Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Movie Review: “Red Dawn”

   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: 

   Chris Hemsworth (Thor) was well cast for the role set before him. It didn’t call for too much acting range...but was believable enough that he’ll probably have no complaints about his characterization. If only the same could be said of Josh Peck. I wasn’t sold for a single second by his performance...or lack thereof. It seemed as though he had a permanent smirk on his face no matter what the situation or emotional state. For me, he actually detracted from the film. Josh Hutcherson (Hunger Games) played a very good supporting role and was the comic relief (or as much as could be given the dire situation). Jeffery Dean Morgan was a welcome edition to the cast and was more than adequate at delivering veteran on a mission that only the Wolverines could pull off.

The Plot:

   It’s really unnerving to contemplate the United States being invaded and occupied. It was unsettling when the original movie came out in 1984, and is just as unsettling now...even if the plot is a bit more unrealistic than it was in 1984.

   North Korea has invaded the United States and taken over the West Coast and Midwest by using a new device that disables electronics and communications. Later we learn Russia has taken the East Coast at the same time. Jed Eckert (Hemsworth) and his brother escape the initial invading force parachuting in, along with a few others, and head for the woods to collect their bearing on what is happening.

   Jed, being ex-military, organizes the group by training them in the ways of guerrilla warfare when they decide that fighting back is a better option than surrender...especially after they witness the death of their father at the hands of the brutal Korean magistrate, Captain Cho. What follows is a series of events that inspire the American spirit, and shows what will and determination can accomplish in the face of insurmountable odds.

The Verdict: 

   Anyone a fan of the original, and expecting it to be exactly the same, will be a bit disappointed. it’s essentially the same movie as it shares the same basic premise as the Unites States being invaded and occupied by a “red” country...but there are some subtle differences that separate the two films.

   One of those differences is the calibre of acting. Patrick Swayze was a great actor, and although Hemsworth holds his own, many of the rest of the cast just couldn’t deliver like the supporting cast of the original. Josh Peck was a particular let down for me.

   On a positive note, the special effects were excellent...something the original can never compare to just by virtue of time and technology. The explosions were big and impactful, something fully expected given the subject material.

   Although the film isn’t a total loss, it wasn’t the big blockbuster I expected it to be. It didn’t deliver the same impact of the original, in part due to the shock value that only seeing the original for the first time could achieve. It didn’t do a lot of make too much sense given the way the technology of today can find people, but with a suspension of belief, it did manage to do one thing. It was entertaining enough to float 2 1/2 cinnamon sticks in my hot tea. Drink responsibly...and with an open mind.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Quiet Recession, Shhhh...Don’t Tell.

   At this point, nobody should have to tell anybody else we are living in tough times. I’ll grant that there are many people that aren’t feeling the pinch of the economy as badly as others, but unless they live under a rock and have no access to any news...or other people, then they should be aware that there are people suffering economically. Nowadays, we try to assign blame instead of looking for solutions...but that’s another post. This post is about the recession, that isn’t happening.

  Somebody reading this just disagreed with my last sentence (as well you should) since there very much is still a recession going’s just quiet. It’s not plastered all over the media outlets as “recession,” instead we hear about the fiscal cliff and other stories that take our focus elsewhere. The problem with that is sooner or later, the changes incurred by the quiet recession are going to be noticed.

   If you haven't noticed already, then look around in your daily life and take notice. Observe all the little changes that have occurred...and realize that it is a sign of the economic times. The recession didn’t go away, everyone just stopped talking about it. I don’t know why, perhaps we are starting to get used to having to do more with less...or just doing less with less? Maybe we decided that life is the way it is, and complaining about it won’t make it change? Perhaps we actually still do have these types of conversations, but our rumblings just aren’t newsworthy or don’t make good headlines? Whatever the case may be, the signs are all around us...all we have to do is look.

   Ever stop to wonder why your favorite dish at your favorite restaurant just doesn’t taste the same anymore? It could be due to a change in cooks, but it could also be due to the fact that the restaurant has had to make some tough financial decisions to stay in business...and they’ve changed their supplier. They had to go with a cheaper brand, or different cut of meat, and now your favorite dish doesn’t resemble anything of why it became your favorite to begin with.

   In addition to all that, have you noticed that eateries are serving smaller portions? I used to love this nice Mediterranean place near me...ate there at least once a week. So it didn’t go unnoticed when the portions on the plate I ordered all the time became considerably smaller...but the price stayed the same. An example of doing more with less? Not really, just charging the same while serving less. It’s just one of the many corners that will be cut by eateries surviving the quiet recession.

   There’s another store I frequent (to be honest, I frequent a lot of stores...frequently) and notice that now their plastic bags are so thin, I can see right through them. I often ask to have my items double-bagged, and the employees must be trained not to do it because the reaction I get is akin to if I had asked them for their debit card and pin number. I simply want to make sure my goods don’t end up all over the street when the bag breaks. Thinner bags are saving the company money...and many don’t even notice this sign of a quiet recession.

   How about coupons? It seems increasingly people are turning to them to save whatever they can. I’ll advocate this any day...even when things are going well, because it’s never a bad idea to keep more of your money while getting the things you need and want. However, I’ve notice that company created coupons are not as plentiful as before, and offer less savings. One store I go to regularly gives out birthday coupons to all the regular customers. This year my envelope was considerably lighter than all the previous years...and the savings isn’t what it used to be.

