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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

True Detective Season 2 Cast Announced

Written by Jon Williams

Early in 2014, HBO continued its string of buzzworthy hit shows with the original series True Detective. The first season of the show featured Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as the detectives in question, and its eight episodes followed their 17-year hunt for a serial killer in southern Louisiana. The series was received well by audiences and critics alike, garnering ten Emmy nominations and five wins, including Outstanding Casting.

That outstanding casting is on display once again as the stars for Season 2 have been confirmed. As an anthology series, each individual season will tell an entirely new story, and so McConaughey and Harrelson will not return in their roles. Instead, a completely different cast of characters will focus on another case, set this time somewhere in California.

One of the early casting announcements, and one that raised some eyebrows, was Vince Vaughn as a criminal kingpin. Vaughn, of course, is known primarily for screwball comedies like Wedding Crashers and Dodgeball, which are at odds with True Detective’s dark, gritty tone. Despite this perception, he’s no stranger to dramatic (and often dark) roles, having starred in such films as Clay Pigeons and Domestic Disturbance—not to mention his portrayal of one of the most iconic villains of all time, Norman Bates, in the 1998 remake of Psycho.

Playing Vaughn’s character’s wife in True Detective will be Kelly Reilly, who was just confirmed earlier this week. This English actress has had quite a variety of roles in a career that dates back to the mid-1990s. Most prominent among them might be as Mary Morstan, paramour of Dr. John Watson in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes and its 2011 sequel. She also starred as detective Anna Travis in three seasons of the British television Above Suspicion, and has been seen recently in films like Cavalry and Heaven Is for Real.

Another early announcement, confirmed in September at the same time as Vaughn, was Colin Farrell. Farrell will play one of the cops, but one that also owes allegiance to Vaughn’s criminal mastermind. First and foremost a movie star, Farrell actually got his start in television, appearing in Series 4 and 5 of the BBC’s Ballykissangel. Shortly thereafter he made his way to Hollywood with roles in films like Hart’s War with Bruce Willis and Minority Report with Tom Cruise. He’s been involved in several high-profile remakes, including Miami Vice, Fright Night, and Total Recall, and he won a Golden Globe for In Bruges.

Playing another troubled cop will be Taylor Kitsch, who burst onto the scene playing Tim Riggins, the much-loved high school football player at the heart of the Friday Night Lights TV series. From there he jumped into effects-laden blockbusters, starring in Disney’s adaptation of John Carter and as part of the Battleship group. Toning down the bombast, he recently appeared in another HBO production, the critically acclaimed drama The Normal Heart, whose ensemble cast drew rave reviews across the board.

And finally we come to the last member of True Detective’s main cast for Season 2. Rachel McAdams, like Reilly and Kitsch, was just confirmed this week, signing up to play a straight-laced detective (some descriptions list her character as a sheriff) in charge of the investigation. Also like Reilly, McAdams is an alumna of Sherlock Holmes, although she is probably most recognized for earlier roles in Mean Girls and The Notebook. McAdams has a bit of television background, with a role in the Canadian series Slings & Arrows among her first acting jobs.

With a cast like this, it’s easy to assume that the second season of True Detective will be just as big a hit as the first. Make sure you have that first season on your shelves for patrons who may have missed it on TV, and don’t forget all these other great movies and TV shows from these talented actors.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Looking at the Mockingjay Soundtrack

Written by Jon Williams

The third movie in the Hunger Games series, Mockingjay Part 1, releases into theatres this Friday, and is already projected to be one of the biggest films of 2014. The soundtrack for the film came out earlier this week, and chances are good that you already have it on your shelves (or, more likely, you don’t have it on your shelves, as zealous patrons have already nabbed it). The artists who provide the music on the soundtrack are likely to become in-demand as they’re discovered by new listeners, so let’s take a look at a few of them.

It was announced months ago that the soundtrack would be curated by singer Lorde, best known for her hit “Royals,” which appears on her debut album Pure Heroine. Having just turned 18, you’d think that putting together a soundtrack for a movie in an established blockbuster series might prove a daunting task, but Lorde knocked it out of the park. She provided the lead single, “Yellow Flicker Beat” (a Kanye West rework of the track appears as well), as well as another track, “Ladder Song,” in addition to co-writing four other songs and performing on one of them.

