Sing Street

mv5bmjezoda3mdcxml5bml5banbnxkftztgwodgxndk3nze-_v1_sy1000_sx675_al_On the surface Sing Street might seem like a mundane boy-meets-girl story, which everyone has seen a million times. But the setting, cast and music make it much, much more.

Set in Dublin circa 1985, shy and sensitive teenager Conor’s life is in turmoil: his parents are constantly fighting mostly due to poor economy in Ireland and subsequent underemployment/unemployment. To cut costs out of their budget, Conor’s parents take him out of his expensive Jesuit school and put him in a more moderately priced school run by “The Christian Brothers”  located on Syng Street.

Conor  (played by Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) copes with the turmoil by writing songs and playing his guitar in his room with the door shut.

On the first day of school, Conor gets bullied, makes a new friend, and meets the girl of his dreams, Raphina (played by Lucy Boynton.) Unfortunately, the girl of his dreams is a year older, very pretty (she says she’s a model) and seems aloof to Conor’s charms. Conor comes up with a plan to win her heart. He tells her he is in a band and would like to have her appear in his video. Except that Conor doesn’t have a band or a song. But that doesn’t deter him. Through his newly made friend (and now band manager), Conor meets another student, Eamon (played by Mark McKenna) who not only has access to a complete setup for a pop band, but also can play most of the instruments. The three easily recruit three other students with musical leanings to fill out their new band, named Sing Street, a play on words using the street where their school is located. Using Raphina as his inspiration, Conor concocts a not-half-bad song with Eamon, called “The Riddle of the Model.” The band plans a video shoot and invites Raphina.

Surprisingly, Raphina does show up for the video shoot but the results are predictably lame. However, Raphina start to see that Conor has potential.

Conor continues to write songs using Raphina as his muse. At the direction of his musically-wiser older brother, Conor begins to use other pop bands of the 1980s for stylistic and musical cues. Conor and his band change their look according to which pop band Conor is taking inspiration from. As Conor’s songs get better, Raphina finds herself falling for him.

Will Conor win Raphina’s heart? Suffice it to say that there are no surprises here. The movie ends as it should.

The cast is excellent. Well cast, Walsh-Peelo and Boynton have palpable chemistry. The high school kids look age-appropriate, not like they should be getting out of grad school.

The real star of Sing Street is the music. Several songs were written for the movie by director Jack Carney and musician/actor Glen Hansard (who collaborated on Once) evoke the musical styles of pop tunes written in the 80s, without being slavish copies.

Finally, music was the only escape for some in mid-80s Dublin, Ireland. With the failing economy, unemployment and the ever-oppressive Catholic Church, sometimes pop music was just the thing to make a grim life just a little brighter.

Worth a look if you get nostalgic about 1980s pop music.

Skip it if you were born in the 1980s; you probably won’t like it.

Click on the following link to place a hold:

Sing Street






Quirky Movies: The Trust

mv5bmta4nje3otk1mzdeqtjeqwpwz15bbwu4mdmwmtk1mjgx-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_The Trust is a quirky caper movie in which Nicholas Cage gives one his patented over-the-top performances. Sometimes this can be very annoying but Cage’s performance works well for this movie.

Cage plays Stone, a Las Vegas cop who works in the evidence room.  He collects evidence from crime scenes to be taken back, cataloged and stored. Elijah Wood plays Waters, Stone’s partner. Stone is confident, methodical and calculating. Waters is a twitchy stoner who avails the services of prostitutes.

Stone discovers a bail receipt which was paid in cash to the amount of $200K. This gets him thinking that nobody pays $200k in cash to bail out a low-life criminal. He follows the money and makes a startling discovery: a hidden vault where one should not be. Stone decides to break in to rob the vault of its contents. He hatches a plan and gets his partner, Waters, involved.

It becomes apparent in the beginning, that these two are in way over their heads. They constantly forget small details which come back to haunt them later. When they do discover what is in the vault, they realize that they are stealing from people they most definitely shouldn’t be.

The movie starts out slow and it is confusing as to what is going on. Some of the scenes are played for laughs and it almost seems as though this movie is going to be a cop-buddy comedy. Once Stone discovers the vault, the movie takes a dark, serious turn.

Worth a look if you like quirky crime capers.

Skip it if Cage’s over-the-top antics annoy you.

Click on the following link to place a hold:

The Trust






Camp X-Ray

mv5bmtu5nji1mjewmv5bml5banbnxkftztgwnjc2mzc3mje-_v1_sy1000_sx675_al_Camp X-Ray is the story of the “detainees” at Guantanamo Bay. As the film opens Ali (played by Peyman Moaadi), a Muslim, is praying. Almost immediately a black bag is forced onto his head and he is dragged away. So begins a very dark and unsettling movie.

The main story concerns Cole (played by Kristen Stewart), a young United States Army soldier fresh out of MP school. Hoping to go to Iraq to escape her tiny and miserable home town, she is instead sent to “Gitmo” (Guantanamo Bay) to guard the detainees. Since they are not prisoners of war (POWs), they are not subject to the treaties set forth by the Geneva Convention.

At first Cole is harassed and abused by the detainees. But as she settles into the boring, routine drudgery of her post, she slowly she develops an odd bond with Ali, although this is strictly against the rules. As it turns out, Ali is guilty of nothing, but must be kept at Gitmo as no other country will have him due to his detainee status.

