Lately, my mother and I have been on 1940’s holiday movie binge and they are all FANTASTIC! Of course we watch Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) every year, but here is a list of some of the  films that we have just discovered:

It Happened on 5th Avenue
(1947)
Starring: Don DeFore, Ann Harding and Charles Ruggles

A homeless man and ex-GI secretly move into a millionaire’s empty mansion during the holidays and are soon joined by a young woman after they catch her robbing the mansion of its fur coats. Unbeknownst to the gentlemen, the young woman is actually the millionaire’s runaway daughter and soon she invites her cranky father, the millionaire, to move in with her as an undercover vagrant.

Christmas in Connecticut
(1945)
Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan and Sydney Greenstreet

A Martha-Stewartish journalist becomes frantic when her publisher insists she treats an injured GI to a real family-oriented Christmas at her Connecticut home–what will happen when they find out she has no cooking skills, no husband, no baby, and no home in Connecticut?!

The Shop Around the Corner
(1940)
Starring: Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart and Frank Morgan

Two workers in a Budapest gift-shop absolutely loathe each other, but are unaware that they are each other’s beloved anonymous pen-pal. Who will be the first to discover the truth? This is the original movie that inspired You’ve Got Mail starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks!

Holiday Affair
(1949)
Starring: Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh and Wendell Corey

Classic romance where a single mother struggles to choose between a comfortable fiancé and an unexpected romantic stranger on Christmas.

‘Tis the season for hooky, sentimental, wonderful Christmas movies on ABC Family Channel, Lifetime Channel and Hallmark Channel. Over the years these three channels have produced their own movies for the holiday season. If you are like me, you love watching these made for TV movie classics. If your holiday becomes too hectic or you have missed your favorite movie, check our catalog as we have quite a few of the made for TV Christmas Movies.

Christmas Blessing ( 2007) – Neil Patrick Harris, Rebecca Gayheart, Rob Lowe

When a medical resident loses a patient, he moves back home with his father to rethink his career. His world is turned upside down when the lives of the woman he loves and an innocent young boy are in crisis. Will a Christmas miracle save them all?

Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey – Tom Berenger, Joely Richardson

When a boy loses the wooden nativity set that links him to his deceased father, his mother persuades a reclusive woodcarver to make a replacement. As Christmas approaches and the boy demands more, will the gift be finished in time?

Santa Baby – Jenny McCarthy, George Wendt

When Santa Claus gets too sick to run the toy shop, his workaholic daughter Mary leaves behind her high-powered job in the city and heads north.

Christmas Story Lady – Jessica Tandy, Stephanie Zimbalist

An elderly lady has a gift for storytelling that brings a troubled family together and envelops them in a world of imagination.

I feel a little bit silly now realizing that Alias:  Season One began airing almost ten years ago, and yet I am only now getting into this awesome series.  It stars Jennifer Garner as Sidney Bristow, a grad student who is part of what she thinks is a covert branch of the CIA called SD-6.  After getting engaged, she decides she has to come clean to her fiance about being a spy.  Unfortunately, since her status has now been compromised, the head of SD-6 orders that Sidney’s fiance must be killed.  This is when Sidney learns the horrible truth about SD-6:  they’re not really part of the CIA.  Rather, they’re part of an organization that the real CIA has been fighting for years.  At the end of the pilot episode, Sidney goes to CIA headquarters and offers to be a double agent and help them bring down SD-6 once and for all.

