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Four Jacks

by Moe - 2 Comment(s)

I always keep an eye out for a possibly overlooked series I can throw your way and I've found a couple of very good ones. And because they both happened to have in the starring role somebody named Jack, that led me to throw in two other well know Jacks- Reacher and Ryan.

From 2012 let’s start with Tom Cruise bringing life to Lee Child’s very popular anti-hero, Jack Reacher. Cruise stars as the title character, a former Major in the US Army Military Police Corp who has opted out of a life of duty but still attracts trouble like a magnet. This series was ripe to be made into a movie, and came with a built in audience of legions of fans from around the world. But when word first leaked that the diminutive Cruise was going to be playing the 6’ 5” behemoth, fans were outraged. There were talks of boycotts and other such nonsense, but then fans really do not like their legends messed with. Also people do seem to divide into the two Cruise camps, 'love him or hate him' more readily than for a lot of other actors. Because I try hard to disassociate actors from their real life personalities I can say I almost always enjoy Cruise's performances. And not being a particular fan of the books, I didn't have a lot invested in the character, so I was able to take this movie on it’s own merit. It worked for me, was worth my two hours and did well enough at the box office that a sequel is planned.

Jack Irish is an Australian television series originally broadcast as made for t.v movies and did well so they pulled it together into sets. It stars Aussie Guy Pearce, an actor who first came to North American audiences' attention as the ambitious Ed Exley in 1997’s excellent LA Confidential. Pearce is another actor I have always enjoyed and rarely does he miss the mark.

A great way to find unexpected recommendations is to pick up one thing- like Borgen or Jack Irish- watch the trailers and then get directed to more unexpected and potentially unnoticed series. So with help from Sue, this is how Jack Taylor came to my attention. This one stars Iain Glen who you will recognize from many things--- like Jorah Mormont in all four seasons of Game of Thrones and in the first season of Downton Abbey.

Now Jack Ryan has been kicking around a long time in film, in many incarnations and over a varied time line. He first made his appearance in 1990 in The Hunt for Red October and was played by Alec Baldwin---good movie. He next appeared in 1992 in Patriot Games and again in 1994 in A Clear and present Danger, both times played by Harrison Ford---I still go out of my way to watch these. Then Hollywood did something strange in 2002 and brought out a prequel starring Ben Affleck, The Sum of All Fears--- if you’ve seen it you’ll know what I mean about strange time lines. Nonetheless, good enough to invest your time in. Then nothing until 2014 when the character was resurrected for Jack Ryan, Shadow Recruit, starring Chris Pine, StarTrek’s rebooted James Tiberius Kirk. I’ll let you make up your own minds about this one.

David Tennant

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

The deceptively young-looking David Tennant is a remarkably versatile actor, but the same can be said of many actors who are classically trained. When he was 16 he auditioned for and won a place at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, the youngest student to ever do so. A three year stint as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company helped hone his skills.

At the advanced age of four he decided to become an actor, inspired by his love of the BBC show Doctor Who. How ironic then that he would play the iconic Doctor and in the process make himself a household name.

Since leaving Doctor Who his career has continued to rise, with lead roles in films, TV series and theatre. He also voices many audiobooks ranging from Shakespeare to the popular children’s ‘Dragon’ series by Cressida Cowell.

Check him out in 2014’s Masterpiece Mystery, The Escape Artist. This is a dark, taut and well-crafted mini-series with a devilishly good unexpected ending.

United is based on the true story of Manchester United, the youngest championship team in English soccer history and their rise from the ashes of a tragic plane crash that devastated the team.

He seems to really like doing mini-series and Casanova, The Secret Smile and Spies of Warsaw are all well rated in IMDB. A little harder to get your hands on due to current popularity (but worth the wait) is Broadchurch, now starting its second season in Britain, with season one available for holds at Calgary Public Library.

Also, check out the documentary Earthflight narrated by Tennant. Earthflight is a nature documentary filmed with a bird's-eye view of the natural world, joining the journeys of snow geese, cranes, albatrosses, eagles and other birds across six continents. It's very good and worth a watch.

Top Gear

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

Not many series can stand the test of time like Top Gear has. This British series has remained at the top of its game for 21 seasons and shows no signs of slowing down. It is the most popular car show in the world.

Join the highly knowledgeable and thoroughly engaging hosts Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May as they explore 'everything car' and I do mean everything. Smart, fast paced, and often just hilarious, this BBC series has it all. They are joined by a steady stream of A-listers who drop by to try their luck on the test course and talk about their favorite cars.

Among some of their better stunts: contraptions they make themselves like a limo so long it requires a rope and pulley to get to the back end; their own versions of "Bond" cars with rocket launchers and flame throwers; being the only people to successfully drive to the magnetic North Pole.

