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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.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Springsteen Returning with Western Stars

Written by Jon Williams

Many performers approaching 70 years of age and nearly 50 years into their career would be slowing down and coasting on their past success. Many performers, but not Bruce Springsteen. The recent announcement of his upcoming solo album Western Stars, releasing June 14, came just a short time after the conclusion of Springsteen on Broadway, his intimate performance show that was originally planned to run for eight weeks and instead ran for well over a year. On top of that, Springsteen has also said that he’s written enough material for a new album with the E Street Band, so fans can be on the lookout for that (plus new tour dates) as well.

Springsteen’s passion for music began at a young age, and he started playing for audiences when he was in his teens. He performed with a number of different musicians over the next several years until signing his first record deal in 1972. That led to his debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., in 1973. That was followed later that same year by The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle. These albums were well received by critics but did not sell especially well, so Springsteen spent nearly a year and a half and recruited the help of his friend Steven Van Zandt as he threw everything he had into his next album.

These efforts paid off when Born to Run was released in August of 1975. On the strength of his incredible live performances, the album went to #3 on the Billboard 200 and a star was born. He built on that success with Darkness on the Edge of Town in 1978, The River in 1980, and Nebraska in 1982, three albums that helped to polish Springsteen’s image of a smart, soulful songwriter with their unflinching looks at working-class life and American politics.

Then in June of 1984 came the album Born in the USA. The iconic title track, along with smash singles like “Dancing in the Dark” and “Glory Days,” made Bruce Springsteen a household name and, over time, a rock n’ roll legend. Since its release it has sold more than 30 million copies, making it one of the bestselling albums of all time. Shortly thereafter, he played a prominent part of the star-studded charity hit “We Are the World,” further cementing his place in the music and pop culture pantheon of the 1980s. He then showed a more subdued side of his musical personality with the 1987 album Tunnel of Love.

The five-year break in albums following Tunnel of Love was Springsteen’s longest to date. He made up for it by releasing two albums, Human Touch and Lucky Town, on the same day in 1992. He would release just one more album in the ‘90s, 1995’s The Ghost of Tom Joad (currently unavailable), but the decade was notable for other reasons, among them an Academy Award and a slew of Grammy Awards for the song “Streets of Philadelphia” and his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999. In the aftermath of 9/11, he made a triumphant return with the 2002 album The Rising.

Since then, Bruce has been as prolific as ever, releasing six albums with no more than three years in between up through 2014. That year’s High Hopes was his most recent leading up to the release of Western Stars, but as noted above, he has been far from idle. The year of 2016 was particularly busy, seeing the release of Chapter and Verse, an 18-track career retrospective in conjunction with his autobiography, Born to Run—the audiobook, which he narrated, won the Audie Award for Best Memoir. That year he was also presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honour for a civilian in the United States, by President Barack Obama.

Bruce Springsteen is a music icon and a rock n’ roll legend, and he’ll be in the forefront of pop culture for the foreseeable future. In addition to the release of Western Stars, he’s also promising a documentary on the making of the album, as well as a new album and tour with the E Street Band. With his popularity high and holding steady, now is a great time to make sure your library’s shelves are stocked with plenty of material relating to the Boss. SmartBrowse his name on our website to find his discography of studio and live albums, concert films, and much, much more from his acclaimed career.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Avengers: Endgame Crushes Box Office Records

Written by Jon Williams

Eleven years and twenty-two movies in, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is stronger than ever. In its first weekend of release, the highly anticipated Avengers: Endgame set a record with over $356 million made at the box office. That’s nearly $100 million more than the previous record holder for opening weekend box office gross—last year’s Avengers: Infinity War, which this movie follows on from. And with the entire weekend box office totaling $392 million, Endgame enjoyed a staggering 90% market share.1 (It’s also worth noting that the weekend’s second place movie was also from Marvel—Captain Marvel, adding $8 million to its current $414 million total in its eighth weekend of release.)

The numbers are even more astounding on a global scale. Endgame brought in over $1.2 billion around the globe. Fewer than 40 movies have made over a billion dollars in the entirety of their theatrical runs, and Endgame did it in just one weekend.2 Infinity War was the previous record holder in this regard as well; it took 11 days to cross the billion dollar-mark.3

Ticket sales for Endgame are likely to remain strong for the foreseeable future, as those who weren’t able to secure tickets for opening weekend look to see it for the first time and as die-hard Marvel fans return for repeat viewings. With that being the case, more box office records are sure to fall, with all-time marks in its sights. Topping the $937 million domestic record of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the $2.8 billion global record of Avatar will be a tall order, but both are certainly within the realm of possibility.

These films are popular with library patrons as well as moviegoers. Use the links above to pre-order Avengers: Endgame and Captain Marvel and get them on your shelves as soon as they are available, and SmartBrowse on our website to find other entries in the ever-popular MCU.

Friday, April 26, 2019

New Music on the Horizon from Taylor Swift

Written by Jon Williams

Taylor Swift has had social media buzzing lately. Starting on April 13, each day she posted a cryptic photo to her Twitter and Instagram accounts with the caption “4.26.” It culminated on Thursday with the unveiling of a butterfly mural by artist Kelsey Montague at Nashville’s famed Gulch neighbourhood, and the wait ended at midnight with the release of her new video and single, “Me!” Full details on her forthcoming seventh album haven’t yet been announced, but she has assured fans that it will be releasing soon.

Swift is hardly a stranger to buzz, as she’s been a sensation for most of her life. Developing a passion for music at a young age, she signed her first record deal when she was just fourteen years old. After developing her songwriting voice and her musical chops, she burst onto the country music scene in 2006 with her self-titled debut album at the age of sixteen. While it never made to the top of the album charts (it peaked at #5), its staying power made it the longest-charting album of the 2000s, and it has been certified 7X platinum. She followed that up in 2008 with Fearless, a diamond-selling monster hit that won two Grammy Awards (including Album of the Year) and made her a bona fide star. Then two years later, in 2010, came Speak Now, which sold more than a million copies in its first week alone and has since gone platinum six times over.

Through her first three albums, Swift’s sound was primarily country, with more and more pop sensibility being added on each disc. That pop sound came even more into the forefront on 2012’s Red, another multiplatinum-selling success. She left the country sound behind altogether on her fifth album, 1989, and was rewarded with a 9X platinum smash hit that gave her a second Album of the Year Grammy and which was covered in its entirety by Ryan Adams. She gave her pop sound a darker edge on 2017’s Reputation, which is her most recent album release leading into her much-anticipated seventh. If the candy-coloured video and bright tones of “Me!” are any indication, the tone of her upcoming album will be a 180-degree departure from Reputation.

As if her stellar music career weren’t enough, Swift has also dabbled in the acting side of the entertainment industry. She started with a role in a 2009 episode of CSI, and made her feature film debut as part of the ensemble cast of 2010’s Valentine’s Day. In 2012 she voiced the character of Audrey in the animated adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax. She returned to TV for an episode of New Girl in 2013, and appeared in the 2014 adaptation of the beloved YA novel The Giver. She has taken a break since then, but will be starring alongside such names as Idris Elba, Rebel Wilson, and Ian McKellen in the upcoming movie version of Cats, coming to theatres this December.

Taylor Swift’s new album will be one of the biggest music releases of the year. Your patrons will be looking for it as soon as it is released, and her back catalog will be in demand as well. Stay tuned for more information on the album as it becomes available, and SmartBrowse her name on our website for live albums, karaoke and lullaby discs, bio videos, and more. Also, make sure to let your patrons know that her music and plenty of other content is available for checkout from hoopla digital, all with no waiting or late fees!