Monday, November 25, 2013

Movie Review:The Hunger Games:Catching Fire - PG13

After their victory in the last Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark must reluctantly go on a Victor's Tour of the Districts. President Snow soon announces The Quarter Quell games, a competition among the Hunger Games Victors, which promises to be more challenging than ever.  Not only do the Victors have to face other winners, they must contend with the Capitol and the challenges and threats they put in the Games.  

When reviewing a sequel, it is difficult to do so without comparisons to the original movie:  the original tends to set expectations for any sequels.  

Overall, it was entertaining, but not as good as the first Hunger Games movie.   The first had more interaction and fighting among the tributes (competitors), and that was somewhat lacking in 'Catching Fire'.  There was more focus on their struggle against the Capitol.  And the way it ended was abrupt and unclear.   

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Movie Review: Coming Home for Christmas

Sisters Carly and Britt McKillip play sisters Kate and Melanie, who haven't spoken in 5 years.  Since then,  their family hasn't celebrated Christmas, their parents have separated and the family home has been sold.    Kate comes up with an idea to reunite her family for Christmas at the old house, but there is someone else living there now....  

A very nice story of forgiveness, reconciliation and the importance of family.  Also, an appreciation for Christmas. The story is nice, and the script plays it out well.    

My main issue is with the casting and acting.  The two McKillip sisters both over-acted their roles.  The rest of the cast seemed uncomfortable in their roles, as if they were unsure how to play them.  Amy Jo Johnson was too young to play the mother....she wasn't convincing in the role, and at times seemed more like a third sister.  

A heartwarming story that will put you in the mood for Christmas.  It is also a story of doing for others.  Each of the cast does that, making it about the season of giving.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Music Review: "Don't Stand Idly By" by Thomas Jude Shaheen

I finally get to review Christian/Catholic music that actually sounds and feels like worshiping :)

  Thomas includes 12 solid tracks in his new CD.

I listened to all 12, and here are my thoughts:  

Thomas has a strong, clear voice, so it's easy to hear and understand the lyrics even without reading the insert that has them on it.  

The tempo and rhythm of each song is unique, and just right for that particular song's message.  

'Blood of the Lamb'  is probably the most powerful song on the CD, about how Jesus has conquered all and rules all.  

One word I would use to describe the CD is 'biblical':
'All Generations' is to the Blessed Mother and includes the words Elizabeth spoke to Mary at the Visitation.   
'It's Your Life' includes Jesus' words to take up our cross and follow him.
'Yasu'ah'  is the Arabic name of Jesus (This name was also used in 'Passion of the Christ).

  My two favorites are:
'All Generations' is to the Blessed Mother (I have a strong devotion to the Rosary)
'Don't Stand Idly By'  exhorts us to defend ALL life (I pray weekly at an abortion clinic)  

An excellent CD that will bring you closer to the Lord.

  I encourage you to stop by his site and order a copy! (and hear sample tracks :)


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Book Review: Pope Francis: I Believe in Mercy

by Regina Doman
Art by Sean Lam
Dexter, MI: Manga Hero, 2013

Known for their work on the Manga Hero edition of Habemus Papem which told of Pope Benedict XVI, the creative team of Regina Doman as writer and Sean Lam as artist has once again joined to tell a pope’s life story. This time the attention is on Pope Francis. Intended for teens and young adults, Pope Francis: I Believe in Mercy hits all the crucial points of Pope Francis’ life to date. 

It begins with Jorge Bergoglio as a twelve-year-old who thought he was in love with a young lady. When her father told him to leave her alone, he jokingly told her he would become a priest instead. But his true call wouldn’t come until years later. The manga tells of Bergoglio’s lung disease which resulted in the removal of part of his lung and a difficult recovery. It also shows his joining the Jesuits and his efforts to help priests during the political turmoil of Argentina. Pope Francis follows the future pope as he ministered to the people of Buenos Aires, reaching out to the poor and marginalized. In 1992, he became a bishop and as the Archbishop instructed him, the Diocese of Buenos Aires became his bride. When the Archbishop died in 1998, Bishop Bergoglio took over the role but eschewed all of the trappings that came with the office. The manga emphasizes his desire to live simply and minister to all. It concludes with his election to the papacy and the continuation of his simple way of life.

