Friday, December 12, 2014

What to Watch if You're Still Mourning the Loss of "Sex and the City"

Via Collider

If you're anything like me, you spent your early 20s trying to figure out if you were more of a Carrie or a Samantha. Or maybe even a Charlotte. Tragically, it turns out I'm a Miranda (sigh). Those four women taught me everything I know about life, like the universe may not always play fair, but at least its got a hell of a sense of humor. Or that soulmates only exist in the Hallmark aisle of Duane Reade Drugs. When HBO decided to cut ties with the series, thousands of Carrie-wannabes' hearts broke. Luckily, SJP's legacy lives on. 

Girls (HBO)
Wait...haven't we seen this before? Four women, living in New York City, skating through life one mistake at a time? Created by Lena Dunham, Girls is SATC for Millennials. Dunham herself stars as Hannah Horvath, an aspiring writer living on her parents' dime. There's also Marnie, an art gallery assistant, Jessa, and Shoshanna. The raw humor of their dynamic provides some big laughs throughout the first three seasons. A fourth season is set to air beginning January 11, 2015 on HBO. 

Broad City (Comedy Central) 
Okay, so these women are nothing like Carrie and co. They are, however, twentysomethings biding their time in NYC until real life catches up to them. When we first meet Ilana and Abbi, we have no way of knowing just how long they’ve been friends. But their dynamic is already so comfortable that they don’t feel the need to spend half the pilot telling us who these characters are. Plus, Broad City is a Web series-turned-cable-comedy so fans of Ilana and Abbi should already have an idea of what they're getting into. Based on their lives in New York, the show delves into the everyday indignities that make being a young, single, broke person in a big city a fascinating, hilarious — but generally humiliating — experience. Broad City was named one of The A.V. Club's Best TV shows of 2014.

The Carries Diaries (The CW) 
If you've ever wondered how Carrie Bradsahw came to be the woman she is, or how her love affair with Manhattan began, then you can rent The Carrie Diaries on DVD. The CW cancelled the prequel after two seasons, but that doesn't mean it wasn't good TV. High school Carrie was every bit as fabulous as grownup Carrie and watching her get to know Samantha Jones was every SATC fan's dream. It's just too bad we didn't get to see how she came to be friends with Miranda and Charlotte. You can, however, read about it here.  

Via Buzzfeed

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Christmas classics on the big screen

It's the most wonderful time of the year, when Christmas classics are shown in movie theaters! And what's better than seeing a classic black and white Christmas movie on the big screen? When that movie screen is inside a historic theater such as the Catlow in Barrington, Tivoli in Downers Grove, or Music Box in Chicago, just to name a few. You can watch stars like Barbara Stanwyck, Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, Fred MacMurray, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Rosemary Clooney, larger than life... I'm in!

Here is a list I compiled of upcoming movie screenings, for the most part at historic movie theaters, in the suburbs and Chicago. I will be attending the TCM double feature of A Christmas Carol and Christmas in Connecticut this weekend and also have tickets to the Annual Music Box Christmas Show. Do you have any plans to catch a Christmas movie in theaters this month?

● Various theaters, including Regal Crystal Lake Showplace Stadium 16 and Century 16 Deer Park

A Christmas Carol (1938) and Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
Sunday, December 7 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Presented by TCM, with an introduction by Ben Mankiewicz

Cinema 12 - 100 LW Besinger Drive, Carpentersville, IL  
Home Alone
Saturday, December 20 at 10 a.m- Free!
Pictures with Santa before the show

Catlow Theatre - 116 W. Main Street, Barrington, IL

It’s a Wonderful Life
Saturday, December 6 at 11 am

The Polar Express
Saturday, December 13 at 11 am

A Christmas Carol (1951)
Saturday, December 20 at 11 am

Tivoli Theatre - 5021 Highland Ave, Downers Grove, IL
Pre-show sing-a-long accompanied by Wurlitzer Theatre pipe organ

The Miracle of the Bells (1948)
Monday, December 8 at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

