Wednesday, January 4, 2017

My Own Subjective Top 10 Movies of 2016

So, yes, faithful readers, at this point you can probably surmise that these annual countdowns are going to be the only regular posts on this blog. I have a few drafts that I've started, but life in 2016 was pretty busy for me. However, I still managed to make time to watch movies (go figure), and I still managed to piece together my own subjective list of favorite movies I watched this past year.

Now, once again, I must put a disclaimer that these are movies I saw for the first time in 2016 -- not necessarily films that were made in 2016. And I should also disclaim that I watched many of these movies using my old, reliable ClearPlay and the newcomer VidAngel. In fact, if you haven't read my previous movie lists from the past seven years, you should go back and read those for the rest of my disclaimers and header information.

For now, and without further ado, let's get into it!

10. Brooklyn (2015)
Brooklyn is a well-made film, but it seems odd to me that it was nominated for Best Picture. This movie is, essentially, a more dramatic version of Sweet Home Alabama. Nevertheless, Saoirse Ronan is outstanding in her role as Eilis, and the supporting cast is a delight to watch, as well. 'Tis a fine Irish film!

9. Nanny McPhee (2006)
I was worried that Nanny McPhee was going to be a cheap rip-off of Mary Poppins, but I was surprised how quirky, entertaining and original this film feels. It's a lot of fun. Emma Thompson is delightfully enigmatic, and the story is compelling enough to keep both children and adults interested. This movie was a pleasant surprise for me.

8. The Revenant (2015)
If you ever want to convince someone to not go camping, The Revenant would make a pretty effective argument. This film is raw and brutal and powerful, and Alejandro G. Iñárritu makes you feel like you're freezing and suffering alongside the characters as you're watching it. Leonardo DiCaprio pulls out some of his best acting chops, while Tom Hardy completely disappears into John Fitzgerald's despicable boots. This may not have won Best Picture, but it is certainly one of the most memorable films of 2015.

7. Sicario (2015)
Sicario is stressful - very, very stressful. And the scariest thing is that this film doesn't seem too far detached from reality. Emily Blunt gives a powerful and emotional performance, and Benicio Del Toro is mesmerizing as the mysterious Alejandro. This is not a movie that I can pop in anytime and enjoy, but it is a well-crafted piece of cinema.

6. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Captain America: Civil War is a lot of fun. This film expertly juggles action, drama, humor and multiple character storylines in a way that makes you almost forget that this is the longest Marvel movie to date. The plot is compelling and the actors play well off of each other. The ending isn't as satisfying as I had hoped it would be, and you have to have seen at least Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Age of Ultron to fully understand what is going on, but overall this is one of the best movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

5. Spotlight (2015)
Spotlight is a well-made and heartbreaking film. The actors, Mark Ruffalo in particular, do a great job of expressing the range of emotions required for such a sensitive topic. Plus, the story, though hard to watch, is absolutely compelling. I'm not bothered that this won Best Picture.

4. Gran Torino (2009)
How can a film be offensive and violent, yet charming and uplifting at the same time? I don't know, but Gran Torino sure pulls it off. Clint Eastwood plays a despicable character, yet you can't help but like him. It shows what a good actor Eastwood is - even if the rest of the cast struggles. I didn't expect to like this movie as much as I did.

3. Trainspotting (1996)
Trainspotting is a frantic, bizarre, hilarious and horrifying look into the life of drug addicts. The pacing of this film grabs ahold of you at the very beginning and doesn't let go. The story pulls you along, whether you want to follow or not. Plus, through the course of the movie, you end up simultaneously loving and hating the main characters - which is an impressive feat. In short, choose to watch Trainspotting.

2. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
The best part about 10 Cloverfield Lane is that it keeps you guessing. John Goodman does a fantastic job of portraying a character you don't know if you should trust or not, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a conflicted and effective protagonist. This is a clever, suspenseful and unique thriller that is definitely worth a watch.

And my #1 subjective pick for best movie I saw in 2016 is...

1. Room (2015)
Room is horrifying, beautiful and amazing. Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay both give very powerful performances that deserve every accolade they've received. Plus, the story is absolutely riveting. There were parts of this movie where I was unable to breathe. This film makes you feel all sorts of emotions. It's not an easy movie to watch, but it is well worth your time.

