The-Martian-2015-movie-posterThe Martian

Just looking at the title, one would assume that this movie is just about space, presumably Mars.  But you would be wrong.  The Martian is a story of survival that just happens to take place on Mars.

Mark Watney, portrayed by Matt Damon, is accidentally left behind on Mars after his crew mates erroneously presumed that he was dead.  Watney must figure out how he is going to survive with some meager supplies.  Surviving in the wilderness on Earth can be quite challenging in itself.  One must find food and clean water as well as have shelter from predators and the elements.  Imagine having all of these problems plus needing to have a supply of oxygen and protect one self from the hostile environment on Mars.

“If the oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the water reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab beaches, I’ll just kind of implode. If none of those things happen. I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death. So yeah.” – Mark Watney

And yet, Mark Watney manages to find a way to stay alive.  And he does so with a sense of humor.  Even in  a tense situation, while you are sitting on the edge of your seat, Watney will figure out a way to make you laugh as he himself laughs at danger.  He makes contact with NASA and finds out that it will take a very long time for them to rescue him.  The question becomes, will Mark Watney be able to stay alive long enough so that he can be rescued?

Nominated for Best Picture and for Best Actor, Matt Damon.  The Martian won the Golden Globe Award for Best Picture, Comedy or Musical and for Best Actor, Matt Damon, in a Comedy of Musical.  Do not let the Golden Globe Awards fool you.  Even though The Martian has funny moments, it is not a comedy.

martian bookThe Martian is based on the book of the same name by Andy Weir which is also available at the Davenport Public Library.

 

 

 

Box Office BlogAs 2015 came to a close, I found myself curious about how the box office turn out was for 2015. Box office refers to the grand total a particular movie made while it was in the theaters. Sales are counted for United States and world wide. What I was most interested in was the United States totals. 2015 was a great year, grossing more money than ever with a grand total of 11,125 million dollars. The big push to put 2015 over the top came at the very end of the year, when the highest grossing film of all time was released to theaters.

Box office numbers are taken from Box Office Mojo. The top ten highest grossing films of the year are as follows:

10. Spectre with $198,579,382 – Spectre is the most recent release in the James Bond movie franchise. DVD release in early February.

9. Cinderella with $201,151,353 – Cinderella  is the remake of the classic fairy tale starring Lily James as Cinderella.

8. The Martian with $226,579,382 – The Martian stars Matt Damon as an astronaut stranded on Mars.

7. The Hunger Games: MockingJay Part 2 with $277,901,047 – Final installment in the Hunger Games series. DVD release late winter/early spring.

6. Minions with $336,045,770 – Minions is the prequel to Despicable Me that centers on the history of the minions.

5. Furious 7 with $353,007,020 – Furious 7 is the most recent release in the Fast and Furious movie franchise.

4. Inside Out with $356,461,711 – Inside Out is a Disney Pixar animation film that gives personalities to emotions.

3. Avengers: Age of Ultron with $459,005,868  – Age of Ultron is the second film in the Avengers series and part of the even larger scale Marvel franchise movies.

2. Jurassic World with $652,270,625 – Jurassic World is the next installment to the popular 90’s Jurassic Park trilogy. Fourteen years later the park is bigger, better, and more dangerous than ever.

1.Star Wars: The Force Awakens with a whopping $819,687,937 in only 14 days! – The Force Awakens is the long awaited 7th installment in the Star Wars movie franchise. It takes place about 30 years after episode VI.

For a complete list of 2015 box office movies go to Box Office Mojo.

the flashI’ve been on a superhero kick lately, as evidenced by all of my recent blog posts featuring superhero graphic novels. I decided to branch out on my last library check-out and snagged the first season of The Flash.

The Flash is a television series that began in 2014 and is currently running its second season on the CW. This show is based on the DC Comics run of the Flash and is actually of spinoff of Arrow, another show that is running its 4th season on the CW right now (the library has the first three seasons!). Don’t worry! It’s not necessary to watch all of Arrow in order to understand the story of The Flash. When the characters cross over, they do a good job of explaining their back stories.

