Posted in Adult, Film, Mystery

International Mysteries, TV Edition

Way back when this blog was starting out, I did one of my very first posts on International Mysteries. I love mystery novels, and I especially enjoy ones set in other countries. This time around, I’m going to share some mystery TV shows set in other countries (and not only the United Kingdom because there are a million of those!). International travel might be off the table right now, so here’s the alternative – you get to see another country, and there’s a zero-percent chance of getting murdered!

The Doctor Blake Mysteries

There are five seasons of this show (which ended in 2017). They are set in (and were made in) Australia, but they are also historical – specifically, the late 1950s. Dr. Blake is a medical doctor who also works as the medical examiner when needed, which leads to him getting involved in investigating murders. The supporting characters are also good – especially the foil his character has in his housekeeper, Jean.

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Posted in Adult, Film

Staying In With Bottle Films

If you haven’t heard the term “bottle film” before, it refers to a movie that is set entirely within one, generally spatially limited, location. It’s not hard to imagine how the experience of 2020, with people being asked to stay home as much as possible as well as limit their interactions with others, could bring this topic to mind. Why is it satisfying to sit between your own four walls and watch someone else stare at theirs? I’m not sure, but I do think there’s a sense of connection now with films like this – so here are a few to try.

Rear Window

How could I not start with this Hitchcock classic? Jimmy Stewart plays a photographer who is confined to his apartment after breaking his leg. This movie is from 1954; there’s not a whole lot for him to do while stuck at home besides look out his window and watch what his neighbors are up to. He becomes convinced that he’s witnessed the coverup of a crime, and the boredom and claustrophobia of the atmosphere make for a wonderfully tense thriller.

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Posted in Film, Games, Horror, Science Fiction

Spooky Scary

It’s finally October! Start carving your pumpkins. Pick up a bag of your favorite candy. And put something scary on the TV because there’s not much else to do with the pandemic still going on. Like last year, I’ve written up a list of a few of my favorite horror movies.

Crowley

Crowley is not a good movie. It’s one of those movies that’s so bad it’s good. The premise itself is fairly outrageous, a guy using virtual reality gets possessed by the ghost of Aleister Crowley via the internet. The actors chew up the scenery. Crowley’s antics lean more towards raunchy than evil. The music is the one genuinely good part since it’s handled by Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden.

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Posted in Adult, Film

Horror/Comedy Movies: Keepin’ Halloween Fun

I’m not a big fan of straight horror movies – they just don’t interest me that much. I feel like I have to be in a very specific mood to both buy into them enough to be frightened but also to enjoy being frightened. Horror-comedies, on the other hand, I really enjoy! So when Halloween rolls around, I’m looking for movies that will make me laugh. Such as…

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Posted in Adult, Film

Movies at the End of the World

It might seem counterintuitive, but all I want to watch lately are apocalyptic movies. The country is literally on fire, civil unrest has reached a pre-Civil Right Act-era tenor, we’re in the middle of a century pandemic, bees are dying, and we lost King T’Challa. Why on earth would anyone want to watch apocalyptic cinema? What a bummer! Personally, I find it soothing. Our timeline is full of hardship, but at least we didn’t need to gamble on time travel to figure out how to avert a deadly virus from destroying most of humanity (12 Monkeys; 1996) or search for petrol while dealing with berserk motorcycle gangs (Mad Max; 1979). Apocalyptic movies are escapism, pure and simple. Plus, it’s September and if y’all get to celebrate Christmas for three months, I can get spooky a month before Halloween. Below, I listed four apocalyptic films that can be accessed on DVD and/or BluRay in the Monarch catalog. 

Akira (1988; R)

Regarded as one of the greatest animated films for adults as well as one of the best science fiction movies of all time, Akira set the bar for both in the subsequent 30 years since its release. Following a disaster that destroyed Tokyo, we find our protagonists, a group of aimless, motorcycle-riding teenagers, drifting through a world that is packed with visual stimulation and violence. One of the teenagers gets in a horrible accident after running afoul of another biker gang. Mysterious military men take him away to a facility where he develops powerful abilities he does not understand and has little control over, to disastrous effect. While this IS a cartoon, it is not for children. The animation is ahead of its time, the pacing is breakneck and the soundtrack is one of the all-time greats, but it is violent as hell! I still watch a couple scenes through my fingers because it’s too intense for my delicate sensibilities. 

