'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. …

New Christmas Music for 2014

Sure, we all love the classics, but every so often another gem of a Christmas album comes around. Could one of these be your next favorite? Many items can be purchased through the Writer of Pop Shop powered by Amazon.

Rend Collective
The Rend Collective has a unique bluegrassy sound that is all their own. In addition to banjos and guitars, this album also features string quartets, bells, accordions, Irish tin whistles and Uilleann pipes. The album features favorites like “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “Joy to the World” and a surprisingly slow version of “We Will You a Merry Christmas.”

The Classic Christmas Pop Album
Featuring 15 Christmas songs from pop and boy bands including “Last Christmas” by Metro Station, “Sleigh Ride” by Karmin (a personal fave), “The Christmas Song” by New Kids on the Block, “Christmas Time” by the Backstreet Boys and even “This Christmas” by Menudo.

Resolution Christmas by Everfound
Resolution Christmas: Everfound
Three brothers from Denver, Colorado make up the fairly new band Everfound. This five-song album features an electronic/rock blend to classics like Carol of the Bells, O Come, O Come Emmanuel and Silent Night and features two original songs, Resolution (which focuses on the new year) and I Want My Christmas Back which speaks about the winter blues.

Jamie Grace and Morgan Harper Nichols
Family Christmas: Songs by Jamie Grace and Morgan Harper Nichols
For her second Christmas album, Jamie Grace has chosen to work with her sister, Morgan Harper Nichols. The album features Grace’s new catchy single “Born Tonight” as well as four other tunes including “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” by Grace, “Go Tell It On The Mountain” and “The Prodigal Christmas” by Nichols and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by them both. (More info)

Gotta Have Gospel
This album features 15 songs by some of the best-known gospel singers including “The First Noel” by Whitney Houston, “Only One” by Mary Mary, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Anthony Brown & group therapy, “O Come O Come Emmanuel” and by Ayana George, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

Idina Menzel Holiday Wishes
Yes, she supplies the voice for Elsa in Frozen, but no, the song, “Let it Go” is not included on this holiday piece. Instead, you’ll hear classics like “Do You Hear What I Hear,” “Silent Night,” “Holly Jolly Christmas” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” a duet with Michael BublĂ©.

Joshua Mills Christmas Miracle
Joshua Mills: Christmas Miracle
Joshua Mills is an ordained minister, speaker and author, Joshua Mills is also a musician based in Canada. His style is full of piano with a contemporary sound. The album includes a version of the playful and yet rarely played “Marshmallow World” song.

Mad Men Christmas
The original holiday soundtrack to the hit AMC show Mad Men features twelve songs by various artists including the show’s theme song “A Beautiful Mine.” Holiday hits include "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" by Darlene Love, "Baby It's Cold Outside" by Dean Martin, "The Christmas Song" by Mel Torme, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by Tony Bennett, and "White Christmas" by Rosemary Clooney.

Unlike his previous albums, this one focuses on traditional Christmas song duets including “Christmas Time is Here” with Vince Gill, “What Child is This” with Martina McBride, “All is Well” with Carrie Underwood and “White Christmas” with Lady Antebellum. Other duets include Little Big Town, Amy Grant, Jennifer Nettles, Bono and Michael McDonald. (Read my review.)

Penatonix What Christmas Means to Me
The acapella group Pentatonix is the “it” music group this season. The group has received huge props for their version of “Mary Did You Know” but they also have fun versions of “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” “Sleigh Ride and a combo of “Winter Wonderland” and “Do Worry, Be Happy” which works surprisingly well. Their version of “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” is pretty incredible too.

Peter Furler Christmas
As former lead singer of The Newsboys, this album will surprise many. Furler goes for a smoother, Frank Sinatra-like sound singing a variety of holiday favorites with the help of David Ian. Songs include “God Rest Ye Merry Getlemen,” “We Three Kings” and “The Little Drummer Boy.” The album also features two spoken word cuts based on the Christmas Story and ancient writings.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Soundtrack
Now you can have a Holly Jolly Christmas whenever you want. This re-issued soundtrack features every song from the annual Christmas special which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Songs include “Holly Jolly Christmas” and “Silver and Gold” by Burl Ives as well as the happy tunes of “We are Santa’s Elves,” “Misfits” and “Jingle, Jingle, Jingle.”

Saving Christmas Soundtrack
Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas features a nice mix of holiday hits by a variety of artists including "O Holy Night" by Kerrie Roberts, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" by Rhett Walker Band, "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" by Matt Maher, "Away in a Manger" by Casting Crowns and "Deck the Halls" by Tenth Avenue North.

Songs of Christmas
Songs of Christmas: Music by New Life Uniting

For Newlife United first album project, they chose a Christmas album. It features ten traditional Christmas Carols and the single “God with Us.” 


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