Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Murder Mystery Clue #3

Happy Cluesday! Here's Clue #3 in our Summer Murder Mystery! You can still sign-up to participate by visiting the library's Main Desk. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

It's Movie Season!

Summer is synonymous with big-budget, fast paced, spectacle driven, “popcorn” movies. In the same way that much of the Academy fare clusters towards the end of the year, the great majority of grand action epics and large scale family films come out in summer, which is natural enough considering that the kids are out of school and the parents are looking for a way to get out of the house, beat the heat, and catch a break. The summer blockbuster season runs from May-August, and trips to the cinema to see the next big feature are becoming as much of a summer tradition as barbecue, baseball, and playing in the pool.
In film the term “blockbuster” is a denotation of a movie’s budget and marketing effort but it has practically come to be a genre of its own. Blockbusters are aimed at mass markets all around the globe, have gigantic production budgets (always north of $150 million), and colossal marketing efforts that permeate everything from restaurant promotions and billboards to secondary markets like toys and video games. Studios depend on these mega-franchise tent poles to prop up the rest of the year’s efforts which may not always live up to expectations. A blockbuster is a “happy meal franchise” that can always be depended on to bring in big money, shore up excitement, and have mass appeal.
The Summer Blockbuster display has been one of the most popular front door exhibits at the library for two years straight. All of the biggest blockbusters, from Ice Age to X-Men, are spotlighted for your convenience – and usually just in time for you to catch up before the next installment hits the theater. Come in to the library today to get your stay-at-home blockbuster movie night started!
Here is just a snippet of the selection available in the building:
The Avengers
Two years ago The Avengers smashed records all around the world and went on to become the third highest grossing movie of all time. While it can’t properly be labeled a sequel, The Avengers was built up to for years by summer homeruns like Iron Man and Captain America. The Avengers success breathed new life in to the already decade old run of comic book movies and has guaranteed studios will keep churning out the exploits of masked crusaders for years to come.
The Dark Knight Trilogy
Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy started off relatively modestly with 2005’s Batman Begins but 2008’s The Dark Knight blew away audiences and obliterated the box office with a near perfect blend of summer thrills and a deeper, more complex movie magic led by Heath Ledger’s masterful performance as The Joker. The Dark Knight Rises was never going to live up to the precedent and hype in 2012 but nonetheless performed solidly enough to cement the franchise as a summer champion for the record books.
 Pirates of the Caribbean
The Pirates of the Caribbean series is one of the most successful summer franchises because it so effectively balances its appeal between children and adults. While kids love the swashbuckling, wise cracking heroics of Captain Jack Sparrow, parents can sink their teeth in to a classic adventure tale with solid acting, surprising depths, and plenty of winks and nods to the adults in the audience.
The first Shrek was a surprise hit in May of 2001 and when the sequel absolutely demolished expectations three years later a franchise was born. The next two films burnt off a little steam but still performed well enough to spawn a spin-off series for the lovable Puss in Boots. The success of Shrek paved the way for the modern trend of animated summer blockbusters geared aggressively at the younger crowd including hits like Despicable Me, Madagascar, and How To Train Your Dragon.
The Lone Ranger
Not every batter who comes to the plate is going to hit the ball and 2013’s The Lone Ranger struck out swinging in embarrassing fashion. What was undoubtedly intended to be the start of a franchise crashed more horrendously than one of the ill-fated trains in the film. Part of the problem was the movie’s bloated budget of $215 million which it pretty clearly was never going to make back. Still, what could have been counted as an investment turned in to nothing more than a disaster for Disney when the films paltry $89 million domestic gross and awful critical reception doomed any hope for future installments.
Michael Bay is simultaneously one of the most revered and ridiculed names in all of Hollywood. Bay is the butt of endless jokes on the internet and has been attacked countless times on television in shows like South Park, Family Guys, and The Simpsons. Still, the director seems to have the pulse of summer as his mindless, fast paced, explosion-centric films seem to be exactly what audiences crave this time of year. The Transformers films are some of the most profitable ever made and are the cinematic equivalent of fireworks and hot dogs – they are loud, fun, shallow, and meant to be enjoyed as a silly, indulgent guilty pleasure. Michael Bay’s films aren’t ever going to win any (significant) awards but they are a perfectly fine way to spend a scorching summer day.
With gratuitous violence and a suspense driven narrative Jaws certainly doesn’t fit the mold of today’s summer blockbusters. Nonetheless, it is widely considered to be the one that started it all back in the summer of 1975. There has been array of books, essays, and articles discussing Jaws’ impact on the film industry with Wikipedia referring to it as “a watershed moment in motion picture history”. The film’s wide release and concentrated marketing effort was unlike anything that came before it and set the standard for the Hollywood business model that has come to produce heavyweight franchises like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Spider-Man.
This is just the tip of the sand castle for summer blockbusters available at the library. Come in and take some home today!
Posted by Terry Pierson, Library Clerk 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Top Ten Things Overheard at Last Night's Board Meeting

