Sunday, October 19, 2014

Movie Review: The Judge - R


Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.) is a successful Chicago attorney.  When his mother dies, He goes home to a small town in Indiana, and the family he has become estranged from.  While he is still there, his father, Judge Joseph Parker, is accused of murder.   Henry stays to defend him.  Aside from the trial itself, the story focuses on their relationships.  Downey and Duvall give Oscar worthy performances, and Vincent D'Onofrio is also very good as Hank's brother.   The story highlights both the strength and fragility of family relationships, and the need for forgiveness.

I  do recommend The Judge, but  for adults, not children.

Content warnings include language,  and a couple of crude moments (no nudity or sex scenes).



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Music Review: VIP by Manic Drive


The best aspect of VIP is the tempo/rhythm/beat of the tracks.  The whole CD is very contemporary,  and it will especially appeal to young people.  Even though I am only 'young at heart', it appeals to me :)


The thing I like best about VIP is that  the songs are so relative...they almost felt like they were written to me, or about me, because I could relate so personally to them.  I do wish there were more than 8 tracks.  Although they convey our weaknesses and failings, they highlight God's saving grace.  It is also motivational.

My favorite track is Indestructible....it encompasses so much....how we can lose our way and God finds us, how we are so weak and yet shielded by Him, we are invincible,how he is our strength, and He watches over us.

I highly recommend VIP...it is uplifting, entertaining and will help bring you closer to the Lord.



Monday, October 13, 2014

Music Review: Christmas in Harvard Square


My first holiday music review of the season :)

An enjoyable blend of familiar and unfamiliar Christmas hymns.  Out of 19 tracks, I was familiar with about half of them..  A few were in Latin, most in English.  


I have heard and reviewed several boy choir  CD's, and one mistake I have found with a couple of them, and this one, is that they use a key that is too high, perhaps an effort to emphasize the boys' ability to reach high pitches.  This is not necessary, because  the best songs were those which most effectively used harmonizing.  The best harmonizing is in Ding Dong Merrily on High.

Indeed, it is clear that most of the boys have crystal-like voices which captivate the listener.

To be honest, the audio quality could have been better....most of the songs sounded like the microphone was placed way too far from the choir.

By far, the two best tracks on the CD are Hark, the Herald Angels Sing and Angels We Have Heard on High.  The Little Road to Bethlehem was also especially well-done and beautiful.

I recommend Christmas in Harvard Square...not only  is it relaxing and enjoyable, it will help get you in the Christmas spirit :)


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Movie Review: The Equalizer - R


Denzel Washington is Robert McCall.  McCall has both a mysterious past, and a set of special skills.  He is 'retired' from his former life with no intention of returning to it.  But then he meets Teri, a young girl who has fallen under the control of the Russian mob.  McCall can't stand idly by, and decides to help her.   

The story is very well-told and engaging, with an appropriate level of tension throughout.  Denzel is particularly good as McCall.  IMHO,  the ending implies there might be a sequel, and I sure hope there is :)

Content warnings include violence, and language.  



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Movie Review: No Good Deed - PG13


Terri is a wife and mother of two, living in Atlanta when Colin, a charming but dangerous escaped convict, shows up at her door claiming car trouble. Terri offers her phone to help him but soon learns that no good deed goes unpunished as he invades her home and terrorizes her family.

The story is very well done.  Many movies today include gratuitous violence and/or unnecessary gore.  There is indeed some violence, but only what is needed to tell the story.  That is one content warning, and the other would be some language.  

Both Taraji Henson (Terri) and Idris Elba (Colin) are Very Good in their roles.  The suspense had me on the edge of my seat.  

A Very Good movie.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Movie Review: November Man - R


Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan) is an ex-CIA agent lured out of retirement for one last mission, to protect an important witness.   This mission puts him at odds with his  former friend and protégé, David Mason.   There are a couple of good twists, so that you don't know who can be trusted.  You will be on the edge of your seat.

The story is very well-written and engaging, and the acting overall is credible and entertaining.  Brosnan is especially good as Devereaux.

Content warnings include violence,  some language and 2 brief bed scenes.

A very entertaining movie for adults.  Not recommended for children.




Thursday, August 28, 2014

Movie Review: The Giver - PG13


Set in the future, the government has created a seemingly ideal society.  They have done this by eradicating a lot of memories,and also  parts of our history, that they deem harmful.  Everyone is seen in black & white, to avoid any differences between people.  When students finish school, the government assigns them a profession to pursue.  Jonas is designated as the 'Receiver', meaning he will be the only one with access to memories, which will be shared with him by the 'Giver' (Jeff Bridges). Every part of society is overseen by the government, specifically the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep).   The more Jonas learns, the more he realizes what society is missing.  

A well-written story, and Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep were particularly good in their roles.   I believe the story also makes a good point of the dangers of government having too much control over people's lives.  

I highly recommend The Giver, especially for adults and young adults.  There was no objectionable content, I'm just not sure if younger children would understand the nature of the story.





Friday, August 22, 2014

Movie Review: When the Game Stands Tall - PG



Jim Caviezel plays Bob Ladouceur, the coach of the Spartans.   Bob tries to teach the team more than just football,  but principles, many faith-based,  that will help them in life.  

Much  of the story is about their 151 game winning streak.  It was surprising to see the impact that the streak had on the team and the whole town.  There's even a team member who is after a personal record.  It is especially rewarding to see a couple of team members take what Bob has taught them to heart.

Laura Dern, who plays Bob's wife Bev, does a good job of balancing her support for the team with her concern for Bob.  Michael Chiklis is good as Terry Eidson, Bob's assistant coach who is really supportive of Bob.   But Caviezel steals the show with his heartfelt portrayal of Coach Ladouceur.

WTGST is a very good story, much of which has to do with choices, and deciding what is most important.  

An excellent movie for the whole family.  My brother and my nephews really liked it too. :)

http://www.whenthegamestandstall.com

 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rire Pagliacci; Robin William’s Secret Sorrow


Driving home late on Monday evening, I tuned into a conversation on local radio about Robin Williams, and my stomach twisted in premonition of a tragedy, which was later confirmed when the conversation turned to asphyxiation. The word ‘suicide’ was never uttered, but I knew enough about my favorite actor to know that it was a real possibility. I remember hearing that Williams, an upper middle class boy in 1950’s Chicago, had trouble keeping his mother’s attention. In order to gain it, he learned to be entertaining. Extremely entertaining. As we know, this became his life’s work: Gaining and keeping the attention of millions of people around the world by his rapier wit, spot on impersonations, and hilarious physicality. Apparently the comedy was not enough to sustain him.
No one could approach William’s manic sense of humor, which he learned from comedian, Jonathan Winters. In an interview, Williams said of him, “It was like seeing a guy behind a mask, and you could see that his characters were a great way for him to talk about painful stuff.” 1. The two comics had “painful stuff” in common; Winters spent years of his life in a mental institution with several nervous breakdowns, and now the world is mourning Robin Williams who unable to escape the grips of alcoholism and deep depression, has committed suicide. The two had similar styles, manic humor, remarkable impressions, and peeking out from beneath it all, a pathos that they could not hide. Jonathan Winters died last year of natural causes at 87, surrounded by his family. Miraculously, he overcame the pain masked by his comedy. We now know that Robin Williams was not so fortunate.
In the opera Pagliacci, Canio, the main character, is a clown in a travelling show who overhears his wife, Nedda pledging her love to another man just as the show begins. The couple act in a play whose plot centers around her infidelity, and Canio cannot bear it: He sings the heartbreaking aria, “Vesti La Guibba” where he states the dilemma of how the clown acts funny to hide a broken heart.
The people pay you and you must make them laugh.
And if harlequin should steal your columbine, laugh,
You’re pagliaccio (clown), and the world will clap for you!
Turn into banter all your pain and sorrow,
And with your clown’s face hide grief and distress...2
 I think that the overwhelming grief and shock expressed around the world at Robin William’s suicide, is not only because he was too young at 63, or that he took his own life while his career was still wildly successful: It was reported that he has six films coming out after his death. I think our grief at his death runs much deeper. At some level, we all hide internal pain, and many of us, transform ourselves into clowns in public, entertaining our friends and even strangers with comic routines to mask our suffering. Some of us find comfort in faith to feel loved and hope in a better future. Most of us are blessed with family and friends who lift our spirits and our self-esteem. We need the attention in varying degrees, but most of us, do not need the attention as much as Robin Williams did, and none of us are as incredibly funny as he was. The world knows that he was one of a kind.
We needed his twinkling eyes, his impeccable timing and his rapid fire wit to help us forget our melancholy. We related to his vulnerability and his kindheartedness in films like “Good Morning Vietnam,” and “Patch Adams.” Robin Williams in his emotional openness; admitting his struggles with substance abuse publicly, his three marriages and his last ditch attempt at rehab in July, is our Everyman. We wonder at how much silent suffering he endured as we were laughing and silently feel guilty because, as his first producer Gary Marshall said, “He could make everybody happy but himself.”3.
We can’t help but wonder if we knew Robin Williams personally could we have helped him overcome his demons by letting the funniest man on earth know that he would still be loved even if he weren’t funny anymore. Too many Hollywood idols become just that, larger than life idols to whom we don't allow to own their humanity.
Dee Dee Harvey sums it up in the comments on Deadline Hollywood:
What can one say? I was shocked. People think being famous is so great. Not me. To be ON all the time, to be zoomed in at all the time… With the Internet and instant posting who can really take it? Please people give Stars their much deserved space. They are people just like everyone else. They need to go to restaurants, be with their kids, live live! Just leave them alone! Maybe then, and only then, we won’t lose people prematurely. Let them live!!!!4.
Robin, you made us laugh and taught us how to give to others with your acts of charity to the homeless, to veterans, and sick children. You needed our laughter to help mask your pain, and we needed you to make us laugh.
We hope and pray that you are making the angels laugh in Heaven and, once in a while, look down upon us and forgive us for not loving you enough.

1 http://www.metrolyrics.com/vesti-la-giubba-pagliacci-leoncavallo-lyrics-luciano-pavarotti.html#/ixzz3ACI2etjL. 2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Winters
4. Ibid

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Movie Review: And So It Goes - PG13


Oren Little (Michael Douglas) is obnoxious and self-centered.  He's a real-estate agent, and his goal is to sell one last house and retire alone.  His life changes when his estranged son drops off a granddaughter he didn't even know existed for him to care for.  Oren relies on his quirky neighbor Leah (Diane Keaton), who soon bonds with Sarah.  

Douglas is good as Oren, but Keaton is somewhat disappointing as Leah.  She is good-hearted, and a lounge singer and many times, she can barely get through a song without crying;  that gets old quickly.

Oren does gradually warm to both Leah and his granddaughter.  

An entertaining, heart-warming story.

Content warnings include one bed scene (no sex shown) and a few moments with crude humor and language.