Sunday, April 30, 2017

Book Review: The Ersatz Elevator: A Series of Unfortunate Events Book the Sixth

The Ersatz Elevator: A series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Sixth, by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist, Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 2001.
I keep coming back to these books, and the reason I think is because of the characters, the three orphans, and the evil Olaf.  However in this book we are introduced to a new villain, the Count's girlfriend, Esme.  She is evil as he, and very devious besides.  In this case, the orphans must climb down and elevator shaft (a fake elevator, to rescue their friends the Quagmire Triplets.  However in this they don't succeed, and they almost end up falling to the bottom.
Strange thing the discover, a tunnel leading from the apartment complex of Esme, their guardian, to the ruins of their home that was burned.
Again lots of fun, with peril and problem solving, which things make for a good book.  The illustrations are unique in that the give a different angle to look at things.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Movie Review: the Zoo Keeper's Wife

This is a movie that makes you think.  I really enjoyed it.  I am totally engrossed with movies about nazi atrocities, and the Holocaust.  In this case the movie deals with the Warsaw ghetto.  Antonina (Jessica Chastain) and Jan Zabinski (Johan Elderbergh) run the Warsaw Zoo.  The zoo was bombed with the initial Nazi incursion into Warsaw.  More were killed by both sides as the animals were dangerous, and many had escaped.  Some were rescued and returned to their pens.
After the Nazi take over, Lutz Heck (Daniel Bruhl) (of the Berlin Zoo) takes many animals for safe keeping to Berlin.  However he returns.  He has a thing for Antonina.  Being a Nazi he controls them in a way.
The Zabinskis see what is happening to their friends in the ghetto.  They at first bring a friend to stay in their cellar.  However they become more involved, bringing many to their home, using a garbage collection.  they need the scraps for feeding pigs, to feed the Nazis.  Something they can do with the zoo pens.  However it also acts as cover for the escape of many Jews from the ghetto.
The would eventually help hundreds, and lose only two who were murdered.
Jan eventually joins the Polish resistance.  He is shot, and Antonina has no idea what has come of him.  In this atmosphere, the Russians are coming and the Nazis are about to fall.  Lutz discovers the operation, and also controls the family.  With that power over the family, it is amazing they escape unscathed.
Disclaimer: this film is rated PG 13.  It does have war violence against people and animals.  It also has brief nudity.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Children's LIterature: The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl

The Magic finger by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake, Puffin Books (Penguin Books), London, 1964.

This is a cute short story with the theme of putting ourselves in someone else's shoes.  In this case, a family is turned into duck, while the ducks take over their home, after they get carried away with their hunting.  This could be considered an anti-hunting book, but I interpret it to be not getting over ambitious, but to do things in moderation.  I probably have it wrong, but I think people should be able to hunt in its proper place.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Movie: ****The Bridge Over the River Kwai (1957)

This is one o those stories where sometimes the means don't justify the end.  In order to build morale of their men, the officers at a prisoner of war camp run by the Japanese with Allied prisoners, determine that they should participate in the forced labor required by the Japanese, but not only participate but do a good job.
At the same time, the Allies send a team to blow up the bridge being built by the prisoners.  In the end, these decisions pit Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) against Shears (William Holden) one of the Allies who has come to blow up the bridge.  When Nicholson discovers the plot, he informs the Japanese, but then realizes his mistake.  "What have I done?  What have I done? he exclaims, as he depresses the plunger to blow up the bridge.  Classic scene.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Picture Book: Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! Dr. Seuss

Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! by Dr. Seuss, A Bright and Early Reader, Random House, New York, 1972.
This book is delightful, but most delightful because of the Dr. Seuss pictures.  He is using simple words, and sometimes a picture can carry the story better than words.  Such is the case here, us you look and wonder at some of the things Marvin could use to leave.  So just to see these pictures, this book is tremendous.

