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Life is Beautiful

Life is Beautiful (1997, rated PG-13) is just that, a beautiful movie about a father who will do anything in his power to keep the horrors of WWII away from his son. I love how Roberto Benigni invents the whole game scenario for his boy and humorously wings it with every turn for the worse in their prison camp.

The ending is nothing short of brilliant, loving, and courageous. For those movie fans who shy away from foreign films because of the subtitles, I encourage you to watch this wonderful movie that proves how love will always be victorious in the end.

Watch three-time Oscar winner (actor, foreign film, original score) Life is Beautiful on Hoopla today. In Italian with English subtitles. Roberto Benigni wrote, directed, and acted in this excellent movie.


At First Sight

At First Sight (1999, rated PG-13) starring Val Kilmer and Mira Sorvino is a slow-moving, tender love story that shows that blind people are not completely helpless. Virgil has been blind since early childhood. He meets Amy, who he likes and she reciprocates those feeling. Virgil has a new surgery to help him regain his vision, and his life changes drastically. He experiences unexpected problems of suddenly seeing and not knowing how to handle his new vision.

All and all, At First Sight is a feel-good movie worth watching. Place the dvd on hold or check it out on Hoopla today.


Coherence

Mike and Lee are having friends over for dinner tonight. It's also the night Miller's comet will pass near the Earth. Smartphones crack, the Internet goes out, and then all power is lost. Mike has a generator which restores the lights. The landscape outside is dark except for one house in the distance with the lights on. Despite having been warned by a physicist friend to stay inside during the comet event, two of the party take glow sticks and attempt to visit the other house.

Then it really starts getting weird. This is one of those movies you have to watch over again to notice the clues you missed the first time. Don't look for car chases, fiery explosions, or gunfights. Coherence (2013) is more of a thought-provoking suspense puzzle.

I really liked Coherence and always recommend it when I'm asked for a good movie: you can place a hold on the dvd or watch it on Hoopla today.

Still Life

The little village in Quebec is the scene of an inexplicable murder of a beloved resident.  This murder leads police to suspect murder in an earlier death originally thought to be of natural causes.  The investigation fosters suspicion, recriminations, and attempted murders to hide the truth.

Still Life: a Three Pines Mystery (2013) is a bit slow, but a nice addition to the cozy cottage village mystery genre.  Watch the movie on Hoopla today.

The film is based on the bestselling series featuring Inspector Gamache by Louise Penny.  Listen to the audiobook on Hoopla or read the ebook on Overdrive.


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Parasite

Where do you start with Parasite?  The experience of watching it is so many things at once: funny, tragic, bold, engaging, unsettling, upsetting, shocking.  Somehow, director, Bong Joon Ho, has made the film's stomach-dropping shifts in tone and twists in plot feel seamless, and the result is one of the most memorable movie experiences I've had this year.

Parasite (2019, rated R), the first-ever South Korean film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, tells the story of a struggling Korean family.  The Kim family lives in a roach-infested, semi-underground apartment, surviving on odd jobs and borrowed wi-fi.  But when an old classmate of Ki-Woo, one of the Kim children, visits their luck changes.  The classmate works as a tutor for the wealthy Park family and wants Ki-Woo to replace him while he studies abroad.

Ki-Woo seizes the opportunity, not only for himself but for his struggling family.  As he is leaving his first tutoring lesson, Mrs. Park laments that her younger son has never been able to find a good art teacher.  It so happens that Ki-Woo knows an art student that may be interested.  She went to America to study, he explains, but is probably back in Korea by now.  The next day Ki-Woo's sister, Ki-Jung, accompanies him, introducing herself as "Jessica," the art therapist.  She diagnoses Mrs. Park's son with early signs of severe mental illness and prescribes several therapy sessions a week.  Ki-Woo's parents soon follow.  One by one, posing as distant acquaintances or professional contacts, each member of the Kim family claws their way into the household.  In their efforts to secure full-time employment, they can be crueleven ruthlessbut it's difficult not to root for them anyway.  The Kims do not play nice, but they are smart, resourceful, and determined.  With the few resources they have, they succeed in beating their competition and pulling the household's stringsuntil one fateful night, things go very, very wrong.

Many movies explore the ugly realities of class divide and inequality, but few are as vivid and clever as Parasite.  Watch it for free with a Hulu subscription (or one-month free trial), by placing a hold on one of the library's Rokus preloaded with Hulu, or placing a hold on a dvd or blu-ray.

Millennium Actress

This Japanese anime movie is centered on the life of Chiyoko Fujiwara, a retired actress who is being interviewed about her career.  Chiyoko recounts the story of a man she tried to find throughout her life without knowing his name or face.  The story flows from the past and present when Chiyoko is telling the story, and it transitions beautifully from one scene to the next.

Millennium Actress (2019, rated PG) was directed by the award winning director, Kon Satoshi, who also directed Perfect Blue and Tokyo Godfathers.

Watch Millennium Actress  on Hoopla today. In Japanese with English subtitles.



