Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) Review: Spoiler Free

As a follow up to my Frozen review, I thought it made sense to continue in that vein and review another Disney film! I mean, ol’ Cap is a Marvel character, but with Disney’s acquisition of Marvel back in 2009 it’s fun to joke. Plus, Cap’ was frozen for a cool minute, so I’m calling this a logical next step. I’m a huge fan of comic books, and anyone who knows me will tell you I’m a big fanboy for Marvel Comics. Marvel has had a crazy successful run with their relatively new studio and their equally new cinematic universe. Phase One of putting this universe together was beautifully done, kicking off with Iron Man in 2008. Now, in Phase Two, Marvel is swiftly moving toward an even more ambitious project than before with Avengers: Age of Ultron. 

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I will say that I’ve felt Phase Two has been off to a rocky start. While Iron Man 3 was a fun ride and a good film, it had its fair share of problems. Thor 2 was enjoyable, but I regretfully have to say that was mostly because of Loki. Overall, the second installment in the Thor franchise was pretty forgettable. I’ve never been a big fan of Captain America, but I’ve understood his importance in the Marvel universe. The first film to showcase the hero was a good period piece war film, but was also quite forgettable. The same cannot be said for its sequel, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This movie was intense from the beginning, and carried that intensity most of the way through this two-hour-and-fifteen-minute movie.

Unlike the first Captain America film, The Winter Soldier puts Cap’ in 2014. Instead of battling Nazis with magical abilities, he’s up against an even scarier enemy: the American government. Captain America discovers that the stars and stripes he’s sworn to protect might not have the best interest of their people in mind after all. Without going into too much detail, part of the reason this movie works so well is that the threat is one that we can relate to. We all know that our government keeps secrets and sometimes acts in ways that scare us. A power that big can be frightening at times, and that’s exemplified in this film. The Winter Soldier is a superhero film, but it is also an espionage film with the thrill of a suspenseful chase.

Before I get too entrenched in praising this film, I will say that it was not without its problems. The Winter Soldier is an ambitious film, with a few grand plot lines that become a bit muddled together in the last half of the film. Some intriguing plot lines, such as those dealing with PTSD and an old flame of Cap’s, get dropped in favor of the big action oriented story lines. The film also begins with a quick pace, then slows down a bit toward the middle. This middle portion still held my interest, though, so I can’t really complain too much.

The acting in the film was good for the most part, with Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury) and Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson/Falcon) being the standouts. Chris Evans portrayed Captain America in a way that will please fans of the comics, while Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow was more likable than in previous films. Sebastian Stan had very little screen time as the eponymous Winter Soldier, though his moments in the film tended to be captivating and quite intense.

Full of great comic book moments, great action flick scenes, and some awesome easter eggs, Captain America: The Winter Soldier showed that Marvel is finally getting their footing in the Phase Two of their massive cinematic universe. With Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1st, we can only hope Marvel can hold onto this momentum.

P.S. The scene with the weird A.I. threw me off a bit. It just seemed kind of out of place. Anyone else agree? Let me know in the comments!

Frozen (2013) Review: Spoiler Free

Hey, bloggers and readers! I hope you’re all having a great first week of April! My first week of April was marked by my viewing of the 2013 Disney film Frozen. Now, Frozen came out back in November, in time for the Christmas season, so admittedly I’m kind-of-really-late with this review. I’ve finally seen the movie everyone has been singing about, though, and here’s my review.

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Frozen is the newest film to join the line of Disney musicals, which began in 1937 with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I’ve been a fan of Disney’s animated films since I was very young, and I still own my collection of Disney films on VHS that I watched and re-watched throughout my younger years. In recent years I have fallen a bit behind on the Disney animation train, though, and also did not see their films The Princess and The Frog and Tangled until a long time after their releases. Continuing this trend I waited to watch Frozen, and I can say now that I wish I had watched it during the Christmas season! Frozen tells the story of two sisters, Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell), who become estranged when the former’s dangerous ability to control ice and snow drive her into isolation.

