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Friday, April 27, 2012

Alberta Library Conference 2012

The 2012 Alberta Library Conference kicked off last night in Jasper, Alberta. The event started with an opening receptions and appreciation of the library vendors. Once again CVS Midwest Tape is proud to be a vendor partner for ALC and exhibiting and the conference. If you are in the area stop by table #62 and say "Hi" to Dave Narciso.

Top Superhero Films

Written by Kirk Baird

The Avengers kicks off this summer's film season and is one of three hotly anticipated superhero films releasing in the next three months along with The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man. But it’s not all skin-tight suits and masks to be a good superhero film—for every Dark Knight there’s a Batman and Robin. Here are some of the best from the genre:

Superman (1979): At the time of its 1978 release this was the biggest superhero movie of all time. The film with the slogan “You will believe a man can fly” was also the first superhero movie that got it right. Richard Donner’s film strikes the perfect balance between reverence for the Man of Steel and lighthearted fun, and newcomer Christopher Reeve embodied the look and spirit of Superman as none before or since. But Superman isn’t just Reeve’s movie; a marvelously hammy turn—some might say a bit too campy—by Gene Hackman as Superman’s arch nemesis Lex Luther, and scene stealer Ned Beatty as Luthor’s dimwitted assistant Otis are just a few of the “other” highlight performances. Superman 2, while it doesn’t soar quite as high as the original, remains a worthy sequel as well.

The Dark Knight (2008): Batman has at three separate moments redefined the superhero film. In the 1960s on TV and with a feature film, Adam West introduced Batman as celeb-happy campy fun for kids and adults. That cartoony image and “bat-tastic” lingo stuck around for years—until Frank Miller’s groundbreaking graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns in 1986 redefined the hero as a grim force of violence and vengeance. 

Batman as a sociopathic hero inspired the look and feel of Tim Burton’s Batman from 1989. Burton amped up the dark and brooding and pondered what would compel a billionaire playboy to hide behind a black mask and cape and fight crime. Then Christopher Nolan made the darkest superhero film yet, The Dark Knight, including an iconic, Oscar-winning performance by Heath Ledger as the immoral and catalyst-for-chaos Joker. Can Nolan possibly top his 2008 classic? We have only until late July to find out.

X-Men (2000) and X-2 (2003): Filmmaker Bryan Singer’s two X-Men movies, like the comics about the mutant heroes that spawned them, are all allegory. But the films combine said allegory with impressive effects, clever stories, and fine acting by most of the cast—James Marsden as Cyclops never really fits the role—that make the first two X-Men movies so entertaining. 

Just as superhero movies were devolving into campy treatments again, Singer resurrected the idea of real-world superheroes by treating their comic-book world seriously on film. If Superman made you believe a man could fly, the first two X-Men movies made you believe that mutants with incredible powers walked among us. Unfortunately for the series, Singer left before completing his trilogy and director Brett Ratner took over in 2006 with his mutant version of the movies, X-Men: The Last Stand. The 2011 X-Men prequel, X-Men: First Class, however, got the series on track again, with Singer back on board as producer. 

The Incredibles (2004): Brad Bird didn’t have much box-office luck with his debut animation film in 1999, the painfully overlooked The Iron Giant. So he joined the Pixar brain trust and with his first feature at the animation studio made a film about a nuclear family of four superheroes burdened with some of life’s most mundane problems: having a job you hate, being invisible to others, the stresses of raising a family. In place of too many wink-nod moments to the audience, there was considerable heart and fun, along with some splendid animation and battle sequences. The Incredibles is the Fantastic Four movie everyone wishes had been made—including Marvel. 

Unbreakable (2000): At the time of Unbreakable’s release, its director M. Night Shyamalan was at the peak of his career with the unexpected 1999 blockbuster The Sixth Sense. Unbreakable showcased a more mature filmmaker who delivered a tense thriller full of surprises, including his signature twist ending. The film explores the origins of an ordinary man played by Bruce Willis who discovers he has unique powers. Samuel L. Jackson has a blast as the would-be hero’s mysterious purple-clad adviser. It’s a shame there was no sequel, though given Shyamalan’s track record lately with The Lady in the Water, The Happening, and TheLast Airbender, maybe that’s for the best.

