Saturday, December 31, 2016

Christmas Music: Rockapella Christmas, 2000

Rockapella is the A Capella group that sings Carmen San Diego
This is an enjoyable Christmas Album for the most part.  I do not like their "You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch" but otherwise it is very nice.  'Christmas Without You" is especially nice.  "Lonely are the days, lonely are the nights without you."  "Glow Worm" is also very nice, the worm who would like to be Rudolph.  "I Heard the Bells" also has a sweet peaceful feeling.  "Silver Bells" is just delightful.  For this song alone this C.D. is worth it.  "Hold on till Christmas" is also  very nice.

Book Review: The Sneetches And Other Stories

The Sneetches and Other Stories, Dr. Seuss, Random House, New York, 1961.
In this book are several stories about personalities.  In the story of the Sneetches, we have two groups of the same people, different only by one little star on their bellies, who are manipulated until they have no more money.  Sometimes it takes something like this for us to wise up.  In this case the Sneetches finally learned their lesson.
The Zax are prone to pride, and when the North-Going Zax and the South-Going Zax meet, neither is willing to step aside.  And so they are stuck even today.
I can relate to "Too Many Daves" about the Mrs. McCave who named her twenty-three sons Dave.  My brothers and I, father and grandfather all carry the name James, and sometimes it is a pain.  At the dental office I sit in my seat while they call for James, until I realize that is me.  Well they have similar problems at the McCave home, because when she calls for Dave they all come running and run her over.
The fourth story is "What Was I Scared Of?'  which I reviewed previously.  This is a story about tolerance for those who are different.  even though it may be fearful, if we can get past the fear we might discover a friend.  Click here for an animated version.

Movie Short: What Was I Scared Of? by Dr. Seuss

This is a good reading of the story, using the original pictures of Dr. Seuss for animation.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Picture Book Review: Great Day for Up

Great Day for UP, Dr. Seuss, pictures by Quentin Blake, Random House, New York, 1974.
In this book Dr. Seuss comments on the many, many reasons to get up, baseballs, kites, footballs.  Everything should be up, feet, hands, roosters, hens, worms, boys and girls.  There are many things to go up ladders, stairs, hills, mountains, giraffes and roller coasters.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas Music Review: The Three Tenors Christmas

The three Tenors are well known, Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti.  They each have advanced opera in a big way.  However, there type of singing is not necessarily best for Christmas music.  It all seems to sound the same after a time.  Pavarotti of course is no longer with us.  This CD was recorded with the Vienna Orchestra in 2000.
Songs of note include "Silent Night.  In this song they sing in the original German.  Pavarotti takes the lead on "Adeste Fideles" (O come All Ye faithful), and "Cantique Noel" (O Holy Night)  They conclude with "Feliz Navidad." "White Christmas" is also nice.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Book Review: The BFG, Roald Dahl

The BFGm Roald Dahl, illustrations Quentin Blake, Puffin Books, London, 1982.
This is a fascinating tale, and in many ways better than the movie.  What is a giant to do when spied by a child; take her with him of course and never let her leave.  Of course even though you are a vegetarian giant, all those around you are not, and the girl will eventually get eaten by one of the other giants.  But what alternative is there.  One of the cutest parts of this book is the language of the BFG (Big Friendly Giant) and how he confuses words, (like human bean for human being) but you can still understand what he is saying.  Also the play on words in the selecting of their lunch, but you just have to read the book to understand this one.  Meeting the Queen is also interesting.  I think I like the movie with this regards, and the effect of the fizzy frobscottle is much more funny in the movie.

Christmas Book Review: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

How the grinch Stole Christmas, Dr. Seuss, Random House, New York, 1957, renewed 1985.
This is a classic.  I watch the movie annually, but neglect the original story.  I was surprised at some of the differences.  In the book the Grinch talks of the singing but does not provide lyrics.  I like the lyrics.  However in the book we have the classic word, "Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store, Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little more."  The book actually moves aster than the animated version as it is right to the point.  However Little Cindy-Lou Who is in the book, although she looks so much more little.  This book is worthy of being read many times.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Celtic Woman - Home For Christmas (Live From Dublin 2013)

Here is another Christmas music concert.  With Celtic Women the women change, but the quality of the music is not comprised.  I have my personal favorites, but some of them have moved on from Celtic Women years ago.  The high light of this concert is a fantastic version of "What Child Is This?"  Listening to this is wonderful.  In this concert there are three singers, and the violin player who has been with them through out.  There are four bonus songs at the end which seem to take place at the conductor's studio and is not part of the concert.  I really like the focus on spiritual songs with a few secular songs thrown in.

Movie Review: Star Wars: Rogue One

This is the hot movie of the Christmas season this year, and so we ventured.  I had a great time, although there were some poorly written scenes.  The story line is great, telling the story of the spies who retrieved the plans for the Death Star.  In the first Star Wars we get a hit of this movie, when the general says, "Many died to retrieve these plans."  So this movie gives us the heroic stories of those many dying.  Jyn (Felicity Jones) is the daughter of the man (Mads Mikkelsen) developing the plans for the death star.  He was forced to by the empire, particularly Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn).  However he has deliberately put a flaw into the design.  Getting the idea of that design flaw to others however is difficult.  His daughter, in the meantime has been in hiding since she was a girl.  However, the Alliance contacts her by breaking her our of prison where she was under a different name.  She agrees to go with a small crew, because it will mean seeing her father, and proving he is not the terrible man everyone makes him out to be.  However the Captain of the mission, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) has special orders to kill her father if they can reach him.  In the meantime the death star is operational, and used on a target where it is feared there is an imperial pilot turned against the empire.  He was sent with a message from Jyn's father.  So the adventure goes.  they go to an Imperial communications hub to retrieve the death star plans, which are needed to know how to destroy it.  however Krennic is also headed there.  Soon the death star follows.  A raging battle follows, with our heroes trying to get the plans out of the communications base.  Now for the pieces I felt were contrived.  They had to retrieve the actual plans from a tall tower, and they have to climb up this when the power goes out.  Then Jyn has to reset the satellite dish, and has to go out on the eat of the tower to do this, where she is vulnerable to laser fire.  Why couldn't the control be some place convenient?  However I must say this is a movie I will see again.   Also interesting characters were Chirrut Umwe (Donnie Yen) and Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang) both Rogue Warriors.  A new droid, K2SO (Alan Tudyk) is an imperial protocol droid now helping the Alliance.
At the end of this story, the first Star Wars story (episode IV) is set up.

Music Review: "Messiah" Highlights

"Messiah" Highlights, London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Philharmonic Chorus, John Pritchard conductor, Sony Music 1988.
This C.D. has a good combination of solos and choir numbers, and hits on many of the best.  It of course has "For Unto Us a Child Is Born" and "Hallelujah (Chorus),"  For solo numbers there are "Comfort Ye My People, "Every Valley Shall Be Exalted," "I Know that My Redeemer Liveth" and "The Trumpet Shall Sound."  These are well performed, although some the notes aren't quite the way I remember them.  The orchestra does "Pastoral Symphony."  My favorite are those we sang in high school.  However another favorite is "Behold the Lamb of God."  "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world."  These words from Revelations resonate in my soul.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The King's Singers - Christmas (HD 1080p)

This is the best of music.  The King's Singers is a group from England.  They have a way of making every song unique.  In this C.D. they sing  familiar songs, as well as those not familiar.  They make them all their own.  They sing in several different languages.  They sing very high, and they sing low.  I love this music.  They make precise harmonies.  The cords often resonate within me with pleasure.  This group is generally a sextet.  However at least one song they conquer with a quartet.  They have a really high tenor.  His style of singing is very enjoyable.  There is a baritone and 2nd tenor who often take solos and do a terrific job.  "Rise Up Shepherd and Follow" is very well done.  the slid note at the end to resolve the cord is splendid.  'There Is a Flower" is also very nice.  Noel Nouvelet has both tenors and basses taking turns at percussion type sounds.  Their German "Silent Night" is beautiful.

