Making of the Mob: New York

making of the mobIn The Making of the Mob: New York, AMC has created an eight-part docu-drama series that begins in 1905 and traces the rise of the American Mafia for over fifty years. This series examines the lives of Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Frank Costello, Vito Genovese, and several other notorious gangsters as they all struggle for power when the mafia starts becoming more organized. The amount of attention to detail that went into the establishment of the five major heads of the family, also known as the Commission, and Murder, Inc., the group of Jewish hitmen who killed around 1,000 people in ten years, shows that the new mobsters rising up in the ranks were definitely looking to run the mafia as more of a business with set consequences and an elected representative board.

This docu-drama looks into the five main families of the American Mafia and goes into great detail showing how organized crime came to exist and flourish in America. What I found to be the most intriguing part of this series was that it included interviews from former politicians, mobsters, actors, and other influential people, as well as actual archival footage  and sound recordings of the actual mobsters alongside the actors’ dramatic interpretations of what was happening. The inclusion of actual footage and interviews really drew me into this docu-drama and had me fully invested in the lives of the mobsters, the shady deals they were doing, and the specific individuals and governmental organizations who were working to bring down the American mafia.

Tomorrowland

tomorrowlandDisney never seems to disappoint when it comes to instilling a set of values and convictions into any movie and Tomorrowland, a film starring George Clooney as disheartened former boy genius Frank and Britt Robertson as optimistic reckless science-geek Casey, lives up to the Disney promise of hope by showing viewers that anything is possible as long as you can dream it.

In Tomorrowland, we’re introduced to Frank Walker, a young genius who brings his idea for a jet pack to the New York World’s Fair in the 1960s where he bumps into the mysterious Athena, a child seemingly monitoring the inventions table in the hall, who slips him a pin with the letter “T” on it that ends up changing Frank’s life forever. Flash forward to present day and we see Casey Newton, a teenage girl with a quick mind and a NASA engineer father who will be put out of a job if NASA succeeds in the demolition of the rocket launch platform in Cape Canaveral. Discovering a “T” pin of her own, Casey finds herself on a journey to figure out where exactly this pin is taking her and why she was given one. Join Casey and Frank as they rocket through space and are transported to a place called Tomorrowland, where letting your imagination loose is encouraged and where adventure awaits as long as you believe anything can happen.

Dior and I

dior and iChristian Dior. Chanel. Givenchy. These names are only some of the legendary haute couture houses. Haute couture has a strict definition, but literally means high or elegant sewing. The Paris Chamber of Commerce protects haute couture by law and says that in order to be haute couture, you MUST follow a set of rules, rules that are clearly delineated by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, the association that approves you to be haute couture.

In Dior and I, viewers watch as, in 2012, the newly hired Artistic Director for Dior, Raf Simons, is given a short eight weeks to pull together his very first haute couture line. This documentary goes behind the scenes to show all of the intense labor and work that goes into making haute couture and how the introduction of a new Artistic Director, especially one with more of a ready-to-wear fashion background, added another level of difficulty to make sure the fitting for this new line would go smoothly. Dealing with a new Artistic Director who has his own ideas to bring to the table, juggling completing the line in time with the existing clients and their commissions, and working right up until the fitting brings stress and complications to the many pieces of the Dior fashion house that make sure everything runs smoothly.

Dior and I proves to be a stunningly beautiful documentary that provides a look into the history of Christian Dior through readings of his journals and also snapshots and film of the designer at work. This film is as much a homage to the fashion houses of old and the multi-talented seamstresses who have worked for Dior for years and who strive to bring the founder’s image and standards to life through every inch of fabric they touch on a day-to-day basis as it is also a glimpse into the future for the fashions to come. The combination of the classic and the new is a topic that runs throughout this documentary.

Watch along as all of the style elements from fashion to show design come together to introduce Raf Simons as the new Artistic Director of Christian Dior. (Interesting tidbit I found: Simons just announced he is leaving Dior leading to much speculation about why and who will replace him!)

Cinderella

cinderella1Reboots of classic fairy tales seem to be announced every other day with versions ranging from all-out musicals (Here’s to you, Into the Woods) to a new deluxe version being released from the Disney vault (Quick! Get your Aladdin fix!) to even focusing on the point of view of the villain (Poor scorned Maleficent). These new versions can conjure up sentimental feelings among older viewers and provide an opportunity for people to talk about their favorite classics and all of its reboots.

