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Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

In Criticism & Review on July 31, 2012 at 3:09 pm

More than anything else, I absolutely hate spoilers. So I feel obligated to give you this warning in the most visibly obnoxious way possible.

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE MOVIE YET, STOP READING HERE.

Though theThe Dark Knight Rises was far from perfect, I found it to be a satisfying conclusion to director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Though it understandably could not live up fully to the expectations The Dark Knight set forth, Rises manages to bring the saga of Bruce Wayne full-circle in a way that feels complete.

The film picks up 8 years after the events of The Dark Knight. Having taken the fall for the murders committed by Harvey Dent, Batman (Christian Bale) has gone into hiding. Gotham City’s streets are safer than they’ve ever been, and it seems there’s no longer a need for the Caped Crusader.

But as Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle / Catwoman warns, a “storm is coming.” And when that storm arrives, the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been for the Batman.

Coming out of his seclusion to face the villainous Bane (Tom Hardy), Batman is put to the ultimate test, both physically and mentally, as he struggles to protect Gotham and become the hero he once was.

There wasn’t much that struck me as wrong with the film, though there are certain aspects that felt underdeveloped. The clean energy reactor/nuclear bomb, for example, felt a bit like a forced plot device.

Also, the reveal of love interest Miranda Tate’s (Marion Cotillard) true identity as Talia, the daughter of Batman Begins antagonist Ra’s Al Ghul (Liam Neeson), came about a bit too late in the game. As the true mastermind of the plot against Gotham, I would have expected Miranda to be more of a central character, and would have liked to have seen more of her as a villain. But in the brief time we got to see Miranda’s true colors, I thoroughly enjoyed Cotillard’s performance.

Until that key reveal, a central theme of the movie, the legacy of Ra’s Al Ghul, could not be fully explored. Talia’s whole plan to destroy Gotham was intended to do what her father had failed to.  As the man who trained Bruce, Bane, and Talia (and made a cameo appearance in Bruce’s dream), it seemed that Ra’s legacy was intended to have played a larger role.  I think the film could have benefited from more emphasis on the fact that both Batman and his foes had been trained by Ra’s, and examining where their ideologies diverged. It would have played up the two-sides-of-the-same-coin dynamic that made the Joker such a perfect foil to Batman.

But the things the film didn’t do are minor compared to the things it accomplished. As with most of Nolan’s projects, Rises was cinematically impressive, especially the action sequences. The fierce combat between Batman and Bane, and the fantastically-choreographed scenes of Batman and Catwoman fighting side-by-side make the film worth seeing on their own.  No scene felt more epic than when the police joined with Batman to take Gotham from the criminals, except for perhaps Bane’s destruction of Gotham’s football field.

The cast delivered fantastic performances all around. Christian Bale, stepping into his hoarse bat-voice once more, was at the top of his game as both Batman and Bruce Wayne.

Hardy’s Bane receives nearly as much screen time as Batman and, though he’s no Joker, I found him very compelling.  Towering above Batman and assured in his total superiority, Bane was a villain worthy of facing the Dark Knight, played charismatically and intimidatingly by Hardy.

As the wry and seductive cat burglar Selina Kyle, Hathaway stole every scene she was in, pun unintended. And Gary Oldman continued to prove himself as an indispensable part of the franchise as the ever-vigilant Commissioner Gordon came to grips with the lie he had perpetrated about Harvey Dent.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character John Blake proved to be more central to Rises than I had anticipated. The reveal of Blake as Robin, though made painfully obvious for any comic fan early on in the film, still managed to give me fanboy-chills.  As the film progressed, Blake learned that right and wrong are never as simple as they seem, and in order to do what’s right, sometimes you need to work outside of the system. It was clear that the character was building towards that pivotal final scene, in which Blake discovers the Batcave and begins his own journey towards becoming a hero.

Of course the most important character arc of the film, and the part the narrative handles best, is the journey of Bruce Wayne / Batman. Crippled mentally and physically after his years in exile, Batman comes out of the shadows only to be broken and left for dead at the bottom of a pit. From his very lowest, Batman rises, both literally and figuratively, to once more become the hero Gotham needs him to be.

Forced to put everything on the line for his cause, Bruce rediscovers what made him a hero. When the battle is won, and we see that he has survived and has made a life for himself with Selina, it is clear that his journey has come full-circle. He rose as Batman, and for his ceaseless sacrifice and dedication to Gotham, was allowed to finally be Bruce Wayne. Now “Robin” John Blake, inspired by Bruce’s legacy and the symbol of the Batman, can take up the mantle. Gotham’s new champion rises.

