MOVIE: Ant-Man (2015)

Ant-Man Year: 2015 Rating: PG-13 Length: 117 minutes / 1.95 hours In the never-ending array of superheroes feeding into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to support such franchises like Captain America and The Avengers, it can be difficult to make some of the B-tier and C-tier heroes seem interesting enough to devote a whole movie to them. To ensure each movie feels different from its predecessors, certain unique attributes must be applied. Whether it’s the sci-fi-themed Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) or the mind-bending visuals of Doctor Strange (2016), each film requires a gimmick to make it work. For Ant-Man (2015), it’s comedy. If you approach Ant-Man as a standard superhero film, you’re likely to be disappointed. There are almost too many off-hand references to much of the MCU to make anyone not familiar with the vast array of movies lost and confused. Plus, the hero’s “origin story” in Ant-Man is almost par for the course. However, if you watch this film with the understanding that it’s more similar to comedy/caper/heist films than a superhero film, you’re likely...
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MOVIE: Spotlight (2015)

Spotlight Year: 2015 Rating: R Length: 128 minutes / 2.13 hours For many years, the running joke about the movies that have won the Best Picture Oscar is that they only won because another film should have won years prior. Spotlight (2015) is this generation's All the President's Men (1976) in that it is an excellent film about investigative journalism that broke open a huge cover-up, changing the world forever. Both films deserved to be Best Picture, but Spotlight manages to take an uncomfortable subject and be frank and open about the problems that we still see in today's society. Since most of the movie is comprised of uncovering the truth behind the sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, it's surprising how gripping and well-paced the film ends up being. Part of the genius of this film is the high-energy dedication these four journalists have in uncovering the terrifying truths that had been lurking in the shadows for decades. While such a subject could easily create a...
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BOOK: Time of Destruction (2015)

Time of Destruction Year: 2015 Author: John C. Meyer Length: 386 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM THE AUTHOR*** Having written a time-travel novel myself, I can understand how difficult continuity can be to ensure the story makes sense. In Time of Destruction, the continuity of events is certainly there, but it lacks in so many other areas as to make it almost unreadable. While the continuity of the timeline was well thought out, the continuity of details was not. From limiting the “time bubble” to 30 minutes of air, then allowing an antagonist to exist in the space for a full hour, to inconsistencies in the spelling of minor characters’ names (even on the same page), Time of Destruction has a good story buried deep within a mess of simple writing errata. Right from the start, the format of the book highlights the author’s lack of quality control. From the right-hand pages having the page number in the gutter margin to the right-aligned text to...
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BOOK: Shadowguard (2015)

Shadowguard Year: 2015 Author: Gama Ray Martinez Length: 228 pages I picked this book up for free on my Kindle recently, probably due to some promotion to heighten awareness of the latest book in the Pharim War series. As the first book in this series, Shadowguard doesn’t waste any time getting down into the action of the story. Somewhat light on exposition and description, the world created here is still vibrant and fascinating, regardless. The story's characters and setting immediately immersed me in the world, and that's not even mentioning the interesting magic system Gama Ray Martinez has created. It fell in line with the fantasy genre without being too derivative of it. Some may say a series of books about a magical boy learning magic at an illustrious school sounds a lot like the Harry Potter series. The fact that the Pharim War series has a fantasy world setting, and isn't just a hidden part of our real world, makes it distinctly different from J.K....
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MOVIE: Hardcore Henry (2015)

Hardcore Henry Year: 2015 Rating: R Length: 96 minutes / 1.60 hours When the trailer for this movie came out, I had high hopes for this “conceptual” idea. With the increased popularity and proliferation of Virtual Reality (VR) headsets, I could see a film like this doing well in an immersive environment like VR. After all, the whole film is from the first-person Point of View (POV), so anyone wearing the VR headset would feel almost as if they were experiencing the movie from the main character’s perspective. Granted, this film was not created for VR headsets, and after seeing it, I’m kind of glad that it wasn’t. Hopefully, future filmmakers can take the lessons from this film and create better movies that could use the format to its best advantage. Up until now, the only time you’d see something in a first-person POV is in a video game. In fact, most “first-person shooters” (FPS) are “filmed” in this fashion to immerse the player in the...
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BOOK: Thing Explainer (2015)

