Movie and Music Reviews

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La La Land

By Darla - AV   |  April 27, 2017

The romantic comedy musical La La Land takes place in late 90s Los Angeles and stars Ryan Gosling as Sebastian, a struggling Los Angeles jazz pianist, and Emma Stone as Mia, an aspiring actress. The two California dreamers find each other, fall in love, and experience many ups and downs while pursuing their respective careers. The period music and dance scenes have a wonderful old-school Hollywood vibe, but this award-winning production also has wide audience appeal due to the charisma of the two lead actors. The story, the classic wardrobe, the beautiful California sets, and the skilled acting were superb. The timeless themes in La La Land will make this film a classic. I recommend this film for all ages. Overall Rating: B

Sing

By Barb - AV   |  April 22, 2017

Buster Moon has one last chance to save his beloved theater. His idea is to hold a singing contest with a $1,000 prize. Buster's assistant, however, mistypes the prize amount and offers $100,000 instead, so everyone wants to participate in the show. It sounds like an ordinary plot that’s been done before, except in Sing the characters are all animals voiced by some of Hollywood’s most talented performers. Matthew McConaughey is Buster; Reese Witherspoon is Rosita, a proud mother of 25 piglets; Seth MacFarlane is Mike, a Rat Pack era mouse; Scarlett Johansson is Ash, a punk rock porcupine; Taron Egerton is Johnny, a teenage gorilla; Tori Kelly is Meena, a shy elephant. The movie has multiple story lines that follow the characters as they all prepare for the competition, with many twists and turns and laughs throughout. The soundtrack has well-chosen songs from a variety of genres. I enjoyed this movie. Overall Rating: A

Hidden Figures

By Allison - AV   |  April 14, 2017

Hidden Figures focuses on the true story of three African-American women– Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson – who struggle to become leaders in their scientific fields while America attempts to beat the Soviet Union into space. Katherine, a mathematical genius, works as a “computer” for the Space Task Group at Langley Research Center, but her male coworkers’ views of her gender and skin color force her to repeatedly fight to receive acknowledgement of her work. Dorothy becomes fearful of keeping her job due to the recent acquisition of an IBM electronic computer, so she teaches herself the programming language FORTRAN so that she might be one of the individuals who can run the new machine. Mary is forced to plead her case in front of a judge in the hopes of attending night classes at an all-white school to help her become NASA’s first black female engineer. At a little over two hours in length, Hidden Figures was a phenomenal film. The costuming and set design helped to paint a vivid picture of the Space Race era, and the all-star cast – including Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monáe, Octavia Spencer, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, and Kirsten Dunst –played their parts exceptionally well. In addition, humor was woven throughout the storyline, which helped offset some of the film’s heavier themes. Appropriate for the whole family, Hidden Figures in a film to be enjoyed time and time again. Overall Rating: A+

Lone Wolf and Cub

By Steven - AV   |  April 8, 2017

Lone Wolf and Cub is a series of six samurai films following Ittō Ogami, a wandering assassin-for-hire who pushes his young son, Daigorō, along the road in a baby cart. Ogami relies on his considerable fighting skill and resourcefulness to overcome opponents, and though all the films feature simple plots, they’re notable for their stylized, increasingly cartoonish fights. Characters leap to impossible heights. They signify their deaths with absurd red fountains. Ogami constantly reveals that he’s booby-trapped the baby cart with bladed wheels and machine guns and other weapons. Tomisaburo Wakayama portrays the character with a constant scowl and a piercing glare alongside a credible fighting ability, and in fitting with the character, the actor looks more like a villain's most powerful henchman than a traditional hero. The series does, however, fall pretty constantly into scenes of troubling sexism; you start to expect something horrible any time a woman appears onscreen, and it feels exploitive even when you consider the time period portrayed. And though the movies are filmed with style (all sweaty close-ups and striking colors and harsh shadows), they do peak early – the first looks the best, and the second is the most engaging with near-constant action. While the others (except maybe the fourth) remain quite entertaining, inventive, and admirably consistent, they don’t recapture the quality of the series when it was fresh. All the films are available in subtitled Japanese, though this release also includes Shogun Assassin, an English language version that edits together parts of the first and second films. Overall Rating: B+

