Shows 'N Tunes: Movie, Music, and Game Reviews

The Magicians. Seasons 1-5

A fantasy series full of magic, horror, wit, and fabulous costumes, The Magicians (2015-2020) is like Harry Potter for grown-ups. Based on the books by Lev Grossman, who borrows from other popular fantasy stories (most notably the Narnia series), this TV show revolves around a group of young people who are tested for their magical ability and offered places in Brakebills, an academy for magicians.

Adventure abounds as they discover and hone their magical skills, missteps and disasters just adding to their education. Add to this the possibility of travel to other worlds and a mysterious beast targeting the school, and you have an exciting, action filled show.

Please note that this is for adult audiences (rated TV-14)


The Blair Witch Project

Filmed on a very low budget The Blair Witch Project (1999, R) does a superb job of creating an eerie atmosphere without expensive special effects. The viewer is led to believe that the movie is actually footage from a documentary that three film students created when they ventured into the Maryland woods to document the local Blair Witch legend. This home-video quality film is all that was recovered. After watching the film read this interesting article, "The Blair Witch Project at 20: Why it can't be replicated." 

The movie is available on dvd or as a part of a Halloween binge box called "The Footage Found Collection" which also includes Paranormal ActivityCloverfieldV/H/SCreepThe Visit, and As Above, So Below.


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Regular Show. Season 1

Regular Show (2009-2017) is anything but regular. It follows two best friends a blue jay, Mordecai, and a raccoon, Rigby, who work as groundskeepers at a park together. They work at the park, but they spend most of their time trying to get out of work or slacking off whenever they can at the behest of their boss, a gumball machine named Benson. Their antics usually lead to some aspect of the park getting destroyed, leaving them to clean up the mess afterwards.

While it is unusual for a kids show to feature mainly adults, it helps with the charm of the show because they have many nods to adult items and drinks being switched for more family friendly ones. The adventures they go on are fun and the dialogue and characters are enjoyable. Look at Regular Show if you are looking for a more mature but silly animated show.

Watch season 1 of Regular Show(rated TV-PG) on Hoopla today.


Finding Neverland

When I heard Finding Neverland (2004, rated PG) was nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture, I hoped it would win--but it did not. Nevertheless, it is a terrific movie. Johnny Depp who portrays James M. Barrie and Kate Winslet are equally great together. All of the fantasy is typical Johnny Depp and had me wondering if there was any truth to this story about how James Barrie created Peter Pan.

As the movie progresses, a more serious tone emerges with a climactic ending befitting Academy Award worthiness. Heaven is a real place don't you know, and I for one can only imagine just how beautiful it will be.

Watch Finding Neverland on Hoopla today or on DVD. While it didn't win Best Picture, the film did nab an Oscar for Best Original Score. Listen to it on Hoopla. For more of the true story behind the film, read this New York Times article.


A Patch of Blue

In A Patch of Blue (1965) Selena D'Arcy (Elizabeth Hartman) is poor, uneducated, and blind. She spends her days in a park stringing and selling beaded jewelry. One day she meets a young office worker (Sidney Poitier) who befriends her and opens up her world by showing her the outside world. Selena doesn't know he is black. Unfortunately, her racist mother (Shelley Winters) sees them together and forbids Selena to ever see him again. Selena defies her mother and continues the friendship despite the violence she endures.

This black and white drama is a story of friendship and compassion and love. Shelley Winters won a supporting actress Academy Award for her portrayal of a hateful ignorant mother. Sidney Poitier's understated performance is what makes A Patch of Blue a classic.


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Mrs. Doubtfire

This fantastic movie masterpiece has great comedy that will make you fall down laughing and heartfelt drama that will pull on your heartstrings. All those things are guaranteed since the mix of comedy and drama is portrayed by the wonderful actress, Sally Field, and the late great funnyman legend, Robin Williams. I highly recommend Mrs. Doubtfire (1993, rated PG-13) for teens and adults of all ages if you want a good laugh or a good tug on the heartstrings.


Patchwork

Spending time at home is the new normal but being bored does not have to be. Try one of our many board games such as Patchwork (2018). It is a two-player game where players compete for swatches or pieces to complete their quilt. Players try to cover the most space on their game boards with Tetris style pieces while collecting buttons. The player who has the most buttons and most covered space in the end wins.

The two things I like best about this game is that it only takes 20 minutes to play and that it is designed for two players. If you already enjoy buttons, also try Love Letteranother game designed with two players in mind.


