Michael Cavacini

An award-winning arts and culture blog.

Archive for the month “February, 2013”

Book Review – The Silver Linings Playbook

The Silver Linings PlaybookI just finished listening to the audiobook version of The Silver Linings Playbook, and it was excellent. As always, I wanted to read the novel before seeing the movie, and I’m glad I did. From what I’ve heard, the movie changed several key elements of the book. What made this book so enjoyable was the terrific character development and wonderfully absurd dialogue. This novel is tragic, romantic and psychotic, all at once. And the Philadelphia Eagles, Kenny G and Southern New Jersey are all integral parts of the story. It’s unlike any book I’ve ever read, and it’s one I won’t soon forget.

Here’s an excerpt from the audiobook:

George Carlin – The Ten Commandments

George-Carlin-Complaints-and-GrievancesGeorge Carlin may be dead, but his timeless body of work lives on. Here’s one of my favorite bits:

Movie Review: Identity

IdentitySeveral years ago I saw the 2003 psychological thriller Identity, and this past weekend I watched it again. Having not seen it for a few years, I completely forgot the film’s twists, which made for an enjoyable viewing experience.

On its face, the film appeared to be a predictable thriller. But as I peeled back its layers, a well-constructed plot, inspired by the Agatha Christie novel, And Then There Were None, presented itself.

The film’s director, James Mangold, best known for Girl, Interrupted and Walk The Line, did an excellent job. Identity moved at a nice clip, had a dark mood and interesting flashback transitions.

While all of the actors turned in solid performances, Ray Liotta stole the show, quickly followed by the always consistent John Cusack. Amanda Peet also did a fine job of injecting her enigmatic character with humor and sarcasm.

If you’re a fan of mysteries and thrillers, Identity is worth your time. It’s an enjoyable film that will keep your interest from start to finish.

Top 5: James Newton Howard Scores

The post below was written by my good friend Vic, from Vic’s Movie Den.You can see my version of this post on Vic’s blog here. If you love movies, make sure to visit Vic’s blog regularly; he’s always posting interesting news, reviews and more. Enjoy!

