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Friday, June 29, 2012

2012 ALA Annual Conference

Written by David Pett

Thank you to all who stopped by our booth at the 2012 ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim. We appreciate your interest in Midwest Tape. We had a great time reconnecting with so many old friends and, of course, making new ones. We hope you enjoyed your time in Anaheim as much as we did.

Delivering the Exceptional! 

What really made the conference so exciting for us was the response we got from librarians all across the country about hoopla, our new state-of-the-art digital media platform. This new cutting-edge technology offers a user-friendly design and patron experience not found anywhere else. With hoopla, patrons will have the ability to borrow a wide selection of movies, television, music, and audiobooks from public libraries and view them directly from mobile and desktop devices. Borrowing and returning items is quick and easy, where popular titles are just a tap away. Icons allow users to search through selections and reserve their favorite items. Once patrons have finished viewing materials, titles are automatically removed from mobile and desktop devices and submitted back to the library. In addition to facilitating the lending process, hoopla provides patrons with superior streaming options. Last but not least, users can access all the amazing amenities hoopla has to offer straight from their smartphones.   

Interested in learning more about hoopla?
If you are interested in learning more about hoopla or any of the products and services offered by Midwest Tape, please call your sales representative at 1.800.875.2785. We’ll be happy to set up an appointment for a visit.

Thanks again for your interest in Midwest Tape and we hope to see you at ALA Chicago in 2013!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Nora Ephron - Writer, Producer, and Director - Passes at 71

Hollywood lost a beloved personality this week when filmmaker Nora Ephron passed away on Tuesday, June 26. She was 71.

Ephron is perhaps best known for writing the screenplay for When Harry Met Sally, starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. She went on to write and direct such hit romantic comedies as Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. She was nominated three times for an Academy Award for Best Writing.

Before she broke into Hollywood, Ephron was briefly an intern in the Kennedy White House. She also wrote for the New York Post, where she broke the news of Bob Dylan’s marriage to Sara Lownds, as well as Esquire and other notable publications. She assisted Carl Bernstein (then her husband) and Bob Woodward with their script for All the President’s Men, which led to her career in the movies.

Away from the silver screen, Ephron also made a name as a novelist and essayist, playwright, and journalist. Her most recent essay collection, I Remember Nothing, was published in 2010.

Many celebrities have expressed their thoughts on Ms. Ephron’s passing, including Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, whom she paired in both Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. Hanks said, “…she lifted us all with wisdom and wit mixed with love for us and love for life.” Ryan said that Ephron was “All wisdom, wit, and sparkle lights, what a treat she was, what a blessing.”

Although Nora Ephron may be gone, her books and classic films remain very popular. Make sure you have them in your collection.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Look at Our Exhibit: ALA Anaheim 2012

Here are a few images from our exhibit at this year's ALA Conference! We were certainly excited to share information about our latest products and services with our loyal librarians this weekend.

What were your thoughts on our booth? What new things did you learn about us, and what questions do you have? Feel free to send us your feedback regarding our exhibit...we'd love to hear from you!

Hot This Week: June 25

A trio of newcomers knocks Sherlock from the top spot on the DVD list. More than half of the titles on the music chart are new, and Usher can find himself at the top. A number of new titles grace the fiction list as well, but mainstay John Grisham moves up to number one. The non-fiction list, on the other hand, stays largely the same from last week, with Glenn Beck making the only new entry into the top half.

  1. 21 Jump Street
  2. Mirror Mirror
  3. Wrath of the Titans
  4. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
  5. The Vow
  6. Safe House
  7. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
  8. Underworld: Awakening
  9. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
  10. Chronicle
  1. Usher, Looking 4 Myself
  2. Rush, Clockwork Angels
  3. Adele, 21
  4. Josh Turner, Punching Bag
  5. Ed Sheeran, +
  6. One Direction, Up All Night
  7. Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Americana
  8. Alan Jackson, Thirty Miles West
  9. Rock of Ages Soundtrack
  10. Waka Flocka Flame, Triple F Life
  1. Calico Joe, John Grisham
  2. The Mission to Paris, Alan Furst
  3. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
  4. The Third Gate, Lincoln Child
  5. Porch Lights, Dorothea Benton Frank
  6. Canada, Richard Ford
  7. The Storm, Clive Cussler and Graham Brown
  8. A Blaze of Glory, Jeff Shaara
  9. The Innocent, David Baldacci
  10. 11th Hour, James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
  1. The Amateur, Edward Klein
  2. Cowards, Glenn Beck and Kevin Balfe
  3. Killing Lincoln, Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
  4. Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand
  5. It Worked for Me, Colin Powell and Tony Koltz
  6. Wild, Cheryl Strayed
  7. The Great Destroyer, David Limbaugh
  8. Not Taco Bell Material, Adam Carolla
  9. Cronkite, Douglas Brinkley
  10. Unintended Consequences, Edward Conrad

Friday, June 22, 2012

Preview of Our Booth at ALA 2012

Hello everyone!! Below are a few preview images of our booth at this year's ALA conference.

