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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The Mandalorian Returns

This Friday, October 30, sees the return of the hit Star Wars series The Mandalorian for a second season. Set five years after Return of the Jedi and the fall of the Galactic Empire, the incredibly popular first season starred Pedro Pascal as the titular bounty hunter as he came across “the Child” (popularly known as “Baby Yoda”) and took him under his protection. The star-studded first season included Carl Weathers, Gina Carano, Giancarlo Esposito, Werner Herzog, and Nick Nolte as a variety of allies and adversaries, with direction from show creator Jon Favreau, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Taika Waititi, among others. The music (available on hoopla) earned an Emmy Award for composer Ludwig Göransson.

Everyone knows about the Star Wars movies, of course, with six of them appearing in the top 20 grossing films of all time. Recently, though, the saga has taken to the small screen to expand its universe, primarily through animation. Starting in 2008, The Clone Wars showed the Jedi and other heroes as they fought to defend the Old Republic. Rebels took over in 2014 and followed a ragtag band of friends as they struggled to put together a coalition that could take a stand against the Empire’s tyranny. Resistance began in 2018 and ran for two seasons alongside the sequel trilogy. The Mandalorian is the first live-action Star Wars series, but there are plenty more on the horizon. Diego Luna is returning to reprise his role as Cassian Andor from Rogue One in an upcoming show, and Ewan McGregor is once again donning the Jedi robes of Obi-Wan Kenobi for a new limited series as well.

Star Wars is always popular with fans and library patrons, and the return of The Mandalorian is likely to bring renewed interest. Click the links above for the movies and TV shows, and be sure to visit our website for soundtracks, audiobooks, and plenty more related content.

Friday, September 4, 2020

In Memoriam: Chadwick Boseman

Written by Jon Williams

The entertainment world was stunned last weekend by the passing of actor Chadwick Boseman after a long private battle with colon cancer. He was 43.

Boseman got an early start on a career in film and television. He got a degree in directing from Howard University, where Phylicia Rashad was one of his teachers and Denzel Washington was a benefactor. He began on the small screen with bit parts in shows like Law & Order, CSI:NY, and ER. In 2008 he appeared in his first big-screen role in The Express. However, he stayed mostly on television for the next few years, landing recurring and regular roles on the shows Lincoln Heights and Persons Unknown (both currently unavailable), one more one-shots on shows like Castle and Justified (Season 2 unavailable).

His star rocketed to the top for good with his first starring role. In 2013, he played Jackie Robinson, the first African-American player in Major League Baseball, in 42. (Coincidentally, the day he passed, August 28, was the date MLB celebrated Jackie Robinson Day this year.) He then went on to play other Black icons: James Brown in 2014’s Get on Up, and Thurgood Marshall, the first Black justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, in 2017’s Marshall.

While Boseman achieved praise for portraying each of those larger-than-life, real figures from American history, the greatest portion of his fame came from his role as a fictional king. T’Challa, the superhero Black Panther, was created by Marvel Comics in 1966; Boseman brought him to the silver screen in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. The character got his own standalone adventure in 2018’s Black Panther, detailing T’Challa’s coronation as King of Wakanda and the first threat to his rule. Boseman played him again in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Black Panther (#4), Infinity War (#5), and Endgame (#2) are currently three of the top five grossing films of all time at the domestic box office.

Chadwick Boseman’s final film role was in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, based on a play detailing a recording session for blues musician Ma Rainey; release plans for the movie are still up in the air. In the meantime, make sure to have his work available for patrons who want to celebrate this phenomenally talented actor. Click on the links above, or SmartBrowse his name on our website to find more.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Cameron Back for More Terminator

Written by Jon Williams

Terminator: Dark Fate is in theatres now, and is available for pre-order on DVD and Blu-ray. This big-budget blockbuster is a blast from the past, a unique entry in a franchise that has been entertaining audiences for 35 years.

