Most Anticipated Movies of (the Rest of) 2012

I should have done this list at the beginning of the year.  In fact, I made the list up at the beginning of the year, but forgot to put it on here.  It would have included The Hunger Games and Chronicle for sure, both of which I did enjoy.  So minus those two movies, here are 15 that I’m looking forward to in 2012.

15. Stoker – TBD 2012 – Chan-wook Park’s first American film.  After killing it in South Korea for the last 15 years or so, Park takes a stab at exporting his horror/thriller sensibilities to America.  With an interesting cast (Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska, Dermot Mulroney, Matthew Goode) I’m going to be keeping my eye on this one.

14. The Campaign – August 12 – A comedy featuring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis about two rival North Carolina politicians on the campaign trail running against one another, directed by Jay Roach.  Sounds like a quality trio of hilarity.

13. Gravity – November 21 – Alfonso Cauron’s first directorial feature effort since 2006’s Children of Men.  This movie stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.  Bullock plays a woman returning home from a space mission by herself to reunite with her daughter.  Cauron is famous for having long, extended takes in his films, and I heard recently that this one has a 17 minute uninterrupted opening take.

12. Brave – June 22 – Pixar attempts to get back on top of the animated mountain after their first real blemish with Cars 2.  I believe this is going to be a slightly “darker” and “grown up” Pixar movie (relatively speaking, of course).  Everything I’ve seen so far has looked amazing.

11. Only God Forgives – TBD 2012 – Drive was one of my favorite movies of 2011.  This movie has the director (Nicolas Winding Refn) and the star (Ryan Gosling) of that movie getting back together for a movie about a police officer and a gangster settling their differences in a Thai-boxing match in Thailand.  I’m willing to go wherever these two are taking this movie.

10. Skyfall – November 9 – I like the Bond franchise, but I’m looking forward to this one more than the usual Bond film.  Daniel Craig and Judi Dench are back.  But it seems like they have decided to blow the doors out on this one, by surrounding Craig with great talent that has maybe never been equaled in a Bond movie before.  Ralph Fiennes and Javier Bardem are in this movie along with Naomie Harris and the director is Sam Mendes.  I’m especially intrigued by Mendes, as a franchise film in the Bond series is such a departure from anything he has ever done before.

9. The Master – October 12 – Paul Thomas Anderson’s first movie since There Will Be Blood.  This is a very tight-lipped production.  Not much is really known about it.  Most of the speculation is that it is loosely based on L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology, but most likely as a jumping off point for a more fictional tale as opposed to an outright biopic or in-depth portrayal of the Hollywood “religion.”  I’ll be interested to see as its release nears how the Scientology folks in Hollywood will react to it.

8. The Cabin in the Woods – April 13 – The only movie on this list currently in theaters.  I am seeing this movie on Friday.  I have been anticipating this movie for a while, as it has been on the shelf for 3 years after multiple delays.  The studio that produced it closed up shop.  Then the studio that bought it wanted to convert it to a 3-D feature.  Then that plan was scrapped.  And now it’s getting a release a few weeks before The Avengers, the “other” feature film that Joss Whedon and Chris Hemsworth are attached to this year.  Reviews for this movie have been through the roof!

7. Seven Psychopaths – TBD 2012 – One of my favorite black comedies of the last few years was In Bruges.  While it has some dark subject matter, dealing with hitmen lying low in Bruges after a job gone wrong, it had a hilarious dialogue and great performances from Colin Farrell and Brenden Gleeson.  Writer/director Martin McDonagh actually got an Oscar nomination for the screenplay, which was totally deserved.  Here, Farrell and McDonagh re-team for another gangster comedy, along with Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, and a great supporting cast.

6. Looper – September 28 – Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, Bruce Willis, and Emily Blunt should be enough to warrant interest in a movie for me.  But what really puts this movie over the top is that it is written and directed by Rian Johnson, the man behind Brick and The Brothers Bloom.  Not only that, but it’s a movie about time travel.  And not only that, but he also had Primer writer/director/actor Shane Carruth consult on the movie.

