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Pitch Perfect 2: a movie review

The fictional Barden University Bellas, an-all female a capella singing group, featuring an ensemble cast that includes Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Ester Dean, Hana Mae Lee, and Alexis Knapp, perform in a competition scene in the new Universal Pictures movie, Pitch Perfect 2 (Credit: Universal Pictures)Pitch Perfect 2 is the sequel to 2012's Pitch Perfect. While it lacks the originality of the first and often goes for more low hanging fruit when it comes to the comedy, it is still an enjoyable movie, though the PG-13 rating is deserved. The film picks up three years after the first iteration with the Barden Bellas now the toast of the a cappella world after winning the national championship three years in a row. However, their popularity ends rather abruptly as a wardrobe malfunction while performing in front of the president gets them banned from the circuit. Their only recourse is to win the world championships. Such a victory is a long shot though, as no American team has ever won before on account of the fact that, as John Michael Higgins' character so eloquently states, "the whole world hates us."

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The Newsies: Seize the day

Watch official production footage from NEWSIES on Tour! (Credit: Disney on Broadway via Youtube)Infectious as the flu and jovial as Santa, the Newsies musical will leave you with a song in your head and a smile on your face. This 1992 Disney film turned stage musical chronicles the real-life Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City. In a struggle for equality and justice, the paperboys fight against newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer and his desire to improve his profits by increasing the cost of the newspapers to the delivery boys.

Affectionately called "papes," the newspapers are the livelihood of these delivery boys. These mostly orphan boys struggle day by day to survive, with their sole source of money coming from their papers and society's kindheartedness. Centered on the main character Jack Kelly, this persuasively smooth cajoler leads this group of boys to seize the day and not succumb to the greediness of Pulitzer.

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A review of Robert Putnam’s Our Kids

Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert D Putnam (Credit: Simon and Schuster)Coupling heart-rending narratives with substantiated commentary, Robert Putnam's newest book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis is a work that begs to be read and is worthy of contemplation. Putnam, termed "poet laureate of civil society" by the New York Times, argues that access to foundational, developmental institutions are becoming increasingly separate and unequal. Strong families, quality schools, and robust communities, are essential institutions to creating a social cohesion.

However, Putnam contends that the reality of today is that there has been a type of negligent individualism, which has created a divide between the haves and the have-nots. Delineating between "our kids" and "their kids," Putnam poignantly iterates that "our kids" bask in relative affluence while "their kids" traverse arduously in a world where social capital is scarce. This widening disparity between these groups has caused upward mobility to go on the endangered species list, believing it to be true that mingling between the two groups is essential to said mobility.

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The Avengers: Age of Ultron: a movie review

Avenger 2: Age of Ultron: Robert Downey as Iron Man along with the Avenger superheroes movie poster (Credit: Marvel Entertainment via Youtube)Marvel Studios' latest blockbuster, The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, was an action packed good time. Though perhaps you should not trust my taste in movies; I love and own most of the Ernest P. Worrell movies.  Avengers 2 gets my seal of approval because, like Ernest Goes to Camp, it is good, (mostly) clean fun. It's a superhero movie and is therefore violent, but not overly gory.  And I am thankful they did not throw in a sexy scene just because they could.

As most of the Avengers characters have their own movie series all to themselves, the first Avengers suffered a bit from a lack of emotional buy in for me because they did not have to spend the time letting us get to know the characters.  We already knew them. It was straight to action. So it was with the second installment: rip-roaring from the start.  However, I found this sequel to be tugging at my heartstrings a little more as they revealed some of what our heroes had to lose as they faced impending death. I'll stop there so I won't spoil anything for you.

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David Brooks' The Road to Character

'The Road to Character' by David Brooks. (Credit: Random House)David Brooks' newest book, The Road to Character, is a gracious critique on contemporary culture with a fascinating perspective on characters from the past. With a keen focus on the formative factors of individual inner life, Brooks aims to, "rediscover a vast moral vocabulary and set of moral tools, developed over the centuries" in order to "incorporate it into our own lives."

Brooks identifies the problem as the "Big Self." In this "age of the selfie," he contends that humility has the capacity to solve this pervasively pernicious plague. Humility is the "awareness you are the underdog in the struggle against your own weakness." It provides you the "freedom from the need to prove you are superior all the time."

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