Thursday, December 31, 2015

Movie Review: ****Inside Out (2015)

This is a Disney Pixar movie with an interesting premise.  Many of the Pixar movies are that way; from the view of the world form the perspective of a car, or an airplane, or a toy, or a fish, or a bug, or a forgotten robot, or a monster.  This movie is from the perspective of emotions.  Five emotions Joy (Amy Poehler), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Anger (Lewis Black), Sadness (Phyllis Smith) and Fear (Bill Hader) have a keyboard and help a young girl (Kaitlyn Dias) navigate life.  Joy is determined that all memories will be happy ones, and wants to keep sadness away from the work.  This goes well as long as there is no pressure or stress in our girl's life.  However when they move from Minnesota to San Francisco, things go haywire, and our girl starts to break down.  Things get worse when Joy and Sadness accidentally loss themselves in the girl's subconscious.  Not even her parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) can get through to her any more.  So how do Joy and Sadness get back to the control center?  And more importanatly how does Joy lean how to intermingle with Sadness?  I enjoyed this video.  I watched with my granddaughter and Tony.  They both had a good time.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Movie Review: **^The Abyss (1989)

I must admit, this was not my favorite movie.  The existence of a species in the abyss, deep sea, against might be plausible, but that they accidentally case the crash of a nuclear submarine, and then rescue those who come to rescue the nuclear warheads.  But of course the military guy wants to blow them all up with his nuclear warheads, and the scientists want to keep him from doing so.  This film plays the same tactic twice, husband and wife are disaffected, but when the other partner faces imminent death then the emotion changes.  These near death experiences, or actual death and then coming back from death play on the heart strings, but just felt like a manipulation.  Ed Harris as Bud Brigman and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Lindsey Brigman star as the couple.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Movie Review: ***** The Secret of Kells (2009)

This animated feature was nominated for an Oscar for best animated movie.  It is obvious why.  The artwork is exquisite, and makes this movie worth of a view.  Sometimes the story gets bogged down in the intricate art, but that is OK because the spiraling patterns are so intriguing.  This is the story of the creation of the Book of Kell, an illustrated Bible, and national treasure of Ireland, which helped the people of the north through a dark period in their history; when the Abbey of Kells was plundered by Vikings.  The movie talks of protection through the word versus high walls.  They high walls did not work, but keeping the book safe preserved a culture.  In the movie, a mystical forest creature, Aisling (Christin Mooney) a she werewolf, kind a good, assists the young man, Brendan (Evan McGuire) to find a crystal which helps to write the book.  Looking through the crystal the intricate patterns and colors are revealed.  Both Aisling and Brendan must face their worse fears to make the book a reality.
Very good, I viewed this through Feeln.  This artwwork is worthy of your consideration alone.  Ross Stewart provided the art direction.  I am sure many artists were involved.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Movie Review: ****Star Wars Number 7: The Force Awakens

This movie was fun.  I must admit I felt myself more compelled by the old characters from the original Star Wars movies.  This includes Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew),  Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hammil) in a small roll and C3-PO (Anthony Daniels) also in a smaller roll.  Of the newer characters, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is a mystery.  Hers is also the most intriguing character.  Here she is using the force before she has received any training, nor even know what she is using.  Another character in somewhat the same boat, though we do get some of this past is Fin (John Boyega).  Another character who is really underdeveloped is the son of Leia and Solo, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).  He is intent on bringing back the dark like his grandfather, and he does many evil things like Darth Vader.  Another interesting character is Wollivan (Warwick Davis), another droid.  R2D2 is here but in such a small way as he has shut himself off.  You see Luke went into hiding when his training of Kylo Ren went bad.  Now the dark wants to find him to remove any possibility of the light reemerging, and the light want to find him so he can lead them to victory.
And so we have our struggle again between the dark side and the light side of the force.  I recommend this movie.  The old characters have already been developed, and it seems the newer character need more development.  Of course more episodes will be coming.  As for now this movie continues to set box office records.

Christmas Music Review: Natalie Cole: Holly and Ivy

This Christmas collection is very nice.  Many of the songs are adequate.  A couple really stand out.  Particularly "Caroling, Caroling."  Cole is very clear in her pronunciation of the words and this song is like a clear bell.  I also really enjoyed "The First Noel."  Again Cole's voice is clear and piercing and carries the message.  She also does a great job with the title song, "The Holly and the Ivy."  I really didn't care for her version of "Drummer Boy" as part of her Christmas Medley.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

TV Movie Review: The Little Match Girl 1987 Best Quality- Full Movie


This is a made for TV version of the Little Match Girl.  It strays pretty far from the original Hans Christian Anderson story.  In this version Keshia Knight Pullman portrays the Little match girl, who is not only down on her luck, but also portrayed as an angel type character.  She comes to intervene with a family where they father and son are long split as the son married a Catholic girl and they clash politically.  William Daniels portrays the father, who is a realtor magnate and has decided to sell some of his property, resulting in evictions of many tenants.  The police chief (John Rhys-Davis) takes this further, giving people only a week to move out, during the Christmas season.  The people are upset.  The son (Jim Metzler), a reporter,  is arrested on Christmas eve.  When his wife goes to get him from jail, our little match girl is left with their toddler to babysit.  She decides to take him to grandfather's house.  And so starts a series of events, which very likely will backfire.  The angry tenants march on the home of the father, and the situation is tense.  Father refuses to admit anyone.  This includes his son, but when his daughter-in-law is having a baby, maybe finally his heart with soften.

Story Review: The Fir Tree: Hans Christian Anderson

This is a story about a tree who wants to be useful.  This tree was a complainer.  It had plenty of sunshine and warmth, but complained it wasn't as large as the older trees.  When he had reached his full growth, woodcutters came and chopped down tress, hauling them away.  He wondered where they could have gone, and wished he could have joined them.  He was advised by his friends to savor his youth.  Then the woodmen returned and selected the most beautiful trees, hauling them off with their branches in tact.  He again was skipped and complained he was taller than some trees taken.  The sparrows knew where they had gone, for they had seen then in houses decorated and adorned.  The tree could not rejoice in his own lot, in the fresh air and sunshine, but was always wanting to be someplace else.  Then just before Christmas it was taken and placed in a large courtyard of a home.  It was adorned and beautified.  hen the children rushed in, and pulled the presents that had been left in its branches.  The tree thought they would decorate it again, but instead it was placed in the attic and forgotten.  When is was pulled out it was old an brittle.  It was taken outside in the sun.  The children thought it ugly.  It befriended a mouse who talked to it of its life.  The tree regretted that it hadn't enjoyed its youth.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas Music Review: Navidad Andina: Wayanay Inka

I was walking through the flea market in Stockton today, and heard Peruvian flute.  I went to the booth, and was able to purchase a CD of Andean flute music.  I now have a CD which drives Sheri crazy, but which I love.  I have loved Peruvian flute music since I visited there on my way home from my mission, and we went to a folkloric presentation.  The highlight of this CD, I think, is "Greensleeves," which also has Christmas lyrics, "What Child is This."  The flute playing exciting triplets with the melody is fantastic.  I wished I could have bottled Sister Christensen's version at the Northland Christmas party, but at least I have this version.  There is plenty of Christmas music here, but the songs I like the most are those not so familiar.  These include "Papa Guido" and "Madre."  This is just beautiful to my ears.  I would recommend anyone to the weekly flea market at Delta Junior College to get their own Peruvian flute music.  I may return for some more myself as there were other CDs.

Movie Review: The Miracle on 34th Street: The 20th Century-Fox Hour (1955)

This was a remake of the 1947 original with Natalie Wood and Maureen O'Hara.  I really enjoyed this remake.  It cut out some of the fluff, like the broojaja with the drunk Santa.  Kris Kringle had already been hired as the Macy's Santa in this version.  Santa was showing himself to see if he could regenerate the Christmas spirit which he felt was becoming too commercial.  He took on as his test case Susan (Sandy Descher) and her mother, the Macy's executive Doris Walker (Teresa Wright).  The other principle characters are Thomas Mitchell as Kris Kringle and Macdonald Carey as Fred, the lawyer friend.  The story is very much the same as the original, but is presented in only 50 minutes, so they had to cut some out.  This left Kris Kringle attacking a psychologist without much provocation.  Consequently if he had not been found incompetent for mental reasons he probably would have gone to jail.  As it was, the lawyer got him off the U.S. Post Office letters and he was able to complete his duties Christmas Eve.  I just wonder what would have happen had he not gotten out.