5. Django Unchained – December 25 – Quentin Tarantino is back this Christmas with the sure-to-be bloody tale of a slave-turned-bounty hunter who sets out to free his wife from a notorious plantation in the pre-Civil War South.  Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, and an all-star cast easily make this an event to see.

4. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – December 14 – Peter Jackson returns to Middle Earth!  This project has been long in the making and once had Guillermo Del Toro attached to direct with Jackson only serving in a screenplay and production capacity.  Del Toro left and Jackson stepped back in to finish the job.  Very excited for this.  Love the cast.  Interested to see how they treat this story as they are breaking the book into two movies and expanding on some parts of the book and adding in some extras of their own.  But I trust Peter Jackson, despite his misstep with The Lovely Bones.  He could make a quality Hobbit movie in his sleep.

3. The Avengers – May 4 – This movie has had a long build-up, starting all the way back in 2008 with the first Iron Man in a scene at the end of the credits between Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark and Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury.  Since then there has been a Hulk movie, a second Iron Man movie, a Thor movie, and a Captain America movie that have all built toward assembling them all in this movie.  They went a got Joss Whedon to write the screenplay and direct the movie, a move that is sure to win over the fanboys.  Everything is suggesting that this will be a huge kickoff to the summer movie season.  More importantly, the early buzz is that the movie, especially its last act, is awesome.

2. The Dark Knight Rises – July 20 – “Whaaaaaaat????” you may be asking yourself.  How is it possible that there is any other movie I am looking forward to more this year than the conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s Batman saga?  Well, I’ll get into that coming up, but make no mistake, I am eagerly awaiting this movie.  Christopher Nolan is a director I trust implicitly.  I do not think the man has made a bad movie yet.  And I think he will nail it this time around and give the audience a proper ending to his trilogy, something that is apparently hard to achieve in superhero movies (damn you, Spidey 3…).  I love the casting of Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway as Bane and Catwoman, respectively.  And you’ve also got JGL and Marion Cotillard in supporting roles.  This is going to be the biggest movie of the summer, no doubt about it.  I am hoping/expecting it to break all kinds of box office opening weekend records.  Could it be the first movie to break the $200 million opening weekend mark?  I think it’s got a shot.  I have nothing but love for The Dark Knight and this movie is really more like a “1b.” than a “2” for me.

1. Prometheus – June 8 – For the longest time, whenever the words “movies” and “2012” popped into my head, the only thing I could think of was The Dark Knight Rises.  For another movie to come along and knock it out of the #1 spot for me would require a “Once in a Generation”-type of potential.  And for me, Prometheus has the potential to reach that level.  It started out as a full-on prequel to Alien.  Then it shifted a bit and we were told it would merely “exist in the same universe” that Alien had established.  And then the trailers and stills and promotional material and viral videos started to come out for the movie and it was clearly more than just a movie that existed in the “same universe.”  It is a prequel, whether director Ridley Scott wants to call it that or not.  However directly or indirectly, it is a prequel to Alien.  It takes place on the same planet that the Nostromo goes to in response to a distress signal at the beginning of Alien.  It’s got the famous “space jokey” in the trailers.  It doesn’t have Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley or (as we’ve been told repeatedly) a Xenomorph alien, but for all intents and purposes, this movie will set the stage for the conditions that the original Alien starts in.  And this is a BIG DEAL.  Ridley Scott is returning to the sci-fi genre for the first time in 30 years.  His other two sci-fi efforts were the aforementioned Alien and Blade Runner.  Those two movies are all-time greats.  If there were a Mt. Rushmore of sci-fi movies they would be on it right beside 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars.  They are pantheon-level movies.  So for the director of those movies to feel like there is something there worth still exploring, that is something I am excited about and am going to take notice of.  Alien is one of my favorite films of all time.  I can still vividly remember the first time I watched it as a teenager.  All of the promotion for this movie has worked like a charm.  I am captivated.  I would take on a face-hugger for this movie!  And it’s got a great cast.  June 8th cannot come fast enough.

