Monday, December 29, 2014

Movie Review: ****How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

Cindy Lou (Taylor Momsen) Who makes this move.  She sings the "Where Are You Christmas?" and does a beautiful job.  It is also her questions about the meaning of Christmas which get everyone thinking.  The Grinch (Jim Carrey) and his antics almost make it so the movie is bearable to watch.  However, in the end, even the Grinch discovers the true meaning of Christmas.  This movie uses the original script and poem by Dr. Seuss, but also adds its own dialogue and explanation.  Ron Howard directed.

Movie Review: ***^The Nativity Story (2006)

click here to watch the movie.

This movie was made in 2006, but as I watched it it seemed to be a much older movie.  It highlights the stories of Mary (Keisha Castle-Hughes) and Joseph (Oscar Isaac), and the story of the wisemen.  It shows them both traveling through desert and rough country, and shows the difficulty of the trips.  Herod is also featured, and he is very angry, power hungry, and worried about prophesies of a new king who will turn the people against him.  This film starts with Herod's men killing the babies in Bethlehem.  So this film gets stuck on that conflict and portraying the conflict between Herod and Jesus, or any sedition at all. 
What is good is the presentation of the gifts by the wisemen.  Gold for a king, frankincense for the chief priest and myrrh for  his coming sacrifice.
The drama between Mary and Elizabeth (Shohreh Aghdashloo) is very well done.  Mary is seeking someone who will except her pregnancy as from God rather than a sign of sin and law breaking.  She finds this in Elizabeth.  However she does return home to face the challenges, and Joseph is able to accept her after receiving a visit from an angel.
I really don't like the portrayal of the angel, with the bird and the voice, but that is just me.  This movie is very well done, and it is always a good thing to remember the birth of our Savior. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Movie Review: ****Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1

I have enjoyed the presentation of the "Hunger Games" books in the theaters.  I went and saw the third installment, which is the first half of the third book.  Again it was very entertaining.  We are now past the arena, and the sinister game of the capital, and into a real revolution.  Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is recruited to serve the rebellion as a spokesperson.  She finally accepts, and is drawn into the conflict, and is the favorite target of President Snow (Donald Sutherland).  Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is held captive by the capital, and his captivity is a major focus of this film, his torture and his eventual rescue.  However, the torture has influenced his mind to the point where he has been brain washed and manipulated, first as the spokesman of the capital, and then as an assassin. 
However has Peeta really been turned, because he does get a warning through to the rebels in District 13 that they are due to be bombed.  The other person prominent in the movie is Gale (Liam Hemsworth).  Gale is Katniss' first love, who has now joined the rebels.
The idea of this movie is very good.  It is very tense. The back and forth between Snow and Katniss is very well down, as President Snow tries to break Katniss, by sending white roses, and by manipulating Peeta, and finally by making Peeta into a killing machine.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Movie Review: Love Story (1970)

Is is one of the true classic love stories.  Oliver, (Ryan O'Neal) Harvard hockey player and son of a millionaire falls for Jenny, (Ali MacGraw) who is struggling through music school at Radcliffe.  This present an other side-or-the-tracks story.  Oliver's father doesn't approve of his choice, and unson's him when he marries.  However the  beauty of this love is that they are willing to endure hardship, while Jenny puts Oliver through law school.  It is after he graduates and move into a comfortable job that Jenny finds out she is sick and it is terminal.  Oliver's goes to his father for money to pay for her treatment, not saying why he needs the money.  When father finds out, he goes to the hospital, but Jenny has already died.  He says he is sorry, and we get the famous line "Love means never having to say your sorry."  This is the second time the line is used, the first after an argument.  One caution, there is plenty of poor language in this film.
An instrumental version of "The theme from Love Story" plays through out the movie.  However I suggest listening to the vocal by Andy Williams which includes a three minute review of the story.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Music Review: Casting Crowns: Peace on Earth

This is a selection of Christmas music available through You Tube.  I enjoyed some of the renditions this group offerred of some classic Christmas songs, particularly "O Come All Ye Faithful," "Silent Night," "Away in a Manger" and "Little Jesus Boy."  I don't particularly like their version of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" or "Joy to the World."  New song I like is "While You Were Sleeping."
Oh, little town of Bethlehem
Looks like another silent night
Above your deep and dreamless sleep
A giant star lights up the sky
And while youre lying in the dark
There shines an everlasting light
For the King has left His throne
And is sleeping in a manger tonight, tonight
"Come O Come Emmanuel" is an instrumental.

Movie Review: ***^The Rocketeer

I remember really enjoying this movie, and Natalia and Mark really enjoying it when they were little.  However in watching it again, I wasn't as impressed.  This is a hero vs Nazi spy movie, and on that level it works.  However it lacks some of the punch and story line some subsequent movies have.  Cliff (Billy Campbell) is a test pilot, who dreams of participating in air races.  His dream goes south when his prototype plane crashes after he is shot by a fleeing criminal.  The criminal is also caught, but not before hiding his bounty in a plane in the hangar.  Turns out he had stolen a new people propelling rocket.  He and his friend, mentor, Peevy (Alan Arkin) test the prototype, and decide to use it.  This only gets them into trouble.  First the criminals who want it, and the Nazi spy, Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton) who is paying them to steal it.  Then also the federals who want to recover it.  You add to the mix Cliff's pretty girlfriend, Jenny (Jennifer Connelly) and you have the makings of a pretty fun jaunt.  It is kidnapping the girl that turns things in the Nazi spy's favor, but when they criminals discover who they are working for, things change.  This movie even adds a German dirigible, which crashes into the Hollywood sign and destroys the "land" ending.  This movie is fun, but just lacks that extra oomph.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Music Review: The Complete Porgy and Bess, 1956

The Complete Porgy and Bess, 1956
This version features Mel Torme as Porgy and Frances Fay as Bess.  It also has Duke Ellington playing some featured trumpet work.  This is not a version with the original score, but is a jazz version of the opera.  Where is was studio produced, it does not have acting, so adds narration to give a sense of the drama of the story.  "Summertime" and "Plenty of Nuthin'" are a couple of my favorite songs.  This music lends itself to jazz, but by the end of the cd I was jazzed out. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

TV Music Review: The Monkees Season 2

The Monkees season 2  Davey Jones, Micky DOlenz, Peter Tork, Mike Nesmith make up the Monkees.  They were selected as actors to portray a made for television musical group.  I must admit, I hate the stories and the acting isn’t much better.  The thing I enjoy about the Monkees is the actual music.  This CD has the option to just play the music, and after the first couple mind numbing episodes this was the option for me.

Book Review: Jinx

Jinx by: Sage Blackwood, Harper Collins, New York, 2013
This is a new fantasy series, Which I am really enjoying.  Jinx lives in the Urwald, a forest with a few clearings where people live.  Life expectancy must be very short in this area because the forest is very dangerous.  In fact Jinx is being taken by his step father to be left in the forest (sort of like Hansel and Gretl) but things turn out different because Jinx meets a wizard, Simon.  In the forest are many creatures, such as werewolves, werebears, werechipmunks and trolls.  All of these lead to some precarious situations, unless you stay on the trail where there is a truce of sorts. 
There are also witches, who just might like to eat children.
There is an evil wizard as well, the Bonemaster, who uses people's bones to build things and traps people's souls so he can draw on their power. 
And then there are the trees.  Jinx is the only one who can hear the trees.  He is a listener.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Music Documentary Review: Elvis on Tour 1972

Elvis on Tour 1972
This is a documentary of Elvis’ 1972 tour.  It gives back stage scenes, talk by the band members of the tour, and shows Elvis on Stage.  It also shows Elvis backstage singing gospel with the members of the band.  Elvis covers many songs made famous by others such as “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Rolling”.  We also see a few of the old Elvis standbys.  The bring in a clip from the Ed Sullivan show, show Elvis in the recording studio, and give a bit of Elvis history.  The part I enjoyed the most is Elvis on stage.  The gospel was also enjoyable, but not as much show as the actual performances. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Music Review: Los Momentos Juleta Vinegas

Los Momentos Juleta Vinegas.  This is billed as pop music, and one thing seems to hold true for me, Mexican pop is not very good.  Juleta has a eerie quality to her voice, which isn’t bad, but these songs just don’t strike a chord with me.  There seems to be too much experimentation and not enough solid music making.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Book Review: Goblin Secrets (2012)

