Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Music DVD: Beatles Stories (Seth Swirsky)

Charles A. Smith
The Beatles, who hail from Liverpool, England, are one of the most famous musical groups of all time. Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, and John Lennon made history with their music, and created a frenzy wherever they went. This prolific and spectacular DVD, from director Seth Swirsky, is a rich documentary that tells many stories about them, ushering in a new generation of fans.
(/br> Many well known icons from the 60's are present on "Beatles Stories", including Henry Winkler and Graham Nash who many years after their zenith, are still looking great! Stars from British Rock & Roll who were  very big at the time (or were soon to be) enlighten viewers with their stories about what happened back stage in the early years, such as how the individual members of the Beatles acted and thought when the cameras were not rolling. Stars like model Nancy Andrews (Ringo's former girlfriend) and singer Hurricane Smith, who was a songwriter/engineer for the Beatles, Jon Voight, and Smokey Robinson all have interesting and unheard takes on the world renowned group. Brian Williams from the Beach Boys, and Peter Noone of Herman and the Hermits are also featured, as are many others who convey intimate tales about different members of the group or the story about the Era in which the group was formed. I was completely captivated hearing these stories about the greatest group of all time, and all music lovers -- especially fans of The Beatles, will be too. This is a group that changed the world, and "Beatles Stories" gives you a inside look at just who they really were. It's a great and refreshing revelation.Bonus tracks are included. This is a real example of great investigative reporting on a topic that will never get old. I highly recommend this DVD.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Music DVD: Hiromi: Live In Marciac (Hiromi, Anthony Jackson, and Simon Phillips)

Charles A. Smith

The performance DVD "Hiromi: Live In Marciac" is a collaboration between jazz composer and pianist Hiromi Uehara, bassist Anthony Jackson, and drummer Simon Phillips. Hiromi, who has graced the stage with jazz greats like Stanley Clark and Chick Corea, was born in Hamamatsu, Japan, and is one of the most prominent pianists to appear on the music scene in the last decade. She is well known for her virtuosic technique, energetic live performances, and blend of musical genres. Master contrabass player Anthony Jackson has played with Paul Simon, The O' Jays, Steely Dan, and Chick Corea, among others. Master drummer Simon Phillips has performed with Toto, The Who, Judas Priest, David Gilmour, and Jack Bruce. No lightweights here.
Hiromi has stunned the world with her innovative compositions and style of play. I knew from the moment the DVD began to play that she was full of passion and brilliance, and that I was in for a treat. I was not incorrect in that assumption. It was a very unique musical and visual experience. As I watched the expressions of the trio's faces and listened to their music, I could clearly see their passion and synergy. It was almost as good as being there.
Recorded July 31, 2011 in Marciac, France, "Hiromi: Live In Marciac" is a tremendously riveting production. France is smoking hot as Hiromi, Jackson, and Phillips form the kind of connection that Bill Evans was well known for long ago. Drummer Simon Phillips holds it all together when his counterparts get twisted up in musical love, and the trio is simply resplendent, as they move from one form of jazz to another with ease and intensity. Hiromi is almost unbelievably amazing. She leads this trio with precision and a confident command of the stage and her instrument. At times, she plays with a powerful demonstration of prowess, and at others, with a delicate stroke. But she always plays flawlessly. This is the kind of performance that requires one to reach deep down within themselves and access feelings and emotions that are then thoroughly conveyed to the audience. This is Jazz and Jazz fusion at its highest level.  I highly recommend this DVD. I most certainly enjoyed it.
Click Here To Visit Hiromi's Official Website

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Film Review: Master Qi And The Monkey King (Alan Govenar)

Charles A. Smith

Alan Govenar's Master Qi and the Monkey King is a documentary that chronicles the beautiful and compelling Chinese Opera. Qi Shu Fang is one of the most prominent masters of Chinese Opera, who made the tough choice to stay in the United States and act as a cultural liaison between the cultures. Master Qi and her husband Ding Mei-kui and their company of Chinese Opera performers spread knowledge and beauty about the ancient art form of Peking Opera. Balancing modern life and her love for ancient tradition, she and her husband work and live in Queens NY, in a section of the city that now has many Chinese and Asian immigrants. This documentary shows the hard work and dedication that are demanded by this art form, as well as its' nature and perfection. This is carried over to the performers that work with and for her. 

It's enchanting to watch the excerpts from various operas and the time at work the artists put in after working other jobs. Qi's movements are exquisite and brilliant. There's also footage from the early days of her career as a prodigy finishing her schooling in three years instead of the five that was normally required. She spent her early years doing plays for the central government and the "Modern Model Play Company", then ventured into films. "Taking Tiger Mountain", in which she plays Little Changbao, a strong female character, propelled her to even higher levels of fame. Now years later, Master Qi is just as powerful and engaging as she ever was, if not more so. To be a performer of this type, one must be an acrobat,  martial artist, singer, dancer, actor, and more. What this incredible documentary does is allow the uninitiated to develop an interest in Chinese Opera, while aficionados gain further insight into a wonderful art form and one of the masters of it. This is one 200 year old tradition that you shouldn't waste another day to see! Very highly recommended!!  

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Film Review: The Heart Of The Peloton (3 DVD set)

Charles A. Smith

The Heart Of The Peloton is a riveting 3 DVD set from First Run Features that goes behind the scenes of professional bike racing. It's one big shot adrenaline from beginning to end, and biking fans are sure to enjoy these immensely.

Blood Sweat and Gears
Blood Sweat and Gears is about a the forming of the professional bicycle racing team Team Slipstream, product of the vision of  Johnathan ( JV) Vaughters, former racer and now manager of Team Slipstream, a collection of riders who race competitively all around the world in hopes of getting a invite to the Tour De France and  sponsorship. The sport suffered from rampart drug use to enhance performance and he was determined to change that, so he created a dope free team. With frequent testing, he and his athletes remain drug free and very competitive. Realizing his dream, he recruited riders like David Miller, Christain Vende Velde, Mike Freidman, Magnus Backstedt, and the rest of Team Slipstream. See what it takes to form a team, get a sponsor, and get the invitation to the biggest  race of the sport. There is only one way to do that and that is what this very uplifting documentary is about. Can they win their way into sponsorship and the race? The dedication to the sport by these athletes is really something that will impress and inspire you  along with the vision of Jonathan Vaughters who is the one making it happen in the U.S. first. He's a real innovator and believer of fair play. Highly informative, viewers sett what happens in the struggle for real improvement in, a sport that needs to be drug free! I applaud Team SlipSream, and was fascinated by this DVD.

Hell On Wheels
The 2003 T-Mobile bike racing team from Germany shows us the inside world of the Tour De France, which is easily the biggest biking event in the world. Follow the team as they reveal the heartbreak and triumph of this dangerous and glorious event. Witness the pain and sacrifice they and the other riders must endure just to make it to the end, let alone compete for the yellow jersey and the green. This documentary is in German with subtitles, and is well made, taking you right along with the riders. You actually feel like you're on the bikes and a part of the team and race. With stunning footage from past and present events, and with France as the background, this DVD is great for any viewer, especially those into biking on any level. The dedication that these riders and the greats of the sport have is unbelievable, as they push their bodies to the very limits of human ability during the most grueling race on earth. You will develop a sincere appreciation for the sport and its athletes.The race from start to finish is covered with greats like Rolf, Petacchi, Armstrong, Ullrich, and many others. This documentary is very up close and personal, taking you not only into the race but into the minds of the racers. 