So there you go. As my wife pointed out, these are mostly pretty hard movies to watch, so, just in cast you need a little more variety, here are my honorable mentions from this past year: The Maltese Falcon (1941), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Spartacus (1960), The Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Gift (2015).

Until my next post, faithful readers! Or next year. Whichever comes first. We'll see.

Monday, January 11, 2016

My Own Subjective Top 10 Movies of 2015

No, faithful readers, I'm not dead yet. In fact, I actually started a podcast this past year. It's called Baconsale and it's my new creative outlet I have with Kent from Showtime Showdown and Jacob from whatever he does. So I guess the blog post sabbatical continues.

NEVERTHELESS, I plan to continue to do my yearly countdown of the best movies I watched in the previous year, if for no other reason than to keep track of what movies I want to force other people to watch. It's the same type of list you've seen for the past six years. And, once again, just to reiterate, these are my favorite movies that I watched for the first time in 2015, they didn't have to be released in 2015. Make sense? Well, it does to me. So, without further ado, here is my top ten list:

10. John Wick (2014)
Every now and then, it feels good to watch a movie like John Wick. This revenge film is unapologetically brutal, and it gives us a protagonist that is single-minded in purpose and extraordinarily good at what he does. It's a simple and satisfying action flick. I could see John Wick going toe-to-toe with many of the classic action stars we already know and love and I welcome him with open arms (and a concealed side arm).

9. Ex Machina (2015)
Ex Machina is an intelligent sci-fi thriller that puts you in a constant state of unease. This film has an intentionally slow and methodical pace that creates a mood and builds suspense. It has a small cast, but each actor plays their part very well. I didn't know where this movie was going to go and I liked that. It's not one I could watch over and over again, but I wish there were more original films like this one.

8. Gone Baby Gone (2007)
Gone Baby Gone is a well-directed, well-acted and emotionally complex film. It's not an easy movie to watch, but it presents its gritty reality in a way that makes it hard to look away. The actors, especially Amy Ryan, disappear into their roles and heighten the sense of realism. The film also brings up some interesting moral dilemmas that are sure to be a catalyst for conversation. Well done, Ben Affleck.

7. Nightcrawler (2014)
Nightcrawler is an intense movie. Jake Gyllenhaal's performance as the sociopathic Louis Bloom is absolutely terrifying. Most of the suspense comes from wondering just how far Bloom will go to succeed. This movie exposes a world of voyeuristic vultures running around recording other people's pain for profit. Plus, Nightcrawler is also a scathing rebuke of the ratings-hungry media as well as those who consume it. This is a well-crafted film.

6. Whiplash (2014)
Whiplash is a story without a real hero. J.K. Simmons is a terrifying villain and Miles Teller is a self-absorbed masochist. That being said, this movie is absolutely compelling. I've never been in a band and I'm not really a fan of jazz music, yet I was completely drawn in by the movie and felt all sorts of emotions - mostly fear, panic and anxiety. I hope to never encounter someone like Terence Fletcher in my lifetime.

5. Boyhood (2014)
Boyhood is a fascinating experiment in filmmaking. Watching the actors grow up over the course of 12 years is a truly unique experience. I also like that the main characters are good people - they're not perfect, but they're trying to do their best. This movie is like watching someone's home movies...if their home movies were beautifully shot and wonderfully acted. This was a very ambitious film and I'm glad I saw it. I also look forward to seeing "Boyhood 2: Manhood" in another 12 years.

4. Gone Girl (2014)
I like it when a movie can keep me guessing until the end, and Gone Girl did just that. Most of the time I didn't know where this film was going, and each new twist and turn was a surprise. You can't help but get pulled into the story. The actors all gave excellent performances, as well. I don't think I'll ever be able to look at Rosamund Pike the same way again. This movie is what a crime thriller should be.

3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is easily the fourth best movie of the franchise. It fits in just below the original series, but it is definitely better than any of the prequels. The acting is well done (unlike the prequels), and it offers a good mix of practical effects and CGI. This film isn't without its faults, but it continues the story in a compelling way that feels like a natural continuation of the saga. I would happily watch this movie again and I would gladly add it to my movie collection.

2. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Mad Max: Fury Road is confusing, it's unsettling and it's absolutely entertaining. Even though this is a sequel, George Miller has given us the most unique film of 2015. It really is like nothing you've seen before. Plus, this movie is filled to the brim with impressive practical effects and remarkable stunt work. This is an adrenaline-fueled ride through the mind of a crazy person, and I was happy to be a passenger.

