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Panic Room
Panic Room
Price: $7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars don't panic by dear, April 16, 2015
This review is from: Panic Room (Amazon Instant Video)
Huh, I thought I had reviewed this excellent movie a long time ago. Well it's been over 10 years since I first watched the Panic Room. I immediately loved it. I tried watching it again last summer but got interrupted by a phone call a few minutes in so I gave up, but I was able to watch it again last night and recall how exciting it was.

It's about a group of robbers who have knowledge that millions of dollars are kept inside an actual panic room that was built inside an apartment room, so they break in and do whatever it takes to get the money. Forest Whitaker plays an interesting robber- he's not necessarily on the same page as the other two robbers and often they get into arguments. He's more like a sympathetic bad guy as evident by his desire to make sure nobody gets hurt and that he just gets the money, whereas the other robbers are willing to do whatever it takes -even kill in vicious style- in order to get the money.

Meanwhile upon Jodie Foster and her daughter/son (seriously I thought it was a boy for the longest time) realizing that robbers are in the apartment with them in the middle of an eerily calm rainy night, they immediately lock themselves inside the panic room which is a tiny safe room made of steel with the intention of being impossible for anybody to break into. Of course the robbers do everything they possibly can to break through those steel walls- they try taking a crowbar and tearing up the floor underneath, they use gas to try and get Jodie and her daughter out of the room (which backfires literally!) and they even try luring them out with messages written on paper since there's video cameras located all over many apartment ceilings that Jodie and her daughter can see from inside the panic room.

This movie makes suspense live up to its name in a big way. A film where you're constantly on the edge of your seat and don't want to be interrupted until it's over. Without spoiling certain parts, my memory failed me on a few occasions. I was convinced Jodie and her daughter stayed inside this panic room the entire movie but uh, no. Sometimes Jodie escapes in an attempt to grab a cellphone which leads to a memorable slow-moving REALLY intense segment, and eventually Jodie's daughter needs insulin shots (which is clichéd- come 'on, someone ALWAYS needs an insulin shot during dire circumstances in Hollywood suspense or horror films!)

Perhaps the best segment is when Jodie tries to make a phone call to her ex-husband for help as quickly as possible before Forest figures out the wires are coming from the basement and destroys them. It's a race to see if Jodie can make that call in time. Also when Jodie and her daughter flash Morse Code signals by way of a flashlight into their neighbors window is another magnificent part of the movie since you're curious if the neighbor will catch on. And the scene where Jodie communicates with the cops but can't give away too much information since revealing that the robbers being in the home could very well put her daughters life in serious danger is another memorable scene. This scene alone proves why Jodie Foster is such a phenomenal actress. Perhaps the best segment in the film.

Overall I love the Panic Room, and if you love suspenseful movies you'll undoubtedly love it too.

Two Girls and a Guy
Two Girls and a Guy
DVD ~ Robert Downey Jr.
Offered by insomniacsonline
Price: $5.88
90 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars two girls and uh oh!, April 15, 2015
This review is from: Two Girls and a Guy (DVD)
There's a reason I'm giving Two Girls and a Guy 5 stars- a BIG reason. It's not a chick flick! At least not in the typical sense. The comedy is actually of the darker variety, and the drama is based exactly in one setting the entire time- that being the boyfriends apartment room. Not that being set in one location is a good thing, but focusing in one area the whole time allowed me to appreciate/pay attention to the writing more.

The story is very simple. Two girls, Heather Graham and Natasha Gregson Wagner, are both standing outside their boyfriends apartment waiting for him to show up. Natasha starts blabbing and bragging about her boyfriend, noticeably irritating Heather since she's barely acknowledging any of this which was hilarious, until Natasha reveals something that catches Heather's attention- that being, that they're both waiting for the SAME man! Yup you probably know what this means- Robert Downey Jr.'s character has been dating two women unbeknownst to both. Do they get angry? Do they plot revenge? Sort of...

Natasha comes up with this crazy idea to climb the nearby ladder to the second floor, break Robert's apartment window and let herself in. She then lets Heather in through the front door. From here, well the storyline STAYS inside this apartment room the entire time. Both Heather and Natasha talk in tremendous detail about how much of a scumbag and liar Robert is. "How could he date and use two women at once" is the topic of conversation for a looooong while. Really memorable storytelling. So far the story's entirely a drama. The elements of dark comedy come in later when Robert attempts... you know what, I'm not going to spoil that part, haha. It's too good to reveal! He does *something* extreme later on but let's continue the story.

Anyway Robert eventually comes home and starts singing out loud in theatrical fashion assuming he's alone. Turns out he's an actor which is an interesting part of his character because for the entire movie you're never really sure if he's acting or sincere when these two women not only confront but DRILL him extensively, in-depth, for the ENTIRE movie. Is he lying or being honest? Truthfully, sometimes it's hard to tell which is a fascinating part of his character. The way he acts you just don't wanna believe a single word he says. I won't reveal what happens at the end but if you've been paying attention the whole time, there are at least two major surprises. I can't spoil either of them of course. Two Girls and a Guy is clearly a movie where you don't want to give too much away.

