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Space-Time Continuum

by Maureen May - 0 Comment(s)

Ah that quirky old conundrum---if I could time travel back and change an event in the past, would it alter the present enough that I am now not able to go back and change that event in the past? In other words, can I be my own grandmother? A common movie theme for decades (even the 3 Stooges had a time travel episode), there are almost too many to mention but here are some of my favorites. All you have to do is suspend disbelief, and go along for the ride---and if it starts to break apart plot-wise, remember, this isn't an astrophysics lesson- this is just fun.

Deja Vu from 2006 with Denzel Washington. What starts out seemingly as a murder investigation quickly becomes so much more. I quite enjoyed this, even though visually I occassionally got overloaded with everything happening on the screen.

Final Countdown A modern aircraft carrier is thrown back in time to 1941 near Hawaii, just hours before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. From 1980 with Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen.

Groundhog Day " He's having the worst day of his life... over, and over." Bill Murray stars is this 1993 offering from Harold Ramis. Lots of good goofy fun- watch this one with the whole family.

Back to the Future 1-2-3. Anybody out there who hasn't seen at least the first installment? Grab the 3-pack and go everywhere with Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd---the past, the present and of course, back to the future. Number one is my fave.

Somewhere in Time-1980. So far we've had tragedy and comedy, so how about weep into your hankies sad? With Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour and Christopher Plummer. This is lovely to look at---a quiet, gentle movie that tells a sweet, sad story. It has a wonderful instrumental sound track featuring the haunting 'Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini'.

Kate and Leopold---time travel is often used to bring star crossed lovers together, as in this offering from 2001. Starring the ever adorable Meg Ryan and the ever hunky Hugh Jackman. No serious plot twists to follow here- just a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.

For the serious Sci-fi devotee who likes to see all the loose ends tied up (as if that is possible in time travel), we have all 1-2-3-4 of the Terminator series, wherein Arnie utters those famous three words "I'll be back". The first two are directed by James Cameron of Titanic and Avatar fame. Violent, gory, and bleak, they still manage to be fun !??. A Cameron trademark , they showcase some pretty ground breaking CGI's. One is good, two is better, three is just okay, and four features our favorite maggot eating, yo-yo dieting uber-intense method actor, Christian Bale.

We have two very different interpretations of H G Wells' classic tale The Time Machine---the 1960 version with Rod Taylor and the 2002 with Guy Pearce. My money is on the Rod Taylor version---which as a child scared the milk and cookies out of me! Although hokey monsters by today's standards, I rewatched this within the past month, and am happy to report it still has a lot of appeal. This version is on a Turner Classic Movies sci-fi compilation that also includes Solyent Green (Charlton Heston), Forbidden Planet (Leslie Nielsen), and 2001: A Space Odyssey, which depending on your way of thinking is either deeply profound or highly inscrutable. It is considered by many to be the ultimate space-time movie.

Of course, almost any sci-fi series will heavily feature the space-time continuum as a recurring theme. Star Trek did it often and did it well, as in the latest release, Star Trek. Also check out Star Trek fan collective:time travel which pulls all the best of this theme from across all the series into one 4 disc (644) min) set.

Two previously reviewed space-time movies arePeggy Sue got Married and Next (see Mel's earlier post by clicking on Nicholas Cage found on left hand side of screen under TAGS).

Check out 1995's 12 Monkeys. This is a very good time travel movie with Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt. Again, depressing and dark, but it has my favorite performances by both these actors. Brad Pitt in particular is excellent playing a crazy eco-warrior.

Well---these 20 plus recommendations took up a lot of space---I just hope you can find the time!


And the Nominees Are...

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(January 22, 2009) Early this morning, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released the nominations for the 81st Academy Awards. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," leads the pack with 13 Oscar Nominations, followed by the Golden Globe winning "Slumdog Millionaire," with 10. These two films join "Frost/Nixon", "Milk" and "The Reader" in the race for the Best Picture Oscar.

A full list of the nominees can be found here.

