Friday, August 18, 2017

Movie review: Christopher Nolan movies ranked by Daniel Kilgallon

"Dunkirk” marks the tenth full length feature for director Christopher Nolan, one of the most acclaimed names in all of Hollywood and my personal favorite filmmaker. Of course, this all creates a great excuse to put together a list ranking his first ten movies to date. Many of his films are similar, totally in terms of big time special effects, which are typically accompanied by an epic Hans Zimmer score. Additionally, non-linear storytelling is a recurring theme throughout much of Nolan’s work. On top of that, he also likes to reuse his actors, including names such as Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Marion Cotillard, and the legendary Michael Caine. All things considered, this list alone illustrates that Christopher Nolan has had a phenomenal career thus far and I truly hope that it will be expanded to an even more impressive top 20 and beyond in the years to come.
10. “Following” (1998)
Run Time: 69 mins.

My Rating: 7/10

Too long to be a short film, at just over an hour, Nolan’s impressive debut was shot on a shoestring budget of $6,000 – unbelievable!
9. “Memento” (2000) 
Run Time: 113 mins.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Many re-watches are necessary to fully unravel this absurdly complicated debut thriller that is told primarily in reverse order.

8. “Insomnia” (2002) 
Run Time: 118 mins.

My Rating: 8/10

A powerhouse cast featuring: Al Pacino, the late Robin Williams, and Hilary Swank; they all blow it out of the park in this underrated thriller.

7. “Interstellar” (2014)
Run Time: 169 mins.

My Rating: 8/10

This is breathtaking science fiction, which is Nolan’s boldest film in my opinion, but at the same time, his most overrated project.

6. “Dunkirk” (2017)
Run Time: 106 mins.

My Rating: 8/10

With very limited dialogue and little to no characterization, Nolan still provides an incredible, unique, experience of a war film.
5. “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012)

Run Time: 164 mins.

My Rating: 8.5/10

The weak-link of Nolan’s signature “Dark Knight” trilogy is an epic conclusion that stomps just about any other film of the genre.

4. “The Prestige” (2006)
Run Time: 130 mins.

My Rating: 9/10

Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman are outstanding as highly competitive, 20th century magicians in this severely underrated gem.

3. “Batman Begins” (2005)
Run Time: 140 mins.

My Rating: 9.5/10

In my opinion, this character re-boot and near-perfect origin story, remains the best pure Batman film ever made.

2. “The Dark Knight” (2008)
Run Time: 152 mins.

My Rating: 10/10

There have already been over fifty superhero films made since the release of Nolan’s highest grossing movie, but in my opinion, this year’s “Logan” is the only one in the same league as this monumental project. “The Dark Knight” remains the best comic book film ever made and helped make the genre into the box office king that it is today.

1. “Inception” (2010)
Run Time: 148 mins.

My Rating: 10/10

Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece is easily one of my favorite movies ever and in my opinion, the best film of the 2010s to date by a wide margin. The mind blowing visuals can match any great science fiction film made before or since; but the fully original and intriguing story brings this movie to a whole different level. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

"Dunkirk" - Movie review by Danile Kilgallon

Written, co-produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan, “Dunkirk” marks the tenth full length feature for the acclaimed filmmaker as well as his first historical project. A few members of the cast are Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, and “One Direction’s” Harry Styles. Additionally, Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance are featured in supporting roles alongside Nolan-regulars Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy. Speaking of Nolan-regulars, Hans Zimmer once again provides the soundtrack here, following the collaborations of “Interstellar”, “Inception”, and “The Dark Knight” trilogy. As a huge fan of all of Christopher Nolan’s work, I just couldn’t wait to see what my favorite film director would bring to the table with this epic war project.
Clocking in at a run-time that is surprisingly under two hours, “Dunkirk” is one of Nolan’s shortest movie to date. Nonetheless, the film finds enough time to portray a tragic event of the Second World War that is not too well known here in America. Between May 26 and June 4 of 1940, the Allied forces of Belgium, Britain, and France became surrounded by Germans and trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk, France. Providing three intertwined story-lines from the perspectives of land, air, and sea, “Dunkirk” chronicles the epic battles and massive evacuation that took place in the titular harbor.

“Dunkirk” is truly unlike any other war movie that I have ever seen, largely due to the fact that there is very limited dialogue and little to no characterization. Personally, I found that to be a bold, effective form of storytelling that made for a totally immersive film experience. It felt like I was a part of the tragic history I was viewing and in my opinion, illustrated the oftentimes dehumanizing effects of a large group of people fighting for survival. However, others may feel differently, as it can be hard to follow a story like this without being placed in the shoes of a fully fleshed out main character.

