Movie Review – Ex Machina

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Ex Machina

Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander, Corey Johnson, Sonoya Mizuno, Claire Selby, Symara A. Templeman, Gana Bayarsaikhan, Tiffany Pisani, Elina Alminas, and more.

Directed by: Alex Garland Written by: Alex Garland Music by: Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury Cinematography by: Rob Hardy

Premise: Winning a vacation prize at work, Caleb gets to travel to spend a week with the company’s founder, recluse, and programming genius, Nathan, at his private estate. But when Caleb gets there, he’s told he’s there for something else as well. He is to be the tester of Nathan’s latest creation. He will be helping to prove, one way or the other, if Nathan has created a true Artificial Intelligence. (Rated R)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Domhnall Gleeson made the perfect foil for Nathan and his test. The character Caleb is like an eager puppy, and Domhnall portrayed that, and some of the later changes, beautifully. Oscar Isaac also did some great work – he was totally creepy and hard to read as the recluse Nathan. Sonoya Mizuno was fab as Kyoko – the longer you watched her the more subtext she conveyed – nice. But it’ll be Alicia Vikander that’ll steal your heart and soul. She’s fantastic as Ava. Tons of lovely facial expressions and nuances. Especially during her transformations – very nice.

(And both Domhnall and Oscar are going to be in the new Star Wars film! Sweet!)

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: The special effects in the film are not grandiose or flashy, but this just makes them ever so much more effective. The blending of Alicia and the CGI for Ava’s body was fantastic. Much like Chappie in the movie “Chappie”, Ava looks real in every way, and you believe she is an android, her body slimmer than a real girl’s would be since it is missing a 1/2 layer of skin.

Ava’s glowing innards and all the shiny metal and parts were just too darn cool. Loved the small peek we got into the fabrication area, too. The partially liquid brains were awesome!

3) Plot/Story – Thumbs Up: The film is more of a thought provoking thriller than an action film. Hubby thought from the previews it would be more action packed than it was (as it had minimal action) so it might be something to keep in consideration when deciding if it is for you.

Between the unusual setting, Ava, and all the weird vibes the audience will get from Nathan, the film moves along nicely and will snag the audiences’ interest. Several roads of posibilities are presented, and you’re never quite sure which one is the real one. So that was nicely played. There were a couple of good twists as well.

Unfortunately, right at the end, they bailed. Hubby and I stared at each other after the credits finished, our minds rolling in confusion. A trick is used by one of the characters. Yet five minutes later, this trick is totally forgotten about and leaves one of them in a situation that really did not exist. There’s also a choice made by Ava that clashes with what she shows seconds later. She had no audience, so no reason to fabricate what we see unless it was real. Yet, if it was real, she would not have made the previous choice. So it left a bad after taste and gave us the impression the ending had been tweaked – and not well. Dark endings are fine, but they should also have substance…

It was also really weird that the reclusive owner of a vast empire and creator of this magnificient technology only cooked, spied, drunk, danced, and exercised the whole week. It was bizarre never once seeing him do anything actually techie. o.O

4) Locations/Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: The countryside encompassed by Nathan’s vast estate was gorgeous. A lof of the house was filmed in different areas of the Juvet Landscape Hotel – and they couldn’t have picked a cooler venue. The main room alone, inside a sandstone hollow and covered in glass, was utterly amazing. (Reminded me of one of my homes in Minecraft. :P) Add in the waterfalls, woods, and other lovely views in the protected land area, and the perfect place for science and nature to meet was brought to the screen.

Conclusion: Ex Machina is a disturbing little psychological thriller with some amazing CGI work. The ending doesn’t entirely jive, but the film is worth watching for the fun cat and mouse game between the pricipals as well as the location, acting, and CGI.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full of Admission)

Picture Kaleidoscope 4/15/15

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Happy Wednesday, all!

