Friday, December 30, 2016

Movie Review - Assassin's Creed

Assassin's Creed

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, Michael Kenneth Williams, Denis Ménochet, Ariane Labed, and more.
Directed by: Justin Kurzel Screenplay by: Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper, and Bill Collage Based on the Video Game Series Created by: Patrick Désilets, Corey May, and Jade Raymond Music by: Jed Kurzel Cinematography by: Adam Arkapaw
Premise: Cal Lynch was sentenced to death for killing a pimp. Except instead of dying, he finds himself in Spain rather than Texas. Due to his DNA, he's been picked up for a research program. One that taps into his genetic memory. The Institute is using this research not only to study violent behavior but also to find clues as to the whereabouts of the Apple of Eden. A prize that has been pursued by the Templars and the Assassin's Creed for centuries. The stakes are higher than Cal would ever guess. (Rated PG-13)
1) Acting - Total Thumbs Up: Michael Fasbender does a great job with the double role of Cal and his 14th-century ancestor Aguilar. The two characters are polarized in different directions. It's fun to see the two figuratively and literally face off against each other and what drives them. Marion Cotillard as Sofia was also an interesting character. She's a brilliant scientist, yet is mostly blind as to what her research is being used for and her father's real goals. Jeremy Irons is masterful as ever. A charismatic man with giant agendas who doesn't care who and what he uses to achieve his goals.
2) Special Effects - Total Thumbs Up: Lots of lovely and subtle touches from the special effect's team. In the game, the eagle is a symbol of the Assassin's Creed (since it is a bird of prey) and is used in several sequences. For the film, they expanded on this and used the eagle in both the present and the past. I thought it made for a beautiful tie between the two men and a nice sprinkle of mysticism besides. 
The recreations of the ancient cities were wonderful. They even made sure to add in the towers and a lot of the look and feel of the original game. 
The concept of the Animus, a virtual reality machine used to project the genetic memory of the subject, was altered somewhat to make it more cinematic. Still, I thought it was great! The 3D visual representations as seen by the doctor and techs gave everything a ghostly, haunting quality, while for Cal being in the past was solid reality. 
3) Plot/Story - Thumbs Up: You get a little backstory on Cal, which serves to help the audience understand him. It's also used to set up some reveals further on. In general, I felt the plot was pretty straight forward with few surprises. That might also be because I know a little about the franchise. (Got to play the original game years ago - though I didn't get far. The baud rate on the main character's white room at the institute was low. So it would make me very dizzy, even though no one was moving!) 
Some neat explorations of free will, violence, even faith. There's even some fun mysticism thrown in for flavor. Magic, technology, God, the audience is left to draw their own conclusions.
4) Stunts - Total Thumbs Up: The film has a lot of cool CGI and regular stunt work. Watching the assassins run through the old streets and roofs of Madrid was a lot of fun. Lots of hand-to-hand combat. 
5) Locations/Cinematography - Total Thumbs Up: The film was shot in the UK, Malta, and Spain. The flavors of the locations come through in both the past and present. The cinematography throughout was excellent, taking total advantage of the sites. Several scenes are from just behind a flying eagle, and they were gorgeous. 
One neat section went from a painting depicting a scene in 1492 to later diving into the location back in time. Lovely! 
Conclusion: "Assassin's Creed" is a fun action film with some history and mysticism thrown in for flavor. While not exactly like the game, it keeps the most important points and makes for a satisfying ride.
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Virtual Tourist - Dishonored 2 12/25/16

Morning, all!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Dishonored 2 
Meagan Foster, captain of the Wale (Not a misspelling but a hidden meaning I think) - a friend of Doctor Sokolov and my way out of Dunwall. 
My last look at home before heading off to Karnaca - the birthplace of my father and where I need to go to rescue Solokov. 
Wake up on the ship only to realize I am about to meet the Other.
So eerie, no?
And there he is. He offers Emily the same thing he offered Corvo in game 1 - otherworldly powers with which to fight my enemies.
Whales, the universe is made up of whales. Still super creepy!
Corvo's current state. 
What is likely to happen to everyone with Delilah in charge. 
Emily's dead mother, the Empress Jasmine. She will help guide me much as she did Corvo after she was assassinated.
Jasmine's heart - the last pieces of her soul trapped within. Before us, those who have plotted to destroy all with Delilah at the center.