The Terminator, the first film in the series, was a sensation from the moment in hit theatres in 1984. It starred Arnold Schwarzenegger in the titular role of an emotionless cyborg mercenary sent from the future to assassinate Sarah Connor before she can have a son who will grow up to lead the human resistance against their machine overlords. Hailed by fans and critics alike, it spawned a 1991 sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, in which Schwarzenegger’s cyborg is once again sent back in time, this time reprogrammed to protect Sarah and her young son against a more advanced Terminator model capable of shifting its shape. Another smashing success, this is the highest-grossing movie of Schwarzenegger’s career to date.

These first two Terminator films were written and directed by James Cameron, who has had quite a career in the film industry, to say the least. After the success of The Terminator, he helped Sylvester Stallone write the screenplay for Rambo: First Blood Part II, then went on to write and direct the sci-fi hits Aliens and The Abyss. He followed up T2 with True Lies, an action thriller starring Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis. Then in 1997 came Titanic, the tale of doomed romance aboard the doomed ship starring Leonard DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. That film won 14 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, and it held the record for highest-grossing film of all time until 2010, when it was overtaken by Avatar—another Cameron film.

While Cameron may have turned his attention to these other acclaimed projects after T2, the franchise did not wither in his absence. In 2003, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines showed how Skynet, the artificial intelligence ruling the machines, managed to rise to power despite the events of the first two movies. Then the series came to the small screen with The Sarah Connor Chronicles, a show that ran for two seasons with Lena Headey starring as Sarah Connor as she protects and trains her son John for his role in the future. Terminator Salvation brought the franchise back into theatres, showing the struggles of John Connor (Christian Bale) as the leader of the human resistance. Then in 2015, Terminator Genisys brought Emilia Clarke into the series as Sarah Connor in a past that has been fractured by time travel.

Genisys was planned to be the new direction for the franchise until James Cameron returned to the fold. He provided the story for Dark Fate, which reunites Schwarzenegger’s Terminator and Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor in a movie that serves as a direct sequel to T2. The films and TV show produced in the interim are now considered to be part of an alternate timeline. At present, future films are planned to follow on from Dark Fate.

James Cameron has made some of the most groundbreaking and popular cinema of all time. Keep his movies on your shelves using the links above, or SmartBrowse on our website for more. Also, make sure your comics-loving patrons know there is plenty of Terminator content for them to enjoy on hoopla digital as well!

Friday, October 4, 2019

Get Ready for Joker

Written by Jon Williams

Batman is one of the oldest and most beloved superheroes, having now been around for 80 years. Now, though, his most famous nemesis is stepping into the spotlight. Joker launches into theatres this weekend with plenty of buzz, looking to thrill audiences and break box office records. Here is a look at how the character has evolved throughout its various iterations over the years.

The Joker is nearly as old as the Caped Crusader himself. He made his first appearance in the premiere issue of Batman early in 1940, and the two have been fighting ever since. The original origin story holds that he fell into a vat of chemical waste, altering his appearance and driving him insane. This has changed often, due ostensibly to the mercurial nature of the character. In the comics he has been by turns a vicious murderer and a mischievous prankster. Patrons interested in these exploits will find a wide range of classic and contemporary comics from DC on hoopla digital.

This iconic villain remained a page-only creation for more than two and a half decades. He came to the screen for the first time when he was played by Cesar Romero in the classic television show that began in 1966, as well as the movie that accompanied it. The series featured camp over grit, and the Joker in this version was impish rather than violent. He came to animation in 1968 in The Adventures of Batman, voiced by Ted Knight, who reprised the role in 1972 when Batman teamed up with the Mystery, Inc. crew for The New Scooby-Doo Movies. In 1977, The New Adventures of Batman saw the Joker voiced by Lennie Weinrib, and in 1985 he was voiced for one episode of The Super Powers Team by legendary voice actor Frank Welker.

Being aimed more or less at kids, those iterations of the Joker were generally lighthearted in nature. Things began taking a darker turn with Tim Burton’s 1989 take on Batman, which saw Jack Nicholson portray the Joker as a twisted gangster intent on taking out the population of Gotham City. Mark Hamill provided what many consider the definitive voice of the animated Joker beginning in 1992 with Batman: The Animated Series and continuing for years through several animated projects and video games, including the movies Mask of the Phantasm (1993) and Return of the Joker (2000), and even up through recent outings like The Killing Joke.

After Nicholson’s incredible performance and with Hamill holding down the fort on the animated side, the Joker wasn’t seen again in live-action form until 2008. In The Dark Knight, the middle film of Christopher Nolan’s acclaimed Batman trilogy, Heath Ledger made it worth the wait with a powerhouse performance that earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Unfortunately, it was a posthumous award, as the actor tragically passed away shortly before the film’s release.

Since then, however, focus has returned to the Joker, with a variety of big names playing him. He was portrayed by Jared Leto in 2016’s Suicide Squad along a team of super villains, with Harley Quinn and Deadshot among them. This movie has a sequel in development as well as several planned spinoffs, so fans will be seeing this version of the Joker again. In 2017’s animated Lego Batman Movie, he was voiced by comic actor Zach Galifianakis. And now, in Joker, he’s played by Joaquin Phoenix in an unhinged performance that is already drawing raves.

Batman vs. the Joker is a rivalry that has stood the test of time. Visit our website for plenty of Batman media across all our formats, and point your patrons toward hoopla for comics and more they can enjoy immediately on all their devices.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Remembering Eddie Money and Ric Ocasek

Written by Jon Williams

The music world is in mourning this week after the recent passing of two popular figures: singer-songwriter Eddie Money and multitalented musician Ric Ocasek, best known as a member of the band the Cars.

Edward Mahoney took the stage name Eddie Money in 1968 when he moved from New York to California to pursue a career in music following a short stint as a trainee with the NYPD. Performing in clubs around San Francisco allowed him to steadily grow a fanbase and eventually secure a recording contract. He started with a bang; his self-titled debut album, released in 1977, contained “Baby Hold On” and “Two Tickets to Paradise,” two big hits that are still in frequent rotation on classic rock stations. After a second album, Life for the Taking, in 1979, he hit his stride in the 1980s, releasing five albums that spawned hits like “Think I’m in Love,” “Take Me Home Tonight,” “I Wanna Go Back,” and “Walk on Water.” His album production dipped after that, with just three released in the 1990s, followed by Wanna Go Back, an album covering hits from the 1960s, in 2007. A new album release was planned for July of this year, but was put on hold due to Money’s health issues.

Unfortunately, most of Money’s individual albums are currently out of print on CD, with the exceptions of Playing for Keeps (1980) and Where’s the Party? (1983). However, SmartBrowsing his name on our website will give you a choice of two greatest hits compilations and a live album. In addition, his 2007 covers album, Wanna Go Back, is available for patrons to borrow from hoopla digital.

Like Money, Ric Ocasek began his musical journey in the 1960s but saw his greatest success in the 1970s and ‘80s. He was one of the founding members of the Cars, who released their debut album in 1978. In their ten initial years together, they would release six albums and such timeless hits as “Just What I Needed,” “My Best Friend’s Girl,” “Shake It Up,” and “Drive.” After a 23-year breakup, the band reunited for a final album, Move Like This, in 2011, and they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. Ocasek also released seven albums as a solo artist. He was also a noted musical producer, both for the Cars and his own solo work in addition to bands like Weezer, No Doubt, and Bad Religion, among others.

