Shows 'N Tunes: Movie, Music, and Game Reviews

Ashes in the Snow

Ruta Sepetys writes powerful stories based on hidden histories—pieces of our past that most don't know about. This adaptation of her first novel Between Shades of Gray shares the forgotten story of Lithuanians deported to Siberia by Joseph Stalin's Soviet army during World War II.

In Ashes in the Snow (2019), Bel Powley gives a strong performance as teenage aspiring artist Lina. When her professor father is arrested, the rest of her family is taken from their home and transported to a labor camp for so-called treasonous action against the Soviet Union. This moving film has beautiful cinematography and music.

Ashes in the Snow is achingly sad yet ultimately hopeful—a faithful adaptation of the novel inspired by true events. Watch this film on DVD or stream it instantly on Hoopla. Read a review from The Hollywood Reporter.



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The Venture Bros. Season 1

Doctor Venture lives in the shadow of his father's past accomplishments in super science struggling to make new inventions. At the Venture compound with his two sons, Hank and Dean, and his bodyguard Brock, he works on inventions, even selling his father's old ones to shady parties to keep the lights on. His inadequacies are not the only trouble he must worry about: his archnemesis the Monarch, a man in a butterfly costume with a flying cocoon, tries to kill him every week.

The Venture Bros. Season 1 (2003-2004, rated TV-MA) is a wild ride looking at super scientists, villains, bureaucracy, and incompetency with old school Hanna-Barbera cartoon cameos creating a cult classic comedy worth watching. Watch it on Hoopla today.


The Rainmaker

I enjoyed watching The Rainmaker (1997, rated PG-13). John Grisham is definitely one of the better writers when it comes to courtroom drama or lawyer/drama kind of story, and this is an adaptation of his 1995 novel of the same name. Matt Damon and Danny DeVito work well together, and there is plenty of drama and suspense because of Rudy's (Damon) clients. The ending is somewhat bittersweet, but it's all part of why this is an excellent movie.

Check out The Rainmaker (directed by Francis Ford Coppola) on Hoopla today—and then browse our lists featuring lawyers in the movies (original and more).



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.


The Song of Names

This stunning story stars Clive Owen and Tim Roth as boyhood friends. Dovidl, a Polish child violin prodigy, comes to live with Martin and his family as a refugee in London. After a time, they become like brothers and their relationship strengthens until an alarming event. When Dovidl is 21, a concert is arranged by Martin's father at great expense. Dovidl disappears without a trace, bringing shame and ruin to his adoptive family.

Years later, when Martin is 56 years old, he is interviewing a potential candidate and recognizes a style that only Dovidl could have taught. Thus begins the search for his long-lost friend.

Check out The Song of Names (2019, rated PG-13) today. If you enjoy this film, you might also try watching All My Loved Ones, The Boy in Striped Pajamas, and The Red Violin.

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Masterminds

I enjoyed this lighthearted comedy based on a true story that happened in 1997. It is about David Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis), an armored car guard who robs his employer Loomis Fargo. Because he is in love with his former work partner Kelly Campbell (Kristen Wiig), he is tricked into committing the largest cash robbery in U.S. history. He steals over 17 million dollars in this heist. David assists in helping the FBI catch the real mastermind, Steven Chambers (Owen Wilson).

Masterminds (2017, rated PG-13) is a pretty funny movie that I highly recommend. Watch the film on Hoopla today.

If you like Masterminds, you might be interested in some of the titles on Great Movies: Comic Capers and Cons.

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Dark Waters

In this compelling movie based on a true story, a corporate lawyer (Mark Ruffalo), switches sides (and finds his calling) by spearheading an environmental lawsuit against a chemical company. Rob Bilott. He recently made partner at a high powered law firm when he is approached by neighbors of his grandmother. What follows is a years-long battle against DuPont, putting his career, marriage, and health in jeopardy.

Fans of Erin Brockovich will find much to enjoy in Dark Waters (2019, rated PG-13). They are both stories of underdogs fighting for the health and safety of the public. For more behind the characters and story of Dark Waters, check out articles from The Hollywood Reporter and Slate.



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Redline

This film is a high-octane thrill ride from start to finish, featuring the fastest racers in the universe as they compete in the most dangerous car race, Redline. JP is one of the daredevil racers chosen to take part in this no holds barred race where anything goes. Does he have what it takes to get to the finish line with his trusty muscle car and fantastic pompadour hairstyle?

Even if you are not typically a fan of racing movies, Redline (2009) is a must see for the animation alone. It took 7 years of production to get this quality and it shines through every aspect in the movie. Watch Redline on Hoopla today.


No Country for Old Men

Start this film only if you're interested in the kind of drama that grabs your attention and refuses to let go for its entirety. (My only problem is the same one I have with all terrific movies that are rated R: in my opinion, these films would still be just as terrific if they were made PG).

Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin are at the top of their game in this intense story between good and evil (including the evil of greed and lust for money) with an ending not always what you're expecting.

I recommend watching No Country for Old Men (1997) for great acting and the suspense we all want to see on a Saturday night. Check it out on Hoopla today. The movie is based on the book, No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy.


When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? by Billie Eilish

One of the positive things during our extended times at home is discovering new music. Billie Eilish's album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (2019) is truly one worth listening to. Each song is so very carefully crafted by Billie and her brother Finneas that it leaves you wanting to listen to each song on repeat over and over. My recommendation is putting on some sound-canceling headphones to really dig in and enjoy every layer that is put into each song and to enjoy Billie's beautiful soft voice in songs.

Notable songs are "Bad Guy," You Should See Me in a Crown." and "My Strange Addiction." When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? won the Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album, and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical at the 2020 Grammy Awards. Also, "Bad Guy" won the 2020 Grammy Award for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Eilish's sweep is rare: she is the first woman and second person ever to win the four main Grammy categories—and is the youngest person to win Album of the YearGet all the details at Billboard.com.

Listen to the award-winning album on Hoopla today.



Never Look Away

Kurt, a young art student, falls in love with Ellie, a fellow student. Her father Professor Seeband, a famous doctor, is not happy with the match and is out to destroy it. What none of them know is that their lives are already connected through the terrible crime Seeband committed during the war. Never Look Away (2018, rated R) is a stunning story, matched with outstanding cinematography.

In German with English subtitles.

For fans of The Reader, Black Book, Frantz, Tulip Fever, and The Exception.


Molly’s Game

Molly's Game is high speed and high stakes, just like its source material: the true story of "poker princess" Molly Bloom, who ran an exclusive underground card game for the rich and famous—until the game's ties to the Russian mob entangle her in a federal indictment. Rapid-fire dialogue, interesting characters, and a standout performance from lead actress Jessica Chastain all come together to make a movie that feels just as energetic and dynamic as each game.

Check out Molly's Game written and directed by Aaron Sorkin on dvd or blu-ray. To learn more read Molly's Game: from Hollywood's elite to Wall Street's billionaire boys club, my high-stakes adventure in the world of underground poker by Molly Bloom or Billion Dollar Hollywood Heist: the A-list kingpin and the poker ring that brought down Tinseltown by Houston Curtis.


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Everybody Loves Raymond. The Complete Series

This American sitcom was the best show ever on TV. Everybody Loves Raymond (1996-2005, rated TV-PG) features the comedic happenings of the Barone family. Starring Ray Romano, Patricia Heaton, Brad Garrett, Doris Roberts, and Peter Boyle, the casting is right on.

The writing was superb. I've watched all of the seasons over and over again, and I laugh so hard every time. Check out all nine seasons of Everybody Loves Raymond from the library today.


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Spotlight: Netflix Shows

Here are a few TV shows I've enjoyed streaming on Netflix. No worries if you don't have your own subscription—borrow one of the library's Rokus to use ours!

  • Virgin River: In season 1 of this contemporary romance, a nurse practitioner moves to the small California town of Virgin River. Bonus: It's based on the bestselling series by Robyn Carr (and you can read all the books via Hoopla).
  • Grace and Frankie: In this adult comedy, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin star as friends brought together after their husbands announce they are in love with each other and plan to get married. The women are forced to live together—and there are six seasons to enjoy so far.
  • Dirty John: In this drama based on a chilling true story, follow a successful woman who falls for a conman. It has lots of twists and turns and stars Connie Britton and Eric Bana. So far, season 1 has been released.

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Honey Boy

With the arrival of Disney+, many of us are reliving our tween years by watching old favorite shows like Lizzie McGuire and Even Stevens. Perhaps this is what makes the release of Honey Boy (2019, rated R), a film based on Disney star Shia LaBeouf's childhood experiences as a rising actor, all the more irresistibly jarring.

Fans of  Shia LaBeouf first fell in love with his class-clown act in Even Stevens and continued to admire his work as it took on a more serious note in films like Disturbia or Fury, or even a more commercial note in films like Transformers or Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Somewhere along the way, however, it became clear that LaBeouf was battling some inner demons and the persona he was putting into the world didn't always line up with what fans expected to see.

Honey Boy tells the brutally honest story of what life looked like for LaBeouf behind the scenes. LaBeouf plays his father in the movie, exposing the abuse he suffered in his care. Noah Jupe, who plays a young LaBeouf, expertly depicts the longing for emotional support that is so often masked by humor. The screenplay was written by LaBeouf during his time in rehab as a form of therapy and now his story is shedding light on the ways we can all so easily bury our past, giving no thought to the damaging weed that will one day sprout through the surface as a result.

Watch Honey Boy today on Amazon Prime, or stick to the lighter side of Shia LaBeouf's career and enjoy all episodes of Even Stevens on Disney+. Borrow the library's Roku with Amazon Prime or Roku with Disney+.


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