Category Archives: Reviews

Atomic Blone Review

Atomic Blonde is a visceral experience.

Based on a the graphic novel, The Coldest City, by Antony Johnson and Sam Hart.

The time is 1989 just days before the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Which occurred when I was in high school, but now seems to be a time regulated to history books.  By setting it during this time, we can now tell spy stories between waring states, as opposed to hidden terror threats.  The good ol’ days of spy stories.

Directed by David Leitch, who was a co-director on the first John Wick movie.  David Leitch got his start in Hollywood as a stuntman, and it shows in Atomic Blonde.

Charlize Theron, plays Lorraine Broughton a highly skilled MI6 officer, is perfect for this role, tall, blond, attractive, and physically fit.

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James McAvoy plays David Purcvell, and John Goodman plays Emmet Kurzveld a CIA operative.

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The story is told from a deep briefing room, where a beaten and bruised Charlize Theron is telling the story of tracking down a double agent who has a list of all the spies who work for MI6.

And that’s really all you need to know for the story.

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The movie is all atmosphere and action.  And it is great action.

Unlike the action other movies, where the hero is never hurt, does get exhausted, and takes on thousands of faceless bad guys, here fight scenes have weight.   When protecting a Russian defector, Theron is in an elevator and stops the elevator and instead of coming out blasting, she waits with heavy breathing and waits for one of two bad guys to come at her.  In a fight with two bad guys, it is heavy and intense.

She gets hurt, injured, and the bad guys don’t die easily.  As the scene progresses she becomes more injured and tired.  She eventually narrows down her opponents to one, and at one point they are both so injured and tired they just stand across from each other with labored breathing and staring each other down.  Each opponent running on empty, bullets have run out, and fighting with only the items left in the room, in this case a wine opener, the director brings a real excitement to what could have been just another easy shoot up the bad guy scene.

The movie is a great who-done-it, but ultimately this movie is about atmosphere and style.  And what wonderful, fun style it is.  I recommend it.

Rated R-for extreme violence, nudity, and sex.

The strange critiques of The Force Awakens

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The Force Awakens hits Blu-Ray here soon.   And there is something that has been bugging me about the fans response recently to the movie.

First of all, I admit it.  Star Wars takes up a lot of my thinking.  I was 4 when the original movie came out.  Apparently it was the first movie I ever saw in the theater, according to my parents.  And I’m pretty certain they would know.

So when the news hit that Disney had bought Star Wars in October 2012 I was excited.

Episode 7 30 rock

But let’s be honest the prequels left a tinge of disappoint.  (Or for some, complete hatred.)  So there was some worry that maybe we would get a new series of prequels, movie that had lightsabers but  were still somewhat off.

The Trailers

Then the first trailer dropped in 2014 and there X-wings, and the Millennium Falcon.  Holey Moses, the Falcon is back.  (And the radar dish is now rectangle, because as we all know the dish was destroyed in Return of the Jedi.)  It was great, but still, keep those expectations in check.

Then the second trailer dropped in 2015.  And it ended with the perfect lines “Chewie we’re home.”  Chills. Down. Spine.

Chewie, We're home

The third trailer just brought it all home,

“There are stories…”

“It’s true.  All of it.”

That exchange was just perfect.  I admit.  There may have been weeping.

Then the movie.

I saw the very first showing available here in the Richmond area, 7 pm on December 17.  I was giddy from the opening crawl.  Here was an opening crawl devoid of trade federation, trade talks, and blockades.  Instead there was talk of finding Luke Skywalker.

Yes!  The story has always been who is Skywalker!  So here we finally have a story where we are looking for someone.  A holy grail search in a Star Wars movie.

And it’s here that I begin to scratch my head at the complaints that Force Awakens is a retread of A New Hope.  With Force Awakens the entire story is getting us to finding a person.  A person.

A New Hope’s driving plot point was about blowing up the Death Star.

