Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Monday, November 27, 2017

Movie Review Madness - Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express is a lush remake of an Agatha Christie tale. If you’ve never read her work, I suggest you march to the library and check out one of her books. She was a prolific talented writer with some very defined characters, good plot twists, and that old English humor twinkle in the eye.  So, for this film, there’s a large gathering of seemingly random characters all with a backstory, a reason to be guilty, and a dead body on a train. Whodunit?

I can’t write any more about the plot. You need to go see this movie and watch the twists and turns evolve. Kenneth Brannaugh directed and stars as Hercules Poirot – the most brilliant detective in the world. He’s an extremely fussy, fanatic man with an eye for detail and a mustache that deserves its own Oscar.  Everyone else has their quirks and suspicions. Dame Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Penelope Cruz, and more are along for this ride. The scenery is spectacular, the filming works well – at times you feel the confinement and rocking of the train.

Murder on the Orient Express harks back to an old timey flick in a good way. Punch your ticket and go All Aboard for an entertaining two hours. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

Hollywood Hits

Sunday November 5th, I sat in plush seats at Bass Hall and enjoyed another Fort Worth Symphony program. I settled in when the opening John Williams notes soared - Theme from Raiders of the Lost Arc

The Hollywood Hits kept coming including a whole James Bond theme section. Very cool to hear Live and Let Die, Goldfinger, etc.

A vocalist -Kelly Levesque - sang some lovely numbers too. The guest conductor, Brian Byrne, was an Irish fellow with a pleasant manner and a good sense of humor. He talked about some of the numbers, and conducted his own theme from Albert Hobbs, a movie that starred Glenn Close.

The finale included grand movie themes - Tara's Theme from Gone With the Wind, Lara's Theme from Dr. Zhivago, and of course we finished with Rocky's Theme. I left the symphony ready for victory, but I had already won - my heart was filled with music.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving Y'all

I wish everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving. Whether you travel afar or hang at your hearth, may your heart and stomach be full.

But if you are hungry, come by at 3 pm for desserts and Cowboy football. I bet it will be noisy at our house.

Enjoy and take care

Monday, November 20, 2017

Movie Review Madness - Thor - Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok is a Marvel romp. This movie has star power and humor. So many of these super hero flicks get so serious with world mayhem and destruction. Oh, Thor: Ragnarok has plenty of battles, but it also has a stunning Chris Hemsworth – his locks are shorn, but his snark factor grew. He has great comedic timing and it’s put to plenty of good use. The dialogue is whip smart whether he’s talking to Loki (I love Tom Hiddleston), or teasing the Hulk (a rueful Mark Ruffalo), or bantering with his evil sister Hela (a fabulous Cate Blanchett).

I won’t go into plot line. Needless to say there are plenty of Marvel character appearances, plenty of power grabs, and  Hela stirring up fiendish trouble. When she dons her crazy black reindeer antler crown, you need to brace yourself for some serious action. She’s crazy good. And then there’s Jeff Goldblum. He takes wacky to a whole other level and is perfect for this role.

This movie is huge tub of popcorn worthy. Stay through the two bonus scenes during the credits, and enjoy the glory of Thor-Ragnarok on the big screen.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Book Review - Autumn by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Karl Ove Knausgaard, Norwegian author of Autumn, writes to his unborn daughter and adds an essay a day on random subjects. This is a very unique personal meditation with acute observations. I enjoyed reading this work, and I would stop and look around my little world and contemplate descriptions of the mundane. Some of his musings cover – apples, wasps, teeth, twilight, chewing gum, and silence. This is the first of four volumes – Autumn, with future Winter, Spring, and Summer. I look forward to the rest of the seasons and his marvelous writing.

