June 2011

 movie coverI'd rather be watching TV![IMDB link] [Netflix link]

LIMERICK REVIEW: There once was a serial killer named Mike
who a clerk named Bart was convinced to like.
But his girlfriend became too nosy;
Her outlook was not very rosy.
Digging graves is more work than a 10-mile hike.

HAIKU REVIEW: Serial Killing:
A post-modern career choice
for the greater good.

UNCOMFORTABLE PLOT SUMMARY (inspired by this): [highlight for spoilers] Deluded serial killer tricks loser into also becoming serial killer, and then kills his girlfriend.

PEOPLE: Written/directed by Luke Ricci. With Dameon Clarke (Mike in A Scanner Darkly, 3 eps of 24, Cell in the English Dragon Ball Z cartoons, other anime voiceover work) as the serial killer. Matthew Gray Gubler (Criminal Minds) as the apprentice serial killer. Laura Regan (Hollow Man 2, Unbreakable, They) as the oblivious girlfriend. George Wyner (Spaceballs, tons of TV series, American Pie 2, The Postman, Not Another Teen Movie, Fletch, The Bad News Bears) as the narrating psychologist.

QUIRKS: Serial killing presented as comedy. Mockumentary-style interviews with characters during the movie — The obliviousness of the characters as they talked to the cameraman reminded me of The Office.

VISUALS: Just about the least gory “killing movie” I’ve ever seen. Hardly any blood at all. Murder scenes tend to last all of 5 seconds. This is more about the interplay of characters, than a visual gore fest.

MORALS: Even serial killers can use morals to justify their actions as being for the greater good, rather than being evil. These guys were seriously deluded.

BAD STUFF: It unfortunately loses it’s black comedy mockumentary feel somewhere past the halfway point, when [highlight for spoilers] Mike’s girlfriend finds out what he does, he has to kill her, and they try [and fail] to hide her body without being seen. After that, it seems to be more of a “normal” movie, which counts against it. It started off very special, but finished off a bit less special than it started.

CONCLUSION: This was a fun movie to check out, but it would have been more fun if the black comedy feel had remained throughout the length of the movie. The first half was 5-star material: Serial-killing-related comedy. But then it got a bit more serious at the end, and there really wasn’t an substantive message to take out of the ending. I think the script did not live up to its full potential.

Clint: Netflix: 3/5 stars. IMDB: 7/10.
Carolyn: Netflix: 4/5 stars. IMDB: 8/10.
The native public rating for this movie is Netflix: 2.7/5 stars (2.8/5 stars for people who rate like me), IMDB: 5.5/10.

RECOMMENDATION: The first half is definitely worth seeing if you like black comedy. The second half is more debatable.

  • Once again: Licensure is good. It lets you know your professionals are qualified for the job. It means they have passed certain certifications.

    However, what's better than licensure, or being protected? FREEDOM.

    Including the freedom to use an unlicensed person. If I want a friend to babysit my kid, he shouldn't have to get a license for this to be legal. If I want to pay someone to drive me to the airport, they shouldn't have to become a licensed taxi service. If I want to buy a fucking lemonade from a little girl on a street corner, I should have that freedom.

    Freedom FROM licensure is important too. Freedom FROM regulation. Free (as in anarchy) markets don't work. Over-regulation doesn't work. In short, A LOT OF STUFF SUCKS. Let people decide for themselves.

    Fourth time I've seen this now.

Wow. They played videos and everything. 5 minute videos, even. Videos of rock. Barely any commercials at all. Not like today’s MTV … or MTV2, for that matter. (more…)

 movie coverI'd rather be watching TV![IMDB link] [Netflix link] [Wikipedia link (film)] [Wikipedia link (book)] [Official Site] Hayden Panettiere theme night! We watched this, and then Heroes.

PLOT SUMMARY: Geek valedictorian proclaims love for head cheerleader in graduation speech. Utter chaos and violence ensues. Epic caper.

LIMERICK REVIEW: There once was a geek named Denis,
who was the very opposite of a menace.
He had a crush for 5 yrs;
finally faced his fears;
Ultimately resulting in a kiss.
[Yeah, it’s not an exact rhyme, sorry, don’t feel like spending a lot of time on these. If someone can come up with a better one, they are more than welcome to…]

HAIKU REVIEW: Beth Cooper causes
class valedictorian
to get in trouble.

