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The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) R

“Mickey Haller is L.A.’s top criminal defense lawyer – a fast living, freewheeling pro who does business out of the back of his classic Lincoln Town Car.”

Mickey defends a client accused of rape and murder; and the twisted plot begins, going forward and then doubling back, but always keeping us in the loop.

Matthew McConaughey plays the legendary Mickey Haller with just the right amount snarl and charm, giving the plot a new dimension. After all, someone has to defend the guilty.

Check the catalog to find the film -- and you can also read the Michael Connelly book that served as inspiration for the movie.

Another Year

Another Year (2010) PG-13
This quiet slice of life movie shows the dramas, disappointments, and small triumphs touching the lives of happily married couple Tom and Gerri (Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen). Gerri’s friend Mary is an emotional wreck and their 30-year-old son may never find the right girl. Beautifully acted, this movie shows the subtleties in relationships between us all.

Read other reviews from Rolling Stone and Huffington Post.

Win Win

Win Win (2011) R
I didn’t know what to expect – I’d just heard this was great. What I got was a fantastic film. A comedy – not rolling on the floor laughing – but funny, serious, and heartwarming all at once!

Check out reviews from TIME Magazine and Roger Ebert.

Also enjoy an interview with star Paul Giamatti at the Sundance Film Festival, plus check out a Q&A session with writer/director Tom McCarthy.

Spotlight: Doc Martin TV Series

Spotlight: Doc Martin TV Series (2004-2011)
I’ll watch most anything with British accents. This is one of the funniest! You must watch from Season 1 to Season 3.

Check out a story on NPR about star Martin Clunes. Visit TV.com for more about the show.

Secretariat

Secretariat (2011) PG
The whole family will enjoy this inspiring story about Secretariat, perhaps the greatest racehorse ever, and the woman, Penny Chenery Tweety (Diane Lane) who had faith in him. When Penny’s father, a horse breeder, became ill and died, Penny took over the decision making.

After Big Red’s (Secretariat) birth, she stood up to her many detractors to keep, train, and race him. She hired flamboyant trainer Lucien Laurin (played excellently by John Malkovich) and a jockey who ran a horse so hard that his heart burst. Those who cared so much about him – the owner, the trainer, the groom, and the jockey – went beyond what anyone thought was possible, and Secretariat did something incredible that no one thought was conceivable.

Take time to watch one of the special features, Heart of a Champion, which shows actual footage of Secretariat, Penny, and some of the other people who surrounded him.

To learn more about Secretariat, check out the books The Horse God Built: the untold story of Secretariat, the world’s greatest racehorse by Lawrence Scanlan (2007), Secretariat’s Meadow: the land, the family, the legend by Kate Chenery Tweedy (2010), plus And the Crowd Goes Wild: relive the most celebrated sporting events ever broadcast by Joe Garner (1999).

Other movies you might want to watch include Seabiscuit (2003) and Dreamer (2005).

Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables (1985)
This family-friendly movie based on the novels boasts great performances (including one by Megan Follows) and is filled with tender moments, comedic events, and heartwarming dramas. Anne is an orphan adopted into a farm family whose lives are enriched with the addition of the energetic redhead. Anne’s adventures as she grows up are worth a look.

Two movies continue the tale: Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel (1987) and Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story (2000).
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Garrow’s Law. Series 1 and 2

Garrow’s Law. Series 1 and 2 (2009-2010)
I have not watched such a compelling TV series in the last ten years. It defines the word excellence on all levels—casting, acting, characterization, direction.

The storyline explores the historical evolvement of the law, gradually progressing to the “radical” idea that a man is innocent until proven guilty. Each episode covers the outcome of one courtroom drama. But the emotional changes in the main characters are pivotal to our gut response. I found this series intensely satisfying. Ah, yes!

“Courtroom drama gold”—The Sunday Times (U.K.)
Did you know the show is based on the life of pioneering 18th century barrister William Garrow? Check out the show's website on BBC One for more details.

Win Win

Win Win (2011) R
If you’re tired of (but still love) violent action movies filled with car chases and computer-generated special effects, cleanse your “movie palate” with this dramedy starring Paul Giamatti, best known for his Oscar nominated performance in 2004’s Sideways (a California wine country picture that won 94 film awards).

Giamatti’s character is a small town attorney and part-time high school wrestling coach without enough business to make a living for his small family. He sees an opportunity for steady income through a shady business decision to control the funds of a client, but he still feels conflicted and wants to do the right thing. When the grandson of his client comes into town to escape a life connected to his drug-rehabbed mother, the worried attorney sees another win/win situation to help a teenager and support the wrestling team at the same time.

