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A Hitchcock blonde and the rise of the Vietnamese nail salons

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Depending on your age you may or may not know who Tippi Hedren is. I used to think she was famous for two things- one, for being the mother of Melanie Griffith (which would have meant more back in the early 90's when Mel was the blonde du jour), but mostly for being the star of one of Alfred Hitchcock's best thrillers ---The Birds.

Turns out she is famous for a third thing. Back in the 70's Miss Hedren made a visit to a tent city in California that housed Vietnamese refugees. She was eager to see if she could improve their lives in anyway. She went decked out in full Hollywood couture, including scarlet fingernails. As the story goes, the women had never seen anything like this and were quite captivated, so the star brought in her own manicurist to give them the full treatment. Turns out though that they didn't want the manicure, they wanted to learn the technique.

What started out as a group of 20 women trained by Hedren's personal manicurist ended up a full-on going concern. These women were soon joined by another wave- the Vietnamese 'boat people' who risked life and limb fleeing in boats after the fall of Saigon in 1975. They trained more women who trained their relatives, who trained their relatives and so on and so on. No other group of immigrants have transformed a single industry as radically as the Vietnamese boat people did with nail salons. Thirty years after the start of Vietnamese-run parlours, the pioneering wave of boat people have all but dried up. More often new recruits are no longer Vietnamese---they are now Eastern Euorpean refugees fleeing their own impoverished countries. So if it seems like there is a Vietnamese nail salon on nearly every corner, you are not far from wrong, and it all started with Tippi Hedren.

Now, back to Hitchcock and his cadre of blondes, of which he was very fond. It is rumored that he was in love with the beautiful Grace Kelly, but as we know, she married a real life prince. So check out Grace Kelly (Rear Window and Dial M for Murder), Janet Leigh (Pyscho), Ingrid Bergman (Suspicion and Spellbound), Doris Day (The Man Who Knew too much) and Joan Fontaine (Rebecca). CPL has all of these titles and they all rank high as movies worth seeing. In fact, it would be no exaggeration to say that I have seen Rear Window and Dial M at least 20 times---each. I LOVE these two movies.

by MOE

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.

Film Festival In-a-Box

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When I wrote the post for Space Time Continuum I recommended a Science Fiction collection put together by Turner Classic Movies. They feature four movies each and CPL has several other of these thematic based sets. There's lots of good viewing here, with the Murder Mysteries, Sci Fi and Horror compilations being particularly strong. So if you aren't watching the Olympics, or just need a bit of a break from all that reality, grab one of these and away you go.

Sc Fi: Soylent Green, Forbidden Planet, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Time Machine

Horror: House of Wax, The Haunting, Freaks, Dr. Jeckll and Mr. Hyde

Murder Mysteries: Maltese Falcon, Big Sleep, Dial M for Murder, Postman Always Rings Twice

Best Picture: Casablanca, Mrs. Miniver, Gigi, American in Paris

Wsterns: Wild Bunch, McCabe and Mrs Miller, Jeremiah Johnson, Train Robbers

Broadway Musicals: Show Boat, Annie Get Your Gun, Kiss me Kate, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

American Musicals: Band Wagon, Meet me in St. Louis, Singin' in the Rain,Easter Parade

Halloween at CPL

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We have featured scary movies several times over the past year. To find previous recommendations go to the left side of the screen and check out ARCHIVES. There you will find our first Halloween post under October 2008. In February 2009 we reviewed Stephen King; check out May of 2009 which had Dare You to Watch Alone as well as a Hitchcock homage.

A couple of new titles worth a look-see are Joshua with Sam Rockwell. This one is genuinely creepy and I watched it with the lights on. An oldie but goodie is the intelligent look at the nature of evil---The Picture of Dorian Gray. Although it wasn't able to maintain the same high quality throughout its entire run, the first 3 years of The X Files had some truly terrifying offerings.There are cheesy scares with two classics from Vincent Price in The House on Haunted Hill and the Pitt and the Pendulum; and a wonderful story, again with Price, and Johnny Depp in Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands. And one that should be on everybodies must see list is our teen fright night offering of The Haunting.

