Sunday, June 29, 2014

Music Review: Neil Diamond: Love Songs

This is a compilation album produced in 1981.  Most of the songs are written by Neil Diamond, however he does sing "Both Sides Now" from Joni Mitchell and "Suzanne" written  by Leonard Cohen.  It is interesting that this album is called Love Songs, while many of the songs are falling out of love songs, like "If You Go Away" and "Last Thing on my Mind."  Diamond even plays marriage therapist in "Husbands and Wives" which has a very good message.
Angry words spoken in haste
Such a waste of two lives
Its my belief
Pride is the chief cause in the decline
In the number of husbands and wives
I have found those words to be very profound.  
Something very unique in this album.  Diamond sings Falsetto in "A Modern Day of Love."

Movie Review: ***^An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge

This is a movie based on the Civil War short story of Ambrose Bierce of the same name.  A Southern saboteur is to be executed for attempted to damage railway tracks.  He is to be hung off a bridge.  The rope is placed around his neck, and he is slid off a board; but the rope doesn't catch.  He ends up in the water, where he manages to untie his bonds before he drowns.  He is then on the road, with the Union firing at him, rifles and canons, but they are unable to kill him.  He is headed to see his wife.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Music Review: Seals and Croft: Down Home (1970)

This is the second album produced by Seals and Croft and all the songs were written by Jim Seals or Dash Croft.  This album continues to present the unique flavor of this musical duet group.  The mandolin gives and the voices of the singers give Seals and Croft their own unique flavor.  I have always enjoyed listening to them. 
This album had no stand out hits.  "Hand-me-down Shoe" has a very catchy tune and beat.  "Robin" is a song about a bird which precedes their later hit "Humming Bird."  There is a very nice piano part in "Gabriel Go on Home."  Today is probably my favorite of the songs on this album.  This album has a duet part that is so well mixed listening to it is very enjoyable.  The lyrics for this song are very poetic:

Today went so softly
Just faded away
Like the rain in the springtime
On that day, I met you, I met you, when I met you
Today went so quietly
I turned and it was gone
Like you, like me, it was lonely
It went on, it went on, it went on, it went on
Then a beautiful thing happened
And we were one
And all the world was
A beautiful face to be lost in
Today went so quickly, just a moment in time
Like the hours in springtime
When you were mine, you were mine
You were mine, you were mine
Then a beautiful thing happened
And we were one
And all the world was
A beautiful face to be lost in
Today, today

This album has a bit for everyone.  They sing country.  They even sing to a poisonous snake in "Cotton Mouth".

Movie Review: ***^The Pelican Brief

The Pelican Brief
This movie is proof that if you write something, bad things could happen. Darby Shaw (Julia Roberts) writes a brief about why she thinks two Supreme Court Judges may have been murdered.  This is just a fly-by-night theory that perhaps a big oil person ordered the executions so the current president could appoint judges who are not so environmental friendly because they have a big environmental case which is going to reach the courts in four or five years.  Turns out for our story, the brief is very close to the truth.  It gets taken up by the head of the FBI who is going to investigate the allegations, until the president asks him not to.  
Everything is bad for the oil tycoon and his lawyers, as well as for the president.  What makes things worse is all of Darby's friends and contacts begin to get murdered.  She is next.
This is a very tense movie.  John Grisham has a way with telling a story, and the movie is very good at keeping that tension.  However, the book is better.  My major complaint about the movie is it doesn’t explain well how Darby realizes she is next, and she needs protection.  Her protection, or the person she trusts in the end is reporter Gray Grantham (Denzel Washington).  
Shaw is so troubled and traumatized during this movie, I love the way it ends, with a Julia Roberts smile.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Music Review: Great Choral Classics

