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Holy Batnipples! They made more of these!

Batman Returns

I wasn’t fan of its predecessor, but this sequel gets a couple of things right where Batman failed.  It certainly isn’t a great film, and I’m rather impressed these films made enough money that they made four of them.  In any case, I think Batman Returns may be the best film in this series.

First things first, Tim Burton really toned down the “iconic shots” in this film and majorly increased the plot (i.e. it had a plot this time).  There are 2.5 villains: the Penguin…a monster played by Danny DeVito, Christopher Walken plays himself (actually he plays Max Shreck, a power monger business man), and waffling Catwoman…played with a lot of crazy by Michelle Pfeiffer.

Overall, I liked this one better than the first one, but the whole raised by penguins thing still bothers me. 6 ramheads out of 10.

Batman Forever

The 3rd film, Batman Forever, has Val Kilmer, and he plays a weird, but not terrible Batman.  This has a very cartoon or video game feel, with a very enclosed world.  There are a handful of villains, all of them pretty boring.  3 ramheads out of 10.

3of10

Batman & Robin

TBaneJShe 4th film, Batman and Robin, is bad.  George Clooney is a terrible Batman.  He has no presence on the screen at all.  You don’t care about him or even realize he’s there most of the time.  This film has the worst, cheapest, feel to it.  There are a new handful of villains, including a pretty lame Bane. The only this that is interesting is the Batgirl story line, played strongly by Alicia Silverstone. 2 ramheads out of 10.

2of10

yup…

Interestingly, I liked the 2nd one best, but it is less memorable than the first one and the last one.  The 3rd is totally forgettable and also bad.

Here ends my blast from the past to the Batman films of my childhood.


Na na na na na na na na Batman! (1989 edition)

As a kid I remember watching the live action Batman (1989) and being very entertained.  It is probably because, as a kid, there wasn’t much for me to think about or understand in the film.

Style over substance

Batman displays a highly stylized (for 1989), almost cartoonish version of Batman, with very weak characters and plot.  Michael Keaton does fine, as a rather bored Bruce Wayne, with some pretty funny one-liners.  His portrayal of The Batman, however, is a bland, kind of lame superhero.  But you know, even a lame Batman is cool.  I think it is that suit.

Much of that is the fault of the writing/direction.  Burton seems to spend so much time getting some iconic shots of Batman, the Batmobile driving fast, the Batwing flying and posed in the moon, that he doesn’t develop the characters at all.  They don’t seem to have much common sense (making the audience not even root for them) and are generally very flat.

The Batwing flying straight up….for no reason other than this shot.

Aside from a couple Bruce Wayne quips, the only part that really entertained in this film was the psychotic, goofy portrayal of Joker by Jack Nicholson….sometimes.  Joker gets kind of annoying, though, when he’s dancing to late 80s music with his thugs, who look totally out of place with the big boombox and lame moves.

Plotwise, for most of the movie the Joker doesn’t seem to have much of a plan.  He really just wanders aimlessly, randomly killing or sparing people, with not much purpose.  Batman doesn’t seem to have much urgency either, there was a scene where he basically flies in circles in the Batwing for no reason.  Much of the movie seems disjointed, and I think this was the sacrifice that Burton made in getting the right “look”.

The right look is even better when you have solid depth to the characters and a great story.  Having seen how good Batman films can be in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, this one really disappoints.

Rating

Batman (1989) runs 126 minutes and is rated a [soft] PG-13.  I give it 5 ramheads out of 10.


Listen while you work…to choir music

5 years ago I was with my college choir touring Europe.  It was an experience of a lifetime and I’m blessed to have an album of live records from those awesome concerts.  I like to listen to that album at work…in fact I’ve been listening all day!


New music from a new artist: MOTHERFOLK

Motherfolk is a brand new band who just released their first records. Great tunes:

Here was the Kickstarter video that got them their initial funding:


My Budget Home Media Server Setup

[Originally Published March 23, 2013, Updated January 23, 2014]
I made one purchase on Black Friday 2012, and I didn’t even leave the comfort of my own home.  I fought off the online crowds at Amazon to pick up a Roku HD for $40.  We have Amazon Prime and the Roku works great for streaming Prime video.

