MOVIE: La La Land (2016)

La La Land Year: 2016 Rating: PG-13 Length: 128 minutes / 2.13 hours In a world where people worship everything and value nothing, I have found that I value the many messages present within La La Land (2016). While simultaneously shining a harsh light on the hypocrisy of Hollywood and showing how our dreams and passions move us to make tough life decisions, I found myself deeply moved by the narrative presented within this film, not only as a lover of movies but as a creative artist myself. This film is for the dreamers. It's for the people who never give up in pursuing what they want out of life. It's for those who have a talent screaming to be noticed by others. Aside from literally being the best musical I've seen in nearly more than a decade (Chicago (2002) is the only recent one that comes to mind), what I found most impressive about this film is that it is only the second directed by Damien...
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BOOK: The Infinity of You & Me (2016)

The Infinity of You & Me Year: 2016 Author: J.Q. Coyle Length: 246 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** Unlike Practical Applications for Multiverse Theory, The Infinity of You & Me really nails the complex and unique challenges of dealing with multiple universes. Far more serious than its comedic counterpart, Infinity takes the reader on a journey through the multiple lives of a teenage girl. The descriptive writing used for this task was quite adept at conveying the transition between worlds, as well as the numerous dystopian scenarios present within them. Clearly, the Sylvia Plath poems the main character holds dear also influenced the author's writing style. As I've said before, I'm not a fan of the young adult genre, especially when it devolves to cliches. This book managed to reside in that young adult genre, but successfully told a story that didn't make me roll my eyes in annoyance. Sure, the elements were there, but they were handled much more subtly, almost in the...
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BOOK: The Brass Verdict (2008)

The Brass Verdict Year: 2008 Author: Michael Connelly Length: 681 minutes / 11.35 hours Another book, another trial for the Lincoln Lawyer. While I appreciated the stand-alone nature of this book, I also liked that knowledge of the events in the first book of this sub-series helped to provide context for the challenges Mickey Haller now faces. The main case of this novel was pretty predictable, especially if you read into the insinuation of the title. I would have liked a little more attention on the side-case surrounding the death of Haller’s lawyer colleague. It seemed to be more of a Harry Bosch story, though, so I can understand why the focus was on Haller’s case. Once again, Michael Connelly creates an easily readable series of events that unfold in the courtroom. Some twists at the end were exciting developments but were definitely easily guessed if the reader was paying attention. There’s almost a guilty pleasure in following Haller along as he embeds that reasonable doubt...
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MOVIE: The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967)

The Young Girls of Rochefort Year: 1967 Rating: G Length: 125 minutes / 2.08 hours I've seen quite a few musicals over the years, but practically all of them have been in English. That was until I saw The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967) (AKA Les Demoiselles de Rochefort in its native French). It's interesting to watch something with subtitles and hear how the songs rhyme in their native tongue. Partly because of this, I have quickly come to the realization that this film is an instant favorite of mine. I mean, who could blame me with the catchy tunes and upbeat jazz stylings of this musical? Of course, in a musical like this, the colorful and fun festival atmosphere was merely accentuated by the continuous singing and dancing. It's almost ridiculous how much dancing there is in this film. Even the background characters are dancing when there's simple dialogue being spoken in the foreground. Perhaps the style of the late 1960's is partly to blame for the...
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BOOK: Esper Files 2 – Sky Cult (2017)

Esper Files 2: Sky Cult Year: 2017 Author: Egan Brass Length: 187 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM THE PUBLISHER*** It has been said before that there are no original thoughts. The way to appear original is dependent upon how well you can hide your sources. One of my qualms with the Esper Files series from the beginning has been that it feels very derivative. Right from the get-go, I felt the series was essentially just an X-Men clone set in the steampunk genre. While this was an interesting concept, too much of it was pulled from the popular franchise, making it a bit distracting. In the sequel, Esper Files 2: Sky Cult, a few more references were worked in to help make the characters and story feel a bit more original. I picked up tones of anime like Fairy Tail and One Piece in this story, but I also picked up another blatantly obvious reference: Deadpool. Sure, I get it, he’s a fun character to...
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BOOK: The Lincoln Lawyer (2005)

