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So long Roger Ebert

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

The great film critic Roger Ebert died last week at the age of 70. With 50 plus years in the business he will be a tough act to replace—if in fact he can be. First and foremost a newspaperman, he is the only film critic to have received a Pulitzer Prize. Syndicated in more than 200 newspapers, with over 20 books to his credit and tens of thousands of reviews, the man "spent much of his time sitting through bad movies, so we didn't have to."

He was not a fan of top 10 lists, preferring instead to compile "best of the year." You can see the logic in this—it does not pigeon-hole you into a specific list that leaves no room for revisions. He did say his favourite actor was Robert Mitchum and actress was Ingrid Bergman. You can find the complete list on line, but here are his choices for best of the year from 2000-2012:

2000- Almost Famous: 2001- Monsters Ball: 2002- Minority Report: 2003- Monster: 2004- Million Dollar Baby: 2005- Crash: 2006- Pan's Labyrinth:

2007- Juno: 2008- Synecdoche, New York: 2009- The Hurt Locker: 2010- The Social Network: 2011- A Separation: 2012- Argo. We have all but one of these available.

Tom Cruise is Crazy!

by Trevor - 0 Comment(s)

I was watching the special features of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol this weekend and holy heck…Tom Cruise is crazy! I don’t mean crazy in the way most people meant after his Oprah couch jumping incident. I mean the hanging from a skyscraper hundreds of stories in the air crazy! He actually runs down the side of a skyscraper! A lot of actors pride themselves on doing their own stunts but Tommy turns the notch up to 11. Regardless of what you think of the star and his personal life, you have to give him credit for his insane stunts. Here are a few of his better, and sometimes crazier, action films.

Mission Impossibles – All of the films in this franchise are “non-stop thrill rides” (a favorite cliché quote of mine and one that appears on an alarming amount of DVD covers). I recommend watching or re-watching the two most recent as they’re undeniably the best. Though Mission Impossibles 1 and 2 are suitable action fare, number 3 and 4 (Ghost Protocol) are the epitome of modern action films and are sure to keep you on the edge of your seat!

Minority Report – As you’ll come to know about me, I’m a sucker for sci-fi. Great sci-fi flicks like this one are even better. Using psychic prediction to stop all crimes before they happen? What could go wrong there? Jet packs, futuristic guns, and plot twists galore? Sign me up!

Knight and Day – While not the most original of films, Knight and Day is a more than satisfactory romantic action adventure. Tom does his usual super spy thing including some impressive motorcycle scenes.

Collateral – I read that Tom trained extensively with a military instructor so he could fire his gun like a highly efficient cold blooded killer. His cold blood certainly comes through as his villainous take on a hitman is one of his most interesting roles. He doesn’t often play a bad guy but has my vote to do so more often.


Though it’s not going to be out until April, I’m already getting excited for Cruise’s next film, Oblivion. Here’s hoping he can strike sci-fi gold again and do justice to the impressive trailer. I’ve no doubt that Tom will once again be sending his stunt doubles out on coffee runs while he jumps off cliffs and crashes cars.

Benedict Cumberbatch

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

Benedict Cumberbatch is popping us everywhere these days. He is currently Sherlock in the very modern retelling of Holmes solving crimes in 21st century London. This is a popular series and we have blogged it more than once.

He is the voice of Smaug and The Necromancer in Peter Jackson's latest- The Hobbit. (Sherlock's sidekick John Watson is played by Martin Freeman, who plays Bilbo in The Hobbit). He is to be the next heavy in the new Star Trek. He had smaller roles in The War Horse, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy earlier this year. He's been in Atonement, The Whistleblower, The Other Boleyn Girl. With the exception of TTSSPY, I enjoyed everyone of these movies. He is a fine dramatic actor.

I quite liked The Last Enemy, a 2008 BBC mini series, which first aired on 'Masterpiece Contemporary'. He plays a disaffected researcher who returns from abroad after the death of his brother, only to find an England he barely recognizes. A government bent on controlling its citizens at all costs, information gathering technology run amok, and a deadly plague. What more can you ask for in a thriller?