The Catastrophist by Tortoise

By Fate - AV   |  March 31, 2017

I've always had a liking for the underdog, the artist who produces something noteworthy but doesn't get much exposure or recognition. I was looking through new music items and came across this CD by Tortoise. Many years ago, there was a relatively unknown group, Rhinoceros, that I liked, so I decided to give another animal a listen. I liked it. It was primarily instrumental, smooth, and easy, but definitely not run-of-the-mill. Take a stroll off the main path and give The Catastrophist by Tortoise a try. Don't let the album cover scare you off. Overall Rating: B+

Doctor Strange

By Amy - AV   |  March 25, 2017

The fourteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Doctor Strange, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as world-renowned neurosurgeon Stephen Strange. Early in the movie, Dr. Strange loses the use of his hands in a car accident and becomes desperate to be restored. He abandons his life and his love, Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), and he sets out on a journey in search of healing. This journey takes him to Nepal and a mysterious compound called Kamar-Taj. There he becomes the student of The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and quickly learns the mystic arts. As a powerful sorcerer, he must decide whether to return to his life or use his powers to protect the Earth from Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), a former student of the Ancient One who has stolen powerful ancient texts. What follows are some riveting action scenes and a wild adventure into the astral realm. As a fan of the original comic book, I was impressed with Cumberbatch’s striking likeness to the character. The film also had stunning visual effects and subtle humor throughout. This wasn’t your typical superhero movie, and I look forward to the future of the franchise! Overall rating: A+

Divide by Ed Sheeran

By Ellie - AV   |  March 17, 2017

In my opinion, Divide is Ed Sheeran’s best release yet. In the latest album from the singer/songwriter, he experiments with different song and sound styles in a way that is fun and musically entertaining. Sheeran incorporates a lot of personal storytelling motifs with songs like “Nancy Mulligan” (written about Sheeran’s grandparents) and “Supermarket Flowers” (an emotional lament for his grandmother’s death narrated from his mother’s point of view). The CD packs a serious emotional punch while also delivering an engaging and enjoyable listening experience. Tracks like “Barcelona” and “Bibia Be Ye Ye” use international cultural motifs and rhythms that result in extremely catchy, danceable songs. Included in this CD are also the radio smash hits “Shape of You” and “Castle on the Hill,” which have become instant favorites. This newest album shows that his sound has really matured since his first, Plus, released in 2011. The deeper, more complicated narration exemplifies how Sheeran has grown as both a person and an artist in the past 6 years. Overall Rating: A+

Kevin Hart: What Now?

By Melinda - AV   |  March 15, 2017

I have to admit that I am a die-hard Kevin Hart fan, and I was not disappointed in his 2016 “What Now?” stand-up comedy concert film. The film features two main parts, a spy story and a stand-up performance. In the beginning of the film for a brief moment, Kevin Hart portrays a James Bond-type Agent 0054 attending a poker game with his lady side kick, Money Berry (played by Halle Berry), which goes terribly wrong. As a result, the clock is ticking for him to get to his live stand-up comedy performance. As the film leads up to him hitting his stage performance, the viewers get to be a part of all the excitement and hear the support of 50,000+ fans cheering Kevin on as they enter the sold-out, record-breaking show at Lincoln Financial Field Football Stadium in Philadelphia. Kevin Hart is the first comedian to sell out an entire football stadium in history! I do not want to spoil all the fun, but Kevin provides a very humorous insight into parenting, family issues, people on the edge, current events, and his hardships in everyday life. If you have had a long hard week and want to sit back and have a bunch of laughs, I recommend this film. You will not be disappointed! Overall Rating: A-

Arrival

By Darla - AV   |  March 3, 2017

Linguistic professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is a mysterious figure who is called by the government to solve a puzzle involving a mysterious aircraft. Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) and scientist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) accompany Banks on her mission. The story's timelines move rapidly between the future and the present, accompanied by Banks’s increasingly eerie, erratic visions. Circumstances surrounding the unnatural aircraft and principal characters are not what they seem. Soon, dangerous events pressure the central characters to crack the mystery of the aircraft before disaster occurs. Overall Rating: A+

