Thursday, April 29, 2010

Desert Island Discs

Desert Island Discs is a BBC Radio 4 program that invites guests to list the eight pieces of music they'd take with them to the proverbial uninhabited island. One of the longest-running radio shows in history, Desert Island Discs has been on the air since 1942. The guests - or "castaways" - are a diverse group: from evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, to EGOT Whoopi Goldberg, to singer Morrissey. The concept itself is hardly specific to the radio-show. You've likely had similar discussions with friends. Something along the lines of, "If you were stuck on a desert island, and you could only listen to one song," etc. Setting aside the practical concerns of how you'd be listening to this music (Is there an MP3 player and power outlet on this island?) and how you'd be feeding and sheltering yourself for the duration, it's a fun exercise. It raises the question of how many times you can bear to listen to your favorite songs, as well the relevance and durability of the selections themselves. Here are eight pieces of music that I think I'd be pretty fortunate to have along, should I be foolish enough to hitch a ride on Oceanic Airlines.

John Coltrane: "My Favorite Things"
Find it in the catalog!

Rev. Gary Davis: "Candy Man"
Find it in the catalog!

Red House Painters: "Instrumental [demo]"
Find it in the catalog!

Otis Redding: "A Change is Gonna Come"
Find it in the catalog!

Nina Simone: "I Loves You, Porgy"
Find it in the catalog!

Patti Smith: "Gloria: In Excelsis Deo/Gloria"
Find it in the catalog!

Trio Wanderer: "Piano Trio No. 2" composed by Franz Schubert
Find it in the catalog!

Tom Waits: "Anywhere I Lay My Head"
Find it in the catalog!

I should add that this isn't exactly a list of my favorite songs of all time, though some of these songs would surely be included on such a list. Rather, this is a track-list tailored to my indefinite residence on the desert island.

Somebody save me: Superheroes on DVD

collage by Danielle!
I cannot wait to see Iron Man 2, which comes to theaters May 7. The first Iron Man movie was awesome not only for its action scenes but because of Robert Downey Jr.'s charismatic, humorous, and grounded performance as millionaire Tony Stark. Downey again teams with director Jon Favreau and co-star Gwyneth Paltrow for the next installment, which finds villain Ivan Vanko aka Whiplash (Mickey Rourke) looking to knock Iron Man down to size. Other cast additions include Scarlett Johannson as Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow and Don Cheadle, who replaces Terrence Howard as Col. James "Rhodey" Rhodes.

Plenty of other superheroes have been given the big screen treatment, sometimes going through several incarnations and visions within a short time period. The Batman films, which kicked off with Tim Burton's Batman in 1989, petered out with Joel Schumacher's Batman and Robin in 1997; the Batman franchise was then re-started with Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins in 2005. And of course, even before those Batman films Adam West played Batman in the 1966-68 Batman TV series and 1966 movie. Ang Lee's Hulk (2003) starring Eric Bana was a disappointment; in 2008 director Louis Leterrier took over with Edward Norton smashing things up in The Incredible Hulk. Three Spider-Man films directed by Sam Raimi have been made during the years 2002-2007. Shortly after the announcement that a Spider-Man 4 would be made came the news that the movie would follow Peter Parker in high school, meaning the search was on for an all new cast (bye bye Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst).

Other superhero films in development include The Green Hornet starring Seth Rogen (coming January 3-D), Thor starring Chris Hemsworth and directed by Kenneth Branagh(!) (May 2011), Green Lantern starring Ryan Reynolds (June 2011), The First Avenger: Captain America starring Chris Evans (July 2011), The Avengers (May 2012), and The Flash (still in early stages of development).

In celebration of superheroes I tried to compile as thorough of a list that I could from DVDs available at Dundee Library. DVDs are divided alphabetically by superhero.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Free movies at Dundee Public Township Library in May

Come to the library in May for a free movie! All movies are shown in the downstairs Meeting Room. You do not need to make reservations or get tickets to attend. Just remember that because audience capacity is limited to 80 people it is first come, first served. The Meeting Room doors open 30 minutes before the movie starts so you can grab seats and get your popcorn and beverages. Popcorn, drinks, and a movie on the big screen, all for free!

The Princess and the Frog
Saturday, May 8 at 2 PM
Rated G
Nominated for Best Animated Film at this year's Academy Awards.

Wednesday, May 19 at 6 PM
Rated PG
The Alfred Hitchcock classic, starring James Stewart and Kim Novak.

The Blind Side
Saturday, May 22 at 2 PM
Rated PG-13
Nominated for Best Picture and winner for Best Actress, Sandra Bullock.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Alec Baldwin: A Second Look

Nathan Rabin, author of The Big Rewind: A Memoir Brought to You By Pop Culture, has neatly and affectionately summed up Alec Baldwin's considerable assets: "The moody 30 Rock star has just about everything: devastating good looks, a voice like aged scotch, impeccable comic timing, boundless charisma, simmering intensity, voluminous talent, and a bizarre, colorful family dynasty. Yet he’s found countless ways to sabotage his career." The sabotage Rabin refers to is most evident in Baldwin's sometimes questionable career choices. (We'll leave aside the familial drama that has, on occasion, made him a target of the tabloids and "entertainment news.") For instance, the role of Mr. Conductor in Thomas and the Magic Railroad may not have been the most appropriate outlet for his talents. After all, this is the man whose shockingly aggressive performance in Glengarry Glen Ross is continually cited as one of the outstanding performances of the 1990s. His screen-time in that film? Well under ten minutes. Now that's charisma. Baldwin recently co-hosted the Academy Awards; he continues to shine on the NBC hit 30 Rock; and the new-to-DVD comedy It's Complicated was a considerable commercial success. So, why not take a closer look at this mercurial actor's career.

