Monday, March 31, 2014

Movie Review: *** 39 Steps (1935) Alfred Hitchcock

This movie is a 1935 British Alfred Hitchcock film.  Hitchcock had been making movies for over ten years when this came out.  This is a spy suspence story.
Hannay is drawn into the story, by our spy, Anabella Smith, who has uncovered a plot by foreign spies to get secret information out of the country.  The foreign spy ring is a group called 39 steps.
The movie begins with a demonstration by a man who can remember everything.  At this a shot rings out, and the spy end in the arms of Hannay, and he takes her home.  She tells him of what is going on, and mentions 39 steps.  She shows up at his house during the night, with a knife in her back, and she shortly dies.  He is then accused of the murder, and goes around trying to find her contact, in Scotland, to prove his innocence.
It is amazing how inept people are at catching him, or catching him and letting him get away.  How many times can he get away?  While on a train, he uses another woman, Pamela, in his escape attempt by kissing her as his pursuers go pass.  However she turns him in.  He does manage to get away, and jumps off the train.
Going to land is a bad idea, because instead of finding the contact, he finds the leader of 39 steps, who shoots him.
However he escapes harm as the bullet is stopped by a bible.  He reports to the police, who want to arrest him and he escapes again.  Somehow he and Pamela end up picked up by some members of 39 steps pretending to be police.  They realize they are bad when they don't take them to the police station.  They escape when they are herding animals off the road.  However they are handcuffed to each other.  They then head back to London to prove their innocence, but the man who remembers everything saves the day, when asked to tell what 39 steps is, he is shot and stopped, but the bad people are captured.
Too many implausible twists for me.  However this is suppose to be a good movie.

Movie Review: ***^The Charade (1963)

  This is a Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn movie.  It is well done for the most part but there are a couple times Cary Grant goes over the top with showering in his clothes and making funny faces.  I like the twists of the plot and the mystery.  Hepburn's husband is murdered.  But there is some money hid someplace, and his former partners in crime want it back.  It seems the CIA also wants it back.  She doesn't know who to trust.  That is what makes this movie intriguing.  I mildly recommend this movie.  It feels like a Hitchcock but is not.  Hepburn is very pleasing to the eyes.

Music Review: An Evening with John Denver

This musical TV special was filmed in 1975.  It presents some traditional John Denver music with a twist.  Denver sings some funny songs, and some serious songs.  The high light for me of this presentation was a series of duets with Danny Kaye, singing John Denver songs--but not in the traditional way.  "I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane" gets a Caribbean twist.  "Sunshine on My Shoulder" gets both a British and a Scottish twist.  Finally "Take Me Home Country Roads" gets a Russian operatic feel.  These songs are intermingled with dance and it is very enjoyable.  John Denver also shows a tour of the Calypso with Jacques Cousteau.  Denver went diving a saw some incredible fish, including a barracuda and large angel fish.  On the serieous side he sings a song "Matthew" about a farmer who lost his farm.  On the funny side Denver sings "Ballad of Gerald R. Ford" a very short song.  "Saturday Night in Toledo" makes fun of the lack of activity in Toledo.  He says its mostly true.  Denver and Kaye also sing a fun duet, "Grandma's Feather Bed".  John Denver concludes this special with "Rhymes and Reasons":
For the children and the flowers are my sisters and my brothers,
their laughter and their loveliness would clear a cloudy day.
Like the music of the mountains and the colors of the rainbow,
they're a promise of the future and a blessing for today.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Music Review: A Charlie Brown Christmas: Vince Guaraldi Trio

This is the original sound track recording of the CBS television special.  Vince Guaraldi arranged or wrote most of the music.  It is performed by piano, bass and drum.  The music throughout has a Jazz feel, and is all instrumental except for "Christmas Time is Here" and  "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" sung by the Peanuts children.  I really enjoy the music, and it has a very catchy rhythm.   "Linus and Lucy" is a classic.  This song sets your blood moving.  This is the music most associated with this presentation.  Even Miranda likes to play it.  the movement in the bass hand of the piano is just cool.  Another song that moves is "Skating".  I must admit, the middle of the music gets a bit lengthy; of course this is because just listening to the music, you don't have the animated action to watch.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Book Review: Never Coming to a Theater Near You

I grabbed this book as a reference book for movie ideas.  It is written by Kenneth Turan, critic for PBS and Los Angeles Times and published in 2004.  I was thinking this may be a way for me to hear about a movie I might be interested in watching.  However, I have been disappointed in this endeavor.  As I looked at the book, which has over 150 movie reviews, I realized the tastes of the critic who wrote the book, and my tastes do not match.  First off, over 90 percent of the movies in the book are rated R.  I am not interested in movies with that rating, and sometimes even PG-13 movies are pretty rank.  I discovered this by reading the Parental guidance ideas from Yahoo Movies.  The movies in his book that are more my style, I already know about.  So in essence the book has no value for me.  So, it is off the bookcases at home and off to the used book store with this one. 

Movie Review: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

I previously reviewed the movie, and it wasn't my favorite.  I was having difficulty seeing the monsters I guess.  I like the movie better than the book by Rick Riordan.
The monsters are there in the open, and so much easier to see.  I also like the sparks between Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) and Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario).  Pierce Brosnan has a side roll as Chiron, teacher/ protector as is a centaur.  Turns out Jackson is the son of Poseidon.  He has been protected his entire life by a friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) who is actually a satyr, and disguises his features with crutches.  Jackson is accused of stealing Zeus lightning bolt, and must recover it somehow.  At the same time, Hades has taken his mother, who will be put to death if he doesn't deliver the bolt.  They are set on adventures to get the necessary bubbles that will help them leave the realm of the dead, so they can rescue Jackson's mother.  They face Medusa, and a resort where if you drink the free drinks, you lose track of time and reason for being.
This is a fun ride.  Lots of interesting special effects.  Although there are some intense situations, including the battle with Medusa, there is plenty to enjoy here.

