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.

Lincoln: The Man, the Legend

The historical drama Lincoln, starring Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, is based in part on the book Team of Rivals: the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. Lincoln was produced and directed by Steven Spielberg, who immediately wanted rights to the film once he heard that Goodwin was planning to write the book.

The film focuses on Lincoln's last months of office in 1865, during a time of war and change, and his efforts to pass the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would abolish slavery. The film depicts the tension and conflict in the United States, while painting a revealing portrait of Abraham Lincoln during a momentous time in American history.

With an all-star cast that also includes Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the critically-acclaimed film was nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards and twelve Academy Awards. Daniel Day Lewis won a Golden Globe and an Oscar for Best Actor for his phenomenal performance as the President. There are still grumbles that Lincoln should have won the Academy Award for Best Picture, but that honor went to another recommended historical drama, Argo.

Pioneer Theatre Guild Presents Shrek: The Musical

Pioneer High School Theatre Guild will present Shrek: The Musical April 27 through May 5. The show is based on William Steig's 1990 book Shrek! and the 2001 DreamWorks film Shrek. Should be a fun show for both kids and adults. More information about the production and tickets is here.

Jonathan Winters, genius improv comedian, has died

Jonathan Winters, he of the malleable face and rapid fire ad lib wit, died Thursday, April 11, in Montecito, California.

Winters, a veteran of World War II (Marine Corps), first developed his unique comedic style as a teenager, talking to himself. Later, as a morning DJ for WING (Dayton, OH), Winters had trouble rounding up guests so he just invented his own, and became an instant hit. Winters honed a wide, and wild, range of characters. Among his more memorable creations was Maude Frickert, a sweet-natured, sharp-tongued granny with a healthy libido. Johnny Carson, who invited Winters back over and over again as a guest on the Tonight Show, ended up stealing Maude and morphing her into his Aunt Blabby.

Robin Williams, whose explosively funny style is often compared to Winters' spontaneously combustive hilarity, credits Winters with inspiring his own funny riffs -- "Jonathan taught me that the world is open for play, that everything and everybody is mockable, in a wonderful way." (interview with the late Ed Bradley on CBS's 60 Minutes). In fact, in Season 4 of Mork and Mindy (Williams plays an alien from outer space with a human roommate, Pam Dawber, whom he later marries ), Winters plays their son, Mearth.

Winters also gave particularly memorable performances in two of the movies in which he had roles -- It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) and The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966). He also found time to pen Winters' Tales, Stories, and Observations for the Unusual in 1987.

Winters, who was quite candid about his struggles with, and hospitalization for manic depression, died of natural causes at age 87.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Based on Stephen Chbosky’s popular young adult novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the story of Charlie (Logan Lerman), an introspective loner who loathes the thought of entering high school. Being a freshman is hard enough without dealing with the suicide of a friend, the ghost of his aunt, and his own mental illness while searching for a place to belong. Eventually, Charlie befriends the beautiful and carefree Sam (Emma Watson) and the flamboyant Patrick (Ezra Miller). They take Charlie under their wing and show him how to live a little as he experiences many firsts: midnight screenings of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," his first school dance and his first love.

Written and directed by Chbosky, the film is a look at the personalities you might find in high school, maybe those hanging out on darker versions of the 1994-95 TV series My So Called Life or the 1985 film The Breakfast Club. In general, high schoolers are just trying to cope and get by day to day, longing for what’s next. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is another genuine high school film. Chbosky tries to get the audience to embrace the now and enjoy moments as they happen, and to let ourselves experience a greater love than we think we deserve.

Former Mouseketeer, Annette Funicello, has died

Annette Funicello, who, as a child, turned to acting to help deal with her shyness, died this moning in California.

In 1955 at a dance recital in Burbank, CA, where she was the Swan Queen in Swan Lake, she was discovered by Walt Disney who immediately added her to his stable of child actors for his new TV show, The Mickey Mouse Club.

Her popularity with children sent her acting career in many directions. She had a role in the second and third seasons of The Spin and Marty Show and in the short-lived Walt Disney Presents: Annette, which lasted just long enough for her performance of the song How Will I Know My Love? to be released as a single.

