Mind Sieve 1/18/16

Must remember NOT to update Themes in WordPress. Totally botched some of my css and a couple of features. *cry*

Morning!

 

 

Social Media/Author Platform

 

Author Newsletters: 6 Tips for Smart Strategies by Jami Gold. So behind on mine…Got locked out of MailChimp, too. *groan* (Having more than one Google Authenticator can get messy! Wah!)

23 Tools and Tips for Social Media Marketers by Michael Stelzner – so many tools, so little time!

 

Writing Advice

This Month’s Tip Do You Make Yourself Clear, Part 2: 10 Tips to Make Your Writing Clear by Shel Horowitz – Simple but useful hints!

Thoughts On 2016: Making It Count by Angela at Writers Helping Writers.

That’s all folks! (For this week anyway. :P)

Movie Review – Norm of the North

Norm of the North

Starring: Rob Schneider, Heather Graham, Ken Jeong, Bill Nighy, Colm Meaney, Loretta Devine, Michael McElhatton, Maya Kay, Gabriel Iglesias, and more.

Directed by: Trevor Wall Written by: Daniel Altiere, Steven Altiere, and Malcolm T. Goldman Music by: Stephen McKeon

Premise: Norm is not like other polar bears. He has a skill none but his grandfather has, he can speak human. And Norm will need to use his odd skill to save his home once Greene Homes decides the Antarctic would be the perfect place to build and sell condos. (Rated PG)

Review:

1) Voice Acting – Neutral: With names like Rob Schneider, Colm Meany, and Bill Nighy, you would think the voice acting on the film would be great. Sadly, this is not the case. 🙁 Most of the lines are delivered without much force or emotion behind them, and there are no real interactions, relationships, or chemistry between the characters. Aside from an exception here or there, the dialogue and voice acting just seemed forced, like they were trying too hard, so it doesn’t quite make it.

2) Artwork/Animation – Neutral: I don’t believe I’ve seen work from Splash Entertainment before, and to be honest they didn’t do much to excite me about seeing anything else from them in future. While the animation had some neat textures and lovely background colors, it was also very jerky. Norm loves to dance, but most of the time his moves are too muted or jerky and don’t look like dancing. On the opposite side, Mr. Greene seems to be made out of rubber, his limbs bending and looping all over the place, more than Mr. Fantastic from the Fantastic 4!

Overall, the backgrounds were decent. But the choppiness of the rest of the animation made it hard to enjoy them. For a feature film, I expected a higher quality and smoother transitions in movements than were evident.

The lemurs were fun. But they were about it…

3) Plot/Story – Neutral: I tend to give animated films a little broader leeway than normal films because the settings tend to be fantastical. Sadly, though, Norm of the North pushed quite a distance past my usually wide threshold for this type of film.

Norm can speak like a human, but he’s been exposed only to a little of technology. Yet once in New York city, he seems to know how to read and what a flash drive is and how other technology works. Worse, Norm talks about his feelings and how they are more like a human than a bear’s, yet his brother, a supposed typical polar bear, sets up dance routines, uses a headset, and acts way more human than Norm. 🙁 The film is peppered with this kind of inconsistency throughout.

Aside from a couple of cute spots and one or two surprises, the rest of the film was rather bland. Worse, they show Norm bend bars of steel, then not long after he’s incapable of tearing/chewing a piece of rope apart, or lifting off a piece of antenna in the water. And since a trip to Antarctica is not that fast, the only time to unmoor the boat from the barge would not have to be in the middle of a raging storm. It just made some of the “exciting” parts appear way too contrived. 🙁

Conclusion: Norm of the North will be entertaining for the young kids, but teenagers and adults won’t get much out of it. The animation quality wasn’t what it should have been, and neither was the acting. So overall, it just plodded along. 🙁

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Better On Cable)

Mind Sieve 1/4/16

Bad luck in the new year – already?!?!?! Sigh. This might be a short post due to some technical issues. Wheee!

 

 

 

 

Have a great Monday!

Movie Review – The Good Dinosaur

The Good Dinosaur

Starring: Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Maleah Nipay-Padilla, Ryan Teeple, Jack McGraw, Marcus Scribner, Peter Sohn, Steve Zahn, Sam Elliot, A.J. Buckley, Anna Paquin, and more.

