Review: “Rio 2″ is fun for the family

April 18th, 2014 at 7:42 am by under Entertainment
"Rio 2" poster courtesy Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

“Rio 2″ poster courtesy Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

“Rio 2” (2014)
Rated: G
Runtime: 1 hour, 41 minutes
Genre: Animation/Adventure/Comedy/Family

My spoiler-free review:

Right on par with the first “Rio”, we get more of the birds and other animals and less of the people… and interesting storyline with enough to keep both kids and adults entertained.  It is a little long for its target audience, but its cute and fun for the whole family… I give it 7.0 out of 10… a movie about families for families.

Now that they’re a family with an extended family of other birds and animal friends plus their human protectors, Blu and Jewel are living comfortably in the sanctuary as the only known blue spix macaws remaining.  The endangered status makes them naturally protective of their kids, but Jewel (Anne Hathaway) seems more concerned than Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) that the kids are growing up too much like humans with modern conveniences and plush accommodations… she wants to get outside in the jungle and get away from technology.  Their three little fledglings (Carla, Bia, Tiago) all have unique personalities reflective of their parents, with the oldest of the three acting like a teenager.  Everything seems to be okay until they learn they may not actually be the only survivors of their species… and they once again run into the vengeful cockatoo Nigel (Jemaine Clement) and his new associates including Gabi the tree frog (Kristin Chenoweth).

What follows is a story that could be simplified as just a heartwarming family adventure with a message about the dangers of deforestation in the Amazon.

But its more than that, there’s lots of colorful images and memorable characters and many fun songs for the kids plus some laughs and a storyline interesting enough for adults.

The movie is well crafted it looks great and its well conceived with solid writing, the voice cast is great, its a little darker in tone than the first, but its understandably predictable and the musical numbers are fairly forgettable after a few hours.

MORE INFO (possible spoilers): Read the rest of this entry »


Record Ice on the Great Lakes

April 18th, 2014 at 1:06 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

Lake Michigan Holland Ice Pier 4 12 14 Gary Brinks   Great Lakes Ice 4 16 14  Click on the images to enlarge.  The first picture was taken last weekend by Gary Brink at Holland, Michigan (you may remember the picture of the “tsunami cloud” that Gary took 2 years ago).  This is a very interesting pictures and something we’ve never seen before.   The sun is setting well north of due west as we are well past the Spring Equinox.  There has never been anywhere near this much ice on the Holland beach in mid-April.    The graph on the right shows the percent of the Great Lakes still covered with ice.  It’s more than double the highest percent recorded in mid-April during the satellite era.  The mid-week analysis by NOAA/Coastwatch showed a Great Lakes ice cover of 37.1%.   The 4/18 ice percentage shows 20.1% ice cover on Lake MichiganLake Superior still shows a 67.9% ice cover, Lake Huron is at 33.6%, Lake Erie (the southernmost Great Lake) is at 16.0% ice cover and Lake Ontario is has a 2.5% ice cover.

The latest Great Lakes water levels from the Army Corps of Engineers shows the following increases in Great Lakes water levels over the past month:  Lake Superior 2″, Lake Michigan 7″, Lake Huron 7″, Lake Erie 11″ and Lake Ontario 14″.   The year-to-year change in water levels of the Great Lakes:  Superior +13″, Lake Michigan +13″, Lake Huron +13″, Lake Erie +9″, Lake Ontario +5″.

The mid-week snowstorm brought heavy snow to much of Upper Michigan, with totals of 19″ at Laurium and Allouez, 18″ at S. Range, 17″ at Ontonagon and 15″ at Caspian and Mohawk.  Snow depths Thursday in the U.P.:  46″ Herman and Hoist Basin, 40″ Grand Marais and Mohawk, 31″ at Houghton, 28″ at Marquette (airport) and 12″ at S. Ste. Marie.  Ashland, Wisconsin reported 15″ of new snow and Rock Creek, Minnesota had 17″.

On Wednesday & Thursday in Vostok, Antarctica, the high was minus-97 F (minus-72 C).  Coldest Twins game ever.  No severe weather reports in the U.S. Wednesday or Thursday.  There have been more tornadoes in California this year (so far) than Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas COMBINED!


