Movie Thoughts: The Horn Blows At Midnight

The Horn Blows at Midnight 

the-horn-blows-at-midnight-movie-poster-1945-1020197451Jack Benny got a lot of mileage out of this perceived cinematic failure on his radio and television series.  Listen to just about any episode after this movie was released and you’ll likely hear Benny or one of his ensemble quip about its failure (or perceived failure).  It’s referenced enough in the shows to make me curious to want to seek it out and see if it’s really as bad as everyone says it is.    I have vague memories of seeing it on VHS years ago and thinking it wasn’t nearly as terrible as Benny and his cast made it out to be.   But I couldn’t be sure so when it recently came in TCM’s rotation of films, I decided to give The Horn Blows at Midnight a second look.

And while it’s certainly no cinematic masterpiece, I think it’s a movie that isn’t nearly as terrible as it was made out to be on Benny’s programs.  But it’s not exactly a cinematic masterpiece either.  I feel like it’s in a similar vein as It’s A Wonderful Life — a movie that audiences weren’t quite ready to embrace in its initial release.

Like The Wizard of Oz, it’s a frame story with Benny’s character dreaming most of the movie’s main story.  The framing device is that Benny is a trumpet player in a late night orchestra who is lulled to sleep by the announcer’s soothing voice and text about how a certain brand of coffee can lull you off to sleep.  In the framing device, we see all the players who will come into the story during Benny’s dream sequence.    In his dream, Benny is a junior grade angel named Athanael who plays a trumpet in the heavenly orchestra.   His girlfriend pulls a few strings to get Benny the assignment to come to Earth and blow his horn at midnight, signaling the end of the world.   Benny has to meet the deadline or else risk becoming a fallen angel and spending all of eternity somewhere less pleasant. Continue reading

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Booking Through Thursday: A Family Affair

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Do other people in your family also like to read? Or are you in this on your own?

My wife and I are both avid readers — in fact, she reads more than I do, if you can believe it.

We both come from families who are strong readers — our parents enjoy reading and so do our siblings.

Now, if only we could get our nieces and nephew to be as excited about reading as we are. We try to bribe them each summer to read a set number of books and then get a treat by hanging out with their favorite aunt and uncle. So far, it’s worked once but not in subsequent years.

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Big Finish Thoughts: The Fourth Doctor Adventures

Doctor Who: Destroy the Infinite (Big Finish Fourth Doctor Adventures 3.06)Doctor Who: Destroy the Infinite by Nicholas Briggs

While I don’t begrudge Big Finish creating their own little pocket of continuity within the Doctor Who universe, I still find it a bit frustrating when the script assumed you’ve listened to not only every release from one particular range, but also every release from the entire range of stories. Or that you’ve got an encyclopedic knowledge of that range of stories that you can easily call upon in order to understand the current story.

I’m doing well enough to keep my encyclopedia knowledge of televised stories up to date, much less that based on audio and literary adventures.

And so it is that I probably didn’t enjoy Destroy the Infinite as much as others who are more familiar with the range probably did. I came to find out from the extras on the disc that this story is a prequel to a previously released sixth Doctor story, Spaceport Fear. It seems that the alien race known as the Eminence made their first appearance there and that events in this story help set up that one. On the one hand, I’ll give Nicholas Briggs and Big Finish props for using the nature of time travel in a similar way to what the television series has tried to do. But on other hand, when I got to the end of this story, I was expecting it to be touched upon in the next several fourth Doctor stories and it never was.

It all led to my being more frustrated than entertained by this story — and curious to see out Spaceport Fear and see what happens there.

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Review: The F— It List by Julie Halpern

The F- It List

On the night of her father’s funeral, Alex’s best friend Becca slept with her boyfriend. Needless to say this didn’t go over well with Alex and she hasn’t spoken to Becca much since.

Now as a new school year arrives, Alex decides it’s time to get past Becca’s indiscretion and continue their friendship. Looking for her friend on the first day of school, Alex discovers that Becca has cancer and that the time they have to forgive and forget may be less than both of them expected or counted on.

To make up for lost time, Becca gives Alex her bucket list of items and asks that Alex begin to cross them off for her. Some are fairly straightforward and easy to cross off while others like touching the rear of Battlestar Galactica star Jamie Bamber or having sex with someone you love may take a little more effort and work. And instead of being maudlin about the list and calling it a “bucket list,” the two decide to call it The F— It List..