Directed by: Peter Sohn Original Concept by: Bob Peterson Story by: Peter Sohn, Erik Benson, Meg LeFauve, Kelsey Mann, Bob Peterson Screenplay by: Meg LeFauve Music by: Jeff Danna and Mychael Danna

Premise: On an alternate timeline, where the giant asteroid missed Earth 65 Million years ago, dinosaurs continue to exist to develop language, civilization, and other skills. Three young dinosaurs hatch on a farm to live and grow with their Momma and Poppa, where they grow corn and raise chickens. While Libby and Buck prove quite apt for the life there, Arlo has problems. Trying to help him, Poppa gives Arlo the job of catching and killing the critter who’s been stealing from their corn stores, otherwise they might not have enough food saved for the winter. But things don’t go as his Poppa had hoped. (Rated  PG)

Review:

1) Voice Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Raymond Ochoa and Jack Bright are adorable as Arlo and Spot. Sam Elliot was perfect for Butch. His character was a neat surprise along with Nash and Ramsey. Jeffrey Wright and Frances McDormand were great as Arlo’s Poppa and Momma. Peter Sohn as Forrest Woodbush, the crazy old hermit triceratops, was a total hoot. 🙂

2) Artwork/Animation – Total Thumbs Up: I didn’t think it possible, but Disney and Pixar have pushed animation up another notch. From the first scene of the film to the last you’ll be trying to remind yourself the backgrounds are animated because they look so completely REAL! The seamless integration of the characters into their environment shows they must be animated; but you’ll still find yourself not believing it. Honestly, the realistic quality of the environment was a total jaw dropper! The reflections, the detail, I was flabbergasted!

The dinosaurs and other critters are easily identified as animated, and looked great. Lots of lovely expressions and other visual cues. Good textures for the reptilian skins and more. Everything around them though is so amazing, it makes you wonder if Pixar was afraid of doing the same with the characters, so that the drama might become a little too  real for young viewers.

The realism of the scenery make for some amazing cinematography! The two scenes with fireflies are utterly wonderful. 🙂

3) Plot/Story – Total Thumbs Up: Think of the movie as dinosaurs meet Little House on the Prairie meet Bonanza and you’ll have the general feel of the film. It’s definitely a coming of age story and seems aimed more at the tween age group than the younger kids, though there’s enough going on to keep them interested as well, even if they don’t get everything being presented.

It was a lot of fun to see the dinosaurs as the civilized species. The human boy, Spot, has reasons for being wild but even then his ingenuity and intelligence shine through, showing humans are still in the game despite the meteor missing the planet. 😛 The swap between roles, though, was a lot of fun. And that isn’t the only surprise they’ve prepared for us either. (Arlo and the chickens are a hoot!)

So though the story itself will be familiar, the trappings and stage settings make it fresh. It was also very well done besides. Major themes are about family, belonging, finding your true self, and being open to experiences. There are several poignant moments, so if you’re like me, make sure to take a handkerchief or two.

Conclusion: The Good Dinosaur is visually fantastic! The animation of the surroundings is so detailed you’ll swear they’re real. Well worth it just for that alone! The short for the film is called Sanjay’s Super Team and it is super adorable!

Rating: 4 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission)

Saw two other films this week, but won’t have time to do full reviews – so here goes:  Mojin – The Lost Legend:  (Combo of Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider) cool effects. Story a little disjointed, but still fun if not looked at too closely. 3.5 out of 5. The Hateful 8: acting is awesome, cinematography as well, but plot had several issues. 🙁 3.0 out of 5.

Movie Review – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Harrison Ford, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Joonas Suotamo, Simon Pegg, and many more.

Directed by: J.J. Abrams Written by: Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, and Michael Arndt Based on Characters Created by: George Lucas Cinematography by: Daniel Mindel Music by: John Williams

Premise: Despite the death of the Emperor, years later, the Empire still exists, now called the First Order and led by Supreme Leader Snoke. The Republic has grown and secretly funds/helps the Resistance, who continue their fight against the Empire. Luke Skywalker has disappeared and the Empire wants him found and slaughtered so the extinction of the Jedi can be complete. An old colleague gives the Rebels a piece of a map showing Luke’s whereabouts. But the Rebel is caught before he can escape with the information, so he leaves the map with his droid, BB-8. BB-8, a scavenger, and an AWOL stormtrooper will become embroiled in matters bigger than they ever imagined. (Rated PG-13)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Daisey Ridley as Rey and John Boyega as Finn end up doing a very nice job as the extremely reluctant heroes for the film. Harrison Ford shows he’s still got it as he reprises his role as Han Solo. Andy Serkis makes for a rather creepy Supreme Leader Snoke. Adam Driver did a fine job as the mercurial Kylo Ren.