In preparation for the big show (Feb 22, 2009) here is a list of films that are available at the Calgary Public Library. Most of the nominated films are still being shown in movie houses around the city. We will keep you updated as they become available at the CPL over the next few months.

"The Dark Knight" - 8 Nominations (Including Best Supporting Actor -- Heath Ledger)

"Wall-E" - 6 Nominations (Including Best Animated Feature)

"The Visitor" - 1 Nomination (Best Actor -- Richard Jenkins)

"Kung Fu Panda" - 1 Nomination (Best Animated Feature)

"Hellboy II: The Golden Army" - 1 Nomination (Achievement in Makeup)

"Iron Man" - 2 Nominations (Visual Effects, Sound Editing)

"In Bruges" - 1 Nomination (Original Screenplay)

"The Duchess" - 2 Nominations (Art Direction, Costume Design)

"Man on Wire" - 1 Nomination (Documentary Feature)

Happy viewing and good luck with your Oscar pools!

Shall We Dance

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We all know of the great pairing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. But check out Fred and the only partner he said ever intimidated him- Eleanor Powell. The movie is Broadway Melody of 1940 and even though it is a simple 'mistaken identity' plot it is very much worth a watch for the dancing. Considered to be the best tap sequence ever put down on film, Begin the Beguine is simply amazing. It's everything it should be- Fred in a bolero jacket, Ellie in a flowing gown, a beautiful Cole Porter score- two of the most gifted dancers of their time taking your breath away.

The Full Monty1997- a movie about a group of unemployed, down on their luck steel workers, who decide they have nothing left to loose- except their clothing.

That's Entertainment 1 and 2- hugely popular in the 70's, these DVDs offer retrospectives of some of MGM's best films over the previous 40 years. There are many dance sequences with the biggest and best- Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Ann Miller, Judy Garland, Cyd Charisse, Mickey Rooney. If you aren't sure that musicals or dance movies are for you, this is a good way to get a broad overview. These really are entertaining.

Billy Elliot 2000 - this is a wonderful story of young boy who much to his coal mining father's displeasure would rather do ballet than boxing. As the family continues to disintegrate during the hardship of a strike, Billy and his father must find a way to overcome their differences.

Waiting for Guffman- not technically a dance movie or musical, I have included this because it has the funniest 60 second dance that I have ever seen. From the delightfully irreverent minds of Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy--it is actually funny on every level.

Hairspray- we have both versions of this- the 1988 with Sonny Bono and Debbie Harry and the 2007 with John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer and Queen Latifah (I prefer the new one). The story revolves aroung a 1960's television dance show and the pervasive racial segregation of the time. This is an enjoyable couple of hours.

And just in case you would rather actually do the dancing than watch it, we have instructional dvds on tap, ballet, waltz, belly, tango, swing, rumba, mambo, lambada, foxtrot, cha-cha, hip hop, hula, highland, country, Persian, funk, jazz, improvisational, baroque, meringue, pasa doble, disco, nightclub and Celtic---phew, my feet are killing me! To find what you want, do a keyword search of dvd dance-- which will bring up over 150 titles.

Golden Globes

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The 66th annual Golden Globe Awards were held on January 11th, 2009. This is a major part of the film industry's award season which culminates with the Academy Awards on Feb 22, 2009. It is not unusual for there to be considerable cross over between the two ceremonies, both in terms of nominees and winners. The Oscars only pay tribute to motion pictures, while the Globes recognize outstanding achievement in the entertainment industry--so you will see television as well as movies honored.

While most of the selections from the Globes are very current releases (some only hitting the theatres as recently as Christmas), CPL will undoubtedly acquire many of the titles as they arrive to DVD over the next few months. Take a look at the choices and get a heads-up on what you want to watch. Follow this link to the home page of the Golden Globes.

Spies When You're In from the Cold

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I intended to review some westerns, but found myself lured into the world of international espionage (on dvd, anyway). Here's a run down of some of CPL's enjoyable spy thrillers from comic to literary...For us to know, and you to find out!

