Reviews


Fright Night 2011 PosterAs a huge fan of the original campy horror movie that came out in 1985 I knew I had to see it.  Then I learned David Tennant from Doctor Who was taking the role of Peter Vincent it was a done deal.

It seems like either you love or hate 3D and I have to say that I loved it for Fright Night‘s new remake  — or rather I loved it after I told the theater workers to fix the projection since it was off during the previews.  I firmly believe 3D is best served when used in horror movies.
That said, it isn’t the kind of movie you can only watch in 3D.

The basic plot is the same as the original.  Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) believes his neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a vampire.  He seeks out the help of a supposed vampire expert, Peter Vincent, to kill said neighbor.  The humor fell flat for the most part, but I did giggle some (not nearly as much as the original).  That said as funnier as the original was I loved the new direction of this film and was glad they went darker.  It was a heart-pounding adrenaline rush.  I am glad I didn’t watch the trailer for the film.  Do yourself a favor and skip the trailer.

Colin FarrellSeeing Colin Farrell was a happy surprise for me as I didn’t look into the film that much before going.  He could have made or broke this film, but he blew me away.  Having someone that good-looking in the film also a nice change from the original.  Instead of it being campy or cliched Farrell gave one of the best performances of someone truly disturbing that I have ever seen.  He was not so much a vampire as much as he was a serial killer that happened to be a vampire, a thing far more terrifying than any creature alone could be.  Jerry is insanely attractive and charming so knowing what he is doing and that he can still pull off being attractive is frightening in and of itself.

Tony Collette was also amazing as the single mom.  She gave a bit more depth to the story that added a level of terror just due to the believability of her performance.

As always David Tennant was fantastic and brought range to what could have been a pretty static character.  Peter Vincent in the 2011 version is a bit of a Chris-Angel-esk Vegas act.  Tennant brought some humor to what could have been an unfunny movie (although that Ebay line was horrible and forced, I think we all can admit that) and was able to manage to make this role his own.

All in all, I would recommend this movie as long as you expect it to be darker than the original.  While it wasn’t as funny as Zombieland, if you were a fan of that film you should check this out.  And if you haven’t seen the original Fright Night just don’t expect it to actually be frightening…at all.

Fright Night (2011): Official Website

Fright Night (1985): Get it at Your Library!

And just because I like you weird librarians so much, here are a few more clips from “Portlandia.”  This one is called “Hide and Seek.” Enjoy.  And if you want more go to the Portlandia website.  I highly recommend for librarians “Technology Loop.”  Brilliantly funny.

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Enjoy this clip from IFC’s new show Portlandia starring Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein.  Did you read????

IFC's "Portlandia"

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Psycho

Janet Leigh in the famous shower scene of "Psycho"

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the theatrical release of the classic Alfred Hitchcock horror film Psycho.  This means that for half a century people have been terrified of taking a shower.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw Psycho.  Despite being in a large room of people, I still was affected enough that to this day I tell people that Psycho is the most terrifying movie I have ever seen.

Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is on the run when she stops at the Bates Motel.  There she meets a handsome and mild-mannered young man named Norman (Anthony Perkins) that owns the motel.  Norman tells Janet that he and his mother live on the property, and he feels trapped.  Feeling trapped herself, Janet feels sorry for Norman, who she feels is being controlled by his mother.

Perkins and Leigh

Norman Bates and Marion Crane

Most of us have probably seen the shower scene, and know that things don’t look good for Marion’s disappearance, but the tension of the film is masterful.  It certainly has stood the test of time, and is a must for any horror fan that enjoys the psychological terror over a gore-fest.

The movie is being re-released in a special Blu-ray 50th Anniversary edition this fall, but you don’t have to wait to enjoy this classic.

Check this item out at a library near you!

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Dark Night by Dorothee De Monfreid

"Dark Night" by Dorothee De Monfreid

Every week I volunteer at the Center for Children’s Books and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.  As such, I see a lot of great books for kids and young adults.  The Center for Children’s Books has a great non-circulating collection, and the Bulletin gets boxes upon boxes of books every week filled with the latest books before they are published.  I am going to try to be better about posting reviews of some of my favorites that come through.  Here are just a few quality picture books that are beautifully illustrated, have fun stories, and teach kids in an entertaining way.  These are of course viewpoints endorsed by Librarians are Weird, but are not to be confused with reviews of The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.  For those reviews please consider subscribing!  As of this posting it is only $15 for students!

Pepi Sings a New SongPepi Sings a New Song by Laura Ljungkvist is the story of a parrot who goes on a little adventure to different places around the city to learn new things so he can make up a new song to sing for the little boy that owns him.  He goes to the bakery, the dog park, to an artist, to a musician, etc.  The illustrations are fantastic and I thought the selection of words was a nice mix of the ordinary and less ordinary.

