.

With the Collector's Choice CDs out of print, this might be the way to go to collec these three albums for fans of Ferguson and Edsel does a fine job (unlike the Robert Palmer releases where it appears that mp3's were the source) putting together these three albums.


Two Mules For Sister Sara (Blu-ray + DIGITAL HD with UltraViolet)
Two Mules For Sister Sara (Blu-ray + DIGITAL HD with UltraViolet)
DVD ~ Clint Eastwood
Price: $13.86
5 used & new from $13.52

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining Eastwood western receives a nice blu-ray transfer, April 5, 2014
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"Two Mules for Sister Sara" brings together two Hollywood icons--Clint Eastwood and Shriley MacLaine in an unusual western that is, essentially, "The African Queen" in the old west.

Eastwood plays Hogan a drifter who saves Sister Sara (MacLaine)from being raped by outlaws.In the process the duo become embroiled in the Mexican fight against the French. It seems that Sara has something that the French want as they continue to pursue her and Hogan.

Directed by Don Siegel with a marvelous score by Ennio Morricone "Two Mules for Sister Sara" marked Eastwood's second American western since becoming a star with the Sergio Leone films. Although the script has its flaws, "Two Mules" largely works because of the performances (particularly Eastwood who introduces a bit more of a comedic element to his performance here), Siegel's sharp direction and the score. The film features some beautiful photography.

The blu-ray looks exceptionally good with a crisp, sharp presentation that doesn't relay on edge enhancement to sharpen the image. Detail is strong throughout. This is the same transfer that was released last year in the UK so if you have that version, there isn't any improvements or differences here to note.

The film receives a nice looking transfer that is largely free of any sort of blemishes.

The audio sounds quite nice with a good mono 2.0 presentation of the original soundtrack that is faithful to the intent of the filmmakers. Dialog is clear for the most part and subtitles are included. There's some depth to the mono presentation here as well.

Sadly we don't get any special features. Given the stature of Eastwood and MacLaine one would expect that. Heck, I would expect it for director Don Siegel since he's a well regarded filmmaker who made a number of classic films ("Invasin of the Body Snatchers", "Dirty Harry")and was Eastwood's mentor as a director. We get a vintage trailer and that's all/.

"Two Mules for Sister Sara" is an entertaining western. I loved it as a kid and continue to enjoy it today (although I grew up on the pan and scan version this is the version I learned to appreciated when I later saw it at a revival house).

Recommended


Joe Kidd (Blu-ray + DIGITAL HD with UltraViolet)
Joe Kidd (Blu-ray + DIGITAL HD with UltraViolet)
DVD ~ Clint Eastwood
Price: $13.86
4 used & new from $13.51

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable Eastwood western looks quite nice in Blu-ray debut, April 4, 2014
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Although "Joe Kidd" isn't Clint Eastwood's best western, it's very good with a strong supporting cast (Robert Duvall, Don Stroud, John Saxon) and the Universal blu-ray of the film looks quite nice.

Kidd (Eastwood) finds himself released from jail and roped into hunting down a Mexican revolutionary (Saxon) who threatens the holdings of a wealthy land owner (Duvall). Kidd finds himself working for a man he despises to help kill a man he comes to respect.

While the conclusion of the film is a bit simple, the sharp direction by John Stuges ("The Magnificent Seven", "The Great Escape") and the characterizations from Elmore Leonard ("Justified", "Get Shorty", "Out of Sight") plus the performances from a top notch cast make "Joe Kidd" a worthwhile western.

For those who are curious, the film is complete (evidently there was an earlier DVD that was missing a few key scenes).

The blu-ray from Universal looks quite nice. The grainy images you see here is how the film has always looked and is intended to look. Detail is, with the exception of one scene, sharp and colors positively pop.

The vintage mono audio sounds quite nice with dialog up front in the presentation and surprising depth for a vintage audio presentation like this.