White Christmas (1954)
Wednesday, December 10 at 1:30 p.m., 4 p.m., 7 p.m., and 9:30 p.m.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
Thursday, December 11 at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m

It's a Wonderful Life - 2014 Christmas Benefit Show
Saturday, December 13 at 1:30 p.m.; Sunday, December 14 at 1:30 p.m.
Proceeds to Sharing Connection Furniture Bank

Music Box Theatre - 3733 N. Southport Ave, Chicago

A Night with Elf
Thursday, December 4 at 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Annual Music Box Christmas Show - White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life
Friday, December 12 - Thursday, December 25

Alternative Christmas Double Feature - Home Alone and Die Hard
Wednesday, December 17

Patio Theatre - 6008 W. Irving Park Rd, Chicago

Christmas Cartoons
Saturday, December 13 at 2 p.m. - free!
Showing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and The Little Drummer Boy

It's a Wonderful Life
Sunday, December 21 at 2 p.m. - free!
Plus, take pictures with Santa before the show.

Glen Art Theatre - 540 Crescent Blvd #1, Glen Ellyn, IL

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Saturday, December 6 at 10:30 am - free!

The Polar Express
Saturday, December 13 at 10:30 am - free!

The Muppet Christmas Carol
Saturday, December 20 at 10:30 am - free!

Woodstock Theatre - 209 Main Street, Woodstock, IL 60098

Arthur Christmas
Saturday, December 13 at 10 a.m.
pictures with Santa

Ogden 6 Theatre - 1227 East Ogden Ave, Naperville

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Saturday, December 6 at 10 a.m. - free!

Check out additional holiday film showings at other theaters at the  Classic Cinemas website.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Country Albums You Can't Miss

 You may not have guessed it from my first post, but I'm a whiskey drinkin', cowboy chasin', hell of a time (that's a Brooks & Dunn reference...I'm not actually that clever). Some of my favorite albums of all time include George Strait's Easy Come, Easy Go and Garth Brooks' Ropin the Wind. While a lot of people tend to believe that country music is only for the beer-drinking or the brokenhearted-mostly true- it's also for the hopeless romantics and the old souls like myself. So, without further ado, here are some country albums you may have missed, coming from a self-proclaimed expert in the genre. 

Brandy Clark: 12 Stories
Released in 2013, Brandy's album is the quintessential country album. A huge relief for true country fans: Brandy's writing tackles topics like drug abuse, murder, and adultery. Most of the songs on this album have just been waiting to be recorded while Brandy has been busy writing chart toppers for superstars like Miranda Lambert, The Band Perry, and Keith Urban. Whether you're a fan of contemporary country or a Dolly Parton diehard, 12 Stories is worth checking out. Stand-out tracks: Get High, Hold My Hand, Pray to Jesus

Eric Church: The Outsiders

On his fourth studio album, North Carolina singer-songwriter Eric Church made a record that's weirder, louder and even more badass than any before. Church is a crafty, ambitious songwriter with a sensitive, rueful side. With The Outsiders, Church splits the difference between contemporary country's biggest trends: new-school storytelling (Kacey Musgraves, Ashley Monroe ) and check-cashing bro-country (Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan). And why not? His success raises the bar of possibility in an overcautious industry. Stand-out tracks: Like a Wrecking Ball, That's Damn Rock & Roll, The Joint

Ashley Monroe: Like a Rose

Monroe is classic, Tennessee country. I first discovered her when the Pistol Annies released their debut album in 2011. She can only be described as "sassy" or "spunky" or with some other coded feminine adjectives. Her second solo album Like a Rose brings out the singer's true colors. Similar to Clark in that her writing doesn't shy away from darker themes, the lyrics are as close as you can get to poetry in country music. Stand-out tracks: Used, Monroe Suede, You Ain't Dolly (And You Ain't Porter)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Neil Young - Storytone

Being a die hard Neil Young fan, I'll admit that when I heard he was releasing an album with a full orchestra, I thought I'd probably give it a single listen and never play it again. Let it be known that my least favorite Neil Young song, "There's a World", completely ruined his most famous album for me, to be sure. It sits right there at track 7 of 10 chalk full of flutes and bells, destroying the folky-flow of the rest of the album. I can honestly say I have never listened to that song all the way through on purpose.

