Thursday, April 30, 2009

New this week:

Bride Wars
Lifelong best friends Liv and Emma have shared a dream since childhood. Each yearns for the perfect June wedding at the famed Plaza Hotel in New York City. Both find themselves engaged at the same time and go to a wedding coordinator to set up the perfect wedding. A clerical error puts them both down for nuptials on the same day at the same time. One of them will have to switch the date. More than the bouquet goes flying when these desperate brides-to-be fight it out for matrimonial supremacy.

In the Electric Mist
While on an investigation into a series of grisly murders, veteran detective Dave Robicheaux navigates his way through the Louisiana bayou and the dark, sultry world of New Orleans mobster 'Baby Feet' Balboni. Layers of corruption and long-dead secrets reawaken grudges and a lethal alliance.

Nothing but the Truth
This is a volatile story about a Washington, D.C. political reporter who writes an explosive story about a government scandal in which she reveals the name of a covert CIA agent. Unexpectedly finding herself behind bars, she struggles to maintain her principles and relationship with her family when she refuses to divulge her source. Inspired by true events.

Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton
This film is based on the life of Isabella Beeton, author of Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management and the most famous cookbook author in British history. Isabella was an accomplished business woman who died when she was only 28. The story traces Isabella's transformation from young wife, to magazine journalist, to publishing phenomenon. Find out how a woman who couldn't cook ended up producing the world's most famous recipe book. Discover the dark secret that led to her early death.

‘Til Death Do Us Part
'Til Death Do Us Part takes the viewer on a journey with incarcerated battered women, as they relate their stories from first falling in love, through the abuse by their spouses, the murder, trial, parole process, and finally, for one woman, freedom. It is thought in our society that a woman can leave an abusive relationship at any time. However, the women in this film prove the contrary. They were under the age of 24, isolated from their families and had virtually no money. They all reached a point where there was a final beating in which the survival instinct prevailed. In these final moments, they snapped and killed. No one has heard their stories until now.

Anna and Alex's mother dies a mysterious death. Later, Anna returns home to her sister and best friend, Alex, after a stay in a mental hospital. Her recovery is jeopardized thanks to her aloof father and the presence of a ghost in their home. The sisters are confronted with terrifying nightmares, ghostly visions, and deadly consequences when they begin to investigate their father's cruel new fiancée.

What Doesn’t Kill You
Childhood friends Brian and Paulie do whatever it takes to survive in the dog-eat-dog neighborhood they live in. As they grow up they find themselves involved in organized crime and jail becomes part of doing business on the streets they call home. Brian uses his time in jail to get clean while Paulie makes plans for one last job that requires Brian's help. Brian must decide if he should stand by his friend or salvage his family.

Friday, April 24, 2009

New to the library this week:

Ashes of Time Redux
A mysterious man lives alone in the desert. People come to him when they need someone eliminated. This is a martial arts epic which examines the role of memory in people’s lives. It is “a visual treat… capturing swirling sands and beautiful, treacherous landscapes, resulting in a stirring sensory experience.”

Born on the Fourth of July
This is the biography of Ron Kovic, a paralyzed Vietnam War vet who became an anti-war and pro-human rights political activist after feeling betrayed by the country for which he fought. Tom Cruise gives a strong performance in this 1989 film.

The Doors
This 1991 film is the story of the famous and influential 1960's rock band and its lead singer and composer, Jim Morrison. Val Kilmer is spectacular as Morrison.

In an attempt to save his marriage, a firefighter uses a 40-day experiment known as "The Love Dare." This is a Christian drama starring Kirk Cameron.

Frank Langella and Michael Sheen star as Richard Nixon and David Frost in this re-telling of the post-Watergate Frost/Nixon interviews. Director Ron Howard’s film is unquestionably “involving, engrossing cinema.” (Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times)

Gorky Park
An investigator on the Moscow police force relentlessly pursues the solution to a triple homicide which occurred in Moscow's Gorky Park. William Hurt stars as Arkady Renko in this film version of the Martin Cruz Smith novel. Lee Marvin is particularly creepy as the bad guy.

Hang ‘Em High
“The hanging was the best show in town. But they made two mistakes. They hung the wrong man and they didn't finish the job.” (tagline in
How could you resist a movie with a tagline like this, and who could possibly be in it besides Clint Eastwood? It may be a 1968 film but Eastwood never fails to deliver.

Horse Soldiers
John Ford directs John Wayne and William Holden in this 1959 Civil War cavalry picture. A Union Cavalry outfit is sent behind confederate lines to destroy a rail supply centre. Wayne is the Col. and Holden a surgeon in this “thundering spectacle.”

