Blog: Flick Picks

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Flick Picks 4/24/2015: Taken 3, The Immigrant, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

This week we have the immigrant experience in a a beautifully-evoked New York of the 1920's.  A sleek crime and corruption story set in the same corroding metropolis of the early 80's.  And won't those bad guys ever learn?  Stop messing with Liam Neeson's loved ones!  One last time - if you abduct or harm anyone in the man's family...he will find you, he will kill you.  I hope we don't have to go over this again.    


Another showcase for the considerable talents of Marion Cotillard,  The Immigrant is a drama that delves into the dark side of the immigrant experience.  Cotillard plays Ewa, a Polish immigrant who leaves Ellis Island without her quarantined sister and in the dubious care of Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix), who has definite plans for the vulnerable woman.  Is there hope in the form of Bruno's cousin, Emil (Jeremy Renner), a dashing illusionist?  Beyond the acting of Cotillard and others, The Immigrant is a film of considerable style in its depiction of time and place, from Ellis Island to a teeming Lower East Side of Manhattan.



Flick Picks 4/17/2015: Foyles War Set 8, Big Eyes, The Babadook

Oh, quite a grab bag this week.  In feature films, we have the slightly weird, the dark and the downright scary.  But in a world gone slightly mad, fear not.  Detective Chief Superintendant Christopher Foyle is back on the case....

New Series


There is a bit of wall in a staff area of the library where librarians for a time posted pictures of their favorite actors.  One by one, the handsome men were replaced by beloved dogs, past and present.  Eventually, only one man's picture remained among the pooches.  That actor?  Michael Kitchen.  Interpret this as you will, but it does seem to speak to the appeal of the distinguished Mr. Kitchen, who has played the role of Foyle since the series' inception in 2002.  The detective is back once more to solve crimes in the years immediately after World War II in England.  Apparently this truly is it for Foyle's War (much as the series has been cancelled and revived in the past), so place a hold on Foyle's War Set 8 today and savor those final episodes!



Flick Picks 4/10/2015: Grantchester, The Red Road, Black Sails

Quite a mixed bag this week.  No big feature film releases, but a variety of new series, documentaries and fun classic released on DVD.


If you didn't flip channels or turn off the t.v. after the recent fifth season of Downton Abbey, you might have seen another British production, Grantchester.  Based on the The Grantchester Mysteries, by James Runcie, Grantchester is a detective drama set in the eponymous English village during the 1950's.  Local vicar Sidney Chambers becomes a sleuth in his spare time, somewhat to the chagrin of Detective Inspector Geordie Keating, who grudgingly helps the young vicar.



Flick Picks 4/3/2015: The Imitation Game, Interstellar, Wild

Some major DVD releases this week, highlighted by three very different stories.  


Based on the life and World War II work of Alan Turing, The Imitation Game is the story of the English contribution to the breaking of the seemingly unbreakable Nazi Enigma Code.  This period drama is highlighted by the performance of Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing, a hero of the English war effort who was unjustly persecuted in the decade following his life-saving work.  We have several copies of the regular DVD version of the film, as well as one on Blu-ray.     

The Imitation Game is hardly the first film or series that deals with the English attempt to break the Enigma Code and its aftermath.  Another interesting take on the story was provided by the 2013 British series, The Bletchley Circle.  The Bletchley Circle focuses on a group of female code breakers relegated to more traditional female roles after the war, who reunite to catch a serial killer in the 1950's.  The Bletchley Circle is available in our series collection.



Flick Picks 3/27/2015: Into The Woods, The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies, Low Down, Ride The Pink Horse

But a few new releases this week, each of the highlighted films very much in the realm of the fantastic...


Based upon Stephen Sondheim's Tony Award-winning musical, Into The Woods is brought vividly to the screen with a strong cast, headed by the great Meryl Streep.  Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt and Johnny Depp also feature in the story which is based upon several fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, including "Little Red Riding Hood," "Cinderella," "Jack and the Beanstalk," and "Rapunzel.  Into The Woods is available in regular DVD and Blu-ray editions.




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



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.    



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?    



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?



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.



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