Disney just released a new version of Cinderella, which stars Lily James as Ella, a young girl being raised by her mother and merchant father when tragedy strikes leaving her father to raise Ella all by himself. Armed with her mother’s last words, “Have courage and be kind”, and her loving and strong nature, Ella sets out to find the good, and to most importantly, bring out the good present in the world all around her. Ella’s father remarries and soon a stepmother and two stepsisters are brought into the family. Tragedy strikes again with the sudden passing of her father and Ella finds herself having to dig deep within to deal with the bullying of her step-family as she struggles with her whole world turning upside down. She soon meets a dashing young man in the woods, decides to do everything within her power to see him again, and makes the ultimate decision to take her life back into her own hands.

This version of Cinderella does not stray far from the classic, but instead works to give more back story to the different characters present. You’ll learn more about what made Cinderella’s stepmother into the woman she is, how Cinderella’s relationship with her parents and strong connections to the people around her molded her into the woman she becomes, and how and why the Prince and his family behave the way they do. Add in a dash of Helena Bonham Carter as Cinderella’s quirky fairy godmother and this version of the classic Cinderella becomes one full of hope, imagination, and fun that will leave viewers relishing in the simple, life-changing wisdom of “Have courage and be kind”.


Interested in checking out some more movie reboots of Cinderella? Look below! If you’re interested in finding some book versions, contact us at the library.

ella enchanteda cinderella storyever after1cinderella2funny facecinderella3

 

 

The Crimson Field

the crimson fieldIn The Crimson Field, viewers are introduced to the daily lives of doctors and nurses in a tented field hospital right on the front lines of France during World War I. Right at the start, you are introduced to three volunteer nurses, Kathleen, Rosalie, and Flora as they make their way to a field hospital on the coast of France close to the front lines of fighting. At this field hospital, they are the very first volunteer nurses; a fact that rankles the established medical team already in place. Kitty, Rosalie, and Flora must find ways to deal with the new world that they have been thrust into where they quickly realize that the training that they have received is nowhere near adequate for the job they must do. With their addition to camp, everyone’s lives start to shift and clashes quickly crop up between the way that things have always been done, the hierarchal structure within the camp, and a new way of thinking. While the girls quickly find out that they are underprepared for this new way of life, they also discover that they, just like the others around them, are able to use this as a new start and to break away from everything that held them back in their hometowns.

PBS and the BBC have found ways to make interesting a subject that would have been dreadful to read about in a history textbook. By illuminating such topics as World War I, the day-to-day life of people in front-line field hospitals, and the tensions between the Allied and the Central Powers, viewers realize just how tumultuous life was during World War I and how people had to be aware of even their smallest actions. This PBS television show has a unique way of pulling people into the lives of the characters while simultaneously making the events that they are going through a wide and layered character unto itself.

Road to Perdition and John Looney

I love learning about local history. One of my favorite things to do is to do research and see if there are any local people who have become famous and have made it onto the national radar of notice. My newest local famous Quad City discovery is John Looney.

road to perdition dvd My journey into John Looney’s life began with the movie, Road to Perdition. This movie stars Paul Newman as John Looney, an Irish Gangster, and his adopted/surrogate son, Michael Sullivan, played by Tom Hanks. Sullivan is a hit man committing murders for his boss, Looney, who just happens to be in tight with Al Capone and the Chicago mobsters. Looney is highly involved with mobster scene in the “Tri-Cities,” which are Rock Island, Moline, and Davenport. (This is when my interest was piqued!) Mass confusion and violence happens when Sullivan’s son stows himself away in his father’s car and unwittingly witnesses a murder at the hands of his father and Looney’s biological son, Connor. After that murder, Connor feels the need to protect his father and sees the only option to be killing Sullivan’s entire family.. This movie is loosely based on part of the lives of John Looney and his son, Connor.

(This movie was based on a graphic novel, Road to Perdition, that was also written by a Quad City native, Max Allan Collins, born in Muscatine, Iowa.)

With my interest piqued after watching the movie and then reading the graphic novel, I citadel of sinwanted to learn more about John Looney’s real life. I found a biography entitled, Citadel of Sin: The John Looney story. In this book, Richard Hamer and Roger Ruthhart map out Looney’s life from birth to death. John Patrick Looney was the oldest boy of eight children born to Patrick and Margaret Looney of Ottawa, Illinois in 1866. His father moved to America in 1855 from Ireland and the family eventually settled in Ottawa, where John was born. John worked for the Western Union at the Rock Island train station in Ottawa as a telegrapher in 1881, before he moved to Rock Island in 1885 and became the head of the city telegraph station there.

