Category Archives: Pop Talk

Pop Talk: Fifty Shades of L.A.

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Quite unexpectedly, we were invited to attend the Los Angeles screening of Fifty Shades of Grey last weekend. Although the trip away from home was spontaneous, we decided it was the perfect way to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary and Valentine’s Day all in one swoop. So, we drove to the Portland airport and hopped a plane last Thursday.

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The hotel we stayed at downtown had a multi-level Japanese garden so we spent our first morning roaming around on a rooftop oasis in the midst of skyscrapers and at least one cathedral. It reminded us of a similar garden Morgan created in a story called Brutte Parole. It also brought back some fond memories of working together when we were just finding our feet in fiction.

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Later in the day, we ventured to Hollywood, where there are more size twelve thigh high glitter boots than anywhere else in the world. Morgan always likes to purchase new music any time we travel and he had no trouble selecting a few albums at a huge store called Amoeba. He picked up a few here-to-fore difficult finds for his extensive LP collection, and then it was back to the hotel to gussy ourselves up for the big night downtown.

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It was a major and pleasant surprise to run into no less than ten people we’ve gotten to know in this online community. After picking up our movie tickets from Will Call, the group ventured across the street to the Ritz Carlton. We enjoyed cocktails and appetizers from the 24th floor bar. We were able to place faces with names and enjoyed a fantastic view of the city as the clock ticked ever closer to showtime.

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The theater was electric. People were buzzing like eager chainsaws to see the movie and the sense of comradery was like that of a Comic-Con. We stopped short of locking arms and singing “Single Ladies”, but it was truly a night of goodwill and well wishes all around. Morgan noted that he had the men’s restroom all to himself and Jennifer got a chance to deepen her relationships with already beloved friends in her Twitter feed.

When the lights went down, the crowd cheered. As the movie’s title appeared over the cloudy skies of Seattle while Anne Lennox sang “You’ve Got a Spell on Me” we knew we were about to see something fabulous.

As the characters were introduced to us, we both agreed the movie was quite funny. The humor throughout the film was a welcome relief as the stakes were raised for the seemingly mismatched lovers. The chemistry was clearly as thick as Jell-O between Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. His coolness mixed with her shy warmth made a strong tea and the aroma wafted through the large theater.

We were instantly taken back to those long ago days of reading the story chapter by chapter as E.L. James’ updates nearly broke fanfiction.net and rendered Twitter a virtual ghost town every week for about two years. It didn’t take long for the film to intensify as the relationship between Christian and Anastasia deepened. The sex scenes were hot and the acting was fierce. Danny Elfman’s score was perfect in tone and instrumentation as the characters discovered one another. We were all getting hooked on this captivating love story once again.

Many people (who have probably never bothered to read the books) declare that this is a story that degrades women and must therefore be avoided. We feel that it is a story of a man who takes control to maintain his own sanity and who simply doesn’t know another way until he meets a woman who refuses to play by his rules. If that isn’t a story about how strong women can be, we don’t know what is.

By the end of the movie, we were left breathless and wholly impressed with the efforts put forth by the production team. The film looked amazing, hit all the good points in the book, and will put Dakota Johnson at the center of a bidding war for her talents for a long time to come.

Jamie Dornan was good as well. Not that we ever considered Fifty to be a robot, but he was always so intense and so focused on having all the control, that it was difficult to picture him as any kind of normal. Christian came off much colder in the book, and we liked seeing his humanity shine through in the movie. It made it easier to realize how Ana could truly fall for him and care so much about his well-being despite his quirks. Jamie Dornan played his steely persona with skill and according to all the ladies present, had a very nice butt.

(Now who’s being objectified).

Fifty Shades of Grey was always going to be good for us given our history with the story and its author; but it far exceeded our wildest dreams and we will be seeing it again when it comes to our hometown theater.

Those who don’t like it frankly have higher expectations than could ever be met. Even for those who haven’t read the book (maybe especially for those who haven’t read the book), the movie is a powerhouse of performances that will stick with you long after the lights come up.

We wish to thank E.L. James for her continued generosity as a friend and send more hugs to those who we met in Los Angeles. The weekend was as memorable as it gets!

