Friday, December 29, 2017

Picture Book Review: Moonstruck: The True Story of the Cow Who Jumped Over the Moon

Moonstruck: The True Story of the Cow Who Jumped Over the Moon by Gennifer Choldenko illustrated by Paul Yalowitz, Scholastic, New York, 1997.
A silly story about the cow, who trained with the horses, so he could jump over the moon.  This is about someone doing something they are not expected to be able to do, because of their own dream and desire. 

Movie Review: ***^ Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

Jumanji is just a fun movie.  It is not a movie with any moral lessons, but just to have a good time.  Four high school kids, transport themselves from high school detention to inside the Jumanji Game, where they have to go through a series of levels, and save Jumanji.  At the same time, they have only three lives.  In real life a nerd, Spencer (Alex Wolff) becomes the hero in Jumanji (Dwayne Johnson.)  The football player, Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain) becomes the back pack holder (Kevin Hart.)  the socialite Bethany (Madison Iseman) changes gender, loses her phone and becomes a zoologist (Jack Black.)  Martha, a nerdy woman (Morgan Turner) becomes the woman in short shorts (Karen Gillam.)  Each has their own skills and weaknesses.  Spencer is a good runner and climber.  Fridge blows up when he eats cake, Martha is good at fight dancing and Bethany knows animals.  However the team is not complete until they find someone who has been in the game for 20 years, Alex (Nick Jonas.)  This movie is pretty OK throughout.  There are some cracks at humor based on the changing gender, and part of Bethany. 

Movie Review: ****^The Greatest Showman (2017)

This is a positive thinking film of the first order.  It shows what happens when you chase a dream, lose sight of the dream, and then regain your focus.  P.T. Barnum is from a poor family, with a big dream and a love of his life who is from a rich family.  How can he support her in the style she deserves.  He comes upon the idea of presenting those who are on the edge of society, a midget, a bearded lady, a tall man, a fat man etc.  His show in New York keeps getting bigger and expanding.  However he loses sight we he tries to be accepting by the aristocratic society, financing a U.S. tour of a European opera star. 
P.T. Barnum... Hugh Jackman
His wife Charity Barnum...Michelle Williams
Co M.C. Phillip Carlyle...Zac Efron
Trapeze artist...Zendaya
Opera singer Jenny Lind...Rebecca Ferguson
Bearded woman Lenny Lutz...Keala Settle
Midget Tom Thumb... Sam Humphrey
Young P.T. Barnum...Ellis Rubin
Barnum children Caroline and Helen...Austyn Johnson and Cameron Seely
This movie is thoroughly entertaining throughout.  Tony and Miranda are still singing the songs.  The theme of pursuing your dreams is prominent.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Martina McBride's Christmas Songs [[full album]]

This is an DVD with most of my favorite songs.  There is "Silver Bells," "Do You Hear What I Hear?," "Away in a Manger," "Silent Night" and "What Child Is This?"  Even part of this set, as songs from four different versions.  There are  additional and different songs and even different covers.  Some of the songs include "Blue Christmas" with Elvis Presley and "Baby It's Cold" with Dean Martin."  Plenty of fun listening.  McBride has a beautiful voice that is very clear.

Picture Book Review: What Do You Do Dear?

What Do You Do Dear by Sesyle Joslin, illustrated by Maurice Sendak, Young readers Press, New York, 1969.
This is a storybook I loved as a child.  It presents a totally ridiculous situation, and then asks for the polite response.  Such as thanking your guest before leaving when a dragon comes to the party or cover your mouth when you cough because you are smoking a peace pipe.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Movie review: ***^Geronimo (1993)

This is a made for TV movie.  It features Wes Studi as Geronimo.  This is a movie that portrays the native Americans in a positive light.  It starts where Geronimo gives himself up the first time, explains his leaving the reservations and going back on the warpath with a small group.  It shows those things which lead to his arrest, or surrender the second time.  He was shipped to a PPOW camp in Florida.  He was allowed to eventually live the prison, but never allowed to return to his home territory.  He was relocated to Oklahoma. 
Others portraying roles in this movie include Matt damon as Lieutenant Britton Davis, who was part of the surrender, Jason Paric as Lt. Charles Gatewood, who actually negotiated the surrender,  for which he was banned to obscurity, Gene Hackman as Brigadier General George Crook, Robert Duvall as Al Sieber, a scout, Rodney A. Grant as Mangas, an Apache scout and Kevin Tighe as General Nelson Miles.   I am not a judge of how accurate this film is.  It often uses the Apache language with subtitles.  I imagine many Native American actors had to learn the language, as well as some Americans who communicate with the Native Americans. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Movie review: ****^Coco (2017)

This movie may be the crowning jewel of the holiday season.  It is a Day of the Dead movie.  This is a holiday in much of Latin America, where the citizens honor their ancestors.  This movie does an excellent job of portraying this day, and the importance of keeping the tradition thriving.  In this film, those who are forgotten cease to exist, and remembering them the continue to exist.  The art work is tremendous in this animated feature.  This movie is about following your dream, but also affording family their proper place and respect.
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and the family depicted with their many ancestors.  It comes to us from Disney and Pixar.
Anthony Gonzalez as Miguel
Gaél Garcia Bernal as Hector
Benjamin Bratt as Ernesto de la Cruz
Alanna Ubach as Mamá Imelda

