Posts Tagged ‘Film/TV’


Directed by Adam Shankman
Written by Leslie Dixon, based on John Waters’s 1988 Screenplay
Music Created by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan
Released by New Line Cinema
Date of Release: 2007
Rated PG

Tracy Turnblad is one of the best dancers in Baltimore and sets out to prove her self worth in the 1960s.

The year is 1962. The city is Baltimore. Tracy Turnblad only wants to dance on the Corny Collins Show. She has the moves and the drive to be the best dancer in Baltimore. She just needs a chance to prove it.

Unfortunately some of the other dancers don’t believe that she’s worth anything because Tracy might be a little overweight. Thanks to her friends Penny Pingleton and Seaweed J. Stubbs, Tracy becomes the star she’s always dreamed of. But like any great star, there’s someone trying to snuff Tracy’s light. With a little help from her friends, her parents, and her love for Link Larkin, Tracy is reminded that she will always have a rhythm to call her own.

Critical Evaluation:
Hairspray was originally a film directed by John Waters. The original was not a musical but still dealt with Tracy’s overweight figure and the racism that affected television programing in the 1960s. The film was later turned into a Tony Award winning musical in 2002. Using the music from the Broadway production, This 2007 version now stands as a combination of both the musical’s success with Waters original script.

The music is contagious. One can’t help but hum along to the lyrics, which at times makes fun of the racism of the 60s as well as point out the silliness of some of the character’s illogical behavior. The film still contains tongue and cheek silliness that Waters gave in the first film version.

The actors clearly love the material, which shows in their performance. Tracy Turnblad is played by Nikki Blonsky, which was her first film role. Blonsky genuinely loves the character and one can’t help but be rooting for Tracy and Nikki at the same time.

The film is a great musical and perfect for any teen looking to branch out of the Glee mentality.

Information about the Director:
From Adam Shankman’s IMDB page, Shankman was born and raised in Los Angeles. Shankman studied at Juliard and has worked as a choreographer for various projects since the early 1990s. Shankman has directed twenty films with the most recent film being Rock of Ages.

Adam Shankman on Twitter

From John Waters’s IMDB page, Waters directed the original Hairspray from which inspired a Broadway musical and the current remake. Born in Baltimore, Waters loved the fringe culture and began to make his own 8mm and 16mm films. His films continue to be cult classics amongst the indie film scene.


Curriculum Ties:
Racism, American History

Booktalking Ideas:
What can you do to stand up for yourself?
What can you do to get out of a “comfort zone”?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
The film is rated PG which means that it would be better suited for teens 13 and up.

Challenging Issues:
Potential Issues include racism and teen sexuality.

Why did I include this film in the title selection?
Thanks to Glee and High School Musical, drama and theatre are huge amongst teens. Hairspray is a great addition to this genre.

IMDB. (n.d.). Adam Shakman. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0788202/

Young, S. (n.d.). John Waters Biography. IMDB. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000691/

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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Various Artists
Genre: Soundtrack
Released by ABKCO Records
Date of Release: 2010

Music from the film directed by Edgar Wright.
1.   We Are Sex Bob-Omb by Sex Bob-Omb
2.    Scott Pilgrim by Plumtree
3.    I Heard Ramona Sing by Frank Black
4.    By Your Side by Beachwood Sparks
5.    O Katrina! by Black Lis
6.    I’m So Sad, So Very Sad by Crash and the Boys
7.    We Hate You Please Die by Crash and the Boys
8.    Garbage Truck by Sex Bob-Omb
9.    Teenage Dream by T. Rex
10.   Sleazy Bed Track by The Bluetones
11.   It’s Getting Boring by the Sea by Blood Red Shoes
12.   Black Sheep by Metric
13.   Threshold by Sex Bob-Omb
14.   Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl by Broken Social Scene
15.   Under My Thumb by The Rolling Stones
16.   Ramona (Acoustic Version) by Beck
17.   Ramona by Beck
18.   Summertime by Sex Bom-Omb
19.   Threshold (8 Bit) by Brian Lebarton

Critical Evaluation:
Featuring music from both the film and material cited in the original graphic novel, the Scott Pilgrim soundtrack serves not only as an outlet for great music but an anthem to young punk rock love.