~Moose

Top 10 Movies of 2011

I really struggled with this list.  At one point I thought about expanding it to a Top 25.  And for quite a while I had it as a Top 20.  But at the end of the day, it would have just been too long.  So I said to myself, if I could only have 10 movies to have 2011 be known by, which 10 would I pick?  So that is what this list is.

10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 – This is sort of a lifetime achievement award, a culmination of a pretty good series of movies.  They did a really good job concluding this film franchise with this movie.

9. Beginners – Ewan McGregor and Melanie Laurent may have been the most adorable on screen coupling of the year.  Christopher Plummer put in an amazing performance here as well.  Most of the news about this movie focused on the aspect that Plummer’s character revealing late in life that he is gay, but the real focus of this movie is relationships, particularly the one between the father and son.

8. Source Code – Duncan Jones makes really good sci-fi movies.  Moon was one of my favorite movies of 2009 and so I was very excited to see this follow-up effort from him and it did not disappoint.

7. Bridesmaids – Funniest movie of the year.  Kristen Wiig, as much as I sometimes can’t stand her on SNL, was really good in this movie.  Melinda McCarthy had a breakthrough performance as well.  And Rose Byrne, who was all over the place in 2011, was really good in the somewhat-antagonists role.

6. Crazy, Stupid, Love – Why can’t more romantic comedies be like this movie?  Outside of the horror genre, I think the rom com genre is the most overrated in terms of producing the most dreck that people have to sift through in order to find the few gems that are out there.  This was a definite gem.  2011 was the “Year of the Gosling,” and this movie was a major part of that in showing his versatility and range as an actor.  Steve Carrell and Julianne Moore were also their typical reliable selves.

5. The Muppets – A welcomed return by the Muppets.  I was a bit worried about this movie, not sure if they would be able to pull it off or if it would have the same spirit as the other Muppets movies and the tv show had when I was younger.  They pulled it off.  You can tell that Jason Segel and the people who made this movie had a real love and respect for the Muppets.  I also loved that Bret Mackenzie of Flight of the Conchords wrote some of the music for the movie.  “Man or Muppet” felt like a Conchords song.  And Chris Cooper was great as the villain.  Maniacal laugh.  Maniacal laugh!

4. 13 Assassins – This might have been my favorite movie of the year.  I’m cheating a bit here, because the movie was released in most countries in 2010, but it had a brief US release in the spring of 2011.  Takashi Miike makes some of the most graphic, gory, violent, and distrubing movies.  This movie had all of that, but most of the graphic gore in this movie came from the violent action and less from some of the disturbing things sometimes found in Miike movies.  The first half of this movie is mostly build-up, but the last half is basically one non-stop action sequence that is just wonderously bloody and beautifully choreographed.  It puts Hollywood action movies to shame.

3. Drive – This movie, along with Crazy, Stupid, Love, and The Ides of March made this the “Year of the Gosling.”  Of his three big movies, this was the best.  A stylized, neo-noir thriller with a killer 80’s-style soundtrack, Drive was a really unique movie experience.  It even had a kind-of-homage to Halloween.  And the elevator scene with Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan was one of the best scenes of the year.  Just a cool, cool movie.

2. 50/50 – I felt like this movie had a high degree of difficulty.  It’s a comedy where cancer is prominently involved.  Ok, it’s more of a dramedy, but I don’t really like to use that word too much.  Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Leavitt made a great pairing as best friends.  The movie made me want to fall in love with Anna Kendrick, who plays JGL’s therapist.  More than anything, the movie seemed genuine and true to life, especially the scene in the hospital when he is surrounded by his family before heading into surgery,  The emotion conveyed during that scene of fear and uncertainty was so effective.

