Friday, June 20

my early summer in entertainment

concerts i attended

Clay vs. Levi - One of the very first shows in our town's new performance center was Clay Cook and Levi Lowrey.  Clay is a songwriter and Zac Brown Band musician (guitar, keys, etc.) who used to write and perform with John Mayer, and Levi is a songwriter and primarily a fiddle player. The guys have worked together a lot and have a great friendship, and on this tour they basically come up with the set list as they go (I think rock, paper, scissors was involved at one point).  It was great to hear some familiar songs and some of their new music as well.

Willie Nelson with Allison Krauss and Devil Makes Three - When my mom heard this concert was coming to Roanoke, her exact words were, "I don't care how much the tickets are; we're going."  It was truly one of the best concerts I've ever been to.  Devil Makes Three was a totally new band for me and I really enjoyed their bluegrass sound. It was very cool to see Allison Krauss live, along with the rest of Union Station - Jerry Douglas and Dan Tyminski each had their own time in the spotlight, with Dan performing his recent hit with Avicii, "Hey Brother," as a bluegrass song.  When Willie Nelson came out, he launched into one hit song after another - "Whiskey River," "Crazy," "Beer for My Horses," “Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” "Good Hearted Woman," and "City of New Orleans" were just a few highlights - and didn't slow down all night.  He basically just says the lyrics to his songs now rather than actually singing them, but you know what?  Willie Nelson can do whatever he wants. The show closed with Willie bringing Allison and Union Station back out for a medley of gospel songs like "I Saw the Light."

Delta Rae with Gabe Dixon - Out of all the shows I've attended lately (it's been a great spring!) this is the one I was most excited about - I've been watching Delta Rae videos obsessively on YouTube since the first time I heard "Bottom of the River."  The six-piece band is difficult to categorize when people ask what genre they are, so instead I compare them to other acts - a little Grace Potter, a little Fleetwood Mac (not only do they have four vocalists, they've actually worked with Lindsay Buckingham).  They put on a super high energy, really fun show, and most of the audience members were on their feet dancing and clapping for the two hour performance, which included a perfect cover of Patti Smith's "Because the Night".  Opening act Gabe Dixon is a singer-songwriter who plays keyboard and guitar and was featured on the soundtrack of the movie The Proposal - his music reminded me of Gavin DeGraw, Jason Mraz and Paul Simon and I hope he gets a big break soon.

books i read

Cress (MG/YA Science Fiction) - I am loving Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles series - I wrote about Cinder and Scarlet in my last entertainment post.  Cress takes the Rapunzel fairytale and places it in Meyer's futuristic world through her most fascinating heroine so far - Cress, a Lunar who is equal parts genius and naive, has been kept captive on a sattelite since she was a little girl, and has fallen in love with Earth. She is heartbroken to see the fallout of the events in Scarlet and feels partially responsible due to her work as a hacker for the moon's sinister Queen Levana.   Cinder, Captain Thorne (who reminds me of a younger version of Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly), Scarlet, and Wolf are on the run and determined to protect Earth from Levana's planned takeover.  When Cress reaches out to them, they plan to rescue her - and their plan goes terribly wrong: Cress and Thorne are stranded in the desert, Cinder and an injured Wolf are forced to work with a Lunar guard, and Scarlet is being held hostage by Lunars.  Cinder is full of action, secrets, and wry humor.  The only downside is that the next book, Winter, won't be out until 2015!

Moon Over Manifest (MG Historical Fiction) - This 2011 Newberry winner took me to two historical time periods I don't know much about: World War I and the Great Depression. Abilene Tucker's daddy, Gideon, sends her to live in Manifest, Kansas, his childhood home, when he decides that she is getting to be a young lady and the railroad life is no longer appropriate. Abilene's not quite sure she's a lady yet - she's too old for jump rope, but not too old for a tree house, and not old enough to be interested in boys yet - and all she knows of Manifest comes from the newspapers folded around Gideon's old compass, her prized possession. In Manifest, Abilene's primary caretakers are Baptist minister Shady, who lives in what Abilene is pretty sure is a speakeasy, and local newspaper writer Hattie Mae. When Shady makes her attend the last day of school, she makes two good friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, and is given an assignment by stern Sister Redempta: to write a story over the summer. Instead, she and her new friends get wrapped up in an old story, woven together from the old letters Abilene found at Shady's house and the memories of the mysterious Miss Sadie, who styles herself a diviner. Abilene's story becomes entwines with the stories about Ned and Jinx, two boys whose adventures were cut short by war in Europe. Abilene hopes to learn more about her daddy's childhood, and where exactly she fits in.

movies i saw

X-Men: Days of Future Past - I have a soft spot in my heart for the X-Men movies since the 2000's trilogy was what really got me into comic book heroes.  The major challenge as a viewer of the movies now is that the Wolverine movies and the new retro movies have come along, the series is full of contradictions.  With each new movie, writers make choices that just don't line up with what we've already seen.  In the world of comic books, that's actually pretty typical - you gotta just go with it.  So in Days of Future Past, we have to accept that Professor Charles Xavier is alive and in his own body again, because it's way more important that evil robot Sentinels are about to destroy the remainders of the X-Men - Xavier, Magneto, Kitty Pryde, Iceman, Colossus, Storm, Wolverine, and a few new mutants with interesting powers, who are hiding somewhere in Asia.  If you've seen the previews, you know the premise - Kitty sends Wolverine's consciousness back into his younger body so that he can get young Charles and Magneto to cooperate and stop Mystique from killing the Sentinels' creator.  Days of Future Past has everything fans have come to expect from the X-Men movies - lots of action and ironic tweaks to historical events.  The  ending is surprisingly optimistic and reveals that Wolverine meddling with history caused some changes to the X-Men timeline that should make the next movie very interesting.