That aside, it's not surprising that Neil would come out with an orchestral album. He's long been known for creating albums that send record labels into all out frenzies (see Trans and Everybody's Rockin'). He has, after all, promised to compose a full length orchestral piece since the release of Harvest in 1972. Really, it seems the older he gets, the less he cares about what his fans think. There is something to be said for that, however.

Some of his most recent albums have been troubling at first listen but over time, I've concluded that many of them are actually some of his finest. Take A Letter Home as an example, the album that was recorded directly to vinyl using a 1947 Voice-o-Graph vinyl recording booth. It wasn't until I actually listened to the vinyl itself that I got the true feeling embedded in it. Whoa.

In any case, I can't say that I like Storytone quite yet. Orchestras aren't really my thing. What saves this album, however, is that he did release a deluxe edition that includes solo versions of all 10 tracks. He even plays the ukulele on one of them.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Song Obsessions: Bob Dylan Edition

Though they certainly aren't mutually exclusive, of the big name folk singer-songwriters from the 60s, I tend to be more of a Paul Simon girl than a Dylanite.  I listened to Dylan in college, but not obsessively (minus Blonde on Blonde); and while I really enjoyed some of his lyrics, his music didn't emotionally resonate with me in the same way some of Simon's songs did (blasphemy, I know!).  Lately, however, I have been listening to a ton of Dylan.  I'm not sure what spurred this development. Perhaps, I just listened to Sounds of Silence one too many times and decided I needed something darker and more ironic (sorry Paul!).  Anyway, below are five Dylan tracks I can't get enough of currently:

1).  "Like a Rolling Stone" from Highway 61 Revisited.  I kept this album in my car stereo an embarrassingly long time just because I could not turn off this track once it had started.  This is pretty obvious Dylan, but I really like him at his meanest.  Dylan is great at crafting insults.  Here, he is able to be both ruthless to the song's subject while being occasional empathetic, especially at the end: "When you got nothing, you've got nothing to lose/ You're invisible now, you've got no secrets to conceal."

2).  "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" from Blood on the Tracks. There are a lot of great tracks off this album, but I adore the pessimism of this love song.  The song perfectly captures the early glow of a new relationship, "Flowers on the hillside, bloomin' crazy/ Crickets talkin' back and forth in rhyme/ Blue river runnin' slow and lazy/ I could stay with you forever and never realize the time."  However, the narrator has been down this particular road a few to many times to expect a happy ending, "Situations have ended sad/ Relationships have all been bad/ Mine've been like Verlaine's and Rimbaud's."  So, the most romantic thing he can muster up to say to his lady love is that she'll make him lonesome when she leaves. 

3).  "4th Time Around" from Blonde on Blonde.  I've been listening to this album on-and-off since college and I just recently learned it's a parody of the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood."  John Lennon's lyrics sounded a little too Dylanesque for Dylan, so he decided to show him how it was done. Now, when I listen to the song, I can definitely hear the similarity.  But really I like it because Dylan portrays himself as hilariously jerky in these lyrics.  It's one of two songs on the album that make me laugh out ("Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat" being the other).  I love what a little punk Bob Dylan was on this album.

4).  "Mr. Tambourine Man" from Bringing It All Back Home.  This is one of the few Dylan songs I actually listened to growing up.  My father did not become a big Dylan fan until later in life; so while I was growing up he pretty much only listened to the "Greatest Hits."  Since my dad loved this song, I didn't allow myself to like it until recently (Dads are so uncool).  However, I really admire the complexity of the rhymes with in this song.  The lyrics are little more poetic, and less flippant than my favorite Dylan.  However, the guy was like 23 when he wrote, so I'll give him a pass.  It's much less literary mag than the stuff Paul Simon wrote at that age.

