Sunday, July 31, 2011

Love and Other Friends with Strings Attached

Disclaimer:  Yes, random, meaningless sex is not what God intended.  So please know that I understand this while describing the movies below.  To enjoy many movies that are released today, you have to essentially realize that people in movies aren't going to do what God intended, be it through physical hook-ups, language, violence or any number of things.  Now, whether we as Christians should be watching movies with such things is an entire discussion that is for another day.  So if you feel that you cannot watch nor enjoy any movie with such things in them, I'd suggest you skip this post... no hard feelings. =)

So, I almost feel like I watched the same movie three times... all three movies have to do with a guy and a girl who decide its a good idea to use each other for sex, and what happens when emotions get involved--because naturally they all do.  They all include a chick who has baggage and just can't commit, and a guy who has issues with his feelings for her, and they all three include what happens when one (or both) of the couples decide to venture out and date/do someone else.

The movies in question are:  "Love & Other Drugs", released November, 2010... "No Strings Attached", released January 2011... and "Friends With Benefits", released July 2011...

And here's how I rank 'em...

My Least Favorite of the Three:

Here's the thing... you have to like Natalie Portman, and you really have
to like Ashton Kutcher to enjoy this film fully
"No Strings Attached"
Directed by: Ivan Reitman ("Ghost Busters", "Twins", "Six Days Seven Nights")
Domestic Gross: $70,662,220
Rotten Tomotoes Rating: 49% on the Tomato Meter
The Guy: Ashton Kutcher, playing Adam, a TV production assistant
The Chick: Natalie Portman, playing Emma, a resident at a local hospital with commitment issues
Disease Involved:  None
Wacky Friend/Parent:  Adam's dad (Kevin Kline) and all of Emma's roommates
Rating:  R for language and sex.
Plot:  Two people who have busy, complicated lives meet up, have sex and agree that they should only do that, to the point where they make up rules to keep out emotion. But of course, one of them develops feelings for the other, only to find out the other has feelings to but is scared because of their past issues.
My Thoughts:  This wasn't a bad movie, really, but there was nothing special about it.  There doesn't seem to be much chemistry at all between Natalie and Ashton, and although all of these movies are predictable, this one is moreso. 

My Second Favorite of the Three:

Jake and Anne, in one of her rare moments with a shirt on
"Love and Other Drugs"
Directed by: Edward Zwick ("Glory", "The Last Samarai", "Legends of the Fall")
Domestic Gross: $32,367005
Rotten Tomotoes Rating:  48% on the Tomato Meter
The Guy: Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays Jamie Randell, a drug rep who sells Viagra as soon as its available
The Chick: Anne Hathaway, who plays Maggie Murdock, a senior citizen worker
Disease Involved:  Parkinson's Disease
Wacky Family Member/Friend: Josh, Jamie's boorish and lazy brother
Rating:  R, for lots and lots of Anne's boobies, plus language.  And sex.
Plot:  Two people who have busy, complicated lives meet up, have sex and agree that they should only do that, to the point where they make up rules to keep out emotion.  But of course, one of them develops feelings for the other, only to find out the other has feelings to but is scared because of their past issues.
My Thoughts:  The problem to me is that I truly like Anne Hathaway, but I'm not a huge Jake Gyllenhaal fan.  So while I could give Anne a 7 out of 10, I could only give Jake a 3 out of 10, averaging a 5.  The film does, however, have Judy Greer, who I'm a huge fan of, and she's a 8 out of 10, so that bumps it up to about 6.  The script is fun, and her dealing with Parkinson's Disease was something I didn't know about, and certainly didn't expect it to play a big of a role as it did.  There are way too many boob shots in this movie--almost like Anne Hathaway wanted to show off as much as possible. 

And Finally, My Favorite of the Three:

Its hard not to like Justin Timberlake, and Mila Kunis has
really grown on me, especially since "The Book of Eli"
"Friends With Benefits"
Directed by:  Will Gluck ("Easy A")
Domestic Gross: $38,200,000 (still in theaters)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating:  68% on the Tomato Meter
The Guy: Justin Timberlake, who plays Dylan Harper, an internet art director
The Chick: Mila Kunis, who plays Jamie Rexler, an executive recruiter in NYC
Disease Involved:  Alzheimers
Wacky Family Member/Friend:  Patricia Clarkson as Jamie's kooky mom;  Woody Harrelson as Dylan's gay, wacky sports director
Rating:  R, for language. No nudity except for butt shots.  Oh, and sex.
Plot:  Two people who have busy, complicated lives meet up, have sex and agree that they should only do that, to the point where they make up rules to keep out emotion. But of course, one of them develops feelings for the other, only to find out the other has feelings to but is scared because of their past issues.
My Thoughts:  In my own (un)humble opinion, the far superior of the three films.  The script is funny and light, and more real than the rest (the hilarity of the first hook up is a great example), the jokes are funny, and there is great on-screen chemistry between Mila and JT.  You end up liking both characters a lot, and by the time you find out Dylan's story--father with the beginning stages of Alzheimers--it doesn't feel like a ploy to get you to like him because you already do.  Jenna Elfman shows up as Dylan's sister and plays the part great (and cameos from Emma Stone, Andy Sandburg, Rashida Jones and Jason Segel are great too) and the whole romance is entirely believable this time around.  I liked this film alot, and will probably be the only one of the three to appear on The 100 Coolest Things of 2011... I asked The Lovely Steph Leann which of the three she would watch again, and she agreed that this one would be it. 

So there you have it... skip "No Strings Attached"... catch "Love and Other Drugs" if its around, but know the boobies are there... rent "Friends With Benefits"

The Summer of Blogging Day Forty Nine

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Crazy Smart Movie

Tonight, we went to see "Crazy Stupid Love".  And here's the review...

This was s movie that I wasn't really looking to see, but the combo of very positive reviews and The Lovely Steph Leann insisting that we should see it gave me a little more excitement about it.  Starring Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone and Julianne Moore, its a story of love, broken heartedness, the rash things we do when things aren't good and crushes at a young age.

Carell plays Cal Weaver, who's world falls apart when his wife Emily (Moore) reveals she had an affair and now wants a divorce.  He finds his way into a bar and is noticed by Jacob (Gosling), a ladies man with all the tricks and moves... Jacob hears the sad story and in turn takes the older Cal under his wing to train him in the ways of mack-dom.  It works, because he ends up hooking up with lonely teacher Kate (I love me some Marisa Tomei), but one-night stands aren't always the best way to move-on in a heartbreak. 
While Emily tearfully discusses the break up of their marriage, Cal
goes on and on about care of the yard... to prevent a breakdown
Complicating matters are the fact that the guy that Emily cheated with, David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon in his smarmy best) is chasing Emily relentlessly... Robbie Weaver, the 13 year old son, is in absolute love with Jessica, the babysitter... and Jessica, 17, is in absolute love with...well, Cal.  Yes, Cal.  Oh, and this is in the previews, so I'm not ruining anything, Jacob's player ways and player days come to and end when he meets Hannah (Emma Stone), who he calls "a game changer".   Actually, as the movie went on, I was almost afraid of hitting "Hitch" territory--not a bad movie at all, but the "Mack daddy teaches the schlub to get the girl, and ends up falling for a girl of his own" plot line just wouldn't have worked in that way in the movie.

The film progresses and Cal's life goes from bad to worse, Robbie's crush gets deeper, Jessica's crush on Cal gets even deeper and weirder, Kate doesn't take the one-night stand as easily as Cal wanted her too, Emily can't shake David Lindhagen, Jacob is bewildered by how much he likes--loves--Hannah... and the lives intersect one after another.

By the time it gets to the windmill scene towards the end, there's a little twist that not only did we not see coming, that we didn't even see the path that it could come until after the movie and we thought, "Oh yeah... that makes sense..."   And when the climax of the movie rolls around, during Robbie's 8th grade graduation, it is just about perfect. 
I don't think I knew Ryan Gosling was as good as he is... and Emma
Stone is great too
"Crazy Stupid Love" was not only a great film, it was one that we ended up talking about over dinner an hour later.  Discussing characters, discussing plot points, discussing the movie as a whole, because it made us want to discuss it--it make me personally want to see more.  At just under 2 hours, I didn't feel like it was long enough, I could have seen another 30 minutes or more. 

All leads--Carell, Stone, Moore and Gosling--are just about perfect in their parts, newcomer Analeigh Tipton does a solid job as jealous Jessica, and Jonah Bobo does a brilliant job as awkward, lovelorn Robbie.  The meeting, and subsequent standoff between Robbie, the 13 year old son, and David Lindhagen, the man who busted up the Weaver marriage, is hilarious and heartfelt.

What I liked so much about this film was that it seemed real.  Yes, Cal Weaver is jilted, but watch how Emily reacts when she finds out about (in the worst possible way) he and Kate's random hookup... and even though the big rumble at the windmill (you'll know what I'm talking about) is almost over the top, it still work

The screenplay can be a little tedious at times, and the jokes can be a little corny and out of place, but we both laughed heartily at all the right places, and recognized the emotions of a family falling apart.

While far from the perfect movie, "Crazy Stupid Love" is one of the better romantic comedies that I've seen in a long, long time.  Its funny and warm and emotional and silly and adult and smart. 

Its a love story.  Its a little crazy, but its far from stupid... it's smart.  Smart is a good word for it.

The Summer of Blogging Day Forty Eight

Friday, July 29, 2011

iPhone, We Have a Problem

The first step is admitting you have a problem... crap. 

Great article from from Elizabeth Cohen..

There I was at a long-awaited dinner with friends Saturday night, when in the midst of our chatting, I watched my right hand sneaking away from my side to grab my phone sitting on the table to check my e-mail.
"What am I doing?" I thought to myself. "I'm here with my friends, and I don't need to be checking e-mail on a Saturday night."

The part that freaked me out was that I hadn't told my hand to reach out for the phone. It seemed to be doing it all on its own. I wondered what was wrong with me until I read a recent study in the journal Personal and Ubiquitous Computing that showed I'm hardly alone. In fact, my problem seems to be ubiquitous.

The authors found smartphone users have developed what they call "checking habits" -- repetitive checks of e-mail and other applications such as Facebook. The checks typically lasted less than 30 seconds and were often done within 10 minutes of each other.

On average, the study subjects checked their phones 34 times a day, not necessarily because they really needed to check them that many times, but because it had become a habit or compulsion.

"It's extremely common, and very hard to avoid," says Loren Frank, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco. "We don't even consciously realize we're doing it -- it's an unconscious behavior."

Why we constantly check our phones

Earlier this year, Frank started to realize that he, too, was habitually checking his smartphone over and over without even thinking about it. When he sat down to figure out why, he realized it was an unconscious, two-step process.

First, his brain liked the feeling when he received an e-mail. It was something new, and it often was something nice: a note from a colleague complimenting his work or a request from a journalist for help with a story.

"Each time you get an e-mail, it's a small jolt, a positive feedback that you're an important person," he says. "It's a little bit of an addiction in that way."

Once the brain becomes accustomed to this positive feedback, reaching out for the phone becomes an automatic action you don't even think about consciously, Frank says. Instead, the urge to check lives in the striatum, a part of the brain that governs habitual actions.

The cost of constant checking

For Frank, constant checking stressed him out and really annoyed his wife.

Dr. Adam Gazzaley, a neurologist at UCSF, sees another cost: Whenever you take a break from what you're doing to unnecessarily check your e-mail, studies show, it's hard to go back to your original task.

"You really pay a price," he says.

Habitually checking can also become a way for you to avoid interacting with people or avoid doing the things you really need to be doing.

"People don't like thinking hard," says Clifford Nass, a professor of communication and computer science at Stanford University. Constantly consulting your smartphone, he says, "is an attempt to not have to think hard, but feel like you're doing something."

How to know if you're a habitual checker

1. You check your e-mail more than you need to.

Sometimes you're in the middle of an intense project at work and you really do need to check your e-mail constantly. But be honest with yourself -- if that's not the case, your constant checking might be a habit, not a conscious choice.

2. You're annoying other people.

If, like Frank, you're ticking off the people closest to you, it's time to take a look at your smartphone habits.

"If you hear 'put the phone away' more than once a day, you probably have a problem," says Lisa Merlo, a psychologist at the University of Florida.

3. The thought of not checking makes you break out in a cold sweat.

Try this experiment: Put your phone away for an hour. If you get itchy during that time, you might be a habitual checker.

How to get rid of your checking habit

1. Acknowledge you have a problem.

It may sound AA-ish, but acknowledging that you're unnecessarily checking your phone -- and that there are repercussions to doing so -- is the first step toward breaking the habit.

"We can be conscious of the habit of checking. We can unlearn its habits," says Sherry Turkle, a psychologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self.

2. Have smartphone-free times.

See if you can stay away from your phone for a few hours. If that makes you too nervous, start off with just 10 minutes, Merlo suggests. You actually don't have to stay away from your phone altogether -- you can just turn the e-mail function off (or Facebook or whatever you're habitually checking).

3. Have smartphone-free places.

You can also establish phone-free zones, which is what Frank did to cure his smartphone habit.

"The first thing I did was banish it from the bedroom," he says. "I would have to walk down the hallway to my study to actually be able to see it."

You could also force yourself to stop checking when you're in a social situation, like out to dinner with friends. (Last Saturday night, I shoved my phone way down into my purse where I couldn't see it).

Joanna Lipari, a psychologist who practices in California, uses this strategy when her teenage daughter has friends over.

"I have a rule. Like the Old Wild West which had you check your gun at the saloon entrance, I have a basket by the door, and the kids have to check their phones in the basket," she says. Otherwise, she says, the kids would stare at their phones and not interact with one another.

