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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Looking at the Mockingjay Soundtrack

Written by Jon Williams

The third movie in the Hunger Games series, Mockingjay Part 1, releases into theaters this Friday, and is already projected to be one of the biggest films of 2014. The soundtrack for the film came out earlier this week, and chances are good that you already have it on your shelves (or, more likely, you don’t have it on your shelves, as zealous patrons have already nabbed it). The artists who provide the music on the soundtrack are likely to become in-demand as they’re discovered by new listeners, so let’s take a look at a few of them.

It was announced months ago that the soundtrack would be curated by singer Lorde, best known for her hit “Royals,” which appears on her debut album Pure Heroine. Having just turned 18, you’d think that putting together a soundtrack for a movie in an established blockbuster series might prove a daunting task, but Lorde knocked it out of the park. She provided the lead single, “Yellow Flicker Beat” (a Kanye West rework of the track appears as well), as well as another track, “Ladder Song,” in addition to co-writing four other songs and performing on one of them.

The track she performs on is the opener, “Meltdown” by Stromae, which also features Pusha T, Q-Tip, and Haim. Stromae is the stage name of Paul Van Haver, a Belgian hip-hop/electronic musician. Very popular in Europe, Stromae is just beginning to find an American audience, having been featured over the summer on Late Night with Seth Meyers and NPR.

Two of the songs co-written by Lorde feature collaborations between artists with more familiar names. The fifth track, “All My Love,” is by Major Lazer, the electronic music project of Diplo, and it includes vocals by Ariana Grande, the gold-selling pop sensation whose second album, My Everything, was released in August. The penultimate song on the album is “This Is Not a Game” by the Grammy-winning Chemical Brothers, another electronic duo, in collaboration with R&B artist Miguel, a fellow Grammy recipient for his song “Adorn” from his 2012 Kaleidoscope Dream album.

Collaborations are definitely a strength of the soundtrack, with another coming in the form of “Kingdom,” a song credited to Charli XCX. Known for co-writing and performing on Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy,” her own debut album, Sucker, will be released in December and feature the hit single “Boom Clap.” On the Mockingjay soundtrack, she works with Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran fame.

And there are plenty of non-collaborative songs on the soundtrack as well. One of the singles released for the album is “Dead Air” by Chvrches, an electronic band whose work has been featured in several TV shows. One of the more familiar names on the album is multitalented musician and actress Grace Jones, who contributes “Original Beast.” Other musicians and bands featured include Tove Lo, Tinashe, and Bat for Lashes.

As patrons get a chance to spend some time with this soundtrack—or if they have a hard time getting their hands on it—they’ll be looking for music by these artists. Help fuel their passion by having their CDs on your shelves.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Hot This Week: November 17

The comedy Neighbors retains its top spot on this week's movie list, but four big new titles show up for the first time. Taylor Swift rules the music chart once again--you might want to get used to that for a few weeks--and is joined by two new albums. Michael Connelly's The Burning Room debuts on the fiction list, but cannot overtake John Grisham. In non-fiction, new books from Jennifer Lopez and Bill Nye make their debuts.