And my #1 movie that I watched in 2015 is. . .

1. Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)
The reason that Kingsman: The Secret Service works is because it doesn't take itself too seriously. This movie is a throwback to the gentleman spy type of Bond movies, complete with fun gadgets and outrageous villains. This film is also very aware that it is an over-the-top spy movie and it embraces that fact. The dialogue is witty, the action is impressive and it just feels refreshing. It is also a bit more vulgar than it needed to be. I recommend watching it edited.

Wow. There are a lot of downers in that list. I swear I'm not depressed, nor am I a psychopath. Also, it seems as if my ClearPlay Blu-ray player (yes, I've upgraded) got quite the workout in 2015. Hopefully 2016 will bring about more quality feel-good films. But here are the movies that didn't quite make my top ten this year, although they are still quality films: All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), Ben-Hur (1959), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), Goosebumps (2015), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015), Marty (1955), Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015), Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), Spectre (2015) and Wings (1927).

Until next time, faithful readers!. . .which, let's face it, may or may not be until next year!

Monday, January 5, 2015

My Own Subjective Top 10 Movies of 2014

Oh, hello, faithful readers. I've missed you.

Despite the fact that I'm still on sabbatical when it comes to blog posting, I do enjoy looking back at the movies I watched in a calendar year and determining which ones were the best. If nothing else, it's fun for me to go back and see which movies I put in my top ten in past years, such as 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. So, yes, once again, this is all about me and my wants. Deal with it.

And aside from a few stinkers, this was a pretty good movie-watching year for me. So without further ado, here are my top ten favorite films that I watched for the first time in 2014 (because I don't know what movies you watched in 2014):

10. All About Eve (1950)
This is the oldest movie on my list this year. The dialogue alone in All About Eve makes this film worth watching. This movie is full of witty banter and clever quips. The acting is also very well done – making you believe these are real people and not just players on a stage. Plus, the story is dramatic and compelling. It’s not hard to see why this movie got nominated for so many awards.

9. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is inspiring and creative, and I appreciate creativity and being inspired. The exotic settings and the unique soundtrack enhance the viewing experience. I do feel like it should have been funnier, though. I don't know if it will hold up during subsequent viewings, but this movie helped keep me entertained during a very long flight.

8. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
From the acting to the sets to the special effects, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is an exceptional film. This movie is long, but it doesn't feel watered down or stretched out - there is plenty of story and action to fill the time. Plus, Jennifer Lawrence doesn't have to carry the movie on her own. The supporting cast does an excellent job, as well. This film can't really stand on its own, but it's still a fun ride and an excellent adaptation of the book.

7. Captain Phillips (2013)
Captain Phillips is a captivating film. I've grown accustomed to seeing hostage situations in movies end with super-human characters using martial arts or something like that, so it is almost refreshing to see a regular guy just try to survive one. Plus, this film gives the pirates some humanity without making them too sympathetic. All of these elements, along with the excellent acting, make this a realistic and suspenseful movie that is well worth your time.

6. The Way Way Back (2013)
The Way Way Back is a simple and sweet film. It's a classic coming of age movie with an indie feel. This movie brings with it an honest (and sometimes uncomfortable) sense of humor as well as a heart. And it shows that the good people in the world can counteract the bad. Plus, it made me want to work at a water park. This movie is definitely one to see.

5. Frailty (2001)
Frailty is a fascinating film. It's Matthew McConaughey doing drama before Matthew McConaughey doing drama was cool. This is a very unique horror movie because it's difficult to guess which way it's going to go. Additionally, the acting, in particular Bill Paxton's character, is very well done. If only they would have come up with a better title for this film.

4. The Lego Movie (2014)
The Lego Movie is entertaining. Only about three of every six jokes land, but at least they're swinging for the fences. My kids were completely engaged in this movie, and I was happy to be along for the ride. The voice acting is well done and the animation is clever. This film could have easily turned into a commercial for Legos, but it didn't, thankfully. I would definitely watch this movie again.

