Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Children's Book Review: Nate the Great and the Hungry Book Club

Nate the great and the Hungry Book Club by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and Mitchell Sharmat, illustrated by Jody Wheeler, in the style of Marc Simont, Delacorte Press, New York, 2009.
Nate is a detective, so he keeps saying.  However his cases are not very complicated.  In this case, he solves the mystery of pages being ripped out of books.  In other words a detective book without much suspense or excitement.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Movie Review: Facing the Giants

Alex Kendrick and Shannen Fields star as Grant and Brooke Taylor, a couple struggling to have a baby.  Alex is also struggling as a high school football coach.  The team loses their first three games, and aren't together.  It isn't until Grant turns his life over to the Lord, that he starts to have the inspirations needed to get his team to play together, and they come back a completely different team, and with new attitude.  They don't loss after this, except a game in the state finals, but that team is declared ineligible for using players who were too old.  The finally face The Giants in the state title game, and team with three times more players, who are stronger and faster.  And so they face impossible odds, but with God all things are possible.  Kendrick also helped write the screen play.

This movie deals with the theme of infertility.  This story has a fairy tale ending, but in life it does not always work that way.  God has a design for all of us as his children.  Sometimes that includes mothering and fathering in different ways.

TV Review: A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017)

I thoroughly enjoyed this 8 part series taken from the Lemony Snicket books.  the first two episodes are entitled, the Bad Beginning.  And it really is a terrible beginning.  While at the beach, the Baudelaire children, Violet (Malina Weissman), Klaus (Louise Hynes), and Sunny (Presley Smith)  discover that their parent have perished in a fire, and they are farmed by the bank to Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris), who is their closest relative (lives closest) rather than a relative they may have actually met.  Patrick Warburton as Lemony Snicket narrates.  Count Olaf is not a good man, and he will stop at nothing to get his hands on the Baudelaire fortune which is  tied up in trust until violet comes of age.  The Count figure to outwit the banker, Mr. Poe (K. Todd Freeman).  He has had his way so far with his terrible acting company (henchmen).  In the first episode Joan Cusack guest stars as the neighbor who is a judge.  The children wish she could rescue them.  The schemes cooked up by the Count are terribly devious, including his marrying violet, while he holds Baby Sunny as leverage.  Plenty of unfortunate events take place in this movie to keep it entertaining.  The "Turn Away" song at the beginning of each episode is quite entertaining by itself.  Neil Patrick Harris sings the theme song for each episode in the character he has taken.  The Count is like a bad cat that keeps coming back.  In the first he plays himself, an actor, the second he portrays a scientist's assistant, and actually murders the scientist.  the third he is a sea captain with a peg leg, and the fourth he is in drag as the secretary to an optometrist, who is a former love.  There adventures carry them through a lizard room, a cliff by a lake, and finally to a factory where the worker work for nothing.  This is very entertaining.  It is available through Netflix and appears to be a made-for-Netflix series.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Picture Book Review: Green Eggs and Ham: Dr. Seuss

Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss, random House, 1960.  This is a classic from Dr. Seuss.  I really love the emotion Dr. Seuss portrays in the faces of his furry people.  Sam wants his friend to try green eggs and green ham, but his friend will not budge.  The rhyming is classic.  One year, two camp staff at High Sierra read this book as a duet.  It was so fun.  This book is just fun, and tells us sometimes we have to step out of our comfort zone.  This is one of the best children's rhyming books ever.

Children's Book Review: The Poky Puppy

The Poky Puppy, by Janette Sebring, illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren, A Golden Book, New York, 1942.
This is a golden Book classic, about five puppies who keep getting out under the fence.  The Poky puppy always is into something, and gets separated from the others, who go home when they smell the dessert, but don't get any because they got out under the fence.  the Poky Puppy comes later and eats dessert for all of them.  However the last day the rolls are reversed, and  hopefully the puppies have learned their lesson to be more obedient.

