Top 5 Comedy Movies At The Library

laugh neon light signage turned on
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

While comedies can have different plots and settings, from a road trip gone wrong to an awkward high school romance, they all have one thing in common: they make us laugh. Want to find funny movies at the library? Here are 5 comedic movies that are all available, and be sure to search our genre “Comedy” in our online Media Collection for even more.

*movie descriptions provided by the publishers, c/o the library catalog

 

Mean Girls

When a young girl who has lived in Africa and been homeschooled moves to New York, she must enter a public high school. Survival of the fittest takes on a whole new meaning when she falls for the ex-boyfriend of the most popular girl in school.

 

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Loosely based on Homer’s “Odyssey,” this is the story of three convicts- escapees from a prison farm in Mississippi- and their adventure as they travel home in hopes of recovering buried loot before it’s lost forever in a flood.

 

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

The quest for the Holy Grail by King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table is retold in the inimitable Python fashion.

 

Duck Soup

To rescue the small country of Freedonia from bankruptcy, Mrs. Teasdale agrees to donate 20 million dollars if Rufus T. Firefly is appointed its new president.

 

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Toula is a quiet, devoted daughter in a big, crazy Greek family. Working in her father’s restaurant, she hides behind her family and keeps the world at a distance. One day at the restaurant she finds herself pouring coffee for a man who inspires her to change her life, and the way she sees the world . . . forever.

 

Bonus: Once Upon A Time . . . In Hollywood

This one’s more of a dark comedy/retelling of history, but it’s absolutely hilarious, particularly if you’re read up on 1960s history, westerns, and the Manson family.

Publisher description: From 1958 to 1963, American actor Rick Dalton knew the height of fame and fortune as the lead in the television series Bounty Law. Yet, Rick wasn’t satisfied with the work and used his popularity to try to become a movie star. By 1969, Rick’s career has stalled so much that he takes jobs as a guest star on various shows. He even starts wondering if the only way he can make a comeback is by acting in Italian productions. Cliff Booth, Rick’s long-time friend and stunt double, helps him see that possibilities for success still exist in the Los Angeles film industry if they work together.

 

 

 

Moments In History: The Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist

canada

The vast, snow-capped country of Canada brings many iconic cultural images to mind: the giant bull moose, the rough and rowdy sport of ice hockey.  However, there is no image as iconic as the maple leaf that is represented on the nation’s flag.  The maple tree and its chief produce, maple syrup, is how this strange true story begins.

The origins of this incident lay with the creation of the FPAQ, also known as the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers. The FPAQ began to corner the market on maple syrup production in the 1960’s.  Using strict price control and quotas systems, they quickly became Canada’s largest maple syrup producer, generating 94% of Canada’s maple syrup and 77% of the world’s supply. Many have called it a government controlled “Cartel” akin to OPEC or Narco trafficking organizations. The corporation even set up a strategic maple syrup reserve in case of national crisis or shortage. Maple syrup exceeds the price of crude oil per barrel by about 10 times the value. Realizing the value of such a commodity, it was only a matter of time before some greedy thieves would get their hands sticky.

Over the course of several months between 2011 and 2012, Richard Vallieres along with several others broke into to the FPAQ storage facility and stole more the 122,000 barrels of maple syrup (roughly 3,000 tons worth nearly $C19 million dollars).  The gang would siphon out the syrup before refilling the barrel with water. Then they would truck the product to illegal syrup dispensers in the U.S. The gang was caught when they got so lazy as to not fill up the looted barrels with water and an on-site inspection crew started finding the barrels empty. In all, seventeen men were connected with stealing, transporting, and distributing the stolen syrup.  As the accused ringleader, Richard Vallieres was sentenced to nine years in prison and was ordered to pay back millions from his illicit gains. Adjusted for inflation, this heist still remains the largest in Canadian history.  So the next time you’ve got a plate full of flap jacks or a nice Belgian style waffle in front of you, think back to this strange and sweet historical event.
For more information about Canadian history, check out:

Canada: A Modern History

 

 

Book Review: “Bad Days In History” by Michael Farquhar

bad days in history

To kick off the start of a new semester and to put a little bit of a spin on my Moments in History blog series, I have found an interesting book that chronicles random events that occurred on each day of the year: Bad Days in History: A Gleefully Grim Chronicle of Misfortune, Mayhem, and Misery for Every Day of the Year by Michael Farquhar. The events include various political disasters, military blunders, international scandals, and general accounts of bad luck.

One example is on November 2nd, 1932: The Great Emu War in Australia began, which pitted a company of soldiers against 20,000 emus that were destroying hundreds of thousands of acres of crops. Another grisly incident is how on January 15th, 1919, two million gallons of molasses exploded in a storage tank in Boston, Massachusetts, sending a 15 foot wall of hot molasses rushing through the streets at 35 mph (killing 21 people and injuring another 150). The book brings up other malicious events, like how on January 27th, 1595, the Ottoman Emperor Mehmed III had his 19 brothers put to death on the day of his coronation. This practice was instituted to prevent rivalry and potential civil war in the empire.

Those are just 3 of the 365 moments in history this book has to offer. I encourage you, if are a fan of random history moments like myself, to give this book a read. I found it thoroughly entertaining, and I hope you will as well.

This book is available at the Union University Library.

 

*written by Matthew Beyer

 

 

 

 

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

O Brother, Where Art Thou? was released in the year 2000 by the Coen brothers.  It is a comedy/satire based on Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey.  It depicts aspects of magical realism during the depression in Southern Mississippi. The musical score is a driving force that is characterized as “ole timey” Southern Folk music that sets the tone of the film.

O Brother, Where Art Thou tells of adventure, temptation, and redemption. The movie stars George Clooney as Ulysses Everett McGill: a fast-talking, wise-cracking everyman who is always the smartest man in the room and on a mission to be reunited with his wife and children. His two bumbling sidekicks are Pete (John Turturro) and Delmar O’Donnell (Tim Blake Nelson); both are small time crooks who are manipulated by Everett for the promises of fortune. Through their haphazard adventures, they find themselves challenged by roadblocks. The trio encounter characters that are archetypes  straight out of Homer’s Odyssey.  These include: a cyclops, sirens, and a character akin to Poseidon or Satan. Throughout these misadventures, the trio experiences both highs and lows as divine providence (or luck) brings them to redemption.

This film earned 72 million dollars with only a 26 million dollar budget. The soundtrack won a Grammy for album of the year; it borrows heavily from both Primitive Baptist, African-American, Bluegrass, and Delta Blues.  The hit song, “Man of Constant Sorrow” was widely acclaimed by music critics and crossed over into multiple public venues.  It reached number 35 on U.S. County Music Billboard. O Brother, Where Art Thou? is a truly timeless period piece that the entire family can enjoy, and a personal favorite of mine!

*It is rated PG 13 due to some mild language and suggestive scenes.  It is available at the Union University Library.

 

 

eBook Review: “Questions About Angels: Poems” by Billy Collins

questions about angels

 

Billy Collins makes me laugh. He writes about situations that are usually serious and imagines them as even more serious, which is funny to me. Take death, for instance. In his poem “The Dead,” he recalls how people like to say that “the dead are always looking down on us.” This could (and maybe should) be a sobering thought, but you have to read what Collins follows up with:

 

The dead are always looking down on us, they say,

while we are putting on our shoes or making a sandwich,

they are looking down from the glass-bottom boats of

heaven

as they row themselves slowly through eternity.

 

What imagery! Collins takes a sobering topic (dead people who are watching us) and then pairs it with the most mundane thing they could be seeing us do (putting on our shoes or making a sandwich). Can you imagine being dead, and looking down at the people you used to know and love and hate and worship, and there they are just putting two pieces of bread together in a dimly lit kitchen? How boring and average, right?

But the “boring” and the “average” are what make Collins’ poetry so great. He can make an ordinary white cloud seem fascinating. He can take a normal phrase or idea- like a father “going out for cigarettes” and not returning home- and give it new life. A lot of times his skill makes me laugh, but I also stop and think about what he’s written. Most poetry encourages you to pause and reflect, and Collins, even with the bits of humor sprinkled throughout his lines, certainly will teach you something new. You’ll look at whatever subject he’s chosen to champion in an entirely different way.

Questions About Angels: Poems is just one of his poetry collections. I like every poetry collection by Collins that I’ve had the pleasure to read. The good thing about Questions About Angels, however, is that the library has it in both a physical book form and as an eBook. I find that this collection still resonates even while reading it on a screen. The font and form is still right, and, since most of Collins’ poems are not terribly long, it can be convenient to read them via eBook.

If you only like reading physical books, you can check out Questions About Angels from our shelves. But if you want to try something different- maybe you want to read familiar things in a new way- click on the eBook link. Either way, I think you’ll enjoy the poems.

Book Review: “Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell

fangirl

 

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is cute, relatable, and touching.

I’m a nonfiction person- I like true crime, journalism, and feminist books- but this young adult novel was a nice change of pace for my reading list. For starters, the book is set on a college campus in 2011. The main character, Cath, is getting used to college as a freshman. Maybe it’s because I also came to college in 2011 that I felt a connection to the story. Or maybe it was the references to how Cath and her twin sister, Wren, remembered 9/11 happening when they were in elementary school. That’s a sad thing to relate to, but it’s also a unifying experience that everyone of a certain age has. I still feel shocked when one of my student workers tells me that they don’t remember 9/11, or (gasp) they weren’t even born yet! They don’t remember Y2K either- which, if you don’t know how important that was, here’s an example: my husband’s family of 11 stockpiled food and supplies for months leading up to Y2K, only for nothing to really happen. There’s nothing wrong with not remembering 9/11 or Y2K, though. It just makes me feel old.

Anyway, back to Fangirl. So Cath and Wren go to college, and Wren wants time away from Cath. College is scary for Cath, who struggles with anxiety, but she manages to make a small cast of interesting friends. One of these friends turns out to be a love interest for Cath, and their romance is pretty cute. They’re very different in personality and interests, but they both put a lot of effort in their relationship, which is heartwarming to read about. Plus, this character brings out the best in Cath, who can often withdraw when she really needs to be asking for help.

Another major point in the book includes Cath coming into her own as a writer. She excels at fanfiction writing- in fact, she’s writing a really long and Internet-famous piece about Simon Snow (who is basically this world’s Harry Potter). However, Cath learns in her Fiction Writing class that she may need to branch out and create her own characters.

Fangirl also has brief but powerful descriptions of mental illness and, thankfully, getting the help the characters need. Cath’s family has trouble coming to terms with the reappearance of Cath’s distant mother, Cath’s father struggles with manic/depressive episodes, and Wren has to face up to an alcohol addiction. Still, in all of the turmoil, the characters make progress in their treatments and with their relationships. It’s encouraging to read about mental illness in a real way- it’s hard, it affects others in your life, but there is also help for those who need it.

I’d recommend Fangirl to any freshman who’s still new to college, growing up, and figuring out your relationships (with family, friends, or significant others). I’d also recommend it to people who have graduated already and want to take a look back at how things used to be. It’s nostalgic without being overwhelming. Added bonus: if you love Harry Potter, you will definitely relate to Cath’s Simon Snow obsession.

 

You can check out Fangirl from the library here.

 

Content note: Fangirl contains some suggestive scenes and language.

Matthew’s Valentine Movie: “The Princess Bride”

There are few films that can easily appeal to such a wide general audience in its portrayal of a fantasy, romance and comedy. One that does it flawlessly is The Princess Bride. This film would go on to be so applauded by critics and its fans (gaining a cult following) that in 2016 it was inducted into the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.” The film was adapted from a novel by William Goldman that shares the same name.

The story begins with a young boy sick and in bed while his grandfather offers to read him a book in hopes that it will make him feel better.  The boy is played by a young Fred Savage, who would go on to gain notoriety in The Wonder Years. His grandfather is played by Peter Falk, who in turn was famous for his ongoing role in the series Colombo.  The young boy is apprehensive and initially dissatisfied that his grandfather has chosen to read him a love story but the book soon captivates him.

The plot of the book first revolves around a young farm girl named Buttercup played by Robin Wright. Buttercup and a local farm hand Westley (Cary Elwes) live a simple and normal life and slowly come to realize they are in love with one another. Westley seeks to marry her but first ventures out to sea, hoping to return with a fortune, and is never heard from again (as he has been presumably killed by pirates).

Years pass and Buttercup has agreed to marry Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon). Humperdinck seems to be a noble and chivalrous Prince but later proves to be much more sinister. On the road, Buttercup is kidnapped by three brigands who hope to ransom her back to the kingdom. They are led by Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), a cold and calculating Sicilian mastermind. His two cohorts are Inigo Montoya, a Spanish Swordsmen played by Mandy Patinkin, and Frezzik the Giant, played by the most famous pro wrestler of the time: Andre the Giant.

The three brigands soon find themselves hunted by a masked man dressed in all black. He proves their equal in strength, skill, and cunning. After this mysterious stranger bests the three, he then proceeds to abduct Buttercup. While traveling together it is revealed that this masked marauder is actually Westley whom Buttercup had long feared dead. Upon this realization the two are at once overjoyed that their love for one another has maintained through the years apart.

Unfortunately, Prince Humperdinck and his men catch up and Buttercup pleads for Westley’s life. Humperdinck agrees only if she will marry him, but secretly he has his second-in-command take Westley to be killed. Westley is then subjected to unspeakable torture and is left for dead. All seems lost until Inigo and Frezzik, now repentant in their ways, find Westley’s body and successfully bring him back from near death with the help of local healer Miracle Max (Billy Crystal). The three then set off to free Buttercup from the evil Prince Humperdinck. The film features a classic ending with our two protagonists, together at last, riding off into the sunset.  As the story is finished, the young boy begs his grandfather to tell him the story again on the next day and the grandfather happily agrees.

This is a timeless film that audiences of all ages can appreciate and enjoy. Its simple and well-known themes of adventure, fantasy, and true love are a hallmark of any fairy tale, and The Princesses Bride stands at the top of the list in my book.

This film is available at Union University Library and is rated PG. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do!

 

 

*written by Matthew Beyer

Comics For Beginners

 These days, everyone and their mom knows that comic books are a huge cultural phenomenon, but if you want to get into them it can be tough to know where to start. Between deaths, revivals, alternate universes, alternate timelines, reboots, and more, the newly minted comic nerd probably feels a little overwhelmed. In order to feel a little more whelmed (Young Justice anybody?) we’ve put together a list of comics for total beginners.

Flashpoint

flashpoint

This 2011 comic run is an action packed classic that most DC fans could probably tell you about. Important note: this does involve an alternate reality, but worry not, the story line isn’t as confusing as you would think. Basically, the Flash has ended up in another universe where his mother is alive, but that’s not the only difference. Beloved DC characters are fighting over claim to this world, and no one is sure how they’ll make it out alive. It’s definitely an interesting read while the beloved speedster races to get back to his home.
Warnings: mild violence and physical injury

 

Loki: Agent of Asgard

loki

In this comic, a recently revived Loki tries to redeem himself from his villainous past by completing missions for the crown of Asgard in exchange for his misdeeds being expunged from recollection. Naturally, he’s going to go about this in his traditional trickster fashion. Full of magic weapons, a human lie detector, and various Asgardians of old, this comic is surely going to draw you in.
Warnings: violence, physical injury, and mild nudity

 

Planet Hulk

hulk

Being shipped off from earth by your friends, crash landing on a planet with too many problems, and being sold into slavery is enough to make anyone mad, but naturally, the Hulk handles it much, much worse. This is one of the comic runs that Thor: Ragnarok garnered lots of inspiration from, but this is not the glittery trash planet of Jeff Goldblum that you know. Gladiatorial battles, inter-species relations, political drama, and a whole lot of smash are all major parts of what makes this comic book special. This one is a fair bit darker than some of the other comics on this list, so be warned.

Warnings: violence

Ms. Marvel

ms marvel

Its hard to be a teenager sometimes. You’ve got to deal with school, drama, and who could forget your secret life as a superhero? Kamala Khan is a Muslim teen in Jersey City trying her best to be the the new superhero on the block. She’s got big shoes to fill as a young hero, so it’s a good thing she can grow and shrink at will. This comic is a great coming-of-age style story, and it’s funny enough to keep you laughing right along with it.
Warnings: none

 

The Ultimates

the ultimates

All your favorite marvel superheroes assemble in The Ultimates. After the Hulk destroys a section of the bay, Shield steps up to create a superhero team to combat growing threats that the normal military can’t handle. There are many differences to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Avengers movies, but it still makes for an interesting story. As with Planet Hulk, this story eventually gets quite dark, so be warned.
Warnings: nudity, sexual references, abuse, violence

 

Super Sons

supersons

This comic run tells the escapades of the son of Batman and the Son of Superman. Jon Kent (Superboy) is a mild mannered ten year old that lives with his parents on a farm. In contrast, the slightly older Damian Wayne (Robin) fights crime with his dad and the Teen Titans. The two annoy each other and get into loads of trouble like any good super kids do. This comic is full of action, adventure, and hilarity that will keep you coming back for more.
Warnings: mild violence

 

 

*written by Ruth Duncan

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Bernie”

The 2011 Richard Linklater comedic crime biopic Bernie is an unusual film in more ways than one. The film revolves around a true event that occurred in 1996 in the East Texas town of Carthage. The event in question is that of the murder of a wealthy 81-year-old widow, Marjorie “Marge” Nugent by her 38-year old companion Bernhardt “Bernie” Tiede II. The subsequent trial and events afterwards are still to this day singled out as one of the most puzzling events in the American legal system’s history.

Bernie stars Jack Black as Bernie Tiede, Shirley MacClaine as Marjorie Nugent and Matthew McConaughey as Danny Buck Davidson, the local District Attorney of Carthage.  Black’s performance in this film has been praised by many critics as his best performance yet.

Bernie Tiede is portrayed as a beloved pillar of the community of Carthage.  Nearly every citizen in the town has nothing but good things to say about him and are shocked into disbelief that a seemingly pious and beloved man could commit such a crime. Contrast that with McClain’s portrayal of Mrs. Nugent as the town grouch, who was not merely disliked but often appeared to be hated in the town and even by members of her own family. The last main character in the film is that of Danny Buck. Matthew McConaughey plays him as a shrewd, wise-cracking, old-timey southern lawyer who’s convinced Bernie Tiede is some kind of diabolic killer.

What also sets this biopic film apart from others is the constant pause to interview and include the real-life citizens of Carthage into the film to give their take on the matter. Throughout the film, they continue to praise Bernie as a saint on earth and admonish Mrs. Nugent as if she had it coming. The film’s critical moment begins at the trial where the prosecution must motion for a change of venue. This is rarely done. It’s usually only done when the defendant is thought unable to receive a fair trial due to perceived juror bias and anger at the defendant; however, never has this been done because the accused was so well liked in the community that the state feared juror nullification and acquittal.

Lastly, what makes this film stand out was the fact that it was so well received and caused such a stir that the case was reopened. The actual Bernie Tiede was released from prison in 2014 under the condition that he remain under house arrest and live with the director Richard Linklater until a retrial could be held in 2016. Whether you think Bernie was guilty, innocent, or somewhere in-between, I think we can all agree that sometimes in this life “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”—Mark Twain

*This film is Rated PG-13 for some violent images and brief strong language.*

*It’s available for check out at Union’s Library.*

*By Matthew Beyer.

Celebrate “Defy Superstition Day” (September 13th)

black cat

Everyone can breathe a sigh of relief. We have missed Friday the 13th by one day, and we won’t be having another until September of next year (14 months away). We have been spared from bad luck and can now rest soundly, under ladders with all our umbrellas open indoors.

Are you superstitious? While you may scoff at superstition in the abstract, you might find yourself saying “jinx!” when two people speak in unison or cringing when an important day falls on Friday the 13th. September 13, not surprisingly, has been established as Defy Superstition Day by some brave soul desiring to free us from our irrational fears. In America we have plenty of superstitions, from avoiding black cats to only picking pennies off the ground if they are on heads. But America is far from the only country with strange and bizarre superstitions.

 

Here are 13 superstitions from around the world!

 

  1. Have you ever mistaken someone’s birthday, so you end up saying, “happy early birthday!” In America this is fine and understandable, but in Russia, wishing someone a happy birthday before their actual birthday is bad luck.
  2. Looking through two mirrors facing each other may seem like a cool optical trick, but in Mexico, it opens a doorway for the devil to come through. Suddenly looking through two mirrors seems less interesting.
  3. As kids we probably all joked around and gave cheers will all kinds of drinks. But in Germany if you cheers with water, you are wishing death upon the people you are drinking with. Yikes!
  4. We have all tried to cram another person at our table at lunch, but for that poor soul who gets stuck on the corner, bad things will happen. According to Hungarian myth, sitting at the corner of a table means you will never get married.
  5. We all know we should put our best foot forward, which in Spain means your right foot, since entering or leaving a room left foot first is considered bad luck.
  6. But in France, if you are unfortunate enough to step in dog poop you better hope it’s your left foot, since that is for some reason good luck, but if you step in it with your right foot, well that’s bad. Perhaps it’s best to just try to avoid all dog poop in general. There will be less to clean up.
  7. In Bulgaria people believe that getting pooped on by a bird is actually good luck, contrary to reason. But again, don’t look up with your mouth open.
  8. Playing leap frog as a kid is always fun, except in Turkey where jumping over a child can curse them to be short…forever.
  9. In Korea, it is believed that sleeping with a fan of any kind on in the room will bring your imminent demise due to…hypothermia. This is why these things are superstitions and not facts.
  10. In areas of the north eastern United States certain houses were built with windows slanted at 45 degrees since it was believed that witches could not fly through slanted windows. Flying on a broom is one thing, but apparently flying through a window that’s a little tilted is just too much.
  11. In China, the number 4 is seen as very bad luck (like 13 in the US), so many hotels won’t have a 4th floor. This goes to Japan as well, where putting chopsticks straight up in food (which makes a symbol like their number 4) is seen as very bad luck.
  12. We know not to run with scissors, but in Egypt opening scissors without using them, and leaving them open, is considered very bad luck. The idea is that the scissors, left open, are cutting spirits in the air, who in turn, will curse you.
  13. Lastly, in America we watch for Friday the 13th, but in Italy it is Friday the 17th that we should be worried about. In Spain, they aren’t concerned with Friday, it’s Tuesday the 13th where bad things happen.


    So enjoy this year without Friday the 13th and go defy some superstitions; but it might be smart to knock on wood first, just in case.

 

 

*written by Brennan Kress & Danielle Chalker