Archive for the ‘Reviews’ category

The Piano Guys

March 24, 2018

Piano GuyPaula and I had a date night last night. We got tickets to see the “The Piano Guys” perform at the Shrine Auditorium in downtown LA. We had only decided to try to go to the concert about a week ago.  So I tried looking for tickets on Monday. Nothing but pricey tickets available. $100 a seat and up.

I decided to wait a couple of days and see if the prices would drop. So indeed the prices did drop and on Wednesday I got two tickets for $36 a ticket. Add the “convenience fee” and the total ran to $100.

First, let me talk about the concert. These guys are great. They cleverly mix classical and popular music. The Piano Guys were born in YouTube where they have grown a huge following. Here’s a link to their youtube site.

2018-03-23 18.29.38Well we got to the auditorium in plenty of time. We thought the show started at 7pm because the tickets said “DRS 7pm”. Eventually we figured out that “DRS” meant that the doors opened at 7pm, Show start at 8pm.

You pay for everything. Parking $20. Refreshments (Tequila Sunrise for Paula, water for me) $16. Bought a CD for $20, earrings for Paula $15.) We passed on getting a T shirt or poster. Marketing machine in full swing.

Our seats were in row 40 of the orchestra section. Seats are all crowded together. We were on an aisle, so I could at least get one leg out. My knees were right up against the seat in front.

As you can see from the picture that I took outside, they have metal detectors deployed. I suppose that’s a good thing. Sad that in this day and age we have to do that. Though, the detection was not as thorough as the TSA at any airport. My artificial knee didn’t set it off. It always sets it off at LAX.

The concert ran a little under 3 hours including a 20 minute intermission. We were home by 11:15 in time to pay our sitter. So when we add it all up, tix, drinks, parking, CD and sitter, it probably runs just under $300. Next date will likely be a movie for a lot less cash.

Overall, it was a fun night. Good to get out without Mary in tow.

TTFN

The Leisure Seekers: A Novel

February 25, 2018

Leisure SeekerOne of the books that I am currently reading is “The Leisure Seeker: A Novel” by Michael Zadorian. This is a story of an aging couple (John and Ella) that go on one last road trip in their motor home. They are traveling along the old rte 66 from Michigan to Los Angeles.

I discovered this novel while watching the coming attractions a couple of weeks ago while seeing “The Darkest Hour”. The trailer was for a film of the same name. It stars Donald Sutherland and Hellen Mirren. So I saw that the film was based on a novel and I thought for once I would read the book before I saw the film. Besides, the film isn’t in theaters yet.  We’ll probably get to see the film eventually.

So here’s the story line. John and Ella are in their 80’s. John is suffering from Alzheimer’s and Ella from cancer. They decide to take one last road trip in their motor home they call the “Leisure Seeker”. They load up and hit the road. They start in Michigan and head for California on the old Rte 66.

The book is in the voice of Ella. She speaks of the anguish of dealing with a loved on who is suffering from dementia/Alzheimer’s. I feel your pain.

They try and stay on rte 66 but sometimes that is not possible. So occasionally that are forced to use the insterstate. You miss so much on the interstate.

They have a cell phone but it was turned off. John and Ella’s grown children gave them the phone but they turned off and put in the glove box to be used only in an emergency.

So far I have read as far as Texas. I keep flipping back to the other books that I am reading (“Leonardo” and “Maestros and Their Music”). I’ll probably finish all three at the same time.

I’ve got to stop reading the NY Time Book Review. It just adds to my reading list.

The Post

February 9, 2018

The-PostDate night tonight. We went out to see “The Post“. This is a film about the Washington Post’s handling what became known as the “Pentagon Papers”. The movie stars Meryl Streep as Kay Graham and Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee of the Washington Post.

Anytime I see Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks I expect that I will be seeing great performances. I was not disappointed this evening.

The movie is set in Washington in 1971. Daniel Ellsburg had stolen the pages that documented failures of the Vietnam war in a document that became known as the “Pentagon Papers“.  I have provided a link to the Wiki pages on the Pentagon Papers. The Nixon White house tried to block the publication but the case was heard by the US Supreme Court. And the rest is history.