5). "Idiot Wind" from Blood on the Tracks.  This is a Bob Dylan put down song of the finest caliber.  The lyrics have the bitterness and biting of his earlier angry songs like "Positively 4th Street" and "Like a Rolling Stone," but their is less self-righteous coldness and more emotional pain in "Idiot Wind."  Dylan sings the song so passionately, that at times he sounds vaguely like a pirate.  One of my favorite line sequences in the song nicely sums up the hurt accompanying the end of a long relationship, "I can't feel you anymore/ I can't even touch the books you've read/ Every time I crawl past your door/ I've been wishin' I was someone else instead."  By the end of the song, Dylan even includes himself as equally culpable, "We're idiots, babe/ It's a wonder we can even feed ourselves."  Awesome song, awesome album, check out both!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Happy 89th birthday, Angela Lansbury!

Film, television, and theater star Angela Lansbury turns 89 today. In a career that has spanned 70 years, Lansbury has seemingly done it all. Let's take a look at a small slice of her work:


Mame (1966)
Won the Tony award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance in the title role. Lansbury is one of the women interviewed by author Eddie Shapiro in the book Nothing Like a Dame: Conversations with the Great Women of Musical Theater (2014). She talks about her roles on Broadway, including what was so great about Mame: "You have to understand that up until that point I had had a career that was technically interesting and diverse and full of acting opportunities but I never had a chance to touch a universal audience, really. Men, women, children, dogs, cats, the whole shebang."
Listen to the original cast recording: Mame Soundtrack  

Sweeney Todd (1979)

Won the Tony award for Best Actress in a Musical as Mrs. Lovett.
Listen to the original cast recording: Sweeney Todd Soundtrack 

Murder, She Wrote (1984-1996)
Nominated for Lead Actress in a Drama Emmy as mystery novelist Jessica Fletcher for each of the show's twelve seasons.
Find it in the catalog!

Film noir
Gaslight (1944)
Nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award in 1945
Find it in the catalog!


The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)
Nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award in 1946
Find it in the catalog!
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award in 1963
Find it in the catalog!

Family films
National Velvet (1944)
Find it in the catalog!

Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)
Find it in the catalog!
Nanny McPhee (2005)
Find it in the catalog!

Voiceover work

Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Find it in the catalog!
Do you have a favorite role of Angela Lansbury's? One of my favorite childhood movies was Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Compiling this list has compelled me to seek out her earlier work; I am just amazed to see the scope Angela Lansbury's enduring career!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Best of the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards

Ahh, the VMAs-- our yearly reminder that pop culture has taken a drastic turn towards sheer ridiculousness. In 1995, Courtney Love crashed Madonna's on-screen interview. In 2009, the ever so self-centered Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift's acceptance speech for Best Female Video to proclaim that Beyoncé had the best music video of all time (duh). In 2013, Miley Cyrus made history by 'twerking' all over Robin Thicke, forever scarring thousands of viewers. And in 2014, the ladies rose above their male counterparts. 

This year, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj opened the show with a performance that had Grande emerge from a spaceship for her electro-stomper “Break Free,” Minaj dancing in a jungle for “Anaconda” and then the pair united with Jessie J for ladies anthem “Bang Bang.” It was the sort of over-the-top fun that award shows are made for – even if Minaj teetered on the edge of showing all her glory with a wardrobe malfunction. Find Ariana's new album, "My Everything", in the catalog!

Although Ariana and Nicki killed it (if you will), Beyoncé's closing performance was by far the highlight of the night. Using her blockbuster, self-titled visual album – which she dropped without warning late last year – as the source material, she moved through an ambitious medley that pulled from the entire project. Beyoncé reigns supreme. Enough said. You can pick up a copy of her self-titled album at the Dundee Library by clicking here.

 You can also check-out music by other performers like Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, and Usher.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Recommended Watch: Locke

Locke, starring Tom Hardy, is not blockbuster material. Hardy is the sole actor on screen the entire movie as we ride along his drive from work to London, not home to where he would normally be headed. I won't reveal the exact reason he's not going home, but he makes a life altering decision and now must deal with the fallout. He has a series of phone calls to make and receive as the drive unfolds. We hear his boss, co-worker, wife, boys, and the instigator to is decision. (Love Ruth Wilson, who plays his wife to perfection.)