Goblin Secrets, by William Alexander, Margaret K. McElderry Books, New York, 2012.
This is a very good book.  It is written about the same city and situation as Ghoulish Song.  I really enjoyed it.  Graba was as evil as she could be, but in the end, she was not the truly evil person.  She was also very powerful as an old witch who had been around for a long, long time.  However, her image sister has taken the route of a goblin, or a changed one.  She too has a great deal of magical powers, but in a different route. 
The river is rising.  Someone must talk to the river, and convince him not to flood and injure people.  The goblins have protected the city for many years, but because of personal bias, they have been excluded from the city and cannot talk for the city.  Rownie must find his brother Rowan, to him talk to the river for the city.  Rowan is good at wearing masks, but he disappeared several months ago and no one has seen him.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Movie Review: ***^ Heaven Is For Real (2014)

Heaven Is For Real (2014)
This movie poses the question, how do you react if you child should visit heaven, and comes back knowing things he couldn’t have known.  That is the context of this movie.  Todd Burpo (Greg Kinnear) is a preacher and the church is doing rather well.  However he has a bad back and kidney stones, and a broken leg.  He takes a break with his wife (Kelly Reilly) and while vacationing the kids come home sick.  Their son has his appendix rupture.  He barely makes it, and for a time there are real doubts.  He recovers in a miraculous fashion.  However, he talks of flying around and looking down on others.  He sees his mother on the phone, his father pleading with God, and expressing his anger.  He also meets people in heaven, his great Grandfather, his miscarried sister.  He also meets Jesus.
This movie is about this family, and in turn the congregation of the church coming to terms and accepting this story.  They finally conclude it is a message of love, as God loves us all.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

TV Review: Winnie the Pooh's Halloween Stories
I think Winnie the Pooh stories are a bit predictable.  The group is scared of something, then they mistake one of their number for whatever they are scared of, and then in the end the truth is revealed and the all have a good time.  The cutest part about this show is the honey moon where Pooh and Piglet think they have landed.  I didn't get the bit about the dream; it was too complicated.  A dream of dreaming you're dreaming and you can't go to bed because then you'll dream.  That is the mess Piglet is in.  And a lack of sleep makes everyone crazy.

TV Movie Review: ****A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)

When Peppermint Patty, Marcie and Francis invite themselves over for Thanksgiving Dinner. Charlie Brown is in a pickle because they are going to Grandmother's house for Thanksgiving.  Who can tell Peppermint Patty anything, she just talks and never listens.  Charlie Brown puts together the dinner with Snoopy's help; But they only know how to cook toast and popcorn.  Peppermint Patty is pretty disappointed and her feelings spill over.  However, in the end grandmother saves the day.
The cutest scene in this story is the fight between snoopy and the lawn chair.  It is very classic. 

Movie Review: ****Psycho (1960 Alfred Hitchcock)

I thought this movie would make a good Halloween movie to watch, and let the scary music play loud enough to great the trick or treaters.  None of them noticed. 
This is the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock classic.  A young woman takes off with $40,000 from her employer, and picks the wrong hotel.  I didn't realize that the murder happened so early in the movie, and the rest of the movie is about finding her killer.  This movie is rated R because of the murder in the shower scene; however it would not be rated so severely today. 
Hitchcock does know how to tell a story, get an isolated rural area, and add someone who is criminally insane, and you have all the right ingredients for a scary time.  Janet Leigh stars as the victim and Anthony Perkins as the killer.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Movie Review: **^Scary Godmother: The Revenge of Jimmy (2005)
After last years fright Jimmy is determined that Halloween should not take place this year.  He comes up with several different schemes, such as destroying all the pumpkins, or getting rid of all the candy and costumes.  In every case, he is thwarted by his cousin Hannah.  He even tries to destroy the Halloween party, but aain is thwarted, and in the end wins the award for the best costume as he scared the Bug-A-Boo.  This show has the feel of the Magic School Bus, but other than that is very good. 
The voice talents include Tabitha St. Germain as Scary Godmother, Gary Chalk as Harry the Werewolf, Alexander Ludwig as Jimmy and Britt McKillip as his cousin Hannah.
I must admit, the characters are growing on me.

TV Movie Review: **Scary Godmother Halloween Spooktacular (2003)

I was going to write a review of how this movie was not any good; however the ending did make up for some of it.  I  had a bit of a hard tie with the kids and their characters.  They seemed a bit much.  Then add the monster party, and it all seemed just noise.  However, the monsters did grow on me.  And the ending was really pretty cute.  The point of the movie is older cousin and his friends scare their younger cousin by sending her into a haunted house.  She find the Scary Godmother, who taks her to the monster party.  When they realize they trick that has been pulled on her, they decide to get even with the older kids.  She thought her flashlight would keep monsters away.  This is just something her father had told her.  However, the flashlight is party of the revenge scene and is rather well done.
for the sequel

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Book Review: Ghoulish Song

Ghoulish Song by William Alexander, Margeret K. McElderry Books, NY, 2013.
 I picked this book up looking for something Halloweenish.  This book gave me that.  It is about a girl who dies, as she becomes disconnected from her shadow.  She is cast out by her family.  She has to figure out how to get her shadow reattached.  This has to do with a song that her flute insisted on playing.  The song can bring things together, or it can tear them apart. 
I liked this book.  It makes characters of shadows, and asks that we respect them and not trample them through puddles and such.  It also talks about being in harmony, not chasing things away with our negative attitudes.  In doing so the main character Kaite is able to save the day. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Music Review: Cat Stevens: Tea for Tillerman

Cat Stevens Tea for Tillerman (1970)
The most popular song form this album is "Wild World."  This is my favorite song of the album.
It is a very interesting song and often replayed. 
Oh, baby, baby, it's a wild world
It's hard to get by just upon a smile
Oh, baby, baby, it's a wild world
I'll always remember you like a child, girl
I also like “Where do the Children Play?” in which Cat Stevens sings about building and building but maybe we miss some things in doing so.  He sings this with a nice baritone voice which is very effective. 
I know we've come a long way,
We're changing day to day,
But tell me, where do the children play?
Cat Stevens had talent for song writing and singing as demonstrated by this music.  It has an almost Seals and Croft feel, but not quite.
Cat Stevens did his own artwork for the cover.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Movie Review: The Host (2013)

This is the movie based on the Stephenie Meyer novel of the same name.  This movie combines a couple characteristics of Robert Heinlein books I have read, aliens inhabiting a human body, and two personalities being inside the same person.  It is hard to make something entertaining with two people inside the same body, but it is done effectively here.  This is a movie about sacrifice, and sometimes finding your true home where you don't expect to find it. 
Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) has been running free with her brother, Jamie (Chandler Canterbury) and boyfriend Jared (Max Irons).  However, the invading hosts are determined to capture everyone, and they come up to her.  However, the human host is strong and remains inside, while the alien soul, Wanda, is divulging all of Melanie's secret, with the goal of finding the other humans.  This leads to a conflict, which is finally a bit resolved when they take off and find the human refuge, headed by Melanie's uncle (J.D. Evermore).  Being hosted, your eyes shine differently, so everyone knows she is not human.  Their are conflicts and suspicions with the group; and even romance, Melanie and Jared, but also Wanda and Kyle (Boyd Holbrook).  Also in the cast is a seeker, Lacey (Diane Kruger) who will not give up, who herself is torn by her host's personality.  She finally finds their hide out, which  creates a dilemma with an interesting solutions.
Like some of Meyer's books, this movie is a bit slow at times as the story deals with the romantic parts, but over all very well done.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Movie Review: **The Haunted Pumpkin of Sleepy Hollow

This animated feature movie was produced in 2003 the Porchlight Entertainment.   It is less than an hour, made for t.v. special.  It is along the genre of the Magic School Bus or Skooby Doo.  It starts with a retelling of the Washington Irving Story, and then carries on from there.  There are a couple thieves who steal the original manuscript, and another couple of kids looking for the best pumpkin, and unknowingly pick the pumpkin where the manuscript was hid.  However the manuscript turns the pumpkin into the haunted head, and the headless horseman is looking for it.  Lots of ghost flying around, and scaring of each other.  A couple of scary song spice up the show.  The main feature of this short is that it is noisy.

Movie Review: ***^The Range War (John Wayne 1931)

This movie is pretty good.  John Wayne is in a supporting role as Clint.  His brother (raised by his father) Sheriff Buck Gordon (Buck Jones) is caught between two feuding families.  The are arguing about range rights, and have had a recent squabble.  For his part, Clint has a girlfriend, Judy (Susan Fleming) who is daughter of the man with whom Clint's father is feuding.  Add in a cattle rustler, and then the murder of Judy's father, for which Clint is accused and condemned to hang.  It seems everything is pretty much going the wrong way when Sheriff Buck is shot. 