DVDs out April 27th

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus:  Director Terry Gilliam (Brazil, The Brothers Grimm) brings his distinctive creative flair to this retelling of the Faust tale. Notably, this is Heath Ledger's final onscreen performance. Starring: Christopher Plummer, Lily Cole, Peter Stormare, and actor/musician Tom Waits as Satan himself.
Find it in the catalog!

It's Complicated: Meryl Streep is the object of affection for both her ex-husband, played by Alec Baldwin, and the architect in her employ, played by Steve Martin. It's Complicated is a charming romantic comedy that offers some serious laughs, as well as some surprisingly sweet domestic detail. Written and directed by Nancy Meyers (Father of the Bride, The Holiday). Co-Starring: John Krasinski, Lake Bell, Mary Kay Place, and Rita Wilson.
Find it in the catalog!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sam Rockwell, part 3: 2007-current

Our third and final post (for now!) highlighting the work of actor Sam Rockwell.  Rockwell can be seen in the coming soon to theaters Iron Man 2.

In his review of the movie Choke, Roger Ebert liked Sam to a latter day Christopher Walken, saying, "...not all the time, but when you need him, he's your go-to guy for weirdness."  Sam does tend to play characters with a bit of an edge and both he and Walken can be zany show-stealers in otherwise lackluster comedies.  However, Sam differs from latter day Walken in that many of his best performances of late have been in dramas, not comedies.  I'd compare Sam more to Robert Downey Jr., because both actors are charismatic, good at playing likable anti-heros, have great comedic timing, and are a bit off-kilter.  In fact, Iron Man director Jon Favreau had Sam on the shortlist to play Tony Stark.  Downey Jr. won that part, but Favreau liked Sam so much that he cast him as Justin Hammer in the sequel.  Here we take a look at Sam's most recent movies, including many of his best performances:    

Everybody's Fine (2009)
Find it in the catalog!

Gentleman Broncos (2009).  From director of Napoleon Dynamite, Sam's role here is definitely skirting on Walken territory.  He plays the main character in the sci-fi novel written by Benjamin Purvis (Michael Angarano).  Probably the best thing about this movie are all of Sam's strange costumes (see above).
Find it in the catalog!

G-Force (2009)
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Moon (2009).  One of my favorite movies of last year and the only movie ever to have enough Sam Rockwell in it.  Sam plays an astronaut finishing up a three year job on the moon working for a company called Lunar Industries that mines for Helium-3 (a clean and reliable energy source) .  Sam is the lone occupant of the lunar station besides a computer named GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey).  Sam longs to be home with his wife and infant daughter Eve, and he begins to notice some health problems from being on the moon so long.  This is an interesting, thoughtful science-fiction movie similar to Silent Running, Solaris, or 2001: A Space Odysessy.  It is tense, moody, and frequently funny. Writer/ director Duncan Jones wrote this movie for Sam and it shows.  Sam gives one of the best performances in his career.  This is definitely a movie you can talk about for hours afterward. 
Find it in the catalog!
Frost/ Nixon (2008). Sam plays reporter James Reston Jr, who along with Bob Zelnick (Oliver Platt) must help semi-clueless playboy David Frost (Michael Sheen) come up with hard-hitting questions to ask Nixon in an interview.  Both Reston and Zelnick wrote exposés on Richard Nixon, and they bring a lot of passion and urgency to their task. They, however, have some doubts about Frost's abilities as an interviewer.  Rockwell and Platt both add energy and humor to their roles. 
Find it in the catalog!
Choke (2008).  Imagine All the Real Girls written by Fight Club author Palahniuk.  Sam plays Victor Mancini, a sex addict with a heart of gold.  Victor runs scams and works as a historical reenactor at Colonial Williamsburg theme park to keep his Alzheimer's-afflicted mother in the hospital.  There he meets Paige Marshall (Kelly MacDonald), the one girl he is afraid to sleep with.  This movie has lots to be offended by, including lots of nudity and some minor sacrilege, but it's basically a romantic comedy. Victor reminds me a bit of Dexter from the Showtime series, both characters are compulsive, have funny voice overs, and do terrible things but we somehow like them anyway.
Find it in the catalog!
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007).  Sam gives a great supporting performance as Charley Ford, brother to the Coward Robert (Casey Affleck).  Charley is Robert's in for joining the James gang.  My favorite part of the movie is after (spoiler alert!) James is shot, and Robert and Charley reenact their kill in a Wild West road show. Charley's guilt about James' murder eats away at him.  Charley is a somewhat stupid thug, but Rockwell brings depth and emotion to the character.
Find it in the catalog!
Snow Angels (2007). Sam gives a dark performance as Glenn Marchard, a recovering alcoholic with anger issues, who is some what unwillingly separated from his wife (Kate Beckinsale) and daughter.  Glenn has had some problems in the past, but he's trying to start over with a new job and by becoming a Christian.  I'm a huge fan of director David Gordon Green and Sam, but I held off watching this movie because the subject matter is somewhat bleak.  However, this is a beautiful movie with light touches like the relationship between Michael Angarano and Olivia Thirlby.  Gordon Green infuses all his movies with funny, quirky touches like Glenn jumping barefoot on a carpet while trying to make a sale. 
Find it in the catalog!