Cover blurb and opening:
I want to show you our world as it is now: the door, the floor, the water tap and the sink, the garden chair close to the wall beneath the kitchen window, the sun, the water, the trees. You will come to see it in your own way, you will experience things for yourself and live a life of your own, so of course it is primarily for my own sake that I am doing this; showing you the world, little one, makes my life worth living.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Maverick Speaker - Roland Fryer

Oh Ray wanted to leave for his deer lease after work on Thursday 11/2. But no, he had agreed a month or so before that he would attend a Maverick Speaker Series talk with me. (He's my night driver). Anyway, despite a reluctant start, we had a splendid evening. First, dinner at Italianni's - yummy manicotti for me and chicken parm for Ray.  Then we heard Roland Fryer talk about education, race, economics, reward systems, and more.

This Harvard Economist and Professor was excellent. He discussed being raised by his grandmother and her words of wisdom that kept him on the right path. He talked about mentors that boosted his esteem and let him know he was capable of hard work. He learned about preparation - study for tests, study for talks, do the advance work necessary to succeed. He talked about the need to give kids attention and expectations.

He is concerned about kids and education - said it is absolutely the key to all of our futures. His research and work has made some inroads, but there's way more to be done. Just throwing money at education is not the solution. Early reading programs, daily tutoring, and attainable goals are just the beginning. His hour long talk was an overview. He left me wanting to hear more.

And I agree - no excuses, just hard work is needed to fix education for all.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Book Review - The Hamilton Affair

I read The Hamilton Affair by Elizabeth Cobbs with the Broadway soundtrack of Hamilton playing in my head.  This was unfair to the author because I felt like I was getting a rerun of history and it was not to a rap beat. However, Cobbs obviously did plenty of research and she gives a faithful and decent rendering of life highlights in her historical novel on Alexander and Eliza Hamilton.

From the cover blurb – Set against the dramatic backdrop of the American Revolution and featuring a cast of iconic characters such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and the Marquis de Lafayette, the book tells a sweeping, tumultuous true love story of Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler, from tremulous beginning to bittersweet ending – a dueling ground along the Hudson.

From scrappy bastard in St.Croix to the writer of the Federalist Papers and creator of the U.S. Treasury, Alexander Hamilton had a way with big ideas and concepts. He could flourish his quill and also fight on the battlefield. His love of country, his fierce loyalty, and his long abiding faith in independence and democracy allowed him to soar as an American patriot. Oh, he was a man of many flaws (and an affair) too, but his wife, Eliza, remained steadfast and supportive. Aaron Burr shall live in infamy as the man who cut short Hamilton’s life in a famous duel.

The Hamilton Affair is a solid piece of historical fiction.  (The book is cheaper than a Broadway ticket, too) Brush up on your Hamilton lore, be inspired, and don’t waste your shot in life.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Future Friday

Yes,this is a picture of a snow globe, but use your imagination. Now do you see a crystal ball?

What's ahead for your future?  Can't see that far ahead?  How about what's happening this weekend?
Okay...still no ideas....then what's for lunch?

Ponder that and more as you read quotes I found on the future.  Food for thought (until you decide on that lunch)

The future is a convenient place for dreams - Anatole France

The future remains uncertain and so it should, for it is the canvas upon which we paint our desires - Frank Herbert

I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past - Thomas Jefferson

Hit the future as hard as your money and brains will permit. Otherwise you will be out of date tomorrow - John Baptiste Yeon II

( I see pizza in my future)   Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Movie Review - Victoria and Abdul

Victoria and Abdul is a British costume drama directed by Stephen Frears. And who better to star as Queen Victoria than Dame Judi Dench?  She’s always so good and indeed commands the screen. We first see her going through lots of dinners and ceremonies for a jubilee celebration. Yawn. She’s bored, old, and tired. Then she perks up. A young humble man (he’s chosen because he is tall) from India (played by Ali Fazal) arrives to present her with a mohur – a ceremonial coin. He dares to look her in the eye and his energy and bearing give her a spark. She commands his presence and eventually gives him the title of Munshi – a teacher. She becomes more interested in India and is keen on learning some language, history, etc.

Slowly, Abdul seems to have too much power over her. Her staff and son (played by Eddie Izzard) conspire to find a fault in Abdul, to find a way to banish him from the court. However, the Queen is feisty and with a twinkle in her eye she does not buckle. She might be short and fat, but she stands tall. The movie is based on old journals found long after Abdul was back in India and died. It’s a unique snippet of history and the movie takes a lot of liberties with the story.

