Tuesday, October 25, 2016

MOVIE REVIEW: Keeping Up with the Joneses

MOVIE REVIEW
Keeping Up
with the Joneses
_____________________________

Halloween 2016, and I was still
seeking  hoping against all odds
to discover just one truly sweet
comedy treat this year. Oh, happy
day  I finally found it! Truth
be told, they had me at "Hamm."
_____________________________

Boasting an attractive cast and touting a compelling storyline, Keeping Up with the Joneses piqued my interest immediately upon seeing the initial trailer last summer. In fact, with my hero, Jon Hamm, cast as one of the four leads, I made a mad rush to my local cineplex to see the film during its opening weekend. 

First of all, screw Rotten Tomatoes and their misguided reviews. This "largely laugh-free suburban spy adventure" is actually smart, well-written, well-cast and laugh-out-loud funny — from start to finish. 

Isla Fischer and Zach Galifianakis
deliver, as the snooping Gaffney's
in Keeping Up with the Joneses.
Jeff Gaffney (Zach Galifianakis) and his wife, Karen (Isla Fischer), are a typical suburban couple, leading typical suburban lives in a typical suburban community. That is, until their new neighbors, the dashing Tim Jones (Jon Hamm) and his exotic trophy wife, Natalie (Gal Gadot), move in next door. From there, suspicions are raised immediately as to whether or not the Joneses are who they claim to be — a successful writer and a renown chef, or perhaps secret agent spys. Action, laughs and intrigue ensue in Hangover-type fashion.

Gal Gadot and Jon Hamm are
cute as can be as the Joneses.
By today's lowbrow standards, the sexual content is minimal and the adult language, limited. The film simply delivers the old fashioned way — with a solid, entertaining story that doesn't get bogged down and with well-drawn, likable characters. In a day when so many films fail to deliver what the trailers promise, Keeping Up with the Joneses delivers — in spades.


-Christopher Long
(October 2016)

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

C.J. JOHNSON FOR CITY COUNCIL: A New Way of Thinking

C.J. JOHNSON
FOR CITY COUNCIL
A New Way of Thinking
_________________________

Given the utter absurdity playing
out on the national political stage
during the current election cycle,
I've been focused more closely on
my hometown issues and races.
And recently, I had the pleasure
of connecting with a particularly
impressive young candidate.
Relax — it's a non-partisan race.
_________________________

"It may be a new way of thinking, but it's important to always treat people with respect." From the look in his eye and the tone of his voice, one couldn't miss the sincerity of 26-year-old, C.J. Johnson, as he poured out his passion for the local community during our recent coffee get together.

A 2007 graduate of West Shore Junior-Senior High School, Johnson was brimming with enthusiasm as we sat together discussing an array of intriguing topics, from our favorite slaw recipes to the upcoming November 8th Melbourne, Florida District 5 City Council election — a race that has him pitted against a wide field of contenders, all vying for one of the four seats up for grabs.

Getting my "joe on" with Melbourne, Florida
City Council candidate, C.J. Johnson.
Having attended Florida Southern College on a tennis scholarship, Johnson currently is also President of the Florida Federation of Young Republicans of Brevard. However, he maintains that he has, "very Libertarian leanings" — explaining further that most of the issues he'll face as a councilman are not party line issues, and they will affect the things we all see from day to day, such as keeping traffic lights working and maintaining trash pick-up.

C.J. Johnson with girlfriend,
Sandy Proctor, at a recent
Florida political event.
In addition to his current day gig, practicing real estate and probate law with the firm of Frese Hansen, Johnson also is an active volunteer with the non-denominational, Young Life Christian ministry youth program. And when I reached out for assistance with staging an upcoming local fundraiser to benefit hometown victims of the recent Hurricane Matthew disaster, C.J. Johnson responded to my call immediately in the middle of the night. Wow  "a new way of thinking," indeed!

-Christopher Long
(October 2016)
_________________________

_________________________


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Friday, October 14, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: "Unkie Munkie Lives at the Zoo" by Violet Favero

BOOK REVIEW
Unkie Munkie
Lives at the Zoo
- Violet Favero -
__________________________

I applaud artists who are
dedicated to creating kid
-friendly content. Hence,
I was thrilled to receive
the latest in author Violet
Favero's Silly Yaya series.
__________________________

Author and illustrator, Violet Favero, possesses a pure and honest passion for storytelling — and for kids. Debuting on Amazon in the summer of 2015, her popular Silly Yaya series has entertained young readers nationwide, while also introducing them to several members of her "silly" family. And in the latest installment of her (now) three-part series, we're introduced to perhaps the "silliest" member of her tribe — Unkie Munkie.