Still want more Rockwell? 
Check out his other movies in Part 1 and Part 2.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Happy birthday, William Shakespeare

Today is William Shakespeare's birthday (he was born in 1564 and died in 1616). What better way to celebrate than to watch a film adaptation of his work? I compiled a list of DVDs that are available at the Dundee Library (you can find even more by searching ALL LIBRARIES in our online catalog). One of my favorites is Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet from 1996. In addition to being the director, Branagh also plays the role of Hamlet, with Kate Winslet playing Ophelia. The actors in this film perform the full text of the play. Another favorite of mine is William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. Directed by Baz Luhrman, the setting is modern-day but the actors still speak Shakespearean English. Also of note are the unique details (sword = a type of gun; a newsanchor plays the role of the Chorus) and the awesome soundtrack.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Contrast of two roles: Steve Zahn

My two favorite performances by actor Steve Zahn include his 1996 role as Lenny in That Thing You Do! and his role as Duane in 2006's Rescue Dawn. Not only are these performances a decade apart, but they are polar opposites.

Let me begin with the fun, Tom Hank's directed That Thing You Do!, a movie in the vain of the Beatles' Hard Day's Night. It stars Tom Everett Scott, Johnathon Schaech, and Liv Tyler and follows the rise of a one-hit wonder band. Zahn is Lenny, the sarcastic guitarist with the best and most quotable lines. Lenny serves two purposes: to move the action along and to make the audience laugh. Only one of these is difficult, but Zahn is at ease and this is a part that he was clearly comfortable with. He has subsequently been cast in more comedic roles (most recently Diary of a Wimpy Kid).

On the other hand, Rescue Dawn is a harrowing Vietnam war-pic starring Christian Bale. Werner Herzog directed this biographical film about fighter pilot Dieter Dengler (Bale) and his captivity and escape from Laos after being shot down. He meets Zahn's character, Duane, in the prison camp. Duane is a beaten down man; all of the prisoners are in fact, until Dieter shows up and sparks some life and hope in these men. Eventually, Dieter and Duane depend on one another to survive the jungle. The desperation, utter lack of purpose, and borderline insanity that Zahn portrays is haunting-- especially when they believe they have been rescued, only to be betrayed. There was talk at the time that Zahn should be recognized for his performance during award show season, however the movie was released in July of 2006, and we all know that Hollywood tends to have a short memory when it comes to nominations. That aside, this is the performance of Zahn's career (at least to date). Besides, Zahn lost 40 pounds in order to play the role-- that's a sure sign of his commitment and a familiar tactic to his co-star Bale.

In turns, Steve Zahn has the capacity to be heartwarming and heartbreaking.

That Thing You Do!
Find it in the catalog!

Rescue Dawn
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Time Capsule Cinema: High Fidelity

"A while back, Dick, Barry and I agreed that what really matters is WHAT you like, not what you ARE like.  Books, records, movies, these things matter..."- Rob Gordon.

High Fidelity was one of my favorite movies in high school.  In hindsight, it seems strange that a 16 year-old girl would have so loved a movie about a 30-something, aging hipster male's commitment problems, but it probably has a lot to do with the fact that the aging hipster is played by John Cusack and that I could relate to the music and pop culture geekery of the main characters.

Based off a Nick Hornby novel but moved from London to Chicago, High Fidelity is set in late 90s Wicker Park, where Rob (John Cusack) owns a record store called Championship Vinyl and has just been dumped by his longtime girlfriend Laura (Iben Hjejle).  Rob works with two other music geeks: shy, nervous Dick (Todd Louiso) and boisterous, obnoxious Barry (Jack Black).  All three spend their days making weirdly specific top five lists (i.e. top five musical crimes perpetuated by Stevie Wonder in 80s and 90s) and chasing away customers from the store.  After his breakup, Rob makes a list of his top five breakups of all time (Laura is bitterly left off), and then decides to reconnect with the girls on the list to find out where he went wrong. 

High Fidelity does a great job of capturing the time and place of the movie.  I was not hip enough at the time to really feel nostalgic about the indie rock scene then, but I vaguely remember Dickies clothing and records being cool among a certain crowd (I did partake in latter and still have my turntable).  Barry's ironic t-shirt love is still hipster chic today.  Wicker Park was less gentrified and not yet overrun by boutiques, hipsters, or Josh Hartnett.  Rob even at one point remarks the record store's location (Milwaukee Ave. and Honore St.) was chosen to attract a minimum of foot traffic.  Now that would be a prime location along the main drag of Wicker Park/ Bucktown. 

The comedic performances in the movie are stellar.  John Cusack is somewhat playing against type.  He's still a laid back, hip guy, but he's not the über-devoted, romantic-bordering-on-stalking Lloyd Dobbler type.  He's a grumpy man child, who hates his job, his friends, and his life.  He's also somewhat more appealing than Dobbler.  Rob would never sulk after a boring square like Diane Court (she's probably never even heard of the Pixies) or listen to sentimental tacky crap like "In Your Eyes."  Much of the movie consists of Cusack's monologues, which could easily be stagy or boring.  However, John Cusack infuses them with a sweetness and a Bill Murray-esque zaniness.  Jack Black's performance as Barry really stood out at the time it was released and helped turn him into a big star.  He is definitely very funny in this movie and good at playing a self-absorbed jerk.  Todd Louiso gives my favorite performance as the quiet Dick, a constant target of Barry's beratement.  He is hilariously awkward and timid, but everybody probably knows someone like him. 

Even though High Fidelity is steeped in pop culture, it doesn't feel dated.  It helps that most of the characters' favorite movies and films are retro and obscure.  High Fidelity is one of the few movies that really gets alternative and geek culture right.  The soundtrack also holds up, featuring music from 13th Floor Elevators, the Kinks, Smog, Stereolab and more.

Find it in the catalog!  

If you ever find yourself really bored one day, you can visit the locations where the movie was shot.  Most are in Chicago.  Check them out here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Track Analysis: "Rabbit Fur Coat"

"Rabbit Fur Coat" - Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins

The title track of Jenny Lewis' solo debut is a beautifully written, ultimately disturbing, autobiographical sketch. Using her mother's rabbit fur coat as a recurring motif, Lewis recounts her life story as one inextricably linked to her mother's own early life and subsequent value-system.

