Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Movie Review: “Jack Reacher”

   I am an ardent fan of the cinematic arts. Although I have certain genre preferences, I don’t let that stifle my curiosity and close myself to different flavors of entertainment. That said...I am a huge fan of science fiction, super hero and action movies! Please visit my other blog The Boxed Office for reviews, exclusively, on these types of movies.

The Cast: 

   Tom Cruise is a bona fide action star. It’s obvious that he’s been taking martial arts for a while now, and takes his fight scenes very seriously for entertainment value and accuracy. It shows in all of his films, so it isn’t just the’s him also. He has great range as an actor, but this role didn’t require him to really stretch as the meat and potatoes of the role was mostly an emotionally guarded man prone to extreme violence.

   Rosamund Pike plays the naive attorney swept up in more than she ever imagined could be going on. Again, there was no real requirement of depth needed to convey the foundation of the character...and Pike was more than adequate for the script she was handed.

   Robert Duvall is simply classic. Whenever I see him now, I see a seasoned actor that brings more to any role than what was handed to him on paper. Although his part on this film is smaller than others not mentioned in this post, his special brand of expertise he brings to his craft certainly eclipses the rest of the cast.

The Plot:

   Five random and innocent people are murdered one morning by a military sniper with seemingly no motive. The evidence makes it an easy catch for the police and the case is all but a success for conviction...except the accused killer insists that he is innocent. Further, he has only one request...get Jack Reacher.

   Reacher, having seen the story on the news, is already on is bury Barr (the accused sniper) as per a promise made years before. A man that has gone completely off the grid, Reacher can’t be found, can’t be tracked and with no cell phone, credit cards, bills, or anything resembling modern technology, he is the closest thing to an invisible man anyone can possibly be.

   Everything seems to be in order except...Reacher has some questions that nobody has asked, and nobody can seem to answer. Some pieces of the case don’t fit and so Reacher decides to start his own independent investigation...and is quickly recruited by the defense attorney (Pike) to help prove that Barr is innocent.

   Along the way, Reacher makes an ally of a shooting range owner named Cash (Duvall) in what turns out to be a far more dangerous and complicated situation than just a military sniper gone awry. With seemingly random people trying to kill Reacher, and eventually the police out to “apprehend” him...Jack Reacher must call on all his detective, military and martial arts skills to uncover the truth...and leaves a trail of blood, broken bones and burnt wreckage in his wake.

The Verdict: 

   Recent events have put a damper on the current way we view gratuitous violence...and the opening sequence of this film certainly hit a cord. It was tough to watch, and only got more profound when the director dangled the possibility that a child was in danger. That said, it set the tone for the rest of the film regarding the evil Reacher was going up against

   I’ve never read any of the books, but read much of the criticism some had that Cruise did not resemble the description of Reacher in the book. Even if i had read the books, I still would be pleased with Cruise’s performance as he brought the presence of Jack Reacher to life...albeit in his own way.

   He was unassuming in his posture, yet confident in his presentation. Analyzing everything with Sherlock Holmes type attention to detail brought a quality to the character that was only enhanced when he would calmly deliver dialogue, seemingly in contrast to imminent situations. The bar scene and ensuing fight outside was an instant classic. The real beauty in this scene was that it was not isolated...but indicative of the entire film.

   A softer side of Reacher wasn’t seen until he interacted with Duvall’s character. The veteran Duvall delivered on the small role he was provided and gave Reacher an extension of his influence when it came time to tie up all the loose ends. A movie that delivers on pure entertainment value, with a plot that is not too profound, but acted upon by characters that was better than I expected it to be. Although heavy at times, the action and seemingly unintended comedy, were an excellent offset and soaked three and a half (3 1/2) cinnamon sticks, out of five (5),  in this action packed cup of tea.

Monday, January 28, 2013

I’m a Potato Head

   I envision many of you that know me, reading the title of this post and chuckling to yourselves “ are.” Hardy-har-har. I knew when I wrote the title that many would take the cheap shot and I welcome it...this time. The joke aside, I must admit that I have a great love of potatoes. It has become one of those foods that I can never see myself doing without. So imagine my surprise to learn just how wonderful potatoes can be. Brace yourselves...this is going to be a pro potato post.

