I thought that Get Hard, a prison comedy starring Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell, looked like a funny movie, but all of my good humor was lost very early in the film. From the onset, I didn’t appreciate the sex, stereotyping, and various racist and homophobic remarks that the film seemed to showcase and, because the storyline was predictable, I found myself losing interest as the movie progressed. Throughout the film, Hart and Ferrell tried too hard to be funny, and I was disappointed to note that many of the funniest parts were shown in the two official trailers. In an effort to find a redeeming feature of the film, I searched the internet for someone with a higher opinion of Get Hard, but, somewhat unsurprisingly, I was unable to find anyone with a positive opinion of the movie’s content. All-in-all, I’m sure there is an audience for this film, but I’m glad I didn’t waste my money to see it in theaters. Overall Rating: D
Kevin Costner and cast do not disappoint in McFarland USA, a movie based on a true story about Jim White (Kevin Costner) a high school teacher & coach who takes a job at a predominately Latino high school in McFarland, CA. Hired as a PE teacher and Assistant Football Coach, he soon realizes the football team won’t amount to much, but sees potential in a handful of students who can run like the wind. One of the challenges facing Coach White is how to reach his students and their families. His wife and daughters face their own challenge in adjusting to life in a town where one of his daughters asks on moving day, “Are we in Mexico?” One of my favorite scenes in the movie takes place at the starting line of an invitational meet, when one of the competitors said to McFarland’s top runner Thomas, “Nice shorts Dude”. Thomas replied, “You play golf?” Competitor said, “Yes” to which Thomas replied, “This ain’t golf!” Be sure to watch the bonus features where Kevin Costner is joined by Coach Jim White and the men who were part of the first McFarland Cross Country Team. Overall Rating: A+
Celebrate Audiobook Appreciation Month by listening to an audiobook today!
Kingsman: The Secret Service is an action-packed spy thriller based on the graphic novel by Mark Millar, which stars Colin Firth as Galahad/Harry and Taron Egerton as Eggsy as part of an all-star cast that also includes Michael Cain, Samuel L. Jackson, and Mark Hamill. The movie is about a super-secret gentleman's spy organization and it's recruitment of a young delinquent who, along with the other characters, must foil the plot of the evil Richmond Valentine (Jackson) and save the world. This movie had a lot of potential and I was very excited to see it, thinking it would be similar to a James Bond film, but with Colin Firth's cool demeanor and dark humor, but I was actually quite disappointed because the film played more like an ultra-violent, unrealistic video game. I will say the movie is laugh-out-loud funny at times and I really enjoyed Samuel L. Jackson as the villain, but it is definitely not family-friendly due to the over-the-top violence and very strong language. This is one of those movies that's really a matter of personal taste; it was entertaining enough, but I was not wowed. Overall Rating: C+
Focus, Will Smith’s latest feature film, centers around veteran con-man, Nicky, and his female counterpart, Jess (played by Margot Robbie) as they swindle their way through New Orleans and beyond. Although Smith plays in both comedies and dramas, Focus really encompasses the best of both worlds: I went back and forth between sitting on the edge of my seat and laughing out loud several times during the feature. I also enjoyed trying to figure out which characters were conning each other before the storyline gave it away! Throughout, the acting was fantastic, the costumes were beautiful, and the storyline was engaging, albeit a bit unbelievable at times. Certainly worth a second viewing, this film would appeal to anyone who enjoys a twisting plot and a good laugh. Overall Rating: A-
Author & Illustrator Spotlight: Jarret J. Krosoczka
“The Boy Next Door” stars Jennifer Lopez who plays Claire Peterson, a lonely, separated, high-school English teacher that becomes intrigued by her handsome and charming new neighbor Noah (Ryan Guzman). Claire encourages Noah and her teenage son’s friendship, while she also engages in a harmless flirtation with Noah in the beginning. Well, one night, Claire and Noah’s harmless relationship spirals into a steamy, seductive affair, and Claire wakes up the next morning realizing that she has made a horrible mistake and wants to end her relationship with Noah, but unfortunately Noah does not see it her way. Noah then becomes obsessed with Claire and his obsession turns violent and escalates to destroying Claire’s life if it’s the last thing he does! All in all, I enjoyed this movie, despite a few over the top scenes, but, if you enjoy thrillers as much as I do, this film is for you. Overall Rating: B
Summer is here at the library! Join us for SLP 2015, "Every Hero Has a Story."
Strange Magic is a family, animated, musical film that takes place in a magical forest, full of singing fairies, all manner of goblins, affable elves, a rascally imp, and talking mushrooms. I expected the story line, penned by George Lucas to be solid, instead I found the plot simple, and was surprised instead to find this Glee-like motion picture to be one long karaoke, full of songs from the last several decades. Two fairy princesses, Marianne (voiced by Evan Rachel Wood), and Dawn (voiced by Meredith Anne Bull), have misadventures in their quest to discover true love in this film that is loosely based on Shakespeare’s "A Midsummer Night’s Dream." The kaleidoscopic animation detail is striking in one of the singing sequences. I recommend this film to the young at heart, to children, to lovers of fairies, and to musical fans; however, if you are looking for Shakespeare, you should skip this film. Overall Rating: C
Take Me Out to the Yakyu by Aaron Meshon
The Rewrite stars Hugh Grant as Keith Michaels, a one-hit wonder of a Hollywood screenwriter who reluctantly accepts a teaching position in New York when no one will hire him any longer in L.A. As soon as he arrives on campus, Mr. Michaels begins an inappropriate relationship with a student, gets drunk at a faculty party, and offends the resident Jane Austen expert and head of the ethics committee played by the brilliant Allison Janney. This role is a very familiar one for Hugh Grant – he seems to always play a loveable cad with a twinkle in his eye, and the audience knows that it will just take the affection of a good woman to redeem him. That woman, played here by Marisa Tomei, is a single mother who has gone back to school to rewrite her own story and that of her two daughters. The ending is a foregone conclusion as the script never offers more than a few very funny moments and no surprises, but the excellent cast (including a hilariously sentimental J.K. Simmons) saves the film from being truly awful. Overall Rating: C
Get Caught Reading in our photo booths with silly props like hats, mustaches, lips, crazy hair, children's book characters, or fill-in-the-blank speech bubbles.
