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This Is Where I Leave You Movie Review September 25, 2015

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ThisIsWhereNetFlix Synopsis: In accordance with Jewish custom, four siblings gather to sit shivah after their father’s death but are soon bickering and renewing old grudges. Brought together for the first time in years, the quarrelsome brood is in for a week long emotional duel.
***
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one. Jason Bateman and Kristin Wiig carry the cast of a mishmash cast in a complex story about a dysfunctional family. It is the story of complex love between siblings and with their own spouses.
Jane Fonda plays the crazy mother of 3 brothers and a sister. The acting is solid and the interactions felt true and touching. But it made life seem so much more complicated and left many open questions. It left me feeling like it is easy to love and take care of a home. It felt like Hollywood scripting trying to depict “small town life.” They threw so many cliché situations into the mix that it made my head spin keeping track.
All that being said, it was entertaining and captured my attention to see what was going to happen next. But I would not go out of my way to recommend this one.

Big Hero 6 Movie Review September 23, 2015

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BigHeroNetflix Synopsis: In this animated adventure, genius robotics engineer Hiro Hamada finds himself enmeshed in a nefarious scheme to wipe out the city of San Fransokyo. Accompanied by his robot best friend, Hero joins a ragtag team intent on saving the City by the Bay.
***
This an action adventure in animated form. It is not a Series, sixth movie of a franchise. It is a standalone outstanding animation of a boy, his skills and dreams. The story line is great, the morals are great and there is not much else I can say about it.
Think Toy Story meets Die Hard.
It is a fun movie for both kids and adults.

As a side note, my family watched this movie in a theater during a wind storm. When the theater lost power half way through the movie we got passes to come back and watch a movie at another time. Over a month later I got a chance to finish the movie via DVD. The movie was so good and memorable I could pick up right where I left off.

Definitely a top movie of 2014.

The Good Lie Movie Review September 22, 2015

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GoodLieNetFlix Synopsis: In this fact-based drama, a young Sudanese War refugee wins a lottery that allows him to start life anew in the United States. But adapting to his new home presents challenges — both for the “lost boy” and for the American woman who’s helping him.
***
This is a disturbing movie about the realities of war – viewed through the eyes of the children who survived. It is a story of strength, perseverance and pain.It stars Reese Witherspoon and I have to say she is such a convincing and talented actress and matches the character in every role I have seen her in. But the real “star” of this movie is the “Lost Boys”. These kids lived unimaginably hard lives. If you take any part of your life for granted, watching this movie should set you straight.
The biggest lesson in this movie was how naive and ignorant the Americans have been about their suffering. We are all so busy with our superficial lives we have been completely unaware of the turmoil existing in Sudan. I am certainly not removing myself from this category.

The movie is a touching story of sibling love and rivalry and selflessness. I am not clear what gives these kids such strength to overcome every possible obstacle that is put in front of them. The problems we overcome in our daily lives do not remotely come close to the pain they went through. It is hard to say much else. If you are looking for a story to demonstrate how small and insignificant our “first world problems” are, I highly recommend this film.

***
The movie ends with the follow African proverb:

If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.

Movie Review: Hope Springs July 7, 2013

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HopeSprings

Netflix Synopsis: After decades of marriage, Kay and Arnold go to a couples’ counselor in order to spice things up and reconnect. The real challenge for both of them comes as they try to reignite the spark that made them fall for each other in the first place.

We finally got around to watching this movie from Netflix a few weeks ago. It has been sitting on our shelf for a while. Hope Springs is a Comedy Drama from two of the classic actors of our time. Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones are known for different kinds of movies, but in this case they are well matched.

This was actually a hard movie to watch. It was painful to see a marriage where two people simply co-existed. The had a love for each other, but after years of routine and following each other’s patterns, they just got to a place where life was, well… boring. It also highlights the power of communication, lack of communication and miscommunication.

I recommend this movie only if you are open to seeing the dark side of marriage.

Android Jelly Bean 4.1.1 running on a Galaxy Note II April 28, 2013

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Android on Galaxy

When the original Galaxy Note came out in October 2011, I was very interested. It almost had all the features and functions that got me to switch to the dark side of smartphone data plans. But it wasn’t quite there yet. The stylus did not get great reviews. The screen size was big and ready for the uses it was designed for, but the software was not. The Android operating system was at 2.3, Gingerbread. And there was a lot it did right, but it did not measure up to the stability, features and applications available on Apple’s iOS. I have heard many of the tech pundits recognize the Jelly Bean is the turning point.

