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Friday, December 27, 2013

John Goodman, Coen Brothers Team Up Again

Written by Jon Williams

Inside Llewyn Davis, released theatrically earlier this month, follows the trials and tribulations of a young folk singer in 1961, flailing through a stalled career following the death of his partner.  It’s among the best films of 2013, garnering critical acclaim and a number of awards and nominations. The movie and the performances have been well regarded, as has its soundtrack, which, like 2000’s O Brother Where Art Thou? (also by the Coen Brothers), was overseen by producer T Bone Burnett.

Also like several other Coen Brothers productions, Inside Llewyn Davis features John Goodman in a prominent role, this time as a fellow musician who berates the title character on an ill-fated trip to Chicago. Goodman’s association with Joel and Ethan Coen dates back to 1987, when he was featured in Raising Arizona. Widely regarded as one of the funniest films of all time, it was one of the earliest efforts from the filmmaking team.

Since then, Goodman has gone on to act onscreen in four more of the Coens’ films: Barton Fink (1991), The Big Lebowski (1998), O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000), and Inside Llewyn Davis. In addition, he served as the narrator to their 1994 film The Hudsucker Proxy. Goodman considers his role in Lebowski to be one of his favourites, as his character, Walter Sobchak, is the one for which he’s recognized the most by fans.

Of course, Goodman has had quite a notable career outside of Coen Brothers films as well. He’s best known for his role as Dan Conner, Roseanne’s husband in the sitcom Roseanne, which ran from 1988 to 1997, and he voiced the monster James P. Sullivan in the Disney/Pixar hit Monsters, Inc. and the sequel Monsters University (as well as an appearance in Cars). He’s also played such characters as Santa Claus, Fred Flintstone, and Babe Ruth. Recently he starred as the villain in The Hangover Part III, and next will be seen alongside George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Bill Murray in the upcoming adaptation of The Monuments Men, scheduled to hit theatres in February.

This is just a small sampling of the titles available from CVS Midwest Tape, both from John Goodman and from the Coen Brothers. For more, SmartBrowse ‘John Goodman,’ ‘Joel Coen,’ and ‘Ethan Coen’ on our website.

Friday, December 20, 2013

More Potter in the Works

Written by Kyle Slagley

The story of an orphaned English boy who, within the span of seven years, must grow up and realize that he is a famous wizard who saved the world once and must do so all over again is well known to millions around the world. Put another way, Harry Potter is one of the most famous people who never lived.

Fans of J.K. Rowling’s book series were given a big boost back in September when it was announced that Rowling had cut a deal with Warner Bros (who produced all eight of the Harry Potter films) to produce a film around Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them, a supplemental book to the seven-novel series about Potter. Fantastic Beasts is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter line of novels and films; instead it begins 70 years prior to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in New York City. Rowling is hoping to turn the film into a series of its own.

Potter fans tend to be an insatiable bunch, so it’s a good thing Fantastic Beasts isn’t the only piece of news I have to tell. Just this morning I read that Rowling is also bringing Harry Potter to the stage. Unlike Fantastic Beasts, the stage play will reportedly be a prequel to Philosopher’s Stone, and address Potter’s early days as an orphan and misfit.

Writing extensions to a series as beloved and established as Harry Potter is indeed a tricky business. I have to say, choosing a medium other than film was a wise choice on Rowling’s part. Fans grew used to a distinctive style of filmmaking by the time the eighth movie was released, so writing a prequel for the stage gives Rowling a chance to branch out a bit in style without risking as much rejection from die-hard fans of the film.

Moreover, writing the prequel as a stage play has its advantages for the actors – particularly the lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it) young men who will be cast as Harry. On film, audiences would expect and demand a younger version of Daniel Radcliffe. On the stage, audiences will likely give the actors more room to interpret the role.

These two projects will be Rowling’s first attempt at writing both a screenplay and a stage script. With no word on a release date for Fantastic Beasts or an opening night for the stage show, fans will have to get by re-reading the book series and re-watching the film series. We’ll keep you updated if we hear more.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

New Titles Named to National Film Registry

Written by Jon Williams

This morning the U.S. Library of Congress announced this year’s additions to the National Film Registry. The Registry was established in 1988 to recognize and preserve “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant films” produced in the U.S.

One of the titles added this year is Disney’s Mary Poppins, which has just been rereleased on DVD and Blu-ray in a digitally restored 50th Anniversary Edition. This is particularly timely due to the upcoming theatrical release of Saving Mr. Banks, the film starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson that details Walt Disney’s efforts to bring Mary Poppins from the page to the screen. Other notable titles being added this year include Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, The Magnificent Seven, and The Right Stuff.

The first class of films was added to the Registry in 1989. This inaugural list included a number of what are widely considered to be the best films of all time. These classics include Casablanca, Citizen Kane, Gone with the Wind, Singin’ in the Rain, Snow White (currently in the DisneyVault), Some Like It Hot, the original Star Wars, and The Wizard of Oz, to name just a few.

