You are here: Home > Blogs > Movie Maniacs

Latest Posts

Off Line


by Moe - 1 Comment(s)

If it worked once it can work again is Hollywood’s Golden Rule. Often it seems impossible to find a movie that isn’t a prequel, a sequel, a ‘re-imagining’ or just a plain old let’s see if we can make some more money off this and to heck with anything else. And with all such things a few, but not many, are better, some are equally good but in different ways, some just make it , some don’t and some completely miss their mark and may be responsible for killing off their franchise for good.

Here are three new CPL acquisitions that for me have varying degrees of success.

H&G:The Witch HuntersHansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters starring currently ‘see him everywhere’ Jeremy Renner (Mission Impossible, Marvel's The Avengers, Bourne Legacy) and Gemma Arterton (Clash of the Titans and Prince of Persia). It’s not great, but it’s entertaining enough. In the movie, Hansel is diabetic as a result of his childhood experience in the gingerbread house. In the original script, Gretel was also supposed to have an eating disorder as a result of her childhood trauma, but it was cut from the final version. Talk about trying to make something current.

Oz the Great and Powerful is the prequel to The Wizard of Oz. Now Oz is a movie I have never been able to get behind. Considered a classic by millions and appearing on more must see lists than you can shake a wand at, it just never did a thing for me. Perhaps it is the flying monkeys which still haunt my dreams; perhaps it is the cowardly lion who just drives me up the wall. It certainly isn't Judy Garland! So I am always on the lookout for a ‘re-imagining’ of the tale that might suit my tastes better. This film is visually stunning, and the story line is okay, but this didn’t work for me either. Perhaps it is James Franco smirking through the entire film. You would be hard pressed to see three more beautiful witches in Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams and Mrs. James Bond, Rachel Weisz. As I say, not for me, but many will enjoy.

A Good Day to Die Hard should have been the franchise killer that I was talking about, but Die Hardest (the 6th) is slated for 2015. The Die Hard’s have been popular since the first release in 1988 and have been consistently watchable. Over the top action, entire city blocks blowing up, a bloody but unbowed John McLane running barefoot over broken glass—what’s not to like? Sadly, they lost the thread here and it really didn’t work. But don’t feel too bad for Bruce Willis. Collectively, he has appeared in films that have grossed in excess of $2.5 billion USD placing him in the top ten stars in terms of box office receipts. And that is enough to save the franchise.

Les Mis

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

Way back in November of 2009 I did a post called Redux. This was the first in a stream of posts that features movies that have been done over many times. We know Hollywood does this with increasing frequency — just think of this summer's remake of Spider-Man a mere 5 years after the last of the Tobey Maguire offerings.

The film I chose to feature then was Les Miserables—easily one of my favourite stories of all time, not to mention absolutely my favourite musical. This is a story that has been retold many times on film—in fact, going all the way back to 1909!

Unless you have been living on Mars, if you are a fan of musicals you know that in December the big screen adaptation of the very successful stage musical will be released to the world. The cast is wonderful with some of the choices more than a little surprising but nonetheless inspired. Hugh Jackman stars as Jean Valjean—yes all you X-Men fans, not only can the man lay down a serious butt kicking, he also sings like a dream. Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen are but a few more in lead roles and it is being directed by 2011's Oscar winner Tom Hooper (The King's Speech). They have thrown a lot of $$ at this and the returns should be huge. If you've been fortunate enough to catch a trailer at the theatre you know how glorious it looks. If you haven't there are only about a billion sites. If you live in Hong Kong you can see it on Dec 20, Japan on Dec 21, but if you are Canadian you have to wait until Christmas Day. Some of you are thinking Christmas is coming too fast—for me and millions of others, it can't get here soon enough.

To get your fix prior to the 25th try any of these very good Les Mis productions:

1935 and 1952 This is one DVD that has two versions included. Side A is with the incomparable Charles Laughton as Javert and Frederick March as Jean Valjean. Side B is the Michael Rennie interpretation. Both are good.

1934 Widely considered one of the greatest film adaptations of the story, this 5 hour film is in French with English subtitles.

1998 Geoffrey Rush as Javert, Liam Neeson as Valjean and Claire Danes as daughter Cosette. I rank this one right up there.

2000 A mini series of Les Mis from our French DVD collection which I have not seen. It features Gerard Depardieu and rather surprisingly John Malkovich as Javert. Surprising only in that until this post I did not now that Malkovich was fluent in French, having lived and worked there for nearly 10 years.

The musical version of Les Misérables opened at the Broadway Theater on March 12, 1987 and ran for 6680 performances, making it the third longest running show on Broadway. We have two versions of the musical—the 10th anniversary Concert at London's Royal Albert Hall and the 25th anniversary Concert. Experience the event of a lifetime with this spectacular 25th anniversary celebration of one of the most popular musicals ever written. Honoring 25 years of this incredible show, this momentous film captures the excitement of two magnificent sold-out performances that were watched live around the world. With a phenomenal all-star cast and a company of over 500 additional artists and musicians.

