Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Day 1476 - Star Wars Spoiler Etiquette

There are a number of people who are going to Star Wars: The Force Awakens this weekend, and because some of them have a life, they won't be seeing it until as late as Sunday.  (I'm seeing it Thursday - I don't have a life.)  In order to help those people who won't be seeing it until a little later, I have devised this handy dandy little blog to help those of us who have seen the movie not ruin it for those who haven't seen it yet.  These should all apply until 11:59 Sunday evening.  After that, all bets are off and you're on your own.

1. No spoilers at all.  Nothing big, nothing small, nothing like "Could you believe it when Batman showed up?!?"  Full credit to where it's due - my "friend" David Hansen posted this - "Dudes!  Just knowing it's good is a spoiler."  Truer words have never been spoken.

2. Watch what you "like."  This is for Facebook users only.  Facebook is the devil.  You'll be innocently scrolling along only to have Facebook tell you that one of your friends "liked" this article where the headline is "Can you believe that Chewbacca and R2D2 had a baby?"  It doesn't matter if it's true or not.  You didn't want to go into the movie waiting for that plot point to rear its ugly head.  So, at least until Sunday night, maybe don't "like" any Star Wars posts at all.

3.  I know nothing about Twitter, so somebody can make their own etiquette guide for that.  That being said - no spoilers on Twitter.

4. Be understanding.  And polite.

5.  I know you're going to be excited when you leave the movie and are going to want to write something, anything about it.  Just remember to temper yourself.  I'm thinking a post filled with all adjectives describing the movie, not the scenes, should be fine.  Amazing, awesome, spectacular, fantastic - all acceptable words, mostly because you could also be describing that last meal you had.

6.  However, in this case, the opposite is true.  We don't want to see any posts about how you didn't like the movie.  Or were indifferent to it.  We're excited. Don't bring us down, man.  If the movie turns out to be the second coming of The Phantom Menace we'll know soon enough.  (please, please, please don't be the second coming of The Phantom Menace.)  We don't need your snark.

7.  Watch where you are.  I can't even imagine people in line outside of The Empire Strikes Back having to deal with those who came out of the previous showing saying, "Can you believe that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker's father?"  Heck, before having a conversation about the movie, ask around if it's okay to talk about it in detail.  Some people legitimately don't care.  (Those people are the crazy ones.)  But for those that do, politeness and respect go a long way.

8. Don't be that person who tells someone who hasn't seen it - "I know you haven't seen it, and this doesn't spoil anything, but it was amazing when Batman gave his lightsaber to Han Solo."  You're spoiling something.  It's not hard.  Just don't talk to that person about the movie.

9. Remember - these (arbitrary) rules are only in effect for four days.  On Monday, let the floodgates open.  If you haven't seen it by then, and were planning to, it might be best to get off all social media until you do see it.

The Force will be with you.  Always.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Day 1426 - Steve Jobs

If I ever need to wash the abomination that is Prometheus out of my brain, all I need to do is watch Michael Fassbender kill it as the title character in Steve Jobs.

I tell people all the time that computers are "magic."  I have no idea how they work.  I press the power button and it turns on, and I close it up and it turns off.  There's a scene in the movie where Steve is practicing a speech, and he's describing the things that the computer will do.  It seems that Steve is like me as far as how the computer works.  But where he's different is where he absolutely knows what he wants that thing to do, and he has the people who can do it.

Steve Jobs is not a nice guy.  He's arrogant, selfish, mean, vengeful, and absolutely refuses to acknowledge the fact that he's the father to a girl who most obviously is.  But he's also smart, canny, and captivating.  What you see is a complete person.  He may not be likable, but in order for him to do what he did, I'm not sure likabilty was necessary.

The movie unfolds by showing us Steve right before a product launch.  First in 1984, right after the ground-breaking Super Bowl commercial with the release of the Mac.  Fast forward four years, and the Mac has failed, Steve's been fired, and now he's spearheading the release of the Next.  Fast forward again, and we're right there with the unveiling of the iMac.  Each release has Steve and his assistant, Joanna Hoffman (played by Kate Winslet, who so buries herself in the role, that it took me about 15 minutes to realize it was her) dealing with time issues, computer issues, family issues, friend issues, reporter issues, and life issues. And it's all done at a breakneck pace due to Aaron Sorkin's script.

When referencing "The West Wing" most people talk about the "walking and talking" that goes on throughout each episode.  Steve Jobs seems to do that times a thousand.  And if the characters aren't walking, they are at least talking.  There's no rest.  No respite.  We know what we need to know through what the characters say.  And they say a lot.  And maybe the best thing about Danny Boyle's direction is his ability to keep us visually focused on what the characters' reactions are to what's being said.  When Steve is being insensitive (most of the time), we know exactly what the other characters are thinking, simply by watching them react.

But what the movie is really about, is how Steve Jobs is able to create an empire almost through sheer strength of will, yet is unable to emotionally open himself up to the fact that, yes, he really has a daughter.  He can do nothing other than throw money at what he sees as a problem.  He likes Lisa, his daughter, but he's so emotionally self-centered that he can't cope with her on any more than a superficial level. He's a genius who can't understand humanity.  He makes a number of references that people don't know what they want until he gives it to them.  He burns bridges left and right.  But it's not done out of malice (usually).  He just doesn't know  boundaries.

It's a fascinating character study.  It has more dialogue than probably three movies put together, and it's anchored by a fantastic cast.  Jeff Daniels has never been better.  Seth Rogen must be thanking the acting gods for his part as Steve Wozniak, because he kills it.  You honestly just keep waiting to see if Steve Jobs becomes a better person, and like the best thrillers, you have to wait for the final scene.

****  (and I give it four stars not merely because it's great, but because the scene between Fassbender's Jobs and Jeff Daniels' John Sculley is one of the best edited and acted sequences I've seen in years.)

Monday, October 26, 2015

Day 1424 - Supergirl

I blame Cary Bates and Neal Adams.  World's Finest #176 is called "The Superman-Batman Split!" and co-starred Batgirl (on Superman's team) and Supergirl (teamed up with Batman).  It's one of my favorite stories, and I attribute my reading of it at such a young age (probably around 11 or 12 years old) as to why I like both Batgirl and Supergirl as much as I do as characters.  I'm also not going to discount Yvonne Craig's performance as Batgirl in the Batman TV series, either.

But as or Supergirl... I saw the movie with Helen Slater in the theater back in the day.  It wasn't good.  But there was a blog I read years ago (that I wish I had saved) where the person who wrote it listed 99 reasons why you should never watch the Supergirl movie again.  It was really funny.  But at the end, he said there was one reason to watch it every day - Helen Slater was perfect as Supergirl.  I'm hard pressed to argue with him.  And I'll say that the extended version of the movie still isn't a perfect movie, but it's a lot better than the theatrical version.