With the 2013 list announced, there have now been 25 classes of films added to the National Film Registry, bringing the total number of films listed to 625. Although it is a U.S.-centric list, it is a fine collection of essential films that your patrons would love to experience for the first time or revisit over and over again. Make sure to have these movies on your shelves; SmartBrowse ‘National Film Registry’ on our homepage for a complete list of films available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Artists Honoured, Legends Return

Written by Jon Williams

It’s been a big week for news and events in country music.

First and foremost, the American Country Awards were held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Tuesday night. It was a star-studded affair, hosted by Trace Adkins and Danica Patrick and featuring performances by Lady Antebellum, Brad Paisley, and Kellie Pickler, among others. The awards, voted on by fans, recognize the best of the past year in a variety of categories. The big winners on the night were Florida Georgia Line (six awards) and Blake Shelton (four awards), as well as Luke Bryan, who was named artist of the year. For a complete list of the night’s winners, click here.

That same day, it was announced that a new Johnny Cash album will be released in March, featuring unheard music from the country legend. Out Among the Stars was recorded in the early ‘80s and then never released. The material was mostly forgotten and assumed lost, and has only recently been rediscovered. This will be the fourth album release since Cash’s passing in 2003, the first since American VI: Ain’t No Grave in 2010. Stay tuned for ordering information on the upcoming album.

Finally, Garth Brooks announced this week on Good Morning America that he will begin touring again in 2014. Brooks shocked the music world when he announced his retirement from touring and recording in 2000, at the height of his immense popularity, saying he wanted to spend time with his wife (country singer Trisha Yearwood) and children. Now, with his youngest daughter about to graduate from high school, Brooks is ready to get back to what he does best. In preparation, Brooks has released a 6-disc compilation, Blame It All on My Roots, which features his take on songs which have influenced him over the course of his life and career, a mixture of classic country, classic rock, and more. There’s no word yet on any upcoming releases of new original material, but you have to imagine that’ll be the next step.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"Hour of Code" Promotes Computer Knowledge

Written by Kyle Slagley

This week marks the first annual Computer Science Education Week, or CSEdWeek for short. Sponsored by, the week is intended to inspire K-12 students to learn the basics, and hopefully more, of computer science. The week also serves a double-purpose in that it recognizes the December 9th birthday of Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, who is widely considered to be a pioneer in computing.

The big push during this year’s CSEdWeek is the “Hour of Code” initiative. Big names like Ashton Kutcher, President Obama, and (unsurprisingly) Mark Zuckerberg have been encouraging people to take part in hour-long seminars where participants are taught the basics of computer code.

Beginning Monday morning, I was very happy to see dozens of tweets by libraries in all corners of the U.S. and Canada advocating for “Hour of Code” and CSEdWeek. Loads of libraries are offering their own Hour of Code seminars this week, or at the very least are directing patrons to other local organizations who are hosting.

In case your patrons want some additional material regarding either code or computer science in general, I’ve pulled together a couple of titles you can order from CVS Midwest Tape that might help.

Learn HTML - Explains what HTML is, web pages, scanners, servers, web page design issues, and more. Learn how to create a page or simply be up-to-date with today's technology. Everything viewers need to learn is at their fingertips.

Mastering Java Programming – Vol. 1 & Vol. 2: Learn how to program in Java with step-by-step video lessons. Presuming viewers know nothing about programming at all, viewers will be walked through each concept necessary to write Java programs quickly and effectively. Then continue the Mastering Java series with step-by-step video lessons and example code. The student will learn about keyboard input, for loop, if statements, while loops, math libraries, and much more.

If your patrons have questions regarding a specific type of computing, SmartBrowse “Information Technology” for a complete list of our available titles.

Friday, December 6, 2013

World Mourns Loss of Nelson Mandela

Written by Kyle Slagley

Today, free men and women from all nations are forced to say goodbye to one of the most influential men in history. Nelson Mandela passed away peacefully yesterday at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, South Africa, amid his family and friends at the age of 95.

After spending his younger years as a political activist, Mandela was eventually arrested and would spend nearly 30 years in prison for his activities. Just four years after being released from prison, Mandela was elected President of South Africa and served one five-year term from 1994-1999 before voluntarily retiring.

As one of the most influential men of the 20th century, Mandela has fittingly been portrayed by some of Hollywood’s best actors over the years; among them are Morgan Freeman, Sidney Poitier, David Harewood, Dennis Haysbert, Terrence Howard, Clarke Peters, and Idris Elba. Mandela also gave the world a chance to know him through his writing; the most popular in recent years would be Long Walk to Freedom, thanks largely to the film version starring Elba.

Thanks to his tireless courage and commitment to ideals like freedom, education, and peace, many nations across the world feel as though they are saying goodbye to one of their own. Celebrities and heads of state across the world are sharing Mandela’s words today, and many national flags are flying at half-mast.

