Monday, January 30, 2012

Review: The Descendants

The Wife: I was under the impression that NOT TALKING was the main rule of viewing a film at the movie theatre. This concept was apparently lost to the handful of older adults (and by "old" I mean people probably in their 50s), who did not keep quiet during the entire showing of The Descendants last Friday evening. I mean seriously folks, teenagers know how to be quiet at the theatre! I am sure the husband will elaborate further on this incident in his typical dry-humor style below. Well, aside from the overbearing chatter and annoying, unnecessary, over-dramatic gasps we endured at the theatre, I must say that The Descendants is an amazing movie. It is certainly deserving of every Oscar nomination it's received.

The Descendants is set in beautiful Hawaii, which creates some gorgeous backdrops. The film shows a "softer" side of George Clooney as his character Matt must cope with several deep family issues. First off, in the beginning of the movie it is shown that Matt's wife, Elizabeth, is currently in the hospital on life support after suffering from a horrific boating accident. We later are introduced to Matt's two daughters, the youngest, Scottie, and the oldest, Alexandra. Early on, we learn that his relationship with the two girls is quite strained, and that he doesn't consider himself to be a great father or husband. His relationship with Alexandra, who is portrayed by Shailene Woodley (most known for her work in The Secret Life of the American Teenager) is the most distant. From the moment Woodley's character comes on screen, viewers can see that she hasn't exactly been a "model daughter" herself. She shows little respect for her father at first, but it is evident that she loves him. Early on we learn from Alexandra that Matt's hospitalized wife was having an affair with a local real estate man. After finding this out, Matt does some further digging and is told that his wife was planning to ask for a divorce prior to her accident. This revelation further complicates the emotions that Matt is going through. All of this is also going on during the time period where Matt, who was named the trustee of his family's land, must decide whether to sell or keep the property, which is his family's only direct tie to Hawaii.

As the movie progresses, we see Matt cope with the issues above, and eventually come to a point of forgiveness, all the while learning more about himself as a person and establishing a better relationship with his daughters. Matt also transforms into a better father, and as he changes, his views on the importance of his family's land changes. While The Descendants is an emotional journey, the film's end left me with a calming sense of peace.

Of course, The Descendants has many "sad moments," but there are bits of humor scattered throughout it. The acting is superb as well. Like I mentioned previously, Clooney was great. Credit must be given to Woodley though. I admit that I was VERY SKEPTICAL about how she would perform in this movie. The Secret Life of the American Teenager, which stars Woodley as the lead character and is one of my guilty pleasure shows, was my only view of her as an actress prior to The Descendants. In The Secret Life, I would give her acting skills maybe a 4.5 on a scale of 10. She blew me a way in The Descendants, however. Her character encounters a range of emotions, and she nailed each and every one of them. I can't believe the Oscars snubbed her by not giving her a Best Supporting Actress nomination, and meanwhile Melissa McCarthy of freaking Bridesmaids gets a nomination!?!? Really Academy?!?! As if I wasn't mad enough about the massive Harry Potter snub! Ok...talking about Harry Potter will get me totally off topic...so back to the movie of discussion! The Descendants was an amazing movie and I would highly recommend it! I'd love to see Clooney win Best Actor and I wouldn't have a single problem if The Descendants takes home the coveted Best Picture award either!

Hobo Dan: So I had a great paragraph about the loud idiot patrol that tried to ruin the movie and a joke about slushy gernades and the little kid who wanted to pee with his grandpa in the stall at Olive Garden. It all got erased. So here is what I have to say about people who talking during movies. Stop it, you inconsiderate ninnies. If you utter one more word I will walk up there and slap you across the face so hard your descendants will feel it (see what I did there). Inner monologue, get one. And lady who is crying uncontrollably, are you okay? Seriously the movie is emotional, but you are obviously carrying some baggage into the theater. Therapy?

