Staff Movie & TV Picks

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Dec 26, 2014 by megana

Spanning two years and three Thanksgivings, this Woody Allen classic hits all his favorite subjects: sex, death and Manhattan. The movie unfolds as a series of vignettes featuring sisters Hannah (Mia Farrow), Lee (Barbara Hershey) and Holly (Dianne Wiest) along with their former, current, and future husbands and lovers. Love, betrayal, aging parents, career angst, hypochondria, and some good religion jokes—what more could you ask for? Check Our Catalog

Dec 22, 2014 by amandap

Looking for something a little different for a Christmas movie this year? Try one of these five you may not have seen before.

Cover for A Christmas Carol: A man in a green robe, a woman in a white robe and a man in a black coat and top hat standing side by side in the snowA Christmas Carol (1984): Sure, you've seen A Christmas Carol. You might have seen the Alistair Sim version, or maybe Patrick Stewart? You've seen the Muppets do their take and you've seen a million parody episodes for various television shows. Maybe you've read the book too. Have you seen this version, with George C. Scott as Scrooge? Made in 1984 for television, this version has a wondeful cast, with Susannah York and Roger Rees making appearances. George C. Scott does a fantastic job as everyone's favorite humbug and it has been a Christmas staple in my family's house since I was a child. There are many more well-known versions out there but this one is well worth watching. Do beware that the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come in this version is truly spooky. Check our catalog.

Cover for Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas: Five animal puppets playing jug band instruments in the snow

Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas: Based on a picture book by Russell and Lillian Hoban, this Jim Henson production might not have The Muppets, but it is unmistakably by the same people. The puppetry is excellent and involves several trick shots, such as regular puppets somehow rowing down a stream! The story is similar in theme to the classic The Gift of the Magi, but involves a small family of otters hoping to treat each other to something special this Christmas. This one's great for kids and adults alike and don't miss out on the fantastic outtakes. It also makes a great double-bill with the next movie on the list. Check our catalog

Cover for A Muppet Family Christmas: Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo and Kermit the Frog are grouped together on a red, gold and green striped backgroundA Muppet Family Christmas: Another Jim Henson production, this time not just with the Muppets from The Muppet Show, but also Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock and even a tiny glimpse of the Muppet Babies. When Fozzie Bear invites his Muppet Show friends to his mother's house for Christmas he and everyone else get packed in together during a horrible blizzard, and Miss Piggy is somewhere out in the snow, on her way to join them. There are songs and jokes and plenty of familiar characters. Stick around through the end to catch a special cameo too! Check our catalog.

Cover for Hogfather: A woman dressed all in black and holding a sword stands in front of two children in the snowHogfather: Another book-based movie, this fantasy is an adaptation of the Terry Pratchett novel of the same title. While this movie isn't strictly about Christmas, it is about a holiday quite similar to it. In Pratchett's Discworld people celebrate Hogswatch, the night when the Hogfather comes in his sleigh pulled by boars and delivers toys to children. But someone is out to destroy the Hogfather, which could have calamitous results not just for children expecting full stockings in the morning but for the entire Discworld. This is definitely more for fans of Pratchett's writing and more for adults than children. Check our catalog.

Cover for The Ref: A man in black holding a gun stands over a seated couple, tied to their chairs.The Ref: Maybe you want your Christmas movies a little more sarcastic than tender? Maybe you want biting humor and bickering family? Then this is the movie for you. A couple on the edge of a divorce find themselves as unwilling hosts to a cornered cat burglar. When their relatives show up for Christmas Eve dinner he pretends to be their marriage counselor and ends up doing more good than harm. Staring Denis Leary, Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis, this one may be very obviously from the 1990s and have more cursing than your typical Christmas movie, but it's still funny and seasonal at the same time. Check our catalog