UNCOMFORTABLE PLOT SUMMARY (inspired by this): [highlight for spoilers] Jealous cokehead beats the shit out of overly honest geek.

PEOPLE: The main stars are Hayden Panettiere (Claire from Heroes) and Paul Rust (Inglourious Bastards, and a writer for 1 episode each of Human Giant and Moral Orel). Co-stars include Jack Carpenter, Lauren London, Lauren Storm (TV actress) as the dumb girl, and Shawn Roberts (Rogue’s boyfriend in X-Men 1) as the douchebag. And a brief (“your nipples are so weird!”) role by Andrea Savage, who was in the funny comedy Step Brothers.

And TV buffs will recognize Cynthia Stevenson as Hope Davidson from the 35-episode NBC sitcom “Hope & Gloria” (1995-1996). She will also be in the upcoming flick Jennifer’s Body, which will feature Magan Fox and Amanda Seyfried in a full-on tongue kiss. But I digress. It was weird seeing Cynthia Stevenson‘s face again after over 10 yrs!

Directed by Chris Columbus (Adventures In Babysitting, Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone/Chamber Of Secrets, Mrs. Doubtfire, Home Alone 2.)

QUIRKS: Based on a novel written by Larry Doyle, one of the writers of The Simpsons (Girly Edition, Treehouse Of Horror 9, Wild Barts Can’t BE Broken, Pygmoelian, Worst Episode Ever, It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Marge), Beavis & Butt-head (Choke, Nosebleed, Bad Dog, Final Judgment Of Beavis, Butt Flambe, Liar! Liar!, Safe Driving), and Daria (Too Cute). Though really, he only made the novel because he couldn’t get it made into a movie first. (Reminds me of how The Fountain was a movie, then a graphic novel, then a movie based on the graphic novel.)

Your standard will-the-geek-get-the-girl high school story, told as a graduation night caper full of “Saturday night adventure” (though it might not have been Saturday in the movie, I think you catch my drift).

You get graduation speeches, unrequited love, bitchy cheerleaders, 18 year old male virgins, graduation parties, cow tipping, coked-up douchebags on roid rage, underage drinking, shitty teenage driving, vehicles smashing through walls, sexuality under question, and social awkwardness. A lot of your standard high school movie tropes.

CLOSURE THAT’S IN THE BOOK AND NOT THE MOVIE: [highlight for spoilers] “In the book, there is a final fight at the cabin with Denis and Kevin. The girls throw stuffed animals at him to distract him enough to think Rich has a shotgun, but then it is revealed that the shotgun is fake. Kevin makes Denis row him out to the lake, to dump him in. He talks about how Beth is a slut. Denis knocks Kevin out with an oar. Kevin falls overboard, so Denis jumps in to save him. He performs CPR. The police come. Kevin wakes up, and attacks Denis again in front of the police. They arrest Kevin and his group. It’s revealed then that Denis is an accomplished swimmer and is in decent good shape for being kind of geeky. He and Beth make out. Then, at the very end, they didn’t see each other for the rest of the summer, but then one day they did, but by then Denis had grown 6 inches and packed on some muscle, and then it ends. Rich also says he didn’t much like being homosexual either, and is waiting for the next thing. Beth and Denis finally see each other a week before he intends to go off for school. Oh, and Beth was going to have sex with him at the cabin before Kevin showed up, but stopped when she found a hole in Denis’s underwear.”

VISUALS: The girls aren’t as hot as the girls in, say, Mean Girls or Jawbreaker. This does not apply to Hayden of course. She is as hot as ever. And has less competition with her hotness than in Heroes (where Kristen Bell and multiple-personality blonde compete with her).

MORALS: 1) Nice guys finish last. 2) Honesty can equal physical danger. 3) Cocaine is a bad drug. 4) Teenagers can’t drive.

BAD STUFF: I guess a lot of people are sick of these kinds of movies — but I never tire of this trash. This got a 13% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 104 reviews. Tons of people have tons of complaints, but I just didn’t agree with them.

CONCLUSION: While generic in premise, I find that I can’t get tired of teen comedies, as comedy is my favorite genre and I feel like there are never enough comedy movies. I laughed out loud and had a great time watching the misadventures of Denis and his quest to get Beth Cooper. It may partially reflect on my mood that night, but I totally loved this, rating it 1 more star and 1 more IMDB point than Carolyn did.

