Saturday, January 02, 2016

The 2015 Movie Post

Hello, to all the people still receiving my transmission.

Here are my previous years' posts: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, and 2005.

Sometimes when I do these posts, I go back and see how many stars I gave the movies on Netflix. I didn't give any movie this year five stars. In fact, I gave all of them on this list four stars, which explains why I had such trouble figuring out in what order I should put these and which one gets my number one position. I find that time really figures it out for me. Some movies I tend to watch a lot more and some movies I never really watch again. This means that, when in doubt, I will pick the one I think I would probably view more often than the other ones.

Okay, so I give you my list (yes, there are spoilers):

1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens - I should be ashamed to admit that I've seen this movie three times already, but I guess I don't care because the buttery popcorn is good. The funny thing is: I don't LOVE this movie. I think it's good, certainly, but I also felt like they just sort of took Episodes IV - VI and repeated them, only in one movie. And they gave a lot of nostalgia references so everyone would cheer and wet themselves out of geekish delight. But the thing is... the nostalgia references didn't really do anything for me. They were cool in Episodes I - III because it was so nice that Padme told Anakin to hold her, just like Leia did to Han in Episode VI, but in this one I felt like they were marking off a checklist of nostalgia to hit, like maybe a short Disneyland ride would do. But I liked all of the new characters, so that was good. Rey is simultaneously awesome and suffering from Trinity Syndrome, but I think that her character somehow succeeded in spite of the syndrome. So ultimately, I know I'm going to be able to suspend my criticism and enjoy it for the buttery popcorn movie that it is, however much I end up watching it. Also, it reeked of J.J. Abrams: "Here is a little bit of information, but I'm just giving you some clues so you can endlessly debate this online and build up your own anticipation for the answers that may or may not be given in the next two movies."

2. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. - I guess I like spy movies. I really liked the retro-ness of this movie, as well as the humor, silliness, and implausibilities. It was sort of like a Bond movie to me but with two guys instead of one and supposedly a continual love interest instead of a new one each movie (well, for one guy, at least). I also really like it when movies go to touristy sites like they did at the Spanish Steps in Rome in this one. It's cool how they can do it, even though the movie takes place decades ago. The Spanish Steps just don't change that much (they're being refurbished right now).

3. The Martian - I don't think I'm going to watch this movie repetitively because it's sort of like Castaway, only in space (a little boring watching the same person trying to survive the whole time), but it was a well-made, interesting, and occasionally humorous movie. So, it succeeded.

4. Jurassic World - This was basically the same movie as Jurassic Park. It really was, only updated with a romantic undertone and with Sphero-like technology (just like Star Wars because apparently spheres are the cool new way to do things). But it was a good time, and I laughed at the jokes, so it was good.

5. Ant-Man - This movie only succeeded because it recognized what a ridiculous premise it was and made a joke out of the movie. I mean, the plot and everything is pretty dumb, but the movie made you laugh, so it was good.

6. The Little Price (Le Petit Prince) - So I guess this isn't out yet in the U.S., but I saw it on the plane, which is a huge reason why I saw so many movies this year (boring, sleepless flights). The story is simultaneously cute and weird, the animation is simultaneously awesome and terrifying, and it was just a fun, different movie. The movie makes a number of thoughtful observations about life, so if you're not into a movie with a message, you probably don't want to watch it. I liked it, though.

7. McFarland, USA - Maybe I like feel-good sports movies? I'm not sure. Anyway, I enjoyed this movie. I like that it contained a quinceaƱera and generally the Mexican culture. I don't have anything else to say about it.

8. Inside Out - This was a unique and cute movie. It was fun and clever, and I think I could see it again and like it.

9. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation - I gave it four stars because I must have liked it, but this movie is extremely forgettable to me. I can't totally remember what happened in it, but it was a spy movie and had action, and I think it was probably good. The fact that I can't remember it very well should say something about it. It wasn't my favorite MI film, but I know for sure it wasn't as bad as the second one.

