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Thursday, November 16, 2017

A New Version of a Classic Mystery

Written by Jon Williams

The new movie Murder on the Orient Express delivered a strong debut last weekend, bringing in more than $28 million at the box office. Directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, the film also features an ensemble cast consisting of Johnny Depp, Willem Dafoe, Penelope Cruz, Daisy Ridley, Leslie Odom, Jr., Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Josh Gad. Adapted from the 1934 Agatha Christie novel of the same name, it’s a mystery in which detective Hercule Poirot must deduce the identity of a murderer from among the passengers on a train. The novel is no stranger to adaptation, having been brought to life both on film (1974) and on television (2010).

Christie’s work is incredibly popular in its own right, with the late British author holding the honour as the bestselling novelist of all time. And that’s not just in the English-speaking world; she’s also the most translated, with her works currently available in more than 100 languages. Her career began shortly after World War II when The Mysterious Affair at Styles, her first novel, as well as the first to feature the Belgian detective Poirot, was published in 1920. She returned to Poirot with her third novel, Murder on the Links, and a series was born. In all, she wrote 33 Poirot novels, including Murder on the Orient Express, as well as a number of short stories and a play. She also created a number of other recurring detective characters, such as Miss Marple, an elderly protagonist whose first published appearance came in 1927. In all, she published 66 novels; Curtain (1975) and Sleeping Murder (posthumously published in 1976), although written earlier, were the last two published, wrapping up the careers of Poirot and Miss Marple, respectively. The last she wrote was 1973’s Postern of Fate.

With such incredible popularity, it’s no surprise that Christie’s novels, stories, and characters are ripe for adaptation. Murder on the Orient Express is only the latest in a long line that dates back to 1928. Given her penchant for recurring characters, some of the most well-received adaptations have been into television series. From 1984 through 1992, actress Joan Hickson brought Miss Marple to life for the BBC; in an ITV series that spanned from 2004 through 2013, she was portrayed by Geraldine McEwan and Julia McKenzie. ITV also had great success with its Poirot TV series which featured David Suchet in the title role. Other adaptations include Ten Little Indians (from And Then There Were None), Death on the Nile, and The Mirror Crack’d.

She’s known for her mystery writing, but there was a bit of mystery in Christie’s life as well. In 1926, during a difficult time in her first marriage, she disappeared for ten days. When she was found, she claimed to have no memory of the intervening time. This incident was explored in Carole Owen’s 1996 book The Lost Days of Agatha Christie. It was also the subject of the 1978 film Agatha starring Vanessa Redgrave and Dustin Hoffman, and portrayed in a fantastical light in the Doctor Who episode “The Unicorn and the Wasp.”

This is just a taste of all the incredible Agatha Christie content we have to offer. Visit our website to pre-order the new version of Murder on the Orient Express on DVD and Blu-ray, and while you’re there, browse around to find all this and more to complete your Christie collection and keep your mystery-loving patrons coming back for more.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Cars 3 Expands Pixar’s Legacy

Written by Jon Williams

Cars 3 is out this week on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K UHD. No doubt your young patrons have already cultivated quite a hold list for the latest installment in the adventures of Lightning McQueen. The series began in 2006 with Cars, which introduced Owen Wilson as the voice of the race car who learns about friendship during an unintended pit stop. The movie also featured voice work from Bonnie Hunt and Larry the Cable Guy, not to mention Paul Newman (in his final role), George Carlin, and, of course, John Ratzenberger. Cars 2 followed in 2011, and in 2013 the series spun off into Planes (which got its own sequel, Planes: Fire & Rescue, in 2014).

Cars 3 is just the latest in a long line of high-quality, very popular animated films from Disney-Pixar. Pixar began as a division of Lucasfilm before breaking off into its own company in 1986, with Steve Jobs as chairman. In 1991, the company agreed to produce three feature-length animated movies for Disney. That resulted in the first fully computer-animated film, 1995’s classic Toy Story, and the rest is history. They finished out the 1990s with A Bug’s Life (1998) and Toy Story 2 (1999).

Pixar had a contentious relationship with Disney during the first half of the 2000s, but you wouldn’t know it from the quality of their output. They began the decade in 2001 with Monsters, Inc., starring Billy Crystal and John Goodman. That was followed in 2003 by Finding Nemo, an underwater adventure that is currently Pixar’s highest-grossing non-sequel with over $380 million at the box office in North America, good for #30 of all time. Then in 2004 came The Incredibles, about a family who (some more reluctantly than others) must use their superpowers to save each other and their city.

In 2006, Disney cemented their partnership with Pixar by purchasing the company. The first Cars movie was the first released after the sale, although it was developed and made independently. Going forward together, the two companies finished out the 2000s with Ratatouille (about a rat who learns how to be a chef), WALL-E (about a robot who finds love), and Up (about a man who attaches balloons to his house to go on a wonderful adventure).

Up to that point, Pixar had traditionally not produced sequels, with Toy Story 2 being the lone exception. That changed in 2010 with a third installment, Toy Story 3, and then Cars 2 the year after. They’ve since followed up both Monsters, Inc. (with Monsters University in 2013) and Finding Nemo (with 2016’s Finding Dory, the #9 highest-grossing film of all time with over $486 million). They’ve also continued to make quality original films, with Brave in 2012 and both Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur in 2015.

Pixar makes wonderful, timeless movies that will continue to be popular with young patrons, and that their parents will enjoy just as well. With Cars 3 now available, and with their next movie, Coco, releasing in theatres on November 22, now is a great time to make sure your Pixar collection is complete.