Clint: Netflix: 5/5 stars. IMDB: 8/10.
Carolyn: Netflix: 4/5 stars. IMDB: 7/10.
The native public rating for this movie is IMDB: 5.0/10, Netflix: 3.6/5 stars (3.3/5 stars for people who rate like me). Netflix was wrong. I liked this better than average, not less than average!

RECOMMENDATION: A lot of people didn’t like this, for it to get a 5.0/10 on Netflix. If you are “forgiving” with movies, and are someone who likes teen comedies in general, you will probably at least find this passable. You might find it to be great. Or you might hate it. It’s a hard one to predict. If “saturday night adventures” are fun to you, you might like this.

SIMILAR MOVIES: Can’t Hardly Wait. Actually, this is similar to hundreds of movies.

MOVIE QUOTE: Rich Munsch: “You’re not alive unless you’re livin’.”

 movie coverI'd rather be watching TV![IMDB link] [Netflix link] Sold to me by a questionable dvd reseller who labeled this as “Amelie 2″. Yet, this movie came out before Amelie and actually has nothing to do with it. Nice marketing, questionable reseller. You tricked me into watching something I woudn’t have watched! This is NOT Amelie 2! This came out BEFORE Amelie! WTF. Apparently that is the name of the DVD when released in Hong Kong! How lame!

PLOT SUMMARY: A bunch of random crap happens, randomly affecting other crap.

HAIKU REVIEW: Random happenstance
tends to lack a real meaning
that I want in film.

UNCOMFORTABLE PLOT SUMMARY (inspired by this): Interconnection for interconnection’s sake.

PEOPLE: Not even the same director as Amelie. But it has cutey Audrey Tautou in it, and has some similarities to Amelie.

QUIRKS: SO QUIRKY. For quirkiness’s sake. This whole movie is a bunch of quirky characters doing quirky things. With no real point to any of it. One guy is a liar. So what? Who cares? Ugh.

VISUALS: Definitely no Amelie.

MORALS: It’s hard to glean any deep meaning from this utterly random movie.

BAD STUFF: Interconnection for interconnection’s sake.

CONCLUSION: I found it interesting to watch for the first half, but by the time there were 30 minutes left in the movie, I knew my conclusion was going to be: Steaming pile of shit. Carolyn didn’t quite look on it as unfavorably as I did, but… We were tricked into watching this, and it was quite disappointing.

Clint: Netflix: 2/5 stars. IMDB: 5/10. It manages to scrape by with a 5 because individual moments were still interesting.

Carolyn: Netflix: 3/5 stars. IMDB: 6/10. “I think I like it less now that I slept on it… It was interesting at the time how quirky and interconnected everything seemed, but now it’s like they showed too much detail that didn’t really matter.. like the [highlight for spoilers] grandma dying.. nothing came of that in the end, so….”

The native public rating for this movie is Netflix: 3.4/5 stars, IMDB 6.9/10.
(Compare to Amelie: Netflix native rating was 4.0/5 stars, and IMDB was 8.6/10 – 46th highest rated movie ever.)

RECOMMENDATION: STAY AWAY! Unless you like movies that are quirky for quirkiness’s sake, show a bunch of unrelated characters who never truly interact, and don’t really have a true moral or point other than “we are all connected, yay”. At least movies like 21 Grams or Sex & Lucia ultimately tied everyone together; this movie really doesn’t.

SIMILAR MOVIES: 21 Grams. Sex & Lucia. Any of those horrible “separate stories by characters who barely interact with each other” movies. (Though Sex & Lucia did this best, and is the only one I truly love.)

MOVIE QUOTE: The Destiny Man: You see, every detail, every gesture, as slight as it may be, reveals an infinity of truths and thus has an endless repercussion and grandiose effects. (more…)

This anecdote has to be one of the most socially embarrassing things I’ve ever seen happen to someone else.

So there we were, at the very last night Bound would ever be held at Bar Nun in D.C….

2001ish - Bound - flyer - b54c1 - standing brunette (b&w)

Typical flyer back then

It was a fun night. Bar Nun was one of the better venues Bound was ever held at, so a lot of people showed up for the final night at Bar Nun. I specifically remember [hopefully correctly] seeing our college friend Molly for the first time 4 years or so.