While the character and storytelling decisions of “Dunkirk” may be controversial, there is no denying the technical expertise on display in this movie. The film is shot beautifully, with some incredible wide shots that ground the settings in reality. While there are enough well-paced battle sequences to keep the plot moving, there is a seemingly endless amount of pure tension moments to supplement all of the action. On top of that, Hans Zimmer delivers yet another epic soundtrack for director Christopher Nolan that takes the film to a whole new level. Overall, I think that “Dunkirk” was a necessary story to tell and a fresh take on war movies that fans of the genre can’t afford to miss.

Friday, August 4, 2017

“Wrath and the Dawn” by Renee Ahdieh. A book review by Reegan Burke

I watched a book review of this amazing young adult novel (age 14 and up), and instantly wanted to read it. When I picked up the “Wrath and the Dawn”, the first of a two-book series that combines elements of the “1001 Nights” (Or “Arabian Nights”) by Renee Ahdieh, I was instantly hooked.

I was on the edge of my seat while reading and almost shaking with anticipation. This book was indeed a masterpiece with a beautiful Persian setting and wonderfully written characters - there is magic, mystery and romance. 

The main protagonist, Sharazad, is strong, independent and in need of revenge. Her best friend is murdered at the hand of the boy-king whom every night takes a new bride and at dawn the next day, he kills them with a silk cord wrapped around their neck. 

Will Sharazad succeed with her yearning for revenge? Or will she start to fall in love with this monster who killed her best friend. Will Sharazad choose revenge or love?

Reegan Burke is an eighth grade student from Windham Middle School

Friday, July 28, 2017

Book Review: “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier. Reviewed by Jen Dupree, Circulation Supervisor of the Windham Public Library

Even though I consider myself an avid reader, I had never read anything by Daphne du Maurier, nor had I seen Alfred Hitchcock’s version of “Rebecca”. I picked up the book on audio - a fantastic listen - and almost couldn’t get out of my car because I needed to know what happened.
From the opening sentence: “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again,” I was hooked. All at once I was there, in this dream-like place, with this somewhat forlorn woman. Who was she? Why could she only dream of Manderley? And what was Manderley? As the story went on I learned Manderley was a house; a mansion, a strange, beautiful, creepy place. 

The title character, Rebecca is dead when the novel opens, and yet she’s a vivid and terrifying presence throughout. Rebecca was stunningly beautiful, willful and strong; her death was mysterious. According to the evil housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, and Rebecca’s too-close cousin, Jack, the second Mrs. de Winter can’t ever measure up. Her husband Maxim’s strange aloofness does nothing to ease her fears. She is so consumed with the question of her desirability that when she finally finds out what really happened to Rebecca, her reaction is shocking.

The novel is told from the point of view of the second Mrs. de Winter who, unlike her predecessor, is never named. She is madly (maybe certifiably madly) in love with her new husband, and so she agrees to live in the house where Rebecca lived, to virtually live the life she lived. In the end, she comes to love Manderley. However, as the opening line suggests, she can never go back again. 

While you’re at the library, join us on August 23 from 1 to 3 p.m. for our “Build a Better World” Carnival. Games and activities galore will be on the back lawn (weather permitting) or in the meeting room if it rains.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Movie Review of "War for the Planet of the Apes" by Daniel Kilgallon

"War for the Planet of the Apes” is a new science fiction film and the third installment in the “Planet of the Apes” reboot series following 2011’s “Rise” and 2014’s “Dawn.” I really enjoyed both of those movies, but especially “Dawn” for building upon the first movie in a big way, through more serious storytelling and intense action sequences. Between that and some awesome looking trailers, I couldn’t wait to see if “War” would live up to my high expectations and complete a potentially excellent science fiction film trilogy.
Ever since the battle from “Dawn”, the highly intelligent chimpanzee Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his society of apes, have continued to live in the woods, sheltered in a hideout designed to protect them from humans. 

Early on in this movie, they are once again attacked by military forces, this time led by a ruthless colonel (Woody Harrelson). After attempting to make peace with the humans, Caesar decides to take matters into his own hands as he sets out on path of vengeance, resulting in emotional and psychological warfare between the conflicting species.

The creators behind the stunningly realistic universe of this trilogy, easily could have put together an epic, exciting action movie that is on par with any other blockbuster out there and left it at that. While this movie is certainly epic and contains exciting action scenes for sure, it is clearly more of a dramatic film experience overall. There are so many emotional moments packed into the movie, making the story far more impactful and the action that much more important. On top of that, there is tons of World War imagery throughout the movie that takes “War for the Planet of the Apes” to a whole new level thematically.

