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Good News (1947)
Not as good as people say!
23 May 2007
Honestly, I do not see why this film is so highly rated.

Apart from "The Best Things in Life Are Free" and the final Varsity ensemble number, the songs are real duds. The singers are not great either. There is one guy who croons rather well, but he is only a minor character. The two leads are not the greatest singers in the world. June Allyson sings in tune but her voice is so metallic, you rush for your ear muffs each time she opened her mouth to "sing".

Peter Lawford is appalling. He looks OK, but he can neither really sing or dance. In fact most of the big song and dance production numbers are embarrassingly sub-standard for screen musicals of the time, especially the opening number. The last number, choreographed and danced well, is not enough to redeem the rest of the rubbish one has to endure to get to this point.

PS. at one point when June Allyson is giving Lawford his first French Lesson (actually one of the clever moments in an otherwise BORING musical) she mispronounces the word "BAISER" pretty badly. No wonder we worry for the hero who later on in the film has to pass a French Exam.

Peter Lawford's character is such a DUMB CAD that any self-respecting intelligent female college student would NEVER bother with anyone so stupid.
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Roberto Devereux (1975 TV Movie)
A pleasure to have this record of a superlative performance
5 November 2006
My only experience of the great American coloratura soprano, Beverly Sills has been through records, now CDs and this filmed performance of one of her great roles. So compelling is her Elizabeth that I have ordered online her other two films (La Traviata and The Daughter of the Regiment).

I have to admit however that my response to her very unique sound has not always been positive. I remember her records so well - her brilliant Elvira (I Puritani partnered by a disappointing Nicolai Gedda), her other worldly Lucia (mad scene with glass harmonica as in the original score!), her wicked Rosina (Barbiere), her Zerbinetta (a recording of Strauss arias) and of course her signature roles, the Three Donizetti Queens. In all these roles I was stunned by her technical perfection and the amount of emotional energy and intelligence she brought to them. The one thing that I found difficult was the shrillness of her voice and occasional uncontrolled, quick vibrato.

I stopped listening to her recordings in my collection for twenty or more years. Then they were re-issued on CD and somehow the shrillness stopped bothering me, and curiosity led me to the purchase of this film. I am so glad I did as the production, though not particularly innovative, is of a high traditional standard, and its centrepiece - Ms. Sills is flawless - ultra high voice and all. Costumed fabulously, she sails through rough emotional waters, as though born to play this troubled but great Queen.

In a word, her assumption of one of the most charismatic women in history is totally convincing. This is a woman who has everything and yet has nothing if she does not have the undivided affection of her court favourite, Robert Devereux. She is a woman of extreme passions - Donizetti was good at creating such portraits (both Elizabeth and Mary, the rival queens in Maria Stuarda are such women). Elizabeth's clearly aging face (marvellous make up) is set in contrast against the younger woman (Sara, sung competently by Susanne Marsee) who has stolen Robert's affections.

Unfortunately, so outstanding is Ms Sills that John Alexander (in the title role) seems unable to compete on an even playing field in either the acting or vocal departments. In fact nobody else quite measures up to her. A more balanced cast is to be found in a later film of a Munich Opera production, with Edita Gruberova (still wonderful in 2005) as the tragic queen.
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The Drop (2006)
The worst film of the year
5 November 2006
Someone decided to make a thriller and had no money for a decent set, so they probably drove into an overnight car park and made up the story to go with it. It was such a cheap movie that they did could not fill up the car park with more than two or three cars on each level - and the hero (who is not even hunky) manages to dodge his pursuers for the best part of an hour hiding behind and under cars. They obviously had no lighting rig of any sort either.

Just to pad it out, the director keeps repeating the same old flashbacks, some times it is just the sound track. This is so irritating that after the sixth repeat of any particular flashback, you feel like throwing any handy projectile at your TV screen.

The principal villain turns in a really disinterested performance. Well, what do you expect, when the script is so lame. The stupid young man who opens the parcel he is paid to deliver, and decides he must "save the world" has absolutely no survival skills - twice he could have turned the tables but lamely does not take advantage of the opportunity. His girl friend is no less idiotic.

