Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Movie Review: Disney Animation Classics 2

These Cartoon shorts are based on Aesop's Fables and Grimm Fairy Tales.  This presentation starts with three stories of the Three Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf.  The first "The Three Pigs" is the traditional story of the Three Pigs, with little variation of the classic tale.  The second, "The Big Bad Wolf" adds Little Red Robin Hood to the story, and the third pig is the rescuing hero.  The third, "The Three Little Wolves" is still about the Big Bad Wolf, and adds the story of "Crying Wolf."  The Bad Wolf's three sons also help him trick the two pigs.  Because they were teasing the other pig, blowing the wolf-warning horn and disturbing the third pigs work, he doesn't come when they blow the horn.  The two pigs have to trick the Bad Wolf into giving the horn a blow, and then the third pig comes with his wolf pacifier.  All three of these presentations include the song "Who's afraid of the Big Bad Wolf."  This is followed by "Lambert, the Sheepish Lion".  This is a very good story, and it too had a wolf, although not the Big Bad Wolf.  It is a wolf that jars the sheepish lion enough that he becomes a lionish lion and saves his mother.  "Chicken Little" has a fox instead of a wolf.  This version of the story is very gruesome and very harsh.  I guess you must be careful who you listen to.  "The Three Blind Mousketeers" is cute as they out duel the cat ad his many traps.  This concludes with Elmer the Elephant who has a crush on Tilliw the Tiger.  But all the other children make fun of him and his long nose, until he has a chance to prove himself. 

Book Review: Number the Stars

This book is written by Lois Lowry and is a Newberry Book.  I picked this book up because I was looking for something to read on the train.  I like short books.  I also like young adult literature and this fit the bill.  However after getting into this book, it became totally drawn in by the story.  Turns out this is historical fiction, which I also like. 
This is the story of a girl, Annemarie and her best friend, Ellen.  It takes place in Denmark, during the Nazi occupation of WWII.  Ellen and her family are Jewish.  When it is announced, with a couple days notice, that all of the Jews in Denmark are going to be relocated, these two families jump into action.  Ellen stays with Rosemarie, pretending to be her deceased sister, while Ellen’s parents are taken elsewhere to hide. 
This is the story of individuals who cared enough for each other to say “no” to the Nazis when they tried to expel the Jews.  It is also a story about a people who followed the same suit.  It tells a story I had never heard before, but is a true story.  It is also a story about bravery, and having to approach danger, even when you’re scared.
I recommend this book highly. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Movie Review: ****Hook

This is one of my favorite movies.  It is based on a continuing story, after Peter Pan (Robin Williams) has grown up.  He married Wendy's daughter Moira (Caroline Goodall) It starts with Peter Banning neglecting his children because he is too involved in business.  He misses his son's baseball game, and most of his daughter's play.  They travel to England to visit Grandma Wendy (Maggie Smith) and present a special award to the lady who adopted the lost boys.  Somehow Hook (Dustin Hoffman) is not satisfied with the way things have gone, and leaks through to London, where he steals Peter Pan's children.  This sets up a series of events in which Tinker Bell (Julia Roberts) must first remind Peter of who he is, teach him how to fly, and restore his confidence.  This will give Hook the satisfaction of battling a worthy opponent.  Peter must rescue his children.  In the meantime, Hook sets out to win Peter's children over to him, so he could take the parental role.  This almost works.  One of the cute scenes is where the pirates are playing baseball, and Jack, Pan's son, (Charlie Korsmo) hits a home run.  Hook says that's my boy, and Pan is left in the dark as his boy is losing his loyalty.  But it is when Pan gets his happy thought that the show reveals its theme.  His happy thought is his children.  That is what makes it so he can fly again.  John Williams wrote the music for the movie, including the theme sone, "When You're All Alone"

When you're all alone
far away from home
there's a gift the angel sent
when you're alone.

Everyday must end
but the night's our friend
angels always send a star
when you're alone.

At night when I'm alone
I lie awake and wonder,
Which of them belongs to me,
which one I wonder?

And any star I choose
watches over me
so I know I'm not alone
when I'm here on my own

Isn't that a wonder?
When you're alone
you're not alone
not really alone.

The stars are all my friends
till the night time ends
so I know I'm not alone
when I'm here on my own

Isn't that a wonder?
When you're alone
you're not alone
not really alone.

Pan's daughter Maggie, (Amber Scott) does a beautiful job with the song.  

Peter Pan starts out shaky in his relationship with the lost boys, but this develops and is one of the highlights of the movie.  Rufio (Dante Basco) plays a great modern rufian.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Music Review: South Pacific: In Concert from Carnegie Hall

South Pacific: In Concert from Carnegie Hall, Rhino Entertainment Corp., 2006.
This is not a musical, but in fact a concert, although they did add some action and some costuming.  I mean, what would the scene with Luther Billis (Alec Baldwin) in the Thanksgiving program be without Billis dressed up with a coconut brassiere.   Reba McEntire takes the roll of Nellie Forbush and Brian Stokes Mitchell as the love struck Frenchman Emile de Becque.  The Orchestra of Saint Lukes provides the music.  The other notable roles are Jason Danieley as Lt. Cable who does an excellent job of singing “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught” dealing with racism.    Lillian White portrays Bloody Mary, who is intent on her daughter marrying the Lieutenant, but thwarted by prejudism, and then the war takes his life. 
The thing this movie has going for it is MeEntire and Stokes Mitchell.  They are both veterans of the music scene, McEntire in country music and Stokes Mitchell in musical theater and opera.  Their voices carry the presentation.  The rendition of “Some Enchanted Evening” is very beautiful.  As are all of the reprises.  Even though I would never have cast Baldwin as Luther Billis, “Honey Bun” is just a hoot.  Maybe it’s the music, or just the scene but even in the medium of a concert this song is very enjoyable. 
This presentation is enjoyable, and except for a couple parts of people finding their places in the script, it flows very well.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Music Review: ****Oceana: As December Leaves

