28 December 2008

Book Reviewer's Meme

What a great Idea from Grasping for the Wind! Here's out it works, per Otto:
My list of fantasy and sf book reviewers is woefully out of date. I need your help to fix that. But rather than go through the hassle of having you send me recommendations or sticking them in comments, what you can do is take the following list and stick it on your website, then add yourself to the list, preferably in alphabetical order. That way, I will be able to track it across the web from back links, and can add each new blog to my roll as it comes along. So take this list, add it to your blog, and add a link to your blog on it. If you are already on the list, repost this meme at your blog so others can see it, and find new blogs from the links others put up on their blogs. Everybody wins! Be sure to send the list around to others as well. There is an easy to copy window of all the links and text at the bottom of this post to make it even simpler to do.

I would be ever so grateful if you would help me out.

Here ITTIR goes!


7 Foot Shelves
The Accidental Bard
A Boy Goes on a Journey
A Dribble Of Ink
A Hoyden's Look at Literature
Adventures in Reading
The Agony Column
Andromeda Spaceways
The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
Ask Daphne
aurealisXpress
Australia Specfic in Focus
Author 2 Author
Barbara Martin
Bees (and Books) on the Knob
Bibliophile Stalker
Bibliosnark
BillWardWriter.com
The Billion Light-Year Bookshelf
Bitten by Books
The Black Library Blog
Blog, Jvstin Style
Blood of the Muse
The Book Bind
Bookgeeks
Bookslut
The Book Smugglers
Bookspotcentral
The Book Swede
Bookrastination
Breeni Books
Cheaper Ironies [pro columnist]
Cheryl's Musings
Critical Mass
The Crotchety Old Fan
Damien G. Walter
Danger Gal
Dark Wolf Fantasy Reviews
Darque Reviews
Dave Brendon's Fantasy and Sci-Fi Weblog
Dear Author
The Deckled Edge
Dragons, Heroes and Wizards
The Discriminating Fangirl
Dusk Before the Dawn
Enter the Octopus
Eve's Alexandria
Fantastic Reviews
Fantastic Reviews Blog
Fantasy Book Critic
Fantasy Cafe
Fantasy Debut
Fantasy Book Reviews and News
Fantasy and Sci-fi Lovin' Blog
Feminist SF - The Blog!
The Fix
The Foghorn Review
Frances Writes
From a Sci-Fi Standpoint
Fruitless Recursion
The Galaxy Express
Galleycat
The Gamer Rat
Genre Reviews
Graeme's Fantasy Book Review
Grasping for the Wind
The Green Man Review
Hasenpfeffer
Highlander's Book Reviews
Horrorscope
The Hub Magazine
Hyperpat's Hyper Day
I Think, Therefore I Review.
Ink and Keys
io9
Jumpdrives and Cantrips
Lair of the Undead Rat
League of Reluctant Adults
Literary Escapism
Michele Lee's Book Love
The Mistress of Ancient Revelry
MIT Science Fiction Society
Monster Librarian
More Words, Deeper Hole
Mostly Harmless Books
My Favourite Books
Neth Space
The New Book Review
NextRead
OF Blog of the Fallen
The Old Bat's Belfry
Outside of a Dog
Paranormality
Pat's Fantasy Hotlist
Piaw's Blog
Post-Weird Thoughts
Publisher's Weekly
Reading the Leaves
Realms of Speculative Fiction
Reviewer X
The Road Not Taken
Rob's Blog o' Stuff
Robots and Vamps
Sandstorm Reviews
ScifiChick
Sci Fi Wire
SciFiGuy
Sci-Fi Fan Letter
Sci-Fi Songs [Musical Reviews]
The Sequential Rat
Severian's Fantastic Worlds
SF Diplomat
SF Gospel
SF Reviews.net
SF Revu
SF Signal
SF Site
SFF World's Book Reviews
Silver Reviews
The Specusphere
Spinebreakers
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
Speculative Fiction
Speculative Fiction Junkie
Speculative Horizons
Spiral Galaxy Reviews
Spontaneous Derivation
Sporadic Book Reviews
Stella Matutina
The Sudden Curve
The Sword Review
Tangent Online
Tehani Wessely
Temple Library Reviews
Tor.com [also a publisher]
True Science Fiction
Un:Bound
Urban Fantasy Land
Vast and Cool and Unsympathetic
Variety SF
Walker of Worlds
Wands and Worlds
The Wertzone
With Intent to Commit Horror
WJ Fantasy Reviews
The World in a Satin Bag
WriteBlack
Young Adult Science Fiction

Foreign Language (other than English)

Cititor SF [Romanian, but with English Translation]
Elbakin.net [French]

Foundation of Krantas [Chinese (traditional)]

The SF Commonwealth Office in Taiwan [Chinese (traditional) with some English essays]
Yenchin's Lair [Chinese (traditional)]

Aguarras [Brazilian, Portuguese]
Fernando Trevisan [Brazilian, Portuguese]
Human 2.0 [Brazilian, Portuguese]
Life and Times of a Talkative Bookworm [Brazilian, Porteguese]
Ponto De Convergencia [Brazilian, Portuguese]
pós-estranho [Brazilian, Portuguese]
Skavis [Brazilian, Portuguese]

Fantasy Seiten [German, Deustche]
Fantasy Buch [German, Deustche]
Literaturschock [German, Deustche]
Welt der fantasy [German, Deustche]
Bibliotheka Phantastika [German, Deustche]
SF Basar [German, Deustche]
Phantastick News [German, Deustche]
X-zine [German, Deustche]
Buchwum [German, Deustche]
Phantastick Couch [German, Deustche]
Wetterspitze [German, Deustche]
Fantasy News [German, Deustche]
Fantasy Faszination [German, Deustche]
Fantasy Guide [German, Deustche]
Zwergen Reich [German, Deustche]
Fiction Fantasy [German, Deustche]

17 December 2008

Christmas Essential Viewing

Christmas Viewing Essentials
By Kristin Battestella
 
It's a Wonderful Life (60th Anniversary Edition)I know Christmas is fast approaching, so instead of meandering about charming holiday music and films, I’m going to give it to you short and sweet. Need to keep the kids still during winter break? Want to unwind from the chaotic shopping sessions? Here’s the holiday films you need to survive-in no magical order.