The worst atrocity is the beautiful and talented Sean Young accepting this acting assignment. She must be desperate. Her presence is never explained and her lines are appalling.

What a waste of time. Take heed of this and other warnings on these pages. You will regret it if you don't and be angry enough to spend another fifteen minutes complaining in a review the film does not deserve.
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American Gun (2005)
Very disappointing, considering the speight of movies about guns in America
5 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I have seen at least four other films (including Michael Moore's documentary) about the guns in America, and their easy availability - three of these were about senseless shootings in schools. And now we have another.

Unfortunately, this is the least interesting of the lot. Gus van Sant's "Elephant" tops the board in its classic understatement, and weaves disparate strands together in the end. With this movie, which dissects the aftermath of a school shooting starts off with a tantalising premise - what happens AFTER?

It is almost too horrible to bear, the mother (a marvelous performance by Marcia Gay Harden) of a shooter in a school massacre, the traumatised police officer, the headmaster who is so intent on stopping guns in schools that he neglects (oh cliché cliché!) his own family and so on are all formulaic plot devices at the best. The performances by the main actors are really good, but the poor material they have been given negates all.

There is no sense of interconnectivity between the individual subplots, not really even at the end, when a totally gratuitous bit of violence brings just two of the sub-plot protagonists accidentally together.

The movie builds up to nothing, and so ends with a big SO WHAT?
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Great Performances: Così fan tutte (1990)
Season Unknown, Episode Unknown
Absolute Rock Bottom Re-reading of a Masterpiece
4 November 2006
Why does Peter Sellars insist on ripping the humanity out of Mozart?

This is Mozart's subtlest critique of man-woman relationships. Sellars has re-contextualised the action in an American diner. This "updating" really trivialises the thesis that men are as bad as women when it comes to deceit and fidelity between the sexes. It takes the bottom line and blanches the heart out of Mozart. This heart is what makes Mozart's greatest operas supremely moving when they speak of the darker sides of human nature.

These operas with their supposed "comic" element are all potential tragedies. The music - especially in COSI - tells us so. In this production, the music of course is the same, but every frame and each directorial nuance conspires to negate Mozart's genius.

The one or two "smart" updates (eg. the sexual relationship hinted at between Despina and Alfonso) do not make up for the mangled results of Sellars's interference with what was obviously perfect in the first place.
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Don Giovanni (1990 TV Movie)
A truly laboured and unconvincing so-called update.
4 November 2006
I am no fan of Peter Sellars. If you are not American (I am Chinese Australian), the various demands by the director made of the viewer to culturally "re-locate" can be really difficult.

The violence with which Mr. Sellars has savaged a trio of the most perfect works of art (Mozart's Don Giovanni, Cosi Fan Tutte and the Marriage of Figaro) has been extreme and not at all equally successfully.

"Marriage" was perhaps the most innovative, setting the action in the penthouse of Trump Tower, with a hapless Countess at the mercy of a domestically and potentially fatally violent and jealous husband. Sellars's treatment of "Cosi" is so obnoxious I still have dyspepsic attacks just thinking about it. He absolutely buries any vestige of Mozart's great humanity.

His (mal/mis)treatment of possibly the greatest work of music theatre, Don Giovanni is only slightly less reprehensible. Manholes and the all-too obvious metaphor of the sewer aside, the one absolutely brilliant masterstroke is casting two brothers (twins?) equally good singers and sexy to boot, as master and servant, and so speaking volumes without any production gimmicks needed. The suggestion that Man is still (the same) Man despite accidents of birth, regardless of social position and the license that status gives, is, one has to admit, quite stunning.

However one brilliant insight cannot redeem the rest.
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La traviata (2005 TV Movie)
Fabulous New Production
3 November 2006
First of all the three principals are faultless.