1. The Tree of Life – Maybe a controversial movie in that it’s likely to be disliked by as many people who loved it, but it is the movie that stuck out to me the most this year in terms of what it seemed like everyone was talking about online for movies, it’s the movie that captivated me the most when I watched it, and it is the movie that has stuck with me the most after seeing it even now.  The acting is good, but what sticks with me with this movie is its impressive visuals: the vivid colors and the beauty of the world around us.  And the spritualness of this movie also left an impression on me.  I loved the visual, spiritual, poetry of this movie.  A splendid job by Terrence Malick.

~Moose

2011 Movies: Honorable Mentions and Missed Opportunities

Before I list my Top 10 movies of 2011, I wanted to preface it with a list of movies that I missed out on:
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
The Adventures of Tintin
Hugo
Shame
Jane Eyre
We Bought a Zoo
The Descendants
Midnight in Paris
Submarine
The Skin I Live In
Take Shelter
The Artist
Martha Marcy May Marlene
The Guard
War Horse

Also, here is a list of movies I saw this year that I enjoyed, but weren’t quite good enough for my Top 10, in no particular order:
Warrior
X-Men: First Class
Thor
Super 8
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Insidious
Rango
Limitless
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Contagion
Moneyball
The Adjustment Bureau
The Ides of March
Hanna
Paul
Our Idiot Brother
Fright Night
Young Adult
Cedar Rapids
Win Win
The Way Back
Super
Pearl Jam Twenty
The Lincoln Lawyer

Also, since Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy didn’t become available in my area until this past weekend, I’m counting it as a 2012 movie and reserve the right to put it in my 2012 year-end list if I so choose.

~Moose

The Tree of Life – A Review

“The nuns taught us that there were two ways in life – the way of nature and the way of grace.  You have to choose which one to follow.”

“The only way to be happy is to love.  Unless you love, your life will flash by.”

Terrance Malick’s The Tree of Life is not a movie.  At least not in the conventional sense.  It does not follow a straight narrative.  It does not have a clear protagonist and antagonist.  It does not progress in a linear way from Act I to Act II to Act III with a stirring climax and then a denouement.  It features as much, if not more, voiceover from the characters than dialogue between them.  It is not a movie that you can distill down to one or two sentences to clearly explain it.  What it is, though, is a work of art.  And beautiful work of art.

Most of the movie centers around a family living in a small Texas town in the mid-1950s, a father(Brad Pitt), a mother(Jessica Chastain), and their three boys.  The parents are as much archetypes as actual characters, with the father embodying “nature” while the mother embodies “grace.”  Both outlooks on life are shaping their kids, for better and worse.  We see the childhood lives of these three boys from the perspective of the oldest son with occasional voiceovers from the father and mother as well.  Intercut with all of this are scenes involving the oldest son as an adult (played by Sean Penn), reflecting on these things and more and struggling to find some understanding during a difficult day of remembrance.  And intercut with all of this, are images of nature and the universe around us, going as far back as the creation of the world, to the dinosaurs, to the end of time, even.  That is the movie boiled down to its barest bones.  And yet it does not come close to doing the movie justice.

I knew going into that it was an atypical movie.  One reviewer had described it as “impressionistic” in a review I had read.  A lot of times, I find movies described in similar terms to be more “pretentious” than anything.  Also, when it comes to art, I would say I have a hard times appreciating impressionist painters.  Also, while some people swear by him, I am not the biggest Terrance Malick fan.  I liked The Thin Red Line, but I only saw it once when I was a teenager, and was more caught up in the thought, “This is not as good as Saving Private Ryan” at the time.  I think there might have been a lot in that movie I missed.  But in anticipation of this movie, I also watched Days of Heaven and Badlands, and I thought they were only alright.  Aside from being fascinated that Malick being intensely private and that he took nearly 20 years off from directing in between Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line, I am ambivalent toward Terrance Malick in general.  This movie, though, captivated me.  To me, it is probably the best movie he has ever made.  It’s like a magnum opus piece, the culmination and pinnacle of someone’s body of work.