Yell For Cadel
Yell for Cadel is the third DVD of the trilogy in this great box set. In every sport, there's a super star. Cycling is no different, and that what this documentary is all about. In Yell For Cadel, we are allowed inside the camp of Australian world class cyclist and recent winner of the World Championship, Cadel Evans. Following him and team Silence Lotto in their attempt to win over his rivals in this Tour De France 2008 Menchev, Sastre, and Valverde, the other real contenders in the race according to the experts. It's a very different kind of ride when you are one of the top cyclists in the world, and a class above most other riders. The ride is grueling, but they handle it differently. See what makes that difference as you follow the Aussie superstar and his bodyguard Evans as they push through the competition, reporters, and fans in France. Funny, lively, educational, and very entertaining, it's almost like watching a movie. Characters worthy of Hollywood come to life in the everyday activities of a winning team with a leader in the race. This is a well made documentary and will give you a whole different perspective on the Tour De France. For this superstar this seems like a ride in the park...almost. But we know this race is the race.. How he does it is what makes him great. This is an amazing watch! Not arrogant, just gifted, he could be a actor after the racing is over along with others in his camp. You will smile the whole time while enjoying Yell for Cadel. I highly recommend this DVD!! And the box set will be a perfect treat for anyone, especially cyclists!! The Tour De France is a three week race where every day the cyclists must do the equivalent of running a marathon. That is simply incredible, and so is this 3 disc set: The Heart Of The Peloton!!    

Film Review: Modern Con Man Collection

Charles A. Smith

Imagine being dropped off in a major city with absolutely no money to your name, no contacts, and no credit cards either. How do you think you'd fare for 7 days? You might be a smooth talker, but something tells me (at least I can speak for myself) that it would be a nightmare. But not for Todd Robbins, who is a master is manipulation. At the end of his 7 days, Robbins was staying in a nice hotel and had $500 in his pocket. 

The Modern Con Man Collection Boasts 3 DVDs: 
- How To Scam Your Way Into Free Beer (And Other Bar Bets) 
- Poker Night Games (And Other Card Playing Tricks) 
- Workplace Pranks (And Other Ways To Con Your Co-Workers) 

Brought to us courtesy of First Run Features, the DVDs are hilarious and great for anytime you want to have a few friends over and have a laugh, or just enjoy the craziness all alone. I can tell you now that Robbins is not the guy you want to buy your next used (or new) car from. Slicker than a frog's back, on Disk 1, Robbins shows you how to drink your way through the night for free on How To Scam Your Way To Free Beer by giving you some of his tricks that will prank drinkers at the party or bar. Smoothly, like a uncle who's come into your life that you didn't know about and your parents didn't want you to know about, he shares his secrets of the bar con game with many brilliant manipulations that will confound your victims like he does his. He really makes it look so simple on this very entertaining and enlightening DVD . It's very funny at times and will make you wonder if you could really pull it off, and after watching, I think I could. Con after rib chuckling fun, this is a must for the party guy or girl. 

"On disk 2, Poker Night Games, Todd Robbins, aka Mr. Con Man, shows you tricks that you can use to win with cards. His solutions and gimmicks will make you a semi expert at the card con game. Many interesting cons are displayed and broken down so with a lot (in some cases) or a little practice, you can definitely work the cons. Once again, it's all highly entertaining and full of fun as Robbins carries you right along like you're his protégé. He even shows how to set up the con so the person is a good mark before you even begin, and he's a great teacher because he obviously loves his job and is a natural in front of the camera; he seems to be in another place than the rest of us. The world he thinks in is very different and yet simple when he shows you the brilliant solutions. This DVD is a card players dream. There are very simple patterns and counting systems you can learn quickly.

On Disk 3, Workplace Pranks, the very slick Robbins once again displays his wonderful gift of observation and being able to read and manipulate people, and guides the viewer through the mayhem of office politics with a twist. You will love some of his suggestions for giving a co worker a little payback or just ways to have some good, clean fun to keep the boredom down. He also has jokes and tips for success in the corporate office, as well as office games employees can play to make the day go by a little faster. He is a lot of fun on this one. I bet you didn't know you could put your head though a business card. Well, believe it or not, you can. Trust me, this guy has a very unique way of seeing the world around him, and just taking a walk with him will educate you way beyond your years. He is one step away from the edge, but still comes off as a real nice guy (slow wink). Some of the things he suggests, you might want to do as you are leaving on your way to the next employer, but for the most part, it's all a day of play at the office.He calls it mirth and mayhem, and he's right. I really like this guy and you will absolutely love the riveting "Modern Con Man Collection". This is a great present to yourself or to those you love who need a little more laughter in their lives.

Film Review: The Callers

Charles A. Smith

The art of auctioneering has been brought to DVD via Susan Sfarra's documentary The Callers, and it is interesting to find out there is another way to find treasures and great values at auctions, something most of us don't really think about. Those of you who do yard sales, and go to garage sales and flea markets  might have never considered going to a auction, but you might want to rethink your position.

Everything is auctioned from livestock to buildings and there is serious money to be saved and made. People have made this a business, but the major player here is actually the auctioneer, who is a work of art in human form. In The Callers, you will find out how they become auctioneers and what it takes to become one. It is fascinating to see the amount of things and ways people call upon these craftsmen and women to help them sell -- things they no longer want or need. Said to be the fairest method of doing trade, the auction game is big business. Some of the things people get rid of at auctions are really of great value. These days, some things just aren't made like they use to be, so antiques are worthy of purchase because of the craftsmanship that has gone into them. And the Auctioneer really serves a very useful purpose organizing the auction and all the items to be sold, doing it all in a profession and fast paced way. This documentary made me think about checking for auctions in my area for some of the things I need and just to see what I might find. Great DVD. Happy hunting!!

Film Review: Doubletime

Michele Wilson-Morris

Doubletime, from Producer/Director Stephanie Johnes, is a wonderful documentary about competitive jump roping. The energy, skill, and dedication of  the athletes as they prepare and compete is breathtaking. Astounding acrobatics with amazing precision are all done while skipping rope. Let me clarify things a little. There are two kinds of competitive jump roping. Double dutch is done with two ropes turned in an egg beater fashion with one person jump roping at a time. With many different competitive categories like speed and fusion, a musical and dance oriented type of expression is done while jumping.

This very interesting documentary not only shows and teaches you about the history of the sport, but also tells of the diversity of the teams (The Bouncing Bulldogs of Chapel Hill, NC and The Double Dutch Forces of Columbia, South Carolina) and the two leagues that compete against each other and the world. The two teams are followed as they prepare for a invitational at The Apollo Theater in New York. One team is predominantly inner city blacks (The Double Dutch Forces) and the other is suburban whites (The Bouncing Bulldogs), but both are world and national champions.and viewers get to watch them go up against each other for the first time Meet them and their coaches, see the way they coach and their insightful philosophies about the sport and the world that divides them. This DVD is not only about competitive jump roping, it is also about taking a look at race and the role it plays in American culture. Doubletime is an excellent production and every child and coach who appears in it is a big winner. These star athletes are not well known, but they are setting the foundation for a strong competitive productive activity that all children should partake in because it's fun,  competitive, and rivals any other sport or activity in intensity and physical fitness requirements. These youth have amazing strength and tenacity, and display it beautifully on this amazing DVD. Doubletime also features an excellent soundtrack from Keyshia Cole, Petey Pablo, MIA, Pete Miser, and The Caesars. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Film Review: Fixation

Charles A. Smith

Fixation is an adorable film by Alex Trudeau Viriato about bike riding of a certain kind. Fixed gear and track bikes are unique in the way they are made and the way one rides them. First of all, these bikes don't have gears or brakes. So, not only does the rider determine how fast or slow the ride is, but leg strength is required for braking. The bike also never stop pedaling, and there is no coasting. Put simply, the rider and the bike become one.

Viriato's Fixation is a behind the scenes look of the love of this style of bike, its riders, and their love for the design. Many of the young people one sees doing bike tricks are using fixed bikes, sparking an entire movement that is centered around it. And it's not necessarily the style of the bike that's new, so much as it is the differences in attitude and concepts about being on the edge, and setting new standards. Filmed in the west coast, mainly San Francisco and L.A., viewers get more than just a peek at riders doing what they do on every level from bike clubs to racing. There are also some very beautiful shots of those areas.

