Thursday, December 31, 2015

73rd Annual Golden Globe Nominations - 2016

Best Motion Picture – Drama
Mad Max – Fury Road
The Revenant WINNER

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
The Big Short
The Martian WINNER

Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama
Bryan Carnston – Trumbo
Leonardo Dicaprio – The Revenant WINNER
Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl
Will Smith – Concussion
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Christian Bale – The Big Short
Steve Carell – The Big Short
Matt Damon – The Martian WINNER
Al Pacino – Danny Collins
Mark Ruffalo – Infinitely Polar Bear

Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama
Cate Blanchett – Carol
Brie Larson – Room WINNER
Rooney Mara – Carol
Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Jennifer Lawrence – Joy WINNER
Melissa McCarthy – Spy
Amy Schumer – Trainwreck
Maggie Smith – The Lady in the Van
Lily Tomlin – Grandma

Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Any Motion Picture
Paul Dano – Love & Mercy
Idris Elba – Beasts of No Nation
Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
Michael Shannon – 99 Homes
Sylvester Stallone - Creed WINNER

Best Actress in a Supporting Role – any motion picture
Jane Fonda – Youth
Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight
Helen Mirren – Trumbo
Alicia Vikander – Ex Machina
Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs WINNER

Best Director – Motion Picture
Todd Haynes – Carol
Alejandro G. Inarritu – The Revenant WINNER
Tom McCarthy – Spotlight
George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
Ridley Scott –  The Martian

Best Motion Picture – Animated
The Good Dinosaur
Inside Out WINNER
The Peanust Movie
Shaun the Sheep

Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language
The Brand New Testament (Belgium/France/Luxembourg)
The Club (Chile)
The Fencer (Finland/Germany/Estonia)
Mustang (France)
Son of Saul (Hungary) WINNER

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

71. Till the Sun Breaks Down - Tom Leveen

Deviant Aeon Book 1
read on my iPhone
2015 for Kindle
130 pgs.
Finished 12/10ish/2015
Goodreads rating: 4.00 (only four ratings)
My rating: 1
Setting: Phoenix and LA sometime in the future

First line/s: "Phoenix nights are as warm as the recently dead."

My comments:  Just let's leave it that I won't be reading book 2..... I read this for a book group read (anything by Tom Leveen, who is a Phoenix author coming to the Festival of Books in March).Not a good fit for me, I guess!

Goodreads synopsis:  Malikai awoke in the desert with nothing but a name and a sword, lacking any memory whatsoever of his identity or past. Discovering that his inhuman strength and reflexes made him a Deviant in the eyes of human society -- a monster who must be identified, cataloged, and registered, or else done away with -- he hid himself in an abandoned farm outside Phoenix. 
          But driven by an unnamed and voiceless force within himself, he fights to bring justice to the criminals of Phoenix, a once vibrant city now fallen into ruin. 
          When his zealous quest accidentally ruins one father’s pursuit of his kidnapped daughter, Malikai vows to find the girl and return her safely home. This promise takes him to the shining beacon of Los Angeles, where he uncovers a gang of human traffickers operating below the city streets. But this bloody job does more than expose the evil men do for profit -- it exposes the truth of his own origin and the penalty he has yet to pay... 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

70. Deception - Jonathan Kellerman

Alex Delaware #25
audio read John Rubenstein
cd back & forth from school and back & forth from Reagan Airport....
2010 Ballantine
338 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery
Finished 12/27/15
Goodreads rating: 3.95
My rating: 3.5?  It held my interest...
Setting: Contemporary LA
First line/s:  "The woman had haunted eyes."

My comments:  These Kellerman mysteries keep me involved and thinking, though I appreciate the detective, Milo Sturgis, much more than Alex Delaware, the supposed protagonist, who only seems to be along for the ride.