The story of Pope Francis is interwoven with scenes of Jesus from Scripture. There are also passages from Pope Francis’ writings and homilies. 

Because of the subject matter included, especially in the dark days of Argentina, Pope Francis: I Believe in Mercy is definitely intended for teens and young adults rather than children. It may be helpful to have a previous acquaintance with the life story of Pope Francis as well – it is possible one might become confused in some parts without it (either that or one might read this, then go on to read more about him to learn more). Overall, however, Pope Francis: I Believe in Mercy is extremely well done and is a way to inspire young people to follow Jesus as Pope Francis has striven to do in his own life.

Music Review: 1 Girl Nation

When I listen to Christian music, I am very particular that its Christian identity isn't lost. Although the music is enjoyable, Only 2 songs spoke to me as 'Christian'...."Vertical" talks about helping others, remembering they are all Jesus. "Love Like Crazy" tells us to live like Jesus and be a light to others.  

Although it is oriented toward young people,  I still enjoyed all of it.  It just didn't feel like I was listening to Christian music.  It still delivers a more positive message than most of today's music :)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Movie Review: Veggie Tales: Merry Larry and the True Light of Christmas (2013)

Merry Larry and Phillip are decorating the Spring Valley Mall and are determined to make it a grand display.  When Larry starts asking the children what they want for Christmas, he is taken back by a little girl named Christina, who only wants to help her neighbor Mrs. Crespie, who lost her house in a fire.  Larry thinks of a way to use the decorations to bring attention to her situation, just as the mall manager arrives.  It is then that they all learn the true meaning of share God's love for us, with others.  

Veggie Tales tells the story, and teaches a lesson, in a way that will keep kids' attention and entertain them.  And Uncle Si is in it as the narrator  too!

A very entertaining story, with an important lesson.  

Both kids and parents will enjoy it...I know I did  :)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Movie Review: Thor: The Dark World - PG13

Malekith is back to try to plunge  the universe into darkness using the aether, which happens to end up in an unexpected person this time.  Fortunately,  Thor is also back to stop him with help from an unlikely ally.  

The cast, particularly those who were in the first Thor movie, were more natural in their roles this time, and Tom Hiddleston was especially  entertaining as Loki (He stole the show).  

There is plenty of action and the dialogue is entertaining as well.  

The plot was a little more involved than you might expect, and the ending was especially  cool with an unexpected plot twist which practically guarantees a Thor III.   

Content warning: scenes of violence, destruction and murder.  

Very entertaining and worth seeing. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Book Review: "The First Christmas Night" by Keth Christopher

A beautiful retelling of the birth of of Jesus.  It's a story we've all heard many times and celebrated over the years, but nevertheless, one of the things I enjoyed about it is its faithfulness to the biblical telling.   You'll see the familiar characters of the 3 wise me, the shepherds in the field, and the legion of Angels that appear to them.  

The story is told in rhyme, similar to many poems, and I think this will appeal to younger children and perhaps help their reading ability.  

By far, one of the high points is the beautiful illustrations.  They are very life-like and well-done. 

  An excellent book for small children to learn the Christmas Story :)

Movie Review: Ender's Game - PG13

The last time the Formics attacked earth, 10 million people  were killed.   To prepare for a future attack,  Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) has been training only the best and brightest minds to lead the international forces against the next invasion.  

Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is one of the most promising students to attend Battle School.  He excels, and becomes a leader among his fellow students.

Ender even succeeds at his final test,  which is where the problems begin with this movie.  

After enjoying a nearly two-hour movie, the last ten minutes completely ruined it.   The last ten minutes negated the whole premise of the story and made us feel 'duped' for sitting through the whole story.  The ending actually tried to make the good guys look like the bad guys. I would not recommend this movie.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Book Review: "Can't-Wait Willow!" by Christy Ziglar

Willow is so excited.  She's been looking forward to the circus coming to town and it is finally here!   She starts on her way, but....she makes some poor decisions along the way.  

Willow really does learn from her mistakes and fortunately, she gets a second chance.

  For a short story, there are several lessons included for kids.  It teaches them  about making the right decisions, learning from the wrong ones, forgiveness and second chances.  

A well done story that kids will relate to, and learn from.