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Posts Tagged ‘Tom Cruise’

Collateral  (2004)  —  movie review
Last night I took an evening off of Christmas movies to watch and action movie.  My choice was the 2004 thriller “Collateral“, starring Tom Cruise as Vincent (a contract hitman) and Jamie Foxx as Max (a taxi driver).  Basically, Vincent is in Los Angeles with a night to kill (as in five targets to murder).  Max is the lucky taxi driver who gets a cash bonus to drive Vincent around as he does his dirty deeds.  Max awkwardly discovers Vincent is up to no good, but Max is convinced (by Vincent) to assist.  Action and hilarity ensue…
Okay, maybe NOT hilarity, but this is a pretty entertaining movie.  To start off, Tom Cruise is a bad guy.  Yeah, I know Tom has done a few bad guy or against-typecast roles in the past, but (for me anyway) I have to think about when was the last time I saw Tom as a “bad” guy.  If I have to think, that means I’m open for surprise.  I was both, open and surprised.  Tom was Tom (“run Tom, run”), but Tom was also pretty good.  Strike that,  VERY good.  Jamie Foxx is also mildly “against-type” cast in the role of ne’er-do-well taxi driver who dreams of owning a luxury limousine service.  It’s only in the last few minutes of the movie where Foxx reverts to super-hero and saves the day.
I particularly like Vincent repeatedly telling Max: “We’re in this together” and “We’ll both get through this”.  Max wants to believe he still has a chance to live through the night.  We, of course, have been told by the police of a similar case in Oakland, where a rampaging taxi driver killed several people and then committed suicide.  So, we pretty much know how it will “really” end up for Max at the end of the ride.
So, final recommendation:  Strong to highly recommended!  I really enjoyed this movie.  (Maybe I’ve been over-dosing on too many Christmas movies and I need to clean out my system?)  The type reversals for the two main actors was a big part of the enjoyment, but still, it (the enjoyment / entertainment) was there.  This is not a movie for kids.  The body count alone is enough to restrict access (rated “R” for violence and language), but for mature viewers, I didn’t find it to be gratuitous, over the top or offensive.  It was part of the story.  Are these “defining” roles for either of the main actors?  No.  But they are both against-type (mostly) and they both carry it off.
The question is:  “A man dies while riding on the MTA.  How long until somebody notices?
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On This Day In:
2017 Falling Forward One Step At A Time
2016 And Without Expectation
2015 Just Do It
I Am A Runner
2014 Some Things I Learned (Mostly) In The Army:
2013 Who You Are
2012 Mine Stands
2011 Aversions

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Tripwire  (1999©) —  Book Review
Tripwire” is book three in the Jack Reacher novel series which I began reading earlier this year after seeing the movie starring Tom Cruise.  I enjoyed the flic, so I wanted to see what the books were about.  You can never be sure just from watching a movie if the character is “really” the same or simply an interpretation by the director or star actor.  Although this is the third book in the series, it’s actually the fourth book I’ve read.  I was looking at summaries and found one of the books was a throw-back to before the “series” began, so I wanted to “start” the series at the chronological beginning even if it wasn’t the first book in the series.  Since I haven’t read all of them, I’m not sure I have started in the right place, but I feel as if I made the effort anyway.
So, the book (and series) is written by Lee Child.  At this point, the series is beginning to follow a formula: Reacher is out minding his business, something happens, he goes to be a hero – because he’s the only one who can work outside the law and get “it” done, whatever “it” happens to be.  This book finds Reacher in Florida, but quickly moves to New York.  He meets a past acquaintance who becomes a lover.  She gets in danger.  Hero time!
The book is solidly entertaining.  It’s well paced and (of course) has a twist ending.  The author accomplishes this with two tricks, misdirected first person narration and then failing to tell the reader what the main character knows until the author is ready for the “twist” ending.  The problem is, this trick is blatantly obvious when the author does it and as a reader you just stop and say (to yourself) “just tell me what Reacher knows!”  Does it spoil the book?  No.  Does it make it less enjoyable…?  Yeah, for me, it did.
