Staff Picks: Movies
Staff-recommended viewing from the KPL catalog.
As an avid reader of comic books, I would often stumble upon an ad for the television show Burn Notice. The ad reminded me of an awful USA Network television show from the 90’s called Silk Stalkings, so I never bothered to watch. It wasn’t until I was home sick channel surfing did I discover the greatness of Burn Notice. Creator Matt Nix has developed a show that pays homage to some great TV and movies. This show has successfully combined the jack-of-all-trades archetype of MacGyver, the ex-spy vibe of the Bourne movies, the exotic locale of Miami Vice, and the delightful campiness of CHiPs. Michael Weston (Jeffrey Donovan) has just been blacklisted, or burned, from the spy business and dumped in his hometown of Miami. While investigating into who burned him, he passes the time helping out people in need with his ex-IRA girlfriend Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) and Navy SEAL buddy, Sam (Bruce Campbell). This show is for fans of TV series that like to keep you on the edge, never quite revealing who is behind the sinister plot until the bitter end. After watching all five seasons I understood why the show is advertised in comic books, it is pure, unadulterated escapism.
Silver screen legend Dame Elizabeth Taylor was one of the greatest actresses of not only the 20th Century, but of all time. She was more than just the actress with eight husbands and close friend of Michael Jackson. Taylor was a force to be reckoned with on stage and screen. What I hope does not get missed in the days of discussion following her death on March 23, is her ability as to stun movie goers with a combination of beauty, grace, strength and talent. How many actresses can nail the variety of roles she did over her extensive career? Liz played them all from a little girl who loved horses, a Southern Belle, a prostitute, an alcoholic wife of a professor and a Queen! Taylor’s five best movies would obliterate the entire careers of most actors today. I followed Elizabeth Taylor on Twitter and one of my most favorite tweets from her sums it all up “No one is going to play Elizabeth Taylor, but Elizabeth Taylor herself.” There will never be another like Elizabeth Taylor.
My Five Favorite Elizabeth Taylor Movies
1. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
2. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
4. National Velvet
5. Butterfield 8
What is your favorite Elizabeth Taylor movie?
Being the parent of two small children I am forced to watch a fair share of bad movies aimed at younger viewers. Many are just blatant attempts to cash in on a family's need for entertainment or to sell toys. One of the most pleasant surprises this year was DreamWorks Monsters vs.. Aliens. The movies is about a bride turned mutant giant "Ginormica" (voiced by Reese Witherspoon) who is enlisted by the government along with other "monsters" to fend off an alien invasion. These monsters have been kept in hiding in secret by the government for years but are promised to be freed if they can defeat the aliens. Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, and Will Arnett voice the other monsters and Rainn Wilson is the leader of the invasion, Gallaxhar. The film has enough inside jokes to keep adults laughing and enough action to keep the kids enthralled.
Monsters vs. Aliens
I'll admit it. I watched the WWF growing up. Nothing beat staying up late with your friends to see Hulk Hogan battle Rowdy Roddy Piper. So when I sat down to watch Mickey Rourke in his Oscar-nominated role in The Wrestler, I was ready for some action. Was I disappointed that the amount of brawling was limited to about 20 minutes? No way, because what I witnessed was one of the best movies of 2008. Rourke was amazing playing Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a former great trying to put his life back together after suffering a heart attack. Marisa Tomei plays an aging dancer trying to put her life together and Evan Rachel Wood acts as "The Ram's" estranged daughter. This heart wrenching story of a broken down wrestler is a well-crafted story of redemption and the pain it causes all involved.
If you have yet to discover our collection of movies that have been shown by the Kalamazoo Film Society you should go and check out the list. Recently I watched The Band's Visit, a short film about an Egyptian Police Band who travels to Israel to play at an Arab Cultural Center opening. The language barrier results in the band taking the wrong bus and they end up in a remote Israeli village with no hotel and no hope of a return bus ride until the next day. What results is an interesting and hilarious night when the tensions between Egyptian and Israeli slip away in favor of semi-romantic dates, roller skating and birthday parties. Both parties not only learn something about the other's country, but also themselves. It was not hard to believe that this film has won over 35 international film awards because it is a lesson in cross-cultural differences.
The Band's Visit
After spending the first nine years of my career as a Teen Services librarian, I was very anxious to watch the documentary American Teen. The film is an honest look at five specific teens living out their senior year at a high school in Warsaw, Indiana. Director Nanette Burstein (Kid Stays in the Picture) expertly depicts the lives of a "jock," "queen bee," "heart throb," "nerd," and a "rebel" trying to cope with growing up in a small town facing down adulthood. If you are seeking out an introduction of Midwestern teens that is filled with angst you could do no wrong with watching this movie. If you have tried to stay away from reliving your high school years, you may want to graduate to another flick.
