The Tree, on DVD

Australian cinema brings us another beautiful, rare gem of a film. The Tree is a film adaptation of Julie Pascoe’s bestselling novel, Our Father Who Art in a Tree. Filmmaker Julie Bertuccelli had always wanted to adapt the book The Baron in the Trees, by Italo Calvino, but it wasn’t possible. So she went looking for another tree story, and happily found Pascoe’s novel.

Set in breathtaking Australia, a mother and her four children are forced to cope with the sudden death of her husband and the children’s father. They all do this in their own way, but several find comfort in the giant fig tree that grows directly next to the family’s house. The lone daughter Simone, age 8, begins hearing her father whisper to her through the tree. She shares this with her mother, who then also begins to find comfort in the tree. The tree really is the largest character in the story, and it’s easy to see how it comes to life and takes over the family and the house. It’s done in such a beautiful and literary way, and is a wonderful metaphor for dealing with grief. It's also powerful how the tree is used to represent the force of nature and its affect on people.

For more Australian films of note that are available at AADL, check here.

AADL Talks To: Donald Harrison about the 50th Ann Arbor Film Festival

For half a century now, the end of March has meant one thing to Ann Arbor: the Ann Arbor Film Festival. This year's 50th festival will be both a celebration of that half-century history and the opportunity to see the latest in experimental and independent cinema that AAFF has always been. In this podcast, AAFF Executive Director Donald Harrison talks with us about the process of planning the 50th, deciding what films to highlight from the festival's history and what artists to bring back. We also talk about the new work on offer this year and some of the events around town that Ann Arborites can look forward to. The 50th Ann Arbor Film Festival runs from March 27 - April 1, 2012.

To learn more about the history of the Ann Arbor Film Festival, visit the Ann Arbor Film Festival Archive, a collaboration between AADL and AAFF that brings historic festival programs, posters, flyers, newspaper articles, and photos together with contemporary interviews to tell the story of AAFF's first 50 years.

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Hunger Game Fans!

Now that you've read the trilogy, what's next? For starters, check out this great interview with Jennifer Lawrence, while you're waiting for the movie release on March 23. Or you could head to this website and try the simulation game to see if you have what it takes to survive the games. Remember it takes more than just strength.
If you're still skeptical whether the movie will do the book justice, keep in mind that Neil Gaiman has seen it and said that he enjoyed it 'a lot.' Or if you want to hear what the author has to say about the Hunger Games trilogy, click here to hear an interview.
If you're looking for some Hunger Games read-a-likes, you might like a few of these: Feed, Ender's Game, Maze Runner, Little Brother, Unwind or House of Scorpion.
By the way, the second movie, Catching Fire, is set to be released on November 22, 2013.

New Movies About Movies

The Oscars have come and gone, and two big winners were The Artist and Hugo. A marvelous thing about the 2012 Oscars is that the program celebrated movies and the movie-going experience. This made The Artist and Hugo winning all the more special, since both films are about the splendor of movies.

The Artist is a romantic comedy that is both silent and black & white. What a treat that such a 21st century rarity stole the best film prize! In the movie, silent film star George Valentin makes movie after movie and is a huge star. This is threatened with the birth of talkies! Sound in films, as well as the fact that it is embraced by audiences and new film starlet Peppy Miller, sends George into a downward spiral. It’s a truly enchanting film, and I loved seeing it on the big screen. I was at first leery of the premise, but from the first scene I was instantly knocked over with its magic. (Also available on Blu-ray.)

Hugo is based on the wonderful youth novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick. The books is filled with amazing illustrations that tell half the story, so it was great to see how director Martin Scorsese translated it all onto the big screen. Hugo tells the tale of an orphan boy living a secret life in the walls of a Paris train station in 1931. When Hugo encounters a broken automaton, an eccentric girl, and the cold, reserved man who runs the toy shop, he is caught up in a magical, mysterious adventure that could put all of his secrets in jeopardy. It’s a story filled with whimsy and chance as Hugo and his new friend Isabelle uncover the secret of her grandfather’s involvement in cinema history. (Also available on Blu-ray.)