The opening track by Sex Bob-omb is one of four tracks created for Scott’s band. The songs are indie pop with a fun, catchy beat. Garbage Truck and Summertime highlight the carefree nature of the band, while Threshold is an anthem of anger and determination. Beck wrote the Sex Bob-omb tracks as well as the Ramona tracks that Scott Pilgrim writes in the film.

Black Sheep by Metric is the highlight of the soundtrack as it was used to introduce Scott and Ramona’s respective ex’s. The track stands out because of Emily Haines’s vocals and the sexy bass beat in the background. Haines is featured later in the soundtrack with her work with Broken Social Scene.

The album was produced by film Director Edgar Wright, Nigel Godrich (who has worked on various Radiohead albums) and Marc Platt. Fans of the soundtrack will be pleased to know that there is also a score soundtrack for the film as well as a soundtrack to the Scott Pilgrim video game.

Curriculum Ties:
Music, Songwriting

Interest Age:
14 and up

Challenging Issues:

Why did I include this in the title selections?
Having been a fan of Scott Pilgrim since the first graphic novel, I can’t help but constantly recommend the book. When the film adaptation was released, I was hooked and fell in love with the music. The album is great for not only fans of the film and the book series, but for anyone looking to expand their music tastes outside of the mainstream.

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Charmed Knits: Projects for Fans of Harry Potter
By Alison Hansel
ISBN: 9780470067314
Publisher: Wiley Publishing
Date of Publication: 2007

Reader’s Annotation:
From House scarves to elf socks, Harry Potter fans can create knitting projects from the film and books.

Using inspiration from both the book series and film series, Charmed Knits is a great treat to any knitter. From items promoting Hogwart Houses, such as scarves, sweaters, and socks, to Weasley family items, such as bags and more sweaters, the crafty Harry Potter fan can now create their own projects for themselves or for gifts.

Critical Evaluation:
Experience knitters will be pleased with some of the projects as there are some complicated patterns scattered throughout the book. Less experienced knitters will find simple patterns towards the middle of the book when the focus is on Hogwarts products. An appendix does provide knitting tips for any level of knitter. Anyone seeking more knowledge on the hows of knitting would best be served looking for additional material, such as Debbie Stoller’s Bitch N’ Stitch book series which gives more in-depth instructions for beginning knitters.

Information about the author:
Allison Hansel has been knitting since 2001 and was inspired to create Harry Potter knitting patterns after seeing the Weasley family sweaters from the film adaptations. Hansel is a resident of Boston with her husband and children.
Genre: Non-Fiction (Crafts/Knitting)

Alison Hansel has a blog in which she posts some great pictures about different patterns she has created or different projects she has completed. Her Ravelry page is filled with fun projects such as a German flag hat and simple, decorative scarves.

Curriculum Ties:
Crafting, Do-It-Yourself, Crafts in Literature

Booktalking Ideas:
What type of crafts do you do?
Plastic needles or Bamboo?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
As there is no listing for an age recommendation, it would depend on the skill level of the knitter in question. Knitters as young as 14 and up will have no problem understanding the material.


Challenging Issues:

While there are have been constant challenges to the Harry Potter series in the past, a book about the knitted work in the series has not had any challenges. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
As both a knitter and a Harry Potter fan, I was excited to find this book at the library. The knitting patterns are simple to read and provide for a wide range of knitting levels. This is a perfect find for any craft-oriented teen who also loves to read.

Hansel, A. (2007). Charmed knits: Projects for fans of Harry Potter. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing.

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Doctor Who
Created by
Produced by BBC
Date of Release: First episode release – 1963;  Reboot release – 2005

The Doctor is a Time Lord and travels through space with his human companion in his ship the TARDIS.

Plot Summary:
Coming from the planet of Gallifrey, The Doctor travels through time and space with his TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimensions in Space). The Doctor is a Time Lord, an ancient alien race that has the power to regenerate into a new being when he is being threatened by death. It is for this reason the Doctor is over a thousand years old, possibly more.

As the Doctor travels through the universe, usually with a companion from his favorite planet Earth, he fights for intellect, romance, and justice against brute force and evil. He’s a curious soul who constantly finds himself in trouble but has a stout heart to find a solution. He’s very, very clever and very, very fun. Beware his angry though. The wrath of the last Time Lord has altered history and destroyed civilizations, for not all journeys and adventures are happy ones.