Ever since the first time I heard Villazon on the radio one became aware of a major tenor talent on the horizon. Everything one hears him sing is imbued with the ability to excite (not necessarily move).The voice and technique are used to stir one's sensibilities into a state of unreason. It is not a gentle response. If you can cope with this ravaging, you will love this man's singing. (he is savagely wonderful as Werther, for example, a sturm and drang hero for whom reason must be banned in favour of self-torment). It is unfortunate that he looks like a Latin version of British comic ikon MR. BEAN. But once he opens his mouth, forget Rowan Atkinson....

Anna Netrebko I think is just generally overrated. In the marketing of this DVD, she is touted as the be-all and end-all of the show, instead of the more deserving Villazon. But, one has to admit, in this production she is perfect. Beautiful as this particular Violetta. Passionate singing and acting in every scene.

Thomas Hampson, an amazing singer and actor, also makes a wonderful job of his role, especially in his Act 2 confrontation with Alfredo (an exhilarating and uneasy marriage between paternal love and the monstrous male need to control someone weaker). The only thing that mars the casting of Hampson as the older Germont is his physical incompatibility with Villazon.

Traditionalists will lament the minimalist sets, the idea of old-man Time and the all invasive Dali-esquire clock, and the chorus of party-goers all frocked in black. But oh how it works!

The emptiness of the stage is the emptiness of Violetta Valery's life. When it is full of people there is only chaos in the activity. This all contributes to how we are made to focus on the bare essentials - the true emotions expressed by the three main characters.

This is my very favourite Traviata film, preferred even over the Stratas/Domingo or Anna Moffo's B&W classic.
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Rigoletto (1982 TV Movie)
Forget the Ridiculous Operatic Updates of Sellars and See How Jonathan Miller does it!
3 November 2006
This is a great example of how opera plots set in a culture or historical time-frame too distant from the English speaking world of today can be updated for instant replay and sympathetic connection.

Of course it does very much beg the question of why Rigolleto should not be about the Yakusa and re-located to Tokyo, or why Zhang Yimou (the towering giant of Chinese cinema) should not set it in Shanghai between the last two World Wars (a kind of "Shanghaid Triad", one of his most accomplished achievements). But ALAS we live in a world where American Imperialism must have its way both in shaping the future of the globe politically, economically and even, culturally.

After all everyone has seen Hollywood gangster movies, and so will relate instantly to Jonathan Miller's re-telling of Verdi's re-telling of Victor Hugo's play, Le Roi s'Amuse - itself a socio-political critique.

Rigoletto, the court jester in the corrupt court of the Duke of Mantua, is now the comic hunchback barman for a NY gangster. Both John Rawnsley (Rigoletto) and Arthur Davies (Duke) give compelling performances, with Marie McLaughlin (Gilda) stealing the show as an inexperienced teenager in love with the wrong man. Jean Rigby (Maddalena) and John Tomlinson (Sparafucilie) are also very good.

The English translation is terrific.

Finally, a word about Jonathan Miller - his "adaptations" are so much more convincing than those of commonly regarded "Bad Boy of Opera" Peter Sellars. The latter is heavy handed and always wrings the juice out of a masterpiece to leave a mere cynical husk. Absolutely heartless - a bad artistic choice to mistake crude satire for real art. Miller on the other hand makes opera relevant by re-inventing contexts which we can relate to, but without destroying the integrity of the original.

The productions by Sellars is the work of a narcissist who sees his own vision as being more important than the composer's, while Miller's work has wit, flair and contemporary relevance while paying homage where it is most due.
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La traviata (1994 TV Movie)
Sorry - not my favourite Traviata
2 November 2006
Angela Gheorghiu is acknowledged as one of the world's leading sopranos, and received critical acclaim for this performance of La Traviata. But inspite of the wonderful production and the marvellous musical direction of Georg Solti this version of Verdi's masterpiece has failed to win me over.

I am not a fan of Ms.Gheorghiu. Her fast vibrato and small range of vocal colouring, not to mention her less than perfect coloratura (which is needed for this role) make her one of my least favourite Violettas - in spite of her acting ability and fabulous stage presence and stunning looks. Add the baritonal tenor of Frank Loppardo and you have the Perfect (Mis)Match.

