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Movie Review: No Strings Attached February 18, 2011

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Netflix Synopsis: Emotionally unencumbered and sexually satisfied, friends with benefits Emma (Natalie Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher) have an open relationship that suits them just fine. That is, until those pesky little things called feelings enter the picture. Ivan Reitman directs and Kevin Kline and Cary Elwes co-star in this comedy that explores the perks and pitfalls of modern romance.

Ashton Kutcher is a bit of cult figure in the world today. I think people either love him or hate him. And Natalie Portman is probably considered a more serious actress and one the smarter celebrities out there today. You would think they would make a bit of an odd couple. Well, I must admit that I fall on the love side of Kutcher. Granted a lot of movies he has been included on have been less memorable, but last year’s “Valentine’s Day” and the year before that he produced and starred in “Spread” both of which were quite good. I am not sure how I missed them both in my reviews. (Maybe I was previously embarrassed to admit my love of the Kutch?)

This is another good role for Kutcher. Unlike “Spread,” but exactly like “Valentine’s Day” he plays the unexpected good guy, who is not supposed to get the girl. Unexpected, Portman plays the baggage laden medical resident. Their characters make for an odd pairing, but as luck would have it, opposites attract. And their duel acting skills and Kutcher’s on screen charm produces an perfect chemistry match. The back and forth for the relationship was a little tired, but it is still fun to watch.

It is better than many of the other movies out there in this category. I would definitely recommend this movie for people looking for a fun, fresh comedy. Let me know if you have seen it or plan to see it. I would love to have your take.

I turned Green today – JUST DO IT! April 15, 2010

Posted by shwaldman in Family, Fitness, Society, Uncategorized, Work.
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I have now completed 158 miles with my Nike+ and ipod Touch. That puts me into the Green Level… only 463 miles until I move onto Blue.

I ran the trails on the local park. It was a nice day and I managed to push the pace a little bit with a couple of surges. But after about 20 minutes, I started to feel a bit tired and empty.

Today’s listen was yet another Jillian Michaels radio show from a couple of years ago – they really are timeless. There was nothing specific about this podcast that I want to remember, but one thing occurred to me after. She talks a lot about BMR and calories in versus out, intensity of workouts and changing it up to keep the body working harder to adapt. Blah blah blah. What it really comes down to is just doing the work and making the change.

If you want to accomplish something, you have to start somewhere. And you keep going until you get there. If you give up before you have accomplished your goals, you have to evaluate how important those goals are to you. Lately, I have not had major goals to shot for from professional and personal levels. This has gotten me down a bit and level me with a lack to direction. Having recently recognized this, I am trying to figure out what I want and give me something to work toward.

We all WANT a lot of things and we NEED other things. The question is, after you have fulfilled your needs, how to do prioritize your wants and then lay them out in a way that you can be successful in accomplishing them. I think the problem many of us have is that there is no one way to achieve a goal. This is why I think you have to start moving toward the goal, if you don’t know what the step after that will be. Sometimes progress is progress and you can make adjustments along the way.

What do you think?

Hotel Review: The Venetian February 25, 2010

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Okay, this may be as much of a summary of our whole trip, but hopefully I will be able to relay my general feelings about the hotel, too.

Last year at this time, I insisted we plan a getaway for February 2010. We tried to plan it this weekend and that weekend. We had trouble finding a good deal. We had trouble getting someone to watch the boys and dogs. Finally, in January, Kim was able to pull it all together and got us a good deal at a five star hotel. She found it through BookIt.com.

Because of six inches of snow the morning of our flight (our largest snow thus far for the year), we got to the airport nice and early. Unfortunately, we were slow out of the gate, on the wrong side of the airport (it took 20 minutes to drive to the de-icing pad) and then it took another 30 minutes to de-ice the plan. That ate up all but 20 minutes of our lay-over in Charlotte. However, luck was on our side and we made it to our gate and our connection left on time. Seven hours of travel and we were in Las Vegas – 60 degrees is better than 20!

Right away, we were reminded what Vegas is all about. When we got on our shuttle, a “travelling salesman” jumped on. We went on with this spiel about how if we check out this new timeshare condo, we could get tickets to shows. We had a bad experience doing that on our first trip in 2003, so it set the tone for the weekend. Annoying!

We got to the hotel and went right to check in. The hotel clerk was very nice, but tried to up sell us from our package… $30/night more for this room… $100/night for that one… want a king instead of two queens… $30/night. Kim had spent a lot of time checking out all the rooms and different areas of the hotel, so we were good with what we had. We passed on all options.

