Thursday, March 23, 2017

Picture Book review: The tale of two Bad Mice

The tale of Two Bad Mice by Beatrix Potter, Frederick Warne, London, 1904.
This is a reproduction of the original.  These mice aren't really bad, except that the have a very bad anger reaction when they come upon what they think is a feat, only to find that the food is not real, but plastic food for a doll house.  In their temper they commit an act of vandalism against the doll house.  However, they make up for it later when they help clean up and they leave a coin they found to help pay for repairs.  What is the reason to have plastic food around anyway?
I enjoy these stories.

Book Review: Jack London: Five great Short Stories

Five great Short Stories, by Jack London, Dover Publications, New York, 1992.
These stories are well titled, they are great.  They are taken from some of Jack London's books, Tales of the far North, South Sea tales and The Night-born.  It shows London was a much broader writer than just the Klondike north, although that is were he produced his best work.  The characters in these stories are fascinating.  He writes of the South Pacific, and he writes of the Mexican Revolution, as well as the far North.  He tells the story of a Native, whose wife is stolen and spends his life trying to find her, and when he does, she does not want him back, of two men who are bound to kill each other, of the death of another man on the winter trail, of the guiding of a boat which is on fire, and lastly of a young revolutionary.  I was drawn into to each of the stories and enjoyed them.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Movie Review: ****Pete's Dragon (1977)

This is the original Pete's Dragon, and it is a bonafide musical.  I really enjoy musicals so I have to give this movie the nod as to the best Pete's Dragon.  Nora (Helen Reddy) lives with her father (Mickey Rooney) where the tend a light house.  The come upon an orphan boy who is running from his adoptive parents, who mean for him to do their work and they are abusive to him.  Mrs. Gagon, the mother is portrayed by Shelley Winters.  The other two character are a shyster doctor (Jim Dale) and his assistant (Red Buttons).  When the doctor gets word of a dragon he is determined to catch him and chop him up so he can use every bit.  There is plenty to like with this movie, but it is another one of those bad adoption stories.  However the relationship between Nora and Pete is sweet.  She is able to become his new mother.
Reddy sings a very popular song, "Candle on the Water:"
I'll be your candle on the water
My love for you will always burn
I know you're lost and drifting
But the clouds are lifting
Don't give up you have somewhere to turn
I'll be your candle on the water
'Till ev'ry wave is warm and bright
My soul is there beside you
Let this candle guide you
Soon you'll see a golden stream of light
A cold and friendless tide has found you
Don't let the stormy darkness pull you down
I'll paint a ray of hope around you
Circling in the air
Lighted by a prayer
I'll be your candle on the water
This flame inside of me will grow
Keep holding on you'll make it
Here's my hand so take it
Look for me reaching out to show
As sure as rivers flow
I'll never let you go
I'll never let you go
I'll never let you go...

In this version Pete the dragon is animated while the rest of the characters are real.  I have already really loved this show.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Disney Movie Review: ***^Hercules (1997)

Not the best Disney, I must admit.  Hades' side kicks were just too obnoxious.  However that one song, "Go the Distance" makes this a worthwhile experience.  It was sung by Roger Bart even though Hercules was voiced by Tate Donovan and Josh Keaton.  Meg, his love interest is played by Susan Egan, and she also sings the song, "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)."  In this movie Hercules must save the day, but this is after he gives away his heroic strength to save Meg.
The love interest plays a good part in making this movie enjoyable.  Alan Menken wrote the music.  Charlton Heston also has a cameo part.

Movie Review: **The Accidental Husband (2008)

This is a romantic comedy.  Sometimes I think the producers of these shows miss the mark, and consequently I can't give this show high marks.  First the main character commits a crime by hacking some one's data, with the help of a juvenile family member because only juveniles know anything about computers, and makes himself the husband of a radio commentator who he blames for ruining his own chances at love.  And at one time he forces himself on her, despite her repeated requests to stop.  Of course this is one of the scenes if you push hard enough eventually they will like it.  How many rapes are justified with that attitude.  So even though this movie is cute and all, I cannot recommend it.  I was hoping the fiance would win in the end, but I was disappointed.
fireman and hacker (Jeffrey Dean Morgan)
The radio host (Uma Thurman)
the fiance (Colin Firth)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Animated Movie Review: Coraline (2009)

If this movie doesn't, no movie ever will convince you not to creep around the attic.  It also teaches that sometimes things are not what they seem.  Coraline (Dakota Fanning) goes through the attic to meet her other parents.  They are nicer than her real parents, and she is drawn to them, until it is almost too late.  I really like the depiction of the cat.  The animation was very similar to a Tim Burton movie, with its long limbs and skinny bodies, unless the opposite is emphasized.  It was written and directed by Henry Selick.