3. The Conjuring (2013)
The Conjuring is a laundry list of haunted house clichés, but somehow it still manages to be a very effective horror movie. It's effective in the atmospheric terror, it's effective in the jump scares - it just works. This film gives you protagonists that you really care about and an antagonist that is truly frightening. Plus, the actual story of The Warrens is fascinating, as well. Overall, this is a great scary movie that I am happy to add to my Halloween roster.

2. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Edge of Tomorrow is a creative and entertaining action-packed thriller. How did this not do better at the box office? It's much better than most of the sequel-driven drivel that Hollywood is churning out these days. The premise of this movie is unique and whenever the formula starts to get tired, they change it up or throw in a new element. Plus, the performances are well done - I like seeing Tom Cruise as the reluctant, inexperienced hero. Note: If you're looking to rent this movie at Redbox, the studio is now re-branding it as "Live. Die. Repeat. Edge of Tomorrow," probably because the first round of marketing for this film failed so miserably.

And my #1 movie that I watched in 2014 is...

1. About Time (2013)
Every now and then, a film comes along that changes the way I think about life -- About Time is that kind of movie. This pleasantly unique film isn't just a love story, it's a life story. It showcases a variety of relationships that go beyond the traditional rom-com stereotypes. The story is uplifting, the acting is excellent and the humor is plentiful. This movie made me want to be a better person, and I'm very glad I saw it.

So, there you have it, that's my top ten movies that I saw in 2014. I would recommend watching any of them (though I would recommend watching some of them edited). I would also like to give an honorable mention to: Mitt (2014), Holiday Inn (1942), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Patton (1970), X-Men Days of Future Past (2014), Her (2013), The Searchers (1956), Snowpiercer (2013), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011).

Well done, 2014!
. . .or should I say 2013, since most of these movies came from that year?

Oh well.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Judge Not, You Judgy Judgers!

WARNING: Never read the comments section on the internet.

Don't read the comments section on a news article. Don't read the comments on a controversial Facebook post. And please, for all that is good and holy, do NOT read the comments on YouTube. Trust me, you will only find yourself disappointed in the state of the world.

If you wish to comment on a certain topic, that's fine. Log on, state your piece, log off and don't look back for any replies. Because no one is going to reply to what you say. They're only going to reply to what they think you said. They're going to reply to who they think you are. They're going to give some snappy, canned answer based on something that they heard on some quasi-political talk show the other night and consider their argument won.

And one of the most widely used canned answers in any comment section these days is "don't judge me." Oddly enough, even though this anti-judging sentiment is religious in origin (Matthew 7:1), it is mostly used against those who are religious by people who are anti-religion. It's brought up by people who know the basic phrasing, and feel like they can throw it in a religious person's face and immediately end the argument, like someone holding up a cross to Dracula.

I'm sorry, canned answer man, but to quote Jerry, the ancient vampire in the classic 1985 film Fright Night, "you have to have faith in order for it to work on me."

The phrase "don't judge me" has been completely blown out of proportion. It has lost its meaning. And while I don't consider myself a super scriptural scholar (alliteration! woo!), I would like to dust off this particular phrase that has been dragged through the mud and give it a fresh perspective. And yes, there will be some judging going on. 

Let's look at the "don't judge" scripture here, in context. In Matthew, chapter 7, Jesus Christ (who is religious, I might add) is concluding the Sermon on the Mount. Side note: most of the Sermon on the Mount is Christ telling people what is right and wrong. Anyway, here is what He has to say:

1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.

2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

To me, that seems more cautionary than commandment...ary. It seems to me that Christ is saying that you will be judged by the same standard that you hold other people to. That doesn't seem to be a problem as long as you're practicing righteous judgement -- meaning, you're not holding anyone to an unfair standard that you, yourself, are not willing to meet.

Let's recap what we've learned so far: if I tell a person that arson is wrong and turn them into the police for even thinking it, knowing full well that I'm going to burn down the local IHOP later that night, I'm in the wrong. However, just telling someone that arson is wrong, when I, too, believe it's wrong isn't a problem.

Let's move on to the next section of scripture in Matthew, which is an illustration of this concept of judging:

3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

This section seems to deal primarily with hypocrisy. Of course we shouldn't be hypocrites, I think everyone agrees with that (except for hypocrites). And yes, we are all imperfect, no one would argue with that (although some people would in the comments section, just to be contrary). However, I think that this is an example of hypocrisy when judging someone else, not what happens every time we judge someone. After all, not everyone that calls someone else out about a mote (a tiny piece of substance) in their eye has a beam (a ray or shaft of light. . .wait. . . I mean a long, sturdy piece of squared timber) in their own eyes.

