Branagh WALLANDER BBC TV series vs WALLANDER Canal!!

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My first introduction to Henning Mankell’s detective Kurt Wallander is with the Kenneth Branagh helmed WALLANDER BBC series. I found those shows visually striking and emotionally intense. Only recently have I likewise become introduced to the earlier Swedish series starring Krister Henriksson (earliest episodes dating from 2006, with the latest episodes being in 2013).

There is a degree of fatalism and nihilism in the more slick and stylish BBC reworking of WALLANDER that is absent from the earlier Swedish television series. And I feel that that absence is to the earlier show’s benefit.

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While the Swedish series is no less a captive and mirror of the forlorn land it depicts, there is in the original series and in the captivating and world wearied yet bemused performance by Krister Henriksson a welcome sense of hope, of optimism even in the face of those who have forsworn hope. As such, despite or because of its understated nature, there is something more endearing in the Swedish WALLANDER, something easier worn.

Whereas the BBC version of Wallander is a different animal all-together. First its scale is far grandeur than the Swedish version, essentially each season comprised of three feature length movies, with approximately two years between seasons; 2008, 2010, and 2012 respectively.

Add to that Branagh’s wonderful portrayal of a man ever more broken is superlative. However that degree of depression can be taxing to view. To the BBC WALLANDER’s credit it is a distinct and different take from the Swedish version they were going for and achieved, so it can be viewed as its own thing rather than simply a remake.

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All that to say you can watch the original series and the BBC series and see two distinct and divergent shows, each deserving of your time. But if pressed regarding the version of Wallander that I enjoy the most, I would have to choose the Krister Henriksson series.

While the BBC version has amazing direction and cinematography, powerhouse acting by its lead Kenneth Branagh, and a wonderful score and introduction (reminiscent of the equally compelling LUTHOR), thematically I prefer the less angst ridden and less dire Swedish version. Its low-key delivery making for less hyperbolic viewing.

Grade: WALLANDER BBC series gets a grade of B/B+, and the CANAL Swedish version edges it out with a solid grade of B+.

Wallander Season 1 & 2 [Blu-ray] (This item requires a 1080i compatible player)

Wallander Series 3 [Blu-ray]

Wallander (Faceless Killers / The Man Who Smiled / The Fifth Woman) [Blu-ray]

Wallander Series 3 [Blu-ray]

Wallander: The Original Episodes, Set 1

Next up I’ll sample the Rolf Lassgard WALLANDER episodes and bring you my take on those.

Netflix Streaming MOVIE OF THE DAY : THE WILD GEESE [1978]


Netflix Streaming MOVIE OF THE DAY : THE WILD GEESE [1978]

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Directed capably, if unexceptionally, by Andrew V. McLaglen, what elevates this tale of aging mercenaries and an off the book mission, is a surprisingly incisive script, that includes three or four exchanges, about Africa, and colonialism, and war, and ethnic cleansing, and bigotry and apartheid, that still resonate today.

Based on a novel by Daniel Carney, the exceptional screenplay is by Reginald Rose of 12 ANGRY MEN fame and involves the rescue of a deposed African president called Limbani (loosely based on the real life Lumumba). Add to that a stellar cast that includes Richard Burton, Roger Moore, Richard Harris, Stewart Granger and a host of great British character actors, and you have a movie that exceeds expectations. Strongly Recommended. Grade: B+.

The Lost Men Series : Four GREAT films currently available on Streaming!

The Lost Men Series : Four GREAT films currently available on Streaming!

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These four films, which did not get theatrical releases, are far better than the vast majority of films that do reach the theaters. Disappointing films such as DEAD MAN DOWN and SPRING BREAKERS get screen time, when visually and thematically superior films such as Tim McCann’s brilliant ANOTHER ZERO IN THE SYSTEM and Dan Eberle’s enthralling, nearly wordless PRAYER TO A VENGEFUL GOD go unheralded.

And Michael Morrissey’s impressive BOY WONDER is the myth of masked vengeance done better than most big budget super-hero movies. Rounding out the quartet, director Brian A. Miller’s HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN is one of the best neo-noirs seen since the Coen Brother’s BLOOD SIMPLE or Craig Ross Jr’s frenetic and fantastic CAPPUCCINO. Dave Bautista delivering a surprisingly elegant and understated performance.