Day 2 in Oak Ridge

April 18th, 2014 at 12:12 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

rowing oakridge   Once again…everyone else turned in for the night…I’m back at the Krystal, online and drinking a diet something.  They pump music (fairly loud) into the Krystal…satellite probably…no commercials..both nights now within a matter of minutes, I hear “Wrecking Ball”.  Just one other guy here eating a burger.  There was another guy eating a burger here that left about 10 minutes ago.  Out of all the tables here at the Krystal…this new guy sat at the same table that the other guy sat at.  I’ve seen a couple cars pull up to the drive through.  The young people who work here are incredibly nice.   Click on the picture to enlarge.  Lake Melton is on the east side of Oak Ridge.  It’s one of the top places in the U.S. for rowing.  Lake Melton is the dammed up Clinch River and there is a stretch here that is perfect for rowing.  It runs north and south in a straight line for over a mile.  It’s got hills surrounding it blocking the wind, so the water is often calm.  There are races throughout the spring and this Easter Weekend is no exception.  The shore is lined with tents and school signs…Texas A. & M, Miami, Dartmouth…dozens of them.  I’ve seen Grand Valley here.  We spent some time watching the scene today…also went to the local supermarket (the Food Lion – they were GIVING free flowers to people today – the ones that were outdated and they gave my mother 6 beautiful red roses – I thought they were in perfect bloom).  They have apple juice from West Michigan.   My mother cooked noodles and meatballs this evening – I made a nice salad, my wife made the dressing.  We had a small piece of cheesecake for dessert.  We walked about a mile today (my mother likes to walk).  This evening we drove up a hill to view the city.  I have not watched any TV down here.  It was a beautiful day…sunny, a few cirrus clouds – the flowers and in bloom and the leaves are about 3/4 out on many of the trees here.  The dandelions are for the most part done blooming here and there are stems poking up.  My mother has weeded them out of her front lawn.  It was calm much of the day, but in the distance, I could see wind turbines moving on the hill about 10 miles north of the city.  It was in the mid 60s here this afternoon with dew points in the mid-upper 20s, very dry air.  The waning (you can see less of it each night) gibbous (about 3/4-full) moon is shining brightly tonight.  Tomorrow (Fri.) we may have a picnic at one of the local or state parks.

The overnight European model gives G.R. 0.12″ rain next Monday and 0.10″ next Thurs.  Looks like a decent Easter Weekend.


MODIS Satellite Pictures

April 17th, 2014 at 12:13 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

modis lake michigan  modis lake superior modis lake huron   modis lake ontariomodis lake erie These are the MODIS satellite pictures from Weds. (Lake Superior is from Tuesday – clouds and a snowstorm there on Weds).  Pics. from NOAA Coastwatch.  First, there is STILL some ice west of Ottawa and Allegan Counties!  Note on the Lake Ontario picture the snow on the Tug Plateau east of the lake.  There’s still a fair amount of ice on Lake Superior and some ice left on Erie and Huron.  This is the most ice on the Great Lakes this early in winter.  The NOAA Coastwatch Analysis on 4/15 showed a Great Lakes ice cover of 39%.   Lake Michigan is still at 21%.   Several new threads from Weds. evening below, read on if you have the time…      Also, the eclipse viewed from Canada.   From the Storm Prediction Center – Severe Weather Next Week:  “THE HIGHEST SEVERE POTENTIAL APPEARS TO BE CENTERED AROUND D8/WED OVER THE GREAT PLAINS.”


