Sunday, January 30, 2011

Movie – Toy Story 3 (2010)

One of these days Pixar may finally produce a movie that is a dud.  This is not that day.  Toy Story 3 is hugely entertaining, action-packed, funny, and very poignant.  I used to consider Toy Story 2 to be the best movie to come out of Pixar, but I think this one might be even better.  Of the ten movies nominated for the 2011 Best Picture Oscar, this is the one that I consider to be the best.

The movie opens several years after the last one.  The boy who owns them, Andy, has now grown up and is getting ready to attend college.  He hasn’t played with the toys much in recent years and this is tough for them, to be mostly forgotten.

Movie – 127 Hours (2010)

The title of this movie refers to the amount of time a hiker (James Franco) is trapped by a boulder crushing his arm.  This is a true story from a few years ago and the events were all over the news.  The movie is based on the hiker’s (Aron Ralston) book Between a Rock and a Hard Place.  I am going to assume you remember what he had to do to get free, so I am going to discuss it in the review.  Unless you’ve been under a rock (hah) and don’t know what happens, then be aware that there is a spoiler for that in this review.

Movie – The Fighter (2010)

The Fighter was nominated for seven Oscars, including acting nominations for Christian Bale, Melissa Leo and Amy Adams, all in Supporting roles.  The lead actor, Mark Wahlberg, did not get a nomination, though.  I have an opinion on why that happened and I’ll discuss it in my review.

Boston sports fans are already familiar with the story of “Irish” Micky Ward, a boxer from Lowell, Massachusetts.  I know not everyone follows Boston sports, though, so I will not assume that you already know what’s going to happen before you have seen the movie.  That means I will try to avoid spoilers for the movie.

Movie – Inception (2010)

Regardless of the high-brow, Oscar-bait other movies nominated for Best Picture, Inception is probably the one that generated the most talk before, during, and even after it was released.  Despite attempts on my part to know nothing about the movie before I saw it, even I heard two things: 1. it’s hard to understand; and 2. there’s a lot of talk about the ending.

First, what is Inception?  Well, the dictionary definition is that it is the start of something.  I think some people are confusing this with “conception”, as in an idea, especially in light of what the movie is about.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Movie – The Social Network (2010)

This is the movie that has won most of the other awards for Best Picture, so it is the favorite going in to the Oscars.  Critics seem to love it, but the general population seems to be a little less enthused.  When I saw it I was entertained.  There were some good lines in it.  I thought it was a good movie; I just didn’t think it was good enough to be thought of as Best Picture material.  It didn’t live up to the tremendous hype.

Movie – True Grit (2010)

The first thing you should know is that this is not a remake of the 1969 John Wayne movie.  It is a more faithful adaptation of the original book, which was also the basis for the 1969 movie.  This version is a little more serious and has a couple of key differences in the ending (which I won’t be spoiling.)

Movie – The King’s Speech (2010)

This movie is the one that might beat out The Social Network for the Best Picture Oscar.  It recently won Best Picture from the Producers Guild, which some people feel means it has a chance against The Social Network, which has won most of the other Best Picture awards.  Combine this recent win for The King’s Speech with the fact that it got the most nominations and some people are thinking this might even be the favorite.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

2011 Oscar Nominations

The 2011 Oscar nominations were announced a couple of hours ago.  Going down through them I didn’t see any real big surprises among them.  Here are the Best Picture nominees:

Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winters Bone

I will post reviews for as many of these movies as I can prior to the Oscar telecast on February 27th.  At this point I have seen five of the ten.

Click “Read more” for a complete list of the nominees, what got the most nominations, and some other things of interest.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Movie – (500) Days of Summer (2009)

This is not a love story.  That’s what the movie tells you right from the beginning.  Despite those words it has many of the elements of a love story, but not with all the clichés that come with those.  What the movie is is a refreshing, sometimes humorous, sometimes touching, more realistic, and possibly even original, look at the relationship of a man and a woman.

Movie – My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)

Julia Roberts in a romantic comedy; (yawn) it’s been done.  Julia Roberts realizing she has feelings for someone close to her; (yawn) it’s been done.  Julia Roberts playing a potential home wrecker and a “bad guy” even though she’s the star of the movie; wait a minute, what did you just say?

Movie – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Let’s take a trip back to a time when even adults recognized righteous dudes, principals went on one man missions to ruin students, you could convince your friend to borrow his dad’s prize Ferrari for a road trip, and Jennifer Grey, Charlie Sheen, Ben Stein, Alan Ruck, and Kristy Swanson were unknowns.  Let’s all take our own day off and watch this movie.

Movie – Easy A (2010)

Even though this is a recent movie you may not have heard of it.  It didn’t get much advertising support and it was released in the latter part of September, where movies go to die.  If you did hear of it you might have dismissed it as a chick flick.  I'm here to say that it is an all around enjoyable movie; a delight to watch.