Children's Book Review: Dr. Seuss: Horton Hears a Who!

This is one of my favorite Dr. Seuss story.  Only Horton the elephant can hear the people of Whoville on his speck of dust.  He takes it upon himself to keep them safe because they are so vulnerable on their speck.  However the other forest creatures, who don't hear as well, are determine Horton has gone bonkers, and the are convinced they must make him stop.  Horton's theme is important, "A person is a person no matter how small."  This theme has many implications in life.  However even so it comes to the point that the dust speck will be boiled in beezlenut juice if they are not heard.  Everyone must help; even the slacker JO JO who would rather play with his yo-yo.

Christmas Music Review: Country Christmas (2005)

This CD from 2005 has a wide mix of Christmas music as well as country artists.  My favorites include "Till the Season Comes 'Round Again" by Ronnie Milsap; "Mary Did You Know" by Billy Dean; and "I'll be Home for Christmas" by the Oakridge Boys.  I did not care for Kenny rogers' version of "White Christmas.  I also need to make a shout out to "The Carol of the Bells."  This is one of Tony's and my favorite songs.  Deana Carter does a great jump, but the instrumentation with this song is also fantastic.

Till the Season Come 'Round Again

Come gather around at the table 
In the spirit of family and friends
And we'll all join hands and remember this moment
Till The Season Comes 'Round Again

Lets all try and smile for the picture 
And we'll hold it as long as we can
May it carry us through, should we ever get lonely
Till The Season Comes 'Round Again

One night, holy and bright
Shining with love from our hearts
By a warm fire, lets lift our hands high
And be thankful we're here, till this time next year

May the new year be blessed with good tidings
Till the next time I see you again
If we must say goodbye, let the spirit go with you
Till The Season Comes 'Round Again

One night, holy and bright
Shining with love from our hearts
By a warm fire, lets lift our hands high
And be thankful we're here, till this time next year

May the new year be blessed with good tidings
Till the next time I see you again
And we'll all join hands, and remember this moment
And we'll love and we'll laugh, in the times that we have
Till The Season Comes 'Round Again

Movie Review: *^The Pilgrimage Play (1949)

This is a movie about the life of Christ.  However, both Sheri and I found it very difficult to watch and listen to.  I don't think Jesus sounded like that at all.  Nelson Leigh played him with a very pious, masculine sounding voice.  It was just too much.  Peter, the narrator also had a very similar sounding voice.  That was even more too much.  I love the story of Jesus, but this movie does not present the story in a very good light.  This movie was an early color film.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Music Review: Vocal Point: He is Born (2015)

Vocal Point hits another home run with their acapella music.  Their style includes mouth percussion, which is very important for some of their songs.  "The start with an upbeat version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" which is really a very catchy song, especially the bass and mouth accompaniment.  "He is born" features Ryan Innes.  This is the hallelujah song.  "Silent Night" and "Sleigh Ride" are well done.  Elisha Garret is featured in "Sleigh Ride."  However "Christmas Eve" does not strike a cord with me.  This is just mouth instrumental without words.  I don't really care for it.  "O Come, O Come" gets back to the soloist fashion that makes this group nice.  A special treat is "One Single Bell" in which the One Voice Choir is featured.  The turn to barbershop for "Nuttin' for Christmas.'  You can hear the quality, but barbershop is not a style I really enjoy.  Their style highlights the lyrics, which are really very humorous.  "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" features a bass like solo, sounding like the instrumental bass.  However it takes away form the melody at times.  They combine with BYU Noteworthy and BYU Vocal Point for their final number "O Come All Ye Faithful."

Movie Review: ***^Beyond Tomorrow (aka Beyond Christmas) (1940)

Her is an old black and white movie which is very well done.  Three old business partners, George (Harry Carey), Alan (C. Aubrey Smith) and Michael (Charles Winninger), have invited people over for Christmas Eve dinner.  However their invited guest sends a last minute telegram saying they cannot make it.  George has a past where he was absolved of a crime.  George figures they still feel he is guilty and have declined dinner because of himself.  Michael convinces the others to play a game to get a dinner guest.  They will each throw a wallet out with $10 in each, and then see if anyone returns the wallet.  The wallets all include the name of the thrower.  If someone returns the wallet they will invite them to dinner.
One wallet is picked up, the $10 given to the butler as a gift and the wallet kept.  The other two however attract honest people.  A man, James (Richard Carlson) and a woman, Jean (Jean Parker) both single, are both convinced to stay for dinner.  From this starts a romance, with the three taking vicarious involvement.  The woman works at a children's hospital, and the three all show up for Christmas.  The romance is flourishing; until our three all die in a plane crash.  They continue to be involved but only as a Greek chorus as they are just ghosts.
James is quite the singer.  As their relationship with the three eccentric millionaires becomes known, he is invited to appear on the radio.  He goes as a chance to sing.  He is given the opportunity and it is his big break.  Arlene Terry, famous songstress takes an interest in him for her act.  James is wooed by her charms, and goes along even to the point of going away to the country.  In all this Jean is left behind.  Our ghosts, one by one are leaving us.  George is taken to the dark, and Alan to the light with his son.  Only Michael remains to fight the battle but there is little he can do.  James and Arlene are followed by a Arlene's drunken ex-lover.  The ex-lover goes into the restaurant where they are eating and shots them both.
When then see Michael and James, now as Spirits confronting each other.  James sees the grief Jean has at the thought of his death.  "Why should she cry for me?"  "Because she loves you Michael replies."  Then the Lord calls Michael home.  Michael pleads with the Lord that James be given another chance, and the Lord agrees.  As Michael heads to the light, he meets George.  George has been alone for sometime and doing some thinking, and in that has been repenting and forgiving and is now also prepared to head to the light.
I know I told most of the plot, but I didn't want to end on a sad light, and I would have had I not told the entire story.  Relationships are precious.  Not to be ignored for monetary or worldly gain.  I hope James learned his lesson and that Jean can forgive him.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Children's Book Review: The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker illustrated by Graham Percy, Derrydale Books, New York, 1987.
This book adds some depth to the story of the ballet.  Among the toys Uncle Hugh brought was a castle, and dolls.  Uncle Hugh told a story of the Mouse Queen who cursed a Princess, and then also a Prince (the nutcracker).  Maybe the story set her dreaming, but in her dream the princess battles the Mouse King.  After defeating hm the go on a tour of the kingdom and arrive at the same palace.  The illustrations aren't really that great, and though the story adds some depth it is basically a retelling of the familiar story.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Music Review: Jessica Simpson: Rejoyce the Christmas Album

This album was released by Columbia records in 2004, and was a commercial success.  When someone sings Christmas songs and makes it sound like they are in pain, I don't care for the song.  Jessica Simpson starts with this type of attitude through the first several songs, and then I couldn't really get into it.  When Simpson starts covering some of the old favorites, then the CD becomes more enjoyable.  This includes "Drummer Boy" with Ashlee Simpson.  Her "Oh Holy Night" is also well done.  She ends with "Hark, The Herald Angels Sing."

