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-
This month's story time starter features something everybody loves—food!
This intriguing film begins in the future, where an old woman disclosed the life of her affectionate father Coop (Matthew McConaughey), both an engineer and a pilot who became a farmer in an environmentally damaged, drab, dusty earth. Events catapulted Coop back into using his previous skills as a pilot, with some assistance from his ten year old daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy). The scenes in this 168-minute science fiction film moved back and forth in time; in some scenes, Coop and Amelia Brand’s (Anne Hathaway) space exploring crew traveled through a wormhole to find a planet habitable to earthlings, and were met with obstacles, while other scenes occurred on the ruined earth. Themes of loss and regret flowed through the film; McConaughey particularly captured the disquiet of Coop. I was endeared with the interactions of the characters in the film, whether the interactions occurred between the explorers and their earthbound families, or between the explorers and their robotics. Overall Rating: B
Congratulations to the winners of our 2015 Poetry Contest!
This film version of the Tony Award-winning musical, Into the Woods, reimagines the work of the talented Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine (who was born in Mansfield) in a slightly more Disney fashion. The story follows a childless baker and his wife who cross paths with several classic fairytale characters – Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack - as they try to undo the curse laid upon them by the evil Witch next door. Every character in the story longs for and receives a particular “happily ever after”, but the main theme of the story is to be careful what you wish for. Highlights of the film are the performances by the leads including Meryl Streep as the Witch, James Corden and Emily Blunt as the Baker and his wife, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, and a surprisingly hilarious Chris Pine as her Prince who claims he was “raised to be charming, not sincere.” The gorgeous costumes and brilliant set designs compliment the terrific cast whose vocal skills are well up to the task of Sondheim’s tricky score. Overall Rating: A- (Once you have watched the Disney film version be sure to check out the live stage version filmed as an episode of American Playhouse with the original Broadway cast – it includes some great songs that were cut from the new film.)
Our featured craft this month is totally cute and completely customizable! Keep reading to see how to make your own Tin Pocket Pal.
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb is the third and final film of the series. The ancient tablet of Ahkmenrah, which originally brought the museum exhibits to life, is corroding and is losing its power. Larry Daley, night guard at New York City’s American Museum of Natural History has Dr. McPhee arrange a trip for Larry, Ahkmenrah and the tablet to the British Museum to ask Ahkmenrah’s parents what can be done to save the magic. When Larry and his son Nick are smuggled into the British Museum by Ahkmenrah, they discover a few friends have made the journey as well and so the adventure begins! The movie has an interesting plot, funny dialogue, and memorable performances by Ben Stiller as caveman Laaa, Rebel Wilson as the British Museum night guard, and Robin Williams as Teddy Roosevelt in one of his last screen appearances. Overall Rating: B+
This year’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture is Birdman, starring Michael Keaton as Riggan Thompson, an actor who is beyond his prime and is hoping to revive his career with a leading role in his own Broadway production. The movie, which is filmed in long, one-shot sequences, brings us into Thompson’s tortured world as he tries to deal with his past, his relationships, and the chaotic and frantic pace of the theater. In the film, Thompson is plagued by self-doubt (which literally follows him around in the form of Birdman, his past iconic superhero role), and also by his need to be loved by the public. The story, which at times is dark and confusing, and weaves in and out of reality, has its comedic moments and will keep you guessing and truly invested in its characters. The acting is superb (supporting actors Edward Norton and Emma Stone are amazing), and if you enjoy intense human drama, you will definitely like Birdman. Overall Rating: B