Oceana is the C.D. that the garage band my son was in through high school put together.  It had three members, my son Mark and his friends Chris Chavez and Andrew Loc.  Actually Andrew and Mark formed the group, but they needed a drummer so convinced Chris to join them.  However Chris' first love was guitar.  Andrew played guitar and Mark bass.  All three do vocals.  They called their music Emo-rock.  Chris did the mixing and recording work.  If anyone wants to check it out, since I have it on itunes, I could probably make them a copy on C.D.
myspace link

They start with an introductory instrumental "Prelude" with Andrew on piano and a friend on violin.  I really enjoy it.  It then goes into a piece that is probably too loud for my taste, but Mark has a nice bass riff.  My favorite is "The Seaside Burns Tonight."  I feel this song is as good as anything you hear on the radio.  Mark wrote the lyrics and provides lead vocal:
The Seaside Burns Tonight.
My heart is cold and weary
Your hands are warm so hear me
And teach me how to show you what I feel
There’s a fire burning through me begging to ensue me. 
This time I know, this time it must be real.
If I were made of glass you’d be the fire that made me.   I would shine for only you, and you alone.
If you could read my mind you would find that I’m
Giving up and living all that’s new
I would send you this message
That did not hear to test it
I promise you that I’d never grow tired of you

Mark also wrote the lyrics for "Still Here" about the conflict with your own demons, and overcoming them.  The cover song is very good "Oceana." "Sinking Stones" is also very fun.  "We are the sinking stone...Don't let me sink alone." This song has a long ending with instrumental and recorded war scene, which is a bit confusing.  The final number "Dreams of Drowning" is also very fun.  The vocals are very pleasing with the three all singing vocals.  "The forecast for tonight..."  This song ends with "We're all going out to sea," and then the sound of the ocean.

Movie Review: ****^Captain America

Captain America   This is an enjoyable sequel to the original Captain America and The Avengers.  Who knew that after the original that Hydra would be back.  That is what happens in this movie, and worse yet, they have infiltrated Shield.  Captain America (Chris Evans) and the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) discover this by following a beacon to a secret base, where the knowledge of the Hydra scientist, Dr Zola (Toby Jones).  Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson) has guided Shield to an important day where they will launch three vessels as a shield over the world.  These vessels will have incredible destructive force.  However, due to the infiltration of Hydra, this force is going to be used to cleanse the world of those who might stand in the way of Hydra, based on computer projections.  Nick Fury is shot, and presumed dead.  Falcon (Anthony Mackie) joins Captain America in first in offering a place to hold, and then in joining the team.  A surprise character is Bucky, Captain America's best friend, who was assumed lost in the first show.  His memory has been wiped, and he has been manipulated by Hydra to be an assassin.  He is the greatest rival, and Captain America wants to bring him back from the nightmare he is living.  Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), Fury's boss is in fact the manipulator behind Hydra.
This is a fun show with great action. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Mormon Movie Review: ***Beauty and the Beast: A Latter-day Tale

Also known as "Belle and the Beast: A Christian Romance."  This movie took a long time to get going.  The acting at the first seemed terribly canned and stereotyped.  The beast, Eric (Matthew Reese) is too mean and rude, while Belle (Summer Naomi Smart) is just too forgiving.  They were too much trying to fit into their particular roles, which made for an unbelievable movie.  However, I must admit that before the end of the movie, I was concerned about the characters and what happened to them.  It had a feel good ending that was pleasing. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Movie Review: ***^The Fox and the Hound (1981)

This is a story of friendship.  The friends are on opposite sides of a spectrum, a hunting dog, Copper (Kurt Russell) and a fox, Tod (Mickey Rooney).  While they are small, this is OK.  However, when the get older they are intended to be mortal enemies.  It takes a large bear to remind them of their friendship.  Other characters include Vixey (Sandy Duncan), the fox's girlfriend.  The wise owl, Big Mama (Pearl Bailey) can see things from a different perspective, which she uses to improve things. 

Movie Review: **Open Season

This is the story of a grizzly, Boog (Martin Lawrence), and his sidekick the deer, Elliot (Ashton Kutcher).  Add a crazed hunter (Gary Sinise) and a disturbed ranger (Debra Messing) who is overly attached to the bear, and you have the making of a strange movie.  The movie tries to mimic the relationship between Shrek and donkey, but it comes up really short, and just doesn't seem to work.  It makes a big deal of potty humor, which is a clear sign that this movie is going no place.

Movie Review: ****Hondo, John Wayne


This is a John Wayne from 1953 and is available through Instant Netflix.  This is a very enjoyable movie. Geraldine Page is the costar as Angie Lowe who has been abandoned by her husband and lives with her son in Indian Territory.  She is confident she will not have trouble, but the Apache are on the war path due to broken treaties.  However she is right, the Apache mean her no harm, but only because the Apache chief befriends her son, who reminds him in spirit of his own sons who have been killed, and who he adopts as a son.  Hondo (Wayne)  had visited the ranch, carrying dispatches for the army.  He leaves the army and goes back to make sure she is OK.  Meanwhile Hondo is bushwhacked by her husband, who is killed by Hondo.  A love interest develops between the two.  She tells the chief Hondo is her husband, saving his life from the Apache.   How can he love a woman, after he has killed her husband?  What price should you pay for happiness?  This story gets more intense when the chief is killed, and then the Apache no longer hold her and her son in favor.  My only complaint is the number of violent deaths, mostly of Native Americans.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Movie Review: ***Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves (1997)