Final recommendation: strong recommendation.  I will continue to read the series and see what happens.  I don’t remember the earlier books having the problem discussed above and hopefully, it’s just a one off in this particular book.  Anyway, as I stated, I still enjoyed it.  Action.  Mystery / detective / procedural.  Heroics.  What’s not to like?
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On This Day In:
2015 I’d Settle For Interesting
2014 Old Math
2013 Adequate Explanation
2012 Superior Discovery
2011 Welcome Home And Thank You!!
Two Heritages

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Today’s post is reviewing four movies – one re-review and three new reviews.  The movies are: (old) “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016); (new) Immortals (2011); (new) Jason Bourne (2016); and, (new) Moneyball (2011).  Because this post is for four movies, it will be longer than normal.  If you’re not interested in my movie reviews, move along…  So, in alphabetical order…
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016)  —  movie review
My original review can be found here from back in April.  Back then I gave it a “strong” recommendation as “entertaining”.  That review stands.  If anything, I might raise it to high.  I think I actually liked it more.  The plot still doesn’t make a lot of sense, but as previously stated: it’s a marketing gimmick to get three super-heroes together so DC can start a franchise.  Even given that, I still liked the movie a lot – more so than the first viewing.  I particularly liked Ben Affleck (Batman) and Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman).  And, while Superman is never going to be my favorite super-hero, Henry Cavill owns the role like no one since Chris Reeves in the original “Superman – the Movie”.  The movie worked for me.  Bring on the Justice League of America!
Immortals (2011)  —  movie review
Okay, so in ancient Greece, some beefcake named Theseus (Henry Cavill aka Superman) is blessed / cursed by Zeus (Luke Evans) to protect humanity (well, at least the Greeks) from a mad tyrant – King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke).  Phaedra (Freida Pinto) plays the love interest, an Oracle of Delphi.  Anyway, blah, blah, blah, Theseus finds a magic bow (“The Epirus Bow”) and saves the world from the Titans.
Since I’d never heard of this “legend” tale, I looked it up on Wikipedia and it is completely made up.  The names of the characters appear in Greek history or mythology, but this myth / story does not.  Still, it’s a good tale.  The movie is from the same producers as “300“, so if you like that kind of bloody action, fights and special effects (and I do), you should find this movie to your visual taste.  Final recommendation: strong.  I picked this movie to see if Cavill can act in any other role beside Superman.  That didn’t work out so well as he plays a “minor” superman / hero here, too.
Jason Bourne (2016)  —  movie review
This is a movie I really wanted to see at the theater, but never got around to.  It’s the fifth in the series and the fourth with Matt Damon in the title role.  Matt skipped number four which starred Jeremy Renner.  (Wow.  Now I’ve got to go back and see that one again.)  While it was nice to see Matt back in the saddle, this movie makes absolutely no sense.  The plot is the same as the others (the first three), the CIA wants Jason Bourne dead and he fights back.  The special effects technology is upgraded, but it’s used badly and adds to the “huh?” factor.
I never thought I’d say this, since I much prefer Matt to Tom Cruise, but Ethan Hunt is now better in the Mission Impossible series than Jason Bourne is in this series.  And it’s not Matt’s acting.  It’s the story telling.  This movie is what it is: Matt / Jason fighting and running around and being super clever.  Other than that, it’s an extremely average action movie.  I’m sure Hollywood will try to string this out for another couple of sequels, but it’s running out of air and there’s a DNR on the patient’s chart.  Time for a better re-boot than we got with Jeremy.