So, The Descendants, a very enjoyable emotional tale, with George Clooney in it. I've got to admit, I'm not a huge Clooney fan. He sometimes seems like the same character in all his movies. Anyways, the acting in this movie was tops. Even that chick from that terrible ABC Family show wasn't half bad. Okay, she was actually pretty good. If it does end up winning the Best Picture Oscar, it deserves it.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Word of the Week

I am always looking for new ideas to add to the variety of features on this blog. Last month one of you, dear readers, gave me the idea to do a project series. I gave the suggestion a few moments of my time before realizing I had no intentions of learning how to knit and blogging about it. I really didn’t think about it again until last week when Wikipedia went black for the day of the SOPA protest. The next day, when it came back to us, I spent some time looking up all sorts of things on the site. For what ever reason I ran across a list claiming to be the 100 Best English-language Novels of the Twentieth Century listing Ulysses by James Joyce as number one. I have heard of the book but needed to know more so I read down the Wiki page. I found this next piece of information amazing. The novel is around 265,000 words long and uses a lexicon of 30,030 words (including proper names, plurals and various verb tenses)! Think about that vocabulary for a moment. I don’t think I even know 30,030 different words; let alone how to work them all into a work of fiction. This information, along with the suggestion by a friend and my desire to improve my own writing has led me to:

The Word of the Week!

The rules here are pretty simple. The Wife will officiate, verifying that I follow the rules. She will choose a word every Wednesday that, starting Thursday, I must attempt to work into my every day vocabulary. She is allowed to get the words from anywhere (suggestions, Internet) but they must be verified using Merriam-Webster's online dictionary. The only other restriction on what word she may choose is that it must be reasonably work appropriate. Once the word is selected I will blog about it on Thursdays and then attempt to put it to use in my every day speech. I’ll also tweet about uses on a daily basis and compile a list of uses in the next weeks post. If on a given Thursday I have a normal blog post prepared, I’ll just attach the Word of the Week to the end of that post. If I’ve been lazy, the Word of the Week post will be the primary post for that Thursday.

There is one more wrinkle before we get started. Challenges! Because simply using the word around people I live and work with will get easier the longer this goes on (they’ll get used to me spouting out seemingly random words) The Wife will also choose a challenge for me to try and fulfill with the word. An Example would be to use the word when ordering from a fast food establishment. You can also participate in the Word of the Week and the Weekly Challenge and post your findings in the comments section below each post. I have zero say in what word is chosen, but The Wife may be open to suggestions, so hit her up to torture me. So without further delay:

The Word of the Week is: Spleenwort


Spleenwort : any of a large genus (Asplenium) of chiefly evergreen ferns having linear or oblong sori.
Origin of Spleenwort : from the belief in its power to cure disorders of the spleen. First known use: 1578

And the Challenge of the Week : Use the word while ordering at dinner on Friday night.

Great, thanks dear...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Review: Underworld Awakening

Hobo Dan: Well... it was better than Abduction. I don't know if I've ever seen a film that seemed more phoned in than Underworld: Awakening. It was pretty obvious to me that Kate Beckinsale was in this film simply to fulfill contract obligations. The third (I don't recognize the most recent prequel) film in the Underworld franchise, this is set twelve years after the second film, Underworld Evolution. It's been five years since that movie and wow have vampire movies changed. So on some level I am happy to see a vampire movie that returns to the traditional vampires that don't glow in the sun light and have teenage romances. Unfortunately, no amount of blood, guts, tight fitting leather and 3D effects could have saved this movie.

Let's get right to it. About an hour into the film I was hooked. Yes, this is getting good. Here is the Underworld I remember! Twenty minutes later it ended. Seriously. This comes in at an hour twenty with credits and previews! Sad face... It seems like they film two movies at the same time, found a good place to spilt them up, and we can expect to see Underworld Awakening Part 2 around July; only that's not the case. Chances are we are looking at another five years for the next one (if ever). I guess I don't know what I expected. Did I even like these movies the first time around? It has been awhile but I don't remember some of the terrible direction from the first two. Lets talk about accents. I remember the other films in the franchise being British sounding. So why are half the actors in this British and half American? It's twelve years in the future, why does everything look the same? Why was the only nudity in this movie the ass of some dude about to turn into a werewolf? We will never know.

If you liked the first films, consider getting it on Blu-ray, otherwise avoid it. We need to teach the movie makers this kind of half baked money grab is not acceptable. I expected better.

