Movie Review: The Hunger Games

I’ve read the Hunger Games books and I thought they were really good.  When I heard that they were making a movie based on the book I was like, meh, I’ll wait until it comes out on DVD.  Then I saw who they cast as Katniss: Jennifer Lawrence.  If you’ve ever seen Winter’s Bone, then you know Jennifer can pull off Katniss Everdeen.  That moved the Hunger Games movie right up into the “must see” category.

Warning: spoilers ahead.  I don’t give away anything, but I do mention certain scenes.

Last Saturday night my wife Michelle and I headed out to the theatre to watch The Hunger Games.  I had already read a review of the movie that said it was good, but I also heard/read that a lot of people didn’t like the whole shaky cam effect.  My wife loathes the shaky cam.  I think she nearly tossed her biscuits when we watched Cloverfield.  I don’t mind the shaky cam too much, as long as it isn’t distracting.  15 minutes into the movie and the shaky cam thing was definitely becoming a problem.  The camera is bouncing all over the place even when there is no action happening.  Thankfully the camera does calm down a bit as the movie progresses.

The first 45 minutes of the movie are spent providing back story to the games and developing the characters.  The first thing that struck me as strange is how District 12 is so much more realistic than what I imagined while reading the books, realistic as in “normal”, not science-fictiony like I thought it would be.  I imagined that the city of District 12 was enclosed by this huge wall and that you’d see peacekeepers dressed in black with visors covering their eyes.  If you’ve ever played Half Life 2…that’s what I imagined.  When you see the movie it seems more like a regular ol’ run down city surrounded by a regular ol’ electric fence with peacekeepers in really white outfits just standing around.  I think the movie could have done a better job of portraying a city that has endured many, many years of persecution and struggles.  That being said, Katniss is believable as the older sister trying to keep her family alive in a city that is closely monitored and controlled by the government.

One of my favorite scenes early on is the reaping where all the citizens of District 12 have to gather to watch the tributes from their district be selected.  Everyone is dressed in their finest clothes with their hair neatly done, as if they were actually looking forward to the occasion (which of course they are not).  The reaping does seem rushed, but I’m sure it seemed rushed to those who have read the book.  Those who hadn’t read the book are probably wondering when the heck the games are going to start.

Following the reaping the tributes from District 12 are whisked off to the capital.  On the way we meet Haymitch played by Woody Harrelson.  I had a hard time picturing Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, but I have to admit that he played the part really well.  We also meet Effie Trinket played by Elizabeth Banks.  She did well, but I think it would have been cool to see someone like Imelda Staunton (Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter movies) play the part.  The interviews with Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) were great.  They got his smile just right :-).  The lead up to the games was actually really well done and for the most part stayed true to the book.

The Hunger Games event itself was interesting.  The movie review I had read complained that the fight scenes were nearly removed from the movie in order to keep the rating at PG-13.  There were a couple somewhat graphic scenes, but you really didn’t see much blood and definitely no gore.  What was really annoying was how the fight scenes were super blurry and zoomed in.  Most of the time you couldn’t tell what was happening during the close-ups.

There is a pretty involved love story in The Hunger Games books that was likely very hard to adapt for the movie.  The movie hints at what is going on, but I imagine that the second movie is going to go into the whole love story much more.

Overall the movie was very well done.  The pacing felt a bit fast…I kind of wish there was another 30 minutes to the movie.  Jennifer Lawrence was absolutely fantastic and the rest of the cast was very good as well.  I assume they’ll make movies around the other 2 books as well…as long as Jennifer stays on as Katniss, they’ll be on my “must watch” list.

My First Double Edged (DE) Safety Razor Kit – The Shopping List

A few years ago I had a friend/co-worker tell me that they were really into shaving.  He treated it like a hobby…perfecting his skill with an old style straight edge razor and buying up all the little shaving goodies.  It sounded kind of dumb to me at the time.  I couldn’t imagine anyone making a hobby out of one of my least favorite things to do: shaving.  Shaving sucks.  When I wake up and realize I have to go into the office, the first thing that crosses my mind is “oh man, I have to work today…”, second thing is “crap, I have to shave today too”.  Lately I’ve started wondering if there are more enjoyable ways to shave.  As I’ve gotten older I’ve started to figure a few things out…I’m satisfied with the way I style my hair now, I’ve found shoes that are comfortable and cheap, I know where to buy a decent pair of jeans…but I still haven’t figured out how to have an enjoyable shave.  Then I found wicked_edge.