The other two movies have been greenlit, so we will now eagerly await the completion of these sequels. In the interim, we’ll just have to satisfy ourselves with the DVD release, which we predict (hope) will have an unrated version of the film.

Thank you for reading and enjoy your experience watching Fifty Shades of Grey!

Morgan and Jennifer

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POP TALK: The 80’s Called, They Want Their Music Back

I’ve felt like a teenager again these past few months because there have been a flood of iconic 80’s bands releasing new material. Information Society, (one of my all-time favorites), put out their first new album in 20 years; and on the very same day, Erasure also put out a new CD.

Before I review the aforementioned albums, I should also mention the release of not one, but two new records by Prince. I’ve been tempted to break out the Gumby earring and jump Hammer pants first into the bubble gum decade that raised me.

Spoiler alert: All four albums are good. In fact, some of their best works respectively. Prince especially surprised me with his Lenny Kravitz-esque funk feel. (Incidentally, Lenny also released a new album, and it too is a worthy addition to his already hearty catalog).

If you ever wondered why Prince changed his name to a symbol for a few years here, in a nutshell, is the reason. He was feuding with his then record company and refused to give them any more of his music. However, they technically owned his name so he released material on a different label without it until his contract ran out.

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One of the two new Prince releases was written and recorded with a new partner in rhyme, 3rdeyegirl, whom I had never heard of but who has clearly been given a high position in the New Power Generation. Their CD, Plectrum Electrum, does not play out like a corny duets album, but instead has an effortless blend of both their talents. The style is all Prince but the addition of 3rdeyegirl adds a valuable and enjoyable layer to his brand of sexually charged songs.

There are moments of pure wisdom as well. I site a line from the song, Aintturninround, where they sing “Maybe the hand you’re looking for is at the end of your arms.”

Most reviewers have preferred the more upbeat and produced Plectrum Electrum, and Lord knows my 80’s ear loves the catchy tunes and bleep blorpy treatments mixed with a healthy dose of solid Prince guitar, but it’s his solo album that I think is the stronger of the two.

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Art Official Age is just the sort of random album title I would expect from Prince, and the motif of the third eye is carried through this twin release. Prince explores several different musical styles, but funk and soul seem to be his flavor at the moment. (If his hair is any indication he’s reliving 1979.)

Overall, both albums are strong and fun to listen to. Prince is clearly enjoying his rebirth and only time will tell if the radio stations reward his efforts.

 

Now on to Erasure’s new CD, The Violet Flame. It’s their 16th studio album which is impressive enough, but when you remember that Vince Clarke also founded Depeche Mode and had a two album career with Alison Moyett as the band Yaz, it becomes down right impressive.

Erasure has embraced the more aggressive production styles of late and their low end is represented well enough to give the kids something to thump in their car stereos (if any kids even know who Erasure is). At times it’s laid back, but at others it sounds more like the violent flame and I’m happy to report that there isn’t a single dud on the entire album.

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Andy Bell is in fine voice and it has the best overall flow of all four records. This was of great relief to me because I tend to get very disappointed when good bands produce bad albums. Not this time.

 

Finally, the longest break between new recordings came from Information Society, whose new collection of songs called, _hello world, has one foot firmly planted in the past while the other is stepping into the future of their music.While there are a few unsuccessful attempts on this album, the eight or so songs that I do like are wonderfully layered and jam-packed with interesting sounds and bold beats. I have always liked Kurt’s vocals, and he doesn’t sound like he’s aged a day. (But the photo on the back of the album shows a trio so ugly they could be honorary members of the Traveling Wilburys).

Many good bands are filled with gargoyles. Yes, for instance should have never included photos of the band members because people kept thinking that they were looking at a team photo of the 1988 Boston Celtics.

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Although I skip around from song to song on the new Information Society album, I find myself putting it in more than the others. The music is just that exciting and makes me want to explore more of it. I hope all of these acts receive enough success and encouragement with these new projects to keep them artistically inclined because I would love to hear more from all of them. (And I don’t want to wait another twenty years to do it).

It’s the simple fact that none of these acts tried to re-invent themselves that makes these albums good. They did what they do best and had fun doing it. As a result, I’m having fun listening.