   Shhhh....a recession really isn’t happening. If it were, we’d be hearing about it on the news and reading about it in the paper. After all, everything we are told is true, and we can’t trust our lying eyes. So close them and repeat after me: there is no recession. Shhhh.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Pain of Success

   Success...what does it really mean? Perhaps a more important question is what does it really mean to you? For a long time I had an image of “success” as living on easy street...but as it turns out, there is nothing easy about achieving success. For me, and perhaps for many others, it is a daily grind paid for with blood, sweat and tears. To be successful, you need to ask yourself one very important question: How bad do you want it?

   It’s tough to get a measure of emotion. How do you accurately measure one person’s feelings against the same feelings in another? There is an old saying, actions speak louder than words...and it’s generally accepted that the person doing something about how they feel is probably more vested in that feeling than the person just sitting around talking about it. I could be wrong though, emotions can run very deep. Desire is a very profound emotion, responsible for many acts, both good and bad. A person with a desire for success...pretty much describes nearly everyone. A person doing something to fill that desire describes someone that has answered the question of how bad they want it.

   How bad do you want it? I keep coming back to this because it’s so important. I was recently in a conversation with my son, and he told me a story he heard from a motivational speaker (I can’t remember whom). The story goes something like this...but probably not exactly:

   An old guru offers to reveal the secret to make millions of dollars. a young man takes the offer and is instructed to meet the guru at the beach early the next morning. The young man arrives, dressed in a suit. He is instructed to walk out into the ocean. As he does so, he begins to question the guru on how this will make him rich. The guru stays firm for him to continue walking into the ocean. The young man questions the guru when the water is at his waist and again when it is at his neck. The guru is adamant in telling the man that if he wants to be rich, if he wants to be successful, then he must continue to walk. Finally the man walks far enough that he falls beneath the surface...and he begins to thrash about wildly. The guru grabs the man and brings him to the surface...and reveals the secret of success. He asks the man what he wanted most when he was thrashing about. The young man replies that all he wanted was to be able to breath. The guru then retorts, when he wants success as badly as he wanted to breath...when it becomes as important as his very next breath, then...and only then, will he achieve his goal.

   Now...success for everyone isn’t being filthy rich (although a good segment of the population wouldn’t mind having that particular problem), but the lesson is a good one. How bad do you want it? The person desiring success while sitting on the couch talking about it isn’t drowning to have it. Speaking about drowning...many may not realize it, but it’s a very painful way to die. It ends in cardiac arrest. So...”drowning” for success comes with a lot of pain.

   Just watch an episode of Shark Tank and catch any one of the “sharks” talking about what they had to go through to become multi-millionaires and billionaires, and it becomes evident that there was a lot of pain involved in the process.

   Let me reiterate...success is different for everyone and you have to define what it means to you. In today’s society, for many,  success is maintaining a roof over your head and food on the table for your children. Your personal measure for success isn’t as important as what you are willing to do to attain it...which isn’t as important as actually doing whatever is necessary.

   The pain of bad do you want it?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Caught Behind A Subaru

   Life for me is a constant series of interesting observations. Many of them serve no purpose except to entertain my short attention span, but I occasionally make a few that make me contemplate the possibility that there is something more profound to what I’m observing. A frequent venue for my observations is the wondrous world of traffic. Since I spend a lot of time in it, it’s only logical. My latest observation took place behind a Subaru.

   I hate being behind a Subaru. I‘m an aggressive driver, always more interested in getting where I’m going rather than spending the time trying to get there. I see empty stretches of road as places I need to be, that need to be used, that the rubber in my tires can express the joy of physical contact. So trust me when I say that being behind the driver of a Subaru is counter to this mindset. Let me apologize in advance to all my friends and fact, any reader of this that drives a Subaru. This post isn’t personal...or should I say, not an intentional personal attack. 

   I think it’s important to understand what Subaru means. Perhaps this might reveal why a certain cluster of people are drawn to drive one. "Subaru" is the Japanese word for the star cluster Pleiades that is depicted in the Subaru company logo. It also means "unite" in Japanese. how does this relate to the driving style of those that choose this brand of vehicle? Oh wait...they all drive like they are really looking up at the stars instead of at the road!

   Maybe it’s me. Perhaps I’m deficient and need to sing “I Feel Pretty” when driving. Always one to entertain every possibility, I’ll make sure I pick up Jack Nicholson on my next trip, for encouragement. However, perhaps it’s not just me. Perhaps Subaru drivers really are the most passive people to ever get behind the wheel. Maybe they really have nowhere to go...and every drive is a Sunday drive. I don’t know, I’ve never asked...but I have made some interesting observations.

   The speed limit is a stone tablet with the acceptable speed engraved in it, that constantly smashes the windshield of the Subaru driver. This ensures they don’t go even one mile per hour more over it.

   Subaru drivers are avid readers, and find license plates particularly interesting reads. This explains why, no matter what the circumstance, they always allow other vehicles to cut in front of, or continue ahead of them.

   Turning on red isn’t an option for a Subaru driver, like the rest of us. There is a secret code of conduct punishable by death if violated. This explains why they never, ever, turn on red.

   An addendum to the speed limit is the rule (presumably also punishable by death) that states they MUST drive the prescribed speed limit in the left lane, and must never, ever...move into the right lane so that faster traffic can pass.

   Green lights are a trick of Satan...and must never be trusted. This explains why Subaru drivers apply the brakes and slow down when approaching a sustained green light. Green doesn’t mean “go” means “no.” While other drivers are trying to make the light, Subaru drivers are also trying to make the light...the red light. seems Subaru drivers are indeed united...and stargazing is the perfect compliment to driving in traffic. I know, I can hear you now “Subaru drivers are the safest drivers” but how safe do they make the road when they have everyone trying to pass them...and dreading having to be stuck behind them? How safe are any of us if the unwritten rules of the road are never written...and thus never followed?