Give me Stratas/Domingo any day (such a beautiful Zeffirelli production). Or the wonderful Anna Moffo for understated tragedy.
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Idomeneo (1983 TV Movie)
This Glyndebourne effort compares well with Pavarotti/Met production
2 November 2006
This is such a wonderful opera. It is surprising it is not up there in popularity with Mozart's top 4 or 5. Could it be that unlike Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro the hero is not a baritone? Could it be that unlike Cosi Fan Tutte and The Magic Flute, there is no principal baritone or bass part? Instead we have two or three tenor parts (depending on whether Idamante, Idomeneo's hapless son is cast as a tenor or mezzo-soprano) and two or three sopranos (again depending on how Idamante is cast)!

Still, there is an adequate supply of complete CD recordings and at least four DVD versions. And obviously there is no problem in finding two or three tenors with sufficiently different timbres to do the work justice.

This is definitely the case in this production. Jerry Hadley's elegant and silvery tenor makes Idamante youthful passion both moving and credible. This is beautifully contrasted with Phillip Langridge's brilliant and tortured Idomeneo. Just compare his rendition of Idomeneo's great aria "Fuor del mar" with Pavarotti's. The latter may have the infinitely more beautiful voice, but he is such a wooden actor that you hardly feel convinced of the internal turmoil the aria is meant to convey. Langridge wins hands down in the acting stakes. Vocally, Pavarotti just manages to do a decent job of the technical difficulties, but does not compare with the visceral effect that Langridge's vocal pyrotechnics achieve.

Hadley vs Federike von Stade as Idamante? This depends on which voice type you prefer in the role. Both are good. But my preference is for a tenor Idamante.

Glyndebourne's Carol Vaness is much more seductive as against the Met's convincingly demented Hildegarde Behrens as the spurned princess Elettra. Marginally I prefer the latter.

Finally the clincher is the Ilia of one of Australia's greatest ever singers, Yvonne Kenny. Her singing is simply beautiful in the Glyndebourne production, trumping Ileana Cotrubas for the Met at every turn.
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Julius Caesar in Egypt (1990 TV Movie)
Disappointing - Sellars No Match for Smarter Bad Boy - David McVicar
2 November 2006
I have always found Peter Sellars's updating of great operas at best irritating. Rock bottom was setting Cosi fan Tutte, Mozart's subtlest critique of man-woman relationships in an American diner. It really cheapened the thesis that men are as bad as women when it comes to deceit and fidelity between the sexes. It took the bottom line and blanched the heart out of Mozart. This heart is what makes Mozart's greatest operas supremely moving when they speak of the darker sides of human nature.

When you have seen the Marriage of Figaro re-configured as a domestic violence piece amidst Trumpian New York elegance, this jokey re-telling of Handel's greatest opera is like some adolescent director who somehow strayed into opera production class, and who is at a loss for a really innovative creative idea. The poorly aimed political barbs at American imperialism have their satirical potential considerably lessened by ill-judged visual jokes. This is not helped by Sellars's direction of his principals.

Count Almaviva threatening the Countess with a gun, and the real possibility of physical violence struck some raw nerve, but seeing Drew Minter (as Tolomeo) cavort in old fashioned bathers, or having Cleopatra sing without distinction her last aria in gold lame bikini is not only NOT shocking and NOT funny, but absolutely BORING.

I can understand Sellars being loyal to singers he normally likes to work with, but Susan Larson (who failed to move me in any way in COSI) is deadly in her hammy performance. She is vocally merely adequate in the role. Dramatically, it is as though Lucille Ball miraculously had a voice transplant and walked onto the wrong set.

Jeffrey Gall sounds positive squawky in his middle register, a voice past his prime. And poor James Maddalena - a great actor and a great singer - but probably not the most brilliant of Handelians.