Let’s see what I’ve got to share with you today. :)

The Gem-Like Turquoise Ice Found on Lake Baikal – article by Michael Zhang at PetaPixel. Photography by Alexey Trofimov. The ice is really amazing!

This photo by Alexey Trofimov on his site is totally amazing. It may not seem like it at first, but look closer. The lake is frozen and is now showing a solitary crack. The crack itself is fascinating. The frozen body of water around it, even more so. He’s got a lot of great stuff on his site to peruse.

Tintype Portraits of Celebrities at the Sundance Film Festival – article by Michael Zhang at PetaPixel. Photography by Victoria Will. What a neat undertaking! She got pics of a number of popular peeps!

Victoria Will has a fascinating site as well. More tintype pics, celebrity pics, and all sorts of stuff. I found this one rather fascinating.

Doggy Photo Booth Helps Shelter Get Dogs Adopted – article by Michael Zhang at Petapixel. Photography by Guinnevere Shuster. What an incredibly cute idea!

Have a great day!

Mind Sieve 4/13/15

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Morning all~!

Fan Fun

True Detective Season 2 Teaser – ooooh!!!!!

Barely Lethal Trailer – OMG! This looks awesome! ROFL!

Daredevil Trailer 2 – this is already in Netflix as it is one of those “made only for” shows – and it is FAB!  So if you have Netflix, I highly recommend this one. Been a lot of fun so far.

Avengers: Age of Ultron Official Extended TV Spot – Yes, yes, YES!

Survivor Official International Trailer #1 – Brosnan as a bad GUY! Woot!

Author Platform/Social Media

Pen Names – Necessary Evil or Ticket to Crazyville? by Kristen Lamb. Some great arguments here. So much of the landscape is changing you just can’t assume the old ways are still good.

Writing Advice

Are Drowning in To Do Lists? from Jami Gold. Good advice!

Out of time! Enjoy the week all!

Virtual Tourist – TERA 4/12/15

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Morning!

TERA
Southern Shara
Val Palrada

An open air library – nice! (Though in this humidity, it may end up NOT being such a great thing. Heh heh.

Look at the size of that sword! And it’s shinny! (She won’t miss it, will she?)

Cool looking thing, no?

This place has the oddest things.

The bad guys here are nothing to look at, but their tents as super cool. :P

Hip reduction and new armor. So cute!

A peek at my new armor as well.

Some of the extra items placed about during the Christmas season.

Th e tree!

Huts definitely fitting the jungle theme.

Arachnaea

Eek! And this just leads to the entrance!

Eek!

Have a great day!

Picture Kaleidoscope 4/8/15 – DART Adventure

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Morning, all!

My work place is moving to Las Colinas, which means a much more involved commute. So trying to see how to avoid traffic and all the stress, annoyance, etc that goes with it, I figured I’d check out DART Rail since there’s a station right by the new work address.

So I spent a couple of hours doing research, finding out routes, comparing maps, and more. So Saturday, hubby and I set off to check it out and see if it is a viable alternative or not.

This is the view from the DCTA platform off of Hebron in North Carrollton. The A Train stops by here.  As you can see, aside from a roof and some metal chairs and ticket machines, there’s nothing here.

On a day like Saturday, that is not a problem. But any kind of inclement weather and passengers would find no protection here. Also, the big schedule on the marquee is only for weekdays, so we ended up missing the train, because… there are no TOILETS!

Took a panoramic once we got back (before we realized the marquee was wrong and we’d just missed the train).  Wahhhh! (We got in the car and went to the alternate stop.)

Inside of the DART Rail – which we got on at the North Carrollton Station. No bathrooms there either.

Ticket machines and helpful signs. Huge parking lot, big statue, no bathrooms. No real cover.

Incoming DART rail. (We’re sitting in the other one.)

And we’re off!

Water treatment plant in Carrollton

Some nice views on  the overpasses.

Each station stop had a different decor motif for their columns. Still no restrooms.

A lovely fluffy sky!