It’s A Wonderful Life- Yes, I love classics, but even the biggest black and white naysayer can take some Christmas meaning from Frank Capra’s holiday gem. ZuZu’s petals, Clarence, Bedford Falls, come on. You know it. Say it with me, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”

Scrooged- When people (i.e. me!) harp on you about the return to Dickensian Christmas charm and value, you don’t need Tiny Tim and Bah Humbug if you’ve got Scrooged. Bill Murray’s 1988 is A Christmas Carol meets Wall Street in only the way Bill Murray can amuse you.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation- Some of the fashion may be out of date and Chevy Chase is years past his comedic prime, but there’s still superior gags from Sparky and the gang. Find me a person who hasn’t had a family Christmas gone awry because of freaky family and blown up trees, only then will I withdraw my praise.

Miracle on 34th Street (Special Edition)Miracle on 34th Street- Stick with the 1947 classic, trust me. Kids will forget the black and white once they hear the problem: Santa on trial! Baby boomers will also feel warm and fuzzy when Natalie Wood pulls Edmund Gwenn’s beard. How can you not?

A Christmas Story- Did you triple dog dare me not to include A Christmas Story? Pick your favorite part for this family gem. Some like the sentimentality of an early mid century American Christmas; my mom still can’t get over the bunny suit. I ask you, do you have a leg lamp ornament on your tree? You don’t even need this one on DVD, it runs 24 hours a day!


The Bishop’s Wife / The Preacher’s Wife- Older folks adore Cary Grant’s timeless take as suave angel Dudley seeking to save Christmas for The Bishop and his pretty wife. One of the few times an update has been worthy, The Preacher’s Wife gives us an angelic Denzel Washington and enchanting vocals from Whitney Houston.

The Nativity Story- The best telling of the first Christmas, simply put. No kinky stuff about virgins or mysticism. Historical and religious, beat that.

We're No Angels (1955) We’re No Angels - Humphrey Bogart as a ne’er do well escaped con doing well on Christmas. Perfect comedic performances from talent such as Aldo Ray, Peter Ustinov, Joan Bennett, and Basil Rathbone keep this one charming for young and old.

Home Alone- Yes, yes, we know the ‘aaaahhhhh’, but when was the last time you sat down with the entire family and watched this one all the way through? A little dated now, but still a darling lesson.

Bad Santa- Enough about family friendly stuff for the kids. Check out the unrated version of Bad Santa for adult cynicism and perhaps truer reflections on how a lot of people probably feel at Christmas.


Elf- Will Ferrell in tights and yet James Caan keeps a straight face. Fine cast and genuine sentiment mixed with great physical comedy- Elf is probably the best newest addition to the genre.

White ChristmasHoliday Inn/White Christmas- For real old school folks, take the black and white Holiday Inn. Bing’s real version of White Christmas and Fred Astaire’s toe tapping was so unbeatable that they tried to do it again. In this new musical revival, take in White Christmas again-in widescreen- for all its Technicolor holiday splendor.

A Christmas Carol- Well of course I had to get a faithful adaptation of this staple in here. You can take your pick. The original 1938 is dated, but great background for a holiday party. The classic 1951 Alstair Sim version has to be seen at least once by all. Favor musicals? Try Albert Finney or Kelsey Grammar’s new tune. If you need Oscar weight, take George C. Scott’s 1984 carol. Then again, there’s always Mickey’s Christmas Carol. If you must know, I do prefer Patrick Stewart’s 1999 faithful, but that’s just me.


And for a bit of Hanukkah….
On a sad note, I don’t know of any good Hanukkah films. Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights is the choice by default. I love Chaim Potok’s novel The Chosen, but I’ve not seen the film version. I suppose you can’t go wrong with The Ten Commandments, but that is usually reserved for Passover. So, why not…

Exodus- This past June, I watched Exodus in honor of the 60th Anniversary of the founding of Israel. Why not ring out 2008 with Paul Newman’s ode to the triumph of the Jewish spirit?

Unfortunately, it appears the new Kwanzaa documentary The Black Candle is not available on DVD. Narrated by Maya Angelou, this documentary sheds light on the celebration and the African-American triumph.
 
However you spend your December with your family and friends, remember you are blessed and that I love you, whoever you are wherever you are. Merry Christmas!

16 December 2008

Elvis' Christmas Album

Reissue of Elvis’ Christmas Album Essential
By Kristin Battestella
 
Elvis' Christmas AlbumI grew up with four Christmas compact discs (we won’t mention the slew of records). One of them was, of course, Elvis’ Christmas Album. You’ve most likely not had a holiday season without it either, considering the 1957 release has sold an estimated nine million copies. Why then is this CD out of print? It’s just not Christmas without that red cover adored with Christmas Presents and Elvis’ face-for those folks who swear their mall’s Santa is The King.

Santa Claus Is Back In Town starts the set off in proper rock and roll fashion. This original composition has everything we love about Elvis and the way his music changed the medium forever. I don’t like a lot of secular tunes, but Elvis isn’t poking fun like I feel some of today’s bubble gum pop are doing. Great lyrics and delivery here. You know you’re going to have a good time listening just from this opener.

After the humorous chit chat to start the track, Elvis treats us to a bluesy rendition of White Christmas. More in the spirit of The Drifters than Bing Crosby, this tune has just as much singability and is equally familiar. The arrangement works for Elvis and his voice and style.

Here Comes Santa Claus continues the fun, upbeat vibe. Elvis adds more rock to this country tune. Even though the original LP was divided with the secular songs on side A and the religious material on the flipside, Elvis’ delivery give strength and Christmas meaning to each song. “Santa knows that we’re God’s children…” you can’t help but finish the whole verse!

I’ll Be Home For Christmas is the first slow tune from Elvis. His beloved Love Me Tender and Are You Lonesome Tonight vibes take on a new lonely feeling here. Perhaps there are better known renditions or superior vocalists that have taken on this track, but here Elvis’ slow blues and even a bit of cracking notes sell the holiday melancholy.

Elvis’ Blue Christmas is just that. It’s sad and tugging at your heartstrings along with that bluesy guitar, yet somehow makes this touch of melancholy fun. Who would have thought Blue Christmas would be the chance to let loose? Anyone can call themselves an Elvis impersonator just by saying ‘BlueBlueBlue Christmas.’

The single Santa Bring My Baby Back To Me is still great for a holiday dance party. Although it’s very short at under two minutes, it’s a catchy little tune in the spirit of Elvis’ rock repertoire.
 
After such hip tunes, Elvis’ Christmas Album presents several traditional carol and gospel tracks. Oh Little Town of Bethlehem slows things down, but Elvis is able to take his time. His singing range is spotlighted here with long, low notes and powerful lyrics.