Thing Explainer Year: 2015 Author: Randall Munroe Length: 64 pages Growing up in the 1990’s, one of the defining books that helped me understand the world around me was David Macaulay’s The Way Things Work. Using “cartoonish” drawings of plenty of everyday (and not so everyday) machines, I gained plenty of useful knowledge that probably led me to eventually earn my Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2009. While Macaulay’s illustrations were straight forward enough that they didn’t need explanations, some concepts around today certainly need some words to help gain an understanding of the way things work. Enter Randall Munroe, famed “xkcd” webcomic author and an all around smart guy. In late 2012, he published a comic that described each of the systems in NASA’s Saturn V rocket with simple words. Described as “U.S. Space Team’s Up Goer Five,” the concept of using shorter, more common words to explain complicated concepts came to its full fruition in Thing Explainer. Using the thousand most common words, Munroe...
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BOOK: Lonesome Cowboy (2015)

Lonesome Cowboy Year: 2015 Author: Frank Lowe Length: 284 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM THE AUTHOR*** The book with the generic cowboy on the cover contains a relatively generic story inside. I wouldn't classify it as "Action/Adventure" due to a pretty significant omission of fight scenes. "Drama" would probably fit it better, since that's the main, driving force of this book. I will admit that, while being about a country singer, it doesn't focus too long on the "losses" in life (i.e. the guy lost his dog, his truck, his girl, et cetera). Of course, the types and magnitude of the successes of the main character do make the story hard to believe at times. Told in the third person, Lonesome Cowboy suffers from having a "telling" narrator instead of the characters "showing" their emotions. Consequently, even if the characters do show their emotions, the narrator telling the reader these emotions before they happen makes the whole bit seem repetitive and redundant. In fact, there's almost...
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BOOK: DreamLync (2015)

DreamLync Year: 2015 Author: K.A. Black Length: 122 pages I initially had my doubts about this book. There have been plenty of stories written about the challenges and cautions of a simulated society. From The Matrix (1999) to Sword Art Online, the blurred lines between the real world and a digital one are well within our reach as a global community. And while books like Ready Player One certainly have a nostalgic feel to their plotlines, DreamLync manages to flip the concept on its head and show how hard it is to pull oneself from a heavily digital social experience. While I would argue that the timeline for this book would be in the next 20-30 years, instead of more than 100 away (just look at Her (2013) for example), the same interpersonal problems will likely still exist. Told via the almost forgettable "everyman" John Adams (not to be confused with either U.S. President), DreamLync shows the reader a world that could easily be ours (without...
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BOOK: The Crossing (2015)

The Crossing Year: 2015 Author: Michael Connelly Length: 564 minutes / 9.4 hours Having already blasted through the rest of the Mickey Haller series, I finally arrived at a book that didn't center around the defense lawyer. Instead, The Crossing follows Harry Bosch, Haller's half-brother (which we learned back in The Brass Verdict). I realize that Mickey Haller is merely a spin-off series from the main Harry Bosch series, so it was interesting to finally enter the main storyline of Connelly's longest-running character. Now I see that he writes Bosch books in third-person, as compared to Haller's first-person, which was why I was confused when the POVs switched in one of the previous books featuring both of them. Coming into this series at the twentieth book was a little jarring to me, but not entirely disorienting. There were plenty of references to previous books I had not read; but by the sounds of them, these predecessors were certainly exciting. What probably helped with my transition...
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BOOK: Lives of Unstoppable Hope (2015)

Lives of Unstoppable Hope Year: 2015 Author: Stant Litore Length: 124 pages As a Colorado author, I often run across other authors at conventions in the state. I’ve seen Stant at a few of the conventions, the most recent being Mile-Hi Con 2016. Because I’m connected to the Colorado author community, I saw some of my author friends post that this book of his was available on Kindle for a very affordable price. While I haven’t officially introduced myself to Stant Litore, after reading this book, I may want to because it really spoke to me on a deep and emotional level. I appreciated Stant’s open and intimate look into the life of him and his family, especially in light of the medical struggles of his daughter, Inara. I’m sure I would be hard pressed to find anyone who hasn’t had at least some member of their family in some sort of hopeless medical condition, be it a parent, spouse, or child. Having had some...
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