When she got older, she appeared in several Disney movies, including The Shaggy Dog (1959) and Babes in Toyland (1961). From there, she and Frankie Avalon became the darlings of the Beach Party movie scene.

In 1992, Ms. Funicello went public with the fact that she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, only after rumors persisted that her unsteady gait was due to a drinking problem. She was named a Disney Legend that same year. A few months later she opened her Annette Funicello Fund for Neurological Disorders.

Ms. Funicello was 70 years old.

Les Blank, innovative documentary filmmaker, has died

Les Blank, whose much-praised documentaries covered topics as disparate as garlic, the blues, and shoe diets, has died.

Born in Florida in 1935, his first documentaries focused on musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie and Lightnin' Hopkins. Then he broadened his subjects to include food, women with gapped teeth, and the German director, Werner Herzog.

In the 1980s, Blank came to The University of Michigan for a showing of his sweetly weird Garlic Is as Good as Ten Mothers. To the delight (and digestive torture) of his audience, Blank had arranged to have garlic roasting in the back of the theater. Currently, this iconic Les Blank film is unavailable in DVD format, which is a shame. In 2004, the Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the United States’ National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Another famous Blank documentary made in 1980 is Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, a 20-minute film of the famed director fulfilling a bet he lost to eat his footwear. Herzog wagered that director Errol Morris would never make a film. Morris collected on the bet with the release of his first documentary, The Gates of Heaven,1978, about a California pet cemetery. This odd meal can be seen in the DVD, Burden of Dreams, 1982, Blank's examination of Herzog's challenges in filming his award winning Fitzcarraldo, 1982.

Blank, who had been diagnosed with cancer less than a year ago, was 77.

Cinema Night Special: Discover Fresh Takes on Storytelling Through Animation, Plus Live Music

Friday, May 3 | 6:30-8:30 PM | Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room | Adults

This coming Friday, Cinema Night Special will present two vastly contrasting examples of storytelling through animation. The evening kicks off with a fanciful Oscar-winning short, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore -- created in a "hybrid style of animation that harkens back to silent films and M-G-M Technicolor musicals."

The 80-minute, critically accritically-acclaimed Czech film "Alois Nebel," (Best Animated Film, 2012 European Film Awards) draws from vastly different inspiration —classic film noir. Rendered in mesmerizing black-and-white rotoscope, this darker film traces the haunted memories and mysterious visions of a troubled Czechoslovakian train dispatcher, haunted by events in the Second World War.

Between films, local band Cash Harrison & The Terrible Decisions will perform a live set, and fresh popcorn will be served.

Enjoy this special evening of film and music!

Roger Ebert, beloved Chicago movie critic, has died

Just one day after announcing he was taking a 'leave of presence' from his 46-year gig as movie critic for the Chicago Sun-Times and his 31-year career on TV reviewing films, Roger Ebert lost his long public battle with salivary and thyroid cancer.

His announcement yesterday said he would just review the movies HE wanted to see and leave the rest of the reviews to his trusted colleagues at the paper. When he lost part of his jaw and thus his ability to eat or speak, he used his good humor and courage to write about his experience fighting, and often triumphing, against, his devastating illness.

Ebert's long career resulted in a 1975 Pulitzer Prize, the first movie critic to receive this honor. The Webby Awards named him their 2010 Person of the Year. And Hollywood, which lived and died by Ebert's laser-beam ethical demand for excellence in all things film, honored him with his own Walk of Fame star in 2005.

Ebert's career took off in a new direction when he and Chicago Tribune movie critic, Gene Siskel, took their 'point/counterpoint' routine to television in 1975. Originally titled Coming Soon to a Theater Near You, PBS picked it up and renamed it Sneak Previews three years later. There were two more name-changes: In 1981, it morphed into At the Movies. Five years later, accompanied by their signature 'thumbs up, thumbs down' rating system, it settled on Siskel & Ebert & the Movies.

Sadly, Siskel died in 1999. He had had brain surgery for brain cancer but it was complications from another surgery that ended his life.

Despite his long fight with illness, Ebert wrote almost seventeen books on movies, the internet, his life (Life Itself: A Memoir, 2011), and yes, even a cookbook for rice cookers (The Pot and How to Use It: The Mystery and Romance of the Rice Cooker, 2010).

Ebert, who was 70, died today in Chicago.

Syndicate content