The Best Band You’ve Never Heard Of

My wife and I attended a Delta Rae show back in November of 2016 at The Castle Theater.  If you’ve been a longtime reader, you might recall that they blew us away.  You also might remember that, though we were there to see Delta Rae, my wife and I were astounded by a two-man band called Penny & Sparrow.

These guys had two microphones and one guitar.  That was it.  Guess what?  That’s all they needed.  Their voices were rich.  They harmonized perfectly.  Their lyrics were insightful, thought-provoking, and even haunting.  Their music touched us on an emotional level.  I’ve never seen or heard anything quite like it.

Best of all?  Though their songs were eerily beautiful and melancholy, the men themselves were delightful.  They claimed to be best friends, and, judging by their banter, I believe it.  They had us in stitches between songs because they were so funny.  I mentioned it in my other article, but it was such a surreal experience to almost be moved to tears by their music and then to have tears running down my face from laughter.  I love serious talent displayed by people who don’t take themselves too seriously.

It recently came to my attention that Penny & Sparrow released a new album called Wendigo.  I’ve already listened to it a few times and it utilizes everything I admire about their other album–Let a Lover Drown You.  Both albums are free to stream for Amazon Prime members and can be found HERE.

If you love music, please give these guys a listen.  Talent like theirs deserve recognition.  You can visit their website and watch a few of their videos at the following link: https://www.pennyandsparrow.com/video/

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

penny and sparrow

(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

 

 

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A Few Thoughts Regarding Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Series

By now you’ve probably heard about Amazon’s original series titled Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.  You know Jack Ryan.  You might think you don’t know him, but you do.  If you’ve seen The Hunt For Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, The Sum of All Fears, or Shadow Recruit, then you know this character.  He’s been played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, and Chris Pine.  The character has also been featured in twenty-one novels, the first of which debuted in 1984.  In other words, this guy has been around for awhile.

I liked those movies, but I didn’t love them.  Actually, I never saw the last two.  I also have to admit I haven’t read a single Jack Ryan novel–ever.  (Keep in mind that I’m a a fairly avid reader.)

The truth is, when I heard about this new series, I wasn’t particularly excited to watch it.  It looked exciting, don’t get me wrong, and I like John Krasinski well enough.  I didn’t have any qualms about Krasinski playing Jack Ryan.  Even though he’ll always be Jim to many of us, we’ve seen him do enough since The Office to realize he’s multifaceted and more than capable of playing almost any role.  This is the guy who turned down Captain America, after all.

However, a lot of people kept telling me that I needed to watch it.  A few added that it had a few plot holes, but most were very enthusiastic about the show.  So at long last, my wife and I decided to give it a try.

In short, we really enjoyed it.  The show is so fast-paced that it will make your heart race.  It’s got lots and lots of action, and has a habit of ending each episode with a cliffhanger.  John Krasinski got in very good shape for this role, and they made a point to let you see his abs at every opportunity.  However, Krasinski also brought a certain level of humanity and humility to the part that I personally appreciated.  He convinced me that he’s both new to the CIA, but also a seasoned veteran of war.  Of course, he’s also extremely likable.  He is John Krasinski, after all.

Be aware, though, that there are definitely a few plot holes that, if you think too hard about them, will leave you scratching your head.  There’s also some flat-out unbelievable moments, and I don’t mean that as a compliment.  I mean that as in, “this is impossible.”

It’s easy to ignore these things, though, because the show moves at a red hot clip.  It also knows exactly how to manipulate your emotions.  It reminds me a little of the early ER shows in that regard.

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is fast, intense, and visceral.  It will push aside your rationale and latch onto your pathos.  It’s a thrilling ride, and I honestly am looking forward to the next season.  John Krasinski has made me a Jack Ryan fan.

jackryanposter

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Authority by Jeff Vandermeer – A Book Review

You may remember that I read the first book of the Southern Reach Trilogy, called Annihilation, in anticipation of the movie.  You may also remember that I wasn’t crazy about it.  However, I eventually saw the movie and loved it.

So even though I didn’t like the first book, the general premise and the movie itself tempted me to give the second literary installment a try.