Great Choral Classics  Laser Light Digital
This is a mixture of religious and operatic music.  Operatic music is usually not my thing, but I do enjoy religious music.  Most of that in this case is in Latin.  I found Bach’s Mass in B Minor, Sanctus very enjoyable.  It had the basic theme firmly planting but also with entertaining runs.  Mozart’s Requiem Mass: Luz Eterna was also very well done.  I always have loved Handel’s Messiah, and this CD presents “For Unto Us a Child is Born.”  This is an all time favorite and a joy to listen to.  Joseph Hadyn’s “The Creation” also falls into this group.  This CD is topped off with Beethoven “Symphony NO. 9 4th Movement (excerpt)” which is really very moving.  The choir chords are very lovely.  It is not as enjoyable when it gets into the soloist part.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Movie Review: ****The Net (1995)

The Net, (1995) This is a very intense movie.  It sparks the question, what happens if those who run the internet turn against the people they are serving?  Could they really take away someone’s identity and replace her with someone else?  Identity theft is such a big deal it makes this movie all the move relevant.    Sandra Bullock stars as Angela Bennett who works as a computer programmer, and whose mother has Alzheimers.  When Bennett comes upon a conspiracy plot of computer program company manipulating security so the government is forced to buy their product,; and then they will have complete control of the internet.  She makes her discovery known, and sets herself up as a target.  There are attempts made against her life, and against her identity.  Her existence is erased and she is given a different name, someone with a criminal past and who is wanted. 
The only way to restore her existence is to use her computer skills to go after those who are doing this to her. 
Things I didn’t like, the computers screens appeared to melt form a virus.  I didn’t know they did that.  Also the bad guys weren’t very well prepared.  However this is a good tense filled movie lots of fun.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Movie Review: **** Saving Mr. Banks

This story is very intriguing.  It tells of the relationship between the author of Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) and Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) as well as with the Disney team.  The question throughout is whether or not she will sign the royalties to her book.  She agrees to give it a try, based on if she likes what they are doing.
Travers then goes through a series of flashbacks, and she reexamines her own story and relation with her father (personified in Mr. Banks) thinking they are making him too mean.  However she loves "Let's Go Fly a Kite" which is Mr. Banks' redemption.  Travers' father is Travers Goff played by Collin Farrell.  It shows him succumbing to TB and the pressure it puts on his family.  Disney staff includes the butler, Ralph played by Paul Giamatti.
This movie brings out the emotion of dealing with the past.  Not everything is perfect in life, but we can come to terms and accept things as they are.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Movie Review: ****The Impossible

This movie shows a young family with parents (Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor) and three boys, as they are swept from their pool where they are vacationing in Thailand, by the tsunami of 2004.  Talk about your crazy scenes.  They follow the mother as she is swept away, and under the water, and poked with a branch in her chest, and her leg is also wounded.  She is being swept away with one of her sons as they try to keep close to each other, and they eventually come to a halt.  Her oldest son, Lucas (Tom Holland) does manage to stay with her.
The movie also shows the struggle of her husband, trying to locate her.  Somehow the two younger boys have survived and are with him.  However he puts them on a rescue truck as he is intent on continuing to search for his wife.  Consequently they are separated.  Mother and oldest son, in their wanderings, rescue a small boy, who eventually is found by his family.  However mother and son become separated in the hospital, as son is helping others, and mother taken to surgery without his knowing where she has gone. 
Just as you are about ready to give up on this family ever getting back together, the impossible happens.  The reunion of the three boys with their father is very dramatic, and then with mother who is in hospital with her wounds.
This is one crazy story based on actual events.  One can only imagine the devestation as a result of this natural disaster.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Movie Review: ****^Ladyhawke (1985)

This is one of my favorite movies ever.  It portrays the story of a couple Navarre and Isabeau (Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer), who have secretly engaged themselves to be married because of their love.  They confess this love to a local monk (Leo McKern) who unwittingly divulges this to the bishop, and Isabeau's guardian, who, when he hears of this, becomes jealous, putting a course on the couple.  As such, he is a wolf by night, and she is a hawk by day.  They are always just passing each other, but not quite able to touch.  When Gaston (Mathew Broderick) escapes from the bishop's prison, Navarre decides it is time to act, and recruits Gaston to help him break into the bishop's castle, so he can kill the bishop. 
A wolf hunter is sent to capture Navarre, but he evades capture.  The hawk is wounded, in a scuffle with the bishop's guards.  They flea to the monk's monastery for refuge.  The monk has discovered a way he can be redeemed, but Navarre is just intent on revenge.  In their journeys, the wolf falls through the ice of a lake, and Gaston is scratched trying to rescue him.  They do make it to the city, Navarre with his hope of revenge, and the monk with his hope of redemption.  Great sword fight between Navarre and the Captain of the guard (Ken Hutchinson).  I love the action, the sword play, and the mysterious things surrounding this couple.  Very well done.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Movie Review: ***^The Saratov Approach