Movie Review: ***R.V. (2006)

This is a movie with the take of what happens with abnormal urban family meets a normal hick family.  Bob Munro (Robin Williams) takes his wife on vacation.  However for him this is really a business trip.  He has promised his wife (Cheryl Hines) no business.  They are new to the RV scene.  They have a terrible problem with the sceptic system.  The Gornicke family (Jeff Daniels and Kristin Chenoweth) take them under their wing.  There is some funny stuff with the Munro family trying to avoid them.  There is also an impossible scene, where Bob is trying to keep his business meetings a secret.  He ends up on the front bumper of the RV as it rolls down a tall mountain.  Somehow, the RV ends up in its correct parking space, with Munro under the vehicle.  However, as always happens, when wife discovers what is going on, they take off with the Gornicke family.  The R.V. has landed in the lake, so Munro takes after them on a bike.  Munro also does the right thing in terms of his business.  And the two families have become fast friends.  This movie with its implausibility isn't the best work of Williams.  However Daniels and Chenoweth make up for this, as their characters really bring something to the movie.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Children's Book: One Morning in Maine

One Morning in Maine, by Robert McLoskey, The Viking Press, New York, 1942.
This is a terrific story about life inMaine.  First Sal discovers a lost tooth.  She discovers that a wish could be granted if she wishes on her tooth.  With that thought, she helps her father dig for clams for lunch.  In digging the tooth falls out, and she can't find it.  She runs errands rot town with her father and sister.  Sal discovers that sometimes wishes can come true even if you don't wish on a tooth.

Children's Book Review: Blueberries for Sal

Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey, The Viking Press, New York, 1946.
This is a very fascinating story about a mother and her child, blueberry picking, and a mother bear and her cub, also blueberry picking.  I expected the worse, but with good luck things turned out well in the end.  It took Sal's mother a long time to gather her blueberries, because her child and the bear cub both liked to eat from her bucket.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Movie Review: ***The Lego Batman Movie

I am a bit indifferent about this movie.  There was just too much to follow.  They did come up with a plot, but not near as clever as the Lego Movie.  Batman is a loner, and needs to learn how to rely on people to really be a good guy.  There was only really a couple plays on their Legos.  One they rebuild the bat-mobile, and then they link to save Gotham.  

Will Arnett Batman, Michael Cera Robin, Rosatio Dawson Batgirl, Ralph Fienees the Butler

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Book Review: Fablehaven (2): Rise of the Evening Star

Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star by Brandon Mull, illustrated by Brandon Dorman, Alladin Paperbacks, New York, (2007)
This is the second in this series.  This book starts with the end of school, and Seth and Kendra are almost done with classes.  With just a week to go, a new student appears.  All the students see a handsome boy.  Kendra, because of her experience with the fairies, sees him as an ugly beast.  She tries to protect her friends from him, but this only leads to trouble.  Someone shows up to help, proclaiming to be a monster exterminator type person.  However the process of this gets Seth bit by a monster, who now is intent on devouring the rest of him.  They figure the man has been lying to them, and they are rescued by Vanessa and taken to their grandparents home.  The also meet Tanu and Coulter who are helping their grandparents defend Fablehaven while finding an old powerful relic.  The secrecy of Fablehaven has been compromised, so they want to rescue the artifact and place it elsewhere.
However their is a spy amongst them.  They know because people have been added to the guest list.  Otherwise the magical boundaries would keep them safe.
This book is very tense. It involves good and bad teaming up to accomplish a goal.  However at the same time, it obscures who is good and who is bad and what roles they play in the scheme of things.  Seth is rescues by being placed in a protective egg.  the monster does eat him, but he eventually comes out the other end, and the monster goes dormant again.  In this book, Seth's courage plays a very important part.  As again do Kendra's skills.  However it is Warren and Vanessa who must defeat the protecting beast to rescue the artifact.

Music Reviews: The Beatles: Love

This is an anthology CD of Beatles love songs.  This CD shows that some of the Beatles music is superb, while sometimes it just doesn't work.  Focusing on the good, this CD includes "Get Back," "Eleanor Rigby" "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "Help"  One of the greatest love songs of all time is "Yesterday" and it is here as well.  "Lady in the Sky with Diamond" is beautiful, as are the final trio, "Hey Jude," "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and "All You Need is Love."  Some of the songs I had know idea it was Beatles music, even though I have listened to it since my youth.

