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Friday, May 25, 2018

American Idol Is Back!

Written by Jon Williams

On Monday of this week, the popular reality singing show American Idol capped off its sixteenth season by crowning Maddie Poppe as its new champion. This season was the show’s first on ABC following fifteen on Fox followed by a two-year hiatus. Ryan Seacrest returned as the show’s host, where he was joined by new judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan. Along with Poppe, some other names to watch for from this season as their musical careers unfold include Caleb Lee Hutchinson, Gabby Barrett, Cade Foeher, Michael J. Woodard, Catie Turner, and Ada Vox.

Once one of the most popular shows on television, if not the most popular, ratings had declined for Idol’s last few seasons on Fox. Nevertheless, it still managed to produce some phenomenal musical talent. The most recent winner, Trent Harmon, released his debut album You Got ‘Em All last week, while that season’s runner-up, La’Porsha Renae, released hers last year. Other winners from this stretch include Nick Fradiani, Caleb Johnson (whose debut album is currently out of print), and Candice Glover.

Prior to that, Seasons 1 through 11 were the show’s heyday, shining a spotlight on a number of young singers that would emerge as musical superstars. The audience was hooked from the start, when Kelly Clarkson took the first season crown over runner-up Justin Guarini. She is now one of the biggest names in music. The same can be said for Carrie Underwood, the winner of Season 4, who served as a mentor this season and whose new album Cry Pretty is coming in September. She’s carved out an enormous career in country music, as has Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery, who dropped his most recent album, Seasons Change, in March. Other winners from these seasons are Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze, and Phillip Phillips.

Of course, sometimes contestants that don’t win end up doing pretty well for themselves in the music world as well. One of the biggest names to come out of American Idol has been Jennifer Hudson, who actually placed seventh in the show’s third season, and who has won an Academy Award for her acting skills in addition to two Grammy Awards for her music. The Season 8 runner-up was Adam Lambert, who has had an impressive solo career, toured as the frontman for Queen, and starred as Eddie in the 2016 version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Other notables include Katharine McPhee, Chris Daughtry, Kellie Pickler, Danny Gokey, Crystal Bowersox, and Colton Dixon, while a number of alumni, including Season 10’s Haley Reinhart and Casey Abrams, have performed as part of musical sensation Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox.

So make sure you have music from all these winners and contestants on your shelves and be on the lookout for upcoming albums from this season’s performers as well, because Idol is back. The show has already been renewed for a second season on ABC and seventeenth overall, with Ryan Seacrest and all of this season’s judges returning. With the show back in the spotlight, your patrons will be looking for music from all these incredible performers.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Ron Howard Brings a Steady Hand to Solo

Written by Jon Williams

We’re now just a week away from the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story into theatres. This will be the second non-trilogy, standalone film in the Star Wars saga, following the huge success of Rogue One in 2016. Like that film, Solo will also dive into the period of time leading up to the events that take place in the original 1977 Star Wars. It will detail the early life of Han Solo, the smuggler turned rebel originally played with such swagger by Harrison Ford, as he meets Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian and embarks on his life on the fringes of society. An impressive lineup fills the cast, and bringing it all together from the director’s chair is Hollywood veteran Ron Howard.

Although he’s just 64 years old, Howard’s career spans nearly six decades itself. It began in front of the camera, of course, including two very high-profile television roles. He began playing Opie Taylor, son of the title character on The Andy Griffith Show, in 1960, when he was just six years old. That ran for eight seasons, and he also played the character in single episodes of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. and Mayberry R.F.D., as well as a 1986 reunion movie that was his last significant acting role. In 1974, he began playing Richie Cunningham on Happy Days and served as the main character of that series for most of its run. As with Opie Taylor, he also crossed the role of Richie Cunningham over to Laverne & Shirley.

Those are his long-running and best-known roles, but as a young actor he also made appearances in a number of other popular shows, including The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Dennis the Menace, The Fugitive, M*A*S*H, and The Waltons, among many others. And those are just his television roles. He also appeared in a number of films, such as The Music Man, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, and The Shootist, John Wayne’s final film. In 1973, a starring role in the teenage comedy-drama American Graffiti was Howard’s first encounter with George Lucas’s then-burgeoning Lucasfilm company. He also starred in the 1979 follow-up More American Graffiti, but by then his acting career was winding down.

In 1977, Howard got his first chance to direct a feature film with Grand Theft Auto, a rollicking car chase adventure that he also wrote (with his father Rance) and starred in. His big break in directing was 1982’s Night Shift, a buddy comedy starring Michael Keaton in his first major role and Howard’s Happy Days co-star Henry Winkler. He then went on to bring Tom Hanks to the big screen for the first time in the 1984 romcom Splash, and later directed Steve Martin in Parenthood. While his first few films were comedic in nature, in 1988 he returned to the Lucasfilm fold by directing George Lucas’s fantastical Willow (currently unavailable).

Howard’s career has only continued to grow from there. The 1990s saw him direct such box office hits as Backdraft, Far and Away, Apollo 13, and Ransom. In 2000 he brought the Dr. Seuss classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas to the big screen, and then followed that up in 2001 with A Beautiful Mind, which earned him an Academy Award for Best Director. He was nominated again for 2008’s Frost/Nixon but lost out to Slumdog Millionaire’s Danny Boyle. Other notable directorial outings include the boxing drama Cinderella Man, the Jay-Z music festival documentary Made in America, and the trilogy of Robert Langdon films based on Dan Brown’s bestselling novels: The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons, and Inferno.

Many fans still recognize Ron Howard from his earliest roles as Opie Taylor and Richie Cunningham; more currently he may be known as the narrator for the comedy series Arrested Development, which he also produces. But whether it’s in front of or behind the camera, his vast Hollywood experience made Howard the perfect choice to take over the reins of Solo when the film’s original directors departed, bringing his practiced eye to bear on the latest movie from a galaxy far, far away. His most high-profile project to date will have patrons excited to check out more from his filmography, which is well worth exploring in its own right. Click any of the links above to add these movies to your collection, or SmartBrowse his name on our website for a more complete collection of his acting and directing roles.

Friday, May 4, 2018

MCU Going Strong with Infinity War

Written by Jon Williams

Last week, Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War thundered into theatres across North America to the tune of a nearly $258 million opening. That total pushed it past 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the highest grossing opening weekend of all time. Going into its second weekend, it looks likely to dominate the box office once again, and in fact may continue to do so until the next Marvel movie, the much-anticipated Deadpool sequel, opens on May 18.

We last checked in on the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) nearly two years ago, with the release of Captain America: Civil War. That movie kicked off Phase 3 of Marvel’s ongoing interconnected movie universe, and the post detailed the films that made up the first two phases. Phase 3 continued in 2016 with Doctor Strange, which brought Benedict Cumberbatch’s reality-bending sorcerer into the mix. The following year saw three MCU blockbusters, starting with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in May. The action returned to Earth with Spider-Man: Homecoming in July, the webslinger’s first solo outing since Civil War introduced him to the Avengers team. Then, in November, Thor: Ragnarok showed the exploits of the two Avengers (Hulk being the second) who weren’t around for the events of Civil War. And 2018 has really brought the power: before Infinity War’s incredible opening weekend, Black Panther, which opened in February, became the third highest-grossing film of all time in North America. That movie, which is still showing in many theatres nearly three months later, comes to video on May 15.

So where do the Avengers go from here? For those that have seen the movie (no spoilers!), that is a very pressing questions. The immediate answer is Ant-Man and the Wasp, which comes to theatres on July 6. It’s a sequel to 2015’s Ant-Man (Phase 2), which saw Paul Rudd’s character Scott Lang get the suit that allows him to shrink or grow at will. However, the film is set in the time period between Civil War and Infinity War, so don’t expect too many answers as to what happens next. From there, fans will have to wait until next March, when Captain Marvel is set to be released, with Brie Larson in the title role. Likewise, though, there isn’t likely to be any closure here, either, as it’s set in the 1990s. No, for that, everyone is just going to have to wait for the as-yet-untitled fourth Avengers movie, currently slated for release on May 3, 2019. That will bring the curtain down on Phase 3 and lead into Phase 4, about which little is known at this point.

A year is a long time to wait for the next Avengers, but on the bright side, it’s also plenty of time for patrons to relive or get caught up on all the incredible movies that have brought us to this point—starting, of course, with Iron Man, which kicked off the MCU when it was released almost exactly ten years ago, on May 2, 2008. And for those who want to dig a little deeper, we have curated a collection of Infinity War-related comics on hoopla, as well as a wealth of other Marvel titles.