In Rock Island, John’s life changed. He became interested in politics and wanted to become a prominent, wealthy, and respected member of the community. Before he turned 23, Looney was in charge of several precincts in Rock Island and was elected President of the Fifth Ward Democratic Club. Looney then passed the state bar exam and opened up a law practice. The law practice introduced him to many shady underground characters and that way of life eventually consumed Looney, leading him to manipulate the law to get what he wanted and descending into lawlessness. Check out this book to learn more about the infamous John Looney and the impact he left on the Quad Cities.

 

And the Oscar Goes To….

The 85th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 24, 2013.

 

The 87th Academy Award Ceremony was held on Sunday, February 22 in Hollywood California. Many of 2014’s best shows were given honors, and most of the winners will be making their way to the shelves during the next few months. Several have already arrived!

For a complete list of nominees and winners visit http://oscar.go.com/nominees

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Tells the tale of two friends working at a famous hotel between WWI and WWII. Winner for Best Costume Design, Makeup and Hair Style, Original Score, and Production Design.

Ida – A young woman in 1960’s Poland is about to take her holy vows to become a nun when she discovers a family secret. Winner Best Foreign Language Film.

Boyhood – The story of a boy growing up from ages six to eighteen. It was filmed over the course of twelve years. Winner Patricia Arquette for Best Supporting Actress.

Birdman – A dark comedy starring Michael Keaton as a washed up actor getting ready for opening night of the Broadway play he is in. Winner for Best Directing, Cinematography, Original Screenplay, and Motion Picture of the  Year.

Big Hero Six – A group of friends form a band of high tech super heroes. Winner Best Animated Feature Film.

Whiplash – A young drummer is pushed to the limits when he enrolls at a music conservatory. Winner for Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Male Supporting Actor J.K. Simmons.

The Theory of Everything – The story of Stephen Hawking and his wife. Winner Eddie Redmayne for Best Actor. Coming in March.

 Imitation Game – Mathematicians try to crack the enigma code during WWII. Winner Best Adapted Screenplay. Coming in April.

Interstellar – With the world soon coming to an end, a group of explorers travel through a wormhole across the galaxy to find a new place for mankind. Winner for Best Visual Effects. Coming in April.

Crisis Hotline – A documentary about Veterans that have turned to the Veteran Crisis Hotline to help with trauma at home. Winner Best Documentary. Coming Soon. 

Still Alice – A woman struggling with Early Onset Alzheimer’s. Winner Julianne Moore for Best Actress. Coming Soon.

American Sniper – A Navy Seal Sniper returns home after four tours of duty in a war he can’t leave behind. Winner Best Sound Editing. Coming Soon.

Selma – Martin Luther King Jr.’s march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama for equal voting rights. Coming Soon

 

 

 

 

 

The Cabin In The Woods

I can’t believe I’m about to recommend a horror movie. This feels weird. But The Cabin in the Woods is the kind of movie that creates a lot of confusing emotions, and I bet that’s the kind of praise that producer and co-writer Joss Whedon would hope for. Five college kids enjoy a road trip to an isolated mountaintop cabin, complete with a peaceful lake, sinister locals, and a cellar full to bursting with creepy memorabilia. If it sounds too much like a stereotypical slasher, that’s because it is: this cabin is being controlled remotely by a full staff of suited, vaguely government-looking people who are manipulating the kids’ behavior the way the Gamemakers manipulated The Hunger Games (Push the red button for more fire, pull the green handle to unleash monsters, that kind of thing).

This film was shot in 2009 – well before the success of Thor and The Avengers made Chris Hemsworth bigger than his small but hilarious role as the not-so-stereotypical jock – but it wasn’t released until 2012. If you’ve remained unspoiled since then, somehow, I won’t ruin your fun in watching this movie unspoiled. But I will say: it’s darned surprising. Every time you think you have this film figured out, you find out it goes just a little bit further, and gets a little bit better, than you’d imagined. But this recommendation comes with a warning: The Cabin in the Woods is funny, and smart, and satirical, and downright fun, but the fun of lampooning horror movies can’t be had without actually showing a horror movie, so there are lots of seriously graphic scenes here – definitely stay away if you can’t handle on-screen violence. But if you can, and if you’ve ever wondered: “why?! Why on earth do people like these dumb slasher flicks? What are we, as a society, and as an artistic culture, getting out of it?!” here’s a well-made movie that will offer some interesting answers.