Movies with Musical Numbers for No Reason

“Just once I want my life to be like an 80s movie, preferably one with a really awesome musical number for no apparent reason.” – Olive Penderghast, Easy A

You might be saying, “Aren’t all musical numbers in movies there for no apparent reason?”  Well, in the world of a movie musical the performances are logical, just like in the world of an action movie all the crashes and explosions that don’t harm the hero are logical.  For most genres, the movie world does not follow the logic of the real world.

For this category I’ve chosen movies that are not movie musicals, but for whatever reason they have a musical number performed by the characters.  The movies I have selected for this category are Easy A, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, My Best Friend’s Wedding, and (500) Days of Summer.  I thought about including O Brother Where Art Thou, but the characters in that movie are actually recording a song in a studio, so within the world of the movie there is a reason for it.

When the character in Easy A is saying the words above they actually flash on screen the parade sequence from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which is a fun reference.  You may note that this is the only 80s movie I have chosen.  I may revisit this category at a later point to review some additional movies.  Let me know if you have some favorites I did not include.

In case you are wondering what happened to the “Gwyneth Paltrow is British” category that I mentioned in the original three choices – since all four movies in this category have romantic elements in them I will post them when we get closer to Valentine’s Day.

Before I get to the reviews, I just have one question:

You can find my posts for these movies here:

10 Things I Hate About You added October 16, 2011.

On to the reviews:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Website –

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Hike – Cadillac Mountain, North Ridge

Bar Harbor from a little way up the North Ridge trail
Cadillac Mountain is the highest point in Acadia National Park in Maine.  It is also the highest mountain on the Atlantic Ocean anywhere north of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  In the Fall and Winter it is the first place in the U.S. that sees the sunrise.  It has a free auto road that allows people to drive right to the top.  It also has multiple hiking trails to the summit.  Some are more challenging than others.  This post describes a hike up the North Ridge trail, one that is intermediate in difficulty among them, but still not that bad.

Book – American Gods

How to describe this book?  Is it Adventure?  Is it Ghost Story?  Is it Suspense?  Is it Americana?  Is it Road Trip?  Is it Coming of Age?  Is it Fantasy?  Is it Myth?  Is it Commentary?  Is it darkly humorous?  The answer to all of those would be “yes.”  At its heart, though, it is a love letter to the sometimes forgotten America from a British author.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Humor – World War II Social Networking

What if there had been social networking sites during World War II?  It might have looked something like this.  (Note the “timestamps” of the posts.)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Movie – American Beauty (1999)

American Beauty won five Oscars, including four of the five major ones, capped off by Best Picture.  It only missed for Best Actress.  Annette Bening was beaten by Hilary Swank’s performance in Boys Don’t Cry.  Unlike most Oscar winning movies, which are very dramatic and heavy, this movie had enough humor in it to be called a comedy/drama.

Movie – Sunset Boulevard (1950)

This movie is an absolutely fearless look at Hollywood and the stars it leaves behind.  Gloria Swanson is a former silent film star who is now living out her days in her house on Sunset Blvd.  William Holden is a younger man “kept” by Swanson.  Erich von Stroheim plays the butler, who is also so much more.

Swanson’s character is semi-delusional, “knowing” that director Cecil B. DeMille is going to call her any minute to revive her career.  She lives in excess and eccentricity, doing things like holding a funeral for a chimpanzee she had owned.  The people around her feed her delusions and psychosis.

Movie – Sin City (2005)

This movie is a set of four interconnecting stories based on three graphic novels and a short story by Frank Miller.  The director, Robert Rodriguez, felt it was so important to ensure that Miller’s vision was correctly translated to the screen that he made him a co-director on the movie.  The result is an incredibly faithful visual translation from the graphic novels to the screen.

These stories are homages to the noir films of the 1940s with dangerous women and tough-as-nails men.  It is set in the fictional Basin City, but its police corruption and Old Town section populated with tons of lowlifes and criminals gives it its nickname of Sin City.  Even the heroes are pretty dark.

Movies Narrated By Dead People

“And if you’re reassuring yourself that I’m going to make it through this since I’m talking to you now, quit being such a smart-ass!  Hell dude, you never seen Sin City?  Sunset Boulevard?  American Beauty?” – Dave Lizewski/Kick-Ass, Kick-Ass

Movie narration is something that comes and goes over the years.  Some movie critics consider it such an affront that they rip the movie to shreds simply for having narration.  Personally, I rarely even notice it, and when I do I usually appreciate it.  For me, it rings really hollow when you have a character speak his thoughts out loud to other characters because those people treat it as the most natural thing, and it’s not.  The better alternative is to have the character speak only to the viewer.

This category is not a spoiler for these three movies.  Both Sunset Boulevard and American Beauty tell you right at the beginning that the narrator is dead.  Sin City consists of multiple interconnected stories, with multiple narrators, so you don’t know which one(s) will end up dead.

I could have included a couple of other movies I have seen, but those would definitely have been spoilers.  You don’t find out until the end of those that the person you have been listening to is dead.