Critical Evaluation:
Since it’s first broadcast in 1963, Doctor Who has captured the imagination of children and adults for almost fifty years. The current Doctor Who series has continued to gain momentum and has discovered a larger audience in America instead of just the historical audience in the United Kingdom.

Beyond anything presented in the series, the character of the Doctor represents hope. A simple hope that there will be happiness and satisfaction to be found in little things. A hope that even the smallest thing can bring joy and that our sense of adventure we had as children hasn’t been destroyed but been ignored. The Doctor has seen great heartache as well and knows that his adventures won’t always be easy, especially for his wide-eyed companions. Traveling with the Doctor is a guarantee that your life can change but it’s not always easy and sometimes you don’t come back unchanged or come back at all.

The series, beyond its science fiction background, does also have some horrific elements. The Doctor’s enemies are not typical arch-nemesis but vile creatures that could destroy planets and universes. Some episodes, specifically those written by Stephen Moffat in Series 1-4, bring old-fashioned chills to those unexpected viewers. Those particular episodes are nail-bitting, hide behind your pillow tales that was the standard with the original series.

Overall, the series has stood the pass of time and has come out stronger than ever. Past Doctor adventures from the 70s and 80s are becoming more accessible to new viewers, with new editions being released every new quarter. The older episodes showcase shorter stories in larger episode arcs. They are slower paced compared to the newer series but are just as fun as the new adventures.

Science Fiction/Fantasy

Curriculum Ties:
As Doctor Who does travel through time and space, past episodes can be used to showcase different historical settings. Series 5 used Winston Churchill’s bunker while Series 4 used Agatha Christie for a character and storyline. The discussion of alternative histories would be another suggestion.

Booktalking Ideas:
Where would you go if you had a chance to go anywhere? Including a different time period or a different planet?
What adventure would you like to have on Earth?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
The series began as a family show and continues that standard with the reboot. The series is recommended for all ages.

Challenging Issues:
Potential Issues include romantic situations and violence.

Why did I include this series in the title selections?
Doctor Who has been a favorite of mine for quite some time. The series is accessible to new viewers and remains a delight almost fifty years since its creation. The series, though considered more science fiction due to the alien nature of the Doctor, actually merges different genres in its presentation. It allows for all viewers with different tastes and styles an opportunity to find something for themselves.

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Teen Wolf
Developed by Jeff Davis
Produced by MGM Television and Music Television (MTV)
Original Release: 2011
Number of Seasons: 2

After teenager Scott McCall is bitten by a mysterious wolf creature, Scott discovers he had become a werewolf.

Scott McCall exists on the fringes of his high school in Beacon Hills. Together with his sarcastic best fried. “Stiles” Stalinski, the pair hopes that this will be the year that they actually get to participate on the school’s lacrosse team instead of spending another season on the bench.

One night Scott and Stiles decide to quietly  follow Stiles’s father, the town sheriff, on an interesting case. A young woman is missing and the boys hope to find the girl first. As the boys roam in the forest, they are attacked by a mysterious wolf creature. Scott is bitten but survives the attack. The boys escape and make it home, scared but alive.

Overnight, Scott begins to feel changes in his body; his senses are heightened, his asthma has disappeared, and he now posses super-strength. In the midst of these changes, Scott meets Allison Argent, the new transfer student whose family has a unique history.As Scott and Stiles begin to discover the reasons behind Scott’s transformation, another figure enters their lives; the mysterious Derek Hale. Scott and Derek share a common trait. Both are actual werewolves and they are not alone.

Critical Evaluation:
From Teen Wolf’s Wikipedia page, loosely based on the 1985 Michael J. Fox comedy film of the same name, the show rarely resembles the original outside of the name and werewolf premise. Teen Wolf’s creator, Jeff Davis, was more inspired by the films The Lost Boys and Stand by Me, using the visual style and the story-lines as inspiration. Davis succeeds in that the show isn’t like any other current teen drama. The character feel like real teenagers and are rightly punished by parents who don’t exist in the sidelines, like many other teen shows often do. The parents are often part of the teens life and rarely are used when the plot calls for a humane lesson.

