Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Grafton Notch Sightseeing

Grafton Notch is located in western Maine, near the border with New Hampshire.  For those people not familiar with the upper Appalachian Mountain chain, “notches” are thin valleys between mountains.  Roads have been built through them, but the notches were never turned into farmland.  What the notches do have in abundance are scenic views.

Grafton Notch spans the towns of Upton, Grafton Township, and Newry.  Grafton Notch State Park is located in the notch.  There is also a Preserve located about a mile south of the park.  Sunday River Ski Area and Golf Club are on mountains at the southern end of the notch.  The Appalachian Trail also passes over the mountains on either side of the notch.  Finally, there is a 35 mile long loop trail that passes over all the major mountains that surround the notch.

There are many sights to see.  The best known is Screw Auger Falls.  This is a waterfall that turns almost like a screw.  Other things to see in the state park are Mother Walker Falls, Moose Cave, and the view from Table Rock.  In the Preserve is Step Falls, perhaps the most spectacular waterfall in the state.

Of these five sights, only Table Rock is a true hike.  Step Falls requires maybe a half mile of walking, sometimes uphill over roots.  The other three are very near the road and require little walking.  No hiking trails connect them; you drive short distances from one to the next.

If you are coming from the south: take Route 2 north out of Bethel, Maine.  About five miles from town Route 26 will separate off to the left.  Take it.  In about six miles you reach the state park.

If you are coming from the east: take Route 2 southwest out of Rumford, Maine.  About 10 miles out of town Route 26 will separate off to the right.  Take it.  In about six miles you reach the state park.

If you are coming from the west (except northern New Hampshire): take Route 2 east out of Gorham, New Hampshire, cross into Maine, and drive to Bethel.  Stay on Route 2 north out of Bethel.  About five miles from town Route 26 will separate off to the left.  Take it.  In about six miles you reach the state park.

If you are coming from northern New Hampshire: take Route 26 southeast out of Errol, New Hampshire, cross into Maine, and in about 5 miles you reach the state park.  Note: Since most visitors will be coming north up Route 26 the order of the posts is from south to north as they would encounter them.  You would encounter them in the reverse order.

Here are posts that go into these five sights in more detail, including photos and videos:

On to the hikes…

Hike – Step Falls

Step Falls
Step Falls is located in a Preserve just south of Grafton Notch State Park in Newry, Maine.  While it technically is not the highest waterfall in the state because it does not have a single unbroken drop, the cumulative drop is well over one hundred feet, with a good volume of water.

Hike – Screw Auger Falls

Screw Auger Falls
Screw Auger Falls is located in Grafton Notch State Park in Grafton Township, Maine.  It is a popular tourist attraction.  It features two waterfall drops that each turn away from the other, almost like a screw does.  There are good viewing areas and you can get right on top of the falls, too.

Hike – Mother Walker Falls

Mother Walker Falls
Mother Walker Falls is located in Grafton Notch State Park in Grafton Township, Maine.  It is a popular tourist attraction.  It features a gorge and a chute that force water downstream.  The falls themselves are now somewhat obscured by trees that have grown up in front of the viewing area.  It is still worth stopping if you are in the park, though.

Hike – Moose Cave

Moose Cave is located in Grafton Notch State Park in Grafton Township, Maine.  It is a popular tourist attraction.  It features a set of walkways that lead you to massive granite boulders that have broken off the cliff side, forming a “cave” and a chute of water.  It gets its name from a moose that fell into the water here.

Hike – Table Rock

Looking south from Table Rock
Table Rock is located in Grafton Notch State Park in Grafton Township, Maine.  It is a popular hiking attraction.  It is a flat rock that extends out off a cliff and features more than 180 degree views of the notch.  The following post describes a loop hike up the Appalachian Trail, then over to Table Rock, then down the Table Rock trail.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Movies Where People Pretend to Play Themselves

Hello Mrs. Madigan. Arnold Braunshweiger.” – Jack Slater (Arnold Schwarzenegger) trying to pretend to be Arnold Schwarzenegger, Last Action Hero

Cameos by well known people have been in movies for many decades.  Sometimes those cameos are funny precisely because of who the person is.  An example is Bing Crosby appearing as a disappointed executioner in the Bob Hope comedy My Favorite Brunette (1947.)  Sometimes the cameo is even the person playing themselves, such as Bruce Willis in Ocean’s Twelve (2004.)