10. Avengers: Age of Ultron - Yeah, so I think this wasn't my favorite one because I haven't really felt the extreme need to watch it again. The making of this movie reminded me in some ways of all that is wrong with the TV show Agents of Shield. It's not terrible, but it's not really that great. They have good characters, but they also spend a lot of time on things that you don't care about at all. I think this movie took itself too seriously or something. I like the humor parts of these movies, and this one just wasn't funny enough, I guess.

I also saw the following movies:

Spectre - This was probably the worst of the Daniel Craig Bond movies, maybe tied with Quantum of Solace. It's probably about in the middle of the Bond movies in general, if I were to rank them, which I never have. Remember, the rankings I posted previously were my sister's. It was still good, though, just not my favorite Bond film.

San Andreas - This was such a Dwayne Johnson movie. Holy cow. If people actually are like the people in these movies, America is doomed. It was so corny, but hey, it was a popcorn flick with explosions, so if that's your thing, you'll probably like the movie.

Everest - I didn't like this movie. It made me sad and cold.

The Visit - This was a legitimately creepy movie. Especially the poop parts. If you've seen it, you know what I mean. Also, the rapping kid was kind of hilarious. Not the best of M. Night's movies, though.

Home - This was cute, but I didn't love it, probably because I was tired when I watched it. I think a lot of kids would like it, though. It reminded me of Lilo and Stitch in some ways.

Fantastic Four - It wasn't bad. I liked it okay, but it took itself way too seriously. It's like the movie thought it was cooler than it was.

Minions - I know I was supposed to laugh, and there were some slightly humorous parts, but I guess it just wasn't really that great. The minions were never the good part of Despicable Me to me, anyway.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 - It was okay, and I think I actually liked it better than I liked the book.

Insurgent - Divergent just seemed like it was better for some reason. I guess I don't really care about this series. Maybe you had to have read the books to like it better?

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - I actually liked the first movie, so I thought I'd give this second movie a chance. It was basically the exact same movie as the first one, only not as fresh or entertaining. I'm over these movies, so they don't need to make another one.

Cinderella - This movie was really well-done for a live action version of Cinderella. I think I just prefer to watch the cartoon, though.

Terminator Genisys - I liked this one pretty well. I know a lot of people didn't really like it, but I thought it was good enough. I didn't have exceedingly high expectations, though. Arnold did a fine job, and the plot was fine.

I also saw from 2013:

Philomena - It was alright. Kind of a slow-paced drama but alright.

All Is Lost - It was like Castaway, only I didn't really care for it.

Frequencies - It was a trippy movie. I had to go back and watch a few parts again after I watched it. I kind of enjoyed it. If you like trippy thinker movies, this one is for you.

I also saw from 2014:

Million Dollar Arm - I liked it. It was entertaining.

Big Hero 6 - I think I need to see this again, uninterrupted and without distraction. I think it was good, but I think the location where I saw it was too distracting to fully enjoy the movie.

Meet the Mormons - It was fine.

Into the Woods - I think they did a good job, especially the song "Agony." I like the story and the music, so I will probably eventually buy it.

Unbroken - I liked this movie. It was pretty good for a historic prisoner of war movie. It kept my interest.

The Imitation Game - I liked this movie. It was a good biopic. I didn't know about the code-breaking or the history of the movie, so it was interesting.

The Theory of Everything - I thought it was okay. I didn't love it, but it was alright.

Noah - I didn't like it. The acting wasn't very good, the plot wasn't great, and the protagonist character was the worst.

Movies I still want to see from 2014:

The Fault in Our Stars
If I get around to it ever, I'll also watch the Planes movies and The Book of Life.
I also added Ida
I also added Belle

Movies I still want to see from 2015:

Tomorrowland (even though I heard it's meh)
Tangerines (the one from the country of Georgia)
Bridge of Spies
Once I Was a Beehive
The Good Dinosaur
The Intern
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

Thanks for reading! Do you have any recommendations for me?

Sunday, January 04, 2015

The 2014 Movie Post

Hello? Is anybody there? I know I haven't blogged in a year, but fear not, I still remember my password. This tradition actually does a few things for me: 1 - It helps me keep up my ratings on Netflix, 2 - It helps keep my queue updated with what movies I actually have a desire to watch, 3 - It reminds me of how much garbage is out there that I'm missing (thank goodness), and 4 - It actually helps me to pick movies that I might enjoy watching in the future. Also, I enjoy your comments and suggestions.

Here are my previous years' posts: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, and 2005. Oh my goodness! This is my tenth one! We should do something to celebrate!


That's all.

It was hard for me to pick the order this year because most of the movies I watched this year were just okay. I didn't give any movies five stars on Netflix this year, and I only gave 3 of them 4 stars. The rest that I considered in the "like" category were all just okay. And some of them were teetering on the edge of dislike. But none of the dislikes were absolutely terrible. Ah well. I now give you my top ten list.

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier - I think I actually liked this movie more than the first Captain America movie. I felt like the plot was good, and the pace, characters, and lines produced a really entertaining and exciting movie. I can probably watch this movie over and over.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy - When the trailers aired for this movie I thought to myself, "Self, the comic book movies are now taking a cliff-dive down a terrible toilet of corn and mediocrity, starting with this movie." And then people whose opinions I value saw it and liked it, so I gave it a chance and what do you know? They set up the characters and humor in a good way, and it worked. I really thought it was going to be terribly horrible, but then it ended up being fun. I even enjoyed it the second and half of a third time that I saw it.

3. X-Men: Days of Future Past - Okay, okay. This was not my favorite X-Men movie, but it was still quite enjoyable. Somehow, even though I am getting a little tired of these comic book movies, they keep making them and not making them horribly. I enjoyed this one. I shouldn't have, what with the whole timeline thing and Wolverine adulation, but I did.

3.5 Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit - This is 3.5 because I finished my reviews and forgot to include this one. It has been about a year since I've seen it, so I guess that's why I forgot about it. Maybe? Good thing I saw that it's on Netflix and it reminded me to add this. Anyway, I liked it, and I saw it twice, so it stood up to multiple viewings. It feels like they rebooted the franchise, which leaves me a bit skeptical, but I did enjoy the movie as a whole. It's not going to be even in my top 3 of Jack Ryan movies, but I like them all, so this one is up there, as well.

4. How to Train Your Dragon 2 - This movie was not nearly as good as the first one, but it was still a decent and quality fun time. I actually think I enjoyed the Christmas Special (or whatever it is) better than this second movie, but it was still good.

5. Edge of Tomorrow - I am a little embarrassed that this is so high up on my list, but I ended up seeing this one twice and enjoyed it both times. So I guess it deserves a spot on this list. It's basically an action/sci-fi version of Groundhog Day, but it still worked. Oh, but it is so Tom Cruisey, so be careful that you can handle the Tom Cruiseiness of the movie.

6. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies - I watched the extended versions of the other two movies of The Hobbit before I saw this one, and it may have resulted in an overdose of Peter Jackson. The white orc and the ice... blah. And Tauriel... blah. And that one guy from Lake Town who just ran around looking for gold... I just don't even want to see him again. Ultimately, I think there should have just been two movies. I'm really glad they made these movies, though. They're not terrible, but the ways in which they diverged from the books weakened the movies, actually. But it did make me want to go and watch The Lord of the Rings series again, so there's that.

7. The Monuments Men - For me this movie isn't terribly rewatchable, just because it's not really exciting, but it was interesting and enjoyable for the first time. I enjoy that it is loosely based on a true story, and anything that makes history entertaining to watch is a good thing.

8. Interstellar - This movie was good to watch, but I checked my watch twice in it (solely as a hyperbole... I totally don't wear a watch), and there were parts that I couldn't understand because I think the sound editing wasn't done correctly. I also feel like there were some plot problems, like "nobody in their right mind would make these decisions" types of plot problems, but it was entertaining enough. And what was in the black hole... I just ... well, it's fiction, so fine. I'll look past it.

9. Divergent - I didn't read the books, and I can feel some extreme cheese coming on in future segments of this series, but the movie was actually pretty entertaining, and I could watch the next one.