Because it is incredibly difficult to find words that truly do justice to a man as great as Mandela, I will instead leave you with the words that he himself used to find courage during his many years in prison.

by William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

For titles by and about Nelson Mandela, visit our website here.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Family Guy Bids Adieu to…

Written by Jon Williams

Normally we’re not in the habit of discussing major plot points like character deaths in ongoing television shows—partially because we’d hate to give away spoilers, and partially because we’d have to dedicate this space to Game of Thrones on a regular basis. However, if you’ve been on the Internet at all this week, it’s been impossible to avoid the news that the animated series Family Guy has killed off one of its most beloved original characters: the Griffin family’s intelligent talking dog, Brian.

Brian was voiced by the show’s creator, Seth MacFarlane. MacFarlane voices several characters in the show, but Brian spoke with his actual speaking voice. The show debuted on Fox after the Super Bowl in 1999 and originally ran for three seasons before being cancelled by the network. However, a number of factors, including strong DVD sales and high ratings for reruns, led to the show being brought back for a fourth season in 2005. The show has been in production ever since and is currently in its twelfth season.

Family Guy has turned into quite a success in its own right, but it also served as a launching pad for the career of the multitalented MacFarlane. He has developed further animated shows with American Dad! and The Cleveland Show (a Family Guy spinoff which has recently been cancelled after four seasons). He currently serves as executive producer for the live-action sitcom Dads (starring Family Guy voice actor Seth Green), which is in its first season, and is co-producing an update of Carl Sagan’s groundbreaking 1980 science/astronomy series Cosmos. He has also made the jump from the small screen to the big screen, writing, directing, and starring (via voice, of course) in the comedy Ted, about a boy who wishes his teddy bear to life and grows into adulthood with the bear as his best friend. He is also an accomplished singer, and provided an opening number for another animated hit, the Futurama movie Into the Wild Green Yonder.

Still, even with all these other projects, MacFarlane is still most closely associated with Family Guy, which now must go forward without Brian Griffin. While this may not quite rank with the death of Colonel Blake on M*A*S*H, it still has some longtime fans up in arms. Hopes are high that the series will find a way to bring him back at some point, but only time will tell.

SmartBrowse Family Guy on our homepage for the complete collection of episodes on DVD (plus the hilarious Star Wars spoofs), and SmartBrowse Seth MacFarlane for a wide variety of titles from this multifaceted entertainer.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Monty Python Not Dead Yet

Written by Kyle Slagley

I was rather an unusual child. While my peers were referencing shows like Beavis & Butthead, I was prattling on about dead parrots, African v. European Swallows, lumberjacks, and knights who say “Ni!” For folks out there that understand all (or any) of those references, the following announcement will be very welcome news. *Nudge nudge wink wink* Know what I mean?

On Wednesday, the five surviving members of British comedy troupe Monty Python announced that they are indeed reuniting in the summer of 2014 for one night only. The show will take place at the London O2 Arena on July 1st of next year, and according to Eric Idle will include “comedy, pathos, music and a tiny piece of ancient sex.”

Sounds about right from the group who achieved legendary status on a mixture of dry wit, absurd slapstick, and sexual innuendo. The July 2014 performance is a monumental event for the five members, who haven’t performed together since 1980.

The members of Monty Python (John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, and Graham Chapman [1941-1989]) all worked on various British TV shows during the 1960s prior to the kickoff of their breakthrough series Monty Python’s Flying Circus in October 1969. Between 1964 and 1969, the six men collaborated in various combinations and eventually ITV offered Gilliam, Idle, Jones, and Palin a series together, while at the same time BBC offered Chapman and Cleese a show. Cleese would then invite Palin to join the BBC show, the other three would follow, and Flying Circus would be the hilarious result.

Flying Circus ran on BBC from 1969 through 1974. The series was introduced in Canada in 1970 on CBC, but was pulled after Christmas that year. It would be another four years before the show made its way to U.S. audiences on PBS in 1974, after the series had finished for good on BBC.

Between seasons three and four, the group filmed their first fully original movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Having left Flying Circus following the third season, Cleese returned to film the movie. As I’m sure you know, the film is a farce on the Arthurian legend and is full of bits that are still staples in pop-culture. Holy Grail was the group’s second feature film, their first being And Now For Something Completely Different, which was composed of reshot footage from the first two season of Flying Circus.

Though Holy Grail is probably more widely known in the U.S., it was the group’s third film, Monty Python’s Life of Brian that is often considered the best of the troupe’s work, and also one of the best comedy films of all time. Funded by former Beatles band member George Harrison, the film was released in 1979 and follows a man whose life parallels that of Jesus Christ.

The troupe’s last film, Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, was made with a structure similar to that of their original Flying Circus days. A series of sketches loosely follows the timeline of man from birth through death. Some of the best musical numbers in the troupe’s repertoire came out of this film, most of which are available on their album Monty Python Sings. The group freely admits that by the time the project rolled around, their aim was to offend “absolutely everyone.”

In recent years, the musical Spamalot has been the most visible Monty Python work. Based on Holy Grail, Eric Idle wrote the book for the hit that would star some of the biggest names in Broadway theatre and ultimately be nominated for 14 Tony Awards, winning three.