Lewis begins with what might at first be taken for fairytale imagery, describing an altercation between her young mother and a wealthy girl. She matter-of-factly states, "I was of poor folk, But my mother had a rabbit fur coat. Then a girl of less character pushed her down the L.A. River, 'Hand over that rabbit fur coat.'" Whether out of jealousy or darker, unspecified motives, the girl takes exception to the coat and physically assaults her. Her mother "...really suffered for that, Spent her life in a gold-plated body cast." That is to say, she is paralyzed by her preoccupation with affluence. Though explicitly warned against doing so, the mother goes to the girl's "mansion house." The only one home is the girl's father, who invites her in. What transpires between the two is unclear, but the subtext is sexual. "They never sang a note, But she took off that rabbit fur coat." When her nemesis arrives at the house and accuses her of stealing from the mansion, the mother declares: "No, I'm in love with Mr. so and so, He invited me in, I'm a girl no more."

This back-story established, Lewis sings, "Let's move ahead twenty years, shall we?" Mother and daughter are living together in the San Fernando Valley. The mother supports them by working as a waitress and collecting welfare benefits. An unidentified woman makes an unsettling suggestion to the mother. "You treat your girl as your spouse, You can live in a mansion house." This is a reference to Lewis' early career as a child-actress (forgettable TV work, as well as co-starring with Fred Savage in the Nintendo-shilling movie The Wizard). It's a concise description of inverted family roles; Lewis, an adolescent at that time, taking on the role of bread-winner. The gambit pays off, with young Jenny Lewis becoming "a hundred-thousand-dollar kid." In what feels like a moment of earned self-realization, Lewis assesses the situation in this way: "When I was old enough to realize, Wiped the dust from my mother's eyes, It's all this for that rabbit fur coat." Her candid assessment: "But I'm not bitter about it, I've packed up my things and let them have at it, And the fortune faded as fortunes often do, And so did that mansion house." The epilogue concerning her mother's current whereabouts is devastating in its casualness: "Where my ma is now, I don't know, She was living in her car, I was living on the road, And I hear she's putting that stuff up her nose, And still wearing that rabbit fur coat." To her credit, the singer does not let herself off any easier. "But mostly I'm a hypocrite, I sing about the deficit, But when I sell out and leave Omaha, what will I get? A mansion house and a rabbit fur coat."

There's a lot for me to like about this song. I admire the confessional nature of the writing, drawing as it does on personal experience. The symmetry of the narrative and its imagery is impressive. Lewis uses the rabbit fur coat as a metaphor for financial striving, and she elegantly sustains this metaphor throughout. By beginning the narrative with her mother's traumatic early experiences, Lewis adds complexity and a level of empathy to what could otherwise be seen as a general recrimination of her mother's values.

Find "Rabbit Fur Coat" in the catalog!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

DVDs out April 20th

Crazy Heart: This musical-drama stars Jeff Bridges as a country singer whose years of hard-living have left him broken; his relationship with a young journalist (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) offers him a chance at redemption. Bridges was awarded a Best Actor Oscar for his performance. Co-Starring: Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell. Also, check out the soundtrack, which features the Academy Award-winning song "The Weary Kind."
Find it in the catalog!

The Lovely Bones: Based on the novel by Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones is the story of a 14-year-old girl (Saoirse Ronan) whose consciousness continues after she is murdered. In the afterlife, she prompts her father (Mark Wahlberg) to find her killer. Co-Starring: Michael Imperioli, Susan Sarandon, Stanely Tucci, and Rachel Weisz. Directed by Peter Jackson (King Kong, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy).
Find it in the catalog!

The Young Victoria: A biopic of Queen Victoria (Emily Blunt), from the time of her coronation through her marriage to Prince Albert (Rupert Friend). Written by Julian Fellowes, whose screenplay for the 2001 film Gosford Park earned him an Academy Award.
Find it in the catalog!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sam Rockwell, part 2: Hollywood breakthrough, (2002-2007).

We continue our look at the work of actor, legend, and former burrito delivery man: Sam Rockwell.

I first became a Sam Rockwell fan after watching Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, the bio pic/ thriller about Gong Show host Chuck Barris.  Rockwell stars as Barris in what truly is one the strangest bio pics ever made.  Based off Barris's memoir of the same name, the movie follows not only his rise as the father of reality TV, but also his supposed double-life as a CIA assassin.  Confessions was the directorial debut of George Clooney. Even though it bombed at the box office, it marked a shift in Rockwell's career. He began getting cast in mainstream Hollywood pictures as well as independent ones.

Welcome to Collinwood (2002).  Clooney and Rockwell first teamed up in this crime comedy, about five very stupid criminals who are planning the perfect heist.  This movie has a stellar cast including Patricia Clarkson, William H. Macy and Luis Guzman.  However, it was probably more fun to make than watch.  Rockwell is a pro at playing stupid criminals and he is very funny in his role.
Find it in the catalog!

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002).  Rockwell beat out big names like Johnny Depp, Ben Stiller and Mike Myers to play Chuck Barris.  Director George Clooney claims Rockwell resembles a young Chuck Barris, but I think he looks more like a boyish, sandy blond Johnny Depp.  Decide for yourself:

Nonetheless, Rockwell gives a stand out performance as Chuck Barris.  And Confessions is a fun, dark movie that one day might reach cult status.
Find it in the catalog!