Your Pal,
MOG

Pop Talk: Beck to the Future…

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I remember hearing Loser just before Spring Break in 1994. It was a bass heavy ear bug sung by a mush-mouthed genius, and I wasn’t the only one who rewarded his smart-ass anthem to self-evident nerds everywhere.

I played it for my then fiancé along with another cool song I found called You by Candlebox. Jennifer much preferred the funny and random Beck song to the layered and emotional You even though I maintain that it remains one of the greatest rock songs ever recorded by a relatively underrated band.

We’ve picked up Beck’s albums over the years and they’ve been hit and miss for us. His 1996 record, Odelay, which sponsored a few big hits for him (Where It’s At and The New Pollution) was a fantastic follow-up to his debut, but then he lost us for about a decade.

Sure, we got his other CDs, including his weird little quasi-blues album, but they never lasted long in the car, and were traded for the likes of Toad the Wet Sprocket and The Presidents of the United States of America.

His 2005 album, Guero, got Jennifer’s attention and with songs like Black Tambourine and Go It Alone, I was on board at once. We were even treated to a re-mix album, Guerolito, later that year and it was almost as good as its predecessor.

He released his most intriguing record less than a year later. For starters, The Information has a do-it-yourself album cover and booklet. The CD comes with blank pages and a wildly inventive sticker sheet that you may use to design your own album. (I wish I had this one on vinyl).

This would be a great gimmick, but since the music is progressive and fun, it becomes epic art. Beck finally manages to get all his personalities to play on the same tracks, and the result is not the jumbled mess that one might expect, but a harmonious and whimsical journey through funky and fragile pieces. One most noteworthy, a three movement opus called: The Horrible Fanfare/Landslide/Exoskeleton, is a song that would fit in on the AWOLNATION album, Magnetic Symphony.

I was actually working at a radio station when his next album came out. It was only two years later, (2008) and I played three songs liberally even though none of them made if far up the charts. Modern Guilt is a funk friendly introspective album and the trio of tunes, Youthless, Walls and Soul of a Man, are some of the finest songs Beck has ever penned.

Then he took six years off…

Like from 2008 to 2014…off…

We picked up his latest album, Morning Phase, and it’s surprisingly beautiful. Gone are the silly lyrics and the bass heavy riffs. This record is filled with strings and samples of birds chirping. It’s soothing and so startlingly sure of itself that I hardly miss the old Beck at all. (Rumors say that side of him is far from buried and he’ll actually have a more Beck-ish album out soon).

Morning Phase is a concept album for sure, but it’s quite nice late at night (in the bedroom) as well. One song blends into the next in a tapestry of dream fueled images that make me feel like I’m back in a time when music was the mood altering drug of choice.

Though not as good on a road trip as Odelay, Beck’s newest (and only) offering in six long years is ultimately worth the wait. Now that I hear it, I see that he had to go get inspired by Iron and Wine first, and that’s just fine with me. I like profound songs that don’t try too hard, yet include a modern touch. Not many artists can hit all those points at once but I only need a few. Having said that, I hope he really does come out with another album soon.

Pop Talk: 1975 Called…

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Hello again and welcome to another edition of Pop Talk, where we crank up the volume on our music while reading with 3D glasses all while the DVR stores the latest offerings from the idiot box.

I have seldom spoken about it publically, (this is MOG writing) but I have a soft spot for pop duos.  Erasure, Yaz, Tears For Fears, Savage Garden, Capital Cities, Pet Shop Boys, Daft Punk, I love them all.  I can usually tell a pop duo when I hear them and I was convinced that I was hearing one when I picked up the debut album by The 1975, The City, has the energy and emotion of a bubbly duo like Wham!, but alas, there are four fellows in the group.

This is fine by me of course, but I can usually tell these things.  It’s the same with power trios like The Police, The Outfield, Green Day, Nirvana and The Presidents of the United States of America.  Certain line-ups have distinctive sounds that can be recognized.  Any more than four members however, and your guess all goes down to how big their horn section is.

Back to The City. The album begins with a song named for the band, (not the other way around).  It’s a sweeping instrumental that serves mostly to set up the title track. It, like nearly all the songs blaze along with childlike joy reserved for bands like Hello Goodbye and Oingo Boingo.  I particularly like the songs Chocolate, Sex, and Menswear.  If you like your music fun and airy with a dash of lovesick serenades, then you’d be riding the crest of the wave by getting in on the ground floor with The 1975.