There is no word yet on whether the troupe’s one-off show in July will be recorded, but I would be shocked if it weren’t. There have been quite a few specials and shows over the years billed as “Monty Python Reunion” events, but none of them involved every surviving member as this one will. If and when Monty Python Live (mostly) is released on video, you can be sure we’ll let you know.

For a complete listing of all our available Monty Python titles and documentaries, click here.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Catching Fire Comes to Theatres on Friday

Written by Jon Williams

The biggest buzz in the worlds of entertainment and pop culture this week surrounds Catching Fire, the second film in the Hunger Games series. The first film was one of the biggest blockbusters of 2012, a year that was full of them, grossing over $400 million in North America. The second film is expected to bring in similar numbers at the box office.

If there’s still anyone out there who’s unfamiliar, the films are based on a trilogy of dystopian young adult novels by Suzanne Collins dealing with a futuristic society that keeps its citizens in line, in part, by requiring each District to submit two teenage contestants to an annual reality show-type competition in which the winner is the only survivor. The first novel and film follow protagonist Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers for the Hunger Games in place of her young sister, who is selected to participate. In Catching Fire, Katniss is thrust into competition once again when the Games draw contestants from past champions.

The films are complemented by soundtracks featuring an all-star lineup of names from popular music performing tracks that set a thrilling and atmospheric vibe that perfectly capture the mood. The soundtrack to the first film, Songs from District 12 and Beyond, was produced by T Bone Burnett (known for other soundtracks like O Brother Where Art Thou, Walk the Line, and Crazy Heart) and featured two tracks from Taylor Swift, along with notable names like Maroon 5, Miranda Lambert, and Arcade Fire, to name just a few.

The Catching Fire soundtrack (available in a standard version and a deluxe edition which includes three extra tracks), which came out on Tuesday this week, is just as impressive. The lead single “Atlas” comes from platinum-selling rock band Coldplay, accompanied by a song (“We Remain”) from pop songstress and The Voice judge Christina Aguilera. It also contains tracks from two recent favourites of mine: the National (who I discovered when they performed “The Rains of Castamere” for Game of Thrones and whose work I’ve been greedily consuming ever since) and teen sensation Lorde, who provides a haunting and propulsive cover of the Tears for Fears hit “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”

Interest in all things Hunger Games is sure to be at a fever pitch throughout Catching Fire’s theatrical run. Be sure to have the first film, the music, and the audiobooks on your shelves for patrons to enjoy, and visit our website to find more music from the outstanding artists featured on the soundtracks.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tales from the Darkside Reboot on Tap

Written by Jon Williams

Fans of horror TV, rejoice! Although it’s too late for Halloween, word came down last night that a team has been assembled to reboot the classic macabre 1980s series Tales from the Darkside. The update will air on the CW network as a half-hour series beginning in the summer of 2014.

The original series was created by horror legend George A. Romero, who directed and co-wrote the seminal zombie film Night of the Living Dead in 1968. In 1982 he teamed up with Stephen King  for the film Creepshow, which was an anthology film made up of several horror stories. The success of that film led to the idea of a horror-themed TV series, which became Tales from the Darkside.

The show debuted in 1984 and ran for four seasons, with each episode telling a new story. With new characters each week, the show had quite a large cast, featuring such stars as Phyllis Diller, John Heard, Carol Kane, Darren McGavin, Jerry Stiller, Abe Vigoda, Seth Green, Marcia Cross, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Christian Slater, to name just a few. After its four-season run on television, the show spawned a feature film of its own in 1990, which starred Slater along with Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, and Debbie Harry.

Tales from the Darkside certainly wasn’t the first or only show of its type. It owed a debt of gratitude to The Twilight Zone, the pioneering show of strange tales which originally ran from 1959 to 1964. The format became quite popular in the ‘80s, with Tales from the Darkside being joined by Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories and a Twilight Zone revival in 1985, and then followed by HBO’s Tales from the Crypt in 1989.

Set to write the scripts for the new series is acclaimed author Joe Hill—son of Romero collaborator and original Darkside contributor Stephen King (who had his own horror anthology show with 2006’s Nightmares & Dreamscapes). This isn’t the only film work Hill has on tap—his novel Horns has been adapted into a movie starring Daniel Radcliffe and Juno Temple (which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and will release theatrically in 2014), and his comic series Locke & Key is being adapted into a film as well.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Celebrating Hendrix

Written by Jon Williams

Earlier this week, PBS aired a new documentary on Jimi Hendrix as part of its American Masters series. Hear My Train a Comin’ explores the legendary guitar wizard’s life and career in his own words, intermixed with previously unseen concert footage and conversations with friends, family, and contemporaries. Its showing winds down a year-long celebration of Hendrix that commenced on what would have been his 70th birthday, 27 November 2012. The documentary is already available on both DVD for classic rock-loving patrons who may have missed its original airing, or who just want to see it again.