March's Books to Film

The most anticipated feature film this spring is perhaps The Hunger Games (PG-13), to be release on March 23rd, based on the novel by Suzanne Collins. In a bleak future, the United States has been reduced to a dictatorship with 12 districts. Every year, in order to prevent uprisings, the ruling Capitol forces one boy and one girl from each district to fight each other to the death in a nationally televised arena --- and only one will survive. Pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives, Katniss is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts and make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love if she's ever to return home.

Dr. Seuss' The Lorax is the 3D-CG adaptation of the classic tale of a forest guardian who shares the enduring power of hope. The animated adventure follows the journey of a 12-year-old as he searches for a real Truffula Tree, the one thing that will enable him to win the affection of the girl of his dreams. To get it, he must find the story of the Lorax, the acerbic yet charming character who fights to protect his world.

John Carter, a Disney production (PG-13) based on Sci-fi novel A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Andrew Stanton, this sweeping action adventure set on the mysterious and exotic planet of Barsoom (Mars) tells the story of John Carter, who is inexplicably embroiled in a conflict of epic proportions amongst the inhabitants of the planet, and discovers that the survival of Barsoom and its people rests in his hands.

Based on the fairy tale of Snow White by The Brothers Grimm, Mirror, Mirror (rated PG) retells a wicked enchantress's schemes and scrambles to control a spirited orphan's throne and the attention of a charming prince. A star-studded cast - with Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen; the fresh-faced Lily Collins as Snow White; gorgeous leading man Armie Hammer as the Prince, and the incomparable Nathan Lane as Brighton, the Queen’s right hand man.

THE MOVIE I AM MOST EAGER TO SEE :
Already out on the coasts but hopefully coming to theaters near us is Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, starring eye-candy Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt, and the dynamicKristin Scott Thomas; directed by Lasse Hallström (Chocolat)

Based on the 2007 novel by Paul Torday, where a visionary sheik believes the peaceful pastime of salmon fishing can enrich the lives of his people, and he dreams of bringing the sport to the not so fish-friendly desert. Willing to spare no expense in order to turn the dream into reality, he enlists Britain's leading fisheries expert and the Prime Minister's overzealous press secretary. This unlikely team will embark on an upstream journey of faith and fish to prove the impossible, possible. Check out the recent review and trailer in EW.

Got The Facts On Milk?

Got The Facts On Milk, known as “the milk documentary” takes a look at milk. Where does it come from, why do we drink it, why do we need it, do we need it at at all? The filmmakers talk to researchers, scientists, milk drinkers, moms, children, farmers, doctors, lobbyists, and more. Some of those interviewed and offering information are family doctor and nutritionist Joel Fuhrman, and T. Colin Campbell, author of the popular book, The China Study: The most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted and the startling implications for diet, weight loss and long-term health.

The film delves into product marketing, propaganda, brainwashing, government, and industry, and how these factors relate to milk production and consumption.

The film is utter-ly entertaining, as the documentarians make their way across the country, talking about milk, to reach their final destination: the USDA. Their adventure is filled with truths, lies, and everything in between. It also features a grocery store dance routine, and an amusing soundtrack.

Whether you agree or disagree with the findings, or love or hate milk, I recommended this if you’re into behind the scenes looks at food and food consumption and the science behind it, particularly if you don't mind a humorous look at serious issues.

Ann Arbor Film Festival DVDs

The Ann Arbor Film Festival starts soon! I love this time of year. So many films to see in just a few days time. Have you been hawking over the schedule and taking notes of what you’d like to see? Be ready, as the fun begins Tuesday, March 27 and runs through Sunday, April 1.

