Sunday, January 31, 2016

Virtual Tourist - Grim Fandango 1/31/16


I went ahead and changed the photo watermark. The first one seemed a little too intrusive? Love how you can just change it and it affects all photos! Sweet!

Grim Fandango

The secret lift to the Rebel's HQ! Bwahahaha!

The Secret Rebel Base! And yes, the lady at the table should look somewhat familiar. lol.

Inside front of Don's office without Don. Heh. Love the glass door!

Day of the Dead Festival. So close and yet so far. 

This is as close as you can get to the festival. And the sad gentleman in the tent to the right? One of the most important people you will meet. His balloon animals and empty balloons are integral to the game play! Bwahahahahaha!

Have a wonderful restful Sunday!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Movie Review - Kung Fu Panda 3

Kung Fu Panda 3

Starring: Jack Black, Bryan Cranston, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, J.K. Simmons, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Kate Hudson, James Hong, Randal Duk Kim, Steele Gagnon, Liam Knight, Wayne Knight, Barbara Dirickson, Al Roker, Willie Geist, and many more.

Directed by: Alessandro Carloni and Jennifer Yuh Written by: Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger Art Direction by: Max Boas Music by: Hans Zimmer

Premise: Li gets a message about the location of his missing son. This sends him to Po's village in the Valley of Peace. But the happy reunion is short lived as Kai, a battle comrade of the late Oogway, has gathered the chi of all the masters in the spirit world to come back to the land of the living. His objective? To destroy all Oogway once held dear, especially his prodigy, Po, and the pandas from the secret village. (Rated PG)


1) Voice Acting - Total Thumbs Up: The great cast from previous Kung Fu Panda films are back to give us a dish full of awesomeness! There are also a lot of new characters and great actors joining the fun as Po is finally reunited with his own kind.

J.K. Simmons was fun as Oogway's frenemy Kai. Bryan Cranston shows a nice range of emotions as Po's father Li. Kate Hudson plays Mei Mei, a panda who knows what she wants and how to get it - she cracked me up. There were no small parts in this film - everyone brought something amusing to this entertaining tale.

2) Artwork/Animation - Total Thumbs Up: Dreamworks has always shown extra effort on the Kung Fu Panda films, and number 3 is no exception. I really hadn't thought they could top the awesome visuals of KFP2, but they did. For the audience to experience the maximum effect, this one must be seen in 3D. The spirit world scenes are spectacular in 3D. The film has some truly gorgeous graphics.

The textures of the animation were also very impressive. You almost believe you can run your fingers through the pandas' fur. This makes for a wonderful contrast to the cold, sheen surface of the 'jombies' (jade zombies) Kai controls. When the two get brought together during the climax of the film, the differentiation is beautifully magnified.

Dreamworks also introduces some new visual story techniques to their repertoire as well as playing around, as they're known to do in these films, with mixing arts styles to differentiate between flashbacks or stories from the real world.

Wait until you see the super fun dragon warrior sequence in the spirit world. It's sweet! :)

3) Plot/Story - Total Thumbs Up: The storyline tackles several themes at once. Themes like family and friendship, relying on others, inner strength, knowing who you are, allowing yourself to be changed by those around you, and being yourself. Within the themes themselves they play with the concepts of duality and ying and yang. Though light on the surface, they dive into deep waters ewith regards to emotional topics and do a good job as always.

I thought the film did a wonderfully at representing the feelings of both Li and Mr. Ping with regards to their roles as Po's fathers. The solution the two eventually come up with on how to deal with their current positions was great. I also loved the little panda girl and how they used her with Tigress. It was a tale told about the two totally in the background of the main proceedings, but it made it no less poignant and definitely fun.

As the concepts of ying and yang are explored, the film also weaves all three of the KFP movies into a giant circle/wheel as we see Po become what he'd pictured himself as all along. And a fun treat awaits at the end for anyone from the 70's. You'll see. :)

Conclusion: Kung Fu Panda 3 delivers all the things we love about the previous KFP films -  gorgeous animation, heartwarming storytelling, and a touch of asian mysticism. Fun film for adults and kid of all ages. If you're already a fan of KFP, you won't be disappointed. And if you can at all manage it - see it in 3D! Well worth it!

Rating: 4 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Worth Full Price to See Again!)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Picture Kaleidoscope 1/27/16

Hello Wednesday!

Koh Poda by Drew Harper at Look a the colors on that water. Love the giant rock! Drew has other lovely photos at this site. Some neat color contrasts! Check out Looking Forward

Heron Art by Prelena Soma Owen at Like a game of peek-a-boo! (No website link for Prelena though :( )

Rock Ablaze by Michael A Blanchette at Look at all that PINK~!

Michael A Blanchette has a lot of other awesome photography at his site. This one is called Runway to the Sky! 

Portraits of 10 Different Lives in 10 Identical Units of a Communist-Era Apartment by Michael Zhang at PetaPixel. Photography by Bogdan Gîrbovan. Quite an unusual project! (He's got neat stuff at his site as well. Will take a minute or two to load. The pics run to the right.)

