Friday, January 25, 2013

Pets That Suck

I had a dream about my Roomba. I was at home talking to someone else. While it was sliding around my house doing the dirty work, I decided that it would be a great idea to cover the Roomba with advertising. This would be a great source of income. I think that in the dream I described it as income for the Roomba instead of for me, the owner of the Roomba. That shows me that I subconsciously believe that I wouldn’t have been a good slave owner.

I continued to discuss the possibilities in advertising on the Roomba. Unfortunately, the obvious observation had to be mentioned (in the nondream world, this would have stopped the conversation before it started). Since the Roomba cleans my house, no enough eyes will be on the Roomba. Who is going to pay for advertising like that?

In the dream world, the conversation begins. We’ll have to send the Roomba out into the workplace. My advertising covered Roomba would go into an office building. It would zoom in and out of offices of many important people. It would glide down the hallways of some of the most prestigious offices in all the land.

That’s when we near the end of the dream. The following exchange happened between me and my conversation partner.

“You know what they call a Roomba in an office building?”

“What’s that?”

“A janitor.”

I woke up before we could discuss why janitors don’t wear pretty much the same thing as a NASCAR driver. It's a conversation the nation should have.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Alpha Centauri (Rigil Kentaurus)

Number 1 - Moonrise Kingdom

Here's the deal with Wes Anderson movies. They are always a mix of weird and fun. Your enjoyment of the movie depends on how much of the weird becomes fun for you.

I enjoyed Rushmore and the Royal Tenenbaums despite the weirdness.The weirdness was all right, and I enjoyed the characters enough to like both movies.

In The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited, the weird became too quirky to enjoy the entire films. I liked Darjeeling more, and there are some really great parts.

With all of those movies, and Bottle Rocket before those, there are plenty of little bits to like. But there's also a bit of a barrier that you have to get past to enjoy the movies as a whole, one that I never really could.

In Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson nailed the right balance. The weird became fun.

The characters worked and worked together. But they never became too weird that you couldn't relate to them. You continue to like the characters.

The plot has its moments of weird, but they work. You never feel lost and instead enjoy the ride.

In my Avengers review, I mentioned a few great scenes from this year. Add one more. The opening scene introduces us to the characters in the family by moving in and out of the rooms of the house. It's absolutely beautifully done, and had me hooked for the rest of the movie.

I wonder is making The Fantastic Mr. Fox led to Anderson pulling everything together. Since it was made primarily for kids, he had to reign in the weird enough to make it all fun. I hope he has it all dialed in. If so, we're going to see some really cool things from him in the future.

Barnard's Star (BD+04°3561a)

Number 2 - The Intouchables

Some years, the number one movie decision is easy. Last year, 50/50 was the top movie. Period. End of story. Other year, I go back and forth between two or more movies. This is one of those years. 

My number one and two movies could have switched places had my mood been different when I created the list. So know that The Intouchables could very well be the best movie of the year.

The story itself is fairly recognizable. Paralyzed man gets an unconventional assistant, and they end up changing each others' lives. And honestly, you could probably tell much of the story before seeing it. This isn't a "guess what's going to happen next" type of movie.

But The Intouchables avoids the cliches that you're expecting. The story isn't exactly what you're expecting. Most importantly, neither character is who you think they are.

I like movies with good characters. Both of these characters are unique and have their own story to tell. Put together, they create an amazing dynamic.

Perhaps best of all is this: The Intouchables is a true story of a quadriplegic. I said earlier that you can probably figure out the basic story. The tone, however, is not what you're expecting. Movies involving illnesses or handicaps usually have a heavy weight to them. While good, they can be a bit of a bummer. Watching, you'll cry every now and again. But the pure sensation of fun will outnumber the tears.

I challenge you to dislike this.I challenge you to then find someone who wouldn't like it. You'll lose. Unlike my number one movie, The Intouchables is for everybody.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Wolf 359 (CN Leonis)

Number 3 - The Avengers

Watching The Avengers was the most pure fun I had at the movies this year. Joss Whedon and company did everything just right.

For me, the only real misstep is something they legally couldn't avoid. We have an invasion by the Skrulls, but they couldn't use the Skrulls because they are owned by Fox along with the Fantastic Four movies. If those movies were even decent, I would understand a bit.So the aliens end up being rather generic. One thing that does, though, is put the focus back on the Avengers themselves.