Music Review: ****Mama's Big Ones: Mama Cass

Mama Cass Elliot was a musical icon that we lost too early.  She died of a heart attack while on tour in London in 1974.
She released this album after she had started her solo career, the Mama and Papas had broken up but still released a couple albums to fulfill their contract.  This album was released in 1970.  It has some of Mama Cass's most popular songs, mixed with a few new ones.  Most of the most popular songs are packed at the beginning of the Album, "Getting Better Every day" "Dream a Little Dream of Me" and "Make Your Own Kind of Music."  "Dream a Little Dream of Me" is a song that was written in 1931 and recorded numerous times, first as a big band number.  Elliot recorded this song with The Mamas and the Papas and also as a solo number.  She added something special to the song, singing it in a slow and mellow fashion which is very satisfying.
I really like the positive message from "Make Your Own Kind of Music."
You gotta make your own kind of music
sing your own special song,
make your own kind of music even if nobody
else sings along.

Mama Cass  also expressed some of her political beliefs in her music.  Such was "New World Coming"

Yes a new world's coming
The one we've had visions of
Coming in peace, coming in joy, coming in love

Mama Cass Elliot was a true talent.  Her singing is some of the most beautiful this world has ever known.  She had to find her own way, and had challenges with weight.  In a real sense this may have killed her.  She had lost over 100 pounds before she died, but in losing so much weight she had weakened her heart.  

Friday, March 28, 2014

Book Review: ****^ Peter and the Sword of Mercy

Several years ago I read the trilogy of the Peter and the Star Catchers.  It is written by Dave Berry and Ridley Pearson.  This book is published by Disney Hyperion Books 2009.  This series of Peter Pan Books is terrific, and this book carries the torch well.  I had thought the series had ended, but the authors explained they were convinced to return to the characters that make this series so enjoyable.  Their evil characters, are just so evil, and have such great evil powers, Skeleton who if he touches you causes great pain, and Ombra, the shadow stealer.  We are introduced to Wendy in this series who is now a young woman, and she has the task to find Peter.  There is an unlikely group of allies put together, including two college professors, a member of the star catcher group—big strong fellow with an even bigger and stronger bear as his right-hand man.  What a terrific story with such a finish.  I had difficulty putting it down, and when I finished I was looking for something more to read.  Fortunately there is another book in the series.  I need to get to the library and see if I can find it.

Movie Review: ***The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad

These two movies were released together by Walt Disney pictures.  Mr. Toad is presented first and is narrated by Basil Rathbone.  It is based on the book "Wind in the Willows" by Kenneth Grahame.  Mr. Toad goes through a series of manic pursuit of different hobbies or fancies.  He starts with traveling by gypsy wagon, moves on to motor cars, then to escape, and last to airplanes.  At each juncture his friends Mole, Badger and Rat have to bail him out.  In this version they must rescue Toad Hall and the deep given to Mr. Toad when he was accused of stealing a motor car.
The second feature, Ichabod, is based on "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" written by Washington Irving.  This portion of the film is narrated by Bing Crosby.  This version pits the town bully as the headless horseman, and Ichabod who as the school master.  Ichabod has his eyes set on the bully's girl; so the bully takes matters into his own hand.  This is not Disney's best effort.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Mormon Movie Review: ***Austenland

Austenland is a different kind of movie.  What would happen if we could go back to the era of the Jane Austen books, and there have interactions and love stories just like in those books, Pride and Prejudice, or Sense and sensibility.  This movie gives us a confusion between what is real and what is not; and then makes an effort at resolving that confusion.  This is a romantic comedy set today but in the past.  This is an enjoyable film.  There is some kissing and some innuendo, but nothing inappropriate.  Kerri Russel plays Jane Hayes.  This should be considered a Mormon movie as it is based on a book written by a Mormon (Shannon Hale), and script co-written by a Mormon (Jerusha Hess) and produced by Jared Hess.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Movie Review: ***Taken II

This is the sequel to Taken, and is just as tense and exciting.  In this movie, we have the father of one of those killed, and criminal boss of the Albanian mafia coming after Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) and his family.  They are on vacation in Turkey when they make their move, and they are successful in kidnapping Mills and his wife (Famke Janssen).  However the miss his daughter (Maggie Grace) who is left with the responsibility of rescuing her father, who rescued her in the first movie.  Mills had studied where they were taken, and is able to direct his daughter to bring him a gun.  And from there the hunted becomes the hunter.  He offers a truce to the father, in hopes that their can be peace between their families.
This movie has plenty of violence and death, but it is an exciting ride. 

Movie Review: ****Lincoln (2012)

This movie is directed by Stephen Spielberg and stars Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field as the president and his wife.  This movie is a historical presentation of the thirteenth amendment and the difficulty with getting it passed, and President Lincoln's desire to get it passed during the lame-duck congress, after the Democrats had been defeated in the house.  He did not want to wait for the new congress to be seated, for if the war should conclude he might lose the people's motivation to pass the amendment; that in passing it might quicken the end of the war. 
The movie does not present the early parts of the war, in fact Lee and Grant are already facing each other at Petersburg, and Lincoln has won reelection, in the same election that swept many Democrats out of congress.
The passing of the thirteenth amendment was not easy as the movie portrays, and the movie shows the political moves, and promises Lincoln pulled out to official abolish slavery in the United States.  Political victory would require 20 votes from across the aisle, while not losing any votes from the Republican Party. 
The witticisms of Abraham Lincoln made for an enjoyable part of the movie, and I remember thinking during the movie, I wish I had written that down.  Also his humorous stories kept the movie light, because the movie was heavy. 
This movie was not a biography of Lincoln, nor was it a history of the civil war.  It had very little of the actual action, other than some Africa Americans telling their story, and showing the result of battle.  The Gettysburg Address is recited at the beginning of the move, and towards the end we see works from Lincoln's second inauguration. 
The movie also does a very good job of portraying the son's of Mary and Abraham Lincoln.  Robert, his oldest who wants to be in uniform rather than at school.  He finally gets his wish, being placed on Grant's staff.  Tad, his youngest is dealing with the death of the middle brother, Willie.  He views lithographs of slaves, and is very much interested in the freedom of the slaves.
The other actors do a very good job.  You would think a movie spending much of its time showing congress would be boring.  In this case it was not, because the story took place in congress, and the manipulations, name calling, and in some cases restraining of one's opinions to get the amendment passed, were fascinating. Tommy Lee Jones as Representative Stephens from Ohio was terrific.
A very enjoyable movie.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Movie Review: Shirley Temple in ***^The Littlest Colonel (1935)

This is a movie about family relationships, and coming to terms with our feelings and pride so we can have love within our families.  This is a post Civil War movie.  Colonel Loyd (Lionel Barrymore) becomes upset when his daughter runs off and marries a Yankee.  He swears to never speak to her again.  His daughter, and granddaughter return to the home some years later, while her husband tries to make something of himself in the West.  They had been with him before coming home, and while in the West Lloyd Sherman (Shirley Temple) had been adopted by a regiment and made an honorary colonel.  After returning she has relationships with her grandfather, but not her mother.  It is going to take some major crisis for people to cross this bridge.  Other noted stars are Hatie McDaniel who works as a house servant, nannie, and will later be the first African American to win an Oscar.  Bill Robinson aka Bo Jangles performs a couple a tap numbers which are enough to enjoy this movie.  He and SHirley Temple perform a number going up the stairs which is delightful.