Goodreads Summary:  Her name is Elise Freeman, and her chilling cry for help comes too late to save her. On a DVD found near her lifeless body, the emotionally and physically battered woman chronicles a long ordeal of abuse at the hands of three sadistic tormentors. But even more shocking is the revelation that the offenders, like their victim, are teachers at one of L.A.’s most prestigious prep schools. Homicide detective Milo Sturgis is assigned to probe the hallowed halls of Windsor Prep Academy, and if ever he could use Dr. Alex Delaware’s psychological prowess, it’s now. As the scandal-conscious elite close ranks around Windsor Prep, Alex and Milo push to expose the dirty secrets festering among society’s manor-born. But while searching for predators among the privileged, Alex and Milo may be walking into a highly polished death trap.

Friday, December 25, 2015

MOVIE - Alvin and the Chipmunks - The Road Chip

G (1:26)
Wide/ release 12/18/15
Saw it on 12/23/15 at the Carlisle 8 with Ella and Tristan
RT Critic: 14   Audience:  60
Cag:  4/Actually liked this one a lot
Ella:  "Very funny, cute fictional movie, totally worth going."
Tristan:  "It was good."
Directed by Walt Becker
20th Century Fox
Justin Long did the voice of Alvin, but also co-wrote, which is kind of cool...

My comments:  I've yawned my way (or rolled my eyes through) the previous Alvin and the Chipmunks movie, but this one was cute and entertaining.  Of course, the two cutie pies sitting on either side of me helped my personal enjoyment a great deal!

RT Summary:  When Dave (Jason Lee) introduces Alvin, Simon, and Theodore to his new girlfriend Samantha (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) and her troublemaking son Miles (Josh Green), the chipmunks begin to panic at the thought of Dave proposing to her while on a trip to Miami. Fearing that they will be sent back to the forest if the relationship becomes too serious, the three decide to head to Florida to stop the proposal. Luckily, Miles isn't thrilled with the idea of having a stepfather, so he decides to accompany them on their zany road trip

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

69. The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell - Chris Colfer

The Land of Stories #1
read aloud during book club to 3rd and 4th graders (who all loved it)
2012 Little Brown Young Readers
438 pgs.
Middle Grade fantasy
Finished 12/16/15
Goodreads rating: 4.17
My rating: 3
Setting: Fairy tale land, for the most part

First line/s:  "The dungeon was a miserable place.  Light was scarce and flickered fromthe torches bolted to the stone walls.  Foul-smelling water dripped inside from the moat circling the palace above.  Large rats chased each other across the floor searching for food.  This was no place for a queen."

My comments:  I read this aloud to my 3rd & 4th grade book club that takes place thrice a week at lunch/recess.  There are probably about 20 kids and they LOVED this book!  I was not quite as enthralled as they were, though I admire Chris Colfer as a musician and actor  and am thrilled that he's going down the author road.  Probably my biggest problem is that I am not a fairy tale admirer, and watching the tv series "Once Upon a Time" has more than fulfilled any desire for more "twisted" fairy tales.

Goodreads Summary:  Alex and Conner Bailey's world is about to change, in this fast-paced adventure that uniquely combines our modern day world with the enchanting realm of classic fairy tales. 
          "The Land of Stories" tells the tale of twins Alex and Conner. Through the mysterious powers of a cherished book of stories, they leave their world behind and find themselves in a foreign land full of wonder and magic where they come face-to-face with the fairy tale characters they grew up reading about. 
          But after a series of encounters with witches, wolves, goblins, and trolls alike, getting back home is going to be harder than they thought.

68. The Hired Girl - Laura Amy Schlitz

2015 Candlewick Press
387 pgs.
YS Historical Fiction
Finished 12/12/15
Goodreads rating:  4.05
My rating:4.5 - an excellent read
Setting:  1911 Baltimore, Md.

First line/s:  Sunday, June the fourth, 1911  "Today Miss Chandler gave me this beautiful book.  I vow that I will never forget her kindness to me, and I will use this book as she told me to - I will write in it with truth and refinement."