The Summer of Blogging Day Forty Seven

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Captain America Does His Duty

Chris Evans (l) as the title character, greeing a fawning Hayley Atwell (r)
Sometimes you have high expectations for movies, movies that you cannot imagine not blowing you away, which is dangerous because if its not good, nay, great, you feel underwhelmed..  "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" is a great example of the former, and "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" is a big example of the latter.

Comic book movies are even more so... for every "Spider Man 2", you have a "Spider Man 3" as well as "Green Lantern".  For every "X2: X-Men United", you have a dozen "Elektras"... so I've learned over the years to not raise my expectations too high when it comes to putting Marvel--and especially DC--on the screen.  "Thor" was a pleasant surprise"Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" was not. 

So when "Captain America: The First Avenger" was announced, I had some reservations.   It had to be good, because not only was it the final set-up before "The Avengers" movie came out in May of 2012, but also as it followed some great successes like both Iron Man movies (and yes, I liked them both) and Thor.

The movie starts with the familiar Marvel opening (the animated flipping pages) but now a Disney graphic as well, which is a little weird, and anyone who knows anything about Captain America knows right from the first scene how this movie will eventually end.  I won't spoil it here, in case you truly have no clue, but it's almost as known as the Superman lore of coming from Krypton.

Quickly, though, the movie moves to the early 40s, in the height of the US' involvment in World War II, and we see a young Steve Rogers trying desperately to get into the Army.  He wants to serve his country so, so badly, and it is even worse when he sees his best friend Bucky Barnes get taken and go overseas.

So when Stanley Tucci shows up and tells him to volunteer for an expiramental program that the military is developing, one that will counteract Hitler's science program called Hydra, Steve Rogers immediately jumps on board.  Hydra is being led by Johann Schmidt, and he's captured a mysterious cube full of energy which has allowed the Nazis to create a super weapon. 

Of course, Steve Rogers becomes Captain America, but to do so, he has to go through the expiramental program, which he does, develops a love interest, SSR Peggy Carter (played wonderfully by Hayley Atwell), clashes and follows Col. Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones, who just eats up the screen with this type of character), and of course, The Tuch.   The Lovely Steph Leann and I love The Tuch.
Neal McDonough as Dum Dum, looking alot like the character in the
comic books.
And, of course Cap becomes a hero in the war, but not before he takes the long way around, in a scene that I didn't expect yet found hilarious and fitting to the story.  Cap also collects a band of soldiers to go into battle with him, including Dum Dum Dugan (That Guy Neal McDonough in a really-grown handlebar mustache and bowler hat) and Gabe Jones (Derek Luke, the Biker Boyz Boy himself).  And at some point, you know Cap and Johann Schmidt--more commonly known as The Red Skull--will go toe to toe in the climax.

My thoughts on the film?  Absolutely fantastic.

First, the story itself is solid.  It does veer into camp-territory at times, but its purposeful and light when it does.  The jokes aren't hokey or corny, except when they are, and when they are, its an homage to the comics.

Secondly, there are lots of references to the comic and its lore.  Everything from Tony Stark's father Howard being a major player in the development of the serum to the program itself--Captain America is actually Weapon I... for a point of reference, Wolvering is Weapon X, the tenth in the line of expiraments trying to make a super soldier. 

Forget Elrond the Elf King Guy... Hugo is best when he's a bad boy
Hugo Weaving is such a good bad guy too... borrowing his sneer from The Matrix, he's completely believable as a crazy, crazy guy wanting to take over the world, and the "cosmic cube" he finds is going to help him do it--if you saw "Thor", and stayed for the credits, thats the same cube that makes an appearance in the extra scene.

Finally, Chris Evans does his triple duty in comic book filmdom... first, he was The Human Torch in both the good Fantastic Four movie (the first one) and the bad Fantastic Four movie (the second one), and then last year's not great, yet still enjoyable "The Losers", and here, he's just great as Steve Rogers.  Scrawny at first, then bulking up to fill the costume and be the hero, he is great as someone who knows what its like to be powerless, which gives him the respect for the power he gains.  Word is that the F/X people couldn't replicate Chris Evans' movements via CGI, so they just filmed him, then shrunk his body on screen.  They used green screen to fill in the backgrounds where his body used to be before it was shrunk.

Its a little over 2 hours long, and its wall to wall fun, with very little language and the violence runs along the lines of comic-book-violence only.  As in, would I let a 3 year old Campbell Isaiah see this movie?  No.  Would I let a 7 year old Campbell Isaiah see this movie?  Probably.  Cause it rules.

Don't forget to stay through the credits, because there is the obligatory extra scene... and this one is a doozy... it's the actual "The Avengers" trailer for the May 2012 film.   I thought I was going to pee myself when I saw Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark talk to Thor, with The Black Widow in the background, Hawkeye with his bow and arrow and Captain America with his shield.

Loved it.  Saw it in 2D, wouldn't recommend 3D unless you are just jonesing to pay the extra.

ps... do not... I repeat, DO NOT, watch the 1990 "Captain America" film.  Its awful.  Its terrible.  And I don't mean bad like, "its so bad its awesome", or bad like "guilty pleasure" or even bad like "its so bad its craptacular", I mean "bad because its terrible".  You have been warned.

The Summer of Blogging Day Forty Six

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Attics and Temples

Rich Mullins was one of the most gifted, Godly men I had ever had the chance to know about.  I’d never met him, yet I feel when I see him at Home, we’ll just start chatting about everything.  I hold his music close to my heart and use the lyrics for prayers sometimes.  He wrote a column in a quarterly magazine for several years, and after his death in September 1997, the magazine published a book featuring all of his articles.  This is one of those that I felt as if you should know about.

 Attics and Temples

 My new apartment is in the attic of Jim and Megan's house. 

Its a big old one roomer with a mind of its own, a cacophony of lines that occur at 45 and 90 degree angles, with floors that redefine "level".  This  attic has its own idea of what "square" means, its studs have their own interpretation of the classic 24-inch center.

Right now, the whole thing is about two weeks away from being much more than a lot of potential, right now its resistant to change, openly hostile to  what my ideas of what it ought to be.  I am--with the help of some friends,  a hammer, a saw, some nails and a wrecking bar--enlightening it, changing its look, convincing it that it is not merely ugly, but is a space full of promise  and beauty and order and life.

I suspect that is wants to cooperate, but its hard and I must be patient.   Whoever it was that shaped the attic before me did so with some pretty  big nails, deep cuts, hard hammers and rough saws.  They considered  the attic to be wasted space, storage space, a distance between a roof and a ceiling, and nothing more.  They slopped over the walls with  cheap, nasty paneling, covering the floors with ugly carpet.

Sometimes in the heat of my toil labor, I give in to fits of selfish rage,  which is really frustration over my lack of skill than the progress of the apartment. But late at night, when I look over the piles of dust and dry wall and knee deep debris that remain during this reconstructive effort, I am strangely moved by the place, and I proclaim the Gospel to it softly.  I say, "Attic, I know how it hurts to be torn up.  I am often choked on the litter left by my own remodeling.  I know what its like to settle (by the act of strong will) into the despair of believing you are nothing more than wasted space. 

"I felt the blows of heavy hammers that nailed me to a sense of uselessness.  I have been shaped by some pretty careless workers who came to the task of making me and lacked any craftsmanship or artistry.  I know the pain of wanting to be changed, and yet being distrustful of changes, of wanting to be worked on, but being suspicious of the intentions of the Worker. 

“But here is some good news, my Attic friend... (and anyone out there who feels like this, including me : ) ....  He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  However messy it may be now, however confusing and scary it appears, however endless the task may seem, we will some day be so glorious, beautiful, alive! 

“There is much tearing out to do, a lot to give up.  No thin coat of new paint, no shallow, petty cover up will do. Its not good enough to cover up imperfection, it must be corrected.   Art, beauty, function...  these things take time.  They may take 'til the day of Christ Jesus."

We are not wasted space.  We are temples of a being far greater than ourselves, temples being built to be inhabited and brought to life.  Though we may not understand the process, our Rebuilder does.  We are His workmanship and the place where He lives.  Little Attic, do not despair.  I'm being made by a Master Carpenter, and I'm learning a little about building too.  Essay written by Rich Mullins, Sept 1993

I read this just tonight, for the first time in a while.  Its amazing how God will direct you to certain things that you need to read/hear at exactly the point that you need to read/hear it.

The Summer of Blogging Day Forty Five

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Potential Awesomeness of Death By Misadventure

Aaaaaand.... we're back.
Been a somewhat relaxing weekend, taking a break from most things computer and interwebby, and though I probably could have blogged about four times, I thought I'd leave it til today... watched a ton of movies this weekend, both at the theater, on television, on DVR and on DVD/Blu-Ray, so I'll do my best to shoot through that soon enough.

What else have we got to talk about?  Well, for starters, there's the remaining 40 Coolest Things of 2010, and now that it's almost August, meaning the year is about 60% over, I'm running a bit late on that.  I blame Idol.  Typically, the goal is to have all 100 listed in January, but with American Idol coverage, that's 2 to 3 posts per week, and its just exhausting.  And if I miss one single Idol update, I automatically hear from Brad Latta, the Clouds in My Coffee Ombudsman, with great vengeance and furious anger. 

And there is not only one Disney trip to deal with, from February, there is a Disneyland trip!  And a billion people... okay, maybe not a billion, maybe more like six.  Or eight... have asked me "which do you like better, World or Land?" and its a question that definitely deserves an answer.

Of course, Amy Winehouse died.  Is it sad that... well, I don't really care that much.  I guess I should--perhaps apathy is more dangerous than a hatred, but I'm just being honest.  Wasn't a fan of her music, really, and its to no one's surprise that Amy was found dead.  At 27.  Though, and please excuse me if I cross the "too soon" line, but I'm not sure she deserves to be added to the infamous 27 Club, along side Hendrix, Joplin, Cobain, Morrison and Rolling Stones co-founder Brian Jones.   We still remember those names decades later... in fifteen years, I doubt anyone will remember Winehouse with the same kind of reverence... perhaps she'll be listed alongside those other other names that died at 27, like Fat Pat the rapper and Kristen Pfaff from Hole. 

Not to diminish Amy Winehouse's death... its a tragic thing.  And I'm... well, I could say fearful, but that's not the right word... maybe more of "concerned" or "curious" that someone like Lindsay Lohan is headed down the same path. 

By the way, Brian Jones died in 1969 of drowning in a swimming pool.  His coroner's report literally stated, "cause of death by misadventure".  I have no idea if drugs were involved for sure, though the report went on to say that his liver and heart were enlarged by drug and alcohol abuse.  But take the drugs and booze part out, how great would it be to live a full life, then die at 82 with your coroner's report saying, "Death by misadventure"?   Awesome. 

Three potentially awesome ways to die by misadventure... (1) Not securing your lap bar on a coaster, one that flies off the track when coming down the steepest hill... (2) Texting and driving around Talladega Motor Speedway at 188 miles per hour... (3) Simply participating in The Running of the Bulls.

Didn't say any of them were smart.  Just misadventurous.

And as the fall goes on, I guess there will be more and more mentions of Campbell's or Lorelei's impending arrival.  The Lovely Steph Leann is just over 20 weeks, and that constant state of nausea has gone away just to be replaced with a constant state of heartburn.  I feel bad for her, as I sit and watch "A Fistful of Dollars" on The Movie Channel (like I'm doing now). 

Randomly, we sometimes look at each other and I'll say, "Holy crap.  There's going to be a person who calls you mommy and me daddy.  Dear God, how frightening is that?" and she hangs her head in acknowledgement and shame.  I mean, I can barely be responsible for my own self, much less some runt that is depending on me for food and shelter and clothes.  But man, the tax breaks!   When I suggested holding that kid in until January 1st, so I'd be able to get through the holidays without missing work, she said, "No way!  We need it for the tax write off for 2011!"  That's her, always thinking.

Speaking of "A Fistful of Dollars", its been on my DVR for something like, six months.  Its part of the "Dollars Trilogy" from the 60s, which also contains "For A Few Dollars More" and "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly", all starring Clint Eastwood, and all considered the most popular of the "Spaghetti Westerns"--essentially, westerns made by Italians back in the day, known for their music and style and such... check out the Wiki page on it if you want more.

Anyway, the movie isn't bad.  Don't misunderstand me--its not for everyone... if you don't like westerns, and certainly if you don't like Clint, you won't like this at all. 

That being said, Clint Eastwood is as cool as a cucumber, with his poncho and his low hat and his cheap rolled cigar in his mouth, as he plays "The Stranger", or "The Man With No Name"--he is actually called "Joe" late in the film, in a pay-attention-or-you-will-miss-it moment.  The Stranger rides into San Miguel, this little Mexican border town, and ends up in the middle of a gang war over ownership of the town.  Because he's apparently a capitalist, he actually ends up playing both sides against each other, taking money from each for various reasons and tasks.  Of course, the good guy in The Stranger ends up taking over for the greedy guy in The Stranger, and a pretty intense duel happens between he and the bad guys. 

What sets this movie apart from most of those 60s westerns is the music, which is full of flutes and violins and catchy riffs, the style, which is everything from the color to the scenery to the script, and the story itself... the bad guys are only bad because they don't like each other, while the good guy isn't all that great... 

This isn't a film I'll watch over and over, or maybe not even again, and I don't know that I would consider this in my Top 500 films of all time--and yes, that list does exist--but I'm glad I watched it.  Its enough to make me check out the next two in the trilogy.

Boy, that post went everywhere, didn't it?

The Summer of Blogging Day Forty Four

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summer Vacay

Time for a few days break!  Got some chores around the house to do, some stuff to write up and some Roller Coaster Tycoon to play... well, maybe not that last one, but I do have chores and writing.  And movies to watch. 

So, The Summer of Blogging is on vacay until Tuesday!   And then, we finish the rest of the summer strong....

See you then.

Darn You, Zuckerberg!

So, got a few messages on my Facebook wall that said something to the effect of, "Your blog took up my entire Wall!", followed by a text from my buddy Mikey that said, "Dude, someone hacked into your FB account."

I have my blog imported into Facebook.  And the way its supposed to work is that when I post something on Clouds in My Coffee, a few days later, maybe the next day, maybe later that day, Facebook imports it over.  Now, videos don't come along, and sometimes pictures are skewered, but otherwise, its not a bad system. 

There are a lot of people who read this blog via Facebook, so it's a great system... until it isn't.

This has happened once before, and apparently it happened again... Facebook doesn't import them as I write them.  Its like their systems wait a few weeks and then bring over a dozen or more all at once.  For anyone who "likes" the site on Facebook, this is definately something that might make you "unlike" it... I know I'd be annoyed by it.

So, if this happened to you, I offer my apologies, and will tell you its not my fault... its Facebook! 

Darn you, Mark Zuckerberg!

I would keep going, but not only am I sleepy, but "Road House" is on MGM HD, and my attention is now drawn elsewhere...

The Summer of Blogging Day Forty Two

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Everybody's Free to Have a Quiet Time

So, sometimes when I am looking for something blog and I know I have to not only be up in about 7 hours for work, meaning I'll need to be in bed in an hour or so... and so tonight, I found this little gem.  Well, to me its a gem, to you it might just be something to skim on your daily check of Clouds in My Coffee

...which I've noticed I'm getting alot of traffic daily, probably due to The Summer of Blogging--so... thank you so much...

...anyway, its the lyrics to a version of "Everyone's Free to Wear Sunscreen", done by Baz Luhrmann from 1999. 

It originated in 1997, when Mary Schmich of the Chicago Tribune wrote a column entitled "Advice, Like Youth, Probably Just Wasted on the Young".  She described it as "a commencement speech, were I asked to give one".   Over the years, it has been erroneously attributed to Kurt Vonnegat, though it became truly famous when, in 1999, Australian film director Baz Luhrmann used the entire essay in a spoken word song entitled "Wear Sunscreen". 

And by 2000, this song was everywhere.  So, on January 9th, 2001, I did my own version.  And I thought I'd give it to you...


Ladies and gentlemen of The Deuce... read scripture.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, a daily quiet time would be it.  The long term benefits of The Word has been proven time after time by God and joy in your life that comes with Him, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.

I will dispense this advice...

Enjoy the power and beauty of The Deuce.  Oh, never mind, you will never understand the power and beauty of The Deuce until it has disbanded.   But trust me, in twenty years, you will look back at photos of Deuce Christmas and an old DeuceFest shirt and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much fun you had and how fabulous the Deuce guys really looked.

They are not as lazy as you might think.

Don't worry about the future or worry, but know that worrying is as ineffective as McLeod trying to be entertained by watching Jason Takes Manhatten.  The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that has a Mercedes blindsiding your insuranceless car at 10:30pm on a random Tuesday.

Bring one new person to Common Ground, even if it scares you.

If you are Stephanie Campbell, sing.  Unless you are Rebecca Glassco.  Then act.

Don't be reckless with other people's hearts, don't put up with Delta Zetas who are reckless with yours.

Use coasters.

Don't waste your time on jealousy... if she likes you, great, if she doesn't, being jealous will only turn her off of you even further.  The race is long and though you may never reach the end, enjoy the run.

Remember compliments Michael gives you, forget his insults.  If you succeed in doing this, you aren't Sarah Hasha.

Keep your old movie tickets.  Throw away any bills.


Don't feel guilty if you don't know what to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 20 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 25 year olds I know still don't.

Get plenty of Hamburger Helper.

Be kind to the Nipp family... you'll miss Sunday lunch when its gone.

Maybe you'll get a date, maybe you won't.  Maybe you'll go out twice, maybe you won't.  Maybe you'll go stag at Deuce Date Party, maybe you'll eat cheese fries on your 2nd anniversary.

Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, dont berate yourself to much either.

God's will is going to happen, whether you like it or not.

Enjoy the Deuce.  Visit every chance you can, don't be afraid of it or what other people think of it.  It has some of the greatest fellowship you'll ever know.

Watch the History Channel at least once a week, even if there are others things on.

Don't worry about the directions, just shove them behind the DVDS.

Do not read Shawn's Better Homes and Gardens, it will only make you feel gay.

Get to know Factor 7's music.  You'll never know when they'll break up for good.

Be nice to your roommates.  They are the best link to paying rent on time, and the people most likely to stick with you when everyone else won't.

Understand that friends come and go, but a precious few you should hold on to. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and gender, for as the older you get, the more you'll need somewhere to go and just relax.

Visit Hunter Street once, but leave before it makes you hard.

Visit Brookhills once, but leave before it makes you soft.

Accept certain inaliable truths... Daniel will have his palm pilot,  and Ty Coffey will own Samford and Mike Williams will try to date Rebecca.  When you get older, you'll fantacize that when you young, Daniel used an ink pen, Mike was meeting girls at Ropers and Ty was merely a Senator.

Respect Wookiee, Sybil and Jimmy, for they are your elders.

Don't expect anyone else to pay your bills.

Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you'll have a loaded roommate, but you'll never know when either one will run out.

Don't mess too much with your hair, or by the time you are 40 you will look like you are a minister at Valleydale.

Be careful where you buy your used cds and movies, but be patient with those who supply them. 

Know that advice is a form of nostalgia.  Dispensing it is a way of sharing your opinions without seeming like you are telling the other person what to do.  Usually its recycled advice spoken for more than its worth.

But trust me on the quiet time.

The Summer of Blogging Day Forty One

Monday, July 18, 2011

Coffee Ground Dumpster Diving

So dig this vibe...

Sunday morning, I'm working at Starbucks, right, and I'm doing my thing and gettin' the coffee made and supporting Tampa Jay on the bar there and Melanie and Lizzy Bean and The Pitz, all working behind the counter and such...

I'm getting a sandwich or something, maybe getting a pastry and I see this short, stocky, somewhat older woman come in the door and head straight for me.  She reaches the end of the counter and just stops and stare at me.

Now, its important to note that The Bux keeps coffee grounds for its customers.  After a pot of coffee is brewed, before we brew a fresh pot, we dump the filter and grounds into a small garbage can at the end of our bar counter. When that bag is full, we take it and set it outside for customers to grab for free.  People use these grounds and the bio-degradable filters in their own gardens, and the acidity in the used grounds help fertilize and provide nutrition for flowers in a garden... it will even make your hydrangeas purple!

However, we cannot put more than one bag of grounds outside in our bucket at a time... so if someone snatches that bag, the bucket is empty until we have more grounds to put out--and these bags can be upwards of 20, 30, maybe 40 pounds. 

And it was about 30 minutes before our customer in question came in that I had thrown out a huge bag of grounds. 

She asked me about getting some grounds, I politely informed her that I had, within the last 45 minutes, thrown away the grounds we had, but I advised her to check the bucket outside.  She said she'd already seen that the bucket outside was empty, and I essentially told her that it was unfortunate, but check back later.

Crazy Coffee Lady:  So, you threw out the coffee grounds?
Me:  Yes ma'am, the can was full, and we aren't allowed to pile up the bags outside, so I had to throw it out.
Crazy Coffee Lady:  And the bag went in the dumpster?
Me:  Yes ma'am

It was about here that I was working on a breakaway statement that will allow me to not only end this dialogue,but also get back to my work and also allow me to shush the others who are cracking up at the end of the counter.

Crazy Coffee Lady:  Where are your newspapers?  The old ones?

To set this part of the conversation up, know that our condiment bar is next to the door, and next to it sits a small basket where newspapers tend to just pile up until someone--usually I--come along and toss them.  Today, however, there were no newspapers to be had. 

Crazy Coffee Lady:  They are gone.  Usually they are in the basket.
Me:  Yes ma'am, but it looks like they have been thrown away as well.   Sorry about that.

Then, here's where the conversation went off the rails.

Crazy Coffee Lady:  Where is the dumpster?
Me (pausing):  Um... its outside in the back.
Crazy Coffee Lady:  Would you mind if I went there and got them out?
Me (pausing again):  Um... sure.  Knock yourself out. 
Crazy Coffee Lady:  Think the newspapers are in there?
Me:  I'll be honest... I have no idea.  They weren't here when I got here, so they might have gone out this morning or last night. 
Crazy Coffee Lady:  Can you maybe come out and unlock it for me?
Me:  Oh, there is no lock, just open the door.
Crazy Coffee Lady:  I love putting the grounds in my garden, it really helps my flowers and keeps out the weeds, and the newspapers do the same think, keeping out the weeds, and I like the Sunday paper because I like the coupons, I cut them out and send them to my daughter who is in South Dakota, you know she's paying off her bills and so she really likes the coupons and...
Me (cutting her off as nicely as possible):  Yes ma'am, I understand.
Crazy Coffee Lady:  Do you think one of you could come out there and help me out?
Me (quickly): No ma'am, we are far too busy to assist in that, I'm sorry
Crazy Coffee Lady:  Well, could you come unlock the dumpster area?
Me:  There's no lock, I promise.  Just go around the other side, and open the doors.
Crazy Coffee Lady:  Are you sure there isn't a lock on it?

What I'm thinking... Lady, I take out the garbage at this store about 10 to 12 times per week at this store, I promise you there is no lock anywhere around that dumpster shed, because even though I'm a little dense at times and tend to forget things and sometimes I'm not very observant, I promise you I would have, at some point, noticed a lock and/or some form of locking mechanism disallowing the entrance into said dumpster shed.

What I said:  I promise you there is no lock on it.  Go ahead.

She turned around and headed out the door.  The baristas behind the counter then proceeded to observe how crazy this entire conversation had been.   We all glanced out the window to see if the woman went to the dumpster, and sure enough, we saw her car pull around to the other side.

Twenty minutes later, here comes Crazy Coffee Lady, who proudly told me, "I got TWO bags out of there, and found a bunch of coupons in the newspapers!" 

Me:  Um... that's... that's awesome! 

Which means that not only did she climb into our dumpster to retrieve a 25 pound bag of coffee grounds that I had tossed, she also managed to find an equally as heavy bag that had been thrown away probably the night before, which means it was not only IN the dumpster, but UNDER a ton of bags... AND she managed to pull out a stack of newspapers which was also BURIED under a bunch of bags.

That is a need for grounds that I'll never hopefully have... 

The Summer of Blogging Day Forty

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Twas a Sunday

So, while I sit here watching Holmes on Homes... well, let's be clear, I'm not watching it, I'd rather be watching "Hoarders", but its on, The Lovely Steph Leann has the remote and even though she doesn't want to turn it, she keeps dozing off.  Somehow, her condition now encompasses control of what we watch... like, we watched the last half of a Twilight movie, and the first half of the next one the other night.  I threw up in my mouth a few times, especially when Jacob took his shirt off... which was about 98% of the parts that I saw.

I would be totally afraid of Holmes coming to The Cabana.  Yes, its a home only about three years old, but still...

Update!  She just gave me the remote!  I turned it to "Hoarders".  Its the episode that we almost watched a week ago, but she made me turn it because the family in question has mice in their home.  We'll see if she puts up with this one.

When I want to make myself feel better about our living conditions, I watch "Hoarders".  We tend to keep stuff longer than we should.  But our home, like most others, is just cluttered.  Not packed and disgusting.  So I take solace.


I got to see "Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 2" again today.  The Lovely Steph Leann had not seen it, nor had other members of the family like Bro-in-Law Randy and Niece Maddie. 


"How Do You Know" (2010)
Reese Witherspoon stars as Lisa, a member of an Olympic softball team who didn't make the latest cut, and is now trying to figure out "what's next"... she's dating Matty, a Washington Nationals pitcher who is a cad and a pimp daddy and a jerk and selfish and all that, played in earnest by Owen Wilson.   Enter Paul Rudd, who's character of George stumbles into Lisa's path and her life altogether. 

While Matty is doing his player thing, Lisa's life is miserable, and George has his own set of problems due to the fact he's the center of a criminal investigation at his father's company where he serves as an exec.   The father is none other than Jack Nicholson, who is giving a typical "I'm Jack, I've made a dozen classic films and this one isn't important so I'm mailing it in..." kind of performance.

Now, this movie is not nearly as bad as you might think.  Made for $120 million, though I cannot for the life of me figure out why this movie cost 120 million (I did see that the salaries for the stars took up about $55 million alone), it only made back around $35 million or so, making it a colossal bomb at the box office.

However comma I thought the movie was kinda funny.  A little overlong, but still kinda enjoyable.  It completely relies on the charm of Owen, Paul and Reese, and though their chemistry might not be as great as you'd like, its the story itself that is lacking.  You end up wanting a little more from all of it, but overall, I was glad I saw it... I guess I was prepared to hate it, and I just couldn't do it.

Wait for it on cable, or spend a buck at the Redbox or something. 


So, on this episode of "Hoarders", we are still watching the episode with the mice problem.  Its so bad, we just learned a new term for a disease that comes as a result of unattended rat droppings in the house.  The bug guy on tv said, "She thinks she's got four or five mice.  She has hundreds, maybe into the thousands." 

Not good times.  Bad times indeed.


And that's my Sunday night.  Thanks for reading. =)

The Summer of Blogging Day Thirty Nine

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Potter Finale

The time is 1:32p.  I sit now in my recliner, Investigative Discovery showing Dateline NBC on the TV.  There's a bottle of water to my left on a Mickey Mouse coaster, and Leonard Matlin's Movie Guide 2011 on the arm of the chair.  Remote to my right.  Computer in front of me.  I sit, unable to relax, unable to focus on much of anything, except for the reflection that, a half hour ago, I was watching the credits to "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" as they rolled on the screen.  A half hour and two minutes ago, I was watching the movie adaptation of the famous Epilogue in the final book of the Harry Potter series.

And now I sit and think about how absolutely, positively amazingly terrifically awesome this movie was.  Because it was all of those things.

Now, I'm not someone who just likes a movie because it has certain characters in it.  Hurricane Rhett raves about "Transformers: Rise of the Fallen", the second in the series, even though I thought it was terrible.  People tend to love "Terminator: Rise of the Machines", when I thought it was useless.  That is to say, just because its a an addition to a series I love and enjoy does not a great movie make...

...but this is a case where, as Yoda might put it, "...a great movie makes it does."

Because this movie has been out in wide release now for, oh, 12 hours or so, I'll keep any spoilers secret... if you haven't read the books, then I won't tell you anything you would find out in the movie.  If you have read the books, then I'll allude to some things that you might know if you think about it, but I won't spell it out.  Spell.  Spell?  Get it?  Harry Potter is a wizard and he... well, spells and... spells?  Never mind.

(now, if you haven't seen the last movie, I can't help you.)

Ron, Harry and Hermione outside of Shell Cottage
The movie jumps right in where the previous movie left off, with ol' Voldy jacking up Dumbledore's grave in order to get the Elder Wand.  We then see Harry on a beach, outside of Bill and Fleur Weasley's home, Shell Cottage.   Harry is leaning over a grave, one that he dug as a result of the death that happened at the end of Part 1, and he joins Hermione and Ron inside the cottage. 

For the next 20 minutes or so, you get a little exposition--Griphook the Goblin is there to discuss the plan that Harry, Ron and Hermione are working on... that is, breaking into Gringott's Bank to retrieve a hidden item from a heavily guarded vault, the vault of Bellatrix Lastrange.  The trio then move over to the room where an ailing Ollivander, the wandmaker, sits, and he talks about the secretive Elder Wand and the possibility of its existence.

Get through this little bit of conversation between the characters, and the movie takes off fast, like a dragon flying through the skies of London.   And the action comes fast and furious. 

Part 2 covers the last half of the final book, which, as we know culminates with The Battle of Hogwarts, and oh what a battle it is.  Prof. McGonagall turns into a bada** (there is no other way to put it), and Hogwarts comes alive with defenses, magic and literally an army of students, teachers and others to protect their school.

The bad guys come in full force, with Voldypoo and Bellatrix leading the charge, as Dementors and Death Eaters surround the castle.  Once the force field is broken (oh come on, that's in the previews...), it's game on.

The war covers probably the final 45 minutes to an hour of the book, but in my mind, it wasn't even long enough.  Having read "Deathly Hallows" 3 times, I remembered several little details that the movie skimmed over, and the movie has its own ideas of who should live and die.  I was actually surprised at the death of one character, thinking, "Really?  They didn't die in the book, and certainly not like that..."

And when the war is over, when its all said and done, we see that Epilogue, that five minute scene that tells you everything is good, everything is right... that tells you All is Well. 

As usual, I had a few small issues with the movie--kind of a "I didn't like that that character didn't do this, like in the book", and "We never saw them do that in the book!" and "Interesting that the movie chose to do this situation that way".  I missed seeing more of The Weasley Twins, Prof. Slughorn and others, but we get a good dose of Luna Lovegood, more Seamus Finnigan that we've gotten in a long time, and a huge dose of Neville Longbottom--as it should be.  Alan Rickman also gets to sink his claws into Severus Snape as a major player, something he had always been in the books, but not so much in most of the movies.

From the Epilogue, Ginny and her husband, with their son, Albus
Severus.  I feel bad for that kid.
But, for the first time I think in any of the Harry Potter movies, I can say with complete honesty, there are things that happen in this movie that I actually liked better than the book.  I love the series, but have always had an issue with the somewhat abrupt ending to the war, after Voldy dies (oh, come on now, you knew he would die, I'm not spoiling anything--that's like saying "Batman beats The Joker in 'The Dark Knight' ruins that movie for you...), and I feel like this movie ends a little better.  Maybe still abrupt, but not as much. 

With so much going on, your favorite characters do make appearances, but sometimes with little to no lines... The Weasley Twins speak twice.  Mr. and Mrs. Weasley have a combined three lines--and I think she says them all.  Even Hagrid only has a handful... but because this is the end, we get alot of characters that have remained AWOL during movies that didn't concern them... Percy is back.  Cho Chang is back.  Lavender Brown comes back.  Pansy Parkinson is back.  Even Goyle is back (Crabbe's absence is never explained, though in real life, the kid who played him, Jamie Waylett, was busted for drugs, so the movie's producers dropped him altogether).  According to the cast list, apparently Oliver Wood, Cormac McClaggen, one of the Patil twins and Romilda Vane appear, but I guess I missed them.  Either way, the love gets spread around to everyone.

All in all, this is the best of the Harry Potter series.  I think if you have only seen the movies, you will have a few questions and you'll find a few holes... and if you have read the book, you'll be like me, and have questions that start with, "I wonder why they did/didn't..."   However, because of the scope and size of the book, I think you will agree that they did the best that could have been done.  The screenwriter, Steve Kloves, got it right... absolutely right, and almost perfect.

And as the camera panned away from Harry and Ginny, Ron and Hermione, and the familiar music came on and credit rolled, I had only one thought...

All is well.

The Summer of Blogging Day Thirty Eight

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ranking Harry Potter

Tomorrow, at 1130am, I will be sitting in a Rave Motion Picture Theater awaiting the beginning of the commercials that will proceed the trailers that will proceed the movie "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2".  Its the end.  The last Harry Potter movie.  And much like the completion of the last book, which for me occurred about 18 hours after the 2007 summer midnight release, it will be a bittersweet occasion.

Both my darling wife and one of my best friends are Potter Fanatics, so
I really have no choice but to be the same. 
I actually am seeing it twice this weekend... the original plan was to possibly see it at midnight--but because of The Lovely Steph Leann has a real job, she can't do it.  So, we are going to see it on Sunday afternoon.  However, my dear friend Melanie invited me to come with her, Special K and The Zach Attack to see it Friday morning... after about, oh 3 seconds of deliberation, I said "YES".  I could have gone at midnight or tomorrow alone, but this one is a film you want to see with people, with fellow Harry Potter enthusiasts. 

Its the end of the era.  I was working at Carmike Cinemas at the Summit when the first movie came out, back in 2001.  I had not read the books at the time, and didn't start reading them until 2003, when the fifth novel, Order of the Phoenix had come out.  I devoured all five books released at that time in a matter of a few weeks, and have seen every movie released on opening weekend.

I even attended a Potter Party Release for the last two books, getting them both at midnight at Barnes & Noble.   Yep, I'm a Potterphile.  I said it.

The movies themselves have been hit or miss... none of them are bad, and in fact, several are great adaptations--the problem is, the books continued to get longer and longer, and that forced screenwriter Steve Kloves, who wrote all eight screen adaptations, to cut more and more out of the movie to keep them from being 7 hours long each--though to be honest, I probably would have sat through 7 hours to see Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix and especially The Half-Blood Prince to be done... well, for lack of a better word, better.

From first to last, this is how I rank the books:

1) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5)... The creation of Dumbledore's Army is awesome, plus the intense Ministry of Magic battle makes for a great final 100 pages

2) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Book 4)... The linchpin in the book series.  This is where it goes from kid books to dark books.

3) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2)... Perhaps the most underrated of the books, I really enjoy this one... the exposition is done, and its a quick read

4) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)... I do miss time at Hogwarts, but the final battle is exhilarating and yet heartbreaking at the same time.  I do have issue with the fact that once its over, we don't see The Weasley's talking to Harry... it just kind of... well, ends.

5) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Book 1)... Its where it all begins, the introduction of characters, the opening of the world that JK Rowling created.

6) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Book 3)... The introduction of Sirius, but my main issue with this one is the fact that the whole bad turn at the end could have been avoided by either Lupin or Sirius saying, "Hey Harry, listen, this is what's going on..."

7) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6)... The Lovely Steph Leann loves this book, perhaps more than any other, though I didn't like Harry being stupid at the beginning, plus all the back story part.  The Harry Kisses Ginny part really makes it worthy, though.

That's the books... as for the movies, here's how I rank the movies, from last to first.  Now, understand, like the books, just because its last doesn't mean I don't like it... its like ranking Pixar films... well, now that "Cars 2" is out, that might be a bad analogy...

...okay, its like ranking Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream.  Cherry Garcia is my definite favorite, but if you offered me some Chunky Monkey or Phish Food, I'd take it and love it.  So just because its 7th, that doesn't mean I don't enjoy it...

7) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)... there are a number of problems I have with this film, as spelled out in my letter to Steve Kloves.  The main issue, though, is the Harry/Ginny debacle--and the fact that that scene in the book is one of my two or three favorite scenes in all seven books, the way it was done can truly be described as a "debacle".   I also didn't like the Snape "I am the half blood prince" revelation towards the end... seriously?  He doesn't mention even being slightly suspicious of Harry's work the whole book and then he says it? 

Not my favorite of the movies, but it is
one of my favorite posters
6)  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)... This one would be more classified as a "Harry Potter Guilty Pleasure" film if anything.  Its remarkable how young the kids are, and the acting is a bit silly.  This is the last one Chris Columbus directed, and I'm cool with that.  Enjoyable, though, as Kenneth Branaugh's Gilderoy Lockhart is hilarious.  Also the first appearance of Dobby and Jason Isaac's brilliant Lucius Malfoy turn.

5)  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)... Everyone raves about Alfonso Cuaron's direction, and perhaps that's just because its different than the kiddie style that Chris Columbus took... it is better, I'll admit, but all the changes to the story are a little maddening.  David Thewlis is perfect as Professor Lupin, however, and is one of my favorite of the movie characters.  I still am bothered by the fact that at the end, when Ron, Hermione, Harry, Lupin and Sirius are all in the Shrieking Shack, all Lupin or Sirius has to even say is, "Okay, give me the rat, its an animangus, its actually Peter Pettigrew, I'm not going to kill Harry, I'm after Peter..." but he doesn't say that, it builds the suspense, Snape comes in, and all Ensley breaks loose.  Just seems like it could have been avoided, that's all. 

Plus... and maybe I'm in the minority here, but I liked Richard Harris' old Dumbledore over Michael Gambon's hippie Dumbledore.  Just sayin'.

4)  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)... This is where it all started.  Man, these kids look young--which, I guess they were.  Working the theater when this premiered was insane, as I had to hold back three hundred kids, moms and dads, and after the show, the theater was literally so trashed, I used a leaf blower on a backpack, started at the top and blew trash to the bottom so the lazy high school students could do their best and not work.  Great movie, though.

3)  Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)... This movie is where it sets in that in order to tell the cinematic story, they have to remove half the book.  Granted, taking out Hermione's S.P.E.W. subplot, arguably the weakest in the entire series, was great, but still, it was tough when the movie started on what was around page 110 in the book.  It was a time thing, though, and the Triwizard Tourney was awesome.  It was also great seeing Robert Pattison as Cedric Diggory, not as some gay sparkly vampire with commitment issues. 

2)  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I (2010)... Last year, I did a full recap of this movie on this here blog site, and discussed first a spoiler free, than a spoiler filled recap, though there is plenty of notice before the spoilers start.  The more I think about this addition to the series, the more I like it... here's what I wrote:

Essentially, the film version, at least Part I, of "The Deathly Hallows", is a little like a table of contents.  You see a live action snippet of each scene that is fully fleshed out in the book itself,  something is allowable because the 140 minutes of the movie covers only about 300 pages, not 500 pages.

1)  Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)... My favorite book is my favorite Harry Potter movie.  Again, its not perfect, only due to lack of time, but I think it does the best job of making the necessary cuts to the book to fit the film.   It brings to the forefront Luna Lovegood, my favorite of the movie characters, and perhaps the only character I like in the movie over the book version, and of course, Ginny Weasley, one of my favorite characters overall. 

The Ministry of Magic battle happens and it looks brilliant, with Lucius Malfoy playing a key role.  And of course, the formation of Dumbledore's Army looks better than I imagined it when I read it in the book.  If it has any weaknesses at all, its the use of Professor Umbridge... one of the key moments in the book is when she tortures Harry by making him write with an evil pen, one that etches in the back the writer's hand as they write.  Harry makes it a point to not complain, even though there is scarring by the end.  In the movie, you see Umbridge making many of the students use such a pen, and it somewhat dilutes the torture given to Harry.  Just my own thoughts.  Anyway, my favorite of the movies.

But where will "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" rank among the other films?  I'll find out in about... 12 hours. 

Oh, if you missed a movie, or have forgotten what happens, here are The Fine Brothers on YouTube recapping all seven movies in seven minutes, in one take.   By the way, all the "We have no idea!" questions are legit questions if you have only seen the movies, but answered if you have read the books... for the most part, anyway...

  (there is a bleeped out F-bomb 3:22 in)

The Summer of Blogging Day Thirty Seven