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Great Entertainment., May 12, 2002|
Those of us
whose childhood fantasies were fed by superhero comic books --
instead of television -- always looked forward to superhero
movies, and often came out of the theater disappointed; but
not this time. Sam Rami succeeded where generations of
directors and endless, like-minded TV series often failed. He
found and inflamed the dormant desire for awe in admiration of
the strong, yet tender, heroic male; the one we read about in
adolescence, and whom we secretly kept close to our hearts as
Yet this is not a nostalgic movie with old
fashions or a middle-aged audience in mind. It is as fresh as
a teenager movie and as action packed as any Hollywood
blockbuster, while at the same time it is an excellent film in
every respect. It is exciting, funny, touching and perfectly
paced. In other words it is great adventure entertainment, and
I highly recommend it.
I will not go into the details
of the story, one that, after all, is not so different from
others, in order to not spoil it for those who have not seen
I do want to single out Alvin Sargent, a seasoned
screenwriter, and his team, for writing a script that makes
characters interesting, believable and sympathetic. The action
is measured, the suspense is tolerable and the plot is
interesting, tight and unburdensome. No superfluous talking
here. No long-winded car chases or overly brutal fights. In
fact, I was glad to see one of the criminals fall by accident,
rather than to be killed by such a gentle
Tobey Maguire, whose memorable performance
in "The Cider House Rules" propelled him to super stardom, is
the surprising and fortunate casting choice for the role of
Peter Parker, the high school boy turned Spider-man. He gives
a sensitive rendering of a young man who, having been bitten
by a genetically modified spider, develops superhuman
abilities. His portrayal of this dual, human and supernatural
character is not only convincing, but given the actor's own
likable personal traits, it is very sweet and moving as
Kirsten Dunst in the role of Mary Jane is as
likeable as Maguire, and well cast as Spider-man's long - and
widely -- sought after sweetheart.
character's incarnation, in a subplot that involves the US
Dept. of Defense, is unexpected, spectacular and amusing. It
adds just enough spice to an otherwise predictable
The manner of updating the decades old context
of Spider-Man is inspired, and it includes a lot more than
biologically re-engineered arachnoids. One of my favorites was
WWF wrestling as his first proving ground. This, and many
other aspects of the movie will endear it to young viewers.
(Never the less, keeping in mind its 2-hour length and some
violence, I would not recommend it for young
"Spider-Man" is a feast for the eyes. The
producers' choice of locations, colors, special effects,
costumes, and even make up, deliver a hint of comic-book
sketching, just enough to make us surrender to the screen,
only without any of the gaudiness or spooky retrofuturist
gimmicks that would easily turn off sophisticated audiences.
The hero's aerial acrobatics are, as one would expect, more
fantastic than those of Olympic gymnasts, but delivered with
the smooth interpretation and subtle touches of skillful
choreography. And behind all this we see New York in all it's
earthly glory, as if the choice of Manhattan for the film's
backdrop was intended to present this legendary city of ours
from the perspective of a box seat in one of its great venues
for the performing arts.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful: Beyond Satisfaction!, February 17, 2002
Omnibook XE3 Notebook is an unexpected pleasure for me, and it
came as the sweet reward of my long quest for a new
I had been looking for a replacement of my
now seriously outdated Dell Latitude with Windows 98 for some
After being inundated with sales brochures from
Dell, IBM and others, I looked into different laptops and I
thought that an IBM ThinkPad A series might do the job at
I then encountered several problems in my dealings with
IBM. First, the model I requested was not available. Then I
was told that a comparable model was available, but there
would be additional costs in adding the features I wanted.
Weeks later, with the projected delivery day having been
missed, I was told that the second model was unavailable and
yet another substitution was made. Eventually, after yet
another few weeks went by with no computer in sight I
cancelled the order.
It dawned on me that my best mail order experiences had
been with Amazon.com, and I remembered that they sold
computers as well. So, I logged on and started searching for
the laptop computer of my dreams. I was pleasantly surprised
to find available systems with the features I wanted, and then
some, at a lower price than the IBM of my dreams.
I saw the "Order By Phone And Get Expert Advice" box on the
product description page and, voila, the expert spoke my
language and he knew the details of my computer dreams. I was
shocked when he said that that the system I wanted was ready
to ship on the same day, free shipping included. I ordered it,
scheduled to be shipped on the same day and to be delivered 3
days later. It arrived a day ahead of schedule!
But the pleasures of this transaction did not end with
early delivery. When I opened the box in which my new HP
notebook arrived I was delighted to see so little inside. Less
is more, because an all-inclusive computer is better than
using tangled cables to connect multiple components. And this
computer has everything built into an amazingly compact
Plug and play at its best is when you plug and, well, just
play. I plugged and I played and played and played. This
laptop packs all the best buttons and LCD indicators in the
right places and in the right shapes for the most intuitive
interaction that I have had in my decades long computer
experience. If you want to get on the Internet, just tap the
"WWW" button. For e-mail, press the button with the envelope
picture on it. You want a button to do something unique, just
use the available programmable button. The short front façade
of the laptop has buttons for multimedia, such as on/off,
play/stop, pause/end, forward, rewind, volume up and volume
down. This is so much easier than clicking Windows settings.
The built-in CD-ROM drive is a marvelous combination data
reader, CD maker and DVD player. The included network outlet
made connecting to the Internet via my DSL modem as simple as
just plugging in a cable (interestingly enough my DSL
connection is much faster on the HP Omnibook). The built-in
diskette drive beats having to first remove a CD drive to put
this in, as in my old laptop.