Dr. Strangelove (1964; PG)

Stanley Kubrick’s finest, as far as I am concerned. This war farce is a must-see for anyone who loves film and cares about film history. Marvel at the towering performances of Peter Sellers as not one, not two, but THREE distinct roles in the film. His understated British liaison officer is a nice counterpoint to the bizarre titular Dr. Strangelove, who served under Hitler prior to WWII, and whose left hand acts independently of the rest of his body. A top-notch George C. Scott is not to be ignored, and rivals Seller’s portrayal of the Doctor in hilarity. What’s the brand of apocalypse in Dr. Strangelove? Nuclear annihilation, brought about by an American general’s paranoia surrounding the corruption of the nation’s water supply, and therefore our precious bodily fluids. 

Pontypool (2008; rated R)

Think you’ve seen all the zombie movies out there, and know all the possible premises? Think again! This under-the-radar horror gem came out to little fanfare, but discerning horror fans in-the-know were pleased to encounter a new take on an old favorite trope. Set mostly in the confines of a claustrophobic radio broadcast booth, Pontypool examines what would happen if zombification transmitted via speech as opposed to the classic bite. Is meaningless conversation a plague? Please watch to find out. 

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016; PG-13)

Where’s all the ladies at the end of the world? A lot of apocalyptic movies are really dude-centric, produced for men by men, so I try not to yeet my television out the window when the token lady has perfect hair, shaved armpits, and winged eyeliner? Like? What are they using, the reflection off a pool of stagnant water to see if the line is straight? Does one swing by the Walgreens while outrunning ravenous zombie hoards to stock up on one’s favorite Wet ‘n’ Wild eyeshadow? Bruh. Anyhoo, the protagonist of 10 Cloverfield Lane, played to perfection by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, gives us a depiction of what I think is a closer approximation to how a smart person would react in the face of the apocalypse. If you don’t know much about this movie, keep it that way and watch without reading criticism first to enjoy the surprises. A review at rogerebert.com sums it up nicely as “a cat and mouse game at the end of the world.”

Keep in mind, just like any genre, apocalyptic cinema varies wildly in quality and personal taste must always be considered. That being said, I absolutely hated The Road (2009) which is actually really depressing and affecting in a way I do not enjoy. What have you been watching lately? Do you need more movie recommendations? Let me know and I can help! Drop us a line at publicservices@meadpl.org. Happy watching!

Posted in Adult, Film, Staff Picks, Uncategorized

Loved This? Watch That!

When I finish watching an engaging, beloved movie or TV show I get a kind of emotional hangover. “Nothing will ever be as appealing and wonderful! Nothing will ever measure up to Cobra Kai. NOTHING! I will never watch television again so as to not break my heart thusly!” I cry while flinging myself onto the red velvet chaise longue we keep in the library employee break room (we do not, but I need it for some imaginary Victorian hysterics). And as always, after a few listless moments casting about on the various streaming services, I always manage to find something to watch that I love, rinse, repeat. Below, I listed several beloved movies and television shows along with media that will be similar in tone. The titles listed are all available on DVD in the Monarch catalog. 

If you liked Community (2009-2015) try Mystery Team (2009, rated R)

Although the final episode aired in 2015, Community remains one of the more imaginative and funny ensemble TV shows ever produced. It’s a personal favorite of mine and some episodes made me laugh so hard I cried. Community is a Dan Harmon joint, who is also the brains behind Rick and Morty, which is all well and good, but I would like to talk a little bit about the creative output of Community alum Donald Glover. Before Community there was “Derrick Comedy”; a comedy sketch group well-known for their YouTube skits. Check out their oeuvre HERE. (WARNING THEY ARE VERY SWEAR-Y).Their association culminated in the creation of the wonderful feature film Mystery Team (2009, rated R). The film explores what happens when a plucky bunch of Encyclopedia Brown-like mystery-solving grade schoolers reach high school and try to solve a grown-up crime. The Derrick Comedy crew wrote the script so expect campy surprises and funny twists. Be on the lookout for early screen appearances by Aubrey Plaza, Bobby Moynihan, John Lutz, and Ellie Kemper. Glover is also famous for writing on another beloved ensemble comedy, 30 Rock, so fans of this and Community would be well rewarded to give Mystery Team a go. Still need more Donald Glover action? You’re in luck; Glover wrote and starred in two seasons of Atlanta (2016-) which was just renewed for two additional seasons. Now’s the time to get caught up!