All that is a lead-up to the new Supergirl TV show.  My goal tonight is to write my thoughts as I watch the show.  This isn't live, since I had to tape it, but it's going to be live for me.  So here we go.

Gotta love the spit curl on little baby Kal-El.

The Phantom Zone is introduced.

Helen Slater and Dean Cain!  Yup! 

"Aliens are out there."

Super powers at work.

Intro to Jimmy Olsen.  Sorry, I'm calling him Jimmy no matter what he says.

Melissa Benoist is channeling Christopher Reeve's Clark Kent pretty well.

Nothing like using your super powers to prove men are scum.

I like the flying effects.

So, all the stuff before the commercial break - Character introductions, power set defined, and only the tiniest bit of angst.  This is why I'm going to enjoy this show.  Kara is going to enjoy using her powers and have fun.  And we don't see "fun" enough.

So this time, I'm struck by Calista Flockhark.  The closer the shot, the more frightening she is.  But she looks fine in the longer shots.  No more close-ups, please.  And Kara says that Winn will be only the fourth person who knows about her powers.  Let's keep it that way.

Well, guess Hank Henshaw is number five.  *sigh*

And now Jimmy's number six.  Grrrr.

Super fight!  She's a rookie and fights like it.  I appreciate that.

This series has a real Buffy vibe to it.  If we can get some of these characters to be as potent as the Scooby Gang we might have something really strong going.  I'm also not disappointed that the bad guy chose death over capture.  I am a little disturbed that the super-secret military organization had everyone clapping at his demise, though.

I'm also impressed that the big bad is Supergirl's aunt, and that the aunt, with no hesitation, tells her flunky to "find her and kill her."  That tells me everything I need to know about her.

Yep, I'm in.  But we all knew that anyway.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Day 1423 - Being a fanboy

This is going to be a post about comic books, and the names of writers, authors, and titles are going to be tossed around with no regard to anyone who has no idea what I'm talking about.  However, that's what the Google Machine is for, isn't it? It's akin to your parents telling you to look up that word you don't know in the dictionary.

Anyway, yesterday I got to meet one of my top three favorite artists, and he couldn't have been nicer.  Number one on the list is Todd McFarlane, Spider-Man artist extraordinaire.  I have a signed poster that my cousin Jim got for me (without realizing that he was my favorite artist).  I also bought his big book of artwork (the signed edition).  And I've seen him hold court at San Diego Comic-Con.  So I've had the McFarlane experience.  Number two is Frank Cho.  I've been reading (and looking at) his stuff since his pre-Liberty Meadows work University2.  Every time I go to San Diego, I always make sure to stop at his booth and buy something at his table, whether it's a sketchbook, a calendar, or a print.  I've even got a couple small sketches from him before he stopped doing them.  One was of Dean the Pig on a bookmark which I gave to my old boss, Ralph (who, I'm pretty sure still has it in his bar at home), and a sketch of Monkey Boy, which sits in my book of sketches at home.  So, every one of my meetings with Frank have been great.

Which brings me to number three - Budd Root.  Budd has written and drawn a book called Cavewoman for a long time now.  I jumped on the Cavewoman bandwagon during his second miniseries, "Rain."  And the only reason I discovered the comic in the first place, was because Kurt Busiek had recommended it in the letter column of his book Astro City.  In fact, whenever Kurt recommended anything during that time, I gave it a chance.  But with Cavewoman, I got to read a book about a town that got sent 65 million years in the past, a super-strong Cavewoman (duh), a giant ape that looked like King Kong, dinosaurs that wreaked constant havoc, and a constant appreciation of old movies and characters.  Pretty much what I feed off of.  And then there was the fact that the art was incredibly reminiscent of Todd McFarlane's.  I loved everything about the book.

Well, Budd had never appeared at San Diego whenever I went.  I had a couple of his autographs on little things that I had ordered throughout the years, but I had never met him in person.  Last year, there was a convention in the Cleveland area that announced his appearance.  But after I wrote to him on Facebook, he said that he was going to be at a different convention that weekend, so I was out of luck.  This year, he was back on the guest list, but I was doubtful (burn me once...).  But luck was on my side, as he was attending.  I only had to get to the convention.  The problem was I was working yesterday.  All day.  And the convention filled the entire time I was going to be at work.  My normal go-to guy, Kevin, who might be able to cover my shift, couldn't do so.  So, Jim (the manager) was kind enough to take time out of his day off to come in for a couple of hours while I made a run to the convention.  (THANKS, JIM!)  So, off I went.  I had loaded myself down with about 2/3rd's of his books (all the ones I could find in my collection in a two hour span).  It was a hefty stack.  I went into the building where the creators were housed, and when I saw him at his table, I mentally yelled, "Yes!" and then proceeded to find an empty table where I could unbag all the books I brought to get signed.

I walked up to Budd, and told him I was a big fan, I couldn't wait to spend money at his table, and would he mind signing all my books.  He said he'd sign them even if I didn't buy anything (which made me happy on a whole different level - but that's a blog for another day).  While he signed, we talked about the future of Cavewoman, King Kong, Jaws, Universal Monsters, Abbott and Costello, and Frank Cho. It was perfect.  I bought some prints, one of each of the sketchbooks he brought, and commissioned a piece of artwork that featured either Supergirl or Batgirl.  I couldn't stay (work), but I left my money with another creator there (the always smiling Mark Sumerak), so it would eventually make its way back to the comic shop I work at. (Carol and John's Comic Book Shop - stop in and say "Hi!").  Finally, after monopolizing his time for at least a half hour, I had to go.  In terms of creator interactions it ranks up there with meeting Sergio Aragones and Garth Ennis (not at the same time, but each of those two are some of the nicest people I've ever met).

Budd - It was a real pleasure.  Thank you.

