Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Fantasy Adventure 2014)

Man thankfully this was the last one. This is proof that people will try anything to milk a successful series to the last drop. We won't go into the fact that Peter Jackson stretched the original book into 3 long-ass movies, but he doesn't realize that just adding longer and longer fight scenes to fill in the 2.5 sum hours isn't necessary. Just make the damn thing as long as an average Disney movie and it would've turned out the same!

So yeah this movie wasn't very good. It was slow when slow wasn't necessary, the battle scenes were way too long, and some of the dialogue was totally misplaced. The more I watched this movie, the more I remembered how "not" good the original LOTR was. Remember the Frodo/Sam long-staring scenes that were kinda gay? Yeah...questionable shit there.

Anyway, like I already said...good thing this series is over. Mr. Jackson needs to do something else with his time other than helping out the economy of New Zealand.
Rating - D

Thursday, January 29, 2015

If I Stay (Drama 2014)

Yeah how about no. This movie was one that tried way too hard to be deep, but it was totally fake and artificial. In the film, Ms. Chloe Moretz gets into a car accident with her family and her consciousness is sorta thrown into limbo as she relives the last few years of her life to try to convince herself to "stay" as opposed to passing on.

The plot was pointless because it really didn't make a difference what happened in her past. She would wake up with a broken family, but would have opportunities to grow since she still had her bae and she just got accepted into a Julliard. So it really came down to the idea of if the loss of her family be too much to deal with. Again, stupid concept and I sure as hell wasn't emotionally invested into the film.

If the movie went in a different angle with a different writer/director then it could've been something different; but as it stood, it was quite subpar.
Rating - D

Monday, January 26, 2015

How Cars Are Sold on Craigslist

I've bought and sold a good number of cars on Craigslist (CL), so maybe some out there are interested in how it works and how etiquette plays a part. The first and obvious thing that is apparent is that buyers always want the lowest price possible and expect all cars to be in immaculate condition. Sellers want the exact opposite with regards to price, but they have a lot more information about the car than the buyer so that half-way plays in their favor. The game becomes trying to figure out a market price and then working the numbers by factoring in how bad the buyer wants to buy, how bad the seller wants to sell, and then integrating in the car's condition, history, and drivability to get to an acceptable price for both parties.

With regards to general market price, a seller is willing to go through the CL hassle because they either straight-up need cash or they were offered a super-low rape price at the dealer for a trade-in. Dealer trade-in prices are notorious for being horrid; from what I've seen they take a 'fair' KBB value and reduce it by 2-5k no matter what condition the car is truly in. They got to get their profit in somehow I suppose. So any price a seller can get above this trade-in price is realistically gravy for the seller. A good private party market price will hover around the 'good' rating. It will never bypass 'very good', but will rarely go too far below 'fair' either. The middle is the negotiation range and this can get silly, but it can be done.

Negotiation is expected, but after a seller starts high and gets no responses, they will usually keep on reducing the price every week or so until they reach their 'close to lowest possible price' that in their mind they would be satisfied with. After this, if the buyer is truly ready to buy they will be willing to go down to a max of around $600 if they really want to get rid of the car. All too often buyers will try to negotiate as if they were bargaining at a dealership and try to get 1-2k off the stated price; this is usually an auto-deny in the CL world.

I've seen around 6 main type of sellers on CL:
  • Type 1 = Seller only wants more money than they would get as a trade-in at the dealer.
  • Type 2 = Seller has a very niche car that is a classic, a garage queen, show car, souped up car, or something very rare. For these, this is where KBB doesn't truly apply since it's special in some way. These people are waiting for the right buyer, but that buyer may never appear. Usually these folks will only drop the price of the car so much or they will just pull the posting after they get no bites. It's rare that these folks are desperate. Picture an NSX and you'll get the picture.
  • Type 3 = Seller is an idiot and thinks that their car is worth more than it is. (Many postings are like this)
  • Type 4 = Seller is selling a car from Cali or some other state that has harsher smog regulations. Something is usually wrong with the car like it can't pass smog (but they won't tell you) or it has a salvage title (and also won't tell you until the bitter end).
  • Type 5 = Seller needs money bad. They will price their car near the "fair" range, and while the Carfax will check out, chances are that if the seller is that hard on money they probably weren't one the ball with maintenance either.
  • Type 6 = Seller is trying to get rid of a car that is a moneypit or otherwise highly problematic. These people will price low as well, but they are super sketchy when you talk to them or meet them.
The key with all CL transactions is to communicate a lot. Get as much info that you need before hand so that when you actually go look at the car, you'll just be verifying what the seller says. If the seller not forthcoming with information or flat out lie, just walk as there will most likely be other problems. The worst type of buyers are those who waste the seller's time by either joyriding (goes for a test drive, doesn't ask any good questions, and you never hear from them again) or go for a test drive or ask tons of questions and then offer something many thousands lower than the stated price. It's usually better to ask about how flexible the price is before you meet for a test drive.

