Thursday, February 26, 2015

Flick Picks 2/27/2015: Whiplash, Big Hero 6

Hooray for Hollywood!  Right?  Well, maybe not.  One wonders how often our friend Oscar actually gets to the movies and how impaired he might be when he gets there.  Last week's Flick Picks feature, Birdman, was the big winner at the 87th Academy Awards, the best horse in a fairly weak field.  In an awards ceremony dedicated to films that took few chances, it was good to something so ambitious as Birdman rewarded.  Also nominated for Best Picture was one of the most surprising success stories of 2014....



The very likable J.K. Simmons goes against his normal gruff but lovable type in playing the fire breathing band conductor Terence Fletcher, making life difficult for poor Andrew Neiman, a young drummer who would be the next Buddy Rich.  The promising Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now) plays the unfortunate Neiman, expending sweat and blood to find the perfect tempo and please his impossible conductor.  The insults and the drumming come fast and furious in Whiplash, a fever into which the vast majority of audiences have been happily swept.  Simmons just took home a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his efforts.  In addition to his ability to swing gleefully to the dark side, Simmons also sports some muscular arms worthy of an action hero.  Who knew?


Winner of Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards, Big Hero 6 is a typical entry in Disney's "Animated Classics" series, teeming with energy and rich visuals.  Popular with audiences and critics alike, Big Hero 6 might please everyone.
We have the film in regular DVD and Blu-ray.  

Also available:  Chris Pine and Christopher Waltz join the original stars of the comedy hit Horrible Bosses in the cleverly titled, Horrible Bosses 2.  Tommy Lee Jones both directs and stars in The Homesman, playing a drifter hired by Hilary Swank to transport three women driven mad by life on Ameica's western frontier back to Iowa.  Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) plays a man roaming the globe to figure out the meaning of life in Hector and the Search for Happiness.  Lastly, Nicholas Roeg's 1973 creepy classic Don't Look Now, gets the Criterion Collection treatment in this latest release of the film.  The moral remains the same:  if you see a mysterious, diminutive, cloaked figure scurrying around Venice in apparent distress...walk away.

In the mood for something completely different?  

We also have a few adventurous films from 2014 that were completely overlooked in the Academy Awards nominations and ceremony.  Probably unlike any film you've seen, Locke has Englishman Tom Hardy on the road for its 85 minutes.  Just a man in an SUV, speeding along a highway by night, trying to hold together by phone (don't worry, he uses hands-free) a life coming apart at the seams.  Director Steven Knight makes this much more gripping than you might think possible.  In Frank, Michael Fassbender - who can apparently do no wrong - plays the charismatic leader of a very eccentric band, who just happens to live his life in a gigantic paper mache head.  Not for the faint of heart Calvary is full of gallows humor and reckoning, the story of a "good priest" beset with all manner of threats and trials.  The film also features a soulful, thoroughly compelling performance from Brendan Gleeson.

Coming Soon:  The Theory of Everything, Foxcatcher, The Tale of Princess Kaguya



Why did Highland Park native Aaron Schwartz take his own life at the age of 26?  It might have something to do with the computer and Internet visionary and political activist being the subject of federal prosecution for data theft, which his family characterizes as "the product of a criminal-justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach."   An overzealous young man who met a tragic end or  a martyr for open access?  Fascinating, maddening and inspiring by turns, "The Internet's Own Boy" is not one you'll forget anytime soon.    

Friday, February 20, 2015

Flick Picks 2/20/2015: Life Itself, Birdman, Game of Thrones

Yes, Flicks Picks is back from a winter hiatus.  And it's spring now, right?  Almost time for baseball and other outdoor pursuits?  Shall we wheel out the grill?  Well...maybe not just yet.  Good thing we have some excellent DVDs to keep you entertained during these long nights of the cold, persistent winter.

Some of 2014's best films are now available or will soon be released on DVD.  And there's the Oscar contenders as well....

Feature Films

Best Picture nominee Birdman is now available. The normally very serious Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel, Biutiful) makes a welcome turn toward the comedic, if the darkly comedic with Birdman.  Michael Keaton, Golden Globe winner and Best Actor nominee at the Academy Awards, is excellent as the one-time superhero movie star trying to regain some artistic credibility on Broadway, in a film that both lampoons actors vanity and celebrates the courage it takes to bare one's soul on stage or screen.

