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MarBlue Sleeq Stylus for Touchscreen Devices, Black
MarBlue Sleeq Stylus for Touchscreen Devices, Black
Price: $13.89
2 used & new from $13.89

1.0 out of 5 stars Piece of junk, July 1, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
After using this for about a week and a half, the rubber knob on the end cracked, like a bad pencil eraser, and split. I found myself dragging it in the opposite direction, to keep it from tearing off completely. Not worth it.

No Title Available

4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Well-Made Summer Popcorn Flick, June 2, 2014
As a kid, I spent a lot of time at the movies. Heck, as an adult, I spend a lot of time at the movies. But I digress. Because of these hours spent in front of a flickering screen, I have fond memories of many silver screen icons. James Bond is a favorite and because I grew up during the Roger Moore era, he is MY James Bond, although I agree Sean Connery is the best. I also love a good scary film, good being the keyword. When a horror film takes obscene pleasure in sharing every gory detail, the filmmakers are robbing the viewer of a necessary element to make these films truly scary. Leave something for the viewer to interpret and their imagination will come up with something far better than the director can. I grew up watching films like “Psycho”, “The Haunting” and the original “Halloween”, so these films will always be better. I also grew up with Ray Harryhausen films, so when a new version of one of these films is made for the sole reason to use computer-generated effects in place of his meticulously crafted work, it leaves me cold. And I watched a lot of cheesy monster films. “Godzilla” films are a favorite, the cheesier the better. And they got pretty bad before the series ended.

I am also an outspoken critic of all of the unnecessary remakes Hollywood perpetuates on us. Why remake a classic? You aren’t going to improve on the original. It is a CLASSIC for a reason. There is no way anyone will make Hitchcock’s “Psycho” better, yet they try, and fail. Buster Keaton’s “Seven Chances”? Try. Fail. Why open yourself up to unfavorable criticism? If you absolutely have to tell the story, make some minor changes and rename it. This is how the majority of films are made anyway.

The “Godzilla” films are not classics because of their quality. They are classics because millions of kids revel in their cheesiness. Then, when they grow up, they have fond memories of the experience. Much like my fond memories of watching Roger Moore as James Bond. So, the “Godzilla” movies seem more ripe for a remake; better special effects and other filmmaking tools can only improve it. Right? But even here, you run the risk of alienating all of the grown men who reveled in the cheesiosity of these films as a kid. If your remake is too good, you will upset the people who still expect to see Godzilla portrayed by a guy stomping around in a rubber suit.

Even though I love the originals, I am ready for a good remake. Roland Emmerich’s 1998 edition, featuring Matthew Broderick, held some promise. But it failed.

Last year, Guillermo del Toro made “Pacific Rim” combining many elements of the monster films with elements of the Giant Robot genre. It was AWESOME, but it didn’t do great business, giving Warner Bros. some pause. The new “Godzilla” was already in the works, scheduled for release this summer.

They didn’t need to worry. “Godzilla (2014)” had one of the largest opening weekends of the year, surpassing “Spider Man 2” and “Captain America 2”.

Directed by Gareth Edwards, the new “Godzilla” combines great special effects with better-than-average human performances and an involving story to become what will be one of the better films of the summer.

Edwards earned attention by creating an extremely low-budget monster film called, well, “Monsters” in 2010. The acclaim this film earned brought him to the attention of the producers of ‘Godzilla”. Naturally, they decided to let a guy whose previous film cost $800,000 direct a film that probably cost between $150 and $200 million. Makes sense, right? No wonder Hollywood studios are always in such dire straits. But in this case, it does work. Edwards brings a fine eye to the human characters and their dialogue, giving it a more realistic bent. There are still far too many instances of Ken Watanabe, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Taylor Johnson staring pensively into the distance. Or of Elisabeth Olsen running from the fighting monsters only to reach safety in a BART station just as they roll over the street level buildings. And there are still moments of dialogue guaranteed to make people laugh – at one point, Watanabe watches Godzilla and other monsters fight. An army official asks him what they should do. “Let them fight” is his reply. Yes, they will destroy most of downtown San Francisco, but let them fight anyway. But based on the originals and the Emmerich remake, both of these could have been so much worse.

The best part of the film is the gojira. Edwards spends a lot of screen time before we actually see any monsters, helping to build the anticipation and tension. We see evidence of them, of their destruction, but it is a while before we see one of the MUTOs, large radioactively mutated organisms. And it is even longer before we see Godzilla. This is how all of the best monster films build anticipation and make the creature even more scary. When we don’t see the creature in full, only get hints of them, our mind begins to fill in the blanks and make the creature even scarier. Love it or like it, the recent “Cloverfield” did this, and did it well, revealing the monster-in any true detail very late in the film. For a good 80 minutes, we only see the destruction the beast causes in New York as the human characters flee from it. In “Godzilla”, the beast isn’t seen in full for a while, which also allows us more time to figure out, along with the humans, what he is trying to accomplish.
Also, because we first see the MUTOs, we spend time figuring out what they are up to before we even see Godzilla. Edwards is doing two things here, building our anticipation and giving a little nod to the many “Godzilla” sequels, “Godzilla vs. Mothra” and the like. This isn’t just about Godzilla, it is about Godzilla battling other huge, radioactive beasts.

