Kristin Chenoweth: Some Lessons Learned

Thursday, September 29, 2011

About the Album:

Released: 2011

Writing Credits: Diane Warren, Victoria Shaw, Kristin Chenoweth

Label: Sony Masterworks

Genre: Country
Number of Songs: 13

My Thoughts: anyone who has heard Kristin’s music before will likely laugh-out-loud at reading the latest genre of music she has decided to tackle. Kristin is an opera singer – I kid you not! – and as such, it makes it a little comical to see she recorded a country album, which are two genres that couldn’t be more different. Believe it or not, she actually sounds really good on every track of this, her country debut. 

The Family Stone (2005)

The Stone’s are the kind of neighbors that everyone gets along with. Sure, they’re a little quirky, but they are the most interesting family on the block – and some of the most free-spirited individuals you’ll ever meet!

Favorite and most successful son, Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney) is heading home for Christmas and has his family in a flurry of anticipation at his arrival. Accompanying him is his uptight businesswoman girlfriend, Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker). The plan is to propose to Meredith during the annual holiday gathering of the Stone’s. Being back home with his siblings and parents (Diane Keaton, Craig T. Nelson) puts Everett on edge – especially when his family begins taking their dislike of Meredith to a whole new level. His go-with-the-flow sisters Amy (Rachel McAdams) and Susannah (Elizabeth Reaser) instantly clash with Meredith’s more rigid personality – most especially Amy who is the only one to have previously met Meredith; she just CANNOT stand the woman. This makes everyone a little blind to what Everett sees in Meredith. His brother Ben (Luke Wilson) however thinks Meredith is the greatest girl his brother has brought home yet.

Overwhelmed by this wacky and large family – and their intense hatred of her, Meredith begs her little sister to come for the duration of her stay with the Stone’s. Julie (Claire Danes) appears on the scene just in time to save Meredith’s sanity… or that is her expectation. Instead, Julie’s arrival changes the dynamics in the household… and shifts emotions. 

Alice (2009)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Until a friend reviewed this, I really didn’t pay much attention to it. Mostly because my entrance into fantasy has been very gradual and not being a die-hard fan of the story on which this is based didn’t help any either. Still, it was always in the back of my mind to someday see.

Independent, but with some bottled up trust issues, Alice (Caterina Scorsone) is an expert black belt and part-time instructor. Since her father walked out on her mother and her some ten years ago, Alice was left with feelings of inadequacy. This means she has transferred that to her relationships with guys. This time though, she is crazy about her boyfriend Jack (Philip Winchester). They are taking the next step in their relationship, but when Jack proposes marriage, Alice does what she does best – she panics and sends Jack out the door. Noticing he slipped the ring in her pocket, she dashes out after him and witnesses men forcing him into a truck. Trying to stop them, she follows the mysterious man claiming to be helping Jack… and instead she falls headlong into a strange world that everyone calls Wonderland.

FILM REVIEW | Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Fantasy network SyFy created a unique look for a storybook fairytale that had the potential to become the “same-old, same-old” mantra. Instead of falling into that trap, they upped expectations, setting it in modern times with a brilliant production design and twists that inspire touches of an “old world” era. An example is a Wall Street-like trading room which was created with traders costumes that are more from the 1900’s whereas the rest of the film dresses its characters in modern attire. Everything at the palace is terrifically reminiscent of the iconic playing cards – and really modern, making that setting and costuming full of whimsy. Seeing Alice in one costume the entire time grew a little tedious, mainly because the dress wasn’t all that attractive.

The creators idea seemed to revolve around exploring the world of Wonderland one-hundred plus years after it first appeared and that idea pays off. Instead of trading stocks, residents’ trade emotions, having been driven into such despair by poor leadership, they are now unable to feel anything. Some may find this theme a little bothersome since the villains capture people from the real world in order to suction all their emotions, bottle them and sell them to the highest bidder. 

Most of this is, plain and simple, clever. Granted it is really wacky, but otherwise, things are decently harmless with exception to the whole idea behind the story. Following closely on the heels of this miniseries was Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. For a heroine, this Alice is a complex and strong leader. Caterina's Alice is a much more interpretive portrayal than that of Mia Wasikowska. Both female protagonists inspire feminism; one in a world dominated by men, the other by her fearless personality. I won’t lie. I like characters – male or female – to be strong leads. A lady doesn’t need to be so independent she's above needing help, but I don't mind if she's confident enough to know her own strengths – and weaknesses.