Established in 1963, The Ann Arbor Film Festival is the longest-running independent and experimental film festival in North America, and we are lucky to have it in our own backyard. This year marks the festival’s 50th anniversary and there are all sorts of special events going on, not only at the Michigan Theater, but all over town, to make this year bigger and better than ever. Meanwhile, to view some of the films of past festivals, check out these collections available at AADL:

Time Pieces: 46th Ann Arbor Film Festival, DVD collection, Volume 1

Unexplored territories: 47th Ann Arbor Film Festival, DVD collection, Volume 2

48th Ann Arbor Film Festival, DVD collection, Volume 3

Oscar-Nominated Documentary: If A Tree Falls: A Story Of The Earth Liberation Front

Thursday March 1, 2012: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

Celebrate the Oscars with this special screening of one of this year's Best Documentary nominees - a rare behind-the-curtain look at the Earth Liberation Front, the radical environmental group that the FBI calls America's number one domestic terrorist threat.

For years, the Earth Liberation Front (the collective name for individuals using economic sabotage and guerrilla warfare to stop the exploitation and destruction of the environment) launched spectacular acts of arson against dozens of businesses they accused of destroying the environment, including timber companies, SUV dealerships, wild horse slaughterhouses and a $12 million ski lodge in Vail, Colorado.

The film weaves together a variety of clashing points of view using candid interviews and a trove of archival material (much of it never before seen). The result is a nuanced film (that is not rated) that asks its audience to wrestle with questions intentionally left unresolved.

Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee

Diamond Jubilee: Queen Elizabeth II Diamond JubileeDiamond Jubilee: Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee
February 6 marked the anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's 60 year reign starting in 1952. To read about the Diamond Jubilee celebrations click here. Recent biographies written about the Queen include: Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch by noted biographer Sally Bedell Smith. Smith follows the young princess as a student to a love-struck teen (after meeting Philip) through her current reign. This is a well-written and engrossing account of a Queen that successfully balances royal tradition and modernity. Another title, The Real Elizabeth : an intimate portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, takes on the subject of the role of the monarchy itself specifically under her auspices over the past 60 years and how it has changed over time. And do not forget, her royal consort, Prince Philip, who has served by her side (and one step behind her). There is a recent biography, Prince Philip : the turbulent early life of the man who married Queen Elizabeth II that focuses on his turbulent childhood as his family is exiled from Greece (where he was born) to his mother’s schizophrenia and his father leaving him at an early age in order to live with his mistress. His charm and good looks eventually win him the hand of the-then Princess Elizabeth for whom he renounces his titles, religion and even family. A storybook romance indeed! To read more about their life together, read Philip and Elizabeth : portrait of a royal marriage. Movies about her include Helen Mirren’s outstanding portrayal in the Queen and the British TV show, Queen : a dramatic portrait of one of the world's most powerful women, as well as several documentaries including Windsors, a royal family.

The Monster Squad, on DVD

As a classic kid-comedy film from 1987, The Monster Squad is underrated. Not enough people of a certain generation have seen this film, and I speak of my peers. Peers who, when hearing a quote from this movie during a trivia contest, hadn’t heard of the movie, let alone recognized the quote. The silence of the film's initial release in 1987 was slowly followed by a rebirth as it was discovered by old and new fans. After 20 years of VHS life, it was finally released on DVD.

The film follows 12-year-old Sean, his best pal Patrick, and their gang of misfit friends. As fans of classic horror films, they gather in the local tree house to talk monsters. The monsters become all too real when Count Dracula shows up in town with the Wolf Man, the Mummy, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Gill Man, all searching for an ancient amulet that will shift the balance of good and evil, giving Dracula control. It’s up to Sean and the newly formed Monster Squad to stop the end of the world from arriving.

It’s a zany pre-teen adventure, filled with pesky little sisters, creepy neighbors, childlike one-liners, and a swirling vortex of evil. The two-disc 20th anniversary edition of the film is available at AADL on DVD and Blu-ray.

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