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Greatest Hits So Far... by Zac Brown Band

Critics have described the music of the Zac Brown Band as a mix of mainstream country, easy going pop and jam band vibes. This album features 11 #1 hits including four songs from “Uncaged”, the album that won the 2013 Grammy Award for Best Country Album. The album contains a great collection of songs from the soulful “Goodbye in Her Eyes”, to the Latin flavor of “Jump Right In”, to “As She’s Walking Away”, which won the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals featuring Alan Jackson. If I had to choose my favorite songs on this album, I would choose “Chicken Fried”, a feel good song about the little things in life that make us happy; “Toes”, a song that has a Caribbean feel that makes me want to jump on a plane to a faraway island paradise; “Colder Weather” a song with beautiful harmony in the chorus; and “Goodbye in Her Eyes”. The title of the album suggests to me that the Zac Brown Band plans to be entertaining us for many years to come. Download or stream the album through Hoopla, our digital resource for music, movies, television and audiobooks, or check out the music cd. Overall rating: A+
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Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb is the third and final film of the series. The ancient tablet of Ahkmenrah, which originally brought the museum exhibits to life, is corroding and is losing its power. Larry Daley, night guard at New York City’s American Museum of Natural History has Dr. McPhee arrange a trip for Larry, Ahkmenrah and the tablet to the British Museum to ask Ahkmenrah’s parents what can be done to save the magic. When Larry and his son Nick are smuggled into the British Museum by Ahkmenrah, they discover a few friends have made the journey as well and so the adventure begins! The movie has an interesting plot, funny dialogue, and memorable performances by Ben Stiller as caveman Laaa, Rebel Wilson as the British Museum night guard, and Robin Williams as Teddy Roosevelt in one of his last screen appearances. Overall Rating: B+
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Jekyll + Hyde by Zac Brown Band

My initial reaction to Zac Brown Band’s newest album Jekyll + Hyde was disappointment. The album is a showcase for what is clearly a versatile group of musicians; but going from the country sound of “Homegrown” to the big band sound of “Mango Tree” to the hard rock sound of “Heavy is the Head” was disconcerting. However “Beautiful Drug”, “Loving You Easy”, “Homegrown”, “Bittersweet” and “Tomorrow Never Comes (Acoustic version)” are a few favorites. Zac Brown Band always includes one song on an album that they didn’t write, and “Dress Blues” written by Jason Isbell about a young husband, father and Marine who was killed in the Middle East was their choice. There is something for everyone on this album, and perhaps after a few more listens, it will grow on me. Overall Rating: B-
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McFarland, USA

Kevin Costner and cast do not disappoint in McFarland USA, a movie based on a true story about Jim White (Kevin Costner) a high school teacher & coach who takes a job at a predominately Latino high school in McFarland, CA. Hired as a PE teacher and Assistant Football Coach, he soon realizes the football team won’t amount to much, but sees potential in a handful of students who can run like the wind. One of the challenges facing Coach White is how to reach his students and their families. His wife and daughters face their own challenge in adjusting to life in a town where one of his daughters asks on moving day, “Are we in Mexico?” One of my favorite scenes in the movie takes place at the starting line of an invitational meet, when one of the competitors said to McFarland’s top runner Thomas, “Nice shorts Dude”. Thomas replied, “You play golf?” Competitor said, “Yes” to which Thomas replied, “This ain’t golf!” Be sure to watch the bonus features where Kevin Costner is joined by Coach Jim White and the men who were part of the first McFarland Cross Country Team. Overall Rating: A+
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5 Flights Up

Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton play Alex and Ruth Carver, an elderly couple who have decided at the urging of their niece, Lily (Cynthia Nixon), a real estate agent to list their apartment and move to another location with an elevator. Through the use of flashbacks, viewers get a look at life events that have shaped Alex and Ruth’s relationship. Claire van der Boom and Korey Jackson deliver a solid performance portraying a young Ruth and Alex. The chemistry between Freeman and Keaton is superb. Cynthia Nixon’s character, Lily is annoying as are many of the people who come through their open house. Zoe, a young girl whose mother drags her to all of the open houses in the area is played by Sterling Jerins and is the one bright spot in the parade of people. I expected more from a movie starring Freeman and Keaton, and was disappointed by the slow movement of the film. Overall Rating: C
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Cinderella (2015)

From lavish costumes to elaborate sets, Sir Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Cinderella is quite magical. The film begins by introducing us to a very young Ella and her loving parents. Unfortunately, her mother becomes ill unexpectedly, and on her death bed she tells Ella to “have courage and be kind.” After a few years, her father decides to marry again. Enter the wicked stepmother and ugly stepsisters. Cate Blanchette gives a top-notch performance as the wicked stepmother. I found myself disliking the character more and more as the movie progressed. Lily James is marvelous as Ella as she portrays a kind young woman, without being sugary. Richard Madden is dashing as the handsome Prince, and he and Ella share a fascinating chemistry. In addition, Helena Bonham Carter is delightful as Ella’s Fairy Godmother. The special effects used during the transformation of the pumpkin to a carriage, mice into horses, and lizards into footmen were incredible. This live action Cinderella is a treasure to be enjoyed by all ages. Overall Rating: A+
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Max

Max is a highly trained military dog whose handler Kyle Wincott was killed during a nasty firefight in Afghanistan. Max is so traumatized by the event that he won’t let anyone near him--except Justin, Kyle’s younger brother. The Wilcotts find out that if they don’t take Max in, he will be put down. There are several scenes throughout the movie that will have you reaching for some tissues. An especially emotional event at the beginning of the movie happens when two Marines and Max come to pay their respects at Kyle’s funeral. The last part of the movie is action packed. Some of the situations that the teens and Max get out of are unbelievable. The dog on dog combat scenes had me on the edge of my seat. Even though the movie was predictable at times, it was still enjoyable to watch. Overall Rating: B
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Self/Less

Self/less is a science fiction thriller starring Ryan Reynolds, Ben Kingsley and Natalie Martinez. Ben Kingsley plays Damian Hale, a New York real estate mogul dying from cancer. Through the mysterious appearance of a business card, Hale learns about Dr. Albright and his process called shedding. For $250 million, Dr. Albright will transfer Hale's consciousness into a young healthy body which he tells Hale is lab generated. Ryan Reynolds portrays Edward Kitner, Hale's new body and name. Dr. Albright sets Edward/Damian up in a fancy New Orleans mansion and Edward/Damian begins to kick up his heels, reveling in his recaptured youth. Then the disturbing hallucinations begin, causing Edward/Damien to question whether his new body was really lab generated. After reading numerous reviews by professional critics, I was prepared to dislike the movie. Quite the opposite occurred. I enjoyed the movie. How one feels about the film depends upon whether or not you buy into the whole concept of shedding. I did. In addition, Self/less was action packed and offered enough twists to keep me guessing. Overall Rating: B+
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Bridge of Spies

Bridge of Spies is an entertaining Cold War thriller, directed by Steven Spielburg, and starring Tom Hanks as attorney James B. Donovan, and Oscar winner Mark Rylance as Soviet spy Rudolf Abel. It is a little known story of lawyer turned hostage negotiator. Attorney Donovan has been tasked with defending Rudolf Abel against the charges of spying on the United States. In spite of the fact the windows in his living room are shot out, he believes that Abel deserves a proper defense. When the Soviets capture Gary Powers, the pilot of a U-2 U. S. spy plane, Donovan is asked to go to Berlin as a private citizen to negotiate a trade of Powers for Abel. One of the strengths of the movie is the bond of mutual respect and common understanding that develops between Donovan and Able, during a time when trusting your enemy could get you killed. There are several light hearted moments when Donovan asks if Abel is worried. Stone-faced Abel replies, “Would it help?” As usual, Tom Hanks’ performance does not disappoint. He deftly plays a man who is part everyman, part genius and all around good guy. This was my first exposure to Mark Ryland’s acting ability. He is superb as Rudolf Abel – definitely an Oscar winning performance! Overall Rating: A
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Joy

The movie “Joy” is loosely based on the life of Joy Mangano, inventor of the Miracle Mop and an eventual shopping network superstar. Joy and her children live with her mother Terry (Virginia Madsen), who is reclusive and obsessed with soap operas. Tony (Edgar Ramirez), her ex-husband of two years, lives in the basement while he tries to launch a music career. Joy’s father Rudy (Robert De Niro) arrives on their doorstep with his latest girlfriend Sharon. She tells Joy she has had enough, and is giving him back. Mimi (Diane Ladd), Joy’s grandmother is the voice of reason and has always been the only one who believes in her. I must admit I had trouble getting into the film. The first 50 minutes or more are so filled with drama from her dysfunctional family, we barely get a glimpse of who Joy really is--until the invention of her mop. It is through her father’s latest girlfriend Trudy (Isabella Rosellini), a wealthy widow, that Joy gets the opportunity to create her miracle mop. Bradley Cooper portrays Neil Walker, a QVC executive who gives Joy the chance to shine by promoting her own product on QVC. Jennifer Lawrence gives an outstanding performance as Joy. Robert De Niro does an excellent job portraying Joy’s father as an insensitive jerk. Diane Ladd plays a wonderful Mimi, Joy’s grandmother and cheerleader. I am very glad that I continued to watch “Joy” until the end. It was uplifting to see how, in spite of all the obstacles Joy encountered, she persevered and became a very successful inventor and entrepreneur. Overall Rating: B+
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Race

Race recounts the true story of legendary athlete Jesse Owens’ journey to the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. While there, he won four Olympic Gold medals and broke several world records. The film begins with Jesse (Stephan James) leaving Cleveland, Ohio to attend college at Ohio State University. There he meets Coach Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis). After a rather intense first conversation, Jesse and Coach Snyder get on with the business of training Jesse to be the best athlete that he can be—the Buckeye Bullet, the fastest man in the world. Jesse almost did not attend the 1936 Olympics. Because of the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews & non-Aryan races, there was a question whether or not the United States would even send athletes to Berlin. In the end the American Olympic Committee voted by a narrow margin to attend the games in Berlin. Then a representative from the N.A.A.C.P. met with Jesse and his family trying to dissuade him from attending the Games. The conversation between the man from the N.A.A.C.P and Jesse is one of my favorite parts of the film. Jesse asked the man from the N.A.A.C. P. if he was a runner. The man answers, "Not competitively." Jesse replies, “Out there, there ain’t no black and white, there’s only fast and slow. Nothing matters, not color, not money, not even hate. For those 10 seconds you are completely free.” Race portrays what life was like in the 1930’s for blacks. It is a celebration of determination and perseverance. If you are looking for an inspiring, feel-good movie, I would suggest watching Race. Overall Rating: B++
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