Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Top 5 Posts of 2011

These are my most-viewed posts of 2011!!!

1. My Gay Friend

2. My Top Movies of 2010 & Academy Award Predictions

3. Is Photography Art?

4. The 45 Most Powerful Images of 2011

5. The 5th of November - Best "V for Vendetta" Quotes

I hope you guys enjoyed the blog-posts last year and I look forward to keeping up the movie reviews and cultural critiques in 2012! Thanks for all the support; you guys are great!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

DJ Earworm's Year-End Mashups

At the end of every year, DJ Earworm mixes the top 25 hit songs of the year into 1 huge dance anthem mashup. Here's his new 2011 mashup, followed by all his other ones too! (And they are all available for free on his website: DJEarworm.com)

United State of Pop 2011 (World Go Boom)


United State of Pop 2010 (Don't Stop the Pop)



United State of Pop 2009 (Blame it on the Pop)


United State of Pop 2008 (Viva la Pop)


United State of Pop 2007


Still want more? Check out my other favorite DJ Earworm Mashups by clicking the "Read more" jump! (Don't forget you can download them for free at DJEarworm.com)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Bumpy Ride

Review: War Horse

Prior to its release, War Horse was poised to be a galloping good time for the whole family, while simultaneously being a potential contender for an Academy Award. However, despite being directed by the great Steven Spielberg, I can’t help but feel that this film has been over-hyped leading up to its opening weekend and overly praised afterwards. It seems to be that simply because it is a film expected to be up for an Oscar, people are determined to absolutely love it.

Not to take anything away from The King’s Speech, a delightful film and certainly much better than War Horse, but it serves as a good example of audiences seeming to be determined to love a film before they have even seen it. You knew you were going to like it before going into the theater. The King’s Speech met expectations. War Horse does not. But the Oscar-buzz band-wagon seems to have stopped so many critics from delivering the critique the film deserves, in favor of the critique people expect.

So what led to the disappointment of my expectations? Frankly, it was rather dull. Sure, horses are powerful and noble creatures. But in a live-action film set during the First World War, having an animal as your primary protagonist for the full 2½ hour run-time loses a certain level of connectivity the audience has with the story.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Powerful, Provocative, and Certainly Not For Everyone

Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

It has been said that there are two types of people in this world: those with tattoos and those who are afraid of people with tattoos. That may be true, because I am certainly afraid of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. This tattooed girl is Lisbeth Salander, played by Rooney Mara, a cyberpunk computer hacker with a haunted past who is hired to help recently disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist, portrayed by Daniel Craig, to solve a 40 year old missing person case.

In last year’s hit film, The Social Network, Mara played side-character Erica Albright and her scene in the bar with Jesse Eisenberg’s Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg which introduced the film was one the many brilliant dialogues of the movie. In Dragon Tattoo, Mara is rejoined by The Social Network director David Fincher who crafts an eerie, yet powerful story and allows Mara to take the headlining role in one of 2011’s most intriguing films.

Dragoon Tattoo is an interesting crime investigation, on par with Fincher’s other detective thrillers, Zodiac and Se7en. In it, charismatic billionaire Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) hires Craig’s journalist Mikael to investigate the disappearance of his niece 40 years earlier. Mikael reluctantly takes the job because Vanger promises him evidence to prove he was right in a controversial lawsuit which left his reputation discredited. Along the way, Mikael hires an assistant, Mara’s damaged Lisbeth, and together they cut through the tangled web of lies weaved by the Vanger family.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Your Mission, Should You Choose To Accept It…

Review: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol 

Is to go see this movie!

At first glance, a third sequel in an over-decade old film series starring an actor pushing 50 and directed by someone who before this has only directed cartoons does not sound very promising. But Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is breathlessly energetic and surprisingly thrilling.

Forget Scientology and jumping on Oprah’s couch, Tom Cruise remains one of the best, if not the best, action stars in the world. He’s a great actor, capable of a range of emotions, but can be funny too. As Ethan Hunt in Ghost Protocol, Cruise gets to show off all the things that he does best, including his action-star run which is unrivaled in Hollywood.

And by the end of the movie, you’ll feel like you have been running too, as almost every second of the movie is infused with pulse-pounding action and jaw-dropping stunts. There are four main missions in the film and each one is a fascinating combination of futuristic (yet believable) technology and impressive physical feats.

The scene in Dubai is particularly impressive when we watch Cruise dangle over a hundred stories in the air as he scales Burj Khalifa, the world’s largest building. Part of what makes this scene so impressive is that, along with many other scenes in the film, it was filmed in IMAX so that if you see it in an IMAX theater, you truly feel as though you are over a hundred stories in the air. It literally takes your breath away. Cruise, by the way, did all of his own stunts; so that's really him you see up there!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Do You Want To Play A Game?

