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Westworld

This series was so well done. Set in the future, Westworld (2016-) explores a theme park inhabited by artificial hosts and the wealthy humans who vacation there. Visitors are allowed to live out their fantasies, whether good or evil. The park indulges every wish, all with no consequences, with the motto being "Live without Limits." That is, of course, until the hosts start to deviate from their expected parameters. 

In my opinion, Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton steal the show from an all-star cast, including Anthony Hopkins. These two powerful actresses show such a deep scope of emotions as they slowly come to the realization of what they were created for.


3rd Rock from the Sun

When you are looking for binge-able TV to occupy your time, don't overlook the oldies but goodies, like 3rd Rock from the Sun (1996-2001, rated TV-PG). Enjoy the familiar, though much younger, faces of John Lithgow and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in this sitcom about a group of aliens on a mission to study human behavior by posing as a not-quite average family stationed in the fictional city of Rutherford, Ohio.

Hilarious antics ensue as the foursome navigate how to act like a family unit, form romantic relationships, and establish a sense of self in their unfamiliar bodies.

Stream all six seasons on Hoopla or place holds on the dvds!


Annihilation

If you enjoy science fiction, you should check out the 2014 Nebula Award winner Annihilation. It's the first book in the Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer. Four women; a biologist, an anthropologist, a surveyor, and a psychologist, enter a quarantined area known as Area X. They make up the twelfth expedition tasked with researching and mapping the terrain. Little information has been gathered from previous expeditions because they have all ended in untimely mysterious circumstances. The story is told through the biologist's point of view as she writes down the group's findings in a field journal.

You may be familiar with the 2018 film adaptation directed by Alex Garland and starring Natalie Portman which I also highly recommend, but there are many differences between the book and the movie.

Check out Annihilation today – available as an eBook and eAudiobook through Overdrive.



Mr. Mercedes. Season 1

Having read and enjoyed Mr. Mercedes, the first novel in a trilogy by Stephen King,  I was curious to see how another of Stephen King's books was adapted into a TV series.

The story begins as a madman in a stolen Mercedes plows into a crowd of job seekers, killing eight people and injuring many others.  Several months later, we meet Bill Hodges, a now retired cop turned private detective whose life is deteriorating as he is haunted by the unsolved case of the Mercedes killer.  We then meet the psychopathic killer who starts tormenting Bill with letters and emails, taunting him with the promise of another evil act violence.  Only Bill and two new, unusual allies can stop the killer before he strikes again.

The casting of the series is great, led by Brendan Gleeson as Bill.  I thought Mr. Mercedes season 1 (2017, rated TV-M) was entertaining and thrilling.  I followed it by watching Season 2 which was the story of the third book, End of Watch.  I am eagerly awaiting the release of season 3, an adaptation of the story in book 2, Finders Keepers.

Stephen King fans can follow one of the characters introduced in this series, Holly Gibney, in the excellent adaption of King's novel, The Outsider, recently released on HBO.

Get started by watching season 1 of Mr. Mercedes on Hoopla today.


So Weird. The Complete Series (1999-2001)

I have been finding that Disney+ is a great way to relive favorite shows of your childhood.  My latest binge was So Weird (TV-Y7), about Fiona, a teenager, on the road with a band for which her mom (Mackenzie Phillips) is the lead singer.  Fiona is drawn to everything strange and unusual, which she constantly stumbles upon, revealing more and more about her father's unexplained car accident when she was a baby.

While revolving around many supernatural occurrences, older kids and their families can enjoy this family adventure/mystery series together.  So Weird originally aired on The Disney Channel in the late 90s, but you can now stream the entire series on Disney+ via the library's Family Roku devices.

Are You Scared, Darth Vader?

Fellow parents and Star Wars fans, this is sure to please! Adam Rex writes this book in a conversational style, so I highly encourage reading in your best Darth Vader voice for an extra fun experience. Parents (and Star Wars buff kiddos) will appreciate nods to the movies and characters throughout.

All in all, Are You Scared, Darth Vader? (2019) is a hilarious book with a special twist ending. So, are you ready to find out if there is actually something frightening enough to scare Darth Vader?

Check out this book in print or digitally via Hoopla.



Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) PG

Miles Morales, a New York teen just starting out at a new school finds himself bitten by (yes) a radioactive spider...but this isn't your typical Spider-Man origin story.  From there the Spider-verses collide and an eclectic cast of characters comes together from multiple realities.  Readers of the comics will definitely appreciate this merge, but all can enjoy the superhero action and sparks of humor we are used to throughout most of the Marvel Universe.  So join Miles as he learns to have confidence in himself and figures out his Spidey senses to save not only his dimension but also everyone else's!