One of the common threads these four movies share is understated but brilliant performances, as well as a thematic conceit of men either at odds or abandoned by the judicial system, who must themselves find justice for those around them.

From Mike Simmons memorable turn as the protagonist in ANOTHER ZERO IN THE SYSTEM (A great film unfairly lambasted by the short-sighted crowd, there’s rumors of director Tim McCann and star Mike Simmons in talk to helm the new Luke Cage/Power-Man series from Marvel/Netflix — to which I say… heck yes!) to Director/Writer Dan Eberle, also doing triple duty as star in his PRAYER TO A VENGEFUL GOD. Together these four films create a new and refreshing phase of American cinema, a new wave if you will.

Sample them for yourself while they last on streaming services, and when you find yourself smitten with them… purchase your copies here:

Another Zero in the System

Prayer to a Vengeful God

Boy Wonder

House of the Rising Sun

Roku Streaming Movie Oddity of the Day : THE HIKE

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Roku Streaming Movie Oddity of the Day is THE HIKE – This one got my interest, not because of quality, but scarcity. To get the Region 1 DVD of this film on Amazon would cost you (as of the date of this posting) over $40.

However through the magic of the Roku device (or your device of choice), and the channel POPCORNFLIX, you can watch this film for free and see if it’s remotely worth purchasing.

It sounds like a poor man’s DESCENT to me, and the reviews are lukewarm at best, but for the price of free I’m willing to check it out.

You can view it online here!
Or add the POPCORNFLIX channel to your Roku or other device by using the handy instructions found here to view it on your tv.


Addendum- The first 40 minutes of this film, you can be forgiven for wanting to turn off the movie, the acting is not good, the writing cringe worthy in places, however that said, it’s not completely without interest, and by the 42 minute mark, it actually becomes something of a more compelling movie than I thought it was going to be.

No one is going to confuse this with a great film, but for the genre it is a more thought out, and arguably impressive effort than you would expect. Let’s put it this way, it is far better than over-hyped films such as A LONELY PLACE TO DIE(2011) and TRIANGLE(2009). And whatever acting issues you have with the first half of the movie, are not there with the last half. Plus it boasts a throbbing, addictive score.

All in all, and while I just said no one is going to confuse this movie with a great film, I do think the 2nd half of this movie is pretty darn impressive. And I personally thought the ending was exceedingly good and lifts the whole movie up. Grade: B.

Plus this movie is available in a nice multi-region Blu-Ray for less than the price of the DVD that originally started this post. So if you determine after viewing, that this is a film you want to add to your collection, grab your copy here: The Hike [Blu-ray]. They have about 5 copies left as of this writing.

100 Reasons CDs still rock! Reason #42: NOISY LOVE SONGS by Okkyung Lee

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NOISY LOVE SONGS by Okkyung Lee – Is undeniably noisy and I’m almost positive that portions of its scathing sound stage begins to liquefy my frontal lobe, but that’s a negotiable price to pay for cellist Okkyung Lee and her eight part ensemble’s ability to take sound and music far past normal.

A challenging but revelatory listening experience that you need the full sonic range that a good CD will provide, to adequately hear and experience. Grade: B+. Strongly Recommended!

Noisy Love Songs… price your cd here!

And take your CDs and DVDs with you, with this 21st century walkman: Coby TFDVD7011 7-Inches Portable DVD Player

Today’s Recommended Deals!

Netflix Winners and Losers : DAVID O’ REILLY vs ROSALIND LEIGH in our Movie Throwdown!


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In this installment of MOVIE THROWDOWN let us start with a film from Netflix that falls solidly in the worth missing category:

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THE POSSESSION OF DAVID O’ REILLY- The audacity and body horror aspects of this film paints it as a decidedly different haunting/possession film, AMITYVILLE HORROR by way of Cronenberg-lite, but that’s not enough to offset the weaknesses of this film, Namely contrived overzealous performances, and a script that ignores the basic rationale of the protagonists not either committing or kicking out anyone behaving so mental.

It comes off as a manic exercise in filmic irrationality, that quickly wears out its welcome along with any modicum of sense. Grade: An intriguing premise that begins well, but quickly devolves into a hysterical mess. Avoid. D. The debut feature film of Andrew Cull it hints at definite promise, if he could reign in the excesses of script, acting and directing.

