Tuesday, January 30, 2007

But The Accountant Too?!

Let me just make this disclaimer first: it might be that the man I speak of next is paying the extra expense out of his own pocket, but I highly doubt it. Ok... on with the rant...

It hasn't been revealed openly yet, but I am in Sacramento, California working as a business consultant for a friend's recently purchased company. The financial director from my friend's corporate offices in Orange County is here helping with an internal audit. The only thing I can't figure out is why this financial guy comes here and rents a $150/day luxury car when his commute is only five minutes from the office to the hotel.

This goes against all known business practices of my friend and his companies. His motto has always been to use only what you need, splurge only when necessary or when deserved and reinvest all excess back in the business. Apparently his financial director does not understand or respect this proven way of doing business.

So I ask: even if you oversee the financials at your work, is it ever ok to treat yourself when it reflects poorly on the company?

- Mitch G

Monday, January 29, 2007

Smokin' Aces

Are you looking for a blood-spattering, flesh-shredding, bullet-charged adrenaline rush? If so, look no further than "Smokin' Aces." Thanks to this original screen play by Joe Carnahan, what happens to a human body when it is riddled by a full clip of 50-caliber ammunition is no longer left up to the imagination. It might be safe to say there is more blood here than in all three "Saw" movies combined. Ok, well maybe not, but it might
certainly be close.

To be frankly honest I was (as many others were as well) hoping to see more Jeremy Piven in this flick than what I was shown. Not to say it was bad because of that, I just had to change my expectations halfway through--and I don't like to do that.

The cast was decent, and by decent I mean on the better side of good. The short-list includes: Ryan Reynolds, Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia and even a cameo by Wayne Newton. The shocker for me was all of the Ryan Reynolds' screen time. I'll admit I really only like him in bright and humorous comedies such as "Van Wilder" but he did an alright job here as well with FBI Agent Messner. Ben Affleck had a small role as a bounty hunter but (semi-spoiler here, skip if you don't want to read it) was killed off fairly early in the movie. Andy Garcia did a fine job but his character seemed almost exactly like that of Terry Benedict in the "Ocean's" movie series. Either way, I wanted more fast-talking Jeremy Piven, but didn't get the fix I was looking for.

The cinematography was that of your standard issue action flick; all of the glitz, a short snippet of a speeding car, pretty people (and then those not-so-much), guns, explosions, swearing and a little emotional crying with a heroic ending of sorts. It is as if they pulled out the "how to make an action movie" handbook and followed the bullet points. It was entertainment nonetheless.

In summary, I can't say I loved this movie... I can't say I hated it... I was just neutral. The true plot was a bit bizarre in relation to the film and you leave with a "what happened there" type feeling, of which I am not so fond. For that I give "Smokin' Aces" 2.5 Mitch Heads. It wasn't great, it wasn't terrible, see it if you are bored, there are other things out there to spend your $6-9 on.

- Mitch G

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The New Lexus IS-F Concept

Finally a car company has the right idea--stay true to your advertised motto. It's as if Lexus truly believes in "pursuing perfection," since they keep rolling out more tantalizing cars with even greater performance and style. What I'm referring to is the up and coming 2008 or 9 Lexus IS-F, the BMW-Audi-Mercedes thrasher.

The IS-F has its cross hairs aimed directly at the current Audi RS4, the next generation V8 powered BMW M3 and the current V8 Mercedes C55 AMG. The Germans run anywhere between 362-420hp (as advertised) and the Lexus is touting 400+ for its new 5.0L V8--the most powerful engine is Lexus history. As if 400+ horsepower wasn't enough, the Lexus will come packing with more than 350 ft lbs of pavement shredding torque matted to an industry first 8-speed sequential-shift transmission with paddle-shift capability. The extra gears and sequential-shift feature mean power gets to the ground faster; the increased gear range maximizes take off while maintaining decent fuel economy at cruise. Unfortunately for the Germans they only manage up to 6 forward gears, just 5 for the Merc with no sequential feature, and roughly the same amount of engine torque. The specs Lexus released gives the IS-F and advertised 0-60 sprint of less than 5 seconds, that would beat or match that of all of its rivals.

A new signature feature for most "high performance" model cars from numerous manufacturers is some sort of quad exhaust setup. The Lexus has this but stacks the pipes vertically on either side of the rear apron to distinguish it from its German counterparts. Among other engineering items, the IS-F has massive race-derived front and rear brakes that should halt the car at highway speeds with neck-snapping urgency. It also sports aggressive body work on all four sides and sits on low-profile 19" rubber.

As for the interior, it is all Lexus and will look very similar to its standard IS250/350 siblings. The main differences will be in available colors, trim appliques, and seat bolstering. As Lexus mentioned, expect improved sport seats with greater lateral support and more aluminum trim. It is also reasonable to expect some sort of revised instrument cluster specifically designed for the IS-F.

I look forward to test driving the IS-F once it hits showrooms to report my first hand experience and impressions. It is about time Lexus played a hand in the performance sport sedan market, let's see how well they know the game.

- Mitch G

Borat Wins a Golden Globe!

The results are in, the show is over, and Sacha Baron Cohen went home with a Golden Globe for best performance in a motion picture comedy last night at the 64th annual Golden Globe Awards.

View his acceptance speech courtesy of YouTube.

