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PGP: C756 2813 F881 06E2 6F1F 547B 003F 530D 3859 B702

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Other Review: Hello From the Magic Tavern

5 out of 5 stars

I recently discovered Hello From the Magic Tavern, a spectacular podcast with a ridiculous premise.

Hello! I’m Arnie. I fell through a magical dimensional portal behind a Burger King in Chicago and found myself in a strange magical land called “Foon.” I’m still somehow getting a weak wi-fi signal from the Burger King so I host a weekly podcast from the tavern the Vermilion Minotaur, interviewing monsters, wizards and adventurers.

The show primarily features Arnie and his "boon companions" Chunt, a shapeshifter usually taking the form of a talking badger, and Usidore, a wizard with a ludicrously long name. The show is silly, hilarious, and nearly completely improvised on a weekly basis. My commute has been massively improved by listening to Arnie, Chunt, and Usidore, and I highly recommend you join in, too!

Photo Credit: Hien Pham


Movie Review: Sing

3 out of 5 stars

It was movie night in the LaCour home theater, and the family hunkered down to watch Sing, a 2016 animated feature from Illumination Entertainment.

Sing tells the tale of a struggling theater owner Buster Moon, voiced by Matthew McConaughey, as he tries to save his theater from financial ruin by hosting a signing competition. After a mishap by his assistant, Moon ends up advertising that the show will feature a $100,000 prize, rather than a $1,000 prize, and chaos ensues.

The movie features average animation and some decent voice work from McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, and Seth McFarlane. It drags a bit in the middle, and could lose about 15-20 minutes of run time to make it tighter. That said, great music and some decent laughs make it a worthwhile rental for the family.


Review: The Martian should make a great movie...

4 out of 5 stars

Do you have a fear of abandonment? Enclosed spaces? The outdoors? Are you terrified by the prospect of death? Well, Andy Weir’s The Martian likely isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you have a penchant for science, problem solving, and laughing in the face of death, you’ve come to the right place.

The Martian tells the tale of Mark Watney, an astronaut on a mission to Mars that goes terribly wrong, leaving him stranded on the planet and presumed dead by his crew, his family, and the rest of the population of Earth. Watney is alone, with minimal resources, on a planet that is hostile to life. Thankfully, Watney is a resourceful scientist with a background in engineering and botany, and perhaps more importantly, a sense of humor that never seems to quit.

Action and adventure are prevalent in the book, but The Martian features something that most works of fiction eschew–science. Mars offers no shortage of challenges for Mark Watney, and Weir describes in meticulous detail not only how Watney is in danger, but why he is in danger. Physics, chemistry, botany, and engineering are woven intricately through the story as Watney details each and every challenge he faces.

If this all sounds mind-numbingly boring, allow me to reassure you. Watney may be a “nerdy botanist,” as he describes himself, but he’s also extremely witty. Long passages of scientific exposition are frequently interspersed with wise cracks, one-liners, and mischief. If Watney is going to be stuck on Mars, he’s at least going to make the best of it. Make no mistake, The Martian is a thoroughly humorous book, in spite of the intense topic.

I truly enjoyed The Martian, especially considering that it was the first novel for Andy Weir. It drags at times, and I struggled to get through a few of the more long-winded sections of scienctific exposition, but in the end, I really feel that the novel pays off. The story is compelling, the characters likeable, and the world well-crafted and realistic.

Later this year, The Martian will be released in theaters as a full feature film directed by Ridley Scott. Watney will be played by Matt Damon, who I can easily envision in the role. Trailers look promising, and the fact that the novel read a bit like a screenplay isn’t lost on me. The Martian should make an excellent movie, if Scott plays his cards right.

Next time you’re in the mood for a good read, you could do a lot worse than The Martian. If you act quickly, you can even smugly declare to your friends and family that you “read the book before the movie.”


Movie Review: Imperator Furiosa's Lovely Day

5 out of 5 stars

When I first saw the trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road, I immediately knew that it would be something special. I enjoyed each of the original Mad Max films, and was looking forward to the reboot of the series. I expected to see a lot of Tom Hardy's Max Rockatansky, clearly establishing Hardy's Max as the core of a potential two or three film arc. I was right that Fury Road would be special, but boy was I wrong about why it's so special.

Much has already been written about Fury Road since its release, and as you may have surmised, director George Miller clearly places Max in a supporting role – a passenger on the journey down the Fury Road. The real hero of Fury Road is, in fact, the ultra-badass, one-armed lady-warrior named Imperator Furiosa, who is beautifully played by Charlize Theron.

Fury Road is a non-stop, dusty chase through the outback, as Furiosa leads a pack of abused women away from the villainous Immortan Joe and his cadre of power-hungry men. Max acts as a sort of proxy for the viewer, allowing us to feel a part of Furiosa's fight to free her fellow women. Along the way, we meet a tribe of badass women who align with Furiosa's cause, and provide just enough depth to Furiosa's background to strengthen your understanding of her resolve.

Mad Max: Fury Road could certainly be viewed as a non-stop action romp, but its subversive approach pitting women in the starring roles of one of the most intense action films in recent memory make it so much more. Fury Road is a film about true empowerment and community. It was an exhausting, emotional, intense ride that I'll never forget.

If you haven't seen Fury Road yet, its time. Trust me, you won't regret it.


Book Review: Blood Rites Hits the Mark!

4 out of 5 stars

The sixth book in The Dresden Files saga by Jim Butcher truly doesn't disappoint. Blood Rites finds our favorite wizard Harry Dresden embroiled in magical drama that he's seen before (curses, evil forces, vampires, and murder) in a truly unique setting – an adult film set. You heard me right.

Blood Rites is my favorite book in the series thus far, not only because it features a great storyline, but also because it reveals much about Harry, his past, his family, and his future. Revelations abound in the book, and have me truly excited to move on to book seven!