You can find my posts for these movies here:

Sin City
Sunset Boulevard
American Beauty

On to the reviews…

Monday, January 17, 2011

Golden Globes 2011

The Golden Globes presentation was last night.  For those of you who are not familiar with them – they are awards for both movies and television handed out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.  They have been given since 1944 and are considered a good indicator of what movie awards will be handed out at the Oscars.

The key winners were:

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Problems Posting Comments?

I’ve had a few people tell me that they tried to leave a comment, but were not able to.  I had two people try it in front of me this weekend and I realized I should write up some tips for this as well.  Please click "Read more" for the tips.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Books – Hiking Trail Guides

This post will describe the best hiking trail guides that I have found for Acadia National Park in Maine, for the rest of the state of Maine, and for the White Mountains in New Hampshire.  If the hike I write about is listed in one of these guides I will include an Amazon link to the book at the end of the hike’s description.  I already included links to two of these books at the end of the first two hiking posts. 

The three books are A Walk in the Park: Acadia’s Hiking Guide by Tom St. Germain, the Appalachian Mountain Club [AMC] Maine Mountain Guide, and the AMC White Mountain Guide.

Book – AWOL on the Appalachian Trail

This book is the story of a through-hike of the Appalachian Trail by David Miller.  In 2003 he quit his job as an engineer to hike the trail.  Many hikers go by “trail names” while they are hiking, not unlike people on the internet choosing names for themselves.  Because his company would not allow him to take a leave of absence, he took the name “AWOL”, as in “absent without leave.”

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Humor – My Day

I've had a lot of people ask me how I spend my days now, other than watching movies and reading books, of course.  I figured I'd write about a typical day in my life now.

Because I usually don't need to be anywhere in particular in the morning I sometimes just take the opportunity to sleep in.

Hike – Peary Mountain

Pleasant Mountain and Pleasant Pond
Peary Mountain is in Brownfield, Maine, south of Fryeburg.  The hike up Peary Mountain is a relatively easy one.  I did it in October with the foliage in full Fall colors and it turned out to be a spectacular hike.  I also hiked it a couple of years later during mid-summer, and while the views were still as good, the lack of foliage color lessened them.

Movie – The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)

This movie stars Sarah Polley (The Sweet Hereafter, Go, John Adams) as a little girl caught up in a great adventure with the famous Baron Munchausen (John Neville.)  Appearing in supporting roles are Eric Idle, Oliver Reed, Uma Thurman, Jonathan Pryce, and “Ray B. Tutto” who looks, sounds, and acts exactly like Robin Williams.  (It is Williams.)

Movie – The City of Lost Children (1995)

The best way to describe this movie is that it is a dark fairy tale; far more Brothers Grimm than sweet innocent story.  A modern day equivalent might be the stories of Roald Dahl. 

It stars Judith Vittet as brave little street orphan Miette and Ron Perlman as a kind circus strongman named One.  The two of them are opposed by a mad scientist who is kidnapping children to take their dreams from them, since he cannot dream himself.

Movie – The Professional (1994)

The Professional features the screen debut of Natalie Portman.  It’s immediately apparent that she is destined for big things.  She is almost preternaturally mature in this role.  She acted opposite Jean Reno, who also became a star because of this movie.  You may not recognize his name, but you will recognize his face.  He became the go to actor whenever Hollywood needed a Frenchman in their movie (i.e. Godzilla, Mission Impossible, The Da Vinci Code, etc.)

Movie – Whale Rider (2002)

This film is an example of the little movie that could.  Everywhere it was shown at film festivals it won audience awards and left people giving standing ovations.  When it was released to the general public there was no marketing campaign to back it up, so you may not have heard of it.  I never heard of it myself until it came out for home rental.  I’m here to tell you that once you’ve seen this movie, though, you will never forget it.

Movies with Great Child Performances

“Never work with animals or small children.” – Old acting adage

The famous child actor/actress has been a staple of movies from Jackie Coogan and Shirley Temple right up through all the various live action Disney child stars.  There is a big difference between fame and acting ability, though.  The children who can actually act, and not just mug for the camera, are rarer.  It’s for this reason than most child stars struggle to make the transition to adult roles.

I have enough movies in this category that I will revisit it at a later point.  For the present I am going to review Whale Rider (2002), The Professional (1994), The City of Lost Children (1995), and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988.)  The four movies all feature young actresses in early/debut roles.  They range in age from eight to twelve.

Note - True Grit (2010) was later added to this category.

You can find my posts for these movies here:

Whale Rider
The Professional
The City of Lost Children
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
True Grit

On to the reviews…

On Second Thought

Since sending out the announcement for this blog five days ago it has had nearly 300 views, including people in Canada, The U.K., and Russia.  Out of all those views, though, no one has left a comment on which movie category they would like to read about next.  Somewhere (probably Japan) a little girl is crying.

Seriously, though, this indicates people don't feel comfortable voting, don't care which set of movies they read about, or are never coming back to the blog.  I can't do anything about the last one, but for the first two I can go ahead and just pick the movie categories myself.  For the foreseeable future I will be doing that.

The next category will be Great Child Performances.