Matchstick Men (2003).  In this caper, Rockwell plays sly con-man Frank Mercer. Frank is the protégé of obsessive-compulsive swindler Roy Waller (Nicholas Cage).  Frank loves the art of scamming people and longs for a big scam.  Meanwhile, Roy finds out he has a daughter (Alison Lohman) he didn't know about from his former marriage and begins to develop a relationship with his now teenage daughter. 
Find it in the catalog!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Movie you should check out: Big Fan

This dark comedy is about a man named Paul (Patton Oswalt) whose life revolves around the New York Giants. In his thirties, Paul lives at home with his mother and has a bedroom filled with sports memoriabilla. Paul and his best friend Sal (Kevin Corrigan) always watch the Giants games in the parking lot of the stadium. His brother and sister are both married. Paul's mother and siblings (and siblings-in-law), wonder why he doesn't want a better job or a girlfriend. At night Paul works as a parking lot attendant and thoughtfully writes in a notebook his script for the calls he makes to a late night sports radio show. Known as Paul from Staten Island, he battles back and forth with Eagles fan Philadelphia Phil (Michael Rapaport).

One day Paul and Sal spot Giants quarterback Quantrell Bishop out in public. They follow him to a club in Manhattan, where they hope to talk to him. Bishop's response to their admiration isn't what they hoped and Bishop attacks Paul, resulting in a week-long hospital stay. Members of Paul's family (including his brother, a lawyer) recommend that Paul sue Bishop. Bishop is suspended from playing and the newspapers and sports media go crazy talking about the subject of spoiled athletes who feel invincible. Paul refuses to talk to the cops and even calls in to the radio show to defend Bishop. Things get even worse from there, as Paul's life just doesn't seem right without being obsessed about the Giants.

I think Big Fan is an interesting and disturbing insight into a person who cannot live without his beloved team and quarterback. Paul lies to himself about what happened with Bishop because he lives only for the Giants. He is animated and passionate when talking about the Giants, but he is not able to connect with people in any other way.

Find it in the catalog!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Crooner in concert: Michael Bublé

Saturday, March 27, Michael Bublé performed to a sold-out crowd at the Allstate Arena. Apart from the difficult time leaving the parking lot after the show (jeez!), it was a welcome night out.

His 13-member backing band, comprised of brass, piano, and percussion, was excellent. (And a classy Bublé introduced them all throughout the show.) Despite being in an arena, the atmosphere was that of a modern club, with cool nightlife scenes running in the background. Naturally, there weren't any special effects; the focus was on the charm and talent of the musicians and singer. Bublé has a sharp wit and his interactions with the crowd were amusing.

Some of the highlights included his performance of Home, a favorite of mine, and when he described how the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off influenced him. Mathew Broderick's scene on the parade float "made him want be a singer"-- he sang a couple of lines from Twist and Shout to prove it.

His performance of Feeling Good was the crescendo to the concert and he began the last encore, Song For You, on the mike and ended without it. We could hear him perfectly across the length of the arena. Impressive.

Crazy Love (2009)
Find it in the catalog!

Michael Buble Meets Madison Square Garden (2009)
Find it in the catalog!

Call Me Irresponsible (2007)
Find it in the catalog!

Sam Rockwell, part 1: The Early Years, (1989-2000)

Sam Rockwell appears as Justin Hammer in the forthcoming Iron Man 2 movie.  You may recognize him from his supporting work in movies like Frost/ Nixon, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, or the Green Mile.  Rockwell has been around for more than two decades, playing a mixture of leading and supporting roles.  Though he had some early career success, including playing the head thug in 1990's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Rockwell still had to work side jobs including delivering burritos on a bicycle and working as a private detective.  It wasn't until a 1994 Miller Ice Commercial that he had enough money and buzz that he could pursue acting full time.  Soon after, Rockwell began to get work in independent film, including Lawn Dogs and Box of Moon Light.

Throughout his career, Rockwell has primarily portrayed characters on the fringes of society: criminals (Welcome to Collinwood, The Green Mile), isolated blue collar workers (Lawn Dogs, Moon), and the just plain weird (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind).  Rockwell brings energy and charm to every role he plays, even characters that on paper are unlikeable.  For proof of Rockwell's versatile talent and awesomeness, watch him out funny Jonah Hill and Michael Cera in the Tutors of 826 L.A. (warning: clip contains adult language and general silliness). Here we look at his early films:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990).
Find it in the catalog! 
Box of Moon Light (1996).  A whimsical, proto-bromance comedy starring John Turturro as Al Fountain, an uptight electrical engineer, who meets the free-spirited Kid (Sam Rockwell) on a business trip.  The Kid wears a Davey Crockett hat, lives in half of a trailer in the woods, and is a black market lawn ornament dealer.  He helps Al find a new lease on life.  The film is less quirky than it sounds and is an uplifting buddy comedy. 
Find it in the catalog!

Lawn Dogs (1997). Rockwell stars as Trent, a landscaper for a wealthy subdivision in Kentucky, where he is treated like dirt by the subdivision dwellers. A rebellious 10-year-old (Mischa Barton) strikes up a friendship with Trent, which is misunderstood and frowned upon by the subdivision community more because of their class differences than their ages. This movie has a highly stylized look and satirical depictions of the upper-class residents of the subdivision, and it takes a few minutes to adjust to the tone of the movie.  However, once you get in to the flow of the movie, it's a moving film about friendship.  I particularly like the magical realism in the ending.
Find it in the catalog!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Latin Jazz at Your Library

Last Sunday, pianist Samuel del Real and the Latin Jazz Trio performed for a sold-out audience at the Dundee Township Public Library. The event received considerable praise from patrons who attended. If you were not among that lucky bunch, here's an opportunity to hear the Latin American rhythms that wowed the crowd.

Piano Caliente
Find it in the catalog! 