The Third Man Orson Welles' film usually appears on must-see lists in large part due to its chase scene in the sewers of Vienna. Welles plays the villian who is hit by a car and dies (or does he?) just as his novelist buddy Holly Martins arrives to visit. While Joseph Cotton as Martins investigates, he becomes infatuated with Harry Lime's lover, but we have to follow him through the dark streets and underground to find out whether or not he gets his man and woman.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mistery, The Spy who Shagged Me , Goldmember I can't help loving Mike Myers' spoof of 1960s spy characters all rolled into the ridiculous spook Austin Powers. Anyone who enjoyed the earlier Bond movies (Matt will review Bond dvds later) will enjoying seeing Myers play Dr. Evil and Goldmember. "Yeah, baby, yeah!" 3 by John Le Carre....

The Constant Gardener
I loved John Le Carre's novel and this movie was true to the spirit of it, even if some aspects were downplayed. The ever lovely Ralph Fiennes plays a civil servant and devoted husband investigating his wife's murder. Le Carre's signature emphasis on the conflict between love in all its manifestations and political expediency plays out as Fienne's character uncovers the workings of a large pharmaceutical company in Africa.

The Tailor of Panama Pierce Brosnan is his sarcastic, sartorial best in this film, costarring Jamie Lee Curtis and Geoffrey Rush. Brosnan plays a ne'er do well British spy who attempts to trade intelligence, repartee, and maybe even the Panama Canal with his suitmaker (Rush) and the tailor's wife (Curtis).

The Spy who came in from the Cold Richard Burton is a bit wooden in this Criterion classic, but the 60's era film creates a moody atmosphere of coldwar tension, particularly in divided Berlin. Burton's character's mission is to pretend to defect to entrap a ruthless agent for the East. His situation becomes complicated by his communist girlfriend and the mysterious Smiley.

We have other Le Carre classics such as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and A Perfect Spy . For other spy dvds, see Moe's review of the addictive MI-5tv series in an earlier blog post. You may also want to view Hitchcock's The Man who Knew Too Much.


Guaranteed Embarrassment Free 4

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Another round of movies that the whole family can watch without worrying about the young kids having to cover their eyes or ears, the parents drifting off due to boredom, or your teens rolling their eyes so hard you can actually hear them.

Sky High2005

As if high school is not hard enough, imagine going to one where everyone has a super power... except you. To make matters worse your parents are the ultimate super heroes and it looks like you might be relegated to be a (gasp) - sidekick! Starring Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston as the parents, and lots of teens with very quirky abilities. An engaging storyline and fun special effects.


Based on the story by the wonderful children's author, Roald Dahl, this is about sweet little Matilda and the absolute worst parents in the world (Danny DeVito/Rhea Perlman). When she is finally allowed to go to school, she finds that the only thing worse than her parents is the principal. With help from a kind and sympathetic teacher, Matilda overcomes her challenges, thwarts the awful Miss Trunchbull, and reaches her full potential.

March of the Penguins2005

Most of you have probably heard that it is the male penguin that hatches the egg, but you simply will not believe what they must endure while doing so. And it's not like the females are exactly sitting around taking it easy during this time. This multi award winner has camera work that defies belief and tells such a magnificent tale of survival you will want to watch it more than once. You must see this movie -- all of you -- everyone!

Night at the Museum2006

Ben Stiller is right up there with Jack Black and Will Ferrell when it comes to doing bizarre movies (in fact they often do them together) but this is one that the whole family can watch without flinching. Stiller plays the new Night Guard at the Museum of Natural History where plenty goes on when the lights go off. There's something for everyone - dinosaurs, cowboys, historical figures, even Roman centurions with catapaults! A fun way to spend 2 hours.

Spy Kids2001 Spy kids 2: the island of lost dreamsSpy kids 3-D: game overThree offerings in this franchise- the last one in 3D, but the first one is still my favorite. With plenty of recognizable adult faces (Antonio Banderas, Teri Hatcher, Alan Cummings, Tony Shalhoub), the story is really about the children and their adventures. This time it's not super heroes but super spies, and their children are the ones that must figure out the clues, foil the bad guys and save the world.