I really enjoyed this Wayne movie, everything except for the leading lady's acting.  She doesn't seem worried enough about Clint and his being hung.  Nor does she seem overly distraught about her father's murder. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Movie Review: ****The Shepherd of the Hills (John Wayne, 1941)

This movie takes place in the rural Ozark Hills, in the area of Branson, Missouri.  John Wayne portrays young Matt Mathews.  His mother died giving birth to him.  His father was not there.  He has grown up hating his father who abandoned him.  In fact the entire family is filled with hate.  His mother's sister is married to big Matt Mathews.  Daniel Howitt (Harry Carey), a stranger, comes to the area and wants to buy property.  He is a wealthy outsider, and purchases the land known as moaning meadow, where young Matt's mother lived and passed away.  There is a young woman, Sammy Lane (Betty Field) who has a relationship with young Matt, but also befriends Daniel Howitt.  Young Matt wants Howitt to leave.  Howitt becomes an important part of the community, using his money to help others.  He is known as the shepherd of the hill.  However, Howitt is actually young Matt's father.  He has come back to see if he can make amends.  Young Matt has had one life time goal, which has consumed his life, and that is to kill his father.  When young Matt discovers Howitt's true identity events lead him to this conclusion; he has no future, other than to be a murderer.  At the critical point, the unexpected happens.
This movie is loosely based on the novel of the same name.  However the relationship of the characters is all different.  I really like Field in her role.  She brings a lot of energy and spark. 

Music Review: The Book of Mormon Musical

If anyone wants to be considered a religious bigot this is the music and show for you.
This is so poor it doesn’t really deserve mention.  The caricature of Mormon missionaries is offensive at best, and at worse a hack job.  Some of the lyrics in this musical should have stayed in the trash can.  Granted, I am Mormon, and I am offended.  These people have no clue what Mormons are and believe, but produce this mess of a musical to show their ignorance.  I guess the theme is they have to change Mormon history to make it palatable.  This includes changing the stories in the Book of Mormon.  Mormon history doesn’t need to be changed. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Movie Review: X2 X-Men United (2003)

This is a movie with lots of excitement.  The part about Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) looking for his roots, and finding everything abandoned and destroyed at Lake Alkali was sort of not congruent with the action and was a bit lost.  But he comes back just in time to protect the children at the school from a governmental incursion by our evil enemy, William Stryker (Brian Cox) (who wants all mutants dead) and is actually the creator of Wolverine.  This movie makes good use of Magneto (Ian McKellan) and his side kick shape shifter Mystique (Rebecca Romijn).  Mystique helps Magneto escape by giving one of his guards an injection of iron; which Magneto uses to make bullets and a metal platform on which he can float. It also tells us more about the powers of Dr. Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and his machine Cerebro.  However, in the wrong hands, and with the wrong manipulation this machine can become one of great power, capable of killing.  The school is attacked by Stryker's government men, and most of the students escape, but six are taken hostage.  Cyclops (James Marsden) is taken captive with Dr. Xavier.  Stryker has a drug with which he uses to manipulate people.  He used it on Magneto to get information about the school and Cerebro.  He also uses this on Cyclops to make him an enemy to the X-men.  This movie is about team work, and some members sacrificing and protecting others. Wolverine ends up leading the escapees with Storm (Halle Berry) and Jean (Famke Janssen).  They not only have to keep the children safe, but also rescue Cyclops and Dr. Xavier.  This takes teaming up with Magneto and Mystique.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Movie Review: ***Yellow Rose of Texas (Roy Rogers 1944)

A Roy Rogers western is a different kind of movie.  They always have some singing involved.  In this movie Trigger, his horse, is credited, And Dale Evans plays a character, Betty Weston, while Rogers plays himself.  Betty's father has escaped from prison after being convicted of robbing a payroll and shooting the driver.  So this movie also presents a mystery.  Who actually did the shooting and stole all the money.  Rogers is represented an insurance agency trying to recover the money. 
This movie has some good action.  There is rescuing the boy from the runaway wagon, a fight in the water (sor of lame as they couldn't get any traction) a fight in the saloon, and a gun competition.  The Yellow Rose of Texas refers to a Showboat which is where Betty works, and where Rogers also takes up employment.  The shows are pretty good.  Roy Rogers sings and plays guitar, and even Trigger comes on stage.  Dale Evans also sings.  They also have a group, Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers do a few numbers.  Nolan and the Sons had been singing with Roy Rogers for some time.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Movie Review: **^The Lawless Frontier (John Wayne, 1934)

This movie is a typical Lone Star representation of John Wayne.  There are some technical issue with the copy on You Tube as a few minutes are skipped.  John Wayne fights the bad guys and gets the girl.  This movie has a couple horse chases, and one chase with John Tobin (Wayne) chasing our outlaw Zanti (Earl Dwire) sliding on a board (like a skim board) down a creek.  This movie also has Ruby (Sheila Terry) as our love interest and her father Dusty (Gabby Hayes.)  Wayne is after Zanti as he killed his parents.  Then he and his gang come upon Ruby and Dusty, and Ruby overhears them laying plans to steal her away and kill her father.  They take off, and Tobin rescues them.  Then they just have to convince the Marshall who the bad guys are. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Theatrical Musical Review: Sondheim Follies (In Concert 1985)

This concert features many big name performers singing some of Sondheim's big numbers. The New York Philharmonic provides orchestration an it was performed at the Lincoln center.  The stories is that the Follies are having a reunion party, as their old theater is being demolished.  It gives rise to many people looking back at their lives, and where they have let themselves down, and where they have succeeded.  It is a melancholy look.   This performance in You Tube and Netflix is not just a showing of the concert.  The first half hour talks about putting the concert together with only four days, and then the last hour or so is the actual concert, but shortened.  Many pieces are not shown or shortened.
However performances of note include Carol Burnett singing "I'm Still here."  This is a shortened version of the song.  Mandy Patinkin sings "The God Why-Don't-You-Love Me Blues."  Lots of movement and energy, but in he end probably too much and gets in the way of focusing on the song.  Elaine Stritch sings "Broadway baby."  Lee Remick as Phyllis sings "Could I Leave You?"  When the answer comes up "Yes" she send Ben (George Hearn) into hysteria for "Chaos."
This is a pretty fun show.  However I would have enjoyed more concert and less documentary.

Movie Musical Review: Company (Sondheim)

This is the 2011 version of the musical Company which originally played Broadway in 1970.  The staging is different with the orchestra behind the actors on stage.  Neil Patrick Harris plays Robert, the 35 year old bachelor, whose friends are interested in his getting married.  The play is presented as a series of vignettes, with Robert interacting with his married friends as company.  He plays a smoke pot scene, I am on the wagon scene, we're getting a divorce scene.  Of note are Katie Finneran playing Amy, and sings the "Getting Married Today" song.  Robert, says marry me then, and that convinces her to go through with thee wedding.  Patti Lupone plays Carol, the rich eccentric who proposes that they have an affair, and this gets Robert to think that maybe she should marry.  She sings Ladies Who Lunch, which is a look back over her life and marriage.  She gets this way when she drinks too much. 
Harris sings the concluding number, where he concludes that even with its flaws, marriage is the way to go, as then you are "alive."
Being Alive
Somebody, hold me too close,
Somebody, hurt me too deep,
Somebody, sit in my chair
And ruin my sleep
And make me aware
Of being alive,
Being alive.

Somebody, need me too much,
Somebody, know me too well,
Somebody, pull me up short
And put me through hell
And give me support
For being alive,
Make me alive.

Make me confused,
Mock me with praise,
Let me be used,
Vary my days.
But alone is alone, not alive.

Somebody, crowd me with love,
Somebody, force me to care,
Somebody, make me come through,
I'll always be there,
As frightened as you,
To help us survive
Being alive,
Being alive,
Being alive!

