Favorite Horror Films on Kanopy

Spooky season is finally here! Personally, I enjoy all things supernatural, spooky, and scary year-round but October is the month I can recommend my favorite books and films to those who reserve their scares just for the month of Halloween.

Kanopy has some really great horror films available for viewing right now, including some of my favorites from the past decade or so. Including an atmospheric German witch tale, a deeply disturbing story of grief and possession, and an Iranian vampire western (yes, you read that correctly) there is an amazing variety of top-notch scares waiting for you. So dim the lights, warm up some apple cider, and queue up on of these films.

Keep your eyes peeled here next Thursday to read about some of my most favorite horror books. If you love reading horror too (it is truly a wide ranging genre full of such talent!) join me later this month for Novel Scares book club where we will be discussing The Good House by Tananarive Due on Zoom.

What are some of your favorite scary movies to watch around Halloween? Share in the comments!

Chadwick Boseman’s Gift

I hadn’t read any Black Panther comics or books and had the same amount of background knowledge of his place in the Marvel Universe as I did about Thor (ie – so very, very little) before seeing the movie based on the character. Oh. My. Gosh. The 2018 film staring Chadwick Boseman was 134 minutes of greatness!! The history and lore of Wakanda, the special effects, the serious moments mixed with humorous moments, all the surprise twists, and getting to watch Chadwick Boseman create an unforgettable, strong, vulnerable hero as King T’Challa. Mr. Boseman passed away on August 29th but his kindness, his vision of what the movie industry could be, and his long list of films, speak to the legacy of this legend, taken too soon. Thank you for all the gifts you gave to us Mr. Chadwick Boseman!

Read Before You Watch

Do you like to read the book before you watch the film or television adaptation? Or are you someone who doesn’t mind seeing the screen version and then reading the book? Or, perhaps you are one of those people who only does one or the other. I must admit, there have been times that I chose not to read a book because the movie was not that interesting to me (looking at you Divergent series).

We’ve got some great television and film adaptations to look forward to, and below are a few of my top picks for books you should read before their adaptations hit your screen.

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

A brand new HBO series just launched based on this awesome book by Matt Ruff. I really enjoyed the book, a smart mash-up of historical fiction, Lovecraftian horror, and sci-fi fantasy elements. Readers follow a series of of inter-connected stories about an extended African American family in the 1950s, mostly taking place in Chicago, and their dangerous encounters with the supernatural (sorcerers, inter-dimensional portals, a haunted house) and the terrible, rampant racism they constantly faced during the Jim Crow era.

The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock

The film adaptation of this book is slated to hit Netflix September 16th so you have plenty of time to pick up this book (which is what I plan to do as I haven’t read it yet!). Set in rural southern Ohio and West Virginia, The Devil All the Time follows a cast of characters from the end of World War II to the 1960s, including a husband and wife team of serials killers and a disturbed war veteran. The book, Pollock’s first novel, was described as “violence-soaked” from it’s first pages by The New York Times Book Review, so be prepared for a dark and disturbing read.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

This newly published horror thriller has already been put into development by Hulu according to recent news. The drama series will be based on Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s bestselling novel, and produced by Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos’ Milojo Productions and ABC Signature. Set in 1950s Mexico, Mexican Gothic follows glamorous and young socialite Noemí from her home in Mexico City to the dismal grounds of High Place, a gloomy English manor styled estate in the Mexican countryside. She is there to check in on her newlywed cousin after receiving a frantic letter begging for someone to save her. What will she discover about this odd family and strange house?

Are there any big or small screen adaptations that you are really excited about this year? Share in the comments!


Imagine Your Story @ RRPL

Lila and Lenu in Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend

I did it! I finished the Neopolitan Quartet, My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay and The Story of the Lost Child, by Elena Ferrante, and I already feel lost without “my” girls, Lila and Lenu, Ferrante’s main characters in this sweeping series of a lifelong friendship within the backdrop of a poor neighborhood of Naples, Italy.