Piano Navideño
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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

National Library Week: Libraries and Librarians in the Movies

Don't think that there's anything too exciting about libraries, just a bunch of people reading and studying?  Libraries can be places of action and adventure; after all, treasure hunters have to go somewhere to do their research!  In honor of National Library Week, here's a list of movies featuring libraries and librarians: 

The Breakfast Club (1985).  Five students are forced to spend their Saturday in detention at the school library.  Though they all represent different high school stereotypes (i.e. the jock, the nerd, etc.), they bond over hating their parents, their lives, and their school.  Written and directed by John Hughes and filmed locally in Des Plaines.  For a modern spin on the Breakfast Club set at a community college, check out Community on NBC (Thursdays at 7 P.M.)
Find it in the Catalog

Desk Set (1957).  Set in the reference library of broadcasting network, Katherine Hepburn plays Bunny Watson,  a super capable reference librarian.  When computer engineer and efficiency expert Richard Sumner (Spencer Tracy) starts poking his nose around the library, Bunny and the other librarians are afraid they'll be replaced by the computer he invented.  But of course, the computer proves to be no match for Kate Hepburn.  
Find it in the Catalog

Ghostbusters (1984).  Shushing from the grave?  Peter Venkman and crew check out the ghost of a librarian haunting the New York Public Library.  Seems she can't handle the messy shelves:

     Dr. Ray Stantz: Symmetrical book stacking. Just like the Philadelphia mass turbulence of 1947.
     Dr. Peter Veckman:  You're right, no human being would stack books like this.
Find it in the Catalog

DVDs out April 13th

Faces of America: A four-part PBS series that traces the genealogical histories of twelve well-known Americans: author Elizabeth Alexander, super-chef Mario Batali, comedian Stephen Colbert, author Louise Erdrich, journalist Malcolm Gladwell, actress Eva Longoria, virtuoso cellist Yo-Yo Ma, director Mike Nichols, global advocate Queen Noor, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Academy Award winning actress Meryl Streep, and olympic figur skater Kristi Yamaguchi. Hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Find it in the catalog!

Pirate Radio: Set in 1966, Pirate Radio is the comedic tale of a group of rock 'n roll enthusiasts who illegally broadcast their own radio station to the United Kingdom. Their gleeful counter-culturalism puts them at odds with conservative English politicians. The ensemble cast includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, January Jones, and a host of British thespians, including Kenneth Branagh, Nick Frost, Rhys Ifans, Bill Nighy, Talulah Riley, and Emma Thompson. Directed by Richard Curtis (Love Actually).
Find it in the catalog!

Tenderness: A crime drama adapted from the novel by Robert Cormier. Russell Crowe (Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind) stars as a police detective on the trail of a young man wanted for murder. Co-starring: Jon Foster, Sophie Traub, and Laura Dern.
Find it in the catalog!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Poets on DVD

To celebrate April being National Poetry Month I put together a list of DVDs that include characters who are poets or are involved with poetry in some way. Some are about famous poets (John Keats in Bright Star, Dylan Thomas in The Edge of Love, Federico Garcia Lorca in Little Ashes), and some are just regular characters played by famous people. Take a look at the list and maybe you'll see a title that looks interesting!

Planet 51 at the library!

75 people attended yesterday afternoon's free showing of Planet 51 at the library! I put out a variety of coloring pages that featured the characters from Planet 51 and also How to Train Your Dragon, and they all disappeared by the end of the movie. I will be sure to have more on hand for the next family-oriented film we show (Field of Dreams on April 17). I think everyone had a good time. Here is what one audience member had to say:
"I thought it was entertaining and amusing. It was like a kid designed the inventions and the humor was genius. All in all it was awesome."
-- Haley B, age 10, East Dundee
If you haven't a chance to check out Planet 51, you can put yourself on hold for a copy from the library:
Find it in the catalog!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Howard Zinn: The People's Historian

Howard Zinn is best known as author of the eminently readable magnum opus  A People's History of the United States: 1492-Present; a powerful and inclusive text that follows the course of American social history from the "discovery" in 1492 through to the Millennium. Howard Zinn passed away January 27, 2010, at the age of 87. His long life of activism and scholarship continues to inspire social engagement and engender debate. 

The People Speak: A companion volume to A People's History, titled The People Speak: American Voices, Some Famous, Some Little Known, Dramatic Readings Celebrating the Enduring Spirit of Dissent. Delivering on its title, The People Speak is an anthology of primary source material that includes the words of well known historical figures (Frederick Douglass, Mark Twain) as well as people who are all too often treated as historical non-entities: Native Americans, slaves, migrant-workers, the unemployed, and the working poor. In 2009, the History Channel adapted the book into a documentary. Some of the actors who provide dramatic readings: Benjamin Bratt, Josh Brolin, Matt Damon, Morgan Freeman, Danny Glover, Christina Kirk, Viggo Mortenson, Mike O'Malley, Marisa Tomei, and Kerry Washington.
Find it in the catalog!

You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train:  Professor Zinn's memoir, You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times, has also been adapted as a documentary. The film features archival material, insightful interviews with Zinn himself, and comments from some of his contemporaries, including Noam Chomsky, Marian Wright Edelman, Daniel Ellsberg, and Alice Walker.
Find it in the catalog!

Guilty Pleasure Pick: Signs

M. Night Shyamalan doesn't exactly have a great reputation as a director.  Since his blockbuster debut, the Sixth Sense, Shyamalan has become sort of a one trick pony (horror movies with twist endings) and his films seem to be increasingly critically panned.  Signs stands apart in his oeuvre because it doesn't really have a twist ending. The movie also works better as a comedy than a horror movie for me, though there are some genuinely tense moments in it. 

For those unfamiliar with the movie, it is about widowed Reverend Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) who lost his faith after his wife died.  He lives on a farm with his two kids (Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin) and his brother (Joaquin Phoenix).  When mysterious crop circles start appearing in their cornfield, some of the locals in his town believe they may have been created by aliens.