A critique of many superhero movies, especially the  Batman movies from the 90s, is the lack of the superhero. The biggest problem with Michael Keaton's Batman is that Batman wasn't in the movie enough for it to really be a Batman movie. With a team, it's easy to feature the team members. And therefore, The Avengers are actually in most of the movie called The Avengers.

The Avengers shows us that you can make a badass, fun, energetic superhero team movie. I went to see The Avengers a second time. This time, I decided to see it in 3D to see if it added to the action at all. Of course, it didn't. 3D adds nothing but sadness to the world. This probably wasn't the best movie to test this out on, though. The action was already easy to follow as it was. Though I bet a handheld shakycam would have made it more realistic, right?

The Avengers features one of my absolute favorite scenes of the year. There's the "don't blink" scene from The Master (and the only scene you need to see). The flood after the tsunami from The Impossible is burned into my brain. Riddles in the Dark from The Hobbit was absolutely perfect. And in The Avengers, I might have even seen it a second time just for my favorite scene. It is, of course, Loki versus The Hulk.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Lalande 21185 (BD+36°2147)

Number 4 - Lincoln

I think that just about everyone who has seen Lincoln will agree to, the greatness of this movie comes down to one thing: Daniel Day-Lewis.

With many movies, you can't help but see the actor instead of the role. Every Tom Cruise movie is now like this. Or perhaps you don't see the actor, but their previous roles. This was a problem with almost everyone in Les Mis, but especially every time Gladiator tried to sing.

With Lincoln, you don't see Daniel Day-Lewis. You don't see Hawkeye or Bill "the Butcher." This is Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of the United States.

And even better, this isn't the Disneyland Main Street version, either. This is the "Just Folks" version. You know - the real guy. Somewhere, either Steven Spielberg or Day-Lewis has a time machine. They went back and talked to Lincoln. Either that, or they read some history and the opinions of historians.

It's truly an amazing movie, but there are a few flaws (and things that will keep it from being shown in classrooms.) The first is the length; it's too long. The pace is too slow, especially for students (this is the most common feedback I got from my students, to whom I offered extra credit for seeing this). It doesn't quite nail the landing. There is a great place where it could have ended the movie, but it tacked on (spoiler for those who failed eighth grade history) and ending of his death that didn't fit the tone of the movie. I loved ending with his second inaugural, as it bookends the movie with that and the Gettysburg Address. The last reason it won't be shown is Glory. We already have a great Civil War movie to show.

I will certainly how scenes. I think just about every one of them will feature Daniel Day-Lewis showing us exactly who Abraham Lincoln really was.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sirius (α Canis Majoris)

Number 5 - Argo

Ben Affleck got a lot of crap during his Bennifer days. With Gigli, Pearl Harbor, and Armageddon, he probably deserved it (note - I never saw Gigli, so I feel bad for using that as a reference. I assumed it sucked).

I prefer to think about the Kevin Smith version of Affleck, especially Chasing Amy, and as well as his role in Good Will Hunting. As a director, The Town was great. I listed it at number 6. So he's gone up one spot, something I'm sure he'll be proud to learn.

People (not people I actually talk to, but just people) are still surprised that Affleck is so successful as a director. It's that Bennifer phase that they remember.

From a history point of view, I loved Argo and learning about this. Since it was just declassified a few years back, it's probably the first that a lot of people learned about it. Argo is a good enough movie that it will likely serve as the primary source to tell the story, much like Glory tells about the 54th Massachusetts. That means inaccuracies and all for both stories will continue.

I'm looking forward to Affleck's next movie making it up to number 4.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Luyten 726-8

Number 6 - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

First things first - it's too long. I have left plenty of movies off of the list for being shorter than that this. The Onion commented on the length better than I can. And yes, I have no idea how Peter Jackson is going to break the rest of the book into two movies. Here's a writer who commented on the extra stuff better than I can.

I really like the world that Jackson created with the Lord of the Rings movies, and I fell into that pretty easily. I love the way it looks and feels, and it was good to be back. I'm looking forward to the next movie.

Why did it make the list? Really, one scene. The "Riddles in the Dark" scene with Gollum was perfect. It's the scene I remembered best from the book.

I saw this in 48FPS. I wanted to see it in 2D at 48FPS, but that wasn't an option. I will say that this 3D was probably the best I have seen.Also, it wasn't as dark as some 3D I've seen. The screen was nice and bright even with the glasses. But still, the 3D was unnecessary.It added nothing to the movie, just like every other 3D movie ever.