I'll Take You There by Wally Lamb (Audiobook)

By Barb - AV   |  February 25, 2017

I was looking for a new author and discovered Wally Lamb. His latest book, I’ll Take You There, piqued my interest as to where he was going to take me. The journey that followed was one of history, family, and the female role in life - the influence of women in the main character’s life becomes the focus of this book. The main character, Felix, has a movie club that meets in an old theater that was once used for vaudeville acts. While getting things ready for his club, he has an encounter with a ghost from the early years of the film industry named Lois Weber. Weber welcomes Felix to the movie of Felix’s life. Shown on the big screen, the movie gives Felix insight to his younger years with his sisters. As the movie plays, the connections to the past and the present reveal how things have changed for women and the challenges women face today. The end of the movie leaves Felix with a better understanding of his life and how the struggles of the females in his family shaped them into the strong women of today. The reader gets a history lesson about the female role in history without the boring parts. I enjoyed the journey this book took me on. I have found a new author and will look forward to reading more of Wally Lamb’s books. Digital Resource users can find this title in Overdrive. The audiobook is narrated by George Guidall. Overall Rating: A

The Light Between Oceans

By Allison - AV   |  February 17, 2017

The Light Between Oceans, which is based on a novel of the same name by M. L. Stedman, follows the story of Tom Sherbourne, who has recently returned from World War I. Because of his traumatic experiences in the War, Sherbourne seeks the desolate work of being a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, located 100 miles off the coast of Australia where the Indian Ocean meets the Great Southern Ocean. Eventually, Sherbourne marries a local girl named Isabel Graysmark, and their world is turned upside down when a baby washes up in a boat on Janus Rock. The tale of the little family is an emotional one – I cried during both the book and film – and the storyline delves into the importance of telling the truth and how a single impulsive decision can vastly impact the lives of not only yourself, but others as well. Although I wasn’t very fond of the story itself, Michael Fassbender (Sherbourne) and Alicia Vikander (Graysmark) played their parts well. In addition, thanks to the scenery and the costuming, the film was visually stunning. Overall, I enjoyed The Light Between Oceans, but I don’t feel as though it is a film that I would need – or want – to view a second time. Overall Rating: A-

Blank Face LP by ScHoolboy Q

By Steven - AV   |  February 10, 2017

At just over 72 minutes in length, the fourth album from ScHoolboy Q features the Top Dawg Entertainment rapper at his most ambitious. Across 17 tracks, production influences range from trap to jazz rap to West Coast gangster rap, all of it forming this thick, aggressive, foreboding atmosphere. But even on the heaviest tracks, Q, with guest spots from Kanye West, Vince Staples, Anderson Paak, and others, never sacrifices a good pop hook. His raspy, often choppy delivery sets him apart from his peers, even as he tackles familiar subjects like newfound fame and gang life, some of it celebratory but much of it steeped in regret and anxiety. Although some songs highlight Q’s clever metaphors and wordplay, Blank Face LP often finds him coasting on attitude rather than lyricism; he squanders his most vivid, personal lines in vague bars that paint him as an enigma, faceless in the way the album’s title implies without the same sense of purpose. And despite a few great songs (“Groovy Tony,” “JoHn Muir”), Q just doesn’t have the content or the insight to fill out an excessive 72 minutes. There are few truly weak tracks, but the album is sprawling and formless and overall a bit of a chore to get through in its entirety without a truly gripping artist at its forefront. Overall Rating: C+

The Prelude Implicit by Kansas

By Fate - AV   |  February 3, 2017

Kansas was one of a number of rock bands I enjoyed some years ago. "The Prelude Implicit" is their first album release in 16 years. Time can certainly change things over a period that long, and there have been personnel changes for Kansas. I've read reviews which were very critical of some of these changes and others that were favorable. My listen of this album is favorable. The 'essence' of Kansas in its heyday is still there. The music is strong but not overpowering as with many bands these days. The lead singer has a good voice and the harmonies are good as well. It may not be the same Kansas, but in grading the album on its listen-ability, I give it an A. Overall Rating: A

