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The Bible and the Epics

by Maureen May

For many years when looking for a sure fire hit, film makers turned to the Bible. As a result a lot of truly classic films were born, with great casting, wonderous sets and stunning live action sequences. There were also some epic mistakes- serious miscasting and barely recognizable interpretations. Now I know you can find these perennial favourites on t.v. espcially as Easter approaches but why not watch them commercial free, and at a time of your choosing. And if you have a large screen with surround sound you're in for a treat.

Grand daddy of them all - Ben Hur. This is one of my favourite movies of all time and I would not be exaggerating if I said I have seen it 30 times (at 3 hours and 32 minutes that's a lot of Ben!). And I've had the joy of seeing it on the big screen. The sets are real- no CGI's here and the chariot race really is Chuck and Stephen Boyd tearing around the track. Still considered one of the greatest action sequences ever captured, the race took 3 months to film and used 15000 extras on the largest set ever built (see the picture- that's a set - with real people- and I can't get the whole thing to fit!). It won 11 Oscars, equaled only by Titanic and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy- and think of all the CGI in those films. It is a brilliant movie.

Spartacus- Kirk Douglas, Jean Simmons (not the lead singer of Kiss- the other Jean Simmons!). This was made the year after Ben Hur as compensation to Douglas for being turned down in favour of Heston for Ben Hur (Kirk was offered Messala in Ben Hur but did not want to play second banana). Again a cast of 1000's (10,000 plus for the battle scene). Co-produced by Douglas, he got so many great actors to appear in smaller roles by showing them each a different script that emphasized their character over the others.

 The 10 Commandments- again with Charlton Heston- this time playing Moses, and Yul Bryner as Ramses. This is a movie that has so many truly epic scenes-parting of the Red Sea/erecting the giant obelisk- it is hard to count. This is also one of the most financially successful movies ever made- adjusting for inflation its North American box office revenue is around $977 million. It is grandiose. We have over 20 new copies coming shortly.

We also have a good animated offering of the Moses story. From 1998- Prince of Egypt. And while we are on animated stories there is also 2000's Joseph, King of Dreams. Also the charming Veggie Tales, which convey moral themes based on Christianity.

The Robe- Richard Burton and Jean Simmons again, in the imagined tale of the Roman centurion who comes into posession of Christ's robe after His crucifixion.

Quo Vadis- Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr and Peter Ustinov doing a wonderfully mad Nero.

The Passion of The Christ- this is Mel Gibson's bloody, violent and to my mind over the top re-telling of the crucifixion. Of course crucifixion was bloody and violent and most movies do sanitize it, but Gibson seems to relish it. I recommend it with reservations and mostly because it was so popular and controversial at the time of its release. Heads up- for authenticity Gibson has everyone speaking Latin, Aramaic and Hebrew with English sub-titles. Completly financed by Gibson (at around $30 million) it made him a fortune-best estimations are around $580,000,000.00.

Greatest Story ever Told- anyone who was anyone in 1965 seems to have been in this movie. Not the best retelling, but worth a look.

Jesus Christ Superstar---is one of the very first rock operas by the wonderful team of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. First staged on Broadway in 1971 it too was highly controversial. A musical about the crucifixion-what were they thinking? I think it works.

Jesus of Montreal- by Canadian director Denys Arcand and on Mel's must have list when stranded on a desert island.

by Moe

Great TV Part 2 - FX

by Moe - 1 Comment(s)

Guest Blogger Trevor promised us more great television recommendations and here they are. FX is a specialty network that features original programming and depending on how much cable you have you may or may not get this channel. But not to worry-CPL has your back.

Just like HBO, many of FX’s shows are of a different caliber than regular cable. With less stringent censorship, shows are able to push the boundaries of what you’d expect from television. Here are a few of the notable series we have in our collection.