Every now and then, though, an actor or actress takes a role as themselves that is a lot more than just a cameo.  The plot in all of these is that they are playing an exaggerated, or even completely fictional, version of themselves.  Probably the most well known movie example is Being John Malkovich (1999.)  Jerry Seinfeld would famously do the same thing on his eponymous TV show.

You can find my posts for these movies here:

You’ll notice both Harold & Kumar movies are here.  The third one is coming out late in 2011.  Here is the trailer for it.

On to the reviews…

Movie – Wings of Desire (1987)

Wings of Desire is a German film that was shot just before the fall of the Berlin Wall.  It touched a nerve first with its German audience, then around the rest of the world.  Some of the impact of this film has probably been lost for people who have only known a world where the wall does not exist.  It is still a movie well worth seeing, though.

Movie – Last Action Hero (1993)

Last Action Hero was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s attempt to combine action and comedy together.  He did this by making fun of his own image.  Many people did not like the movie when it came out because they didn’t like seeing action movie clichés being the butt of jokes.  They wanted to see Arnold in an action move, or Arnold in a non-action comedy. 

I liked the movie when it first came out and I feel that the biggest thing wrong with it was that it was 15 years ahead of its time.  All the jokes and references would be right at home in any number of movies and TV shows that get made now.

Movie – Being John Malkovich (1999)

Being John Malkovich was my first exposure to the writing of Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.)  It would be an understatement to say that his mind works in ways that are different from most other people.  The result is some really unique movies.  This one is no exception.

Movie – Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004)

Back in 2004 if you would have told most people that an R-rated comedy starring two relatively unknown minority actors would be one of the funniest movies to come along in quite awhile, they would have laughed as hard as audiences did at this movie.  When I saw Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle I laughed harder than I had in years.

Movie – My Name is Bruce (2006)

The title of this movie refers to Bruce Campbell, star of many B movies, including the Evil Dead trilogy.  [You can read my review of his best movie here.]  In My Name is Bruce he gets mistaken for his Evil Dead character of Ash by a town that needs help fighting off a demon.  Both carnage and hilarity ensue.

Movie – Hamlet 2 (2008)

First, the movie Hamlet 2 is not a sequel to Shakespeare’s play Hamlet.  Hamlet 2 is a play within the movie that a high school drama teacher is trying to put on to save the drama club at his school.  Think of this movie as a combination of the TV show Glee and a spoof of inspirational teacher movies.  The play Hamlet 2 can probably give Springtime for Hitler a run for its money as worst idea for a play ever.

Movie – Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (2008)

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay is the sequel to the very funny Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.  [See my review of that here.]  This is one comedy sequel that is almost as funny as the first movie, and that’s saying something.  While I would consider the first one to be the better of the two, the second is definitely a worthy follow-up.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Humor – No Texting in Theaters

The Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas has had a strict policy of no talking in their theater.  They would even run a short clip of former Governor Ann Richards getting a call in her office, coming down to the theater, and throwing the talker out.

More recently, the Alamo Drafthouse took on texting in their theater, too.  People were trying to get around the no talking rule and consequently flooding the theater with beams of light from their phones.

One woman was not happy about getting tossed out for texting.  She left a voicemail for the Alamo Drafthouse that they ended up turning into their latest short clip to warn people not to text.

This is the censored version.  If you want to hear it in all its glory, you can find the uncensored version here.

