Previewing the Previews

July 21, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under General Insanity, Silliness and Rants

It’s been a while since I had a post with no redeeming value (Says you).  This week marked the official release of a couple of important movie trailers.  “Important? Shouldn’t we reserve the word important for those fancy movies that nobody watches?”  How about we use the word important to describe movies that are highly anticipated?  If you are gripped by movies with a social conscience, you probably aren’t reading this.

First, The Dark Knight Rises, the 3rd in the unbelievably awesome Batman series directed by the Inception guy.

Initial thoughts: that was cool.  It got my blood going.  Great teaser trailer.  Leaves you with some questions:

Did Batman immediately hang it up post-TwoFace or did something else happen?

Why is Commissioner Gordon in the hospital? Did Bane or Catwoman put him in there?

Where was Catwoman/Princess Diaries Girl?

Will there be a midnight showing?

Next, The Amazing Spider-Man which is a reboot of the Spider-Man series.  Good idea because once your superhero movie enters the “How many villains can we squeeze in here?” phase, it’s over.  Bad idea because it’s too soon and who is this director anyway?  We couldn’t have waited for the afore mentioned Inception guy?

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.  With all apologies to my brother, a huge Spider-Man fan.  That didn’t interest me even a little.  The effects of the “Spidey cam” were pretty cool, but I have no interest in that.  Allow me to clarify, it didn’t add any interest for me.  I will still see it.  I would definitely move it off the highly-anticipated list.

Fellow geeks, what are your thoughts?

Green Lantern Movie Review

green_lantern_movie_poster-ryan_reynolds1I did something that some people do not understand but sometimes I find to be necessary.  I went to see a movie by myself the other day.  The girls were at camp and mom was busy and so I took a couple of hours and just unplugged and watched the Green Lantern.  First, did you know the cheap movie theater in Fayetteville has a 3-D theater now? Did you know it was small and depressing? Did you know that makes it not cheap anymore, even if you get there super-early?  Did you know they let you keep the glasses?  What does it mean?

Green Lantern stars Deadpool in the lead role (I don’t like one superhero also being in another superhero movie.  It doesn’t seem right.  I’m looking at you Captain America/Human Torch and more obscurely Cyclops/Lois Lane’s new boyfriend or husband or whoever you were.) It also stars the Gossip Girl (never seen it) as the stereotypical wet-blanket female lead, the bad guy from Robin Hood and Sherlock Holmes as the foreshadowingly named Sinestro (That is not a spoiler. He is good throughout the movie, but come on, Sinestro? You could’ve figured that out.  Also, you should know that if you have any familiarity with the comics.), and I swear I know him, no I don’t, wait he was in Knight and Day as the bad guy.  It also features a couple of “Really it’s come to this” appearances by Tina Turner (the one who played her) and Andy Dufresne.

Expectations: Very low.  The previews didn’t look that good.  A fellow superhero movie lover said he didn’t like it.  “Then why did you go see it?”  Duh, it’s a superhero movie.  Clearly, you are new here.

Reality: It actually was pretty good.  Maybe that is just the expectations were so low that it had to be better, but I enjoyed it.  Better than Thor worse than X-Men First Class.  It certainly is not an elite superhero movie, read Iron Man, The Dark Knight, but it was good.  The story was good, the acting was good, the wet blanket female lead wasn’t wet blankety at all.  I think the directors are starting to figure this out.  Thor and Iron Man were both good, X-Men doesn’t even have them.  With the exception of Rachel Dawes (both movies) there hasn’t been much wet blanketyness.  (If you don’t know what this means, you don’t watch many superhero or sports movies.  Watch the Michael Keaton Batman and observe Vicky Vale or Hoosiers and that teacher.  Add nothing, discourage the hero, take away from the action.) I think the reason it (and Thor) did not do well is that I think we love sci-fi movies and we love superhero movies.  When they are both, it’s just ok.

Appropriateness: An abundant supply of wirty dords and some implied sex-having (What? He wakes up and there is a bare-shouldered woman in his bed.)  The violence is very sci-fi-ish and not troubling.  I would put it very low on the appropriate for kids.  PG-13 for a reason.