The best sellers are Type 1 since they're usually only after a bit more money than a dealer would offer. They will usually post pics, a phone number, be quick to communicate, and will have a good amount of information about the car. Unless you feel super comfortable about the transaction, do the final xfer at a bank. This way the seller can verify the money and sign over the title in a neutral area.

There are many benefits of buying a car off of CL such as not having to deal with sales tax (in many states) and getting a car at a much lower price, but just use your gut feeling when dealing with people. If something seems sketchy, even in the slightest bit, just walk. Golden rule of life is that there are many more 'bad' people in the world than good.

The Interview (Comedy 2014)

Yeah as expected this movie was a huge bag of silly. It did make me laugh a few times so I suppose it was sorta entertaining in its own way, but overall it was a mess of a movie. The style was totally like what directors Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen create on occasion like, This Is the End. Minus all the drama in the news about the movie, it still would've had the same results as one that hadn't gotten any attention. I doubt anyone out there was expecting quality.
Rating - D

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Gorgon (Alex Hunter Book 5) by Greig Beck (Book 2014)

At last, Greig Beck has returned to his original writing style with this latest novel. The story, pace, characters, detail, and historical additions were so compelling a package that yet again I kept on reading on throughout the night in order to finish it. This probably has to be his second-best book after Beneath the Dark Ice.

The story follows around Alex Hunter and the team as they face an old threat being one that can turn people into stone. The background story was very engrossing and retains its place in the realm of believability. This is definitely where this book takes to the sky while The Book of the Dead went in the opposite direction. I just hope Mr. Beck continues down the correct path as it's always nice to read his better novels
Rating - High

Gone Girl (Mystery Drama 2014)

Wow psycho movie, but good. At first I had no intention of watching this flick because Ben Affleck was in it and he has sucked so bad in the past...a la Daredevil, but I'm on vacation so what the hay.

This movie was a bowl of crazy mixed with a side of mystery nuts. The plot was very thorough and very good. Some parts had this creepy narration going on by the main chick and that made quite the difference with regards to storytelling. Although I'm not usually a fan of these mystery type of films, I do have to say that it was complete and well-done from beginning to end. Great movie; excellent acting from the primary, Rosamund Pike, and Affleck...well he gets a passing grade I suppose.
Rating - A

Friday, January 23, 2015

To Honor You Call Us (Man of War Book 1) by H. Paul Honsinger (Book 2014)

I can't give this book enough props, it was awesome. If you ever read space opera stories because you secretly want to live vicariously through the naval officers on a space ship then this book is totally for you.

The author writes in a manner where you get deep into the mind of the main character as he tries to command his destroyer within the confines of a galactic war. It was a great read and I absolutely never got bored with it.

At times the primary seemed a bit too infallible though, but hopefully this doesn't become a pattern in the next books of the series. Again, usually sci-fi space operas concentrate on plot more than character development; but this book did the reverse, and it definitely created a workable equation for storytelling.
Rating - High

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Fury (War Drama 2014)

So this was a Brad Pitt WWII tank movie. It was a weird one, kinda reminiscent of The Thin Red Line minus the artsy stuff. I think the director wanted to make the whole setting seem "raw" with regards to war, but it just felt unusual...that and all of the actors acted a bit crazy. I guess I understand the premise of that...they are all nearing the end of the war and have seen and experienced a bunch of hairy stuff; but yeah, the characters themselves would not have passed a psych eval.