Based on a true story, Spare Parts describes the journey of four undocumented Mexican boys who, with the help of their substitute teacher (George Lopez), enter an underwater robotics competition. Despite overwhelming odds and an underwhelming budget, Oscar, Christian, Lorenzo, Luis, and “Stinky” (the robot) defeat the reigning champion MIT in this remarkable underdog story. Throughout the film, the boys are faced with numerous hardships, including the difficulties of attending a poverty-stricken high school, being part of families faced with the danger of deportation, and the issues that come from not having an American birth certificate. However, the film also highlights the themes of hope, teamwork, and the importance of doing your best, even if the odds are against you. Overall, Spare Parts was an exceptional, family-friendly film that I would recommend to viewers of all ages. (Also available at the library is Underwater Dreams, a documentary directed by Mary Mazzio that tells the real story of these boys who accomplish what no one thought was possible.) Overall Rating: A
Make something special for mom on Mother's Day!
My initial reaction to Zac Brown Band’s newest album Jekyll + Hyde was disappointment. The album is a showcase for what is clearly a versatile group of musicians; but going from the country sound of “Homegrown” to the big band sound of “Mango Tree” to the hard rock sound of “Heavy is the Head” was disconcerting. However “Beautiful Drug”, “Loving You Easy”, “Homegrown”, “Bittersweet” and “Tomorrow Never Comes (Acoustic version)” are a few favorites. Zac Brown Band always includes one song on an album that they didn’t write, and “Dress Blues” written by Jason Isbell about a young husband, father and Marine who was killed in the Middle East was their choice. There is something for everyone on this album, and perhaps after a few more listens, it will grow on me. Overall Rating: B- ** This CD is not yet available at the library. However, you can download it for free from Hoopla, an instant, digital download service that allows you to access movies, music, and more with your library card. Check out this newly released album on Hoopla at https://www.hoopladigital.com/title/11337925.
May is National Physical Fitness & Sports Month
Big Eyes is based on the true story of artist Margaret Keane, played by Amy Adams, and depicts the events of one of the biggest art frauds in history. After leaving her husband, Margaret struggles as a single mother until she meets Walter Keane, (Christoph Waltz) a slick salesman and wannabe artist, whom she marries and subsequently allows to take credit for her much-loved paintings of children with large eerie eyes. In that time period, the 1950s and 1960s, woman were taken less seriously in the art world and struggled in general in the workforce, (this is evident when Margaret goes on a job interview and the man behind the desk asks her if her husband has given her permission to work.) Margaret must deal with the lie that has taken over her life and its consequences, which include a troubled relationship with her daughter, and eventually a widely-publicized legal battle. The movies pace is a little slow and from a modern-day perspective Margaret’s meek behavior can be annoying at times, however, it is an entertaining film and worth watching. Overall Rating: B-
Unbroken, directed by Angelina Jolie, follows the life of Louis Zamperini (played by Jack O’Connell) from troublesome child, to high school track star, to Olympic athlete, to a soldier fighting in Japan during World War II. After a near fatal plane crash, Louis and his surviving crew members manage to survive on a raft in the middle of the ocean for an astounding 47 days, only to be captured by the Japanese navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp. As to be expected during a time of war, the conditions of the camp are brutal and deplorable, making it difficult to watch at times knowing that this is completely based on real-life events. Louis Zamperini is a fighter and hero in every sense of the word, never giving up regardless of his situation, and consistently putting the well-being of others ahead of himself. He lived by the motto “If I can take it, I can make it,” and he certainly proved himself to be a resilient man who truly could not be broken, even among the most terrible of circumstances. Overall Rating: A
Today is author and illustrator Eileen Christelow's birthday!
The 2014 comedy-musical rendition of “Annie” is a modernized version about 10-year-old Annie Bennett (played by Quvenzhané Wallis). Annie is a foster child that lives with her calculating foster mother Colleen Hannigan (Cameron Diaz) in Harlem. Annie’s dream is to find her biological parents, but in the meantime, she crosses paths with a hard-nosed billionaire and New York mayoral candidate Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx) who has been coaxed by his campaign advisors to befriend Annie and let her move in with him to help him win the mayoral election. Well, during their time together, Annie steals the heart of Will Stacks and the happily-ever-after story unfolds for foster child Annie after all. This movie had great actors in it that could sing, dance, make you laugh and even tear up from time to time. I really enjoyed this movie and I would recommend this movie to people of all ages. Overall Rating: A-