Book Review: The Steadfast Tin Soldier

The Steadfast Tin Soldier: by Hans Christian Anderson, retold by Tor Seidler illustrated by Fred Marcellino, Michael de Capua Book, Harper Collins Publisher, New York, 1992.
This is a delightful version of this beautiful story.  In looking at the illustration I understand how the tin may have run out, leaving one soldier with just one leg.  How the Jack-in-the-box goblin could be so mean I never know, but sometimes people just have a mean streak.  This mean streak effects a little boy which plays a big part in our story.  The tin soldier, and the dancing girl fall in love through their glances, and that love comes to manifestation in the most interesting way.  This is well done and a beautiful book.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Music Review: Kelly Clarkson: Wrapped in Red

Great Christmas Music with beautiful singing.  What a voice, and sometimes you just have to say "wow!"  Her covers of "White Christmas" "My Favorite Things" and "Silent Night" are just astounding.  I didn't so much enjoy "3 Carats" which is too commercial, although the attitude is cute.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Movie Review: ***^The Great Rupert (1950)

This movie is actually quite entertaining.  Rupert is a dancing squirrel.  Of course the special effects aren't the greatest.  Rupert is obviously a puppet or stuffed animal.  The squirrel effects two families, land lord and tenant.  Louie Amendola (Jimmy Durante) heads a family of down-on-their luck entertainers.  They befriend Peter Dingle (Tom Drake) (especially his daughter (Terry Moore)) whose father is a landlord with a vacant apartment. They can't pay the rent.   However, money starts raining from heaven.  What is happening is the landlord upstair puts 15 $100 bills in his wall for safe keeping every week.  However for his part, the squirrel gets the money and drops it down to the family below, where the mother is praying for money.  Using the money from the squirrel, the tenant's father invests in the son of the landlord, in a oil well.  The landlord does not believe in investing.  The tenants get rich, investing in most of the businesses in the area.  This includes investing in the landlord's son who invests in an oil well.  The landlord never recoups his money, as somehow the squirrel sets the house on fire.  He likewise never realizes where it has gone.  The oil well hits, and in the meantime the son's song also comes out on the radio.  Things look up all around.  The tenant, who has invested money wisely for some time becomes rich, and rebuilds the landlord's home.

Movie Review: The Alamo (2004)

This is a historical movie based on the real events of The Alamo in 1836.  Santa Ana, emperor of Mexico had a very much larger army. The Texas army was not yet prepared to engage them.  The men at the Alamo were sacrificed to give them that time.  Billy Bob Thorton does an excellent job of portraying Davy Crockett.  He is a very interesting character.  In this version he is not killed in the attack on the fort.  He was captured and given a chance to plead for his life. Instead he asks for the surrender of the Mexicans. Dennis Quaid portrays Sam Houston, who is not talked into attacking early but waits for Santa Ana to make a mistake.  When he does the Mexican army is destroyed in 18 minutes.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Movie Review: ***^Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Cool Hand Luke (1967)  This is the chain gang movie of them all.  Luke (Paul Newman) is sentenced to two years on the chain gang because he destroyed municipal property.  While there he runs into the biggest prisoner, Dragline (George Kennedy, and takes him on in a fight.  He loses the fight badly, but wins Dragline’s respect.  All is going well.  Luke’s momma comes and visits before she passes away.  To prevent Luke from running, he is put in the hot box for no reason.  This leads to a different attitude.  Now Luke is determined to escape.  He makes a couple attempts.  He gets away but is eventually caught.  After the second time he goes through a serious reconditioning program with forced work all night and cane beatings.  He finally admits he has been broken.  However, he makes another break, and this time Dragline comes with him.  In this instance, instead of being captured again he is murdered, which brings an end to his life but not his spirit. 

Movie Review: ****^Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)       
This movie is really fascinating in terms of character development, and people moving on.  Most families come together under crisis.  In this case the crisis is the impending death of Big Daddy (Burl Ives) who has an inoperable cancer.  He has been estranged from his son, Brick (Paul Newman) for some time.  In fact Ricky has turned into a drunk, and seems to be throwing away all the potential he has.  This show is about getting to the bottom of what is bothering him.  Not only is he drinking, but he is also turning his wife (Elizabeth Taylor) away for sex.  Both Newman and Taylor were nominated for academy awards.  Big Mamma is played by Judith Anderson and Jack Carson plays the older brother who has had five children by his wife.  Big Daddy is determined to talk things through, and himself gets hurt in the play of words.  Brick lets him know that he wanted love, not things (a large farm and $5million).  While for his part, Big Daddy showed love by doing well and providing material things.  In the mix is Brick’s friend who committed suicide.  The struggle, and the coming to terms are very well done.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Christmas Poem/Song: The Friendly Beasts

This is a very old song, but also very pertinent today.  It was written in the 1200s:

1. Jesus our brother, kind and good
Was humbly born in a stable rude
And the friendly beasts around Him stood,
Jesus our brother, kind and good.
2. "I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown,
"I carried His mother up hill and down;
I carried her safely to Bethlehem town."
"I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown.
3. "I," said the cow all white and red
"I gave Him my manger for His bed;
I gave him my hay to pillow his head."
"I," said the cow all white and red.
4. "I," said the sheep with curly horn,
"I gave Him my wool for His blanket warm;
He wore my coat on Christmas morn."
"I," said the sheep with curly horn.
5. "I," said the dove from the rafters high,
"I cooed Him to sleep so He would not cry;
We cooed him to sleep, my mate and I."
"I," said the dove from the rafters high.
6. "I," said the rooster with the shining eye,
"I crowed the news up to the sky;
When the sun arose , I crowed to the sky.
I," said the rooster with the shining eye.
7. "I," said the camel all yellow and black,
"Over the desert upon my back,
I brought Him a gift in the Wise Men's pack.
I," said the camel all yellow and black.
8. Thus every beast by some good spell,
In the stable dark was glad to tell
Of the gift he gave Immanuel,
The gift he gave Immanuel.
9. "I," was glad to tell
Of the gift he gave Immanuel,
The gift he gave Immanuel.
Jesus our brother, kind and good.

Music Review: Johnny Cash: Classic Cash

This Johnny Cash CD was produced in 1988, so that gives you somewhat an idea of what songs are included.  The Cash songs I like best are "Get Rhythm". "I Walk the Line" and Ring of Fire".  These songs can keep your blood going.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Music Review: Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by: Chip Davis, 25th Anniversary Collection

This is a nice collection of instrumental Christmas music.  It has many different instruments including Electronic synthesizer, to flutes and drums.  It makes a joyful and beautiful sound.  I think all the songs are instrumental other than Johnny Mathis singing "The Christmas Song."  I think my favorite is the "Little Drummer Boy" with a bass percussion at the first.

Children's Book Review: One

One by Kathryn Otoshi, KOKidsBooks, San Rafael, California, 2008.
This is a very interesting book about bullying.  Red is always pushing Blue around.  He eventually starts pushing everyone around as nobody stands up to him, until one does.  This book makes the point the bullying is only effective when no one takes a stand against it.  But when one person takes a stand, then others are willing to join in and the person bullying will become smaller and smaller and much less significant.  This book is based on colors and numbers.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Story Review: Gift of the Magi

This is a classic O' Henry story.  This story was first published in 1905 in The New York Sunday World.  It was published in book form in 1906 as part of an anthology of O'Henry stories.  It tells the classic tell of a couple struggling to by their new spouse the perfect Christmas gift on very little money.  The ending is a classic comedic irony, and is well known to most.  This story has been made into several movies and plays.  He gives her combs for her hair, which he purchased by pawning his watch.  At the same time she buys him a nice chain for his watch, by selling her hair.  That they take it so well is what makes this story a classic.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Movie Review: **^Krampus (2015)

Krampus (2015)
This is the strangest Christmas movie I have ever seen.  And it really wasn’t that good.  You have grandma running around speaking some Germanic language, but when it really matters she speaks English and tells the story of Krampus, the demon who comes around collecting families when they all lose the Christmas spirit.  Tom (Adam Scott) and Sara (Toni Collette) and their two children Beth (Stefania Lavie Owen) and Max (Emjay Anthony) welcome the cousins, aunts and uncles from hell.  Max wishes his family could just go back to the way Christmas used to be.  In doing so he summons the Krampus, and all of the demons that come with the Krampus, such as ginger bread men with sharp teeth, giant Jack-in-the-box with an expanding jaw to eat you down, flying angel that attacks, a toy robot, and all other kinds of mischief.  The elves are just terrible, but not near as ugly as the Krampus itself.  The long tongue was just too much.  This movie was just too much something, and it didn’t leave me with any kind of a holiday spirit.  Based on the Krampus legend from Austro-Bavarian German speaking folklore of a horned creatures that punishes naughty children.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Book Review: The Last Apprentice: A Coven of Witches