Sadly Universal has elected not to provide us with any special features. I can't recall if there were any promotional making of featurettes produced for the film (it was pretty common at the time but I can't find anything or any information online about one being produced). It's a pity that Universal elected not to add a commentary track or provide some sort of special featurs for the film given its star, writer and director. We do get a vintage trailer for the film.

Although "Joe Kidd" isn't a great movie, it is an entertaining western and quite enjoyable.


Original Album Classics
Original Album Classics
Price: $21.62
55 used & new from $15.92

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spirit's first five albums with bonus tracks for the first four and the out-of-print fifth album nicely remastered., April 4, 2014
This review is from: Original Album Classics (Audio CD)
A terrific band that combined jazz and rock creating a unique hybrid, Spirit had a couple of hits but never managed to break through. That has nothing to do with the quality of their music--written largely by Jay Ferguson (later of Jo Jo Gunne and a solo artist with two hit singles under his belt), Randy California and John Locke--but circumstance including the fact that their producer Lou Adler didn't want the band to play Woodstock played a part in the band not quite finding the large following they deserved. California's unique playing (a very talented guitarist who had played with Hendrix and was offered the chance to go to England with Hendrix) along with the songwriting would have made this group huge if they had played Woodstock.

This collection takes the band's essential first four albums (Ferguson and bassist Mark Andes left the band to form Jo Jo Gunne while California left briefly after an injoury but later returned after a fifth album without him) adding bonus tracks and remastered along with the criminally underrated fifth album with two new members (ironically one of whom would end up joining Jo Jo Gunne while former Jo Jo Gunne guitarist Matt Andes would eventually join as well) featuring Al and John Staehely.

The first four albums are, as mentioned ALL essential--the band defined its own style mixing a variety of genres and blending them in a unique fashion. Each album has the bonus tracks carried over from the individual remasters from 1996.

The fifth album features the original 10 tracks from the album. The Collector's Choice reissue of the fifth album featured a bonus track not included here ("New York").

Each album is presented in mini-LP style cardboard jackets (but the albums that had gatefold sleeves are not replicated) with no notes.

This is a bargain for the band's first five albums and, given that the Collector's Choice release with the bonus track is out of print, this is a good way to gain all five in nicely mastered edtions.

Recommended.


Asylum Recordings 2
Asylum Recordings 2
Price: $13.98
22 used & new from $8.53

4.0 out of 5 stars Third and fourth albums by cult rockers along with two bonus outtakes from the sessions--reissue of the Rhino Handmade, March 28, 2014
This review is from: Asylum Recordings 2 (Audio CD)
Jo Jo Gunne's third and fourth albums finally saw a CD release as part of the Rhino Handmade series back in 2000. For those who missed out buying them then, "The Asylum Years Volume 1" and "The Asylum Years Volume 2" were long sought after by fans and collectors of this cult band.

Founded by Jay Ferguson and Mark Andes both (former members of the band Spirit), Jo Jo Gunne had one top 40 hit ("Run Run Run") but quickly lost their momentum ( due to the lack of another hit single along with, perhaps, the cover for their third album "Jumping The Gunne" not helping matters). That's too bad because Ferguson created catchy, memorable rock music.

This set collects the third and fourth albums by the band and includes two outtakes from the sessions--one an unfinished backing track and the other a largely completed track that didn't make either album.

Unlike the Rhino Handmade, this set doesn't have any involved booklet with a history of the band or the making of the albums. We get a simple fold out insert for the cover which has the album credits as well as the credits for the reissue.

This is a clone of the original CD which Bob Fisher originally mastered (the outtakes were mixed by Bill Inglot for the original release).

I haven't heard the Edsel release which collects all four albums without the bonus tracks but (evidently) with a nice booklet on the band but have heard that the mastering there is compressed and too loud (which I'm a bit surprised by given that Edsel has, largely done some nice reissues although they have had their issues like the screw up with the Robert Palmer reissues). The good news is that due to the efforts of the folks at Wounded Bird (along with Collector's Choice and Edsel in the recent past), Jo Jo Gunne gets an opportunity to be rediscovered by a new audience.