Movie Review: ***^The Teacher's Pet (1958)

This is a romantic comedy featuring Doris Day and Clark gable.  Gable plays James Gannon ,the newspaper man, who has come up through the business and is now editor of a large newspaper.  Day plays Erica Stone, a professor of journalism, who has asked Gannon to be a guest lecture for her class.  At at first declined, in a nasty letter.  However his boss insists he go, and after Stone reads the letter, he is too embarrassed to admit he wrote it, but is intrigued by Stone, and stays for the class, and even enrolls.  He becomes her best student.
As far as the romance goes, Gannon feels he has a competitor in Dr.  Pine (Gig Young) but in fact they are collaborating on a book.  There is some fancy competition between the two in terms of who can hold their liquor.
The romance goes well, until, as it always does, Stone discovers the deception.  Now these two people who like each other, must figure out how to get past this indiscretion.
This play is a bit short on comedy, but I enjoyed it, having been a journalism student for a time.
Another tid-bit, Day had first intended to be a dancer.  She does do some dancing in this movie with Dr. Pine.  

Friday, April 21, 2017

Picture Book: The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit, Beatrix Potter

The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter, F. Warne & CO., London, 1906.
This is how a rabbit, proud and haughty and selfish gets his high sailing tail blown off.  It always pays to be nice.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Picture Book: Appley Dappley's Nursery Rhymes, Beatrix Potter

Appley Dappley's Nursery Rhymes by Beatrix Potter, illustrated by Frederick Warne, Penguin Books, London, 1917.
This is a short and sweet rhyming story of a mouse.  However it also shows several other creatures, including a mole, guinea pig, rabbits and pig and sedge hog.  I think the line I like best is that the woman who lived in a shoe with such a large family must have been a mouse, or they would not have fit.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Picture Book Review: The Story of Miss Moppet, Beatrix Potter

The Story of Miss Moppet by Beatrix Potter, illustrated by Frederick Warne, Penguin Books, London, 1906.
This is the story of a kitten, and his interactions with a mouse.  The mouse learns that you should not get too close to the kitten; and the kitten learns that if you play with a mouse, it is likely to get away.

Movie Review: Curious George 2: Follow that Monkey (2009)

This is a cute story about Curious George, but it lacks the peppy music of the original movie.  The music is written by Heitor Pereira, who actually wrote music for the first.  Pereira and Carbon Leaf provide the vocals.
The story centers around George determining that the performing elephant for a magic show is not happy.  He wants to see his siblings, who live in California.  George and the elephant are in new York.  that doesn't keep George from leading the elephant to freedom, and onto the California Express.  The man in the Yellow Hat follows.  There is a crazy security guard who wants to capture them all for kidnapping.  However, in the end, the magician turns out to be an OK type, and he even buys the other elephants so they can all be together.
Frank Welker provides voice for George, with no real words this would be hard.  Ted, the man in the Yellow Hat is voiced by Jeff Bennett.  In this version Nickie Bryar takes over the roll of Maggie, Ted's girlfriend.  Jamie Kennedy plays the crazy security guard, and Tim Curry portrays the magician, Piccadilly.  Of course this is based on the characters of H.A. Rey and Margret Rey.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Book Review: The Austere Academy: A Series of Unfortunate Events 5

The Austere Academy: A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Fifth by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist, Harper Collins Publisher, New York, 2000.
Thins become even more unfortunate for our orphans, however in this book they make some friends; only for them to be snatched away.  The austere academy is Prufrock Preparatory, and a good environment for children it is not.  The vice principle, Mr. Nero should not be anywhere near children.  And belittling of orphans seems to be encouraged, and in fact is promoted and conducted by the vice-principle who forces the Baudelaires to live in a shack, with mold and toe pinching crabs.  When the school gets a new gym teacher things go from bad to dreadful; and we can all guess who that teacher is.  The gym teacher requires the children to run laps all night, so there is no way they can do their school work during the day--they are just too tired.  So they can't figure out what the plan of Count Olaf might be.

Movie Review: **^Lilo and Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch (2005)

This movie covers the theme of what happens if more of the egg pods, which hatched Stitch, start hatching.  How will they keep from causing terrible damage.  It also pits the evil people  from the empire trying to get revenge on Stitch and the others, and regain them for their own evil designs.  In this movie again relationships are tested.  Stitch is hard to live with at times, and Lilo seems to get blamed for some of his troubles.  However by the end, they are an official finding of alien creatures team.
Dakota Fanning takes over the role of Lilo, Stitch is voiced by Chris Sanders, David Ogden Stiers plays the misguided professor.

