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Black Books in Our Good Books

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If you are a fan of British comedy as the movie maniacs are, you'll love the short television series Black Books.

Dylan Moran, who often appears on Montreal's Just for Laughs' stage, plays "shambolic" bookstore owner Bernard Black, whose business is declining without staff to help him out of the mess of his life.

Tamsin Grieg plays Fran, the hapless shopkeeper next door. Brit comedy regular Bill Bailey plays Manny, a sort of Igor to Moran's Bernard. Hilarious episodes include one involving a Frankenstein parody and Papal wine and another involving Manny in photoshoot for "Big and Beardy" magazine, sending up Midnight Cowboy in the process.

Faulty Towers' customer service is 5-star compared to Black Books'. Bernard's drunken ranting and nihilism make Black Books essential viewing for retail workers...don't, just don't, follow suit.

Black Books is a 3-cd set with only a few episodes each, so it's a quick run, the first and second seasons being the strongest.

Gems you may have missed 2008

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2008 was a year when slumdogs, superheroes and sad-eyed robots ruled our imagination. As audiences lined up for grand entertainment, many of the year's best films and performances went largely unnoticed. Here are some of my favourite films from last year. Click on the links to place a request for a film.

Shotgun Stories:The story of a group of half-brothers that become embroiled in a dispute after the passing of their father. This parable like story provides an astute examination of what incites youth to violence and the struggles of the brave few who will stand against it.

Son of Rambow: Please don't let the title scare you off. This is a charming and stylish story of two English schoolboys of vastly different backgrounds attempting to re-create their favourite movie, Rambo: First Blood. The experience of filming their masterpiece helps the boys cope with their troubled family relationships.

Happy Go Lucky: Sally Hawkins gives an incredible performance as Poppy, a seemingly incurable optimist. This slice-of-life feature follows Poppy through driving lessons, dance classes and nightclubs, as she tries to bring joy to those who would bring her down. British director Mike Leigh gives us a funny, thoughtful and very touching story of the struggles of maintaining a positive outlook on life.

Tell No One: "8 Years ago, Alex's wife was murdered... Today she e-mailed him." So says the tag-line from this absorbing thriller. A pediatrician struggles to prove his innocence in the brutal murder of his wife, while trying to outrun those who pursue him. This "Fugitive" like film is a truly international effort: a French Director (Guillaume Cane) filming an American novel (by Harlan Coben), starring French-Canadian and British actresses (Marie-Josée Croze & Kristin Scott Thomas).

The Fall: In a hospital in 1920's California, a bed-ridden stuntman befriends a young girl with a broken arm. He enchants her with a magical tale of heroes and villains. Real-life people and situations are gradually incorporated into his story and the line between story and reality become blurred. Like "Pan's Labyrinth" this film uses a fairytale approach to deal with some heavy subject matter. What begins as an escapist tale for the child ends up a cathartic one for the stuntman. Filmed in 20 countries over the period of four years, the images and scope of this film are awe-inspiring.

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Moe's Pick of the Week

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For April 23rd 2009

Paper Moon

This 1973 movie stars real life father and daughter Ryan and Tatum O'Neal as a pair of depression era con artists. A very engaging story full of colorful characters, including the outrageous Madeline Kahn as Trixie Delight, and Randy Quaid pre National Lampoon days. An excellent performance by 10 year old Tatum makes her the holder still of the title as the youngest performer ever to win the Oscar for best supporting actress (next youngest is Anna Paquin for her role in 1993's The Piano-another good, but much darker movie).

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