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Guaranteed Embarrassment Free 12

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I actually had to take some time to watch some GEF to have some new offerings. So having done this for the past few months, may I suggest the following;

Get Smart- there are a few instances where this strays from guaranteed embarrassment free, but it's a good bet, especially for about 10 and up. The airplane bathroom scene is hilarious and Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway have excellent chemistry. Or try the original series, which if nothing else will either evoke howls of laughter or fond memories over the 60's clothing.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: the Lightning Thief---I actually liked this one quite a bit- good story with likeable characters, and the best Medusa ever. Based on the very popular book series by Rick Riordan.

Nanny McPhee---this has become very popular again as always happens when a sequel is about to be released. It is a good bet for everyone and Emma Thompson did an excellent job as writer and lead. Blu ray also.

Harry and the Hendersons-an oldie but a goodie from 1987, new to CPL. This is for the entire family---a funny, gentle and kind movie.

Robin Williams and Jeff Daniels in RV---somewhat formulaic but still worth a few good laughs.

Second Hand Lions---nice coming of age story with Haley Joel Osmont, Michael Caine and Robert Duval.

Ice Age--- any of the 1 2 3 releases are good, with Dawn of the Dinosaurs being the best (providing you can stand Ray Ramano's rather whiny voice).

Clash of the Titans is great fun but will be way to intense for young ones. Save this version for a teen movie night. And have a look at the original from 1981---a lot less violent and still lots of fun.

Bridge to Terabithia---friendship abounds in this film version of the popular book.

Captain Blood---I do like my pirate movies and long before Johnny and Orlando were swashbuckling across the big screen, the best of the best was Errol Flynn. This is a great movie (black and white of course) and stands the test of time. While you're at it have a look at the Sea Hawk. And why not make it an Errol Flynn trifecta and watch the Adventures of Robin Hood---the fight between Basil Rathbone and Flynn is still regarded as one of the greatest sword fights ever put down on film.

Take out the 'Teens

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Only some of these films are about teens or for teens, but the recurrence of "adult trapped in teen's body" themed movies--intentional or otherwise--is curious.

Ocean's Eleven, Ocean's Twelve, Oceans Thirteen: these rat-pack revisits offer comic capers and George Clooney

Twelve Monkeys A serious role for Bruce Willis in a future dystopia/conspiracy movie that stands the test of time

Twelve Angry Men Henry Fonda stars in a classic courtroom drama focused on the jurors' debate

Barbie in the Twelve Dancing Princesses: sells itself, really. Must be based on the Hans Christian Anderson Tale. Don't make me watch it.

Twelve days of Christmas Eve Similar in concept to Bill Murray's Groundhog day. A businessman has limited time to redeem himself.

Twelfth Night - We have five versions of Shakespeare's comedy, with a young women trapped in a young man's disguise:

  1. Starring Alec Guiness and Joan Plowright
  2. BBC version with Felicity Kendall (Rosemary and Thyme, Good Neighbours)
  3. CBC's Stratford version
  4. Kenneth Branagh's version
  5. Helena Bonham Carter and Ben Kingsley star

Thursday the 12th This ITV two-part miniseries looks promising. According to Allmovie, the murder mystery is told Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa) style through flashbacks.

13 going on 30 Jennifer Garner stars in this what happens if you suddenly become a young person trapped in an older person's body

Thirteen Days: Remember the Cuban Missile crisis? Check out this thriller that follows the decision-making in the oval office at that time.

Thirteen at Dinner: Fans of Agatha Christie on film may debate, but I always enjoyed Peter Ustinov as Poirot in this mystery co-starring Faye Dunaway. Teens take note: also contains '70s sartorial excellence.

The 14 Wonders of the World I thought there were only 7! I stand corrected.

The 15 Streets Even the most hard hearted find Catherine Cookson's books worthy of a look. This adaptation features the requisite love story in the face of class differences.

Sixteen Candles Molly Ringwald stars in this enduring high school graduation saga.

16 blocks: Bruce Willis strikes again, this time as a police officer trying to escort a witness (Mos Def) to court

17 Again Zac Efron and Matthew Perry star in this hit movie in which the former goes back to high school with his adult mind still intact.

Eighteen A young mind finds himself homeless and his life becomes intertwined with his grandfather's World War II memoirs.

18 Kids and Counting=Reality show featuring a Mormon couple and their children and community

K-19 The Widowmaker: Liam Neeson and Harrison Ford in this nuclear submarine disaster movie.

19 Spectular Tropical Island Sunsets: It makes me so happy that such a title exists. Relax after watching all the identity/time shifting films listed above. I could have added this to the desert island classics review category, but you wouldn't need a sunsets dvd on a desert island...would you?

Pianos- Really!