Robert is such an arrogant jerk too. Neither Heather or Natasha (who both get along well with each other by the way) buy into ANYTHING he says. Robert's character is clearly the type that uses women to his advantage. The only problem with this film that I can see is that the storytelling never ventures beyond the apartment room. Otherwise brilliant. Brilliant for the way it focuses/discusses in fine detail how wrong it is to cheat on your loved ones. Tremendous and believable acting by everyone involved. Basically the writing and the setting almost feels like you're in a psychiatrist's office, but the many emotions, wonderful characters and the way the story packs such a stronghold on the viewers make this movie a surprising classic. Another interesting part of the story is Robert's mother who Robert confides in through phone calls whenever he feels overwhelmed by the two women. It makes him look like a shallow mommy's boy which is hilarious.

Anyway just don't make the mistake into thinking Two Girls and a Guy is yet another poorly written, fast-moving typical chick flick that accomplishes very little. Strong writing and characters and a memorable storyline focusing on drama elements brings it to life in a very different way. Highly recommended for both girls and guys.

Heaven is for Real
Heaven is for Real
Price: $12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars heaven isn't too far away, April 14, 2015
I was worried that a lot of people online might criticize this movie since it shows what heaven, Jesus and angels are like from the point of view of a 4-year old boy, which means a lot of people might not take it seriously since it's supposedly based on a true story. You know how mean and/or critical people can be. While there probably are a bunch of negative reviews online somewhere I really don't feel the need to search for them. I feel that Heaven Is for Real is a very uplifting and positive religious movie that is perfectly harmless.

Obviously everyone's going to have their own interpretations of the afterlife and that's all fine and good, but if this particular vision is really based on a true story well, that changes things a LOT! Do I personally believe heaven is like the way it's presented in this film? The point of view of this child? Yes, absolutely. Why not? I'm going to be honest though- I have a few different views. I can't stick to just one. If that makes me look contradicting, so be it. So many interpretations seem believable to me so it's hard to just stick with one and live by it, with all due respect.

Then again on another subject, supposedly several things have been changed in the movie adaption, and the book is supposed to be more realistic. If not more realistic, just overall better. I haven't read the book so I can't say for sure whether there's any truth to that or not. I wouldn't be surprised since 99% of the time book versions are better.

About the story. Well you already know what it's mostly about, but it turns out there's other things taking place besides just the little boy seeing heaven, meeting Jesus and singing with angels while getting emergency surgery at the downtown hospital. They make it clear he didn't really die- he was conscious the whole time and the doctors were there to confirm it. However what the little boy says after surgery is just staggering. He says he was floating over the operating table watching the surgery take place, and more staggeringly he says to his father that he actually SAW his father getting angry in the other room which was true.

However those are only a few things this boy confirms that baffles everyone in this small Midwestern town. He says to his mom that she lost a daughter and that he saw this girl while in heaven. Of course the mother breaks down crying in complete shock, as anyone would upon someone having knowledge of this kind of personal information. He also mentions he saw his father's relatives in heaven and describes them in accurate detail which of course surprises the father and makes him get a little crazy frantically searching for photos around his home to confirm these were the people his son had seen, all in search of answers.

By the way the father is another major element to this story. He gets just as much attention as his son since after the son reveals he's seen heaven, it changes the way the father interprets life, and he questions whether he's been treating people the right way. He's a pastor at the church, but he becomes speechless during his sermons after his son goes through that surgery and claims to have been to heaven. Now the people that attend his sermons don't know what to think, so they ask all kinds of uncomfortable questions about his son that he can't answer. Not having the answers makes the people upset and confused, so they think less of him as a pastor as a result. They think he's no longer qualified for the job and afterwards, with financial troubles and the daughter causing trouble at school, the family goes through stressful times which results in the parents yelling. However their belief in God reassures that everything will be fine.

Like I said, I was worried that I'd come online and see all kinds of nasty negative comments about this movies interpretation of Jesus and heaven. Not everyone likes it when someone says Jesus has green/blue eyes. That would understandably change the image they've had of Jesus for most of their lives. A lot of people are uncomfortable/dislike that. I'm really happy people haven't been critical of this part of the storyline. The story is what it is- a Midwestern family's lives change after the boy claims to have seen heaven. I don't think a story like this needs to be taken apart and criticized.

I really feel sorry for the father/pastor too. His has his own health battles in the beginning after a softball game that appeared to be simple innocent fun turns into something more severe, and then his son has to have emergency surgery. I think the child actor is terrific by the way. He's probably older than 4, but he's clearly smart and appropriate for the part. Very alert, talkative and the right kid for the role. I'm totally not making fun of the movie when I say this, but I actually thought Freddie Mercury of Queen fame was coming out when the little boy was in heaven and asked the laughing angels to sing "We Will Rock You". For about 2 seconds I was CONVINCED that was Freddie walking towards the boy since they show him from behind, LOL!

Anyway I enjoy this movie. It's harmless, innocent and even adorable on a few occasions, but never loses the true meaning nor does it ever get far-fetched. No dazzling Hollywood effects alter this film in any way either thankfully. It's clean entertainment with a well-meaning story and highly recommendable.

