MOVIE: Jaws (1975)

Jaws Year: 1975 Rating: PG Length: 124 minutes / 2.07 hours Back when I first saw this film as a child, it scared me quite a bit. Later, when I watched it again for the first time in a while, it didn’t scare me as much, but it certainly was thrilling. Now, having read the book it was based on, I have a fuller and more in-depth understanding and appreciation of all sides of this classic story. With the knowledge of what was missing in the movie from the book, I thought it would detract from the viewing experience. Instead, I found that the book and the film covered two very different aspects of the story, each expertly done for the utilized medium. In the book (which was released a year before the film), we find that the shark hunt is not only a matter of public safety but also infused with the politics of the island of Amity and the personal drama of a cuckolded...
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MOVIE: Pacific Rim (2013)

Pacific Rim Year: 2013 Rating: PG-13 Length: 131 minutes / 2.18 hours When I first saw the trailer for this film, I became really excited. One of the staples of anime is the "giant robot" subgenre, of which Neon Genesis Evangelion and Gurren Lagann are certainly the classics. And while Pacific Rim (2013) wasn't an adaptation of an anime, it got my hopes up that it could be done well enough that we could see live action versions of these aforementioned anime. After all, adaptations to live-action from anything animated tend to be very difficult, so this would be a step in the right direction. I do have to say that this movie delivered what it promised. Something like a mix between Godzilla (1999) and Real Steel (2011), the premise was a little bit closer to Independence Day (1996) than I initially thought it would be. The visuals were stunning and the fight sequences were both immense and intense, never letting up with the action as...
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BOOK: Modern Romance (2015)

Modern Romance Year: 2015 Author: Aziz Ansari Length: 374 minutes / 6.23 hours I was honestly surprised by this book. As has been the case with most comedians and the books they have written, I expected this to be a bit of an autobiography in the veins of Bossypants , Yes Please , The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith, and Idiocy , and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? Instead, I was presented with a book filled with data, analysis, and information about how modern relationships work when compared with the relationships of past generations. Having gone through some of this “Modern Romance” myself, I could certainly relate to the information being presented, nodding my head in agreement as things I noticed suddenly had explanations pinned to them. But it wasn’t that the book was not an autobiography that surprised me, it was the humorous way that Aziz Ansari managed to present this subject matter, while also maintaining high scientific rigor. If I were...
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BOOK: Blood Brothers (2016)

Blood Brothers Year: 2016 Author: Rick Acker Length: 380 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** Even though I don’t usually read books in mid-series, I’ll make an exception for a book I receive for free. Fortunately, I was able to deduce what happened in book 1 of the Dead Man’s Rule series just based on the context of the characters’ interactions. In fact, I’d probably like to read Dead Man's Rule, since it sounds like it was a pretty exciting plot. Of course, I’ve found legal thrillers like this one to be pretty stand-alone, which helped me really get into its engaging, if not somewhat predictable, plot. What I found most interesting about Blood Brothers, was the Christian undertones it took in its narrative. These moments helped to flesh out the characters, but only once did it feel like the reader was being browbeaten with some ideology. The infusion of realistic Christian characters was a pleasant surprise, especially considering that their beliefs did...
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MOVIE: Jason Bourne (2016)

Jason Bourne Year: 2016 Rating: PG-13 Length: 123 minutes / 2.05 hours Back in 2002, The Bourne Identity redefined not only the action film aesthetic but the modern spy thriller as well. While some elements of the Bourne films have been good for action films, others are now trite and cliché. If you were to break down the “Bourne formula”, these four elements could be used to make any action film in the “Bourne-style”: Car chases with spectacular driving in “common” vehicles Brutal hand-to-hand combat using everyday items Shaky camera movement during action sequences “The chase” where eventually the protagonist gets away, achieves his objective and escapes into the shadows once again Because the Bourne films are so formulaic, I found Jason Bourne (2016) to be no different. That being said, the film was still a fun and intense ride to watch. Now nine years later from the last in the “true” Bourne storyline (we’ll just forget that The Bourne Legacy (2012) happened), technology has vastly improved, making this film seem...
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BOOK: Quarter Share (2007)