Movie Review: Six by Sondheim

This is an HBO 2013 documentary special about the career of Stephen Sondheim.  James Lapine, who often wrote with Sondheim directed and produced.   It focuses specifically on six songs, but tells a much broader story.  Sondheim was mentored by Oscar Hammerstein and his wife.  His first break came when he wrote the lyrics for West Side Story, with Hammerstein writing the music.  They particularly focused on "Somethings Coming," a song added to the beginning of the musical to introduce Tony, and to put him in a sympathetic light.  
Sondheim describes his writing as being a difficult process, with delving into the characters, to come up with the style and lyrics the characters would use.  Hammerstein taught him that a song has a beginning, middle and end, but also must move the story along. 
The documentary also focused on "Opening Doors"  from Merrily We Roll Along.  This is the closest to an autobiographical musical, as it explores persons who are struggling to make it in the Broadway business.  One song was about the piece being hummable, which concept Sondheim did not like. 
"Send in the Clowns"  from A Little Night Music was an after thought type of song, added so the character Desiree could explain her disappointments.  The documentary showed many different artsts singing part of this song; it has been covered many times.
"Being Alive" from Company is Sondheim, who was not married, explaining why marriage is important.  He had asked many of his friends about marriage.
Carlotta, a woman who has been through the entertainment world for many years sings "I'm Still Here" from Follies.  The song was written at the last, and took the place of "That Boy can Foxtrot."  Sondheim felt that song wasn't working, as it was humorous, but quickly got old.  The new lyrics are a list of things the character had gone through, and she is "still here/"
"Sunday" Sunday in the Park with George Sondheim explains has almost a funeral type feel, but it is not a funeral song, but a bit more. 
Broadway Baby from Follies plays as the credits are given, giving this production a seventh song.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Book Review: Todo el Amor en Poemas

Todo el Amor en Poemas: Antologia: Ellas, Grupo Editorial Tomo, Mexico City, 2005.
I cannot recommend this book.  It is not very much about love, and more about love making, so I found myself having to skip over much of the book, so as to avoid being embarrassed, and still not finding much which I would say was really about love.  In fact, just one poem touched me.  This poet is from Spain.
Me tienes y soy tuya. Tan cerca uno del otro
como la carne de los huesos.
Tan cerca uno del otro
y, a menudo, ¡tan lejos!...
Tú me dices a veces que me encuentras cerrada,
como de piedra dura, como envuelta en secretos,
impasible, remota... Y tú quisieras tuya
la llave del misterio...
Si no la tiene nadie... No hay llave. Ni yo misma,
¡ni yo misma la tengo!
Ángela Figuera Aymerich

Without key
You have me, and I am your; So close one to the other
like muscles of the bones.
So close one to the other
and, at times, so far apart!
You tell me, at times that you find be closed,
like from hard stone, surrounded in secrets,
impassable, remote... And you would like yours
a key to the mystery...

But no one has it... thee is no key.  Not even myself,
I don't even have it!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Movie Musical Review: Passion (Stephen Sondheim)

This musical I found on Your Tube. Stephen Sondheim music and lyrics.  Book James Lapine.
 Being about passion, it has a scene that is inappropriate at the start, but other than that it tells its story well.  This remind me of what Federico Garcia Lorca would write.  We are introduced to to Giorgio (Jere Shea) and Clara (Marin Mazzie) who are madly in love, though Clara is married to a different man.  Our lovers must part however, as Giorgio is a Captain in the military, and has orders to a different assignment. 
Giorgio meets a new group of men, including the Colonel, his ranking officer, whose cousin, Fosca (Donna Murphy) lives with him, as her parents have both passed away.  Turns out her story is truly tragic.  She was married, but only to a man who took his dowry, and then borrowed more from her parents, and left her parents broke.  He did not love her.  In fact, he was already married.
She was crushed and defeated, and now she is sick, and has nervous convulsions.
However, when Giorgio arrives, she is intent on making him her lover.  For her part, she loves him from the moment she sees him from the window.  This has the feel of an obsessive lover.  She follows him, and he wants to leave her.  In fact he takes a four-day leave to be with Clara, and writes a letter explaining his affections are elsewhere.  Fosca takes this as a rival, but does not give up. 
The doctor, who also treats Fosca, asks him to reconsider, and placate her, as it would be good for her health.  This he does, but she still carries things too far.  She forces him to write a letter, and dictates the words.  A love letter. 
Giorgio finally gives in.  He realizes he has never been loved like this before.  However it is too late.  Fosca's health is going.  And Giorgio's mind cracks under all the pressure. 
This musical, like I said, has a Lorca feel.  In Lorca it seams things never turn out right.  That is true her as well.  Sometimes, love is hard.
What is the meaning of true love.  This play concludes with Giorgio singing to Fosca
No one has ever loved me
As deeply as you.
No one has truly shown me
What love could be like until now:

Not pretty or safe or easy
But more than I ever knew.
And Fosca responds, To die loved is to have lived.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Music Review: David Archuleta; Love Songs (Forever More)
This is actually a You Tube mix rather than an actual David Archuleta album.  However, I love David's enthusiasm and voice, so I have enjoyed listening to this mix.  I think my favorite is "Forevermore."  All of the songs from the album with this name are included, only adding one song.  The song he adds is in Tagalog, so I have no idea what the lyrics mean, but it is beautiful.  All of these song are beautifully done.  There are some that they repeat itself a bit too often, but loved listening to this.  

Movie Review: The Man from Utah (John Wayne, 1934)

Here is a Lone Star John Wayne movie with a twist.  Wayne plays John Weston, a cowboy from Utah, who is in Nevada and happens to stop a hold up.  The Marshall (Gabby Hayes) hires him to go under cover to roust out a gang of rodeo thieves.  Many rodeo participants have gotten sick, and some have even died.  Wayne travels by canoe part of the trip (Lone Star loves canoes) and prevents a stage coach hold up, rescuing a couple women, the banker's daughter (Polly Ann Young) and the other in on the job (Anita Campillo.)  The treat of this presentation is we get to see an entire rodeo--specialty acts, stage coach race, doggie tying, bull riding, cow wrestling, bronco riding, trick roping, it is pretty fun.  He has to beat the gang's best man, Cheyenne Kent (Yakima Canutt.) Weston gets in with the group, and they try to way lay him, as he is winning the rodeo.  He escapes uninjured, so next is the needle.  Can Weston figure out how the poison is delivered, get the girl, win the rodeo, save the bank with all the rodeo money from robbery and keep himself alive?  Of course he can. 

Movie Review: ***^The Book Thief (2013)

In Nazi Germany Liesel (Sophie Nelisse) is uprooted from her mother, when she is taken to concentration camp for being a Communist.  She is taken to a family to live as an adoptive child.  Her new mother (Emily Watson) is a bit strict, but her father (Geoffrey Rush), who survived WWII is a pleasant fellow.  She makes a friend of the neighbor boy, Rudy (Nico Leirsch) who wants to kiss her, and wants to be fast like Jesse Owens (who was not a popular character in Nazi Germany.)  Into the new life of Liesel with her new parents, comes a Jewish refugee, Max (Ben Schnetzer.)  Ben comes asking for help, and Papa is obligated as his father saved his life during the war.  Max is ill, and spends most of his time in bed.  This is not good for his health, but he can't go out or move around for fear of detection.  The move him to the basement, where he can move around.  He also enjoys hearing Liesel's descriptions of the weather, and helping with her books--they don't have many.  Max gets worse and goes into a coma.  Liesel reads all the books to him; and when she runs out she starts borrowing more from the Burgermeister.  (He of course doesn't know as she crawls through his window to get them.   She reads and reads, and writes new words on her chalkboard.  When she came, she could read very little, now she is a very good reader. 
Rudy is scheduled to go to a special training camp, and Papa in conscripted.  He is wounded and comes home.  This movie ends much different than I had supposed.  I guess the fact that death was the narrator should have been a clue, and bombs falling all the time.  Its just they always made their way to the bomb shelter.
This book is not so much on the Nazis burning books, but more about the will to live and to go on.  Sometimes, life wins out, even when all around us in falling to pieces.

Movie Review: **^ Branded a Coward (1935)

Johnny Mack Brown stars as Johnny Hume, who was traumatized as a young boy as he watched his family murdered by "The Cat" (Yakima Canutt) and his gang.  He his in the bushes.  As a result, twenty years later when we pick up the story, Hume is good with a gun and a horse, but paralyzed when their is real gun play involved.  He keeps moving, so as to avoid facing up to anyone that he is a coward.  However a friend, Oscar (Syd Saylor) decides to travel with him.  Oscar stutters, which is the cause for some jokes, but Hume has no problem with it.
Hume is forced to be a hero, when they come upon a stage being attacked.  He fights off the attackers by himself, and rescues the express money and the woman, Ethel Carson (Billie Seward) riding in the stage.  Oscar talks him up, and they want to make him Marshall.  Not a good career for a coward.  However, when "The Cat" tries to scare him off, he is determined to stay and get his revenge.  Eventually his day comes, but then he isn't sure he wants revenge.
This movie was some entertaining scenes.  It is pretty old so some of the special effects don't quite work, like the mist when the stage coach is by water.  And some of the characters are canned, with the bad guys always sitting in the corner, and the hurray every time free drinks are offered. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Disney Movie Review: ****Dumbo (1941)

This is an early Disney animated features.  This movie has the Casey Jr. Coming Down the Track song.  I like the chugging "I think I can, I think I can."  Dumbo's ears are so big they keep tripping him, or people tease him, and his mother, Jumbo gets angry and gets into trouble.  She is separated form Dumbo.  The little mouse befriends, and wants to make him a big star.  The elephant on parade dream is a bit much, but I really like the Elephant Fly song.  The crows do an excellent job. 