Book Review; The Immortal Nicholas: A Novel

The Immortal Nicholas, by Glenn Beck, Threshold Editions, New York, 2015.
Glenn Beck has written a fascinating story.  Agios had been embittered after the deaths of his wife and stillborn son.  But when his other young son passes away he is even more bitter.  He attempts to loss himself in drink, and is found by one of the wisemen, Caspar.  He by trade in an frankincense harvester, and has enough on her person, that Caspar is interested in hiring them to help them find more.  By circumstance, Agios is at the birth of Jesus, he hears the shepherd's story, and is hired, along with a new friend, who he adopts as his son, the deformed Krampus, who had been in a Roman galley ship.  They receive the assignment to follow Jesus, Joseph and Mary and keep them safe from a distance.  they accept, but in handling the job Agios causes the death of one of Herod's men searching for Jesus.  He buts the man in front of the sword of a younger guard, who kills him trying to kill Agios.
The return with Joseph and Jesus after Herod's death, but then lose track of Jesus.  However Agios encounters him at the well, in which Jesus promises living water.  He believes him in a way, and Agios drinks water from the well.  Krampus is in love with Jesus, and he and Agios begin following him again.  Agios hopes Jesus will heal Krampus as he has a heart condition.  Agios is there the night Jesus is crucified, he doesn't understand,  He is even more bitter, as he had sworn to protect Jesus; and failed.  Krampus passes away, and Agios decides to go with him, committing suicide.  However Agios drank the living water, and he has become immortal.  Now he needs to figure out what to do with his immortality.  He does not become Saint Nicholas for hundreds of years, after taking the name of a priest who brings Agios to the resurrected Christ, and also leads him to service to others.
I love the stories of Christmas, and this book retells this story in a very intriguing way.  It is very well done.  My only complaint are the few typos I cam across.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

BYUTV Audio-Files: 12 Bands of Christmas

 These Christmas audiofiles feature Provo area bands singing holiday songs.  These are bands or singers with ties to Provo.  It includes some popular Youtube artists as well as some I had never heard of.  Ryan Innes, the former Vocal Point member sings "What Child is This."  In the same vane the group Quiet House sings "Come O Come Emmanuel."  These songs are both personal favorites and bring the Christmas Spirit.  Elaine Bradley (Neon Trees' drummer) sings a new Christmas song proclaiming Christ and his atonement.  Of special note is "When Jesus Was Little" sung by The Strike.  This song has an excellent message as Mary and Jesus, "Kept these things in their hearts."  Joshua Jones sings "Go Tell It on the Mountain" with a blue grass flavor which is very nice.  The National Parks sing a new song ""It's Christmas."  This song tells of the joy of the season.  Book on Tape Worm sing a very good New Years song.  The Brocks sing "The First Noel."  Also included are Mindy Gledhill, the group The Moth and the Flame, the Fictionists and The Blue Aces.
Ryan Innes

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Movie Review: ***^Pete's Christmas (2013)

This is a made for TV movie.  This is really a very clever take on "The Ground Hog Day" theme, but with Christmas that keeps repeating.  I actually prefer this version.  Of course this version has young people, and no suicides, and just comes off better, as Pete (Zachary Gordon) tries to heal the relationship between his father (Rick Roberts) and his grandfather (Bruce Dern.)  At the same time he goes from losing to winning the football game, and courts the new girl (Bailee Madison) who moved in next door.  His mother (Molly Parker) is the busy doctor  who doesn't have enough time to finish dinner.  During the repeating day, Pete teaches himself to play guitar, cook, play football, and catch the girl, and convinces the family to go caroling throughout the community.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Christmas Music Review: Jordan Smith: "'Tis the Season"

To me Jordan Smith is a new singer.  However he is also a very beautiful singer.  His "O Holy Night" is fantastic.  He sings this song with the Mormon tabernacle Choir.  It comes off beautifully.  I prefer the spiritual Christmas songs to the secular, and this set has both, but leans to the spiritual.  In addition to "O Holy Night" there is "Grown-up Christmas List,"  "What Child is This,""Silent Night" and "Ave Maria."  His "Ave Maria" is spectacular, and very moving.  On the secular side, he records, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch."  I thought I would not enjoy a tenor related song, as this is noted for being a bass type of song.  He did sing this as a high tenor, but does an admirable job.  "The Christmas Song" is just lovely; as is "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."  The Bass playing with "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" has to be recommended.  He really makes this piece move.  The Bass starts the number, and just keeps going.  More instruments join, but the steady bass is mesmerizing.

Christmas Movie Review: Winter Thaw

This movie is currently playing on  It is really spectacular with John Rhys-Davies playing an old man, who lost his wife when she was young, and raised their only son alone.  He is a poor cobbler.  His wife appears to him in a dream, and says He will come today, let Him in.  He takes this to mean the Lord.  That day the cobbler has four visitors.  The first a man of means, needing a shoe repair.  This man talks to him about his family, and he admits he is estranged from his son.  The man says "it is never too late."  He then receives a neighbor, who is in the cold sweeping the sidewalk.  He comes in and warms himself, and the cobbler gives him a new pair of boots as the cobbler notices the need.  He asks the man to come and make sure he is not dead, as he expects the Lord is coming to take him.  The man agrees, if he will let him know what the Lord said if he is not dead.  Next a woman and her baby appear on her door step.  He takes them in and feeds the woman, while holding the baby.  This is the food he intended for the Lord.  He arranges board for her, until her position starts in a week.  Next a young man is taken in the act of stealing.  He has been stealing from many merchants.  He is hungry.  The man intercedes for him, pays off what he has stole, and talks to the boy about working for food, not stealing.  It seems he has changed.  While the man was out, he figures the Lord visited, and marked his scriptures.  He realizes the message given him is that it is not too late, even though now he has nothing but himself to give to his son.  He makes the journey to his son's farm, and tears are shed.  The man returns in the morning, and does not find the cobbler in his home.  On the table is carved, "It is not too late."
This movie has a similar theme to "A Christmas Carol." that of redemption.  The man had made mistakes during his life, which alienated his son.  However his son still needed him.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Music Review: Christmas Under the Stars, Amy Grant and Michael W Smith with Jordan Smith

Amy Grant and Michael Smith are very professional, and have a lot of Christmas songs under the belts, but the high light of this concert is being able to hear Jordan Smith, winner of The Voice.  The BYU Chamber Orchestra joins them.  This presentation is currently available at BYUTV.ORG  Amy Grant's version of Jingle Bells is unique with her changing of tempos.  It made it fun.  She and Jordan Smith sing "Grown-up Christmas List" beautifully.  Josh Smith has a soprano voice higher than that of Amy grant it seems, and he uses his voice to good effect.  The trio does an excellent job with "Silent Night."  They go back and forth between a more relaxed setting, in a home setting, and in front of an audience.  Amy Grant also sings "Breath of Heaven" taking on the roll of Mary to good effect.  Michael Smith sings a medley of familiar songs, with a more rock feel.   He calls it "Gloria."  He sings what I have in my heart at this time of year.  Jordan Smith sings "Oh Holy Night" beautifully, hitting all the soprano notes.  They sing together a song "All is Well" which is very fitting, as it describes the peace that can be found at Christmas.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christmas Movie Review: Vocal Point: Christmas Under the Stars

Vocal point is an a capella men's group at BYU.  It is made up of nine students.  Among those is a mouth percussionist, who gives a percussion solo.  This was presented on BYUTV this year.  I don't know how long they keep this things available, but this is one I am glad I did not miss.  This is some great Christmas music.  One of my favorites in "One Bell" which they sing with One Voice Children's Choir.  It really comes off as one bell piercing the night, bringing a new day.  Ryan Innes joins them of "Hallelujah" which is also lovely.  Madilyn Paige joins for "Winter Wonderland," and Peter Hollens for "Infant Holy."  They are also joined by BYU Noteworthy (women's a capella) for "Oh Come All Ye Faithful."  Their concluding number (except for the encore) is Silent Night which is very beautifully done.  Thy also show a clip from the t.v. show "Random Acts" which is very touching and a good example of compassion.  The encore number, "Joy to the World" they are joined by all the performers.  They say their primary focus is to sing of the Savior, and that joy and message comes through in their music.

