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

June 2012 Recommendations

In recognition of the passing on June 5th of legendary American writer Ray Bradbury, we open this month's reviews with Walt Branch librarian Becky's combined review of three versions of one of Bradbury's most indelible works -- Fahrenheit 451.

Fahrenheit 451
by Ray Bradbury

book coverWithin a few months' time I happened, in this order, to: see the movie, read a graphic novel version and, finally, read the original book itself of Ray Bradbury's modern American classic Fahrenheit 451. And this was just a couple of years ago, about the time I turned 50. It had never been an assigned book in my high school or college classes and, although I knew the subject matter and had seen bits and pieces from the film, it was never on my "must read" or "must watch" lists.

I actually found it useful and challenging to approach the variations in this order, as I am primarily oriented to audio-visual depictions of stories. It was interesting to see what had been emphasized and/or omitted in the movie and comic book when I got back around to the novel. I would guess a lot of people decry the movie in favor of the book, but I got something out of all three editions of this seminal work. More than anything, though, I was fascinated by the genesis (combining elements of various short stories he had already penned and a real and strange encounter with a patrolling cop) and execution (serial form first, changing titles, periodic recollections of its creation as subsequent editions were published), and the credit Bradbury gives to LIBRARIES for helping him become who he was.

If you are not familiar at all with the story, it is about a time in the - perhaps even more so now - not-too-distant future in which you can insert yourself into your favorite TV shows from the comfort of your home, wars start and end (sometimes very badly) in just a couple of days, and a fireman's job is to ignite fires instead of put them out. The prevailing authority dictates that books, especially works of fiction and philosophy, turn people into unhappy malcontents who think and question too much. They don't fit society's norms and are, therefore, dangerous to their own and others' "peace". Enter Montag the "Fireman" who enjoys his book-burning job, Beatty, his "Captain" and nemesis, Millie, his self-medicating wife, Clarisse, the young woman who challenges him to reconsider why he does what he does and what makes him happy, and Faber, who facilitates his awakening. And then there are those mechanical hounds who relentlessly deliver sanitized, specific justice.

1966 DVD coverOskar Werner and Cyril Cusack deliver solid performances as Montag and Beatty in the 1966 film, directed by legendary filmmaker François Truffaut, which has a 'happier' ending than the novel. Although the film score was composed by the esteemed Bernard Herrmann and had some nice dramatic and quiet moments, I also found it intrusive at times, a vague precursor to Philip Glass's minimalism without hitting quite the right balance. Some would argue that Werner's performance was dull or wooden, or his German accent distracting, but I actually thought these were plausible characteristics for the persona of Montag, who journeys from "before" to "after" in a very short time. And I found it especially poignant that Truffaut chose to show Mein Kampf as one of the books being thrown into the pile for incineration, as pertains to the convoluted human dynamics of freedom, tyranny, and violence. I was a bit thrown off by Julie Christie portraying both Millie and Clarisse but came to see it more favorably the more I thought about it, as an artistic interpretation of Montag's ideal love divided into two halves - one who acknowledges and feeds her soul and one who has lost hers.

Graphic Novel coverI am not a big reader of comics or graphic novels, so I don't have much of an opinion about the "authorized" comicbook version but it's certainly one way that the book might appeal to a young adult, or a reading-challenged person.

If you've never read the novel, I suggest you give it a try - it's not all that lengthy and it was fairly accurate at predicting techno-social advances. If you've only seen the movie, or only read the book, read or watch the other version and see if you agree with the choices made by writer and filmmaker.

I'll finish with a couple of quotes from the book: near the end, when Montag falls in with men from the hobo camp outside The City, one of them describes himself and the others who have committed entire books to their memory to preserve them for the future as "…bums on the outside, libraries on the inside"; from Bradbury's 1982 Afterword, as he remembers roaming the UCLA library where he rented a typing room to create his manuscript, "There I strolled, lost in love, …pulling volumes out, touching pages…"

Thank you, Mr. Bradbury, for being bold and imaginative and indefatigable, and unashamed in your love of reading, writing, books, and libraries.

[Also available in multiple different print editions, book-on-cd and Large Print formats.]

