Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tis the season to be…Dysfunctional!

I am sure most of you have perfectly lovely families and are on the verge of having the best Christmas EVER! Beautifully wrapped presents, sparkling and meaningful conversations and delicious foods made with care. Ahhhhhh, the glory of the holidays! But for the rest of us, I thought I would suggest some great films that make us glad for the families we have. You think your family is dysfunctional!? Watch these films and you will be glad to be with your family over the holidays!

Grey Gardens (DVD): Money doesn’t matter where dysfunction is involved! Edith and “Little Edie" Beale, the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, live their eccentric lives in a filthy, decaying mansion in East Hampton. Whether you watch the 1975 documentary of the actual Beales or the 2009 movie starring Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore, this is dysfunction at its entertaining best!

Ordinary People (DVD): A young Timothy Hutton plays Conrad, the son of Calvin and Beth Jarrett, two of the most disconnected parents you’ll ever see. Conrad was involved in an accident which caused his brother’s death leaving him with various mental disorders stemming from the event. Both parents clearly loved their other son more and in a way resent Conrad for still being alive. Instead of properly grieving, they shut off their emotions and act as if everything is normal.

The Ref (DVD): Anything with Denis Leary in it is pretty unorthodox, isn't it? Well, add to the mix a bumbling thief, a married couple (Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis) who can't stand each other, and a hostage situation on Christmas Eve and you get the most dysfunctional Christmas film of all time.

Royal Tenenbaums (DVD): Royal and Etheline Tenenbaum are the separated parents of two sons and an adopted daughter. Richie (Luke Wilson) is a tennis playing artist who has an affinity for hawks, Chas (Ben Stiller) is a paranoid father of two who constantly thinks death is at his door, and Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) is a playwright with a missing finger, and a secret smoking habit. Royal was a terrible husband and an even worse father, so how does he make it up to his family? He lies about having cancer to try and reconnect with his family. Dysfunction with a capital D (One of my favorite films! Oh so amusing!)

May your days be merry and bright….and all your family events NOT be like the ones in these films! Happy holidays!

Friday, December 04, 2009

For Your Holiday Viewing Pleasure

The National Board of Review has just announced its film awards for the year, kicking off the film frenzy that leads up to the Academy Awards in March (Sunday, March 7th). Leading the charge are several films that will get wider release over the Christmas holidays. The National Board gave the top film prize to Up in the Air with its star, George Clooney named as Best Actor (which he co-shared with Morgan Freeman for Invictus). It also won best adapted screenplay and Anna Kendrick won for best supporting actress.
Best director went to Invictus director, Clint Eastwood. I have heard nothing but glowing reviews for the film, An Education, and its star Carey Mulligan took best actress award. Woody Harrelson won best supporting actor for The Messenger (he plays a captain who is given the job of informing the families of fallen soldiers.)
Rounding out the awards are Up (currently available in HBPL Media) for best animated film, The Cove (available 12/8 from HBPL Media) for best documentary and The Prophet for best foreign film.

So what should you see over the holidays?? I would put Up in the Air, An Education and Invictus at the top of your list:

Up in the Air: George Clooney take on the role of a management consultant, a harbinger of doom whose job is primarily firing people for companies that are downsizing. His work takes him around the country, helping him pursue his private goal of accumulating ten million miles in his frequent flyer account and with it, entry to an elite club. Enter a new recruit that introduces video conferencing that would ground his operation. The film is based on a novel by the same name written Walter Kirn (available at HBPL). Another indie feather in the cap of Juno director, Jason Reitman.

An Education: Based on the memoir of British journalist Lynn Barber (book not available in the US), this film follows the relationship of a sixteen year old school girl (Carey Mulligan) with a 35 year old man (Peter Sarsgaard). Carey Mulligan, who in her first major feature role is being compared by everyone with Audrey Hepburn and was the darling of this year’s film festival circuit. You think you have seen this before but this screenplay by Nick Hornby (About a Boy and High Fidelity) is a fresh, funny and moving look at a young girl's journey from innocence to experience.

Invictus: The film, based upon the non-fiction book "Playing the Enemy" by John Carlin (available at HBPL, also available under the title Invictus) follows Nelson Mandela’s ambitious plan to use the national rugby team, the Springboks -- long an embodiment of white-supremacist rule -- to grip the new South Africa as the team prepares to host the 1995 World Cup. Matt Damon plays the captain of the Springboks and Morgan Freeman plays Nelson Mandela. One more film to add to the impressive directing career of Clint Eastwood.