Seeing Alice pitted as a more coherent heroine is interesting. Her one stumbling block is a lack of trust. Her distrust encompassed the small things in life as well as the bigger things. All of which was fostered by a feeling of abandonment; feelings of inadequacy. How filmmakers put viewers in mind of the classic tale was adorable while adding their own unique spin, and taking their production and interpretations of it in completely different directions. Both of the adaptations or re-telling gave Alice a fabulous support group, mainly in their respective Hatters; both of whom are memorable for different reasons.

How all the characters interacted with their storybook counterpart was ingenious. Even to someone who is not religiously knowledgeable about the original concepts, I can see the parallels. And not just in the characters, all of the wonderful additions pay homage to Carroll’s work and that is something to applaud. This was an achievement that the entire cast and crew should be proud of. The results are comical, touching and reminiscent of the “true” Alice. Even in its whimsical, wackiness, I loved it.  

(A couple of sexual insinuations may pepper the script. Da*n and h*ll are used. There is an “epic” battle nearer the end… with a bunch of corpses. Shots are fired at various people at various points in the movie. Two men get inside Alice’s head, trying to gain information and later torture a man. Plus an assassin is kind of weird having lost his head; scientists have to use a ceramic bunny “head” as a quick fix.)

Charlie's Angels - 1.01, "Angel with a Broken Wing" (2011)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How many of you remember the cheesy seventies-era Charlie’s Angels? Or perhaps the more accurate question: are there any of you who watch the show through re-runs or the DVD sets? I can admit that I do own all four available seasons of the sappy show – and I love it. There are many things about it that bring on eye-rolling and groans, but above all it is cute, which is why when I learned producers were re-booting the series for the 2011 TV season, I was thrilled to pieces – that is exactly what the show needed: an updated outlook. In fact, I was so anxious about the re-make that I broke the standard “rule” at my house (to watch no TV show during its airing on television) and tuned in to the pilot episode. I’ve decided to share my early thoughts on the millennium version of a now iconic television show.

Beastly by Alex Flinn

Monday, September 26, 2011

About the book:
Author: Alex Flinn
Publisher: HarperTeen
Find the Review Elsewhere: Goodreads
Publication Date: 2008
Genre: Teen, Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Adaptation
Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis: Kyle Kingsbury is a vain fifteen-year-old whose only source of parental affection is guaranteed so long as he is constantly considered among the “beautiful people,” otherwise his workaholic father has even less time for him. After his plan to get back at the long-rumored witch Kendra backfires, Kyle is left a beast – a curse Kendra spun on him in order that the world may see him on the outside as he is on the inside: ugly. When he is banished to the "middle of nowhere," Kyle must learn to cope with his new… beastly appearance and has only his tutor for company. Two years. That is all the time he has to “fix” things. In order to break the curse, he must find someone to love him unconditionally… and he to return that love… or he will remain as he is… forever.

Beastly (2010) - Sweet Contemporary Re-telling of 'Beauty and the Beast'

Even with good looks and charm with every earthy comfort at ones fingertips does not make a likable person. That is the working idea behind the teen movie, Beastly. It probably won’t appeal to a wider audience than teenagers (for most it will be brushed aside as an angst-driven story with some pretty faces and young Hollywood starlets who might not have real acting chops), but what everyone should recognize is its message about vain beauty.

Step Up (2006)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Step Up
I have fond memories of seeing this movie in theaters. It was one that I saw on a whim without knowing much about. Since then I’ve seen it subsequent times and bought the DVD. Thanks to this movie, I discovered just how much I enjoy the art of dance – seeing the professionals perform it, mind you, not me.

Prom (2011)

Prom Disney
I read a “teaser” blurb preceding a review of this movie. In the span of one sentence, the reviewer remarked that he probably wasn’t the prime audience for this movie (ya’ think!?). Obviously, he was right and I must admit, I probably am not either as it's teens Disney geared this towards, and in all likelihood, pre-teens, but still, this movie is infectious – in the best sense.