The Fault in Our Stars - I went to see TFiOS with three other middle school teachers who'd also read, loved, and wept over the book.  Since I am in love with John Green's YouTube channel, I already knew that he was happy with the film adaptation, and I understand why - the movie is incredibly faithful to the book, and Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort are Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters.  I loved seeing some of my favorite scenes from the book, like the picnic at the Funky Bones sculpture and dinner at Oranjee.  There were some scenes that were changed from the book for no apparent reason - Gus' important argument with his parents before the trip to Amsterdam is absent, and his dialogue in the egg-throwing scene is more over-the-top in the film than in the novel.  Laura Dern and Sam Trammell are wonderful as Hazel's parents, and I wish Gus' quirky family had been better developed in the movie.  My coworkers now think I have no heart because the movie didn't make me cry, but I think that has more to do with having lived through cancer treatment with my dad than anything else.  I definitely recommend seeing the movie if you loved the novel.

Won't Back Down - I'd wanted to see this 2012 movie about a mother and teacher who decide to be the change they want to see in their Pittsburgh neighborhood's failing school when it was in theaters, and then I guess I kind of forgot about it.  Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Jamie, a single mom, bartender and car dealership secretary who is infuriated when she visits her daughter's classroom and sees the teacher sitting at her desk texting while the other kids bully her daughter, who has dyslexia.  She tries to get her daughter moved into the other third grade class, where Nona, played by Viola Davis, is at least trying to teach. When her request is denied due to classroom overcrowding and a lazy principal, Jamie learns about parent-trigger laws and recruits Nona and other parents and teachers to turn Adams Elementary into a charter school (there's a montage of the two women going door to door in a housing project to explain their cause).  Nona's coworkers get upset because if the school becomes a charter, they will lose their union membership and tenure - and that's where the movie lost me.  Union teachers are portrayed as lazy and ineffective, and the only truly "good teacher" in the movie is a Teach for America graduate.  There's a little dimensionality in that the TFA guy IS a union member, but overall the union is portrayed as corrupt and not interested in students - the clear antagonist.

Wreck-It Ralph - Why wasn't this movie better advertised when it was released in 2012? Why didn't I know that the voices included Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, and Mindy Kaling?  Wreck-It Ralph takes place in an arcade where Ralph, tired of being the bad guy in his 16-bit world, leaves his game in an attempt to become a hero.  The movie is full of funny references to games like Mario Bros., Halo, Call of Duty, and Mario Kart, and having grown up playing video games I thought the idea of characters being able to move back and forth between those worlds was really creative.  I think this one ranks right up there with Lego Movie in terms of how much fun I had watching.

Monsters University - Monsters, Inc. is still my all-time favorite animated movie, and it was fun to see how Mike and Sully went from being rivals to becoming partners, as well as a Disney-fied take on college life, including Helen Mirren as a very intimidating dean - almost like a G-rated Pitch Perfect.  Unfortunately, without Boo, this story lacked the heart of the original.

television favorites

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Did you hear that S.H.I.E.L.D. finally got good?  I'd watched from the first episode out of a love of the Marvel universe, Joss Whedon, and Clark Gregg's Agent Coulson, as well as the promise of tie-ins to the big-screen releases.  I also love a good "team that fights bad guys" story.  The first several episodes were okay - Skye was a likable audience identification character,and  mysteries like "what is Project Centipede" and "did Agent Coulson really go to Tahiti after Avengers?" were interesting enough to keep me watching.  After Captain America: The Winter Soldier came out, though, it was like a flip got switched and suddenly - I can't think of a better way to put this - shit got real.

Nashville - I am so late to the party on this one, but I finally understand what the fuss is all about.  I didn't watch the first season because the previews made it look like the show was all adultery, all the time, but I started watching about halfway through this season when the commercials piqued my interest and the "On the Record" concert special from the Ryman Auditorium got me on board.  I love Hayden Panettiere as Juliette Barnes, and the music is so good!

Late Shift - I wrote about this show already in my June Favorite Things post, so let me just reiterate, CRAZY medical DRAMA DRAMA DRAMA.

CMT Crossroads - I feel like Crossroads used to feature weird pairings, but this season has been awesome so far - Fall Out Boy and The Band Perry, OneRepublic and Dierks Bentley, and Katy Perry and Kacey Musgraves.  The episodes are online, which is good because I've watched them all multiple times!

What's been keeping you entertained lately?  Do 
you have any recommendations for me to check out?

Linking Up:
Let Your Light Shine Thursday at I'm Perfectly Human
Little Friday at Rhyme and Ribbons


  1. I've seen and enjoyed so many of the movies you mentioned and am completely jealous of the concerts you've been to, but I'm going to skip over that and get to the tv shows.

    I love Nashville too! But what I love most of all is all the music. I've actually gone out and bought all 4 Nashville cds and love listening to them. And I loved watching SHIELD this season, especially how they were able to tie in the movies. I still can't believe everything that happened with Ward towards the end, and am really curious to see how it all changes next season.

    1. We've been extremely lucky with some of the artists who have come to our area to perform lately! Our town's new venue is pretty much the best thing that's happened here since our ice cream shop expanded ;) The big reveal with Ward on SHIELD pretty much blew my mind, and I liked how the producers/writers acknowledged some of the things critics and fans had been complaining about - Skye seemed like a Mary Sue? Well, her orphanage name WAS Mary Sue. Ward seemed really boring and wooden? He was playing a role. I can't wait for next season now that Coulson is in charge!