BOOK: Stiletto (2016)

Stiletto Year: 2016 Author: Daniel O'Malley Length: 1,392 minutes / 23.20 hours I’ll be the first to admit that I like sequels. Or, more accurately, well-done sequels. While the first book in a series can be great by itself, it carries the burden of exposition and world-building. A good sequel gives a light refresher of the important points and gets right into the action. I would certainly consider Stiletto to be a well-done sequel to the first book in the Checquy Files series, The Rook. Not only does it expand upon the central conflict in the first book, but it throws in the twist of the warring factions of the Checquy and the Grafters coming together to form a truce. In making enemies into teammates, Daniel O'Malley shows the differences between them are almost superficial. The chess-based supernatural soldiers of the Checquy almost have the same strength of powers that the genetically and surgically enhanced members of the Grafters do. Since the whole plot usually...
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MOVIE: The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)

The LEGO Batman Movie Year: 2017 Rating: PG Length: 104 minutes / 1.73 hours While The LEGO Movie (2014) did a good job of initially not making its universe seem like it was just in the imagination of a 10-year-old child, The LEGO Batman Movie (2017) dispenses with that illusion and goes full-bore into the child-like mind. From the dialogue to the wide variety of licensed characters to the regular “pew, pew pew” sounds made when guns and lasers are fired, The LEGO Batman Movie steps right into what you’d expect a movie about a children’s building toy would be. Of course, with Batman being one of the best characters from The LEGO Movie, it’s no wonder why he was first to get a spinoff film. Regarding plot, it was simplistic. Kids would certainly be able to “get” that family matters, even if they aren’t biologically related. But fear not adults, there’s plenty for you in this film as well. Perhaps the best mark of...
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BOOK: Tiger and the Robot (2017)

Tiger and the Robot Year: 2017 Author: Grahame Shannon Length: 250 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** In this era of smartphones and artificial intelligence (AI), it's interesting to see a book start to explore the topic of AI without getting too bogged down in the details. With movies like Her (2013) showing just how integrated into our lives an AI personal assistant can be, this book's approach almost takes the idea from that movie and fuses it with the "mute" AI from Person of Interest. Unfortunately, I felt the AI section of the book distracted by the endless sailing adventures. As someone who lives in a land-locked state, I didn't understand much of the sailing jargon in this book (especially when it became technical), but I do think this book had some potential. Despite containing a main character who comes off a bit like a creeper (and thus somewhat unrelatable), one of my main qualms with Tiger and the Robot was the disjointed...
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BOOK: Speaker for the Dead (1986)

Speaker for the Dead Year: 1986 Author: Orson Scott Card Length: 850 minutes / 14.17 hours In this sequel to Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card continues to provide a smartly-written plot that causes the reader to think about death in a whole new way. While the first book in the series gave some thought-provoking insights into war, simulation and the dangers of following orders, Speaker for the Dead examines cultural differences, religion, and the humanity of individuals who acted like monsters during their lives. Instead of moving on from the life of a deplorable person, Card manages to show the reader that a person's life is made up of all its truths: the bad included with the good. While Ender Wiggin seemed a little young in Ender’s Game, by Speaker for the Dead he’s aged into a wiser and much more complex character. His experiences in the first book helped to set him up as the universe’s devil and savior, a unique attribute set for...
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MOVIE: John Wick – Chapter 2 (2017)

John Wick: Chapter 2 Year: 2017 Rating: R Length: 122 minutes / 2.03 hours As far as sequels go, I was looking forward to the second installment of the John Wick franchise, mostly because I was interested to see how it would take the genre-defying changes it made in the first film and expound upon them. While you don't need to know much of the plot of the first movie, other than knowing John Wick (Keanu Reeves) was the best professional killer ever, and now he’s trying to live a peaceful life in retirement, one could almost wonder if the first film was even necessary. Plot-wise, John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) provides a much more interesting storyline instead of just an accidental mistake made by a stupid kid of a mob boss. Unfortunately, while the plot is much improved, the action seems a little stale. Sure, Wick’s “dance of death” remains an impressive sight to behold, but now the camera is starting to trend back...
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MUSIC: CSPhil – Carmina Burana