Given the fact that Locke was filmed in several single takes, Hardy's performance is even more impressive. After a summer of big movies based on previously published materials, it was refreshing to see something original and human. It is small in place and time, but not impact.

Find it in the catalog!

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).
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.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Get this year's Oscar winners (and nominees) on DVD

All the predicting and talk about who will win in what category is over... but have you been able to watch the nominated films that were honored at Sunday's Academy Awards? Time to catch up! This year's Best Picture nominees are either on DVD or soon to be released to DVD. Place your holds now:

Best Picture nominees
American Hustle
Captain Phillips (also showing at the Dundee Library on Wednesday, March 12)
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity (also showing at the Dundee Library on Thursday, May 8)
12 Years a Slave 
The Wolf of Wall Street

This year's Oscar winners on DVD:

12 Years a Slave
Best Picture
Best Supporting Actress - Lupita Nyong'o
Best Adapted Screenplay - John Ridley

Best Director - Alfonso Cuarón
Best Original Score - Steven Price
Best Film Editing -  Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger
Best Cinematography - Emmanuel Lubezki
Best Sound Editing - Glenn Freemantle
Best Sound Mixing - Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro
Best Visual Effects - Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk, and Neil Corbould

Dallas Buyers Club
Best Actor - Matthew McConaughey
Best Supporting Actor - Jared Leto
Best Makeup and Hairstyling - Adruitha Lee and Robin Matthews

Blue Jasmine
Best Actress - Cate Blanchett

Best Animated Feature
Best Original Song - "Let It Go," music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

(Also showing at the Dundee Library on Saturday, April 19)

The Great Gatsby
Best Production Design - Catherine Martin (Production Design), Beverley Dunn (Set Decoration)
Best Costume Design - Catherine Martin

Best Original Screenplay - Spike Jonze

The Great Beauty (Italy)
Best Foreign Language Film

20 Feet from Stardom
Best Documentary - Feature

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Valentine From De La Soul

"Love sought is good, but given unsought better."
-William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night (III.i)

The best valentine that you, or anyone, will receive this year comes courtesy of the legendary hip hop trio De La Soul. In celebration of the 25th anniversary of their classic debut album 3 Feet High and Rising, the group is offering their entire discography for free download. Repeat: the entire De La Soul catalog can be legally downloaded for free via the group's website; from 3 Feet High and Rising and De La Soul is Dead (endlessly inventive albums on which producer Prince Paul completely redefined the art of sampling in popular music) to their more sober-minded '90s work and beyond. This give-away is not limited to studio albums, so even devoted fans can find rarities and instrumentals for download. This is an extraordinary opportunity to familiarize yourself with one of the most innovative musical acts of the last quarter century. But, you've got to be quick about it, as the offer expires when Valentine's Day expires.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Valentine's Day Movie Guide

Valentine's Day seems like a divisive holiday.  Some people go all out for it, and for other people it just reminds them of how lonely they are, or how much they hate watching Nicholas Sparks movies with their significant other.  Personally, I'm pretty indifferent towards the day, but it doesn't stop me from participating in it.  I like to celebrate with a nice bottle of red wine, some chocolate, and a fun, romantic movie.  Below are some film suggestions for celebrating Valentine's Day, whether you love or hate it:

If you are in love with someone you can't haveBrief Encounter.  This short but sweet 1945 British melodrama centers on the forbidden romance between housewife Laura (Celia Johnson) and doctor Alec (Trevor Howard) who meet a train station cafe.  Both are married and have children, but they soon get sweep up in an intense emotional affair.  Brief Encounter definitely shows the hardship of loving someone you can't be with.

Also recommended: Lets be honest, forbidden love is way more romantic than boring old requited love, so you have lots of good options here:  In the Mood for Love, Roman Holiday, Brokeback Mountain, The Royal Tenenbaums, and so on. 

If your significant other is a film snob:  The Before Trilogy:  Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight.  This super talky series follows American Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and French Celine (Julie Delpy), who fall in love after meeting on a train to Vienna.  The films manage to be both funny and heartfelt, plus there's lots of great European scenery (Vienna, Paris, Greece).  My favorite of the bunch is the second one, Before Sunset. 

