The decidedly petite Tom Cruise is back in theaters this month playing the six foot, five inch, 250 pound Jack Reacher in Never Go Back, the second movie adapted from the wildly popular series of Reacher books by author Lee Child.
A former Major in the Army Military Police Corps, Reacher quit the military in his mid-thirties, and now roams the country, living on his pension, taking odd jobs, and getting invoved in dangerously violent situations, usually in service of some townspeople under the thumb of a crooked sheriff, evil drug lord, or domineering businessman. He's basically a one-man A-Team. A fantasy verison of the ultimate alpha male. He's an unbeatable fighter, smarter than all his opponents (and allies), a perfect shot with any weapon, a precision driver, and a world class detective. He sees a problem, makes a plan, saves the day, and gets out of town. He does it efficiently and always stays cool.
There are twenty books in the Jack Reacher series with a twenty-first, Night School, set for release in early November. Most follow a pretty similar formula and predicting what's going to happen next isn't too difficult. Lee Child's writing rumbles like a muscle car though and the Reacher books are hard to put down. It feels good to think about an old fashioned "good guy" traveling around punching out bad guys.
The entire series of books is available to borrow at Eisenhower and are listed below. But I'd really recommend the Reacher audiobooks, especially those read by the fantastic Dick Hill. We have the first movie, too.
This afternoon, President Obama awarded National Medals of Arts and National Humanities Medals to two dozen artists, filmmakers, writers, actors, musicians, and other creative Americans.
With these medals, the federal government recognizes "outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support, and availability of the arts … that deepen the nation's understanding of the humanities and broadened our citizens' engagement with history, literature, languages, philosophy, and other humanities subjects."
The list of honorees includes comedian and film director Mel Brooks, writer and poet Sandra Cisneros, actor Morgan Freeman, Motown record producer Berry Gordy, historian and author Ron Chernow, musician Winton Marsalis, and interviewer Terry Gross among others.
The complete list of medal winners is available at NPR.com.
No one ever accused Marvel Comics of ignoring a fad. In 1972 one of those fads was Blaxpoitation, a film genre that Wikipedia says was "originally made specifically for an urban black audience, but (whose) appeal soon broadened across racial and ethnic lines". They're talking about Shaft, Superfly, Foxy Brown, etc. These movies were really talking off, bringing in an audience that didn't traditionally go to theaters. Marvel wanted in on the action and along came Luke Cage: Hero for Hire, the first African-American superhero to headline his own comic book series.
In the comics, Carl Lucas was in prison for a crime he didn't commit. A scientist working on recreating the same experiment that created Captain America recruited Lukas to participate. What do you know, Lucas ended up with super powers. Enhanced strength and unbreakable skin to be specific. Lucas used his new powers to escape from prison, and set himself up as a hero or hire, changing his name to Luke Cage (later adding Power Man to seem more like a legitimate superhero) and helping anyone who could pay his fee.
Martial arts movies were hot in the 70s, too. So Marvel introduced Danny Rand, AKA Iron Fist. The son of a wealthy businessman, and inheritor of a magical, glowing right hook, Iron Fist didn't seem to have much in common with Luke Cage. But with both their comics lagging in sales, Marvel did the only thing they could. They paired the two up, creating an unlikely new comic series, Power Man and Iron Fist. These guys were a great team though, officially incorporating Heroes for Hire into a business. They lasted for a few years until their popularity waned and the series was canceled in 1986.
Jump to 2001 and Brian Michael Bendis' new series Alias, starring Jessica Jones, a one-time superhero and current private investigator whose one night stand with a reintroduced Luke Cage eventually led to one of the longest running and most realistic relationships in Marvel Comic history.
Last year, Netflix aired its terrific Jessica Jones television series. This month they'll premiere the highly anticipated spinoff based on, you guessed it, Luke Cage. The previews for the show look great. Hopefully the new series is one more in a line of well-made movies and TV shows proving that, despite Marvel's involvement, superheroes are more than just a passing fad.
Collections of the early Luke Cage stories are hard to come by, but you can place a hold on the Essential Power Man and Iron Fist Volume 1 and Volume 2. While you're at it you should take a look at Luke Cage: Avenger, a modern retelling of his origin story, and Luke Cage Noir, a reimagining of the character set in 1930's Harlem
Fall is the perfect time to get your yoga practice in top form. This month, visit hoopladigital.com to stream or download all your favorite Gaiam yoga videos on your computer or mobile device. Just starting out? Try Yoga for Beginners. Or maybe Advanced Yoga is more your speed. No matter your experience level, there's a great video for you on Hoopla. Even if you're a kid!
Then, visit the Hoopla Facebook page to get entered into a drawing for a yoga workout prize package. Maybe you'll win a bamboo yoga mat and a cork yoga brick to help keep you going all winter long. Entry ends September 30th.
Today, President Obama released his summer reading list. Read these books and, before you know it, you'll be the president. If I had to guess, I'd say you've probably read at least two of them already. You're almost halfway there.
Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, Seveneves by Neal Stephenson.
And in case you missed it, here's what made the cut last year:
While you're working on your presidential reading assignment why not listen to the music on President Obama's summer playlists?