Monthly Archives: January 2018

  • 0

Sports – NFL Picks 2017, Wild Card

Category : Sports

Here are my NFL Wild Card Picks

(11-5 last week, 167-89 for the season)

Bye teams: Eagles, Patriots, Steelers, Vikings

 

 Ten @ KC

Atl @ LAR

Buf @ Jax

Car @ NO

 


  • 0

DVD Review – Nutcracker

Category : DVD Review

Director: Carroll Ballard

Starring: Vanessa Sharp, Hugh Bigney, Patricia Barker

Year: 1986

As the holiday season winds up, I wanted to visit one of my favorite traditions, The Nutcracker, a marvelous ballet whose music always gets me in the Christmas spirit.  I’ve seen it done on stage, I’ve danced around my living room to cassette tape, and I’m ready to watch the twisted Disney version when it comes out, but I’ve never experienced the classic on screen, nor have I ever seen it done quite this way before.  This 80s take is as strange as it is beautiful, an artistic interpretation that won’t fail to surprise, while also bringing to life the expected wonder of the story, a tale that never ages out of enjoyment.

The Movie

The plot is well known, but you’ve never seen The Nutcracker quite like this.  Clara, as narrator, welcomes us to her dreams, a world crafted in her youth by her enigmatic godfather Herr Drosselmeier, the famed toy and clock maker.  He always frightened Clara, but mystified her as well, as his manner was strange but his magic was marvelous, and the gifts he brought to the annual Christmas dance were unparalleled in their beauty.  This year was no different, as he delivers troubling dreams to Clara’s sleep but an exquisite doll house to her ballroom, shocking and awing in turn.

Clara also finds a handsome nutcracker in the Christmas tree, a gift that her godfather seems instantly jealous of.  But when her naughty brother Fritz breaks in, Drosselmeier is the first to attend to the toy, setting it aside where it might mend.  Later than evening, after the party has ended, Clara sneaks down to peek at her nutcracker, unknowingly entering a dream-like world in which she is the same size as her doll and as the mice that scamper about the floor.  After a classic battle, Clara finds herself traveling to a magic land, where she will meet a prince, fall in love, and dance the night away.

What a lovely ballet, and if you’ve never seen it before please find a way to see it next Christmas; you won’t be disappointed.  It’s such a simple story usually, the climax coming near the beginning, the rest dedicated to the beauty of dance, as various flora, fauna, natural elements, and exotic peoples perform for Clara as she dreams of a life so fantastic it could never actually exist.  And the music is exquisite, of course, Tchaikovsky weaving a masterpiece that has endured the years and continues to delight audiences worldwide.  You could close your eyes and listen or close your ears and just watch; either would be a wonderful way to experience The Nutcracker.

Now, to this version, which partly sticks to the original ballet, therefore giving us exactly what we expect, and also dares to use other style elements, therefore keeping us on our toes.  It’s a trippy, wacky, slightly dark style, almost like Terry Gilliam was in charge.  There are some changes to the classic lineup, and Drosselmeier is almost scary; Maurice Sendak of Where the Wild Things Are fame was the mind behind the vision, and it’s an original one, there’s no doubt about that.  But I enjoyed the slight change of scenery, and at the same time the traditional delivery, so hats off to all involved.

The Blu-ray

Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the video quality of this film is pretty bad, but not unexpected.  It’s almost like a recording of a stage play, with some shots of people against green screens thrown in for good measure, all done in the grainy 80s.  So don’t expect too much, but also try not to be too harsh.

Audio – The disc was done in Stereo, with optional English subtitles.  The only talking is done in a small amount of narration, so really the music is the only sound.  And the music is great, is comes across the disc really well, so audiences won’t be disappointed.

Extras – There are no special features on this disc.

Final Thoughts

Recommended.  For an 80s film version of a stage ballet, this unique interpretation hits all the points in surprising fashion, and still has a few tricks up its sleeve to keep audiences interested.  It isn’t the greatest movie; in some ways it isn’t a movie at all.  But what it does right is deliver the classic music and feel in a slightly off-beat manner, sharing with us a masterpiece that we’ve seen before in a way we’ve never seen before.  The video is predictably sketchy, the audio is surprisingly nice, and there aren’t any extras, so temper your technical expectations.  All in all, this is an interesting way to view the artwork, though probably not the one I would point you toward first.

☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 


  • 0

Movie Review – Matilda

Category : Movie Review

Director: Danny DeVito

Starring: Mara Wilson, Embeth Davidtz, Danny DeVito

Year: 1996

Roald Dahl books adapt into films with shocking ease; I’m not sure what author could say the same.  Stephen King is the best writer I’ve ever come across, but his novels make terrible movies, at least usually, and I’m not sure what that says about the intricacies of his stories, perhaps that they are just too thick to change into any other format.  Anyway, Dahl doesn’t seem to have that problem, probably because his stories are so simple; a child character has an adventure and it comes to a happy ending, that’s it.  His books are so magical, they translate to the screen so well, and I’m always happy to revisit a VHS or DVD from my childhood with his stamp on it.  Matilda is no different, a fun time had by all in a matter of minutes, and another chance to bring Dahl to life.

Matilda Wormwood doesn’t exactly fit into her family.  Her father is a ratty used car salesman, her mother only enjoys bingo, and her brother is simply following in the footsteps of his unimaginative parents.  Matilda loves books, and at an early age realizes that they are a way to transport her out of her stifling existence into lands of mystery and entertainment.  She can read books much over her level, Charles Dickens is her favorite, and even before she enters school she’s showing signs of incredible genius.  She can even move objects with her mind, a power she discovers when confronted by her terrible principle The Trunchbull, who is the exact opposite of Matilda’s sweet teacher Ms. Honey, the only adult who understands her aptitude.

Mara Wilson is like, the cutest kid ever.  I adored her in Mrs. Doubtfire, and she’s just as wonderful in Matilda; I don’t know how one child can be so great.  She didn’t really go on to do much other acting, and I don’t know her childhood fame story, I just hope it wasn’t a disaster.  Apart from Dahl and Wilson, DeVito deserves a lot of credit, as he directed, starred in, and narrated the film, so his hand is all over it.  And he did a great job, it’s a classic adaptation, one that also takes a little license in creating a style all its own.  I don’t know if I’d call Matilda the best Dahl movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s no slouch, and it’s definitely worth the time to sit down and watch with the fam.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


  • 0

Book Review – Matilda

Category : Book Review

Author: Roald Dahl

Year: 1988

Since receiving a Roald Dahl box set of books as a gift, my family & I have been enjoying reading these classic novels together, and I have enjoyed revisiting stories I read & loved so many years ago.  Dahl wrote with such whimsy, combined with a darkness that’s always present, but with happy endings that make for fantastic fantasies.  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and Fantastic Mr. Fox are some we’ve read together, and all are great stories made into good movies.  Here’s another in Matilda, a book with a sad element, an adventure unlike any other, and ultimately a pleasant finish that captures the imaginations of adults & children alike.

Matilda Wormwood doesn’t exactly fit into her family.  Her father is a ratty used car salesman, her mother only enjoys bingo, and her brother is simply following in the footsteps of his unimaginative parents.  Matilda loves books, and at an early age realizes that they are a way to transport her out of her stifling existence into lands of mystery and entertainment.  She can read books much over her level, Charles Dickens is her favorite, and even before she enters school she’s showing signs of incredible genius.  She can even move objects with her mind, a power she discovers when confronted by her terrible principle The Trunchbull, who is the exact opposite of Matilda’s sweet teacher Ms. Honey, the only adult who understands her aptitude.

This might not be my absolute favorite Roald Dahl story, mostly because it doesn’t exactly have an action-packed element like some of his others, but I enjoyed it all the same, a pleasant tale of a special child whose life is darkened by adults but whose destiny is much brighter.  Matilda is a great character, and her antics at school are the stuff of legend, as is the great Trunchbull, a demon of an educator who rivals the best villains of modern literature.  Dahl writes with such simplicity, you don’t get blindsided by surprises or twists, you simply sail along with events until you reach what is usually a happy ending.  Read for a nice time, share it with you kids, keep the magic alive.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