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Wilder Mind
Wilder Mind
Price: $10.61
51 used & new from $5.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No Banjo, No Problem, May 27, 2015
This review is from: Wilder Mind (Audio CD)
Whenever a band decides to go in a new direction, the reaction is predictable. Many people are disappointed because the new stuff doesn't sound like the new stuff.

Except on Wilder Mind, it kinda does. Sure, we don't get the banjo. We have drums most of the time. Yet the album is distinctly Mumford & Sons. This isn't a plain jane rock record. It has the kind of hooks and lyrics you expect. It has fine instrument layering (I love the multiple electric textures and the "Boys of Summer" vibe that permeates several songs on the album). The electrical arrangements free up Mumford & Sons to make BIG music - and they've always made big music. Yet it deceptively did not always feel like that on past efforts.

The more I listen to Wilder Mind, the more I enjoy it. Is it Babel or Sigh No More? No. But I'm grateful that Mumford wants to shake things up and get out of the box everyone wants to put them in. There's more emotion in their rock than most modern bands have in theirs. I look forward to what they do next.

So set aside your preconceptions and your disappointment. Give this album a couple of listens. You'll find yourself singing along and tapping your foot just like you have in the past. It's another great Mumford & Sons record. It's not better or worse than what came before. It's the same, yet different. It bears a lot of the idiosyncrasies that make Mumford & Sons the band they are.


Office 365 Home 5 PCs or Macs Key Card (No Disc)
Office 365 Home 5 PCs or Macs Key Card (No Disc)
Offered by BrightstarSales
Price: $73.25
80 used & new from $55.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 2015's No Brainer, February 21, 2015
An incredible product. Is it worthwhile to get a subscription? That depends on how up to date you like being and how many machines you have. The incredible value with Office 365 now is the unlimited cloud storage in OneDrive that comes with it and can be given to up to five unique users. That alone is worth $100 a year. You can keep every photo, video, music file, etc on OneDrive and access it on any phone, tablet, or computer with an internet connection.

Yet you also get Office Professional on up to 10 machines (5 PCs/Macs, 5 tablets). This also means you do not get left behind when a new version of Office hits or when new apps are added to Office. For instance, Office 2016 is likely to have at least two more new applications in it that may change how productivity is done. Microsoft Sway is an incredible, intuitive presentation program that is a new take on what Powerpoint does, adding more in some ways while being able to create a multimedia presentation in a simple way. If you just purchase the current version of Office, you get left out and have to spend more money next year as more and more people begin using the new products. Office 365 protects you against that. It also allows for easy activation and deactivation of devices, making Office more portable than ever.

One last feature is the stackability of the subscription. There are times that you may find Office 365 on sale here or elsewhere. Maybe an Office 365 card is marked down to $80. You can buy one or more, add them to your account, and stack years of subscriptions. Or you can go buy a cheap tablet, get an Office Personal subscription, upgrade it for $20 to Home Premium, and add it to your current subscription. This means years of Office Professional and years of unlimited OneDrive storage.

This is a great deal at this point with Skype minutes, unlimited cloud storage on the most cross platform cloud service, OneDrive, and Office Professional with all new versions included.


Doctor Who: The Complete Seventh Series (Blu-ray)
Doctor Who: The Complete Seventh Series (Blu-ray)
DVD ~ Matt Smith
Price: $63.58
28 used & new from $34.29

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Doctor Keeps Rising, February 1, 2014
Some have not liked Steven Moffat's time (thus far) as the showrunner for Doctor Who. I am not one of those people. While I enjoyed Russell Davies' run and enjoyed both Eccleston and Tennant's Doctors, Matt Smith and Moffat (coupled with Karen Gillian, Arthur Darvill, and Jenna Coleman) have taken the show to heights previously unseen. With how great Doctor Who has been, that is quite a statement.

Series 7 is a bit of an odd duck in a few ways. It was split in two when it first aired, as Series 6 was. The two halves are very much like two separate series. The second half of Series 7 has a story arc that leads into The Name Of The Doctor, the finale, and also in the specials, Day Of the Doctor and The Time of the Doctor (not included in this set).

