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Friday, August 17, 2018

Patrick Stewart Returning to Star Trek

Written by Jon Williams

In an age of reboots and revivals, it takes a piece of seriously big news to command the attention of the pop culture landscape. That’s exactly what happened recently when first rumours started to swirl and then actual confirmation happened that Patrick Stewart would return to the role of Jean-Luc Picard in a new Star Trek series being developed. The series will explore the further adventures and later life of the beloved man who once commanded the bridge of the iconic starship Enterprise.

Although he had already been acting for many years, many people, especially in the United States, had their first exposure to Stewart when Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted in 1987. That show breathed new life into a popular franchise that, nevertheless, had been off television for nearly twenty years. It worked; the show ran for seven seasons and then, like the original series before it, spawned several big-screen adventures, with Stewart continuing to lead the cast from the show. All in all, he ended up portraying Jean-Luc Picard for fifteen years. It’s been sixteen years since the last time, in the 2002 movie Star Trek: Nemesis, and fans are eager to see what has become of the intrepid captain in the meantime—just as Stewart is himself, calling the opportunity to return “…an unexpected but delightful surprise.” Although he was initially skeptical of performing in a sci-fi television show, he eventually came to appreciate the reach the show had and the impact it had on fans’ lives.

Seeming to confirm his initial skepticism, though, for a time the popularity of Star Trek: The Next Generation hindered him from landing other roles, as filmmakers felt that having “Captain Picard” show up in their project would distract the audience. Stewart finally got around this by jumping into a similar part in another sci-fi franchise. In 2000’s X-Men, he portrayed for the first time Professor Charles Xavier, who runs a school to teach youngsters with freakish abilities (called “mutants”) how to control and use them responsibly. As with Star Trek, the role lingered, with Stewart playing Professor Xavier in a total of seven movies, most recently (and for the final time) in 2017’s critically acclaimed Logan.

Despite the typecasting, Stewart’s talent has won out, allowing him to carve out quite a nice and well-rounded acting career for himself. Prior to Star Trek he had roles in such films as Hennessy, his 1975 film debut, Excalibur, and Dune. He showed off his comedic side as King Richard in the 1993 spoof Robin Hood: Men in Tights, just before his Star Trek role jumped to the big screen in Generations. On television, he has brought a number of literary and theatrical classics to life, including I, Claudius, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Hamlet, and Macbeth, to name just a few. And with his deep, distinctive voice, it’s no surprise that he’s also done quite a bit of voice acting. He recently had a memorable role in The Emoji Movie, and has also lent his voice to such favourites as The Prince of Egypt, Chicken Little, and Gnomeo & Juliet. He maintains a recurring role on the long-running animated series American Dad!, and his association with creator Seth MacFarlane led to him serving as the narrator for both Ted and Ted 2. He also narrated the Tim Burton classic The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Patrick Stewart is an actor whose performances are always incredible, and the news that he’s returning to Star Trek is sure to put his work in the spotlight as never before. Make sure you have The Next Generation shows and movies on your shelves for patrons to discover or relive, and SmartBrowse his name on our website to see a full list of what we have to offer from his impressive career. And for more Star Trek, be sure to pre-order the first season of Discovery, available in November, before the second season premieres in early 2019.

Friday, August 3, 2018

R.L. Stine Continues to Frighten

Written  by Jon Williams

The calendar may have just flipped over to August, but as far as we’re concerned, it’s never too early to start thinking about Halloween. You can look forward to plenty of Halloween media ideas from us between now and October, and what better way to kick it off than with a master of the creepy tale, a man whose work has been the basis for countless pleasant shivers in the dead of night? After an early career writing humour aimed at kids, R.L. Stine eventually came to the conclusion that he’d rather frighten them. His first kids’ horror novel, Blind Date, was published in 1986, and the rest is history. According to his website, he’s written well over 300 books in the intervening 32 years, including a number of wildly popular series.

By far his most well-known series is Goosebumps. Begun in 1992 with Welcome to Dead House, the classic series ran through 1997 and comprised a total of 62 books. Goosebumps has taken on a life of its own with a number of spinoff and companion series, some of which continue to this day. One of those is called SlappyWorld, featuring Slappy, a ventriloquist’s dummy come to life with scary stories of his own to tell. Slappy made his first appearance very early on, in 1993’s Night of the Living Dummy, and became a primary antagonist in the 1995 follow-up. From there he took on a life of his own, so to speak, appearing in several HorrorLand books (yet another Goosebumps-adjacent series) before spawning his own series in 2017’s Slappy Birthday to You. There are currently five books in the series, with Escape from Shudder Mansion just releasing late in July, and more to come.

