June 7

True Grit – Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld

Mattie Ross is determined to avenge her father’s blood by capturing Tom Chaney, the man who shot and killed him for two pieces of gold. Just fourteen, she enlists the help of Rooster Cogburn, a one-eyed, trigger-happy U.S. Marshal with an affinity for drinking, and hardened Texas Ranger LaBoeuf to track the fleeing Chaney. Despite their differences, their ruthless determination leads them on a perilous adventure that can only have one outcome: retribution.

Just Go With It – Adam Sadler, Jennifer Aniston

A plastic surgeon who is romancing a much younger schoolteacher enlists his loyal assistant to pretend to be his soon-to-be ex-wife in order to cover up a careless lie. When more lies backfire, the assistant’s kids become involved, and everyone heads off for a weekend in Hawaii that will change all their lives.

June 14

Battle Los Angeles – Aaron Eckhart, Bridget Moynahan

For years, there have been documented cases of UFO sightings around the world. But in 2011, what were once just sightings will become a terrifying reality when Earth is attacked by unknown forces. As people everywhere watch the world’s great cities fall, Los Angeles becomes the last stand for mankind in a battle no one expected. It’s up to a Marine staff sergeant and his new platoon to draw a line in the sand as they take on an enemy unlike any they’ve ever encountered before.

Hall Pass – Owen Wilson,  Jason Sudeikis

Rick and Fred are best friends who have a lot in common, including the fact that they have each been married for many years. But when the two men begin to show signs of restlessness at home, their wives take a bold approach to revitalizing their individual marriages: granting them a ‘hallpass,’ one week of freedom to do whatever they want, no questions asked

June 21

Cedar Rapids – Ed Helms, John C. Reilly

A small-town, naive, Midwestern insurance agent must represent his company at a regional insurance convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where his mind is blown by the big-city experience.


Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Rodrick Rules ! Zachary Gordon, Steve Bostick

Back in middle school after summer vacation, Greg Heffley and his older brother Rodrick must deal with their parents’ misguided attempts to have them bond.


The Davenport Public Library will be closed today, May 30th for Memorial Day. All buildings will be open their regular hours on Tuesday – Main and the Eastern Branch 9:30am to 5:30pm, and the Fairmount Branch from noon to 8:00pm.

Have a safe and wonderful holiday!

Iconic movies  about Los Angeles are:

L.A. Confidential, based on the book by James Ellroy. 1950’s Southern California in all it’s noir glory. Three cops are drawn into a complicated web of crime involving prostitutes and plastic surgery. Heavy hitters like Kevin Spacey, Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe are fun to watch, even as the plot gets more and more challenging to follow.

The Playerbased on the book  by Michael Tolkin. In typical Robert Altman fashion, the film is jam-packed with movie actors playing themselves (over 65 of them). Part of the fun is spotting them as they pop up in the background. Tim Robbins is “the player”  – a movie executive who is in constant negotiations with screenwriters and actors.

L.A. Story, screenplay by Steve Martin. One of Sarah Jessica Parker’s breakthrough performances; she plays a bouncy, free-spirit named SanDeE*, who has a life-altering effect on weatherman Steve Martin. Like The Player, this is a satirical look at the L.A./Hollywood lifestyle, though more affectionate and celebratory.

2011 marks the beginning of the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War. Even though it is 150 years in the past, it remains the pivotal, defining event in American history, an event that people come back to time and again. Alistair Cooke once said that to understand America, you had to study the Civil War. While we’ve always had a lot of books about this popular subject, the Sesquicentennial has spurred the publication of many more. Here’s a selection of some of the newest.

Discovering the Civil War from the National Archives. Photographs, reproductions of handwritten records and personal stories.

America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation by David Goldfield. A sweeping history of America from the 1830s through Reconstruction.

The Union War by Gary Gallagher. Why we fought the Civil War, from the Northern perspective.

The Civil War: the First Year Told by Those Who Lived It. Drawn from letters, diaries, speeches, articles and memoirs creates a firsthand accounting of the war.

The Civil War: a Visual History by the Smithsonian Institute. This coffee-table worthy book is packed with photographs and maps drawn from the Smithsonian’s extensive collection of artifacts.

People! Why haven’t you been watching this show? It is one of the best shows on television – ever. And now this ratings-challenged, critically acclaimed show is gone (episodes originally aired on Direct TV; now showing on NBC, the final season is nearly over) Fortunately, the library has the DVDs – learn from the error of your ways and watch Friday Night Lights now.

Let me make this clear right from the start – Friday Night Lights is not about football. OK, sure, there are several scenes with shots of  football games, and life in Dillon, Texas seems to revolve around the local high school football teams and the lead character is a football coach. The truth is, this show is about people – how they live, how they fall into and out of love, how they care for other people, how they try to be the best they can with what resources they have. For the younger people, it’s about how you think high school is the be-all and end-all of your life, only to realize it’s barely the beginning and you have some decisions to make that will affect the rest of your life. For the older people, it’s about how those decisions have shaped you and how you’ve learned to live – or not live – with those decisions. It’s poignant and funny and sad and beautiful – kind of like real life.