These Photos Got a Photographer Banned from North Korea by Michael Zhang at PetaPixel. Photography by Éric Lafforgue. My. Lafforgue has a ton of other countries in his portfolio at his site. He's been all over!

Have a great one!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Mind Sieve 1/25/16

Morning everyone!

Fan Fun

The Little Prince Official Movie Trailer - man, talk about a blast from the past!

Social Media/Author Platform

Blogging, Marketing & Social Media: Three Rules I Break & Why by Angela Ackerman at Writers Helping Writers blog. Too true!

Self-Promotion Is Not Mayonnaise Or Clowns by John Adamus at The Writer Next Door. (NSFW) He's got some good thoughts in here.

Writing Advice

Why the Fighting? What World are We Creating for Future Readers & Writers? by Kristen Lamb. Yes! Tell it! I love to get books in every way possible. Why not? Heck, Star Wars and Star Trek? I take both! Why settle for just one way or one thing? Bwahahahaha!

Have an awesome week! :)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Virtual Tourist - Final Fantasy XIV 1/24/16

Running late today. Overslept. Doh!
Also with the new year the pics got out of order in the folder, so I ended up jumping ahead.
Hope these are not signs of how the day is going to go!

Final Fantasy XIV

New Gridania

Small waterfall in New Gridania. Sadly not the lookout spot for the log. Have had no luck finding one yet!

Central Shroud

Adorable cottage, is it not?

Gorgeous glowing flowers. You can also see some funky dino like creatures running in the back

This is a Halitostroper - EEK!

South Shroud
Camp Tranquil and Roots Lake

Lovely sunrise!

Center of Camp Tranquil. 

View of funky formations in Root Lake as well as more gorgeous flowers!

Vistas around Camp Tranquil

Roots Lake

View from Camp Tranquil's other side. :)

May your day be a restful and tranquil one! :)

Friday, January 22, 2016

Movie Review - The 5th Wave

The 5th Wave

Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Alex Roe, Ron Livingston, Zachary Arthur, Maika Monroe,  Liev Schreiber, Maria Bello, Gabriela Lopez, Matthew Zuck, and more.

Directed by: J Blakeson Screenplay by: Susannah Grant, Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinker Based on the Novel by: Rick Yancey Cinematography by: Enrique Chediak Music by: Henry Jackman

Premise: The Earth is attacked by an unknown and unseen alien species. Their attacks have come in the form of waves - world spanning EMP fields, mutated virus, floods, drones. A fifth wave is eminent, but no one knows the form it will take. Separated from her little brother Sam, Cassie struggles to make her way to him, even as unbeknownst to her, Sam and many other human children are being trained to fight. But more is going on than any of them realize. (Rated PG-13)


1) Acting - Total Thumbs Up: Chloë Grace Moretz does a lovely job as Cassie Sullivan. Watching her transition from normal high school girl to determined survivor was fun to watch. Nick Robinson as Ben Parish/Zombie also did a nice job. Loved his understated demeanor making the 'zombie' nickname have more than one level of meaning. Alex Roe will definitely make teenage girls swoon as the helpful yet mysterious Evan Walker. I totally loved Maika Monroe's performance! Her character Ringer was a lot of fun.

2) Special Effects - Total Thumbs Up: The film has special effects in bursts, so you'll tend to forget how much there's actually has in it. Which would be a crime as they do a great job. I absolutely loved the main alien ship, especially when seen at night. Really would have liked to have gotten a closer look at one of the scout drones. The visuals on the infected humans were enticingly creepy.

The effects for the water attack were phenomenal. The tidal waves and back panned destruction came out great. I was especially impressed with the added touch of the woman in the stairwell. And the view Poundcake sees of the flooded city from the top the building really brought home the devastation.

Late in the film we get a lot of explosions and other forms of chaos. Nice!

3) Plot/Story - Thumbs Up: I've not read the novel this film is based on, so can't say much as to how close it matches the book. I will say, however, that all the teenagers in the audience seemed quite happy with it - at least all the Evan Walker parts. :P

There are a few bits that might give you a 'huh' feeling as the film progresses - most of these are actually hints rather than mistakes. I won't go into it, though, for fear of spoiling things for you guys. But I will say if it smells, there's likely a reason. :P

That being said, however, the plot does have a lot of the typical young adult book tropes (love triangle, good alien, etc.). Happily though, there was also the occasional surprise here and there.

One thing the film does suffer for, however, is the lack of a real reason/need for the aliens to take some of the steps they decide to take for the invasion. Showing off their ship for ten days before actually doing anything being but one of them. For creatures that seemingly don't believe in feelings, they sure like posturing and tormenting their targets. With their technology and what they already shown they can do, some of the steps they decide on later don't make any real sense as a next step.

4) Stunts - Total Thumbs Up: The stunt peeps did some great work. Some great people/tidal waves stunt moments. There's also a couple of hand-to-hand fight scenes and gun battles.