The Similarities and Differences

Yes, there are similarities.  There is a desert planet, Han Solo, Chewie, and Leia are back in the movie, there is something hidden in a droid that everyone is looking for.  And of course there is a new Death Star, Starkiller Planet.

But there are differences.  The first interaction between Poe and Finn, it feels like actors are finally excited and happy to be in a Star Wars movie.  Finn is funny.  Rey is funny.  And not forced Jar-Jar funny, or even worse C-3PO funny in Attack of the Clones.   (Dear Lord in Heaven, C-3PO in Episode 2 is just unbearable.)  Their joy was such a breath of fresh compared to all the other Star Wars movies.

Complaining that the Force Awakens is too much like A New Hope is just spoiled complaining.  For years people complained that the prequels weren’t like the originals, and now people complain about The Force Awakens is TOO MUCH LIKE THE ORIGINALS?!

What the actual heck!?!

Seriously Haters…get a grip.

Creating is difficult.  Complaining that a great movie isn’t the Second Coming Perfect is just stupid.

The deal is JJ Abrams had a near impossible task of rebuilding the Star Wars brand and he pulled it off with flying colors.  Good for him.

Creating is difficult.  If all you do is critique, then you realize that it is difficult, and you have chosen the easy way out.

Creating is difficult.  When creation succeeds, celebrate it.

Also see: Ten Things I Learned From George Lucas.

 

The Choose Yourself Guide To Wealth – Not your father’s financial advice

(Quick update. Go here to get a limited time offer hardback of the book, plus some other goodies.)

(Update 2. The book is now available on Kindle and in paperback.)

James Altucher has self-published and traditionally published several books.  His last self-published book, Choose Yourself, has sold over 200,000 copies since it came out in 2013.  He has made and lost millions and then made it back.

He has a follow up to that book, The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth, which will be available on March 1.  I was lucky enough to get an early copy.

Choose yourself Guide to Wealth cover

 

In 2015 things have changed and are changing.  You just know things are different.  You can’t quite put your finger on it, but advice for your career and finances aren’t working anymore.

James wrote about the changes in his 2013 book Choose Yourself.  Which really was a book on health.  Not just make a lot of money, but be healthy in all aspects of your life.

Here James has put together a blueprint, a handbook, to help us navigate the new financial quagmire we too often have found ourselves in this century,  As James says in the book “This is not a self help book.  It’s just exactly what I did for myself.”

If you are looking for save a 1000 bucks, pay down your smallest credit card first, go to college because it makes you more money, then please stop reading.  This book will only make you furious.  And then you will hate me.  So please stop reading.

But if you need new ideas, then please keep reading.

Okay.

Still with me?

A little background

I first discovered James’ writing around 2012.  I was doing a search on “do I pay down my mortgage or save?” and I came across a blog post about why you should never buy a house.  Ever.  Is that advice you normally get?

So I read some more.

And I discovered that James was writing about other ideas.  And ideas that I agreed with, but no one else wrote about.

Such as having one job to make money is not safe.  In is in fact, the opposite of safe.  That I completely agreed with.

I was also beginning to put my first book Kevin and the Seven Lions together.  And James is a big proponent of self-publishing.  He shared his experience of publishing the traditional way, and the new way.  He advocates for self-publishing big time.  So I was on board with his writing ever since.

So he was writing about two ideas that no one else, I could find at the time, would ever have the courage to write about.

In terms of jobs, I have been employed full-time as a videographer, a minister, in retail, and as a teacher.  I have also run a freelance business on the side, and over the last couple of years I have published children’s books.  My wife has said I have ADD.  But in spite of being teased, my experience has taught me that being able to do many different things is a valuable skill.  And now in my early 40s it is beginning to pay dividends for me.

In terms of publishing, my books have brought not just a few extra dollars in, but they have brought in other opportunities to work with other people.  I have been doing several things at once.

That is the COMPLETE OPPOSITE of what is taught by schools, colleges, and parents.  “What is your major?”  “What do you want to do when you grow up?” “You need to settle down?”