In order to make this dramatic three act narrative come together, the apes really needed to be humanized more than ever this time around. Andy Serkis played an absolutely vital role in making that happen and his incredible motion capture work as Caesar is once again worthy of an Oscar nomination. Meanwhile, Woody Harrelson delivers an excellent performance too, providing a dark and intriguing antagonist to counteract our beloved hero. After a first viewing, I can easily say that “War for the Planet of the Apes” is the best movie of the summer and one of the finest science fiction films I have seen in a long time. I cannot wait to re-watch the greatest installment of what has become one of my absolute favorite trilogies.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Movie review of "Spider-Man: Homecoming" by Daniel Kilgallon

"Spider-Man: Homecoming” is the sixteenth installment in the ever growing Marvel Cinematic Universe and the second reboot for the iconic web-slinger, following the two “Amazing Spider-Man” movies starring Andrew Garfield. While I enjoyed those films upon first viewing, most critics did not feel the same way. The attempt at a new series was considered a failure and Sony ended up agreeing to a new deal that would allow them to share the rights to the character with Marvel. Soon after, the young Tom Holland made his debut as Spider-Man in 2016s “Captain America: Civil War.”  This marks his first standalone feature.
“Homecoming” serves as a fairly episodic Marvel chapter, taking place just a few months after the events of “Civil War.” This movie puts aside a total rehash of Spidey’s classic origin story -as there is really no need to see that done yet again. By working around those plot points, this new movie focuses primarily on Peter Parker’s challenges of balancing his high school life with his alter-ego. Additionally, he faces the threat of the Vulture (Michael Keaton) while constantly looking to prove himself worthy of officially joining his mentor, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and the rest of the Avengers.

After seeing “Civil War,” I was completely sold on Tom Holland as Spider-Man. To no surprise, he brings it once again in this movie; totally owning the role. I would add that it was nice to see a younger version of Spider-Man that is more accurate to the comics than previous, on screen incarnations of the character. While Holland may be my favorite Spidey yet, Michael Keaton was equally impressive as the Vulture. It is no secret that the Marvel Cinematic Universe struggles with their antagonists, but this has to be one of their strongest villains to date.

Overall, I had a great time with this movie. There is plenty of exciting action and an equally intriguing story to go with it. The film is a much needed fresh start for the famous character and yet another worthy installment for Marvel. There was enough integration with the rest of the universe, but at the same time, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” has plenty going for it to stand on its own as well.

With plenty of “Iron Man”/Tony Stark all over the trailers marketing for this movie, I thought that it would turn into “Iron Man 4”, but luckily that was not the case and his few scenes actually contributed to the film. “Homecoming” is definitely one of my favorite Spidey flicks and a noteworthy contribution to Marvel’s unstoppable universe.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Book Review: "The Secret Life of Book Club" reviewed by Elizabeth Richards

I chose “The Secret Life of Book Club” because the title intrigued me, and the description sounded like a story I could relate to. I kept reading because it was engaging enough to keep me off Facebook and because I began to feel like the characters were people I knew in real life. 
Those two things make me consider a book a great read. When I can’t stop reading because I feel invested in the lives of the characters, and when I get to the end of a book and feel sad that I won’t know what happens to them next, I know the author has done their job well. In the case of this book, by Heather Woodhaven, both of those things were true.  

The plot was simple, but captivating. The women in the book club, disenchanted with some aspects of their lives, take on a challenge to break out of their comfort zones and try new things.  In doing so, they discover more than they bargained for about themselves, each other, and the men in their lives.  

Reading about each adventure, I could imagine myself right there with the women. With hilarious situations, that were realistic enough to believe they could happen, the author brought me on a touching and thought-provoking journey. I love a book that not only entertains me, but makes me consider my own life as well. “The Secret Life of Book Club” did that well. There were questions the women asked themselves that I think all women in my age range find themselves facing, along with relationship and communication difficulties that are so common in modern life. 

The book was light, but deep enough to cause me to take a look at how I’m living my life, and look at where some changes could be made. It inspired me to consider new things, to make a “summer bucket list,” and to actually get started on it instead of just tucking it away and forgetting about it.

 I have two minor criticisms of this book. One is the sudden change of a secondary character’s first name halfway through. One of the drawbacks of a Kindle is that I can’t simply flip pages to verify that my memory was correct. But I also can’t let it go until I know, so this discrepancy interrupted the flow of my reading until I could confirm. 

The second issue I found was that the foreshadowing of one major event was so obvious that I knew what would happen from the first time it was mentioned. I like hints, and I often figure out what will happen ahead of time, but I prefer to be kept wondering a little longer.  

“The Secret Life of Book Club” fits firmly in the women’s fiction genre. The resolution at the end was happy, but also realistic - rather than a fairy tale happy ending. It made me want to follow the lives of these women for longer, to know if they continued their learning journey or settled back into their old ruts. Luckily for me, there is a sequel, so I can do just that.