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Movie Review: ****^The Christmas Orange (2012)

This is a delightful movie from Covenant Communications.  Rose (Bailee Johnson) is an orphan, but she has found a very nice orphanage.  All of that changes with a flu plague.  Several of the girls pass away, as does the mother (Nancy Stafford) of the ophanage.  There is no one to replace her, and so all of the children are sent away.  Some are taken in by families, but the older chlidren such as Rose are sent to other orphanages.  Rose goes to Irongate which is run by a strict master, Mr. Crampton (Edward Hermann).  His brother, Joe, (Bruce Newbold) is a less invested member of the management, but is not as harsh.
Mr. Cramptom comes off as unfeeling, because his adult daughter has run away and has no contact with his father.  Rose's curiosity often gets her into trouble, and sent to the attic.  However all the children look forward to the orange's brought by Joe Christmas morning.  Rose is so excited she gets up in the night to smell and admire the oranges.  She is seen, and consequently is denied an orange.  How the other girls respond changes Christmas for them all.
This movie is touching.  Christian Vuissa is part of the production team.
Tony and I both enjoyed this film  It is based on the book by Linda Bethers.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Movie review: **^Christmas Incorporated (2015)

This is Hallmark made for TV movie.  The premise of this movie is that of a corporate boss, William Young (Steve Lund), who has inherited a large company which includes a town toy store where his father had gotten his start.  Now it has become a drain on the company as a whole, and the owner must decide what to do with the toy factory.  It takes the advise of a newly hired assistant, Riley Vance (Shenae Grimes-Beech).  Together they inspect the factory, with a foreman explaining that their toys are old;  so they revamp them.  The mayor of the town (Ron Lea) plays the advocate role.  The eventual relationship between the two leads comes off rather messy.  Makes it so this movie is not very believable in the end. 

Musical Movie Review: ***^Cinderella (1997)

There is lots to love in this made for TV version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.  This was originally performed in 1957 in another made for television version.  The 1997 version was made for Wonderful WOrld of Disney.  This version features Brandy Norwood as Cinderella.  The prince is played by Paolo Montalban.  The king and queen are played by Victor Garber and Whoopi Goldberg.  Bernadette Peters takes the roll of the stepmother and the step sisters are played by Veanne Cox and Natalie Desselle Reid.  The foot man, Lionel, who announces the ball is played by Jason Alexander.  The fairy godmother is portrayed by Whitney Houston.
The musical features tremendous vocals.  The music from Richard Rodgers is wonderful.   And of course the book from Oscar Hammerstein is also superb.
But the thing that overshadows this version the use of mixed race of the families.  This is a story that lends itself to not seeing color, and the performances over power this aspect.  The show was presented on Wonderful World of Disney in 1997, when rolls for minorities in movies was much talked about.  In fact it is still talked about today.  It would be nice to arrive at a place where color of skin is not important.  It isn't in this movie.

Movie Review: **** Wonder (2017)

Wonder is the story of a 10 year-old child going to school for the first time.  His mother has been teaching him at home because of facial deformities.  And as is often the case, the other children at school have a hard time accepting him.  The unexpected twist in this movie is that the story is told from the view point of several different people, Wonder, his friend, his sister and his sister's friend.  They could have included a bit more view point from the parents as well.  This is a feel good movie.  It is uplifting.  However it does cover the theme of accepting others.  Wonder (Auggie) played by Jacob Tremblay, starts wearing a space helmet to keep his face covered.  However by the end of the movie he no longer needs the helmet.  Julia Roberts portrays the mother and Owen Wilson plays the father.  His sister is portrayed by Izabela Vidovic and her friend by Danielle Rose Russell.  There are a couple other children who become friends with Wonder.  They are played by Noah Jupe and Millie Davis.  With all the movies at there this Christmas season, this on may be the best.  It is at least the most touching.  It moved me.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Movie Review: *****Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Loved this.  There are so many plot twists that excite .  I don't want to give anything away, but you must see this.
I went late night opening day, and when an old character returned everyone would clap.  These of course include:
Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa.  Seeing her on screen made me cry knowing she has passed away.
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, An old Luke, now the wise sage.
Anthony Daniels as C3PO,  there is some humorous play between Leia and the robot.
Jimmy Vee as R2D2, happy reunion with Skywalker.
A new actor Jonas Suotomo as Chewbacca.  There is cute play between Chewbacca and some little critters.
Retuning from "The Force Awakens" are
Daisy Ridley as Rey, lots of fun between she and Skywalker, and more fun between she and
Adam Driver as Kylo Ren.   His darkness grows.
John Boyega as Finn who meets a new girl, Kelly Marie Tran as Rosa Tico.
Other new characters include:
Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron, who has spunk but often makes the wrong decision.
Andy Serkis as Snoke, even more evil than Emperor Palpatine.
And Laura Dern as vice Admiral Holdo, who takes over after Leia goes down.
So in that, probably too many hints.  See this, it is a twist a minute.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Movie Review: ****^Hidden Figures (2016)

