Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Iron Man or Avengers hangover.....

  Summer 2013 movie season is here. The Avengers has left Marvel a lot to live up to. Phase One of their movies are complete and now with Captain America, Thor, and Guardians of the Galaxy set to go, the bar is set pretty high. The first Iron Man was such an unexpected smash, the second felt rushed and was a bit of a let down to most, and Avengers was comic book movie gold. How does Tony Stark's third solo outing hold up?

 The movie begins after the events of the alien attack on New York. The Avengers are mentioned and it's the events of that movie that have left Tony even more of a workaholic than before. Throw in some insomnia and he's even more messed up than usual. We get some great flashbacks of Tony before the incident that made him the armored avenger. An brief encounter from his past, his relationship with Pepper, and a new terrorist threat force Iron Man into service minus the team. A new weapon called Extremis comes into play and threatens the Tony's world. Stark is ego driven, brilliant, and resilient, but is that enough to save the world again.

 The movie begins and ends with Robert Downey Jr. Rumors are circulating that Avengers 2 will be his last as Tony Stark and I certainly hope not. He seems to have been born to play this role. He is great in and out of the armor. He is believable as the reluctant hero and perfect as the smart assed billionaire. The great thing about Stark now is his mortality. He is still driven, but he wonders if what he has to offer is enough to be the hero the world and Pepper needs. He is shaken and even at times afraid. Downey owns the screen at every turn and you can't ask much more from the star of the Marvel Universe. His scenes with the young boy from Tennessee are fantastic. It reminded me of the AT&T commercials with a super hero. Tony trying to fix his life by taking advice from a child is fantastic.

 Gweneth sees a lot more action in the third installment, but it makes complete sense to see why she suits up. What doesn't make sense is her ability to use the suits. She keeps Tony grounded, but I loved her more in the first and The Avengers more than I did this time around. Nothing against Paltrow's performance, but I feel like I knew how the character was going to react before she did. Gwen did get in great shape for this one.

 Don Cheadle is back as Colonel James Rhodes and certainly sees his fair share of action. The Iron Patriot jokes are hilarious and the explanation of the change from War Machine are spot on. The armor looks cool, but it almost becomes the joke of the film. War Machine deserves a little better, but it is Iron Man and everyone else pales in comparison.

 Guy Pierce shines. I might be biased for my love of  him in Memento and as a villain in The Count of Monte Cristo. He channels a little Val Kilmer from The Saint and a some who looks like he fell out of a Bond movie. It's good to see him back in classic form. He is a decent villain, but he doesn't quite steal the screen the way Loki did. Pierce is good enough for the story and at the end of the day, most people will like him well enough.

  The Mandarin finally makes his debut. In the comic book mythology he is Iron Man's greatest foe. When Marvel brought Iron Man to the screen the first time out Mandarin talk quickly began. He was dubbed too fantasy for the realistic world of this Marvel Universe. When the Avengers opened a worm hole above New York and unleashed an alien attack, one would think the Mandarin became a safe call. Kingsley looks great and The Mandarin appears to be ruthless. There is quite a twist that made be pause for a minute in disbelief, but it makes complete sense. Fan boys will either love it or immediately get their hate on. It doesn't take much to get them fired up, but most of them probably have little other to release their stress beyond "skinemax," and message boards. Never the less, I will not ruin the twist.

 There are a lot of different armors in the movie and all come into play. I am not crazy about the concept of the new armor, but it is cool to see how much Tony has improved his arsenal. The action is great and Iron Man 3 is really a story of Tony finding himself again. The plot works and the Air Force One rescue is top notch. The comedy is balanced well with the situation. Shane Black does a good job of fitting his film into the Iron Man universe established in previous outings. I am not sure if this is the last outing of Downey's solo adventures, but I hope not. Is it as good as The Avengers? No, but it doesn't have to be. It is better than Iron Man 2. I still love the first and that is probably because I was so surprised by how good that film was. If there was a set up for Guardians I missed it, but I enjoyed the post credits scene. I think Superman will win this summers hero battle, but Iron Man is certainly a great start to summer full of potential blockbusters.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Into Oblivion

   Oblivion is not what you might expect. It's a little bit I Am Lgend, a little bit W.A.L.L.E., a little bit Titan A.E., and a little bit Independene Day. All of those combined should make for a pretty good movie and I cannot say that I was disappointed. Oblivion is a somewhat intelligent movie which might make it smarter than the average moviegoer.


 Every film starts with a story and Oblivion has that. Tom Cruise is one of the last few humans on a devastated earth. Aliens (Scavengers) destroyed the moon and nearly all of the planet. The remaining human race has been evacuated to a colony on Titan (one of Saturn's moons). The planet is devastated as cruise and is partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are tasked with repairing drones that defend large machines that harvest our sea water. Jack Harper (Cruise) is haunted by dreams of a past he doesn't remember and has become a collector of past trinkets like books, records, and bobble heads.
When Harper learns the the Scavengers are actually humans after the woman of his dreams literally falls to earth, his futuristic world becomes unravelled.

