The Bling Ring on DVD & Blu-Ray

Inspired by actual events, The Bling Ring tells the story of a group of fame-obsessed teenagers living in the suburbs of Los Angeles who use the internet to track celebrities whereabouts in order to rob their empty homes.

Directed by Sofia Coppola, the film is an interesting take on the events that happened, and how tech savvy teens can use their skills in such ways. One of the homes the teens burgled multiple times was that of Paris Hilton, who has a cameo in the film, and part of her home was actually used as the location. There is also a book, The Bling Ring: how a gang of fame-obsessed teens ripped off Hollywood and shocked the world by Nancy Jo Sales, that recounts information related to the misadventure.

Poldark

PoldarkPoldark

If you are missing Downton Abbey, and need something to fill the dark evenings, you might give Poldark a try. Based on the novels of Winston Graham, and released as a 29-episode television series in England 38 years ago, it is still in the top 10 favorite Masterpiece Theater series of all time.

Set in Cornwall, at the end of the 18th century, Captain Ross Poldark returns from the American wars to find his father dead, his estate in ruin and his fiancee (believing him dead) married to his cousin. Over the next 15 years, we follow Ross, his low-born, but very charming and spirited wife, Demelza, and his family, neighbors, friends and enemies, as they battle storms of jealousy, villainy and economic uncertainty. There is also enough of love, success and contentment to keep things on a fairly even keel.

Being Cornwall, the fortunes and vicissitudes of life are influenced by mining and smuggling, and stories of both figure prominently in Poldark's story, and being the late 18th century, the French Revolution has exerted its influence on the class-conscious Brits. There is plenty of adventure, in other words, and the dashing and head-strong Poldark does not disappoint as he dashes about, righting wrongs and sometimes creating and then solving numerous scrapes. The scenes of the Cornish countryside and coast are particularly beautiful.

Not quite as elegant or fine a family as the Crawfords, the Poldarks still entertain with many of the same themes: class differences, love – both thwarted and fulfilled, the politics and struggles of the day, good vs evil men and women, and the fortunes and misfortunes of inherited privilege and wealth. Part romance, part adventure and part soap-opera, it is all you have come to expect from British historical drama.

Video of Author Bill Minutaglio Discussing "Dallas, 1963"

If you missed our event on October 20, you can now watch or download the video of author Bill Minutaglio discussing his new book Dallas, 1963. Released just in time for the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy Assassination, Bill and his co-author, Steven L. Davis, have written a chilling account of the city that would become infamous for the assassination of a president.

TV Time: The Newsroom

The Newsroom is a hot, new, critically acclaimed television show that takes places behind the scenes of a television newsroom, reporting on actual news topics. The fictional ACN is home to a nightly broadcast featuring anchor Will McAvoy, played brilliantly by Michigan’s own Jeff Daniels. The prickly McAvoy returns to work after a hiatus to learn that his staff has left to work on another show. He and his new executive producer (also his ex-girlfriend) and the newsroom staff are the focus of the show as they produce a nightly news program under high pressure.

I’ll admit it took more than a couple episodes for me to get into The Newsroom, but I’m glad I stuck with it. Created and principally written by West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin, the show is an interesting look at what goes on behind the scenes and it’s a good group of characters to follow along with as they deal with their own personal dramas amidst the newsroom. There's some really great writing, and since it deals with real news topics it can get emotional at times as well. There have been two seasons thus far, and HBO has confirmed that there will be a season three.

The Flat

The Flat is an autobiographical documentary centered around family and mystery. When Arnon Goldfinger’s grandmother passes away, her Tel Aviv flat needs to be cleaned out. As family gathers to sort through decades of memories, questions arise. Searching for answers, Arnon turns to his mother, but she is unable to provide adequate information, explaining that her parents did not willingly offer information and she did not ask. The most troublesome discovery is that when Arnon’s Jewish grandparents moved from Germany to Tel Aviv at the beginning of World War II, they maintained friendships with members of the Nazi party. After the war was over they even visited one another and continued a steady correspondence. Stunned, Arnon is sent on a scavenger hunt to discover just how a relationship between two such groups could survive, surrounded by war and atrocities.

Another less pressing question, but equally fascinating, is why Goldfinger’s grandparents were so reluctant to leave Germany and why his great grandmother refused to leave at all. These individuals had such a connection to their home country that even with the threat of discrimination and death, they did not want to abandon it. If you are more interested in this concept, you should check out Bound Upon a Wheel of Fire: Why so many German Jews made the tragic decision to remain in Nazi Germany.

The Flat is poignant and honest. Some people who are shown in the film wrestle with what they discover about their relatives while others walk away with more questions that will most likely never be answered. This is a great film to spark conversation.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #434

Conceived as an homage to his favorite author P.G. Wodehouse, Sebastian Faulks' Jeeves and the Wedding Bells * * * is the first new novel in nearly forty years to bring a welcomed return of Bertie Wooster and his unflappable valet Jeeves.