The 48FPS is smoother, but supposedly disorienting to some.The only time I really noticed anthing "wrong" was at the very beginning. There's a close up shot of Bilbo's hands quckly reaching into a boc. It seemed to move too quickly. Other than that, the action all looked great. Panning was smooth. Then again, I'm not a film purist who wants to see film grain. I never felt like what I was watching was "too realistic," as some have also complained about. I'm not too sure what that means. I've considered a second viewing to watch in 2D to compare, but just haven't around to it. 

If The Hobbit trilogy follows the pattern of the LOTR movies, they'll only get better.

Ross 154 (V1216 Sagittarii)

Number 7 - Robot & Frank

This is a cool little movie. Frank, played by Frank Langella, gets a caretaker robot. It's the futuristic version of the helper monkey.

Much of the movie is about the robot and Frank trying to get along with each other. It's a sort of an odd couple buddy movie. But Frank is also a retired cat burglar. It's also a heist movie. Frank is also suffering from dementia, so it's a drama.

Robot & Frank is the kind of movie that makes me really enjoy independent movies and appreciate the Cinéarts theater so close to me. And I wish many of you nearby would check it out more often. My number two movie is one that was playing there for a long time, but I don't think very many of you (if any) saw that one either.

Ross 248 (HH Andromedae)

Number 8 - The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I don't know if I've really disliked a trailer and then enjoyed a film as much since Fight Club.

After viewing the trailer for The Perks of Being a Wallflower many times, I was prepared to hate this movie. In the trailer, I really disliked two parts, both closely related.In the first, Ezra Miller is seemingly sarcastically rooting for his high school football team. In the second, he and Emma Watson are celebrating his C minus grade and declaring him to be "below average."

In addition, I was concerned with the lead actors. Logan Lerman is dull. He lacks charm. The only other movie I had seen with Ezra Miller was We Need to Talk About Kevin. He was creepy as shit in that movie, and his look makes him even creepier. And Emma Watson is, well, Hermione. 

When Perks received good reviews, I went for it. Once again, really low expectations probably helped. But the two scenes from the trailer that I hated were out of context.They didn't come across as Hollywood movie high school rebels within the movie. And then the three leads were really, really good. I don't want to say that this is a realistic display of high school. But then again, any movie that shows the reality of high school would be extremely boring and depressing.

I recently read the book. It's a really quick read, which actually makes it the right length for a movie.And the screenplay was written and directed by the book's writer, Stephen Chbosky.That probably helped, as the movie is a very faithful adaptation.

It is a great movie? No. I can list at least ten movies that I saw this year that are better. But that's not what this list is about. I liked it quite a bit.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

WISEPC J150649.97+702736.0

Number 9 - Ted

Ted is the funniest movie of the year, and I think that earns it a spot at number nine.

A talking teddy bear movie is a tough sell. Make it a comedy? Even tougher. An adult comedy? That's where the potential comes in. It couldn't have worked any other way.

There was really just one thing that go me into the theater.Seth MacFarlane. Sometimes, The Family Guy is a damn funny show. I don't watch it regularly, but when I do I'm usually entertained.

Enjoy Ted for Flash Gordon and the thunder song.

Surprisingly enough, the talking teddy bear part is explained in a way that makes is, well, believable. Not the part about the teddy bear talking, but why this story can take place.

"No matter how big a splash you make in this world whether you're Corey Feldman, Frankie Muniz, Justin Bieber or a talking teddy bear, eventually, nobody gives a shit."

And that's a lesson we can all take to heart.

Epsilon Eridani

Number 10 - Cloud Atlas

I think Cloud Atlas is probably this year's Tree of Life. It moves through a great deal of time. It has different stories that may or may not be related. It's visually interesting. It's ambitious. It might make sense, but it probably doesn't. The difference is that I hated the Tree of Life and loved Cloud Atlas.

With that, I easily acknowledge that if you hated it, you might be right.

That's such a glowing recommendation, right? This is a movie that certainly needs multiple viewings to figure it out, or possibly reading the book. I haven't started it yet, though I have it ready in my book queue.

If you do decide to check it out, go into it ready to watch several different movies. Treat each storyline as if it's on its own. Spend some cerebral moments after the movie trying to figure out how it all fits together.