This is a fabulous movie which shows the plight of the African American women working for NASA.  The were involved at many levels, including being ready to use computers, and advanced engineering.  There is a particular series of scenes in which one African American woman, Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) who is working on advanced calculations, but restroom were segregated.  There are no African American restrooms in that area.  She had to walk across campus to use the restroom.  The other staff were upset at her long breaks, not realizing why she was gone for so long.  However, when the cause was discovered, her boss, Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) ended segregated restrooms.  It shows how at times, we can discriminate without realizing it.  Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) had enough foresight to study computer languages, and to have her staff also trained.  This gave them a jump up when typewriters were replaced by computers.  Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) fights discrimination in university classes, as she needs more education to become a NASA engineer, but the school is limited to Whites.  Her case goes to court and she prevails. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Movie Review: ***^Forever Young (1992)

This is a very enjoyable movie, about a test pilot (Mel Gibson) who decides to be frozen when his girlfriend (Isabel Glasser) is hit by a car an in a coma.  He regrets that he never proposed marriage to her.  His friend (George Wendt) is a scientist working on a special project and needing a subject for cryogenics.  However, he is misplaced for over 50 years.  His friend died in a fire, saving the cryogenics machine.  They were both listed killed in the fire, and the machine misplaced in a warehouse.  Until some kids, playing around, open the capsule, and out comes a man.  He gets the jacket of one of the kids (Elijah Wood), and traces it to his house, where he meets the kids mother (Jamie Lee Curtis.)  The cryogenics does not stop rapid aging after someone is unthawed.  The test pilot is trying to find those people with whom he associated, and finally comes upon someone who might know something.  Finally after several days, things start to fall into place.  This is a love story where you get a second chance. 

Movie Review: ****^The Star (2017)

This movie takes some liberalities with the story but has enough of the story that I had tears when Jesus was born.  In this story the animals can talk to each other; but when they talk to the people all the people hear is animal noises.  This makes for some tense moments, and the donkey knows there are mean dogs and a bad man after Mary, but don't know how to let Mary and Joseph know other than to cause bad things to happen.  Steven Yuen voices the donkey, Keegan-Michael Key his bird friend, and Aidy Bryan the sheep friend they meet.  Mary and Joseph are portrayed by Gina Rodriguez and Zachary Levi.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Children's Rhyming Picture Book: Night Cars

Night Cars by Teddy Jam illustrated by Eric Beddows, Orchard Books, New York, 1988.
The illustrations are fascinating this book.  Throughout the book we see Baby, who is having a hard time going to sleep.  Instead he likes to look out the window at the cars and the many things going on in the city.  He sees a snow storm, and the snow plows, a fire engine and many more sights.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Lexi Walker - Christmas Songs

Someone put together a synopsis of Lexi Walker's Christmas songs.  By the end of the list, they were stretching a bit, including songs she was singing in a group; However Lexi has a very beautiful voice, and her songs can brighten the Holiday season. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Movie Review: ***^Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

This movie represents a fascinating look at the Agatha Christie classic.  The cast of character is also very interesting.  Kenneth Branagh plays our detective hero, Hercule Poirot.  Bouc, his traveling companion is played by Tom Bateman.  And then the other passengers on the train, who all become the subject of an investigation as Poirot is called upon to solve a murder where a passenger is stabbed a dozen times and killed.  Other actors include: Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer and Daisy Ridley.  Kenneth Branagh also directed.  Each of these characters comes together with the other is a most peculiar way, which is what makes for the twist at the end of the movie.  I can't say I enjoyed this version better than the original from the 1970s.  However it does see true to the story, and the mystery.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Music Review: Uintah Basin Orchestra and Chorus: 2015 Christmas Concert

Uintah Basin Orchestra and Chorus: 2015 Christmas Concert

This orchestra and choral concert just keeps getting bigger and bigger.  This year there are more singers, more orchestra members, children singers, more dancers.  It is just more.  I keep looking for Dennis Hatch whose name is on the program, and I did Star of Justice with Dennis Hatch.  I felt the highlight of this entire concert is in the 41st minute, the children's chorus sings the Wexford Carol.  

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Movie Review: ****^Thor Ragnarok (2017)

Lots of interesting action in this movie, and lots of heroes.  Hela (Cate Blanchett) is back.  She is the oldest daughter of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), and served at his side during Odin's warring period.  However as Odin became more peaceful, and Hela wished to continue warring, she was confined.  Now she is back, and the first thing she does is destroy Thor's hammer and then banish Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to a throw away world.  There Loki takes up politics, and Thor becomes a gladiator and set to face The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).  The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) of the games likes his champion and makes sure Hulk wins.  But the Hulk takes Thor to his room, where Thor plans his escape with Hulk and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) his captor, who is also from Asgard.  They refuse, but he leaves anyway, towards Hulk's space ship to get off the planet.  Hulk follows him.  Hulk has been the Hulk steady for over two years, but in the spacecraft he hears the voice of Natasha Romanoff, and converts to Bruce Banner.  Then Loki and Valkyrie also show up, but they need a better vessel to get through a worm hole, and Loki helps them steal a vessel, but he has turning over Thor on his mind.  This is thwarted, and he is left with the escaping slaves of the planet.  Thor makes it back to Asgard, just in time, as Hela has control, and is about to wrest the sword controlling the bridge from Heimdall (Idris Elba).  This paves the way to a great struggle.  Hela is just too powerful, except for maybe against, Surtur, who according to prophesy will destroy Asgard.
This movie takes a plot change at the end, and desperate measure are needed to rescue the people of Asgard.
Tony and I saw this, and we had a good time.  Loved the action, and the characters, and also the banter between Thor and Hulk.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Picture Book Review: Fanny

