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Friday, January 11, 2019

2019 Preview: Movies

Written by Jon Williams

With the Golden Globes taking place this past weekend, awards season is officially in full swing. As we look back and celebrate the best of 2018, let’s also take a peek ahead at some of the delights that 2019 has in store for us at the box office.

Marvel movies have dominated the box office for years, and fans are eagerly anticipating a conclusion to the galaxy-altering conflict that was set up in last year’s Avengers: Infinity War. That will come in April, when Avengers: Endgame brings the heroes’ conflict with Thanos to a close and resolves their fates—for better or worse. Before that, though, comes Captain Marvel in March, starring Brie Larson as the titular superhero in a ‘90s-set adventure that introduces her to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Then, in July, Spider-Man: Far from Home gives Tom Holland’s popular webslinger a second standalone and the MCU its first foray into its next round of adventures.

Live-action remakes of animated Disney classics have proven to be popular, and 2019 has some big ones coming. First up is Tim Burton’s take on Dumbo, the 1941 tale of a bullied elephant who eventually becomes the star of the circus when he realizes his large ears can help him to fly. Then in May, as summer movie season is rounding into full swing, comes Aladdin, starring Will Smith in the role of the genie who helps humble beggar Aladdin win the heart of Princess Jasmine. July will see the release of The Lion King, which sees Jon Favreau direct a star-studded ensemble cast in a photorealistic update of the 1994 traditionally animated version.

As popular as these live action movies are, animation, both traditional and digital, is going nowhere. The fourth installment in the Toy Story franchise is coming in July, nine years after Toy Story 3 in 2010, while the sequel to the 2013 blockbuster Frozen is set to hit theatres just before Thanksgiving. Much closer than either of those, though, is The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, the follow-up to Christopher Miller and Phil Lord’s 2014 hit, in theatres next month. Also in February is How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the anticipated final installment in a trilogy that includes films from 2010 and 2014. Other animated movies coming our way this year include a Secret Life of Pets sequel (June), an Angry Birds sequel (August), and a new Addams Family movie in October.

The horror movie genre has undergone a renaissance in recent years, and that looks to continue in 2019. It begins in March with Us, an original film from Jordan Peele, the writer and director behind the 2017 horror hit Get Out. In April comes Pet Sematary, a new adaptation of Stephen King’s 1983 novel and a remake of the 1989 film. Speaking of King adaptations, It: Chapter 2, which follows up the highest-grossing horror film of all time, comes to theatres in September. In between those two movies, in June, horror fans can look forward to Child’s Play, a reboot of the 1988 movie that spawned six sequels featuring the iconic murderous doll Chucky. In August, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark comes out, based on Alvin Schwartz’s collections of tales that have haunted kids’ dreams since they debuted in 1981. And while it may not quality as horror, exactly (more of a “zom-com”), the long-awaited sequel to Zombieland arrives at last in October.

Need more? Tyler Perry’s Madea returns in March in A Madea Family Funeral. David Harbour steps into the horn-stumps for a Hellboy reboot in April. Keanu Reeves is back for a third round as John Wick in May, while a new generation of Men in Black hits theatres in June. Quentin Tarantino’s look at the Manson Family, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, comes in July, followed soon after by Hobbs & Shaw, a Fast and Furious spinoff. In September, Downton Abbey will make the jump from the small screen to the big screen, while October will bring adaptations of the popular novels The Woman in the Window and The Goldfinch. In November, a third installment of the Kinsgman series is on its way, before the year finishes strong in December with a new Jumanji movie and, of course, the third and final film in the Star Wars sequel trilogy.

So that’s just some of what’s on our radar for 2019 at the box office, and you can be sure that it’s just a fraction of all the good stuff that’s coming our way. Let us know what you and your patrons are looking forward to, and stay tuned for information on when these movies will be available for you to add to your collections.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Rock Hall Names New Inductees

Written by Jon Williams

Last week the 2019 slate of inductees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was announced. This year’s class comprises seven bands and solo acts: Stevie Nicks, Janet Jackson, Def Leppard, the Cure, Radiohead, Roxy Music, and the Zombies. The induction ceremony will be held on Friday, March 29, 2019, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Here is a brief look at each of the acts joining the ranks of the Hall’s famous and influential members.

Stevie Nicks is the first woman to be inducted twice, as she is already included as a member of the band Fleetwood Mac, inducted in 1998. Her solo career, which is being honoured this time around, began with the release of the album Bella Donna in 1981. Driven by the hit “Edge of Seventeen” as well as collaborations with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (“Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”) and Don Henley (“Leather and Lace”), it hit number one on Billboard’s album chart. Since then, she has continued to tour and record with Fleetwood Mac while maintaining a stellar solo career as well, releasing eight studio albums under her own name, most recently 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault in 2014.

