Movie Review: Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)


Title: Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Release Date:
1971
Director:
Robert Stevenson
Production Co:
Walt Disney Productions
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Genre:
Adventure | Fantasy | Family | Musicals | Animation
Rating:
   ***1/2

Set in Second World War England, three children have been evacuated to the countryside (oddly to a town overlooking the Channel) to stay with Miss Price (Angela Lansbury), a witch-in-training.  Along the way on their magical adventures they pick up the con-man Professor Browne played by David Tomlinson.   The movie is more of a series of loosely-connected set pieces than a story.  Some of them go on too long, like the dance number on Portobello Road, although it is interesting to see the many faces of the British Commonwealth represented in a cheerful wartime London.  Better are the mixed live action and animation sequences with fish dancing in an undersea ballroom and a raucous soccer game among wild animals.  The conclusion features some whimsical special effects that stand up well after forty years as military uniforms and armor are magically brought to life to defend Britain against a German incursion.  It’s a fun, entertaining bagatelle of a movie. My kids enjoyed it for sure.

 

Doomsayers be damned: Baseball is healthy and ratings are strong


Baseball … alive and well.

HardballTalk

ST. LOUIS — I write often about how the “Baseball is dying” people and the folks who wring their hands over playoff and World Series television ratings are either overstating their concern, are misapprehending history or are flat-out wrong. It appears, however, that those people and those folks will continue to march on with that narrative unabated.

Keith Olbermann talked about baseball’s relative national irrelevancy the other night. The website Sports Media Watch, which gets cited by many looking for a quick and dirty take on TV ratings, tends to spin things toward the dire. I presume once the overnight ratings for Game 4 are in this morning — a Game 4 which played opposite ratings juggernaut Sunday Night Football — we’ll hear a new round of all of this. It’s an evergreen story, as the news media folks say, and it’ll be trotted out every fall…

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Beer Review: Pretty Things Field Mouse’s Farewell


BeerField Mouse’s Farewell 
BrewerPretty Things Beer and Ale Project
Source: Draft in a tulip glass
Rating: *** (7 of 10)
Comments: This feels like a fancy beer with a golden orange glow and a thin head.  The aroma was sweet and spicy with some fruit, perhaps apricots?  The taste is dominated by bitter hops with a clean citrus finish.  It’s apparent from the complex flavors that this is a well-crafted beer, although I found it too bitter for my taste.

Book Review: The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud


Author: Claire Messud
TitleThe Woman Upstairs
Publication Info: 2013: Books on Tape
ISBN: 9780307913630
Summary/Review:

Messud’s “Woman Upstairs” is her take on the character without an identity such as Ellison’s Invisible Man or The Mad Woman in the Attic, but in this case the nice woman who no one takes notice of.   Nora is a school teacher who takes an obsession with the family of one of her pupils who are only in the country for a year.  She ends up babysitting the boy, starting an art studio with his mother, and developing a romantic attraction for the father on long walks together.  Messud makes her narrator Nora extremely unappealing in her self-absorption, and unreliable in her idealization of the Shahid family.    There’s also a sense that the Shahid’s are taking advantage of Nora the whole time.  There are some interesting internal narratives of a woman’s place in modern society and as the book is set in Cambridge, MA, some good local color.  I’m not sure I’m convinced by the conclusion, which is somewhat predictable, but I don’t get the sense that it is as life changing as Nora claims it to be.

Recommended books:
Rating: ** 1/2

Book Review: Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks


Author: Geraldine Brooks
TitleCaleb’s Crossing 
Publication Info: [Ashland, Or.] : Blackstone Audio, 2011.
ISBN9781441790200
Summary/Review:

This engaging novel set in 17th Massachusetts, primarily Martha’s Vineyard and Cambridge, is the recollections of a Puritan woman Bethia Mayfield regarding the life of a Wampanoag she befriends as a child who takes the name Caleb.  The language of the narrative carries the flavor of language of a colonial American woman although at times a modern, feminist view appears in the narrative.  The novel is full of heartbreak and loss, but still there’s a great amount of nobility in Caleb as he adapts to English and Christian ways.  The culture and religion of the English and native are frequently compared with the later given a grudging respect.  Both the woman and the Wampanoag are subservient in this society and this historical fiction is a great attempt at telling their hidden stories.

Recommended books:  The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper, Black Robe by Brian Moore, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick, The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell, and A Mercy by Toni Morrison.
Rating: ***

Book Review: Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut


AuthorKurt Vonnegut
TitleCat’s Cradle
Publication Info: New York : Dial Press, 2006, c1963.
ISBN: 9780385333481
Summary/Review:

I’ve not read much Vonnegut so I’m trying to make up for that. This Cold War novel is a dark satire of the atom bomb (and the scientists behind it), US government support of corrupt “Banana Republics,”  and religious cults with a dose of science fiction.  The short chapters are full of biting satire and cynicism.  Vonnegut creates some memorable, over the top characters and an interesting parallel to our world.
Recommended booksIn Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan, Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein, and Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.
Rating: ***