Biggest Movie Surprises (2012)

Biggest Movie Surprises (2012)

This year’s first movie list! This is probably my favorite list to discuss, because most of these movies caught me off guard and though they may not be the best movies I’ve seen all year, they certainly had an extra surge of entertainment value due to my low (or sometimes uninformed) expectation.

1. Crazy, Stupid, Love (3) – RomComs don’t do much for me, mostly because I find them terribly formulaic, but this one had a few things going for it. 1. Ryan Gosling (more on that later…maybe). 2. Multiple plot lines that you actually care about. 3. TWIST! I won’t say more, but if you are expecting the same boy-meets-girl routine, you won’t find it here.

2. Limitless (3) – This one just keeps going and going (in a good way). What if you could take a drug that made you awesome? Not just feel awesome (I don’t really have any experience with drugs save for daily doses of the socially acceptable amounts of caffeine), but actually be awesome. Yeah, I’ll watch 2 hours of that.

3. Lincoln (4) – sometimes a period piece or a movie that is historical/biographical in nature will get me bored (Walk the Line, for example). But truly, I was on the edge of my seat for the entire movie. That’s excellent considering I kind of already knew what was going to happen. I knew Lincoln would be good, I just was surprised at how good it was.

4. Jack Reacher (3) – Whenever I see a Tom Cruise movie, I always tell the same joke (to whoever is listening), “Every Tom Cruise movie could be entitled Tom Cruise.” You just kind of know what you are going to get with nearly every Cruise movie that ever existed ever. But Jack Reacher? Something weird happened where I was perfectly at home with the pacing, acting, and Cruise-ish-ness. He was still himself, but I had such a blast with this movie never once wanting to check my email or refill my popcorn.

5. Dredd 3D (2.5) – I’ve never seen the original (so I don’t care about the rebooting). I don’t like 3D movies (wearing 2 sets of glasses, yuk). The trailer was bad. So why go see it in the first place? Well, sometimes a guy just needs to go watch another guy shoot all the bad guys and blow everything up. And that’s what you are going to get. Dredd delivers on exactly what it promises and nothing more (nothing less). I don’t want you to think that Dredd has some kind of hidden gem that you can discover by seeing it. It doesn’t. There’s barely a discernable plot and zero character development. There are no break-out performances, and no twists. And it’s awesome fun.

Movies 2012

Movies 2012

I watched a grand total of 105 movies in 2012. I made a note of each movie as I watched it, including a number (1-4) representing my evaluation of it’s entertainment value. I will be sharing this week some of my favorites and least favorites. It was a great year for movies!

When I tell people I write down every movie that I watch, they always seem intrigued. Why do I do that? It’s simple. There are two reasons:

1. In the last 3 years that I’ve done this, I’ve seen over 300 movies – it’s a lot to keep track of! Now that I’m making lists I can check to see what I’ve seen. It makes it easy to not accidentally rent a movie I’ve seen (which I’ve done before!).

2. The best reason, however, is this. When someone asks (and they often do), “have you seen any good movies lately?”, instead of trying to jog my memory and just spout off the last thing that I saw, I can pause for a few moments, look at my list and respond truthfully with a movie that I recently enjoyed. I can do this because I’ve written them down and rated them. All of them.

I like to consider myself a credible source for both movie recommendation and movie discussion. I’m no critic by any means, but since I started paying more attention to what I was seeing and why I liked or disliked it, I’ve found movie-watching to be a fulfilling and rewarding experience.

The Worst Halloween Candy

The Worst Halloween Candy

Maybe you sift through your stash separating the good from the bad. Maybe you let your candy horde exist in one big pile and you pick it apart piece by piece. Maybe your parents confiscate it all and give you small portions of what they deem acceptable for consumption. Maybe you just eat with reckless abandonment. Whatever your method for choosing your Halloween candy, there is always a small percentage of the treats that will either never be eaten or will be eaten with a sense of regret.

You know the feeling well. A neighbor or friend will drop something into your bucket or pillowcase and your enthusiasm fades because despite your best effort to creatively dress scary, heroic, majestic, or playful they’ve just given you…

9. Smarties – Tiny pills wrapped in rolls of about 20 aren’t necessarily bad, but not good either. You’ll take them because they are sweet, but just barely.