It was a ton of fun seeing so many of our old friends again. 🙂

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: While we always expect larger than life special effects in the Star Wars films, this one wasn’t as grandiose, but was filled with a lot of subtle, and no less impressive, effects. They fit so well, it makes them easy to miss. One super cool one was after Rey gets her quarter rations and sprinkles the content of one of the packets into a small bowl of water – and then before our eyes, the powdered dough coagulates and turns into a small loaf of bread she grabs and bites into.

There are several new creatures that get introduced as part of the scenery and the plot. There’s a neat bird with an anvil like beak, tentacled monsters in the freighter, and a giant hog like creature drinking water at a trough in Jakku. The bar was also chock full of familiar and new aliens types to look at.

The ships haven’t changed much, but we do see a few new ones both in the air and on the ground. Kylo Ren’s shuttle is even more intimidating and grandiose than Darth Vader’s, almost like he’s trying to compensate for something. (*joke*)

3) Plot/Story – Thumbs Up: This story was better than Episode III Revenge of the Clones! Yay! Not that it would take much to be better than Episode III, but I was just happy it was. 😛

The film is enjoyable overall and uses our fond memories of the original trilogy to rope us in – though they do get carried away a bit in that respect. (If you cry at movies, make sure to take a hankey with you!) The plot is basically Episode IV with some changes thrown in. Bits get pulled from some of the other films as well, especially Episode V.

The change about how clones are no longer being used for stormtroopers, but rather use newborns taken from their homes and trained from childhood, as well as brainwash them, is stated so quickly, you might miss it. Yet the information is actually an important point with regards to the plot and Finn. Also not stating the fact this was Finn’s first mission until late in the film was a mistake – his reactions made no sense during the raid because the audience didn’t know he’d never been on one of these missions before. They had other issues with little things like that – inconsistencies or items that didn’t add up right or should have been mentioned for clarity. For example: if you’re part of the sanitation crew of a large military installation, why would you also get sent out as a stormtrooper to subjugate a town? The First Order didn’t look that short handed. And if your giant military installation has to move from sun to sun to get fuel, how do you have trees alive on the surface of it? Several other weird bits ran along the same vein.

They also somewhat spoiled the dramatic scene where Kylo Ren and his father meet up, mostly due to the fact they’d already had Ren take his helmet off when he was with Rey. Boo! And why, oh why, did they decide to make Kylo Ren so super powerful? There was really no need to have him be that ramped up. And  to make it worse, they then seem to forget his uber power later. Not once did he try to do to Rey what he’d done in the forest once before, and had worked so well. Boo! Though I did very much enjoy how it is Ren’s own words that reminded Rey she’s not alone and thus could get help to defeat her foe.

4) Locations/Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: All the locations we see during the film were excellent. As usual, the integration of real places to those that are painted or computer generated were flawless. The cinematography combined with IMAX and 3D made the vistas lovely to look upon. Though with a desert planet, jungle planet, sort of snow planet, it almost seemed like they were trying too hard to tie back to the previous films though these were new worlds. 😛 They were still beautiful to look at though!

5) Music – Total Thumbs Up: John Williams is king! Was thrilled to see he did the work on the film score. A lot of the old favorites as well as new tracks! Yay!

Conclusion: Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an enjoyable return to the Star Wars universe. It’ll bring back the feelings and emotions evoked on us by the first three original films. It was better than Episode III, so that’s something! Heh heh. There are no extra bits at the end or previews for Episode VIII, which is due out in 2017.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission)

 

Mind Sieve 12/14/15

Morning!
Let’s see how much trouble my back let’s me get into… 😛

 

Fan Fun

X-Men Apocalypse Official Trailer – ooh! Should be messy. 😛

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows – oho! Arrow is Casey Jones?! lol.

The Legend of Tarzan Teaser Trailer – I can’t resist Tarzan movies! heh heh

Jane Got a Gun International Trailer – western! Looks messy. 🙂

 

Social Media/Author Platform

Facebook Brings Facebook Messenger to Websites: This Week in Social Media by Grace Duffy at the Social Media Examiner. So much to keep track of, argh!

