As a pretty big fan of sci-fi TV and movies, I am embarrassed that it took me this long to watch Joss Whedon’s critically-acclaimed and short-lived TV series Firefly.  For those who are unfamiliar with it, Firefly is a 14-episode sci-fi series documenting the travels and missions of the spaceship Serenity.  It is set about 500 years in the future when humans have relocated to a new star system controlled by a group of central planets called The Alliance.  Though a band of rebels try to overthrow the corrupt Alliance, they are defeated and The Alliance remains in power.  In the pilot episode we meet Serenity’s captain Mal Reynolds and his second-in-command Zoe, who were on the losing side of the war with The Alliance and now take odd jobs (mostly smuggling) to get by.  The rest of the crew is a compelling cast of characters including adorable mechanic Kaylee, professional companion Inara, and pilot Wash.  To make some extra money the crew picks up some folks willing to pay for transport, including a preacher and a doctor with very mysterious cargo.

Being a unique hybrid of sci-fi and western, Firefly is like nothing else I’ve watched before, and that’s one thing I really love about it.  Despite the futuristic technology, the planets on the outer rim of the new star system (where the outlaw crew of Serenity spend most of their time) aren’t as well-off as the core Alliance planets, so they have a very rustic Old West look and feel.  But my favorite thing about this show is probably the characters.  There are nine very different members of the Serenity crew, and I can’t possibly pick a favorite or a least favorite because they’re all compelling and interesting in their own way.  Firefly was unfortunately cancelled before fans could get answers to a lot of the biggest questions of the series, including the full backstory of the show’s most mysterious character: crazy genius River Tam, who was experimented on at the hands of The Alliance.  But luckily for us, fans of the show rallied and a follow-up movie was made called Serenity, which serves as a very satisfying conclusion to an incredible series.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

May 3

Green Hornet – Seth Rogan, Jay Chou

Britt Reid is a rich playboy with a directionless life. After his father dies, Britt inherits his vast media empire, where he meets employee Kato. The two realize that they have a chance to do something worthwhile with their lives by fighting crime, so Britt becomes the Green Hornet. With the help of Britt’s secretary, the two begin hunting down Benjamin Chudnofsky, the man who controls LA’s gritty underworld. But Chudnofsky has plans of his own: to swat down the Green Hornet once and for all

 

May 13

Justin Bieber – Never Say Never

Justin Bieber’s odds were a million to one, until millions of fans found him online. Now revealed is the story of his journey from average teen to global superstar, culminating with a dream sold-out show at the famed Madison Square Garden. Special features include featurettes.

 

 

May 24

Gnomeo and Juliet

Caught up in a feud between neighbors, Gnomeo and Juliet must overcome as many obstacles as their namesakes. But with flamboyant pink flamingoes and epic lawnmower races, can this young couple find lasting happiness?  We just gnome it!

 

 

 

Biutiful – Javier Bardem

Uxbal is a man on the wrong side of the law who struggles to provide for his children on the dangerous streets of Barcelona. As fate encircles him, Uxbal learns to accept the realities of life, whether bright, bad, or biutiful.

 

Tornado Hunters Video footage of F4 tornados taken by amateur and professional storm chasers in Tornado Alley.

Twister The (modern) classic tornado flick starring Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton as the battling “storm-obsessed lunatics.” (All Movie Guide). There’s a complicated plot about “Dorothy,” a machine that will gather vital data about tornados as they pass over the device, and an evil competitor with a similar gizmo.

Which leads us to The Wizard of Oz , the (traditional) classic twister flick.

The tension of the brewing storm’s destruction  is built up carefully – with everyday, realistic touches. Everyone who sees this as a child can imagine themselves in Dorothy’s shoes (ha) – worrying about the darkening skies but having to go about their business. Even after 72 years, this film holds up, IMHO, as the film best able to instill a lifelong fear of storms.

I have to admit that when I first watched the pilot of Parks and Recreation starring Amy Poehler and Rashida Jones back in 2009, I was not impressed.  I gave it up right then and didn’t look back until recently, when I heard great things about how much the show had improved.  Curious, I picked up seasons one and two from the library and decided to give it another shot.  The show follows the Parks and Recreation department of fictional town Pawnee, Indiana, led by Deputy Director Leslie Knope (Poehler).  She’s ambitious and overly-eager, trying to get things done  while dealing with the red tape so often associated with local government.  The show starts off with her big project:  trying to fill in a giant pit that local nurse Ann Perkins (Jones) complained about and turn it into a beautiful park.

Doesn’t sound like an exciting plot?  Well, it is made wildly entertaining by the cast of characters who work and volunteer for the Parks Department.  This includes the over-the-top womanizer Tom (played by hilarious comedian Aziz Ansari), office punching bag Jerry, apathetic intern April, and my personal favorite:  Leslie’s boss, Ron Swanson, who deadpans every line and almost makes the moustache cool.  It gets even better as we learn about the personal lives of each character (just wait until you see Leslie on a date and meet Ron’s evil ex-wife Tammy).  I am so glad I gave this show another chance because now into its third season, it makes me laugh every week.  If you like The Office, I highly recommend checking out this underrated and hilarious series.

Would you rather have a romantic night at home for Valentine’s Day instead of going out in the cold?  Check out any of these romantic movies at the library for the perfect Valentine’s Day date!

Casablanca – The timeless story of a nightclub owner and the one who got away back in World War II.

The Notebook – One of my favorites!  An elderly gentleman tells the story of a summer romance between two teens.

Love Actually – Intertwining stories about Brits in love.  Funny, heartwarming, and heartbreaking all at once.  A modern classic.

Pride and Prejudice – The classic novel brought to life with Keira Knightly as Elizabeth Bennett, falling in love where she least expected it.  I can’t count how many times I’ve seen this one.

When Harry Met Sally – Can a man and a woman just be friends?  That’s the question at the heart of this iconic rom-com starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal.

Shakespeare in Love – The fictionalized story of a young Shakespeare who, while suffering from writer’s block, finds love with beautiful actress Viola.

Dirty Dancing – Because let’s face it, we’ve all imagined ourselves doing that dance at the end.

Now it’s your turn – what’s your favorite romantic movie?

Are you getting a little tired of all the Christmas schmaltz? Fighting off that Bah Humbug feeling about now? When all the holiday madness starts to get to be too much, but you don’t quite want to give up on finding some Christmas spirit, try watching one of these movies. None of them are about Christmas (or New Years), but each has great holiday scenes – just enough glitter and holly to keep you in the mood!

Love, Actually – Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman, Kiera Knightly, many others

This one actually has a lot to do with Christmas, but it’s really about love in all it’s funny, touching, heartbreaking forms.

When Harry Met Sally – Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal

Not Christmas, but New Year’s Eve. Funny with several classic, iconic scenes. Don’t miss it.

Trading Places – Eddie Murphy, Dan Akroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis

Everything starts at one of those dreaded Christmas office parties…… A modern comedy classic.

Meet Me in St Louis – Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien

One of the great American musicals, this movie introduced the heartbreaking song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”.

About a Boy – Hugh Grant

A trust fund slacker living off the profits of the Christmas song his father wrote years ago, gains a life – and a heart – with the help of a little boy. Sharp and funny.

While You Were Sleeping – Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman

Through misunderstandings that never get cleared up, lonely Lucy gains a family and falls in love – with the wrong guy! Set during Christmas and New Years. Bullock is at her charming best.