This is the same idea as the original two movie, but with a twist.  It is the parents who are small, and having to find some way to get the attention of their children.  Wayne Szalinski (Rick Moranis) and his wife (Eva Gordon)  are going through a shaky time, so his wife and sister-in-law (Robin Bartlett) are headed for vacation.  Wayne has the order, get rid of the Tiki statue from the living room.  He does this with his shrinking ray, but the ray also gets he and his brother (Stuart Pankin).  The kids just think they are on vacation, and the fathers have headed to NASA to see a launch.  They don’t realize they are in the house, just small.  So the in-laws daughter decides to hold a party.  The party gets out of hand when a group of boys come over.  Things will get out of control.  In the end, they get the attention of the children by rewiring a stereo system.  Although there were some bumps, they realize they have all grown as a result of the adventure.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Music Review: ABBA ***Gold

As much as I want to like this album more, I just don't.  Maybe this explains why I didn't much care for the movie "Mamma Mia" either.  Some of the tunes have a pleasant beat and can get you into the music, but overall, for me, this album falls flat.  The enjoyable songs, just don't carry the entire album.  And even some of the songs I enjoyed while younger, just don't do it for me now.  I guess, as an older man, I am more concerned with lyrics than I use to be.  These lyrics are all focused on money, or it seems making fun of making a living.  "Money money money, must be funny in the rich man's world."  "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!"  Sounds like someone standing in line waiting for their share, but wanting someone else to provide the labor while they reap the benefit.  I was pleasantly surprised by one song, "Thank You for the Music."  This is a very nice thank you for the God given talent people are given.
  So I say
Thank you for the music, the songs I'm singing
Thanks for all the joy they're bringing
Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty
What would life be?
Without a song or a dance what are we?
So I say thank you for the music
For giving it to me

Movie Review: ****X-Men

X-Men  This movie introduces us to several interesting characters.  It is based on the Marvel Universe.  The reason for all these characters is that some have an advanced genetics as humanity goes through a progression in their evolution.  I was not familiar with the comics when I first watched this, so all the characters were new.  There is Magneto (Ian McKellen), who is the leader of those who want to control everything, and Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), on the opposite side who also runs a school for young mutants.  Two drifters are invited to the school, to keep them away from Magneto’s grasp; Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Rogue (Anna Paquin).  Wolverine is almost indestructible, and has long claws, Rogue can take the powers of anyone she touches.  Other important characters are Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) who is a shape shifter and pretty wicked and Magneto’s assistant; Storm (Halle Berry), Cyclops (Scott Summers) and Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) are in Professor Xavier’s inner circle. 
The story centers around how the government is wrestling with the idea of registering all mutants, who they are and what they can do.  Magnet is resistant to this, so he is planning a demonstration to prove his point.  He is going to turn many people into mutants, even though the process he has developed is unstable.  He kidnaps Rogue to carry this out, puts her in a machine which will kill her for sure.  The machine of Xavier is sabotaged by Mystique, and almost kills him.  The students have to fight on their own.  They take on the henchmen of Magneto, for the safety of many dignitaries that are discussing mutant issues.  It is a rough go, but they do prevail in the end, Wolverine saving Rogue, and letting her use his regenerative powers.  The first part of this story ends with Xavier’s men on top of sorts.  Magneto is captured, and in a plastic prison (he can manipulate anything of metal) and hopefully there is the possibility for good relations between human and mutant.
The theme of this movie is accepting those who are different than ourselves.  It is hard to do, but possible with patience and understading.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Movie Review:**Honey I Blew up the Kid

Honey I Blew up the Kid does not have the same magic as the original.  It has the mean executive who is shutting Wayne out of his own project.  It also has cute gadgets, but in the end is just a noisy bunch of goo which doesn't work.  For the most part this is a good movie to fall asleep to.  It does show a mother's love in the end, "Man that is a big Mama!"  But this movie isn't near as fun as the original.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Movie Reiews:***^ Honey I Shrunk the Kids

The movie, Honey I Shrunk the Kids was a very original movie with a good idea, and showed us how differing sizes could be relative, such as you could ride an ant, or sleep in a Lego, or a drop of water could be a deluge.  And Rick Moranis is just perfect in his roll as the bungling scientist Wayne Szalinski.  I love him in his get up to find the kids, hanging over the back yard in with his magnifying glass.  His wife played by Marcia Strassman is steady.  I also like the neighbors, the Thompsons, played by Matt Frewer and Kristine Sutherland.  The adventures and spark of the kids are effective, but this show is enjoyable watching the adults.  Man, who would know a lawn mower can create such havoc.  I guess we should be careful with our machines to make sure there are no little people about.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Shirley Temple Movie Review: ****The Littlest Rebel (1935)

This movie is delightful.  I watched to colorized version.  Temple portrays Virgie Cary, whose father is a Captain of the Confederacy in the Civil War.  He tries to visit, but when their home ends up behind enemy lines it is more difficult.  He often travels home while on scouting missions.  Eventually it becomes too dangerous to travel home.  The family home is burned down in a battle, and Virgie's mother takes ill in the storm.  Their slave, Uncle Billy (Bill Robinson) comes to fetch the Captain, and he arrives home the day before his wife dies. 
He ends up being caught this time, but because of the sad story his captor decides to help him get little Virgie to family in Richmond.  He gives him a pass, and information of how to steal a uniform to get through the lines.  He agrees not to spy, and to forget everything he sees.  However they get caught.  Both the Captain, and his helper, Colonel Morrison (Jack Holt) end up in the brig, and scheduled for execution as spies.
Virgie and Uncle Billy visit President Abraham Lincoln.  They tell the story and the president is inclined to grant a pardon. 
There are some special scenes in this movie.  Uncle Billy dances for the children at a party at the beginning of the movie.  Bill Robinson is incredible.  There is another scene in which he and Temple do a duet dance.  The dance is stupendous, although they had to sort of force it into the story. 
Temple also sings.
 "Believe Me if All Those Endearing Young Charms" she sings as a lullaby to her father.  She also sings "Polly Waddle Doodle" to her father and the Colonel, as well as a group of soldiers to end the movie. 
This movie has a lot to recommend it.  Bill Robinson (Mr. Bojangles) is always excellent as is Shirley Temple.
The next to final scene with the interaction between President Lincoln and Virgie and Uncle Billy is also a favorite.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Book Review: ****^The Pearl