Hope you have a fabulous day with you and yours! 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Movie Review - Passengers


Starring: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Julee Cerda, Aurora Perrineau, Andy Garcia, Vince Foster, Kara Flowers, Conor Brophy, and more.
Directed by: Morten Tyldum Written by: Jon Spaihts Cinematography by: Rodrigo Prieto Music by: Thomas Newman
Premise: The colony ship Avalon is on route to Homestead II. It's carrying 5,000 passengers and 258 crew all in suspended animation for the 120-year trip. 30 years in, the ship encounters an asteroid field. One of the asteroids is massive enough that it breaks into pieces when hitting the ship's shields rather than be vaporized. The ship sustains some seemingly minor damage it is able to repair. However, a chip on one of the hibernation pods shorts out, and the passenger is awakened. Something which has never occurred in the history of the company. And something the ship was never programmed to handle. So Jim Preston finds himself alone, with 90 years of the journey still to go. His only companion in a ship of over 5,000 people, a semi-intelligent bartender android. And the ship wasn't actually able to repair all the damage... And it can only hold out so long. (Rated PG-13)
1) Acting - Total Thumbs Up: Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence did outstanding work in film. They also have great chemistry together. Something that's crucial since for 95% of the movie they are the only ones carrying it forward. Chris gave real emotional weight to Jim's problems when he first wakes up alone and later when he battles himself over a major decision. Jennifer Lawrence also runs the gambit once she's brought awake, and again later when she learns a horrifying truth. Michael Sheen is fabulous. His portrayal of Arthur as the semi-intelligent android and the passenger's only available outlet was top notch. You could almost see his programming struggling to do more and to understand more than his software could handle. Laurence Fishburne also added a lot as Gus Mancuso. The whole cast was fantastic.
2) Special Effects - Total Thumbs Up: Lots to love with regards to the special effects. The Avalon is a gorgeous ship! Self-repairing, auto maintaining, and so beautiful. A lot of care is taken on scope and view angles. When Jim goes on his first spacewalk, his position feels stationary as everything around him is spinning. In reality, though, the two are swapped. (Don't watch the surrounding stars for too long as it will make you dizzy!) Tons of lovely attention to detail!
The Dance Dance Revolution type game was hilarious. And all the 3D holograms and interactive systems looked great. The pool area was fab. And what they do with it when gravity fails at one point was awesome.
The gorgeous views of the universe, and especially the gas giant, will make you feel it's those who are asleep that are missing everything and not those who are awake. A lot of fantastic visuals. Totally worth the 3D price.
3) Plot/Story - Thumbs Up: True science fiction is more than just about spaceships, aliens, and weapons. It's a medium for exploring human behavior, the human condition. "Passengers" definitely explores several levels of both. They also have fun playing with the hubris of corporations and how nature and Murphy's Law care nothing about it. lol. 
The science is, for the most part, solid as well. So that's a bonus. Though the film does take a few things to unbelievable extremes. The spacesuits in the Avalon are beyond miraculous - heat shield or no heat shield. The autodoc is too, once you get past the pesky restrictions. lol.
The film is a combination of "Silent Running," "Robinson Crusoe," "Cast Away," and more. It's also a great date movie. These are things to keep in mind as it will probably not resonate with some viewer's expectations. Hubby and I, however, were quite pleased.
One bit that gets done wrong or is misleading in way too many movies is the act of writing. Aurora is a journalist and a writer. And they show her just speaking out her thoughts and the computer typing them for her on a screen. While that's all well and good, the part they do not cover is EDITING! You can just jumble stuff down on paper, but NEVER is that the final product. NEVER! You have to go over it, prune it, add to it, change it, make sure it flows, that it makes sense, that it's legible. Even this movie review is not just typed and posted. Editing happens to it too! Gasp, wheeze, breathe. *Ahem*
The fabulous acting, gorgeous vistas, and well thought out scenarios will help audiences overlook the overstretched items. And some little things did show a lot of thought. At one point we see Jim drawing on the deck for something he's working on. And he thought it through thoroughly. Many will probably miss it, but what he does is a real achievement, especially since he's trying to avoid damaging any systems. You'll know it when you see it. 
4) Stunts - Total Thumbs Up: From about the middle to the end of the film there are several scenes with stunts. And most look to have been done by the actors! They meshed quite nicely with the CGI of what was going on around them. Great job!
5) Cinematography - Total Thumbs Up: I believe that between "Prometheus," "Avatar," and "Guardians of the Galaxy" that other films' visual effects and cinematography have a high bar to compete against. "Passengers" works hard to get near the three. The spanning space shots. The views of different parts of the ship. The gas giant, the asteroid field, and more are presented in fabulous ways. There are even some beautiful gas clouds during the end credits that take full advantage of the 3D. Nice!
Make sure to take a good look at the end of the film when the crew awakens and goes into the main concourse! It's super fast but super cool. And there are so many details it's hard to take them all in before it goes away!
Conclusion: Whether you go see "Passengers" for date night or for social SF or just the cool visuals, the film is definitely worth it. Add in a little suspension of disbelief at a couple of places, and you're in for a treat.
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Worth Full Price to See Again)

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Virtual Tourist - Deus Ex: Mankind Divided 12/18/16

Morning! Hope you're keeping warm!
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
One of the neat things about the Deus Ex universe is the cool posters. All sorts are out there. Propaganda, movies, and more. :P
All sorts of secrets and passageways can be found in the sewer.
The local police. Some are more honest and less rude than others. There's a major crackdown on augs for their papers.
Some lovely cobbled streets. And get a look at the snazzy cars! :)
Local convenience store.
This is an add incorporated into an awning. Freaked me out the first time I saw it. lol.
Inside of another local business. Love their window!
The rock to the left is dangling by wires. Modern art concept? And yes, this part of town has graffiti everywhere. 
A better view of the dangling rock.
This poor place has taken a major hit. Right now it is crawling with angry mobsters. It's an antique bookstore. Also, it houses a buddy specializing in augmentations and might be able to help me get mine back online. :P
Have a good day!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Movie Review - Rogue One

Rogue One

Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, Jimmy Smits, Ben Daniels, Guy Henry, Ingvild Deila, and more.
Directed by: Gareth Edwards Story by: John Knoll and Gary Whitta Screenplay by: Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy Based on Characters Created by: George Lucas Cinematography by: Greig Fraser Music by: Michael Giacchino
Premise: A cargo pilot defects from the Empire, claiming to have information about a weapon which can destroy worlds. The pilot falls into the hands of an ostracized militant faction of the Rebels. To try to get the information, the main group of Rebels track down the daughter of the man the information came from. She also happens to who knows the head of the faction holding the pilot. So the main group is hoping to use her for an introduction with the splinter faction and mend fences. Jyn has been hiding her true identity for most of her life, her father torn from her and her mentor leaving her behind years before. But when she does this one favor for the Rebellion, she starts seeing there is much out there she had no idea about. And that what the Empire is planning is bigger and more horrifying than she ever imagined.
1) Acting - Total Thumbs Up: The cast is a fun and quirky set of characters. At first, it seems they won't fit together, but they end up meshing very well. Felicity Jones was fun to watch as Jyn Erso. The character has built a thick, protective shell around herself. Felicity does a wonderful job of showing it slowly cracking and eventually falling away. Diego Luna as Cassian Andor also did a great job. Having done unspeakable things in the name of freedom, he too finds his shell cracking as he's made to deal with Jyn. Alan Tudyk was awesome as K-2SO. Not only for nice bits of levity but also for some truly poignant moments. Riz Ahmed brought a lot on as Bohdi Rook. The poor pilot goes through so much just to try to do the right thing. Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang as Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus were a fun duo that added some extra fun layers to the team.
2) Special Effects - Total Thumbs Up: The special effects team did a superb job. The devastation from just a small blast from the Death Star was jaw dropping. The multiple views of it from the ground and from space were amazing. 
They brought back all the old favorite ships and machines as well as several new ones. Loved seeing the main dish being placed on the Death Star - made for a nice backdrop to the conversation between Tarkin and Krennic.
But what was truly impressive work from the department, a lot of people won't even realize is happening. And that is the work they did with Guy Henry and Ingvild Deila to recreate the characters of Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia. It was both eerie and amazing on how well the CGI and the new actors meshed together to bring back these characters of almost forty years ago from when the original Star Wars Episode IV first came out. (Peter Cushing passed in 1994 and Carrie Fisher is much older now than she was back then. :P)
A lot of the locations were recreated and made to look as we'd seen them before. Others were brand new. We even finally get an awesome tropical beach location! (Best outpost to be assigned as a trooper ever!) 
Darth Vader's Sith temple was also quite cool looking. The only planet location in the film they did not disclose. lol. 
Tons of shooting, explosions, pistols, rifles, bombs, and more! But for the first time ever - no lightsabers! *gasp*
3) Plot/Story - Thumbs Up: The Good - A lot better thought out than The Force Awakens! So, yay for that! Lots of good bits and homage/in-jokes in the film from other Star Wars films. They went to a lot of trouble to replicate places and things as we'd seen them in the original set of movies. Bringing in Tarkin and making him part of the whole thing was awesome. Adding K-2SO was genius. Mouthy robots are in lately. lol. 
Layered characters with thought out motivations. They pulled at the heart strings in several places. I thought it hilarious that after going through all the trouble to make it so Han Solo didn't shoot first, they turned around and gave us Cassian Andor. The first scene with him definitely left no doubts as to who did what.
Like Titanic, we pretty much know how this will end, but it was worth watching it happen. And the way they tie the end of the film to the beginning of Episode IV was great. (Aside from the nitpicks below.)
The Bad - There wasn't much. And for most people, it won't make a difference. But I must do my duty. :P (We watched Episode IV right after so I did a double check!) Mon Mothma did not make an appearance until Episode VI, but she was the main focus person at Yavin 4 in this prequel. They also had a character that sounded and looked like Admiral Ackbar, which didn't make sense particularly in the large battle. (*Warning - Spoilers!*) Worse, the transmission was not a beamed transmission to one location, but one sent wide to all ships in the area. So how is it that some of the rebel ships escaped but we still only had one copy of the data? What...? If I somehow missed something explaining this, let me know! 
One last nitpick. This is a big galaxy. There are bound to be wide variations in clothing styles and home architecture. But you'll note a lot of the costumes are familiar, pilfered from different areas of the first three films. While some are expected, especially since they are recreating some of the locations, it didn't make sense everywhere. Where it worked the least, in my opinion, was the humid planet where Jyn's father has hiding. Subterranean houses in this environment would be terribly risky. And do they not believe in rain gear in that world? 
One bit I thought cute and not cute was an obtuse bit of homage. In the original Star Wars, Lucas based the characters of R2D2 and 3CPO on two side characters in the Japanese film "The Hidden Fortress" by Akira Kurosawa with actor Toshiro Mifune. In turn, this new film has a scene with the character Baze Malbus that was very reminiscent of another Akira Kurosawa film. Heck, in the scene, you'd swear the actor Wen Jiang looked just like Toshiro Mifune! (Or I have too wild of an imagination? :P) But doing it didn't feel quite right?
Overall, though, it was a good film! Yay!
4) Stunts - Total Thumbs Up:  Tons of explosions also means loads of stunt work. Rebels and Storm troopers are blown about all over the place. Throw in some excellent staff combat by Chirrut Imwe and the stunt people were kept quite busy. :P 
5) Locations/Cinematography - Total Thumbs Up: I was very pleased to note they didn't use the same cheat they did with "The Force Awakens" concerning locations. They actually went out of their way to find a new look for several of the new worlds. For the planets already known, they did a great job bringing back the same look and feel as they'd had previously.  So yay for trying to prove all worlds in the vast galaxy aren't all the same!
6) Music - Total Thumbs Up: I've read that this is the first Star Wars film without a John William's score. Michael Giacchino took the reins of this one. And while creating several new tracks, they also kept some of the old ones. A nice way to mesh the two sets. Giacchino also kept the spirit of the style created for this franchise, so it was in good hands.
Conclusion: Rogue One has some minor flaws, but overall it beat the pants out of The Force Awakens. :P Great addition to the franchise!
Rating: 4 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Worth Full Price to See Again)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Picture Kaleidoscope 12/14/16

It's been so long since I've done a Picture Kaleidoscope post!

Disney Cruise 2016
The majority of my pics for Rome got accidentally deleted. Only have those I took with my phone. *cry*
After going to the Vatican, our tour guide brought us here for lunch.
Lovely restaurant with tall windows. Even has an upstairs eating area. 
After lunch, we went to a section of Rome's catacombs. No pictures allowed in the tunnels but there were some artifacts we could see before going below.
This is the lovely ceiling in the chapel in the catacombs area. Isn't the layering and detail amazing? 
Gorgeous, no?
Such awesome work!
Have a great day!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Virtual Tourist - Dishonored 2 12/11/16

Life continues to be a bucket full of chaos! Whee!
Think I am going into movie withdrawal. lol.
Dishonored 2
View from the ledge outside of Emily's room. Time to escape! 
There's always interesting paintings all over the place. Some you can even take for cash. :P 
Map of Emily's small empire. It's amazing the amount of anguish it has handled over the years. Plagues, corruption, assassination. I'd want to move. :P
The Safe Room in Dunwall Tower. Now to escape to the streets.
Armed and dangerous! And about to discover the carnage was not just inside the tower. :(
My city. It looks so peaceful from up here. But it is just an illusion...
Beautiful, isn't it?
I've no idea what kind of animal that is. Have found it in several homes, so it's common, but something about it makes me go "Ugh". :P
Whale oil. It glows now. Not sure that's a good sign. (The keening of the whales is as loud as the citizens being slaughtered. So haunting...)
Finally made it to the docks. The ship to the left my possible means of escape from the city. 

Stay warm out there!

Monday, December 05, 2016

Mind Sieve 12/5/16

Fan Fun

The Mummy Teaser Trailer - this could be good!

Legion Trailer 2 - (a short one then a longer one in the same video) Should be trippy! Woot!

Simon's Cat in Bed Sheets - too cute! (dang the cat is aggressive! lol)

Social Media/Author Platform

8 Social WordPress Plugins to Improve Your Blog from the Social Media Examiner by Kristel Cuenta

3 Social Media Design Tools That Create Stunning Images from the Social Media Examiner by Peter Gartland


Christmas Gift Ideas For The Talented Writer In Your Life by Angela Ackerman. Some of these are just too cool! 

The Single Largest Secret to Success by Kristen Lamb. Some great insights! 

Woot! A full blog post! Woot!

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Virtual Tourist - Dishonored 2 12/4/16

Hubby was sick during the Thanksgiving holiday so I detoxed from all the overtime and stress at work with Deus Ex. :P Hubby though had already purchased Dishonored 2 for both of us, so I started it this weekend. (He's already finished both!)
Dishonored 2
Spiffy loading screen. Dishonored 2 is set 15 years after the first game. You also end up with the choice of playing Corvo again or his daughter Emily. 
Tutorial Section
Whales are still very much a strong motif in the game. :P The tutorial is from Emily's POV as she's being trained by Corvo. Emily is a bit of a whiner. lol.
Whales are still in all their decorating! lol. 
The art for the city is lovely. Great attention to detail.
That is one gruesome whale. Look at those teeth!
Game Beginning
Emily and Corvo are about to enter the main hall at Dunwall tower. It is the 15th Anniversary of Emily's mother's assassination. The prior empress. 
The people are still rather rough looking. lol. That's Corvo's profile on the left. He's Emily's Protector as he was for her mother.
The party pooper - Delilah. An unseen yet major player in the first game. Thought we were done with her, but somehow she's managed to come back. And so the troubles begin.
She has some major sorcery going on. Since I chose to play Emily, she's wrapping Corvo up in a stone skin.
A piece of artwork in the tower. Time for me to make my escape.
Have a lovely Sunday! 
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