Although Hendrix’s life and career were brief (he died at age 27 after only 4 years of musical success), both are worth exploring. The incandescent performer’s confident and flamboyant stage persona was a front for a quiet, shy personality away from it. After working early on as a sideman to such entertainers as Little Richard and the Isley Brothers, his career began in earnest in 1966 when his manager began recruiting musicians to join a band designed to highlight Hendrix’s talent, and thus the Jimi Hendrix Experience was born. Their first album, Are You Experienced? (currently out of print), contained such staples as “Purple Haze,” “Hey Joe,” and “Foxy Lady.”

Despite such a powerhouse track listing and a strong start in Great Britain (where it was kept from #1 only by the seminal Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), Hendrix’s career got off to a lukewarm start in North America. The Experience’s first single, “Hey Joe,” failed to chart upon its release. While the music fell short, Hendrix finally managed to capture everyone’s attention with his stage antics. On the recommendation of Paul McCartney, who saw Hendrix perform a blistering version of “Sgt. Pepper” just three days after its release, the Experience was invited to perform at the Monterey Pop Festival in California in June of 1967. At the end of their performance, Hendrix famously lit his guitar on fire, making a name for himself and cementing his place in rock n’ roll lore. This performance (and more from the festival) can be seen on The Complete Monterey Pop Festival DVD and Blu-ray available from the Criterion Collection.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience followed up Are You Experienced? with just two more studio albums during Jimi’s lifetime. Axis: Bold as Love was released later in 1967 to capitalize on the success of the first album, and the first side of the original album had to be hurriedly remixed after Hendrix left the master tapes in a taxi. The double album Electric Ladyland (also out of print), released late in 1968, featured two songs greater than 13 minutes in length, plus a cover of the Bob Dylan song “All Along the Watchtower,” which has become one of Hendrix’s signature songs.

Hendrix’s tragic death in September of 1970 at the age of 27 was a major blow to the music world, which earlier that year had already experienced the breakup of the Beatles. However, he left behind a treasure trove of unreleased materials, resulting in a number of posthumous releases that continue to this day. Valleys of Neptune, released in 2010, contained a number of previously unreleased tracks Hendrix had been working on in preparation for a fourth album; another such album, People, Hell and Angels, was released earlier this year. Audio engineer Eddie Kramer, who worked extensively with Hendrix during his lifetime, says this 2013 album has exhausted the supply of unreleased Hendrix studio tracks, but that other live albums may eventually be made available.

Although Hendrix’s career was cut short, his influence on rock music was undeniable, and interest in his music remains very strong. SmartBrowse his name on our website to see the wide range of CDs, concert and documentary DVDs, and other materials we have available from and about this amazingly talented and transcendent musician.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Fantasy Authors Go Bieber

Written by Jon Williams

If you follow fantasy authors Brandon Sanderson and James Dashner on Facebook, you may have noticed something slightly off about their profile pictures recently when both men changed their avatars to pictures of pop music phenom Justin Bieber. No, their accounts weren’t hacked. So what gives?

As it turns out, the pic switch was the result of a friendly wager between the two…which both men ended up losing! It began when Sanderson, whose YA novel Steelheart released in hardcover late in September (and is coming soon to audiobook), realized that Dashner, who lives nearby in Salt Lake City, Utah, had a YA book coming out shortly thereafter: The Eye of Minds. He proposed to track the books’ sales numbers for a week in October, and whichever author sold fewer books would display Bieber’s face as his profile picture.

So how did both of them end up with the Biebs on their profile?

When Sanderson checked in on the sales numbers after the week in question, he saw that they had both done quite well. However, both of them had been outsold in the YA fantasy genre by yet another Salt Lake City author: Wild Born (part of the multi-author Spirit Animals series) by Brandon Mull. That being the case, both authors agreed to declare Mull the winner, and therefore both of them ended up changing their photos. (Dashner has since switched back to his standard author photo; Sanderson’s profile, as of right now, still displays a photo of Bieber).

Of course, the real winner in all of this is the world of young adult fiction, which has been enriched by the works of all three authors. Be sure to SmartBrowse each author’s name on our homepage for more YA fiction (and some adult fiction as well). And while you’re there, don’t forget to search for some tunes from Justin Bieber.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Classic Van Morrison Remastered

Written by Jon Williams

This week marks the re-release of Van Morrison’s landmark 1970 album Moondance. The standard edition features a complete remastering of the original album, while the expanded edition includes a second disc containing alternate takes and mixes of tracks from the album, as well as a number of previously unreleased tracks from the album’s recording sessions.

Morrison, a legendary Irish singer-songwriter, started his career as lead singer for a garage rock band simply called Them. After two albums (and a brief tour of the U.S., during part of which they were supported by an up-and-coming band called the Doors), Morrison left the band to embark on a solo career. He was generally unsatisfied with his 1967 debut compilation, Blowin’ Your Mind!, but the lead single “Brown-Eyed Girl” continues to be his signature hit more than 45 years later.

Given his distaste for that album, Morrison considers his second album, 1968’s Astral Weeks, to be his true debut. The album drew wide critical acclaim upon its release, and continues to do so—Rolling Stone, for instance, listed it #19 in its 2003 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Sales didn’t match the reviews, though, and Astral Weeks didn’t go Gold until 2001, 33 years after its release.