Moneyball (2011)  —  movie review
What can I tell you?  It’s only been a couple of weeks since the Cubs won the World Series and I’m missing baseball…
This is one of those movies “based on a true story”.  Basically, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) has to make a small market (ie “poor”) baseball team competitive.  He does it by introducing “Sabermetrics” to baseball.  Here, Sabermetrics is renamed as “moneyball”.  The baseball team is the Oakland Athletics (better known as the “A’s”).  The A’s lose three of their best players to teams with more money and in the struggle to replace them, Beane tries to redefine how you evaluate players using statistics instead of experienced baseball “eye-balls” (veteran scouts).  What happens is he turns the “rebuilding” team into one which not only makes the playoffs, but sets an American league single season consecutive winning streak.
The movie gives a fascinating look into the “business” of modern baseball, and, yes, I did get caught up in both the streak and the “romance of baseball”.  I liked Brad Pitt in Troy, but most of his stuff is just kind of “so-so” for me.  He is excellent in this role!  Final recommendation: High!!
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On This Day In:
2015 More Prejudice
2014 Say What?
2013 Daring Errors
2012 Are You Comfortable?
I Just Have To
In Flux
2011 True New
2010 A Job Well Started Is A Job Half Done
I See With My One Good Eye

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Today’s reviews are of a movie I watched earlier in the week and a book I finished today…
Movie Review: Star Trek: Beyond (2016)
This is the third movie in the Star Trek reboot series which stars Chris Pine (Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Karl Urban (Bones/McCoy) and Simon Pegg (Scotty).  All the main characters are well played as all the actors seem to have settled into their on-going roles.  Sadly, I never saw this movie in its original release.  To be honest, I just never made time.  As good as a 50-inch screen may be from three feet away, it’s still not the same as having to use your peripheral vision to absorb the spectacle of the big screen theater experience.  But, then again, there is much to be said for a pause button, having your own kitchen / food / fridge, and a toilet ten steps away.
Is the movie original, any good, plot, action, does it make sense, etc.?   No, not really.  Yes, very enjoyable.  The plot is okay.  The action is reasonable, but I found the special effects to be only so-so.  Does it make sense?  Does it have to?  It’s Star Trek!  Okay.  Yes!  It makes sense (as long as you don’t try to think about it too hard).  The “best” Star Trek has always been a commentary on its current times, with a sub-textual message that we can get through this if we work together (aka “the future is hopeful”).  I would only say I’m getting tired of the Enterprise getting destroyed.  This is like the fifth time in fifteen movies.  Enough already!  We’ve seen this Fx get worked to death, now.  All in all, I’d say this was the best of the three reboots.  Highly recommended, particularly if you are a Trekkie (like me).
Book ReviewJack Reacher Series #2: Die Trying  (1998©)
This book is the second in the Jack Reacher series of “male / adventure / action” genre books which I enjoy reading.  The series is authored by Lee Child.  Although it is the second book in the series, it is actually the third book I’ve read.  I got out of sequence because I read the book which corresponds to the Tom Cruise movie which came out several years ago (2012).  I enjoyed the movie, so I read the book.  I enjoyed the book (#8 in the series), so I decided to go back and read the series in order.
In this book, Jack is kidnapped (with a female FBI agent) in Chicago and taken to a posse comitatus (aka right-wing crazies) encampment in Montana where he must foil an attempt to secede from the United States.  All in all, the book is pretty standard faire for this genre and for this series.  Having said that, you will either enjoy it or you won’t.  I did.  Again, nothing earth-shattering here, just a good action / adventure story.  Even though it’s over 500 pages, it’s a fast read.  Strong to highly recommended book recommendation.
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On This Day In:
2015 Tell Me…
2014 Live Forever (To Remember Me)
Orange October (VI) – Giants Win Game 4
2013 More Than Just Words
2012 Egotist, n.
2011 Good And Bad

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Today’s reviews are for an older movie I’ve just seen and an a newer movie I’ve seen multiple times and really enjoy.  The first is “Edge Of Darkness” (2010) starring Mel Gibson and the second is “Live, Die, Repeat: Edge Of Tomorrow”  (2014) starring Tom Cruise.