My comments:  The book is divided into seven "parts," each with a painting as it frontispiece and title. The paintings are acknowledged in the back of the book with painter, date, size, and gallery where each can be found.  I liked this.  The story is about Joan Skaggs (who renamed herself Janet Lovelace), a fourteen year old abused runaway who becomes the hired girl for an upper-class Jewish family in Baltimore.  The story is told from her point-of-view, in first person format, which works really well for this interesting tale.  I particularly enjoyed all the reference to cultural Judaism, which I've learned so much about in my last few years teaching in a Jewish day school.

Becky's review from Becky's Book Reviews

Goodreads Summary:  Fourteen-year-old Joan Skraggs, just like the heroines in her beloved novels, yearns for real life and true love. But what hope is there for adventure, beauty, or art on a hardscrabble farm in Pennsylvania where the work never ends? Over the summer of 1911, Joan pours her heart out into her diary as she seeks a new, better life for herself—because maybe, just maybe, a hired girl cleaning and cooking for six dollars a week can become what a farm girl could only dream of—a woman with a future. 

Inspired by her grandmother’s journal, Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz brings her sharp wit and keen eye to early twentieth-century America in a comedic tour de force destined to become a modern classic. Joan’s journey from the muck of the chicken coop to the comforts of a society household in Baltimore (Electricity! Carpet sweepers! Sending out the laundry!) takes its reader on an exploration of feminism and housework, religion and literature, love and loyalty, cats, hats, bunions, and burns.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

MOVIE - Spotlight

R (2:07)
Limited release 11/6/15
Viewed 122/10 at ElCon with Sheila
RT Critic:  98  Audience:  96
Critics Consensus: Spotlight gracefully handles the lurid details of its fact-based story while resisting the temptation to lionize its heroes, resulting in a drama that honors the audience as well as its real-life subjects.
Cag:  6  Wonderful movie, superbly done
Directed by Tom McCarthy (who also co-wrote)
Open Road Films
Based on the book by

Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schrieber, John Slattery,

My comments: I'm beginning to realize that my favorite movies are the ones that tell a true story.  Perhaps it's the actors that take on these stories?  Whatever the reason, this ensemble cast and clear, un-boring telling of how a huge coverup was detected was super-interesting from beginning to end.  The acting?  Superb!

RT Summary:  The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.

Friday, December 4, 2015

67. Running Blind - Lee Child

Jack Reacher #4
read by Jonathan McClain - a different reader than I'm used to for Reacher, couldn't quite get used to it
11 unabridged cds
2000/2012 Penguin Audio
512 pgs.
Adult murder mystery
Finished 12/8/2015
Goodreads rating:  4.07
My rating: 3
Setting:  Washington DC and the northwest

First line/s:  "Life is full of decisions and judgments and guesses, and it gets to the point that you're so accustomed to making them you keep right on making them even when you don't strictly need to.  You get into a what if thing, and you start speculating about what you would do if some problem was yours instead of someone else's.  It gets to be a habit.  It was a habit Jack Reacher had in spades."

My comments:  There were too many rights-related happenstances that I found difficult to believe in this book.  Reacher was able to get past them all, but it did get the old eyeballs rolling a few times.....  It was a great mystery, convoluted and believable.....  I love to envision this tall, well-built man, lying on his back in bed for an entire night just thinking and figuring and tossing different scenarios around in his mind.....

Goodreads Summary:  There were too many rights-related happenstances that I found difficult to believe in this book.  Reacher was able to get past them all, but it did get the old eyeballs rolling a few times.....  It was a great mystery, convoluted and believable.....  I love to envision this tall, well-built man, lying on his back in bed for an entire night just thinking and figuring and tossing different scenarios around in his mind.....

66. George by Alex Gino

2015 Scholastic Press
199 pgs.
Middle Grades
Finished 12/2/15
Goodreads rating:  3,96
My rating:  4
Setting: Contemporary -- New Jersey? (2 hrs. from the Bronx, a couple hours from Pennsylvania's Poconos)
I like the cover.  A lot.