Unique here, however, is the fact that there are no two part episodes. This is the first series in the revived series (and likely the first in the history of the show) where an entire series is all a set of one off episodes. There are larger stories here. The primary motif of the first half is the renewal and growth of Amy and Rory's relationship, leading to The Angels Take Manhattan. We are introduced (kind of) to the big story arc from the second half of the series in the first episode, but that doesn't get revisited until The Snowmen (the Christmas Special in the middle of the series). From there, we hop around a lot and end up just having fun to go along with some character development, leading to a huge event in the middle of the series.

The second half of the series kicks things into uber high gear with a set of one off episodes that all lead to a heck of a finale AND cliffhanger. The first half is necessary to set up the Doctor for what is to come in the second half.

Overall, another incredible series for the Doctor. A lot of emotion, mystery, action, adventure, and humor. Doctor Who continues to be a show that can do everything and anything. The most versatile format of any show out there. Series 7 continues the greatness and, in many ways, accelerates it.


Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor (Blu-ray)
Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor (Blu-ray)
DVD ~ Matt Smith
Price: $13.33
37 used & new from $7.31

193 of 206 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Many Questions Answered, Many More Arise, December 26, 2013
Expectations were high. Anticipation was great. We knew a new Doctor was coming. We had new revelations about Gallifrey and just which Doctor Matt Smith was actually playing. We also had a couple of years with stories of cracks in time and space, a plot to kill the Doctor, etc. The Time of the Doctor was always where this was headed - and I do think that Steven Moffat had a pretty good idea of the general outline of things to come.

This Christmas Special, The Time Of The Doctor, managed to wrap up everything in an hour. It didn't feel rushed. It didn't feel cheap. It didn't feel like the Eleventh Doctor was being cheated. In fact, it was a beautiful and wonderful exit for him. Without spoiling, he was able to do something he never really has in the past: stop running. He stayed for Christmas - and you'll understand that when you watch the special.

New questions emerge as the old ones are answered - and I shall not ask them here. Make sure you have tissues as the show closes out because this is a tough goodbye that we all knew was coming. Yet it was wonderful and the Doctor was honored as one who had accomplished much. Just as we opened Christmas gifts, so the Doctor received his big Christmas gift at the end. It is also a gift for all of us as we continue to enjoy the adventures of the Doctor.

I'm sure some will nitpick because that's how they are. Some will complain that all of the Doctor Who universe has just collapsed. Some will complain of time being rewritten (silly, since the Doctor makes a habit of that). Yet nothing really changes. After The Day Of The Doctor, the earlier incarnations of him had no idea that Gallifrey was saved - they forgot what had happened when the time streams merged. So things do change as they always have. For the Doctor and his companions, time is not a linear progression. As we learned in the Waters of Mars, even "fixed points" can be changed in some ways.

For those who are interested in the Doctor, this isn't a good place to start. It took several series to build up to this point, but all of the rebooted series is highly recommended. For Whovians, open your mind and enjoy. Throw out your preconceived notions and what you THINK should happen. Steven Moffat is a capable showrunner and one of the best TV screenwriters out there (look at his Doctor Who catalog and what he's done on Sherlock). This special is a cathartic farewell to Matt Smith's Doctor and a vindication of him. I wish we could have more of him because he has been magnificent, but he has been given a grand sendoff with so many answers for us and him. I look forward to the next Doctor and many more adventures.

For this special, very well paced. Well acted. Funny. Plenty of action and adventure. Plenty of tears too - but not bad ones. It was better than I could have hoped. With The Name Of The Doctor, The Day Of The Doctor, and The Time Of The Doctor, we have a great trilogy that tells us so much about him and sends off Matt Smith in a fitting and big way. Five stars for all three.
Comment Comments (14) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 4, 2014 6:38 PM PDT


Orthodox Cross Necklace
Orthodox Cross Necklace
Offered by Military Uniform Supply, Inc.
Price: $11.99
4 used & new from $11.95

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple, durable, and elegant, December 3, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Orthodox Cross Necklace (Jewelry)
Exactly as pictured. Very durable. Simple, yet elegant. It comes with a good sized 24" chain that can even fit over my big head. Wears well and can withstand most conditions. It also clearly has a front and back, so it's easy to put on correctly. A great cross to take up daily and a great reminder every time you look down at it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 30, 2014 4:33 PM PST


