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Friday, February 23, 2018

Black Panther Lives Up to the Hype

Written by Jon Williams

The superhero character Black Panther first appeared in Marvel comics in 1966, gracing the pages of a Fantastic Four adventure. He later appeared in comics featuring Captain America, the Avengers, and Daredevil, before finally scoring a comic of his own in 1973. Likewise, in the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Panther first came to the screen as part of the massive ensemble in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. The electrifying performance by Chadwick Boseman made audiences very excited for the character’s first standalone adventure, which finally made its way into theatres last week—with a bang. Along with rave reviews from critics and fans, it owned the box office in its first weekend with over $200 million in North America, and it looks to stay on top in its second week.

That huge opening weekend put Black Panther in some heady company, as it became just the fifth film to crack the $200M mark. The first was another Marvel movie, The Avengers, in 2012. It was done twice in 2015, first in the summer by Jurassic World. Then, toward the end of the year, The Force Awakens brought the Star Wars saga back into theatres for the first time since 2005 to the tune of nearly $250 million, the biggest opening of all time to date. Then, just a couple of short months ago, that film’s follow-up, The Last Jedi, joined this blockbuster list as well. Black Panther is certain to dominate the box office again; the only question is whether it can become just the fourth film to follow a $200+M opening with a $100+M weekend (FWIW, our crystal ball says it will—easily).

So what’s behind the film’s runaway success? First off, you can’t overstate how the thrill of finally seeing a black superhero has resonated with fans, both longtime Black Panther fans and just moviegoers in general. And while that is a critical factor, it wouldn’t matter nearly as much if the movie weren’t outstanding in its own right. It begins with 31-year-old wunderkind director and co-writer Ryan Coogler. He has just two previous films to his name, but they’re good ones: the 2013 Sundance darling Fruitvale Station and the 2015 Rocky reboot Creed. Both of those films starred Michael B. Jordan, and he features in Black Panther as Killmonger, the primary foil to Boseman’s hero. Those two are part of an incredible cast that includes Academy Award winners Forest Whitaker and Lupita Nyong’o, as well as Angela Bassett, Daniel Kaluuya from Get Out, and Danai Gurira from The Walking Dead, to name just a few. Add in a killer soundtrack curated by hip-hop superstar Kendrick Lamar and you can see the primary elements that have come together to create the phenomenon this movie has become.

With Black Panther just going into its second week in theatres and expected to continue raking in the cash, it will be a while before it becomes available on DVD and Blu-ray. In the meantime, though, there’s plenty of material to satisfy those who just can’t get enough. In addition to everything listed above, you can SmartBrowse on our website to find all the Marvel movies and plenty of other superhero content. And if your library is signed up with hoopla, there are a number of Black Panther comics available for patrons to explore, all with no waiting!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Big Performances on Music’s Biggest Night

Written by Jon Williams

The Grammy Awards were handed out last weekend, in a ceremony held Sunday night at the famed Madison Square Garden in New York City. The 60th annual event honoured the best music of the past year (or, technically, from October of 2016 through September of 2017). Bruno Mars had an incredible night, winning all six categories in which he was nominated, including the coveted Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Album of the Year awards.

If you watched the ceremony, it may seem like the Grammys only recognize a handful of categories, but that’s not the case at all. In fact, the vast majority of awards were given out at a Premiere Ceremony held earlier in the day. Only nine categories were held over for the main ceremony so the evening’s primary focus could be on the performances—which we will do here, as well. However, if you missed any of the winners, check out our website for a complete collection of all the year’s honourees, incredible music your patrons will definitely want to hear.

The night started off with a bang with multiple nominee Kendrick Lamar (seven nominations, five wins) taking the stage to perform a raucous mashup of songs, joined by Bono and the Edge of U2, as well as comedian Dave Chappelle (winner for Best Comedy Album). That was immediately followed by an intimate performance by Lady Gaga (two nominations) of two songs from her Joanne album, accompanied on acoustic guitar by Mark Ronson.

The Grammy Awards ceremony is known for performances featuring interesting collaborations, and that was certainly in evidence this year. The first after Kendrick’s opener was Gary Clark Jr. teaming up with Jon Batiste for a rockin’ remembrance of music pioneers Fats Domino and Chuck Berry, who both passed away in 2017. Later in the show, a more somber tribute took place, with Maren Morris (one nomination) and Eric Church taking the stage alongside Brothers Osborne (one nomination) to play Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting that happened in October. That was followed by one of the night’s most emotional moments, when Kesha (two nominations) came onstage for a powerhouse rendition of her song “Praying” backed by a chorus that included Cyndi Lauper, Andra Day (one nomination), Camila Cabello, Julia Michaels (two nominations), and Bebe Rexha. After Elton John sang “Tiny Dancer” with Miley Cyrus, the tribute to the late Tom Petty was handled by Chris Stapleton (three wins) and Emmylou Harris, who performed “Wildflowers.”

Even with all those team-ups, there was plenty of room for solo artists and regular bands and collaborations. The solo artists that performed included Sam Smith, Childish Gambino (five nominations, one win), Pink (one nomination), Ben Platt, Patti LuPone, and SZA (five nominations), while the bands were Little Big Town (two nominations, one win) and U2. As far as collaborations, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee performed their hit “Despacito,” which scored three nominations. The aforementioned Bruno Mars took the stage with Cardi B for “Finesse” off his 24K Magic album, calling to mind old-school R&B from the 1990s. Sting and Shaggy performed their new song “Don’t Make Me Wait” in advance of their forthcoming joint album, and then Rihanna and Bryson Tiller joined DJ Khaled for their song “Wild Thoughts.” Finally, the last performance of the night featured Logic (two nominations), Alessia Cara (Best New Artist), and Khalid (five nominations) on “1-800-273-8255,” promoting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

These incredible musicians put on a memorable show that was truly worthy of the Grammy Awards. Which performance was your favourite? As you consider, use the links above or visit our website to put together a wide selection of music from these iconic and up-and-coming artists for your music-loving patrons to discover and enjoy.