The X-Files turns 20!

This year marks the 20th anniversary of a cult favorite, The X-Files. Can you believe it?! In the fall of 1993 TV viewers were introduced to FBI special agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully and Sci-Fi television was forever changed.

Scully is assigned to work with Mulder on the X-Files, which works on unsolvable cases involving unexplained phenomena. Scully is sent to partner up with Mulder and use her medical and scientific background to keep “Spooky” Mulder’s conspiracy theories in check. His sister was abducted when they were children, and his belief in extraterrestrial life and her abduction haunts Mulder as he obsessively works to find answers to what happened to her, while also trying to solve day-to-day unexplained events. Scully gets more than she bargained for once she too has trouble explaining what she and Mulder uncover while working X-Files cases.

Hideous beasts? Check. Aliens? Check. Shape shifters? Check. Government conspiracy? Check. One of the biggest will-they-won’t-they questions in TV history? Check.

The X-Files featured the typical “monster of the week” episodes, as well as an overall mythology of a larger conspiracy that spanned the entire run of the show and was woven into many episodes. The show aired for nine seasons for 202 episodes, and eventually two X-Files films as well.

Last weekend some of the cast, writers, producers, and the creator reunited at the San Diego Comic-Con, and discussed favorite episodes, monsters, and the future of Mulder and Scully at a 20th anniversary panel. Their discussion begs the question: Will there be a 3rd film?!

Dennis Farina, cop-turned-actor, has died

Dennis Farina, a Chicago police officer for 18 years before becoming an actor, has died.

Farina picked up acting jobs on the side during his career as a Windy City cop. He had roles in several movies, including Get Shorty (1995), Saving Private Ryan (199), and HBO's Empire Falls (2005), based on the novel by the same name by Richard Russo.

But it was his role, for three season, as the crusty, snappy-dressed detective, Joe Fontana, that endeared him to the hit TV franchise, Law and Order fans. His years in the Chicago PD burglary division served him well and gave his performances wonderful authenticity.

Farina, who was 69, died from a blood clot in his lungs in Scottsdale, Arizona.

He is Legend

The world-renowned author and screenwriter, Richard Matheson died last week. He is remembered for having written numerous episodes for the legendary TV series, the Twilight Zone, but also for his science fiction novels , many of which were made into movies, such as I am Legend (made into 3 different movies: the Last Man on Earth; the Omega Man; and, most recently, I am Legend with Will Smith); the Shrinking Man (made into the 1957 classic movie, the Incredible Shrinking Man); Bid Time Return (made into the movie filmed at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Somewhere in Time); and Steel (most recently made into the movie, Real Steel). He has a long list of screenwriting credits to his name including the classic Edgar Allan Poe movie adaptations directed by Roger Corman like the Pit and the Pendulum. For me the most memorable piece he ever wrote was an episode of the Twilight Zone called Nightmare at 20,000 Feet with William Shatner as the airplane passenger who sees a monster tearing apart the plane’s wings as they are in flight. This was also remade in Twilight Zone: the Movie. He was creative all his life, having been first published at eight years old and writing through his 80’s. He was 87 when he died.

"Women Who Make America" Details Struggle for Equality

Makers: Women Who Make America is a three-part PBS documentary narrated by Meryl Streep. The film delves into the story of the birth of the modern women’s movement and covers five decades of women’s struggle for equality at home, work and life. I expected to have this documentary on in the background as I worked on other things, but found the film so engrossing, I watched all of it in one sitting.

The story of activism, feminism and what became known as women’s liberation is told through old film footage and interviews with women who did more than stand by and watch; they brought about change one move at a time. The women come from social, economical, and political backgrounds that are as varied as their personalities. They are flight attendants, coal miners, mothers, politicians, secretaries, writers, actresses, telephone operators and executives.

With retro music and advertisements, "Makers" quickly pulls the viewer into the stories and lives of women such as Judy Blume, Sandra Day O’Connor, Billie Jean King, Gloria Steinem, Marlo Thomas, Nora Ephron, Geraldine Ferraro, and Hillary Clinton.