Dear Mr. Sellars should have a peek at David McVicar's spankingly lively 2005 Glyndebourne production of the same opera with a cast to really die for. And also, watch out for singers who can really MOVE while singing thrillingly.
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Horrific - in quality not in the scares stakes
14 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This is simply a horrific film - not because it was a scary movie, but in how very truly bad it was in every department.

Acting was mostly hammy, especially the Spanish cast. The boy whose mother leaves in the care of Clara the baby sitter, cannot decide whether or not he is supposed to be scared to death or be slightly amused when unmentionable things happen to his mother. Only the hero (played by B list English actor Michael Mckell) seems to be able to cope with a horrendously bad script. This however is slightly tarnished by his admission - in the "Bonus Features" interviews - that he has never performed a screen kiss before. The other cast interviews are really sad - all of them pretending they are in the best horror movie of all time.

Worst scene of the movie: The extended orgy scene wins hands down, with the climatic re- animation of the drowned baddies (can't reveal more than this) coming a close second.

The story itself is hardly original and is based on the novel by Matthew Costello. I certainly won't bother to read it now. However if the novel was a good one at all, the screenplay has certainly managed to mangle it.

The only moment in the special effects department that lives up to schlock director, Brian - The Re-animator - Yuzna's reputation is a gleefully monstrous scene when the local constable is discovered hysterically self-dismembering! Thank you, but even that did not make the movie worth wasting 90 minutes on.

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Sorry, lesbian content censored in the video release
28 August 2006
I am not a lesbian, but very much gay sympathetic, and I was attracted to this film because both reviews on this site commended this film for its featuring a lesbian heroine who just happened to be lesbian, and not making any big thing out of it. It really did seem that someone very sensitive and sensible about human rights issues had gotten hold of the script.

Imagine my dismay when I took this DVD home from the shop and found that any reference to the Meriel Hemingway character's sexuality had been expunged!. Shame, shame on whoever released the movie on DVD in Australia. We are not a bunch of unsophisticated wowsers who can't cope with difference. It is always surprising how little credit censors give to an adult viewing audience.

Besides from the two reviews, it was hardly anything that would have been offensive.

Other than that the movie was very average indeed in spite of the non-stop action.
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Great Performances at the Met: Idomeneo (1982)
Season 7, Episode 3
Pavarotti better on screen than on CD in Mozart
25 August 2006
The great tenor Luciano Pavarotti was never a Mozartian. The voice is simply not suitable, The style is always "Pavarotti" and in spite of the visceral excitement of that voice, an unmistakable timbre which gives most listeners goose-bumps, he is simply one of the least intelligent tenors around to be able to attempt anything that requires subtlety and elegance like Mozart or intellectual interpretive skills, for example, to sing lieder.

I should say at once that this is not a bash Pav and barrack for Domingo trip. Because Placido Domingo has also recorded the role of Idomeneo, and although Domingo can sing Wagner and is just about one of the most intelligent operatic interpreters around, he is no Mozart tenor either. In fact his recordings of Mozart arias are pretty embarrassing. And if Pavarotti barely scores a 6 as Idomeneo, Domingo would be struggling to hit the 5 mark.

But who can blame two of my generations great operatic tenors for essaying this most taxing of Mozart tenor roles. The character is not limp wristed wimp like Ottavio (Don Giovanni) or an idiot (like Fernando in Cosi). Mozart was not that interested in tenors (the two main male parts are baritones in Le Nozze, and both Sarastro and Papageno in their opposite ways far more interesting than boring Tamino in Magic Flute). So Idomeneo is a great gift to a tenor who can conquer both the technical difficulties as well as the acting challenges of Greek tragic proportions.

It is very telling that both Pavarotti and Domingo sing the EASY version of Idomeneo's great aria "Fuor del Mar", in which the ill-fated king laments that Neptune is exacting a most horrible price for his being saved from a monstrous tempest at sea. Idomeneo has promised to sacrifice the first person he meets on shore in order to be saved.... and guess who he sees first? (read the synopsis for yourself!) This aria is at the very core of the drama, and describes with unrelenting ferocity the storm that is within Idomeneo's breast.