The Calling
The Calling
Price: $13.99

4.0 out of 5 stars will you be my victim, April 14, 2015
This review is from: The Calling (Amazon Instant Video)
The Calling is a pretty awesome suspense, but the ending could've been better I think. The plot builds in such a splendid and ominous way that it deserved a more fulfilling ending. That's the only reason I'm not giving it 5 stars. Susan Sarandon plays the role of a woman who obviously had a troubled past- she was either someone who relied heavily on medication based on the very first scene where she's lying on her bedroom floor struggling to stand up, and perhaps she was an alcoholic too. Her history was never discussed in detail so we can only guess. She's not someone I usually look forward to in movies, but in this particular role she's really good. While everyone else is apparently familiar with her history, she surprises everyone by revealing she's actually a very responsible cop and does intelligent research pertaining to her investigative work solving a string of murders around town.

Topher Grace playing the role of a cop is somewhat hilarious to me. You see I still remember him as Eric from his famous That 70's Show years, so it's hard to take him seriously as a police officer. Even when needles are getting injected into his neck and he's putting his life on the line, I'm waiting for a punch line or for him to reveal some kind of elaborate or sarcastic prank is occurring. He even acts the same way in this movie with his stone-faced facial expressions. Clearly the wrong guy for the role! Anyway he's definitely a good actor- it's just me who has to adjust to well, the fact that That 70's Show has been off the air for 7 years now and I need to get with the times for one thing, but also that he's trying to take himself seriously as an actor in a suspenseful movie. I still have trouble making that adjustment.

Anyway I'm rambling needless crap. I didn't have a good day today. I enjoyed this movie but soon after I got really tired and needed to take a nap. I'm not feeling 100% today. Perhaps I stayed up too late last night listening to Al Di Meola, lol. I didn't realize it at first but the gloomy setting of this movie matched the damp and cloudy setting outside my window while watching it. It was an ideal setting!

Did I even get to the story yet? It's about a religious fanatic played by Christopher Heyerdahl who goes to great lengths to kill victims since he believes doing so will bring his brother back. I'm sure it's more elaborate than that, but hey, religion can be a *very* difficult subject to follow for me since I'm not familiar with the subject. This movie usually avoids being confusing thankfully, but every so often the story can be tricky to follow. There's clearly a lot of religion talk taking place however. Donald Sutherland playing the role of a priest is a surprise. He's very good at it. I've never noticed any similarities between him and his son Keifer until now- I can finally tell they are in fact father and son while watching Donald's facial expressions and body movements.

Overall this movie succeeds at telling a fairly easy to follow story without resorting to heavy religious talk that can often times confuse viewers, Susan's character is really good, the actor who plays her mother is really good too (she likes to reminisce a lot and wishes her daughter Susan would loosen up and smile like she used to, obviously an indication that Susan takes her job too seriously and that something happened in her past). Christopher Heyerdahl is the best actor in the film easily however, because he's VERY good at being conniving. I was seriously baffled for a while because he looked more like a saint rather than a sinner. Like someone coming along to brighten people's day. I was shocked at the sudden change his character partook in, and what he did to a sick little girl.

But yeah, Topher Grace is out of place being a police officer. I like the scene when he discovered dead bodies in a home. He got sick which was a normal reaction, but he didn't express as much shock as a person is supposed to (police officer or not). Also admired the way he and Susan would work together trying to figure out how the murderer functions by sorting through words on a chalkboard concerning the lip movements of the victims. Turns out Topher was way off with his logic!

The suspense factor is really high, the setting is terrific taking place in a small town where nothing out of the ordinary has happened until this recent string of murders, and the acting is terrific all around. Highly recommended.

Splendido Hotel
Splendido Hotel
Price: $4.99
45 used & new from $1.89

4.0 out of 5 stars splendid-o!, April 14, 2015
This review is from: Splendido Hotel (Audio CD)
Alright let's get this out of the way right now- what makes Splendido Hotel different from previous Al Di Meola albums is that it features a LOT of Spanish acoustic work. I'd say at least 70% of the album is in the Spanish acoustic style. It's obviously not entirely a typical electric-focused Al Di Meola album, as many of you probably realize since I'm sure lots of people nowadays have gotten used to doing internet research before buying items. Legendary musicians such as Chick Corea, Jan Hammer and Anthony Jackson contribute in a huge way. Sometimes the results, with all these musicians frantically playing together, can be a little messy at times (specifically on the longer tracks). Make that REALLY messy. However that's usually the first impression, as repeated listens reveal that our ears are able to adjust to what's going on and eventually discover melodies and distinctiveness in the many Spanish-related styles taking place on Splendido Hotel.

So with THAT in mind, let's begin the review:

"Igfahan" is clearly the elephant in the room since it drastically stands out compared to the rest of the material not just in song length, but pertaining to the ideas taking place. This is basically a loosely constructed classical piece of some kind, or rather Al Di's version of a classical piece. It starts with an eerie, slightly overlong children's choir before somber, slow-moving violins and acoustic guitar subtly come in. However don't be fooled here folks- the instrumentation is about to intensity in a HUGE and unusual way any moment! Things are about to get messy.

The piano is noticeably really in the classical style which is strange considering all the years I've known Al Di Meola for his electric and occasional acoustic guitar playing. The mood throughout this piece is just so elegant thanks to the addition of the violins, and deliberately slow-moving... seriously, I'm used to Al Di coming right out and just instantly blowing me away with some memorable flashy guitar playing. The frantic trademark that is Al Di's guitar style is sort of pushed to the back throughout this piece to allow other instruments a turn to shine. It's an unusually put together song, not much different from the classical stuff Emerson, Lake & Palmer attempted on their Works album.

