You are here: Home > Blogs > Movie Maniacs

Latest Posts

  • Jul 19 - Borgen - "Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception.” Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince
  • Jul 11 - Monuments Men - If you missed it at our showing, make sure to put a hold on it.
  • Jul 5 - What's all the Hoopla? - Check out the library's new source for downloadable movies
  • Jun 30 - Talking Westerns - Filmed in and around Calgary
On Line

Performance of the Year

- 0 Comment(s)

As I watched the Golden Globes last Sunday, I couldn't help but feel a little saddened when the nominations and winners for the best performance by an actress were read out. Sandra Bullock won the "Best Dramatic Performance" for her work in "The Blind Side" and Meryl Streep's portrayal of Julia Child in "Julie & Julia" won her the "Best Comedic Performance" prize. Both performances were very strong, especially Streep giving yet another master class in mimicry. What saddened me was the fact that Tilda Swinton was not recognized for her work in "Julia".

I saw many movies last year, but I saw no performance from any actor that matched what Swinton did in "Julia". In this film Tilda shreds her image of an icy, confident, classy British dame. This is a fearless performance.

"Julia" is the story of an out-of-control alcoholic (Swinton) who is caught in a spiral of ever increasing bad decisions. Drunken decisions that lead from losing her job, to theft, to kidnapping, to extortion, to murder, to... well, you get the idea. At times this can be a difficult movie to watch, but Tilda Swinton makes for a fascinating study as she abandons herself to the wanton destruction of her character. Oscar nominations come out on Feb 2nd. I only hope that enough Academy voters get to see this film before that time and let Tilda Swinton have the nomination she deserves.

You can place a hold on "Julia" by following the link here.

Some of Tilda Swinton's other fine performances available at the CPL include:

1993 - Orlando {Based on the novel by Virginia Woolf}

2005 - The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe

2007 - Michael Clayton {For which she won an Oscar for Best Support Actress}

2008 - Burn After Reading

2008 - The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Meryl Streep's Golden Globe winning performance in "Julie & Julia" can be found here.

True Confessions

- 0 Comment(s)

It's time to 'fess up and admit that lately I have not been watching a breadth and depth of quality feature length-films to review for you. I have been lured into watching the complete tv series Prison Break available on dvd at CPL.

Plot summary: Think 24 meets The Dirty Dozen. Brothers Lincoln and Michael are estranged due to Lincoln' poor life choices. He's framed for the murder of a politician but Michael knows his brother is innocent. To break Lincoln out of jail, Michael plans to be put in jail first. Other inmates find out and become part of the escape plan. If you like this kind of adventure, see Moe's "Great Escapes" blog post.

There are several reasons why watching Prison Break for weeks was not a good idea. One is that some of the acting is of dubious quality (a lot of frowning and looking serious). Another is the implausibility of many of the situations that the characters find themselves in and out of. When sleep-deprived and surrounded on rough terrain by police with dogs and helicopters, they escape without so much as being grazed by a bullet. The main character tatoos his escape plan onto his body which includes the use of his mother's first name (um...in case he forgot it?). There a lot of this and discussing it is as fun as watching the series. Prison Break is also a continuity-error spotter's dream.

Here's what kept me watching: It's action packed. Lincoln and Michael can't even finish a meal without some new plot twist, usually involving either the law or the evil Company descending upon them. Some of the acting is great. Wade Williams plays Bellick the big lug of a prison Guard perfectly, and Robert Knepper is sinister yet witty as the psychopath Theodore "T-bag" Bagwell. There's all the gripping features I expect in a thriller--betrayals, thwarted love, chase scenes, conspiracy, corrupt corporations, and what drives the show is what drives all of us...the desire just to get home at the end of the day (to watch dvds, presumably).

There are only four seasons, with relatively few holds. Go on...you know you want to...

68th Golden Globes

- 0 Comment(s)

The 68th annual Golden Globe Awards were held on Sunday January17th. Honoring the best in film and television, there is often considerable cross-over between the Globes and Oscar. It was hosted by the very entertaining Ricky Gervais, who I will be blogging about in the upcoming months. Follow this link to see the big winners and don't forget to check CPL's catalogue to search for nominees and winners that we already have, or will soon be adding to the collection. Now we can count down to the Oscars.

Eco Movies III:

- 0 Comment(s)

We now have the 1975 British comedy hit The Good life, known as Good Neighbors in Canada. It is catalogued under Good Neighbors (no "u") in CPL's system.

Good Neighbors stars Richard Briers (Monarch of the Glen) as Tom Goode, Felicity Kendall (Rosemary and Thyme) as Barbara Goode, Penelope Keith as their neighbour Margo "Well, thank you very much!" Ledbetter and Paul Eddington as Margo's husband Jerry (Yes Prime Minister).

Unsatisfied with his graphic design position at a plastics firm, Tom Goode decides that the cure for his malaise is a life of self-sufficiency. Tom and Barbara agree to embark on a back to the land project, but on their existing property in Surbiton in the suburbs of London. Providing all their own food and living without an income provide a host of challenges, not the least of which is the disapproval of Margo, home counties hostess extraordinaire and tory member of the local music society. Chickens, a goat, pigs, a car built from a rotary cultivator, marital strife, and laughs ensue. A few of the jokes are past their prime but most of the charm and relevance remains.

The bonus features disc with Season 1-3 includes celebrity fan interviews and one with a man inspired by the show to live self-sufficiently. Should you feel the call, CPL has plenty of back to the land books to checkout, such as The Backyard Homestead, and Barnyard in your Backyard. Try searching under "homestead" or "self- sufficient" or "raising goats." Don't come to me if you haven't checked the city bylaws first (under city living at www.calgary.ca).