14 Video Tools for Social Media Marketers by Mari Smith at the Social Media Examiner. Ack! Too many options!

 

Writing Advice

Fran Wilde: Editorial Marks, Explained! by Fran Wilde at Terribleminds.com. Too cute!

Discovering Our Writing Processes by Jami Gold. Some totally good advice here!

Wish me luck! And have a great one!

Movie Review – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Julianne Moore, Elden Henson, Wes Chatham, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Willow Shields, Sam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks, Mahershala Ali, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright, Paula Malcomson, Stanley Tucci, and more.

Directed by: Francis Lawrence Screenplay by: Peter Craig and Danny Strong Based on the Novel by: Suzanne Collins Cinematography by: Jo Willems Music by: James Newton Howard

Premise: With the 13 districts united, the rebels turn their focus to the capitol. Katniss struggles with what’s been done to Peeta and also what to do about Gale. Worse, President Snow decides to turn a large chunk of the capitol into a new Hunger Games. And Katniss learns President Coin might soon no longer have a use for her. (Rated PG-13)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth give great performances as the odd love triangle spins, gets even more complex. and eventually comes to a resolution. Donald Sutherland and Julianne Moore were a lot of fun as the opposing presidents. Elden Henson and Wes Chatham added some nice depth to the story as Pollux and Castor.

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: The special effects team does a superb job in the film. The scene where everyone is cut off and the black water comes, and then when we see the black water in action and chasing after them, was awesome. Loads of explosions and heavy gun fire. The close range explosions from the arrows looked great underground. The 50+ caliber guns and the devastation on the columns from the bullets looked very real. And wait till you see the special surprise the group is given by Snow’s team in the sewers. My only problem was that the marketing department gave away all the good traps in the previews! Boo! (Hubby was displeased!)

3) Plot/Story – Thumbs Up: It really would be nice if films that have multiple parts or have sequels with years in between, the movie makers would deign to remember not everyone will have rewatched the previous films before seeing the new release and give a recap. Especially for side characters! While remembering the principal people was easy, there were several side characters who’ve been in several of the films who weren’t as memorable for whatever reason and therefore it was hard to realize who they were and what their backgrounds were to get the audience to care when bad things happen to them. Jena Malone’s character Johanna Mason was one of these. I adored her performance in Part 2, but I was hard pressed to remember anything about the character at all. And not remembering anything, makes it very hard to care. (This was a major suffering point for the film “Insurgent” earlier this year.)

Aside from not knowing who some of the people were, however, I very much enjoyed the direction they took with the film. Talking with my daughter, who read all the books, I know they changed a few points for the ending, but these were improvements to the plot rather than issues. They also continued to show that actions have consequences and will affect people emotionally as they had in the previous films.

The major theme this time played with duality and perceptions. Katniss comparing Peeta and Gale. Peeta comparing remembered and altered memories. Gale and the way he viewed enemies as things rather than people and how this comes back on him. It even applied to President Snow and Coin.

Another theme they had fun bandying about pertained to hubris and pride. Also how your enemy can be your friend and vice versa. And both themes tie in to the ending at the capitol, which was well played if a little transparent.

Only thing I wished we’d gotten a little more on was Snow’s reactions when he thought Katniss was dead and then found out she was alive. Totally unexpected reaction, but it spoke back to that duality theme I mentioned before. Heh heh.

4) Stunts – Total Thumbs Up: The cast and the stunt team did some great work in Part 2. The fight in the sewers was especially well done – lots of hand-to-hand combat goodness. Between the traps and several explosions during the film, people get thrown all over the place.

5) Costuming/Makeup – Thumbs Up: While the departments did a great job as usual, there was one thing missing. A section of this film happens at the capitol. Several meetings even occurred in Snow’s mansion. But for the most part all the outrageous clothes and makeup were nowhere to be seen there. In a scene with actual citizens running to and fro, there were still no true funky clothes and hairstyles. Tigris definitely had both, but she’s just one person, and an extreme case at that. Even Effie was toned down. Seeing these people in their wild getups and makeup was half the fun in the previous films! 😛

Conclusion: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 was worth the wait though they would have benefited from a recap or releasing this one close to Part 1. Gritty and emotional and a fun ride.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission)

 

Movie Review – The Peanuts Movie

The Peanuts Movie

Starring: Bill Melendez, Noah Schnapp, Hadley Belle Miller, Venus Schultheis, Trombone Shorty, Mariel Sheets, Rebecca Bloom, Anastasia Bredikhina, Alexander Garfin, A.J. Tecce, Noah Johnston, and more.

