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  • Jul 28 - The 66th Annual Emmys - Need to catch up on any of the nominees? We've got you covered!
  • Jul 19 - Borgen - "Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception.” Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince
  • Jul 11 - Monuments Men - If you missed it at our showing, make sure to put a hold on it.
  • Jul 5 - What's all the Hoopla? - Check out the library's new source for downloadable movies
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Spotlight on Marion Cotillard

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Open any celebrity gossip or fashion magazine, and you will see glamorous Marion Cotillard featured. Don't miss her in CPL's dvds.

She looked familiar to me and sure enough, I had seen her spectacular performance as Edith Piaf in Academy award winning movie La Vie en Rose (whose alternate title is La Mome or The Passionate life of Edith Piaf). Cotillard is perfect as France's best-loved chanteuse from her rise from the street as a child singer to her last days. She is so much like Piaf, you won't recognize her.

Equally comfortable in English-language films, she has starred more recently in Public Enemies which depicts bank robber Dillinger's last days and the rise of the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover. Johnny Depp stars, but the show stealer is Cotillard. She plays Dillinger's soulful girlfriend who, as in the song "Leader of the Pack" believes Dillinger (who never robs or shoots civilians in the film) is not bad; "he's just sad."

Cotillard also plays romantic co-star in A Good Year (2006). In a nutshell: Boy (Russell Crowe) is a stockbroker run amok. Boy meets girl; boy loses girl; boy tries to sell family vineyard. Provence + fine wine + misunderstandings + romance = a pretty good movie formula.

Most of Cotillard's earlier performances were in French film and tv, but she had a cameo role as Josephine, in Big Fish (2003), Tim Burton's somewhat surreal movie starring Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Jessica Lange, and Helena Bonham Carter. A dying man recounts his life and his wooing of his wife through the proverbial "big fish tale" including giants, circus acts, witches, and incredible luck.

So far, so good. I think she's in for the long haul...

Christopher Guest

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Actor, director, writer, musician and composer, Guest is the full-meal deal. Best known for his "mocumentaries" which poke fun at everything from heavy metal music, to small town theater, to dog shows. In my opinion he has two of the funniest characters ever created to his credit---Corky St Clair and Nigel Tufnel---all the more hilarious because they take themselves so seriously. He draws from a regular cadre of gifted comedic performers including among others Eugene Levy, Catherine O' Hara, Jane Lynch, Fred Willard, Michael McKean and Jennifer Coolidge. He turns up in the most unexpected places and is remarkably chameleon-like in his own performances/appearances. For some seriously great laughs try any of the following:

This is Spinal Tap from 1984---the cult classic that introduces us to Nigel Tufnel.

A Mighty Wind---send up of the folk music of the 60's

Best In Show---this time he lampoons the pompous and bizarre world of dog shows

Waiting for Guffman---small town community theatre in his crosshairs. This features Corky St. Clair and the funniest 45 second dance you will ever see.

For Your Consideration---in this movie three actors learn their performances are generating award season 'buzz'. In a case of life imitating art, this movie generated a lot of buzz for Catherine O'Hara's performances as the actress generating buzz--- you get the picture.

He plays the evil and cunning Count Rugen in the perennial favourite The Princess Bride.

Who's Afraid of Gene Hackman?

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Gene Hackman's entire career is made of tough-as-nails types, but he does it so well, I can't stop watching. According to Internet Movie Database imdb.com, Hackman was a marine, which explains why he's convincing as the military figure or patriarch.

Hackman's also one of those actors who has been "in every movie ever made," I commented to blogger Moe recently, who found that he has been in over 99 productions... To see the starring roles he's allegedly turned down (the lead in Indiana Jones (!), for one), see imdb.com. Because he's "been in every movie ever made," I can't review them all here. Lean way back in your seat, grit your teeth and be prepared to watch these features from CPL's collection of Gene Hackman movies:

Hackman plays Little Bill in Unforgiven (see the Best Westerns post on this blog for a review). According to IMDB, he scared himself into avoiding violent films after this edgy role.

In another pairing with Clint Eastwood, Absolute Power, Hackman plays the president of the U.S., who is connected to a woman's murder. This movie is based on David Baldacci's novel, also in the collection.

In John Grisham's Runaway Jury, the tension is in the courtroom battle between a manufacturer and litigant. Hackman is the scary expert who attempts to discredit witnesses.