(And he didn't have time to get the sketch done, so I don't have any original artwork, but I'll be okay.  It was still great meeting him.  Everything I was hoping for.)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Day 1301 - RIP Patrick Macnee

When I was growing up, the fictional characters that I looked up to were Spider-Man (with great power comes great responsibility), Nancy Drew (she was going to solve that mystery no matter what), James Bond (because, duh), and John Steed as played by Patrick Macnee in "The Avengers" tv show.
The obvious reason to watch "The Avengers" tv show was Diana Rigg as Emma Peel, because a butt-kicking Bond girl in leather is a win all day long.  But Patrick Macnee was on that show for ages.  He was the rock that the show was built upon.  John Steed was a character who was in control at all times.  He wore a derby hat, had a cane (that, of course, contained a sword hidden within), and was unfailingly polite at all times, even when thumping the bad guys.  I never saw him ruffled, even under the most extreme circumstances.  And that was brought to the fore through Patrick Macnee's very lively performance. 
In fact, it was that performance that made me seek out any other project that he was in.  Obviously, he managed to elevate one of the lesser Bond films, A View to a Kill, by being himself.  But, for me, my favorite performance of his outside of "The Avengers" is his turn in The Howling.  Seeing that movie when you're young - let me tell you, it's scary.  Seeing it when you're older - it's still scary, but at least it's got a very dark sense of humor and satire running through it.  And Macnee brings such a gravitas to his role of Dr. Waggner, that it enhances the horror.
But really, one of the other reasons his passing makes me so sad, is that years ago, when I was in my autograph collecting phase, I had written to him asking about "The Avengers" books he wrote.  (He wrote a few paperbacks using the characters, and they were pretty amazing.)  He actually wrote me a nice little letter back.  A little touch like that - it goes a long, long way.  It's nice to know that, at least to me, he was as much a gentleman off-screen, as on-screen.
I tip my hat to you, sir.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Day 1237 - What movies have I watched more than 10 times?

There was a thing going around Facebook this week - Name a movie you've watched over 5 times that you're still entertained by.  I thought 5 was a low number (heck, I've watched Vertigo and Skyfall at least 3 times apiece and I don't even like them), so I've opted to go with the number 10.  Now, be aware that some of the movies I list on here might not meet these rigid restrictions (I think I've seen Lawrence of Arabia 8 times, but 7 of those times were in the theater, so I'm rounding up), but in other cases, I'm pretty sure I've seen King Kong and Jaws well over 20 times each.  It all balances out.

So, I've broken these movies up into little categories of my own design -

My favorites:
King Kong
Silence of the Lambs
North by Northwest

These four movies represent numbers 1, 2, 4 and 5 on my all-time favorites list.  Number 3 is Taxi Driver, and while I love it, it doesn't lend itself to multiple viewings.  It's just too bleak.  The other four, however... I never get bored of them.

The trilogies:
Star Wars
The Empire Strikes Back
Return of the Jedi
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Do I need to explain why these six movies are eminently watchable?  No making fun of the Ewoks or Kate Capshaw here.

The Bond Movies
Dr. No
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Live and Let Die
For Your Eyes Only
The Living Daylights
Casino Royale

I've seen them all multiple times, but these 10 are far and away the ones I've seen the most.  I'm tempted to drop Diamonds are Forever in the mix as well, because I know I've watched that one a bunch, too.

The tape:
The Naked Gun: From the files of Police Squad

I had one videotape in college that had these three movies on it, and I watched the whole tape a lot!  The Naked Gun satisfied my craving for absurdist comedies, Heathers filled my need for snark, and Streets reminded me that even if you had the tiniest of budgets and a purely b-level script you could still make gritty magic.

The tape part 2:
Monty Python The Meaning of Life

Two of the most extreme and eye-opening films I have ever seen.  I never get bored watching them.  "I'd buy that for a dollar!"

The animated movies:
A Bug's Life
Finding Nemo
Kung Fu Panda

Because of Dennis Leary, Ellen Degeneres, and Dustin Hoffman respectively.

The Martial Arts flicks:
Drunken Master 2
Police Story
Jackie Chan's First Strike
The Deadliest Art: The Best of the Martial Arts Movies

I can watch Jackie Chan a lot and never, ever be bored.  And The Deadliest Art introduced me to his compatriot Sammo Hung, for which I'll be forever grateful.

The Cusacks:
Better Off Dead
The Sure Thing
Sixteen Candles

Yeah, I know John Cusack is only in a little bit of Sixteen Candles, but it fit my category, so in it stays.  These three movies are my version of comfort food.

The classics:
The Wizard of Oz
Rear Window
Stalag 17
Lawrence of Arabia

If you've never seen any of these, well shame on you.

Comedy classics:
Hold That Ghost
Monkey Business
Way Out West

Abbott and Costello, The Marx Brothers, and Laurel and Hardy all represent!

Action classics:
Die Hard
Die Hard 2
Dirty Harry

Yes, I like watching Die Hard 2 just as much as I like watching the first one.  Even William Sadler, who played the bad guy in part 2 thought that was weird.

Sports flicks:
Tin Cup
The Natural

Those are my two go-to sports flicks. I have never been bored watching them.

The videotapes:
Watch It
Get Crazy
Virgin High
Hot Under the Collar

Four movies that have never made the transition to DVD (sadly).  I have copies of them on VHS and am happy to have them.  Watch It is one of the best movies you've never heard of.  Get Crazy has Malcolm McDowell, Lou Reed, Daniel Stern, Ed Begley Jr and others in a madcap musical comedy.  Virgin High and Hot Under the Collar are two b-movies from director/actor Richard Gabai.  They make me laugh.

The 90's nostalgia:
Pulp Fiction
True Romance

Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino are my heroes.

3 more:
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Murder by Death
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

If Spielberg had never made Jaws, he would still be one of my favorite directors because of Close Encounters.  Murder By Death has my favorite Peter Sellers role.  And while I love everyone in Mad, Mad... Jonathan Winters is by far my favorite.

She's All That
The Matrix Reloaded

So the final two on my list... yeah.  What can I say?  I like She's All That and I watch it more than is probably acceptable.  And I will defend my love for the second Matrix movie till I pass from this mortal coil.  It's not my fault that the third movie is so terrible.  I simply want lots and lots of cool action with ideas that make me think (and if any of my theories about what was actually going on in that second Matrix movie had panned out, then people probably would've liked that one, too).  I just pretend the third movie never existed and make up my own end to the saga.  It's just better that way.

Final tally - 62 movies that I've (probably) seen more than 10 times each.  I'm sure there's even more that I've forgotten, but it's a good starter list.  A lot of classics that others would have on their own lists aren't here (cough*Ghostbusters*cough), and I understand that.  Heck, give me a few years, and I'm sure I could add a few more.  Heck, I was just glancing at my collection, and I could probably add Predator and Pump Up the Volume to this list, but maybe I'll just watch them again, instead.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Day 1228 - Laggies


Keira Knightley can be a divisive actress for many people.  And I say that because I know a lot of people who don't seem to like her.  Personally, I'm a fan.  However, this is the second film of hers that I've seen in the last year in which she uses an American accent.  I never fully acclimated to it during The Imitation Game, but in Laggies I started to get used to it.  I'd still rather she keep the British accent in her movies, but that's just my hangup.

