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Comedy and Contract Killing

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

Another fun post from our frequent guest blogger, Trevor. I had seen all of these except for Wild target, which I immediately placed on hold and enjoyed immensely. I had more than one laugh out loud moment at the absurdity of it all. Thanks for the recommendations Trevor!

Much as our society abhors killing and murder, there is still something inherently fascinating about assassins. Hiding patiently in the shadows, pulling the trigger at the perfect moment, and then nonchalantly escaping the scene…in terms of pure coolness, a well planned assassination is second only to walking slowly towards the camera while an explosion goes off in the background. These are not your typical hitman films however. Quirky, untraditional, and neurotic, they put the humor back into contract killing.

In Bruges is a film that balances between whimsy and melancholy. After a bungled hit leads to the death of a child, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson have to lay low in the quaint, fairytale-esque town of Bruges. What follows is a hilarious romp that involves midgets, soul searching, shootouts, romance, and a great deal of profanity.

Grosse Pointe Blank

Not many high school yearbooks have a category for those “most likely to become paid killers” but if they did, few people would have voted for Martin Blank (John Cusack). Yet here he is, returning to his home town for his 10 year high school reunion, with a hit contract on the side to take care of as well. Equal parts comedy, action, and nostalgia, Grosse Pointe Blank hits its mark. Cusack actually has a black belt in kick boxing, so the fight scenes look great.

The Whole Nine Yards

What do you do when your new neighbor is a mob hitman turned mob snitch? Do you play it cool and relaxed? Or do you head to his old hunting ground on behest of your greedy and spiteful wife, search out his former employer, and try to collect a finder’s fee? As you might expect, this course leads our mild mannered protagonist Oz on a laugh-filled downward spiral of murder, mayhem, and mobsters. With Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry.

Wild Target features the always excellent Bill Nighy as an aging perfectionist assassin. His orderly, lonely existence changes however, when he not only fails to kill his beautiful and intriguing mark (Emily Blunt), but kills the killer sent to replace him. Quirky and absurd in a way that only British comedy can manage, Wild Target shows us that one need not have a cold heart to be a cold hearted killer.

And last but not least, what happens when killing for money starts to lose its lustre? When hits don’t bring the same happiness that they used to? When the thrill of the hunt isn’t quite so thrilling? These are the questions that Julian, an aging and jaded hitman, is forced to ask in this funny and engaging tale starring Greg Kinnear and Pierce Brosnan (who’s much more interesting as an aging hitman than he is as a prim and pressed British spy). The Matador.

Head Scratchers Part One

by Moe - 2 Comment(s)

Thanks to guest blogger Trevor, who as always provides great insight into the movies he recommends. Even if as he says, he's not entirely sure he understands them all....

I consider myself a fairly intelligent filmgoer. I enjoy complex plots and don’t mind having to scratch my head for a while until I figure things out. There are however, some films where I continue to scratch my head long after seeing it. I’m not talking about the films that are needlessly convoluted or confusing due to poor writing. I’m talking about the films that leave me with the disconcerting feeling that I am simply not smart enough to understand them.

Donnie Darko is a teenage tale of metaphysical existentialism. If that sentence confused you then you’re all set for the film. When a being in a ghoulish bunny suit tells Donnie the world will end in 28 days, the stage is set for quantum-physics fueled conundrums. Exceptional performances and excellent writing make it a film I’ve enjoyed all 10 times I’ve seen it. I still don’t get, but I can’t stay away.

Tree of Life is the film that sparked the idea for this post. An undeniably beautiful film with some of the most interesting cinematography I’ve ever seen. At its most basic, it is the story of a childhood spent under a domineering father. Look closer however, and it is a poignant philosophical examination of nothing less than the very meaning of life. The film left me with the feeling that I was tantalizingly close to discovering a deeply important secret. If only I could wrap my head around it!

2001: A Space Odyssey is a true sci-fi epic. The film details the evolution of humanity from our crude apelike origins to space-faring astronauts. Though the majority of the movie is fairly easy to understand (neanderthals develop tools, astronauts journey to Jupiter, artificial intelligence tries to kill astronauts, etc.) the last moments of the movie confound the mind with a psychedelic trip into pure metaphysical abstraction. I was left with a feeling that something momentous had happened, I just wasn’t sure what.

Inception: With great acting, superb direction, and excellent action, “Inception” is a film that works on many levels. It is also a film that is about many levels. As we delve to deeper and deeper levels within the film’s dreamscape, following our characters further and further in the rabbit hole, we ourselves begin to lose track of what is real. We don’t quite remember where reality is; unsure whether what we are seeing is dream, memory, or perhaps something in between the two. An ambiguous ending leaves us head-scratching, wondering whether or not we’ve truly woken up. This one truly warrants a few re-watches, perhaps with a diagram or map to guide us through.