So far I’ve only gotten through season one, but I’m definitely interested in seeing more (I just checked out Alias: Season Two and I’m dying to go home and watch it!).  It’s hard to not keep watching, especially since almost every episode ends with a cliffhanger!  One of the things I have found most interesting about the series is the relationship between Sidney and her father, Jack Bristow.  After finding out that her father has also been working for SD-6 for years, she is surprised once again to find out that he’s also a double agent for the CIA.  The two have never had a close relationship, so through their double agent work, they’re getting to know each other once again.  It’s a really interesting dynamic and I’m enjoying watching it develop.  The cast is great and gels together well, and the series is well-written and has a lot of exciting action sequences.  I highly recommend it, especially if you like other J.J. Abrams series such as Lost or other dramas where women kick butt, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

December 4th

Twilight Saga – Eclipse – Robert Pattinson, Kristin Stewart, Taylor Lauber

It all begins with a choice. In the third chapter of Stephenie Meyer’s phenomenal Twilight series, Bella Swan is surrounded by danger as Seattle is hit by a string of murders and an evil vampire continues her quest for revenge. In the midst of it all, Bella is forced to choose between her love, Edward Cullen, and her friend, Jacob Black, knowing that her decision may ignite the ageless struggle between vampire and werewolf.

December 7th

Shrek Forever After – Mike Meyers, Cameron Diaz

Longing for the days when he was a ‘real ogre,’ Shrek signs a deal with Rumpelstiltskin to get his roar back, but turns his world upside down in the process. Donkey suddenly can’t remember his best friend, Fiona is now a tough warrior princess, and Puss in Boots is one fat cat! Together, they have just 24 hours to reverse the contract and restore happily forever after.

Inception – Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt

Dom Cobb is the best there is at extraction: stealing valuable secrets inside the subconscious during the mind’s vulnerable dream state. His skill has made him a coveted player in industrial espionage, but also has made him a fugitive and cost him dearly. Now he may get a second chance if he can do the impossible: inception, planting an idea rather than stealing one. If they succeed, Cobb and his team could pull off the perfect crime.

December 14th

The Other Guys – Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell

When two mismatched NYPD detectives stumble into a seemingly dull case that no other detective wants to bother with, it turns out to be New York City’s biggest crime. The two seize the opportunity to step up like the city’s top cops, whom they idolize. But do these two guys have the right stuff?

Despicable Me – Steve Carell, Jason Segel

Gru delights in all things wicked. Surrounded by an army of tireless, little yellow minions, and armed with his arsenal of shrink rays, freeze rays, and battle-ready vehicles for land and air, he vanquishes all who stand in his way. Until the day he encounters the immense will of three little orphaned girls who look at him and see something that no one else has ever seen: a potential dad.

December 17th

The Town – Ben Affleck, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall

Doug MacRay is leader of a Boston bank robber gang but not cut from the same cloth as his fellow thieves. When Doug falls into a passionate romance with the bank manager briefly taken hostage in their last heist, he wants out of this life and out of the town. As the Feds close in and the crew questions his loyalty, he has one of two choices: betray his friends or lose the woman he loves.

December 21st

Salt – Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber

As a CIA officer, Evelyn Salt swore an oath to duty, honor, and country. Her loyalty will be tested when a defector accuses her of being a Russian spy. Salt goes on the run, using all her skills and years of experience as a covert operative to elude capture. Her efforts to prove her innocence only serve to cast doubt on her motives, as the hunt to uncover the truth behind her identity continues.

And so it begins – the time of year when, at every opportunity, we find an excuse to eat something special and delicious, a time also known as “the holidays”. (If you’re really serious about this, you start at Halloween and extend it at least until Super Bowl Sunday, maybe Valentine’s Day!) Food is often a popular theme of many books and movies, from Julie and Julia to Like Water for Chocolate. This week our blogging librarians clue us into some of their favorites. Lexie gets us started with a movie that’s sure to become a classic.

Not only are the holidays a great time for food, they’re also a great time for family togetherness.  In that spirit, I  highly recommend the Disney/Pixar movie Ratatouille.  It tells the story of a rat named Remy who loves food and coming up with new concoctions made from whatever he can find lying around.  When he stumbles into his cooking idol’s restaurant, he strikes up an unusual friendship with the garbage boy, and together the two cook up amazing creations and bring the vitality back to the failing restaurant.

