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INDEXES TO PAST STAFF RECOMMENDATIONS: BY TITLE | BY REVIEWER | TV SERIES/SPECIALS ON DVD/VHS

December 2009 Recommendations

book cover  The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
by Douglas Adams

When hitchhiking through the galaxy, the traveler's most indispensible accessory is his towel. Fortunately, Ford Prefect, a native of the planet Betelgeuse, and a roving researcher for the Hitchhiker's Guide, always keeps his in his satchel. To avoid the destruction of the Earth, Ford and his British friend, Arthur Dent, stowaway on a Vogon flagship. When the captain discovers them aboard, he reads poetry to them: the Guide specifically warns against listening to Vogon poetry: it is the third worst in the universe. The second worst is that of the Azgoths of Kria, and the very worst poetry perished with its creator, Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings, in the destruction of the planet Earth. Without mercy, the captain catapaults them into space. They are rescued by Zaphod Beeblebrox and his Heart of Gold ship. Zaphod is the ex-hippie President of the Imperial Galactic Government. They arrive in the vicinity of the planet Magrathea--and are asked to leave. When they remain, a computer launches a warhead at them. An explosion creates a sperm whale and a bowl of petunias. The whale dies; the petunias think, "Oh, no, not again." Arthur now learns that the computer Deep Thought was created to discover the answer to life, the universe, and everything. After thinking for seven and a half million years, computer (the second best ever) announces the answer: "forty-two." Earth was created to develop the question--and it was destroyed just five minutes before its ten million year mission was to be accomplished. In that case, since they're feeling a bit peckish, the intrepid travelers will stop for a bite at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
[The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy began as a radio play, which was then adapted into three novels. The fourth and fifth novels were original to novel form. All stories in the series have been produced in audio format, either as book-to-cd adaptations or as recordings of the original radio plays. The library has several audio versions of these stories.]

[ BBC's official Hitchhikers Guide web site ] | [ official Douglas Adams web site ]

related lists See more books like this on our In Space No One Can Hear You Laugh booklist
related lists Listen to a discussion of this book in our 'Casting About, Program 23 podcast
Review Score - 10
Recommended by Rianne S.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Space Travel
by Ben Bova with Anthony R. Lewis [808.388 Bov]

Third of four volumes in Writers Digest's Science Fiction Writing Series. Bova and Lewis provide a good overview of the history of actual spaceflight technology and physics, then explore the many conceptual or theoretical methods of space exploration from a scientific background. Their discussions of the theoretical methods of space exploration include both interplanetary as well as interstellar travel. I particularly appreciated chapters entitled Starships, The Universe and the concluding chapter Military Uses of Space. As with previous volumes in the this writing guide series, there is both an extensive glossary and bibliography at the back, leading readers (and writers) to many additional sources for more detailed, more technological assistance. Of the four volumes in this series, this was probably one of the most reality-based guides, and should prove to be a helpful tool for both beginning and experienced writers of speculative fiction.

[ official Ben Bova web site ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Through the Grinder
by Cleo Coyle

If you like coffee and cozies this series may just be your cup of java. The books are infused with interesting coffee facts and tasty recipes. Clare Cosi manages The Village Blend coffeehouse in Greenwich Village for her ex-mother-in-law, Madame. Madame lured Clare back to New York with the offer of part ownership in the business. The only thing that Madame did not mention that the other partner is Matteo Allegro, Clare's ex-husband. Clare and Matt have forged a smooth, but at times prickly working relationship. They remain amicable because Matt spends most of his time in third world countries buying coffee beans for the coffeehouse. Through the Grinder is the second book in this series. When this book opens Clare is disturbed to learn that one of her regular customers committed suicide by jumping in front of a subway. NYPD detective, and regular customer, Mike Quinn doesn't think that it is suicide. But the higher-ups do, so the case is closed. Soon another Village Blend customer commits suicide by jumping off a roof. A second "suicide" is too coincidental. Quinn investigates the women's lives and learns that they have something else in common besides being Blend customers -- they both dated Bruce Bowman -- Clare's new boyfriend. Clare can't believe that Bruce is a murderer. She thinks that Quinn may be focusing only on Bruce so Clare decides to clear Bruce's name. The plot is tightly woven and the characters are well developed. Coyle gives you glimpse into the killer's mind as each murder is planned and executed to make each death appear to be a suicide.