Guaranteed Embarrassment Free 9

- 0 Comment(s)

Trying to recover from a hectic Christmas? Too much noise, too much activity, too much everything? Put away all those solitary new toys like your Nintendo DS' and IPod's, and kick back and reconnect with the whole gang. Here are my latest choices for worry-free family viewing---no bad language, no inappropriate themes, no embarrassing moments. If you enjoy them, there are sequels for Anne of Green Gables, Toy Story, Black Stallion and Babe---and in the case of Heidi, Dog of Flanders, and Journey to the Centre of the Earth, several different versions, some considerably better than others. As always I have indicated my faves. And if you want to find even more selections, go to the tags on the left side of the screen and click on family-oriented. It will bring up all 8 previous posts and many, many more offerings. Enjoy.

Heidi---we have four English versions (featuring some big names) and a three part animated Chinese series of this beloved tale. From 1937 we have Shirley Temple as the irresistable moppet, from 1968 Maximilian Schell and Jean Simmons, from 1993 Jason Robards and Jane Syemour and from 2005 Max Von Sydow and Diana Rigg. For my money go with Shirley as the adorable orphan sent to live with a reluctant grandfather high in the Swiss Alps.

Black Stallion--- this was a very popular movie back in 1979, and deservedly so. The cinematography is beautiful and the story is timeless. The opening with the fire and resulting ship wreck might be a little intense for younger ones, but once you get to the boy and the horse on the island it is watchable for all ages.

A Dog of Flanders---this might be a little slow compared to what children are used to these days, but stick with it. It is a lovely, heart warming story of a boy, his grandfather and the mistreated cart dog they take into their lives.

Journey to the Centre of the Earth---again,we have several versions of this popular Jules Verne story. I would go with the big release from the summer of 2008, starring Brendan Fraser. The CGI's in this are very impressive, and you should find yourself pretty freaked out by the T-Rex chase.

Anne of Green Gables- hard to believe it is 25 years since this first aired on television. You would be hard pressed to find a better way to spend time than with this multi-award winning Kevin Sullivan production. Beautifully filmed on location in PEI and starring Megan Follows as the irrepressible Anne. Both of the sequels are equally engaging.

Toy Story---join Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Mr Potato Head and others in this delightful Disney offering from 1995. The story is very engaging, many of the characters are toys you will recognize and there is plenty here for the adults. Toy Story 2 is every bit as much fun as the first. Avoid reading the credits and see how many real life actors you can match to the toys voices.

Babe---Farmer Hoggett wins Babe at the local fair, and the little pig soon befriends all the other creatures on the farm. He becomes special friends with one of the sheepdogs and soon Babe embarks on a career in sheepherding. You'd swear the animals are really talking-the film took home an Oscar for best visual effects.

Kenneth Branagh

- 0 Comment(s)

Actually, this post began it's life as something else entirely--- it was going to be an accidential film festival, linking several actors across a variety of movies. But when I got going on Kenneth Branagh I realized he needed an entire post to himself. I have always been a big fan---after all, what's not to like? The man is versatile in the extreme, managing everything from Shakespeare to Harry Potter, hero to villian---convincing as any nationality, dashing in period pieces and showing a deft hand at light comedy. He can also swashbuckle with the best of them! Let's take a look at what CPL can offer established or soon-to-be Branagh fans.

In the made for television movie Conspiracy from 2001, I simply could not tear my eyes away from his performance -- he commands attention every moment he is on screen. He is terrifyingly evil, not because he is frenzied but because he is controlling and relentless. Here is an actor at the top of his craft. The movie is the historic retelling of the infamous 1942 Wannsee Conference, where in just under three hours the Nazi's worked out the 'legal' justification for the annihilation of Europe's Jews.

Equally comfortable behind the camera, he has donned the director's cap many times---as in the first film I ever saw him in. It is 1991's Dead Again with then wife Emma Thompson and Sir Derek Jacobi. Actually all three actors rank high on the versatility meter. Branagh credits Jacobi as the reason he wanted to get into acting in the first place and the two have appeared several times together (see Mel's earlier post "Are you a Derek Jacob-ian"). This is a very smart 'whodunit' with a lot of Hitchcock overtones.

Valkyrie--- from 2008, Branagh is one of many highly recognizable stars in this true story of the attempt by several high ranking Nazi's to assasinate Hitler. Tom Cruise is actually the headliner in this and while he can often be over the top in some of his roles, he gives a very tightly controlled performance here. Branagh is as always, excellent. Rounding out the cast is Bill Nighy (even if you don't recognize the name, you will know him when you see him---lately he seems to be in everything); and Tom Wilkinson---another face you will easily recognize.

Shackleton- 2002 A&E mini-series. The true story of British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and his 1914 expedition to the South Pole. Their aptly named ship,The Endurance, became stuck in pack ice and after 8 months was finally crushed. Shackleton took to the ice and led the 28 men crew across the Antarctic in what is one of the most amazing true tales of survival ever. This production is excellent, and the mini series was nominated for many awards and won a BAFTA for Best Drama Serial.

He is wonderful as the vacuous and vain Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Based on the very popular mysteries by best selling Swedish author Henning Mankell, we have a 3 episode set featuring Branagh as Detective Kurt Wallander.

Try any of the Shakespeare productions he adapts, directs and appears in, including: Loves Labours Lost; Othello; As You like It; Hamlet; Much Ado About Nothing;Twelfth Night. Half the fun of these offerings is seeing Branagh direct what would be considered unusual choices for Shakesperean roles- Keeanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, and Denzel Washington anyone? This is very accessible Shakespeare.

He has a small role in Rabbit Proof Fence, a movie I previously recommended under Guaranteed Embarrassement Free 5. Find it by going to tags on the left side of the page and looking up 'family oriented'.