What are your thoughts on the set-up?

ALA Anaheim 2012 Opening Reception

Written by Nedda Pourahmady

Tonight marks the official opening of the exhibition hall at this year’s ALA Conference in Anaheim!  A ribbon cutting ceremony will include a short welcoming session from ALA. Food, drinks, and entertainment will be provided at the kick-off event, allowing exhibitors and attendees to start connecting and building upon their professional networks.

Here is a detailed list of all exhibitors at the show, with booth numbers included in each listing.

For those of you attending, which exhibits are you looking forward to most?

Even if you’re not attending this year’s conference, we’d like to hear from you!  Feel free to comment with any questions or concerns you may have about any of our products or services!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Benefits of Attending ALA 2012

Written by Nedda Pourahmady

For those of you attending ALA 2012, you may be wondering about all the benefits of participating in this big event. By attending this year's conference, you'll acquire a brand new set of skills, strategies, and ideas to use toward increasing the effectiveness and overall impact of your library. Additionally, you will obtain valuable information that may help you better serve your patrons in the future!

We are excited to be a part of this influential event and look forward to seeing you there!!

Here are a few pictures from our initial booth set-up!

What do you hope to learn from this conference? What questions do you have for us? We'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Ordering System Update

Written by Nedda Pourahmady

Recently, you may have noticed some moderate delays in product delivery times from our company. We just wanted to let you know that we have heard your concerns and have been proactive in addressing this issue. We have made recent modifications to expedite all orders.

However, due to the new logic put into place, you may notice deliveries arriving out of sequences from when they were ordered.  For example, if you have placed additional copy order requests to receive more quantities of a title previously ordered, there is a chance that the additional copies will arrive before the originally ordered selections.  We guarantee that you will receive all parts of your order and will monitor orders to maximize the proper sequence of orders as much as possible.

Please note that this change will only impact deliveries temporarily and only affect catalog titles, with no impact on street date sensitive titles.

Here at Midwest Tape, we are dedicated to following a steadfast, first-in-first-out order policy. We value our libraries and wanted to make you all aware of this situation.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact our customer service department at 800.875.2785.

We thank you for your understanding!

An Update on Actress Lindsay Lohan

Written by Kirk Baird

She’s not dead. She’s only resting.

There’s something Monty Python-esque about the latest news from the camp de Lindsay Lohan, a one-time actress-turned media circus. Even as the 25-year-old is again trying to get her career pointed in the right direction, she makes news for appearing unconscious in a hotel room, someone gets worried and calls 911, and paramedics show up.

Her publicist told People magazine, the actress "was examined and is fine" and that her condition was due to her "grueling schedule" on the set of the Lifetime movie Liz & Dick, an Elizabeth Taylor biopic with Lohan in the starring role. 

Lohan also dismissed any concern about her health via a Tweet.

"Note to self.." she Tweeted, "after working 85 hours in 4 days, and being up all night shooting, be very aware that you might pass out from exhaustion & 7 paramedics MIGHT show up @ your door."

A week ago, Lohan escaped serious injury when her Porsche smashed into the back of a dump truck on the Pacific Coast Highway. Lohan and her assistant were unhurt. The truck driver alleges that a member of the actress’ entourage attempted to bribe him into not calling the police, while a Lohan publicist denied this, and said that the actress was cooperating fully with the police investigation.

Trouble never seems to be far away from Lohan. As the saying goes, there’s no such thing as luck; you make your own breaks. Could the same be said of misfortune?

Meanwhile, her promising career is suffering. Prior to the Liz & Dick cable film, Lohan was cast in a yet-to-be-released theatrical film, InAPPropriate Comedy, directed by the ShamWow pitchman Vince Offer. She’s also rumored to have a lead role in novelist/screenwriter Bret Easton Ellis’ sex-fueled Los Angeles drama The Canyons, starring adult-film star James Deen.

 Her first big-screen comeback, Robert Rodriguez’s 2010 grindhouse nod Machete, did make money — $44 million worldwide — but that was largely based on a reasonable production budget of $10.5 million.

So how distant does Lohan’s Disney past — including a platinum-selling debut record Speak in 2004 — seem now? Lohan was once the freckled angelic face of several Disney family comedy remakes.

For a refresh of her career, check out these Lohan films — proof that once upon a time she was more than a celebrity, she was an up-and-coming actress.

Parent Trap (1998)
Mean Girls (2004)

What are your thoughts on Lohan's career?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Midwest Tape to Present hoopla at ALA 2012 in Anaheim

Written by Nedda Pourahmady

Did you know that Midwest Tape will be participating in this year’s ALA conference in Anaheim?  If you’re planning on attending, make sure you stop by our brand new booth to learn about hoopla, our new, leading library media platform! With this cutting-edge technology, patrons have the ability to borrow a wide selection of movies, television, music and audiobooks from public libraries and view them directly from mobile and desktop devices!

We will also be discussing our wide range of state-of-the-art services and formats at the conference, including Processing, Customized Standing Order plans, and Audiobooks repackaged in our SoundSafe cases.

Here are the details for the show:

Anaheim Convention Center, Booth #1664
Dates of Exhibits: 
Friday, June 22, 5:30pm-7:30pm
Saturday , June 23 and Sunday, June 24, 9:00am-5:00pm
Monday, June 25, 9:00am-2:00pm

For those unable to attend, stay tuned, we’ll be providing updates daily direct from the show floor.  And as always, if you have any questions about hoopla, or any of the products or services offered by Midwest Tape, see your sales representative or call 1.800.875.2785

Hope to see you there!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Jukebox Musicals on Film

Written by Kirk Baird

With the recent release of Rock of Ages to movie theaters, here are some other jukebox musicals on DVD.

Singin’ in the Rain(1952) (Will be released as a special 50th anniversary set in mid-July)
Help! (1965)
American Pop (1981)
Moulin Rouge (2001)

Have you seen any of these films? Which would you rate as your favorite and why?

Hot This Week: June 18

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows roars out of the gate. Adele regains the top spot on the music chart, with such familiar names as Alan Jackson, the Beach Boys, and Neil Young debuting just short. In fiction, Laurell K. Hamilton's latest heads the list, while in non-fiction one book criticizing President Obama can't quite unseat another at the top.

  1. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
  2. The Vow
  3. Safe House
  4. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
  5. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
  6. Underworld: Awakening
  7. Chronicle
  8. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
  9. The Woman in Black
  10. John Carter

  1. Adele, 21
  2. Alan Jackson, Thirty Miles West
  3. The Beach Boys, That's Why God Made the Radio
  4. Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Americana
  5. Big K.R.I.T., Live from the Underground
  6. One Direction, Up All Night
  7. John Mayer, Born and Raised
  8. Curren$y, The Stoned Immaculate
  9. Carrie Underwood, Blown Away
  10. Brandi Carlisle, Bear Creek
  1. Kiss the Dead, Laurell K. Hamilton
  2. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
  3. Calico Joe, John Grisham
  4. The Storm, Clive Cussler and Graham Brown
  5. Spring Fever, Mary Kay Andrews
  6. 11th Hour, James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
  7. Stolen Prey, John Sandford
  8. The Innocent, David Baldacci
  9. A Dance with Dragons, George R.R. Martin
  10. Deadlocked, Charlaine Harris
  1. The Amateur, Edward Klein
  2. The Great Destroyer, David Limbaugh
  3. Wild, Cheryl Strayed
  4. Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand
  5. It Worked for Me, Colin Powell and Tony Koltz
  6. Killing Lincoln, Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
  7. Eat and Run, Scott Jurek and Steve Friedman
  8. The Passage of Power, Robert A. Caro
  9. Cronkite, Douglas Brinkley
  10. I Hate Everyone...Starting with Me, Joan Rivers

Friday, June 15, 2012

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance DVD/Blu-ray Review

Written by Kirk Baird

The demon-for-good Ghost Rider is back, as the Devil plots to assume a new, more powerful form to allow him to wreak havoc on Earth. Motorcycle daredevil Johnny Blaze and his nighttime fiery alter ego Ghost Rider are all that can stop him. It’s an easy plot for a film that chugs along at a high rate of speed — and doing its best not to be slowed down by plot or character development.

