Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Film Review 2014, Part 2

As a longtime movie-buff and blogger, here's my latest installment of film reviews.

Please understand that I'm not endorsing all of these movies.  I'm not even giving a blanket endorsement of movie-watching in general.  But I watch movies with a view toward history, culture, and spiritual worldview, so perhaps I can steer you toward (or away) from certain films based on that point of view.

Part 2 of my 2014 list represents the films I watched from July through December, 2014.  My ranking system and special GOC (gratuitous objectionable content) warning is as follows:
5 stars - A great movie everyone should see.
4 stars - A great movie with some qualifications.
3 stars - An okay movie that will appeal to some audiences.
2 stars - Not very good to most audiences but with some redeeming qualities.
1 star - Not a movie worth seeing.

GOC - Warning: Gratuitous Objectionable Content -- Please fast forward or, better yet, watch an edited version of the film.  Used especially in reference to nudity or abusive use of vulgar content. I sometimes deliberately watch films edited for content, so there may be GOC I don't know about.

5 stars
Beneath Hill 60 (2010) - It’s rare that a war film can do anything you haven’t seen a dozen times before.  And while Beneath Hill 60 can’t be entirely original, it handles it’s World War 1 story in a way that feels fresh and new.  This is an Australian production about the true story of an Australian hero, who was a miner rather than a traditional soldier.  If you’re remotely interested in WW1, this film has almost no flaws.  GOC: A token amount of soldier language.
Lone Survivor (2014) - The incredible true story of Navy SEALs in Afghanistan.  This movie is both intense and very accurate in most respects.  Warning: not only does the movie have war violence but the dialogue is wall-to-wall "soldier language;” these Navy SEALs literally cuss like sailors.  This is partially GOC, though I believe it’s an accurate reflection of the language and tone used by these men and at least somewhat integral to the story.

4.5 stars
God’s Not Dead (2014) - Other than a few moments of poor acting, this is an excellent Christian film.  It’s so well done, I hate to criticize it at all; compared to the low standard of many Christian films, this film is outstanding.
The LEGO movie (2014) - Very funny and very entertaining.  This movie is so full of in-jokes, you have to watch it twice.  And even then, the “insiders” for most of the jokes are children of the 80’s and 90’s.

4 stars
Edge of Tomorrow (2014) - Yet another above-average Tom Cruise sic-fi flick that didn’t seem to have the impact it deserved.  The one flaw was the effort required to follow the logic, especially as it applied to the end of the movie.
Gravity (2013) - An award-winning film about an astronaut overcoming adversity.  This film received lots of credit for it’s long, continuous shots, though most of it is very convincing CGI.  Extra credit goes to the viewer who watches the film a second time and counts all the metaphors for birth or re-birth.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014) - Like each of the other five Peter Jackson Middle Earth films, the final Hobbit movie is beautiful and epic.  Unfortunately, the story probably was stretched too thin to support another long movie.  That said, these films included some excellent glimpses of the Tolkien world beyond the original Hobbit story and I’ll watch it again and again.
Maleficent (2014) - Here’s another well-executed live-action retelling of a Disney animated classic.  Rehabilitating an evil persona into a misunderstood and conflicted persona is a bit risky, and could easily backfire, but this movie seems to pull it off adequately. 
Skyfall (2012) - One of the better James Bond movies as far as depth and introspection are concerned.  In regard to car chases, bad guys, bond girls, crazy stunts, and unflappable smoothness, this Bond movie is about on par with most of the others.

3.5 stars
Emperor (2012) - The only problem with this historical movie was the part that wasn’t historical.  A better script would have spent more time on General McArthur’s bizarre connection to Japan or the Emperor of Japan’s courage to surrender counter to the nature of his culture.  Instead we got a silly, irrelevant, and fake love story.  The whole thing stinks of a movie with great source material nearly ruined when some studio exec said, “Yeah, but we need a pretty girl in there somewhere."
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) - For a relatively obscure comic book franchise, this film made nearly all of its characters instantly likable and memorable.  I was really disappointed that the film had a bit more GOC (crude language) than I expected but it was still an enjoyable story.
The Monuments Men (2014) - This is an interesting historical story about an Army detachment in WW2 which tried to recover and save works of art stolen by Hitler.  Not a blockbuster, it’s really not a traditional war film either.  It’s part drama, part comedy, part history lesson.  This is the war movie the art appreciation class made.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) - Par for the course with super-hero movies these days, this film delivers lots of action, a bit of misdirection and intrigue, and one of the best super-speed sequences ever conceived.  Really, go watch this movie just for the one scene with Quicksilver disarming the room full of guards.