Spider-Man (2002) and Spider-Man 2 (2004): Technology and Sam Raimi made the Spider-Man movies something special. Special effects created a convincing Web crawler-slinger, and the filmmaker delivered movies that were more than summer-event releases as he deftly weaved drama and character arcs throughout the action-packed spectacle. Unlike many superhero films, the antagonists never get in the way of the protagonist, but only add to his story of triumph over adversity in super villain form. A sturdy cast that buys into the make-believe world also helped audiences buy into the movie. Unfortunately, everyone stuck around for one film too many with 2007’s Spider-Man 3, an excessive, more-is-worse anticlimax to the first two films that’s in a rush to get to the ending.

Iron Man (2008) and Iron Man 2 (2010): Has there ever been an actor born to play a superhero more than Robert Downey, Jr., as Tony Stark/Iron Man? The smart, witty actor brings those same traits to the role, delivering an acerbic, bright, and petulant billionaire playboy found of booze, women, and wearing a one-of-a-kind armor suit tricked out with rockets, lasers, and enough gadgets to make Batman jealous. The films’ Achilles’ heel is its villains: neither Jeff Bridges in the original nor Mickey Rourke in the sequel were particularly memorable opponents for the man of iron. But Downey is having such a blast in the role—and is such a blast to watch—none of it really matters. Look for Downey as Iron Man in the upcoming The Avengers.     

What do you think? What's the best superhero flick?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Meet Our New Blogger

You may have noticed several new posts written by one Kirk Baird. He's CVS Midwest Tape's newest blogger!

A member of the Detroit Film Critics Society and a film critic for a daily newspaper, TV station, and now CVS Midwest Tape, Kirk Baird spends a sizable portion of his week watching and then dissecting movies: classic and obscure, arty and blockbuster, foreign and direct from Hollywood.

Look for his commentaries on movie-industry trends and DVD-Blu-ray reviews here on News & Views. Also check out his film and filmmaker spotlights in CVS Midwest Tape’s monthly catalogue. Any and all feedback is welcomed. Drop him a line at

This Week's New DVD Releases: CVS Midwest Tape Recommends

Every week film critic and Detroit Film Critics Society member, Kirk Baird, recommends new DVD releases for your library.

Camelot on Blu-ray
The 1967 classic musical Camelot makes its Blu-ray debut this week in a splendid-looking version that receives a fresh digital scrubbing. Written by Alan Jay Lerner and based on the successful 1960 stage musical he wrote with Frederick Loewe, Camelot is the story of good King Arthur (Richard Harris), whose noble dream of a land ruled by law and protected by a special band of knights (“might for right”) is sullied by his wife Lady Guenevere (Vanessa Redgrave) and his most-trusted knight Sir Lancelot du Lac (Franco Nero) and their affair for the ages. It’s a stellar, beautiful cast blessed with the acting and vocal chops to pull off the dramatic scenes and regal musical numbers.

The transfer of the 45-year-old film to high-definition is reliably stunning. The gorgeous, Oscar-winning set designs by John Brown and the Oscar-nominated cinematography by Richard Kline, making his feature-film debut as director of photography, have never looked this vibrant, though there are the occasional lapses when the film goes grainy for a few moments. The Blu-ray, at three hours in length, is also the original theatrical release and includes the restoration of deleted scenes, dialogue, and musical numbers. It also includes a soundtrack sampler from Rhino, featuring four of the Lerner-Loewe songs. This is the definitive version of the musical, and it's the best way to celebrate “that … one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot!”

