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Are you a Derek Jacobi-an?

by Melanie Kolbeins - 0 Comment(s)

British actor Derek Jacobi is best known for his Shakespearean stage work, but he's been in many other movies, series, and tv programs. CPL has many of his best roles on dvd.

Take a look at I, Claudius Never mind the newer Rome tv series (okay, watch it--it's good)... Go back to this classic "classic" set in Rome of 37-68 AD (based on Robert Graves' novel). The production values of this BBC series are very low. Remember the '80s, when we decided to tape in glorious video? Don't let that deter you, Jacobi is wonderful as the "idiot" Claudius and John Hurt as Caligula is truly creepy. Star Trek fans look out for Patrick Stewart. It's a good winter viewing, 13 50-minute episodes, but well worth the time spent.

The Cadfael series

  1. Beloved mystery writer Ellis Peters' (Edith Pargeter's) medieval monk Cadfael plays a forensic investigor looking into murders from within and without monastery walls. Best in the series are The Pilgrim of Hate, the final episode. Try to watch them in sequence because there is a continuous narrative thread in the tv series. Look them up by episode. title lists the order of the series as follows: One Corpse Too Many, The Sanctuary Sparrow, The Leper of St Giles, Monk's Hood, The Virgin in the Ice, The Devil's Novice, A Morbid Taste for Bones, The Rose Rent, St. Peter's Fair, The Raven in the Foregate, The Holy Thief, The Potter's Field, and The Pilgrim of Hate.

    The Riddle

    Jacobi is unexpected as what seems at first the bit part of a homeless man in this mystery set Thames-side. A pub owner finds a Charles Dickens manuscript of a short story entitled The Riddle, which is played out as the story within the story. It's a great premise for a show and Jacobi is the strongest actor.

    Jacobi also appears in Dickens' Old Curiosity Shoppe.

    Love Victoriana? Try the series based on Anthony Trollope's The Pallisers or The Wyvern mysteries, in which Jacobi plays an odious lord whose intentions for his adopted neice turn out to be less than philanthropic. The story has romance and the obligatory "don't go into that room even if you hear weird noises coming from it."

    Even if you're not in high school English anymore, you can still check out our stage productions of Shakespeare on dvd. Try Derek Jacobi in Richard II or Hamlet. You can't go wrong with Shakespeare. This is a good resource for students who have difficulty reading the plays. Shakespeare wrote in Modern English not "Old English" as many assume. It's just Elizabethan, not contemporary modern English, and stage productions really bring the characters to life.

Children with Questionable Existences

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As this is my first post, not only as a 'Movie Maniac' but also in the history of all time, I will keep it short. Moe wrote about El Orfanato-The Orphanageback in October, and as this film came highly recommended from others I put it on hold... and waited.

But wait. There's more.

I soon forgot that I had requested the movie and picked up a few others to watch. Among them was Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965) directed by Otto Preminger and adapted from the novel of the same name byEveyln Piperwho is also known as Marryam Modell.

As an aside, my youngest sister respectfully declined my invitation to watch the movie after realizing that it was in black and white and had 'funny' music.

I encourage you to look past all this and borrow Bunny Lake Is Missing as well as El Orphanato and The Children of Men(starring Julianne Moore and Clive Owen). In addition to a very 'deja vu' connection between Bunny Lake Is Missing and El Orphanato these three films share an interesting theme involving children with questionable existences. As in... do they exist? will they exist? have they ever existed?

Julianne Moore's other film The Forgotten also follows this formula and coincidently enough has a trailer in the Bunny Lake Is Missing previews. Unfortunately the Calgary Public Library currently does not have any copies of this one, but rest assured there are more in our collection to choose from. The Changelingfrom 2008 comes to mind as does other variations of the questionable existence theme such as The Sixth Sense. As a further aside, Bunny Lake Is Missing is supposedly up for a remake. See IMDB for more information about the new production.

So just to recap Bunny Lake Is Missing shares an interesting connection to El Orphanato, see if you can find out what I am refering to, the previews of which feature The Forgotten starring Julianne Moore who also appears in The Children of Men.

If you're in the mood for some existential suspense give these a try.


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brought back; resurgent:


There is an oft quoted statement that there are really only 7 basic plots for stories. Others have broken it down further and say there may be as many as twenty; quest, adventure, pursuit, rescue, escape, revenge, riddle, rivalry, underdog, temptation, metamorphosis, transformation, maturation, love, forbidden love, sacrifice, discovery, wretched excess, ascension, and decision. Whichever number you favour, there is no doubt that plots and stories get recycled---and if a story can get recycled then certainly a superior story can be told and retold.