From Tennessee

April 16th, 2014 at 11:07 pm by under Bill's Blog, Weather

dogwood blossom   redbud blossom  11 pm Weds.   I’m sitting in the Krystal in Oak Ridge, TN where they have an internet connection – (my mother does not) – ordered the 5 for 5$. My mother and wife went to sleep early, so here I sit. We left Grand Rapids and 22° this morning.  Bought gas in Indiana at $3.52…it was breezy and cold while I was pumpin’ the gas…in the 30s.  It was 47 by the time we hit Cincinnati and a 25-minute traffic jam for a relatively minor fender bender.  The lanes are pretty close together and when you’ve got semis on either side of you, you have to pay attention.  Mid 50s when we got to Oak Ridge.  We saw snow on the north side of hills all the way to Fort Wayne…first blossoms I saw were on the south side of Dayton.  I think it’s the ornamental Bradford Pears that are blooming in urban areas of N. Kentucky down to Lexington – very nice.  First hyacinth I saw was in Van Wert, Ohio.  We have these beautiful dogwoods and redbuds out in E. Tennessee, along with lots of flowers.  It’ll be 60s here tomorrow, maybe 70 on Friday and in the 70s for the weekend.  My 94-year old (95 in July) mother insisted on doing Easter dinner – traditional ham.  We’ll plead to help and she’ll eventually relent, but she loves having the family over.  My sister and her husband insisted on playing golf at least once.  They play 12-months of the year…40 deg. in January and they’ll go out once a week.  I played once last year and twice the year before that.  It wasn’t a pretty sight.  Gas is $3.45 in Oak Ridge…lots of stations here, very competitive.

Model data:  The evening run of the NAM (Caribou) as the following low/high temps. starting Thurs. AM:  29/62/39/53/28/62.

Posts may be a little more rare since I’m down here and want to concentrate on mom…what she needs done and what she wants to do.  I won’t be spending as much time watching weather (except for the spring weather and sunshine down here).  My best to all our blog readers and commentors.


No Heavy Rain – Floodwaters Will Recede

April 16th, 2014 at 9:58 pm by under Bill's Blog, Weather

muskegon river evart    muskegon river flood Click on the pictures to enlarge.  More pictures here.   This is the Muskegon River – the first picture is near Evart and the second is in Newaygo Co.  Here’s current Michigan streamflow.  As I write this, it looks like the Muskegon River at Evart has dropped about 2″ off their record – the volume of water is about four times average volume – a lot of water.   The river is also falling at Croton (down about 6″.  This was a significant flood in Croton and downstream, but not nearly as great as the flood of 1986.  The Pere Marquette River at Scottville peaked early Wednesday at nearly 5,000 cubic feet per second.  The Grand River had a second peak crest at Ionia Weds. and should continue a slow fall.  The level in downtown Grand Rapids is at 9.8 feet – high, but not a problem.   Check this map for a quick look at the latest level – black dots indicate high levels.


Gas Price Update

April 16th, 2014 at 8:24 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

gas prices

Here’s the latest from Ed:  “Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 9:00PM:  Despite the fact that ethanol prices are back under control, Monday’s price hike had the same flavor as other recent hikes.  That means that the price to retailers still has an ethanol premium included, or those red colored stations are pricing gas pretending that ethanol is still a problem and hoping we just live with it.  A clue that it may be the latter was the curious behavior in prices along Lake Michigan Drive the past two days.  While prices in Grand Rapids were popping to $3.89 everywhere, the Family Fare at Collindale held in the low $3.60′s, and Speedway was forced to follow.  Tuesday morning, they still had those prices, as did the Marathon down the road in Standale.  GoLo there was at $3.79, though, and at 3PM today as I drove by, Speedway and Marathon decided to try $3.85.  They’ll be back to at $3.79 or lower tomorrow, and we see this sort of behavior when there is a lot of room for prices to move, as I think there is right now.  I am calculating a price to retailers of about $3.54 right now.  The easy prediction recently has been “expect another hike”, although my math models don’t quite say that.  In these times, we sit back and watch.” — Ed A.

Bill adds:  Gas is $3.45 where I am in Oak Ridge, TN.


Another Snowstorm for Michigan!

April 16th, 2014 at 4:48 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

Advisory   New Snow:  15.1″ North Branch MN, 13.5″ Grantsburg MN, 10″ Sawyer WI, 6″ Ironwood and Wakefield MI.  Check out Elk River MN…and near Colorado Springs…and Duluth MN.  Here’s the WRF model showing the same thing.  Grand Marais still has 40″ of snow on the ground.  Houghton had a high temperature of just 23° on Tuesday.  Lake Superior is still over 60% ice covered!  On Tuesday, the Great Lakes still had a 39% ice cover!  Lake Michigan had a 21% ice cover yesterday – the highest ever this late in the season.   Check out Tiger Stadium Tues. AMFreeze Warnings this Weds. AM go almost all the way to the Gulf of Mexico!  Rochester NY was 48° colder than they were 24 hours ago!