Of a similar type to THE POSSESSION OF DAVID O’ REILLY, even down to the nomenclature heavy title, but far better is…

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THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF ROSALIND LEIGH- Directed by Rodrino Guidino, this is also a debut feature film, but you could not tell that by viewing it. The film has the assured look and deft touch of a master filmmaker. Impressive, grand opening sequence; beautiful use of visuals and sound. “Despair is an affliction of the godless.”.

Wonderful set design on the titular character’s cabinet of curiosities, filled as it is with religious iconography. If you are going to set a film in primarily one location, as this film does, it behooves you to have or create a location that will keep your audience captivated, and this film manages to pull that mandate off and then some.

Fluid and engaging camera work, such that it’s difficult not to stay rooted to the screen for fear of missing any of the striking imagery. The camera moves like a preternatural thing, and marries with the sound-work and set design, both of which are stunning, to create an engrossing experience.

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If a fan of HOUSE OF THE DEVIL you will adore this film and its uncoiling pacing. The unseen neighbor… very creepy. In fact this film is filled with wonderful voices, bringing to mind that this and PONTYPOOL use sound, specifically spoken word, so effectively they nearly create a whole new sub-genre of horror film.

I found THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF ROSALIND LEIGH ultimately a very, no pun intended, haunting and sad and lovely film, which is an odd thing to say of a horror film, but this is no ordinary horror film. I highly recommend it. Grade: A-.

This is one you can sample via Netflix, and then if you are as impressed with it as I am, buy the DVD (currently a bluray does not exist) to watch this film in the highest quality possible and to be able to listen to the director’s commentary to have him walk you through what was on his mind as he composed these shots, composed this sumptuous study in bravura film-making.

So this installment’s loser is THE POSSESSION OF DAVID O’ REILLY and the winner is THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF ROSALIND LEIGH. Both films are currently available for viewing on Netflix, and the winner available for purchase here:Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh

Tell em HT sent ya! And come back for more Movie throw-downs next time!

CD of the Day (and strong contender for CD of the Year) Gregory Porter’s LIQUID SPIRIT


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I’ve been listening to a lot of music recently. Actual cds not mp3s, not rough compressions or rough approximations of the song, but the full CD sound spectrum of the song.

MP3s were never designed as a replacement for musical CDs, it is a sampling medium, great for helping you decide what is worth buying (or even audio books where for the most part all you are reproducing is a person’s limited conversational speaking range) but not suitable as a replacement for a full range music recording. MP3s get rid of extraneous info, the highs and the lows, the extremes, but oft I’ve found it’s those very pauses and extremes… that compression schemes such as MP3 would lose, wherein we are best found.

I’ve listened to everything from Rock to Rap, sampling all those voices from the near and far. And some of those CDs are very good, but only one recently has been inspired, has been revelatory. Revelatory as in revelation. Gregory Porter’s LIQUID SPIRIT is that cd. Not since stumbling upon the works of Terry Callier or Solomon Burke have I been so impressed with a new discovery. It’s not just his voice, or even the lyrics, which as stated are inspired, it is his phrasing, his delivery. Smooth and easy crooning, holding at bay… a night falling into day. It’s a very relaxed delivery, crooning to you, as the stars… dim.

Melancholy. That’s the word, there is a vein of melancholy in Gregory Porter’s Grammy acclaimed vocals, but melancholy that is tempered by a fervent romanticism. This is timeless music, as valid for an audience of 1920 as it will be for an audience of 2020.

This is today’s MUST BUY, not just the CD of the day, but a CD to enjoy from first song to last for far longer than a day. An essential CD.

In an age of Itunes when everyone is satisfied with listening to the distant echoes of music (mp3s) this is a CD that will prompt you to invest in, that nearly extinct device, a portable CD player.

However, it is the 21st century so thankfully we have alternatives to just having a portable CD player. You can, for a little more, buy a simple media tablet about the same size and weight as a portable CD player, but that allows you to play your MP3 cd-rs and cd-rws (as much as I rail against MP3 for music, for audio books or Old Time Radio it works just fine) as well as view DVDs! That folks is what we call… a win/win!

Price both the CD and a good portable media player-tablet, at the links below. You’ll be glad… for both.

