Movies You Watched in June 2015
Ben Lott
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Mason
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This is a geeklist to discuss the movies you watch throughout the month of June. Please feel free to post them as you see them, or if you prefer post a summary of all films at the end of the month. Also you can comment and discuss freely as others talk about films they've seen.

Enjoy...

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1. Board Game: Orcs & Trolls [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
Ben Lott
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Mason
Michigan
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I put it off for years, but I've finally decided it's time for me to subject myself to "Peter Jackson's Inflated Ego"...oops, I meant "The Hobbit Trilogy." This movie was everything I feared it might be and so much more. Let's be honest and say that if you were trying to make a good movie adaptation, even if you went page by page through the original novel it wouldn't take 2 hours and 49 minutes to tell the whole story. Sadly they weren't trying to make a good movie adaptation of the novel, they were trying to make a prequel trilogy (and you know how well that works.) The ridiculous thing about this whole 3-movie thing is that each film only encapsulates a handful of chapters from the book. There was so much added content it dragged tremendously. Whoever the editor was on The Hobbit should be banned from ever working on a film again, because the pacing was horrid. There was so much that could have easily been cut loose, but they just kept everything in and even shoved in more. There were scenes where I genuinely had to argue with myself to stop from fast forwarding and just watch. The most prominent of these was the meeting in Rivendell where 4 bland characters shared a tedious conversation about information we had already seen. This was just a symptom of one of the big problems in The Unexpected Journey. They felt it was so vital to tie this film into the Lord of the Rings trilogy they had to keep making references and showing us characters from those films even though they had no use in this story. It's like the film-makers are just winking at the audience saying "Hey, remember this guy? Well, he's here doing absolutely nothing of interest, but maybe he'll remind you of all the cool stuff he did in those other movies so you'll give us a pass on this crapfest."

If only the useless cameos, and over-extended runtime were the biggest problem with The Unexpected Journey, but there's more wrong here than that. I believe the biggest shortcoming of this film is the fact that Peter Jackson was trying to simultaneously remain ridiculously faithful to the source material and connect this storyline directly as a prequel into his Lord of the Rings films. Because of this mixed mission, the tone of the film was all over the place. Within one scene we shift from life-threatening danger to slapstick comedy. It's to the point where I felt that certain characters/actors were in different movies. Bilbo and a couple of the dwarves were in a direct interpretation of the Hobbit, hence the lighter kid-friendly tone with some silly moments in an effort to get us laughing. Meanwhile Thorin, Gandalf, and a few of the other dwaves were in a hyper-serious movie that would blend right into the Lord of the Rings. This contrast of tones was never more obvious than in the scenes with Radagast. We have this wizard who literally has bird poop running down the side of his face, and he's interacting with the first returning Nazgul and a necromancer. The sad truth is that when I wasn't bored with The Unexpected Journey, I was usually laughing at it. The movie was not comedic in a good way, it was almost farcical. I also hated the framing device with bad makeup Ian Holm and Elijah Wood. Even the CGI was terrible throughout most of the film when they create cartoon eagles that look less realistic than the Smurfs. There was almost nothing that worked for me in this film, and the sad truth is that all the problems blinded me to any redeeming qualities like decent acting, Gollum who was the only good CGI, or the music. I had such a negative reaction to this film that I hope to never watch it again, unless it's with friends who will enjoy bashing on it with me.
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2. Board Game: Decay [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Simon Brand
Scotland
Edinburgh
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Decasia - Bill Morrison - 2002

70 minutes of found footage in various states of disrepair, edited and set to music. It sounds like it should be a mess, but Morrison manages to really make a fascinating piece of art out of it.

The original scenes are thematically reappropriated by the editing of Morrison and time, so ideas which were presumably not present in the originals burst forth. An example is a simple shot of some children walking through a convent courtyard. The frame is distorted by time to make the watching nuns into black blots who watch on motionlessly as they are passed by, seemingly drawing on the juxtaposition of the nun's legalistic, rigorous life against the youthful energy of the children.

Morrison also edits together many scenes to bring forth meaning from the whole, such as a collection of incredibly decayed footage of people laughing to give the idea of the transience of happiness. He seems to have taken influence from the films of Peter Tscherkassky in shots like the above, where the characters appear to be interacting with the film stock itself.

William Basinski's Disintegration Loops would probably be a suitable soundtrack for this, but instead the music is an incredible original score which sounds like Penderecki meets Phillip Glass meets Sunn O))).

A fascinating work which I'll certainly watch again. It lacks the incredible emotional impact of his short The Light Is Calling, but instead stands as both a piece of intriguing visual art and a film-essay.

Highly recommended.

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3. Board Game: Murder à la carte: Eat, Drink, and Be Married [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Ben Lott
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Mason
Michigan
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The Thin Man is the first in a series of murder mystery films featuring a couple named Nick & Nora Charles. In this film the mystery centers around a family who are dealing with divorce, infidelity, and bickering over money. It all starts with an inventor who disappears. Then, a short time later, his mistress who was stealing money from him is found murdered. The mystery has a fair number of twists and turns which I appreciate because it kept me constantly guessing who might be the guilty party. It also helps that they had a cast of suspicious characters and gave them all reason and opportunity to want to commit the crime. Not to mention the missing inventor who just might be the one behind it all. When the truth was revealed at the end of the film I wasn't terribly shocked, because it made logical sense, but I also hadn't puzzled it all out myself. That's about all you can look for in a murder mystery film. What is unique about this one is that, even knowing the truth behind the crime I think I might watch this movie again, because the film wasn't all about murder.

Actually the real joy of The Thin Man wasn't in the mystery. While that was fun, it was nothing compared to the amazing relationship between Nick & Nora. William Powell plays Nick as a friend to all, who could charm anyone into revealing a bit too much. I love how he is so likable that men he once got arrested when he was working as a detective are now hanging out at his parties. Nora is played by Myrna Loy, and she is a confident woman who clearly adores her husband. Yet she's not afraid to tease him, which makes for some of the better laughs in the film. She has this desire to see him exercise his detecting skills, but he is constantly trying to avoid it. I guess I have a very old-fashioned sense of humor because the witty one-liners that these 2 exchange elicit so many laughs from me. After their first scene together I absolutely loved them, and any scenes where they weren't front and center I missed them. As an added note, it's pretty clear this took place right after prohibition ended because in almost every scene we see Nick with a drink in his hand. This adds to the humor of his character as well, and he certainly makes some lighthearted comments about it. I don't think The Thin Man is the best example of a mystery film, but I found it to be so fun to watch the main characters that I didn't care. This is a series I might have to dig into a little more.
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4. Board Game: The Martin Luther King Jr. Game [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Stephen Roney
United States
Ladera Ranch
California
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Selma


A powerful movie that still resonates and was well deserving of its best picture nomination (though I would still rather watch Imitaion Game again). David Oyelowo does a great job as King. Tom Wilkinson does a fine job as LBJ, despite sounding nothing like him. J.Edgar Hoover and George Wallace were physically miscast, but were fine otherwise.

The events in this movie happened when I was twelve years old. I don't really have vivid memories of the main elements. I remember King and LBJ and Wallace. I remember hearing that Malcolm X was shot (which happens off-screen during the movie) and I think I might remember the bomb killing the four girls (or it may be one of those things that I have just heard of a lot).

I had heard criticism that this movie made LBJ to be too much of a villain, but I didn't really feel that way. He was trying to make things better and just had different priorities to get that done.

Well worth the watch.
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5. Board Game: Dragon's Gold [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:1536]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Every problem I had with The Unexpected Journey seemed to hold true for The Desolation of Smaug. The tone was inconsistent, it was ridiculously overloaded with useless scenes of bloat, and they got bogged down in prequel stuff instead of telling the story at hand. On a completely separate note, in this film I couldn't help wondering why it is that the dwarves seem to range from guys who look like a troll all the way to guys who look like shorter versions of Aragorn? But that's just one of those ridiculously stupid choices I assume Peter Jackson made and nobody questioned him on. In some ways I hated this film even more than the first chapter. While The Unexpected Journey added all kinds of nonsense to pad the runtime it still remained somewhat faithful to the book when it was referencing it directly. The Desolation of Smaug basically takes a big steaming dump on the source material and says "we can do this better!" So instead of Bilbo simply riding downstream on a set of closed barrels we get a 30-minute-long fight sequence all down the river with dwarves jumping in and out of open barrels and a couple elves helping them too (even though they're running away from those elves.) It's utter nonsense and this isn't the only scene that plays fast and loose with the book in order to make spectacle. The entire final climax of the film is completely invented out of thin air.

So I did my best to reflect on this Hobbit film as if it didn't have the name of a book I love attached to it. If I disregard the source, does this work as a film? I have to say, it definitely does not! There isn't a cohesive story, because they keep throwing in so many little pointless subplots which don't gel into a whole. Gandalf's entire journey is irrelevant to the main plot, it's just there as setup for a trilogy of films that already exists and is infinitely better than this one. Not one thing that happens in Laketown adds to the movie, it's just filler so they can bilk the audience for more cash with a third movie. Also, I could forgive the creation of a completely new character like Tauriel, but not when she has no purpose in the film. It is clear that some moron in the screenwriters' room thought, "This story sucks because there's no love story, let's invent some star-crossed lovers" so guess what we have to look forward to in movie #3. Even the moment I was most looking forward to, Bilbo and Smaug talking, was ruined because apparently Peter Jackson thinks one moment of stillness is boring. So Bilbo is bumbling around like one of the Three Stooges, and constantly takes off the ring for no logical reason. The ring is one more thing ruined by the fact that this trilogy came out after the Lord of the Rings. They felt obligated to put such great weight into the ring that they can't let Bilbo just wear it all the time like he did in the book. Not to mention all the time he has to spend just gazing at it. I could keep going, I mean the CGI looked straight out of a video game or cartoon, but I'll simply stop because you get the point. This movie is terrible and I'm so glad I never have to sit through it again.
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6. Board Game: Rupert's "Write a Letter" Game [Average Rating:3.00 Unranked]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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World's Greatest Dad features Robin Williams as a failed writer and less than popular high school teacher named Lance. He also has a son who is extremely obnoxious and obsessed with porn, which just adds to Lance's frustrating life. But through the course of the film events transpire which change the way people look at him and his son, and it becomes one of those moral tales that challenges the audience to think "What are you willing to pay to get everything you want?" and "If you get everything you want will you truly be happy?" I want to avoid spoiling the inciting incident of the film because I knew going in and thought it took a long time to get there, and the story kind of dragged until then. I will say that this was kind of a depressing film to watch. I always have difficulties with films where everything goes wrong for the main character, and it's even harder when he's such a nice guy like Lance in this film. It was even one notch harder to watch since it starred Robin Williams and, in light of how his life ended, this movie kind of picks at some sore wounds. However the second and third act were much more enjoyable because things started to look up for Lance. There were definitely some laughs in the film, although this is a very dark comedy, and I was somewhat put off by the obscenities that rolled so freely off the tongue of the son. World's Greatest Dad is a unique film, and if you like a more subdued performance from Robin Williams you will find that here. It wasn't exactly my type of movie, but I could see others really enjoying it, as long as you can put out of your mind the reality of how Robin Williams' life ended while watching.
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7. Board Game: Masters of Disguise [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Spy
=

Spy is that rare film that defied all my expectations from the trailers. First of all, it was not a film about Melissa McCarthy bumbling around in an effort to pretend to be a spy. In fact, in a very early scene we discover that she is actually well-trained and possibly capable of operating in the field. That's not to say she is somehow perfect, because she has been sitting behind a desk assisting the field agents, so when she gets a field assignment she is understandably wet behind the ears. Yet it really impressed me that this whole film wasn't a joke asking the audience to laugh at the fat lady trying to do things that skinny people do. However the real big surprise when I was watching Spy is that it is not a buddy-cop style of film. I thought it was going to be Melissa McCarthy and Jason Statham working together throughout. Instead he's actually just popping in from time to time as the AMAZING comic relief. I'm serious when I say, Jason Statham is funnier in the limited amount of screentime he gets than every other actor is in the entire film combined. But that screentime is not much, unfortunately, and McCarthy is flying solo through most of the movie. The other actor that really needs mentioning is Jude Law who plays the field agent who McCarthy's character assists when she is behind the desk. He is simply brilliant as the stereotypical James Bond archetype. He steps right into that role so well, and absolutely sells himself as the perfectly suave and sophisticated secret agent.

Considering how frequently the big studios are calling upon the unlikely directors for their action franchises, I feel like Spy is Paul Feig's application for the job. To be honest, while I'm reluctant to admit it, he kind of nailed it. The action sequences were brilliantly captured so that you always followed what was happening, but it still had that kind of speed and violence that we come to expect from modern action films. In many ways this felt almost exactly like a James Bond film with the way they set up the scenes, utlized exotic and beautiful locations, and even had a brassy theme song to open. I kind of like comedic takes on action films and this one had a good mix of the two genres. I think the only thing that kind of bugged me, and this is admittedly personal, but the foul language seemed a little too prevalent. I can take some language in my films without batting an eye, but in this movie the F-bombs were flowing so fast and plentifully that it seemed awkward and even out of place. At some points it took me out of the film because I can't imagine even the foulest sailor working in that quantity of language. Is the swearing in itself supposed to be a joke? Am I supposed to be laughing simply because Melissa McCarthy worked in 5 F-words in one sentence? Anyways, my own puritanical sensibilities aside, Spy was a very fun movie. I do wish that Statham played a bigger role, but they still had some good laughs in the film without him. I will recommend this film for anyone who thinks they might be interested because it is a good action film, a good comedy, and it doesn't play into McCarthy's typical "Isn't it funny how I'm fat!?!" kind of shtick.
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8. Board Game: Formula D [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:429]
Ronster Zero
United States
California
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RUSH





At its core Rush is about the merciless 1970s rivalry between Formula One rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda. I was way to young to remember any of this so the movie (a true story) was all new material to me. The movie stars Chris Hemsworth as the brash, egocentric, and sexy James Hunt who drives by the seat of his pants, but with skill equal to none. Against him is Daniel Brühl as Niki Lauda. As somebody unknown to me, I felt Bruhl did a great job and creating this on screen persona. He is depicted as a tight-assed, meticulous, no-nonsense German racer who is by the book. Everything is about numbers and odds... and this is where the two cross. The loosey goosey and the button up type.

The two opposing forces, along with the car racing scenes, is where the drama takes center stage and is the focal point of the movie. So, what did I think. While there are some great scenes where the two "opposites" try to impose their will, on and off the track, I felt that the movie lacked in depth and plot. Really it was just these two guys and their egos. Is it possible to flesh out a character - his emotions, drives, and wants - too much? I felt this movie does just that. While minor other issues happen the whole movie revolves around the same two guys... for hours.

I am not a huge car or car racing fan, so some of that is diminished from my perspective, but I really felt the movie just lacked depth. Not a bad movie by any stretch and may be worth a watch on a rainy Sunday if your inclined. For me, I could not passed on this and not felt like I had missed anything.
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9. Board Game: What Shall I Be? The Exciting Career Game for Boys [Average Rating:1.00 Unranked]
Randy Cox
United States
Clemson
South Carolina
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Boyhood

We watched this one over three nights because it got lots of Oscar nominations (and at least one victory). And it had the novelty of being filmed over 12 years.

But that's about all it had. It didn't have much of a plot line and certainly not a tight one. Though they insist a basic over-arcing concept was in place, I swear they just wrote script each day and filmed it the next. I can see how industry insiders were enamored of it, but it is merely average, at best.
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10. Board Game: Nothing Gained But Glory [Average Rating:7.74 Overall Rank:2894]
Ronster Zero
United States
California
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Pain and Gain



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Where do I even start with this movie. I had to watch this 2x, with some time in between to get the effect of what I was watching. Remember that first time you watched a movie and was like - WTF am I watching here? Pulp Fiction was like for me....same vein. I give this movie a rating range cause it can make your reaction go from repulsion and disgust to manic and brilliant. I don't want to give away too much of the events that happen but the basic plot line is three weight lifters decide they want to take their American Dream instead of earning it. This sets into motion some crazy events that seem unreal, except they aren't. This movie is based on a true story and I remember hearing about parts of it when I was younger.

The action goes from pure genius with the off color main characters and the just as entertaining co-stars and even the side actors to almost unwatchable at times, just not for the gore, but the plain stupidity that a person can do. If anything, this movie (for me) was worth watching just to see Dwayne Johnson go from ex-convict turned Christian and back to a crazed-out coke junkie. So many lines are quotable in this movie, if your into things like that, and I am. While this movie is certainly not for everyone, and mostly like not for a lot, I did enjoy this. It was like that crazy roller coaster that I had to go on that one time...yet I did this one twice. Like I said, I enjoyed this movie, but you really should make sure it's your kind of movie.. and if your watching with someone else, them too. Oh, and make sure the kids are well asleep.

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11. Board Game: The Suicide Bomber Card Game [Average Rating:5.21 Overall Rank:14276]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Long Time No See


The Peacemaker is a film I had fond memories of from back in the late 90s, but I haven't watched in years. Upon this most recent viewing I found it to have action and acting that stands up really well, with a plot that was a bit lacking. The action sequences are very solid. There is a great scene when they are taking down a truck with nuclear warheads in it that is well-paced and ends with a big climactic moment. But easily the most intense scene is a car chase that should get you on the edge of your seat. I am thoroughly impressed with the way Mimi Leder directed all these sequences because she kept you aware of every little thing that was going on, and knew exactly when to make a cut in order to increase the excitement of the moment. They also cast 2 great leads for the film. George Clooney is the perfect actor when you want gruffness with just a hint of kindness. This way he can be abrupt and even rude, but I still find him charming. Likewise Nicole Kidman appears intelligent and focused, but when things get really out of hand she doesn't fall apart which is nice. The supporting cast is loaded with obscure character actors who do a fine job of disappearing into their roles, so I thought overall the acting was good.

Where I found The Peacemaker lacking is in the plot and the way it was presented. First of all, I liked the early scenes where Kidman and Clooney are working from the US trying to piece together intelligence information in order to figure out where the nukes might have gone. However taking the exact same important individuals and sending them out into the field to recapture the warheads was insane. I realize it is necessary in order to keep the story focused on them as main characters, but I wish they could have found ways to use them as the eyes and ears without having them getting involved first-hand. This is a minor complaint and can be found in most TV and movies, but I couldn't help thinking "why did they have to go?" It also felt a little odd that they seemed to be capable of travelling across the globe in basically no time at all, but I'll let that go as well. I think the biggest shortcoming is the relationship between Kidman and Clooney. In the first scenes we see Kidman placed in charge, and she appears slightly reluctant but competent. She then insists that her military liaison be someone who can take orders from a woman. In classic Hollywood fashion Clooney is basically the opposite of what she requested, and he tries to take charge. The problem is that the script lets him. From basically the first minute Clooney steps on screen he is the one in the driver's seat, and Kidman is along for the ride. It kind of undermines Kidman's entire character, and then they even needlessly imply a potential romantic relationship at the end. I still liked The Peacemaker for its well-shot and performed scenes, I just wish they had adjusted the script a little to make it a film I'd actually want to own.
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12. Board Game: Psychological Warfare [Average Rating:6.42 Overall Rank:10415]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Kings Row is a film that was largely ahead of its time. Coming out in 1942 you'd rarely expect a film that focused on such dark themes as mental disorders, suicide, murder, and more. Not only that but Kings Row also has a nontraditional narrative structure. The story is about a handful of young people who grow up in a small town at the turn of the last century. It shows how, even in the most quaint of locales, there can be a lot of dark things going on behind closed doors. I struggled at times with the roaming plot because I'm more comfortable with a story that follows a single protagonist, but this film makes it clear that there is not an individual who is the main character in the film. I found I was most interested in the story of Drake, played by Ronald Reagan. His struggle later in the film, after an accident threatens to ruin him, is emotional and touches on some really interesting differences between modern times and how life was back then. Speaking of that contrast, Parris is the other lead character (played by Robert Cummings) and his story shows how the world behaved before psychiatry became a regular field of study. Parris is kind of the glue that holds all the disparate stories together, and he has his own tragedy that serves as an inciting incident which was quite traumatic.

The early scenes are one of the areas that I struggled with. It did a great job of establishing the characters before the big events started to occur in their lives, but I had difficulty liking some of them because the child actors were not great. There performances weren't a big detriment to my appreciation of the film, because they did enough to display the personalities of the characters, I just wish the line delivery wasn't so flat from some of them. I did not have this problem with any of the adult actors. There was some real talent in the cast of this film and most of the acting increased my rating. Another interesting aspect of the film is the deft way that Kings Row utilized innuendo in order to imply certain things they could not say or show. Modern cinema seems to struggle at times with the idea of restraint because they can and will do whatever they please. But thanks to the code for films in the 40s, they were forced to use subtle visual cues and carefully scripted dialogue to get an idea across. This was never more evident to me than in Kings Row where lots of extremely dark things occur, but they are heavily restricted in how they can convey that information to the audience. This made it a meticulously crafted film, and one that I am glad I have watched. It might have contained some moments that were a bit too saccharine and idyllic, but it took chances almost from start to finish. I might not rush to watch Kings Row again, but I can recommend it to fans of classic film, because this is a winner.
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13. Board Game: T-Rex Rules [Average Rating:2.50 Unranked]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Jurassic World (IMAX 3-D)
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My history with the franchise: I think it's best if I start off my review of Jurassic World by pointing out my relationship with the franchise. I have seen Jurassic Park a number of times and I enjoy it. I never thought it was one of the greatest films of all time, but it was definitely a fun adventure with plenty of intense scenes and some significant breakthroughs in CGI. The Lost World was one of the most disappointingly terrible films I've ever seen, roughly on par with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Jurassic Park 3 was kind of fun, and I have vague recollections of enjoying it for silly entertainment, but not on the level of the original. So I wasn't looking for much when I went to Jurassic World, just a good time and perhaps some nostalgia for the glory days of Jurassic Park.

Nods to the original: One thing you will find in Jurassic World in abundant measure are references to the first film. In many ways this is like Colin Trevorrow's love letter to one of his favorite films. Not only are scenes shockingly reminiscent of Jurassic Park, there are direct references to the events in that film. In fact at one point it almost feels like Back to the Future 2 where they are actually walking back into the original film for awhile (without the time travel.) If you watch closely there are loads of little easter eggs hidden in there as well. This excited me and kept me entertained throughout. It didn't hurt that they completely disregarded the 2 existing sequels either, because I don't really care about those.