 Visually, Oblivion is stunning. The world we see is majestic yet sad at the same time. Tom Cruise reminded me of Wil Smith in I Am Legend. One man alone surrounded by what used to be. The landscapes are gorgeous and his tower apartment is pretty cool. The ship he flies around in is also very well done. The sights of Washington D.C. and New York in the aftermath is both breathtaking and depressing. It is truly a world of solitude.

 Morgan Freeman is a bit under used as the leader of the remainder of human resistance. It's not that he is bad. Freeman is rarely bad in anything, but there just isn't much for him to do. This is about Cruise and his character's discovery. The same is true of Nicolaj Coster-Waldau. He is the resident bad man on what's left of the campus, but there isn't a lot of time to really develop his character either. Even in futuristic armor, he manages to keep that Lanister swagger.

 I think the casting that let me down the most was Olga Kurylenko. It's a shame because I loved her in Quantum Of Solace and in Hitman. There just wasn't much chemistry with her and Tom Cruise. She plays the love of Jack Harper's life, but he seemed more comfortable with Riseborough. She had the most time for character develpment and this is where the movie seemed to fall flat.

 Tom Cruise is one of the most polarizing actors in Hollywood, but he gets it right here. The story is great, but I was almost disappointed in the twist because after the movie became too predictable. The world is gorgeous, the effects are incredible, and the action is fun. It drags a little in places, but not enough to ruin the overall experience. It is a rather intelligent science fiction movie that might not be for everyone, but I definitely enjoyed my trip into Oblivion.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

One Year Later......

  This one is all about me. Sometimes I get accused of being selfish and it is something I have been working on. I am not quite there yet, but certainly moving in the right direction. I say it's all about me because it's tough to write about the last year of my life and not discuss me. In any case, you have been warned.

  It has been an interesting ride. I got to Phoenix with the intention to figure out my next move and discover a different life. I wasn't too far from radio, but Phoenix didn't offer me the opportunities that I wanted. Life works in strange ways. I had been away from my family for a long time and spending time with my parents is something I wouldn't trade. When I quit my job in Michigan, I started getting a lot of attention, but things seldom happen on the timeline that we would like. I am sure most of us can relate. I love my career choice. It's what I am supposed to do, but Phoenix was difficult. We are all faced with choices and doing what we love doesn't always pay the bills. I am thankful that we had some help getting west, but I sure did spend lots of money. I thought for a minute that it may be time to switch it up, but I had no idea to what?

  I knew what I wanted to do. I just didn't want to do it in Michigan anymore and certainly not for the company I worked for.One year later and I was clearly not the only one who felt that way. Truth be told, it breaks my heart what the place has now become. It's a shadow of what it used to be. I wouldn't say I am clairvoyant, but I certainly called it pretty accurately. Corporate Radio can be a scary place.We go to work everyday with a thought in the back of our minds that it could be our last day. So was I ready to call it over? HELL NO!

  I started getting some more attention from a couple of different places and all the sudden I was asked about Dayton, Ohio. I grew up in Cincinnati and knew Dayton fairly well. I had friends to went to Wright State and U.D. I had a step brother who lived there for a while and passed it often when I visited the 'Nati.

  Home. I had given up on the thought of going back. I knew that it wouldn't be the same as I remembered. People have moved on and those who stayed have different lives. Mysterious ways. I began to visit more frequently in the past three or four years. I remember bringing Lauren there for a long weekend. God knows I had driven her crazy with how special the place was and of course she didn't get it, at first. We spent the night on the river listening to my friend Robbie drop some, "acoustic acid." It's what he calls the melodic classic rock sounds that he plays live. We hung out with a few more of my friends and after beers with SPK, laughter to the point of tears, and good times, she understood. If there is anyplace on this planet that I am the most comfortable, it is that city. Everyone needs a place where they can be who they are. I had given up on the idea of working at home.

  Dayton, Ohio. I moved all the way out west, excited my family, and walked away from a good place financially to get an offer to come back to the Midwest. What to do? I am thankful that I was pushed to take it. Dayton had stereotypes. It's dirty, violent, and there isn't much going on. Flint, Saginaw, and Detroit share the dirty and violent parts. Grand Rapids is great, but the weather is horrible a lot of the time.Phoenix is sunny. I hiked mountains and rode my bike in February. The people are pretty and downtown is gorgeous. It's also very hot. What to do?

  I had a great conversation with Nick and Tony. Guys who would eventually become my bosses.I asked for Lauren's advice and she said I wouldn't be happy unless I tried. So I packed my spring and summer clothes, one of my TVs, computer, and my Bella memorial and hit the road. It was time to drive cross country again. Alone.