Fanny A Serendipity Book, written by Stephen Cosgrove, illustrated by Robin James, Price Stern Sloan, Los Angeles, 1987.
This is a story of a three-legged cat.  The cat just wants to have friends, but the other animals, especially the adults, influencing their kids, make sure the little cat is not bothered.  "Don't talk to her, you would just embarrass her, besides she has nothing to say."  It takes a little puppy to break through the prejudice.  Puppies are just happy go lucky and don't listen to what others say.  Of course Ruby and Fanny became friends.  You see Ruby was a licking dog, and Fanny licked right back.  Soon the other animals started warming up, and discovered Fanny had a lot to say, and she wasn't embarrassed.  "Being handicapped is only a state of mine."

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Music Review: Disney Timeless Classics

This C.D. (2013) has something for everyone, and lots for the Disney fan.  Some of these songs go back a long ways, and bring back fond memories.  It represents a wide variety of Disney movies and t.v.  For example there is "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf" from an early cartoon.  However these are mostly movie songs, "Whistle While you Work," (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) "When You Wish Upon a Star,"(Pinocchio) "When I see an Elephant Fly" (Dumbo) and "Little April Shower" (Bambi) are some early Disney classics.  "The Three Caballeros" reminds me of "Ay Jalisco".  There is "Zip-A-Dee-Doo Dah" sung by James Baskett and Burl Ives sings "Lavender Blue" (So Dear to my Heart).  Other later classics include: "A Dream is a Wish You Heart Makes" (Cinderella) and "What a Dog" (Lady and the Tramp) "Once Upon a Dream" (Sleeping Beauty) and "Cruella De Vil" (101 Dalmatians). 
My favorite of all the songs is Julie Andrews, "A Spoonful of Sugar" (Mary Poppins).  Burl Ives sings another, "The Ugly Bug Ball" (Summer Magic).  Pearl Bailey offers up "Best of Friends" (Fox and Hound), which is the concluding number to the C.D. and a beautiful place to stop. 
This C.D. is for Disney lovers.  Reminds me of the sing-a-long videos we use to have.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Picture Book Review: The Keeping Quilt

This is a fascinating picture book.  It tells the story of a family, using a quilt.  When Anna's family moves to America from Russia, they left many things behind in the old country.  Mother makes this quilt out of items that were getting old, and gives them new life in providing an object to help them tell each new generation about their history.  And so the keeping quilt is handed down.  It is used for wrapping babies, for picnic lunches, and to provide the canopy for weddings.  This story runs through Anna's death, and the telling of the history to children, grand children and great grand children. 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Movie Review: ***Evan Almighty (2007)

In the Almighty movies we have modern day interactions with God.  In this case God is played by Morgan Freeman and a Noah like character, Evan Baxter, is played by Steve Carell.  Baxter is a young congressman.  He is taken in as a co sponsor on a bill to loosen environmental regulations and make it easier to develop land.  The bills sponsor is Congressman Long (John Goodman).  God comes to Baxter, and tells him to build an ark.  Baxter lives in a new subdivision close to Washington, D.C.  The purchase extra lots for the boat, and supplies begin to arrive.  Baxter's wife (Lauren Graham) is terribly confused.  She is even more confused when Baxter starts to look like Noah.  However, Baxter is finally able to convince his family, wife and three boys) to join him in the project.  They reconnect as a result of working on the ark together.
In the meantime things are not going well in congress.  Baxter withdraws his support of the bill.  Long is looking for revenge.  He does this by trying to force baxter out of congress.  He also takes aim at the ark.  He gets an order to have it destroyed.  baxter is convinces a storm is to arrive any moment.  Along with this animals have come and entered the ark.  However the storm doesn't come, except for a downpour which doesn't last very long.  However a dam breaks, and a wall of water washes them away.  All Baxter's neighbors, after chastising him in unbelief quickly enter the ark.  The are saved, and the ark is carried to congress buy the current.
This movie lets us know that miracles are not dead.  There is one last meeting between God and Baxter, which puts a final touch on the movie.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Picture Book Review: Ming Ling

Ming Ling by Stephen Cosgrove, illustrated by Robin James, A Serendipity Book, Price Stern Sloan, Los Angeles, 1978.

MingLing is a panda.  He is a panda that likes quiet so he can sleep.  As such he becomes grouchy with all the birds, until he drives them away.  But then things are too quiet.  He then meets a parrot who teaches Ming Ling and important lesson.  Could Ming Ling ever get things to where he could enjoy life in the bamboo forest.  I like the conclusion, "If you live in a forest and don't know how to share it, remember a panda named Ming Ling and a very sill parrot.