The horror aspect of the show is surprising in that it really is scary. The show avoids major horror film cliches by reminded the audience that while the main characters are teens, they are now idiots and they do have the common sense to run away from danger if needed. The best part of the program comes during Dylan O’Brien’s performance of Stiles Stilinski. Playing second fiddle to Tyler Posey’s Scott McCall, the character provides great comic relief but is never just the humorous character. Like many characters of the show, there is more depth that what is perceived and that makes for compelling drama.

Information about the Creator:
From Jeff Davis’s Wikipedia page, born in Milford, Connecticut and a graduate of Vassar College, Davis studied film and later received a master’s in screenwriting from the University of Southern California. Davis found success when he helped created the program Criminal Minds. His greatest success has been Teen Wolf. He serves as executive producer, head writer and show creator.

Fantasy, Urban/Modern Fantasy, Horror/Thriller, Romance

Curriculum Ties:
Horror Stories, Modern Mythology

Booktalking Ideas:
Why would you refuse to have a power?
How do our surroundings change who we are?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
15 and up

Challenging Issues:
Potential Issues include sexual situations, violence, horrific situations, and child disobedience.

Why did I include this series in the title selection?
I started to watch the program as it kept popping up in discussions with my younger friends. I watched one episode to try it out. Five hours later, I had watched half of season one. The show’s true portrayal of teens is a great choice for teen audiences.

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Jeff Davis (writer). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Davis_%28writer%29

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Teen Wolf. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teen_Wolf_(2011_TV_series)

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Gilmore Girls
Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino
Produced by Dorothy Parker Drank Here Productions
Released by Warner Brothers Television
Original release: 2000
Number of Seasons: 7

Lorelei Gilmore and her daughter Rory live in Stars Hollow, Connecticut, where the town is filled with interesting, eccentric characters.

Plot Summary:
When she was sixteen, Lorelei Gilmore discovered she was pregnant. Instead of marrying the baby’s father, Christopher Hayden, Lorelai leaves her parent’s home in Hartford and make her own way in the world. The mother and the baby eventually make Stars Hollow their home. Lorelai found work as a maid at the Independence Inn, where she rose through the ranks from maid to becoming the Inn’s executive manager.

Lorelai’s daughter, Rory, is a bright, young woman who has just been accepted into Chilton Preparatory School. This news is exciting as it means it’s one more step closer to Rory’s dream school, Harvard University. Unfortunately, Lorelai doesn’t have enough funds to pay for the tuition. With no one else to turn to, Lorelai swallows her pride and seeks assistance from her parents; an action that Lorelai tried to avoid due to their antagonizing relationship. Lorelai’s mother says yes, they will pay for Rory’s tuition, but on the condition that the two younger Gilmores join the senior Gilmores, Richard and Emily, for dinner every Friday night. For Emily and Lorelai’s relationship has been cracked for sometime, as what you wish for your child isn’t always what they desire.

Critical Evaluation:
With sharp dialogue and snappy settings, Gilmore Girls remains a well-written, funny program that explores issues such as family relationships amongst social classes, teen relationships, and the power (and craziness) of living in a small town. Because Lorelai was a teenager when she gave birth to Rory, the family dynamic is often sister-sister instead of mother-daughter. This dynamic comes into play as Rory grows up and begins making decisions without her mother. This conflict is mirrored in Lorelai’s interactions with Emily and provides for both laughs and drama. The supporting cast enhances the quirky small-town of Stars Hollow and viewers will be delighted when those small characters make brief appearances.

The music of the show is an important piece of the program as it’s almost the third staring member of the cast. Lorelai’s love of 80s music was a highlight in the first season when The Bangles appeared as guest stars. Rory’s best friend Lane loves music but hides it from her strict mother. Lane eventually starts her own band with Sebastian Bach, the former lead singer of the rock band Skid Row, stars as her bandmate. Carole King, who lent her music to the theme song, later plays a music shop owner. Grant-Lee Phillips plays the town’s troubadour.

The later seasons saw a change in the storyline that almost detracts from the relationship between Rory and Lorelai. It’s an issue that is somewhat solved in the end. Viewers of the show will be sad when the series eventually ends, as Stars Hollow because a part of their life and we can’t help but feel like family.