We were dressed up and everything… [Everybody was]…

Us at The Last Bound -- 20010727

Sleazy enough? Nice gut hangin' out there. This was before Carolyn became a redhead and then a blonde.

But then, the night ended, and the last song played.

You know how when you’re yelling loudly in a noisy bar, and the music suddenly cuts out, how it’s really embarrassing when everyone hears you yelling in an otherwise-quiet room?

Well this is what happened.

She was really screaming…

B&B - Frog Baseball!!!

Yeah.. Kinda like that...

She was obviously an angry girl…

20070615 - Nate's going away party - (by Erin) - Nate (sitting, reading book), Erin (looking mad) - 559154575_f6ff2e766b_b

This has nothing to do with it, but is a good "angry girl" picture from my flickr.

And what was she screaming about? I don’t know. I think her relationship with this dude. She kept saying, “You’re so STAGNANT. STAGNANT. STAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAG NANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNT.”

I mean, there was a point when she realized the entire club was basically listening to her because the music stopped… And she just kept on going.

Her very last “STAGNANNNNT” in particular was like 5 seconds long, at least. The longest STAGNANT I’ve ever head. She was fucking insane.

After being emasculated like that, dudeface probably felt like this afterward:

20070928 - Beavis - 137-3791 - barstool - I can has bawls bak?

This guy was probably more embarassed than our cat Beavis (RIP) was.

At it turns out, Carolyn & I, Brent, Chris Hann3rs, Samantha & Sasha, some others, and the guy who got yelled at all walked to some afterhours party once the bar closed at 3AM.

The guy told me more about his relationship, or lack thereof, with the “Stagnant Yeller Girl”.

I forget the details, but I felt bad for him. Bad enough to remember it 10 years later.

It’s still a joke to this day. If a TV show isn’t quite living up to the luster of previous seasons, we might say, “This show is getting STAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAG NANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNT.” I have a feeling this memory will never fade.

Postcard - Virginia Tech - The Duck Pond



 movie coverI'd rather be watching TV![IMDB link] [Netflix link]

UNCOMFORTABLE PLOT SUMMARY (inspired by this): [highlight for spoilers] Sexist female colony learns to not be so sexist.

PEOPLE: Another DC feature-length Bruce Timm-produced cartoon movie. With Keri Russell (Felicity) as Diana/Wonder Woman. Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Buffy, Private Ryan in Saving Private Ryan) as Steve Trevor. Alfred Molina (The Da Vinci Code, Doc Ock in the Spider-Man movies, Dead Man, Raders Of The Lost Ark) as Ares, God Of War. Rosario Dawson (Clerks 2, Sin City) as Artemis. Marg Helgenberger (CSI, Erin Brockovich, Species, Tootsie) as Hera. Oliver Platt (Year One, Kinsey) as Hades. Virginia Madsen (The Number 23, Sideways, Dune) as Hippolyta. Yes. Lots of Greek names in this story.

QUIRKS: Based on the comic book. Lots of gender and sexism issues are explored as a side-issue to the main plot, which is the Greek god of war Ares trying to escape his imprisonment and bring havoc to the world.

Anyone ever notice that “Themyscira” sounds like “The Mascara”?

VISUALS: The excellent action anyone would expect to come from any Bruce Timm-produced cartoon over the last 20 years.

MORALS/POLITICS: 1) Don’t let gender stereotypes rule you to the point where you cannot critically think about the other gender. 2) Even Amazons need some dick. (Ooh, did I say that? You just have to watch the movie to see what I mean.)

BAD STUFF/CONCLUSION: Unfortunately, for whatever reason, this just didn’t turn out as well as some of the other comic-based animated movies that have come out in the past few years. Green Lantern:First Flight, Justice League:New Frontier, Superman:Doomsday, and Superman/Batman:Public Enemies were all better.

Clint: Netflix: 4/5 stars. IMDB: 7/10. Truthfully, this felt like a 3/5 star movie, but I’m giving it a bonus for being so unique, dealing with such a classic character, and breaking through some of the past limitations of previous Wonder Woman incarnations.
Carolyn: Netflix: 3/5 stars. IMDB: 7/10.
The native public rating for this movie is Netflix: 3.9/5 stars (4.2/5 stars for people who rate like me), IMDB 7.2/10.