Synecdoche New York:Perhaps the most baffling film on this list, Synecdoche New York features a disillusioned playwright (played by the excellent Philip Seymour Hoffman) trying to find meaning in his life by creating the ultimate play. He rents a city sized warehouse to contain a city sized set populated by millions of actors all playing regular citizens. He hires an actor to play himself in the play, then he hires another actor to play that actor, then he hires an actress to play him as director, then he takes on the role that actor previously played and then he…I could keep going but I think you get the picture. With more layers and depth then you can shake a stick at, Synecdoche New York certainly fits the list.

If you can conclusively say you understand any of these films, add a comment. I’d love to stop scratching my head about them.

The Raid: Redemption Review

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

We know Guest Blogger Trevor like his movies gritty, so on offer is his review of an upcoming theatrical release. If you like martial arts movies they are very well represented at CPL- in fact, too well represented to name them all. So to find all the titles just go to either our new catalogue or the classic catalogue and use Martial Arts DVD as your search term and you pull up a list of over 75 titles! In the new catalogue you have the further advantage of being able to use 'limitors' to select for language, audience, pub date, etc. Have some fun and play around with the new catalogue to find exactly what you are looking for. With over 70 titles, there is something for everyone.

The Raid: Redemption

I had the chance to see the advanced screening of the upcoming action flick The Raid: Redemption. It was without a doubt the best choreographed, most exciting martial arts movie I've ever seen (and this is coming from a lifelong fan of the Matrix). Though the screening I saw was unfinished and lacked subtitles, and though I had next to no idea what was going on plot-wise, the action was so intense and gratifying that it easily leapt to the top of my favorite action movie list (yes, I have a list for every genre). It's about a swat team that invades a slumlord's 30 story apartment complex. Things inevitably go bad and the cops (mainly just one incredibly skilled cop) have to fight through hordes of gun and machete wielding thugs to escape the building. Like many foreign language films, this movie may only see a limited release. If you even slightly consider yourself an action fan, you owe it to yourself to see this one. Just be warned, the violence is brutal, visceral and pulls no punches.

6 degrees of Patrick Wilson

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

Thanks to our Guest Blogger Alex for the following post. She also writes for the TEEN ZONE blog where she recently posted a great Snow White- Redux. Follow this link and take a look- you wont be disappointed. And don't you think her graphics are great!

Oh Patrick Wilson... you paradigm of manliness... you most excellent of studmuffins... I could just... oh, hello there. What's that you say? You don't know who Patrick Wilson is? Ha ha ha, very funny. No wait, you're serious? PATRICK WILSON? Oh for shame! Very well, let me begin your education.

I'll start this way: I KNOW you know who Patrick is, you just don't know you know him. Know how I know? Because this man is cast with THE BIGGEST NAMES IN HOLLYWOOD on a regular basis. He has been the right-hand man of just about every A-lister out there. And to some, his star might shine a little dimmer in comparison to theirs... but not to me. This guy is Grade-A awesome. Just watch this!

Patrick with Gerard Butler in Phantom of the Opera (he sings!)

Patrick with Billy Bob and Jason Patric in The Alamo (he does accents! He can use a sword and a gun! OR A BAYONET!)

Patrick with Bradley Cooper and LIAM-FREAKING-NEESON in The A-Team (hot bad guy!)

Patrick with Samuel L Jackson in Lakeview Terrace (he can hold his own against Mace Windu!)

Still not impressed? Well... Ridley Scott also chose him for his blisteringly-bright, star-studded new Sci-Fi, Prometheus, opposite heavy hitters like Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace and Guy Pearce...

Wow! Nothing?!?!? Tough crowd, tough crowd. Okay then... take it from the ladies:

Kate Winslet in Little Children

Rose Byrne in Insidious

Liv Tyler in The Ledge

Claire Danes in Evening

Charlize Theron in Young Adult

Malin Akermen in Watchmen

Rachel McAdams in Morning Glory

Yeah. I knew that would do it. Now you know Patrick Wilson. Now click on all the links to borrow these flicks so you can KNOW Patrick Wilson.

So many movies

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Oh my ---there are just so many great movies hitting the theatres right now I don't know how I will see them all. This has actually been a very good year already, and they have saved a lot of the best for last. This is strategic planning on their part in order to keep the titles fresh in the minds of those doing the voting for all the up-coming awards ceremonies.