I might be an adult, but Pixar can still do no wrong in my eyes.  You definitely don’t have to be a kid to enjoy this movie.  It’s really an inspirational story about achieving your goals despite your shortcomings and the things that stand in your way.  It’s got comedy, a little romance, and….well, a rat cooking, which sounds gross but is done in such a cute way that I don’t mind.  As long as it’s not happening in any restaurant I eat in, of course.

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.

I love sci-fi and fantasy novels, and I have been meaning to read this classic sci-fi work for ages.  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the story of Arthur Dent, an Englishman rescued moments before the destruction of Earth with the help of Ford Prefect, his best friend who turns out to be from another planet.  As the title suggests, the two hitchhike through the galaxy in search of a mythical planet called Magrathea and meet new friends, including the President of the Galaxy, his girlfriend, and a depressed robot.  The book is absolutely hilarious.  The galaxy Adams has created is interesting and well-developed, and we get to learn a lot about it through random and laugh-out-loud details.  One of my favorite things about it is the encyclopedia that Ford is writing, which guides newbies like Arthur through the galaxy and defines all the different creatures, technological advances, and concepts.  If only our encyclopedias on Earth had Ford Prefect’s sense of humor!

The movie version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy stars Martin Freeman, Mos Def, Sam Rockwell, and Zooey Deschanel.  It follows pretty closely to the book and has great performances by Freeman as Arthur and the always amazing Alan Rickman as the voice of Martin.  However, I feel compelled to be honest and say that I didn’t really care for this movie.  I don’t know what it was about it, but something was just lost in the translation from book to movie.  For example, they did include narration of the encyclopedia entries, which I loved in the book.  But by the fifth or sixth little aside in the movie, I was pretty tired of the constant interruptions.  The book packed in all that detail without making it a laborious effort to get through, which is a feat that the movie didn’t accomplish in my opinion.  But then again, that’s just my opinion.  So if you liked the book as much as I did, I encourage you to check out the movie and see what you think!

If you’ve caught the recent series on PBS, you may want to go back to the first dvd series of Wallander. Kenneth Branagh inhabits the morose Swedish Inspector Kurt Wallander. He feels the pain and suffering of the world to the extent that it interferes with his relationships with his daughter, father and ex-wife. Always close to burnout, Kurt repeatedly puts his job before whatever is left of his home life, and they are very much aware of that.

The tv series is based on the Henning Mankell mysteries set  near Ystad in Southern Sweden. The tones are bleached out; the Swedish countryside comes off as pale and tired – as if all  vibrant hues  have been drained out out of the world. It sounds incredibly depressing but there’s something about  Wallander’s character and Branagh’s portrayal of him that makes this very complex man impossible not to watch and root for.  Optimism and hope seem misguided if not futile, but Wallander keeps hanging in there.

Those looking for nonstop spectacular violence and pounding background music will be disappointed but if you enjoy complex characters, intricate plots and incredible acting, you won’t be disappointed.

November 2

Toy Story 3 – Animated

As Andy prepares to leave for college, his loyal toys find they have been donated to the Sunnyside Daycare, where untamed tots with their sticky little fingers do not play nice. So it’s all for one and one for all as they join Barbie’s counterpart Ken, a thespian hedgehog named Mr. Pricklepants, and a pink, strawberry-scented teddy bear called Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear to plan their great escape and ensure that no toy gets left behind

November 9

Charlie St. Cloud – Zac Efron, Amanda Crew

Charlie St. Cloud is a small-town hero and an accomplished sailor who has it all: the adoration of his mother and younger brother and a Stanford scholarship. His bright future is cut short when tragedy strikes and takes his dreams with it. Now Charlie is torn between honoring a promise he made years ago and pursuing his newfound love with a former high school classmate.

