Sunday, September 23, 2012

the 100 coolest things of 2011... 80 to 71

I just looked around and realized... holy schmoles... its almost October!  And we are no closer to tell you what the Coolest Thing of 2011 was!  So, this is what I wrote a few months ago, and then we'll blast through 70 thru 11 on a Cool Express post or 2...

Here is 100 through 91... Auburn's title... "Pocket Full of Kryptonite", ah... "Friends with Benefits"... Colin Firth's Oscar... "My Strange Addiction"... Edge's retirement... "Fast Five"... "50/50"... Aladdin's stage show... "Something Borrowed"

Here is 90 through 81... Coin Dozer app... "Superheroes"... "The Rainmaker"... "I Need a Dollar"... "Zookeeper"... Mr. Toad's Wild Ride... "The Help"... Jersey Mike's subs... "Thor"... Brava Rotisserie Grill...

Okay, so this part of the list is very movie-focused, as I saw a record (for me) number of movies last year, I think at 38... and a lot of them made this list.  So, let's kick it off with the film that Hurricane Rhett said, "I understood about 58% of what was happening in the second one... and in this one, I understood about 74%, making it thereby much better."

80... "Transformers: Dark of the Moon"
I mean, why even try to explain this film.  Its a bunch of robots who can transform into cars, and Optimus Prime and Megatron go at it uno mas time, and Shia LaBeouf is running around trying to act better than his talent will let him, and Megan Fox is no longer in the cast, replaced by supermodel Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, and somehow Ken Jeung, Patrick Dempsey AND John Malkovich make an appearance...

...but really, who gives a crap, right?  Its CARS WHO TURN INTO FIGHTING ROBOTS!!  There's a scene in this flick where Bumblebee, the bestie of Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf), is racing down the interstate with Sam inside, sees congestion in the form of dead robot bodies all over the highway, then he transforms into the robot, hurling Sam into the air, leaps over the hulking hunking holes of metal, fires his gun at the bad guys, then transforms back into the car, catching Sam back inside the passenger seat, all in the matter of a few seconds.  Despite this move being poorly acted and stupidly plotted, that is one of the best few seconds of ANY movie in 2011... you don't watch this movie for plot and talent.  You watch it to see FIGHTING ROBOTS!!!  Dig it!

79... "The Ides of March"
Wow did I think this movie was good.  You have to know that I really like political dramas, and judge them accordingly.  Russell Crowe's "State of Play"--excellent.  Tom Cruise in "Lion for Lambs--unexcellent.  Primary Colors--so good its one of my 100 films of all time.  George Clooney in "Michael Clayton"--would be good if it wasn't so boring.

An adaptation of Beau Willimon's play "Farragut North", this film features Ryan Gosling as Stephen Meyers, a campaign manager for Mike Morris (George Clooney), the Governor of Pennsylvania and a Presidential candidate locked in a fierce battle with a senator for Arkansas.  The goal is to woo a North Carolina Senator, who controls 356 delegates and would give the winner of those delegates the Democratic nomination. 

When a young intern, Molly (Evan Rachel Woods), gets involved with Stephen, things begin to go downhill fast... because with Molly comes a few secrets involving not only Stephen, but also Governor Morris himself... and a double cross with both Morris' and the Arkansas senator's campaign managers, played fantastically by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti, respectively. 

There are some slow moments, but bear with it... the deep showdown between Gosling and Clooney towards the end of the film is supremely done and worth the wait. 

78... The Dallas Mavericks Win the NBA Championship
Yes, I'm a San Antonio Spurs fan.  Have been since the late 80s and especially the early 90s as I followed David Robinson, my favorite all time player... that said, there are several teams I follow and root for.  Almost dead even with the Spurs as a favorite NBA team are the Orlando Magic, for the obvious Florida ties.  And though there are teams that I don't want to see them beat the Spurs or Magic, I do enjoy wins by the Celtics (its a mom connection), and now, the Mavericks.  Of course, reading this, the champions now are the Miami Heat.. the way, how come there hasn't been more made of the fact that it was strike shortened season?  When the Spurs won their first title in like, '99, there were a whole lot of people discussing how they didn't play a full season, and could the Spurs do it if there was a full season, and Tim Duncan is a rookie and could he play all 82 games and blah blah blah, and here comes LeBron, playing in a 60-something game season, not a full 82 games, and they win the title, and its like a coronation of LeBron all around, even though he didn't play a full season either and... really?

Where was I?

77... Kent State Helps Alabama Who Salutes Kent State
On April 27th of 2011, a massive band of storms roared through Alabama, filling up our landscape with rain, wind and... tornadoes.  Towns were wiped off the map, neighborhoods here were damaged and some leveled, and the destruction was practically unfathomable.

And with such loss comes the familiar, yet never-gets-old, stories of those in the city, the state, the country and even the world who rise up to the challenge and, for lack of a better word, give a "helping hand".  One such story made me smile just a little more than some of others, and that was the fact that players from the Kent State University football team saw fit to make their way down to Tuscaloosa to pitch in that aforementioned helping hand. 

Four Kent State Golden Flashes players--Spencer Keith, Ishmaa'ily Kitchen, Lee Stalker and Jacquise Terry--volunteered at the Habitat for Humanity houses alongside several Tide players, in addition to helping out with a football camp at Holt High School for some tornado-displaced children. 

Kent State was set to play Alabama the following September, and when they did, it wasn't the usual taunting and superiority felt by many smaller teams who are cashing in for their beatdowns at the hands of behemoth schools like Alabama.  Before the game, Bama fans sent hundreds of messages begging Tide fans to not boo and ridicule the Kent State team when the Golden Flashes entered Bryant-Denny Stadium.   The messages worked.

The Kent State team was greeted warmly with cheers and such, as they should have been, and from the side of the Alabama Crimson Nation, it was a class act.  Yes, the game got out of hand quickly, with the then-ranked #2 Tide beating KSt 48-7, but it was the actions of Kent State over the summer and the reception of Alabama that will be remembered, separating this game from the hundreds of beatdowns given before SEC play commences.

76... "Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows"
As much as I like Rachel McAdams... this second movie in the Sherlock Holmes series was, at least to me, superior in most ways--story, dialogue, characters, etc.  What can I say... I liked it quite a bit.

The plot is a little much to get into and keep your attention, but Holmes (Colin Firth Club Member in good standing Robert Downey Jr) and Watson (Jude Law) team up to stop a take-over-the world plot from the cunning and so, so evil Dr. Moriarity, played by Jared Harris, who is Lane Pryce on Mad Men.  The addition of Noomi Rapace, as ingenue Simza, doesn't necessarily make up for the short screen time of McAdams, but she is great in the film too.

Anyway, great film.  Enjoyed it much.

75... My Yard Goes Disney
From the category of "We have to make up problems in this country", comes a ridiculous show on HGTV that takes boring and decrepid backyards and turns them into Disney World havens with props and pools and accessories all decked out in Mickey Mouse style. 

Here's what I wrote on June 6th of 2011...

We just recorded, and are watching back, this show on HGTV... now I don't really watch HGTV, because every show on their schedule might as well be called "Kitchens and Backyards That You'll Never, Ever Be Able to Afford TV" or KABTYNEBATATV... in hindsight, I guess HGTV works better.

The show that would get me watching HGTV?

My Yard Goes Disney

Apparently, HGTV invited people from all over the country to make videos telling them why they deserved to have a Disney-themed backyard makeover.  A backyard with an 8 foot sorcerer's hat, a Tinkerbell themed teapot that serves as a playhouse, a Tinkerbell themed birdcage kids swing, flowers with kids pics in the middle and topped off with a freakin' train with 200 feet of track running from their backyard into Mawmaw's backyard next door, and of course back again. All designed by genuine Disney Imagineers.

You can read the full show review by clicking here.

74... The Civil Wars
Talk about mellow and smooth... the duo of (former?) Christian music artist Joy Williams and John Paul Williams make great music.  No, they aren't romantically linked, as she is married with a kid and he is married with four of his own--not that makes a difference sometimes, but still.

Anyway... its soft coffeehouse rock kind of music, and its awesome.  Well, maybe not on a long car trip, as it might put you to sleep, but otherwise, yeah.

73... "Rise of the Planet of the Apes"
This was truly a movie I didn't want to see.  Having never seen any of the early "Planet of the Apes" films and thinking the 2001 Mark Wahlberg reboot was a steaming pile of Bantha poodoo, this film didn't excite me all that much... and yet, I somehow ended up at the theater, checking it out.  And I'm glad I did...

Here's what I wrote on August 30th.... So, the movie was solid. The story was good, the characters were well written, the script is well written, the special effects, especially Andy Serkis, is unbelievable and overall, I enjoyed it immensely. You don't have to be familiar with the other films--in fact, there are apparently a dozen or so references to the early films, though I only caught one when Draco Malfoy says, "Dadgum dirty apes!"--to like this movie, and it sets it up quite nicely for following films, which due to the success of this one, are likely.
Here's the full review, or you can find this and hundreds of other films on my own movie review page.

72... "Hot Coffee"
Remember the old lady that spilled coffee in her lap, then sued McDonalds for like, $300 million dollars or something because the "coffee was too hot"?  There were jokes abound on everything from late night television to me and my own high school buddies cracking jokes.  Seriously?  Isn't coffee supposed to be hot?  So, yeah, I think I'll sue Water World in Dothan, because their water is too wet!  Ha ha!  Right? 

So the story is, in 1992, then-79 year old Stella Liebeck, living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, sat in her grandson's car in the passenger seat, ordering a 49 cent cup of coffee in the McDonald's drive-thru.  Her grandson parked the car so that Stella could put the cream and sugar in her coffee, but when she went to lift the lid, the cup sloshed and the entire contents of the cup spilled into her lap.  Wearing cotton sweatpants, it absorbed the coffee and burned into her skin.  At the hospital, it was determined that she suffered third-degree burns over 6% of her skin and lesser burns on 16% of her skin... she underwent skin grafting over the next 8 days and spent two years undergoing medical treatment. 

She sought to settle with McDonalds for $20,000 to cover her actual and upcoming medical expenses.  They offered her $800.  And thus began the legal battle over coffee was was too hot and unsafely served... and thus is the opening salvo in this HBO documentary.

It covers three more cases like this, cases that are seemingly open-and-shut yet are much deeper and harder to agree upon a resolution once you know the full story... like Nebraska family, The Gourleys, who's 16 year old son is severely brain damaged due to medical malpractice at birth... yet, Nebraska's cop on damages meant the Gourleys could only get $1.25 million, far below the estimated $5.65 million that a jury decided they would need for his lifetime care.

You also see the story of Oliver Diaz, a judge who opposed tort-reform and was "run out of office" by those groups who didn't see it that way... and finally, the story of Jamie Leigh Jones, a KBR/Halliburton employee who's claims that she was drugged and raped by male co-workers and faced even more problems when evidence disappeared.

Whether you agree with these stories or not, or whether you think that Stella is still too greedy, especially since she was clumsy, or you think that McDonalds took a greedy route by their lowball offer, all of these stories are fascinating in nature and very thought provoking. 

I, for one, learned a lot about tort reform.  And McDonalds coffee.

71... "Misery" by Stephen King
I find that sometimes the scariest Stephen King novels aren't those that deal with the supernatural and ghosts and demons, but deal with people who are just bat guano crazy.  And when they are bat guano crazy, it makes for a more compelling villain, because they are real people who do things that real life people might do.

While "'Salem's Lot" and "It" are my favorite King books, dealing with the undead and the otherworldly, "Misery"'s Annie Wilkes might just be one of the most scary villains in the King universe... because she's not supernatural.  She's not undead, or otherworldly... she's just... well, bat guano crazy.

Writer Paul Sheldon has a ritual when he finishes his novels, of which he's been writing about a character named Misery Chastain--and the latest book, he kills her off, giving him the freedom from writing just that story that he's done for so many years.  And it all goes haywire when during this novel-finishing ritual, which calls for him to complete books while up in the Colorado mountains all alone with no forms of communication, his car wrecks and he tumbles down a snow filled ravine.  And when Annie Wilkes finds him, the story takes over... Annie is his biggest fan.  His biggest, obsessive fan.  And she loves Misery Chastain... and when she finds out that Misery bites in this, his latest and last Misery novel, she's not happy.  As a matter of fact, she's bat guano crazy about it.

When I read it, Paul was already wrecked and in Annie's spare bedroom within the first 30 pages or so, which made me wonder how in the world King was going to stretch the story for another 300+ pages... but he did.  And it is intense, both wonderful and dreadful at the same time.   Yes, the movie is great, with Kathy Bates portrayal of Annie getting her an Oscar for it, but the book is even better. 

Coming up... The 2011 Cool Express...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

coming back again


So... its been almost a month since I've written down anything on this here blog site.  As I near 900 posts, at first I wanted to ensure that something fun and cool was written for that, by my standards, momentous occasion... then I just stopped doing anything blogworthy.

Well, that's not entirely true... I thought of several things I could have told you in the month between then and now... I just never got around to writing it down.  So what have I been doing?   Well, not counting working for The Most Caffeinated Place on the Planet... and taking my what-seems-like 50 vacation days one or two at a time... and when its my turn to do so, taking care of this guy... 

See, on days off when I have to keep young Campbell Isaiah here at The Cabana, there isn't alot I can do without taking my eyes off of him.  Sure, he'll stay in his little jumparoo bouncy thing, for a little while, and he might sit in his playpen, for an even littler while, but right now, the young man wants to crawl.  And if you don't give him that chance, he then decides to let you know all about his displeasure.

Wanting to crawl is kind of a misnomer... he has two goals in his young life, not counting hitting the bottle and taking a slam in his Pampers... those goals are (1) standing and (2) putting his mouth on whatever is directly in front of him when he gets to his feet.  And I mean what-ever is in front of him.  Couch?  Legs of the dining room chair?  The pedestal to the recliner?  The wall?  Your knee?  Whatever is in front of him he puts his mouth on. 