But that did put doubt into our mind and we went to our room thinking it wasn’t going to be all that special. When we got there, it was what I would describe as beautifully decorated, classical Venetian style. It is was I would picture for an old Italian hotel with very nice furnishings. But I think it might have felt a little too old and cluttered. It also had a lovely view of the parking structure. So, we called the front desk and asked again about our options. We got an outstanding clerk who patiently walked us through all kinds of possibilities and at little or no additional cost… huh? OK! (That doesn’t seem like a thing five star hotel should be doing, but, whatever, this is Vegas, Baby!)

So, we opted to upgrade to the newly renovated tower, called the Palazzo. This was essentially a different hotel and casino with a more contemporary style. They were adjoining, so it was just a matter of trekking across an entire city block to get there. The new room, had a king bed (no charge) and was nicely decorated and clean. And it also had a great view of the Wynn golf course (some of the view green in the area) and the mountains in the background. (I will try to post the picture, although the colors do not come through well out the hotel room window.)

All the hotel’s amenities were nice. It was pain going from our room to our continental breakfast back in the “other hotel.” It was a very basic setup there, but allowed me to fill up and make it through to dinner time. I am not completely sure why they wouldn’t allow us to have it in our new section – but it was a nicer hotel and think we just didn’t warrant the additional upgrade. Yeah, we are NOT high rollers!

Unfortunately, in February, the weather is not quite warm enough to use the pools, so we did not even check it out. I did visit the spa/fitness rooms (yea, they have two large rooms for the two hotels). They were very well equipped. I felt more comfortable using the smaller, simpler room. But the larger fitness room had a four-story rock wall and tons of cardio machines as well as lot of weight machines. And it was a beautiful open room. No charge for them, which is good, because I was disappointed by the hours they were open – closed at 8pm? – I thought Vegas didn’t sleep! But they do offer access to their spa area for a fee that sounded reasonable for access to whirlpools and spas, if you want to use it for the whole day.

Next up, I need to write up my reviews of the two shows we saw. Part of our package deal for the hotel was the “Jersey Boys” which is right in the hotel. And we used the half price discounted ticket off (40% off actually) to get tickets to the Cirque du Soleil show called “Love.”

Movie Review: The Boy In the Striped Pajamas January 10, 2010

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Netflix Synopsis: When his family moves from their home in Berlin to a strange new house in Poland, young Bruno (Asa Butterfield) befriends Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), a boy who lives on the other side of the fence, where everyone seems to be wearing striped pajamas. Unaware of Shmuel’s fate as a Jewish prisoner or the role his own Nazi father plays in his imprisonment, Bruno embarks on a dangerous journey inside the camp’s walls.

WOW! For anyone that in anyway felt Schindler’s List was good movie (it won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture), this is a MUST SEE movie. Of course, the topic of story is emotional and disturbing. But the first 95% of the movie put a face on the horrible events of this time. It brought forward the moral conflicts that went on within the family and the realizations of what happening and what the Nazis were doing.

The age of innocence – the viewpoint of the two eight year-old children make this movie enjoyable. Without a doubt, the emotions and internal conflicts that the characters endure were heartbreaking. But this representation of our world’s history can not be ignored and, I think, this movie is a good way to keep that conversation alive with new generations – at the appropriate age, of course. I certainly plan to pull this movie back out when the right time comes for my boys. History should never repeat itself!

Movie Review: The Girlfriend Experience January 8, 2010

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Netflix Synopsis: Filmed in about two weeks on a budget of less than $2 million, director Steven Soderbergh’s experimental feature focuses on the life of a high-priced New York City call girl, played by bona fide porn star Sasha Grey. The movie tells its tale in nonlinear fashion, throwing random scenes at the viewer, who must piece together the puzzle to understand the story. Other than Grey, the actors are nonprofessionals who improvised many of their scenes.

Surprising this was a really good film. It has the same production quality as a huge budget film. It wasn’t as much about acts as it was about emotions. Even though it was presented in such a “non-linear” fashion, the movie really flowed. It was not as confusing and hard to follow as other movies that try this. I am not sure if it was because of the storyline or the presentation, but it was kind of suspense in trying to figure out how the characters were going to develop and react.

Of course, it was almost like a documentary, but Sasha Grey was excellent. Not that I have ever seen her other work, in no way did this feel like a porn. She was sexy and her emotions felt real and her performance was on par with any other top actress. I look forward to seeing her in other feature films.

