Friday, November 27, 2015

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)


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! :P

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)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Picture Kaleidoscope 11/25/15 - Puerto Rico edition


Figured I'd start sharing my Puerto Rico pics. Will be setting up a gallery for them all, but it's not ready yet. These are all phone camera pics. The gillion others were with my camera. So expect all sorts of photography mayhem soon.

Heh heh heh

Puerto Rico - a property of the US. Only need a drivers license to go there. Currency is the US Dollar. Main language is Spanish.

View of a little island we spotted from the plane.

Amazing skies. Clouds are the main thing you miss when you move away from PR.

Panorama from my uncle's house in the mountains. 

More views from his porch.

He has a set of  Hibiscus bushes as a partial fence. 

I love the flowers from these bushes. Always make me think of home.

View from the balcony of the condo we got to stay in overnight.

Panorama from the top of the 1st viewing tower at El Yunque - PR's protected rain forest.

Pano of the other side on the tower.

Pano at El Morro. Spanish fort in San Juan. All the pink shirts are students on a field trip. 

Different pano view from the fort.

View from El Morro looking out. Huh, something happened as this bugger looks stitched! lol.

These are Quenepas. I'd not had some in 20 years! Last two times I'd made it home, they've not been in season. Ran across some when we went south. YAY! You bite the green to peel off the top. Then you use the bottom half as a cup. The fruit strands are stuck to a large seed. You put it in your mouth and suck off the strands. So good!

More torture to come later. :)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Mind Sieve 11/23/15

Still trying to catch up on everything now that I'm back from vacation, so this week's post will be short. (I am dreading going to work! What has imploded while I've been gone? Eek!)

Here's three quick videos from my vacation last week!

View of the wall of a large cistern in the River Camuy Caves.

A gurgling brook in El Yunque - protected rain forest in the middle of the island.

And my favorite! A panning shot of the beach at Luquillo. Look at that sky!

 Hopefully I will be back to normal schedule and items by next week!

heh heh!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Virtual Tourist - Final Fantasy XIV 11/22/15

Vacation is over...waaaahhhh!

Final Fantasy XIV
Main Storyline

Mr. Badass! :P

He's got him a dragon. Not a good thing.

One of his cronies - Nero tol Scaeva

Not a nice guy. :P

Limsa Lominsa - a neat towering city. That's the transport airship between major cities. City is by the sea.

Ticket Counter for the airship.

Leader of Limsa Lominsa

Ul'dah - the third city - dry arid lands. 

One of the main ares at Ul'dah

Delivering the letter from Gridania's leader

Raubahn - dang! him and his peeps are tall!

You can actually see his face on this one.

Out and about on Ul'dah - you can see some player characters and my new pet airship! :) And look at that carpet!!!!

Off to another place. 

It's turned cold around here! Hope you're keeping warm out there!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Picture Kaleidoscope 11/18/15


Running like super late, but hopefully it will be worth it. :)

Here's a preview of what I've been doing this week...

Mysterious caves!

Exotic vegetation!

Tower of views.

Awe inspiring vistas!

I'll be sharing more once I get back! Enjoy!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Mind Sieve 11/16/15

Hope you're having a great morning!

Fan Fun

Ice Age: Collision Course "Cosmic Scrat-tastrophe" - so cute! Scrat is baaaaacccck!

Warcraft Movie Trailer - they really are making an actual movie! Looks cool!

Finding Dori Official Trailer #1 - the fish are back!

Social Media/Author Platform

Facebook Retargeting Spend Increases: New Research by Suzanne Delzio at the Social Media Examiner. So that's why I see replicated ads of places I've been to! DOH!

Writing Advice

NaNoWriMo Triage Center: Helping You Get To 50K by Angela Ackerman. She shares some neat ways to get out of the NaNoWriMo Funk! :)

The Truly Dramatic Plot—Shakespeare, Instagram, & Why Macbeth is STILL Awesome by Alex Limberg at Kristen Lamb's Blog. Very catchy blog post title, no? :)

Last week was weird. Hoping this week is FUN! Here's hoping it's great for you as well. :)

Friday, November 13, 2015

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)


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)

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