Also available:  The much-heralded Boyhood, Richard Linklater's coming-of-age story, filmed with the same actors over an 11-year period.  Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy star in St. Vincent.  The film that caused an international incident,  The Interview, is now available.  Was it worth the fuss? Decide for yourself.  Keanu Reeves plays a hitman coming out of retirement in the well-reviewed John Wick, available in DVD and Blu-ray.   Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall star in The Judge.

COMING SOON:  Whiplash,  Foxcatcher, The Theory of Everything, Horrible Bosses 2, The Homesman, The Tale of Princess Kayuga.

Series news

It's time to return to the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos in the immensely popular HBO series, based on George R.R. Martin's fantasy novels.  Get the DVDs, order some food and barricade yourself in until season four has run its exciting course.

Yet another critically acclaimed HBO production, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Elizabeth Strout.  The ever-interesting Frances McDormand heads a strong cast.

Also available:  Edie Falco returns for season six of Nurse Jackie.

COMING SOON:  Foyles War, set 8.


Snubbed by Oscar, Steve James documentary about the late, beloved Roger Ebert is now available.  If you would like to see the film on a larger screen than you have at home, join us on March 16 when Monday at the Movies screens Life Itself at 1:00 and 7:00 p.m. in the library's Hammond Room.

For the past 40 years, a group of writers and directors has been meeting for lunch every other Wednesday. The members and their meeting places have changed over the years, but their appetites for the ties that nourish their friendships have remained. Lunch goes beyond a single meal, and into the lives and successes of each comedy legend.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Flick Picks 12/23/2014: The Trip to Italy, The Equalizer

New on DVD at the Library This Week
It's the end of the year so the new releases are sparse, though the studios certainly saved some good ones for last.

Release date 12/23/14:
ENTERTAINMENT: Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon's gutbusting impression showcase (disguised as a restaurant tour) The Trip has its sequel arriving this week in The Trip to Italy. Michael Winterbottom is back behind the camera. Based on a true story, the funny and uplifting Pride tells the story of British gay and lesbian activists who raised money to support striking mine workers in a tiny Welsh town in the 1980s. Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West and Paddy Considine star. Juliette Binoche is a war photographer whose husband asks her to quit the job that gives her life meaning in 1,000 Times Goodnight.

Release date 12/30/14:
ENTERTAINMENT: Denzel Washington stars in a violent new reboot of the 1980s TV series The Equalizer, as a man with a mysterious past who must help a young prostitute (Chloƫ Grace Moretz) escape Russian gangsters. Antoine Fuqua, the director of Training Day, takes the reins. We've got it on DVD and Blu-ray. Elsa & Fred brings us Christopher Plummer and Shirley MacLaine as two people who discover love late in their life. The indie Kelly & Cal features Juliette Lewis as a former rock musician who moves to the suburbs and bonds with the 17-year old boy who lives next door.

SERIES: Season 4 of Chicago-based William Macy series Shameless and season 2 of Amish country action show Banshee arrive this week.

Some Gems From 2014
If you're looking for a great film that fell outside of the mainstream last year, check out this list. All of these films were smart, entertaining and worth your while, despite possibly being overlooked when browsing for blockbusters. Take some of these for a look at some of the best that 2014 had to offer!

Alan Partridge - A hilarious big screen look at Steve Coogan's arrogant television (now radio) host.
The Armstrong Lie - A documentary that began filming before Lance Armstrong was busted for drug use and wrapped up after Armstrong came clean.
Blue Ruin - An unlikely hero goes out for vengeance when a killer is released from prison. Dark but surprisingly humorous in parts.
Casting By - Some of the unsung heroes of Hollywood - the casting directors - are profiled, with contributions from many Hollywood stars.
Enemy - Bizarre but entertaining little film about professor Jake Gyllenhaal stumbling across his doppelganger.
Fruitvale Station - Powerful dramatization of the last day of a former convict's life, as he heads towards a conflict with transit police in San Francisco that will leave him dead.
The Great Beauty - It won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film but I've heard from people who were not entertained by its dreamlike celebration of Rome. I would have been happy if it had gone on for another two hours.
Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction - Anyone interested in film from the 1960s - 1980s should enjoy this documentary.
The Hunt - A devastating look at what a false accusation does to a close-knit community.
The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete - Both charming and devastating story of two boys left alone for a summer in the big city.
Let The Fire Burn - The 1985 conflict between Philadelphia police and MOVE that resulted in 11 deaths and the destruction of 61 homes, told through archive footage.
Our Nixon - Newly released home movies trace Richard Nixon from his election to his fall.
16 Acres - Fascinating documentary about the challenges faced by attempting to rebuild on the World Trade Center site.
The Trials of Muhammad Ali - A strong look at racism, religion and Muhammad Ali's attempt to avoid prison while avoiding the Vietnam draft.
Under the Skin - Gorgeous, hypnotic film about an alien's journey through a world she doesn't know.
The Unknown Known - An interview with Donald Rumsfeld that has been criticized for not revealing enough but which is worth watching for what it does show.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Flick Picks 12/16/14: This Is Where I Leave You, Magic in the Moonlight