My Roku HD

I also, though, have a USB TV tuner for my computer, which I use with Windows Media Center to record TV shows or movies.  After it is recorded I use MCEBuddy to compress the video (which is usually a couple GB) and remove the commercials.  MCEBuddy runs in the background and works automatically after the initial setup.  Needless to say I have a decent collection of movies and TV shows in video file format.

This lead me to search for a solution to use my Roku to watch the videos I recorded earlier.  Since my tube TV does not have any HDMI connections, I can’t plug my laptop directly into it.  Plus, that isn’t the most convenient.

The old laptop-turned server, fits nicely under my TV

I came across a free channel for the Roku called Plex.  It works in conjunction with the free Plex Media server application that runs on your computer.  After I got it working on my main laptop, I thought it might be nice to have something running that can always be on and not have to run from my main laptop.  I decided that my wife’s 6 1/2 year old laptop that was just sitting around in a drawer would be the perfect candidate.  It is slow, the power button needs excessive force from a screwdriver to use, and it was not being used by us. I stuck an extra hard drive I had that was 3 times bigger than the one she had, installed JoliOS Lubuntu (I switched from the no longer supported, Ubuntu 10.04-based Joli OS because I was having performance issues and the new Jolicloud2 interface is slow and annoys me…so far Lubuntu has been much faster and aside from one bug that I had to override, it has worked great), and set it up as a shared server on my home network.  I then installed the Ubuntu version of Plex, and got my media server up and running.  I use the free home-use version of Teamviewer if I ever need to log into the server to restart it or change some settings.

The other feature with Plex that I love, is the ability to “Publish” your server to the internet for access via Plex’s website or one of their mobile/tablet apps.  I can watch my content anywhere with an internet connection, just as long as my server, router, and home network are all online and functioning properly.

Finally to make this all seamless, without the manual transfer of files from my DVR setup on my laptop, to my server, I use SyncBackFree to sync my files over. (MCEBuddy has a save to server option, but I couldn’t get it work reliably).

Someday I hope to build a media server that has the DVR functionality built into it, but my Tuner only has drivers for Windows and I’m fine with my current setup for the time being.


Both sides of the war in Vietnam

Many war movies stylize war, glorify it, or soften it.  We Were Soldiers (2002), thankfully, isn’t this type of film.  Vietnam was a brutal war, and this movie really gives us a small glimpse of that brutality.

The film follows Lt. Colonel Hal Moore, and his cavalry in the Battle of Ia Drang.  The US really wasn’t prepared for the war, especially since the Vietnamese were fighting on their own rugged home turf, with years and years of experience.  Ia Drang was the first major battle for the Americans in the war and really set the stage for the rest of the war.  The US was actually letting family members know about their deceased via telegram at first, that’s how unprepared they were for this very deadly war.

While the film primarily follows Moore and the US, occasionally it shows opposing Vietnamese soldiers, writing in a journal or mourning their losses.  This technique further depicts the brutality of the war. People are on both sides, and no matter what side they are on, they really do believe they are fighting for the right side.  People fighting against people.

I’m not sure about the historical accuracy of this adaptation, but I do know that it accomplishes its goal and making war realistic for the viewer.  It really makes you appreciate what you have, and the many people who died defending it.  Thank a veteran and thank God.

We Were Soldiers runs 138 minutes and is rated R.  This film is not family friendly, it is quite violent with some language.  I give it 8 ramheads out of 10.


Jimmy’s Movie Preview and CONTEST: Copperhead

I got an email last week asking if I would cover another book-to-film adaption, in exchange for a book and a poster.  I did a similar thing for Life of Pi.  Before committing to it, I looked into the film, and once again, I’d be interested in seeing it, so I have no problem previewing it.

This time, the movie is a Civil War film called Copperhead.  Based on the novella “The Copperhead” by Harold Frederic and actual events during the Civil War, the film is about a man who lives in the Union and hates war just as much as he hates slavery.  Here is the official synopsis:

Inspired by actual events and based on the extraordinary novel by Harold Frederic, which the great American critic Edmund Wilson praised as a brave and singular book that “differs fundamentally from any other Civil War work,” Copperhead is the story of Abner Beech, a righteous farmer of Upstate New York, who defies his neighbors and his government in the contentious autumn of 1862. Abner despises slavery – but just as passionately opposes the war that is waging in the name of “union” hundreds of miles away because he believes the Constitution of the United States is being trampled. Abner is neither a Yankee nor a Rebel. He is what is known as a Copperhead.

