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.