The Locklear family also saw The Lego Movie this week, and I would rank it among the finest Pixar-esque films out there.  It was funny enough to make me laugh through half the jokes while maintaining a surprising hold on my empathy for a computer generated Lego man.

From The Lonely Island song, Everything Is Awesome, to the TV show Honey, Where Are My Pants, the Lego world is rich with pokes at our society’s hunger for the asinine.  The action is great, and even though Will Ferrell’s cameo is wonderful, it’s Liam Neeson that stole the show as far as I’m concerned.  The TV ads say it’s the most original movie since Toy Story, and I am not disagreeing. But I think I must have liked A Bug’s Life more than whoever made that bold statement.  It is a great movie for the whole family and worth seeing on the big screen.

Lastly, we are eating up the Olympic coverage with an ice cream scoop.  I get nervous watching the ice skaters, but we have really been getting into the games.  We’re proud of anyone who competes for their country and have been happy to see that the biggest problems there have been murky water and slushy snow. Frankly, it could have been much worse.

Until the next nugget of tasty pop goodness compels me to share more words, farewell friends.

Pop Talk: December 2013

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Hello all and welcome to our second installment of Pop Talk.

This monthwill have a bit of a year-end wrap-up, sprinkled with some current favorites:

Chapter One:  YA Books prove that you don’t need sex to sell.

Channel Two:  Goodbye to The Goldbergs.

Verse Three:  It’s about time to get on board with AWOLNATION and Imagine Dragons.

Level Four:  Everything Lego!

Reel Five:  The Conjuring on DVD, (Is Ron Livingston the new ‘everyman?’)

Chapter One:

I read and loved the Harry Potter series.  It was written for Young Adults, but quickly proved to be a transcending story for all ages.  (I remember the first movie being compared to the Wizzard of Oz by the late Roger Ebert).  I have discovered that most YA books are extremely well-written and have a gritty realism despite any paranormal plot points.  In our recent Locklear Library post, Jennifer and I discussed Eleanor and Park, and it’s just another example of how YA books showcase wicked humor and palpable emotion in a tight bundle of pulp perfection.

As Hunger Games continues to do will at the box office, and Insurgent makes it’s screen debut soon, it’s easy to tell that I am not alone in my thinking.  Just because a book is written for a younger audience doesn’t mean that it’s exclusive to them.  Just watch any Pixar Movie and you’ll see that kids do not have all the fun.

Next month I’ll talk about Men’s adventure books and their place on my shelf, but for now it’s all about the YA novels!

Channel Two:

I hate Duck Dynasty. (and yes, I have watched it).  It has nothing to do with the latest controversy, it’s just stupid rich guys acting…stupid.  This obsession we have with redneck TV is exactly what’s wrong with America and guess what?  We export that crap so now that’s what EVERYBODY thinks of America.  And what the HELL is that show doing on A&E?

Okay, rant over…now about good TV…I have really been enjoying Boardwalk Empire on HBO.  It’s about Atlantic City in the 1920’s and stars the fantastic and funny lookin’ Steve Buscemi.  It’s a great historical romp through Prohibition times and it’s as riveting with it’s many sub plots as it is with the main story line.  It may not be as flashy as Game of Thrones, but it has at least as many boobs. (Ha! So I guess it IS “flashy”).

Has anyone else noticed that Mike and Molly is pushing the physical humor with Melissa McCarthy?  She’s hot off her Emmy win and it seems like the writers want to take mor e advantage of her goofy side.  It’s Mike’s Mom (played flawlessly by Rondi Reed) that keeps me tuned in but Melissa has been given some slapstick business that she handles as well as Ellen DeGeneres did when she had a sit-com.

Verse three:

If you haven’t heard of Imagine Dragons yet it’s just because your radio station doesn’t announce the names of all the songs they play.  These Vegas newcomers released their debut album, Night Visions in late 2012 and have owned the charts this year with one hit single after another.

