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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Keaton Fits Right into Birdman

Written by Jon Williams

You’ve heard about all the films hovering near the top of the box office—highly publicized films like John Wick, Fury, Ouija, and Gone Girl. But there’s another film out right now that you may not have heard much about, which is garnering critical acclaim and doing quite well for itself in a limited theatrical release. That film is Birdman, about an actor whose career goes off the rails after a successful turn starring as a wildly popular superhero.

That actor is Riggan Thomson, played by Michael Keaton. It’s not hard to see the parallel between the plot of Birdman and Keaton’s own career. Keaton went through a period of immense popularity in the mid to late 1980s, culminating with his portrayal of Bruce Wayne and his alter ego, the Caped Crusader, in 1989’s Batman and its 1992 follow-up, Batman Returns. He was originally set to play Batman a third time, but he opted to drop out of the production when director Tim Burton did.

Batman has done fine since Keaton’s departure, with the cape and cowl being taken up by Val Kilmer, George Clooney, and Christian Bale, with Ben Affleck on deck to wear it next. Keaton, on the other hand, has been relegated, for the most part, to Hollywood’s background. While his IMDb page will show you that he has remained active, he has certainly not had the same degree of prominence he did prior to his stint as Batman.

Keaton’s birth name is actually Michael Douglas; as he began working in show business in the late ‘70s, he took an alternate name to avoid confusion with the other Michael Douglas, who was already well known. After a couple of one-shots on sitcoms like Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and Maude, he got a chance to show off his comedy chops against Jim Belushi in the show Working Stiffs. That then led to a role in the 1982 Ron Howard comedy feature Night Shift, and the rest is history. From there he became a sought-after comedic actor, starring in such films as Mr. Mom and Johnny Dangerously, and topping it off with a transcendent performance in the classic Tim Burton film Beetlejuice.

From Night Shift to Batman Returns was a period of ten years, with a number of notable starring roles for Keaton in that timespan. In the 22 years since, they’ve been fewer and further between, but there are definitely some gems. In 1994, he re-teamed with Ron Howard for The Paper, and in 1996 he played several versions of the same character in Multiplicity, directed by the late, great Harold Ramis. He starred in the 1998 holiday film Jack Frost and the 2005 horror movie White Noise. He’s also done some voice acting for Disney/Pixar, voicing characters in Cars and Toy Story 3. More recently, he appeared as the sinister OmniCorp CEO in the RoboCop reboot, bringing a sinister energy to the role.

Birdman features an all-star cast that includes Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, and Emma Stone, but the movie undoubtedly belongs to Michael Keaton. We’ll have info on its upcoming DVD/Blu-ray release as soon as it becomes available; in the meantime, make sure you have plenty of other Keaton movies on your shelves for your patrons to enjoy. SmartBrowse his name on our website to see everything we have to offer.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Beyond Gone Girl

Written by Jon Williams

After being released into theatres on October 3, Gone Girl has won the domestic box office for two consecutive weekends. The story of a wife who disappears on the morning of her fifth wedding anniversary and the possible guilt or innocence of her husband, the film has struck a chord with moviegoers, who have spent upwards of $80 million to see it so far. When it is released on DVD and Blu-ray in the coming months, it will no doubt prove to be just as popular with library patrons as its source material, the book by Gillian Flynn.

Flynn adapted the screenplay of Gone Girl from her own novel, which was then brought to the screen by acclaimed director David Fincher, known for Seven and The Social Network, among many others. The ill-fated husband and wife are played by Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. Everyone knows all about Affleck, of course; Pike is probably best known for her role as a villain in the 2002 Bond film Die Another Day, and has also appeared in such movies as Pride and Prejudice and The World’s End. The cast of Gone Girl also benefits from performances by such well-known actors as Neil Patrick Harris (who recently published his autobiography) and Tyler Perry (of Madea fame).

While Gone Girl is Flynn’s third and most recent novel, it is the only one of her works to be adapted for film so far. That will not be the case for long, however. Coming to theatres in 2015 will be Dark Places, adapted from Flynn’s second novel by writer/director Gilles Paquet-Brenner (who also adapted Tatiana de Rosney’s Sarah’s Key). It tells the story of Libby Day, who survives a massacre and testifies against her younger brother, and then, years later, must face suspicion that he wasn’t the culprit after all. Charlize Theron will star as Libby in this dark thriller.

Flynn’s first novel, published in 2006, was Sharp Objects, the tale of a troubled journalist charged with covering a series of brutal murders in her old hometown, and then must deal with ghosts from her own past. Previous attempts to adapt this novel have not panned out, but it was announced recently that it is being turned into a limited TV series. Not many details have been announced, such as casting or networks, but the showrunner will be Marti Noxon, who has worked on such series as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Glee.

Make sure you have all three of Gillian Flynn’s audiobooks on your shelves for your patrons as they wait for Gone Girl and her other adaptations. In the meantime, what have you been recommending to patrons who enjoyed Gone Girl and are looking for something similar? Let us know in the comments section.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Roosevelts Rule PBS

Written by Jon Williams

The latest film series from acclaimed documentarian Ken Burns, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History takes an intimate, in-depth look at one of the most prominent political families in American history. It entwines the tale of Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States, with his cousin Franklin, 32nd President of the United States, and Franklin’s First Lady, Eleanor. Airing over seven nights in September, it proved to be one of PBS’s most popular series, and is already available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Filmmaker Ken Burns has become known over the years for this sort of penetrating looks at various aspects of Americana. His first such film was 1981’s Brooklyn Bridge, an adaptation of David McCullough’s book The Great Bridge. That film earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary, a feat Burns would repeat in 1985 with another film about a New York City landmark, Statue of Liberty. While neither film won the Oscar, Burns has won a number of Emmy Awards for his work over the years, with the first coming for The Civil War, one of his best-known and best-loved documentary works. He has also tackled such subjects as Baseball, Jazz, and The National Parks, among many others.

Of course, even aside from the documentaries produced by Burns, PBS is known for its quality programming. NOVA, for instance, is a science-focused show that has been in production for 40 years, with close to 800 episodes to its credit. The current season tackles such newsworthy issues as vaccines and computer/device hacking. Frontline is another long-running PBS show (31 years) taking on any number of current events and public interest topics, while Nature (32 years) is known, of course, for its documentaries on various aspects of nature. While shows like these give PBS an analytical, non-fictional bent, the channel is also well-known for its classic Masterpiece dramas and its educational children’s programming, such as Sesame Street. And this is just a small sampling of everything PBS has to offer.

With The Roosevelts airing so recently and garnering so much attention, it’s likely to spurn even further interest in these towering historical figures. Fortunately, there is no shortage of resources you can offer your patrons, particularly on audiobook. Wilderness Warrior by Douglas Brinkley examines at Teddy Roosevelt’s conservation efforts as president, while Lion in the White House looks at his life overall. Young Mr. Roosevelt takes on FDR’s early influences, while No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin portrays his relationship with Eleanor. And the First Lady’s story, fascinating in its own right, is told in her own words in The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt.

For more, visit our website and search using terms such as ‘Roosevelt’ and ‘FDR.’ You’ll find plenty of materials, both audio and video, to satisfy the interests of history buffs young and old. And remind your patrons that, beyond your shelves, a great deal of PBS and Ken Burns programming can be found on hoopla.