Man of Steel (Blu-ray)
Man of Steel (Blu-ray)
DVD ~ Henry Cavill
Price: $10.00
140 used & new from $4.42

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superman Soars, November 14, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Man of Steel (Blu-ray) (Blu-ray)
The controversy, in my mind minor, that surrounded this film upon release shed great light upon the affection so many have for Superman - or at least, how dear THEIR idea of Superman is. Yet the concept behind Man Of Steel is not one that allows the revisiting of the same exact Superman from Donner's films or the one that many grew up with. That's not to say that this Superman does not share the values of that Superman - he does. Yet Snyder, Goyer, and Nolan are more interested in HOW he got to that point and how the world would truly react if a superpowered being lived among us. There's a reason why massive destruction happens when Kal-El fights - because he is THAT powerful. Frankly, I'm not sure that any superhero has the overall power of Superman. It is his power that also makes him most interesting. For years, Superman has been seen as a mere Boy Scout. He does the right thing. He's the good guy. But why?

Let's think about this. If you were the most powerful person on the planet, capable of taking out whole military detachments by yourself, would you SERVE humanity or decide to DOMINATE it? The most amazing thing about Superman is his CHOICE to serve, not to control. We have so often taken this aspect of the character for granted, yet the filmmakers delve into this superbly. At the heart of the reason are Martha and Jonathon, played superbly by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane. It is through their love and care of young Clark that he matures and becomes Superman.

There are so many things to praise here, from the score to the plot to the pacing to the effects. It is also worth noting that the screenwriter has stated that the destruction will be an issue in the second film and is also a reason why people do not fully trust Superman.

If you can, separate yourself from the past. Christopher Reeve was wonderful in his day, but this is not that Superman. It is the modern Superman that lives in a more complex world that would not embrace him unthinkingly.

Henry Cavill is also wonderful here, as is the entire cast. Frankly, this movie doesn't miss a beat at all. And the Special Features with the Blu-Ray reveal even more. There are many things that I thought were not special effects that were. The amount of detail the set and design was given is incredible. You can just see the love so many had for this project.

With Man Of Steel, Superman soars like never before. This film will tug on your heart strings, cause you to cheer, and let you look in wonder at Superman once more. It is the greatest of the modern slew of comic book films, surpassing even the wonderful The Dark Knight and far exceeding anything done by Marvel (and most of that HAS been quite good).


The Seven Ecumenical Councils
The Seven Ecumenical Councils
Price: $0.99

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Declarations of a Unified Church, October 20, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
All Seven Ecumenical Councils are here. The translation can be somewhat archaic in places, but the price is right. You not only get the creeds, but all the canons. It is a great look into the early Church and the minutes are fascinating. Beyond just the Church Fathers, the councils really bring the early Church to life.

It's a long, though worthwhile, read.


Inland
Inland
Price: $9.29
38 used & new from $3.90

30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Growth and Struggle, August 27, 2013
This review is from: Inland (Audio CD)
Life is a struggle, as is faith. Like Jacob, we fight against God; we try to claim supremacy over Him.

Inland is focused on the struggle of daily living, the emptiness of a life where God is rejected, but also the hope there when we admit our frailty. It is not an explicitly Christian record, but the concepts are implicit.

The lead song, After The Fight, sets the stage. This is clearly a song about our fight with God as we really try to set ourselves up over Him. The rest of the record proceeds from this and shows us what happens to us when we rebel. We fail to know what love truly is, we find despair, and we focus on our own needs only.

Yet this journey is not all bleak. When an admission is made (the incredible "Skin and Bones"), light enters in. We struggle with God and God allows us to in His infinite mercy. But He will not make us love Him, because then it would not be love. So the singer on Inland descends into darkness until he discovers his own deficiency.

There's the realization and the repentance ("Left Undone"). Then comes to growth as the singer journeys Inland, a song that makes me instantly think of the last chapter in C.S. Lewis' The Last Battle, as the characters say farewell to the Shadowlands and proceed "further up and further in".

Inland is not a group of songs, it is a true album and a journey. It is a journey from self centeredness to being centered on the Other, because loving God means loving His creation and others more than ourselves.

It is a glorious record. Many great melodies with plenty of hooks, yet a great substance that is easy to see if you're willing.

If you want explicit and superficial Jesus references then this may not be for you, but I find Jars Of Clay to be far less superficial than other Christian artists. Truthfully, I think much of the Christian "industry" is a big con that prevents us from engaging our faith with the world and instead hiding in our churches and small groups.

Highly recommended.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 15, 2014 5:21 PM PDT


Star Trek X: Nemesis [Blu-ray]
Star Trek X: Nemesis [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Frakes
Price: $13.95
34 used & new from $5.67

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Next Generation goes out with a whimper? HARDLY!, August 5, 2013
I have the Blu-ray of this film, but also have purchased the original DVD release and the Special Edition DVD releases in the past. The video quality is an upgrade beyond the HD mastering. There's less evidence of artifacting, better color saturation, and more fluidity in the action sequences (this is largely due to the 24fps nature of Blu-ray and a television that can exploit that). The sound quality is equally impressive.

Okay, so now to the film. It's often said that this film "killed" the old Star Trek film franchise. The same is said on TV for Enterprise. Both are lies. I won't delve into Enterprise here, but something must be said about Nemesis here.

Paramount really bungled the release of this film.

Much is made about the box office and I think the failure there and the seven year gap between this film and the reboot (Star Trek - 2009) have caused fans to reflexively view it in a negative light; a far more negative light than it deserves. The marketing on the film was poor, indicating that Paramount gave up on it. Yet I think the lead reason they gave up was due to its poor location in the release schedule. While Harry Potter had been in theaters for a month, Paramount put out Nemesis less than a week before The Two Towers was to be released. The Christmas season is a busy time and Star Trek films often get lost in the shuffle during those busy seasons.

So Nemesis became a box office disaster, falling far below First Contact and falling short of the tepid box office of Insurrection as well. Someone must be blamed and the Paramount execs likely didn't want the finger pointed at them. That's not to say that Berman hadn't made mistakes - I'm no Berman apologist.

Yet there's a lot of silly nitpicking with this movie that other Star Trek films don't receive. Why haven't we heard about the Remans before? Hmmm, maybe we don't know everything about an enemy that the Federation barely knows! Why is Worf on the ship? It seems he was attending a wedding and hadn't resigned his Starfleet commission (maybe they were all together for a nostalgic last cruise together before Riker took over the Titan?). Most of the nitpicks can be easily explained. They are not flaws in the script or plotholes because they are easily explained. I find it funny that many complain that movies are unintelligent but then complain when a screenwriter, director, or producer believes that a viewer can figure things out for themselves. Do you want your hand held or not? You can't have it both ways.

Are there contrived points in the plot? Sure! Seeing as the script must be fabricated, the whole film is technically contrived. All films are contrived. All films also have a lot of "convenient" moments since the story doesn't just naturally flow out of interaction, but actually is forced by the writer or writers.

I guess the complaints of the plot being Picard centric could be somewhat valid, but how often has this truly been an ensemble cast? First Contact was pretty Picard centric, but he is the Captain, after all. The Next Generation cast never functioned like The Original Series cast where three characters emerged. All the series that followed Kirk, Spock, and McCoy gave us a strong captain (or commander initially in DS9) and a good supporting cast below. So should we be surprised that the Next Gen movies focused mostly on Picard? Data was really the secondary character and he also received much focus in the films, as he does in Nemesis. The brilliant aspect of Nemesis is that it uses Data and Picard's stories in parallel, juxtaposing them.

True, every detail is not examined. We hear nothing of Lore, but why do we need to? He's disassembled and accounted for. Why confuse a potential audience unfamiliar with every single TNG episode?

But a pattern emerges; one of choice and change. The villain, Shinzon, refuses to believe he can change who he is. Picard believes the opposite and a futuristic Arthurian tale is shown on the screen.

Even the "contrived" features of Nemesis are quite good. The "dune buggy" scene is often despised. I love it. Why? It shows that people like Picard in the 24th century aren't all snooty all the time. Humanity still likes to have fun. It's not all sanitized starships and bland technobabble - a high speed open air romp still has its place.

Nemesis does reach into the old "your the closest ship" problem Star Trek has, but it handles it brilliantly with that dune buggy chase. Not to give too much away, but it seems the Romulans know the Federation likes to send the closest available ship so they lured the Enterprise close to the Neutral Zone and then called Starfleet and asked for a meeting. I found that to be a smart workaround.