They are both excellent productions. The tenth features a wonderful tribute wherein all the Jean Valjeans from around the world march onto the stage singing in their native language.


Redux: Shootout at the OK Corral

- 0 Comment(s)

We have three versions of this very popular story. I actually like them all for different reasons.

First up is the wonderful 1946 black and white featuring Henry Fonda and Victor Mature as the consumptive Doc Holliday- My Darling Clementine.

Next is the 1993 offering Tombstone with a really solid list of A-stars of the time- Val Kilmer, Kurt Russell, Sam Elliot, Bill Paxton and Michael Biehn. I have always been a big Kurt Russell fan-in my opinion he almost always hits the right note in his roles and I think he is spot on in this. You'll love the moustaches- I haven't seen this much facial hair in a movie since Planet of the Apes.

For some reason, only one year later it was offered again with Kevin Costner in the lead role as Wyatt Earp. This one focuses more on the man and his relationships and is supposedly a little more historically accurate. As I said, I like them all.

We also have an A & E production in our non-fiction titled Cowboys and Outlaws, which claims to tell "the real story" of this and several other western legends.


by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

I am always on the lookout for a retelling of a a classic tale- especially one as powerful as Frankenstein. It has remained popular since 1931 when Boris Karloff first donned the giant shoes and neck bolts. And while I enjoy almost all of the offerings and their various interpretations, until now my fave has been the Kenneth Branagh version from 1994, with de Niro suiting up as the monster. However, this past weekend I stumbled across a version that I think is the most true to the original intent of Mary Shelly- the horror, not of the monster, but of science run amok. Of a creaure who is knowledgeable, wise and possessed of a conscience. And after being abadoned by his creator decides "if I cannot inspire love, I will inspire fear".

This is a mini series so it runs a little longer at 204 minutes, but I think you'll find it to be worth your time. Some great locations shots, some fine acting and a really nice Gothic feel to it. It also has what might be the best looking monster ever. Even though he still looks pretty awful---especially immediately pre and post creation! Now I don't think this is a case of miscasting nor an attempt to be campy---it just gave him a humanity that really works.

In addition to these three, CPL also has the Bride of Frankenstein from 1931, History Channels In Search of the Real Frankenstein, one with Robert Foxworth that may be fine but in all honesty I can't be bothered to watch as he strikes me as a little lightweight for the role, and of course the hilarious Young Frankenstein. There is also a boxed set which features 5 in 1- the original with Boris Karloff - The bride of- The House of- The Ghost of- the Son of........ you get the picture.

Redux- The Three Musketeers

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

The Three Musketeers novel by Alexandre Dumas was first serialized in March of 1844. It recounts the adventures of a young man named D’Artagnan after he travels to Paris to join the Musketeers of the Guard. The friends he makes are the musketeers for whom the novel is named- Athos, Porthos and Aramis. The book was incredibly popular at the time and has proved even more successful as a movie. The first film I could find was 1903 and since then there have been dozens of retellings, re-imaginings, sequels, prequels, serializations, mini series and cross-overs. Some of the ones I found include Tri Mushketyora from Russia, Los Tres Mosqueteros from Spain, El forsane el talata from Egypt, Se tofangdar from Iran and Long men san jian ke from Malaysia. Obviously a good story knows no borders

CPL has no less than 9 versions:

1)We have the 1921 silent with arguably one of the world’s greatest swashbucklers, Douglas Fairbanks. If you have never seen Fairbanks in action, don't let the non-talkie put you off. In fact embrace the lack of words and just enjoy his amazing athletic ability 2) the 1939 with Don Ameche and the Ritz Brothers;

3) 1948 with Lana Turner, Gene Kelly ,Vincent Price and June Allyson-not so much swashing here as dancing; 4) from BBC in 1966 with Jeremy Brett of Sherlock Holmes fame;

5) The 1974 release is likely one you are familiar with. This had a huge and impressive cast with the big names de jour including Oliver Reed, Raquel Welch, Richard Chamberlain, Michael York, Faye Dunaway, Christopher Lee and Charlton Heston. This one comes as a double and has the Four Musketeers sequel. These are great fun.

6) Another one likely on your radar is 1993’s release with young guns Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland, Chris O’Donnell, Oliver Platt and Tim Curry.

7) 2004 from Disney- with Mickey, Donald and Goofy--- what inspired casting!!

8) Barbie and the Three Musketeers- animated of course. 9) and I can barely bring myself to mention this one- it’s with the Three Stooges.

