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Peanuts and Popcorn

Peanuts and Popcorn

‘Age of Ultron’ is Over-the-Top Fun

posted by jtotey
The Avengers in action (Marvel)

The Avengers in action (Marvel)

What do Avengers do for fun on their time off? They attend parties and play party games like who can pick up Thor’s hammer:
Tony Stark: “If I lift it, do I get to rule Asgard?”
Thor: “Yes, of course.”
Tony Stark: “I will be fair, but firmly cruel.”
Thor: “No, I’m sure.”

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This is one of the best scenes in Avengers: Age of Ultron as it shows the heroes in their down time and reminds the audience to not take the film too seriously – it’s a comic book movie after all. (Maybe DC should take a hint.)

Writing a review of this movie is almost pointless. Any fan of the first Avengers movie will be going to see Age of Ultron regardless of what I say and those who didn’t, won’t be reading this review anyway. Be that as it may, here are my two cents worth.

While the sequel is bigger and badder, it isn’t necessarily better. The 141 minute film is full of adventure right from the beginning and it has a spectacular ending, which is a good thing. The film does have a few flaws, but for the most part, Marvel is able to hold it together. However, that remains to be seen for the future. The movie is overrun with characters and if they add any more, (and you know that they will), it will become that much more difficult to comprehend. Surprisingly though, Director Joss Whedon was able to share the love between the characters giving characters that we know well (like Tony Stark/Iron-Man) less screen time and giving others that we don’t (Like Natasha Romanoff) more. We also get to see more of their personal struggles.

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Though every Marvel film ties in with the ones that came before it, there are some questions left unanswered with the new Avengers film. Like, is this story happening after the movie Iron-Man 3 or before? I ask because in that movie, Tony Stark blows up his army of Iron-Men and basically quits running off with girlfriend Pepper Potts. In the new movie, there is no mention of the previous movie’s storyline and Potts is no where to be found. Her character (and Thor’s main squeeze, Jane Foster for that matter) is mentioned but not seen. However, this film does introduce us to one of the other Avenger’s loved ones and hints are shown about a possible romance between Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and another Avenger. All of this makes the heroes a bit more relatable.

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Though convoluted, the storyline for Age of Ultron is fairly simple. With the help of Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) tries to revive a older peacekeeping program to essentially keep the world safe. Sort of like having a giant ADT Security System sign hanging from Earth. But with this being a superhero movie and all, something goes wrong and before you know it, Earth has found a new enemy, Ultron (voiced by James “Blacklist” Spader), who wants to save the world by destroying the Avengers. Ultron finds a way of duplicating a thousand or so metal copies of himself to attack.

Meanwhile, two Russian twins, Wanda and Pietro Maximoff (AKA Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, AKA Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson) mess with the Avenger’s minds hoping to cause the group to turn on each other. (This is an interesting concept that Christians can relate to. What better way for Satan to attack the church than by creating havoc that causes the congregation to turn on each other?) However, this isn’t played out very long and the tension that should have been there between the heroes never materialized.

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Overall, the story is crazy and fun. The moviemakers know it and want you to buy in too. At one point, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) says, “The city is flying, we’re fighting an army of robots, and I have an bow and arrow! None of this makes sense!” Even when a swear word or two come flying out, Captain America is there to correct the others with “Language!” Finally, it’s an old fashioned good buys vs. bad guys and the good guys always win.

The film is rated PG-13, but if your kids can handle other superhero movies, they will be able to sit trough this one just fine without having nightmares later.

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2015 Tony Award Nominees Announced

posted by jtotey
Kristen Chenoweth and Alan Cumming will host the 2015 Tony Awards on June 7 on CBS. (Photos: Tony Awards, en.wikipedia and Zimbio

Kristen Chenoweth and Alan Cumming will host the 2015 Tony Awards on June 7 on CBS. (Photos: Tony Awards, en.wikipedia and Zimbio

The Broadway musical, Something Rotten!, could be stinking up place at this year’s Tony Awards as the show has been nominated for 10 awards, however it could over out-shined by Fun Home which has the most nominations of 12, but that almost doesn’t count since three actresses are nominated for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical” and only one can win.

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Each year, there is usually one show title that is so long that hearing its name announced over and over again becomes annoying. This year it will probably be a tie between The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (six nominations) and Wolf Hall Parts One & Two (eight nominations). Why they can’t just shorten it to Wolf Hall is beyond me.

