Quick Read: Mozart: A Life

Mozart: A Life by Paul Johnson is a short and simple biography of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It is only five chapters long! However, don’t let that fool you into thinking that it doesn’t provide a decent account of his life and music. It describes Mozart in a way that is easy to understand by all. The author also gives the reader new insights into information about his life, and a good understanding both of what his music is about and just how prolific a writer he was. I would have preferred it if this book had been longer and more detailed, but it works well with its simple approach.

Did you know that Mozart wrote over 600 pieces of music in his lifetime? This is especially impressive since he only lived for 35 years.

Did you know that Mozart had a brief a relationship with his wife’s sister?

Did you know that Mozart was literally kicked in the rear by one of his employers when he was fired?

Genre: Biography

Setting: Different parts of Europe from 1756-1791

Is this good for a book club? Yes, if the book club is interested in biographies, music, or just a quick read.

Objectionable content? Yes, but it is not detailed. Religion, sex, violence, incest, and death are referenced, but nothing is explicitly described.

Can children read this? Yes, if they have interest in Mozart and a good vocabulary regarding history and music. Teenagers would be the most likely to be interested.

Who would like this? Anyone who is interested in Mozart and his music. It is also good for people who like quick and interesting reads.

Number of pages: 164

Rating: Four stars

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The Road to El Dorado

The Road to El Dorado is a wonderful movie for the entire family. It is about two Spanish con men, named Tulio and Miguel, who, after gambling for a map, getting captured and escaping from Cortés himself, and taking his horse Altivo along, find themselves somewhere in South America. They follow the map to find the legendary city of gold. Upon arriving, they meet a wonderful cast of characters, they are worshiped as gods, Tulio forms a relationship with a woman named Chel, and they get caught up in the sinister plans of a man named Tzekel-Kan. All the while, Cortés is drawing closer…

This movie is one of my personal childhood favorites. It is a musical comedy that is perfect for children and adults. The plot is well-paced. At no point does one feel as if things have slowed down too much, which is especially good for children. The songs are memorable, the jokes are consistently funny, and the portrayal of Indigenous people is done very well.

Did you know that the people of El Dorado are meant to represent many different cultures of South America? Each aspect of the society (i.e. the buildings) is taken from a different civilization of South America.

Setting: Spain and the continent of South America in 1519.

What is this movie rated? PG

What is the run time? One hour and twenty-nine minutes.

Is there any objectionable content? There is cartoon violence in this movie, allusions to violence that is unseen, two on-screen deaths (one is a human and the other is a seagull), and two short scenes that show blood. Chel is a bit scantily clad, and there is a suggestive scene between her and Tulio. Tzekel-Kan has some scary scenes when he uses dark magic and when he is trying to sacrifice someone. This character also presents dark views of religion. Also, there are several adult jokes that are aimed at parents. However, as mentioned above, the portrayal of the people of El Dorado is not done disrespectfully.

Is this movie appropriate for children of all ages? Younger children may be scared or upset at a few scenes, but they should be fine otherwise. They will probably miss the adult jokes.

What themes are found in the movie? Themes of friendship, romance, good vs. evil, making mistakes, and adventure are found throughout this movie.

Who would like this? This movie is good for most families who like music, adventure, and comedic family fun.

Rating? Five stars.

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Amadeus: Revisiting a Classic

“Are we going to appall you with something confidential and disgusting? Let’s hope so.”

So begins the trailer for the movie Amadeus, which you can watch here.

Amadeus tells the story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s professional life from the point of view of his rival, composer Antonio Salieri. Salieri narrates a tale that takes you through the different beginnings each man had, and how they wound up at the same palace in competing positions. This film also addresses the question of whether or not Salieri murdered Mozart.

This film is absolutely wonderful. The acting is superb, the settings are elaborate, the costumes are beautiful, and the music is, of course, top-notch. The only drawback to this film is the lack of historical accuracy. However, while this may not be anyone’s biography, it is still one of the best movies I have ever seen.

Did you know that F. Murray Abraham (Salieri) and Tom Hulce (Mozart) took lessons while filming so they could learn how to conduct and play the piano?

Also, the director chose relatively unknown actors (at the time) to play the roles because he wanted viewers to be able to think of the characters as actual people, not famous actors pretending to be characters.

Setting: The second-half of 18th-century Vienna.

Was this movie based on something?  It was based on a play, also called Amadeus. The plots of both are very similar.

What is this movie rated? R for brief nudity.

Is there any objectionable content? Yes, including, but not limited to, sexual content, crude jokes, on-screen deaths, and some violence. There are also scenes involving Salieri questioning and rejecting his religion.

Can children watch this? Not recommended for anyone younger than a teenager.

What themes are found in the movie? Religious devotion, music, rivalries, and the line between madness and genius.