The Captive

In this psychological thriller, Ryan Reynolds plays Matthew Lane, a father whose 10-year-old daughter is taken from his truck. After the police have been searching for her for eight long years, they finally get a lead that she is still alive.  Matthew never gives up hope and helps bring down the ring responsible for her disappearance.  I really liked The Captive (2014, rated R).

Watch it on Hoopla today.


800 Words

I enjoy watching the TV series, 800 Words, which has both comedy and drama.  The recently widowed George tries raising his two teenagers while starting over in New Zealand.  There is plenty for family audiences to enjoy as George often begins an episode posing a dilemma, but by the end of the show discovers something about himself and being a father.  It is also filled with plenty of sunshine and beach scenery because they live in a beautiful seaside town and George likes surfing, or at least he tries.  Also, there are several beautiful single women vying for Georges attention.  What's not to like?

Binge watch 800 Words (2015-2018) on Hoopla. The complete series (3 seasons) is available.



The Interpreter

This Slovakian film garnered 13 nominations and 9 wins from all over the world.  The Interpreter (2018) tells the story of 80-year-old Ali Ungar finding a book written by a former SS officer describing his wartime activities in Slovakia.  Ali discovers this person was responsible for murdering his parents.  He tries to take revenge, but instead finds the officer's 70-year-old son, Georg.  The son hires Ali, the interpreter, to travel with him to find out more about his father, with whom he never had a close relationship. These opposites travel together to interview eyewitnesses to the slayings, but along the way the very different men find out that they are not so different at all.

This movie was superb, with believable characters that will wrench at your heart.  Watch The Interpreter on Hoopla today.

In Slovak, German, and Russian with English subtitles.

Scott & Bailey. The Complete Series (2011-2016)

Do you love British crime TV?  Watch it from more of a female perspective with Scott and Bailey (TV-14).  Set in Manchester, UK, this police procedural follows the story of two strong female detectives as they solve crime while also dealing with office politics and personal problems.  Not only are the cases they are faced with fascinating, but the continuing backstory is also gripping.

Lesley Sharp and Suranne Jones make a formidable and entertaining partnership as detectives Scott and Bailey, who will have you rooting for them through their various trials and tribulations.  To give the show grittiness and doses of reality the writers of this series sought advice from a former Manchester police detective.

The entire show (seasons 1-5) is available to watch instantly on Hoopla.

Son of God

In this dramatic film, Diogo Morgado does an excellent job representing Jesus in a way that would appeal to viewers, young and old.He is calm and likable as Jesus. The director does a good job hitting the highlights of who Jesus is: the major events, the politics of the period, and the division Jesus had with the religious leaders of his time are clear from the beginning of Son of God (2014, rated PG-13).

What sets Son of God apart from other biblical movies is its portrayal of the women in Jesus' life and mission.  Principal characters in the film include his mother, Mary the devoted follower, and the wife of Pilot.  When Jesus' own disciples ran away from their Lord, the women always held their ground, remaining faithful to Him to the very end and beyond.  Overlooked for centuries, I applaud the makers of this film for getting that message out there.

Watch Son of God on Hoopla today.




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In the Aisles

In the Aisles (2018) tells the story of Christian, a new worker at a big box store in former East Germany.  Taken under the wing by his coworker Bruno, Christian becomes enamored of a fellow employee, Marion.  Check out this quiet leisurely-paced film full of charm and complex emotion.

In German with English subtitles.

Blinded by the Light

What kind of world do we want to live in? From Gurinder Chadha, director of Bend It Like Beckham, comes another feel-good film about coming of age and struggling with familial expectations.

Set in 1980s England, British Pakistani teen Javed discovers the music of Bruce Springsteen, inspiring him to change his life. Loosely based on the memoir of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, the film Blinded by the Light (2019, PG-13) features Bruce Springsteen's words and music as a character.


Jojo Rabbit

During the final months of World War II, we follow Jojo, a lonely German boy struggling to fit in with the other Hitler Youths. Jojo spends his days trying to prove he is a worthy Nazi and is continually spurred on by his only friend, an incredibly doltish and flamboyant imaginary Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi).  After finding out his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl in the walls of their home, he is forced to choose between loyalty to his country and to his remaining family.

On the surface, Jojo Rabbit (2019, PG-13) seems absurd and insensitive.  In reality, while absolutely absurd, it tells an important story about indoctrination and breaking free of one's upbringing.  Jojo's growth is demonstrated throughout the movie and gives clear guidance to those who are afraid of "the others".

This movie moves between hilarious scenes and heart-shattering moments with a fluidity that will give you awe-inspiring whiplash.  Taika Waititi (who won the 2019 Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay) is one of my favorite directors.  I am convinced nobody could make this movie as well as he did, delicately balancing between ridiculousness and respect.


Tracks

In 1977, Robyn Davidson trekked across Australia, over 1700 miles, with camels that she had trained for the journey.  Tracks (2013, PG-13), starring Mia Wasikowska as Robyn and Adam Driver as National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan, recounts Davidson's trip from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean, with beautiful scenery and a sense of how isolating the Australian outback can be.  A real treat for those who love movies about independent women or travel.


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