[ official Coffeehouse Mystery Series web site ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department - Eiseley and Walt Branch Libraries


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book cover  Scary Stuff
by Sharon Fiffer

Jane Wheel is a PPI (Picker and Private Investigator). As a Picker, Jane canvasses estate sales, garage sales and auctions looking for items to buy and resell to antique dealers. Jane also looks for bakelite buttons and McCoy pottery for her personal collection. Jane is an apprentice Private Investigator. (She would be a licensed private investigator if she would just take the private investigator's exam instead of running off to estate sales.) Her partner is Bruce Oh, a retired police detective and a licensed private investigator. (He found the time to take test.) Jane met Bruce Oh when he was a police detective and she stumbled across dead bodies while antiquing. When this book opens Jane is in Palm Springs visiting her brother Michael and his family. One night they are out to dinner and Michael is accosted. A man threatens Michael until he looks at him closely and says that Michael is not Honest Joe, the man who cheated him on Ebay. Afterwards, Michael tells Jane that two other people have mistaken him for Honest Joe. After Jane returns home she decides to track down Michael's look-alike and is surprised to find that the trail leads to her mother's doorstep in Kankakee, Illinois. Fiffer created some very likeable characters in this series. Besides Jane and the inscrutable Bruce Oh, we meet Bruce's wife, the elegant Claire and Tim, Jane's flamboyant friend.

[ official Sharon Fiffer web site ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department - Eiseley and Walt Branch Libraries


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book cover  Twisted
by Andrea Kane

Romantic suspense writer Andrea Kane has created a tough, independent protagonist with serious martial arts skills in Sloane Burbank. She is a former FBI agent who now is security consultant. Sloane left the FBI after she suffered a serious hand injury while apprehending a suspect. Hope Truman hires Sloane to find her daughter Penny who disappeared a year ago. Hope contacts Sloane because Penny and Sloane were grade school friends. Sloane agrees to review all of the reports from Penny's investigation in hopes of finding a clue that the FBI and the police missed. Sloane has to work with her former lover, Derek Parker, because he was the agent of record in FBI's investigation of Penny's disappearance. As they investigate, Sloane and Derek learn that seven women have disappeared over the past 18 months and all of them were connected to Sloane in some way in the past. All signs point to Sloane becoming the next victim. This book is filled with fast moving action scenes and steamy romantic encounters.

[ official Twisted page on the official Andrea Kane web site ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department - Eiseley and Walt Branch Libraries


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book cover  Vintage Caper
by Peter Mayle

Dan Roth is a Hollywood entertainment lawyer with a fine wine collection. He is very proud of his collection. So proud, that he invites the Los Angeles Times to write a profile about it. Roth basks in the afterglow of this article until Christmas when he goes to Aspen for a week. When Roth returns he is distraught to find that the precious bottles have been stolen. Roth insured the wine for 2.8 million and his insurance company would rather find the wine than pay the claim. This is where Sam Levitt, corporate lawyer, crime expert and wine connoisseur enters the picture. The insurance company hires Sam to find the wine. Sam follows the trail to Bordeaux where he teams up with insurance agent Sophie Costes and her cousin, journalist Philippe to track down the errant bottles. Levitt is suave and charming, just as the character Alexander Mundy was on the old TV show It Takes a Thief. This work of fiction reads like a culinary travelogue of Bordeaux and Marseille with a little sleuthing thrown in for spice.