Brilliant acting (especially Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton), innovative photography, compelling story lines and characters that you can love and understand (even if you think they’re making dumb decisions), Friday Night Lights is both classic and modern, showing us who we are and what we are capable of. The fifth and final season does not disappoint and includes a bittersweet reunion of many of the characters from previous years. Also included in the DVD is a heartfelt retrospective of the series – there won’t be a dry eye in the house after watching this.

Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.

Family politics, secret lovers, mysterious deaths, thwarted love – it’s all here, dressed up in exquisite Edwardian detail, surrounded by the lush beauty of the English countryside of the wealthy. Downton Abbey brings the trials and tribulations of a noble family and their various servants to life in this wonderful new series from the BBC.

Lord Robert Crawley and his family live in quiet luxury in their beautiful Yorkshire estate supported by a fleet of servants. Their leisurely life is shaken when the sinking of the Titanic takes Sir Robert’s heirs. Because he and his American-born wife have only daughters, in accordance to English law when Sir Robert dies, the estate will now pass to a distant male cousin previously unknown to the family. Prepared to despise the new heir (who actually works for a a living as a solicitor), the family instead find themselves becoming fond of Matthew and his strong views of fairness. Can the eldest daughter Sybil admit to her growing feelings for Matthew, or is she only thinking of saving the family estate when she considers marrying him?

Meanwhile, various dramas unfold below stairs. A new valet, who shares a mysterious past with Sir Robert, is hired and Thomas the footman schemes against him. A maid must help Lady Crawley hide a terrible secret and the loyalty of the servants is tested again and again as their lives intertwine irrevocably with the family.

As you would expect from the BBC, the production values of this series are flawless – costumes, sets, writing, photography and acting are all top-notch. The advantage of the DVD set is that while four shows were seen on PBS earlier this year, there are seven shows available on this DVD as well as making-of specials and commentaries. A sensation in England, a second season set during World War I has been filmed. After seeing the first season, you’ll be anxiously awaiting it’s arrival in the US!

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is a delightful little love story.  Judging from the cover art,  I was expecting it to take place earlier in the century, but it is definitely set in the present day, in a charming English country village called Edgecomb St. Mary.

Major Pettigrew, though retired, is the personification of a very proper English gentleman, fond of all things British, including a cup of freshly brewed tea.  When his brother dies unexpectedly, he is surprised to find himself drawn into a friendship with Mrs. Ali, a local Pakistani shopkeeper.  As their friendship develops into something more, they discover that many of their friends and neighbors have trouble accepting their new relationship.  Throw is some scenes from some recalcitrant family members and you’ve got yourself a full-fledged drama.  Well, okay, it’s not a tragedy like Romeo and Juliet, but it is sweet, it is sensitive and it is a refreshingly real love story featuring more “mature” participants.  But then, love is not only for the young — and we can all choose to be young at heart.

Have you zipped through Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series? Are you looking for a heroine as tough and scarred as  Lisbeth Salander? Well, look no further.

The titular Informationist, Munroe (aka Michael and Victoria) is a very high-priced gun-for-hire. Because of her facility with languages and insight into the politics and economics of other countries, she acts as a quasi-spy/private eye for governments and corporations.  She grew up in Cameroon, the daughter of missionaries, and rebelled against their religion and neglectful parenting, by going to work for a local cartel of criminals. There she learns many survival skills, useful in her current line of work.

The most interesting aspect of the book are the settings of Equatorial  Guinea and Cameroon. Munroe and her minder navigate the bureaucracy, politics and culture of these countries trying to find the daughter of a billionaire oilman.

Her job as an “informationist,” is to get the information her employer requests. In this case, whether the missing girl, Emily, is dead or alive. Such a remote part of the world is fascinatingly revealed – the climate, history, and customs are incorporated naturally into the story. The pages nearly drip with the heat and humidity.

The author herself grew up  very non-traditionally, in a “communal apocalyptic cult,” as she says. It wasn’t till she was in her twenties that she escaped. The cult traveled all over the world, including West Central Africa, which accounts for her gifted depiction of this area.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a series of Victoria Munroe books in the near future.

According to one savvy reader of The Consumerist, if fellows crunch the numbers and start shaving old school, they can rack up quite a savings.  Hundreds of dollars a year, in fact.  Many guys marvel at the appalling cost of cartridges that seem calculatingly designed for planned obsolescence.

There are hobbyist sites devoted to the discussion and manufacture of retro hardware, soaps, and brushes.

So in addition to the financial savings, you get to join the fraternity of every guy you’ve seen in a Western, war movie, or Mad Men’s Don Draper.

I’m interested in both factors, but think I may go through more than $160 a year in bandaids.