James Gandolfini, a.k.a. the iconic Tony Soprano, has died

James Gandolfini, an award-winning actor on both large and small screens, has died.

Gandolfini blasted his way into the public's consciousness with his nuanced portrayal of Tony Soprano, the complicated head of a New Jersey mob family in HBO's popular series, The Sopranos, which first aired in 1999. Tony Soprano was, by turns, violent enough to beat a man to death for dissing the memory of his dead horse, henpecked by his wife, Carmela (Edie Falco, cowed by his mother, Livia (Nancy Marchand), and anxious enough to see a psychiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco).

Mr. Gandolfini, a Jersey man through and through, was a graduate of Rutgers. He came late to acting, having sat in on a friend's acting class when he was 25. His first acting role was in Sidney Lumet's 1992 A Stranger Among Us (on order). Many other silver screen roles followed, including the 2001 Brad Pitt/Julia Roberts film The Mexican, in which Gandolfini handily stole the show from both megawatt stars playing a gay hit man.

Mr. Gandolfini racked up an impressive number of awards for Tony Soprano, including three Emmys for outstanding lead actor in a drama, a Screen Actors Guild (2000) and a Golden Globe.

Mr. Gandolfini, who was on vacation in Italy when he died yesterday, was 51.

Superman flies back into theaters this weekend in Man of Steel!

Inspired by comics such as Mark Waid's Superman: Birthright, Man of Steel tells the story of Clark Kent's transformation from lonesome farmboy to greatest hero the world has ever known. A survivor of the distant alien planet of Krypton, Clark struggles to determine his purpose in life on Earth. Knowing his tremendous power may inspire fear in others, he keeps to himself, a secret guardian angel. But with famed reporter Lois Lane on his trail, and the murderous kryptonian General Zod seeking vengeance, Clark must choose whether to claim his birthright and step into the light as Earth's protector.

With 75 years of history behind him, Superman has a mighty presence at the library and AADL can help you go up, up, and away! Having seen the beginning, why not check out the end? Find out the answer to the question "What would Superman do if he knew he was dying?" in the Eisner award-winning graphic novel from Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly, All-star Superman. Or read all about how the hero has developed and influenced the world in journalist Larry Tye's Superman: The High Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero. You can even discover how the superhero helped thwart real-life villains.

Summer Classics Film Series @ The Michigan Theater

Summer is the time to relax at the Michigan Theater with the cool A/C and some cool movies after a long day of enjoying the sun.

Sundays and Tuesdays all summer long there will be a variety of films playing at the Michigan Theater as part of their Summer Classics Film Series, which kicks off June 16.

Enjoy big screen viewings of Blazing Saddles, Vertigo, A Night at the Opera, Dirty Dancing, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Planet of the Apes, Rocky, Sing-A-Long The Sound of Music, The Kiss, Lawrence of Arabia, Run Lola Run, and Casablanca.

For the night owls there’s another film series also playing at the Michigan this summer. The Summer Classics After Dark Series happens Thursday nights at 10pm and will feature films such as Django, Eraserhead, Taxi Driver, Willow, Sing-A-Long Trapped in the Closet, and Psycho. Be sure to check the full schedule for times and be ready for popcorn and movies. Or there's always the AADL copy to get you by.

Jean Stapleton, a.k.a. Edith Bunker to a whole generation of adoring fans, has died

Jean Stapleton, who forever endeared herself to millions of TV viewers in her role of the ditzy-but-wise Edith Bunker, has died.

As Edith Bunker, sweet wife to the unapologetic, stuck-in-his-ways, working class Queens, NY conservative bigot Archie Bunker (played by the late Carroll O'Connor) in the popular 1970s sitcom All in the Family, Stapleton packed whole essays of timid disagreement into her nasally, softly screechy "Oh, Archie" or "Oh, my!". And when Archie would go too far and Edith stood up to him, Archie cowed and audiences cheered.