Movie Review: ****Big Jake (John Wayne, 1971)

This is one of my favorite John Wayne movies.  Jacob "Jake" McCandles (Wayne) leads his boys, Michael (Christopher Mitchum) and James (Patrick Wayne) on a quest to rescue his grandson Little Jake (Ethan Wayne) who was taken by kidnappers.  In the kidnapping many of the ranch crew were killed, and McCandles' other son, Ethan's father, was badly wounded.  They are joined by Jake's American Indian friend, Sam Sharpnose, (Bruce Cabot.)  The gang of outlaws is lead by John Fain (Richard Boone.)  Prior to traveling, even though they make a big deal of carrying one million dollars ransom, Jake and his estranged wife, Martha (Maureen O'Hara) have decided they wouldn't pay men for killing their crew.  However, they not only need to extract revenge, but also rescue the boy, whom Jake has never seen.  They face ruthless criminals, who do not care about the life of others. 
They travel into Mexico, beyond the reach of Texas law, and they slowly follow.  This time it takes cunning and daring to defend their money chest, and to keep Little Jake alive. 

Bernadette Peters at the Hollywood Bowl - Concert

Here is a You-Tube treat.  I assume this is her 1996 Hollywood Bowl Concert.  Bernabette Peters is a joy.  He makes beautiful music.  She is the person others try to copy when they sing.  She has been performing since age five.
She performs several Stephen Sondheim numbers. 
"Broadway Baby" from Follies.  Peters dances with this song.
"No One Is Alone" from Into the Woods.  This song is one of the touching songs form the second act.  Somtimes things are not what they seem.
"Sooner or Later" from Dick Tracy.
"Not a Day Goes By" form Merrily We Roll Along is a trademark song of Peters.  It repeats the same lyric many times, but the way Peters performs it is interesting and exciting and dis settling all at the same time.  

She also sings "Unexpected Song" Form Song and Dance.   Peters won a Tony for this musical.  This song is such a treat. 

"Glow Worm" was an unexpected and fun song.  She announces it as a sad song.  The orchestra (L. A. Philharmonic Orchestra) even sings this number. 

"Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive," one of my favorite songs, introduced a Harold Arlen section.  This section also included "Come Rain or Come Shine," "Come on Get Happy." "Over the Rainbow" and "Stormy Weather."

Peters has her own style and tone; but it is all good. 

Movie Review: *****Meet the Mormons

I want to write my thoughts on this documentary movie purely from an entertainment perspective, then I am gong to write in my other blog about my experience.  This is one of the most motivational movies I have seen in a long time.  It is very uplifting and to me was very entertaining.  I enjoyed each of the six stories presented, and each had an internal effect on my heart.  I could empathize with all of the individuals presented.  I really enjoyed the liveliness of the bishop.  The strength of character of the football coach who has overcome anger, the endurance of the kick boxer and her husband, the lawyer but they pursue their love of martial arts, the service of the candy bomber.  I found lots of strength and wisdom in this story, especially some of this comments of this 92 year old man that he made to a group of young people.  The story of the humanitarian was incredibly done.  I like they way he combined his culture and his religion.  You don't give up who you are when you become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  You just add Christ's love to who you are.  The last story, of the missionary mother I found the most moving. Her is the story of a teen mother.  She had two babies with her boyfriend, who did not stay.  Her second baby passed away.  She was so hurt.  She had been visiting with the missionaries, and by the slimmest margin found the support she needed.  The story of her husband, would have been equally as intriguing.  This film shows them saying goodbye to their oldest as he serves a mission. 
If you are a member of the church, I recommend this movie.  You will find it uplifting and moving.  If you are not a member of the church, I would again recommend this movie.  You will find it insightful and educational.  You will also be moved and inspired by these stories.  I think you will have a greater love for the Savior.  I also know the stories will inspire you to be a better person, to love more, to serve more to do your best.
The David Archuleta song at the end is also very inspiring; 
There are times when you might feel aimless
You can't see the places where you belong
But you will find that there is a purpose
It's been there within you all along
and when you're near it
You can almost hear it.

It's like a symphony just keep listening
And pretty soon you'll start to figure out your part
Everyone plays a piece and there are melodies
In each one of us, oh, it's glorious

You will know how to let it ring out
as you discover who you are
Others around you will start to wake up
To the sounds that are in their hearts
It's so amazin', what we're all creatin'

It's like a symphony just keep listenin'
And pretty soon you'll start to figure out yo part
Everyone plays a piece and there are melodies
In each one of us, oh, it's glorious

And as you feel the notes build
You will see

It's like a symphony just keep listenin'
And pretty soon you'll start to figure out yo part
Everyone plays a piece and there are melodies
In each one of us, oh, it's glorious

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Book Review: The Oz Odyssey

The Oz Odyssey by Roger S, Baum, Illustrated by Victoria Seitzinger, The Overmountain Press, Johnson City, TN, 2006.
Welcome back to the Oz world.  I like the Oz characters, and so I find this book entertaining.  It is written from L. Frank Baum's great grandson.  Dorothy wanders off the trail where she encounters the Wicked Witch of the West, who is not dead after all, but reduced to a miniature state.  However her powers increase daily, and she hopes to take of the Emerald City.   In fact, in this book we see all four of the witches, although we cannot be sure if the are real or not.  We see the sister upon whom the house fell.  Could she too be alive?  I guess that is another book.  In the end, Dorothy and Toto wander of the Yellow Brick Road taking a short cut.  The Lion, the Tin Man and the Scare Crow come to her rescue. 
They all get shrunk by the Wicked Witch, and told they can never go back.  However Dorothy befriends a cloud person, Micur, who is held captive.  They help her escape, and she helps them by raining on the Wicked Witch.  Toto discovers how to restore their size, and all is happy in the end.
Like the L. Frank Baum books, this book has some clever adventures.  We even meet Frank Baum in a great mansion.  However nobody can match the original author's wit. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Music Review: Chanticleer: Wondrous Love

Chanticleer: Wondrous Love, A World Folk Song Collection, 1998.
This collection of folk songs is very lovely, and delivered with the Chanticleer style which is unique, with high tenor voices, and a few lower voices.  It does make quite a statement, however some of the songs I prefer to others.  Loch Lomond is my favorite.  This starts with a soloist and the rest underneath and it is just beautiful.  It concludes with a medley of American folk songs which is also very fun.  I must admit, all the high notes, though interesting and beautiful for a time, have a tendency to put me to sleep when there are to many.  I prefer the bass tones underneath.  I think the basses are what provide the driving foundation to this music. 

Book Review: A Tale of Two Castles

A Tale of Two Castles by: Gail Carson Levine, Harper, 2011.
This was a fun book.  Elodie travels from her island to the big city, to become an apprentice; her parents think as a weaver, and she thinks as a mansioner, which means actress.  However, she discovers there are no free apprenticeships, now all apprentices must pay—more money than she has.  She tries out anyway, and is rejected.  However she befriends a dragon.  The dragon offers her employ as his crier, and she accepts. 
This is a fun book about unlikely relationships, such as that between Elodie and the dragon; but also between she and the ogre, who can change form.  The ogre hires the dragon for some private eye work, and Elodie is called upon to be the dragons eyes and ears on the ground.  This leads to a good adventure, but also gets Elodie into some serious trouble as they try to discover who wants to kill the ogre, who is stealing everything, and poaching the ogres animals.  The king owns one castle in towns, and the ogre the other.  The ogre is to marry the princess.  But he disappears at the wedding announcement party, and is presumed dead.  Now Elodie and the dragon really have their work cut out for them, which will result in their own peril.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Movie Review: ***The Long Trail (John Wayne, 1930)