James Newton Howard

Even though I had heard of James Newton Howard (JNH) and knew of some of his works by reputation, it wasn’t until 2005 after the score to King Kong was released that I began to go back and go through his extensive library of films before 2005; scores like Waterworld, Glengarry Glen Ross, Dinosaur, and even Stir of Echoes. Upon discovering his unique style of piano, horn and string compositions, I began to see a wonderful pattern in his soundtracks. I was glad to find out that his scores have an incredible replay value and revisiting them often resulted in my finding even more unique and stylish layers in them. Outbreak, Snow Falling on Cedars and the score to the sci-fi Stephen King film Dreamcatcher all have stunning merit and serve as a wonderful tapestry for his kind of individual vision. He is indeed a fast and hard working composer who at times can be working on two or more scores at once. Soon to come he has After Earth and the next hunger games movie: Catching Fire. I recently also was turned on to The Prince of Tides, The Bourne Legacy and Salt from Newton Howard. So, in conclusion I will give you all my Top 5 favorite scores by James Newton Howard. This won’t be easy. I hope you enjoy and discover the work of this masterful composer if you haven’t yet.
The Village5 – The Village 
An incredibly well crafted work of musical art. It has an ethereal flow and wonderful atmosphere. It is serene then menacing then other-worldly in it’s passion. It is beautifully melodious and features the incredible work of Hilary Hahn on the violin. The almost five-minute long “Those We Don’t Speak Of” is a stand out piece that will get under your skin and move your soul in it’s haunting beauty.
I Am Legend
4 – I Am Legend
What I love about this score is how simplistic and understated it is. It is indeed close in tone and style to some other of his scores like Batman Begins. This score is sentimental, dramatic and rich. It proceeds in layering hope and despair in some very beautiful tracks like “My Name is Robert Neville” and the heart breaking “Sam’s Gone.” While it does have some action cues, this score will remain as a very thought provoking composition for me.
3 – Signs 
This score is a very unique JNH composition for me in that it evokes a sense of spirituality and mood. It is a deep and atmospheric piece of work that includes some vicious piano cues and minimal and suspenseful techniques. JNH provokes, in the first half, real suspense and mood. It is almost two scores in one. One is melodious and ethereal and the second half which includes the sonic “The Hand of Fate: Pts. 1 and 2” is hands down (no pun intended) one of the best tracks on the score. Signs builds tension and strength using the minimal approach that James Newton Howard is so good at.
King Kong
2 – King Kong
This is the score that really won me over on James Newton Howard. Until then I just knew of his scores to animated movies and such. It wasn’t until I watched and closely listened to this incredible composition that I knew I had to go back and revisit some of his earlier works. In the meantime I bought the score to King Kong and listened to it night and day. It is rousing, sweeping and quite emotional. During the action pieces of course we do get the big, loud and deeply percussive rumblings like in “Head Towards the Animals” and “Beauty Killed the Beast.” It is when Newton Howard takes the time to slow down and serve up a more emotional and contemplative composition like “A Fateful Meeting” and even the striking “Central Park” is when this score stands apart from the rest of the pack. Despite not sticking to much of the period, this score is incredibly fast, unique and big. The replay value is incredible. Highly recommended!
Lady In The Water
1 – The Lady in the Water
It seems that whenever Newton Howard does a score for director M. Night it always ends up being a resounding effort. Unfortunately, in most regards the score ends up being so much better than the film itself. Examples are “The Happening” and of course “Lady in the Water.” My wife and I rented said film one night and I could not follow the movie because the score was so darn melodious, soulful and lyrical.It is the purest score that James Newton Howard has ever done in my opinion. The first track “Prologue” demonstrates how well Newton Howard can showcase layers and threads throughout his scores. The incredible motif of the “Lady” runs through the entire score with different expressions and ethereal musicality. I was so impressed by the haunting beauty of this score and it is so effective in provoking a sense of peace and alarm (like in the moody “The Party). The climactic track “The Great Eatlon” shows off Newton Howard’s bombastic nature in the ways of John Williams. “The Healing” is perhaps my favorite track. It is haunting and precious as is the majority of this stunning score. Do not miss it!

John Cena’s Fruity Pebbles

Cena Fruity Pebbles - FrontI was at the supermarket today and I spotted a box of Fruity Pebbles and noticed something different about them; instead of Fred Flintstone being on the box, I saw WWE superstar John Cena with Bam Bam.

Cena Fruity Pebbles - BackFor those unfamiliar with wrestling, The Rock has had an ongoing feud with John Cena. “The Great One” told Cena that his colorful attire made him look like a bowl of Fruity Pebbles. Over a span of several months they traded barbs and had an epic battle at WrestleMania last year. Their rematch is taking place at this year’s WrestleMania in New Jersey.

Partnering with Post to have John Cena replace Fred Flintstone on boxes of Fruity Pebbles, leading up to WrestleMania 29, was a brilliant way to promote the event and tie it back to WWE’s product. Well done, WWE. Well done.


Supermarket Stories: Get Off The Phone

Turn Off Your PhoneBeing on your cell phone in the presence of another individual when he or she is providing you with a service is rude. At the supermarket, I encounter countless people who lack any modicum of social decorum and find it perfectly fine to chat away while I’m checking them out. Not only is this rude, but it’s foolish behavior. I don’t know about you, but when I give money away, I like to pay attention. Many times people who aren’t on the phone give me too much cash. When you add the distraction of a cell phone, anything can happen.

When people first enter my line, I give them a chance to hang up. If they don’t, I say “Hi.” If they fail to respond, then I provide them with sub-par service. If they aren’t willing to give me the basic level of attention that is warranted for such a social situation, then they’re on their own. Conversely, when people acknowledge my existence, I’m more than happy provide them with excellent customer service.