Seldom has there been a story more frequently retold than Victor Hugo's 1862 Les Misérables ... I counted no less than 46 film and television adaptations going as far back as 1909. And being as popular as it is it should come as no surprise that there is currently a new adaptation in production for 2010, although at this time I couldn't find any further information.

We have four very good versions of Les Mis, so if you are interested in seeing what different actors and directors can bring to a role, compare the following.

1935 and 1952---this is one dvd that has two versions included. Side A is with the incomparable Charles Laughton as Javert and Frederick March as Jean Valjean. Side B is the Michael Rennie adaptation.

1978---Anthony Perkins of Pyscho fame as the relentless Javert and Richard Jordan as Valjean.

1998---Geoffrey Rush as Javert, Liam Neeson as Valjean and Claire Danes as daughter Cosette.

I recommend any of the above as stand alones but would also encourage you to try more than one. I hope to have more movies with mulitple choices for you in the future.

2000---is a mini series of Les Mis from our French DVD collection which I have not seen. It features Gerard Depardieu and rather surprisingly John Malkovich as Javert. Surprising only in that until this post I did not now that Malkovich was fluent in French, having lived and worked there for nearly 10 years.

The musical version of Les Misérables opened at the Broadway Theater on March 12, 1987 and ran for 6680 performances, making it the third longest running show on Broadway.


Searching by Tags

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One of our blog fans asked if s/he could search for dvds in the Criterion collection. Yes you can! Simply type criterion in the search field on our main page and 250 dvds are listed. You can also type in some actors' names and dvds will be listed. Thanks for asking!


Marvelous Meryl

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Speaking Polish and German, mastering a dozen different accents, learning to play the violin by practicing 6 hours a day, rowing through white water, gaining and loosing weight seemingly at will---there seems to be very little that Streep can't do. At age 12 she studied to become an opera singer and she can be heard singing in several of her performances---Postcards from the Edge, Mamma Mia, A Prairie Home Companion. She became interested in acting while a student at Vassar and upon graduation she enrolled in the Yale School of Drama. She gave a breakout performance in her first outing in 1977's Julia and the next year was nominated for her first Oscar in The Deer Hunter (1978). She went on to win the Academy Award for her performances in Kramer vs Kramer (1979) and Sophies Choice (1982). She is one of only 6 women to ever receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the AFI. She has been nominated for Academy Awards more than anyone else in the history of the Oscars---15 times; 12 for best actress and 3 times for best supporting. She is the actor with the most Golden Globe nominations of all time with a total of 23 nominations. She has only been turned down for four roles: in American Gigolo (1980), Sweet Dreams (1985), The Remains of the day (1993), and Elizabeth I (1998). There are far too many other awards, nominations and honours to mention here and her list of film credits would take pages. If you wish to find out everything Meryl follow this link to the highly informative IMDB site.

Meryl is very well represented at CPL. To see everything we have of her's do a keyword search of Meryl Streep Dvd from our homepage, which will bring up an impressive 33 titles (incidentially this search technique will work for any other actor). To help you narrow Meryl down, the following are my own personal favorites, although in my opinion she doesn't get many wrong.

Postcards From the Edge; Silkwood; Sophie's Choice; Cry in the Dark; Deer Hunter; Out of Africa; River Wild; Doubt; Defending your Life; Manchurian Candidate; We are also in the process of acquiring her latest, Julie and Julia.

Best Westerns II

by Melanie Kolbeins - 0 Comment(s)

Howdy pard'ners...time fer another western movie review, I reckon. These older and newer classics are sweeter than sarsparilla...

Dead Man

Follow William Blake (Johnny Depp) through the wilderness with a group of no goods and a native guide. He just can't catch a break in this humorous and unconventional film from one of my favorite directors: Jim Jarmusch.

Englishman's Boy

Originally a made for tv short series, this is based on Alberta author Guy Vanderhaeg's novel. If you can stomach some violence, the story is worth it. Nicholas Campbell (Da Vinci's Inquest) plays the protagonist driven by events to the edge of his tolerance and it's his best acting.

For pete's sake, if you haven't seen any of Sergio Leone's "spagetti westerns" made famous by Clint Eastwood, do so. These are westerns for people who don't like westerns...The cinematography is beautiful and atmospheric and really defined Western cinema after it.

Don't miss: Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Clint is always excellent as the quiet hand of justice (and sometimes comedy) in his encounters with the law and outlaws.

Tried to whistle the theme song didn't ya...heh heh heh

"Git" your holds in now for the Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1936) arriving soon at CPL. It's a real tear-jerker at times, starring Spanky of Our Gang and Henry Fonda