Introducing “Screen Sting”

ScreenStingLogo_FinalI started this blog when I returned from my two year mission from Virginia on recommendation of a church leader. It began as a personal blog and switched to primarily film reviews where I found a love in movies and writing about them.

That set a great foundation for my “training” in writing. So, I decided to take this passion further of watching film and critically writing about them into an actual website called: SCREEN STING.

Here, I hope to carry on not only writing about new film releases on a week to week basis, but also other types of media like music, television and video games. This will hopefully carry on to more mediums that I can broadcast on like video and podcasting. It’s all in infantile stages right now, but I hope it will grow.

So, my followers here, as few as you may be, I hope you will follow me over to ScreenSting,com and read my writings there because there will be a lot coming up that will be sure that will tickle your fancy.

And what will happen to “Little to Know Sense?” Well, it will stay here, but I will transform it into a personal/family blog for my life and what I’m going through. I’ll routinely update my life with pictures and stories and thoughts. If you’re interested in that, please stick around.

Thank you all, and here’s to another journey!

And make sure to follow Screen Sting’s Twitter and Facebook! 

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“Divergent” ups the YA novel adaptation genre

Divergent combines HP and HG into an exciting hero adventure.

Divergent combines HP and HG into an exciting hero adventure.

Almost any Young Adult novel being adapted to the screen is surefire box office gold. Beginning with the Harry Potter films moving toward the Twilight Saga and now the recent Hunger Games films. Interestingly enough, they’re being more female focused and more action heavy which interests both genders. They’re also capitalizing on a flawed utopic future which runs along the lines of the zombie/apocalyptic craze that has been sweeping pop culture around the board.

Divergent combines these elements into a true hero story that holds the interest of its audience as it guides them through a fully developed world.

In a near-future Chicago, the entire city is in crumbles. There are no cars to be seen, just a train that runs from one end of the city to the other. The population is split into one of five “factions” where each one has their own place and role in the society. At a certain age, the young adults choose their own faction to contribute to for the rest of their lives only after a test to show them where they fit in the best. Tris (Shailene Woodley) is a plain girl from the faction which values selflessness and lack of vanity. Her time has come to choose which way she is to go. She has always admired Dauntless, the faction which values courage and who acts as the society’s guards. They are the rockstars of the society, ruthless and borderline obnoxious. As Tris takes the test, the results are inconclusive… a Divergent. She doesn’t fit into one category. She is instructed hide this discovery in fear that the government on high will take her “threat.” At the “sorting,” she is placed in in Dauntless where she begins her rigorous physical training.

This is only the first act, which builds the world that we are to live in for the 2+ hour run-time. There are subplots that pop up throughout which eventually come up to fruition in the final third. But, that’s the basis of what the viewer needs to know.

The acting assemble carries the film well enough. I didn’t notice any clunky acting or too much cheesy dialogue that took me out of the movie. The writing takes itself seriously at times. But hey, if they aren’t taking the material seriously we should too. Some standouts in the cast is the aforementioned Woodley who carries the movie. We follow her in attempt to see sympathize for her situation and choices. Her character could be fleshed out more, but her progression is undoubtedly believable. Theo James plays her mentor and leader, Four. Yes… Four. Anyway, he is the “hunk” of the movie who is mostly mysterious throughout the film which only adds intrigue to his character. Kate Winslet is the intimidating leader of a revolution, Jeanine. Whenever she is on screen, the scene is elevated. She acts and sells that she is the big bad of the film.

Woodley takes the plunge as America's next heroine.

Woodley takes the plunge as America’s next heroine.

The world that was built felt authentic even if the premise and technologies were far-fetched. Just like any movie of this kind, we have to suspend our disbelief and it doesn’t even do it that much.

Director Neil Burger paints with broad strokes with touches of small ones. This is needed to guide the viewer along who has no previous knowledge of the source material. I didn’t have to ask many questions concerning the plot which can’t be said about other adaptations. Burger stays unseen behind the camera as he films and edits the action scenes; not too bouncy or chaotic. He allows the story to tell itself.

That’s not to say that there aren’t faults in the storytelling. This is one of those kinds of movies where the more you think about some plot devices, the more they don’t make too much sense. A little stretch of imagination never hurts.

Although there was a typical teenage relationship, as any Young Adult adaptation would do, it only has one (and maybe a half) scene then backs away because it has done its purpose. This, overall, I can appreciate. And yes, it does act as a metaphor that hits its point over and over again. I can excuse this though because if the film doesn’t have meaning, it doesn’t have anything.

I wasn’t anticipating this movie to satisfy my cinematic tastes, but it did. Currently, it’s sitting at 41% on RottenTomatoes while Muppets Most Wanted is at 77%. This dumbfounds me because I would flip those percentages. Divergent sets out to tell the story it wants to tell and it does it fluently and without complicated plotting.

Rating: Pretty good.

What did you think? Did this measure up with Hunger Games or just as bad as the Twilight movies?