Also Out This Week

Marvel Anime: X-Men & Marvel Anime: Ironman
X-Men and Ironman go anime in two new Japanese series from Marvel-Sony. The idea was to introduce the American comic-book icons to an Asian audience, with a more adult look to the superheroes to go along with more mature stories written by veteran comic-book scribe Warren Ellis (Red). This isn’t your bland Saturday morning cartoon series. Rather, it’s an engaging and engrossing movie-ready plot sold to audiences via stylish animation that makes these familiar characters fresh again. And naturally, both series feature Japan heavily in their stories. The DVDs even include a choice of Japanese or English audio as well as subtitles. If you’re a fan of superheroes in film and TV, both Marvel Anime sets are worth a look.

Cinema Verite is a star-studded HBO film from 2011 that’s a behind-the-scenes account of the 1973 PBS documentary, An American Family, one of the first American reality TV showcases. The cast includes Diane Lane, Tim Robbins, James Gandolfini, Kathleen Quinlan, Patrick Fugit, and Lolita Davidovich.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Today's New DVD Releases: CVS Midwest Tape Recommends

Every Tuesday film critic and Detroit Film Critics Society member, Kirk Baird, recommends new DVD releases for your library.

Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol
The Mission: Impossible movies have been a game of one-upmanship among the four different directors in the series. But it’s Brad Bird, a filmmaker best known for the animated features The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, who tops them all with the biggest, boldest, and most audacious Ethan Hunt adventure yet.

Hunt (Cruise, in a return to action-hero form), as usual, is on the wrong side of the U.S. government, and he and his team of spy operatives are blamed for the bombing of the Kremlin. The film’s plot is about restoring their names and, of course, saving the world in the process.

Jeremy Renner is a great addition to the cast as a former field agent, and the film’s impossible-to-believe stunt on Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai—the world’s tallest building—is not for those with a fear of heights. Ghost Protocol was the best-loved film in the series by audiences (nearly $700 million worldwide) and critics (93 percent “certified fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes) for a reason: This is the best mission yet.

Michael Fassbender appeared in four films last year. His best role among the quadrumvirate was also his riskiest: a New York City sex addict whose controlled life disintegrates after his sister (Carey Mulligan, also terrific) moves in.

Fassbender is creepy and pathetic, a damaged character difficult to like, and the script by Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady) doesn’t give us reason to, either. Shame is rated NC-17, and there is a considerable amount of nudity, but an honest film about sexual addiction wouldn’t have worked without it.

Old School Flick Now on DVD
Tom Selleck was originally cast as Indiana Jones, but his TV commitment to Magnum, P.I. kept him from the role. If you’re curious about how Selleck would have fared as an action-adventurer, check out 1983’s High Road to China, co-starring Bess Armstrong.

Real Life John le Carré
Filmmaker Carl Colby examines the life of his super-secretive father in the acclaimed documentary The Man Nobody Knew: In Search of My Father, CIA Spymaster William Colby.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Ridley Scott Returns to Sci-Fi (and Alien franchise?) with Prometheus

Written by Kirk Baird, film critic and Detroit Film Critics Society member
Ridley Scott defined our future. At least, as we see it in film. He did this first in 1979 with Alien and again in 1982 with Blade Runner, which is why most people—at least film fanatics—associate the visionary director with science fiction.

And yet Scott hasn’t made a science-fiction film in more than a quarter century. Instead, he’s gone on to make critical and audience favorites: the hard-hitting drama Thelma & Louise (1991); the sword-and-sandal epic Gladiator (2000), which won Best Picture; the politically charged war movie Black Hawk Down (2001); and an only-in-America true crime story American Gangster (2007).

The 74-year-old British filmmaker has kept himself busy through the years. But in almost all of his time away from the sci-fi genre there’s been one persistent question asked of him: When is he going to make another Alien movie? Actually, James Cameron beat him to it in 1987 with Aliens, a highly successful action-horror film that redefined the franchise and made Sigourney Weaver a huge star and her Ripley character a cinematic icon.

But Aliens wasn’t the same as Alien. The sequel was non-stop action of swarming, nightmarish creatures attacking military personnel. While the original was a more intimate scare, featuring one nearly invincible creature against a handful of undermanned and desperately frightened humans. It was a haunted house in deep space and it truly terrified audiences when it was released in theaters.