Silent Night continues the Christmas lullaby feeling. It’s so slow and enchanting with Elvis’ usual backers The Jordanaires harmonizing sweetly beside him. One might think such soft sounds are meant for a meaningful finish, but Silent Night is placed nearer the middle of the album. The placement here, however, works, because we close out with a set of powerfully soft religious tunes. I imagine back in the day this was done for strategic reasons and market appeal, but this grouping allows for pause after all the hip rock and Christmas fun songs.

Today it’s a little surprising to conclude Elvis’ Christmas Album with four gospel tracks. There’s more traditional fair to be had, of course, and the total album is rather short at thirty minutes. Most singers today wouldn’t mix genres-not on the same album anyway-but in the fifties it seems it would have been more acceptable somehow, with other artists like Kate Smith and Frank Sinatra recording religious music as well as pop. These songs are, of course, now Christmas staples to me because of this album.

Peace In The Valley is a beautiful song itself lyrically, but Elvis’ low vibes and echoes again from The Jordanaires do make this a perfect song. It’s the dead of winter, nature’s darkest hour coupled with near a capella talk of lions laying with lambs, changes ‘from this creature that I am’, no sadness, and no sorrow. Truly lovely Christmas sentiments.

I Believe continues the Christian ideals and highlight of Elvis’ voice. As much fun as the pop tunes feel and sound, there’s something extra about Elvis’ gospel music. When he says I Believe, you believe him. Even when Elvis nearly cracks towards the end of the song, its okay. He didn’t mess up. On the contrary it makes each note more meaningful.

We’re treated to more of the same with Take My Hand Precious Lord. Normally I would find such seemingly redundant tunes annoying, but taken together, these final four tracks are quite the religious statement. Peace in Valley shows the joys promised, I Believe the faith it takes, Take My Hand the love of Christ, and finally It Is No Secret What God Can Do as the final witness.

It Is No Secret What God Can Do is a fitting place to conclude Elvis’ Christmas Album. It’s words are the perfect place of reflection at midnight on Christmas Eve, and Elvis’ range is perfect. During the chorus the King of Rock and Roll can awe us with his vocals. On the verses, however, it’s as if Elvis is speaking directly to you. Elvis, himself a spiritual person, makes quite a statement with these closing tunes. Sure we have all that about Santa Claus and presents, but Elvis’ Christmas Album keeps the reason for the season at heart.
 
After years of success and the keeping of holiday memories, I was surprised to see that Elvis’ Christmas Album is now out of print. These recordings are of course available on other sets-including Christmas Peace, Elvis Christmas, and I also love Elvis Sings The Wonderful World of Christmas- but the pull of this iconic album reeks with the distaste of special ultimate super duper edition re releases that are for the sake of sales, not holiday tradition. Hang on to those cassettes and LPs, folks!
 
Elvis’ Christmas Album is an essential listen in your household this holiday season. Even if your not a Presley fan, you can sing, dance, get spiritual, remember the old, and make new memories with this Christmas staple.

15 December 2008

Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty Still Maleficent er Magnificent!

By Kristin Battestella



I’m not a fan of the Disney conglomerate, but when the 50th Anniversary Platinum DVD release of the 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty was announced, I marked my calendar. My VHS copy has long since worn out and disappeared, so this wonderfully restored disc is an essential delight for me-and you-this holiday season.

Along with all their kingdom, King Stefan and his Queen celebrate the birth of their daughter Princess Aurora. At the baby’s betrothal to Prince Phillip, the three good fairies Flora Fauna and Merryweather give the child lovely gifts such as beauty and song. Unfortunately, the evil Maleficent appears and vows that on her sixteenth birthday Aurora will prick her hand on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die. Fearing Maleficent’s wrath, the three good fairies hide Aurora in the forest and rename her Briar Rose.


Based on the fairy tale by Charles Perrault, Sleeping Beauty has everything I loved as a kid-and still do; Castles, good versus evil, swords and dragons. There’s the fair share of lessons and morals, sure, but there’s also good entertainment. Sleeping Beauty is darker than other Disney tales. This doesn’t seem like a kid’s story in many ways. Death? Evil? Hell? True Love’s Kiss? Then again, some of it is very relevant, like never talking to strangers and ‘True love conquers all.’ This classic is a classic for a reason. I shouldn’t admit it, but every time I lift my toilet lid and see the blue tidy bowl water, I think of Merryweather’s vow, “Make it blue!” Darling quips and humor from Sleeping Beauty have seeped into our cultural lexicon.


Even if you don’t remember all the words, George Bruns Oscar nominated adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s ballet has us humming whenever we hear it. Despite it’s lovely classical score, Sleeping Beauty isn’t packed with vocal compositions like more recent Disney features. Opera singer Mary Costa only sings as Briar Rose for ‘I Wonder’ and ‘Once Upon A Dream.’ The chorale background voices handle the charming titular lullaby. I suspect everyone my age had a ‘See. Hear. Read.’ record associated with this film. ‘Once Upon A Dream’ is still a Disney staple-as seen by the new remake video on the DVD. I bet a lot of us do, in fact, know all the words.


Unlike other cartoons, Briar Rose’s animal friends don’t sing along with her. They have wit and fun, sure, but it’s a little more realistic that Rose is a tad aloof in her singing and loneliness. What kid can’t relate to that? Who doesn’t have hopes and dreams? Kids can learn a lot through catchy tunes. Some of the music is silly, sure; I could do with ‘Skumps’. Nevertheless, Sleeping Beauty’s onscreen medieval style is unlike any other full length feature before or since. The art is tall, lanky, askew like an old château; A visual allusion of enchantment and magic.

I’m not one for princesses and such, but as much as I like Princess Aurora, it’s the evil fairy Maleficent that makes Sleeping Beauty for me. Unlike later Disney villains, she doesn’t sing or have some sort of crutch and humor about her. Maleficent takes being jilted very seriously, and her look is purely diabolical. I wonder if more folks go as Maleficent for Halloween then Sleeping Beauty? Big M has that Darth Vader appeal. She actually appears more than Aurora, and the genesis of the story comes from Maleficent. What is she? What is her problem? We never exactly find out, but we know her power. Some of her dragon and thorn sequences might even be scary for younger folks. Voiced by Eleanor Audley (the Wicked Stepmother in Cinderella) Maleficent can still freak me out. I mean, her pet is a raven named Diablo!


Although some of the menus and game features are juvenile and targeted towards a ten year old girl, I could certainly do without all the Disney crap and language selections clogging navigation. Promos, previews, logos, commercials- Sheesh! The behind the scenes documentaries are, thankfully, informative and exhaustive. The deleted songs, alternative sketches, documentaries; its quite the treat-and I still haven’t finished the second disc of material. For how-to fans of animation or Disney insiders, the features disc alone is worth the purchase price.


