Archive for October, 2009

My Thoughts On October

One month down 11 possible months to go. Granted I don’t have a time line for this project, it should take me about a year to complete. I am still having fun with this project. Although there have been times when doubt begins to creep in a bit, though I’ve been successful at telling myself to ignore it.

October was interesting. It was the start of curling for me and it was also the start of this project or at least the blog portion of the project. It was challenging to juggle both schedules, especially since curling demands so much of my time. However, that was part of my goal, to learn how to manage my time better. I think I did pretty well. I was successful at keeping my curling appointments, I was able to watch three movies sometimes four movies every week and I was able to keep from upsetting my wife for not doing the things that needed to be done.

I did slack in a few areas though. Because of late games and because of designing the new blog. I spent a lot of time away from home or on the computer which left me with little sleep. This had an effect on me getting up on time to hit the gym in the mornings. So I didn’t do so well there. I am going to try to do a little better when it comes to the gym next month. It’s going to be difficult because I have my trip to Canada in a few weeks. I have already planned out that month and I know I’m not going to be going to the gym that week. Instead I will be heading to work an hour early to make up the time I am going to miss on that Thursday.

Another goal I have to work on is walking our dog, Jake. I wasn’t as good as I would’ve liked about that. But other than that, I am very happy with October. I only hope November is just as good if not better.

Categories: Random Thoughts

Michael Jackson’s This is It Review

October 31, 2009 1 comment
Michael Jackson's This Is It

Michael Jackson’s This is It is one of the best documentaries of the decade.

My rating 4.5 Stars

If you have not heard of Michael Jackson odds are you are not from this planet. Because of that, I am not going to go into detail about his musical genius, the impact he has had on the music industry, pop culture and on the human race for that matter, the allegations that were raised against him or the lack of childhood and neither does the film This is It. I will talk about the film as it was meant and as it was produced. There has already been plenty of coverage on Michael Jackson’s life in the past 4 months and frankly I have been tired of it for more than 3 months. You should already be familiar with his background.

I am not a big Michael Jackson fan. In my opinion he stood for practically everything I don’t like about the music industry. Of course it is not so much Michael Jackson that I don’t like. He was an extremely gifted artist. I don’t think that we will ever see the level of commitment and entertainment from anyone ever, in our lifetime.

My real problem is with how people used him to make money. To the music industry, Michael was not a person, he was a product, a brand to sell. Jackson has been used and abused practically since birth by the music industry and even his own family. So when it came time to watch This is It, I didn’t want to be a part of that abuse. However, because I have this goal, I needed to see it. I am glad I did.

Lucky for me, this film isn’t about Michael Jackson. It is not story about him or his work or even how he died. The movie was about something else. The film is a small peek at his last job. Michael Jackson was getting ready to do a series of concerts in London. If I remember correctly, Michael would tape all of his rehearsal sessions for his own viewing. For the This is It Tour he hired Kenny Ortega to direct this filming. In case you haven’t heard, Michael died unexpectedly a few weeks before his scheduled sold out concert series. Ortega then took the footage he shot and released it as a documentary for the public. Michael Jackson’s This is It was the result of that footage.

Ortega may have been the director of the film, but Michael had total power and whatever he said went. We get to see a side of Michael that only people who have worked closely with him have seen. We get a glimpse of the artist in many scenes, but we also witness a manager and a critic, however, his critiques were always followed by a word of love. It appears that his abusive father has made him aware of how he treats his employees.

So was it any good? Yes, it really was. Some have described it as a string of concert footage. This is somewhat inaccurate. While it is true that there is hardly any real dialog, very few interviews or explanations of any sort, this wasn’t just a string of concert footage, because there was no concert. If I am going to compare this documentary to anything, it would have to be compared to a really well organized home movie, just not boring at all. The footage was extremely well edited, because it always maintained the audience’s attention, it kept itself interesting even when all you were watching was just a bunch of men talking about how they were going to accomplish some tedious task. I would not be surprised to see this movie get nominated for an Academy Award for editing.

There also aren’t any elaborate costumes in this documentary. They were mentioned, you get to see the material and the designs, but no dress rehearsals. Perhaps the costumes weren’t made yet when they shot the footage. There were no deep conversations, nobody pouring their hearts out, the film was just practice, practice, practice. What you do see is really good dancing, you hear really good music, you get to see the mind of a real artist at work and once in a while you get to see some of the people who worked for him express how thrilling it was for them to work for the King of Pop. You get to see how an artist directs people to put on a show and that was really cool for me.

I am not a huge fan of Michael Jackson, but after seeing This is It I have gained a new found respect and admiration for him. He truly was a legend. This is It is a well done documentary of that rehearsal, it was a real treat to be taken to a world that very few people know about. Even if you’re not a Jackson fan there are elements in this film that you will like. All you need is the slightest interest in the man and/or an appreciation of music and musical productions.

Echelon Conspiracy Review

Echelon Conspiracy

Echelon Conspiracy may be a little rough around the edges, but the fighting sequences were very impressive and the main story was quite interesting.

My rating 3.5 Stars

If you have never heard of Echelon Conspiracy is probably because it was only released for one week in about 400 theaters in late February 2009. The movie only made about $500,000 in the US, it actually made more money abroad where it was released for longer than a week. Believe it or not, that happens a lot with American movies.

Echelon Conspiracy is the story of a young network administrator who unexpectedly receives a cell phone by mail then soon after begins receiving strange text messages instructing him to do seemingly random things. The text messages would advise him on when stock prices would go up, when computerized slot machines would pay out and it would even tell him when to bet big during a blackjack game.

The story revolves around an investigation on trying to find out who is sending the messages. However, when the FBI learns that the messages are coming from Langley the investigation is halted. Instead they begin a different investigation to find out who has broken into Echelon, the NSA’s communication computer. The story becomes a pretty decent action adventure after the kid is finally caught. Although not perfect, the director does a good job at keeping you guessing who the good guys and the bad guys are.

The producers of this movie do an okay job at keeping the suspense through out the movie, however the acting is very week and that leads to a lot of confusion during the film. Regardless, the story is quite entertaining. I am not sure how plausible it is, but who cares, it’s a movie. While this movie wasn’t as good as Eagle Eye or Enemy of the State, it did borrow some elements from both, however they managed to keep it fresh and not appear to have been stolen.

The movie features some pretty cool fighting scenes, some of the best fighting scenes I have seen since the Bourne series. There were some decent car chases and some very cool plot twists. In all it’s not a bad film.

The film does feel a little amateurish, I am not convinced it wasn’t, but that is fine. Greg Marcks, the director of this film only has two other films under his belt. In my opinion Greg is still learning the ropes, however, I do see a good future for him.

Crossing Over Review

Crossing Over

Crossing Over is a powerful story. A bit convoluted at times, but there is plenty here to appreciate.

My rating 4.5 Stars

Am I an American or am I a human being? What is more important, my nationality or my species? It seems to me that I can change my nationality at any time, but I will always be human no matter what I do. This is a real sensitive subject and I am sympathetic to both sides. On the one hand you have people who want to come to this country to better themselves or to provide opportunities for their families or to get away from the oppression of their government. The Declaration of Independence states, “…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” I’d like to point out that this document mentions “all men” meaning everyone. It does not say just Americans.

How quickly we forget that this country was built by immigrants. Our rail road systems were built by the Chinese. Our biggest bank was started by an Italian. In fact there is not one person in this country that does not come from somewhere else. Of course, I understand the need for immigration laws. There must be laws or there will be chaos. I don’t think that anyone disagrees with that. I think the real problem is how we deal with these laws, how we apply them. They don’t seem to be fair and I don’t believe that they are very humane either.

Crossing Over is about the current laws we have in this country when dealing with illegal immigrants. This is a powerful film that tries to show the inhumane side of these laws, the loop holes, the corruption and the complete disregard of humanity. The film is not a fun movie to watch, but it is an important one. I think that everyone should be aware of what is happening, especially when it comes to how we treat aliens whether they are legal or not.

Crossing Over can be compared to Crash where there are a hundred different characters all with their individual stories and eventually it all ties in the end. Crossing Over tries to do that, though not as successfully. While the message in this film was very sound and very important, the film aspect is a little weak. We get to see some strong performances, but there is too much going on and sometimes the film loses the audience. There were so many stories being told, I only followed one or two and I dismissed the others. Perhaps that was the whole brilliance of this movie now that I think about it.

The movie starts out with a factory raid where Harrison Ford’s character has a young Mexican girl deported. There is the story of an Australian actress who is trying to get naturalized but after all her legal efforts she is forced to take other avenues that eventually get her into deep trouble. There is the Jew from the UK with a similar story. There is the Korean and Iranian family who are all just about to get naturalized but life happens and interrupts the process. Then finally the most heart breaking story of them all, a young Middle Eastern girl who attracts the attention of the FBI because of a high school paper she wrote about the 9/11 attacks. Because of this she is targeted as a terrorist and her family is torn apart.

This was so terrible to watch, because I know things like this happen all the time in this country. They happened after Pearl Harbor and we learned nothing from it. This is America, Land of the Free, where we are free to express our feelings and emotions without fear of retaliation from our government. Bullshit! It makes me so angry that instead of binding together as a nation, instead we become so paranoid and so mistrustful of others that we make laws that limit our own freedom and for what?

