Spotlight: Jazz Vocalists–Some New Recordings

straightnochaserThe Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern  by Tony Bennett and Bill Charlap (2015)

Tony Bennett and pianist Charlap give the gold medal treatment to some lesser known songs by Jerome Kern such as “Yesterdays” and “I’m Old Fashioned.” Bennett’s voice has aged, but he still has a way with a song and he allows Charlap to occasionally take center stage. A piano and the great Bennett is all it takes to deliver.

macfarlane2No One Ever Tells You by Seth MacFarlane (2015)

MacFarlane’s love for Sinatra comes across in his delivery of these standards. MacFarlane’s style is perhaps too idolizing of Sinatra. His rendition of “Only the Lonely” seems modeled exactly to Sinatra’s phrasing. But MacFarlane, although not revolutionary, sings with a smooth, articulate voice that lands pleasantly on the ear.

foronetoloveFor One to Love by Cecile McLorin Salvant (2015)

Salvant delivers a mixture of original songs and standards with a definite jazz style. She makes the standards her own while still honoring the music and understanding the lyric. In this outing, besides her original compositions, Salvant sings some musical hits including “The Stepsister’s Lament” from Cinderella and “Something’s Coming” from West Side Story.

Run & Jump (2013)

runjumpConor Casey, a 38-year-old designer and carpenter, has a stroke that leaves him mentally challenged and much changed. When he is sent home after a stay in the hospital and rehab, an American doctor accompanies him to document his recovery and unfolding family interactions. Dr. Fielding’s grant funds provide a source of income to the family Conor is now unable to support.

Vanetia, his wife, struggles with having to live with the doctor’s filming their lives and her now childlike husband. But she soon values the doctor’s calming influence on her family and his friendship.

I love the way they use humor to handle a sad situation and love the Irish flavor of their lives. Run & Jump is an interesting look at family dynamics, genuine emotions, and what family means to these individuals.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) PG-13

manfromuncleWith a lot of action, funny parts, and some serious scenes, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was really an enjoyable movie. Starring Henry Cavill as CIA agent Napoleon Solo and Armie Hammer as KGB operative Illya Kuryakin, the film is set in the early 1960s at the height of the Cold War.

Curious about the original TV show of the same name? Check it out – we own the complete series (seasons 1-4), which ran from 1964-1968.

Penelope (2006) PG

penelopeA darling contemporary fantasy, Penelope is the story of a girl affected by a family curse. Due to a great-grandfather’s perfidy, Penelope (Christina Ricci) is born with a pig snout. Legend says only love from one of her own kind can break the curse, and so her mother (Catherine O’Hara) arranges introductions to a string of blue bloods as potential husbands.

Enter Max (James McAvoy). He and Penelope connect, yet something’s not quite right. Penelope flees home, embarking on her first adventure at the age of 25. This charming modern fairy tale isn’t always what it seems.

Frozen River (2008) R

frozenriverWhen Ray Eddy’s husband flees the hardscrabble town of Massena in upstate New York, he steals Ray’s hard-earned down payment for a new doublewide trailer home. Faced with eviction, Ray has to come up with an impossibly large sum of money to keep a roof over her sons’ heads. Ray unwittingly becomes involved with Lila, a young widow on the nearby Mohawk reservation who smuggles. Lila has resorted to smuggling to keep herself fed and to earn money to reclaim her baby boy who has been taken from her.

Ray and Lila form an uneasy alliance as they drive from the rez across the frozen St. Lawrence River to Canada where they pick up illegal immigrants. A paean to single mothers whose love for their children sometimes drives them to desperate measures, Frozen River will touch your heart.

Married to the Mob (1988) R

marriedtomobIn this gangster comedy, Angela de Marco (Michelle Pfeiffer) is unhappily married to mobster Frank de Marco (Alec Baldwin). When she finds herself unexpectedly widowed, Angela grabs her young son and runs away to lose herself in the big city. Somewhat bumbling FBI agent Mike Downey (Matthew Modine) goes undercover as he tries to bring big mob boss Tony Russo (Dean Stockwell) to justice. He becomes involved with the lovely young widow. Funny and sweet, you’ll be rooting for Angela all the way in Married to the Mob.

Dial M for Murder (1954) PG

dialmWhat happens when you plot to murder your wife? Watch Alfred Hitchcock’s melodramatic and suspenseful classic Dial M for Murder, starring Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, and Robert Cummings, to find out.

Before the story starts, Margot Mary Wendice has a brief affair with mystery writer Mark Halliday while her tennis player husband, Tony, is away. A love letter was stolen, and she is being blackmailed. Mark comes to visit the couple, and Tony sets a diabolic plan in motion.

This movie was based on a play and filmed in 3D, a method prominently used in the 50s. The remastered and released in 3D version (2012) can be requested through SWAN.

For other Alfred Hitchcock films, see The Genius of Alfred Hitchcock: His Movies & TV Shows.

Ant-Man (2015) PG-13

antmanAnt-Man is a fun movie. Although it has more comedic moments than your typical Marvel superhero film, Ant-Man faces serious threats, and there is plenty of action. Paul Rudd is great in the title role, especially when he unexpectedly battles one of the Avengers, and Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly give great performances. This origin movie is a must see for Marvel followers as Ant-Man will definitely be appearing in future films in the Marvel universe.

Spotlight: Acapella

After watching Pitch Perfect, a hilarious comedy about dueling college acapella groups, I started exploring more recent music in this style.

straightnochaserThe New Old Fashioned by Straight No Chaser (2015)

The group’s fifth album includes their unique take on some of today’s biggest hits: I particularly enjoyed “All About that Bass (No Tenors)” and “Shut Up and Dance.” They also feature mashups of popular songs, but the best track is “The Movie Medley,” which features the soundtracks and hilarious commentary about famous movies including Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and Forrest Gump. Also available on Hoopla.

pentatonixPentatonix  by Pentatonix (2015)

In their most recent studio album, Pentatonix moves from covering popular hits to releasing all original material. Pentatonix is a catchy mix of upbeat songs that will tempt you to sing and dance along with the group. Particularly enjoyable is “Sing.”

And did you know? You can check out Pentatonix as Team Canada in Pitch Perfect 2.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I don’t mention the soundtracks to both Pitch Perfect (especially “Bellas Finals” featuring a mashup of six songs) and its sequel Pitch Perfect 2 (look for “Anyway You Want It” performed by five groups). Also available on Hoopla.

Angels in the Outfield (1951)

angelsAngels in the Outfield is a lighthearted baseball movie about Guffy, the belligerent coach of a losing team who “meets” an angel. The angel, who is by no means tender or sweet, challenges Guffy to shape up. With a take-it-or-leave-it attitude, the angel offers to help Guffy win some ball games if he can stop fighting and using foul language. Guffy, who is convinced of the angel’s existence and power, sets out be a better man—at first if only for the sake of winning more games.

Guffy is played by Paul Douglas, with great turns by: Janet Leigh, as the reporter obsessed with covering Guffy’s every move; Spring Byington, as the pragmatic nun—and baseball enthusiast—who runs the orphanage; and Donna Corcoran as the adorable orphan whose prayers for her losing team prompt a band of angels to come to the rescue.

For another look at this movie, check out Bill’s review.