[ publisher's official Vintage Caper web site ] | [ official Peter Mayle web site ]

Review Score - 6
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department - Eiseley and Walt Branch Libraries


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book cover  This review is for a Book-on-CD format of this titleThe Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook - a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal
by Ben Mezrich [Compact Disc 338.76 FacYm]

For those interested in the details and personalities associated with the origin of today's hottest social-networking site, Facebook, this is a fascinating, if depressing read. Or listen, in this case, since I ended up trying this as a book-on-cd. Facebook only started within the past 5 years, so there's a sense of immediacy to the telling of the creation of this online behemoth. The subtitle of this book, "a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal" pretty much sums it all up. Facebook began as an experiment by a couple of Harvard geeks to catalog and "rate" the women at their university, then rapidly grew into a more broadscale site that allowed people to identify and associate with their friends and/or interest groups online in a way that had not been done before. Adding users campus by campus, before ultimately taking Facebook to the general public (where it now flourishes), programmer Mark Zuckerberg and his college friend and financial backer Eduardo Saverin launched the site from a Harvard dorm room on a single laptop. The trail from that humble beginning to the multiple millions who use the service now is strewn with broken friendships, misappropriated intellectual property, mangled egos and numerous lawsuits. Despite the dark tone, I found this to be a fascinating topic, and the audio narration by Mike Chamberlain was very well done. If you're into contemporary web trends, I recommend trying this book out. After finishing it, I've seen online commentaries indicating Mezrich soft-peddled a lot of the conflicts between the major players, but The Accidental Billionaires is still worth reading to get a sense of what was involved in the birth and explosive growth of Facebook. [Note: One warning I would offer -- the language is definitely "R" rated in this particular book/book-on-cd. Listener beware!]
[Also available in print format.]

[ publisher's official Accidental Billionaires web site ] | [ official Ben Mezrich web site ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  The Red House Mystery
by A.A. Milne

A. A. Milne, of the Winnie the Pooh fame, made one foray into detective fiction. He wrote a cozy for his father who was a devotee of mysteries. The Red House is a country manor, home to Mark Ablett, and a gathering place for his friends. The tranquil atmosphere is disrupted when Mark's ne'er-do-well brother from Australia comes to visit. At the same time Antony Gillingham, who is in between careers, has impulsively chosen to get off the train at Woodham Station because he likes the look of the area. Antony is man of independent means who likes to try out a variety of careers. He has been a valet, a waiter, a newspaper reporter as well as a shop assistant. He works as long as the job interests him and then he quits. Right now he does not know what career to pursue next, so he left London for a holiday in the English countryside. Antony settles into a country inn and, during a conversation with the proprietor, learns that the Red House is nearby. Antony decides to visit his friend Bill Beverley who staying at the Red House. As Antony walks up to the Red House he finds Mathew Cayly banging on the library door and yelling for Mark. Antony asks if he can help and Cayly explains that Mark was meeting with his brother when a shot was fired in the library. The door is locked. When Antony and Cayly finally break into library they find Robert dead on the floor and that Mark has disappeared. The police are called. They ask that Antony stay at the Red House along with the other guests until the inquest. At that point, Antony decides upon his next career, that of a private inquiry agent, ala Sherlock Holmes. Antony talks Bill into acting as his Watson. Antony and Bill sort through a myriad of clues and red herrings to solve this locked room mystery. The book is a fun read that received critical acclaim. Alexander Woollcott, critic for the New Yorker magazine, called it "one of the three best mystery stories of all time". Raymond Chandler called it "an agreeable book, light, amusing in the Punch style, written with a deceptive smoothness that is not as easy as it looks."