Considering the collective letdown from 2007’s Ghost Rider, the approach to the 2011 sequel from everyone — new directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor and star Nicolas Cage — is “let’s not pretend this is anything but what you expect it to be and just have fun doing it.”

With no air of pretension hanging over this suitable for drive-in comic-book hero film now out on DVD and Blu-ray, there’s no other way to take anything that happens in the 90-plus minutes than with than with a smile, a shrug, and the acknowledgement, “Hey, the special effects are much better this time.”

Cage, as most everyone knows, owes millions in unpaid taxes to the IRS, which means you can see him in just about anything these days. The actor may be selling his soul to Hollywood to square himself with the government, but at least he’s having fun doing it. And in a purely guilty pleasure kind of way, so are we with Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Harold and Maude DVD/Blu-ray Review

Written by Kirk Baird

20-year-old Harold is obsessed with death — particularly his own — until he learns how to really live through a youthful 80-year-old woman named Maude. Theirs was a love story as told in 1971’s Harold and Maude, an avant-garde flop-turned cult classic that gets the deluxe treatment via Criterion Collection on DVD and Blu-ray. 

Harold and Maude is also the template for numerous indie comedies to come: quirky characters, contemporary soundtrack to punctuate emotions, poignant camera shots, taboo subject matter and/or themes. (Director Hal Ashby essentially made a Wes Anderson film while the 43-year-old Anderson was still in diapers.)

It’s the considerable age gap between Harold and Maude that draws creeped-out looks from those who haven’t seen the movie, but Higgins and Ashby handle the relationship with considerable care and warm affection; Harold and Maude makes a strong case that age isn’t necessarily a barrier for what the heart feels. Standout performances by Bud Cort as the sullen and withdrawn youth, and Ruth Gordon as his firecracker love interest effectively sell the premise of the sweet and enduring relationship.

More than an offbeat love story, Harold and Maude packs a wicked sense of humor, poking at contemporary mores, authority figures, and even the U.S. military with pointed observations and amusing insults. It’s also a deceptively simple story, refreshingly unencumbered by goofy side plots or oddball characters on screen for strangeness sake.

Cat Stevens (now Yusuf Islam) provides the memorable soundtrack, led by “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out” and “Don’t Be Shy.” Unfortunately, Harold and Maude soundtrack is not available for purchase — though it can be pieced together through various CD releases. Criterion does include a recent interview with Yusuf about recording the music for the film. 

Among other interesting tidbits: Ashby, pleased with the music as it was, used demo versions of the songs rather than waiting for Yusuf to re-record them. Harold and Maude pointed to a brilliant career for Ashby, who followed up the black comedy with 1970s classics The LastDetail, Shampoo, Coming Home, and Being There, before a vicious drug habit made him persona non grata in Hollywood by the mid-1980s.

Ashby died in 1988 at the age of 59 from pancreatic cancer that had spread throughout his body. But Harold and Maude remains a testament of his talent, the times, and true love.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

50th Anniversary of the Escape from Alcatraz

Written by Kirk Baird

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the escape from Alcatraz, the supposedly escape-proof federal prison. In fact, there were 14 escape attempts by 36 prisoners in the nearly 40 years of Alcatraz’s operation as a prison to house the most difficult inmates. But it’s the mystery surrounding the dramatic June 11, 1962, escape by inmates Frank Morris, and brothers John and Clarence Anglin that’s captured the most attention.

The trio, along with another inmate, Allen West, who was left behind, planned a daring escape that seemed like something out of a movie: they used spoons to help carve out aging concrete around an air vent, shuffled quietly through a small corridor, and ultimately escaped detection from spotlights and guards on patrol when outside the prison. (A movie was made, 1979’s Escape From Alcatraz starring Clint Eastwood.) 

Did the three prisoners survive the chilly and treacherous bay currents around Alcatraz Island to make it to shore? Some believe they did, and either swam or floated on a raft to safety and freedom on the shore. Others think they drowned in the bay during the final stages of their escape. The bodies of Morris and the Anglin brothers were never found or recovered.

To learn more, check out The Real Story: Escape From Alcatraz on DVD.

Also check out these other Alcatraz-themed movies:
The Rock (1996)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

John Carter Blu-Ray/DVD Review

Written by Kirk Baird

John Carter is now out on Blu-ray and DVD. The film is best known for being perhaps the year’s biggest flop, an honor more dubious perhaps than merited.

I didn’t care for the film on the big screen. But movies in theaters are bigger than life, which tends to magnify any flaws (like putting a magnifying glass over someone’s face).

On the new Disney Blu-ray release, though, John Carter wasn’t half-bad. Which is a polite way of saying it was only half good.

The trouble with John Carter has a lot to do with redundancy. The film is based on a series of pulp novels from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ written roughly a century ago. The story concerns a Civil War vet named John Carter who finds himself teleported to the dying surface of Mars, where he helps lead the resistance against a war-minded nation.

The book series was popular among the science-fiction crowd, which means a lot of current directors read them growing up and were, in turn, influenced by them. Pixar’s Andrew Stanton, who ultimately directed John Carter, being one of them. These filmmakers also copied from Burroughs’ work – or, at least, borrowed liberally.

 That’s a point of praise for Burroughs. It’s also a serious flaw in the John Carter film. We’ve seen so much of its imaginative settings and sequences before in the Star Wars movies, Stargate, Avatar, to name a few, that John Carter feels stale and old – even though the movie was released only in late March. There’s very little wow factor at play in the two-hour-plus film, which is not what you expect of a movie budgeted at $250 million. 

Perhaps that’s why it grossed less than $75 million of that domestically. If you account for worldwide revenue, John Carter at least did respectably with nearly $210 million – which would push the film past the break-even point, in theory.

The film is also hindered by the rather unimpressive feature-film debut of Taylor Kitsch. Nice kid, good actor in small doses and certainly on the small screen on Friday Night Lights, which is what he’s known for. But as the centerpiece to a big-budget effects and action-driven film, he lacks the requisite charisma. Kitsch is like a pretty vase placed on a football field: he is swallowed up by the surroundings.

Lynn Collins, who plays his love interest Dejah Thoris, the princess of Mars, isn’t much better. Lovely actress, but she cannot carry the role.

And these problems are amplified on the big screen. In the comfort of a living room, though, these flaws seem less significant; it’s easy to dismiss the criticism of John Carter as overblown and another instance of a film snobbery pile-on. And that’s not incorrect. We critics can harp on a film. And when there’s blood in the water (meaning a film is dying at the box office), we become even more vicious.

While I believe the collective dismissal of the film was correct for the theatrical release of John Carter, on Blu-ray/DVD the new format and smaller screen merits a do-over.

John Carter isn’t a great film. But it’s not a bad either. And certainly not worthy of the “box-office bomb to end all bombs” tag it’s been saddled with. It is worth checking out, if only to see what all the criticism and bad press was about. And then decide if it’s true.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters Review

Written by Kirk Baird

The other day I watched The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters for the third time. Director Seth Gordon struck documentary gold with this 2007 tale of perennial second-place finisher Steve Wiebe who sets out to be the best Donkey Kong player in the world. Standing in his way is Billy Mitchell, the current world record holder for highest Donkey Kong score, who will go to great lengths to keep his title.

Theirs is a classic gaming battle for the ages, one that’s had several twists since the film was made. (But wait until AFTER you watch the movie before you Google an update.)

More than a blast from the past for those who frequented arcades in the early 1980s, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is replete with unexpected drama, humor, and emotions, along with subtle commentary about the human condition and what it means to be the best. It’s also the kind of compelling underdog story that’s often reserved only for sports movies. Think of The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters as The Hustler meets Hoosiers, and you’ll only begin to appreciate it.

Hot This Week: June 11

Last week's top DVD, Red Tails, falls all the way down to #5, with the thriller Man on a Ledge taking over the top spot. In music, John Mayer and Adele (to no one's surprise) remain ahead of the pack, with Regina Spektor, Edward Sharpe, and Sigur Ros making some noise. The latest from Clive Cussler reigns over the fiction chart, with Douglas Brinkley's biography of Walter Cronkite being the top newcomer to the non-fiction list.

  1. Man on a Ledge
  2. This Means War
  3. The Grey
  4. Chronicle
  5. Red Tails
  6. The Woman in Black
  7. Gone
  8. Contraband
  9. One for the Money
  10. The Vow
  1. John Mayer, Born and Raised
  2. Adele, 21
  3. Regina Spektor, What We Saw from the Cheap Seats
  4. One Direction, Up All Night
  5. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Here
  6. Carrie Underwood, Blown Away
  7. Sigur Ros, Valtari
  8. NOW That's What I Call Music 42
  9. Luke Bryan, Tailgates & Tanlines
  10. Lionel Richie, Tuskegee
  1. The Storm, Clive Cussler and Graham Brown
  2. 11th Hour, James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
  3. Stolen Prey, John Sandford
  4. Calico Joe, John Grisham
  5. Deadlocked, Charlaine Harris
  6. Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel
  7. A Blaze of Glory, Jeff Shaara
  8. The Innocent, David Baldacci
  9. A Dance with Dragons, George R.R. Martin
  10. In One Person, John Irving
  1. The Amateur, Edward Klein
  2. It Worked for Me, Colin Powell with Tony Koltz
  3. Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand
  4. Killing Lincoln, Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
  5. The Passage of Power, Robert A. Caro
  6. Cronkite, Douglas Brinkley
  7. Fearless, Eric Blehm
  8. My Cross to Bear, Gregg Allman with Alan Light
  9. Imagine, Jonah Lehrer
  10. The Presidents Club, Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy

Friday, June 8, 2012

Ridley Scott Oeuvre

Written by Kirk Baird

Filmmaker Ridley Scott returns to his roots with Prometheus, a pseudo prequel to the director’s classic 1979 sci-fi horror film Alien. Scott isn’t finished mining his past for new films, with an announced sequel to his 1982 masterpiece Blade Runner, tentatively scheduled for a 2014 release.

Here are the highlights from his oeuvre:
The Duellists (1977)
Alien (1979)
Blade Runner (1982)
Gladiator (2000)

Also worth noting: Scott directed the landmark 1984 Super Bowl commercial for Apple’s first Macintosh computer launched in 1984. 

Which of Scott's films is your favorite and why?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Prometheus Aims to Explore Origins of Life on Earth

Written by Kirk Baird

Ridley Scott’s new Alien forerunner Prometheus is as much about the age-old big question — the origin of life on Earth — than it is a horror film with extra-terrestrials. But Prometheus, released in theaters this week, isn’t the only science fiction film to explore man’s attempt to reach into the stars and find our maker.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier: William Shatner directed this 1989 theatrical outing of the U.S.S. Enterprise crew as an obsessed Vulcan claims to communicate with God, takes over Captain Kirk’s ship, and speeds everyone along in a voyage across the galaxy to meet our maker.

2001: A Space Odyssey and 2010: The Year We Make Contact: Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey dealt with man’s attempt to contact alien life near Jupiter — the same aliens that brought life to our planet and helped it grow. In the 1984 follow-up, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, humankind must deal with the consequences of contacting that life. The films are based on two of the novels in Arthur C. Clarke’s Space Odyssey series.

Contact: Jodie Foster plays a young astronomer who is given the opportunity to travel into space and meet the alien species that contacted us in 1997’s Contact, based on Carl Sagan’s novel. What she learns in the process is that humans are not alone in contemplating the meaning of life and the origins of our universe.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Color of Money Blu-Ray Review

Written by Kirk Baird

“Sometimes if you lose, you win.” — Fast Eddie Felson (Paul Newman) in The Color of Money.

In celebration of its 25th anniversary, The Color of Money makes its debut on Blu-ray. It’s a barebones release: movie only and no extra features. But what really matters is what’s on screen. Paul Newman earned his only Oscar as he revisits the role of pool shark Fast Eddie Felson from 1961’s The Hustler. Now a successful liquor salesman, Felson’s been away from pool for decades — until he sees a brash young pool shark named Vince (Tom Cruise).

“You remind me that money won is twice as sweet as money earned,” Felson tells Vince.

Intoxicated by the familiar smell of smoky pool halls and driven by the chance at redemption, Felson takes Vince and his girlfriend (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) under his tutelage with the goal of making it to Atlantic City for a major nine-ball tournament. But Vince proves stubborn as his protégé and Felson discovers that old passions never fade away.

Martin Scorsese directed The Color of Money, and his fingerprints are all over the film: the effective use of rock and roll to punctuate the energy and emotion of a scene; the dazzling and creative camera shots; the crackling dialogue (written by Richard Price and based on Walter Tevis’ novel). Cruise’s smooth charisma and toothy smile have never been put to better use, with the possible exception of Risky Business, and Mastrantonio is funny and sexy as a former waitress who’s latched onto a good thing and will do anything to keep it.