Of the Cars’ albums, only Panorama (1980) and Heartbeat City (1984) are currently available on CD, but a SmartBrowse will show a number of compilations and soundtracks their music appears on. Luckily, all of their albums (and more) are available on hoopla digital for patrons to explore and enjoy, as are four of Ocasek’s solo albums.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Comic-Con Roundup

Written by Jon Williams

Last week, the annual event that is Comic-Con International took place in San Diego, California. The four-day extravaganza allows fans, celebrities, and creators to come together in a celebration that generally centres on science fiction and fantasy but branches out to encompass all aspects of pop culture. As happens each year, there was plenty of news and buzz to come out of the many panels and presentations that made up this year’s convention.

Marvel is the biggest name in movies right now, and coming off the success of the blockbusters Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far from Home, there wasn’t much of a blueprint for where the franchise would go for “Phase Four” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That is no longer the case, as Marvel used Comic-Con as a platform to announce its slate for 2020 – 2021. In theatres, first up is the previously announced Black Widow, starring Scarlett Johansson along with David Harbour and Rachel Weisz. Then fans can look forward to The Eternals, a superhero ensemble that will include stars such as Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, and Richard Madden, in 2020. The following year will kick off with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, featuring a martial arts hero that has been a part of Marvel Comics since 1973 but has not yet made it onto the screen. Then comes Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, with Benedict Cumberbatch reprising his role from the 2017 film in what is being teased as Marvel’s first horror movie. Finally, there will be Thor: Love and Thunder, directed by Ragnarok’s Taika Waititi and with Natalie Portman returning to the franchise to become the goddess of thunder. And for television, there’s even more Marvel news. Familiar Avengers characters will come to the small screen in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan), WandaVision (Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), while What If…? will be an animated series that featuring Jeffrey Wright and a number of familiar voices as it explores alternate realities.

Marvel wasn’t the only beloved franchise to make waves at Comic-Con. Patrick Stewart’s return as the beloved character Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation was announced last year, but a new trailer provided the first extended look at the new series (simply titled Picard). The trailer contained some surprises, such as the return of other fan-favourite characters Data (played by Brent Spiner) and Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), while the panel revealed that Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis would also be appearing in the show in their familiar roles from The Next Generation. While that was the biggest news, the panel also covered the upcoming third season of the acclaimed Star Trek: Discovery, as well as the upcoming series Lower Decks. Expected to premiere in 2020, the show will focus on lower-ranking officers on a non-vital starship, and will be the first Star Trek in animated form since The Animated Series furthered the adventures of the original crew from 1973 – 1975.

Horror had quite a presence at this year’s SDCC. The biggest release was probably the new trailer for It: Chapter 2, which comes to theatres on September 6. It’s the sequel to the 2017 blockbuster that became the highest-grossing horror movie of all time, and it picks up (more or less) 27 years after the first film left off. Both movies are based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, which is frequently cited as one of his best. Staying in the King family, it was announced that the show NOS4A2 (based on a novel by Joe Hill, King’s son) had been renewed for a second season. Hill also discussed the upcoming shows Locke & Key, adapted from a series of comics he created with artist Gabriel Rodriguez, and Creepshow, which is based on the 1982 movie written by King and directed by George Romero. That show will be produced by Greg Nicotero, who is most famous for The Walking Dead, which offered plenty of details for the original show and the spinoff Fear the Walking Dead, as well as a new show yet to come. There was also an interactive exhibit promoting the new season of American Horror Story and a trailer for Guillermo del Toro’s adaptation of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

And still there’s more. Tom Cruise showed up to surprise the crowd with a trailer for Top Gun: Maverick, the long-awaited sequel to the high-flying 1986 hit. There was also a trailer for Cats, the upcoming movie version of the Andrew Lloyd Webster musical that will star Taylor Swift, Idris Elba, and Judi Dench, to name just a few. There was also a look at Terminator: Dark Fate, which will welcome James Cameron and Edward Furlong back to the franchise and pick up following Terminator 2, with the intervening installments being considered part of a different timeline. For TV, there was plenty of info on new shows The Dark Crystal, His Dark Materials, and Snowpiercer, as well as new seasons of Westworld, The Expanse, Rick and Morty, Preacher, and more.