In The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan has created a worthy bookend to his Batman trilogy. We’ve seen the full journey of Bruce Wayne. Batman began, he fell, and he rose.

#EnjoyThisBecause Good vs. Evil is Always a Hit

In Enjoy This Because... on July 25, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Welcome to the first edition of Enjoy This Because I Said So, where each week I’ll write about the things I’m enjoying and why I think you’ll enjoy them too.  Let’s get right to it.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World 

(You’ll want to check out both the original series of graphic novels, written by Bryan Lee O’Malley, and the movie, starring Michael Cera and directed by Edgar Wright)

Ramona Flowers is the girl of Scott Pilgrim’s dreams. But winning her heart won’t be easy. Forced to fight Ramona’s seven evil exes, Scott finds himself caught up in a world of bass battles, telekinetic vegan powers, and demon hipster chicks. Scott Pilgrim is one part manga, one part fighting game, and one part hilarious romantic comedy. This quirky love-letter to both nerd and alternative music culture is over-the-top, surreal, and just plain awesome.  I’ll unashamedly use the “L” word when describing Scott Pilgrim.  No, not “lesbians.” The other “L” word.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (the movie) is available on DVD. The series of graphic novels can be found in your local comic shop (support your LCS!) or in most retail book stores.

Reaper 

This hour long comedy ran for two seasons on the CW from 2007 to 2009.  The show chronicles the plight of Sam Oliver (Bret Harrison) who, on his 21st birthday, finds out his parents sold his soul to the Devil. He’s then forced to act as the Devil’s bounty hunter, returning escaped souls to hell.  Though the threats Sam and his friends deal with are far from human, it’s the humanity of the characters that give Reaper it’s appeal.  Tyler Labine’s “Sock” is easily one of the most likable, genuinely funny characters I’ve come across on TV.  Reaper leans on the relationships of slacker 20-something buddies thrust into situations way out of their death, to great comedic effect. Though it took a couple of episodes for me to get into Reaper, the relatable characters and smart writing won me over quickly.

Both seasons of Reaper are available on DVD and are streaming on Netflix.

Gossamer, by Passion Pit 

It’s been three years since electro-pop outfit Passion Pit’s debut album, and the long-awaited follow-up Gossamer does not disappoint. From the first track onward, it is abundantly clear that this is a Passion Pit album, from the breezy, candy-sweet synthesizer jams of “Carried Away” to the eclectic bleeps and blorps of “I’ll Be Alright.” The first single, “Take a Walk,” has been on constant replay on my iPod since it’s release earlier this summer. The song’s simple, booming synth riff has prompted me to crank the volume, roll down my windows, and bob my head on more than one occasion.   Gossamer’s uplifting beats and poignant lyrics make clear that this is a deeply emotional album, and that comes across immediately in the listening.

Gossamer is out July 24 and is available for pre-order on iTunes and at Passion Pit’s website. The full album is streaming now on NPR.

Twitter Trends: Cookie Monster Makes the Top 5 #cheatingisOKif Tweets

In Social Media on July 18, 2012 at 3:46 pm

The Social Composition team has been keeping a close eye on today’s Twitter trend #cheatingisOKif. Here is a list of our top 5 tweets we’ve seen today. You make this list either because you had something funny to say or if you were hot enough to notice, between all of the garbage tweets. Both are diamonds in the rough.

From one G to another: Thank you, @DopeMySwaggg! Link to photo: Asian Cheats

We love all the cookies. It’s too bad they don’t see it that way. Thanks, @A_CookieMonster!

Thank you, @_vickypollard_!

Thanks @Daisu! You’re a sexy duck.

Thanks for the hot mention, @infinitehannah!

Honorable Mention:

Mariah :: @mslovelyyyy_

We found you late in the game and couldn’t sway the judges, to create a last minute upset. We think you are the cutest thing ever though. That puppy tweet almost made us cry. Someone get her a cute puppy! She deserves it. She has work in a few hours and her tummy hurts. (Mariah, let us know if someone gets you a puppy.)

Disagree? Think you have some sleeper picks up your sleeve? Add links to your favorite tweets in this trend to the comments, below. Here’s how to do this, in 3 simple steps:

  1. Go to the CheatingIsOKif trend.
  2. Click “expand” and then click “details” to view the unique URL for that tweet
  3. Copy the URL and paste it in our comments section

#Fridea: Using ROI in Social Media To Make Your Entire Company Happy

In Fri-deas, Social Media on July 13, 2012 at 3:17 pm

ROI is one of the hottest broads strutting its stuff on the social media block. Hopefully you know her–the one with nice big numbers in all the right places, and a lean routine to maintain this figure. What is ROI? It’s an initialism that represents “Return on Investment”. According to Investopedia, Return on Investment is:

A performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or to compare the efficiency of a number of different investments. To calculate ROI, the benefit (return) of an investment is divided by the cost of the investment; the result is expressed as a percentage or a ratio.

Formula:

ROI’s application to social media is unique to the company and the company’s goals. ROI does not have to be measured in dollars, directly, either. There are four major sectors of ROI, according to @JerryAllocca, author of Connected Culture. I won a copy of his book today at the Fair Media Council Social Media Boot Camp. Here are the four areas:

  1. Financial
  2. Risk Management
  3. Digital Footprints
  4. Brand

The first key [to results and happiness] is to integrate your social media efforts into the bottom-line of the business. (Extensive research required.) Check out Basics for the Digital Marketer (Chris S. Penn). When integrating into the bottom-line, “social” efforts will inherently be integrated into the business’ funnel–helping to earn money. This can be measured, and this is why measurement is essential to success.

More on Measurement
Christopher S. Penn–@cspenn on Twitter–mentioned in his @Radian6 webinar Marketing White Belt: (1) people migrate, and (2) fragmentation. We are not static beings, especially in digital mediums. Constant testing, utilizing metrics, and measurement is necessary to validate your efforts.

“_ _ I” – what were the first two letters?
What’s more, the I in ROI is what sticks out to non-social media mavens. Be wary of “expert” rhetoric, according to Craig Yaris, Chief Social Marketer at EsquireTech Solutions. Promote and create understanding and openness, says Jeff @namnum and John Doyle (@14str8). The R is elusive, according to ROI social media panel at Fair Media Council events. To manage business interests and your happiness, define goals and agree to said goals with your organization’s silos.

My ROI: your feedback
What’s your experience with ROI? What metrics do you utilize to measure ROI? Be positive, be negative, be neutral! Just be you, and do your thing.

The Fresh Prince of TV: Dylan Ford

In Uncategorized on July 13, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Stop right there! If you’re watching Jersey Shore right now, or if you claim that your favorite movie is Sex and the City, my writing may not be for you. I prefer entertainment that is well-written, with at least a twinge of intellectual-stimulation. Feel free to click over to TMZ now, judgement free. Here’s the link.

Are they all gone? OK, good.

Hey there folks. My name’s Dylan, and I’ll be your guide to the world of entertainment. Here, in the trenches, I’ll be fighting to keep you up to date on all things movie and TV.

First, I would like to tell you a little about myself:

I’m a student at the State University of New York at Binghamton, whose administrators refer to it as “the public ivy” but whose students refer to it as “where smart kids who didn’t get into Cornell end up.” I’m a self-labeled nerd (ask me about my comic collection), an alleged hipster (because I rock a beanie occasionally), and an overly-opinionated, mildly neurotic, friendly guy. My goal is to make it big in the entertainment industry. Failing that, I’ll probably go to law school so I can yell “Lawyered!” whenever I crush the opposition.

Much like Michael Bolton, I’m a major cinephile (if you get that reference, we’re going to get along swimmingly). As I’m obsessed with all things on screen (big and small), I’ll be writing about a wide range of topics in entertainment, and will endeavor to give you my honest opinions. Sincere to callow, professional to amateur, on point to off-base– you get the picture.

Keep your eyes peeled for my columns, where you’ll find:

  • TV and Movie Reviews
  • Other Reviews (Comics, Video Games, Etc.)
  • Entertainment Industry Trends
  • Fanboy Geeking
  • General Ranting

And as an added bonus, each week I’ll be posting a special segment I like to call “Enjoy This Because I Said So,” in which I’ll tell you about all of the good things you should be watching/reading/listening.

That’s all for me right now. Check me out on Twitter @DylanFord616 and read about my incredibly interesting personal life at my blog, This Is My Brain On Life. I promise, this is the only post that will be all about me (probably). I look forward to hearing from you, in the future. Leave a little about yourself in the comments below. So we can all read about you.