So let's talk about who can judge. Is Simon Cowell going to get in trouble for all the times he's told someone that they don't have (or do have) singing talent? Is Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg going to face hellfire for Eldred v. Ashcroft, 537 U.S. 186 (look it I had to)? People judge others all the time. 

But what gives Judge Judy the right to tell people what's right and wrong? Is it the gavel? I could get a gavel if I wanted to -- robes, too. But I don't need robes or a gavel because I am not making a legally binding decision regarding any matter. I am not disqualifying anyone from the Hollywood finals. I am merely forming an opinion about someone else.

Let's take a look at the definition of the word "judge." According to a popular online dictionary whose name rhymes with "Berriam-Bebster," to judge means:

1. to form an opinion about (something or someone) after careful thought
2. to regard (someone) as either good or bad
3. law: to make an official decision about (a legal case)

It seems that "judging" someone is to form an opinion about them. Aren't we all entitled to an opinion? I'm pretty sure that the claim "everyone is entitled to their own opinion" is bandied about in the online comments section almost as much as "don't you judge me." So which is it, folks? "I'm allowed to have an opinion" or "You shouldn't judge others"?

Let's get legal here. In the First Amendment to the Constitution it states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Wait. . .that's another point for another day. But the Free Press Clause in the First Amendment protects the publication of our opinions. And even though our Founding Fathers weren't subjected to the horrors of comments sections on the internet, that same liberty applies. We are all entitled to an opinion.

"But, The Former 786," you sneer, "the First Amendment just means that the government can't arrest you for what you say. It doesn't have anything to do with insignificant online arguments!"

Exactly. Thank you for helping to further my point, Sneery McSneerface.

Most of the time "don't judge me" is used, it's during an insignificant argument. The person doing the "judging" doesn't have any actual judge powers. There is a difference between making an official, legally binding decision and telling someone they're being an idiot.

And we're not even talking about the world's laws here. We're talking about God's laws. In the end, Jesus Christ will be our final judge. That is the judging that we should not and, in fact, cannot do. Christ will be the one who will determine who is saved and who is damned. We do not have that power.

So we form opinions about each other. It's in our nature. It's what we do. We form opinions every day. And yes, we do have the right to tell people if we think what they're doing is wrong.

Once again, looking to Christ's example, in John, chapter 8, when a woman taken in adultery is brought before Jesus, His interaction with her went something like this:

10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

 11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

 "Hey wait!" you proudly declare in the comments section of this blog, "Jesus also said 'He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.' So that means that you shouldn't judge!" Not necessarily. And stop interrupting me. It seems that Christ, once again, is giving a lesson on hypocrisy. We should also not be extreme in our judgement. These men who brought this woman to Jesus wanted to pass final judgement right then and there. Jesus put a stop to that and, instead, took the softer approach. Jesus did not condemn her, because we all have the ability to repent of our sins, but He did not say "go, and do whatever makes you happy." He said "go, and sin no more." He told her that what she was doing was a sin and He told her not to do it anymore. 

Because Jesus did tell people what was right and what was wrong.

In the very same Sermon on the Mount where he said "Judge not," he also said the following things were wrong: killing, getting angry, adultery, lust, fornication, swearing (oaths...though swear words aren't good either), hypocrisy and greed. And if Christ, our perfect example, has deemed these things as wrong, then of course we're going to call other people out when they do these things. That's not judging, that's holding up a standard.

Also keep in mind, that this is also the same Jesus who made a scourge of small cords (a whip) and cast sinners out of the temple. There is a time for meekness, and there is a time for boldness.

Now, I have taken quite the religious turn on this post, and I would apologize, but I'm not sorry. The people who use the flimsy "you're not supposed to judge" stance are usually trying to twist religion around to their own understanding. I want you to be clear how I understand it -- and that "defense" is not going to work on me.

Because we will continue to judge each other, and we have the right to do so. We won't (and can't) pass final judgement on whether you're going to heaven or hell, but people will form an opinion on words they hear you say and actions they see you do. They may judge you silently or they may approach you (hopefully tactfully), but the judging will happen. People will (and can) form an opinion of you. It's in our nature to do so. It may not be a perfect opinion, but that's okay because none of us are perfect people.

So, faithful readers, I will continue to try and judge with righteous judgement. I will continue to form opinions about people based on their words and their actions. These opinions may change, depending on the situation, but I have an opinion of what is wrong and what is right, and I have the right to share it.

Also, please stop using the idiom "people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." That's stupid. No one lives in a house made entirely of glass. And, if someone did, they certainly wouldn't be throwing stones around.

Yes, I just judged that saying.

Monday, January 27, 2014

My Own Subjective Top 10 Movies of 2013

Hello, faithful readers.

I told you I'd be back.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I still plan on occasionally posting. I've just given up on regular posting for now. So I've decided to reappear, momentarily, to present to you my top ten list of movies I saw this past year. Remember, these films on this list don't need to have been made in 2013 to qualify, that just has to be the year that I watched them for the first time. Make sense? If not, you can check out past years' lists from 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Truth be told, I thought it was going to be hard to populate my list with ten exceptional movies this year. For a while there in 2013, I went through a string of movies that disappointed me, movies that I was completely indifferent about, movies I disliked and movies I absolutely hated, and yet I still found more than 10 movies to which I gave a rating of four stars or more. And here they are, in a very particular order:

10. Strangers on a Train (1951) - The reason that Strangers on a Train succeeds is because of its antagonist. Robert Walker plays a character that is both charming and terrifying. Plus, Hitchcock does an excellent job of creating suspense and making the viewer feel anxious for the protagonist as well as the antagonist. The climax is a little silly, but this film, overall, is another example of why the name of Alfred Hitchcock will always be remembered.


9. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006) - Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon brings a fresh feel and a fresh face to the slasher genre. It's quite entertaining how this film points out how much planning, how much preparation and how much luck would be needed for the murders in those types of horror movies. It also lets us enjoy a full-fledged slasher movie after showing everything that is going on behind the scenes. I was pleasantly surprised by this film. 


8. Life of Pi (2012) - Life of Pi is a beautiful movie, both visually and thematically. This film reminded me of how much I enjoyed the book. Also, I was impressed with Suraj Sharma, who carried his first movie mostly on his own. The CGI is cartoony at parts, but it's easy to get lost in the story and forget that most of what you're seeing is nothing more than visual effects. This is a wonderful adaptation of an excellent novel.


7. Looper (2012) - Looper is a clever film. Time travel is always a sticky issue, but this movie embraces the impossibilities and invites the audience to just enjoy the ride. Whatever flaws this movie may have, it makes up for it with its creativity. Plus, Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes a great Bruce Willis. We need more movies like Looper -- creative and smart movies.


6. The Impossible (2012) - If you're not sure if your tear ducts are working, watch The Impossible. This movie will inspire terror, despair and, perhaps most of all, hope. However, this movie doesn't feel sappy or emotionally manipulative. The acting is superb - even the child actors give amazingly realistic performances - and the special effects are horrifying. This is an amazing true story brought to life on the big screen, and it is a good reminder of what truly matters in this world.

5. The World's End (2013) - The World's End isn't as comedic as Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, but it's still a solid action flick. It's interesting to see Nick Frost play the sensible character and Simon Pegg play the screw-up. Plus, it features a good ensemble cast. The plot is simple, yet fun, and the special effects are spectacular. It's not a perfect movie, but it's an entertaining movie and a suitable end to the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy.

4. Argo (2012) - Argo is a well-made movie based on a fascinating true story. No, it's not 100-percent historically accurate, but it presents the plot in a way that works on the big screen. This drama is also subtly comedic, and it features excellent acting by the entire cast. I'll be interested to see if this one holds up as well on subsequent viewings.


3. Wreck-it Ralph (2012) - I enjoyed Wreck-It Ralph more than I thought I would. Even though the trailer spoiled most of the funny stuff, this movie features a heart-warming story about accepting who you are. The animation is literally full of eye candy, and it features enough nerdy video game references to keep me happy. Yes, Wreck-It Ralph has some flaws (e.g. Sarah Silverman); however, as I learned from this movie, we should try to look past the flaws and see the good. I've seen this film multiple times and it holds up quite well.