Anyways, the movie I watched tonight was Laggies, and it's about Megan (Keira Knightley) who's stuck spinning her wheels in life, and goes into a tailspin when her longtime boyfriend proposes.  Through a pretty real turn of events, she befriends Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz), and to gather her thoughts, ends up spending a week at Annika's house.To complicate matters, Annika's dad is played by Sam Rockwell, and we all know how charming he can be.

The movie has a lot on its mind, but it never pushes its agenda on you, but rather, lets the events that happen to the characters naturally unfold.  You understand why Megan freaks out when the boyfriend proposes.  You see the quiet desperation that Annika has when she talks about the mother who abandoned her family.  You see Sam Rockwell's Craig do the best he can at being a good dad.  And you see how all these relationships intertwine and sometimes become stronger, and sometimes unravel.

I read a lot of reviews when this came out, and nearly all of them weren't exactly negative, but none of them really seemed to like the movie, either not appreciating Megan's inability to "grow up" or wondering how the relationship between Megan and Annika really was supposed to work.  As I said, I thought all the relationships were genuine, I thought nearly every part in the movie was cast perfectly (Jeff Garlin as Megan's dad and Kaitlyn Dever as Annika's best friend were standouts), and I thought it was interesting that Megan had studied to be a therapist and was self-aware of the path that she was taking (even if she never strayed off it).

Yeah, I liked it.  Now if they could've come up with an explanation that would have let Keira use her natural accent, it would have been nearly perfect.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Day 1216 - The movie notebook and Robert Z'Dar (R.I.P.)

Years ago, I got a chance to meet Roddy McDowall and Nancy Allen after a performance of "Dial 'M' For Murder" at Playhouse Square.  I was going to get their autographs afterwards no matter the cost (and it actually turned out to be pretty easy), but I had no idea what to have them sign.  After some thought, I decided to have them sign in my movie notebooks.

When I was in high school and college, I filled up three notebooks full of reviews I wrote after every movie I saw.  I gave everything a star rating from 0 stars to 4 stars and wrote a one to four line review of the film.  I also categorized whether or not I saw it in the theater, what its rating was, why it was rated that way, and if I saw it edited for TV or not.  It seems complicated, but it was pretty simple.  Leonard Maltin and his Movie Guide obviously made a big impression on me.

Anyways, both Roddy McDowall and Nancy Allen had no problem signing the notebooks by reviews of Fright Night and Dressed to Kill respectively, and I discovered a cool thing to have celebrities sign when I would meet them at Comic Con or any other convention.

But my most oft-repeated story regarding the notebooks is the one about the one person who wouldn't sign it.  That person was Traci Lords.  I was at a convention (in Akron, I think), and I waited in her line to see if she would sign by my review of Cry Baby.  I got up to her, explained what I wanted her to sign, and waited expectantly.  She looked at me and said, "I don't sign reviews."  I was stunned for a moment, but managed to recover and explain that they were my own reviews, and that I liked the movie (giving it either 3 or 3 and 1/2 stars).  She still said "no," and said that she would sign any of the stuff on the table for me.  I was crestfallen, said, "no, thanks," and shuffled away.

This was still relatively early on in my autograph gathering, so I wondered to myself if the first few autographs were flukes and everything would be like this from now on.  The next person I saw that day, about 5 to 10 minutes later was Robert Z'Dar.  Robert had starred in Maniac Cop 1, 2, and 3, as well as a personal favorite, Tango and Cash.  I was going to ask him to sign by Maniac Cop 2.  When I got to him, I gave him my spiel.  He looked at me and said, "You did this?  These are your reviews?"  "Yes," I replied.  There was a pause.  "This is awesome!  You should do something with this!"  At that moment, I wanted to give him the biggest hug.  We talked about his movies and what he was doing with himself for about 15 minutes.

He was truly one of the nicest and coolest people people I have ever met.  He was at Cinema Wasteland last year and I was focused on other things, but I waved to him as I walked by.  I really should have talked to him, and now I won't get another chance, as he passed away yesterday.  But he'll always be one of my favorite people, and I'll never forget his enthusiastic response to this one fan.

Rest in peace Robert Z'Dar.  And thank you.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Day 1192 - Champions: A Love Story

When I was a teenager (lo, those many years ago), I watched a movie on TV called Champions: A Love Story.  It was a random Saturday or (probably) Sunday.  This was during a time when there were only six or seven channels on the TV and you had so few choices in what to watch that you tended to gravitate to something that had any bit of compelling story.  And this (made for TV) movie was compelling enough that it has stayed with me for close to 30 years.  I watched it again once more in college, but since then it has been a film that has been on my personal want list.  Thanks to Warner Archives (and my buddy Ben) I finally own a copy on DVD, and I just rewatched it to see if it was worth the money.

Worth every cent.

After 1950, there are essentially 3 movies about figure skating that are either known or good.  Ice Castles which wears its heart on its sleeve and stars a Bond Girl (Lynn-Holly Johnson).  The Cutting Edge, which forever put the term "toe pick" in the heads of those who've seen it.  And finally, Champions: A Love Story which has a pretty simple plot - a female figure skater is good, but in order to become great, she has to team up with an ex-hockey player who learns the figure skating ropes. And they fall in love.

Champions is by far the least known of the three films, but as I rewatched it, I was struck by how sophisticated it was for a TV movie that was made in 1979.  It's subtitled "A Love Story," and while it's a love story between the two main characters (Carrie and Peter),  its also between Peter's parents as they struggle with the cost of his skating, as well as a sudden illness that hits at the wrong time.  And even their coach (nicely underplayed by Tony Lo Bianco) has his own love story that intertwines throughout.  And what makes the movie work for me is that all these storylines blend together with the skating to make this charming little film.

What I also found interesting, is that in nearly all the reviews I read after watching the movie again, the major final plot point was given away.  I'm not going to reveal it here, but suffice to say, it still makes an impact on me, and that's also probably one of the reasons I like the movie as much as I do.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Day 1172 - Grrrr

If Michael McKean weren't on Better Call Saul I'm not sure I'd be watching it.  I watched the very first episode of Breaking Bad and that was it, so I have no vested interest in any of the characters.  But having Mr. Green from Clue being a supporting character on a show is reason enough for me to give it a few episodes. 

But this is really just me putting off writing what I really want to write which is - I like my car.  I don't love it, like some people love their cars.  I appreciate it as a tool that gets me from one place to another, and that's about it.  That being said, I get sad when it stops working, which is what it's doing right now.  I took it to one place, and they couldn't find out what was wrong, but they got the engine light to turn off.  But two days later, it came on again.  So, now I've brought it to a second place, and they've experienced the same consternation. They don't know what's wrong and they're keeping it overnight.  My dad said I shouldn't worry about it, because there's nothing I can do, and he's right.  But knowing that my car has a supposedly "mystery" problem does nothing to assuage my mind.  And I have to guess "mystery" problems aren't cheap.  Yay.