Point of Grace: No Changin' Us

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

About the Album:
Released: 2009
Writing Credits: Hillary Lindsey, Nathan Chapman, Cindy Morgan and Point of Grace
Number of songs: 11
Label: Word Label Group

I love these ladies. As artists, they are constantly surprising me in their music and as women of faith – from the little I’ve read written by them, they are examples. The fact that I get so much out of their songs is ironic because I am not their target audience. And still, their music constantly inspires and touches me. This album was their first as a trio since the departure of Heather Payne and is also their first to really be ingrained with a country flavored twang – and I LOVED that about the album. Right off from the second track  (“Wildflower”) is this theme allowed to come through, it is co-written by Hillary Lindsey who is well-known for penning some of Carrie Underwood’s hits along with Martina McBride, Rascal Flatts, Sara Evans and Lady Antebellum. The song definitely is traditional country recounting the story of a girl who just doesn’t fit in at her school and is just waiting for her life to change. “Love and Laundry” is another one that has a noticeable twang (and it’s adorable to boot!) but probably the song where the fiddle-infused notes come through most is on the title track which is dedicated to the ladies husbands.

Point of Grace: How You Live (Deluxe Edition)

About the Album:
Released: 2008
Writing Credits: Nichole Nordeman, Clint Lagerberg, Cindy Morgan and Connie Harrington
Number of songs: 15
Label: Word Label Group

Re-releasing records can be tricky. I know for me, minus a select few, I don’t bother purchasing an album I already own. Point of Grace is a group that is one of those exceptions. I already was inspired by this record when it had released a year prior to its “deluxe edition,” so it would only stand to reason that I’d be buying this edition too.

There are simply too many tracks to single out, so I’ll be just going through a select few. For starters, the title track is awesome. Founding member Heather Payne (she has since left the award-winning group) sounds fantastic on it. The song prompts listeners to think about the “small stuff” in life. It encourages us to “take chances,” and to remember that it is not who we know in our life that will count but how we live. How the song relates to us is beautiful; the home-spun lyrics are truly from the heart. “Heal the Wound” is a very personal journey that features Leigh’s vocal talents. In her voice we can hear the meaning behind the song through such a moving vocal performance. This song asks God to heal the reminders of the past but leave a scar as a reminder of His mercy – it reminds us (which we need a lot of) to never forget the regretful choices we’ve made and through that the loving mercy that God extends. In her case it is in reference to an abortion previous to Leigh becoming a Christian.  “All the World” is a fun upbeat tune which talks of being a voice for Christ. To show His love to… well “All the World.”

Lady Antebellum: Own the Night

About the album:
Released: 2011
Writing Credits: Hillary Scott, Charles Kelly and Dave Haywood, Monty Powell
Number of Tracks: 12
Label: Capitol Nashville
Genre: Country
Debut: #1 first week secular and county-selling album

My thoughts: the first single off this country trio’s third studio album was “Just a Kiss,” and it was an awesome and beautiful ballad that – for once promoted a romantic relationship that was tender and wholesome. It begs the listener to take relationships slowly, to resist “temptation” …to end the night with “just a kiss.” On their full-length album, there are various overtures and mildly suggestive lines, but I cannot help but be fond of this album – the first I’ve actually bought. Prior to that, I had only purchased a handful of MP3 files but after being enchanted by “Just a Kiss,” I determined to buy my first album from Lady Antebellum.

Life: Unafraid

Monday, September 19, 2011

Unless you are a small child or have been living on another planet altogether there probably isn’t one person – even if you aren’t politically inclined who has not heard of Sarah Palin or the Palin family. Whether you love them or hate them, support them or not, agree with them or don’t, there are certain things about the family that fascinate the public and press. (Perhaps “fascinate” isn’t even the right word – everyone seems to be obsessed with this family.) I have been both disappointed and impressed with their eldest daughter Bristol. After a stint on Dancing with the Stars, Bristol managed to capture America’s hearts as each week she was brought back after embarrassingly low scores and distasteful remarks from the judges. (What? I may not watch the show on a week-to-week basis, but I love it.) It was then that she impressed me with her quiet acceptance and wholesome personality. My regret for her obviously comes from her becoming a teenage mom with her high school boyfriend. This is the dissention that has enabled media outlets to most discredit the Palins. Now in a new memoir, Bristol recounts what it was like to live under such scrutiny – and shares the impact her decisions have had on her young life.

