Wednesday, July 23, 2014

It's Batman Day!

July 23 is Batman Day! To celebrate the 75th anniversary of Batman, special events are being held at book stores and comic book stores around the world.

Comic book stores are giving away free copies of Detective Comics #27 Special Edition. Modern Age Comics in Algonquin (2210 East Algonquin Rd) is a local comic book store participating in the Batman Day giveaway.

Additionally, tonight a Batman Day Trivia Contest will be held at 7 p.m. in the Barnes and Noble cafe in Spring Hill Mall.

Another way to celebrate is by watching your favorite Batman movie/s. As a kid I loved watching syndicated episodes of the 1960s Batman television series and the 1966 movie starring Adam West. Today the films in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, starring Christian Bale, rank among my all-time favorites.

Adam West as Batman:
Batman: The Movie (1966)
Batman (TV series-1966-1968)
The New Adventures of Batman (Animated TV series-1977)

Michael Keaton as Batman:
Batman (1989)
Batman Returns (1992)

Val Kilmer as Batman:
Batman Forever (1995)

George Clooney as Batman:
Batman & Robin (1997)

Christian Bale as Batman:
Batman Begins (2005)
The Dark Knight (2008)
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

In 2016 audiences will see how Ben Affleck fits into the role in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I grew up on DC Comics characters, so I am definitely excited to see the film. The only thing that would be better would to have a movie focused on Batman's sidekick, Robin (preferably played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt... Dark Knight Rises, why'd you tease us?).

Which actor do you prefer as Batman? Are you looking forward to Batman and Superman sharing the screen in Batman v Superman?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Recommended Film: Violet & Daisy

The plot is intriguing: two teenage girl assassins (Alexis Bledel and Saoirse Ronan) have trouble killing a mark (James Gandolfini). However, this recommendation is all about the performances, not plot. All three are initially playing against type. Bledel and Ronan, despite their beautiful faces, are obviously up to no good and Gandolfini is quite sympathetic, even pathetic.


Bledel does well playing really against type (those who know her from Gilmore Girls will understand) because she's the more aggressive of the two girls. But Ronan is the one to keep an eye on. She's already given some standout performances in her short career, and I would add this to the list even though this film didn't get much attention (if any) when it was released. There is a Tatiana Maslany cameo too, but if you blink, you'll miss her.

Violet & Daisy
Find it in the catalog!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Under the Radar Movies

Since prime time TV is pretty nil in the summer time, I usually like to catch up with movies and TV series I missed.  Below are three movies that came out relatively recently (in the last year or so), that didn't receive much buzz at the time, but are definitely worth seeking out.

Short Term 12 (2013):
Find in the catalog!

Initially I put off watching this movie, because the subject matter sounded rather depressing.  It's about a foster care home for neglected and troubled teens.  The film does have its dark moments, but there is enough humor and lightness to keep the movie from being downbeat.  Brie Lawson plays Grace, the lead councilor in charge of looking after the foster care home.  She's tough, but also very caring towards the teens staying under her care.  Her long term boyfriend Mason (a very bearded John Gallagher Jr.) also works as a counselor at the facility.   Marcus (Keith Stanfield) is on the verge and turning 18 and "graduating" out of foster care.  He is understandably apprehensive at the prospect of being returned to the streets where he grew up.  Meanwhile, a new teen, Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), arrives at the facility.  Jayden is a troublemaker, but comes from a slightly more privileged background than the other children.  However, she has some problems below the surface which Grace seems to be the only person who understands.

Even though the subject matter is somewhat bleak, I really enjoyed this movie.  Brie Lawson gives a standout performance as Grace.  It was also interesting to see John Gallagher Jr. play a character who is a world away from his preppy and somewhat wimpy Newsroom character.  He gives a really likeable performance here. I never quite knew where the plot was going and there were quite a few surprises.  However, the characters are drawn emphatically, so you wind up rooting for them in spite of their circumstances. 

Drinking Buddies (2013):
Find it in the catalog!

I'll admit I've always thought of Olivia Wilde as being an actress somewhat in the same category as Megan Fox:  very pretty, but not a whole lot of substance there.  Thankfully, I was wrong about Ms. Wilde, who gives a wonderful performance as the tomboyish Kate in this Joe Swanberg directed comedy.  Shot in Chicago (at Revolution Brewing Company, no less), this movie follows the friendship between two brewery employees, brewer Luke (Jake Johnston of New Girl) and the head of PR Kate.  Luke and Kate flirt like crazy and have a ton in common, but both are in relationships with other people.  Luke has a long term live-in girlfriend, Jill (Anna Kendrick).  And Kate has an older music producer beau, Chris (Ron Livingston). After the couples travel together for a long weekend, Chris decides to break up with Kate.  Afterwards, Kate's new found singleness causes some uneasiness with her friendship with Luke.

As a huge fan of craft beer and things set in Chicago, I was preordained to like this movie.  Drinking Buddies has a plot that is pretty true to life for a certain set of late 20/ early 30 somethings.  Johnston, Kendrick and Wilde all give pretty funny and nuanced performances.  I was particularly impressed by Wilde's take on Kate, a character who on paper seems like the perfect girl.  She's funny, smart, pretty, and can drink her weight in beer.  Yet she also has some intimacy and maturity issues underneath her bubbly exterior.

