Staff Picks: Movies
Staff-recommended viewing from the KPL catalog.
In Richard Linklater’s Bernie, a surprise hit released in 2012, Jack Black delivers a dialed down performance worthy of award recognition. Black belts out Gospel standards, dances to show tunes and brings a dramatic depth and sympathy to the role that one rarely finds in his oeuvre of slapstick comedies. Bernie is based on a true crime set in East Texas. Black plays the lovable but quirky Bernie, the assistant funeral director who when not comforting his beloved widows, befriends the town matriarch, a mean spirited woman made of money, played by legend Shirley MacLaine. From there, Bernie’s life of piety and service spins out of control when he deviates from his saintly deeds and finds himself confronted with the truth and consequences of his actions.
Jeff Kinney is the author of the very popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, there are seven books in the series and Kalamazoo Public Library has all seven! The printed text appears as if it were hand-written and it is combined with comic drawings to keep the attention of even a reluctant reader. Boys and girls, elementary age and teenage, enjoy reading the books.
I watched the movie titled: Diary of a Wimpy Kid and just thinking about it makes me giggle. The movie is directed by Thor Freudenthal. It revolves around Greg and Rowley, two best friends entering their first year of middle school. Greg is played by Zachary Gordon and Rowley is played by Robert Capron. Throughout their sixth grade year Greg and Rowley make several attempts and schemes at “fitting-in” to middle school life. Yes, there are a few moments of fright and, yes, there is some gross stuff, but overall it is clever, goofy, and at times, adorable. The actors do a great job of conveying their individual character including Greg’s family which consists of an obnoxious older brother and a younger brother, and a mother and father. We get to know Greg’s classmates and teachers and a few bullies. Rowley provides innocence and sincerity to the story along with his catchy phrase: zoo-wee mama! Greg is somewhat of an underdog who keeps persevering throughout, and he deserves a lot of credit for his inventiveness and maturity.
Again, this is a funny movie and I recommend it.
For books, begin at: Diary of a Wimpy Kid; Greg Heffley’s Journal (Book 1)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
If you enjoy the romantic comedy genre and don’t mind English subtitles, the movie Delicacy might be for you. Starring Amelie actress Audrey Tautou, Delicacy is a creatively anodyne yet enjoyable film about tragedy, mourning, and second chances at love. Combining the kind of predictable rom-com tropes with just enough charm and sweetness, fans of quixotic romance will likely accept the film’s lack of originality for its bountiful amount of sentimentality and tenderness. It's emotional candy for the holiday season.
Fans of cinema will want to look over Sight & Sound’s most recent poll of 250 of the Greatest Films ever made. Compiled once a decade since 1962, this list is a great primer for anyone interested in watching the most talked and written about works, including silent films, movies from Hollywood’s golden era, contemporary art house flicks and foreign language masterpieces from the 1950’s and 60’s. Comedies, Drama, Westerns, Noir, Romance—it’s all there. Here are the top ten:
- Citizen Kane
- Tokyo Story
- La regle du jeu
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- The Searchers
- Man with a Movie Camera
- Passion of Joan of Arc
- 8 1/2
Passion of Joan of Arc
The history of cinema is a rich and varied one that can be enjoyed and understood by engaging in works that dot the historical timeline and cross geographic borders. If you’re a film buff who loves discovering classic films and pioneering directors like I am, you’ll certainly want to keep an eye on our collection of historically significant foreign language films. Many of the greatest films to reach the big screen came about in European, Asian and Latin American countries, where filmmaking represents a fundamental piece of their cultural identities. Below, you’ll find a brief list of foreign language films made from the mid 1950’s through today that are transformative works of art that are crucial touchstones in the development of world cinema. Many of these rule-breaking films are now available from the Criterion Collection.
- Jean-Luc Godard
- Francois Truffaut
- Carl Dreyer
- Robert Bresson
- Frederico Fellini
- Ingmar Bergman
- Wong Kar-wai
- Ranier Werner Fassbinder
- Werner Herzog
- Wim Wenders
- Akira Kurosawa
- Michangelo Antonioni
- Andrei Tarkovsky
- Roberto Rossellini
- Pedro Almodovar
- Jean Renoir
- Milos Forman
- Fritz Lang
- Krzysztof Kieslowski
- Claude Chabrol
- Louis Malle
- Luis Bunuel
- Bela Tarr
- Agnes Varda
- Ashes and Diamonds
- Werckmeister Harmonies
- Aguirre, The Wrath of God
- Umberto D
- Bicycle Thieves
- The Conformist
- Vivre sa vie
- Pierrot le fou
- Tokyo Story
- City of God
- Amores Perros
- El Topo
- Cinema Paradiso
- Breaking the Waves
- My Life as a Dog
- Fanny and Alexander
- Battleship Potemkin
- All About My Mother
- Red, White and Blue Trilogy
- Wild Strawberries
- Wings of Desire
The award winning comedy Modern Family is comfort food television. It's a sugary snack that leaves you with a warm heart and feeling a bit gooey on the inside. Exaggerated characters full of zaney cluelessness crisscross through the lives of their siblings and parents, screwing things up for one or more of their family members. Because these characters only exist in TV Land, they always pull together to resolve the mishaps with a lesson learned and a family hug by the end of the show. It's not a show that will sit along side the Seinfeld's of the comedic world but for a few hours, you can rest your brain and let slip a few chuckles at these disfunctional clans as they navigate contemporary issues.