Downton Abbey, Series One (2010) - TV's Newest Period Drama Addiction

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Since Downton Abbey is about to premiere its second series in the U.K., I thought it was the proper time to look back at its first. At its premiere reports swirled that the British were going to cut many costume adaptations (it looks like that wasn’t completely accurate). So long as these continue, I see no reason to be disappointed with the Brits since this just proves that they still have some amazingly talented people bringing these productions together. 

The date is April 1912, the Titanic has just sunk and news of it travels quickly across British societies. The household of Downton Abbey is abuzz with the news. When it reaches the earl, Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville), the question of whether or not anyone the family knows was aboard is posed. Before long, he learns that his cousins were indeed on the passenger list and being the heirs to his estate, the title and fortune is uncertain. Especially since the Earl’s three children are girls. 

Robert’s wife, Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) brought the fortune to the abbey which leads her to form a tentative bond with her mother-in-law (Maggie Smith). Both agree, eldest daughter, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) should inherit the fortune even if her gender disallows her the title. This inspires the women of Downton to look for a promising match between Mary and a visiting duke. Plans crumble when it becomes apparent the Duke had other motivations for visiting…

Banter, Battery – and (*gasp*) Murder!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

There are SO many television shows that are similar, it makes for a difficult time of keeping them all straight (or that would be my dad’s reaction). When ABC would air promotional spots for Castle, my mother and I would howl with laughter each time – so much so that we were determined to jump into the series knowing little about it. We impulsively bought the first set on a shopping trip, got home late that night from running various different places, and even still, we eagerly popped the first disc into the player. In anticipation for the premiere of Castle’s fourth season and the third season hitting store shelves, I couldn’t resist re-visiting one of my favorite TV crime-fighting duos by writing a post on just one of my (many) favorite television genius’.

Castle, Season Two (2009)

Watching the first season of Castle left my mom and I in a quandary thanks to its terrible cliffhanger, an ending we were not expecting coming from such a feel-good, entertaining show. (This inevitably meant I would - from then on be using the Internet for spoilers on yet another show.) Waiting for the second set to release turned out to be a mild form of agony because we wanted to know what happened to the sparring Det. Beckett and the annoying Castle. Alas, the opening was a letdown in terms of much insight – happily that doesn’t hold true in season two's conclusion.

Castle, Season One (2008)

Castle and Beckett

Promotional spots for this evening sitcom “sold” me this ABC crime dramedy. While it may be a bit out-of-the-ordinary of something I’d normally watch, I couldn’t help but become interested. So, after some reading and the release, I was excited to finally have the chance to watch this.
A woman has just been murdered. Only the circumstances aren’t under “normal” conditions. The killer left the victim nude blanketed in rose petals with sunflowers covering her eyes.

NYPD detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) doesn’t think this was a crime of passion: the victim knew her killer. The most interesting thing is the scene, which greatly resembles a scene straight out of mystery novelist Rick Castle’s book. Castle (Nathan Fillion) has climbed to the top of the bestseller lists, only his final book has killed off his lead hero and ever since, he’s struggled to write. This is something his publisher and ex-wife (one and the same person) is pressuring him to remedy. It just so happens that Kate is an ardent fan of Castle’s, a secret she tries to keep in check when she drags him out of a posh party for an hour or two of questioning.

Unfortunately for Kate, she’s stuck with the curious Castle when he’s assigned to her for the duration of the case. Eventually, the “team” of Castle and Beckett prevail, which relieves Kate, who now no longer has a curious citizen tagging along. Unfortunately for Kate, she has become Castle’s latest inspiration and becomes lucky enough to be his latest character inspiration: the fun is just beginning.