The pearl was published in 1947.  It was inspired by a Mexican folk tale from La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico.  This is one of my favorite books.  In this book John Steinbeck weaves the different songs, the song of family and the song of evil and they song of the pearl.  It also shows how what is suppose to be good, and quickly turn to evil because of jealous people.  Also in our own pride, sometimes we forget those we love and should not forget.  This is the story of Kino, his wife Juana and their son Coyotito. 
This book presents an island with a distinction in class.  First there is the upper, educated class.  These are the doctors, the clergy, the civil servants and the buyers of pearls.  Then there is the lower class, people who search for the pearls, but who are confined to always be poor, because of their own lack of education.  There is a situation where they have to sell their pearls in town to the local buyers, who all work for the same person, and so the prices are suppressed.  No one can get ahead, except the buyer of pearls.  The only time anyone takes interest in this family is when word has gone through the community of the great pearl Kino finds.  This is the mother of pearls.  The clergy comes to see him, to remind him of his own marriage and baptism of their boy.  The doctor, who wouldn’t see them earlier in the day, also comes to see them.  There is also evil that takes a notice in Kino.  Someone attempts to steal the pearl.
When Kino finally gets to the sellers, they offer him such a deflated price that Kino knows he is being cheated.  So he takes the pearl, proclaiming he will take it to the capital.  However they cannot let this happen.  SO another attempt to steal the pearl, leads to Kino killing a man.  They flee, but are followed by others intent on killing them and getting the pearl.  The status quo cannot be broken. 
Such a story can only end one way, and tragedy strikes the men following them as well as the family.  This book, with the weaving songs is very enjoyable.  It is like the story is being whispered into your mind and you can see the pictures being painted.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Musical Movie Review: **^The Frog Prince (1986)

This is not the Disney version, but a made for T.V. version, which not only has the prince who has been turned into a frog, but also two princesses, nieces of the king, and only one is a rightful princess.  The older sister is elegant and gives off the look of a princess; but she is also mean spirited, and treats others poorly.  However the younger sister has self esteem issues, mostly brought on by her sister who is always putting her down.  She wishes for a friend, and finds a frog.  However she and she frog become friends, and she now has someone to talk to.  Her sister notices the change in her, and kidnaps the frog, putting him in a pit where he is sure to die due to lack of water.  The music in this musical is forgettable, but I liked it for the characters, the king who has a good heart, the prince and the younger sister.  Aileen Quinn (also Annie) stars as the young princess, Helen Hunt as the mean sister. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Disney Movie Review: *^ Disney Animation Classics 1:

The feature of this series of animated cartoons is Mickey and the Beanstalk.  This is a take of off the English fairy tale.  Mickey and his friends, Donald Duck and Goofy were after a magical harp, which the giant has stolen, and as a result "Happy Valley" isn't so happy and more.  Their journey the started by accident, as the beanstalk carried them to the sky while they were sleeping.  There is a cute interaction, and we don't have a golden goose, just a magical harp rescue.  The giant is cute, but portrayed as not being smart.  The three were luck to get out of there.
The rest are shorter Mickey Mouse cartoons.  Brave Little Tailor: Mickey again finds himself facing a giant, and he has to use his own ingenuity with a needle to see himself through.
Gulliver Mickey: I didn't care for this one, as Mickey faces off against the tiny people.
Thru the Mirror: This is an example of how you dream when you have been reading Lewis Carroll.  Everything is backwards. 
The final is "Mr. Mouse Takes a Trip."  This is Mickey and Pluto taking a trip by rail, and Mickey not wanting to but a ticket for Pluto, so shoves him into his suitcase.  The conductor catches on however. 

Mormon Musical Movie Review: ****Saturday's Warrior

This is a 1989 made for video version of the popular Mormon Musical.  I was once in the chorus, and my bias is that it would have been better had they used a chorus to back up many of the songs.  There is more depth with the chorus, and there were parts where the orchestration was naked.  Maybe they were trying to save money.
The story comes through in both versions.  There were a couple special effects I enjoyed.  Talking through the cloud of heaven at earth didn't work for me.  However when Todd and Julie are singing a duet, even though far apart, their hands are overlapped.  This was very effective.  I enjoyed Julie and Todd the most.  I hadn't realized how whiny Jimmy was.  "Isn't there a some one who will take me as I am, build me up not put me down, make me feel like I'm as good as another.  This just comes off like a complainer.
This movie gives a view of what preexistence may have been like.  However it is not doctrinal, nor meant to be.  It does touch the heart of the LDS community and has done so for many years.