And when he does show up, and we see him in his full glory, it is pretty awesome. The first roar? Scary. Both are reminiscent of the first appearance of the T-Rex in “Jurassic Park”. But Godzilla is bigger, a lot bigger, and much scarier.

I don’t think any director intentionally sets out to create a film with less interesting human performances, but because of all of the stuff going on, it is extremely difficult to get realistic performances out of the humans. They seem too much like crackpots and crackpots don’t seem realistic.

The film opens with Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe, “The Last Samurai”, “Inception”) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”, “Happy-Go-Lucky”) investigating a mining accident in the Philippines. Much of the time, Watanabe stares into space, thinking about what terrible thing could have caused this destruction while Hawkins chatters on about the similarities between this and that. Then, a few years later, in Japan, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) and his wife, Sandra (Juliette Binoche), head to the nuclear plant he runs and she provides maintenance for. They have been receiving reports of tremors and Cranston (in a spoof-worthy toupee) begins to yell at his subordinates about shutting it down. An accident leads them to evacuate. Flash forward fourteen years and Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, “Kick-Ass”) has returned home to Elle (Elizabeth Olsen, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”, the upcoming “Avengers: Age of Ultron”) and their son, Sam (Carson Bolde). Ford quickly receives a call and learns his father has been arrested for trespassing on the old nuclear plant site in Japan. Ford travels to Japan and bails his father out before helping him travel back to the quarantined city in which they lived. Before you can say MUTO, Ford is thrust into the hunt for the nuclear enhanced beasts and ends up in San Francisco just as Godzilla and the MUTOs battle it out.

The acting in “Godzilla (2014)” is better than you might expect. Cranston, in particular, manages to wrench a lot of emotion out of his character and we really feel like we get to know him and what motivates him to uncover the truth. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, taking a page from the ‘Summer Blockbuster Hero Handbook’, keeps thrusting his character back into the action, realizing Ford can help in this fight. He doesn’t have a lot to say, again, pulled from the hero handbook and performances of people like Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenneger, but he is always willing to join the fight.

The other actors are less successful, because they have less to do.

And a film like “Godzilla (2014)” will never be able to completely escape it’s origins. This means that the dialogue will occasionally be overwrought and maybe even laughable. Thankfully, Edwards and his screenwriter Max Borenstein (the upcoming “Seventh Son”, which I thought has already been released) manage to avoid a lot of this. But if it were completely gone, would the film be as good? A certain number of ticket-buyers expect this type of thing. When one of the original “Godzilla” films you grew up with has Godzilla looking at the camera and sighing, you expect a certain amount of cheesiness in any update. At one point, someone asks Watanabe’s character what they should do, because three nuclear enhanced giant beasts are about to fight in downtown San Francisco, causing even more wreckage and havoc. His reply? “Let them fight….” Then, he almost seems to settle in for the show.

And you, dear reader, should also settle in for the show.

Coca-Cola Mini-Can (8 Count, 7.5 Fl Oz Each)
Coca-Cola Mini-Can (8 Count, 7.5 Fl Oz Each)
Price: $3.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Too Small, But..., May 30, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There isn't a lot you can say about Coke or Pepsi aty this point. If you like one, you probably don't like the other. I'm a fan of Coca-Cola and this product is the same flavor you would expect from the historied product. Crisp, flavorful and refreshing.

The big innovation the two companies seem to be noodling with, because they can't really change the formula, is packaging. Each is now available in these small cans.

Coke's are available in an 8 pack and to be honest, the size is too small.

Most people drink two to three times this amount in a single setting. So it doesn't make any sense to buy an 8 pack of these cans that will cost two or three times the equivbalent of a larger bottle.

I can think of two exceptions. If you are trying to limit your intake. Also, these cans are the perfect size to use with the Zoku Slush and Shake Maker. Everyone who loves Coke knows that fresh is best and if you have an open container it will go flat. These cans are the perfect size to use with this nifty gadget, each time you use it, you would pop open a new, fresh can.

Mr. Clean Liquid Muscle All Purpose Surface Cleaner Lemon 30 Fluid Ounce
Mr. Clean Liquid Muscle All Purpose Surface Cleaner Lemon 30 Fluid Ounce
Offered by Smile 'n Save
Price: $18.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, May 21, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This stuff is amazing. My husband uses it to clean practically everything and he says it is great, making every cleaning job a lot easier.

It is like using a liquid Mr. Clean Eraser, the white spongelike cleaners they introduced a while back. And I thought those were good. But this seems to make the job even better.

The benefit of using a liquid is that you could let a little of it soak into a bad stain and let it do it's magic before wiping it away.

My one complaint is that the lemon scenet is both strong and a bit artificial. A lot like using a high does of Lemon Pledge.

