Saturday, January 24, 2015

Movie review of American Sniper (R) - Review by Daniel Kilgallon

Run Time: 132 min

American Sniper is a new war drama directed by the legendary Clint Eastwood and based on the same named autobiography by Chris Kyle, the deadliest sniper in the history of the U.S. military. Academy Award nominee Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle) stars in the title role and Sienna Miller portrays his wife in the film. I was really looking forward to this movie for a long time, especially after hearing some very positive reviews from critics. I became even more excited last week when it was announced that the film received six Academy Award nominations including: Best Motion Picture, Writing, Editing, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and another nomination for Bradley Cooper for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. In the end, American Sniper simply blew me away and I expect that it will reel in a handful of those prestigious awards.

This true story centers around U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) joining the military in his thirties to become a sniper and serve his country in the war against terrorism. Following the September 11 attacks, Kyle is deployed to Iraq in his first of eventually four tours of service. His incredible pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives and Kyle soon becomes known as “The Legend”. However, he struggles with the reality of war and his post-traumatic stress becomes increasingly challenging each time he returns home to his beloved wife and children. 

American Sniper was truly a moving experience as a film. The scenes of war were all incredibly filmed and felt extremely, brutally realistic. There are more than a few moments in this movie that are truly breathtaking. Furthermore, Bradley Cooper is absolutely blistering in his sensational lead performance; this is easily the best acting that I have seen out of him. He did an amazing job of humanizing this extraordinary character and portraying the unparalleled decisions that he was forced to make in war. 

Admittedly, I haven't seen all of the films nominated for best performance by an actor in a leading role, but I definitely think it would be well deserved if Bradley Cooper goes home with that honor. American Sniper certainly isn't an easy movie to watch, but it is still a phenomenal film nonetheless. With a heart stopping ending that left me speechless, this is easily one of the greatest war movies I have ever seen.

Book review - "The Boy in the Black Suit" by Jason Reynolds. Review by Nick McGoldrick

The Boy in the Black Suit is the sophomore novel from author Jason Reynolds. Reynolds graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.A. in English, then moved to Brooklyn, New York, the setting for both of his novels: The Boy in the Black Suit and When I Was The Greatest. When I Was The Greatest was published in January 2014, and not long after, Reynolds announced his newest novel, The Boy in the Black Suit, set for publication in January 2015. From the beginning, Reynolds’ second novels theme shows to be a very family-enriched tale.
The book focuses on narrator Matt Miller, a seventeen year-old African-American high school student in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Prior to his senior year, Matt lost his mother, Daisy, to breast cancer. Matt misses her presence and the fun times they had cooking in their kitchen. He wears a black suit for his job at the local funeral parlor, owned by his neighbor, Willie Ray. Fortunately for Matt, the pay is higher than what he would earn at the Cluck Bucket, the local food spot. He needs the income since his dad, Jackson, is unemployed. Over time, Matt gains a strange love for sitting in on the funerals at his work; the sight of others suffering over their losses comforts him in his own grief.

When his father is hit by a car and severely injured, Matt is left alone to fend for himself while his dad is recovering in rehabilitation. Mr. Ray insists on taking care of him while hes alone, and although hes all right on his own, Matt could use all the help he can get.

During this time, Mr. Ray teaches Matt about time and consequence, documenting his own experiences to help elaborate— specifically while the two are playing a board game: “See, in chess, you plan everything. You strategize and all that. And even though we like to believe life goes that way, let me tell you, son, it don’t . . . But in this game here, I DEE-clare War, is how life really goes down . . . Sometimes I win, and sometimes I lose . . . And sometimes, I can lose and lose and lose and I don’t know why. But theres nothing I can do but just keep flipping the cards. Eventually, I’ll win again. As long as you got the cards to keep turning, you’re fine. Now thats life.”

