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.

 

 

Top 5 Christmas Movies At The Library

christmas

When you’re ready to get into the Christmas spirit, there’s nothing like getting cozy on the couch and watching a holiday movie. Here at the library, we have a few Christmas favorites in our DVD collection. Feel free to check one out this December!

 

White Christmas

A Christmas classic, White Christmas tells the story of four entertainers, a Vermont inn, and a will-they-or-won’t-they romance. Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney star in this charming musical.

 

Dr. Seuss’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Many of us grew up watching the original, animated Grinch. Give this timeless tale of redemption another watch this year.

 

It’s A Wonderful Life

This is my mom’s favorite movie of all time, and for good reason. George Bailey is the Everyman who just can’t get ahead and feels his life is worthless; but soon enough, with the help of a quirky angel, he learns that he has all he truly needs.

 

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Remember the true meaning of Christmas with the Peanuts gang in this cute, funny animated feature. Bonus: you can enjoy the beautiful music of Vince Guaraldi.

 

The Nativity Story

Another movie that reminds us of why we celebrate Christmas, The Nativity Story follows Mary and Joseph as they travel to Bethlehem and prepare to welcome the Savior into the world.

 

Click on the links to see where each movie is located, or ask for help finding them at our Circulation Desk. Merry Christmas!

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Zootopia”

Disney has long used animals to entertain us, but they also insert a subtle message or morals into their stories. Most of the time, it’s a simple message of being brave or learning that you have inner value and that your dreams can come true. Occasionally, the story can take on a deeper meaning that both children and adults can relate to and value. Zootopia is one of those films.

It is the story of a world where anthropomorphic animals evolved over time to where predators and prey now live in peace and harmony with each other. The animals in this world have jobs, just like regular people, but they’re more catered to their habitat and size. The animals in this world usually stick to their natural inclinations or temperaments most associated with the various species. This is not always the case, however, as we meet our protagonist: a rabbit by the name of Judy Hopps, voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin. Judy dreams of leaving her small town and becoming a cop and serving her fellow animals in the bustling metropolis of Zootopia. She is consistently regarded as inferior due to her size and species. Most police in this world are physically larger and brutish animals like lions, bears, and wolves. Judy, however, wishes to make her mark and earn the respect of her fellow officers.

Judy soon stumbles upon a sly fox named Nick Wilde, voiced by Jason Bateman. Nick is a professional con artist who has become disillusioned with his original hopes and dreams and has let himself become exactly what other animals always accused his nature of being. The two become unlikely partners and eventually friends due to a mysterious plot involving disappearing predatory animals and a more insidious agenda that could lead to chaos in Zootopia unless they can stop it.

This film tackles issues involving prejudice, bullying, and bigotry. It handles these issues in a very easy to understand way, becoming even tongue-in-cheek at times.  The lesson is simple and well-timed given our current social climate; Zootopia teaches that you should never prejudge someone based on their immutable characteristics, let alone an entire group.

Zootopia was extremely well received among audiences. It grossed over one billion dollars worldwide, making it one of the highest grossing animated films of all time. It also went on to receive an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film.

Zootopia is a witty, PG-rated film for the whole family, and it is available at the Union University Library.

 

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Blade Runner”

Director Ridley Scott has a long history of making epic and awe-inspiring films and Blade Runner has got to be at the top of that list. Its affect on the science fiction genre as a whole cannot be overstated. It has also heavily influenced both video games and anime for its style and futuristic prospects of what the world may evolve into in time.

The film is set in 2019 Los Angeles in a dark and dreary dystopia, where mankind has adapted to become a technocracy influenced by powerful corporations. Man has mastered interstellar flight and colonies are forming in space. The key to this success has been through the use of androids called “Replicants” who have become so life-like and self-aware that they are nearly indistinguishable from humans and as a result banned from Earth. If a Replicant manages to smuggle themselves to Earth, the police hire a “Blade Runner” to track down the android and kill it.

This brings us to our protagonist, Rick Deckard, a disillusioned former cop who was famous for his ability to eliminate Replicants. Deckard is played by Harrison Ford, who was just coming off the success of Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Deckard is tasked to hunt down four Replicants who have committed several murders and illegally entered the city. They are led by Roy Batty, played by Rutger Hauer. Batty is a combat synthetic soldier with advanced tactical training and genius levels of intelligence.