The Alien franchise has fallen on hard times since these films, a victim of low budgets (David Fincher’s Alien 3), half-baked stories (Alien: Resurrection), and an obvious attempt by 20th Century Fox to milk the movies (the Alien vs. Predator series). Thus, you can forgive fanboys for their excitement when word leaked that Scott was finally making another science-fiction film and that it would involve the world of Alien.

Scott has talked about making another Alien for a few years—one that explained what these creatures were and where they came from—but he walked away from the idea before it was fully developed; the studio balked at the budget he needed to make the film. So he moved onto another project, a film called Prometheus, and fans again knew they would have to wait.

Then word leaked from Scott that there were “strands of Alien’s DNA” in Prometheus, and the buzz began anew. There were other tidbits as well. But finally, the new trailer for Prometheus settles the question: Is it or isn’t it an Alien film?

Watch the two trailers and judge for yourself:



Prometheus hits theaters nationwide on June 8th.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Fifty Shades Trilogy Now on Audio

By now, everyone has heard of Fifty Shades of Grey, the Twilight fan fiction turned legitimate erotica. Penned by E.L. James, a a West London TV executive and mother of two, the book follows 21-year-old Anastasia Steele who falls for Christian Grey, the fiendishly rich and handsome sexual fetishist who plays Dominant to Ana's Submissive.

The well-reviewed S&M-filled book has become a literary phenomenon, selling "more print and eBook copies combined on than the top selling romance book sold in all of 2011," says Media Bistro. Additionally, Universal Pictures has already bought the movie rights.

Most popular initially as an eBook download, Fifty Shades of Grey has since expanded into the paperback and—more recently—the audiobook market. Entertainment Weekly was the first to unveil an audio clip, explaining that now "there’s an even more discreet way to enjoy the salacious 'mommy porn' novel."

Read by Becca Battoe, the audio version is creating an entirely new Fifty Shades experience. Thus, we're extremely excited to announce that we now have the audiobooks and Playaways for all three entries in the Fifty Shades series. Now our auditory systems can join in on the naughty fun, too.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Yellow Submarine Back and Better Than Ever

Written by Kirk Baird, film critic and Detroit Film Critics Society member

The Beatles changed music. And in a small way they also helped change movie animation with Yellow Submarine.

Directed by George Dunning, a Canadian illustrator who had also worked on The Beatles’ Saturday morning cartoon series for ABC, Yellow Submarine presented film animation as arta mature expression of the popular children’s cartoons of the time, all grown-up and slightly surreal.

Its mix of acid-fueled psychedeliaa Peter Max stream-of-consciousness put to filmand Beatles songs made Yellow Submarine a critic and audience favorite when it released in 1968. After rights to the band’s music were cleared, Yellow Submarine came out on VHS nearly two decades later in 1987, but then went out of print. In 1999, Yellow Submarine made its DVD debut in a cleaned-up presentation that included the “Hey Bulldog” song segment from the European version of the film. The audio track was also remixed to Dolby 5.1, making it the best-sounding Yellow Submarine yet. The DVD then, too, went out of print.

With the rights to the movie having reverted to The Beatles and its Apple Corps label, Yellow Submarine now returns May 29 to DVD and for the first time on Blu-ray, looking and sounding better than ever before. The CD soundtrack is also reissuing on the same date.

As part of the restoration, Yellow Submarine was cleaned up by hand, frame by frame, for several months. A computer wasn’t used in the remastering process for fear it would alter the film’s rich and delicate hand-drawn art work. Additionally, the film was restored in 4K digital resolution, meaning it’s of the highest-quality resolution possibleeven better than a high-definition televisionfor now and for years to come.

When released, the new DVD and Blu-ray version of Yellow Submarine will be the definitive version of the film, and the best way to experience this ground-breaking and trippy aural and visual feast.

As the Beatles might say, “All you need is love…and our newly remastered Yellow Submarine.”