The 2015 Tony Awards will be presented live on June 7 at 8:00 p. m. on CBS. This year’s hosts will be Kristen Chenoweth (who herself is nominated for On the Twentieth Century) and Alan Cumming. Presenters and musical performances of the awards show have not been decided at this time. In addition to the usual hoopla, a special lifetime achievement award will be given this year to Tommy Tune.

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And the Nominees are:

Best Play:
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Simon Stephens), Disgraced (Ayad Akhtar), Hand to God (Robert Askins), Wolf Hall Parts One and Two (Hillary Mantel and Mike Poulton)

Best Musical:
An American in Paris, Fun Home, Something Rotten! and The Visit

Best Revival of a Play:
The Elephant Man, Skylight, This is Our Youth and You Can’t Take it With You

Best Revival of a Musical:
The King and I, On the Town and On the Twentieth Century

Best Book of a Musical:
An American in Paris, Fun Home, Something Rotten! and The Visit

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Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre:
Fun Home, The Last Ship, Something Rotten! and The Visit

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play:
Steven Boyer (Hand to God), Bradley Cooper (The Elephant Man), Ben Miles (Wolf Hall Parts One & Two), Bill Nighy (Skylight) and Alex Sharp (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play:
Geneva Carr (Hand to God), Helen Mirren (The Audience), Elisabeth Moss (The Heidi Chronicles), Carey Mulligan (Skylight) and Ruth Wilson (Constellations)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical:
Michael Cerveris (Fun Home), Robert Fairchild (An American in Paris), Brian d’Arcy James (Something Rotten!), Ken Watanbe (The King and I) and Tony Yazbeck (On the Town)

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Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical:
Kristin Chenoweth (On the Twentieth Century), Leanne Cope (An American in Paris), Beth Malone (Fun Home), Kelli O’Hara (The King and I) and Chita Rivera (The Visit)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play:
Matthew Beard (Skylight), K. Todd Freeman (Airline Highway), Richrd McCabe (The Audience), Alessandro Nivola (The Elephant Man), Nathaniel Parker (Wolf Hall Parts One & Two) and Micah Stock (It’s Only a Play)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play:
Annaleigh Ashford (You Can’t Take It with You), Patricia Clarkson (The Elephant Man), Lydia Leonard (Wolf Hall Parts One & Two), Sarah Stiles (Hand to God) and Julie White (Airline Highway)

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Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical:
Christian Borle (Something Rotten!), Andy Karl (On the Twentieth Century), Brad Oscar (Something Rotten!), Brandon Uranowitz (An American in Paris) and Max von Essen (An American in Paris)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical:
Victoria Clark (Gigi), Judy Kun (Fun Home), Sydney Lucas (Fun Home), Ruthie Ann Miles (The King and I) and Emily Skeggs (Fun Home)

Best Direction of a Play:
Stephen Daldry (Skylight), Marianne Elliott, (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time), Scott Ellis (You Can’t Take It with You), Jeremy Herrin (Wolf Hall Parts One & Two), and Moritz von Stuelpnagel (Hand to God)

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Best Direction of a Musical:
Sam Gold (Fun Home), Casey Nicholaw (Something Rotten!), John Rando (On the Town), Bartlett Sher (The King and I) and Christopher Wheeldon (An American in Paris)

Best Choreography:
Joshua Bergasse (On the Town), Christopher Cattelli (The King and I), Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time), Casey Nicholaw (Something Rotten!) and Christopher Wheeldon (An American in Paris)

Best Orchestrations:
Christopher Austin, Don Sebesky and Bill Elliott (An American in Paris), John Clancy (Fun Home), Larry Hochman (Something Rotten!) and Rob Mathes (The Last Ship)

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Best Scenic Design of a Play:
Bunny Christie and Finn Ross (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time), Bob Crowley (Skylight), Christopher Oram (Wolf Hall Parts One & Two) and David Rockwell (You Can’t Take It with You)

Best Scenic Design of a Musical:
Bob Crowley and 59 Productions (An American in Paris), David Rockwell (On the Twentieth Century), Michael Yeargan (The King and I) and David Zinn (Fun Home)

Best Costume Design of a Play:
Bob Crowley (The Audience), Jane Greenwood (You Can’t Take It with You), Christopher Oram (Wolf Hall Parts One & Two) and David Zinn (Airline Highway)

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Best Costume Design of a Musical:
Gregg Barnes (Something Rotten!), Bob Crowley (An American in Paris), William Ivey Long (On the Twentieth Century) and Catherine Zuber (The King and I)

Best Lighting Design of a Play:
Paule Constable (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time), Paul Constable and David Plater (Wolf Hall Parts One & Two), Natasha Katz (Skylight) and Japhy Weideman (Airline Highway)

Best Lighting Design of a Musical:
Donald Holder (The King and I), Natasha Katz (An American in Paris), Ben Stanton (Fun Home) and Japhy Weideman (The Visit)

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre:
Tommy Tune

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Boy Choir, Libera, Presents New CD and DVD

posted by jtotey
Libera (Warner Classics)

Libera (Warner Classics)

In January of this year, the boy choir, Libera, recorded a live concert at Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. for the upcoming PBS special, Angels Sing: Libera in America. The soundtrack of the special is now available on DVD as well as CD.