[ Ray Bradbury entry on Wikipedia with numerous off-site links ] | [ official Ray Bradbury web site ] | [ Internet Movie Database entry for the 1966 film Fahrenheit 451 ]

MOVIE -- Review Score - 9
BOOK -- Review Score - 9
GRAPHIC NOVEL -- Review Score - 8
Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library


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book cover  Buried in a Book
by Lucy Arlington

Lila Wilkins is a middle-aged journalist who loses her job at the Dunstan Herald because of budget cuts. She is the single mother of a teen-age boy who will soon head to college and there are bills to pay. She scrambles around looking for work and happens upon what seems to be the perfect job -- being paid to read. She is hired by the A Novel Idea literary agency to read book queries and to pass the promising ones on to agents. The agency is in Inspiration Valley, North Carolina, a quaint town with a literary bent. The local nursery is called The Secret Garden. A nearby café is named Catcher in the Rye. After customers pay for their meals they are given a fictional name (Miss Marple, Eliza Doolittle) instead of a number and this name is called when the sandwiches are ready. The eccentric characters in this book range from Lila's fortune-telling mother to some of her co-workers to Marlette, the homeless author, who drops dead in the waiting room of A Novel Idea. Everyone, except Lila, believes that he died of natural causes. (After all, he was just a smelly vagrant.) Some things do not make sense to Lila and she looks into Marlette's life. Lila's poking around makes someone nervous and that person makes Lila's life unpleasant. A team of established authors, Ellery Adams and Sylvia May, wrote this enjoyable cozy. Hopefully, there will be more books with these engaging characters. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Avery Aames, Maddy Hunter and Joan Hess.]


[ official Lucy Arlington/Buried in a Book web site ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  Bradbury Stories: 100 of his Most Celebrated Tales
by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury was one of the true giants of 20th century literature, with close to fifty books published, including classics such as Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, etc. He also wrote poems, essays, operas, plays, teleplays and screenplays -- he was nominated for an Academy Award for his screenplay to John Huston's version of Moby Dick. But one of the things he'll be best remembered for is the hundreds, yes, hundreds of short stories he wrote over the course of his career. I grew up reading his classic collections, such as R is for Rocket and S is for Space in my school library as a kid, growing into The Martian Chronicles and others as I got older. For me, Bradbury has become one of my top five favorite authors of all time. He's had so many stories published in his lifetime, that it is sometimes difficult to track them all down. This collection, Bradbury Stories, assembles 100 of his absolute best short works, and is a perfect way to pay tribute to the master, now that he has passed away, just this month. It's impossible to single out which of Ray's stories have most affected me over the years -- he's such a lyrical, stylized writer, with a gift for capturing a "sense of place" and nailing characters in just a few phrases. But, if you've never read Bradbury (shame on you), I would definitely start with "There Will Come Soft Rains" and "A Sound of Thunder" (perhaps one of the two or three best "time travel" stories ever written!). Though those two stories are not in this particular 2003 volume (from which I'd recommend "The Burning Man" and "The Toynbee Convector"), this collection is still to be savored -- don't try to read it all in one short period of time -- instead, read a few stories at a time and spread out the pleasure. You've got a treasure chest waiting to be opened! [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try any of Bradbury's other short story collections or novels, including Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Illustrated Man, The Halloween Tree, and many more. Another excellent story collection is The Stories of Ray Bradbury, released in 1980.]


[ Ray Bradbury entry on Wikipedia with numerous off-site links ] | [ official Ray Bradbury web site ] | [ Ray Bradbury entry on the Internet Speculative Fiction Database ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  The Next One to Fall
by Hilary Davidson

Hilary Davidson follows her award winning debut novel with another page-turner. Travel writer, Lily Moore, goes to Machu Picchu with her best friend, photographer Jesse Robb. Jesse's purpose in taking Lily to Peru is twofold. One, it might help Lily deal with her grief over the death of her sister. Two, they may be able to collaborate on a series of travel articles. He thinks that his photos along with Lily's articles will produce winners. At Machu Picchu Jesse and Lily overhear a couple arguing. A woman screams and Jesse and Lily rush to help her. They find her sprawled across the bottom step of one of the ancient stone staircases. Jesse goes for help and Lily stays behind to comfort the woman. Just before she dies the woman tells Lily who pushed her. The police see the needle tracks on the dead woman?s arms and view her as an addict. They dismiss her claim that someone pushed her and rule the death as accidental. Lily doesn't agree and pursues her own investigation through the streets of Cusco and among the wealthy of Lima. Davidson paints a vivid picture of the "lost city of the Incas". I have been to Machu Picchu and her descriptions bring to mind the days I spent walking among the limestone temples and up and down the staircases. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the works of Lyn Hamilton, Elly Griffiths and Dana Cameron.]


