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.