8. Fruity Tootsie Rolls – Original Tootsie Rolls are questionable by their own merit (are they chocolate? what is that?). The fruity ones are gross. What is this candy trying to be? A fruit chew? Not quite.

7. Almond Joy/Mounds – Coconut is a texture that is difficult to overcome. It lacks a great taste to make up for the fact that you feel like you are chewing grass.

6. Good N Plenty – This is good if you like black licorice. However, the people who like black licorice would probably prefer it not look like Benadryl.

5. Necco Wafers – These are nasty. If you’ve never had them, go eat some Tums. It’s like that – only not as good…and doesn’t suppress heartburn.

4. Woppers – Chocolate-covered gravel.

3. Peanut Butter Kisses – You don’t even know who makes these or what they are called (until now) but you know them. They are wrapped in plain orange and black wrappers. And you hate them.

2. Anything that isn’t candy – popcorn balls, apples, stickers, Bible tracts, toothbrushes. Some homes need to get over themselves and hand out Snickers and Nerds like everyone else.

1.  Candy Corn – This is arguably not candy. I can’t believe you can still charge real American dollars for this stuff.

The Movies of September [2012]

The Movies of September [2012]

74. The Last Starfighter – 2.5 (nothing significant here, but a childhood favorite)
75. Swingers – 1 (this movie was terrible. It was not ‘money,’ baby)
76. The Avengers – 4 (saw it the third time with my parents. Still awesome)
77. Gattaca – 3 (this is a legit sci-fi movie. I recommend though don’t expect a lot of action)
78. Snow White and the Huntsman – 2 (Charlize Theron steals the show. Hardly surprising since the fairest in the land is Kristen Stewart)
79. Serenity – 3 (you *need* to see the TV series in order to fully appreciate this movie. But don’t worry. Firefly is one of the best tv shows ever made)
80. Cowboy Bebop: The Movie – 3 (a nice thing to see, again, after you’ve seen the one season tv series)
81. Dumb and Dumber – 3 (it’s showing its age, but still a comedy classic. It’s good to see Jim Carey before he became a superstar – though the unrated version is worse than the theatrical version)

And that’s it! I’m well on my way to hit 100+ movies by the end of the year.

Words & Phrases We Need to Stop Using

Words & Phrases We Need to Stop Using

Lately I’ve been *even more* interested than usual in my words and how I use them. I’ve come to the conclusion that a number of common words and phrases don’t mean anything any more. The following is a short list of them. I’m trying to remove these from my communications and I think you should too.

1. If it makes you feel better – as in… “If it makes you feel better, I failed 3rd grade two times.

The saying goes, “misery loves company.” But how many times has some well-meaning person unleashed that bit on you and it didn’t help at all? Every time? I think it goes something like this: I’m having a bad day. If you tell me that you also are having a bad day, my day is still bad! But that’s not the real issue. The real issue is that neither the person who uses the phrase, nor the person who receives the phrase expects the words that come after it to be of any real help or consequence. “If it makes you feel better,” really means, “I can’t think of what to say so I’m just going to talk about myself now.”

I do believe that when we’ve failed miserably, it helps to know that others have also failed miserably and that we aren’t alone on Failure Island. Still, we can do without the phrase.

Instead, try: I’m sorry you are dealing with this right now. (if you can identify with a story of a similar situation, proceed. If not, stop talking).

2. I’ll tell you right now –  as in… “I thought that flying squirrel was going to bite my hand and give me rabis. I was scared, I’ll tell you that right now.”

People tend to use this phrase to give some emphasis on what they are saying. I dislike the redundancy. Of course you’ll tell me that right now, you just did or are just about to. The phrase suggests that this was part of the story that the storyteller considered withholding but is going to go ahead and reveal everything. I also see parents use this when scolding the kids. “You won’t be going to the movies tonight, I’ll tell you that right now.” Again adding emphasis but in a peculiar way. Try this: “You won’t be going to the movies tonight, and I’m quite cross!”