And speaking of The Hobbit, I saw it opening night — in glorious Imax, 3D, 48 frames per second. I am a rabid LOTR 's fan and was happy to return to Middle Earth with Peter Jackson at the helm- a few minor complaints such as it was a lot darker than I was expecting for the more light hearted Hobbit, but then that's P Jackson isn't it. Let me say this. While I enjoyed it very much, I do not feel compelled to rush right back to the theatre to see it again like I did with the other three LOTR installments.

Peter Jackson

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

The world premiere of The Hobbit took place in Wellington New Zealand last night. The capital city spent over one million dollars to host the event, with fans lining up in costumes days ahead. As to the movie itself there's not really much that I can write about The Hobbit that you won't be able to read elsewhere. It's either on your radar or it's not. So let's take a look instead at Peter Jackson. He's actually been at this awhile, although most people only started hearing about him with his epic achievement of bringing the Lord of the Rings trilogy to the big screen.

Also in his filmography is Heavenly Creatures, a truly bizarre film of a bizarre event that took place in the 50's in New Zealand. Two teen girls become so obsessed with the fantasy world they have created that it leads to a real world murder. Want more bizarre? One of the girls grows up to become international best selling mystery author, Anne Perry. I kid you not!

District 9- another bizarre movie- this one's about Aliens forced to live in detention centres on earth. ET as the protagonist and mankind as the heavy.

Lovely Bones- Peter Jackson's attempt to bring the very popular Alice Sebold novel to the big screen. Wasn't my cup of tea, but then neither was the book.

King Kong- now this one I did like. Over the top, excessive and just a huge amount of fun. I'm a sucker for the big ape, and have seen him in all his incarnations.

And of course the Lord of the Rings trilogy: Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and Return of the King.

CPL also carries a biography, fetchingly titled Peter Jackson: from Prince of Splatter to Lord of the Rings.

Is The Hobbit on my radar? You better believe it. This time last year we were on a touring holiday of NZ when we stumbled upon a Hobbit set. We got a pretty good look-albeit from quite a distance-before we got chased away by security. Can't wait to look for it in the film.

No Air Conditioner on this Train!

by Melanie - 1 Comment(s)

You might want to revisit this classic as a sort of antidote to Mad Men. Originally, scenes were cut from A Streetcar Named Desire due to censorship but Elia Kazan's full director's cut starring Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh is available at the library. There is a great production on Broadway now starring Blair Underwood as Stanley Kowalski. Now that I've lured you in with the good looks, here's a dose of reality...

In spite of all the parodies and over-quoted lines ("Stella!," "...the kindess of strangers") Streetcar is still a relevant and shocking stage play. Older sister Blanche is traumatized and manipulative, turning to an extreme femininity and aristocratic airs to make her way through life. On the other extreme, her sister's husband Stanley performs a stereotype of angry working-class masculinity. Blanche's sister, Stanley's wife, is caught between her duty to Blanche and her desire for Stanley, making the uncensored play not just about madness, as was often argued, but about dependence and the connection between restrictive gender roles and violence.

 

The Summer of Lars von Trier

by Melanie - 1 Comment(s)

Okay. Most people are barbeque-ing and whatnot in summertime. We seem to be watching a spate of movies by Lars von Trier, which is what we Movie Maniacs do.

In Five Obstructions, Lars makes another director re-do his original late 1960s experimental film but under a strict set of guidelines and then makes a terrifc documentary of the process.

I think Mat has already reviewed Dancer in the Dark starring Icelandic pop star Bjork. The soundtrack was very popular and a melodic departure from Bjork's earlier disco hits and Sugar Cubes work. She plays a young blind woman whose friendship with a local couple ends in tragedy.

Looking for a thriller? How about Lars' police vs. serial killer drama The Element of Crime? This is considered to part of trilogy that includes Europa, a thriller set in post-war Germany, and Epidemic, not in our collection at this time.