New on DVD at the Library This Week
ENTERTAINMENT: It's hard to imagine that a better cast could have been assembled for the film adaptation of the Jonathan Tropper This is Where I Leave You. With the lead roles filled by Tina Fey, Jason Bateman and Jane Fonda you are guaranteed a good time even had the film been directed by insane goats. The story concerns a group of siblings and their assorted spouses who must spend a week under the same roof (their mother's) after the family's patriarch dies. We've got it on DVD and Blu-ray. Also this week, another year, another Woody Allen film, with Magic in the Moonlight falling towards the whimsical end of the spectrum of Allen's works. Emma Stone is the woman who claims to speak to the deceased while Colin Firth is the magician brought in to debunk her who eventually falls for her charms.

It merely seems that Kristen Wiig has been in every independent film of the year, when in fact she has only appeared in half of them. The morbid Skeleton Twins pairs her with Saturday Night Live colleague Bill Hader in the story of a pair of twins trying to repair their relationship. Finally, we've got a couple of big budget tween films for the family to enjoy. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot pairs "heroes on the half shell" with Megan Fox to battle Shredder and his feared Foot Clan. The bestselling young adult novel The Maze Runner also hits the screen, telling the story of teens who wake up in a strange community surrounded by an inescapable maze. Some might feel that the film serves as a metaphor for how one must pursue an unknown future in order to experience success while a young critic in my house simply thought it was "really, really cool". It's available on DVD and Blu-ray.

SERIES: There was quite a delay before wacky Arrested Development was brought back from the dead for a fourth season - and then it was only available to Netflix subscribers - but now you can take home the DVD! Also this week brings us season 2 of the domestic Cold War drama The Americans.

PERFORMING ARTS: Your dream of seeing Christopher Walken play Captain Hook live on TV has finally come true with Peter Pan Live!

Holiday Films Now Available
Time to get caught up on your holiday favorites and to maybe find a few new ones! Our holiday films are now on display in a cart in front of our classic films. We've got titles like Bill Murray's Scrooged, Adam Sandler's animated Hanukkah tale Eight Crazy Nights, 80s classic A Christmas Story, Oscar winner Miracle on 34th Street, TV mainstay It's a Wonderful Life and even our good friend Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Here's a longer list for some more ideas.

Film Comment's Top Films of 2014
Every year, prestigious movie journal Film Comment solicits best-of lists from critics around the country in order to compile its own list of the year's best films. Their top 20 films of 2014 can be found here. Not everything is available on DVD yet but the titles that we own or have on order are:
#1 Boyhood (on order)
#3 The Grand Budapest Hotel
#4 Ida
#5 Under the Skin
#12 Only Lovers Left Alive
#15 Norte, The End of History (on order)
#19 Manakmana
#20 Snowpiercer

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Flick Picks 12/9/2014: Guardians of the Galaxy, Frank

New on DVD at the Library This Week
ENTERTAINMENT: This summer's surprise superhero blockbuster featured a group of misfits that most casual comic readers hadn't heard of. Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy hits the right balance of action, humor and futuristic effects, which makes it the rare action flick that works well for audiences who want a little bit more. Chris Pratt is given the spotlight and the rest of the cast is filled with cast members who fit their roles perfectly, as well as a talking squirrel and an anthropomorphic tree. It's available on both DVD and Blu-ray. Our other big film release this week is the funny and off-the-wall Frank, which features Michael Fassbinder as a rock musician who wears a large fake head and Maggie Gyllenhaal as his bandmate. It's a little bit different but surprisingly clever and engaging.

SERIES: Woo hoo! There's a new Who for you as season 8 of Doctor Who brings Peter Capaldi aboard as the newest regeneration of the title character. Season 2 of the Stephen King series Under the Dome also arrives this week.