In March of 2010, AWOLATION released the debut album Magnetic Symphony and has been making waves for almost three years now.  Most people know only the song, Sail, “Blame it on my ADD baby…” but it’s filled with raw yet worthy offerings.  Neither AWOLNATION nor Imagine Dragons have any duds on their inaugural albums and I write to their CD’s all the time while I wait for more music from these two great new groups.

Level Four:

Just like how YA books aren’t necessarily for the youth, Lego games aren’t just for kids either.  They explore and poke fun at great franchises like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean.  They aren’t very difficult but even if you get stuck, you can just have your kid help you out.  As a fan of any of these series, you will enjoy the Lego take on your favorite characters and situations.  They are as funny as anything I’ve ever seen and I’m just waiting for them to do a Back to the Future game.

Reel Five:

There are many myths in Hollywood and now there’s a new one.  Apparently, the table read for Anchorman 2 was so funny that they weren’t able to continue straight through.  It is rumored that they had to take several breaks to get the room back in order and now we all have a chance to see what all the fuss was about.  It should also be noted that when it is released on DVD it will include an alternate cut of some scenes and boasts over 300 new jokes.

Something on DVD right now is The Conjuring.  It’s not a horror movie; it’s a suspense movie and has for more in common with The Sixth Sense than Cabin in the Woods.  Ron Livingston, who has a career resume as big as Santa’s bag is the perfect father figure for this thriller based on true events.  I highly recommend it as a superior drama that has no blood, but will make yours run cold.

Have a wonderful New Year’s Eve!

Your Pal,

Morgan

Pop Talk: November 2013

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Jennifer and I have always been voracious connoisseurs of all Pop Culture.  From movies to TV to music to books, and even video games, we’ve dabbled.

Since this is our premiere Pop Talk post, I would like to share our thoughts about how we plan to offer our latest interests and obsessions.  We’ll hit the big five genres, mentioned above, and we’ll even have a key at the top of each monthly post so you can get a quick look at what we cover.  Mostly, they will be new arrivals in the collective, but other times we will cover something we’re just discovering.

WARNING:  Some of these segments will be very guy orientated as Jennifer is around and aware but doesn’t DVR the shit out the world like I do.  I will play to my current delights and despite my fan fiction writing proclivities, I am drawn to largely male demographic expectations.

This Month in Pop Talk:

Chapter 1: Outlander

Channel 2: Almost Human

Verse 3: Pearl Jam, Panic! At the Disco, Cage The Elephant

Level 4: Grand Theft Auto 5

Reel 5: Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Chapter One:

Since we have dedicated an entire blog segment to books (Locklear Library posts every month), I will often be using this segment to pick random good books that fall well below the radar.  Outlander is not one of these books.  It’s a Time Travel series that Jennifer started at the behest of nearly ALL her online friends and tells me that it is on its way to becoming her favorite book franchise to date.

I have watched her fly through two 900 plus page books since the beginning of the month and I have never heard her laugh so loud while reading.  She keeps telling me how this is my kind of book.  She likens it to seeing some kind of specialty crispy chicken sandwich on a menu before I do and knowing already that’s what I’m going to order.  Frankly, if I wasn’t in the middle of writing a book for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and reading a book for an upcoming Locklear Library post, I would be all over this series like butter on a pancake.

It would not surprise me if we post more about this series (soon to start as a TV show) in the future.

Channel 2:

While we never miss an episode of The Big Bang Theory or How I Met Your Mother, it’s truly good dramas that can make TV such a fantastic medium.  We love the mini-series over movies because we’re greedy bastards and want twelve plus hours of indulgence as opposed to an hour and a half.

To that end, there is a new show on FOX called Almost Human that I’m grateful is on every week, and hopeful that it’s popular enough to stick around.

Almost Human is a cop drama that takes place in the 2048.  As a society, we have not solved any of today’s problems and as a result, everything from poverty to crime has skyrocketed while technology continues to grow at an alarming rate.

The police is militarized, mostly by cool and efficient synthetic officers that are partnered with human detectives.  One such detective doesn’t trust the machines and has been allowed to use an older model, a synthetic that was made to feel.

He is intuition based and therefore unpredictable.  This was deemed undesirable by the force and they were replaced with the more compliant and silent models.

The characters are rich and the actors breathe passion and poignancy into every situation.  The humor is top notch, which was an unexpected bonus, and the cool special effects didn’t disappoint this nerd who is still stinging from the loss of the awesome SyFy Original show, Eureka.

Verse 3:

I’m a Pearl Jam fan from way back.  Their sophomore album Vs. is still one of my favorite records of all time.  But somewhere around No Code, they lost me.  Eddie has never been a soothing vocalist but I had previously counted on melodic discipline.

A few weeks ago they released Lightning Bolt, one of the finest rock-n-roll albums I own and a welcome return to their vulnerable and coherent work.  Over half of the songs on this record are sweet and sorrowful at the same time while others blister with originality as well as drive.  The album begins with three such scorchers but the best is yet to come.  Particular gems include: Infallible, Pendulum, and Swallowed Whole where Eddie sings, “I can feel the dawn, I can feel the Earth, I can feel the living all around.”  I rather like my Pearl Jam’s pensiveness mixed with reflectiveness but they have two particularly fun songs as well, Let the Records Play and Sleeping By Myself. Both have an almost rock-a-billy feel which would normally turn me off but are among my favorites in an album full of favorites.  I can’t find it on vinyl by the way so everybody keep your eyes open for me.

Panic! At the Disco! released their third album within the last few weeks as well and it is the best thing they’ve ever done.  They broke out of Vegas with their first busy but beautiful album and followed it up with a thunker that I only keep for a throwaway song called Folkin’ Around that I simply adore.  To Weird To Live, To Rare To Die doesn’t have a single stinker on the whole album and I think some songs on it are among the best produced this year.  Miss Jackson is a nod to Janet Jackson’s reminder that her “name ain’t Baby, it’s Janet, Miss Jackson if you’re Nasty.”  It’s one of a few clever additions to this rock/electric/vocal spectacle.  Nicotine and Casual Affair are not to be missed.

It should also be noted that Toad the Wet Sprocket has released their first album in a decade and it’s great. Cage the Elephant (famous for a song called Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked) has also wowed me with a bold but singable new CD called Melophobia.  You will know it by the fact that it will be the ugliest album cover you’re likely to have seen since Technotronic’s album.  The song It’s Just Forever is a standout featuring Alison Mosshart.

Lastly, check out a song by Great Big World called Say Something.  There is a version on iTunes where they employ the harmonies of Christina Aguilera and while I’m not a big fan of hers, her haunting vocals make this song one of the best break-up singles I know.  It sounds like a duet between her and Ben Folds. Awesome.

Level 4:

You don’t have to kill people and steal cars in Grand Theft Auto 5, but it sure is a lot more fun if you do.  Either way.  there has never been a game with a bigger “map” ever released.  It is positively astounding how big the world is and you can traverse it in a helicopter, car, motorcycle, train, subway, bicycle, crop dusting plane, golf cart, donkey, blimp, dump truck, city bus, and stolen emergency vehicles.

It’s a heist game where you switch back and forth between three characters, each with special skills but the free play is what keeps people coming back.  It’s what Sims was trying for, I think.

I like to hop the train and tour the city as well as the countryside and up into the hills while shooting down police helicopters who shout things to me over megaphones like: “You’re going down!” and “Ouch!”

Normally, I play kids games like MarioKart because I can’t see well enough to do well at super realistic games and this is one of them. I don’t do any of the missions, I just have my son bring his xbox into the living room so I can thrash around on a 4 wheeler or drive up the LA river in a semi truck like the bad guy in Terminator 2.

Reel 5:

We haven’t seen Catching Fire yet so this, unfortunately isn’t a review of the film.  However, Jennifer has read the series and I haven’t. And this has her very interested in my opinion of the shenanigans Donald Sutherland is up to.

We both enjoyed the first film and I became quite a fan of the T-Bone Burnett produced soundtrack that was designed to be music from that future era.  The new soundtrack came out just last week and I hear that it’s Christina Aguilera again, wowing people with her contribution.  (Huh, I never would have thought her name would ever appear so big in a cloud of this post as it will today).

This would be a great place for anyone to comment and let us and our blog readers know what you thought of the second film.

I hope you find great deals or books and DVDs at the holiday store sales.

Your Pal,

Morgan