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Charles Dickens-Redux

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I love stories by Charles Dickens and as a result I love movies about stories by Charles Dickens. They really lend themselves to retelling on the screen. I love the large array of truly quirky characters--- I love the struggles against social injustice and against class---I love the overwhelming humanity of it all. We have a truly impressive collection of Dickens on film and a lot of them are excellent mini series---many of which have been done more than once. Amongst my favourite are:

Bleak House--- the 1985 with Diana Rigg and Denholm Elliot and the 2005 with Jillian Anderson and Charles Dance. Both are very good and this is a wonderful story.

Tale of Two Cities---ah, my favourite Dickens of all. We have the 1980 with Peter Cushing and the 1989 from Masterpiece Theatre. Oh, how I wish we had the original 1935 with Robert Colman taking on the role of Charles Darnay. But both of these others will work well.

David Copperfield---this has been done over the years at least 15 times. We have three versions; 1935 with Lionel Barrymore and Freddie Bartholomew; 1979 with nobody I have ever heard of and 2000 with no less than Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellan) and Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe). I like the 1935.

Great Expectations---now this is not one of my favourite stories as I think Miss Haversham just needs to lighten up a little. But it is a perennial favourite of both Hollywood and the BBC. We have two worth seeing. 1949 with Alec Guinness (can't go wrong with anything Guinness is ever in) and 1999 with Ioan Gruffund (Horatio Hornblower/Fantastic Four).

Oliver Twist---according to IMDB there are at least 24 versions of this one. CPL has no less than 6! Try either the 1949 (again with Guinness) or the wonderful 1966 musical with Oliver Reed (5 Oscars wins including Best Picture). There is also the animated Disney version with dogs as the orphaned street urchins.

Foyle'd Again

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Michael Kitchen is back as DCS Christopher Foyle of the Hastings police department just after the war in the Pacific. Three dvds are available (part of set 6): The Russian House, Killing Time, and The Hide. Fans of the series will be glad to see the quiet, slightly melancholic detective back in action. Foyle's trademark raised eyebrow speaks volumes as he confronts members of the intelligence service and prejudice while seeking to expose murderers. Disillusioned Foyle is determined to leave the police force, but his resignation is refused as there is no staff to replace him, so he reluctantly continues.

The first dvds in the series exposed viewers to daily life and moral quandaries in war-time England. In post-war Hastings, new challenges appear such as lack of food, housing, and employment, and displaced persons. Women find themselves alone with children born to visiting soldiers, conscientious objectors and traitors return home, and developers are keen to build on the wreckage of the recent past.

These three dvds were as compelling as the previous ones in the series. If you're not yet a fan, catch up on the earlier episodes, listed in order on www.foyleswar.com. I'm hoping for at least one more episode as Foyle has gone stateside.

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Love is in the ...collection

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We like our gritty realism, action and drama here at the blog, but we are not immune to cupid's arrow. Romance and romantic comedy dvds are some of the most popular requests at the information desk at many branches. Most are so well advertised that they need no introduction eg. Sleepless in Seattle, Ghost, An Affair to Remember, and The Notebook, but you may want to check out some of these other gems. Come to think of it, there's a bit of drama, action and gritty realism in these. Even the most macho won't mind:

Once

An Irish vacuum repairman is a talented songwriter lacking confidence until a recently arrived Czech singer convinces him to pursue a musical career. A little sad, but ultimately upbeat. If you like singer-songwriter David Gray, you will really enjoy the soundtrack.

Punch Drunk Love

Don't be fooled by the casting of Adam Sandler as the lead in this unusual look at courtship. He plays a very subdued charcter intrigued by co-star Emily Watson's (Synecdoche New York; Angela's Ashes). You're never really sure which one of them/either/both is the crazy one.

Enchanted April

This period-period piece begins in London after the First World War. A widow, a elderly literary figure, a starlet and a extraordinarily visionary ordinary woman join forces to get to Italy for a holiday in a rented villa. Intrigues and romance occur when various spouses and the villa's owner turn up. Featuring Joan Plowright, Miranda Richardson, Michael Kitchen and Alfred Molina. The scenery is gorgeous and the movie really succeeds in conveying the relaxed feeling of a sun holiday.

The English Patient

It doesn't hurt that this stars Ralph Fiennes and Kriston Scott Thomas whose chemistry is compelling. Warning: Devastatingly sad. Just when the lovers can be together, all goes wrong. It just kills you. Based on Michael Ondaatje's novel, and set in World War II, a man terribly burned recalls the events leading to his hospitalization.

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