Favero's latest is packed with
fun, full-color illustrations.
Here's the skinny. Family member, Lu, meets up with Unkie one day while on a magical adventure to the zoo — and he seems to be quite familiar with his surroundings. But does he actually live at the zoo? Hmm. Maybe he just works there. Maybe he's just a really smart, super-fun guy. I'm still not quite sure. But the adventure certainly is a lot of fun! SillyYaya.com

-Christopher Long
(October 2016)

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

RECORD REVIEW: Green Day "Revolution Radio"

RECORD REVIEW
Green Day
Revolution Radio
(Reprise Records)
__________________________

My 15-year-old buddy told me
recently that whether it's for a
week, a few months, or even
years, everyone goes through
a "Green Day phase." I guess
I'm finally going through mine.
_________________________

In the spirit of full disclosure, I will confess that despite achieving enormous success over the last 20-plus years, Green Day isn't a band that ever rose to a place of significant prominence on my personal radar. While I've always recognized the band's signature zing factor and frontman Billie Joe Armstrong's undeniable knack for creating well-crafted earworms, I just never connected with the platinum-selling faux punk combo — until now.

With the recent release of their 12th studio record, Revolution Radio, Green Day has dropped a doozie — a cohesive, high-octane collection that captured and consumed me in short order.

Based on a rather enthusiastic recommendation from a 14-year-old friend, I purchased Revolution Radio digitally from iTunes. As a result, I received just the songs — no cover art, liner notes, production / songwriting credits or lyrics — which is probably for the best. As I've learned over the years, I'm much better off being oblivious to Billie Joe's insightful lyrics. In fact, my personal Green Day experience has always been maximized when I merely focus on the band's true strengths hooky choruses, crunchy guitar riffs and Tré Cool's badass drum work. And that was precisely the compass I used when approaching Revolution Radio.

Green Day
Within the first few seconds of diving into the opening track, "Somewhere Now," I was struck by a glorious, knee-jerk revelation. Green Day seemingly had somehow managed to jam ten Who songs into one single track — I was hooked immediately!

Although the lead-off single, "Bang Bang," packs two fists-o-fun, it's not necessarily the shiniest gem in this magical 12-stone crown. Other personal favorites include the title track, the moody, yet engaging, "Outlaws," the Struts-flavored "Still Breathing," and the familiar-sounding acoustic delight, "Ordinary World."

But the mightiest highlight of all is undoubtedly the ferocious drum work of Tré Cool. From the mouth-watering sound of his kit to his impeccable performance, Revolution Radio represents arguably Cool's most impressive work to date.

In sum, Revolution Radio is simply a solid rock record — an honest, natural-sounding slab — as if three old friends came together merely to make some great music without pretense. Bravo! (A-)

-Christopher Long
(October 2016)

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

HURRICANE MATTHEW: What's In YOUR "Survival Kit?"

HURRICANE
MATTHEW
What's In YOUR "Survival Kit?"
_________________________

I thought that we'd dodged the bullet once again — another hurricane season gone by without any significant threat to my east coast Florida area. And then, last week, we were introduced to the rather distant, Hurricane Matthew. But with the (now) Category 4 storm barreling through the Caribbean, the threat of U.S. landfall, particularly for Floridians, seems imminent.

Personally, I possess no sense of fear. I have no concern for my personal safety — I'm protected and completely golden at all times. However, property damage and destruction is a very real concern. In fact, I still haven't rebounded fully, financially or emotionally from the series of devastating storms that hit the Sunshine State back in 2004.

What else does a guy need?
One nice thing about no longer owning much stuff is that it makes bugging-out pretty quick and easy. And with a mandatory evacuation set for my community within the next few hours, I packed up, locked up, hit the ATM, and "got out of Dodge" earlier this afternoon. 

What was in my personal "survival kit?" Very little. My sound equipment already was in storage hence, I merely stuffed a duffel bag with clothing, grabbed some important papers, a couple of photo albums and a few master reels. Then, I  loaded the truly precious cargo into my car — the items that I simply can't live without my KISS, Cheap Trick and Debbie Gibson CD collections. Whew, that was a close call!

This got me to thinking. I began wondering what other people's prized possessions might be. If like me, you had to pack up and jam at a minute's notice, what would be in your "survival kit?" What would you leave behind? Feel free to offer your thoughts in the Comments section below.

And BTW, for those of you in Matthew's path, please play it smart and be safe!

-Christopher Long
(October 2016)

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