Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Monuments Men - Sometimes the movie felt like watching someone create art (as in watching paint dry).

I went to see Monuments Men the other night with my wife.  I had high hopes for the movie when I first went in - I figured with George Clooney and Matt Damon, that it would be very well done.  I thought it would be a serious film, my wife expected something like National Treasure.  We got neither.  If it was a serious movie, the inclusion of John Goodman and Bill Murray made it that much more difficult to find as serious.  Seriously, John Goodman going through boot camp?  Why???  And that caterpillar that was stuck on Clooney's face was more distracting than anything.

If it was trying to be funny, it had moments, but they seemed forced and awkward.

If it was trying to be a tear jerker, it didn't really succeed there either.

This is another George Clooney "All-Star Band" get togethers with all of his other high paid acting buddies.  When this occurs the outcome in my eyes is usually "Hey, let's make a movie and have some fun.  People are going to see it cause we are in it - so it really doesn't matter about plot development."

I never really felt like I "cared" about the characters, which is a shame - because I think the subject matter really had a lot of potential.  All in all - skip the theater's and just rent it if you are really bored and just need something to waste your time.

Or better yet - read the book that it was based off of.  I haven't, but I am willing to bet it is better than the movie.

Not really a fan - 3 / 5 stars.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

This story is too crazy to be true - but I know for a fact that it is

"1,001 Nights in Iraq" by Shant Kenderian is one of those stories that gives new meaning to the phrase "truth is stranger than fiction." 

Who would believe that a person with a United States permanent resident status could wind up as a Prisoner of War guarded by Americans who don't believe him?  On top of that, this same person was happy to be a POW, since he put himself in harms way just to have the opportunity to be captured.  And to put a cherry on top, that he falls in love with one of the female soldiers at one of the prison camps.

Yes, truth is stranger than fiction - but I can assure you that Shant's story is true.  How do I know?  Because he was one of the tens of thousands of Iraqi Enemy Prisoners of War that came through the camp that I was a guard in.  Woah.... this just got a little weirder!

Shant came to the United States with his mother after she left  her husband and spent a few years in the US as a permanent resident.  While in high school, Shant made the journey back to Iraq to make peace with his father.  This is when Shant's impeccable sense of being in the absolute wrong place at the wrong time started.  Iraq invaded Iran, and if you were over 18 and a male, you were forced into the Iraqi Army.  How would they convince everyone to do this?  Well they would execute males who refused as traitors, but Saddam didn't stop there - he would execute the entire family as well.

After that experience, which lasted years, Shant was finally weeks away from being able to return to his family in the United States.  His bad luck held up when Saddam decided to invade Iraq and he was drafted again - this time to fight against the country that he desperately wanted to get back to.

I don't want to give too much away, because I can't do the story anywhere near the justice it deserves and was presented in Shant's book.  I can tell you that this is one book that you will have to read to believe, and even then you might question it's authenticity.  But you can rest assured that it is all true.

I give this book a 10 out of 10.  It is a very easy read and will make you want to say "just one more chapter, then I can put it down."  This book also give a very unique insight as to what is was like for an Iraqi soldier in Saddam's army in their everyday life.  When you get the glimpse of Shant's description of his treatment as a "free" Iraqi soldier, you will begin to understand why he wanted to be a POW under American control so desperately.

There are so many different take away's from this book that this post would risk becoming longer that the book it is reviewing.  Do yourself a favor - find it, buy it, and read it.  You won't be sorry you did.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A haunting reminder.....

8:46 is a brief story that follows the everyday lives of people the day before and leading right up to the time when the towers were hit and when they fell.  The movie states that the stories were fictional, but were intended to show how "every day" people were involved and how their loved ones were affected.

I had reservations about watching this film, as that day and images of it still bring up multiple emotions for me.  In the end, I am glad I watched it.  The closing credits state that the movie was made to show how that day was more than terrorists, buildings, and planes - and on that point I think the movie succeeded.  However, I will say that there were some flaws in it.  First, the acting was flat at many points of this fictional documentary.  One could tell that some of the people may not have ever acted or had speaking lines in a film before.  Second, the film jumped around so often and to so many different people that it was hard to feel a connection to the people or their stories.

I think this film might have been better served focusing on fewer peoples stories and spending more time on each one instead of three or four minutes on multiple stories.

The one thing about this film that did stand out is that it still managed to affect me on some level.  Watching some of the brief stories and knowing what was going to happen to them still didn't lesson the emotions from seeing the images again.  Anything dealing with September 11, 2001 is difficult to watch, but in the end, no matter how difficult it is - as a country and a people, we can never forget what happened.

The movie does state that some of the proceeds of the film were directed to "Tuesday's Children."  Tuesday's Children "was founded to promote long-term healing in all those directly impacted by the events of September 11, 2001. Our mission today is to keep the promise to those children and families while serving and supporting communities affected by acts of terror worldwide"

The IMDb rating for the film at the time of this review was a 6.2 / 10.  I am giving it an 7 based on capturing the emotion and the cause.

This movie is currently available on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Captain Phillips - Delivers the Goods!

I rented this movie because my wife wanted to see it.  I really didn't see how they could have turned this one event into a movie that would hold my attention.  How wrong I was!

Tom Hanks delivers an outstanding performance as Captain Phillip, which was a more complicated role than I anticipated.  Trying to act calm in front of his crew, while he is nervous about the severity of the situation, wasn't something an amateur could pull off.  Hanks filled the part perfectly.

I was very surprised by the performance turned in by Barkhad Abdi.  For having been his first acting role, he pulled off the role of a conflicted pirate in very convincing fashion.  His role was complex in the sense that he was stuck between trying to do his job as a pirate, not harming the captain, but at the same time showing his crew that he wasn't a coward while maintain control of his small group.
Since it was based on a true story, and already knowing how it turned out (which I won't spoil here in case you don't follow the news), I also didn't think that they could pull off any suspense.  But the movie not only kept me on the edge of my seat - I learned a few things about the incident with Captain Phillip that I wasn't aware of.  One question that I had before the movie was - "How in the world do these pirates take over these huge shipping vessels?"  Well, these third world pirates managed to do it with only four people.  How?  Well, for that you'll have to watch the movie!

5 / 5 stars rating by Nate!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Need interviewing help? Here is a free resource!

Hello!  This is my first post to my blog.  This blog is going to try to focus on being helpful, positive, and fun!

So, with the economy being what it is and lots of people out looking for work, I thought it would be appropriate to start this blog with a free eBook on interviewing.

"What I Wish EVERY Job Candidate Knew: 15 Minutes to a Better Interview" by Russell Tuckerton is a short book that covers interviewing from a unique perspective - the hiring manager's point of view.  He let's the reader know what is going on in the mind of the person who is interviewing you and what they might be looking for.

Tuckerton gives seven questions to serve as examples as to what he considers to be a good response, a poor response, and also how to answer the question if you have something questionable in your past that needs to be addressed.

A couple of the points that Tuckerton makes really needs to be ingrained into the mind of a person who is being interviewed:
  • The interviewer wants to know what are you going to bring to the company, not what you are interested in for yourself.  (In other words, tell them what is in it for them if they hire you.)
  • There is a reason "why" the question is being asked.  You need to recognize and address that "why".
  • Always ask about what the next step in the process is - it shows you are interested.
One thing to note - this book does not address behavior based (or structured)  interviews.  If you don't know what the difference is between a structured and unstructured interview - I suggest you do some research on them and be prepared for both.

If you are preparing for an unstructured interview - this book does a wonderful job of giving you the information you need in a concise manner.

If you need information on structured interviews - send me an email and I will either point you in the right direction or give you some tips myself.

I wish you success in your search for a new career or promotion!