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

The Civil War

The Ken Burns production, The Civil War, is without a doubt the strongest of all his PBS documentaries (at least for me)--and he has had numerous outstanding efforts.The photography of the utter poverty and horrible treatment of slaves combined with battlefields filled with soldiers' bodies was unbelievable.The historian interviews were as insightful as any I ever listened to in any documentary ever. I could easily get carried away writing about the subject matter here, but great documentaries will do that, and Ken Burns and PBS are the best at it. I can only hope we as a human race can watch this and come away a different people.

Watch The Civil War (1990, rated TV-MA) on Hoopla today or check out the dvds.



Spotlight: Reading Skills Board Games

The board game collection is expanding with games designed to help beginning readers with skills like sight words, multiple meanings, spelling, and more. These games are great for parents to play with kids to encourage reading skills and vocabulary. Each game has a unique way of making learning fun.

  • Word on the Street Jr.: A game of tug a war with letters that encourage kids to think creatively and spell bigger and bigger words to earn more points toward winning.
  • Multiple Meanings Around the World: Encourages kids to learn homonyms for common words they will run across while reading and writing.
  • Tower of Sight Words lv 1-2-3: A series of games that operates like Jenga but encourages the reading of sight words before pieces can be pulled.
  • My First Bananagrams: Teaches lower case letters to children and spelling. Also encourages reading and spelling growth with premade letter blends.
  • Spelligator: Word building game that teaches phonemic awareness, letter patterns, and positioning. It covers different letter combinations, including consonants, vowels, digraphs, and blends.
  • After Words: A creative thinking and vocabulary building game for kids who have most of the basics down. The game creates limits to inspire kids to use a larger vocabulary.
  • Classwords the vocabulary game grade 3: Based on common core vocabulary standards for 3rd grade, the game motivates kids to practice and learn the key words needed read and write at the 3rd grade level.


Games are a great way to teach kids new skills while keeping their interest by making the learning fun. They also provide a break from regular memorization and worksheets. Check out a few.


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Cards Against Humanity: Family Edition

If you love the original Cards Against Humanity, you will enjoy this family-friendly edition of the game. If you are new to Cards Against Humanity, the Family Edition is a great game to start with. This version is easily playable with family and friends and is a great way to spend an hour or two just making each other laugh.

The game is played by one person selecting a card with a statement and the other players filling in blanks in the statement with their cards. The first player reads all the cards out loud and gives a point to the one they like best.

What I like about this game is you can be silly, and there are a plethora of card combinations, so every game is unique. Cards Against Humanity: Family Edition (2020) is also a game that is great for parties since players can easily drop in and out of the game.


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Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. Season 1

Blooregard Q. Kazoo is an imaginary friend who lives with his best friend Mac, but Mac is getting older, and his parents want him to get rid of Bloo. They take Mac and Bloo to a foster home for imaginary friends, where unwanted imaginary friends are taken to be adopted by new families.

Madame Foster, the owner of the home, cuts Mac and Bloo a deal: if Mac comes every dayBloo can stay at the home without being adopted. Thus begins the chaos of Mac coming to the home every day and interacting with the wildly creative cast of imaginary creatures and the antics that he and Bloo cause daily. Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends (2004, rated TV-Y7) is filled with wonder, creativity, and beautiful animation from the opening to the end credits.

Watch season 1 of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends on Hoopla today.


Apollo 13

"Houston, we have a problem." In April 1970, three astronauts were headed for the moon when an oxygen tank exploded, affecting life support and propulsion. With an all-star cast, Apollo 13 (1995, PG) puts you right there in the lunar module as well as in the room at Houston flight control as the engineers work frantically to bring these men home alive. Apollo 13 was directed by Ron Howard and stars Tom Hanks, Ed Harris, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, and Gary Sinise.

Fans of Apollo 13 may also enjoy The Martian with Matt Damon. Apollo 13 is available as a DVD as a part of the Binge Box called "Never Travel with Tom Hanks," which includes three other movies: Cast Away, Captain Phillips, and Sully.


New Girl. The Complete Series

Pure escapism makes New Girl (2011-2018, TV-14) a perfect pandemic binge watch. Admittedly I came late to the party, but that doesn't make this sitcom any less enjoyable. The delightfully quirky Zooey Deschanel stars as the eponymous "new girl" aka Jess, a 30-something who moves into a loft apartment with three roommates found on Craigslist following a messy breakup.

Follow the zany adventures of Jess and her roommates Nick, Schmidt, and Winston (Jake Johnson, Max Greenfield, and Lamorne Morris), along with Jess's best friend Cece (Hannah Simone). The chemistry of the cast is apparent, making the relationships (both platonic and not) engaging and charming to watch.

For fans of Cheers, Friends, The Big Bang Theory, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine (there's even a crossover episode).

This screwball comedy is available on DVD from the library or on Netflix (which you stream via the library's Roku device).


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Little Witch Academia. The Complete Series

I binge watched this heartwarming and fun series in one sitting. Akko has dreamed of becoming a witch from the moment she went to a Shiny Chariot event where she witnessed the power of magic. Although she is from a non-magical family, she is inspired by Shiny Chariot's performanceDetermined to make her dream come true, she attends Luna Nova Academy, a school where girls learn and develop their magical skills. It's where her adventure begins. There, Akko faces the trials of school and friendship while learning each step of the way.

Follow Akko and her friends on their fun and magical adventures as she pursues her dreams of becoming a witch in Little Witch Academia (2017, TV-Y7). Check out a Roku with Netflix to watch the series today.


La La Land

La La Land (2016, rated PG-13) was the best musical I've seen in years, and so of course I think the soundtrack is great too. As I listen to each song, I can see the scene in the movie in my memory. I have a cousin whose daughter is a dancer and whenever I hear the opening song, "Another day of Sun," I see those kids dancing on those cars on that bottle-necked freeway in Los Angeles and it reminds me of her.

While it may be true that La La Land would be a terrific rom/com even without a great musical score, having fabulous music makes it the great movie that it is. I think it should have won the Oscar for Best Picture, but what do I know? Check out the soundtrack on Hoopla today.

Military Wives

The wives on the Flitcroft military base are facing six months on their own after their spouses were called up to active duty. It is not easy when your spouse gets deployed. They get letters and maybe a video chat, but must find their way to cope. Some turn to TV shopping, others send care packages, many drink.

The Sergeant Major's wife, Lisa (Sharon Horgan), is responsible for the mental well-being of all the wives in the regiment. This ranges from brainstorming entertaining group activities to providing a shoulder to cry on. She is a little overwhelmed and has to cope with the Colonel's wife, Kate (Kristin Scott Thomas), who has very different ideas for activities. They finally meet in the middle and decide a choir would be an activity all could enjoy. The pair clash, but after some words realize they are stronger together. The choir becomes the activity that pulls them together and provides comfort.

Military Wives (2019, PG-13) was inspired by the true stories of women who started the first military wives' choir. The story is touching, heartfelt, funny, and sad at times, but very entertaining. For more about the true story and an interview with the actors, check out this NPR article.


All Good Things

I recommend the movie All Good Things (2010, rated R), based on a true story from the early 80s about New York real estate heir David Marks (Ryan Gosling) and the disappearance of his wife Katie (Kirsten Dunst). Gosling does an amazing job with the transformation of his character in how he changes over the years of his marriage. He tries to outrun his past, but his family and wealth bring him back into the family business.

Watch All Good Things on Hoopla today or check out the DVD. The inspiration for the movie may be stranger than fiction: read about the strange case of Robert Durst.

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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