Currrently showing or coming very shortly are the following great choices:

"Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" -- This is the Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law franchise and if you saw the first you know how much fun it was. We have that on our shelves at CPL, as well as numerous other Holmes adaptations- see my previous post. Since that time we also now carry the excellent modern re-telling that has been showing up on PBS Mystery Theatre and starring the tremendously named Benedict Cumberbatch. These are intelligent, fast-paced and very well done---with Sherlock using an iphone instead of a magnifying glass!

"Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol", the fourth offering in this Tom Cruise franchise-it has made him mega millions---they are very popular and highly entertaining. We have 1 ,2, 3.

"Hugo"---a children's movie directed by Martin Scorsese? Really? Based on the wildly popular book "The Invention of Hugo Cabret", a fellow Movie Maniac saw this and can't say enough good things about it.

"The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo" starring Daniel Craig of 007 fame. This is the English remake based on the international smash trilogy. Already done by the Swedes in their native language, this is the highly anticipated release directed by David Fincher. We have all 1, 2, 3 of the sub titled Swedish releases and it will be interesting to compare the two.

"The Adventures of TinTin" -directed by Spielberg and featuring Peter Jackson's excellent skills at CGI and motion capturing. Also from Spielberg this season is "War Horse"---getting buzz as the best movie ever made about a horse! And if that sounds kind of corny to you, there are actually lots of excellent movies about horses.

"The Artist"- as Maclean's film critic Brian Johnson quips 'finally a French movie that doesn't need subtitles'. Silent and in black and white it is also generating lots of buzz.

And if like me you are waiting with baited breath for the as yet untitled Star Trek sequel, you'll have to wait till May 17,2013!

Hope you can take in some of these. And if you do, I would love to hear your opinion about any or all of them. Just drop us a line through 'comments'. Have a wonderful Christmas and check back here after the 25th for a great contest we will be running.

Great TV Part 1 - HBO

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Another excellent list of recommendations from guest blogger Trevor- and the good news is, as he has called this Part 1, we know that he already has more titles in mind for part 2. There are several 100's of hours of great viewing here........

Though MM traditionally highlights the great film collection here at the Calgary Public Library, our many movies are by no means the only draw. Regular customers will have undoubtedly come across a TV season or two whilst perusing the DVDs. In fact, a quick search of the collection gives over 2000 hits for television seasons on DVD. Choosing from such a large collection is a challenging task but this post will hopefully help you sift through the collection to find the standout gems most worth your time.

HBO – “It’s not TV, it’s HBO” is a very fitting tagline for the subscription TV service. In general, HBO series greatly surpass anything that you could find on regular stations (with the added benefit of being commercial free). Pretty much anything HBO touches turns to gold but here are a few of the most noteworthy.

Rome – An epic period piece that details the greatest empire the world has ever known. Rome’s splendour is emphasized nearly as much as its depravity. The first season chronicles Julius Caesar’s rise to power while the second focuses on his nephew Augustus.

In Treatment – The always excellent Gabriel Byrne plays a psychiatrist, struggling to balance his own problems as he grows increasingly invested in his patients. episode focuses on one of 5 patients, cycling through their appointments on each day of the week. The most interesting aspect is that Byrne is the 5th patient, seeing his own psychologist to deal with the pressures of his life. Absolutely riveting.

Big Love –Bill Paxton plays a righteous Mormon man, trying to raise his family just like any other man. A difficult task considering he has three households and three wives. There’s a surprising amount of excitement to be found in Big Love as Bill tries to protect the secret of his family while battling against the corrupt leadership of his former Mormon commune.

True Blood - For those of you who cringed from the Twilight series and its neutered portrayal of vampires, look no further than True Blood. With more sex, more gore, and more violence than any other show on this list it true-ly pushes the limits of what we consider TV. It’s also good campy fun.

The Sopranos - There’s a reason there are university classes based entirely around The Sopranos. It is the most profitable series in the history of cable television and is one of the most critically acclaimed television shows of all time. Traditional mob movie tropes are twisted and distorted as viewers delve into the psyche of emotionally troubled mob boss Tony Soprano. If you’ve ever enjoyed a Martin Scorsese film, The Sopranos should be a no brainer.

Six Feet Under - is perhaps the most ambitious television series I have ever seen. It’s not the big summer blockbuster type of ambitious, nor is it the type of trendsetting ambition found in experimental films. No, Six Feet Under is ambitious because it tries, and in my opinion succeeds, in answering a very difficult question: what does it mean to die? It’s humorous, depressing, heartfelt, and macabre in equal measure and it is well worth your time.

by Trevor

More 6 degrees of separation-

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We know this game is fun.... seems a lot of you out there are playing it too. Here are two loops sent into us by readers Mateusz and Claire. We'd love to hear yours.....get in touch with us through COMMENTS at the end of the post.