What stood out most to me about this film was the beautiful animation. Much like Tangled, Frozen combines computer animation with elements of the hand drawn animation I grew up with. The snow and ice effects are very convincing, especially when the Snow Queen, Elsa, is using her chilling abilities. The character designs reflect the classic caricature-esque features of early Disney animated characters, which brought a smile to my face. It’s evident that the animators did their research concerning the cold Norwegian setting the film is based in.

Now, of course, I need to talk about the music. It’s a musical, after all! I’ve heard many of the songs from this film countless times since its release, and actually expected to be slightly annoyed by them in the film. On the contrary, the talent behind these songs really caused them to win me over. These songs are some of the best Disney has put out since Mulan, another film in the Disney repertoire that tried to break away from their traditional princess-themed flicks. The standouts are, without surprise, “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” and “Let It Go”, though I found “Love Is an Open Door” to be one of my favorite songs in the film, because of its style and humor.

This brings me to the final aspect of the film I’ll discuss. A large part of Frozen’s
popularity comes from its portrayal of female characters. Disney seems to have been working hard in recent years to break away from the mold they’ve set for themselves over the past seventy years, especially now that their old films tend to come under fire for teaching young girls the wrong lessons about what it is to be a woman. What I appreciated about Frozen was that it was not too heavy handed in its attempt at righting these old wrongs. Some of the changes made were more obvious, such as Kristoff being burly and blonde instead of tall-dark-and-handsome, but overall I didn’t feel like Mickey Mouse was beating me over the head and apologizing profusely for past sins. The princesses are still a bit too cookie-cutter in their design, with little risk or progressiveness on that front. When it comes to personalty, though, the female characters were done very well. Unlike Snow White and Princess Aurora, Elsa and Anna felt like real people for the most part, and real sisters as well.

Overall I think Frozen was a complete surprise, and was definitely a step in the right direction for Disney. They have captured some of the charm and warmth of the Disney Renaissance in this winter tale, while also making steps toward creating more interesting characters and relationships in their stories. If Disney continues to shoot for compelling personalities and relationships, their modern animated films stand a chance of becoming just as classic as the films I watched on VHS when I was a child.

Skip It|Rent It|Own It|

P.S. The trolls were a bit weird. I didn’t really feel like they fit in with the style and feel of the rest of the film. Was that just me?

Let me know your thoughts on the film! Next Review- Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Street Art (A Change of Pace)

Hey, bloggers and blog readers! I know I’ve been blogging a lot lately about moving, so I thought I’d post something different this week! I realize I haven’t posted anything art related in a while, so I figured I’d fix that. Today in my political science class we talked about graffiti and street art, and I thought I’d blog my thoughts on the matter!

In our modern world, where most everything in commodified through merchandise and kitsche products, street art is the newest incarnation of the avant garde. The avant garde work outside of the box, creating experimental and innovative ways to send a message. Street artists fit this mold perfectly. Graffiti and street art push the boundaries of what is acceptable, and that is exactly what the art world needs right now. This paper will argue that the avant garde is not lost to us, it has simply taken a new form in street art. The very nature of street art puts it on the edge of the acceptable. The act of creating this art is illegal. Many people look at the art and see it as a corruption of what art should be. This is the same reaction artists in the Dada and Pop Art movements received.

Street artists push the envelope, appropriating ideas and imagery in order to send a social or political message. The fact that street artists are similar to previous avant garde artists is not the only reason they are avant garde. The fight against kitsche is strong in the world of street art.  A large majority of street artists remain mysterious figures, using pseudonyms and wearing masks when they create their art. These artists work without the hope of recognition. This makes it quite difficult to commodify the work. Some might argue that this anonymity is simply to avoid the law. Many street artists who have been interviewed have spoken out against the current state of the art world, criticizing the abundance of and reliance on kitche art as a means of becoming famous and successful. Many artists gravitate toward work in the streets to avoid falling into this trap. Street art is site specific, using everything from buildings to ventilation grates as part of the work. The work is usually stationary or temporary, making it difficult to commodify.