10) "Hoopla?  I thought you said hookah!"
9) "Oh yes, Kyla has proven to be a wonderful addition to our library."
8) "Whose turn was it to bring the rice pudding?"
7) "Oops, I thought this was the French class.  Je suis désolé."
6) "Three words--Paws To Read."
5) "Look, if anyone is killing Jed it's going to be me."
4) "I will bite my thumb at them, which is disgrace to them if they bear it."
3) "Superheroes and Patriots: Comic Book Propaganda Unveiled."
2) "I just can't wait for the next Lovie Sleepover."
1) "Spring break forever."

Posted by Grahm Underwood, Library Clerk

Murder Mystery Clue #2

Happy Cluesday! Here's Clue #2 for our Summer Reading Program Murder Mystery. If you haven't registered and picked-up your Solution Sheet yet, there's still time! Just visit the Main Desk to sign-up.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Film Review | X-Men: Days of Future Past

The first X-Men film came out fourteen years ago in the year 2000. While the series has progressed, comic book fans have seen the rise of Marvel Studios and their Avengers universe, two Spider-Man film series, two reboots of Superman, and the near perfect Batman trilogy by Christopher Nolan. Through it all the X-Men, far from the most iconic or popular brand in the medium, have built a bona fide franchise through good (X2, First Class) and not-so-good (X3, Wolverine Origins) entries alike. Over the course of six films in a dozen years the X-Men brand has at least found a footing in consistency that few series are ever afforded.
The new film, Days of Future Past, is somewhat akin to a TV series finale. Nearly every significant character returns for this climactic, no holds barred extravaganza that builds a bridge between the two time periods established in the previous films. Hugh Jackman returns as Wolverine (for the seventh time!), Halle Berry appears as Storm, and Xavier and Magneto are represented by both their younger and elder stars – Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy trade Professor Xavier and Ian Mckellen and Michael Fassbender share Magneto. Director Bryan Singer is even back on board after having sat out the last couple of sequels.
There is a lot going on in Days of Future Past which is one of the drawing points of the movie but also, as it turns out, one of its detriments. The film at times takes for granted that the viewers have seen all the other installments are familiar with these characters. That may not be a bad bet considering the blockbuster success of the series and the prolific pacing of the entries but it nonetheless makes the film feel insular and like an installment rather than an individually powerful outing. If you haven’t seen the other X-Men films, or just don’t remember them very well, some homework may be in order to fully appreciate Days of Future Past.
This effect is most severe in the opening ten or fifteen minutes, which, for the casual audience, might threaten to derail movie as soon as it starts. In the opening scene the effects laden action is laid on heavy and the story is already in motion with a cast of some of the more obscure mutant heroes.  Introducing a story in conflict is a powerful technique when utilized carefully but the exposition of Days of Future Past might leave some viewers scrambling to catch up and feeling awkwardly detached to the initial set-up. It is only when the time travel element is introduced, and the casts begin to merge, that the film finds its footing.
The central draw of Days of Future Past – the dual casts and merging storylines – works wonderfully. James McAvoy arguably steals the show and his chemistry with Patrick Wilson is powerful and convincing, which is never an easy feat where time travel is concerned. The story is epic in scale, touching on major historical moments including the Vietnam War, Kennedy assassination, and Nixon presidency. The action is suitably grand with the near limitless power of mutants allowing for an extensive array of stylish mayhem and destruction. Days of Future Past is more than just another action packed, CG blockbuster but it elevates that element as well as any other movie this year.
Maintaining interest in a storyline for fourteen years isn’t easy. While movie history evidences that on its seventh film the X-Men brand should be running out of steam, Days of Future Past defies the odds and is quite possibly the best film in the series to date. Instead of retreading ground or giving way to some goofy degradation, this sixth sequel simultaneously preserves the long standing franchise while pushing it forward. Though not without flaws, Days of Future Past is a rare accomplishment and a homerun for comic book fans.
Grade: B
Posted by Terry Pierson, Library Clerk

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Murder Mystery Clue #1

Happy Cluesday! If you haven't registered for our Summer Murder Mystery and picked-up your Solution Sheet yet, just visit the Main Desk. You still have time to play along!

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Film Review - Godzilla

Giant monsters are my thing. I am the daikaiju (Japanese for “giant monster”) equivalent of a comic book nerd or Trekkie. I own every single one of the original Godzilla movies (all 28 by Toho Studios) plus countless other giant monster movies stretching from King Kong and Ray Harryhausen pictures to Cloverfield, Pacific Rim, and Mega Shark. My movie monster credentials could be laid out ad nauseam but it is sufficient to say that almost anything with a gargantuan creature in it is my bread and butter.  
This blatant fanboy bias makes approaching a film like the new Godzilla movie with some measure of objectivity a difficult task. However, I have come to appreciate this familiarity as a double-edged sword: yes, I am very likely to personally love anything with Godzilla on the title, but at the same time I have an extensive repertoire of similar titles to fairly evaluate it against.
So what’s the final verdict? As an adamant Godzilla fan I love the new film and it’s safe to say that it is made to be enjoyable for those who may never have actually sat through one of the entire Japanese romp-fests before. Like the recent Star Trek and Marvel Comic films, Godzilla tows that careful line of appealing to a mainstream audience while simultaneously seeking to appease longtime fans of the franchise.
The biggest key to Godzilla’s success is the vision of rookie director Gareth Edwards. Edwards was a virtual unknown before this project, whose sole feature film credit was Monsters, a documentary style take on the monster genre made on a micro budget. His appointment to a mega franchise like Godzilla raised eyebrows (including his own according to most interviews) but the young-gun proves more than capable of handling the colossal undertaking and in doing so has rocketed himself to the top of the up-and-coming list in Hollywood.
Edwards chose to channel his inner Steven Spielberg instead of Michael Bay and that creative mentality alone makes all the difference between this film and 1998’s tragic Godzilla by Roland Emmerich. Instead of laying on non-stop spectacle and eye candy with monster rampages and creature fights the entire time, Edwards boils the pace to a crescendo. Relentless teasing of the titular beast builds to an explosive, unforgettable climax featuring not just Godzilla stomping through the city but a monster battle to go down in the books with the best of them.
Unfortunately you can’t please all the people all the time and this Spielbergian approach is exactly what has drawn the most criticism from some of the more impatient moviegoers. Complaints about the film’s pacing, focus on the human characters, and relative lack of monster madness seem rooted in the ADD filmmaking styles of films like the Transformers series. Audiences, especially young ones, have grown accustomed to constant action packed, visual effect extravaganzas in their summer movies and for some of that crowd the suspense driven approach of Godzilla is snooze-worthy. To the more seasoned cinephile saying there isn’t enough Godzilla in Godzilla is like saying there isn’t enough Jaws in Jaws. It’s an irrelevant, childish criticism that in all reality doesn’t reflect on the quality of the movie in any meaningful way.
Godzilla’s return to the big-screen has been planned for many years and given the big guy’s early influence on many of Hollywood’s greatest it is no surprise that the crew on-board for this film was truly an All Star team. Everything from the CGI, to the cinematography and soundtrack, to the acting, is top-notch and on or above the same level as any comparatively budgeted blockbuster. The care, craftsmanship, and respect that went in to creating this movie is evident through the entire two hour running time. If nothing else, Godzilla is a true tour de force of creative technical mastery.
The script does have a few pacing problems and the acting is at times uneven. Honestly though, no one expects Academy material out of a film called Godzilla. Audiences know what to expect from movies about impossible prehistoric monsters stomping around cities and the occasional bump in the script or shaky performance isn’t going to make or break the film for viewers just looking for a big-budget spectacle to get the summer movie season going. This particular film might require that crowd to be a little more patient than usual and may not have the amount of seizure-inducing, drool worthy carnage that they expect but it should nonetheless scratch that target itch while instilling a renewed sense of majesty and seriousness in to the sixty year old franchise. Godzilla is as good as could be expected and is a suitably epic return for the King of Monsters.
Grade: A-

Posted by Terry Pierson, Library Clerk

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Paws to Read--Summer Reading Program 2014

You're invited to "Paws to Read" with this year's summer reading program!  We have special events and chances to win prizes for children, teens, and adults.  Check out our event calendars at www.collinsvillelibrary.org and www.fairmontcitylibrary.org.  Stop in today to sign up for the reading program and start earning chances to win!

Posted by Kyla Waltermire, Adult Services Librarian