Slow build: One of the issues I struggle with when I go back and watch Jurassic Park nowadays is the fact that it takes literally half the film before the inciting incident occurs. There's a lot of exposition and setup before things really get going. Well, Jurassic World follows a similar structure. There is loads of dialogue as the characters set up their different personalities, viewpoints, and agendas. It gets quite tedious for awhile and I kept thinking "Alright your point is made, end this conversation!" If there was one big complaint I would make about this film it would be that the editor needed to be a little more merciless with his cuts and trim out some of the needless speechifying.

Acting performances: Chris Pratt really seizes this opportunity to show his range. He has very few comedic beats and really becomes the action star, which works perfectly. Bryce Dallas Howard is, out of necessity for her character, shrill and annoying. However she has her moments and in the end I found myself happy with her performance. The kids in this movie are so much more tolerable for me than Lex and Tim were in the original. It's not that they did anything truly remarkable with the roles, but they just didn't annoy me so I cared more about their well-being. Vincent D'Onofrio was the weakest actor in the entire film. His over-the-top mustache-twirling villain is way too obvious and kind of hard to watch. It didn't even feel like a real person, almost like a cartoon version of a bad guy. But the humans weren't the real stars of this movie...

Dinosaurs and CGI: This was probably the most interesting topic of discussion in the entire film because there are a TON of dinosaurs depicted through CGI in Jurassic World. At times, particularly in the slower moments, the dinosaurs looked really authentic and I believed they were in the scenes with the humans. However there were also many other scenes where it was obvious the dinosaur wasn't even slightly real. I feel like this is one of those films where you just have to let go and enjoy the ride. If you're scrutinizing every shot to pick out how realistic things are, you'll be frustrated because there isn't perfect consistency throughout. Luckily I became engrossed enough in the story that I completely stopped noticing. Finally I'll talk about the new dinosaur for the film, Indominus Rex. It was strange because I felt like her look changed throughout the film. I think part of this was because of the genetics of the creature which they described as somewhat adaptable, but I never could nail down if she looked just like a slightly different version of a T-Rex or if she was a completely unique creature.

The park itself: The magic of this film is in the well-defined world they created. This amusement park makes sense, and it feels authentic. It is literally the kind of thing that John Hammond describes in Jurassic Park. It feels exactly like Disneyland but with dinosaurs. This framework for the story is great because it puts a unique twist on something we all know and understand. I also liked that, while they presented a handful of main characters that mattered more to the plot, there were literally thousands of other bystanders at risk. This gave the movie a different feel, and an added sense of danger and hysteria. Perhaps the greatest attraction in the park is the one spoiled in the previews, because that Sea World style of show where they literally feed a shark to the underwater dinosaur is both amazing and hilarious. I also like how it establishes that, much like a real world amusement park, you need to keep coming up with new attractions in order to keep audiences coming back for more.

The amazing climax:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
There's something magical about this film that I never expected going in. Once the action starts I was fully invested and this movie got really great. But that final climax was a singular occurrence. Somehow they managed to make me root for the T-Rex and Raptors. These creatures were the villainous monsters in all of the original films and yet, through the magic of good writing, I was 100% on their side. In many ways this movie became similar to a Godzilla-style monster movie and the humans became inconsequential, but I certainly didn't care. I was cheering in excitement like a small child, unable to contain myself. This is truly the master stroke of Jurassic World because, even though the premise of trained raptors seems ridiculous, somehow they sold me on it and had me genuinely upset when one of them died. I felt like I was at a boxing match in that final scene, with my teeth gritted and desperate to see my fighter come out on top. I LOVED IT!!


IMAX and 3-D thoughts: I appreciated seeing this film on a huge screen. It definitely doesn't hurt to see dinosaurs as big as can be. I thought they did a good job at taking full advantage of the size of IMAX, and even utilized some of the advanced sound features to increase the impact of the audio. 3-D has lost its magic for me, however. I hardly notice it any more (unless they use 3-D cameras) and it annoys me how the adaptation process degrades the colors of the film. Even worse, while this may be just my eyes, I struggled with a lot of motion blur in some of the faster action scenes. As a result instead of adding a dimension to my viewing experience, it kind of took one away. It was distracting enough that I'm planning on catching this movie one more time in 2-D to fully appreciate the cinematography without the gimmick.

Final opinions: I feel like Jurassic World, more than most movies I've seen in recent memory, is one that I could literally go either way on. I could spend hours detailing the negatives, or hours pointing out the positives. Luckily for me I landed in the positive camp. It is a perfect summer blockbuster that you can sit down in with a bucket of popcorn and simply enjoy the ridiculous fun of it all. Sure you could nitpick it to death, but if we're really honest you can do the same thing with Jurassic Park and people adore that film. Jurassic World is the sequel we all wish was made 20 years ago. However, because I was so on-the-fence about the whole thing I could easily see someone coming down on the opposite side and deeply disliking this film. I would recommend you see this on the big screen if you can. The dinosaurs always look better when they're bigger. This isn't a dopey film like Transformers where you need to "shut off your brain" to enjoy, but I do think you need to find a way to recapture your childlike wonder so you can be amazed again like you were with Jurassic Park. Hopefully you will enjoy it as much as I did, because this was easily the most fun I've had in a theater all summer.
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14. Board Game: Column [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Sweet Smell of Success is about a press agent, played by Tony Curtis, who is willing to do anything in order to get his clients into the newspaper. As a result he tries to help a gossip columnist, played by Burt Lancaster, to break up the columnist's sister and her boyfriend. Yes, it is an entire film that revolves around a jealous brother who doesn't want to share his sister. Yet somehow the tone of the film and stellar performances by the actors elevates the simple story to be something better. It has a great look, and feels like it is an accurate depiction of life on the streets. The cinematography is stellar and I really feel the passion in all the lead actors. Tony Curtis is particularly slimy and unscrupulous, and even when he's in the background of a scene you can sense his feelings about what is going on. Perhaps one of the hardest scenes to watch is when he tries to act as pimp for another columnist by whoring out his girlfriend. I did struggle to enjoy Sweet Smell of Success, though, and not just because of that scene. It seemed that virtually every character was so overblown and dishonest that I really didn't like anyone in the film. It's tough to care when bad people are fighting with other bad people. However the real dilemma I had with this film is the dialogue. It was coming so rapid-fire that I struggled to follow along. Also they spoke in such elaborate prose that it was disingenuous and inauthentic. Real human beings don't speak in that kind of language, no matter what era this film took place in, and it seriously threw me off at times. I'd probably watch Sweet Smell of Success again if asked, and a second time through I might catch the rest of the dialogue I missed the first time, but it's not one that I feel any particular need to revisit despite the solid performances.
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15. Board Game: Echo [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Ronster Zero
United States
California
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Earth to Echo





My daughter put this on while vacationing out in Palms Springs this past weekend. At first, I thought it was some utube small video or film someone had made she wanted to watch. As I watched more I got intrigued and finally realized this was a full length feature film.

The basic premise is that a group of teenage kids are having to move as the government is taking over the land on which their housing track is built to make way for a new freeway (or something like that). Just before they are about to move, their phones start acting strange and show a map of areas they don't know but want to find. This starts the movie on its journey. The overall feel of the movie is shot in a documentary type feel, but not the ones we watched, but a more modern where the announcer is the camera man and the star.

While the movie does have it's engaging moments in the beginning, the whole multi-camera, several cuts, and "broken" video sequences start to annoy. This leads to what becomes the biggest issue for me in the movie. The kids never really act, they seem to just be themselves and mostly in short bursts so you get this kinda of I made this on my Imovie with a bunch of footage feel. The other aspect is that while finding Echo was fun and engaging, I never really felt a connection with him (the alien they trying to find). In the end, it felt like a cheap rip off of ET, just with bad acting and cinematography.

While the movie did degrade over time for me (in enjoyability) I must admit that the first 20 minutes or so had me engaged. There is some fun here, especially for a family movie but in the end just fell flat for me.
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16. Board Game: Perfect Wedding [Average Rating:3.00 Unranked]
Ronster Zero
United States
California
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The Wedding Ringer




First off, let me say that I am a big Kevin Hart fan. I enjoy his comedic timing and generally have a favorable view of his antics. So, put him in a movie about being a best man for hire along with a fake wedding party for a looser groom and you should get some good comedy.

Well....no. This movie pretty much takes every cliche about romance comedy and re-treads it. The rich-hot wife, who so fake only the fake best man can see it. Two opposite people who become friends through a series of crazy events. Throw in a bachelor party with the "event" that is just too crazy and you get a mix of... well everything that has been done before. I felt almost no chemistry between Josh Gad and Kevin Hart on the screen.

Now, there are some decent laughs in this movie, but they really did seem to be far and in between. Also, the end of the movie is like a run away train that you can see coming for miles. Now, is this movie horrible? no. Is it worth the watch when you have a free redbox coupon... maybe. But if your looking for a good comedy movie, look no further than my review below this.
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17. Board Game: Prison Bitch [Average Rating:3.67 Unranked]
Ronster Zero
United States
California
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Get Hard





Remember what I said about liking Kevin Hart? well I feel the opposite for Will Ferrel. His comedy just bounces off me without much effect. Maybe it's that I was not expecting much from this movie that made it even better for me.

Will Ferrel plays a rich Millionaire who gets framed for embezzlement is found guilty and gets sent to prison. The judge gives him 30 days to get his affairs is order. With everything falling apart, Ferrel turns to Kevin Hart's character who he thinks (being black) has been to prison, which Kevin is more than willing to let him believe, for a large price. This sets into motion, one of the more laugh out loud comedies I have seen since The Heat. Hart basically takes over Ferrel's house and turns into a mock prison where he teaches him the in's and out's of being in prison.

Ferrel plays the rich snooty white guy perfect while Hart clearly over plays the thug who needs to make Farrel "Get Hard" before he enters prison. I think these two play off each other well and it shows is some funny funny moments. The movie does slow down a bit as it tries to actually "work" its weak plot out, but hey, its a comedy. Again, lots of great laugh out loud moments in this flick and it's once I will certainly watch again.
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18. Board Game: Jurassic Jeopardy [Average Rating:3.40 Unranked]
Alex H.
Germany
Berlin
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Jurassic World

Do not watch this movie. Unless you enjoy movies with no significant plot whatsoever, with no character development, films that spent their whole budget on visuals and forgot that a good movie needs more than that in order to work.
-- Spoilers start now --
Jurassic World is a weird and unfortunate marriage between the first Jurassic Park and a poorly written b-monster-movie. The dinosaurs are well done, no question there.
But everything else is a massive, massive disappointing mess.
We as the audience are supposed to care for four central characters: two kids, the park’s manager and her (former) love interes, the tough guy who is able to become the lead alpha for a pack of Velociraptors (yeah, I know…). 20 minutes in, I was hoping some dino would have mercy and eat the two kids and possibly the lady-manager too. Although I found her quite easy on the eyes. Everyone else is just plainly forgettable: The main villain is ridiculous, uninteresting and totally obscure in how he actually ties in with the rest of the people on the island. His motivation is laughable and - again - is worthy of a bad b-movie at best (if only we had had raptors at Tora Bora… really?).
The dinosaurs turn out to be fairly unimportant - this is a movie about a genetically engineered monster dino. Did I mention b-movies already? The monster always pulls out some crazy new skill according to what the situation demands. We never get a good idea what kind of animal it is and what the limits to its intelligence or skills are.
I could go on and on. In the end, if you want to see a decent dinosaur-movie, Jurassic Park is still - more than 20 years after its first release - the one to watch. Last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy impressively demonstrated how a summer blockbuster movie should be done. Jurassic World is as far an opposite to that as you could possibly imagine.


Edit: forgot the stars
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19. Board Game: Schickeria [Average Rating:4.29 Unranked]
Wendell
United States
Yellow Springs
Ohio
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Si non potes reperire Berolini in tabula, ludens essetis non WIF.
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Hey, get your stinking cursor off my face! I got nukes, you know.
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BERNIE

Bernie is an interesting flick. Some call it a dark comedy; there are some humorous elements though it's not a laugh-out-loud flick. Better to call it a docudrama, I'd say, because it tells the true story of an assistant funeral director (Bernie, played brilliantly by Jack Black), beloved in the small town of Carthage, Texas for his generosity and all-round niceness, and his increasingly abusive relationship with an unpleasant wealthy old widow (Marge Nugent, by Shirley MacLaine).

Based on a true story (as I said before); halfway thru Bernie snaps and kills Marge, and eventually he is found out.

The docu- part is there because the movie is done as a series of interviews with different townspeople, many the REAL residents of Carthage who know the REAL Bernie.

It's kind of a weird movie. Black is great as Bernie, and MacLaine too. Matthew McConnaughy plays the publicity-seeking DA, Buck Davison, who takes Bernie to trial - the accent was easy for McConnaughy this time. A good role.

NOT a typical Jack Black movie. But engrossing, and ultimately kinda sad.



Edit: forgot to add, the whole Bernie/Marge relationship is interesting - an inversion of the classic rich-old-man/younger-woman, with the richer half becoming increasingly controlling and emotionally abusive.

Another edit: Forgot to add, no explosions, no capes.
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20. Board Game: Tin Star [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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It's going to be really hard for me to detail all the many flaws with this movie. Literally every aspect of this film is horribly executed. I'll spoil every detail of the film potentially, but I urge you NEVER SEE BLACKHAT, so spoilers don't really matter. Let's start with the cast. Chris Hemsworth is a fine actor, but his mumbling attempt at an American accent is a disaster. Not only that but he's not allowed to use any of his wit or charm, instead he's about as flat and bland as can be, which matches every other actor in the film so I guess he fits in. Clearly he was cast just for the name notoriety, because he doesn't even fit the genius hacker look one would expect. Leehom Wang is kind of the co-star as the Chinese hacker who works with Hemsworth. He tries to come across as smarter than everyone else in the room, but instead he just seems shady as if he might be in on the terrorist plot. Wei Tang is the love interest, who has no purpose in the plot other than sleeping with Hemsworth. I've never seen a more under-written part, and somehow after only a couple scenes together she's madly in love with a convicted felon. Viola Davis is in this movie too, but she is utterly useless. She is the government liaison who is quicker to blackmail another government official than she is to enforce the restrictions on Hemsworth's prison release. I have never seen a less impactful character death than when she is gunned down in this movie, even the mute US Marshal is given more drama to his demise.

So then there's the technical issues. The sound mix in Blackhat is a disaster. There are moments when I think we're supposed to hear lines and they are muted and incomprehensible. There are moments where lines are inserted through ADR and it is shockingly obvious. The balance between music and dialogue is way off so I was constantly playing around with the volume. The action scenes are extremely lackluster. For long periods of time the action is just made up of groups of people shooting at each other from a distance. The couple of explosions in the film were clearly artificial and therefore lacked impact. But let's get down to the nitty-gritty, Blackhat has a plot that makes no sense at all. It starts out with some logic as they describe how hackers actually work, and it makes sense that the designers of the software being used would be capable of figuring out who was using it. But then there's this speech about how it's not about the money, and later we find out it is indeed all about money. Then we have a villain who can manipulate the stock market on a whim, but he needs an overblown mass murder plan of flooding a tin mine in order to drive up tin prices? Wait we already established he can drive up prices without all that effort. The villain, when introduced is not intimidating, and even though they treat it as a big reveal he's no one we've seen up to that point. I haven't even talked about how slow and plodding this film is, because there is no way it should have been stretched to more than 2 hours. Blackhat is a complete and utter disaster with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Avoid at all costs!
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21. Board Game: Fury of the Clansmen [Average Rating:6.31 Overall Rank:8667]
Matt Brown
United States
Okemos
Michigan
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Mad Max

Minimal plot and character development. I honestly got to the point where I wanted to see when Mad Max earned the right to have his name in the title because it felt way more like an Imperator Furiosa flick. Even in the end, I pause calling this a Mad Max film as he felt more like along for the ride. There some brain checks that fail. This honestly feels like a Bay film but done with more talented people or essentially this year's Avatar because if there was one thing that was amazing, it is the world itself. Action is crazy and over the top which works here. I did enjoy this film a lot, but whispers of how this ranks as an action in film the past 20 or however many years seems overstated. I wonder if the hype didn't help here because I freaking loved The Raid and that's basically an arcade game where the hero starts at the bottom of a building and fights everybody going to the top to take out the boss.

Gravity

I'm not sure seeing this in theaters where people claim it needed to be seen really makes it that much better. The action sequences are great, but the resolution rarely felt in doubt. There's little things here like the often debated her reading the manuals and magically being able to do stuff she's not trained for that bug. Maybe I am a little bit too detailed oriented for films.
Spoiler (click to reveal)
I mean, she goes into what looks like deep water, does some minor swimming, and is on the shore? I guess I never felt the need for her to switch over to the final ship as well. Maybe I was over the film enough at that point to where I didn't care enough to fully understand why.
This honestly felt a little too paint by the numbers to be engaging. Clooney was the more interesting character, but I almost felt like he was mostly playing himself. You want someone alone in space feeling screwed? Watch Moon.

12 Years a Slave

A well done film although it winning the Oscar for best film makes me think it was a bad year by default. I also feel like I've hit my slave movie quota. Okay, I get it. White people did a lot of crappy things to black people. I'm moving on.

Wolf Children

In the vein of Studio Ghibli although the movie misses some of its magic. It is still a good film covering the issue of a mother raising two half wolf half human kids and letting them to grow up who they are meant to be regardless of what a parent might want. This definitely works as a family film due to the plot although the wolf and human aspect means it might not work for that young of kids.
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22. Board Game: Face Off [Average Rating:5.80 Overall Rank:11850]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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New to Me


Seconds is a film about a banker who goes through a procedure to erase his current existence and start life over as a younger man. The interesting aspect of this film is in the organization that performs the procedure and how it goes about its daily operations. There's a lot of mystery involved and I like how they slowly reveal the secrets as the film goes on. However the development of the protagonist's story I found to be a bit under-written. In fact I kept feeling like I missed something because they don't properly establish what is wrong with his existing life or why he's so quick to leave it. It came across as though he was just going to meet with the company in order to see what it was all about, but within a couple of scenes he fully signs on to end his life. Because of this rushed beginning I didn't buy in emotionally in the later scenes when he craves to go back to his former life. I also didn't understand why it was so traumatic to him when he met other people who had gone through the procedure. It seems Seconds was trying to point to something deeper in the human psyche and I just failed to comprehend it. For me this felt like an overlong episode of the Twilight Zone. The camera effects were remarkable, particularly some of the tracking shots that followed characters, but I just wasn't invested in those characters. If you're interested in an odd psychological thriller that is very visually stimulating then Seconds is one you might enjoy, it just didn't work all that well for me.
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23. Board Game: Hello, Dolly! [Average Rating:7.45 Unranked]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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Being a Lions fan is a gift...
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...and a curse.
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Long Time No See


In many ways WALL-E might just be Pixar's finest achievement. Creating all the visuals in a film using only computers is one thing, but relying on those visuals to convey all emotions in a movie with virtually no dialogue is truly remarkable. They raise the bar even higher by making all those emotions come from robots who are naturally cold and inexpressive. WALL-E was actually one of the rare Pixar movies I did not see in a theater, because the concept seemed ridiculous, and now I regret that. It is astounding how great they did at making a truly deep and entertaining film with those tremendous limitations. It kind of hearkens back to the old days of silent film. There is some superb physical comedy, and most of the plot is simple to follow despite virtually no exposition. I love the characters the animators created including a great variety of robots on board the Axiom, each one has its own job and personality that shines through tremendously. If you don't know the plot, it is a distant future where humanity trashed planet Earth, and therefore decided to abandon it and live on a spaceship. When they fled, humanity left some trash compacting robots to try and clean up the mess. WALL-E is one of those robots, and he's been going about his business but everything changes when he finds that a plant has begun to grow again.

The plot goes into some really prescient topics as it depicts humanity as a race that has foregone physical interaction and has become almost completely detached from reality. The entire plot could feel preachy, but in a way its kind of inspiring. I love how a machine is the one who first recognizes the beauty of real life and love, and he becomes the catalyst that opens the eyes of so many others. It's very counter-intuitive, and therefore has some added impact. While I love and greatly appreciate his work on Star Wars this is truly Ben Burtt's magnum opus. In every single shot of this film he added something amazing to the audio. The "voices" of the different robots have so much character, and each one has its own unique sound. He carried the load almost as much as the animators when it came to the task of making these robots into characters. Hello Dolly was an interesting choice as a film that shaped WALL-E's personality, but I do like the songs so it seems to work. If I complained about anything it would just be that the humans from the past are played live-action which feels odd contrasted against the big animated baby-people in the future. It's really a minor gripe in what is otherwise a magnificent film. Now that I've seen it a couple times I'm starting to think this could be one of my favorites from Pixar, it tells a magnificent story in a great way.
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24. Board Game: Quests of the Librarian [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
¡dn ʇǝƃ ʇ,uɐɔ ı puɐ uǝllɐɟ ǝʌ,ı
Canada
Chestermere
Alberta
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Life lesson: Hamsters are NOT diswasher safe.
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There are 10 types of people-- those who understand binary, and those who don't.
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There was a new TV series on earlier this year, called The Librarians.
It was fun and funny, and I did some further digging into it and found out that it began life as three made-for-TV movies.
Those were all available from our library (nice tie-in!), so we borrowed the first two.

Movie #1: The Quest for the Spear
The Spear of Destiny, as it turns out. Except for Noah Wylie (starring role), the movie characters are related to-- but different than-- the TV series (where Noah has a limited role, often not appearing in them).
So it was cute, family friendly, and not a horrible waste of time.
Bob Newhart has a big fight scene where he takes on multiple bad guys, so that's definitely a win.


Movie # 2 Return To King Solomon's Mines
Not as good as movie #1 (this was a bit hokey at times), but even though they basically do an Indiana Jones movie, they don't have the big film budget so it shows.
It makes me miss the TV series, but I understand that that has been renewed for a new season.


And now, just because:

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25. Board Game: Bobcat of Futureville [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Wendell
United States
Yellow Springs
Ohio
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Si non potes reperire Berolini in tabula, ludens essetis non WIF.
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Hey, get your stinking cursor off my face! I got nukes, you know.
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GOD BLESS AMERICA

The title is ironic; this movie is an unhappy and angry look at things about modern-day America that aren't so great. Celebrity culture and reality TV. Hate-spewing people. And selfishness and rudeness.

It's bloody and violent and amusing but also a bit too preachy in places. Joel Murray plays an unhappy middle-aged man (Frank) who hates his noisy self-centered neighbors, celebrity culture and reality TV, hate-spewing people, and selfishness and rudeness. When he gets a diagnosis of a fatal brain tumor and is fired from his job, well he goes on a little trip, and meets an Alice-Cooper-worshipping teenaged girl (Tamara Lynn Barr) who shares his attitudes.

A very dark comedy (directed by Bobcat Goldthwait). Not bad, and definitely not for everybody. No explosions, but plenty of gunplay.

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