Next up: Noah. 

Top 10 Movies of 2013

Last year was an amazing year for movies. I was in love with all the movies that made my Top 10 list so much so that I own ALL of them. Now, this year, although I’ve seen many many movies, I don’t feel the same way as last year. I feel like it was more of year of mediocrity than real imaginative storytelling. In any case, here are my Top 10 for 2013.

10. Captain Phillips Captain_Phillips_Poster

The tension kept getting tighter and tighter with each scene. Paul Greengrass brings this true story to the big screen by focusing on Tom Hank’s Phillips’ honorable leadership. The final scene of the film truly sold the trauma Phillips went through which shed not only my tears but all around me. Speculation of the actual facts be damned.

9. Blue Jasmine

Based loosely on “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Blue Jasmine” follows a recent divorcee, Jasmine, as she attempts to recollect her life in San Francisco with her boisterous, imperfect sister. Cate Blanchett pulls off her best character work that is both heart-wrenching and  darkly hilarious. A solid supporting cast of Alec Baldwin, Louie C.K. and Sally Hawkins brings this broken fairytale down to earth. Woody Allen handles this drama with his own prowess and style that gave me a good breath of fresh air in the midst of all the blockbusters.

warm bodies8. Warm Bodies

Who knew that a “Zom-Com” can only be hilarious but have an actual message to it!? Based roughly on “Romeo and Juliet,” “Warm Bodies” perfectly captures the mind inside of the overly-done horror icon. Sure, it’s a dumb premise: girl falls in love with zombie. But it’s not that simple. “50/50” director, Jonathan Levine, takes this love story and makes it work in every way.

7. Dallas Buyers Club

Mark my words. If Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto are not at least nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, it will be a crime against cinema. Their performances are so real-to-life, entertaining, and intriguing that they sold the movie by themselves. A story of AIDS, social prejudices and corrupt pharmaceutical companies, “Dallas Buyers Club” is not an easy watch but an essential one for any movie buff.

6. Thor: the Dark World Thor-The-Dark-World-Poster-003

Maybe it was because my expectations were on the ground when I walked into the theater, but “Thor 2” blew me away. Sure, it had needless cheese in its over-bloated and self-important plot, but it was everything I want in a superhero flick. The mixture of the romance, action, comedy and charismatic characters created one of the most entertaining experiences I’ve had this year.

5. Fruitvale Station

Ever left the theater just emotionally exhausted? “Fruitvale Station” did that for me. Michael B. Jordan plays a struggling father who is just trying to do right for his daughter and girlfriend. Taking place on New Years Eve, Jordan’s Oscar Grant is only a snapshot into his life. We, as an audience know the impending ending which only gave every one of Jordan’s actions the emotional weight.

4. Pacific Rim

I’ve watched this movie about… four times since its theatrical release. Stylized to the core and brimming of cool, Del Toro’s epic tale of man/machine versus monster left me smiling in every scene. The plot was simple enough to follow and the tech was far-fetched, but that’s what it was. It was pure fantasy. An awesome world where I would love to revisit again and again.

The Way Way Back3. The Way Way Back

If you have been an awkward kid, you will attach yourself to this movie. A coming of age story about how teens are more adult than adults and how adults can and will be more childish than their kids. Duncan (Liam James), a teenage introvert, finds himself in the solace of a water park and mentor Owen (Sam Rockwell). Full of laughs, drama and impressionable moments, it holds its own with “The Breakfast Club” and “The Sandlot.”

2. Don Jon

Has pornography addiction ever been done in cinema? Wait. Has it ever been done as truthfully as this one? Starring and directed by the confident hand of Joseph Gordan-Levitt, “Don Jon” illustrates the difference between fantasy, whether it is romantic-comedies or pornography, and actual, real to life relationships. It’s message is so poignant that it can help anyone that is struggling and come to realization of the subject of the movie. Uncomfortable at times, but useful at the end of the day.

1. Star Trek: Into DarknessStar Trek

Okay. I’m sure I’ll get a lot of hate for this. There has been a ton of backlash about 2009’s Star Trek sequel. In my opinion, it had some of the most sophisticated storytelling, character moments and remarkable CGI that has held my top spot of my list since I have seen it. And that’s all I’m going to say because I’m sure I’ll get even more backlash than the actual movie.

Well that’s it. And here’s the other movies that I’ve seen in three separate categories.

Good, but not good enough:

The Place Beyond the Pines, American Hustle, Iron Man 3, Saving Mr. Banks, The Wolf of Wall Street, All Is Lost, Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, Elysium, Monsters University, Frozen, Carrie, Mud, Prisoners, The World’s End, Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Man of Steel, Ender’s Game, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Kick-Ass 2.

Lower tier:

Upstream Color, The Wolverine, Much Ado About Nothing, Stoker, Now You See Me, Rush, After Earth, This Is The End, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, The Great Gatsby, Oz: The Great and Powerful, World War Z

The very worst:

Only God Forgives, The Lone Ranger, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, The Bling Ring.