   First, let me start off by saying that I LOVE french fries. Let me also say that this must be one of the unhealthiest ways to eat a potato besides it being in the form of a chip in a bag. To be fair, hand cut baked fries are very healthy, but who thinks of this method when thinking about french fries? Most of us think about McDonalds fries when thinking about french fries...but I don’t think we could get any further from a potato, as a potato, than that! The whole idea of “frying” anything is certainly not the optimal way to cook, but damn us for being human and having it taste good to us. I’ve just gotten wise to the idea of baking homemade french fries...lightly seasoned and sprinkled with olive oil...oh yeah!

   Now let me throw this disclaimer out very quickly in lieu of that last comment. If during the reading of this post, you get’s NOT my fault. You should have eaten something before reading.

   As the title suggests, I love to eat potatoes. I don’t think there is any form besides raw that I would not eat them in (I mean, aside from the obvious health hazard of certain fast food chain variations). I recently have begun a serious roasting binge...after discovering purple potatoes. I’ve seen them in bags of chips before, y’know the kind that come in the fancy bag and are a bit pricey, but I’ve never been to a store that actually sold them...until recently.

   I must say I was smitten with their taste, and was inspired to tale their talent further. So now I cut them up along with regular white potatoes, red potatoes...and sweet potatoes, season them and add a dab of olive oil, and let them cook for about an hour and a half while I cut up the rest of my ingredients (not going to share all my secrets, so just use whatever vegetables you like). Add the veggies, cook a bit longer and viola! A meal fit for a king...especially in my castle!

   Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some high end chef or one of these television personalities that cooks for a living (although I do cook to live), I’m just a guy that has a serious love of the spud. So I’m genuinely hurt at what the fast food industry does to my little buddies. They already get a bad wrap from those trying to lose weight and are being blamed, in part, for diabetes (not true by the way). Just ask the guy that ate twenty of them...and only them, for sixty days straight. Granted, it wasn’t the most scientific presentation since we don’t know his condition and lifestyle before he went on the spud fast, but the point is if they were as bad as some would claim...this kind of experiment would reveal it methinks.

   Speaking of the health value of potatoes, let me finish this by dropping a few little known facts about my favorite food. An unsalted baked potato with skin has no fat, no cholesterol, only 30 milligrams of sodium, 7 grams of protein, is a good source of Vitamin C and B6. has more potassium than a banana! So...dig in, and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Fitness War

   Every day people go to war...with themselves. Someone somewhere is deciding that they’ve had enough of the person they are, and have committed themselves to becoming the person they want to be. It’s a look in the mirror one morning that does it, or the harsh teasing of a child not meaning to really harm...but still cutting deep. It’s the ribbing of a co-worker seeking a few laughs, at the expense of feelings. It’s finally realizing that the heavy breathing after a flight of stairs just shouldn’t be regarded as normal...and thus ignored. There are millions of stories, but it only takes one to be the motivator for going to fitness war.

   Fitness is a big deal to many people. If you disagree, then you must not be noticing the increasing number of gyms opening up everywhere. Three have opened within five miles of my the last month! It seems people are becoming more aware about health in general and are seeing being fit as (and correctly so) a large part of the total health picture. Of course there are those that do it for their own vanity, but the reasons don’t really matter, when a person gets serious about changing their physicality, it’s a declaration of war from themselves.

   You might think I‘m exaggerating when I call it a war, and maybe I am. I know for myself, the term is very accurate because  that’s the attitude I have to take if I want to stay motivated and reach the goals I set for myself. There is always a small part of me, a tiny voice that whispers the joys of doing something other than punishing myself...especially when the effort gets really hard. But then there is another part of me that looks upon quitting with contempt and disdain, and actively seeks to find the small voice of incomplete that it can be silenced with extreme prejudice. Yes...for me the fitness war is a raging battle on the field of my body.

   Life being what it is, I can’t assume I’m the only one that goes through this. So the question isn’t one of establishing that there is a war raging within when seeking a path to fitness. The question is how do we win this war. The simple answer is one battle at a time. The more complex answer involves picking your battles wisely, and executing that little voice of incomplete joy...along with a sound battle plan that works for you.

