June 30, 2012

What I watched on Netflix.

Okay, without further ado, here are my reviews of what I watched on Netflix during my free month trial of Instant Watch.  Enjoy!  Let me know if you've seen any and what you think!

Breaking Bad (2008-current)
OH MY GOODNESS I'M NOT SURE I CAN EVEN ARTICULATE HOW MUCH I LIKE THIS SHOW.  JUST ASK NATALIE.  This show is so INTENSE and ADDICTING and WELL WRITTEN and WELL ACTED.  I've now seen seasons 1-3 and have probably texted Chris at least 100 times saying how insanely awesome this show is.  I really need to watch season four before season five airs on July 15th!
5/5 stars

Arrested Development (2003-2005)
After seeing a fair number of screen caps of it on Tumblr, and it being recommended by several friends, including Stephen, I finally caved and started watching it.  As my oldest brother noted (and I agree) it's sometimes difficult to watch episodes immediately back-to-back because the humor is the same.  Don't get me wrong, I've already grown attached to the characters and their quirks, but sometimes the story lines seem a little contrived.  It's still absolutely hilarious.
4/5 stars

Still on my to-watch list: Lie to Me, Sherlock, Friday Night Lights, Downton Abbey

Note: Clicking on the movie title will link you to a trailer for it unless I couldn't find one.

This was really good.  I think it helped that the lead (Daryl Wein) was incredibly attractive.  I thought the overall pacing was good and it was well acted.  As most indie films, -- at least the ones done right -- it was aesthetically pleasing to watch and the characters seemed genuine and thus more relatable.  I don't remember if this was considered a drama or a comedy, but it definitely had its amusing moments.
3/5 stars

Collapse (2009)
This documentary blew me away.  I immediately went and raved about it to my friend Robert and urged him to see it.  Basically it's about this one man, Michael Ruppet, who is/was considered a 'conspiracy theorist' because he was an investigative journalist who understood how peak oil worked and tried to point out the cracks that were forming in the the U.S. Economy leading up to the 2008 Financial Crisis.  He's not a lunatic; he was right. And although it's just this man talking about his life whilst sitting in a chair in a dark room and occasionally smoking inter spliced with stock images and videos of what he's talking about, I found it incredibly informative and compelling.  I hope it gets you thinking like it got me thinking.
5/5 stars

I'll be honest and I just watched it because I knew a certain song was in it and I was curious how it paired with the scene.  Also, after loving Ryan Phillippe in Breach, I wanted to see how his younger self acted.  Ultimately, this became way too sexual and I felt like it was a stupid premise.  Perhaps it was attempting to be truer to life or something, but I thought the ending was a) unrealistic and b) pretty stupid.  I'm pretty sure I yelled at the screen.  One of the characters also annoyed me tremendously and I wish her storyline was left out entirely.
2/5 stars

Keith (2008)
I'm kind of a sucker for movies that begin with where they end, so immediately this movie was great.  A long time ago Abs reviewed and recommended this on mix tape (the collab blog I started) and I always knew I wanted to see it.  You might be deterred because the main character is played by Jesse McCartney, yet that didn't bother me as much as I thought it might.  He was surprisingly good in this role, actually. I thought the story was well paced, and what teenage girl isn't attracted to a mysterious boy?  I felt like the tone was spot on and none of the dialogue felt forced, which is always good (provided it's not too rife with meaningful glances, balance is key.)  Overall, I think it's worth watching.
4/5 stars

Dakota Skye (2008)
If you watch the trailer you would see how low-budget this movie was.  This only bugged me at some points when the protagonist's moodiness or angst translated into awkward scenes.  Despite other minor details that failed to impress me, I connected with the complicated romance between her and her love interest (who isn't her boyfriend...dun dun dun.)  While her being able to perceive all the lies she's told and just "know" the truth seems like a lie itself, I give the writers credit for using a different enough premise.  There was a scene where they went to the Grand Canyon and I'm convinced that is somehow symbolic for something else I'm not aware of because it appeared in one or two other movies I watched.
3/5 stars

If you are not a fan of dialogue-driven films, this is not for you.  But if you are, I think this could have a spot as one of your favorites.  Given the characters are older and have had more life experience than I have, I feel a rematch in a couple of years might be in order.  That way I can glean more from the turbulent, long-term friendship these two characters shared.  I liked how it jumped around from present day to the past, explaining things that needed to be said.  That said, I did not like all the 'dream' sequences Wes had, but maybe that's just me.  The Grand Canyon also made an appearance here.
4/5 stars