DOCUMENTARIES: Bahman Mohassess - the "Persian Picasso" - is profiled in Fifi Howls From Happiness. The film shows the challenges that Mohasses faced as a gay artist in pre-revolutionary Iran, and his eventual escape to Italy. A number of nursing home residents are profiled as they take a bus tour of Israel in Next Year Jerusalem.

You can find all of our new and upcoming DVDs in Enterprise.

Monday Night at the Movies
On December 15th at 1:00 and 7:00 we will be screening Calvary in the library's Hammond Room. Father James is a good priest made to answer not only for the transgressions of his church, but seemingly all the pent-up outrage of Ireland in the early 21st century. Carried by the rich performance Brendan Gleeson, Calvary faces its many serious issues with a uniquely Irish mix of candor, gallows humor and a reverence for the spoken (and written) word. The film runs 100 minutes and is rated R. All of our film screenings are free of charge and open to everyone.

Talking Pictures
Susan Benjamin hosts another screening of The Jewish Cardinal on Wednesday, December 17th at 1:00 p.m. The Jewish Cardinal tells the true story of the son of Jewish immigrants who converted to Catholicism while still maintaining elements of his Jewish identity. Eventually he became involved with a controversy involving Carmelite nuns who desired to build a convent within the walls of Auschwitz. The film runs 90 minutes and is free and open to everyone.

Trains, Not in Vain
Have you ever noticed how many great films are set on trains? Well we have! Here's a list of films for you to choo choo on.
  • Two recent action films are worth a look: Last Passenger, in which a man takes control of a London commuter train in order to crash it, and the futuristic Snowpiercer, about a train that carries the remainder of society, which is divided into two classes.
  • The Denzel Washington and Chris Pine thriller Unstoppable is nonstop fun as the pair tries to stop a runaway train. Director Tony Scott also made the Denzel Washington/John Travolta remake of the hostage drama The Taking of Pelham 123 (the original is available as well).
  • Wes Anderson's dreamlike The Darjeeling Limited follows three brothers on a journey across India.
  • Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer are an American couple who encounter a mysterious couple while travelling to Moscow in Transsiberian.
  • Is it or isn't it Tom Hanks in the animated The Polar Express? Well it's some version of him in this new Christmas classic.
  • The Lady Vanishes and Night Train to Munich are two very similar thrillers (with the same pair of comic supporting characters appearing in both), though the fact that Alfred Hitchcock directed the former probably makes it better known.
  • Buster Keaton's The General is memorable not only for being hilarious but for some brilliant stunts as well

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Flick Picks 12/2/2014: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Hundred-Foot Journey

New on DVD at the Library This Week
ENTERTAINMENT: Hey hey, they're the apes! The sequel to 2011's reboot Rise of the Planet of the Apes comes home this week with the dark and thought-provoking Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, in which the intelligent apes are free but eventually come into conflict with a group of human survivors. The film's producers didn't monkey around with the first film's quality so you're sure to go ape over it. Gary Oldman and Keri Russell are the humans, Andy Serkis is an ape and you and I are the viewers, tossing popcorn into our mouths while laying on our couches. We've got it on DVD and Blu-ray. The Hundred-Foot Journey is another feel-good food dramedy starring Helen Mirren as a restaurateur who becomes resentful of the Indian chef who moves his restaurant next door. Eventually they are brought together through their shared love of food. Finally, the sci-fi flick The Congress features Robin Wright as a version of herself, who decides to sell her digital image for future film use. Harvey Keitel, Paul Giamatti, Jon Hamm and Danny Huston beef up the cast.

SERIES: Guillermo del Toro's disturbing vampire virus novel The Strain has been adopted into a disturbing series for FX. Also, modern Kentucky cowboy show Justified hits season 5.

SUBTITLED: Eric Rohmer's A Summer's Tale, never released on DVD in the United States, finally arrives, telling the story of young people in a French beach town.

DOCUMENTARIES: We've got a number of meditation programs coming up and you can continue to use what you've learned at home with A Beginner's Guide to Mindfulness Meditation. Celebrate the late Robin Williams's career with Robin Williams Remembered, a PBS Pioneers of Television special.

PERFORMING ARTS: Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson, Buddy Guy and Kris Kristofferson are just a few of the musicians celebrating four decades of entertainment in Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years.

You can find all of our new and upcoming releases on Enterprise.

History is No Mystery on DVD
Take advantage of the cold weather by locking yourself in the house and watching a documentary about some fascinating parts of the world.
  • Do you remember when the Berlin Wall came down? The Wall: A World Divided is a PBS series telling the history of the structure that divided Berlin for over 25 years.
  • The Story of Ireland tells the story of the country's mythic past and important figures.
  • We've got a number of fascinating National Geographic specials including When Rome Ruled, Egyptian Secrets of the Afterlife and Unlocking the Great Pyramid.
  • Arabia is a beautifully shot film, narrated by Helen Mirren, that culminates in the largest gathering on earth.
  • The secrets of The Kremlin are secrets no more when you view the series The Kremlin, which was the first time that an American film crew was allowed to film inside the building.
  • The Story of India is a six-part series covering ten thousand years of the country's history.
  • Learn about the history of England through its rules with the series Monarchy.
  • The PBS series Napoleon brings the man to life from birth to exile.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Flick Picks 11/25/2014: The Expendables 3, The November Man, The Giver

New on DVD at the Library This Week
ENTERTAINMENT: What action superstars can be found in The Expendables 3? It's probably easier to count the ones who AREN'T in The Expendables 3. You don't even have to see the full names to get a taste of what The Expendables films are all about - Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Gibson, Snipes, Lundgren, Banderas and Statham are all on board showing off their big guns. Even Harrison Ford got roped into this one. Anyway, the plot involves arms dealers and wisecracks, and you know you want to see it. A little more low-key but still exciting is the Pierce Brosnan offering The November Man, about an ex-CIA agent who is brought out of retirement for a final job and soon discovers that he can trust no one.

Lois Lowry's popular young adult novel The Giver, about a futuristic perfect world where a young man learns about sorrow and pain, is given a filmic adaptation starring Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep. Daniel Radcliffe continues to shed his Hogwarts uniform in the comedy What If, in which he plays a one of a pair of friends who must decide whether to test their friendship by becoming romantically involved. The late Robin Williams co-stars with Joel McHale in A Merry Friggin' Christmas, in which the duo plays a father and son who hit the road in order to rescue some forgotten presents. Finally, The Discoverers is a warm, goofy comedy about a history professor (Griffin Dunne) who reconnects with his family on a road trip.

SERIES: Inspector Morse spin-off Inspector Lewis is acquiring its own pedigree, hitting series 7 this week.

SUBTITLED: An Iranian author and former political prisoner attempts to protect his memoirs from being destroyed by authorities in Manuscripts Don't Burn. Set in former Soviet Union republic Georgia following its independence, In Bloom is the story of two teenage girls trying to find peace in chaos. A strong international cast that includes Catherine Deneuve, John Malkovich and Isabelle Huppert are along to help Lines of Wellington tell the true story of a decisive victory by Portuguese/English forces over the French in 1810. Finally, Isabelle Huppert is a filmmaker who suffers a stroke and falls for a con man while trying to get her next movie made in Abuse of Weakness.

DOCUMENTARIES: Alive Inside features Bobby McFerrin and Oliver Sacks as it explores the possibility of music having a positive effect on Alzheimer's patients. The gripping Master of the Universe profiles former investment banker Rainer Voss as it explores the psychology behind the 2008 financial crisis.

Find all of our new and upcoming films in Enterprise.

Have You Tried Hoopla?
Looking for something to watch without having to leave your home? Hoopla is our great new service for watching movies on your iPad or other tablet computer or your home computer. It has a large selection of new and classic films as well as TV shows, exercise videos and more! It also offers audiobooks and new music. Give Hoopla a try!

Thanksgiving Films
Here are some titles that you might want to try on this Thanksgiving, including some that you probably forgot were set on the holiday!
  • The Band's farewell concert (which included guests like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young) was filmed on Thanksgiving of 1976 for The Last Waltz.
  • A quirky young woman tries to cook Thanksgiving dinner for her family in Pieces of April.
  • Thanksgiving dinner provides an important scene for the characters in the first of Sam Raimi's Spider-man series.
  • Thanksgiving provides various settings for both Rocky and Rocky II, with the sequel's fight falling on the holiday.
  • Home For Purim sounds too Jewish? Why not rename the film Home For Thanksgiving? For Your Consideration provides such typical Christopher Guest hilarity.
  • Two turkeys try to go back in time to change their fates in the animated Free Birds.
  • Revisit Charlie Brown, Linus, Snoopy and the gang with the classic A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.
  • Finally, if you haven't planned your meal yet then pick up Jacques Pepin's Thanksgiving Celebration for some good ideas.