Music Review: Petula Clark: Live at the Paris Olympia (2003)

Petula Clark is terrific in this recorded concert.  You have to put up with the crazy camera work with angles making it look like Clark is under the mike, or going to fall on her face, and about half of the songs being sung in French to appeal to the local audience, and the conversation being mostly in French, but Clark's talent shines through out.  She sings songs from musicals and movies she has been in:  "Look to the Rainbow" from Finian's Rainbow, "You and I" from Goodbye Mr. Chips, "With One Look" from Sunset Boulevard and "Tell Me its not True from The Blood Brothers.  She seems some beautiful French melodies, some with a Jazz flavor.  She shines when she sings song form her own repetoire.  Don't Sleep in the Subway was new to me, but it still moved me.  Toward the end of the show was a trio of songs which brought the house down:  "I Know a Place", "Sign of the Times" and "Downtown" were excellent and had my blood pumping.  This is worth watching or listening to.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Movie Review: ***^Mirror, Mirror

This is the second movie recent movie which is a different take on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  They both have similar changes from the Disney version, taking the Dwarfs from loveable miners to seven thieves who have been expelled from the community.  An interesting take here is the stilts the dwarfs use when fighting.  Snow White (played here by Lily Collins) in both movies is dispossessed and having to retake the kingdom.  Lily Collins gives the role a more innocent feel.  The prince is played by Armie Hammer.  The witch (queen) is played here by Julia Roberts.  Both movies do interesting things with the mirror.  Here it is in a house on a lake, and talks back to the queen, a reflection of herself, which also uses black magic on her behalf.  Snow White in this movie has interesting relationships with the dwarfs and the prince which make the story enjoyable.  I recommend this movie.
This is my review of Snow White and the Huntsman.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Book Review: ***^Short and Tall Tales: Moose County Legends Collected by James Mackintosh Quilleran. (2002)

***^Short and Tall Tales: Moose County Legends Collected by James Mackintosh Quilleran.
I like short stories, and the stories in this book are enjoyable.  Some of them have been in the "Cat" books I have read.  There are railroad stories, stories of the coal mines, stories of feuds, a story of buried treasure buried in town.  There is a story of a ghost story who gets pegged in the nose with a can of pork and beans, and his nose is broken.  I think that one was my favorite.  Another is a story of curses and lastly an explanation as to why there are no more scamadiddles to be found.

Book Review: ****The Cat Who Blew the Whistle (1995)

This book was very enjoyable.   This book is number 17 of the "Cat Who" books.
I really like how the old fashioned train stuff is included, and the old story of a train crash.  In this case the obvious murderer is not.  I guess that is how these things often turn out.  The Quilleran relations within the community are very enjoyable.  For such a rural community, it is amazing how many murders and happenings there are.

Mormon Movie Review: ***^ One Man's Treasure

This was an enjoyable movie of a mission district taking their P-Day to pursue a treasure map left by an Elder that was transferred out of the town suddenly, and then there were no missionaries for a couple years. 

The missionaries who were just recently assigned to the area, are looking for success.  One elder, the district leader, has had no success, and has his doubts about the hunt for "a treasure." He agrees as long as the hunt is done before P-day ends.  Three sets of missionaries compete against each other.  The clues are fairly complicated, and the hunt is exciting as the missionaries explore the clues. What is more interesting, is that as they are being out, they meet people by being available to do a good deed, an inactive member who invites them over, someone who use to know the missionaries.  They actually have and appointment set up--before P-Day ends.  And as luck would have it, the appointment falls through.  This movie has a minor twist at the end, which was predictable, but was entertaining all the same.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Music Review: Seals and Croft: Summer Breeze

  This is Seals and Crofts.  This is another of my old records which I replaced with a used c.d. at Street light C.D.  The title song makes this disc more than worth it.  This is a song I can listen to over and over.  I keep trying to sing with it, and get mad at myself for not doing better; then I realized theirs is a duet, with two parts, and I can’t copy that by myself.  However I really like the way this is performed and the picture it paints of domestic tranquility.  Hummingbird is also a favorite, and has a religious connotation to the artist.  Say has an upbeat catchiness, and Boy Down the Road tells a nice story, and does the Funny Little Man.
When I was college age I had a flair for Seals and Croft, and studied a bit about the BaHa'i faith as a result.  That was when I was intellectual and not very humble.  Life has mellowed me now, and that intellectual stuff doesn't appeal to me much any more.  Some of the songs have a special flair.  I particularly don't like "Yellow Dirt Down in his Soul"  but in this case, "Summer Breeze" makes this album a keeper.

Music Review: Neil Diamond: September Morn

  This is a record I had as a youth, and I purchased a used c.d. at the Streetlight C.D.  This is vintage Neil Diamond, but this disc really doesn’t have any block buster songs.  “September Morn” is fun to listen to.  It is a mellow song with a good tone.  “The Good Lord Loves You” gives a positive message to those who have been down on their luck.  I also enjoy the version of “I’m a Believer.”  However the other songs in the group are pretty forgettable.  There is one I particularly dislike, “Stagger Lee.” Which is the story of a murder related to losing at gambling.