In the world of young adult stories, it feels like stories centering on someone with a terminal disease are a dime a dozen these days. Julie Halpern’s The F*&^ It List brings something different to the table because it tells us the story not of the person diagnosed with the disease, but of her best friend. And while Becca’s diagnosis serves as a catalyst for the story, it’s really the story of Alex’s need to forgive herself and deal with some of her unresolved issues surrounding not only Becca but her departed father.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Growing the TBR Pile

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It’s time again for the Top Ten Tuesday, courtesy of the Broke and the Bookish.   This week’s subject is the top ten authors you’ve only read one book by but want to read more.

Without any further adieu, here we go.

1.  Hugh Howey -- I finally crossed Wool off my TBR pile and I was intrigued by Howey’s world-building and story.   While Wool was self-contained, I see from GoodReads that it’s part of a larger universe and it’s one that I want to visit again.
2 .  James S.A. Corey — Another book crossed off the TBR pile with Leviathan Awakes.  Great space opera and I’m ready to visit the universe and characters again.
3.  Liane Moriarity —  Just finished Big Little Lies and enjoyed it immensely.   I’m curious to read more by Moriarity.
4.  Craig Johnson - I’ve read the first Longmire novel and have the rest on my TBR list.
5.  Miranda KeneallyBreathe, Annie Breathe was great and I’ve got a couple of her other books on reserve.
6.  Michael Robotham
7.  Jo Walton
8. Andy Weir — While I didn’t love The Martian, I’m curious to see what he does next.
9. Megan Abbott
10. Kelly BraffettSave Yourself was one of my favorite books I read last year.  I’ve had her others on my TBR list since that time but haven’t got to them yet.  As I compose this, I ask myself why and realize I have no good answer.

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Review: Alienated by Melissa Landers

Alienated

When she’s chosen to be one of three exchange students with the recently discovered alien race the L’eihrs, Cara Sweeney sees not only a chance to get a full ride to college but also the change to jump start her career as a journalist. But that Cara didn’t expect was rampant xenophobia from her friends and planet or that her exchange student Alix might have a different agenda than promoting peace and understanding between the two cultures.

Oh, and she also didn’t expect that she’d start to fall for the alien living under her roof.

Melissa Landers’ Alienated starts off with a very interesting premise and story line, tackling some interesting threads and showing us the unintended price that Cara is paying for making the choice — she loses her boyfriend and her best friend in the rampant xenophobia overtaking her community. But somewhere around the third or fourth disc of this audiobook, things began to quickly go awry and I found myself enjoying the story less and less. It’s probably about the time that both Alix and Cara begin to fall for each other. It’s not because Landers doesn’t spend a time in the first half of the book setting these two unlikely heroes up as a couple. It’s because once the Cara starts trying to making food palatable to Alix’s alien palate that things the story begins to lose track of the interesting questions that drove the first half of the novel and slowly begins to center on just attracted these two are to each other.
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Review: Doctor Who: The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller by Joanne Harris

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller

Following his final confrontation with the Queen in “Planet of the Spiders,” the third Doctor is slowly dying of radiation poisoning. Determined to get back to his friends at UNIT to say farewell, the TARDIS brings him on a side detour to what appears to be an English village. But beneath the happy surface, there is something sinister going on — including that no one is allowed to utter the “D-word” or else face the consequences.

Joanne Harris’ The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller captures the essence and character of the third Doctor in this fascinating, light novella set at the end of Jon Pertwee’s tenure. Reading the story, I could hear Pertwee delivering the dialogue that Harris creates for his Doctor and this one feels like a nice little side-step into a familiar era of the show.

It’s interesting that I picked this up right after listening to the Big Finish version of “Love and War.” That story also references the end of the third Doctor era and his dying of radiation poisoning. This story slips nicely into Paul Cornell’s take on the end of that era with the Doctor spending a decade in the TARDIS alone, dying of radiation poisoning.

I’ve read several of the digital shorts in the Time Trips series and this is one of the more enjoyable.    The story has a good mystery and it doesn’t overstay its welcome or suffer from excessive padding.   If you’re a fan of the third Doctor, this is definitely one to pick up.

I received a digital ARC of this story from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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