Sunday, December 29, 2013

Movie Review: Grudge Match - PG13

Billy "The Kid" McDonnen (DeNiro) and Henry "Razor" Sharp (Stallone) are two local Retired fighters who have a famous rivalry, tied at 1-1.   They are coaxed out of retirement for the decisive 3rd matchup by boxing promoter Dante Slate Jr., the son of their original promoter.

McDonnen reunites with his son and  is trained by him.  Sharp reunites with his ex Sally Rose (Kim Basinger) and  is trained by la ong-time friend and trainer  (Alan Arkin).

I enjoyed that this movie kept it real....they acknowledged the age and condition of both  (Stallone is 67 and DeNiro is 70) and showed their difficulty even with training.  They didn't try to ignore their age and pretend they are younger.

I won't spoil the ending, but I liked the way their match was handled.

A funny and entertaining movie.

Content Warnings include a couple of crude scenes and crude language, but both are brief and infrequent.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Music Review: "A New Day" by Steve Angrisano

It was a treat to listen to this CD, which features Steve's beautiful guitar playing and smokey voice ('smokey' is not a word I use often,  but it accurately describes his voice, and it is used in the most complimentary manner :)

  There is a lot of bible reference:
'Psalm 40: Here I am Lord' is obviously based on that Psalm
'Magnificat' is the well-known visitation of Mary to Elizabeth 
'Remain in Me, I Am the Vine' resounds the words of Jesus himself  

The tempo is fairly consistent across most of the tracks, with a couple of tracks, such as 'Alleluia! Love Is Alive' and 'May Your Kingdom Come' using a faster tempo.  

The guitar playing is also appropriate for each track, using soothing notes and powerful chords.   The most important aspect of the CD for me is that it remains totally focused on the Lord.

 It was a pleasure to review this CD, and I highly recommend it.

  I think Steve's greatest asset is his voice.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Struggle of Good and Evil in the Disney Movie "Frozen"

[Disclaimer: Plot spoiler warning!]

This movie was a delight, with an original story set in beautiful Scandinavia, complete with some unexpected twists and elements not usually seen in a Disney movie.  Elsa is a princess born with the unusual ability to turn anything into ice, a skill she develops while playing with her little sister Anna.  However, she discovers that she loses control of her talent when she becomes overemotional.  This results in an accident in which Anna’s brain is frozen.  The magical gnomes are able to unfreeze her brain but must remove Anna’s memory of Elsa’s ability.  The overcautious King and Queen seclude the royal family and keep Elsa locked up, even keeping her away from Anna.

As Elsa attempts to keep her ability restrained, she becomes both physically and emotionally inaccessible.  Anna, deprived of her sister’s companionship, longs for love and human camaraderie.  She thinks she has found it the day that the palace gates are open for Elsa’s coming of age and crowning.  But this day teaches Elsa that by keeping her emotions and powers completely restrained for so long, she has completely lost control of both.   She escapes into the mountains, where she builds her own ice castle and feels free once again, unwittingly unleashing a powerful ice storm on her people.  When Anna follows her and tries to get her to stop the ice storm, Elsa once again loses control of her emotions and powers, sending ice through Anna’s heart.  Thus the movie teaches the seemingly contradictory concept that we must express our emotions while also controlling them.

The magical gnomes tell Anna that the damage can only be undone through an act of true love.  She assumes that this must be romantic love, but herein lies some of the movie’s surprises. First, she finds that what she thought was “love at first sight” was deceiving (a lesson not usually taught in animated movies).  Second, the love that Anna is looking for to save her does not come from a romantic admirer.  Rather, it comes from within, as she risks everything to save Elsa, and both their hearts are thawed.  In the end, the sisters save each other from the damage that was done by keeping secrets.

Whereas animated films tend to portray heroes as attractive and villains as ugly and scary looking, this film teaches children that people are not always what they seem.  Another very different element of this film is that the characters are neither purely evil nor purely good.  The complicated character of Elsa is her own enemy in this film, depicting the internal struggle that is part of the human condition*. The love of her sister is what helps her to use her unusual power for good in the end.  Thus the message of the film is a very Christian one, calling us to conquer evil by loving one another!

Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good”, admonishes St. Paul (Romans 12:21).  And the First Letter of John encourages us: “If we love one another, God abides in us, and His Love has been perfected in us” (I John 4:12).  When Anna gives of herself freely she allows a pure love to operate through her, healing her wounds.  Then, when Elsa opens up her heart to allow Anna to reach her with this love, this unlocks the good in her to overcome the sinful part of her nature that is harming others.

Because of the romantic elements and the focus on love between sisters, this film will primarily attract a female audience.  However, the snow monster, talking snowman, and talking reindeer will appeal to young boys.  The unexpected turns in the plot will keep adult viewers interested as well.  Altogether this is a beautifully produced movie with an original story that is appropriate for families.

*The scriptural basis for the internal struggle of good and evil can be found in these words from the  apostle St. Paul:
“For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.” - Romans 7:14-25

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Book Review: Yes, God!

Yes, God! What Ordinary Families Can Learn about Parenting from Today’s Vocation Stories
by Susie Lloyd
Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2013

Have you ever looked at a priest or religious and wondered how it was that he or she came to be there – what made that person willing and able to say “yes” to God’s call? Susie Lloyd, author of Please Don’t Drink the Holy Water and Bless Me, Father, For I Have Kids, decided to find out. She interviewed ten priests and religious to discover what their families of origin had been like in order to learn what lessons those families had to teach. As Lloyd states, “I wanted to raise heroic kids – kids who could say yes to God in whatever way he calls. Or at least, I didn’t want to blow it.”

It is heartening to know that there is no one right way to be a parent and these families illustrate this point quite nicely. Some families were large and others small. Some struggled with poverty. Some homeschooled, while others attended public or Catholic school. Some lived lives literally dripping with the Catholic faith while for others it was more subtle. Yet each of these families has something to teach the rest of us, a virtue or practice we can emulate. These include generosity, love of God and neighbor, respecting duty, treasuring the inheritance of our faith, being strong, and embracing spiritual poverty. 

Lloyd is best known as a humorist and she brings her sense of humor into these pages. She is willing to laugh at her own parenting mishaps and challenges, and in her laughter, parents will recognize some of their own challenges. (For the record, I actually have had a child drink a bottle of holy water – I would like to say it brought instant sanctity, but there seemed to be no discernible effect.) She is a mother who, even with her vast experience as a mother of six, is willing to admit she is not perfect and that there is still much to learn.

As Lloyd hoped when she set out on this literary and spiritual quest, there is much to be learned from the families profiled in Yes, God! It is also great reading for those who wonder how it is that a young person receives and answers a call from God. It can help make all of us more open to God’s small quiet voice speaking in our lives.  

Monday, December 2, 2013

Book Review: "Like a Woman Scorned" by Randi Hart

Alison Carson meets attorney Rick Waterman while he is in town for a month-long trial.  During that month, they carry on an affair,  and all seems ideal.    
The problems begin when the trial, and their affair, are over.  At first, Alison is angry and secretly seeks revenge, then she fears she may have gone too far, especially when Rick apologizes and they start to rekindle their past feelings.  Then,  Rick becomes suspicious.....  

Randi takes the reader on a real roller-coaster of a story.   From one chapter to the next, you aren't sure  who is more sympathetic.

 It is a relatively short book...a novella, about 118 pages.  It will keep you hooked, and guessing the whole time.  

A very good story that is sure to entertain.  Good job Randi!