We're on the waiting list for Melancholia starring Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg as women threatened with planetary annihilation AND wedding planning! It sounds funny, but isn't.

Nicole Kidman stars in Dogville but that doesn't mean you should confuse Lars von Trier with Baz Luhrmann; for one thing, Lars is Danish. For another, this film is very creepy. A woman on the run is sheltered by a rural American community in the 1930s. Our male protagist is a driven young writer who never writes. These must be nice folks, taking in a stranger, right? For fans of theatre, the set is a stage with chalk outlines of buildings in the small town. The film is narrated "Sunshine Sketches/Wobegon" style.

The Boss of it All is a charming comedy that features a hapless everyman hired to fire everyone in a corporation so the real big boss doesn't have to. Fans of comedy series The Office will appreciate this one. In Danish with subtitles.

Johnny D & John C

by Moe - 1 Comment(s)

Whenever I think 'quirky', two actors come to mind. One is Johnny Depp and the other is John Cusack. Both have been around for a lot of years, both are highly versatile and both can be counted on to give solid performances---especially in very offbeat films. It's interesting to see that both also have new releases in the theatres at the moment. The Raven is loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe's poem of the same name and features Cusask. Dark Shadows is a re-imagining of the 1966 TV cult classic and features Depp as an imprisoned vampire, Barnabas Collins. Truth be told, I will give both of these a pass until they come out on DVD, but we have lots of other Depp and Cusack titles that showcase their talents.

Forget the mainstream Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, we've all seen and enjoyed them, and try these from Depp: Edward Scissorhands, Rango, Don Juan DeMarco, Benny and Joon and the wonderful and truly strange Ed Wood. We also have the original tv series that launched his career and made him the heartthrob of most North American teens---21 Jump Street. I recently watched The Rum Diary and although not a great film it did qualify as mildly quirky, is well acted, and had more than enough to keep me with it.

Cusack has never really been main stream, or at least not since his days as a member of the brat pack in the 80's. Try him out in what is likely one of the most bizarre movies ever---Being John Malcovich. Also Grosse Pointe Blank and the same roll reprised in War Inc ---written by Cusack---and yes that is him doing his own stunts-he has a black belt in kick boxing.

Now to end this post, let me say that the two Johns have in their filmography to my mind several VERY scary movies. 1408 with Cusack just scares the milk and cookies out of me every time I watch it- and I can't stop watching it. And Depp is often at his best when he plays the 'in over his head' protagonist like in Sleepy Hollow. Also, From Hell (a Jack the Ripper retelling-very bloody and dark) and Secret Window.

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.

Northern Skies

- 0 Comment(s)

While Moe's away in the warmer Antipodes, I'm stuck here in the frozen North!

However, her old Kenneth Branagh post reminded me of a consolation, and it is a prize: I get to watch Wallander, based on Henning Mankell's mystery novels while she's away, and write about it, too!

Wallander features an all-British cast, but is set and filmed in Sweden. The cinematography almost takes centre-stage. There's incredible shots of modern interiors, canola and wheat fields, the seaside and sweeping views of the countryside. Emily Barker's "Nostalgia" is the haunting themesong to this series of longer featurettes.

As for Branagh...I really enjoyed his Henry V, but I wondered if he was all energy in later roles. As Wallander, he's completely different and is really impressing me. Branagh plays the growth of beard-ed, sleep-deprived, haunted, sad, and morally driven character to perfection. Wallander's struggle with his personal relations while working on unusual murder cases plays out in a subtle, atypical way that points to Mankell's great plots.

So far we have 2 dvds with 3 novel-based features from 2008 and 2010 (click on the dates to go to the catalogue), and there's more in production. Hooray!

I'm thoroughly enjoying this brooding, cool northern series. So there!

by Mel

A Hitchcock blonde and the rise of the Vietnamese nail salons

- 3 Comment(s)

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

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