The track she performs on is the opener, “Meltdown” by Stromae, which also features Pusha T, Q-Tip, and Haim. Stromae is the stage name of Paul Van Haver, a Belgian hip-hop/electronic musician. Very popular in Europe, Stromae is just beginning to find an American audience, having been featured over the summer on Late Night with Seth Meyers and NPR.

Two of the songs co-written by Lorde feature collaborations between artists with more familiar names. The fifth track, “All My Love,” is by Major Lazer, the electronic music project of Diplo, and it includes vocals by Ariana Grande, the gold-selling pop sensation whose second album, My Everything, was released in August. The penultimate song on the album is “This Is Not a Game” by the Grammy-winning Chemical Brothers, another electronic duo, in collaboration with R&B artist Miguel, a fellow Grammy recipient for his song “Adorn” from his 2012 Kaleidoscope Dream album.

Collaborations are definitely a strength of the soundtrack, with another coming in the form of “Kingdom,” a song credited to Charli XCX. Known for co-writing and performing on Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy,” her own debut album, Sucker, will be released in December and feature the hit single “Boom Clap.” On the Mockingjay soundtrack, she works with Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran fame.

And there are plenty of non-collaborative songs on the soundtrack as well. One of the singles released for the album is “Dead Air” by Chvrches, an electronic band whose work has been featured in several TV shows. One of the more familiar names on the album is multitalented musician and actress Grace Jones, who contributes “Original Beast.” Other musicians and bands featured include Tove Lo, Tinashe, and Bat for Lashes.

As patrons get a chance to spend some time with this soundtrack—or if they have a hard time getting their hands on it—they’ll be looking for music by these artists. Help fuel their passion by having their CDs on your shelves.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What Is the Criterion Collection?

Written by Jon Williams

If you use our monthly DVD/Blu-ray Buyer’s Guide, you know that each month we feature a selection of movies offered by the Criterion Collection. In the upcoming December catalog, there will be a full page dedicated to them. But have you ever wondered exactly what the Criterion Collection is?

The simple answer, of course, is that it’s a video distribution company. The “About Us” page on Criterion’s website describes their collection as “a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films,” as well as “the greatest films from around the world…in editions that offer the highest technical quality and award-winning, original supplements.” What Criterion does is restore (if necessary) and remaster films for a crisp and clear presentation on DVD and high-definition Blu-ray, and then complement that film with such materials as audio commentary, deleted scenes, ‘making-of’ documentaries, and more. This wealth of esoterica allows the viewer to see the film in the context in which it was made, and has led to Criterion versions being referred to as “film school in a box.” In addition, Criterion was also the innovator of the “letterbox” format, using black bars at the top and bottom of the screen to present movies in a widescreen format, preserving their original aspect ratio (generally 2.35:1) when televisions were designed for a 4:3 display.

The Criterion Collection began in 1984, when VHS was still fighting with Betamax to become to dominant home video system of the day. Not content with the quality offered by either of these formats, though, Criterion in the beginning transferred films onto laserdisc. Although that format never became widespread, it remained Criterion’s sole format until 1998, when it made the switch to the burgeoning DVD format. Ten years later, in 2008, Criterion added Blu-ray to its repertoire, allowing for even better presentation than had previously been available. Currently, Criterion still distributes its films in both DVD and Blu-ray formats.

In the laserdisc days, Criterion would release mainstream movies, but their focus has narrowed mainly down to art, world, and classic films and documentaries. Although it no longer distributes them, the first two films issued by the Criterion Collection were Citizen Kane and the 1933 version of King Kong (and in both cases, the editions currently available are obviously inspired by the Criterion versions, boasting HD transfers and a full range of special features). It was with Invasion of the Body Snatchers (also no longer available from Criterion) that they introduced letterboxing.

Recent Criterion releases include such films as The Great Beauty (2014 Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Film), Babette’s Feast, Eraserhead, and the Beatles classic A Hard Day’s Night, while upcoming releases are scheduled for L’Avventura, Time Bandits (an update of their 1999 release), and Tootsie. This, however, is a mere sampling of a vast collection that includes more than 800 titles. For the full list of DVDs and Blu-rays available from Midwest Tape, SmartBrowse ‘Criterion Collection’ on our website.