The Lincoln Lawyer Year: 2005 Author: Michael Connelly Length: 696 minutes / 11.6 hours While I saw the movie before listening to the audiobook, I must say that I still really enjoy the main character. He's one of those guys you love to hate, but he's trying so hard to do the right thing, even if it means defending a scumbag who deserves a lot worse. Of course, since I had seen the movie already, I had an idea how it was going to end, but couldn’t remember the specifics. Perhaps that’s a measure of a great crime drama: all the misdirection makes it difficult to know “whodunit”, allowing future rereads to be enjoyable. But, back to the main character, Mickey Haller, I think one of the reasons this book was a breeze to listen to was because the main character’s POV is so well written. You can tell that he has some baggage from his father, which is partly why he defends everyone, regardless...
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MOVIE: Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Hacksaw Ridge Year: 2016 Rating: R Length: 139 minutes / 2.32 hours For many years, Mel Gibson has been at the center of controversies and other unwelcome attention-grabbing incidents. While this normally kills any actor's chances of reviving their careers, Gibson has instead managed to remain somewhat unscathed by retreating into his other skill: directing. As we've seen from some of his other directorial efforts, he is skilled behind the lens, even if many themes remain the same. From Braveheart (1995) to The Passion of the Christ (2004), Gibson has a tendency to be pretty brutal in the imagery he brings to the screen. Granted, this is partly due to the semi-factual source material. In his latest work after a long hiatus, Gibson brings us the brutality that is World War II. Hacksaw Ridge takes some time to get to its emotional center, but the unfortunate side effect of this is a series of characters that feel almost comical in their exaggerations. From Andrew Garfield's goofily...
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MUSIC: CSPhil – Divas of the 60’s

Colorado Springs Philharmonic Conductor: Thomas Wilson Date: February 11, 2017 If there was one thing I learned about this performance by the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, it's that I really didn't start paying attention to music until the 1970's. Perhaps it was due to not understanding or appreciating the Motown style, but there were quite a few songs during the concert that I just straight didn't recognize. Even some famous songs just passed right by my recognition. This is all likely my own fault, but the experience was still nice, nonetheless. Of the pieces I did recognize, it was fun to sing along, especially with the enhanced music the philharmonic could provide to accompany it. There were times, though, that the music drowned out the singers and I couldn't tell what they were saying, but that also may have been due to my location in the uppermost part of the balcony of the Pike's Peak Center. Either way, the visuals provided by the lights and variety of dresses...
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BOOK: Esper Files (2016)

Esper Files Year: 2016 Author: Egan Brass Length: 221 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM THE PUBLISHER*** Last year I wrote a short story entitled "Ironed Man" that I submitted to an anthology with the theme "Steampunk Superheroes." While my story didn't make the cut, clearly the idea already has merit as shown in Egan Brass' Esper Files. Just like my "Jurassic Manor" short story was a series of tongue-in-cheek references to the film, Jurassic Park (1993), "Ironed Man" was an alt-genre parody of the Iron Man franchise. I can only assume that Esper Files decided to do the same thing and merely put X-Men in steampunk form. If you like X-Men, you'll probably like this book. Despite many of the characters and trappings feeling like they were pulled from an X-Men fan fiction, the story still has some merit. What I found impressive about the narrative were the action scenes. I know how difficult it can be to write fight scenes with lots of supernatural...
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BOOK: The Rook (2012)

The Rook Year: 2012 Author: Daniel O’Malley Length: 1,066 minutes / 17.77 hours One of the nice things about listening to audiobooks from my library (via the Overdrive app), is that I can pick up a book and listen to it without really knowing what it’s about other than a title and a cover. In this way, I often have no preconceived notions about the book other than first impressions. At this point, all I’m giving up to “read” the book is the time it takes me to listen to it, and I have plenty of that driving to and from work every day. Since I had no idea what this book was really about, I was surprised at how humorous it was. If I were to combine a few, better-known series together, I’d say this is X-Men mixed with James Bond, with just a dash of Jason Bourne all blended together in Monty Python’s Flying Circus. An odd combination, I know. But somehow, it...
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