That wasn’t the case for Moondance, Morrison’s commercial breakthrough in 1970. It continued the critical success of Astral Weeks while also becoming popular with music buyers. From that point on, Van Morrison was a bona fide star. To capitalize on this success, another album, His Band and the Street Choir, was released later that same year. While it didn’t perform as well as Moondance, it did contain the single “Domino,” one of his biggest hits.

Unfortunately, the follow-up to that album, 1971’s Tupelo Honey, is currently out of print. I say “unfortunately” because that album contains my personal favourite of Morrison’s songs (and one of my favourite songs overall), the gorgeous title track. Fortunately, a version of the song can be found on the 2007 compilation The Best of Van Morrison, Vol. 3.

Now, nearly fifty years since his musical career began, Van Morrison is still going strong. His most recent album, 2012’s Born to Sing: No Plan B, contains ten original songs and was, again, well received critically. With 34 studio albums to his credit, he has covered any number of themes and genres. He has won two Grammy Awards and been nominated for several more. The albums Astral Weeks and Moondance are in the Grammy Hall of Fame, and Morrison himself was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. Be sure to SmartBrowse his name on our homepage for a full list of albums available from this classic performer.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Bible Coming to Big Screens

Written by Kyle Slagley

Earlier this year, beginning in March to be exact, it seemed like everyone was talking about The Bible – The Epic Miniseries that ran every Sunday on the History Channel. The miniseries consisted of ten episodes and History ran two episodes per Sunday—because March contained five Sundays in 2013, the series was perfectly timed so that the final episodes depicting Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection were aired on Easter Sunday, March 31.

The miniseries set viewing records consistently during March, and after reruns, syndications, and translations for foreign airings, over 100 million people viewed the saga. In its first week on DVD and Blu-ray, it sold over half a million copies, making it the fastest-selling TV show on disc since 2008.

Now, the big news concerning the series is that it will be heading to the big screen in an abridged adaptation titled Son of God. Husband-and-wife producing duo Roma Downey (of Touched by an Angel fame) and Mark Burnett (whose production credits include Survivor, The Apprentice, and The Voice), announced earlier this week that the final five episodes of the miniseries would be condensed into a 2.5-hour feature film and would release on February 28, 2014 – the Friday before Ash Wednesday.

Just prior to the miniseries premiere, Downey and Burnett released a novel titled A Story of God and All of Us that debuted at No. 27 on the NY Times Bestseller list. Considering the success of The Bible, it’s unsurprising that NBC has already commissioned a follow-up from Downey and Burnett. Little is known about the project, other than that it will portray the early days of Christianity and will be titled A.D.: Beyond the Bible; there is no known premiere date yet.

The year 2014 is shaping up to be a year of multiple biblical blockbusters, in fact. In addition to Son of God releasing on February 28, a feature film about the Great Flood will also release exactly one month later on March 28.

Noah, starring Russell Crowe, Emma Watson, Jennifer Connelly, and Anthony Hopkins, has been in development for some time. The storyline is, well, fairly self-explanatory: it’s the story of Noah, his ark, and the Great Flood. The real twist in the coming adaptation, from what I understand, is that far from the grand and majestic Noah we all came to know in Sunday School, Crowe’s Noah will be a much more conflicted man who struggles with survivor’s guilt, making him much more relatable.

With Easter Sunday on April 20 next year, moviegoers will have ample time to see both films before the holiday. For a larger selection of biblical films and adaptations, check out our collection here.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Rock Hall Nominees Named

Written by Jon Williams

Nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s class of 2014 have been announced. It’s a diverse list that features grunge pioneers, glam superstars, hip-hop legends, disco dynamos, and more. The full list includes: the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Chic, Deep Purple, Peter Gabriel, Hall & Oates, Kiss, LL Cool J, the Meters, N.W.A., Nirvana, the Replacements, Linda Ronstadt, Cat Stevens, Link Wray, Yes, and the Zombies.

Of course, not all of these bands and artists will make it, deserving though they may be. Inductees will be determined by a panel of 600 voters, among them music critics and industry insiders, as well as previous inductees. In addition, fans have a chance to vote at  The top five vote-getters from the list above will be tallied into an official ballot that will count as one of the 600 votes to determine the inductees.

The winners will be inducted in April of 2014 in New York (the Hall itself is in Cleveland, Ohio). The induction ceremony includes a concert that has, over the years, turned into quite an event unto itself, featuring performances by and collaborations among music legends. The ceremony and concert will be broadcast on HBO.

Artists are eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25 years after the release of their first single. This is Nirvana’s first year of eligibility. The 2013 class was made up of Heart, Albert King, Randy Newman, Public Enemy, Rush, and Donna Summer.

SmartBrowse 'Rock and Roll Hall of Fame' on our website for more CDs from previous nominees and inductees, as well as CDs and DVDs from induction concerts.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Taylor Swift to Act in The Giver Adaptation

Written by Jon Williams

Country-pop starlet Taylor Swift is taking her talents to the silver screen once again. It was recently announced that the singer would join the adaptation of Lois Lowry’s young adult novel The Giver. The cast already includes such notable names as Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, Katie Holmes, and Alexander Skarsgard.