And that’s it. I still haven’t seen all the movies that I would want, but these are the ones that I have.

Here’s to a little better 2014!

New feature: Netflix Fix

 

Netflix

Hey All!

I’m starting a weekly-ish segment on this blog about only Netflix content whether it be TV or movies or the most obscure gems that need to be told to you through the grapevine.

But you may be asking, “Why should you listen to you? What makes you so important or trustworthy? Aren’t there about a million other Netflix blogs that I’d rather be reading?” Well, let me tell you.

If you have been skimming or following this blog you know that movies are my passion. I’ve seen more than 30 movies that have come out this year and I’ve written about most of them. I can be consistent in letting you, my readers, what is the best in Netflix.

But I don’t just want to tell you what’s good and that’s it. I’ll let you know why in a unbiased and practical way. I believe that art and entertainment blended together can make a perfect viewing experience. And that’s what I like and what I look for.

And what’s popular isn’t always what’s good. Some movies on Netflix are popular but I wouldn’t consider them as “good” as most of the mainstream do. If I think it’s noteworthy I’ll post about it. Sure, “Hunger Games” might be a popular movie but I don’t think that it’s as perfect as many do. And I’ll tell you that. This also bodes for movies that are deemed as “classics.” Some don’t hold up and I’ll be the first to tell you if they do or don’t and why.

There are rare gems just hiding in those genre lines you find when you load up Netflix. I go through them constantly to find that one that I have either heard about or can’t get a hold of. And Netflix movies go in and out of being available. It’s nice to have someone who is always looking through it for you and finding what is actually GOOD!

Hope you stick around. But in the meantime, check out Josh Jackson’s archive over at Paste Magazine where he has Top 30 lists of Netflix movies by genre and type.

Until next time!

 

Marvel’s demigod sequel soars

Previously printed in the UVU Review.

Thor-The-Dark-World-Poster-003“Iron Man 3” opened up a huge summer of blockbusters with its action, humor and superhero aesthetics that can only be found in a Disney Marvel movie. Although Robert Downey Jr. set a high bar for the Avengers Phase 2, somehow Chris Hemsworth and the “Thor” crew took it as a challenge.

2011’s “Thor” served as a launching pad for the title character. It was a simple story of a strong-headed demi-god who is humbled by mortality and love. Even though it wasn’t the strongest movie pre-Avengers, it was essential to know his origins and what Thor (Chris Hemsworth) values and why.

“Thor: the Dark World” begins a couple of years after the events of “The Avengers.” Thor is busy watching over the nine realms with his hammer, Mjolnir, and his might. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is imprisoned in Asgard for his failed attempt to enslave and rule the people of Earth.

To gain revenge and the state before time, Dark Elves, lead by Malkith (Christopher Eccleston), attempt to find the “aether,” which was hidden by Odin’s (Anthony Hopkins) father a millennia ago. Luckily, the aether finds its way into Thor’s love interest Jane Foster’s (Natalie Portman) veins. Simultaneously, Foster acts as the boon and damsel in distress.

Yes, the plot sounds ridiculous, but the way it is told is never overbearing or confusing. It slowly guides you from plot point to plot point by the hand which any viewer can appreciate.

The visual effects are the most stunning in most of the Marvel films. In a fully realized Asgard, the action sequences reflect a blend of “Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars” prequels kinetic joy. Director Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones) handles fight scenes and fast paced aerial shots with care and cohesiveness.

There are many bait and switch moments which act as major plot devices, but you can’t really be upset about them because the movie makers tell you time after time to watch out for them. You can tell that the screenwriters (Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely) love and respect the source material and are having a blast with it.

No good superhero movie is without its humor, and “Dark World” is brimming with it. Some of the humor it is out of place and some doesn’t land right, but when it does it hits hard. You will walk out with countless “remember this part” moments with your friends to laugh about later. The humor doesn’t diminish the hard hitting drama when it delivers.

Where the movie truly shines is when Loki finally teams up with Thor. Hiddleston’s Loki brings charisma and tension to the screen to balance Thor’s stiffness with great ease. The two create remarkable sibling chemistry that only a guy with a brother can fully appreciate.

Marvel is only one of Disney’s powerhouses that turn out hit after hit, but it’s safe to say that they have overtaken Pixar as their safe moneymaker. In the last few years Pixar has lost its place as Disney’s favorite poster boy with their less than impressive “Brave,” and “Cars 2” movies.

In the last two summers, Marvel has released two huge hits that joined the billion dollar club: “The Avengers” and “Iron Man 3” and don’t seem to be letting up. As hard as it is to say: Marvel is the new Pixar.

Like most of the Avengers movies, “Dark World” furnishes the right mixture of CGI, compelling charaters, stakes, action, adventure, romance and geek fandom into a compressed package. If this is any indication of the Phase 2, then we have our expectations for April’s “Captain America: the Winter Soldier” sky high