First line/s:  (From Chapter 1:  Secrets)  "George pulled a silver house key out of the smallest pocket of a large red backpack.  Mom had sewn the key in so that it wouldn't get lost, but the yarn wasn't quite long enough to reach the keyhole if the bag rested on the ground.  Instead, George had to steady herself awkwardly on one foot while the backpack rested on her other knee.  She wiggled the key until it clicked into place."

My comments:  First of all, I'm thrilled that this book is written for and accessible to younger (ages 9, 10, 11) kids.  It IS written very simply, it IS a quick read, but it's real, it has heart, it elicits much more empathy than hearing things on the nasty news.  I know I have parents in my classroom that will have a fit if their son/daughter reads it.  I'll deal. A needed book.
     (Then why not a 5-rating?  I'm not sure.  It was a really good book, but lacking the little extra something for me that pushes it up to a five.)

Goodreads Summary:   BE WHO YOU ARE.
          When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she's not a boy. She knows she's a girl.
          George thinks she'll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte's Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can't even try out for the part . . . because she's a boy.  
          With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte -- but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

MOVIE - The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

PG-13 (2:16)
Wide Release 11/20/15
Viewed at ElCon
RT Critic:  70  Audience:  70
Cag:  2/ It was okay, but just barely....more BLEH!
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Lionsgate Films
Based on the book by Suzanne Collins

Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson, Julianne Moore, Liam Hemsworth

My comments:  Total disappointment.  I hated the last book in this series, and didn't like the movie at all.  I'm still so disappointed in the casting pf Peta - don't like him at all, practically not charisma with Katniss at all.

MOVIE - Sufragette

PG-13 (1:46)
Limited release 10/23/15
Viewed at ElCon with Sheila
RT Critic:  72  Audience:  74
Cag:  4.5 Liked it a lot - learned a lot about the Women's movement in Great Britain
Directed by Sarah Gavron
Focus Features

Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Meryl Streep (for just a small portion).

My comments:  This was a heart-wrenching, eye-opening film.  The story of  the British women's rights' movement was quite unfamiliar to me previously, this was entertaining as well as educational.  A great movie experience.

RT Summary:  Academy Award nominees Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter, and three-time Academy Award winner Meryl Streep, lead the cast of a powerful drama about the women who were willing to lose everything in their fight for equality in early-20th-century Britain. The stirring story centers on Maud (played by Carey Mulligan), a working wife and mother whose life is forever changed when she is secretly recruited to join the U.K.'s growing suffragette movement. Galvanized by the outlaw fugitive Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep), Maud becomes an activist for the cause alongside women from all walks of life. When increasingly aggressive police action forces Maud and her dedicated fellow suffragettes underground, they engage in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse with the authorities, who are shocked as the women's civil disobedience escalates and sparks debate across the nation. Inspired by true events, SUFFRAGETTE is a moving drama exploring the passion and heartbreak of those who risked all they had for women's right to vote - their jobs, their homes, their children, and even their lives. 

MOVIE - The Martian

PG-13 (2:14)
Wide release 10/2/15
RT Critic:  93    Audience:   93
Cag:  4.5 liked it a whole lot
Directed by Ridley Scott
20th Century Fox
Based on the book by Andy Weir

A Critic review:   Damon has never seemed more at home than he does here, millions of miles adrift. Would any other actor have shouldered the weight of the role with such diligent grace?

Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig

My comments:  Fun, though nail-biting experience, Matt Damon's quick wit and quirky grin added to my enjoyment of the film.  Although scifi, it was really quite believable....

RT Summary:  During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring "the Martian" home, while his crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney's safe return. Based on a best-selling novel, and helmed by master director Ridley Scott, THE MARTIAN features a star studded cast that includes Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Peña, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Donald Glover.