I don't like writing about stuff here that isn't funny or pop culture related, but I've also tried to keep writing on a semi-regular basis.  However, since I always seem to post these blogs late at night, there's only a handful of you who will actually read this, so my whining shouldn't be that intrusive.

And episode 3 of Better Call Saul was good enough for me to keep watching.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Day 1164 - Jeff Daniels, King Dork, and seafood.

Couple o' things tonight, which is funny, because I'm fighting off a headache that just wants to put me to bed.

In my wallet I keep a list of books that I keep an eye out for, either at the library or used bookstores.  One of those books was "King Dork" by Frank Portman.  I've had that book written down for probably 8 years and have never found it... until a week and a half ago.  Apparently I never thought to look in the young adult section for it until then.  When I started reading it, I thought to myself, " I wonder if this book will live up to 8 years of expectations?"  And as I finished it, I thought, "It absolutely lived up to my expectations."  I can't wait to buy it (now that I know where the bookstores will keep it) and put it on my bookshelf.  What scares me now, is the sequel which just came out.  Will that be as good as the book I just read, which really didn't seem like it needed a sequel.  (But I'm going to read it anyway.)

I saw Jeff Daniels play some folksy, bluegrass music last Saturday at The Music Box Supper Club.  He was backed up by his son's band, the Ben Daniels Band.  He was charming, told some great stories, sand really well, and was way more musically inclined than I thought he was going to be.  I had read an article saying that he was coming to town, and I decided to drop in and buy a ticket (I'm not good with buying things online).  When I got to the venue, the lady there informed me that the show had sold out... but, hey, these two ladies haven't picked up their tickets yet and I could have one of those.  Things were coming up Milhouse.  Since it was a Supper Club, I was going to get some food.  My personal two options were the Angus Burger (which the guy next to me got and looked pretty good) or the Seafood Appetizer Trio.  I opted for the seafood since I love (love) seafood.  Until that night, I had never had bad seafood.  Now I know what bad seafood tastes like.  It was, by far, the worst I ever had.  The shrimp tasted funny, the calamari had really flaky breading that overwhelmed everything, and the perch was the best thing about the meal, but there were so many bones in them that I was scared to keep eating.  It was one of the weirdest experiences, because the concert was so good, yet the food was so bad.  But, I really am happy that I now have a bar set for the worst seafood ever.

And I really should listen to my body (which prevented me from doing just about everything that I wanted to do today) and go to bed.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Day 1151 - Would You Rather

Would You Rather is a horror flick that, while effective, has a few flaws.

The simple plot is that Shepard Lambrick (deliciously played by Jeffrey Combs) has invited 8 people to his house to engage in a deadly game of "Would You Rather."  The person we get to see make this journey is Iris, as played by Brittany Snow.  Her brother needs a bone marrow transplant, their house is up for sale, and school is no longer an option.  This game is her best shot at keeping her head above water.

Once the game starts, the movie hits on all cylinders.  You're sitting on the edge of your seat waiting to see how each player is either eliminated or moves on.  The tension stays strong throughout... except when Lawrence Gilliard as Dr. Barden shows up.  Dr. Barden is the guy who recommends Iris for the game, but then he gets second thoughts.  As you watch the movie, you realize his character is completely unnecessary.  In fact, every time the movie cuts to him, it actually slows the pace down.

That's one of the bad things about the film.  The other bad thing - it took me about two minutes in to see where things were going.  It cast a bit of a pall on the proceedings.

But the things that work, yeah, they work well.  Like I said, the pace of the film is spot-on.  It does what good movies do, and it builds slowly.  The big reveal of how serious the game is takes some time to get to, but that's because we're given the time to see how desperate Iris is to get to this point.  The other main thing that works - the acting.  Every one of the actors seems like they're giving it their all.  What could simply be a fun exploitation movie is elevated by the actors, as they manage to create rich characters with the smallest of screen time.  I can't really think of a slacker in the main group.  And, for me, it's always great to see Crab Man (Eddie Steeples) in anything.

I would rate this higher, because of all the positives, but I just find it frustrating that I figured out the trajectory of the story so early on, that it clouds my view of the whole thing.  Well worth a watch if you dig this sort of thing (and you know who you are), but once is enough for me, I think.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Day 1146 - Gotham

Is it seasonal affective disorder if all you do is sit at home and read and watch tv and eat junk food?  And part of that tv is Gotham, and I'm watching it right now as I type, and holy cow, that's Peter Scolari as the commissioner!  There are a lot of comic nerds that don't like Gotham (and I can say that, because I'm a huge comic nerd), but I'm completely on the opposite end of that spectrum.  And I say that simply because I'm still watching the show.  With so many tv options, my mind tends to wander and drift.  I've gotten to the point (and I'm not sure when it exactly happened) where there are so few hour-long dramas that I watch, that I sorta cling to the ones that make me want to watch them almost immediately.
Ben McKenzie's Jim Gordon manages to show how one honest man manages to barely keep his head above the morass that is the crime and corruption of the worst city in the world (well, the U.S.).  Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock does what Donal Logue does, which is make a person that has an abrasive personality, bad habits, and an ego to match a compelling and charismatic character.  Robin Lord Taylor plays a skinny Oswald Cobblepot (who, we all know will become The Penguin), and he's not yet the criminal mastermind we know he'll become.  He's very smart, but he's still a little green, and it's nice to see his early mistakes and how he's constantly learning from them.  Let alone the fact that he's super creepy.  Then there's Camren Bicondova's street urchin (Selina Kyle).  Apparently she was a dancer before the show was on the air, and her moves bear that out.  I'm not sure the creators could have picked a better person that we know will end up being Catwoman,
Lest I overdo the praising, I do have some complaints, but they're exceedingly minor.  Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) as Gordon's on again/off again girlfriend is a shadow of a character.  I have no interest in any storyline that she's involved in.  And Zabryna Guevara's Sarah Essen is Captain of the Gotham police force, but she's too nice.  In, what's supposed to be the worst, most corrupt police force, she's too altruistic.  Gordon should be butting heads with her in every episode.  Although that would probably be boring.  In any case, both those small complaints could easily be fixed with some stronger writing.  I'm willing to give it that, because I like just about everything else.
I've barely touched on anything other than the acting, and I haven't even written about Bruce and Alfred, but honestly I had no idea what I was gonna write tonight after being off for a couple of weeks.  I was still writing, just not a lot and not on here.  Like I said, seasonal affective disorder.  But we'll see see what happens in the coming days.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Day 1135 - Football

I hate being held hostage to something I have no control over.  I had every intention of either going to a Bible study tonight or seeing White Bird in a Blizzard at the Cinematheque.  It could have gone either way, but I was waiting for the furnace guy to call me today.  He didn't give a guarantee, but I was hoping for some sort of resolution to this story.  It's a very weird thing to actually have the ringer of my phone turned on, as I almost always have it set to vibrate.  And I got zero calls today.  I didn't want to go to either event in case the furnace guy decided no time was too late, and I was going to get a loud annoying call in the middle of something.  So, instead, I got some McDonalds, went home and am now going back and forth between watching football and watching the greatest silent Fritz Lang expressionistic German film - Metropolis.  Not a bad night by any stretch of the imagination, but not what I particularly wanted to do tonight.