Street art, like the avant garde, works to promote social reform. The work of artists such as Banksy criticizes the practices of large corporations and political systems. Groups of street artists in large cities have taken to altering billboards as a means of pointing out the problems with advertising and society as a whole. This paper will argue that this is what artists have been pushed to in our current world. Artists who want to really send a message must work on the fringes of society in order to escape the dilution of their cause that would come with commodification.

Street art is something I’ve been interested in for a long time, and these are just my thoughts, as an artist, on the art. Hopefully you enjoyed this break from talk about moving! Have a great three day weekend, everyone!

Podcast I’m Blogging To: “Authenticity” by NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour

Anyone looking for a place to live?

Hey bloggers and readers! I’m sure you’re probably all sick of reading about my move, but hey, it’s a big part of my life right now! I’ll put out another post completely unrelated to moving on Friday, though. Maybe it’ll be about painting, podcasts, or play going. Who knows!

In the mean time, here’s the situation. On Sunday I’m moving into a three bedroom apartment at the Boardwalk Apartments behind campus. I’m in love with the place, and I’m super excited. There’s just one catch, though! The person who was supposed to move into our third bedroom bailed on us unexpectedly, just a few days before the move! So now my roommate Matt and I are scrambling to find a third person to live in our awesome three bedroom place. We’re going to move in despite the setback, but we’ve mounted a search with flyers, Facebook posts, Craigslist ads, and good ol’ fashioned word of mouth!

I figured this was a good place to reach out to the student population and see if anyone is interested in living right behind campus!

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There’s our flyer! If anyone reading is interested or might know someone who is, let me know!

The Big Move (A Follow Up)

Hey, bloggers and blog readers! Last week I wrote a post about moving out, and this week I have some follow up news. As of Tuesday, my application for an apartment has been approved! On Friday the 21st I will be moving into a three bedroom apartment at the Boardwalk apartment complex behind campus! I’m unbelievably excited, for a multitude of reasons.

1) Moving out is a big step toward being an official grown up! I think I get a badge or something!

2) I’m going to be moving in with two other artists from the department, who are also close friends of mine!

3) I’m going to be saving a bunch of time and money by not driving back and forth from Modesto and Turlock.

4) I’ll be able to attend more events on campus, because I’ll only be a short stroll away from them!

5) I can say things like “my apartment” and “my roommates” now, which is kind of awesome.

6) Did I mention the badge for being a grown up?

Last week Jon left a comment on my post with some good advice concerning moving into my own place, and I’ve already shared it with my roommates! So thanks, Jon! We’ve already put together a comprehensive list of what we’ll need both in the short term and the long term, and we are going to be meeting this Saturday in order to finalize a plan for the big move in day! I have already started packing, which has proven to be a bit intimidating. I’ve moved with my family several times before, but this is different in a way. For one, I have more belongings to go through now than I have before. I’m also trying to get rid of a lot of extra junk that I won’t really need at the new place.

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If anyone knows of any good consignment stores in Modesto or Turlock, or good charitable organizations I could donate items to, let me know in the comments!

This next week is going to be a real project, and I hope it all goes smoothly! I have high hopes for this new opportunity, and I’m going to work hard to make it an awesome experience.

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Song I’m Blogging To: “Reptilia” by The Strokes

 

 

Apartment Hunting!

Hey, bloggers and blog readers! How is everyone doing? We’re speeding toward midterm time, and some of you might have already had your exams! My first midterm is on the twelfth of this month, in my Political Science class. The class is mainly note taking during lectures, and has very few exams or quizzes, so I’m nervous and also interested in what this first big exam is going to look like. Other than that, I’m in studio art classes for the most part, and we don’t really have a test until the final project at the end of the semester. This is a good thing, because I can focus my studying energy on this Political Science exam.

