Monday, March 31, 2014

New DVDs

  • The Amish: Shunned   DVD BX8129.A5 A45 2014
  • Beat The Devil   DVD PN1995.9.D4 B42 2009
  • The Beatles Hamburg & the Hamburg Sound   DVD M1741.18.B43 H36 2007
  • The Beatles-Liverpool   DVD ML421.B4 B435 2006
  • The Beatles-London  DVD ML421.B4 L664 2007
  • The Beatles Merseyside   DVD ML421.B4 B435 2008
  • Border Wars. Season 2   DVD JV6483.B67 2011
  • Burke & Hare   DVD PN1997.77.B975  B975 2011
  • City Lights   DVD PN1997 .A1 C75 2013
  • A Class Divided   DVD LC212.523.R53 P481 1986
  • The Conjuring   DVD PN1997.2.C66 2013
  • Dexter Season 1  DVD PN1992.77 .D498 D498 2007
  • Despicable Me 2  DVD PN1995.9 .C55 D47 2014
  • Encounters at the End of the World   DVD G860.E53 2008
  • Endeavour. Series 1   DVD PN1992.77.E53 2013
  • Energy Crossroads: A Burning Need to Change Course   DVD HD9502.A2E54367 2007
  • For Richer or Poorer   DVD PN1992.77.F67 2013
  • Hearts of the West   DVD PN1992.77 .H43 2011
  • Herzog/Kinski   DVD PN1997 A122 H465 2002
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy   DVD PN1995.9C55 H58 2005
  •  The Hobbit-an Unexpected Journey   DVD PN1997.2 .H63 2013
  • The Immigrant   DVD JV6456 .I56 2009
  • Invention That Shook The World   DVD T20 .I584 2012
  • John Lennon’s New York   ML 420.L38 J646 2007
  • La Camioneta: the Journey of One American School Bus  DVD HD8039 .G948 C365 2012
  • Latino Americans: The 500 Year Legacy that Shaped a Nation   DVD E184 .S75 L3856 2013
  • Liquid Sky   DVD PN1997.S35 L569 1987
  • Mama   DVD PN1997.2 .M36 2013
  • Marianne Faithful Live in Montreal   DVD M1630.18 .F35 F35 2010
  • Midsomer Murders. Set 22   DVD PN1992.77 .M53 2013 v. 22
  • Norway Finland- Nordic Landscapes   DVD ML1200.N67 N67 2013
  • The Poisoners Handbook   DVD HV6555 .U52 P657 2014
  • The Red Violin   DVD PN1997.C2 R43 1998
  • Secrets of Scotland Yard   DVD HV7730. L66 S43 2013
  • Still Moving Pilobolus At Forty   DVD GV1786.P54 S85 2012
  • A St Olaf Christmas in Norway   DVD M2065.S2 S2 2005
  • Top of the Lake   DVD PN1992.77.T67 2013
  • Two Lane Blacktop   DVD PN1995.9.D68 T862 2007
  • Vikings  Season 1   DVD PN1992.77.V55 2013
  • War On Whistleblowers  DVD JF1525 .W45 W37 2013
  • Zatoichi The Blind Swordsman   DVD PN1992.77 .Z38 2008

Friday, March 21, 2014

Book Review- Ripper

Isabel Allende’s Newest Novel

South American writer, Isabel Allende presents her first mystery/suspense/ thriller, in her recently published novel, Ripper. Allende is best known for her novels that address coming of age, feminism and family relationships so this book represents an adventure into a new genre. She states that her fiction “just comes, arriving unbidden” and she is known for earlier novels in the style known as magical realism.

Meet Amanda Jackson, whose parents are divorced so she lives with her grandfather, Blake Jackson, and is about to graduate from high school with plans to enter MIT in the fall. Her strong interest in solving crimes with the 5 friends she’s connected to through playing Ripper, an online mystery game, plays a role in getting to the bottom of a series of bizarre San Francisco murders by a serial killer. 

Bob Martin, San Francisco’s deputy chief of homicide and Amanda’s father, leads the investigation into these five unrelated murders while she passes clues to the Ripper players. Blake Jackson reads autopsy reports and interviews witnesses to pick up details the serial murderer leaves behind, and then relays details to Amanda. Her deep interest in the dark side of crime prompts Amanda to share details with her online team in search of  crime theories and to find the thread between victims.  Each murder stands on its own because none are identical; the victim is sedated, killed and posed after death and the killer leaves a signature at the scene.