The Five Best Things about Signs:

1).  Joaquin Phoenix before he became a rap star: The best reason to see this movie is probably Joaquin Phoenix's performance.  Before he became the This is Spinal Tap version of himself, Phoenix was a credible and talented actor, turning out interesting performances in movies like Quills, Gladiator, and Hotel Rwanda.  Here he plays Merrill Hess, a former minor league baseball star.  Merrill is not the brightest character and is the source for a lot of the humor in the movie. Phoenix is probably best known for his work in serious roles like Walk the Line, but here he demonstrates his comedic abilities. 

2).  Merrill's monologue on fate: One time, I was at this party... and I was sitting on the couch with Amanda McKinney. She was just sitting there, looking beautiful. So, I lean in to kiss her, and I realize I have gum in my mouth. So, I turn to spit it out and put it in a paper cup. I turn back, and Amanda McKinney throws up all over herself. I knew the moment it happened, it was a miracle. I could have been kissing her when she threw up. It would have scarred me for life. I may never have recovered.

3). Michael Showalter in a non-humorous role:  Primarily a comedian, Showalter appears in only one scene as Lionel Prichard, who refers to Merrill as a "class A-screw up" to an army recruiter.  To see Showalter's funny side, check out the State, the Baxter or the Michael Showalter Showalter (warning: clips contain adult language).

4). Tracy Abernathy: A pharmacist with a foul mouth who confesses all her sins to Reverend Graham because she believe the alien invasion is a sign of the end of the world.

5). The tin foil scene:

Find it in the Catalog

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Blossom on DVD: Whoa!

Flower hats. Funky, vibrant-colored clothes. "Whoa!" I can only be talking about one TV show: Blossom. Seasons 1 and 2 of the series, which originally ran on NBC from 1991-1995, were released on DVD in a 6-disc set last year. The show follows California teenager Blossom Russo (Mayim Bialik), who lives with her divorced father and two older brothers Joey and Anthony. Her mother, a singer, left the family to go sing around the world. Her father Nick (Ted Wass) is a musician. Joey (Joey Lawrence) is a bit slow in the thinking department and very girl-crazy. Anthony (Michael Stoyanov), a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, is an EMT. Blossom's best friend is Six (Jenna von Oy), famous for her speedy way of gossiping and the flower hats she wears. Six also shares Blossom's penchant for quirky fashion choices. Blossom features one of the best opening credit sequences ever, with Mayim Bialik dancing to the song "My Opinionation" in front of the camera in six different outfits (my favorite is the oversize sweater and skirt made of ties).

The fashion and pop culture references on the show will make you nostalgic for the early '90s. Blossom and Six crush on actors Johnny Depp, Jason Priestley, and Luke Perry. Anthony hopes to score tickets to a Rolling Stones concert: "This could be the last time they tour!" Joey fantasizes about supermodels Cindy Crawford and Elle McPherson. Nick gets a gig appearing in a Paula Abdul video. The episode "Blossom: A Rockumentary" is an awesome take-off on the Madonna documentary Truth or Dare. Shot in black and white, this is flu-stricken Blossom's dream about herself as a spoiled rock star and features tons of guest stars. In other episodes celebrities like the Fresh Prince (aka Will Smith), Salt N Pepa, and C+C Music Factory make appearances.

What makes the show unique is that the humor is not dumbed down for the teenage audience. In addition to having sleepovers and practicing their dance moves, Blossom and Six talk honestly about topics including boys, music, clothes, marriage, their futures, birth control, and even the idea of plastic surgery. It is refreshing that the teenagers are actually played by teenage actors and not twentysomethings. The comedic timing of the actors is wonderful, and I always find something to laugh out loud about in each episode. Each actor completely defined his or her character; I think Blossom and Joey are two of the most memorable characters in television history.

The special features on this DVD set are worth watching. "A Very Special Show" talks about how creator Don Reo conceived the series (it was originally supposed to be centered on a boy). Reo wanted to cast kids who looked real and had talent, and he received resistance from the studio for all of his casting choices because the actors weren't the blond Hollywood types. The segment "A Very Special Friendship" interviews Mayim and Jenna, who are embarrassed to remember how they used to sing Wilson Phillips songs together. "A Very Special Style" interviews costume designer Sherry Thompson about her inspiration for creating Blossom's wardrobe, which featured ethnic and vintage pieces at a time when vintage clothing items weren't really popular.

Blossom. Seasons 1 (1991) and 2 (1991-92)
Find it in the catalog!

By the way, Mayim Bialik will be appearing this season on an episode of The Big Bang Theory: read the article here.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Beach House at Metro, 4/2/10

Baltimore-based indie rockers Beach House played to a sold-out crowd at Wrigleyville's Metro theater on April 2. Beach House is popular among the Media Corner team, fellow staff member Linda previously wrote up their most recent album Teen Dream. I've been a fan since their self-titled debut, but this was my first time seeing them live.

New Zealander Annabel Alpers aka. Bachelorette opened for Beach House, and it was one of those rare instances where the opening act complimented the headliner well. Bachelorette has an electro-pop sound accompanied by Alpers' strong vocals. She overlaps her vocals on many of tracks, giving her a hint of 1960s girl group sound. Alpers has kind of an awkward, Charlyne Yi-esque stage persona. I doubt that most people in the audience had heard of her before the show, but she won over much of the audience after her set.

The mood in the theater was definitely interesting throughout the night.  Metro tends to encourage concert-goers to also visit its neighboring Smart Bar before and after shows. You couldn't ask for a more excited or receptive audience, though you could tell that many had partaken in the pre-show libation.  By the end of the night, it was rowdier crowd than you expect at most shows for dream pop bands, especially considering the concert was finished by midnight on a Friday night. 

