Hearty praise for Bill Bryson isn’t new to the Info Cafe blog (both Lynn and Ann have gushed about him in the past), but he is new to me! The audiobook of At Home: A Short History of Private Life, read by the author, was the first Bryson book I’ve read, and one of the most entertaining nonfiction books I’ve ever encountered on any subject. Part of the appeal comes from the irresistible subject matter: Bryson deals with the everyday, but elevates it beyond the mundane into something fascinating. The greater part of the book’s success is Bryson himself – dry wit that had me laughing and quoting passages to friends, great writing that’s both intelligent and accessible, and (crucially) excellent narration.

No matter what you’re interested in, there is something for you in At Home: architecture, cooking, engineering, etymology, inventing, transportation, medicine, sanitation and hygiene, social history, entertainment, a dash of politics, and mostly, British and American history. If history isn’t your thing, don’t be intimidated – though much of the book deals with historical matters, it never feels stuffy or boring (with the possible, arguable exception of a lengthy chapter on British architecture that suffers from a lack of the visual aids present in the printed book). The comforts we’re accustomed to – bright lights, running water, soap, sturdy clothing, efficient laundry, regular bathing, doctors who wash their hands, and a reasonable expectation that rats will NOT nest inside your mattress even as you sleep above them – these things are all shockingly new.

I particularly recommend this to anyone who’s a fan of historical novels, from Jane Austen through Diana Gabaldon; once you learn about the privy fixtures and habits of cleanliness in the pre-modern era, your reading of Emma will never be the same!

Super-duper seal of approval: after hearing a snippet while riding in my car, my book-phobic husband insisted on taking it off my hands to listen himself!

November 1

Water for Elephants – Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson

Against all odds, a veterinary student and a beautiful circus performer from a bygone era meet and fall in love through their shared compassion for a special elephant. But their secret romance incurs the wrath of her dangerously volatile husband. Rated PG – 13


Cars 2

Star racecar Lightning McQueen and the incomparable tow truck Mater take their friendship on the road from Radiator Springs to exciting new places when they head overseas to compete in the first-ever World Grand Prix to determine the world’s fastest car. But the road to the championship is filled with plenty of potholes, detours, and hilarious surprises when Mater gets caught up in an intriguing adventure of his own: international espionage! Rated G


November 8

Change – up – Jason Bateman, Ryan Reynolds

Growing up together, Mitch and Dave were inseparable best friends, but slowly drifted apart. While Dave is an overworked lawyer, husband, and father of three, Mitch has remained a single, quasi-employed man-child. Both guys seem to think the other has it made. Following a drunken night out together, Mitch and Dave’s worlds are turned upside down when they wake up in each other’s bodies. The guys soon discover that each other’s lives are nowhere near as rosy as they once seemed. Rated R

November 15

Larry Crowne – Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts

When he suddenly finds himself without his long-standing blue-collar job, Larry Crowne enrolls at his local college to start over. There he becomes part of an eclectic community of students and develops a crush on his teacher. Now this simple guy will discover that when you think everything worth having has passed you by, you just might find your reason to live. Rated PG 13

Pirates of the Caribbean – On Stranger Tides – Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush

A tale of truth, betrayal, youth, demise, and mermaids! When Jack crosses paths with a woman from his past, he’s not sure if it’s love, or if she’s a ruthless con artist using him to find the fabled Fountain of Youth. Forced aboard the ship of the most feared pirate ever, Jack doesn’t know who to fear more, Blackbeard or the woman from his past. Rated PG 13. (WILL NOT BE RELEASED TO LIBRARY UNTIL DECEMBER 9)

November 22

Sarah’s Key – Kristin Scott Thomas

In modern-day Paris, a journalist finds her life becoming entwined with a young girl whose family was torn apart during the notorious Vel d’Hiv roundup, which took place in Paris, in 1942. She stumbles upon a family secret which will link her forever to the destiny of a young Jewish girl, Sarah. Rated PG 13


Super 8 – Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning

In the summer of 1979, a group of friends in a small Ohio town witnesses a catastrophic train crash while making a super 8 movie and soon they suspect that it was not an accident. Shortly after, unusual disappearances and inexplicable events begin to take place in town, and the local deputy tries to uncover the truth, something more terrifying than any of them could have imagined. Rated PG 13






Did you stop by the library to pick up one of Chelsea Handler’s hilarious books only to discover that they’re all checked out?  While you’re on the waiting list for a copy of Lies That Chelsea Handler Told Me, My Horizontal Life, Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang, or Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea, check out some other books that you might enjoy:

Pretty In Plaid, My Fair Lazy, and Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster:  Humorous memoirs about the author’s life with stories about dieting and food, sororities, lots of clothes, drinking, and reality TV.

You Can’t Drink All Day If You Don’t Start In The Morning by Celia Rivenbark:  A collection of humorous essays written by a brash Southern woman.  The title alone tells me that this book is something Chelsea Handler would approve of.

Official Book Club Selection by Kathy Griffin:  Stories of the comedienne’s life  peppered with Kathy’s trademark humor concerning all things celebrity.

The Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman:  The famously crude comedienne tells the story of her life, managing to bring her signature humor into even the most serious stories about depression and late-in-life bedwetting.

I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley:  A collection of witty essays about a 20-something trying to make it in Manhattan.  I particularly enjoyed her evil boss stories and her explanation of her bizzare collection of plastic ponies.

October 4

Buck -Documentary

A richly textured and visually stunning film, follows Buck Brannaman from his abusive childhood to his phenomenally successful approach to horses. A real-life ‘horse whisperer,’ he eschews the violence of his upbringing and teaches people to communicate with their horses through leadership and sensitivity, not punishment. Buck possesses near magical abilities as he dramatically transforms horses, and people, with his understanding, compassion, and respect.

Fast Five – starring Dwayne Johnson, Van Diesel, Jordanna Brewster, Paul Walker

After Brian and Mia break Dom out of jail, they find themselves trapped in Rio de Janeiro and on the run from the law. Now one last job stands between them and freedom, but will they make it before the corrupt businessmen, or the feds, catch up to them?

Scream 4 – starring Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Emma Roberts

The newest installment in the acclaimed franchise that ushered in a new wave of horror in the 1990s. In Scream 4, Sidney Prescott, now the author of a self-help book, returns home to Woodsboro on the last stop of her book tour. There she reconnects with Sheriff Dewey and Gale, who are now married, as well as her cousin Jill. Unfortunately, Sidney’s appearance also brings about the return of Ghost Face, putting her friends and the whole town of Woodsboro in danger.

October 11

Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer – starring Jordana Beatty, Heather Graham

Feisty, fearless Judy Moody is looking forward to the most super-duper, double-rare summer vacation ever. The trouble is, her parents are called out of town and her BFFs are going away with their own families. That leaves Judy trapped at home with her pesky brother Stink under the watchful eye of Aunt Opal. But with a little playful planning, and a lot of imagination, Judy turns a snoresville summer into the way-not-boring adventure of a lifetime!

October 14

The Green Lantern – starring Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Tim Robbins

In a universe as vast as it is mysterious, a small but powerful force has existed for centuries. Protectors of peace and justice, they are called the Green Lantern Corps. A brotherhood of warriors sworn to keep intergalactic order, each Green Lantern wears a ring that grants him superpowers. When a new enemy called Parallax threatens to destroy the balance of power in the universe, their fate and the fate of Earth lie in the hands of their newest recruit, the first human ever selected.

October 18

A Better Life – starring Demian Bichir

Carlos Galindo always dreamed of a better life for his wife and newborn son when he crossed the border into the U.S. But when his wife left him, Carlos’s only goal became to make sure his son Luis was given the opportunities he never had. A story that follows father and son as they embark on a physical and spiritual journey where they discover that family is the most important part of the American dream.

September 9

Hanna – Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett

Raised by her father, an ex-CIA agent, in the wilds of Finland, Hanna’s upbringing and training have been one and the same, all geared to making her the perfect assassin. The turning point in her adolescence is a sharp one. Sent into the world by her father on a mission, Hanna journeys stealthily across Europe, eluding agents dispatched after her by a ruthless intelligence operative with secrets of her own. Hanna faces startling revelations about her existence.

X-Men First Class –  James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender

The thrilling, eye-opening chapter you’ve been waiting for. Witness the beginning of the X-Men universe. Before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their superhuman powers for the first time, working together in a desperate attempt to stop the Hellfire Club and a global nuclear war.

September 13

Bill Cunningham New York

Bill Cunningham has been obsessively and inventively chronicling fashion trends and high society charity soirees for the New York Times Style section in his columns On the Street and Evening Hours for decades. Presented is a delicate, funny, and often poignant portrait of a dedicated artist whose only wealth is his own humanity and unassuming grace.

Thor – Chris Hemsworth,  Natalie Portman, Jeremy Renner

When the arrogant warrior Thor is banished to Earth from his homeworld of Asgard, he must fight to reclaim his lost powers. Pursued by an invasion force sent to destroy him, the fallen God of Thunder must rise to the battle and learn what it takes to become a true hero.

September 20

Bridesmaids – Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph

Annie’s life is a mess. But when she finds out her lifetime best friend is engaged, she simply must serve as Lillian’s maid of honor. Though lovelorn and broke, Annie bluffs her way through the expensive and bizarre rituals. With one chance to get it perfect, she’ll show Lillian and her bridesmaids just how far you’ll go for someone you love.