3 stars
The Cabin in the Woods (2012) - The good: Joss Whedon's take on horror movies was short, witty, and cleverly constructed. The bad: it's still a gory string of jump-scares filled with mild to excessive GOC
• Dear Mr. Watterson (2013) - This sentimental documentary examines the impact of the beloved "Calvin and Hobbes" comic strip and its very reclusive author.  If you loved "Calvin and Hobbes" this film writes your fan letter for you.
Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi (2009) - An award winning documentary, this film tells the story of Afghan journalist who is abandoned by his government to be murdered by terrorists.
Godzilla (2014) - Bleh.  There’s nothing here that’s flat-out awful; in fact, this version may set a new standard for Godzilla movies.  But I didn’t think it was even as compelling as the deliberately silly Pacific Rim.
Lawless (2012) - Here’s a Prohibition-era bootlegging movie that is loosely based on a true story.  It’s a compelling story with some great acting, but it’s also a rough-talking, violent film with lots of GOC.

2.5 stars 
Her (2013) - I normally like sci-fi, especially stories about artificial intelligence.  But Her is a superb story that unfortunately dwells extensively on a sad, gross little man with few if any redeeming qualities.  An alternative version of this film could have focused on issues like love, honesty, and abandonment without wallowing in the gutter, which was obviously the director’s desire here.  Excessive GOC.

2 stars
Django Unchained (2012) - Ugh. Beneath the self-indulgent filth flowing from director Quentin Tarantino’s puerile mind, is a legit story about slavery, heroism and revenge, one that might be intelligently told.  That does NOT happen here.  Fans of Tarantino claim this film’s vulgar content is stylized and artistically provocative.  But it’s only about as stylized as a twelve-year old screaming profanity for about three hours while drawing exploded heads with a red crayon.  Pass.  Excessive GOC.

1 star
Anchorman 2 (2013) - This one is a laugh an hour.  It’s not that absurdity, foolishness, and even grossness can’t be amusing, but this whole genre of comedy is just losing traction with me.  GOC

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Cheers to You, Netflix

So we finally caved in and subscribed to Netflix last April.  Noticing that the service offered a few classic TV shows, I immediately embarked upon a quest to watch the entire 11-year, 271-episode run of "Cheers."

From the time I was five until I learned to drive, "Cheers" was on Thursday nights at 8 and, by the time I was in junior high, was also on in syndication every weeknight after the local news.  Ironically my mom and I, complete teetotalers, would watch the comedy set in a bar almost every night. 

I had not seen an episode of "Cheers" for almost 20 years; here are my observations and a few things I learned:
  • I was shocked how young the cast was; most of them were in their early 30's when the show began, as young or younger than I am now.  In real life, the cast is about the same age as my parents.
  • My chief question going into this was, Diane or Rebecca?  Diane's obnoxious snobbery was, in a word, obnoxious; more so than I had remembered.  When Shelley Long left after five seasons, a routine running gag was making digs at her character, including at least one directed more at Long and her early departure from the successful show.  But Rebecca's pathetic self-loathing meltdowns were both funny and endearing.  Kirstie Alley's sympathetic train wreck of a character was the hands down winner.
  • I had forgotten that Diane factored into the three-part series finale.  I'm with Carla; that woman is trouble.
  • My second big question, was looking for hints about the "Frasier" spinoff in "Cheers."  There aren't any; the show wasn't fully conceived until the "Cheers" production was finished.  I noticed, however, that twice over the years Frasier mentions being orphaned.  In the spinoff Frasier lives with his father.  This is explained when Sam appears on "Frasier" and Frasier says he lied because he was fighting with his father and was mad at him. [Thanks, IMDB trivia]
  • John Mahoney, who plays Frasier's father in "Frasier," appears in a scene with Kelsey Grammar in the final season as an advertising man.  "Fraiser" co-star Peri Gilpin (Roz) also made an appearance later in that season as a reporter.  You also can spot multiple actors from other NBC shows like "Seinfeld" and "Night Court" playing bit parts.  I haven't looked up all the connections on IMDB, but you can find even more crossovers as the principle actors from "Cheers" made many appearances together in each other's future works in television, live stage, and voice acting.
  • I'd not realized how frequently the 2nd tier of barflies was involved in the action.  Norm, Cliff and Frazier naturally get most of the attention but another half-dozen actors routinely appeared around the bar as customers and were frequently given speaking parts.  In later seasons, the character "Paul" was almost as involved as Cliff and Norm.
  • Cliff's postal uniform, specifically the jacket, changed in the last season.  His high water pants and white socks did not.
  • George Wendt's real-life wife, Bernadette Birkett, repeatedly played the voice of Norm's wife, Vera, though she never appeared on screen.  However, she does appear dressed as Tinkerbell and dances with a costumed Cliff, early on in the series.  I saw Wendt and Birkett on stage together last year and couldn't help dwelling on them as I re-watched "Cheers," picturing Birkett every time Norm joked about his wife, Vera.