Book Review: The Truth About Santa

The Truth About Santa: Wormholes, Robots, and What Really Happens on Christmas Eve, by Gregory Mone, Bloomsbury, New York, 2009.
The author is a contributing editor to Popular Science magazine.  He uses this knowledge, and his imagination, to paint a picture of Santa Clause as a man using alien technology and also the use of wormholes and time machine, and substitute Santas, and hibernation to explain how Santa is able to deliver so many presents Christmas Eve.  The author goes to far, insinuating that Mrs Clause is less than faithful "because she is hot." and that the elves protest having to change the diapers of Santa Clause and the substitute Santas when the hibernate.  My younger brother wrote a better story about Santa's use of technology.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Christmas Music Review: Ella Fitzgerald's Christmas

Nothing but spiritual songs here, and Ella Fitzgerald can really sing.  This compilation CD was released in 2007.  She sings several songs with a choir, and in a few the choir is too loud.  Fitzgerald's voice is calm and peaceful, and her solo numbers a truly fantastic.  "The First Noel" is one of these.  Her voice is so crisp and pure.  I like her version of "Away in a Manger."  "Silent Night" also falls in one her voice is allowed to shine.  However she may have a bit too much movement on some of the notes.  "Sleep, My Little Jesus" is a song with which I wasn't familiar.  However it tells a good story.   I usually don't care for "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" but she sings it so well. She does "We Three Kings" and "God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen" with the back up choir, and in these cases they don't dominate but compliment.  These songs really carry a catchy beat.  In a couple songs her voice sounds just a bit too much like Doris Day, but for the most part this is not evident.
I love Christmas, especially the spiritual aspect, and this CD hits that aspect.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christmas Music Review: The 4 Seasons' Christmas Album

I must admit,  I don't much care for the 4 Seasons' brand of Christmas music.  There are lots of songs her, without about half of the numbers being medleys with three or four songs.  They sing with their really high falsetto, but the slide note changes and it is really obnoxious.  However, they do sing "What Child is This?" with a cello that is really gratifying.   Frankie Valli is their lead singer, and he sings high than a female soprano.  The try a couple new songs and they both fail.  "Christmas Tears" has the premise that I am crying as you are not here this Christmas, and "Jungle Bells" is a take on "Jingle Bells" for animals.  I guess it is a kid's song.  "White Christmas" had nice vocals, but a tambourine was played throughout and it just became obnoxious.  I enjoyed them less on the secular numbers than the spiritual numbers.

Movie Review: ***^The Light Between Oceans

I have been a long time writing a review about this movie.  This is a movie about love, and love tested.  Sometimes it is amazing what a love can survive.  After WWI Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) takes a job at a remote light house.  This job takes him to a beautiful island, but away from society.  The prospects become more tolerable when he falls in love with the woman, Isabel Graysmark (Alicia Vikander) and the marry.  However they are not as lucky in having babies.  Living away from others, there is no medical care other than what they give each other.  The first pregnancy is miscarried, and the second stillborn.  (This reminded me so much of my marriage to Sheri, after the same results with our first two pregnancies.  In our case this was followed by six beautiful babies and one beautiful adopted baby.)  While they are still grieving, a boat washes up to shore.  In the boat the discover a deceased man, with a baby, maybe six months.  Just a bit older than theirs.  Isabel still has milk and nurses the baby, and quickly falls in love.  A plan is hatched to adopt the baby, first by Isabel, who convinces her husband to go along.  Her husband is the employee, and falsifies his daily log, and removes the marker from their own baby's grave.  There baby is now this new baby.  And this has the makings of a really bad adoption story.  A couple things do them in in their plot, but mostly Tom's conscious.  When he meets the mother (Rachel Weisz) of their child, he is at a crisis.  He reveals enough to give himself away, and he does everything he can to absolve his wife of any guilt.  His wife is angry at him for giving their "child" away.  this is where the testing of their love takes place.  Can love last such a struggle?
This movie gives many beautiful scenes, with a troubling plot.  It had to end badly.

Christmas Music Review: The Joy of Christmas

This is an anthology of Christmas music with several performers.  This is volume 2.  It looks to have been produced in 1995.
For me the crowning number is Julie Andrews singing "Deck the Halls."  Her's is a voice that is very appealing and I enjoy listening to her.  It makes me smile to listen to her.  Other noteworthy numbers include Harry Belafonte and "Silent Night." His rendition is very spiritual and very simple with guitar  and violin accompaniment.  His voicePerry Como sings "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and John Gary "The Christmas Song."  There is also "Feliz Navidad" by Jose Feliciano and "Jingle Bells" with Glen Miller and his Orchestra.  These two songs really pick up the pace.

The Wexford Carol (Music Video) - Mormon Tabernacle Choir

This a telling of the prodigal son with this beautiful song providing the only words.  This is beautiful.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Book Review: Merry Christmas From...

Merry Christmas From...: !50 Christmas Cards You Wish You'd Receive, by Karen Robert, William Morrow an Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 2008.

This book shares, as it says 150 home made cards.  Some home made card makers are very clever, and some not so much so.  I would say about 20 of the cars are really noteworthy; and the rest are sort of boring.  I like the present on the pregnant belly.  That was cute.  The naked children butts I didn't really care for.  However there some farm interpretations that are really cute.  I especially like the family with the tractor.  It looks really rural.  There were way too many dog cards, but the dogs coaxing the cat into the oven was cute.  Ginger bread triplets, and giant baby were also really clever.  I think the best is the winter wonderland card, with the winter wonderland scene painted on several feet.  Well done.
This book is good for ideas, but I don't think I would ever go to the length of actually making Christmas cards that way.  however we have put family portraits on a card at Costco before.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Theatrical Review: Scrooge: The Musical, Temple Hill (2016)

Let me start by saying that this is not my favorite musical of "A Christmas Carol."  However I enjoyed it more than the movie.  Second, it was obvious this was presented by amateur actors, with busy lives outside of acting.  However it has lots to recommend it.  The dancing was superb, and the sets were fantastic.  Greg Casper, who direct Pageant they year we were in it, portrayed Christmas Present.  Dwight Long from our Stake Broadway Review played Fezziwig, and did a marvelous job, leading the song, "December the 25th."  However, most of the music here was forgettable; that is just the way it was written.
The love songs just weren't quite love songs, as they talked about happiness rather than love.  There is some emotion in the song Scrooge sings, looking back at his failed opportunity for love. were my only love.  It is touching.  The other song I like is the redemption son "I'll Begin Again" and Scrooge did.  His life is remarkable changed, that is why I so much enjoy this story. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Movie Review: ***^King Arthur (2004)

This is a different take on the King Arthur story.  I presents King Arthur (Clive Owen) and his knights as persons beholden to the Romans for military service.  They spend their time defending the Romans from their own people who are fighting off tyranny.  Guinevere (Keira Knightly) and Merlin are the rebels they fight against.  However the Romans are leaving the area, and forces from the north are coming to rape the countryside.  It is after King Arthur and his men are free from further service that they must decide if they will stay and defend the people, and help them fight for freedom.
Some great action scenes, and I sort of like the different spin on the story.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Movie Review: Daredevil

This is a movie based on a Marvel Comics character.  Ben Affleck plays Daredevil (aka Matt Murdock), who as a boy was blinded by toxic waste.  However the waste enhanced his other senses.  His sense of sound gives him radar like abilities.  He also has increased sense of smell.  He in fact becomes a Spider Man like character defending the city.  He falls for Elektra (Jennifer Garner), who is a master of martial arts.  She is the daughter of a criminal boss; who wants his daughter to be prepared.  Both Elektra's mother and Daredevil's father were killed by the same man.  Now that man is coming for Elektra and her father.  Her father wants to leave the crime business.  Elektra and Daredevil spar a few times, and Elektra is every bit his equal.  The assassin Bullseye (Collin Ferrell) and the crime boss Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan) make formidable opponents.  In fact Bullseye does manage to kill the father, and Daredevil is blamed as he uses his special cane.  This sets the movie on a spiral that is very unexpected.
This movie touches the theme of whether or not a super hero can have a normal life.  Can they have people they love?