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

DVD & Blu-rays Hitting Shelves Today

Written by Kirk Baird, film critic and Detroit Film Critics Society member

The Iron Lady
Meryl Streep won her third Best Actress Oscar (out of 17 nominations) for her role as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. Streep’s towering performance is dead-on; it’s not so much an impersonation as it is a well-researched and nuanced interpretation of the steadfast conservative British Prime Minister, both on the job and in her less steely moments at home.

Some may quibble with director Phyllida Lloyd’s narrative structure: building a film around a present-day Thatcher whose dementia conjures imagined conversations with her dead husband (Jim Broadbent, who steps out of Streep’s considerable shadow), while casually rummaging through milestones in her life to share via flashback. Conventional filmmaking flaws be damned; this is Streep’s movie all the way. And the greatest actress of her generation delivers with a magnificent turn.

Not to Miss Documentaries
German filmmaker Werner Herzog released two great documentaries in 2011: Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Into the AbyssThe latter, which releases today, is the better of the two. It's a politically balanced examination of capital punishment, focusing on two convicted murderers—one serving a life sentence, the other a death-row inmate only days before his execution—and the lives they affected.

Inspiration for Hugo
It’s wonderful to see tributes to pioneering filmmaker Georges Melies—first with Martin Scorsese’s Hugo and now with the limited edition Blu-ray of A Trip to the Moon Restored. You could make a movie about how Melies’ short film A Trip to the Moon, the first science-fiction movie, was painstakingly restored beginning in 1999 from a lost, hand-colored print discovered nearly two decades ago. And in fact, the filmmakers did just that, including a documentary detailing the restoration process, The Extraordinary Voyage, in this two-disc Blu-ray set.

Celebrate 1970s TV
Season 3 of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery offered some of the best frights on TV and provided work for a young director named Steven Spielberg. Another new release, Logan’s Run: The Complete Series, takes the premise of the Michael York-Jenny Agutter 1976 film of 23rd Century fugitives from a doomed and dystopian city and (pun intended) runs with it.

Also, to get you primed for Dark Shadows’ big-screen treatment in May, the cult TV soap opera of the same name is being released in several DVD packages, including 25 collections as well as several best-of sets.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Greek Mythology on Film

Written by Kirk Baird, film critic and Detroit Film Critics Society member

With the Wrath of the Titans hitting theaters last week, patrons' interest in Greek mythology may pique. Be sure to display these other great DVDs based on Greek mythology in your library.

  • Ulysses (1954): Based on Homer’s The Odyssey, Ulysses stars Kirk Douglas as the unlucky king and his doomed voyage as he tries to return home to his wife after the decade-long Trojan war. 
  • Helen of Troy (1955): Famed filmmaker Robert Wise (The Day the Earth Stood Still, West Side Story, The Sound of Music) directed this loose adaptation of Homer’s first epic, The Iliad. While the 1955 film is out of print, check out the 2003 miniseries of the same name
  • Jason and the Argonauts (1963): Jason (Todd Armstrong) leads a perilous quest to find the legendary Golden Fleece, but the real star of the film is the special effects by the legendary Ray Harryhausen. 
  • Clash of the Titans (1981): Harryhausen co-produced this stop-motion effects extravaganza based on Greek hero Perseus (Harry Hamlin) and his battles with Medusa and other mythological creatures to save the girl, Princess Andromeda (Judi Bowker), from the giant Kraken. The film was remade in 2010
  • Hercules (1997): Disney left the medieval world of castles and princesses in distress for this animated ancient Greece romp that focuses on a young Hercules as a god-turned-mortal looking for a heroic deed to restore his immortal powers. Features the voices of Tate Donovan, Danny DeVito, and James Woods. 
  • Troy (2004): Brad Pitt is legendary warrior Achilles and Eric Bana his rival Hector in Wolfgang Peterson’s (Das Boot, The Perfect Storm) more flesh-and-blood take on the Trojan War—one that omits the gods and instead leaves mortals to their own fate.
Any we missed? What's your favorite Greek mythology tale?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Celebrate Opening Day with Great Baseball Flicks