Music Review: Frankie Valli: Romancing the 60s

There are some songs in this 1960s set that are worth remembering.  Frankie Vlli started with The Four Seasons before launching a solo career.  It appears this was recorded by Frankie Valli in 2007 of songs he like from the 60s.  Most are covers.  My favorite is "What a Wonderful World" but admittedly this isn't my favorite version of the song.   "Any Day Now" is very nice.  I really like the opening, "I'll bless the day I found you."  It is sung with great sentiment.   "Let it be Me" and "Call Me" are also in this same vein, beautiful songs.  "My Girl" is also very nice and has that special feel.  However the cream here is "On Broadway."  This song was an original for the Drifters.  This is a song that gets you moving.  "They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway.  They say there's always magic in the air."  This song gets you moving.

Musical Movie Review: ***^Brigadoon (1954)

Gene Kelly puts his spin on this Lerner and Loewe musical.  Kelly is credited with the choreography.  This is a musical I was in at one point in my life, so the story I know well.  They did some nice things here, and the left out some which I miss.  Tommy Allbright (Gene Kelly) and Jeff Douglas (Van Johnson) are hunting when they loss their way.  Out of the mist a town, Brigadoon, which is not on the map.  It is a magical town.   Here we see what happens when two cultures collide.  It proves well for Tommy, and a nightmare for Jeff.  Tommy meets Fiona (Cyd Charisse) and Charlie Dalrymple (Jimmy Thompson) and his fiance Jean (Virginia Bosler), Fiona's sister.  The miracle town is doomed when one member of the town decides to leave.  His leaving will end the miracle and they will all be doomed.   The part that was minimized in the movie is that of Meg (Dodie Heath) in fact they cut both of her songs, as well as a Fiona song.
However they add a rousing tap number, with the Scottish characters being totally amused by something new, as well as some nice dance scenes.  The big dance is after the wedding.

Picture Book Review: The Bike Lesson (Berenstain Bears)

The Bike Lesson, Stan and Jan Berenstain, Random House, New York, 1964.
This is my favorite Berenstain Bear.  I love how Papa Bear gives the bike lessons, and when things go wrong he keeps saying, let that be a lesson how not to do things.  He doesn't lose a beat.  This is a common theme in the Berenstain Bear books, and they seem to have made it work.

Movie Review: ****Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016)

This is a fascinating story of Alice (Mia Wasikowska) coming back to Wonderland to save the Hatter (Johnny Depp.)  This is a story of believing, and of making amends.  The two sisters, whose feud dates back to a stolen cookie when they were little, are set against each other.  The Queen of hearts, Iracebeth (Helena Bonham Carter), has been extracting revenge on people for many years, and her sister Mirana (Anne Hathaway) has often felt her wrath.  In this movie, The Hatter is missing his family who are presumed dead.  Alice goes back in time, and discovers they are not.  However in going back, she is breaking Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) and the whole world is in danger.
Of note here is the change of hair color of the Hatter.  At one point he is near death and his hair is all white.  The makeup of Iracebeth is also fantastic with her painted heart.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Book Review: Nate the Great Talks Turkey: With help from Olivia Sharp

Nate the Great Talks Turkey by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and Mitchell Sharmat, illustrated by Jody Wheeler, Delacorte Press, New York, 2006.
This is my second Nate the great book, and I think it will be my last.  I do not find the characters very likeable.  Nate the great and Olivia Sharp are cousins.  Instead I find them full of themselves.  In this book they are after a wild turkey which has been showing up around town.  Olivia flies in from California to join the hunt.  And they both have success in their way.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Picture Book Review: The Bear Scouts

The Bear Scouts by Stan and Jan Berenstain, Random House, New York, 1967.
this is one of my favorite Berenstain Bear books.  I always enjoyed scouts, and these Bear Scouts make their own canoe.  This presents a common theme of the father who thinks he knows more than he does, and the Bear Scouts who pick him up because they are reading the book.  Great emotion in the pictures, especially Papa Bear.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Book Review: Fablehaven (5): Keys to the Demon Prison

Fablehaven: Keys to the Demon Prison, by Brandon Mull, illustrated by Brandon Dorman, Shadow Mountain, Salt Lake City, UT, 2010.
This is the fifth and climatic installment of this fascinating fantasy series.  It is interesting things always seem to be able to get worse.  And in this book, both of the siblings, Kendra and Seth end up prisoners of the evil Sphinx.  However there are things even more evil than the misguided Sphinx, who himself repents in the end.  Seth himself is fooled by the demon Graulas, who had earlier befriended him.  He tricks Seth into restoring him, but that doesn't go too well.  So we are faced with a last desperate battle against the demons as the arise from their captivity ready to take over the world.  There are many unexpected twists in this show, and it keeps you jumping until the end.  The only sad part is having to say goodbye to the characters.  However I understand there is a sequel five book set coming out.  So the fun continues.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Movie Review: Bullitt (1968)

Her is an older, 1960s police movie.  Steve McQueen stars as Bullitt, who is in charge of guarding a witness for an investigation.  The witness is leaving "the organization" and as such is a target.  However he never testifies, as he is murdered.
Turns out that things aren't as the seem.  Lieutenant Bullit and the district Attorney Chalmers (Robert Vaughn) do not really like each other.  Chalmers is use to throwing his weight around to get his way.  In this case, he hopes to make political points but have appearing strong against crime.
This movie has a bit too much chase, over the San francisco hills without anyone getting killed.  Well in the end, only the bad guys get killed.  Pretty gruesome scene.  This movie does have a few bloody scenes, so not appropriate for those who may be effected by this.  However it is rated PG.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Movie Review: Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