In other, more exciting news, I’m going to be moving our of my family’s house soon! Two fellow artists from the department are teaming up with me in order to find a place here in Turlock to live. I drive to school five days a week from Modesto, and one of my friends comes into Turlock four days a week from Manteca. Moving to Turlock will definitely be a great money saver, and it will be way more convenient being closer to the campus. So far we have looked at two apartments and a duplex, and through countless ads online. These two friends are very responsible and dedicated, so I don’t have any worries when it comes to moving out with them.

I am extremely excited now that the reality of finding a place to live and moving is actually sinking in, and I’m nervous at the same time. This is a massive step on the road to being an adult. I know I’m ready for it, but I think I’ll remain a tad anxious about it for a while. I’ve lived comfortably at home with no pressure to move out, so this is a decision I’m making of my own accord. I told my family this morning, and they were completely on board and very encouraging. They’re sure I can make it work, my friends are sure we can make it work, and I’m confident I can step up to the plate.

For those of you who live away from home or have gotten your own places in recent times, do you have any words or wisdom or tips you’d like to share with me? Leave a comment, I could use the advice!

Song I’m Happily Blogging To: “Lisztomania” by Phoenix.

Things I’ve Learned In College: Part 4

I haven’t done one of these in a while! I’ve learned some interesting information in my Political Science class, though, and I thought I’d share it with you all! The goal of this class is to teach students about American government with the assumption that no one in the class knows a thing about politics or how the government works. This is a great way of approaching the subject, since it’s true that a lot of college students, and people in general, do not know very much about their own government or where they stand politically. One of the goals of the class is to help each student discover where they lie on the political spectrum.

In order to do this, we first had to learn the difference between Capitalism and Socialism. Capitalism is a system where the government has little to no intervention in the economy. On the other end of the spectrum, Socialism is a system where the government is heavily involved in the economy of the country. These two systems form the first points of reference when trying to figure out where one lies on the spectrum. With these two systems on the top and bottom of a cross shaped chart, the left arm is a system where the government has little to no involvement in private affairs, while the right arm is a system where the government is involved in and regulates elements of private life.

I took a test during class on a site called The Political Compass, to see where I stand on the chart. Here are my results!

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This class has been very informative for me, and I encourage anyone who feels uncomfortable about politics to take this class, or just do some research on your own!

Song I’m Blogging To: “Digital Witness” by St. Vincent.

 

PODCASTS (GIVE ‘EM A LISTEN!) Part 2

Hey, everyone! How is the semester going for everyone? My semester has been hectic so far, but in a good way! I’ve settled into a routine I enjoy, and that routine has involved a lot of podcast listening. Back in December I wrote a post where I recommended three podcasts to everyone. Here’s that list!

Since then I’ve continued listening to The Nerdist and the occasional episode of RadioLab. I drive to Turlock from Modesto every morning, and I always listen to podcasts on my drive in and my drive home. I love listening to music, but I tend to zone out and daydream when I listen to music, which is definitely not a good thing to be doing on the freeway at sixty-five miles per hour. With podcasts I feel like people are having a discussion in the car with me, and I tend to focus more instead of drifting. Another thing about podcasts I love is that I can listen to them while I’m drawing, running, doing yoga, or being productive in some other way. Without further ado, here are a couple new podcast recommendations, for those of you with an interest!

Welcome To Night Vale!

This podcast is…well, hard to describe. It’s by far one of my favorite podcasts, so I’m always trying to pitch it to my friends! The show has gained a ton of popularity in the past several months, and it’s well warranted. Welcome To Night Vale is a radio news show from a fictional town in the Southwest United States called Night Vale. In Night Vale strange things like aliens, mutants, and government conspiracies are all every day occurances, and are reported as such. The show is humorous and surreal, but also very poetic at times. Cecil, the broadcaster, discusses the strange events in Night Vale as if you are a citizen who hears about these things every day. Night Vale is a show that is released on the first and fifteenth of each month, and currently has forty-one episodes that are a little less than a half hour long. I love the style and theme of this podcast, and I highly recommend it!

 

http://commonplacebooks.com/nightvaletitle

 

Have any of you ever listened to a TED talk? I have been listening to TED talks since I was in high school, and I love them. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and here is their mission statement:

We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we’re building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.