So I sit here watching sports, and I think I'm going to write about some of my history with organized sports.

I've always loved baseball, but when I was in the 3rd and 4th grades I played touch football for school.  And I was pretty good.  I practiced with the older kids, and that's what I really remember about that time.  I practiced hard.  This was years ago, and I don't really remember how good I was, but I did get a trophy for "Most Promising Player Award" so I was either okay or I had a lot of heart.  I think it was a mixture of both.  I do remember the final game of my career, because we were winning going into the last play.  We were on defense, and the other team threw a "Hail Mary" pass (oddly appropriate since it was probably two Catholic schools playing) that was batted in the air and caught in the endzone by the other team.  I remember the coach berating us for not knocking the ball down, as opposed to knocking it in the air.

And that was the end of my "professional" football career.  I wasn't that disappointed that my new school didn't have a football program, since I never really had as much passion for that as I did with baseball (even though it only took a couple more years to squash that dream as well).  I never had the "What if?" moment that I've always had with baseball.  That "What if I had continued playing football throughout my life?"  question that I'm certain probably haunts others.  I was perfectly content to play hours of Nerf football in the street with my friends.  It was much less stressful.  And, as the pick-up tackle game in college that ended with two bloody lips for me proved, I was perfectly content with my decision to let the game go.

I had heart.  I had talent.  I was a huge fan of the Kardiac Kids.  But I just didn't have the passion.  I enjoy watching football now, and I look back on those two years proudly (hey, I got a trophy!), but the sport still doesn't move me as much as baseball does.  It might be my own mindset.  But, hey, pitchers and catcher report in about 5 weeks.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Day 1134 - Waking up to 50 degrees is not fun

Wednesday night I went to Carrabbas with my mom and my sister to celebrate my dad's victory in the "Survivor" pool this year.  He bailed because he was sick.  I ate a lot.  When I got home I prepped and readied myself to read a lot of comic books.  I had some chocolate covered pretzels (Christmas gift!), some pop (Squirt), and the new Echosmith album all good to go.  I lasted through the album before I put everything on the table next to me and just passed out on the couch.  If I go to bed that early, I'm never concerned that I won't wake up in time for work, because I usually wake up in the middle of the night and make my way to my bed.  Which is what I did, because I was hot even though I was under one blanket and I keep my house at a frosty 60 degrees.  I went up to my bedroom, set my alarm, and fell right to sleep.  At about 7AM I woke up, and my head felt cold.  Which was weird, because I normally sleep under three blankets.  I went downstairs to look at the thermostat, and it was reading 51 degrees.  Pretty cold.
It was pretty early, so I watched some YouTube videos in the hopes that they might give me the answers that I needed to take care of this inexpensively.  They did not help.  So I called my furnace guys, and they told me they'd call me back when both our schedules were ready.
I attempted other fixes as much as I could since I was working, and resigned myself to dressing warm until I got the furnace guys call.  But when I got home, the heat was on!  I called the furnace guys, told them all was well, and thanked them.  I went to volleyball that night (3-1 for the first game of the season), and came home to have some dinner and watch some TV.  I was in the basement relaxing when the furnace turned on, but didn't catch.  The same thing it had been doing all day.  At that point, I was in for the night.  I went to bed late, bundled up, and woke up (again) to a frosty 50 degrees.
My backup plan had been sick the day before, but today (still feeling under the weather) Ryan said he'd take a look at the furnace.  When he called me at 4:30 with bad news, I had to bite the bullet and call the furnace guys again.  Working around my schedule (with a lot of help from my friends), the furnace guy found the problem, and gave me a temporary fix.  He's supposed to come back on Saturday (fingers crossed) and give it the permanent fix.  As it is, I've spent a decent amount of money, but it's worth it because 1). It's really,  really cold out. and 2). The guy obviously knows what he's doing.
When he was done with hos work, I went back to the comic shop, finished the work I was doing there, and then spent some time catching up on the last five months worth of Avengers and New Avengers comics.  It was worth it.  It was also worth it to come home to a comfortable house.  I just hope tomorrow is the end of it.  It's too cold for messing around.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Day 1131 - Food

I cooked tonight!  Like, legitimately cooked.  I bought shrimp scampi, and I wanted to cook it in the oven, but I couldn't find an oven-safe container to put it in.  So, I went with sauteing it on the top of the stove.  I melted a teaspoonful of butter in the pan, dumped in 7 or 8 shrimp, and let it cook for about 8 minutes.  There were a couple of things about it - 1. All I could think of was the "Chopped" judges berating the cooks for not seasoning enough, so I made sure there was plenty of (garlic) salt and pepper on the food.  2. I have no idea how to tell if the shrimp was done.  It seemed okay, and I'm considering this a cooking victory.

And that's all I got for tonight.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Day 1131 -Whiplash


Wow.  I love when I see a movie that both exhausts and exhilarates me at the same time.  I wish I had seen this a couple weeks ago, because I know what one of my new top 10 movies of last year is.

Andrew (Miles Teller) is a drummer in the best music school in the country.  Terrence Fletcher (JK Simmons) is the foul-mouthed taskmaster of a teacher.  I would say the movie is about the relationship that develops between the two of them, but that would be inaccurate.  It's about the battle of wills between two alpha males - one of whom wants to be the best there is at what he does (much like Wolverine), and one who's looking for perfection, even if he has to beat it into the other one (literally and figuratively).

When we first meet Andrew, he's practicing on the drums.  In fact, throughout the movie, he practices all the time, sacrificing any sort of social life.  And the reason he practices all the time, we're led to believe, is to impress Fletcher.  When we first meet Fletcher, he's standing in the doorway watching Andrew practice.  He's obviously the top dog at the school and any one of the students would give up their right arm to be in his class.  But, immediately, he comes off as a jerk.