Fixation is a fun and lively documentary, and Viriato has no doubt pleased bike enthusiasts with this great film.

Film Review: The Beat Hotel

Charles A. Smith

In 1957, the Beat Hotel in Paris became a haven for artists like Allen Ginsberg, the now esteemed writer of the poem Howl, which was once considered obscene to some. In search of a respite from the strict censorship of America in the 1950's, Ginsberg found a small, cheap (and dirty) hotel, which is now famous for the refuge that it offered to its patrons. In Alan Govenar's exquisite film The Beat Hotel, viewers are treated to an amazing historical journey that captures the heart and purpose of a place that allowed the freedom of expression, which has resulted in some of the greatest works of our time. 

Amazingly, Ginsberg was an "occupant" at the Beat at the same time as other writers who were destined for fame like Peter Orlovsky, Gregory Corso and William Seward Burroughs, who completed his work "Naked Lunch" there. The Beat not only offered them the luxury of sharing life and their art together, it also had an atmosphere of non-judgment that freed their minds to such a degree that they could become the great artists that we now respect them as being. 

The Beat was run by Madame Rachou, who thought that artists should be cared for, and who went out of her way to bring them together in tolerance and permissiveness, freeing them creatively. The Beat continued to be a haven for artists through the early 1960s, and has produced what are known as Beat artists and the Beat generation. It is fascinating to hear firsthand accounts from the artists themselves about the Beat and life inside of its walls. The documentary is insightful about many different art forms:  poetry, writing, photography, and painting. There are brilliant glimpses of what made the Beat artists great, and the methods they used to come up with their various styles. This is a vividly exquisite display of important cultural history about Beat generation art. It is very well done and highly entertaining, and includes shots from British photographer Harold Chapman who also lived there. 

The Beat Hotel is rich in history and may be the best documented film of our time on the subject. Govenar could not have done a more impeccable job.

Film Review: Secret Things

Michele Wilson-Morris

Secret Things, is a Jean-Claude Brisseau film starring Sabrina Seyvecou and Coralie Revel. It is a very seductive tale about power, sex, deception, manipulation, and the roles they play in the workplace. The film is presented in a very exciting format that stimulates the senses and intrigues the mind. These two actresses play their roles to perfection as the story unfolds with brilliant direction, and it's as if the viewer is right there in the room with them. That's just how much Secret Things draws you in.The acting is very good, the plot is thick, and the ending is a big surprise, which is quite nice in today's world of movies where you can guess the ending about 20 minutes in.

Seyvecou and Revel act as teacher and student as they weave their way through problems, coming up with a fail proof plan. But everything is not what it seems in this excellent production. This is a thoroughly entertaining piece of work that shows the way things often work when climbing up the ladder of success, using the art of seduction. Outclassing their prey by far. they are relentless in their pursuits, but soon find an unexpected challenge in the son of the bank executive for whom they work. He takes their seduction to whole new level, resulting in wonderfully tense and suspenseful moments. This is cinema at its best, and I highly recommend the watch.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Film Review: Patagonia Rising

Michele Wilson-Morris

Pantagonia Rising, from filmmaker Brian Lilla, is a documentary about dams and their effect on the earth. This particular story is set in Chile, near two of the world's purest rivers, the Baker and Pascua. Five hydroelectric dams are set to be built near the rivers, which would involve displacing the people who live around them, as their lands would be flooded and their ways of life would be forever changed. Some residents view the electricity that would be gained as progress, while others see it as a total annihilation of lifestyles that have existed for many generations.

At this very moment, dams are stopping rivers from reaching seas all over the world. The major rivers that are affected include the Nile, Murray-Darling, Colorado, Indus, Yellow, and Rhine rivers, which no longer reach oceans as they once did. Many animals and species are extinct because of the damage caused by the interruption of the natural life and water cycles because of dams. In fact, the last century has seen the building of almost 50,000 dams globally, which have had an adverse effect on the environment. One fifth of all fresh water fish are extinct or nearing extinction. Ecosystems are destroyed by dams even though there is irrefutable scientific evidence that dams are harmful. There are 40% less plankton in the oceans, and organisms of all types are perishing. So why do the people who make these choices continue to destroy the world in this way instead of finding alternatives like solar or wind energy? Good question.

The Baker and the Pascua rivers in Patagonia will soon have dams built around them in a part of the world that needs to be left alone because of their link to biodiversity in rainforests, estuaries, and marine ecosystems. Patagonia Rising, which is a compelling and intelligent film, lays out the details in a very interesting and passionate manner, with interviews from the residents of Chile. Viewers will gain an understanding of who is behind the decisions that are helping to destroy the only planet on which we can reside. While those who wish to build dams would point the finger at global warming for the disasters they cause, this documentary is clear about why we don't need to ignore the signs. Now is the time to modernize and improve our methods for energy production.

Thought provoking and insightful, Patagonia Rising will both educate and entertain. It is imperative that we take action to stop things that, once set into motion, cannot be reversed. Man must learn from the past and present. The question is, will we? And if we do, will it be in time to save the earth and ourselves as well? These are questions that have yet to be answered.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Film Review: Proteus

Charles A. Smith

David Lebrun's documentary "Proteus," is a brilliant piece of cinematography that was made over a 20 year period. The film is a stunning 19th century vision of the world of science, the sea, and new discoveries by the pioneer Ernst Haeckel.

Haeckel made many important discoveries about sea life that influenced the work of not just biologists, but Art Nouveau and Surrealism, Sigmund Freud, and even Thomas Edison. But more than that, he shaped the thoughts of the order of things in the scientific world. Haeckel was the first to find the radiolarian, a one celled organism that lives in the oceans around the world from the shores to the deepest depths. As both an artist and scientist, he did not reject that which was unseen, and his life and research seemed to be on a path that was predestined, though he did give some thought to abandoning science once he discovered his artistic abilities. Fortunately, he did not, and both served him in his work classifying creatures of the sea. He alone discovered and categorized more than 4000 species.

There are 5000 known species of  Proteus (or radiolarian) over 500 million years old, and they come in many different forms. Haeakel made a picture of each one and in "Proteus," Haeckel's work is accessible to the viewer. This research is from a time when there was no equipment to photograph these creatures, so he painted them using a microscope. His work is astounding in detail and reveals the stunning beauty of nature. Haeckel's was a time of cell discovery, and the realization of the fact that the cell is the building block of life.

During Haeckel's time, the knowledge of the sea was like space is to us now, and man had only gone down 100 feet. In an attempt to connect the continents, cable was laid from Britain to New Finland. When it was raised, simple living organisms were discovered. A scientific expedition gathered the unseen samples from the bottom of the seas all over the world, and Haeckel was commissioned to study them. His work is shown on this breathtaking and amazing DVD, which is full of beautiful art from both nature and man. This visual treat will send you to the far reaches of the solar system and mind. The life of this man and the people of his time are very intriguing. The way they thought and looked at the world is quite interesting knowing what we now know. Viewers who like history and science or those who thirst for knowledge in general will love "Proteus." It is a well made, astounding film that documents history in an utterly impressive and visually stunning manner.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Film Review: Beyond Hatred

Charles A. Smith

"Beyond Hatred," an Oliver Meyrou film, is a compelling and engrossing documentary about a family and their pain in the aftermath of the murder of their son Fracois Chenu. The 29 year old Chenu, who was gay, was attacked and killed in 2002 by three neofascist skinheads in a pubic park in Rhine, France. His murderers were there looking for an Arab to attack, but found Chenu instead. When he refused to renounce his homosexuality, he was beaten unconscious and throw in a into a pond, where he drowned. 