The film is directed by the same guy who directed Gods and Generals and Gettysburg, Ron Maxwell, so the film is poised to be a great wartime film.

Copperhead is limited availability, so if you really want to see it, make sure to click the link to demand it come to your city.

Here are some links to the website, the trailer, and a countdown to when the film comes out:

CONTEST 

Finally, since this is a sponsored post, you have a chance to win the book, a movie poster and some movie cash.  Just comment on this post with your favorite film that features war or combat.  The winner will be picked by random from commenters and will be contacted for their name and address.  The contest ends on June 20 and the winner will need to give me their information by June 23 at 11:59pm.

Note: the countdown above is for the movie, not the giveaway.  The giveaway ends on June 20.

Good luck!


State of the Jimmy: End of May 2013

I’ve been lazy lately when it comes to blogging.  I’ve probably had time to blog, but I just wasn’t in the mood.  I’ve been spending my time getting moved in my our new bigger place and, because of the move, catching up on TV.

TV

I got really behind on Once Upon a Time and I got slightly behind on The Office, which just aired its last ever episode last week.  It was an emotional finale, but it was one of the most satisfying finales (and overall last seasons) I’ve ever seen.  Steve Carrel even made a small cameo as Michael Scott!  I definitely recommend this season and the entire series to watch (or binge watch).

Once Upon a Time on the other hand is probably the most average of the series that I am currently watching.  It is good, but not as mind-blowing as similar series (Like LOST, Fringe, etc.).  It just ended a couple weeks ago and I’m intrigued, but the entire series feel so gimmicky to me.  I still like it enough to keep watching, but I don’t look forward to it as much as the other shows I’m watching.

Revolution‘s first season will be wrapping up in a couple weeks and I’ve been really impressed with the grittiness of this show.  The concepts are really amazing and they’ve really blossomed as of late, but the execution really went in a war-like and violent direction that was a bit unexpected for me, but in a good way.  I’m also pleased that it was renewed for another season.

Another show that was renew, even though I didn’t expect it to be, is Community.  The 4th season started in February and ended a few weeks ago.  It was funny, but it wasn’t by any means its best season, but it was must have been good enough for NBC to renew so I’ll be watching.

Psych has really been awesome.  I’m glad there was been at least a couple more seasons of this hilarious and addicting comedy.  There are a couple more episodes this season and I’m excited for what is going to happen.

My wife and I have been watching Firefly, which is a very good show that we can stream on Amazon Prime.  Space cowboys.  Enough said.

Finally, I’ve started watching The X-Files and I’m already hooked.  It reminds me of Fringe in a lot of ways.  (I know that Fringe came much later, but I watched it first…)  Amazon Prime with my Roku is awesome.

Movies

I haven’t seen any new movies lately, but I’m really looking forward to seeing Iron Man 3, Star Trek 2, Man of Steel, World War Z, The Wolverine, and After Earth.  The only downside of having kids is that you need to get a babysitter to go somewhere…otherwise parenthood is awesome.

Camping/Backpacking/Outdoors

I’m looking forward to camping this year, we’re going car camping a bunch of times already this year, starting with next weekend.  I’m pumped.
I’ve also been slowly acquiring some backpacking gear, you saw my tent, but I’ve also acquired a Sawyer filter water bottle (which has a 1 million gallon guarantee), some para-cord, and a foam sleeping pad.  I decided to go foam with the sleeping pad because it was cheap and I do like a firm sleeping surface.  I’ll try it and see how it goes.  Plus, I won’t have to deal with leaky air mattresses.  
I’ll be getting a backpack from my father-in-law, and hopefully that fits me.  Otherwise, I’ve got my eye on a Kelty Trekker external frame backpack as a backup.  I’m also going to get a lightweight, compressible sleeping bag from Suisse Sport for a great price.  I’ll probably also get a fixed blade knife, but for now my folding Buck knife will suffice.
Honestly, I won’t have the best gear, and I don’t have backpacking experience, but I’ve got to start somewhere.  I enjoy car camping and the outdoors, I really want to get into backpacking as well.
Finally, I’d like to shout out to my beautiful and talented wife for getting me this t-shirt (and for being awesome in general!):


A bunch of mini-reviews from movies I’ve seen in 2012 and early 2013

So guess what?  I’m employed.  At a great company with great people doing stuff I love.  This means that I’ll be able to blog more.  First, though, I need to play a little catch-up.