RECOMMENDATION: Wonder Woman fans and superhero cartoon lovers will not be complete without seeing this.


1) Hippolyta: Here the true nature of men is laid bare. What other depraved thoughts must you be thinking?
Col. Steve Trevor: God, your daughter’s got a nice rack.

2) Steve Trevor: So the queen’s kid, you know, the hot chick?
Artemis: Princess Diana.
Steve Trevor: Yeah, her. So, what’s her deal?
Artemis: Her deal is that I will personally castrate you if you come within five yards of her.

COINCIDENCES: (The Number 23, Wonder Woman) 2 movies in a row with Virginia Madsen in them.

FRIENDS’ RATINGS: We watched this with Tabbitha and John The Canadien, but we didn’t really talk about it too much afterward. Tabbitha was starting to fall asleep, as we got a late start on this one. (more…)

 movie coverI'd rather be watching TV![IMDB link] [Netflix link]

UNCOMFORTABLE PLOT SUMMARY (inspired by this): [highlight for spoilers] Joey’s been typecast already.

PEOPLE: From the director of 24 Season 1, Predator 2, and Nightmare On Elm Street 5. With William Hurt (Sunshine, Altered States), Mimi Rogers (Dumb & Dumber 2, Austin Powers), the lovely Heather Graham (Rollergirl in Boogie Nights, The Hangover, Twin Peaks, Drugstore Cowboy, Nowhere, Swingers, Scream 2), Lacey Chabert (16, in her first on screen role) (Party Of Five, Gretchen from Mean Girls, Gwen Stacy in Spectacular Spider-Man, Meg Griffin from Family Guy season 1 only, Not Another Teen Movie), Jack Johnson, Gary Oldman (Sirious Black from Harry Potter, Jim Gordon from Batman Begins/The Dark Knight, The Fifth Element, Hannibal, and Sid Vicious from Sid & Nancy)… And Matt LeBlanc (Joey from Friends).

QUIRKS: Remade from the TV show that neither of us had ever watched an episode of in our life. (And it’s not like we didn’t watch old stuff when we were kids. Just not that.)

This was the next #1 movie after Titanic‘s 15-week reign. Thus, it is known as “The Iceberg”. Fuck Titanic.

It’s a space travel movie. With a planet. And {very minor spoiler} [highlight for spoilers] space spiders. Which actually creeped the hell out of me.

VISUALS: I thought the special effects were great. Except the CGI creature, which was pretty bad. But hey, this was 1998.

POLITICS: Too bad the 2 sequels were canceled. It is reported the cast only signed on when promised 2 sequels. Guess they didn’t have it in proper legaleese. The movie was too much of a flop — even though I also heard it returned double the investment.

Also, the original idea of the original Lost In Space TV series was “pirated” by the corporations/studios. A lawsuit was won, naming Ib Melchior as creator, and giving him a bunch of money.

BAD STUFF: I suppose a lot of people can’t stand Matt LeBlanc. Or the various ways they changed it from the original, whatever those may be. Or the character development. Or the 16 year old girl. Or the cute CGI creature. Or the various unexplained plot points (most of which make sense, if you research them). Some people thought it corny — But I would hope a corny old sci-fi show would retain some of its corniness when being remade. Hell, for some people, this was even the first movie they ever *DIDN’T* like. I guess we’re just very accepting here, in that all these things don’t really ruin it for us.

CONCLUSION: Despite its apparently infinite flaws, we enjoyed it! There’s plenty that a lot of people complain about, but we’re both movie optimists and sci-fi enthusiasts who can never get enough voyages to space. It also probably helped that we didn’t watch the original series.

Clint: Netflix: 4/5 stars. IMDB: 8/10.
Carolyn: Netflix: 4/5 stars. IMDB: 7.4/10. (Yes, 7.4. Not 7.0. Not 7.5. She tried to say “7.5 but rounded down to 7”. But we usually round up, like the mathematical rule.)
The native public rating for this movie is Netflix: 3.1/5 stars, IMDB 4.7/10.

RECOMMENDATION: If you’re a movie optimist, and think you can ignore Matt LeBlanc’s Matt LeBlanc-ness, then this will provide you with some really good escapist entertainment. But if you are a flaw-finder, you’re gonna hate this.

MOVIE QUOTE: Dr. Zachary Smith: [to Will Robinson] Let me tell you a lesson about life, kid. There are monsters everywhere… I know, I am one.

