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!"