What am I going to do now that I've finished "Cheers"?  Watch 263 episodes of "Frasier," naturally.  I hear the blues a-callin'/Tossed salads and scrambled eggs.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Random Thoughts 10/31/14

  • My older two boys are going to a church lock-in tonight.  That seems so weird that they're old enough for that kind of thing.
  • Kansas sophomore, Conner Francamp, is transferring from KU to seek more playing time elsewhere.  It's a shame to lose him but this is part of the embarrassment of riches from which Kansas suffers.  The Wichita native will probably be a major contributor elsewhere.
  • My silence on my blog lately can once again be blamed on the "if-you-don't-have-anything-nice-to-say" principle.  Especially in regard to politics and current events.  It's all soooo frustrating.
  • Virgin Galactic's SpaceshipTwo exploded in flight today, killing one pilot and seriously injuring the other during a test flight.  This is the first of five spacecraft that is supposed to carry paying space-tourists in a year or two.
  • Don't forget to vote next Tuesday.
  • Today is Halloween and I think I am settling into a calm but cautious position with the whole thing.  I'm not too bothered by the abundant offensive aspects of the holiday, i.e. reveling in wickedness and devilry and such.  I know most of it is meaningless even if it offends my sensibilities and, though I'm not a fan, I don't let it get my blood pressure boiling anymore.  At the same time, I have no interest in participating in much of it either.  I'll hand out candy and try to be friendly, of course.  I'll even let my little kids dress up (I prefer "nice" costumes but I know my boys have always liked the scary stuff).  But I'm still a long way from endorsing or encouraging Halloween celebrations as they exist today.  As a father, I'm a hundred times more concerned about the sexually provocative costumes of young ladies than I am about psuedo-Satanic paraphernalia.  It seems that Halloween in recent years is prompting far more lust and gluttony than ritual sacrifices of the neighbor's cat.

SuperHero Movies

The list keeps getting longer of comic book movies that will be released in the next five years or so.  Having such a full schedule of superhero movies isn't new; in fact, it's been standard practice to release between 3-10 superhero movies per year, most years, since 1989.  What's new is the boldness of Marvel and DC to announce their movies as much as five years in advance.

Also new is the planned connections between films.  Marvel's "Cinematic Universe," or MCU, shares characters between movies, allowing each successive movie a to add to the story, even if it's not a direct sequel.  DC's movies, to be produced by Warner Bros, will also share a common universe, in which Batman, Superman, and other heroes will appear in each others movies or share movies equally.