It would be great to settle down.  But what happens when your boss fires you because he can’t make payroll?  Or because the company was bought and now you are considered redundant?  Or simply because your boss doesn’t like you.  BAM!  You’re outta there.

Then what?

Well you need to reinvent yourself.  Or to borrow James’ phrase Choose Yourself.

At the beginning of the book James uses graphs and stats to show the financial trend that is affecting all of us.  That feeling of unease is explained in his graphs showing just how flat wages are for the middle and lower class.  And it hasn’t just been occurring since 2008.  It’s been going on my whole life time, and probably yours.

College, housing, and healthcare have also done nothing but gone up faster than inflation over the last several decades.

Your income.  Not so much.

(And you teachers that read this blog know EXACTLY what I am talking about.)

James lays all of the facts out in the beginning of the book.

And here is what he recommends to get out.

Ideas are the most valuable currency of our time.

This is simply the thrust of the entire book.  He calls it becoming an idea machine.  His chapter alone on the Idea Matrix is enough to recommend buying book.  He has written before about the Idea Matrix, but here he gives more details on how ideas turn into wealth.

 

This idea alone is worth the purchase.

This idea alone is worth the purchase.

And how do you work your way up the Idea Matrix?  Write down 10 ideas a day.  Everyday.

Using Mark Zukerberg as an example, James explains how ideas are more valuable than cash.  Yahoo wanted to buy Facebook early on.  Mark would have gotten $250 million.  He said no.

Not all ideas bring in cash, but they do bring experiences and opportunities.  James got to see the inside of Amazon’s self-publishing set-up when he sent Amazon ten ideas.  He wasn’t paid, but he got to meet new people and plant seeds for future opportunities.

And writing down ideas has worked for me.  James sharing his book with me, and you reading this post, happened because I have been working on becoming on my own Idea Muscle over the last several years.  This blog post is the direct result of working my way up the Idea Matrix.

P.S. His wife wrote a whole book about the process of becoming an idea machine.  Check out my review of it.

The rest of the journey

James really delves deep into details on:

  • How to negotiate (I really learned from the section.  Always have a longer list than the other person.)
  • How to build a company
  • How to be a super connector (Interviewing people on a blog, which I have done here is one way to be a super-connector)
  • Look for trends when investing (surprisingly he doesn’t mention self-publishing here)
  • What to do with your money once you actually have some.  (His advice is very different from, well, every other financial writer.)

But I got the most out of the stories.

There is a lot in this book.  And too much to comment on here.  This post is now over a 1000 words.  But here are some of the stories I got a lot out of.

Richard Branson started Virgin Air when his flight was canceled by leasing a plane on the Virgin Islands, and then to help with the costs stood in the airport with a sign that read “Puerto Rico $39”.

Brokers will lend out shares you own, to other investors so they can short them.

Warren Buffett is really more of trends investor. And that early on he made money by the fees he made from other people’s money.  He didn’t just invest his own money, as it is often portrayed.

Gene Wolfe invented the Pringles can and then writes one page a day and got so good at writing he won awards.  (I also wrote about the idea of one page a day.  Just 150 words a day and your life changes.)

Marni Kyrnis creates a Craiglist ad to be your wing woman at the bar.  And starts a new career.

That Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, asked the agent who wanted to represent him who else they represented, and they got quiet and then responded “Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes”.

It is the stories that really show what James is talking about.  Despite his skill at finances, he is actually a skilled story teller.  (He needs to publish a fiction book sometime.  Seriously, though check him out on Wattpad.)

Things are changing

To thrive emotionally, career-wise, and financially in the 21st century you must NOT think like the 20th century.  A corporation or job will not choose you and protect you.  30 years and a gold watch are done.  Those days are over.

And that is a good thing.

We can get through this by choosing ourselves first, and then helping each other.  This isn’t a selfish me only, way of thinking.  This is I am healthy, and now I can help you way of thinking.

