Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Movies in September 2015

Summer technically has a few more weeks left, but for all intents and purposes, with Labor Day Weekend a few days away, vacations will be over and everyone will be back to school or back to work. The heyday of summer blockbuster movies will quickly fade away into distant memory, leaving us with less hyped cinematic pickings, while the more award-caliber films are being saved for the holiday season in a few months. Still, there might be some interesting gems to be found here.  Take a look.


The Transporter Refueled (September 4)
Luc Besson's character Frank Martin (played by Jason Stathamin the prior three movies and by Chris Vance in the television series) is rebooted and played by Ed Skrein.

The Visit (September 11)
Filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan tries to redeem his reputation with this comedy/horror film. Will it be a success like his early films The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, and The Village, or will his string of disappoints continue, following Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender, and After Earth?

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (September 18)
The dystopian sci-fi film series, based on James Dashner's bestselling novels, continues.

Hotel Transylvania 2 (September 25)
Funny Dracula is back, voiced by Adam Sandler. Other voices in the cast include Selena Gomez, Nick Offerman, Steve Buscemi, Kevin James, Andy Samberg, Keegan-Michael Key, Megan Mullally, Fran Drescher, Mel Brooks, David Spade, Molly Shannon, and Dana Carvey.


Black Mass
Johnny Depp stars as Boston criminal Whitey Bulger. The film also stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Joel Edgerton, Juno Temple, Corey Stoll, Kevin Bacon, and Peter Sarsgaard.

A severe snow storm threatens a Mount Everest climbing expedition. The stars of the film include Jake Gyllenhaal, Elizabeth Debicki, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright, Josh Brolin, Sam Worthington, Jason Clarke, and Emily Watson.

The Intern
Robert De Niro plays a retired man who takes an internship at an online fashion site. Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo, and Linda Lavin also star.

Sleeping with Other People
With so many downer movies this month, the few comedies might do well. This one, starring Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis, might be the most promising of the bunch.

Director Roland Emmerich, whose given us science fiction epics and super disaster flicks, tries his hand at historical drama with this depiction of the events leading up to the Stonewall Riots in New York's Greenwich Village.


90 Minutes in Heaven
A man is pronounced dead after a car accident, but is revived an hour and a half later, and he claims to have experienced the afterlife. The movie stars Hayden Christensen and Kate Bosworth.

99 Homes
A father, played by Andrew Garfield, struggles to regain his home after an eviction by working for a greedy real estate broker, played by Michael Shannon.

About Ray
Elle Fanning plays a teenager transitioning from female to male. The movie also stars Naomi Watts and Susan Sarandon.

Before I Wake
In this horror film, a young couple adopt a child whose dreams and nightmares come to life as he sleeps. The cast includes Kate Bosworth and Annabeth Gish.

Before We Go
Chris Evans and Alice Eve star as two strangers who meet while stranded in New York.

A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story
This documentary follows the life of a woman with a rare disorder that keeps her from gaining weight, and reveals how she dealt with bullying, leading her on a mission to create a more positive world.

A single mother, who is a recovering drug addict, is taken hostage by an escaped murderer.  The film stars Kate Mara, Michael Kenneth Williams, and Mimi Rogers.

Coming Home
Not to be confused with the Jane Fonda and Jon Voight Vietnam veteran movie of 1978, this Chinese film tells the tale of a couple forced to separate during the Cultural Revolution.

The Green Inferno
Student activists trying to safe the rainforest in the Amazon are confronted by horror.

The Keeping Room
Three Southern women during the end of the Civil War must defend their home from two rogue Union soldiers.

Labyrinth of Lies
This German film tells the story of how institutions and government branches tried to cover up Nazi crimes during World War II.

Mississippi Grind
A down-on-his-luck guy teams up with a charismatic poker player to try to change his fortune. The movie stars Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds.

Pawn Sacrifice
Tobey Maguire plays American chess champion Bobby Fischer, preparing for his matchup with Russian Boris Spassky, played by Liev Schreiber.