A New Orleans DA discovers there's more to the Kennedy assassination than the official story. Kevin Costner stars in this star-studded retelling of the historic event. Whether or not you buy director Oliver Stone’s view of the assassination, this is an exciting and compelling political thriller.

Oliver Stone’s America
An interview with director/writer/producer Oliver Stone who is candid, honest and at times brilliant when discussing his career and criticism leveled at him and the state of American society today.

A studio executive is being blackmailed by a writer whose script he rejected. The question is, which one? This film is Robert Altman’s look at Hollywood: “hilarious and heartless in about equal measure, and often at the same time.”—Roger Ebert.

Snow Cake
Snow Cake is a film about friendship, trust, snow, acceptance, obsessive behavior, a dog called Marilyn, and about the power of friendship, no matter how eccentric, to change our lives and heal our hearts.

Rookie cop Denny Colt returns from the beyond as The Spirit, a hero whose mission is to fight against the bad forces in Central City. Frank Miller wrote the screenplay from the comic book series by Will Eisner.

Stone Cold
This is the first of the Jesse Stone films based on the novels of Robert B. Parker and starring Tom Selleck as a New England police chief investigating a series of murders.

Ten Commandments
Cecil B. DeMille’s epic Bible film The Ten Commandments is the proclaimed “Greatest Event in Motion Picture History!” Charlton Heston stars as Moses, the Egyptian Prince who learns of his true heritage as a Hebrew and his divine mission as the deliverer of his people.

Tess of the D’Urbervilles
The story of Tess Durbeyfield, a low-born country girl whose family find they have noble connections. This BBC mini-series is from the classic novel by Thomas Hardy.

A drama centered on retired professional wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson as he makes his way through the independent circuit, trying to get back in the game for one final showdown with his former rival. Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei both won Oscars for their performances.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

DVD Recommendations: Rachel Getting Married and Bangkok Dangerous

Rachel Getting Married
According to the quotes on the DVD box David Edelstein from New York Magazine calls this “The best picture of the year!” A.O.Scott from the NYT says it has “authentic vitality, an exuberance of spirit,” and Owen Gleiberman says its “Grade A! A triumph!”
Who am I to disagree with them? I thought Rachel Getting Married was a good film but not by any means a great film. Jonathan Demme directed the film and you can generally count on Demmes’ films being worth watching and this was no exception. There were many interesting things about the movie. As tired as I am of wealthy northeasterner dysfunctional family wedding movies (Margot at the Wedding wasn’t that long ago) this one was slightly different. The groom-to-be was black and it was refreshing because there was no mention of the fact that it was an interracial marriage. All were happy for the couple. That was great. There was also a lot of interesting music, of different styles. That was nice. And although there didn’t appear to be any Hindi among the wedding party they ate Indian food and wore saris. So this was an untraditional wedding, tailored to the couple’s taste rather than following tradition. All of this was good. But when you look at the plot of the film it was really very simple. Kym (Rachel’s sister), who is an addict, is released from rehab for a weekend to participate in her sisters wedding. Participate she does, including visits to a nearby center to pee in a cup and attend meetings. The wedding ends and Kym goes back to rehab. Not a particularly dynamic plot. Anne Hathaway put her Princess Diary days behind her and gave a very strong performance as the troubled Kym. The love/hate relationship between the family and the black sheep daughter was ably presented. All is good, all is interesting, but I keep asking myself “What is the point?” I got to vicariously attend an interesting wedding and get inside the lives of a family. But what did I learn? That if you leave rehab to attend a family celebration it will be stressful. OK. I think I already knew that. This is my reaction to about 80% of all new films. I wonder if it’s still possible to create a film that is intelligent but still has a plot. I keep watching. I keep hoping.

Bangkok Dangerous
I can’t quite remember why I wanted to see this movie. I used to be a fan of Nicolas Cage back in the 90’s but his films have gotten too slick and/or too silly for my tastes since then. This one didn’t win my affection either. Cage plays a professional hitman. He goes to Bangkok for a job and breaks his own rules: he befriends the local nobody he has hired to help him (usually he kills his helpers after he finishes with them) and beyond that, he gets interested in a woman. You know early on how this film will end: tough guys who get soft, get dead. This plot, the killer who gets a conscience, is sooo tired. You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. If you’re a fan of this particular overused plot, check out Leon, the Professional with Jean Reno and a young Natalie Portman or Kiss of the Dragon with Jet Li. They’re two of the best killer-with-a-conscience movies in my estimation.

Friday, April 17, 2009

New this week

This week we added some new titles and some oldies but goodies.

Any Given Sunday (1999)
Tony D'Amato, the embattled Sharks coach, faces a full-on blitz of team strife plus a new, marketing-savvy Sharks owner who's sure Tony is way behind times. Directed by Oliver Stone and starring Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, and Jamie Foxx.