I need to rely on some wonderful quotes from a review by Ella Alexander found at https://www.harpersbazaar.com/uk/culture/a25122947/elena-ferrante-neapolitan-novels-female-friendship/ to give an essential understanding of Lila and Lenu’s story. “We place a lot of emphasis on romantic love because of the narratives that we’re fed from such a young age. But the relationships and love we have for our female friends, especially during childhood, are equally as emotional and charged…But it’s not always rosy. There’s the jealousy, competitiveness and cruelty that people only dish out to those they love the most, and when we’re children, teenagers and even in our early twenties, we don’t understand yet how to rationalize those feelings or to temper them… It is a reminder that we never lose the love for someone who we were once so close to, and of how far someone can push another before deciding that a friendship brings more sadness than joy.”

I believe most readers will find a friendship, somewhere within their lifetime, that will cause reflection and raw emotion to surface, while reading about the journeys of Lila and Lenu. As a reader, as well as both the main characters, you come full circle and find some understanding and peace as to how we got here.

If you choose to go on this journey with Lila and Lenu, which I highly recommend, it will be lengthy, but take your time, absorb, digest, reread, if necessary. I also watched the HBO series while reading the books and found that each format, reading/watching, complimented each other very well, and ultimately enhanced the story for me.

While I will miss “my” girls”, I look forward to jumping into Ferrante’s new novel, The Lying Life of Adults, to be released September 1st, 2020.

Newly Added Kanopy Films- Top Five Picks

I’m still slowly working my way through re-watching all seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, having severely underestimated how many episodes there were in such a long running show! Luckily for me, I am in no rush. In addition to my comfort blanket of late 90s/early 2000s television, I’ve been watching plenty of movies as well (favorites of 2020 list to come soon!).

Kanopy, one of my favorite library resources, is always adding new films to their extensive catalog of streaming options so there is almost always something that catches my eye. Below you will find a round-up of my top five picks of newly added Kanopy films to watch this month.

Asako I & II

A mysterious and intoxicating pop romance, this film begins with Asako, a young woman who meets and falls madly in love with a drifter, Baku, who one day drifts right out of her life. Two years later, working in Tokyo, Asako sees Baku again or, rather, a young, solid businessman named Ryohei who bears a striking resemblance to her old flame. They begin building a happy life together until traces of Asako’s past start to resurface.

Official Selection at the Cannes Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival.

Welcome to Me

I adore Kristen Wiig and this film casts her in the role of Alice Klieg, a young woman with Borderline Personality Disorder who wins the lottery. She quits her psychiatric meds and buys her own talk show and inspired by Oprah, she broadcasts her dirty laundry as both a form of exhibitionism and a platform to share her peculiar views on everything from nutrition to relationships to neutering pets. Also starring other fabulous actors such as Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, and Linda Cardellini.

Hari-Kiri: Death of a Samurai

Revenge, honor and disgrace collide when a samurai’s request to commit ritual suicide leads to a tense showdown with his feudal lord. From cult auteur Takashi Miike, beautiful cinematography, awesome fight choreography, and a heart-wrenching plot all come together in this unpredictable film.

Nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

Wild Nights with Emily

In the mid-19th century, Emily Dickinson is writing prolifically, baking gingerbread, and enjoying a passionate, lifelong romantic relationship with another woman, her friend and sister-in-law Susan…yes this is the iconic American poet, popularly thought to have been a recluse. Beloved comic Molly Shannon leads in this humorous yet bold reappraisal of Dickinson, informed by her private letters. A timely critique of how women’s history is rewritten and perhaps a closer depiction of Emily Dickinson’s real life than anything seen before.

Official Selection at the SXSW Film Festival.

The Lighthouse

Two lighthouse keepers, played by Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, fight each other for survival and sanity on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s. From Robert Eggers, the visionary filmmaker behind the horror masterpiece (and one of my favorite films) The Witch.

Nominated for an Academy Award. Official Selection at the Cannes Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival.

What films have been your favorites so far this year? Do you have any stellar picks on Kanopy to share? Post in the comments! Happy viewing and stay safe out there readers.

