Changing Mary Poppins

Saving Mr. Banks is a 2013 period drama film directed by John Lee Hancock from a screenplay written by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith. Centered on the development of the 1964 film Mary Poppins, the film stars Emma Thompson as author P. L. Travers and Tom Hanks as filmmaker Walt Disney, with supporting performances by Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, and Colin Farrell.
Named after the father in Travers’ story, Saving Mr. Banks depicts the author’s fortnight-long meetings during 1961 in Los Angeles, during which Disney attempts to obtain the screen rights to her novels.

The film merges two narratives. One showing Travers’ childhood in Australia and her relationship with her alcoholic father. The other covers the negotiations  and development of the songs and story for Mary Poppins.

Emma Thompson is great and Tom Hanks captures the essence of Walt Disney. After seeing the stage production by the Court Theatre last year, the film changes the focus of the story, showing that Mr Banks is the central character of the story, not Mary Poppins.

 

Rate This

I like to categorize, index and rate things.
From books, movies and music to shows and experiences.
(It’s the collector gene)

For books I use a 5 star system:

1 –  Not Finished
2  – Finished, Not Very Good
3 – Average
4 – Best for the Author
5 – Best of the Genre

Music in jRiver (Media Center Software) has a similar system:

1  – Track is in wrong Genre
2  – I Don’t like this
3 – Good song for this Artist
4 – Best for the Artist
5 – Best in the Genre

But how to implement this on my WordPress site ?
There is not an obvious way to do this.
But Elitist Book Reviews (also using WordPress) has come to the rescue.
Their system uses the tags:
Books We Like
Booke We Hate
Books We Love

So I’m going back through the posts and adding the take
I  Like
I Hate it
I Love it

But I’m only going to apply it to things a reader of this site could purchase. So no tagging of the local (show and theatre) and time limited things.

 

Quantum Night

Quantum Night
by Robert J Sawyer (2016)

Experimental psychologist Jim Marchuk has developed a flawless technique for identifying the previously undetected psychopaths lurking everywhere in society. But while being cross-examined about his breakthrough in court, Jim is shocked to discover that he has lost his memories of six months of his life from twenty years previously—a dark time during which he himself committed heinous acts.

There are a lot of things wrong with this book. The first thing the author does is throw out the notion of free will and put everyone in categories.

It’s just the opposite  of Zootopia !

It you want to hear all the problems with the book, listen the Luke Burrage’s TWO HOUR rant about the book in issue  #302 of his Science Fiction Book Review Podcast.

Zootopia

Zootopia is a 3D computer-animated crime comedy adventure film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. It is the 55th animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series. The film is directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore, co-directed by Jared Bush, and features the voices of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Tommy Chong, Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate, and Shakira.

The film details the unlikely partnership between a rabbit police officer and a red fox con artist as they uncover a conspiracy that involves the disappearance of predator civilians within a mammalian utopia.

Five minutes in and I’m grinning and laughing at the jokes and visual humour. About halfway through there is a great action sequence. Then the movie takes a turn for the dark and dramatic.
The characters have to dig themselves out of their problems and solve the mystery. The tone rises to the end and the upbeat conclusion.
Great movie that is an allegory for racism, intolerance and prejudice.

(Rating 5/5)

Best line:
He’s not reliable, he’s …. unreliable

Lana Lane

LanaC

Lana Lane is a North American rock singer. She sings lead in her eponymous band, and has sung backing vocals for the band Rocket Scientists and guest sung on Ayreon and Erik Norlander albums.

She is married to music producer Erik Norlander, who co-produces her albums with her at their own studio, Think Tank Media in Woodland Hills, California.

Her first album Love is an Illusion was released in 1995 and obtained a fair amount of success in Japan, as did Curious Goods – her second album, from 1996.

Lady Macbeth is a collection of songs based on William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth, from Lady MacBeth’s point of view.

Lana Lane appeared as a guest vocalist on two Ayreon CDs, Universal Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer and Universal Migrator Part 2: Flight of the Migrator, singing lead and harmony vocals. She also provided the computer voice for both albums.

In 2003 Lana sang the part of Queen Guinevere on the concept album Once and Future King Part I by Gary Hughes.

Secrets of Astrology (2000)

LLSoA

 

This was the first album from this group of musicians I purchased. The samples sounded interesting and I was intrigued by the cover. This was certainly a musical style I could relate to. I could hear a resemblance to the work a decade before of E.L.O.

Those strings and full harmonies and melodies. The album starts off quietly, a simple theme repeated with instruments slowly added (like Tubular Bells). Then, after several minutes a machine gun-like drum set kicks in. From then on until the end it’s flat out heavy, symphonic rock. There is no arguing with Lana’s title as “Queen of Symphonic Rock”. She is often compared to the Wilson girls from Heart. But as Heart is not a band I know a lot about, I can’t compare her to anyone.

