Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Movie Review: Unbroken - PG13

This is the true story of Olympian and war hero Louis "Louie" Zamperini who, along with 2 fellow soldiers, survives a plane crash and 47 days in a raft, only to be captured by the Japanese during World War II. They are held in a prison camp run by a cruel commander they refer to as 'The Bird'.  He is cruel to all, but he singles out Louie for punishment because of his notoriety as an Olympian.   But the Bird can't break Louie.  

Louie was a troubled kid who often got into trouble, and fights.  That led to his joining the track team and, eventually, running in the Olympics.

Louie and the others are held for the duration of the war.   The part that most surprised me is the lesson of forgiveness at the end, when Louie forgives his captors (the Bird won't meet with him).

A truly inspirational story about endurance, perseverance and forgiveness.  To keep in mind that it is a true story makes it even  more touching.

I especially like the filming techniques used in the story, such as the view from within the plane while shooting at enemy planes, and the view from a space below the blindfold when they are blindfolded.  

Although there is violence and brutality, there is only an aappropriate amount to support the story, and there is little 'gore'.  I would recommend this story of America's greatest generation.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Movie Review: The Lumo Project

Available on Netflix

This is a new portrayal  of the Gospel of John.  I reviewed the  NIV version, but it is also available in the King James version and a Spanish version.  Although many of us have heard or read most of the Gospel story, the story of Christ, I feel that seeing it told on screen somehow makes it more relevant, more real, to us.

The only aspect I am ambivalent about  is that, although the story is taking place on screen, the whole story is told by a narrator.  I would have preferred to hear the story through the dialogue.  However, I do realize this would have made the story longer.  It is 2 hours 40 minutes, and the narration allows them to tell more of the Gospel story in this time frame.  

The narration also provides some additional description and explanation of the events on the screen.

An authentic and moving portrayal of the Gospel.  I highly recommend it, as it will deepen your understanding of the Gospel.  A great way to begin the Christmas season!

Movie Review: Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I - PG13

As was hinted at the end of part II, Katniss Everdeen is asked to be the 'Mockingjay', the face of the revolution against the tyrannical and corrupt Capitol.  She agrees, with the condition that the victors of the Hunger Games will not be prosecuted.  Katniss makes a couple of messages encoraging and motivating the revolution.    I especially like the haunting tune they come up with to motivate the revolution; it is pretty cool.  Even though Gale is helping her, Katniss is especially concerned about Peeta, who is being held by the Capitol.   

Peeta is shown in several messages that are released by the Capitol, and one of the questions that is present throughout the story is  where does  Peeta stand? he still Peeta or has he been brainwashed?    

I actually enjoyed Mockingjay more than the first two, because there was more emphasis on the story, than the action or fighting, although there is enough of those to support the story.

A well-written and well-acted story that you'll enjoy.  
I am looking forward to Mockingjay part II.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Music Review: The Rosary Mysteries, Meditations and Music

I pray the Rosary daily, and I've heard the Sisters' beautiful music before, so I jumped at the opportunity to review this CD.  And it exceeded my expectations.

After introducing each mystery, a sister reads the relevant bible passage.  What distinguishes this Rosary recording from others, is that she cites the book and verse of the passage in case you wish to make note of it, or read further in the passage.   

I especially like the echo-like sound affect that is used while reading the bible enhances it and makes it sound more powerful and  biblical..

When you finish the rosary, you can enjoy a few beautiful hymns by the sisters....two in English, one in Latin.  

The Rosary + the Sisters' beautiful singing = an awesome CD.

This is one of those recordings that I would classify as a spiritual will bring you closer to the Lord, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Movie Review:Susie's Hope

This true story is mostly about Donna Lawrence and her husband Roy.  Donna is attacked by a pit bull dog.  The attack has long-lasting effects on her.  A short time after that, Donna and her friend are walking and come upon a dog that was badly beaten and burned; ironically, it is a pit bull puppy.  

Donna can't leave the puppy.  She names her Susie and, against all odds, she raises the money to pay for Susie's medical care and recovery.  Her friend Ramona is supportive,  and her husband is at first reluctant...then very supportive.  Together, Donna and Susie both recover and heal from their injuries.

Together, Donna and her husband seek justice for Susie both by seeing her attacker punished, and working to get 'Susie's Law' passed, which increased the penalty for animal cruelty or my very own state of North Carolina :).  

Special acting KUDO's to Burgess Jenkins, who played Roy Lawrence; I felt his acting was the most realistic and credible.  His responses to various events in the story were very natural, instinctive and genuine.