The Last Apprentice: A Coven of Witches, Joseph Delaney, GlenWillow Books, New York, 2010.
This is somewhat and intermediary book with some of the stories coming before some of the books I have read.  In this book we have the history of Grimalkin the Witch.  How did she become the assassin?  We also here the story of how the witch assassin from the north was killed, which leads Tom Ward into much trouble when he visits Ireland.  He has set as his enemy the witch's twin sister and her equally scary raven god.  We also learn more of how Alice Deane was trained as a witch.  This book is still fun, but not as much fun as those books that focus on Tom Ward.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Picture Book Review: Time for School Nathan

Time for School Nathan by Lulu Delacre, Scholastic Books, New York, 1989.  This book is about how to maintain your friendships through changes in life.  Nathan is an elephant heading to his first day of kindergarten.  However his mouse friend wants to go as well, and feels jealous that Nathan may make new friends.  He sneaks to school, and almost ruins Nathan's first day.  However when they agree to be friends, the little mouse friend is able to accept the change and let Nathan go to school alone.  Th artwork appears to be chalks, but I am no expert.  Some of the pictures, especially the outside scenes, have some very nice colors.

Music Review: Linda Ronstadt: A Merry Little Christmas

A Merry Little Christmas, Linda Ronstadt, Elektra Music Corp., 2000.
Linda Ronstadt does a tremendous job of covering a few of our Christmas favorites, and also some that aren't so familiar.  Linda does all the lead vocals, but she is joined by a couple other choirs, form form Tucson and one form Los Angeles.  She covers a Joni Mitchell song entitled "River."  This song is very meaningful and makes you think about your Christmas habits.  The theme is "I wish I had a river I could skate away on."  Sometimes we feel that way.  This includes the classic title song, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "The Christmas Song."  The version of "Away in a Manger" is different, but still alive and energetic.  I enjoyed this music.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Movie Review: Pearl Harbor (2001)

This is not really a very good historical novel, but it does present three young people with the backdrop of Perl Harbor, and then Doolittle's Raiders.
Captain Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck) is best friends with Captain Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett).  they group up together, dreaming of flying.  Rae falls for a nurse, Nurse Evelyn Johnson (Kate Beckinsale) and they fall madly in love.  However he also signed on to serve with the British Royal Airforce as a volunteer, before America had entered the war.  The pledge to each other before he leaves.  He is shot down and presumed dead.  In the meantime Danny and Nurse Johnson are relocated to Pearl Harbor.  Danny falls for the same nurse.  He gets her pregnant.  How awkward when Rafe shows up, and joins them in Pearl Harbor.  He had been picked up by a boat, and finally made it back, although it took him some time.
Amid that triangle mess, Pearl Harbor happens.  The action is intense, and there is not much the Americans can throw back at the Japanese because many of their airplanes have been destroyed.  Except for a couple in which Rafe and Danny chase after the Japanese.  Their is an intense scene in which the coordinate with people on the ground to take out a plane.
Danny and Rafe then join Doolitttles' s (James Doolittle played by Alec Baldwin) raiders.  There is another classic scene in which President Roosevelt stands despite his polio and demands that the Americans strike back at the Japanese.  Needless to say the raid was a suicide mission.  There was not enough fuel in the planes to fly to Japan, and make it back to the ship.  The goal was to ditch the planes in China, and hopefully find some Chinese Nationals who would keep them safe.  Some of the planes actually make it to China, but before the Chinese rescue them, there are some Japanese patrols to deal with.  In this struggle, Rafe is killed.
A side note, during the attack on Peal Harbor we see Captain Mervyn Bennion and his death aboard the USS West Virginia.  He also befriends a Black soldier who is only allowed to cook, but during the battle he takes up an antiaircraft gun and shoots down a plain.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Movie Review: ****An American Christmas Carol (1979) Henry Winkler



This is an American version of A Christmas Carol.  There are a few differences in the plot.  Henry Winkler who portray Benjamin Slade (instead of Scrooge) is a finance man, and is in the habit or repossessing many items he sells so he can sell them again to somebody else.  He is ruthless in what he does, even collecting many items on Christmas Eve.  Winkler portrays himself at many times in his life, young man, middle aged and old man, and does an excellent job.  By morning his transformation is complete after visits from his old partner as well as ghosts of Christmas past present and future.  He returns Christmas Day to return the items repossessed, as well as leaving Christmas presents.  He also commits to reopening the quarry after previously saying he would not reopen it.  This would give hope for the future.

Movie Review: ****Tora, Tora, Tora (1979)

This is a very good depiction of Pearl Harbor attack in 1941.  This is the 1970 depiction of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  It includes both the depiction from the side of the Americans and the Japanese.  Much of it is with subtitles.  This is a very good movie.  It depicts the failure of the Japanese ambassadors to deliver documents declaring war before the attack was started.  As a result, Japan attacked a country with whom they were attempted to negotiate peace.  This was a major point of President Roosevelt's address the following day.  

This movie does a very good job of explaining the failures of intelligence and other systems of communication to give warnings of the impending attack.  Instead, the telegram message arrives after the attack as it was not marked urgent.  The report from the newly mounted radar equipment is ignored.  The report of a submarine being sunk is down played awaiting confirmation.  It seems people doing routine horse rides and golf games effected their ability to respond.  Tora, Tora, Tora (complete surprise) was achieved as a result.
The movie does not portray the stories of individuals in the fighting very well, but we do see the USS Arizona blow up and burn, and the USS Nevada make for an escape, and then ground itself so as to not block the channel.
It concludes with the famous line of Japanese Yamamoto, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."

Movie Review: **^Christmas Bounty (2013)

I am not sure if there is much to recommend this movie, unless you like seeing beautiful people.  Our beautiful woman, Tory (Francia Raisa) from New Jersey, moved to Manhattan to make her way in society.  She meets Mr. Perfect (Will Greenberg) and life is on its way.  However back in New Jersey is her former life as a bounty hunter.  When one of her former catches is released from prison she is after her to get even for his last five years in prison.  She has not admitted to Mr. Perfect her former life, but she is drawn back into it to protect herself from the bad guy.  Mr. Perfect follows her, and runs into her former boyfriend, Mike Muscles (Mike Mizanin).  Mr. Perfect's lack of knowledge about the bounty life puts his own life is jeopardy.  He follows her to propose marriage.  He brings a big ring.  He eventually is kidnapped.  Now beautiful woman and Mike Muscles must rescue him.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Story Review: The Elves and the Shoemaker

This story appeared in 1806 in Grimm's Fairy Tales.  It has been rewritten in many different versions with slight variations.  Basically this is a story of a poor shoemaker and his wife.  He only has enough money for the leather for one pair of shoes.  He cuts out the leather, then goes to bed.  During the night two elves sew the shoes for him.  He finds them completed the next morning, and says them for more than his asking prices.  He now has leather for two shoes, which he buys and cuts out and leaves again for the next day.  He again finds them done the next morning.  Needless to say the exquisite sewing he is able to make the money to pay his debts and becomes successful.  One night he and his wife wait up to see who sews the shoes.  They discover the elves, but also find that their clothing is tattered and worn and they must be cold.  The next day the wife makes them clothes.  They leave the clothes, and when the elves receive them they are delighted, and leave to never return.  However their fortunes of our shoemaker have changed forever.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Poetry I Like" 'Twas the Night Before Christmas

We sang a musical version of this song when I was in High School, and so the poem has stuck with me.  I really like some of the things the movie "Santa Clause" did with this poem.  This embodies the spirit of Santa Clause.

'Twas the Night Before Christmas
or Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas
by
Major Henry Livingston Jr. (1748-1828)
(previously believed to be by Clement Clarke Moore)

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN!
On, COMET! on CUPID! on, DONDER and BLITZEN!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!"

Monday, November 30, 2015

Children's Alphabet Book: Farm Alphabet Book

Farm Alphabet Book by Jane Miller, Scholastic Inc. New York, 1981.
This is a neat idea, and the photographs are great highlighting the selected animal or implement.  However, by the end, they were running out of ideas, as what happens in playing the alphabet game.  I mean zipper for "z" is not very farmy; nor is umbrella or quill.  And counted the X mark on a sheep is also a bit of an overstep.  However, with some of the animals the also explain the words for the parents, such as calf: father bull, mother cow, or foal mother mare and father stallion.  Hen is the mother of a chick and the father is a rooster.  A young goat is a kid, the mother is a nanny goat and the father a billy goat.  Lamb is a young sheep with mother ewe and father ram.  Mother pig is called a sow, father is a boar and young pig is a piglet.  A swan's babies are called cygnets.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Music Review: Judy Garland: Christmas Through the Years

Granted Judy Garland has a beautiful voice, and puts lots of energy in her music.  However they had to stretch to get this Christmas album.  Not all the songs seem to even have a winter theme.  In this set she sings, "Little Drop of Rain," "Smile," "You'll Never Walk Alone," "Lost in the Stars" and "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" which are beautiful songs, but not really Christmas Music.  This is such great stuff though we don't really care.  "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is also a Garland classic and she provides two versions here.
Great vocals, and orchestra accompaniment.  Beautiful!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Movie Review: ****The Dark Crystal

This is a Frank Oz and Jim Henson creation--in other words the characters are all puppets.  There are some very elaborate puppets.  The tell the story of a world that has been torn apart for 1000 years  There is now a chance to put the world back together, as the three suns of the planet align.  The Dark Crystal shattered, and a shard is still missing.  If this shard can be restored, then everything will go back to how it was before.
The UrSkek  have been divided into urRu and the Skeksis.  The Skeksis took over the palace and the leadership.  At first they rule in peace, but as they face their mortality the begin a violent reign, kidnapping the local populations and draining them of the essence, which they use to prolong their mortality.  This also makes the locals compliant and willing slaves.
One of the locals, a Gefling is to restore the shard, and restore the UrSkek.  The Skeksis fight against this day, but a Gefling has been trained for this task by the urRu.  He is sent on his quest, to find the shard and bring things back in order.
At times the puppets work beautifully; but at others they are a bit stiff and a bit contrived.  However they are able to tell their story.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Rhyming Book Review: I'll Teach My Dog 100 Words

I'll Teach My Dog 100 Words by Michael Frith, illustrated by P.D. Eastman, A Bright and Early Book, Random House, New York, 1973.
This is a book with lots of pictures of the narrators dog, describes the words he would teach his dog.  It is mildly amusing.  But the dog pictures are great.  

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Alphabet Book Review: Alfred's Alphabet Walk

Alfred's Alphabet Walk by Victoria Chess, Children's Choice, 1979.
This little children's book does a very good job of introducing new exotic animals with all the letter of the alphabet.  My issues was I could not figure out what type of animal Alfred was (maybe a guinea pig).  It left me frustrated.

Music Review: Kenny Loggins: December

Kenny Loggins often writes his own lyrics; and much of what he writes is very nostalgic, looking back at when he was a boy.  "The Christmas Bells" is of this nature:

The bells of Christmas
Will ring for us again
When we truly do believe
What Christmas really means
So light a candle
That every man may see
The world of hope and promise
Like the one we knew back when and
We'll ring the bells of Christmas
Once again.


He creates a beautiful vision in his introductory song, "Walking in the Air".  I really love the picture Loggins paints with his words.  This is very peaceful Christmas and winter season music.  I really enjoyed it.  

Short Movie Review: *The Little Match Girl - Bedtime Story (BedtimeStory.TV)


All I can say is I did not like this version of the Little Match Girl.  This version has dialogue, and the dialogue and the narration took away from the story rather than adding anything.

Children's Book Review: Witches Four

Witches Four by: Marc Brown, Parents Magazine Press, New York, 1980.
This tells the story of four good witches, and their conflict with four homeless cats.  The homeless cats adopt the witch's hats as homes, but when the witches come to claim them they are bound to have a conflict.  It is clever how this is resolved.  Overall the pictures in this story were passable, but not remarkable.  The story too is just good enough.

Children's Movie Review: Dr Seuss' The Cat in the Hat

Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat, Universal Studios, 2003.
This is an animated version of the story.  When it sticks to the original story, it does well.  However this version adds many songs and hoolabaloo which wasn’t in the book.  This stuff seems more filler and really adding to the story.  However, we are introduced to the capacious cat as well as Thing One and Thing Two.  Our fish takes a major part as he keeps warning that the cat should not be about.  However, even with all the mischieve they cause, things turn out well in the end with the cleaning machine.  And the cat does find his cradenza.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Music Review: Christmas with Johnny Cash

Christmas with Johnny Cash, 2003
This was some beautiful songs with Johnny Cash’s baritone voice.  The only problems is his is backed by a women’s chorus, and at time they take the melody.  It doesn’t work as well.  A very special presentation is “The Christmas Guest.”  This is a retelling of “The Shoe Maker” as he waits for the Lord to visit him.  He provides service to those in need, and later discovers they represented Christ.   This is a story told by Johnny Cash with musical background.  Cash’s voice has a very special quality to tell a story.  “The Gifts they gave” talks of the gifts given by the animals in the manger, who gave their hay and their place of comfort for the new-born babe.  “Merry Christmas Mary” is a thank you song to Mary the mother of Baby Jesus.  “Silent Night” was so special I couldn’t help myself from singing along, and then singing it over trying to imitate Cash’s voice.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Book Review: The Key to Rondo

The Key to Rondo by Emily Rodda, Scholastic Press, New York, 2007

This is another very interesting world created by Emily Rodda.  In this case the world is on the outside of a music box.  Leo inherits the music box when his aunt dies.  His cousin, Mimi inherits an old locket.  Rondo lives in the scenes painted on the sides of the music box.  Mimi doesn't always follow the rules, and especially those of the music box.  She winds it too many times, and sets the world of Rondo into motion.  A wicked queen comes and grabs her dog before going back to her world.  Mimi is determined to follow and rescue her dog.  This is a new world to our heroes, one which they must discover for themselves.  At every turn they are challenged with issues of trust—who should they trust?  Who works for the evil queen and who doesn’t?  Who are their allies?  They meet a faithful pig who befriends them and comes along.  They also upon a "hidey" hole which they find very useful.  Still, because they find it hard to trust others, they keep getting into problems. 

Movie Review: Hunger Games Mockingjay part 2 (2015)

This is the last installment of the Hunger Games Movie.  I had read the books, so knew what to expect; however Caleb, who had not read the books commented that it was pretty intense.  I hoped beyond home that Primrose (Willow Shields) wouldn’t die as she did in the books.  Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) was wounded on several occasions, beginning with the choking she took in the last movie.  At another point she was shot, and if not for her armor would have perished.  She was also almost blown up at another point.  This movie is intense, with some pretty wicked traps and monsters out to get them as they travel to the capitol to kill President Snow (Donald Sutherland).  It answers a couple questions.  Who will be the next ruler?  It appears President Coin (Julianne Moore) is ready to take over, and continue the games.  This show also answers the question, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) or Gale (Liam Hemsworth). There are some scenes that were really scary.  Especially as they faced those creatures under the street level.  Scary!  Based on the book by Suzanne Collins.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Music Review: The Very Best of Christopher Cross

The Very Best of Christopher Cross, Warner Brothers Records, 2002.
This work is very significant in the world of music.  It includes some of Christopher Cross' most popular hits including, "Sailing" and Ride Like the Wind."  It also has "Arthur's Theme" form the motion picture "Arthur."  "All Right" is another of those timeless songs.  "A Chance for Heaven" was recorded as the swimming theme for the 1984 Olympics.  Cross has the mellow tenor voice, and can sing crystal clear high notes.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Rhyming Book Review: The Nose Book

The Nose Book by Al Perkins, illustrated by: Joe Mathieu: Bright and Early Board Books, Random House edition, New York, 1970.  This is a brief little rhyming book about different noses, and what noses do.  It talks about the importance of smell, but then concludes that the most important use for noses is that they hold glasses up.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Music review: Freedom Song: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

This music is from the TV movie Freedom Song which is set in the south in the 60s and shows the struggle for Civil Rights by African Americans.  The music is composed and performed by Sweet Honey in the Rock and James Horner.  I generally enjoy Black spirituals, but this music falls short for me as it focuses on the negative and not on the good.  However "This Little Light of Mine" is a favorite form my childhood.  This version is special because of the rhythmic music as part of the song, clapping and thumping and I am not sure how they make the sound but it is cool.  I also enjoy "Oh Freedom" and "This May be the Last Time."  However a few songs are just too angry such as "Born Angry" and "Jonah's Last Day" is just strange.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Picture Book Review: Love You Forever

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Sheila McGraw, Firefly Books, Ontario, Canada, 1986.
This is a classic children's picture book, which is about family relationships.  The song from the book, even without the music provided, reverberates in my brain, "I'll love you forever, I'll love you for always; as long as I'm living by baby you'll be."  This is the song the mommy sings to her new baby when he is small, he he goes through his terrible twos, when he is a child and just wants to play, and he is a teenager and feels he doesn't need a mother, and when he is grown and moved away.  This is also the song the son sings to his mother when she is old and grey.  It is also the song he sings to his newborn baby daughter.
This is an excellent story.  The pictures add as you can see more detail and things happening in the son's life that you don't get form the story line.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Children's Book Review: There's a Wocket in my Pocket!

There's a Wocket in my Pocket: Book of Ridiculous Rhymes, by Dr. Seuss, Random House Book  New York, 1974. Bright and Early Board Books, 1996.
This is a silly Dr. Seuss books, where he makes up creatures to thyme with anything;  SO there is a Zamp in the lamp, A Woset in the closet and a Zower in the shower.  I think you can get the drift.  He ends with a list of creatures in the cellar.  What is best he draws them as well.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Movie Review: ***^A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

This movie is an essay mostly about two people.  Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) is a down on her luck former school teacher.  She was forced to resign for having sex with a 17-year-old student.  She flees to live with her sister Stella (Kim Hunter) which forces Blanch to live with her brother-in-law, Stanley (Marlon Brando).  Immediately Stanley and Blanche begin to but heads.  Stanley feels Blanche has embezzled funds from the family estate.  (She lost the property paying off debt form medical bills as she watched her parents die.)  Stanley begins to push, discovering she lived in a trashy hotel, and likely provided sexual favors for money.  However, by trying to start again she meets a man, Mitch (Karl Malden) and they begin a relationship.  He is also a friend of Stanley's.  When Stanley discovers the background, he tells this to his friend, and then all the wheels come off.  This movie touches on the theme of spousal abuse on a few occasions in different relationships.  It also touches on rape, as Stanley is determined to have his way when his wife is away having a baby.  I guess the film ends how it must, with Blanche headed to the psychiatric hospital, and Stella determined to leave her husband with her new baby.
This is based on the Tennessee Williams play.  Leigh, Malden and Hunter won oscars.  Williams, Brando, were nominated, as was the film for best picture and the director.

Picture Book Review: Are You My Mother?

"Are You My Mother?" by P.D. Eastman, illustrated by P.D. Eastman, Random House, New York, 1960.  This is one of the best children's picture books ever written.  P.D. Eastman did both the illustrations and the story.  He dedicated the story to his mother.  This is a book about mother's, and a bird who has misplaced his mother.  Nothing seems to go right, as he cannot find his mother; until the evil "Snork" helps him.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Picture Book Review: One Moose, Twenty Mice

This book is written by Clare Beaton.  It is your basic counting book, with a twist.  That twist comes in the form of trying to see the cat on each page.  The illustrations are done in felt, which really looks very nice and is very effective.

Dr. Seuss: The Eye Book

Bright and Early Board Books:  The Eye Book (Writing as Theo. LeSieg) illustrated by Joe Mathieu.  This is a fun little book, explaining about eyes, and what you can see with them.  It is not an eye doctor book but fun just the same.  Rabbit and boy see many different things.


Music Review: Joe Cocker's Greatest Hits

This C.D. does not have music I enjoy throughout, but it does have a few songs that really move me.  It starts with "With  Little Help From my Friends."  This is a very moving song, and talks about friendship, and standing for us when things don't go quite right.  "Feeling Alright" has a nice rhythm and feel combining bongos and piano.  However the cream of this C.D. is "You Are So Beautiful."  This song has a simplest lyrics, but it is beautifully done.  This is a song I love to sing to Sheri.  "You are so beautiful to me.  Can't you see, you're everything I ever hoped for, you're everything I need"

The Little Match Girl 3D



This is another Little Match Girl, with Vietnamese titles.  However as this is also a non verbal version it works.  This version leaves off the grandmother carrying the little girl to heaven, which is my favorite part.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Little Match Girl - Devojcica Sa Sibicama


This is Hans Christian Andersen's classic tale set to music, with no dialogue.  In this case it doesn't need more as the story is told beautifully.  The story is set around the holidays, originally New Year's Eve.  Andersen thought he had written a beautiful and happy ending, with the little girl being carried to heaven by her grandmother, there to see Heavenly Father.  However this story has been used to focus on the plight of the poor and the homeless.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Hans Christian Andersen Stories: Short Movies: Nightingale; the Little Match Girl, The Red Shoes

This is a collection of three Hans Christian Andersen shorts by Critic's Choice
Nightingale: This short is actually very entertaining.  It places this story as an essay on the Japanese emperor, and his relationship with a nightingale who sings beautifully.  However the nightingale insists on being free, and sometimes this is hard if you are the emperor and want to have the nightingale sing at will.  He chases the bird away, for a wind-up nightingale.  However this bird breaks, and so finally he has nothing.  He becomes sick, but the nightingale returns and sings to revive the emperor.

The Little Match Girl:  This is a very good presentation of this classic story, with a different ending.  It puts the emphasis on the homeless, and how we usually ignore them.  However in this case this is corrected as the match Girl almost dies, but they people repent of their callous ways after seeing her blue and cold.

The Red Shoes.  This short I didn't care for because a family changes it's outlook on life by winning the lottery.  However the art is very good, and the story of a friendship restored is also fun.  It is interesting how the red shoes play a part in this.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Movie Review: ***Seraphim Falls (2006)

This movie stars Pierce Brosnan as Gideon and Liam Neeson as Carver.  Carver holds a grudge against Gideon as the result of a decision he made during the Civil War, in which he had the barn of Carver burned.  The fire got out of control, and jumped to the house, where the baby was sleeping.  Carver's baby perishes, as does his wife and another child as they try to rescue the baby.  Carvers determination to get even is what drives this movie.
The movie starts in the beautiful Ruby Mountains of Nevada.  The sneak attack Gideon, but although wounded he gets away.  He uses a water fall and heavy river to assist him in his get away.  (I don't know of so much water in the Ruby Mountains, except perhaps in the spring.  They eventually get to the Nevada deserts, as they travel towards Carson City.
Gideon is quite the warrior, and is known for killing people with his knife.  Carver is bent on gaining his revenge.  This movie heads to a show down--which does not end how you think it will end.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Elvis Presley ~ DVD The Final Curtain ~ Live 1977, Last Concert on DVD



This is Elvis past his prime; just a couple months before his untimely death in 1977.  Even though he is past his prime, and slurs his words at times, he is still a master entertainer.  He adds spiritual numbers into his repertoire, and it fits perfectly.  This doesn't represent but a small percentage of his musical contribution, but we have "How Great Thou Art," "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" "Unchained Melody," Teddy Bear" and "Jailhouse Rock."  Lots to keep a person happy here.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The origin and history of Unchained Melody



This song was written by by Alex North with lyrics by Hy Zaret.  It was actually written and promoted to Bing Crosby, who did not perform it.  Twenty years later it was song for a prison scene in a movie "Unchained" and that is how it got its name.  It has been covered by many people over the years, almost 500 versions.  The most famous is by the Righteous Brothers, which version was used for the movie Ghost.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Music Review: Danny Elfman's Music from the Films of Tim Burton

Her is a wonderful presentation from PBS.  I mean this is very good.  This is mostly orchestral, music for many Tim Burton movies including Corpse Bride, batman, Pee Wee Herman, Alice in Wonderland.  Edward Scissorhands we experience a terrific violin solo, and the music box style music for this show is exquisite.  The vocals for the most part are oo's and ah's, until we arrive at "The Nightmare Before Christmas."  In this portion, the composer, who sang the vocals for Jack and for the Boogie Man in the original, sings for the concert.  It is a delight.  He talks about not liking singing in public, but this is just superb.  What wasn't superb as the female vocalizing Sally's song.  I couldn't understand the words.  With the music there are interviews mixed in; with Johnny Depp, Tim Burton and the composer, and a few others.

"The Longest Road" by: SEALS & CROFTS



This is the last album of the run of successes Seals and Croft put together.  It came out in 1980.  This music did not do well in the charts, but it does represent the Seals and Croft style of music, with a bit more jazzy feel to some of the songs.  Dash Crofts plays his mandolin and James Seals wrote most of the music and plays guitar.  This is a play list which includes six of the ten songs from the album.

Movie Review: PBS Short: Dia de los Muertos

This is a cute little short about a girl who is missing her mother who has passed away.  The dead are closer than we think.  Dia de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday, is tomorrow.

Movie Review: The Boy Who Left Home to Find out about the Shivers.

This is a presentation in the series Shelly Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre.  I watched it thinking it might be scary.  It is based on a Brothers Grimm story.  It wasn't.  For the most part it was just stupid with corny special effects.   A person who has never been scared agrees to stay in a haunted castle.  Tony and I where slightly amused by the second day in which the bowl using a skull for the ball and bones for the pins.  Because he conquers the castle, he is given the princess to marry.  He then gets the shivers thinking about the responsibilities that come with that.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Musical Review: The Addams Family Musical (1 of 4)



I was turned on to a song from this musical by our Broadway review, and felt it would be nice to see the entire musical.  This video is the first of 4 (the roll over automatically) from a production from Sarasota, Florida Players Theatre performed in 2014.  Warnings, it shows a child smoking because he is "stressed."  It also shows too much cleavage and makes a joke of a grandmother wetting herself. Now the bad stuff is out of the way, there is much to enjoy here.  The story is about a young woman growing up, and becoming engaged, and the family dealing the pressures this creates.  The music is lively, and the actors do very well.  I especially like the characters of the grooms parents.  They are sufficiently hysterical, and part of the story is about them refinding the flame.  In fact this story is about all three couples growing and rekindling their flames.  The song presented at the Broadway review is still probably the one I like best:
Let's live before we die... 
lets laugh before we cry
Let's hold each other tight and die
Let's try before we fail
Let's fly before we bail
Let's keep things black and white and dance!

The dance adds a lot to this song.  Enjoy!!!!!!


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Children's Book: The Tailypo: A Ghost Story

The Tailypo: A Ghost Story, told by: Joanna Galdone illustrated by Paul Galdone, Clarion Books, New York, 1977.

This is a ghost story in the true sense of the word, and I could see someone by the campfire telling this story.  Took me a long time to figure out the punch pun at the end,  but I think I finally get it.  Sort of a blah feeling.  I like the illustration of the dogs, and the quilt, but the story is pretty week.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Children's Book Review: The Fire Station

The Fire Station by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko.  The best thing about this book is the big red fire engine.  It tells the story of Michael and Sheila visiting the fire station.  They then go on a call, and get all messy.  The second best thing are the colors used to show them in their messy state.  However, I didn't care for the story.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Children's Book review: Little Critter by: Mercer Mayer

This post will be growing as I write additional reviews of different Mercer Mayer books.  He created the character, Little Critter.

We All Need Forgiveness (Inspired Kids) Littlecritter.com 2014.  There apparently is a series of Mercer Mayer books with a Christian theme, and this is one of them.  It is based on the scripture "Forgive each other because the Lord forgave you." Colossians 3:13  In this book Little Critter learns about forgiveness.  He likes being forgiven, but has a bit of a hard time forgiving others.

Just a Little Music, Harper Festival, New York, 2010.  This is a little  book that Caleb really enjoyed.  Little Critter, after going to the parade wants to play an instrument, and chooses the drum.  Little sister does not like his choice because the drum is loud; and he never stops playing.

You Go First (Inspired Kids), littlecritter.com, 2013.  This book again has a spiritual theme and lesson.  Little Critter has a problem with letting others go first.  When he isn't first he is miserable; but usually he is just pushy and gets his way.  However his teacher tells the class that the Bible teaches we should treat others the way we would like to be treated.  It would be nice if such lessons could be taught in public school.  Little Critter does finally learn this lesson, and finds out that when he lets others go first, they are happy, and then she is happy as well.

Just Camping Out, A Golden Book, New York, 1989.  This Little Critter Book is different because it is told from the perspective of Little Sister.  Little Sister is going to camp out with Little Critter.  First  the eat their prepared sandwiches, and are still hungry and go inside to eat spaghetti with the family.  They go back out but weren't sleepy, so back inside to watch t.v. with father.  Dad walks them out and reads a story.  Little Sister finds there are many scary things in the dark, and that her teddy bear is missing her.  She heads back indoors for the night.

Music Review: Mumford and Sons: Babel 2012

I would like to say I really enjoyed this C.D, but I must admit that after a couple songs towards the first, I found it putting my to sleep.  However for the good stuff, “I Will Wait” is a great song about giving your heart to the Lord.
'Cause I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you
Now I'll be bold
As well as strong
And use my head alongside my heart
So take my flesh
And fix my eyes
A tethered mind free from the lies”

You can’t tell me that is not an example of humility, but also being bold in proclaiming the word of God.
However, the rest of the songs seem to give out the feeling of trying to be cute or something and I didn’t really care for them.  I must complement the Banjo player.  He seems to keep things moving.  It is when the banjo is missing that these songs seem to grow boring.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Movie Review: Saskatchewan (1954) or O'Rourke of the Royal Mounted

This film features Shelly Winters portraying Grace, a woman running from the law and Alan Ladd portraying Thomas O'Rourke of the Royal Mounted Police in Western Canada.  This story takes place during the time the Sioux from the United States had traveled north into Canada, after their defeat of Custer at Little Big Horn.  They were seeking more victories over white men and set their sites on the fort.  O'Rourke is dealing with a new Colonel, who doesn't really know about the Native Americans and treats all groups the same.  He threatens a long established friendship with the Cree, and then puts his own men in jeopardy by insisting they take a couple wagons cross country to a more fortified fort.  His men rebel under the leadership of O'Rourke, and although this saves their lives, they all end up in the brink.  They have to even go farther to assure the peaceful resolution without the Sioux Nation overrunning them all.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Movie Review: **^The Cariboo Trail (1950)

This movie takes place in Canada.  It involves a group of men who have a dream of becoming cattle ranchers in Canada.  However the local gold minors do not take cattle to cattle runners, feeling their economy is set.  They run the cattle off, and end up rustling them or butchering them.  In this one of the men is injured and ends up losing his arm.  He becomes embittered and joins the gold men's boss who owns most of the town.  When one of the men, Jim Redfern  (Randolph Scott) finds gold, the town boss turns this on him too and he has to run for his life.  Local gold prospector Grizzley (George Gabby Hayes) takes a liking to our boys, and just happens to have cattle relatives who sponsor a drive of 300 cattle to the area.  They bring them north, but again our bad guys want to steal them.  It ends in a big shootout situation.
The thing I didn't understand was why the gold miners where so set against cattle men.  You would think they like steak as well as anyone.  In the end our embittered friend is the one who turns on the gold boss, and saves the day.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

I Can Read Book: Splat the Cat Makes Dad Glad

This is a story based on the characters of Rob Scotton.  It is difficult to attribute the author, but is an Harper Collins book copyrighted 2014.  It tells the story of Splat trying to cheer up his dad after his dad loses a soccer game.  Splat enters them in a games day, hoping to win the three-legged race.  They don't, but they have a lot of fun.  I would say the theme is sometimes spending time together is more important than always being the best.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Music Review: On Your Toes: Musical Soundtrack (1953)

If you want to hear the sounds of the 50s this is a great venue.  The story of this musical is the vaudeville parents of a young man insist he get educated, and so he becomes a music professor, but the hope of getting his musical “Slaughter on Tenth Street” on stage.  This presentation has some good music.  I especially like The 3 B’s.  This is the music professor teaching his class as the tell everyone that the 3 B’s of music are Brahms, Beethoven and Bach.  There are some nice love songs here as well.   “It’s Got to be Love” is of this theme.  This music has a bit of a jazzy feel, but maybe that is just the 50s.

Picture Book Review: Dr. Seuss: If I Ran the Zoo

Dr. Seuss is the master of the rhyming picture book, and here we have a wonderful example of this.  He is also the master of someone's imagination running away, and her is another example.  Young Gerald McGrew does just that, and his imagination goes everyplace as he describes the incredible animals he would have in the zoo, and the wonderful places he would go to find them.  Of all the animals, the one I liked best is the iota from the far western part of south-east North Dakota, not to be outdone by the iota from the north-eastern west part of South Carolina.  I really like the blue hair of the iota, and the silly looking face.
This book is entertaining as you try to think of what type of incredible animal you would have in the zoo.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Movie Review: ***The Man from Bitter Creek (1955)

This is an entertaining film.  There is plenty of gun play, and some pretty poor shooting.  Lex Barker (after his Tarzan days) stars as Jeff Carr, a man working for the stage lines to determine who has been robbing their stages and how they know when is the best time to hold up the stage.  He is drawn into the robberies by first being accused of being one of the robbers, and barely misses a lynching mob. However after his alibi plays out he is released form jail.  However he was hoping to do some undercover work, but quickly learns his cover was blown before he started, and the thieves knew he was coming.  Turns out there is a sheep vs cow problem in town, and the cattleman is running for sherif is sure to win.  Turns out he has been using the money from the hold up to finance his campaign of buying everyone drinks etc.  He has a good thing going, but will t=our hero prove what is going on before the election.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Picture Book Review: Moonlight the Halloween Cat

Moonlight the Halloween Cat by Cynthia Rylant illustrated by Melissa Sweet, Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 2003.
This is a book with very interesting illustrations, and a story line that sort of rambles, and even covers they same ground two or three times.  Ok, Moonlight's favorite day of the year is Halloween.  In terms of the illustrations I really like the cat's eyes.  I really like the pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns.  The artist uses and interesting assortment of orange colors.  I also like the illustrations of the homes.  There are also some very interesting colors here.
Despite the nice illustrations, this book belongs with younger readers than we have here, so I am going to move this book on to grandchildren.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Music Review: Broadway 1981-1992: The British Invasion

It is impossible to have the entirety of the music in an anthology, and this is just a small sample.  I don't understand the "British" invasion thing as only the first two songs come from British musicals, "Phantom of the Opera" and "Memory" form Cats.  In fact the song I most enjoyed as an American Jazz number, "Dr. Jazz" from Jelly's Last Jam.  The one I most disliked was "American Dream" form Miss Saigon.  I would not select this song as a representation of this musical.  This song is tolerated only.

Movie Review: The Tracker (1988)

This is an HBO produced movie and featured Kris Kristofferson as The Tracker.  He is convinced to join the tracking of a lunatic Mormon and his gang.  Several historical inaccuracies here, but they start with the Mountain Meadows Massacre and go from there.  That part is really sort of silly, but this has a hardened gang which is going around killing innocent unsuspecting people, and someone has to stop them.  the Tracker's son, Tom (Mark Moses), insists on coming along.  On their way they take a girl and a young woman hostage.  A real theme to the movie is whether the son, educated in the East, will have the gumption to kill someone.  We do not know the answer to this question until the end.

Book Review: The Last Apprentice: The Spook's tales and Other Horrors.

The Last Apprentice: The Spooks Tales and Other Horrors  Joseph Delaney, Patrick Arrasmith, random House, New York, 2009.
Much of the material in this book is review.  However, it does tell the Spooks story and he became an apprentice and his first dealing with witches.  He was traveling to school and become lost and a spook rescued him.  He was a seventh son of a seventh son and his thumb bones would have been a prize to a witch, who almost had him.  The spook was able to help him, and he was able to help the spook bind a boggart and a witch. 
The parts that were mostly review was the story of the creatures of the dark and Alice’s story.  New material was the story of Grimalkin who told how she became the witch assassin—with the goal of destroying the fiend.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Picture Book Review: Dr. Seuss: Bartholomew and the Oobleck (1949)

This is a Dr. Seuss I was not familiar with.  it is in the yellow Dr. Seuss book: Five Favorite Dr. Seuss Stories published by Random House New York, 1996.
In this book King Derwin of Didd learns a very important lesson.  The five things that come from the sky, snow, fog, rain and sunshine are enough in their season.  To wish for things outside the normal can cause big problems.  It is also important to admit mistakes and say "I'm sorry."  This early Dr. Seuss is not rhymed throughout, put does have some rhyming with the magical chants.  It does employ the Dr. Seuss art style, which includes the fish from later in his books as well as depictions of cats.

Movie Review: Ride in the Whirlwind (1966)

This move was written by and starred Jack Nicholson.  Nicholson portrays Wes, a cowhand who is traveling with two of his friends.  They spend the night close to a group of bandits.  When the local vigilantes come to hang or kill the criminals, (those who surrender are hung) our three friends are caught up in the melee, with the only option of flee or be killed.  One of them is killed, and Wes and Vern (Cameron Mitchell) escape over the mountains up a boxed draw.  They make it over the top and meet a family, but insist on taking their horses to get away.  They are innocent, but being caught up in the situation they become murderers and thieves.  The father of the home wants to protect his animals, and shoots Vern, while Wes kills him.  This movie ends as Wes is riding away with a last chance of escape given him by Vern who gave himself up creating a diversion.
I think the theme of this movie is sometimes you are just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The vigilantes were out for hanging and didn't care much who they got.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Picture Book Review: Ten Timid Ghosts

This book is by Jennifer O'Connell and published by Scholastic in 2000.  It is a picture counting book with a take on the Ten Little Indians type of poem.  The story is cute but not great, telling about how the ghosts go form being timid (pushed around) to becoming angry and fighting back.  In terms of the pictures I really like the way the ghosts are transparent in many of the pictures.  I imagine that was hard to do.  This is one for the grandkids, as Tony has outgrown this book.

Book Review: The Last Apprentice (8): Rage of the Fallen

The Last Apprentice Eight Rage of the Fallen by Joseph Delaney, illustrations by Patrick Arrasmith, Random House PUblishing, New YOrk, 2011.
In this case, the fallen is the twin sister of the water witch that Tom, The Apprentice, and Bill Arkwright killed while he was in training with Arkwright.  The Apprentice, his Master and Alice all travel to the Green Isle to escape the war, and there they are drawn into a battle against the dark, while at the same time the witch seeks to extract her revenge.  Part of that revenge is to give Alice to the Fiend, where she is taken to hell.  The dark god Mogorath, a large crow, is released to chase Tom, and Pan, another god of the never world is also released, but turns out to like Tom.  Many adventures with times I couldn’t put the book down and wanted to know what happened next.  These books are very good reads.  The major battle in this book is against the Fiend, who comes for Tom’s soul, but finds himself bound by silver spears instead. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Picture Book: A Very Brave Witch

This is another picture book.  A Very Brave Witch i by Allison McGhee, illustrated by Harry Bliss, Scholastic, New York, 2006.
The story is really pretty lame and really doesn't make since.  A witch mistakes Trick or Treat for Trick a tree and falls off her broom flying around a tree.  It does show that witches and humans can get along.  However Tony pointed out some fun things about the illustrations.  There are many scary creatures, and the witches all dress about the same, and they always ride the broom by straddling it, including the cat.  The fun things Tony pointed out are the hands coming up through a grave and playing catch with itself using a pumpkin; The dragon poofing into a witch; And of course it ends with 'Happy Halloween."
However this book does not make the keeper pile.