2012 Movies - Ineligible

There are two movies that I saw in the theaters that didn't qualify for my top ten list based on my own arbitrary rules. Basically, I can't count a previously released movie. The reason I have this rule became even more necessary this year. Without that list, these movies would easily be number one and two.

Raiders of the Lost Ark was rereleased in IMAX for a couple weekends. Even though I've probably seen it a dozen times, I'm was still surprised at how well it holds up. There's barely a slow moment. And that rolling rock in IMAX? Sweet. And a special thank you to all involved for keeping it in 2D.

Cinemark theaters have been showing rereleases regularly. Unfortunately, they're usually on Wednesday or Thursday evening. The only one of those I made it to this year was Singin' in the Rain.

This is actually the second time I've seen it in the theater. It's a great movie to watch with a crowd, as there are some really funny lines. Watch Donald O'Connor perform Make 'Em Laugh on a TV is awesome. Watching it on the big screen? Awesomer.

I'd really love to get out to a few more of these. Saturday Night Fever is showing on February 6. The Paramount is also a great place to watch a movie, and I would love to get to at least one movie showing there.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 Movies - Runners Up

Consider this #15-11, and pretty much in that order.

I think that they biggest negative about Beasts of the Southern Wild is the marketing. It suffered from the same problem as Pan's Labyrinth. Both movies are grounded deep in reality but have small elements of fantasy. And it's even smaller in Beasts, with maybe three minutes of time devoted to that. But both movies were marketed as fantasy movies. Even the poster to the left makes it look almost like a Disney movie.

While I greatly prefer Pan, and the similarities pretty much stop there, both movies are good enough to overcome that misconception. While writing about movies, I write a lot about how your attitude going into the movie can make or break the movie, so it sucks when movie makers start with that going against you. It's a really good movie that didn't get enough attention, so check it out. Don't be surprised when 9-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis get nominated for the Oscar.

Django Unchained is too long.  That's my first of two criticisms of this movie. Movies are getting to be too long, but I have several in my top ten that are too long. If it's entertaining enough, I'll look past it. Django is a lot of fun. Christophe Waltz is great.  The other three movies I've seen with him, The Green Hornet, Water for Elephants, and Carnage, I was fairly unimpressed. He has just the right cadence for Quentin Tarantino's dialogue

The second criticism might be misplaced. Tarantino is presenting Django Unchained, along with Inglourious Basterds, as revisionist history. To me, that should be - what if THESE characters were around then? What would change? But he changes some timeline facts that don't seem to be results of these characters. There's a version of the KKK before there was a KKK. That I'm OK with, I think, because it's not really stated to be the KKK.

But the movie starts with the subtitle telling us that this is 1858, two years before the Civil War. That's three years before the Civil War. I get to be picky about that.I can't buy any argument you might give that states that the events of this movie will lead to the Civil War starting a year earlier, or that if it's after April, the it's technically two years plus.

But I got over that quickly enough and enjoyed the movie. It's fun. Go see it.

The best documentary of the year is Searching for Sugar Man. This is a great story about musician Rodriguez, who achieved mild success in the early 1970s. He then disappears from the scene. Bootlegs of his music reach South Africa during Apartheid and become the soundtrack for a generation. That's all I want to give away. Go watch this one, because it's a great story.

Not only that, but it has the best songs of any movie this year (with apologies to Les Mis, of course) I was singing Sugar Man for days after seeing this. I don't think I had really heard any Rodriguez songs before this. They're catchy. Here's a few samples. (Don't read any comments due to spoilers. Actually, make that a general rule in your life when visiting youtube.)

Sugar Man
I Wonder
Crucify Your Mind

If you liked The Hurt Locker, you'll like Zero Dark Thirty. I felt exactly the same was I did when I saw it. It's fantastically good, extremely well acted, and has a great script. But it just wasn't made for me, so I can't put it in my top ten.

At this point, the only people who have seen it are critics (and people who live in Los Angeles, but they don't really count. As people, I mean). I'm curious to hear from others once it's released everywhere else.

One improvement is that the shitty shaky cam from Hurt is less shaky in Zero, but some shaky cam is never as good as no shaky cam.

At over 2 1/2 hours, it's too long. But the pace picks up as the movie goes on.

Thinking about the ending of this and the ending of Searching For Sugar Man, I realized that Zero Dark Thirty is the ultimate spoiler killer. You already know then ending. Its the rest that you might not know.