While there are technically better singers, Lana has a powerful voice that rises to her husband, Erik Norlander’s songs. As for the cover, it is by Michael Parkes, one of my favourite painters. His work features in other albums by Lana and Erik. Erik even uses an image by Sci-Fi illustrator Jim Burns I am familiar with on his ‘Seas of Orion’ CD.

Love is an Illusion (1995)

LIAI

After the first Lana Lane CD, I was hooked. I set out to get her remaining albums.

Her first album starts with someone tuning a radio. This changes to a choral effect then the title song’s main theme. The second track starts the song, Erik Norlander plays all the keyboards and propels the fast tempos along, ably assisted by Don Schiff (Chapman Stick) and Tommy Amato (drums).

Things slow down for the mid-tempo song “Coloured Life”. A good song with nice interplay between the keyboards and guitars. “Cold Outside” starts with a heavy metal guitar and assured rhythm section. In the chorus Lana gets to stretch out, he voice sours over the arrangements there is a catchy melody easily remembered after the album finishes.

“Through the Fire” is another song with all the necessary elements; chugging guitars, rock steady drumming, again that soaring voice and plenty of progressive elements to keep it interesting. Keyboards dominate in the foot tapping “Through the rain”, containing a good dose of swing rhythms.

“Faerie Tale State of Mind” dates from 1993, a nice ballad with grand sweeping orchestral effects. “Dream Burning Down” is more of a by-the-numbers heavy rock tune. “Can’t find My Way Home” looses its way a bit in the verses, but redeems itself with a strong chorus.

The album was re-mastered in 1998 by Erik, which wasn’t really necessary. The original is far better than must albums in the genre and he should be happy with the result.

This first album isn’t a heavy and overwhelming as latter albums. I suspect (like most first albums) that he had a good number of well rehearsed songs ready for recording.

This remains a favorite of mine in her discography and despite the above comments, I usually play the 1998 version with it’s fuller sound.

Curious Goods (1996)

CGoods

With her second album, Erik and Lane had to prove they could do it again.

Although not the greatest Lana Lane album, it does have some of her best songs. A sample of ‘Eschers’s Staircase” sparked initial interest in her work. This is a great progressive rock song, with a strong chorus and nice instrumental breaks. It has a great driving bass line throughout most of the song.

The other good song is “Symphony of Angels” that merges fast guitar riffs with slower keyboard passages. At over six minutes, there is lots of scope for variations in the arrangements and tempo.

Erik Norlander is becoming a better composer and arranger although the material here is not as strong as in the next two albums.

Garden of the Moon (1998)

Garden1

According to Erik Norlander, this album ten times the number of the two previous album. It’s not surprising, this is a harder, more rocking band that provides Lana with a consistent wall of sound throughout the album. The second track, “Destination Roswell” is a six minute radio friendly song with hit potential.

Things do slow down for the excellent “Under the Olive Tree”. Again a great symphonic song with some nice guitar solos.

The title tune is an Erik Norlander instrumental that could have come from a Rocket Scientists album.

This is perhaps the most commercial hard rock album of them all, but for me the best was yet to come.

New Opera

I’m not a fan of Opera, but there is a certain grandeur in those thundering chords, over the top string arrangements and some poor soprano trying to hold her own above it all. In the last 10 years there has emerged a marriage of rock and opera styles. Retaining the sound weight of an orchestra and adding drums, bass and metal-style guitars here is the new breed of operatic albums.

After Forever – Prison of Desire (2001)

PoD

They are often called ‘gothic metal’ and lumped in with artists like Nightwish and Edenbridge. But this album is different, where the other bands sound like a rock outfit with strings attached, this is the other way around. The compositions have a definite symphonic structure.

Throughout each song the themes and melody can change, often the percussion stops to allow the strings to take over. And on top of this is the voice of Floor Janseen. There are male grunts, characteristic of ‘gothic metal’, but here they are used sparingly and don’t overpower the orchestrations. This is big, bombastic and completely over the top, which is why I like it.

 

Aesma Daeva – The Eros of Frigid Beauty (2001)

Aesma

As you can see from the cover, it looks like a CD of medieval music, possibly baroque. The trumpet fanfare that opens the albums confirms expectations, then comes a heavy metal guitar and crashing drums. A clear soprano voice sings among the musical spaces This is definitely not something by J S Bach. Further investigations reveal that John W Prassas II wrote all the songs. With a website named www.rootofallevil.com things may be a bit heavier than expected. Instruments include french horn, violin, flute, trombones and what sounds like a harpsichord.

The difference with this album is that not every instrument has to be present in every track at all times. Often things get very quiet and ambient, then slowly the intensity and volume increases. There are wide dynamics in most of the tracks and all of them have female vocals. Because of the wide variations in style, it’s difficult to categorize the album as a whole. Definitely something for the more adventurous listener.

Therion – Vovin (1998)

Vovin

Therion (Greek for Beast) was first known as a Swedish Metal band when it was formed in 1990. The first albums contained male grunts and offered little different from most metal bands. Then in 1996, with Theli things changed. A string orchestra was added. Male and female choirs probably more acquainted with Handel joined the production.

Symphonic speed metal comes to life on Vovin.

Bandleader Christofer Johnsson fashioned a hybrid that displays how the potent elements of the two divergent genres can be fused. The recording is cohesive and robust, the strings, choral singers, and band merge together perfectly.

The emphasis is mainly on the musical arrangements of the orchestrations and choirs. The impression I get is that the guitars and percussion was added later. Classical music with heavy metal influences never felt so good.

Other surprises include the scarcity of rock vocals throughout and the charming Middle Eastern overtones found on the opening track, “The Rise of Sodom and Gomorrah.”

“Birth Of Venus Illegitima” is a more absorbing musical experience. The shifting between the low voices and the higher soprano/alto voices is a very nice touch.

“Clavicula Nox” has beautiful female lead vocals and acoustic guitar solos.

“Black Sun” and “Draconian Trilogy” uses a foreboding piano-line surrounded by gothic orchestration to create memorable songs.

 

New Symphonies

The orchestral symphonic form has been with us for several centuries, from Bach through Beethoven and Berloiz. Composers have used a long form of music to express themes and musical ideas that can range from a ten minute suite to excessive works that fill the best part of a day. Just because orchestral music has fallen from favor as popular music doesn’t mean it has been abandoned. Modern orchestral composers are now best known for film music. But the old tradition continues with other musicians……

Steve Hackett – A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1997)

Misdummer

 

Steve Hackett may be a great guitar player, but the reason he is not on my ‘Guitar Gods’ list is that he is an even better composer. Through his long career, he has performed a wide range of music. From Genesis to his solo works there is always a freshness and originality that shines through.

This album is similar to ‘Bay of Kings’ from 1983. Just Steve, an acoustic guitar and musical accompaniment. Here, the small orchestra on its own could be playing anything from the romantic period. The music is lyrical and sweet (but not too much). Then, when the theme seems exhausted, the guitar enters and continues the tune. Although there are 13 tracks from two to six minutes in length, comprising just over an hour, they all merge together to form one complete work.

Anyone who likes the guitar concertos of Villa-lobos or Rodrigo will like this. It’s modern with a wonderful warmth and glow that will remind you of compositions from years ago.

 

The King Returns

The Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King
It’s a really a BIG sad film that will have you in tears.

I cried for the big spider, she was reduced to eating orcs.
Then when a nice fat hobbit comes along she can’t even eat him.

I sobbed uncontrollably for the cool dude in the black suit.
First this blonde nymphomaniac cuts off the head of his pet flying dragon. Then a bloody hobbit stabs him in the back, it’s just not sporting.

I was sad for the dead army, who obviously hadn’t got a film role since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

But most of all, I cried for Smeagol. I can understand anyone killing because the friend hooked a bigger fish than him. But he was happy with his ring for 500 years until that nasty hobbit stole it from him. Then, in the moment of triumph when it came back to him he slipped and fell to his death. It was just too much for me.

I felt sad for Elrond, who gave his daughter Arwen everything; nice house, servants, even immortality. Then she wants to throw it all away by running off with a long-haired git who thinks he is king. She might as well be dating a musician.

And the little people, like those that spent all their lives at the top of a mountain just for that one moment when they were called on to light the beacons between Minas Tirith and Edoras.

Or the builders of Edoras, with not a forest in sight it must have been a back-breaking job lugging all that timber to the top of a hill just because the King wants an un-fortified house with a view.

I feared for the crippled of Minas Tirith. With all those steps in the hillside city and no wheelchair access.

And what about Treebeard, doomed to spend the rest of eternity baby sitting Sauramon at Isengard.

And what about Rose. She bears Sam three fine children and he still wants to go on “adventures” with his mates.

Sad, Very, Very Sad……

On the Letterman Show last night he had a Top 10 list of
“Dumb Guy Questions about in The Return of the King”
It was a rather pathetic list, here now is my (better) Top 10 list……

Top Ten Plot Surprises in “The Return of the King”

10. Sauron found at the bottom of a spider hole.
9. Merrin and Pippin return to the Shire, voted top comedy act of middle earth
8. The ring, it’s only gold PLATED.
7. Frodo marries Sam, they live happily ever after
6. Eowyn kills Arwen in a jealous rage.
5. Rivendell gets a queer guy make-over.
4. Gimli makes boots for all the Hobbits
3. Legolas gets a haircut and dies his hair black
2. Gandalf replaces his staff with a light-sabre

and finally, Number One……..

1. Gollum gets the ring and return in triumph to Mordor.
He is attacked and killed but Orcs, who fight over the ring for 100 years.

(written 2003)