DVD Review: Come Hell or High Water

Hey there…

Who knew that Westerns still existed? Just kidding, but other than feature films like Appaloosa or 3:10 to Yuma, I can’t say that I’ve seen many in recent memory. And before those two, I think Unforgiven back in 1992 was the only I can remember with certainty. So to see an independent Western distributed by North American Motion Pictures was unique enough to get me to take a look.

[rating:2/4]

Come Hell or High Water, set in post-Civil War Missouri, is the story of Captain Justin Gatewood (Mark Redfield) who has been released from Fort Leavenworth prison with a pardon from the Governor. Gatewood served five years of a longer sentence for attempting to kill William Curry (Mike Hagan) and wounding the local sheriff in the process. During the war, Gatewood’s brother died while he and his brother were prisoners of Curry on a forced march from a battlefield. After a failed attempt to kill Curry five years ago, Gatewood is more than a little bitter about his situation and wants revenge. He’s had time to plan and nothing is going to get in his way, even his daughter.

When Gatewood gets back to town, he finds that his adversary is a wealthy business owner now. But that doesn’t stop him from gunning for Curry and the whole town gets stuck in the middle, including both of their daughters, Helen Gatewood and Catherine Curry.

For being done by an independent film company, I have to say I was impressed by the quality of the picture. Presented in widescreen, the picture is clear and uses an almost-sepia color palette to make it appear more aged. The story, written and directed by Wayne Shipley, captures the wildness of the west during an era of great expansion and the addition of law and order.

The acting is a bit of a mixed bag, and the makeup/special effects don’t really work when you look closely. But the settings and set dressings seemed very accurate. And the writing won me over. Gatewood had the best lines in the movie, often quoting Shakespeare or contemporary playwrights with ease.

Though Westerns are still not really my favorite genre of movie, I have to say that Come Hell or High Water worked for me. The acting wasn’t great in spots, but I thought the setting and story rang true, which made up for it in most places. The thought that a man would hold a grudge for 25 years following the war isn’t hard to believe. The period of Reconstruction after the Civil War was one full of hard feelings on both sides of the war and for some families has lasted into the 20th century and beyond.

Other than a few trailers for other movies from North American Motion Pictures, there were no extras on the DVD.

As an independent Western not backed by one of the major studios, I thought Come Hell or High Water was a solid attempt at a feature movie with a small budget. I will continue to say that I have great respect for independent filmmakers and small studios for they have a rough road not only to create a film, but to get it distributed. So though Come Hell or High Water can’t compete with the latest 3:10 to Yuma, I thought it was a fine movie and give it a solid 2 out of 4.

–Fitz

p.s. If you’re a lover of Westerns and are looking for something new, be sure to check Come Hell or High Water out at your local video store or on Amazon:

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Music Review: Matt York – Mine

Hey all…

I have to admit that before this album, I hadn’t heard of Matt York. Then I heard the first track of Mine and had to hear more. “Death Came a Knockin'” is most definitely a gospel tune, but it captured my soul immediately. There was a purity to it that drew me back to the rest of Mine. Was I disappointed? I have to admit I was a little disappointed.

If the rest of the album included more gospel-style tunes like “Death Came a Knockin'” I probably wouldn’t be disappointed at all… but the rest of the album hits me like Lenny Kravitz going Motown, which didn’t always work for me.

That said, I think York has crafted a good album. It’s pretty low-key musically, with a pretty consistent pulse. The album landscape has a few hills and valleys, but the only stand-out song for me was the first one. After that, I do have a couple of favorites — “Lucky Man” speaks to me of a man in a committed relationship who feels lucky to be with the one he’s with; and “It’s All Fire” just has a lovely melody with some beautiful harmonies along with the guitar.

York toured for three years and nearly 750 shows for his first record Under the Streetlights, working his way across North America, Japan, and Australia. He even released a DVD in March 2008 of some of his concert footage (filmed by Dan Ramirez, who also worked with the Dave Matthews Band and O.A.R.). At the end of the tour, York was feeling the effects of the road, but decided to work on his sophomore record rather than taking a break.

He teamed up with Brad Stella and Joel Parisien to create the tracks for what eventually became Mine over the next few months. York grew up listening to Motown and gospel and wanted to go back to that feel for this album. He and his new five-piece band will most likely be on tour again later in the year to showcase Mine.

Overall Mine was a good album, just not what I expected after hearing the first track. If you are a fan of the Motown sound, I’d definitely recommend Mine as something to check out!

Track listing:
1. Death Came A Knockin’
2. Tomorrow
3. Let Me Go
4. Someday
5. Give Me Love
6. Those Days
7. Lucky Man
8. Hard Days
9. Mine
10. It’s All Fire
11. Now And Then

Definitely an album worth checking out!

–Fitz

p.s. Pick it up at your local retailer or Amazon:

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Book Review: Know It All: The Little Book of Essential Knowledge by by Susan Aldridge, Elizabeth King Humphrey, and Julie Whitake

Hi all!

