Thursday, December 28, 2023

Top 103 Favorite Movies: #49 - 40

We're counting my favorite 103 movies. The first list was here, the next here, the next here, the next here, and the last one here.

49: Aliens (1986)

After The Terminator ripped through movie screens, James Cameron moved on to the science fiction action flick, Aliens. Alien was a gothic horror set on a space ship. Aliens was an action movie through and through with space marines battling xenomorphs. And the twist climax gave us one of the more memorable lines from the movies. Sigourney Weaver reprises her role as Ripley and Michael Biehn (an under-rated actor in my opinion) is Corporal Hicks. "It's the only way to be sure." Available on Hulu.

48: Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Another Billy Wilder movie (the fourth on our list). Norma Desmond is a washed-up movie star and William Holden plays Joe Gillis, a screenwriter who gets caught up in Norma's net. "You used to be big," Gillis says. "I am big. It's the pictures that got small," Norma replies. But Norma is slowly going mad and thinks she's going to make a comeback film. When, of course, she isn't. Contains the classic line, "I'm ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille." I haven't seen this is years; maybe I should watch it again. Available on YouTube and Amazon Prime Video (both paid).

47: Casablanca (1942)

I am shocked, shocked this movie is only number 47. It's such a good film with Humphry Bogart and Claude Rains and Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet. Yes, that almost sounds like a reunion of the Maltese Falcon cast. Then there's Ingrid Bergman playing Ilsa. The Germans wore gray; she wore blue. So many memorable lines from this movie. Rick is a cynical café owner in Casablanca who has a history with Ilsa. "Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine," Rick says. The drama builds from there with Nazis and both turncoats and patriotic French. "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." Available on Max and Amazon Prime Video.

46: Blade Runner (1982) 

Harrison Ford as a cop who hunts and "retires" robots that look human (replicants). The only way to tell them apart is something called the Voight-Kampf test. Which is slow when a possibly murderous robot is sitting across the table from you. Directed by Ridley Scott, the movie is visually stunning (again, no CGI) and with a score by Vangelis (Chariots of Fire), it's an immersive ride that asks questions about the nature of humanity. There are several versions of the film out there. Avoid the one where Ford narrates. Based on the Phillip K. Dick book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Available on YouTube and Apple TV (paid).

45: The Terminator (1984)

Speaking of robots. This was James Cameron's second feature film and it made a name for him. For some reason, playing an emotionless robot also made Arnold Schwarzenegger's acting career. Interesting trivia: Schwarzenegger's pay for this movie was $500,000. For Terminator 2, it was $15 million. This movie is a fast, pounding, action film with a science fiction plot. There are shootouts and car chases and fun little bits ("machines need love too"). This movie will keep you on the edge of your seat. Available on Max, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video

44: Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Based on the true story of Desmond Doss who, during World War II, refused to touch a weapon or kill people due to religious reasons. He became a medic and, for his bravery in saving his fellow soldiers at the battle of Hacksaw Ridge on Okinawa, he won the Congressional Medal of Honor without firing a shot. Mel Gibson directs this movie with intense, bloody battle sequences. Rated R for good reason. I recently watched the beginning of this film and was reminded the hell Doss was put through in basic training because he wouldn't touch a rifle, but he refused to quit. Available on Sling TV (free) and Amazon Prime Video.

43: Die Hard (1988)

The film that made Bruce Willis an action star. With Alan Rickman playing the suave villain, this is a fun movie with lots of shootouts, explosions, and tense moments. A movie about family and redemption and love. Really. Not a lot of plot but lots of action. Watch it at Christmastime with someone you love.  Available on Hulu, Fubo, and Sling TV.

42: Back to the Future (1985)

"You built a time machine out of DeLorean?" This fantasy movie about an 80s teenager transported to the 50s has a fun fish-out-of-water vibe along with nostalgia and a bit of romance, unfortunately, with his mother. Christopher Lloyd is the scientist/inventor of the time machine and plays the part with enthusiasm. Forget the sequels, this is the best of the movies. Available on Hulu and Sling TV.

41: Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)

When this Australian-made movie came to the US, it was shocking for its violence (these days it would be only typical). It also made Mel Gibson a star. There are car chases and brutal violence as people try to find the "precious juice," i.e., gasoline. The climax with the tanker truck is heart-pounding. Available on Max and Amazon Prime Video.

40: Rear Window (1954)

Probably Hitchcock's best movie. Staring Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly, it's the story of a man laid up with a broken leg who watches what goes on in the apartments around him through his rear window. And did he just witness a murder? How can he find out?  Suspenseful and fun. Available on YouTube and Apple TV (both paid).

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Top 103 Favorite Movies: #59 - 50.

Once again into the breach. We're counting down my favorite 103 movies. Why 103? Because there were just some movies I couldn't leave off the list.

The first post is here, the next one here, the next one here, and the last one here.

So here we go, with #59 through 50:

59: Aladdin (1993)

Before Disney went all woke on us, it made great cartoons such as Aladdin. The hand-drawn animation is amazing and the story is one of redemption. Aladdin goes from being a "street rat" to having the princess fall in love with him with the help of a genie voiced by Robin Williams. There are enough jokes to keep adults entertained, too. Available on Disney+

58: The Lion King (1994) 

First of all, the hand-drawn animation is beautiful, especially during the opening. And Simba's story arc is amazing, from "no worries" (hakuna matata) to facing up to his past and taking responsibility. Jeremy Irons is perfect as the villain, Scar. You can hear the evil in his voice. Even the music is wonderful. A real treat to watch. Available on Disney+

57: Dumbo (1941)

Old, classic Disney, with lovable characters and beautiful hand-drawn animation. Catchy songs, too. The title character, Dumbo, never says a word. He doesn't have to, his facial expressions do it all. The story of someone who took their biggest problem and turned it an asset. This short film (only about an hour), is one of Disney's best animated movies. Available on Disney+

56: Twelve O'clock High (1949)

One of the first movies to portray the horrors of aerial combat in World War II. Gregory Peck takes over a "hard luck" B-17 bomber group and through discipline and psychology, gets them into fighting shape. Includes actual combat footage in the final, climactic battle. Available on YouTube (free) and Amazon Prime Video (paid).

55: The Untouchables (1987) 

Written by David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross), this is a nearly perfect law-and-order movie. Elliot Ness is moving in on Al Capon in Chicago during Prohibition. Not very historically accurate, it's still not only fun but a good action film. The final scene in the train station on the stairs is a classic (parts of it stolen from Sergei Eisenstein). Who doesn't love a good gangsters vs. cops movie? Available on Showtime, YouTube (paid), and Hulu.

54: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

My favorite Star Trek film. There's so much that's good here, you ignore some plot holes. Introduced Lt. Saavik (played by a young Kirstie Alley) and brought back Khan from the series. The tension of the first space battle is thick. We get a little back story on Kirk who, at age 50, is starting to feel old. Sit back and enjoy this space ride. Available on Paramount+

53: Young Frankenstein (1974)

Another Mel Brooks film on my list, and the best. With laugh-out-loud humor and silly setups, it's just a fun movie to watch. Shot in black and white, it also is a tribute to old horror movies of the 1930s. Watch out for those "Abby Normal" brains. Available on Max, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.

52: Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

Another Billy Wilder movie! This murder mystery is set in London and stars Marlene Dietrich as the wife of a man (played by Tyrone Power) on trial for murder his mistress. Charles Laughton plays the lawyer (solicitor) hired to defend the man. With great acting and twists, this is a wonderful movie. Available on YouTube, Pluto TV (both free), and Amazon Prime Video (with subscription)

51: Forrest Gump (1994)

"Stupid is as stupid does." I'm not sure why I like this movie so much. Tom Hanks plays Forrest Gump, a low-IQ man who is dragged along by the events of the 1960s and '70s and has an influence on history. The Vietnam battle scene is scary and realistic (except when Forrest outruns a napalm bombing). There's no quest and not much of a plot. And through it all he loves Jenny. Poor Jenny, who is always trying to find herself and nearly does. Available on Paramount+ and Amazon Prime Video.

50: Jaws (1975)

There are a lot of Steven Spielberg on this list and the is the first one. It was Spielberg's second feature film after The Sugarland Express. Here Spielberg honed his craft to give us thrills and chills and characters we want to like (or not). No CGI (too early) and yes, sometimes the shark looks fake. But that doesn't take away from the taut direction and frightening scenarios. And that John Williams score is amazing. On Tubi (free).

What do you think of my list? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Top Favorite 103 Movies: #69 - 60

Once again we dive into my list of 103 favorite movies. The first part is here, the next part is here, and the last part is here.

Without further ado, here's #69 - 60:

69: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room." I don't agree with this movie's anti-war message, but I admire the way they said it. A comedy about nuclear war with Slim Pickens and an early roll for James Earl Jones. A departure for director Stanley Kubrick from his usual serious fare. And Peter Sellers plays three roles including Dr. Strangelove. Everyone needs to watch this at least once. Available on YouTube (paid) and Apple TV (paid).

68: Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018)

In the middle of this movie there's a car chase. And I thought "oh, dear, another boring car chase." But, no, it was an amazing car chase. That's just part of the appeal of this movie. The climax is (nearly) nuclear explosive. The helicopter chase is also astonishing. An action-packed thriller. Available on Paramount+

67: Interstellar (2014)

Earth's ecosystem is failing (never said why, probably climate change). NASA wants to send astronauts to a system of planets to see if one is inhabitable. But there's a black hole and time dilation and time travel through the black hole and… it's a very interesting movie worth watching. Like a lot of Christopher Nolan movies, it's deep, intellectual, and a bit hard to follow. Available on MGM+ and Amazon Prime Video.

66: Seven Year Itch (1955)

A family man with too much imagination is tempted by Marilyn Monroe while his wife and son are away for the summer. While his thoughts run away with him, he finally decides his family comes first before his job, his over-active imagination, and his desires for the girl. Contains the iconic scene of Marilyn Monroe standing over the subway grate and her dress being blown up. It's not as salacious in the movie as they try to make you think. Directed by Billy Wilder. Available on Tubi and YouTube (paid).

65: Blazing Saddles (1974)

Mel Brooks sends up racism in this hilarious movie. And westerns and Hollywood. While the end is a little convoluted, this flick so funny through most of the film. Cleavon Little plays the black man sent to be the sheriff of a small town, and the towns people aren't happy about it. If the N-word offends you, don't watch this movie. Just an amazing, funny movie. Available on YouTube (paid) and Apple TV (paid).

64: Some Like it Hot (1959)

A classic Billy Wilder comedy with Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and of course, Marilyn Monroe. Not uproariously laugh out loud funny, but just amusing situations as Curtis and Lemmon dress like women to escape a mobster by joining an all-girls band. Contains the immortal closing line, "Well, nobody's perfect" which in context is hilarious. Available on Max and Hulu.

63: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

This is a lot of people's favorite Star Trek movie. And it's one of the better ones. The fish-out-of-water plot of the crew of the Enterprise in 1986 San Francisco is good for a lot of amusing moments. It gets a little preachy at times but that's easily overlooked. And Spock did too much LDS in the '60s. Available on Paramount+

62: Ford v Ferrari (2019)

One of the few good movies about car racing. It has its accuracy issues (downshifting to pass cars on the track), but a compelling storyline and great acting by Matt Damon (as Caroll Shelby) and Christian Bale. And it explains how the whole Ford GT racing project was to get back at Ferrari for spurning Ford's offer to buy the company. If you enjoy cars, this is a fun movie. Available on Hulu and Sling TV.

61: Top Gun (1986)

This movie was a sensation when it first came out. The dogfighting scenes were amazing and, for the first time, it seemed, you could understand what was going on. Tom Cruise is Maverick, a hot shot F-14 Tomcat pilot. Kelly McGillis is the love interest and is more believable because she's not a typical anorexic Hollywood actress. If you know anything about the military and/or military jets, you have to ignore some things, but still, this movie is a wonder. Available on Paramount+.

60: Cars (2006)

I am convinced that the people who made this movie love cars and racing. These are so many little things like the types of cars the characters are. Michael Schumacher appropriately voices a Ferrari, for example. The plot is a little thin but the fun never stops. And while Lightning McQueen learns how to drift, he also learns how to care for others than himself. In my opinion, one of the better Pixar films. Available on Disney+

That's it. What do you think of my choices. Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Top 103 Favorite Movies: #79 - 70

Welcome back to my top 103 favorite movies. The first part is here, the second part is here.

So here we go:

#79:  Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

A Spider-Man cartoon? Yes, and it's amazing. And hard to describe without giving away the story. But there are a lot of different Spider-Man characters, including one woman. Just a fun movie with a big, bad villain. Available on FuboTV, Hulu, and Sling TV.

#78: Serenity (2005)

A science fiction movie based on a short-lived series called "Firefly." I always wonder if the writer/director, Joss Whedon, realizes he made a film with strong libertarian/conservative vibes. "I aim to misbehave." "People don't like to be meddled with." Plus, the story is good and the action is amazing. Summer Glau beating up a bar full of hoods is only one reason to watch this. Available on YouTube (paid), Apple TV (paid), and Amazon Prime Video.

77: Mission Impossible III (2006)

This movie is surprisingly effective thanks to a smart script and tense direction from J.J. Abrams (yes, the man who ruined both Star Wars and Star Trek). The action is fast and the suspense is tight. Philip Seymour Hoffman is a scary villain in how calm and cool he is. The bridge scene is worth the price of admission. Available on Paramount+

76: Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

Arnold Schwarzenegger is back as the Terminator (a robot from the future) but this time he's been reprogramed to protect John Conner, not to kill him. The machines send the T-1000, a "liquid metal" terminator from the future to kill Conner. This was one of the first movies to extensively use CGI and it works brilliantly as it's not overused. Fun to watch with just enough humor to take the edge off. Available on Netflix.

75: The Maltese Falcon (1941)

"You're a good man, sister." The classic Bogart film noir movie about "The stuff that dreams are made of." Bogart's Sam Spade is an unflappable private eye caught up in a scheme to find a jewel encrusted falcon figure. Or is it? If you watch one Bogart movie, this has to be it. Available on YouTube (paid) and Apple TV (paid).

74: Batman (1989)

First of all, Jack Nickolson as The Joker. That should be enough to sell this movie. Then Michael Keaton as Batman/Bruce Wayne. And a lovely Kim Basinger playing Viki Vale. We see The Joker's backstory, and his pain and his trauma. And Bruce Wayne's pain and trauma that sent him in a different direction. Occasionally silly, but still worth watching. And the end leaves a mystery that's never been solved. Available on Max and Amazon Prime Video.

73: Risky Business (1983)

Tom Cruise is a suburban Chicago teenager left home alone while his parents travel. Rebecca De Mornay is a call girl he hires. When his father's Porsche goes into Lake Michigan, things get out of hand and he needs a lot of money fast. The call girl has an idea.... An early role for Joe Pantoliano as the bad guy/pimp. Not a belly-laughs kind of movie, just entertaining and amusing. Available on Paramount+.

72: Shrek (2001)

The first and best Shrek movie. A featured-length fractured fairy tale with questions of true beauty and true love. It's meant for kids but has enough jokes that adults will enjoy. Satires a few movies including The Matrix. For pure entertainment, there is little better. Available on Peacock and Hulu.

71:  Double Indemnity (1944)

Another classic film noir with Fred MacMurray as the chump and Barbara Stanwyck was the femme fatale. Edward G. Robinson plays the good guy (for once). Stanwyck wants MacMurray to kill her husband to collect the insurance money from a policy that MacMurray sells him without his knowledge. But, of course, it all goes awry. Available on YouTube (paid) and Apple TV (paid).

70: Key Largo (1948)

Edward G. Robinson is the bad guy and Humphry and Bacall are the heroes (mostly Humphry). Set in the Florida Keys, Bogart and Robinson have it out in a climax on a boat. Did I mention there's a hurricane, too? Great performances all around. Available on YouTube (paid) and Apple TV (paid).

Thursday, November 30, 2023

103 Favorite Movies, #89 - 80

The list of my favorite 103 movies continues. The first entry is here (103-90).

And here we go:

89:  Airplane (1980)

“Surely you must be joking.” “I’m perfectly serious, and don’t call me Shirley.” A movie that delivers the laughs and doesn’t pretend to be anything else. Parts haven’t aged well but the movie doesn’t care. It’s hilarious. Available on Max, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.

88: True Lies (1994)

The last collaboration between James Cameron (Titanic, Avatar) and Arnold Schwarzenegger, this movie tried hard to be a buddy/action-comedy flick but parts of it are too serious and some are just cringy. Best part: Harrier jets blowing up a bridge. Available on Tubi (free) and AMC+

87: Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)

Like Airplane, this movie goes for laughs over everything else. A bit more modern, it still has its cringy humor parts, but mostly you’ll laugh. Don’t worry about thinking, this movie isn’t about that. And the sports movie parts make you cheer to the heroes. Available on Max, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.

86:  National Treasure (2004)

A treasure map on the back of the original Declaration of Independence? The bad guy (Sean Bean, who survived the movie) wants to steal the document. So, the hero (Nicholas Cage) decides to steal it first. As clues (many based on American history) combine to lead the adventures to a possible treasure, the tension winds up. A fun, underrated, movie you should watch. Available on Disney+

85: Mission impossible (1996)

The first Mission Impossible movie had such a convoluted plot, it takes at least two viewing to figure out just what happened. But the tension is high as Tom Cruise has to find the bad guys while evading his own agency. And the climax is amazing (if a bit unrealistic). Worth the two watches, at least. Available on AMC+ and Paramount+

84: Gattaca (1997)

I’ve only seen this movie once (unlike most the others on the list) but it’s an important film dealing with the ethics of gene manipulation in humans. Some children are born natural, others are born enhanced genetically. There is prejudice against the natural born and this leads to many issues for Ethan Hunt who wants to be an astronaut but is natural born. And natural born can't be astronauts. Available on YouTube, Apple TV, and Vudu, all paid.

83: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Based on a true story, it’s a cautionary tale of what money, drugs, and more drugs can do to a man. If only the hero had been ethical in his money making and avoided drugs, his world might not have come crashing down. Or his yacht sunk needlessly. Margo Robbie is amazing in this movie, as is Leonardo DiCaprio. Available on MGM+ and Amazon Prime Video.

82: To Have and Have Not (1944)

The film debut of Lauren Bacall (she was 19) and loosely based on a Hemmingway story. Humphry Bogart leads the cast during World War II intrigue. "You ever been stung by a dead bee?" "You know how to whistle, Steve, don't you?" A great old movie. Available on YouTube and Amazon Prime Video (paid on both).

81: Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

It was 1977 and the world needed a hero and Burt Reynolds obliged with a rebel shipping bootleg beer through the American Southeast. Sally Fields joins the crew as they race along interstate and back road, always on the lookout of "Smokey," i.e., the police. Nothing intellectual or deep, just fun and exceeding the speed limit (which was 55 mph nationally at the time). This was the number two highest grossing film of 1977. Available on AMC+ and Philo.

80: Spaceballs (1987)

Mel Brooks takes on Star Wars. While it references a few other science fiction movies such as Alien and Planet of the Apes, it's mostly a Star Wars parody. Gave us "ludicrous speed" and "They've gone plaid" (which Elon Musk used in names for his cars). Watch it with someone with a good sense of humor. Available on Max, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.

What to you think of my list so far? Let me know in the comments below. 

Next time, 79 - 70,

Thursday, November 23, 2023

103 Favorite Movies #103 - 90

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I am going to start listing my 103 favorite movies of all time. Why 103? Because there were some I just couldn't leave out.

103: Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

The only Star Trek: The Next Generation cast movie on this list and the first of five. Directed by Jonathan Frakes (who also plays First Office Riker), the parts on the ship are exciting and claustrophobic as the crew tries to stop a Borg invasion of their vessel. But the parts on the ground and rather silly. Councilor Troi drunk was funny, though. Introduces the concept of the "Borg Queen," which I've never liked but was used in a lot of Star Trek afterwards. Available on Paramount+

102: The World’s Fastest Indian (2005)

“World’s fastest what?” you may be asking. This unusual film is based on the true story of a New Zealand man (played by Anothony Hopkins) trying build the world’s fastest motorcycle and test it out at Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah in 1967. Watching his culture shock of 1960s America and his efforts to build the motorcycle makes this movie strangely compelling. It's fun to watch him try to fix issues with the motorcycle. When something doesn't work that he thought would, he says, "Who came up with that stupid idea?" In the end, his Indian-brand cycle is the world’s fastest. Available for free on many sites including YouTube, Peacock, and Pluto TV. 

101: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

This third Star Trek movie with The Original Series cast is an emotional roller coaster. Kirk’s devastation at the murder of his son and the destruction of the Enterprise are both unlike any other Star Trek film. The worst part, Kirstie Alley isn’t playing Saavik anymore. Christopher Lloyd plays the Klingon commander, chewing up scenery. It was obvious he was having a great time. Available on Paramount+

100: Bullitt

Basically, this is on this list because of that chase scene, one of the best ever filmed. Otherwise, this is an interesting crime drama starring Steve McQueen. Made in 1968 San Francisco, there are bad guys and tough cops and lots of nice scenery. Watch for the real cop directing traffic outside a restaurant and a very young Robert Duvall driving a taxi. But once you watch that chase scene, there's not much else to this film. Available on Max and Amazon Prime Video.

99: The Mummy (1999)

There are no horror movies on this list. I don’t do horror. But this movie is a fun adventure with some horror elements. Brendan Fraser stars and Rachel Weisz is the cute, smart love interest. Early CGI is used, but it works and isn’t over used. Just a fun adventure film set in the 1920s. Not to be confused with the Tom Cruise disaster with the same name. Available on Hulu and Sling TV.

98: Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

"What is your quest?" Irreverent, silly, and hilarious, this first feature-length movie from the Monty Python troupe is laugh-out-loud funny. From the coconuts clomped together to indicate horses to the peasant spouting Marxist ideas, it'll have you rolling on the floor with laughter. "I fart in your general direction!" Not as sacrilegious as Life of Brian or as gross as The Meaning of Life. Available on Netflix.

97: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

This movie is huge with cast of thousands. And a lot of them are stars. CGI is rampant but it’s so good you don’t care. You don’t need to watch every MCU film before you view this, but it helps. The combination of the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Avengers is amazing. The final battle is huge as they try to stop Thanos's genocidal plans. If only Star Lord (played by Chris Pratt) hadn't lost his temper… Available on Disney+

96: Charade (1963)

I don’t remember how I found this movie but I was glad I did. This is a charming film with suspense, romance, and twists. Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn star and the chemistry between them is palpable. A very enjoyable time for an old movie without shootouts or chase scenes. Available on Pluto TV and Amazon Prime Video (free).

95: Galaxy Quest (1999)

An affectionate satire of Star Trek and its fan culture, this hilarious movie is so much fun. Tim Allen (in his best role outside of the Toy Story franchise) and Sigourney Weaver star along with the always wonderful Alan Rickman. If you love or hate Star Trek, you have to watch this movie. It's hilariously funny at times. "Never give up; never surrender." Available on Paramount+

94: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)

The last Original Series cast Star Trek movie. The cast is older and slower, but they still save the universe. Sulu is a captain of his own ship and arrives in the nick of time. Can there be diplomacy in the Galaxy? Or will a conspiracy ruin it all? The final space battle is amazing. This is the last movie we see Spock in (he didn't want to be in Generations). A bit marred by a couple of political statements by the filmmakers. And Klingon blood is not lavender. Available on Paramount+

93: Avengers: End Game (2019)

You thought Infinity Wars was huge? This is bigger, longer, and has more CGI. Things go from the devastation of Infinity War to hope to a sad ending. The best MCU movie so far. And boy, there are a lot of infinity stones in New York City! Available on Disney+

92: To Be or Not to Be (1983)

A comedy about the Nazi invasion of Poland and the mistreatment of Jews and gays? Yes, and it’s good. Mel Brooks is less manic as the ham leader of a theater troupe and Anne Bancroft, his real-life wife, plays his wife. Tim Matheson is a handsome Polish pilot. There’s a 1942 version with Jack Benny, but this one is the one with Mel Brooks. It's funny, touching, and maybe just a bit manic. The one criticism: the Nazis are all idiots. Evil usually isn't stupid. Available on Max, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video

91: Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

The first and best Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Keira Knightley is beautiful, Orlando Bloom is brave, and Johnny Depp is… Johnny Depp. It never takes itself too seriously and always is fun. There are a few twists toward the end. Who thought a pirate movie would work in the 2000s? Available on Disney+

90: Speed (1994)

A bus that can’t go less than 50 mph or it’ll explode. That’s the plot of Speed. An exciting action film that launched the career of Sandra Bullock and made Keanu Reeves an action star. Just a good, fast movie. The ending is a bit anticlimactic but that’s okay. Available on AMC+ and Amazon Prime Video.

So, what do you think of my first 14? Let me know in the comments below. More will come...

Thursday, November 16, 2023

We're Not Going Faster

While internet is getting faster, humans aren't.

For millennia, the fastest humans could move on land was about 4 mph. That's the speed of a human or an animal walking. And you could probably do only 20-30 miles per day depending on your stamina or your animal's abilities. (If the animal was pulling something such as a wagon or chariot, it probably was limited even more.)

Then came the train which started out at about 10 mph. More than double walking but still slow. Yes, now they are trains that do 300 mph. 

Today, the fastest mode of travel is the jet airliner (ignoring fighter jets and private jets that are much faster but not available to the general public). They go about 550 mph. And they have since the early 1960s. In 60 years we haven't sped up much at all, especially since the Concord was grounded.

And to be honest, flying is so uncomfortable and inconvenient, I won't fly unless I have no other choice. Last time I went through a TSA checkpoint, I was so molested I thought he should have bought me dinner first.

But why aren't we going faster? There's Elon Musk's hyperloop which might be as fast at 300 mph and more convenient than air travel. And some guy says he can make a Mach 5 (3,600 mph) airplane. That's 3,700 miles per hour!

The problem is, the faster you go, the more problems you have. The SR-71's top speed is still classified but is thought to be in excess of Mach 3 (2,200 mph). And it's a very specialized airplane with a titanium-skinned fuselage. The heat built up from friction with the air is a huge challenge as speeds climb over Mach 1. 

I'd like to be able to travel faster than 550 mph. I'd also like to travel in comfort and convenience (you know, like in a car). Maybe I'm asking too much.

What do you think about the speed we travel? Do you want to go faster? Let me know in the comments below. 

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Zooming Internet

I recently upgraded my cell phone plan. I was on 2 GB with no 5G coverage for data. My new plan is unlimited data with 5G including Verizon "Ultra Wideband 5G"

I changed it because I bought a car with Apple CarPlay and it eats up a lot of bandwidth and I didn't want to go over my 2 GB limit.

Earlier this week I was in Spokane, WA to see the movie Oppenheimer. And I noticed my phone was on Ultra Wideband 5G. So I did a speed test. with the Ookla Speed Test app. The result: 1,479 Mbps download, 79.1 Mbps upload. (Should that be 1.479 Gbps?)

It seems I could download an HD movie in less than 2 seconds, if my math is correct.

On my fiber optic internet at my house, I usually get about 200 Mbps going both ways, max. Which is plenty fast. I can stream a movie while my wife is on the internet and my son is playing video games online and it's fine. But Verizon's Ultra Wideband 5G is seven time faster? What would I use that speed for? Downloading a movie onto my phone in mere moments, I guess.

Another interesting thing, since I changed my plan to unlimited, I'm using more bandwidth. I'm at just over 4 GB with no days left in the billing cycle. 

Do you have 5G on your phone? What do you use it for? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Early Adopters and EVs

Tesla Model S
I saw my first EV in July of 2000 near Los Angeles, California. It was a GM EV1. I remember being surprised by how small it was. Scary small to drive on public roads. Early models had lead-acid batteries (like the 12-volt battery in your car) and I wondered what would happen if it were ever in a wreck. Acid going everywhere, maybe?

You couldn't buy EV1s, only lease them.

I saw my next EV in August of 2013 near Boulder, Colorado. It was a Tesla Model S (the only model Tesla sold at the time). And I remember thinking that the owner was an "early adopter." And that the owner must have some bunch of money to afford it, too.

Being an early adopter has always been expensive. You buy the latest and greatest computer for big bucks, and in 3 months something better comes out, probably for less money. 

This is especially true for electric cars (EVs). I'm often seeing headlines such as "Ford adds range to its EVs" or "Tesla cuts prices of its EVs."

And then I think, "What about the poor schmucks who already bought one?"

And there are rumors of a solid-state battery coming that has about double the range of current batteries and only takes 10 minutes to charge. And it isn't affected by temperature. I'm hoping that actually happens because Washington State, where I live (I can't convince my wife to move to Idaho), is going to start in 2030 requiring all new cars to be EVs. So my next car will probably have to be an EV. When it comes to EVs, I'm not an early adopter.

What do you think about being an early adopter? What do you think about EVs and early adopters? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Halloween is Different Now

I like Halloween, which is next Tuesday. It's fun to pass out candy to the kids who come to our door.

But it's meaning has subtly changed over the years.

Used to be Halloween was about the supernatural. Goblins and spooks and witches, etc. Decorations generally followed this supernatural theme. 

Kids would dress up in costumes (not always supernatural related) and go door to door for candy. 

But these days, adults seem to be more involved in Halloween and the holiday has expanded to include horror such as serial or mass killers. Like this picture I recently saw in Facebook:

I think this change has followed the change in horror movies from supernatural to things like the Saw movie franchise (which, as I understand it, is just torture porn)(because I refuse to watch it).

I liked the Halloween of my childhood better. 

How do you feel about Halloween and what it has come to represent? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Coffee and Cars

Scene from American Graffiti
When I was younger (a long, long time ago), part of American car culture was "cruising." The movie American Graffiti is a great example of this.  You'd get in your car (or your parents' car) and go to a main street (usually, the main street through town), and drive up and down it slowly showing off both your car and yourself. I never did this because I never had a cool car until I was older. 

An aside: If you haven't see American Graffiti, which turned 50 years old this year, drop everything and see it.  

Now days, car culture has embraced the "Coffee and Cars" set up. This is where car people meet on a weekend morning and park their vehicles and talk to other car enthusiasts about, what else, cars. 

I think Coffee and Cars has become more popular for a variety of reason. First off, cars are a lot more expensive so it's older folks who tend to own the "cool" cars. And old folks don't want to stay up late cruising.

Second, local government have passed anti-cruising laws. 

And third: gasoline is more expensive so parking cars and talking is more appealing than driving a lot.

I've been to a couple of Coffee and Cars organized by a local car detailer (the only one who touches my cars) and they were fun. I stopped going after I sold my Corvette. Looking at other cars and talking to the owners was just a good time.

This, like cruising, is more a warm-weather activity, so it's pretty much stopping in the northern parts of the country right now and will start up again in the spring.

Have you been to a Coffee and Cars? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

The above photo is being used under Section 107 of the Copyright Act: fair usage.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

I "Invented" the Internet

I invented the internet.

I'm serious. 

I remember when I was somewhere between 12 and 18 years old (but toward the younger side of that range) thinking "Wouldn't it be cool if computers were linked together somehow and you could access the information on them from anywhere." I have no idea why I was thinking that. I didn't own a computer (no one but the government, corporations, and universities did at the time). But I have this specific memory of thinking that. I was outside playing at our house in Idaho. I, of course, knew of computers, having seen them on TV.

This would have been the early 1970s. Yes, ARPANET had been around since 1969, but the world wide web didn't come around until 1989. 

Of course, I had no idea how this could work (or even how computers worked). That was sort of the beauty of it. I didn't know the limitations, either. I just wondered if it could be done.

Have you thought of anything that came to fruition later? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

I Love This Time of Year

It's fall now. And I love it for lots of reasons.

The first is, college football is going. And I love college football.

The weather is cooling off and my allergies are calming down as plants stop trying to reproduce.

Less chance of being outdoors. Outdoors to me is sunburn and allergies. I have type one skin and I sunburn very easily. Even with SPF 75 sunscreen, I'm at risk of sunburn. Especially if I miss a spot. And I hate sunscreen. It's all greasy and smelly. And you have to put it on every 2 hours unless you swim or get wet otherwise, then it's more often.

Cars don't turn into kilns outside in the sunshine. They still get warm but not horribly. 

Oh, and I guess the leaves get pretty as they change.

The downside is, winter is coming. And that means snow and ice on the roads. And I need to get snow tires for my car. 

What do you think about this time of year? Do you like it? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Four Corners

I have never been to Four Corners, where four states (Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico) meet. I was close to it once on a trip through the American Southwest, but didn't have time to detour to see it.

Where I have been is the four corners of the continental US. These are:

  1. Blaine, Washington
  2. San Diego, California
  3. Aroostook County, Maine
  4. Key West, Florida
Blaine, Washington is just south of the U.S.-Canada border in western Washington State. I would go there for a business conference when I was working in the corporate world. I stayed at a lovely place call Semiahmoo. It was so close to Canada, that I sometimes got billed for making cell phone calls from our neighbor to the north. 

Blaine is about a five hour drive from where I live. But it's worth it.

I've also been to Point Roberts, which could be argued as the northwest corner of the continental US. Except it isn't connected to the continental US. You have to go through Canada to drive there. There's no ferries, either.

I wasn't too impressed with Point Roberts. Mostly casinos for Canadians.

I've been to San Diego a couple of times. Once I caught a cruise there. But my niece used to live there and my wife would want to go visit. I once drove from San Diego to Vancouver, WA (where I lived at the time) in a day. That was a long drive.

I went to Aroostook County on business. There's really no other reason to go there. I caught a puddle hopper in Boston and flew there. There's not much there but potato farms. I saw people digging potatoes by hand and thought about the huge potato harvesters they use in Eastern Washington.

And, finally, Key West, Florida. I had a business conference in Miami. When it was over, I rented a car and drove to Key West, not realizing how far it was. I did this out of curiosity and to do research for my novel, Agent of Artifice. Key West is quaint with lots of old, beautiful houses and great beaches. But it was about 160 miles from Miami, a lot of it had slow speed limits (only part of Florida I've been where people follow the speed limit). I wanted to see the southernmost point of the continental US. I stood where my character did in the book.

Southernmost point in Continental US, Key West

Have you been to any of these places? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Chuck Jones

From What's Opera Doc?
A person I admire is Chuck Jones.

"Who?" you might be saying.

Chuck Jones was, in my opinion, the best director/animators of cartoon shorts ever. He worked for Leon Schlesinger productions where the first Looney Tunes shorts were made (exactly six minutes long). Later, Leon Schlesinger productions was bought by Warner Bros. According to his filmography on Wikipedia, he made 209 shorts (if I counted correctly) for Schlesinger/Warner Bros. before he left them in 1962. He is responsible for the creation of the Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote cartoons and many amazing shorts starring Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck, and the whole Looney Tunes gang.

I was listening to the commentary for What's Opera Doc? (probably his best cartoon) and they said at Schlesinger/Warner Bros. the animators were expected to make ten cartoon shorts a year, working five weeks on each (and then two weeks vacation). Which explains his productivity.

Chuck Jones's cartoons made me laugh after I discovered Looney Tunes on Saturday mornings as a child. Now, at 63 years old, I still love them. I can still sing the song from those Saturday morning shows ("Overture, hit the lights...").

One thing I admire about Jones is that, until I read his autobiography, Chuck Amuck, I had no idea of his politics. He kept them completely out of his work and only hinted at in it his book. So I had no clue that he was actually an FDR Democrat. I admire people who can keep their personal opinions out of their art (I can't).

How do you feel about Chuck Jones and his work? Let me know in the comments below.

The above photo is being used under Section 107 of the Copyright Act: fair usage.

Thursday, September 14, 2023


 I pride myself on thinking scientifically. Or at least trying to. It's hard because that's not how human minds are wired to think. It's hard to only look at objective evidence and not let your prejudices or preconceived notions get in the way. And I know I do that, but I try to minimize it.

But when it comes to sports, and my beloved University of Washington Huskies football team, I can be unscientific. In fact, I am downright superstitious. 

For example: In 2021 I dyed my hair purple to show my support for the team. I thought it would be fun and a cool way to show how much I love the team. So this is how I looked:

And, I got a little beef about it living among Washington State Cougars supporters. Some people, however, thought it was neat.

But in 2021, the Huskies had a horrible year. They were 4-8. They lost to FCS team Montana (I was in the stands). They lost the Apple Cup!

So I'll NEVER dye my hair purple again. Why? Superstition. I don't want my Huskies to have another awful year. I know that's not at all scientific (how does my hair color affect the team?). But I'm still not dying my hair purple again.

(I did talk to my wife about dying my hair green so that the Oregon Nike Ducks have a horrible year.)

Do you have any superstitions that you keep practicing despite knowing they aren't really working? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Are College Football Coaches Overpaid?

College football has had their first games last weekend. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season a lot. I think my beloved University of Washington Huskies are going to have a great year.

But there is a large controversy in college football and that is what the coaches are paid, at least in Power 5 conferences. For example, Kalen DeBoer, the coach at the University of Washington, is being paid a $26.7 million base salary over six years (or $4.45 million a year). If he stays with the program through 2025, he'll get a total of $10 million in bonuses (spread out over the years).

And DeBoer is considered a low-paid coach (I'm sure if he has another season like last year, that will change). Alabama's head coach, Nick Saban, is the highest paid college head coach at $10.7 million a year that will increase to $12.7 million by 2029. 

That's more than a lot of corporate CEOs make. But less than Taylor Swift.

(Pete Carroll, head coach of the NFL Seattle Seahawks, makes $15 million a year, in comparison.)

Then there's all the other coaches such as offensive and defensive coordinators, quarterback coaches, offensive line coaches, etc. They have to make a lot of money, too. Husky offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb just got a pay increase to $2 million a year because someone was trying to hire him away from UW.

The reason why these coaches are paid so much is that a good, winning coach is in high demand (just like CEOs that can make a company prosperous and like Taylor Swift concert tickets). You have to pay them a lot to keep them at your school.

And, yes, the coaches are often the highest paid state government employee.

Are they worth it? 

Yes! Because a winning program will make more money for the schools' athletic departments. That profit the football program makes goes to paying for sports, including women's sports required by Title IX, that the school otherwise couldn't afford. Plus, a winning football team has been shown to increase donations to the school for scholarships and other things.

So, yes, college football coaches are paid a lot. But they are worth it. (This is probably true of winning college basketball coaches, too, but they don't seem to make as much.)

How do you feel about coaches' salaries at the college level. Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

College Football Starts this Weekend!

College football starts this weekend!* And despite there being a few things I don't like about college football, I'm really looking forward to this year and the University of Washington Huskies' prospects.

The Huskies were 7-0 at home last year. They currently have a seven-game winning streak. Let's hope they keep both streaks alive. Quarterback Michael Penix, Jr. and other key players decided to return this year instead of entering the NFL draft. That's very good news!

Last year was amazing for the Huskies. Their first season under new coach Kalen Deboer, I was expecting a rebuilding year. But they went 11-2, having their first 11-win season since 2016. If they hadn't lost to Arizona State, they might have gone to the CFP. As it was, the Huskies ended up being the number two team in the Pac-12, behind USC.

It's going to be hard for the Huskies to top that this year. But I'm hoping they do. They have some tough games ahead: Oregon at home, USC in Los Angeles, and Utah at home.

Last year we didn't play USC or Utah, two tough teams. Playing them this year will make it even harder to be successful. 

The Huskies are #10 in the AP preseason poll. They finished last year at #8. They are the second highest ranked Pac-12 team in the preseason poll (USC is #6).

The first game we play is in Husky Stadium against Boise State. They were 10-4 last year, so they won't be a pushover. 

That game will be Saturday at 12:30 PM Pacific Daylight Time on ABC. I'm going to be there near the 50-yard line, two rows up from the field.

Interestingly, the three non-conference games the Huskies play are all against FBS teams (Boise State, Tulsa Golden Hurricanes, and at Michigan State). This is unusual because most teams play an FCS team as sort of a "warm up" game. This makes the Huskies' season more difficult than normal. 

Are you looking forward to college football? Do you have a favorite team. Let me know in the comments below.

*There were a few games last weekend but most college football starts this weekend.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

What I Don't Like about College Football

College football starts next weekend. If you read this blog you know I love college football, especially the University of Washington Huskies. I love watching kids develop and get better. I enjoy the game and the competition. I like that the players aren't making millions of dollars but are playing mostly for scholarships and for love of the game (although a bit of that has changed recently).

But there are things I don't like about college football.

I talked about the downside of NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) before.

Another thing I don't like is that college football players can enter the NFL draft three years out of high school. That means they might only be 20 years old and only sophomores if they were red-shirted during their freshman year. Yes, I understand wanting to get into the NFL to get that sweet, sweet money and not risk a career-ending injury in college. But I wish the NFL would make it at least four years out of high school.

Also in an effort not to get injured before their NFL career, some players will "opt-out" of bowl games. Again, I understand not wanting to give up the big NFL money. But to me, this reeks of selfishness and no team spirit. If you helped your team get to a bowl, wouldn't you want to play in it? 

Another thing I don't like is the recent development of the transfer portal. It used to be that once you committed to a team, you were there until you were out of NCAA eligibility or went into the draft. Now players can change teams in the middle of there eligibility. This did work out great when Michael Penix transferred to Washington. But I still don't like the transfer portal.

There's not really a playoff. Yes, there's the CFP (College Football Playoff) which chooses four teams to play against each other in a sort of mini, three game playoff. And, yes, there is talk about expanding it to more teams (which I like). But the NCAA Division I FCS teams get a playoff, why can't the FBS teams. Turn all those bowls into playoff games. Yes, the CFP is much better than what we had before (the BCS or just the AP and coaches poll). But I think we need more teams to compete. College basketball has a 64 team playoff. Why can't football?

(Yes, I know that the plan is to expand to 12 teams in 2026 or sooner. I think this is a good thing.)

Are there things you don't like about college football that I haven't mentioned? Let me know in the comments below. 

Thursday, August 17, 2023

College Football and the NFL

The college football season is quickly approaching (most of the first games will be the weekend of September 2nd). And I was thinking about the connection between college football and the National Football League (NFL). The NFL is, of course, professional football.

I read a statistic once that only 5% of high school football players play in college, and only 5% of college players make it to the NFL. That means one out of ever 2,500 high school football players ends up in the NFL. Not good odds.

Then there's the NFL draft. The teams with the worst record the previous season get to pick first (unless there's a trade or other complication). So the best college players go to the worst teams.

But even then, sometimes it doesn't work out. Wide receiver John Ross played for the University of Washington Huskies (Go Dawgs!) and help them reach the College Football Playoffs in 2016. He entered the next NFL draft and was picked number 9 overall (out of probably 200-some odd players in the draft). But he had a disappointing career in the NFL and wasn't the star he was a UW. He's suffered injuries and hasn't had a lot of good plays. He signed with the Kansas City Chief on January 9th of this year. But he never played in the Chief's run to the Super Bowl.

I loved John Ross when he was at UW. But for some reason his talent didn't extend to the NFL.

On the other hand, Trevor Lawrence, a quarterback from Clemson, was drafted first overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He managed to take the team that had the worst record in 2021-2022 to the playoffs in the 2022-2023 season. And that had never happened before in the NFL. So that worked out.

And that is not very uncommon for a great college player not to do well in the NFL. (The same happens in college, great high school players don't do well in college football, too.) 

What do you think of the NFL draft and college football? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Is the Pac-12 Dead?

The news broke last Friday: the University of Oregon and the University of Washington are moving to the Big Ten conference next year. This follows Arizona, Arizona State, Utah, and Colorado going to the Big 12. And is all started last year with USC and UCLA announcing they were going to the Big Ten. That leaves four schools in the Pac-12: California, Oregon State, Stanford, and Washington State.

Frankly, I blame USC and UCLA. When they announced that they were leaving the Pac-12, that took the Los Angeles television market away from the Pac-12. So when the Pac-12 went to negotiate media rights, they no longer had the LA market to offer. Fox and ESPN both declined to make offers. The Pac-12 ended up going with Apple TV streaming service which wouldn't pay as much as a Fox or ESPN media deal would. It was shortly after that that Oregon and Washington announced they were leaving.

People are saying it's about the all mighty dollar. And it is. The schools need money and lots of it. They have to pay coaches (who are paid a lot), pay for uniforms, travel, and in the University of Washington's case, keep paying for that beautiful, new stadium they built in 2012 and 2013.

How do I feel about this? It makes me sad. If the Pac-12 even survives, it'll likely no longer be a Power 5 conference. There are rumors it might merge with the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Or it might merge with the Mountain West Conference. Who knows?

But also, that my beloved University of Washington Huskies will go from being a big fish is a medium-sized pond to being a smaller fish is a larger pond. There will be 18 teams in the Big Ten spread out all over the country. And what will happen to the Apple Cup cross-state rivalry game between UW and WSU? Will that become a late-season non-conference game? And what of the Border War game against hated Oregon? These are all questions that need to be answered.

Washington was a founding member of the conference that became the Pac-12. It was part of that conference for 109 years. I don't think this decision was made lightly.

Someone proposed a Big Ten West and Big Ten East. That might work to get Oregon and Washington to play more often. 

Washington has a good chance of being the Pac-12 champion this year. But it'll be very hard to top 17 other schools, including Ohio, to be the Big Ten champion. 

No matter what happens, it'll be interesting to watch. It might not be as fun, but it'll be interesting.

What do you think will happen to the Pac-12? Will it merge with another conference or just go away? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.