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Signs of New York – Photography

My first visit to New York City involved a lot of walking, and among those strolls through the city I stumbled upon some stirring signs. I encountered signs of artistic and fashion inspiration, signs that grew my motivation to move there, oh and actual, literal signs. Through my countless attempts to capture the city’s allure through photography came this effort to do so in a series of signs and words.

Avengers Movie

Why The Avengers is a Nerd’s Dream

Stars:  Robert Downey Jr.Chris EvansMark RuffaloChris Hemsworth, and Scarlett Johansson

Writers: Joss Whedon (screenplay), Zak Penn (story), Stan Lee (comic book) and Jack Kirby (comic book)

Director: Joss Whedon

The first of many comic book adaptations of this summer, The Avengers sets the nerdy bar even higher than the hype. The movie has been out for a mere week and I’ve managed to thoroughly enjoy it twice already, both viewings filled with excitement, laughter and joy.

The Avengers is a group of superheroes, much like the X-Men, that are teamed together to save the Earth from catastrophic enemies. Unlike the X-Men, however, the Avengers don’t really choose to band together, so the battle of egos and some’s unique social ineptitude is – dare I say- a MARVEL to watch on screen. The enemy in this saga is the brother and former villain of Thor, Loki. He did a great job making viewers hate him in Thor, so it was great to see the depth of his corrupt character unfold in The Avengers.

The movie works so well for a number of reasons. The chemistry between the heroes is captivating, which made scenes with all the characters so entertaining. One of my favorite things about the superhero genre are the quick quips and Avengers was full of the back and forth without sliding into a ghastly Gilmore Girls-esque dialogue. I audibly laughed during many scenes–both a testament to the writing and the acting.

There is a moment in the movie where every hero is in trouble without being in the same scene. I love this part because you realize how much you equally care about each character, and it’s after this point when the heroes truly work together. The balance of nerdy humor, riveting action and an engaging plot makes this one of the best movies of its genre. One thing that never ceases to ruin superhero movies is when directors and screenwriters place too much emphasis on the love story (aka Spider-Man 3) and I was so happy to see that Avengers didn’t make that mistake. They gave subtle nods to respective romances, such as Pepper Pots and Tony Stark, but nothing that overpowered the movie at all. This movie is a must-see for comic book nerds and muggles alike. If anything, there’s eye candy for both genders.

Oh and for those of you saying this is better than Batman Begins and The Dark Knight–Shut up.

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Movie Review: Young Adult

A tale of a grown woman stuck in the past, Young Adult snatches a go-to romantic comedy plot and twists it into a dark cultural commentary on society’s arrogance blocking its ability to mature. Mavis Gray (Charlize Theron) is a 37-year-old semi-successful author of a mediocre young adult series. She makes a visit to her hometown of Mercury, Minn., to reconnect with her high school sweetheart Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson). Her urge to rekindle a two-decade-old relationship is spurred by the notice she receives that Slade is a new father. The once popular and beautiful Mavis is now a slightly disheveled and depressed version of her young self, longing to fill her life’s void of happiness and to prove to the world that the glories of high school popularity never fade.

Upon her return to Mercury, Mavis bumps into a similarly dejected high school classmate Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), whom she conveniently neglected back in the day. He acts as the voice of reason and as a much needed companion in her current alcoholic binges. Young Adult takes you with the delusional Mavis in her attempt at mending her present by reliving the past. With explosive scenes revealing Mavis’ repulsive character and Matt’s troubled past, you leave this movie feeling grim about the life Matt was forced to live and the life Mavis has chosen to live, both depressing at best. The film moves slowly, but not slower than reality, so it works beautifully. The actors portray these unlikable characters so well that I left the movie not knowing if I enjoyed it. Not because I couldn’t recognize its superb quality, but I’m used to leaving movies satisfied knowing the “bad” characters have received their due justice, and that feeling is purposefully unfulfilled here. With some emotionally disturbing and challenging scenes, the film captures the characters’ disillusionment perfectly.

You should see this, if only to witness Theron’s and Oswalt’s  Oscar-worthy performances. The character development is well-crafted through subtleties, and that’s a testament to the writing and directing. Though Mavis’ character is clearly not likable, you feel yourself rooting for her, and that pretty much sums up the genius of it.

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First Flashes

In my recent itch to become more well-rounded (and spend carelessly), I bought my first SLR camera. I’ve done pretty well capturing mental pictures of moments in the past, but I want to begin cementing those images in print before my old age gets the best of me. With a fancy camera it’s easy to ignore the complexities involved and settle with its simplistic features, knowing that more often than not the photo will come out looking good. But in an effort to expand my knowledge and extend beyond the barriers of my talents, I’ve set 2012 as the beginning of my trek to photog-stardom. OK, maybe not, but I do want to learn as much as I can. So far I’m under the impression that what you shoot has a greater impact on photo quality than the skill of the photographer, and I want to be proven wrong. I’ll stop by here now and again to document my progression and share what I’ve learned, in case a fellow beginner chooses to foolishly follow my path.

