Under the Radar Movies: Frailty

MV5BMTIxNTE2MTY1Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwODYyMTc2._V1_SY317_CR1,0,214,317_AL_This  understated (and overlooked) horror film stars  Matthew McConaughey, Powers Boothe and Bill Paxton.

Bill Paxton (who also directed the film) plays the father of two pre-teen boys. One night he announces that God has visited him and has given him a mission. The father along with his two sons will hunt down demons and destroy (not kill!) them. God has also given them magical tools to complete their mission: a pair of work gloves, a length of pipe, and an axe. The gloves allow the user to detect whether or not the subject is a demon; the pipe is used to subdue the demon if necessary and the axe is used to ultimately destroy the demon.

After destroying their first demon (who looks just like a human) the younger son is on board with the mission, and even wants his fathers approval. The older son rebels because he thinks that his father is insane. The father punishes the older son to force him to believe that they are doing God’s work by destroying demons.

As the film opens, Matthew McConaughey (one of the now-grown sons) contacts an FBI agent played by Powers Boothe as the other son has become a serial killer. Comprised of a series of flashbacks, McConaughey tells the FBI agent the story of his father and his brother and trio’s involvement in killing demons. At the end there is a twist that took me completely by surprise.

The film is creepy and only hints at violence; all of the killings take place off camera. This film was overlooked when it came out and is very underrated. The movie relies more on atmosphere rather than gore. Paxton directed the film so that there is palpable sense of dread and uncertainty. Matthew McConaughey  delivers a very understated performance unlike many of the other characters he has played.

Click here to put a hold on this movie:

Frailty

Worth a look for horror/suspense film fans who like atmosphere and dread over explicit violence. Also, it might be worth watching if  you are a fan of Bill Paxton.

Skip it if horror films are not your thing or you don’t like Matthew McConaughey.

-Steve
MDE’s Self-Appointed Movie Critic

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Maya Angelou April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014

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The Mamie Doud Eisenhower Public Library would like to remember Maya Angelou, an American author, playwright, actor, activist, and much, much more. This morning, Dr. Angelou completed her remarkable journey here on earth. She will forever be remembered for her strength, her ability to weave words into beautiful and profound stories, and her gift of bringing people together. Stop by and check out some of her work. Here is just a tiny snippet.

Click on a title if you’d like to place a hold.

Even the Stars Look Lonesome

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How to Make an American Quilt

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Mother: A Cradle to Hold Me

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Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing

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Roots

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Still I Rise

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-SRJ

Films Worth a Second Look: Last of the Mohicans

511W0MWX9SLPerhaps my favorite movie, Last of the Mohicans is a lavish, sprawling adventure set during the time of the French and Indian War in North America.

Directed by Michael Mann, the film is beautifully acted. Daniel Day-Lewis is mesmerizing as Nathanial “Hawkeye” Poe. Russel Means and Eric Schweig play Poe’s adoptive Mohican father (Chingachgook) and brother (Uncas) respectively. Wes Studi plays Magua, who provides the film with the requisite villain. Madeleine Stowe rounds out the cast as Hawkeye’s love interest.

Set during the French and Indian War, the British are fighting the French for control of North America. The British are trying to convince the local militia (comprised of colonists) to join in the fight against the French. The settlers are concerned that if they enlist in the cause, their homes and families will be left unprotected.

Hawkeye and his adoptive Mohican father and brother are traveling through the area and come across a party being lead by Magua, who is leading  the party into an ambush. Hawkeye interrupts the attack on the party which includes Cora Munro (Madeleine Stowe) and her sister, the daughters of a British officer. As it turns out, Magua is actually Huron but had been captured by the Mohawk. He holds the British responsible for losing his family so he is plotting to kill the daughters of a British officer to have his revenge. Magua is not a one dimensional villain: has has reasons, however misguided,  for his desire for revenge.

The movie is beautifully filmed: Mann captured the era of North America just before there was a United States. Vast, lush, sweeping shots of virgin forest show the unspoiled land as it was during this period. This is showcased during the opening scenes when Hawkeye, Uncas and Chingachgook are hunting a stag and running through forest tracking it down to kill it.

The film has something for everyone: romance, action, adventure, a compelling storyline, exceptional acting. The costumes are well done, and the weapons, tomahawks, long rifles, hunting knives, and war clubs look realistic.

The action sequences are spectacular. Hawkeye in particular combines the grace and elegance of Rudolf Nureyev with the lethal fighting skills of Bruce Lee. Russell Means (as Chingachgook, Hawkeye’s adoptive father) wields his gun-stock war club with devastating authority. His final confrontation with Magua is emotionally satisfying, yet ultimately unavailing as Mohican has lost so much. Magua makes for a compelling villain: he has allowed his desire for revenge to twist him until it consumes him.

The only criticism I have is that there is one scene where a British soldier is graphically scalped by a Huron warrior. It is a very brutal scene and hard to watch.

