December's Books to Film

Steven Spielberg directs the animated film adaptation of The Adventures of TINTIN. This first of a planned triogy is base on a very popular comic book series created in 1929 by a Belgian artist who called himself Hergé. Clever and ever-curious, TINTIN is a reporter-turned-detective whose pursuit of villains, criminals, treasure and the occasional artifact takes him all over the world, along with a colorful cast of friends. Hergé based his stories on real-world events and cultures - from space exploration to Arab oil wars.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is adapted from Jonathan Safran Foer's critically acclaimed novel in which 9 year-old Oskar Schell embarks on an urgent, secret mission that will take him through the five boroughs of New York in order to find the lock that matches a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11. This seemingly impossible task will bring Oskar into contact with survivors of all sorts on an exhilarating, affecting, often hilarious, and ultimately healing journey.

I was perfectly happy with the original film adaptation of Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the first in his Millennium Trilogy. But I could be persuaded to take in the American remake coming this month with some irresistible big names (Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer) and a sizzling newcomer (Rooney Mara).

Benjamin Mee's memoir is adapted in the feature film We Bought a Zoo. Benjamin Mee, a former newspaper columnist, known for his humorous "Do It Yourself" column in the UK’s Guardian Weekend moved his family to an unlikely new home: a dilapidated zoo in the English countryside. Mee had a dream to refurbish the zoo and run it as a family business. Nothing was easy, given the family’s lack of experience as zookeepers, and what follows is a magical exploration of the mysteries of the animal kingdom, the power of family, and the triumph of hope over tragedy.

Super 8, on DVD

It’s the summer of 1979 and six young friends witness a train crash while making a super 8 film. The crash is epic as it is, and then the story turns into a mysterious adventure when the boys discover what was on the train and that it has escaped into the night. A series of unexplainable events start wreaking havoc on their small town and Joe, the local deputy’s son, and his pals are keeping their secret and dealing with the consequences.

If you take the science fiction element of E.T., the adventure of The Goonies, young boys fighting evil on their own, as in The Monster Squad, and the thriller element of Cloak and Dagger, all mixed with today’s technology, you might get Super 8. It’s your classic little boy adventure story on a modern scale.

The fact that it’s written and directed J.J. Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg makes it all the more credible, but it’s still not a perfect film. It has its plot flaws here and there, but it’s cinematically beautiful, and still a fun watch if you’re into those kinds of films. I loved learning that Abrams, the cinematographer, and another producer were friends when they were young and shared a love of movie making and super 8 films. It was fun watching the special features on the DVD and learn of the dream behind the film and their own film ambitions in the late 70s.

White Christmas Sing-a-Long

Do you like old movies? Do you sing along with musicals in your living room? Well, if you have been bitten by the holiday spirit bug, and answered “yes” to the previous two questions, then the Michigan Theater has the event for you! On Sunday, November 27th, at 4:00 p.m., the Michigan Theater will have the event, “Irving Berlin’s Sing-a-Long White Christmas.” Yes, you can sing along with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen in the pernially popular 1954 musical, “White Christmas,” with music by Irving Berlin. Lyrics will be provided on the big screen, and good bags will be provided too! If you were wondering what to do after the turkey and Black Friday shopping madness, you have found your answer.

Cost is $15 for adults
$12 for children, students (with i.d.), seniors, and U.S. veterans
$10 for Michigan Theater Members

Youth Thanksgiving DVDs

Remember the good old fashioned, Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, which was originally broadcasted in 1973? Re-live the magic and check out this DVD to watch with your family for this year's Thanksgiving! The library also has the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving in Blu-Ray format. If you are looking for fun, yet informational DVDs that teach children about the first Thanksgiving, we have those too. Take a look at Rabbit Ears : Squanto & The First Thanksgiving. This DVD tells the story of Pawtuxet Indian who was captured and then escaped and returned to his childhood home. He then helped the Pilgrims establish the colony of Plymouth. Or, check out William Bradford : First Thanksgiving if you and your children want to learn more about the history of the first Thanksgiving. If you are feeling like you just want to warm up to a children's holiday favorite, check out Winnie The Pooh: Seasons of Giving, which includes "A Winnie The Pooh Thanksgiving."

November's Books to Film (You KNOW! the season is upon us)

Brian Selznick's charming Caldecott Medal winner The Invention of Hugo Cabret : a novel in words and pictures (2007) is one for the whole family to hit the big screen on November 23rd. In this moving and entertaining film adaptation, an orphaned boy secretly lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station and looks after the clocks. He gets caught up in a mystery adventure when he attempts to repair a mechanical man. Martin Scorsese directs a star-studded cast of Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Johnny Depp, and Jude Law.

Based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer, Breaking Dawn – Part 1 is the highly anticipated next chapter of the blockbuster The Twilight Saga. The new-found married bliss of Bella Swan and vampire Edward Cullen is cut short when a series of betrayals and misfortunes threatens to destroy their world. Wide release on the 18th, savvy fans know the drill.

The gritty noir novel London Boulevard (2001) by Ken Bruen has been adapted into a feature film starring Colin Farrell, Keira Knightley, Ray Winstone. An ex-con hired to look after a reclusive young actress finds himself falling in love, which puts him in direct confrontation with one of London's most vicious gangsters.

In A Dangerous Method, adapted from the book by John Kerr, on the eve of World War I, Zurich and Vienna are the setting for a dark tale of sexual and intellectual discovery. Drawn from true-life events, it explores the turbulent relationships between fledgling psychiatrist Carl Jung, his mentor Sigmund Freud and Sabina Spielrein, the beautiful but disturbed young woman who comes between them. Starring Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, and Viggo Mortensen.