Wicked_edge is a sub-reddit made for people like my old friend that like to go and geek out over shaving.  People post pictures of their shaving set-ups, talk about all these fancy balms and aftershaves…I’m surprised I haven’t come across unboxing videos.  These guys are really into shaving.  Call me weird, but this stuff is fascinating.  I’m enthralled with the idea of using an old style razor and lathering up my face with some nice warm cream.  I’m imagining how refreshing it will feel to get that awesome shave in the morning and how good I’ll smell all day after using some fancy aftershave.  Now that I’ve got that sweet, sweet tax return money in my hot little hands I’ve decided to place my order for my double edged safety razor shaving set-up.  This is the stuff I ended up buying:

Razor

I went with the Edwin Jagger De89bl.  This particular model comes highly recommended by the community and a reasonable price ($32).  The other razor I looked at was the Merkur 180 which is also very well regarded and basically the same price.

Amazon also has the De89lbl, the only difference being that the handle on the lbl has vertical lines running up it to provide more grip.  If the lbl was in stock I would have grabbed that one instead.  By the way, the “bl” at the end just means that it comes with a pack of blades and isn’t really part of the razor model number.  You can also get the De86/87 which I think just have shorter handles and the handles come in finishes like ivory or black.  All of the models I mentioned have the same head.

Blades

I decided to get a sampler pack of blades so that I could try out a few different types to see what worked best with my face.  There is a wide variety of sampler packs on Amazon, but I decided to buy this sample pack from West Coast Shaving since the pack included the brands of blades that most people seem to like.  Feather brand blades in particular seem to be a favorite and this pack includes 10 to try out.  At $10 for 35 blades, I think it’s a great deal.

Brush

This one was a hard decision.  The prices range anywhere from $10 on up to $150+.  Brushes can be made with boar hair, badger hair, horse hair, unicorn hair…there’s just a lot to choose from.  I almost pulled the trigger on the Tweezerman shaving brush since a lot of people seem to like it and it’s only $12, but I didn’t want to waste any money on a brush that might end up being crappy.  The Tweezerman brush is made with badger hair, but the hair is cut to create the fan shape unlike better brushes that leave the hair uncut.  It’s the ends of the hair that are nice and soft on your face, which is why the better brushes aren’t cut.  Generally badger brushes that say “pure” or “black” are the crappier ones, the ones that say “finest” or “best” are mid-grade, and the ones that say “silvertip” are the best (softest).

Apparently all the badger hair comes from China where badgers are considered to be vermin.  I came across some posts talking about Frank Shaving, some badger brush manufacturer in China that has a few resellers on eBay.  Quite a few people had commented that their brushes had a tremendous bang for the buck.  I decided to order the Finest Badger hair Shaving Brush #Kenilworth Faux Ebony from Ian Tang’s eBay store.  With shipping the brush cost me about $30.  These brushes used to be cheaper on eBay, but apparently changes in the exchange rate and rising costs for badger hair have pushed the price up a bit.  Still, the “finest” brushes from Frank Shaving are supposed to be on par with brushes from other brands that cost twice as much.  The pictures on eBay also don’t show that the brush comes with a nice little stand, which is pretty cool and saves you a few bucks.  The only downside is that it ships from China, so I’ll probably have to wait 2-3 weeks before it shows up.

Shaving Cream

I saw the name Proraso come up a lot when looking at shaving creams.  They make a wide variety of creams and soaps and have been in business for a loooong time.  I decided to try out the Proraso cream that comes in a tube instead of the stuff that comes in a tub.  I see a lot of people using the tub stuff, but I think you’ll probably get more mileage out of the tube.  Someone mentioned in a review that the tube lasted them 8 months and they shaved frequently.  I bought the re-branded Proraso that is sold under the C.O. Bigelow brand which is generally sold at Bath & Body Works.  It’s the same exact product, but $1 cheaper.

Aftershave

I bought two types of aftershave: alum and bay rum.

According to the interwebs, alum is a compound that occurs naturally in nature.  You usually buy it in block form and when you’re done with your shave, you wet the block with cold water and run it over your face.  The alum helps soothe razor burn and tighten up the skin (in a good way).  I bought the RazoRock Alum in Case because it seems easier to handle than a block and I don’t have to keep it out on a soap dish or anything.

I bought some bay rum because I want to smell good.  I chose the Ogallala bonanza pack which comes with samples of their top 5 bay rum products: 4 aftershaves and 1 cologne.  I wanted to give them each a good sniff before I invested in a bigger bottle.  It was about $16 plus shipping, not too bad.

Bowl

I almost bought the Colonel Ichabod Conk Stainless Steel Shave Cup, but I decided I wanted something ceramic that might hold heat better and keep the shaving cream warm. My plan is to fill the sink with hot water and keep the shaving bowl in the hot water to keep the cream warm.  I went down to the Goodwill and bought the bowl shown above for $1, can’t beat that.

Stand/Case

I really wanted to buy a cool looking stand, like the Colonel Conk Evernice Model 775 Chrome Safety Razor Stand, but I decided against it since I don’t want the kids seeing the razor out and decide to shave off half of their face.  I’ll probably end up getting this leather razor case just so that I have something to store the razor in.

This kit ended up costing me a total of about $110, not exactly cheap…but not really that expensive either considering how much I was paying for cartridge refills for the Mach III.  I haven’t bought the razor case yet and I’ll probably end up trying some other shaving stuffs, but for now it seems like I have everything I’ll need to get that nice comfortable shave :).  I’ll post again once I’ve given everything a try.

My Favorite Apps for the BlackBerry PlayBook

Although the PlayBook app store doesn’t have the quite the variety of Android’s or iOS’s, there are a few gems to be found for sure.  These are the apps that I have found and frequently use:

Remote Desktop

Finally!  I wanted this since the day that the PlayBook was announced.  I have two machines that I access remotely, one being a file server and the other is dedicated to playing music.  Why do I have a dedicated music machine?  Because when I’m working over VPN the company doesn’t like me wasting their bandwidth on streaming music, so I have a small PC that is only for delivering sweet sweet sounds to my headphones.

Remote Desktop works great because I don’t have to install anything special, I just use regular ol’ remote desktop built into Windows.  There are other remote desktop applications for the PlayBook, but they all require that you install their server software.

The first time I ran the app it was acting really wonky…but I restarted it and since then it has worked really well.  It is nice and fast, scales perfectly to the PlayBook’s screen, and selecting items with your finger works great.  The only problem I currently have is that there is no option to turn off audio re-direction, so I can’t remote control my music machine without it re-directing the audio to my PlayBook.  I e-mailed the app author about it and he said the next version will have the option to turn off audio re-direction, so once that’s done the app will be perfect!

Book Reader

Since Amazon never followed through on their promise to create a version of the Kindle app for PlayBook, we were stuck without a decent eBook reader that could access side loaded eBook files.  Thankfully Book Reader came out and it is fantastic!  It supports both ePub and mobi (Kindle) formats.  The Adobe Reader app that comes with the PlayBook already does PDF pretty well, so between the two apps you have all your format bases covered.  Book Reader is updated frequently and has all the nice display options you’d find in something like the Kindle app for Android.

Mongoose

Mongoose is a free app that lets you read comic books saved in cbz or zip file format.  There is another app called Comics that supports cbr and seems to have a nicer interface and more features, but they want $3 for it and so far Mongoose is gettin’ the job done for me.  The only problem with Mongoose is that you have to use tiny swipes to turn pages…once you get used to that it works pretty well.

AIR Browser

If you want a free, simple app for managing the files on your PlayBook, AIR Browser is your app.  It has a nice clean interface and works pretty well.  I’ve had it hang up on me when moving largish files between folders, but other than that it has worked fine.

BlueBox

If you have a Dropbox account, have a look at BlueBox.  I like using Dropbox’s web site, but BlueBox is better formatted for a tablet’s screen and works better when using your finger to navigate instead of a mouse.  With BlueBox you can upload files, download them, and move them around within your Dropbox account.  What the Dropbox site has that BlueBox doesn’t is a way to view files without actually downloading them, so sometimes I prefer to just use the site to pull up a text document, but BlueBox is better suited for downloading or uploading multiple files.

Epistle

Now that PlayBook supports re-packaged Android applications, I’m starting to see some of the apps I use on my Android phone make their way over to PlayBook.  Epistle is one of those apps.  Epistle is a simple note taking tool that syncs up with your Dropbox account.  Your notes are saved as plain txt files so that you an open them up on your computer.  It’s a very simple app and does exactly what you want it to do, nothing more.