Obviously Pavarotti did not feel comfortable singing the full, far more difficult version of this aria. On the CD recording, he just barely makes it, in the DVD, however, the visuals help him become somewhat more convincing, even though acting has never been a strong suit in Pavarotti's armoury of talents.

Having said all that, I have to say that Frederica von Stade is a wonderful Idamante, the hapless son of Idomeneo (I normally prefer this role to be sung by a second tenor). Hidegarde Behrens is really scary as the half demented Elettra, who has the hots for the Prince (Idamante). Her frizzy red wig is so perfect, and her first and final arias are sung with crazed intensity, while her voluptuous second aria just manages to convince (have heard better). It was pleasant to see an old trouper like John Alexander as Arbace. The only slightly disappointing vocal performance was surprisingly from Ileana Cortrubas as Idamante's love interest.

In spite of my reservations regarding Pavarotti singing Mozart, I nevertheless much enjoyed this production. It compares OK with three others I have on DVD.
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Lo speziale (1982 TV Movie)
Rare treat for opera buffs
25 August 2006
I cannot agree with the ungenerous and uninformed review of the first reviewer of this production. For a start, no one pretends that Haydn was a patch on Mozart as an opera composer, so the comparisons are pointless. As for the "sameness" of the music, I think that much is to be blamed on the lack of subtitles. On that particular point I absolutely concur. There is a lot of wit, humour as well as elegant tunes in this work. And - I agree - it is hard to know what the characters are singing without even a synopsis on the box cover.

Luckily I had my Groves Dictionary of Opera, and was able not only to have the usual detailed storyline, but also an outline of all the musical numbers, with plenty of pointers as to what to look out for in the arias etc. I would advise anyone who wishes to view this opera to find a synopsis of some kind - for example in Sempronio's first aria - vocal leaps and dips actually musically describe his geographical/travel interests. Then there is an aria for the young hero Mengone which is about laxatives to put off his rival Volpone (the trouser role for mezzo), and so on.

So what i am saying is that I am absolutely grateful that there is any production available at all to buy of a Haydn opera. I have 11 DVD versions of Mozart's Don Giovanni and there are many more to buy - but how many DVD versions of any Haydn opera? Haydn was not the dramatist that Mozart was, and his many operas are I am sure very formulaic, but so were Paisiello's and other lesser operatic baroque-to-classical composers of the time (Salieri's operas - I have three of them - are for example not musically exciting).None of them was like Gluck before Mozart and no one was immediately after Mozart (think of the great German and Austrian composers immediately following - Beethoven wrote one opera, Schumann and Schubert did not become famous for their stage works, although it was Schubert's great ambition.

It was also very interesting that this opera has two tenors - the older character played by Luigi Alva, famous in the middle of the last century for his Ottavio (Don Giovanni) and Count Almaviva (Barber of Seville) and similar roles. So it was delightful to see/hear him late in his career, maybe less mellifluous of tone, but still delightful.

The real treat is to see and hear the young William Mateuzzi (so slim at the time of the recording!) with his flexible light tenor, and discover his comic flair (his many Rossini assumptions on CD are not generally cheerful).

Please, if you appreciate the rare and live on an island as I do where there is no opera house, unless you get on a plane, and if you don't require top-grade production values for everything you watch, this is for you.
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Daisy Miller (1974)
Cybill Shepherd Miscast as Daisy in a shallow version of James novella
8 August 2006
I agree with the reviewer who finds Ms. Shepherd utterly wrong for the part, and quite destroying the film. Henry James is a much more subtle portraitist of Americans abroad during that period than either actress or director could represent. For a start, someone so obnoxiously shallow as Shepherd's Daisy, and whose attempts at vivaciousness and flirtation so blatantly stagy, that the young hero must have been an absolute dill to have been so smitten. Nor is the actress so beautiful (or really young) as to make his sexual infatuation credible. Still it could have been worse, it could have been the worst "simperer" of all time, Mia Farrow cast in the role. That would have been a pill. However, possibly her special brand of naive vulnerability may have made Daisy more sympathetic. Thank good EVERYONE ELSE in the cast (apart from an uncharismatic and therefore unconvincing, Duilio del Prete as Gionavelli) is not only believable, but put in amazing performances, especially Barry Brown, Cloris Leachman, Mildred Natwick and Eileen Bannen, all perfect in their roles.