Deckard travels to meet Eldon Tyrell of the Tyrell corporation, who is responsible for creation of the Replicants. While there, he learns there is a psychological test designed to trigger an emotional response in Replicants in order to distinguish them from humans. He also meets Dr. Tyrell’s daughter, Rachael (Sean Young), and soon becomes infatuated with her.

The next phase of the plot involves Deckard hunting the Replicants down one by one while also pursuing a relationship with Rachael.  The Replicant leader Roy Batty soon learns that he and the other Replicants have a built in half-life of a little more than three years. Realizing this, he seeks to meet his maker and acquire more time to live. In the final phase of the film we see Deckard battling the Replicants in a life and death struggle.

The themes expressed in this film are as numerous as they are profound.  In the end we are left questioning the very nature of humanity as the Replicants struggle to survive. They have hopes, dreams, memories, and the fear that all self-aware beings share: the fear of death.

Actor Rutger Hauer unfortunately passed away on July 19th of this year.  During filming, Hauer rewrote his character’s final lines in the film, and they have been praised ever since as one of the most moving speeches of all time in the sci-fi genre. In memory of the late great Rutger Hauer I’ll shall share it here:

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.

Blade Runner has left quite a mark on pop culture and cinema and I do believe we will continue to see its influence in novels and films for years to come.

Blade Runner is available at the Union University Library.

* Please note it is rated R for violence, brief nudity, and some language.*

 

 

 

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Mean Girls”

In the early 2000’s, teen comedies generally focused on the trials and tribulations of high school life, and Mean Girls set the standard for the genre.  This coming-of-age style film is brought together by an amazing cast of Hollywood’s leading young actresses of the time and witty writing by well-established producers and writers.  The film was produced by Lorne Michaels, the famous creator of Saturday Night Live and written by Tina Fey. This background of veteran comedic writing (with a long history of successful sketch comedy) helped to create an immensely funny and quotable film.

The film begins with our protagonist Cady Heron (Lindsey Lohan), who is returning to the United States after twelve years abroad with her parents. Cady is enrolled at North Shore High School and feels immediately like a fish out of water due to her years of homeschooling. She is quickly taken aside and befriended by Janis Ian (Lizzy Caplan), a fellow outcast who describes in depth the various cliques that compete in the school for popularity.

Of all the cliques in the school, none is more sought after and notorious than “The Plastics.” This clique features the most popular girls in school; The Plastics flaunt their good looks and their posh sense of fashion while exhibiting profound narcissism. Internally, each of them is filled with insecurities, and they feed off each other in order to maintain their status. This trio of manipulators includes Gretchen Wieners (Lacey Chabert), Karen Smith (Amanda Seyfried), and the leader, Regina George (Rachel McAdams). Gretchen is a pure follower who is always at Regina’s beck and call. Karen fulfills the  pretty blonde with no brain trope with her antics. Regina is the brains of the group, being the most popular girl in school and a puppet master extraordinaire. She is a crafty demagogue and can be so self-absorbed, she makes Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones look humble.

Regina and The Plastics soon take notice of Cady and quickly befriend her. Cady enjoys the new found allure of parties and popularity, and she quickly develops a crush on Regina’s ex-boyfriend, Aaron Samuels (Jonathan Bennett). Janis insists that Cady use her new position in the group to get close to Regina and steal her old diary dubbed “The Burn Book,” as it is filled with gossip and secrets about girls and teachers at the school.  Things start to heat up when Regina discovers Cady’s crush and a jealous feud begins. This causes a schism between The Plastics, and Cady becomes the new queen bee mirroring Regina’s own tyrannical behaviors. Desperate and enraged, Regina releases the contents of The Burn Book and total anarchy unfolds. Cady, seeing, what she has become and the damage done to everyone, regrets the choices she made and seeks to reconcile with those she wronged.

This is a fantastic and iconic film. The comedy is top notch and it’s also relatable to anyone who shared similar experiences in high school where you weren’t quite sure where you fit in and hadn’t really discovered your true self. Mean Girls is still such a popular movie that as of late 2017 and 2018, it was adapted by Tina Fey as a Broadway musical in New York City.