Costing six years and six million dollars doesn’t seem like a lot compared to the high standards Hollywood holds itself to today, but Sleeping Beauty’s widescreen innovations show in this gloriously restored wide presentation. The details of which are explained here by Walt Disney himself. For budding artists who only know Disney via High School Musical, the behind the scenes here are a lovely way to remind children about the film innovations the Disney company has achieved. The musician in training might be too old to appreciate the overly sentimental ‘Peter Tchaikovsky story’ dramatization, but it’s a fine reminder about how this darling tale of charm and music came to be.


A seemingly unrelated short film photographing the Grand Canyon is also included in the Backstage segment. Unrelated, but no less beautiful in its restored glory. Audio commentaries, live action references, art work and storyboards, pop up features, and sing along options-when Disney puts something out on DVD, they really go all out, I’ll give them that!

Sleeping Beauty: 50th Anniversary Edition is of course more pricey and limited than your standard DVD fare, but for collectors and fans young and old, the joy and memories are worth the price of admission. Even with today’s abundance of kid’s channels, videos, and cartoons, it can be tough to find something appropriate that the whole family can enjoy. Lovely animation, timeless storytelling, and fine music still make Sleeping Beauty a sight to behold.

11 December 2008

Mamma Mia!

Mamma Mia! Not That Bad, Actually
By Kristin Battestella
 
When I had the opportunity to see Mamma Mia! in theaters, I was a little reluctant to go. Despite being a big Bee Gees fan, I don’t care for Abba all that much, and I’m not into newer musical chick flicks. I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, I kind of liked Mamma Mia!.
 
Mamma Mia! The Movie (Widescreen)As young Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) readies for her marriage to Sky (Dominic Cooper) on the Greek island of Skopelos, she confesses to her best friends Ali (Ashley Lilly) and Lisa (Rachel McDowall) that she’s invited her three prospective fathers to the wedding- unbeknownst to her mother Donna (Meryl Streep). Donna’s friends Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters) come for the festivities and help Donna relive her glory days when she discovers her previous lovers are close at hand. Who is Sophie’s Dad? Rogue Bill (Stellan Skarsgard), uptight Harry (Colin Firth), or divorcee Sam (Pierce Brosnan)?

Each major cast member gets a lead turn at the music. Tony winner Christine Baranski (Chicago, Cybill) and Julie Walters (Harry Potter) could steal the show with ‘Does Your Mother Know’ and ‘Take A chance on Me’, respectively, if it were not for Streep’s taking down the house with ‘The Winner Takes It All’. I knew the 14 time Oscar nominee (twice a winner with Kramer vs Kramer and Sophie’s Choice) could carry a tune, but I didn’t know she could sing that well. Everything the 59 year old actress has is in Donna, vocally and physically. Much was made of the impromptu split for the movie’s trailers, but Streep’s energy throughout the film’s big dance numbers makes me envious. If it weren’t for all her other star turns, I could say that this is a definitive and star making role. Streep will most likely get another nomination for Mamma Mia!; despite all her dramatic and even comedic achievement, this is the complete variety package.

Seyfried (Mean Girls, Veronica Mars) is cute as daughter Sophie. She’s pretty, but not in a conventional way, and of course, she can sing. I’m glad, however, that the core of the film is on Donna, not necessarily Sophie’s oft seen coming of age quest for her father. I’m not a Colin Firth (Pride and Prejudice) or Stellan Skarsgard (Pirates of the Caribbean) fan, but both fit their parts here with humor and acceptable tunes. Only Pierce Brosnan (Die Another Day) is out of place. Pierce, Pierce-if this were a straight romantic drama or comedy, he would be to die for as the days of Remington Steele. I like Brosnan a lot, which is why I can watch Mamma Mia! and forgive the fact that he can’t sing. Not like I can sing myself, but it’s easy to pick Brosnan for last place among the cast here. Sorry!

At the same time, I discovered Abba music I didn’t know was Abba and music that I’d never heard before. Mamma Mia! gives us the obligatory ‘Dancing Queen’ and the eponymous track-which was stuck in my head for days after. The sound is done well, even if background singers spring up out of nowhere. It’s a musical, you can take a leap of faith when people break out in song. Mamma Mia! does gives us a few obvious onscreen music set ups, but for the most part the songs are fun and lighthearted. I didn’t how they would work one of the few songs I knew in there, but ‘Fernando’ has its moment. ‘Money, Money, Money’ and ‘Super Trouper’ aren’t as upbeat, but the low songs are forgivable when considering the desire to fit every Abba song possible in one under two hour movie.
 
While the dated and hokey nature of seventies styles are now accepted and even hip-we wouldn’t be having a musical comprised of Abba’s songs if they weren’t-it is in fact Mamma Mia’s contemporary stylings that may hinder its long lasting appeal. The shabby chic look of Donna’s villa, the dress of the three males leads, and the all too pretty beachy and bohemian look of Sophie and Sky trap this film in 2008. Sure maybe people copied Clueless for back to school 1995, but come 96, not so much. Mamma Mia! does win production values for its great Greek locales. The crystal waters, swift boats, impressive rocks and cliffs blend perfectly with the indoor soundstages. I don’t want to say ‘It’s all Greek to me’, but there were times when this Italian was out of the loop on the Greek marriage customs. I do wonder how the heck everyone climbed all those steps to that church though. Oiy.
 
Although the script from relative newcomer Catherine Johnson is thin in some places and too obvious in others-like the obligatory father bonding montages and near blatant cues for the music-the elder cast keeps things sardonic or witty where it needs to be. Where I’m sure some actors are embarrassed by musical attempts, I don’t think the cast here has anything to be ashamed of-even Brosnan! While there is definitely a hard core group of fans racking up the pre sales for this DVD release (it looks like the two disc edition has all the features) it’s the music and the talent that makes Mamma Mia! a successful transition from stage to screen. Instead of wallowing in Beach Bingo teeny drama, stage director Phyllida Lloyd keeps the mature members of the cast on top. Even though Lloyd lets the pace drag in between musical numbers, its rare to find a musical with adult fun and maturity that’s PG-13 enough for the whole family.

I don’t think guys will care for Mamma Mia!. Macho men might cringe at a wife or daughter’s obsession with this film. Those Abba songs over and over! Young guys, however, might like the music or the hot dancing. There’s nothing super naughty for tweens and younger-what there is might go over their heads, so Mamma Mia! might be a parent’s chance to swap out High School Musical for something they can enjoy, too. For surprising musical fun for the whole family, pick up Mamma Mia! on DVD this December.