Bedtime Stories
This is Adam Sandler’s story about a hotel handyman whose life changes when the lavish bedtime stories he tells his niece and nephew start to magically come true.

Set in 1964, Doubt centers on a nun who confronts a priest after suspecting him of abusing a black student. He denies the charges, and much of the play's quick-fire dialogue tackles themes of religion, morality, and authority. Starring Meryl Street and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Natural Born Killers (1994)
Fugitive lovers Mickey and Mallory did not win the Nobel Prize or travel another acceptable path to fame. What they did instead was kill people, lots of people. The tabloid media, in turn, makes them into celebrities. Directed by Oliver Stone and starring Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) and (1951)
This remake of the 1951 classic sci-fi film about an alien visitor and his giant robot counterpart who visit Earth stars Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly. Also included is the original 1951 film.

The Reader
Post-WWII Germany: Nearly a decade after his affair with an older woman came to a mysterious end, law student Michael Berg re-encounters his former lover as she defends herself in a war-crime trial. This award winner stars Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes.

The Spirit
Rookie cop Denny Colt returns from the beyond as The Spirit, a hero whose mission is to fight against the bad forces in Central City. Stars Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson.

Wall Street (1987)
An ambitious young stockbroker is lured into the illegal, lucrative world of corporate espionage. This is one of Oliver Stone’s best films and stars Charlie Sheen.

Yes Man
Carl Allen signs up for a self-help program based on one simple principle: say yes to everything ... and anything. Unleashing the power of 'yes' transforms Carl's life in amazing and unexpected ways, but he soon discovers that embracing every opportunity might just become too much of a good thing. Jim Carrey stars.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

New to the library

Bring it on
Made in 2000 and starring Kirsten Dunst this cheerleading comedy is full of “Backstabbing. Spotlight-grabbing. Secret-blabbing.”

Marley & Me
Based on the book of the same title Marley & Me is the story of the world’s worst dog. Starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston.

Seven Pounds
Will Smith stars as an IRS agent haunted by a secret. He looks desperately for redemption by radically transforming the lives of seven people he doesn't know. Once his plan is set, nothing will be able to stop him. At least that's what he thinks.

Slumdog Millionaire
In Mumbai, the eighteen year-old orphan from the slums Jamal Malik is tortured by the policemen in a precinct accused of cheating a game show. Jamal, who has no education and works in a call center serving tea, is close to wining twenty million rupees in the show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" hosted by Prem Kumar, giving precise answers to the questions and raising suspicion of fraud. The police inspector shows the videotape and after each question, Jamal tells parts of his childhood with his brother Salim, his crush for Latika and their fight to survive on the streets to justify each correct answer, guided by his common sense and past experience, and prove his innocence. Winner of the Best Picture Oscar.

Tell No One
This excellent French film is based on the novel by Harlan Coben. The pediatrician Alexandre Beck misses his beloved wife Margot Beck, who was brutally murdered eight years ago when he was the prime suspect. When two bodies are found near where the corpse of Margot was dumped, the police reopen the case and Alex becomes suspect again. The mystery increases when Alex receives an e-mail showing Margot older and alive.

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
Hunter S. Thompson, the journalist and author of such books as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, was as wacky in real life as he is in his writing. This biographical film is narrated by Thompson portrayer and fan Johnny Depp.

West Side Story
This 1961 musical with music by Leonard Bernstein is one of the greatest musical films of all time. The music is tremendous. The story, the dancing, the romance are all wonderful. If you haven’t seen it in awhile it’s time to watch it again.

Encounters at the End of the World
Werner Herzog takes his camera to Antarctica where we meet the odd men and women who have dedicated their lives to furthering the cause of science in treacherous conditions.

The Lucky Ones
The story revolves around three soldiers -- Colee, TK and Cheever -- who return from the Iraq War after suffering injuries and learn that life has moved on without them.

Flame Trees of Thika
Elspeth and her unconventional parents decide to settle down in Kenya and begin a coffee plantation. This is a time of discovery for Elspeth, as she encounters the incredible beauty and cruelty of nature, and new friendships with both Africans and British expatriates. This is one of the better TV mini-series. Made in 1981 starring Hayley Mills.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What I've been watching: Changeling and What Just Happened

1928. Los Angeles. A young boy goes missing. Instead of finding the boy, the corrupt police dept. finds a suitable replacement then insists that the mother doesn’t recognize her own son. Based on a true story this is an engrossing and heartbreaking film.

What Just Happened
Based on the memoirs of a veteran producer, this film shows a week in the life of a Hollywood producer. The movie industry is not so glamorous as one might think. A real eye-opener.