Here’s the Michael Bolton reference, if it escaped you:

#Fridea: If I worked for Google

In Fri-deas on July 6, 2012 at 3:14 pm

“Frideas” is a new category at Social Composition. Every Friday, I will publish an idea in the digital, marketing/PR, or communications field. Here is the first post:

If I worked for Google … I would create Google Note. This service, also called G-note, utilizes the “stylus” technology to create files that don’t have to necessarily be ‘inside the lines’. (You can stay in the lines if you would like.) The purpose of Google Note is to support your needs in writing and note-taking. To facilitate your creativity and left-brain structural needs. If you are like me, both are equally paramount. I envision a mixture of text fields and handwriting–that supports doodling as well.

I cannot speak for everyone but, for myself, the key to quality note-taking is: understanding what benefits your form most and ability to connect ideas in the best ways possible. I enjoy the speed of writing notes on a computer, but the free form that handwriting offers–to create implicit meaning and value–is unparalleled. With Google Note you can draw lines to indicate relationships, images to support data, etc. which is difficult to incorporate into your notes with a standard computer.

What happens usually is: you fall behind. You lose your rhythm and the fluidity of the notes goes bye-bye!

But why Google? The stylus platform is already supported in other programs.

Yes, it is–but not to the full extent of my needs. Many of the programs are oriented to suit the arts. Like Wacom Bamboo Tabletsbringing you exciting new ways to get creative.

I seek utility, here, to develop creative strategies and insight later. I can’t help but think the college crowd would eat this up. Google doesn’t have to stop there either.

They can incorporate Google Note into a cloud platform like Google Docs–for easy sharing and accessibility. Google Note is my idea for the day. I have some questions for you:

  1. Would you use Google Note?
  2. How would you use Google Note?
  3. Do you think Google Note would increase your productivity?
  4. What features or benefits would you add to this service, hypothetically?

Inside the Mind of TopherJRyan:
This idea spawned from a Google+ interaction with Gini Dietrich, CEO at Arment Dietrich. My guest post, How Instagram Makes Communities Better, hit the airwaves on July 3rd (2012) and I shared this on Google+. I called her comment a “G-note”. The rest is history.

How to: Managing Your Email Inbox

In Digital Communications, Personal Development on June 26, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Remember when keeping your email inbox tidy was easy? When you only received a few emails a week?

26 June 2012–It is not uncommon to receive upwards of 50 emails per day, which means digital organization is paramount. Your inbox does not have to be an untamed storage device or a detriment to your digital communications. With Gmail and some personal training, your inbox can be a source of happiness and productivity. There is only one requirement: learning to use the Gmail tools to your advantage. Before engaging these tools, it’s best practice to sift through your inbox and delete unnecessary messages as you see fit.

  1. The Label. Labels are comparable to the standard folder. You can personalize labels with colors, names, and nesting or subcategories.
  2. The Filter. Using filters in Gmail is the single greatest organizational feature, IMO. You select an email address in the filter settings and click “create filter”. Once you establish labels, they can be applied to inbound messages to easily automate inbox maintenance. This is also done in the filter settings when creating or editing a filter. Google provides step-by-step instructions to create a filter. Play with the settings to achieve desired results (e.g. auto-archive).
  3. Control your contacts. Keep a complete list of completed contacts, with at least names and email addresses. Add notes to provide relationship context. This automates a step in compose email, specifically: recognizing your email contact by filling out the “To” field.
  4. Outsource your inbox. Google offers more to its users than Gmail. Have you ever used Google Documents? Google Calendar? These two G-tools, in particular, are very valuable when managing your inbox. Instead of holding emails in your inbox to remember dates or emails containing files, upload them to the appropriate Google tool.

A common task in email management is properly storing information and archiving. Create a routine digest for archiving your information and you will keep your inbox trimmed and lean. The “important” tab and “starred” email are great for managing more ephemeral issues—such as bookmarking important emails, in the moment, which may not carry significant weight in the long-term.

SHARE: Radian6 Webinar: How to Make Your Content Rule

In Business & Marketing on June 20, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Radian6 Webinar: From Boring to Story: How to Make Your Content Rule with Ann Handley

Fast-Forward to 8:20, to avoid microphone difficulties.

Partner: Radian6
Location: The Internet
Event Date: 11 June 2012
Speakers: Ann Handley

Ann Handley offers professional insight into the content marketing realm, focusing on the art of storytelling as a concept, to create change within your organization. #GoodEnoughSucks. It’s time to rise up and brand your business! Below you will find key points to the webinar.

