Is it good for your mind? No. Is it a titillating hi-def splatterfest with Matrix/300 bullet-time effects enjoyable to watch? A definite yes. You wouldn’t be lying if you told your friends there were love stories and a healthy amount of unpredictable plot twists and skullduggery either.

I came upon Spartacus: Blood and Sand due to its free streams on the Roku box last year. I stayed because I could not look away, despite the thinly-veiled disclaimer at the beginning of the historical drama assuring us “the sensuality, brutality and language is to suggest and authentic representation of that period.”  Come on, it’s based on actual history.  Does that count?

The production and costuming is exemplary. Virtually every ancient Roman has the standard-issue Shakespearean lilt and some 20th century vulgarities.   You’re too busy watching heads and period garb falling off to care about the anachronism.  Lucy Lawless will NEVER be able to be called a warrior “Princess” again.

Sadly, production was suspended last spring for star Andy Whitfield’s (Spartacus) health, as he was treated for lymphoma. When it was determined he would need a more aggressive regimen, Whitfield bid the franchise and the most physically demanding role on television goodbye.

In just a few weeks on January 21st, a stopgap measure 6-episode prequel will begin on Starz network, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena. Whitfield is rumored to make a couple cameo appearances among the regular cast of seeming professional body builders.  Casting has begun on his Dick Sargent-esque replacement in Season 3.

I, for one, will lament the loss of Whitfield and hope for his full return to good health.

In other news, Kirk Douglas is 94 years old and could probably still reprise his original motion picture role. I wouldn’t rule that bruiser out as a replacement.

One of my very favorite directors is Quentin Tarantino.  I think his movies are so original and witty, all while being filled with crazy action scenes.  I can’t think of one of his movies that I’ve seen and not liked.  Of course Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs are two of his most well-known films and are both fantastic.  But for me, in the race for favorite Tarantino film, it’s a tie between two of his most recent works.  The first is the Kill Bill saga, comprised of Kill Bill: Volume 1 and Kill Bill: Volume 2.  It’s the story of a former assassain who tries to quit the business and is hunted down by her former boss and his minions on her wedding day.  She survives the attack, and now she’s out for revenge.  Volume 1 is pretty heavy on the beautifully directed (and fairly bloody) action scenes, while Volume 2 focuses more on the backstory and Tarantino’s signature dialogue.

My other favorite is Inglourious Basterds, the fictionalized World War II story about a group of Jewish-American soldiers banding together to bring down as many Nazis as possible.  This movie surprised me in so many ways.  I have to admit, I’ve always thought of Brad Pitt as just a pretty face rather than a great actor, but he’s absolutely hilarious and perfect in his role as Lt. Aldo Raine, the leader of the rogue team of Nazi hunters called The Basterds.  But the best performance in this movie is Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa, a member of the Nazi high command obsessed with tracking down any Jewish person who might have escaped initial searches.  I think I held my breath during the entire first scene of the movie because his performance was so riveting.  Even though I have to turn my head away from the screen every now and then (after all, it’s a Tarantino film, and bloody violence is bound to happen), I loved every  minute of the film:  the intense drama, the hilarious dialogue, and the inspired performances.  I highly recommend it.

September 7

Solitary Man – Michael Douglas, Mary Louise Parker

Ben Kalmen, a fifty-something New Yorker, discovers that he is not the man he wanted to be. Through many business and romantic indiscretions he has lost his once-successful car dealership. Now he must make the decision to face the challenges of his not-so-youthful life.

September 14

Letters to Juliet – Amanda Seyfried,

In Verona, Italy, the beautiful city where Romeo first met Juliet, there is a place where the heartbroken leave notes asking Juliet for her help. It’s there that aspiring writer Sophie finds a 50-year-old letter that will change her life forever. She sets off on a romantic journey of the heart with the letter’s author, Claire, now a grandmother, and her handsome grandson. All three will discover that sometimes the greatest love story ever told is your own.

Prince of Persia – Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kingsley

It’s a race against time when a rogue prince reluctantly teams up with a rival princess to safeguard a magical dagger that gives its possessor the power to reverse time and rule the world.

September 21

Robin Hood – Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett

In 13th century England, Robin and his band of marauders confront corruption in a local village and lead an uprising against the crown that will forever alter the balance of world power. And whether thief or hero, one man from humble beginnings will become an eternal symbol of freedom for his people.