Here's the list, as far as we know it: 

Marvel Cinematic Universe by Marvel Studios
Marvel Comics by other studios
DC Comics by Warner Bros

May 1 - Avengers: Age of Ultron
July 17 - Ant-Man
August 7 - Fantastic 4

Feb 12 - Deadpool
Mar 25 - Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice
May 6 - Captain America: Civil War
May 27 - X-Men: Apocalypse
June 3 - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 (Mirage Comics)
July 1 - Tarzan (Dark Horse Comics)
Aug 5 - Suicide Squad 
Nov 4 - Doctor Strange
Nov 11 - The Sinister Six

Mar 3 - untitled Wolverine sequel
no date - Wonder Woman
May 6 - Guardians of the Galaxy 2
July 14 - untitled Fantastic 4 sequel
July 28 - Thor: Ragnarok
no date - Justice League, part 1
Nov 3 - Black Panther

no date - Amazing Spider-Man 3
no date - The Flash
May 4 - Avengers: Infinity War, part 1
July 6 - Captain Marvel
no date - Aquaman 
Nov 2 - Inhumans

no date - Shazam
May 3 - Avengers: Infinity War, part 2

no date - Justice League, part 2

no date - Cyborg
no date - Green Lantern (r)

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Random Thoughts 9/9/14

  • Baltimore running back Ray Rice had his football career ruined when the video of him beating his wife was released this week.  On the one hand, I understand why people are so upset because the video is violent and it removes any shadow of a doubt about what happened on that elevator.  On the other hand, I'm stunned by the sudden outrage.  It's like people thought it wasn't real because they couldn't see it.  But now they can, so now it is real, at least in regard to Ray Rice.  Never mind that this violence is done by other famous people (unrecorded by video) and the public generally looks the other direction.  I'm thinking of alleged (and sometimes convicted) wife-beaters like Mel Gibson, Mike Tyson, John Daly, Charlie Sheen, Axl Rose, Dennis Rodman, O.J. Simpson, John Lennon, Steve McQueen, Sean Penn, Nicolas Cage, Steven Seagal, Vince Neil, Jim Brown, Jose Canseco, Warren Sapp and many, many others.
  • Here's a pretty good article condemning Victoria Osteen's "gospel of happiness."
  • Apple has announced its new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, as well as it's upcoming Apple Watch.  Our phones are two years old, so we're technically due for an update.  I like the iPhone 6 but Shannon is leaning toward the phablet-sized 6 Plus.  I just need the thing to actually fit in my pocket.  The Apple Watch looks incredibly cool but I don't wear a watch now and I don't have $350 to learn to start wearing one again.
  • "Apple Pay" sounds like pig-Latin to me.
  • I won my first fantasy football game of the year.  That's not my usual m.o.
  • Listen to a classic sermon by Frank Peretti at Focus on the Family here (part 1) and here (part 2).

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Because Russia

Russia has probably always been a slightly bizarre place to live.  Now with security cameras and dashboard cameras everywhere (for insurance purposes, I'm told), we on the internet get to watch the bizarre happenings in Russia.

Here are two samples of things you might see in Russia.

Monday, September 01, 2014

50 Facts About Kansas City

Here's a great little list of trivia about my home, Kansas City.  My favorites include:

7. Possible names considered for the town that eventually grew into Kansas City were Rabbitville (imagine the Easter-themed promotions!) and Possum Trot.

25. Before the Brooklyn Dodgers signed Jackie Robinson as the first African-American major leaguer, he was a star shortstop with the Negro Leagues Kansas City Monarchs.

28. Kansas City actually used to have kind of a theme going on with its pro sports teams, what with the (former) Monarchs, the Royals, the Chiefs and the (now Sacramento) Kings. Not quite sure how Sporting Kansas City fits into the program, but they're iconoclasts anyway since they play in KCK.

39. Kansas City has more barbecue restaurants per capita than any other city in the U.S. Or anywhere else, most likely, unless other planets are way more advanced than we thought.

It also doesn't hurt to read up on the summary of Kansas City history at the wikipedia page.  You might just learn something!

Advanced Toilet Roll Instructions

As the only one in seven that has this particular skill in my home, I feel obliged to share this instructional video.