The Wife: Yeah what he said...except for the whole nudity thing. I really thought "wow the plot is finally getting somewhere" and was totally hooked, but then the credits rolled. I better not have to wait another five years for the next movie! Another prequel (which I also don't recognize) doesn't count!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Review: Beauty and the Beast 3D

The Wife: Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, Beauty and the Beast! Usually I wouldn't review a movie that's been out since 1991, but the 3D release of the Disney classic, Beauty and the Beast, is an exception.

Beauty and the Beast is regarded by many as perfection and the cream of the crop among the Disney princess films. I can't really disagree with those sentiments either. When I found out they were bringing back Beauty and the Beast to the theatre as well as adding 3D, I was beyond excited! Due to an overly busy fall, I missed out on the re-release of the Lion King. I promised myself that there was NO WAY I would miss the chance to see Beauty and the Beast, a favorite movie from my childhood, on the big screen again. Obviously many others around my age felt the same way as the theatre was packed with people in their twenties. Of course, several youngsters and their families also came to experience the magic of Beauty and the Beast for the first time.

The story of Beauty and the Beast is probably one of the greatest told in the Disney universe. As cheesy as it sounds, it is the perfect example of the saying "it's what's on the inside that counts." It wasn't instant love between Belle and the Beast, it was a love that grew. As the famous score from the movie says: "Barely even friends, then somebody bends unexpectedly." Belle was able to look past the Beast's scary exterior and see his true soul from within, which caused her to fall in love with him. The Beast was able to transform from a selfish jerk and open himself up to true love. It really does sound cheesy, but the lesson taught in this movie is something we could all learn from. To use another cliche "never judge a book by it's cover." I could give you a plot run through, but unless you've been living under a rock for the past twenty years, I am sure you already know the fairytale of Beauty and the Beast. Instead I will just discuss my favorite parts of Beauty and the Beast 3D!

I know I've complained about the overuse of 3D before, but I think it really works in cartoons! The 3D made the movie look gorgeous and crisp. The 3D effects especially in the famous number, "Be Our Guest," looked amazing! I loved seeing the dishes "fly" at me. It's been awhile since I've seen Beauty and the Beast but I know without a doubt the 3D quality was certainly better than that of my old, ORIGINAL VHS copy that is lying around somewhere at my parent's house!

I enjoyed all of the classical musical numbers of the film, particularly the opening number "Belle." The "Gaston" song was great as well. I also loved "Something There." However, my favorite scene and musical number was the same as it was when I saw Beauty and the Beast for the first time at the theatre in 1991. Yes, I am referring to the "Tale As Old As Time" number. As a little girl, I remember seeing how beautiful Belle looked coming down the staircase in the sparkling golden gown. Seeing this scene again on the big screen brought tears to my eyes. It was breathtaking and just as gorgeous as I had remembered.

If you are a Disney fan and love Beauty and the Beast, I recommend you see this film in 3D at the theatre. I am so happy Disney is bringing back the classics. It is wonderful to see a new generation enjoy the films that I grew up with and loved so very much. I always rank Beauty and the Beast as a very close third, with The Little Mermaid as my second favorite and Aladdin as my number one Disney classic! I really hope that I will get another chance to see both The Little Mermaid and Aladdin on the big screen too! Like I always say, nothing beats Disney! 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Stop SOPA

I'm going to be serious for a moment. Please read this!

Our congress is currently working on legislation with the potential to heavily censor the Internet. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the US House of Representatives and the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 (PROTECT IP) in the Senate are serious, by-partisan threats to our first amendment rights! Sorry to be such a downer, but I feel strongly that this topic needs more attention. Informed citizens can still make a difference, for the time being. SOPA in particular has the potential to change the Internet as we know it by allowing the blocking of any web site in which copy-righted material is being streamed without proper authority. This would include, but is not limited to, YouTube and Reddit; Facebook is another potential target.