Janet Jackson will take her place in the Hall alongside her famous brothers as a member of this year’s class—the Jackson 5 were inducted in 1997, and Michael Jackson joined as a solo artist in 2001. From an obviously musical family, Janet’s entrance into the world of entertainment actually started with acting. Still, she couldn’t escape the world of music, beginning her recording career as a teenager. Her breakout came with her third album, Control, released in 1986, shortly before her 20th birthday. She has gone on to record eleven albums, with the most recent being 2015’s Unbreakable.

Def Leppard was one of the biggest rock bands in the world in the 1980s, but they have refused to be defined or constrained by the “hair metal” label. Forming in the late ‘70s, their debut album On Through the Night came out in 1980. Pyromania (1983) and Hysteria (1987) were two of the biggest albums of the decade, dominating the charts and spawning a number of singles. The band suffered through such tragedies as drummer Rick Allen losing his left arm in a car accident and the passing of guitarist Steve Clark, and their star dimmed as pop metal declined in popularity as grunge ascended. Nevertheless, they have persevered, continuing to tour and record to this day. Their latest album, the self-titled Def Leppard, came out in 2015.

The Cure formed around the same time and have undergone a number of lineup changes in their forty-plus years, with frontman Robert Smith being the only constant member. Their debut album, 1979’s Three Imaginary Boys, kicked off a rather prolific career that saw them release thirteen albums in thirty years, culminating in 2008’s 4:13 Dream (currently unavailable). While the Cure has not released an album since then, the band has been touring, and there are plans to record and release new music in 2019 in celebration of the fortieth anniversary of their debut.

Radiohead is the “newest” act of this group, forming in 1985 and bursting onto the scene with the single “Creep” in 1992. That landed on their 1993 debut album Pablo Honey, the first of their nine albums, the newest of which is 2016’s A Moon Shaped Pool. The band has continued to experiment and evolve throughout their career and the accolades have followed, winning the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album three times. Their most recent release is a 20th anniversary edition of their 1997 album OK Computer with new tracks, and members Jonny Greenwood and Thom Yorke have also gained acclaim in the world of film music.

Roxy Music is a highly influential art rock band that came together in 1970 and released their self-titled debut album in 1972. Their recording career lasted just ten years, but they put out eight albums in that time, the last being Avalon in 1982. Since then, the band has been an on-again off-again venture, with the individual members often contributing to lead singer Bryan Ferry’s solo albums. That was the case with 2010’s Olympia (currently unavailable), originally conceived as a Roxy Music album and even featuring Brian Eno for the first time since 1973’s For Your Pleasure, but eventually released under Ferry’s name.

The Zombies are the oldest act joining the Hall in 2019, forming in 1961. The band put out just two albums in the 1960s—their 1965 debut and 1968’s Odessey and Oracle. They disbanded around the time of that second album’s release and didn’t reunite until 1991, when they recorded the album New World (currently unavailable) and then split again. Singer Colin Blunstone and keyboardist Rod Argent got back together in 1999 and have continued to tour and record since, with their most recent album being 2015’s Still Got That Hunger.

In 2019 these musicians will cement their legendary status as they join the ranks of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and your music-loving patrons will want to discover or re-discover their catalogues. Make sure you have plenty of their incredible tunes available—use the links above or SmartBrowse on our website to find their albums as well as concert films and other related media we have available.

Friday, December 14, 2018

George R.R. Martin Goes Back in Time

Written by Jon Williams

For the past two weeks, a new book from George R.R. Martin has been at or near the top of the bestseller lists. No, it’s not the one that fans have been so eagerly anticipating: The Winds of Winter, the long-awaited sixth installment in his Song of Ice and Fire series. It is set in the same world, however. While the books of the series itself concern themselves with the aftermath of the rebellion that toppled the reign of the Targaryen dynasty in the fictional realm of Westeros, Fire and Blood tells the earliest history of those Targaryen kings.

A Song of Ice and Fire is probably more popularly known by the title of its first volume, A Game of Thrones. Published in 1996, it was the first book of what was originally planned as a trilogy. The next two installments, 1998’s A Clash of Kings and 2000’s A Storm of Swords, did not come close to finishing the story, as Martin’s expansive style and an increasingly involved plot necessitated expanding the series to seven books. Those plot complications have also slowed down the writing. The fourth book, A Feast for Crows, came in 2005, and the fifth, A Dance with Dragons, in 2011.

And that’s where the series stands at the moment. A vocal segment of fans has grown increasingly dismayed at the long wait for the next book, with some even speculating that Martin wouldn’t even finish the series. On a recent blog post, however, he assured fans that The Winds of Winter is still forthcoming, and that he would indeed finish the series. In the meantime, there has been plenty to keep everyone occupied. The HBO series Game of Thrones debuted its first season in 2011 and has gone on to establish itself as a television phenomenon. It surpassed the source material from the novels with its sixth season, and the eighth and final season will premiere in April of 2019. Those who are really into the books and show can learn the Dothraki language used by the fierce horse lords (including Khal Drogo, played by Aquaman's Jason Mamoa). And readers/listeners looking for more Westeros backstory will enjoy A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, detailing the adventures of hedge knight Ser Duncan the Tall and his squire, the future king Aegon V Targaryen.

In a related but (at least supposedly) not connected vein, Martin also offers The Ice Dragon, a tale aimed at children and young adults, a sharp contrast with the gritty and bloodthirsty mode of A Song of Ice and Fire. These fantasy worlds are what Martin is most known for, but he’s equally at home in other settings. The Wild Cards series he edits and compiles is a sci-fi alternate history of the post-WWII U.S. that has been infected with an alien virus. And while it’s currently unavailable on audiobook, his novella Nightflyers is the basis for a ten-episode TV series currently airing on Syfy.

So for your patrons who are watching Nightflyers or gearing up for the final season of Game of Thrones, or even just patiently waiting for The Winds of Winter (not to mention A Dream of Spring, the final volume), there is plenty of material from George R.R. Martin to keep them entertained. Check out the titles listed above, and be sure to visit our website to find music from Game of Thrones as well as other related materials.

Friday, November 30, 2018

The Lion King Trailer Excites Movie Fans

Written by Jon Williams

When Disney released The Lion King into theatres in 1994, it was an instant hit. Using animation to bring the classic tale of Shakespeare’s Hamlet to the animal kingdom, the movie featured a star-studded voice cast including James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Whoopi Goldberg, and Matthew Broderick, to name just a few. It made more than $300 million during its initial theatrical run, won Academy Awards for its music, and spawned two direct-to-video sequels, The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride and The Lion King 1½, not to mention a Broadway play.

Now, as we approach the movie’s 25th anniversary, Disney is preparing to release a live-action (or photorealistic CGI, at least) remake of The Lion King. Coming in July of 2019, it is set to feature even more famous voices, if that’s possible, than the original. James Earl Jones will once again lend his iconic voice to Mufasa, and he’ll be joined by Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover, Alfre Woodard, Keegan-Michael Key, Seth Rogen, and John Oliver. Oh, and Beyoncé. The first teaser trailer for the movie dropped last week during the NFL games on Thanksgiving Day and has already been viewed hundreds of millions of times online.

The new movie is being directed by Jon Favreau, who is no stranger to this type of project, having brought the 2016 live-action version of The Jungle Book following the 1967 animated classic, which is currently in Disney’s Vault. Other recent live-action updates of Disney’s animated classics include 2017’s Beauty and the Beast (from 1991’s animated version), 2015’s Cinderella (1950’s animated version, currently in the Vault), and 2010’s Alice in Wonderland (from 1951’s animated version). Lest anyone think this is a new concept, however, please recall the 1996 live-action version of 101 Dalmatians, adapted from the 1961 animated original (both of which are currently unavailable).

Of course, Disney’s lineup of animated classics is a rich vein to mine, and there are a number of other live-action adaptations in the works. 2019 will be a big year for them, with Dumbo (from director Tim Burton, who also did Alice in Wonderland) in March and Aladdin (starring Will Smith as the Genie) in May. Lady and the Tramp is also on the agenda for some point during the year, while 2020 will see an adaptation of Mulan. A remake of Pinocchio is still further out on the horizon, but has been in the news in the past couple of days due to the possibility of Tom Hanks joining the cast in the key role of Geppetto.

These live-action remakes have proved to be incredibly popular, and the original animated versions have proven to be all-time classics for generations. Make sure you have both versions of all these wonderful movies on your shelves for patrons to enjoy.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody Puts Queen Back in the Spotlight

Written by Jon Williams

Now going into its third weekend in theatres, moviegoers still can’t stop talking about Bohemian Rhapsody. The film has made over $110 million at the box office to date, already making it one of the biggest musical biopics of all time. Detailing the story of Freddie Mercury and Queen from the band’s formation in 1970 through their astonishing 1985 Live Aid performance, the movie has spurred a resurgence of interest in Queen’s timeless music.