In The Flash, Barry Allen is a crime scene investigator for the Central City police department. He’s an incredibly smart young man, one who is endearingly awkward and geekishly handsome. Barry moved in with his best friend, Iris, and her father, Joe, after his mother was murdered and his father was sent to jail for having killed her. Despite having to grow up with only Joe has a parental figure, Barry chose a career path that would help him learn all he can about the science behind his mother’s murder, something that would help him free his father from prison, and find the mysterious “man in yellow,” the man Barry believes to have killed his mother. After an explosion at Star Labs, Barry wakes up and realizes that he has become the fastest man alive. Every superhero has to have partners in crime and Barry found his in a group of scientists operating out of Star Labs since it was shut down. Realizing that he has an opportunity to help people, Barry and friends help to fine tune his abilities and he uses his new power to race through the streets of Central City to fight crime. Check out this first season to watch Barry test the limits of his speed, figure out ways to fight the other metahumans(what they call the people who were also affected by the explosion at Star Labs), and cheer for Barry as he struggles to find a way to free his father from prison.

izombiebook2What would you do if you couldn’t remember who you are? If when you tried to remember your past experiences, you froze and realized you couldn’t remember anything? This problem happens to Gwen on a daily basis, but luckily she’s found a way to sort of fix this problem: she eats the brains of the recently deceased. Did I forget to mention Gwen is a zombie? She is…

In iZombie: Dead to the World, readers are introduced to the undead life of Gwen Dylan, a zombie who works as a gravedigger at an eco-friendly cemetery and who also lives in one of the vaults at said cemetery. Gwen keeps company with a were-terrier that she’s nicknamed Spot and a ghost best friend who has been dead since the 1960s. If her life sounds weird already, Gwen has to eat a human brain about once a month, so she doesn’t turn full zombie and also so she can keep her memories intact. Interesting little tidbit about that brain eating: Gwen is flooded by the dead person’s memories and thoughts right after she eats their brains and as a result, she feels the urge to help them fill their last requests: be it through finding their killer or delivering a message to their mourning families. Gwen has a lot on her plate, but she soon discovers that there are visitors to her town who are there to kill any paranormal creature who is existing when they should really be dead. Throw in Halloween, a full moon, a pack of blood-thirsty female vampires, and a mysterious mummy man who wants Gwen to join him in his killing of not-so-innocent people, and Gwen soon realizes her peaceful life is about to go crazy.

If this first volume sounds interesting to you, keep your eyes on our shelves for the release of the next three volumes. You can also check out the television show, iZombie, whose first season is available for check out at all three Davenport Public Library locations.

boulevardAfter the tragic passing of Robin Williams on August 11, 2014, I found myself going back and watching some of my favorite movies that he starred in (Can’t get enough of that genie in Aladdin and Good Will Hunting has Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, AND Robin Williams, so you can’t pass that up!). I also found myself wondering what would be his last movie, found this article detailing what they would be, and made a note to check them out. I was finally able to check one of them out! One of his last movies was Boulevard, starring Williams as Nolan Mack, a married, yet closeted, bank employee in his 60s and what happens when he decides to take a different way home one night.

Nolan has a lot on his plate. He has been working at the same bank for 25 years, has been offered a promotion to branch manager which requires a lot of prep work, and has an elderly father in the hospital. His home life seems to be idyllic, except for the tiny fact that he and his wife, Joy, sleep in separate bedrooms and seem to have entirely separate lives. On his way home after visiting his father in the hospital, Nolan finds himself driving down an unfamiliar street. Sitting at a red light, he decides to turn around. After almost hitting a young man crossing the street, Nolan offers the young man a ride to wherever he was heading, discovers he’s a prostitute, and finds himself in a hotel room with young Leo, confronting issues in his life that he had hoped to keep buried. Needing Leo in his life more than he realizes, Nolan soon finds himself deviating from the comforting and familiar bearings of his life, his work, and his marriage in order to fully become his true self.

the girls in the spiders webThe Girl in the Spider’s Web is the fourth and latest installment in the Swedish Millennium series. Fans assumed that the series was finished as the series’ author, Stieg Larsson, had passed away with only writing the three books. But alas, the series has been revived by Swedish journalist and author David Lagercrantz. Let us rejoice!