It's tragic that Jo Jo Gunne has been largely forgotten (much less the great band Spirit) and this release helps to correct that oversight.

Recommended although I would start with Volume 1 first since it has their debut which also happens to be their finest album.

For those interested the band did reform in 2005 and release a new album that comprised some of their older material along with some new songs and might be worth seeking out if you are a fan.


Asylum Recordings 1
Asylum Recordings 1
Price: $13.43
23 used & new from $9.25

4.0 out of 5 stars A reissue of the Rhino Handmade (just missing the booklet) of Jo Jo Gunne's first two albums plus three bonus tracks, March 28, 2014
This review is from: Asylum Recordings 1 (Audio CD)
Unfortunately forgotten by many music fans, Jo Jo Gunne made four memorable albums but only managed to have one top 40 hit. Jay Ferguson and bassist Mark Andes left their previous band Spirit (Randy California also left going solo before returning to the band. He continued recording as Spirit until his untimely death in 1997). Although their discography was a bit uneven, all four are essential for fans.

Originally released as part of the Rhino Handmade series of limited edition releases, Wounded Bird has reissued all four albums plus the 5 previous unreleased tracks that were all part of the original release. The first volume here includes the band's first two albums plus two outtakes from the sessions and one demo.

I haven't heard the Edsel reissues of the first two albums (they were released as a two CD single set that also included the band's third and fourth albums) but word is that they are compressed and loud (which is a surprise given that Phil Kincade who has done other fine work for Edsel was involved. I should note, however, that Edsel has reissued some terrific titles and some duds such as the Robert Palmer reissues).

These appear to be straight clones of the original Rhino Handmade release. The only difference are that, beyond the credits for the albums, there isn't any essays or involved comments on the making of the albums as there was with the previous release.

The mastering by Bob Fisher compliments the music. Pick this up while you can as it won't be in print forever.


1970-1987
1970-1987
Price: $49.20
60 used & new from $34.37

4.0 out of 5 stars Ry Cooder's first 11 solo albums (not including soundtracks) in nice reproductions of the original sleeves, some remasters, March 27, 2014
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This review is from: 1970-1987 (Audio CD)
Playing with everyone from The Rolling Stones, The Monkees to the Buena Vista Social Club, Ry Cooder remains an American gem who understands rock, gospel and the blues better than most guitarists.

The 1970-1987 collection takes Cooder's 11 solo albums for Warner Brothers (his soundtrack work isn't included in this set), repackages them in mini-LP sleeves (including gatefold in one instance duplicating the original artwork), replicas of the original labels used with some of these classic albums pulled from the Japanese remasters done between 2007-2009 (but not all).

Nicely packaged in a high quality box, the only downfall with this set is that all of the albums haven't been remastered (so there's some inconsistency in the sound of the discs although all of them sound from very good to exceptional) and there's no booklet to give us credits or the background for each album. It appears the bulk of these are the original Lee Herschberg CDs (which sounded terrific) while at least three here are from other sources.

With a set that features such nice detailed replicas of the original sleeves, it would be nice if Warner/Rhino would spent just a bit more money (it wouldn't add to the cost of the box all that much) and include a booklet with pictures, interviews or comments from Ry and information on the recording of each album (do like I did and suggest that, in the future, they include a booklet with a bit of history about the making of the albums, credits, etc. to Dr. Rhino at the Rhino website).

The albums here vary from exceptional to very good.


Cleaners From Venus - Vol. 2
Cleaners From Venus - Vol. 2
Price: $32.41
32 used & new from $28.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some great music just don't expect great sound because of the source recordings, March 26, 2014
Almost all of the CFV albums were home recordings and they sound like it. If you don't expect great sound on the first two (it does improve with time but depends on the amount of overdubs done), you'll enjoy these well written songs by Martin Newell. Keep in mind that many of these were recorded to four track and that, in some cases, all that survives are the cassette masters that were used for duplication purposes back in the day.