Movie Review: **** Redtails

Red Tails (2012)
This is a very good exploration of African Americans in the military during WWII.  The attitude of military administration was that African Americans could not handle a fast moving airplane with all the intricacies involved.  The Black officers were kept out of the officers club, and called any number of derogatory words.  The most difficulty is they were given the worse planes, and the worse assignments, cleaning up areas already won in terms of air superiority.  It was only through heavy negotiation, and the bomber squadrons needing fighter protection to stay with them, that they were able to show their performance and get better planes and better missions where they could show their skill.  There is a nice rivalry in the movie between a German ace pilot and the American pilots.  There is also the effects of trauma which takes its toll on the men.  Many heroic episodes.  There is even a romance between Lightning and Sophia.  This kind of movie makes me nervous, because someone has to die. 
Terrence Howard  as Colonel Bullard
Cuba Gooding Jr. as Major Stance
Nate Parker as “Easy”
David Ayelowo as “Lightning”
Tristan Wilds as “Junior”
Daniela Ruah as Sophia

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Movie Review: ****^ Brian's Song

This is a good movie.  The relationship between Gale Sayers (Billy De Williams) and Brian Piccolo (James Caan) a black man and a white man who roomed together, when that was not kosher, is very poignant.  These two men played for the Chicago Bears, and competed for the same position, and then supported each other and became good friends, is what drama is about.  The actually started together for a time.  The relationship was tested with the illness of Piccolo.
Until this movie came out, I had no idea of the relationship, or even who Brian Piccolo was.  I had seen Gale Sayers in highlight films,  but did not know this story.  Cancer is no one's friend.  It takes too many of us.
This movie tore my heart out.  I highly recommend it. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Book Review: The Wayward Bus

This is a John Steinbeck book.  This book is a study of characters from different economic circumstances, and from different cultures who are thrown together for a bus ride through the rain, and taking an old road because the bridges are out. 
The characters are interesting in their own right.  Juan Chicoy is half Mexican, and owner of the Rebel Corner Diner and also runs a bus line from there to the coast.  He keeps the Virgin dangling from the mirror of his bus, Sweetheart.  Pimples, who wants to be called Kit, is his assistant mechanic at the Corners.  Juan's wife is Alice.  She has a bad temper which gets her into trouble.  She is also snoopy and wants to find out things to hold over people.  The helper in the diner is Norma.  Norma is somewhat lost in life.  She is saving her money to go to Hollywood. 
The bus passengers include the Pritchards, Mr. and Mrs. and their daughter Mildred.  Mildred has an attraction to Juan.  Ernest Horton is a traveling salesman.  He has plans to get ahead through an invention.  An old man, who is always quoting regulations and destroying everyone's fun.  He has a stroke before they reach their destination.  Camille is a character who changes the dynamics.  She is the last to arrive.  She is a real beauty and the men all want to be close to her.   She is in fact a striptease artist. When the bus gets stuck, Chicoy plays with the idea of just running away.  He comes to his senses, and resigns himself to his current life.  This book has interesting characters, not a lot of plot, but lots of interaction between different people thrown together.

Movie Review: **^Disney Animation Collection Volumn 5

This collection features Wind in the Willows which I previously reviewed with another collection.
It also includes five other animated shorts.
The Ugly Duckling: This is a Disney take on the Hans Christian Andersen classic.  The Ugly Duckling does not fit in, and is ostracized by his brothers as well as his mother.  However he does find his own kind, and is happy with his lot in the end.
The Grasshopper and the Ants:  This is based on the Aesop fable, but has a different ending.  The grasshopper likes to play the violin more than prepare for the winter.  However when winter comes, he is cold and starving.  In this instance the ants take him in because his skill of playing the violin can benefit the entire colony.
The Golden Touch:  This short is based on Greek mythology, and the king who whatever he touched it turned to gold.  This short deals with greed, and that everything is relative.  Even though everything turns to gold, there is nothing to eat but gold.  So someone with this curse cannot eat.  In this version Midas is restored to his former self, but gives away everything he possesses for the honor.
The Robber Kitten:  A kitten learns that the life of a robber is not all glamor, and sometimes minding your mother and having your bath is the right thing to do. 
The Wise Little Hen: This is based on the Russian folk tale "The Little Red Hen."  The hen asks both Peter Pig and Donald Duck to help her plant her corn, and then to help her harvest her corn.  Both time they cannot help because the have upset tummies.  When it is time to eat the corn they get castor oil in their bowl. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Mormon Movie Review: ****^Legacy

This move tells the Mormon story.  It is based on historical happenings, but is told through the eyes of a fictional family, the Williams.  This is the story of Eliza Williams, who is presented as a contemporary of Joseph Smith.  She embraces the gospel as a young girl of 13, is present at the Missouri persecutions, Independence and Haun's Mill.  She receives a blessing from Joseph Smith's hand in Commerce (later to become Nauvoo.)  She participates in the construction of the Nauvoo Temple.  Her boyfriend, husband is a stone cutter recently arrived from England.  She is part of the trek across Iowa and Winter Quarters.  Her husband, David Walker is part of the Mormon Battalion.  She takes the part of Mary Fielding Smith in blessing her ox.
This movie gets me every time when Eliza's father falls in the mud crossing Iowa.  The Tabernacle Choir is singing "Come Come Ye Saints" and that part makes me cry every time.

Movie Review: *****17 Miracles

This movie is very good at telling its story.  I am not sure of the title, 17 miracles.  There were miracles a plenty on this trek, and to limit oneself to number is a disservice.  Of course the film maker may be thinking they are showing only 17, but a miracle to one is not to another, so the number is somewhat arbitrary.  I can think of many other miracles which were not included in the story.  These included: The miracles with regards to food, the stranger giving jerky, and the pots filling with food, or finding food on the plains, rescue from wolves, escape from an abusive husband etc.
My only complaint is the mixture of two stories historically, Martin and Willie handcart companies.  I enjoyed the stories shown, some of which I was already familiar, and others I was not.  Brother Savage, as the narrator used words of many people, including Wallace Stegner, Frances Webster and Josiah Rogerson.  I am sure there were others I did not recognize. 

I was confused at times with the switch from the Martin to the Willie Company.  This also threw the timeline off.  Bodil, who is shown passing away, after the rescuers had reached the Willie Company, and after they had climbed Rocky Ridge.  However they showed the rescue of the Martin Company which was several days later, at Red Buttes.  I liked the bits about the Loader family who were with the Martin Company.  There is a story of the mother, pretending to fall one morning to get her girls up out of bed.  I would have like to have seen that story.  I also missed the Jacksons, whose husband died, but visited her in a dream telling her the rescuers were coming. 

As for my personal connection, I must admit, the story choked me up to the point I was in tears.  Not only for the people portrayed in the movie, but also for my own great-great-aunty Betsy Ashton, who froze her feet at last crossing, and passed away shortly after this.  Her two younger sisters survived the trip.  The youngest, Mary, is my great-great grandmother.  I also watched those digging graves, as my great-great grandfather was also on the trek, dug many graves.

My only objection to the movie is with regards the the written information at the end, which claimed that not many more on the the two treks passed away than with the regular pioneer trips.  Generally it is accepted that six percent of the pioneers passed away on the trips.  With regards to this journey, the number would be between 18 and 20 percent, or three times the normal death rate.  This rate is derived by adding the deaths for the two trips, 65 of the Willie Company and 135-150 of the Martin Company.  The total pioneers was 500 in the Wilie Company and 650 in the Martin Company.

Despite its problems with combining two stories, this movie for me receives the highest marks, and I will be viewing it over and over.

Book Review: Peter Pan in Scarlet

Peter Pan in Scarlet by: Geraldine McCaughrean, Alladin Paperback, 2008.
This book is reported as the first-ever authorized sequel to Peter Pan.  The author won the honr via a contest.  J.M. Barrie gave the rights to Peter Pan to Great Ormond Street Hospital in 1829.  In 2004 they authorized a sequel and sponsored a contest seeking an author. 
It took me some time to get into this book.  For the first half, it seemed like someone was trying to be clever and copy Barrie, but never quite hitting the mark.  However, as the adventure of the story and the intrigue of the story, began to take over, then I was drawn into the book.  If I wasn’t so vested in reading the book, I may have never reached the point where it drew me in.  I am glad I finally got there. 
The plot is set with the “Lost Boys” now as adults, are having dreams of Never Land.  Nightmares, and these dreams leave things behind, wet sheets, or a sword or other implement her or there.  Something has to be done.  They take their concerns to Wendy, now a mother herself, and the answer is obvious—they must go back to Never Land.  To return to Never Land they must find a faerie, and they must become young again.  When they arrive there, everything is changed.  The land has been poisoned.  The mermaids all died from the poison, the Indians are not seen.  They meet Pan, and go adventuring chasing dragons.  This adventure quickly changes to one of seeking Hooks treasure.  Pan has put on Hooks second best coat, and slowly transforms into Hook himself.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Music Review: Peter Pan with Mary Martin

This is the music based on the Broadway musical; not the Disney version.  Of course we have children singing about not growing up, and pirates and Hook singing their songs.  There is Wendy singing a nice lullaby to the children, which along with Pan singing his mysterious lady song, thwarting Hook with different voices in his plans to do away with Tiger Lily.  The music from the Disney version is more familiar to me, and I think I prefer it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Movie Review: ****Roman Holiday

This is An Audrey Hepburn Gregory Peck film.  It is Audrey Hepburn's first American film, and she was awarded the best actress Oscar for this film.  Hepburn plays a runaway princess, while Peck the reporter who is going to take advantage of the situation.  The photographer (played by Eddie Albert) helps him in this endeavor.  The princess runs away for a day, being fed up with schedules and expectations.  She meets up with the reporter, who discovers her true identity, but she does not think they know.  And so the reporter spends the day with her, hoping to write a story for $5000.  She befriends a barber who cuts off her hair.  They have many adventures, from eating ice cream from a vendor, a street-side cafe, a boat trip, riding a scooter and getting arrested.  They explain to the magistrate they are headed to their wedding, and everyone forgives the.  Who couldn't forgive Audrey Hepburn.  She is still traveling incognito.  They finally end up at a dance, where there are also secret service from her country, intent on taking her back.  However they get away.  She could go on with her adventure, but after hearing a radio story about her being ill, she realizes she must go back.  The reporter then realizes he has feelings for her, and squashes the story.  However he is at a press conference, where the princess makes it known she enjoyed her holiday, and the photographer gives her a present of all the pictures he had taken.  However, as is often the case, a long-term relationship is not possible as is made known at the end of the film.

My wife says I always give away too much in my reviews.  However, in this case the end is the best part of the film, and is what lingers.  Gregory Peck is the last reporter to leave, lingering while he thinks of how thinks might have been different.

I like Audrey Hepburn.  She has a certain charm and naivete.  Gregory Peck and Eddie Elbert are also good.

Music Review: ****Coldplay

I recorded Coldplay on Austin City Limits.  I asked Caleb if I should as I thought I had head of them.  Caleb told me to record it, and then I watched it with he and Alyssa last night.  I had watched most of it as it recorded, and recognized the song Viva la Vida.  Caleb had performed this with a band a couple yeas ago.  As I watched it last night Caleb said their best song was Paradise, which was the last song of he concert.  I must admit it is quite enjoyable.

I don't think I understand the video; but the song is enjoyable by itself.   Austin City Limits ended with an interview with the band.  They said they weren't the best musicians in the world, but that they really meshed well together.  I think it is good when parts come together to make an enjoyable whole. 