"Beyond Hatred" takes a deep look at hate crimes and homophobia, and a family's struggle to forgive the unforgivable. The Chenu family was kind enough to let the world in to the empty space left behind such an outrageous act. Questions are presented that are thought provoking and enlightening. Young people following strange ideals and parents standing back as they do is part of the cause. The inability of some to not accept others for whatever the reason is revealed in this as insanity. The lessons found here are difficult, but important. Long after this heinous crime was committed, as the family tried to go through the healing process, the trial began and the unleashing of raw emotions and wounds began anew. Still, Chenu's family sought to take the path of forgiveness and civility, as much for their own survival and sanity as for anyone else. 

This well produced film is shot with simplicity to allow the subject matter and emotional content to tell the story. "Beyond Hatred" is a very moving and disturbing look at what some members of our society have become, in an effort to stop the progression of such evil. You will feel deeply for the victims, and even have some compassion for the murderers. But most of all you will come to know that society must change its mindset of intolerance for others who are different. This is a powerful story of pain and humanity. The documentary is in French with English subtitles. I highly recommend this film!!

Film Review: Fidel

Charles A. Smith

Fidel Castro is known by many things to many people. To some he is a leader, and to others a dictator. Do Americans really know that truth about the man who reigned over a small island just 90 miles from U.S. shores? What he has really done for the his country, the people of Cuba, and the world? "Fidel," from filmmaker Estela Bravo exposes the Miami lobby against Cuba that keeps Fidel and his country from prospering because of the U.S. embargo that has gone on ever since his revolution. The U.S. has made peace with all of the countries that we once opposed in war. We have forgiven the Japanese, Koreans, Germans, Vietnamese, and we do business with communist China and the Soviet Union. So why does our powerful nation continue to hold the island of Cuba at bay? The truth is on this DVD and it is a must see film about a great world leader.

Loved by his people even now, Castro has kept his revolution alive and his country independent, not allowing it to be exploited by the interests of American big businesses. With live footage of Che Guevera, the young Fidel Castro, and renowned reporter Edward R. Murrow, you will be moved by the truth about this great man. Castro did things far ahead of his time like trying to form a union between the countries throughout Latin American in 1959. He sent troops to Angola when South Africa violated their borders, helping to defeat the South African Army and setting the stage for the end of Apartheid. 

A charismatic personality and strong speaker, Fidel was easy to love and was warmly received in America, especially in Harlem. However, Nixon wrote in his report that he was a communist and needed to be overthrown. Since that time, the CIA has made numerous assassination attempts on his life and failed. But the true story about who Castro really is and how the American government has used wrongful and hateful policies and tactics to mislead its citizens about him and terrorize millions of Cuban people and their leader is now being told. This fascinating documentary reveals Castro's true identity and the propaganda that we have been told and believe. This is a must see documentary for anyone who really wants to know the truth.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Thank You For Your Patience

The Entertainment Bank thanks you for your patience. We will be back with more reviews in the next couple of days, and will be adding all genres of movies to the body of work that we review. Thank you for stopping by The Entertainment Bank, and please come back again in a couple of days to see more of what you love!! We'll be bigger and better than ever!!

Michele Wilson-Morris
Founder & CEO
The Entertainment Bank

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Film Review: How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?

Michele Wilson-Morris

Architecture is power, and civilizations have used it over the centuries to express who and what they are. Norman Foster does the same thing in modern times with extravagance, luxury, and new technology and materials mixed with good old fashioned common sense and a certain decorum. He is "the world's architect," and in the dazzling presentation "How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?," from filmmakers Lopez Amada and Carlos Carcas, viewers are treated to some of most spectacular and elegant marvels known to man, all built by one man -- Norman Foster.

Foster, who grew up on the working class side of the tracks in Manchester, England, has devoted his entire life to the quest of being the premiere architect of our time, which is a title that he has succeeded in attaining. He is the master creator of things that, prior to his efforts, have only been imagined, including London's Swiss Re Tower, New York's Hearst Building, Berlin's Reichstag, Beijing Airport's International Terminal and the breathtaking Millau Viaduct, over the Gorges du Tarn in France.

Building from a spiritual sense like the ancients, Foster considers the environment, beauty, and functionality, even lending his expertise to the way airports and bridges are constructed. He changes function into art, conserving steel in his constructions while making them stronger with less material. This wonderful story of one man's dedication, perseverance, and achievement is utterly amazing and insightful. Shot after glorious shot, viewers will be amazed at his story and work. Where does his genius come from? How has it developed over time? How did he get to be "the world's architect?" This documentary holds the answers to all of these questions and more as you learn about the man behind both the biggest building in the world and the most expensive building in the world.

Brilliant cinematography and excellent producing were critical to ensuring that a film with such a subject was done successfully, and neither aspect is missing. "How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?" is definitely worth viewing.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Film Review: A Matter Of Taste

Charles A. Smith

"A Matter Of Taste," from filmmaker Sally Rowe, opens the door to the life of the immensely talented and driven young chef, Paul Liebrandt. The culinary artist, who at age 24, was awarded 3 stars by the New York Times for his uniquely original works. The documentary, which is both fascinating and informative, tells of his journey as an innovator and artist in the hard and competitive field of preparing top haute cuisine in New York restaurants. Witness first hand the creative genius that is Chef Liebrandt, and a lifestyle where you get one and only one opportunity to entice and win over the buyer. That's the restaurant business, where only the best, most passionate, strongest, disciplined, and exceptional individuals ever make it to the top. For Liebrandt, the ride to success has been both grueling and delicious.

Treats of all kinds from the inventive super Chef who, after years of harsh words from critics, is finally being recognized for his genius and ability to please even the most discriminating palates with his masterful creations and the perfection with which he so carefully creates them.

Anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant kitchen knows that teacher, motivator, big brother, disciplinarian, critic, and dad are all roles that the Chef must play, and with "A Matter Of Taste," viewers have an extraordinary glimpse into the story of the man who did it like Frank Sinatra -- "his way." Most Chefs don't actually work in the kitchen, as once they've obtained notoriety, they simply supervise and become executives of a sort. But Liebrandt is different than most, and is still in the trenches with his troops/cooks, training his staff with military precision to produce what he wants the way he wants it. Dealing with management, menu choices, rejection, staff, and opportunity are just some of the difficulties of the profession, and though the road to success isn't always as easy as most of us would like to be, Chef Liebrandt isn't afraid of allowing his difficult moments and obstacles he faced to be shown to viewers during his ten years of becoming one of the most renowned Chefs in New York City. Reinventing the wheel and trying square tires at times makes him either loved or hated by critics, but one thing he isn't and that's easily forgotten. His customers are completely loyal to him, and critics now rave about the man whose name they once used to smear -- all in the line of duty of course.

"A Matter Of Taste" is a highly recommended watch for those who like to cook, aspiring chefs, food lovers, and anyone who wants to be entertained.

Film Review: The Take

Michele Wilson-Morris

All across the globe, economic policies are being implemented by governments that sometimes have near catastrophic consequences. Economic globalization is failing, disproportionately impacting the middle and lower classes. Nowhere is this sad truth more evident that in Argentina where over half of the population lives below the poverty line. Just fifty years ago, Argentina was seen as the crown jewel of Latin America. Now, after decades of bad policy making, the Argentine government has declared bankruptcy, and by doing so, has become the country with the largest sovereign debt in world history. "The Take," an extraordinary film by Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein, takes you on an adventure to a place where even the poor and disenfranchised have become fed up and are fighting back in ways the government never expected.

On the eve of what would become a day of disbelief, the rich and powerful withdrew their money from unregulated banks. The following day, these financial institutions closed their doors, leading to a spectacular economic collapse and massive unemployment, with the people of Buenos Aires demanding justice and getting none. With their jobs gone because of factory and shop closings, the less than wealthy were left to fend for themselves, but with very few choices and growing support for the anti globalization movement, they took matters into their own hands in a very bold and ingenious way. It's called expropriation, and it's working so well, in fact, that many other nations might just decide to take their example and run with it.