 I having trouble writing about The Impossible without resorting to cliche. You'll run the full gambit of emotions. You'll laugh. You'll cry. It's an amazing story because it's true. When the tsunami hits, you'll be on the edge of your seat. You'll feel like you're in the water with them. A nail biter.

But that's all true, but it works. It's a great movie. The tsunami scene, when they are being washed away in the water, is absolutely amazing. I literally was sitting up on my seat and biting my nails. There are images and thoughts you won't forget.

Check it out when The Impossible gets a wider release.

Tomorrow (a day late, but meh) I'll start the top ten.

2012 Movies - The Middle

Here's the middle of the list. These didn't suck, they didn't rule. Some were fairly forgettable. I recommend many of these. I present them in viewing order.

A Separation is pretty darned good. It makes you think, and I don't just mean because you have to read subtitles. Check it out.

We Need to Talk About Kevin probably shouldn't be seen by anyone with kids young, and probably shouldn't be seen just a couple weeks after Sandy Hook. It's the scariest movie of the year, and really good as what it is.

The Kid With the Bike is another cool foreign film. It's a bit lighter than A Separation, but still presents some things to think about.

Jeff Who Lives At Home is a cool little movie, but I thought it fell apart at the end. If you like M. Night's  Signs, you should probably watch it. It's directly referenced.

21 Jump Street was funny enough. I don't think I ever saw the TV show. I considered putting this on the overrated list, because some fools have gone a little too apeshit for this. But I liked it enough to leave it off of there.

Bully made me angry because it blamed absolutely everyone for bullying. Except for the bullies. Besides that, it never presents the idea that victims of bullies should probably learn some coping techniques, either to avoid confrontation, face it head on, or how to deal with it when it happens.

Bernie was really good. I recommend it. I think I was distracted because the person I saw it with kept saying "That's funny" when something was funny. It possibly could have made my top 10 list if I hadn't been distracted.

Safety Not Guaranteed is another cool movie that I recommend. It's a unique story. For those of you who actually like rom-coms and want to know why so many other people don't, check this out. And other people, check it out as well.

I went in to Brave expecting one movie. Then it took a turn I wasn't expecting. The early twist wasn't ruined by trailers.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World was a nice little movie. Nothing too spectacular, nothing too horrible.

I'm disappointed that Amazing Spider-Man is on this list, but happy it isn't in the bottom list. I'm not the first to say this, but I would like to see a new Spider-Man movie every few years following the same pattern as the Bond movie. Switch up the actors and filmmakers every once in a while. Take some chances.

To Rome With Love wasn't nearly as good as Midnight in Paris, but it was interesting enough. Fairly forgettable, though.

I watched Farewell My Queen knowing that I would teach the French Revolution this year. I was hoping it was something that I could show, either clips or all of it. I didn't show any of it and didn't even remember it when I taught it.

The Queen of Versaille and The Imposter are documentaries. I recommend both. In Queen, watch certified scumbag David "If Obama wins you're fired" Siegel lose a bunch of money. Not enough, though. The Imposter is about a boy who returns home after disappearing. That ending is where the story begins, and it's freakin' weird. Don't read anything about it before you see it.

For Ruby Sparks, I reread what I said about Safety Not Guaranteed. This is how to do a romantic comedy. And it's pretty good.

Chicken with Plums was OK, but too slow. It comes together well at the end, but takes too long to get there and depresses you along the way.

Looper was good. It was an interesting take on time travel. I wasn't blown away, but I won't argue against anyone who loved it.

Seven Psychopaths had nice moments.It's a fun movie overall.

Skyfall was good. I liked that it didn't rely on long, drawn out fight scenes with quick edits. At least two of the fights were over in a few seconds, which I liked. Much of the shitty shaky cam of the last movie is gone.

The Sessions is very, very good. Helen Hunt is good, John Hawkes is amazing and unrecognizable. The script is one of the best of the year. I think William H. Macy's creepy hair kept it out of my top 10.

This is 40 is another really good romantic comedy. Can all of you stop watching anything with Kate Hudson and watch some good rom-coms? This is a little lighter in the comedy than I was hoping for, but a good movie.

Wreck-it Ralph was good. I think it ended up being too light in its use of existing video game characters. They really only appeared in a few scenes at the beginning. Once the movie gets going, it's all original characters. I guess that's good, but I would have liked to see an established character take a slightly larger role. Other than that, pretty good.

Hyde Park on the Hudson was all right, but nothing special.