This is a Mormon movie, and presents Mormon themes and concepts in an entertaining way.  Two missionaries, Elder Tuttle (Corbin Allred) and Elder Propst (Maclain Nelson) are kidnapped while serving in Russia.  It is based on a true story.  They were kidnapped and held for ransom in 1998.  This is the story from the point of view of the missionaries. 
This movie does a good job of giving insights into the reaction of the missionaries.  It does this by using flashbacks, missionary teaching and in one case a dream.     Some of this is confusing, but it does create a whole that is well done.  The biggest tension is presented when the missionaries must decide whether to make an escape attempt, confronting their captors, or wait things out. 
I enjoyed this movie.  Miranda who is preparing for a mission watched it with us, and seemed to also enjoy it.  It has a very dramatic ending which is very teary.  With a child on a mission, and another a couple months from leaving, I felt for the missionary families.

Music Review: Dan Fogelberg: Home Free

This was Dan Fogelberg's first album, and not his most popular.  However it presents him as a folk type singer.  Most of the songs are very mellow, but mellow sleep songs.  However he finally hits his stride with something upbeat with "Any way I love you".  The way he sings this song he appears to be getting more confident everyday, and this it what it appears in general.  Catchy and moving song.  Some of the songs of repetitious features which make them a bit boring.  He sings "Live in the Country" over and over.  "Wysteria" has some very nifty guitar playing.  "The River" concludes the album with a more rockish feel.  Some of the songs have piano accompaniment. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Movie Review: ***^God is Not Dead

God is Not Dead
This movie had a lot of potential, but in the end did not quite live up to that potential in my opinion, while Sheri said she thoroughly enjoyed this movie.  The pretext is a new college freshman takes a philosophy class, and is required on the first day of class to write on a paper “God is dead.”  He is a Christian and says he cannot do this.  As a result he enters into a debate with the professor.  His girlfriend leaves him as she feels he is jeopardizing his chances of becoming a lawyer.  It seems nobody but his pastor supports him, but he pursues this path feeling it is something God wants him to do. 
There are several side stories, the pastor and his missionary friend having difficulty getting to Disney World, a blogger who blogs against Jesus, but discovers he has cancer, the professor’s girlfriend whose mother has Alzheimer’s, and whose brother is so intent on being successful, he doesn’t visit.   They all head for a big crash at the end.  The student gets to professor to admit that he is angry at God because of his mother’s death; and the student concludes, how can you be angry at someone who doesn’t exist, the professor’s girlfriend leaves him over the issue of God, and he realizes maybe it is time to give his life to God, the blogger seeks out a Christian band to confront them, and the pastor and friend are off to Disney World but stuck in the concert traffic.
Too much something for my taste, and just a bit too something in the end for me.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Book Review: The Games Book

The Games Book: How to Play the Games of yesterday, written by: Huw Davies, illustrated by Lisa Jackson, Scholastic Inc., London, 2008.
This is an interesting book, which I have used mostly for reminders; memories of games I played growing up.  No book could have them all, but this book has many: Rock Paper Scissors, Blind Man’s Bluff, Hotter, Colder, Wink Murder, Charades, Musical Chairs, Simon Says, Statues Z(Red Light Green Light), Red Rover, Follow the Leader, Leapfrog, Hopscotch, Pat-a-Cake, Jacks, Marbles, Tag, Freeze Tag, Capture the Flag, Hide-and-Seek, I Spy, I Went to Market, The Farmer in the Dell, London Bridge, Duck, Duck, Goose, Snap, Slapjack, Hangman, Tic-tac-toe, Cat’s Cradle.  It also has many more games, but these are the ones I am most familiar with.  A couple of games there are rule variations, and a couple the rules don’t match exactly the rules we played.  However, this is a good resource for remembering, and having written rules to refer to.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Music Review: Celtic Woman: Believe: Live

I watched the DVD version of Celtic Woman, "Believe."  This album features Mairead Nesbitt on violin.  She is the original dancing violinist.  As vocal soloist, and also performing trio and duets are: Chloe Agnew, Lisa Kelly and Lisa Lambe (in her first Celtic Woman performance).  This performance really hit its stride after about half way through the sang a tribute to Broadway.  The were perfect together in "I Dreamed a Dream" and followed this with "The Circle of Life."  "You'll Never Walk Alone" is another song all four women perform together and it sounds beautiful.  Chloe performs a show stopper Ave Maria.  The women all come together for "Smile."  This song is haunting as the women start a 'Capella and then are joined by violin only. 

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it's breaking.
When there are clouds in the sky
you'll get by.
If you smile with your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You'll see the sun come shining through
For you.

Book Review: The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle

The Heroes Guide to Storming the Castle, Christopher Healy, Walden Pond Press, New York, 2013.
This book is a fun ride.  It is the sequel to “The heroes Guide to Saving Your Kingdom”.  For the most part, it has the same characters, except for adding the really bad people from Dar.  They intermingle with the robbers of Rauberia, and threaten the world. 
But I am getting ahead of myself.  This book starts with the forced marriage of Briar Rose and Liam, or sleeping beauty and her Prince Charming.  Turned out in the last book, Liam wanted out of the marriage, but Briar rose could not have that.  In addition, Briar has a plot to steal a sword with magical powers from the robbers Rauber.  This is the sword of Arinthia, the which was stolen by Deeb Rauber and his men, but they do not know its magical powers.  Liam and the Order of Prince Charming are given the task.  They recruit a troll, a giantess, Rapunzel who is a healer, a bounty hunter, Liam’s sister Lila who is also adept and getting into small places, Snow White, Ella (Cinderella) as well as the original order of the four Princes Charming, and they are off.  Unfortunately they also recruit someone to pretend to be a thief; but turns out to really be a thief.  Everything goes wrong, or at least not like they had planned it. 
This is a very enjoyable book and I recommend it highly.  It leaves things in the air, and the next book has not come out yet which is a bit frustrating.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Movie Review: ****Daddy Day Care

Two men Phil (Jeff Garlin) and Charlie (Eddie Murphy) hit upon the idea of forming a day care after they are laid off, and have difficulty finding affordable day care.  There is one program in town, very structured and very expensive.  The owner (Anjelica Huston) of the alternative day care does not like any one messing with her turf.  She keeps turning licensing on them in an effort to get them yo else shop.  Somehow they always meet code, until they realize they have too many kids for two men.  They recruit a third from their work, Marvin (Steve Zahn) who says yes, seeing an opportunity to really make a difference.  However they did a bigger place, for which they need money.  They hold a huge fund raise, sabotaged by their rival.  However they keep plugging away, until their old jobs come back. Marvin is crushed.  The other two fathers realize maybe they were hasty.  There is something to be said for nurturing children, especially with your own little ones.
Many things to like here.  How they entertain the kids, how they incorporate management and business skills to the children, and how they grow together.  Tony loves this show, and it is a good family film.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Movie Review: ****Strictly Ballroom (1992)

This is a movie about a man and a woman, and an unlikely partnership.  Fran (Tara Morice) is a beginning dancer and Scott (Paul Merucrio) is an accomplished, championship level dancer, but wants to do his own steps which is frowned upon.  His partner leaves him, and Scott needs a new partner for the championship.  Fran offers herself, saying they can dance new steps together.  Scott is doubtful, but intrigued enough to start practicing with Fran while he tries out other girls (who don't work out).  He commits to Fran, when another championship level dancer becomes available as her partner retires.  Her family expects him to dance with the new girl.  The head of the dance organization, Barry Fife (Bill Hunter) tells a story about Scott's father losing out on the champions because he danced his own steps.  He needs a championship.  So Scott relents, crushing Fran's hopes, although she does come to thee competition and dances with the beginners.  Scott's father sets him strait on the story.  He did not dance at the competition because Fife convinced his wife to dance with someone else, so Fife could win.  This year he is manipulating things the same way, already having promised the championship to a couple.  Scott leaves his chosen partner, and dances the Latina dance with Fran, so he can dance the way he wants.  Fran's family is from Spain, and they have practiced and practiced.  Even though the music is turned off, even though Fife announces they are disqualified, they continue to dance, and bring down the house.
This show had a way of making me care about thee actors, and giving a look at the ballroom scene, in Australia.  This is and Australian film.
There is one scene not appropriate for children.  Nothing is shown, but lovemaking is implied, although one partner quits.  This film is rated PG.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Musical Review: The Biscuit Brothers Musical Farm

This CD is geared for children.  However, with what appears to be political correctness it seems to miss the mark.  Much of the CD it appears they were trying to present a concert for the migrant workers on their farm.  A third of the farms were in Spanish, or if in English with a Spanish flare like Continental Tango.  I must assume this was a PBS presentation.  By the end, some of the songs sounded like Elmo was singing, "Go Make Music" and "Music is Magic."  The songs I most enjoyed are the traditional songs with the Biscuit Brother versions such as "Three Blind Mice," "Old MacDonald" and "This Old Man."  Those songs were really hopping.

Music Review: Reba Greatest Hits Volume III

The subititle for this CD is I'm a Survivor based on one of the new songs on the CD.  This CD presents three songs that are new to Reba, and 12 of her greatest hits.  The song I most enjoyed was "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia."  Of course this song is not original to Reba, but she seems to perform it with a special flare.  I like the was her voice adds something to the songs.  It is clear, but also has a highly entertaining flavor.  She does a duet with Vince Gill which is also very effective.  She adds a coupe featured guests, Brooks and Dunn" on another song, "If You See Him, If You See Her" which is also enjoyable.
Most of Reba's songs aren't familiar to me.  I have not been a big follower of her career.   However I was in the mood from some country style love and breaking up songs; and this seemed to fill the bill today. 

Book Review: The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, written by: Christopher Healy, drawings by : Todd Harris, Walden Pond Press, New York, 2012.
This book was fun.  It is taking the stories of the Prince Charmings, and making fun how Charming is a generic name, and the story telling skips any specifics other than the accomplishments of the women who are saved.  Some of the personalities are not what you would expect.  In this case the Charmings face a mean witch, and a band of robbers headed by a ten year old.
This book is well done.  It does get a bit slow in the middle, but not too slow.  The author makes good use of humor.  This keeps the story moving through the slow parts.  As for a theme I think that would be that their is an importance to having friends, and in working together you can accomplish more.

Music Review: Dionne Warwick: The Definitive Collection

Dionne Warwick can sing.  Many of the songs on this CD I listened to when young, but had no idea that Warwick had recorded this song.  Some are likely redone versions of other artists, but others are likely just hers.  "Walk on By" is a classic.  SHe sings a lot about relationships.
 "Walk on by, walk on by
Foolish pride
Is all that I have left
So let me hide
The tears and the sadness you gave me
When you said goodbye"

Another classic is "Say a Little Prayer for You" also done by Aretha Franklin.  This has a catch thyme right from the beginning.
"The moment I wake up
Before I put on my makeup
I say a little prayer for you
Oh while combing my hair now
And wondering what dress to wear now
I say a little prayer for you

Another song I like is from the same era.  Maybe I like it as I work in San Jose.  "Do You Know the Wat to San Jose."  These songs were all written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.  
This collection is an anthology which gives a wide range of Warwick's music; and the singer can really move you.