DVD
  1. Neighbors
  2. Edge of Tomorrow
  3. Hercules
  4. Sex Tape
  5. A Million Ways to Die in the West
  6. Deliver Us from Evil 
  7. Maleficent
  8. Godzilla
  9. The Fault in Our Stars
  10. Transformers: Age of Extinction
CD
  1. Taylor Swift, 1989
  2. NOW That's What I Call Music 52
  3. Bette Midler, It's the Girls
  4. Jason Aldean, Old Boots, New Dirt
  5. Calvin Harris, Motion
  6. Florida Georgia Line, Anything Goes
  7. Barbra Streisand, Partners
  8. Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour
  9. Brantley Gilbert, Just as I Am
  10. Sam Hunt, Montevallo
Fiction
  1. Gray Mountain, John Grisham
  2. The Burning Room, Michael Connelly
  3. Prince Lestat, Anne Rice
  4. Leaving Time, Jodi Picoult
  5. The Slow Regard of Silent Things, Patrick Rothfuss
  6. Edge of Eternity, Ken Follett
  7. Havana Storm, Clive and Dirk Cussler
  8. All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
  9. Lila, Marilynne Robinson 
  10. Deadline, John Sandford
Non-Fiction
  1. Killing Patton, Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
  2. Yes Please, Amy Poehler
  3. Not That Kind of Girl, Lena Dunham
  4. Being Mortal, Atul Gawande
  5. True Love, Jennifer Lopez
  6. What If?, Randall Munroe
  7. Undeniable, Bill Nye
  8. Dreamers and Deceivers, Glenn Beck and Kevin Balfe
  9. As You Wish, Cary Elwes and Joe Layden
  10. The Innovators, Walter Isaacson

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What Is the Criterion Collection?

Written by Jon Williams

If you use our monthly DVD/Blu-ray Buyer’s Guide, you know that each month we feature a selection of movies offered by the Criterion Collection. In the upcoming December catalog, there will be a full page dedicated to them. But have you ever wondered exactly what the Criterion Collection is?

The simple answer, of course, is that it’s a video distribution company. The “About Us” page on Criterion’s website describes their collection as “a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films,” as well as “the greatest films from around the world…in editions that offer the highest technical quality and award-winning, original supplements.” What Criterion does is restore (if necessary) and remaster films for a crisp and clear presentation on DVD and high-definition Blu-ray, and then complement that film with such materials as audio commentary, deleted scenes, ‘making-of’ documentaries, and more. This wealth of esoterica allows the viewer to see the film in the context in which it was made, and has led to Criterion versions being referred to as “film school in a box.” In addition, Criterion was also the innovator of the “letterbox” format, using black bars at the top and bottom of the screen to present movies in a widescreen format, preserving their original aspect ratio (generally 2.35:1) when televisions were designed for a 4:3 display.

The Criterion Collection began in 1984, when VHS was still fighting with Betamax to become to dominant home video system of the day. Not content with the quality offered by either of these formats, though, Criterion in the beginning transferred films onto laserdisc. Although that format never became widespread, it remained Criterion’s sole format until 1998, when it made the switch to the burgeoning DVD format. Ten years later, in 2008, Criterion added Blu-ray to its repertoire, allowing for even better presentation than had previously been available. Currently, Criterion still distributes its films in both DVD and Blu-ray formats.

In the laserdisc days, Criterion would release mainstream movies, but their focus has narrowed mainly down to art, world, and classic films and documentaries. Although it no longer distributes them, the first two films issued by the Criterion Collection were Citizen Kane and the 1933 version of King Kong (and in both cases, the editions currently available are obviously inspired by the Criterion versions, boasting HD transfers and a full range of special features). It was with Invasion of the Body Snatchers (also no longer available from Criterion) that they introduced letterboxing.

Recent Criterion releases include such films as The Great Beauty (2014 Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Film), Babette’s Feast, Eraserhead, and the Beatles classic A Hard Day’s Night, while upcoming releases are scheduled for L’Avventura, Time Bandits (an update of their 1999 release), and Tootsie. This, however, is a mere sampling of a vast collection that includes more than 800 titles. For the full list of DVDs and Blu-rays available from Midwest Tape, SmartBrowse ‘Criterion Collection’ on our website.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Hot This Week: November 10

Last week's top movie titles shuffle positions, while three new titles join the bottom half of the list. In the least surprising news of the week, Taylor Swift's new pop album 1989 tops the music chart in its first week of release, leading a batch of newcomers that also includes a Led Zeppelin re-release. Six new audiobooks climb onto the fiction list, but none of them could unseat John Grisham from the top spot. Finally, in non-fiction, comedian Amy Poehler grabs the #1 slot with her first book.

DVD
  1. Neighbors
  2. Sex Tape
  3. Godzilla 
  4. Transformers: Age of Extinction
  5. Blended
  6. Deliver Us from Evil
  7. The Fault in Our Stars
  8. Chef
  9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  10. The Prince
CD
  1. Taylor Swift, 1989
  2. NOW That's What I Call Music 52
  3. Sam Hunt, Montevallo
  4. Barry Manilow, My Dream Duets
  5. Jason Aldean, Old Boots, New Dirt
  6. Florida Georgia Line, Anything Goes
  7. Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin IV
  8. Chris Tomlin, Love Ran Red 
  9. Slipknot, .5: The Gray Chapter
  10. Black Veil Brides, Black Veil Brides 
Fiction
  1. Gray Mountain, John Grisham
  2. The Slow Regard of Silent Things, Patrick Rothfuss
  3. Prince Lestat, Anne Rice
  4. Havana Storm, Clive and Dirk Cussler
  5. Leaving Time, Jodi Picoult
  6. The Handsome Man's Deluxe Cafe, Alexander McCall Smith
  7. Pegasus, Danielle Steel
  8. Edge of Eternity, Ken Follett
  9. The Peripheral, William Gibson
  10. Deadline, John Sandford
Non-Fiction
  1. Yes Please, Amy Poehler
  2. Killing Patton, Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
  3. Not That Kind of Girl, Lena Dunham
  4. Being Mortal, Atul Gawande
  5. Food, Jim Gaffigan
  6. What If?, Randall Munroe
  7. The Innovators, Walter Isaacson
  8. Dreamers and Deceivers, Glenn Beck and Kevin Balfe
  9. Stop the Coming Civil War, Michael Savage
  10. As You Wish, Cary Elwes and Joe Layden

Monday, November 3, 2014

Hot This Week: November 3

Welcome to November! This month's first DVD listing sees the comedy Neighbors bump Transformers from the top spot, with another comedy, Sex Tape, also making its debut. Christmas music puts in its first appearance on the music chart via the new release from a cappella sensations Pentatonix, with seven new titles in all. Literary heavyweight John Grisham powers his way to the top of the fiction list with his new book, while funnyman Jim Gaffigan's take on his favorite subject is the top non-fiction newcomer.

DVD
  1. Neighbors
  2. Godzilla 
  3. Sex Tape
  4. Transformers: Age of Extinction
  5. The Fault in Our Stars
  6. Blended
  7. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  8. Brick Mansions
  9. The Other Woman
  10. Think Like a Man Too
CD
  1. Slipknot, .5: The Gray Chapter
  2. T.I., Paperwork
  3. Neil Diamond, Melody Road
  4. Logic, Under Pressure
  5. Florida Georgia Line, Anything Goes
  6. Jason Aldean, Old Boots, New Dirt
  7. Little Big Town, Pain Killer
  8. Barbra Streisand, Partners
  9. Pentatonix, That's Christmas to Me
  10. Annie Lennox, Nostalgia
Fiction
  1. Gray Mountain, John Grisham
  2. Leaving Time, Jodi Picoult
  3. Edge of Eternity, Ken Follett
  4. Deadline, John Sandford
  5. Beautiful You, Chuck Palahniuk
  6. Desert God, Wilbur Smith
  7. Lila, Marilynne Robinson
  8. All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
  9. Burn, James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  10. Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good, Jan Karon
Non-Fiction
  1. Killing Patton, Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
  2. Not That Kind of Girl, Lena Dunham
  3. Food, Jim Gaffigan
  4. Being Mortal, Atul Gawande
  5. As You Wish, Cary Elwes and Joe Layden
  6. Choose Your Own Autobiography, Neil Patrick Harris
  7. The Innovators, Walter Isaacson
  8. Stop the Coming Civil War, Michael Savage
  9. What If?, Randall Munroe
  10. Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson