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Redux-Sherlock Holmes

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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.

Before He was House

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Familiarize yourself with Hugh Laurie! You may know him from his role on tv as House, the cantankerous, misfit doctor who diagnoses rare disorders. This series is now available at CPL. Click here to place a hold on season one. Before he was House...

He was a comedian:

My personal favorite is the adaptation of P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster series. Hugh plays the fool (Wooster) to his wise "gentleman's gentleman" (aka butler) Jeeves who gets his master out of all kinds of self-inflicted scrapes brought on by an excess of leisure-class free time. Jeeves is played by another great British Comedian,Stephen Fry. You will also enjoy Laurie's singing and piano in this series. He's and old fashioned, multi-talented actor and, if he dances (does anyone know?), a "triple threat."

Can't get enough of the Wodehouse duo? Check out A Bit of Fry and Laurie. If you reeally like him as a misfit, watch made for tv movie All or Nothing at all where he plays a con-man.

Fans of Blackadder will remember him in this popular historical comedy series starring Mr. Bean's Rowan Atkinson.

Before he was House, he was for kids!:

If you think Hugh's just for older folks, check out Stuart Little, where he plays the charming adopted father of a white mouse, along with Geena Davis. How about Discovering the Real world of Harry Potter with Hugh in the documentary of the same name?

He was in Costume Drama:

See him as Mr Palmer in Ang Lee's (1995) adaptation of Austen's Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant.

He was in Adventure: Flight of the Pheonix

Now that he's House, He's a writer, too!:

Check out his novel, The Gunseller

and, sadly, for some of you, he is also married.

Attention Hornblower fans

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It recently came to our attention that some of the dvds in the Horatio Hornblower series, based on the popular novels by C.S. Forester, have variant titles for the same show and the dvds are not numbered on the cases. You can find the episode titles on the backs of the dvd cases. If you wish to watch them in sequence, here's the order. Simply click on the title if you wish to place a hold:

1. The Duel (Even Chance)

2. The Fire Ships (Examination for the Lieutenant)

3. The Duchess and the Devil

4. The Wrong War (Frogs and Lobsters)

5. Mutiny

6. Retribution

7. Loyalty

8. Duty

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True Confessions

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It's time to 'fess up and admit that lately I have not been watching a breadth and depth of quality feature length-films to review for you. I have been lured into watching the complete tv series Prison Break available on dvd at CPL.

Plot summary: Think 24 meets The Dirty Dozen. Brothers Lincoln and Michael are estranged due to Lincoln' poor life choices. He's framed for the murder of a politician but Michael knows his brother is innocent. To break Lincoln out of jail, Michael plans to be put in jail first. Other inmates find out and become part of the escape plan. If you like this kind of adventure, see Moe's "Great Escapes" blog post.

There are several reasons why watching Prison Break for weeks was not a good idea. One is that some of the acting is of dubious quality (a lot of frowning and looking serious). Another is the implausibility of many of the situations that the characters find themselves in and out of. When sleep-deprived and surrounded on rough terrain by police with dogs and helicopters, they escape without so much as being grazed by a bullet. The main character tatoos his escape plan onto his body which includes the use of his mother's first name (um...in case he forgot it?). There a lot of this and discussing it is as fun as watching the series. Prison Break is also a continuity-error spotter's dream.

Here's what kept me watching: It's action packed. Lincoln and Michael can't even finish a meal without some new plot twist, usually involving either the law or the evil Company descending upon them. Some of the acting is great. Wade Williams plays Bellick the big lug of a prison Guard perfectly, and Robert Knepper is sinister yet witty as the psychopath Theodore "T-bag" Bagwell. There's all the gripping features I expect in a thriller--betrayals, thwarted love, chase scenes, conspiracy, corrupt corporations, and what drives the show is what drives all of us...the desire just to get home at the end of the day (to watch dvds, presumably).

There are only four seasons, with relatively few holds. Go on...you know you want to...

Kenneth Branagh

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Actually, this post began it's life as something else entirely--- it was going to be an accidential film festival, linking several actors across a variety of movies. But when I got going on Kenneth Branagh I realized he needed an entire post to himself. I have always been a big fan---after all, what's not to like? The man is versatile in the extreme, managing everything from Shakespeare to Harry Potter, hero to villian---convincing as any nationality, dashing in period pieces and showing a deft hand at light comedy. He can also swashbuckle with the best of them! Let's take a look at what CPL can offer established or soon-to-be Branagh fans.