If you like Saturday Night Live (1975-present) try The Kids in the Hall (1989-1994)

Saturday Night Live has been a weekly comedy stalwart for 45 years, but what is one to do between Saturdays? You could watch cast compilations or holiday specials; Monarch has several in the catalog & the Chris Farley retrospective always cracks me up. But if you’re looking for something a little different, may I suggest legendary Canadian sketch show The Kids in the Hall? As founding member Dave Foley once said, if SNL is the Beatles of sketch comedy, then KITH is The Velvet Underground. Their surreal, fourth-wall-breaking comedy is often compared to Monty Python’s Flying Circus, as well. Both troupes were famous for their absurdism and dressing in drag when the sketch called for women characters. While they had recurring characters like SNL, such as a man with a cabbage for a head, a flying pig, and catty secretaries named Kathy and Cathy, unlike SNL, celebrity impersonations were limited to Scott Thompson’s hysterical Queen Elizabeth. The Kids in the Hall is the epitome of gen x humor, and I was pleased to find they hold up after all this time. If you are easily offended by queer humor, I feel bad for you, but also, you might want to stear clear of this series. For everyone else: prepare to die of laughter. 

If you liked Twin Peaks (1990-91, 2017) try Fargo (2014-2017)

Watching Twin Peaks as it first aired in 1990 was a foundational experience for me and shaped the way I now interact with media. As much as I loved it, I had to admit I had no idea what the hell was going on most of the time. It was visually stunning, the actors were compelling and watchable, and the comedy was black as pitch. For more of the same, but with a plot that makes sense, take a look at Fargo. Each season is a self-contained story, but the discerning viewer will notice that although time periods differ, each season’s plot relates to the others. The plot also relates to the 1996 film of the same name in clever ways. In addition to the stellar writing and gorgeous cinematography, get a load of the absurd cast list. Season one alone boasts Martin Freeman (an Englishman playing a Minnesotan; BRILLIANT!), Billy Bob Thorton, and Colin Hanks. Season two includes the best performance I have ever seen from the extremely talented Kirsten Dunst, as well as a fine turn by a top-notch Ted Danson. Season three features Ewan McGregor playing a set of feuding twins. Not compelled yet? Gosh, sorry you don’t like good television (winky face).

As stated earlier, all movies and television shows mentioned above can be found in the Monarch catalog on DVD. Need help searching the catalog or requesting materials? Call us at 920-459-3400 for troubleshooting help. Not too keen on the media I listed above? We can help with that too! Just give us a call and tell us what you like to watch. We can access literally thousands of different titles throughout the Monarch library system. Thanks for reading, and happy watching!

Posted in Adult, Film

Most Popular Movies

In my last post, I talked about the movies that I like the most. But what are the most popular movies right now? I took a look at what movies have the longest waitlists right now to see. Surprisingly, it’s not all the absolute newest stuff!

And remember, since Mead copies go to Mead patrons first, even a long waitlist might not take quite as long as you think. Plus, you can always check the Lucky Day shelf in the library and see if a first-come, first-served copy is available!

Descriptions taken from our catalog.

#1: 1917

At the height of the First World War, two young British soldiers, Schofield and Blake are given a seemingly impossible mission. In a race against time, they must cross enemy territory and deliver a message that will stop a deadly attack on hundreds of soldiers, Blake’s own brother among them.

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Posted in Fantasy, Film, Graphic Novels & Memoirs, Science Fiction

With Great Power…

With Comic-Con@Home starting today, I thought I would share some of my favorite movies based on comics. As with my other list posts, I’ve included the description from the catalog of each film under their listing.

Iron Man

“A wealthy industrialist is held captive in enemy territory and escapes by building a high-tech suit made of armor. When he returns home, he decides to use his money, talents, and suit to save the world.”

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Posted in Adult, Film, Uncategorized

The Best Movies Ever

…by the completely true and objective measure of me, a person who sometimes enjoys watching movies! More seriously, these really are my favorite movies ever – and I’ve noticed the theme seems to be that I like international/foreign films, that I enjoy comedy or dark comedy, and I don’t mind if a premise is a bit surreal (magical realism in film form, maybe?).

I hope you will give these movies a chance! I think they’re genuinely not just movies I enjoyed but movies that are very good and that more people should see.