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The Last Tsarinas: Splendor & Misery

I highly recommend watching the documentary, The Last Tsarinas: Splendor & Misery (2018). It traces the journey for the great, great, great-granddaughter, Maria von Preussen of Alexandra and Nicholas I. She is directly related to Kaiser Wilhelm II and Princess Charlotte. Maria follows in the footsteps of Princess Charlotte in 1817, who leaves Prussia to be wed to the Grand Duke in St. Petersburg, Russia. Princess Charlotte has her name changed to Alexandra and becomes the Tsarina with Nicholas I. They have a very happy and long marriage. This story explains why many Tsarinas were of German ancestry and the many changes that take place in Russia to end the Russian monarchy.

Watch The Last Tsarinas: Splendor & Misery on Hoopla today.



A Night on the Town

This album is considered one of Rod Stewart's finest. The cover is based on Renoir's painting, "Bal du moulin de la Galette," with Rod inserted in the painting in period attire.

A Night on the Town (1976) includes some of Rod's classic hits, such as "Tonight's the Night," "The First Cut Is the Deepest," and "The Killing of Georgie (Part I and II)." I bought this album when it was originally released, and it sounds as good today as it did then.

Definitely give this one a listen! You can borrow it instantly via Hoopla today.


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My Fair Lady

One of the most interesting, well-directed, and well-performed movies is My Fair Lady (1964, rated G). I have seen it more than 10 times, and I like to watch it over and over again. It rejuvenates me. The songs are great and the language used is superior. This classic stars Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison.

It is a wonderful movie that demonstrates the progress in human development in some classes of society while some sectors of society languish in ignorance. Above all, it's the score, that incredible score, that always leaves me amazed.

Check out the DVD or place a hold on the soundtrack.

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Ashes in the Snow

Ruta Sepetys writes powerful stories based on hidden histories—pieces of our past that most don't know about. This adaptation of her first novel Between Shades of Gray shares the forgotten story of Lithuanians deported to Siberia by Joseph Stalin's Soviet army during World War II.

In Ashes in the Snow (2019), Bel Powley gives a strong performance as teenage aspiring artist Lina. When her professor father is arrested, the rest of her family is taken from their home and transported to a labor camp for so-called treasonous action against the Soviet Union. This moving film has beautiful cinematography and music.

Ashes in the Snow is achingly sad yet ultimately hopeful—a faithful adaptation of the novel inspired by true events. Watch this film on DVD or stream it instantly on Hoopla. Read a review from The Hollywood Reporter.



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The Venture Bros. Season 1

Doctor Venture lives in the shadow of his father's past accomplishments in super science struggling to make new inventions. At the Venture compound with his two sons, Hank and Dean, and his bodyguard Brock, he works on inventions, even selling his father's old ones to shady parties to keep the lights on. His inadequacies are not the only trouble he must worry about: his archnemesis the Monarch, a man in a butterfly costume with a flying cocoon, tries to kill him every week.

The Venture Bros. Season 1 (2003-2004, rated TV-MA) is a wild ride looking at super scientists, villains, bureaucracy, and incompetency with old school Hanna-Barbera cartoon cameos creating a cult classic comedy worth watching. Watch it on Hoopla today.


The Rainmaker

I enjoyed watching The Rainmaker (1997, rated PG-13). John Grisham is definitely one of the better writers when it comes to courtroom drama or lawyer/drama kind of story, and this is an adaptation of his 1995 novel of the same name. Matt Damon and Danny DeVito work well together, and there is plenty of drama and suspense because of Rudy's (Damon) clients. The ending is somewhat bittersweet, but it's all part of why this is an excellent movie.

Check out The Rainmaker (directed by Francis Ford Coppola) on Hoopla today—and then browse our lists featuring lawyers in the movies (original and more).



Westworld

This series was so well done. Set in the future, Westworld (2016-) explores a theme park inhabited by artificial hosts and the wealthy humans who vacation there. Visitors are allowed to live out their fantasies, whether good or evil. The park indulges every wish, all with no consequences, with the motto being "Live without Limits." That is, of course, until the hosts start to deviate from their expected parameters. 

In my opinion, Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton steal the show from an all-star cast, including Anthony Hopkins. These two powerful actresses show such a deep scope of emotions as they slowly come to the realization of what they were created for.


The Song of Names

This stunning story stars Clive Owen and Tim Roth as boyhood friends. Dovidl, a Polish child violin prodigy, comes to live with Martin and his family as a refugee in London. After a time, they become like brothers and their relationship strengthens until an alarming event. When Dovidl is 21, a concert is arranged by Martin's father at great expense. Dovidl disappears without a trace, bringing shame and ruin to his adoptive family.

Years later, when Martin is 56 years old, he is interviewing a potential candidate and recognizes a style that only Dovidl could have taught. Thus begins the search for his long-lost friend.

Check out The Song of Names (2019, rated PG-13) today. If you enjoy this film, you might also try watching All My Loved Ones, The Boy in Striped Pajamas, and The Red Violin.

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