George Clooney, Judy Greer, and Matthew Lillard star in The Descendants, adapted from the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings. Wealthy Hawaiian landowner Matt King has his life upended when his wife, Joanie, is involved in a boating accident. King struggles to reconnect with his two daughters as the three of them take a journey to deliver the news of Joanie's imminent death to the man with whom she was having an affair.

My Week With Marilyn, is based on Colin Clark’s (played by Eddie Redmayne) controversial memoir. The film centers on the tense relationship between Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) and Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) during production of The Prince and the Showgirl. In the early summer of 1956, 23-year-old Colin Clark, just down from Oxford and determined to make his way in the film business, worked as a lowly assistant on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl. In his diary, one week was missing, and this is the story of that week when Colin introduced Marilyn to some of the pleasures of British life.

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, director of the Oscar nominated documentary Super Size Me, is back at it in POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. This time he takes a closer look at advertising, branding, and the power of product placement in films. The film itself was funded by companies that agreed to be featured in the film.

Spurlock embarked on an adventure to seek out companies that would be be seen in the film, and thus have their products featured, and this mission of his essentially makes up the film. So there’s a bit of irony and humor in the fact that he’s researching how and why product placement works while doing it himself at the exact same time. He also talks to other filmmakers and those in the industry regarding the effectiveness and the revenue involved in product placement in films. It is both interesting and funny, which is a great combination for a documentary. (Also available on Blu-ray.)

Note: After watching this film you may desperately wish to drink a bottle of POM Wonderful’s pomegranate juice, as I did. Perhaps this advertising stuff works?

Gasland

Gasland, a film about Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," is a Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize Winner and was nominated for a 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary.

In 2009, filmmaker Josh Fox learned that his home was on top of a rock formation containing natural gas. He was offered $100,000 to lease his land to undergo Halliburton’s controversial extraction process of hydraulic fracturing. He questioned the safety of fracking, and wanted to dig deeper, leading him an a cross-country, truth-seeking mission to answer some questions: Is the process safe? What are the effects on humans and the Earth? Fox learned fracking has caused everything from illness to flammable water. The film is an educational journey that is both disheartening and warm-hearted.

As part of AADL’s ongoing series of Films & Discussions, cosponsored by the University of Michigan Community Scholars Program, Gasland will be shown at the Downtown Ann Arbor District Library on Thursday, November 17, at 6 PM. A discussion led by the faculty and students of MCSP will follow the film. The event is recommended for grade nine to adult.

Ode to a Blanket

Peanuts’ Linus is forever pictured carrying his beloved blanket. He and his ball of wonderful, soft, blue fluff go hand in hand, and he is perhaps the icon of all blanket carriers. Call it a security blanket, call it a woobie, it is a sense of comfort to young Linus. In Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Linus is paid a visit by Grandma, who wishes to rid him of his crutch. The Peanuts gang tries to aid and comfort him during this time, particularly Lucy, the resident “psychiatrist.” I have to ask, is his blanket perhaps the most famous blanket on TV?

Wait, woobie? Charles Schultz never referred to Linus’ blanket as a woobie. One might associate the term woobie more with young Kenny from the 1980s film Mr. Mom. Here the beloved blanket is yellow and ragged, tearing at the edges, as the toe-headed Kenny carries it with him everywhere. The woobie gets stapled together, and at one point is attacked by the household vacuum cleaner. It’s hardcore for Kenny. His father (played by Michael Keaton), just as Linus’ Grandma did, attempts to get his son to give up his woobie with these words…

“I understand that you little guys start out with your woobies and you think they're great... and they are, they are terrific. But pretty soon, a woobie isn't enough. You're out on the street trying to score an electric blanket, or maybe a quilt. And the next thing you know, you're strung out on bedspreads Ken. That's serious.”

This blog post is dedicated to all those woobie carriers out there. I know you’re out there.

Halloween, The Movies

When John Carpenter’s original Halloween came out in theaters in in 1978, the newspapers read “When was the last time you were really scared by a movie?” Coming out several years after hits like The Exorcist, Jaws, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, horror fans were ready for Halloween, and were not disappointed by the high grossing independent film.

One cannot think of slasher films without thinking of Halloween and the white-masked Michael Meyers. The premise is that as a child, Meyers killed his sister on Halloween, and is thus institutionalized.15 years later he rises from catatonia, escapes, returns home, and terrorizes teenage babysitter Laurie (played by Jamie Lee Curtis, in her feature film debut) and her friends. As with most horror films, the film includes graphic violence, and is not for everyone.

Following the success of the first film came at string of nine sequels and remakes, starting with Halloween II, in 1981. Of the films, only the original Halloween and Halloween II were written Carpenter and Debra Hill, and a couple were even directed by Rob Zombie. They vary in quality, but you horror diehards can be the judge. (Blu-rays are also available for some of the films.)

Check out AADL's large selection of Horror films, if you're looking for more flicks that may cause you to sleep with the lights on.

Film Screening & Discussion: City Dark: A Search for Night on a Planet that Never Sleeps

In this award-winning film, filmmaker and amateur astronomer Ian Cheney starts with the deceptively simple question, Do we need to see the stars? City Dark explores the disappearance of darkness and the myriad implications of light pollution, from the deaths of thousands of animals disoriented by city lights to humanity's more abstract disconnect from the wonder of the cosmos hidden from view behind the orange haze of its cities.

In this thoughtful film, Cheney passes over both environmental rants and nostalgic pleas to engage us in a more meditative reflection on our relationship with the night sky with stunning astrophotography and a cast of eclectic scientists, philosophers, historians and lighting designers.

The University Lowbrow Astronomers are co-sponsoring this screening and members of the group will be on hand to answer questions following the film.

City Dark | Tuesday, October 11 | 6:30 p.m. | Downtown Library Multi-Purpose Room

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