Tom Clancy, king of techno-military thrillers, has died

Tom Clancy, author of nail-biting military suspense novels, known for their eerie prescience, has died.

Mr. Clancy turned a lifelong obsession for all things military-and-technological into instant success with his first novel, The Hunt for Red October (1984), published by the Naval Institute Press, housed at the U.S. Naval Academy. It was the NIP's first novel -- Clancy's detailed military descriptions caught their attention. It also captured then-President Ronald Reagan's interest as well; thus Mr. Clancy's instant rise to bestsellerdom.

Clancy's unerring accuracy with details had many convinced that he had connections inside the Pentagon. He adamantly denied all such charges, but did say, "I've made stuff up that's turned out to be real, that's the spooky part."

His series character, Jack Ryan, first seen in The Hunt for Red October, has made fourteen more appearances over the past three decades, the latest in Threat Vector which was published last year. The last Jack Ryan novel, Command Authority, will be released at the end of this year.

Several of his thrillers starring Jack Ryan (who morphed, during the course of the series, from U.S. Naval Academy instructor to CIA spy/Director to U.S. President) were turned into successful movies.Alec Baldwin, played Ryan in the 1990 release, The Hunt for Red October. Harrison Ford did the honors in the next two Jack Ryan films, Patriot Games (1992), and
Clear and Present Danger (1994). Ben Affleck appeared as Ryan in The Sum of All Fears in 2002.

Mr. Clancy, who died in a Baltimore hospital, was 66.

Before Midnight...The denouement of the "Before" Trilogy

This popular film series with its dead-aim at Generation X concludes with a thoughtful and intense meditation on marriage and relationships in Before Midnight. The trilogy was written and directed by Richard Linklater along with its two stars, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. This collaborative effort is what has made this film series so authentic and relatable. Both Hawke and Delpy are writers themselves and this shows in the dialogue and the acting in all three films. Before Midnight reveals that Jessie and Celine have finally gotten together after the last two films and now married they have twin daughters. We find them on holiday in Greece and the conversations and relationships while just as intense are wholly different and more complicated than in the past. Like the two previous films the realistic feel engages the viewer and pulls you into the moment. What began in Before Sunrise as a bittersweet romance about two entrancing, ambitious twenty-somethings having a one-night stand, and then took on humbled but still hopeful shadings (he unhappily married, she still single) for the thirty-somethings in Before Sunset, has now been deepened immeasurably. Watching this triptych back to back is a must.

The Kings of Summer on DVD & Blu-Ray

A sleeper hit of the summer, The Kings of Summer is a thought provoking coming of age tale that tells the story of teenage Joe. Living with his controlling father is becoming unbearable and he wants to escape. He decides that he and his friend Patrick are going to build a house in the woods to live in, just for them, with no parents to tell them what to do. As they head into the woods they are joined by the bizarre Biaggio, and the three boys discover independence, girls, freedom, how to make choices, and what it really means to need others.

It’s a great dramatic, somewhat comedic, film directed by Royal Oak native Jordan Vogt-Roberts. I saw the film at The Michigan this past summer, and Vogt-Roberts was there to do a Q & A after the film, and it was delightful to hear him speak of his film and where it came from. This film gets filed under little boy adventure stories along with things like Stand By Me and The Goonies, both of which inspired the feel of The Kings of Summer.

Challenged Books Turned into Movies

Some books are challenged and banned because people think that the books shouldn't be read at all. Often, others deeply love those same titles. In fact, a number of books turn out to be award winners.

If you're thinking about exploring banned books, but feel pressed for time, you might check out a movie adaptation of a banned book, maybe even of an award winner. Here is a sampling of choices to consider.

Sophie's Choice was banned in South Africa in 1979, and removed from a California high school in 2002 after a complaint about sexual content in the book. Styron's book also won the National Book Award. Meryl Streep's performance in the 1982 movie earned her one of her Academy Awards.

The Color Purple has been banned and challenged consistently since 1984 in schools and public libraries for, among other reasons, being "smut," being too violent, and portraying black men negatively. Alice Walker won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for this work. The 1985 movie was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, but famously won none of them.

The Godfather was challenged in 1975 in Iowa for being vulgar and obscene by most religious standards. The movie version has widely been considered one of the greatest films of all time.

The Shining was challenged because the challengers objected to the book containing violence, demonic possession, and for ridiculing the Christian religion. It was also removed from school libraries in Washington for language concerns. Stephen King is one of the most often challenged authors in the United States. If you're not too scared, check out Kubrick's movie interpretation of King's 1977 novel.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was locked away in a library in 1988 because a librarian believed that it promoted a poor philosophy of life. See Johnny Depp play Willy Wonka himself in the 2005 film.

2013 Primetime Emmy winners announced

The 2013 Primetime Emmy winners were announced in a three-hour, star-studded extravaganza.

The Emmys, hosted by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, are the television equivalent of the silver screen's Oscars. The Emmys are a bit different than the Oscars in that there are several award ceremonies throughout the year. The Primetime and the Daytime Emmys are the most popular.

Some of the big winners are:

Claire Danes, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, for her role as Carrie Mathison, a brilliant volatile CIA agent who battles modern day terrorism in the series, Homeland.

Chelsea, MI resident, Jeff Daniels got the nod for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of acid-tongued news anchor, Will McAvoy in The Newsroom.

Breaking Bad captured Outstanding Drama Series. What's not to love (and fear) about a chemistry teacher whose diagnosis of terminal cancer inspires him to go on a crime spree to build up resources to take care of his family when he's gone?