Those are just the highlights of the shows, movies, and more that presented at this year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego, and you can bet your patrons will be looking for all of these titles and their related media. Let us know what you’re looking forward to, and stay tuned to Midwest Tape for news on these and other exciting releases as they approach.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Big Franchises Wind Down in 2019

Written by Jon Williams

There are certain media franchises that become so popular that they transcend just the world of entertainment and become cultural touchstones. For three such franchises, 2019 is they year in which they will come to an end—or at least wind down their current iterations. Let’s take a look at them.

On April 26, Avengers: Endgame was released into theatres in North America. It debuted with a bang, taking in the largest opening-weekend box office gross of all time with more than $350 million. It has steadily added to that total and now stands as the second on the list of highest-grossing films of all time. While it seems unlikely to take over the top spot, it’s still in theatres and will definitely add to its total, currently over $825 million. Endgame is the culmination of 22 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that started with Iron Man in 2008. While this movie may have brought the story of the Avengers to a close, the same certainly can’t be said for the MCU as a whole. On the immediate horizon is Spider-Man: Far from Home, the sequel to 2017’s Homecoming, with Tom Holland starring as the titular webslinger. This will mark the formal end to “Phase Three” of the MCU, but future plans include a Black Widow movie featuring Scarlett Johansson’s character, a Black Panther sequel, a third Guardians of the Galaxy installment, and plenty more on screens both big and small. There is definitely plenty to look forward to from Marvel in the future, although whether it continues to work together toward one cohesive story remains to be seen.

The eighth and final season of Game of Thrones premiered before that, on April 14, and came to its conclusion on May 19. Before the season began, we examined the likelihood of broken ratings records, particularly for the series finale. Those predictions came true, as the season’s sixth episode, the show’s last, drew more than 19.3 million viewers, making it the most-watched series finale in history for a show on cable. While the final season drew mixed reviews from fans and critics, viewership numbers remained strong throughout, and hunger for related content has kept author George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood, a tale that begins centuries before the events of the show, on the bestseller list since its publication last November. With the show in the rearview mirror, fans will have to be content with Fire & Blood to hold them over for now, but there are more stories to come. For one thing, Martin still has two books left in his Song of Ice & Fire, the novel series that inspired the show. It has been eight years since the last, A Dance with Dragons, was published, and while no date has yet been announced for the arrival of the next, The Winds of Winter, recent updates from Martin have fans optimistic that it will be finished in the not-too-distant future. HBO also has plans for a number of companion shows, with at least one currently going forward with Naomi Watts set to star.

Then, later this year, the Star Wars sequel trilogy will come to a close when Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker comes out on December 20. Of course, this echoes 1983, when Return of the Jedi concluded the original trilogy, and 2005, when Revenge of the Sith did the same for the prequel trilogy; however, it’s actually a culmination of all three, as The Rise of Skywalker will drop the curtain on the saga of Anakin Skywalker and his offspring. The current trilogy began in 2015 with The Force Awakens, the one film that Avengers: Endgame trails on the all-time box office list, and continued with The Last Jedi in 2017. After this film there will be a short hiatus for Star Wars on the big screen, but it definitely will be back—a new film series, set in a different era from the Skywalker films, is set to begin in December 2022 with Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss at the helm. In the meantime, Pedro Pascal will star in the upcoming TV show The Mandalorian, to premiere November 12 of this year, and Diego Luna will reprise his role from the standalone blockbuster Rogue One in another, as-yet-unnamed TV series.

So while these beloved franchises may be coming to a close, each in its own way, fans can take comfort in the fact that there are still plenty of stories to come in the respective universes. And patrons will always be eager to revisit these favourites or immerse themselves for the first time. Use the links above to put these great movies and TV shows on your shelves, and SmartBrowse on our website for a plethora of related content.