[ official Hilary Davidson blog for The Next One to Fall ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Donna G.
Virtual Services Department


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book cover  The Homemade Living Series
by Ashley English [various call numbers]

For beginner homesteading DIY enthusiasts, Ashley English's Homemade Living series is a must. At first glance, the exquisite photography and layout of each title are reminiscent of a coffee table book. After you've flipped through each title, just to look at the pictures, the concise text written for the laymen is enough to get started on any of the projects. If you're interested in keeping a few backyard chickens and don't know where to start, read Keeping Chickens for an introduction. Keeping Chickens covers building a coop, picking breeds, and general chicken care topics. Home Dairy provides basic instructions and recipes for making your own cheeses, butter, and yogurt. Keeping Bees is a straight forward guide to starting a hive, harvesting honey and tending your bees. All of English's titles include step by step instructions, illustrations, pictures, tips, and true short stories from enthusiasts. English's series is an excellent introduction to the fine arts of homemaking for the urban/suburban/rural farmer, foodie, exotic pet keeper, and or the just plain curious reader. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Backyard Homestead 641.3 Mad, The Chicken Whisperer's Guide to Keeping Chickens 636.5 Sch, Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living 640 Kap, The Ultimate Guide to Homesteading: An Encyclopedia for Independent Living 640 Fai, Rural Renaissance: Renewing the Quest for the Good Life 307.26 Iva, Beekeeping in the Midwest 638.1 Jay, Making Great Cheese: 30 Simple Recipes From Cheddar to Chevre, Plus 18 Delicious Cheese Dishes. 641.637 Cil.]


[ official Ashley English web site and blog ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Glory B.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  The Kitchen Counter Cooking School
by Kathleen Flinn [641.507 Fli]

As the author, Kathleen Flinn, writes, "if you can't cook, you're reliant on others to make your meals and most often they're corporations. They're biggest motivation? It's not your health, it's their bottom line." The author invited nine volunteers for basic classes on food -- volunteers who loaded their kitchen cupboards with boxes of processed groceries. The book is divided into parts and each describes a food product or group and how best to prepare it. The chapter on meat discussing the many hormones and antibiotics that are fed to livestock gives one pause. The chapter on chicken, "Fowl Play," explains how to cut up a chicken and the hundreds of options for serving a bird. Also included are chapters on basic knife skills, spices and their combinations, vinaigrettes, bread, pastas, fish, eggs, stocks, and soups. Each chapter ends with the recipes that are taught in the class. One especially interesting thing Flinn notes is a whole history on cake mix in a chapter called "What's in the Box" that recounts the history of many convenience foods and their origins in WWII army rations. Flinn was not interested in turning out The Next Iron Chef, but rather helping people become comfortable in making some basic recipes and unafraid to try new. "Try to find a comfortable place somewhere between Tuna Helper and Top Chef. If you burn, scorch, drop, boil over, overcook, undercook, underseason or otheriwse put a meal together that's less than a success, in the end it doesn't matter. It's just one meal. You'll make another one tomorrow." Some very good hints and instructions in this book. Even if you're a competent cook, this makes you want to enroll in a basic course at the community college.


[ official Kathleen Flinn web site and book page ]

Review Score - 7
Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  The World of Downton Abbey
by Jessica Fellowes [791.457 DowYf]

This book delves deeper into the wildly popular television series Downton Abbey. The book is filled with behind the scenes photos of the cast, crew and sets. It also has historical information pertaining to the period in which the series is set. This is a great read for fans of the show who would like to learn more about its historical context. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Below stairs : the classic kitchen maid's memoir that inspired "Upstairs, downstairs" and "Downton Abbey" and Lady Almina and the real Downton Abbey : the lost legacy of Highclere Castle.]