Bridget Jones's Baby

By Amy - AV   |  January 27, 2017

The third installment in the Bridget Jones saga is now on DVD. This newest feature finds Bridget (Renée Zellweger) alone again on her 43rd birthday having given up on love and now focusing on her career. Two chance meetings, one with a handsome American played by Patrick Dempsey and the other with the ex-love of her life, Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), result in a baby on the way. The two potential dads then vie for Bridget, placing her in a position very different from the struggles she had in the first two films. The movie has some very funny, typical “Bridget Jones” moments and some very sweet romantic moments as well. Although the premise sounds like it could be tasteless, the story was done well. The language is very strong throughout, however, and some of the references are a bit crude, so the film is rated R. I wasn’t sure I would enjoy this movie, but I really did. I would definitely recommend it. Overall Rating: A

Collage by The Chainsmokers

By Ellie - AV   |  January 20, 2017

The newest EP from the EDM duo has some good songs that we all know and love. Overall, what I really want to hear from this group next is a full length album with some new instant favorites. Since their explosion onto the mainstream media scene in 2014, The Chainsmokers have rolled out hit after hit that have left me and the rest of the public wanting more. This release has 2 of their newest hit singles (“Closer” ft. Halsey and “Don’t Let Me Down” ft. Daya) as well as some newer songs that have not had major radio play yet – including “All We Know” ft. Phoebe Ryan and “Inside Out” ft. Charlee. This group has certainly found their niche in the music industry combining the enthusiastic bass and rhythm of the dance music genre with features from popular indie singers to create extremely catchy and fun songs that instantly lift any mood. These are some of my favorite songs to listen to when driving or working out, and I often find myself singing along. This EP was a good listen and extremely entertaining. With the way in which this group has been performing – I’m sure a full album is soon to come. Overall Rating: A-

Hard II Love by Usher

By Melinda - AV   |  January 13, 2017

Usher-Hard II Love is Usher’s eighth album release of his music career. The album debuted at number five on the Billboard 200. It had been over 4 years since Usher had released a new album and his fans were anxiously waiting for him to release new music. I am a die-hard Usher fan and I have to admit it was worth the wait. Hard II Love is one of his best albums in over a decade since his chart topping album Confessions in 2004, which will always be a number one classic. As you listen to the 15-tracks, you will notice they are solely about Usher taking ownership of relationship issues in his past to becoming a better man. Literally, I liked every track on the album but some of my favorites were “No Limit” featuring artist Young Thug, and “Rivals” featuring Future, “Missin U” and '”Stronger” is a nice emotional track that ends the album well. If you’re an Usher fan, listen to Hard II Love, you will not be disappointed. I believe Usher has made another classic musical masterpiece. Overall Rating: A

The Magnificent Seven

By Darla - AV   |  January 8, 2017

I was expecting to enjoy The Magnificent Seven; I was not disappointed. I enjoyed the 2016 version of The Magnificent Seven, based on the screenplay of the same name by Akira Kurosawa. Kurosawa’s film, The Seven Samurai had a great influence on this film. In this legend, seven rough, fighting men volunteer to defend a small town against a dark enemy. Remarkably the warriors’ back stories are well developed, making the saga fascinating. The calamities that occur in the evolving story show how raw things could get in the “good old days” during the post-Civil War era. The action flows smoothly along as the story rushes to the climactic ending. Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, and Vincent D’Onofrio star in this Western. Overall Rating A+

Florence Foster Jenkins

By Barb - AV   |  December 31, 2016

Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, and Simon Helberg bring to life the story of Florence Foster Jenkins. Based on a true story, the movie takes place during the last years of Florence’s life. Meryl’s performance was well done: Her singing abilities were put to the test as she, a talented singer, captured Florence’s inability to sing as well as Florence’s belief that she could sing. Hugh plays St. Clair Bayfield, the love of Florence’s life, who is very devoted to keeping Florence in the dark about her singing abilities, allowing Florence to live out her dream of singing. Simon Helberg plays Cosme McMoon, Florence’s accompanist. At first Cosme struggles with accompanying Florence, as he knows she cannot sing, but he stays with her throughout her life, performing on stages he may never have had the opportunity to play. This movie is funny and heartwarming. I enjoyed watching the movie. If you would like to hear what Florence sounded like, the library has her CD. The title is “The Glory (???)Of the Human Voice.” Overall Rating: A