Review: Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows

Professor Moriarty: “Are you sure you want to play this game?”

Sherlock Holmes; “I’m afraid you’d lose.”

Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows, director Guy Ritchie’s follow-up to his 2009 hit Sherlock Holmes, is in fact a fast-paced game of intellect and mystery; a clever face-off pitting the always charming pairing of Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock and Jude Law’s Dr. James Watson against the nefarious Professor Moriarty, played by James Harris (seen next as General Ulysses S. Grant in Steven Spielburg's biopic Lincoln).

The filmmakers clearly looked back on what worked so well in the first film and incorporated them well into the sequel. This means you can expect the same level of clever wit, particularly in the banter between Downey Jr. and Law who continue to bicker like an old married couple. The rehashing of old jokes actually works relatively well in this film and even though they may not be as fresh this time around, they certainly don’t bomb as bad as the reused jokes in the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels.

Monday, December 5, 2011

My Gay Friend

Another one of those papers for my Intercultural Communication class, this one describing how an intercultural relationship has influenced me...

“Really? Are you joking?” I asked.

“No. I’m seriously gay,” insisted Zack.

“Oh,” I responded, “that’s… interesting.”


The “coming-out” conversation is always at least a little awkward for everyone involved. The conversation I had with my friend Zack occurred freshman year, around two months into the school year. Zack’s homosexuality genuinely surprised everyone on our hall. Zack had always been athletic, running track and playing tennis, and didn’t seem to have any interest in fashion, or dancing, or Lady Gaga. I cannot remember him fitting a single stereotype of being gay. But there I sat with his roommate, Sean, learning the news.

My friendship with Zack during my college experience, while not really one of my closest friendships, has been one of the more significant factors that have influenced how I see and construct my perceptions of the world. I grew up in the deeply entrenched beliefs of the Southern Baptist Church and was influenced by all of their thoughts, positions, and creeds (SBCV, the Baptist Faith & Message, etc.). The opinions I formulated about homosexuality originated from my religious indoctrination (not a word I necessarily consider to be negative) and were opinions that I knew were absolutely and unequivocally “right” and morally-sound. In short, homosexuality was unnatural, sinful, and wrong, no exceptions. Of course, I didn’t know any LGBT people at the time and knew nothing about the experiences of those individuals.

The 45 Most Powerful Images of 2011


If you want proof that photography is art, here are the 45 most powerful images of 2011 collected by BuzzFeed.com (My favorites are 5, 10, 12, 18, & 25)...

1.

Robert Peraza, who lost his son Robert David Peraza in 9/11, pauses at his son’s name at the North Pool of the 9/11 Memorial.
(Getty Images / Justin Lane)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Beautiful But Boring

Review: Hugo 3D

I often say that while I like to think I am more informed than the average movie viewer but not as stuck up as the average movie critic, I’m probably just dumber than the average critic and more stuck up than the average movie viewer. In the case of watching Martin Scorsese’s new film Hugo, I’d like to think I occupy the former position. This is because while I think I can appreciate the love letter to cinema that Scorsese has created in this kid’s movie more than the average movie viewer, I disagree with most of the critics who apparently loved it, because, frankly, it is a pretty boring movie. So let’s break it down…

The film centers on Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), an orphan who lives in the walls of a train-station and is determined to fix an automaton left to him by his father (Jude Law). Despite being pursued by the station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), Hugo fixes the robot with the help of Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), which leads to a surprising discovery about Isabelle’s guardian, Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley).

Monday, November 28, 2011

Can We Resist Popular Culture?

The past few blogposts have all been movie reviews, so I thought I would switch things up by talking about something else I am interested in: Communication and Culture. Going to the movies is a choice. As are the t.v. shows we watch and the music we listen to. But how much of culture's influence is really our choice? This is a paper I wrote for my Intercultural Communications class, addressing the question: "How Does Popular Culture Influence You and How Do You Resist It?" And yes, somewhere in there I did quote Gandalf in a college-level essay...

“Popular culture is the new Babylon, into which so much art and intellect now flow. It is our imperial sex theater, supreme temple of the western eye. We live in the age of idols. The pagan past, never dead, flames again in our mystic hierarchies of stardom.” – Camille Paglia

As we’ve discussed in class, popular culture is everywhere. We cannot run from it. We cannot hide from it. We cannot escape it. It reminds me of the goblins in the mines of Moria that Gandalf reads about: “We have barred the gates but cannot hold [popular culture] for long. The ground shakes, drums... drums in the deep. We cannot get out. A shadow lurks in the dark. We cannot get out... [Popular culture is] coming.” The approach and influence of popular culture is inevitable.