I’ve been following the progress on these bills for sometime now. A recent article by Mythbuster Adam Savage does a much better job of explained the bill and how it relates to the Internet than I can. SOPA is built around the idea that an individual can report copy-right infringements on a give web site and in turn that web site will be blocked with little to no oversight and WITHOUT a court order. The site will be blocked on DNS level so it will be very hard and very illegal to work around the block. Put SOPA together with the NDAA bill that was signed into law on December 31, and you’re looking at a full on 1984 style crack down. Imagine being deemed a terrorist and arrested and held indefinitely because you are trying to get to blocked YouTube videos of Celebrity Jeopardy. Seriously. This censorship cannot be allowed to get to the President's desk for signature. With the New Year, congress will come back into session and pick these laws back up. It is vital we, as citizens of the USA and of the Internet contact them and let them know how terrible these bills are. Here is a web site that has all contact information (phone, email, snail mail) for any elected official you may want to contact.

I think it is also important to point out that these bills are by-partisan. Not much of that going around these days. So what is the root cause of this so rare across the isle support for such a bill? Money, influence and power. Here is a site that links the money given by music and movie companies to our Representatives and Senators for the support of the bills in question. I’m not stupid; I know this kind of thing goes on all the time in Washington, but that doesn’t make it right. Last time I checked they (congressmen and women) all still make over 100k a year under the guise of representing the tax payers.

I am not pro-piracy. I do believe people should pay for music and movies and such. But this legislation is bad. Like so many other things our congress does, their intentions may be in the right place, but they fail to see the unintended consequences. Please take the time to understand this legislation, form your own opinion and take action. Knowing is half the battle.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Why I Hate eBooks

A Facebook friend’s status got me thinking about eBooks the other day. At first I was generally annoyed because my creativity has apparently degraded to the point where I have to draw inspiration from people’s Facebook status. I got over that quickly because if I learned one thing over the past year of blogging, it’s that you have to take it where you can get it sometimes. So I refocused on the preliminary thought. eBooks. I dislike eBooks, but why? I never really thought about it before. First to mind was that I like real books. But that is a very shallow reason. If liking real books is the only reason I dislike eBooks, it’s like saying I dislike Star Wars because I like Star Trek, which is not the case. So what then? Further down the same runaway train of thought I guess I fear that eBooks will someday lead to the end of paper books. I suppose this is a valid suggestion.

It’s also strange to point out that in every other facet of my media consumption, I prefer digital copy. I’d go so far to say I hate discs. Music, movie and game discs are unnecessary clutter in my already crap cluttered living space. I see no reason, with present technology, why I need to have a hard copy of every movie, song and game I incorporate into my entertainment routine. Some may say that digital storage without hard copy is a risk. I guess so, although many places provide cloud storage these days and in the event of a major disaster, the last thing I’m worried about is my movie collection. There is no reason to cry about my cracked Resident Evil disc when there are zombies walking down the street for example. So why are eBooks different? For one, I can read a book without electricity. Kindles need to charge, CD’s require a CD player, same for disc movies and video games require a computer or console. A television is also required for both movies and games. I can pick up a book, no matter what is going on, and read it.

I do see the convenience of eBooks. It’s perfectly reasonable to see why someone who travels would want a Kindle or iPad. Maybe I just want to see some balance? Right now there are two teams (if I may use horrible, fascist Twilight terminology) you are either team Paper Book or team eBook. These two groups dislike one another. Paper book fans see themselves as the old sages, here to protect us from ourselves and preserve our history. They believe eBook reader to be smelly, hairy, hippies. eBookers see themselves as cutting edge futurists, ushering in a new age of human advancement. They liken Paper Bookers to geriatric codgers who hate change, youth and solid foods. Is either group wrong or right to think this way? Do they think this way or am I just full of crap? What about this? Why can’t publishing companies put a code in their books that provides a free download of the book in digital format for whatever eReader you prefer? This way I can have my paper, but also have the convenience of digital for travel. That idea probably presents more problems than solutions.