Today, a customer was in my line and on his phone. He was calling a bar to report that he left behind his debit card. I laughed to myself because the kind of aloofness he was displaying at that moment was, more than likely, why he lost his card in the first place. So much for learning from our mistakes.

I’ve had other customers that have had the temerity to apologize to the person they were speaking with on the phone. They have literally said, “I’m sorry, I’m checking out at the store right now.” Part of me would love to say to these mental giants, “You’re apologizing to the wrong person.” But I grin and bear it.

The bottom line is this: Talking on your phone when a service is being rendered is rude. Don’t do it. In this digital age where we’re all literally and figuratively tethered to our devices, let’s make a vow to not let our manners fall prey to these gadgets. It’s OK to silence our ringers, turn off our phones and interact with other humans. Give it a try. You might even like it.

The Prince Of Tides – Book & Movie Review

The Prince of TidesFrom time to time, I encounter a book that fully engrosses me. Two such books were Stephen King’s It and Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth. Not only were these novels well written, but they also featured characters I cared about. I distinctly remember reading The Pillars of the Earth and being blown away when a key character died. I was so flabbergasted that I stopped reading and called my friend, who had also read the book, to let him know I’d made it to that part. Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides profoundly moved me just as much as the aforementioned novels.

I work with a woman at the supermarket named Judy. For the past couple of years she’s been telling me I should read The Prince of Tides. Last year I downloaded the audiobook, and I didn’t get around to listening to it until now. Going into the book, I had high expectations. Based on the reviews I read, people felt this novel was a masterpiece and that its narrator, Frank Muller, brought it to life in a way that was mesmerizing.

Now that I’m done the book, I’m glad to report that The Prince of Tides was one of the best I’ve ever experienced, and Muller’s narration kept my rapt attention from start to finish. The majority of the novel was based on Pat Conroy’s life in the south, and this reality came through in the incredibly descriptive language. Conroy is a beautifully metaphorical writer whose prose manifests scintillating scenarios and gripping drama.

The Prince Of TidesThe Movie

After reading the The Prince of Tides, I watched the film adaptation directed by and starring Barbra Streisand. Her and Nick Nolte were terrific, and the film did a fine job of condensing Conroy’s tome into an incredibly enjoyable film. I was also delighted to see my all-time favorite comedian, George Carlin, in the Oscar-nominated picture. Most of all, I loved the music. The score, composed by James Newton Howard, was one of the most gorgeous pieces of music I’ve ever heard; it was simply breathtaking. Like any movie, the book was better, but the film didn’t have any radical departures from the source material; it just made it work in a different medium.

If you enjoy a good story, I recommend you read the novel first and then watch the movie. Both are beautiful works of art everyone should experience.

To prepare you for both, below you’ll find:

  • The official synopsis for the book
  • Frank Muller narrating a book
  • The main title song from the movie
  • A trailer for the film

Book Synopsis

Here’s the official description of the book from Pat Conroy’s website:

In this best-selling novel, Pat Conroy tells the story of Tom Wingo, his twin sister, Savannah, and the dark and violent past of the family into which they were born.

Set in New York City and the low-country of South Carolina, THE PRINCE OF TIDES opens when Tom, a high school football coach whose marriage and career are crumbling, flies from South Carolina to New York after learning of his twin sister’s suicide attempt. Savannah is one of the most gifted poets of her generation, and both the cadenced beauty of her art and the jumbled cries of her illness are clues to the too-long-hidden story of her wounded family. In the paneled offices and luxurious restaurants of New York City, Tom and Susan Lowenstein, Savannah’s psychiatrist, unravel a history of violence, abandonment, commitment, and love. And Tom realizes that trying to save his sister is perhaps his last chance to save himself.

With passion and a rare gift of language, Pat Conroy moves from present to past, tracing the amazing history of the Wingos from World War II through the final days of the war in Vietnam and into the 1980s, drawing a rich range of characters: the lovable, crazy Mr. Fruit, who for decades has wordlessly directed traffic at the same intersection in the southern town of Colleton; Reese Newbury, the ruthless, patrician land speculator who threatens the Wingos’ only secure worldly possession, Melrose Island; Herbert Woodruff, Susan Lowenstein’s husband, a world-famous violinist; Tolitha Wingo, Savannah’s mentor and eccentric grandmother, the first real feminist in the Wingo family.