Divided We Fall by Jan Hrebejk

I started off the introduction mentioning comedy, yet the first movie on my list is one set during the Holocaust? Yes, and not only that, it is also the greatest movie ever made about the Holocaust. It takes place in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, where childless couple Josef and Marie take in and hide a young Jewish man.

It is a comedy in two very particular senses: the darkest sense, that there is a terrifying absurdity to the Nazi occupation and bureaucracy that is made even worse by how deadly it is, and in the human sense, because the characters in this are beautifully realized and humor is a very human thing. It also has a truly remarkable ending that I could not have predicted in a million years.

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Posted in Adult, Film, Nonfiction

Anti-Racist Resources on Kanopy

Ask most people and they will tell you they are not racist. Perhaps you’ve seen this Angela Davis quote floating around social media lately: “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” But what do we mean when we say “anti-racist”? Anti-racism is acknowledging the oppression of people of color while engaging in the active fight against that oppression. We’ve all watched anti-racist action over the past week take the shape of world-wide protests against the continued disproportionate abuse of black bodies by American law enforcement officials. It’s harrowing, inspiring, confusing, emotional, and polarizing. The protests are already proving invaluable to drive change for equality among lawmakers.
 
So, maybe you’re not ready to join in a public protest. Maybe you have questions about what it means to be an anti-racist ally in the fight against oppression. The good news is, educating yourself is an important facet of anti-racism. If you’re not ready to dive into the work of Ibram X. Kendi, or Robin DiAngelo, fear not. Once again, my favorite video-streaming service, Kanopy, is here with the goods. A curated collection of movies and series related to Black Lives Matter is linked on the Kanopy home page. It’s a fabulous list, but it’s also overwhelming. Below, I listed four films and series that will help you start or continue your journey towards anti-racist allyship.

I am Not Your Negro (2017; Directed by Raoul Peck)

James Baldwin died in 1987, but his words still ring true 30 years later. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, this Oscar-nominated documentary examines Baldwin’s last and unfinished book project by connecting the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s to the present-day Black Lives Matter movement. James Baldwin is one of the finest minds of the 20th century and watching him speak is hypnotic. Baldwin is a really important and moving author, so getting your hands on his work is beyond worthwhile. Take a look at his work available through Monarch HERE. Reading The Fire Next Time and Go Tell It On the Mountain were pivotal moments in my own anti-racist journey when I was going through college. Don’t have internet access? Get a copy of I am Not Your Negro on DVD HERE

America After Ferguson (2014; directed by Max Schindler and featuring Gwen Ifill)

I love Gwen Ifill. She is one of the smartest people working in news broadcasting today, so I was pleased to see America After Ferguson, which she hosts and moderates, available on Kanopy. This is a great starting point for people who are curious about Black Lives Matter but don’t know where to begin gathering information. 

Peace Officer: The Militarized State of American Police (2015; directed by Brad Barber and Scott Christopherson)

This film centers around the life and work of retired law enforcement official William “Dub” Lawrence, the founder of modern SWAT teams. His son would eventually be shot to death by a SWAT team 30 years after their inception. Lawrence’s subsequent investigation into the incident and others like it leads him to believe the death of his son, and so many other SWAT victims, were preventable. Watch this if you want to learn more about the alarming militarization of American police and why it has created a deadly disconnect between law enforcement and our citizenry.

Copwatch: An Organization Dedicated to Filming the Police (2017; directed by Camilla Hall)

Who polices the police? This documentary examines the reactionary formation of WeCopWatch, which sprang-to hot on the heels of the unjust deaths of Freddie Gray and Michael Brown. Director Camilla Hall describes her film as “a plea for humanity. A plea to look out for each other; to look out for your neighbor. To not walk by when something terrible is happening to somebody else and taking that active decision to look out for one another.” Watch this to get a deeper sense of the sorrow and anger people feel on a national level while trying to hold law enforcement officers accountable. 

Honestly, these picks will probably make you uncomfortable. They will probably bum you out. Racism and inequality SHOULD make you feel uncomfortable. Learning anti-racism is an ongoing, fraught process. You’ll make mistakes and sometimes feel like garbage and that is okay. I would love to hear which Kanopy-curated BLM material you have been watching, whether you have found it enlightening, and why or why not. Feel free to reach out to me at publicservices@meadpl.org. And remember, we are always here to help you find the high-quality literature, articles, and other media you will require on your anti-racist journey.