Like Charlotte Church and The American Boychoir (who have sung with Michael W. Smith), Libera is, as the press release describes, a “celestial-sounding, chart-topping boy choir.” However, despite their polished performances and their angelic voices, they look more like Dennis the Menace in a choir robe. The cover of the both the DVD and CD feature the boys being boys with messy hair and dirty shoes. The DVD features both the television special as well as a “behind the scenes” short, which was a disappointment as it missed the opportunity to really show who these boys are when they are not performing. Instead, we just get a glimpse.

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As for the performance itself, the guys are a bit stiff. Of course, this has a lot to do with reverence of the material of what they are singing and where they are singing it. However, in-between numbers, a few of the boys introduce themselves and share a little bit about the songs they sing. The delivery is so scripted and the mild jokes so forced that it doesn’t sound genuine. Fortunately, it doesn’t take anything away from their performance.

The DVD and CD both feature the same song line up, so there really isn’t any reason to purchase the DVD over the CD if you are just interested in the music itself. Not every song is religious in nature either. In addition to hymns, the boys pay tribute to the USA with “America the Beautiful,” sing the Louis Armstrong classic, “What a Wonderful World” and even Cat Stevens, “Morning has Broken.”

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LiberaCDThe full list of song selections include:

  • Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee
  • How Can I Keep from Singing
  • Morning has Broken
  • America the Beautiful
  • Wayfaring Stranger
  • Amazing Grace
  • What a Wonderful World
  • The Prayer
  • Be Still My Soul
  • How Great Thou Art
  • Rest in Peace
  • Sanctus
  • Song of Life
  • Ave Maria
  • Voca Me
  • How Shall I Sing that Majesty

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Amy Grant’s Latest will Appeal to Country Fans

posted by jtotey
Universal Music Group

(Universal Music Group)

After years of being relatively quiet, Christian music star, Amy Grant, has made up for it. In 2013, she released “How Mercy Looks from Here” that featured special duos with Vince Gill, James Taylor, Sheryl Crow and others. Last year came “Amy Grant in Motion: The Remixes,” which featured new dance music spins on some of her more popular music including “Baby, Baby” and “Every Heartbeat.” This month comes “Be Still and Know…Hymns & Faith.”

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“Hymns & Faith” features many tracks from previous albums including “Legacy…Hymns & Faith,” “Rock of Ages…Hymns & Faith” and “How Mercy Looks from Here.” Grant is not usually considered a country singer, but when you put all of these tracks together, including two new ones produced by her husband, Vince Gill, this is definitely a country album. However, with that said, Grant does some nice contemporary touches including a slightly faster tempo to the music making the “old” hymns sound new. The best example of this is “This is My Father’s World.”

“Power in the Blood” and “Be Still and Know” are the two new tracks. “Power” will no doubt be favorite as it is fast-paced and has a bluegrass sound to it. Just about impossible not to slap your knee while listening to it. “Be Still” is a peaceful reminder that sometimes it is best to just sit, be quiet and let God do his thing.

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The best song on the album by far is “Deep as it is Wide” which features Sheryl Crow and Eric Paslay. The three voices harmonize beautifully. The album also features the Grant standard, “El Shaddai.”

While most Amy Grant fans will be able to appreciate this album, it is a safe bet that only those truly fond of hymns and country music will enjoy it the most.

This collection features these 15 songs:
1. Power In The Blood
2. Be Still And Know
3. Jesus Take All of Me (Just As I Am)
4. Rock Of Ages
5. Carry You
6. This Is My Father’s World
7. El Shaddai
8. Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee
9. It Is Well With My Soul/The River’s Gonna Keep On Rolling
10. My Jesus, I Love Thee
11. Deep As It Is Wide
12. What A Friend We Have In Jesus/Old Rugged Cross/How Great Thou Art
13. ‘Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus
14. Softly And Tenderly
15. Holy, Holy, Holy

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