The Giver was originally published in 1993, to much acclaim. Set in a society in which emotion has been removed, it tells the story of Jonas, the “Receiver of Memory,” a young boy who holds the memories of a time when emotion still held sway, in case that experience is ever needed. The book won the coveted Newbery Medal in 1994. It was Lowry’s second time receiving the award; she won it first for 1989’s Number the Stars. She has since followed up The Giver with three loosely related novels: Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.

Although it seems like she’s been around forever, Swift is still just 23 years old. She broke out in a big way in 2006, when she was sixteen. Her first single “Tim McGraw” touched a chord with teenagers all over the world, and her eponymous debut album spent 24 weeks atop Billboard’s country chart and went platinum many times over. Since then she’s become a bona fide sensation, scoring similar success with each following album: Fearless, Speak Now, and Red.

Obviously, though, music isn’t Swift’s only artistic interest. After appearing in an episode of CSI and hosting Saturday Night Live in 2009, she made her full-fledged acting debut in 2010’s ensemble romcom Valentine’s Day (and also contributed two songs to the soundtrack). In 2012, she voiced the character Audrey in the animated feature The Lorax. Most recently she guest starred in an episode of New Girl that aired in May. The Giver will be her first acting work since then.

The Giver is a popular book for young adults, and Taylor Swift’s involvement in the movie is sure to drive them into a frenzy. Be sure to have the audiobook on hand for those who can’t wait until August of next year, when the movie is scheduled to be released.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

American Psycho, the...Musical?

Written by Kyle Slagley

Certain movies fall into a group of “cult following staples,” if you will. Among this group you will find films like Boondock Saints, The Big Lebowski, almost any movie made by either Quentin Tarantino or Kevin Smith, and also American Psycho.

American Psycho started as a novel by Bret Easton Ellis that was published in 1991. It is a stream-of-consciousness novel, narrated by the main character Patrick Bateman. The film, released in 2000 and starring Christian Bale, follows the same formula. The plots are also largely the same. Bateman is a 27-year-old Wall Street protégé by day, and a sadistic serial killer by night. Both the novel and the film were intended to be satirical interpretations of the narcissistic, yuppie culture of the late ‘80s, and they both do a very good job of that…if you can get past just how disturbing the plots are.

I won’t ruin the ending for you, but suffice it to say it’s equally surreal.

Because the movie was, well, disturbing, imagine my surprise when I read about American Psycho: The Musical earlier this week. You read that correctly. American Psycho: The Musical is an actual thing, it’s currently in rehearsals, and stars Matt Smith, who has spent the last three years growing his fame playing the infamous Doctor Who. The show is set to run at the Almeida Theatre in London from December 3 of this year through January 25, 2014.

Of course American Psycho is not the first musical to hit Broadway or the West-End that deals primarily with murder in some way, shape, or form. Others include Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Assassins, Little Shop of Horrors, and Phantom of the Opera.

No word yet on if American Psycho will make its way across the pond to Broadway, but if you’re really curious, the show’s director Rupert Goold has been tweeting photos from rehearsals that you can check out on his feed.

Friday, October 4, 2013

New York City Opera Takes a Bow

Written by Kyle Slagley

This week, New York City and opera aficionados everywhere bid farewell to a 70-year-old institution that unfortunately fell victim to the economics of the times. The New York City Opera’s curtain fell for the final time last Saturday after a performance of the production Anna Nicole, a modern opera about the late actress and model.

The NYCO has been plagued with budgetary constraints for the last decade, and on Monday announced they failed to raise the $7M necessary to save the current season. The organization began the bankruptcy filing process this week.

The NYCO was established in 1943 as an alternative to the Metropolitan Opera (commonly called ‘The Met’) and was dubbed “the people’s opera” by then-Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. They offered younger singers – particularly Americans – an opportunity that The Met did not, and they offered the public more access to opera with cheaper ticket prices.

In its 70-year tenure, the NYCO is responsible for having helped to launch the careers of many performers that went on to become the operatic equivalent of rockstars. Performers Sherrill Milnes, Shirley Varrett, Samuel Ramey, and, perhaps most notably, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras, who would go on to become two of the Three Tenors along with the late Luciano Pavarotti.

Opera is a very niche market for both libraries and the general retail market and true opera fans are few and far between – particularly outside those major cities that have an arts culture that thrives enough to sustain an opera company. What may be surprising for some is that common opera songs can be found, repurposed, in even the most common of places – children’s cartoons, TV commercials, and even as hooks in pop or rap music.

Opera is simply the art of telling a story through song – just like any other genre of music – but I think one of the biggest barriers the genre faces with the general public is that most operas and nearly all the classic operas are written in languages other than English, requiring subtitles. As I said, though, chances are most of the public has heard some of opera’s greatest songs and arias, they just don’t know it.