09 December 2008

P.S. I Love You

P.S. I Don’t Love You
By Kristin Battestella
 
I really need to stop watching romantic comedies at 3 a.m. My last gander was the 2007 chick flick P.S. I Love You, starring Oscar winner Hillary Swank and 300 hunk Gerard Butler. Why do I bother?
 
Holly (Swank) and Gerry (Butler) live in a small New York apartment and argue like normal couples, but they truly have a great life and love at heart. When Gerry dies from a brain tumor, Holly struggles with his death despite help from her family and friends. Shortly thereafter, on her 30th birthday, Holly begins to receive predated letters from Gerry. These treasures help her remember the good times, make new experiences, and find herself again.
 
She has had many an out there role, from The Next Karate Kid to Boys Don’t Cry, but I wonder what it was that drew Hillary Swank to this role. Holly is by no means a pretty part. For some reason the character dresses like an idiot, and there’s a lot of crying and why questions ala Nancy Kerrigan and the whole knee bashing thing. I can see the emotion in the grief and overcoming the death of a loved one, but for personal reasons alone, not from Swank’s trying. I don’t know what I’d do without my husband. Do I care if Holly gets over Gerry? Not really. She’s given plenty of opportunity to do so, and after chance after chance, not only did I not care, but I wanted to smack Holly to her senses. Why Hillary, why?
 
P.S. I Love You was hyped largely as the next big thing after Gerard Butler’s success in 300. I understand his not wanting to be typecast, and his work prior to 300 was quite diverse, from Dracula 2000 to The Phantom of the Opera. I just find this film of all the choices, to be so…weird. Some girls may be charmed by all the romance and such, yadda yadda, but otherwise, this is a very unflattering role. His singing is wrong here, and there isn’t an Irish actor out there to fill our Irish onscreen Gerry’s shoes? Not only is the whole ‘dead Gerry’ and Gerry Butler vibe a little creepy, but he disappears halfway through the film-before the last letter arrives. I don’t get it. Butler has one scene before the opening credits, then spends the rest of the film in flashbacks or as figments of Holly’s imagination. It’s as if the performance technically doesn’t exist. Star Trek fans complain if an entire episode is a dream or a big reset button. It’s not as if the ghost of Holly’s dead husband is really haunting her, that would be worthwhile I think, ala The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. It would have to be funny, not serious, Ghost cornered that. I just don’t see the appeal of a film that turned out to be a complete misstep for both leads. Why Gerry why?
 
P.S. I Love YouNot only have the two leads been unfortunately miscast, but the absolutely stunning supporting cast of P.S. I Love You has been completely wasted. Oscar winner Kathy Bates (Misery) receives her token obligatory weepy scenes as Holly’s mom Patricia, and Gina Gershon (Bound) and James Marsters (Spike, People! Spike!) disappear from the film with no explanation whatsoever. We get a tacked on reunion with Lisa Kudrow (Friends) and a cop out at Yankee Stadium with Harry Connick, Jr.(Copycat). I found myself more interested in these fine supporting players and their complex relationships, but their trials and troubles are dropped in favor of Holly’s obvious and typical story. The eclectic mix has the comedic and dramatic-and heck musical-talent needed, but it’s never used by writer Steven Rogers (Hope Floats) and director Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King, Freedom Writers, and The Bridges of Madison County).
 
It’s not woeful leads and misused support, however, that undoes P.S. I Love You- it’s the whole dang story from author Cecelia Ahem. Maybe the movie took its liberties from the source novel, but I’m certainly not rushing down the street to Borders to get the book, that’s for damn sure. The bemoaning of Holly just goes on and on. As I said, grief is something everyone can relate to, but enough with the letters already. They are too obvious and convenient. The first message is on a tape recorder. Why aren’t all the others? In this day and age, Gerry couldn’t videotape himself and email it to Holly everyday? How is she really expected to get over her dead husband if new information and good memories of him are technically coming from him after death?

Gerry and Holly are so poor, but he can plan elaborate bar trips and vacays to Ireland? And all this while dying of a brain tumor over the course of one year? The soul searching of what grief can do to one person is undone by the unrealistic nature of the story’s plan. Never mind the horrid soundtrack and all that omigod chick stuff about turning thirty, marriage, divorce, babies, and looks. And after all this, how does Holly get on with her life? By designing shoes! Could you alienate the male audience more? I can’t believe guys wrote and directed this.

Fans of the cast will tune in for P.S. I Love You, but I don’t think it will be a Gerry dream for the ladies or a tour de force for Swank fans. The DVD supposedly has more scenes and interviews with Ahern-something I would normally find interesting, but I don’t think its worth the full price of the disc. Unless you are a big chick flick fan, please avoid. Fans of the individual cast are better off finding clips on youtube.

07 December 2008

Pride and Passion: Italians in America

Pride And Passion: The Italians In America…Thank You!
By Kristin Battestella
 
A documentary about the pivotal contributions Italians have made in America over the centuries. It’s about fricking time! I stumbled upon Pride and Passion: The Italians In America on NJN and fell in love with this historical and heart warming tale about the Italian experience in America. From intimate portraits of Italian home life to historical moments in American history, Pride and Passion is a delight for Italian Americans, young and old, and even those who aren’t blessed with a penchant for cannoli.
 
Tony LiBianca narrates the history of Italians in America from Amerigo Vespucci to today. Interviews with famous Italians from all walks of life-including Robert Loggia, Tommy Lasorda, Yogi Berra, Joe Paterno, and Geraldine Ferraro- highlight vintage photographs, video, and letters. From stereotyping and prejudices to Italian achievements by Guglielmo Marconi and even Madonna among other famous and behind the scenes Italians, Pride and Passion: The Italians In America harkens to the Italian Renaissance as it beautifully brings to life the Italian American experience.
 
Italians in America - Our ContributionLet me get one thing out of the way. Yes this PBS special is found often on the New Jersey Network station, the same station that brings us Patrizio Buanne, Tony Bennett, and plenty of other Italian programming. It’s understandable considering New Jersey’s Italian American population. We want to see programs to which we can relate. Yes, I am an Italian from New Jersey, but no, we aren’t all mobsters and double life criminals ala The Sopranos, Goodfellas, or The Godfather. Do I deny watching these fine programs? Of course not, I highly recommend them, but NJN is in a way playing into the stereotypes that Pride and Passion is fighting against.
 