TED talks are speeches given in front of an audience by all manner of intellectuals and speakers, on all kinds of different subjects. NPR has begun translating these talks into a podcast format, where snippets of the talks are intercut with interviews with the speakers. These podcasts range from being very touching to be super informative, and often accomplish both tasks! I’m a fan of intellectual and informative podcasts, and this is definitely one!

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http://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/?showDate=2014-02-21

These are my recommendations for now! Let me know if you’ve listened to any of these podcasts, or any of the titles I listed in my last post! I hope you enjoy them if you decide to check them out.

Song I’m Blogging To: “Riptide” by Vance Joy.

My Website! (Hypothetically)

Hey, blog perusers! The semester is in full swing now, and memories of last semester’s classes and stresses are quickly being replaced by this semester’s schedules and trials. I’m quite enjoying this Spring semester so far, and my awesome classes are definitely a big part of that. I’m going to be doing little blog posts about each of my classes in the coming weeks. I think it’s often hard to glean from a title what a class is really about, so hopefully these posts will help enlighten people a bit about these subjects!

The first class I’m going to talk about is my Foundation Digital Media class. Originally, I wasn’t very interested in taking this class. I’m definitely more of a practical artist, preferring to use pencils and brushes over a mouse and keyboard. At home I’ve spent a lot of time using Photoshop and learning HTML for my own personal (usually social media related) reasons. Recently, though, I’ve become more interested in becoming more of a hybrid artist. I love technology, I just wasn’t super comfortable manipulating my art online. Now that I have this opportunity to learn, though, I’m excited to acquire skills that are going to put me ahead in an age where technology and the internet are such a big deal!

This class is mostly an introduction to the programs that professionals in the fields of graphic design and digital media use. The Digital Media Studio in the art department has brand new touchscreen computers, the full list of Adobe programs, and Bamboo drawing tablets. The class assumes you know nothing about these programs, and starts with very simple projects that get you acquainted with the tools that will be used on more ambitious projects. Our first big project was to build a mock-up of a website. We were able to choose any subject we wanted for the site. Some people made movie sites, other people made band websites, and I decided to make a website for my art. Here’s a link to what I came up with!

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This site is just a mock-up at the moment, but after some more class time and a bit of tweaking, I might consider trying to turn it into a real website! Our next project involved learning how to color art in Photoshop, and we used an inked image of Batman for our practice. As you can probably tell, the class is holistic and really pretty fun!

I’d recommend this class to anyone who wants to learn some very handy skills with some of the best professional programs out there!

Song I’m Blogging To: “The Remains of Rock and Roll” by Broken Bells.

 

Following The News!

Howdy, bloggers and readers! How is everyone? I hope all is well this week! I know I’ve been enjoying the much needed rainy weather we’ve been having. I’m definitely a person who enjoys overcast days, especially on campus. Everything looks more beautiful than usual after rain!

Just before this blog post I was attending my Political Science classes, which is so far one of my favorite classes in my schedule. The professor, As’ad, is very intelligent and quite funny. As part of the class we are required to follow the news daily. Now, I enjoy being informed about current events, but I tend to stray away from daily news broadcasts. I’ve just never really had an interest in these programs, and I only skim the newspaper during breakfast. I want to be informed, though, so I’m making an effort to find news options that interest me.

My first exposure to the news now is the NPR app on my phone. I read articles on this app and use this to obtain straight forward news. In the evenings, for a more entertaining spin on things, I watch The Daily Show With John Stewart. I’ve always enjoyed John Stewart, and his take on current events is one I tend to agree with. Plus, his show is hilarious!

I’m still pursuing interesting ways of acquiring news, though. If anyone reading this post knows of a good show or podcast I should listen to, let me know! As long as it’s informative, but not too dry, I’ll give it a shot! I feel like it’s the responsibility of everyone, especially young people, to be informed about what’s going on in the country and around the world.

Song I’m Blogging To: “Eli, The Barrow Boy” by The Decemberists.