Passing strangers

You can see the conductor and the rail map from here. Typical multi transit train setup.

Walnut Hill Station – a nice southern feel to the columns.

The big radar thing/water thing.

Some more of the stop decor.

Historical Park in Farmers Branch.

They’ve really fixed it up!

More column decor.

This is the extent of protection at all the stations we stopped at. :( Rain with some wind, and you’d be soaked.

Really can see a long way from up here.

Old Downtown Carrollton

More station decor

Big art thing at the North Carrollton Station. Wish they’d instead put in some bathrooms.

All the stations were clean and so were the trains. But…

We never did go all the way to our final destination. The bathroom situation caused us to hoof it in search of one and after that we were pretty much done. I now know why DART is losing money. I’ve no idea how the elderly or people with kids could afford to use DART rail without any kind of facilities being available. I spoke to a friend who uses the Red Line and said he’d seen plenty there, but the Green Line seemed to have none. Sadly, the lack of facilities definitely makes this a non-option for me.

Happy Wednesday!

Virtual Tourist – TERA 4/5/15

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Happy Easter, all!

TERA

Southern Shara

Val Palrada

Welcome to the Jungle!

You can feel the humidity oozing from the art, no? :)

There is something so very wrong with this picture…

Love this fountain!

Some truly interesting flora and landscapes

Kinda creepy though. And they chose to live here?

Just look at this thing! Creepy!

Not your average place.

More of the local flora.

The inhabitants look a little off. Eek!

Nice tent!

Nice outfit! :)

Have an awesome day!

Movie Review – Furious 7

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Furious 7

Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Dwayne Johnson, Lucas Black, Kurt Russell, Nathalie Emmanuel, Tony Jaa, Elsa Pataky, Eden Estrella, and more.

Directed by: James Wan Written by: Chris Morgan Based on Characters Created by: Gary Scott Thompson Cinematography by: Marc Spicer and Stephen F. Windon Music by: Brian Tyler

Premise: The older brother of a defeated foe has decided to wreck vengeance on Dom’s team. Hobbs sends Mr. Nobody to help them out, since their new enemy, Deckard Shaw, is a trained assassin and covert ops specialist. Bur help comes at a price – the group needs to rescue a missing programer for them. If they do, Mr. Nobody has permission to let the team use a highly classified program to track Shaw down as well as give support. Only problem is, Shaw doesn’t seem to want to wait that long to play with them. (Rated PG-13)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: The main members of the well known cast are back. Though Paul Walker passed before the film was finished, the filmmakers were able to used past footage and members of his family to fill in the gaps. Paul will definitely be missed, but for anyone not knowing of his passing, they won’t realize anything is amiss in the film. So kudos to the actors for smoothing out any holes and doing some one sided conversations to cover for their lost comrade. Family is what the Fast and Furious crew have always been about.

Watching Statham go toe to toe with Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson will make many hearts (those with and without testosterone) flutter. Talk about looks that can kill and snappy comebacks. Nice work guys!

Not to worry, the girls don’t allow themselves to be left behind, with some great work coming from Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, and newcomer, Nathalie Emmanuel.

Kurt Russell as Mr. Nobody was great! Kept you just a little insecure on whether or not he might be up to something. He made his own pile of comments and jabs. It was great to see him back on the big screen!

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: There were lots of awesome special effects, outstanding stunts, explosions, and car daring do! I sort of wish they’d not shown as many of them as they did in the previews, though. A couple of them would have had a lot more impact if they’d been left as a surprise – like the bus with the cliff and the car at Abu Dhabi.

I don’t know if the airplane car drop scenes were a mixture of real and CGI, but dang they looked good! No idea how the heck you’d control or guide a car with chutes. All I know is it looked amazing!

3) Story/Plot – Neutral: The plot on this one is one of those that you don’t want to look at too closely or it won’t make sense or quite add up.