Who would like this? Anyone who enjoys watching historical fiction, or who enjoys Mozart’s music. It is also great for people who love movies that have a lot of depth to them.

Rating: Five stars.

This movie is available as both a DVD and Blu-ray.  And don’t forget to check out the soundtrack!

If you’d like to know more about Mozart, click here. We have many books about the legendary composer and, of course, many CDs featuring his music.

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

chocolatIn Chocolat, Vianne is trying to break  away from her mother’s nomadic way of life. Determined to make a new life for herself and her daughter Anouk, Vianne settles down in a French village and opens a chocolate shop. However, the villagers and priest are less than thrilled with her presence since she has very different ideas on life. She does not attend the local church, she was never married to Anouk’s father, and she seems set on bringing about changes that will affect everyone’s lives.

This book was well-written and very enjoyable. It mostly takes place from  Vianne’s point of view as she becomes a driving force in the changes that come to the town. The writing style keeps you involved from the beginning, and the characters are fully developed. As you progress through the book, you delve into the pasts of the characters, learning how they came to the positions they currently occupy. You learn why Vianne wants to settle down, why Jacqueline is trapped in her marriage, and why the priest is against everything Vianne stands for. In addition, the protagonist is an intelligent woman who is very independent and strong-willed, which is part of what makes this book so interesting. Note: You will crave chocolate while reading this.

Genre: Fiction, but it is not truly a romance, despite the cover.

Setting: Twentieth-century French village called Lansquenet.

Is this good for a book club? Yes. It is a good length and allows for plenty of discussion, including character analysis, recurring themes, and what could potentially happen to everyone after the book ends.

Is there a movie version? Yes, but it is different enough from the book that it would provide a good comparison. Personally, I did not enjoy the movie because I felt that it took the characters and overall tone in directions that the author did not intend. However, you should watch it to see what you think. Click here for the movie version.

Themes: Including, but not limited to, letting go and moving on with life, overcoming feelings of powerlessness, retaining one’s morality, religion, and friction between people of different classes and walks of life.

Objectionable content? Very little, and nothing explicit. Some people may not like that the antagonist is a Catholic priest. However, despite being the antagonist, he is not a villainous character.

Can children read this? Teens would enjoy this.

 Who would like this? Anyone who enjoys reading fiction that involves good character development and a non-traditional protagonist.

Rating: Five stars. I highly recommend Chocolat.

The Doctor Is In

Everyone has heard of Doctor Strange, which is currently in theaters. However, let’s not forget about the other famous doctors that are out there.

doctorwhoninthseriesDoctor Who: The Complete Ninth Series
One of the most famous doctors of all time is the Doctor of Doctor Who. This is the ninth series with Peter Capaldi as the doctor, but our library has many of the other doctors as well, including Chris Eccleston, David Tennant, and Matt Smith. Watch them all!

 

doctorzhivagoDoctor Zhivago
This classic film is based on a book of the same name. This story is about a romance occurring during the time before World War I all the way through to the Russian Civil War.

 

 

Doctor Dolittle
This is the original story of the doctor who can speak with animals. He uses his abilities to communicate with them in order to heal them. This is a good story for the whole family.

 

 

doctorhorribleDoctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
This is the popular musical story of a villain named Doctor Horrible who is trying to join the Evil League of Evil so he can become a super-villain. He is also trying to speak to his crush, Penny, but the superhero Captain Hammer keeps thwarting him at every turn.

 

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
This movie is a comedy about the tensions of the Cold War. One man tries to start a war with the Soviet Union while the President and several politicians and generals, including Dr. Strangelove, try to prevent this from happening.

 

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
This is the classic story of a man known as Dr. Jekyll who creates a formula that turns him into an evil man known as Mr. Hyde. As time goes on, the formula he used to switch back begins to weaken.

 

motleycruegreatesthitsMotley Crue: Greate$t Hit$
This CD from the heavy metal band Motley Crue contains a very popular song called Dr. Feelgood. This music is perfect for when you want to jam out with your friends.

 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
This is the classic story of Dr. Frankenstein. This is the man who was determined to create life but ended up creating a monster in the process.

 

 

backtothefutureBack to the Future
Don’t forget about Doc Brown! He’s the one who invented the time-traveling DeLorean that sends Marty back in time to the 1950s when his parents were in high school. Marty, along with a younger Doc Brown, have to make sure that his parents become a couple so that Marty and his siblings don’t get erased from existence!

 

The Complete Sherlock Holmes
Dr. Watson is another classic doctor. He is the companion to the great detective known as Sherlock Holmes. Check out this book to read about the adventures that these men have had.

 

 

The Rocky Horror Picture Show
To round out this list is the cult classic with Dr. Frank N. Furter. The plot is tricky to describe, but it involves transexual transvestite aliens who create a man. And throw dinner parties. And sing and dance. And other things. Watch this to complete your education.