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Litchfield MN 55355

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

What the Librarian Saw -- Or, Some Recent DVDs You Can Find at the Library


by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Have you been staying out of the heat? We’ve been hearing from quite a few people that they have been checking out books and movies because they’d rather sit still in the house than go outside and do anything in the heat and humidity. We get new movies and TV series on DVD at the library all the time. I’ll tell you about a few of them that I’ve watched lately, so that you might get some ideas about ones you’d like to watch.

Over the 4th of July, my husband and I watched the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara. Neither of us has read the books, which have been wildly popular. I wanted to watch the movie to get a feel for the characters and the story. We knew going in that it is a gritty and dark story, and we did find it uncomfortably violent at times; in fact, sometimes we skipped ahead. The mystery was interesting, as were the characters, almost all of which are quite emotionally detached and damaged in some way. Lisbeth Salander appears to operate with a goal of revenge rather than justice. But even with the action, I felt it dragged on too long at the end. It would be interesting to compare it to the Swedish version, which the library also has on DVD – but I’m not interested enough to watch the story again. The movie is rated R.

I recently watched another movie based on another bestseller we haven’t been able to keep on the library’s shelves for many, many months: The Help. It looked like a chick flick, so I watched it with my daughters on a rare occasion when my husband was out of town. I’d heard that it is very mild for a PG-13 rating, and I agree that language was really the only issue. My preteen daughter did enjoy it. I have to admit that this is another book I’ve not read but, after watching the movie, I want to. The characters are wonderful (and in some cases, horrible), the relationships between the women are interesting, and the civil rights story is compelling. It brought tears to my eyes several times. I guess that does sound like a chick flick. It has an all-star cast, including Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Allison Janney, Cicely Tyson, and Sissy Spacek. You can find the DVD at our library.

I find it difficult to watch a movie without staying up too late, but we like to veg out in front of the television at the end of the evening. I don’t know if I should admit this when I work at the library, but most of what I watch is television series, streamed on Netflix. One of the things I like about Netflix is its recommendation engine. It has led us to TV shows that we wouldn’t have watched that we’ve enjoyed very much. One of those series is Eureka, which is available on DVD at the library. This Syfy channel series is about a hidden scientific community of geniuses in the Pacific Northwest, and the ordinary law enforcement officer who stumbles upon them and stays. Sheriff Jack Carter, played by Colin Ferguson, is always solving the wacky situations that arise when the cutting edge technology inevitably malfunctions. It’s a pretty lighthearted, goofball show most of the time, with some surprisingly serious moments. It's rated TV-14.

Game of Thrones is another TV series we have on DVD at the Litchfield Library. This HBO series is based on George R.R. Martin’s bestselling fantasy book series A Song of Ice and Fire. My husband has read the books, and he warned me that they are brutal and that I shouldn’t get attached to any of the characters. I found that difficult because two of the Stark children remind me of one of my daughters, but I appreciated the warning. Although the show is so violent that I had to look away many times, I found the first season fascinating and extremely well-made. It feels like the political plotting of medieval Europe, but with dragons, zombies, and seasons that last for years. They say winter is coming. I look forward to season two.  Although this isn't rated, it is from HBO; assume a strong R rating.

Downton Abbey is another TV series that has me waiting eagerly for the next season. Two seasons have been released, and the library has both on DVD. I came late to the party, watching both seasons just as season two was winding up on PBS earlier this year. I know so many women who have loved it; it’s a soap opera for intellectuals. My husband actually got into it with me, which was fun. He followed me into Jane Austen, and it’s in the same vein. It’s like watching what would happen to the Bennetts from Pride and Prejudice or the Woodhouses from Emma if they hit the modern era of technology and social change. The first season begins with the sinking of the Titanic and ends with the start of World War I. The second season focuses on World War I and ends on the eve of 1920. Dame Maggie Smith is wonderful and funny, the production is lavishly beautiful, and storylines involving both the aristocratic family and the servants are full of suspenseful twists and turns, besides interesting historical details. This doesn't appear to be rated in the US; I would consider it PG.

A British period soap, a fantasy epic, a science fiction comedy, a civil rights drama focused on women’s relationships, and an edgy Swedish mystery: is there anything here for you? You can find these and many more at the library.