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film.  Did you miss Jez's review of this Oscar winner? Check it out!

Edge of Tomorrow (2014) PG-13

Set in the future, Edge of Tomorrow is an action-packed movie about humankind fighting off an invasion of seemingly invincible aliens.  After upsetting his superior officers, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is sent on a suicide mission.  Having no combat experience whatsoever, Cage dies within minutes of stepping foot on the battlefield.  His death triggers a time-loop, and he is sent back to the previous morning to relive his last day and his death over and over again.  Each day and death teaches him new skills, and he eventually becomes a skilled warrior who realizes that to stop the time loops, he must defeat the invincible enemy.

This movie surprised me.  I went in thinking it would be just another action movie that I'd forget in two weeks.  I ended up discovering a movie that I have enjoyed watching again and again.  The witty humor and relationship between William Cage and Rita (Emily Blunt) fit perfectly against the background of intense battle scenes and horrifying aliens. After Groundhog Day, I hadn't found a movie that could pull off the time-loop cliché but this movie does a great job of executing it without making the story seem predictable or cheap.

Big Hero 6 (2014) PG

844856_1_ftcBig Hero 6 is a superhero movie that adults would enjoy watching with the whole family.  The plot revolves around orphans Hiro and Tadashi, technological whiz kids living with their aunt.  College-age Tadashi created an inflatable robot named Baymax, whose purpose is to act as a portable paramedic/doctor. When someone steals younger brother Hiro’s invention to use for evil, Hiro gives Baymax a few superhero upgrades.  Also, check out our list, Great Movies: Kid Movies for Adults.

 
 

The Matrix (1999) R

51vpnbwfhrl-_sy445_Neo (Keanu Reeves) is a computer hacker with a somewhat ordinary life…but all is not as it seems.  When government agents suddenly show up at his work looking for him, Neo is forced to enlist the aid of a mysterious man named Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), who promises to reveal the true nature of reality—the Matrix.  Should Neo join Morpheus’s secret group?  The Matrix is full of amazing visual effects with a mind-blowing plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat right ‘til the end.

The Magicians. Season 1 (2015-2016) TV-14

magicianss1Imagine an extremely dark, adult world where Harry Potter meets Narnia, and you'll pretty much have The Magicians. Based on Lev Grossman's book series of the same name, follow a handful of young adults at a magical graduate school of sorts hidden in upstate New York. Their story is not for the faint of heart! In between classes, homework, and bizarre magical field trips, Quentin and his friends learn the fantasy world of a childhood book series is real, along with a bloodthirsty beast who has it in for not only them, but also the rest of humanity.

Watch Season 1 of The Magicians on DVD or borrow a Roku to stream it via Netflix.

Jurassic World (2015) PG-13

jurassicworld2In this action movie that is full of adventure, two boys go to visit their aunt who works at Jurassic World, a theme park. When a carnivorous dinosaur escapes, it causes other dinosaurs to run from their territories—which results in huge mayhem. An animal expert (Chris Pratt) takes charge and uses his special skills to save two brothers and all the tourists from the assault of the dinosaurs in Jurassic World.

Ant-Man (2015) PG-13

antmanAnt-Man is a fun movie. Although it has more comedic moments than your typical Marvel superhero film, Ant-Man faces serious threats, and there is plenty of action. Paul Rudd is great in the title role, especially when he unexpectedly battles one of the Avengers, and Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly give great performances. This origin movie is a must see for Marvel followers as Ant-Man will definitely be appearing in future films in the Marvel universe.

The Avengers (2012) PG-13

avengersIf you only saw one superhero movie in your life, this would be the one to see. Earth’s greatest heroes are thrown together to fight against an alien invasion led by the powerful villain Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Can they work together, though, to stop this overwhelming threat?

The Avengers has many characters, including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), not to mention S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives like Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Despite such a large cast, the movie provides enough backstory to fully develop each character without detracting from the almost constant action and stunning visual effects. The Avengers is not simply a superhero movie, it is THE superhero movie.

Back to the Future (1985) PG

backfutureMarty McFly, played by Michael J. Fox, is accidentally sent back in time 30 years to 1955 by his friend Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd). While Marty works desperately to find a way back to the future, he inadvertently interferes with the relationship of his high school age parents. If he does not get them to unite, he may cease to exist. Christopher Lloyd is brilliant as nutty Doc Brown, and Michael J. Fox has just the right combination of awkward and cool to make you laugh and cheer at the same time. Back to the Future is a fun adventure comedy that the whole family will love.