George Clooney directs and stars in "The Ides of March" which stars Ryan Gosling. Ryan Gosling also recently starred in the fantastic 80's noir love letter, "Drive" which was directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. Refn in his early years also directed a small indie thriller by the name of "Fear X" which starred John Turturro in a great understated performance. Turturro, who is a fabulous character actor, starred in "Barton Fink" a great Coen Brothers film about a writer suffering from writer's block. The Coen's finally have made a number of films with a well known Hollywood actor, including my personal favorite "O Brother where art thou?" starring who? George Clooney. Big thanks to Mateusz for this one.

Liam Hemsworth stars in the film adaptation of the Hunger Games with Jennifer Lawrence. Jennifer Lawrence was in The Beaver with Mel Gibson. Mel was in What Women Want with Helen Hunt. Helen was in As Good As It Gets with Greg Kinnear. Greg Kinnear was in The Last Song with guess who: Liam Hemsworth!! Thanks a lot Claire.

And now for something completely gritty

by Moe - 2 Comment(s)

Guest blogger Trevor has gone to a darker and grittier area of our collection. Some excellent recommendations here, but as he warns there is a fair share of language, sex and violence.

Now that the deluge of summer family blockbusters has finally subsided I find myself hankering for some comic book films that don’t have to cater to the younger demographics. Here are comic book films that should appeal to a more sophisticated crowd.

Watchmen – Are masked-heroes really saviours of society or are they merely fascist vigilantes, corrupting the American ideal as they practice their twisted form of justice? This theme, and others just as thought-provoking, helped solidify Watchmen as one of Time Top 100 Novels of All Time. The film does an excellent job of translating the deep and complex tale.

A History of Violence – An unflinchingly brutal film about one man’s journey to overcome his violent past, A History of Violence is not your typical comic-book fare. David Cronenberg direction is as stark and visceral as ever and Viggo Mortensen delivers a strong performance.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World - The tale of a young man’s quest to get a girl (complicated by the need to first defeat her 7 evil ex-boyfriends). This one isn’t particularly violent or kid-unfriendly, it’s just aimed at an older crowd. The videogame references are a perfect wink and high-five for the 20-30 year old crowd who grew up glued to their Nintendos.

Kick-Ass – The “teenage boy decides to become a superhero” story certainly sounds like it would fit into a family friendly mould. The extreme violence and ubiquitous (and hilarious) profanity, take it to a whole other level though. Nicholas Cage gives his bar-none best performance as an Adam West-esque Batman lookalike.

Sin City-is a pitch perfect blending of classic film noire and modern action ideals. It masterfully weaves three tales of vice, violence, and revenge and does so in beautiful black and white. The all star cast of Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, and Clive Owen (among many others) adds substance to this stylistic flick.

by Trevor

Take me with you!

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Moe is on holidays right now, so she's asked a few other Movie Maniacs to step in and write some guest blogs for her while she's away. I was totally fine with this prospect until she revealed exactly where it was that she'll be vacationing.

Hint: It's New Zealand.

Now! This is a pretty excellent destination to choose at any given time, but it just so happens to be the BEST destination at THIS given time.

Don't know what I'm talking about? Clearly you're not as big of a fan-girl as I am (neener neener)...

The reason why New Zealand is the place for any Movie Maniac to be right now is because Peter Jackson is currently working on the second leg of his new Tolkien epic, "The Hobbit" in that glorious country as I type.

Now what you have to understand, is that we're still AGES away from the release of this movie. The first phase of it JUST got into post-production, and they've still got loads of editing and tweaking and awesome-ifying to do yet, and everything else is in pre-production. This is ALSO only the first half of the journey -- they're splitting the novel into two films, like any smart adapter does these days.

Which means, my friends, that they are filming RIGHT NOW, in all their dwarvish make-up glory, in beautiful locations all across the land of the Kiwis. And I couldn't be more jealous of Moe for getting to be there.

If the set production vlogs are anything to go by (which I'm hoping they are, even though Jackson is not releasing them NEARLY as often as he should be...) this second leg of shooting will carry on well into December. And even though the sites and sets are a very closely guarded secret, this makes me hopeful that Moe might just stumble across a hobbit or an elf or a dragon here and there. She has told me they love drivng down back roads just to see where they come out, so with a little luck... At any rate, I've told her it's probably best to bring her lady-dwarf costume (beard and all) and some speedy running shoes for dodging the security guards.