Mean Girls is rated PG-13 for some language and suggestive situations. It is available at the Union University Library.

 

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Sully”

On January 15th 2009 an incident occurred that would later be referred to as the “Miracle on the Hudson.” This event was an emergency plane landing into the Hudson River due to crippling bird strikes that destroyed both jet engines, resulting in complete loss of power just after takeoff. The pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and co-pilot Jeff Skiles accessed the situation, and Sully quickly determined they did not have enough time to make it to the nearest airport to land. As a result, he chose to bring the plane down into the Hudson River. Miraculously, no one was seriously harmed and all passengers and crew survived to be rescued from the river.

In 2016, Director Clint Eastwood released the film Sully to tell not only this harrowing story but also its rather controversial aftermath.  Tom Hanks was cast to play the part of Sully, and he does a nominal job as usual. Hanks has always been able to portray characters from both fiction and history in a remarkable humane and relatable tone. In the direct aftermath of the landing, Sully is pronounced a hero by the whole of the country. However, privately he struggles with the trauma and stress of the incident.

Members of the National Transportation Safety Board begin to question if Sully’s actions were correct after running diagnostics on the recovered plane. Furthermore, the board begins to claim that test simulations show that Sully could have landed the plane at the neighboring Teterboro airport or even have simply recalculated his approach and returned to LaGuardia.  Sully realizes that the board may intend to hold him accountable for the crash landing, thereby tarnishing his record and ruining his career. When Sully meets with the board, he arranges for the simulations to be tested on live pilots in an open hearing. The results of the test prove Sully’s point by showing the pilots are incapable of making it back to the airports and would have ended up crashing into the middle of the city killing all on board and many hundred more on the ground. In light of these new findings, the committee agrees with Sully that he acted correctly given the severity of the situation.

This film portrays the inherent risk that we take for granted in commercial flying, however rare accidents may be. If disaster does strike, what’s needed is an immensely skilled and level-headed pilot, and Captain Sullenberger proved that.

Sully was widely praised upon its release and still holds an 86% on the popular website Rotten Tomatoes.  Director Clint Eastwood is fantastic at creating thought-provoking biopics where you quickly forget you’re watching a film and feel as if you’re right there in the moment as history unfolds.

Sully is rated PG-13 for brief strong language and is available at Union University Library.

 

 

 

 

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Cinderella Man”

Of all the archetypal character traits used in films, the “underdog” is most frequently used in sports films and biopics. I feel there is some kind of special connection we each share with people of humble origin or background who, through sheer determination and grit, go on to achieve greatness.  The interesting thing about underdogs who rise to be champions in the world of professional boxing is that one punch delivered from an upstart, a has-been, or a nobody can instantly elevate their career soaring to the top.

I feel Cinderella Man is a film that embodies just that. It was released in 2005 and directed by Ron Howard. Cinderella Man tells the harrowing true story of James J. Braddock. The film begins with James (played by Russel Crowe) having to give up boxing due to a broken right hand and a fairly unimpressive record. Soon after this, the United States finds itself gripped in the Great Depression. James grows depressed that he can’t provide more for his wife and children due to his injuries. He takes up part time work as a longshoreman yet his work isn’t steady. James is ashamed when forced to ask for charity and government assisted welfare. His wife, Mae Braddock (played by Rene Zellweger), is worried what will happen if James takes up boxing again. She fears he could be killed and leave her a widow left to raise her children alone.

However, fate steps in when James’s longtime former couch and friend Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti) shows up with an offer for James to participate in a last minute fight.  With no alternatives and the fear of being unable to feed his family, James agrees and, to everyone’s surprise, he knocks out the # 2 contender in the world. This shakes up the boxing world, and James Braddock is soon thought of as an inspiring hero to the working class. He is given the nickname “Cinderella Man” by a local sports writer.

As James continues to win and progress it becomes clear that he will have the opportunity to face off against the heavy weight champion of the world, Max Baer (played by Craig Bierko). Baer is feared throughout the boxing world for having killed his last two opponents. But James Braddock is undeterred, much to the horror of his wife Mae. As the fight approaches, he is a 10-1 underdog against the world champion. The film then reaches its fever pitch climax as the whole city of New York listens in on the radio as the two battle it out in Madison Square Garden.