Anyway I got sidetracked a bit there. The part in the middle of "Igfahan" is my favorite- when the tempo shifts into a more fast-moving Middle Eastern style. The stuff before this while initially off-putting and sloppy, has become better (less sloppy-sounding) on repeated listens. Then the acoustic guitar gets really crazy while the piano and violins all fight each other for the spotlight, which is when the song gets overbearing for a couple minutes until the more listenable conclusion. This is just not the kind of thing I associated with Al Di Meola's style even though most of it *is* actually melodic. That's why you'll read many mixed reviews for Splendido Hotel. Instead of expecting dazzling displays of electric guitar, when listening to this near 12-minute piece, expect experimenting the likes of which you'd normally never associate from Al Di Meola.

From here, well let's mention some of the electric guitar-driven songs since those are easily my favorite, and let me tell ya something, they absolutely FLOOR me! They floor me not only because they're intense, but because they're written in a way that makes you feel like you're tripping on the craziest stuff ever. Not even some of the greatest acid rockers out there can go through territory that Al Di Meola does on say, "Alien Chase On Arabian Desert". The beginning of this track features some Tangerine Dream-style mind trip experimentation through the universe before settling into a hypnotic electric guitar line. Then the tempo changes and the Spanish style comes in. More extreme instrumental workouts capturing the feeling of a volcano erupting and wiping out mankind. This song goes through a TON of tempo changes while taking electric and acoustic guitar playing as far as the eyes can see. Each tempo change serves as an emotional shift too which is REALLY fascinating to me.

But... that's not the only intense moment on the album either! "Dinner Music of the Gods" is the second brilliant song on Splendido Hotel. Love the futuristic sounding thumping drums and bass in the beginning, and get this. This is totally crazy, but the bass work reminds me of early 80's Iron Maiden quite a bit. Who knows which came first- Splendido Hotel or Iron Maiden's debut, but either way that rhythm is REALLY darn catchy! My favorite part of this piece is when everything temporarily calms down before that speedy Iron Maiden-resembling bass rhythm comes back subtly, then explosively! It makes me think of a jetfighter circling back for round two. The electric guitar soloing absolutely TEARS whenever it plays. Then the piece gets really gentle when the harpsichord-sounding part comes in. Not sure what instrument that is to be honest, but it sounds like a harpsichord to me. There are no words to describe this songs awesomeness!

The mood changes in another direction once again. "Al Di's Dream Theme" is laidback early 70's Fleetwood Mac-style electric guitar playing in the intro and again later on, which means it's absolutely beautiful. But then THAT part is quickly over! Did you really think this particular beautiful part would last the entire song? No, not according to Al Di's book of songwriting. Not with the star-studded lineup of musicians featured here! The switch leads into a funky one with melodic guitar playing. Pretty standard notes that aren't as crazy or as sophisticated as usual, but exciting nonetheless. Love how the intensity builds occasionally/briefly before becoming mellow again just to play with my emotions some more.

Now here's where the album sort of settles into a permanent groove from here on out with one Spanish song after another, with only a couple exceptions along the way. "Silent Story In Her Eyes" is VERY consistently beautiful Spanish guitar work. It's laidback significantly compared to most of the stuff on Splendido Hotel. However what it lacks in intensity it makes up for being so incredibly melodic and moving. The guitar playing is so rich and Jerry Garcia-like I feel like I'm somewhere where flowers bloom whenever I walk by. It has that springtime feel to it, which makes it ideal for April- the time of year I'm listening/reviewing this album!

"Spanish Eyes" is perhaps a slightly different take on the Spanish style Al Di Meola has nearly perfected. This song has a noticeably different feel to it with the chugging rhythm, and the playful and adventurous Peter Green (of Fleetwood Mac fame) style guitar notes, almost totally appropriate for a beach vacation. Something about this song makes me smile whenever I play it. It's just ideal in ways that are hard to explain because it makes you feel so good. "Roller Justice" is based around a speedy Spanish guitar riff and kind of feels like game show prize-sorting music. I must be thinking of Wheel of Fortune! It's memorable with surprisingly no lengthy soloing of any kind- just a little bit at the very end that never gets going.

"Two to Tango" is strictly based on acoustic and piano. While at first the song feels like it's missing crucial elements of being memorable and makes you think it was just quickly slapped together on the fly, the tango flavor comes in and really adds to the arrangements. Al Di plays it in such a mysteriously danceable way I can't help but admire it. "Splendido Sundance" is similar in tone and structure to "Two to Tango" but without the tango elements. It's also a bit darker and creepier. While I was originally about to say it's less appealing in comparison to "Two to Tango", suddenly the tempo speeds up halfway through and changes the complexion of the entire piece into a more upbeat and tastefully performed exciting one. All the guitar notes once the song reaches the 2 minute and 40 second mark just blow me away! Perhaps the only forgettable song is "I Can Tell". This is clearly a WHAT THE HECK moment, because there's actually VOCALS! They sound like what would happen if the late 70's version of the Bee Gee's minus the disco beats and the Doobie Brothers "What a Fool Believes" had a child with its soulful smooth rock tone. Nice brief Elton John style rocking piano at the end too- it's brief and easy to miss. The intro totally reminds me of Billy Joel's "Pressure" as well.