Imagine Your Story – Movie Review

Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, and Alexandra Daddario in Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013)

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is the sequel to Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief. This film seems to take a different tone from the last one. While the last film could have been a self-contained adventure, this film works on world building to expand the Percy Jackson universe. There isn’t a third film though despite there being a third book called The Titan’s Curse, but there is also an announcement that Disney will make a series for their streaming service. I still found this film enjoyable though and it made me want more. However, I do feel like certain character growth regresses in this film.

The film starts off with a flashback to demigods fleeing from cyclopes. One girl gets struck down, and so Zeus turns her into a tree to protect the demigod camp. We then see that years later Chiron (Anthony Head) and Mr. D (Stanley Tucci) are surprised by a new demigod who made it past the barrier. When they ask if he knows who their parent is, he points to an image of Poseidon one of the big three gods. We then see that Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) is struggling on an obstacle course against his rival Clarisse (Leven Rambin). Clarisse ends up winning, and we learn Percy has been doubting himself in comparison to Clarisse.

Percy gets called into Mr. D’s office and learns that he has a half-brother who is half cyclops called Tyson (Douglas Smith). Percy starts showing Tyson around when suddenly the barrier around the camp is attacked. A metallic bull breaks through and with help from others is defeated by Percy. Luke (Jake Abel) shows up explaining he survived the fight before and he is still seeking to overthrow the gods. Luke explains he poisoned the tree that creates the barrier around the camp and leaves. Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) figures out the only way to cure the tree is by finding the Golden Fleece which can heal anything. Clarisse gets chosen to go on this quest, but Percy and his friends decide to go on the same quest separately worried about the consequences of failure.

This film seems to develop many areas at once. One area that particularly bothers me is the introduction of Clarisse in respect to Annabeth. Annabeth was supposed to be the star at the camp, and Clarisse seems to take that role from her relegating Annabeth to mostly be support. The film does have several interesting scenes and keeps the idea of being an adventure with multiple locations used. With the introduction of two new characters, the franchise seems to be gaining momentum here. Which is the reason the ending almost feels too soon. While they resolve their main conflict, they strongly suggest there will be greater adventures to come. Rated PG.

Ryan

Streaming Film Festival

Earlier this year when the Cleveland Film Festival was still planning their 44th year, and a grand bon voyage to the original hosting venue, Tower City, Rocky River Public Library was excited to be a community partner for the film Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century. Based on the book by the same name written by French economist, Thomas Piketty.

Spoiler alert, the film fest was canceled. BUT!

The great news is that the movie is now available to stream for free on Kanopy with your RRPL card!

The CIFF website has a page dedicated to searching for alumni movies now available on a variety of streaming services. The call it CIFF ALUM STREAMS and it is awesome!

With the power of the CIFF Alum Streams database and a library card, you can spend the rest of the pandemic streaming 44 years of amazing cinema from around the world. Give it a try!

-Beth

Imagine Your Story – Movie Review

Logan Lerman in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)

I somehow missed Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief when it first came out. I love Greek myths and fantasy adventures, so this seems like a great movie for me. I was recently able to watch it, and I enjoyed the film. It has great world building in that it makes you believe that there is magic hidden from the rest of us. Then the main characters really get to explore that world in a cross-country adventure.

The film starts off with Zeus (Sean Bean) talking to Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) about the fact that some child of the gods stole Zeus’s lightning. We meet Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) in a pool with his friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) timing how long Percy can hold his breath under water. We learn that Percy is a fairly average person who struggles with reading. We meet Percy’s mother Sally Jackson (Catherine Keener) and Percy’s mean stepfather Gabe Ugliano (Joe Pantoliano). Percy goes on a field trip to a museum with his teacher Mr. Brunner (Pierce Brosnan) and Percy gets taken aside by a substitute teacher. The substitute teacher turns into a harpy and starts asking Percy where the lightning is. Mr. Brunner and Grover come in to rescue Percy revealing they’re there to protect him.