3. Literally – as in… “After the dog got into the trash, I literally had to go outside and put it back in the trash barrel.

On the surface, it seems that people simply don’t understand what the word ‘literal’ means. Most could define the word accurately. However, normal, educated folks incorrectly use this word to clarify something that would never be confused with a figurative situation. If we just delete the word from our memory banks I think we’d be better off.

If it’s too difficult to determine if your words could be misunderstood as figurative or ironic, then just stop using the word all together. Don’t say you literally did something that you didn’t literally do. For example, “I literally had a cow right then and there.” Um, no you didn’t.

4. I’m Just Saying – as in… “She has a gnarly man-beard. What!? I’m just saying!

Oh you were just saying? Okay cool, if you are just saying then that’s cool. In fact, don’t worry about being responsible for offensive, rude, off-color, or snide remarks. Just excuse yourself with a “I’m just saying” and forget about dealing with the consequences of your words. When you become acutely aware that words have meaning and can hurt or shock or offend people don’t quickly try to cover it up with a meaningless phrase.

Instead, try: “I shouldn’t have said that. I apologize.”

5. I’m not going to lie – as in… “I’m not going to lie, that was the best pie-eating contest I’ve ever been in.

Stop. Just stop and ask yourself: is this something someone would expect me to lie about? If the answer is ‘no,’ then you can just forget about this phrase. It’s too bad because I think this is a legit phrase that can be used in situations where a person might be guilty of humoring or patronizing. People over-use the phrase for placing emphasis on their words and it has certainly lost credibility as an expression of being truthful in the midst of a doubtful scenario.

Instead, try: “you may find this difficult to believe, but…”

The Movies of June, July, & August

The Movies of June, July, & August

After I’m caught up here, I think I’ll start writing again. But until then, I present to you…summer movies!

—June—
53. The Full Monty – 2.5 (normal, read:ugly, guys learn to be strippers for one show. kind of funny)
54. Chariots of Fire – 2.5 (can’t figure out until 1/2 way through the movie who I’m supposed to be paying attention to)
55. Nowhere Boy – 1 (I know I caught a few z’s during this. It goes nowhere – zing!)
56. Moonrise Kingdom – 4 (Wes Anderson does it again!)
57. Men In Black 3 – 2 (despite a pretty good impression of Tommy Lee Jones by Josh Brolin, this is just a blah sci-fi popcorn flick)
58. Jackass 3 – 2.5 (I shouldn’t have laughed as much as I did. Quite a bit of gross factor though)
59. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer – 2 (somewhere about 1/2 way into the movie it really starts to drag and loses its fun factor)
60. Princess Mononoke – 2.5 (middle of the road anime. not bad. not great)
—July—
61. The Amazing Spiderman – 3 (it was a fun movie that didn’t need to be made giving us the origin of Spiderman which we all already know)
62. Dark Knight Rises – 3 (Hurt by it’s own hype and the lack of cool batman scenes)
—August—
63. 2001: A Space Odyssey – 2 (There’s really not much to see here. Movie picks up and then drops you off on the way to psychoville)
64. Total Recall – 2 (bad remake is bad – there’s no mars!)
65. Ironclad – 2 (a medieval flick that just doesn’t quite let you care about any characters)
66. Merlin – 2 (made for TV movie that’s fun but lack of polish makes it seem goofy)
67. True Grit – 4 (this is the 2010 remake and it is all kinds of awesome)
68. Immortals – 2.5 (I thought this was fun in spite of being covered in an inch of CGI)
68. The Red Baron – 2.5 (boring, but not bad)
69. Conan The Barbarian – 2 (another useless remake)
70. The Outsiders – 3 (tragic movie without the redemption you so want it to have)
71. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark – 4 (yes! Watching this as an adult has opened my eyes to some of the more subtle nuances of the film – ps. the Nazis aren’t Jones’ real rival here!)
72. Moon – 4 (probably one of my top 10 sci-fi movies of all time)
73. The Terminator – 3 (the use of puppets seems even more obvious with the special effects we have now, but the pure menace of Arnold as the Terminator makes this a thrill to watch)