Just arriving on our shelves at the moment is a wonderful ghost story from Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy). This fim has a great look and is genuinely scary and yet also tragic. My usual approach to scary parts is to watch through my fingers but this made it impossible to read the sub-titles in this Spanish film, so I had to watch! This is my kind of scary story- no blood, no guts, no chain saw wielding in-bred maniacs. Just a tightly developing plot, characters you sympathize with and moment building upon moment until---well, you have to peek through your fingers! Check out El Orfanato---The Orphanage.

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Teen Fright Night at CPL

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As a special event for Halloween, 6 locations are hosting a teen movie night (13-17) with the truly terrifying movie The Haunting. This is the 1963 version, not the appallingly bad 1999 remake. For those teens used to modern horror movies filled with blood and gore and leaving nothing to the imagination, this movie should be a real treat. As horror writer extrordinaire Stephen King has said, you don't necessarily need to describe or show everything...just put the suggestion out there and most people's imaginations can conjur up something much more horrifying. He also said about the writer of this story, Shirley Jackson, "she never had to shout". This is how this movie works. Subtle, dark and with an atmosphere positively dripping with possiblities---all of them awful! What fun !

This movie will be available to the general public after the event, so get your holds on now. Or read the original book---The Haunting of Hill House. Just don't start it too late at night.

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Dare you to watch alone

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Judging from the number of hits on the Stephen King post it would appear that horror movies are a very popular genre with CPL viewers-and I couldn't agree more-there's nothing like having your socks scared off!! I'm not talking slasher fliks (of which there is no shortage)---you know the type---mad as a hatter backwoodsmen who mame and torture their way through 90minutes. I'm talking well crafted, intense stories that build to a nail biting finale (okay, and maybe just a little bit of blood and guts). If you aren't normally a fan don't be too eager to dismiss horror movies as cheesy. These selections represent hundreds of nominatons from Oscar, BAFTA, Golden Globes etc and many, many wins . I've pulled these movies from several genres-ScFi, fantasy and horror but they all have one thing in commom-they are scary. Some are good old fashioned fun scary, while some fall under the truly terrifying. So lock the doors, pull down the blinds, grap someone to hang onto, or watch alone if you dare.

Pan's Labyrinth---2006. Perhaps this movie is best understood as a metaphor for facist Spain of 1944. It is dark and disturbing, yet also compelling and beautiful. It also has one of the more truly terrifying chase scenes I've ever seen.

Psycho---Hitchcock. Need I say more?

Alien Quadrilogy ---1 is great, and 2 is tremendous, 3's not bad and 4 starts out strong and ends an absolute mess. When first released Alien had the tagline "in space no one can hear you scream"---and I was hooked. A kick butt heroine, a truly malignant alien, and enough special effects to satisfy even the most jaded. If you like them and also liked the Predator series check out AVP (Alien versus Predator). It's actually surprisingly good. Avoid AVP 2.

Rosemary's Baby-the ultimate in horror movies---at the end of it all you'll be amazed at how scared you were and how little you really saw. A deft hand by director Roman Polanski and inspired casting including Mia Farrow as the fey Rosemary, make this among the best.

Invasion of the body snatchers- we just received the 1978 version starring Donald Sutherland and Leonard Nimoy and the 1956 Kevin McCarthy versionis on order. They are both well done, with the earlier one being a little more atmospheric (black and white) and the 78 being a little more graphic. Great endings in both, with the 78 being really freaky.

Sixth sense---one of those quiet little movies that came out of nowhere and grabbed everyone by the throat. By M Night Shaymalan who also brought us "Signs" (also worth a look).

I am Legend---this is the 2007 remake of a 1971 remake (Omega Man with Charlton Heston) of a 1964 remake (Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price) of an original 1954 story by master horror writer Richard Matheson. Phew! Matheson is considered very influential in developing the modern vampire/zombie genre and among his many fans are writer Stephen King and producer/director George Romero. This Will Smith version is good, creepy fun.The scene in which he is searching for his dog in an abandoned building is particularly well done. You'll never look at Rover in quite the same way again.

Movies we dont have but you should see if you like being scared. Not for the faint of heart!!