Pete's Dragon

By Allison - AV   |  December 23, 2016

Having never seen the original 1977 version of Pete’s Dragon, I had no expectations when I sat down to watch the revamped 2016 film and, by the end, I had tears in my eyes. The story follows Pete, a small boy who finds himself alone in the woods after his parents die in a car accident. Scared and surrounded by vicious wolves, he is saved by a dragon who becomes his pseudo-parent, protector, and very best friend. The dragon – who Pete names Elliot – struck me as a mix between a large Labrador retriever and a big cat: Part clumsiness, part grace, both playful and serious, and covered in a sea of green fur. However, unlike in the original movie where Elliot was distinctly animated, the new Elliot was created using computer-generation imagery (CGI), which allowed him to have a realness that made the other characters’ responses to him all the more believable. The storyline was cute and a little predictable, but was engaging enough that I was rooting for a happy ending for both Pete and Elliot by the end.Overall Rating: A-

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson (Audiobook)

By Bridget - AV   |  December 16, 2016

Jaqueline Woodson is one of the most celebrated young adult writers in the United States, so I was curious to try out one of her new adult fiction novels: Another Brooklyn. I listened to the audiobook on a recent trip. It clocks in at a short 2.75 hours, but packs a punch. The main character is an anthropologist, August, who returns home to Brooklyn for her father’s funeral. After a run-in with a friend, August reflects upon her girlhood in Brooklyn during the 1970s, a time she remembers fondly, but in hindsight realizes that she was deep in denial about her mother’s death, and that there were threats to her innocence everywhere. The audiobook is read by Robin Miles, whose rich voice embodies the various dialects and accents that are part of the novel. I do not often listen to audiobooks, but I enjoyed this one. After I finished it, I immediately downloaded Woodson’s award winning Brown Girl Dreaming. This audiobook inspired me to start working my way through all of Woodson’s novels. Overall rating: A

Time Change Series by Alex Myers (Amazon Kindle eBook)

By Fate - AV   |  December 9, 2016

Ok you Fire Tablet borrowers, users, or anyone wanting to try an e-book from Amazon Kindle. "Time Change Series" by Alex Myers is a 3 book series that ties the story line together from book 1 to book 2 to book 3. Jack was riding in a car with his girl friend when a severe thunderstorm suddenly strikes, causing the car to skid and crash. When Jack awakens, he is not a hospital, as he expected. He somehow had been taken back in time to a period just years before the Civil War. As he finds his way around in his new world, he discovers his knowledge of products and technology from the 21st century have a significant impact on his experiences. It is to the extent that he believes he can be a factor in preventing the occurrence of the Civil War. His efforts, along with the acquaintances he gathers, are leading to that possibility, however, there are negative forces that do not want this to happen. Very interesting and entertaining story. Overall Rating: A

Finding Dory

By Amy - AV   |  December 2, 2016

Finding Dory, the much-anticipated sequel to Finding Nemo has finally arrived and it was definitely worth the wait! Dory, (the blue tang fish with very short-term memory), suddenly realizes she once had a family and decides it’s time to go find them. Understanding she can’t go alone she convinces Marlin, (Nemo’s dad) to go along. Dory, Marlin, and Nemo set out with the few snippets of memories Dory can recall and begin a journey that takes them to a conservatory called the Marine Life Institute. Dory, who gets separated from Marlin and Nemo, meets Hank, an escape artist octopus and several other lovable marine creatures at the Institute who try to help her find her mom and dad, while Marlin and Nemo do their best to find Dory, as only two fish out of water can. There are several heart-tugging emotional scenes and the focus is, once again, on family bonds. The animation is beautiful and the voices of Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neil, and Diane Keaton really bring the characters to life. I enjoyed this Nemo film as much as I did the first one and would definitely recommend it! Be sure to wait for the fun scene at the end of the credits! Overall Rating: A+

Nerve

By Melinda - AV   |  November 18, 2016

Nerve (2016) is an adventurous thriller about a reserved high school senior Vee (played by Emma Roberts) who is pressured to step out of her comfort zone by her friends and join Nerve, a popular online reality game. This game challenges players to either enlist online as "players" or pay to watch as "watchers". Players accept dares from watchers, receiving money rewards that increase with the danger of the dare when completed successfully. In her first dare, Vee (Emma Roberts) meets a mysterious stranger named Ian (Dave Franco) who coincidentally is playing the game also. They both find out that they become the star players very quickly to the “watchers” and the adrenaline fueled competition starts them off with simple, fun dares which soon leads them up to dangerous stunts that are just not fun anymore and will leave you on the edge of your seat. As the game, Nerve, continues into a high stake finale, Vee’s future will be at risk. What do you think she will do? How much “Nerve” will she have? You have to watch it and see! I enjoyed this movie. It was exciting and adventurous and it left a hidden message to all of the “watchers”! Overall Rating: B+

Beep: A Documentary History of Game Sound

By Darla - AV   |  November 11, 2016

Beep, an official selection of the 2016 GeekFest Film Festival, and a Winner for Best Editing at the 2016 Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, covers the history of arcade and video game sounds and interviews the artists who created the game sounds. The development of game sounds and music, from the Penny Arcade era of the 1900s to the video games of the 2010s are covered. I liked the interviews, because the game sound artists are given a platform to gain recognition for the work they did on different games. The artists each explained how they began enhancing arcade and video games, using available limited audio technology, and progressed to the current day’s advanced audio technology to create game sounds for enjoyable audio gaming experiences. Extra features are Big in Japan, Ryu Imemoto Special, and Industry Insider Tips. This video is recommended for people who are interested in game audio history. Overall Rating: A

MEmphis Rock and Soul by Melissa Etheridge

By Barb - AV   |  November 4, 2016

It’s been awhile since we’ve heard from Melissa, and she is back with “MEmphis Rock and Soul”. This CD pays to tribute to legendary Stax Records artists including, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, and Johnnie Taylor. They are well represented by her. As I was listening to the CD, I could envision the recording sessions in Memphis filled with horn players, backup singers, and former members of the original bands. Melissa’s rendition of Sam and Dave’s “Hold on I’m Coming” is one of the best versions I’ve heard. Her raspy voice and the soulful sounds from the band on Otis Redding’s “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember” gives this classic song a blended version of old and new. The song choices are a good mix of rock and soul from the historic Stax studio artists. While the CD has 12 songs on it, I wanted to hear more. The influences of these iconic artists have been with Melissa throughout her career. Her voice just lends itself to this type of music. For fans of this genre, “MEmphis Rock and Soul” will not disappoint and would be a nice addition to your play list. This title is also available as a digital resource in Hoopla. Overall Rating: A

Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016)

By Allison - AV   |  October 28, 2016

“Alice Through the Looking Glass” is the sequel to the 2010 live-action version of “Alice in Wonderland.” In the film, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) must go back in time to save the Mad Hatter’s family from the Jabberwocky (which perished in the first movie) and go against Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) as he attempts to foil her efforts. Johnny Depp (the Mad Hatter), Helena Bonham Carter (the Red Queen), and Anne Hathaway (the White Queen) round out the leading roles. Despite the film’s all-star cast, detailed costuming, and glorious computer-generated scenery, the storyline didn’t hold my attention: It felt haphazard and disjointed – but perhaps it was meant to be that way due to its Wonderland setting. The film did include several humorous parts, but they largely centered around creative word play. Families with children might enjoy the film, but, if you haven’t seen the original, don’t waste your time. Overall Rating: C