Overall, well I don't know what to make of Splendido Hotel as far as whether I'd recommend it to Al Di Meola fans. I DO recommend it, but please get familiar with his electric period from the late 70's first and then determine if you're ready for some acoustic-based Spanish experimentation. While this music is clearly extremely sophisticated, sometimes it travels *too* far across pretentious territory and loses what made Al Di Meola so great in the first place. However the tastiness of the instrumental playing as well as the variety, the addition of many famous musicians helping to contribute, the MANY sudden and boisterous tempo changes that really elevate the excitement level... these are important elements too, so with these things in mind the album gets a high 4 star rating from me. Honestly sometimes it's a 5 because the high points I mention above are REALLY fantastic.

Electric Rendezvous
Electric Rendezvous
Offered by SONY Music Entertainment Downloads LLC.
Price: $7.92

5.0 out of 5 stars al di meola going wild!, April 12, 2015
This review is from: Electric Rendezvous (MP3 Music)
I thought maybe I could get away giving an Al Di Meola album less than 5 stars but as it turns out, I couldn't do that! Electric Rendezvous is just TOO awesome for me to give it anything less than 5 stars. Basically the album is on the same level of awesomeness as the first three albums Al Di Meola did in the late 70's, and THAT my friends is a good thing!

The title song doesn't take long to reveal that the album officially has the new wave/clean production sound of the 80's in full swing, but luckily it's never a distraction. If anything for the most part you can't even tell Electric Rendezvous is an 80's album because it honestly doesn't sound like one. A lot of music from back then, especially the guitar-driven music, sounds horribly dated and the guitar soloing quite often doesn't click with the same musicianship like it would on a good 70's album, but not the case with Electric Rendezvous!

Anyway the atmosphere in the title song is what you'd expect from Al Di Meola- a Spanish flavor, or according in my interpretation Egyptian-like in spots, with progressive rock-like instrumental shifts from acoustic to keyboards to electric with all kinds of percussion along the way. Halfway through we experience a melodic guitar solo similar to the legendary Carlos Santana, and a brief exchange of tempo-shifting instrumental variety afterwards that sounds VERY similar to the classic years of the Mahavishnu Orchestra but not nearly as intense. Overall this song is probably tamer than the lengthy multi-part pieces Al did in the late 70's but only by a little bit. I think this song is comparable overall to his Elegant Gypsy album specifically.

"Passion, Grace & Fire" features some Spanish acoustic work which shouldn't be surprising since that's what Al Di Meola is known for after all, but some of this stuff sounds like pure showing off initially until you adjust to it. Usually by the second listen the notes sink in and become memorable. The first time you listen to a song like this can be really tricky though, and hard to judge. I mean you recognize it's professionally written the first time, but you can't tell if you really *enjoy* it or not. That was strongly the case for me with the entirety of Electric Rendezvous. The song begins with some showing off, then suddenly this stunning and beautiful shift occurs and the guitar notes are just *incredibly* sad and melodic for a little while before returning to more fast-paced showing off (or to put another way, what sounds like a bunch of notes all playing at the same time). Underneath the entire speedy piece you can sense an ominous vibe which is pretty cool. While the song gets sort of messy towards the end, keep listening because it will probably grow on you.

"Cruisin" is something different from Al Di Meola- just straight ahead, energetic, melodic hard rock-style guitar soloing, fitting for an actual cruise down the desert highway. Not much jamming taking place here until the final minute when it finally starts to jam with the keyboard. The electric guitar ventures away from the main melody and jams away too, but by this point it's honestly too late to make an impression since it's so short. Perhaps this song should've been a couple minutes longer since the album overall is pretty short at just over 34 minutes. Cruisin' with Al Di!

Then we have a song called "Ritmo De La Noche" which is another experiment, but perhaps on a less attractive scale. It's lounge-y Spanish music... while having a romantic dinner at night on a cruise ship. The calm and relaxing guitar notes in the first half are really laidback and basic by Al Di's usual high energy standards, however the song does eventually morph into something else at least to allow a funky, keyboard jam to finally pick up the pace. Thank goodness it does this! I was almost ready to stick my head out the window and throw up my dinner into the ocean waves. Nah, let's not get ahead of ourselves! Still a terrific song. Just taken aback by it at first, that's all.

"Somalia/Jewel Inside a Dream" is space rock-ish thanks to the guitar and synth work in the beginning that totally reminds me of the progressive rock band Camel and their now famous Snow Goose album. Well perhaps it's only famous on the internet since you ain't ever hearing Camel on the radio, or Al Di Meola for that matter. Good thing for the internet huh! Jan Hammer's style is all over this track since he did participate on this album after all. Even if I hadn't read any information about Electric Rendezvous, I could still have easily sensed it was Jan Hammer playing here because his style is noticeable right away. No one else that I know plays the keyboards and synths in such an "all over the place but never going too far" kind of way. Anyway the "Somalia" theme, which repeats a couple times in "Jewel Inside a Dream" is absolutely beautiful, but some of the dreamy keyboard/synth work might be too unnecessarily overbearing for a lot of people. Not me, but some. Jan has a way of really stretching the beauty of his instrument to greater heights.

