Writer and director Richard Curtis’ love-is-everywhere theme is illustrated by nine interlocking stories, none of which veer too far away from the director’s Four Weddings and a Funeral or Notting Hill. Here he’s on manipulative autopilot: the stories are sketchy, the characters are contrived, and the relationships reek of convenience.
Hero or criminal, you can’t deny the legendary appeal of Australia’s somewhat grittier Robin Hood. The story of the bushranger that defied British colonial brutality has been told in books and movies many times over, but this beautifully filmed, realistic portrayal is certainly the best yet. Solid performances throughout.
|League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Alan Moore’s graphic novel has been shaped into a rather blunted super-hero adventure by Stephen Norrington (better known for Blade). Intriguing and fun, but the fictional literary characters – from Allan Quatermain and Captain Nemo to Dr. Jekyll and Dorian Grey – take a back seat to the special-effects extravaganza.
|Day for Night
Truffaut’s effusive toast to film and film-making – an homage to the charming, intrepid, and fallible folks who join together temporarily, strive for the heights, and ultimately create a little magic for the millions. The director’s youthful, fan-like enthusiasm is displayed in the hand-held camerawork, tributes to his deities, and silly dream sequences.
|Coheed and Cambria – In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth
With little or no commercial image, this duo is a truly amazing torch-bearer of modern “emo” rock. Odd, yet surprisingly catchy guitar riffs are punctuated to greater heights by dynamic drumming, and complex bass lines. Vocalist Claudio Sanchez’s range will send chills down your neck as he tells stories of war, love, murder, and mystery.
|The Casa Loma Orchestra 1930-34
Glen Gray and company remain one of the great lost swing bands. No breakout stars, no guest vocalists, and a focus that was more pop than jazz or blues. Lush ballads were the band’s calling card, and the instrumental interplay manages to combine equal parts sadness, lust, and beauty – and make it all seem not just fitting, but wise.
|Ian Simmonds – Return to X
For over a decade, the multitalented Simmonds has cooperated on numerous projects, from founding acid jazz collective The Sandals to producing breakbeat duo Leftfield. After his first solo project as Juryman, he moved to the mighty !K7 Records, establishing himself on this 2001 release as a premier nu-jazz/dark downtempo producer.
|Ute Lemper – Berlin Cabaret
A beautiful album, and a must-have for any lover of German cabaret. As Edith Piaf is to France, Ute is a national musical icon, who conveys longing, irony, cynicism, love, anger and humor like no other performer. The musical quality on this collection is sensational, and the meaningful lyrics are available in both English (this disc) and German.