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Children's Book Review: The Berenstain Bears: We Like Kites

The Berenstain Bears: We Like Kites by the Berenstains, Random House, New York, 2004, in Tales from Bear Country 2011.

This is a rhyming and picture book telling of a day kite flying.   I like the different kites; dragon, cat, bat, happy face etc.  This story reminds us there is always another day.

Christmas Music Review: BYU Vocal Point, He is Born 2015.

This is a delightful presentation.  I must admit, Vocal Point hits a home run with they sing spiritual songs, but I don't care for their secular songs.  This is an A cappella group from BYU which has been singing since 1991.  It is made of nine male BYU students.  In this album they are joined by others on a few songs.  "He is Born" features Ryan Innes and is the title song.  The hallelujahs are beautiful.  The vocal percussion takes a measure or so to get going.  Perhaps people's favorite is "One Single Bell" which they sing with One Voice Children's Choir from Utah.   This song has a unique sound, with a boy soprano mixed in.  The also perform traditional numbers, "Silent Night," "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" and "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly."  There are fine solos in "Silent Night" and "Emmanuel'"  The feel like a light beam piercing the dark.  The also sing "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" with BYU Noteworthy, the BYU women's group which is similar in focus to Vocal Point.
This C.D. has left many inspiring hymns on You Tube.  As I said, their spiritual music has a very special place in my Christmas music list.  It reminds me of the Savior.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Movie Review: *****O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

I love this movie just for the music.  This is a modern musical which has all the bluegrass music.  It makes me want to dance.  I was trying this yesterday and Sheri said it looked strange, but the music is my blood and I will keep trying.
Three escaped convicts can do quite a lot while they are on the run.  Everett, Pete and Delmar played by George Clooney, John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson escape from the chain gang and are after a pot of gold which is due to be inundated by water in a few days for the building of a new dam.  However the law is after them, and they have many close calls.  It is only later that we learn there is no money, but Everett has convinced the others to escape so he can keep his ex wife (Holly Hunter) from marrying another man.  He was chained to the other two, so they had to come with him.
They meet upon another man with his guitar, and give him a ride.  Tommy Johnson (Chris Thomas King) is headed to a radio station to sing into a can for money.  They three join him, and together they become the Soggy Bottom Boys and record a song.  The song becomes very popular on the radio, but no one knows who the boys are.  A music producer is after them to sign them to a contract.  They run into a bank robber, George Nelson (Michael Baldalucco) who is making a name, and not worried about the money.  He leaves the three with a car and cash.  They also run into a bible salesman (John Goodman) who mugs them and takes the money and car.  They also come upon a Ku Klux Klan revival and intended lynching of Tommy Johnson.  They rescue Tommy, but the Imperial Wizard is after them.  Turns out he is running for governor and winning the election.
Things change for our escapees when they sing at a large function in an effort for Everett to get close to his ex.  The governor hears them sing, as does the Imperial Wizard, who grabs the microphone and calls them out, revealing his membership in the Klan.  He is booed off the stage, but the governor strikes and pardons the boys and recruits them for his support.   With newfound notoriety, his ex agrees to remarry him, but only with the same ring they married before, which is back at their homestead.  Our boys are on the rode again, and overtaken by the prison boss, who hasn't heard about the pardon, nor does he care.  A fine hanging is in order.  Only the flood of water from the new dam can rescue them, and the ring is actually found.  But is it the right ring?
Everett at one point expresses to Delmar, "woman is the most fiendish instrument of torture ever devised to bedevil the days of man."

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Movie Review: ***^Rules Don't Apply (2016)

This is an incredible look at the later life of Howard Hughes.  Warren Beatty portrays Hughes, and gives himself a big task in portraying someone with phobia to germs, and self isolation, worrying about being subjected to psychiatric evaluation and a conservator appointed to steal his company.  Alden Ehrenreich portrays the driver, Frank Forbes who rises up in the Hughes empire to his closest confidant.  And then their is the actress, Marla Mabrey, for whom he falls portrayed by Lily Collins.  There are other famous actors who portray people around Hughes, Alec Baldwin, Matthew Broderick and Martin Sheen.  They cow tail to Hughes' whim, such as banana nut ice cream, and if they cross him they get fired.  They only person who calls out Hughes is Mabrey's mother portrayed by Annette Benning.  She leaves and her daughter stays.  Marla Mabrey is a woman who is determined to not have sex until after marriage, and does not drink.  However she becomes upset one night she is meeting Hughes, and drinks too much and becomes drunk.  In this mood, she flatter Hughes, who takes a ring from a drawer (among several) and puts in on her finger saying with this ring, I thee wed.  They then have sex.  She becomes pregnant.  The next day, following sex, Hughes officially marries someone else. t have a wife who will not let him be committed to an insane asylum.   Hughes does not take responsibility for the child, and Mabrey discovers Hughes' real nature and goes home.  She advises Forbes to do the same, but Forbes stays on.   It isn't until five years later. when Mabrey brings her son to see Hughes, that Forbes finally makes the jump to gain his freedom from Hughes.
This movie has an interesting theme.  To what lengths will we go for success, to leach off of someone who is rich and famous.  It is an interesting dilemma.  Hughes has very strict rules, and often objectifies the women around him, as well as humiliates the men.  But for the most part they stay.  It takes a lot to quit, even when the situation is bad, as the thought of money can overcome many wrongs.
Lily Collins must be complimented for her work in this film.  She is really a fantastic presence on screen.  There is a period after she leaves that the movie drags and I think it is the lack of the energy between she and Ehrenreich.  When she finally comes back, the movie regains its energy for the end.
This movie is a long-term project from Beatty.  He also wrote the screenplay and directed and produced.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Movie Review: ****Robin Hood (1991)

This movie starts with Robin of Locksley, (Kevin Costner), returning to England after the crusades, grateful to have escaped with his live, and bringing with him a Moorish friend, Azeem (Morgan Freeman), who has a debt to pay to Locksley, and has vowed to save his life in return for his life having been saved.  However England has changed, with the absence of King Richard (Sean Connery).  The Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman) is plotting to become king.  He is helped by a witch, who is actually his mother (Geraldine McEwan).  After finding his own lands in ruin, and his father executed, he seeks refuge at the home of Marian Dubois (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), who of course greets him poorly.  Robin eventually falls in with the thieves of the forest, and takes them on a mission of revenge against Nottingham.  However he has bit off more than he can chew, and with the Celts as hired mercenaries they are overwhelmed and many taken prisoner and scheduled to be hung.  That is what sets up the doom of the sheriff, as Robin will not let this happen.  Seven men take on his forces, and with the people rising up, win the day.  Great adventure, and terrific scene with Robin and Azeem being catapulted over the wall.  Perhaps the best thing about this movie, is the song sung with the credits, with several lines slipping in during the show:

"(Everything I Do) I Do It For You"
Look into my eyes – you will see
What you mean to me.
Search your heart, search your soul
And when you find me there you'll search no more.