"God Bird Change" is one of my favorite songs on the album. Funky, melodic electric guitar and Latin mood shifts, the entire main melody and the tempo changes that follow come across so cleverly and naturally well-done! In other words, you don't immediately realize how sophisticated this song is until you pay close attention to the way it's played. Unfortunately I can't explain it from a technical point of view, so you'll just have to take my word for it. Anyway the song changes gears as soon as the drums and percussion comes in, which then leads into another guitar solo. Really awesome, but is it more awesome than "Black Cat Shuffle?" I think not! REALLY cool melodic guitar lines all over the place with loud pounding drums, and distinctly jazzy in the groovy rhythm. High octane Frank Zappa inspirational guitar playing that I absolutely adore.

Overall Electric Rendezvous is a masterpiece, and worthy of any guitar jazz/fusion collection. Hard to believe I've waited until now to finally listen to it! I knew Al Di Meola wouldn't let me down! Well then again maybe he does later on. I wouldn't know. Oh and uh, the album cover isn't Blackfoot's Tomcattin' despite the resemblance. Don't make that mistake! I'm probably the only one to make that mistake anyway, haha. So silly I can be!

DVD ~ John Karna
Offered by Prime Merchant
Price: $19.02
34 used & new from $5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars just dump the sheets in the laundry hun, April 11, 2015
This review is from: Premature (DVD)
Premature is a pretty funny comedy, but it takes a while to get going. It's really dry in the beginning. For a good chunk of the first half, I question whether the Groundhog Day repeating events were even necessary to the story. It does a good enough job telling its story and adding humor without it. At least the repeating of the same day that occurs the first couple of times weren't written particularly excitingly, but the story DOES improve eventually if you're willing to stick with it.

It's about a high school teen played by John Karna on the verge of graduating but he has a problem. He has to mas... no, I'm not allowed to use that word. He ejac... no, amazon doesn't approve of using that inappropriate word either. He likes to choke... he likes to span... nevermind! He just likes to do THAT dirty little act alone, and in his pants. Why? Well because he's a teenage boy and he simply can't help it. I think we've all been there ourselves! However the plot is based around the fact he's not supposed to do that and is punished for it. Every time he does it, the same exact day repeats again and again since he's supposed to be doing it with a girl, particularly a small selection of ladies he goes to school with (one of them played by the ULTRA cute Katie Findlay- what a pretty face she has, huh?)

John Karna's character isn't much different from Eric (Topher Grace) of That's 70's Show. Similar face, similar quiet/shy/awkward personality. Premature is also interesting in that the crudeness doesn't overwhelm or disgust to the point of being unbearably offensive. The film somehow has this perfect balance of being crude and strongly sexually related but doing it in a low key kind of way, which makes it somewhat recommendable for teens and adults (but certainly not children- let's not get ahead of ourselves here!)

Anyway John Karna's dirty little perfectly normal teenage habit isn't always a bad thing. Yes returning to the same day over and over isn't exactly a trip to the carnival and doesn't exactly put a smile on John's face at first, but eventually he learns to figure out why these events are repeating. Along the way he struggles with his choices between a couple female classmates (one of which is a cool chick who likes to hang out with him- yeah, Katie's character), gets into discussions with the emotionally distraught guidance counselor, constantly wakes up in his bed with his pants wet and his legs spread only to discover that his mother has opened his bedroom door and sees a perfect view of this personal image (this segment repeats perhaps a little TOO much over the course of the movie admittedly), hangs out with his funny sex-obsessed friend (Craig Roberts character), and others.

Some of the funniest moments of the movie are the subtle ones, such as when he's chilling in the back of a bus with his female friend and smoking only to place the cigarette in the sleeping bus drivers mouth before leaving, the principal lecturing and licking sandwich juice off his moustache/beard, shoving classmates heads in the toilet, getting squirt gun urine all over his pants (this joke repeats a bit much though, given the Groundhog Day-like story the film works with), getting into a fight with a bulky/bully female classmate who loves to fight, squeezes his teachers breasts, hides in the girls locker room to avoid the cops, his friend pretending to be a woman speaks enticingly to help John get off so he can return back to his bedroom and escape this particular day (LOL- REALLY hilarious segment this one is!) and other things. He intentionally gets into trouble because he learns to figure out his Groundhog Day-like dirty habits allow him to return to his bed whenever a predicament gets out of control and he needs to find a quick escape to start the day over, thus the scene with his mother opening the door and waking him up repeats over and over again.

Overall this is a pretty funny movie where the humor is usually done in a non-outrageous kind of way, but expect a few occasional dry spells such as the first 15 minutes that feels uninspiring since very little is accomplished. You have to allow time for these initially weak characters to improve which takes longer than it should, and a hilarious but crude storyline that clearly isn't everyone's cup of tea. Even though it's usually tame, the subject matter itself understandably won't please everyone. So much better than that Nature Calls movie I watched last night! A movie like Premature seems like pure genius compared to that stinkage, lol.