However, for entertainment value, I was amused. I enjoyed Judi Dench’s performance immensely, and Ali Fazal was a worthy foil. Victoria and Abdul is a pleasant way to pass some time and step into a royal setting.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Book Review - The Boy is Back

The Boy is Back is a silly romp by Meg Cabot. It’s  a no-brainer read and that’s a good thing in the fall. Sit on your patio with a pumpkin spice beverage and laugh as you read her compilation of texts, emails, and humorous dialogue between a family and friends in a small town. Reed Stewart escaped Bloomfield, Indiana by hitting the pro golf tour. He’s rich and famous, and now he’s back to help sort out his parent’s estate problems. His parents caused a small town scandal by not paying a local restaurant. Social media explodes and the Judge is under fire. As Reed and his siblings uncover his parents hoarder tendencies (gavels and cat statues), their lack of money despite country club pretenses, and  health issues, it’s time to call in a senior relocation specialist. 

Cue dramatic music.

The specialist is none other than Becky Flowers,  Reed’s former girlfriend who was ditched by him on prom night. Can you say awkward?  Or is it a chance to fall in love again?  I bet you can guess where the plot line heads and that’s okay. Meg Cabot has an ear for current lingo. She keeps the ball rolling with plenty of catch dialogue and laugh out loud moments. The Boy is Back with a vengeance. Very amusing read.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Movie Review - Battle of the Sexes

Battle of the Sexes is entertaining and brings back a slice of history. Emma Stone transforms into Billie Jean King, age 29 – the number one female tennis player in 1973. She’s fiercely competitive, conflicted in her life, and takes on the tennis establishment by breaking off into a splinter group.  Her Virginia Slims sponsored tour seeks better pay for women athletes. Billie Jean forged a path for women’s rights and is still respected today.  In the film, she faces Jack Kramer, the smug director of the USTA, and says, “It’s when we want a little bit of what you’ve got. That’s what you can’t stand.”

Steve Carell plays the bumbling Bobby Riggs, age 55, who’s a gambler, a hustler, and is still trying to live off the glory of his past tennis career. He’s got a wealthy wife, but is bored. He issues a challenge that a woman can’t beat a man at tennis. What starts as a joke turns into a full court battle/show. He mugs for the camera, poses with scantily clad women, and is confident he can win. Billie Jean trains and ultimately takes this very seriously. It’s a bold statement for her to win this tennis match.

The movie packs a lot into its two hours. You get background, you get sport, you get the bombast, and the buildup. In 1973 it was a major television event. Spoiler alert – Billie Jean won in three sets. She truly was a trailblazer for women. Emma Stone glows with the energy and vibrant spirit of Billie Jean. She’s not just a girl, she’s a woman taking on a man, tennis, and a bit of the world.  Battle of the Sexes is an energetic entertaining film. Game.. Set.. Match

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Book Review - Sing, Unburied, Sing

Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing is serious literary fiction. I can appreciate her writing, but I can’t say I liked the story. And maybe it was a bit deep for me. I did find myself skimming.  From the cover blurb -  an intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle. Sing, Unburied, Sing journeys through Mississippi’s past and present examining ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power – and limitations – of family bonds.

I liked JoJo, the thirteen year old boy who’s trying to be a man. His white father is being released from prison. His true role model is Pops, his black grandfather. His white grandparents choose to not acknowledge him. His mother, Leonie, is a druggie mess who loves JoJo and his baby sister, but is selfish and inconsistent in her parenting. Leonie’s dead brother appears to her in visions. JoJo also can see dead spirits and is guided by a young man who died in prison. (Here’s where it gets heavy with some history burdens of the Deep South weighing on his soul) All in all the book touches on fathers and sons, legacies, violence, and love (cover blurb)

There are some powerful moments, and perhaps as I write this review, I’m seeing the book in a more favorable light. It’s worthy of a deep book club discussion. This is not easy breezy reading for escape.  You’ve been warned.