Sunday, November 28, 2010

I Couldn't Hear a Thing Harry Potter Said

Meg and I love going to the movies. We used to go all the time before the kids, and as parents, date nights are often dinner and a movie. Yeah, we're exciting like that.

We're also big Harry Potter fans, and last night we went to see the new movie. I knew there was a problem during the previews. The sound was out of whack. You could barely hear the dialogue, and the background noise was so loud, you literally had to plug your ears. Meg went to report the problem, and was told the audio should adjust when the movie started.  OK, sounded reasonable enough.  Five minutes  into the movie, the sound was still wrong.  I was having a hard time hearing the dialogue, and it was ruining the movie for me. This time I went out to complain. The kid at the concession stand voiced my compliant into his radio, and I heard a response that someone would check it out. Again, sounded reasonable enough.

This was where I started to have a problem. If someone came to check out the sound, they sure as hell didn't do anything about it. We seriously considered leaving and asking for our money back, but ultimately we just couldn't bring ourselves to do it. We've never walked out of a movie before, and we weren't about to start now. Of course, once we decided to stick it out things went from bad to worse. The couple whispering behind us began to sound likes nails on a chalkboard. The guy coughing up a lung seemed to time his outbursts for only the most crucial of dialogue. I hate to admit this, but I began to loathe humanity.

We're not big complainers, but we did talk to a manager afterwards to voice our displeasure. He admitted they'd been having trouble with the sound all day, and he gave us 4 free passes for the inconvenience. He had a giant stack in his hand, so they were obviously expecting trouble. I guess it's nice to get some free movie passes, but quite frankly, I'm not sure I want to go back. Not just to this particular theater, I mean any theater at all.

We have a sweet flat screen TV now, and I would much rather watch movies at home. If I had my way, new releases would be available to download on demand, bypassing theaters altogether. What do you think? Do you still enjoy going to the movies, or are you ready for movie theaters to be a part of the past?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Netflix Guilt

Newsweek coined a great phrase a few years ago: Netflix Guilt. If you use Netflix, chances are you've experienced this condition. Netflix Guilt results when a movie shows up at the house, and for whatever reason, you never get around to watching it. The guilt intensifies every time you watch something else, but you just can't bring yourself to watch it. You really want to, but the mood is never right. Finally, after months of excuses, you shamefully place the movie in your mailbox before skulking off to work.

I am currently experiencing a bout of Netflix Guilt over The Last Station. I want to watch it, I really do. Helen Mirren is in it, and she was great in The Queen, right? It's about Tolstoy, and I read War and Peace, didn't I? Hell, Meg and I even toured Tolstoy's old house when we were in Moscow years ago. Tolstoy was cool, I should want to watch a movie about the guy.

I like to consider myslf a bit of a cineast, so I hate to give up on any film. I'm also a realist, and it's time to admit defeat and move on. This isn't my first run-in with Netflix Guilt, and I'm sure it won't be my last. So, my fellow Netflixers, what movies have you had to send back unwatched?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Back to Full Strength

Different kind of weekend for the Rileys. Meg and Scout were in Sacramento for the Oireachtas (O-rock-tus).  This was Scout's first time at regionals, and even though she didn't place, it was a positive experience. I think she was just happy to be there this year, but if I know Scout, she'll readjust her goals and work hard to reach them. That may mean getting called back for the third dance, it may even mean placing. Whatever the goal is, I know Scout will work hard to make it happen. I love that about Scout, she's a determined kid.  

It felt weird around the house without Meg and Scout, but it was really fun to spend so much quality time with Quinn. She filled in for Scout at soccer practice Thursday night, and she more than held her own with the older girls. We won our last regular season game Friday night, and now it's on to the playoffs. I probably shouldn't be as jacked up about the playoffs as I am, but what can I tell ya, I'm a competitive guy.

Quinn's team played their last game Saturday, and even though they lost, it was fun to watch Quinn flying all over the field. She didn't have much help from her teammates this year, but she worked her tail off every game. She was definitely one of the top players at this level, and I can't wait to see her on a bigger field next year.

After the game, Quinn and I watched the Badgers dismantle Michigan. Wisconsin's last win in Ann Arbor was 1994. The last time the Badgers beat Ohio State and Michigan in the same season was 1981. It was only the third time in school history that the football team has beaten Michigan, Ohio State, and Iowa in the same season. While the Badgers were making history on the field, there was a little history being made in the Riley house. This was the first time one of the girls watched an entire football game with me.

Meg and Scout drove straight through, getting home late Saturday night. Quinn couldn't fall asleep knowing they were on their way, and she came darting out of her room when she heard the car coming up the drive way. I don't know how to explain it very well, but the vibe of the house changed as soon as Meg and Scout walked in the door. The Rileys were back to full strength, and it just felt, right.         

