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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Some Quick Updates

All right, I'm going on break, which means regular posting will be on hold until January 5. Until then, may you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Image credit:Open Clipart

© 2014 by M.R.R.

Movie Review:The Santa Clause

Premise:A divorced father accidentally agrees to become Santa Claus.

Cast:Tim Allen as Scott Calvin, Eric Lloyd as Charlie Calvin, Wendy Crewson as Laura Miller, Judge Reinhold as Dr. Neil Miller, David Krumholtz as Bernard, Paige Tamada as Judy the elf

Director:John Pasquin

MPAA Rating:PG for some crude moments

Genres:Holiday, comedy

Notes:Poster taken from IMP Awards.

Pros:Father-son bonding.

Cons:Obnoxious characters. In-story legal issues.

It's one thing to tell your skeptical kid that Santa is real. It's another to actually meet the guy, then accidentally kill him and get his job. Your life might get a little more complicated, especially when your ex and her husband start to worry about how much time you spend with your son.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Album Review:Comatose Comes Alive


Genres:Christian rock

Notes:Album art taken from Amazon.

General thoughts:I have a confession to make. I haven't been to a concert. I'm not sure if I ever will be. But that's what DVDs are for, right?

Since this is the post-Comatose tour, that's the majority of the music here. I'm a little disappointed "Falling Inside The Black" didn't make it on here, but that's a minor thing. I felt exhilarated watching it, getting the feeling that comes with epic rock music.

Be aware that the "behind the scenes" video doesn't actually tell you anything. It's just backstage footage set to "The Older I Get". But you will get several official music videos. And if you register the CD by signing up for the mailing list, you can get some bonus tracks (mostly acoustic versions of songs).

Overall, it's a great release and I recommend checking it out.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Album Review:Have Yourself A Looney Tunes Christmas

Songwriters and composers:Mark A. Brymer, Roy Zimmerman, Melanie Harby, Johnny Marks, Jerry Herman, Fred Heider, Mel Tormé, J. Fred Coots, Haven Gillespie

Genres:Christmas/holiday, comedy

Notes:Album art taken from Amazon.

General thoughts:I'd expect a Christmas special by these guys, but not an album. How did it turn out?

Silly for one thing, both when it does original songs and with traditional carols. And very in character, which helped it.

Overall, fans of these guys ought to enjoy it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Album Review:Smell The Color 9

Artist:Chris Rice

Songwriters:Chris Rice, Monroe Jones

Genres:Pop, adult contemporary, alternative

Notes:Album art taken from Amazon.

General thoughts:Most of the artists I listened to often at one point in my life have now passed into "hey, I remember that." Among them is Chris Rice.

There are two styles of songs here:The more upbeat, and the quieter and more introspective. There are good and bad examples of both. And the lyrics range from the light-hearted and a little silly to the more serious and emotional.

Overall, I've heard worse. If you like your Christian music a little unorthodox, consider picking this up.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Year Without A Santa Claus Review

Premise:A ill Santa decides not to make his yearly trip, so his wife looks for another option.

Cast:Shirley Booth as Mrs. Claus, Mickey Rooney as Santa Claus, Bob McFadden as Jingle Bells, Bradley Bolke as Jangle Bells, Colin Duffy as Ignatius "Iggy" Thistlewhite, Dick Shawn as Snow Miser, George S. Irving as Heat Miser, Rhoda Mann as Mother Nature

Directors:Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr.

Genres:Holiday, animation

Notes:Poster taken from IMDB.

Pros:Characters. Good dialogue. A couple of good songs.

Cons:Several strange or annoying musical numbers. One character serves no story purpose. Standard "Christmas without Santa" message. A couple of plot issues.

It happens to all of us. You've got something big you need to do, but then you get sick. Now all you want is a break from everything. But what if you're Santa Claus? How does that affect the world?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Album Review:Restored

Artist:Jeremy Camp

Songwriters:Jeremy Camp, Jean-Luc Lajoie, Adam Watts

Genres:Gospel, Christian rock

Notes:Album art taken from the official website.