On a purely visceral level, the film is amazingly beautiful.  I can only imagine that the Blu-ray of the movie is presentation-level material for showing off how awesome HD can look.  The scenery is lush and vibrant and seems to comes alive for the camera at times.  It is a totally different movie, but if I had to compare the awe I experienced at some of the sights this movie, it would be Avatar and some of the stunning imagery of that movie.  But Malick does not need 3D to wow the eyes.  The CG involving the space/creation sequences are resplendent.  Some of the most beautiful and amazing imagery in movie history reside in this movie, I have no reservations in saying that.  There should be no way that cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki doesn’t win the Oscar for Best Cinematography for this movie.

On an emotional level, this film resonated with me.  A lot of the childhood scenes are evocative and probably universal or collective on some level.  It really captures a lot of what would be mundane, everyday life.  The movie feels as much like it is observing as it is telling a story.  Brothers playing, wrestling, fighting.  Bringing a lizard into the house to terrorize their mother.  Swimming together at the local swimming spot.  Being reprimanded at the dinner table.  Hiding from their mother as she’s calling them to come in for the night at dinner.  Climbing and walking over the church pews on a Sunday morning.  And mixed in with all of this, though, are examples of “nature” and “grace” all around them, and the parents trying to do their best to lead them through the world and bring them up right; whether that means telling them to keep their elbows off the table when they eat, or shielding their eyes and leading them away from a man in the background having a seizure.  And the oldest son, through whose eyes we see this world, grapples with feelings he doesn’t understand and questions he doesn’t know how to ask and beginning to grow up in general.

Finally, on another level, this movie is deeply spiritual and meditative.  It opens with a verse from the Bible, Job 38:4,7: ““Where was thou when I laid the foundations of the earth . . .When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”  While it opens with a passage from the book of Job, taken as a whole, the movie plays out like something from Psalms.  Characters cry out to God, questions why things are happening or even questioning if God is even listening, before eventually seeing God in everything that surrounds, and accepting and embracing the divine at work in the world.  The one line that stood out to me as the most spiritual was a voice over of the son saying, “I didn’t know how to name You then.  But I see it was You.  Always You were calling me.”  I’ve seen very few films that moved me spiritually like this movie did.  Even the long origin of the universe sequence, which a friend of mine didn’t like because it was “all about evolution,” was, given in the context of the film, infused with a sense of creative, divine design behind it all.

The Tree of Life is not a movie that I think everyone would like or appreciate.  I know that the reactions to the movie run the full spectrum from loving it to flat-out hating it and everywhere in between.  Count me firmly in the former group.  Movies like this are the reason I love watching movies.  For the rare moment when a movie lives up to your expectations or surpasses them; when it stays with you long after you’ve seen it; when you are moved by what you’ve seen.  The Tree of Life is one of those rare pieces of art that transcends it medium.  It is not just a movie.  It is an experience.

~Moose

I Ain’t ‘Fraid of No Ghost

I would be remissed, given that the title of my blog is based on one of my favorite throwaway lines of dialogue from one of my favorite movies of all time, if I didn’t share what I got the chance to experience last Thursday.  I got to see GHOSTBUSTERS on the big screen.  It was everything I hoped it would be.

Ghostbusters was one of the earliest movie memories I have a kid.  I remember the very first time I saw the movie, in fact.  I couldn’t have been older than 7 or 8 at the most, and I was sitting in the living room watching the movie by myself.  One scene in particular hooked me, and I rushed out of the living room to the dining room where my parents were sitting and I told my dad I had just heard the funiest line, proudly repeating after Peter Venkman, “We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!”  My dad, I like to think holding back a startled laugh, calmly told me, “Kenny, we don’t talk like that in this house.”  Regardless, I was a Ghostbusters fan for life.