This is a great film and I always find myself watching it whenever I find it on television. Luckily, Cinderella Man is available at the Union University Library for rent. It is rated PG-13 for violence related to boxing and some mild language.

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Denial”

This past Sunday, January 27th, was the 74th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.  I found the film Denial, which confronts the horrors of the Holocaust, particularly moving and relevant for today’s audiences.

 Denial is based on Deborah Lipstadt’s book History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier.  The movie begins in 1994 with Deborah Lipstadt, a Holocaust professor played by Rachel Weisz, giving a lecture in an American university.  Suddenly, she is ambushed by Nazi Historian David Irving (played by Timothy Stall) who scolds her in public, accusing her of slander and libelous conduct when she identified him as a Holocaust denier in her latest book. He then proceeds to sue her and her publisher Penguin Books in libel lawsuit.

What makes this case so fascinating and perilous is that, under the United Kingdom’s laws, if someone thinks that what you wrote about them is either defamatory or damaging, the responsibility will be entirely on you to prove that your comments are true in court. In other words, if you make the claim, you’ve got to prove it! So Deborah Lipstadt must then prove in court that David Irving is a Holocaust denier. Her council and lawyers fear that David Irving is seeking to put the entire Holocaust on trial to further his ambition and fame. In Deborah’s corner, she is joined by famous solicitor Anthony Julius (portrayed by Andrew Scott) who represented the late Princess Diana in her divorce case. Her barrister is that of Richard Rampton who is famous for dealing with libel cases; he is played by Tom Wilkinson.

Throughout the course of the trial there are many ups and downs. For example, David Irving chooses to represent himself and proves to be a formidable adversary who is quick to use legal mechanisms to his advantage. While Deborah and her team travel all the way to Auschwitz Concentration Camp to find evidence to destroy Irving’s claims. Towards the end of the film it feels as if the judge’s decision could go either way and it definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat.

 

*This film is rated PG-13 for Language and it is available at the Union University Library.

 

Personal note: Denial came to my attention last year, and it became an instant favorite for me. Allow me to share a little bit of my background and studies in an attempt to explain why this film left such an impression on your humble writer. Last year I graduated with my bachelor’s degree which I built myself around History and Political Science. I’ve always loved history; I also enjoy trying to understand how and why it happened the way it did. So having some political insight is very useful to understanding history in context.  My grandfather served in WW2 and that too also sparked my curiosity and interest in Denial.

When my grandfather passed away a few years back, my family and I were cleaning out some of his drawers and discovered several items dating back to his days in the service. Of all the things I found among his belongs, two things struck me to my core. Late in the war he served as a jeep driver for high ranking officers and generals. In doing his duty he personally drove U.S military commanders to various Death Camps and witnessed the horrific aftermath that the Nazis left in their attempts at the final solution.

What I found in my grandfather’s possessions were two grainy photos showing piles of human remains stacked well over six feet in the air. It was something I will never be able to forget, and I know it left a lasting impression on my grandfather. It is truly frightening what humans are capable of doing to one another. That is why we can never forget what happened and why we should always call out the truly insidious individuals that attempt to downplay or outright deny the atrocities of the Holocaust.

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “The Book of Eli”

It seems that if you had to sum up what this current decade’s #1 movie trend has been, it would have to be the setting of POST-APOCALYPTIC.  For one reason or another we are drawn to fantasies of the end of the world, from zombies, robots, climate change, alien invasion or good old fashioned nuclear war. Actually people seem obsessed with not exactly the world ending but how they are going to survive once it has ended. Human beings are definitely optimistic about our abilities and chances to not only survive but thrive in the event of the Apocalypse.

The Book of Eli is not your standard post-apocalyptic film in the genre. While it does offer amazing visuals and brutal action, it also tells a story of hope and destiny that we will never be truly alone and that Someone is watching out for us- we just might need a little faith.

The story revolves around a lone wanderer, Eli, played by Denzel Washington. Eli is a survivor of a cataclysmic war that has transformed the earth into a barre, scorched landscape where you are either predator or prey to a host of cutthroats and raiders. Eli boasst a stoic and non-confrontational attitude but, when threatened, he has amazing fighting skills and seems to effortlessly cut a path through highwaymen and bandits until he reaches a populated desert settlement. The local strong man is that of the character aptly named Carnegie played by Gary Oldman. Carnegie is a ruthless ruler who leads a large gang of henchmen and dreams of conquering other towns to grow his power. He frequently sends his men out on raids for supplies and to search for something special that will aid him in taking over other towns.

The next character to appear is that of Solara played by Mila Kunis. She works in the local inn as a house keeper and bartender; she is protected from Carnegie’s minions because her blind mother, Claudia, played by Jennifer Beals, is Carnegie’s personal courtesan. Things soon come to a head as it is discovered that Eli possess the very thing Carnegie has been after. This leads to a confrontation of biblical proportions. Soon Eli and Solara find themselves on the run from Carnegie and his minions, hoping to find sanctuary further west.

The Book of Eli turns an often over-saturated genre into something with a more meaningful message that Hollywood often avoids all together. Denzel is as charismatic as ever, and Oldman, always known for his ability to play great believable villains, doesn’t let us down. This film came out at the same time as James Cameron’s Avatarso it was somewhat over shadowed by the other film. It was not until many years later that I came across it. I think it’s a great film and if you haven’t yet seen it, you should give it a watch.

*Be mindful: this movie does contain some intense scenes of action and violence and some language.

**written by Matthew Beyer.

***You can check out The Book of Eli from the library.

 

 

 

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”

1988 isn’t only the year of your humble author’s birth- it also happens to be the year the hit film Who Framed Roger Rabbit was released. This mix of live action and animation  was produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by the great Robert Zemekis. In order to pack this movie with so many iconic animated characters, it required Disney, Warner Bros, and Universal Pictures to officially allow the lending of their famous creations. At the time, this film was the most expensive animated movie ever made at an eventual budget of $50 Million.

The film’s setting is that of 1940’s Hollywood, where cartoons and people co-exist in the entertainment industry. It stars Bob Hoskins as Private Detective Eddie Valiant, a down- on-his-luck private eye whose past history gives him a prejudice towards Toons. Charles Fleischer provides many voices of the animated characters in this film, but he is best known for that of Roger Rabbit, the costar of the film. Roger is a celebrity and the most popular Toon in Toontown. Kathleen Turner provides the voice for Roger’s wife Jessica Rabbit, a beautiful seductress and singer at a local supper club. Lou Hirsch plays Baby Herman, Roger’s co-star and best friend in their hit cartoon series. Joanna Cassidy stars as Eddie Valiant’s ex-girlfriend Dolores, a local bar owner. The antagonist in this film is played by none other than Christopher Lloyd as the ominous and ruthless Judge Doom, a superior court judge who has recently created a toxic sludge called “dip” that’s capable of killing cartoons.

Other supporting cast include Stubby Kaye, who portrays Marvin Acme, the owner of Acme Corp and Toontown. Alan Tilvern plays R.K Maroon, the owner of Maroon Cartoon Studios who hires Eddie to investigate Roger Rabbit due to recent performance issues with his lead actor.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a box office success, earning over $300 Million; it would go on to win three Academy Awards for Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Visual Effects and Best Film Editing. It went on to help to rekindle interest for the classic cartoon characters of Warner Bros and Disney.

This movie may appear to be a light-hearted animated story, but the performances by its cast make this a hybrid cross between an animated comedy and Noirish murder mystery. It still retains a 97% rating on the popular review site Rotten Tomatoes. It remains enjoyable for children but also for nostalgic adults who can appreciate the technical achievements of flawlessly bringing animated cartoons to life. This was one of my favorite movies of my childhood, and I can’t tell you the number of times I rented it growing up. No matter how many times I watched the film, I always felt amazed by its seamless transitions, jaw-dropping effects, and attention to detail. I encourage all who haven’t seen it to come on down to Union’s library and check it out for yourself.

*Check Who Framed Roger Rabbit out at the library.

**Please note: while this movie is PG, it contains a few suggestive situations, alcohol use, and some minor language.**