Thirty brave unemployed auto parts workers decided to occupy, resist, and continue to produce in the same factories that were closed by the government, reopening them and taking over operations. In this eye opening documentary and gripping story of finding hope where there seemingly was none, viewers are shown how the workers resisted police with sling shots and the support of the Argentine people. "The Take" is an inspirational depiction of how good things can happen in the aftermath of tragedy, when people stand together as one and refuse to be silenced. This story should be told to everyone, and is a must see for anyone who needs to know that change for the better can come from just a few. I highly recommend "The Take."

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Film Review: Pianomania

Charles A. Smith

"Pianomania," a film by Robert Cibis and Lilian Frank, is the surprisingly compelling story of Stefan Knupfer, Steinway & Sons' chief technician and Master Tuner in Vienna, who tunes pianos for the best players in the world. What he is able to hear is simply amazing! Only he and the very best can hear the pitch perfect sounds and infinitesimally small imperfections. He is the top ranked piano technician in the world, which requires a very precise skill set. More than that, he is the personal assistant to every master virtuoso he works with when it comes to the piano and its sound, taking care of every detail from making sure the pianists have just the right seat they want to finding the right sound in the middle of a tone. There he remains with enough patience and understanding to put most monks to shame. 

Knupfer travels the world making sure that every piano bearing the name Steinway & Sons is perfect for world renowned master pianists who become one with its keys, allowing for the best performances in the world. This magnificently enticing DVD takes you behind the scene to witness firsthand the intricate preparations that are made to tune the Grand Pianos of the world's best players. The music in this video is beyond extraordinary and breathtaking. An extra treat provided by the DVD is watching the artists playing to perfection with the help of the mighty Stefen Knupfer.

"Pianomania" is absolutely phenomenal, both because of the level of mastery that is shown here by the virtuoso pianists, and the job the Knupfer does with a surgeon's precision. It is an enlightening and delightfully entertaining documentary, as viewers get a rare glimpse into the preparations made for a performance by virtuosos who are at the peak of their craft. Those who understand the piano's technical side say, "The modern piano is a fascinating music machine, a machine that is so aggressive that I can't even draw the string that makes it sing without bloodying myself. It is a thing that requires three people to be transported." But Stefan Knupfer has tamed this beast and is the best at what he does. 

"Pianomania" allows the viewer to see Knupfer in action and enjoy some of the most beautiful music known to man and the picturesque scenery of Vienna. It has English subtitles, but that's not a problem as the beauty of the music and the magic of the men behind it will grab your attention and not let go until the very end. Anyone who appreciates the art of perfection will be enthusiastic about this cinematic triumph. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Film Review: Crude

Charles A. Smith

"Crude," from filmmaker Joe Berlington (Brother's Keeper, Paradise Lost, Metallica, Some Kind of Monster), is a riveting and absolutely superb documentary that delves into the value of oil versus that of human lives. Yes, we all complain at the gas pump, but there are people for whom the cost is much higher and the stakes are much greater. Their lives, lands, and cultures are being disrupted and demolished by the intrusion of oil companies whose only concern is their bottom line.

Anyone viewing "Crude" will find themselves asking, "What penalty should be imposed for taking a culture and way of life away from people? And what price should be paid for the human death toll and suffering because of displacement caused by pollution?" The amount being requested by the people of Ecuador is $27 billion dollars to clean their homeland and pay restitution to its citizens. The question at hand is, who should pay for this? We are all too familiar with the lack of moral foresight or hindsight by large corporations when damage is done to others, and as the fingers of blame are pointed and excuses made, people continue to suffer.

Follow Pablo Fajardo, the plaintiffs' lawyer, as he sues oil giant Chevron, seeking justice for those who cannot find it for themselves, as well as the best corporate lawyers that big money can buy in the largest and most controversial legal case ever in an epic David vs Goliath battle of wills. Hear the story firsthand from the people of the Ecuadorean Amazon, also known as "The Lungs Of The World." "Crude" engages viewers in the Ecuadorean people's plight to survive in their own homes (Secoyo Village) while their children and family members perish from cancer and their animals become sick from the tainted water and environment, all of which are a result of drilling for crude oil. They have been stripped of their once simple existence and ritualistic way of life, living free and sheltered from the corporate world in a land of beauty and natural resources.

Trudie Foster and her husband Sting from the group The Police are lending efforts to bringing this and other injustices to nature to the world stage through the Rain Forest Foundation, whose mission is to preserve rain forests and the indigenous people who live in them. "Crude" is a brilliantly directed film that is beyond excellent in every aspect, and one that will touch the hearts and minds of viewers. This is a must see documentary for everyone who is concerned about the world, its people, and the environment which is quickly being ravaged. Find out why Chevron feels they are not the problem, and decide for yourself who is right. This is a gripping and fascinating view of environmental  history in the making, and the outcome will impact us all.

"Crude" is the winner of 19 international awards, and has been met with critical acclaim.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Film Review: When The Drum Is Beating

Charles A. Smith

"When The Drum Is Beating," from filmmaker Whitney Dow, is a documentary about the life of an extraordinary people, country, and band. The country is Haiti, the people are Haitians, and the band is Septentrional, known fondly in Haiti as Septen. For 60 years, this 20 member band has filled the hearts of the Haitian people with joy and their remarkable sound. The country has certainly seen its share of hardships since its inception, but the people of Haiti, who are resilient and proud, have always had their music. Even slaves in chains prior to the revolution in 1804 danced and sang, illustrating the points that there is always hope as long as the heart endures and also, that freedom is a state of mind.

This sensational and highly uplifting film gives insights into the history of a great people, their traditions, and the culture of Haiti. The breathtaking cinematography shows Haiti as it was, is, and provides a look at what it could become. The light that is shed on the lives of the Septen musicians and their struggles is candid and revealing, giving the viewer one of the most factual and touching first hand look at the magic in the midst of chaos. Though Septentrional is clearly talented, they too suffer to create the music that so many love and can find solace in. I really loved Septen's music, which is played throughout the documentary, which is in French with subtitles, giving it an authentic feel. My heart really goes out to these people who have gone through so much, but continue to remain true to their traditions, relying on music to feed their souls during dark and perilous times.

I don't believe that anyone can watch this gripping and heart warming film and just turn the television off and forget about these people, this country, or this band. This is one film that becomes a part of you, claiming a place in your heart and mind. There are so many different emotions evoked by "When The Drum Is Beating," that you will wonder how Dow was able to make you feel them all in such a short amount of time, but this is a fine piece of work that deserves to be heralded at the highest levels.

Film Review: The Most Dangerous Man in America

Charles A. Smith

In the early years of the Vietnam war, Dr. Daniel Ellsberg was a strategist, reporting to top officials of the U.S. Government, including then presidents Johnson and Nixon. Some of the information from his earliest missions was falsified and embellished to justify what eventually led to the first attacks by the U.S. Navy against Vietnam. The young Ellsberg watched helplessly as those he reported the truth to lied to the public, fueling the fires of a war that he advised America could not win. Though he disagreed with his superiors behind closed doors, a battle between patriotism and guilt raged within him, but at the time, he took no further measures to unveil the truth to the American people. Ellsberg did his job like so many before and after him, caught between a sense of duty to his country and his own conscience. That duty encompassed keeping secrets, regardless of how they were misused or distorted to accomplish the goals of less than honorable men who sought the accomplishment of their goals despite the cost to the U.S. and others.

The Most Dangerous Man In America, from filmmakers Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith, is a thoroughly entertaining documentary that is both chilling and powerful. It pinpoints that struggle between right and wrong that rages within each of us, but in Ellsberg's case, the battle within was compounded by carrying the weight and fate of the country on his shoulders, affecting him on a deeply personal and moral level. The film shines the light quite brightly on little known facts that are very difficult to face about the U.S. government. Ellsberg's morality eventually led him to expose the very people he had kept quiet to protect, and many lives were spared because of the great personal risk he took to do so. After more than 2 million Vietnamese and 58,000 American lives were lost, wasted on a war that was fought under false pretenses, Ellsberg dropped a bomb of his own on the U.S. government in 1971, confessing what he knew to be true and causing a ripple effect which reverberated on through Watergate, the impeachment of President Richard Nixon, and the U.S. Supreme Court's decision regarding the First Amendment rights of the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Interesting and enlightening from the first second of the documentary to the last, The Most Dangerous Man In America is a must-see film for all Americans and certainly those who believe that our government is beyond reproach. On this Memorial Day, I honor our veterans, but know now also that many of them died for the wrong reasons. I salute their families, share their pain, and hope as many others do, that one day we can learn to settle our differences like gentlemen instead of warriors -- on the chess board instead of the battlefield. And I'm thankful for those who have the courage to make such films and expose us to the harsh reality that power can be a very dangerous thing in the wrong hands and a beacon of hope in the right ones. This film is superb at pointing this out, and nothing could be added or taken away that could make it better than it is. Job well done!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Film Review: Garbo: The Spy

Charles A. Smith

When you hear the name Garbo, it usually invokes images of beauty, as in the glamorous international movie icon Greta Garbo. There was an actor who also bore that name, however, his craft was not conducted on the stage or screen, but in the shadows of high espionage. Garbo: The Spy, from Director/Writer/Producer Edmon Roch, is a fascinating and exhilarating true account of the exploits of Juan Pujol Garcia (code name Garbo) and the role of double agent that he so adeptly played during World War II.

Feeding false information to the Nazis, with the help of his incredibly creative mind, he fabricated a network of agents who "reported" to him and supplied the Germans with false intel in most cases or disseminated more factual information that was timed in such a way that rendered it virtually useless. During this entire time, he developed relationships with both the Nazis and allies that made him a star player for both sides. Garbo received both the Iron Cross and Royal rights in England, making him the only man in history to receive the highest honor possible from opposing sides in a war. Has anyone surpassed his accomplishments? Well, of course, we'll never know that, but somehow, it seems highly unlikely.

Garbo's clever web of fictitious agents were sheer genius, as he played the role of multiple agents on the German side at one time, and did it alone. His astute ability at deceiving the Germans helped the Allied troops land at Normandy while the enemy awaited their arrival in vain at Calais. Hitler himself was even fooled by Garbo's false reports, and fell victim to the master spy's trickery.

The outtakes of real footage from the 1940's and black and white movies made about those times are extremely interesting, giving the viewer more than a glimpse of the past, transporting one back to those times.  This is one of the finest, most significant and extraordinary documentaries ever made. The historical value and intrigue are priceless. I could not possibly praise this film enough. This is a two thumbs up, must see documentary, made by a true visionary.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Film Review: Man On A Mission

Charles A. Smith

"Man On A Mission," directed by Mike Woolf, is a fascinating peek into the life of Richard Garriott, who made his fortune in computer as one of the founding fathers of MMORG (Massive Multiplayer Oline Role Playing Games), detailing his chronicle to be on the first commercial civilian flight to outer space, with a hefty price tag of  $30 million/seat. The son of NASA astronaut Owen Garriott, Richard always dreamed of following in his father's footsteps but was unable to because of nearsightedness. In "Man On A Mission," Garriott share his dreams, plights, and training to obtain a space on the Russian rocket that will inevitably provide him with his life's greatest aspiration. The film is very well made and viewers will find it to be exhilirating, funny, scary, but most of all, entertaining. This is an excellent documentary which includes bonus features as well, answering the questions that most would want to ask. I found it to be well worth the watch and consider it a "must see!"

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Film Review: American Teacher

Michele Wilson-Morris

American Teacher, produced and directed by Vanessa Roth, is a documentary that provides a fascinating view and reality check about the teaching profession in America, addressing the issues of teachers who are exceptional, and why they either struggle to remain in the profession, or choose to move on to greener pastures. The fact is, the teaching profession is not viewed with as much respect in America as it is in other countries, and teachers, their families, and school children suffer as a result. In Finland, Singapore, and South Korea, where teachers are revered and there is a cultural respect for the profession, only the best graduating students are recruited by the government for teaching positions, and it is considered an honor to be selected. These teachers receive 2 1/2 times what U.S. teachers do for classroom materials, and they are much more highly compensated, with better benefits. Consequently, these countries hold the top 3 spots in the world in terms of student achievement. Also, very few teachers leave the profession in these countries or experience the "burnout" that most American teachers do.

American Teacher delves into many topics that affect U.S. teachers, and shows that they don't have the easy jobs with great hours that most Americans think they do. In fact, many of them have second jobs just to make ends meet, and work weekends as well just to be able to keep up with classroom work. Yes, there are teachers out there who shouldn't be in the profession, and those teachers should be dealt with. But the majority of teachers are in the profession because it is their passion, and they bring creativity, love, and a desire to excel and nurture their students into the best and most confident young people they can be, and they should be rewarded and held in high esteem for doing so. This film is another that I highly recommend as a "must see" for everyone, as it's a problem that affects everyone, whether we wish to believe so or not.

Whatever your opinion of teachers is, American Teacher will almost certainly provide new insights and make you reevaluate your position. It is a highly enjoyable, but reflective piece that hits home on many levels.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Film Review: Pink Ribbons

Michele Wilson-Morris

Directed by veteran filmmaker Lea Pool for the National Film Board of Canada, Pink Ribbons, Inc. is a revealing and almost heart breaking look at the pink ribbons that are widely recognized as being supportive of the fight against breast cancer. But corporate greed seems to know no end, and certainly doesn't seem to have a conscience regardless of the seriousness of the cause, as long as they can increase their bottom line, and unfortunately, the pink ribbon movement is no exception to that. The trust and sincerity that we, who proudly display those ribbons and participate in walks/runs and anything else to support those with breast cancer, appears to have been betrayed both by the Susan G. Komen foundation, and big corporate interests, who add their names and products to the cause because of the huge revenues involved, but give back very little to the actual cancer survivors and research to find out what truly causes the disease. Stated bluntly, the pink ribbons and the Susan G. Komen foundation are a cash cow, and corporate America is cashing in. Sad, but true.

In interviews with Dr. Samantha King, whose book Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy was the inspiration for this film, and medical experts like Barbara A. Brenner, Dr. Charlene Elliott, Barbara Ehrenreich, Dr. Susan Love, and those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, we find that the "support" and fundraising isn't really funding better research, which makes one wonder if it's in Corporate America's best interest for a cure not to be found.

This film will touch your heart and emotions, and if after watching it, you're not stunned and somewhat demoralized, I'd be very surprised. Pink Ribbons, Inc. should be viewed by everyone who supports the fight against breast cancer and truly wants to see the disease wiped out. Pool hopes that the film will encourage people "to be more critical and more politically conscious about our actions to to stop thinking that by buying pink products, we're doing what needs to be done." I concur with her sentiments and add a very genuine and adamant, "So do I."

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Film Review: Inventing Our Life - The Kibbutz Experiment

Michele Wilson-Morris

In Toby Perl Freilich's "Inventing Our Life: The Kibbutz Experiment, Israel's hopes and fears for the very survival of its Kibbutz movement are highlighted in a deeply compelling and thought-provoking film. Freilich's documentary gives a good history lesson of the Kibbutz movement and brings us forward to present day with clarity and detail, outlining the challenges Israel faces with conviction and timeliness.

One hundred years ago, small groups of eastern European Jews who were known as the Kibbutz began to migrate to Palestine to make a new way of life, eventually becoming what we know to be the state of Israel today. But by the 1970's, society began to change and the Kibbutz movement, being no exception, began to unravel, raising the question "How could what seemed like an almost Utopian society falter? Everything from raising children to tending the land was done as a collective for the success of the group, and for a long time it worked. But just like the young people who were the pioneers of the Kibbutz wanted change, so do  the youth of the Kibbutz today. Can Israel survive these changes? Is the idea of the collective being replaced by Capitalism and the American dream? The film explores these questions in detail, incorporated the viewpoints of everyone from seniors to children. "Inventing Our Life - The Kibbutz Experiment" is a very informative and thought provoking piece that should be required viewing for everyone as this is a true account of the ideals that can shape the beginning of a new path for any people and the challenges that may await them along the way. Although this is a Jewish story, it is significant, timely, and relevant for us all. Freilich did a fine job with this film, which will move anyone viewing it. It is powerful and seductive, and should find a place in history of its own.

Film Review: Sesame Street:Singing With The Stars

Michele Wilson-Morris

From the very beginning, Sesame Street has been an innovator in finding ways to help educate children. In "Sesame Street: Singing With The Stars," they had some help from huge celebs like Jason Mraz, Andrea Bocelli, Alicia Keys, LL Cool J, Adam Sandler, Hootie and the Blowfish, and many others who are doing their thing while the muppets sing and dance along. It's a double whammy of star power when the muppets meet music, and the winners are all in viewing range of this great DVD. Sesame Street has had a major upgrade in both its look and coolness factor as the artists all sing melodies that sound just like you're listening to your radio, and the muppets are rocking to the groove with the dance moves of 2012. "Sesame Street: Singing With The Stars" is very entertaining, and children of all ages will find themselves enjoying it. This is a DVD that the entire family can enjoy together as new memories are made and old ones are brought back to life. The timeless and faithful Sesame Street process of learning how to count are matched to lyrics sung by today's hottest artists, and the process is brilliant.

Slow changes in scenery make it ideal for younger viewers, but not too slow for those of us over 21 and then some. This is a blue ribbon film like only Sesame Street can do, and it also comes with a CD that has 5 songs on it so little ones can sing along in the car. The world was so much better when we all lived on Sesame Street, and watching this will take you back there and make you want to stay.

Film Review: Never Stand Still

Charles A. Smith

Ron Honsa's "Never Stand Still," Winner of Best Documentary at both the San Francisco Dance Film Festival and the Dance Camera West Festival in Los Angeles, is a splendid and stunning documentary about the art of dance and the internationally renowned mecca Jacob's Pillow, established in the 1930's by innovator Ted Shawn on a farm in the Berkshires. It continues today to be a hot spot for dancers around the world. The documentary details the stories of those who danced there and a part of a deep and rich heritage, including the legends Marge Champion, Merce Cunningham, Suzanne Farrell, Alvin Ailey, and Mikhail Baryshnikov. Both workshop and theater, Jacob's Pillow provides the audience with an intimate look at its prodigies and promises, in an up close and personal way that astonishes and mesmerizes. Fast paces and energetic, the film moves the viewer through the course of the past and present in a way that only Ron Honsa could do. One of the quotes from "Never Stand Still" comes from Gideon Obarzanek:"Jacob's Pillow is know as the keeper." My own personal quote about it? "Never Stand Still is a keeper."

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Film Review: Nobody Else But You

Charles A. Smith

"Nobody Else But You" is a delightful and eccentric thriller with just the right hint of humor. An interesting murder mystery set in the town of Mouthe, France, the film captures the beauty of the region while providing intrigue and surprises galore. Filmed in French with English subtitles, the acting, scenery, and production are all top notch, and just when you think you've figured it all out, there's a new twist and the plot thickens.

"Nobody Else But You" is about a struggling writer trying to find inspiration, and find it he does, in a most unlikely and fascinating way while visiting an old childhood family vacation retreat. Curiosity gets the best of him  as he tries to determine if a death deemed a suicide was indeed that or if it was murder. Movie fans will be thoroughly satisfied with this well thought out and superbly acted film. Gerald Hustache-Mathieu's directing is exceptional, and many of the scenes are shot from angles that offer more to the naked eye than the norm. Viewers will find themselves guessing until the very last minute in this offbeat, but clever production. This one gets two thumbs up, and is a great date movie to boot.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

CD Review: Mark Wayne Glasmire (Self-titled)

Charles A. Smith

"Last Of A Dying Breed," the first cut on Mark Wayne Glasmire's self titled album, describes the singer perfectly with his great all American style and pure vocals. Glasmire is a great story teller, and blends his beautiful voice with the lyrics in a perfect combination, accentuated by both natural ability and experience. Both the ladies and gents will like this crooner, who exemplifies good country music that everyone can enjoy, including music fans of other genres. "Going Home" is a beautiful song about a soldier's call to duty and this tribute to the men and women who serve our country is both patriotic and heartwarming, as he pulls out all the stops, including a fantastic harmonica solo and a great band. All  of the music is beautifully arranged, and the songs are stories that you'll remember and want to hear again and again as you can really relate to them. Glasmire has the gift of making you feel his music through his voice and expression, which is almost hypnotic. He shows his "wild side" a bit and does some boogie woogie on the track "She's Got It All," which seals the deal on his star quality. I think it's safe to say that Mark has arrived and is here to stay. "Mark Wayne Glasmire" is an excellent CD, and one that belongs in any country fan's collection. 

CD Review: Compared To That (Brian Bromberg)

Charles A. Smith

Brian Bromberg's new CD, "Compared To That" is a classic in the making that's done by a master who is surrounded by others of equal skill, but on different instruments. The new 10 track CD, which will be released on June 5th by the Grammy nominated bassist/producer/composer/arranger who has played with everyone who's anyone in the world of music, is absolutely phenomenal. Never has a bass sounded so good! With jazz royalty artists like Alex Acuna, Gannin Arnold, Charlie Bisharat, Randy Brecker, Vinnie Colaiuta, George Duke, Bela Fleck, Mitch Forman, Larry Goldings, Gary Meek, and Tom Zink recording the album live in a two day jam session with Bromberg, the CD was destined for greatness and did not miss the mark. "If Ray Brown Was A Cowboy" is a powerful testimony to Bromberg's abilities on the upright bass, and well worth the listen. The solo is very well done, and it's interesting to note how a bassist can play the dominant role in a piece without being overbearing. You'll find folk jazz, classic jazz, smooth jazz, jazz fusion, and everything else you can think of or would like to hear on this album. The hybrid of styles and samples is amazing, and Bromberg's range in both playing and composing is exceptional and unique. "Hayride" is another great cut which incorporates instruments that are unconventional in jazz, such as the banjo, but with great results. The bottom line is, "Compared To That" is simply incomparable. Surrounded by a group of musicians who hold up their end of the jazz bandwagon, Bromberg is free to let his creative juices flow, and he does it with style and finesse. This is the music of a man who is at the top of his game.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

CD Review: Natural Selection (Soundtrack)

Paul Anderson

I first heard the music of the composer iZLER on the new ABC series "Revenge." For the movie Natural Selection, he paints a scene, punctuates the important parts of the show, and brings out the romance. The warm tones of finger style guitar, piano, and beautiful harmonies found in "Domestic Bliss" (track 2) reveal what you'll find throughout the music score -- music that reflects sensual and seductive scenes with jazzy grooves and even a Tango. The use of the Hammond B3 organ is beautiful and haunting with subtle dynamics that remind me of the style of Larry Goldings. You'll find wonderful understatement and beauty in iZLER's compositions for Natural Selection. And my favorite melody in "Domestic Bliss" is reprised in the last song "Diner" and swipes out with an interesting reverse piano sound. iZLER crafts a scene with charming melodic ideas and clever use of jazzy rhythms, which always leave me wanting more. Well done. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

CD Review: Dark Shadows (Original Score)

Paul Anderson

Fans of the original ABC afternoon series may remember the familiar flute theme of Dark Shadows, which played as Dan Curtis announced the latest events of Collinwood with a soft spoken narrative. Danny Elfman effectively uses the alto flute to begin “The Prologue” (track 1), setting the right tone for Dark Shadows. Mr. Elfman's score begins with the nostalgic and expands to epic proportions. The Prologue is the longest composition on the original score and, in it, the composer explores a vast range of dynamic colorful textures and effects with the symphonic orchestra and choir. The piece ends with a dark foreboding, taking us into Dark Shadows indeed.