Don't tell me it's not worth tryin' for.
You can't tell me it's not worth dyin' for.
You know it's true:
Everything I do, I do it for you.

Look into your heart – you will find
There's nothin' there to hide.
Take me as I am, take my life.
I would give it all, I would sacrifice.

Don't tell me it's not worth fightin' for
I can't help it, there's nothin' I want more
You know it's true:
Everything I do, I do it for you, oh, yeah.

There's no love like your love
And no other could give more love.
There's nowhere unless you're there
All the time, all the way, yeah.

Look into your heart, baby...
Oh, you can't tell me it's not worth tryin' for.
I can't help it, there's nothin' I want more.

Yeah, I would fight for you, I'd lie for you,
Walk the wire for you, yeah, I'd die for you.

You know it's true:
Everything I do, oh, I do it for you.

Movie Review: ****Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Here is another fantastic view of the Harry Potter world.  In this film we are introduced to Harry Potters ability to speak to a snake.  As a result, Harry wonders if he should have been in Slythirin House.  It also makes him a prime suspect when the Chamber of Secrets is opened; and children start disappearing.  The good thing about this is they are only frozen and not killed, because they see the Basilisk (giant snake) directly it would kill them, but reflected it only freezes them.  Even Hermione meets this fate.  We are also introduced to Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright) in this episode, ton's younger sister, who is used by Draco's father to introduce the journal of Lord Voldemort.  When people start getting frozen, Hagrid is accused, because of his relationship with a giant spider, who in the end is not the cause.  Harry travels t the spider's lair to learn more, and barely escapes in a mystical car.
This film resolves when Harry confronts the beast in the Chamber.  When he is about to be killed, the Phoenix and the hat bring to Harry's aid the sword of Gryfindor.  Harry destroys the evil journal with a tooth from the Basilisk.
This movie also introduces us to house elves.  Doby shows up at Harry Potter's home, and does all he can to prevent Harry Potter from returning to school.  He is the house elf of the Draco family and knows of the plot to open the Chamber of Secrets.  Hermione takes it as her quest to free the house elves.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Music Review: Mano a Mano Tangos: A la Manera de Vicente Fernandez

This C.D. of tangos clearly is that of a Mexican singer, singing Argentine tangos.  This C.D. lacks the passion and feeling of tango, and is clearly not Argentine but Mexican.  Even on the cover, the singer wears a sombrero.  It is all downhill from there.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Music Review: Tony Bennett: Duets II

This C.D. presents Tony Bennet in duet with many seventeen different popular artists.  It is mostly jazz compositions, and many of the artists lose their individuality singing this style with Bennet.  However Aretha Franklin comes through as an individual, singing "How do you Keep the Music Playing" with Bennett.  Sheryl Crow shines with "The Girl I love" and Faith Hill and Bennett do a beautiful job of "The Way You Look Tonight."  Josh Groban's powerful voice also shines through as he sings "This is All I ask" with Bennett.  Mariah Carey and Bennet sing the last song with lots of energy, "When Do the Bells Ring for Me."

Art I Like: Picasso: Museo Picasso de Barcelona

Picasso is a unique artist.  He painted for a very many years, and had different periods of art.  His art was popular even from his high school days, and he was still going strong some 70 years later.  He was also very prolific.  So here are a few of my favorite examples.
I really enjoy this painting, because the embrace seems to go on and on
This painting is entitled Guernica, and is supposedly against the war.  I don't really care for it as too much is going on.  In this picture a Spanish village is destroyed by Germans
A self portrait form the blue period

In the cubist period, the piano player

Ladies in waiting, which seemed to be a common theme of Picasso

Another common theme was birds and doves.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Movie Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016)

I must admit, I enjoyed the books more than the movie.  I think the movie is not going to be a trilogy like the books.  It did not follow the books true to form, but does give us the world, three level of beings in addition to regular humans, peculiars, wights and hollowghasts.  The wights are determined to seek immortality, but to do so they must harness the force of embrynes (a peculiar who can make time loops, and turn into birds.)  Hollowghasts are primitive creatures, who were once peculiars, but a failed experiment turned them into monsters.  However they eventually develop into wights.  Each peculiar was their own skill which is very interesting.  Jake (Asa Butterfield), who can see hollowghasts, but didn't even know what they were a few days ago, finds the loop of Miss Peregrine (Eva Green), at the request of his grandfather, who informed him of the peculiars, his friends, just before he passed away.  Jake does find the loop, and the peculiar children.  However an evil wight has followd him, Barron (Samuel Jackson), who is also a shape shifter.  He had pretended to be the psychiatrist, and then a bird study man, and followed Jake to the peculiars.  He sets in motion the collapse of the time loop, and kidnaps Miss Peregrine.  Jake befriends Emma Bloom (Ella Purnell) who is lighter than air, and can control air.  (This is different than the book where he falls in love with the fire girl.)
The group of peculiars follow Barron to rescue their embryne.  Samuel Jackson plays his character too light hearted.  Their are classic struggles, and Barron makes fun of them.  I didn't find his character believable.  This show features direct fighting, unlike the book.  The hollowghasts are invisible to all except Jake.  However the throw snow on them and make them visible.  This way they can have a fair fight.
Even though the movie is not as well done as the books, it is entertaining none the less.  Based on the books by Ransom Riggs.  Tim Burton directed.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Music Review: Rascal Flatts, "Feels Like Today"

This c.d. is full of classic country music.  It starts right off with a love song, "Where You Are."  The chorus and the second verse are so poetic I had to share:

You're a waterfall, washing over me
I'm a thirsty man let me drink you inWell I am on my way, You're a mountain topWhen I reach for you, your love lifts me upAll that I want is to be Where you are
I'm the frozen ground, you're the warm sunlightShining down on me, baby just in timeWell I have never been in a love like thisOh, you move my soul every time we kissAnd I love how you heal; I can't believe how alive I feel

Gary LeVox is the lead singer, with Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney.  They and others write the songs.  This is their third album, with over 5 million in sales.  The also use several other background musicians.  
The titular song is very nice, "Feels Like Today."  In this song, the singer is waiting for something to happen, something to change in his life.  It feels like today that it will actually happen.  
"When the Sand Runs Out" is a classic motivational song.  When they get to the chorus this song is just exciting:
I'm gonna stop lookin' back and start movin' on
And learn how to face my fears
Love with all of my heart, make my mark
I wanna leave something here
Go out on a ledge, with out any net
That's what I'm gonna be about
Yeah I wanna be runnin'
When the sand runs out.

"The Day Before You" is another classic love song: 
"I can't wait to wake up tomorrow
And find out this promise is true
I will never have to go back to
The day before you

The three co-wrote Oklahoma-Texas Line.  This song has a different energy, is more up beat and gets the blood moving.  
These songs move me.  Sometimes the country feel can be repetitive, but there is no better venue to share a story, and these men do this remarkably well.  

Movie Review: Joe Kidd (1972)

This is a classic Clint Eastwood Western.  He portrays Joe Kidd, an ex bounty hunter who is convinced to come out of retirement by Frank Harlan (Robert Duvall) and because Luis Chama (John Saxon) and his men attacked his estate, stole or killed his horse, and tied up his man with barbed wire.  Chama is a local hero to the Mexican residents who are trying to fight for their property rights against Harlan.  Harlan is determined to kill Chama, and anyone else who gets in his way.  Kidd helps him to a point, but realized quickly he is with the wrong wide.  There are some scenes here I remember from my youth, like opening the hatch and the bad guy falling to his death.  A classic bit of action is taking the locomotive into town and smashing into the bar, so as to get a drop on Harlan's men.  Another classic scene is when he tells the sheriff (Gregory Walcott) to "Get out of here."  And later when he punches him in the nose and says, Next time I'll knock your head off."  This refers back to the sheriff having punched Kidd early, and using the same line.

Children's Book Review: The Berenstain Bears Ride the Thunderbolt

The Berenstain Bears Ride the Thunderbolt, The Berenstains, Random House, New York, 1998, in Tales From Bear Country, 2011.

In this case the Thunderbolt is a roller coaster.  This story has basic words, and is considered a first level reader.  It tells the story more with pictures.  And of course after spinning, and going upside down, all the Bears go again, except Papa Bear.  I like the way Papa Bear has a green face, it lets us know quickly his tumble is rumbly.  I usually avoid roller coaster myself.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Music Review: Tango Al Rojo Vivo, Enzo Peiret with the Buenos Aires Quartet

Tango music makes my blood boil.  It is so passionate.  You have the piano playing a few bass notes, and then the accordian kicks in.  It is so cool!  I jump up and always try to engage Sheri in a Tango dance (not that I know how to dance Tango but I could pretend) but I end up dancing around her.  And when they sing of kissing, I just have to kiss Sheri.  On of the songs is even entitled "Passional." "You'll never know what it is t die a thousand times from anxiety, you'll never know what it is to love, to want your kisses."  And in every moment, feverish and loving, I want your lips to kiss."
Man I love this stuff!!!

Movie Review: ***Hotel Transylvania II

Adam Sandler helped write this movie, as well as providing his voice talents for the character of Dracula.  His daughter is voiced by Selena Gomez.  In Hotel Transylvania I she married a human (voiced by Andy Samberg.)  In this episode they have a child.  Will he be human or vampire?  that is the big question, and where will he fit in?  Great Grandfather comes and says he just needs a good scare to bring out his fangs.  But in this case, that doesn't help.  However, his friend being in peril just might work.
This is a fun Halloween movie.  I must admit, I have not seen Hotel Transylvania, but hope to do so.  It is not available on Instant Netflix while this version is.  
My only complaint is the nipple twisting scene.  Of course it is the blind man's nipples being twisted, but Sandler seems to be infatuated with this move, as it is also in "Water Boy."

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Its The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown (Full Episode)

This is a Charlie Brown Special focusing on Halloween and Linus.  Of course it has all the characters, including Snoopy chasing the Red Baron, and getting shot down, Charlie Brown, who only gets rocks, Lucy who is embarrassed by her brother, Linus, who believes in the Great Pumpkin and gives up his halloween waiting for its arrival, Sally, who loves Linus enough to wait for the Great Pumpkin with him, and Schroeder, whose music touches the emotions, as Snoopy demonstrates.
Loved this show as a kid, and still love it.
There are a couple versions on You Tube

Book Review: Star Wars The Force Awakens

Star Wars The Force Awakens, Alan Dean Foster, screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt based on Character of George Lucas, Del Rey, New York, 2015.

The book added more depth to the story; but even after the movie and the book, I still have questions about motivation.  The biggest question of course is why did Ben Solo become Kylo Ren, turning to the dark side.  The book points out the manipulations and scheming of Supreme Leader Snoke.  I am at a loss to explain when Luke Skywalker would have run away.  He is not the type.  To me this is the biggest hole in this whole plat thing, and I am waiting for explanation.  Just because Ben went to the dark side is not enough reason for his actions.  This part doesn't make sense.  
As for the rest of it, I understand better where the storm troopers come from and why one of them might go rogue and join the rebellion.  We are still waiting for the parentage of Rey, and why she would be so great in the force.
However, I enjoy a good Star Wars read and found this book very entertaining.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Movie Review: Candleshoe

Movie Review: Practical Magic

Here is a very good Halloween themed show.  Sally (Sandra Bullock) and Gillian (Nicole Kidman) come from a family of witches, with a particular curse that if they love men, that man is destined to die.  And so they do their best not to fall in love, including wishing (or casting a spell) for the impossible, or picking someone who is terribly evil you couldn't fall in love with him.  All this works to a degree, until Sally does fall in love, and after having two children, her husband is killed by a truck.  In the meantime, Gillian picks an abuser, and Sally goes to rescue her, killing gillian's boyfriend in the process.  They cast a spell to bring him back, and he comes back as a ghost haunting them.  In the end he inhabits Gillian, and only bringing the community together are they able to save her, and send the ex on his way.
This movie has sisterly and motherly affection, as well as romantic relationships.  It has some scary scenes.  It also puts in some unneeded drinking and partying.  It also deals with relationships with those who are different.  The community has always been down on them as witches, but in the end the make amends.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Movie Review: ****^Unbroken

I knew this movie would be difficult to watch, and it was.  However it is an important movie.  It shows the experience of Louis Zamperini (Jack O'Connell) and his contact with Watanabe (Miyavi) a Japanese officer at the Japanese POW camps.  Louis had been an Olympic athlete.  He ran the 5000 M at the Berlin Olympic games in 1936, taking eighth.
During WWII he was aboard a Liberator plane which went down due to mechanical failure.  He and two others managed to get on two rafts.  They were strafed several times, but not hit.  They ate small fish, and birds that flew on their raft.  The captured rain water.  They went through a big storm, and survived.  However one of the crew men passed away.  Louis and his other companion were captured by the Japanese.  He was at several prisoner of war camps, and during this time was tortured by Watanabe.  Many times he was tested, as Watanabi wanted an excuse to kill him.  However Louis overcame.
After the war he was haunted by nightmares, and wanting to get even.  It wasn't until he turned his life to Christ that he was able to forgive and the nightmares went away.  He carried the torch for the 1998 WInter Olympics in Japan.  He tried to visit his captors, but Miyavi would not see him.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Book Review: Bugs of Northern California

I am mentioning this book because I have been going over some of the reference books in our library.  Every family should have a book about bugs.  Not necessarily bug of Northern California but local bugs where you live.  You can find a lot of creepy pictures in a bug book.  I am glad bugs aren't large, because then they would really be creepy.  This book is by John Acorn with illustrations by Ian Sheldon.  I guess Acorn is really into bugs as he mentions in the introductory chapter.  Lone Pine Publishing, Renton, WA, 2002.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Movie Refiew: ****The Last Air Bender (2010)

This movie is surprisingly well done and I enjoyed it very much.  There are different people with certain powers, air benders are the most unique, as they have all the powers.  However there is also fire, and earth and water.  Fire controls the world with their machines and their seagoing vessels.  Nothing can stop the power of fire,  but an airbender.  And the Airbender is discovered.  This movie includes great sacrifice, not just by the airbender but by those around him.  This film is written and directed and M. Night Shyamalan.  I enjoy his work.
Noah Ringer stars as Aang the Last AirBender.  Jackson Rathbone as his ally, Sokka and Nicola Peltz as another ally, Katara.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Music Review: Julio Iglesias: Mexico

Even though this C.D. is entitled Mexico, the common theme of Julio Iglesias is "Love."  All of his songs are brimming with love, and his manner of singing expresses that feeling of love throughout.  I am talking of romantic love.  I really enjoyed the song "Jurame" "Promise Me."  "Promise me that even if a lot of time passes you will never forget the moment."  It has a section where there are some fascinating rhymes.  It also has a big "Besa me, con un beso enamorado."  "Kiss me with a kiss of love."  Who could not like that.
He follows with "Ella" another song just overflowing with love.  It seems all of his songs are brimming with love themes.
The song "Sway" has a big band feel.  He sings this song in English.  "Sway with me, stay with me, you have a way with me."  This is great dancing music.
Even when he sings of relationships, he does so with a feeling of love, "Echame a mi la Culpa" "Give me the blame."
"Y Nos Dieron las Diez" has a feel of Argentine tango with an accordion playing.
He does turn to Mexico in two verions of "Mexico Lindo" but still his songs are full of love.  "Mexico, beautiful and beloved, if a die far away from you, may they say I am sleeping and bring me to you."
Julio Iglesias has such a soft but vibrant voice.  I have always enjoyed listening to him since I was in Argentina on my mission and introduced to him.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Movie Review: Blind Love (1979)

This short move is based on a true story written by Ray H. Walton.  It is an LDS produced movie and tells a very important story of love.  I really like Barta Heiner's portrayal of the wife.  Maikel Justis plays the blind husband, who through surgery is about to see his wife for the first time.  The wife has always considered herself plain, and has been withdrawn.  Somehow she feels her husband might not love her so much if he had his sight.  I like this movie because it lets us know we are all of worth.  We are all Heavenly Father's children.

Movie Review: Once I Was a Beehive

This movie was surprisingly good.  It is about a group of young women, and their leaders, who struggle with accepting each other, and in the end find much more than the bargained for as they begin to work together.  It is about Young Women's Camp.  It is strange the effect this camp can have on testimony.  Berta Heiner portrays one of the camp directors.  I have enjoyed her work in Mormon movies.  Claire Neiderpruem portrays a young woman, Bree, whose father dies of cancer.  She is not Mormon, but reluctantly goes to camp with her new step cousin who is a Beehive.  Hailey Smith portrays the youth director, who becomes a rival to Bree.  You add some handsome local rangers, and a bear, and you have a pretty fun camp.  This movie is written and directed by Maclain Nelson.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Movie Review: ***^Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013)

This is the second installment of this series of movies, and in fact I fond more enjoyable than the original.  Thalia, passed away some time ago at the hands of a cyclops, and she turned into a protecting tree for Camp Half Blood.  However Luke poisons the tree, and evil creatures are again able to enter the camp.  A party from the school goes in search of "the Fleece" which can heal anything.  Luke too wants to discover the fleece to restore Kronos, on of the ancient gods who was captures by the first Olympians.  Percy is not selected to be part of the group, as Clarisse, Luke's rival is selected.  Luke leads a second group with Grover, Annabeth and his half brother, Tyson (half Poseidon and half cyclops.)  Luke intervenes and captures them,  but then they escape.  Luke maintains his distance but when they discover the fleece he takes it from them, and begins to restore Kronos.  Tyson in all this takes an arrow for Percy, and falls into the ocean.  However he returns at the right moment, as being a son of Poseidon, the water healed his wound.  Annabeth is also killed, but restored by the fleece.  Percy has to deal with Kronos, with a special sword he had inherited.  They use the fleece to restore the tree, and also Thalia is brought back to life.
I think I like this movie because of the addition of Tyson.  He is half cyclops, which leads to a great deal of prejudice against him, and Percy has a hard time accepting him.  Cyclops have always been the enemy.  However Douglas Smith does an excellent job portraying the roll, and he is a bit naive, but the negative still hurts, he just chooses to ignore it, and usually wears sunglasses.  Over the course of the film, the prejudices melt away, and people begin to accept Tyson for who he is individually, rather than as a group.
Logan Lerman as Percy Jackson, Alexandra Daddario as Annabeth, Douglas Smith as Tyson, Leven Rambin as Clarisse, Brandon Jackson as Grover, Jake Abel as Luke.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Movie Review: Ben Hur (2016)

The 2016 version of this story has many things to be liked.  The replay of the Chariot race is again the high light, and it is very intense.  However it lacks the hubs sticking out which rip the spokes of the other racers.  It does have considerable peril.  This movie also lacks the part where Judas Ben Hur saves the Roman consul, so he comes back to Israel not as a Roman citizen, but as an outlaw,  for whom his benefactor makes arrangements for his  release, if he wins the race.
Morgan Freeman places the benefactor, Ilderim, Jack Huston plays Ben-Hur, Toby Kebell his adopted brother and nemesis, Messala, Nazanin Boniadi Ben-Hur's wife, Ayelet Zurer Ben-Hur's mother and Sofia Black D'Elia his sister,
The redemption scene at the end of this movie, I do not remember from the original movie; however it is well done.  After being enemies for so many years, Judah and his adoptive brother make amends, and the go off with Ilderim, along with the rest of the family.  They are going to tour others circuses to  race chariots.

Movie Review: ****The Sting 1973

This movie puts Paul Newman and Robert Redford back together for quite a ride.  In this film they play conmen, who are going to take down a notorious mobster.  However as the mobster has the  habit of killing people, they have to be very careful.  Robert Shaw portrays the mobster, and he is a really bad man, who makes people disappear at his orders.  Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford's character) is in the con for revenge.  He has been a small time con, who happened into mob money, and his partner was murdered.  They are looking for him as well.  Throughout the picture he is running from would be murderers.
A cute scene is when the have to come up with a Western Union office at the last moment.  They take over an office pretending to be painters.  (Ray Walston) plays the painter.
This movie is good, and entertaining, but perhaps the most entertainment is the use of Scott Joplin music.  His piano ragtime music is superb.  The song, "The Entertainer" is well known, and moves me every time I hear it.
This movie won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Movie Review: ****^In the Heat of the Night (1967)

This is the movie with the famous lie of Sidney Portier, "The call me Mr. Tibbs."  Also in his roll as the police of chief, Rod Steiger, won the Oscar for best actor.  The lead was shared by Porter and Steiger.  Steiger was a southern chief of police, in a town with Jim Crow laws and with rampant racism including violence.  Potier's character just happens to be visiting when there is a murder.  He is a homicide detective from Philadelphia.  The chief on several occasions arrests the wrong man.  Potier has to keep digging.  Even he was intent on looking for the murderer in the wrong place.  However in he end, while be just by a mob after him, he is able to get to the right man, by following who is paying for the abortion.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Movie Review: ***^The Frisco Kid (1979)

In the Frisco Kid Gene Wilder portrays a Jewish Rabbi from Poland, who is being sent to become the Rabbi in San Francisco.  Of course San Francisco is next to New York.  It is 1850, and the journey presents quite a challenge.  First he is robbed, then he travels by train after earning some money working on the railroad.  However he has to get off to not travel on the Sabbath.  In the mean time, he meets u with a train/bank robber played by Harrison Ford.  Ford is always saving him, but in the end they become friends.  A couple things don't work in this movie.  One is having a white guy play the chief.  The other is the interaction between Wilder and a raccoon.  They should have made more of this, or cut it entirely.  The way it was it was lame.  Ford is his grouchy, angry self which marks some of his later characters.  (The first Star Wars predates this film.)  Add a gang of three men who are after them and this show has the makings of a good western.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Movie Review: ***Surf's Up (2007)

This is a movie about penguins surfing, but more importantly about reaching for your dream.  It features two penguins geared for a surf competition, Cody Maverick (Shia LeBeouf) and Tank Evans (Diedrich Bader).  Tank is the current champion.  We also have a girl interest, Lani Aliikai (Zooey Deschanel.) and her uncle, the old surfing sage, Zeke Topanga (Jef Bridges) and a crazy chicken (Jon Heder).  Makes for a very wild ride.  The movie is often presented with a documentary type style, which I really didn't care for because it seems to get in the way of telling the story.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Music Review: Rascal Flatts: Feels Like Today

Rascal Flats is a country western group, and this album has the traditional country flavor.  Their most popular song is included in this CD.  It was a cover of the song, "The Broken Road."  This was first released by the Nitty Gritty Dirt band.
Every long lost dream led me to where you are
And others who broke my heart they were like northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know it's true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you
In this song they lament the time the could have been with their true love, instead of loves that didn't work out.  
In "Feels Like Today" they are singing expecting to find the one missing thing in their life today.  "Fast Cars and Freedom" was also released as a single.  
The song "Oklahoma, Texas Line" was written by the performers, and has more of an upbeat feel.
In listening to this set, there is not a particular song that really stands out to me, but as a whole the music and feel is fun.
One song, originally released as a hidden song but then later added is "Skin." also released as "Skin (Sarabeth)" about a girl who contracts leukemia, and has always wanted to go to prom with her boyfriend, but now her head is shaved and she doesn't think he should take her.  He shows up with his own head shaved in empathy and they go to the dance.  Country music has a way of telling stories which other genres sometimes miss.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Movie Review: The Jungle Book (Disney, 1967)

Disney presented the Jungle Book in 1967 as an animated presentation.  The took many of the Rubyard Kipling stories and wove them into a movie where Bagheera, the Panther is taking Mowgli, the man cub back to his own kind.  He protests, and runs into Baloo the bear and the run off to have adventures, but are caught by the  ape king.
This presentation includes the voice talents of Phil Harris as Baloo (very well done), Sebastian Cabot as Bagheera (his goody type of voice become grating after a while, Sterling Halloway as the snake Kaa (he almost even hypnotizes the audience). Louis Prima as the ape King Louie, and George Sanders and Shere Khan the tiger.  The ending is different than the remake, and I think I prefer the original.

Picture Book Review: A Porcupine Named Fluffy

A Porcupine Named Fluffy by Helen Lester, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1986.
I like to comment on the books the grandkids are looking out.  This is a cute story about a porcupine who is poorly named, because fluffy he is not.  However the rhinoceros is also poorly named, and together they have a good laugh.  The illustrations enhance the story.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Movie Review: ***^Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012)

This movie has a way of putting things in perspective.  It makes a point at the beginning that Continental Drift was caused by the squirrel and his nut.  It is really pretty cute the way they start with a big view of the things going on, and then get to the specifics with the mammoth family, his saber tiger friend and the sloth.  These three, along with the sloth's grandmother, are set adrift on an iceberg in the ocean.  They are headed for adventure as the meet up with a pirate ship, captained by a cranky monkey with sharp claws.  This movie is about fatherhood, and finding romance in unusual places.  It is also again about loyalty, and being loyal to the right thing.
Ray Romano as Manny (The Mammoth)
John Leguizamo as Sid, the sloth
Denis Leary as Diego, the saber tooth
Peter Dinklage as Captain Gutt, the cranky monkey
Wanda Sykes as Granny
Jennifer Lopez as Shira, the saber tooth female
Queen Latifah as Elie, Manny's wife
Keke Palmer as Peaches, Manny and Ellie's daughter

Picture Book Review: The Berenstain Bears Go Up and Down

The Berenstain Bears Go Up and Down by the Berstains, Random House, New York, 1999, in Tales from Bear Country, 2011.

Not much plot to this book, just bears going up and down the escalator.  This is a level I easy reader book.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Music Review: Lyle Lovett: Songs from the Movies: Smile

As the title suggests, the song "Smile" is the head liner in this group.  This song was written by Charlie Chaplin for the movie "Modern Times."  The lyrics were added later by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons.  It is a really poignant song, and has lots of feeling behind it.
However, my favorite song on this C.D. is from "Toy Story," "You've Got a Friend in Me."  I love that song, and it really added to the movie.  He sings this with Randy Newman.
This music has a jazzy feel.  I really like the way jazz sounds, but find it very difficult to sing or play.  Leavett does an excellent job.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Movie Review: Jason Bourne (2016)

This movie is the third of a series.  It has a way of rehashing the same formula, but also keeping the story line interesting.  This movie brings back Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, a man trained as a killing machine by the government, but who has rejected the program.  However he is always seen as a liability, and subject to government attempts to put him down.  In this case he is drawn into the fray, as someone else, Nicky Parsons ( Julie Stiles) hacks into the CIA computer and steals the information about Bourne.  It is assumed Bourne is behind the breaking in, and that he intends to release the information to embarrass the CIA.  CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) brings in an asset (Vincent Cassel) to take care of Bourne.  He also is going to use him to take care of Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed) a computer mogul who is reneging on an agreement to put a back door in his computer soft ware so the CIA can access everybody's information.  Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) is a CIA computer specialist, but she plays a much bigger roll in the end as she attempts to befriend Bourne.  Hair raising finish to this movie, with a little twist dangling for the next in the series.
I didn't find a great theme or moral, just action from start to finish to keep you entertained and jumping.  I think Sheri likes this type of movie more than I.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Children's Book Review: The Berenstain Bears Catch the Bus

The Berenstain Bears Catch the Bus, The Berenstains, Random House, New York, 1999.
This book reminds me of our family when we were young  In this book the bus comes at 7, and Brother and Sister Bear are still sleeping at 10 minutes to.  Just like I could never believe how we made it, they did.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Music Review: Neil Diamond :Tap Root Manuscript (1970)

Some of this CD is classic Neil Diamond, and others is music of a style which doesn't appear in any of his other work.  He includes some children's songs, and a mass in this CD.  An instrumental "African Trilogy" sounds something like the Jonathan Livingston Seagull music.  Keeping with the African theme he sings to the lion.
There are two classic Neil Diamond songs, "Cracklin' Rose" and "Soolaimon."  My favorite form this set is "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother."  We all should watch out for each other.  This song is an original Diamond number, but it has such a beautiful message.  It was written by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell.  It was first recorded by Kelly Gordon, but became a hit for both the Hollies in 1969 and Neil Diamond in 1970.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Picture Book Review: By the Sea, Berenstain Bears

By the Sea: Tales from Bear Country: The Berenstains, Random House, New York, 1998 (republished 2011)

The Berenstain Bears are ready for a vacation, but when they arrive at the beach mother has some cleaning plans for the kids, rather than heading directly for the sea.  There is sand to sweep out of the beach house, and things to unpack, and beds to make, and walks to rake, and closets to clean, and food to eat, and, and....  Will the bears ever make it to the water.  Yes they will, and it is worth the wait.
The art is again consistent through the Berenstain world.  And the story makes a pretty good rhyme.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Picture Book Review: Big Bear, Small Bear

Big Bear, Small Bear from Tales form Bear Country: The Berenstains, Random House, New York, 1998 (republished 2011)

This is an introductory to the Berenstain Bears, and also an introduction to reading.  This simple book has very few words but it is big on bear pictures.  I read it to my granddaughter and it kept her entertained.  The contrast in sizes is very interesting, especially since everything gets backwards, big hat on small bear and small hat on big bear etc.  This is a very good read to the kids book, but also a beginner reading book.

Music Review: Victor Heredia: En vivo II

This is music from an Argentine composer and singer.  I really like the rhythms, and especially the Peruvian flute music which starts the first song, "Encuentro en Cajamarca.  My favorite song from this group is "Un Dia de Gracia."  The complete sentence is "One more day, one day more, a day of grace for me."  Heredia is very talented and can carry a tune, and write a good song.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Musical Movie Review: *** Pitch Perfect (2012)

This would be considered a modern day musical.  Two freshmen join college a'capella groups, Beca (Anna Kendrick) and Jesse (Skyler Astin;) Beca a women's group and Jesse a men's group. They compete in campus, regional and national competitions.  There is a healthy rivalry between the two groups.  The girls group has never won, perhaps because their is prejudice against girls, but mostly because they lack someone who can sing the low notes.  Of course with both groups there are diva type leaders, but the leaders grow and change as the year progresses.  And then of course our two freshmen fall in love, but at least on the women's side romance with the other group is forbidden.  This movie is great on the music side, and pretty lame on the plot side.