[ official Downton Abbey web site from PBS ] | [ official Jessica Fellowes web site ]

Review Score - 6
Recommended by Alyse S.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the Book-on-CD format of this titleCalico Joe
by John Grisham

A wonderful story about baseball, father/son relationships, redemption, and forgiveness. I especially liked the Erik Singer audio book; his voices and narration are very effective. Some of the baseball statistics seem a little monotonous for a fictitious novel, but overall a really great (fairly short) read. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Bleachers and Playing for Pizza, also by Grisham.]

[Also available in downloadable audio, regular print, downloadable E-book and Large Print formats.]

[ official John Grisham web site ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Jeremiah J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the Book-on-CD format of this titleLies That Chelsea Handler Told Me
by Chelsea Handler [Compact Disc 817 Han]

After reading, My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler, I thought I would explore more of her work. I have to say, the audiobook is truly hilarious. It is a compliation of essentially the greatest pranks Chelsea has pulled on her staff, from their perspective- after each chapter, Chelsea offers her rebuttal. Truly hysterical... to the point I almost had to pull off to the side of the road to wipe my tears and catch my breath. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Handler's other works: My Horizontal Life, Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang, and Are you there Vodka? Its Me Chelsea.]

[Also available in downloadable audio, traditional print formats.]

[ official Chelsea Handler web site ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Jeremiah J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Steal Like an Artist
by Austin Kleon [153.35 Kle]

Great quick read, with some good motivating ideas on various forms of art, writing, and other creative expression.

[Also available in downloadable E-book format.]

[ official Austin Kleon web site ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Jeremiah J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps
by Ted Kooser [917.823 Koo]

Ted Kooser describes "the place he calls home" in Nebraska. He touches on the important and the mundane; there is something for everyone! Several of his thoughts that caught my attention -- remembering flowers from a wedding but not who was married that day (p.4), jars of odd screws and bolts (p.18), his son's tree house which reminded me of my son's basement (p.24), miniature glass animals like the ones my own mother collected and gave to me (p.64), the x-ray machine in the shoe department (p.111).

[Also available in downloadable audio format.]

[ official Ted Kooser web site ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Meredith M.
Heritage Room of Nebraska Authors


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book cover  This review is for a music CDBorn This Way
by Lady Gaga [Compact Disc 771.66 Lad]

An extremely diverse album punctuated with Gaga's eccentric interpretation of a variety of musical styles. For example, "You and I" resembles a country music theme (and even mentions "Nebraska" by name), "Scheibe" - a German techno rave, "The Edge of Glory" which mimics 80s pop culture, and of course: "Born this Way," the anthem of Generation Z. A great CD, and instant classic for all the "monsters" out there. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Fame [CD], The Fame Monster [CD], Lady Gaga presents The Monster Ball at Madison Square Garden [DVD].]


[ official Lady Gaga web site ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Jeremiah J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Operating Instructions
by Anne Lamott [306.871 Lam]

This is a great story of a first time mother who has fought off some personal demons. Now, she takes on single motherhood in a diary format and shares her struggles and triumphs. The raw emotion expressed makes you empathize and celebrate every milestone. It is a nice change from a parenting book where everything goes so perfectly. Life is messy, and Lamott managed to wrap up the first year of her son's life in an appealing package. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son's First Son, also by Lamott.]


[ unofficial Anne Lamott fans web site ] | [ official Anne Lamott page on Wikipedia ]

Review Score - 9
Recommended by Sarah J.
South Branch Library


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book cover  The Eighty Dollar Champion
by Elizabeth Letts [798.25 Let]

The true story of Snowman, a former plowhorse, and Harry de Leyer, Dutch immigrant and trainer at a private girls' school. Harry buys Snowman for $80 off a knacker's truck and later discovers the horse's spectacular jumping skills. Set in the 1950s and 60s, this story brings to life the moneyed show jump world with its built-in prejudices, as Harry and Snowman compete against the upper-crust and their elite thoroughbreds with fancy equipment and blankets. Snowman ultimately appeared in most of the major magazines and newspapers, and was a model horse for Breyer. Horsey people will love this book - one can almost smell the leather, saddle soap, and horse sweat -- but "regular" folk will enjoy this quiet story as well. Told chronologically but includes flashbacks where appropriate as one learns about Harry and his wife during WWII and how they made it to America. Nine discs, the 10th is comprised of photos. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand.]