Directed by: Steve Martino Written by: Bryan Schulz, Craig Schulz, and Cornelius Uliano Based on the Comic Strip by: Charles M. Schulz Cinematography by: Renato Falcão Music by: Christophe Beck

Premise: Though bad luck and frustration have been his constant companion, Charlie Brown decides he wants to become a new, better boy when a cute red headed girl moves in across the street. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. And while most think he doesn’t stand a chance, with his trusty dog, Snoopy, and a few close friends, maybe Charlie Brown can make things change and make a good impression. (Rated G)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: If you look at the cast, most of them are young actors. The fabulous part about this is that the actors they chose sound very much like the voices in the old Peanut specials on TV. Everyone does a great job.

Loved Bill Melendez – he’s been doing Snoopy’s and Woodstock’s voices since 1966! Noah Schnapp was darling as Charlie Brown. Anastasia Bredihina was a perfect Peppermint Patty. Trombone Shorty took on the task of the Wahwah adult voices. (The film site has a link to a Wahwah machine. You can even share the wahwah for the words you type in. Too cute!) Lovely work by all!

2) Artwork/Animation – Total Thumbs Up: Blue Sky Studios are the same people who brought us Ice Age and Scrat! That being said, we get a new Ice Age short called Ice Age: Collision Course – “Cosmic Scrat-tastrophe” – they went all out on this one. lol. (I have a link to the short on Monday’s Mind Sieve 11/16 post  so come on back by – hint hint. :P)

The studio normally does great work, but I think they went all out for this one. Charles M. Schulz and all the TV specials have a certain style and feel. Not only did Blue Sky Studios take that on, but they also decided to do this film in 3D! And it was marvellous! Despite the textures and the 3D depth, they made sure to keep all the bits from the actual strips – thought bubbles, Woodstock’s flight trails, the facial expressions and eyes made with a drawn pencil lines, and more.

I also loved how in several places, they moved to thought bubbles and did the contents in the straight black and white line drawings of the 2D comic strip style. They really got inventive with this one. Awesome work.

3) Plot/Story – Total Thumbs Up: Peanuts is a comic strip with years upon years of content, dozens of TV specials, and more. And Blue Sky Studios managed to pick all the nuggets which bring out all the best of Peanuts and presented them in a way that would not only tickle fans of the comic strip and TV specials, but also make it easy for those who’ve never seen The Peanut’s world before to fall in love with it.

All the iconic stuff is there: the kite eating tree, the pitching mound, Lucy’s psychiatry stand, the football, the typewriter, even the Great Pumpkin is mentioned. But best of all – lots of the Red Baron! We even end up with a story inside the story, as Snoopy plays out some of Charlie Brown’s own troubles as the World War I Flying Ace and finds his own cute girl to fancy. Several elements were even shown as this being where they began. The way they threaded in the Red Baron was brilliant! They made him a force to fear in reality as well as in Snoopy’s imagination. Lovely!

The story itself is interesting and full of all those pains we suffered through while growing up. As ever, Peanuts is entertaining, amusing, and even thought provoking. A really nice job overall.

4) Music – Total Thumbs Up: The Linus and Lucy theme of old is brought back to help give us waves of nostalgia (plus it’s really a catchy theme!). They even brought in a clip from one of the specials – the caroling scene song – “Christmas Time is Here”. Several of these bits were from the original scores by Vince Guaraldi Trio. Christophe Beck kept his part of the score light and airy and it blended quite well with the original scores – he even gives his own twist to the Linus and Lucy theme. All the music worked very well together.

Conclusion: The Peanuts Movie encapsulates everything you have ever loved about Charles M. Schulz classic comic strips and the ton of TV specials. It will make for a wonderful nostalgic trip. For those not acquainted with the comic strips, however, this film will be a marvellous introduction to all the awesome characters and lively imagination which endeared this strip to people the world over. Tons of fun for the whole family.

Rating: 4 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission)