Saturday, December 26, 2009

New to the library:

When rag doll 9 first comes to life, he finds himself in a post-apocalyptic world where all humans are gone. It is only by chance that he discovers a small community of others like him taking refuge from fearsome machines that roam the earth intent on their extinction. Despite being the newest member of the group, 9 convinces the others that hiding will do them no good. They must take the offensive if they are to survive and they will need to discover why the machines want to destroy them in the first place. The very future of civilization may depend on them.

District 9
Twenty years ago, aliens from another planet made contact with Earth. Now, the refugee camp they are forced to live in has deteriorated into a slum-like ghetto. When field operative Wikus van der Merwe is put in charge of evicting the aliens, he contracts a strange virus that changes his DNA to match that of the refugees. As his body begins to mutate, he becomes a hunted man, and the aliens' only hope for freedom.

Merry Gentleman
A young woman leaves an abusive marriage and starts her life over in Chicago, only to find herself in a triangle between a suicidal hitman and the detective hunting him down.

Perfect Getaway
Cliff and Cydney are an adventurous young couple celebrating their honeymoon by backpacking to one of the most beautiful, and remote, beaches in Hawaii. Hiking the wild, secluded trails, they believe they have found paradise. But when the pair comes across a group of frightened hikers discussing the horrifying murder of another newlywed couple on the islands, they begin to question whether they should turn back. Unsure whether to stay or flee, Cliff and Cydney decide to join up with two other couples. This is when things begin to go terrifyingly wrong. Far from civilization or rescue, everyone begins to look like a threat and nobody knows whom to trust. Paradise becomes hell on earth as a brutal battle for survival begins.

Staten Island, New York
Parmie wants to take control over the Mafia connections in Staten Island. Sully is a dim-witted septic tank cleaner who is going to be a dad. Jasper works in a deli and gets caught up in Parmie's dealings. The lives of three ambitious men intersect when Sully decides to rob a local mob boss of $50,000.

What I've Been Watching:

Star Trek
I’m not a trekkie but I love a good, exciting, adventure film and this is a great one! They truly did a perfect job of selecting the cast to remind you of the original characters. Good story, great cast and tons of action and excitement—what more can you ask for!

A Christmas Tale (French)
Catherine Deneuve stars as the ailing matriarch of a family. She needs a transplant and one of her sons and her grandson are both good matches. The family has a rare get-together for Christmas as she decides her fate. I thought this was a fascinating look at a French family.

This BBC mini-series is a twist on the original Jekyll/Hyde story. James Nesbitt is terrific in the title role as is Gina Bellman as his wife. Was the potion drunk by the original Dr. Jekyll really kept secret? The role of the woman as the trigger for Mr. Hyde was fascinating!

The Island (Russian)
In a far north Russian Orthodox Monastery lives an eccentric monk, Father Anatoli. He seems to have magical powers but lives the life of a completely self-sacrificing hermit. He carries a secret with him resulting from his experiences in WWII. This fascinating film is a parable on faith and salvation.

Four Christmases
Vince Vaughan and Reese Witherspoon star in this silly comedy of family Christmas. Only by experiencing the holiday with their various families do they come to realize what they truly want and need in life.

World’s Greatest Dad
If you are thinking that this film will be Robin Williams at his funniest--it's not. This is a black humor story of teen suicide. It’s an interesting idea—a completely unlikeable kid dies but becomes glorified after his death. Directed by the comic Bobcat Goldthwait, it’s an intriguing but slightly disturbing film.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

New this week:

Joel is the owner of an extract manufacturing plant who constantly finds himself in precarious situations that steadily worsen by the minute. First, his soon-to-be floor manager acquires a serious injury in a machine malfunctioning accident. This subsequently endangers the wellbeing of his company. Second, his personal life doesn't fair much better when he takes his bartending friend Dean's advice while in a drug-induced brainstorming session on how to test his wife's faithfulness. Finally, compounding these catastrophes is Cindy, his new employee, who happens to be a scam artist intent on milking the company for all its worth. Now, Joel must attempt to piece his company and his marriage back together all while trying to figure out what he's really after in life.

Angelenos Doug Billings and Tracy Garner are about to get married. Two days before the wedding, Doug and his groomsmen hop into Tracy's father's Mercedes for a 24-hour stag party in Las Vegas. The morning after their arrival in Vegas, they awaken in their Caesars Palace hotel suite each with the worst hangover. No one remembers what happened in the past twelve or so hours. The suite is in shambles and Doug is missing. Phil, Stu and Alan try to find Doug using only what little pieces of information they have at hand and go on a journey of discovery. However, it's a race against time since they need to find Doug and get him back to Los Angeles in time for the wedding.

