You are here: Home > Blogs > Movie Maniacs

Latest Posts

Off Line

The BBC strikes again

by Moe - 2 Comment(s)

Time and time again BBC turns out superior miniseries. With a seemingly endless pool of classically trained talent from which to draw, multi award winning directors, and truly original storylines, they just have an excellent product. When you can't take the endless banality of Hollywood offerings, with their regurgitated plots and their cookie cutter actors and actresses, turn your attention across the pond.

Their latest is the excellent "The Hour". This BBC production is actually about a fictitious BBC show. Set in the mid 50's in the early days of television, it follows the launch of a new sixty minute long current events show. With the always excellent Dominic West acting as the show's anchor, it follows their struggles to strike the right balance between informing and entertaining their audience.

We have just recieved season two, and it is even better than the first, and that's saying something. Set aside 5 hours to watch season one. As I so often do, I went to watch episode one, and stayed up far too late devouring the whole show in one sitting.

Excellent acting, compelling three dimensional characters, several tight, well crafted intersecting plots running throughout the 5 hours, and amazing attention to period details. It was recently nominated for a Golden Globe for Best MiniSeries or Motion Picture made for Television.

Great TV Part 3 - AMC

by Trevor - 0 Comment(s)

It was a while in the making but here's the third list of great shows you just can't find on cable. Just like HBO and FX, AMC produces television that is far better than the majority of shows the basic cable networks put out. Expect all of these shows to be gritty, realistic, and extremely entertaining.

Walking Dead – If you hadn’t noticed, we’re living in a bit of a Zombie renaissance. Like the infectious horde they are, they’ve taken over every media outlet whether it’s film, TV, videogames, or books. Walking dead is a perfect example of why this is a good thing. A Zombie show that is much more about the living survivors than the monsters trying to get them, The Walking Dead positively oozes drama and tension. In a world ruled by the dead, we’re finally forced to start living.

The Killing – I’m cheating a bit with this one as I’ve only seen the first few episodes but this one certainly seems to deserve the praise it’s recieving. The entire series revolves around the murder of a teenage girl and the show pulls no punches when showing the despair such a loss can cause. Far more realistic than the typical Law and Order crime procedural, The Killing looks to be something special.


Breaking Bad – Bryan Cranston has won 3 Emmys for his role as a Nobel prize nominee turned high school teacher turned cancer victim turned meth cook. To say that his acting is phenomenal is an understatement as this is one of the most complex TV characters I’ve ever seen. We root for him while at the same time cringing at the horrible things he does. We hold our breaths as he nearly gets caught, but we know that he deserves to. His motives are crystal clear one minute and inscrutable the next. As exciting as it is emotional, Breaking Bad deserves your attention.

Mad Men is a great show for the same reasons as Breaking Bad: characters that are complicated, nuanced, and realistic. Though the show undeniably belongs to the suave and chauvinistic Don Draper, the supporting characters are just as well developed and intriguing. So well are the characters developed that a single interaction or offhand comment may give insight into seasons worth of wondering. This one will get you hooked.

Check out Great TV Part 1: HBO and Great TV Part 2: FX for more suggestions.

Benedict Cumberbatch

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

Benedict Cumberbatch is popping us everywhere these days. He is currently Sherlock in the very modern retelling of Holmes solving crimes in 21st century London. This is a popular series and we have blogged it more than once.

He is the voice of Smaug and The Necromancer in Peter Jackson's latest- The Hobbit. (Sherlock's sidekick John Watson is played by Martin Freeman, who plays Bilbo in The Hobbit). He is to be the next heavy in the new Star Trek. He had smaller roles in The War Horse, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy earlier this year. He's been in Atonement, The Whistleblower, The Other Boleyn Girl. With the exception of TTSSPY, I enjoyed everyone of these movies. He is a fine dramatic actor.

I quite liked The Last Enemy, a 2008 BBC mini series, which first aired on 'Masterpiece Contemporary'. He plays a disaffected researcher who returns from abroad after the death of his brother, only to find an England he barely recognizes. A government bent on controlling its citizens at all costs, information gathering technology run amok, and a deadly plague. What more can you ask for in a thriller?

And speaking of The Hobbit, I saw it opening night — in glorious Imax, 3D, 48 frames per second. I am a rabid LOTR 's fan and was happy to return to Middle Earth with Peter Jackson at the helm- a few minor complaints such as it was a lot darker than I was expecting for the more light hearted Hobbit, but then that's P Jackson isn't it. Let me say this. While I enjoyed it very much, I do not feel compelled to rush right back to the theatre to see it again like I did with the other three LOTR installments.