Picture Book Review: The Tale of Little Pig Robinson, Beatrix Potter

The Tale of Little Pig Robinson by Beatrix Potter, illustrated by Frederick Warne, Penguin Group, London, 1930.
Here is the tale of a pig, living with his two aunts.  When the cart to market is not working, the aunts are forced to send Robinson to market to sell their eggs and buy needed supplies.  Robinson does well with the marketing, but then falls in with a cook, who wants to show him his boat.  That is how he is waylaid and taken to sea.  However they treat him well, and give him every good thing to eat.  It is only when he hears the Captain and cook talking about the upcoming birthday party for the captain, with a menu of pork and applesauce, that the pig realizes he is in trouble.  However the cat, who has been trying to give the pig hints throughout, finally goes into action, gets the pig on a row boat, while putting holes in the other boats, and sends the pig on his way to a chain of islands which doesn't have enough draft for the main ship.  The little pig makes it to shore, and takes up residence on an island that supplies ample food and water, and decides not to return to hi home country, but  stay on the island and live like Robinson Crusoe.  This is a book with less pictures and more writing than most her books, but still I enjoyed the story.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Book review: The Miserable Mill: A Series of Unfortunate Evens Book the Fourth

The Miserable Mill: A Series of Unfortunate Evens Book the Fourth by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist, Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 2000.

this is the most disturbing of the Unfortunate Book to this point, because this book uses hypnotism, and manipulating of one of the siblings to do evil work.  In this book the caretaker for the children is indifferent and aloof, and abusive.  He requires the children to work in bad conditions, does not feed them properly, and never even divulges his name, nor his face at it is always surrounded by cigar smoke.
However it is the optometrist and her secretary that are the big problem in this book.  Their office is shaped like the tattoo of an eye on the Count's ankle.  Even though their caretaker promises to keep Count Olaf away, he is their disguised as a secretary spying on the children.
Klaus is hypnotized, and violet must find a way to save hime by reading.  For his part, Klaus has to invent something to save the day from a terrible accident.  Sunny uses his teeth as a sword in a vicious sword fight.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Picture Book Review: Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel

Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1939.
This is one of the good old classic books which children continue to love.  Even though steam shovels are outdated; this story is not.  Mike Mulligan are an inseparable team.  Mike feels he and his steam shovel can do as much work in a day, as a hundred men with shovels in a week.  As it turns out, he ends up having to prove it.
The part I like about this story is that Mike and his steam shovel find a way to retire together.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Picture Book Review: Fox in Socks

Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss, random House Beginner Books, New York, 1965.
This book come with a warning which should be headed, "Take it slowly; This book is dangerous!"  It is one tongue twister after another.  This makes it almost impossible to read.  It leaves your head spinning after every page as you try to imagine in your brain what you just read and make sense of it all.  I am sure it makes perfect sense, but it is the comprehension that comes slowly.  great fun if you take it stead and keep from getting frustrated.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Music Review: No Fences: Garth Brooks

This is good old country music.  Some of it is beer drinking music, which I was never into.  Included in this set is "I Got Friends in Low Places" which was a very successful song.  The song I like the most is one about prayer, Unanswered Prayer."  This song really touches a cord.  It also teaches a valuable lesson, that the master of all sometimes knows best:

"Unanswered Prayers"

Just the other night at a hometown football game
My wife and I ran into my old high school flame
And as I introduced them the past came back to me
And I couldn't help but think of the way things used to be

She was the one that I'd wanted for all times
And each night I'd spend prayin' that God would make her mine
And if he'd only grant me this wish I wished back then
I'd never ask for anything again

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you're talkin' to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn't answer doesn't mean he don't care
Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

She wasn't quite the angel that I remembered in my dreams
And I could tell that time had changed me
In her eyes too it seemed
We tried to talk about the old days
There wasn't much we could recall
I guess the Lord knows what he's doin' after all