Yesterday the Blue Jays played the longest game in Opening Day history and, after 16 innings, won the game 7-4. To celebrate, film critic Kirk Baird has put together a great list of baseball-themed films for your to display at your library.
  • Bull Durham (1988): Writer-director Ron Shelton’s masterpiece, an ode to the great game, features terrific turns by Kevin Costner as career minor leaguer “Crash” Davis, a catcher with smarts, but not enough talent; Tim Robbins as Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh, a pitcher with fire in his arm and mush in his head; and Susan Sarandon as small-town baseball groupie Annie Savoy who can’t choose between the two. 
  • Field of Dreams (1989): The second of Costner’s baseball classics, it’s the fantastical story of an Iowa corn farmer compelled to build a baseball field in the middle of nowhere, and the lives it touches. And just like that, the lasting meme “Build it and they will come” was born. 
  • Eight Men Out (1988): Writer-director John Sayles fields an impressive cast (John Cusack, Charlie Sheen, D.B. Sweeney) for the true story of the Chicago Black Sox scandal, when underpaid players took bribes to deliberately throw the 1919 World Series. This fascinating drama offers a far more empathetic view of the players than history, which has vilified them and their deeds for decades.
  • A League of Their Own (1992): With men serving overseas during World War II, our national pastime grounded to halt until a group of athletic women took up bats, balls, and baseball mitts to keep the game alive. Gina Davis stars as ace catcher and power hitter Dottie Hinson; Tom Hanks is the drunken but lovable manager; and Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell are a pair of star players. 
  • The Bad News Bears (1976): Buttermaker (Walter Matthau) is a former Major League Player-turned pool cleaner. He drinks too much. Smokes too much. And curses too much. He makes the perfect Little League baseball coach. Buttermaker teams up with his ex-girlfriend’s teenage daughter (Tatum O’Neal), who has a rocket for an arm, to change the baseball fortunes of the perennially bad Bad News Bears. A comedy that’s unabashedly non-politically correct, The Bad News Bears proved to be the blueprint for underdog films. (See Slap Shot, The Mighty Ducks, and Little Giants.) 
  • The Pride of the Yankees (1942): Gary Cooper was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as legendary baseball player Lou Gehrig. A classic biopic of a beloved baseball player’s life cut tragically short by disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease), the drama features several real-life New York Yankees teammates as themselves, including Babe Ruth. And who can forget the famous farewell address to players and fans by “the luckiest man on the face of the planet”?
  • The Natural (1984): Robert Redford stars as a once-promising baseball pitcher whose career is derailed by tragedy. He claws his way back to the majors and with his special bat, makes a comeback for the ages. The cast is loaded—Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, Barbara Hershey, Joe Don Baker, Richard Farnsworth, and Wilford Brimley—and director Barry Levinson delivers a roaring crowd-pleaser featuring an iconic score by Randy Newman.
  • Major League (1989): The Cleveland Indians are a down-on-their-luck franchise, and the new owner wants to make things even worse so she can relocate the team to another city. She assembles a group of past-their-prime veterans and quirky misfits to ensure a losing season. Then the team—led by the catcher Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger) and pitcher Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn (Charlie Sheen)—begins winning. This comedy classic spawned two sequels: Major League II (1994) and Major League: Back to the Minors (1998).