Information about the Creator:
From Amy Sherman-Palladino’s Wikipedia page , inspired by the quirky, witty dialogue of Dorothy Parker and Woody Allen, Sherman-Palladino has made a reputation of creating television programs that involve obscure popular culture references and quirky dialogue. Married to fellow writer Daniel Palladino, started as a staff writer for the sitcom Roseanne. She created different projects after leaving Roseanne but found no success as many of the projects were cancelled.

Sherman-Palladino created Gilmore Girls during a quick pitch to Warner Brothers. The show became an instant success with family groups in part to the relationship between Rory and her mother Lorelai. She left the show before it’s final season. Her latest success, Bunheads, will have its second season starting in January 2013.


Realistic Fiction, Family Relationships

Curriculum Ties:
Popular Culture

Booktalking Ideas:
How do you relate to your parents?
Are there things you keep hidden from your parents?

Challenging Issues:
Potential Issues include some sexual situations, especially during later seasons.

Why did I include this series in the titles selection?
Being a fan of the show since it’s first episode, the snappy dialogue and parental relationships are a would be treat to any teenager looking for quality television.

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Amy Sherman-Palladino. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amy_Sherman-Palladino

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Speed Racer
Written and Directed by The Wachowski Brothers
Distrubted by Warner Brothers Entertainment
Date of Release:
Rated: PG

Speed Racer is the best race car driver the world has ever seen.

Plot Summary:
All Speed has ever wanted to do was race cars. His blood runs deep with automobile oil. His older brother, Rex Racer, is a great car racer and encourages Speed’s passion for cars.  Speed’s parents, Pops and Mom, are the owner of his own racing company, Racer Motors. The family is proud and takes great pride in their work.

Rex Racer changes everything when he chooses to join a corporate team, leaving Pops behind. Speed is devasted and he must watch as his brother slowly is destroyed in the completive field. When Rex dies at the ruthless Casa Cristo race, the family mourns and is left with the rumors of Rex’s actions.

Years pass and Speed has become the top driver in the racing world. Speed with his car the Mach 6, only wants to race and take care of his family. When Speed’s skill grows, corporations are eager for Speed to join their ranks. Speed is then approached by E.P. Arnold Royalton, a manipulative businessman who has plans on controlling the racing industry. Trusting his gut, Speed refuses Royalton’s offer and continues to drive on his own. Royalton then plans for Speed’s downfall. It’s within this action that the racing world begins to see a change and it’s up to Speed to finish the greatest race of his career.

Critical Evaluation:
Based on the 1960s Japanese anime of the same name, Speed Racer is an over-the-top thrill ride that pushes the boundaries of technology and animation. The racing scenes are filled with color and imagination as Speed and his enemies fight on the tracks.

The Wachowskis’ use of visual technology adds to the mythos of the original anime and enhances the story. While some might complain about the quick pace of the animation, it fits with the storyline and the characters.

The actors are given a retro look that shares with the presentation of the anime. The female characters, once ignored in the original, are pushed up and given more power. They are strong and are an asset in Speed’s life.

The story is fun and simple. It’s clear that the Wachowskis’ intended this to be a kids/teen film, giving more attention to the visuals over the plot.

Information about the Directors:
From the Wachowski’s Wikipedia page, twins born in Chicago, the Wachowskis (Lana and Andy) are directors who have favored privacy and often do not do interviews. This has recently changed for the promotion of their latest film, Cloud Atlas. Lana, formerly Larry, felt it was important to start doing publicity again due to her recent sex change. Lana hopes that can be a positive influence for those transgender individuals who do not have a role model to look up to. Lana has cited that she suffered from depression and almost committed suicide.

The sibling due is responsible for the Matrix trilogy. They have been heavily influenced by Japanese animation and comic books. The siblings are often very involved in their projects such as writing and directing films as well as producing films. The prefer to have their work push the boundaries of genre, using stories that speak of the human condition beyond anything else.

Action, Fantasy

Curriculum Ties:
Race Car Driving History

Booktalking Ideas:
What does it mean to stand up for one’s beliefs?
What’s your favorite way to travel?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
The tim is rated PG and be best suited for viewers 14 and up.

Challenging Issues:
Potential Issues would include violence.

Why did I include this film in the title selection?
The film, through all of its chaos, is still a fun film to watch. Teens will appreciate the visuals of the film as well as the storyline.

Wikipedia. (n.d.) Speed Racer. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wachowskis

The original Speed Racer series is available to view on Hulu.

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