Rating: (Back to the old system)

See it in the theater and will definitely own

See it in the theater and might own

See it in the theater and will likely rent it

See it in the theater and be done

See it at the dollar theater

Rent it

Avoid it.

I rate it a see it in the theater and be done. (There is a small chance that I would by it.  If I were strolling around in a Best Buy this fall and the Blu-Ray were 9.99 or less, I probably would get it.)

You’re the Birthday Boy or Girl

June 17, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under General Insanity, Silliness and Rants

I will have to ask you here to not judge me.  You know how you can be sometimes.  We have a few birthday traditions around our home and we had another successful birthday yesterday.  My wife Heidi, who I contend is not aging at all, had her birthday yesterday.  She shares it with Phil Mickelson, my favorite golfer, but I love her more.

Anywho, the first tradition is the singing of a song from a Simpson’s episode.  Not the sappy Lisa birthday song, sung by Michael Jackson, but this:

I’m pretty sure I’m the only who has ever seen this episode, and I haven’t watched the Simpsons in probably 15 years, but this dumb little clip stuck in my head.  It used to make Maylee furious.  “I am not a boy or girl.  I am a girl!!!!”  In a different home, that would have modified the dad’s behavior.  Not here.

That tradition is silly.  Here is one that is not.  The birthday “boy or girl” gets to pick where we eat.  Then while we wait for the food, we all go around and share one thing we love about the birthday “boy or girl.”  We typically make about 3 laps around.  It’s a great opportunity to take some time and do some intentional appreciation.  The birthday “boy or girl” loves it, even if at times it seems a little cheesy.  BTW, this same routine is done for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.  On our anniversary, which we call our family’s birthday, we do the same thing.  This time everyone shares what they like about being a part of the family.

We often do a good job of doing things and giving things for people’s special days.  It’s also important that we say things as well.  Those last a lot longer than the gifts and certainly the dinner. (Don’t judge me)

X-Men First Class Movie Review

X-Men First Class

X-Men First Class

It was the last day of school and Lauren had her awards assembly.  She dominated and didn’t want to stay at school.  They were just going to watch movies.  So I checked her out and we went on a daddy-daughter date (Took the day off).  She didn’t want to watch movies at school, so what did we do? Went to Chick-Fil-A and watched a movie–X-Men First Class.  This was a risk.  Lauren has seen superhero movies before and she loves them.  However, I always screen them and let her watch ones that are appropriate, but no pre-screen today.

X-Men First Class is an ensemble show with too many characters and actors to mention them all.  It stars Mr. Tumnus (Narnia) as Professor X. He was in 300 but I don’t remember as Magneto, Betty from “I’m not cool enough to watch” Mad Men, and a new addition to the most improbable villain pantheon, which of course includes John Lithgow from Cliffhanger and Dennis Hopper from Speed, we have “he’s been in every movie with everyone” Mr. Footloose as the bad guy.  There were a slew of “I recognize them” and “I think I know who that is” all throughout the movie.

Expectations: Reasons for high expectations–Superhero movie, X-Men, my love for origin movies, and I didn’t know Kevin Bacon and Oliver Platt were in it.  Reasons for low expectations–5th movie in the series, not doing well in theaters and a bunch of relative nobodies starring as the X-men.  You know what pushed me over the edge?  The guy who sold us our tickets giving us a 5-minute movie review from his little cage…not really. No it really happened, but it didn’t persuade me.  Lauren thought that was hilarious.  Overall, my expectations were moderately high.

Reality: I thought it was pretty good.  Origin movies if you like the characters are always great and this one didn’t disappoint.  I watched it through Lauren’s eyes a little and felt bad for her, because it was fairly complicated and in her words, “a lot of characters to keep up with.”  I thought all of the relative new/young actors did well and it was a great blend of action and plot.  However, I could never get over, “Wait, that’s Kevin Bacon.”  That’s my bad though.  It could have used a little more mutant fight scenes, but it was still good.

