Wednesday, January 01, 2014

The 2013 Movie Post

Well, I haven't actually blogged in a while. I haven't even finished my trip updates! But fear not, I am still going to maintain this tradition. I mean, how can I miss the ever-important documenting of new movies that came out? I'm sure everyone wants to hear my opinion of the 2013 releases that I watched, right?

Here are my previous years' posts: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, and 2005.

Wow. I watched 22 movies. That's a lot. I didn't even realize how many movies I ended up watching! I wonder how many pounds of movie theater popcorn (especially butter) I ended up adding to my body as a consequence of watching so many movies?

Behold, the top ten list:


1. Star Trek Into Darkness - I liked this movie so well that I had to go back and watch The Wrath of Kahn. I was amazed with how well they wove plot points from the old movie into this one and still made it succeed. I thought that Benedict Cumberbatch was a great Kahn, too.

2. Ender's Game - I really liked this book a lot, and I was nervous with how they would adapt it to the screen. They really stuck with the book, and I liked the movie a lot, even with the parts that were left out. I want to see it again sometime soon. I also think it would be fun to play zero gravity laser tag!



3. Frozen - So I didn't love the snowman. Do I want to build a snowman? No! But everything else was good and funny. I liked that the main relationship of concern was the sisterly relationship. It warmed my heart. And yeah, the music was enjoyable, even if one of the songs had a hint of country music in it. I'm looking at you, Idina Menzel. Gotta love her, but I just don't want her to sing remotely in country style! It destroys my willpower to like the artist when they do that.

4. Iron Man 3 - I'm embarrassed that this is so far up the list, but in spite of its pretty hokey plot, it really made me laugh a lot. Even after I saw it the first time, I realized that there were a lot of parts where I rolled my eyes, but then I saw it again on a flight, and I enjoyed it and laughed again the second time. So there you go.



5. Monsters University - While this movie didn't feel completely consistent with Monsters Inc, I still enjoyed it quite a bit. I laughed and felt like it was entertaining.

6. The Saratov Approach - I enjoyed this movie, especially as it was based on a true story and especially since I was in Ukraine earlier in the year. Hopefully I'll actually get around to posting about that.


7. Thor: The Dark World - At the beginning of the movie, I was starting to groan with its terrible plot, but then it got funny, and I really ended up enjoying it because it didn't take itself too seriously. I thought Loki was hilarious in it.


8. The Host - So maybe you are surprised that I even saw this movie with how mercilessly I mocked the Twilight franchise, but ... I liked this movie. It's true. The romantic portion of the movie was still kind of dumb, but the movie as a whole with its plot was good. So there you have it!

9. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - I know that I'll probably watch this movie a lot more than some of the movies that are higher up on this list, but I just couldn't get past some of the dumb parts of the film. The barrel part was fun and hilarious but also kind of dumb. And I just think that they overly hollywoodized the scenes with the dragon and the dwarves. Maybe there wasn't enough action to make the movie watchable without it, but that would be why you make two Hobbit movies instead of three and instead of having to add in all sorts of dumb stuff (gold statue) to fill three three-hour movies.

10. Much Ado About Nothing - I enjoyed this movie. I'll probably still watch that Kenneth Branagh one if I'm going to watch the movie, but this Joss Whedon one was enjoyable, too. It actually kind of struck me as a movie that could be made when people are hanging out at their house on a weekend just trying to fill their time. "Hey, let's just make a movie this weekend!" "Okay, how about Shakespeare?" It's like what Hollywood people do when they're bored with all their Hollywood friends.

Wow. That was a really geeky list. I mean, I knew I was kind of a geek, but there it is staring at me in the face in the form of my top ten movie list. Ah well.

Here are the other movies I watched this year in no particular order:

Turbo - I hadn't even heard of this really when I saw it. It was kind of enjoyable. The part that really cracked me up was when they uploaded a video to YouTube and then autotuned it. Ha! It caused me to have to go back and watch a few of my favorite autotune videos.