[ Wikipedia page about this novel ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department - Eiseley and Walt Branch Libraries


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book cover  The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove
by Christopher Moore

In Pine Cove in September, three things happened: the cooling pipe at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant sprang a tiny leak; Mavis Stand advertised in the Songwriter for a blues singer at her Head of the Stag Salooon; and Bess Leander, wife and mother of two, hung herself. A creature from the bottom of the sea tracks the leaking radiation from the power plant and awakens from his slumbers. He torpedoes toward shore (witnessed by Catfish, the new blues singer), then the beast sees her at the Texaco station: purring and teasing, so he makes his move--on a fuel truck! But his lovemaking sets off the fuel and destroys the truck and the station. Singed, the Monster heads for a nearby creek, thinking, "A simple "No" would have sufficed." Pine Cove's loopy constable Theo Crowe must investigate the murder and the fire. His wife, Molly, takes blue meds: she calls them the Smurfs of Sanity. Then she sees the Monster turning himself into a mobile home and expectorating a wad of newspaper after slurping up the newspaper boy. She spritzes her television screen with Windex. When the droplets hit the screen they look like an Impressionist painting. Eventually, a cult forms around the sea beast. Christopher Moore's humor is not for everyone, but for those who do like it, this will be rewarding.

[ official Lust Lizard page on the official Christopher Moore web site ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Rianne S.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Star Trek: Countdown
by Roberto Orci [741.5 Orc]

For fans of the new 2009 Star Trek movie that reboots that franchise, this graphic novel should be required reading. This is a compilation of a four-issue comic book series that explains a lot of what happened before the events of the 2009 film, focusing on the life of Nero, the Romulan who is driven to genocide in the film, and Spock, the legendary Star Trek character whose time-travelling creates the alternate timeline that now exists in the Star Trek universe. The storytelling, by the writers of the movie, is emotionally engaging, and the artists do a remarkable job o capturing the likenesses of the actors from the film. In addition, characters from Star Trek's Next Generation era feature fairly prominently...something that woud have been impossible on the big screen, but is a treat for long-time Trek fans. Non-Trekkies won't get it, but this is a valuable addition to the Star Trek mythos for those in the fandom.

[ official Star Trek web site ] | [ Wikipedia page for Roberto Orci ]

related lists See more Star Trek titles like this on our Star Trek booklist
Review Score - 10
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Hungry
by Crystal Renn [Biography Renn]

At the age of 14, Crystal Renn, a regular teen attending school in Mississippi, was spotted by a modeling scout. She was told she could be a supermodel, but first, she would have to lose a little weight. Crystal lost 70 pounds in order to gain glamour, fame and a modeling contract with a competitive New York modeling agency. Crystal also gained a severe case of anorexia and exercise bulimia. As a straight sized model, Crystal was proud of her thin body and the fact that her hips measurements were smaller than the sample clothing she would be modeling. However, to Crystal's frustration, her new modeling career in new York city would did not take off and despite her 'heroin chic' frame, her photos did not inspire the fashion world. It may have been due to the vacant look in her eyes, her emaciated body or the fact that her hair was falling out. Crystal was starving herself and what few calories she did eat, she made herself exercised back off that same day. To Crystal's horror, as she became a year older, her body began to change and no matter how little she at and how much she exercised, her body refused to stay at a size zero. The more weight she gained the more she became manic about controlling what she ate (mostly plain lettuce), exercising to the point where she could barely walk and experimenting with diet drugs. She belonged to two gyms so that people would not raise eyebrows when she exercised for eight hours a day almost everyday. As her weight increased, Crystal's modeling agency was closely monitoring her size. The agency would call her in for test photos, then wince at the images and tell her 'the hips need to come down'. This was Crystal's wake up call. She decided to get healthy, nourish and heal her body. Crystal quit her current modeling agency and was immediately signed on with Ford Modeling Agency as a plus sized model. Once she became healthy and her weight settled at a size 12, her career took off. Crystal is the only plus-size model to appear on a Harper's Bazaar cover, and in four international Vogue editions. She has broken the stereotype of plus sized modeling, enjoyed lucrative contracts with many high-profile plus-size clothing manufacturers and has also appeared on the runway for top couture fashion designers. Crystal Renn paved the way for Plus sized models. In her biography, Crystal describes her new found happiness and contentment and success as a plus sized model which is apparent when comparing her straight sized modeling photos with her more recent photos in the biography. At times, Crystal's self-image waivers more than once between a very poor self-image to almost egotistical which may give some insight into why she was prone to such a severe eating disorder. The book also discusses America?s obsession with weight, how the modeling industry is slowly changing its view on ultra skinny, unhealthy models as well as how some areas of the fashion industry are still refusing to see anything other than a size zero as beautiful. This would be a great book for anyone who is interested in the behind the scenes working of the cutthroat fashion and modeling industry or has ever struggled with a weight problem and body image. By the end of this biography, you will be pulling for Crystal Renn to find herself, fulfill her dream and her place as a successful model in the fashion industry. [If you like this, you may also enjoy Alek: From the Streets of Sudan to the Runways of Milan and New York By Alek Wek or Secrets of the Model Dorm by Amanda Kerlin]