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is the new Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, Veep. Her character, Vice President Selina Meyer, has a lot to juggle -- political land mines, a challenging relationship with the President, and a stressful personal life.

One of the big winners of the evening was the HBO movie, Behind the Candelabra, based on the tell-all book by the same name, written by Liberace's longtime lover Scott Thorson. Michael Douglas walked away with the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie. Steven Soderbergh picked up the Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special, and the film itself was named Outstanding Miniseries or Movie.

For a complete list of the Primetime Emmy winners, click here.

The State Theater ~ State of the Art Movie House

The opening of a new movie theater is always a big news item but it was especially noteworthy for the State Theater. The State opened in the midst of World War II when Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County were focused on their role of building bombers and equipment for the United States military. The building of the theater was announced in November, 1940 with a planned opening date of August 1941. When the theater finally opened in March, 1942, the Ann Arbor News devoted an entire section of the March 17th issue to the gala event.

The section included articles on the Butterfield Company and its founder, W. S. Butterfield. The News reported on the modern equipment, the modern design, the modern screen, even the cooling system. The building of the State involved 35 companies, including many local firms. To make way for the theater, six businesses were removed. Butterfield moved Majestic Theater manager Larry Mull and his staff to the State.

Local businesses took out dispaly ads welcoming the State, and the PR machine of the movie studios went into high gear sending telegrams from stars like Clark Gable, Norma Shearer and Mickey Rooney congratulating the State. The opening movie was The Fleet's In starring Dorothy Lamour and William Holden. The News even reached back into their archives to recount the famous student riot of 1908 at the Star Theater.

Grace Shackman's Then & Now article on the Whitney Theater fills in the local theater scene. Old News had published articles on many of Ann Arbor's theaters.

Michigan Theater's Family-Friendly Film Series

It’s that time of the year again! School is back in session, the days are getting cooler and the Michigan Theater is holding it’s fall Family-Free Film Series Sundays at 1:30 pm! The series begins Sunday September 15th with a showing of the film Wallace & Gromit:The curse of the Were-Rabbit. Tag along with the eccentric inventor Wallace and his faithful dog Gromit as they try to lure a massive tribe of rabbits out of a vegetable garden! On September 22nd step into the world of our favorite Ogre in the movie Shrek! This favorite is loosely based on William Steig’s 1990 fairy tale picture book Shrek and features the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and John Lithgow.
Mark your calendars for this free family event! Michigan Theater Sundays at 1:30 pm Free for kids 12 & under!

World Hobbit Day Celebration!

Saturday, September 21 | 2:00-3:30pm | DTN-MPR | All Ages

September 22 is the birthday of Frodo and Bilbo, hobbits from J.R.R. Tolkein’s famous fantasies The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. World Hobbit Day has been celebrated by fans all over the world since 1978, and this year AADL is getting in on the game, and we’re celebrating a day early.

Join us for a wonderful celebration of these fantastic books and movies. (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is in theaters on December 13th!) In our Shire-for-a-day there will be Hobbit-themed games such as a Lord of the Ring toss, craft projects such as dragons and beards, and special snacks such as lembas bread.

Feel free to dress up as your favorite Middle Earth character to get into the spirit of things! (Note: Even hobbits have to wear shoes while in the library.)

Join Jane Austen and J.D. Salinger at the Michigan Theater next Friday!

Next Friday, September 13th, will be a big literary day at the Michigan Theater with the opening of both Austenland and Salinger.

Austenland, simply put, is a film about a woman who is obsessed with Jane Austen. Keri Russel plays Jane Hayes, a “seemingly normal” 30-something woman who risks “her life savings on a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women.” Along the way, she finds out that her own Mr. Darcy romance fantasies might not be so far-fetched… This romantic comedy also stars Jennifer Collidge, Jane Seymour and Bret McKenzie, and raises questions such as, "Who doesn't love men in tight breeches?"

Based upon the popular novel of the same title, Jane Austen enthusiasts everywhere will find themselves pulled into the fantasy land along with the characters in the film.

***

Salinger is the long-awaited documentary about one of the world’s most popular and adored authors, J.D. Salinger. The documentary “features interviews with 150 subjects, including J.D. Salinger‘s friends, colleagues and members of his inner circle who have never spoken on the record before, as well as film footage, photographs and other material that has never been seen.

The film is the first work to get beyond the Catcher in the Rye author’s meticulously built-up wall: his childhood, painstaking work methods, marriages, private world and the secrets he left behind after his death in 2010.”

Visit the Michigan Theater's website for more information about the films & showtimes!

Mud on DVD

Fourteen year old Ellis and his best friend Neckbone enjoy living on the Mississippi River boating and exploring nearby areas. One day they happen upon a boat up in a tree on a deserted island and think it’s the most wonderful hide-out ever. They soon discover that the boat is already inhabited by a man named Mud. And Mud has killed a man to protect his one true love, Juniper, and now he’s being hunted by bounty hunters and is hiding out until he meets up with her again. The boys agree to secretly help him and it brings a world of trouble on the small town that changes the boys forever.

Mud is a timeless adventure story of two boys trying to find their place and do good by the adults in their lives. Ellis yearns for a good example of love between adults and this fuels his desire to reunite Mud and Juniper. Ellis and Neckbone are children on the cusp of becoming men, full of hope and wonder, but half believe they already have the answers to it all.

It’s a beautifully written and thoughtfully directed film that portrays life along the Mississippi. Cast with locals to play the boys, and Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon to play Mud and Juniper, it’s a worthy viewing.

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