   I said goodbye and started driving. I was totally alone for at least the coming summer. I spent a night in Amarillo, lost my credit card, woke up at 5am, and hit the road again. I am an idiot. I'll be the first to admit it. I drove thru Oklahoma City early enough to hear my friend J-Rod's morning show. My Cincy peeps will remember him as Jeff Cole. We traded texts and he told me I still had a long way to go. I looked at my Nav and thought he was crazy. It was saying that I would reach my hotel at 9 something that night. So I drove. Talked on the phone. Sang to myself. I drove some more. I truly believe everyone should make that kind of drive once. Eventually, I hit Illinois at which point I realized there was something wrong. Cincinnati is about 40 min from Dayton. It was six o'clock and it takes longer than two hours to get from Illinois to Dayton. My Nav was still set to Phoenix time. Amarillo,TX to Dayton, Ohio in one day. Seventeen hours. I don't recommend doing that.

  I saw the exit sign on 75 for Dayton and lots went through my head. Is this a mistake. How long will I last? Will people like me? Can I really do this? Is this too much of a challenge? How close is the nearest Skyline Chili? All of those are important questions. I checked in. Unpacked. I might have slept for about 45 minutes.

  I am lucky to have had some success. I was lucky to have had security. In the past, my job was easier because the people that came before me paved a pretty strong path. I will not say it was easy, but I had a GM that let me do my thing and a Promotions Director that took care of the things that I couldn't. I wanted a challenge. When people tell you that you are talented, better than where you are, and that you are going to do some big things. You wonder if it's B.S. or if there is truth to it?

  Clear Channel is an interesting company. People who have worked there lost their jobs. They owe lots of money. They have a clear plan of action. They have a very complex system and are managed differently than Citadel,CBS, or Cumulus. Could I fit in? Am I as smart as I think I am?  Clear Channel isn't easy to work for. I knew this going in, but I also knew something else. I want to be a part of massive events. I loved the big shows that I had been a part of. Clear Channel does events like that. The people who have jobs like mine, those I try to model myself after, and the guys who are considered the best in my field all work for this company. The best radio stations in the country are all arguably a part of this company. I don't know for sure how the world of corporate radio will pan out, but I whole hearted believe that Clear Channel will be the last company standing. I am now a part of that.

The next morning I pulled in to what would become my new home and began to meet my friends and new family. I made a promise that I would be humble. I went in with eyes wide open and hoped to learn new things. No pre conceived notions and just the ability to be me. I like that guy! He is a lot easier to get along with. He is a lot happier too. It doesn't mean that I wasn't sick to my stomach nervous.

  I walked into the building and was greeted by one of the nicest people I have ever met. She greets me everyday and it's still always a good start to the morning. I met Brig,Jeli, and Bud who are quite simply the best engineering and I.T. staff I have ever worked with. The sales team was fired up about the possibilities that came with the project that I had begun. B-Man is a legend in these parts and is quite possibly the easiest person in the world to talk to. Jeff was called, "salt of the earth," and I am not sure there's a nicer person on the planet.  I walked into Klauber's office and knew that we would get along just fine when I saw not just a Bengals poster, but a collection of Star Wars items. He and his girlfriend Deb made me feel completely at home.

  When it comes to jobs not all of us are lucky. When we start something new it's not like we pick our co workers. Those things are decided for us. I had come back to Ohio. I was given a fantastic boss again. Tony is the best. I can't think of a day yet that I haven't walked into his office and not laughed hysterically about something. Whether it's an ATT commercial or something radio related, it happens almost everyday and it is a welcome change.

  I spent a summer reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. It was strange being by myself with rental furniture and hardly any of my stuff. It was nice to be able to throw myself into work. When they said that my station had not been touched they weren't kidding. I knew I would have to prove myself , but it was a very refreshing feeling to know that I was surrounded by people who believed in me. It was awesome to be here for a fantastic Red's season. I forgot the joy of just going to a baseball game on a random Tuesday night. It was fun to watch the Bengals up close. I was home without being home.

 One year later. I am living in Dayton,Ohio. Myself and the team that I am a part of have taken a station that was simply, "added value" and made it a player in the market. Revenue is up and the project is growing faster than I can keep up with. I work with people who have seen and survived hard times, but still keep going with a positive attitude. I have been acknowledged beyond my building for the successes that I have had. A simple,"nice job" goes a long way. I hope you feel that in whatever you do. I like going to work everyday. That alone feels good.

 Dayton has changed too. It's not even close to as violent as it used to be. There is a new vibe and the city is creating it's own better identity. There are things to do, great shopping, comedy, and good food. I am healthy again. Losing pounds left and right and I feel better than I have in years. I wish we liked our apartment, but that is an easier fix with time and diligence. I am excited for another Red's and Dragon's season. I'm looking forward to showing my household what summers in the 'Nati and the Gem city are all about.

 Career wise I am ready for more responsibility. I am not even close to where I would like the station to be, but it's moving in the right direction. I can't wait to see where we take it. My company has given me a lot of tools and it is a lot of fun to put them to use.  One year later and things are good.
We all travel on roads and sometimes they lead you to the last place you'd expect to be, but in the end it's the journey more so than the destination. In any case, I made a pretty good stop along the way.