The Perfect Guy
A woman must decided between her ex, who has re-entered her life, and a passionate stranger in this thriller starring Sanaa Lathan, Morris Chestnut, and Michael Ealy.

The Reflektor Tapes
Here's a documentary about the rock band Arcade Fire.

Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, and Victor Graber star in this crime drama about the drug war on the U.S. and Mexican border.

Time Out of Mind
A homeless man, played by Richard Gere, tries to repair his relationship with his daughter. The film also stars Jena Malone and Steve Buscemi.

A Walk in the Woods
Robert Redford plays a man returning to America after two decades in England. He decides to hike the Appalachian Trail with his friend, played by Nick Nolte.

Wolf Totem
A young Beijing student is sent to live among the nomadic herdsmen of Inner Mongolia.

Happy movie-viewing!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Digital Stars

Online personalities are challenging traditional Hollywood movie, television, and radio stars for public recognition. With the proliferation of media outlets, actors and recording artists are already facing a larger field among themselves as they battle it out for the throne of fame.  Nowadays, however, they are also being challenged for audience attention by an army of reality television wannabes and, more noteworthy, Internet bloggers, podcasters, Youtube video-makers, and social media superstars.

According to Variety magazine's "Digital Star Ranking," some of these New Media stars are already outshining the more traditional ones. When it comes to "trust," the public values the opinions of KSI, VanossGaming, and Markiplier more than Bruno Mars or Taylor Swift. The Fine Bros., Jenna Marbles, and SkyDoesMinecraft rank higher in trustworthiness than do such esteemed celebrities as Morgan Freeman, Jim Carrey, or Will Smith.

Even when it comes to income, these digital stars are making a mark, causing the entertainment business to take notice. The following are the top online stars in terms of lucrative advertisement revenue:

PewDiePie (Felix Kjellberg, United Kingdom)

Nigahiga (Ryan Higa, Los Angeles and Hawaii)

Joey Graceffa from Style Haul (Los Angeles)

My Life as Eva from Fullscreen (Eva Gutowski, California)

MKBHD from Vox Media (Marques Brownlee, New York)

Vsauce (Michael Stevens, London)

The Young Turks from TYT Network (Cenk Uyger, California)

Shaytards from Maker Studios (Shay Carl, Idaho)

Rosanna Pansino from Kin Community (Los Angeles)

Dude Perfect (Coby and Cory Cotton, Garret Hilbert, Cody Jones, and Tyler Toney, Texas)

Lindsey Stirling from Maker Studios (Los Angeles)

Mighty Car Mods (Blair "Moog" Joscelyne and Marty Mulholland, Sydney)

Some of these digital stars are starting to branch out to the "mainstream" media, with acting gigs on TV shows (like iJustine's Justine Ezarik), bestselling books (such as I Hate MySelfie by YouTube's Shane Dawson), and even films (such as the recent Smosh: The Movie, starring the Smosh Brothers, Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla).

Some in the younger generation, and even older folks, might be watching YouTube channels more than the broadcast TV networks.  YouTube hits include:

Bad Night

Camp Takota

The Chosen

Janoskians: Untold and Untrue

Lazer Team

Man Up

Natural Born Pranksters

The Outfield

Pentatonix: On My Way Home

Shovel Buddies

Summer Forever

A Trip to Unicorn Island

Who's Driving Doug


Are these digital stars just experiencing their fifteen minutes of fame, or are they a harbinger of the next phase of national and international celebrities?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Book Recommendations -- August 2015

It's time again to share some book suggestions. Here we go...

Alert by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
Detective Michael Bennett teams up with FBI Agent Emily Parker to track down whoever is responsible for high-tech attacks and an assassination that have put New York on edge for an even worse threat to come.

Auggie and Me: Three Wonder Stories by R.J. Palacio
Here are three prequel stories to the bestselling book Wonder, this time seeing Auggie Pullman, a boy with a facial anomalies, through the eyes of a bully, a best friend, and a new friend at school.

The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden by Kevin DeYoung and Don Clark
The Bible is retold in a marvelous new way with amazing illustrations.

Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates
Six students at Oxford University play a game of dares that starts off seemingly innocent enough but grows ever more intense over the years.

Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-a-Lot by Dav Pilkey
This is the 12th adventure (not counting the three spin-offs) of that superhero created by two Ohio fourth graders. In this one, the enemy is the mean, mind-controlling gym teacher.

The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers
In this sequel to The Day the Crayons Quit, little Duncan has to rescue lost coloring crayons.

Dylan Goes Electric!: Newport, Seeger, Dylan, and the Night That Split the Sixties by Elijah Wald
The music critic reflects on the moment during the Newport Folk Festival when Bob Dylan marked the switch from acoustic to rock.

The End of All Things by John Scalzi
The universe-spanning saga of the Old Man's War continues.

Fantastic Cities: A Coloring Book of Amazing Places Real and Imaged by Steve McDonald
The adult coloring trend continues.

Football Outsiders Almanac 2015: The Essential Guide to the 2015 NFL and College Football Seasons edited by Aaron Schatz
I'm enjoying baseball season, but I know many of you are football fans, so this should tide you over as the new pigskin season is about to begin, on the pro level and in colleges everywhere.

Friction by Sandra Brown
A Texas Ranger, trying to win custody of his daughter, tries to defend the life of the judge handling the case who is targeted by an assassin.

The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed by Jessica Lahey
I've heard a lot of buzz about this book, which argues that the best way to teach our kids about success is to allow them to learn from mistakes.

The Hirschfeld Century: Portrait of an Artist and His Age by Al Hirschfeld, Edited by David Leopald
Here's a remarkable retrospective look at the work of the famed Broadway and Hollywood caricaturist.

In a Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
In this mystery, a reclusive crime writer wakes up injured in a hospital bed, trying to unravel what transpired during the past weekend that has left someone dead.

I Survived the Joplin Tornado, 2011 by Lauren Tarshin
Here's the next part of the historical fiction series aimed at young readers. Previous books have been set in the destruction of Pompeii, the battle of Gettysburg, the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, the Great Chicago Fire, the sinking of the Titanic, the shark attacks of 1916, the Hindenburg disaster, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Nazi invasion, Hurricane Katrina, the attacks of 9/11, and the Japanese Tsunami.

The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny
Chief Inspector Gamache of Quebec must solve the mystery of a missing boy.

NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman, foreward by Oliver Sacks
The author suggests a broader model for acceptance, understanding, and full participation in society for people diagnosed with autism.

Percy Jackson's Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan and John Rocco
Told in the voice of the young monster fighter, this is an entertaining look at the characters from Greek mythology.

Really Professional Internet Person by Jenn McAllister
Better known as JennXPenn. Ms. McAllister has become an online video-making celebrity, and here offers advice on how to create a successful YouTube channel.

Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore
People are dying in San Francisco, but their souls aren't being collected. A motley crew of heroes band together to get to the bottom of it.

The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2016 by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa
If you're planning a trip to the greatest amusement park in the world, or if you want some enticement to schedule a vacation there, this is the unfiltered guide for you.

Voices in the Ocean: A Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins by Susan Casey
Read about the author's two year quest to learn about the nature of dolphins.

Wind/Pinball: Two Novels by Haruki Murakami, translated by Ted Goossen
Two early short novels by the acclaimed author are collected here.

X by Sue Grafton
Kinsey Millhone battles a remorseless serial killer.

Yes!: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of Wrestlemania by Daniel Bryan and Craig Tello
The underdog WWE wrestler reveals his struggles to make it to the top.

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir by Felicia Day
The actress from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, as well as the hit Web series The Guild, gives us her memoir.

Happy reading as always!