During the "Resurrection" scene (track 2), the use of sonic clusters and rhythmic effects with the string sections and low thumps of sub tone analog synthesizer pulses build to a frenzy and drop us into a "disquiet." A child’s vocals call out and are answered by the signature Dark Shadows flute, which entice and frighten simultaneously. Danny Elfman is a master of the art of cinematic imagery, wedded to the unexpected blends of orchestra and electronic textures which can be heard in "The End" (track 19). It almost sets up like a dance track, with fast strings driving us for one bar, joined by 16th note pulsing synthesizer pedal bass. Flutes, and vibraphone were a huge part of the sound pallet of the original series, again illustrating the significant role that music has always played in Dark Shadows). Elfman's textural explosions of sound sweep the listener away with larger than life symphonic power -- both live, and electronic. The breakdowns complement the editing as the dynamics of the cues cut through you as sharply as perhaps being bitten by Barnabas.

No matter what your opinion of the film is, the Original Score will thrill you.

Dark Shadows opens in theaters May 11, 2012.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

CD Review: Romance Language (Kirk Whalum)

Paul Anderson

Kirk Whalum's latest CD, "Romance Language" is significant for jazz. It brings jazz to music lovers who may never have heard John Coltrane, and Johnny Hartman's 1963 recording. Kirk is to Trane as his brother Kevin is to Hartman on this project. Kevin represents a new generation of vocalists who are finding fresh directions in jazz. Kirk's entire band brings ideas and arrangements that are clever, and effective. And yes, I really like the Eleanor Rigby quote on "Autumn Serenade!"

"Almost Doesn't Count", features Peanuts on vocals, Kirk's uncle of 83 years young, and he nails it! Jazz purists, I urge you to take a listen and be prepared to smile, because there is no gimmickry here -- just sincere performances and great artistry. This gentleman belongs right at the top where he is, and once again, bravo Mr. Whalum.

Note: Be sure to listen to the exclusive interview with Kirk Whalum, about "Romance Language" and much more on the Entertainment Bank. Coming soon!

CD Review: Soulmine (Frank Gambale)

Paul Anderson

Grammy winning guitarist Frank Gambale delivers an outstanding new recording in "Soulmine" that reflects a career of innovative playing. To illustrate the point, there's even a Frank Gambale Signature Guitar -- the FG1 made by Carvin Frank, which is the best of the best.The arrangements on "Soulmine" feature Gambale's beautiful wife Boca, and an amazingly talented vocalist whose voice is soothing, seductive, and made for jazz. While her presence, and artistry of expression clearly set the tone on the first tune, "Love Set Me Free," there's something for on the album for all listeners.

Boca's vocal style is engaging and there is a passion that clearly comes through in her performances. Jazz fans who miss the days of the  fresh, creative, and authentic music of  Jazz-Rock and Fusion will appreciate uncompromising harmonies and influences ranging from Latin to Pop, and I'm smiling because I've missed Return to Forever, and  Brand X. A big thank you to Frank Gambale for not forgetting to how to bring it! This album is sure to garner another Grammy nomination, and is a must have for any serious jazz collector and music lovers who enjoy good music in general. If you want to find out what's been missing on your smooth jazz station, "Soulmine" is your answer.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

CD Review: International (SONNY)

Pop artist SONNY, a former member of Nick Cannon’s group 4Count, has gone solo, releasing his debut album, “International,” which is sure to be a favorite among pop lovers and those who like good music in general. It’s nice to listen to an album that doesn’t have a bad cut on it, and indeed “International” fits that bill, which is quite rare. Every song is danceable, and makes you want to get on the dance floor and party until the CD is over. SONNY reminds me a bit of Justin Timberlake with his vocal style, and his voice is definitely one that listeners will enjoy. Hot beats, great hooks, and solid vocal performances that are just right for the music are the hallmark of “International,” and if this album doesn’t make you tap your foot, bob your head, or at least put you in better mood, then you’d better check your pulse because you just might be in trouble. Not to mention, he has the chops for a great ballad, which I hope we’ll hear from him soon.

The native Danish artist who has been a part the entertainment industry since childhood and now resides in Hollywood/Los Angeles, co-wrote the album with close friend and musical partner Thomas Lumpkins (aka Tommy Parker), who has received critical acclaim for his work with Janet Jackson, Britney Spears, and J Lo. While SONNY has released the first video for the CD, Bad Girl, and displays a few of his moves here as he has on Dancing With The Stars and America’s Got Talent, I’m looking forward to future videos where he showcases his dancing talents even more.

The bottom line is that “International” is a CD that’s worth purchasing, and all of the tracks are airplay quality. Do yourself a favor and listen to this young gift to the world of music. I’ll be keeping my eyes (and ears) on SONNY as he continues to develop in his career.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Film Review: Orgasm Inc.

Michele Wilson-Morris

Orgasms. Who wouldn’t want to have one and how far would you go to make it a reality?  Liz Canner explores this very relevant topic in depth in a thoroughly entertaining and informative way in Orgasm Inc., as well as profiling pharmaceutical companies who are competing for what is sure to be a multi-billion dollar industry and one of the fastest growing segments in pharmaceutical research. Orgasm Inc. illustrates just how easy it is for us, the public at large, to be convinced that every problem we have is an illness that can and should be treated with pills.  It’s as easy as 1-2-3.   

  1.  Convince the public that there is a new generation of diseases.
  2.  Invent the disease.
  3. Create a market in which pharmaceuticals can prosper by curing or treating it.

Canner was asked to go beyond the role of journaling and documenting the development process to being a participant by producing porn for women that would allow them to become aroused. She was a true observer in her campaign to find the truth, or get as close to it as possible.

Is there really such a thing as Female Sexual Dysfunction? Or would pharmaceutical companies just like for us to believe there is. Orgasm Inc. presents many debatable points of view. The fact is that women should have the final say on whether there is truth in the issues presented. But is this all just another sham to make money from women based on a fictitious health problem that could probably be handled with more rest, less stress, and better, more informed partners as opposed to a new money making bonanza for the health industrial complex? Still, you can’t blame a girl for trying. The film is highly recommended and completely enjoyable. 

Film Review: Windfall

Paul Anderson

Director/Producer Laura Israel’s documentary film Windfall is based in the town of Meredith in upstate New York, and she does an excellent job at showing how “solutions” were offered to the hard working, well intentioned residents who needed money, or had fears of losing a dairy farm and/or a way of life, all of which were advantageous, to say the least, for shrewd prospecting wind developers.

Windfall explores how effective the techniques of contractual control and secrecy through non-disclosure agreements can destroy a community. In this particular case, AIRTRICITY, an Ireland based company, approached the town’s people to gain land leases for turbines to be installed in elevated regions of the town. The agreements between AIRTRICITY and the land owners/neighbors brought about a divide and ensured that there was no solidarity among the people who needed it most – the land owners. The results were disastrous. Unlike the poor in urban areas, the people in Windfall are land owners and moderately successful, so the mechanisms of manipulation necessitated a different tactic. The fears invoked by a potential lawsuit prevented residents from banning together to achieve the greater good for all involved as they soon found that the leases offered were merely years of inferior solutions to going green.

Windfall is a testament to how an industry can take green technology that is beneficial for society at large (i.e. alternatively fueled cars) and subvert it into another cynical shakedown of hope for the future.

I, after watching Windfall, felt the urge to get involved in some way to help expose this ongoing ruse to distract the public from viable solutions for tomorrow that are not shrouded in subterfuge. Strong communities will continue to face challenges from those who wish to benefit from the weakest parts of a divided society. It’s a great film, and one that is insightful, alarming, and very capable of moving the masses to demand what we deserve – a path to a truly green environment. Every American’s clock should go off to this wake up call, and we should hold the parties in power responsible for a cleaner, safer, more viable environment.