Shine

“Magnificent fingers”, says Cecil Parkes, as he shows adolescent David Helgoff Rachmaninov ‘s sculptured fingers, serving as inspiration for the piano-playing prodigy, in the movie Shine (Released November 22, 1996). Parkes assists Helgoff hit the right note on playing Rachmaninov No.3 while the young musical genius is on a scholarship at the Royal College in London. They say the No.3 is feared for its inherent challenges in perfecting, something Helgoff’s father Peter, a German Jewish immigrant in Australia, insists his son perfects. The pressure of life gets to Helgoff and he is taken to the psychiatric institution. His upbringing under the expectations of his father makes him need to please and, in the end, disappoints. But despite these darker moments of life, I observe that Helgoff seems to learn the “joy of living” for the first time in his life.

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Good ole bugs and co

The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie (1981). Released November 20, 1981. A lively Warner Brothers cartoon feature film featuring the famous cartoon characters Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam, Tweety Bird, and others, in various stories, one a crime story, another a western, and so on, with some sort of moral to it (self-control, temperance, and so on). Also quite ‘violent’ perhaps when Yosemite Sam goes seeking revenge. However, what should be, depending on one’s disposition, a good time. What works well is how the pop culture icons play off each other in rather clever fashion. Yet, for me there were only sporadic laughs to be had, more amusing than funny, mostly tired. However, I had worse movie experiences.

Strong

U2 was at the peak of their career when they released Achtung Baby (1991). More relaxed than when they started their musical career, U2 produced with Achtung Baby an album rather than anything resonating beyond the four walls perhaps, but I could be wrong. See the end of this review for more.

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Powers of life

I took an instinctually opposing view to the seemingly prevalent Christian view on Harry Potter. Here’s my review of the first film which I think reflects a grind against the status quo. Of course I was emotionally right at the time, but whether I am or not, I located a common theme and an okay movie which some would say is positive.

The rub that Christians had against the film was it representation and depiction of ‘witchcraft’ but other Christians said the depiction of witches and wizards was sketchy and mechanical and could not be taken realistically.

However the strongest argument against Harry Potter was how children could take the magic in it. Adults may take it as sketchy, but do children have the ability to? To them, it may be fun-fantastical. But Christian were warning that witchcraft is not to be flirted with as it can lead to real life magic.

However, some children may not even be aware of the so-called magical inferences.

In sum, Christians with differing angles all came from a Christian basis. So, we had Christians with the same basis writing and speaking about the same movie from differing angles.

Here’s what I said. I took Harry Potter as fiction with all that entails and included my own Christian perspective on the theme of the film. This is different than approaching Harry Potter as film which is what those against the film did. They had a negative view of the film as a film. The view taken was obviously that magic is wrong for children and they should not engage the film.

As for me, I took the film without raising an issue of conscience for me individually. It was something to watch. I saw it as a story, as fiction, something with a theme. I didn’t take the magic in the film seriously.

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Good idea

Space Jam (1996). Released November 15, 1996. Unfortunately, this is a redundant animated fantasy in more ways than one. I expected better. When it comes to films where you expect a lot of fun, there can be a falling short of one’s expectations, though.

It’s a novel idea which attracts one to watch (but just an idea until fully executed) where outer space aliens set up a basketball match against the Looney Tunes, those famous Warner Brother cartoons. They get assistance from Michael Jordan as himself (back in the day in character mode) who comes out of retirement to face the aliens on court.

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Popular

The Lockdown Sessions (2021), by Elton John. Released October 22, 2021. Others contribute to Elton John’s latest album, such as Miley Cyrus, Charlie Puth and Dua Lipa. This has popular appeal, but the commercial tropes begin to wear it down with a beat and bass too many.

Upbeat

Blessings and Miracles (2021), by Santana. Released October 15, 2021. The title indicates a positive feeling, perhaps in contrast to so much negativity around recently, that an upbeat album was the order of the day. Santana delivers the upbeat vibes, just more of the same from Santana.

Dreamy

Ookii Gekkou (2021), by Vanishing Twin. Released October 15, 2021. The mind boggles with the title. The music quality, which is dreamily jazzy, feels disjointed from the spacey vocals. Perhaps they are trying for something overall dream-like, but the elements don’t come together.

Pattern

Pattern Recognition (2021), by Glok. Released October 15, 2021. Andy Bell’s performance name is Glok and his dance/electronica album Pattern Recognition thrives of pattern – as dance music does – but this one is also repetitious.

Nice turn of phrase

Burton Cummings (1976), by Burton Cummings. Released October, 1976. I’ve discovered Burton Cummings! Not that he needs to be discovered, having put out solo albums since 1976, and before then leading The Guess Who. I discovered Burton by his self-titled solo debut, the one on review. This is not a religious album, as one may tell by the suggestive “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”, which by the way is a nice jazzed up cover of the original, but there is a song about religion done in a heartfelt, meaningful way, on “I’m Scared”. Throughout, the lyrics throughout have an interesting turn of phrase, the subjects are palatable and if not always palatable the music always is. This is a soft pop rock 1970’s album that may be called easy listening today.