Get Over Yourself: There is a discontinuity between this prequel and the Jean Grey flashback in X-Men 3.  Who cares?  You do.  Read the category title again.  On the other hand, it was cool how they tied in the Magneto origin flashback from the trilogy.

Appropriateness: This is where I wish that I had pre-screened this.  This was definitely more inappropriate for kids than previous X-Men movies.  There were a lot of scenes of women in their underwear and a lot of language.  This includes one F-bomb.

Rating: (New System–American Idol Style)

Paula: That was fabulous, amazing, and I was touched deeply (Definitely go see it, now)

Randy: It was just aiiight for me, Dawg (Maybe see it, you should rent it)

Simon: That was indulgent nonsense (Bad, but still worth seeing. Redbox it)

Kara: What was the point of Kara, anyway? (Run for the hills, don’t ever see it)

I rate this almost a Paula but better than a Randy. (I’m beginning to think this system doesn’t work) If you are an X-Men fan or even superhero movie fan, you should see it in the theater.  I will definitely have the BluRay.

Other Possibilities:

Ellen: It’s supposed to be good, but it’s not, even though you really want it to be.

Steven: Trainwreck good

Jennifer: At least she can dance, but that’s not what we’re doing. Confusing, but mildly entertaining, nowhere near a Paula.

Family Topic Month

First there was the Toenail Ogre, then Family Tag Month.  Now perhaps the most intentionally goofy family you know brings you something completely different–Family Topic Month or Family Chat Month or something like that.  Maybe it needs a better name, but it’s a cool concept.

Everyone in the family will put discussion questions or topics in a jar.  You can put as many as you want in the jar.  Every night, with TV off and sitting around the dinner table (Something we can do now, since this is one of two months that isn’t soccer season, and we are currently not in any plays.), we will pull one of these out and we will discuss it.

The only prerequisite is that the topic/question that you submit must be of a serious nature.  The counter-example I used last night in describing “wrong” suggestions was, “How cute do you think Justin Bieber is?” (Very surprised that Bieber got the classic red squiggle.  Thought for sure that had made it to the Oxford Dictionary by now.)

Last night’s intro discussion was Mom’s question:  What is one thing you’ve learned about yourself this year that you like?  What is one that you don’t like?

Unlike most things we do, there is no competition.  This is just being intentional to talk about deeper things together as a family.

BTW, the final results for Family Tag Month were Mom and Lauren had 7 points (points are bad), I had 8 and Maylee had 9.  Lauren was the winner.  She had 0 times where she woke up “it” and went to sleep “it,” without remembering to tag anyone else, which is very lame.  Mom had at least one.  Lauren gets to plan on her own, a family date night.  So far it includes Hugo’s and one of those weigh your own yogurt places.  She’s not sure what she wants the activity to be, she said maybe Gator Golf.

Pirates of the Caribbean 4 Movie Review

Pirates 4

Pirates 4

I was invited by some guys relatively last minute to go see the new Pirates movie on Saturday. I had been wanting to go, but couldn’t quite pull the trigger.  I’m glad these guys did.

Pirates 4 (I don’t even feel like typing out the whole name of this movie.  That should give you some idea where this is headed.) returns the Mad Hatter as Jack Sparrow and the speech therapist from King’s Speech (Betcha didn’t think I watched movies like that) as Barbosa.  Those not returning include Legolas and Jules from Bend it Like Beckham.  New characters include “not-Selma Hayek or Catherine Zeta Jones” as a new pirate and Jack’s foil/love interest and “I think I know him no I don’t, but he was the voice of the bad guy in Kung Fu Panda” as Blackbeard.

Expectations:  The second and third movies were mediocre at best.  I ended up owning them, because of a mix-up with the Disney movie club that I didn’t feel like fixing.  The first one is probably a top 15 all time movie for me.  I loved it.  The fact that they were redoing the cast made me think that they had a good new idea and this one would be better.  Plus, it was in 3D, which is cool.  Wait…that’s right, I didn’t see it in 3D.  Why not? I’m looking at you, guys who invited me.  In summary, my expectations were medium-high.

Reality: I was disappointed.  Perhaps if I had had lower expectations I would have liked it.  Maybe if I had seen it in 3D (still looking at you guys).  The plot idea I think was a pretty good one.  However, there wasn’t enough Captain Jack being a goofus.  Also, the mermaid thing was little, hmmm, overdone? pointless? ridiculous?  It reminded me of one of those things that sounds like a good idea in your dorm room at 2 am, but in real life, no so much.  “Dude, what if we had mermaids and they were like evil and stuff?”  “Yeah, dude. What if they had vampire teeth?”  “Awesome, what if we gave them Spiderman’s powers?” “Dude!!!!”

Spoiler Question: Is that missionary dude now in Mermaid Heaven with Tom Hanks? (Boom! Dated reference!)

Appropriateness:  Short answer: just like the other ones.  Long answer: sexual tension between Sparrow and Angelica, and plenty of innuendo.  There were a few curse words and plenty of piratey violence.

Rating: (New System–American Idol Style)

Paula: That was fabulous, amazing, and I was touched deeply (Definitely go see it, now)

Randy: It was just aiiight for me, Dawg (Maybe see it, you should rent it)

Simon: That was indulgent nonsense (Bad, but still worth seeing. Redbox it)

Kara: What was the point of Kara, anyway? (Run for the hills, don’t ever see it)

I rate this a Randy, but it was almost a Simon.  I would wait to rent it.

You may be wondering about the other judges.  They could, I suppose be there own categories.  For your enjoyment:

Ellen: It’s supposed to be good, but it’s not, even though you really want it to be.

Steven: Trainwreck good

Jennifer: At least she can dance, but that’s not what we’re doing. Confusing, but mildly entertaining, nowhere near a Paula.

#1 Rule of Cults and Apocalyptic Prophets

Even before we get into this, I am mindful of the bigger issue.  There is no enforcing body.  Even if we were to all agree on the rules and regulations that we need to put on cult leaders and apocalyptic prophets, there is no way we could agree to get them to submit to them.  These guys, you know, are kinda known for their desire to go against the grain.  More on this later.

Here is the rule:

If you make a specific prediction that can be measured and it fails to come true, you are done.

You have to publicly apologize and then you have to quit and go get a job where you can’t do any more damage, maybe a window-washer for skyscrapers? (Random I know but I was trying to brainstorm about a job where you aren’t around people. No, I’m not wishing them to fall, just not to be able to talk to people anymore.)  You wanted us all to believe that you have special insight into God and the world and are a prophet.  Great. Way to go buddy.  You are putting it on the line with something tangible.  However, when (it’s always when not if) you are wrong, you are done.  No further clarifications or redirects, just done.

Let’s take our latest prophet as an example.  He once predicted that the world would end in 1994.  It didn’t come true, so what did he say back then?  Mathematical miscalculation.  Are you kidding me?  That offends me, deeply.  Not as a pastor, (well yes as a pastor as well) but as a mathematician. Little known fact: Cloften was a math major.

Let me get this straight. You are predicting the end of the world, END OF THE WORLD and you cannot be bothered to check your math.  Seriously?  You should check your math if you are taking an algebra quiz that’s only worth 5 points. You most certainly should make sure that you carry the one if there is an impending apocalypse.  “Sorry everyone.  Turns out 7*7+1 is 50.  I had a scribble on my page that I thought was a parenthesis but it wasn’t. I had it as 56.  My bad.”

Once that happens you are done. You don’t get to come back 17 years later with better calculations and declare the real date.  But let’s assume that we can be gracious with his math and we let him come back for one more go at it.  He misses again.  What does he say now?  “I’m confused, but I’m real sure about the other date I predicted.  Sure I predicted two dates and the first was flat out wrong, but I’m just as confident in the 2nd.”  (I suppose I shouldn’t have put quotation marks there.  That isn’t what he said.  However, if he can wrongly predict the end of days twice, I can misquote him.  However, that was his basic sentiment.)  No, no, no.  The only answer is, “I’m sorry. I was wrong.  I’ve asked God to forgive me and asking you to do the same. I’m stepping down from leadership.”