Sons of Anarchy tells the tale of an outlaw motorcycle club in small town California. They kill, steal, and smuggle guns all while maintaining a moral compass that fans can get behind (the people they kill really do need killing). It’s been described as The Sopranos on Harleys and after watching two seasons, I can confirm that’s an apt description.

Justified - The excellent Timothy Olyphant stars as the unflappable US Marshal Raylan Givens, sent back to rural Kentucky after shooting a Miami gangster. Justified is a modern western, right down to the quick drawing lawman who might be just a little too quick to draw. Superb acting and deceptively simple plots make Justified an addicting pleasure.

Damages - A legal thriller unlike anything else on TV. Glenn Close plays the possibly good/possibly wicked super-litigator Patty Hewes. She’s out to possibly mentor/possibly corrupt fresh out of law school Ellen Parsons (played by Rose Byrne) while they try to settle a class action lawsuit that rises into the hundred millions. There are certainly a lot of possibilities in this taut and well written thriller. We have 3 seasons.

The Shield is a series that is constantly examining the concept of “The Greater Good”. It surrounds a special task force helmed by award winning Michael Chiklis who stops at nothing to see justice done. Extremely violent and gritty, The Shield pulls no punches in portraying a corrupt police force. We have 7 seasons of this excellent drama.

And check out his Part 1-HBO, for more excellent selections. Thanks Trevor.

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6 degrees of Patrick Wilson

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

Thanks to our Guest Blogger Alex for the following post. She also writes for the TEEN ZONE blog where she recently posted a great Snow White- Redux. Follow this link and take a look- you wont be disappointed. And don't you think her graphics are great!

Oh Patrick Wilson... you paradigm of manliness... you most excellent of studmuffins... I could just... oh, hello there. What's that you say? You don't know who Patrick Wilson is? Ha ha ha, very funny. No wait, you're serious? PATRICK WILSON? Oh for shame! Very well, let me begin your education.


I'll start this way: I KNOW you know who Patrick is, you just don't know you know him. Know how I know? Because this man is cast with THE BIGGEST NAMES IN HOLLYWOOD on a regular basis. He has been the right-hand man of just about every A-lister out there. And to some, his star might shine a little dimmer in comparison to theirs... but not to me. This guy is Grade-A awesome. Just watch this!

Patrick with Gerard Butler in Phantom of the Opera (he sings!)

Patrick with Billy Bob and Jason Patric in The Alamo (he does accents! He can use a sword and a gun! OR A BAYONET!)

Patrick with Bradley Cooper and LIAM-FREAKING-NEESON in The A-Team (hot bad guy!)

Patrick with Samuel L Jackson in Lakeview Terrace (he can hold his own against Mace Windu!)

Still not impressed? Well... Ridley Scott also chose him for his blisteringly-bright, star-studded new Sci-Fi, Prometheus, opposite heavy hitters like Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace and Guy Pearce...

Wow! Nothing?!?!? Tough crowd, tough crowd. Okay then... take it from the ladies:

Kate Winslet in Little Children

Rose Byrne in Insidious

Liv Tyler in The Ledge

Claire Danes in Evening

Charlize Theron in Young Adult

Malin Akermen in Watchmen

Rachel McAdams in Morning Glory


Yeah. I knew that would do it. Now you know Patrick Wilson. Now click on all the links to borrow these flicks so you can KNOW Patrick Wilson.

Take me with you!

- 1 Comment(s)

Moe is on holidays right now, so she's asked a few other Movie Maniacs to step in and write some guest blogs for her while she's away. I was totally fine with this prospect until she revealed exactly where it was that she'll be vacationing.

Hint: It's New Zealand.

Now! This is a pretty excellent destination to choose at any given time, but it just so happens to be the BEST destination at THIS given time.

Don't know what I'm talking about? Clearly you're not as big of a fan-girl as I am (neener neener)...

The reason why New Zealand is the place for any Movie Maniac to be right now is because Peter Jackson is currently working on the second leg of his new Tolkien epic, "The Hobbit" in that glorious country as I type.