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I loved the set decoration on the film. Where’d they get all of the dial telephones and the pay phones. I felt like I was going back in time. One really gets the feeling that you are in newspaper news room. Presses and Linotype machines too. Reminds me of a tour I took of the Boston Globe facility on Morrisey Blvd. in Dorchester when I was in high school. Only thing missing was the smell of machine oil and ink.

The film ends with the break-in of the Watergate offices of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington.

Stopped at KFC for some chicken take-out.

Good film. Go see it.

Joe

Darkest Hour

January 28, 2018

Darkest HourLast week we went to see the movie “Darkest Hour” starring Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill. Of course, we had to get a sitter for Mary. It was good to get out with her.

I enjoyed the film, but the theater had the audio turned up a bit too loud. That made the audio a bit mushy and you combine that with the English accents one gets trouble understanding what’s going on. It seems that a lot of theaters run the audio loud on films (in this case it was an AMC theater.)

The timeline for the story is May 1940 starting with the sacking of Neville Chamberlain.  And carrying Great Britain through the days of exploring the idea of a negotiated peace with Hitler.

I was subliminally comparing the portrayal of Churchill in this film with the performance of John Lithgow as Churchill in the Netflix series “The Crown”. Both were fine performances but I kind of liked Lithgow just a bit more.

Interesting to read IMDB on the costuming and makeup for Gary Oldman. Another bit of trivia, film had a budget of $30,000 for cigars. They used about 400 cigars during the filming. Gary Oldman got nicotine poisoning from smoking the cigars.

The movie is based on the book of the same name by Anthony McCarten. Indeed, Anthony McCarten also wrote the screen play. I’ve just started reading the book. I think I would have been better off if I had read the book first. I wouldn’t have felt so confused at times during the film.

Oh, for fine dining, we ate at Denny’s. The film was about 2 hours long, so all the restaurants hadn’t closed for the evening when we pulled in.

Here’s a bit of information that I learned. The restaurants on the west side of Western Ave are in Rancho Palos Verdes. And as such, they are required to close at 9:30 PM on Sunday through Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, the Denny’s that we went to is open all night.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky – A Novel

January 3, 2018

img_0593Latest book that I’ve been reading is “Beneath a Scarlet Sky” written by Mark Sullivan. This is the true life story of Pino Lella, an Italian resistance fighter in WW2. The starts with introduction of Pino, a normal Italian teenager who wants nothing to do with the Nazis and the war. I am amazed at the amount of research it took to write this book.

The story starts with Pina escorting Jews over Alps to Switzerland. Then his parents force him to enlist in the German army in the hopes that will save him from harm.

After he is injured he ends up becoming the personal driver for a German general who is Hitler’s right hand man in Italy. From that point on he is busy spying for the allies and the partisans.

Good book, worth reading. Here’s a wikipedia article on the Italian resistance movement in WW2

Here’s a short excerpt:

They crossed the Po River, and long before dusk, while the countryside still lay blanketed in summer torpor, the train squealed and sighed to a stop amid gently rolling farmland. Pino carried a blanket over his shoulder and climbed after Carletto to a low grassy hill above an orchard that faced southwest toward the city.

“Pino,” Mr. Beltramini said, “watch out, or there will be spider webs across your ears by morning.”

Mrs. Beltramini, a pretty, frail woman who always seemed to be suffering some malady or another, scolded weakly, “Why did you say that? You know I hate spiders.”

The fruit shop owner fought against a grin. “What are you talking about? I was just warning the boy about the dangers of sleeping with his head in the deep grass.”

His wife looked like she wanted to argue, but then she just waved him away, as if he were some bothersome fly.

Uncle Albert fished in a canvas bag for bread, wine, cheese, and dried salami. The Beltraminis broke out five ripe cantaloupes. Pino’s father sat in the grass next to his violin case, his arms wrapped around his knees and an enchanted look on his face.

“Isn’t it magnificent?” Michele said.

“What’s magnificent?” Uncle Albert said, looking around, puzzled.

“This place. How clean the air is. And the smells. No burning. No bomb stench. It seems so . . . I don’t know. Innocent?”

“Exactly,” Mrs. Beltramini said.

“Exactly what?” Mr. Beltramini said. “You walk a little too far here and it’s not so innocent. Cow shit and spiders and snakes and—”

Whop! Mrs. Beltramini backhand-slapped her husband’s arm. “You show no mercy, do you? Ever?”

“Hey, that hurt,” Mr. Beltramini protested through a smile.

“Good,” she said. “Now stop it, you. I didn’t get a wink of sleep with all that talk of spiders and snakes last night.”

Appearing unaccountably angry, Carletto got up and walked downhill toward the orchard. Pino noticed some girls down by the rock wall that surrounded the fruit grove. Not one of them was as beautiful as Anna. But maybe it was time to move on. He jogged downhill to catch up with Carletto, told him his plan, and they tried to artfully intercept the girls. Another group of boys beat them to it.

Pino looked at the sky and said, “I’m only asking for a little love.”

“I think you’d settle for a kiss,” Carletto said.

“I’d be happy with a smile.” Pino sighed.

One more thing. The author mentions the aria “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s Turandot several times in the book. The title translated to English means “None Shall Sleep”. Click here to get a full translation of the lyrics as well as a performance by the late great Luciano Pavarotti.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

December 28, 2017

Wednesday was date night here. We arranged for Dawn to come and watch Mary while Paula and I went out to see the latest Star Wars movie. Wednesday is bargain night at the Terraces Starlight Cinema. Tickets were $6 each for seniors. Indeed, I paid more for a medium bag of popcorn and a bottle of water than the tickets.

I got the tickets online which added a $2.50 convenience fee. I was concerned that maybe there was still a crowd wanting to see “Star Wars The Last Jedi“. Turn out that the theater wasn’t all that crowded. I could have easily bought the tickets at the theater and saved myself $2.50.

We had thought about going out to dinner after the show, but we struck out on three different restaurants that we tried. Everyone closed at either 9pm or 9:30pm. So we had to settle for the In’n Out drive through. I got a double-double and Paula got a protein style, double meet and one order of fries to share. Went home paid Dawn and opened a couple of beers. Paula had a Molsen and I had a Guinness. It seems that nobody goes out to eat late on a Wednesday.

Now to the movie. We both liked it pretty much. It is very fast paced and one can get a bit lost on all of the subplots that are going down. If you haven’t seen it, I would suggest doing a little research before you go to see the film to get an idea of what’s going on.

This episode introduces a couple of new characters and strengthens a couple of characters introduced in the previous episode. There were also a couple of new baddies to hiss at (to replace Darth Vader). Here’s a list from People Magazine.

There are many new critters that are introduced in this episode. The LA Times wrote an excellent story on their development. Click HERE. I particularly liked the puffin like birds (called “porgs”).

So the previous episode (“The Force Awakens”) introduced the location named “Ahch-To”, shot on location on the island “Skellig Michael” off of the coast of Ireland in County Kerry. This is the location that Luke Skywalker goes to get away from it all. an, you can’t get more away from it all than Skellig Michael, And Rey returns to get him back involved.

Here is a story about the many sites for filming Star Wars films. Click here.

I was saddened to see Carrie Fisher in her last performance on the Star Wars franchise. Rest in Peace.carrie-fisher-star-wars-celebration-1068x595

Origin: A Novel

November 9, 2017

51oICD9UWKLOrigin: A Novel” is the latest book by Dan Brown that I just finished reading. Once again it features Professor Robert Langdon as the main character.

This time Langdon is in Spain meeting with a scientist named Edmond Kirsch who is about to announce to the world some amazing discovery that will put an end to organized religion.

So the story starts with Kirsch having a big announcement ceremony where he promptly gets shot and dies. Langdon of course comes to the rescue to chase the killers and find out what Kirsch’s big announcement was going to be.

An AI (Artificial Intelligence) persona is introduced with the name “Winston”. Of course, Winston and Langdon team up to find out all the answers.

The NY Times seemed to love the book. They wrote an absolutely gushing blurb (see the Kindle page on Amazon). They probably didn’t have to pay $14.99 for it.

I guess I was expecting more from Dan Brown. I’ve read all of his previous books. I was totally underwhelmed. Save your $14.99 for the Kindle edition. If you really must read it, wait until the price drops next summer or fall.

The next book that I will be reading is “Leonardo Da Vinci” by Walter Isaacson.