Osteenification Run Rampant

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Random Thoughts 8/30/14

  • It's football season again!  Finally.  As I get older I seem to enjoy college basketball more and more but there's nothing quite like NFL football.  I get warm cozy feelings just from thinking about taking a nap with the game on in the background.
  • Fantasy Football is back too.  Our church fantasy league is in it's 13th year, not counting four or five years at Rushville before that.  This year I have a decently strong pair of QBs in Andrew Luck and Matt Ryan and for the first time ever, I have the #1 overall WR, Calvin Johnson.  I feel like I got good value at most of my picks but that may be because I kept drafting players that other people were avoiding (I'm looking at you Reggie Bush and Arian Foster). 
  • This is Brennan's first year playing fantasy football.  He comes in knowing almost nothing but he's a quick study.
  • I'm typing this in my new home office.  We moved Anneliese downstairs and renovated her room into an office space.  It's perfect for when I have meetings and counseling at home, when Shannon has cake customers, and as additional space for homeschooling.
  • I'm not normally one to share a video parody of a pop song… but this one is both cute and actually a bit educational at the same time.  And it showcases Kansas farmers.
  • And then I discovered why farming is one of the most dangerous occupations.  Because tractors.
  • The first openly gay football player drafted into the NFL got cut from his team today before the season even started.  Yawn.
  • What happened to 3D TV
  • A&E cancelled their best-rated scripted show, "Longmire."  Really?!  Hopefully another network picks up the show.
  • Oh, I guess Al Gore was wrong.  Seven years ago he said the summer polar ice cap would melt in seven years.  Not only has it not melted away, it has actually has grown two summers in row and this year it gained almost 2 million square kilometers (about the size of Alaska).  Oh, yeah, and polar bear numbers are higher now than 40 years ago.  Guess what, folks, the Earth will heat and the Earth will cool but we're not causing it (and neo-communism won't fix it).

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Film Review 2014, Part 1

As a longtime movie-buff and blogger, here's my latest installment of film reviews.

Please understand that I'm not endorsing all of these movies.  I'm not even giving a blanket endorsement of movie-watching in general.  But I watch movies with a view toward history, culture, and spiritual worldview, so perhaps I can steer you toward (or away) from certain films based on that point of view.

Part 1 of my 2014 list represents the films I watched from January through June, 2013.  My ranking system and special GOC (gratuitous objectionable content) warning is as follows:
5 stars - A great movie everyone should see.
4 stars - A great movie with some qualifications.
3 stars - An okay movie that will appeal to some audiences.
2 stars - Not very good to most audiences but with some redeeming qualities.
1 star - Not a movie worth seeing.

GOC - Warning: Gratuitous Objectionable Content -- Please fast forward or, better yet, watch an edited version of the film or skip it altogether.  Used especially in reference to nudity or abusive use of vulgar content. I sometimes deliberately watch films which are edited for content, so there may be GOC I don't know about.

5 stars
Captain Philips (2013) - This is the fascinating true story of the hijacking of a ship by modern day pirates.  The final scene, unlike anything I’ve seen before in a movie, of the “decompression” from the traumatic event is worth the price of admission.  This scene is what should lead to a best acting Oscar… but Tom Hanks already has two of them, so…

4.5 stars
• Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) - As good or better than its predecessor, Winter Soldier is about as good as the first Avengers movie.  What’s great is that the Captain America movies get to explore more political intrigue than the typical comic book action movie.
Ender’s Game (2013) - For a sci-fi book that was once considered un-filmable, this adaptation is nearly perfect.  The book is an absolute classic and the movie suffers by being condensed in several ways, but it still captures the essence of a isolated, gifted child with all of the pressure in the world on his shoulders.
Ip Man (2008) -  Very loosely based on a true story from the life of the humble martial arts master who trained Bruce Lee, Ip Man is a fantastic Kung Fu movie, set during the rarely-seen WW2 Japanese occupation of China. 

4 stars
Frozen (2013) - Another great Disney film with memorable characters, wit, and charm.  Other than the opening sequence, Frozen also had great music that absolutely captured my kids.  Shannon and Anneliese loved this movie.
Galaxy Quest (1999) - If you’re a fan of sci-fi, particularly Star Trek, this comedy is directed both at and for you.  It’s a take on the relationship between the actors and obsessed fans of sci-fi shows and (for some people) the blurring of the lines between reality and the fantasy is surpassingly profound for a comedy.
Hotel Transylvania (2012) - This animated "monster movie” turned out to be a surprisingly good father-daughter flick which is carried by a remarkable cast of talented comedians as the voice actors.

