Audrey Tautou, who rose to international stardom with the title role in Jean-Pierre Jeunet's worldwide smash Amelie, reunites with the director for this drama, set during the darkest days of World War I and its immediate aftermath. Mathilde (Tautou) is a pretty but frail young women who was left with a bad leg after a childhood bout with polio. Mathilde lives in a small French village with her Aunt Benedicte (Chantal Neuwirth) and Uncle Sylvain (Dominique Pinon), and is engaged to marry Manech (Gaspard Ulliel), the son of a lighthouse keeper who is fighting with the army near the German front. Manech is one of five soldiers who have been accused of injuring themselves in order to be sent home; in order to discourage similar behavior among their comrades, Manech and the other soldiers are sentenced to death, and the condemned men are marched into the no man's land between the French and German lines, where they are certain to be killed. Mathilde receives word of Manech's death, but in her heart she believes that if the man she loved had been killed, she would know it and feel it.
What would life amongst the Muppets have been without their unofficial leader Kermit the Frog? That's the question posed by this made-for-TV confection, which not only spoofs the Yuletide classic It's a Wonderful Life, but also takes satirical aim at such pop cultural phenomena as Moulin Rouge and Fear Factor. The plot is set in motion when typically evil banker Rachel Bitterman (Joan Cusack) forecloses on the Muppets' famous variety theater, with the intention of building a gaudy nightclub. But Bitterman's machinations take a back seat when apprentice guardian angel, Daniel (David Arquette), shows Kermit (voiced by Steve Whitmire) what conditions would have been had Kermit never existed. Without going into full detail, suffice to say that a Kermit-less world would have found Miss Piggy (voiced by Frank Oz) running a fraudulent psychic hot line, Fozzie Bear as a homeless derelict, and Sam the Eagle as a caged dancer at a rave.
Recorded to benefit the Special Olympics, this has some of the biggest names in contemporary music, most covering seasonal favorites with mixed success. Outstanding tracks include The Pretenders "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," with Chrissie Hynde giving a touching performance. Run-D.M.C.'s topical "Christmas in Hollis" relies heavily on sampling "Back Door Santa," and may head you toward the dance floor. Alison Moyet's stately version of "The Coventry Carol" is beautifully haunting. Only the Material Girl, Madonna, embarrasses herself with an overly campy "Santa Baby".
In the dense annual blizzard of holiday albums, A VERY SPECIAL ACOUSTIC CHRISTMAS shines like a gleaming treetop star from a warm, inviting living room, thanks to its organic, no-frills approach and its remarkable lineup of performers. Dan Tyminski (of O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? fame) offers up a charming version of "Frosty the Snowman," while Willie Nelson lends his legendary voice and guitar playing to a fine take on "Please Come Home for Christmas." Alison Krauss contributes her surprisingly poppy "Only You Can Bring Me Cheer (Gentleman's Lady)," Marty Stuart confides that "Even Santa Claus Gets the Blues," and Pat Green saunters through a relaxed "Winter Wonderland." Bringing the Yuletide album to an appropriate close is Norah Jones, in a beautiful solo rendition of Horace Silver's "Peace".
There is some great ambient electronica on these 4 Discs. This collection was put out on the Jumpin' & Pumpin' label back in 1999. If you are a Jake Stephenson fan this is a very important collection, since it includes the whole of the Crystal Moon (Jake Stephenson and Matt Hillier) album 'Temple' which is otherwise a very expensive CD to pick up. All the tracks are here. There are also a number of other Jake Stephenson tracks, either under his own name (unusually), or under more of his pseudonyms (Alien Mutation, Curly Whirly Spirits). We also get some Matt Hillier tracks, and some rather good tunes by Dave Hendry (as O-Head, Hyperborea and Twilight Pilot).
A Very British Synthesizer Group is a sound and vision anthology of multi-million-selling synth pioneers The Human League. Bringing together all of the hits as well as previously unreleased demos and edits it covers the entire history of the band from their emergence as futuristic outriders of a new post-punk sound, through the phenomenon of Dare and '80s chart dominance, their incredible '90s renaissance and ascendance to their current position as one of the most glorious and glamorous live acts in the country. Of the hit singles on CDs One and Two, seven appear as previously unreleased DJ edits, while Disc Three is comprised entirely of 17 exclusive and previously unreleased mixes.