Scott Pilgrim vs the World – Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Meet charming and jobless Scott Pilgrim. A bass guitarist for garage band Sex Bob-omb, the 22-year-old has just met the girl of his dreams, literally. The only catch to winning Ramona Flowers? Her seven evil exes are coming to kill him. As Scott gets closer to Ramona, he must face an increasingly vicious rogues’ gallery from her past, from infamous skateboarders to vegan rock stars and fearsome identical twins. If he hopes to win his true love, he must vanquish them all.

Ramona and Beezus – Selena Gomez, Joey King

Ramona is a little girl with a very big imagination and a nose for mischief. Her playful antics keep everyone in her loving family on their toes, including her older sister Beezus, who’s just trying to survive her first year of high school. Through all the ups and downs of childhood, Ramona and Beezus learn that anything’s possible when you believe in yourself and rely on each other

November 16

The Kids Are All Right – Annette Bening, Julianne Moore

Nic and Jules are in a long-term, committed, loving, but by no means perfect relationship. Nic, a physician, needs to wield what she believes is control, whereas Jules, under that control, is less self-assured. They have two teenaged children, Joni, who is Nic’s biological child, and Laser, who is Jules’ biological child. A big-hearted, sexy, and uproariously funny movie that combines comedic surprise with poignant emotional truth.

The Last Airbender – Noah Ringer

Join Aang, an extraordinary boy with incredible ‘bending’ powers, as he journeys through an exotic land filled with magical creatures and powerful friends. As the Avatar, he is the only one who can end the age-old conflict between the four nations, Air, Water, Earth, and Fire.

November 23

Eat Pray Love – Julia Roberts, Javier Bandem

A happily married woman who is trying to get pregnant realizes that her life needs to go in a new direction. After a very painful divorce, she risks everything and embarks on a journey around the world that becomes a quest for self-discovery.

The Expendables – Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis

The Expendables are a tight-knit team of skilled combat vets turned mercenaries. Hired by a powerful covert operator, the team jets off to a small South American country to overthrow a ruthless dictator. Once there, they find themselves caught in a deadly web of deceit and betrayal. Using every weapon at their disposal, they set out to save the innocent and punish the guilty in this blistering action-packed thriller.

November 30

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – Nicolas Cage

The Expendables are a tight-knit team of skilled combat vets turned mercenaries. Hired by a powerful covert operator, the team jets off to a small South American country to overthrow a ruthless dictator. Once there, they find themselves caught in a deadly web of deceit and betrayal. Using every weapon at their disposal, they set out to save the innocent and punish the guilty in this blistering action-packed thriller.

With Caprica Season 1.0 about to be released on DVD, I think this is a great time to revisit its predecessor.  It isn’t often that my husband and I can both sit down and enjoy the same TV series, but when I brought home Battlestar Galactica: Season 1 from the library, we were both instantly hooked. 

The show starts off with a familiar concept:  a few decades ago, humans created artificial intelligence called Cylons in order to make their lives easier, but the Cylons eventually waged war on their human masters.  A truce was declared, and the Cylons weren’t heard from for 40 years.  But just as the fleet’s oldest ship (the Battlestar Galactica) is about to be decomissioned, the Cylons return and attack the colonies, leaving only about 50,000 humans alive.  All while being hunted by the Cylons, the last living humans must search the galaxy for their new home:  a mythical place called Earth.

With a cast of compelling and complex characters (including Galactica’s Commander, his son the pilot, the newly sworn in President of the colonies,  a pilot with a BIG secret, and a morally conflicted scientist), the show is not just another action-packed sci-fi adventure.  It is also filled with drama, political strife, theological questions, and even some romance here and there.  The twists and turns are shocking, and the plotlines really make you think about our society today.  The way the seasons are packaged is a little annoying (it goes season 1, 2.0, 2.5, 3, 4.0, and 4.5) so it’s important to make sure you don’t accidentally skip a season.  I could write pages and pages about this show, but I think I should stop now so that I don’t ruin any surprises.  Trust me, you don’t want to be spoiled.  Stop by the library to pick up a copy of Season 1I can almost guarantee you’ll be coming back for Season 2.0 within days.