Of course, popular as it was and still is, Goosebumps was not Stine’s first book series. That honour goes to Fear Street, which started in 1989 with The New Girl. Recent titles in this series include Party Games and Don’t Stay Up Late. Also released in late July, You May Now Kill the Bride is the first book in a new Return to Fear Street series. And Fear Street fans can look forward to renewed interest in the series, with Fox recently announcing plans for three theatrical films to be based on stories from the books.

And although Stine has made his name in the world of publishing, he is certainly no stranger to the screen. As his writing career was gaining traction in the early 1990s, he helped create and wrote for the children’s TV series Eureeka’s Castle. Shortly thereafter, Goosebumps was turned into an anthology TV series that ran for four seasons. In 2007, the movie The Haunting Hour: Don’t Think About It was made, loosely adapted from a book of Stine’s short stories, and that too was spun off into a successful anthology series, winning a number of Daytime Emmys among other awards. And in 2015, Goosebumps became a feature film starring Jack Black as R.L. Stine himself. A sequel, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween, is due in theatres in October.

R.L. Stine has been giving young readers the creeps for more than thirty years now, and in so doing, has inspired generations of kids to develop a love of reading that has carried them into adulthood (and adults who grew up reading him as kids should check out Red Rain, his grown-up horror novel written in tribute to longtime fans). As his popularity expands with each new book and movie, continue to share his work with eager young readers and listeners. You can search his name on our website for all his works we carry in audiobook and Playaway, and point your patrons to hoopla, where they can find a wide selection of his books in both audio and eBook.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Comic-Con Heavy on TV

Written by Jon Williams

Comic-Con International kicked off yesterday in San Diego. Beginning in 1970 and initially focused primarily on comic books, SDCC has evolved into a preeminent pop-culture showcase extravaganza that goes far beyond just comics (although they are still a large part of the show) and into the realms of movies and TV. Here is a quick look at some of the television titles, both beloved favourites and soon-to-be breakthroughs, that will be holding panels and releasing news as the convention progresses through Sunday.

A natural outgrowth of comics is into animation, a format that is often associated with children’s entertainment. A number of animated children’s television shows will be at Comic-Con. One of those is Adventure Time, the beloved cartoon whose tenth and final season is all set to wrap up, with just the series finale remaining. Lego’s animation has become quite a force in entertainment, and Lego Ninjago will be represented at Comic-Con as well. Fans will also be able to hear about the upcoming seventh season of Voltron: Legendary Defender, a reboot of the classic Voltron series from the ‘80s. Another reboot comes in the form of DuckTales, the new adventures of Scrooge McDuck and his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie. And in a bit of surprise news, it was announced yesterday that Star Wars: The Clone Wars will return for one final 12-episode arc to complete the series.

Of course, cartoons aren’t just for kids anymore, and animated entertainment for grown-ups is very much on Comic-Con’s agenda. The Simpsons is the longest-running sitcom in American history, animated or otherwise, and at Comic-Con will be looking ahead to its 30th season. In addition, creator Matt Groening (who also created Futurama) will be presenting his new series, Disenchantment. Similarly long-running Seth MacFarlane staples Family Guy (going into its 17th season) and American Dad (13th season) will be represented, as will Bob’s Burgers (9th season) and Archer (10th season).

Horror television is a genre that has seen quite a bit of growth lately, and that will be reflected in big panels for both The Walking Dead, which will undergo some big changes in its upcoming ninth season, and Fear the Walking Dead, which returns for the second half of its fourth season on August 12. Carrying on the zombie theme is Z Nation, soon to return for its fifth season. From the mind of Stephen King comes the second season of Mr. Mercedes, based on his book trilogy, as well as Castle Rock, a new series not directly from King’s writings but set in and around a town that features prominently in many of his works. Also making the leap from the page to the screen are The Passage, from Justin Cronin’s vampire trilogy, and Nightflyers, based on a novella from Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin.