Ghostbusters is probably my most favorite movie ever of all time in the history of movies.  Ever.  I love The Big Lebowski, The Star Wars trilogy, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Se7en, Anchorman, and a few other movies, but, as with most things, you never forget your first love.  It was a real treat to see it on the big screen for first time ever.  It was a really different experience after seeing it so many times on a regular-sized TV.  Perhaps the thing that was the most enjoyable part of the experience for me was seeing the Stay Puft Marshmellow Man on the big screen for the first time.  I laughed heartily at the utter absurdity (and sheer brilliance) of seeing a giant marshmellow turn the corner and be revealed as the Big Bad that appears to destroy the city.  And it took seeing the movie on the big screen to realize that.

Or maybe to remember that.  Because the reaction I had reminded me of the first time I saw the movie as a kid, albeit with a bit more understanding and appreciation.  As children, things seem so much bigger, basically because we’re so small and there are so many things that are bigger than us.  Part of the experience of growing up is the normalization of the world around us; it’s almost like the world is shrinking a bit as we’re growing bigger.  Revisit someplace from your childhood, and, invariably, it will seem like a smaller place, even though its dimensions remain the same.  Our spatial relation to the places and things are what have changed.  And rewatching movies you grew up with, while you enjoy them, your viewing experience changes as well.  You don’t see them with the same awe and wonder and amazement you first had.  Seeing Mr. Stay Puft up on the big screen made me feel like a child again, because for the first time since I was a kid, he looked larger than life.  That alone was worth the price of admission.

~Moose

Review of “Drive”

I had heard a lot of buzz surrounding the movie Drive, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and starring Ryan Gosling.  Last night after small group and before work, I stopped in at the theater to check it out.  I was not prepared for what I got, but in a good way.

Drive has a simple, straight-forward premise.  A movie stunt driver also moonlights as a wheelman for armed robberies in Los Angeles.  He develops a relationship with Irene (Carey Mulligan), a neighbor in his apartment whose husband is in jail, and her son, Benicio.  When the husband is released, he owes some bad men some money, and The Driver agrees to help in order to protect Irene and Benicio.

The first thing you need to really know about this movie is that it is not a typical action movie in the vein of The Fast & the Furious franchise.  It’s much more arthouse stylization, subdued and focused on the characters than the cars.  I have seen two other Refn movies: Bronson and Valhalla Rising.  Both movies have some extreme brutality to them, but Valhalla Rising in particular is the movie that I see a lot of similarities to in terms of the quiet, stoic, brutal killer that Mads Mikkelsen played in Valhalla Rising and the character Gosling plays here.  No name is given, like out of an Eastwood western.  He does not speak a lot of dialogue.  The Driver is a man of few words and quick, decisive action.  You also get the feeling that there is a lot bubbling just beneath the surface of this guy who mostly maintains his cool.  Also, the quiet, simple, protective nature of the man to the boy also calls back to Valhalla Rising for me.

Gosling and Mulligan do a great job of creating chemistry and longing for one another in this movie, with so little actually said between the two of them.  Instead, a lot is expressed in the way they look at one another throughout the movie.  A lot of movies would be lazy and add really bad dialogue to express the love and affection that is blooming between them, but this one doesn’t and is better for it.  There is a really beautiful scene in an elevator that is one of the most memorable of the year for me, both because of the beauty of it and then how quickly the pendulum swings in that scene.

Also, this seems like the movie that will have the one score that will stick out to me more than any other I hear this year.  A lot of the movie is a tribute to previous movies in a similar vein as this from many years ago.  The jacket The Driver wears, the leather driving gloves, the toothpick, all harken back to a previous era, as does the music, which is a great evocative retro-80s synthpop score that really adds another layer to everything you’re watching.  Do yourself a favor and listen to “A Real Hero” “Under Your Spell” and “Nightcall” and tell me you don’t picture yourself driving in some scene that Michael Mann is directing.  I don’t even really like a lot of music from the 80s, especially synth-based stuff, but I was really digging it in this movie.