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Liquid Spirit CD

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Coby TFDVD7009 7-Inch Portable DVD/CD/MP3 Player, Black – nifty portable media tablet… now it appears Coby Electronics has gone the way of the dodo, so you may want to pick up these low cost DVD/CD/media tablets while you can.

Enjoy the links. And if you purchase through the links, I want to let you know it is always appreciated, and helps keep this Blog going. Thanks and enjoy the items!!!

And for those looking to catch Gregory Porter in concert, he has a pretty lively 2014 touring schedule, He’s currently tearing through Europe, but has a few stateside stops as well, to include, PA, New orleans, Colorado, DC, and a few more. View the whole schedule here!

15 Best Blurays in the age of Roku and NetFlix

The way I view streaming and on-demand and Roku and Netflix is very much as a great vehicle to try shows, and to find great shows and movies to love. But once you have found something that wows you, there is no substitute for owning that movie or tv show in the highest quality available; and for all the talk of HD quality picture, streaming and broadcast models, the highest consumer quality available is Bluray followed by DVD.

Streaming and Broadcast delivery methods inherently suffer from throttling, a bandwidth and cost-savings measure, that makes the quality at any given moment variable and uncertain; that adds another level of degradation and compression, onto an already compressed source. Add to the uncertain quality aspect the fact that the duration of these shows is likewise variable, shows and movies subject to disappearing as licensing deals demand, and owning your own physical copy of your favorite show or movie remains the best way to make sure you can view that show when and how you would like.

The above is why there remains no substitute for watching that first season of THE HUMAN TARGET in its reference quality Bluyray mastering, or METROPOLIS the Fritz Lang opus, or that first elegiac season of SPACE 1999 or any of the following. Without further ado I present you today’s 15 best Blu-rays in the age of streaming, Enjoy!

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Human Target: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray] – One of the most action packed and enjoyable tv shows, with some of the best fight choreography, looks jaw dropping stunning in this superb quality Blu-ray

Space: 1999: The Complete Season One [Blu-ray]

Metropolis (Masters of Cinema Series) [Dual Format Limited Edition SteelBook] – One of the greatest films of all time, and one of the greatest Blu-rays

RATING THE SEASONS : The Best Television of All Time – Alfred Hitchcock’s THE GLASS EYE

“The loneliness… the desolation of her life, were beyond belief. For she herself was unaware of how lonely and desolate it really was.”

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And with that line, we are introduced to one of two great ventriloquist themed episodes from the original 1950s run of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, namely 1957’s THE GLASS EYE.

Starring the great Jessica Tandy and narrated by an extremely young, pre-Star Trek William Shatner, it is a shining example of that currently extinct format, the 30 minute dramatic anthology. These are tales that have been much retold in the 6 decades since their inception, but arguably never better than in these original shows.

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The endings naturally are hard-pressed to surprise a jaded 21st century audience that grew up on 4th and 5th generation tawdry knockoffs, but knowing where the story is going does not change the masterful solemnity in which these tales are told (written by the prolific and justifiably acclaimed Stirling Silliphant).

This episode in particular, poetically directed by the stellar Robert Stevens, almost 6 decades after its making; remains an excellent way to pass 25 minutes. Grade: Imminently Re-watchable.

Get this Emmy Winning episode and the rest of season 3 here:
Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Season Three

Movie Review : Kevin Smith’s RED STATE

Today’s FAVORITE Direct on Demand Movie!

RED STATE – Who would believe that the director who brought us the justifiably derided COP OUT could make something as surprisingly masterful and powerful and thought provoking and challenging as RED STATE. The premise of high-school kids and internet sex and cults, seemingly sounds like expoitation in all the cringeworthy ways or sophomoric humor ways that most of us would choose to avoid. The Kevin Smith slacker humor/films… not my cup of tea.

However the hope of RED STATE being Kevin Smith trying something a bit different and darker inticed me to give this film a try. Glad I did. From an easy beginning it goes to places that are surprisingly and jaw droppingly harrowing and inexplicable.

It is not a highschool, or slacker, or juvenile film. It is primarily a film about messed up adults, faith, anger, and the places dire and dark that belief in our own rightousness, can take us. The dialog and performances, the writing and direction, the feast and the famine… marks this film as something… new under the sun.

It is a fantastic film all the way to that great ending. Grade : Excellent. Not just a must watch, a must own. Highly Recommended!