Based on my liking of the movie, I didn't think there was much competition in the category except from Aaron Ekhart of "Thank You For Smoking." Either way, much congratulations to Sacha Cohen for his achievements, the movie deserved a Globe for so many reasons and I'm glad that was realized by the film critic community.

Let's hope his next movie is just as good.

- Mitch G

President Barack Obama?

It has been a while since we've seen a (possible) presidential candidate with such intriguing momentum as Barack Obama. Now, I have not fully read his entire history but his brief biography is impressive and his ability to speak and be heard stands out from the crowd.

View the CNN article announcing Obama's exploratory committee and possible presidential run.

Obama will have a large list of competitors for the Democratic nomination but in my opinion, and that of nearly all his supporters, stands the best chance of winning the vote. It would really be something if we had a heads-up competition between Obama and Senator Hilary Clinton--which is the initial projection if Hilary announces her intention to run.

There are a lot of obstacles facing Obama if he does officially submit his ballot, but I am optimistic that America is ready for a change, and ready for a REAL change. We have done enough damage to our country with ill-conceived plans and misguided ideals; real change is our one true savior.

I will cross my fingers for good options this time around, I hope we can find a great leader for our country. I'm certain I will have more to say about the 2008 campaign for presidency once more information becomes available and the official nominees are nailed down.

For more information on Barack Obama you can visit his personal presidential exploratory website here, and for information about Obama as US Senator of Illinois please click here for his official senate website.

- Mitch G

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Blood Diamond

Go see this movie. If you have an ounce of sympathy, adrenaline or cultural awareness anywhere in your body you will enjoy and appreciate "Blood Diamond." *WARNING* - this is a violent and vivid film with a true-to-its-core "R" rating and is not intended or suggested for young audiences.

Leonardo DiCaprio (as Danny Archer) has done it again. He seems to be able to land fantastically epic roles representing fictional characters wrapped up in true, historic events. There are many resemblances to "Titanic" here but I will leave them for you to discover.

I used to think of Leonardo (Titanic, The Aviator, Catch Me If You Can) as a young actor with uncertain talent and a lack of grit; in "Blood Diamond" however, there is no question my previous scrutiny has been washed aside. In this movie alone he brings to life multiple characters with ease, conviction and grace while never losing his impeccable screen presence. I also love his hair.

Both supporting actors: Djimon Hounsou (Solomon Vandy) and Jennifer Connolly (Maddy Bowen), gave exactly what was necessary for this film to toy your conscience and beliefs. Hounsou (Laura Croft: Tomb Raider, Eragon) had the toughest role of the movie and definitely took the bull by the horns to bring a memorable character to life. I look forward to seeing him in future films with even bigger roles. As for Jennifer Conolly (Labrinth), it has been a while since I've seen her in any major film and I can say with my own conviction that I am glad she landed this one. She is an excellent actress and was a great counter-part to Leonardo in the movie. She has plenty of talent, excellent screen presence and fit the reporter-adventurer role perfectly.

As for the cinematography and directing, I just can't begin to say enough. I was on the edge of my seat throughout the entire movie. Producer/Director Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai,
I Am Sam, Traffic) did a fantastic job of bringing you close to the characters, while never letting you forget the gravity of the entire situation. There was no of my dreaded "sensory-overload" and enough unexpected twists to keep anyone interested for the two and a half hour run time.

The story itself is very heavy and represents a significant truth. There is no dramatic love scene to mar the message and pace while it does have a few sentimental moments for general audience satisfaction. "Blood Diamond" is meant to be taken seriously and undoubtedly can be done so.

In my very humble opinion, this is a must see movie for those over the age of 17 and who give a damn. The movie as a whole was excellent and for that I give "Blood Diamond" 4.5 "Mitch Heads." If it weren't for a couple slightly cheesy and cliche moments it might get a full 5.

- Mitch G

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Night At The Museum

When you see a Ben Stiller flick you know what type of movie you can expect. It will be something filled with slapstick humor, witty jokes and playful banter with a bit of entertaining, yet childish whining thrown in for good measure. This movie possessed all of those delightful 'Stiller' features and was thus quite entertaining.

It seems there are never enough movies to satisfy my desire for fantasy and wonder. This movie has plenty of fantasy and without a doubt makes you wonder. I enjoy leaving a theater and thinking to myself, "is that really possible" or "could that really happen someday?" It is even better when those feelings and thoughts are doused in a light and happy syrup.

As far as acting is concerned, you just can't argue with a star studded cast including not only Ben Stiller (Zoolander, Starsky & Hutch, Meet the Parents) but Owen Wilson (Zoolander, Starsky & Hutch), Robin Willams (Birdcage, Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Will Hunting), Dick Van Dyke ("The Dick Van Dyke Show"), and Mickey Rooney among others. There was so much going on in the movie, with a handful of actors on screen at any given moment it was hard to become truly attached to one (albeit Ben Stiller), but worked well for the film. I particularly enjoyed Mickey Rooney's character "Gus" and his quick-witted name calling. In all, you will laugh, jump and awe at the magic brought to life by this talented cast.

I saw this movie oh a whim when there was nothing else at the right time. I can't say I was pining to see it but I'm definitely glad that I did. It is a great movie for all ages and tastes. The Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and supporting cast compilation has done a great entertainer again. I give "Night At The Museum" 3.5 "Mitch Heads" for a fun movie good to see at any time.

Let's look forward to more entertaining movies and movies that make me 'wonder' in 2007.

- Mitch G