Submarine (2011)
Artistically gorgeous.  Main character was adorable.  Soundtrack was by Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys so that was great.  Karen did a photoshoot inspired by the film for a portfolio class she took and she beautifully captured some of the best scenes.  The voice-over narration added something and the actors did a good job making it believable.  I wish I had more to say about it, really.
3/5 stars

This may be the very definition of an indie film from the rich parts of New York City.  The star also wrote and directed it, so there was a commanding voice.  If that makes sense.  I was stupidly envious of the fresh post-grad's ability to get a job as an hostess, but the rest of the film mainly points out the challenging transition a young woman goes through when coming back home after college.  She doesn't have it all figured out and you root for her to find what she's looking for, although that's never clear.  The mother and sister had some good lines -- father out of the picture, making it a female dominated cast.  Overall it was pretty entertaining, yet I could see how it would attract a limited audience.  Warning: there is very brief nudity.
3/5 stars

Albatross (2011)  
This was a weird film.  I picked it purely for two reasons: the girl from Like Crazy (Felicity Jones) was in it and it took place in England.  With essentially no expectations going on, I thought overall it was pretty good.  I didn't like how fast the characters seemed to develop.  The leads instantly best friends?  Okay, sure. And even though it was a comedy, I found myself cringing more than laughing.  Should I blame it on British humor?  Also, I just now watched the trailer, after having not seen it before, and realize nearly the whole movie is given away.
3/5 stars

The first ten minutes or so bored me, but I'm glad I stuck with it.  Like All the Days Before Tomorrow I think I would take away more from it if I were older.  That's not to say it isn't enjoyable or it wasn't well-acted.  I simply could not connect as fully to the female lead as I would've hoped.  Still, I think this is worthy of your time and is a certain breath of fresh air.  One of the final scenes was entirely too beautiful and will probably stay in my memory for a very long time.
3/5 stars

The Waiting Room (2007)
Once more I went in knowing nothing besides James McAvoy's wife, Anne-Marie Duff, was in it.  I'll admit, a part of me wanted to check out her acting chops in something else besides The Last Station (which is good, by the way).  I wasn't terribly impressed with the plot.  I probably could've skipped over bits and still known how it would've ended.  The characters weren't anything spectacular and compared to other films I'd seen of similar pace and style, this ranks the lowest among them.  Still, I enjoyed the charming love interest because he's my type of guy.  Warning: there is some nudity.
3/5 stars

Last Night (2011)
I've had this movie on my to-watch list since it came out and this was my chance to see it.  (Limited releases suck.)  I thought the premise was intriguing enough and quite a superb cast; I've always had a girl crush on Kiera Knightly!  The dialogue was clever and the pacing was well done.  Honestly, it's hard to find much wrong with this film besides that it has the most ambiguous ending ever, and that personally annoys me.  I can see why it was used in this instance but it still irked me.  Also, I'm no expert when it comes to alcohol consumption, but shouldn't having a drink EVERY SINGLE PLACE YOU GO in the night (bar, restaurant, friend's apartment, hotel, your apartment, etc.) cause you be a little woozy?  Wouldn't your speech be slurred?  I don't know, I just found it sort of strange.
4/5 stars

Cyberbully (2011)
I had first heard about this movie from Emilia.  She had already deemed it "one of the worst movies ever acted by Disney channel has-beens" so my expectations were set extraordinary low.  Surprisingly, there were some moments that felt authentic and worthy of being a credible feature film...and then there were some moments where the protagonist whose-name-I-don't-remember-even-though-it-was-said-many-times was really stupid and she could've saved herself a lot of grief.  Bottom line: don't see this movie unless you want to feel inappropriately unsympathetic as a teenage girl becomes the target of malicious online rumors.  My favorite line: "Even my mom is like, 'dude, check your ego.'"
1/5 stars

Still on my to-watch list:  All of these and then some.


Demetri Martin, Jim Gaffagin and John Oliver are hilarious comedians and I watched their specials.  My review of all three could best be summarized with an audio clip of my laughter. (But I'll spare you.)

Still on my to-watch list:  None at the moment.

June 26, 2012

Be brave.

On Saturday my friends and I went and saw Brave.  Talk about an adorable, heartfelt movie!  I was in love with the setting (IT'S SCOTLAND, GUYS. SCOTLAND.) and the plot (female centric, ftw!) and the soundtrack (I've already downloaded my favorite song from it) and almost every other aspect.  But then again, it's Pixar, so what else should I expect? (I tend to ignore that Cars 2 even exists, personally.)  Even the digital short beforehand was gorgeous and I probably would've paid six dollars just to see that.  Now I'm even more excited for Pixar's 2013 project, Monsters University, whose demographic, as someone astutely noted on a Tumblr post about it, will be primarily 18-23 years olds who grew up with the original.  I fear it cannot top the original, though.  The proof: Toy Story 2 was terrible compared to Toy Story 3 and utter crap compared to Toy Story.  And okay, I'll stop sounding like a total Pixar snob now.