These do improve (slightly) on the limited editions released on CD-R by Jarmusic eight or nine years ago. We get the following CFV albums:

In The Golden Autumn, Under Wartime Conditions and Songs for a Fallow Land. The fourth disc is a bonus disc with some unusual rarities--

Roots and beginnings (which features a spoken word introduction by Newell along with a snippet of a recording he made in 1967!)
Russian Picture
Bon Temps Roulez
Mrs. Killer
Sly vie in Toytown
Young and Jobless
The Secret Dreams of a Kitchen Porter
It's Been So Long
Something in My Eye
When Fire Burns Dreams
Amateur Paranoiac
Drowning Butterflies (remake)
Beyond the Blue Horizon

Some of the rarities sound better than the proper albums. There is also what sounds like a needle drop for a limited edition single that Newell made as well.

There's also a booklet with notes by Newell and all four CD's (not CD-R's) are packaged in a gray digipak.

If you enjoy Martin's music and can get past the limited recordings/sound this is a good set for fans. I would just not expect archive or studio sounding recordings that you might expect from the 1980's for professionally recorded albums. Martin has always believed in a lofi sound.


Foreign Correspondent (Criterion Collection) (Blu-ray + DVD)
Foreign Correspondent (Criterion Collection) (Blu-ray + DVD)
DVD ~ Mccrea
Offered by newbury_comics
Price: $26.99
25 used & new from $22.73

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An early Hollywood thriller from Hitchcock receives deluxe treatment from Criterion, March 25, 2014
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Hitchcock always stated that "Rebecca" wasn't a Hitchcock picture because it lacked humor and was too gothic. Hitch felt "Rebecca" was a Selznick-Hitchcock picture. Hitchcock often would point to "Foreign Correspondent" as the first TRUE Hitchcock picture made in America. It certainly has his characteristic sense of humor in abundance courtesy of Robert Benchley who appears in the film AND co-wrote the dialog for the film.

Hitch didn't get any of his first choices for the film--Gary Cooper, Joan Fontaine or Barbara Stanwyk--but Joel McCrea does a terrific job as Johnny Jones with able support from George Saunders.

SPOILERS:

Johnny Jones (Joel McCrea) works the police beat for his newspaper but finds himself suddenly promoted to overseas correspondent when his publisher is frustrated with THEIR foreign correspondent (Robert Benchley). Jones gets a new name and a new beat--to uncover the risk of war in Europe. In the process Jones butts heads and falls for the daugher of a prominent member of a peace moment and discovers a conspiracy involving the murder of a diplomat.

SPOILERS:

Criterion does an exceptional job for the blu-ray/DVD release of this classic Hitchcock title.

The Blu-ray looks very nice with a 2K transfer from the original 35mm negative. The film is presented as a vintage film of this type should be--it's in the orignal aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The mono audio sounds very nice with dialog crystal clear and subtitles in English.

As with all Criterion releases, we get some very nice special features for this set. Critic Mark Harris dominates "The Hollywood Propaganda and World War II" an exceptionally good (if a bit dry) featurette.

"Dick Cavett Interviews Hitchcock" is a little bit over an hour. Cavett interviewed Hitch when he was doing the promotional rounds for "Frenzy" and the Master touches on a number of his films.

We also get a radio broadcast version of the film that was presented in 1946 with Joseph Cotten.

Aside from the trailer, a Life magazine piece you can scroll through and an excellent booklet, we also get DVDs of the film and special features as part of the combo package that Criterion now offers.

My only complaint--and it is a minor one--is that this is presented in a cardboard holder and sleever. While it has nice artwork on it, it won't stand up to wear and tear. Criterion also did this for "Night of the Hunter" and I really, really dislike them.


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