So take a break from your busy holiday schedule to catch a film. Be it one of next year’s award considerations or just light holiday fare, it will take you away for a few hours. Films can make you laugh, make you cry and/or make you think.Then you can leave the dark and return to the celebrations of the season.

Friday, November 06, 2009

More frightening than Halloween

What could possibly be more frightening than Halloween?? The fact that Christmas is right around the corner and coming at us with a vengeance. It seems to me that we just celebrated this festive holiday and it is back all too soon. Of course, the first hint is all the decorations appearing way too prematurely in the stores but it really hit home when I spied the Trees on the Bay in Long Beach being towed into position! Frightening!!
Fortunately, the holidays also bring with it the release of some very entertaining films. (Just ready for purchasing for Christmas presents!!).
In case you missed these in the theaters, here are some of the big pre- Christmas releases for December:

December 8th :
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
: Does it really seem like the holidays without a Harry Potter on your wish list? We can breathe a sigh of relief this holiday season because Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince will be released in time for Christmas. This latest installment was more about relationships than magic and I, for one, hope the final two films (they are breaking Deathly Hollows into two parts) go back to the magical wonder of the earlier films. Despite that fact, I will be in line waiting to buy my copy when the film is released!

Julie and Julia: Coming out the same day as Harry Potter, is the delightful culinary tale of Julie and Julia. In an earlier post, I have already sang the wonders of Meryl Streep’s performance, she seemed to be channeling the late, great Julia Child for this one. She is joined by the always charming, Amy Adams as the contemporary Julie that tries to cook all of the recipes in Julie Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year! You will have to see it if you want to know if she succeeds!

December 15th:
The Hangover: Not typically my kind of film but as so many of my friends have seen and loved it, I will be looking out for it when it hits the shelves. This is a Las Vegas-set comedy about three groomsmen who lose their friend, a soon-to-be-wed groom, during their drunken pre-wedding misadventures. What happens in Vegas, doesn’t necessarily stay in Vegas!

Inglorious Basterds: Although I am usually a Tarantino fan, I thought this one might be better for me on a small screen. Violence on the big screen can be a little much at times. However, from talking to my fellow filmies, I hear that this is an entertaining, not to be missed, addition to the Tarantino legacy.

December 22nd:
500 Days of Summer
: My favorite film of the year so far. Of all the young, male actors that are currently making films, my favorite is Joseph Gordon Levitt. The quirky Zooey Deschanel plays Summer, the hearts desire of Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon Levitt). The film deals with the 500 days of their relationship in a different and very entertaining way. Not your average, schmaltzy relationship flick!

Don’t be afraid! The holidays may be near but we certainly have cinematic wonders to look forward to!

Friday, October 09, 2009

What an Honor!

Last month the Kennedy Center announced its recipients for their annual Kennedy Center Honors. The five honorees this year are: Bruce Springsteen, Dave Brubeck, Grace Bumbry, Robert De Niro and Mel Brooks. Of course, Bruce, Dave and Grace are well-known in the music world (rock, jazz and opera). I will leave the Music Blog to sing their laurels, but two of the honorees are from the world of film.

I love Robert De Niro! Not for his roles in The Godfather, Mean Streets, GoodFellas, Casino or Taxi Driver. This isn’t the De Niro that I go to see. The De Niro I love is the one that, although well known for his gangster/violent roles, goes beyond that and takes some artistic chances.

Stardust (DVD): This charming action/fantasy film is based on a Neil Gaiman novel. The story takes place in two distinct worlds, one real and the other magical. They exist side by side in mid nineteenth-century England, separated by only a rock wall. Our real world hero takes off into the magical world of course, prompted by a girl! Amazing and frightening things happen there, with one of the highlights being his encounter with Captain Shakespeare (Robert De Niro). The Captain loves to dress in women’s clothing and dance in front of a mirror. De Niro at his eccentric best!

Awakenings (VHS): Robert De Niro stars with Robin Williams in this drama based on the Oliver Sacks non-fiction book of the same name. A new doctor (Williams) starts to work in a ward full of comatose patients. Many have been comatose for decades and it disturbs the doctor that there seems to be no hope for a cure. He discovers an experimental drug that he gets permission to try on some of the patients. To his amazement, they start waking up. DeNiro plays one of the patients and gives a heartbreaking performance filled with delight, hope and despair.