Considering I was a fan of the graphic novel the movie was loosely based on, I was surprised it took me so long to watch Wanted. What I missed in the theaters was a non-stop kinetic action flick starring Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, and James McAvoy as assassins in a secret organization called The Fraternity. Their job is to eliminate individuals who will eventually upset the blance of order in the world. How different was the movie from the book? I would say the spirit of Mark Millar's story was present but much of the plot and characters were changed, specifically instead of super-villains in the book they are assassins. Wanted is further evidence that 2008 was the year of the great comic book movie.
The award-winning NBC Comedy 30 Rock has again raked in the awards at the Golden Globe Awards including Best Comedy Series, Best Actor (Alec Baldwin) and Best Actress (Tina Fey). If you have not yet watched the best show not on a cable-network, check out Seasons 1 and 2. The show is a fictional account of what happens behind the scenes at a Saturday Night Live type show. The ensemble cast deserves an award for producing one of the only bright spots on network televison.
30 Rock, Season 1
I must confess that I have never seen a Marx Brothers movie. When I embarrassingly mentioned this to Karl, he responded that he was envious of me since I will be seeing these for the first time. This past weekend I dove into the great Marx Brothers Silver Screen Edition DVD collection which includes The Cocanuts (1929), Animal Crackers (1930), Monkey Business (1931), Horse Feathers (1932) and Duck Soup (1933). Today I find myself still laughing at some of the stuff Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo pulled off. Don't make the same mistake as I did and wait too long to watch these masters of cinematic comedy!
Marx Brothers Silver Screen Edition
Iron Man was easily my favorite movie of the summer until Batman and the Joker started to tussle in July. The first movie fully created and produced from Marvel Studios surpassed my expectations and finally lifted the character to the prominent place he deserves in Marvel Comics lore. Robert Downey plays the perfect Tony Stark, a playboy millionaire scientist who stops creating weapons of mass destruction only to become one himself to prevent the loss of innocent lives. Director John Favreau does an excellent job of telling Stark's origin story for the new viewer as well as cram in a bunch of things to make any fanboy giddy. Do not miss the scene after the credits for a HUGE surprise and teaser to a possible sequel.
Currently what we are watching at my house is the final season of the critically-acclaimed HBO series The Wire on DVD. I am shocked that this show has not been raking in the awards since it first aired in 2002. It is one of the most riveting and realistic portrayals of inner city life that has ever been created for television. The show's creators, David Simon and Edward Burns based the show on their book The Corner, a story of a drug trafficking in Baltimore. Over the course of five seasons the show focused on all facets of the not only the drug trade, but also what makes a major city operate in today's world. The characters are flawed but extremely likeable which causes the viewer to weep for the addict and curse the police. The Sopranos may have received all the accolades, but in my opinion The Wire is the best crime drama ever.
Tonight at midnight the Rave Theater will be showing the newest Batman movie, The Dark Knight. Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman reprise their roles from the 2005 release Batman Begins directed by Christopher Nolan. Not only is this one of the most anticipated movies for fans of the DC Comics superhero, but it is one of the last movies starring Heath Ledger before he died in January of this year. Early reviews predict it will shatter the record for highest earning superhero movie, a record previously held by Spider-Man. I know I am going to see it tonight since Batman Begins is one of my personal favorites!
I took my daughters to see WALL-E on Monday and I must say it was not only the best Pixar movie I have ever seen, but also one of the best films this year. The animation was amazing and the storyline was accessible to all ages.
What if mankind had to leave Earth, and somebody forgot to turn the last robot off? Wall-E, spends every day doing what he was made for. But soon, he will discover what he was meant for, as he adventures across the galaxy chasing his dream. - Yahoo! Movies
This got me thinking about my top five favorite movies from Pixar, other than WALL-E.
Here's the list.
- Incredibles (2005)
- Toy Story 2 (1999)
- Ratatouille (2007)
- Cars (2006)
- Finding Nemo (2003)
A couple of months ago, KPL started to circulate Blu-ray DVDs. Since then many patrons who do not own a Blu-ray player have checked one out on accident. I understand how this can be confusing since a standard DVD and Blu-ray DVD look exactly alike! The trick is to look at the case. A Blu-ray case is smaller, usually labeled with the Blu-ray logo, and is the color blue. We will be getting more Blu-ray DVDs each month in both the Hot Picks and circulating collections. For more info on Blu-ray visit - http://www.blu-ray.com/.