You'll learn things you never thought you needed to know about cars, you'll gasp at some of the prices, and you'll laugh often at the absurdity of their stunts. What's not to like?

Doc Martin Season 6

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

The surprisingly lovable misanthrope Doc Martin is back for Season 6 in this very popular Britcom of the same name. If you are not yet acquainted with the surly London surgeon forced to relocate to a Cornish fishing village give the early seasons a look, but do watch them in order.

If you are already a fan check out and see who could possibly be left for him to offend this time round. Like the jacket says it is sweet, stirring and completely addictive. It is also hilarious.

Luther

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

Season Three of the critically acclaimed BBC series, Luther, is arriving on our shelves even as I write.

If you have not yet seen this one treat yourself to one of the finest British crime dramas of recent years. And given how very good the British track record for this kind of programming is, that’s saying something.

Superior writing, fine, fine acting and some very unique storylines, this series has it all. They are also very dark and occasionally disturbing. You may know the star Idris Alba from some of his other recent offerings. He had a starring role in this summer's block buster, Pacific Rim and was in Ridley Scott's Prometheus from 2012. He was in the excellent multi award winning American crime drama from several years ago, The Wire. He has even been touted as possibly taking over the helm for the James Bond franchise, after Daniel Craig hangs up his martini glass- a rumour he is vigorously denying. Somebody else who is having their name thrown around? Michael Fassbender, who was also in Prometheus.

Do watch this series in order or you'll be lost. Besides they are that good you really don't want to miss a single episode. His star is definitely on the rise so expect to see a lot more of him.

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More from PBS and ITV

by Moe - 2 Comment(s)

I know your Sunday nights are likely already full with Mad Men, Game of Thrones and the Good Wife, but that's what a DVR is for. Don't have a DVR, or didn't get it live streamed in time? That's what the library is for.

Here are a couple of very decent British mystery mini-series, including one airing on Sunday night, that might not be on your radar yet.

Currently on PBS is a beaut of a mystery called The Bletchley Circle. A three episode series, if you have missed the first two episodes shown, we have it on order and coming soon. Great period piece about four former WWII code breakers, trying to solve a string of murders. If you're a fan of Foyle's War you'll love this one. If you haven't seen Foyle yet, don't wait any longer—it's great.

Next up we have Exile, starring John Simm from the popular Life on Mars series and Jim Broadbent from everything else. Exile is a compelling story of a man who returns home after an eighteen year absence determined to unravel the mystery that drove him away in the first place. Another short watch at only 180 minutes.

Enjoy.

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The BBC strikes again

by Moe - 2 Comment(s)

Time and time again BBC turns out superior miniseries. With a seemingly endless pool of classically trained talent from which to draw, multi award winning directors, and truly original storylines, they just have an excellent product. When you can't take the endless banality of Hollywood offerings, with their regurgitated plots and their cookie cutter actors and actresses, turn your attention across the pond.

Their latest is the excellent "The Hour". This BBC production is actually about a fictitious BBC show. Set in the mid 50's in the early days of television, it follows the launch of a new sixty minute long current events show. With the always excellent Dominic West acting as the show's anchor, it follows their struggles to strike the right balance between informing and entertaining their audience.

We have just recieved season two, and it is even better than the first, and that's saying something. Set aside 5 hours to watch season one. As I so often do, I went to watch episode one, and stayed up far too late devouring the whole show in one sitting.

Excellent acting, compelling three dimensional characters, several tight, well crafted intersecting plots running throughout the 5 hours, and amazing attention to period details. It was recently nominated for a Golden Globe for Best MiniSeries or Motion Picture made for Television.

Ghosties and Ghoulies and Things That Go Bump

by Moe - 1 Comment(s)

Okay, it's that time of year-when we offer up some more choices to help keep you up at night.

First up and one I highly recommend is Jekyll, starring the talented and versatile James Nesbitt. This is yet another excellent BBC mini series from 2007. It is one of those series that I started watching and all else had to wait. It is wicked great fun, with a tremendous ending. You may also know Nesbitt from Monroe and Murphy's Law, both of which CPL carries. And if you don't know him yet you will soon because Nesbitt is playing one of the dwarves in the big Peter Jackson production, The Hobbit.

Although it's never appealed to me it does to a lot of people- Paranormal Activity- we have one, two and three. Four is in the theatres just in time for Halloween. Interesting bit of trivia about PNA. Each of the films cost less than $5 million to make but the first 3 have grossed a combined $576 million worldwide. PNA Five anybody?