  • The Jackie Robinson Story (1950): The triumphs and pitfalls of the first black Major League Baseball player is chronicled in this biopic by the man who knew the story best, Jackie Robinson. Not only did Robinson play himself, he provides a better than you’d expect performance as well.
  • The Sandlot (1993): In this funny and touching film, friendship and adventure are key themes in a nostalgic look at a group of neighborhood boys in 1962 Los Angeles bonded by baseball and a baseball-eating dog known as “The Beast.” 
  • Bang the Drum Slowly (1973): Robert DeNiro gained his first acting accolades—followed quickly by his role later that year in Mean Streets—as a terminally ill baseball catcher. Michael Moriarty plays the team’s star pitcher who befriends him and helps him through the season.
  • The Stratton Story (1949): A hunting accident costs star pitcher Monty Stratton (Jimmy Stewart) his leg. But Stratton refuses to give up the game he loves, and fights to play on with an artificial wooden leg. Based on a true story, the drama won an Oscar for its screenplay.
And let's not forget some great baseball documentaries:
  • Baseball (1994, 2010): Famed documentarian Ken Burns focuses on America’s National Pastime in this acclaimed PBS series. At nearly 19 hours long, this remarkable documentary is exhaustive in historic details and rich in insight. In 2010, Burns revisited his film with a two-part update entitled “The Tenth Inning,” which addressed baseball’s major stories since his first film: steroids, a strike, and a league championship for the ages.
  • The Lost Son of Havana (2009): Luis Tiant was 20 when he left Cuba in 1961 to play professional baseball in the United States. A pitcher with an arsenal of weapons to confound batters, Tiant played in the big leagues for 19 seasons. More than 45 years after he left Cuba, Tiant, accompanied by a documentary film crew, made an emotional return to his former home and family.
  • When It Was a Game (1991, 1992, 2000): HBO’s acclaimed trio of documentaries features mostly color home movie footage of classic-era baseball games and its iconic players from the 1920s through the 1960s. 
The following flicks might not be the ones you immediately think of when it comes to baseball movies. But they're definitely worth checking out.
  • 61* (2001): Roger Maris, Mickey Mantel, and the story of their electrifying home run race. 
  • The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Movie Kings (1976): A comedy about Negro League-era baseball starring Billy Dee Williams, James Earl Jones, and Richard Pryor. 
  • Damn Yankees! (1958): Based on the Broadway musical about a Washington Senators fan who makes a pact with the Devil to help his team win.
  • The Pride of St. Louis (1952): The story of famed pitcher “Dizzy” Dean.
  • Fear Strikes Out (1957): Anthony Perkins stars in this true story of a baseball player who battled mental illness.
  • Chasing 3000 (2008): Two brothers drive cross-country to see Roberto Clemente get his 3000th hit.
  • Cobb (1994): Tommy Lee Jones gives life to baseball legend and polarizing player Ty Cobb.
  • The Bronx is Burning (2007): This critically-praised ESPN mini-series examines the 1977 New York Yankees, its roller-coaster regular season, and winning the World Series.
  • For the Love of the Game (1999): Kevin Costner plays an aging pitcher who flashes back through his life while playing his final game. 
  • The Rookie (2002): Dennis Quaid plays a Texas high school baseball coach given one final opportunity to make it in the big leagues.
  • The Slugger’s Wife (1985): Neil Simon’s story of a baseball phenomenon whose career year begins to fade with his relationship troubles. 
  • Soul of the Game (1996): Three Negro League stars—Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and Jackie Robinson—compete to be the first African American in Major League Baseball.
  • This Old Cub (2004): Filmmaker Jeff Santo explores the life and career of his father, Chicago Cubs great Ron Santo.
Happy Opening Day!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Awards Shows Galore