So you see, even and old fuddy duddy can enjoy some of this new music.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Music Review: The Goat Rodeo Sessions (2011)

This is string quartet music with bass, cello, and fiddle or mandolin or guitar or banjo.  The artists are Edgar Meyer (bass), Chris Thile (Mandolin, fiddle, guitar), Stuart Duncan (fiddle, mandolin, banjo) and Yo-Yo Ma (cello).  Aoife O' Donovan joins them for a couple songs and provides vocals.  The first three artists are also listed as the composers.
This CD start out with a rousing number "Attaboy".  They do some interesting things with their instruments, especially the bass and it makes some strange and eerie sounds.  However the music pretty quickly falls into the pattern of repetition, and instead of creating an atmosphere of peace and relaxation it hits the "This is giving me a headache," or "This is putting me to sleep" mode rather quickly.  Some of the songs are just to slow to maintain interest.

Movie Review: ***^The Quick and the Dead (1987)

This is a Louis L'Amour book made into an HBO movie starring Sam Elliot as Con Vallian.  Elliott portrayed a Westerner who befriended a new migrant family, and took them under his wing in protecting them from a gang of outlaws, because a Ute he was trying to get revenge with, was part of the gang.  The gang starts out as eight, but their number slowly dwindle.
The migrant family includes an ex Union Sargent from the Civil War, his beautiful wife and their son.  This movie is about family, and family loyalty, and finding inner reserves and strengths.  It is also about friendships, and supporting each other when there is need.

Movie Review: ***^Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)

This is a Johnny Depp as Willie Wonka and Tim Burton (director) collaboration and it is successful for the most part.  It is based on the Roald Dahl book by the same name.  It was previously made into a musical presentation entitled Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  Johnny Depp makes an interesting Wonka.  He plays him as a moody, man, with a poor childhood based on his father's over bearing.  Father was a dentist who very much despised candy.  Willie Wonka's love turned out to be candy; there was an inevitable parting as a result.  This version is much more true to the book, which adds the theme of family relations, which was missing from the musical version.  The visit of the youngsters, including Charlie (Freddie Highmore) and Grandpa Joe (David Kelly) to the factory results in the first four, Veruca Salt (Julia Winter), Mike Teavee (Jordan Fry), Augustus Gloop (Philip Wiegratz) and Violet Beauregard (AnnaSophia Robb) all being eliminated, and Wonka offering his inheritance to Charlie.  Charlie turns him down.  He would have to leave his family, his parents (Helena Bonham Carter and Noah Taylor) and four grandparents.  Wonka goes back to the factory disappointed and feeling miserable.  He returns to Charlie, who suggests he resolve things with his father, then he might not feel so terrible.  And so it goes, which helps Wonka also resolve his issues with family.  Charlie inherits in the factory after all, with his entire family, home and all, going to the factory grounds. 

Music Review: Pop Legends Live: Herman Hermits starring Peter Noone (2005)

I really enjoyed Herman's Hermits growing up, and I still enjoy their music.  This DVD presentation which appeared on PBS has a short anthology of some of their work.  "Something Tells Me I'm Into Something Good" is an up beat song to get your blood flowing.  They started with this, and then sang a cover "Wonderful World."  "Listen People" has a mellow, longing feel to it.  When Peter Noone sings, "Listen people to what I say
I say everybody's got to have their day' he is expressing the belief that everyone will have good days, and bad.   One of my most favorite Herman's Hermits song is "Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter"  I just love the sound, with the British accent.  Noone made a point of this, teasing the rough R sound of the Cleveland audience as they sang with him.  "I'm Henry the Eighth, I Am" sounds like a party or drinking song.  This DVD special was topped off with "There's a Kind of Hush."  This is a mellow love song.  This song was later covered by "The Carpenters>"
So listen very carefully.
Closer now and you will see what I mean.
It isn't a dream.
The only sound that you will hear
Is when I whisper in your ear
I love you forever and ever.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Book Review: Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men was written by John Steinbeck and published in 1937.  It was subsequently made into a play, and there are three or four movie versions.
I think this is one of my favorite stories of all time.  It has to do with hope, and shattered hope; as well as being there for each other.
I like the way John Steinbeck describes things.  I can see Lenny in the dusty barn playing with the pups; the African American man with the crooked back, and his resentment about not being included; I can hear the clang of the horseshoes as they hit the stakes, and the groans of the men as they fall off, or the cheers as someone scores a ringer.  I relate to that rural life.  Steinbeck has a way of describing people, but also nature.  I paid attention to the crane that grabbed the water snake.  I had missed that little description when I read before.
And the dreams of Lenny and George, which seem to be larger than life.  The little place with a cow and some chickens and a few rabbits.  An alfalfa field to feed the chickens.  This dream eventually includes a workman who lost his hand in a farm accident, Candy.  With his stake it seems their dream might really happen.  But sometimes things are not to be.  "The best laid schemes of mice and men Go often awry, And leave us nothing but grief and pain, For promised joy!"  (Robert Burns)  When everything falls through, it is Candy who is most grieved. "'You an' me can get that little place, can't we, George?  You an' me can go there and live nice, can't we George?  Can't we?'  Before George answered, Candy dropped his head and looked down at the hay.  He knew."  (Steinbeck)
I can see how some people may be disturbed with the ending, but in its way, it is a beautiful ending to a tragic story.  Could it have ended any other way?  Throughout the story, George and Lenny talk about how they are different, they have each other.  And so George takes care of Lenny, and doesn't leave him to any mob.
This is a beautiful book.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Movie Review: ***^Funny Face

Funny Face is a very entertaining movie.  It stars Audrey Hepburn as Jo and Fred Astaire as Dick a photographer.  It also has Kay Thompson as Maggie, a fashion magazine editor.  These three characters do very well together.  The editor has her eccentricities with  lipstick, and a grating voice, but by the end of  grows on you.  The model, who really doesn't want to be  a model, but wants to go to Paris to meet her hero of philosopher of empathic thinking.  And the photographer, who is all business, but is able to keep the model going and performing.  Over time, Jo falls in love with Dick.  Dick finally realizes he returns this love when Jo spends too much time with our philosopher friend.  Dick gives upon everything and is headed back to New York.