Pacific Rim - This movie was so dumb. So terrible. My brother liked it, and it just bothers him that I make fun of it. I seriously thought it was so dumb. Big robots mash big monsters/dinosaurs from other planet that come up out of the ocean. Big robots. Mash. Monsters. Stupid.

Despicable Me 2 - This was a pretty enjoyable movie. I didn't love the plot, but the minions are pretty funny usually, so I enjoyed it. If they make a third and a fourth or whatever, I'm sure it'll make them a lot of money.

White House Down - This was like Die Hard at the white house only not nearly as cool. Nice try, movie.

World War Z - This movie freaked me out. It was basically the same exact movie as "I Am Legend," so I had to go back and watch "I Am Legend" again, just to make sure, and yeah, they were basically the same movie. Not terrible, but you know, the same movie.


Man of Steel - Eh, I guess that I just don't love Superman. Except, I do like the original Superman movie with Christopher Reeves. This one felt like it was trying to be really cool, but it just wasn't that cool. It wasn't a bad movie, per se. It was alright, and it had a some entertaining parts.


After Earth - I know that this was supposed to be terrible, but it wasn't as terrible as people said that it was supposed to be. True, it wasn't awesome, but it's certainly better than Pacific Rim! Still, though, I think it was maybe a little too much like Pitch Black (which I did like) or something to make me feel like it was brilliant. Maybe it was made for younger boys?


The Great Gatsby - This was okay. Just okay. The sets, costumes and everything were pretty cool-looking, and it was good for a first time viewing, but I am definitely not clamoring to see it again.

The Croods - Surprisingly, I ended up enjoying this. I thought that it was going to be super dumb, but it was pretty good! I thought the jokes were going to be formulaic and brutish, but they actually succeeded in making me laugh.

Warm Bodies - I really enjoyed it. It was sort of in the same vein to me as The Host. It was ridiculous, and I laughed really hard because it was so ridiculous.


Mud (sort of) - I was on a flight, and it was on, but it didn't have my undivided attention, and after having watched a good portion of it, I have no need to truly watch the whole thing.

Safe Haven (sort of) - I couldn't sleep on a flight, and it was on. I knew I wouldn't like it, so I didn't listen to it and just watched it, and I can't say that I'd ever be interested in watching it with the sound. i.e. I didn't like it, even without having to hear the bad dialogue. I can take these liberties to include it without truly experiencing those whole thing because this is my blog. So there.




I also saw some movies that I listed on my blog from 2012:

Nitro Circus: The Movie - These people are crazy, but it made an enjoyable movie.
The Central Park Five - I liked it. This is kind of why I don't like to get involved in passing judgment on cases that are in the news. There's way too much sensationalism for me to feel like the truth is actually making it to the masses.
The Queen of Versailles - It was interesting to see these people's life from their perspective and what is important to them.
Frankenweenie - It was alright.
Life of Pi - I really enjoyed this one. It was truly a beautiful-looking film. There was a lot of eye candy in it with regard to color and nature.

I saw movies that either you suggested from 2012 or that I saw for some other reason:

Bernie - Thanks for this suggestion. I really enjoyed it! It was mind boggling that it was actually based on a true story, and it relates to The Central Park Five but in the opposite way! It was crazy.
Mirror Mirror - Meh. I didn't really care for it.
Beasts of the Southern Wild - I actually did like this. In fact, I've been hankering for a shrimp boil because of this movie. Does anyone want to have a shrimp boil?
The Perks of Being a Wallflower - I enjoyed this one, as well, even if it is a bit sad.
Pitch Perfect - I saw this on a flight, and I actually did enjoy this and laughed, even though it is trite and kind of stupid.
Argo - It was good. Not, like, best picture good but still quite good.
Hitchcock - I think that this movie wrapped up nicely, and I ended up enjoying it a lot!
Searching for Sugar Man - I really liked this one for some reason!