[ Wikipedia page for Crystal Renn ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Jessica H.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  Deck the Halls: Quilts to Celebrate Christmas
by Cheryl Almgren Taylor [746.46 qTay]

Quilt patterns for holiday-themed banners, table tops, mantle runners, a stocking, and wall hangings. A good assortment of quick projects, or easy ones, or several applique quilts. Great ideas for colors, and I especially liked viewing the mantle decorations. Includes the standard Quilting Basics instructions at the beginning, and applique patterns to copy. Lots of color photos and well-written instructions. Another terrific quilt book from "That Patchwork Place" publishing co. [If you like this, you may also enjoy Favorite Christmas Quilts from that Patchwork Place, 746.46 qFav]

[ official Cheryl Almgen Taylor web site ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Ethan Frome
by Edith Wharton

The story is age old: a man married to one woman and in love with another. The appeal lies in the homey details of its New England setting. A girl wearing a cherry-colored scarf at a church social and dancing the Virgnia reel. Fiddle music. Ice cream saucers. Snow. Zeena Frome, Ethan's wife, in her best merino. Fresh doughnuts, stewed blueberries, pickles in a red glass dish. A sled flying over the snow. The Frome graveyard.
[Also available in audiotape and compact disc formats -- the title links above should take you to all formats.]

[ Wikipedia page for Ethan Frome ] | [ www.edithwharton.org ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Rianne S.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  The Mouse That Roared
by Leonard Wibberley

This book is an outrageously funny spoof of politics, especially foreign policy and war. The Duchy of Grand Fenwick (five miles long and three miles wide) needs revenue. It grows a small black grape from which is obtained the noble Pinot Grand Fenwick, but the proceeds from its sale is not filling the coffers. The Duchess Gloriana XII talks with the chief forester of the Duchy, Tully Bascomb, who suggests the the tiny country declare war on the United States--and lose. The Americans always generously assist the defeated. The Fenwickians even have an excuse: a California wine company has been bottling the spurious Pinot Grand Enwick, an insult to Fenwickian wine. Tully thus outfits his fighing force (they will attack with their national weapon, the longbow). At the same time that the Fennwickians arrive, the States are learning about a powerful new bomb, the quodium bomb. Rumors fly: liquor and salami may counteract atomic radiation! Hip flasks become fashionable! And Tully captures the bomb's creator, Professor Kokintz. Grand Fenwick is now in a position to dictate terms!

[ Wikipedia pages for The Mouse Who Roared and Leonard Wibberley ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Rianne S.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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The Screening Room

book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemDuplicity

Checked this one out from the DVDs to Go shelves a couple of weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. The chemistry between Julia Roberts and Clive Owen is remarkable, and the plot twists and turns of this film are quite intricate. This is not a film to have playing in the background and enjoy in bits and pieces. If you're going to watch this one, pop some popcorn, ignore your phone, and watching it straight through, paying attention to the details. In addition to Roberts and Owen, there are some marvelous supporting performances as well, particularly from Paul Giamatti as a bombastic corporate executive. Overall, the best phrase to describe Duplicity is "multi-layered fun."