August 2nd

Soul Surfer – AnnaSophia Robb, Dennis Quaid

Teen surfer Bethany Hamilton loses her arm in a shark attack and courageously overcomes all odds to become a champion again, through her sheer determination and unwavering faith.  rated PG


Rio – Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway

A comedy-adventure that centers on Blu, a flightless macaw who acts more human than bird. When Blu, the last of his kind, discovers there’s another, and that she’s a she, he embarks on an adventure to magical Rio. There he meets Jewel and a menagerie of vivid characters who help Blu fulfill his dream and learn to fly. rated G

August 9th

Paul – Seth Rogen, Jason Bateman

Two sci-fi geeks take a pilgrimage to America’s UFO heartland. There they meet a smart-aleck alien, Paul, who takes them on an insane road trip. As they struggle to return Paul home, the little green man might just take the outcasts from misfits to intergalactic heroes. rated R


Jumping the Broom – Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine

On a weekend wedding in Martha’s Vineyard, two African-American families from divergent socioeconomic backgrounds clash during their first meeting before the big event. rated PG-13



August 16th

Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs Evil – Glenn Glose, Martin Short

Red is training with a mysterious covert group called the Sisters of the Hood. But she is forced to cut her training short when she gets an urgent call from Nicky Flippers, the head of the super secret Happily Ever After Agency. A wicked witch has abducted two innocent children, Hansel and Gretel, and Nicky needs the whole Hoodwinked gang, Red, Granny, the ever-clueless Wolf, and his over-caffeinated little partner, Twitchy, for the search and rescue mission. rated PG

Jane Eyre (2011) – Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender

When orphaned governess Jane Eyre arrives at imposing Thornfield Hall, she’s intrigued by her brooding, wealthy employer, Rochester. His dark moods and the strange occurrences in the house lead her to discover a terrible secret that he had hoped to hide from her forever. rated PG-13


August 23rd

Win, Win – Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan

Mike Flaherty is a lovable yet long-suffering lawyer and high school wrestling coach. When he comes across a teenage runaway who also happens to be a champion wrestler, Mike’s luck turns around in spectacular fashion. But his win-win situation soon becomes more complicated than he ever imagined when the boy’s family affairs come into play. rated R

August 30th

Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family – Tyler Perry, Loretta Devine

Madea, everyone’s favorite wise-cracking, take-no-prisoners grandma, jumps into action when her niece, Shirley, receives distressing news about her health. All Shirley wants is to gather her three adult children around her and share the news as a family. It’s up to Madea, with the help of the equally rambunctious Aunt Bam, to gather the clan together and make things right the only way she knows how: with a lot of tough love, laughter, and the revelation of a long-buried family secret.


July 15

Rango – Johnny Depp

Rango, a kooky pet chameleon, accidentally winds up in the gritty, gun-slinging town of Dirt, a lawless outpost populated by the desert’s most wily and whimsical creatures. Welcomed as the last hope the town has been waiting for, new Sheriff Rango is forced to play his new role to the hilt, until he starts to become the hero he once only pretended to be.

 Arthur – Russell Brand, Helen Mirren

Lovable billionaire Arthur Bach has always relied on his limitless fortune and nanny Hobson to keep him out of trouble. Now he faces his biggest challenge. He must choose between an arranged marriage that will ensure his lavish lifestyle or an uncertain future with the one thing money can’t buy: Naomi, the only woman he has ever loved. With Naomi’s inspiration and some unconventional help from Hobson, Arthur will finally learn what it means to become a man

 July 19

Limitless – Bradly Cooper, Robert De Niro

Eddie Morra, a burnt-out writer, discovers a top-secret pill that unlocks 100% of his brain’s capacity. He instantly acquires mind-bending talents and mesmerizing visions that bring him big money, beautiful women, and limitless success. But his dream life soon becomes a waking nightmare, as the drug’s brutal side effects take their toll and Eddie finds himself entangled with a cunning Wall Street power broker who wants everything Eddie has and more.

July 26

Source Code – Jake Gyllenhaal,  Michelle Monaghan

When Captain Colter Stevens wakes up in the body of an unknown man, he discovers he’s part of an experimental government program that enables him to cross over into another man’s identity in the last eight minutes of his life. In order to identify the bomber of a Chicago commuter train, he must relive the incident over and over again, gathering clues to prevent an even deadlier second terrorist attack.

The Kids are back in the Hall! Or at least they returned to the hall long enough to make a new 8 episode mini-series in 2008 called Death Comes to Town which is super duper funny and, of course, very Canadian.

It used to be impossible to go a day without seeing an episode of The Kids in the Hall, the Canadian Sketch Comedy show that originally aired on CBS and HBO from 1989 to 1995, and then appeared in constant reruns on Comedy Central and other cable channels. But it has been awhile since I have seen the gang altogether (comedians Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thomson) since they have all been off making other TV shows, voicing characters in Disney movies, and hosting reality shows in their home country, so I was thrilled to discover this new series sitting on our new DVD shelf.

Instead of The Kids in the Hall‘s usual short comedic sketches, Death Comes to Town is a murder mystery ala Agatha Christie meets Monty Python featuring a huge cast of characters/suspects all played by the five comedians. The story takes place in the small town of Shuckton, Ontario, when the town’s beloved mayor is killed in his home just after informing the town that they did not win the bid to host the 2028 Winter Olympics. One of the mayor’s old hockey prodigies, an recluse who hasn’t left his home in decades, decides to solve the mystery with help from the local news team and a bunch of quirky townspeople, all while a Demon repeatedly tries to kill him.

I highly recommend Death Comes to Town for all Kids in the Hall fans and for anyone who likes their humor both a little dark and very silly. And although fans may be sad not to see most of their favorite KITH characters, there is a brief cameo by the beloved Chicken Lady.

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.


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.