Dreamy

The Cymbal Crashing Clouds (2011), by Ben Shive. Released September 26, 2011. Ben Shive hits the right notes on this alternative album where you should not expect a big statement on life, God, and everything. Rather, the human experience is expressed perhaps explored here and is without an expression of cynicism. On “She’s Invincible” a boy is attracted to a girl and the frustration that goes with that, done with a slight literary bent to the lyrics. On another, with a turn of phrase, Shive brings a smile — “A Last Time For Everything” reverses the ‘first time for everything’ saying. And on that track is more revealing of his Christian roots. “Sorry, but I’m Yours” is an unusual declaration of faith from a human and trusting in God base. The vocalist does not come on strong instead lets the lyrics speak on their own terms. The Christian content, while not overt, is thematic and buried, and the appealing texture on the tracks is dreamy, soft, light jazz, and slightly cool. I was into this album.

Fun

Follow up to 1996’s Space Jam, Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021), features NBA basketballer LeBron James as the demanding father to a son. The son would rather make video games than play ball, but his father would like son’s eyes on the ball. Then, son goes missing….father can get back son if he faces off on a computerized ball court against a mean team. So, he has to get a team together — from Cartoonsville.

Cultural theme: Why do fathers and sons get on one another’s nerves? The son wants to be a video game programmer, the father wants the son to be a basketballer. Fathers can be demanding and expect a lot from their sons, but this film says it is the father who has to learn to be understanding towards his son.

The theme has a kind of Christian soul.

One may call the film overblown but the first forty or so minutes is pretty conventional as the story establishes itself and is quite entertaining. The rest of the film is visual effects, cartoons-ville aka Looney Tunes, gags aplenty, and a big basketball game between the Goons and the Looney Tunes. It is all a bit of good fun that should please homely audiences.

Banter

Friendly Fire (the album; 2006), by Sean Ono Lennon. Released October 2, 2006. Sounds like friendly banter, a friendly conversation, with a point to get across as well, but firing not with all cylinders and palatable on the ear. Otherwise too middling for my taste and perhaps the title track sums this up best: “Dead Meat”.

Soulish

I Love You (the album; 2006), by Diana Ross. Released October 2, 2006. The feel is modernish soul, with a touch of class. Not a very evenly arranged album with too many slower tracks in-between. The cover of Queen’s Crazy Thing Called Love is only respectable because of Diana’s convincing vocals it’s for real. Perhaps better titled “I Love You, (signed) Diana” to inject some warmth.

Riddle

Body Riddle (2006) by Clark. Released October 2, 2006. This has the signs of an experimental album: what one may feel as an inconsistent sense of musical flow. In other words unpredictable and not straightforward, as it composes sound upon sound, even on the one song, and a steady, subtle ‘beat’ goes through. The effect is too jarring for me and sometimes just plain dull and off-putting.

Real?

Straight Outta Lynwood (2006), by Weird Al Yankovic. Released September 26, 2006. Weird Al has parodied songs by Michael Jackson (“Eat It”) and Madonna (“Like a Surgeon”) and this one is obviously a take on the title of the film Straight Outta Compton. On Straight Outta Lynwood, the lyrics are obviously doing parody, but the music sounds like the real thing. This is not a seamless parody album.

Soft?

This Time Around (2011), by Heather Williams. Released September 27, 2011. Heather Williams’ booming vocals (through the roof on “Hallelujah”) and musical energy certainly cannot be written off. This earnest Christian album hits the high notes. Its got body, heart, and soul and Williams sings like she knows her personal faith and tugs the heart when singing “Start Over”. While it may be just the encouragement someone needs in their walk through life, for me This Time Around is a little soft theologically, a bit too pseudo, and the musical notes here are not really what I am into. But when it touches the heart…

Appearances

The Elephant Man was released October 10, 1980. My first encounter with the film The Elephant Man was a striking black and white photo in a hardback book. Because of the photo, and the interesting caption, I was drawn into the sense of the film. There must be more to this film that, as they say, is substance. And there is.

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Cool

Duets An American Classic (2006), by Tony Bennett with others. Released September 26, 2006. An album of swing, brass and jazz, wrapped in cool, should be embraced, should it not? If you are not into this, why harp? Aren’t albums like these a-okay, whatever the case? For me, sometimes.