Said to be a mix of Murder, She Wrote and the sitcom Moonlighting (this does resemble both, for different reasons), initially aside from a good time, I didn’t think this anything particularly unique. That said, there is something about it that makes it irresistibly charming. By the finale (and making-of feature), I was convinced this was a REALLY fantastic show. No doubt this is greatly due to the characters, who while not very complex are still an interesting study. Kate has had a painful past and while, we automatically assume (especially after meeting him), Castle is an idle playboy, the more viewers see of his private life, the more you grow to like his character. Being a single father really took the “edge” of his character and regardless of misgivings, he is an awesome dad. The scenes between him and daughter, Alexis (Molly Quinn), are precious albeit far too rare; scenes of them sliding down the hall floor or talking late into the evening are special and well filmed. The relationship that screenwriters developed between them are based on respect and genuine love, as is portrayed throughout the show and Alexis isn’t disrespectful towards her father as is so often depicted in teenage characters.
Castle and Alexis
While not being as funny as I’d assumed, humor does play a significant role in Castle, without ever becoming “slapstick.” Just one hilarious instance involves Castle sneaking along with the team while acting on a tip wearing a bullet-proof vest that proclaims his occupation (trust me; it is one of those scenes that demands laughter). Moments of serious conversations and hilarity ultimately lead to tense crime situations. The casting is perfection. Both Stana and Nathan play their parts convincingly well, while newcomer Molly Quinn is the scene-stealer. Kate and Castle’s interaction is brimming with sparks, but their “dislike” of the other is just as obvious; each eventually sees the attributes in one another forging an easy-going friendship-like relationship that is constantly at “odds” in a will-they-or-won’t-they crackle of tension. Kate intrigues Castle because he can’t quite crack what’s driving her. Throughout the series their “partnership” is often the brunt of many barbs and much of the series is based off that. Castle’s brilliant observations and sudden epiphanies were darn entertaining – those scenes when he breaks a suspect’s role in the crime or alibi, made for laugh-out-loud comedy that if missing, would have made an otherwise dull show.
As the ten-episode arc gets further into the season, it ultimately does become a stronger show without the array of cleverness from other shows of its genre. Still despite its unrealistic premise, it remained a clever, engaging show that ended far too quickly with a shocking cliff-hanger (fortunately anyone just starting the show can immediately pick up season two). Promotion seemed decent for this series and the opening title is particularly cute (using a quill pen). Filmmaking is notably modern with some far-out architect shots.
Castle is simply a fun forty plus minutes that offers mystery interspersed with fantastic comedy. The crimes are clever, the characters interesting enough to keep one curious and I enjoyed what they each brought to solving the murders. If you don’t mind overlooking misguided morals, this is one modern sitcom I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. 
CONTENT: sexual references and/or innuendo, and problematic language play the greatest issue. “Nanny McDead” uncovers two nannies that were having affairs with their respective employers. “Hell Hath No Fury” involves a high paid prostitute. “Always Buy Retail” opens with Castle and his wife having a brief tryst. Victims die in a variety of ways; some are shot, another bashed in the head and stuffed into a dryer, while another has numerous bones broken to fit into a safe. A mentally unwell woman thinks of committing suicide and cuts a knife into her thigh. One episode [“Always Buy Retail”] deals with voodoo ceremonies. Some episodes imply drugs and extra-marital affairs. Drinking is also a part of the show at various different times including Castle urging his teenage daughter to do so.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

“It’s about time for you to take down your flags, don’t you think?”

That was my dad’s question a couple weeks ago when we were backing out of the garage on the way to church – the response? “Um… no not until the end of August. And besides it’s GOOD to be patriotic!” Every summer in late June early July, my mom and I deck the house out in red, white and blue and it remains so until the end of August – at least. What this inconsequential exchange begs of us Americans is to ask: have we forgotten? Have we forgotten what it means to be patriotic? Have we forgotten how to display such patriotism – to just be proud Americans? In the hustle-bustle of daily lives, yes, I believe we have. It has been ten years since one event changed how many of us see terrorism – 9/11. My guess is that for the majority of us it altered how we think of war on the home front because it was an act carried out on U.S. soil – something unimaginable. I do not remember exactly what went through my young teenage mind but do recollect who called to tell my mom to turn on the television, where we were going that day and that T.V., radio and Internet outlets covered nothing else for days. September eleventh changed many, many lives but even for those of us not directly affected, I do not think there were many among us who weren’t emotionally touched. My memories are not as vivid as they would be if it only happened five years ago, but I still remember where I was when hearing the radio announcement that we had declared war – as a young girl, it made quite an impression.