10. The Lego Movie - It was humorous and fun, but I didn't like it as well as everyone else did, apparently. I got a little bored in it. I think it's brilliant that they made a successful movie off of a toy. Sure, there are the brilliant and awesome video games, too, but that makes it even more amazing that they made a successful movie off of a toy turned video game turned movie. Congrats, Lego people.

I also saw the following films:

I, Frankenstein - This movie was like walking into the middle of a conversation and having to figure out and catch up on what was going on. There was almost too much of an other-worldly set up to smoothly enter the movie. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't really that great, either. Entertaining enough, though. It reminded me of Van Helsing, which I didn't love.

Veronica Mars Movie - I didn't feel like the movie kept the charm from the TV series. Of course, I didn't fundstart this movie, anyway, so I didn't really need the movie. That being said, I still enjoyed it. It's forgettable, though. I can't really remember what happened. I think there was a wedding?

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part I - At this point, I am just along for the ride. I read the books before any of the movies came out, and I felt like the books got decreasingly good over time. However, I think the movies are all okayish.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - I feel like I already saw this movie, and I don't think these are as good as the ones with Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man. I know the comic book crowd seems to like them better, but I just don't.

The Maze Runner - I haven't read these books, so I don't really know how they're going to end, but I'm not really that intrigued, either. It wasn't terrible, though, so when my friends want to see the next one, I won't refuse to go or anything, especially if it's cheap Tuesday with the dollar popcorn. Yum.

Maleficent - I just didn't really like this movie. I like Disney's Sleeping Beauty a lot, and I didn't feel like this movie was ... well, it wasn't even really that good. I thought the plot was too far off of Disney's Sleeping Beauty movie. Maybe I need to read the actual fairy tale, but if it is anything like Maleficent, I'll just pretend the original is the Disney's Sleeping Beauty version because blah.

Godzilla - I had never actually seen a version of Godzilla before. My brother tells me that I must see a Japanese version, but... I didn't love this one. I didn't care about the protagonists at all. It seemed so corny. It was kind of like Pacific Rim with big monsters dueling each other in the ocean. I guess I'm not really into that.

Non-Stop - Oh, Liam Neeson, you are just not an action star to me. I felt like this movie had so many problems.

Transcendence - This is another one of those where I didn't actually see the whole thing, but I did see the end, and I can't imagine any beginning that would have made that ending interesting or plausible to me.

I also saw some movies from 2013 that I had wanted to see:

Oblivion - It was alright. I think it would be boring to watch a second time, though.

The Wolverine - This was possibly better than the other Wolverine movie that they made, but it's a toss up. It felt like a lot of drama.

The Lone Ranger - This movie was just too full of itself to see its problems. It was way, way too long and had a bout of Peter Jacksonitis. It felt like it should have or at least could have been good, but it just wasn't.

42 - I enjoyed it, but I feel like it kind of abruptly ended. It didn't feel like a conclusion.

G.I. Joe Retaliation - Very forgettable.

Gravity - Long. Kind of boring, but okay. It was Castaway in space, so you know, not really rewatchable at all.

Captain Phillips - Again, if history can be presented in an entertaining way and still maintain some kind of historical accuracy, good for that movie.

The Book Thief - This wasn't as good as the book, but it was still good. I think it's depressingly cute.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - Just along for the ride.

I also saw from 2013:

Austenland - It was exceedingly cheesy. Almost cheesier than the book, which was really cheesy. I can't say that I liked it, but I can't say that I disliked it, either.

Saving Mr. Banks - Interesting. Enjoyable, especially the music.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty - I really enjoyed this one. I think I just enjoyed seeing the various places around the world. It was a visually-captivating movie. I watched the scenery.

Justin Bieber's Believe - Just kidding.

I still need to see from 2013:


I kicked off:

And I added:

All Is Lost

Movies from 2014 that I still want to see:

Million Dollar Arm
The Fault in Our Stars
Planes: Fire & Rescue
The Book of Life
Big Hero 6
Meet the Mormons
Into the Woods
The Imitation Game

I'll probably add more to this list when I get other recommendations, so please feel free to recommend.

The End

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:

The Wolverine
The Lone Ranger
G.I. Joe Retaliation
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

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.