Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Top 10 Movies I Enjoyed From 2014

I know it's April, but that's usually about the time I get around to watching all the movies I wanted to see from the previous year on Blue Ray. I mean, who has the time and money to actually go see movies in theaters nowadays? I've gotta mortgage my house just to buy my kids popcorn.

At any rate, it's that time again that I share with those bored enough to care my favorite movies of the year.  You may notice that I almost always make my choices after the Academy Awards. This is because my choices are held in such high esteem, I want the actors to really appreciate them.

Now, you may notice that some of my choices do have swearing, violence and even sex in them.  Please do not judge me as a person based on the movies I like.  I like what I like and I make no apologies for it. As a service to you, my readers, in each movie, I shall list what offenses you might take from the movie, in order for you to judge for yourself it is worthy of your eyes.

At the end of the list, I will list my favorite movies from the past 3 years, just in case you were curious. I should add that there are still four movies (Selma, Unbroken, American Sniper and Wild) that I want to see from last year and I may update my list.

Without further ado, I give you my list...

(Movies I kinda liked, but were just okay.)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (R)
Iva (PG-13)

Mockingjay: Part 1 (PG-13)
Interstellar (PG-13) (I didn't understand it, but it was entertaining.)
Grand Piano (R)

#'s 21 - 11
20. Nightcrawler (R)
19. The Maze Runner (PG-13)
18. Foxcatcher (R) (I have no idea why this movie is rated R.)
17. The Good Lie (PG-13) (Liked it even with Reese Witherspoon in it.)
16. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (PG)
15. Guardians of the Galaxy (PG-13)
14. Chef (R)
13. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (PG-13)
12. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (PG-13)
11. Gone Girl (R)


10. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (PG-13) - If there is a Tolkien movie that came out during the year, it HAS to be on my top ten list.  Unfortunately, this was probably my least favorite Lord of the Rings/Hobbit movies. The two previous movies built up to this one and it is pretty much three hours of fantasy war.  Even though it was battle scene after battle scene, my sons and I were still wowed by the effects and especially by how awesome Legolas is. 
Potential offenses: Violence and the violence that does take place occurs with fictional Orcs. Unless you are a pretty big prude, there's not much to be offended by.

9. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day (PG) - I was going into this movie totally expecting to hate everything about it. So often I watch these "family comedies" and there is not one good joke in the entire thing. Quite the contrary, usually the jokes are so flat and terrible, it's hard to stomach watching the entire thing with my kids.  This movie, however, bucks that trend. I loved almost every minute. Steve Carrell is insanely funny in this movie and the jokes do not fall flat. They fall round. This one is a guilty pleasure for me, but I can honestly say that no movie made me laugh from start to finish last year more than this one.
Potential offenses: A couple slightly crude jokes. A somewhat dirty (but funny) joke by the mom. Really mild stuff.

8. The Theory of Everything (PG-13) - I was never much interested in the early life of Stephen Hawking, but this movie created an interest that wasn't there before. I was curious to see Stephen pre-illness, fine and walking and happy.  His physical spiral did not match his physical spiral which created quite a story. Eddie Redmayne deserved the best actor award.
Potential offenses: Not much, unless you are offended by seeing people have affairs. Maybe a few swear words. Oh, there is one scene with a Playboy magazine.

7. Joe (R) - My favorite kind of movie is what one might call a "Coming of age" movie. While Boyhood was the ultimate coming-of-age movie this year, this one was terrific as well. And before you write this movie off because it's got Nicolas Cage in it, I must inform you that he was the best part of this movie. He was terrific. He deserved an Oscar nomination, imo. Now he can go back to making terribly cliche movies.
Potential offenses: Lots and lots of swears. Violence including one scene that is exceptionally violent. 

6. Big Hero 6 (PG) - For a long time, I had this movie #1 on my list. Alas, it fell, but it still deserves much love. Almost every animated movie that comes out is a rehash, remake or a sequel. No idea seems original. How many movies about princesses do we need? Well, this year finally bucked that trend with what I believe is the best animated movie in years. Original, creative and awesome. I've watched this movie maybe 12 times with my sons and it never gets old.
Potential offenses: Maybe an explosion where a kid dies inside?  I don't know. Nothing much.

5. Boyhood (R) - After watching this movie, I thought for sure that it was going to be my favorite movie of the year. The way it was filmed over 12 years was something that had never been done. It was unusual and captivating. To watch this kid grow up before your eyes was extremely cool.  However, its major faults: It's too long and there is no real plot made it fall to #5. When I think about this movie, I think of it's beautiful moments rather than the movie as a whole. There is a scene where the dad is trying to explain to his son that elves do not actually exist. It is a touching moment where you see a boy lose just a bit of his charming innocence. There are so many amazing moments just like that in this movie. While it wasn't my favorite movie of the year, if I had a vote for best picture, I would have picked Boyhood.
Potential offenses: The kid uses drugs recreationally. There is a lot of swearing. Way too much I thought. It took away from the story. There is one scene where teenage boys discuss stuff that teenage boys discuss. While it was very realistic, it was also very graphic. 

4. The Imitation Game (PG-13) - Thought provoking and nail-biting. I bit a lot of nails. Great acting, a superb story, really everything you'd want in a movie. If you like Benedict Cumberbatch, you'd love this true-life story of the birth of computer science.  Just fantastic.
Potential offenses: No swearing that I recall. Some mature material like a man dealing with his own sexuality. Lots of smoking as people did back then.

3. Big Eyes (PG-13) - I'm as big a Tim Burton fan as they come, so I knew this movie would make my list before I even saw it. I would say that this is likely Burton's most mainstream movie, but it definitely has that patented Tim Burton feel to it. The story was fascinating, but it was the unique style and Burtonesque flair that made it come alive to me. And the final scene, in the courtroom was absolute genius. The funniest scene in any movie all year long.
Potential offenses: Some implied sex. A few swear words. I think one F-bomb. 

2. Whiplash (R) - This movie was exceptional. I suppose it can be classified as another coming-of age movie. If you've ever hated a teacher, truly hated a teacher, you'll appreciate this movie. It is powerful.  I do believe that this movie has the best ending I have ever seen. I loved the final scene. (Opposite of Gone Girl.)
Potential offenses: TONS and TONS of swearing. 

1. St.Vincent (PG-13) - 

I've been waiting for a movie to come out where Bill Murray gets to play the kind of character that he is so genius at playing.  This one was perfect.  Murray is great, but it's the chemistry between he and the kid and Melissa McCarthy that really makes this movie go.  It's a powerfully moving movie and during it's playtime, you go from hating Bill Murray's character to adoring him.  My favorite movie of the year.
Potential offenses: If you are offended by sex scenes, I'd suggesting starting the movie 2 minutes in. There is a relatively tame sex scene to start the movie and if you skip the first two minutes, you will miss it and not miss any essential plot points. Other than that, there is just a few swear words.

10. The Heat
9. Mud
8. The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
7. Despicable Me 2
6. Gravity
5. Short Term 12
4. Nebraska
3. 12 Years a Slave
2. Philomena
1. The Kings of Summer

10. Premium Rush
9. Moonrise Kingdom
8. The Amazing Spiderman
7. Looper
6. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
5. Argo
4. Frankenweenie
3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
2. Sleepwalk With Me
1. Safety Not Guaranteed

Monday, December 29, 2014

My Top 10 Favorite TV Shows I Watched in 2014

Howdy friends that just might be bored enough to read my blog post about television shows I watched this year. Glad to have you aboard this wild ride of top ten lists. Please keep your hands and legs inside the blog at all times.

As you may or may not know, 2014 was the year that we bit the bullet and got Netflix and Amazon Prime Streaming.  We also bit a bigger bullet and got rid of satellite, which was a good bullet to bite. We have been so busy watching the shows we missed the past few years, we haven't missed paying a bajillion dollars a month watching average shows on satellite. For those that might be considering the satellite or cable "ditch and dump", I'd highly recommend it.

At any rate, we watched less TV this year, but the TV we did watch, we were very picky about.  We started a lot of series, some of them terrible, many of them TVrific! I've decided to record the series my wife and I found most intriguing.  Now, many of these series will not be for you. In fact, I'd be willing to say that many of you would find these series too dark, too violent, too offensive. (It is a little known fact that my wife likes dark movies and TV shows. Even more than I do. Just another reason she is awesome.)

Perhaps you and your spouse are looking for a new TV series to sit down and gorge on.  These are the ones I liked that I watched this year. Of course, some have been off the air for many years, but this is how hip I am: I just barely got around to watching them.  So, without further ado, I give you my top ten favorite shows I streamed/watched in 2014:

But first, the "Honorable Mentions":
Psych (Netflix)
Raising Hope (Netflix)
The Blacklist (Netflix)
Downton Abbey (Amazon Prime)
House of Cards (Netflix)
Call the Midwife (Netflix)
Portlandia (Netflix)
The Killing (Netflix)

Now to the list...

10. Parks & Recreation (Netflix)
I've always loved this show. I was happy I was able to watch the entire newest season in about two days. This is the second funniest show on television.  The funniest show is to come...

9. Dexter (Netflix)
This is one of those shows that is DEFINITELY not for everybody. It is violent, full of terrible language and pretty darned sick.  But at its best (the middle seasons), you can't turn away. Every episode is like a roller coaster ride, a dark, messed up roller coaster ride. Honestly, if you are hesitant at all, you should probably stear clear of this show.

8. Vikings (Amazon Prime)
Another very violent show. I suppose that's exactly as the real Vikings were. I don't know, but I know this show is fantastic. My wife even likes it, but that might just because of the main character's piercing blue eyes.

7. Friday Night Lights (Netflix)
I was a little hesitant about this show. I thought it would be just another lame high school drama. Boy was I wrong. This show had layers of complexity and intrigue. It is one of the rare shows in which the last two seasons are its best.  I loved the way the writers switched things up after season 3.

6. Rectify (Netflix) 
This was absolutely the most thought provoking show on my list.  It was so thought provoking, it was almost like reading a book!  A book!  I can't wait for season 2 to be added to Netflix.

5. Justified (Amazon Prime)
Contrary to popular opinion at first glance, this show does NOT take place in the old west. This is a modern show about the US Marshall in the south. Not saying I have a man crush on him, but I definitely do have a man crush on him. This US Marshall is hands down the coolest character on TV.

4. The Goldbergs (ABC.com)
This is the one show we still watch that is not on Netflix or Amazon Prime.  We still wait every week for the new episode to be posted to ABC.com and then me and my boys laugh our butts off.  This is the funniest show on TV.

3. Sherlock (Netflix)
By now, just about everyone should know about the awesomeness that is Sherlock. It just took me a while to find it. I may not understand anything that is going on in each episode, but I pretend to, and that's the important thing.

2. The Walking Dead (Netflix)
I got suckered into watching this annoying, insane, sometimes cheesy, often ridiculous show and quickly got so addicted, I was reading about it online and going through situations from the show in my head. This show is bloody, gory, unabashedly crazy and so perfect.  It might be trendy, but count me in on the trend.

1. Breaking Bad (Netflix)
Alright, I know I'm way late to the party on this show, but I finally got around to watching it and it is quite possibly my favorite show of all time. Again, this one is not for everybody, but this show is so well written, it grabs you and sucks you in. There is no escaping until you finally watch that final episode. This the only show we've ever watched as a couple that my wife wanted to watch two straight episodes of.  I'm pretty sure I drove my coworkers crazy because they had already seen it and I would come to work every day and want to discuss the episode I had watched the night before.

So, there you have it. That's my list. Tune in next December to see the new list for 2015!  I'm sure they'll be some new ones on here and maybe some of the same. I just picked up True Detective on DVD, so we'll see where that takes us.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The 40 Best Albums of 2014

It's time once again that I pick my favorite 40 albums of the year. Of course, these may or may not be the actual greatest 40 albums that were released, but they were my favorite albums that I listened to.  Looking at my iTunes, it looks as though I listened to about 90 albums that were released this year, so making this list is a pretty big deal. Almost as big as winning a Grammy. 

I must say, this year was a little bit of a disappointment for me, music wise, as compared to years past. Still some great stuff came out this year.

At any rate, here's my list from 40 to 1, with a few snarky comments about some of the albums. Please remember, I am not a music expert, just an ordinary Joe that likes good music. Also, at the bottom of the list, you will find my top 10 albums from years past, just in case you have read that far.  So, here we go...

40. The Kooks - Listen

39. Hospitality - Trouble

38. Interpol - El Pintor
Interpol is a great band but I like their stuff in small does because they kinda give me a headache.

37. Metronomy - Love Letters

36. Real Estate - Atlas
I've seen this album ranked pretty high on a lot of people's lists. I found it a good listen, but nothing that really grabbed me.

35. The Notwist - Close to the Glass
This album had real highs and lows for me. The highs were terrific songs, the lows is what puts this album this low.

34. The Drums - Encyclopedia
This seemed like an entirely new sound for this band. Still liked it, but not as much.

33. TV on the Radio - Seeds
How could I not love a TV on the Radio album? Still liked it, but not loved it. My least favorite TV on the Radio album.

32. Minus the Bear - Love Losts
See TV on the Radio comments. Same here.

31. Cold War Kids - Hold My Home

30. Jenny Lewis - The Voyager

29. The Juan McLean - In A Dream
Great for dancing!

28. Walk The Moon - Talking Is Hard
Not nearly the follow up I was hoping for from their last album, but still decent.

27. Tennis - Ritual In Repeat
One of my biggest surprises of the year. 

26. tUnE-yArDs - Nikki Nack

25. The Black Keys - Turn Blue

24. Alt-J - This is all Yours
Again, I've seen this very high on some lists. It's a good album, but not one of the best of the year.

23. Sylvan Esso - Sylvan Esso

22. Elbow - Take Off and Landing of Everything
Some incredible vocals and harmonizing on this album.

21. The Pains of Being Pure in Heart - Days of Abandon

20. Fanfarlo - Let's Go Extinct
Lots of really good, not great songs.

19. Delta Spirit - Into the Wide
One of my favorite bands. A good album, but a little disappointing for me.

18. Dry the River - Alarms in the Heart

17. Stars - No One is Lost

16. Augustines - Augustines
I listened to this album a ton, which tells me it was good, but I never really fell in love with it.

15. Generationals - Alix
Generationals are always great to relax to. They never disappoint.

14. Bleachers - Strange Desire

13. OK Go - Hungry Ghosts
I've said it before, but OK Go gets too much credit for their videos and not enough credit for their MUSIC!

12. The New Pornographers - Brill Bruisers
Their best album in years.

11. Mr. Little Jeans - Pocketknife

10. Manchester Orchestra - Cope
A great album, but not my favorite Manchester Orchestra album by a long shot.

9. Broken Bells - After the Disco
Almost a forgotten album because it came out so early in the year. Very good stuff though.

8. Foster the People - Supermodel
I'm sure their last album sold more copies because of that retched song "Pumped Up Kicks" but this is by far the better album!

7. Spoon - They Want my Soul
It seems every other year Spoon releases an album and every other year, it's in my top ten. This year is no different.

6. Bombay Bicycle Club - So Long, See You Tomorrow
Very energetic from start to finish. An adrenaline rush.

5. The Rural Alberta Advantage - Mended With Gold
Every single album these guys come through. Every single one has a similar sound, but they're all amazing.

4. Tokyo Police Club - Forcefield
Their best album to date.

3. Bishop Allen - Lights Out
So many catchy tunes on this album.

2. Passenger - Whispers
This may be a controversial choice as this band has its haters. But I love the lyrics and the vocals and the meaning behind each song. 

1. Future Islands - Singles

Their previous albums I thought were okay, but this one took this band to a whole new level for me. They have been described as a bunch of construction workers playing music. I love how the lead singer just couldn't give a crap about what he looks like on stage. They also had the performance of the year. Here it is on Letterman...

Now, here are my favorite albums from the past five years previous to this one.

1. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City
2. Radical Face - Family Tree: The Branches
3. Twenty One Pilots - Vessel
4. The National - Trouble Will Find Me
5. Arcade Fire - Reflektor
6. Shout Out Louds - Optica
7. Crystal Fighters - Cave Rave
8. The Sounds - Weekend
9. Tegan & Sara - Heartthrob
10. Little Green Cars - Absolute Zero

1. Radical Face – The Family Tree: The Roots
2. Passion Pit - Gossamer
3. Mumford And Son – Babel
4. Miike Snow – Happy To You
5. Imagine Dragons – Night Visions
6. Two Door Cinema Club – Beacon
7. Metric – Sythetica
8. Dr. Dog – Be The Void
9. Of Monsters And Men – My Head Is An Animal
10. The Avett Brothers – The Carpenter

1. Death Cab For Cutie – Codes And Keys
2. The Sounds – Something To Die For
3. Architecture In Helsinki – Moment Bends
4. Decemberists – The King Is Dead
5. The Strokes – Angles
6. The Head And The Heart – The Head And The Heart
7. Brett Dennen – Loverboy
8. Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math
9. I’m From Barcelona – Forever Today
10. The Rural Alberta Advantage – Departing

1. The National – High Violet
2. Vampire Weekend – Contra
3. Shout Out Louds – Work
4. Mumford And Sons – Sigh No More
5. Mates Of State – Crushes
6. Dr. Dog – Shame Shame
7. Rogue Wave – Permalight
8. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
9. Matt & Kim – Sidewalks
10. Tokyo Police Club – Champ

1. The Sounds – Crossing The Rubicon
2. Passion Pit – Manners
3. Metric – Fantasies
4. Animal Collective – Merryweather Post Pavilion
5. Empire Of The Sun – Walking On A Dream
6. The Rural Alberta Advantage – Hometowns
7. Silversun Pickups – Swoon
8. We Were Promised Jetpacks – These Four Walls
9. Islands – Vapours
10. Mew – No More Stories Are Told…

Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Favorite Songs of 2014

Hey friends that care about good music and those that should care about good music. It is time once again to share my top 20 favorite songs of the year.  Here they are in descending order from 20 to 1.

20. Elbow - "Fly Boy Blue / Lunette"

19. Tennis - "Bad Girls"
18. Manchester Orchestra - "The Ocean"
17. tUnE-yArDs - "Water Fountain"
16. Generationals - "Welcome to the Fire"
15. The Notwist - "Kong"
14. Broken Bells - "Holding on for Life"
13. Bombay Bicycle Club - "It's Alright Now"
12. Stars - "This is the Last Time"
11. OK Go - "I Won't Let you Down" 
10. Bishop Allen - "Start Again"
9. The New Pornographers - "War on the East Coast"
8. Spoon - "Knock Knock Knock"
7. Bleachers - "Shadow"
6. The Rural Alberta Advantage - "On the Rocks"
5. Future Islands - "Spirit" 
4. Passenger - "Scare Away the Dark"
3. Foster the People - "The Truth"
2. Mr. Little Jeans - "Oh Sailor"
1. Tokyo Police Club - "Argentina (Parts I, II, III)"

Monday, July 28, 2014

Free Hot Dogs on Saturdays!

Erma had run the local tee shirt place for over 17 years.  It had been a steady business, with tourists making up over 70% of her business. Her best seller had always been the heart tee. It was a tee shirt with a heart on it. This remained her best seller until the release of the smiley face tee shirt, an instant classic.

Things really started taking off for Erma when she began selling tee shirts with wolves on them. Even though there were no wolves native to Kissimmee, Florida, the tourists loved them. When she added the wolf on camouflage combo shirt, the tourists went berserk, buying up boxes to take back to their relatives.

When a competing tee shirt stand opened up down the street, selling shirts with bears on them and clever bear sayings, it was time for Erma to take things to the next level. She decided to offer free hot dogs on Saturdays.

Erma underestimated how much people truly love free hot dogs. Lines formed around the block for her dogs. The first day, she ran out of hot dogs in just under an hour. The second day, her hot dog stand was overrun by free hot dog ruffians, the worst kind of ruffian. She began hiring guard wolves to guard the stand. Once she hired the wolves, her wolf shirts started selling like hotcakes. If only they sold like the hot dogs.

Things were really going well for Erma until the hot dog stand opened across the street. She figured that they hadn’t realized that she was offering free hot dogs and would quickly move to a better location.

Much to her dismay, not only did the hot dog stand stay, but they started offering free tee shirts on Saturdays. Erma knew that there is only one thing Americans love more than free hot dogs and that is free tee shirts.

The hot dog stand gave away free wolf tee shirts on camouflage every Saturday. The tee shirt store continued to give away free hot dogs every Saturday. Both went out of business within three months.

Erma learned a valuable lesson the day she closed up shop, and one everyone should follow: Americans love free crap. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

An Obituary for the Portable CD Player

The Portable CD Player died in 2007. I feel like we kind of just glossed over this loss so I wrote this obituary for it.

Our beloved Portable CD player, a friend, companion and patriot passed from this earthly life on Friday, April 13, 2007   He died of a broken heart.

Our dear friend brought joy to all those he met, touching the lives of literally millions of people across the globe, especially at the peak of his popularity in the mid to late 90’s. In honor of the loss of this great 90’s icon, Guess Jeans shall be flown at half-staff across the nation.

Portable CD Player shall be missed most by his beloved companion, Portable CD Player Case (You know, the puffy black one with space for the CD Case holder) and her lovely carrying strap. Together, they had 144 CD children; 116 original CDs of their own and 28 adopted burnt mixed CDs that they adopted from some guy named Larry with an amazing music collection.

Portable CD Player lived life to the fullest. His favorite hobby was skipping and he would often skip up to 50 times per hour. When anyone would push him, tap him or touch him in any way, he would simply skip. In a way, the way he dealt with people was frustratingly endearing. (More frustrating than endearing.)

Portable CD Player is proceeded in death by his Record Player (Grandfather), Cassette Player (Mother), Walkman (Father), 8-Track Player (Weird Uncle) and Mini-Disk Player (Cocky Cousin). He is survived by: iPhone, iPod, iPad, iTunes, Laptop, YouTube, Spotify, Pandora and his cheap son, MP3 Player.

Graveside services will be held at the Panasonic Graveyard on Thursday at 4:00PM. In lieu of flowers, please purchase 200 blank CDs and place them lovingly around the gravesite.