A good cross over is The Man in the Iron Mask which blends two stories by Dumas. In this 1997 release the 4 amigos are trying to save the wrongly imprisoned “man” from the evil clutches of Louis the 14th. The dual role is played by Leonardo DiCaprio, in one of the few things he’s done that I didn’t care for. But I enjoyed the older, wiser, and more careworn Musketeers as played by Jeremy Irons, Gabriel Byrne, John Malkovich and Gerard Deparedieu.

Now of course all things aren’t created equal so I leave you to pick and choose for yourself- my money is on Michael York (it made him a star), and Douglas Fairbanks. This brings me to the newest version in theatres now. I just saw this at a sneak preview and I have to say it is absurd, over the top, improbable and the most fun I have had at a movie in ages! Take the kids, take the grandparents----spend the extra bucks for the excellent 3D, suspend disbelief and just enjoy......

Redux-Jane Eyre---and also William Hurt

- 0 Comment(s)

Charlotte Bronte's gothic classic of love, madness and ultimate redemption. We have no less than 6 copies available at CPL. IMDB lists no less then 23 versions, so if brooding tortured souls are your thing you might want to see if you can get your hands on some of those more obscure offerings for comparison. Or just stick with our six as several of them are mini series and offer more than a watered down 90 minute retelling of the book. Coincidentially Mel did an ealier Redux post on Wuthering Heights, by sister Emily. CPL also has a non-fiction A&E dvd on The Bronte Sisters.

Our first movie goes all the way back to 1944 and features Orson Wells as the dark and enigmatic Edward Rochester and Joan Fontaine as his timid but loyal Jane.

An A&E Home Video from 1997 with Samantha Morton and Ciaran Hinds (you'll know him when you see him- he played Julius Caesar in the excellent series Rome, Season 1 and 2---give this one a look while you're at---it's quite addictive); BBC from 1973 with Sorcha Cusack and Michael Jayston; from BBC in 1983 we have Timothy Dalton and company; and because BBC really seems to like remaking this we have a 2006 offerring with Toby Stephens, Ruth Wilson, and Francesca Annis; there is also a studio release from 1996 with William Hurt, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Joan Plowright, Anna Paquin---along with Orson, this is a personal fave.

I have always thought William Hurt an excellent dramatic actor and although this started out as a Jane Eyre post, I think I'll wander over into some of Hurt's best and kill two birds with one stone. In the 80's he was well entrenched on the A-list, being one of those movie stars who could also act. A string of hits, an Oscar nod and win on his first nomination for Kiss of the Spider woman, two consequetive best actor nominations followed---for Children of a Lesser God and Broadcast News, and then --well,not so much. Although he has managed to stay busy,he never maintained or regained his earlier status and is typically just in supporting roles these days, never headlining. And that is too bad, because this guy knew how to command the screen. Along with the aforementioned, also check out the excellent Body Heat (featured in my earlier Gotcha post); stylish Russian thriller Gorky Park; perennial favourite The Big Chill; and popular writer Anne Tyler's The Accidental Tourist. We are missing one of his best- Altered States- the 1980 movie that put him on the map- try to find this one, it's worth it. Any of these movies show you how good this guy is and why I still go out of my way to see him.

So here you are- Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, William Hurt, Rome, the Brontes and Gotcha! Hours and hours and hours of viewing.


Charles Dickens-Redux

- 0 Comment(s)

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.

Redux-Sherlock Holmes

- 0 Comment(s)

Has there ever been a more redoubtable character than Holmes? According to the Holmes Museum website he has been played on screen more times than any other fictional character. Created just before the birth of cinema, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective has drawn moviegoers across the world and for nearly 100 years. . At CPL he turns up across all formats---dvd, bookcd, book, graphix novels, e-books---for every age (adult, YA and J)---and in several different languages. There are over 300 listings in all! Lets take a look at some of the best that CPL has to offer on dvd.

For me there is no one who personifies Holmes better than Jeremy Brett in the wonderful Granada Television productions. Brett played Holmes fourty times between 1984 and 1994. He is supported by Edward Hardwicke as an equally engaging Watson. Brett's performances show a great respect for the character he is playing, as well as for his audience. When he learned that his Sherlock Holmes was very popular with children he was troubled with the fact that Holmes was a cocaine user. Brett then sought and obtained permission from Arthur Conan Doyle's daughter to have Holmes overcome his addiction, signified with Holmes burying his syringe in the episode The Devil's Foot.

The new Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Junior, Jude Law (who appeared in a small role in one of the Granada productions) and Rachel McAdams is definitely worth a look, although you will have to wait awhile due to the high number of holds. This has a younger much more physical Holmes than we are used to but Downey plays it well. Strong plot, excellent CGI's for a dark and moody London and enough to likely bring you back for the planned sequel. Rumours abound that Brad Pitt will play arch nemesis Moriarity.