Edge Of Darkness  —  movie review
Edge Of Darkness” is a police / crime / mystery / revenge drama about a policeman whose daughter is shot/murdered on his doorstep as the father is trying to take his daughter to the ER.  At first, the assumption is that the police officer was the intended victim and the daughter an unfortunate accident.  The father shortly finds indications this is not the case and he begins to suspect the daughter was the real target of the homicide.  The father (Thomas Craven) is played by Mel Gibson (who is starting to look OLD) and the daughter (Emma Craven) is played by Bojana Novakovic / Gabrielle Popa depending on whether the daughter is old (Bojana) or young (Gabriella).  Blah, blah, blah…  Mel kills everyone and gets revenge.  The movie ends with a rather strange scene of the spirit of the daughter coming back to get the dying father and they walk down the hospital hallway into the “bright light”.
To tell the truth, I’d never heard about this movie before and did not watch the trailer until after I’d seen the film.  It (the film) was much better than I expected (despite the kind of lame ending).  Probably because I’m used to seeing Mel Gibson in rom-com kind of roles now that he’s gotten older, I don’t really think of him as the action/hero cop of his “Lethal Weapon” days.  He’s not that here (“Lethal Weapon” -esque), but he does have a few action scenes before the big shootout.  Anyway, the most interesting aspect of the movie was not the action or the police drama, it was the framing of the movie as a love story about a father and his only daughter.  This is initially done via family video tapes and then, later in the film, via (“Sixth Sense“) “I see/hear dead people” flashes by the dad.  I would say the movie almost over-hammers this point by going back to it again and again, but in the end, it worked for me.
Final recommendation: strong.  I enjoyed the movie.  It has appropriate levels of action and the pacing seemed fine for the length (at just under two hours).  The movie is rated “R” for violence (and it is).  This is definitely not a “classic” for Mel or for the genre, but if you enjoy the “Deathwish” crime / revenge drama genre, you will almost certainly enjoy this addition to it.
Edge Of Tomorrow  —  movie review
Live, Die, Repeat: Edge Of Tomorrow” (the movie’s full name) is a SciFi blend of “Groundhog Day” meets “Independence Day” with a healthy dash of “Battle: Los Angeles” thrown in.  The movie stars Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt as the heroes / love interests.  Basically, Earth is attacked and Emily appears to have saved the day.  In reality, she hasn’t and Tom has to come behind her and finish the job on the nasty old aliens.  He does.
I did not see this movie at the theater and I regret it.  I was not a big Tom Cruise fan, so I thought, “I’ll wait for the video…”  This was a mistake!  This is definitely a movie which should be enjoyed on as big a screen as possible.  Oh well, my 50 inch screen from 2-3 feet away has had to do the job.  And, it has.  About a half dozen times (so far).  I have thoroughly enjoyed this film and it easily bears up to watching repeatedly.  Is that ironic, or what?  As usual, I digress…
Final recommendation: Highly.  This is a very good to great SciFi movie.  It has an alien invasion, explosions, special effects, exoskeleton combat suits, action, humor, loud mouth Southern sergeants, a light touch of romance – everything!  And, it has them over and over again!  This movie made me go back and look for Tom and Emily in other movies and I’ve enjoyed many of them more than I did on first viewing.  I love it when a movie can completely change my perspective on one or two actors and this was one of those movies for me.
Now that I’ve effused, it’s not “really” a “GREAT” movie.  It didn’t win any Oscars and it’s not going to go down in history as a “classic”, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it multiple times and could easily watch it again today (or in the near future).  If you like this genre (military SciFi / alien invasion / time travel paradoxes), you will love this movie.  Take it to the bank.