There was one exciting tank battle scene and the rest of the movie was filler.
The ending was a hoot though. They made it seem like a whole company of German soldiers were clueless idiots. If there is a tank that is not moving but is still active, you go around said tank and take it out from behind. This is common sense. You don't keep on trying to sneak up on it from the front or else you will die, simple as that. It was quite ludicrous watching the end...not sure what the filmmakers were going for there.
Rating - D

Glock 19 FDE 9mm Pistol

While looking through my old reviews, I thought I had written a one on this pistol, but I guess I didn't. The Glock 19, as you probably already know, is a very popular and reliable pistol in the compact 9mm market. Even with that background, I'm honestly not really sure why I bought it since I never seem to get much satisfaction from owning handguns vs rifles.

Below are my 15-meter results at the shooting range and they're pretty crappy groups. This might be why I don't like shooing handguns.

But besides my apparent lack of skill, the pistol was great during my year of ownership. It never failed, never had any problems, breakdown is an easy process, and cleaning is super simple. No complaints at all on the hardware side. I got this specific Glock because of its flat dark earth color and the fact that I had a feeling that it was going to be one of those unicorn colors that would only be sold for a limited time; I was correct in this assumption, but that fact didn't turn into huge profits on the secondary market.

Selling the gun locally turned out to be a bit harder than I would've liked it to be, but I did eventually find a buyer. Hopefully this experience will solidify my distaste for pistols and pistol shooting. Rifles all the way.

The Skeleton Twins (Drama 2014)

This movie was another "eh" one, but it tried so hard to be so much more. It followed around two adult siblings after both try to off themselves on the same day. The dude is gay and has no apparent work/life skills while the chick is some passive, cheating ho. Other than showing how both peeps are sorta messed up and are in a dead-end town, I don't see the point of the story. Bill Hader did not do a good job in convincing me that he was gay and Kristen Wiig plays the same character in all her films...a mousy, insecure, weirdo type of middle-aged woman.

The film was a lame attempt at being artsy and/or being deeper than it truly was, and it failed for the attempt.
Rating - D

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Equalizer (Action 2014)

If you've ever seen Man on Fire, which also stars Denzel, then you've already seen this movie. This one feels exactly like the latter in style and execution. The plot is so drab, much like many of the 80s action flicks had very similar equations. Not sure who thought it would be a good idea to produce yet another action movie with such an overused plot. And the IMDB rating is pure BS...it's probably skewed like that because so few people watched this film.
Rating - D

OnePlus One

Why
So I chose the OnePlus One over other phones out there because I wanted to stay as close to the stock ROM as possible while not having any bloatware. Nothing is more annoying than having a bunch of AT&T junk on a phone even though I could get a better price because I can totally upgrade via my plan. But been there and done that with phones in the past, so yeah I went with this one.

Pros
  • The auto-brightness controls on this phone are awesome. I remember on the Nexus 5 how it never truly was perfect in terms of lighting but with the OnePlus it is always spot on and fast in auto-changing settings.
  • The battery life is amazing; I can go well over 1 day with this phone on and in use with no issues. I'd say the battery will last 2.2x times that of the Nexus 5.
  • The packaging was a great experience to open. It was reminiscent of opening up an Apple product for the first time. All companies should start concentrating on this aspect of marketing.
  • The AC adapter is one of the fastest charging ones I've ever used. It also had a very interesting ribbon-like anti-tangle red USB cord which was cool.
  • The customization of the Cyanogenmod ROM was annoying at first but then I discovered that I was actually able to customize the phone to 95% of how I wanted it which is good. I would still prefer stock Android OS but oh well.
  • The 4k video recording is pretty cool...new tech.
  • Calls come in clearly on both ends and are very loud...this was why I upgraded in the first place.
  • Price was terrific for what I was looking for; new specs.
Cons
  • Lack of Qi charging is killing me. This is one of those features that you don't realize how much you miss it until it's nabbed away via a phone upgrade. All of the phones I purchase in the future must have this.
  • The screen misses a large percentage of taps. This is a hardware problem that I've read about online and man does it suck. It happens probably 15% of the time if you're lightly playing around with the phone, but it's noticeable vs all of the other phones I've used in the past. I'm pondering trying to send this phone back for an RMA, but it's only sometimes reproducible.
  • It has hardware buttons at the bottom and I discovered I really don't like these. Using the OS you can change it so that these are disabled and it will tweak with the screen to create software menu buttons but that totally kills the real estate of the phone.
  • I'm still waiting on Cyanogenmod's version of Lolipop to be pushed to my phone...so yeah still waiting.
  • The greatest con that is on my mind is the fact that the camera sucks balls. It does not autofocus correctly and I am still tweaking with different settings and camera apps to try to get it to work properly, but I've already missed out on many-a-photos because they all ended up blurry. I don't think any iPhone camera in recent history has had this problem and my Nexus 5 surely didn't.
  • This one isn't really a con since it's my own fault. I bought a Pelosi case that had the same sandstone texture as the phone itself, but the bad thing was that it only protects the sides. I ended up dropping it and yeah below are the results. Ironic how it landed on an unprotected area; 50/50 chance I guess. Next time around no more of these slim cases, just but a regular full case and be done with it.
Thoughts
So the phone is fine...I'm still annoyed at the screen responsiveness, camera, and lack of Qi charging, but I'll make due. I've discovered that the 5.5" screen is a tad too large for my tastes as I can't fully one-hand the phone to do what needs to be done, so I'll try to stick with a 5 incher. I'll just wait and see what comes out though...too bad the Nexus 6 was huge and expensive or else I would've just upgraded to that, but with the changes happening in the smartphone world who knows what will happen. Hopefully there will be more "Pure Google" models.

The Theory of Everything (Drama 2014)

So this movie was a loose biography of Professor Stephen Hawking. It was OK in a slow, British film-making sort of manner. The style was a bit reminiscent of A Beautiful Mind. In the end the movie seemed to lose some steam as the professor ditches his first wife for some home healthcare provider...kinda puts a damper on things. Overall it was OK but yeah the whole ending made the dude seem like an ass.
Rating - C

This Is Where I Leave You (Drama 2014)

So this movie was actually really good. I liked it a lot. It was about a group of adult-aged siblings who return back to their hometown because their father passed away. While hanging out through some sort of multi-day wake, the characters go through a ton of familial drama that exists among all of the siblings as it builds a story from that.

The dialog was the best part though...very natural, very funny, and lot of it. The writer, Jonathan Tropper, should get some award because the bickering made this movie shine. All of the comebacks and one-liners were a hoot. It was an entertaining watch, so it definitely goes in my good movie bucket.
Rating - A

Camp X-Ray (Drama 2014)

So this movie was 'Eh'. I guess the plot was OK as it followed around a soldier at Gitmo and explored her interactions with a specific detainee. But we first really need to point out that the main character is played by Kristen Stewart, who is an awful actor...she was a terrible choice as a primary because she shouldn't be in movies at all; she needs to be a grocery clerk. In this film she kept on putting on her 'pained look' face, and in this type of military prison environment that would be a green light for her to get screwed.

As for the plot, I didn't 100% get the purpose of the story. Nobody really knows if the dude was innocent or not so either he was trying to trick said weak-ass soldier or he really was a sad human being who was falsely accused and imprisoned. The audience will have different reactions to both depending on what they believe, but it really doesn't have a purpose other than to show that it would suck to be in such a situation.
Rating - C

The Ark: A Novel by Boyd Morrison (Book 2010)

So this book was a pretty good adventure read. It was well written, had a nice, consistent pace, and the characters were fairly relatable. The story was multi-layered, but in a nutshell there is a rich religious fanatic who wants to cleanse the Earth and a group of peeps get involved by avoiding getting killed off by said fanatic. Noah's Ark is a focal point in the plot and it gives an alternative look on the Biblical story. I enjoyed reading this one; a solid novel.
Rating  - High

The Fault in Our Stars (Drama 2014)

Well well well, I'm surprised, but this movie was quite well done. It was a teen flick of course but it was quite good in its plot and execution. Music was added in at the correct moments and the actors did a fairly decent job. Of course there were points where the dialog was a bit forced, but I'll blame that on the writing. The movie was a good watch and at no time did I wonder to myself why I was watching a film about some teenagers. You could tell that they tried extra hard to make the ending a good one, props.
Rating - A