Movie Review: Fool’s Gold January 1, 2010

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Netflix Synopsis: Charming but luckless treasure hunter Ben Finnegan (Matthew McConaughey) has sacrificed his relationship with his wife (Kate Hudson) to search for the Queen’s Dowry, a legendary treasure lost at sea. But the discovery of a new clue rekindles his hope for riches — and his marriage. Donald Sutherland, Ray Winstone and Malcolm-Jamal Warner also star in this rousing high-seas adventure from director Andy Tennant.

Another Hudson and McConaughey movie… the independent roles were perfect for each of them, however; they have had movies that expressed better chemistry. It felt like they were brother and sister more than a married/divorcing couple. That said, the rest of the movie was good, not great, but good. The action scenes were fun and the scenery of Key West made it warming… especially as we head into a cold winter here in Michigan. I am not sure if this is a recommendable movie, but as long as you are looking for a ROMANTIC comedy, you will probably enjoy this one.

Movie Review: Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakuel January 1, 2010

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Saw it in the theater, but…Netflix Synopsis: Alvin (voiced by Justin Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler) and Theodore (Jesse McCartney) are back, along with their careworn manager, Dave (Jason Lee), and this time they have competition: The Chipettes (Anna Faris, Christina Applegate and Amy Poehler), hired by Dave’s nemesis, Ian Hawke (David Cross). Cameron Richardson, Zachary Levi and Wendie Malick also lend their voice talents for this good-time live-action/CGI sequel.

Not really much to say about this one. It was cute. It was fun. The storyline kept my five-year old enthrawled. I was interested to see after the fact that the voices were done by relatively top name stars. Given the high-pitch modifications that were done none of the chipmunk voices were recognizable. It certainly may have added to the marketability of the film (though not in my case), but I am sure it also increased the cost of production.

In any case, this was a cute movie for kids interested in the Alvin and the Chipmunks characters. They were fun and it was enjoyable, although for me, it only made sense to see it as a matinee. The cost of the prime time show would not have been worth it. It would be fine to wait until it came out on DVD, too.

Movie Review: Management January 1, 2010

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Netflix Synopsis: Golden Globe winner Jennifer Aniston stars in this comedic tale as a traveling art saleswoman who makes the mistake of her life when she shares a one-night stand with a dim-witted motel manager (Steve Zahn) who takes to following her all around the country. Woody Harrelson and Fred Ward also star in this romantic comedy from writer-director Stephen Belber.

This movie was funny, but not just in a “ha ha” ROTFL kind of way. The casting of Aniston was interesting because it was similar to her role on Friends where she played a unsatisfied, underachiever. But as a celebrity, she has this aura of excellence and superiority that confuse the characters she plays. Steve Zahn on the other hand, was perfect casting. However, I did feel like his character’s personal growth over the course of the movie was inconsistent and felt overly accelerated. And Woody Harrelson played the complicated bully.

I felt this movie was enjoyable and sad and funny. It was worth time spent watching it. Given the awkward nature of the Anniston and Zahn’s characters, I am not sure the chemistry was 100% believable. But I think that is in part what made this movie interesting.

Movie Review: Adventureland December 8, 2009

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Netflix Synopsis: Unable to afford the European vacation he’d dreamed of, recent college grad James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) reluctantly takes a gig at a local amusement park, only to learn that the dead-end job is, in fact, excellent preparation for the real world. Writer-director Greg Mottola’s semi-autobiographical comedy-drama, filmed in Pittsburgh’s Kennywood Park, also stars Ryan Reynolds and Kristen Stewart.

Eisenberg and Stewart have great chemistry in this fun comedy. I could not relate necessarily to the extra-curricular activities, but the awkwardness of that age did hit home. Stewart’s character felt a little older than the time, but then again, my up-bringing did not have me running these circles. Ryan Reynolds plays a believable “bad guy.”

The pair of SNL stars and a fun environment made this movie fly. While there were certainly moral quandaries that could have been explored more thoroughly, I think it would have taken the film into a darker, less playful place. I have to say that the plot itself was not that good, but the execution by this collection of actors and actresses made it work.

Forget Tablet Computers – this is the future November 17, 2009

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This video demonstrates some amazing technology that is literally at our fingertips. It will turn the world upside. Forget all the new laws for texting while driving – this goes far beyond what people do with phones. And yet, that is all the technology is… amazing!