Phantom Tollbooth picks 2014 Pointing you to the most interesting music and movie releases from the first half of 2014.

Larry Stephan lists some albums that are worth checking out and Marie Asner does the same for movies.

Phantom Tollbooth Mid-Year Music Selections

Of the many releases to pick from, I am limiting my selections to records that tended to have faith influenced themes. I also weighed in with some selections that could be easy to miss. The list is in alphabetical order by title.

Page CXVI Church Calendar Project - Already known for repurposing hymns, this project consisting of three EPs is their most complete and focused work to date. Combining original songs and reworked hymns, some with new tunes, you will go back to this project frequently and particularly at Christmas, Lent, and Easter. (EPs: Advent to Christmas, Lent to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday to Easter)

Melanie Penn Hope Tonight - Melanie Penn continues to make music that is simply enchanting. Her unique song writing and arranging on this sophomore release will captivate you.

Brian Moss Prayerbook Number 2 - A follow up to the wonderful Prayerbook No. 1 released in 2005 (although Brian has released two other records in the mean time), these are beautifully written and performed recordings of Psalms 16-30. It is as if David asked Brian Moss to update the music for these Psalms.

The Choir Shadow Weaver - Steve Hindalong's poet's heart shines on this release and Derri Daughtery's vocals assure a perfect delivery of the message. Inventive percussion combined with wonderful guitar mastery and production create an album of such depth that you will continuously uncover treasure in this record. This is compelling music.

Chris Taylor Traveler's Hotel - Our lives can be messy and riddled with struggles. The songs on Traveler's Hotel are about wrestling with these human frailties and being able to accept God's love, grace, and forgiveness. Honest, artful, and moving music.

Honorable mention (John Mark McMillan - Borderland; Giants and Pilgrims - Almanac, No.1; Jeremy Casella - Death in Reverse)

Larry Stephan


Belle 60x90

Phantom Tollbooth Mid-Year Movie Selections  

Already half-way through 2014 and time to choose five films of worth from this year’s collection. All-in-all, this has not been a banner year so far, which is not unusual considering the studios keep the best until the end of the year and movie-goers have to decide between holiday shopping and movie tickets. As I am writing this, movie-goers have to decide between seeking shelter from storms or going to movies. The term "Tornado Alley" no longer applies to the Midwest, but the entire country.

My five choices for good films so far are listed in alphabetical order, with the "also rans" at the end.

Belle is based on a true story of life in Great Britain two hundred years when slavery was a business. Told through the life of a girl of color, raised in privilege, and how she goes against the system.

Chef is a food film. The story of a man who starts his own mobile food stand with delicious Cuban sandwiches. The family works together on this project. Be ready to be hungry after seeing it.

Godzilla is entertainment, period. The story of what nuclear testing does to an eco-system millions of years old, is told through San Francisco being stomped. Wisely, the big guy isn't shown until halfway through the movie. I think he could stand up to a tornado.

Grand Budapest Hotel is an off-the-wall story of life in a posh hotel and the people who work there and/or the residents who stay there. The unexpected is always just around the corner here and the word "sweets" takes on new meaning from a special bakery.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 is a sequel better than its original film. Animation is a delight and so are the numerous dragons who inhabit this land of Viking-type people who used to hunt dragons and now have them as pets. The aerial dynamics are superb as is the storyline.


Draft Day with Kevin Costner as the manager of a football team and you will see what happens during Draft Day when seconds, and I mean in time, really do count.

Rio 2 is another animated sequel continuing the story of rare birds who go into the jungle to find family. Good music, too.

Jersey Boys is based on the stage musical and showcases Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and their 30-year career. Your feet may still be dancing a week later. Terrific soundtrack. Directed by Clint Eastwood.

The Lego Movie and who would have thought Lego’s would have their own movie, much less an interesting story. "Never say never."


Marie Asner

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