Dec 1, 2014 by claytonc

The director of the Oscar winning film Once (2006) returns with another musical urban love story. This time the setting is New York City and you may know some of the actors. Keira Knightly plays a British song-writer adrift in the city after her partner, played by Adam Levine (frontman for Grammy winning band, Maroon 5) gets lured away by the music industry that brought them across the pond. She has a chance encounter with a disgraced music-business executive, played by the always excellent Mark Rufallo, who is also weathering a troubled long-term marriage. Catherine Keener, perhaps one of my favorite actors for her willingness to honestly portray strong women, is the disgraced executive’s wife and Mos Def is his business partner. This movie is so full of excellent acting (did I mention Hailee Steinfeld, the child star from True Grit plays the daughter of Ruffalo and Keener’s characters?), and so much of it is shot on the streets of Manhattan, that it would be very hard not to enjoy this movie, especially if you also like to listen to music and are interested in the creative process. Watch a preview and then check our catalog.

Nov 24, 2014 by amandap

A car accident and a chance meeting leads a widowed baker to a ballroom dancing class to find another man's childhood crush. All we know at first is that Frank Keane is a baker who is accompanying a man named Steve in an ambulance. Steve tells the story of how he fell for Lisa at the charm school they both attended. Steve asks Frank to go in his place and meet Lisa. Frank goes, of course, and we meet the rest of the cast at both the school and at a grief support group Frank attends. The story bounces back and forth from the ambulance to Steve's memory to the present day, using writer/director Randall Miller's earlier short film of the same title as Steve's childhood time at the charm school. The cast here is fantastic, with Robert Carlyle and John Goodman as Frank and Steve and Marisa Tomei and Donnie Wahlburg as students at the dancing school. Don't be fooled by the title - There is far more to this movie than dancing, though there is plenty of that as well. Check our catalog

Nov 19, 2014 by deirdres

John Luther is a Detective Chief Inspector in the London Police Department.  He is volatile, dedicated and able to deduce the psychological make-up of criminals in record time.  This show is a binge watch all the way.  The crimes are gruesome, but interesting, and the pace is fast.  I've never seen a detective show that spent so little time figuring out the criminal's next move or motivation. Complicating Luther's life, and job, are his recent divorce from Zoe, with whom he hopes to reconcile, and his alliance with psychopath Alison who has taken a keen interest in helping him. Watch the preview below and then check our catalog.

Oct 27, 2014 by amandap

Mist coming in off the water isn't unusual, but this is a horror movie and so the mist that rolls in at the beginning brings with it unearthly and dangerous creatures, trapping a group of people in a grocery store. At first it's just the heavy mist that keeps them inside. After all, who wants to drive home when you can't see more than a foot in front of your face? But then a man arrives, warning everyone that there are things in the mist. The great part about this is that the mist itself obscures much of what is in it. This isn't so much a monster movie as a psychological thriller with monsters to drive the tension. Stuck in the grocery store are an assortment of locals from the small town in Maine where the movie is set. They all have their own issues and squabbles and fears and as time ticks by the people turn on each other. Ultimately they have to choose: Stay in the store and hope for the best or leave and try to make a break for it through whatever dangers the mist hides. Check Our Catalog

Sep 29, 2014 by megana

Piper Chapman is a blue eyed, blond haired upper middle class college graduate with just about every possible advantage in life. Piper Chapman is also doing a fifteen-month sentence in a minimum security women’s prison for her involvement in a drug trafficking ring ten years earlier. This Netflix original television series is based on the bestselling memoir by Piper Kerman. It dramatizes the encounter between privilege and its opposite, depicting the lives of a variety of women who also made poor choices but had a lot fewer to pick from than Piper did. By the end of the season, you will be questioning (if you weren’t already) how much money this country wastes on incarcerating women without giving them any skills or support to turn their lives around upon release. The ensemble performances are first rate; so much so, that it’s hard to believe that some of these women are actresses are not actual ex-cons. Check Our Catalog