Movie Review: ****^Matilda (1996)

A delightful movie.  This film features Mara Wilson as Matilda, a super intelligent girl, who discovers she has special powers to move things with her mind.  However her parents do not care about her.  A husband and wife team Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman play Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood.  Mr. Wormwood plays a used car salesman who is also stealing car parts and gets in trouble with the law.  They send Matilda to a terrible school, Crunchem Hall Elementary School, where Mrs. Trunchbull (Pam Ferris) rules with an iron fist, putting down children and verbally and emotionally and sometimes physically abusing the children.  This is contrasted by her niece, who is Matilda's teacher, Miss Honey (Embeth Davidtz).  This story is about getting revenge (on a mean principal) and finding love (with Miss Honey.)  I love Mara Wilson as she brings great excitement to the screen.  The relationship between she and Miss Honey is special.  Danny DeVito directs this Roald Dahl story. 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Music Review: Mandy Patinkin Kidults

This is a Kids and Adults CD from Mandy Patinkin with guest Kristin Chenoweth.  The duets are what make this cd special.  Some of the songs are too slow, and at one point Patinkin even makes fun of this "Hurry up, you're killing me here." 
For the highlights: "Soon It's Going to Rain" with Chenoweth is a show stopper.  These two really mesh well together.  They also hit a home run together with the medley which includes "Time in a Bottle."  That song brings back good memories.
I really like the story telling in "Everybody Says Don't" and "The King's New Clothes." 
A very special number is "Cat's in a Cradle."  Patinkin adds voice inflection which really highlights the story of this song.  This is very much the high light and I could listen to this over and over.  Written by Harry and Sandra Chapin.
Patinkin also sings the Stephen Sondheim songs, "Not While I'm Around" which is about protecting children from harm.

Lemony Snickett: The Unauthorized Autobiography

Lemony Snickett: The Unauthorized Autobiography, Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 2002.

This is more of the same as the Unfortunate Events series.  However in this case there is no plot.  There is a chapter where a person disguised as a cow is wandering around to discover what happened to Uncle Monty’s reptile collection.  This book has the same style, of just wandering form this to that without any reason.  The Unfortunate Event books had a plot.  This does no, but is written in the same style.  The only part I enjoyed was the explanation of why the telegraphs sent by the Baudelaire children were unanswered.  The answer is that the bank was convinced that telegrams could cause harm.  Many people were easily manipulated which allowed the unfortunate events to take place. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Picture Book Review: The Tiny Seed

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle, Little Simon, New York, 1987. 
This is a good story of the life cycle of a plant.  First in the autumn it floats on the wind.  Some of the fellow seeds don’t make it, the fall in the water, or are scorched by the sun.  However some make it to good soil, where they stay all winter under the snow.  A mouse eats some, a bird another, but a few begin to grow.  Some are choked by weeds, or pulled and given to a girlfriend, or stomped by feet.  The Tiny See becomes the biggest flower of all; and then in autumn his leaves all blow off, and his seeds ride the wind.
Very interesting artwork, which appears to be from a sponges; it has a nice texture.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Picture Book Review: The Little Engine that Could

The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper, illustrated by George and Doris Hauman, Platt and Munk Publishers, New York, 1930.
This is a classic positive thinking book.  Toys and good things to eat need an engine to take them over the mountain to the children.  First the passenger engine is too important, and the freight engine is too busy.  The old engine says “I can not, I can not.”  But the little engine, who has never been over the mountain says “I think I can, I think I can.” And does. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Emperor's New Clothes

The Emperor's New Clothes by Hans Christian Anderson, retold by Carol Sorgen, A mini fairy tale Classic, Ottenheimer Publishers, 1995.

I did not remember this tale as being Hans Christian Anderson.  It is one of those classic stories.  This story shows us that naivete is sometimes pure wisdom.  And why should the emperor run around in his underwear, just to show that he was smart.  Sometimes pride can get the best of us.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Picture Book Review: The Dream Tree

The Dream Tree by Stephen Cosgrove, illustrated by Robin James, A Serendipity Book, Price/Stern/Sloan, Los Angeles, 1982.

Serendipity books seem to all be written and illustrated by the same people.  There are about 40 such books.  Most end with a moral lesson.  this one does not.  However it does tell of a caterpillar who becomes a butterfly.  It also explains that sometimes you can't explain how something is, you just have to do it.  Patty Caterpillar wishes a butterfly would tell her what it is like to be a butterfly; but all the butterflies just fly off, "Someday you'll know."  He promises himself to come back and tell the caterpillars what it is like, but somethings are easier promised than done.
I like the artwork.  Robin James uses nice colors. 

Picture Book/Halloween Poem: Pumpkin Eye

Pumpkin Eye by Denise Fleming, Henry Hold and Company, New York, 2001.

The pictures in this book are like Halloween.  They are sometimes over large, giving a partial view, sometimes they are blurry and misty, but always they are eerie.  The poem is mostly three syllable statements, like Piece of pie, pumpkin.

Picture Book: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, by Judi Barrett, illustrated by Ron Barrett, Scholastic, New York, 1978.
I don’t know if this is the inspiration for the movie with the same name.  Very likely it is.  In the town of Chewandswallow the weather delivers food, rather than rain or snow.  However, over time the storms become more and more violent.  This book does not give any reason why this might be happening.  It does point out that the clean-up crew is overwhelmed, and everyone decides to leave for their own safety.  Having food fall on you can be dangerous.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Book Review: Five Kingdoms (3) Crystal Keepers

Five Kingdoms: Crystal Keepers by Brandon Mull, Alladin, New York, 2015.
This is the most fascinating book up to this point.  The crystal keepers have modern technology, which makes computers possible, and email, and communicating with the earth.  In other words it is possible to check on things back home.  One of the pretexts of this series, as that people on earth forget about there own kids when they are kidnapped into the five kingdoms.  Xeropolis was almost destroyed by a computer that was trying to take over everything.  The rogue computer was totally shut off, and thus contained.  This book has a major surprise, which I will not reveal, but Cole finds a new friend from home, as he continues his quest to rescue all his school mates who were kidnapped.  Another immediate rescue is to find one of the princesses, and restore her powers.  However, her powers have been usurped by another computer system, which now wants to take over control of the kingdom.  This is a fascinating read.  I continue to enjoy this series.  I can't read them fast enough.

Picture Book Review: We're Going on a Bear Hunt

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt retold by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, Margaret K. McElderry Books, New York, 1989
This story reminds me of a childhood game “No Bears Are Out Tonight.”  Who is stupid enough to go around tempting a bear, and what do you do when you actually find one.  This family finds out in a hurry; You run.  Somehow, I think if this book had been realistic, the bear would have caught up with someone.  Don’t bears run faster than people?

Picture Book Review: Big Jeremy

Big Jeremy by Steven Kroll, illustrated by Donald Carrick, Holiday House, New York, 1989.
This story is even more fun for our family as one of sons is named Jeremy.  He was the largest chi9ld in the family. In this book, Jeremy is a giant, who is prone to clumsiness.  This is a Paul Bunyan story, except our giant is an apple farmer rather and a lumberjack.  Big Jere,y had things pretty nice, working for the Terison family and enjoying the sunsets at night.  Everything was great until the orchard burned.  Things get worse from there, he blows all the children and grandchildren away blowing out the fire, then he breaks the bridge, and then he dumps them all in the river.  He decides to get away.  This only makes things worse for the Terisons.  The illustrations of Big Jeremy are very comical, and add a great deal to the book.

Movie Review: ****Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

  In this movie the whole unierse descends into chaos.  The emperor AKA Darth Sidious, (Ian McDiarmid) thrives on chaos.  He uses his influence over Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) to bring about his transformation into a powerful Sith Lord.  Anakin does unspeakable things, including the murder of children and women, the Sand People in the last movie, and the younglings in training at the Jedi temple in this movie.  He also dispenses with Count Dooku.  Sidious gives Anakin bad dreams about the demise of his wife, Padme (Natalie Portman) in childbirth.  Anakin is determined not to let her die, and is willing to delve into the dark side to save her.  He is also part of the demise of Mace Windu (Samuel Jackson) who had Sidious, until Anakin intervened.  In the end, the clones turn on the Jedi, as Sidious had planned.  Yoda (Frank Oz) and Sidious meet in a great battle.  At the same time, Obi Wan (Ewan McGregor) faces Anakin in an epoch battle.  Anakin’s action do just the opposite of what he intended; he injures her instead of saving her.  The Jedi go into hiding, and the universe falls into the control of the Galactic Empire. 
I still don’t like the character of Anakin Skywalker, who is dead as Darth Vader emerges.  However I love Yoda, and Mace Windu.  And the line where Kenobi informs Anakin that he has the high ground, that further battle is pointless. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Movie Review: ****Let Thee Be Light (2017)

It is unusual for me to see a movie, but in this case I do, catching the last showing.  This is a movie that leaves you thinking.  I must admit, the beginning of this movie left me feeling very uncomfortable.  Should we pursue Christ, or “Party on.”  I guess if you don’t believe, then “party on” is acceptable.  However, there is so much more.  
In this movie Dr. Sol Harkens (Kevin Sorbo), who is a leading author of atheist books, finds faith after a near death experience, in which he sees his deceased son.  His wife, Katy (Sam Sorbo) has been praying for him.  There children are portrayed by their real life children, but these two carry the film.  If you are an atheist, what do you do with this type of experience?  The scientific wisdom, is that the neurons in the brain are all firing at once, creating hallucinations.  However, this explanation does not work for Sol.  He and his wife take their new found faith, and create a miracle.  Cameos by Sean Hannity and Dionne Warwick. Kevin Sorbo also directed, and Sam Sorbo helped with writing.  This movie is in limited release this week, but with a good showing will get wider release.  Worth seeing and is an alternative to the the "R" stuff showing.

Counting, Picture Book: One Hungry Monster

One Hungry Monster: A Counting Book in Rhyme by Susan Heyboer O’Keefe, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger, Scholistic, New York, 1989.

This is a cute little counting book with 10 out-oc-control little monsters who are greedy, selfish, messy and ungrateful.  It takes a whole book for the boy to come onto their behavior and kick them all out.  The monsters really are rather cute.  I especially like the illustrations when the young boy has finally had enough.  You could call this an angry page.  There are many different ways to draw angry.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Picture Book: The Pumpkin Man from Piney Creek

The Pumpkin man from Piney Creek by Darleen Bailey Beard, illustrated by Laura Kelly, Simon and Schuster for Young Readers, New York, 1995.

This book could be from our local area, where we raise a good percentage of the pumpkins in the United States.  This is a nice story with very nice illustrations.  After selling 100 pumpkins, will there be one left over for Hatie to make a Jack O' lantern.  The pumpkins will bring some needed cash. 
This story has a cute ending, and the illustrations bring the Halloween, pumpkin feel.  I especially like the birds and the pumpkins in the pictures. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones

This movie starts with an impressive explosion, and it doesn't let go.  There are the cloners, and Jenga Fett (Temuera Morrison) as the bounty hunter and gene supply for the clones.  Obi Wan (Ewan McGregor) continues in his roll of training Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen).  the most complex roll is that of Anakin, and I don't know if anyone could pull this off 100 percent, but Anakin has to go from a little boy, to Darth Vader in three easy steps.  Sometimes he comes off as a whining spoiled brat.  Padme (Natalie Portman) puts up with his antics, and in fact falls in love with him.  The wed secretly to end this episode.  Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) is here again.  He is leading the separatist, under the direction of Lord Sidious/Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).  He is such a manipulator, and in fact the Clone Army, which saves the empire, is just that, a big manipulation.  However the Clones are able to save our heroes from certain death at the hands of the drone army.  There is a cameo part of the owner of a cantina.  He is such a fascinating characters.  "Cloners!" is a line so well given.  I don't know if this character was computer generated or not but it was voiced by Ronald Falk.  After Dooku defeats Anakin and Obi Wan, we get to see Yoda in action with his light saber.  It is fun to see him bouncing around.  Story is again provided by George Lucas.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Movie Review: Star Wars: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

In my opinion, the prequel trilogy is not near as good as the three originally made.  That being said, The Phantom Menace has lots going for it.  In this series, we are introduced to a whole new cast of characters,  The holdouts are Darth Sidious/Senator Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), Obi Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker; later Darth Vader (Jake Lloyd) as a boy; and then Yoda (Frank Oz) in a smaller roll.  Two Jedi, Obi Wan and his master, Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neesom) head to a planet to help with negotiations, and land in the middle of a droid army invasion.  Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) is able to escape with the Jedi.  They end up stranded on Tatooine, the Luke Skywalker planet.  Her they meet Anakin and his mother Shmi (Pernilla August).  they are both slaves.  However Anakin has a skill which leads to his freedom, and the Jedi being able to repair their ship.  This is a racing sport, unlike any we have seen, as big chariots, pulled by two engines each, race around the sand dunes.  This race is very dangerous.  To this cast of characters, we add Darth Maul (Ray Park), a Sith Lord.  He challenges the Jedi on a couple of occasions, and Tatooine, and then back on Naboo.  There are two people that live on Naboo.  Queen Amidala only represents half.  In the ocean lives another sentient culture, and it is only with their aide, that the people of Naboo can defeat the droids.  Both peoples must overcome pride to except help from the other.  Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) befriends the Jedi, but is not on good terms with his own people due to his clumsiness.  All tis leads to a classic battle involving Anakin, the Jedi against Darth Maul, and the people of Naboo against the droid army. 
This is a very creative film.  Especially with the sand  racers.  Star Wars keeps introducing us to new worlds and situations, and is always a good ride. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Children's Book Review: Disney's the Haunted House Party

This little book features Donald Duck.  Donald is my favorite Mouseketeer character.  He is invited to a costume party at a haunted house, but Daisy is going with a different duck.  So Huey, Dewey and Louie agree to create some peril so Donald can show himself a hero.  First they come as bats, and Daisy's date runs and hides.  Donald saves the day.  Of course he knows it is his nephews.  then a ghost appears, and Donald again saves the day, and again it is his nephews, but this time Donald didn't know it was them.  He thought they were going to do just one prank.  Fun book if you like the Mouseketeer characters.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Harrison Ford: List of Movies

When it comes to Harrison Ford I like him, and so I give his movies lots of stars.  But so do lots of people because he has been in most of the highest grossing movies.  This list is not complete but will be growing.

***** Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983) Everyone's favorite with action of many different levels

***** Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) The first Star Wars produced

****^ Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) In which Han Solo is frozen

****^  Ender's Game (2013) Plays a grouchy Colonel

**** The Age of Adaline (2015) Portrays the past love, and father of the current love os a woman who doesn't age

**** Sabrina  (1995) A very good remake

****  The Fugitive  (1993)  Great fun with Tommy Lee Jones

****  Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)  A very good beginning to the third trilogy

**** Cowboys and Aliens  (2011)  Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig take on the aliens

***^ 42 (2013) The story of Jackie Robinson

***^ The Frisco Kid  (1979)  With Gene Wilder

***^ Paranoia  (2013)  Industrial espionage

***  Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull   (2008)  I liked this movie less than the other Indian Jones movies.  Perhaps because Shia LaBeouf plays his son.

Movie Review: ***^42 (2013)

This film is the story of Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) as the first Black player to play major league baseball.  42 is the number Robinson wore throughout his career.  The owner of the Dodgers, Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) was looking for a Black player to join the Dodger's organization.  A sports writer suggested Jackie Robinson.  Rickey, according to the film, did this because he was tired of the racism of major league baseball.  Of course there were economic issues as well.  Bringing the black community to the ball park would be good for revenues.  His first year Robinson played with the Toronto Royals, the Dodger's triple A ball club.  This film tells of his success that year, and then the subsequent year with the Dodgers as a rookie.  Robinson had to face serious racial discrimination, at first form his own teammates, who signed a petition not to play if Robinson played, and then from coaches and players on other teams.  This racist vitriol was most poignant from the Philadelphia manager.  Robinson for his part had to learn to keep his place, until he won people over.  Then we could better influence others, and others would sometimes defend him, and he could defend himself.  Robinson proved himself with his bat, base stealing, base running and play in the field.  The Dodgers made it to the World Series his rookie year.
The next year, more teams had black players.  After the ice had been broken, a team was foolish not to draw from this talent pool for his team.  Check out my review of a book about Jackie Robinson with this link.  And here is a blog looking at the veracity of this storytelling of this movie.

Harrison Ford does a good job.  I could hardly recognize him in this character of a baseball owner.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Movie Review: Oliver Twist (2005)

This movie was directed by Roman Polanski.  This is not the musical, but an Oliver Twist (Barney Clark) with a very different ending than from the musical.  This movie is also more strait forward, without speculation as to Oliver's parentage, but he is taken in all the same by Mr. Brownow (Edward Hardwicke, when Oliver is falsely accused of pick pocketing).  However, Fagin (Ben Kingsley), and Bill Sykes (Jamie Foreman) are determined to have Oliver back, based on what he might say; and Sykes uses him to rob his benefactor's home.  However the robbery goes awry.    Nancy (Leanne Rowe) the girlfriend of Bill Sykes has a heart, and feels they should leave the boy alone.  She decides to take things into her own hand.  However this only leads to her own murder.  She and Sykes had a strange relationship based on abuse.  The group take to the country, with the police following them trying to get Sykes.  Again Oliver is chosen as the hostage of Sykes, but still things do not go in Sykes' favor.  In this version Fagin does not get away.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Movie Review: ****50 First Dates (2004)

In truth the number 50 is short, because every day is new to Lucy (Drew Barrymore) following a car accident that destroyed her short term memory.  Her long term memory is in tact, but she cannot remember more than a day at a time.  When she sleeps her memory is reset.  Her father (Blake Clark) and brother (Sean Astin) try to rig things so every day will be the day that she can last remember.  They have a stack of papers from that day.  It is always the father's birthday because that is the day, and they always watch "Sixth Sense."  Enter Henry (Adam Sandler) a worker at the aquarium, who meets this young woman and likes her.  Next time he runs into her she doesn't remember him.  He is puzzled, until her condition is explained to him.  However he is determined to have breakfast with her.  Using manipulation and lies, he finally does.  However she is onto him, and nothing comes of it.  He is determined, and starts to have some success over time.  Then she has a bad day.  A day in which she realizes time has past.  Father and brother come to her rescue, and Henry develops a plan to have a relationship with her.  The question is whether or not the plan will work.  He introduces her to the accident, and her history, the very first thing she wakes up in the morning. 
This is an enjoyable movie.  Barrymore is always good.  Sean Astin is in this movie, but this is not my favorite role for him. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

The National Parks on Audiotree Live (Full Session)

Caleb mentioned that he had seen this band live, and so I decided to check them out.  This set goes pretty slow with the interview/narration.  However I think the idea behind their name and their music is that you feel like you are in a National Park when they sing.  I thing the accomplish that.  The lead singer talks about the music scene around Provo which is interesting.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Movie Review: *****Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)

This tar Wars film again introduces us to a new world.  In this case it is the moon of Endor, where the Empire is constructing another death star super station.  The Battle of Endor then has a battle on three different levels, each with its own significance.  On the surface the Ewoks join a small group from the rebellion to battle for entrance into the station so they can destroy the generator and bring down the shield surrounding the death star.  Then there is the battle in space, as the rebellion sends a fleet of fighters to destroy the new death star.  And finally inside the death star, Luke Skywalker battles his father, Darth Vader, and then also Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).  With battle on all these levels taking place at once, this is an amazing series of action and intrigue.  We are not introduced to new characters.  However Emperor Palpatine plays a much bigger role.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Movie Review: ****^Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

I still love this movie.  It was such a fascinating film.  From the World of Hoth, where Luke Skywalker runs into a snow creature, and Han Solo has to save him, to Han Solo being frozen, and Luke Skywalker is unable to save him, this movie jumps.  The information that Darth Vader shares as to Luke's parentage is classic, "I am your father." is in the vernacular now.  This movie also introduces us to Yoda (Frank Oz), the wise Jedi sage who completes Skywalker's training.  Again we are introduced to interesting worlds and tremendous conflicts, which makes for a great movie.  The ice planet Hoth is an inhospitable planet, Dagobah is over populated with plants and snakes, and the Cloud City of Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) is a mining community in the sky.  The other scene that is classic, is after a chase through an asteroid field and floating away with the garbage.  If not for Bobba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch) the bounty hunter, they would have gotten away.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Movie Review: *****Star Wars: A New Hope

This movie introduced a new universe.  It is the first of the Star Wars movies made.  It was exciting and full of new creatures and worlds and lots of fun.  I know it has been redone, to add more special effects, but the original version is good enough for me.  What is better than a group of young people saving the rebellion.  Lots of fun.
We were also introduced for the most part to a series of new actors:

Mark Hamill...
Harrison Ford...
Carrie Fisher...
Peter Cushing...
Alec Guinness...
Anthony Daniels...
Kenny Baker...
Peter Mayhew...
David Prowse...