I also did end up seeing Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and Jiro Dreams of Sushi from 2011. Both of them were enjoyable enough.

Here are some movies from 2013 that I have a little bit of interest in watching and will probably get around to watching at some point, but don't hold me to it:

Oblivion
The Wolverine
The Lone Ranger
42
G.I. Joe Retaliation
Planes
Riddick
Gravity
Captain Phillips
The Book Thief
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Are there any movies that you watched that you could recommend to me? I don't have a huge interest in any of the above, so if you could grant me some recommendations, I'd appreciate it.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

To Georgia: Madloba

I went on another trip/adventure! Hooray! I went to three different countries this time: Georgia, Turkey, and Ukraine. My sister Dub told me to take a lot of pictures because she'll probably never make it to that part of the world. She got me thinking that I should probably do better at describing these trips. I decided that I have too much to say about it for one post to sufficiently report, so this one is just about Georgia.

For my trip my friend Roxanne had arranged to meet up with her parents who are missionaries right now in Eastern Europe. She was taking more time off than I was going to, so I arranged to meet them in Georgia, since they were going to be in Armenia while I was coming over. Getting to Armenia proved to be too difficult/time consuming for a vacation with what time I had allotted myself.

So, I flew by myself, and they arranged to meet me Monday morning in Tbilisi, Georgia. Roxanne emailed me from Tbilisi advising me to stay somewhere different than when they had been staying, since I was by myself and their hotel was a little bit difficult to find. She sent me some recommendations, and I ended up choosing The Courtyard by Marriott on Freedom Square. If you are ever going to Tbilisi, I can give this hotel my recommendations. Things I liked about it:



1. Taxis there from the airport are like $35, but there is this yellow city bus that has a route to/from the airport, and one of the stops is at Freedom Square (not sure which one, maybe like the 15th stop or so). It costs the equivalent of about $.50 to ride it, AND you get to ride the bus with the locals. It's the only bus that goes to/from the airport. I didn't actually have luggage that I was carrying (it didn't make the transfer in Istanbul, I guess), so I didn't worry about that, but even if I had, it would have been fine for me to put on the bus. The bus driver was really nice (he didn't speak English, but he smiled at me) and let me know when to get off. Even if he hadn't, I would have known because it's pretty obvious. The hotel is like RIGHT THERE when you get to the stop. Very convenient.


2. There is a metro stop just around the corner on the same block. So convenient.
3. They have a pool. I didn't get to use it since my suit was in my luggage, but they had one.
4. They serve a breakfast buffet at the hotel. It costs extra, like $15 a day, which I think is steep since I usually don't eat too much, but it's so nice because I think it's kind of inconvenient to go find breakfast somewhere else when I have arranged to leave at 7:30 a.m. It helps save time.
5. They had wifi. You have to pay for it, but it actually came free if you paid for breakfast, which I did. I don't know why hotels don't just provide wifi for free. It boggles my mind and will until everyone just naturally provides it for guests. They provide TVs, and to me wifi is like TV. Every room should have it, unless you're in the middle of nowhere.
6.The staff was very friendly. I had the luggage mishap, and I also had troubles with my credit card (yes, I did let them know that I was going on this trip); they were friendly and helped me resolve my concerns.
7. There is a monument of St. George and the Dragon in the middle of Freedom Square (some places called it Liberty Square). St. George and the Dragon is practically everywhere in Europe especially, and it's like Trip Bingo for me to see St. George and the Dragon stuff, so I think it was meant to be.



I arrived Saturday evening, and after I got checked in, I asked the people at the hotel for a recommendation of a place to eat. I said that I wanted to eat typical Georgian food, so they sent me down a street to a place called Machackela. I wandered on the street and found Mother Georgia, and a church, where some people who were speaking Spanish were filming.