Personally, I wish all theaters would do this.  I might start going out to see more movies again.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Movies After Star Wars

“The encounter could create a time paradox, the results of which could cause a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space-time continuum, and destroy the entire universe! …….Granted, that's a worse case scenario.” – Doc Brown, Back to the Future Part II

After Star Wars came out there was suddenly a huge demand for big, special effects laden movies.  This was both good and bad.  It was good because it created a huge market for summer movies.  (Believe it or not, the summer used to be kind of dead in regards to movies.)  It was bad because it meant studios mostly stopped making SF movies that made you think, and instead made dumbed down sci-fi movies.  They missed the fact that Star Wars was more than flashy effects.  This even led to the first incarnation of Battlestar Galactica on TV.  Let’s just say the writing left something to be desired.  (“Admiral, the cylons are two microns and closing.”)

First, explanations on a couple of terms I am going to use.  There are two kinds of science fiction movies – “sci-fi” and “SF.”  “Sci-fi” movies are the somewhat dumbed down ones whose only ambition is to sell tickets – lots of them.  These make up most of the science fiction movies that get released, from all the superhero movies, to all the space battle movies, to all the creepy/cute alien movies.  These have the biggest “wow” factors.

“SF” movies, on the other hand, are actually about something.  The best science fiction books and movies make you look at things in ways that you never have before.  They stimulate thought and maybe even discussion after you are done with them.  These kinds of movies do not get released as often because they usually do not sell as many tickets.  Also, let’s face it - a majority of moviegoers today don’t want to have to actually pay attention to a movie that makes them think.  They want one that they can still follow even though they are talking over it, texting, etc.  They just want to be entertained.

Both sci-fi and SF movies are entertaining to me.  Depending on what mood I am in, either one can provide a couple hours of enjoyment.  Are these two categories mutually exclusive?  Almost.  On very rare occasions a movie gets released that is both sci-fi and SF.  The Matrix is an example of this.

There are so many good science fiction movies that came out after Star Wars that I will probably revisit this category at a later date.  To pare this list down for this first post I will skip any big name films like The Matrix, as well as any superhero movies. 

In this set I am going to cover Contact (1997) – SF, Dark City (1998) - SF, The Iron Giant (1999) – SF and sci-fi, Battle Royale (2000) – sci-fi, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) – sci-fi, Serenity (2005) – SF and sci-fi, Children of Men (2006) – SF, and The Man from Earth (2007) – SF.

You can find my posts for these movies here:

Serenity (2005) - [previously posted]

You can also see my Before Star Wars category by clicking here.

On to the reviews…

Movie – Contact (1997)

Few movies treat science with respect.  Usually there is the person who is trying to use it to abuse power (the mad scientist), or it is pseudoscience at best.  Just as few movies treat faith with respect.  Most people of faith in movies are played as naïve, as nuts, or as extremists.  Contact actually treats both with respect, and shows that they don’t have to be bitter enemies of each other.  This is one of the reasons that Contact is the best movie of 1997; yes, even better than Best Picture winner Titanic.

Movie – Dark City (1998)

Dark City could at first be described as “SF noir”.  Digging a little deeper it becomes far more than that.  It was director Alex Proyas’ follow-up to The Crow (1994) and it displays some of the same tone and mood.  This is not your mainstream science fiction movie, but it does display some themes and images that would explode into the public consciousness when The Matrix also used them the next year.

Movie – The Iron Giant (1999)

In the summer of 1999 Warner Brothers responded to all of the parents who had been crying out for a quality animated movie that they could take their whole family to; one that wasn’t the toy advertising that Disney had become.  Warner Brothers selected a well respected story – The Iron Man – and hired up and comer Brad Bird to direct the movie.  The result – parents avoided this movie like the plague.  “No singing animals?  My kids won’t want to see that.”  The result was that a truly great movie was hardly seen at all.

Movie – Battle Royale (2000)

Battle Royale is a Japanese film that has struck a chord around the world.  There has been talk for years of an American remake, but because of the subject matter I don’t know if it ever would be made.  The closest we will come in the near term is the upcoming movie The Hunger Games (2012), whose plot borrows heavily from Battle Royale.  (Click here for my book review of The Hunger Games.)