Melvin Kaminsky, aka Mel Brooks, successfully conquered the worlds of film (he won an Oscar for his 1968 screenplay of The Producers.), stage (12 Tonys for the stage version of The Producers) and television (Emmys for writing and for appearances on the comedy series Mad About You). Not bad for a guy that is well known for fart jokes (Blazing Saddles)!

The Producers (DVD): This is one of my favorite films! The original version, that is! Although, I do like Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, they don’t hold a candle to Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. In previous posts I have already expounded the wonders of Kenneth Mars as Franz Liebkind. Put them all together and it is a hilarious, musical romp. Mel Brooks movies make us laugh even when we really should have be offended.

Young Frankenstein (DVD): Of course, this also made it to Broadway in a stage version. And, although I enjoyed the stage version, I prefer the film. It is probably the most quoted by my circle of friends, “Put... ze candle... *back*!” Gene Wilder, as the grandson of the infamous Baron Victor Frankenstein and Peter Boyle as his “monster” are perfect in their roles. Add the comic brilliance of Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, Teri Garr and Cloris Leachman and you have a movie worth watching again and again. Many feel that Young Frankenstein is Mel Brooks best film ever.

Congratulations to all of this years Kennedy Center Honorees!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The People have spoken!

This years Toronto Film Festival has come to the end (September 10-19) and director Lee Daniels’ Precious, based on the novel Push by Sapphire has taken top honors, becoming the first film in history to win audience awards at both Toronto and Sundance. However, even before winning these prestigious awards, this film had a leg up as Oprah Winfrey is one of its Executive Producers. When Oprah speaks, people listen!
Precious is an overweight, illiterate teen, living in Harlem and is pregnant with her second child. Feeling invisible and rejected, she is invited to enroll in an alternative school in hopes that her life can head in a new direction. Precious is set to be released in November of this year.

The runner-up for the audience award went to Australian director Bruce Beresford’s Mao’s Last Dancer. This film is based on the autobiography by Li Cunxin. At the age of 11, Li was taken from a poor to Beijing to study ballet. In 1979, during a cultural exchange to Texas, he fell in love with an American woman. Two years later, he managed to defect and went on to perform as a principal dancer for the Houston Ballet and as a principal artist with the Australian Ballet. Although I assume this film will get North American distribution, so far distribution has not been announced.

Other winners at TIFF this year included:

Leanne Pooley’s The Topp Twins - which follows New Zealand’s lesbian twin sister country and western singers, won in the documentary category, taking honors over a much more high-profile runner-up, Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story. The Topp Twins does not currently have North American distribution.

Sean Byrne’s prom-set horror film The Loved Ones won the people’s choice award for Midnight Madness, the midnight screening series at the festival. A gore-filled shocker that goes for laughs by paying homage to the outlandish low-budget films of the '70s and '80s, blending together Misery, Saw, Prom Night, The Evil Dead and Carrie.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Meryl Mia!

A few weeks ago, I went to see the film Julie and Julia. I am sure many of you have seen it by now so you know that it is funny and delightful. I must admit that I wanted more Julia than Julie; Amy Adams did a fine acting job as Julie but oh that Meryl Streep! This film reminded me what a national treasure she truly is! Meryl is known for embodying her characters and she seemed to be channeling the late, great Julia Child for this one.
If you haven’t seen Julie and Julia, do! If you need more Meryl, here are some titles that are available in the HBPL Media Center:

Sophie’s Choice (DVD)
Meryl Streep received a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Sophie Zawistowska in this heartbreaking film. Set in 1947, post World War II, Holocaust survivor Sophie is living with Nathan (Kevin Kline) in Brooklyn. Stingo (Peter MacNicol), a young writer from the American South, becomes their neighbor and friend. Hidden truths eventually come out and the nature of Sophie’s choice is revealed. This is proof positive that Meryl Streep is one of the finest actors of our age.

Out of Africa (DVD)
In Sophie’s Choice, Meryl’s Polish accent was very convincing. She continues as the “queen of accents” in her portrayal of the Danish writer, Karen Blixen (pen name Isak Dinesen). Based on Blixen’s memoir, this film is set in Kenya and follows the time she spent there on a coffee plantation. For many women, the most remembered scene is when Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford) washes Blixen’s hair. For others, the incredible scenery steals the show.