I  admit I love animals and I'm a sucker for an animal story, but this is a really  heartwarming story that I proudly recommend.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Movie Review: The Vatican Museums In Cinemas

“The Vatican Museums 3D” will be in theaters everywhere beginning December 10 in partnership with Fathom Events, and will be shown in 2D and RealD 3D. Additional shows will be in select theaters December 11 and 14.

The introduction begins with the paradox of art being a means of escaping the world, while at the same time, highlighting the beauty of the world.

For me, I am best able to appreciate art by hearing  the story behind the art.  A few  of my favorites: 

  • When The priest Laocoon opposed Minerva, she sent a giant serpent to strangle his two sons, and then him.  This statue was the beginning of the Vatican Museums in 1504.   
  • Da Vinci's 'Saint Jerome', while still unfinished, was used as a she maker's bench and was rediscovered two centuries later.
  • Did you  know that Michaelangelo inscribed his signature on the Pieta, on the ribbon of the Blessed Mother's dress? I didn't...

There were several references to these works of art bringing us closer to God, and I do believe that is true.   Whether you are seeking that, or if you are just someone who appreciates beautiful art, I strongly recommend that you see this movie. It will bring you closer to the art than you could get even by being there.  The photography  is outstanding, and brings the art to life.

For Theaters and Showtimes:


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Book Review: Yes, God! What Ordinary Families Can Learn about Parenting from Today’s Vocation Stories

In a recent address, Pope Francis described the family as the, "primary place for education, the community of love and life in which every person learns to relate to others and to the world." He continued, "All vocations make their first steps in the family."
We Catholics know this, deep down, but we have a tendency to deny the latter part of that statement. Vocations are for other people’s kids, we tell ourselves, our families aren’t perfect enough. We over-idealize those families who have produced vocations to the priesthood and religious life. We place them on a pedestal; imagining a large family filling the pew each morning at Daily Mass, homeschooling in Latin, cheerfully doing farm chores all afternoon, then serenely kneeling in the living room each evening for the family Rosary. These ideal Domestic Churches have no loud arguments, no black sheep, and no doubts that their children would serve the Church. Since our own families are not like those, we reason that our children could not possibly have vocations to the religious life.
 Susie Lloyd, the best-selling Catholic humorist, and homeschooling mother of her own large family, assures us that these lofty images are accurate, some of the time. But there’s much more to depth to families who produce vocations than we think, and in exploring their various characteristics, we just might find our families have more in common with them than we think.
In “Yes, God!” LLoyd chronicles the childhood and vocation stories of nine men and women religious, describing the details of their family which she believes brought each of them to say “yes” to God’s call to religious life. Chapters are named for the predominant strength which those religious and priests learned from their families. There is “Yes to Strength”, “Yes to Duty”, “Yes to Generosity”. No matter what the inherent strengths of a family, a vocation always begins with a “yes” and a family which strived to serve God with their lives. Families bring their particular gifts to their vocation whether their home was rural or urban, athletic or artistic, rowdy, quiet, or just plain contentious!
These families are not perfect. At times, Mrs. Lloyd points out; even the challenges in the home were used by the Lord to help the future religious transform weakness into virtue. This is true in the family of Sister Marie Jose de la Rosa S.C.C. whose chapter is subtitled, “Yes to Spiritual Poverty”. Her father’s long term unemployment and depression posed a daunting challenge for her mother who worked to support and raise her children singlehandedly. For Mrs. Lloyd, it’s not about perfection, number of children, or proximity to a Church building, it’s about the attitude which engenders the person’s “yes” to God.
And the attitude is not always universal. Sometimes a vocation comes as a surprise. One of the funniest stories in the book involves Mrs. Lloyd’s inability to see the great potential in a college friend, Fr Jeremy Paulin, OMV, now a Vocation Director.
 So it seems no one is off the hook when it comes to raising Catholic children considering religious life, since no two vocation-producing families are alike. Mrs. Lloyd’s characteristic humor keeps the Catholic guilt light-hearted as she brings to light helpful habits which an aspiring mother to a religious can implement in her Domestic Church. It’s a lead by example book on Catholic parenting, and it will have you smiling at both the strengths and faux pas of your own family as you read the captivating stories.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Movie Review: Saving Christmas

Kirk is enjoying his sister's Christmas party,  until he discovers how down his brother-in-law Christian has become on Christmas.  Kirk goes and talks to Christian, and although Christian is a Christian (no pun intended),  he cites all the nonsense anti-Christian theories that atheists and/or Satanists use.  One by one, these fruitless arguments fall as Kirk responds to them.  here are a couple of my favorite points:

Where are trees (as in a Christmas tree) in the Bible?  In the Garden of Eden, for starters...God gave Adam and Eve a garden full of fruitful trees to eat from...He only forbade them from eating of one.  When they disobeyed Him, it was not possible to put that fruit back on the tree, so Jesus, the new Adam, made things right by putting Himself on a tree...for us.