Back to the other question, how do we enforce this?  I think we have to play on their arrogance.  They make the prediction, and since we cannot be trusted to ignore these people completely.  We interview him and ask the question, “Are you sure?” “Are you willing to stake you reputation on it?”  “Ok, great. Do you promise that if you are wrong, you will apologize and leave?”  If they start hemming and hawing (Old school southern expression), then they are done right then.  If they agree, then we have them on tape, and we play it incessantly after the nonpocalpyse.

Next week on Rules for Cults: Why would you ever pick an ascetic cult when there are plenty of good hedonist ones out there?

Thor Movie Review

thor_movie_poster_430px1Been a while since I’ve done one of these.  I’ve been seeing most of my movies well past when a review would even be relevant.  Not this summer though.  This summer will be the summer of seeing overly-hyped movies.  Woo-hoo!  Anywho, first on the list–Thor.

Thor stars Captain Kirk 2.0 in the lead role. It also co-stars a completely out of the blue, what is going on here Hannibal Lecter as Thor’s dad, Queen Amidala as the not too-wet-blankety female love interest, the math professor from Good Will Hunting as a scientist and slew of “who-dats?” in various roles. I would be remiss to not mention Rene Russo as Thor’s Mom (Dude! You broke your rule.  You said her name.  I know, but what are you going to say? The psychiatrist from Tin Cup? The horror film actress from Get Shorty? The completely ill-conceived never believable foil to Thomas Crown?  I said her name, because where does it even come from that she’s in this? She was barely in it and it was so “wha???”  She must have had some bills needing to get paid).

Expectations: I really had mixed emotions going into this.  It was going to be in 3-D, so that’s always great.  It’s a superhero movie so that raises expectations.  On the other hand, the previews seemed weird and I was really wondering how they were going to make his backstory even remotely believable. “Believable? Since when do you care about believable? We demand that you get Cloften back here immediately to finish this review.”  Even my implausibility or “that’s ridiculous” radar goes off every now and then.

Reality:  Well, my expectations were soundly met.  “Wait? You said you had mixed expectations.”  Exactly.  The coolness of the 3-D was undeniable, and superhero movies are in general pretty cool.  That said, the back and forth between the 2 (I guess 3) worlds conflict was a bit convoluted and pretty much a big who cares.  “So what you’re saying is that the plot was bad, but you still thought the movie was OK.  What is your problem?”  I have many problems.  One of them is that cool effects and hype can overcome a plot that I don’t care about, at least to a degree.  Sometimes it can’t.  I’m looking at you Clash of the Titans 3-D!

Appropriateness: There were a few curse words in there, not enough to make you think, “That was a lot of bad language,” but enough for, “I wish I hadn’t brought my 10 year old.”  There is, of course, violence.  More stuff blowing up than seeing people get maimed and killed.  Nothing real sexual, a budding romance that peaks with an appropriate kiss.  The scientist dude gets drunk.  Compared to either of the Iron Man movies, this is much more appropriate.  It is about on par with a typical X-Men movie.  I know–I’m a dork.

Rating: (Here is the system)

See it in the theater and will definitely own

See it in the theater and might own

See it in the theater and will likely rent it

See it in the theater and be done

See it at the dollar theater

Rent it

Avoid it.

I rate it a see it in the dollar theater (if you have one) or just rent it it. (One caveat, 3D effects are always great, so it is unlikely that either your dollar theater or TV has that, so might be worth it)

The True Measure of Character

This post initially started out in my mind as a straight-up anti-Laker rant.  Hopefully (for you), this post will be more subdued.  For those who don’t know why I would be ranting about it at all, let me briefly explain.  Yesterday, the 2-time defending NBA champions were eliminated from the playoffs.  They got swept out, which means they lost their best of 7 series 4-0, without winning a game.