Quarter Share Year: 2007 Author: Nathan Lowell Length: 250 pages In a genre that often relies too much on inventing new and spectacular foreign worlds, Nathan Lowell’s Quarter Share certainly has a down-to-earth feel. There were a number of times reading this book where I had to remind myself they were sailing through deep space, and not across the Pacific Ocean. That being said, Quarter Share is an incredibly immersive look into the life of a lowly sailor who has the gumption to make something of himself. The realism of the setting and situations certainly makes this science fiction story quite believable. I do have to laud this book with the ability to be as close to wholesome as one can be without the entire plot being labeled “childish”. Unfortunately, this also ends up being one of my main qualms with it. Most of the characters don’t really have any flaws and the conflicts and situations that would arise from being together for long periods of...
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MOVIE: Now You See Me (2013)

Now You See Me Year: 2013 Rating: PG-13 Length: 115 minutes / 1.92 hours The key to a great heist film comes in three stages: the pledge, the turn, and the prestige. Wait, that’s the key to a great magician’s illusion. Actually, here’s the real trick: both are very similar in structure. Each requires a setup of events which lead to an amazing reveal, followed by an explanation of how the heist/illusion was performed. In Now You See Me (2013), both the heist and magician genres are found to be so closely related that it was nice to see them meld together so well. In a page ripped straight from Robin Hood, the main characters justify their thievery by stating that their actions are to right the wrongs done to the general public. Of course, when a movie uses CGI to enhance the magic of the actors, it’s just that much more fun to see how they are able to pull off each heist using...
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BOOK: Echo of the Boom (2014)

Echo of the Boom Year: 2014 Author: Maxwell Neely-Cohen Length: 478 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** From the title of this book, I would have expected it to be about the aftermath of an apocalypse-inducing event. If anything Echo of the Boom is a misnomer and the book should be titled Prelude of the Boom. The cover also doesn’t give much into what it’s about, other than the four different points of view which are followed throughout the narrative. While I did eventually like the book, it took too long to get there (some of the occasional typos didn’t help me get into it either). With the characters’ motivations unclear from the start, it becomes obvious about 150 pages in that nothing is really going to happen in this book. Instead of having any driving force propelling the characters forward, it’s more accurate to describe this book as a nearly 500 page rap battle. Each character has their own track, living their...
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MOVIE: Ernest & Celestine (2012)

Ernest & Celestine Year: 2012 Rating: PG Length: 80 minutes / 1.33 hours While the visuals of CGI-animated films can be quite realistic and stunning, there’s something to the simple, drawn lines of a classically animated piece. Often, the realism of CGI is actually a bit of a detriment as any human characters will start to fall into the “uncanny valley”, wherein our minds reject the characters because they’re close to being human, but there are still elements that can’t be captured and our minds pick up on these flaws. Granted, I will admit that the classical look can still be obtained with computers, but it’s nice to see every once in a while, especially with the proliferation of new animation studios. Part of the challenge of standing out amongst the large number of animated films comes in the visual style used in the animation. With Ernest & Celestine (2012), the visual style doesn’t try to imitate any successful studio (like Disney), but instead attempts to recapture...
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MOVIE: X-Men – Apocalypse (2016)

X-Men: Apocalypse Year: 2016 Rating: PG-13 Length: 144 minutes / 2.4 hours I’ll admit that I was excited for this film, mostly because I was somewhat familiar with its premise. I grew up on the X-Men: Evolution TV show, so I knew that the defining arc of that series was none other than the Apocalypse arc. This may have actually spoiled the movie for me, because it wasn’t quite in line with the plot I knew. Sure, Bryan Singer returned to direct this penultimate piece of the X-Men franchise, but there were just a few things that bugged me about this movie. First off, one of the elements of the previous prequel films I liked and appreciated was the inclusion of historical events and people into the storyline. This way it felt like an alternate reality not so far removed from our own. While there were loose elements of this present, it wasn’t nearly as integrated as it had been done in the past. Add...
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