After the movie, we walked to the nearby smoothie shop to redeem a free small smoothie coupon we all received at Project Graduation.  I think I have a serious affinity for mango smoothies so I that's what I got, even though nothing can top the Mango Icy I had a thai restaurant in Princeton, NJ.  That sounds made up, but I promise it's true and I remember it because it was so superb.
I'm donning my movie critic hat (picture not available) for my next post that will attempt to review everything I watched on Netflix during my free month trial.  Am I sad it ended?  Yes, of course. But I am also glad I have the self control to not continue paying for the monthly service.  I think I would've regretted it come October and December when I'd be studying for college mid-terms and finals respectively.  Besides, I could use the other time to be more productive.

And as my first step to becoming more productive this summer, I am determined to empty a particular bin I have filled with incomplete packages to send to various friends.  It's sitting next to my laptop on my desk here taunting me...

I also have to finish various grad gifts. Plus figure out what else I'm doing to prepare for college.  And keep taking the irregular babysitting jobs when I can because I need the money.  Every time I think of all the debt I am about to incur I just want to save everything I earn and not spend a dime.  Who knows what the economy will look like in four years and blah, blah, blah.  This is annoyingly overwhelming.  How do adults do it every day?
The best news of all is my book for the Blogger Family Book Exchange came, and from the marvelous Maggie, no less! She wrote a very witty, very lovely card to accompany the book, Plan B, by Jonathan Tropper. I really liked Tropper's other novel, This Is Where I Leave You, so I'm eager to read this one!  Thanks again, my dear!

I hope your summers are enjoyable.  These past few days have been particularly grim for me with the rain and strong wind.  Gotta love tropical storms.

June 17, 2012

"Let's go to Marbleslab, guys!"

I come to you today having now COMPLETELY finished high school.  That's right, almost an entire month after I walked across the stage, I finally have no more AICE exams!  Unfortunately, I won't receive my results until August, but I am reasonably certain I at least passed three, which is what I needed to earn my AICE diploma.  I honestly couldn't tell you if I did well enough on Physics or not.  And as they're graded on a threshold, sometimes you just have to hope you suck less than others also taking it.  Like for English Literature, you just hope that non-native English speakers don't use "good English" (as directed on the exam itself; I can't make this stuff up) and you can stumble your way into a mediocre essay.  This past Friday, when I took my final exam, there was a person who only wrote two pages for two essays.  For comparison, I wrote eight total.

Alas, and as weird as it is to think this, it doesn't really matter now.  I have gotten my diploma (not just the case for it) and my final report card of all A's.  I'm incredibly proud I didn't let senioritis hurt me, and I seriously hope this work ethic I've had, and plan to maintain, will be noticeable to my college professors and, after that, future employers.  As I think Gillian Michaels has said,  "you don't get to finish the line and stop -- you keep going."  (Yes, she would say this during an intense 20-minute workout, but that's neither here nor there.)

Now it's onto the next phase of my life: college.

I recently devoured the book The Disenchantments and it had me thinking about pursuing dreams and doing what you want to do versus what is expected.  Without spoiling too much, the protagonist is planning a big trip to Europe instead of heading to a college and something about that really appealed to me.  Why not spend time traveling to Amsterdam and experiencing another culture?  It's a different kind of education, sure, as is just staying at a community college, or going to an in-state school.  We choose different paths and we choose different ways to traverse them.  Nothing's right, nothing's wrong.

As I begin to make my course selection for the fall and fill out my student employment application, I am becoming increasingly anxious.  Most of my friends already know what dorm they'll be living in, who their roommate is, and will be attending Orientation in the next thirty days.  I have none of that yet; the earliest of any it will be available in July, and it almost seems unfair, given I applied early decision and everything.  But then again I am very lucky to be going where I'm going and to be overwhelmed by the number of interesting courses available to me.  I can't think I regret my choice to move nearly 1,000 miles away from home because I don't, my future at the moment just feels less realized than the majority of my peers and I'm envious.