The Avengers (2012) was a great action comic book movie.  It is really jam-packed full of action, the plot is a little thin, and Hulk is actually done well, thanks to Mark Ruffalo after one bad and one mediocre attempt at feature film.  It is pure comic superhero entertainment.  Thumbs up to Joss Whedon.  I give it 9 ramheads out of 10.

Next up, another comic book flick, The Dark Knight Rises (2012) was the close to a great Batman trilogy from Christopher Nolan.  It tied up loose ends, brought everything full circle (many Batman Begins and The Dark Knight nods), and features more real character development than in the past.  All the acting, action, and plot were top notch.  I like the film better than its predecessors, though it wasn’t quite as shocking as The Dark Knight.  This was probably my favorite film of 2012.  10 ramheads out 10.
Not comic-booky at all, Will Ferrell’s Everything Must Go (2010) features a Will Ferrell acting, not too much unlike his performance in Stranger than Fiction.  This time his character is an alcoholic who hits rock bottom.  His wife leaves all his stuff on the lawn, changes the locks, and then leaves.  He works it out.    Funny.  Sad.  And shows some of the effects of alcoholism on a guy.  I enjoyed this one.  I’ll give this one 7 ramheads out of 10.
My Amazon Prime subscription led me to watch a few films that I wasn’t sure about.  I had a good experience with Everything Must Go, but not so much with Melancholia (2011).  I only made it half through.  The part I saw was a couple at their weird wedding reception with a weird family and the new bride was going back and forth from being happy and depressed.  Then she sleeps with a random guy, not her husband.  I still don’t get the point of this depressing crap, and I know I wasted 45 minutes of my time.  1 ramhead out of 10.  I really don’t recommend seeing this.
Another Amazon Prime flick that was very highly regarded with critics and award shows, was Winter’s Bone   (2010).  This is Jennifer Lawrence’s foray into popularity, even if it was more of an indy film.  While I can’t say that I enjoyed it, it was very interesting.  The gist of the it: in southern poverty a 17 year old girl (Lawrence) has to find her drug-addicted father, who owes money, otherwise they will lose their land.  Her mom is severely depressed and pretty much useless, so Lawrence’s character is also raising her younger siblings.  Her character is very similar to Katniss in The Hunger Games.  The culture of drugs, family, and poverty is really what strikes the middle class Midwesterner that I am.  It is an honest picture of a world I’ll never know.  I give it 6 ramheads out of 10.
The final film in this post is another Prime watched film.  Into the Wild (2007) is a film about a young college graduate with a tough past and a very high intellect, just disappearing on a quest of sorts traveling across America and ending up living in solidarity in Alaska.  He’s trying to figure out life and how to be happy.  His final conclusion is very interesting.  Into the Wild is based on a true story.  I give it 8 ramheads out of 10.

A Zombie with Heart

I‘ve always enjoyed post-apocalyptic films, television, and literature.  So when I saw the trailer for Warm Bodies, I was intrigued.  A comedy about zombies.  Zombies with a heart?

I won’t go so far as to say it was a romantic comedy, because aside from a select few (noteably, Crazy, Stupid, Love) the genre itself is lame.  Plus, the main character is a zombie, impressively played with blank zombie look for most of film by Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class‘s Hank McCoy/Beast).

I won’t go too into the story, because most of it is in the trailer:


I will say though, that this is the freshest, most unique take on the Romeo/Juliet story I’ve seen in a long time and the most creative movie I’ve seen since Inception.  (I know that Warm Bodies was based on the book of the same name, but it was still an excellent movie.)

The music was great, the jokes were funny, the acting and makeup was stellar, and the plot was very original.  There was a bit of language in this PG-13 film, not suitable for younger kids.  I give this excellent film 9 ramheads out of 10.  (P.S. I’m sorry, I review so many good films…I just don’t like wasting my money or time on bad ones. But look forward to my mini-review roundup.  I know there will be at least 1 bad film in there.)



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