Ms. Stapleton played against character. She was a strong feminist playing the role of a meek, submissive, taunted housewife to Archie's often-derisive persona. As the women's movement gained traction on the national political stage, the shows' writers kept pace. One of the most memorable episodes centered on Edith's rare flare-up, pushing back against Archie's resistance to her volunteer work in a senior citizens' residence.

In addition to the four consecutive Emmys that the show won, Ms. Stapleton earned three (19721, 1972, and 1978) or her own.

For those who thought glass would shatter on a weekly basis with the opening song of All in the Family, sung by O'Connor and Ms. Stapleton, whose latter contribution was to hit impossibly loud off-key fingers-down-the-blackboard notes, it may come as a surprise to learn that Ms. Stapleton had a lovely voice, as evidenced by her extensive work on Broadway, the movies Bells Are Ringing (2005), and TV (she sang with The Muppets).

Ms. Stapleton, who was 90, died Friday in New York.

May's Books to Film

Iron Man 3 (PG-13) is a Walt Disney Studio adaptation of Marvel's Iron Man: Extremis by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov. It pits brash but brilliant industrialist Tony Stark/Iron Man against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Stark finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy's hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible. As he fights his way back, Stark discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?

For limited release is What Maisie Knew (R). With newcomer Onata Aprile in the title role, Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgård star this family drama, a contemporary re-imagining of the novel by Henry James. It's the story of a captivating little girl's struggle for grace in the midst of her parents' bitter custody battle, navigating the turmoil with a six-year-old's innocence, charm and generosity of spirit.

Based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby (PG-13), would-be writer Nick Carraway leaves the Midwest and comes to New York City in the spring of 1922. In this era of loosening morals, glittering jazz, bootleg kings, and sky-rocketing stocks, Nick lands next door to a mysterious, party-giving millionaire, Jay Gatsby; across the bay from his cousin, Daisy, and her philandering, blue-blooded husband, Tom Buchanan; and is drawn into the captivating world of the super rich.

Released just in time for summer vacation is the animated Epic (PG), based on The Leaf Man by William Joyce. It tells the story of an ongoing battle between the forces of good, who keep the natural world alive, and the forces of evil, who wish to destroy it. When a teenage girl finds herself magically transported into this secret universe, she teams up with an elite band of warriors and a crew of comical, larger-than-life figures, to save their world…and ours.

Born into Brothels

This is a stirring documentary about “the resiliency of childhood and the restorative power of art.” Born into Brothels follows several young children who live in the red light district of Calcutta. Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski collaborated on piecing together this beautiful film. Briski formed an interest in the children living in the red light district while living in a brothel and photographing the woman. The interest blossomed into a desire to provide the children of these women with cameras and some basic instruction on photography. The result is a fascinating insight into a life that is foreign to many of us. Many of the children’s photographs are highlighted and are a beautiful depiction of a difficult life. You cannot help but be uplifted by the laughter of these kids as they run through the streets taking pictures. One particularly unforgettable segment of the film is when Briski takes the children to the beach in order to photograph the surroundings. Their excitement is palpable and the resulting photographs are striking.

The beauty of this documentary is not only in the aesthetic appeal of the pictures, but also the impact that photography has on the children’s lives. In an atmosphere of poverty and illegal sex trafficking, the hope that is generated from empowering the children in this environment is inspiring. Art and education are two very powerful things and Born into Brothels chronicles providing access to both.

The film won the 77th Academy Awards for Best Documentary and the film’s website Kids with Cameras (KWC) is definitely worth visiting. You can view the kid’s photographs as well as get updates on what they went on to do after the film. KWC has since completed a merge with another nonprofit organization Kids with Destiny. This merger has resulted in the realization of a KWC project Hope House which is expected to be completed later this year.

If you like Born into Brothels, you may also like Wade in the Water, Children, a documentary on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina told from the perspective of the children who lived through it.

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