Secret in Their Eyes ( Spanish)

Recently retired criminal court investigator Benjamin decides to write a novel based on an unresolved rape and murder case which still haunts him. Ben shares his plans with Irene, a judge and former colleague he has secretly been in love with for years. But Benjamin’s search for the truth puts him at the center of a judicial nightmare, as the mystery of the heinous crime continues to unfold in the present, and tests the limits of a man who seeks justice and personal fulfillment at last.

September 28

Iron Man 2 -Robert Downey Jr., Gwenyth Paltrow

Now that the world knows billionaire inventor Tony Stark is the armored superhero Iron Man, his life has suddenly become even more intense. Everyone wants in on the Iron Man technology, whether for power or profit, but for Ivan Vanko, it’s revenge. With Pepper Potts and James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes at his side, Stark must once again suit up and face his most dangerous enemy yet.

also being released in September:

MacGruber, Killers, Just Wright, Babies, Get Him to the Greek

August 3

Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Zachary Gordon, Steve Zahn

The hysterically funny, best selling book comes to life in this smash-hit family comedy! Greg Heffley is headed for big things, but first he has to survive the scariest, most humiliating experience of any kid’s life: middle school! That won’t be easy, considering he’s surrounded by hairy-freckled morons, wedgie-loving bullies, and a moldy slice of cheese with nuclear cooties!

Ghost Writer – Pierce Bronsan, E wan MacGregor

When a gifted ghostwriter is hired to write the memoirs of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang, he quickly finds himself trapped in a web of political and sexual intrigue. Lang is implicated in a scandal over his administration’s harsh tactics, and as the ghostwriter digs into the politician’s past, he discovers secrets that threaten to jeopardize international relations forever.

August 17

Last Song –  Miley Cyrus, Kelly Preston

Seventeen, angry, and alienated from her estranged father, Veronica ‘Ronnie’ Miller’s life gets turned inside out when her mother forces her to spend the summer with him in the small Georgia beach town where he lives. Here, Ronnie finds salvation, friendship, second chances, and first love

August 31

Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too? – Janet Jackson, Lou Gossett, Jr

Gathered together in the Bahamas for their annual one-week reunion, four close couples eagerly reconnect, sharing news about their lives and relationships. But their intimate week in paradise is disrupted by the unexpected arrival of Sheila’s ex-husband, Mike, who hopes to break up her new marriage with Troy and win her back. With their relationships hanging in the balance when they return home, each couple must choose between blame and forgiveness.

Recently the magazine Time Out New York listed the 30 best summer blockbusters ever. Borrow some these DVDs from the library and stage your own summer film festival!

Here are the top 10:

10. Aliens (1986) Sigourney Weaver

Ripley returns to the alien planet to stop them from killing off an entire colony. But when she gets there along with a group of marines, they only find one survivor, a small girl. Now they must fight hordes of aliens to save her.

9.Face/Off (1997) John Travola, Nicolas

A federal agent assumes the identity of a presumed-dead terrorist who killed his son. When the terrorist wakes up, he assumes the identity of the agent.

8. Terminator 2 (1991) Arnold Schwarzenegger

A shape-shifting cyborg is sent to the past to kill young John Conner before he can grow up to lead the resistance. But the resistance manages to send a protector back in an attempt to save him.

7. The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill

Fleeing the evil Galactic Empire, the rebels abandon their new base on Hoth. Princess Leia, Han Solo, R2-D2 and C-3P0 escape in the damaged Millennium Falcon. Later, on Bespin, they are captured by Lord Darth Vader. Luke Skywalker, meanwhile, follows Ben Kenobi’s posthumous command and receives Jedi training by Yoda on Dagobah.

6. Fahrenheit 9/11

Using actual footage and declassified documents, Michael Moore examines the Bush administration’s financial ties to the bin Laden family, Saudi Arabia, and our involvement in Iraq, both before and after the attacks on the World Trade Center.

5. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore

Elliott is a young boy from a broken home who discovers an extra-terrestrial creature that has been stranded on Earth – light years from home. Together they form a universal friendship, and Elliott helps E.T. ‘phone home.’

4. Ghostbusters (1984) Dan Akyroyd, Bill Murray

After being kicked out of their university, parapsychology professors Spengler, Stantz and Venkman decide to go into business for themselves by trapping and removing ghosts from haunted houses. After some initial skepticism, business is soon booming as The Ghost Busters rid New York of its undead. When a downtown skyscraper becomes the focal point of spirit activity linked to the ancient god Gozer, however, the problem may be more than the team can handle.