So the film has story. It has emotional resonance (the main emotional point is really high but I won't delve into it, other than to say it is the most significant sacrifice in Star Trek history). It allows the viewer to contemplate his or her own nature and choices. It has some good action sequences (and remember that Star Trek didn't have big budgets prior to the 2009 reboot, so the action scenes were not as extensive as they'd have liked). In many ways, I find it better than First Contact. I do think it could be improved by adding back in scenes left of the cutting room floor, but it moves quickly as it is. It explains everything or lays enough out for the viewer to think it through.

We know Picard goes on. We know Riker gets his own command, yet The Next Generation as we knew it ended at Nemesis. They may not have gotten to sign their names like the original crew did, but this was a good ending. It closed a story (kinda) and gave us a hope for the future. The crew didn't just go into mothballs. They lived.

So open your mind, throw out your preconceptions or past biases. Look at Nemesis with the freshest eyes you can manage. You may be surprised to find a fine film that is not perfect, but that is worthy of your attention.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 17, 2014 6:16 AM PDT


Storm Front (Part 1) [HD]
Storm Front (Part 1) [HD]
DVD
Price: $2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Trek, August 5, 2013
I've only recently had the opportunity to plunge into Star Trek: Enterprise. I can't say that I was disappointed with it when it first aired, but I didn't really have the time to give it a chance. Night classes for my degree were a necessity, DVRs were not yet ubiquitous, and I just plain forgot about it.

I saw the first half dozen episodes or so and wasn't disappointed. Star Trek shows need a little time to find themselves. The first two seasons of TNG are hit or miss. Indeed, I would say that those two seasons gave us some of the worst Trek ever. DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise all did better (as did The Original Series). Yet TNG found itself and became a great show.

Enterprise didn't languish for two seasons. It was decent and at times pretty good. There were some good storylines and some great characters. The Vulcans weren't quite what we were used to. The Klingons were confusing. The Andorians grew on you. The Temporal Cold War plot was interesting and not used so much that it was played out. There was some mystery there. Yet there was a certain listlessness. Many individual stories were good, but the show didn't know where it was going.

Then came Season 3 and the year long isolation inside an unknown realm called the Delphic Expanse as Enterprise's crew sought answers concerning an attack on Earth and worked to prevent an attack that would leave Earth and all humanity extinguished. It had purpose. It had plot. It had interesting characters. It had good and great stories. It had complex enemies unlike any we had met in Trek before. It was as good as ANY season of Trek that had come before. For all the complaints about Berman and Braga, they managed to deliver in season 3.

The ratings were way down and things were bleak, yet the fans were able to secure one more season for Enterprise. It's a season that makes you want more of it, but it also answers a lot of questions and is satisfying (despite the lackluster Series Finale, which many have properly criticized). While the last several episodes of Season 3 ratchet up the intensity and keep your attention until the end, the whole Season 4 set of episodes never let up (outside of the Finale). Manny Cota and his team did an incredible job and created the greatest season of Star Trek that we have yet to see. That's not meant as a knock on other Treks. I love most of TNG, pretty much all of DS9, and most of Voyager - yet none of them rises to the level of Enterprise's last season.

Hopefully people have and will come to appreciate the show overall, but especially this last season. It is excellent and reveals much of the Vulcans, the past Eugenics Wars, human reaction to aliens following the events of Season 3, more Mirror history, and more visits with Andorians.

Just as with the last Star Trek movie prior to the reboot, Nemesis, Enterprise is often given an unfair reputation by fans - and that can cause casual observers to also avoid it. Don't. The entire series is worthwhile, but the ride gets better the closer you get to the end. While TNG's Finale was great, the back half of the seventh season was just OK. DS9 did end with a bang. Voyager ended with a whimper. And The Original Series was hit or miss in its final season, but the low budget really showed. Yet Enterprise went out at the top of its game storywise. This was a worthwhile addition to the franchise and hopefully will not be the final episodic Star Trek show. A break was a good idea, but there are a lot more Star Trek stories to tell. In the meantime, enjoy the most underrated of all Star Trek shows and the greatest season of any Star Trek show.


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