5) Costuming/Makeup - Thumbs Up: I was worried for a while that even the apocalypse wouldn't mess up Cassie's hair, but they made up for it later. Great touch having Cassie's hair look longer and less styled once she's out on her own. They even put some dirt on her! :) And kudos for not having her running around in heels!

Conclusion: The 5th Wave has some lovely special effects and good acting. Plot could have been a little more diverse, but wasn't bad. Watching Evan Walker fight is a definite highlight (the lake scene was pretty darn nice as well - for the ladies!) :P

Rating: 3.25 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Picture Kaleidoscope 1/20/16

Morning all!

We're getting towards sunrise viewing times again! :)

If you note at the bottom egde, our skies have been really dirty lately at the horizon. Don't know what's going on. :(

Almost looks like Tatooine, no? :P 

The pole is right down the middle of the sun. I could not have planned that if I tried! 

Molten sunshine!

Love those blues!

Guess that's enough torture for the week. :P The watermark is a neat feature not that I am using Piwigo for an online photo album. Puts it on specific sizes automatically. Have more Texas pics - so if you want to see more - the album is here.

Have a great Wednesday!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Mind Sieve 1/18/16


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)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Virtual Tourist - Grim Fandango 1/17/16

Good morning!
It's a bit chilly out there today. Brrrr

Grim Fandango

Manny in his 'work' attire - scythe and all!

The mechanic and Manny's driver. He got a little carried away with changing the car so he could drive it. Doh!

But it does look awesome in the dark! See the flames as it zooms to catch and pass Manny's rival. heh heh. A true vision from the underworld. 

Manny's surprise as he looks at his first high end customer in a long time. (The dead are in cocoons he has to open with the scythe)

Meet Meche - a newly departed soul.

Meche all dolled up and discussing travel options to the afterlife with Manny.

Manny's boss. He's not too happy at the moment. :P

Manny and his scythe. :P

Manny's been recruited to a higher cause. Whether he wants to or not! :P

Have a fabulous Sunday!

Friday, January 15, 2016

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)


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)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Virtual Tourist - Grim Fandango 1/10/16

New game this week!

Introducing Grim Fandango - this is an old game that's been remastered with textures and a new sound track. I ran across it in Steam.

Premise: You are Manny Calavera. You're serving time collecting the dead from the land of the living as they pass and then selling them a travel package to the afterlife. The more high end packages he sells, the sooner he gets to go on the trip himself. (He's basically in the land of the dead paying his dues before he can move on.) Unfortunately, only good people can qualify for the high end packages, and Manny has been getting stuck with lemons for a while. He's got to find a way to get better assignments before he gets fired and then has no way to pay off his dues.

Think 1940's architecture and the old black and white private detective films for the flavor. :)

Of course I was so caught up in everything I didn't think to take pics for a while. DOH!

Long view of Manny's rival's office. Manny is the one in the blue suit. Don is the one having fun with the punching bag. :P

View from the other side of Don's office. Notice all that awesome 1940's classic artstyle and architecture.

Manny Calavera. His office is behind him. The yellow icon at the bottom right is the inventory button. The big arrow is one of the directions you can choose to go.

Manny's computer terminal. Mix of 40's and 80's. :P

Inside Manny's inventory. This particular item is his scythe. 

Garage in Manny's building. That's the portal to the living world.

Having fun with the game so far. :)

Back muscle is freaking out this weekend (AGAIN! WHY????) so won't get to play anymore or probably do anything for the rest of the weekend. Also means no more post prep, so the blog may be a little empty this week. (Out of meds - this is going to make the day job so much fun this week. *cry*)

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Picture Kaleidoscope 1/6/16

Morning everyone!

Let's do this!

20 of the Top Wedding Photographs of 2015 by Michael Zhang at Peta Pixel (Above photo by Danny Dong) (Don't know if the pic will show. Something is not working today)

Had some glitches this morning, so this one will be shorter than usual. Weirdness abounds! :P

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Virtual Tourist - Final Fantasy XIV 1/3/16

Hope everyone is having a great morning!

Final Fantasy XIV
Golden Saucer

Missed one last pic for the Golden Saucer last week. Really a neat place. :)

Dungeon - Sastasha (In La Noscea)

Doesn't look friendly does he? :P

Dungeons in FF XIV are not what I am used to. You have to have parties of 4. They do have a neat cue system though, so you're not forced to be on at the same time as other friends to do a dungeon. You get bonuses if anyone in the party has never been there, completion speed, etc. Which means I have to take pics during the intro movie because once we're in people speed on! :)

Loved all the glowing flora here.

Pirate dude.

Unhappy creature. Him and his peeps have taken this place for a spawning ground?

I believe they are trying to summon one of the old gods.

Dungeon - Tam-Tara Deepcroft (In the Black Shroud)

Our second dungeon! A very dark place, so pics are so-so.

See what I mean? :P You have to look closely to see stuff on this one.

This has better detail.

The objective!

Hope your entry into 2016 has been joyous so far! :)
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