Idol

The debut self-titled album by Mario Vazquez (2006). Released September 26, 2006. Maybe I have a heart for musicians who feature on reality show American Idol. Having been on American Idol they are liable to critique and when one is being measured in the public eye the effect can be bruising. Yet, Idol’s albums are not that good. Either cringing and embarrassing or something in-between. Former Idol Mario Vazquez came out with something really nice, and appealing is the gentleness of opening track “Gallery”. But the album is kind of weak, kind of produced, kind of sexy, and it all shows.

Trying too hard?

20 Y.O. (2006), by Janet Jackson. Released September 26, 2006. For Janet Jackson to celebrate twenty years of her music with a dance album seemed a good thing for us listeners. Her 2006 dance album celebrated twenty years of her music and presence since 1986’s Control but feels like trying too hard (to impress?) and is too sexualized. And after all Janet’s done in music?

Lower-key

Songs from the West Coast (2001), by Elton John. Released October 1, 2001. I am always open to an Elton John, but Songs from the West Coast is not vintage Elton so I had second thoughts. The album has the authenticity of the West Coast, the lyrics are quite interesting with musical accompaniment, and the high point is “I Want Love”, the album is even resonant musically, but not really into this lower-key Elton. A question was, does it have lasting effect? Probably not.

Fever?

Fever (2001), by Kylie Minogue. Released October 1, 2001. I was open to hearing this Kylie Minogue album because I have heard snippets of Kylie’s dance music and quite liked it on television. I would certainly give this album a chance, but I am afraid Fever echoes desperation at a club discotheque.

Witty mystery

Sixty years ago this week, in the film Murder, She Said, Miss Marple (played by Margaret Rutherford) is on a train and as adapted from Agatha Christie’s 4.50 from Paddington witnesses someone strangling a woman – it always is a woman! It’s a matter of murder, she said, although the inspector does not believe her ‘overactive imagination’ as she was reading “Death from the Windows” a few minutes earlier.

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A few troughs

A few troughs in this maritime yarn

The Guardian (2006)

Kevin Costner, Ashton Kutcher, Melissa Sagemiller, Clancy Brown, Neal McDonough

Running time: 2hrs 19min

Reviewed by Peter Veugelaers

The U.S. Coast Guards get a similar ode to those of fire fighters (Ladder 49) and the Los Angeles police (S.W.A.T). The Guardian (M) is dedicated to these rescuers of perilous capsized boats in the deep and high seas.

In the world of these characters, sacrifices are made in the name of commitment to saving lives. It doesn’t whet the audience’s appetite with such notions, it dishes it out over-generously.  

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Edgy family fun

The film, the story, the cultural theme, and my artistic awareness of Open Season (2006).

Family fun but it’s a bit edgy

Open Season (2006)

Voices of Martin Lawrence, Ashton Kutcher, Debra Messing, Gary Sinise

Running time: 1 hr 26min

Open Season is a G-rated computer-animated feature from Hollywood, an edgier family movie than usual, which adds substance to someone’s point that family genre these has become darker (such as the Harry Potter films). But the genre hasn’t fully crossed over.

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Leisurely tale

Dolphin Tale is a warm, uplifting family tail tale. When a bottlenose dolphin washes ashore entangled in a fishing rope, she is vitally injured in her tail end. The injury may cause her to die as the tail is interconnected to the rest of her important organs. Christened Winter, she is looked after by the CMA (Clearwater Marine Aquarium) which is undergoing changes of its own…

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Comes out in the wash

The plot of this Star Trek film from 2016 is familiar. There is the disgruntled attitude of the star ship crew of the Star Ship Enterprise as they go through the motions of their five-year journey, but just as boredom is setting in, they are summoned to help a species that has lost its transportation. As they go to help provide a suitable alternative spaceship, they are attacked by the Krall…

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Quite good fun

Running away is key character Peter Rabbit’s reaction to being told he is so bad by his adoptive father, the farmer Thomas McGregor. Peter’s biological father has passed on and who Peter misses.

That Peter is bad — or misbehaved — is so reinforced into his life that when he gets an opportunity to escape into the streets of Gloucester he does and meets up with a Michael Cain-ish talking rabbit called Barnabas who introduces him into the world of stealing. If there is cause in town for the rabbits it’s in the guise of finding food to eat and so Peter joins Barnabas’ gang. Some neighbors have fridges with abundant food for these animal street dwellers to nab at the owner’s disapproval. It’s then that Peter wonders if crime pays…

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Top notch

Photo by Maria Orlova on Pexels.com

Back in 1944 this week A Canterbury Tale was first released, a British-made film helmed by writer/producer/director team Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. A Canterbury Tale is rooted in the idea of Geoffrey Chaucer’s book The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer observed pilgrims seeking blessings or penance as they followed the Pilgrim’s Road to the English locale of Canterbury and used his observations in his book. However, A Canterbury Tale significantly alters the original, but retains the idea. Updated to World War II, blessings are in short supply. We are in view of a difficult time in the world. This background gives viewers a convincing canvas to believe in the seeker’s search.

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