This is a  black and white movie with sound.  However, they hadn't gotten away from the written narration because several times, there was narration explaining the scene.  This is John Wayne's first starring role, and the role that made him a star.  He was in several uncredited movies before this, and one in which he was credited as Duke Morrison.
This trail is a bit long, and I had difficulty trying to follow them.  They were in the dessert, but decided not to go to California, For a time I saw the Tetons, and they talked of the last fort which would have been Fort Hall, but that is before the Tetons if you go past them and they are out of the way of the Oregon Trail where I assumed they were going.
This wagon trip used Calistoga wagons, which were neat to watch.  The went through mud, river and snow.  They had quite a struggle.  There was the battle with the native Americans, I assume Cherokee, but they mentioned Shoshone.  Wayne portrayed Breck Coleman, who is the scout for the company, but also on the trail of a group of murderers who killed his friend.  The suspect he is after them, and the crime boss, Flagg (Tyrone Power Sr.) keeps sending his men to kill him, but they always miss.  Of course there is a girl, Ruth Cameron (Marguerite Churchill), who gets off on the wrong foot with Coleman for the first quite a few steps.  Zeke (Tully Marshall) is Coleman's friend. 
Some of the special effects miss.  The wind is just awful.  But the struggling through the mud was very interesting.  They must have abused the animals terribly. 
Flagg and his man make their play, and then they have Coleman on their trail.  Wayne hadn't developed his swagger.  In fact he runs to the woman at the end, rather than swaggering.
Wayne is always entertaining.  They also have one of the characters add some mother-in-law humor which is fun. The romance between Wayne and the girl was also effective.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Movie Review: War of the Wildcats aka In Old Oklahoma (John Wayne, 1943)

This 1943 John Wayne film shows the early oil business in Oklahoma.  Jim Gardner (Albert Dekker) is the big oil tycoon and he wants to drill on the Indian land.  However he wants to give them a bad deal, and they only alternative is Daniel Somers (Wayne), a cowboy, not and oilman.  Add a young woman, Catherine Allen (Martha Scott) a school teacher who is run out of town after writing a romance novel.  She gets stuck between the tycoon and the cowboy.  Teddy Roosevelt gives his old soldier the contract, but also a time limit to deliver oil in Tulsa.  Gardner sets up as a blocking stone, as he gets the contract if they can't deliver.  Two characters help Somers see that the woman is in love with him, but he thinks she is with Gardner.  Bessie Baxter (Marjorie Rambeau) runs the hotel.  Despirit Dean (Gabby Hayes) is his old friend and side kick.  This movie is exciting as Gardner buys the pipeline and the have to move their oil to Tulsa by wagon, going through fire set by Gardner's men, and with Gardner's men among the teamsters, but sabotaging things at the same time.  The women have to pull a few fast ones to get the time limit extended a few minutes.  Here again it comes down to a fight at the end.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Musical Movie Review: Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat

This is the first Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice musical to be presented publicly.  It was first presented as a 15-minute pop production, but has since been extended.  This is one of my favorite musicals.  Listening to Donnie Osmond sing "Close Every Door to Me" is enough to entertain anyone.  It is funny how Andrew Lloyd Webber puts so many different types of music into this, and makes a satirical play on all of them.  This includes French Cantina, Country, hippy go-go with a guru, rock and roll.  In addition to Osmond as Joseph, Maria Friedman portrays the narrator, Richard Attenborough as Jacob, Joan Collins as Mrs. Potiphar, Robert Torti as Pharaoh.
This presentation sets itself up as telling the story to school children, who also make the children's chorus.  The eleven brothers of Joseph do a very good job.  

The Carol Burnett show - dentist
This is Tim Conway at his best from the Carol Burnett Show.  Conway can be so funny.  In this skit he has his patient, Harvey Korman, rolling with laughter.  I laugh at it even though I have seen it many times before.  When Conway numbs his own hand, I just fall over laughing. 

Musical Review: ****Song and Dance (Andrew Lloyd Webber)
Song and Dance, Andrew Lloyd Webber,Live at the Palace Theater, 1984.
This is a very enjoyable musical although different. I didn't care for the glipses of the audience and preparations.  It was just filler.  But the actual musical was superb.   It is an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. I was made aware of it by hearing a Bernadette Peters rendition of "Unexpected Song."  This song is the highlight of the show.  In this version Sarah Brightman portrays the lead part.  The first act is pretty much a one woman show recited the tragedies of her love life.  Some of the songs I had heard before from Webber anthologies.  For example, "Wipe that Smile off your Face" and "Tell Me on a Sunday Please."  This songs are terrific as well.  But both are delivered after relationships go bad.  "Unexpected Song" is delivered when a relationship is going well.  It is a classic love song.  I also enjoyed the letters home  Brightman portrays and English young woman, who is in the United States, New York and Hollywood.  Her take of Hollywood was also fantastic.
The second act is the dance, ballet to be specific.  I am not a fan of ballet, as it puts me to sleep, but this dance has something more.  It has gymnastics and tap dancing.  However the theme again is the hazards of love.  There are five guys and four women.  Our lead dancer, Wayne Sleep goes through all the women, but in the end is left with no one.  The last ten minutes of the production combine dance and singing as Brightman returns to the stage. This resolves the problem of partnerships.  All the dancers sing with her, and she dances with them.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Movie Review: **Yellowneck

This is a man vs nature movie.  In this case nature wins 80 percent of the time,  Four men have deserted their unit with the goal of walking across the Everglades of Florida, to the Atlantic Ocean where they hope to catch a ship to Cuba.  They run into a Colonel, who likewise has deserted, and they make a team of five.  The Colonel (Stephen Courtleigh) had arranged to meet a guide, but the Seminoles got to the guide first, and he is killed.  The characters are interesting, the Colonel who in a drunken fear, ordered his men to go the wrong way, the Sergeant (Lin McCarthy), who has always been running, and now is running away from the war.  The men, one from England (Harold Gordon), who is a thief, another who has stolen gold from the Army (Berry Kroeger), and lastly "The Kid" (Bill Mason) who has total trust in the Sergeant and is following him as he runs away.  The Everglades are not a pretty place, and the elements and the Seminoles make it less than hospitable.  The men succumb to quick sand, alligators, Seminoles and rattle snakes.  One finds the ocean. 
This movie tends to the naturalistic, and is just a bit much for me.  it is just too much something, and left me with an uneasy feeling.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Music Review: Blood Sweat and Tears: Greatest Hits (1972)
Blood Sweat and Tears made some beautiful music.  The organ accompaniment to "You've Made Me So Very Happy" resulted in a classic jazz rock fusion song which is their trade mark.  They also add brass instruments into their music to further the jazz-rock fusion.  "Hi De Ho (That Old Sweet Roll)" is a good example of this combination.  "And When I Die" is an uptempo song which really gets the blood moving.  "Spinning Wheel" is the class of this album.  This is one of those songs I find myself singing for no reason.
What goes up must come down
spinning wheel got to go round
Talking about your troubles it's a crying sin
Ride a painted pony
Let the spinning wheel spin

You got no money, and you, you got no home
Spinning wheel, spinning all alone
Talking about your troubles and you, you never learn
Ride a painted pony
let the spinning wheel turn
"I Love You More Than You'll Know" features guitar playing with some crazy riffs.  It also has a saxophone solo that is nice.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Book Review: Small Steps

Small Steps, by, Louis Sachar, Delacorte, New York 2006.  This is the third book based on the Holes theme written by Louis Sachar.  This book focuses on the character Arm Pit and his relationship with a famous singer Kaira De Leon.  He and X-Ray, also from Holes enter into a ticket scalping arrangement with Arm Pit putting up the money to buy the tickets from his landscaping job, and X-Ray putting in the selling skills.  They purchased twelve tickets, and when they only have two left to sell, Arm Pit decides to take his friend, his next door neighbor girl who has cerebral palsy.  However X-Ray balks.  He has been promised a good amount of money for the tickets.  However X-Ray brings the tickets--which turn out to be photostatic copied counterfeits.  X-Ray sold the tickets after all. 
The scuffle of when Arm Pit is arrested, leads to the performer noticing him, and his friend Ginny.  She invites them back stage, and then onto the stage behind the sound system to see the concert. 
This book is slow at the first, but after the concert the pace really picks up.  There even is an attempted murder and lots of violence, and turns out Arm Pit (Theodore) ends up a hero, although we don't know if he gets the girl.  Kaira records one last song, which tells the story of she and Arm Pit--taking "Small Steps."