Written by Karan Davey, CD Marketing Specialist

This past weekend was full of Award Shows, for kids, for country enthusiasts in the U.S., and for Canada's music industry. It was fun to catch all the music artists receiving awards as well as performing at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards, The ACM American Country Music Awards, and the annual Juno Awards in Canada.

The night was full of green slime at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. Hosted by Will Smith, the show featured a myriad of performances from Katy Perry to the new UK boy band New Direction. Big Time Rush, Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber, and LMFAO walked off with Nickelodeon's blimp-shaped award in the music categories. U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama presented singer Taylor Swift with the Big Help Award for all her charity work over the past year.

Taylor Swift continued her busy weekend by attending another award show, The ACM American Country Music Awards. For the second consecutive year, she won the Entertainer of the Year Award, which was the last award of the evening. Earlier, Miranda Lambert and Lady Antebellum also repeated wins for Female vocalist and Vocal Group of the Year categories. American idol winner, Scotty McCreery, took home the New Artist of the Year prize while Reba McEntire and Blake Shelton once again hosted the award show.

The Juno Awards, Canada’s biggest night in music, was hosted in Ottawa, Ontario. William Shatner served as the master of ceremonies, singing his opening monologue while playing a Les Paul guitar. Nickelback opened the show with fancy pyrotechnics, and a relatively unheard of group from last year, The Sheepdogs, won three awards. Feist was the big winner of the night, snagging three awards including the coveted Artist of the Year and Adult Alternative Album of the Year for her album Metals.

Definitely a big weekend! And we've got collections for all three shows. Click the links below to browse now.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

IMAX and The Hunger Games

Last year we took a look at the emergence of 3D and IMAX in cinemas and home theatre. Now, heading into this year’s blockbuster summer season, let’s take a fresh look at where those technologies stand.

3D and IMAX
First, the bad news for the film industry: moviegoers are staying away from the theatre in droves, with the number of tickets sold in 2011 at their lowest level since 1995.1 Box office numbers have been in decline since 2002, and it seems the proliferation of 3D films has been a contributing factor in that decline. The feeling is that 3D is seen as gimmicky with audience members being put off by both the glasses and, more importantly, the higher ticket prices 3D demands.2

However, despite the frightening numbers, it’s not all doom and gloom in regards to the box office. There’s one area in which ticket sales are booming, and that’s IMAX. During the first six weeks of 2012, IMAX ticket sales totaled $55 million, a 45% increase from the same time period in 2011.3

One reason IMAX sales are growing is that the giant-screen experience is one that cinema lovers simply can’t replicate at home, unlike standard theatre and even 3D. Also, IMAX generally dedicates itself to blockbuster “event” movies to make the experience really worthwhile. IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond himself describes their core audience as “fanboys and fangirls,” which explains why even a movie like John Carter, which has generally been seen as a flop, made 17% of its box office gross from IMAX screens.4

The Hunger Games
And of course, those promising 2012 numbers for IMAX were measured before the really big 2012 films came out. Like Titanic, the second highest grossing film of all time, which returns to theatres (including 3D and IMAX) this week. Oh, and another one you may have heard of called The Hunger Games, the hottest ticket so far this year, which opened recently to the fifth highest opening day of all time.5 IMAX screenings of the film brought in $10.2 million during its opening weekend, an IMAX record.6 That being the case, it will be very interesting to see the IMAX numbers at the end of the year, when they will include such films as The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit, and Marvel’s The Avengers.

What Do You Think?
Are IMAX films worth the premium ticket price? How do you feel about 3D? Let us know in the comments section below.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Hunger Games-Like Movies on DVD

Written by Kirk Baird, film critic and Detroit Film Critics Society member

Given the record-breaking popularity of The Hunger Games at the theater—$152.5 million for the film’s opening weekend, the largest for a non-sequel—fans of Suzanne Collins’ book-to-film as well as those wondering what the buzz is all about are sure to pack theaters for the next several weeks.

To sate the appetites of those who have already seen the movie and want more, or are simply not yet ready to brave the lines, here are some similarly themed films about dark future societies that feed on life-or-death contests:
  • The Battle Royale Complete Collection: These controversial Japanese films were released in 2000 but are finally making it to the U.S. for the first time. Set in a near future in which our world is nearly in ruins, each year a ninth-grade class is sent to a remote island to hunt and kill each other until there is a single survivor. 
  • Series 7: The Contenders: Released in 2001, this media/pop culture satire has developed quite the cult following. The film focuses on a reality show where randomly selected contestants must kill to earn freedom and fame.
  • The Running Man: Stephen King wrote two stories about games of death set in the future, but so far only one has been adapted into a motion picture—1987’s The Running Man. This Sci-Fi actioner set in 2019 stars Arnold Schwarzenegger in his movie-star prime as a framed prisoner given one chance at freedom by participating in the gladiator game-show spectacle known as The Running Man. 
  • Death Race 2000: Roger Corman’s film posited a dystopian future where participants in a cross-country car chase earn points by running down innocent pedestrians. The 1975 film stars David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone. The 2008 remake stars action-film extraordinaire Jason Statham and Ian McShane.