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Nov 1, 2014







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These star-crossed interplanetary young parents battle for love in the Saga comic book series.




Pop Culture Makeover


01/09/14
By Rebecca Fishow rfishow@hippopress.com



 Makeovers aren’t just for closets anymore — these days, you need to give your pop culture library regular updates too. Local experts share the trends in comics, games, books, and film that are quickly becoming pop culture essentials. 

 
Games: Throw a board game party
Video games may be visually stunning but board games are trending for their social possibilities, said Scott Proulx, resident game expert and co-owner of Double Midnight Comics in Concord and Manchester.
“Board games bring people together for face-to-face interaction,” Proulx said. “You can get a group of friends together, get some drinks, get some food. With a videogame you can chat online with friends but after a while story runs out.”
Unlike video games, which are often linear (you have to perform a certain task to get to the next level) no two times playing a board game are ever alike. New board games may seem intimidating to less experienced gamers but there’s an option for everyone, even total newcomers. Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, and Pandemic are the most popular games on the market today. 
Even though Ticket to Ride is beginner-friendly, it doesn’t skimp on the fun factor. In this cross-country travel adventure game players collect train cards that enable them to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout North America. The longer the routes, the more points they earn. Expansion sets are also available, which feature boards with maps of Asia, Africa and Europe. 
Maybe you’re more of a commerce buff than a geography enthusiast? Settlers of Catan is one of the most popular games on the market, particularly with Silicon Valley types, Proulx said. Gamers collect resources to trade and barter with opponents in order to build roads that lead to settlements and cities. It’s a moderate-level game with more advanced pieces and gameplay, but after a few rounds, people get right into it, Scott said. 
There’s even a board game for the communal-minded dogooder type. Pandemic offers a refreshing alternative to man versus man competition. Each player has a different task and they work as a group and race the clock to solve a worldwide epidemic. 
 
Books: Young adult at heart 
Don’t let the genre title fool you. Young adult novels aren’t just for teens anymore. Adults are adding YA titles to their collections because they tend to be action-packed and full of high quality writing. They also often take on painful matters like abuse, bullying and emotional issues more head-on than adult fiction can, and grown ups appreciate that honesty. 
In recent years publishers redefined the parameters of YA, shifting its focus from sixth- to eighth-grade readers to from 19 to 29 year-olds, said Diane Mayr, adult services librarian at Nesmith Library in Windham. “Rather than first love type of stuff, the books are tapping into other things like supernatural themes. I think as long as you can tell a good story you’ve got an audience” She said. 
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling only skim the surface of the genre’s possibilities. The Fault in our Stars, by John Green is touted by critics as one of the best YA novels to date. The story is narrated by a 16-year-old cancer patient named Hazel who falls in love with the seventeen-year-old Augustus Waters, an ex-basketball player and amputee. If you are looking for a classic, pick up To Kill a Mockingbird, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel from author Harper Lee. 
 
Comics: in with the Indie 
Trade in those corporate comics for independent titles. Comics today are a lot more diverse than they were 10 to 15 years ago, says Chris Proulx, co-owner of Double Midnight Comics and brother of Scott. That’s largely due to the rise of independent serieses and creator-owned comic labels, which allow the original creators to own the trademark and copyright for the work and gives creators “free range to do whatever” and has lead to a widening audience, Proulx said. 
Some of the top independant comic books feature relatable characters and plots and veer away from crime-fighting superheroes. To begin your indie book makeover, take a look at two of Proulx’s top picks, Saga, and Locke and Key. 
“It’s like a Romeo and Juliet in space,” said Proulx, describing Image Comic’s Saga. He admitted that sounds a little cheesy, but the epic space opera boasts superior art and storytelling and modern vernacular that appeals to male and female readers. The two main characters are lovers and parents with a young baby who hail from different planets whose people are at war with one another. Proulx praised the series’ strong dialogue, character development and humor. 
If suspense drama and a bit of horror is your thing pick up IDW Publishing’s Locke and Key. The premise centers around a family who moves into an old New England house. They soon discover keys with wondrous powers to unlock magical places. In one episode a key unlocks a room that turns people into ghosts and in another a key is used on the back of the head to unlock memories. The series has also been optioned for a movie, so be on the lookout for that. 
 
Film: Go foreign  
Slow down, find a group of a friends, turn off those cell phones and immerse yourself in a foreign film. Hollywood may be the world’s movie mecca, but when it comes to aesthetics, filmmakers around the globe are coming out on top. 
“There is a beauty that is captured in foreign films.” said Laina Varakat, executive director of the Monadnock International Film Festival. “There’s a care put into their creation that is different than American films.” 
Films are one of America’s top exports, and because of that the industry is commercial and entertainment-driven. There’s nothing wrong with that, Varakat said, but in foreign countries the attitude behind filmmaking is different; it’s recognized as a hard art form. 
For maximum enjoyment, Varakat suggested viewers embark on a foreign film with friends who are interested as well, so they can talk about them after because, “it’s only after when you express what you believe about a film that it reveals itself to you,” she said. Watch it on a viewing system with good sound and good light. 
Some foreign films are also more accessible than others. Iranian director Majid Majidi makes family-friendly, happy films. Majidi is the most well-known Iranian director globally, Varakat said, and his film Children of Heaven is “The most beautiful little film. It’s so happy and sweet.” 
Famous Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu makes simple family dramas. 
“He is always telling the same good story and trying to tell it better every single time,” she said. “He’s someone who is not in a rush.”  
On the European front, director Francois Truffaut’s The Four Hundred Blows, a French new wave coming-of-age story, and Vittorio De Sica’s Italian neorealist drama The Bicycle Thief are neither too obscure or too obtuse, said writer and director Aaron Wiederspahn of Either/Or Films, a New Hampshire-based film company. 
 

As seen in the January 9th, 2014 issue of The Hippo







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