So why do I dislike eBooks? I think it’s a complicated combination of all the above factors. Let me start with the soul. Yes, soul. That book I just finished has a soul. What if page 142 was funny or sad or thought provoking so I dog eared it for later? Maybe the inside cover has an inscription from who ever gave me the book, or even the author who wrote it. I have several books with cracked binding because I’ve gone back to read them again and again. A good book has more of a soul than an eReader ever will. Piles of books do not bother me, they make me happy. The thought that my children may never go to a library depresses me. That’s why I plan to have my own library room if/when I have the finances to see it done. While CDs and DVDs and Blu-rays and games gather dust and take up space, my books become decorations on the shelves; cherished as much as the countless stuffed frogs The Wife has gathered over the years or the Christmas Nativity set or the Lego Mini figs. I’ve never felt this way about the DVD copy of The Matrix on the shelf that I’ve watched maybe twice.

Many eBook readers are also eBook pushers. They won’t be happy until everyone reads only via eReader. If you like your eReader, cool, good for you. Don’t try to convert me. If I see a good reason to start using eBooks, I’ll ask your opinion. Until that time, lay off. Some of you make me intentionally dislike eBooks, not because I loathe the books themselves, but you as heralds of them. It’s like certain sports teams, I don’t dislike the institution nearly as much as the annoying fans who try to convince you their team is the best no matter what. There is a place in this world for both books and eBooks. My fear, and ultimately my core reason for aversion to eBooks is the very real possibility that eBooks will lead to the downfall of print books.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2012 Survival Guide

With 2012 bringing the apocalypse, I thought I’d put together a list of survival gear I find vital to living post 2012. I will remind you this list is only helpful if you actually manage to survive the initial destruction. If the end comes at the hands of a giant rouge planet or meteor smashing into Earth, this list is utterly useless. Also bear in mind you need to be smart enough to use these items. You have one year to gather and learn, good luck!

Remote Underground Survival Habitat: Your R.U.S.H. is vital to living through the 2012 Armageddon. It is a safe, warm place to kick up your heels and laugh as all the nonbelievers suffer terrible, indescribable deaths.

Water: A few months supply should get you through the onset of the end times. A good filtration system will stretch it out even longer; just don’t expect me to drink your disgusting urine water.

Food: Spam, freeze dried meats and fruits, Tang, jerky, canned goods, artificial sweeteners, powdered milk, imitation eggs, facon (fake bacon), McDonald’s French Fries; all these things will keep forever, just don’t forget the cyanide capsules for when you’ve had enough.

Clothes: The chances that the apocalypse results in a tropical, united utopian nudist colony are very very slim. Bring layers.

Weapons: I'm not hot on guns. Guns require ammo. Ammo runs out and you're left with a bludgeoning weapon at best. Take a note from The Walking Dead and get a cross bow! Or get creative and make your own tool for hunting/self defense. My head is spinning with ideas born from my office cubical; the deadly pencil cross bow! If the initial projectile doesn't get them, the lead poisoning will! Knives and swords are also good, but they make hunting particularly difficult; not impossible, just difficult. You ever try to run down a deer carrying an official movie replica of Aragorn's sword, Narsil? Didn't think so...

Companions: As much fun as Apple's Siri is, when shit goes down, she can't carry her weight. Get some people together and choose a rally point for when things go south. Store some of your crap there. Bring cookies.

Intelligence: Lets face it, the end of the world is really just a giant survival of the fittest event and some of you aren't going to make the cut.

Musical Instruments: Keeping sprits high is always important. However, the guy that brings his recorder from sixth grade should be shot on site.

Duct Tape: Seriously stock-pile this stuff! Have you even seen Mythbusters? They made a boat and a plane out of Duct Tape. Come on people!

Solar Powered Crap: If it’s solar powered it’s gold, unless of course the sun is blocked by devastating nuclear winter or volcanic ash or terrible storms or you’re forced to live underground in some sort of cave or you can only go outside at night. Hmmmm, now that I think about it, don’t let collecting them take up too much of your time.

Rope: Rope, in the hands of the properly trained person, is almost as useful as Duck Tape. But, if you’ve gathered three miles worth of rope for the end times, and don’t even know how to tie a square knot, then all you really have is three miles of rope to hang yourself with. Wait; check that, you won’t know how to tie a noose either.

A Calculator: Because I didn’t pay nearly enough attention in math class. Did you?