Lesson #1: Sometimes accidental photos are unexpectedly your favorites, and posed and planned pictures are the worst. Never stop clicking, especially when you’re in a serene environment full of joy. You never know what will pop up in film.

My first takes -

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DYK: How Many Send Santa Letters?

The Postal Service estimates that they receive millions of “Dear Santa” letters addressed to the North Pole each year. In 1912, Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock thought of an alternative plan to tossing these out that perhaps would help children in dire need. Hitchcock authorized local postmasters and citizen volunteers to respond to letters from needy children, thus beginning the organization: Operation Santa.

Years later, Operation Santa was joined by charitable organizations and corporations who soon provided responses with gifts to families who had no expectation of receiving any. In 2011, there are 75 Operation Santa offices across the nation, full of volunteers and postal elves that rummage through thousands of letters and compile a list of presents for families.

Sources:

http://www.z1043.com/pages/jacksonblue.html?article=9541726

http://operationsanta.com/operation-santa-faqs/

http://www.buzzfeed.com/melismashable/kids-letters-to-santa

Mission Impossible 4 Ghost Protocol

Movie Review: MI4 – Ghost Protocol

Stars: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg

Writers: Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec

Director: Brad Bird

If you think age has slowed down Tom Cruise, wait till you see him fearlessly climb the tallest building in the world in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. OK, maybe that scene involved a couple special effects, but the stunt was cool nonetheless.

I haven’t seen any of the three previous M:I movies, so I’m not sure if that makes this an uneducated review or an unbiased one. Either way I was pretty giddy when the classic M:I theme song rolled around in the cheesy opening credits. Overall, the movie was about what I expected: mediocre plot, underwhelming twists and solid acting. Simon Pegg, who is the techy of the crew, plays an effective comic relief and probably the highlight of the movie for me. Surprising because Jeremy Renner is one of my favorite actors and his character didn’t do justice to his talent or the film. Cruise did a pretty good job, but what caught me by surprise in this movie were the abundance of sappy scenes. Cruise has more (un)motivational speeches than he does good stunts, and in one scene I couldn’t tell if Renner’s character was starting a bit or sincerely crying. The last 10 minutes of the movie were so cheesy that they may as well have stripped the script of a 90s Disney movie. Maybe this is all too harsh, but I figure a M:I movie is supposed to be hardcore bad ass, and this at times didn’t live up to that. This movie also included the longest fruitless chase scene I’ve ever seen, which I didn’t appreciate at all.

I have to admit, however, that a few stunt scenes, particularly when they’re in Dubai, were really well done. I couldn’t care less about Cruise’s character unfortunately, but there were stretches where I found myself holding my breath on the edge of my seat. Some of the gadgets and imaginative technology they used was creative, but even I thought some of it was a bit far-fetched. I don’t mind when movies go beyond our time, but those things should be explained well – like how they work – and connect to the rest of the film.

If you’re looking for an action thriller this winter break, maybe this isn’t your worst choice. And for my Bollywood fans out there, there’s a pleasant surprise just for you.

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Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes 2

Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law and Jared Harris

Writers: Michele Mulroney, Kieran Mulroney

Director: Guy Ritchie

The second installment of Guy Ritchie’s adaptation of the astute fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is an action-packed and essentially plot-less screenplay. Not only does this not live up to the first one, but it confirmed and exceeded my doubts from the get-go. Robert Downey Jr., and Jude Law’s interpretation of the bond between Holmes and Watson continues to be well accomplished and their witty banter is really one of the few redeeming qualities of this movie. It’s just a shame that I didn’t know what was going on for about 75 percent of their conversations.

The problem with this movie is plain and simple (unlike the convoluted plot line): the story is confusing in itself, and I’d credit the movie for my ignorance of what “A Game of Shadows” even means. The first hour and a half is mind-numbingly boring, but only because the back-and-forth of Holmes and Watson wasn’t enough to fill the void of a tangible plot. It’s unfortunate because the last 45 minutes of the movie are well-directed and written in a way that the twists unfold effortlessly. If there’s any reason this movie gets high ratings from viewers, it’s definitely because the film ends on a high note.

With that said, this film isn’t completely unenjoyable. Amidst the bumpy plot ride, there are some funny scenes and clever twists that unravel. Ritchie executes some phenomenal fight scenes, though the slow motion action shots are a bit overdone. I love the way Ritchie captures Holmes’ neurotic yet perceptive mindset through scenes where you see through Holmes’ lens. A scene in the end with Holmes and Moriarty is one of my favorite scenes of any movie this year, so there are some positives. Though with the underdeveloped characters and a story full of unnecessary scenes, perhaps it’s better if you  rent this one.

"Curiosity has its own reason for existence" -Albert Einstein