If you were on a fishing trip with friends and found the body of a murdered young woman in the river what would you do? Would you cancel the trip immediately and contact the police; or, go fishing and tell the authorities on your way home from the remote mountain location?  The decision by a group of friends to continue the trip has lasting repercussions.  Set in Australia, the film not only confronts the basic moral question, but also the racial and cultural issues involved since the young woman was Aboriginal. Of course, personal relationships are impacted on several fronts as well.  The film sometimes suffers a little from too many subplots, but they are woven together well. And, how can Gabriel Byrne and Laura Linney give a bad performance?!  One interesting twist is that from the beginning we know who the murderer is. Will he be identified or kill again? Take a trip to Jindabyne to see if and how issues are resolved. Check Our Catalog

Sep 11, 2014 by claytonc

Doesn't everyone miss Michael Bluth - Jason Bateman's character in Arrested Development? I was certainly won over and will watch whatever he stars in, just to see what he's doing next. In this, Jason's directorial debut, we follow a 40-year-old man (Bateman) who never graduated eighth grade and decides to compete in The Golden Quill national spelling bee - against middle school kids. It is no surprise when this outrages parents and judges, and there is a sketchy journalist documenting his mis-deeds. These deplorable characters are wonderfully offset by a 10-year old who is completely unfazed. This quirky movie has a wicked sense of humor. Check Our Catalog

Aug 11, 2014 by megana

The sun never sets on Swedish detective Jonas Engström as he investigates the brutal murder of a teenage girl in a small town in northern Norway. Unable to sleep in the glare from the unceasing sunlight, Enström both solves and inserts himself into the crime, resulting in an anything-but-neat resolution. With its taciturn anti-hero cop and bleak setting, this film kicked off the Nordic noir phenomenon that is now so popular. Unsettling and well worth watching. Check Our Catalog

May 22, 2014 by megana

Based on a true story uncovered by British journalist Martin Sixsmith, this is the moving story of a young Irish girl whose illegitimate child is taken from her by nuns and sold to an American couple in the mid-1950s. You might expect the movie to be mawkish and sentimental but it manages to avoid this with complex performances by Judi Dench as Philomena Lee and comedian Steve Coogan as Sixsmith. Their journey to the truth about what happened 50 years earlier explores innocence, faith, the strength of family bonds, and the resilience of human beings damaged by loss, all done with a light touch and comic relief. Check Our Catalog

May 12, 2014 by deirdres

Practically every character in this movie is a money grubbing, morally bankrupt, substance abuser and, sadly, they are based on real people. Their leader is Jordan Belfort, played beautifully by Leonardo DiCaprio, a seemingly regular guy from humble beginnings, who takes easily to what he considers the good life after figuring out how to profit wildly by getting people to invest in the stock market. Belfort comes off as an oily salesman but somehow has legions of devotees who worship the dollar as much as he does. With great wealth comes unbelievable debauchery and excess and the inevitable fall. Although this movie is rife with serious, dramatic and sometimes filthy scenes, it also has some of the funniest scenes ever put on film. Check Our Catalog

The Vogels are certainly an interesting couple.  Herb, a postal worker, and Dorothy, a librarian, amassed a huge collection of contemporary art and made an extraordinary gift to the nation. They donated the majority of their collection to the National Gallery of Art in 1992, and it has since grown to over 4,000 items.  The documentary follows this unassuming couple in their pursuit of pieces of art they enjoyed and artists they supported. Quincy's Carl Andre is mentioned, among others, and they even "cat sat" for Christo on occasion.  You may not be a lover of the abstract or minimalism, but it is amazing to see this side of the art world, the passion for collecting, and what an amazing collection can fit in a one bedroom apartment in Manhattan.
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As much a fascinating history of the joyfully syncopated isicathamiya (“on tip toe”) music born in the townships of South African apartheid as the captivating story of founder Joseph Sabalala, this beautifully moving tribute to Ladysmith Black Mambazo,  directed by Eric Simonson, inspires and uplifts. This Academy Award nominated film tells the story of how (and why) this extraordinary hybrid of Zulu harmonies and Western influences became a World Music supergroup. Over 50 years and five Grammy Awards later LBM still mesmerizes. Check Our Catalog

Mar 11, 2014 by megana

If you’re like me, you’ve never thought much about the people behind movie voice-overs. This quirky comedy lifts the veil on the voice-over industry and introduces you to vocal coach Carol and her egotistical, bullying voice-over star father, Sam. A strong ensemble cast includes a nerdy but charming sound engineer with a crush on Carol, Sam’s very young girlfriend, plus Carol’s intense sister and her husband. A funny and charming story about a woman trying to break into a male-dominated business and finding love along the way. Check Our Catalog

Mar 3, 2014 by claytonc

Amazing acting anchors this new sci-fi series from BBC America (shot in Toronto). Tatiana Maslany plays multiple clones in this thriller that opens with Sarah, a gritty young outsider witnessing the suicide of a woman who looks exactly like her - except more affluent. Sarah assumes the identity of this unknown woman - who ends up being a police officer. Soon bullets are flying and mysteries are multiplying. This series deftly explores the ethics of human cloning, but soars by focus on female agency - each woman that Tatiana plays has her own way of dealing with the crazy situation they share, and its fascinating to watch how things develop. Season Two debuts in April. I can't wait! Check Our Catalog.

Feb 11, 2014 by claytonc

I totally watched this movie for the stars - but it wasn't a guilty pleasure! Released shortly after James Gandolfini's untimely death, its the story of his character falling in love with a massage therapist played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The relationship is complicated by Julia's character's developing relationship with a poet, played by Catherine Keener - a character who turns out to be James' character's ex-wife. Toni Collette plays a friend of Julia's. I have enjoyed so many productions with each of these actors, it was a real treat to watch them all together. A recommended date movie. Check Our Catalog Watch the preview:

Dec 10, 2013 by megana

It’s 1914 and the world is about to change forever in this five-part adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s classic series of novels set in England before, during and after World War I. Christopher Tietjens is a traditional Englishman living by the old moral codes and conventions. His wife, Sylvia, strains against the limits placed on women and wives and challenges her husband—and “society”—at every turn. As Christopher tries to manage his marriage and resist changes to the status quo, he becomes drawn to Valentine Wannop, a young and feisty suffragette. The onset of the war, the advent of feminism, and the fading of aristocratic manners sweep through and shape the lives of these three fascinating and flawed characters. Check Our Catalog

Sep 9, 2013 by megana

Birgitte Nyborg is the idealistic new (and first female) prime minister of Denmark in this absorbing political series drama. The intricacies of parliamentary politics are surprisingly riveting by themselves, in addition to the melodramatic back stories and personal lives of Nyborg and the other major characters, including her too-good-to-be-true husband, Philip (but is he really?), her media advisor/spin doctor Kaspar Juul (with a mysterious and ominous childhood), and the rising TV anchor star Katrine Fonsmark (Kaspar’s on- and off-again girlfriend). This drama is completely captivating on its own merits, with the added interest of seeing the world from a non-U.S. perspective. Check Our Catalog

Jun 22, 2013 by megana

If you like TV antiheroes like Tony Soprano, it's time to start watching Mad Men, featuring Don Draper, a Madison Avenue ad man who is a poster child for poor judgement. This period drama takes place during the 1960s and watching it is like time traveling to a past that feels very nearby. Historical events are incorporated into the episodes, including the 1960 presidential election, the death of Marilyn Monroe, the assassination of JFK, and the mass rape and murder of eight nurses by Richard Speck in Chicago in 1966. Most of the action happens in the offices of the Sterling Cooper agency, where a collection of talented, egotistic and driven characters collide and cooperate to get ahead amidst a culture of constant smoking, drinking, cheating and sex. The series pulls no punches when it comes to contemporary attitudes regarding women (sex objects at best), Blacks and Jews. This is intelligent nighttime soap opera with some fine acting and great visuals. Start with season one and work your way forward. Check Our Catalog

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