Books and TV – What I’ve been reading and watching this year

I’m trying again, as I usually do, to read 24 books this year. I don’t think I’ve ever quite made it, but this year so far I’ve already read Watching The English by Kate Fox, Die 101 wichtigsten Fragen: Japan, The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Japanese and The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Spanish. I’ve also started a book called Making Sense of Japanese which has been interesting and entertaining so far. So I’m still behind, but it’s going quite well. The Xenophobe’s Guide is cheating, of course, because those books are rather short, but they certainly keep me motivated by raising the book count!

As for TV, we’ve been making our way through about two seasons and a half of United States Of Tara, which I quite liked for Toni Colette’s acting ability. However, after season 1 it became a little less good and most of the characters aren’t really very likeable. I’m looking forward to the end of season 3, which is the end of the show as well, to hopefully get to a conclusion of the show and make time for something new.
I’ve also been watching the first season and a bit of Breaking Bad, which I’m also enjoying. I don’t particularly like the weird mix of a serious show with very silly scenes (the scene with the talking pillow, or really anything that has the DEA agent in it), but I do like the main character for the most part or am at least interested in his journey.
I’ve watched the first episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the new show written and produced by Tina Fey, and while I thought 30 Rock was pretty hilarious, that one was a bit lame. Of course I’ve gone against my own rule, “Never judge a show by its pilot”, but with so much stuff out there to be watched, I just can’t be bothered to give that show another chance.

I also watched Clear and Present Danger for the first time last week – a 1994 movie with Harrison Ford and Willem Dafoe – and thought it was quite hilarious how they had state-of-the-art technology, such as personal computers with monochrome green screens, fax machines, satellite telephones. Their computers did hilarious unlikely things and their computer specialist hacked into someone’s account by figuring out the password was someone’s date of birth. I wonder if today’s youth would even understand this film today, considering they don’t even know how to send text messages with rotary telephones.

Behind the scenes of Gravity

For those who have watched Gravity, I recommend this YouTube video that explains the technology behind making the movie. I thought Gravity was entertaining although it did have a lot of Hollywood clichés. I still would have recommended it for the effects despite a certain crucial scene in the film that defied the laws of physics. But actually seeing HOW they did it gives me even more appreciation for it. I’m simply amazed by what things people are capable of. (If you haven’t seen the movie, you might want to avoid the video because of the big spoiler at the very end.)

See for yourself here:
Gravity screenshotAlternate link: YouTube search “From Script to Screen”.

 

Pixar’s Up does NOT get two thumbs up

Up by Pixar

Fly around the world with a lot of beautiful balloons.

Last weekend I finally got the chance to watch Up in 3D in a cinema near me.

Up, as you may know, is another Pixar movie. I like Pixar ever since I’ve seen Finding Nemo, which is my favorite animated movie of all times. I’ve also really liked Monsters, Inc. and WALL-E, as well as their short films For The Birds, Geri’s Game and Presto, but was disappointed with The Incredibles and Ratatouille.

Still, I’d watch almost anything in 3D because I like the 3D format a lot. I’ve seen Monsters vs Aliens and Ice Age 3 in 3D, and I even watched the really bad movie Beowulf for its 3D effects.

Now, Up is different in that it doesn’t appear to have been made with the 3D effect in mind. At least the 3D effect is subtle most of the time, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I personally think that the 3D format might save the movie industry, as it’s a good reason to go to your local 3D cinema instead of watching the movie at home without that particular special effect. I’d be excited to see more normal movies (dramas, thrillers) in 3D, but maybe that’s just me.

Up tells the story of an old widowed man who is supposed to give up his house and move into an old people’s home. Instead of doing that, he ties a bunch of balloons to his house and flies away with it, accidentally taking a young boy scout with him who therefore joins his adventures.

Judging from the trailers for this movie, you’d think the old man was a grumpy fella with a strangely endearing crankiness about him. He’s much nicer in the actual movie, however, for better or for worse, and while at first the ailments of old age are cause for a number of laughs, Pixar doesn’t really follow through with the theme much. While the senior citizen needs a walker in day-to-day life and a stairlift to move around his house, he later does all sorts of stunts and running around and hard physical labor.

Also disappointing in this movie are the talking dogs. I feel it requires too much suspension of disbelief, even considering this is an animated movie for children. Yes, we had talking fish in Finding Nemo, but they only ever talked to one another, not to humans. And while the talking dogs are explained (“Our smart owner made us a dog collar that enables us to speak”), I couldn’t help but find all of it very silly. I think Pixar did an extraordinary job before in making a quiet robot likeable (WALL-E), in making a mute rabbit likeable (Presto) – heck, they can even made a lamp likeable (Luxo Jr. and their animated logo)! So why resort to talking dogs? I won’t even elaborate on the part where they pilot fighter planes.

The best part of the movie was the backstory that explored the old man’s life, of how he met his wife, married her and grew old with her. Personally, I found that to be the most touching part of the film. I wish the talking dogs hadn’t spoiled the rest of it.

If the Internet named movies

Oh, the things we say on the internet. Even before the whole twisted grammar and spelling of I Can Has Cheezburger started, we used abbreviations like LOL, ROFL, the very convenient WTF? (can you say that if you don’t usually curse?), and in the olden days in chat rooms, the quick question “asl?”. Now I found this funny site that tells you how some movies were named if the Internet named movies.
Check it out on College Humor or by clicking on the image below!

See a list of Internet abbreviations here.

(Bad) Movie Roundup

The other day I went to see Step Brothers, which is a terrible, terrible movie that made me lose all respect for John C. Reilly. It makes me wonder if he actually enjoys brainless comedies or if he was THAT hard-pressed for money.

Anyway, it feels like most movies I’ve watched in the theater this year were absolutely awful, and I’m trying to recount what they were. If you want the results before I list the movies, here they are:

(Watched in the last two years in the theater:)
24 movies
_________
12 bad
7 okay
4 good
1 AWESOME (Juno)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Terrible writing, terrible dialog, terribly ridiculous fight scenes. I met Uwe Boll this year, and he was right when he said that people would’ve put him in an insane asylum if *he* had been the one to make the movie. I’d much rather watch Bloodrayne a third time than watch Indiana Jones again. And Shia LaBeouf is one overrated actor, I tell you.
The Dark Knight
COMPLETELY overrated. Even silly action movies used to be better than what Hollywood is coming up with these days, and the 9+ star rating at IMDB.com is ridiculous. I’d give it a six, tops. There were some things I liked, and it’s hardly ever unpleasant to see Maggie Gyllenhaal perform in anything (except maybe in Secretary, but I might just be a prude), but overall the movie was just too forced and too dumb.
Step Brothers
As mentioned above. A piece of turd. No more to say.
Vantage Point
A dumb movie. Such a promising story – seeing the same scene from several different perspectives – but in the end, such a lame plot.
21
An okay movie, not particularly memorable, though.
Sex And The City: The Movie
Ah well, not exactly good, not very emancipated at all, but only a little bit worse than I expected.
Fool’s Gold
Finally a movie I wasn’t disappointed by, because it was exactly what I had imagined. Silly, fun, with stupid action-movie clichés and Kate Hudson. ENTERTAINING!
Get Smart
That one was really good. A very decent comedy with some smart jokes and generally a LOT more than I expected!
No Country For Old Men
I suppose it was okay, but it was very slow and I didn’t exacty ‘get it’. As much as I like the Coen Brothers, I won’t be recommending this movie to anyone.
Juno
Definitely the winner! This is the best movie I’ve seen in a long while, in and out of the movie theater! You go, Ellen Page! You go, Kimya Dawson! You go, Diablo Cody!

I suppose Juno and No country For Old Men were technically released last year, but it always takes a while for them to reach movie theaters here… But now that I look at what was released last year, there was mostly crap, too.
I did watch these in the theater last year:

Transformers
Pretty awful.
I Am Legend
Good idea, but not very well done. Logic erros, and stupid monsters and a VERY stupid ending.
Live Free Or Die Hard
Bad! Maybe action is NOT all you need in an action movie.
Atonement
Well, it had some interesting scenes and the way the sound was blended into the movie was nice, but the story… geeeeez.
Ocean’s Thriteen
Oh well. I seem to remember it was dull.
Mr. Brooks
That one was pretty awful, too. The story was dumb and nobody cared for the characters and their strange behavior.
Hitman
Okay, I played the game and I thought the movie would be fun as your typical action movie with nice effects, but it was boring and Timothy Olyphant had a grin on his face all the time, and although little is known about Agent 47, I know this: He doesn’t smile a lot!
Beowulf
The movie is pretty awful, and some of the animated faces looked eerie (Uncanny Valley much?), but I watched it in 3D and the 3D effect was pretty wicked, so who cares? The sins of our fathers! The sins of our fathers!! THE SINS OF OUR FATHERS!!! I AM BEOWULF!!!! (Urg.)
American Gangster
Well, not exactly great, really, but entertaining enough and – looking at the competition – evidently up in the better half of the movies I’ve seen in the theater.
Gone Baby Gone
Hyped way too much when it really had a lame and uninteresting story, but it was okay.
The Brave One
Definitely one of the better movies I’ve seen in the theater, and it did make me think and was interesting. The romantic scenes were kind of odd or unfitting or somehow off, and the ending was also a bit peculiar, but all in all it was a good movie.
300
An awful movie. Awful and ridiculous.
Because I Said So
Awful writing, bad movie. Diane Keaton is overrated.
Keinohrhasen
The one German movie I watched in the theater in the last two years, it seems. And it was surprisingly good. Sure, lots of clichés and exactly how often can you laugh at something embarassing being said too loudly so it’s overheard by everybody in a restaurant – but all in all, it was sweet.

CONCLUSION: I watch too much crap in the movie theater. I should choose the movies I watch more wisely. Too many bad movies are being made! It’s scary to think that Fool’s Gold is one of the best movies I’ve seen in the theater lately…