MOVIE - Love the Coopers

PG-13 (2:00)
Wide release 11/13/15
Saw this one by myself
RT Critic: 20   Audience: 41
Cag:  2.5 It was okay....
Directed by Jessie Nelson

Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Alan Harkin

My comments:   This was sort of stupid and unbelievable.  Diane Keaton is bent on leaving John Goodman after many years of marriage....but why?  It's totally unapparent and really dumb.  A few laughs, Alan Arkin is great....but I was pretty unimpressed.

RT Summary:  LOVE THE COOPERS follows the Cooper clan as four generations of extended family come together for their annual Christmas Eve celebration. As the evening unfolds, a series of unexpected visitors and unlikely events turn the night upside down, leading them all toward a surprising rediscovery of family bonds and the spirit of the holiday.

MOVIE - Bridge of Spies

PG-13 (2:15)
Wide release 10.16-15
ElCon with Sheila
RT Critic: 91   Audience:   89
Cag:  6/Awesome
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Coen Brothers

Tom Hanks - Mark Rylance was particularly GOOD

My comments:  This was one interesting, fascinating movie.  So much history!

RT Summary:  Tom Hanks stars as the American attorney tasked with negotiating the release of a U-2 spy plane pilot who was shot down over Russia at the height of the Cold War in this historical drama.

MOVIE - Rock the Kasbah

R (1:40)
Wide release 10/23/15
Saw this on Sat. 10/24 at Century Oro Valley Marketplace all by my lonesome....
RT Critic: 8   Audience: 39
Cag: 2/It was okay but sort of a waste of time and effort for Bill Murray's talents
Directed by Mitch Glazer
Open Road Films

Bill Murray, Kate Hudson

My comments: I was really looking forward to this, but decided it was pretty much a waste of time.  So disappointed.  The whole music contest show didn't make sense to me...the premise was pretty cool, but it didn't connect with me at all.

RT Summary:  A has-been rock manager from Van Nuys, California stumbles upon a once-in-a-lifetime voice in a remote Afghan cave in Rock the Kasbah, a dramatic comedy inspired by stranger-than-fiction, real-life events and directed by Oscar winner Barry Levinson. Richie Lanz (Bill Murray), dumped and stranded in war-torn Kabul by his last remaining client (Zooey Deschanel), discovers Salima Khan (Leem Lubany), a Pashtun teenager with a beautiful voice and the courageous dream of becoming the first woman to compete on national television in Afghanistan's version of "American Idol." Richie partners with a savvy hooker (Kate Hudson), a pair of hard-partying war profiteers (Danny McBride and Scott Caan) and a hair-trigger mercenary (Bruce Willis) and, braving dangerous cultural prejudices, manages his new protégée into becoming the "Afghan Star."

MOVIE - Man from U.N.C.L.E

PG-13 (1:56)
Limited release 8/14/15
Saw this sometime in October, 2015
RT Critic: 67   Audience:  76
Cag:  4 Liked it a lot
Directed by Guy Ritchie
Warner Bros. Pictures

My comments:  I totally enjoyed this.  I was sure it wouldn't live up to my loving memories of David McCallum's Illya Kuryakin, but it did...and perhaps even surpassed those memories.  The two protagonists were cast really well.  The story was interesting, and the time flew by.  

RT Summary:  Henry Cavill ("Man of Steel") stars as Napoleon Solo opposite Armie Hammer ("The Social Network") as Illya Kuryakin in director Guy Ritchie's "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.," a fresh take on the hugely popular 1960s television series. Set against the backdrop of the early 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." centers on CIA agent Solo and KGB agent Kuryakin. Forced to put aside longstanding hostilities, the two team up on a joint mission to stop a mysterious international criminal organization, which is bent on destabilizing the fragile balance of power through the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology. The duo's only lead is the daughter of a vanished German scientist, who is the key to infiltrating the criminal organization, and they must race against time to find him and prevent a worldwide catastrophe.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Quest Scouts December - Atlas

December 1, 2015
Type: Standard
Need 1000 pts. (out of 2500)
Expires 10/1/16