Dark NightDark Night by Dorothee De Monfreid is another really cute one that came in awhile ago, but is out now.  I love the color and the style.  It is about a little boy that goes into the woods and there are all kinds of scary animals, but with a help of a woodland friend he overcomes his fears.  It is a beautifully styled book.  I just love the look of it.  It is a great picture book for kids that are afraid of the dark.

Where in the WildWith a lot of hidden creature books it is easier to find all the creatures.  Where in the Wild? Camouflaged Creatures Concealed Revealed by David M. Schwartz really made me look hard to see them, and it was very cool to learn about these amazing creatures.  The book has poems, shows the picture, and you try to find the creatures.   Then you lift the flap and it highlights just the creature.  Adults will have fun with this one, too.

Moon Rabbit by Natalie RussellMoon Rabbit by Natalie Russell does not feature a rabbit from the moon.  While this could be disappointing, it really wasn’t.  I loved that the little rabbit loves living in the city, but longs for a friend.  She ventures out to find a little brown rabbit that plays guitar. They form a fast friendship, and while the new friend wants her to stay she goes home.  It is a sweet tale of friendship, independence, and of knowing what makes you happy.

The Octonauts & the Great Ghost Reef by Meomi is the first I’ve read in the Octonauts series, but I am absolutely hooked.  Not only are the team of creatures beyond adorable, but they have a mystery to solve!  The team is on the case to find out why a large and bustling reef city has become a ghost town.  Not only is the book engaging as a mystery and kids will learn the names of all kinds of creatures, but kids will learn something when the mystery is solved!  Scooby fans will love The Octonauts, which is good news since The Octonauts will soon be an animated television series.  For more information check out the official website: The Octonauts!

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Food Rules by Michael PollanBestselling author Michael Pollan’s latest book, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, is a quick read, but is not light on information for anyone that eats.  There are a lot of long and exhaustive books that don’t get to the point, especially when it comes to diet and health.  Pollan however gets right to practical advice and scientific information with this slim book of ideas that span the space of a small page.

He makes interesting points, 64 in fact.  I tend to enjoy reading about health, and honestly, I find that a lot of these kinds of books are not quick and easy, or the advice is simply not good.  Not since I read You on a Diet have I felt so satisfied with a health advice book.

A lot of this was not new to me, but I tend to try to stay up on health news.  Even still, I found a lot to take away myself.  Pollan is an expert on food and the food industry, and informs us without a gimmick of weight loss.  Yes, you will lose weight if you follow his advice, but it is about being informed.  Like his other books and talks, he also discusses what has happened with the food industry and American society to cause our issues with food.

One thing that I loved about this book is that it didn’t focus heavily on meat vs. vegetarianism, but it did comment on it.  It is difficult when a book does not take into account the different perspectives of the potential readers.  It is a wonderful way to dip your toes into understanding food, but even people already knowledgeable will enjoy Pollan’s quick tips.  This book is really a great little read for anyone interested in being more mindful and healthy about what they eat with realistic solutions.

On Wednesday, April 21, the highly talked about Academy Award Nominated documentary film Food Inc. will be shown on POV.  Robert Kenner’s film features Pollan and other experts on food.  They explore the fascinating topic of how our food is making us sick, and what we can do to make it better.  Check your local PBS station listings.  You can even get a one time e-mail reminder from PBS so you don’t forget.

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

Because of this, PBS is featuring an excerpt from Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  Unlike Food Rules, The Omnivore’s Dilemma is not quick tips, but rather a discussion of how our food industry is run and how we got to this point.  This is not to say it won’t help you make smarter decisions.  Rather, Food Rules is the distilled advice of Pollan, but is hardly exhaustive of his knowledge.

Additional information:

Official website: Michael Pollan

Interview: Michael Pollan on Democracy Now! (VIDEO) — highly recommended

Excerpt (PBS): The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Excerpt (WorldCat/GoogleBooks): The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Additional websites:  Food, Inc. trailer on POV and Food, Inc. reminder

Official website: Food, Inc. documentary film

Find these items at a library near you! Don’t forget, this website’s official list of library items can also be found here or in our side bar by clicking on the WorldCat logo.

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan — There is also a GoogleBooks preview, which you can find on WorldCat by clicking under the image of the book cover.  Or, you can click here to be taken there directly.

Food Inc.

Food, Inc.