Movie Review: ****While You Were Sleeping (1995)

This is another three-way love story.  Lucy (Sandra Bullock) lives a lonely life as a ticket taker at the train station.  She sees a handsome man everyday, and develops a crush on him.  When that man, Peter (Peter Gallagher) is mugged and pushed upon the tracks, she rescues him at peril to her own life.  He is still in a coma from bonking his head in the fall.  She goes the the hospital, and at what point she murmurs of her intent to marry him.  From there she is taken as his fiance, even though they have never met.  His family takes her in.  She is captivated by there love, and is hesitant to tell the truth.  Peter's brother Jack (Bill Pullman) is suspicious.  However at the same time he discovers a flame for her, and she discovers the same.  When Peter wakes, despite not knowing her, he re-proposes to Lucy.  the wedding is on.  Sandra really loves the brother, but doesn't see a way out.  Not until wedding day, does she finally reveal she was never the Peter's fiance.  The real fiance also shows up at the wedding.  Lucy sneaks away, only to be confronted by Jack the next day at work, coming with a wedding ring.

previous post
 "While You Were Sleeping" has Sandra Bullock in it.  It is a 1995 movie.  She works at a ticket window of a train.   She has a crush on a man she sees everyday.He falls on the track, and she saves his life.  However to see him at the hospital, she has to be a relative, and so becomes his fiance.  In truth she has never met him.  He is in a coma, and in the mean time she is taken in by his family.  This puts her in line with his brother, with whom she falls in love.  I really like Sandra Bullock, and this movie really displays her charm.  She is an incredible actress, when given the right venue, and this story is a true romantic comedy and the right venue forher..

Picture Book Review: I Am Not Going to Get Up Today! Dr. Seuss

I Am Not Going to Get Up Today! by Dr. Seuss, illustrated by James Stevenson, Random House Press, New York, 1987.
This is an interesting story about a boy whose bed is warm and his pillow is deep, and he is not getting up.  I have had such days and desires myself, but can't say I have ever slept all day.  The only issue is what to do with his egg, the hen will not take it back.
I love Dr. Seuss.  His stories are always well done.  I like the way the develop with run away imaginings.  However this is not one of my favorite.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Movie Review: ****Sabrina (1995)

This is a story about two brothers, and the daughter of their chauffeur.  The daughter, Sabrina (Julia Ormond), has always had a crush on the younger brother, the playboy David Larrabee (Greg Kinnear).  However the older brother, Linus Larrabee (Harrison Ford) has been the protector of his  brother, and the businessman extraordinaire.  As his brother begins to form an attraction with the chauffeur's daughter, he takes it upon himself to keep her away, by taking her out and dates himself.  We all know in the end where that kind of behavior leads.  This movie is proof positive that Harrison Ford can be romantic and carry the part.  Although at first he is doing it out of obligation, it wears on him.  I enjoyed this love story which is a remake of a 1954 film.

Movie Review: ****Tammy and the bachelor and Song: Debbie Reynolds - Tammy

I have always loved this song, and the movie.  I have a cousin Tammy, and this song reminds me of her.
Debbie Reynolds portrays tammy, a young woman living on the Bayou in a houseboat.  When her grandfather (Walter Brennan) rescues a young man, Peter Brent (Leslie Nielsen) from a plain accident, and brings him home to mend him, Tammy falls in love with him.  Brent eventually heads home to his family estate, with the invitation that should anything happen to grandfather, she should come to Brent Hall.  Grandfather is arrested a couple weeks later for moonshining, and tammy takes up the offer and arrives at Brent Hall.
This is a story about two different worlds mixing.  Most of Brent's friends, especially his girlfriend are dead set against letting a country bumpkin into their crowd.  Brent's mother dislikes her.  Especially when she learns Tammy's grandfather is in jail.
Brent Hall is not currently self sustaining.  Brent is trying to develop a tomato to change that.  He is also offered a job in the city.  tammy struggles with her feelings for Hall and whether they are returned.
Tammy dresses in a gown loaned to her by Brent's Aunt and previously worn by great grandmother for Pilgrimage, an annual event.  Tammy is charming.  However when a hail storm destroys the tomatoes Brent decides to take the job offer.  Tammy is devastated and runs away back to the bayou.  Brent realizes he returns her love, and seeks her out.  the movie ends with a kiss.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Music Review: Thanksgiving: A Windham Hill Collection