   Know your body. Know yourself. If you know you have no interest in running and have always been put off by it in the past, resulting in the incomplete joy of, say, drinking a beer instead of that run...then perhaps you need to ride a bike, rollerblade, pogo-stick, skateboard...whatever, as long as you remain active! With all the options being offered as the path to fitness, there has to be something, or even a combination or compilation of somethings, that will be a good “fit’ for you.

   I always like to start with the basics...

2.) Plenty of rest

3.) Regular exercise

4.) A positive attitude   

   Now there will be many opinions on just exactly what a healthy diet is...but instead of arguing the point, let’s concede to what an unhealthy diet is, and avoid those practices. Getting rest is easier said than done, but relaxing the mind and letting the body recover by getting the proper amount of sleep is a larger component than most people think. Without rest there is no recovery...and without recovery, there is no progress.

   Now...regular exercise is another point with many opinions. Again though, there will be a concession that constantly being sedentary either in front of a computer or television doesn’t promote good health. That said...let’s agree that being physically active (outside of your regular daily routine life movements) regularly will be an improvement and have a positive impact on your overall health.

   Lastly...and yes, most importantly, is your attitude. Without the right attitude, this whole process never gets started. Without continuing to have a positive attitude, it won’t be maintained...and maintaining a lifestyle that promotes health and fitness is exactly how you win the fitness war. Victory is a daily event...and only you can concede defeat to yourself.

   Are you ready to do battle...?

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Changing Face of You

   I’m starting to think of myself as a “change” advocate because I always seem to find myself writing or speaking about it. I’m never one to say that change is always good, or bad...but that change simply always is. It happens if we want it to or not, for example...Happy New Year! Regardless if you wanted a new year, it’s here to stay for 344 more days (as of this posting). Many people make resolutions for the new year. Perhaps you’ve looked ahead at 2013 and decided that some changes were going to occur? Well...if so, I hope they are all positive and they all come to pass, but I’m also here to tell you that change was going to happen anyway. let me get this out of the way so I can concentrate on another aspect of change that I find is more in-line with the arrival of the new year. On a very basic level, change is always happening. With each word of this you read, there is a change (as simple as your eyes viewing one word to the next, to the complex thought process these words evoke). Every breath brings change. Every passage of every moment is change from one moment to the next. The point being change will occur...we cannot stop it, we cannot control it as a whole. So now that we got that out the way, lets dig into the meat and potatoes of the changes we can control.

   Your personal choices are the catalyst for the changes you control. Many people, no doubt, decided (once again) that the new year is going to be the year they take charge of their health and fitness...and went out and joined a gym. Others may have decided that they would put more effort into their business endeavors with the goal of being independently wealthy. I could list resolution after resolution and they would all have the same basic ring to them of people deciding to change themselves for the better. A self imposed decision to make a personal improvement. Applaud yourselves for taking the first step in the right direction...then get to the hard work of making the decision to change take effect.

      The truth is that the changing face of you is a constant process that will happen to your desires according to how much of the control you want to relinquish...and how much you want to retain. If you have decided that you want to lose thirty pounds this year, and to do that you will take it upon yourself to diet and exercise...and after said decision, you actually change your diet and exercise regularly, then it’s safe to say that you are on the road to successfully reaching your goal. You will control this particular aspect of your changing face...and any slips in your routine, any lapses in your diet, will also contribute to the change that will happen...although these contributions won’t compliment your goal.

   Since there are so many elements of change that will remain out of our control, I implore you to take as much control as possible in causing positive change in your life. All change isn’t good, but even a change that doesn’t seem good at the moment might result in being good for you in the long run. Who among us can tell the future? I’ve tried, but lets be real, if I had any substantial consistent success in future predictions, you’d be reading about me in Fortune 500. Instead, I can share by experience that a “bad” change can actually turn out good. For me, catching chicken pox at age twenty-six was bad (a understatement if ever there was one)...but because of that, I quit smoking and maintained a smoke-free lifestyle ever since.

   The changing face of you is the experience of living your life. It’s a journey we all take together, while simultaneously taking alone. The face you see can be a face mostly of your making, or that of a stranger that left the sculpting of their visage to be dictated by circumstances that didn’t have to run amok. Change happens regardless of choice...but choice can dictate the nature of some change, so get about the business of dictating. Probably the only time that being a dictator is a positive thing.