Food, Inc. documentary film

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"Stranger than Fiction" is a Funny & Smart Film

Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson) is writing her latest novel.  She has a case of writer’s block, and doesn’t know how to kill off her main character, lonely IRS agent Harold Crick (Will Ferrell).  Little does she know that Harold Crick is a real person.  He starts hearing a mysterious voice that narrates his life, and one day that voice states that Harold Crick will die.  With the help of Professor Jules Hibert (Dustin Hoffman), Harold tries to find out what story he is in so he can save himself.  Along the way he meets a smart, sassy, and beautiful woman that is being audited (Maggie Gyllenhaal) that he begins to fall for, and develops a friendship with his co-worker Dave (Tony Hale of Arrested Development).  For the first time in his lonely life Harold starts to live his life, all the while with the narrator and the knowledge of his impending death looming over him.

Will Ferrell as Harold Crick

Harold writes down tick marks into columns of what his story is “tragedy” or “comedy.”  We are left to wonder this ourselves.  With drama and laughter, we find a moving film that is quirky and fun, while deep and meaningful all the same.

The life of Harold Crick is not only narrated.  Graphics pop-up to accentuate how he lives his life measured out precisely.  But it is just when his life gains chaos that it starts to really make sense.  This is an intelligent film that speaks to the audience, not above the audience.  It is a sweet and touching and soulful film, with humor and brilliant awkwardness that reminds us “you’re never too old for space camp.”

This film was directed by Marc Forster.

More information:  Official website

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Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Librarians agree:  Alice in Wonderland in 3-D is well worth the money and the entire country has Alice on the brain.  On opening week I organized a group of librarians and library students to attend a screening of Tim Burton’s latest film in the relatively new Real-D.  While I am certain this film will be amazing either way, it is truly a masterpiece in 3-D.  Without giving in to creating shots blatantly for the use of 3-D, it still manages to take full advantage of this feature.

This is clearly Tim Burton’s take on Alice in Wonderland.  For one Alice is older, and the film takes a much darker tone than the classic Disney animation (is anyone really surprised that this film might be too much for young children) and there are many twists and surprises along the way.  That said, it does not lose the sense of Wonderland for older fans of early imaginings of Lewis Carroll’s work.  I am certain that fans of Tin Man will be delighted to see this incarnation of Alice in Wonderland.  I know I am.

I was a bit nervous that it would be too Mad-Hatter-centric.  It was not, however.  The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) did play a large role and I understand why Disney would throw their money behind the star.  However, I felt the advertising for the film overshadowed the other amazing performances, none so much as Alice (Mia Wasikowska).  She is perfect as 19 year old Alice, who is expected to accept the marriage proposal of Hamish (Leo Bill), but thankfully gets distracted by a silly white rabbit.  It is not surprising that Tim Burton also cast Helena Bonham Carter in her role as The Red Queen, but it is not just favoritism.  Ms. Carter is amazing as the large headed and violent queen.  Anne Hathaway is no less brilliant as the flighty and hilarious White Queen.  Of course, the best part of the movie are the amazing creatures and world Burton and his team has created:  the White Rabbit, the March Hare, the Red Queen’s frogs, the Caterpillar, and the Cheshire Cat!  My favorite moment being when he is kneading (as cats do).  Lovely!

Fans of this film also might like to check out The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor.  It has a very similar dark take and I am excited to reread the original to compare. In this first in a series of books, we learn that Alice is from Wonderland.  She was heir to the thrown until her aunt, the Red Queen, waged war against her family to cease control of Wonderland.  Alice escapes Red, her army of card soldiers, and an assassin with the help of her friends (including a Mad Hatter that is a skilled fighter himself), but she is cast out from Wonderland lost and alone.  Another related book that is on my to-read list was recommended to me by Laura Rancani.  She recently wrote about the historical fiction Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin, so please visit her website for the full review.

In related news, to celebrate the release of the film, I visited the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where there was an exhibit of rare Lewis Carroll items including original photographs taken by the author (my personal favorite), games owned and/or invented by him, books, and memorabilia.  They also held a tea party for children and had games that Lewis invented that visitors could try out.  I was very bummed out to have had to miss out on tea, but I was late for a very important date!  Still, I managed to quickly snap a few photos for your viewing pleasure.

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The Lady & The ReaperTomorrow night, Sunday, March 7, you can watch the 2010 Academy Awards (the 82 Oscars) on ABC.  Some of the best films are not the big names you have heard of already, or are even films that you have to set aside a few hours to watch.  They are the nominated short films.

You can also watch many of the short films that are nominated for this year’s awards.  You can purchase short films through iTunes, or in some cases you can already find them at a library.  Some of them are currently available on YouTube (either in their entirety or trailers), if you are like me and would like to watch them before you purchase them for yourself or your library, you can get a chance to do just that.

Personally, I haven’t had a chance to watch any of the live action nominees, but the animated shorts are all strong. The video trailers ‘available’ from the Oscar website did not work for me.  I hope you have better luck.

This year’s nominees are:

Animated Short Film (2009):

Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty – Brown Bag Films – Nicky Phelan and Darragh O’Connel:  Hilarious film about a Granny that sure has an interesting take on storytelling for her young grandbaby.  This is my favorite for the win, but it is a tough call.