This is a collection of fourteen musical numbers with a Thanksgiving theme.  I prefer the songs I recognize; "We Gather Together, "Simple Gifts," "Amazing Grace" and "Allejah."  This is good music for the background, but this music isn't the kind to get your blood boiling.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Movie Review: ****Woodlawn (2015)

This is football movies at their finest; especially if the goal is building men.  This movie tells the true story of Tony Nathan (Caleb Castille) and his experience playing football as an African American at a White school in the days of desegregation.  He encounters subtle racism, and blatant hate a racism as a result.  However he has a gift, and that is his football.  He doesn't get the opportunity the first few games, but when he does he makes the most of it, and quickly replaces the tail back and becomes a star.  He even leads the team to a lopsided victory over an undefeated team.  However there is always that last hurdle to climb.  This movie is also about those people who help him along the way.  The Christian youth chaplain, (Sean Astin) his coach (Tandy Gerelds) and coach Bear Bryant (John Voight).
This movie had me in the came and was very entertaining.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Picture Book Review: Maybe you should fly a jet! Maybe you should be a vet! Dr. Suess

Maybe you should fly a jet!  Maybe you should be a vet!  Dr. Seuss as Theo. LeSieg, illustrated by Michael J. Smollin, Random House, New York, 1980.
This is a very simple exploration of different life-long paths which may be available to a young person.  There are 78 possibilities mentioned.  My favorite was the hammock tester.  I also like bring a voice, which is now a popular TV program.  I don't like the end, making up a rhyme for voice and choice.  Foice just doesn't cut it.  The illustrations are adequate, but there is nothing terribly memorable.  However their are four panoramic illustrations which are interesting with a glass blower, mushroom grower, fishbone boner and roller coaster owner.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Book Review: Fablehaven

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull, illustrated by Brandon Dorman, Deseret Book Alladin Paperbacks (original Deseret Book) New York, 2006.
This is a fantastic read in the young adult mythical fiction variety.  We are introduced to a new world, and in particular the faerie resort at Fablehaven, where Grandma and Grandpa preside over a refuge.  Grandmother is missing, and Kendra and Seth come to stay for a couple weeks while their parents are on a cruise.  They find lots of rules, with little explanation.  Seth ventures beyond his boundaries time and again, and comes close to falling into deep trouble many times.  His disobedience finally gets them all the adults captured.  He does manage to save the chicken.  When Seth gets captured as well, things look really desperate for Kendra, who must save everyone, from a witch, imps and other strange creatures.
This story is very clever and original and a fun read.

Picture Book Review: The Big Honey Hunt, Berenstain Bears

The Big Honey Hunt by Stan and Jan Berenstain, Random House, New York, 1962.
This book carries on a common theme, the bungling Papa Bear wises up and follows Mama Bear's advice.  In this case she says get some honey from the store.  However Papa Bear wants to harvest his own in the wild, so the follow a bee through many mishaps, until they finally find the honey tree.  The bees are not so anxious to give up the honey however, so the visit the store on the way home.

****Disney Movie Review: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

This is an animated musical version of the Hunchback of Notre Dame a Victor Hugo story.  The Hunchback, Quasimodo (Tom Hulce) looks down on the city, but never is able to join in because of his confinement to Notre Dame, put on him by his master Frollo, the Minister of Justice (Tony Jay).  Frollo is obsessed with ridding the city of gypsies.  Frollo resents the sanctity of the Church, but had been forced to accept it when he killed Quasimodo's mother, a gypsy, and wanted to do the same with Quasimodo.  the Archdeacon (David Ogden Stiers) had intervened.  One of the people Quasimodo watches is Esmeralda, the gypsy dancer (Demi Moore and Heidi Mollenhauer.  Frollo also watches her, and is filled with passion which haunts him.  The last character is the Captain of the Guard, Phoebus (Kevin Kline).  He helps her escape from soldiers harassing gypsies.  Quasimodo finally ventures out of the church on All Fools Day.  Esmeralda discovers him, and promotes him for King of Fools, thinking it is a good thing.  However the people tie him up, and start pelting him with fruit.  He cries for relief from his master, who insists there is a lesson be learned.  It is Esmeralda who shows compassion, and challenges the Minister, freeing Quasimodo.  The Minister orders her arrest, and the Captain reluctantly pursues her.  She enters the church to hide, and when he The Captain finds her there, insists she claim sanctuary.  In this way she spends time with Quasimodo, who helps her to escape.  The reaction from the minister is to burn the city looking for her.  He is obsessed.  Either she is his, or she is dead, he cannot see any other way.  The final can only be tragic with such obsessive compassion haunted the Minister.
The highlight of the movie is the song from Esmeralda as she prays for nothing for herself but for her people the down trodden:
I don't know if You can hear me
Or if You're even there
I don't know if You would listen
To a gypsie's prayer
Yes, I know I'm just an outcast
I shouldn't speak to you
Still I see Your face and wonder...
Were You once an outcast too?