In this story this young girl spoke freely about her feelings on the subject of 9/11. They were strong feelings, but she should have the right to express herself. She wasn’t a terrorist and neither was her family. However, they were treated as such and the outcome fell short of being humane. If she wasn’t a terrorist then, I wouldn’t be surprised if she becomes one after. Sometimes I am really disappointed in our country.

The movie isn’t as preachy as my review. It is just showing you the misery that we are causing to these people, legal or not. Is it just, is it fair, and is it right? This movie shows you what’s going on, it leaves it up to you to decide if it is. I agree that we should do something, but maybe we’re just not approaching this from the right angle. I don’t care if it’s for the betterment of the country or not, but it is never right to break a loving family apart.

Top 10 People I Respect or Admire

October 28, 2009 2 comments

The following people are artist that have shaped my life in some way or another. They are people I respect and admire. Not only are they great entertainers who excel in their chosen profession, but they are also great humanitarians and have made a difference not only in my life, but in the lives of others.

  1. Steven Spielberg: A very accomplished Hollywood film producer and director famous for movies like E.T., Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List and many, many more. I admire Steven for his creative vision and his ability to make movie magic come to life along with his incredible talent to bring out the best in actors.
  2. Roger Ebert: One of the most respected film critics of all time. He writes a film review column in the Chicago Sun Times and he’s the first film critic to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. I admire Roger for his ability to judge film fairly and for his eloquent writing that I have enjoyed for the past 20 years. I respect him both as a movie critic and as a humanitarian.
  3. Amy Adams: A young and very talented actress whose short movie career have earned her two Academy Award nominations and has been critically acclaimed by critics for her work in many different roles. I admire Amy for her incredible talent to bring other wise 2 dimensional characters to life in a way that no one else can. She reminds me a lot of myself. She’s passionate and not afraid to work hard to excel in her line of work.
  4. Misty May-Treanor: An Olympic athlete in the sport of Beach Volleyball. I admire Misty for her sportsmanship spirit which I have never seen on anybody else ever. She is a true champion. Her ability to re-collect herself when she is down then turn it around and make it work for herself is amazing.
  5. Leo Laporte: The god of the geeks! Otherwise known as the Tech Guy. He is the one of the most sought out podcasters on iTunes. He has been a very prosperous radio talk show host and TV personality in the field of technology. When it comes to technology no one knows more. He has a way of explaining the most difficult computer or technical tasks to the average person in such way that not only does it makes sense to them, but it is not condescending in any way.
  6. George Carlin: He is a stand-up comedian who’s won several Grammy Awards for his comedy Carlin was noted for his black humor as well as his thoughts on politics, the English language, psychology, religion, and various taboo subjects. I admired him for his words, his vision and his courage to say what was on his mind in such a way that would make you laugh, but also make you think.
  7. Bill Maher: He is a political commentator and Talk Show host who is known for speaking his mind. Although he can be a little extreme at times, Bill is a good humanitarian, he believes in equal rights even when his supporters disagree with his views. He is able to have conversations with people who disagree with him and keep his composure. I envy that.
  8. Gene Roddenberry: Creator of the very popular Star Trek world. I admire Gene for his vision of a perfect future. Regardless of whether his vision was naïve or not, his vision represents a state that humans could potentially achieve, no matter how improbable it can be, it is nice to know that there is a glimmer of hope.
  9. Dr. Dre: He is a very talented rapper, and music producer. I admire him for his contribution to hip hop and his achievement in life against incredible odds. Dr. Dre came from nothing and he accomplished the American dream, he is still working and grounded in reality.
  10. Tina Fey: She’s an actress, comedian and creator of the 30 Rock show. I admire her for being one of the funniest woman on TV and movies. She is not afraid to be outrageous with her comedy, but never inappropriate.

Fired Up! Review

Fired Up!

This wasn’t a good movie, but it sure was funny and I had a lot of fun watching it. I don’t recommend this for adults, but teens should love this film.

My rating 2.5 Stars

Remember Porky’s, American Pie, Animal House and many more movies where the focus is bad sex jokes; being crude, rude, and obnoxious? Fired Up is one of those movies, however the critics hated this movie. I believe it got high 20% on the tomatometer and rightly so. This movie is no masterpiece, but then again neither are either of those other movies I just mentioned. Instead, these movies are funny, in fact, they are hysterical, their purpose is to take a taboo subject and make you laugh at it and they do that very well.