3.5 stars
Cloud Atlas (2012) - In part, this film demonstrates some genius film-making, combining six different stories, set in six different time periods, with the same six actors playing different roles each time.  However, this complexity works against the film because it’s so hard to track the plots and derive any kind of coherent theme from them.  I got stuck trying to figure out which character was reincarnated into whom and finally gave up in frustration, even after studying a chart on wikipedia.  Warning: brief but completely unnecessary and overly graphic GOC.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) - Far and away a better film than the first one, this story moves better and is better executed than the clumsy first attempt (both of the screenwriters and director were replaced).  Those who read the books tell me the second volume was a better story as well.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) - Ugh, how the legendary has become mundane.  There’s so much that’s not quite right here.  Aliens?!  How is geriatric Indy not breaking his hip?  A refrigerator?!  Really?!  That kid looks nothing like either of his parents!  This franchise needs a reboot not merely another chapter with this cast.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) - I’m a sucker for anything the Coen Brothers put together.  This film, however, is so depressing in its examination of depression (in the life of a 1960’s New York folk singer and the miserable people around him), that it becomes hard to enthusiastically recommend.  More than that, this movie is about ten times more profane than it really needed to be.  I wanted it to be O Brother, Where Art Thou (2000) part 2, but it left me too despondent to see any of those connections.  Extensive GOC
Thor: The Dark World (2013) - Another installment in the recent series which includes The Avengers.  Thor is a bit abstract and unfamiliar to most audiences but the film is well done with fantastic special effects.  If the plot was a bit easier to follow the movie would get a better rating.
Warm Bodies (2013)  - As a zombie film, it’s okay.  As an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, it’s incredibly clever and cute.  “R” is a zombie and Julie is a living person but their love will bring the two warring sides together.  How adorable.

3 stars
Arthur (2011) - If you look at this movie as an indictment of hedonism and alcohol and a promotion of monogamy, then this is really pretty good.  Other than that, it’s a very ho-hum remake of an older romantic-comedy, of which the best addition is Russell Brand’s comedic delivery.  Relatively minor GOC.
Croods (2013) - Cute movie.  A little odd… but I liked the father-daughter message near the end.
Dallas Buyer’s Club (2013) - This film was highly lauded, largely for it’s politically correct plot: 1980’s redneck learns to tolerate gays because he contracts AIDS.  It does have some very good performances but honestly the movie is not that profound, as countless other films have followed this same character arc with as much or more payoff in the end.  Seriously offputting GOC.
Europa Report (2013) - This sci-fi exploration movie follows an ill-fated crew on a mission where nothing goes right.  It gets kind of bleak, maybe a bit pointless, and the ending doesn’t quite hit the emotional payoff that the movie is obviously shooting for.
• The Grey (2011) - Bleak, nihilistic, but still suspenseful, this movie is kind of like Jaws (1975) or even Alien (1979), but with wolves.  I didn’t like the ending or the philosophy running throughout.  Also, Liam Neeson is everywhere!  GOC.
Wartime in Winter (2008) - Here’s an interesting World War 2 story you probably haven’t seen before.  The Dutch film follows a boy who desperately want to be part of the WW2 Resistance against the Nazis and finds his chance when he locates a downed British airman.  Drama ensues.
• White House Down (2013) - Die Hard in the White House.  Yes, it’s a little ridiculous, a little predictable, and a little corny here and there.  But this action film is also more fun and witty than most of its ilk, thanks largely to Jamie Foxx’s so-square-he's-cool portrayal of the president.
The World’s End (2013) - This is the third movie in the trilogy that includes Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.  Thus, it’s a really clever Edgar Wright dark comedy with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost battling some nefarious force while cursing and drinking.  This time it’s aliens.  I like the humor but I would be more of a fan of these films if not for the nearly constant profanity.  Obnoxiously constant GOC.