Aloha Oscars

Review: The Descendants

“My friends think that just because we live in Hawaii, we live in paradise. Like a permanent vacation, we're all just out here sipping Mai Tai's, shaking our hips and catching waves. Are they insane? Do they think we're immune to life? How can they possibly think our families are less screwed up? Our heartaches, less painful?”

The life of Matt King, a Hawaiian land baron played by George Clooney in The Desecendants, is certainly no paradise. His family is definitely screwed up and his heartache quite painful. Matt’s wife is in a coma, the result of a boating accident, and the clock is counting down to the removal of her life support. This leaves Matt alone to deal with his two rambunctious kids, Alex (Shailene Woodley) and Scottie (Amara Miller), and alone to grapple with the unexpected discovery that his wife had been cheating on him. As Matt takes his girls and Alex’s friend, Sid (Nick Krause), along to find his wife’s mysterious partner, Brian Speer (Matthew Lillard), to give him a chance to say goodbye before the end, Matt is also forced to continue his dealings to sell a huge tract of land on behalf of his large, extended family.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

You Get What You Pay For

Review: We Bought A Zoo

Director Cameron Crowe has tricked me! I went into a sneak preview of We Bought A Zoo (opening Dec. 23rd) expecting a simple, cheesy kid’s movie. Instead the film proved to be a heart-felt drama in disguise. The movie centers on Matt Damon’s character Benjamin Mee who tries to start a new life for his two kids, brooding Dylan (Colin Ford) and adorable Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones), by moving to a new house, which also happens to be a zoo. Of course, the purchase of the house stipulates that the new owner must care for the animals. And the only way to pay for all the animals food, shelter, and medical costs is to re-open the zoo, an idea which is going to take a lot of work to accomplish. Benjamin says it’s a modern day adventure!

Animals are always fun and the ones we meet in this film are no exception. Bears and snakes get loose, peacocks have babies, and monkeys make funny faces. But beneath this facade of silliness, real drama comes out. Obviously, they’re in way over their heads in preparing the zoo for the inspection preceding opening day. Benjamin can’t seem to get over the recent loss of his wife or connect with his even more troubled son. In fact, the scene of their climactic confrontation was refreshing and surprising, showing the acting chops of both Matt Damon and Colin Ford. In a movie that had the potential to be ultra-goofy, kinda like Kevin James' recent Zookeeper, We Bought A Zoo has real depth and truly makes you feel for the characters.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

It's Time to Play the Music, It's Time to Light the Lights...

Review: The Muppets

It's time to meet the Muppets on "The Muppet Show" tonight!

They’re back! But are they better than ever? In the new Muppets movie, Gary (Jason Segel), Mary (Amy Adams), and unaware Muppet Walter team up with Kermit the Frog to get the old gang back together to save the Muppet Theater from being torn down by evil oil tycoon, Tex Richman (Chris Cooper). Since The Muppets is a relatively simple film, I thought I would try and do a more simplistic review than usual… 

Meet Marilyn Monroe

Review: My Week with Marilyn

So, I just met Marilyn Monroe. She was giggles and laughter and light. And she was tears and insecurity and emptiness. She was the first real celebrity Hollywood icon. And it almost destroyed her.

Of course, I didn’t meet the real Marilyn. But I was introduced to Michelle Williams’ stirring portrayal of her in director Simon Curtis’ feature film debut, My Week with Marilyn, one of my absolute favorite movies of the year. The movie is more of a case-study-like glimpse into a moment in time rather than a life-to-death biopic, detailing the shooting of a film in the 50s called The Prince and the Showgirl, during which Marilyn’s unpredictable behavior continuously frustrated her co-stars and cast. Feeling alienated by the production team and those closest to her alike, Marilyn turns to young assistant director Colin Clark for companionship and support. For about a week.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Grand Old Party Predictions


So I just finished watching the CNBC “Your Money Your Vote” GOP Debate and thought I’d share my thoughts on the night and the state of the primary situation as we stand a little less than one year away from Election Day.