The theme of innocence destroyed by the social environment, not to mention evil schemers (as in Portrait of a Lady) or in this case, symbolically, the natural environment ("Roman Fever"), or even supernatural environment (as in Turn of the Screw) is a really central issue in many of James's novels and stories. To feel sympathy for the protagonist, she (as the protagonist often is) has to have not only innocence (which is misconstrued, exploited and/ or finally shattered), but also a kind of unshakable moral core. This could be as simple as a confident and self-possessed disregard of convention, or a genuine moral belief of the rightness of one's own actions. It is often represented as a subtle character trait.

Although these themes are indeed present in the film, Bogdanovich' simply fails to capture the quiet intensity of James's work.
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Curacao (1993 TV Movie)
Pretty Low budge effort
6 August 2006
It is is very sad to see someone of the calibre of George C Scott in a low budget thriller which would have been better if the original novel was written by Graham Greene and directed by someone somewhat more experienced in the genre. NOT TO MENTION A BETTER CINEMATOGRAPHER. There are so many missed opportunities with the scenery and carnival merely glossed over, rather than captured to locate the movie solidly in the exotic setting of the novel.

Elsewhere in the viewer comments on this site, one very astute observer complained about the variety of diabolically bad accents in this film. Ever since I saw George C Scott as Rochester in Jane Eyre, I have prayed for him NEVER to ever accept again a role which required him to assume a British accent. Just every now and then, he could just possibly pass for British or a very British sounding South African played obviously by an American actor. I can stomach Meryl Streep's extraordinarily laboured accents (both British and Australian) - at least she gets it right even though with every utterance, she demands that we marvel at her skill. Well, I am sorry that Mr. Scott is no Meryl Streep, and it just destroys the illusion - like having Michele Yeoh speak excruciating Mandarin with a strong Singaporean accent in Crouching Tiger etc.

Peterson acts no differently than what we see on CSI. Except he is still very handsome and more or less slim in this movie. He is the Harrison Ford of TV. Same old expressions for every emotion, every situation. No on second thought, Ford has two - perplexed/pained and happy. I have never seen a smile on Mr. CSI!
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Norma (1974)
A powerhouse performance from two great stars
15 July 2006
I have to agree completely with Gyran from Birmingham that this is a gem of a document of two of the greatest voices of opera in the last century. Jon Vickers's manliness and dignified nobility of spirit are unsurpassed in all the roles he has committed to video and CD - his is, for me, an unlikely voice for bel canto. However he is a strong, even arrogant tragic hero with a fatal flaw. Monserrat Caballe is his match in every way. The raw edge in Vickers's voice is juxtaposed to great effect with the mellifluous bel canto yet powerful sounds of Caballe. The incidental participation of the elements - it was blowing a gale on the night of the recording - seemed to heighten the intensity of the passions expressed by the doomed pair - weather perfect to the Stone Henge type setting of the opera.
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A crying shame that they should have made this video with so great an artist
15 July 2006
I am so sorry that they made this video. I know that opera asks us to suspend our disbelief, but in this production of The Daughter of the Regiment, one of Dame Joan's great roles, the producers are just asking a bit too much. It is not only because she looks much older than most of the men in the regiment who together make up her "collective father", it is also in her movements which are clearly those of a senior person and not a young girl's. She has been called the Grandmother of the Regiment in this role in her later years. Rather cruel, but although she might have got away with it on stage (I saw her in this role at the Sydney Opera House, and indeed I was very happy to suspend any disbelief!) why submit a great artist to such ridicule with telecast closeups of every ungirlish gesture? In the same year (1986) they also telecast her greatest role ever, Lucia di Lammemoor. But this time the sensitive director for television made sure there were no closeups which would cruelly show her age, her lovely wig and costumes seemed so convincing from a distance. Also in this role she stayed relatively still until the Mad Scene, for which she still at that late stage, clearly commanded the necessary vocal and acting skills to profoundly move us at home watching on the small box.