Pick this blue-print up when it is available in March.  I will also update this post with a link to the book.

In the meantime you can pick up Choose Yourself and Become an Idea Machine now on Amazon.

     

 

Here is my original review of Choose Yourself.

 

 

Become an Idea Machine-by Claudia Azula Altucher (and why you should)

What is an idea machine?

I’d like to be one.  I need to have my life change drastically in some ways.

I have written before about the importance of combining and creating ideas.  But her work takes it to another level.

Claudia Azula Altucher has written a book to help people become an Idea Machine.  Her work is based on her husband’s, James, work in Choose Yourself.

 

The premise of being an Idea Machine is that you should need to be able to present ideas in any situation to help yourself and those around you.  When things get difficult, if you’re an Idea Machine, then your life doesn’t remain difficult for long.  There will always be solutions available to you.

Here is the basic idea.

Write down 10 ideas.

Easy. Right?

Do it everyday.

Write down at least 10 ideas a day around one theme.

It take time, but that is how it works.  I have been practicing it awhile and can testify to it working.

Claudia has written a very well organized book.  The first 90 days are idea themes for yourself.  The second 90 days are themes of ideas that you giveaway.  There is where the magic really begins when you are an idea machine.

Claudia suggests if you are new to practicing  writing down ideas that you follow the themes in order as she presents them.

Since I’ve been practicing this seriously for about a year.  So I went went through the book to see the different prompts she suggests.  One of my favorites she suggests is Ten Apps You’d Like to Use.

When I practiced with that one I realized I need an app combines Evernote and One-Note.  I use both.  I need that.  Seriously someone get on that.

I like her introduction to the second 90 themes.  Because after 90 days your brain is getting stronger with idea creation.  So now is the time to begin really sharing your ideas with others.

There is a lot value in her suggestions on how to share your ideas with others.  That is my current area work.  Sending out ideas to people in a cold email.  I’ve never done it.  I give ideas away easily when people ask for them, but sending them to people who didn’t ask for them.  Well, I’m not there yet.

There’s my theme for writing tomorrow.  “How to get over this fear of sending out ideas.”

The introduction written by her husband James alone is worth the price of the.  James details why ideas are the currency of the 21st century.

The currency of the 21st century.

I absolutely love that imagine.  Suddenly currency goes from something that is scarce, to something that you can create on a daily basis.  That changes everything.

I have regularly tried to write down ideas.  For years my primary side business was wedding videography and photography.  I regularly write down different packages to present to clients and different ways to get clients.  What James and Claudia’s work added for me was coming up with ideas EVERYDAY with different themes.  When you do that, it gets easier for you to create ideas.

Claudia and James both say that your life changes when you do this.  I can attest this.

For me in the year or so since I have really been practicing this, here are some examples of what has happened to me:

  • Published five paperbacks, and 7 no 8 Kindle books.
  • Read one of my books on my  schools morning announcements.  Who else gets such a captive audience?
  • Created an audio book for my first book
  • Hired to create websites for several colleagues and got paid to do it.
  • Gotten several photography  clients without advertising
  • Interviewed other indie-children’s writers on my blog.  Including several Google Hangouts and Skype interviews.
  • Grew my mailing list from one (me) to over a 100 in about 6 weeks.
  • Had one of my books hit #14 on the Amazon Kindle children’s list.  Literally sitting on the same screen as Harry Potter.  And right next New York Times Best-Seller Wonder. Seriously, what’s that about?  (See the post complete with screen shot.)

That’s just what happened to me.  Read Claudia’s book to see the value in doing this daily practice, and help you create joy in your life.

Also read her husband’s book. I hear it’s pretty good.  (Actually here is my review of his book.)

 

P.S. If you are interested in getting free short stories and my next book for free before it hits Amazon join my Insider’s List.  You will also be entered to receive signed copies of my paperbacks.  Winner will be announced on February 1.