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Piano themed movies have done incredibly well over the years---especially come Oscar time. Every actor in the following four movies took home a best actor statuette for his/her performance. So to those actors who are feeling neglected by Oscar, perhaps they should brush up on the old ivories and see if the Academy will smile upon them. One other thing- along with the really fine acting performances, all four actors did their own playing, and there are some pretty impressive performances.

The Pianist 2002- with Adrien Brody playing real life Polish Jewish musician Wladyslaw Szpilman, struggling to survive the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto of World War II. At the age of 29 Brody became the youngest Best Actor recipient. Best director went to Roman Polanski.

The Piano-1993 with Holly Hunter, Sam Neill, Anna Pacquin and Harvey Keitel. Best actress to Hunter and best supporting to 11 year old Paquin (you'll recognize her if you are an X-Men or True Blood fan). And no, she is not the youngest to ever receive an Oscar. That title is still held by Tatum O'Neil for her wonderful performance in Paper Moon. The Piano is a strange and oddly compelling movie.

Shine- with Geoffrey Rush pre Captain Barbossa fame (as in Pirates of the Caribbean, where the 4th installment of the incredibly popular series currently is in production ). Rush plays real life pianist David Helfgott, who struggles to come back after suffering a complete breakdown.

Amadeus 1984- with Tom Hulce taking on the role of Mozart and F Murray Abraham as his nemesis Salieri. Both actors were nominated for best actor and the win went to Abraham, so perhaps my opening statement breaks down a little here. The exceptional playing is done by Hulce, not Abraham. Regardless, this is an excellent film, also winning best movie and best director for Milos Foreman. What ever happened to Tom Hulce? Last thing I remember him in is Parenthood from 1989.

Now although not Oscar winners these next are worthy of a mention;

Great Balls of Fire-The story of Jerry Lee Lewis, arguably one of the wildest musicians of the 1950s. With Dennis Quaid as Jerry Lee.

We have many performances by piano players just being themselves including four from Elton John. Check out Elton John: The Red piano concert. or the always popular Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Or how about virtuoso Arthur Rubenstien or a Chopin Celebration. Or sit down yourself and teach your children how to play with Easy Piano for Children.

In the mood for some good laughs? Try any of the three years of the Victor Borge show. For those of you unacquianted with Borge you are in for a real treat. The shows are charming, funny, suitable for the whole family and also feature some brilliant playing. Need a little more flamboyance in your life---try the Legendary Liberace.

So there you are- movies with pianos and players as a common thread---maybe next time I'll do wind instruments.

H'Ween 2010 -

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Hard to believe this is the 3rd year we are posting for Halloween. Please have a look at our other H'ween posts (One and Two) as well as Stephen King, Dare You to Watch alone and the recent Gotcha---everything from classic Hitchcock suspense to aliens with retractable teeth. So once again I invite you to turn the lights down low, double check that you locked the doors, grab a blankie for hiding behind, screaming into or just to keep off that unexplained chill.

The first two feature everybodies' favorite pirate, Johnny Depp, but there is nothing swashbuckling about either of these films. The first is Secret Window from 2004. This is based on a Stephen King novella, and translated onto film quite nicely---good and creepy. Next up is Tim Burton's take on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. If you remember the Disney cartoon you are in for a real surprise here---this is definitely a serious, adult version of the classic tale.

1408---again based on a King story, and starring John Cuscak and Samuel L Jackson. This has some truly terrific terrifying moments. You'll be reluctant to look out a hotel window for months to come. What fun!

Since last year we have gotten the entire Buffy the Vampire Slayer series. I myself was never a big fan of Buff, but it was hugely popular, very kitchy, and well received by fans. So give any or all of the 7 years a look.

Speaking of buff, check out Arnold Schwartzenegger, Carl Weathers and Jessie Ventura in Predator---you can just about smell the testosterone. This is a really solid alien/thriller/adventure that play to Arnold's stregnths---lots of action and not too much dialogue! Can you believe two of these three guys went on to become US Governors?

We've got several of the old Vincent Price classics that are always good campy fun, and often effectively scary. Try House on Haunted Hill and The Pit and the Pendulum.

TCM has a box set of 4 horror movies and there isn't a single bad choice in the set. In fact all four are excellent bets. House of Wax, again with V Price, The Haunting (recommended last year), and my all time favourite Jeckyl and Hyde, with Spencer Tracy and Ingrid Bergman. Everytime I see it (and believe me I have seen this version a lot) I am mesmerized by Tracy's performance. The last of the four is the extremely controversial Freaks and trust me when I say this is not for the faint of heart. This was banned in many countries and today still remains on many a 'warning list'. Real circus sideshow performers were used in the casting and some of the scenes are very disturbing.

We have two version of Oscar Wilde's classic tale of the descent of a decent young man into utter depravity---The Picture of Dorian Gray". The first is the 1945 with George Sanders and Hurd Hatfield. This is a very good film that delivers its message without being sexually gratuitous, lewd or disturbing. The other version is all three of these things and more. Don't mistake the two.