Commissario Brunetti

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

The American born author Donna Leon has lived in Italy for the past 25 years. She has created an excellent series of books featuring her fictional hero, Commissario Guido Brunetti.

The very popular novels, all situated in or around Venice, are written in English and translated into many languages for world wide consumption. Except funnily enough, into Italian, at the author's request. So when it came to producing them for television the Italians were out of the loop so to speak. Enter the Germans. They have been producing the series since 2000 and are currently up to season 11.

Just released to DVD for North American audiences in 2011, Calgary Public Library has a great array of these well produced, finely acted crime dramas. I haven't seen a lot but I have certainly enjoyed the ones I have. They are dark stories, but this is offset by the real humanity of the principal characters. These are not your Midsomer or Foyle's Wars- they are more in the line of Luther, Prime Suspect, and The Wire (all series we carry).

So if you are looking for another good series to sink your teeth into check out this Italian crime drama - but unless you speak German, you'll be sinking your teeth into it with English subtitles.



by Moe - 1 Comment(s)

The Inspector Morse series is very popular, having run for 12 years, but it was never my cup of tea---or rather my pint of beer. I far prefer the spin off - Inspector Lewis, which is up to series 5, all of which CPL carries.

But when I saw this brand new release (July 1/2012) on the shelves I thought I would give it a look. Set in 1965, young Detective Constable Endeavour Morse (Blu-Ray) investigates his first case in Oxford. I'm glad I took the time for this one - a very well crafted mystery, and as always with PBS Mysteries fine, fine acting from the seemingly limitless pool of talent that is British television.

If they make any more of these, count me in! Then I might find myself a Morse convert in need of many hours to reevaluate the original series. Use Inspector Morse DVD as your keyword search to bring up dozens and dozens of the original series.

More TV series in the House, er... Library

by Melanie - 0 Comment(s)

DexterIt's that time of the year again when many of us start searching the catalogue to place holds on favorite DVDs newly acquired by the library. Here's a short reminder list about the mystery and other series in now and available soon:

  • Lewis, Series 5
  • George Gently, Series 3
  • Doc Martin Series 5
  • Dexter, Complete 6th Season, on order (place your hold now)
  • Weeds, Season 8, and Wallander (featuring Kenneth Branagh): eagerly awaiting these!


Any series we've missed? Add your comments...

Best Westerns

- 0 Comment(s)

You would be hard pressed to find a major star from the 40's, 50's and 60's who wasn't in a western and of course the 70's were full of Clint Eastwood and his 'spaghetti westerns'. But don't dismiss them because of what you think you might know about them- they are among the best. We have a huge assortment from which to choose so let us help you narrow it down a bit--- here is a recap of some of Moe and Mel's previously blogged faves.

My absolute favourite western of all time is the wonderful series Lonesome Dove. It is based on the 1985 Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Larry McMurtry. The story focuses on the relationship of several retired Texas Rangers and their adventures driving a cattle herd from Texas to Montana. It has a huge cast including Robert Duvall (who has never been better), Tommy Lee Jones, Danny Glover, Diane Lane, Robert Urich, Rick Schroeder, Angelica Houston, and Chris Cooper. It was the first in the series of the books to be put onto film, but was so successful that all the titles were done over the next several years. Return to Lonesome Dove is next, then Streets of Laredo, and finally the prequel Dead Man's Walk. The only weak one in the lot is Streets, but it is still worth a look. These are all mini-series, not movies, so you are going to have to set aside some serious watching time, but it is worth it. Even if you are not usually a fan of westerns, watch at least the original Lonesome Dove. You'll thank me for it. I think I have talked myself into watching it again- this will make the 7th time! And I may just have to reread the books as well.

High Noon---Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly trying to get away from it all on their wedding day. Well, maybe a little bit more happens.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. With two quintessential western stars- Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne. Also with perennial favourite bad guy, Lee Marvin.

McCabe and Mrs. Miller---A gambler and a prostitute become business partners in a remote Old West mining town. From 1971 and directed by the wonderful Robert Altman---starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie.

Most Westerns are really morality plays that just happen to be set in the west. None are better at exploring the dark side of man's nature than The Oxbow Incident and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. The first with Henry Fonda, and the later with Bogart.