If your significant other loves The Notebook, but you CAN'T GO THROUGH THAT AGAIN THIS YEAR!:  Awww...congratulations, you've got yourself a hopeless romantic!  Titanic would probably work, but really, do you want to have to watch that?  Instead, I recommend ruining The Notebook for them by choosing one of Gosling's less appealing roles.  Perhaps, Only God Forgives or Blue Valentine (balding Gosling with a mustache, ouch). 

If you just recently broke up with someoneAnnie Hall. This classic Woody Allen movie follows the sweet, but mismatched relationship between Alvy Singer (Allen) and Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). 

Also recommendedHigh Fidelity, 500 Days of Summer.

If you are happily single: Bridget Jones Diary.  Seriously is there any harder decision than choosing between Colin Firth and Hugh Grant?  This movie is a super cute update on Pride and Prejudice.  And if you're single, pat yourself on the back, because you don't have to listen to your boyfriend whine throughout the entire movie!

Also recommended13 Going on 30.

If your girlfriend is a librarian:Nothing says romance to a librarian like a little Jane Austen, so I highly recommend the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice.  But pretty much any Austen will do.  My favorite is the Ang Lee classic Sense and Sensibility.  

If you are in an on-again, off-again relationship: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  Joel Barish (Jim Carey) is heartbroken when his ex-girlfriend Clementine undergoes a procedure to erase their relationship from her memory.  Bitter, he decides to have him memories of her erased as well.  However, during the process of having his mind wiped, Joel realizes that he is still in love with Clementine and fights to keep her in his memories.

If you are unhappily in a relationship: Sleep Walk With Me.  On top of dealing with a struggling comedy career and a recently diagnosed sleepwalking disorder, Mike Pandamiglo (Mike Birbiglia) begins to have some doubts about his long-time girlfriend Abby (Lauren Ambrose).

If you're in a long distance relationship: Like Crazy.  Anna (Felcity Jones) is a British student who attended college in the United States.  While there, she fell for her T.A. Jacob (Anton Yelchin).  After graduation, Anna decides to spend the summer with Jacob, overstaying her visa.  After she returns home to England for a family engagement, Anna is shocked when she is denied reentry to the United States and deported to England.  The two lovers then try to keep their relationship together in spite of being an ocean apart. 

If you want wallow in misery, because you'll never find anyone ever:  Probably the best bet here is to play the Smiths on repeat and wash down your sorrows with some whiskey.  However, if you don't quite want to be THAT miserable on Valentine's Day, I recommend checking out a Michelango Antonioni film and watch really, really good looking people (or Jack Nicholson) suffer from loneliness and alienation in beautiful locales.  Check out his alienation trilogy: L'Avventura, L'Eclisse, and La Notte.

Also recommended:  Anything by Ingmar Bergman or any film adaptations of Kazuo Ishiguro novels.

If you're in love with a friend, but you don't know how to tell themTootsie.  Talk about awkward situations, Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) is in love with his beautiful coworker Julie Nichols (Jessica Lange).  However, she only knows him as his female alter-ego Dorothy Michaels.   This movie is probably my all time favorite romantic comedy and features my ultra crush, young Bill Murray, as Dustin Hoffman's roommate.

Also RecommendedMy Best Friend's Wedding, Pretty in Pink.

You are falling fast for someoneWeekend.  Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New), meet at club in Nottingham.  The two go home together and begin an intense relationship.  However, Glen is soon to be leaving the country for an art course in America.

Also recommended: Once, Lost in Translation, Out of Sight.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman: 1967-2014

Film and stage actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died Sunday, February 2 at the age of 46. A versatile actor who completely disappeared into his roles, Hoffman leaves behind an impressive body of work. His presence on movie screens and Broadway stages will be missed.

Hoffman won Best Actor in 2006 for his portrayal of writer Truman Capote in Capote. Over the course of his career, he received four Oscar nominations for his work:

The Master (2012)
Find it in the catalog!

A striking portrait of drifters and seekers in post-World War II America, Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master unfolds the journey of a naval veteran who arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future, until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader.

Father Flynn is a charismatic priest who is trying to upend the schools' strict customs, which have long been fiercely guarded by Sister Aloysius Beauvier. The Sister is the iron-gloved principal who believes in the power of fear and discipline. With the winds of political change, the school has just accepted its first black student, Donald Miller. But when Sister James shares with Sister Aloysius her suspicion that Father Flynn is paying too much personal attention to Donald, Sister Aloysius sets off on a personal crusade to unearth the truth and to expunge Flynn from the school. Now, without any proof, besides her moral certainty, Sister Aloysius locks into a battle of wills with Father Flynn.

Charlie Wilson's War (2007)
Find it in the catalog!
In the early 1980s, Charlie Wilson is best known as a womanizing US congressional representative from Texas. He seemed to be in the minor leagues, except for the fact that he is a member of two major foreign policy and covert-ops committees. However, once Charlie is prodded by his major conservative supporter, Joanne Herring, Wilson learns about the plight of the people who are suffering from the effects of the brutal Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. With the help of the maverick CIA agent, Gust Avrakotos, Wilson dedicates his canny political efforts to supply the Afghan mujahideen with the weapons and support needed to defeat the Soviet Union. Ultimately, Charlie learns that while military victory can be obtained, there are other consequences and prices to that fight that are ignored to everyone's sorrow. Based on a true story.

Capote (2005)
Find it in the catalog!
In 1959, Truman Capote was a popular writer for The New Yorker. He learns about the horrific and senseless murder of a family of four in Halcomb, Kansas. Inspired by the story, Capote and his partner, Harper Lee, travel to the town to do research for an article. However, as Capote digs deeper into the story, he is inspired to expand the project into what would be his greatest work, "In Cold Blood." He arranges extensive interviews with the prisoners, especially with Perry Smith. However, his feelings of compassion for Perry conflicts with his need for closure for his book which only an execution can provide. That conflict and the mixed motives for both interviewer and subject make for a troubling experience that would produce a literary account that would redefine modern non-fiction.

Hoffman most recently could be seen as head gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. As a fan of both The Hunger Games series and Hoffman, this was a match made in heaven and I loved his portrayal of Plutarch. His scene with President Snow (Donald Sutherland), in which they discuss strategy for dealing with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), was one of my favorites in the film.

Putting together this list of movies, it is amazing to see the many varied characters Hoffman brought to life before he died. His portrayals were so vivid, with an extra *punch*; other details of the film in which he played supporting roles may fade, but his acting, his talent, his approach and commitment to his characters remain clear in my memory and are what I'll always remember when I think of the work of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

A selection of additional Philip Seymour Hoffman's films:

A Late Quartet (2012)
Find it in the catalog!
A powerful story that blends raw emotion with fiery passion to form an unforgettable cinematic masterpiece. After 25 years together, the members of a world-renowned string quartet learn that their beloved cellist may soon be forced to retire. But the news stirs up equally painful challenges when competing egos, harbored resentment, and irrepressible lust threaten to derail the group as they struggle to maintain harmony in their music, and their lives.
Moneyball (2011)
The story of Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane's successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget by employing computer-generated analysis to draft his players.
The Ides of March (2011)
Find it in the catalog!
During the frantic last days before a heavily contested Ohio presidential primary, an up-and-coming campaign press secretary finds himself involved in a political scandal that threatens to upend his candidate's shot at the presidency.
Jack Goes Boating (2010)
Find it in the catalog!
Jack and Connie are two single people who on their own might continue to recede into the anonymous background of New York City, but in each other begin to find the courage and desire to pursue a budding relationship. As Jack and Connie cautiously circle commitment, the couple that introduced them, Clyde and Lucy, confront their own unresolved issues, and each couple comes face to face with the inevitable path of their relationship.
Pirate Radio (2009)
Find it in the catalog!
A rogue band of DJs captivate Britain in the 1960s. The music they play defines a generation and the DJs stand up to a government that, incomprehensibly, preferred jazz.
Synecdoche, New York (2008)
Find it in the catalog!
Theater director Caden Cotard is mounting a new play. Determined to create a piece of brutal realism and honesty, he gathers an ensemble cast into a warehouse in Manhattan's theater district. He instructs each to live out their constructed lives in a small mockup of the city outside. As the city inside the warehouse grows, Caden's own life veers wildly off track blurring the line between the world of the play and that of his own deteriorating reality.
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007)
Find it in the catalog!
A stock broker, who is having financial troubles and in need of extra cash, and his younger brother conspire to pull off the perfect, victimless crime. No guns, no violence, no problem. The only problem is that the owners of the jewelry store are their own parents. But when an accomplice ignores the rules and crosses the line, his actions trigger a series of events in which no one is left unscathed.
The Savages (2007)
Find it in the catalog!
Jon and Wendy Savage are two siblings who have spent their adult years trying to recover from their abusive father, Lenny. Suddenly, a call comes in that Lenny's girlfriend has died and he cannot care for himself. Lenny suffers from dementia and her family dumps Lenny on his children. Despite the fact Jon and Wendy have not spoken to Lenny for twenty years and he is even more loathsome than ever, the Savage siblings feel obliged to take care of him. Now together, brother and sister must come to terms with the new and painful responsibilities with their father. The siblings are forced to face the struggle with their now personal demons.
Mission Impossible III (2006)
In this pulse-racing, mind-bending action thriller, Ethan Hunt confronts the toughest villain he's ever faced - Owen Davian, an international weapons and information provider with no remorse and no conscience.
The 25th Hour (2005)
Find it in the catalog!
Monty Brogan is facing a seven year prison sentence for dealing drugs. On the night before he has to go to jail, he decides to go out with his friends one last time, and re-examines his life in the process.

Along Came Polly (2004)
Find it in the catalog!
Reuben Feffer, a professional risk assessor, is not one to ever take chances in any aspect of his life. But when his new bride Lisa leaves him for French scuba instructor Claude on their honeymoon, he finally decides to a risk of his own. At a party, he meets free-spirited Polly, whom he remembers from the seventh grade. Unlike the control-freak Reuben, she's spent her life living on the edge. They reluctantly begin a romance and Polly introduces him to a new world of spicy food and what it means to really take a chance.
Cold Mountain (2003)
Find it in the catalog!
Inman, a young Confederate soldier, is struggling to make his way home to Cold Mountain, NC, where his beloved Ada awaits him. In Inman's absence, Ada befriends Ruby, who helps her keep up her late father's farm. Meanwhile, in his travels, Inman encounters a menagerie of interesting and colorful characters.
Almost Famous (2000)
Find it in the catalog!
It's the opportunity of a lifetime when teenage reporter William Miller lands an assignment from Rolling Stone magazine. Despite the objections of his protective mother, William hits the road with an up-and-coming rock band and finds there's a lot more to write home about than the music.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
Find it in the catalog!
Tom Ripley is a calculating young man who believes its better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody. He's hired to go to Italy to bring back he playboy son of a millionaire and soon is plunged into a daring scheme of duplicity, lies and murder.
Magnolia (1999)
Find it in the catalog!
A mosaic of American life woven through a series of comic and poignant vignettes. Through a collusion of coincidence, chance, human action, shared media, past history and divine intervention, nine people will weave and warp through each other's lives on a day that builds to an unforgettable climax.
The Big Lebowski (1998)
Find it in the catalog!
Jeff 'The Dude' Lebowski doesn't want any drama in his life; he can't even be bothered with a job. But, in a case of mistaken identity, a couple of thugs break into his place and steal his rug (you gotta understand, that rug really tied the room together). Now, the Dude must embark on a quest with his crazy friends to make things right and get that rug back!
Boogie Nights (1997)
Find it in the catalog!
Tale of Dirk Diggler's rise to fame in this hilarious look at the pornography industry, the free-spirited 70s, and the indulgent 80s. Nominated for 3 Academy Awards, and winner of various other industry awards.