Happy to say that we are finally getting the excellent Brendan Fraser Mummy films. Currently available are The Mummy reutrns and The Mummy;Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (not quite sure where the first installment is. I'll check it with our acquistions department). These are great for the whole family (maybe age 9 and up) and scary in an old fashioned fun way. I see on IMDB that there is a 4th installment currently in production- Rise of the Aztec- let's just hope they bring back Rachel Weisz as the feisty Evy.

More Sci Fi than horror, Knowing still has some pretty intense moments so I thought I would throw it in. Nic Cage can run hot and cold but this is an above average movie.

Like your horror with a lot of humour? You can't go wrong with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Both feature British actor/writer/director Simon Pegg---real send-ups of the genre. Or try Zombieland with Wood Harrelson and an hilarious cameo by Bill Murray.

Currently on order is the really well done Outer Limits. This is the more recent verson from 1995 and we have seven seasons coming---good, solid entertainment featuring lots of highly recognizable faces.

Do you like your Mary Shelley? How about Bride of Frankenstein from the 30's with Boris Karloff and Elsa Lanchester. Or the delightfully silly Young Frankenstein from Mel Brooks. Or on offer from A & E the non-fiction In Search of Frankenstein.

As mentioned above Tim Burton is always good for a bizarre interpretation and also for some highly original material. Have a look at any of these: Corpse Bride; Edward Scissorhands; James and the Giant Peach (kids age about 6 and up should enjoy this one). Typically I don't like Burton that much but I do love Ed Wood, with Burtons' go-to-guy Johnny Depp. This is the true story of Ed Wood, regarded by many to be the worst director of all time, and his group of truly strange friends---including real life Dracula actor, Bela Lugosi. This won Martin Landau and Oscar for best supporting actor.

Looking for something for the little ones? Just do a words or phrase search of Halloween dvd or wander over to our holiday section at your local branch. These start getting checked out quite early, so the sooner you get in the better. We even have a dvd that will show you how to paint faces.

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GOTCHA !

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There's nothing like watching a movie and thinking that you know what's going on and then being hit with a whammo! Or the wonderful anticipation of suspecting that something is about to happen, but unsure of what it might be ! Especially when they are really cunning twists. Now in some of these recommendations you may have previously heard things, or you may figure it out for yourself just before the denoument, but I guarantee there are a couple here you won't see coming. And even if you are clever and 'expect the unexpected', it wont detract one iota from these excellent movies. And I am very happy to say that not a single one of these films features 'I was only dreaming' as the plot twist!

The first 4 have all previously been recommended under other categories, but they are certainly worth revisiting.

Shutter Island- this is the latest collaboration between DiCaprio and Scorcese and I expect it will do very well at the 2010 Oscars next year. It is an excellent story from writer Dennis Lehane. DiCaprio is sent to ominous Shutter Island to search for a woman who has escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane.

The Sting-- an oldie but a goodie. Lots of fun with Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

Witness for the Prosecution- From the fertile mind of Agatha Christie and directed by Billy Wilder. This classic from 1957 stars Marlene Deitrich, Tyrone Power and Charles Laughton.

Sixth Sense--- even if you've seen it and know the ending, it's fun to revisit and catch all the clues you missed in the first viewing. With Bruce Willis, Toni Colette and Haley Joel Osment--who steals every scene he is in.

These next 6 are all brand new recommendations.

Body Heat- back in the 80's Kathleen Turner and William Hurt were everywhere on the screen. Individually they did some really excellent films. Together, they sizzle in this stylish murder mystery. Also features Mickey Rourke in his first incarnation as an actor. Don't pass on this one (currently on order)---very film noir.

Solyent Green---this ending is so well known, it's now part of the cultural zeitgeist, but this 1973 offering from Charlton Heston deserves its cult status. And although we don't currently have it, look for the other Heston classic with a 'gotcha' ending- Planet of the Apes.

The Usual Suspects---an above average heist/thriller, this won Kevin Spacey an Oscar for best supporting actor. Lots of other big names de jour.

Wait Until Dark--- now this one might not be a gotcha in the same sense as some of the others I've featured, but this is an excellent thriller and waiting for the outcome of the movie will keep you on the edge of your seat. I remember being in my late teens the first time I saw this and just about swallowing my head I screamed so loud. What fun!!

And if you read my recent Christopher Nolan post I promised to tell you about a movie of his that I absolutely love. Drama, fantasy, mystery, thriller--- this just works on every level. Starring two actors that turn up frequently in our posts---Michael Caine and Christian Bale---with the added bonus of sultry Scarlett Johansson and hunky Hugh Jackman. Once friends, now bitter rivals, two magicians seek to create the ultimate on-stage illusion---The Prestige.

And thanks to co-worker Leslie for suggesting I do a post on surprise endings.