But I don't think the movie is about Andrew trying to make Fletcher a surrogate father figure that he's trying to impress.  He already has a wonderful father (nicely played by Paul Reiser), and he's the complete opposite of Fletcher.  No, I think the movie is about endurance, talent, and genius.  Fletcher uses a story about Charlie Parker getting a cymbal thrown at his head, as the turning point in his career.  Fletcher uses that same action (pretty literally) to evoke that same turn in his students.  There's absolutely no doubt that it's abuse.  He does things that will make you gasp in shock.  You know what he's going for, and he explains it even better towards the end.  But the results vary dramatically from person to person.  Andrew takes the abuse, and it drives him to become the best he can be.  But even he has his limits, and getting pushed past them wreaks some havok.

There is nobody who is better at hurling insults than JK Simmons.  He does it with such venom and panache, that not giving him an Academy Award nomination for his role in this seems like it would be a great disservice.  And Miles Teller matches him beat for beat.  When he practices so strenuously that his hands almost become a river of blood, you believe that no makeup was necessary.  You're rooting for this kid to reach the apex of his potential, thereby "beating" Fletcher.  In fact, there's a scene where I felt like shouting, "Beat him!"

The finale is an impressive feat of writing.  With very few words, and lots of music, you're meant to have your emotions flung around.  And you do.  And watching two people who may hate each other, or may respect each other, face off in a battle of talent and wills creates one of the most exhilarating endings I've seen in quite some time.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Day 1129 (again) Nancy Drew and The Three Investigators

I don't remember how old I was when I read my first Nancy Drew book, but I do remember the title - The Mystery of the Fire Dragon.  I loved it, and it was the beginning of a lifelong love of mysteries.  From that book, I worked my way through the first 56 hardcovers and continued through a lot of the softcovers (#57 and up).  And, of course, being the collector that I am, I had to have all the original Nancy Drew books.  What that meant for me, though, was a little different than having first prints of everything.  I could live without those, because I (probably) still can't afford those.  Instead, in the 1950's they rewrote the early stories, shortening the page count from 216 or so to 180ish.  There are no 180 page count books in my collection.  And last year, I finally finished upgrading the absolute worst copies I had, so now everything is good or better.

Then there's the companion series - The Hardy Boys.  Yeah, I didn't care for them as much.  I could never identify with Frank or Joe, and their stories never seemed as fun or dangerous or creepy as Nancy's did.  I've got a number of their books, but I've never felt the need to track down more than what I have.

However, there was a mystery series that I did find as compelling as the Nancy Drew series, and that was Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators.  Jupiter Jones (the smart one), Pete Crenshaw (the athlete), and Bob Andrews (the normal one) were teenage investigators who worked out of Jupe's uncle's junkyard solving cases that were strange, compelling, and always seemed to have a touch of the supernatural to them.  I still remember the day when I went into the bookstore and found out that they had revamped the series for teens.  I felt that I went in every two weeks looking for a new book.  Eventually, they printed 11 of them, and they're all pretty good, but one of the new series stood out.  But more on that in a bit.

I read 103 books last year.  That's probably why I didn't see as many movies as the year before, and I don't think I'll ever top that number in my lifetime.  But out of those 103 books, I re-read the original 43 Three Investigator books, along with the 11 updated ones.  It took me about five months get through all of them, and it felt great.  As with any series, it all depends on how much you like the characters, and with no exception,  these three guys were people I liked hanging out with.  They solved mysteries that involved art thieves, haunted houses, thieving midgets (!), and pirate treasure, among others.  Compelling stuff.  When they did the new series, they were less of a mystery and more of tracking down bad guys who stole cars or who wanted to stop the opening of a play.  And while they weren't mysterious, they advanced the characters, and were pretty exciting.  And the fourth book in the series was called "Funny Business" and was about the guys finding a collection of comic books, going to a convention, and meeting all the people involved in the industry from the editors to the artists to the cosplayers.  It was a clever mystery, it had incredibly well-defined characters, and didn't talk down to those of us who know comics.  (And, yes, Jupiter got a love interest in the story that didn't feel forced.)  It immediately surpassed my two previous favorite books in the series - The Mystery of the Vanishing Treasure (with the aforementioned midgets) and The Mystery of the Invisible Dog (which had real supernatural elements to it).  I read Funny Business every few years, because as with the best books, you want to immerse yourself in their world every so often.  At least, I do.  And a few years ago, through the magic of the internet, I found a hardcover copy of the book that was signed by the author.  It's easily in my top ten favorite things I own.

But to bring it all back around again, I started The Three Investigators series last February, and I think this year I might re-read all the Nancy Drew books.  It's been a while since I took them off the bookshelf (there's so much other stuff to read), but I do love reading series.  Heck, last year, I re-read Hitchhiker's Guide, too.  (so good!)  But right now, I've got a few books lined up in the queue, including As You Wish written by Cary Elwes about the making of The Princess Bride, and the new books by Gordon Korman and Carrie Vaughn.  So, February is looking like it's getting full.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Day 1128 (going backwards because apparently I lost some days in here.)

My unofficial/official stance when writing on here is that I have to have an opinion on something.  Whether it's movies, tv shows, books, music or whatever, I try to write something that has an opinion.  That's going to change this year.

This year I plan (plan) on writing a bunch, like I did during the glorious days of MySpace.  And in order to do that I've got to expand my repertoire a bit.  I'm going to write about life, loneliness, happiness, Star Wars toys, comic books, run ins with the law, and whatever else may float my boat.  Obviously, reviews are still going to be the main crux of what I write about, but I can't be saddled with my own self-imposed restrictions any longer.

However, with all that being said, I need to clarify this, as well.  I write for me, but I'm willing to let anyone see what I write.  I want as many people to read my stuff as I can drag in.  But I also hold two jobs and I'm very savvy in what I let everyone see.  You're only seeing what I want you to see in any given situation.  It's not that you can consider me an unreliable narrator, because I have every intention of telling you the truth at all times, but it's both going to be refracted through my own thoughts, and I'm not going to tell you everything.

But I will tell you this - I almost want my next car to be a Honda simply because of Skeletor.  Both of his commercials make me happy.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Day 1129 - The One I Love

The One I Love

I'm gonna lead with the trailer.  Feel free to give this a watch before you start reading, because this (completely spoiler-free) trailer is what got me to buy the movie even before seeing it.

Now that you've got that out of your way, let me say that the movie is wonderfully strange and surreal, yet also a touch simplistic.  However, I think I'll be pondering the ending over the next few days.

The story is about Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elizabeth Moss) spending the weekend at a vacation home on the advice of their therapist.  And then things get wonky.