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On This Day In:
2015 I Hope Not
2014 Study The Means Of Expressing Yourself
2013 That Stubborn Thing
2012 Like Mike
2011 Flawless Or Candid
2010 Browning…

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(This is a long post, so if you’re not interested in my movie reviews, you may want to just come back tomorrow…)
This last week I decided to do a mini-binge / marathon on the movie series based on a television series from my youth: Mission Impossible.  In all honesty, I watched several seasons of the series but lost interest due to the similarity of so many of the episodes.  In fairness to the series, how many times (and ways) can you save the world?  Anyway, I do remember enjoying the TV series.
Also, in complete honesty, because I have only recently come around to being a Tom Cruise fan, I have never seen any of these five (so far) movies at the theater in original release.  Further, I had only seen parts of number one on TV.  It’s not that I intentionally avoided them.  I just don’t think I ever bothered enough to sit down and watch them.  My brother owns the DVD set, so I thought, what the heck: binge time.
Mission: Impossible (1996)  —  movie review
Wow! Is it possible this movie is 20 years old and I’ve never seen it?  Sho’nuff.  This movie introduces Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) – the only two characters to carry through all five movies in the series.  Hunt is the leader and Mr. Everything.  Stickell is the computer and electronics expert.  There is one carry-over from the original series: Jim Phelps (played by Jon Voight).  Basically, Hunt is framed for treason and the list of IMF agents around the world is up for grabs.  Hunt has to lead a hastily organized team of disavowed agents to recover the list and find the real traitor.
This was probably pretty good for its day and it does have one famous scene: Cruise hanging from a wire, stealing a computer file, in the CIA headquarters.  Other than that, I found it pedestrian.  Not bad.  Just not very good either.  All in all, an acceptable kick-off to the series.  Final recommendation: Moderate.
Mission: Impossible II (2000)  —  movie review
In the first of several implausible stories, Hunt (Cruise) leads the IMF team in a mission to stop an Australian pharmaceutical industrialist who hopes to become filthy rich by releasing a virus which will kill most of humanity while his company is the only one with the cure.  (Huh!?)  The worst of it is the use of an “anti-Hunt” / bad-guy former IMFer who wants to steal the company so he can get rich, too.
Not only is the story unbelievable, so are the action sequences and the fight scenes.  I guess the good news is that there are a fair number of both, so you can be visually entertained.  The movie is not unwatchable and it’s not really boring.  It’s just kind of “meh”.  Final recommendation: poor to moderate.
Mission: Impossible III (2006)  —  movie review
Hunt is semi-retired.  He is an instructor and mentor for junior IMF field agents.  One of his most promising protégés gets captured and Hunt is recruited back into the field to rescue her.  She dies in the attempt and Hunt assembles a team for revenge – I mean justice.  Blah, blah, blah, evil arms dealer who gets it in the end.  And, there’s another mole in the IMF HQ.  Seriously, is anybody guarding the hen-house?
As a movie, this is pretty much another ho-hum’er.  As an action / adventure movie with special effects, this sequel is better than 1 and 2.  Strangely, at this point I’ve started warming to the whole Hunt / Cruise and IMF thing.  I’m not sure why, but I think it’s some kind of Stockholm Syndrome thing going on.  In any case, Philip Symour Hoffman plays a surprisingly excellent villain!  I have never been a Hoffman fan and really only ever liked him in one role – a minor character, a grad student in the movie “Twister“.  I don’t really avoid movies with actors, but I doubt I’d go out of my way to see any movie with him in it.  I still don’t get why he was considered a “great” actor.  In fairness to Hoffman, I have never seen “Capote“, but I did see “Doubt“.  I just didn’t find him believable in that film / role.  So, yes, I was surprised at how good Hoffman is in this role.
This episode also sees the introduction of the character Benji Dunn, played by Commander Montgomery Scott, I mean Simon Pegg.  Add humor here…
Final recommendation: The movie is again only so-so, but Hoffman is terrific and makes the movie!  Strong recommendation.
Mission: Impossible (4 / IV) – Ghost Protocol (2011)  —  movie review
Okay, so the United States education system is not big on Roman numerals, so we’re gonna drop the “IV” and give this movie a title.
In another entirely implausible story (IAEIS), Hunt (Cruise) leads the IMF team in a mission to stop a Russian scientist who hopes to improve humanity by blowing up San Francisco with a nuclear missile which will lead to WW III and which will kill most of humanity.  (Huh!?) By now, Benji / Commander Scott / Pegg is a certified field agent.  IMF is framed for blowing up the Kremlin and the President “disavows” the whole of the IMF to avoid war with Russia.  This episode introduces William Brandt (Hawkeye / Bourne “Lite” / Jeremy Renner) as a quasi-Hunt “Lite”.
At a certain point in this series – just like with the TV series – the audience has to say, “I don’t care if any of this makes sense, as long as I’m entertained.”  I thought I’d reached that point in the MI:II, but MI:III kind of brought me back to this kind of makes sense and I am kind of entertained.  And then they drop you off the cliff again…  Makes sense, no.  Entertained, yes.
Final recommendation: Strong to Highly.  To be honest I think this is based on the cumulative effect of watching 9+ hours of this stuff.  It has started to grow on me and I am enjoying them more, even though most of the time it’s the same thing over and over again.
Mission: Impossible (5 / V) – Rogue Nation (2015)  —  movie review
IAEIS, Hunt (Cruise) must lead an (again) disavowed / defunded / disbanded IMF to fight a British sponsored “rogue” IMF force known as the “Syndicate”.  Blah, blah, blah, exotic locations, explosions, motorcycle and car chases, fight sequences, innocent casualties, hero drowns, hero comes back to life, blah, blah, blah.  Hunt / IMF wins and gets the bad guy.  The moral of the story is friendship and doing the right thing is more important than following the orders or the law (I guess).  Oh, yeah, and again, never trust the guys back at HQ.
Final recommendation: Strong.  I’m not sure why, but again, I was entertained by this movie.  No, it’s not believable and almost everything has been done before in 1 thru 4, but worked.  Go figure…
Series final recommendation: Strong.  This is a series twenty years (so far) in the making.  As technology has improved, they’ve tried to keep pace.  Mostly, it (the movies individually and the series as a whole) works – the special effects, the “spy” technology and the movies.  I’m also finding the series interesting because they are aging the lead character (Hunt) instead of simply re-booting the series with a new team.  All in all, I rate the series as higher than the individual pieces and the last two as better than the first three.
Two final notes: like many of the movies in the action / adventure genre, this series has definitely made an effort to “span the globe” in an attempt to attract the global audience.  This series goes a bit too far (IMHO), but who am I to say as they are making a ton of dosh in the foreign markets.  And I apologize to any readers who slogged through this LONG post.  I hope you found the reviews moderately interesting / entertaining.
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On This Day In:
2015 Happy 4th of July 2015!!
2014 Happy 4th of July 2014!!
2013 Patriot Act, Anyone?
2012 Five Lost Wars
2011 Worth Fighting For
2010 Still Learnin’ Hard…
4th of July 2010

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Jack Reacher Series #1: Killing Floor  —  book review
Every great book series has to start somewhere, and this is where the Jack Reacher series started…
Roughly two years ago, I reviewed the Tom Cruise movie: “Jack Reacher“.  I enjoyed the movie, found out it was based on a book series and put it down on my list of things to look into later.  Last month I finally got around to reading one of the novels in the series: (“The Enemy“).  That book was actually the eighth book in the series, but I decided to read it first because it was a prequel to his leaving the military and starting out his civilian career.  I was hoping to jump into the series with background from before the series.  As it turns out, this was probably a great idea.
The book I just finished: “Killing Floor” (1997©) written by Lee Child, is the first in the series and begins shortly after Reacher has left the Army and more or less relates the story of his becoming a Paladin (of sorts).  Although Reacher considers himself to be a fairly amoral person who doesn’t want to get involved with other people’s problems, in the end (actually, very early in each story) we see that, in fact, he chooses sides, and it’s usually for “right” as he understands it or for whomever he judges to be the underdog in any given situation.
