Thursday, March 19, 2015

Flick Picks 3/20/2015: Theory of Everything, Top Five, The Tale of Princess Kaguya

As if inspired by the thawing weather and impending spring (one uses these words very carefully in Chicago...), the flow of new DVD releases has increased this week.  There should be something for everyone.


Eddie Redmayne recently picked up a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of celebrated astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.  Based on the book, Travelling to Infinity:  my life with Stephen, by Jane Hawking, The Theory of Everything chronicles the meeting of Stephen and Jane while students at Cambridge, his diagnosis of motor neuron disease and eventual success in physics.

124 Minutes - Rated PG13

Chris Rock writes, directs and stars in Top Five, about a comic forced to reconsider his past after an interview with a journalist.  Romance, race, business, politics - Top Five hits upon it all.  Like the best of Chris Rock's comedy, the film is brash, insightful and, of course, very funny.  

101 Minutes - Rated R

Another success for Japan's revered Studio Ghibli, The Tale of Pricess Kaguya was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 87th Academy Awards.  Based on one of Japan's most beloved folktales, "Princess Kaguya" is the story of a tiny girl found in a stalk of bamboo by a cutter and his wife who rapidly grows into an amazing young woman.

137 Minutes - Rated PG

If you enjoy The Tale of Princess Kaguya, try these other Studio Ghibli animated classics available at the Glencoe Library.

Howl's Moving Castle                                      

Also new this week...

A coming-of-age story from Brazil, The Way He Looks, centers on a blind young man whose life changes with the arrival of a new boy at his school.      
96 Minutes; Not rated.

What do you do after playing the Caped Crusader through three blockbuster films?  If you're Christian Bale, you play Moses in Ridley Scott's,  Exodus:  Gods and Kings.  
150 minutes; Rated PG-13

And penguins...who doesn't like penguins?  The busy Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich are among the actors lending their vocal stylings to The Penguins of Madagascar.
92 minutes; Rated PG

COMING SOON:  Into The Woods, Foyles War, Set 8


Friday, March 13, 2015

Flick Picks 3/13/2015: Hunger Games Mockingjay, Part 1, Rosewater

Fantasy or reality?  Take your pick.  Both arrive in the form of fictional feature films this week.  One story is based on real events. The other?  Not so much....


Yes, the intrepid and wily Katniss Everdeen is back in this first film based on the final book of Suzanne Collins' enormously successful series.  Jennifer Lawrence again plays the story's heroine, assuming the role of "Mockingjay," the symbol of rebellion to the oppressed citizens of Panem, fighting that no good president, Coriolanus Snow.    


Based on the memoir, Then They Came For Me, by Maziar Bahari and Aimee Molloy, Rosewater is the first foray into film writing and direction by the Daily Show's John Stewart.  Bahari appeared on the Daily Show, an interview which Iranian authorities used as a pretense to arrest and detain the Iranian-Canadian journalist was for 118 days in 2009, often brutally interrogating him.  The talented Gail Garcia Bernal plays Bahari 


Based on the true story of journalist Gary Webb, who in the 1990's alleged in a series of articles that the CIA's was involved in importing cocaine in the United States to support Contra rebels in Nicaragua.  Jeremy Renner heads a strong cast as Webb, whose efforts are not appreciated by the C.I.A.

Jake Gyllenhaal stars in this largely nocturnal L.A. thriller about a thief who finds a dubious niche, providing footage of crime and accidents for local news.  Well-reviewed, Nightcrawler was nominated for best original screenplay at the 2015 Academy Awards.  



Friday, March 6, 2015

Flick Picks 3/6/2015: Foxcatcher, Outlander

A very quiet week for new releases, with Foxcatcher and the first season of the series Outlander.  If you're like me, this is a time to pare down that tower of videos awaiting you on the DVD player (in your Netflix queue, on Hulu...).  You might also want to catch up on some fine, recently-released films from 2014 that can be found among our new DVDs.


One of the better films of 2014, Foxcatcher is based on true events.  John Eleuthere du Pont, he of the very elite family, convinced Olympic wrestlers Mark and Dave Schultz to join his Foxcatcher wrestling team in the late 1980's.  Eventually, the relationship between patron and athletes went very bad.  Nearly unrecognizable behind a lot of makeup and a prosthetic nose, Steve Carrel's Oscar-nominated performance was one of the year's best, playing the disturbed scion of the du Pont family.  Nearly as good, Channing Tatum does what might be the best work of his career as the younger Schultz brother with a very big chip on his shoulder.  Foxcatcter is a chilling, arresting story that's full of substance.  Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball) directs.

Have you seen Pride?  Ida?    

If Foxcatcher leaves your faith in humanity in need of a bolster, you might want to check out Pride.  Based on much more encouraging true events, Pride dramatizes the unlikely alliance of striking Welsh coal miners and gay rights activists from London in Margaret Thatcher's Britain of the 1980's.  A very appealing cast includes Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West and Paddy Considine.  If you're looking for a a feel-good film, look no farther.

A deserving winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film, Ida is another story of seeming opposites united.  In the case of Ida, a young novitiate nun seeks out her very wordly aunt in 1950's Poland, to experience life outside the convent walls and determine what happened to the rest of their family during World War II.  Beautifully shot in black and white, Ida is one of the most memorable films of 2014.  

Coming soon:  Hunger Games, Mockingjay, Part 1, The Theory of Everything, The Tale of Princess Kaguya.


Based on the fictional series by the fantasy favorite, Diana Gabaldon, Outlander is the fanciful tale of World War II nurse Claire Beauchamp Randall transported back in time to 1743 Scotland.  Already an audience favorite, Outlander promises quality escapism from the persistent winter.


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