[Also available in book-on-cd and downloadable E-book formats.]

[ official Elizabeth Letts/Eighty Dollar Champion web site ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Charlotte K.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Images of America: The Nebraska State Fair
by Mary L. Maas [978.2 Maa]

This volume in the great "Images of America" series covers the origin and early history of the Nebraska State Fair, from its earliest days in the 1800s through its move from Lincoln to Grand Island in 2010. Comprised mainly of b&w historical photos, there is a lot of emphasis on the years from the 1920s through the early 1960s, but the images do give a good idea of what life at the fair was like through the ages. I would have liked to see some color shots, and more from the 1980s through the early 2000s, but for a relatively slim volume, this does a nice job of letting fairgoers reminisce about the past!. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Bright Lights and Blue Ribbons: 125 years of the Nebraska State Fair, by Betty Olsen.]

[Also available in downloadable audio, book-on-cd, downloadable E-book and Large Print formats.]

[ official Video Commercial on YouTube for this book ] | [ Publisher's official Nebraska State Fair book web page ]

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


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book cover  This review is for the Book-on-CD format of this titleHer Mother's Hope
by Francine Rivers [Compact Disc Rivers]

This book starts with the life of the mother when she is 12 years old and follows the family for generations. It is very compelling to see how the mother, the daughter, and the daughter's daughter react to life based on their own unique perceptions of the childhood that shaped them. Follow up with Her Daughters Dream to complete the story.

[Also available in traditional print and Large Print formats.]

[ official Her Mother's Hope page on the official Francine Rivers web site ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Dorene O.
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  Once Upon a Time is Enough
by Will Stanton [398.2 Sta]

Though it's been over 40 years since its publication, this book is still as funny as ever. Stanton skewers classic fairy tales just by a simple retelling with a few comments along the way. Little Red Riding Hood gets psychoanalyzed in "Little Girl with a Big Problem." The story of Bluebeard is looked at as a marriage counselor might see it in "Can This Marriage Be Saved?" And Hansel and Gretel are cross-examined by a district attorney in "The Gingerbread House Caper." Though this is bound so as to look like a children's picture book, it's definitely a book for grown-ups; while it would be appropriate for middle-school age, the humor is most likely to be appreciated by adults. [If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Legally Correct Fairy Tales (398.2 Fis); Politically Correct Bedtime Stories (398.2 Gar).]


[ Will Stanton entry on Wikipedia ]

Review Score - 10
Recommended by Peter J.
Virtual Services Department


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The Screening Room

book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemThe Commish
[DVD Commish]

Viewers familiar with Michael Chiklis' gritty portrayal of Vic Mackey on The Shield may be surprised to see his earlier starring role as Tony Scali, the police commisioner of fictional Eastbridge, NY. In this series from Stephen J. Cannell, the producer who brought us The Rockford Files, Wiseguy, The A-Team, The Greatest American Hero, Hunter and Silk Stalkings (just to name a few), the emphasis was placed equally on Tony Scali's work and home lives -- at work, there were police cases to be supervised and crimes to be solved, often featuring very quirky or comical characters; on the homefront, he had a wife and a son to take care of. There was a terrific supporting casts to The Commish, which changed over the seasons, as actors came and went. The Commish was more of a "gentle" show, emphasizing the character foibles with humor, but it didn't shy away from serious storylines and dramatic moments. And, most importantly, it gave Michael Chiklis a chance to really shine on screen. I recommend this to anyone who's a fan of classic "cop" shows from the 1970s and 1980s, but who's not really into the "gritty" ensemble shows like Hill Street Blues or NYPD Blue.

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ The Commish episode guide at epguides.com ]

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 itemSecrets of the Titanic
[DVD 910.45 Nat]

National Geographic interviews Robert Ballard, the man who discovered the Titanic's wreckage back in 1985. He talks about the excitement of his initial discovery and the fallout that followed. Ever since people have been looting the site and selling its treasures. Robert is determined to preserve the site so he interviews descendants of the passengers on the RMS Titanic and listens to their point of view of what's happening. So cool to watch actual videos of the Titanic at present day. Very informative about the construction of the ship and the men who were involved in creating it.