I must, however, indulge in Pride and Passion’s exposure of famous folks who aren’t known as peeps whose names end in vowels: Bernadette Peters, Susan Sarandon, Henry Fonda, director Garry Marshall, Pat Cooper, Bobby Darin, Regis Philbin, Bruce Springsteen- and in some cases giving their real names! It’s a shame to hear of folks who had to change their names or deny their immigrant relatives to rise among America’s celebrity. Thankfully, Pride and Passion also has lovely sentiments like Tommy Lasorda saying folks like Joe DiMaggio and Frank Sinatra made him proud to be Italian.
 
Folks younger than myself may not know who a lot of these quintessential Italian Americans are- Valentino, Lanza, Frank Capra-or if they do, perhaps in parody. Sinatra? You mean the guy who sings the theme on Married…With Children? Pride and Passion: The Italians in America is very bittersweet when highlighting the blending and loss of Italian tradition in America today. Actor Robert Loggia comments that his grandparents were ‘Italian Italians’, his parents were ‘Italian Americans’, he is ‘American Italian’, but his kids are simply ‘American Americans’.

Now that I myself am growing older and elder I-talian relatives are passing away, I am beginning to see that being an Italian American is, in fact, different. My husband says not everybody has a Sicilian mother cooking sausage and ‘gravy’ or the Veneto father cooking seafood in white wine. He didn’t know of such things till he met me, and he suspects that when my nieces leave their grammy’s house, they don’t say arrivederci or grazie to the plain old American kids at school. These comments puzzled me. On one hand, I don’t think I’m any different than any other kid raised in the melting pot that is the United States. Everybody eats spaghetti and goes to ristorantes and quotes The Godfather. Then again, I find it shocking and sad that there are people out there who haven’t grown up with grandparents cursing in Italian, making homemade wine, or listening to Luciano Pavarotti. Not that all American Italians know how to curse in Italian or make wine or like opera. I don’t mean it in a snotty way, but if you don’t have any such culture and heritage and appreciation, what is there?

Pride and Passion had me thinking about this past Thanksgiving at my parent’s house. The poor Polish and German sons- in-law have gotten used to ravioli, lasagna, and cannolis along side debates about using real anisette in pizzelles and which goes better with the turkey, the red or white wine? Certainly there are still others having a bit of Italian in their households, right? Are we really a thing of the past? Will we be gone in the next century just like natural red heads?

Pride and Passion: The Italians In America also makes me a little angry. If Italians have been and perhaps to lesser degree still are such an important part of American cuisine, sports, and cinema, why aren’t there more programs about Italian society? Forgive me for being rude, but we can have an incoming black president, yet we’ve never had an Italian leader of the free world. (Enter Mussolini joke here.) E! comedian Chelsea Handler can talk about Jewish clout in Hollywood on Chelsea Lately to her heart’s content, but food critics were initially angry at the Food Network for hiring Everyday Italian’s Giada De Laurentiis- the too pretty granddaughter of Dino De Laurentiis. We can’t joke about blacks and Jews but its ok to exploit Italians as hairy, gold wearing, gun toting mobsters who end every other word with an ‘a’. Ever hear the one about the Pasta diet? ‘You walk pasta the bakery…’ My eleven year old niece didn’t get it. Upon explaining it, she said, “But we don’t talk that way.”

Unfortunately, it appears the DVD of Pride and Passion: The Italians In America is only available through PBS telethons and sponsorship gifts. Additional footage and music samples accompany the disc. Internet research turns up a similar program also including Robert Loggia’s commentary; Our Contributions: Italians in America. Some of the interview footage for Pride and Passion looks fairly old as well, and the two programs may be part and parcel one and the same.

Whether you are Italian or not, cultural buffs and fans of American history will enjoy Pride and Passion. Old school folks may get quite emotional as memories of their Italian ways come back to them. Unlike that commercial where Mom has to block the mobsters for being too violent for the kids, Pride and Passion: The Italians In America is ideal for family history collectors to share with the next generation or teachers looking for educational film. Pride and Passion is worth the DVD or PBS schedule search. So put on the Connie Francis records and make like you’re a guido already!

03 December 2008

Bee Gees Greatest

I Complete My Compilation Binge With Greatest!
by Kristin Battestella

Okay so I’ve started off 2006 with a rush of compilation reviews. My brother-in-law says some of the Bee Gees stuff I pass around is really great, and the obscure stuff I pull out my butt is a real load. However, he, like most seventies babies does agree, Greatest is a tough set to beat.

My cassette of Greatest got lost in my sister’s car, but my honey gave me an autographed record version for Christmas! It only highlights Gibb work from 75 to 79, but I have to admit, it is a major chunk of quality material.

Even though we start off with my least favorite tune, Jive Talkin, this no nonsense hit prepares you for the grooving that is to come. There seems to be little rhyme or reason to the track order. It’s not chronological to say the least, just bunches of fast or slow. Pick your Gibb!

The dance fest continues with Night Fever. This totally recognizable tune gets old fans back to the times with its whimsical lyrics and foot tapping beat. Shakin’ songs like Fever are actually back in style again.

Was Tragedy remade by some Euro kiddie group a few years ago? I don’t remember. Another heyday staple, I’ve always liked Tragedy’s progressive beats and mellow lyric combinations.

Ah, we come to the monster that is You Should Be Dancing again. Of course we think Travolta, but let’s face it. Even though Dancing’s original Children of the World album is thirty years old, this is still a good dance song. Always has been, always will be.

Begrudgingly I mention Staying Alive. Once again I heard someone in a store mention The Bee Gees and modern teens followed up with a little Ah ha ha ha. An immense stable to the Gibbs as well as a perfect time capsule of the times, but not the one and only quintessential Gibby tune its been made out to be.

Oddly enough, sometimes I feel How Deep Is Your Love doesn’t get it’s do respect, perhaps since it sounds as good today as it did way back when. Fans assume its a newer song, not a powerhouse that has stood the test of time. I’ll play this one at my wedding, if my hubby let’s me!

Another under appreciated Gibb ballad is Love So Right. Also from Children of The World, even in this small space Right showcases the boys songwriting skills before the Fever soundtrack.

The lofty scale and over the top good feelings of Too Much Heaven is tough to beat. I’ve always enjoyed Heaven for its touch of spirituality as well as its pretty balladeering.

My sister cannot tell Andy’s version of Our Love Don’t Throw It All Away apart from the Bee Gees version showcased here. For the untrained ear, it does take several listens. Barry’s easy tone is perfect and the twins’ ad-libs at the end is top notch.

I love Fanny (Be Tender With My Love) and all its parenthesized glory! The arrangement of Barry, Robin, and Maurice’s voices here are so carefully crafted down to every echo. Their skilled style still shows today.