And as she walked away and I looked at my wife
And then and there I thanked the good Lord
For the gifts in my life

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you're talkin' to the man upstairs
That just because he may not answer doesn't mean he don't care
Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered

Some of God's greatest gifts are all too often unanswered...
Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

Picture Book Review: The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies

The tale of the Flopsy Bunnies by Beatrix Potter, illustrated by Frederick Warne, Penguin group, London, 1909.
This is the story of the family of Benjamin Bunny, who married his cousin Flopsy Bunnie.  Their children where known collectively as the Flopsy Bunnies.  Benjamin took the children scavenging, and found some over large lettuce leaves in the trash heap of Farmer McGregor.  It is wondrous the effect a leaf of lettuce can have on bunnies.  Soon the bunnies, as well as Benjamin were all sleeping in the grass clippings, only Benjamin thought to cover himself with and old sack.  When farmer McGregor dumped additional grass clippings on the heap, he spied the little bunnies and thought to have a good feast.  He bagged them up, six little bunnies.  He then returned to put the mower away before heading home.  Mrs. Tittlemouse, Benjamin Bunny, and his wife who had come looking for him, were frantic to save the children.  But the know was too tight.  However Mrs. Tittlemouse thought to gnaw the bag with her teeth.  The replaced the children with items from the trash heap and the farmer went home with ta bag of old vegetable than rabbit meat and fur.  Mrs. Tittlemouse would be rewarded by the bunnies, but the farmer would be chastised by his wife for such a cruel trick.

I like both these short simple stories as well as the pictures which add to the story.

Picture Book: The Eensy Weensy Spider

This is the common children's song, with pictures.  Included are the hand signals for the song in a corner.  The illustrations are unique as they are made with cutouts, with one animal from each scene carrying over to the next pictures.  It is very clever.
Eensy Weensy Spider, illustrations by Lauren Attinello, A Golden Book, Racine, Wisconsin 1995.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Picture Book Review: The Tale of Benjamin Bunny

The Tale of Benjamin Bunny by Beatrix Potter, color reproduction by Frederick Warne, Frederick Warne and Company, London, 1904.
Tis is the tale of Benjamin, who is the cousin of Peter and his siblings.  This takes place shortly after the "Tale of Peter Rabbit" and Benjamin finds Peter without clothes, because he lost them to the gardner who made of them a scarecrow.  However Benjamin had seen the farmer and his wife headed to town, so new they would be gone for some time.  He and Peter go to fetch the clothes.  Peter is wary the entire time, but they get to the clothes in easy fashion.  Its getting home that is difficult.  The cat comes upon them, and they hide in a basket.  When the cat takes a nap on top of the basket they are trapped.  Only the coming of Benjamin's father proved their salvation.
The color reproductions really are nice, and they are throughout the book rather than just on the cover.  They add something to the presentation and help tell the story.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

"Ashes" by Subject to Change

This is an early Mark song, which he sang with his band Subject to Change.  Andrew Loc and Chris Chavez and Mark stayed together and changed their name to As December Leaves.  This song is about my father.

Chains of Addiction, "You're Still Here" As December Leaves

Picture Book Review: Put Me in the Zoo

Put Me in the Zoo, by Robert Lopshire, Random House, New York, 1960.
Some animals just aren't fit for the zoo.  In this case we have a large cat, that can do many things with its spots.  But is it appropriate for the zoo?  It is not.  It is terrific the way the illustrator puts those spots all over everything.  And as often happens, this large cat finally found his place to shine.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Book Review: The Wide Window: A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Third