Kramer vs. Kramer (VHS)
Meryl has been nominated for Oscars fifteen times, twelve times for Best Actress and three times for Best Supporting Actress. She has won twice; first for Sophie’s Choice (Best Actress) and secondly for Kramer vs. Kramer (Supporting Actress). Joanna Kramer (Streep) walks out on her workaholic husband Ted (Dustin Hoffman), leaving both husband and young son, Billy. Later, Joanna returns and wants Billy back. Ted however refuses to give him up, so they go to court to fight for the custody of their son.

Silkwood (VHS)
This film is based on the true story of Karen Silkwood (Streep), the Oklahoma nuclear-plant worker who blew the whistle on dangerous practices at the Kerr-McGee plant and who died under circumstances which are still under debate. She was on her way to deliver some documents to a New York Times reporter when her car left the road. The documents were never found. Meryl Streep is very convincing as a blue collar, working class woman. We would expect no less!

The Devil Wears Prada (DVD)
From working class to upper-class! Meryl can play it all! She convincingly terrorizes her assistants as powerful and demanding fashion magazine editor, Miranda Priestly of Runway Magazine. (The character was inspired by the editor of U.S. Vogue, Anna Wintour.) The film follows Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway), a recent college graduate who goes to New York City and gets a job as a co-assistant to Miranda. She learns to do the impossible and although succeeds in the high energy fashion world, she finds the moral dilemmas attached not quite what she had expected.

Mamma Mia! (DVD)
20-year-old Sophie lives with her mother Donna (Meryl Streep) on the small Greek island, Kalokairi, where Donna runs a hotel. Sophie is planning to marry and wants her father to be present to "give her away," but doesn’t know who he is. After reading Donna's diary from 20 years ago, she concludes he is one of three men. Fun, dancing and music pursue! Many don’t know that before Meryl Streep decided on the acting profession, she was studying to be an opera singer. She shows her singing “chops” in this film and had me smiling and humming all the way home from the theater.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Movies and Facebook

There is currently a phenomenon cruising around Facebook called 15 Movies (at least it is new to me!). Friends post the top fifteen movies that have affected their lives, trying to do it in 15 minutes. Very hard to do in that amount of time. I am very happy with my list but then I look at my friends movies and always see a movie that could have made my list, too! So many movies, so little time! Here’s my list:

1- Lawrence of Arabia (1962) I can’t believe Peter O’Toole didn’t win the Oscar for this one!
2- Usual Suspects (1994) If anyone ever deserved their Oscar, it was Kevin Spacey as Verbal Kint.
3- Donnie Darko (2001) Culty time travelling mind blower! I love this film!
4- Jaws (1975) Ruined the ocean for everyone of my generation! It is also one of the very few movies that I liked more than the book!
5- Cinema Paradiso (1988)The film that set me on the road of foreign film appreciation.
6-The Miracle (1959) (Carroll Baker and Roger Moore) Corny, yes, but it is the film that my mother and I would watch together every time it was on TV.
7- Truly Madly Deeply (1990). I know very few women that don’t think that Alan Rickman is sexy. If you need some convincing, watch this film!
8- Beauty and the Beast (1991) Not the wise cracking animated films that are now coming out of Disney Studios. This is a lovely, heartfelt film.
9- Glory (1989) Denzel Washington certainly deserved the Oscar for his performance in this film. However, for me, the surprise of this film was how good Matthew Broderick can be if given a great role.
10- Touching the Void (2003) Amazing book! I had the good fortune to see this film at the Toronto Film Festival. In attendance was the author and subject, Joe Simpson. If you want to see a film about mountaineering and the strength of the human spirit…this is the one!
11- Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) This masterful piece of stop motion animation should be on everyone’s favorite film list. Although the plot is engaging, the details in every scene are spectacular!
12- White Christmas (1954) (watch it every year!) Yes, even to this day, a Christmas doesn’t go by that I don’t watch this film.
13-12 Monkeys (1995) Interesting, twisted plot that proves that Bruce Willis has more acting chops than Die Hard. And who knew Brad Pitt could play crazy so well!
14- Cyrano de Bergerac (1990) (Gerard Depardieu) I have already sang this films glory in earlier blog postings. This and Cinema Paradiso brought to life my appreciation of foreign films. I just re-watched it recently and it stands the test of time.
15- The Producers (1968) The original is so much better than the remake. Although I do like Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, they don’t hold a candle to Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. Kenneth Mars as Franz Liebkind brought a comic level to this film that Will Ferrell could never duplicate.

Anyone want to share their 15 movies with us??