3. Star Wars (1977) Mark Hamill, Sir Alec Guinness, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher

Star Wars: A New Hope opens with a rebel ship being boarded by the tyrannical Darth Vader. The plot then follows the life of a simple farmboy, Luke Skywalker, as he and his newly met allies (Han Solo, Chewbacca, Ben Kenobi, C-3PO, R2-D2) attempt to rescue a rebel leader, Princess Leia, from the clutches of the Empire. The conclusion is culminated as the Rebels, including Skywalker and flying ace Wedge Antilles make an attack on the Empires most powerful and ominous weapon, the Death Star.

2. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) Harrison Ford, Karen Allen

Indiana Jones battles fierce Nazis in hopes of stopping them from using the power of the lost Ark of the Covenant.

1. Jaws (1975) Roy Scheider

A Long Island vacation town is preyed upon by a man-eating shark. Recently appointed Police Chief Martin Brody faces domestic troubles and searing criticism for not closing the beaches in the wake of the deadly shark attacks. Now, Brody must decide how to retake the waters, employing the aid of a young ichthyologist and a vengeful fisherman.

March 2

2012 – John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, Danny Glover

A geophysical team investigating the effect radiation from other solar systems has on the Earth learns that the core of the Earth is heating up and warns the President of the United States. While the leaders of the world race to build ‘arks’ to escape the impending doom, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes of unprecedented strength wreak havoc all over the world.

Ponyo – Anime – Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon

A young boy named Sosuke rescues a goldfish named Ponyo, and they embark on a fantastic journey of friendship before Ponyo’s father forces her to return to the sea. Ponyo’s desire to be human upsets the balance of nature and only Ponyo’s mother can restore nature’s balance and make Ponyo’s dreams come true

Where the Wild Things Are – Chris Cooper, Max Records

Maurice Sendak’s classic story about Max, a rambunctious and sensitive boy who escapes to where the Wild Things are. Max lands on an island where he meets mysterious and strange creatures whose emotions are as wild and unpredictable as their actions.

March 9

Capitalism – A Love Story – Michael Moore

Michael Moore explores the root causes of the global economic meltdown and takes a comical look at corporate and political shenanigans. Along the way he tries to answer the question: What is the price that America pays for its love of capitalism?

Precious – Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’Nique

Oscar Nominated for Best Picture, Gabourey Sidibe for Best Actress and Mo ‘Nique for Best Supporting Actress.

Precious Jones, an inner-city high school girl, is illiterate, overweight, and pregnant…again. Naive and abused, Precious responds to a glimmer of hope when a door is opened by an alternative school teacher. She is faced with the choice to follow opportunity and test her own boundaries.

Up in the Air – George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick

Oscar nominated for Best Picture, George Clooney for Best Actor, and Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick for Best Supporting Actress.

Ryan Bingham is a corporate downsizing expert who flies all over the world on business. Just as he is on the cusp of reaching ten million frequent flyer miles and meeting the frequent traveler woman of his dreams, his company grounds him. When Bingham goes on his last cross-country firing expedition, he will learn that life isn’t about the journey, but about the connections made along the way.

March 16

Did You Hear About the Morgans – Hugh Grant, Sarah Jessica Parker

A very successful New York couple are at their wits’ end on how to solve their strained marriage. After they become the only witnesses to a brutal murder they are relocated to a small town in Wyoming as part of a witness-protection program. Now these diehard city dwellers will have to work together to survive the weather, bears, fresh air, and forced time with one another if they want to make it out alive

March 23

The Blind Side – Sandra Bullock, Quinton Bates

Oscar nominated for Best Picture and Sandra Bullock for Best Actress.

Based on the remarkable true story of Michael Oher, a homeless African-American youngster from a broken home, taken in by the Touhys, a well-to-do white family who help him fulfill his potential. At the same time, Oher’s presence in the Touhys’ lives leads them to some insightful self-discoveries of their own.

Brothers – Toby Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal

Captain Sam Cahill is embarking on his fourth tour of duty, leaving behind his beloved wife and two daughters. When Sam’s Blackhawk helicopter is shot down in the mountains of Afghanistan, the worst is presumed, leaving an enormous void in the family. Despite a dark history, Sam’s charismatic younger brother steps in to fill the family void.

March 30

An Education – Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard

Oscar Nominated for Best Picture and Carey Mulligan for Best Actress.