I haven't yet watched Twilight starring Hackman and Susan Sarandon as husband and wife, but I just get the feeling Hackman will be scary. The plot has Paul Newman's character investigating the mysterious disappearance of a woman's first husband. Guess who plays the sinister second husband? Don't confuse this with the teen vampire movie blockbuster of the same name.

Hackman is less scary as a conservative father meeting his future son-in-law's same-sex parents in the charming comedy The Birdcage (a remake of La Cage aux folles) starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. Don't miss him in The Royal Tenenbaums as the misguided patriarch of a kooky family. A kinder, gentler Hackman in the end but he's still pretty grumpy...

To find many more Gene Hackman roles on dvd at CPL enter "Gene Hackman" in the search field. You will notice that he is now a novelist.

Dennis LeHane

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This is an author who really knows how to write a great story. Three of his books have been turned into excellent films and the first two have been nominated for a total of 9 Oscars. Watch for Shutter Island to get a lot of Oscar nods for next years event, including I hope, a nomination for Leo for best actor.And Lehane stories attract the big guns- Scorcese and Eastwood as directors and A list for actors.

You can also check out his books---they are great reads. Do an author search under Lehane Dennis to see everything else by him.

For another one of my favorite writers check out the earlier post on Paul Haggis.

Mystic River---2003---this was Sean Penn's first win for Best actor (his 2nd being Milk in 2008). Who would have thought the misfit character from Fast Times at Ridgemont High would become one of the best dramatic actors of the decade? The movie also scored a well-deserved best supporting statuette for Tim Robbins. Also features Kevin Bacon, Laura Linney, Laurence Fishburne and Marcia Gay Harden.

Gone Baby Gone--- Ben Affleck directs younger brother Casey in this tale of two Boston area detectives investigating a little girl's kidnapping. Like Mystic River this one also deals with very dark subject matter and can be almost painfully real at times. Strong supporting performances are turned in from Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris (when do they not?). The decisions made at the end of the movie should provide lots of foder for discussion. What would you have done?

Start lining up now folks---we are getting Shutter Island and you do not want to miss this one! This features another excellent performance from Leo DiCaprio, who is fast turning into one of my 'never miss' performers (I think I will have to devote an entire post to him shortly). Martin Scorcese directs this and it is quite an achievment. Along with Leo it also includes Sir Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo, Max von Sydow (still able to command the screen at 81 years old), and Patricia Clarkson. If anybody tries to tell you anything about it before you watch it, beg them to keep quiet, or if they won't, walk away! You deserve to be astonished by the ending.

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.

Jeff "The Dude" Bridges

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Nothing like a nod from Oscar to catapult someone back into the public eye. After 40 some years in the biz, Bridges picked up a well deserved Best Actor Award for his performance in Crazy Heart. Big in the 80's and mid 90's, he has made a lot of movies over the years. Now he isn't the headlinder in all of these but you can depend on Bridges' performances to be consistently good. Here are some of my favorites.

The Big Lebowski---from the weird and wonderful Coen brothers, this movie is good on so many levels. A cult classic, it is also just plain fun, and is the role that garnered him his nickname "the dude".

Arlington Place---from 1998 with Tim Robbins and Joan Cuscak, a solid pyschological thriller, with conspiracy overtones.

Seabiscuit---based during the depression, this tells the story of the real life racing horse of the same name. Also features Tobey Maguire and Chris Cooper.

The Last Picture Show from 1971. If you have never seen this you owe it to yourself to have a look. Set in a small Texas town in the 50's it is a gritty coming of age story---at times almost unbearably real. Lots of familiar faces in this one, including a very young Cybil Shepherd.

Iron Man--- in a supporting role to the headliner Robert Downey Jr. This movie is a real departure from the usual super hero genre and very watchable.

Men Who Stare At Goats. This movie is currently on order, so get your holds on now. With Ewan McGregor and George Clooney, it is quite hard to pigeon hole this one into a genre---but I do know that I found it quirky and entertaining.

We have others---follow this link to more Bridges

Spotlight on Madeleine Sherwood

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I was lucky enough to go to the launch of the Victoria international film festival last weekend and attended a talk by actor Madeleine Sherwood. Born in Montreal, Sherwood escaped from a mental institution and moved to New York and studied under Elia Kazan at the Actors Studio with many Hollywood greats such as Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, and playwright Tennessee Williams. The studio encouraged actors to dig deep into their personal pasts to make their characters come to life. Sherwood was black-listed during the McCarthy era for her friendships with other actors and playwrights suspected of Communist leanings. She worked mainly on Broadway and is famous for her role in The Crucible. At CPL, you can see her as sister woman in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and a smaller role in The Changeling. She appears also in Alfred Hitchcock presents in Season 6 Episode 37 "Make my Death Bed" (1961). Sherwood is the subject of a new documentary by Miriam Lawrence. It is an inspiring short film for actors and fans, so catch it if you can at a film festival.