2.5 stars 
• All is Lost (2013) - This tale of a man on a sinking ship may not float your boat.  First off, it’s truly a one-man-show; Robert Redford is completely alone and no other human face is shown.  Second, there is virtually no spoken dialog.  You have few lines at the beginning and then 90 minutes of silence punctuated by one f-bomb.  Third, any non-sailor is going to have difficulty following this taciturn plot.  Yet I’ve read criticism from actual sailors on several nitpicky errors.  GOC
American Hustle (2013) - GOC.  Did I mention GOC?  No seriously, this is up to its eyeballs in GOC. This film was supposed to be the next The Sting (1973) or Ocean’s Eleven (1960), but failed to achieve that level of greatness.  It’s star studded and interesting but frankly not worth the investment of time.  I’m surprised this film garnered as much award attention as it did (10 Oscar nominations, no wins).  Oh, yeah: GOC. 
• Lee Daniels' The Butler (2013) - When I began watching I had the impression that this was a true story.  And for the first two-thirds of the movie, the story and acting were superb.  Then it went off the rails.  ClichĂ©.  Schmaltzy.  Predictable.  On-the-nose.  The two sons had more coincidences than Forrest Gump and a story that should have stayed in the 1960’s forced its way into 2008 and the Obama election, as if the audience couldn’t connect those dots already.  When I found out that virtually every point of this story was fabricated, it ruined what good did exist.
The Wolverine (2013) - The sixth turn of Hugh Jackman wearing the claws.  This one is relatively forgettable, especially due to an extraordinarily weak supporting cast.  The plot caters to fanboys steeped in Wolverine-lore but doesn’t offer much to newcomers.  Slightly more GOC than most comic book movies.

2 stars
Contraband (2012) - A foul-mouthed and and rather obvious plot about smuggling serves as the vehicle to get Mark Wahlberg on screen, playing roughly the same reformed-bad-boy-turned-good he plays in most movies.  More than most of Wahlberg’s movies however, this character seems to justify immoral behavior as long as it’s clever and he looks good doing it.  GOC
G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013) - Goodness, these movies are awful.  But what do expect from a director who’s only other credits are the Justin Bieber movies and the Step Up franchise?  Does this G.I. Joe movie supply lots of mindless gunplay and explosions?  Yes, but at some point you need more than that even in popcorn fare.

1 star

Friday, August 08, 2014

Random Thoughts 8/8/14

  • How many super-hero movies does it take before the genre wears out its welcome?  We're gonna find out.  In the next six years, comic book publishers Marvel and DC have 33 films slated to be released.  This will include both well-known franchises like Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, the X-Men and Avengers, as well as lesser known or seldom seen characters like Ant-Man, Dr. Strange, Wonder Woman, Sinister Six, and more that I had to look up on Wikipedia.
  • As a nerd, I'm for more comic-book based movies.  But I can't help but think that the majority of people are just going to get worn out on it.  There's also a plethora of comic-based TV shows such as current shows "Agents of SHIELD" and "Arrow," and upcoming shows like "Gotham," "Agent Carter," "Daredevil," and "The Flash," among others.  Too much?
  • So former KU one-and-done player Andrew Wiggins finally got traded from Cleveland to Minnesota, as most people expected.  He'll now be in a better position to be the star but that comes with greater expectations and risk of failure.  It's a shame, too, Cleveland is fairly close to Wiggins' hometown, Toronto.
  • So I listened to a sermon today online.  The preacher repeatedly cursed from the pulpit, using the f-word and "a**h***" mostly to be edgy, express anger, or to get a cheap laugh.  So disappointing.  It's ironic though, his sermon hinged on using "judge a tree by its fruit" to condemn homophobia, while his own language was dripping in worldliness and profanity.  I think the sermon made a good attempt to express Christian love but it failed miserably at demonstrating Christian holiness.
  • I think what surprised me most, besides the cussing, was how the sermon wasn't completely wrong.  I knew it would be from a liberal theological bent, which would dismiss traditional Biblical interpretations with smugness and arrogance to find room to criticize the church and affirm societal norms.  And I figured the tone would be permissive and emotional, self-deprecating and apologetic.  But because of that, I assumed everything the preacher would say would be wrong.  It kept throwing me off balance that he said a lot of truth between the cuss words.  It's a good reminder that the most dangerous lies are the ones wrapped in truth.  You keep nodding your head in agreement and then little compromises that are almost correct are thrown in while your guard is down.  How dangerous.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Dumb Struck

When I played high school football in Winchester, Kansas, our team always marched on to the field to the heavy metal tune of AC/DC's "Thunderstruck."  Until I saw this video I didn't realize my old teammates remembered the song well enough to play the whole thing.  ;-)

Monday, August 04, 2014

The Most Amazing Engine Ever

This is the kind of stuff that nearly sent me into a career in aerospace engineering.