Additional information:  Official website (includes full film, or watch the embedded video below).

French Roast – Fabrice Joubert:  A gentleman, a beggar, and a nun walk into a cafe.  Sounds like a joke, right?  Well, it is.  This nominee is about what happens when someone can’t foot the bill.

Additional information: Official website

The Lady and the Reaper (La dama y la muerte) – Javier Recio Gracia:  Don’t fear the reaper!  An elderly widow waits for death to reunite her with her late husband, but it isn’t that simple apparently in this film that will remind you of Bugs Bunny cartoons and at least at one point will have you saying “well that was disturbing” (at least I did).

Additional information: Official website


Logorama – H5 (French company) – Nicolas Schmerkin:  The world is made of logos and corporations…so basically this is a documentary (kidding…sort of).

Additional information:  Official website

A Matter of Loaf and Death – Aardman Animations – Nick Park:  Wallace and Gromit are back!  I love these guys!  This time they are in the bakery business.  Only the trailer is available online, but you can find this item at a library near you!

Additional information:  Official website

Best Live Action Short Film (2009): [note: information from Oscar website]

  • Kavi — Gregg Helvey:  A young Indian boy and his family are forced to work as slaves.  A video trailer available from the Oscar website.

If you are interested in watching the 82 Academy Awards check your local ABC listings for more details, but don’t forget that you can watch nominated and award winning films from past years anytime.

One such collection is the DVD Collection of 2006 Academy Award Nominated Short Films.

West Bank Story
West Bank Story, 2006 Oscar winner for Short Live Action Film

The first short film in this collection, and the Oscar winner for “Best Live Action Short Film” 2006, is West Bank Story (by Ari Sandel, USA).  Set in the West Bank, this musical comedy parody of West Side Story is the love story of an Israeli soldier (Ben Newmark) and a Palestinian cashier (Noureen DeWulf).  Their families have are warring fast food restaurants.  This is ultimately a story of hope that someday the two sides will find peace…and that we can all enjoy yummy good food in harmony.

Additional information:  West Bank Story official website

The Danish Poet (by Torill Kove, Norway & Canada) was the winner for Animation Short.  This is a touching love story about all the tiny, seemingly insignificant things that lead up to the birth of a child.  Liv Ullmann narrates this film, taking us through the life of the Danish poet.  Tracing the small events in life, can we find the bigger picture?

You can watch the entire film on the National Film Board of Canada’s Youtube Channel:

Additional information:  The Danish Poet at the National Film Board of Canada

This collection also features nominated short films.  In the live action catogory we have The Saviour, One Too Many, Helmer and Son, and Binta and the Great Idea.  A nominated animation is also included, Maestro, in addition to bonus short films A Gentlemen’s Duel, Guide Dog, One Rat Short, The Passenger, Surviving the Rush, and The Wraith of Cobble Hill.

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PenelopePenelope is a modern fairytale which redefines the genre for a new millennium.  Unlike the traditional princess tale, this modern reimagining features the strong princess, a contemporary setting, and a prince that is not exactly in shining armor.  While fans of Enchanted and Ella Enchanted will likely love this tale, I prefer Penelope for the positive body image storyline, which is a great change for young women.  This is an untraditional fairytale love story about learning to love yourself no matter what your short-comings may be.

Penelope (Christina Ricci) is born into a high-society family.  The world should be at her feet, but she due to a strange curse on her family, she is born with a face like a pig (and no, it can’t be fixed with plastic surgery).  The only thing that can reverse it is for a blue-blood to accept her as one of their own.  Her parents fake her death and keep her hidden away to protect her from tabloid reporters, specifically one named Lemon (Peter Dinklage) that almost got a picture of Penelope as a baby.   Once she is old enough, her mother (Catherine O’Hara) arranges to use a match-making service dealing only with high-society clients.  The suitors all come for the sizable dowry, but run once they see her.

Penelope & MaxEverything changes when she meets Max (James McAvoy); a handsome, charming, and down on his luck gambler.  He is hired to get a picture of the “hideous pig faced girl,” but Max and Penelope fall in love.  Our unlikely couple are a wonderful match, but when the truth is revealed, Max leaves and it devastates our heroine.

Heartbroken, Penelope strikes out on her own for the first time in her life.  Along the way to finding herself, Penelope makes friends including a spunky bike messenger (Reese Witherspoon), and she learns to love herself.  She is able to really live for the first time in her life.

This story is an amazing example of a modern, likable princess that does not fit the traditional mold.  I cannot recommend this film enough.  The breathtaking beauty of the shots and amazing use of color is reason enough, but when combined by the moving, yet hilarious, story of this young woman you have a film that will stand the test of time.

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