This version of If I Can’t Have You by the boys can also be found on the flip side of the Stayin Alive 45. This monster was initially released by Yvonne Elliman for the Fever Soundtrack, but the Brothers recording found its way here. It might not be as sing-a-long-able with Barry, Robin, and Maurice, but it is still catchy, considering it’s essentially three British men screaming about love.

Some songs from Children of the World deserve a place on Greatest more than others. You Stepped Into My Life isn’t a bad song, but when compared to more timeless Gibb tunes before and after, today it can seem like a skipper. Barry’s shrills might be too shrill, but if you read the lyrics to this one it is a pretty little poem.

Love Me’s croaking lovelorn lyrics are expertly handled by Robin, and I’m glad to see this track receive its due here. Not the lone crying song here, but perhaps the most depressing, and that’s ok.

Although You Should Be Dancing’s dance routines are now more famous, Gibb fans of old will remember how much More Than a Woman effected the world. Everyone was going to dance studios and trying to learn the cha cha because of this suave Gibb tune’s dance-ability. My sister included!

In contrast, Barry’s country track Rest Your Love on Me is a little know gem that somehow made its way onto Greatest. The duet version by Andy Gibb and Olivia Newton-John is slightly inferior to Barry’s rendition, even if his country sweets seem out of place here. A very tight and pleasant breather.

Nights On Broadway takes its rightful place here beside all the other Bee Gee monsters. If it weren’t for the discovery of falsetto on this Main Course hit imagine how different The Bee Gees would have been. How different you or I would be!

I have such a love hate relationship with Spirits (Having Flown). Parts of the song can be downright silly, but other parts are magnificently structured tropical gems. Put on your Hawaiian shirts for this one.

Also from the Spirits album, Love You Inside Out fills the kinky slot here. Even if the boys made an album of all their naughty songs, Love You Inside Out’s lyrics and history would be tough to beat. A feel good keeper.

Even in the 75 to 79 range, there might be one or two songs that deserve a spot here more so than Wind of Change, but the few I can think of have all also become slightly dated. Change’s big statement for the Main Course album might have become less powerful in the subsequent decades, but it is still a nice shrill song for you to attempt to sing, groove, and get down with. Who is with me?!

Of all the tunes to end Greatest, Children of the World is not the one I would pick. Once you get into the song it’s not bad, but the opening ooos and ahhhs are a bit dated....okay very dated. Once you get over the chuckles, however, the lyrics are quite nice. If we could take out all the sex and drugs, that little bit of seventies peace and love would be nice for today, don’t you think?

Although some tunes presented on Greatest may not have stood the test of time, this album is essential for hey day Gibb fans both young and old. I highly recommend this one to accompany you in the car, but be prepared to make copies for your disco friends!



Love Songs

Ah, Sappy Love Songs!
by Kristin Battestella

A year after Number Ones was released, Barry and Robin followed up with Love Songs, another compilation set from Universal. Oddly enough I received this album for Valentines Day from my honey. Not as heavily promoted as Number Ones, I was even confused about the release date. October? November? Love Songs’ packaging even has a rushed feel to it. The flowery artwork is dandy, but the credits inside leave much to the imagination. Universal should have given more love to Love Songs.

When I first bought Number Ones, the one song most notably absent to me was To Love Somebody. The 1967 hit from First is rectified here of course. I mean, we know it’s chronological order, but To Love Somebody is THE place to start if you want love songs.

Words is a repeat from Number Ones, but you can’t not have Barry’s sweet nothings here. It’s nice to hear the original again after a few remakes and updates. Classic.

I’m not exactly sure how First Of May found its way here. I thought it was about Barry’s dog? I hope May’s placement here wasn’t just a Barry versus Robin jab, since this is the Odessa song that killed the group briefly. But it is pretty!

Love Songs picks up the pace with Lonely Days. Not necessarily a traditional love song, I’m sure there are some woman out there who just can’t get enough of three men admitting how lost they’d be without their women. Besides, you need a song to sing a long to.

Also repeated from Number Ones, How Can You Mend A Broken Heart and How Deep is Your Love’s placement here is really un-arguable. Perhaps the number one and number two questions in the universe, and they are both posed by The Brothers Gibb.

My second beef with Number Ones was the exclusion of More Than A Woman, which we find here on Love Songs instead. As much as I love More Than a Woman, I do feel it should have been placed on Number Ones, not Love Songs. Many deserving Brothers Gibb love songs are not here because several other tracks from Number Ones are repeated. A Famous tune like Nights On Broadway, Fanny, or Love Me might have served Love better. I could just go on! I Can’t See Nobody, My World, Run to Me anyone?

The Bee Gees version of Our Love Don’t Throw it All Away was first released on the Greatest album, but the song is more famous via Andy’s rendition. This love lost song can be a tear jerker if you’re in the right mood. Barbra even did a soft and sappy version for Guilty Pleasures. Sweet stuff.

Sometimes you simply can’t go wrong, like with Emotion, for example. This rerecord by the boys showcases their songwriting solidity and yet also tips the hat to the song’s flexibility, like it’s original rendition by Samantha Sang.

Too Much Heaven is another baby soft monster of the Bee Gees catalogue that cannot be ignored. There’s nothing like harmony to melt a woman’s heart.


I’m so glad Heartbreaker and Islands In The Stream get their due here. Originally recorded by Dionne Warwick and Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, respectively, these Gibb updates showcase the Brothers’ songwriting talents and importance to the music industry. Oh yes, they were important, and the versions here are spiffy, too.

Juliet is here to represent Robin’s solo career, and I suspect to balance First of May. This high pitched eighties diddy hails from How Old Are You, Robin’s 82 solo venture that’s full of quirky loves songs. Juliet is the best of that lot.

My one beef with Secret Love has always been that it’s on the short side. One of the few bright spots from High Civilization, the boys present a naughty motownesque tune that gets you thinking happy thoughts. Although one could argue The Only Love also belongs here, but I think we should just make a Love Songs Part Two or such for all the excluded Gibby Love tunes.

I think I’m wrong but wasn’t For Whom The Bell Tolls a European number one? In that case it’s on the wrong album, but I digress. This power ballad from Size Isn’t Everything is lucky it found its way here. This later day gem proves my theory that age and time have no effect on the boys musically. I do also believe that Size’s Heart Like Mine was on European releases of Love Songs.

I’ve never really thought of Closer Than Close as a love song, but Maurice’s kinky track from Still Waters deserves a spot here, in honor of Mo if nothing else. I Could Not Love You More is the real power ballad from Still Waters but both represent the modern ballad style of the boys, and I love it!