Matt thinks hes been through a lot until he meets Love. Despite the strange name, Matt is drawn to the young woman, like he is to the funerals, by her beckoning emotional strength. A daunting connection between the two initiates a journey to the storys enthralling conclusion.

I really enjoyed The Boy in the Black Suit. The novel floats on Matts conversational tone, which is comical in its respects, but also serious when needed. The voice is crisp and clear, and Reynolds uses an upbeat vitality to drive the story along. Its a fun, quick-moving read that lends poetic description to a reality some know all too well. Jason Reynolds is able to take a normal story that follows a young man in his evolving lifestyle and implement some thought-provoking concepts about family, loss and love.

Movie review of "Taken 3" (PG-13) Review by Daniel Kilgallon

Run Time: 109 min

Taken 3 is the third and hopefully final installment in the popular film series of French action-thrillers. Liam Neeson returns to reprise his lead role as Bryan Mills, and Maggie Grace and Famke Janssen return as well, playing his daughter and ex-wife, respectively. Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker also joins the cast this time around. I am a big fan of the original Taken movie that came out in 2008. I thought it was an excellent action film driven by Neesons performance coupled with an intriguing premise. However, I thought that the 2012 sequel, Taken 2 was a horrible movie that didn't even come close to matching up with its impressive predecessor. With that being said, heading into the theater I was honestly just praying that in terms of quality, Taken 3 would at least fall somewhere between the two films that preceded it.

I wont spoil the movie with specific details, but the title alone suggests that as with the first two films, somebody is taken at some point in the story. To nobodys surprise exactly that happens, relatively early on in the film. Soon, retired CIA agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is accused of a horrible murder that he didn't commit. He is immediately tracked down and chased by Los Angeles Police Department Inspector Franck Dotzler (Forest Whitaker) and all of his forces. Now, Mills must put his particular set of skills to the test in order to find out who the real killer is and subsequently clear his own name. 

Luckily my hopes became reality and Taken 3 wasn't nearly as atrocious as the 2012 film that it follows. However, at the same time it still wasn't quite as good as the first 2008 movie. The action scenes were pretty well done and nicely paced, making the longest run time of the series go by rather quickly. Liam Neeson turned in another good performance in the lead role, considering the mediocre script of the movie. I also thought that Forest Whitaker was a welcome addition to the cast as he turned in what was in my opinion, the most surprisingly good performance of the film. Don't head into this movie expecting the next great action thriller, however Taken 3 is certainly better than what some people, including myself expected. Now, all we can hope is that the movie poster tells the truth: It ends here.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Final Part of Miracles and Second Chances - By Michelle Libby

It had been a little over a week and Sarah couldn’t believe how much fun they’d had at the holiday party in her home of all places. The best part was having Curtis with her, she decided. She’d forgotten how it felt to have a companion. That was why she was going to ask him to move in with her on New Year’s Eve. She hadn’t even mentioned it to Amaya. 

Curtis shuffled into the kitchen. “Morning.” 

Sarah smiled at him with the I-know-something-you-don’t-know grin. “Good morning. I’ve made breakfast. Do you know what today is?”


“Yes…but do you know what happens today?”

“Trash pick up.”

Sarah’s smile faltered. “No.”

“It’s New Year’s Eve. I knew what you were getting at,” he said, sitting at the table. 

“Do you have plans?” She joined him at the round kitchen table. 

“Nothing concrete. We aren’t getting together with the seniors club because of the fire, so I thought maybe we could have my grandson bring dinner to us and we could rent a movie off the TV. I hear it’s all the rage.”

“I like that idea.” It fit perfect with her plan.


Amaya couldn’t wait for 3 p.m. when she could lock the store. No one needed anything after that. The champagne should have all been purchased and she didn’t carry noisemakers. The door bells jangled and she looked up. Seeing it was just Kaila Lang from the seniors club, she felt her shoulders slump. 

She hadn’t heard from Tristan since the night she’d kissed him and he’d rejected her. He didn’t even mention the tree she’d lit for him at the golf course. It had been radio silence. He hadn’t even returned to pick up the clothes he’d been wearing. 