A year later, it was a amazing how much had changed. Moore’s Law says that technology doubles every 18 months and I think this was very evident in both the hardware and the software. The Galaxy Note II is a far superior device. It is ready for prime time. Here is why:

The cool factor on all the features of this phone make it hard to summarize, so I will try to list all the things I am enjoying.

1) How to do a screen capture? Run the side of your hand across the screen like a karate chop.
2) Many of the native applications (Email, Gallery, Browser, Messaging, Polaris Office, S Note, and Video Player) can be resized into a multi-window feature to operate multiple applications at once. And while you can combine these applications, you can also use these with any other application at the same time.
3) The S-Pen. Period. End of Sentence. Okay, so maybe more details are necessary…
a) If desired, it will pop-up the S-Pen application when you take out the pen
b) S-Pen alert will sound alarm if you walk away without the stylus
c) Handwriting recognition and it works well and can be used instead of the keyboard or just to take notes.
d) Programmable quick commands allow you to launch with a gesture
e) Sensitive to 1,024 levels of pressure.
4) MHL adapter allows you to output 1080p to any HDMI device, TV or projector.
5) Application widgets available with Android 4.1 are awesome
6) The active wall paper displaying the weather in the background of each screen is amazing. The screen shots above were taken at night, which is why the screen is dark.
7) There are several applications that I love but I think I will have to save the details for another post. My favorites are: Tasker, Player Pro, Double Twist with Air Sync, Any.Do, Waze, Real Racing 3 and of course, Pandora, Chrome, Sketchbook.

I feel like I am a paid commercial for this phone, tablet, phalet whatever you want to call it. Maybe Samsung will send me their next phone for my review. I can not wait to see how they can improve this device. I think it is near perfect already.

Next Up: My favorite Android applications

Book Review: A Dog’s Purpose By W. Bruce Cameron August 31, 2011

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I admit, I do not read a lot of physical books. I listen to tons of podcasts and books in audio format. I have not read or listened to Cameron’s other books: “8 Simple Rules for Marrying My Daughter”, “How to Remodel a Man, “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daugther” (which resulted in the ABC hit TV show with John Ritter). My wife bought this book for me a couple of months ago when she had heard it was a good read. Knowing that it might take me months to get through, she even said she wanted to read it after me. (it will likely take her 1/4 the time it took me.)

I need say only one thing about this book… I finished it in under 2 1/2 weeks. For me, that says A LOT! The book was moving and suspenseful. For anyone that knows and loves dogs, this is a must read. The author took possession of this dog’s soul and was able to bring forward the story of several lives through reincarnation. There is no religious backing to this story, just the recounting of life through the eyes of a dog. Cameron does an amazing job of taking away all the preconceptions that human eyes would see and demonstrate the filter of the mutt, the Lab, German Shepard or whatever form this animal had through his travels.

Throughout this book, I felt for this dog and felt the anticipation of each next scene, the next event that would shape his/her life. I did not want to put the book down – always ready to see where the story would go next. As dog lover, it was funny to hear the sarcasm and superiority that this dog felt in his journey – mostly with respect to the other animals in the environment.

I am curious about certain takes that Cameron took on the dog’s life, memory and interactions. I would love to hear what other reads have to say about 1) how he/she interacted with other animals 2) how she was able to remember certain facts and 3) what was the time span of the story?

In any case, I am sure you will thoroughly enjoy this book.

Movie Review: The Help August 26, 2011

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Netflix Synopsis: In 1960s Jackson, Miss., aspiring writer Eugenia Phelan crosses taboo racial lines by conversing with Aibileen Clark about her life as a housekeeper, and their ensuing friendship upsets the fragile dynamic between the haves and the have-nots. When other long-silent black servants begin opening up to Eugenia, the disapproving conservative Southern town soon gets swept up in the turbulence of changing times.