Friday, July 17, 2009

Keepin’ Cool

Of course, one way of keeping cool this summer is by either sitting in the library reading a good book or in a movie theater watching a great flick. However, if you want to stay home there is nothing cooler than these films and the actors that give them their cool status:

Steve McQueen: Bullitt (VHS): You can absolutely not get any cooler than Steve McQueen. Whether he is escaping from a German prisoner of war camp in The Great Escape or saving a village in the Magnificent Seven, he is an actor that oozes cool and confidence. He is most definitely at his coolest in this film! McQueen plays Frank Bullitt, a San Francisco cop assigned as bodyguard to Peter Ross, a syndicate witness. When the Ross gets shot-gunned (but not killed), Bullitt goes after the hit man. Complicating his efforts is a politician who wants to use Ross to further his career. One of the coolest things about Bullitt is an absolutely brilliant chase scene. McQueen (doing his own driving) is chased by, and chases, a couple of gangsters up and down San Francisco's hills. They slam into intersections, bounce halfway down the next hill, scrape by half a dozen near-misses, sideswipe each other, and give you the ride of your life for about 11 minutes. Cool.

Sean Connery: The Untouchables (DVD): Whereas Sean Connery definitely solidified his “cool” credentials with the James Bond films, he won the Academy Award for his role in The Untouchables. This film is about how Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) and his gang of Untouchables, brought down the gangster, Al Capone (Robert DeNiro). Connery plays the Irish cop that teaches Ness how to play the “Chicago way”.

Bill Murray (DVD): Rushmore: Bill Murray has his own brand of cool. Not Steve McQueen, not Sean Connery, but cool none the less. In Rushmore, he plays Herman Blume, an unhappy millionaire. Blume is befriended by Max. Max is a homely 10th-grader at the Rushmore Academy, a private school where he fails classes but constantly organizes clubs and plays. Max discovers that he and Herman love the same woman (a teacher at Rushmore). War ensues. They both strive to win her affections without thinking of the consequences.

Clint Eastwood (DVD) – The Unforgiven: What else needs to be said…it’s CLINT! Make our day! Do we feel lucky? A man's got to know his limitations (well every man but Clint!).
Of course, these are all quotes from his Dirty Harry films but he didn’t become Oscar cool until the Unforgiven. Eastwood plays William Munny, a former gunslinger, now pig farmer. He is a widower, trying to take care of the farm and two children. When "The Schofield Kid" arrives looking for a partner to accompany him to Big Whiskey to earn a reward being offered, William is initially reluctant. Later, however, after taking a hard look at his prospects, he changes his mind. He's not the man he once was, but he needs the money. So he recruits his old partner, Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman), and sets off after the Schofield Kid.

Samuel L Jackson: Pulp Fiction (DVD): So many cool films to choose from when we talk about Samuel L. The totally campy film, Snakes on a Plane would have been nothing without Jackson’s performance. Star Wars part I, II and III were enhanced by his presence. Die Hard With a Vengeance had double the cool factor Bruce Willis and Samuel L. giving the bad guys trouble. But by far his coolest performance has been in Pulp Fiction. Pulp Fiction follows the lives of two mob hit men, a boxer, a gangster's wife, and a pair of diner bandits whose lives intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption. Samuel L. Jackson plays Jules, one of the hit men, and his partner is Vincent (John Travolta). Their conversation about French Big Macs is priceless! The plot and the language aren’t for the weak of heart but if you can take it, Pulp Fiction is worth the ride!

Other actors to check out that definitely have the cool factor: George Clooney, Christopher Walken, Gregory Peck, Jack Nicholson, Robert DeNiro, Marlon Brando and Paul Newman.
Anyone else that you consider cool?? Let me know!
Keep cool!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

4th, Food, Firecrackers and Freedom

July has arrived and I thought it was about darned time for another blog posting. Since it is only 3 days until our nation’s birthday celebration, the no-brainer post would have been patriotic themed movies. Been there, done that…it’s so last year!! (see my July 01, 2008 posting for patriotic film suggestions). Instead I started thinking about what the 4th of July means to me. Words like food and fireworks came to mind…but mainly I think about freedom. That, after all, is what the 4th of July signing of our Declaration of Independence ultimately gave us. Here are a few films about people (and chickens!) and their quest for freedom:

Defiance (DVD): The tagline for this film is: Freedom begins with an act of defiance! Or maybe they should have said keeping your freedom. This film follows three Polish Jewish brothers in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe who escape into the Belarussian forests. Two of the brothers decide to fight for their freedom in different ways. One joins the Russian partisans and the other stays behind to help the growing population of Jews that have joined them in the forest to escape the Germans.