“Hi Amaya. The party was amazing. You really made Christmas for my seniors.”

“Thanks. I’m glad they had a good time.”

“Are you okay?”

“What can I help you with today?”

She helped Kaila pick up a few items for her New Year’s celebration and a hostess gift, then said goodbye. 

The phone rang and Amaya reluctantly answered. 

“Amaya, it’s your grandmother.”


“I’m having a quiet evening in with Curtis tonight and we need food delivered. You’ll pick it up for me.”
Amaya considered what she could say. Of course, or perhaps tell her the 12 places within a few miles that would deliver to her. 

“Whatever you need. It’s not like I have plans,” Amaya mumbled. “Just tell me where to pick it up.”   

“I’ll text you.” 

“Nana, you don’t text.” 

“I got a text phone for Christmas.” 

Amaya let a smile crack her face. She did love her grandmother and she wanted her to be happy, even if it meant shacking up with Curtis, the grandfather of the man that she couldn’t stop thinking about. 

Every time the phone rang or the door opened, she hoped to see him or hear his voice. 


New Year’s Eve was always so much fun. The merriment, the beginning of new things. Tristan had been working on his house non-stop for the last week. He had only slept a few hours each night hoping to get it done before New Year’s.

The fire marshal determined that the fire was accidentally started by a wire. The insurance company was going to pay. Tristan would start rebuilding the clubhouse in the spring, but this home he was building outback, tucked in the woods off the eighteenth green. It was a tiny house, only a few hundred square feet, but perfect for him and maybe one other person. 

He hadn’t spoken with Amaya since the kiss. His brain had been messed up. He knew he should have called her. It wasn’t that he didn’t like her or want to be with her. He had felt like he should mourn his wife’s memory for an eternity. Now that he’d had time to reflect, he knew that she would want him to go on with his life, to be happy. And he’d make it happen. 

He’d start by telling his grandfather that he wouldn’t be able to move in with him, for one the house was too small, and second, he needed to make sure he had the privacy to be with Amaya.

His cell phone rang in his back pocket.

“It’s Curtis. I’m ordering Chinese food for dinner and I need you to deliver it to me and Sarah.”
“They deliver.”

“Yeah, but I want to see you on New Year’s Eve. I have something to tell you.” Curtis hung up the phone before Tristan could protest or ask any more questions.
Curtis rubbed his hands together before patting Sarah’s shoulder. She had already asked him to move in with her and he’d said “yes”. He couldn’t think of a single reason why a single guy like him, with no place to live would turn down an offer to move in with a great gal like her.
The knock on the door was quiet…like the person was carrying a bag of food. Curtis winked at Sarah and went to the door to let Amaya in.
“My dear.”
“Hi Curtis. I brought dinner.” She handed the food over to him. 

“I ordered food. What is this?”

He held in the smile. He peeked in the bag to hide his amusement as he ushered her into the living room.
This time the knock was more of a pound on the front door. “I’ll get it,” Curtis said, his smile wide and bright. 

“Just sit. I’m up. I’ll get it,” Amaya said. She went to the door and swung it open. Tristan stood there, shock in his eyes, holding a plastic bag that smelled like Chinese. After a second his face split into a grin. 


Curtis saw her back up. 

“Amaya, let the boy in,” Sarah said. Amaya turned her glare on her grandmother. 

“You did this on purpose.”

“You can’t prove anything,” Sarah said. Curtis sat next to her smiling. 

Tristan set the food down and pulled Amaya further into the hallway. Curtis crept over to see what was going on. 

“I’m so sorry about the other night.” Tristan held Amaya’s arm. 

“And for not calling?” 

“That too. Can we start over? I brought you a present.”

He pulled out mistletoe and held it over her head. “It’s mistletoe.”

Amaya smiled up at him as he leaned in for a New Year’s kiss.