Wild World by Bastille

By Bridget - AV   |  October 21, 2016

After becoming a Bastille fan in 2013 following the release of their album “Bad Blood,” I was anxious for their follow-up: “Wild World.” One of the things that I loved the most about “Bad Blood” was that many of the songs such as “Icarus” and “Pompeii” were influenced by history and mythology. I had hoped that this would continue to “Wild World” and was disappointed when it did not. Instead the songs on this album are more influenced by pop culture and the lead singer’s insecurities. One of the songs that I liked from the album is “Good Grief.” However, I preferred the acoustic version that was released this past summer. “Good Grief” is about death and funerals and on the album, the song is very upbeat and the music sounds overly euphoric when paired with such sad lyrics. While “Wild World” achieves a certain feeling of vulnerability; I preferred “Bad Blood” which was simply more fun to listen to. I also could not find any songs on “Wild World” that really stuck with me or that I wanted to listen to more than once. Overall Rating: D

Hologram for the King

By Fate - AV   |  October 14, 2016

While checking in DVD's recently, I saw this title. It intrigued me but I let it pass by. A few days later, I saw the title again and decided to read the synopsis, but before I got that far I saw that Tom Hanks was in the starring role. Tom Hanks, right? That was all I needed to check it out and give it a look. Tom Hanks, yeah! He portrayed a businessman who would be the key salesman to promote a new high technology product to the King in Saudi Arabia. His superiors had their doubts about him, but he convinced them he had the product knowledge and the ability to make the sale. He was under extreme pressure to meet the King and make the sale as soon as possible. Upon arrival in Arabia, he soon found that things do not move on the same timetable as in the U.S. His Saudi contact was supposed to be available but constantly was unavailable. The King, who was supposed to be coming very soon, was likewise, continuously somewhere else with no idea as to when he would arrive. Hanks meets and becomes friends, and more, with some of the residents. To keep from doing a "spoiler alert", that is about all I will submit as to the story. Those looking for a lot of 'action' will not find it. Those who are looking for an interesting story that keeps one's attention, will find that. Overall Rating: B+

Central Intelligence

By Amy - AV   |  October 7, 2016

Central Intelligence, starring Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, is an extremely funny comedy/adventure about two men who went to high school together. Hart plays star athlete, most-likely to succeed, super popular, and all-around great guy, Calvin Joyner. Johnson is the out-of-shape, nerdy, friendless and often bullied Robbie Wierdicht. Fast-forward to twenty years later and Robbie, now Bob Stone, is a changed man, he’s confident, muscular, and successful and Calvin has become an accountant who feels he peeked in high school and is depressed that he didn’t live up to his potential. The two reconnect on Facebook the day before their high school reunion. Bob has never forgotten how Calvin came to his rescue after he was the victim of a really nasty prank and he still adores him. Bob asks Calvin to help him with something; Calvin agrees, but doesn’t realize he’s getting involved with the CIA and international espionage! Hilarious antics ensue and leave the viewer guessing as to what’s really going on. I really enjoyed this movie; it was truly funny and very entertaining. Overall Rating: A+

Conducting Hope

By Angie - AV   |  September 30, 2016

Conducting Hope is a fascinating documentary that follows the East Hill Singers - the only men’s prison choir in the United States allowed to perform outside of prison walls – as they prepare for an upcoming concert. The East Hill Singers are a unique group, as they are composed of current inmates at the Lansing Correctional Facility in Lansing, Kansas, along with former inmates and community volunteer members. Being part of the choir has a surprising emotional impact on the inmates as they are able to feel a sense of community, commitment, and purpose that they otherwise wouldn’t encounter in the incarcerated environment. One gentleman even said that singing made him feel “human again”, and “not just an object” (or just a number) which is typical of the prison experience. The inmates find it exhilarating to be able to go outside of the correctional facility. They get to feel like part of the community again for a few hours, and are even able to see family members who attend the concert – sometimes this includes family they haven’t seen in years, or children they are not able to see while incarcerated, due to visitation guidelines. For those skeptical of the program and allowing inmates a chance to be outside the correctional facility, volunteer guards do go with the men when they leave for concerts. And in 15 years of this program’s existence, there have been ZERO incidents and no one has ever tried to escape. I thoroughly enjoyed this documentary and highly recommend it. It shows the incredible power and impact that music can have, and makes you think about the possible ways that prison programs could be reformed. Programs like the East Hill Singers help to reduce recidivism by building self-esteem, teaching the importance of teamwork, and most importantly fostering hope. Overall Rating: A

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