Mark Duplass is a man who wears many (figurative) hats.  As an actor, I love him in The League.  As a writer/director he's responsible for such little gems as Cyrus and Jeff, Who Lives at Home.  And, of course, Elizabeth Moss is from Mad Men.  Together, they make a couple that you have to believe in (you do), and one that you're willing to watch for an hour and a half (they are).  Having a chemistry that is so real, helps ground the movie as it displays some more "fantastical" elements.

Because of the limited setting, the movie reminds me of a stage production, and could probably be easily adapted that way.  But director Charlie McDowell never lets the story feel claustrophobic.  And he's helped considerably by the music.  Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans have created a score that heightens the tension and accentuates some of the weird humor.

Obviously, as you can tell, this is a movie that has a lot of secrets.  I'm not going to spoil them here,  but any smart moviegoer will be able to pick up on some of the easier ones (such as why these two are in therapy in the first place).  But it's the larger ones that make the movie as compelling as it is.

This wasn't the undiscovered masterpiece I was hoping for, but it was a nifty little flick that went into enough strange place that I'm happy I own it.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Day 1127 - Movie Roundup of 2014

I thought I watched a lot of movies this year at 149, and then I did the count and realized I watched 24 less than I did last year, so I was a little disappointed in myself.  I take comfort in the fact that I'm pretty sure I read more books this year than last year, though (but I haven't done that count yet).  But I watched a lot of terrible stuff this year, a lot of mediocre movies this year, and some really good films.  I want to write about the top 20 really good films I watched this year starting with number one.

1. Under the Skin - One of only a few movies that I saw twice in the theater this year.  Jonathan Glazer's film was not for everyone.  Most of the people I know who saw it hated it, but there were a select few of us who thought it was amazing.  Certainly a strange movie, but something about it burrowed into my brain, and no other movie, besides my 16th pick, stuck with me more.  Scarlett Johansson said about 20 words in the whole film, and was still amazing.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy - I could probably watch this every day for a few weeks and still not get tired of it.  Drax is still my favorite character, but everyone holds their own.  I've always loved James Gunn's movies, and I'm happy that he's getting even more exposure.

3. Birdman - Amazingly directed (one continuous shot!), wonderfully surreal, and massively layered storytelling.  It's a shame that it's score isn't going to be at least nominated for an Oscar, because it's one of the few in recent memory that stands out (in a positive way).

4. Only Lovers Left Alive - Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston in a Jim Jarmusch film about vampires.  You go in hoping it's going to be good, and the fact that it's great makes me happy.

5.  Captain America: The Winter Soldier - A really great action flick with hints of 70's paranoia that actually gets better with each viewing.

6. The Grand Budapest Hotel - Wes Anderson's newest flick is sharp, funny, visually sumptuous, and did I say fun?  It may not have the heart of some of his other movies, but it more than makes up for it in style.

7. Boyhood - How did Richard Linklater get this movie made?  12 years of filming and nobody quit?  12 years of filming and you've created a movie that feels authentic and real?  12 years of filming and nobody knew about it?  I may not love all of his movies, but I can't deny that he is one of the most interesting directors that's making movies now.  And I did love this one.

8. What If - One of those movies that I like because it hits all my own personal sensibilities.  Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan update When Harry Met Sally and they don't mess it up.  It also has a strong supporting cast, which a movie like this needs.

9. Locke - One man in a car as played by Tom Hardy.  If you're going to be that experimental, you better be good, and writer/director Steven Knight is that good.  Man, I forgot how much I liked this movie.

10.  Tim's Vermeer - Teller (of Penn & Teller) directs this documentary about Tim Jenison, a very rich inventor who decides to see if Vermeer used a camera obscura to make his paintings look as good as they did by trying to do it himself.  I love movies that make me look at art in different ways, let alone make me continue to re-evaluate what art is.

11. Edge of Tomorrow - Tom Cruise is slimy, Emily Blunt is awesome, and we, the viewers are all the better for it, in this riff on a sci-fi version of Groundhog Day.  The last shot rivals that of Birdman for my favorite of the year.

12. Rise of the Planet of the Apes - What makes it better is the fact that it's a remake of the worst of the original movies, Battle For the Planet of the Apes, and it's a great remake.  Apes with guns, on horseback, and talking?  Yes, please.

13.  The Fault in Our Stars - Nope.  Haven't read the book. Maybe someday, but for now, I'll take this massively dramatic and unapologetically tear-jerker of a movie.  Yes, I can be a sucker for a movie like this sometimes, as long as everyone commits and tells the story well.  Sue me.

14. Interstellar - It evoked feelings of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Contact, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, yet it was still its own creation.  Not the home run I was hoping for, but still a solid triple.  And those robots were awesome!

15. John Wick - Keanu Reeves is a retired killer who jumps back in the game when a punk steals his care, and even worse, kills his dog.  A full-blown action movie with nothing more on its mind than killing all the bad guys dead.  And doing so in a way that makes you both not question what you're seeing, as well as cheering on the main character.

16.  Wetlands - The one movie on here that you've never heard of.  A German film about a teenage girl who might be the most unhygienic person you've ever seen, and what happens when she's hospitalized after one of the worst shaving accidents you'll ever see.  I wanted to see it because I knew it was an extreme movie (it really is!), and I wanted to know if my own personal barometer has changed that much from college.  I think the movie would have been much worse for me if it weren't for a few things.  Firstly, it's a good movie regardless of the content.  It's funny, it's thoughtful, and it has heart. Also, it's a gorgeous looking film.  That helped temper my reaction dramatically.  Sure, there might be a scene or two that I thought might be a bit much, but I'm pleased that I continue to strive for interesting and good.  I recommend this only to those who aren't offended by anything, because, sometimes, just "wow."  But still good.

17. The Theory of Everything - Who knew Stephen Hawking was that funny?  That was my first reaction.  Actually, that was my second reaction.  My first one was, "Eddie Redmayne pulled off the most amazing performance of the year for me."  A touching love story that unfolds along with Hawking's decline as ALS attacks his body.  And, yay, another movie that makes me feel smarter after watching it.

18.  Veronica Mars - It makes me happy that this exists and was good.  Not great, but definitely good enough.

19. Bad Words - Jason Bateman directed and starred in this raunchy, but quite frankly hilarious, comedy.  This was the funniest movie I saw all year.

20. The Raid 2 - Not as good as The Raid: Redemption, but that was going to be a tremendous feat anyways.  More non-stop action.

And, because I live in Cleveland, there's still a number of movies that'll probably be nominated for Oscars that haven't even opened here.  I'm sure I'll get to them, but for now, this is my top 20.