Now what you have to understand, is that we're still AGES away from the release of this movie. The first phase of it JUST got into post-production, and they've still got loads of editing and tweaking and awesome-ifying to do yet, and everything else is in pre-production. This is ALSO only the first half of the journey -- they're splitting the novel into two films, like any smart adapter does these days.

Which means, my friends, that they are filming RIGHT NOW, in all their dwarvish make-up glory, in beautiful locations all across the land of the Kiwis. And I couldn't be more jealous of Moe for getting to be there.

If the set production vlogs are anything to go by (which I'm hoping they are, even though Jackson is not releasing them NEARLY as often as he should be...) this second leg of shooting will carry on well into December. And even though the sites and sets are a very closely guarded secret, this makes me hopeful that Moe might just stumble across a hobbit or an elf or a dragon here and there. She has told me they love drivng down back roads just to see where they come out, so with a little luck... At any rate, I've told her it's probably best to bring her lady-dwarf costume (beard and all) and some speedy running shoes for dodging the security guards.


As a tribute to the epicness that is Jackson's work in New Zealand, I've decided to include a couple of OTHER movies shot in this locale. Click on the titles for links to the Calgary Public Library catalogue!


Whale Rider, possibly the biggest film to actually focus on Kiwi culture and life, revolves around a young Maori girl and her search to fulfill her destiny. Beautifully filmed, beautifully acted, this one was up for an Oscar and 28 other awards. It won most of them.

King Kong and Lovely Bones (both directed by Jackson) are not set in NZ, but do use its gorgeous locations as backdrops. Both are written by Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, two collaborators of Jackson's on LOTR. Both also have all-star casts, and one of them has Jack Black. What more can I say?

If you're into horror, 30 Days of Night (originally a graphic novel series) is a terrifying, and R-rated, Vampire flick... I promise these blood-suckers don't sparkle. Almost half of the cast is either Kiwi or Aussie, but you can't tell, because they're all pretending to be from Alaska.

I swear, New Zealand must have the most diverse climates and landscapes of any country... where else could pass for Pennsylvania, Alaska, Middle Earth... or Pandora?

That's right, James Cameron's epic Avatar was shot there too. Wanna know why? Check out this article from "Film New Zealand".

Other epic NZ-based movies include The Chronicles of Narnia,The Bridge to Terabithia (starring The Hunger Games' Josh Hutcherson), and Spielberg's highly anticapted Tintin movie, out this Christmas.

6 Degrees of Separation

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Thanks to guest blogger Alex who does another tremendous job stringing a '6 degrees post' together.

I was wondering how I could possibly write a post about “Real Steel” without losing the respect of every Movie Maniac out there… I mean, really? Hugh Jackman as an ex-UFC fighter and gambling addict, whose estranged 10-year-old son helps him revamp an old robot and enter the popular Automaton Boxing competitions of the not-so-distant future? It’s ridiculous! It’s juvenile! It panders to an audience that revels in video games and violence and not much else!

And… it’s AWESOME. I’m serious. This movie was fun, visually compelling, the plot followed a perfect (if predictable) arc, the acting was fine, the soundtrack was catchy… I even think I cried a little!

And let’s be honest. You could put Hugh Jackman in a poncho, wrestling tights, and a Ronald MacDonald wig, and the man would still be worth the price of admission.

So starting with Hugh Jackman in “Real Steel” and a 2ndgeneration sparring-Bot named “Atom” let's use Robots as our common denominator and see how this 6 degrees rolls out.

"I, Robot” is RIFE with Androids trying to take over the world, but we like Sonny, the main one. It stars Will Smith (another perfect human specimen), but, much better for my purposes, Shia LaBeouf has a bit part as a character named Farber.

LaBeouf, is, of course, the headliner for the hugely popular (though-no-one-knows-why) “Transformers” series, which stars more robots than it does humans. See him here with Optimus Prime.