Beach House took the stage at around 10 PM and played for about an hour and half.  The stage decorations for their set consisted of sparkly, shiny pyramids which, in combination with foggy haze of the theater and dark lighting, was reminiscence of a school dance.  Their set consisted mostly of songs off  Teen Dream with a few older songs thrown in the mix ("Gila" and "Master of None").  Lead singer Victoria Legrand's smoky, booming voice is one of the major strengths of the band and in the smaller venue it really stood out.  Perhaps due to the somber, dreamy sound of the band, I was somewhat surprised by how much charisma Legrand had in person.  Between her constantly moving, flowing locks and funny on-stage banter, she turned many of the too-cool-to-care hipster boys in the audience into teenyboppers.  One boozy concert-goer near me gleefully announced to his friends, "I think she'd like me" in reference to Legrand. Band mate Alex Scally was on the quieter side, their touring drummer actually interacted more with the audience than Scally did. However, Scally's guitar work made up for his lack of showmanship.  Highlights of their set included "Norway," "Used to Be" and an encore performance of "10 Mile Stereo."

Monday, April 5, 2010

DVDs out April 6th

Bad Lieutenant - Port of Call New Orleans: The eminent director Werner Herzog has just bolstered his reputation for legendary eccentricity. His latest feature is a remake of the pulpy 1992 crime drama Bad Lieutenant. The original was a way-over-the-top picture starring Harvey Keitel as a drug-abusing NYPD officer investigating a particularly revolting crime. Not so much a remake as a reimagining, Port of Call New Orleans stars Nicolas Cage as a burnt-out cop in post-Katrina New Orleans. Roger Ebert, an ardent admirer of Herzog's work, named it one of the Top Ten Mainstream Films of 2009. Having said that, Ebert's laudatory review was probably not the majority opinion. Co-Starring: Eva Mendes and Val Kilmer.
Find it in the catalog!

The Collector: A horror/slasher film involving an ex-con (Josh Stewart) who gets more than he bargains for in attempting to burglarize his employer's home. Cut from the same sadistic cloth as the numerous entries in the Saw franchise. Co-Starring: Madeline Zima and Andrea Roth.
Find it in the catalog!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Free movies in April at Dundee Township Public Library

Come to the library to catch one of our free movie screenings in April. You do not need tickets or reservations to attend. All the movies are shown in the Meeting Room, which is located on the lower level of the library. Since the audience capacity is limited to 80 people you'll want to arrive before the movie's schedule start time. For each movie we open the Meeting Room doors 30 minutes before showtime so audience members can get their drinks, popcorn, and seats!

Planet 51
Rated PG; 1 hour 31 min.
Saturday, April 10
Popcorn and refreshments served starting at 1:30 PM
Movie starts at 2 PM

The Informant!
Rated R; 1 hour 48 min.
Popcorn and refreshments served starting at 5:30 PM
Movie starts at 6 PM

Field of Dreams
Rated PG; 1 hour 47 min.
Popcorn and refreshments served starting at 1:30 PM
Movie starts at 2 PM

Friday, April 2, 2010

Paul Schneider

Handsome in a laid-back, scruffy sort of way, Paul Schneider has played his share of lady-killers in film (All the Real Girls, the Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) and on TV (Parks and Recreation). Based partly on his real life, his role in David Gordon Green's All the Real Girls was his break-out performance and the reason I'll always be just a little bit in love with him.  He plays the town Lothario who decides to take it slow with his best friend's sister.  Paul's performance is sweet, tender, and occasionally swoon-worthy, but he doesn't shy away from his character's angry and insensitive tendencies either.  If you haven't seen the movie, I highly recommend it.  It's one of the best dramas about young people in love.  Look for before-they-were-famous performances by Danny McBride and Zooey Deschanel too.

He has also given several interesting performances in supporting roles.  In Lars and the Real Girl, he played Lars's brother, Gus, who is the only character in the movie that seems disturbed by Lars's relationship with the Real Girl doll.  Gus is sort of a stand in for the audience with his skepticism towards the relationship and Paul gives a funny and realistic performance.  Director Jane Campion was so impressed with his performance in the western epic Assassination of Jesse James that she cast him as the Scottish poet Charles Brown in Bright Star.   Brown was a close friend to poet John Keats, who tries to sabotage Keats relationship with neighbor Fanny Brawne.  His performance as Brown earned him a National Society of Film Critics award for best supporting actor. 

Paul Schneider's star is definitely on the rise.  Recently he decided to leave Parks and Recreation after this season so he can act in more movie roles. Check him out in one of the DVDs we have available at the library:

Parks and Recreation: Season 1.
Find it in the Catalog.

Away We Go.
Find it in the Catalog.

Bright Star.
Find it in the Catalog.

Drunk History: Episode 4.
Find it on the Web.

Lars and the Real Girl.
Find it in the Catalog.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
Find it in the Catalog.

The Family Stone.
Find it in the Catalog.

Find it in the Catalog.

All the Real Girls.
Find it in the Catalog.

George Washington.
Find it in the Catalog.

Nicholas Sparks movies: Who's going to die? (Spoilers Ahead!)

 Disclaimer: It goes without saying, you shouldn't read this post if you haven't seen the movie and knowing the deceased party will ruin it for you.  Also, you probably shouldn't read it if you think The Notebook is one the most romantic books/ movies ever.   

It's seems like in all of Nicholas Sparks's books (and the movies based off them), characters fall in love only to meet some sort of tragic end.  So why waste time watching the movie when you can just find out who dies?  Spare the sap, the movie is just going to make you cry anyway!  After the jump, read the break-down of who kicks the bucket: