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Ever wonder what it's like to be in that moment between struggling artist and published author? Read on and find out.



Monday, April 7, 2014

Movie Review - Captain America: The Winter Soldier


Captain America: The Winter Soldier  $$$ 



PG-13
136 Minutes
Starring: Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, and Robert Redford.
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo. 
 

            The Cap it back.
            With the horde of space-aliens defeated, the all-American hero can return to his normal routine. Catching-up on fifty years of pop culture. Riding his motorcycle. Visiting the girl of his dreams who is now more like the great-grandmother of his dreams. This first third of the movie is the part I liked best about the film.
            Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a super-hero movie if Hydra wasn’t plotting to rule the world and destroy SHIELD at the same time. To that end, we introduce the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). With his heightened strength and reflexes and a mechanical/bionic arm, he turns out to be a match for the Captain.
            I don’t know that I can say too much more about it without giving away plot elements that are better discovered by you, in the theater. I enjoyed the movie and would gladly watch it again, but wonder if Winter Soldier should have actually had more to do with the plot since the movie is named for him. 
 

            This is how I rated Captain America: The Winter Soldier: 

1. Fun – Lots of fun. Good interplay between Captain America (Chris Evans) and the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Plenty of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) being furious about just about everything. I especially enjoyed watching Cap try to come to terms with his status as a man out of his time.
I gave Captain America a full MB for excellent super-hero fun.  

2. Story – I felt that the movie started off strongly in this area and then weakened as it went along. There was less focus on character and more reliance on fighting, explosions, and general mayhem as the film progressed. Don’t get me wrong, I love to watch the destruction of high-tech facilities as much as the next guy, but not at the expense of the story. The lack of a strong villain didn’t help.
            A weaker story than what we could have had rates only a half MB.  

3. Technical – Plenty of explosions, flying aircraft carriers, and creepy computers to go around. Costumes, sets, and special effects were all top-notch, earning a full MB.  

            4. Acting – Good. There were no weak points here. Chris Evans does a wonderful job as Captain America. Samuel L. Jackson is a joy to watch as he chews his way through all of his scenes. Anthony Mackie turned me into a Falcon fan with his performance. I give this portion of the film a full MB.  

            Add all of it up and Captain America: The Winter Soldier earns a rating of 3 Movie Bucks. This is a film that definitely should be seen in the theaters. I recommend a matinee or other discount showing, but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you paid full price. 
 

                        Randy’s Rating System 

$$$$   = Full Price    See this movie right away and pay full price, it’s worth it.
$$$     = Matinee      Catch this as a matinee or other discounted showing.
$$        = Discount     Wait until this movie reaches a discount theater near you.
$          = Rental         Wait until this movie reaches your local video rental outlet.
0          = No Sale       Don’t see this movie at any price.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Movie Review - Divergent


Divergent  $$$ 1/2

 

PG-13
 
139 Minutes
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, and Jai Courtney.
Director: Neil Burger.   
 

            This is one of those cases where the trailers hadn’t convinced me to see the movie, but I went along with my son and was glad that I did. I guess I should listen to his suggestions more often.
            After a war in the future, the survivors in Chicago have devised a system to ensure a peaceful existence for society. They have divided everyone into five factions. Amity, the peaceful, are farmers. Candor, the honest, are involved in matters of the law. Erudite, the intelligent, are scientists and thinkers. Dauntless, the brave, are the police and soldiers of this society. And Abnegation, the selfless, are the leaders.  
When teens reach a stage of accountability, they take an aptitude test which will tell them which of the factions is best suited to their talents. They are free to choose whichever faction they want, but once they have they must remain within that group for the rest of their lives.
            Beatrice (Shailene Woodley) comes from an Abnegation family, but is not happy in this faction. She wants more than the selfless acts of service required by the faction. When she tests, the results are inconclusive. She has aptitude for multiple factions and must choose on her own which one to join.
            But that’s not all. Soon after she joins Dauntless, the reborn Tris finds herself in the middle of a plot to overthrow the faction system.
 

            This is how I rated Divergent: 

1. Fun – I enjoyed the film. It turned out better than I had expected. I gave Divergent a full MB for popcorn-munching entertainment.  

2. Story – This was the weak point of the film. Several flaws with the premise subtracted from the movie experience. And frankly, it felt like more of the same. I have read and seen plenty of dystopian stories that follow a similar path. The lack of a truly original story only rates half a MB from me.  

3. Technical – The film had a wonderful dark-future look to it. The costumes, sets, lighting, and special effects all convincingly transported me to another world and earned a full MB.  

            4. Acting – Shailene Woodley did a good job with the title-role, but I can’t say that I sympathized with her character. Her performance was not that strong. On the other hand, Theo James had my complete attention whenever he was on screen. The supporting cast brought unique personalities to their characters without upstaging Shailene Woodley – just as they are supposed to do. I give this portion of the film a half MB for a good, but not great performance from Woodley.  

            Divergent earns a rating of 3 Movie Bucks. This is a film well worth experiencing in the theaters and is probably more suitable as a matinee or other discount showing. 
 

                        Randy’s Rating System 

$$$$   = Full Price    See this movie right away and pay full price, it’s worth it.
$$$     = Matinee      Catch this as a matinee or other discounted showing.
$$        = Discount     Wait until this movie reaches a discount theater near you.
$          = Rental         Wait until this movie reaches your local video rental outlet.
0          = No Sale       Don’t see this movie at any price.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Make Things Happen


My post for this week is small, but mighty.

            MAKE.

            THINGS.

            HAPPEN.

            The world as I knew it has changed for me. My Author-In-Training days of spending huge blocks of time writing and thinking about what I wanted to write have gone the way of the Dodo. Endless hours of marketing have taken its place.
            Marketing isn’t bad. It helps you find an audience so that you can actually have people read what you write. And I find it amazingly fun now that I have a better grasp of what I’m doing. 
            The reason I’m writing about this today is because I am excited to see the progression of my career as an author. I have found that each step along the way leads you to the next. Built on the foundation of your previous work each new step takes you to greater heights.
            As an example, thanks to a suggestion from my publisher I contacted my local Barnes and Noble store and arranged a book signing. The obvious benefits of that event is the opportunity to sell a few books and meet some readers who may become fans. That alone is reason enough to justify the effort to make that happen.
            However, the Community Relations Manager turned out to be not only an amazingly friendly person, but one who had plenty of keen insights on marketing. Based on a discussion we had during the book signing I agreed to help setup a science-fiction panel for the store. My efforts to network and recruit other authors to join the panel have resulted in my connecting with individuals who have knowledge of resources and events of their own. Those in turn will no doubt result in even more marketing opportunities.
            The important point in all of this is to get out there and make things happen. I realize that not every effort will pay off in a big way, some of them may even be a waste of your time, but if you continue to plug away enough doors will be opened for you to succeed.
            Or as Nike has said for years, “Just do it.”