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Toy Story Meets Lost

Pixar movies are some of my favorite movies, animated or otherwise. You never think they can outdo their last movie, and then they go and do it. I especially love the Toy Story series, and #3 was amazing. I fully expect TS3 to be nominated for Best Picture when Oscar nominations come out later this year. If you haven't seen it, make it your next movie. The last 15 minutes in particular are as good as movies get.

My favorite TV show of all time has to be Lost. It was frustrating as hell at times, but ultimately, I could never give up on it. Every time I thought I was tired of being strung along, something happened to hook me again. I particularly loved the music. Michael Giacchino's music for the show was brilliant.

I came across this video last week on one of my favorite blogs, /Film, a great source of comprehensive news about the movie industry. This clip combines a scene from TS3 with the music of Lost. It's a surprisingly perfect combination. Call me a sap all you want, but it makes me a little verklempt. Check it out, see what you think. Sorry about the right side of the screen being a bit cut off. Still trying to figure out this whole uploading video thing.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Brett Favre's Got Nothing On My Kid

I've been coaching Scout's soccer team for the last five years, and watching her develop as a player has been truly rewarding.  There have been a lot of memorable moments, but today was Scout's finest hour.

Toward the end of the first quarter, our opponents got the ball near midfield, and it looked like they might have a break away.  Scout was well out of the play, but she got on her horse.  She was really moving when she got to the ball.  Depending how you look at it, her feet got tangled up or she was tripped.  Either way, she took a pretty wicked fall.  The ref immediately blew the whistle, and I ran out to make sure she was OK.  She was crying, but I could tell she was going to be alright.  Fortunately, the ref called the quarter, giving her a little more time to regain her composure.  She did, and she stayed in the game.  I was really proud of her for sucking it up and getting back out there.

Like the old saying says, when it rains, it pours.  In the third quarter, one of Scout's teammates blasted a ball in her face at very close range.  It was one of those things where everyone on the sidelines cringes and involuntarily says "oooooohhh."  As I ran on to the field, the look on Scout's face was breaking my heart.  She was having a hard time breathing, so I got her to take some deep breaths.  She was getting it together, but I wasn't sure she would be able to continue playing.  I wasn't sure I wanted her to keep playing.

Maybe I should have just pulled her, but I wanted to give her a chance to make the decision.  When she had herself back under control, I asked if she wanted to come out.  She said no, she wanted to keep playing.  I told her it was OK to come out, but she said she wanted to stay in, so I went with it.  I'm glad I did.

Not only did Scout stay in the game, she played the best quarter of her life.  I thought she might be tentative, keep her distance from the action.  No way, she was her usual aggressive self.  Scout has never scored two goals in a game, and today she scored two in a quarter. As a coach, I've never been so proud of a player.  As a Dad, well, it was a great day to be a Dad.

While the goals were nice, what happened today is bigger than that. Scout learned something about herself.  She learned she's tough. She learned she can handle adversity.  That's a lesson that will help in the future, on the field,  and more importantly, off.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gratitude and Bon Jovi

No school today in honor of Veterans Day. As the child of two sailors, I deeply appreciate all the men AND women who have served in our military. As I told my students yesterday, it's nice to have a day off, but it's important to remember why. If you're reading this and you're a vet, a great big thank you.

I'm trying to be productive with my day, get some work on the book done. As usual, I've let myself be distracted. I came across this video of a Celtics fan channeling his inner Bon Jovi. I'm not sure if it was staged, or they just caught this guy and stuck with him. Either way, this is guaranteed to make you smile, and quite possibly make you feel better about the world in general.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Irresistible Movie

I can remember the day cable television came into my life like it was yesterday.  I'm not gonna lie, truly one of the best days of my childhood.  The joy of channel surfing quickly became a habit, one I still feed most weekends, mindlessly flipping through channels after the kids are in bed, waiting for something to grab my attention. There are a lot more than the 57 channels Springsteen once sang about, but there is often nothing worth watching.  I can easily spend a couple hours just flipping, bits and pieces of pop culture seeping into my consciousness.

On Friday and Saturday night, I'm usually looking for a movie to watch.  Sometimes I find a movie I haven't seen, and I'm pleasantly surprised.  Recent examples include The Mexican and The Upside of Anger.  Other times I'll watch a movie just to verify my disdain. Recent examples of this include anything starring Matthew McConaghey.

Most of the time I watch movies I've already seen.  I always enjoy coming across an old classic.  Of course, by old classic I mean such fine films as Flatliners and St. Elmo's Fire.  Then there are movies I simply can't turn off, movies I've seen more times than I can remember. Footloose and anything from the John Hughes oeuvre come to mind.  It doesn't matter how late it is, how much I've already missed.  There are some movies I just can't resist.

Last night I realized that Little Miss Sunshine has become one of those movies.  I'd seen it a couple weeks ago, but when I flipped to it last night, my channel surfing was done.  It really is a great film.  If I come across it again a month from now, I'm sure I'll watch it again. It's just one of those movies.

I think we all have those movies we can't resist watching over and over.  I'd love to hear what movies other people can't resist.