[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official National Geographic Titanic web site ]

Review Score - 8
Recommended by Carrie K
Bennett Martin Public Library


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemStargate Atlantis
[DVD Stargate]

Stargate Atlantis was the second TV series to spin off of the 1994 film, which starred Kurt Russell and James Spader. Preceeding it was Stargate SG-1, which featured Richard Dean Anderson and company as military officers headquartered in a secure base in the Rockies, and visiting other planets around the galaxy through a transport door called a Stargate. That series was Earth-based. Stargate Atlantis sent an international crew of military and scientific explorers through the Stargate to another galaxy, where they quickly become stranded and have to carve out a place for themselves in their new surroundings. It helps that they have access to a floating city and advanced technology left behind by an absent race of progenitors. Unfortunately, as they feel their way around their new surroundings, the humans also accidentally awaken a deadly new enemy. But, there are new friends to be made with the locals, and scientific discoveries to explore...having a deadly vampiric enemy nipping at your heels is small price to pay for the wonders spread before the men and women of Stargate Atlantis. The characters on this show were what kept drawing me back, week after week, far more than the occasionally silly plots. The friendships and relationships that developed over five seasons were terrific, and many of the characters were stand-outs on their own. David Hewlett as the brilliant but egocentric Dr. Rodney McKay, and Joe Flanigan as Lt. Colonel John Sheppard, the miltary officer who suddenly finds himself in command when his superiors are killed, were both very interesting and likeable. As the series progressed, and contact was re-established with Earth, cast changes occured as the "leaders" of the expedition changed several times, which lead to a feeling of instability for the show. But the growth in McKay, Sheppard, and the others who were there for all five years, more than paid off for the occasional hiccups in casting. Terrific cast, terrific effects, and great storytelling -- you can't ask for much more in a science fiction TV series!

[Also available are Stargate Atlantis tie-in novels.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Stargate web site from MGM, covering all versions of Stargate ]

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 itemWe Bought a Zoo
[DVD We]

Based on a true story of a family in ruins. After his wife dies and his son starts getting in trouble at school Benjamin Mee decides his family needs a change. In order to start over they house-shop and find one they love. The only problem is that it's a zoo. A shutdown fixer-upper zoo. So he buys the whole property, becoming the boss of the current zoo employees and takes it upon himself to fix it up and open it back up to the public. Very heart-warming story, it'll make you laugh, it'll make you cry. Matt Damon is pretty great in a serious role, it was interesting seeing him in something that wasn't action-oriented.

[Also available in print, downloadable audio, e-book, and book-on-cd formats.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

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


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book cover  This review is for the DVD format of this itemZen
[DVD Zen]

Based on a series of novels by Michael Dibdin, featuring Italian police detective Aurelio Zen, this set of three adaptations aired on BBC ONE in the UK, and on PBS' Masterpiece Mystery here in the US. The movies starred Rufus Sewell as the titular hero, Zen, with strong supporting work from a cast of relative unknowns, highlighted by Caterina Murino as Zen's romantic interest, and the late Francesco Quinn (son of Anthony Quinn) as Zen's private investigator friend Gilberto. The producers chose to film the show in English, even though the characters are all supposed to be Italian, and if you can accept and get past that little incongruity, this is a stylish, slick, enjoyable mystery series. Aurelio Zen is far from a "perfect" cop, but he's got good instincts and a respectable moral code. Sewell's portrayal is terrific, and the stories held together very well -- although I've never read the novels the three movies were based on, so I can't speak to how effectively they were adpated. The settings and atmosphere of these three stories are just oozing with colorful details, and the jazzy soundtrack is as much a character in the films as any of the speaking roles. After re-watching all three of these stories on DVD (with some nice behind-the-scenes "making of" featurettes), I was disappointed to learn that the BBC has decided not to produce any additional Zen episodes. But, I highly recommend the three that do exist!

[Also available are the Aurelio Zen mystery novels, by author Michael Dibdin.]

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ]

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


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last updated June 2012
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