Content is the New Black

  • Creating content that will resonate with the audience.
  • Content Marketing spending over the next 12 months (infograph) illustrates 60% of companies are looking to increase B2B spending
  • Strategies: Articles – 79% | Social Media – 74%
  • Produce content that is sustainable and repeatable
  • 41% of companies are struggling to produce content that engages their audience
  • Content is not new, but the social tools and platforms are new
  • 13 strategies you can use to jump-start your content

For the full story visit Radian6 at Webinar Recap

Can A Digital Security Breach Ruin Your Company?

In Criticism & Review on June 18, 2012 at 12:49 pm

City College of San Francisco Computer Virus Transmitted Personal Data For Over A Decade (HuffPost)

A story like this can kill any organization, and higher education is no exception. In an age where digital reigns supreme and serves as the primary source of communication—to transmit information, especially—there’s little more important than security of said information; [Because] a university is similar to a finance firm in the sense that they compile massive amounts of sensitive information, with realistic consequences if in the wrong hands.

Can students, faculty and the public trust you after a decade of unbridled digital contagion?

(Sounds apocalyptic, but in a way: it is. A knowledgeable hacker or network can compromise data and cause significant damage in one day. Ten years? Whew.)

This puts the entire organization in question, specifically with concern to:

  • Knowledge and Awareness
  • Innovation
  • Quality
  • Safety

I’m sure you can come up with a few examples where these qualities are important when selecting a University or higher education institution. Who is to say this reputation stops at digital?

The City College of San Francisco suspects virus and criminal activity present in their system for over a decade. And they cannot determine whether or not personal information has been compromised. It’s a fairly safe assumption that there has been a data leak. This begs the wrong question. Why or how is this data significant to the hackers? And only the insiders can speculate what the potential is for the compromise of private information.

How would you feel if your college or university has a data leak for more than ten years? What would you think of this institution? I’m unsure I could let this pass.

Background Info: I recently read Adopt the cloud, kill your IT career at InfoWorld. In this article, Paul Venezia links to City College of San Francisco Computer Virus Transmitted Personal Data For Over A Decade, which is where the story begins (above).

How Facebook Will Crash and Burn

In Criticism & Review, Digital Communications on June 17, 2012 at 12:22 pm

View Hudson Walking Bridge Poughkeepsie NY If social networks are not fluid, people abandon their core functions. Yesterday, I was taking pictures on the Hudson River and came across a fancy idea.

We saw it happen with MySpace. They were hot, hot hot! Myspace didn’t have their own verb like Google it! and Facebook me but people still said: What’s your Myspace? Then … They crashed and burned, now characterized mostly by talentless bands, spam bots, and pedophiles. But why?

Answer: All of the smart people moved on.

Jeff Jarvis and Mark Zuckerberg both speak of adding to the value of a community, for reasons why a network lives to see another day, and this is important and very clearly true. But I think there’s a hidden trend at work here, too.

Trend: You need to keep the smart people.

Remember: you don’t own them, they own you. But you need to keep them. All the smart people left Myspace for better communities like Facebook and Twitter. Myspace didn’t change. (They tried to and failed.) A fixed object can only stand still in an ocean for so long, without reinvigorating its energy.

Recent discussions with “smart” people have revealed the [above] trend. Here are common responses:

  • I am using Facebook much less than I used to
  • I use it to share my work only
  • I stopped using it all together

The “smart” people are either becoming niche-y and picky with how they use Facebook or have stopped using it all together. This is important. Why does this happen?

Less tech-savvy people are still bickering with one another via Facebook over plagues that haven’t affected forward-thinkers in new digital culture for a couple decades. This is where the gaze is now; this is where they focus their attention–They are distracted by each other.

We either find things we don’t like or we get bored with their use. After you have provided “elegant organization” to a community, you need to figure out how to keep pushing that envelope to create a sustainable business / social network.

The U.S. is trending toward a Freelance World which I think shifts attention of Facebook users, indirectly. I’m finding that I–along with people I interact with in new media and tech industries–cannot afford to spend time promoting Facebook. (E.g. Feeding them content.) These kinds of people are busy doing our own things.

The collective “we” gives away a lot of our life to things like Facebook in exchange for connectivity. And that’s not a bad thing, except when it affects workflow and productivity. I have decided …. Y’all just need to do the same, to determine if it’s worth it.

If enough smart people reconsider Facebook, the premier social network will crash and burn because intelligence has found a new home. (It’s a good thing they had enough cash to buy Instagram.)