Frances Ha (2012):  
Find it in the catalog!

Out of the movies on the list, this was the only one I really anticipated before watching.  Partly because of the director (Noah Baumbach) and the star (Greta Gerwig).  And partly because I will watch anything about an awkward, late 20-something girl trying to figure out her life.  I tried to catch the movie in theaters, but the run was so short that I missed it.  Frances (Gerwig) is a 27 year-old wannabe dancer, who decides to break up with her boyfriend to spend more time with her best friend and roommate, Sophie (Mickey Sumner).  Unfortunately for Frances, Sophie gets serious with her stock broker beau, Patch, and moves out of their apartment.  Without Sophie, Frances becomes increasing lost and struggles to find a place to rent in NYC that she can afford.  Throughout the movie, we follow Frances as she moves into several different apartments and attempts (feebly) to become a grown up.

This movie is immensely relatable for late boomers to adulthood.  As someone who had her fair share of addresses in her twenties, I could see myself in Frances immediately.  Still that makes it all that much harder to watch her struggle, fail, and occasionally make a huge fool out of herself.  Frances has somewhat limited social skills and sometimes she does or says things incredibly stupid or inappropriate.  I found myself covering my eyes to avoid the awkwardness occasionally while watching this movie.  That being said, overall this is quite an enjoyable movie.  I especially enjoyed Frances's friendship with one of her roommates Benji (Michael Zegen); a trust-fund kid who's equally lost and unrealistic about life as Frances.  Benji jokes frequently that they are both "undateable."  The movie is shot beautifully in black and white, so it's a pleasure to look at as well.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Listen up: Voices by Phantogram


Big beats and big guitars. You can't get much better than that. Phantogram is an electro-rock duo from New York state, and they produce a big sound for only two people. Sarah Barthel handles the vocals, and she does so with power. While two other tracks initially caught my attention (Howling at the Moon and Bad Dreams), their single Fall In Love is catchy and completely exemplary of the band's sound, so if you like this single, you'll enjoy the entire album. Phantogram remind me of M83, with their fairly seamless integration of electronic elements. Also one of their tracks is titled Bill Murray - so there's that in their favor. It's a good one for listening to in the car, loudly.

Voices by Phantogram
Find it in the catalog!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Audio Obsession: Lost in the Dream by the War on Drugs

Lost in the Dream by the War on Drugs (2014).
Find it in the catalog!

This album has been on permanent repeat in my car since it came out in March.  I’ve been a fan of the War on Drugs since their 2011 album, Slave Ambient.  The band has a dreamy, sprawling sound that makes for excellent road music.  Additionally, I’m a huge sucker for break-up albums, which Lost in the Dream sort of is.  However, singer Adam Granduciel’s lyrical angst and anxiety span far beyond just the fate of one relationship.

A mixture of shoegaze and classic rock (think: Springsteen and Dylan), the War on Drugs has a sound that is familiar, but more expansive and distinctive.  Sort of like comfort food listening for the perpetually anxious.  Philadelphia guitarist Kurt Vile used to be a member of the band, and he’s probably the best touchstone for their sound.  However, Vile’s solo albums tend to be less complex and more upbeat.  Lost in the Dream incorporates a variety of sounds (synth riffs, horn blasts, discordant noise) into its guitar and drum driven propulsion forward.  Adam Granduciel’s voice is noticeably less Dylanesque here than on the band’s two previous album; which as much as I adore Dylan, is a nice change.  It makes his voice less distracting and blends-in better with the sound of the band’s music.

Overall, this is definitely my favorite album by the War on Drugs to date, and my favorite album of the year so far.  Stand out tracks for me include: “An Ocean Between the Waves,” “Suffering,”  the titular track “Lost in the Dream” and closer “In Reverse.”  Though all of the tracks on the album are enjoyable.  If you are planning on going on a road trip this summer, this album (or really anything by the War on Drugs) would make an excellent soundtrack!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Must-See Miniseries: The Hour

The Hour (2011).  
The Hour. Season 2 (2013). 

If you are looking for something new to watch now that most of the network TV shows have ended for the summer, check out the BBC miniseries The Hour.  Set in mid-1950s in London The Hour is about the creation of an current affairs news show for the BBC.   Hardscrabble journalist Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw) is tired of his job covering entertainment news (which he views as beneath him).  Lucky for him, his best friend/ creative partner Bel Rowley (Romola Garai) is recruited by their mentor Clarence Fendley (Anton Lesser) to help produce a brand new news program called The Hour.  Clarence decides on the upper-class, handsome news anchor Hector Madden (Dominic West aka. McNulty from the Wire) to host the program. 