Amanda’s mother, Indiana, divorced from her husband and as independent as her daughter, practices holistic healing and aromatherapy and treats a Navy SEAL, Ryan Miller, a survivor of an Afghanistan land mine explosion. Her success and reputation for healing attract clients and she is romantically involved with two men, both clients, Allen Keller and Ryan Miller.

Amazon reviewers and critics share a range of praise and criticism for this title and it is a detailed novel with fascinating characters set in the San Francisco Bay area. Take it along on vacation because it’s a good read.

Ripper, PQ8098.1 .L54 D4713 2014

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
DVD PN1995.9.C55 L577 2006

Who doesn’t like a good story about a colorful dysfunctional family? Better yet, who doesn’t like a great story?

The film Little Miss Sunshine opens with us looking into the eyes of a young girl as she appears to be looking at us. But, the reflection on her glasses tells us that she’s watching something; and, that something turns out to be how pageant contestants respond to winning and losing. The young girl, Olive, is practicing the look of spontaneity of winning. Going in we know this film is about dreams, illusions, hopes, and fears.

Employing a classic structure of introducing each character in turn, we meet the Hoovers: Olive (Abigail Breslin), the young girl we’ve just seen who has competed in and dreams of pageants; Richard (Greg Kinnear), her father, who has a nine step program to becoming a winner – though he himself is not; Sheryl (Toni Collette), Olive’s mom who is frazzled but is all about family; Olive’s Grandpa (Alan Arkin) – who snorts heroin, sprinkles his conversations with profanity and was “asked” to leave a retirement home - has taught and works with Olive on her pageant dance routine; her teenage brother Dwayne (Paul Dano) who, after reading Nietzsche, has taken a vow of silence even as he dreams of getting into flight school; and Olive’s uncle, Frank (Steve Carell), the number one Proust scholar in the world, who has tried to kill himself after a graduate student he fell in love with left him for the number two Proust scholar who - to add to Frank’s depression - has been awarded a MacArthur genius grant.

After each character is deftly sketched everyone is brought together for dinner. Not just a dinner but - once again - take-out fried chicken dinner! And, with dinner we get the dynamics of all of the family. Uncle Frank is our window into the family as his sister, Sheryl, has brought him home from the hospital because, she’s told, he shouldn’t be left alone. It’s a brilliant set piece masterfully performed and we see each character’s personality and learn that Dwayne hates everybody. But fate or luck has dictated that Olive will be able to participate in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant – she only has to get to California by the weekend. Life conspires that everyone will have to pile into the family yellow and white VW Microbus: it’s the essence of America, the road trip!

The trip – in quest of the dream at the end of the highway - this time in California - is one of turns missed, roads not taken; of detours and roadblocks: the quintessential journey of discovery. Part of what makes the film work so well is the brilliance each actor brings to his or her role – everyone is spot-on including the character actors who populate the fringes of the film. And, each person begins to learn more about themselves and the family as they get closer and closer to the pageant. The perfect metaphor: after an eventful journey, while they can see the hotel where the pageant is being held, they can only get there with some creative driving! Which makes them – after everything the Hoovers have gone through – seconds past the competition sign-in deadline: after such an arduous trip will Olive be denied the opportunity to compete?

The Little Miss Sunshine pageant taps into and is part of the American dream. The pageant participants and their families are actual participants who perform their own competition routines. Priceless would be one way of describing how the pageant unfolds. How Olive performs - and how the Hoovers respond - shows how each family member has been transformed and reminds us that quite often it’s the trip and not the destination that is most important.

The award winning screenplay is from the literate and talented Michael Arndt who employs classical allusions in the structure of the story that resonate subconsciously throughout the film. The VW Microbus could well be a tiny vessel from Greek antiquity bobbing in the Aegean or a long boat on sandy shores being pushed into the sea by a running crew. But Arndt’s screenplay is generous not only to the actors with pitch perfect dialogue but allows the first time feature film directors to tell the story visually. What elevates Little Miss Sunshine to a great film is contained in the opening scene: by looking into Olive’s eyes we are really looking into ourselves.

Producers: Albert Berger, Michael Beugg, Jeb Brody, David Friendly, Bart Lipton, Peter Saraf,
                    Marc Turtletaub, Ron Yerxa
Directors: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Screenplay: Michael Arndt
Cinematography: Tim Suhrstedt
Art Direction: Alan Muraoka
Music: Mychael Danna and DeVotchKa
Film Editing: Pamela Martin