Pat Conroy reveals the lives of his characters with surpassing depth and power, capturing the vanishing beauty of the South Carolina low-country and a lost way of life.

Frank Muller

Main Title Song

Movie Trailer

Supermarket Stories: Mr. Quarters

Mr. QuartersToday was a typical Sunday at the supermarket: insanely busy. However, I was quick to get people in and out of my line. When the lines are long, the only thing to do is keep my head down and establish the highest level of efficiency possible. From time to time, problems will occur that throw off my alacrity.

The first problem during my shift was a man with a bad check. Having encountered these kinds of situations before, I knew what warning signs to look for. Once I saw that his personal check was in the name of a “business” and that his shoddy-looking state ID expired two years ago, I quickly told him we couldn’t accept his check and he was on his way.

In addition to personal checks, which I despise, people pay for groceries in a variety of uncommon ways. Sometimes I get customers that pay with two-dollar bills, silver dollars or travelers’ checks. Occasionally, people will pay with change, which isn’t a big deal as long as the total is less than five dollars.

Unfortunately, halfway through my shift, I rang up a customer who didn’t get the memo on how much change is acceptable for a grocery bill. After telling him the bill was $14.50, he said, “I’m paying with quarters today,” and dumped a massive amount of silver coins on my conveyor belt.

As I started to count the change, I looked at my line of customers, which was bending into oblivion, and apologized for the delay. I then proceeded to count the change. But as I was counting, he added news coins to the pile and threw me off completely, so I had to start again. And while I was doing this, his moronic friend – who should have been bagging the groceries – was filling him in on all the celebrity gossip from a magazine he wasn’t even going to buy. Once the counting was complete, I realized Mr. Quarters gave me two too many, so I gave them back to him with his receipt.

If you think paying for groceries with an excessive amount of change is acceptable, it’s not. Mr. Quarters could have simply visited the bank, which is directly across the street from the grocery store, and turned his sea of quarters into dollar bills, or he could have done the same thing at customer service. Please take this story to heart. Not only will it help you avoid the derision of others, but not carrying around several pounds of metal will also significantly lighten your load.

Les Misérables – The Torch Has Been Passed

Hugh JackmanToday, I finally saw Les Misérables. Being a fan of plays and musicals, I wanted to see this film for quite some time. While I was aware of the general premise behind the film, I never read the novel or saw the musical. I’m glad to say that it was a terrific film, filled with glorious music and a stellar cast. To me, what was most interesting about the movie was that Colm Wilkinson, the original Jean Valjean, passed the torch to Hugh Jackman.

Wilkinson’s presence in the film was a smart way to pay homage to the original musical, and the message behind the scene where he handed candlesticks to Hugh Jackman’s character was clear: The torch has been passed. Wilkinson, a fixture of Broadway, lent his voice to an extensive list of musicals, including: Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, Man of La Mancha, and Jekyll & Hyde, just to name a few. Now it’s Hugh Jackman’s turn. As you’ll see from the video below, this symbolic passing also took place off the screen.

For those yearning for Colm Wilkinson’s Jean Valjean, below is a video of him performing “Bring Him Home” at the Les Misérables 10th Anniversary Concert.

Review – The James Bond Archives

The James Bond ArchivesThis is my 100th blog post! Can you believe it? I’d like to thank all of you for checking out my content on a regular basis and helping me reach new highs each month. I appreciate your support and look forward to providing you with at least another 100 blog posts.

Speaking of things worth celebrating, it’s the 50th anniversary of the James Bond film franchise. And one of the many ways the owners of the iconic film series decided to pay tribute was through the creation of a massive, 15-pound book: The James Bond Archives. Check out my video review below to learn more.

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