Dear John (2010)

Dear John

The beaches of North Carolina are filled with students holding beachside parties and spending their days soaking up the sun while on spring break. A soldier in the U.S. Army, John Tyree (Channing Tatum) spends much of his time at the beach surfing, while on a two-week leave. It’s during one of these times that he spots a pretty college student walking the pier with her friends. After impulsively rescuing her bag which had tumbled into the water, John meets Savannah Curtis (Amanda Seyfried). 

Both immediately feel an instant connection and so begins a whirlwind two-week romance. She's a southern girl who doesn’t drink, swear or smoke. He's an upstanding soldier with a checkered past. She meets and bonds with his quiet, reserved father (Richard Jenkins), they go to the beach, and connect over acts and works of charity, all while falling deeper in love thousands of miles from each other. 

As their love grows, they continue to bond over letters with John’s promise to be back and home for good in 12 months. And then September eleventh happens… 

One thing audiences can be nearly guaranteed when sitting through a film adaptation helmed by bestselling author Nicholas Sparks are the tears that the story will inevitably bring, one way or another. Of the other five that have been written to the screen (all are familiar to me), three introduce tragedy that sends at least one character into an emotional tailspin, while another just ends strangely. Luckily for those of us who aren’t all that fond of weeping through a story, Dear John provides an alternative or at least (in my opinion) makes the tears worth something.

Seeing as I’m a person who enjoys a good story no matter its genre (with a reasonable conclusion), I cannot say why I’ve continued to read and subsequently watch this author’s works, except to say, overall I like them. Whatever the reason, I’ve found one to admire bearing his name. That burden falls on Dear John, which is (as of now) by far my favorite. One of its biggest cracks is the slower, quiet pace. More scenes than one would think are set against the war with voice-overs reading aloud the letters John and Savannah exchange. This makes for an unhurried tempo suggesting it would allow the audience to lose interest, but the novel-to-screen story is so good. It becomes something we are enveloped in, and want to be told, unfolding in such a lovingly tender way (in more than one form) that nearly all is forgiven.

War is always a “difficult” topic to incorporate into a script, and I say that meaning, most screenwriters don’t like to have it depicted constructively. Here is no different. This story chooses to “discredit’’ war by blaming the war for personal motivations. By depicting John’s service as the cause of he and Savannah’s differences, the story, whether knowingly or not, holds war to blame. But on the other spectrum, it surprised me to see that instead of being “just a romance,” this was more a story of John’s loyalty and courage in the face of unforeseen circumstances. We see his reluctance to re-up in light of a promise, and ultimately, his anger stemming from these broken dreams.Underneath, we experience his allegiance to his comrades and country, irrespective of those initial motivations. 

Some critics and viewers complained about the characters. In general, no one cared for Savannah one iota, and felt John deserved so much better. For my opinion, the characters were all “likable” and while I did find John’s life to be more upstanding than some leading men, he was far from faultless, just as Savannah was. Where a real problem came in between these two lovers and characters questioning  Savannah’s heart was her expecting something from John after she broke his heart.  Nearly all of Sparks’ works carry the unspoken tagline that tears will accompany, but nothing here compels tears during the in-between goings-on. Maybe it was the acting or just knowing what would occur, there is emotion, but never that heart-wrenching feeling that brings you to tears. Since I had seen these actors in separate roles prior to this, I also wound up loving these two together.

All that to say, there are many things to admire about this script. One being the characters falling in love by letters (such a charming concept); the other were the characters themselves. Seeing their faults eventually come to light was well thought out. Having known how much of the story unfolded beforehand, not much surprised me. Basing a love story around letters was sweet, which is the bulk of the romance’s structure. Sometimes getting to know a person via a hand-written letter can be more meaningful than in person. Perhaps it’s unrealistic to say they fell in love over a two-week period, but you can sympathize some in the excitement of it all, knowing what a short time they had together. Happily the ending is neither “complete” in its potential nor will it be devastating. If the novel is more to your liking, there is an alternate ending that matches it nearly perfectly or so I understand. Generally I would have detested that alternate end, but it wasn’t terrible as it’s not so much a show of the “could haves,” but a sort of farewell that’s an emotionally healthy ending for one character. 