The Wide Window: A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Third, by Lemony Snicket, illustrations by Brett Helquist, Scholastic Inc, New York, 2000.
This is the continuing sage of the Baudelaire children and their nemesis Count Olaf.  In this story, the children are placed with a well meaning guardian, but who is so overwhelmed by her own fears she is unable to provide a good home.  They always eat cold food because she is afraid of the stove.  She is also afraid of the phone and just about everything else.  This is since her husband was eaten by leaches which live in the lake lake next to their home.  In the end, she runs away and hides, leaving everyone thinking she had committed suicide.  They important lesson the children are learning is that as a team they are pretty formidable.  However they each have their own part to play, even Sunny the baby.  Violet figures things out, Klaus knows about books, and maps, and Sunny is good as just doing what needs to be done.  The banker continues to be a fool, and often makes decisions which are harmful to the children.  And the Count keeps coming back, this time as a sea Captain.
I am still having fun with this series of books.
I have been looking more closely at the illustrations in light of the illustrator being a graduate of BYU.  The front cover has a color picture and the rest is sketches.  However I am intrigued how with lines, a person can make ruffled clothing, or waves of an angry ocean.  very well done.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Movie Review: ***Cocoon: The Return (1988)

The original Cocoon movie was new and fresh, while this movie seems like a rerun of the original.  Not very fresh nor novel, but just replayed.  Most of the original characters are here again.  the Maritime Institute actually finds one of the cocoons.  Fortunately Sara (Courteney Cox) is sympathetic, and they are able to steal the alien back,  after the cocoon had been opened.  Actors playing the older people home for visit include Don Ameche, Wilford Brimley, Maureen Stapleton, Jessica Tandy, Hume Cronyn and Gwen Verdon.  The four old guys playing basketball against a young crowd was a bit of a stretch.  Jack Gilford plays the friend they left behind, and Elaine Stritch his new girlfriend of sorts; however he has difficulty leaving his wife'e memory out of things.  Kitty (Tahnee Welch) the beautiful alien and Jack (Steve Guttenberg) rekindle their love relationship.  In the end, only one couple, the pregnant couple, decide to return.  they need the benefit of no health issues to assure the baby will be OK.  All the others decide to stay.

Movie Review: Beauty and the Beast

This is a classic made even more so by this version.  Emma Watson as Belle does well, and Dan Stevens as the beast, with his booming bass voice is stupendous.  I don't like that they cut the songs of Gaston (Luke Evans) for the most part.  Josh Gad played LeFou, and Kevin Kline plays Belle's father Maurice.  Of the animated characters Ewan McGregor plays Lumiere, Ian McKellan portrays Cogsworth and Emma Thompson, Mrs. Potts.  the part of the film that had me in tears was as Mrs. Potts sang the classic song "Beauty and the Beast."  As the couple danced and Emma Thompson sang, it is one of those Disney moments to cherish.  It seems there is at least one such moment in all the Disney musicals.  Also of note is Audra McDonald as Madame Garderobe.  At the beginning of the movie, she intones a beautiful song.  She is turned into the wardrobe.  there are four original songs in the movie.  Consequently the additional songs from the musical were left out.  Alan Menken returned to write the additional music.
This is a must see.  It seems they left out some of the Gaston stuff I would have liked to have seen.  I think they didn't want his character to be lovable at all.  In fact when he fell at the end of the movie, a child said "Ha ha" and people laughed.  And yes, Emma Watson was beautiful as Belle.  She had the touch of pizazz that this character needs.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Movie Review: The Yearling

This movie has a double meaning, is the yearling the deer, or is the yearling the boy.  Here we have a family living on the frontier.  They have had hardship, with two babies passing away.  They have one son remaining.  Mother (Jane Wyman) is embittered by the deaths, while father (Gregory Peck) does what he can to bring her out of her depression.  Their son, Jody (Claude Jarmon Jr.), is caught in the middle.  During this film, Jody grows up considerable.  Part of that growing, he takes over more and more of the farming work as his father is laid up.  His father allows him to adopt a fawn.  This does great wonders for his esteem; however when the deer starts eating everything they plant, their lives are at stake.  The deer just won't learn different.  The inevitable has to happen, but even so Jody runs off.  He intends to make it to the river, but in the end he can't leave things this way and returns.

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole IZ in Concert Full Live Album YouTube

Much of this concert is in Hawaiian, so I didn't understand much.  However Israel made beautiful music with both his ukulele and his voice.  Israel "Iz" Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole was a large man with a large heart.  This concert was presented in Las Vegas.  This concert does not include "Over the rainbow" or "What a Wonderful World."