The Hour is full of Cold War paranoia and intrigue, yet the stories covered have clear parallels to modern day.  As a huge Broadcast News fan,  I really enjoyed the love triangle plot between Freddie, Bel, and Hector.  There's definitely a clearer choice here than in Broadcast News, but it was nice to see a more sympathetic portrayal of the Aaron Altman character.  Garai, Whishaw and West all give excellent performances. I particularly enjoyed the chemistry between Garai and Whishaw as friends in the first season.  It was interesting to see West with his native British accent, since my main exposure to him was on the Wire.  He definitely comes off as far more gentlemanly than Jimmy McNulty.  I was also interested in the 1950s fashion aspect of the show.  Whishaw looks even cuter than usual in his tweed business wear, and Garai's wardrobe had me perusing Boden USA for similar styles of dresses.  Check it out!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Comfort Food Cinema: Broadcast News

 Cranky Network Manager:  "It must be nice to always believe that you know better, to always think you're the smartest person in the room."

Jane Craig:  "No. It's awful."


Broadcast News (1987).
Call No.:  DVD COMEDY BROADCAST
Find it in the catalog!

For many people the hey day of romantic comedies was in the 1930s and 40s.  And while I'm a huge fan of rom-coms from this period (His Girl Friday, The Philadelphia Story, anything with Jimmy Stewart), I'm also partial to romantic comedies from the 1980s.  While Broadcast News doesn't exactly fit the mold of romantic comedy perfectly; it's one of my favorites of the era. 

The film follows Jane Craig (Holly Hunter), a gifted, but neurotic news producer.  Her friend and frequent collaborator is Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks), a talented writer and investigative journalist who also has secret feelings for Jane.  However, her relationship with Altman, is challenged when her network hires the hunky, but less substantial journalist Tom Grunick (William Hurt).  Tom is a former sports reporter turned anchor  Though he is quickly promoted, he lacks the knowledge and integrity of a journalist like Jane or Aaron.  In spite of their different perspectives on journalism, Jane finds herself falling for Tom.

Albert Brooks really steals the show as Aaron Altman.  He's got some of the funniest lines in the movie.  Even though Altman can be smug and manipulative, it's really hard not to feel for the guy.  He's gifted, super smart, but gets passed over for a promotion because he lacks the charm and attractiveness of Tom.  This jealously towards Tom is only intensified because of his feelings for Jane, and her preference for Tom in spite of all the similarities she and Aaron share and their great chemistry as friends.  In one of the most cringe-inducing scenes of the movie, Aaron gets his shot at becoming an anchor, only to ruin it with an incredible flop sweat attack.

From the fashion to the technology, the film definitely is of the 80s.  Jane has one scene where she's dressed to impress, which does not translate at all to today's fashion.  However, the themes and relationships in the movie are still fresh today.  This is a wickedly funny movie that also has some real heartbreaking moments in it.  If you have not seen it before, or haven't watched it for a while, it's definitely worth checking out!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Guitly Pleasure Pick: Sixteen Candles

Sixteen Candles is celebrating it's 30th anniversary this week (eh, that makes me old ...) and it's another one that basically* holds up after all this time. It masquerades as a romance, but at the heart it's a coming of age story set in high school (this is a John Hughes movie after all).

Sam (Molly Ringwald) is soon to turn sixteen, but that milestone is overshadowed by her older sister's impending wedding, the arrival of extended family, and the arrival of a foreign exchange student. While all of these external forces are swirling, Sam is faced with the usual high school social pressures, and, of course, her first major crush Jake (Michael Schoeffling) - who's a popular Senior. Oh, and she's got a nerd (played by a baby-faced Anthony Michael Hall) that has a crush on her. Bonus: John Cusak has bit part as a nerd friend of Anthony Michael Hall. 

Sixteen Candles is lighter and funnier than the other main Molly Ringwald/John Hughes movies such as Pretty in Pink and Breakfast Club. I find Ringwald to be her most likeable in this film. There are many quotable lines and situational humor - the bantering between Sam and her siblings is quite realistic from my experience. I also enjoy Paul Dooley who plays Sam's father - their close relationship is a nice detail.

*The main problem it faces is the characterization of the foreign exchange student Long Duk Dong (played by Gedde Watanabe). At least the Asian character is played by an Asian-American actor (unlike Breakfast at Tiffany's).

Sixteen Candles
Find it in the catalog!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Captain America comics

Captain America: The Winter Soldier was the #1 movie over the weekend. This is the third Captain America appearance in the Marvel series of movies, following Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) and Marvel's The Avengers (2012). Looking for more Steve Rogers, but you've already watched the DVDs multiple times? Check out our graphic novel collection in the teen area:

We have a bunch of Captain America graphic novels on display, including those featuring the Winter Soldier villain. Here is a small sampling of some recent Captain America additions to the collection:

Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier Prelude by Stan Lee
Did you know Captain America was first introduced in 1941? This new book contains a selection of classic Captain America comics.


Winter Soldier Ultimate Collection
Contains the comics "Out of Time," "The Lonesome Death of Jack Monroe," and "Winter Soldier"

Captain America. Castaway in Dimension Z
Book One
Book Two

Captain America by Ed Brubaker
Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 4

Captain America & Hawkeye by Cullen Bunn

... Plus more! And of course you can find Iron Man, Thor, the Incredible Hulk, and the rest of the Avengers in the graphic novel collection as well.