Performance of the Year

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As I watched the Golden Globes last Sunday, I couldn't help but feel a little saddened when the nominations and winners for the best performance by an actress were read out. Sandra Bullock won the "Best Dramatic Performance" for her work in "The Blind Side" and Meryl Streep's portrayal of Julia Child in "Julie & Julia" won her the "Best Comedic Performance" prize. Both performances were very strong, especially Streep giving yet another master class in mimicry. What saddened me was the fact that Tilda Swinton was not recognized for her work in "Julia".

I saw many movies last year, but I saw no performance from any actor that matched what Swinton did in "Julia". In this film Tilda shreds her image of an icy, confident, classy British dame. This is a fearless performance.

"Julia" is the story of an out-of-control alcoholic (Swinton) who is caught in a spiral of ever increasing bad decisions. Drunken decisions that lead from losing her job, to theft, to kidnapping, to extortion, to murder, to... well, you get the idea. At times this can be a difficult movie to watch, but Tilda Swinton makes for a fascinating study as she abandons herself to the wanton destruction of her character. Oscar nominations come out on Feb 2nd. I only hope that enough Academy voters get to see this film before that time and let Tilda Swinton have the nomination she deserves.

You can place a hold on "Julia" by following the link here.

Some of Tilda Swinton's other fine performances available at the CPL include:

1993 - Orlando {Based on the novel by Virginia Woolf}

2005 - The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe

2007 - Michael Clayton {For which she won an Oscar for Best Support Actress}

2008 - Burn After Reading

2008 - The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Meryl Streep's Golden Globe winning performance in "Julie & Julia" can be found here.

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'.

Are you a Derek Jacobi-an?

by Melanie Kolbeins - 0 Comment(s)

British actor Derek Jacobi is best known for his Shakespearean stage work, but he's been in many other movies, series, and tv programs. CPL has many of his best roles on dvd.

Take a look at I, Claudius Never mind the newer Rome tv series (okay, watch it--it's good)... Go back to this classic "classic" set in Rome of 37-68 AD (based on Robert Graves' novel). The production values of this BBC series are very low. Remember the '80s, when we decided to tape in glorious video? Don't let that deter you, Jacobi is wonderful as the "idiot" Claudius and John Hurt as Caligula is truly creepy. Star Trek fans look out for Patrick Stewart. It's a good winter viewing, 13 50-minute episodes, but well worth the time spent.

The Cadfael series

  1. Beloved mystery writer Ellis Peters' (Edith Pargeter's) medieval monk Cadfael plays a forensic investigor looking into murders from within and without monastery walls. Best in the series are The Pilgrim of Hate, the final episode. Try to watch them in sequence because there is a continuous narrative thread in the tv series. Look them up by episode. title Epguides.com lists the order of the series as follows: One Corpse Too Many, The Sanctuary Sparrow, The Leper of St Giles, Monk's Hood, The Virgin in the Ice, The Devil's Novice, A Morbid Taste for Bones, The Rose Rent, St. Peter's Fair, The Raven in the Foregate, The Holy Thief, The Potter's Field, and The Pilgrim of Hate.

    The Riddle

    Jacobi is unexpected as what seems at first the bit part of a homeless man in this mystery set Thames-side. A pub owner finds a Charles Dickens manuscript of a short story entitled The Riddle, which is played out as the story within the story. It's a great premise for a show and Jacobi is the strongest actor.

    Jacobi also appears in Dickens' Old Curiosity Shoppe.

    Love Victoriana? Try the series based on Anthony Trollope's The Pallisers or The Wyvern mysteries, in which Jacobi plays an odious lord whose intentions for his adopted neice turn out to be less than philanthropic. The story has romance and the obligatory "don't go into that room even if you hear weird noises coming from it."

    Even if you're not in high school English anymore, you can still check out our stage productions of Shakespeare on dvd. Try Derek Jacobi in Richard II or Hamlet. You can't go wrong with Shakespeare. This is a good resource for students who have difficulty reading the plays. Shakespeare wrote in Modern English not "Old English" as many assume. It's just Elizabethan, not contemporary modern English, and stage productions really bring the characters to life.

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