Open Range- Robert Duvall again, and also another veteran of westerns, Kevin Costner. This was filmed in the Calgary area. Speaking of Costner, check out Silverado. I know this is on tv at least twice a month, especially as it has just had its 25th anniversary, but it's a good bet with a big cast, a more than solid story, and just rollicking good fun.

And if all this is just way more serious than you want, sit down for some good laughs from the delightfully irreverent mind of Mel Brooks---yes, I am talking Blazing Saddles.


Pierce Brosnan in a western? Are you kidding? In Seraphim Falls, he's nothing like his charming Remington Steele or 007 personae. In fact, he's believable as a craggy former army captain on the run from a man determined to catch him at all costs. Liam Neeson plays his tormentor, and Angelica Huston makes an enigmatic cameo appearance, and why not? Her grandfather made a great cameo in another great western, Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Seraphim Falls is a sort of "To build a Fire" meets "Mantracker," and that's just the beginning of the movie. Add the pacing of "Dead Man" and the humor of Leone, and that's the essence of this story of the folly of revenge.

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 on now for the Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1936). It's a real tear-jerker at times, starring Spanky of Our Gang and Henry Fonda.

Whatever you do, stick together !

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

Well, myself and fellow Movie Maniac Mat are off to see Cabin in the Woods next week. This one is getting a lot of buzz- the ultimate 'fanboy' horror movie. The film has been produced and co-written by Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and other iconic TV shows and directed by his longtime collaborator Drew Goddard, writer of Cloverfield. Now I have never been much of a Buffy fan although it still remains hugely popular, but Angel is certainly a lot of fun. Cloverfield, once you get past the 'queasy-cam' is quite effective, and I loved the look of the aliens/monsters. So I am quite interested to see what is going on in, and under The Cabin the Woods---I'll let you know.

I recently watched the remake of Fright Night with Colin Farrell as the Vampire next door. Round out the cast with Toni Collette from United States of Tara, Anton Yelchin from Star Trek Year One, and David Tennant, the 10th incarnation of Doctor Who, and you have a pretty good flick. I thought Colin struck just the right note between campy and evil. I found myself in equal measures, jumping, laughing, thinking 'great special effects and ' oh, that's just plain nasty'. What fun !!

Vying for your Attention

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

There is so much good television- seriously good television- now on Sunday nights it is getting hard to know where to place your eyeballs. Which is why of course there are PVR's and other ways to watch new epsiodes at a time of your choosing. I myself have deliberatly avoided getting a PVR- not because I am a Luddite, but because I fear it I had one I would never again get anything else done. I have numerous friends who record everything and who are feeling so back-logged in their viewing that they are starting to suffer from completion anxiety.

Some of the shows currently vying for your attention are the following:

Mad Men Season 5- after a 17 month hiatus the multi emmy winning series is back with all of the cast continuing to behave very badly. But they do it with such intensity it is hard to resist. Catch up on the first 1 2 3 4 seasons and see what the fuss is all about.

Game of Thrones--- the highly anticipated second season of the hugely popular George RR Martin series started on HBO on April 1st. Catch up on the first season, but be prepared for a long wait on this one. We also have it as a Graphix Novel, The sound track from the first season, from our special collection in the talking book format, and of course all of the books. If you are going the book route, you have a lot of reading ahead of you. Start with Song of Ice and Fire, then Clash of Kings ,next a Storm of swords---and more and more and more.

Season 3 of the Good Wife: Deemed "THE BEST SHOW ON TV" by Entertainment Weekly, this smart legal drama stars Emmy and Golden Globe Award winner Julianna Margulies. Watch 1 and 2---easy to get a hold of.

Jumping on the bandwagon

- 0 Comment(s)

Everybody's talking about Downton Abbey: the manor house, the costumes, the romance, so why not?

CPL has it on blu ray and dvd so I decided to partake.

Maggie Smith plays the matriarch in this family saga that also features the household staff whose lives increasingly intersect with their employers' due to the changing social climate after the First World War. If you liked Upstairs, Downstairs and Gosford Park, you'll enjoy Downton Abbey.

Place your hold now and see what all the fuss is about...

The great thing about some of these historically based series is the tie-in research you can do just for fun...The Countess of Carnarvon has written in response, Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey (coming soon), or if you just want to get caught up in the show, there's The World of Downton Abbey.

by Mel

12345Showing 11 - 20 of 43 Record(s)