Why did the critics hate this movie? Because this movie wasn’t made for them. This movie was geared toward high school students and you know what? It works for them. This isn’t a clean movie, but it was clean enough. The movie focused on sex jokes, but surprisingly there were no sex scenes. There were jokes about drugs, but there was no drug use, at least none I can remember. Plus the movie was funny. It reminded me a lot of Dead Man on Campus actually, but a little more out there. This type of movie will not interest adults of course, but since I still consider myself a very immature adult, I found the jokes really funny. I was laughing my butt off in some scenes. I guess I just understand young people and so does Will Gluck, the director of this movie.

Fired Up is about two young boys who are very popular in school. One of them is the captain of the football team and the other is also on the team. They are best friends and they practically share the same brain and interests, which is girls, girls and more girls. They’re only goal in life is to get laid. They are very smooth with the ladies, but there is one small problem. It is senior year and they have “done” practically every girl in school. They want new flesh, so to speak. After they hear about this cheerleading camp where there were going to be 300 hot girls all for the taking, they decide to skip the boring football camp and go to this cheerleading camp instead.

Let’s be real, the movie was bad, the story was ridiculous and there were clichés up the wazoo, the cheerleading was a big joke, and there really isn’t anything interesting in this movie for adults.  However, I think the teen are going to love this film, because it’ll be fresh and funny for them, they will be entertained and you won’t have to worry about your kids watching drug use or too much nudity. It is in this instance that I would compare Fired Up with the movies I just mentioned. I can’t recommend this for the average adult. If you’re like me, sick and disturbed then by all means… But otherwise leave this one for the teens.

Categories: 2009 Movie Reviews

The International Review

The International tries a bit too hard to be a good movie, perhaps to the point where it hurts itself. It is nowhere the caliber of great movies like Breach or the Bourne series.

The International tries a bit too hard to be a good movie, perhaps to the point where it hurts itself. It is nowhere the caliber of great movies like Breach or the Bourne series.

My rating 2.5 Stars

The thriller is among my very favorite of all movie genres. I love the suspense, the action, and not knowing what is going to happen next. It is my opinion that the best part of going to see a movie is that for a few hours you can take yourself out of your life and put yourself in the middle of someone else’s. My idea of an exciting time is the nail biting experience of thrillers.

The Departed, The Bourne Identity, Breach, The Good Shepherd, Three Days of the Condor are among just a few of my favorite thrillers that I will not pass by when I come across them on the TV while flipping through channels. Each one of those movies never fails to keep me in suspense for the entire length of the film even after seeing it so many times. It’s very exhilarating! I enjoy watching those movies very much. The more real the drama the better, the more complicated the plot the better.

The International is a suspense thriller with Clive Owens and Naomi Watts. The movie is about a current investigation being conducted by the Interpol (the European equivalent to the FBI) on an international bank who is suspected of money laundering, financing terrorist, and a slew of other illegal activities. It sounded fascinating and I could not wait to watch it.

The movie starts out promising, but then takes a sharp U-turn and heads down fast the wrong way of Good Film Boulevard. I am going to be very harsh here, only because I care about these movies so much. I don’t mind cheesy acting in a comedy, I almost expect it. But when it comes to a serious suspense drama, cheese is not an option. Clive Owen did okay, I think he was held back by the script which I didn’t think was written very well. The dialog in the script was very hokey. It looks like it was written by someone who has no idea how the industry works. It was tacky and very boring.

Then there is Naomi Watts. I was not impressed with her character at all. I don’t know if it was her acting or her character development, but I never found her believable in the least. Her character was very flat and uninteresting, her lines were a joke and they never really went anywhere with her.

However, all of this pales in comparison to the story. While the plot is very intriguing, the story is not. It was obvious that they kept trying to keep you in suspense, but it never really worked. I was two steps head of them the whole time and if I could do that, anyone can. There were moments that they tried using the camera angle to deceive you about the current scene. I hate when they do that. They assume that just because you can’t see it that the character on the screen can’t either. I like to call that the Squirrel Tactic. Squirrels assume that if they can’t see the danger, there is none, thus when a hunter is stalking them they hide around objects. If they can’t see their hunter, they are safe. I don’t like this approach to movie making, it’s not believable and every time I watch it I feel insulted.

I am really disappointed in this film. I have yet to see a good thriller this year and I was hoping that this would be it. Now, would I recommend you watch this movie? That all depends on your taste. It’s not a horrible movie, I didn’t care for it because it wasn’t done up to my standards. However, I can be very picky. If you love the Bourne series, this movie may not do anything for you.

To be fair, the movie does offer some plot twists and some interesting action sequences. However, the plot twist I saw coming from a mile away and the action wasn’t enough to take away from the bad script.

Categories: 2009 Movie Reviews
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