We have the original campy and popular 70's television series Barnabas/Dark Shadows and there are a lot of them from which to choose. The remake by Tim Burton, Dark Shadows is new on our shelves. It is only for die hard Depp/Burton fans- which I am not. Depp yes, Burton not so much. There are some other Depp/Burton pairings that I like better, that you can access down at the bottom of this post. John Cusack I do like and you might want to take a look at The Raven. Cusack plays Edgar Allen Poe, aiding the Baltimore police in solving some gruesome crimes that appear to be based on his stories. Woman in Black with Mr. Harry Potter - Daniel Radcliffe- is a fairly decent gothic horror story.

Now another remake that I really did like is Fright Night . With Colin Farrell as your next door neighbour you'd think all would be good- you'd be wrong. Watch for the scene with the Century 21 sign. It is equal parts macabre and hilarious.

Latest installment in the Vampires versus the Lycans saga- Underworld Awakening. I really liked the first installment in this quadrilogy, especially that tremendous fight scene at the end between Beckinsdale and Nighy. This latest one I found was only so so. Two (Evolution)is okay and three (Rise of the Lycans) is not bad. However, they have left it wide open for another sequel, but it'll need an infusion of fresh blood.

The Walking Dead is very popular and we have season one. Season two just started last weekend on tv and those that saw it say it was very good.

Just spoke to our crack team of 'Selectors' and I am really happy to tell you that we are getting Abe Lincoln Vampire Hunter. I was going to pass on this at the theatres this summer and wait for it to come out on dvd, but I ended up going when the one I really wanted to see was sold out. I thought it was great fun, and deserved more attention than it got- great CGI's, lots of jumps and giggles, a very convincing plot (once you accept that Abe Lincoln really was a vampire hunter, not just a president). There is a truly evil vampire master played to perfection by Rufus Sewell. And the best train heading towards a burning trestle action sequence that I have ever seen. Can't link this one yet, but keep checking our catalogue.

The Mist by Stephen King is actually better than you would think given the rather shaky start. Stick with it past the first appearance of a rubberized tentacle, and you are in for a pretty darn good movie. It has a really strong performance by Marcia Gay Harden and an ending that surprised and challenged me.

Still need some more choices? Follow theses links to see some previous Halloween posts---one, two and three, another one entirely devoted to Stephen King and some Gotchas! Oh man, I just love being scared.

Now, if you like your monsters in print as well as on the screen, let me recommend a wonderful YA trilogy by Rick Yancey. It is the Monstrumologist, Curse of the Wendigo and The Isle of Blood. It has two of the most memorable characters I have read recently- Dr. Pellinore Warthrop and Will Henry. I spent many enjoyable hours reading them, and almost as many imagining who would be the best choices to play the characters if they ever turned the books into movies. And these are books that are just begging to be turned into movies.

And what would Halloween be without Frankenstein?

Injustice

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

Just released to DVD in August and new to our shelves is the courtroom/murder drama Injustice. From the talented and prolific Anthony Horowitz (Foyle's War, Silk, Midsomers Murders) comes this 5 hour British mini-series. Once started it is hard to disengage from, so set some time aside to watch this.

The story follows William Travers, an accomplished criminal barrister living an idyllic life in rural Suffolk. Asked to defend an old friend accused of murder he does so reluctantly and then only because he knows him incapable of the crime of which he is accused. Interconnecting plots are nicely woven together as we watch William struggle with one or two unresolved issues of his own. Strong performances by James Purefoy and Nathaniel Parker—you'll recognize them when you see them.

Life on Mars

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Sam Tyler (John Simm) is a police officer in a coma. He can hear what's going on around his hospital bed in the present but he's physically in Manchester in 1973 working cases as a policeman--a time when he would have been a young boy. While doing detective work, he runs across his parents and very nearly encounters himself.

Looking back on the technological and social changes of the past few decades, you might reflect on 1973 as though it was another planet--if you didn't answer the phone, the call was lost, and remember the thick, scratchy polyester? These are the pre-Lycra days when your bathing suit took days to dry. It seems Mars-like to Sam who encounters out of date social mores and unsystematic to unethical police procedures as well as widelegs and lambchops on a lot of his co-workers.

You have to admire everyman Sam's determination as he works as a detective sergeant while being interrupted by hallucinations, memories, and phone calls from the present. Is it all a dream? Is he delusional? Life on Mars reminded me a bit of Dr. Who but without the zaniness and gadgetry and it's no wonder, John Simm appeared in The End of Time episodes according to IMDB and you may also remember him from State of Play and an episode of Cracker. I haven't checked out the U.S. or Spanish remakes of the original BBC series which runs for two seasons (4 dvds each). So far we've only caught one anachronism in the show: Sam's wristwatch has a digital display --these didn't show up until the late 1970s. If you enjoy David Bowie and Nina Simone, you'll like the music.

by Mel

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