2. Silver Linings Playbook (2012) - Silver Linings Playbook is technically a romantic comedy, but I hesitate to lump it in with all of the other cookie-cutter rom-coms out there. It is one of the most unique romantic comedies I've ever seen. Plus, it doesn't have that pretentious "quirky for quirky's sake" feel that many independent films do. Bradley Cooper is surprisingly good in his role and Jennifer Lawrence is impressive as always. This is an intelligent movie with an entertaining story about broken people who are trying to help each other become whole.

And the best movie that I saw in 2013 was...

1. Gravity (2013) - Gravity isn't just a movie, it's an experience. It's an experience of sight, it's an experience of sound and it's an emotional experience, as well. This film makes you feel like you are drifting among the stars, instead of just showing you a story set in space. The visual effects are unique, awe-inspiring and terrifying, and while the plot is simple, there is beauty in its simplicity. I've never seen a movie quite like Gravity.

Also, as an honorable mention, this past year I enjoyed World War Z (2013), Jack Reacher (2012), Zero Dark Thirty (2012), Safety Not Guaranteed (2012), The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966) and The Dirty Dozen (1967), as well, but they weren't quite favorite enough to bump out anything in my top ten.

Let's hope 2014 brings about even more difficult choices as to what to include in my top ten list! Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 11, 2013

300: Rise of a Sabbatical

Faithful readers, this is my 300th post on Slice of Fried Gold. And it's time for me to take a break.

I started this blog in February of 2008 as a place where I could save and catalog the strange and funny things I found on the internet. For a while there, I posted whenever I saw fit, but then somewhere along the line I decided to hold myself to a weekly post. So, for the past few years, the plan was that I would pick an idea from my email inbox and I would spend the week crafting and polishing a post and then have it ready to go by 12:01 am each and every Monday morning.

But that's not what happened. For the last year or so, as my life got busier (or I got lazier, I can't really decide which one), I found myself doing the Sunday night scramble and ignoring my family and friends as I furiously typed away on the laptop and scoured the interwebs for random stories and YouTube videos to embed into the post -- believe it or not, the hyperlinks were usually the most time consuming part of my blog posts.

Additionally, writing a blog post started to lose some of its luster. This arbitrary weekly deadline I set for myself began to loom over my head and I began to dread Sunday evenings because of it. I struggled to find things I wanted to write about, and a number of times I just posted a YouTube video with very little text, simply because I wanted to get the post out of the way -- and that's not the way it should be. This blog was a way for me to get my creative writing bug out, and now that it's become more of a chore, I decided it might be best for me to back off a bit.

However, I didn't want to leave you, my faithful readers, hanging. It bothers me when TV shows end without giving proper resolution or when radio stations change formats without an explanation. So this is my explanation to you: I won't be posting regularly from now on. I'm taking a sabbatical.

Frankly, it seems to me that the age of the blog has passed. I've seen a number of talented bloggers stop blogging and I believe it's partly because the times have changed. Sure, there are popular mommy blogs and opinion blogs out there, but there's not really room for a blog that posts funny videos and weird stories weekly, when people can get the same thing hourly on Twitter or Facebook. I saw the downward slope of my traffic and choose to believe it's because of the decline of blogs in general and not because of a decline of my sense of humor, but still, my heart just isn't in it anymore.

Yup. These are my actual stats from Blogger.
However, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge some milestones on this, my 300th post:

My Most-viewed Post

Most Comments on a Post
  • The Curse of the Number 3 (26 comments). This post about the third movie in a series usually being the worst of the series got a pretty big boost because it was featured on the front page of IMDb (on the Hit List, which is something they've since discontinued). I was pretty proud of this one. It barely beat out Breaking Silence (25 comments), which surprised me, since Twilight fans are usually pretty defensive and vocal.
Sidenote: I once said that I was going to stop blogging whenever I got three posts in a row with no comments, but that happened far too often. :) 

My Favorite Posts
That's a difficult question. I mean, I have 300 to pick from. It includes all of the ones mentioned above (with the exception of May I Request a Sidebar, Your Honor? - that was a throwaway post), but in addition to those posts already mentioned, I also really enjoyed writing:

Now, this isn't a goodbye. I still plan to post when I have something to say, but I'm not going to be doing it on a weekly basis. My time seems so limited lately, and, to put it in current terms, I'm furloughing non-essential activities. I'm taking my Sundays back, and I'm spending more time with my growing family.

I thank you for being a faithful reader of Slice of Fried Gold.