This is the first serious movie of the summer for us. And it was worth the wait. Having just seen Emma Stone in “Crazy, Stupid, Love” it was interesting to watch her perform a completely different character. She and Cicely Tyson were outstanding together, but the most intriguing part was played by Ron Howard’s daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard. It is hard, having grown up in the 70s, to really understand the ugliness that was a reality in 1950s and 60s and before. I felt like this movie really brought home how something that seemed so simiple as daily life could be so unfair and people could really believe in an alternate reality.

For anyone interested in understanding the start of the civil rights movement and how much life has changed, I highly recommend this movie. I also hope we can see that there still inequalities in our current world and we have a ways to go to resolve our differences.

Movie Review: Glee 3D August 26, 2011

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Netflix Synopsis: The “Glee” kids take the stage for a sold-out concert tour across America, performing a set list of their most infectious and best-loved hit tunes. But the film also includes behind-the-scenes footage that even the live concertgoers missed!
When the Glee concert series was announced for our town, we looked at the seating and pricing and just could not justify the $100+ for each ticket in good seating areas. I didn’t really think much about it after that. Then when the promos starting coming out about this movie, I was intrigued. We watch the show weekly and I like both the storyline and most of the singing. Hearing that it was just like the concert, I wasn’t sure I would enjoy it.

But we went with our two little boys and my sister. It was pouring down raining outside, so there was nothing to lose. When we got into the theater, there was only one other family/group there. I have to say, they picked all the best songs from the last couple of seasons. I was not disappointed with any of them. And as much as I enjoyed the performances, the storylines where they interviewed concertgoers were even more moving and inspiring. I hope they helped teach our boys about understanding differences and accepting others. There is no room in our global world for intolerance at any level.

The power went out about halfway through and we had to wait a while for the staff to get the digital projector back online. By the time the show was back on the other group had left and we were along in the theater. And the boys, who had been squirming in their seats during the first half of the movie were ready to leave too. But with an empty theater, we gave them the green light to get up and dance. Just like at home, it was fun to watch them shake their groove thing and have fun.

If you enjoy the show for the songs, I highly recommend the concert movie.

Movie Review: Crazy, Stupid, Love August 25, 2011

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Netflix Synopsis: When Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) discovers that his wife (Julianne Moore) wants to end their marriage, he reluctantly faces the unwelcome prospect of single life with the counsel of the younger and smoother super-bachelor Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling). Meanwhile, Cal’s adolescent son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo), has formed an unquenchable crush on his 17-year-old babysitter (Analeigh Tipton) — but is she more interested in Robbie’s recently unwed father?

From the beginning of the summer, this looked to be the best movie of the summer. It has a great, diverse cast and a great combination of stories. The characters interact with perfect randomness and yet everything made sense. The ending has a great twist and I am not going to give it away – I hope no one else does, either. Once you are engrossed in this movie, the plot twist comes out of the blue and adds another fascinating dynamic.

I highly recommend this funny, touching look at the complexities of married life and love.

Movie Review: Friends With Benefits August 6, 2011

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Netflix Synopsis: This raucous rom-com chronicles the relationship of two busy singles, Dylan (Justin Timberlake) and Jamie (Mila Kunis), who agree to include sex in their friendship — minus the emotions and commitment. But things get complicated when Dylan (inevitably?) falls for his gal pal. Patricia Clarkson co-stars as Jaime’s hip mom and Woody Harrelson plays Dylan’s practical confidante, who advises him to man up when he pursues the newly dating Jamie.

This is Timberlake’s second movie release for the summer. Do you think he is making more money on movies than music? Dancing, Music and Movies, he is the ultimate triple threat. I liked him in this movie so much more than Bad Teacher. And while I never got into “That 70s Show”, Mila Kunis is excellent in this. Combined, Kunis and Timberlake have perfect chemistry and was perfect casting.

There is really not much to say more about this movie. It was a very current, fresh layout of a good movie. Unfortunately, that might make it a bit of a cult classic over time since it won’t be long before flash mobs, iPhones and everything else is antiquated and things of the past. Go see it before you forgot what life is like now.

By the way, a late summer show for NBC is a show of the same name. It has a similar premise, but with five main characters, it is more like “Friends… with Benefits”. It is still early and I have only seen the Pilot and Episode 1, so it is hard to give a rating. The characters need a bit more development and depth. It definitely feels like this show was rushed into production and there is not a lot of forethought. My guess is that it will not last very long.