Monday, September 29, 2014

Movie Review: ****^Angel and the Badman (John Wayne, 1947)

This is John Wayne at his best.  He portrays an outlaw, Quirt Evans who is taken in by a Quaker family after he has been shot.  They nurse him back to health, and while he recovers their daughter (Gail Russel), falls in love with him.  This movie is a conflict of cultures, the gun-slinging outlaw and the peaceful Quakers, who do not allow guns in the house.  And she slowly gets to him.  This is a movie about the power of a woman.  When she gets under his skin, his whole existence changes.  He converts form a bad man to a farmer.  However he is a farmer with a few bad people after him from his past.  When they attempt to kill him, and the girl is injured, Evans has to decide what he really believes.  The Marshall is portrayed by Harry Carey.  He is hounding Evans, but it is him who makes it so this movie doesn't have a terrible ending.  I kept thinking it was going to end bad, it just had to.
Carey must have died shortly after production as he died in 1947. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Movie Review: ***^Monuments Men

Talk about you all star cast.  This movie has Matt Damon, George Clooney, Bill Murray, John Goodman and Cate Blanchett.  However, I did not connect in a real internal way with this movie.  The story is about a group of Allies, art experts, trying to rescue art that has been stolen by the Nazis, before it is destroyed, or falls into the hands of the Soviets.  There efforts a thwarted on all sides, by the Nazis, and by the Allies, who are not interested in not bombing certain places because of the value of the art, they are interested in saving men.  This becomes the major theme of the movie, is saving art worth the loss of human life?  This movie is loosely based on the book by Robert Edsel The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History.  It was produced, directed, and script written by George Clooney. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Movie Review: ***^Justin and the Knights of Valour (2013)

Tony and I enjoyed this movie for movie night.  Tony actually started it.  What happens when you father, the king, has outlawed all Knights, and you feel your destiny is to become a knight.  This is a show of family conflict, but also growth from a boy to a man.  It also involves discovering who you really love, and it is not always the high society person, but sometimes the kitchen maid.  This movie stars Freddie Highmore as Justin, Tamsin Egerton as Lara, his crush but the wrong girl, and Saoirse Ronan as Talia, the spunky girl he meets and Antonio Banderas as Sir Clorex, a fake knight.  Mark Strong portrays Sir Heraclio, a banished knight who is coming back to seek revenge.  A lesson learned in this film is that trying to make everyone equal so as to preserve peace it not always a good idea.  There are those that are always willing to fill the void when you rule from weakness.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Movie Review: ***The Fighting Seabees (John Wayne, 1944)

Finally a John Wayne movie where he doesn't end up with the girl at the end.  John Wayne portrays Wedge Donovan, an owner of construction men who work with the Navy in WWII.  However, as they are civilians they are not allowed to carry weapons or defend themselves.  He befriends Ly Commander Robert Yarrow (Dennis O'Keefe) and his girlfriend Constance Chelsey (Susan Hayward) who wants Donovan's help to change the Navy rules about civilians.  Donovan is head strong, and goes against commands, resulting in many of his men being killed.  Chelsey is wounded in this battle, and Donovan blames himself.  Their relationship cools as he had almost come between his friend and his girlfriend. 
However, he does go back through military training and becomes a lieutenant commander.  They are then on opposite sides of the island working on different projects when they are attacked.  There is a hot battle.
This movie would have received higher marks except for the caricatures of the Japanese tank drivers, and too much smoking.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Music Review: Celtic Thunder: Storm

Celtic Thunder: Storm, composed by Phil Coulter, 2011.
This seems to be a follow-up to the popularity of Celtic Women, however it doesn’t have the same impact to me.  There is something about the music that seems contrived, like they were trying to create some conflict or drama in the music, and for me it just isn’t there.  However, I like that the start by paying tribute to God.  “New Day Dawning”
Thank you, Lord, for a new day dawning
Over our mountains and valleys of green
Thank you, Lord, for a new day dawning
And shining Your light from above
All over this land that we love
The songs though nice and the singing reflects a range of accomplishment.  Of this is the song “When you’re 18.”  The young man does a good job.  There also seems to be some conflict with a love triangle, but based on only the music this is hard to tell.  I think this must be based on a dramatic version where more of the story is portrayed. 
I like the way this C.D. ends as well.  They give tribute to their heroes. 
“Hail the Hero”
Hail the hero, strong and true
Who fought the fight and saw it through
Who swore he ne'er would be a slave
And gave his life, our land to save

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Music Review: Manteca Stake Broadway Review 2014

 I know it is not kosher to review something you are in yourself, so I won't review my own performance other than to say it is much better than what I did last year.  However there are a couple of performances I wanted to recommend.  Most of us are amateur performers, with our director Christine Papworth trying to get the best out of us.  I sure for her it is like pulling teeth.  However there are a few performers who could be professional musicians.
For example, check out Nathalia Anderson singing "Defying Gravity" from Wicked.  I can actually feel her flying the way she uses her voice.  Her performance could be on Broadway.  Also her husband, Neil Anderson singing "'Til I Hear You Sing" from Love Never Dies.  Sarah McGuire did an excellent job of "Nothing" form Chorus Line.  She has an easiness with getting the music right but also the actions so you can see in  your mind what she is singing.  Marin Haws sang "The Steps of the Palace" from Into the Woods and created an interested princess.  "Simmer Nights" from Grease was a performance by members of our ward.  The energy of this song is very entertaining and you can tell they were having fun.
In addition to the vocals there was instrumental music including oboe and organ.  Jean Robinson played Phantom of the Opera on the organ.  Even the music is scary but good to set the stage for Halloween.
About a third of the way through there is a 9/11 tribute with the "Star Spangled Banner," "God Bless America" and "Taps."
I am sharing someone else's recording.  With this link you can choose to watch the entire performance, or pick out the songs you like best.   Perhaps your favorites will be different than mine.  One thing for sure, there are many very talented people in our stake, and they can put on a good show.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Movie Review: ***^ Rio Lobo (1970)

This is a John Wayne full length feature which presents John Wayne at his best.  Wayne portrays Colonel McNally a Union officer.  He befriends two Confederates, Captain Cordona (Jorge Rivero) and Sargeant Phillips (Christopher Mitchum), who are helping him find the people who betrayed his unit.  This would be treason, as Union secrets were sold which resulted in the death of McNally's friend.  This story is intense.  Former Sergeant Ketchum, (Victor French) one of the betrayers settled in Rio Lobo, and has taken over the town by manipulating the sheriff to help him in this task.  This has included, unjust incarceration murder and blackmail.  Doing this he has been able to acquire most of the town and water rights.  Also in the mix, because the Sherriff and his men murdered her friend is Shasta Delaney (Jennifer O'Neal.)  She insists on being part of the group who is going to confront the bad guys 
This bad blood boils over into a pretty intense gun battle, with a little bit of dynamite thrown in.  It also shows that if you hurt enough people, sooner or later they will have their day.
They did something weird with the camera often when changing scenes which was obnoxious.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Music Review: Aerosmith Greatest Hits 1980

This is the first compilation of singles by the band Aerosmith.  In includes many of the earlier songs of Aerosmith.  The two I like best are, "Dream On."  This band is still often performed by Aerosmith.  The other is an Aerosmith cover for the Beattles song, "Come Together."  This version of this song I could listen to over and over.  Their other songs in this mix you have to really have a thing for Aerosmith to enjoy.  However, they did ark Aerosmith as one of the reigning rock bands of the era.  Steve Tyler on vocals and Joe Perry on lead guitar make a good combination. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Movie Review: ***^Rainbow Valley (John Wayne, 1935)
John Wayne portrays John Martin, a drifter, just out of prison who heads for Rainbow Valley, a community which has been subject to a band of outlaws, who won't even let the town folk make a road out for fear that this will bring the law.  They have the community pretty well pinned in.  Martin rescues the mail carrier, George Hale (George Gabby Hayes) and Old Nellie, his car from the outlaws, and in doing so meets the mail mistress, Eleanor (Lucile Brown.)  Martin takes the precarious position of road foreman, and has to defend his workers from the gang.  Hale helps with his car and some dynamite he has from the mine.  When the town discovers Martin is and ex con, they assume he is with the outlaws, and decide to take them all out once and for all.  Everyone is headed for a big battle. 