The storyline about Letty and Dom and them trying to work through her lack of past memories and the kinks it puts in their relationship worked rather well. When added to Brian and Mia’s own unexpected issues now that he’s a father, they made a nice mix. Family has been at the core of most of the Fast and Furious films, and this one, as the ending/tribute shows, is no different.

Most of the problems come from the other places. (Do not read further if you want your action and testosterone fest to go unsullied! You’ve been warned!) The fact Shaw somehow always knows where the group is and what they’re doing, yet no one seems to wonder how the heck he’s doing it or even that he’s doing it – and never a even a hint of how he knows! (And you don’t think therefore he might be expecting you to find him after you get God’s Eye? REALLY? And that he might set a trap for you? So you BRING the only copy of God’s Eye with YOU?!?! Add to that a missile armed helicopter and drone being brought from overseas by terrorists, and no one seems to notice their obvious breach of US airspace, or the fact the air force takes twenty plus minutes to even make their presence slightly felt while major havoc is wreaked in a major US City. Mr. Nobody’s assistance/support seeming to vanish like smoke, even though he’s not dead. Though the worst one was probably (despite the fact it did make for a great entrance!) the one with Hobbs and how he took care of the drone – the timing, especially since he couldn’t see it, would have been virtually impossible to sync. (Yes, I can be a party pooper. :P)

Again, with a healthy dose of suspension of disbelief, the story does move well. But in general, it paled, in my opinion, to that of FF6’s, on several levels.

There were some unexpected fun bits. The biggest  was a couple of repeating villains! Dom had Shaw from the start, then Brian picked up Kiet, and then the group also got tagged by Jakande as he went after Ramsey and whoever was with her. It was rather unexpected and added a bit of flavor, and gave the audience multiple points of a “payoff”.

Some in-jokes were sprinkled here and there as well – both for Statham and Kurt Russell – those were fun.

4) Stunts – Total Thumbs Up: The hand to hand combat scenes are definitely worthwhile – even though they decided to do funky things here and there with the camera. Tony Jaa brought a little “Jackie Chan” flavor to the film and had several nice combat scenes.

Like I mentioned in the Special Effects section, it was too bad they gave away so many of the big stunt/special effects moments in the previews. There were plenty of other shots they could have shared to get people excited to come see it and left these to surprise the audience, thus ramping the excitement level even more. The car drop scene and the Abu Dhabi flying car scenes were definitely awesome.

5) Locations/Cinematography – Thumbs Up: The film covered several fantastic locations for mayhem. Abu Dhabi was a definite treat on several levels.

The opening scene where Shaw is visiting his younger sibling in London pans into a giant revelation as Statham and the camera move back from the hospital bed and he strides on through the hospital – major kudos for how that was laid out.

This being said, however, some of the gimmicky techniques got taken a little too far. I don’t mind new angles and ways of making things seem fresh, but too many of these repeated back and forth over a short span of time, do not work well. Early on there’s a section where the camera zooms in and then way out then back in then way out again that almost ruined the chase. Some odd sweeping shots on closeups then turning to another character and sweeping the shot in the opposite direction, back to back to back, was too much. A lot of the driving, fights, and action would have been just fine straight forward. It almost made it seem as if they were trying too hard?

Conclusion: Ignoring the plot holes and going in with a healthy dose of suspension of disbelief, Furious 7 will definitely entertain. (Though I didn’t feel it was as good as FF6). Tons of eye candy for the guys – both female and four wheeled and then some. Lots of stunts and hand-to-hand combat. Plus an ending that will leave your eyes moist.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price to See Again)

Mind Sieve 3/30/15

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Morning!

Fan Fun

SPECTRE Trailer – White fluffy cat and all! Sweet!

SPECTRE Teaser – totally different info. Things are about to get tense!

Disney’s BAMBI – SNL Skit – It’s a Darker Bambi all right! lol. Ran across this and had to share. :P

Slow West Trailer – looks like weird, but fun one!

Last Knights Official Trailer – Ooooh!