In that final game yesterday, they were down by 20+ points most of the game.  Late in the game, 2 of the Lakers best 4 players (Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom) intentionally knocked someone to the ground for no reason.  One of them was especially bad, because the fouler had about 100 pounds on the foulee and said foulee was airborne at the time when he received the forearm to his ribcage.  Those 2 fouls were cheap shots and dirty plays, and they will most likely be fined and suspended.

Before I continue the mini-rant, a couple of disclaimers:

1) I root against the Lakers.  I always root against teams that win all the time, especially if I’m told repeatedly by sports media that I’m supposed to like them.  Many teams and individuals fall into this category.  Lakers are near the top. (They can thank the Duke Blue Devils and Tiger Woods from keeping them off the top of the list)

2) I don’t follow the NBA too closely.  Most of what I know comes from Sportscenter and PTI (best show on television).  I start watching during the 2nd round of the playoffs.

What I do know from watching ESPN is that the Lakers are great champions with great leaders in their coaches and players.  I was disinclined to believe these things (see disclaimer 1), but what do I know (see disclaimer 2)?

Before we go too far down this road, I do not want to judge their character.  I don’t even know them.  Athletes are barely any different than cartoon characters to us.  If my worst moments were caught on national TV, I would hope that people would give me grace and that I would not be defined by them.  I will separate silly sports rants from bigger picture questions of specific individual people’s character.

However (you knew something was coming), people who put themselves in the public eye do give us opportunity to reflect and analyze issues of character, not based on their character (which we don’t know) but their behavior (which we can see).

Given that mega-disclaimer, here is what we all need to understand–our true character is tested and measured by adversity.

Here is a list of things you shouldn’t say:

“I’m really nice, unless you make me mad.”

“I love people when they aren’t annoying me.”

“I’m incredibly patient until something stressful happens.”

“I’m very gracious unless you cross me.”

“They are great champions unless they lose and start knocking people around the court with uncalled for forearms (sorry, had to throw that in there)”

It is easy to be patient when there is no cause to be impatient.  It’s easy to be gracious when people are being nice.  It’s easy to be a “winner” or a “champion” when you are winning.  But what are we like when we are “losing” and when life is stressful and painful and hard?  Are we truly allowing God to refine deep character into us? Are we allowing adversity to make us more like Jesus?  Or are we simply surviving bad times with mediocre (or worse) character and waiting to be the “real me” again?

The “real me” is not the me when everything is going just my way, but the person that is on display in adversity.  My hope is that, whether or not there are television cameras on or not, when those times hit me that the love and light of God would shine.

James 1:2-4
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Matthew 5:43-48
Love for Enemies

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Family Tag Month

May is Family Tag Month.  Wait.  You didn’t know?  Well, that could be because we just invented that a couple of days ago.  This was Lauren’s (of course) idea, though the rules were a collaborative effort.

Assuming that we all understand the basic concept of tag.  Here are the rules:

1) Person who is initially “it” is picked by a random drawing.  No discussion is allowed as to who is it.

2) You can only tag someone when it is just you and that person in the room/area. (to protect the anonymity of who is it)

3) You have to wait 1 hour after you are tagged to tag someone else, this allows for “tag backs” but not immediate tag backs.  However, even after the hour, tag backs are discouraged, because you want everyone getting tagged.

4) At the girls’ bedtime, whoever is it gets a point.  (Like golf, points are bad)

5) At the end of the month, the person with the fewest points wins.

So, go for it.  Make May Family Tag Month.  Between this and the Toenail Ogre, you now have some great (?) ideas for having some ridiculous fun with your kids.  But, as always, my encouragement is to make your own ridiculous games.

UPDATE:  It is May 2nd, 8:30 at the time of this writing.  Heidi got May 1st’s point, and I’m currently it. I was tagged at 7:20.  Very well-timed, since school starts at 8:00.  My plan is to tag Heidi this afternoon at around 2:05, because she will leave the meeting we are at around 2:45 (can’t tag me back) and will be picking up the girls at 3:05.  I considered popping in at school and tagging one of the girls.  I’ve got all month for that trick though. I threatened both of them, just so they’re thinking about it.

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