God help the outcasts
Hungry from birth

Show them the mercy
They don't find on earth
God help my people
We look to You still
God help the outcasts
Or nobody will

I ask for nothing
I can get by
But I know so many
Less lucky than I
Please help my people
The poor and downtrod
I thought we all were
The children of God
God help the outcasts
Children of God

Alan Menken wrote the music with lyrics by Stephen Schwartz.  The production was nominated for several Academy awards including best music.  The colors of the show make this film a work of art.  they use stained glass, and colors of the street, and the fire very effectively.  Also effective are the miniature figures and scene the Hunchback produces. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Movie Review: ***^Saturday's Warrior (2016)

I have been thinking some on the new Saturday's Warrior movie.  It was a gift for Christmas.  Generally I like it, but I have a couple things I don't like.  The new song for the movie "There's Got to be More" is a lovely song, but I am not sure if it fits.  However the "Line Upon Line" sequence is beautifully done.  One thing I really miss, is the four-way music with Jimmy, his family, his friends and his sisters in heaven.  This is the apex of the musical, and it is replaced by a father's hug.  The hug in its own way is very nice, but not the same.  That said, turning the Flinders into a musical family is a nice touch, and rejecting the nose song another nice touch.  The conflict between music and church is well done.  We have experienced that in our own family as our kids struggled with how they could keep up their music and their religion.
Overall I give this very positive marks, but still doesn't carry the power of seeing the musical for the first time many years ago.  The choir is lacking, maybe that is why.
Cast includes Tod Richards (Mason D. Davis) Jimmy Flinders (Kenny Holland) Pam Flinders (Anne Daines) and Julie Flinders (Monica Moore Smith).  It also includes cameos by Alex Boye as the Heavenly Guide, and the Piano Guys.

Movie Review: ***^End of the Spear (2005)

This movie is haunting, and tells of the struggle of peoples when cultures clash.  Five missionaries are intent on transforming the Waodani people of Eastern Ecuador.  This is an ancient tribe, which feuds with another tribe and the go back and forth killing each other.  For anyone to become a grandfather is not heard of.
The missionaries finally land, and appear to be making friends.  However language difference lead to the Waodoni with Mincayani (Louie Leonardo) as leader.  Among those killed is  Nate Saint (Chad Allen) and the story is told from the reference of his son Steve Saint (Chase Ellison and Chad Allen). Other important character , who are essential to the interaction with the Waodani are Dayumae (Christina Souza) who is Waodani  but taken by the whites and raised by them, and Aunt Rachel (Sara Kathryn Bakker).  She spearheads the visit of women to the tribe as tribal men are less likely to see them as a threat.  Opportunity comes for the mission to flourish, and for the two factions of the tribe to come together and stop killing.  This is also a movie of healing, as Steve Saint returns to Ecuador upon the death of his aunt, and Mincayani confesses his part in the killing of his father.
This movie is very thought provoking.  It is true that the Waodani couldn't continue their killing ways, and their lives are better from the change, but it makes you wonder whether outside influence is always good.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Kathy Mattea - Where've You Been?

This was song of the year in 1990.  It is easy to understand why.  This song touches the heart.  Mattea's husband (John Vezner) and Don Henry wrote this song.  It is about John's own grandparents.  They had been in the same hospital, but didn't know it.  In her confusion grandmother had become mute.  Until they finally brought her husband into the room.  She said "Where have you been."  At first Kathy did not want to sing this, knowing it would be hard to perform in concert because of the emotions.  However she finally relented.  She wanted it simple, acoustic guitar, piano and upright bass.