Christmas is a Pagan holiday...SANTA=SATAN...get it?  :)  After I stopped laughing, Kirk explained about the real St Nicholas and how he fought heresies promoted, ironically enough, by a Bishop named Arius that labelled Jesus as less than God.  St. Nicholas fought these Arian heresies vigorously, and as a result, became popular with the people, and children in particular, to whom he was generous...the beginning of Christmas.

Basically, Kirk  conveys the point that Jesus is the center of Christmas, and as such, we should joyfully celebrate it 

An excellent movie that will get you in the mood for Christmas and help make it even more joyful!
By the way, the website is pretty cool also...check it out too :)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Music Review: O Day of Resurrection! by New Camaldoli Hermitage

A beautiful collection of 27 hymns, prayers and psalms from the Liturgy of the hours, sung by the Camaldolese Benedictine monks. It was recorded in their chapel in Big Sur, CA. 

I used to pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily, but unfortunately I am not always able to do so due to my work hours.  This album helps me with that.   If you are not able to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, it is beautiful enough to listen to anytime for anyone who enjoys chant. One unique quality of  this CD is that it uses both two and three part harmony, which makes it all the more beautiful.  Two of the best tracks are  the Magnigicat and the Our Father.

The album is chanted in English, which makes it easier to follow and to use it to pray the Liturgy of the Hours.

A very beautiful CD that will bring you closer to the Lord.

Also available on Amazon

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Movie Review: Interstellar - PG13

In the future, earth is becoming inhabitable, with dust storms happening, and crops gradually dying out.  A group of NASA scientists set out to find another inhabitable place for earth's people.  A gripping combination of science fiction, drama and intrigue.

The story was well-written.  The acting was very good, with some well-known names: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, John Lithgow and Matt Damon.

The coolest part of the story, by far,  is the element of time travel and existing in other dimensions.  I won't spoil any details, but the travel to another galaxy takes years, which is different than the travel time in space.

It is a fairly long movie, close to 3 hours, and I look at in in thirds...the first third is good, introducing the characters and setting the basis for the story.  The second third is tedious, and just when it was losing my interest, the final third advanced the story, and had the most exciting scenes.  I enjoyed it, but I must admit I found the ending pretty vague and unsatisfying.

A good movie worth seeing.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Movie Review: Before I Go to Sleep - R

After a violent attack, Christine (Nicole Kidman) lives one day at a time, because she cannot remember more than one day at a time.  Every morning she becomes reacquainted with her husband Ben (Colin Firth),  and then meets with a doctor who is working with her to help her regain her memories.   It is a very unique story plot.  It is also a well-written  mystery, always keeping you guessing as to whom she can trust:  her husband, her doctor or her best friend.

Content warnings include a few curses, a violent attack (NOT a rape scene), and 1 quick butt shot.  

A very well-written story that will keep you in suspense.  I enjoyed it a lot.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Watch pro-life movie Crescendo

This mesmerizing film immerses you in the agony of Maria whose husband beats and humiliates her as she deliberates over an abortion. The ending is a sudden crescendo of the freeing power of hope!
Watch it here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Movie Review: Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me

This is a story about Glen Campbell.  Filmed as a documentary, it details his  struggle with alzheimer's disease, and highlights moments from his career.  

I was particularly struck by the lengths his family has gone to to support him, both in his struggle with the disease, and the production of his final album and farewell road tour.  It shows what a family should be.  Although it is sad to watch the struggle, it is also uplifting to see how determined they are to overcome it.  Both Glen and his family stay amazingly upbeat.  I also enjoyed the many clips they show from his performances.  It does get harder, as we see Glen increasingly affected by the disease.

One of his performances included 3 of his children, so I don't think he's going to be the last Campbell to be successful in the music industry :)

A very heartwarming  and inspirational story that I heartily recommend.

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 encompasses so 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 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. :)


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 2.
4. Ibid