Of course, the crawling and attempting to stand is truly means to an end... walking.  My mama told me the other day that I only crawled long enough to learn how to walk, and I would expect the same out of Camp Iz as well.  And I would imagine he'll do it soon.

The whole point in saying all that is to let you know that over the last month, I've watched a lot of movies... and I mean, a whole lotta movies... many times, while watching Camp Iz, I will turn on Dish Channel 300, which is HBO, and scroll forward to about 390, which encompasses a bunch of HBOs, several Cinemaxes, a handful of Showtimes and The Movie Channels, a boatload of Starz & Encore channels, and a dozen or so movie channels--Sony, Epix 1, 2 & 3, MGM, Universal HD to name a few--that I never knew existed until we got satellite. 

And sometimes I just turn on the TV, and if a movie is coming on, I just watch it.  Which is how I found myself watching Minka Kelly and Leighton Meester in "The Roommate" from 2011.  When the trailer for this movie would appear before features at the theater, The Lovely Steph Leann would comment, "I liked this idea better when it was called 'Single White Female'"

To say this is an understatement is an understatement... to refresh your memory, "Single White Female" is a creepy movie from 1992 that casts Bridget Fonda as Allie, a software designer (a "software designer" in movies in the early 90s is pretty funny when seen now) who has just broken things off with her fiance (Steven Weber) for cheating, and is now forced to find a roommate.

Hedy responds, and moves in, and they become friends.  But as the course of the movie rolls along, we see how disturbed and, for lack of a better word, how Bat Guano crazy Hedy is, as she becomes obsessed with Allie's live, imitating everything from her haircut to her clothes to trying to get rid of the other people in Allie's life so as to keep her all to herself. 

"Single White Female" is not a particularly great movie by any stretch, but what makes this movie is Jennifer Jason Leigh, who plays Hedy.  Jenn Jay Leigh is absolutely brilliant in her psychotic behavior, making her a classic, completely despicable villain.  If you only watch it for Hedy, its worth at least once viewing... it is Rated R for violence, some gettin' it on scenes and language.

However, "The Roommate" makes "Single White Female" look nothing short of "The Shawshank Redemption".  It's not even so bad its good... its so bad, its really, really, reeeeeeally bad.

Its been called an "unofficial remake" of the aforementioned film, but its very poorly done.  Minka Kelly plays Sara, who is starting her freshman year in college, and ends up with Rebecca (Leighton Meester) as her roommate... well, you know where this is going.  Rebecca, who has no friends because she's freaking weird and unlikable, clongs onto Sara with obsessive abandon to the point of hurting and even murdering those around Sara who Rebecca deems as "competition" for her attention and she is crazy and blah blah blah blah blah...

... I found myself kinda wishing that Rebecca would blow up the dorm with everyone inside, then maybe throw herself off a cliff.  The movie was silly, not suspenseful in any way, the acting was over the top, hammy and just plain bad, and none of the characters were engaging enough to draw any concern over their well being. 

The movie is just bad.  Granted, I've seen worse... in thinking through the topic of "Worst movie I've ever seen", the film "Superman IV:  The Quest for Peace" keeps coming to mind, followed by "The Janky Promoters", starring Ice Cube, Mike Epps and rapper Young Juc... but that's another topic.

In addition to torturing myself over bad films that I'm too lazy to get up and grab the remote across the room in order to change the channel (Run on sentence, aisle 5!), I've managed to knock out a book or two here and there. 

I knocked out "The Lincoln Lawyer" by Michael Connelly in two days... because it was just that good. It was better than I'd say anything John Grisham has written in at least ten years. The movie, starring Dave Wooderson Matthew McConaughey as Mickey Haller, came out a few years back, and is a decent watch--a defense attorney who is skilled enough to routinely get scumbags out of jail and either reduced or flat out dropped charges for their crimes, is met with what seems like a big payday when a rich kid (Ryan Phillippe) accused of beating and raping a chick hires him based on his reputation of success.

Also starring Frances Fisher (Rose's mom on the "Titanic"), William H. Macy as a grizzled private eye, Marisa Tomei (who is always welcome onscreen) and a great turn by country singer Trace Adkins as the leader of a biker gang who Mickey helps, while getting paid under the table... its Rated R for language and violence... anyway, the movie is pretty good and very rewatchable.

The book is also a great read, and mirrors the movie almost entirely, save for a few characters that have different backstories... the main difference is the ending.  The book takes the ending (and effectively, the continuation of the story) in a completely different direction, though I have to say both the book and movie endings are extremely satisfying. 

By the way, when I started this post, I had no clue I would end up on McConaughey and "The Roommate"... sometimes that's just where it goes, I guess.

See you soon--before 30 days, I promise.