The supporting cast in "The Daughter.." are all passable, with a possibly a tad too much over-the-top acting from Gregory Yurisich and Heather Begg.

It has often been regretted that Joan Sutherland did not have her earlier performances when she was in her glorious prime, committed to film. While many of us are grateful to have any record at all of some of her great roles eg Norma, Lucia and a handful of others, The Daughter only gives a shadow of an impression of the great comedic singing actress she could be. I adored her in her last, non-singing role in Dad and Dave: On Our Selection - that this peerless symbol of the heights Australian artists have always been able to achieve, should choose to end her "film" career with a comic role so far removed from everything she stood for in the arts, makes one regret that she has not made another non-singing film.
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L'occasione fa il ladro (1992 TV Movie)
Delightful early Rossini masterpiece in a spirited production
15 July 2006
Watching this production, it is hard to believe that this youthful work (something like Rossini's eighth and one of six he composed in 1812) only achieved a modest five performances at its first venue, the Teatro San Moise in Venice. The typical Rossini panache for handling of comic situations and the seemingly effortless penning of florid vocal lines are already all securely in place. It is melodious from beginning to end. The libretto too (despite one or two ridiculous "plot twists" in the denouement - but hey this is Italian farce!) is deftly handled and swiftly advances the action to a happy ending.

It is really difficult to find lots of opera committed to video from an actual stage production, where the apparent ages of the cast match perfectly those of the characters they are playing. In this production the women (Monica Bacelli and Susan Patterson) are young and attractive, while the two male leads, (the baritone Natale de Carolis and tenor Robert Gambill) are actually tall and handsome enough to be in movies. The stock buffo (comic) character of the manservant is also suitably cast, with Alessandro Corbelli noticeably smaller in stature and more worn of appearance than his youthful master. Of course this is not all, the performances - both acting and vocally - are also well nigh impeccable. It is so wonderful to hear an entire cast of principals who have the Rossini style to perfection. Robert Gambill (Count Alberto) in particular took my breath away in his aria -such perfect runs and glorious tone that I cannot understand why he isn't the Bel Canto Man of the Moment (instead of Juan Diego Florez). Susan Patterson in the heroine role of Berenice shines in her big aria, (just) balancing technical precision and outraged tone. Gianluigi Gelmetti draws a spirited performance from his singers and the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, while stage director Michael Hampe goes for just the amount of farcical hi-jinx. Add to this the setting of the Roccoco Schwetzingen Theatre and the entire experience of watching an opera of this genre, is pretty hard to beat.
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Darkhunters (2004)
I would have rated this film 0 out of 10 if that had been possible.
27 May 2005
This has got to be one of the worst films I have ever seen! The cast is an international one - Australian-pretending-to-be-British, stage American and a character with an English name sporting an unrecognizable "European" accent. What passable efforts in acting from this motley crew are totally undermined by a plot and script of especial inanity. So short were the shoestrings of this film's budget and the overall production values are so low that it would have no trouble winning a cinematic limbo competition. In the last twenty or so years we have seen horror films and stalk'n slash thrillers of extraordinary (though not necessarily "high") quality which have been made on no budget at all. Recent examples include the poorly made but totally scary "Blair Witch Project" and of course - the most recent - that low-budget winner, SAW, featuring practically unknown leads (Gary Elwes is just someone you don't remember even if you have seen him before). In DARKHUNTERS, it is shocking to find a known character actor, Dominique Pinon and Hollywood has-been Jeff Fahey struggling valiantly to save the film. It is embarrassing to see the once handsome leading man (Fahey) in corny makeup uttering bizarrely bad lines. I would have rated this film 0 out of 10 had that been possible!
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