If you want to introduce your patrons to opera, start with the best. The three albums I would recommend are Best Opera Classics 100, Nessun Dorma: Best of Opera, and if you happen to have it on the shelves already, The Best of The Three Tenors.

For more titles, simply SmartBrowse ‘Opera’ on our website. To read more about the closing of the iconic New York City Opera, click here.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Star Wars Reads Day Celebrates Literacy

Written by Jon Williams

If you see an influx of patrons dressed in costume and carrying lightsabers this Saturday, don’t worry. They’re just there to participate in Star Wars Reads Day, an international event to celebrate reading and promote literacy.

The Star Wars franchise is most well known, of course, for the movies: the original trilogy of A New Hope (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and Return of the Jedi (1983), and the prequel trilogy of The Phantom Menace (1999), Attack of the Clones (2002), and Revenge of the Sith (2005). The animated The Clone Wars also played in theatres in 2008, paving the way for a television series that spanned five seasons before ending earlier this year. And of course, it’s common knowledge that a new trilogy is on the horizon, with the first installment slated for release in May of 2015.

While the films will always be what comes to mind first when someone mentions Star Wars, there’s no doubt that the books have expanded the universe and provided many hours of adventure for fans of all ages. However, that wasn’t always the case. Although the original trilogy created a huge number of fans for all things Star Wars, fandom went into a “dark time” following the release of Return of the Jedi in 1983, a period of time when there was little new material to satisfy the craving for more. That period was brought to a screeching halt in 1991 with the publication of Heir to the Empire, the first of a three-book series by acclaimed sci-fi author Timothy Zahn.

Since then, the literary reach of Star Wars has exploded, with books filling out the timeline from 25,000 years prior to the events of the original movie to nearly 50 years after. Along the way, there’s been something for just about everyone. Interested in the history of the Millennium Falcon? Fan of Han Solo or Obi-Wan Kenobi? Want to know the origin of Emperor Palpatine? Like zombies? All of these stories and more are available.

With the announcement of more movies leaving the stability of the Expanded Universe timeline in doubt, new books focus on eras that won’t be affected by the new trilogy. The most recent addition, Razor’s Edge, details Princess Leia’s struggle to establish a new base for the fledgling Rebel Alliance. Two entries are currently scheduled for 2014: Honor Among Thieves will begin a new series detailing the exploits of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia after the destruction of the Death Star, while Lockdown will follow Darth Maul on a mission for his dark master.

These titles will be in high demand for Star Wars Reads Day on Saturday, but Star Wars audiobooks are always a big hit. Be sure to SmartBrowse ‘Star Wars’ on our homepage for a complete selection of titles we offer, and to stay up-to-date with new titles as they’re announced.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Glee Takes on the Beatles

Written by Kyle Slagley

This week marked an important week for all the Gleeks out there, as the new album Glee Sings the Beatles hit shelves on Tuesday. It takes quite a bit of gall to take arguably the most sacred band in rock n’ roll history and pop-ify their work, but that’s exactly what the kids at William McKinley High School did. Judging by how well the album is selling, fans aren’t exactly complaining either.

After listening to the entire album, the Glee renditions I enjoyed most were “Drive My Car,” “Here Comes the Sun” which features Demi Lovato, and “I Saw Her Standing There.” Strangely enough, Glee has covered Beatles songs in the past, and my favourite of their covers, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” – sung by Chris Colfer, who plays Kurt, and which originally appears on Volume 4 – was not included on this album.

Glee is far from the first group to cover the Fab Four, nor will they be the last. Though many of your patrons will be far too young to remember, or even know of the performance, you cannot mention Beatles covers without mentioning Joe Cocker’s rendition of “With a Little Help From My Friends” at Woodstock in ’69 or Neil Young’s version of “Imagine” at the 9/11 TV tribute concert. More recently, Mumford and Sons have been known to cover “Hey Jude” during their concerts, and one of my favourite obscure cover finds (if you can get past the crowd noise on the recording) on YouTube is Alice Cooper, Steven Tyler, and Weird Al Yankovic singing “Come Together” at a New Year’s Eve party in 2012.

When it comes to entire albums of Beatles cover songs, my absolute favourite would be the Across the Universe Soundtrack. The film came out in 2007 and was another instance where the story was structured around the music. It received mediocre reviews, but the soundtrack is still one of my favourite soundtracks of all time.

For some, the first cover soundtrack to come to mind will be the one that went with the first Beatles-oriented film, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The film, starring Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees, was loosely based on the Beatles album of the same name, but with a 15% on Rotten Tomatoes, I think I can safely say the film was a total bomb. It is worth mentioning, though, that in later years, after memories of the film had faded, affection for ‘70s nostalgia and kitsch brought the soundtrack back into the light.

The fact is that there are too many different covers of the Fab Four to mention in just one column, and they span all different styles: from Beatallica (who plays Beatles tunes in the style of Metallica), Roberta Flack (who puts her R&B spin on the songs), to even Sesame Street and the Chipmunks. Check out our collection of Beatles cover albums Midwest Tape offers, and don’t forget to remind your younger patrons about the original band too!