The 2005 revamp of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” had a star-studded cast, least of which were the robots. Of the human actors, the brilliant Bill Nighy appears as Slartibartfast. (I had to sneak Marvin in the background there... but there are still TONS of robots in this movie...)

Now… here’s my only bridge that doesn’t include Bots… and I’d label it cheating if it wasn’t such an awesome movie. Bill Nighy and Kate Beckinsale star in “Underworld", a kick-butt romp through the age-old Lycan vs. Vamp family feud. (There's a lot of technology in this movie... that counts, right?)

Kate Beckinsale, who was a Vampire in “Underworld”, turns Vamp HUNTER in “Van Helsing”, which brings us back to Beefcake Hugh Jackman, AND an especially robotic monster of Frankenstein.

Not quite making the cut are some of my fave Artificial Intelligence movies, where the robot is played by an actor (and not just say, voiced by one), and therefore doesn’t count as a robot. You could say the same for Shuler Hensley in "Van Helsing", but there was a LOT of CG in that one.

A.I.- from 2001 and directed by Steven Spielberg, with the talented young Haley Joel Osmont and Jude Law.

Bicentennial Man- like "I,Robot", this is based on an Issac Asimov story and features Robin Williams in the tin suit.

Star Trek- I had to check with MM Moe because I am not the Trekkie that she is---she says while S.T. has a proliferation of robots, androids, cyborgs, and automotons, her own personal faves are any episodes that have The Borgs: 'the scourge of the Alpha and Delta quadrants and the cybernetically-enhanced humanoids that everybody loves to hate' (yeah- she actually said that!). In fact she is such a fan she has previously given Star Trek it's own featured spot (actually more than one!).

Mark Nov 9th on your calendars

by Moe - 1 Comment(s)

 

Oh man, I am so excited about this I am actually counting the days. On Nov 9th, two Cineplex Odeon Theatres in town will be re-releasing BEN HUR on the big screen.

If you have read some of my posts before, you know that I am one of these movie maniacs who when they find something they like will watch it over and over and over again. Ben Hur makes it onto my top 10 fave movies of all time. In fact, I just recommended it in April of this year in my post The Bible and the Epics. (excerpt from that post follows).

Grand daddy of them all - Ben Hur. This is one of my favourite movies of all time and I would not be exaggerating if I said I have seen it 30 times (at 3 hours and 32 minutes that's a lot of Ben!). And I've had the joy of seeing it on the big screen. The sets are real- no CGI's here and the chariot race really is Chuck and Stephen Boyd tearing around the track. Still considered one of the greatest action sequences ever captured, the race took 3 months to film and used 15000 extras on the largest set ever built (see the picture- that's a set - with real people- and I can't get the whole thing to fit!). It won 11 Oscars, equaled only by Titanic and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy- and think of all the CGI in those films. It is a brilliant movie.

 

Don't miss this one folks - take the kids, take the grandparents, take everyone you know. Did I mention that I am counting the days?

And tickets are only $5.00!

 

Redux- The Three Musketeers

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

The Three Musketeers novel by Alexandre Dumas was first serialized in March of 1844. It recounts the adventures of a young man named D’Artagnan after he travels to Paris to join the Musketeers of the Guard. The friends he makes are the musketeers for whom the novel is named- Athos, Porthos and Aramis. The book was incredibly popular at the time and has proved even more successful as a movie. The first film I could find was 1903 and since then there have been dozens of retellings, re-imaginings, sequels, prequels, serializations, mini series and cross-overs. Some of the ones I found include Tri Mushketyora from Russia, Los Tres Mosqueteros from Spain, El forsane el talata from Egypt, Se tofangdar from Iran and Long men san jian ke from Malaysia. Obviously a good story knows no borders

CPL has no less than 9 versions:

1)We have the 1921 silent with arguably one of the world’s greatest swashbucklers, Douglas Fairbanks. If you have never seen Fairbanks in action, don't let the non-talkie put you off. In fact embrace the lack of words and just enjoy his amazing athletic ability 2) the 1939 with Don Ameche and the Ritz Brothers;

3) 1948 with Lana Turner, Gene Kelly ,Vincent Price and June Allyson-not so much swashing here as dancing; 4) from BBC in 1966 with Jeremy Brett of Sherlock Holmes fame;

5) The 1974 release is likely one you are familiar with. This had a huge and impressive cast with the big names de jour including Oliver Reed, Raquel Welch, Richard Chamberlain, Michael York, Faye Dunaway, Christopher Lee and Charlton Heston. This one comes as a double and has the Four Musketeers sequel. These are great fun.

6) Another one likely on your radar is 1993’s release with young guns Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland, Chris O’Donnell, Oliver Platt and Tim Curry.

7) 2004 from Disney- with Mickey, Donald and Goofy--- what inspired casting!!

8) Barbie and the Three Musketeers- animated of course. 9) and I can barely bring myself to mention this one- it’s with the Three Stooges.

A good cross over is The Man in the Iron Mask which blends two stories by Dumas. In this 1997 release the 4 amigos are trying to save the wrongly imprisoned “man” from the evil clutches of Louis the 14th. The dual role is played by Leonardo DiCaprio, in one of the few things he’s done that I didn’t care for. But I enjoyed the older, wiser, and more careworn Musketeers as played by Jeremy Irons, Gabriel Byrne, John Malkovich and Gerard Deparedieu.

Now of course all things aren’t created equal so I leave you to pick and choose for yourself- my money is on Michael York (it made him a star), and Douglas Fairbanks. This brings me to the newest version in theatres now. I just saw this at a sneak preview and I have to say it is absurd, over the top, improbable and the most fun I have had at a movie in ages! Take the kids, take the grandparents----spend the extra bucks for the excellent 3D, suspend disbelief and just enjoy......

When Machines Go Bad

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Several of these films have been previously recommended under a variety of different posts. We humans do love our machines---anything that makes our lives easier, happier, less tedious. Things can look so good on the surface, but of course it is often just a facade to hide the underlying dystopia. And in a couple of the films there is no facade. The dystopia is real and the machines are in charge. I know I'm not an android---how about you.............

2001- A Space Odyssey- people tend to find this movie brilliant and prophetic or completley inscrutable. Either way, there is no denying that HAL was a great villian.

Blade Runner- Ridley Scott's classic from 1982. Harrison Ford has to track down and terminate 4 replicants who hijack a ship in space and return to earth seeking their maker.

Day the earth stood still- watch the far superior original with Michael Rennie. It should be perfect casting to have Keanu Reeves as the flat and emotionless Klatu in the remake, but alas, Reeves can't even pull this off.

Metropolis- Fritz Lang's classic silent movie- this should be on everybodies must see list.

I Robot- with Will Smith. Pretty decent flick---part science fiction, part murder mystery.

Westworld- Mel reviewed this one previously in one of her western posts. This was hugely popular when it came out in 73 and still stands up well.

Stark Trek First Contact- oh how I love to hate the Borgs- to my mind the best alien/villian/cyborg ever.

Iron Giant- this is one for the whole family, even the little ones. It is a wonderful cautionary tale told without beating us over the head with the message. And speaking of the whole family, you must see Wall-E. Neither one of these are in any way scary-just delightful.

Logan's Run-not a lot of robots in this, but certainly a lot of dystopia.

Transformers- loud, fast and too much going on at any given moment, this one is for either die hard fans of the series or die hard fans of Michael Bay. We also have the complete first season- animated.

