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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Barry Manilow’s Because It’s Christmas — CD Review

It’s that time of year when most of us are going to reach for a Christmas album at some point. Barry Manilow’s Because It’s Christmas offers something a little different than the usual collection of classics. Yes, I said Barry Manilow.

He opens with a nice, soft version of the classic “The Christmas Song.” Nothing special about it, but that is meant as a compliment. It’s a classic, and more artists looking to cover it ought to leave it alone and just sing the song instead of trying to make it their own. Later on the album Manilow throws in 90 seconds of “White Christmas” that was headed down the same road, but is strangely cut too short.

Along with Exposé, Manilow pulls of a jazzy, toe-tapping version of “Jingle Bells” quite well. He has some fun with it without trying to re-invent the song. His unique “Silent Night / I Guess There Ain’t No Santa Claus” is perfect for those of us that won’t have that romantic Christmas Eve we get so tired of hearing about. It strikes the right chord without hammering home the point. “Just Another New Year’s Eve” gets kudos for the same type of reason.

Manilow completely loses me on “When the Meadow was Bloomin’.” It’s a stretch as a Christmas song, which isn’t necessarily bad given the overdone tunes of the season, but, no pun intended, is just too flowery. The title song, though obviously a holiday song, fits the category of too flowery, or soft, as well. But Manilow fans won’t mind it.

His duet with K.T. Oslin of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is the best the album has to offer, and maybe the best version of the song I’ve ever heard. It’s fun, gets away with pushing the edge of corny, and . . . I would imagine . . . isn’t bad for that romantic Christmas Eve those of you having one don’t get so tired of hearing about.

“Bells of Christmas” didn’t do much for me, and his “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” does a slight about face on his earlier good sense of not messing with a classic. He doesn’t ruin it, but it’s not great.

Overall, if you like Christmas music and can get beyond the “but it’s Barry Manilow” thing, Because It’s Christmas is worth listening to.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas Links

Just for fun, and an easy post, I did some hunting around for some holiday links — mostly YouTube. Enjoy!

Enjoy some free free Christmas music while you browse.

A cute page for kids to write Santa or watch him cut a rug.

A so-so Christmas ad from Coke.

The Charlie Brown cartoon never gets old. Neither does the soundtrack.

Sponge Bob will never last as long, but many like him for now.

This creative montage is worth a peek.

Though a cute baby dancing might be a bit more fun.

YouTube let's you see the entire The Grinch That Stole Christmas, or, if you prefer, The Grinch — Homer Simpson style.

I even found a scene from the end of the best version (in my humble opinion) of A Christmas Carol. I even found a couple for the kids, including full-length (I think) versions of Mickey's Xmas Carol and this animated version for older kids.

Finally, keep this one for killing that final half-hour before officially shutting down for the holidays . . . the end of It's a Wonderful Life.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

The Break-Up — DVD Review

Maybe I don’t know enough about relationships. Maybe I was too tired and got too comfortable. Maybe The Break-Up is a chick flick. Whatever the reason, staying awake through this film was a battle.

Gary (Vince Vaughn) and Brooke (Jennifer Anniston) decide to end their relationship, but each refuses to let the other have their condo. So, they torture each other in an effort to get the other to leave.

This movie never decides what the hell it is. A typical comedy filled with sophomoric humor seems to be what the producers were going for, but the film just wasn’t that funny. Now and then efforts at sophisticated wit fell flat, especially when Vaughn had to give it a shot. The ending suggested drama had been the goal, but if it was someone should get out of the movie-making business.

Vaughn was flat out terrible. He played an uninspired guy with a major case of arrested development. One moment he was “Mr. Cool,” and the next he was trying (and failing) to show depth.

Anniston didn’t do a whole lot for me either. She wasn’t bad, but she didn’t do anything to impress.

John Michael Higgins played Brooke’s presumably gay brother, Richard. He did his best to bring some actual laughs to the film, but his over-the-top performance comes off poorly surrounded by the hum-drum Vaughn.

Overall, I would just skip it.