I recently finished Authority, the sequel to Annihilation, and it left me rather apathetic.  The author, Jeff Vandermeer, elected to change course from the first book and focus instead on the Southern Reach facility, the entity responsible for sending the team into Area X from the first book.  Our main character is no longer the biologist who narrated Annihilation.  Instead, Vandermeer is using a third-person narrator with the story squarely settled on “Control,” the new head of Southern Reach.  Control (John Rodriquez) moves throughout the book utterly confused.  Like the reader, he has no idea what is going on in Area X, nor does he understand the full scope and history of Southern Reach.

In the beginning of the book, I accepted Control’s chaotic immersion into Southern Reach.  I assumed that he would soon solve some of the enigmatic entity’s mysteries.  Instead, Vandermeer chose to pile even more mystery upon both Control and the reader.  Though some revelations arrive, both Control and the audience are left feeling even less informed than they did before!

I basically plodded through most of this book.  The ending intensified, but for the most part, I never fully invested in neither the story nor Control.

However, I’ve come this far, so guess what I’m reading now?  Yes, Acceptance, the third part of the Southern Reach Trilogy.  Like Control, I seemingly have to know Area X and Southern Reach’s secrets, no matter what level of discomfort occurs during the process of discovery.

I have a feeling, though, that the third book will ultimately disclose nothing.  That appears to be the pattern.  I’ll let you know.

authority_(southern_reach_trilogy)_by_jeff_vandermeer

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Stuck Inside On This Snowy Day? Let Me Help With That!

Stuck inside on this snowy day?  Let me help with that!  I would love it if you downloaded my e-book series entitled Dr. Nekros.  Each installment is only ninety-nine cents.  That’s almost five hundred pages of writing for less than three dollars!  It’s available on both the Nook and the Kindle–remember, these are free apps on your phone.  Trust me, at first you’ll love to hate the good doctor, but in the end, you’ll hate to love him.

Find all three books at this link: https://scottwilliamfoley.com/

Don’t have time for an entire book?  No worries–I understand.  I also have many, many short stories available for your Nook and Kindle as well.  Though I write in a variety of genres, they all focus on that which we all have in common–our humanity.  Some will make you laugh, some will make you cry, some will make you think, and others will make you hide under the covers.  I promise you, though, each will entertain.  They are also only ninety-nine cents each.

Click the following link to find them all: https://scottwilliamfoley.com/e-book-store/

As always, thank you for your readership.

StandingBookshelfHandsFolded

Mary Poppins Returns – A Movie Review

To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the original Mary Poppins from start to finish.  We had it on a few years ago for the kids, but I thought it was really strange and didn’t pay it much attention.  I definitely wouldn’t consider myself a fan of the character.

However, when we first started seeing the trailers for Mary Poppins Returns, my kids got very excited.  Frankly, I did, too.  I thought Disney really rolled the dice on trying to revitalize an iconic, beloved character that is deeply ingrained in many people’s psyche.  The willingness to risk financial failure on a venerated property shocked me.  And Emily Blunt?  Can you imagine the guts it takes to try to reprise such a famous role?  A role previously played by a revered actress?  Wow.

So even though I’m not necessarily a Mary Poppins fan, I have to confess that I had a great time watching Mary Poppins Returns.  I found it charming from start to finish.  It felt to me like a classic family movie–the kind of movie they don’t really make that often anymore.  I liked the message, the humor, the acting, the music, and the general creative direction.  In fact, we went with the grandparents and a great aunt, and they all loved it, too.

I’ve heard it argued that it just retreads the original movie.  Some have said it hits the same beats at almost the exact same cadence.  That may be true, but this movie isn’t made for the original fans of Mary Poppins.  This is a completely new experience to my six-year-old and ten-year-old.   Seeing it in a dark theater on the big screen with the loud speakers–this will be their Mary Poppins for life, and we need to realize that.  The same argument can actually be made for Star Wars.  Let the young have what we loved, too, but on their terms, in their own way.  It’s okay to borrow from what made the original a hit, and it’s okay to take things in a different direction as well.

By the way, I’d like to rave about Emily Blunt.  I adored her portrayal of Mary Poppins.  To me, her singing exceeded my expectations.  She sounded as good as anyone, in my opinion.  Furthermore, she had a sly glimmer in her eye that, for the first time, made me really consider the fact that Mary Poppins may be some kind of a supernatural entity–like a well-meaning fairy, or a helpful nymph, or maybe even a sort of angel.  She played the character incredibly stuffy, as the literary source material dictated, but she would at times offer a private grin, a lift of the eyebrows, or even a giant smile, that told me Emily Blunt is playing a character who is playing a character.  I think Mary Poppins’ whole persona is an act, and I loved that interpretation.  Though understated, Blunt’s execution of Poppins using exaggerated facial expressions and body language really struck me as funny.  She always held her hands just so.  The eyes would bulge indignantly just right.  I found the extrovert posing as a strict, prim, and proper snob totally engaging.

I’ve also heard some fans of the original movie claim that Mary Poppins Returns doesn’t have very catchy music.  Again, I’m no expert, but I thought it had excellent music.  My kids had me download the soundtrack which has resulted in several songs being stuck in my head.  Isn’t an earworm the sign of a good song?  Or at least a catchy one?

Finally, the production value of Mary Poppins Returns is phenomenal.  There are several instances when Mary Poppins and the children for whom she is responsible enter a world infused with cartoons.  The special effects are seamless.  I found it amazing to see the actors interacting with what appeared to be classic 2D images.  Of course, I could be mistaken.  Everything could have been CGI for all I know.  The point is that it looked beautiful.

Did the story make perfect sense?  No, not really, but who cares?  I’m not going to Mary Poppins Returns for a think-piece.  I’m going for the singing, the dancing, the humor, and the fact that it is a wholesome movie with a positive message for not just the children, but for everyone watching.

If you’re looking for a family movie, I completely recommend Mary Poppins Returns.

Image result for mary poppins returns movie poster

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – A Movie Review

When I first saw the trailer for this movie and noticed it was PG, I thought, “Huh.  That might be one for the kids and me.”  We weren’t in a rush to see it, mind you, but as the reviews kept praising it, and as Rotten Tomatoes continued to maintain a 97% “fresh” rate, I got more and more interested.

I can’t necessarily claim to be a huge Spider-Man fan, nor can my two daughters (ages 10 and 6).  I loved his comics as a kid, but generally lost interest in Marvel as an adult.  Don’t hold this against us, but we are a DC family through and through.

With all of that being said, if you like Spider-Man even a little, I urge you to see this movie.  It has earned every single positive review it has received.  I loved it.

There are so, so many reasons to enjoy it.  First of all, the voice acting is superb.  Check out this cast list and you’ll understand the high quality.  The animation also won me over.  You’ll have to see it to really understand what I’m saying, but it’s refined yet rough, classic yet edgy, bright yet dark.  Best of all?  It’s not afraid to do, well, anything.  Colors pop, word panels appear, dot matrix appears and disappears–it’s a visual feast.

It also wasn’t afraid to wear its heart on its sleeve.  As cliche as it sounds, this movie will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will make you cheer, it will make you think–it engages virtually every emotion available.  And while I think it was perfectly appropriate for my six-year-old, my ten-year-old picked up on the messages of self-confidence, self-sacrifice, supporting others, and what it really takes to be a hero.  There existed in this movie an inspirational message that managed to pierce this old forty-two-year-old heart of mine.

However, the absolute best trait of the film can be summed up in one word: fun.  My gosh, this was a fun movie!  The plot is so ridiculously “comic book” that you can’t deny its charm.  Kingpin builds a machine that breaches other dimensions, which then pulls many “Spider-People” from various realities into that of Miles Morales, a teenager recently infused with the powers of a spider-man.  The movie treats its story seriously, but it doesn’t ever take itself too seriously.  I mean, Spider-Ham is in this thing!  And while I would ultimately call this a comedy, it has some heart-wrenching moments made all the more so by fantastic voice acting.  Oh, and the action.  The action is mesmerizing.  They do their best with the live-action movies, but only animation can truly capture the essence of Spider-Man.  Just look at the poster below and you’ll get a sense of the movement displayed within the film.

Even if you’re only moderately interested in Spider-Man, I highly recommend Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.  It’s family friendly, beautiful to behold, funny, action-packed, and delivers several moral messages pertaining to heroism, family, friends, and self-confidence.

I hope you’ll check it out. Image result for spider man into the spider verse movie poster

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)