In the early 1960s, 16-year-old Jenny Mellor lives with her parents in a London suburb. She is smart, pretty, and working toward her goal of being accepted into Oxford. Her life will take a big turn when she meets David, a man twice her age. Now she must decide if she will pursue an education at Oxford, or if she will choose to learn all that a charismatic, older man can teach her

Sherlock Holmes – Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law

This dynamic new portrayal of Sherlock Holmes sends Holmes and his stalwart partner Watson on their latest challenge. Revealing fighting skills as lethal as his legendary intellect, Holmes will battle as never before to bring down a new nemesis and unravel a deadly plot that could destroy the country.

February 2

Amelia – Hillary Shank, Richard Gere

Bound by ambition and love, Amelia Earhart and husband and business partner George Putnam’s enduring marriage could not be broken by Amelia’s determination to fly, nor her passionate affair with Gene Vidal. Amelia set off on her most daunting mission yet, a solo flight around the world that she and George both anxiously foresaw as destined, whatever the outcome, to become one of the most talked-about journeys in history.

Zombieland – Bill Murray, Woody Harrelson, Abigal Breslin

In a world that has become overrun with zombies, two men must figure out how to survive. Wimpy Columbus is afraid of his own shadow, while Tallahassee is the biggest, baddest gun-toting zombie-slayer who ever lived. When they meet two sisters, Wichita and Little Rock, the four strike out for an amusement park that is said to be zombie-free. This mismatched group will have to rely on each other to survive, which could be worse than surrendering to the zombies.

February 9

Couples Retreat – Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Kristin Bell

Eight friends are on vacation in paradise, one they’ll never forget. Their group-rate vacation comes at a price when they discover that participation in the resort’s unconventional couples therapy activities is anything but optional.

Good Hair – Chris Rock

Comedian Chris Rock tackles the very personal issue of hair, and how attaining good hair can affect relationships, wallets, and a person’s self-esteem. Features interviews with Dr. Maya Angelou, Nia Long, Ice-T, Raven Symone, and more.

Time Traveler’s Wife – Eric Bana, Rachel McAdams

Clare has been in love with Henry her entire life. She believes they are destined to be together, even though she never knows when they will be separated. Henry is a time traveler, cursed with a rare genetic anomaly that causes him to live his life on a shifting timeline, skipping back and forth through his lifespan with no control. Despite the fact that Henry’s travels force them apart with no warning, Clare desperately tries to build a life with her one true love.

February 23

The Informant! – Matt Damon, Scott Bakula

The U.S. government decides to go after an agri-business giant with a price-fixing accusation based on the evidence submitted by their star witness, vice president turned informant Mark Whitacre. The FBI needs evidence, so Whitacre eagerly agrees to wear a wire and carry a hidden tape recorder in his briefcase, imagining himself as a kind of de facto secret agent.

December 1

smithsonianNight at the Museum : Battle of the Smithsonian –  Ben Stiller, Amy Adams

History is larger than life, and twice as funny, in this monumental comedy sequel. Larry Daley is a former night watchman at the Museum of Natural History, where the exhibits come to life after dark. Now Larry’s nocturnal friends are being retired to the archives of the Smithsonian Institution, luring him back for a hilarious, all-out battle against museum misfits who plan to take over the Smithsonian, and the world.

terminatorTerminator Salvation – Christian Bale

John Connor’s path into the future is altered by the appearance of Marcus Wright, a stranger whose last memory is of being on death row, and he must decide whether Marcus has been sent from the future or rescued from the past. As Skynet prepares its final onslaught, Connor and Marcus embark on an odyssey that takes them into the heart of Skynet’s operations, where they uncover the terrible secret behind the possible annihilation of mankind.

December 8

half blood princeHarry Potter and the Half Blood Prince – Daniel Ratcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint

Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts for another year of schooling and learns more about the dark past of the boy who grew up to become Lord Voldemort. There was a time when Hogwarts was thought of as a safe haven, but thanks to Voldemort’s tightening grip on both the Muggle and wizarding worlds, that simply isn’t the case anymore.

juliaJulie and Julia – Meryl Streep, Amy Adams

Julia Child’s beginning in the cooking profession is intertwined with the life of thirty-year-old Julie Powell, who decides to cook all 524 recipes in Child’s first book in one year to escape from the monotony of her daily life.

December 15

bastardsInglourious Basterds – Brad Pitt

During World War II, a group of Jewish-American guerilla soldiers led by Lt. Aldo Raine, known as ‘The Basterds,’ are chosen specifically to spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis. The Basterds soon cross paths with a French-Jewish woman who runs a movie theater in Paris which is targeted by the soldiers. A plot is set in motion to kill the Nazis at the theater’s movie premiere, including Adolf Hitler.