Movie – Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was originally intended to be a big summer movie in 2004.  To avoid bumping up against Spider-Man 2 it was moved to the end of September, where movies are sent to die (see also Serenity.)  It didn’t quite end up making back its budget, which was small for a summer movie, but large for a fall movie.  Based on this, some people consider it a flop.  I am not a studio head, so I could care less what the box office was for a movie.  I just care if it was entertaining and this one was.

Movie – Children of Men (2006)

Children of Men is science fiction for adults, meaning it is intelligent, moving, and actually about something.  It came out very late in 2006 and received three Oscar nominations, including one for Best Adapted Screenplay.  It is based on the P.D. James novel The Children of Men.  The other two nominations were for Best Cinematography and Best Editing, so don’t think it is a snorefest.  The movie literally starts with a bang and puts you in the middle of the action when it happens.

Movie – The Man from Earth (2007)

This movie is also known as Jerome Bixby’s The Man from Earth.  Bixby was a talented science fiction writer.  Among other credits, he wrote the classic Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life”, as well as several episodes of Star Trek.  While he lay dying he wrote his last and perhaps his greatest story – The Man from Earth.

The premise - a professor who is moving on is thrown an impromptu party by some colleagues.  They press him for why he is leaving.  At first he resists, but then finally starts to tell them a tale about a man who has lived for 14,000 years - himself.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Movies with Sexy Moments That Are Not Sex Scenes

“What is sexy?” - Ad campaign for Victoria’s Secret

That title is a bit of a mouthful.  What I mean by it is that there are sexy moments in the following movies, but they are not scenes in which people are having sex.  I’m not saying that sex doesn’t happen in the movie; it just doesn’t happen in that scene.

An example is the trunk scene in Out of Sight (1998.)  If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I am talking about.  Part of the time in that scene Clooney and Lopez are talking about Faye Dunaway movies.  Her movie The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) makes this list – for a chess game (seriously.)  Smaller movies that people might have missed are Sirens (1993) and Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003), both coincidentally having plots about painters.

None of those scenes even have so much as a kiss in them (although kisses follow.)  Let’s add a few more that do involve kisses.  Let’s start with a wanted kiss that doesn’t happen in Dangerous Liaisons (1988.) We’ll then move on to a kiss on the hand from Don Juan Demarco (1994.)  Finally, let’s have a full on lips to lips kiss from Pump Up the Volume (1990.)

You can find my posts for these movies here:

Out of Sight (1998)
The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
Sirens (1993)
Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)
Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
Don Juan Demarco (1994)
Pump Up the Volume (1990)

On to the reviews…

Movie – Out of Sight (1998)

Back before Oscar nominations, a string of talked about movies, and an even longer string of talked about romances, George Clooney was just the guy from the TV show ER who was getting by on his charm and who was trying to make the transition to movies.  Back before American Idol, “J-Lo”, a music career, and Ben Affleck, there was just Jennifer Lopez, an up and coming actress.  It was at this point in both their lives that the movie Out of Sight came along and it forever changed the way that I saw both of them.

Movie – The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

More people have probably seen the 1999 version of The Thomas Crown Affair that starred Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo.  That was a remake of the 1968 film of the same name that starred Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway.  I like both equally, but for different reasons.  For this post I will concentrate on the 1968 version, which includes a very sexy….chess game.

Movie – Sirens (1993)

The movie Sirens features early roles for Hugh Grant and Tara Fitzgerald.  They would re-team two years later for The Englishman Who Went up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain.  In Sirens it is much more Fitzgerald who gets to be sexy rather than Grant.

He plays a young reverend that has come to Australia with his wife (Fitzgerald) in the 1930s.  He is asked to visit an artist (Sam Neill) who has painted a scene that the church considers blasphemous.  The reverend is to convince the artist to withdraw the painting.  He thinks this will be easy.