Movie Review: ***^ 'Neath the Arizona Skies, (John Wayne 1934)
'Neath the Arizona Skies, John Wayne, Lone Star Pictures, 1934.
This is another formula movie from Lone Star Pictures.  These movies always have the same theme, John Wayne is chased by either the law or the bad guys, he meets a girl, John Wayne resolves the conflict and he gets the girl.  In this case there are two girls, Nina, (Shirley Jean Rickert) a mixed blood child who Chris Morrell (John Wayne) has raised.  He has to find her White birth father so Nina can get access to her oil royalties money.  However the outlaw, Sam Black (Yakima Canutt) also have desires for the royalty money.  They are after Chris who gets away, but collapses from the consequences of a fight.  While he is unconscious, a bandit Jim Moore (Jay Wilsey) changes clothes with him.  He is then rescued and taken to the ranch of the brother of the outlaw, Clara Moore (Sheila Terry.)  Again there is lots of shooting and fighting.  There is double cross and horse chase.  There is even a jump into the lake at the end of the horse chase.  A couple danglers at the end, is Nina's father killed, is the brother killed?  They are both shot.
The little girl added something to this movie which makes it a bit more interested than the regular movie from Lone Star.

Movie Review: ***Daniel Boone Trailbazer (1956)

This is the story of Daniel Boone and the Shawnee Indians after the establishment of Fort Boonesburrough.   Daniel Boone helped establish the West when the West was Kentucky.  It starts with the death of Daniel Boone's son, who in fact was killed by Indians.  However from there it tells a story which I am not sure is based in history or just a story.  The story presents the British turning the Shawnee against the white settlers, resulting in an all out assault against the fort.
This movie has plenty of action and death.  It has romance between Boone and his wife, as well as his daughter and a settler.  It does not have Native Americans portraying the Native American parts.  This movie features Bruce Bennett as Daniel Boone, Lon Chaney as Chief Blackfish, Jaqueline Evans as Boone's wife and Nancy Rodman as his daughter and Faron Young as her love interest.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Music Review: Joanne Shenandoah, Orenda: Native American Songs of Life

Joanne Shenandoah, Orenda: Native American Songs of Life, with Lawrence Laughing, AllMusic, 1998.
This is some beautiful music.  They sing in their native language, Mohawk.  However there is included a type of written narration which gives some idea of what is being said.  These are songs for the long house.  The music and harmony are very nice. They sing alone, and then sing together and it makes for a nice blend.  There are a couple times when they have narration under the vocal or instrumental and this I didn’t care for.  It was usually to soft to actually hear. 
My favorite song is “In Love.”  It has a lively celebratory tone.  You can feel the happiness of being in love.  This is the Mohawk rabbit Song, a traditional dance in which the women select yheir partner and they dance around the singers.  An elder said the Rabbit Dance was like a marriage ‘two steps forward, one back.”

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

TV Review: *^Enter the Lone Ranger

Enter the Lone Ranger 1949
This I think is the original Lone Ranger.  I didn't like it very much.  It was just too syrupy.  The narration played into this, heroic stuff which comes off as not genuine.  Clayton Moore stars as the Lone Ranger and Jay Silverheels, a Mohawk from Canada, as Tonto.  This first movie talks of where the Lone Ranger got his identity, why he wears a mask, why he uses silver bullets and doesn't shot to kill.
This is c rated material at best.   I love William Tell's Overture, and the reason I love it is be cause of watching the Lone Ranger as a youth.

TV Review: ***^Rawhide: Pilot 1959: Incident of the Tumbleweed
There are eight seasons and at least 216 episodes of Rawhide  This is the first.  We are presented to trail hand Rowdy (Clint Eastwood) and Trail Boss Gil Favor (Eric Fleming.)  In this episode, tumbleweed refers to a prison wagon that they run into along the trail.  There are seven prisoners inside, one of them being the girlfriend of a notorious outlaw, and also a couple of his gang. 
They make their escape, and the cattlemen intervene.  However one of the gang escapes, supposedly to go get the leader of the gang.  The deputy is killed, and the sheriff is wounded.  Favor chooses Rowdy to come with him as they handle the prisoners.  The other men will drive the herd.
Eventually the gang catches up with them, as they are crossing a river.  This episode has a different ending than might be expected, as some of the prisoners seek redemption.
There is some gun play and fist fighting, and even violence towards the woman--although she gives back her own.  Terry Moore guest stars as the woman prisoner.
This episode was entertaining.  I didn't watch Rawhide as a youth. However this film had plenty of action, and the prison wagon was very interesting the way it was portrayed.  Very enjoyable.

Music Review: Britney Spears: The Singles Collection

Britney Spears, The Singles Collection, 2009.
This CD tells me definitely I do not like the songs Britney Spears sings.  There was a time I enjoyed listening to her, but this was too sexualized or something.  I could just see her make a fool of herself.  From the titles of the songs, you can see something wrong: Born to Make you Happy, Oops I did it again, I’m a Slave for you, Gimme More, Piece of Me, Womanizer.  This C.D. is for women who want to feel like someone’s possession, and men who want to possess.  Not much redeeming value here.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Movie Review: ***Against a Crooked Sky

This is a Western film with some Mormon influences.  For example the lead is played by Stewart Petersen who is Mormon.  Doug Stewart wrote the script.  It was produced by Feature Films for Families, if not a Mormon Company caters to Mormon families. Lex de Azevedo wrote the music.
The story line goes that older sister is kidnapped by a native American group nobody knows about.  They live in a secluded area and it is hinted they are descended from the ancients.  They use many southern Utah locations like Dead man's Point.  They visit the Shoshone and the Cheyenne seeking information, then go through Apache territory and then find the tribe beyond the crooked sky where the overlook Dead Man's Point.  The cliffs and the terrain have much to do with the story, but the geography of where tribes are located is screwy. 
Sometimes the acting is a little stiff as well.  As is the story.  Turns out, the character played by Petersen, the younger brother Sam, feels guilty about his sister being kidnapped, so takes off trying to find her, and is saved from drowning by Russian, (Richard Boone) an old trapper.  He does find a head band with some secret symbols; and when he tries again this leads him to a mute guide from amongst the Cheyenne, who wants to go home to his people to die.
And so he does, but he is murdered.  The older sister is accused, and Sam has to beat the Crooked Sky in a one-day run, or his sister will be shot with an arrow.
This movie has an emotional ending which depicts a mother's love.  However it does offer much on the way other the the trapper drinking a lot and being mad his dog is killed.  It does show sisterly love between the kidnap victim and the sister of her kidnapper.  They have a relationship based on love.

Movie Review: ***^Concrete Cowboys (Tom Selleck)
This is a 1979 made-for-tv movie starring Tom Selleck as Will Eubanks and Jerry Reed as J.D. Reed.  Eaubanks and Reed are two down on their luck drifters from Montana, who end up in Nashville after hopping a train.  In Nashville they have a friend, Lonnie (Randy Powell) who says they can stay at his house, provided they pick up a package for him  He is going to be out of town. 
This they do, and then they get sucked into acting as private detectives to find a sister of their customer named Karla (Morgan Fairchild.)  The sister had come to Nashville to make it in music, and although she didn't make it big, she met some stars, most recently Woody Stone (Claude Akins.)  However, in their search, the become the target for attempted murder.  First someone shoots at them, and then their car is blown up.  It gets more and more interesting--and our two drifters are not really detectives.  Can they figure this mess out and get away with their lives?
This movie also affords the opportunity to show a couple Nashville acts.  We see Ray Stevens perform a funny song and also meet Barbara Mandrell and Roy Acuff.
I liked this show.  It had some action nd some humor and some mystery.  It also had some country music and artists.  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Movie Review: *****When the Game Stands Tall

This is the best movie I have seen in some time.  It has a Christian undercurrent, which I like; of course it is based on the story of a Catholic High School football team, De La Salle from Concord, CA.  I had heard the story of the team, but this movie is spectacular.  This movie starts with the record, 151 consecutive victories.  But then it goes further.  It explores adversity.  A graduating player's mother is in a coma; and he feels he has no one.  Then Coach Bob Ladouceur has a heart attack, and can't coach for a time.  One of the graduating seniors is murdered, before he can play college ball.  That is hard to understand.  However Coach talks of his funeral, and puts this into some perspective.  That his father and grandmother could be proud of raising such a good young man. 
They add to this hardship, with a loss to start the season, they streak of consecutive wins is over at 151. 
This movie is about overcoming hardship.  About bouncing back, and holding your head up.  The coach always reminded the players it wasn't about winning, but giving your best, and becoming outstanding young men and citizens.
This is a movie I recommend everyone see.  It is excellent.  It is incredible how you can get vested in football games that were played so many years ago, but there I was, rooting and cringing when things didn't go right; Well done!
The cast Coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel)
Chris Ryan (player pursuing a touchdown record, Alexander Ludwig)
Terry Edison (assistant coach, Michael Chiklis)

Coach's wife Bev Ladouceur (Laura Dern)

Ryan's father Mickey (Clancy Brown)

Coach's son Danny (Matthew Daddario)