It’s Newman, though, who drives the film as the aging Felson, who long ago gave up the regrets of past troubles, but never his passion for pool. It’s a wonderful performance that, in hindsight, seems the summation of many years of work, even though Newman actively worked in movies for another 15 years.

The Color of Money is hardly a classic, but it is a worthy follow-up to The Hustler, and an entertaining and emotionally story on its own. Above all, it’s the satisfying redemption of a man who lost his most precious gift and finds a way to get it back.

Some other Paul Newman movies to consider:

The Hustler (1961)
Hud (1963)
The Sting (1973)
Slap Shot (1977)
The Verdict (1982)
Cars (2006)

Some other Tom Cruise movies to consider:

Top Gun (1986)
Rain Man (1988)
The Firm (1993)
Magnolia (1999)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Toledo Symphony Orchestra Members Make Movie Debut in The Avengers

Written by Nedda Pourahmady

Last summer, four musicians from the Toledo Symphony Orchestra ventured to Cleveland for the opportunity of a lifetime.  The string quartet would make their first feature film debut in the box office hit, The Avengers.

Filmed on location at a courthouse that was transformed into a museum for the movie, the soon-to-be celebrity Toledoans spent fifteen hours on set. Violinists Merwin Siu and Jennifer Burns joined forces with Violist Tim Zeithamel and Cellist Renee Goubeaux in the epic, Marvel comic book-inspired tale.

In addition to meeting director Joss Whedon, the quartet had the chance to showcase their musical talents during a party scene in the film that was bombarded by vengeful villains. The group performed a musical piece by Schubert and were featured front and center of the set.

The masterful musicians were discovered by the Ohio casting agent for the film, who asked the group if they were interested in making an appearance in the movie. After conducting a bit of research, the quartet came to an agreement that this was an opportunity they couldn't pass up.

The film was a tremendous hit in the U.S., exceeding $207 million in sales during the first weekend alone. Despite the fact that their long work hours were shortened to a brief appearance in the movie, the talented team is still very noticeable in the scene. 

Hot This Week: June 4

There was a big shakeup on this week's DVD list, with four new movies leading the way; and, with the Game of Thrones season two finale airing on Sunday, the first season made a return as well. John Mayer's latest headlines a group of four newcomers to the CD chart. Richard Ford's novel Canada is the only new addition to this week's fiction list; in non-fiction, Colin Powell's memoir debuts at #2.

  1. Red Tails
  2. This Means War
  3. The Secret World of Arrietty
  4. The Woman in Black
  5. The Grey
  6. Chronicle
  7. Underworld: Awakening
  8. The Vow
  9. One for the Money
  10. Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season
  1. John Mayer, Born and Raised
  2. Adele, 21
  3. Carrie Underwood, Blown Away
  4. Slash, Apocalyptic Love
  5. One Direction, Up All Night
  6. Lionel Richie, Tuskegee
  7. MercyMe, The Hurt & the Healer
  8. Sara Bareilles, Once Upon Another Time (EP)
  9. NOW That's What I Call Music 42
  10. Norah Jones, Little Broken Hearts
  1. Stolen Prey, John Sandford
  2. 11th Hour, James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
  3. Deadlocked, Charlaine Harris
  4. Calico Joe, John Grisham
  5. The Innocent, David Baldacci
  6. Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel
  7. In One Person, John Irving
  8. Canada, Richard Ford
  9. The Columbus Affair, Steve Berry
  10. The Wind Through the Keyhole, Stephen King
  1. The Amateur, Edward Klein
  2. It Worked for Me, Colin Powell with Tony Koltz
  3. The Passage of Power, Robert A. Caro
  4. Killing Lincoln, Bill O' Reilly and Martin Dugard
  5. My Cross to Bear, Gregg Allman with Alan Light
  6. Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand
  7. The Art of Intelligence, Henry A. Crumpton
  8. The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg
  9. Imagine, Jonah Lehrer
  10. The Real Crash, Peter D. Schiff

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Hatfield-McCoy Blood Battle

Written by Kirk Baird

If you missed the History network’s well-received and quite popular Hatfields & McCoys, you need only wait until July 31. The six-hour mini-series about a legendary blood feud between two families makes its Blu-ray and DVD debut July 31 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Hatfields & McCoys stars Oscar winner Kevin Costner (Dances With Wolves) and Golden Globe nominee Bill Paxton (Big Love).   

Which family would you side with?