Band members Brian May and Roger Taylor were performing together in the band Smile until Mercury joined them in 1970, when they took the name Queen. When bassist John Deacon joined in 1971, the lineup was complete. In 1973, they released their eponymous debut album, Queen, which drew some critical acclaim but otherwise garnered little attention. That started to change with the follow-up, 1974’s Queen II, which contained their first U.K. hit, “Seven Seas of Rhye,” a finished version of an instrumental track from the first album. That album’s cover art would become perhaps the most iconic image associated with the band. Their second album of 1974, Sheer Heart Attack, and its lead single “Killer Queen” helped to establish their classic sound, and brought them success in North America as well.

From there it was a rocket ship to the top as Queen produced one radio smash after another. Their fourth album, 1975’s A Night at the Opera, was the most expensive ever produced at the time. It contained the epic six-minute style mishmash “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which gave the movie its name. Their next album, the sequel A Day at the Races, spawned the hit “Somebody to Love.” And then came 1977’s News of the World, and with it, perhaps their most well-known, biggest hit: the anthem “We Will Rock You” and the accompanying ballad “We Are the Champions.” But the hits didn’t stop there—far from it. The 1978 album Jazz included such songs as “Fat Bottomed Girls,” “Bicycle Race,” and “Don’t Stop Me Now,” while 1980’s The Game brought “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Another One Bites the Dust.” Then they showed off their versatility by finishing off 1980 with the soundtrack for the sci-fi movie Flash Gordon.

One of Queen’s big hits happened spontaneously, as David Bowie came into their studio to sing backup on a track—that performance was nixed, but while he was there, they wrote and recorded “Under Pressure.” That appears on their 1982 album Hot Space. The different sound on the album was a source of contention between Mercury and the rest of the band, and they took a break from performing live while they worked on a new album and pursued side projects. They came back with The Works in 1984, containing “Radio Ga Ga” and “I Want to Break Free.” In July of 1985 came their celebrated performance at the benefit concert Live Aid, which ranked in a 2005 poll as the greatest rock performance of all time. Energized, they recorded the 1986 album A Kind of Magic. That was followed by their final tour with Mercury, where they played to record crowds. In 1989 they released The Miracle, and followed it in 1991 with Innuendo. Mercury, who had been ill for some time, passed away later that year. Nevertheless, the band had enough leftover material, including songs recorded during previous album sessions, for Made in Heaven, released in 1995.

The movie’s popularity has brought Queen’s music back to the forefront—the soundtrack is at #3 on the current Billboard albums chart, the highest position for the band in 38 years, since The Game hit #1 in 1980. It has also brought the song “Bohemian Rhapsody” back into the Hot 100, making it just the second song to chart in three different decades (in addition to its original 1976 release, it also charted in 1992 due to its inclusion in the movie Wayne’s World). It speaks to the fact that Queen’s music is timeless, and your patrons will be looking for it now as they learn about the band and its amazing lead singer due to the incredibly popular movie. Use the links above to find their studio albums, and SmartBrowse the band’s name on our website to find their acclaimed live albums and video of their performances. And for patrons who want to dig more into their history, check out the audiobook Queen Unseen by Peter Hince.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Classic Horror Fiction in the Spotlight

Written by Jon Williams

There were no new episodes of Stranger Things this year, with Season 3 of the popular show not coming until 2019. Television lovers looking for their fix of a creepy show to binge watch to get them in the Halloween spirit, however, are in luck anyway. The latest sensation is The Haunting of Hill House, a loose adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s classic 1959 horror novel, bringing it into the modern day and spreading it across ten episodes exploring the lives of a family who spent a fateful summer in the titular house and the rest of their lives dealing with the aftermath. Show creator Mike Flanagan is well known to horror fans, with movies like Oculus and Ouija: Origin of Evil to his credit. He also recently adapted the Stephen King novel Gerald’s Game, and is working on the author’s Doctor Sleep (coming in 2020) as well.

The show is certain to spur new interest in Shirley Jackson’s novel, and the author’s other works are great for this time of year as well. One such novel is We Have Always Lived in the Castle, a gothic murder mystery from 1962. She also wrote a non-fiction exploration of the Salem Witch Trials, The Witchcraft of Salem Village, in 1956. All of these titles are available in the audio format on hoopla as well, as is a collection of short stories that includes “The Lottery,” perhaps her most famous and chilling work.