Chronicles of Narnia; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe2005

Now that the sequel (Prince Caspian) has just been released to DVD and is piling up the holds, why not watch episode one? If you haven't seen it yet it will bring you up to where you need to be for Caspian and if you have already seen it you know it is worth revisiting. Mythical creatures, heroic children, the never ending struggle between darkness and light, this story is deservedly a classic. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R.Tolkien were contemporaries and friends, and the two stories bear many similarities. However Narnia is considerably less dark and graphic than the Lord of the Rings (especially as envisioned in the Peter Jackson films). Your young ones might get nightmares from LOTR, but should be delighted with Chronicles.

Political Themes and Schemes

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Need a break from the reality of our current Canadian political climate? Not sure you want to sit through another CNN special report on President-Elect Obama? Then try out some of these and escape into the surreal world of politics as seen through the eyes of the dramatic lens.

High in the ratings has to be Doctor Strangelove:or how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb. This 1964 multi award winning film by Stanley Kubrick (2001:A Space Odyssey; Full Metal Jacket; Spartacus; Paths of Glory) consistently turns up on list after list--often across different genres. Set against the very real fears of nuclear annihilation during the height of the cold war, Kubrick somehow manages to turn this storyline into a comedy- albeit a very black one. Peter Sellers is brilliant playing three different characters, and watching Geroge C Scott as General Buck Turgidson is to see an actor at the top of his craft. An indictment against the insanity of nuclear deterance through nuclear proliferation, the movie is both absurd and profound--and a must see. Trivia: the films original release was delayed by the studio because of the Kennedy assasination of 1963.

House of Cards/To Play the King/Final Cut. These BBC productions from 1991 star Sir Ian Richardson as the political pyschopath Francis Urquhart. Starting out as Party Whip, he dreams, schemes and murders his way to become Britain's Prime Minister. Once there, he rules with an iron fist, destroying all comers and even trying to bring down the monarchy. The acting is excellent, the storylines are complex and well crafted, and the ending is superb. It is a real committment to watch these as it amounts to close to 20 hours, but it is absolutely worth it. Do watch them in order or you will be lost.

Last King of Scotland2006

This is an excellent historical fiction that tells the story of the murderous reign of Idi Amin, as seen through the eyes of his personal physcian, a naive yet arrogant young Scotsman. As Uganda falls deeper into ruin under Amin's despotic rule, the young doctor looks for a way to escape the clutches of the increasingly mad dictator. Forest Whitaker (Vantage Point, Crying Game, Bird) won an Oscar for best actor and James McAvoy (Narnia, Atonement,) adds another strong performance to his growing list of achievements. Quite a few Oscars have gone to actors representing living or dead historical figures, and while there is no denying that Whitaker is excellent as Amin, I wonder if there shouldn't be a category for " Best Resemblance and Impersonation of a Real Person" award. Think of Helen Mirren as The Queen, Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote, Ben Kingsley as Gandhi and Jamie Foxx as RayCharles- I feel a new blog coming !!

The Candidate1972

A well crafted character study depicting what happens to an idealistic young man who gets swept up (and away) after agreeing to run for public office. Robert Redford losses himself in the political process and mutates from a commited individual into just another cliche. Like the candidate himself we are left wondering "'what do we do now?"

Also worth a watch:

Manchurian Candidate- 2004 Denzel Washington

Wag the Dog- 1997 Hoffman/De Niro

13 Days- 2000 Kevin Costner

Missing- 1982 Jack Lemmon

Quiet American- 2003 Michael Caine

H2O- 2004 Paul Gross

3 Days of the Condor- 1975 Robert Redford

All the President's Men- 1976 Redford/Hoffman

Proof- 2006 Finbar Lynch

and if all these political machinations prove too much for you, lighten up with the BBC series Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister.