The Year in Movies

To wrap up 2015 with a bang, I’ve compiled a list of the top movies of 2015 that I saw. Some of them were immensely better than others in my opinion. WARNING: THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD OF YOU!

Let’s get this show on the road! Starting with….

 

7 – Minions

 

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A spin-off-prequel of the much beloved (and frankly, hilarious) Despicable Me, the Minion movie takes us back to the 60’s and the story of the Minions and how they came to serve Gru. Our main Minions are Stuart, Keven, and Bob as they travel thousands of miles in search of a villain to serve.

While it was pretty hilarious, the Minion movie doesn’t have any of the emotional punch that Despicable Me boasted.  It’s good for a laugh and has some pretty funny Easter eggs and references to the other films, so all in all it’s sitting at number 7 on my list.

 

6 – Inside Out

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This is one of Pixar’s best movies of the year, I’ll give it that. It’s the story of a girl named Riley told from the point of view of her emotions. The story follows Riley as she grows up and her emotions and personality changed over time.

It’s an excellent family movie overall, but the reason it sits at number 6 is because of the characters. They are stereotypical to the point that it’s painful. There are many other ways that Pixar could have designed and filled out the characters (E.G not all Minnesotans play hockey, not all Dad’s are obsessed with sports, Sadness being a frumpy person and Joy a pixie, etc.). While the story line itself is part of the Pixar magic we all know and love, the characters could have been done better.

 

5 – Goosebumps

 

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I had the pleasure of seeing this movie in an entirely empty theater with my younger sister right near Halloween. The movie serves to tie the books together in one place, and actually manages to do so rather well. Jack Black is an awesome R.L Stein. (SPOILER: R.L Stein makes a good Jack Black, too)

Possibly the reason this movie did as well as it did, was that it catered to an audience of people who’d grown up reading the Goosebumps series. The series is older than I am. My favorites are The Ghost next Door and The Werewolf of Fever Swamp.

The CGI in the movie is fairly good, and the multiple references to the other books are clever. Slappy is as creepy as ever.  The ending, while a bit too convenient for most people, is a pretty good ‘Happy ending’ for any smaller kids who might have been spooked by the monsters.

 

4 – Cinderella

 

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A live action reboot of the classic Disney film, the 2015 Cinderella is an excellent piece of storytelling, if a bit old. It follows the story line of the first, animated Cinderella movie almost to the detail. The best acting in the film seems to come from Lady Tremaine, A.K.A Cate Blanchett. She plays a very good villain. Lily James sounds like she’s out of breath the entire film, though. Maybe it’s that corset.

Still, the movie is at number 4 because it captures the spirit of the original classic so well while putting a newer spin on it. The dress worn by Cinderella in the film is incredible from a costume standpoint and is just as beautiful as the original Cinderella’s.

 

3 – Avengers:  Age of Ultron

 

avengers

 

Yes, I put a super-hero movie ahead of the others. Avengers: Age of Ultron is the sequel to the 2012 movie The Avengers and comes after the events of the Agents of Shield television series. Bruce Banner and Tony Stark (The Hulk and Iron Man) decide that the world needs protecting, but since they won’t be there forever, they should make a super weapon capable of artificial intelligence to protect the planet. Their plan goes about as well as you think it would.

The movie itself is great, but some of the ideas feel slightly recycled and stale, although (SPOILER) Quicksilver being blasted like that did kick you gut a bit in the theater, especially when we witness the Scarlett Witch’s reaction to her brother’s death. The ending was solid enough and the Stan Lee cameo was pretty hilarious (If Thor offers you a drink, say no.) Which is why this movie is at number three.

 

2 – Jurassic World

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I have watched the Jurassic Park movies since I was a little kid and I cannot tell you how excited I was to see this. I even cosplayed as a “Raptor Victim” in the theater. Jurassic World picks up on an *Alternative Dimension* where the first Jurassic Parks went well and actually thrived, and now need to have newer, bigger dinosaurs so people will still be impressed by them.

If anyone had ever bothered to watch old horror films, they’d know that playing God is a very bad idea. Especially when you’re working with large, carnivorous creatures that will not hesitate to eat you. So I like to think that some of the employees deserved what they got, but Owen does seem to be one of the few people there with a stable head on their shoulders.

 

1 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

the forceawkesn

 

Star Wars: The Force awakens was by far the best movie of this year. I’ve said this before, but it felt like you could have been watching on of the classic Star Wars films. The story telling is fantastic and the characters are deep and actually act like normal people (my favorite quote being “… and use the Force!”) and their normal mistakes. BB-8 is adorable and adds a little bit of comic relief to the story.

I’m still not allowed to post spoilers about the movie, but I’m just going to say this. Kylo Ren better keep that helmet on because his face is uglier than the back end of Jabba the Hut.

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Merry Christmas!

We’re still pretty busy over here with the fun and snow, so I wanted to share a short message with the world.

I keep hearing people (especially other bloggers) who complain or sigh that Christmas ‘doesn’t feel like Christmas’ or ‘they aren’t in the Christmas spirit’. What I’ve found is that if you feel sad or alone at Christmas it’s rarely the people around you that are the problem, you need to adjust your expectations around Christmas. It will never be perfect, so you just have to roll with the fun. You don’t need to have every tiny detail perfect or every recipe just so – what you need to do is have fun and make sure you’re taking care of the people around you. As cheesy as this is, Christmas isn’t about presents, it’s about having fun and making memories with your family or friends.

Merry Christmas!

STAR WARS: The Force Awakens

I went to see ‘Star Wars – The Force Awakens’ this Sunday with my family.  So I don’t spoil anything for anyone, I’ll just geek out. My whole family dressed up to go see it (even though it wasn’t opening day) and a lot of people liked our costumes. Maria was Darth Vader and looked awesome.

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I was a Sith

The movie itself was absolutely incredible in all terms. The music, the actors, the DROIDS. It honestly felt like you could have been watching one of the classic star wars films. They even start the same. When those big yellow letters appeared on the screen at the opening , my Mom teared up a bit because she remembered seeing the first one when she was ten and they went to a Drive-in movie theater.

To me, this feels almost like a coming-of-age ritual (which I guess it is if you come from a nerdy family) and it was so incredible to see the classic characters in a new world. We also got a pretty awesome collectible popcorn tin. Which was cool.

 

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Behold the awesomeness of this popcorn tin.

The funniest part of the whole experience was when a little girl wearing some pretty awesome Avengers pajamas stopped and stared at ‘Darth Vader’ as ‘he’ shared a soda with a Sith Lady and Rey in the lobby. It’s all made funnier by the fact that the costume character for that “Alvin and the Chipmunks” movie was dancing around in the background.

Christmas time

As the year begins to wind down, everyone is out buying gifts, baking treats, or spending time with family. Along with this quality family time comes new, wonderful memories. Moments such as the time Fido knocked over the Christmas tree, when Aunt Susan indulged in a little bit too much eggnog, when we found a dead mouse in the Christmas tree after it was decorated, or when the Christmas tree brought in a huge nest of baby spiders (who proceeded to thaw out and invade the house), will forever remain in the minds of young children and never forgotten, no matter the amount of therapy.

On the bright side, everyone (at least most everyone) has fond memories of their favorite Christmas movie. We’ve all seen ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’, or ‘Santa Claus is coming to town’. These movies are sure to rouse everyone into the Christmas spirit and spread good cheer to all who are near.

Tip: If cheer and Christmas spirit are not spread by the time the movie ends, apply liberal amounts of eggnog and repeat.

One of the most famous Christmas movies is “Frosty the Snowman”. I was  terrified by snowmen and Frosty the Snowman as a child. So maybe the consideration of Christmas Classics is a subjective matter. There are plenty of Christmas specials for normal shows that are borderline ‘Christmas Classics’.

 

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NO! I don’t wanna build a snowman!

Speaking of snow, weirdly enough, my current geographical position has NO SNOW even though we are but eleven days until Christmas eve in a state that is famous for being extremely cold. (Gee, thanks El Nino.)

Along with movie traditions come the food traditions. My family has always done a huge cookie-decorating party towards Christmas. While there are the usual wreaths, Santas, and reindeer, there comes an unusual menagerie of sprinkle-infused critters from the outer reaches of the twilight zone.

Example?

The Christmas leech.

When my little sister, Anne, was really little she misheard the song “Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree!” and thought the song was “Oh Christmas Leech, Oh Christmas Leech!” and sang it that way until we finally told her the truth. She still sings it her way. The Christmas Leech has become a tradition (albeit a strange one).

So as everyone stocks up on eggnog and prepares for Christmas in their own special ways, I’m going to have to a go at some cookies and maybe a rousing rendition of “Oh Christmas Leech!”.

 

Margaret Bell and the Saga of the Shrimp

Assignment time! Except this time it might be just a wee bit late. You see, my last guess as to what my current assignment would be wasn’t too far off. I guessed that I would have to make Lobster Thermidor, joking about how hard the ingredients are to procure with these Culinary Arts assignments I’ve been getting. I was not entirely incorrect.

My current assignment is to de-shell, de-vein, and boil raw shrimp. You think it wouldn’t be too difficult, but it is a royal pain. For one thing, raw shrimp would be much easier to come by if you lived in, say, Oregon. Anywhere on the coast would be good. I live in Minnesota. We are not famous for fresh, local seafood.

Chef Tip: Never buy seafood from a truck with an Iowa license plate

So what should I do? I was still working and recruited my mom to help me get the shrimp. Not being one to trust Walmart seafood we went with our next best bet: Hyvee. For those of you outside of the United States or simply unfamiliar with a Hyvee, it’s very similiar to a Kroger and much more reputable than a Walmart when it comes to freshness.

Not seeing any raw, on-the-shell shrimp, my mother asked about it to the chef. He laughed. He realized she was serious. He got the manager. He laughed. Also realized she was serious. Eventually, they had to go to the very back of the store and ask the bloke who was in charge of unloading the bulk food itself and make the request. He laughed. Then laughed at my teacher when he realized what she was asking for. We eventually got a hold of four, raw shrimps with the shells on. Four shrimps. Four.

I’m kind of wondering what on earth was going through my teachers head when she made this assignment – maybe it isn’t her fault – but considering my follow-up assignment requires an hour of volunteer service and a full interview with a culinary work place, maybe I’ll just stick with an Art Class next year.

 

Doctor Who: Hell Bent

While there were some episodes this season that were mediocre, to say the least (we’re looking at you Sleep no More). This final episode of the season, disregarding the upcoming Christmas special, was simply excellent.

 

One warning, though.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

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Spoilers!

 

The episode starts with one very irate doctor showing up on Galifrey and being welcomed by the peasants of Galifrey who view him as a sort of war hero. Cue big-baddy showing up, in this case, the President of Galifrey. He simply sends a small ship to ‘escort’ the Doctor back to the capital. The Doctor goes back to eating his soup. Turn after turn, the President of Galifrey sends out more and more people to try and get the Doctor to come, no one knows what he wants. When a guard asks why they simply don’t just ‘Talk to him’, the President replies with “Words are his weapons, when did they stop being ours?”

Eventually, the President of Galifrey himself shows up to the Doctor, along with a small group of snipers. Asking what it is that the Doctor wants, all the Doctor replies with is “Get off my planet.”

This would obviously upset any tyrannical ruler, but after being told to shoot the Doctor, the snipers simply drop their weapons and join the Doctor’s side.

 

But why is the Doctor doing this? The Galifreyians keep asking about the hybrid, but is that really what the Doctor wants? Yeah, you’re right. It isn’t. What is it he wants? Well, at the beginning of the episode our good Doctor shows up to a familiar diner and, because he doesn’t have any money, plays a song for some food….

 

Doctor Who, Copyright BBC, 1963, 2015

 

Is this just another one of Clara’s versions, spinning through time and space? To cut to the chase though, when the Doctor says “The Hybrid is ME.” at the end of the last episode, I’m pretty sure most of us thought he was talking about himself. No, he was talking about ‘ME’. Or Ashildr. In reality, after meeting ‘Me’ at the end of the time stream, we find that she has watched stars die and after telling the Doctor about the beauty of these dying stars, and after telling the Doctor that she isn’t the Hybrid, we find that the Hybrid was never one being. The Doctor and Clara were the hybrid because of the threat they posed to time and space. They would have ripped the time stream apart to get to each other, and they both realized that.

Which brings us back to the beginning and why our Doctor doesn’t recognize Clara at the diner. In a plot device similar to a game of Russian roulette, the two friends sit in a stolen TARDIS (which we now know what it looks like without the chameleon circuit – SWEET) with a small device that will wipe either the Doctor from Clara’s memory, or Clara from the Doctor’s memory.  In my opinion, I’m glad Clara didn’t wind up like Donna – forgetting everything and having to go back to some peasant life.

We see what happened to Clara at the very end, where the Doctor gets HIS TARDIS back, but that leaves ‘ME’ and Clara alone with a stolen TARDIS. After watching Clara leave the room through a storage door, we see that the stolen TARDIS is hidden within the Diner, because the chameleon circuit isn’t working in that one either.  Clara and ‘ME’ leave the Doctor behind with his own TARDIS as the two girls begin their own adventures in time and space, with Clara’s body frozen between one heartbeat and the next. (This actually sounds like it’d be very useful, if you needed to hold your breath a long time, Clara would be the one for the job.)

To wrap things up, I think the season just ended wonderfully. I also laughed really hard when the Vice President regenerated as a woman. It was kind of funny and random. I’m assuming dating must be really awkward on Galifrey…

“You don’t look like your tinder picture.”

“I regenerated!”

“Right…”

Along with:

“You’re not the same anymore, Mike! You’ve changed! It’s like I don’t know you anymore!”

“Of course I changed, Lucille! I was hit by a bus!”

Tech issues

Even though I wasn’t able to make NaNoWriMo, I did learn some extremely valuable lessons in story writing and time management. That you can get a heck of a lot done just by doing a few words a day for a long time. Also, that having a halfway decent computer is a must. I shall tell you the story of this computer, for it’s a weird one.

My computer started off wonderfully, it was “refurbished” when I purchased it. This should have been a red flag, but as this is the first laptop I purchased I went forward with it. For about a full year of school and writing it held up, it even played Minecraft rather well.

Then, slowly but surely, it began to change. Slowing to the speed of a porcupine swimming in molasses, it would occasionally do this amusing trick where the screen itself would turn off while the rest of the computer was just fine. While a normal computer can have it’s monitor turned off, this isn’t normal behavior for a laptop.

Then, it happened. The split screen of death.

I’d simply minimized my game to check the time and with a strange whirring sound the screen “flipped”. Where the right side of the screen was showing on the left side and vice versa. I have yet to figure out what caused this, but had to turn off the computer and restart it to get it stop.

I thought it was a one time thing. It wasn’t.

After many hundreds of various glitches and one near-fatal error, the big show was about to come and I had no idea what it would bring. Somehow, by some astronomical error on either my part or the computer’s… the language of Microsoft Word changed to Finnish. As in the language of Finland.

(Fun Fact: Finland is home to Santa, who lives in the Finnish region of Lapland, Finnish (i.E Suomi) isn’t in the same language family as the rest of Europe, but is instead closer to Hungarian, It’s also home to the Angry Birds)

Why did it do this? I don’t know. I looked up the instructions for changing the language of Microsoft word and it took me four hours to get the dumb thing to change back (I speak a little German, no Finnish) and when I did I failed to see how anyone could have done this by accident.

Thankfully, my computer is behaving itself today. I hope it stays that way, but if the computer transforms and tries to swear allegiance to Megatron I’m going to throw it out the window – as soon as I get it back up my files first.