Dear John is a lovely film that is beautifully filmed with flawless shots and gorgeous beach scenery that stays with you after its end, not so much by epic standards, but because we come to see it as a piece of filming that is essentially a “human” story about the characters and their struggles, one that has many things for its audience to relate too. That alone makes this a joy to experience.

(One sensual scene shows tender kisses and caresses, and near nudity, there's a remark about a girl not being the type to “sleep around” and sequences involving snuggling, tickling one another and lots of kissing; John watches Savannah undress. A soldier is shot twice in the back and critically wounded; other soldiers shoot enemies with their weapons; a man punches out three guys after being “goaded.” A few scenes take place on the battlefield, none of which turn graphic in their depiction of warfare. Two characters die; two others are said to have learning disabilities, one having been diagnosed with autism. There are couple of scattered profanities; he** and ba*tar* are each used once; characters drink wine and beers. This is rated PG13.)

Mark Schultz: Letters from War

Saturday, September 10, 2011

About the song:
Album: Stories & Songs
Released: 2003
Writing Credits: Mark Schultz and Cindy Morgan
Label: Word Records
Length: 4:15

The story: a young man leaves his home to fight a war and faithfully exchanges letters with his mother. In the heat of a battle, he puts his life on the line in order to save another, and becomes a POW.

My thoughts: the first time I heard this song – and actually listened to the lyrics, I remember the heartwarming impact it made on me. It isn’t really a song I can relate to but it doesn’t have to be: it’s just good songwriting. Anyone who is a proud American will definitely understand the significance of the lyrics. The soaring instrumental music transports us although I don’t think it is Mark’s best vocal performance, he still does the profound lyrics justice.

Letters from War is a song of hope and tells the message we want every American family to experience who has a loved one fighting – for every person who stood up and fought to preserve American freedom; it sets up the metaphorical reunion scene every family longs for. I love the song for its inspiration and compelling look at heroism. Today the definition of that is often confused with something it shouldn’t be. Patriotism shouldn’t be limited to a day that, to most people just means picnic baskets and fireworks but instead actually reflect what Independence Day means to us – what the Founding Fathers may have intended. Mark captures a lot of hopeful emotions in this ballad and for that reason the song is a very real, honest one.

The lyrics: …she wrote to him every night as she prayed… her tears stained the paper with every word that she read, it said: I was up there alone, I was out there alone when the shots all rang out, bombs were exploding and that’s when I saw him, he came back for me and though he was captured, a man set me free – that man was your son, he asked to write to you, I told him I would, oh, I swore. It was the last of the letters from war…

Tempting Fate

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Temptation is all around us. From frivolous, extravagant purchases to the simple joys, don’t we all encounter them in some form or another – and they are out there on a daily basis, and because we are human, many of us don’t defy the odds, whether they be major or minor. Christ walked this earth as a man and faced many similar challenges – we, however seem more susceptible to luring pursuits, but like Jesus have the option to say “no.” Being the son of God gave Him no “special” privileges for resistance, contrary to secular belief. Miramax’s 2000 film Chocolat concocts an array of tempting concepts, or more precisely: confectionary delights but like so many other stories, the script goes much deeper than that.

Chocolat (2000)


Not everyone will find a touching story within the comfort of this independent movie. Some will be blinded by its sometimes immoral behavior, others will only see the prejudice most characters held fast to. I cannot remember exactly when first I saw it, but I do recall just how much I fell in love with it, and only wish I put it into the DVD player more often.

One cold, blustery day a brisk wind not only brought a sudden chill but the sly North wind ushered two figures cloaked in red into the small French village that believed in tranquility and the “proper” way of seeing things done. Anything that upsets their peaceful way of doing things is frowned upon by the town’s mayor, Count de Reynaud (Alfred Molina). When single mother Vianne (Juliette Binoche) and her six-year-old daughter (Victoire Thivisol) appear on the scene, it doesn’t take long for her to create a stir.

Coming from a gypsy lifestyle, Vianne has done much the same with her own daughter. Renting a small shop and its above stairs apartment from a bitter woman (Judi Dench), Vianne sets to work at her trade and opening a decedent chocolate shop. Much to the horror of the village she does so during the period of lent.