This past Thursday I attended a retirement party for my former middle school science teacher.  She has had an incredible impact on my life and the lives of my brothers.  We are forever grateful so I was glad I could express my gratitude by being there.  Unsurprisingly, I was the only person under 18 in attendance and I didn't recognize most of the other attendees, or if I did, they were too many years my senior and thus I wasn't comfortable striking up conversation.  I stayed near my brother most of the time, but did end up chatting up a particular parent who grew up in Duluth, Minnesota and was excited to hear I was headed to the Twin Cities for college.  I mean, when I first said Macalester College I saw the glazed look in her eye, (the one most people get, frankly) yet after she asked "where's that?" and I answered St. Paul, she was eager to tell me about pastries and bike trails I should try.  Then she suggested I should cross-country ski, and I hope it wasn't too obvious that I was thinking "yeah, right. Who do you think I am?"

Awkward small talk and other politicking aside, towards the end, speakers got up to say a few words about the guest of honor.  Mrs. S's older son couldn't be there so he wrote a letter that someone else read aloud.  And what he said was moving.  He said he learned to invest in people from his mother and it has been his greatest asset in life.

I think I must agree.  My investments into the friendships and relationships I have are what make my life so enjoyable, so prosperous.  Without it, I'm not sure I would even be blogging or planning the summer adventures I am.  It's an integral part of my success.

Speaking of friends, Aniesa gave me this awesomely arranged grad gift.  It may be hard to see in the picture, but she gave me five gifts.  Sunscreen was wrapped in a package labeled "for here," a scarf  "for there," the oreos "for now," the pens "for later" and a picture frame with a collection of group pictures "forever."  It was perfect and I absolutely love it!!

Regina gave me a lovely gift as well which I intend to frame and take for my dorm room.

Yesterday morning my biffles (as I refer to them on occasion) and I tried to go bowling.  I say tried because after driving thirty minutes to get there -- and Puja and I waiting about twenty to meet up with the others -- we learned it was closed to non-league bowlers.  Whoops.  Luckily right across the street was a delicious pizza buffet place.  We satisfied our stomachs with numerous slices and the divine cinnamon rolls as we discussed having a movie marathon.  I busted out my sharpie and borrowed a napkin for the impromptu list.  Yes, number four on the list was entirely intentional, but then it put more pressure on us to come up with three others.

Afterwards we decided to go to Aniesa's house to go ahead and watch Tangled.  If you can believe it, I had never seen that movie.  I'm discounting the two days in Spanish class this spring where our teacher played it in Spanish...with Spanish subtitles while we were supposed to be working on other assignments.  I thought it was a very cute movie even if I laughed during the more serious bits.  I have issues, I'm told.

Okay, I think this post is long enough.  I applaud you if you made it all the way to the end.

Oh, I almost forgot: Happy Father's Day!

I hope you are well.

June 09, 2012

Won't stop 'til it's over.

This summer, as I had hoped, has been fantastic thus far.  Despite worrying about my remaining Cambridge exams (only three more to go!), I've enjoyed some very awesome days.

For instance, on Tuesday I had a lovely picnic date with Stephen, AKA the guy I really like. I didn't take any pictures, in part because of the whole philosophy that you aren't actually enjoying what you're doing if you stop to take pictures, and in part because I just didn't feel like it.  I also wasn't thinking of how I was going to write about the event later in a blogpost unlike I usually do. (Having been a blogger for about five years now, it's a habit.)  I thoroughly enjoyed the day, though.  There's no doubt about that! There's a lot I'm not going to say, but I will tell you I read aloud the first chapter of The Fault in Our Stars and he was kind enough to listen.  And that I am quite possibly the happiest I've been in a really, really long time.

I'm currently listening to Temper Trap play live at Bonnaroo thanks to a stream on YouTube.  Using the same channel, I watched Radiohead perform last night and I had SO MANY FEELINGS.  Especially during House of Cards, for reasons.

In the past few days I've watched a good number of episodes of Breaking Bad and several movies thanks to my one month free trial of Netflix.  Hey, I'm going to milk it for all it's worth!  Instead of talking about the films individually, I figure I will compile a comprehensive list of all of them and then give my thoughts in one massive post.  Look forward to that, I suppose.  

After hearing it was good from several sources, I finally read Divergent by Veronica Roth.  I can see why people would compare it to The Hunger Games, but I think it stands it own.  I've only just started the sequel, Insurgent, so I'll have to wait and see how it all pans out before saying too much.  Plus, there's a third book to be released soon (because apparently you can't write YA fiction making it a trilogy) and that could either make or break the series.  Still, if you're looking for a compelling read to occupy potentially rainy summer days or accompany you outside, I certainly recommend it.

I hope your summer days are awesome, friends!