This is also a great time to promote other classic horror fiction to your patrons. That begins, of course, with Mary Shelley’s 1823 novel Frankenstein. This story of a creature cobbled together and animated by a young scientist has been adapted any number of times over the years, perhaps most famously in 1931 with Boris Karloff as the monster. The most recent, 2015’s Victor Frankenstein, starred James McAvoy as Dr. Frankenstein and Daniel Radcliffe as his assistant Igor. Starting in 2005, bestselling novelist Dean Koontz (an author whose work horror fans would do well to explore) put out a five-book series bringing Frankenstein and his monster into modern times.

And of course, it’s impossible to mention Frankenstein without also mentioning Dracula, the seminal vampire novel published in 1897 by Bram Stoker. Like Frankenstein, Dracula too received a 1931 adaptation, with Bela Lugosi in the starring role, although an earlier, unlicensed adaptation, Nosferatu, rivals that version as the most famous. The vampire novel is one of the most enduring horror traditions, with iconic tales like Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend and Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire just two examples. More recently, Canadian author Dacre Stoker has taken up the tale originated by his ancestor, co-authoring 2009’s Dracula, the Un-Dead, a direct sequel to the original, and the just-released Dracul, a prequel written in part from documents Bram Stoker left behind.

And this is just scratching the surface of classic horror. Other works include the stories of Edgar Allan Poe, The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irvine,  At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft, Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, and The Woman in Black by Susan Hill, to name just a few. And although they’re perhaps more well known for their terrifying movie adaptations, Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby and William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist bear mention as well. There’s a lot to choose from for those who love things that go bump in the night. What are some of your and/or your patrons’ favourites? Let us know!

Friday, October 5, 2018

Celebrate 15 Years of The Walking Dead

Written by Jon Williams

On October 8, 2003, The Walking Dead issue #1 hit comic shops everywhere. Coming right on the heels of the acclaimed movie 28 Days Later, it helped start a snowball effect to begin the zombie craze that is still building to this day. Now, The Walking Dead is still going strong as a comic series, with issue #184 coming out earlier this week, and creator Robert Kirkman saying the end is still “far away off.” In conjunction with the fifteenth anniversary of the first issue’s release, October 13 has been designated as Walking Dead Day. To help your library celebrate with your patrons, here’s a look at the pop culture phenomenon that The Walking Dead has become.

The namesake television series The Walking Dead premiered, fittingly enough, on Halloween, October 31, 2010. Like the comic, it centered on Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), a small-town sheriff who awakes from a coma to find the hospital he is in, as well as the world outside, overrun by zombies. His life becomes a fight for survival as he struggles to figure out what’s going on and search for other survivors, particularly his family. The show has been a sensation, breaking viewership records for a cable series, and has gone on through its various seasons to explore the threat posed by other human survivors, personified by such memorable villains as the Governor (David Morrissey) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), as well as the ever-present zombie menace. This Sunday, October 7, the ninth season debuts, with this being notable as Andrew Lincoln’s last, as the show will shift its focus to Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) as they attempt to lead the survivors.

With the show’s success, it’s no surprise that it has spawned a spinoff of its own. Unlike The Walking Dead, which began more or less with the zombie apocalypse already underway, Fear the Walking Dead explores what it was like to experience the world descending into chaos. Debuting in August of 2015, it follows Madison (Kim Dickens) and Travis (Cliff Curtis) as they try desperately to keep their family alive and together. The fourth season, which just concluded on September 30, brought the two shows together with the introduction of Morgan, a character originated by Lennie James in the first season of The Walking Dead and brought back in season 5. Fear the Walking Dead has been picked up for its own fifth season, as it and the original show seem poised to continue far into the future.

The Walking Dead began its life in the comic format, but it has expanded into other areas of publishing as well. In 2011, the novel Rise of the Governor brought the backstory of that intriguing villain to life, and it was followed by The Road to Woodbury and The Fall of the Governor Parts 1 and 2 to round out the story arc. Series creator Robert Kirkman teamed up with writer Jay Bonansinga to tell the Governor’s story, and then Bonansinga continued on with four more novels: Descent, Invasion, Search and Destroy, and Return to Woodbury. Fans of the comic series and the show won’t want to miss these stories that delve into the niches of beloved characters and settings.

With so much content available, and plenty more on the way, fans of The Walking Dead are everywhere, and they’ll be looking for ways to celebrate on October 13. Make sure you have plenty of zombie-related media on your shelves for them to check out. And for those who just can’t wait, point them toward hoopla, where they can find Jay Bonansinga’s audiobooks, as well as the entire comic series, available with no holds and no waiting.
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