"Salmon Fishing in the Yemen", with Ewan McGregor,
Emily Blunt and Kristin Scott Thomas. The title says it all. A good friend of
mine, JD, recommended this DVD, I watched it and liked it so much I told my
wife she had to watch it. The premise is that there is a Sheik in the Yemen
with tons and tons of money who loves fly fishing for salmon and equates it
with a religious experience. He also wants to do something for Yemen, provide
water for agriculture. Emily Blunt handles the Sheik's finances and finds Ewan
McGregor, a fishing expert, to help her make the Sheik's dream come true. Kristen
Scott Thomas is the Prime Minister's PR person (this takes place in England)
and sees this as a good PR piece. Ewan says it is impossible and starts to list
all the reasons why, Emily counters them, you need water, the sheik has built a
dam, you need cool temperature, the temperature in that part of Yemen is cool, Ewan
says it will cost 50 million and Emily doesn't even blink. The story is nice,
the interactions of the people is what captivated me. Sheik Muhammed played by
Amr Waked was an excellent portrayal of a sheik. He had the beard, the soft
demeanor, the handling of the beads while he talked. This and many other movies
are available in our AV department.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Have you ever wanted to just slap a spoiled rotten whiny rich kid? Frank takes it a step farther. In “God Bless America” Frank has been told that he has only a few months to live, he lost his job, he is divorced and his kid doesn’t want to see him. Frank decides to kill himself. But while watching television he sees a spoiled rotten rich kid complaining that the car she got for graduation was the wrong car. So Frank finds her and shoots her dead. Roxy, a 16 year old girl, sees Frank do this and convinces Frank to take her with him and go find others who are also deserving of death. They have long conversations of just who those people are, one group is people who high five. Frank teaches Roxy how to shoot and in response to his praise she quips she just pretended the targets were members of Glee. Frank and Roxy go on a Bonnie and Clyde shooting spree, Roxy even buys hats for both of them so Frank can look like a gangster and she looks like Patty Hearst. I found this movie entertaining but it’s not for those who are easily offended.
God Bless America
Technically, I've missed the mid-year mark but here's a list of my picks for recommended film viewing. I'm sure other titles will end up on the year-end tally (I suspect P.T. Anderson's The Master will be my number one) but here's a start.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
In no way deserving of the hype that this buzzed about indie has received but certainly warrants watching. A five year old protagonist's cute face and acting chops can't save this picture's flaws but many will find its story uplifting and moving.
Damsels in Distress
Indie darling and pre-Wes Anderson autuer of the twee aristrocracy, Whit Stillman returns with a film that will no doubt divide audiences along love/hate lines.
The Turin Horse
Bleak, hopeless, painfully unfolded end of the world fair shot in a sumptuous black and white that will appeal to the existentialist-leaning devotees of Bresson, Bergman and Tarkovsky. No Michael Bay stuff here.
The Deep Blue Sea
A somber story of heartache and loss expressed through the fine acting of British actress Rachel Weisz.
Gerhard Richter Painting
A straight forward documentary that will likely appeal to those familiar with the world's most famous living painter's role in the shaping of post-war art.
The Turin Horse
Casa de mi Padre (My Father's House) stars Will Ferrell. It
is a Spanish language film with English subtitles. It is done is the style of
the overly dramatic telenovelas. Armando Alvarez (Will Ferrell) has lived on
his father's ranch in Mexico his whole life. His father's ranch is in debt.
Armando's brother Raul comes home with his fiancee and says he will pay off the
debt. But Raul's income is from drug dealings. Armando falls for Raul's woman.
A war between Raul and Mexico's most feared drug lord, Onza ensues.
The story is ok but the spoof of telenovelas is what kept me
watching this movie. The mountain lion is made of paper mache and looks that
way on purpose. When Armando and Sonia are riding horses they show real horses
and then the next shot is of them on obviously fake horses. The part I liked
best was when they drove into town and parked their car. The film showed a
match box car driving on a cardboard cutout of a town. When you watch this
movie don't expect high grade CGI, this is a spoof movie of overly dramatic
telenovelas. Just go with it and let it roll.
Casa de mi Padre