Colorado Springs Philharmonic Conductor: Josep Caballé Domenech Date: May 21, 2017 Zones Pierre Jalbert In the final commissioned piece of this 90th Philharmonic season, Pierre Jalbert takes the term "from sea to shining sea" quite literally with his piece, Zones. With the majority of the music conveying the depths of the ocean, it was interesting to hear the various deep-sea creatures as they passed by (most of which seemed to be quite large and dangerous). Eventually, the listener arrives near the surface of the ocean and can hear the rays of light penetrating down into the water. During the last moments of the piece, the listener emerges on dry land and quickly finds themselves in the alpine "zone" of the top of Pike's Peak. Martern Aller Arten (from The Abduction from the Seraglio) / Verdrai, carino (from Don Giovanni) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart These selected arias from Mozart's repertoire weren't that recognizable, but they certainly gave soprano Celena Shafer the chance to show off. Having been in a choir before, I know I...
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BOOK: The Captain’s Kid (2016)

The Captain's Kid Year: 2016 Author: Liz Coley Length: 352 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** With today's Young Adult genre overtaken by books not appropriate for young adults, it's refreshing to read a book that not only has content for teenagers but realistic teenage characters as well. These are the characters dealing with their first foray into independence and finding their identity separate from that of their parents. Each of these individuals has their strengths and weaknesses, and it's in recognition of these assets and liabilities that they start to realize their true potential in life. The fact that the setting takes place in outer space is simply to keep the reader engaged with the plot. Regarding the science behind the plot, the author seems to have done her research. At a cursory glance, all the elements that come together to create the main thrust of the plot all make sense, and all add to each other to make a believable situation. From microgravity...
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BOOK: Ender’s Game (1985)

Ender’s Game Year: 1985 Author: Orson Scott Card Length: 380 pages In another “lapse” of my reading habits, I didn’t manage to read Ender’s Game until the movie of the same name came out in 2013. At the time, all the sci-fi fans were eagerly anticipating a film that had taken over 25 years to finally become a reality. While I thought the movie was quite well done and engaging, after I read the book, I can understand why some of the diehard fans of the series were disappointed. As is usually the case with book-to-movie transitions, sub-plots often find themselves on the cutting room floor. Of course, I don’t blame them for cutting what they did; after all, it is called Ender’s Game. Even though watching the movie first spoiled the exciting twist of the ending when I read the book, I almost read the book differently knowing how it would turn out. I could see the signs leading up to the shocking reveal,...
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MOVIE: John Wick (2014)

John Wick Year: 2014 Rating: R Length: 101 minutes / 1.68 hours I’ll be honest and say that I initially thought this film was just another action movie. Of all the action movies that come out these days, there wasn’t much that intrigued me enough to spend the time with this particular one. However, after some of my friends were raving about it and I saw a few YouTube videos describing why it was so great, I decided to give John Wick (2014) a chance. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. This film was not just another action movie. In fact, it was quite exemplary in its breaking of traditional action movie tropes. The most noticeable difference this movie has compared to other action films is its camerawork. Ever since The Bourne Identity (2001) changed the action movie genre, the cameras have been quite shaky, and the action is, therefore (increasingly) hard to follow. Not so with John Wick. The smooth and...
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MUSIC: Aladdin (2011)

Aladdin New Amsterdam Theatre May 10, 2017 Anyone who knows me will know that Aladdin (1992) is easily one of my top three favorite Disney movies. Not only is the focus of the narrative more on the male lead than the "princess," but the songs were catchy, and the Genie was hilarious. You can then imagine my surprise to learn that this movie was now a Broadway musical (much in the same way Beauty and the Beast (1991) and The Lion King (1994) before it). Since I was in New York City on vacation, I had to take in a Broadway show and was glad that this was the one I saw. Knowing that a ~90 minute animated film would need to be padded out to a full, 2-act stage musical, the additions to the plot made sense. Many of the animal companions (if not all of them) were replaced with friends, handmaids, or lackeys in this production. The sub-plot of Aladdin wanting to...
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