In the made for television movie Conspiracy from 2001, I simply could not tear my eyes away from his performance -- he commands attention every moment he is on screen. He is terrifyingly evil, not because he is frenzied but because he is controlling and relentless. Here is an actor at the top of his craft. The movie is the historic retelling of the infamous 1942 Wannsee Conference, where in just under three hours the Nazi's worked out the 'legal' justification for the annihilation of Europe's Jews.

Equally comfortable behind the camera, he has donned the director's cap many times---as in the first film I ever saw him in. It is 1991's Dead Again with then wife Emma Thompson and Sir Derek Jacobi. Actually all three actors rank high on the versatility meter. Branagh credits Jacobi as the reason he wanted to get into acting in the first place and the two have appeared several times together (see Mel's earlier post "Are you a Derek Jacob-ian"). This is a very smart 'whodunit' with a lot of Hitchcock overtones.

Valkyrie--- from 2008, Branagh is one of many highly recognizable stars in this true story of the attempt by several high ranking Nazi's to assasinate Hitler. Tom Cruise is actually the headliner in this and while he can often be over the top in some of his roles, he gives a very tightly controlled performance here. Branagh is as always, excellent. Rounding out the cast is Bill Nighy (even if you don't recognize the name, you will know him when you see him---lately he seems to be in everything); and Tom Wilkinson---another face you will easily recognize.

Shackleton- 2002 A&E mini-series. The true story of British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and his 1914 expedition to the South Pole. Their aptly named ship,The Endurance, became stuck in pack ice and after 8 months was finally crushed. Shackleton took to the ice and led the 28 men crew across the Antarctic in what is one of the most amazing true tales of survival ever. This production is excellent, and the mini series was nominated for many awards and won a BAFTA for Best Drama Serial.

He is wonderful as the vacuous and vain Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Based on the very popular mysteries by best selling Swedish author Henning Mankell, we have a 3 episode set featuring Branagh as Detective Kurt Wallander.

Try any of the Shakespeare productions he adapts, directs and appears in, including: Loves Labours Lost; Othello; As You like It; Hamlet; Much Ado About Nothing;Twelfth Night. Half the fun of these offerings is seeing Branagh direct what would be considered unusual choices for Shakesperean roles- Keeanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, and Denzel Washington anyone? This is very accessible Shakespeare.

He has a small role in Rabbit Proof Fence, a movie I previously recommended under Guaranteed Embarrassement Free 5. Find it by going to tags on the left side of the page and looking up 'family oriented'.

Accidental Film Festival

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Many years ago, a couple of friends introduced me to the pop culture game "Six degrees of Kevin Bacon," a pun on the movie title "Six degrees of Separation." The goal of the game is to link several movies via the characters who appear in each, eventually leading to actor Kevin Bacon. It's not very easy.

Still, have you noticed that sometimes when you get home and start watching your dvd choices that you have inadvertently done the same, having a sort of so-and-so film festival that weekend in your own home? The possibilities are endless with CPL's dvd collection. You could purposely pick out connected dvds or let the coincidences appear on their own, as in last weekend's choices from the 1970s:

Columbo season 1: Eddie Albert appears as a murderous military official whose crime is witnessed by a ditzy artist(Suzanne Pleshette). In another episode, Ray Milland plays a husband whose wife is murdered by the private investigator he had hired to follow her. After Columbo, we watched the original Disney film adaptation of Alexander Key's children's novel, Escape to Witch Mountain, and who should appear before us but Eddie Albert, as the kindly lonely RV-er who helps Tony and Tia elude a wealthy villian bent on harnessing the children's psychic powers, played by, you guessed it... Ray Milland.

Just don't ask me to link these to Kevin Bacon...wait a minute Ray Milland was in Dial M for Murder with Grace Kelly who was in...

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Black Books in Our Good Books

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If you are a fan of British comedy as the movie maniacs are, you'll love the short television series Black Books.

Dylan Moran, who often appears on Montreal's Just for Laughs' stage, plays "shambolic" bookstore owner Bernard Black, whose business is declining without staff to help him out of the mess of his life.

Tamsin Grieg plays Fran, the hapless shopkeeper next door. Brit comedy regular Bill Bailey plays Manny, a sort of Igor to Moran's Bernard. Hilarious episodes include one involving a Frankenstein parody and Papal wine and another involving Manny in photoshoot for "Big and Beardy" magazine, sending up Midnight Cowboy in the process.

Faulty Towers' customer service is 5-star compared to Black Books'. Bernard's drunken ranting and nihilism make Black Books essential viewing for retail workers...don't, just don't, follow suit.

Black Books is a 3-cd set with only a few episodes each, so it's a quick run, the first and second seasons being the strongest.