The music is by George and Ira Gershwin.  However the music is mostly forgetable.  What is not forgetable is the dance, by both Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn.  Also what is fantastic is the modeling by Audrey Hepburn.  She was a model before becoming a movie star

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Musical Movie Review: ***Huckleberry Finn (1974)

This is a musical telling of Huckleberry Finn.  This is very true to the story of Huckleberry Finn, but the music is really not that impressive.  There is a very low bass on the song "Huckleberry Finn" and Jim sings about freedom.  This story made the point that Jim (Paul Winfield) had a wife and a newborn child.  Huck (Jeff East) had been taken in by a couple old women.  So when Huck's father comes asking for $1000 Jim knew the only thing they owned to raise that kind of money was himself.  So he took off, with the hope of earning his freedom and getting enough money to buy the rest of his family, so they could stay together.  They were headed to Cairo, Illinois.
When I was young I didn't understand why.  In fact it seems the were headed to New Orleans.  In both cases it would be because this was during the war, and he was trying to meet the Union army, where the union had already proclaimed that slaves of the states in rebellion were free.
As for Huckleberry's part, he was taken by his father, and locked in his cabin.  He managed to escape, and was also headed down river.  Jim fashions a raft, and together the head down river.  They have many adventures, mostly with Jim staying with the raft, while Huck goes to explore.  Huckleberry ends up in the middle of a feud, and barely escapes with his life.  He and Jim meet a couple con men (Harvey Korman and David Wayne), and Huckleberry and Jim barely escape with their lives when the pretend to put on a show, but then make off with the ticket sales with no show.  Huckleberry then ends up with another family.  The con men pretend to be long lost relatives of a deceased person, and want to claim the inheritance.  Huck swindles them, and puts the money in the casket.  In the meantime the rightful relatives show up, and things are bad for the con men and Huck says where the money is.
However when he returns to the raft, Jim is gone.  The con men turned him into the slave hunters, and he is headed back to slavery, instead of to Cairo.  Huck manages to set him free, and they run away chased by the coon dogs and men.  Huck trades him shirts, agreeing to go back to his life with the old women, while Jim escapes.  The movie ends with Jim getting away while Huck watches.
I liked the way this movie presented the desire to be free, and the sacrifice for freedom and family.  It was also very true to the book.  The music was forgettable.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Music Review: ****Sunset Boulevard

One of the most beautiful things I have ever heard is Glen Close singing "With One Look."  At times I have found myself playing this track over and over.  This one song is beautiful:

With one look I can break your heart.
With one look I play every part
I can make your sad heart sing
With one look you'll know all you need to know.

With one smile I'm the girl next door
Or the love you've hungered for
When I speak it's with my soul
I can play any role...

It is just beautiful, and sticks with you.  Andrew Lloyd Webber with Don Black and Christopher Hampton have hit a cord that resonates over time.

With this one song this CD is worth it.  The rest is just ancillary.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Movie Review: ***^Conagher (1991)

This is a made for TV movie based on a Louis L'Amour novel.  This film centers around two people, a widowed frontier woman (Katharine Rice) with two children, who lives on the edge of society, in Indian territory.  This lead to a confrontation.  At first, her home is used as a stage station, until the station moves.  Conagher (Sam Elliott) is the other character.  He is an honest cow hand, but faces many cattle rustlers and other outlaws who want to get ahead off of the efforts of someone else.  His loyalty to his boss leads to several interesting situations.  They are both lonely.  The widow writes poetry, and places them on sage brush to ride the wind.  She has to talk to someone.  They both live in separate worlds, and the question is if they will ever get together; will the even survive? 

Book Reviews: **The Prophet of Yonwood

The Prophet of Yonwood. This book was published in 2006 and is a prequel to the City of Ember.  I elt cheated by this book.  The characters were more card board cut outs rather than real characters.  The prophet does see a vision of the future, but she is ill.  Because of this, a neighbor takes upon herself to interpret the prophet for everyone.  In this interpretation she manipulates in the name of God and religion.  Nicky, who later in life writes a journal which Doon and Lena find, is a mindless follower of the neighbor lady, at least at first.  She divulges peoples life events, not knowing what is bad or good.  These things are used against her friend Grover.  This story did not seem real, but seemed more a platform for the author to spout against people of faith.

Book Reviews: ****The People of Sparks

This book was published in 2004 by Yearling Books.  It was written in 2004 by Jeanne DuPrau.  It is the second of the Ember series.  For reviews of the book/movie see below
After the main characters escape Ember, they are followed by over 500 others who make it out of the city.  Many others do not make it out, drowning in the river or being crushed in the crowd.  This included the mayor.  Now Doon and Lena are faced with the task of finding a way to sustain a group of 500 people, who have no experience in surviving on the surface of Earth.  They have been living underground for over 200 years.  After walking some distance, they come upon the City of Sparks.  This city includes survivors of three plagues and three wars.   They are fewer in number than the residents of Ember.  However they have food, and knowledge, and agree to allow the residents to stay six months, hoping but not really having faith, that b then thy will be able to support themselves.  Animosity exists between the two groups, and reaches a head as each side blames the other for some offense or another.   The City of Sparks decides on a day for the People of Ember to leave.  However, when the City of Sparks uses their weapon it starts a fire and the city is is peril.  I like this book for the tension between the groups, and the resolution of that tension.  It also talks about keeping your eyes open, to see the opportunities that might present themselves