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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Get Lost in Space

Written by Jon Williams

I’m admittedly late to the party on this one, but I finally got around to watching Gravity recently. I wanted to see it in theatres, and now I’m even more irritated with myself that I didn’t. In HD on a big-screen television, the film looked utterly incredible…I can only imagine how breathtaking and immersive it was on a giant silver screen. All the technical awards and accolades the film won for its production and presentation were well-deserved.

Of course, humanity facing adversity in the course of space exploration is a plot device that has been explored time and time again (with Interstellar being the most recent example). The movie Gravity most reminded me of in that regard was Apollo 13, the dramatisation of the ill-fated 1970 NASA mission to the moon. Although Apollo 13 was based on a true story, boiled down, both films have similar plots: a group of astronauts go into space on a mission that is soon marred by catastrophe and they have to attempt to return to Earth under increasingly harrowing circumstances. Interestingly, both films feature Ed Harris (voice only in Gravity), who also stars in another acclaimed movie about astronauts, 1983’s The Right Stuff.

Another film along somewhat similar lines is on the horizon. The Martian, starring Matt Damon, is slated for a November 25 release into theatres. Based on the popular novel of the same name by Andy Weir, it’s not about an alien from the Red Planet, but rather about an astronaut abandoned there after an accident leads the rest of his crew to assume he is dead. Actually only mildly injured, he must then use what few supplies he has available in an attempt to survive long enough for a rescue mission to be mounted from Earth. This brings to mind, to a certain extent, the sci-fi classic Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein, about a human born on Mars coming to Earth for the first time (although I suppose that’s actually the exact opposite of space exploration).

Some movies play on our fears of finding hostile (or at the very least dangerous) alien life on our forays into space. The successful Alien franchise has been built on this premise, and a new Alien film by District 9’s Neill Blomkamp is in the works. Then there’s Apollo 18, a found-footage film that posits one more crewed moon landing after the Apollo 17 mission, one that found a very good reason why no one has landed on the moon since. Another in this vein is Europa Report, in which a crew is sent to explore the possibility of water and life on one of Jupiter’s moons.

Of course, this barely scratches the surface when it comes to tales of humans venturing into space. There’s much more to explore, including the wide range of Star Trek shows and movies, Moon, starring Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey, and, of course, 2001 and 2010. So tell us about some of your favourites, or what’s popular with your patrons, in the comments section below.

Friday, February 13, 2015

2015 Looks to Be Banner Year for Movies

Written by Jon Williams

You’ve heard about it, and it’s finally here. Today, Fifty Shades of Grey opens in theatres, following months of anticipation and controversy. Based on the first of author E.L. James’s trilogy of novels, the film (itself the first of a trilogy) is expected to win the weekend’s box office handily, even against strong competition from Kingsman, another new release, plus holdovers SpongeBob and American Sniper.

Fifty Shades is the first really highly anticipated movie to open in 2015, but by no means is it the last. Looking at what’s in store for the year should have moviegoers feeling pretty excited. First up is a number of reboots, remakes, and reimaginings, including a live-action version of Cinderella, directed by Kenneth Branagh, hitting the screen one month from today. This summer, you can look for an update of the horror classic Poltergeist, as well as a new version of Fantastic Four, with Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, and Jamie Bell as the titular superhero quartet. For Christmas, you can look forward to a remake of Point Break that features extreme sports in place of surfing in the original. And finally, if iconic characters are your thing, you won’t want to miss Mr. Holmes, which stars Sir Ian McKellan as the world’s most famous detective in his elder days and dealing with a failing memory. No North American release date has yet been announced, but it is expected to be out sometime this year.

If your favourite franchise isn’t getting a reboot, then chances are good that it’s getting a sequel, as there are a ton of those on tap for 2015. First on the docket is Insurgent, coming March 20, the second in the Divergent series based on the young adult novels by Veronica Ross. Staying in the dystopian future genre, this year will see the conclusion to the Hunger Games series, as Mockingjay Part 2 debuts in November. The summer a number of blockbusters will have viewers flocking to theatres for new installments of The Avengers (Age of Ultron), Jurassic Park (Jurassic World), and Terminator (Genisys). Daniel Craig takes another turn as super-spy James Bond in Spectre, the follow-up to Skyfall. There will also be new installments for The Fast and the Furious, Pitch Perfect, Ted, and Magic Mike as the year goes on. And in December, there’s that new Star Wars movie that has everyone all abuzz.

Of course, if original fare is more your cup of tea, there’s plenty to look forward to on that score as well. Later this month, Serena comes to the screen, starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence and based on the novel by Ron Rash. March 6 will see the release of Chappie, the story of a robot who gains intelligence and emotions, directed and written by Neill Blomkamp, known for District 9 and Elysium. Child 44, in theatres in April, tells a story of murder and intrigue in the Soviet Union, based on the bestselling novel by Tom Rob Smith. In May, look for Tomorrowland, the sci-fi fantasy from Disney starring George Clooney. Another Marvel movie, Ant-Man, comes out in July, with Paul Rudd playing the tiny superhero. And November looks pretty awesome, with releases including Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, Disney/Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur, and the adaptation of Andy Weir’s acclaimed novel The Martian, starring Matt Damon.

Naturally, this is just scratching the surface of all the amazing films coming our way this year. As always, look to CVS Midwest Tape for these films as they come available on DVD and Blu-ray, and let us know what you’re looking forward to seeing.