Movie – Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)

Girl with a Pearl Earring came out the same year as Scarlett Johansson’s movie Lost in Translation.  While the latter is much better known she ended up getting Golden Globe Best Actress nominations for both.  I consider her performance in Girl with a Pearl Earring not only better than her performance in Lost in Translation, but also better than any other performance in her career.

Movie – Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

Dangerous Liaisons is based on the 1782 novel Le liaisons dangereuses, which has been adapted many times.  The 1999 movie Cruel Intentions is another example.  The novel captured all the decadence, sin, and plotting that was going on in the French courts at the time.  The fact that it has been adapted so many times shows that stories about these subjects never go out of style.

Movie – Don Juan Demarco (1994)

A couple of years ago I was discussing the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie with a co-worker.  She mentioned she had “a thing” for Johnny Depp.  I told her that if that was the case then she had to see his movie Don Juan Demarco.  She smiled fondly, and a little naughtily, and said that she had.

Movie – Pump Up the Volume (1990)

Pump Up the Volume is one of those semi-forgotten movies.  It stars Christian Slater, who’s earlier movie Heathers overshadows this one.  In fact, this movie pretty much is Christian Slater.  He is in almost every scene and he gets to play two very different personalities.  I’m here to remind people of this movie and to let you know why I feel it should not be forgotten.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Humor – Guess the Movie Quiz #1

I’m going to do a little quiz from time to time as I run across photos that apply.  How will the quiz work?  I will post a photo and from that you try to figure out what movie it refers to. 

I’ll start with one that also ties into another blog I recently started following: The Large Association of Movie Blogs.  You can read their post about my blog here.

Here is the photo.  What is the movie?

You can find the answer here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Movie – Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

First things first: this movie is not a sequel or prequel to the flawed 2001 Planet of the Apes movie.  It is also not directly related to any of the five Planet of the Apes (POTA) movies that came out from 1968 to 1973, although it is somewhat similar to the fourth one – Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.  No, this movie is essentially a reboot of the franchise and it starts it at the beginning of the story.  It’s a very good movie, and it is better than all the other POTA movies, with the exception of the original 1968 classic.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

TV and Book – Game of Thrones

The book A Game of Thrones was first published in 1996.  It is the first book in the series titled A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin.  In the summer of 2011 HBO adapted it into a ten episode television season by the name Game of Thrones.  The series proved to be very popular with viewers.  HBO is currently filming the second season, which will be based on the next book in the series.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Whistling While I Work

I’ve spent the last couple of days making some changes to the posts here on the blog. 

1.  All hiking videos have had their hosts changed from the blog itself to Youtube.  I was never happy with what the blog did to the quality of the videos when I uploaded them.  I originally avoided Youtube since some places (such as my last employer) block their videos, but I finally decided that the quality of the videos had to be improved.  You will now be able to watch them full screen to get a much better view of these locations.

2.  I added links among posts on this blog to make it more understandable how to get to related posts.  It turns out that the Labels I have been creating are not being used by everyone because they don’t understand what they are there for.  People also don’t notice the Search box in the upper right, either.

To try to make it easier, I have added links to the related, individual posts in the Category Intro posts.  The Labels will still be there, so if you are used to using those, nothing will change.

3.  Another thing that has been happening is some people have been reading this blog from newest posts to older posts, which means the Category Intros are not being seen until after the movie posts related to them have been seen.  In the future I will post so that the Category Intros show up above the movie posts.  Please note that this will not always be possible, though.  Situations like my reviews of the 2011 Summer movies will require me to continue to post in the order I have been doing.

For those who have not noticed the Labels, or not known what they were for, here are all of the Categories I have posted about.  Clicking on the links will take you to posts describing them and within them will be links to the movies that fall into those Categories.

Movie Categories:

2011 Oscar Nominees  [Note - search results list, not individual post]

Note:  I also have Labels for movies by decade, by my star rating, and by foreign language to make it easier to find them.  Those links, and others, are over on the right.