Let’s start with Mitt Romney. I’ll be honest, as an Independent, Romney has the best chance of winning my vote over Obama than any of the other candidates. He’s got 25 years as a businessman before he became governor, so he’s got economic experience (the most important qualification for this election) and he polls the best against Obama in national polls. And Republicans have a tendency to elect candidates who were the runners-up in the last primary. McCain was runner up to George W. Bush before he clinched the nomination in 2008 when he edged out Mitt Romney. So now establishment rules predict a Romney nomination. Except that Republicans don’t seem to be warming up to the former Massachusetts governor and while he’s had a consistent, well-oiled campaign machine, Romney still cannot seem to significantly outdistance his opponents.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The 5th of November - Best "V for Vendetta" Quotes

If it is November 5th, you need to be watching the fantastic film, V for Vendetta!!! Below are some of the best quotes from the movie and, at the bottom of the post, a couple videos of those scenes!

"Remember, remember the 5th of November, the gunpowder, treason, and plot. I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot..."

"Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a bygone vexation stands vivified and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition! The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. [laughs] Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it's my very good honour to meet you and you may call me 'V'"

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Imperialism of the English Language


As a Communication Major who specializes in the Critical Approach, I love to talk about the big, overarching influences that shape how we construct our perceptions of the world. Things like history and dimensions of power. So I thought that I'd share with you a paper I wrote about the English language and how it operates as a new form of colonialism. Sound fun? I thought so too!

Okay; I know Wikipedia is not a scholarly source. But it had it the best definition of colonialism I found: “Colonialism is the establishment, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a process whereby the metropole claims sovereignty over the colony and the social structure, government, and economics of the colony are changed by colonizers from the metropole. Colonialism is a set of unequal relationships between the metropole and the colony and between the colonists and the indigenous population” (Wikipedia.org).

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Waste of Time

Review: In Time


It was bottom of the ninth at Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, and they were losing 7-5 to the Texas Rangers in the World Series, Game 6. The Cardinals had 2 players on base, but they also had 2 outs and after 3 pitches David Freese was looking at 1 ball, 2 strikes. Everyone assumed it was over. Until Freese hit a triple, sending the 2 players on base home to tie the game. The Cardinals were taking the game into extra innings! 

Buffalo Wild Wings went crazy. Fans gathered around the ridiculous number of televisions shouted, jumped up and down, and hugged their waitresses. I was so enveloped by the atmosphere I almost tossed my basket-full of wings in the air. Then I checked the time. “It’s 11:50,” I reminded Mike. “The movie starts in 10 minutes.”

Friday, October 21, 2011

Let the Activity Begin!

Review: Paranormal Activity 3


The first Paranormal Activity was something of a phenomenon; a little known movie made for $11,000 in 7 days received some interest at the 2007 Screamfest Horror Film Festival, was picked up by Paramount Pictures, had the ending changed at the recommendation of Steven Spielberg, and went on to gross almost $200 million worldwide after an intriguing “Demand It” distribution program.

Paranormal Activity 2 pulled off the same feat of grossing lots of money, while being made for very little. And its prequel/at-the-same-time-as-the-first-movie timeline was interesting. But unfortunately most of the scare tactics were the same old bumps in the night and viewers, while scared, were disappointed that the second film didn’t explore new make-‘em-jump territory. The second film was also criticized for taking too long to introduce any really good scares.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Love in Action" - 2011 Summer Recap


I spent this past summer interning with the Student Ministry at Bethel Baptist Church, in Yorktown, VA. I had a blast working with the youth pastor, Jeff Mingee, and the female intern Jennifer Blackwell. It was in fact our second time working together, as Jen and I had interned last summer as well. That first go-round was certainly a learning experience. The unofficial theme of that summer, as we now joke, was “Welcome to Bethel; we’ll date you and then hate you.” Of course, that wasn’t our official theme, but it certainly seemed to be an accurate description of all of the middle and high school drama that had gone on. In actuality, we had no theme last summer, which I felt led to a bit of its chaos.

So, when Jeff, Jen, and I began to talk about what we wanted this summer to look like, I immediately suggested that we have a theme, one unifying purpose to unite us as a leadership team that we lacked last summer; an attempt to be responsibly proactive rather than frustratingly reactive. And so, with the drama of the previous internship still weighing on our minds, we settled on the theme of “Love in Action,” a challenge to the youth to seriously consider how we develop our earthly relationships in light of our heavenly relationship with Christ.

Monday, June 6, 2011

"Love in Action" - Student Impact 5/25/2011


That was (kind of) a taste of what we will be talking about tonight. "What is love?" "What will you do for love?" "What won't you do for love?" ... I also may have just wanted an excuse to watch it again!

