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Friday, August 22, 2014

Ready for Kickoff

Written by Jon Williams

The month of August is winding down, and the kids are back to school or getting ready to do so very soon. While this can bring on emotions ranging from excitement to angst for the students in question, it also heralds the return of the popular community institution that is high school football. The traditional Friday night game has long been a source of fascination in both fiction and non-fiction, evidenced by the film When the Game Stands Tall, opening in theatres today. It tells the story of the De La Salle Spartans, a high school team in California that maintained an incredible 151-game winning streak from 1992 through 2003. It’s just the latest in a long line of stories to explore both the romance and the dark side of the game and the young men who play it.

Of course, the gold standard for high school football-related media is the Friday Night Lights juggernaut. The 1990 book by Buzz Bissinger was turned into a 2004 film exploring the 1988 season of the Permian Panthers of Odessa, Texas, dealing with the pressures of a highly touted team making a run at a championship in a state where football is king. The success of that movie then spawned a critically acclaimed TV series focusing on Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) taking over as head coach in the fictional town of Dillon, Texas, and the trials and tribulations of his players and family. The show ran for five seasons, ending in 2011, and while there were persistent rumours of it coming back to the big screen, it now appears that won’t happen.

Still, there are a number of other film portrayals of high school football. One is the 1983 movie All the Right Moves, which features Tom Cruise as a star player seeking a scholarship and Craig T. Nelson as his coach (Nelson, of course, would go on to earn an Emmy Award playing a college football coach as the star of the ABC series Coach). In 1999, Varsity Blues introduced young stars James Van Der Beek, Paul Walker, and Scott Caan as players with a tumultuous relationship with their overbearing coach (Jon Voight). 2000’s Remember the Titans, like Friday Night Lights (the movie), depicts a true story, this one of a 1971 Virginia team dealing with racial tensions. Denzel Washington won accolades for his portrayal of the team’s coach, Herman Boone.

And if you prefer even more realism, there are a number of documentaries that take a look at various teams as they wilt or bloom under the lights. One of them is 2011’s Undefeated, which looks at a traditionally bad team in an underprivileged Memphis area when a new coach takes over, determined to take the team—and its players—to new heights. A staple in the genre is Go Tigers!, following the 1999 team in the football-crazy town of Massillon, Ohio.

This is just a small sampling of football movies, and doesn’t even get into the number of audiobooks (both fiction and non-fiction) that are available. For more, come search or browse on our website, and make sure your patrons have everything they need to whet their appetites for the coming season.

Friday, August 15, 2014

In Memoriam: Lauren Bacall

Written by Jon Williams

It’s been a rough week in Hollywood. It started on Monday afternoon with the news of Robin Williams’s passing, which stunned and saddened the entertainment industry and millions of fans worldwide. The veteran comedian and actor, who parlayed his role on the sitcom Mork and Mindy into a long and successful TV and movie career, was just 63 when he died.

With the shocking nature of that news, the death of another big-screen icon has been nearly overshadowed. On Tuesday, Lauren Bacall passed away at age 89. Yes, she was married to Humphrey Bogart, but she had quite a career in her own right. Her work as a model brought her to the attention of filmmaker Howard Hawks, who brought her to Hollywood. He was the one who assigned her to a voice coach that helped her develop the low, sultry voice she became known for. Hawks then cast her in 1944’s To Have and Have Not, and the rest is history.

It was on the set of To Have and Have Not that Bacall met Bogie. The two married in 1945 and remained so until Bogart’s death in 1957. In addition to being husband and wife, they also paired up on the silver screen three more times in the 1940s, beginning with 1946’s The Big Sleep (another Howard Hawks film). Adapted from the Raymond Chandler novel about detective Philip Marlowe, it featured a screenplay co-written by William Faulkner. That was followed in 1947 with Dark Passage, and in 1948 with Key Largo, directed by John Huston.

Bacall’s career was at its peak in the 1950s, beginning with Young Man with a Horn (currently unavailable), an early jazz film. She also starred in such films as How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), Woman’s World (1954), and the classic Written on the Wind (1956), among others. The 1957 film Designing Woman (currently unavailable) was filmed as Bogart’s health was failing, and released just a few months after his death.

Beginning in the 1960s, Bacall dialed back her involvement in Hollywood productions, although she continued to act into her later days. One of her most significant roles was as part of an all-star ensemble cast in 1974’s Murder on the Orient Express. Speaking personally, the first time I saw her was in a small role in Stephen King’s Misery adaptation, as author Paul Sheldon’s agent. In 1996, her role in The Mirror Has Two Faces earned her a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress, as well as her first Academy Award nomination. She also put that famous voice to good use with roles in such animated projects as Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) and Ernest & Celestine (2012).

With Lauren Bacall’s passing on Tuesday, we’ve lost another small piece of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Share her films with your patrons. In addition to the movies listed above, you can SmartBrowse her name on our website for a more comprehensive list.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Scream Reboot Coming to MTV

Written by Jon Williams

“What’s your favourite scary movie?”

That’s the most iconic line from the 1996 slasher flick Scream, the Wes Craven-helmed sendup of horror movies and their conventions that managed to be pretty creepy in its own right. That film brought in over $100 million at the box office and spawned three further installments. Now the franchise is getting a facelift, with Bob and Harvey Weinstein set to bring a reboot series to MTV. Craven will serve with the Weinsteins as another executive producer alongside showrunner Jill Blotevogel, Marianne Maddalena, and Cathy Konrad.

Wes Craven, of course, is a legend in the horror movie business dating back to 1972’s The Last House on the Left, which he wrote and directed. He did the same on such films as The Hills Have Eyes (1977) and Swamp Thing (1982) before the birth of his most famous creation. In 1984, Freddy Krueger made his debut as the undead, dream-haunting, teen-stalking serial killer of A Nightmare on Elm Street. A number of films and a TV spinoff followed (including a 2010 remake), but Craven was only involved in Dream Warriors and New Nightmare (currently unavailable).

When Scream came out in 1996, it poked fun at the horror genre and updated it at the same time. It flouted conventions by featuring characters that were horror-savvy and aware of the clichés (“Don’t go in there!”), and then by casting well-known actors and actresses to portray those characters. The first film starred Drew Barrymore, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, and Skeet Ulrich, among others. Its success was followed quickly by Scream 2 (1997) and Scream 3 (2000), with Scream 4, the most recent, coming in 2011. All the sequels brought back Campbell, Cox, and Arquette.

Being released in 2011, Scream 4 coincided with a resurgence in popularity for the horror genre. It was originally intended to be the beginning of a new series featuring younger co-stars like Hayden Panettiere and Aimee Teegarden. While it’s unclear how or if the development of the TV series will affect plans for further feature films, it’s certain that the series will feature a younger cast. The pilot episode is set to film this summer; stay tuned for more details, like premiere dates, as they become available.

Of course, it’s not too early to start thinking about your Halloween movie collections. SmartBrowse on our website for plenty more by Wes Craven, and while you’re there, take a look around for plenty more of the horror films your patrons will be Scream-ing for.