General thoughts:Jeremy Camp is another artist I've listened to some, thanks to being around Christian music my whole life. He's also another that I haven't really gotten into, but has a few good songs. That last sentence isn't a bad description of this album. While I'm not big on the whole thing, there are several songs here that I want to hang onto.

Soundwise, this is where he starts really getting into the rock. He had a few songs like this early on, but not quite as much. Lyrically, it's mostly about God. His forgiveness, love, sacrifice, and so forth.

Overall, if you like Christian rock, I'd say give it at least one listen.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Album Review For Songs 4 Worship:Christmas

Songwriters and composers:Really should look up the writers of these carols.

Genres:Classical, Christmas/holiday

Notes:Album art taken from Amazon.

General thoughts:This is Christmas/praise and worship music as sung by a chorus for the most part. Think what you might sing in church around Christmas time.

The whole chorus thing means it doesn't do much for me. There were moments during a few songs (like "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"), but they were few and far between.

Overall, I'd skip it and pick out something by your favorite Christian artists instead.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Movie Review:Casino Royale

Premise:A new special agent works to bring down a villain through a poker tournament.

Cast:Daniel Craig as James Bond, Eva Green as Vesper Lynd, Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre, Giancarlo Gianni as Mathis, Simon Abkarian as Alex Dimitrios, Judi Dench as M, full cast can be found here.

Director:Chris Cornell

MPAA Rating:PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action, a scene of torture, sexual content and nudity


Notes:Poster taken from IMP Awards.

Pros:Vesper. A more realistic villain.

Cons:Several sequences feel longer than necessary. Little depth to most characters. Takes too long to actually get to the plot.

You ever think what Bond's first few years in the business must have been like?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Movie Review:National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Premise:An eccentric man tries to make Christmas special for his whole family.

Cast:Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold, Beverly D'Angelo as Ellen Griswold, Randy Quaid as Cousin Eddie, Johnny Galecki as Rusty Griswold, Juliette Lewis as Audrey Griswold, John Randolph as Grandpa Clark, Diane Ladd as Grandma Nora, E.G. Marshall as Grandpa Art, Doris Roberts as Grandma Frances, Nicholas Guest as Todd Chester, Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Margo Chester, Miriam Flynn as Catherine, Ellen Hamilton Latzen as Ruby Sue, Cody Burger as Rocky, William Hickey as Uncle Lewis, Mae Questal as Aunt Bethany, Brian Doyle-Murray as Frank Shirley

Director:Jeremiah S. Chechik

MPAA Rating:PG-13

Genres:Holiday, comedy

Notes:Poster taken from IMP Awards.

Pros:Silly protagonists hi-jinks. It's funny.

Cons:One subplot.

Spending Christmas with your family can be fun, but it also tends to be stressful. It can get even more stressful when they stay in your house a couple weeks. Maybe just a tiny...My goodness, how do you stand it? I don't care how much you love your family. Cramming them all in the same house for weeks before a major "family" holiday? No thanks.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Album Review:The Legend Of Johnny Cash

Artist:Johnny Cash (duh)

Songwriters:Johnny Cash, Jack H. Clement, June Carter Cash, Merle Kilgore, Jerry Lieber, Billy Edd Wheeler, Sheldon Silverstein, Kris Kristofferson, Wayne Kemp, Jimmy Webb, Bono, Larry Mullen, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Chris Cornell, Geoff Mack, Trent Reznor


Notes:Album art taken from Wikipedia.

General thoughts:If you've listened to country music for very long, then you've most likely heard at least one Johnny Cash song.

This overall is what I think of when you say "country." It has a little bit of everything when it comes to Cash's style. Some of it's silly, some is sad, some is about relationships.

Overall, if you find it for cheap and you're only recently getting into Johnny Cash, it might be worth getting.

Gift Giving

Edited from this
You know the drill. During the holidays and birthdays, we open surprise gifts from each other.

Don't get me wrong. I like getting gifts, but I see some issues with the way we've set things up. To start, it encourages people (especially kids) to be spoiled, greedy brats. I personally have been one, and don't sit there smirking like you haven't.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Movie Review:Christmas With The Kranks

Premise:A middle aged couple decides to skip Christmas and go on a cruise, much to the shock of the neighborhood.