For almost 60 years, P.G. Wodehouse documented the lives of the inimitable Jeeves and Wooster, and built himself a devoted following. In the new episode, Bertie, nursing a bit of heartbreak over the recent engagement of one Georgiana Meadowes to someone not named Wooster, agrees to “help” his old friend Peregrine “Woody” Beeching, whose own romance is foundering. Almost immediately, things go awry and the simple plan quickly becomes complicated. Thanks to Bertie, the situation could only get more hilarious and convoluted.

"(This) P. G. poseur gets the plot right, but what about the all-important patter, the Bertie-isms and the priceless Bertie-Jeeves dialogue duets? But Faulksie nails it again, evoking rather than imitating, but doing so in perfect pitch." It proves that the Wodehouse estate chose well in authorizing Faulk to pen the first new Jeeves and Wooster novel since 1974.

A good excuse to revisit the Masterpiece Theatre adaptation of the original series, and to introduce a whole new generation to some of the finest British television comedies.

* * * = 3 starred reviews

Stories We Tell on DVD

Sarah Polley is amazing and adorable, as both an actress and a director. Stories We Tell is a documentary she directed and stars in as interviewer. The film shares the process of how Sarah learned she was the product of an extramarital affair, and relies heavily on her father Michael Polley’s memoir. The story is told through multiple interviews with her father, siblings and other family members, which creates a touching portrait of the life and stories of one family, and how stories change depending on who the storyteller is.

The talking heads are artfully interrupted with the recreation of Super-8 footage in the style of home movies reenacting moments in the lives of Sarah and namely her parents, Michael and Diane. This creates a lush backdrop for the thoughtful and intimate interviews.

In December, this surprisingly delightful film was included in the Toronto International Film Festival's list of "Canada's Top Ten" feature films of 2012.

Marcia Wallace, a.k.a. the voice of The Simpsons' Edna Krabappel, has died

Marcia Wallace, actress in stage, screen, and TV, and most recently the voice of 4th grade teacher, Edna Krabappel, on The Simpsons, died October 25th.

Ms. Wallace's acting gifts were apparent in high school, after which she won a full-ride scholarship to the now-defunct Parsons College in Iowa. From there, she moved to New York, performing in night clubs, on Off-Broadway, and appearing dozens of times on The Merv Griffin Show.

In 1972, after Ms. Wallace had moved to California, TV producer, Grant Tinker created a role for her on the sitcom, The Bob Newhart Show. She played the sharp-tongued receptionist, Carol Kester.

In 1990, she began her most notable career as the voice of Edna Krabappel on The Simpsons, which won her an Emmy in 1992. She charmed audiences with that role until her recent bad health caused the producers to decide to 'retire' Ms. Krabappel forever.

In 2008, Ms. Wallace was in the movie, Tru Loved, in which she played a high school drama teacher who helps students start a Gay Straight Alliance Club.

In 2007, The Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, awarded Ms. Wallace their Gilda Radner Courage Award for her tireless efforts educating American men and women on the importance of early detection of breast cancer, which she herself successfully beat for more than twenty years.

Ms. Wallace, who died of complications from pneumonia, was a week shy of her 71st birthday.

Call the Midwife Season 1 & 2

The winds are blowing colder, so as you're tucking in for winter and looking for new entertainment, take a look at the spectacular and riveting BBC/PBS production, Call the Widwife. The series, set in east London in the 1950s, is based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth. Catch up with Seasons 1 & 2 this winter and you will be prepared for Season 3 when it airs on PBS in spring 2014.

The story follows new midwife Jenny Lee and the work of the midwives and the Sisters of Nonnatus House, a nursing convent that is part of an Anglican religious order. The women deal with the medical problems in the impoverished Poplar district of East London. Each episode includes the fascinating, sad, tragic, shocking, gritty and heartwarming stories of the pregnancies, births and challenges of the new mothers and their caretakers. As the series progresses, the friendships and relationships that develop between the midwives and the nuns pulls the viewer in as much as the complex stories of their patients. From Jenny’s culture shock upon arrival to London’s East End to shy, insecure Chummy and the glamorous Trixie, the midwives develop a closeness with the complex Sisters of Nonnatus House.

The Way Way Back on DVD & BluRay

The Way Way Back is the coming-of-age story of 14 year old Duncan as he sets off for summer vacation with his mother Pam, her boyfriend Trent, and Trent’s daughter Stephanie. They head to a beach house in Cape Cod for a summer of beachside fun. Duncan doesn’t get along with Trent at all, is tired of being treated like a child, and just doesn’t feel like he fits in. All of this hits its peak while at the beach house. Soon enough Duncan finds an old bike and uses it as a source of escape. Through his adventures he ends up landing a job at Water Wizz, the local water park, under the tutelage of the laid back park manager Owen. He finds confidence in this new space with new friends, but ultimately it does not solve his familial problems. The dramatic-comedy film is hilarious and warm-hearted and you really do root for Duncan.

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