Now for the most original interpretation of Holmes---Without a Clue. In this retelling Watson is really the mastermind and Holmes is merely an actor hired to play the famous detective. This has some great laughs, played to perfection by one of our favourite Movie Maniacs regulars- Michael Caine---with Ben Kingsley as the long suffering Watson.

From funny to terrifying---this is a repeat of a recommendation by Mat from Oct 2008 (only the third thing we ever posted). It is the excellent Murder by Decree. Sherlock Holmes (Christopher Plummer), aided by his loyal Dr Watson (James Mason) investigates London's most infamous case, Jack the Ripper. Holmes and Watson uncover a rich conspiracy involving Freemason lore, corrupt officials and anti-monarchists. This multiple Genie Award winning film features fantastic camera work, strong performances and a wonderfully suspenseful atmosphere.

A few of the many other actors who have donned the deerstocker cap include John Barrymore (silent), Peter Cushing, Rupert Everett, Sir Ian Richardson, Johnathan Pryce, Charlton Heston, Basil Rathbone and Edward Woodward. And if anybody remembers Max Headroom from the 80's tv series, even Matt Frewer.

Redux Wuthering Heights

by Melanie Kolbeins - 0 Comment(s)

I'm popping into Moe's blog column to look at the many faces of Wuthering Heights on dvd. Each adaptation of Emily Bronte's novel has its own attractions, and we have five to compare here at the library. Is WH a story of eternal love or the annals of the world's most dysfunctional relationship? You tell me. Pick your favorite craggy Heathcliff and moorswept Catherine and away you go...

BBC Wuthering Heights CPL just introduced this 1967 version starring Ian McShane (Lovejoy, Deadwood). You'd be hard pressed to find a hairier Heathcliff.

Wuthering Heights starring Timothy Dalton (1970): This version is true to the novel and the setting is darkly appropriate. It emphasizes how the family dynamic leads to all the conflicts between the players.

Masterpiece Theatre's 1998 Wuthering Heights: Heathcliff is not a nice man in this tv version. The focus is his and Cathy's obsession with one another and the ensuing destruction they wreak around them--starring Orla Brady and Robert Cavanah. It's a compelling adapdation and my favorite of the ones listed here.

Wuthering Heights (1992) with Juliette Binoche and Ralph Fiennes. If you ask me, these two are just too nice looking for these roles, but they are fine actors.

Masterpiece Theatre strikes again with Tom Hardy and Charlotte Riley in Wuthering Heights (2008). This one will appeal to younger viewers, with younger actors, but it didn't sustain my interest.

You can't beat the cast in this 1939 version with Laurence Olivier, Merle Oberon and David Niven. However, it is not true to the novel's plot or feeling and is largely responsible for Wuthering Heights' dubious designation as a romance novel. It is not in our collection yet.

This could become the blog post that never ends...according to IMDB, two new versions are on their way. I'm still trying to find the tv version with the very affected blond Edgar Linton...anyone?



- 0 Comment(s)


brought back; resurgent:


There is an oft quoted statement that there are really only 7 basic plots for stories. Others have broken it down further and say there may be as many as twenty; quest, adventure, pursuit, rescue, escape, revenge, riddle, rivalry, underdog, temptation, metamorphosis, transformation, maturation, love, forbidden love, sacrifice, discovery, wretched excess, ascension, and decision. Whichever number you favour, there is no doubt that plots and stories get recycled---and if a story can get recycled then certainly a superior story can be told and retold.

Seldom has there been a story more frequently retold than Victor Hugo's 1862 Les Misérables ... I counted no less than 46 film and television adaptations going as far back as 1909. And being as popular as it is it should come as no surprise that there is currently a new adaptation in production for 2010, although at this time I couldn't find any further information.

We have four very good versions of Les Mis, so if you are interested in seeing what different actors and directors can bring to a role, compare the following.

1935 and 1952---this is one dvd that has two versions included. Side A is with the incomparable Charles Laughton as Javert and Frederick March as Jean Valjean. Side B is the Michael Rennie adaptation.

1978---Anthony Perkins of Pyscho fame as the relentless Javert and Richard Jordan as Valjean.

1998---Geoffrey Rush as Javert, Liam Neeson as Valjean and Claire Danes as daughter Cosette.

I recommend any of the above as stand alones but would also encourage you to try more than one. I hope to have more movies with mulitple choices for you in the future.

2000---is a mini series of Les Mis from our French DVD collection which I have not seen. It features Gerard Depardieu and rather surprisingly John Malkovich as Javert. Surprising only in that until this post I did not now that Malkovich was fluent in French, having lived and worked there for nearly 10 years.

The musical version of Les Misérables opened at the Broadway Theater on March 12, 1987 and ran for 6680 performances, making it the third longest running show on Broadway.