Without giving too much of the book away, the death of someone close leads to the “decision” to help.  There are “very bad” bad guys.  There is murder.  There is money (the root of all evil).   There is an indifferent local populace and, of course, the beautiful damsel and the righteous hero.  There are twenty books in the series, so the hero always survives (ho-hum).
If I have one complaint (comment), it is the typical criminal mystery / drama / action story tendency to have the hero “intuitively” solve the mystery around 90% of the way through the book and then not tell us what (or how) he figured out the answer.  Instead, the hero spends the remainder of the book unravelling the proof for us so everyone else in the story (and us) are left to recognize how smart Reacher is.  Despite this minor fault, the movie and the two books I’ve read have all been very entertaining.  Final recommendation: strong to high.  A fast read with a good mystery, action, non-graphic sex and the bad guys get their just desserts in the end.  One other side comment, I now understand (and agree with) the folks who complained about Tom Cruise playing Reacher in the movie.  Cruise gets away with the role (adequately if you’ve not read any of the books), but he is NOT Jack Reacher.
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On This Day In:
2015 Avengers Assemble II
But If I Had To Perish Twice…
2014 Turning Pages
2013 We Are All Accountable
2012 American Sign Language
2011 Happy Disproof
2010 Book Review – Managing Your Government Career

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Today I am home ill with what seems to be an ear infection.  Every few years, I get this swollen sensation on the right side of my head.  It feels like my head has a weighted balloon attached to the right side.  When I turn my head, stand or look quickly in any direction, I get a light-headedness and it feels like my vision / brain is continuing to move after my head (or eyeballs) have stopped.  Several years ago I had to go to the ER to get seen by a doctor about this condition.  Then, I also had an associated fever, which I fortunately don’t have this time.  In any case, I take some decongestants and my vertigo pill and I kind of spend the day in a half-stupor of fatigue and dizziness.
This morning I completed a book I’ve been reading off and on for several years now.  Our local library system has an annual shelf clearing book give-away each August and they have about 800 to 1,000 boxes of books which are set out for anyone to take what they want – as much as you can carry, and come back tomorrow.  Today’s book was one of these and I picked it up about three years ago.  It has mostly sat in my car waiting to be read.  I would grab it whenever I had a doctor / dentist visit to have something to read in the waiting room.  Unfortunately, if you don’t wait much, you don’t read much, so this has taken quite a while to get through.
The book is titled: “The Modern Samurai Society: Duty and Dependence in Contemporary Japan“, (1982©) and was written by Mitsuyuki Masatsugu.  The book attempts to explain contemporary (circa 1982) corporate Japan in terms of the historical legacy of the Samurai (“samurai” means “one who serves”) society which held sway in Japan for several centuries.  The samurai tradition fell out of favor with the coming of the industrial revolution in the last half of the 19th century.  (As an aside, part of this transition was portrayed in the Tom Cruise movie: “The Last Samurai“.)  In essence, it attempts to explain Japanese business management techniques to non-Japanese.
To Masatsugu, successful Japanese management stems from eight factors which incorporate two features from Japanese culture.  The eight factors (guiding principles) to success are:
1) Paternalism;
2) Guaranteed lifetime employment;
3) Seniority-based promotion;
4) In-company unions;
5) Periodic transfers;
6) Overtime work as a safety valve;
7) Enriched welfare program; and,
8) A selective retirement system.
The two features which Masatsugu believes to be uniquely emphasized in Japanese society are:
1) Diligence – the duty each individual has towards their country in general and towards their company in particular.  And,
2) Dependence – a recognition that even though the employees are individuals, they must work together to surpass non-Japanese companies.
Like any “valid” theoretical explanation, management theories must meet a minimum of two criteria: does it accurately describe what is currently happening, and two, does it have predictive value either for when external conditions change or when internal structures are abandoned (or both).  In this book’s case, we now have the benefit of thirty-two years history to see that Masatsugu’s proposal was pretty spot on.
Since the book’s release Japan has suffered both a housing boom collapse and an economic drought now approaching the middle of its third decade.  The housing collapse happened in the 1980’s and the start of Japan’s economic drought (I hesitate to call it a collapse as Japan has only recently been surpassed by China as THE economic power in Asia) occurred in the 1990’s.  In fact, the 1990’s is sometimes referred to in Japan as “the lost decade” because there was so little economic growth.
Specifically, Masatsugu suggests the structure of Japan’s economic strength is based on these principles and if any one (or combination) fails, the entire structure will waver and ultimately collapse.  Masatsugu predicts the gradual incorporation of western management will bring about an economic failure.  He leans towards the abandonment of guaranteed lifetime employment and seniority-based promotion when “times get hard”.  Masatsugu says that in past times, management held to principle and the economy eventually turned around.  He cautions that future management might not have the fortitude to withstand to pressure to abandon principle in an effort to meet “western style” quarterly objectives.  We now know Japanese management has moved away from guaranteed lifetime employment, seniority-based promotion and selective retirement.  All of these actions have had a detrimental effect on business (and societal) productivity in the U.S. over the last 40 years.  It will be interesting to see if the same happens in Japan and how long it will take to happen (if it does).
I doubt very much that this book could be written in today’s “politically correct” world as it has several racist and sexist comments which, in context, seem common sense, but are actually inculcated cultural biases.  For example, women are generally considered unequal to men in the business world, because…  Wait for it…  Because they are!  (Well, except when they aren’t.)  In the author’s view, a woman can be one of the main reasons a man succeeds in business.  But, a female can never succeed in Japanese business on her own.  In all, though, these are trivial reasons to be critical of a book which I believe is overwhelmingly a valuable (if dated) insight into Japanese business culture.  Highly recommended!
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On This Day In:
2013 Doin’
2012 A Lover
2011 What Have We Found Here
Words

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Today’s review is for the detective / mystery / action movie: “Jack Reacher“, starring Tom Cruise.  Now, in all fairness, I like Tom Cruise, but I am not a big fan, so my views on this film are slanted towards “no dog in the fight”.  This wasn’t a movie I was looking forward to seeing in the theater, but when it became available on DVD, I decided to check it out.  Actually, I borrowed it from my brother.
The movie starts out as a “who-dun-it” and then quickly devolves into an action movie with set pieces to showcase Tom.  There is a particularly good street fight, which seems to be lifted out of “The Last Samurai” – which is my favorite Tom Cruise movie and which I’ve watched a couple dozen times.  Anyway, the next fight scene is in a home and is (I suppose) more of a comedy than a realistic fight.  Anyway, just before the ending, Tom has a big fight with the main ass-kicking villain (as opposed to the brainy villain).  The fight is okay, but not particularly believable.  For one thing, Tom is like 5′ 6” and the bad-guy (Jai Courtney) is 6′ 1”.  Of course with good camera angles you can make Tom look taller, but not so much and not so well here.
Incidentally, and I didn’t know this at the time of the viewing, the character “Jack Reacher” is from a series of novels and he is supposed to be around 6′ 5” and a force of nature.  Tom has charisma, but a “force of nature”?  Again, not so much.  Needless to say, the fans of the novels were not too keen to see Tom selected for the lead role.
Having said all this, I liked this movie.  It has a great little role for Robert Duvall (one of my favorite actors), and Tom does actually carry the role off rather well.  If I hadn’t done the background read about the novel and then thought about Tom Cruise in the role, I might even think more of it.  Anyway, it works as both a detective story and as an action movie.
Final recommendation:  moderate to highly recommended.
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On This Day In:
2013 Who’s Side?
2012 Why I Joined The Army And Not The Navy…
2011 Is It Your Turn Yet?
Just Trippin’

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