Blair Witch Project

Descent

Ringu

And should you find yourself in a potentially horrifying situation, remember these two cardinal rules:

1) never dig anything up "just to make sure it's really dead''

2) never let anyone tell you "let's split up and check this out"-especially if you're a teenager

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Stephen King on Film

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Thought I'd take a look at Stephen King and steer you to some of his better film adaptations. The prolific Mr. King (over 70 titles and still counting) has had more than 20 films made of his novels, short stories and novellas, (6 more currently in production or post production) with varying degrees of success. There are several reasons for this, but I think mostly it is because his characters are well thought out, interpersonal relationships are strong and his plots are rich and well developed---and they need more than a 90 minute 'blood and gut fest' to do them justice. King himself prefers to have his books done as mini-series and doesn't always feel he has been served well. But don't feel too bad for King. He has been known to sell the screen rights for $1.00 on the understanding that he gets a % of the box office returns. By his own reckoning he estimates that he made over $20 million on The Green Mile alone. And that's not counting the book sales! He appears in the Guiness Book of Records for 'the highest number of motion picture adaptations by a living author', has been translated into 35 languages and has sold an estimated 350 million books. I prefer King in print, but following are the movies that in my mind work, and work well....and if you thought King only wrote horror, you may be surprised by a couple of the titles.

Green Mile

Starring Tom Hanks and James Cromwell, this tells the story of inmates awaiting execution on death row in the 1930's. Prison Guard Paul Edgecombe (Hanks) tries to provide a little dignity to their final days, and in the cases of the more deviant, keep things from progressing to anarchy. A giant of a man awaiting execution for the brutal slaying of two little girls falls under Edgecombe's care. But it soon becomes apparent that all is not as it seems.

Kathy Bates is romance writer Paul Sheldon's (James Caan) "#1 fan" and is willing to do anything to prove it. He will do anything to escape her unwanted attentions. With most of the film revolving around just the two actors, this is delightfully tense. Bates won the 1991 Oscar for Best Actress for her performance. It was well deserved- she is utterly chilling. Misery.

Shawshank Redemption

Stephen King you say? Absolutely. Based on an early novella, this is another one that attracted a lot of nominations, including one for Best Picture (losing to Forrest Gump). Another prison scenario, this time we see life through the eyes of the inmates rather than the guards. Over the course of decades of incarceration in a Louisiana prison, Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman forge a bond of true friendship.

Salem's Lot

This is a made for t.v series from 2004. Starring Rob Lowe (pre West Wing) as a man determined to overcome the memories that have plagued him since the day he entered a haunted house as a child. Now an adult, he returns to his hometown, where much more is going on than just bad memories. This is not your good looking, dreamy, steamy Twilight vampire- this is a blood-sucking, soul-destroying ancient evil.

Although we don't carry the following titles, here are four more of my favorites that are definitely worth a look: From 1980 The Shining with Jack Nicholson---doing what Jack does best---being equal parts manic, frightening and charismatic. 1995's Dolores Claiborne, again with Kathy Bates. From 1983 The Dead Zone, with the always bizarre Christopher Walken and the quintessential coming-of-age story, Stand My Me. You might also try the following books which are about Stephen King rather than by him.

Stephen King goes to Hollywood

Science of Stephen King:

The Complete Stephen King Universe.

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Frights and Chills at CPL

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Are you in need of a good scare this Halloween? Check out these titles available at your local CPL branch.

The Host-Directed by Joon-ho Bong [South Korea, 2006]

From the murky depths of Seoul's Han River a creature emerges to feast on the locals. This spine tingling feature follows the lives of a dysfunctional family as they attempt to band together in the chaos. The Host is well blended mix of horror, comedy, adventure and political commentary.


Murder by Decree - Directed by Bob Clark [Canada, 1978]

Sherlock Holmes (Christoper Plummer) aided by his loyal Dr Watson (James Mason) investigate 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.

Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte - Directed by Robert Aldrich [USA, 1965]

A Southern belle is driven insane over the murder of her married lover, 37 years after his death. Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Joseph Cotten and Agnes Moorehead star in this captivating Gothic Thriller.
Here are some more Halloween worthy titles available through your local CPL branch: - Corpse Bride- Directed by Tim Burton [USA, 2005] - Dracula - Directed by Francis Ford Coppola [USA, 1992]
- Edward Scissorhands - Directed by Tim Burton [USA, 1990] - Gin gwai 10 (Eye 10) - Directed by Danny Pang [Hong Kong, 2005] - Misery- Directed by Rob Reiner [USA, 1990] - Poltergeist- Directed by Tobe Hooper [USA, 1982] - Psycho- Directed by Alfred Hitchcock [USA, 1960] - Rosemary's Baby - Directed by Roman Polanski [USA, 1968] Happy Halloween!
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