'Puzzle' is Well Made, but a Few Pieces are Missing

Based on the film Rompecabezas, Puzzle is one of those little-known independent films that sneaks into theaters with little to no fanfare, although the fact that it is being promoted “from the producer of Little Miss Sunshine” should help it get noticed somewhat. Puzzle is a quiet, little film about a woman who discovers that jigsaw puzzles are the key to changing her life. While the subject matter doesn’t sound all that exciting, the film really isn’t about puzzles but instead about one finding their voice, or so it appears. It’s also a message film that has its own agenda expecting the audience to agree with the choices of the main character and applaud her “brave” behavior. Frankly, it just feels manipulative.

Directed by Marc Turtletaub, Puzzle’s most impactful scene comes within the first few minutes. We see Agnes (Kelly MacDonald) cleaning up the house and they decorating it for a birthday party. Then we see her serving appetizers while being ignored by the guests. …

Mandisa's 'Overcomer' Album is Another Hit

It is just about impossible to have a bad day when you’re listening to a song by Mandisa. There is something special about her voice and her delivery. The conviction she feels about what she is singing comes through the speakers loud and clear. With Mandisa’s 4th album, “Overcomer” it is no different.

“I’m in a new place and I want to proclaim some things to my listeners and one of them is that they are overcomers,” she says on her website. “Whether or not you feel it, it’s a fact. We are overcomers.” This is something that she knows all too well.

America first met Mandisa during “American Idol’s” fifth season. She didn’t win the coveted prize, but people took notice and the experience helped launch her career. Since that time she has gained new confidence, created a bigger voice and smaller waist. To date, Mandisa has lost over 100 pounds and is looking fabulous. “I came in really knowing exactly what I wanted to say. The difference with this album is just where I am. I’ve never been better. I feel like I’m definitely walking in a new level of freedom. I’m walking with more authority and because all of my albums reflect my life, that is reflected in this album.”

However, the title track has more of a special meaning to the singer. It was inspired by her friend who has been fighting breast cancer during her recent pregnancy. She was also inspired to write the song for Robin Roberts, host of ABC’s “Good Morning America” who has gone through her own battles with cancer.

“Overcomer” is also a personal project for other reasons. Every song on the album is dedicated to someone including Giuliana Rancic, her grandmother, her friend “John” and even her future husband…whoever he might be. “Praying for You,” is a light-hearted, day-dreaming song with lyrics like:
I wonder if you think of me like I think of you Do you long for my touch? I’ll honor you with purity, so you can have all of me Am I saying too much?
The song is sweet, innocent and refreshing.

When listening to “Dear John” one has to wonder who he is and what it is going to take for him to turn his life around since now the whole world knows that Mandisa is praying for him. On the plus side, many others are now praying for him as well. The song itself is a ballad of Jesus’ love for us and that the fact that the ball is in our court. We have to be the ones to make a choice to follow him:
There’s freedom on the other side of Things that keep us tied up and afraid There’s hope in every situation No matter what you’re facing every day But it’s up to you – you get to choose The Father is waiting there with open arms
Track #9, “Joy Unspeakable,” is dedicated to her “big brother, Jesus.” It is sort of a mashup of a praise song and hot dance number with some fun electronic keywork. It would make a great song for a Zumba routine. “At All Times” is dedicated to the Nashville Life Christian Church and sounds like she is sharing the spotlight with some of their choir members, but I don’t know for sure.

Overall, “Overcomer” is a little mellower than Mandisa’s previous efforts which may be a welcomed change or a disappointment depending on how much you like to move while listening to music. At any rate, you’ll no doubt be encouraged. Just see if you don’t end up telling yourself that “You’re an overcomer!”


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