I'm not really sure I ever found the right place because their signs are in a different language, but the place I ended up eating was kind of fast foody. They had signs up that showed you what the dish looks like, as well as menus, but I can't actually read Georgian, so... yeah. I pointed. One of the menus was in Russian, and I did take a beginning class of Russian in college, so I was able to read that. This is what I got:



The dumplings tasted pretty much like pelmeni (it's probably what they were since Georgia used to be a part of the USSR), and the sauce was kind of like a vinegary yogurt sauce. They were good. I ordered the square one because it looked like bougatsa or tyropita. It was more like tyropita, only the layers weren't flaky like a pastry. They were more like a noodle but not quite. It was different than what I've ever had, and I liked them both. It was a lot to eat, though.



When I left the restaurant, I was walking right behind the Spanish speakers, so I started talking to them, since I was feeling like I couldn't really communicate with any other people very well. They were filming a trip from Spain to Mongolia, so that's pretty cool. Maybe I've met a famous TV person from Spain? Who knows?



I then decided to just wander aimlessly around on various streets and maybe go down to the river since it was getting dark soon. I found a park:



and then I found this:



It's a casino! I forget that places have casinos besides reservations or Nevada.


I then noticed that I had stumbled upon an excellent place where the locals go to hang out across the river. There is the Bridge of Peace, which lights up.




It was really very pretty. Across the Bridge of Peace was a park. It was very big and had a bunch of different concrete shapes where people could sit. It had playground equipment in one area, and it had a big, concrete piano. There is some guy in the photo for perspective.



There were also some street vendors selling things like glow-in-the-dark toys or food, like cotton candy. It was also close to a wormy-looking theater,


as well as close to the tram to take you up on the hill to see Mother Georgia. I decided to go up in the tram. It was only a couple of bucks, and since it was getting pretty dark, I figured it was okay to be out, as long as all of those families and kids were, too. So I went up to see the view


and to see Mother Georgia.



Yeah, my camera was on the wrong setting. I fixed the setting, and here are some lovely/blurry views in the dark of Tbilisi from up on the hill:


The bluish bridge on the right is the Bridge of Peace.



I'm pretty sure that those bright buildings are Freedom Square where my hotel was. After I took the tram back down, I decided that both my feet and me in general were very tired from my travels. I walked back to the hotel and slept.

The next morning I showered and went down to the lobby to see if my luggage had arrived, but it hadn't, so I just ate breakfast. I was still really tired, so I went back up to my room and slept until I needed to get up to go to church. I love going to church in other countries. It's cool to experience the exact same church but in different congregations. There are only two branches of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in all of Georgia. I went to the one in Tbilisi, which was only one metro stop away from my hotel at the 300 Aragveli stop. Roxanne had given me great directions to get there.



The metro was really far underground.


Directions for people who are trying to get to the church from the Metro stop: Take the left doors, cross the street and walk left to the first cross street. There is a hotel on the corner across from you called Hotel Diamond with pink flourishes on it. Instead of crossing the street to the hotel, turn right and walk a short distance to 27A. There should be signs by the door. Just walk in. Updated info is probably on the meetinghouse locator at lds.org.



It was a small branch. I'd say that there were only about 40 or 50 people total who were there, with about 8 of them being missionaries. The church branch president and his wife are missionaries from St. George, Utah. They were so awesome. I loved visiting with them. There were about 12 visitors or so, including me, although I was the only visiting church member. There were some Nigerians, someone from Iran, and someone from Sri Lanka that the missionaries had been teaching. One of the elders translated into English, and we all wore headsets.

They had the hymns listed in Georgian, Russian, and English. Because the church is so small there, there aren't the same materials that we have in English. It's difficult because they don't have a lot of church materials in Georgian, and it's kind of politically/socially unacceptable to do so much in Russian. That's a tough thing about missionary work there.