Wind that Shakes the Barley (DVD): Winner of the PALME D'OR at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, this film is also about two brothers who are fighting for their freedom in 1920’s Ireland. Damien is a medical student, while his brother Teddy is fighting for Ireland’s freedom from the British. After witnessing atrocities, Damien decides to join his brother’s resistance group. Although agreements are made to stop the violence, the brothers ultimately have their loyalties put to the test.

Chicken Run (DVD): Chicken Run, from the creator’s of Wallace and Gromit, is a comedy escape drama set on a sinister Yorkshire chicken farm in 1950's England. Ginger is one of the chickens and she desperately wants her freedom. Unfortunately she is constantly being held back by her incompetent fellow chickens. One night, while bemoaning her fate in the barnyard, a rooster flies in over the fence. The rooster, Rocky Rhodes, is a cocky American who enjoys freedom - in fact; he was escaping from a circus when he landed in her barnyard. The film follows Rocky and Ginger, who yearn for freedom and their daring 'prisoner of war' style escape.

Shawshank Redemption (DVD): In 1946, a banker named Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is convicted of a double murder, even though he stubbornly proclaims his innocence. He's sentenced to a life term at the Shawshank State Prison in Maine, where he meets another lifer, Ellis "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman). Through all the harsh times at the prison, Andy never loses hope and strives to make his ultimate dream of freedom come true.

Let Freedom Ring!

Have a great Independence Day!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Celluloid Librarians

Hopefully many of you know about the BIG Library Centennial party that we will be having this Friday (June 12th) from 4pm-7pm @ the Central Library. Come see yours truly perform in the Book Cart Drill Team!! It should be a fun and festive occasion! The whole library centennial thing got me thinking about librarians and, because I am me, it got me thinking about movies. Librarians and libraries have been portrayed in many ways on the celluloid screen. Here are a few of my favorites:
Party Girl: (DVD)
Mary (Parker Posey)is living the wild bohemian life in New York. She calls her godmother, a librarian, for bail money after being arrested for throwing an illegal party. To repay the loan, she begins working for her godmother in the library. The detail of library work rubs against her flamboyant, live-by-the-moment grain ("Keith Richards would make a better librarian than me!''). After a bit, she learns to groove on the Dewey Decimal System and enjoy the order it gives to her otherwise chaotic life.

The Mummy: (DVD)
Probably my favorite librarian character comes from this film. Rachel Weisz’s Evie takes librarianship to its adventurous best. She drunkenly exclaims, “I am proud to be what I am. I am a LIBRARIAN!” And you believe she is. Adventurous librarian, swashbuckling hero and life sucking mummy, how can you resist!

The Librarian: Quest for the Spear (DVD)
The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines (DVD)
The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice (DVD)
The Librarian started in 2004 and now has three films in the series. Noah Wyle plays Flynn Carsen, a perpetual college student who has 22 academic degrees. He is compelled to leave academia and get some real world experience so he applies for a position at the Metropolitan Public Library. His job is to protect historical and often magical items in a secret section of the library. Within this collection are artifacts like the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant. Adventures abound for this meek but feisty librarian.

Probably my favorite librarian quote comes from the first film. Noah Wyle is interviewing with Jane Curtain for “The Librarian” position. Curtain asks: What makes you think you could be the Librarian?
Wyle: I know the Dewey Decimal System, Library of Congress, research paper orthodoxy, web searching. I can set up an RSS feed...
Curtain: Everybody knows that. They're librarians.
Maybe it’s Curtains' snarky tone or you have to be a librarian to find it that funny, but it cracks me up every time.

All these titles are available on DVD from our Media Department.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The White Ribbon @Cannes

While we were celebrating Memorial Day with flags and BBQ, the French were finishing up their annual film extravaganza at Cannes. This year the coveted Palme d’Or went to an Austrian film, The White Ribbon. Filmed in black and white by Austrian director, Michael Haneke, the film follows a sinister series of crimes which rock a village in northern Germany on the eve of World War One, and appears linked to a group of children brutalized and scarred by their parents. Another Austrian, Christoph Waltz, walked away with the Best Actor prize for his flamboyant performance as a SS officer in Quentin Tarantino’s World War II film Inglorious Bastards.
The most controversial film in Cannes was Danish director Lars von Trier’s Antichrist, which sharply divided critics and drew boos and cheers at screenings for its graphic portrayals of sex and violence. France’s Charlotte Gainsbourg, who plays a wife mourning the death of her son, was named Best Actress.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Ooooo lala Gerard!