Author Platform/Social Media

Marketing 101: Creating a Strategy — Guest: Jennifer Fusco at Jami Gold’s Blog.

Writing Advice

Should You Quit Writing by Chuck (NSFW) Wendig at terribleminds.com – tell it Brother Beard!

Have a great week!

Virtual Tourist – TERA 3/29/15

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Morning!

TERA
Westonia
Citadel of Torment

This is the Torment part of the Citadel. Eek!

The Goddess

The floor was more intricate than I thought at first site.

Bizarre baddies amidst the torture machines. Eek!

But they do look cool! And intricate!

See?

Battle Time!

That is one impressive doorway!

Weirdest pet ever!

Good bye Intimidating Building!

Good bye frozen wastes!

Hello hot house? DOH!

Have an awesome Sunday!

Movie Review – HOME

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HOME

Starring: Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Steve Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Matt Jones, Brian Stepanek, April Lawrence, Stephen Kearin, Lisa Stewart, April Winchell, Derek Blankenship, and Nigel W Tierney

Directed by: Tim Johnson Screenplay by: Tom J Astle and Matt Ember Based on the Book by: Adam Rex Music by: Lorne Balfe

Premise: After the Boov take over Earth, Oh finds his new life there unexpectedly much like his old one. But when he makes the mistake of sending off a party invitation to ALL, which includes the dreaded Gorg his people had run to Earth to escape, Captain Smek and all the Boov want to arrest him. Realizing he made a mistake and trying to hide, Oh inadvertently runs into a human girl. One who accidentally didn’t get carted off to Humanity Land like the rest of the Earth’s population two weeks before. Now they need to make the effort to understand each other before things get any worse. (Rated  PG)

Review:

1) Voice Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Jim Parsons is fun as the clueless, well meaning Oh. Rihanna is totally adorable as Tip. Steve Martin as Captain Smek was a perfect choice. Matt Jones also added some great levity as Kyle.

2) Artwork/Animation – Total Thumbs Up: Dreamworks Animation did an awesome job on the film. The Boov’s cool color changes and gradations were neat to watch and gave a different dimension to the alien characters. The circular thematic theme for all things Boov was also very well done. Watching iconic Earth structures floating in bubbles left no doubt things on Earth had changed.

I loved the bizarre clumps of floating things considered useless Earth items by the Boov. The weirdness of the Captain as he found other items to adore and use in non-human ways was highly amusing. There are four quick shorts at the film’s site that are basically taped experiments of human devices – definitely amusing.

Pig, Tip’s corkscrew tailed cat, was a hoot. His fur swayed and moved even as he purred. The silent but no less entertaining character added a lot of lovely flavor.

The Slush Car, a weird amalgamation of 7-11, Back to the Future, and Herbie the Love Bug, was totally awesome. Talk about using the resources available to the most advantage! The car rocked!

The Gorg ships and their planet destroying Mother Ship were quite impressive.  The Gorg in all their forms were fascinating as well.

3) Plot/Story – Thumbs Up: The commercials and the original “Almost Home” short shown as part of Mr. Peabody & Sherman conveyed a somewhat wrong impression of what the movie would be about, so it takes a little adjustment. The film though does pick up exactly where the short left off.

As the title implies, the main theme of the film is an exploration of what we emotionally call/feel is home and our struggles to fit in in society. Family is also a large theme in the film, as well as friendship and reaching mutual understanding between species.

The plot is pretty straightforward, containing few surprises, but it will definitely stir your emotions at a couple of spots. The reunion scene was quite moving. Some of Boov’s reactions were most amusing. Though I have to say that with the things they eat for sustenance, some of the jokes with regards to things best not eaten, fall slightly flat.

Conclusion: HOME is entertaining and cute and will move you, but it won’t excite or surprise you. Plenty of fun and action for the kids. The animation is great and has lots of nice inventive touches.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Better for Matinee)

In case you missed it – this played before Mr. Peabody & Sherman – ALMOST HOME

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