Then there’s sci-fi and fantasy TV, which has perhaps the largest presence at this year’s convention. The granddaddy of them all is Doctor Who, which will have a huge panel in preparation for its eleventh season and first female Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker. Fans can also look forward to panels on Star Trek: Discovery, the latest series in that massive universe, as well as the Trek-inspired homage from Seth MacFarlane, The Orville. Legion and The Gifted both tie into the X-Men universe, while Preacher is adapted from the Vertigo comics series. A Charmed reboot is coming this fall, and fans of witches can also look forward to A Discovery of Witches, adapted from Deborah Harkness’s novels. Finally, The Magicians, a series based on Lev Grossman’s novels, recently wrapped its third season and will return next year for a fourth.

And there are also plenty of shows that don’t easily fit into any of these categories. Riverdale makes perfect sense for Comic-Con, as it is based on classic Archie Comics characters. Breaking Bad’s panel will celebrate ten years since the show premiered, and the spinoff/prequel, Better Call Saul, will be there as well to focus on the upcoming fourth season. The surreal life-after-death comedy The Good Place will look ahead to its third season, while the historical drama Vikings prepares for its midseason premiere. And the trend of reboot continues with a new iteration of Magnum P.I. coming in September.

That’s a lot of TV—and that’s just a small portion of all the movie, comic, and other pop-culture media properties that will be exhibiting at Comic-Con International in San Diego this year. What are you and your patrons looking forward to hearing about? Let us know, and stay in touch with CVS Midwest Tape for all the latest news as these shows and more make their way onto DVD and Blu-ray.

Friday, June 8, 2018

2018 Audie Awards Announced

Written by Jon Williams

AudioFile, a magazine dedicated to reviewing audiobooks, calls the annual Audie Awards “the Oscars of the audiobook industry.” Since 1996, the Audio Publishers Association has handed out these prestigious awards to the best audiobooks of the year. This year’s gala was held at the New York Historical Society on May 31, hosted by Simon Vance, himself an Audie-winning narrator several times over.

The novel Lincoln in the Bardo (written by George Saunders and narrated by Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, and a star-studded full cast) took home the night’s biggest prize, the coveted Audiobook of the Year award. Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give (narrated by Bahni Turpin) scored wins in two categories: Young Adult and Best Female Narrator. Born a Crime by Daily Show host Trevor Noah (self-narrated) won for Best Male Narrator, while Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology won in the Narration by the Author category.

Finally, we offer hearty congratulations to our friends at Dreamscape Media, who produced the winner in History/Biography. Written by Patricia Hruby Powell and narrated by Adenrele Ojo and MacLeod Andrews, Loving vs. Virginia is the tale of a landmark civil rights case that went all the way to the Supreme Court. Well done to everyone involved!

Click here for our collection of all the Audie Award-winning audiobooks, or see the list below for individual titles.

Audiobook of the Year: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (narrated by full cast)
Audio Drama: Brother Francis by Paul McCusker (various narrators)
Autobiography/Memoir: Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen (narrated by the author)
Best Female Narrator: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (narrated by Bahni Turpin)
Best Male Narrator: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (narrated by the author)
Business/Personal Development: Peak Performance by Brad Stullberg and Steve Magness (narrated by Christopher Lane)
Erotica: Claim & Protect by Rhenna Morgan (narrated by John Lane)
Fantasy: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss (narrated by Kate Reading)
Fiction: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (narrated by Cathleen McCarron)
History/Biography: Loving vs. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell (narrated by Adenrele Ojo and MacLeod Andrews)
Humor: Carpet Diem by Justin Lee Anderson (narrated by Matthew Lloyd Davies)
Inspirational Fiction: Catching the Wind by Melanie Dobson (narrated by Nancy Peterson)
Inspirational Non-Fiction: Fire Road by Kim Phuc Phan Thi (narrated by Emily Woo Zeller)
Literary Fiction: House of Names by Colm Toibin (narrated by Juliet Stevenson, Charlie Anson, and Pippa Nixon)
Middle Grade: See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng (narrated by full cast)
Multi-Voiced: Restart by Gordon Korman (various narrators)
Mystery: The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz (narrated by Simon Vance)
Narration by the Author: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Non-Fiction: American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee (narrated by Mark Bramhall)
Original Work: Romeo and Juliet: A Novel by David Hewson (narrated by Richard Armitage)
Paranormal: Curse on the Land by Faith Hunter (narrated by Khristine Hvam)
Romance: The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare (narrated by Mary Jane Wells)
Science Fiction: Provenance by Ann Leckie (narrated by Adjoa Andoh)
Short Stories: The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo (narrated by Lauren Fortgang)
Thriller/Suspense: The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker (narrated by Edoardo Ballerini and Graham Winton)
Young Adult: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (narrated by Bahni Turpin)
Young Listeners: Trombone Shorty by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews (narrated by Dion Graham)

Friday, May 25, 2018

American Idol Is Back!

Written by Jon Williams

On Monday of this week, the popular reality singing show American Idol capped off its sixteenth season by crowning Maddie Poppe as its new champion. This season was the show’s first on ABC following fifteen on Fox followed by a two-year hiatus. Ryan Seacrest returned as the show’s host, where he was joined by new judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan. Along with Poppe, some other names to watch for from this season as their musical careers unfold include Caleb Lee Hutchinson, Gabby Barrett, Cade Foeher, Michael J. Woodard, Catie Turner, and Ada Vox.

Once one of the most popular shows on television, if not the most popular, ratings had declined for Idol’s last few seasons on Fox. Nevertheless, it still managed to produce some phenomenal musical talent. The most recent winner, Trent Harmon, released his debut album You Got ‘Em All last week, while that season’s runner-up, La’Porsha Renae, released hers last year. Other winners from this stretch include Nick Fradiani, Caleb Johnson (whose debut album is currently out of print), and Candice Glover.

Prior to that, Seasons 1 through 11 were the show’s heyday, shining a spotlight on a number of young singers that would emerge as musical superstars. The audience was hooked from the start, when Kelly Clarkson took the first season crown over runner-up Justin Guarini. She is now one of the biggest names in music. The same can be said for Carrie Underwood, the winner of Season 4, who served as a mentor this season and whose new album Cry Pretty is coming in September. She’s carved out an enormous career in country music, as has Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery, who dropped his most recent album, Seasons Change, in March. Other winners from these seasons are Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze, and Phillip Phillips.

Of course, sometimes contestants that don’t win end up doing pretty well for themselves in the music world as well. One of the biggest names to come out of American Idol has been Jennifer Hudson, who actually placed seventh in the show’s third season, and who has won an Academy Award for her acting skills in addition to two Grammy Awards for her music. The Season 8 runner-up was Adam Lambert, who has had an impressive solo career, toured as the frontman for Queen, and starred as Eddie in the 2016 version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Other notables include Katharine McPhee, Chris Daughtry, Kellie Pickler, Danny Gokey, Crystal Bowersox, and Colton Dixon, while a number of alumni, including Season 10’s Haley Reinhart and Casey Abrams, have performed as part of musical sensation Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox.

So make sure you have music from all these winners and contestants on your shelves and be on the lookout for upcoming albums from this season’s performers as well, because Idol is back. The show has already been renewed for a second season on ABC and seventeenth overall, with Ryan Seacrest and all of this season’s judges returning. With the show back in the spotlight, your patrons will be looking for music from all these incredible performers.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Ron Howard Brings a Steady Hand to Solo

Written by Jon Williams

We’re now just a week away from the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story into theatres. This will be the second non-trilogy, standalone film in the Star Wars saga, following the huge success of Rogue One in 2016. Like that film, Solo will also dive into the period of time leading up to the events that take place in the original 1977 Star Wars. It will detail the early life of Han Solo, the smuggler turned rebel originally played with such swagger by Harrison Ford, as he meets Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian and embarks on his life on the fringes of society. An impressive lineup fills the cast, and bringing it all together from the director’s chair is Hollywood veteran Ron Howard.

Although he’s just 64 years old, Howard’s career spans nearly six decades itself. It began in front of the camera, of course, including two very high-profile television roles. He began playing Opie Taylor, son of the title character on The Andy Griffith Show, in 1960, when he was just six years old. That ran for eight seasons, and he also played the character in single episodes of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. and Mayberry R.F.D., as well as a 1986 reunion movie that was his last significant acting role. In 1974, he began playing Richie Cunningham on Happy Days and served as the main character of that series for most of its run. As with Opie Taylor, he also crossed the role of Richie Cunningham over to Laverne & Shirley.

Those are his long-running and best-known roles, but as a young actor he also made appearances in a number of other popular shows, including The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Dennis the Menace, The Fugitive, M*A*S*H, and The Waltons, among many others. And those are just his television roles. He also appeared in a number of films, such as The Music Man, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, and The Shootist, John Wayne’s final film. In 1973, a starring role in the teenage comedy-drama American Graffiti was Howard’s first encounter with George Lucas’s then-burgeoning Lucasfilm company. He also starred in the 1979 follow-up More American Graffiti, but by then his acting career was winding down.

In 1977, Howard got his first chance to direct a feature film with Grand Theft Auto, a rollicking car chase adventure that he also wrote (with his father Rance) and starred in. His big break in directing was 1982’s Night Shift, a buddy comedy starring Michael Keaton in his first major role and Howard’s Happy Days co-star Henry Winkler. He then went on to bring Tom Hanks to the big screen for the first time in the 1984 romcom Splash, and later directed Steve Martin in Parenthood. While his first few films were comedic in nature, in 1988 he returned to the Lucasfilm fold by directing George Lucas’s fantastical Willow (currently unavailable).

Howard’s career has only continued to grow from there. The 1990s saw him direct such box office hits as Backdraft, Far and Away, Apollo 13, and Ransom. In 2000 he brought the Dr. Seuss classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas to the big screen, and then followed that up in 2001 with A Beautiful Mind, which earned him an Academy Award for Best Director. He was nominated again for 2008’s Frost/Nixon but lost out to Slumdog Millionaire’s Danny Boyle. Other notable directorial outings include the boxing drama Cinderella Man, the Jay-Z music festival documentary Made in America, and the trilogy of Robert Langdon films based on Dan Brown’s bestselling novels: The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons, and Inferno.

Many fans still recognize Ron Howard from his earliest roles as Opie Taylor and Richie Cunningham; more currently he may be known as the narrator for the comedy series Arrested Development, which he also produces. But whether it’s in front of or behind the camera, his vast Hollywood experience made Howard the perfect choice to take over the reins of Solo when the film’s original directors departed, bringing his practiced eye to bear on the latest movie from a galaxy far, far away. His most high-profile project to date will have patrons excited to check out more from his filmography, which is well worth exploring in its own right. Click any of the links above to add these movies to your collection, or SmartBrowse his name on our website for a more complete collection of his acting and directing roles.

Friday, May 4, 2018

MCU Going Strong with Infinity War

Written by Jon Williams

Last week, Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War thundered into theatres across North America to the tune of a nearly $258 million opening. That total pushed it past 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the highest grossing opening weekend of all time. Going into its second weekend, it looks likely to dominate the box office once again, and in fact may continue to do so until the next Marvel movie, the much-anticipated Deadpool sequel, opens on May 18.

We last checked in on the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) nearly two years ago, with the release of Captain America: Civil War. That movie kicked off Phase 3 of Marvel’s ongoing interconnected movie universe, and the post detailed the films that made up the first two phases. Phase 3 continued in 2016 with Doctor Strange, which brought Benedict Cumberbatch’s reality-bending sorcerer into the mix. The following year saw three MCU blockbusters, starting with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in May. The action returned to Earth with Spider-Man: Homecoming in July, the webslinger’s first solo outing since Civil War introduced him to the Avengers team. Then, in November, Thor: Ragnarok showed the exploits of the two Avengers (Hulk being the second) who weren’t around for the events of Civil War. And 2018 has really brought the power: before Infinity War’s incredible opening weekend, Black Panther, which opened in February, became the third highest-grossing film of all time in North America. That movie, which is still showing in many theatres nearly three months later, comes to video on May 15.

So where do the Avengers go from here? For those that have seen the movie (no spoilers!), that is a very pressing questions. The immediate answer is Ant-Man and the Wasp, which comes to theatres on July 6. It’s a sequel to 2015’s Ant-Man (Phase 2), which saw Paul Rudd’s character Scott Lang get the suit that allows him to shrink or grow at will. However, the film is set in the time period between Civil War and Infinity War, so don’t expect too many answers as to what happens next. From there, fans will have to wait until next March, when Captain Marvel is set to be released, with Brie Larson in the title role. Likewise, though, there isn’t likely to be any closure here, either, as it’s set in the 1990s. No, for that, everyone is just going to have to wait for the as-yet-untitled fourth Avengers movie, currently slated for release on May 3, 2019. That will bring the curtain down on Phase 3 and lead into Phase 4, about which little is known at this point.

A year is a long time to wait for the next Avengers, but on the bright side, it’s also plenty of time for patrons to relive or get caught up on all the incredible movies that have brought us to this point—starting, of course, with Iron Man, which kicked off the MCU when it was released almost exactly ten years ago, on May 2, 2008. And for those who want to dig a little deeper, we have curated a collection of Infinity War-related comics on hoopla, as well as a wealth of other Marvel titles.