Low temperatures Weds. morning:  22° GRR, MKG, Kalamazoo…21 Coldwater, Battle Creek, 20° Big Rapids.  Marquette dipped to  -5°  this morning – the latest they have ever had a below zero reading!  They broke their daily record by 12°  The coldest spot in the U.P. was Spincich Lake with a low of -9°.  That’s outrageously cold for 4/16 in Michigan!  It was the coldest April 15th ever over much of Lower Michigan, with record low maximum temperatures of 35° in G.R., 33° in Muskegon and 34° in Flint.  It was a record low maximum of 40° in Indianapolis and Dayton, where they also a daily record for snowfall at 1.1″.      Boston had a high temperature of 68° Tuesday – 12 hours later it’s sleeting there.  Washington D.C. had a high of 72°, then in the late evening, this is what happenedNew York was getting accumlating snow overnight, so is Baltimore.  Thunderstorms brought wind damage to central Florida Tues. PMLandslide destroys six buildings in Quebec.   A good example of correlation without causation.

Weds. AM – Consumers Energy is down to 412 customers without power statewide with the most in Ogemaw (187) and Newaygo (120).  Some customers may have had the electricity shut off because of floodwaters.  From a statewide peak of 150,000 customers without power and the strong wind that knocked out another 16,000 Monday AM – that’s quite a quick recovery.  Additional crews were brought in from IN and OH.

Here’s the latest Flood Warnings.  The Muskegon River at Evart set an all-time record.  The level of 16 feet and a flow of 10,400 cubic feet per second is 4 1/2 times the average flow for mid-April.    Significant flooding is occurring on the Muskegon, White, Chippewa and Pere Marquette Rivers.  Here’s where you can look up streamflow on Michigan Rivers.  The Rogue River at Rockford has crested.  It did get above flood stage.  The White River at Whitehall crested about 9″ above flood stage.  The Grand River crest is close to Ionia.


Another Eclipse in October

April 16th, 2014 at 4:08 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

lunar eclipse nbc   For those of you who missed it (which is most of you – it was cloudy over much of Lower Michigan, and it was from 3-4 am) here’s the lunar eclipse (from NBC).  Here’s a pic. from www.spaceweather.com.  The moon passes through the Earth’s shadow, turning a faint reddish color.  The moon doesn’t totally disappear as some light (the red light has the longest wavelength) does manage to reach the moon during the eclipse).  We have another lunar eclipse coming on Oct. 8.   We also have two nice eclipses coming next near on 4/4 and 9/28.    In the meantime, where is still the very nearly full “Pink Moon” of April to see.  Here’s this week’s Sky at a Glance.   Saturn will be close to the moon tonight (Weds. night).  They will rise and set together.  Mars is relatively bright right now and as near to the Earth as it gets over a six-year period.   Look for Mars in the SE sky during the evening.  It’s due south shortly after midnight.  Venus shines brightly in the early morning.  Jupiter is high in the SW sky during the early evening and sets to the west around 2 am.  Here’s when you can see the Intl. Space Station.


New movies on video 4-14-14

April 15th, 2014 at 7:05 am by under Entertainment

New movies on Blu-ray, DVD, VOD, etc. 4-14-14:

“Ride Along” (PG-13)
(Kevin Hart, Ice Cube)
“The Nut Job” (PG)
(Will Arnett, Liam Neeson)
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (PG)
(Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig)
“Philomena” (PG-13)
(Judi Dench, Steve Coogan)
“Black Nativity” (PG)
(Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett)
“Better Living Through Chemistry” (R)
(Sam Rockwell, Olivia Wilde )
“Copperhead” (PG-13)
(Billy Campbell, Peter Fonda)
“Great Expectations” (PG-13)
(Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes)
“The Invisible Woman” (R)
(Felicity Jones, Ralph Fiennes)
“Date and Switch” (R)
(Dakota Johnson, Sarah Hyland)
“Mobius” (R)
(Jean Dujardin, Tim Roth )
“Mallrats” (R) – first time on Blu-Ray

Last Week 4-7-14: Read the rest of this entry »