FRIENDS’ RATINGS: Jordan really liked it. Benj didn’t like it. Ian hated it.

So… After you’ve had a house for awhile, Homeowner’s Insurance companies will snoop around your property with a camera, taking pictures to use as an excuse to drop your policy. This has happened to us twice now. Progressive is the one who just dropped us, though they farm their homeowners insurance out to Homesite, so they are the ones really to blame.

Painting the window sills? Really? They don’t want moisture-related claims. But as I’ve always understood it, homeowner’s insurance is NOT a maintenance plan, but accident coverage. If you don’t maintain your windows, and something happens because of it, it’s negligence, not an accident. The windows they complained about are on the old side of the house where we don’t even keep anything valuable – the cost of everything in our living room (front door room) probably totals less than $50. (Of course, the replacement value is higher.)  That little bit is insulting, and it’s a lot of work to repaint our window sills. We’re going ahead and totally replacing one of our windows — at a significant cost. Thing is, they only give 30 days. It’s really not enough time. So now we get to play the game of “take photos and post them and beg for them to keep us”. After all, we went with Progressive/Homesite because they had the best price!

We also had to remove the vines from our house. Most of them were dead, but the live ones – they were good to get. We had a kudzu stalk that had grown all the way up a gutter to our roof! Nothing like standing 2 storeys up on a ladder anchored on a hill with some cinderblocks, reaching up and grabbing dead vines with a pair of 2 foot “old people reaching tongs”. Times like these I’m glad some rope from the emergency tarp put on our roof around 2005 is still hanging up there – it gave me something to grab other than siding trim and window sill edges. Glad I’m not afraid of heights.

But the real issue is the trees. They don’t want trees touching your roof. We do have a big dead limb over our roof — connected to a HUGE twin white oak tree in our side (left when facing the house, right when facing out of the house) yard. There’s also a small tree in the back that we left there on purpose after our addition was built, in order to grow a root system into the soil to keep it from eroding away. Our addition is on piers – the soil really needs to remain intact, y’know.

I first looked up some articles on how to self-estimate: Ehow article 1 // Ehow article 2

I then asked all homeowners I know via email for recommendations. Following that, I did a Google Local search for “Tree removal near [MY ZIP CODE]”. Ultimately, I called *seventeen companies*.

So we decided to get estimates for:

  1. Removing the dead limb (“lead”) from the oak tree over our roof.
  2. Removing the next two highest up limbs from the same tree — simply to keep the problem from creeping up any time in the next 10 years.
  3. Removing the small pine tree in the back of our addition.

Not included is the small stuff — I did what I could with a sickle, then went back and did what I could with a hatchet, then bought a pole saw on Amazon for $86 to do the intermediate stuff (too hard to do with existing tools, too small to hire a company for). The pole saw is what Ash from Army Of Darkness wishes he had – a chainsaw at the end of a polearm, instead of a chainsaw at the end of his arm.

Anyway, here is our report on our estimates, so others can know who to bother calling first. We shall list this in order from cheapest, to most expensive, to those who did not ever even give us an estimate:

  1. $600. The Care Of Trees. 703-922-8733. Alexandria, VA. The best price we had. I had to call the central office to get a VA contractor license number (2705134904A), and they checked out. They even offered to do our minor trees for free, but I declined.
  2. $700 ($550+$250). Precision Tree Services. 703-593-4406.
  3. $870 ($695+$175). Savatree. 571-282-2500. Savatree.com.
  4. $915. Northern Virginia Tree Experts, Inc. 703-471-7607. Chantilly, VA. Recommended by my cousin Emily’s husband Chris. They were unable to give a window for an estimate, so they were unable to bother coming while I was here (even though I only left the house to eat).  I tried to make it known I needed to be there to point out the specific work to be done, but because they couldn’t give a window, they ended up having to come out twice (2 days later for the 2nd one). Not impressed with that aspect.
  5. $920 ($600+$320). Originally $1150 ($750 + $400), but they let me know there’s a 20% off special). Richard’s Tree Service. 703-354-3667. Annandale, VA. This estimate included debris removal even though I tried to make it clear that I don’t want my debris removed.  They were, however, the only company that provided a copy of their liability insurance up front. Bonus point.
  6. $975. AAA Tree Services & Landscaping. 703-719-0600. 5419 Oakwood Road, Alexandria, VA 22310. – I seem to have lost their estimate. I feel bad because I slept in and missed the first appointment (that’s why I say to call me first!), and during the 2nd appointment the guy seemed like a really cool skydiving mustached badass, the type you’d want at your back  in a dark alley during a brawl. But I have  no clue where the estimate went. I’ve got to be the worst customer ever for making them come twice and not even having the estimate! Argh! I’m slapping myself! I guess this is why I prefer email estimates to paper estimates. I found their estimate behind some furniture about 5 months after I posted this. I immediately knew it would be the lost estimate! Glad I finally found it. One unique thing that I liked about their estimate was that it specified the equipment and personnel: 1 truck, 0 cranes, 2 climbers, 4 groundsmen. I don’t think anybody else gave that info.
  7. $1000 ($750+$250). Stump Jumper. 703-356-0027.

Another estimate that is hard to compare because of a different scope:

  1. $2035 ($1785+$250+$565[not counted toward $2035 total]). Barlett Tree Experts. 703-550-6900. It’s a bit unfair to include them in the above list. The higher price is because the scope of work for this one estimate is considerably more. The middle number – $250 – for the pine tree out back – is comparable (though a bit on the high side compared to Savatree and The Care Of Trees). The $565 is for an additional tree out back that we decided not to remove. The remaining number, $1785, is to remove more than just the 3 leads – to remove everything so you can look up and see the sky. I have a feeling if the scope of this estimate was limited to be identical as #1-#5, that their price would fall within the same range, but probably on the higher side. I did email them to let them know of  The Care Of Trees $600 estimate, but they replied that they didn’t think they would be able to beat that price. No hard feelings.

Companies where I talked to a human, but they ultimately dropped the ball:

  1. Economy Tree Care. 703-497-6588. Woodbridge, VA. I’d actually used these guys before!  We’d paid them $350 tree around our power line, back when the hurricanes in the mid-2000s came and messed a lot of things up. I remember talking to the nice lady with a thick accent several times. She went out of her way to learn to say my name right and everything. Yet I guess an estimate never happened, despite us talking. I don’t know what happened. It could have been my fault – but as someone who wants my money, the onus is on them to keep calling me. They send me junk mail every year, and when I finally try to act on it – it doesn’t happen.
  2. Richard’s Tree Service. 703-354-3667. 7213 Poplar Street, Annandale, VA 22003-3011. I talked to answering service. They later called me back but I wasn’t there. I called them back and they said James will call to make an appointment. That call never happened. Or if it did – they did not leave a message on our answering machine. I am surprised how many companies miss out on an opportunity to compete simply because they are unwilling to leave a message. Especially when a company employs an answering service: You’re saying that *I* need to leave *you* a message, but *you* won’t leave *me* one? Either that or they just never called.
  3. G & V Tree Services Inc. 703-569-2570. Guy seemed very clueless. I waited for a callback and never got one.

Companies where I never even got to talk to a human being:

  1. Absolute Tree Inc. 703-969-6207. Left message with all my details – they never bothered to call back.
  2. C & W Landscaping & Tree Trimming. 703-671-9574. 3407 Haven Place, Falls Church, VA 22041-1704. Another answering machine/service company that never bothered to call back.

Company that made appointments but couldn’t keep them and couldn’t even tell if they had happened or not:

  1. Gatling Tree Service & Landscaping. 571-283-4990. Least professional company ever. When I called, there were a bunch of people in the background carrying on, talking loudly. The guy had to put me on “hold” (listening to everyone talk and laugh) for 2 minutes to find a pen & paper. When I said my name, I had to spell it. I was too fast and had to spell it even more slowly. He was unable to pronounce it right, despite having written it. (While my last name is hard, and a good 25% of people have problems with it, most people can remember it after having it spoken to them.) They couldn’t make an estimate on a specific day – simply “sometime between now and saturday”. To my knowledge, nobody came. I got a call a week later. They still couldn’t pronounce my name — but this time it was so bastardized I actually thought it was a wrong number (first time ever). He had to ask me if someone came, and I told him nobody had come, and I’d already selected someone else. They don’t even know if an estimate has been made. They don’t even know if one of their own employees made it out there. Do not deal with Gatling Tree Service.