No such post would be complete without The Matrix trilogy (1 2 3 ) and Terminator (1 2 3 4 ). Some are great, some our merely adequate, and some are bad. Yes, I am talking about you Terminator Salvation.

by Moe

Armageddin' outta here

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Okay I know, I know---this is a cheesy title but it was just too much fun to resist. So lets take a look at end of the world movies and see if they can give us ideas on how fast we need to run, how long we have to tread water, what SPF sunscreen we need to use---or any other hints on how to survive when IT (whatever IT is) happens. Maniaical birds, the sun behaving badly, alien intervention, plagues, ecological disaster, war, using the planet as a giant garbage dump- just a few of the scenarios these movies address.

The Birds from Hitchcock---end of the world you ask? Well yes, actually. Without giving away any more than the title already does, these birds are quietly scary. Watch for the scene with the crows at the playground--- it is amazing.

Knowing---I can run hot and cold on Nic Cage, but this is one of his better. See Mels earlier post Nicolas Cage Reconsidered for more Nic. Watch this movie then ask yourself- if it were you, would you rather know or not?

12 Monkeys---also a repeat recommendation---from the Space-Time Continuum post. Only at the time of that post, we didn't yet have it at CPL. Now it is on order and I am delighted---I love this movie. Bruce Willis is very good and this is my favorite Brad Pitt role---one for which he got a nod from Oscar, but not a win (Kevin Spacey took it that year for the Usual Suspects). I think it should have gone to Brad.

The Day the Earth Stood Still--- the original from 1961. Although we also have the 2008 remake with Keanu Reeves, the Michael Renee is far superior.

2012- the complete and utter destruction of absolutely everything! Impressive, if not always believable F/X.

Sunshine---from director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slum-Dog Millionaire). This should appeal to real hard core science fiction fans. And brainiacs- the film's science adviser was a particle physicist from CERN (Conseil Europeen Pour le Recherche Nucleaire [European Laboratory for Particle Physics]). He probably knows what he's talking about. I liked it a lot, even if I didn't understand all the science!

Of course there is always Schwarzengger's Terminator series (we have all 4---I only like 1 & 2), Gibson's Mad Max (dystopia populated by humanganoids), and Will Smith in I am Legend (very good).

And just to lighten things up a whole lot, try Wall-E from Disney. And invite the kids to join you- and also for the original Day the Earth Stood Still, but none of the others.

True Confessions

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It's time to 'fess up and admit that lately I have not been watching a breadth and depth of quality feature length-films to review for you. I have been lured into watching the complete tv series Prison Break available on dvd at CPL.

Plot summary: Think 24 meets The Dirty Dozen. Brothers Lincoln and Michael are estranged due to Lincoln' poor life choices. He's framed for the murder of a politician but Michael knows his brother is innocent. To break Lincoln out of jail, Michael plans to be put in jail first. Other inmates find out and become part of the escape plan. If you like this kind of adventure, see Moe's "Great Escapes" blog post.

There are several reasons why watching Prison Break for weeks was not a good idea. One is that some of the acting is of dubious quality (a lot of frowning and looking serious). Another is the implausibility of many of the situations that the characters find themselves in and out of. When sleep-deprived and surrounded on rough terrain by police with dogs and helicopters, they escape without so much as being grazed by a bullet. The main character tatoos his escape plan onto his body which includes the use of his mother's first name (um...in case he forgot it?). There a lot of this and discussing it is as fun as watching the series. Prison Break is also a continuity-error spotter's dream.

Here's what kept me watching: It's action packed. Lincoln and Michael can't even finish a meal without some new plot twist, usually involving either the law or the evil Company descending upon them. Some of the acting is great. Wade Williams plays Bellick the big lug of a prison Guard perfectly, and Robert Knepper is sinister yet witty as the psychopath Theodore "T-bag" Bagwell. There's all the gripping features I expect in a thriller--betrayals, thwarted love, chase scenes, conspiracy, corrupt corporations, and what drives the show is what drives all of us...the desire just to get home at the end of the day (to watch dvds, presumably).

There are only four seasons, with relatively few holds. Go on...you know you want to...

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