Herb & Dorothy
Tells the extraordinary story of a postal clerk and a librarian who managed to build one of the most important contemporary art collections in history with very modest means. This is a wonderful film—impressive both as a portrait of an amazing couple and as a spectacular story of a private art collection.

Inglourious Basterds
During World War II, a group of Jewish-American guerilla soldiers, led by Lt. Aldo Raine, become known as "The Basterds." They are chosen specifically to spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis. The Basterds soon cross paths with a French-Jewish woman who runs a movie theater in Paris which is targeted by the soldiers. A plot is set in motion to kill the Nazis at the theater's movie premier, including Adolph Hitler.

Julie & Julia
Julie Powell is a frustrated insurance worker who wants to be a writer. Trying to find a challenge in her life, she decides to cook her way through Julia Child's 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking' in one year, and to blog about it. As Julie begins to find her groove as a cook, and her voice as a writer, the project takes on a life of its own. The project provides the struggling young woman with her life's purpose, to her very pleasant surprise. Julia Child has an amazing love affair with her dashing husband, Paul, all while embracing life and French food. Julie lovingly celebrates the life of one of American food's most influential and beloved figureheads.

Taking Woodstock
In 1969, Elliot Tiber, an interior designer living in Greenwich Village, New York, has to move back upstate to help his parents run their dilapidated Catskills motel, The El Monaco. Upon hearing that a planned music and arts festival has lost its permit from the neighboring town of Wallkill, NY, Elliot calls producer Michael Lang at Woodstock Ventures to offer his family's motel to the promoters and generate business. Three weeks later half a million people are on their way to his neighbor's farm.

New last week:

Answer Man
Arlen Faber is the reclusive author of 'Me and God,' a book that has redefined spirituality for an entire generation and has been translated into over 100 languages. On the eve of the 20th anniversary of his still wildly popular book, Arlen is still sought after as the man who has all the answers. His life collides with Elizabeth, a single mom raising her seven-year-old son, and Kris, a young man fresh out of rehab who is searching for meaning. Both Elizabeth and Kris are hopeful that Arlen has the answers, but the truth is, he hasn't got a clue.

Public Enemies
No one could stop Dillinger and his gang. No jail could hold him. His charm and audacious jailbreaks endeared him to almost everyone, from his girlfriend Billie Frechette to an American public who had no sympathy for the banks that had plunged the country into the Depression. But while the adventures of Dillinger's gang thrilled many, Hoover made Dillinger America's first Public Enemy Number One.

World’s Greatest Dad
Lance Clayton once dreamed of a career as a rich and famous writer. He has only managed to be a single dad, and high-school poetry teacher. Kyle is his only son who is a jackass that won't give him the time of day. Lance is dating Claire, the school's adorable art teacher. She doesn't want to get serious or even acknowledge publicly that they are dating. In the wake of a freak accident, Lance suffers the worst tragedy and greatest opportunity of his life. He is suddenly faced with the possiblility of all the fame, fortune and popularity he ever dreamed of. Now, he just has to live with the knowledge of how he got there.

Monday, December 14, 2009

New to the library:

Butterfly (Spanish)
A shy young boy is brought out of his cocoon by a wise teacher who shows him the wonder of the natural world around him, amidst the growing tensions and chaos of the Spanish Civil War in Galicia.

A Christmas Tale (French)
Junon is the matriarch of the troubled Vuillard family, who come together at Christmas after she learns she needs a bone marrow transplant from a blood relative. The Vuillard's shared history of physical and mental illness, estrangement, self harm, and loss doesn't lend itself to the idea of a cheerful holiday season. Hopefully the Christmastime reunion, a scheme concocted by three of the youngest family members, will finally bring peace to their family.

Four Christmases
When happily unmarried San Francisco couple Kate and Brad find themselves socked in by fog on Christmas morning, their exotic vacation plans morph into the family-centric holiday they had, until now, gleefully avoided. Out of obligation, and unable to escape, they trudge to not one, not two, but four relative-choked festivities.

Funny People
George is a very successful stand-up comedian who learns that he has less than a year to live. Ira, who is a struggling up-and-coming comedian, works at a deli. One night the two perform at the same club, and George decides to make Ira his best friend. This lopsided relationship gradually takes on aspects of true friendship as Ira forces George to try to reconnect with the people in his life, including his ex-girlfriend Laura.

Gomorrah (Italian)
Gomorrah is a contemporary Neapolitan mob drama that exposes Italy's criminal underbelly by telling five stories of individuals who think they can make their own compact with Camorra, the area's Mafia. “Through films such as “The Godfather” and “Scarface,” along with the television smash “The Sopranos,” there’s been a definite glamorization of life inside the deep layers of the mafia. The breakneck Italian crime saga “Gomorrah” seeks to sever that golden lure of brutality, power, and money, presenting an unflinching look at the inner workings of the Camorra criminal organization as they choke Italy for every last cent.”—

Night at the Museum. Battle of the Smithsonian
History is larger than life, and twice as funny, in this monumental comedy sequel. Larry Daley is a former night watchman at the Museum of Natural History, where the exhibits come to life after dark. Now Larry's nocturnal friends are being retired to the archives of the Smithsonian Institution, luring him back for a hilarious, all-out battle against museum misfits who plan to take over the Smithsonian, and the world.

Paper Heart
A young woman, disillusioned by the fairytale description of love, decides to make a documentary to find out exactly what the word and feelings surrounding it mean to others. Along the way she meets the boy of her dreams and wonders if she will lose the one thing she never believed in.

Terminator Salvation
The future Connor was raised to believe in is altered in part by the appearance of Marcus Wright, a stranger whose last memory is of being on death row. Connor must decide whether Marcus has been sent from the future, or rescued from the past. As Skynet prepares its final onslaught, Connor and Marcus both embark on an odyssey that takes them into the heart of Skynets operations, where they uncover the terrible secret behind the possible annihilation of mankind.

An Unsuitable Job for a Woman
P.D. James' plucky detective heroine Cordelia Gray should be careful what she wishes for. At the beginning of the fabulous British series An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, Gray is a young assistant to a longtime private detective, hoping to learn the ropes as an investigator. But getting her wish plunges her, ready or not, into the murky worlds of passion, philandering, surveillance, and murder. Gray's career is truly one learned--and earned--by fire. Helen Baxendale plays Cordelia with nuance and pluck…. Cordelia suddenly inherits the detective firm when her mentor commits suicide, so she's thrust into investigation with little besides her own wit, and the help of her flinty assistant, Mrs. Sparshott (Annette Crosbie). "We may not look the part," deadpans Mrs. Sparshott, "but appearances can be deceiving."

Vatican City: Art and Glory
Presents the Vatican's priceless treasures through the eyes of its artists, poets and architects. Includes views of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling, the Pieta, and the dome of St. Peter's Church; Bernini's canopy; St. Peter's square; and the museums which hold Raphael's School of Athens and the Apollo Belvidere.

Friday, December 11, 2009

What I've been watching:

A young Kazakh man has just gotten out of the Navy and is ready to settle down on the steppes and be a sheepherder. The only trouble is, he cannot get a herd of sheep until he gets married and there is only 1 eligible girl on the steppe. She thinks he’s got big ears so doesn’t like him. But her mother is the real obstacle. She doesn’t want her daughter living the life of a sheepherder’s wife. This is an amazing film depicting the isolation and rugged beauty of the steppes as well as a sweet portrayal of a boy becoming a man.

I don’t know why a civilian would be allowed to have an extended visit at a front-line military camp but that’s what’s happening in this film. Alexandra goes to visit her grandson at his camp. He’s on duty all day so she’s left to wander at will, and wander she does: to the far reaches of the camp as well as into the neighboring villages. This is a quiet film of gentle beauty. The role of Alexandra was written for and performed by a Russian opera star. She is truly remarkable. But why in the world would you let a little old lady stay at a front-line military camp?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

An Education

In the Theaters
An Education
I saw that this movie got very good reviews and was said to have a flavor similar to a Jane Austen story, so I didn’t want to miss it. Set in London in 1961, it’s the story of a girl from a lower-middle class family who is studying hard to get into Oxford when she meets a charming and sophisticated older man. As their relationship develops, he shows her a glamorous world of culture and beauty that entices her away from her studies. The story is engaging, the acting is excellent and even my husband enjoyed it, despite the lack of action and the comparison to the dreaded Jane Austen.

A review from my colleague Judie Harren. She's out going to movies and I'm home blowing my nose! I'm jealous! (this is from me, Julie, from my sickbed)