The Winding Road Home by Sally John

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

About the book:
Author: Sally John
Publisher: Harvest House
Publication Date: 2008 (re-release), 2003 (first printing)
Find the Review Elsewhere: Goodreads
Series: The Other Way Home - Book 4
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Synopsis: Kate Kilpatrick has plans. She is going to complete her stint at the small town Valley Oaks Times and then head off for bigger and better prospects at a larger outlet. Her plans are complicated by fellow Riverton classmate Tanner Carlucci who is now a substitute history teacher at Valley Oaks and skilled pilot. Kate’s drive intimidates Tanner somewhat: he is twelve years out of high school and still without a career… and when he begins to entertain ideas of Kate in his life for good, things get even more confusing – for the both of them.

Kate’s land lady Adele Chandler is a single mom who focused all her attentions on being a good mother. Now, she has been in a semi-serious relationship with a “safe” bet – serious-minded businessman, Will for six months. Then she meets Graham quite by chance. He stirs her heart like Will has never but that means her life will be upset, something she isn’t sure she is willing to allow for – nor is it something she ever expected after years of creating a stable environment to raise her daughter in. 

Just to See You Smile by Sally John

About the book:
Author: Sally John
Publisher: Harvest House
Source: Purchase 
Publish Date: 2008 (re-release), 2002 (first printing)
Find the Review Elsewhere: Goodreads
Series: The Other Way Home - Book 3
Rating: 3 out of 5

Synopsis: dedicated basketball coach and teacher, Britte Olafsson isn’t about to let her firm hand with students be upset by some overprotective, overbearing parent. New principal Joel Kingsley also rules with strict, orderly discipline on school grounds. As a former Marine, he is used to challenges but when it comes to backing up Britte in her coaching decisions, he may just have met his match.

Married seventeen years, Alec and Anne Sutton are experiencing some financial and emotional trials. They’ve just seen their best friends go through a divorce which shakes Anne’s beliefs to the core – if it could happen to her friend, can’t it happen to anyone? Amid job troubles and a tanking economy, Alec loses sight of his family – and his wife’s heart. Will he be able to win her back?

The Back-Up Plan (2010)

Sometimes, a comical premise is not enough to save a movie that should have stopped when it was ahead… and, unfortunately, this movie relies a lot on its capacity to be “funny,” in the process masking the heart of the story. Some of you might have seen the trailers or read a blurb about The Back-Up Plan and thought it sounded awful, but something about it looked comical enough for my mom and I to be interested – plus the opening credit concept was really cute. (Which may be about the only compliment this film is likely to get.)

The Proposal (2009)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Sandra Bullock is one of the most naturally funny comedic actresses in the business, so it comes as no surprise that I went and saw this in theaters and now own a copy of The Proposal. Despite unkind remarks by the media, this film is delightful.

Something Borrowed (2011)


The term “best-selling author” does not always mean that an author deserves to be such a success or have such a prestigious honor to their name. Chick-lit author Emily Griffin has had her first novel brought to screen in the comedy Something Borrowed. The movie caught my eye because of Kate Hudson and so, I wanted to see it. I do not know how the original material plays out but here the story goes something like this. Never mind that Darcy and Rachel have been the best of friends since the fifth grade – they still don’t know how to be honest with one another.

Wild Target (2010)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The fact that I actually rented this movie suggest that, even picking this one up off the shelf was a small step out of my comfort zone in terms of the films I see. Normally, I go for stories that are more "feet firmly planted on the ground" – so to speak, but the trailer for Wild Target just hit me in all the right places. (No pun intended!)

Living up to his father’s expectations is something Victor Maynard (Bill Nighy) has done well. Taking over the family business, as it were, Victor is a professional hit man. His hits are all carried out with precision and nary a single hiccup – however, living up to his mother’s standards is another thing all together. Rose (Emily Blunt) is one con away from being in a very dangerous situation. Her latest and biggest swindle to date involves selling a painting to the wealthy Ferguson (Rupert Everett) who has the means to buy an original, only problem is, right under their noses she switches out the original for a forgery.

When these two get tangled up in each other’s lives, things go array…

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