December 22

districtDistrict 9

Twenty years ago, aliens from another planet made contact with Earth. Now, the refugee camp they are forced to live in has deteriorated into a slum-like ghetto. When field operative Wikus van der Merwe is put in charge of evicting the aliens, he contracts a strange virus that changes his DNA to match that of the refugees. As his body begins to mutate, he becomes a hunted man, and the aliens’ only hope for freedom.

November 3

food incFood, Inc – Documentary

Reveals surprising and often shocking truths about what we eat, how it’s produced, and who we have become as a nation. Includes celebrity PSA’s, deleted scenes, and Nightline segment.  An eye-opening expose of the modern food industry, Food, Inc. is both fascinating and terrifying, and essential viewing for any health-conscious citizen.

pelhamTaking Pelham 1-2-3 – John Tavolta, Denzel Washington

Dispatcher Walter Garber’s day is turned upside down when he must face off against the criminal mind that is holding the passengers of a New York City subway train hostage after it is hijacked.

November 10

upUp – Disney Animated

Seventy-eight-year-old balloon salesman Carl Fredricksen finally fulfills his lifelong dream of a great adventure when he ties thousands of balloons to his house and flies away to the wilds of South America. He discovers too late that an 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer named Russell has stowed away.

November 17

anybodyIs Anybody There? – Michael Caine,

Ten-year-old Edward lives in his family-run retirement home. While his mother struggles to keep the family business afloat and his father copes with the onset of a mid-life crisis, Edward leads an increasingly lonely existence until he meets Clarence, a retired magician and grieving widower who refuses to give in gracefully to old age.

sisters keeperMy Sister’s Keeper – Alec Baldwin, Abigail Breslin, Cameron Diaz

Sara and Brian live an idyllic life with their young son and daughter. Suddenly, their baby girl falls ill, and her only hope for survival rests in her parents’ ability to find a compatible bone marrow donor. Their desperate decision to conceive another child raises both ethical and moral questions and begins to erode their relationship. Their actions ultimately set off a court case that threatens to tear the family apart.

star trekStar Trek – Eric Bana, Leonard Nimoy, Zachary Quinto

When the Romulan Nero comes from the future to take revenge on the Federation, the new recruits of the U.S.S. Enterprise will voyage through unimaginable danger to stop him from destroying everything they know.

November 24

angelsAngels & Demons – Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor

Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon discovers evidence of the resurgence of the most powerful underground organization in history, the Illuminati. Upon learning of an unstoppable terrorist act against the Vatican, Langdon travels to Rome and joins forces with Italian scientist Vittoria Vetra, and together they will follow the 400-year-old Path of Illumination that leads to the Vatican’s only chance for survival.

September 1

stateState of Play– Russell Crowe, Ben Affeck, Helen Mirren

When D.C. reporter Cal McCaffrey is assigned to investigate the murder of an assistant to an up-and-coming politician, he uncovers a conspiracy that threatens to bring down the nation’s power structures. In a town of spin doctors and wealthy power brokers, he will discover one truth: when fortunes are at stake, no one’s integrity, love, or life is safe.

sugarSugar – Algenis Perez Soto, Rayniel Rufino

After seeing the movie Field of Dreams, Dominican baseball star Miguel ‘Sugar’ Santos hopes to break into the big leagues in the United States to earn money to support his impoverished family. His dreams may become a reality when he is recruited to play for a minor league team in the United States. There is local interest in this movie as it was filmed in Davenport at Modern Woodman Park

“This is a wonderful film. “ — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

September 15

wolverineX Men Origins – Wolverine – Hugh Jackman, Ryan Reynolds

Tells the story of Wolverine’s epically violent and romantic past, his complex relationship with Victor Creed, and the ominous Weapon X program. Along the way, Wolverine encounters many mutants, both familiar and new, including surprise appearances by several legends of the X-Men universe whose appearances in the film series have long been anticipated.

September 22

ghostsGhosts of Girlfriends Past – Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner

A committed bachelor who thinks nothing of breaking up with several women on a conference call is visited by the ghosts of his former jilted girlfriends, who take him on a hilarious adventure through his failed relationships – past, present, and future.

September 29

awayAway We Go – John Krasinski, Maya Rudolf, Jeff Daniels, Maggie Gyllenhaal

This heartfelt film explores the comedic twists and turns in one couple’s journey across contemporary America. Anticipating the birth of their first child, longtime couple Burt and Verona embark on an ambitious itinerary to visit friends and family in order to find their perfect home.