Forty years after Russia nuked the United States, it has become a wasteland. The only surviving city is “Lost Vegas.” In Six-String Samurai, an alternate-history-kung-fu-musical-comedy, Elvis ruled America after the bombs dropped, but the King has died. It’s time for a new hero. Enter Buddy, who travels with nothing but a six-string, weapons and a child in tow. If Buddy can make it through the badlands full of marauders and outlaws to Lost Vegas before Death himself, there might be hope for the future. If the campy action and quotable dialogue don’t grab you, the soundtrack – featuring the Siberian surf rock group the Red Elvises – might.
Month: December 2010
Most seventeen-year-olds don’t have to provide for their families, but they aren’t Ree Dolly. Deep in the Ozarks, she is singlehandedly raising her younger siblings and trying to care for her vacant mother. They are used to getting by without their father, but things go from bad to worse when word comes that they will lose their home unless he makes his court appearance. Jennifer Lawrence is riveting as Ree, the one on whose shoulders everything rests. She sets out on the harrowing task of trying to track down her father by asking questions of some very unpleasant people, placing herself in danger along the way. Simply put, Winter’s Bone is unforgettable.
As one character observes, “talking about love is like dancing about architecture.” Yet, Playing by Heart makes the intricate steps seem appealing. A surprising ensemble including Sean Connery, Jon Stewart, and Angelina Jolie play out intertwining storylines exploring relationships at different stages. This overlooked gem has warmth, wit, and style.
A railroad track leaves off into the wide open prairie. A hostler cleans the fires with a cigar stub clamped between his teeth and leather gloves to protect his hands. The depot is wood paneled with hard pew seating and an empty ticket office. David Plowden had an eye for the working world of steam locomotives. He photographed the grunts, the engineers, the slow trail of freight cars across empty Midwestern fields, the brakemen and the grit of the train yards. Plowden’s Requiem for Steam is the result of a man riding the rails, impassioned on capturing a dying industrial culture.
Paranoia Agent was the late anime master Satoshi Kon’s sole foray into television; this enigmatic, visually arresting and borderline Lynchian series follows a disparate group of Tokyo residents whose lives are impacted by a string of mysterious assaults.
Dealing with the aftermath of her parents’ funeral, Erica Falck isn’t prepared for another shock. She is confronted with the sight of her childhood friend Alexandra Wijkner, whose blue-tinged body lies in a bathtub surrounded in blood. Drawn in to the family tragedy, Erica is haunted by the need to make sense of the incomprehensible, and she begins to work with detective Patrik Hedstrom to peel back the layers of a chilling past. Scandinavian sensation Camilla Läckberg makes her American debut with The Ice Princess, and narrator David Thorn reads with a mesmerizing balance of gravity and emotion that adds depth to the troubling events.
The War is on and the men have all gone to fight the Germans. So what’s going to happen to baseball? The women play, that’s what. A League of Their Own is the story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League that was created during WWII. Geena Davis and Lori Petty play sisters that start as teammates on the Rockford Peaches, and end as rivals. Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell are the “bad girls” on the Peaches and Tom Hanks has more than a few hilarious breakdowns trying to learn how to coach women’s baseball.
Catherine and Heathcliff, from Wuthering Heights, are the Sid and Nancy of classic lit. They love one another – but that doesn’t stop either from continually hurting the other. I admire Tom Hardy’s disturbingly passionate portrayal of Heathcliff in the BBC’s adaptation.
A Charlie Brown Christmas contributed more to our holiday zeitgeist than just a sad little tree. It also gave us the timeless playful piano of Vince Guaraldi. Spice up your listening with an infusion of seasonal cheer via A Charlie Brown Christmas, the original soundtrack recording of the CBS television special. Hear the unmistakable Peanuts flavor sprinkled into perennial favorites such as “O Tannenbaum”, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, and “Greensleeves”. If you want to mix it up with a modern touch or two, check out 40 Years: A Charlie Brown Christmas, a tribute album including artists Brian McKnight, Toni Braxton, and Dave Koz. Either way, prepare to jump in with your favorite Peanuts character dance.
Joyce of Fiction/AV/Teen Services recommends Green Like God: Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet by Jonathan Merritt:
If you ever hiked the John Muir trail, read Thoreau’s Walden or appreciated the photography of Ansel Adams, you have been exposed to some of the pioneers of the American environmental movement. Their experiences, writings, and photographs have moved generations to action. Unfortunately, the Christian community is a late-comer to this cause. Jonathan Merritt’s challenge is this: if we say we love the Creator, then we should take care of His creation. He asks the question, if the earth declares the glory of God, then are our actions silencing his voice? If you are looking for an interesting perspective on the green movement, check out this thought-provoking book!