Love Songs closes fittingly with Wedding Day. Barry and Robin debated over releasing this song as the second single off This Is Where I Came In, but nothing became of it. The best Bee Gees song of the new century, Wedding Day shows how far the brothers have come as songwriters and men. Gone are the sappy woe is my love diddys. Wedding Day represents that kind of love you just know.

An oddity called Lovers and Friends also appeared on foreign releases of Love Songs, but it is Ronan Keating singing lead. Boo. I haven‘t heard the tune, since I don‘t care much for Ronan Keating, whoever he is.

Although I would have liked more variety on the track list, Love Songs still showcases the mojo of The Brothers Gibb and is the perfect gift for anyone special to you. Oh baby!

Number Ones

I Salute you, Number Ones!
by Kristin Battestella

In the fall of 2004, Barry and Robin released the compilation set Number Ones, complete with An Audience with The Bee Gees mini concert that I shall refer to as well. (Gibbers across the pond were treated to additional tracks instead.) Although the criteria for the track listing may seem obvious- the number one singles of The Bee Gees-I do have a few head scratchers.

The history begins with Massachusetts, the Brothers’ first number one off the Horizontal album and what a fitting place to start. Currently I have Number Ones in my alarm clock stereo system. Everyday I wake up to Massachusetts. Sometimes I just shut it off and go back to sleep, but sometimes I feel bad about stopping such a great song and I end up listening to the whole CD. Did I mention this also serves in waking up the entire household?

World, also an early hit from Horizontal, is always a bit depressing following Massachusetts, but that woe is me was Robin’s forte back in the day, and it still holds up today. The poetic lyrics are still so heartfelt and true.

Words of course is Barry’s mellow love self. I’ve always chuckled at the origin of this oft-covered ballad. Cast off and tossed onto Best of Volume One. It was a chart topper, who knew? You can never get tired of this one.

Yes, yes, yes! I’ve Gotta Get A Message to You is my favorite of course. I get giddy every time I hear the opening beats. One of the Brothers most popular songs, and its about a man getting the electric chair. Genius. Have I said that before?

The quirky hits keep coming with I Started A Joke. I was disappointed when Robin didn’t do this live in Germany, so I am very pleased to see this enigmatic song here. Today I doubt a song like this would ever top the charts. We Gibbers love it and we don’t even know what it’s about!

I was, however, a bit surprised by Don’t Forget To Remember’s inclusion here. Although the jacket hails some fine pictures and artwork, little is given about the songs’ actual chart success. Liberties seem to have been taken between UK Number Ones and US chart toppers. It’s also ironic that Barry and Robin would include the hit from Cucumber Castle, the album done by Barry and Maurice. Go Fig.

Ah, Lonely Days. In all these sappy, easy tunes you need a little pick me up and nothing does it like Lonely Days. I still don’t know anyone who doesn’t tap their foot by the end of this track.

The lone Trafalgar standout How Can You Mend a Broken Heart might be the definitive Gibb slow song, pre Fever anyway. The Brothers themselves defined their early career as ‘Broken Heart Bee Gees’ and this reunion diddy was the first US Number One for the boys.

Jive Talkin led the Brothers’ Main Course revival , even if it isn’t one of my favorites. This pivotal hit launched the boys into their seemingly quintessential dance music style. As much as I dislike Jive, it’s place here as a chart maker is undeniable.


I wonder if You Should be Dancing is so associated with Travolta and Fever that people forgot it actually topped the charts with Children of the World first? More than a mere dance song, You Should Be Dancing has become imbedded into our cultural lexicon. How many movies have spoofed the white suit routine?

Love So Right, another hit from the Children of The World record, showcases Barry, Robin, and Maurice’s softer side. I love the opening bars to this one. Love So Right tells of love found than lost, who can’t relate to that?

And naturally we come to the Fever hoopla. How Deep is Your Love, Stayin Alive, and Night Fever all take their rightful places here. The exclusion of More Than a Woman, however, is woefully obvious. Gibb Reviewer as I Am, even I am not sure of all the finite chart numbers, but anyone who was alive in 1977 must know of Barry, Robin, and Maurice’s five number ones in the Billboard top ten. Naturally all the glorious Gibb tunes cannot fit in one compilation, and More Than A Woman was saved for the UK version of Number ones and the follow up compilation Love Songs I protest!

Too Much Heaven, Tragedy, and Love You Inside Out all represent the Spirits monster. While I love all three dearly and historically there is no way around these three number ones, Number Ones here gives the impression once again that the late seventies were the be all end all of The Bee Gees. The next track being 1987’s You Win Again doesn’t help the case either. I think the idea was to have hits only from The Bee Gees banner, but Guilty might have been a nice addition. No solo Gibb work is presented here either. Juliet would have fit the criteria, but instead Robin’s tune found it’s way to Love Songs. I would have preferred more range showcasing the Brothers’ five decade career not a re- solidifying of the heyday, but I digress.

The set ends with The ‘Maurice Gibb tribute track’ Man in the Middle, from the boys final studio album This Is Where I Came In. Although it’s not a number one hit, not a hit at all-not even a single in fact- Man In The Middle is the finest touch on the album. The song reiterates Barry and Robin’s dedication to Maurice on the foldout. The surviving boys call Mo ‘A Man in the middle in many ways...’ and later an ‘All around good egg’. Barry and Robin setting aside their current differences and pulling together this compilation for Maurice explains partly why they endured so long and had so many number ones.

UK fans were treated with bonus tracks of Islands In The Stream and Immortality. I’m assuming both are The Brothers versions found on The Record, but I must of course mention The Audience With The Bee Gees treat found on the US release of Number Ones. If I had to choose only five songs to represent The Brothers Gibb, these might be it. The highlights here come near to perfection. I don’t know much else about Audience, since it was originally a British special around the time of the This Is Where I Came In release.

How Can You Mend A Broken Heart and How Deep is Your Love start the DVD off wonderfully, but I don’t think the tracks are in the order in which they were originally performed. Jive Talkin is only tolerable live, and the boys get the crowd on their feet and clapping at the first strings. Massachusetts and I Started A Joke harken back to the early days and show that The Brothers always had it, and always will. This mini disc is just enough to remind fans of old and make new fans yearn for more.

Despite a few chinks in Number Ones’ listing, the CD makes a great gift for fans old and new. It’s great for the car and affordable enough for Gibbers to give as gifts to Non-Gibbers. You will convert a few! As Barry and Robin tell Maurice on the dedication, Number Ones is a great way to ‘Keep in touch.’