As a tribute to the epicness that is Jackson's work in New Zealand, I've decided to include a couple of OTHER movies shot in this locale. Click on the titles for links to the Calgary Public Library catalogue!

Whale Rider, possibly the biggest film to actually focus on Kiwi culture and life, revolves around a young Maori girl and her search to fulfill her destiny. Beautifully filmed, beautifully acted, this one was up for an Oscar and 28 other awards. It won most of them.

King Kong and Lovely Bones (both directed by Jackson) are not set in NZ, but do use its gorgeous locations as backdrops. Both are written by Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, two collaborators of Jackson's on LOTR. Both also have all-star casts, and one of them has Jack Black. What more can I say?

If you're into horror, 30 Days of Night (originally a graphic novel series) is a terrifying, and R-rated, Vampire flick... I promise these blood-suckers don't sparkle. Almost half of the cast is either Kiwi or Aussie, but you can't tell, because they're all pretending to be from Alaska.

I swear, New Zealand must have the most diverse climates and landscapes of any country... where else could pass for Pennsylvania, Alaska, Middle Earth... or Pandora?

That's right, James Cameron's epic Avatar was shot there too. Wanna know why? Check out this article from "Film New Zealand".

Other epic NZ-based movies include The Chronicles of Narnia,The Bridge to Terabithia (starring The Hunger Games' Josh Hutcherson), and Spielberg's highly anticapted Tintin movie, out this Christmas.

6 Degrees of Separation

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Thanks to guest blogger Alex who does another tremendous job stringing a '6 degrees post' together.

I was wondering how I could possibly write a post about “Real Steel” without losing the respect of every Movie Maniac out there… I mean, really? Hugh Jackman as an ex-UFC fighter and gambling addict, whose estranged 10-year-old son helps him revamp an old robot and enter the popular Automaton Boxing competitions of the not-so-distant future? It’s ridiculous! It’s juvenile! It panders to an audience that revels in video games and violence and not much else!

And… it’s AWESOME. I’m serious. This movie was fun, visually compelling, the plot followed a perfect (if predictable) arc, the acting was fine, the soundtrack was catchy… I even think I cried a little!

And let’s be honest. You could put Hugh Jackman in a poncho, wrestling tights, and a Ronald MacDonald wig, and the man would still be worth the price of admission.

So starting with Hugh Jackman in “Real Steel” and a 2ndgeneration sparring-Bot named “Atom” let's use Robots as our common denominator and see how this 6 degrees rolls out.

"I, Robot” is RIFE with Androids trying to take over the world, but we like Sonny, the main one. It stars Will Smith (another perfect human specimen), but, much better for my purposes, Shia LaBeouf has a bit part as a character named Farber.

LaBeouf, is, of course, the headliner for the hugely popular (though-no-one-knows-why) “Transformers” series, which stars more robots than it does humans. See him here with Optimus Prime.

The 2005 revamp of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” had a star-studded cast, least of which were the robots. Of the human actors, the brilliant Bill Nighy appears as Slartibartfast. (I had to sneak Marvin in the background there... but there are still TONS of robots in this movie...)

Now… here’s my only bridge that doesn’t include Bots… and I’d label it cheating if it wasn’t such an awesome movie. Bill Nighy and Kate Beckinsale star in “Underworld", a kick-butt romp through the age-old Lycan vs. Vamp family feud. (There's a lot of technology in this movie... that counts, right?)

Kate Beckinsale, who was a Vampire in “Underworld”, turns Vamp HUNTER in “Van Helsing”, which brings us back to Beefcake Hugh Jackman, AND an especially robotic monster of Frankenstein.

Not quite making the cut are some of my fave Artificial Intelligence movies, where the robot is played by an actor (and not just say, voiced by one), and therefore doesn’t count as a robot. You could say the same for Shuler Hensley in "Van Helsing", but there was a LOT of CG in that one.

A.I.- from 2001 and directed by Steven Spielberg, with the talented young Haley Joel Osmont and Jude Law.

Bicentennial Man- like "I,Robot", this is based on an Issac Asimov story and features Robin Williams in the tin suit.

Star Trek- I had to check with MM Moe because I am not the Trekkie that she is---she says while S.T. has a proliferation of robots, androids, cyborgs, and automotons, her own personal faves are any episodes that have The Borgs: 'the scourge of the Alpha and Delta quadrants and the cybernetically-enhanced humanoids that everybody loves to hate' (yeah- she actually said that!). In fact she is such a fan she has previously given Star Trek it's own featured spot (actually more than one!).

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