This film is not your usual “R” rated comedy and would be suitable for most mature teens. There are subtle messages against smoking, and the film is mostly optimistic about life.

Writer/director Thomas McCarthy has two more character-driven films with good performances—The Station Agent (2003) and The Visitor (2008). Both star individuals defined by their loneliness who are seeking happiness. All three of these films that McCarthy has both written and directed are “certified fresh” at Rotten Tomatoes.

Grey Gardens

Grey Gardens (2009) TV-PG
The story of a mother and daughter’s descent into madness from riches is spellbinding. Drew Barrymore plays an exceptional role as Little Edie, the daughter of eccentric Edie Bouvier Beale, as they rebel against the mores of their time.  Based on the true lives of the two Edies.

Find more about the two Edies at the library.
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Under the Tuscan Sun

Under the Tuscan Sun (2003) PG-13
This charming movie is for everyone who ever wanted a fresh start. The viewer wants Frances to be happy. As the movie progresses, we find out exactly what it will take to make her happy. Maybe a man is the icing on the cake instead of the be all and end all? She finds happiness helping others and building a new life (and a new home) for herself. The beautiful scenery in this movie adds to the appeal.

You can also check out the book of the same name by Frances Mayes.

Spotlight: 1930s Germany

Spotlight: 1930s GermanyIf you have just finished reading In the Garden of Beasts (Erik Larson’s portrait of Germany as the Nazis rise to power and influence), you might like one of the following movie depictions of the same time and place.

Cabaret (1972) is the popular musical starring Liza Minelli as the original “good time girl” who is oblivious to the changes happening around her. Based on The Berlin Stories of Christopher Isherwood.

Three Comrades (1938) is a poignant story of the love between fragile Margaret Sullavan and Robert Taylor. Taylor’s other two comrades are Franchot Tone and Robert Young.  Young, politically active, runs into trouble with the pro-Nazi marchers in the streets.

Mephisto (1981) is a German language movie with Klaus Maria Brandauer, as an actor who sells his soul to the devil in order to keep working in Nazi-era Germany.

The Harmonists (1997) is based on the true story of a successful German singing group that was forced to disband in 1934 because three of its members were Jewish.

Spartacus, Blood and Sand. The Complete First Season

Spartacus, Blood and Sand. The Complete First Season (2010) TV-MA
Watch the house of Batiatus rise with aid from their gladiator Spartacus. If you like movie 300 with its realistic battle scenes, you’ll love Spartucus. Be warned – there’s lots of blood; it’s not for the faint of heart. Also, it’s a show on the Starz network – so expect graphic content.

What got me through the winter doldrums might get you through the summer heat wave. It has something for everyone – really hardcore battles, some drama, and a bit of humor. Plus, the Romans know how to party.

Due to a serious illness, the second season is a prequel without Spartacus himself (Andy Whitfield). Spartacus, Gods of the Arena will be released on DVD in September. Place your hold now!
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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) R
I found this to be a fascinatingly complex tale of suspense, but then I didn’t read the book.

It is the story of a computer hacker with a troubled past and a crusading journalist who become the dynamic duo in this Swedish film version of Stieg Larsson’s first suspense novel. The two main characters, each intriguing in their own way, initially occupy separate story lines that converge only because she’s hired to spy on him. The well plotted story becomes a thriller as it takes its time unlocking one mystery only to uncover another.

Be aware that there are some disturbing scenes of violence which can be difficult to view. You have time to watch this film and compare it with the English version arriving in theaters in December.

Pinky

Pinky (1949)
Pinky is a black girl who has been passing for white in the north. When she comes home after spending most of her life at school in the north, she is not prepared for the way that the law and other whites treat her. Trained as a nurse, Pinky takes over care of Miss Em, the old white woman her grandmother has long worked for and considers a friend. When her white boyfriend comes from the north, he discovers Pinky’s secret but is ready to marry her—if they keep the secret to themselves. Pinky must decide who she is and where she belongs.

Although Pinky is played by a white actress, Jeanne Crain, as the dictates of the time it was made would have demanded, this is a moving story. Ethel Waters plays Pinky’s grandmother and Ethel Barrymore is Miss Em. The three ladies were nominated for Academy Awards for their roles in the film.

Mother of Mine

Mother of Mine (2005)
This Finnish/Swedish film directed by Klaus Härö received good reviews from the Finnish press and several awards internationally.

Mother of Mine is based on a novel by Heikki Hietamies. During the Winter War (which began with a Soviet offensive on November 30, 1939 — three months after the start of World War II) Eero, like many Finnish children, is sent to Sweden as a refugee. He is forever conflicted because he feels his own mother abandoned him and his adoptive mother has a hard time accepting him.