When I was in Middle School, I, along with a number of other students, attended Student Life Camp at Ridgecrest Conference Center in NC with the youth group. At the end of the week we decided to have a water fight. So we had a few water balloons and water guns (which were NOT actually allowed), but mostly the water fight involved dumping buckets of water on each other. I guess you’re technically allowed to bring buckets to camp!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

"Identity" - Student Impact 5/4/2011

I’m going to start tonight by stealing an example from Pastor Stu over at Water’s Edge Church. I was recently watching their Easter Service (It was held in the Hampton Convention Center and it was pretty crazy. They had people doing trampoline acrobatics on stage during worship!) and Pastor Stu began by describing an article he had recently read, which announced the arrival of a new kind of junk food. Now I love junk food, despite how skinny I am! I like mint chocolate chip ice cream, soda, and especially potato chips. Especially, especially “Doritos.” So I thought I too would check it out. The article contained a link to the website, and this is what you see:

 
One of the top guys from “Doritos” was hired to run a “Baby Carrot” company. He came in and decided he wanted to revolutionize the way you thought about baby carrots. And so they’ve given the baby carrots a new slogan: “Eat ‘Em Like Junk Food.” A rock song plays when you get on the website with some guy shouting “Baby carrots, extreme!!!” You can download it, I think. There’s even a commercial you can watch where a model seductively chews on some baby carrots. And lastly they repackaged them; the bag in the middle looks like “Cheetos” and the bag on the right looks like some of those fancy organic snacks.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rock for Jesus

(Chorus)
Do you wanna rock, rock, rock for Jesus?
I wanna rock, rock, rock for Jesus!
Do you wanna rock, rock, rock for Jesus?
I wanna rock, rock, rock for Jesus!
Just Jesus, just Jesus
Just Jesus, just Jesus
Just Jesus, just Jesus
Just Jesus, just Jesus

Yo, if you wanna rock for Jesus
Ya gotta know life ain’t meant to please us
It ain’t about the sweets, like Reese’s Pieces
It’s about praisin’ God; just read Ephesians.
And don’t be brought down by them sinful heathens
All ya gotta know is Jesus is breathin’
He was raised from the tomb on the third, it’s a fact
That why life ain’t about makin’ stacks
It ain’t about cars or your Cadillac
Or even ‘bout us spittin’ these tracks
We gotta worship God, do Forty Days of Purpose
You’ll come to realize that your life ain’t worthless
It ain’t about how low can you go
Or how much skin that you think you should show
God’s always gonna be there fo’ sho’
Jesus rocks, this I know

Friday, February 25, 2011

My Top Movies of 2010 & Academy Award Predictions






2010 was a pretty good year at the movies. Hollywood disappointed in summer blockbusters, but distributed some pretty interesting films during awards season. After seeing over 80 movies that came out this year, I thought I would share my Top Ten movies of 2010 and my predictions for the Academy Awards just around the corner. Obviously, there were some awesome movies that couldn’t make it because there are only 10 slots and of course there were some great movies I didn’t see (Barney’s Version, Blue Valentine, Biutiful, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, The Kids Are All Right, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and Waiting for Superman). However, I’m pretty confident that these are the best movies of 2010...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Love Letter

Haven't done anything for your valentine yet??? Time's running out!!! Here's an example of a great (sarcastic) Valentine's Day Love Letter that I gave to my friend, Lauren, on V-Day!

Dearest Lauren,

One would think that after a great number of years of having such perplexity over the enigmatic ways of women, a man would swear off that which muddles his mind and clouds his judgment. Yet the sparkle of your oceanic, blue eyes and the whiff of the roses in my garden that daily are reminiscent of your ever ladylike fragrance keep fresh in my mind both the striking beauty of your image and refreshing cynicism of your personality.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Unite with Other Believers (2011 DNow at SRBC)


* Disclaimer: While I must admit that I got choked up a number of times during this message (I couldn't talk and my eyes were really watery), no tears actually fell. Therefore, I maintain that I did not actually cry...

This D-Now weekend we have been going through the acronym of FOCUS. Friday night Pastor Jeff talked about the “F” and the “O,” Fixing our eyes on Jesus and Offering our lives up to Him. This morning, Jeff talked about the “C,” Communicating with Him; praying and reading our Bibles. Well, Jeff had to go home to be with his family and lead Sunday School at our church tomorrow morning so tonight I will be talking about the “U,” Uniting with other believers.

Monday, January 17, 2011

"What Will You Do?" & "Look Up"

"What Will You Do?"

Postmortem. Postpartum
Your life has just started
Cause when you got saved
Your old life departed
You’re no longer a slave
You’re no longer depraved
You’re no longer deprived
Your name's been engraved

In God’s Book of Life
Yeah you’ve been revived
That’s why we say born again
You have survived and arrived
At the place of “Amens”
Where there’s no longer sin
God has brought you from the desert
Right back to Him