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Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce (2012)

In Some Kind of Fairy Tale a teenage girl disappears in the woods near her English home, then returns to her family 20 years later. She has barely aged and her explanation, hardly believable, is that she was abducted by fairies…as the story unfolds it reveals an increasing amount of tangible evidence to back up her explanation.

Joyce weaves elements of folklore and myth into this novel of magical realism; its well-drawn characters build a tale of family, life and contradicting realities.

I find this idea of an updated fairy tale very appealing and as a quote in the novel says:

A fairy tale...on the other hand, demands of the reader total surrender; so long as he is in its world, there must for him be no other.” – W. H. Auden

True Blood. Seasons 1 and 2 (2008-2009)

Vampires have always existed in the shadows of Bon Temps, Louisiana, but with the invention of the artificial blood product “True Blood,” vampires have come out into the open. Some residents welcome them, like heroine Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), but others need a little persuading.

As so often happens when vampires are around, other supernatural creatures make appearances as well. Be prepared for great characters, violence, gratuitous nudity, goofy humor, and a touching love story in seasons 1 and 2 of True Blood. Seasons 3 and 4 are also available on DVD. Based on the novels by Charlaine Harris.

Edward Scissorhands (1990) PG-13

I hadn’t seen Edward Scissorhands in about 20 years, but after seeing the previews for Dark Shadows, I decided to revisit the first collaboration between Johnny Depp and Tim Burton. And I’m glad I did.

Edward Scissorhands is a good movie and a classic filled with funny moments. Costarring Winona Ryder.

For more on Tim Burton, check Sally's spotlight of the director.
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Joe Golem and the Drowning City by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden (2012)

An excellent read for fans of classic Lovecraftian horror. Whereas Mignola and Golden's last team-up, 2007's Baltimore, or the Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire, was an homage to Gothic horror in the vein of Frankenstein, Joe Golem and the Drowning City hearkens back to the horror writers of the early 20th century such as Lovecraft and Poe.

Filled with old gods and occultist pseudoscience, fans of Mignola's Hellboy series will also be charmed by the similarly gruff but deeply caring character of Joe. Though it's got plenty of monsters and creepy stuff, at its core the story is about friendship and family – and how to move on for the sake of others when faced with an inevitable loss. Mignola's skillfully haunting black and white artwork compliments Golden's descriptive (but never longwinded!) prose.

Midnight in Paris (2011) PG-13

This is a Woody Allen film, but because he is not in the cast I put it in the DVD player and settled in. It was a delightful fantasy about Paris in the 1920s. There was nothing to dislike about it; it was a pleasure to watch.

Gil (Owen Wilson) and Inez (Rachel McAdams) are sort of in love, and in Paris with her parents. Gil is caught up in the romance of Paris in the springtime. A screenwriter from Hollywood, he has written a novel with visions of joining the ranks of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and the other legends of Paris in the 1920s – the perfect set up for what follows.

The film is not without a serious moment. It has a message that is purposely delivered at the end; it’s an illusion that a life different from the one we have would be much better.

Did you participate in the 2012 Big Read? We read Paula McLain's The Paris Wife. For more on the book and its related resources featuring Paris in the 1920s, visit thebigread.org.

Pick up a copy of Midnight in Paris from the library.

Hugo (2011) PG

I usually begin my reviews by stating the year of the film and listing the main stars. I briefly describe the plot, perhaps quote a line from the film or describe a scene and emphasize what I believe are some of the high points of the film.

In this case, I decided to write my review as I approached viewing the film. I knew almost nothing about the film. All that I knew was that it won several Oscars, and I had seen a few brief snippets during the Academy Awards ceremony. I chose not to find out anything more about the film, and I would advise anyone who has not seen this film to take the same approach.

If you appreciate art, science, fantasy, a vivid imagination, you will love this film. If you don't appreciate art, if science bores you, if you look at a cloud and that's all you see, you won't like the film.

This film reminded me of what it was like to see a motion picture in a movie theater for the first time. I was amazed and filled with a great sense of wonder. You too can experience this again, if you see this film.

Based on the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Directed by Martin Scorsese.

Join us on Friday, May 4 at 7:00 for a screening of Hugo. Doors open at 6:30; fresh popcorn will be served. Register at calendar.ippl.info.

Going Postal

Going Postal (2010)
Based on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, Going Postal is the best movie between Color of Magic and Hogfather. It’s a nice balance of fantasy, humor, and soul-saving life observation. I believe it’s so good for teenagers!

You can also check out a 2010 review.

Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris (2011) PG-13
It was so wonderful to see this Woody Allen movie. I have seen every Woody Allen movie, but this one is in a class with Annie Hall (1977) and Sleeper (1973). The time travel element really does the trick. Paris is a perfect background. I highly recommend this film.

Did you miss your chance to see the film on the big screen?  You're in luck -- the La Grange Theatre will be showing the movie for one night in March in conjunction with the Big Read 2012. Look for the program guide around February 1 for more details!

Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke

Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke (1997)
A silver dragon named Firedrake is on a mission to find a mystical land called “The Rim of Heaven” that only dragons believe in. Firedrake meets a new friend, a human named Ben. He joins Firedrake and a brownie named Sorrel. They meet other characters along the way on their journey who help them find The Rim of Heaven. The trio also encounters some opposition to their quest.

Funke also wrote Inkheart (2003) and The Thief Lord (2002).

Spotlight: Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne

Spotlight: Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope OsborneIn Frog Creek, Pennsylvania, siblings Jack and Annie travel in a tree house. An enchantress from Camelot, Morgan, cast a spell on the tree house. Jack and Annie travel to places in time, space, and fantasy. They are fun books – I can’t stop reading them!

Start with Dinosaurs before Dark and The Knight at Dawn.

Visit the author's website and learn more about the series.


Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) PG-13
Pilgrim (Michael Cera from Juno and Superbad) plays bass guitar in a Toronto garage band. He’s dating a high school girl, but meets his dream girl, Ramona Flowers, a punky American girl closer to his own age. The story is told as an allegory of life as a video game, complete with extra lives and the need to out-fight one’s enemies. Scott soon finds out he must defeat Ramona’s 7 evil exes before they can date. Not just another teen movie, the movie appeals to a much wider range of fans. Watch for an uncredited appearance by Thomas Jane (The Punisher) as one of the Vegan Police.

One of the writers of this film (Edgar Wright) also co-wrote the clever zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead (2004). Bryan Lee O'Malley wrote the graphic novels the movie was based on.

Sleepy Hollow

Sleepy Hollow (1999) R
This Tim Burton film starring Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci borrows characters and the setting from Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, but otherwise bears no resemblance to the story. Although I am usually unhappy when Hollywood drastically alters a classic, I was happily surprised with this film.

Depp plays Ichabod Crane, a New York City police detective rather than Irving’s schoolmaster. The time is 1799. Crane is despised by the New York authorities because he uses scientific methods to solve crimes as opposed to the old-fashioned methods of beatings and torture. To get him out of their hair, he is sent to Sleepy Hollow to investigate three grisly murders. All of the victims have been decapitated.

The film is very atmospheric and you get the feeling of gloom that sets in during the late fall after all the leaves have fallen from the trees, the days are short and dark, and winter will soon arrive. The Oscar nomination for best cinematography is well earned.

Sleepy Hollow is not for young children or sensitive viewers as there is a lot of blood and gore, but everyone else should enjoy this film – especially if viewed in late October or early November and of course at night.

Ghost Town

Ghost Town (2008) PG-13
This delightful romantic comedy stars Ricky Gervais, Greg Kinnear, and Tea Leoni. A dentist named Bertram Pincus (Gervais) has zero people skills and in fact despises people so much, it is surprising he didn't choose a different career such as hermit or public executioner. And as though life isn't tough enough for Pincus, he acquires the ability to see and speak with ghosts as a result of faulty anesthetic.

The ghosts are people who had unresolved issues at the time of their deaths and they all want Pincus to help him. For a man like Pincus, this is a disaster, as he has spent most of his life avoiding the living and now he's being haunted almost nonstop. However, things get even more complicated when one of the ghosts, Frank Herlihy (Kinnear), pesters Pincus into helping him break up his widow's engagement. This is a particularly difficult task since her fiancé is handsome, fit, wealthy, and a great humanitarian, whereas Pincus is plain, plump, and spectacularly obnoxious. In addition, Pincus has offended and antagonized Gwen several times in the past.

There are a lot of laughs in this movie and it is very definite feel good romance.

Check out other reviews from The New York Times, CNN, Roger Ebert, and The Seattle Times.

The Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart

The Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart (1980)
The story of Merlin has been told often. Mary Stewart’s account, however, has Merlin's point of view and his magic. It is full of detail, vivid images and realistic characters in a time far from our own. The Crystal Cave (Book 1) shows Merlin, at age five, living in his grandfather's household with his mother. Merlin helps defeat the High King Vortigern by using his powers to foretell the future. The book continues the story of his young life until the conception of Arthur.

The Hollow Hills (Book 2) picks up with Merlin taking care of Arthur, teaching him and helping him attain the throne by setting the sword Caliburn in the stone. It ends with Merlin in middle age and Arthur as High King. In The Last Enchantment (Book 3), readers learn of Merlin's last years before he disappears from the legend.  Truly memorable books!

Preview the trilogy and read an interview with the author.

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009) PG
Another Ben Stiller winner. Everyone will enjoy watching the authentic Smithsonian Museums' artifacts come alive! The story tells interesting historical facts about Amelia Earhart and General Custer.

I went to Washington, D.C., two years ago; therefore, the movie impressed me in that it was based on facts like the largest sea monster caught being at the Smithsonian and the use of the Air and Space Museum for action. Of course, you'll love seeing Abe Lincoln come to life walking and talking...and having recently climbed all those stairs up the Lincoln Memorial, I was impressed that the movie used Abe to great advantage.

See this on DVD for lots of laughs. And don't forget to check out the original Night at the Museum.