Drive does a very good job of combining some really great action and, at times, exquisite gore with arthouse tendencies without being too pensive for its own good.  And there are some good, understated acting performances in this movie as well.

~Moose

Where Has My Summer Gone?

I can’t believe how quickly this year is moving by.  Summer is nearly over, Fall is just around the corner, or has arrived if you live in Maine and are experiencing the nightly temps in the upper 30s like we have for the past 3 days here.

It has been far too long since I wrote in here.  I would like to post more, but I can’t believe how hard I find it after getting out of the habit of it.  Part of it is due to sheer neglect on my part, but part of it I think has to do with the fact that posting short messages on Facebook and Twitter are more convenient and require far less time and commitment.  But here are a few highlights of my summer.

One of the most discouraging things happened to me this past July.  My apartment got zapped by lightning.  It came in through the DirectTv satellite apparently and fried my DirectTV box, my Playstation 3 and damaged my TV.  The DirectTV box was replaced.  I just recently got the PS3 back and it is fully repaired.  But the damaged TV is something I am going to have to live with for a while until I can either afford to fix it or replace it.  The HDMI slots are completely useless on it, the picture has some purple and green lines slowly moving up the screen continually, and the audio is noticeably worse.  But it still functions and is serviceable.

A few days before this happened, I got my first smartphone: the HTC Droid Incredible 2!  And it really is quite incredible.  The battery it came with was decidedly unincredible, and I recently upgraded that to the longer life battery.  But I am very fond of my smartphone.  I send and receive e-mails, twitter and facebook updates.  I can manage my fantasy teams on the go.  I just discovered that I can watch NFL’s Red Zone on it every Sunday.  There are some really great apps for the phone, particularly Gas Buddy, Bank of America, and MovieTicket.com, and the ringtone maker.  No more purchasing ringtones from the Verizon store.  I can have any part of any song I have set as the ringtone for any of my contacts.  And I’ve made some that I really like, a guitar solo from “Ball & Biscuit” by The White Stripes being one of them.  It really is amazing to have so much available right at your fingertips wherever you are.

Of course, I saw my fair share of movies this summer.  The Hangover II was a slight disappointment, though still pretty funny.  The Pirates franchise needs to end.  I avoided Transformers 3 and didn’t regret it at all.  I don’t know that there was a single movie I flat out loved, but I did enjoy Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (the books sort of ruined the movies for me on a certain level, but this was a great conclusion), Horrible Bosses, Bridesmaids were the most enjoyable.  X-Men: First Class was excellent because of the casting and did such a good job of returning that franchise to form.  Thor and Captain America both surprised me and were a lot better than I expected and perhaps better than they had any right to be, especially Thor.  I enjoyed the childhood nostalgia of Super 8, but my expectations were higher for that movie, and I thought the monster at the end was a letdown.

However, I have to say that thinking over all of the movies of the summer, one of the things that stands out in my mind is the performance of Elle Fanning.  That young girl can flat out act.  I think she is a legitimate star in the making and will surpass her sister Dakota sooner rather than later.  In fact, I’m very intrigued by the future potential of Fanning, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Abigail Breslin.  I hope there are great female roles for all three when they grow up.  And I hope they all make it and don’t become another child star cautionary tale.

Also in the realm of entertainment, I devoured the majority of the series Curb Your Enthusiasm.  What a funny show.  Larry David is a great curmudgeon.  And a lot of the payoffs for the shows are great.  And nothing is off limits because it is an HBO series.  I saw Season 1 probably about a year ago and thought it was pretty good, but not great.  I decided to get back to it and found Season 2 to be far funnier than I remembered Season 1 being.  And I was hooked.  Seasons 2 & 3 were probably the best of the series, though I’m currently in Season 7(the Seinfeld season) and that is pretty good too.  Prettyyyyyyyyyyy, pretttttttty, preeeeetty, pretty good.

At the beginning of this month, I had a really good friend of mine, Jeremy, move away to take a job opportunity in San Diego.  I’ve known Jeremy for about 5 1/2 years now.  We became pretty fast friends after he joined the small group Bible study I also attended.  He’s a really strong Christian and we found out that we had quite a lot of similar outlooks on the Bible, the Church, and Christian life.  We also found out we have very similar personalities, particularly in the passive-aggressive way of dealing with conflict.  We even got to be roommates for a year, sharing an apartment together before he got married to his lovely wife, Hannah a little over 2 years ago.  I was pretty upset at first about them leaving and everything, because I genuinely consider him a Christian brother, and because I’m very possessive and selfish when it comes to my friends.  Needless to say, I look forward to them coming home to visit eventually, and I really look forward to dropping little tidbits here and there to try and bribe, guilt, shame, prod, and coax them into eventually moving back here.

Having said all of this though, I have burried the lede.  That is because the biggest adventure of my summer involved me stepping waaaaaaaaaay beyond my comfort zone.  I babysat a child for pretty much the first time ever.  My friends Ben and Sarah were in a bind and needed someone to watch the 2 year old boy, Toby.  Now, Toby is one of the most adorable little kids ever.  Seriously, look at this picture and try not to say “Aww!”  Back with me now?  So, for whatever reason, this kid loves me, which makes me feel so cool about myself.  In fact, one time this summer I stopped in at their house briefly on my way to small group, and he started crying because I was there for only a few minutes and was already leaving (this is the stuff that causes things like the Grinch’s heart to swell three times beyond it’s capacity).  He also doesn’t completely have his “K” down yet (cut him some slack, the kid just turned 2 last week), so everytime he says something to me, I get something that sounds a little closer to “Ten” than “Ken,” which is awesome.

So I volunteer my services on Thursday to babysit Toby for that Friday night.  And so for the next 24-ish hours I’m a little terrified, nervous, anxious, etc.  I’ve never really done anything like this before.  For the vast majority of my life, I’ve never been responsible for anyone but myself.  And I’ve managed to make it 30 years in this world without having to change a diaper to this point, which I look at a bit like Joe DiMaggio’s streak.  And my friends are entrusting their child to my care for a few hours.  It’s a little sobering to say the least.  I prepare myself and partly to keep myself from getting too nervous by saying to myself, “The goal is to make sure he still has 10 fingers and 10 toes when I’m done with him.”

Of course, the actualy experience was far easier than I had built it up in my mind, which I repeatedly reminded myself of beforehand too.  Toby was ridiculously easy on me.  Really, he treated me with kid gloves.  He was watching Toy Story 3 when I got there a bit before 6.  Sarah gave me a quick tutorial on changing diapers.  He was finishing dinner when I got there.  And it only ended up being about an hour and a half of supervision on my part, because his bedtime came at 7:30.  This was the part I was not prepared for.  No kid ever really wants to go to bed.  So while I took him upstairs @ a little after 7:30, it took me over half an hour longer to build up the nerve to ignore his delay tactics of stories and toys and actually put him in his crib, turn out the lights and walk out the room.  And of course, during that time he did indeed poop, which ended my DiMaggio-like streak.

When I left the room was the longest few minutes of my life, as he cried, “No, Ten.  Why?”  To him, it was as if I had violated the established parameters of our established relationship by putting him to bed; like I had betrayed his trust or something.  At least this is how it sounded to me.  In reality, of course, I had done no such thing.  He was simply testing me to see if I would go up there and get him; to see if he would get his way.  After 10 minutes, he had stopped and was asleep.  But those 10 minutes felt like an hour.

So those were some of the highlights of my summer.  I will try to post more often on here in the future.  I really would like to get into the habit again of writing and expressing my thoughts in an ordered way in a format like this.

~Moose