Grover takes Percy home and informs Sally that they need to get out of there now. Gabe starts grabbing Percy to which Grover defends Percy. As Sally, Grover, and Percy are traveling Percy asks questions about what’s going on only to learn he’s a demigod and they need to get him to a camp to be safe. While they’re driving they’re suddenly attacked by a Minotaur. Grover is able to help everyone get out of the car. The group avoids the Minotaur until Percy is safely past the barrier to the camp, but his mom can’t get in. The Minotaur grabs his mother making her disappear, and Percy learns that Hades has her to trade for the stolen lightning.

This movie was an interesting adventure. I like films with elaborate world building. It allows the imagination to run wild in that world and make the viewer question what it’s like to live in it. I’d imagine the book is much more thorough on expanding certain points. This film does a good job of telling an exciting tale and it feels like a Greek myth told in modern times. I’ll likely need to read the books myself now. Rated PG.

Ryan

Imagine Your Story – Movie Review

Judi Dench, Colin Farrell, Josh Gad, Nonso Anozie, Lara McDonnell, Tamara Smart, and Ferdia Shaw in Artemis Fowl (2020)

I’ve anticipated this film since its announcement. Artemis Fowl was a book that excited me since I saw a promotional video at a book fair, and eventually I got to read it from a library. I loved the books and thought it would make a great movie adaptation. When I saw the recent trailers, I was confused by the shift in tone they were going for. While many seem to not like this film, I do think it will do better with certain age ranges. The film certainly doesn’t seem to capture the tone of the books but is an imaginative story.

The film starts out with the press on the lawn of the Fowls. We receive narration from Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad). We see that Mulch has been taken into an interrogation room of some sort. We then start to learn about Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw) and his rather dismissive nature of everyone except his father. Artemis Fowl Sr. (Colin Farrell) reveals he must go off on a business trip again. Soon after Artemis receives a call that his father has been abducted and that he must deliver an item called the Aculos to trade for his father’s safety.

We’re introduced to officer Officer Holly Short (Lara McDonnell). She has been trying to solve the mystery of the disappearance of her father for years. She is part of a police force for magical creatures known as LEP (Lower Elements Police). Holly goes to a tree to investigate only to have Artemis and Domovoi Butler (Nonso Anozie) ambush her. Holly wakes up in a cage. Artemis has a plan to find the Aculos that he can’t accomplish without Holly”s help. LEP launches a full-scale recon mission to retrieve Holly. The standoff escalates as Artemis attempts to meet the kidnapper’s deadline.

I did enjoy this film, but the changes that were made from the books are hard to handle. Since seeing the film I’ve seen old trailers that suggest they were going in a different direction at some point. They seemed to have decided between a PG-13 film and this PG rating. The characters likewise do things differently creating a different feel to the plot. If you know little to nothing about the books, I think you could enjoy this movie for the fantasy adventure it is.

Ryan

Imagine Your Story -Book vs Movie

How often have you had the discussion about which was better -the book or the movie? All the time, right? And how often do you pick the movie over the book? Not as often as you pick the book, right? Well, I’ve got a win/win for you this week! You can read the book *and* watch the movie, in any order, and walk away thinking, “that was great!” Are you curious yet?

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson blends his personal experiences and life journey with his drive to create social justice and encourage us all to get involved. I read this book when it first came out, and have enjoyed it as an audio book as well, and I think part of what makes Mr. Stevenson’s book so special is how a reader can emotionally connect to experiences, feeling his pain and his joy, while breaking down those systemic issues surrounding the inequality of our justice system. Founder of the Equal Justice Initiative leading force in the creation of the Legacy Museum as well as the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, Mr. Stevenson is changing our World for the better!

“But what about Just Mercy as a movie?” you ask. This movie focused in on how Mr. Stevenson became Mr. Walter McMillian’s lawyer over other experiences in the book. Sometimes it’s that trimming that can leave a reader feeling like something was missing, but I would be surprised to hear that after you watch this film. Instead, I’d guess you might also think of this as an additional chapter to the book?

I hope you read *and* watch Just Mercy, and then -please, let me know what you think!

Take care
—Stacey