Cast:Tim Allen as Luthor Krank, Jamie Lee Curtis as Nora Krank, Julie Gonzalo as Blair Krank, Dan Aykroyd as Vic Frohmeyer, Erik Per Sullivan as Spike Frohmeyer, M. Emmett Walsh as Walt Scheel, Elizabeth Franz as Bev Scheel, Cheech Marin as Officer Salino, Jake Busey as Officer Treen, Austin Pendleton as Marty, René Lavan as Enrique Decardenal

Director:Joe Roth

MPAA Rating:PG for brief language and suggestive content.

Genres:Holiday, comedy

Notes:Based on the book Skipping Christmas by John Grisham. Poster taken from IMP Awards.

Pros:One or two characters.

Cons:Obnoxious characters. Not many laughs.

With their daughter leaving for the holidays, the Kranks have started to wonder, why celebrate Christmas? It's so expensive that a cruise would be cheaper. Now if only the neighbors would see it that way.

Monday, December 08, 2014

My Favorite Christmas Songs

Image credit:Clipart

Well, no Thoughts, Theories, or Trivia this week. So here in no particular order are a few of my favorite Christmas carols.
  • What Child Is This?/Greensleeves:Yes. So much yes.
  • God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
  • Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
  • O Holy Night
  • Carol Of The Bells:I really should get an non-instrumental version of this.
  • Sleigh Ride
  • O Come, O Come Emmanuel:It's slow and kind of spooky-sounding.
  • Silent Night

Movie Review:Men In Black

Premise:A secret organization (primarily a veteran agent and his rookie partner) have to save the world from an alien cockroach.

Cast:Will Smith as Agent J, Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K, Vincent D'Onofrio as Edgar/the Bug, Linda Fiorentino as Laurel Weaver, Rip Torn as Zed, Tony Shaloub as Jeebs, Siobhan Fallon as Beatrice

Director:Barry Sonnenfeld

MPAA Rating:PG-13 for language and sci-fi violence

Genres:Sci-fi, action, comedy

Notes:Based off a Marvel comic. Poster taken from IMP Awards.

Pros:The leads. Funny dialogue. Good action.

Cons:Spots of bad acting. Excessive use of slime.

Are we alone in the universe? According to the Men in Black, we are. Or so they want the public to think. They know that we deal with aliens on a regular basis and don't even realize it. And considering that the planet might be blown to pieces, maybe it's better that way.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Album Review:Shatter Me

Artist:Lindsey Stirling

Songwriters:Lindsey Stirling, SILAS, Marko G., Dia Frampton, Kill Paris, Sterling Fox, Scott Gold, Robert DeLong, Sam Hollander, Steve Shebby, Reuben Keeney, Raffi

Genres:Classical, dub-step

Notes:Album art is from the official site.

General thoughts:In the last few years, Lindsey Stirling has made quite a mark with her unique style. She's experimenting with her music here, some of which I kind of liked (the Lzzy Hale collaboration for one), other bits less so (thanks to screeching or skipping sounds). For the most part, it's about what you'd expect.

The deluxe edition isn't memorable. If you happen to come across it before you buy the regular album, then go ahead and get it, but otherwise, there's not a lot of reason to. Be aware that you'll have to get it at Target to get the whole thing.

Overall, if you've liked what you've heard of Lindsey Stirling, get this for sure.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Album Review:A Praise & Worship Christmas

Genres:Holiday, praise & worship

Notes:Album art taken from Amazon.

General thoughts:What's your favorite religious Christmas carol?

A lot of Christian artists that were or are popular contributed to this. You'll find mostly old carols with one or two original songs as well. The pacing varies from song to song.

Overall, it wasn't so bad. If you like Christian music and Christmas songs, you might want to check it out.

Things Christmas Stories Should Stop Doing

I love a good Christmas special as much as anybody. But certain things start to get under my skin after a while.

Treating Santa Claus as the only reason to celebrate
Image credit:Clipart
Yeah, it's a nice story and all, but why in the world do movies act like Santa not visiting would destroy everything? What about Jesus, family, togetherness, and stuff like that? Why is a guy not delivering presents going to result in the end of happiness?