Turn of a Friendly Card
Turn of a Friendly Card
Price: $7.29
70 used & new from $1.42

5.0 out of 5 stars anything less than 5 stars is just silly, April 10, 2015
This review is from: Turn of a Friendly Card (Audio CD)
You know, Turn of a Friendly Card might just be Alan Parson Project's masterpiece! I'm not sure however- it's seriously WAY too close to choose between I Robot, Eve and this one. It's nearly an impossible decision. Who dares decide! Turn of a Friendly Card also appears right smack in the middle of the bands glory years which makes it fitting. Geez, every single song is excellent on this album though.

The 16+ minute title song is brilliant! "Part One" is all about a really brilliant vocal melody. The kind of melody that floors you instantly since it's likely to sweep you off your feet with its overwhelming beauty and sincerity. Don't get mad at me for saying this, but sometimes when I'm in a silly mood I like to mock the lyrics. "The TURNing of a FRIENDly caARD" Sorry but it sounds like certain parts of the vocal melody are being sung in such a mocking way! Or it's just me noticing something that's not really there. Wouldn't be the first time. :)

It leads into "Snake Eyes" a couple minutes later. The guitar playing reminds me of late 70's/early 80's Moody Blues combined with the experimental late 70's period of the rock band Sweet (or "the" Sweet as some people say- I never did however!) The "It's gonna be alright" line, not at all like a certain Jefferson Starship song (a BRILLIANT Jefferson Starship song at that- sorry sorry, read my review for Freedom At Point Zero to understand what I'm talking about there but I'm warning your tender eyes, I actually sing it! I sing the words exactly the way they sound to me!) is absolutely fantastic and reminds me of the progressive rock band Camel. Sorry for all these band comparisons- I'm only drawing comparisons so you can check out other artists if you're absorbed/floored into Turn of A Friendly Card's mystique like many of us are.

After "Snake Eyes" comes "The Ace of Swords", a medieval piece of orchestration playing the now familiar "Turn of a Friendly Card" melody. I love its beauty, upbeat tempo and shifting instrumental work. "Nothing Left To Lose" is just... WOW! REALLY touching, sincere and beautiful vocal melody. It'd say it's sincere to the absolute maximum. The steady beat and background vocals only enhance its beauty. It's such a sad vocal melody that I can't even find the words to describe it. I'd be willing to bet several people have gotten teary-eyed upon hearing this song at some point in their lives, perhaps even the very first time they heard it. It has *that* kind of hold on me! It's just beautiful in an indescribable way really. The briefly played funky part reminds me of a late 70's 10cc song I can't recall at the moment. Then the piece closes with "Turn of a Friendly Card Part 2" which is just as amazing as the first part with the same vocal melody, but perhaps the addition of louder/more noticeable orchestration gives it a more dramatic vibe that makes it better. Who knows really. Who am I to say which one is better. Love the powerful guitar solo too. Seriously, check out the progressive rock band Camel if you like this stuff. You'll LOVE them! Same atmosphere and strikingly similar lead singers.

"I Don't Wanna Go Home" begins and ends with a VERY creepy piano line suitable for a Dracula movie (or Edgar Allan Poe poem, hehe) but the piano is short-lived as it immediately switches into a funkier, mid-tempo vocal melody-dominat tune. It's very melodic like most Alan Parsons Project songs. I haven't bothered to look up any additional information on this album, so I don't know who the lead singer is, but he sort of reminds me of a tamer version of the guy from Slade. The guitar solo reminds me of a crazier version of the Atlanta Rhythm Section. Like say, if they ever went nuts and just played guitar in a way that really got into your hypnotic head and left you uncertain and confused.

"Time"... well well well, "Time!" No my friends, this is NOT actually Pink Floyd's "Us And Them", a common mistake that people my age (in their mid 30's who were only kids when this song came out, or weren't born yet) have made quite a few times. Alright I'll just speak for myself. *I* thought this was "Us And Them" for the longest time until I listened carefully and realized "Wait, they're not the same song!" Actually I'm getting off the hook too easy here- it actually took until the DJ mentioned on a local radio station that it's by Alan Parsons Project and actually a completely different song for me to realize this isn't the Floyd tune, lol. I used to refer to it as that "Time keeps flowing like a river" song too. Hopefully these are all common and forgivable mistakes. You hear me Alan Parsons Project fans? Take it easy on me will ya!

Some people think the song gets a bit TOO sentimental at times, such as with the "Who knows where we shall meet again... if ever" and "gone forever" lines (and that "if ever" at the end really enhances the lyrical message to a much greater extent for some reason, since it sounds mysterious and makes me question what happens when we die) but the truth is, no, it's NOT overly sentimental. It's just right. It almost goes too far perhaps but Alan Parsons had the good sense to never take their ideas into overbearingly pretentious territory. Well I mean, don't quote me on that- I haven't heard everything the band has done so I could be wrong.

