Recently watched: American Hustle, Hobbit 2, Anchorman 2

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I couldn’t quite tell what American Hustle was from the trailers, but Jennifer Lawrence looked stunning so I knew I had to see it ;). Early on the movie seemed a little dry but once things got going it got really interesting and I felt invested in the characters. The climax and conclusion are absolutely thrilling and I’m certainly glad we watched it.

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was another great thrill ride. Unfortunately the movie is long, and I feel like they could’ve easily trimmed it down by at least half an hour. The scenery in the movie is incredibly breathtaking and there are plenty of laughs on the journey courtesy of the dwarves. The movie ends quite abruptly and the year long wait for the final installation will be painful (Unfortunately I’ll be deployed when the final movie comes out so the wait will be even longer!).

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I was never a huge fan of the first Anchorman (or any Will Ferrell movie for that matter) but I can say I enjoyed Anchorman 2. Again, this is another movie that was longer than it should’ve been. Some of the plot could’ve easily been tossed out and the movie would’ve still been enjoyable. Regardless the climatic moment full of hilarious cameos was well worth the wait and provided some of the best laughs in the movie.

 

Elysium

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Last night Vanessa and I rented Elysium on DISH PPV. We have a couple of PPV coupons, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have paid the $6.99 to rent it in HD (have on demand prices always been this high? There’s a Red Box across the street, but it is easier to just push a button and begin watching a movie I suppose). The concept of Elysium is in a way similar to Bioshock Infinite’s Columbia. Elysium is a space station that orbits Earth where all of the rich and powerful live. There’s green grass, trees and beautiful buildings everywhere. Everyone wears nice clothes, eats nice food and has free healthcare that can cure any disease (or even broken bones). Meanwhile Earth has become a slum. It’s dirty, people work dangerous blue collar jobs as the rich look down on them from a glass enclosure counting their earnings.

The film is not only a sort of commentary on class division (the 1% living in Elysium, the 99% down below with no way to rise up) but also of immigration. Elysium’s ruling members make certain that no one from Earth invades their paradise. Those who try to enter Elysium in “undocumented” transport ships are shot at or arrested by Homeland Security and deported immediately back to Earth. Not even dying children are allowed to reap the benefits of the miraculous med bays that can cure any ailment in a matter of seconds.

All of this is interesting, yet there are some weird things about the movie that bugged me. Matt Damon’s character’s mechanical exoskeleton device really felt out of place. It didn’t really seem to make him any more powerful than he was to begin with and only seemed to serve as an excuse to throw in some hand to hand combat with robots and a final battle with another character wearing a similar suit. Ultimately the story felt a little cliched, especially the ending you could see coming from a mile away. If you hadn’t guessed what Max’s destiny would be after the first 15 minutes or so the story of the meerkat and hippo makes sure you won’t be surprised by the ending at all.

There are some decent action scenes in the movie, and a few grotesque fleshy explosions, but ultimately the movie is nothing special. When the movie poster calls out District 9 you’d expect more from the movie. Ultimately it’s just a typical action movie that tries to be something more.

 

An updated look at Chromecast

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For $35, the Google Chromecast is a great Christmas gift. The Chromecast acts like a Roku player (or similar streaming media player) however it’s controlled by your smartphone or computer over WiFi. Once it’s set up you use apps on your phone or computer to stream content to your TV. However the Chromecast doesn’t pull data from your phone or device, it will connect to the content on it’s own and stream it from the source so you’re free to use your phone for whatever else once it starts streaming.

For example, you can launch the Netflix app on your phone and hit the Chromecast button to start up the Netflix app on the Chromecast. Once you select something to play it’ll begin loading on the Chromecast and you can close out the app on your phone. You can use the app on your phone to control the content by fast forwarding or pausing if you like.

Recently Google added a few more apps to make the Chromecast more versatile. Originally it could only stream from a handful of apps such as Netflix and Google Play. Now there are more options including HBO Go, Hulu Plus and Pandora (and several more that I’ve never used such as VEVO, RedBullTV and RealPlayer Cloud). The HBO Go and Pandora apps are my favorite additions. I’d like to see a Dish Anywhere app sometime in the future, but HBO will do for now.

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You can view the video below for a look at the new apps and to see the Chromecast in action. For $35 it has a great, easy to use design and I love using it. Sure I have all of the same apps and more on my PS3, but the ease of controlling everything seamlessly through my phone is great. I can start something playing on Netflix while I search for something to watch on HBO and switch between the two in a matter of seconds. On the PS3 the time it takes to exit one app and enter another is painful.

Bad Grandpa

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Last Thursday night Vanessa and I saw the latest movie from Johnny Knoxville, Bad Grandpa.  Before heading to the theater we watched Jackass 2 on Netflix to get into the mood, but I’ll warn you they’re two entirely different experiences. Bad Grandpa is not a ‘skit’ movie like the Jackass movies, but rather a comedy with a narrative that uses candid camera sequences to amuse the audience as a Grandfather and Grandson trek across the country wreaking havoc on town after town as they go.

The candid sequences deliver laugh after laugh from beginning to end, and they never get stale. The situations the characters find themselves in are often so absurd that you’ll find yourself trying to contain uncontrollable laughter before there’s even a bystander reaction. As the scenes play out you’ll likely find there’s no way to stop yourself from laughing so hard that your lungs hurt.

I haven’t laughed as hard in a movie theater since Ted, and I’d say the laughs in Bad Grandpa greatly exceed anything I’ve ever experienced.

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Don Jon

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been one of my favorite actors since I first saw (500) Days of Summer in theaters, so when I heard he wrote, directed and starred in the movie Don Jon I knew I’d want to see it.

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This afternoon Vanessa and I saw Don Jon and we enjoyed it greatly. It tells the story of a man (Jon) who is obsessed with (and addicted to) internet porn and the “one way street” experience it offers (this becomes a theme of sorts in the movie). He’s practically able to have intercourse with any woman he wants on any given night, however nothing compares to the rush of internet porn. 

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the character Jon perfectly and offers plenty of laughs throughout the movie alongside the more serious struggle of Jon’s inability to understand the importance of a “two way street” relationship. Much like (500) Days of Summer Gordon Levitt’s character has grown by the close of the film, overcoming a variety of struggles and heartbreak on the way to a ‘feel good’ ending.

I definitely recommend Don Jon to anyone looking for a feel good movie.

We’re The Millers

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Yesterday Vanessa and I saw We’re The Millers. We both found the trailer quite hilarious every time we saw it, however this week I was a little put off by the number of negative reviews that appeared on Rotten Tomatoes (it currently has a 41% rating). We ended up seeing it anyway and I have to say it was quite enjoyable.

The movie is fun throughout and provides quite a few intense laughs, even if the trailers gave away most of them. There’s plenty to enjoy in this movie, and how could you not enjoy this:

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; ) In the end I recommend it to anyone who wants to have a few laughs and enjoy an upbeat movie about a dysfunctional “family” trip.

Pacific Rim / Biking Downtown Boise

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Yesterday afternoon Vanessa and I biked to the Edwards Downtown Boise movie theater and saw Pacific Rim. I know I’m a few weeks late, but hey I still haven’t seen quite a few of this year’s summer blockbusters (Man of Steel, Wolverine, etc.). Overall I really enjoyed the movie. The action sequences are quite exciting and there’s always a lot going on on screen. It’s quite visually appealing and it will certainly get your adrenaline pumping. If you take time to ask questions, however, things can easily start to break down. Why are they fighting the dinosaurs (Kaiju) in hand to hand combat? If they have those powerful phaser cannons, why can’t they stand back and just bombard the creatures with those until they die? What about freaking laser beams? The monsters are made of flesh, why the hell aren’t they using swords? Laser swords? If these guys are military why do they have long hair?

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Anyway, almost any action movie will start to break down if you start asking questions, and I know the answer is “It’s just a freaking movie!”. Overall it was an enjoyable experience and I definitely recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.

It’s been two weeks since I got my new road bike and I’m absolutely in love. It’s such an amazing feeling to leave the car at home and hop on a bike and ride anywhere in town. It’s great to smell the fresh air and feel the wind in your face as you cruise through the city enjoying the scenery. I’m really envious of those who live and work in the city. I’d love to bike to work on a daily basis. Unfortunately I work and live on an Air Force base and it’s just not the same (the scenery of course is quite lame).

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I love the way the city looks and smells with no windshield separating myself and my surroundings. It’s incredibly refreshing and relaxing, and not having to navigate parking garages and pay to park is just another benefit.

I took a few pictures from our ride to and from the theater yesterday which you can find below.

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Iron Man 3: IMAX

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The last movie I saw in IMAX was The Amazing Spider-Man last year (it also happened to be my first IMAX experience besides The Hubble IMAX at the Smithsonian). I had never lived close enough to an IMAX theater to justify seeing movies in IMAX until the last year. I enjoyed seeing Spider-Man in IMAX but never felt the need to return to the IMAX theater…that is until now.

Iron Man 3 is getting overwhelmingly good reviews and positive buzz so far with its overseas release and it opens in IMAX at 10pm tomorrow night in Boise. I’m pretty certain we’re going to see it in IMAX 3D tomorrow night, despite the $15.50 per ticket price tag. My girlfriend has never seen a movie in IMAX and I feel like Iron Man 3 will do it justice. Besides, this may well be one of the last times we see Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man (his contract is under negotiation, and there is talk of recasting Iron Man).

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I look forward to the experience, and the official start of the blockbuster summer movie season that Iron Man 3 rings in (following closely behind will be Star Trek, The Hangover III and Man of Steel!). Heck, I’ve even downloaded the official Iron Man 3 mobile game to fool around with in the hours before the movie premieres:

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Earn free movie rentals with HitBliss

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HitBliss is a program currently in BETA which pays you to watch advertisements and allows you to use the money you’ve earned to rent movies or TV shows from the service. Once you download and install the app and set up your profile you can start earning money simply by watching the ads. The app will occasionally prompt you to click a button or press enter to ensure you are actually at the computer watching the ads, and if you respond quickly, or respond to the prompts a number of times in a row you “level up” and start earning money even faster.

You can also choose to share your web search history and Facebook and Twitter profiles to earn money quicker as well.

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I just signed up for the BETA this afternoon and after watching and responding to about 10 ads I already had $5 to use toward any movies in their library (just over 300 movies in the library right now). There are some new release and hit movies (such as Django Unchained and Saving Private Ryan) and then quite a few movies already available through Netflix.

Once you earn $5 you can no longer earn additional credit until you spend some of that on rentals. It seems like your earnings will always be capped at $5 to prevent you from stockpiling money and never watching ads again. I imagine when HitBliss is out of BETA it won’t be as easy to earn money, I feel like I got over paid, earning $0.50 per minute long ad I watched. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to make so much money watching advertisements, I just feel like they’ll probably scale it down to something like $0.10 per ad. I’m no expert, that’s just my opinion.

The app looks nice and works smoothly and is available for Windows or Mac (I’m running the Mac version).

I hadn’t heard of HitBliss until I stumbled across WordPress user zabelieth’s blog post.

Some screenshots of HitBliss in action:

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