Langercrantz does a fantastic job on many levels. He keeps the focus on Salander and her past, but develops the story into a plausible continuation for the series. Salander shines, finally living up to her full potential. She is a true heroine. More characters, unique in their own right, are introduced, and a slew of old ones are weaved in. Blomkvist is constantly on his game and devoted more than ever to helping Lisbeth. The story is fast paced and contains plenty of suspense, intrigue, computer hacking, and mathematical equations that only a handful of people in the world can understand. The best part is that it is clear that Langercrantz will not stop here. The door has been left wide open for the next Lisbeth Salander adventure.

If you are looking to start a new series, give this one a try. I have found it is more enjoyable and easier to follow the Swedish names and genius jargon when I listen to the audio books. Simon Vance is the reader of this series and really brings the story life. The first book in the series is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This book exploded and was even made into a movie in the United States in 2011 starring Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomvkist. Sweden has made the first three books into movies and those are all available on Netflix.

woman in gold

Restitution claims resulting in the Nazi seizure of artwork, jewelry, money, furniture, etc., are upwards of billions of dollars with successful returning of stolen materials becoming more of the exception than the norm. Settlement agreements or restitution of any kind was opposed by many governments and sometimes even neglected until after the Cold War when the extent of both the worth and amount of objects seized became more widely known. The signing of the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art in 1998 by over forty countries set into motion the identification of confiscated art pieces and the subsequent restitution of the art pieces to the pre-war owners.

Having said this, I found Woman in Gold to be a dynamic and intriguing portrayal of an actual art restitution claim that began in the late 1990s. This movie stars Helen Mirren as Maria Altmann, a Jewish woman who was forced to flee Vienna during World War II and who left with nothing more than the clothes on her back. Sixty years later, she began the arduous journey to get back her own family possessions that the Nazis seized, even while they were still living in their apartment in Vienna. Among these possessions, and arguably the one that created the most scandal in Austria, was the painting by Gustav Klimt called “Adele Bloch-Bauer I” (aka “Woman in Gold”) that is a painting done of Maria Altmann’s aunt Adele. The Austrian government was not keen, to say the least, to just hand over the painting to Miss Altmann as it had become part of Austria’s heritage, even though it had been stolen from their family and not gifted as the government believes.

Ryan Reynolds plays as Maria Altmann’s attorney, Randy Schoenberg, a man who at first writes Altmann off and then becomes increasingly involved in this case, risking his job and family, and ultimately taking her case all the way to the Supreme Court. This movie is a fascinating look into the tangled and confusing web of restitution claims, governmental politics, and legal processes. It also perfectly highlights how the actual process of reclaiming something that was illegally taken from you can be incredibly difficult. Woman In Gold is only one story of successful art restitution, but with the release of this movie, the public is made more aware of the atrocities committed and objects stolen by the Nazis and just how complicated it is to get back something that is rightfully yours!


Interested in learning more about art restitution? Check out the following items below!

monuments men bookmonuments men dvdhitler's holy relicsrape of europasaving italythe venus fixershitler's art thiefthe lady in gold

citizenfourI have a guilty secret to share. Sometimes I go weeks without paying attention to the news, only checking the surface for sports scores or when a major event happens that is all over social media. As a result, when I’m busy or stressed, I can have no idea what is happening in the world outside my personal bubble. My news-watching habit was pointed out to me when I checked out the movie, Citizenfour, to watch one day.

The person on the cover didn’t look familiar, but the plot sounded promising: a behind-the-scenes look into privacy invasions by the NSA. I started watching and wondered continuously who this “Citizenfour” character was, a person conversing with director Laura Poitras and later with journalist Glenn Greenwald through incredibly encrypted and secure channels, one who was telling them that the secrets they had to share would blow the lid off of a huge governmental conspiracy.

Even when Poitras and Greendwald flew to Hong Kong to meet Citizenfour at the hotel room where he had been camping out, I still had no idea who he was, but the topic was fascinating. Hundreds upon thousands of classified documents that he had taken from his contracting job with the NSA that highlighted evidence of mass numbers of both indiscriminate and illegal privacy invasions that the NSA had perpetuated over many years. That tickled my brain. Things were starting to sound familiar. I then looked closer at the face on the screen. Edward Snowden! That’s what this was about.

Citizenfour follows Snowden’s decision to hand over thousands of classified documents that he gathered while being on loan to the NSA about many different secret programs and projects that the NSA and other governmental organizations had put together, as well as some information about the programs that other countries were a part of, all under the guise of surveillance after the tragedies of September 11th. What I found to be interesting about this documentary was that Snowden wanted the focus to be on the information contained within the classified documents and less on the person that was leaking them to the press, himself. The interactions between Snowden, Poitras, and the journalists that he came in contact with while in Hong Kong highlight the varying degrees of secrecy, intelligence gathering, and electronic surveillance that Snowden was seeking to expose to the world. Unplugging the hotel phone, hiding under a sheet to type in his password, talking through notes passed back and forth may seem to a passing person like signs of paranoia, but as Snowden highlights throughout this documentary, the government is capable of tapping into anything and everything, whether we choose to believe it or not.


If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, check out the materials below!

after snowdenno place to hide1971odyssey of an eavesdropperthe shadow factory

back in timeThis year was a big year for fans of the Back to the Future movie trilogy as we finally catch up with the future timeline in the films. Buzz has been all over the internet with folks comparing the movie’s predictions of life in 2015 with what has really happened. For the full list of movie comparisons versus reality, click here.

What seemed to get the most attention was predictions the movie made about the 2015 baseball season. According to Back to the Future II, the Chicago Cubs win the World Series in a sweep over Miami on October 21, 2015. Fast forward to the real 2015. With the start of the baseball pre-season, fans of both the movie and team began posting on Facebook that the Cubs were going to win the World Series this year. Considering the Cubs have not played in the World Series since 1945, let alone won since 1908, this seemed like more than a long shot. But…what if?  As the season went forward and the Cubs were looking better and better, more and more started to believe. When they beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS, even I started to believe (just for a tiny second). In the end, they couldn’t quite do it, but there was definitely some kind of magic in the city of Chicago during the 2015 season.

The Back to the Future franchise was ready for what they knew would be a great year to revive the 80’s trilogy. A  Back to the Future Anniversary Trilogy DVD set was released earlier this year and the entire Back to the Future cartoon series. Let me just say, I loved that show! Also out is a Back to the Future PS4 video game.

Hollywood has followed up on this hype by releasing a brand new documentary about the making of the movie trilogy. Cast, crew and fans are featured in this 30th anniversary tribute. Back in Time stars Steven Spielberg, Micheal J. Fox, and Lea Thompson. For those of you that love the franchise, this is a must see. Back in Time along with the other anniversary items are available at the library.

 

paper townsJohn Green, the ever popular young adult author, has made yet another one of his novels into a movie and this time, it is Paper Towns, starring Cara Delevingne as the beguiling Margo Roth Spiegelman and Nat Wolff as Quentin, the boy who is hopelessly in love with Margo.

Paper Towns tells the story of Quentin, a boy who has been in love with his across-the-street neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman, since she moved in, the event that he says is “THE moment” of his life. Quentin and Margo are best friends through childhood until they hit high school when Margo becomes a mysterious and enigmatic cool person who goes on wild adventures that everyone speculates wildly about. They essentially stop talking until about a month before prom when Margo suddenly shows up at his bedroom window in the middle of the night asking to borrow his parents’ car and needing his help to complete a list of somewhat peculiar “revenge” tasks. After this adventure, Quentin believes he and Margo have reached a new stage in their friendship only to discover that Margo has disappeared for what looks like good this time. Knowing that every time Margo disappears, she leaves clues, Quentin soon finds himself deciphering a stack of said mysterious clues that quickly result in he and all of his friends embroiled in an adventure to find out where the elusive Margo has disappeared to this time. This movie is a true coming of age story showing Quentin and his friends as they gain a more complete understanding of what friendship and love really are.


Interested in other books by John Green? Check out the ones below! (The Fault in Our Stars is also a movie!)

looking for alaskathe fault in our starsan abundance of katherineswill grayson will graysonlet it snow