Mzia is one woman there who helps with translation of things like conference talks into Georgian. She was really nice, and she ended up arranging a driver for me to take me around to see sights after church.

Nodar was my driver, and he brought his niece Tini who spoke English since he doesn't really speak it. They took me to Mtskheta, which is a very old city in Georgia.


Before we got to the city we went to a church on the hill where there were a bunch of weddings.




I also ran into a guy from Denmark who was on my flight. We had both lost our luggage, so we had commiserated together. He was wearing the same outfit, so he was easy to recognize. I had changed my clothes (always take extra in your carry on!), so it took him a minute to recognize me.



After that we went down to some churches in the old city. Most people in Georgia are Orthodox. The churches there were mostly very, very old. They were built in like the 4th or 5th Century or rebuilt in the 15th - 17th centuries (I'm estimating here), so that part of it was really cool. They were just really old.



After going to the churches they were ready to take me back to my hotel. I asked them if they would just drop me off at a good restaurant since I was hungry. They asked me if I had eaten any Georgian food, and I said yes. I showed them what I had eaten, and they were like, no. You need to have real Georgian food. So they took me to a restaurant on the way back from Mtskheta where we had mtsvadi, which is like barbecue on a skewer and khinkali, which are Georgian dumplings. They were both very good, but I have to say that I was totally loving the khinkali the most. I need to send Tini a message to remind her to get me a good recipe. I can find some online, but I want to make sure they're a really good recipe. I trust her opinion because her uncle Nodar is both a driver and a chef. The filling was very delicious. I need to make it.


They dropped me off back at my hotel in Tbilisi, and Nodar said he would see me in the morning because he was coming to pick me up with Mzia so that we could meet Roxanne and her parents. I was still a bit jet-lagged, so I decided to just call my parents (we always talk on Sundays) and go to bed.

The next morning Mzia and Nodar came to pick me up from the hotel. We drove around and finally found the hotel where Roxanne and her parents were staying, met another driver (Jon, who is also a chef/driver), and we ended up visiting Tamka. It's like the Stonehenge of Georgia (only much taller).



It's on a hill, and each of the sides has a different panel depicting something from biblical or Georgian history.


Can you guess what that one is depicting? It's really neat, even though it's really a work in progress.



There are also statues of the 13 Assyrian Fathers at Tamka. It was very cool. The view was cool, too. I think I have a thing with cool views.



We spent a bit of time there, and then we drove to the airport. And thus ended the trip to Georgia. If I ever get to go there again, I would really enjoy that. They have other places in the country that I would love to see, like going closer to the Black Sea or spending more time in their nature and exploring the countryside. I had a great time, and it was cool to go and experience the culture there. It was beautiful, and if you ever get to go, I hope you have a great time!

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Why I Kept Laughing at Church

My friend Emily has been participating in couchsurfing lately. The other week she had a nice French couple stay with her. I was over at Emily's house doing some work on my laptop when they were making dinner, and they asked me if I would like to eat with them. I thanked them and sat down to eat with the couple and Emily. They didn't cook anything for their meal and had a tomato and onion salad with some avocado on the side. There was also some good bread and some brie cheese (my favorite!). There were some slices of some very baloney-looking meat that I couldn't quite identify, as well. They had wine, and Emily and I had juice since neither of us drink alcohol. We ate our meal and enjoyed pleasant conversation that was a little difficult because their English wasn't completely fluent, and our French was nonexistent.

Before I left that evening Emily and I discussed the meat. I told her that I thought it was a type of baloney, and she said that it wasn't baloney as she hates baloney, and she would know if it had been baloney. I also told her that if they left the brie cheese behind, I would be happy to finish it off for her if she didn't want it.

The next day as I was running out the door for church, Emily sent me a text message telling me that they had left the brie and the wine and the rest of the leftover food. She also told me what the meat was that we had eaten. It was raw turkey bacon.

We ate raw turkey bacon.

I didn't recognize it because I don't know that I've ever purposefully purchased, cooked, or eaten turkey bacon (I mean, why?). And so every time I thought about it that day, I laughed to myself that I had eaten raw turkey bacon for dinner.

The moral of this story is: when in a foreign country, make sure you know exactly what it is that you're buying to eat.

Monday, June 03, 2013

To Motivate You to Get out of the House

I am finally going through some photos. It's been a few years since I have done so. Here are some lovely photos that I've taken in the past couple of years of places I've enjoyed seeing. Hopefully after reading this post, you will want to go for a nice walk outside to see some beautiful views, even if it's just enjoying the trees, grass, and flowers in your neighborhood!


 This was from a trip to Havasupai. It was the water way through the campgrounds. I thought it was pretty.

 

 There had been some serious rainfall right before we arrived. They had diverted some of the flooded waters away from the main water, and this was diverting it back into the main river. Check out the color difference! Amazing! Look at that blue and brown.


This is a photo above of Mooney Falls. It is spectacular.


Here is another view of it.


And another, for perspective.


 These are the Lower Navajo Falls. These were probably my favorite to play in because they're not quite as big as the others, so we could jump through the falls and play around them without danger of being sucked under the falls.

 

 These are the Havasu Falls. I didn't get a fantastic photo of them, but there are people in the water, for perspective. You can't see the people, really. I recommend going to Havasupai sometime. The 10 mile backpacking hike to the campgrounds and back was hard, I confess, but I really enjoyed my stay there.


The above photo was from my trip to Hole in the Rock. I didn't hike it, but I would like to do so in the future. I think I will have to camp a little closer because a day trip was a little too much driving for me for one day.

  

I recently went to Capitol Reef National Park. I had never been there before. We went on a couple of hikes. It was very pretty.

 

 These rocks are called the twins. We joked about them each time we drove by, so we thought we'd take a photo. When we pulled off to take the photo, there was another car at the pull out, and it was the exact same color and model as my car! There were twins at the twins!

 

 We also went to Goblin Valley State Park on that trip. I thought the valley was amazing and very cool.

 

I felt like a Smurf next to these mushroom-looking formations. It really was cool, and I recommend this state park for families. There were a bunch of families there when I was there, and the kids all seemed to be having a fantastic time running around throughout the formations. That's what's awesome about this place. You can climb all over everything. The next time I go, I will want to find the caves and explore them. I'll need to take a helmet and a headlamp, I think. 


  

We went on a hike. It was kind of the coolest hike, unlike one I've ever been on. There were mounds of dirt, like little hills, and most the hike was in the small gully between the mounds/hills. I should have gotten a better photo, but the above photo is a rock formation that we named the Gargoyle Carousel. It looks like little gargoyles coming out of the rock in a circular carousel fashion.

So, I hope you enjoyed these photos! The world is really a beautiful place, and I'm so thankful to be able to see a lot of it. I hope you take the time the enjoy the beauty around you!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

What I Like About Spring

There are actually quite a few things I hate about Spring. I know you're thinking I'm crazy, but you see, I have allergies during this time of year, and they really affect my energy level. Anyway, this post is not about what I hate about Spring. It's about what I LIKE about Spring. I just need to pep myself up for this time of year, so I'm doing it by looking at the positives:

1. I've been inside all Winter, so the sun is refreshing!
2. I can begin to recreate outside by walking, hiking, playing croquet, biking, going to parks, etc.
3. Camping without freezing is feasible!
4. Flowers.
5. Movies start coming out in the theater that I want to see.
6. The outdoor vendors open, such as shave ice shacks and barbecue places.
7. I can wear sandals without freezing my toes!
8. Sometimes I take vacations in the Spring!
9. The sound of lawnmowers.
10. People seem happier in the Spring.
11. Produce seems to start to get much better in the Spring.
12. My appetite ebbs (which is bad this year, but whatever).

Ah, Spring.