An Aluminum Trash Can: Put this in the basement with a radio and batteries and any other electronic devices you’d like to keep around inside of it. In the event of huge solar flair or massive EMP attack, the can will protect these items from destruction. Good luck finding a decent radio station to listen to.

A Bug Out Bag: Contains Off Bug Spray, citronella candles, matches, bug nets. Keep in mind nuclear fallout could mutate the bugs to unreasonable sizes. If you believe this actuality is likely, also include DVD copy of Starship Troopers for training in large bug extermination.

DVD Player: How else do you plan on watching Starship Troopers?

Metallica’s Black Album: At some point you will have to make your final stand against the forces of evil in the brutal post-2012 world, wouldn’t you like to do so with a proper soundtrack?

Scuba Gear: Particularly if you live east of the Appalachian Mountains or west of the Rocky Mountains and it's a glacial melt situation.

A Doctor: You probably don’t have time to go to med school, so convince a Doctor to come live in your R.U.S.H. until at least February 1, 2013. Bend the definition of the word “convince” if necessary.

Pie Making Materials: Who wants to live in a world without pie?

A Clock: Seriously, the clock we keep in our living room died a few weeks ago. I am so disoriented. When should I eat or sleep? This sun dial isn't compatible with my energy saving light bulbs for some reason.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

The Wife: Well it's been a long time since we've done a post strictly dedicated to a movie review. Although we saw this movie in 2011, it will serve as our first review of 2012! So what do I have to say about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo? Well, it was pretty freaking good. The acting was top notch, and while it was longer than your standard film, the pacing was quite well.

I received The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo book for Christmas, but unfortunately due to the lack of a Christmas break that us adults in the real world have to contend with, I only had the chance to read the prologue and the first chapter. So, other than some random introductions and knowledge of basic plot points, I entered the theatre not really knowing what to expect. I ended up really enjoying the movie and found myself on the edge of my seat throughout the majority of it. I thoroughly enjoyed coming up with my own plot theories to try and solve the mystery just as the main characters did. More importantly, I must say I completely called all of the shocks with my three separate theories, because you see, I am pretty awesome at figuring out movie and book twists! Of course, I thought only one of my theories would be correct, but all three of them ended up working out! I would discuss the plot in detail more thoroughly, but I don't want to spoil the movie for those of you who have yet to see it.

As I mentioned, the acting was excellent in this movie. Aside from providing some great eye candy, Daniel Craig was excellent. However, the real credit goes to Rooney Mara, who played Lisbeth. I think her performance is Oscar-worthy! I also have to note that she is the granddaughter of Art Rooney Sr., the founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers! So here's a shout out to all of Steeler Nation! Here we go Steelers, here we go!

Overall I really enjoyed The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. There are some VERY graphic scenes that are quite violent and disturbing, so if this is something that makes or breaks a movie for you, then I suggest you skip seeing this film. However, if you can get past the graphic nature and focus on the story at hand, then I highly recommend this movie! I still plan to finish the book as movies always tend to leave out details. I certainly plan to read the other two books in the series as well!


Hobo Dan: I so enjoy going to see movies I know nothing about. This rarely happens these day, partly because I research upcoming films for this blog and partly because there isn't really that much "new" stuff coming from Hollywood these days. I am well aware this is based off a book and was already made into film in Sweden. But I don't speak Swedish and haven't read the book, so this is new to me. The feel of the film from plot to story is very different which may throw people off. It being European probably has something to do with this. That said, I loved The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I would have surely put it in my top five films of 2011 if we had seen it in time!

The Wife mentioned the superb acting in the film. I won't be surprised if it earns several Oscar nods. The cinematography is also excellent. Many shots in the film add greatly to the suspense and tension and reminded me at time of The Shining when the kid is riding his tricycle around the creepy hotel. Win. I'm sad that the movie is doing poorly at the box office. It doesn't surprise me, just saddens. People these days aren't looking for the thoughtful, dark experience this film provides. The ending in particular probably leaves a sour taste in a lot of peoples mouths. I loved it. It was right up my ally. So, do what you can for society and see this movie. It is very important that films like this continue to be made. It's this or more Harold and Kumar movies...

Also, I apologize for the Wife and her sports team. Go Browns.