There are jacks for every sort of connection I can dream
of. A telephone jack for the built-in dialup modem, a network
jack for my DSL connection, an IBM style jack for an external
mouse or keyboard, microphone jack, headphone/speaker jack,
two USB ports, a parallel port where I plugged in my old laser
printer, a VGA port, AC adapter, an infrared port, TV output
port (wow!), a Kensington lock security connector (in case you
work for the State Dept...), and PC cards for everything else.
To pack all these things with the three included drives,
battery, keyboard, big screen and powerful CPU together, and
to present them in such a user-friendly fashion in a small,
light package is HP's fantastic accomplishment, not to mention
the great boost to my ego.
What a joy my new computer is. Windows XP makes things
easier all around, but to me the greatest advantage is that
there is no more crashing and no more despised "scandisk".
This computer never needs to be turned off. It just goes to
sleep when you don't use it and wakes up on command.
"Less is more" also applies to instructional material. No
need for encyclopedia sized manuals here. The only book that
accompanies this marvel of self-sufficiency is the small
"Startup Guide". It has pictorial descriptions of the multiple
buttons, jacks and bays and short sections on using,
traveling, configuring and troubleshooting, none of which I
have had the need to use.
I give the HP Omnibook experience top marks. I have been
involved with computers for over thirty years and, finally, I
am in love.
Bravo HP for living up to a long reputation for user
friendliness. Bravo Amazon.com for making this transaction so
pleasant and satisfying.
Pros: Top features in a small package at a low price. This
computer has what you need and it also anticipates what you
may need in the future.
Cons: The only "con" I can think of is that the price went
down after I bought it. I guess now more people can fall in
love with their own HP Omnibook.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful: Tribute to Photojournalism, September 13,
If a photo is
worth a thousand words then surely this large volume is
priceless, constituting the finest and best organized
collection of historical photos that I have ever seen.
Marie-Monique Robin went to great lengths to track
down sources, she sifted through volumes of historical
photographs and she did an extraordinary job of organizing the
This outstanding journalist made the best
choice of words, as well. Besides the briefest of
introductions, she augmented each photograph with narrative in
three short sections: A paragraph of historical context
entitled "Timeline"; a concise description of the image; and a
few words from the photographer or other person closely
associated with the photo.
Glancing through the pages
one can appreciate the easy and pleasurable arrangement of the
photos and text. Each photo and accompanied text are placed on
large, well balanced, two-page spreads. There are one hundred
of these, starting with a 1898 photo of the Turin Shroud and
ending with a 1997 "mosaic of pixels" of the Mars Pathfinder.
The collection is one hundred photos short, but very
rich. From Texas to South Africa, ayatollahs to lesbian lovers
and from Buchenwald to the Moon, the photographs are
beautiful, moving, telling, compelling and all the
superlatives one associates with the rarest moments of
photojournalism. There is a combination of history and poetry
in images of people, places and events that we all recognize,
and also those that we do not but want to. They convey the
things that please, annoy, educate, repulse and move us, so,
they make a superb pictorial account of twentieth century
One can see the author's own aesthetic
sensitivity in the layout of the book and in her choice of
large-format black and white photos in combination with small
color photos of photographers or other relevant images. While
avoiding the Technicolor look of glossy magazines, she
succeeds in presenting a subdued phantasmagoria that moves and
informs her audience.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful: Fit the Bill, September 2, 2000
narrated in Rick Steves's monotone, this video is reminiscent
of "The Lonely Planet" and "Amazing Destinations" Travel
Channel programs, but without the annoying background music,
and so down to earth that one might think of it as a home
I bought it because of my interest in Istanbul, and got
Prague and Budapest as a bonus. While watching it on tape was
my alternative to expensive travel, I was soon shocked to
discover that finding the tape was harder than booking a trip,
as my extensive search yielded only two available titles.
Having resigned myself to making do with one third of a
tape (Istanbul being one of three cities on it) I was
pleasantly surprised by how much one can get on a short video.
A picture is indeed worth a thousand words.
I enjoyed the virtual tour of Hagia Sophia. The
architectural drawings, written descriptions and innumerable
photos that I had examined in the past could not impress me as
much as Steves's camera panning and zooming around this 1,400
year old Cathedral, built on what was then the capital of the
Roman Empire and the political center of the civilized world.
Unexpected pleasures included the boat trip across the
Bosporus and views of other known sites. Walking or sailing
past jam-packed shops, ancient homes and exotic palaces in
busy streets, squares and water channels; hearing the cheerful
sounds of this vibrant megalopolis and watching people eat and
dance helped me imagine being there.
As a regular visitor to Istanbul, Steves found it
appropriate to end with a short lesson in Turkish and a corny
but telling phrase: "Never else have I found culture shock as
enjoyable a package".
I now feel less remiss about not having spent time in the
city that ruled the world for centuries, first as New Rome
Constantinople and then as the capital of the Ottoman
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful: Fall In Love With Photios, May 3, 2000
accomplishes the feat of a concise, complete and readable
presentation of a complicated man who is a Saint to the East,
anathema to the West, and the most extraordinary and
illustrious mind of his time.Saint Photios of Constantinople,
"an intimate of the powerful, a courtier, an intellectual, an
encyclopedist, a teacher, and a voracious student of anything
that books could offer", has been extensively studied by
scholars for centuries; profusely quoted and catalogued,
worshiped and excommunicated.But nowhere does he come through
as completely yet understandably as he does in this small
book.Photios's own writings, presended here in a collection of
52 of his letters, reveal a man of passion and compassion,
great knowledge and deep faith who still brings forth our
admiration, even as he continues to attract the scorn of those
he called "heretics" over a thousand years ago.