Ripping off It's A Wonderful Life
Inevitably, the world without this character is going to be so awful and clearly needs them still. This story-line is old and overused by now. Give it a rest.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Movie Review:Marley & Me

Premise:A couple adopts a puppy in the midst of their life.

Cast:Owen Wilson as John Grogan, Jennifer Aniston as Jenny Grogan, Eric Dane as Sebastian, Alan Arkin as Arnie Klein

Director:David Frankel

MPAA Rating:PG for thematic material, some suggestive content, and language

Genres:Comedy, drama

Notes:Based on John Grogan's autobiography. Set in the 90's. Poster taken from IMP Awards.

Pros:Some emotional moments. Good main characters. The marriage.

Cons:Moves too fast. Not that funny. Flat secondary characters.

If you've ever had a puppy, then you know they are a handful. Sometimes, they don't mellow out when they get older. But he can still be kind of fun.

The trailers probably made you think this is just a childish comedy about a misbehaving dog. It sort of is, but it's more a drama about a couple living their life from marriage to kids to middle age. And because of its approach to that, it should have been PG-13. This should not have been marketed to families because it's just not that kind of movie, despite what it may think.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Album Review:Peace On Earth

Artist:Casting Crowns

Songwriters and composers:Whoever wrote the carols originally. Also Mark Hall, Wayne Kirkpatrick, Paul Baloche, and Robert MacGimsey.

Genres:Gospel, Christmas/holiday

Notes:Album art taken from the official site.

General thoughts:Is it surprising most of the songs here relate directly to Christ?

There are several songs that really weren't that great. While the lyrics are often good, the music itself leaves something to be desired. Of the songs I did like, there was an emotional and often haunting quality.

Overall, get it if you're a Casting Crowns fan. Otherwise, skip it.

IWSG:Sickness Sucks

Because Wednesdays are my busiest day and because I'm lazy, I probably won't get around to visiting a lot of other blogs until tomorrow.

I've learned something in the last couple of months. Being sick is really bad for my writing projects. Not too long ago, I had a cold. Then more recently, there were a few headache days. And let's not forget the misery of cramps. And all of it screws stuff up. It's hard to write down good dialogue when it hurts too much to do anything.

On a more general note, I've been dealing with some burnout lately. Maybe I'm just tired. Maybe my brain's going on strike. And with Christmas coming, well, things are going to get interesting. I'll probably take a couple weeks off, though. And why is it all these IWSG posts of mine end up rambling and unfocused? What's going on with my head?

So how's your December going so far?

© 2014 by M.R.R.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Album Review:The Altar And The Door

Artist:Casting Crowns

Songwriters and composers:Mark Hall


Notes:Album art taken from the official site.

General thoughts:I want to finish this because their next album was the Christmas one.

The first three-quarters of the album is the best of the whole thing and the most serious. There are surprisingly few straight-up praise and worship songs and the ones here are average quality, nothing more.

Overall, if you like angsty gospel or the band, give it a listen.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Thoughts, Theories, & Trivia:Gremlins

Image credit:poppet with a camera's Flickr

The review's here if you want to read it.

  • Why do I get the feeling this incident isn't Gizmo's first experience with the Gremlins?

Movie Review:Gremlins

Premise:A bunch of mischievous creatures wreak havoc in a town.

Cast:Zach Galligan as Billy Peltzer, Phobe Cates as Kate Beringer, Hoyt Axton as Randall Peltzer, Keye Luke as Mr. Wing, Polly Holliday as Ruby Deagle, Dick Miller as Murray Futterman, Frances Lee McCain as Lynn Peltzer

Director:Steven Spielberg

MPAA Rating:PG

Genres:Fantasy, horror

Notes:Poster taken from IMP Awards.

Pros:Adorable creature. Chaos factor. Fair special effects.

Cons:Plot holes and conveniences. Some cartoon-y characters and situations. A couple of bloated scenes.

If there ever was a better PSA against owning exotic pets, I'd love to see it.