Theater Review: La Dama Del Alba (Lady of the Dawn)

This is a Spanish play written by Alejandro Casona.  I watched a made for TV film of the play.  This is a story of an extended family, but a family with grief.  Only a few days after her marriage, the daughter, Angelina, disappeared and was presumed drowned in the river.  However her body was never found.  The play begins on the fourth anniversary of the daughter.  Mother feels the most grief.  Says her grief is more severe even than the husband Martin.  While they are in conversation, a pilgrim comes to the home looking for a place to stay.  Grandfather recognizes her, but is not sure where.
She plays with the children, and laughs she says for the first time ever.  She falls asleep, and misses her appointment.  Grandfather recognizes her as death, who visited him when he almost died in a mining accident.  She had come for Martin.  Grandfather convinces her to leave them alone for now because of their grief over his granddaughter; funny death does not know her.  She says she will come back in seven months for Adela, a family friend who attempted suicide the previous night, but was rescued.
Over the seven months the family takes her in, being a daughter to the mother, and winning Martin's heart.  However Martin realizes that this would not do for the honor of his deceased wife.  (He knows she is not dead, but ran off with another man.  He has not said anything for the honor of the family.) 
Angelica has been unhappy.  Her lover left her.  She decides to return home.  Death comes again, and takes the daughter rather than the new girlfriend.
My only complaint is this moves a bit slowly.  Also the Spanish accents the the zeta is a bit hard to understand at times.

Book Review: Coyote Waits: Tony Hillerman

Tony Hillerman writes mystery novels against the background of the Navajo Indian Reservation and the Navajo Tribal Police.  Coyote Waits was published in 1990.  Chee and Joe Leaphorn both work for the Navajo police in different departments.  The become involved in the same investigation for different reasons.  Chee for Janet Pete, who is a public defender for an old medicine man, accused of murdering a policeman when he was drunk on whiskey.  Joe Leaphorn as a favor to his departed wife.
It is interesting how each of the detectives play into the unraveling of the mystery, while conducting separate investigations.  This novel involves murder and greed.  It also involves the history of Butch Cassidy, and whether or not he actually returned form Bolivia, and also the ancient lore and legends of the Navajo people.  It is neat the way Hillerman weaves these things into his story.

Movie Review: ***Tales from Earthsea

This is a 2006 Japanese animated movie which was rereleased by Disney in 2010.  Willem Dafoe and Tim Dalton provide voice talents to some of the characters.
This tales the story of a world which is out of balance, and as a result crops don't grown, people are overtaken by evil desires, and things are not right.  Darkness is taking over the land.  Dragons have been seen.  In the midst of this, the prince is taken by an evil spirit, and stabs and kills his father, and then runs away.  The prince is taken in by a wizard, and they escape to the home of a friend, and enjoy farming with her.  She has taken in a young woman, who had been abandoned.  The four of then must face the evil sorcerer, who has put the unbalance in motion, by defying death.  He is really very old, but looks young because of his magic.  He has put his own heart into the heart of the prince.  The good wizard, the prince, and the lady friend are all captured, but the prince visits the young woman in spirit, and asks her to bring his sword, which she does.  He makes his escape, and the two go in rescue of the teachers before they are killed.
This movie has a fascinating twist in the end, but shows how balance can be restored through love. 

Monday, March 17, 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.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Music Review: Mormon Tabernacle Choir: America's Choir

On the DVD America's Choir this is a bonus concert.  This concert includes the choirs favorites, and this bonus material is sure to please.  It doesn't include any interruption but goes from one song to another.  Some of the favorites I enjoy are Battle Hymn of the Republic, Come, Come Ye Saints, Climb Every Mountain and Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.  The choir is very large, but even so they are able to enunciate and make the words understandable.  They also sing with emotion and heart, and carry the message of the song to the listener.  This is just lovely.  This concert is presented from the tabernacle which is known for its acoustics.

Movie Review: ***^Atlas Shrugged

This is the story from Ayn Rand about industrial espionage, and a government run amuck trying to pick the winners and the losers.  Atlas Shrugged II is coming out soon, so I wanted to watch this one first.  Dagny Taggert (Taylor Schilling) runs a train company which is in trouble.  Her brother is more interested in politics than actually leading.   She takes a risk on Rearden Steal.  Henry Rearden (Grant Bowler) takes a risk on her as well.  Together they make the fastest train in America, and have a success.  However the government is out to get them.  The government enacts laws to do just this, and in the end destroys the economic success of the country, resulting in more poor people and more people dependent on the government.  There is also a  redistributive factor mentioned in this movie.  Tax the wealthy states to give to the poor states.  This movie reminds me of presidential politics, with one candidate focused on redistribution and the other on creating an economic climate for success.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

TV Movie Review: ***^The Silver Chair

This is the 1990 BBC version.  So the special effects are poor and some of the characters in their costumes look silly.  Aslan appears to be a big stuffed stuff animal with someone manipulating the mouth.  This movie does however tell the story, which is very compelling.  Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb want to get away from boarding school, and Eustace calls to Aslan to take them to Narnia, and they are because they are needed.
Prince Caspian now king, has become old.  He has no one to inherit his kingdom, because his son has been lost many years, and everyone who tries to find him disappears.  Jill, Eustace and Puddleglum (Tom Baker) who is a Marshwiggle, sot of a man with mud in his veins and who enjoys the marshes, set off on the rescue.  Jill must remember the instructions given her by Aslan.  Travel north to a city abandoned by giants.  The find an inhabited city, where the giants are preparing to have them for dinner, literally.  The make their escape, and follow the next instruction to go under the ancient city which is next to the inhabited city.  There they are taken prisoner, and lead to the room of the second in command, a dark knight.  The Green Lady, ruler of the underworld is out.  The dark knight is chained to a silver chair.  He warns his companions not to free him.  However he is transformed, and begs them for release.  Finally he begs in the name of Aslan (the last clue) so they release him.  He destroys the chair which has been keeping him under a curse for many years.  He is the lost prince.
Then enters the green lady (Barbara Kellerman who also played the white witch.)  She tries to lull them to sleep with incense.  However Puddleglum breaks the spell, by putting his hand in the fire.  Everyone comes to their senses, and a battle ensues.  The green lady transforms into a green serpent (who killed the queen many years before) but the prince is able to kill the serpent.  The Green Lady's hold on the underworld is released, and they return to the surface and Narnia.
I like the ending.  Aslan sends Jill and Eustace home.  But he tells them he is known by a different name their world, and they must know Him better.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Book Review: The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, Roald Dahl

This is a short story from Roald Dahl which was first published in 1985.  Billy lives by an old sweet shop, Grubby's, and wishes he could but the building and start his own sweet shop.  However he discovers it has been sold.  Over time he discovers the new owners are a ladderless window cleaning company.  They boast a giraffe, a pelican and a monkey.  They get their first break, a job at the home of a rich duke.  Upon arriving they help the duke pick cherries from the top of his tree.  They then begin cleaning the windows.  The giraffe's neck can extend so the reach windows on the fourth floor.  When they begin the to wash windows they come upon a burglar with a gun.  He is stealing the duchess' jewels.  The cleaning crew decides to take action.  The pelican goes in the window, and grabs the man inside his big pelican beak.  He won't let him out, even though he shots his gun.  The police arrive and discover he is a famous burglar called Cobra.  The duke awards the crew with comfortable lives and food on his property.  He rewards Billy with the sweet shop.  The only issue I have is Billy gives candy away instead of selling it for his grand opening.  No one stays in business that way. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Disney Movie Review: **Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (1996)

I love the Wind in the Willow, but this movie misses the essence, while keeping the shell.  The Moles want to get Toad Hall so they can put up a dog food factory, grinding up the animals.  To do this they keep tempting Toad (Terry Jones) with motor vehicles.  He ends up in prison for 100 years.  However the maid's daughter (Julia Sawalha) helps him to escape for money.  The have to get back to Toad Hall, which the moles are going to blow up.  Rat (Eric Idle) Mole (Steve Coogan) and Badger (Nicol Williamson) all come off as heroes.  They trick the moles into blowing up the wrong building.  All would be happy, but Mr. Toad graduates from motor cars to airplanes.
This movie is not animated.  It has the characters played by humans in costume.  A cameo is John Cleese playing Toad's lawyer.  He is not a very good defense lawyer.

Book Review: The wonderful story of Henry Sugar and Six More

This is a book of short stories by Roald Dahl.  I must admit, “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” is not my favorite.  Most of these stories are fiction.  However three are based on real stories, two autobiographical.  These are “Lucky Break” and “A Piece of Cake”.  In “Lucky Break” Dahl tells of how he became an author.  His first work was “A Piece of Cake” which is his first story, and was a story of his experience flying for the RAP in WWII.   I find the story of how Dahl became an author fascinating.  He says he hardly never writes nonfiction.  However the times he does I have enjoyed very much.  The process of writing has always intrigued me, and Dahl gives some insight into his own writing process.  The other nonfiction story in this work is “The Mildenhall Treasure”.  This book talks about greed, and ancient artifacts.  A man hired to plow a field, comes on ancient Roman artifacts.  In England the law is such that if you find old treasure, you report it properly, half of the value is yours.  In this case, the owner of the field tried to swindle the finder by keeping the find secret.  However he was found out, and in the end received nothing.  The finder got a little, but not as much as he would have.  He didn’t know the law, and was in essence a victim of deceit.  I love stories about old artifacts and treasure.  In this case they found a stash of old dishes, silver spoons and ladles and such.  Many had intricate designs.  The old man’s fault was displaying a couple spoons, when an archeologist came to examine his collection of arrow heads and such.  The game was shortly up, and the items made known. 
This collection also included a couple fantastical stories.  I did not find them as enjoyable.  Henry Sugar takes years to train his mind to see the back of cards.  He has the idea of breaking the Casinos.  However when he masters the skill, he doesn’t have the desire to do this anymore.  He instead makes money from casinos, traveling the world, but always giving the money to his foundation which supports orphanages throughout the world.  There is a boy who talks to animals, and runs away with a sea turtle, and lastly a boy who flies away from trouble using the wings of a swan.  This is the most disturbing story, as he is bullied miserably, and the bullies never get theirs.  I kept wishing someone would slap them silly and it never happened.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Disney Movie Review: ***The Aristocats (1970)

***Aristocats  (1970):  This movie was made during what could be called Disney's down time, and this movie is an example of  this.  It just isn't quite as good as the movies before nor those that come after.  It has the catchy jazz number, "Everybody ought to be a cat" but is too full of itself with jazz terms.  The story is also too cliched, with the evil bumbling butler (Sterling Holloway) trying to do in the cats who are inheriting the mistress' money before him.  Other voice actors are Eva Gabor, Phil Harris, Scatman Crothers, Nancy Kulp (from Beverly Hillbillies and George Lindsey (Goober).

Monday, March 10, 2014

Book Review: The Cat Who Dropped a Bombshell

** The Cat who Dropped a Bombshell
Is is my least favorite of the Cat books I have read.  It left a lot of dangling ends and made broad assumptions.  When it concludes it presents the theory of how the murder took place, but never verifies.  It also leaves another murder in the air.  It has the usual style, but doesn't deliver.  This book is the 28th in a series, and maybe the author is getting old and forgetful.

Movie Review: ***^The Help

This movie was very enjoyable, during the Kennedy years, and start of the civil rights movement.  It took a lot of courage in those days to confront your environment, especially in the South under Jim Crow laws. When segregation is the law, it is hard to stand up.  This move has Emma Stone as a young author, writing about the injustices she sees, and through time recruits a group of "Help" to tell her stories; positive stories and stories of injustices.  Viola Davis and Octovia Spencer are "The Help" first help with the book.  Bryce Dallas Howard portrays the worse of the racists.  She is just evil, wanting to pass a law requiring extra bathrooms for "Black Help."  It is fun how the book comes out, and how they are able to do just enough so they can publish the book without being arrested.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Movie Reviews: ***^ Moneyball

Moneyball is very fun, and would have been more fun with less "f" words.  It follows the Oakland A's and their 20-game winning streak.  This was with a nothing budget, compared to some of the other teams.  Baseball has long had a problem with some teams, in big markets, buying the best players.  However those team in lower markets find it hard to compete.  However the A's have been good year after year, and this movie explains the philosophy that goes into this.  I would recommend this movie for a mature audience.

Movie Reviews: ***^Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Tony and I saw the third installment of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.  We have seen them all together.  This movie is called "Dog Days" and deals with summer vacation.  These movies all deal with relationships and growing in these relationships.  This movie deals with Greg (Zachary Gordon) and his father (Steve Zahn).  How it is possible to disappoint at times, but still be loved.  Roderick (Devon Bostick), the oldest brother provides the comic relief.  He and his band and trying to impress girls.   When he and the girl he is trying to impress end up on the ground covered in chocolate, it is just funny, and even funnier when he has the presence of mind to ask for a date.

There is another part where Greg loses his swimsuit jumping off the diving board and ends up in the pool naked.  His suit is stuck on the high dive, and then thrown outside the pool by a girl.  He is stuck in the pool all day naked, until he is able to get a small pink suit and make it to the restroom.  I had nightmares of ending in a similar situation as a child.  I would recommend this movie, however the lead actor has out grown the part.  He is suppose to be in seventh grade, but looks like a high schooler.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Movie Review: ** Ms. Scrooge (1997)

This is a twist on the Christmas Carol story.  It is set with an African American woman, who lost her father to fire, and her mother to heart ache, and her brother to the Viet Nam War.  Ebenita Scrooge's (Cicely Tyson) only surviving relative is her nephew (Michael Beach), who is a preacher at a local church.  She treats her employees with contempt, and hoards her money in  vault in her room.  This is not my favorite.  The first three ghosts, seem to have little effect on her.  Her former partner, Maude Marley (Katherine Helmond) as well as Christmas past or present, scarcely have any effect, rather than to make her feel bad.  She doesn't seem effected until she sees some of her future decisions, if she doesn't change.  The change from the next morning, seems false.  They go through the story and the motions, but something is missing for me.

Movie Review: Heidi with Shirley Temple (1937)

Shirley Temple is so talented, everything she does turns out well.  However this is not my favorite Heidi.  I don't like the acting out what they are reading in the books, this is just and excuse to she Temple's talents, but gets too far away from the story.  However the story of a little girl warming her grandfather's heart, and creating a change in both their lives for the better.  However, in this version the aunt is the villain, she and the nurse.  They steal Heidi away to the city, where she lives with Clara who cannot walk.  Heidi helps Clara get over her illness.  However getting back with grandfather is not that easy.  The nurse steal Heidi to sell to gypsies.  Grandfather rescues her.  The story concludes with Clara visiting Heidi in the mountains, and being able to run as fast as Heidi.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Movie Review: ****Arthur and the Invisisibles

This is a cute show.  Arthur (Freddie Highmore) lives with his grandmother (Mia Farrow).  He is disappointed because his parents do not return for his birthday.  His grandfather has disappeared.  Things get worse when a developer enters the scene, says he has bought the debts on grandmother’s farm and she has two days to pay up or he is going to turn the farm into a shopping center.   
Arthur has to find a way to find his grandfather’s treasure.  Grandfather hid it on the farm, but then could not find it.  The treasure is a bunch of rubies.  Grandfather had been to Africa, and met the largest people in existence, and the smallest, as small as a tooth.  Arthur looks for clues among his grandfather’s things, and begins to find them.  This leads him to the portal.  To pass the portal into grandfather’s world, he has to be made small himself.  The invisibles live on the farm as well, but they are little like ants so no one sees them.  However, if the farm is turned to concrete, they will all die. 
The Invisibles are divided into two factions, the evil Lord Matazard (David Bowie) who has found away to use technology to everyone’s detriment.  He is devising a way to take water and flood the MInimoys.  The princess (Madonna) and Arthur travel to the city of the evil people in an effort to find grandfather, the rubies and to prevent the evil empire from ruining everything.  Everything looks gloomy for our heroes as they are captured.  Matazard is going to have some fun, and sets them loss in the irrigation tunnels with the water behind them.  They find a way to escape, using a toy car. 
There is a clever interaction between the regular size world and the Invisibles.  Arthur is able to use this to his own advantage.  The last scene has the princess looking at Arthur through his window and proclaiming she will wait for him.
This movie has plenty of tension, and using the Tony meter again received high marks.  He was enchanted by the world of the little people, with their messy hair.  My only complaint; I didn't buy Mia Farrow as a grandmother.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Movie Review: ***^The Lego Movie

  This movie has many parallels, parallel universes with different types of Lego worlds, such as Western, under water, in the clouds, Star Wars etc.  And in the end a parallel between the Legos and the humans playing with them.  There has been much talk about this being an anti corporation movie, but I didn't see it.  It is more a movie of finding what your niche is, and then doing the best you can in that niche, even if the niche is being normal, regular.  With regards to the double theme presented by the father and his son; and Emmet versus Lord Business the father is gluing his Lego set together so his son can’t mess it up; but in the end he changes, he repents and invites son to play, and his daughter.  In the same manner Lord Business wants to glue everything so it is in the perfect position.  He also changes, when he realizes people can like him for who he is.  There is another theme I find in the movie.  Sometimes we can be lolled into complacency, letting others take our rights away in the name of change and making things better, until it is too late, we have be rocked to sleep until the day when it is too late.  In the movie this was done by manuals, songs and control of the media. 

However the song is fun: Everything is awesome
Everything is cool when you're part of a team
Everything is awesome, when we're living our dream

Tony and I came home from the movie singing the first two lines of the song.  Tony gives the movie a big thumbs up by the way.  I had a hard time dealing with everyone and everything looking like a Lego.
Emmet voiced by Chris Pratt
Lord Business and father by Will Ferrell
Wyldestyle by Elizabeth Banks
Vitruvius by Morgan Freeman
Bad Cop/ Good Cop by Liam Neeson

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Doctor Who: Horror of Fang Rock

The Tardis takes the Doctor (Tom Baker) and Leela (Louise Jameson) to a remote light house island.  Their are three employees.  A mysterious comet lands in the water, and the area suddenly turns foggy and cloudy.  One of the crew is electrocuted.  This is unusual as he has used the equipment many times.  The Doctor and Leela show up at the light house just after this.  The Doctor is suspicious, and even more so when the body disappears.  A but runs aground, going too fast in the fog.  It holds several British aristocrats, one of whom is trying to get to London in time for the stock market the next day.  He has inside information to use.  He is a rich brat.  The Doctor becomes convinced something is going to mount an attack.  He locks the doors and the whole in.  One of the seamen brings the third member of the light house crew.  His body has been mutilated.  One by one the people in the light house pass away, electrocuted.  What makes things more difficult, the alien body is a shape shifter, and having studied the human anatomy, he is well prepared to change shapes.  The Doctor figures out the species, Rutan.  They are at war, and plan to use Earth because of its convenient location, to mount an attack against their enemy.  Who cares if all the humans would be killed in counter attack.  The main ship is due to arrive shortly, as the first alien has been sending a signal.  Rutans are hard to kill, but they don't like heat.  They device a cannon type weapon.  However the mother ship is coming.  A diamond is used to magnify the light beam of the light house.  Game over.
This is the fifteenth season of the Doctor, and Tom Baker is the fourth Doctor.  Leela is not from England as most of the Doctor's companions.  She is actually not even from Earth.  This show has plenty of tension, and intrigue, The Doctor trying to think things through.  It also has plenty of screaming and people being electrocuted.  This is an enjoyable series. 

Book Review: Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicle: A Giant Problem

Yes, giants are a problem, especially when they wake after 500 years, and are hungry, and blow fire. In fact giants are very dangerous.  What to do with 200 or so giants is the question, before they destroy everything.  This is the problem faced by south Florida, and Nick and his sister Laura take giant killing lessons from Noseeum Jack.  however they see little point.  However in the end, Jack's son comes and takes him way saying he is too old.  He does give Nick some paperwork, with which he comes up with an idea, to get the mermaids to sing the giants to the ocean.   Laura tricks Jules, their brother by giving him a four-leaf clover in a key chain, and thereby gives him the "sight."  They meet the mermaids, but they don't care about the giants.  They take Jules for themselves and tell them to find a fish not seen in their waters and they will give him back and sing.  Jules' girlfriend who is with them, her father has an aquarium and they go to his home and steal a fish.  The mermaids give Jules back, but only sing for a few minutes.  However Nick captured it on tape and can put it on a loop.  He attaches it to his model boat, and they drive through the country side getting the giants to follow them.  Nick launches the boat in the ocean, and mission accomplished, or is.  They learn at the end that there are things worse than giants that the giants were suppose to control.
This book kept the excitement up, and the intrigue as to what happens next.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Disney Movie Review: Pocahantas (1995)

***^ Pocahontas (1995): This movie portrays the conflict between two cultures.  It has the wicked colonists who are seeking freedom; and gold.  It also shows the people of Pocahontas, who are in perfect harmony with nature and the earth, even though they have their own conflicts between peoples.  Mel Gibson gives voice to John Smith, and Irene Bedard to Pocahontas.  Judy Kuhn provides the vocals for Pocahontas.  David Ogden Stiers is the gold-seeking governor.  Pocahontas is coming to a crossroads in her life, and has to decide whether or not to marry Kocoum, the warrior.  She consults the willow tree to get direction.
    The best part of this show is the meeting of John Smith and Pocahontas in the mist of the waterfall, and the relationship that follows. Another highlight is "Colors of the Wind:"
Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon
Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grinned?
Can you sing with all the voices of the mountains?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?
A beautiful song.

Christmas Movie Review: **^Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (1962)

This is a 1962 made for TV animated feature. This is the Christmas Carol, as portrayed by Mr. Magoo (Jim Backus (of Gilligan's Island)).  It starts with a silly piece of Mr. Magoo arriving late for his Broadway performance.  He says he never misses an entrance, even though he is half an hour late.  Mr. Magoo is miserly, not sharing coal with Bob Cratchit.  He makes several jokes about his sight, and then the ghost jokes about his sight as well.  Mr. Magoo is too cheap to purchase glasses.  The ghosts come in a different order, Marley, then Christmas present before Christmas past and then Christmas yet-to-be.  The music is entertaining, but not that memorable.  Antics about his sight is what makes Mr. Magoo.  He shakes the turkey's hand, talks to the horse and the snowmen, thinks a statue is his reflection,  No nephew in this show, and I missed him.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Movie Review: ****^Cool Runnings (1993)

This is a 1993 movie of the first Jamaican bob sled team at the 1988 Winter Olympics.  I actual remember this story from the Calgary Olympics.  Four sprinters, who were hoping to run track and field, but a fall ends this dream, but still wanting to be Olympians, take up bob sledding.  Irv Blitzer (John Candy) becomes their coach.  This movie is not only motivational, but funny.  A lines that sticks, "You dead man?"  This line is in my vocabulary.  The Jamaicans find their style, with a lucky egg, and their own song, "We got a Jamaican Bob Sled Team."  It is amazing how sometimes dreams hang by a thread, and theew is always opposition.  Sometimes opposition comes from those you love; sometimes from those you don't know; and sometimes from others who disrespect you.  Whatever the case you have to stand and fight.

Book Review: Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicle: The Nixie’s song.

Nick’s mother passed away, and his father remarried.  He is now moved out of his room and in with his older brother to make way for his stepsister Laurie.  Nick thinks she is strange, which she is.  She has read all the Spiderwick books and guides, and is convinced there are faeries.  However she has never seen one.  She does go looking for them however, giving Nick the assignment to find a four-leaf clover.  This is one tool to see faeries.  Nick finds one, and with it comes upon a Nixie named Taloa, almost dead in his yard.  He risks being grounded as he carries it to a pond because it needs water.  The Nixie gives Laurie and Nick the "sight" (ability to see faeries).  The Nixie sends Nick and Laurie on a mission to find her lost sisters, six of them.  While searching the happen upon a burn pond, with the charred dead bodies of three nixies.  They rest on a hill, and wake a giant, and now have a big problem.  The giant chases them, but then is entranced by the Nixie singing.  It stops being aggressive and looks at the ocean.  They convince the Nixie to keep singing, and get a ride from Nick’s brother, Jules to a book signing for the Spiderwick authors, who don’t believe them, but they run into Jared and Simon Grace from the Chronicles who are at the signing and in the area with their father.  They do believe them.  With the Grace kids they visit the old shack of a man who use to communicate with their great uncle, where they find some of Arthur Spiderwick’s papers which Jared takes.  There is also a how-to paper of capturing a giant.  They trap a giant, and they see it struggling in such a way that it may die.  They and are afraid for it, when the owner of the shack, Noseeum Jack, makes an appearance and terminates the giant.  End of book one.
I enjoyed getting back to this series.  I am not sure if I like using the other books and characters as part of the plot.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Movie Review: ***^Arthur Christmas 2011)

This was a delightful Christmas movie.  This is a British/American collaboration between Aardman Animations and Sony Pictures.  This movie presents Santa Claus (who many believe is due for retirement) and his sons, the older, capable and the younger, mail room klutz.  Santa Clause, and his older son have a smooth operation, computerized, with a rocket powered sleigh, and everything is in order--except one child is missed.  Steve the older brother (Hugh Laurie) feels almost 100 percent is OK, and convinces his father, Santa (Jim Broadbent) the same.  However Arthur (James McAvoy), the younger brother worries about the little girl who will wake up without a toy.  Grandpa Santa (Bill Nighy) is seeking some honor for the last time, and takes Arthur to the barn with the old sleigh, and the flying reindeer.  Just like that they are off, but going through many adventures and bumps on the way.  It takes quite of bit of doing to get that bike there, and many times all seems lost.  However, in the end, all of the Santa realize they had lost the true meaning of Christmas.  For next year Santa is retiring, and younger brother who still believes, is going to be the next Santa, and Steve will be the top executive.  Imelda Saunton plays Mrs. Claus.

Disney Movie Review: *^Robin Hood (1973)

*^ Robin Hood.  I think this is probably the worse  Walt Disney movie ever made.  It is all based on cliche and nothing on character development.  Very little to redeem this movie.However I must admit Robin and Little John pretending to be street side gypsies as the rob Prince John is cut.  "Fortunes forecast!  Fortunes forecast!"  Peter Ustinov voices Prince John and King Richard, Phil Harris, Little John and Andy Devine, Friar Tuck.  Ken Curtis (Festus) and George Lindsey(Goober) portray two crazy vultures for comic relief. 

Music review: The Greatest Hits, 1971, Entertainment Weekly

This is a compendium of twelve hits from 1971.  This was about the time my parent bought me a radio for Christmas when I was growing up.  I would listen to music as I went to bed, and these were some of the songs that would be playing.  “Knock Three Times” Dawn, “Indian Reservation” The Raiders, “Put Your Hand in the Hand” Ocean and “Brand New Key” Melanie all brought back pleasant memories. 
This set of songs his highlighted by “Maggie May” Rod Stewart. Rod Stewart's grainy voice and the guitar playing in this song are wonderful.  The parts with just music are as enjoyable as the singing.  At one point they effectively add a ukulele which is very nice, especially when the vocal comes back in over the top of it. 
Another song worthy of mention is “Mr Bojangles” The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.  I had not realized they played this song, thinking it was a Sammy Davis Jr. song.  I guess this song has been sung by many artists.  It actually predates this version by several years.  Although the author denies that is was about Bill Bojangles Robinson, the similarity with his story is striking. 
The Temptations sing “Just my Imagination” which is a very beautiful and peaceful song.  I enjoy its tone.
There are a couple of songs from this group that just I just don’t care for.  I never understood “Spanish Harlem” and still don’t.  Similarly I don’t care for Marvin Gaye “What’s going On.”

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Disney Movie Review: **** Old Yeller

This is the classic movie of a boy and his dog.  Travis (Tommy Kirk) is the man of the house, as his father (Fess Parker) goes on a cattle drive.  A stray dog comes on the scene causing a heap of trouble the first day his father is gone.  His younger brother (Kevin Corcoran) insists the dog is his.  At first Travis doesn't like the dog; but mother (Dorothy McGuire) insists that the keep the dog for his younger brother, Arliss.  Travis learns to love the dog, as he is a true cattle dog and saves Arliss from a bear, Travis from a from a new mother cow, and from the hogs.  Trouble brews the the dogs rightful owner (Chuck Connor) comes to claim him.  However Arliss is so intent on keeping the dog, the visitor trades the dog for a meal.  However there is "Hypothermy" [rabies] in the country.  In saving the family from a wolf, Old Yeller is infected.  A humorous aside is the character of Bud Searcy (Jeff York).  He instructs his daughter in gathering corn, "Make sure you get ears what is sweet and juicy."

Movie Review: ****Taken

This movie grabs you and takes you in.  Kim (Maggie Grace) is 17 and headed to Paris with a friend.  Her father, Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) has reservations, but signs off on letting her go, reluctantly.  She and her friend are kidnapped by Albanian sex trade criminals.  In the process of being kidnapped, she is on the phone with her father, who is an ex CIA man with a special set of skills.  After the daughter is taken, he talks to the man on the phone, "Bryan Mills: I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you're looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that will be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you and I will kill you."  This leads to a very violent search for his daughter.  He first meets the front man at the airport, who runs away and gets hit by a car.  He then goes to the sex scenes, the first where his daughter was, but is no longer there.  He leaves death destruction and mayhem.  He gets a clue that leads him to the next the next sight, where he finds Marko, the man on the phone.  he again leaves death and destruction.  He tortures Marko, and gets a name where they sold his daughter, to a special slave trade.  He gets more information from his Paris police friend, reluctantly (he has to shot his wife to get him to help--a flesh wound).  This leads him to an upper end auction, which he crashes, but gets caught.  He is cuffed to a pipe.  The boss says to kill him quietly.  He is able to break the pipe, turn the tables, more death and mayhem; and after shooting the boss, gets him to tell where the customer is who bought his daughter.  He then dispatches the boss.  He is next on the yacht, more destruction and mayhem and death, and he is reunited with his daughter.  This movie is a good ride.  It is violent, not appropriate for children.

Theatrical Review: Play of the Week: Burning Bright, John Steinbeck

There is something different about this play.  It was presented in the TV series Play of the Week in 1959.  It has the same four characters throughout, but they change their background.  In the first two acts they are in the circus.  Fred ed is a clown, and his best friend is Joe Saul, a trapeze artist.  Joe's cousin passed away, and the new trapeze artist is Victor.  Joe's wife is Mordeen.  Something is burning at Joe's heart.  He was previously married for five years, and his wife passed away.  He has now been married for three years, and no baby by either wife.  He is getting old, and is worried his seed will die with him.  Friend Ed and Joe's wife scheme to get him a baby, using Victor.  We then find the same four people working on a farm.  They refer to happenings in the first two acts, but have left the circus behind.  Mordeen announces she is pregnant, and Victor, who works on the farm, realizes the child is his.  He cannot let this go, and he says he cannot leave knowing he is gong to be a father.  No one tells Joe.  In the final act the are on a ship.  Friend Ed is going to take Victor away.  However Victor insists he is staying, and going to divulge the secret, and force Mordeen to be with him.  Friend Ed says he has to tell Victor a secret, takes Victor on deck and dispatches with him, a knife and overboard.  He is still going to sail away with friend Ed.  Mordeen knows what has happened, but is going to life with it.  Then enters Joe, who has been to the doctor, and discovered his sperm are dead.  He has an illness and is dying.  He turns Mordeen away, but Friend Ed gets him to come to his senses, and the final scene is the hospital where the baby has been born, and Joe is there with Mordeen. 
I have thought about why the setting changed, while the characters didn't.  I think Steinbeck was saying that these circumstances could happen in  whatever setting, that wasn't important.  What was important was the struggle to leave something  better after ourselves, but also to be accepting of whatever roll life might give us.  This is a play which touches on infertility, and the attitude of one man towards infertility and how he comes to terms with his infertility.