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Duplicity web site ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemFringe: The Complete First Season

Looking for an X-Files type of fix on television today? Look no further than Fringe, the spooky series currently in its second season (2009-2010) on FOX. If you haven't sampled it yet, I definitely recommend viewing the first season on DVD. Much the same as The X-Files, Fringe has a complicated overall story arc, with scattered stand-alone episodes mixed in. The series features FBI agent Olivia Dunham joining a team of investigators looking into "the Pattern", a series of incidents involving cutting edge and experimental sciences. Assisting her is Professor Walter Biship, a genius who has spent the past 17 years in a mental institution, and his son Peter, a former conman who is the only one who can keep his father's fragile grip on reality intact. Viewers with delicate sensibilities should be forewarned -- Fringe can get rather gruesome at times, and rather scary as well. But it is worth it for the fantastic performances of Anna Torv as Olivia and John Noble as Walter.

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this series ] | [ official Fringe web site ]

related lists See more books and TV boxed sets like this on our TV Tie-Ins booklist
Review Score - 8
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemThe Rockford Files: Season One

The Rockford Files ran for six seasons, from 1974 to 1980, then returned for 8 TV-movies from 1994 to 1999. The series was groundbreaking for its time, focusing on a private investigator who wasn't a "knight in shining armor" dedicated to the highest of ideals and willing to sacrifice himself for a client, as most P.I.s from 1950s and 1960s series had been up to that point. Instead, drawing from the type of self-serving character that James Garner had perfected in Maverick, Jim Rockford was an ex-con (although he didn't do the crime he was jailed for) who was just trying to make a living. He didn't like weapons, and he really didn't like getting in fights for his clients, even though the bad guys regularly beat him up. He lived in a broken-down trailer on the beach; his father didn't really approve of what he did for a living; and he was constantly being hit up for favors by his shifty friends and former cellmates. When Jim Rockford punched somebody, he tended to break his own hand rather than the other guy's chin. As the series progressed, the humorous elements became more prominent, but in this first season, the series was a bit more gritty and downbeat. Watch for guest appearances by many of today's big stars in some of their earliest television work. And don't be thrown by the different actor playing Rocky in the pilot episode! The series featured stellar supporting work by Joe Santos as Jim's cop friend, Dennis, Noah Beery Jr. as Rocky, Gretchen Corbett as Beth, and Stuart Margolin as Angel Martin. If you like this first season, following the remaining seasons in sequence -- the character relationships build over time!

[ Rockford Files at epguides.com ] | [ Internet Movie Database entry for this series ]

related lists See more books and TV boxed sets like this on our TV Tie-Ins booklist
Review Score - 9
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemWall-E

Another excellent film by Pixar Studios. This one won the 2009 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Humans are now living on a spaceship after leaving Earth centuries earlier. The original plan was to live in outer space temporarily until robots cleaned Earth for recolonization. But after seven hundred years, only one cleaning robot remains: WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class). You're mainly following Wall-E as he goes about his endless days of collecting trash and compacting it. Occasionally he finds interesting trinkets that he saves, but otherwise he spends his evenings watching old musicals on videos. Until the arrival of EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator). She's a robot sent to periodically search Earth for vegetation. The interaction and courtship between these two is touching and humorous. Then she finds the plant Wall-E has just discovered and this activates her prime directive, making her oblivious to Wall-E. When a long-range probe arrives to retrieve Eve, Wall-E is inconsolable and we spend the rest of the film as he follows and works to save her. A wonderful film. Very little dialogue, mostly the beeps and trills of robots communicating to each other but you quickly learn to decipher the tone and language. Go ahead and set the dvd to display subtitles as I found this added to the poignancy. Who knew we'd care so much about robots? [If you like this, you may also enjoy the DVD Cars, also by Pixar.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Wall-E web site ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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last updated December 2009
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