It wasn’t until the early ‘90’s that I became enamored by foreign films. Two films, both released in 1990, set me down the path of foreign film appreciation. One was Cinema Paradiso and the other was Cyrano de Bergerac. This Cyrano was spectacularly performed by French actor Gerard Depardieu. It had been quite a while since I had seen this version of Cyrano but fortunately, we have it available in the HBPL Media Department. I watched it last weekend and it still does not disappoint. It just reinforces what a powerful performance Gerard gave as Cyrano. So, if you haven’t seen this version, we have it!! Here are some more Depardieu gems for your consideration:
Jean de Florette (DVD): Jean de Florette is a French film set in Provence in the 1920s. It's the story of how two provincial French farmers systematically destroy the happiness of a man who comes out from the city to till the land. The man from the city is Jean de Florette, a hunchback tax collector played by Gerard Depardieu. A touching performance in a film that shows the dark side of human greed.

Man in the Iron Mask (VHS): All for one and one for all! Gerard Depardieu plays an aging Porthos in this entertaining rendition of Dumas classic novel. Along with his other Musketeers, Aramis (Jeremy Iron) and Athos (John Malkovich), they come out of retirement to avenge the death of Athos’ son. Unfortunately, the one responsible is King Louis XIV and the King’s bodyguard is led by one time fourth-Musketeer, D'Artagan (Gabriel Byrne). Leonardo DiCaprio does a commendable job in a dual role as King Louis XIV and the pauper that the Musketeers get to impersonate the King.

Green Card (VHS): Gerard plays a Frenchman that wants to stay in the United States. Andie MacDowell plays a single woman that wants a fabulous apartment that will only be rented to a married couple. A marriage of convenience seems the ideal solution to both problems. This charming romantic comedy shows what happens when cultures collide!

The Last Holiday (DVD): A clerk (Queen Latifah) from a New Orleans department store, puts life on hold and denies herself most luxuries of life. This all changes when a CT Scan discloses she has three weeks to live. She cashes her savings and heads to Europe's Grand Hotel Pupp, where Chef Didier presides. She lives life at its fullest to delightful results. Although this is really a Queen Latifah film, Gerard Depardieu’s role as Chef Didier is a scene stealer.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Earth Day Movies

This Wednesday, April 22nd, is EARTH DAY! What better way to celebrate then to watch a film about the destruction of earth’s resources by we naughty humans. Some say these films are eye openers to our future, like the ghost of Christmas future that visited old Scrooge. They can be seen as eye openers but they are also entertaining and available at the HBPL Media Department.

The Day After Tomorrow: Global warming has caught up with the earth in this catastrophic sci-fi thriller. A special-effects-filled look at what the world would look like if the greenhouse effect and global warming continued at such levels that they resulted in worldwide catastrophe and disaster, including multiple hurricanes, tornadoes, tidal waves, floods and the beginning of the next Ice Age. It is up to climatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) to save his son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal), and the world, from the new Ice Age.

Eleventh Hour: documentary narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio that covers global warming, deforestation, mass species extinction, and depletion of the oceans' habitats . The film's over all premises is that the future of humanity is in jeopardy. This is another serious look at how our world is, and another good reminder for earth day that we need to change things.

AI: Artificial Intelligence: Steven Spielberg’s film (based on an idea by Stanley Kubrick) presents a future world affected by melting polar ice caps. Flooding devastates coastal cities, forcing citizens to move towards the center of the continents. Despite the climatic setback, mankind proceeds to make stunning technological leaps forward while stumbling backward by indulging in new forms of prejudice and discrimination.

WALL-E: After decades of environmental degradation, Earth is completely uninhabitable. Humans turn to space, leaving Earth a lifeless wasteland. With a total dependency on technology and instant gratification, humans become lethargic, lazy, and obese. The only thing that will save the species is a trash collecting robot (and Hello Dolly! of course!).
Other Earth Day choices: An Inconvenient Truth, Waterworld, Who Killed the Electric Car?, Encounters at the End of the World
So you should all pop in a film, hug a tree, think about going greener and have an environmentally friendly Earth Day.