Guaranteed Embarrassment Free 7

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Guaranteed Embarrassment Free 7

This post has proved consistently popular, so here is another round of movies for everyone--- grab the kids, the grandparents, and everyone in between and check out some of these for freedom from bad language, inappropriate sexual content and otherwise embarrassing moments. Want to see what else has been recommended in this category? Click on the family oriented tag on the left and the six previous posts will come up.

The Witches - 1990. Based on the popular Raold Dahl story and featuring Angelica Houston, this might be a little intense for the under 8 crowd, as the witches are really quite scary. Especially in the big 'reveal' scene towards the end. But all-in-all a very good retelling of a good story.

Peter Pan- Three to recommend here. Of course we all know the original 1953 animated Disney version which still holds up well.

But also try Hook from 1991, with Dustin Hoffman trying his hand as the nefarious Captain, playing opposite a grown up Peter, as portrayed by Robin Williams. Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell rounds out this all-star cast.

And last, but in my opinion the best of the three, is the 2003 Peter Pan; with Jason Issacs (Lucias Malfoy from the Harry Potter series) as a very menacing Hook. The actions scenes in this are especially good. As is the crocodile.

Enchanted - 2007. A twist on the classic fairy tale, Princess Giselle is sent to modern day New York by an evil witch, and must arise to the challenges she encounters. This one is a lot of fun with some wonderfully catchy tunes.

Brother Bear - 2003. A young Inuit hunter seeking revenge against a bear, is magically changed into a bear. A classic ' walk a mile in my shoes' story, this movie will really appeal to the younger crowd. Nice message, nice animation, overall a nice look to this movie.

Anne of Green Gables I'm sure no one needs too much of a synopsis for this classic Canadian coming of age tale set on Prince Edward Island. This mini-series was made for television in the 80's and has several sequels, all equally engaging, all available at CPL. It is worth revisiting if you haven't seen it in awhile, and is definetely worth introducing your children to.

To boldy go...

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Just in case you aren't in the habit of regularly searching our catalogue to see what's new, this is to let you know that CPL now has the entire Star Trek collection. This includes Star Trek: the Original Series (1966-69), The Next Generation (1987-94), Deep Space Nine (1993-99), Voyager (1995-2001), and Enterprise (2001-2005). We also have all 10 of the feature length films that have been released to date---being Star Trek the Motion Picture (79), Wrath of Khan (82), The Search for Spock (84), The Voyage Home (86), The Final Frontier (89), The Undiscovered Country (91), Generations (94), First Contact (96), Insurrection (98), and Nemesis (2002).

If you are a die hard fan you may be eager to rewatch them all, although to do so you will have to set aside an astonishing 716 hours for just the series (by my calcualations this Trekkie has logged 1.3 years of her life watching Trek!!). If you are new to the whole Star Trek phenom due to the recent theatrical release, I'd suggest any of TOS (the Original series), TNG (The Next generation) and Voyager. For the feature length films go with Wrath of Khan, Search for Spock, First Contact (how I love to hate those Borgs! ) and Nemesis.

Star Trek is one of the most successful franchises ever, and is a multi billion dollar industry. In addition to the various series running from 1966 to 2005, and movie productions from 1979 up, there are also books, games, comics, cartoons, fan clubs, conventions and websites galore. In May of this year the latest movie was released (actually a prequel)- one of its tag lines is 'this is not your father's Star Trek'. They hoped it would appeal not just to its old fan base, but to a new generation, and it has done a great job. It has proved the most financially successful Star Trek release to date, and will bring in a gazillion more once the movie hits DVD (date unknown at the time of this post). There are two more sequels planned with this new cast and as someone who cut her teeth on the franchise, I can't wait! Keep an eye on the catalogue so you can get your hold placed for this one- the demand will be out of this world!!

BY MOE

Planet Earth

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I almost broke my thesaurus trying to find enough superlatives to describe this remarkable BBC series. Four years in the making, and with a budget in excess of 16 million pounds, this epic series spans 204 locations in 62 countries on all 7 continents. No mountain was too high, no location too remote, no insect or animal too obscure for this award winning production. Filmed in HD, each episode runs about 50 minutes and at the end is another 10 minutes showing how they got the footage. Normally I eschew bonus material as I would rather just 'stay in the moment', but I found here that it only added to the impact of what I had just viewed. They captured species, locations and animal behaviour never before put on film. Watch them in any order, just watch them all. Planet Earth as you have never seen it. One last superlative---stunning!!!

Episode 1: From Pole to Pole


Episode 2: Mountains


Episode 3: Fresh Water


Episode 4: Caves


Episode 5: Deserts


Episode 6: Ice Worlds


Episode 7: Great Plains


Episode 8: Jungles


Episode 9: Shallow Seas


Episode 10: Seasonal Forests


Episode 11: Ocean Deep

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