Click on the following link to place a hold:

http://nell.boulderlibrary.org/record=b1616948~S13

Worth a look if you like well-acted, broad, sweeping historical dramas.

Skip it if you are put off by violence.

-Steve
MDE’s Self Appointed Movie Critic

 

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Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Greg McKeown’s new book called “Essentialism” has become a must read for me. Not only is it important advice for any work place, but it is also something to think about and apply to life. We spend so much time and energy reacting to what comes our way in life rather than being thoughtful and choosing what to spend time on. McKeown argues that it is the successful, driven people that especially struggle under the need to take on more and more and become buried under things that are not important or essential. I highly recommend this book. This 5 minute talk gives a general overview of the topics he covers in the book.

-Kathryn

Chestnut Street: Saying Goodbye to Maeve Binchy

ImageI finished Chestnut Street, that’s the best that can be said.  Maeve Binchy books are not difficult reading; they are delightful character driven stories with a dip into the Irish landscape and culture. I really wanted to like this book. And basically, I somewhat liked it. Binchy’s final book, published posthumously this year following her death in 2012, is a collection of short stories–some only four pages long–centered around the houses of the not too well to do inhabitants of Chestnut Street, Dublin. Each story gives a peek at a different resident of Chestnut Street: Bucket, the window cleaner who goes everywhere on his bicycle and will do anything for his son. Dolly and her perfectly beautiful cheerful mother who may not be as perfect as she seems. Nessa whose Aunt has emigrated to America and brings back her manners, culture and opinions each year and may not be the woman she portrays herself to be.

Chestnut Street gives us a glimpse into our neighbors’ homes and lives. But like with most short stories, a glimpse is all we get. Binchy may have written these as testers for a more cohesive, longer story. The NPR review says Chestnut Street, “Has everything that makes Binchy special, in small delicious bites.” And there’s the rub. Reading all thirty-six short stories in a few sittings is tantamount to eating a pound of fudge in one go, sweet and sickly.

To make up your own mind about Chestnut Street, click here to place a hold:

Chestnut Street

-Sarah BG

Under the Radar Movies: Land of the Lost

MV5BOTkzNDg2OTc1NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDcxODE2Mg@@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_As a youngster, I watched the original Land of the Lost television series on Saturday mornings. It wasn’t my favorite show, but I did manage to catch it every time I could. A few years ago, I purchased the entire TV series on DVD and watched all the episodes in order, which I had not done when it was originally on.

The movie remake stars Will Farrell as Dr. Rick Marshall, Anna Friel as Holly Cantrell and Danny McBride as Will Stanton. The plot involves a disgraced scientist (Ferrell) promoting his wacky scientific theories on Matt Lauer’s TV show. Later, Marshall’s theories prove correct and he and Holly and Will are transported into the Land of the Lost. There they meet many familiar characters: Sleestak, Enik the head sleestak, Grumpy the perpetually PO’d tyrannosaurus rex and Chaka, a monkey-like humanoid. The plotting is almost non-existent as the trio faces many challenges in escaping the Land of the Lost. It’s almost a series of random comedy sketches ultimately leading the the trio’s escape.

The movie is campy, silly and has many inside jokes that only those who have seen the original series will appreciate. There are lots of sight gags and gross-out humor and is very funny, especially for those who have seen the TV series.  This is definitely not a children’s movie, and I think it suffered at the box office as many thought it was. The movie does use the source material for laughs but never in a mean-spirited way. Really, it is a touching homage to the original TV series.

Click on the following link to place a hold on this movie:

Land of the Lost

Worth a look if you like campy, gross out humor or are a fan of Will Ferrell.

Skip it if you haven’t seen the original TV series or low-brow humor is not your thing.

– Steve
MDE’s Self-Appointed Movie Critic

 

Fun Read for Foodies

18167006Ruth Reichl the former managing editor of the beloved, now defunct, Gourmet magazine has spread her literary talent to the fiction page with her first novel, Delicious!  The story of Billie Breslin, a 20something frump (think the before Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada) who has dropped out of college to try her hand at being an editorial assistant at the historic “Delicious!” magazine. Billie has a remarkable, almost magical, palate that allows her to taste when a chef uses curry leaves in a meatball recipe or even knowing what myrtle and hyssop taste like.

When the magazine is shut down, Billie is left to honor the Delicious Guarantee—the magazine’s promise to make recipes right for its readers. Left quite literally on her own in the grand mansion that housed the “book,” Billie discovers a secret room with a cache of letters from readers, including a correspondence during World War II between a girl named Lulu and renowned writer James Beard.

The story is thin, the characters accessible yet not fully developed and the prose easy and understandable. So while this may sound like a meh review, I really enjoyed Delicious! It falls in line with Maeve Binchy–a book that presents some problem you know will be resolved well, all in a beautiful setting. Trade Dublin for Greenwich Village.

To place a hold:

Delicious!

-Sarah BG