It seems that no one at Gitmo is excluded from abuse. The guards abuse the detainees, the detainees abuse the guards. Those in command abuse their subordinates. This self-perpetuating cycle continues day in and day out without respite.

A thought provoking movie, Camp X-Ray explores one facet of the aftermath of terrorism on the modern, post 9/11 world. The movie doesn’t seem to take a stand one way or the other, leaving it up to the viewer what to think about a thoroughly untenable, indefensible situation.

Click on the following link to place a hold:

Camp X-Ray









Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

mv5bmje1mza3nzyxml5bml5banbnxkftztgwmzq0nda5nze-_v1_sy1000_sx675_al_While not a great movie, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a very entertaining one. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies seamlessly weaves Austen’s novel with an impending zombie apocalypse. There are just enough Regency-Era trappings to maintain the feel of Austen’s novel, but the addition of zombies ratchets the crazy up a couple of levels. The result is a funny, campy mashup of Austen’s novel and Hammer horror films. Surprisingly, this disparate combination of elements works well and the film makers use this to good comedic effect. The movie even manages to remain reverent to the source material which is no small task.

Lily James stars as Elizabeth Bennett who is still headstrong but in this incarnation of the story is also a deadly, trained zombie killer courtesy of the Shaolin temple (really!) In fact, the movie plays this theme up as everyone living (even women) must train in hand-to-hand combat in order to slay zombies. Those of higher station and better breeding train in Japan in traditional Japanese arts. Those less fortunate must train at the Shaolin temple in China.

But as this movie does have some of the novel’s DNA: the young women no only have to battle the growing zombie threat, they must also find suitable husbands while simultaneously fending off unsuitable suitors. Lizzy Bennet’s romance with Mr. Darcy (played by Sam Riley) plays out in a manner similar to the novel with the addition of Darcy’s formidable combat skills with a katana.

There is a lot of zombie slaying action of the PG-13 variety, but nothing too brutal or gross. Although not for everyone, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies when viewed in the proper light is a funny, entertaining film.

Worth a look if you like campy, irreverent mashups or if you don’t take the source material too seriously.

Skip it if you think the addition of zombies besmirches the source material.

Click on the following link to place a hold:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (DVD)




Bingeable TV: The Blacklist

The Blacklist starts with an interesting premise: a fugitive from the FBI’s most wanted list, Raymond “Red” Reddington (played by James Spader) , wanted for two decades, turns himself in to the FBI and promises them that he will help them find international criminals (“the blacklist”). But there is a catch, Reddington will only work with newly-minted FBI profiler Elizabeth Keen (played by Megan Boone). It soon becomes apparent that Reddington has a connection to Keen, which Keen herself is unaware at first. As Keen and Reddington work to bring criminals from the blacklist to justice, more and more details about Reddington’s connection to Keen are revealed.

Reddington is a concierge of sorts to many of the planet’s most ruthless criminals and often pits them against each other to capture one of the blacklisters. Reddington was in Naval Intelligence before he went rogue and has knowledge of classified, even damaging national secrets.

Spader is well cast as Reddington, an erudite yet ruthless and deadly criminal with many secrets. Spader plays Reddington as an oily raconteur who doesn’t hesitate to kill enemies if it furthers his agenda; before dispatching an enemy, Reddington’s modus operandi is to regale him/her with a witty or pithy anecdote about a past deal with another criminal .

Likewise Megan Boone is well-cast as a new FBI profiler who is in over her head initially. Boone gives her character a raw physicality which makes her believable as an FBI agent. She doesn’t know whether or not to trust Reddington, he is an internationally wanted criminal after all. But she learns to work with him despite this distrust.

The Blacklist is very addictive; each episode reveals more and more of Reddington, mostly in contrast to the criminals he is bringing down. Rather than the stock villain or hero, Reddington is something of both, although mostly he is a criminal. Usually, bringing down another criminal expands his own criminal empire, ostensibly for the good of the United States.

Worth a look if you like intelligent crime thrillers with international, political implications.

Click on the following links to place holds:

The Blacklist, the complete first season

The Blacklist, the complete second season



Banned Books Week

This week we are observing Banned Books week, annual event celebrating the freedom to read. And the freedom to read whatever we choose, even materials some might consider unorthodox or unpopular.

In the past we have created displays of books that have been banned or challenged in libraries and schools across America, sometimes asking readers to guess why a particular title was banned. Or in what year The Great Gatsby was challenged. Or displaying  challenged books with paper flames around them. All eye-catching ways to bring the issue of intellectual freedom to the forefront quickly.

This year Katie has created a more personal display. We do have a small stand of banned books and the lists from the American Library Association of the most frequently challenged books.

This year, we are asking you, our readers and library patrons, to tell us who instilled in you your love of reading, what fictional character from a banned book would you want to have to lunch with, etc.

We would love to have your input, please stop by the second floor this week (9/25-10/2).

We hope to leave the display up past the end of the “official” celebration, because celebrating the freedom to read is a lifelong effort.


Family Rocket Day, 9-24-16

In the second session of a family rocket day, one family built and shot off rockets in the Discovery Lab at the Mamie Doud Eisenhower Public Library. Using the rest of the Estes Gnome rockets,  three youngsters and their mother built three rockets. We then went outside to launch said rockets.

The Gnome rocket makes a good first-time project as they are easy to build and can be launched soon after completing.

I enjoy presenting these programs as it is a joy to see the little ones’ eyes light up when the rocket they’ve made launches.


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