While reading Know It All: The Little Book of Essential Knowledge by by Susan Aldridge, Elizabeth King Humphrey, and Julie Whitake, it quickly became very apparent that I don’t know nearly as much as I thought I did. Even with all the trivia floating around in my brain, this book contains more useful facts in a quick, all in one place, easy to access manner, that I might be able to give up Google for a while. (Maybe not, I love searching on Google!)

Know It All is a perfect introduction to a wide array of subjects for students, parents, teachers, and anyone else seeking a better understanding of nearly 100 diverse topics from science to history, art, and religion.

Each chapter focuses on 10 to 15 entries and ends with a brief quiz so you can test your knowledge to see how much stuck with you after reading. Chapter 10 provides the final exam as a test over all the material from the entire book. Though I don’t take many tests any more, I see this as a great supplement for home schooled kids to provide yet another level of feedback on reading and retention.

The nine chapters focus on the following broad topics:

  • Understanding the Universe
  • The Story of the Earth
  • The Story of Life
  • Exploring the World
  • Invention and Discovery
  • Conflicts of the Modern Age
  • The Structure of Society
  • Religion and Thought
  • Artistic Endeavors

Even if you skip the tests throughout the book, each chapter gives a great overview of each subject. Interested in just a particular topic? Search the detailed four page index at the end of the book.

Is this book a complete reference on everything it covers? Not even close – but that’s not the goal. The book serves as a starting point or introduction to the topics covered. From there you can branch out at your local library, bookstore, or on the Internet to dig deeper.

A few of the surprising facts I learned from the book included:

  • The bumblebee bat is the world’s smallest animal and it lives in Thailand along the River Kwai. An endangered species, the bat is around 1.2 inches long and weighs only about 0.07 ounces!
  • Ball bearings were invented by Philip Vaughan in 1794.
  • And the longest serving capital city in the world is Paris, which has held that distinction since King Clovis selected it as his administrative capital in 486! How’s that for staying power?

Know It All: The Little Book of Essential Knowledge is a great book to have in the house for parents of elementary, middle school, or even high school students to serve as a great starting point for reports and research. But more than that, it’s a great way to learn or relearn some of those facts that may have escaped some of us since we were last in school ourselves!

To give you a better idea of the great content within this book, I’ve included a brief excerpt below with permission.

The Religions of the World
The map of world religions reflects the political and social history of humankind. Eternal quests for meaning, along with conquests, migration, trade, and evangelistic fervor have helped to shape the beliefs of nations and peoples alike.
Every human society has had some form of religious belief or practice. In simplest terms, religion is the belief that the world is inspired and directed by a superhuman power of some type.
Christianity, with some 2.1 billion followers, is the largest of the world’s religions. Though it originally began in the Middle East, Christianity is no longer the dominant faith there. It is, however, the predominant religion in much of Europe and in North and South America.
Like some other religions, Christianity is divided into a number of different churches: In Russia, Orthodox Christianity is the leading religion. In South America, most Christians are Roman Catholics, and the same holds true in southern Europe.
Protestantism is more prevalent in both northern Europe and North America. With more than 1.5 billion adherents, Islam is the world’s second most popular faith. Following the faith are most people of
the Middle East and North Africa, a significant number in South and Southeast Asia, and long-standing minorities in the Balkans and eastern Europe. An influx of immigrants from former European colonies has seen the number of Muslims in Western Europe rise in recent decades.
Hinduism, the world’s third largest religion, is prevalent in India, though large populations of Sikhs and Muslims can also be found on the Indian subcontinent.
Although Buddhism originated in India, the countries with the largest Buddhist populations are now China, Japan, and Southeast Asian states such as Vietnam and Thailand. Buddhism also has many followers in the Western world.
A notable exception to the dominance of Islam throughout the Middle East is Israel. Large populations of Jews are also found across Europe and North America, the latter home to more than 40 percent of the world’s Jews. In fact, New York City has the second largest population of Jews of any city in the world, after Tel Aviv.
The United States is unusual for a developed nation in that a greater than usual proportion of its population holds religious beliefs, most commonly Protestant Christianity.
South America is predominantly a Catholic Christian continent. This is a legacy of the Spanish and Portugese Conquistadors, who brought the continent under colonial rule.
Africans retain many traditional religious practices in some regions. Christianity arrived more than two millennia ago, and Islam is the dominant religion of North Africa and West Africa.
India is a country of many religions. Four in every five Indians are Hindu, but there are also significant numbers of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains.
Australia is primarily Christian; however, its indigenous religions, centered around a belief in the ancient “Dreamtime” of creation, are key to its culture.
The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.
The above is an excerpt from the book Know It All
A Reader’s Digest book published in association with Quid Publishing. Copyright © Quid Publishing 2008.

–Fitz

p.s. Check out this book at Amazon!

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