"May Be a Price to Pay" is orchestrated, funky, steady-paced typical Alan Parsons Project... however. There's sometimes a "however" to make things eerie up in here! The vocal melody's really creepy with lyrics about dark magic I suppose. The 80's synths are superb here- not at all distracting or reducing the effectiveness of the atmosphere. Cool song. "Games People Play" is where ALL kinds of memories are found! This song reminds me so much of my mom driving me to Delaware when I was only 4 or 5, and the big city lights, heavy traffic and noise while this song was playing on the radio. Those rides to Delaware made this song more adventurous than was probably intended. The part in the beginning reminds me of the rock band Asia or Air Supply perhaps with the "Where do we go from here" line, but the nostalgia being so high during the chorus is just staggering to me personally. "Games people play you take it you leave it!" Actually I never could figure out a single word Alan Parsons said other than "games people play". Shame on me right? I had to look up the lyrics online.

"The Gold Bug" is the biggest surprise here. Begins on a "Cowboys coming' to town" note with the weird instruments. I can hear the horses ridin' over the hills! Then it's all about finger snapping, thumpy bass work and weird experimental grooviness while melodic jazzy ideas and even a Christmas-like atmosphere takes control. Meanwhile there's a terrific beat carrying the whole piece. Just awesome! The kind of creative instrumental that I wish all rock bands would try at least once in their careers.

Overall, Turn of a Friendly Card is just brilliant from beginning to end. No question about it. LIsten to it now!

Nature Calls
Nature Calls
DVD ~ Patton Oswalt
Price: $8.25
58 used & new from $0.01

1.0 out of 5 stars wow, lame the whole way through!, April 9, 2015
This review is from: Nature Calls (DVD)
The many negative reviews you've read about online for Nature Calls are all correct- this is one of the worst films I've seen in years. Easily the worst film I've seen so far this year. It's about a group of obnoxious adults who want to take a group of children on a scouting/camping trip. Get them outdoors and away from their television sets.

This movie fails on so many levels I don't even know where to begin. For one thing, it's deceiving. At first the impression by the way the kids are acting is that it's going to be an innocent and appropriate movie for the younger crowd which almost made me blush in the beginning given its gentle and calm child-like tone, only to suddenly and shockingly turn into an adult-themed plotline with obnoxious language and unacceptable behavior a short time later. Be prepared for this huge jump out of nowhere after 20 minutes or so.

The adult actors have to be some of the most unfunny people I've ever seen. Johnny Knoxville and Rob Riggle are incredibly awful. There are no polite words I can say to describe them. They're the type of people who get under your skin and just irritate without letting up for the whole 80 minute time period. They frequently resort to being dorky and vulgar but never once likeable. The children are mostly forgettable and annoying because instead of the movie focusing on a coherent and entertaining plot, it settles for having children run around screaming and wasting time. The only child actor who's decent is Eric Ruffin's character because he plays the role of an African who understands the nature of the outdoors and can defend himself quite well. He actually has personality. Patrice O'Neal is the only tolerable adult because he's occasionally funny despite his obnoxious attitude. The way he screams certain swear words is funny to me.

There's nothing adventurous or entertaining about this movie and that REALLY annoys me. Whenever you think the story's about to head in a more understandable and interesting direction and that actual comedic segments will develop related to camping themes, it quickly dissolves so the adults can continue to act immature and the children can continue to run around screaming, dancing and yelling. *Severely* bad writing. The old man who was in the military appeared to have potential in a few scenes because of his unusual silence, and I thought he was going to play a significant role by the movies conclusion (such as, just guessing here, suddenly speaking and teaching the kids some morals on how to be a good camper) but this falls apart too when his character is written off three quarters of the way through for ridiculous reasons. The babysitter Janine back home who played a bigger role than necessary never did anything funny either, nor the annoying kid (Regan Mizrahi) who kept picking on her but came across more like a brat who needs punished. Funny Regan reminds me of a kid who appears on these heating your home commercials but it might not be the same kid.

The motorcycle mama (an attractive lady who rides through the woods naked) probably perked the adult men watching (like me) because of a certain nude scene at the end, and also entertained me on a small scale ever so slightly because the kids would become turned on whenever she appeared and would say semi-funny comments as a result. Also the police officer ultra protective of the forest/land who gave the adults and kids a hard time because they were urinating on the ground was decent comedy as well, but otherwise this movie is a humongous waste of tape.

I don't like to say things are a total waste unless I strongly believe it, but Nature Calls falls under the category of being pointless drivel. Really bad writing with no interesting, creative or funny storyline, *extremely* bad self-absorbed adult actors who fail to entertain, obnoxious kids screaming at high volume and act like spoiled brats the whole time while neglecting the camping theme, and just a movie that I wish I'd never have watched.

Seahawks 12th Man Hawk Embroidered Beanie - Dark Blue
Seahawks 12th Man Hawk Embroidered Beanie - Dark Blue
Offered by TradeCo Trading Company
Price: $9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars seahawks score!, April 7, 2015
This Seahawks beanie hat isn't really much different from any of the other ones I've seen in clothing stores or used before (though honestly I've actually only owned exactly one beanie hat in my entire life, but it's my baby! Same color as this one even, minus the Seahawks logo). Anyway this beanie hat just has the Seahawks logo on it to make it look more attention seekingly appealing. Completely forget about the dreadful way the football team just lost the Super Bowl a couple months ago with this fantastic beanie hat, and support the team that amazingly got to the big game two years in a row. Wear it with pride. By the way this particular beanie hat looks a little small based on the picture but it should fit the heads of most people who wear it. I say this because I honestly have a pretty big head and it fits me just fine.

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