This is a classic romance, and refers in several instances to another classic romance, "An Affair to Remember."  In this movie, Sam Baldwin has lost his wife to an illness.  His son Jonah (Ross Malinger), several months later is worried about him, and calls a late night talk show therapist.  He then puts his dad on the line, who goes ahead and describes his relationship with his wife.  At this point, every woman listening has fallen in love with him, and it leads to a letter campaign.  In the meantime, Annie Reed (Meg Ryan), a reporter also heard the broadcast live.  She doubts her own engagement to Walter (Bill Pullman).  She decides to pursue the story, as there is so much interest.  She even flies to Seattle from Baltimore, and sees him from afar.  He sees her as well, but they don't meet.  Of all the letter sent to them from around the country, Jonah picks Annie.  He makes arrangements for them to meet on the Empire State Building on Valentines.  However Sam refuses to go.  Jonah's friend helps him purchase a plane ticket, and he goes on his own.  So Sam follows, and fate is fate.
Good love story, but it does seem a bit far fetched.  But love always wins out in the end.  Even the fiance is OK with things.  Go figure.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Movie Review: **^Doctor Strange (2016)

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a neurosurgeon.  He is in a bad car accident, and after he cannot keep his hands still, and surgery is out of the question.  He finally turns to Eastern medicine, and meets the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who not only teacher him how to control his hands, but how to use his mind to create different realities and how to great fire weapons.  Turns out some of the Ancient One's students have turned against her, and joined forces with an evil creature from the Thor world.  To fix things, Doctor Strange must first confront this being.
I didn't really care for this movie, neither did Tony who watched it with me.  I really couldn't get into it and it seemed confusing.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Book Review: Fablehaven (4): Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary

Fablehaven: Secrets 0f the Dragon Sanctuary, by Brandon Mull, illustrated by Brandon Dorman, Aladdin Paperback, New York, 2009.
The adventure continues.  In this book, the team decides to go after one of the keys to one of the magical items which is needed to open the demon prison.  They go after it in the hopes of keeping it away from the Sphinx, who seems to be able to work the Oculus, where he can see where anything in the world.  The key is in a very dangerous realm of the dragons.  They hope to re-hide it where he can't get to it.  However, in this they are mistaken due to a major betrayal in the end.  I must admit, I never saw it coming.  In this book it is always hard to tell who is on the bad side and who is on the good.

Children's Book Review: I Can Read with My Eyes Shut! Dr. Seuss

I Can Read with My Eyes Shut! by Dr. Seuss, Random House, New York, 1978.
The Cat in the Hat reads can ready with his eyes shut.  But it makes his head ache and his hat droop he tells a younger Cat in the Hat.  And so with so many places to see why would you want to?

Book Review: Fablehaven (3): Grip of the Shadow Plague

Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague, by Brandon Mull, illustrated by Brandon Dorman, Aladdin Paperbacks, New York, 2008.
I am thoroughly enjoying this series of fantasy books, in which a world of magical creatures exists with reserves in remote areas.  In this case, we get a double bonus, as two stories are told at the same time.  One is the visit to the Table Mesa Reserve, and the other is at home in the Fablehaven Reserve.  Both reserves are under attack by forces of the Morning Star.  Both stories lead to the deaths of heroic characters.  The story around Fablehaven is the most dire.  Some type of shadow plague has been unleashed, and slowly the humans are turned to shadows, and the creatures are turned to dark.  Only giving up light can these forces be combatted.  Also a visitor from the past is able to help them in their struggles.
I am really enjoying the characters/  The interaction between the siblings, Seth and Kendra, is really enjoyable, and you also get the hint of the love behind the relationship even thought they bump heads.  The overprotection of the grandparents gets annoying, although is understandable.  This is a great series to red if you are looking for some fun.  This book answers the questions about the Sphinx' true nature, is he bad or good.

Movie Review: The Cat's Meow

This is an interesting movie, with a very good cast of characters.  It tells a version of events aboard the boat of William Randolph Hearst (Edward Herrmann).  His wife Marion Davies (Kirsten Dunst) is thought to be involved in an affair with Charlie Chaplin (Eddie Izzard).  She is not, but Charlie is in love with her.  Thomas Ince (Cary Elwes) is hoping for a business deal with Heart to keep his career going, and for some reason flames the rumors of the illicit relationship between Chaplin and Davies.  This has terrible consequences for him.  The best part of movie is watching the jealousy of Hearst.  It finally blooms out of control.  A gossip reporter, Louella Parsons (Jennifer Tilly) is also on board, and observes the events.  Herrmann does an excellent job with the part.  Dunst is always good, and this case her bubbly personality comes through.
This movie is enjoyable, and it also is a good study of misperceptions and jealousy.  At times it is just a bit too busy; but since it is based on a party on a cruise, maybe the director intended it to be that way.