The Son: A novel
The Son: A novel
by Jo Nesbř
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.42
86 used & new from $13.29

3.0 out of 5 stars A good change of pace, but Harry Hole's adventures are better, May 21, 2014
This review is from: The Son: A novel (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Like most successful authors, Jo Nesbo has recently begun to explore other characters, branching away from the Harry Hole mysteries that garnered him so much attention. He also sort of wrote his way into a hole, so he needs to find new characters and stories to write about.

“The Son”, his newest, returns to the familiar streets of Oslo to tell the story of Sonny Lofthus, a drug addict currently enjoying a zen-like state in prison. People turn to him for guidance and affirmation, making him a sort of God-like figure among the prison population. His fellow prisoners tell him their troubles and he sits silently, listening?, before placing a hand on them, making them feel as though they are blessed.

Sonny learns a secret about his father, which makes him break out of prison to hunt the people responsible down.

Nesbo introduces a new police detective, but he isn’t very interesting. This is all about Sonny and whether he will reach his goals before the police can track him down.

Nesbo has a very spare writing style, which seems stereotypical for a Scandinavian writer. He gets write to the point and doesn’t spend a lot of time on exposition. I have a love/ hate relationship with his books, enjoying the sparseness on some levels, but wishing for more description and narrative on others.

Nesbo’s work, like the late Stieg Larsson’s work (“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”), is very violent. This makes the writer stand out, and sometimes his sparseness helps deal with this. I personally don’t mind this but it is worth noting for someone unfamiliar with the writer.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Grand Budapest Hotel
DVD ~ Willem Dafoe
Price: $14.99
13 used & new from $14.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How Many Ways Can You Say Great?, May 1, 2014
This review is from: The Grand Budapest Hotel (DVD)
It is much more difficult to write a review of a good film than to write a review for a bad film. And if a film is great, so much more difficult. There are only so many ways to say something is SUPERB.

Wes Anderson’s new film “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is, I daresay, a RESPLENDENT film. It will end up on many “Best Of 2014” lists. I’m probably getting my hopes up too high, but to have one of the best films of the year released in early March must mean this will be a year filled with many more examples of greatness. Right? Right?

Anderson has a MASTERLY eye for detail. In each of his films, he introduces us to a very idiosyncratic group of people. And these people live in a very unique environment. Each of these places is designed down to the smallest detail by Anderson. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is no exception. Set in three distinct time periods, each period has unique elements designed to make us feel as though we are traveling through a time-warp.
Because the hotel is located in the Alps of an Eastern European country, three distinct eras are presented for us. The first is during the Cold War. At the height of Communism, the hotel is going through an austere phase; signs depicting the many rules in force are plastered everywhere the eye can see. Also, the hotel has seen better days with many necessary repairs receiving little or no attention. People still come to the hotel, because they have in the past and because they are visiting the area, but the numbers are very small and the hotel is struggling to stay afloat. Working backward, Anderson also shows us the Grand Budapest during the “War”. The Nazi-like party uses the hotel as a “headquarters”, splashing their insignia all over the still opulent hotel, using the grand establishment as a place for their officers to relax. But the story focuses on the Grand Hotel Budapest during it’s heyday, the late 30s, every surface awash in red, gold and pink velvet. This is the type of hotel where your every need is met; if you want a bon bon from the local bakery, it arrives at your doorstep in a few moments.

We have all seen films telling a story over different time-periods, and many of these are amazing, successfully transporting us to this era. But in a Wes Anderson film, all of this production design comes out of his head. His ideas and style touch every single item placed within our eyesight. And in “The Grand Budapest Hotel” all of this production design creates a SUMPTUOUS sight that is truly a beauty to behold.

Anderson’s consummate professionalism extends beyond the production design. Because of the critical acclaim heaped on his films, Anderson has achieved a rarified status as a director, leading actors to clamor to work with him. Many actors appear in film after film, forming a repertory company for the director. Others jump at the chance to work with him when asked. Why? Because their work in his films is often recognized as a SUCCESS giving them the acclaim they don’t normally get. In “Grand Budapest”, Ralph Fiennes takes the lead, playing M. Gustave, the legendary concierge at the hotel. Gustave is a true Anderson creation; unexpected, quirky, completely at ease in a strange, unusual world that is his domain. Fiennes as the consummate professional that is Gustave is a TRIUMPH; he knows his clients every desire and whim and this is why he has the reputation he has, leading his guests to return to the hotel time and time again.

When things start to go wrong for Gustave, he enlists the aid of his loyal assistant Zero (Tony Revolori) to help him and they begin an adventure leading them throughout the Alps.

The Anderson Repertory Company works together to create a performance that is a MASTERWORK. Jude Law, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, F. Murray Abraham, Tom Wilkinson, Edward Norton, Mathieu Amalric, Owen Wilson, Jeff Goldblum and Harvey Keitel all pop up giving this already unique and unusual landscape more interest. There are also a handful of character actors, part of the Anderson entourage, who pop up in a number of small roles, some so small that if you blink you would miss them, but if they weren’t there you would notice their absence because they need to be part of this story. Each member, no matter how small the role, adds a unique flavor to the overall ensemble. It is also exciting to see new people enter the fold and become a pert of the ensemble. Some of the actors in this film are Anderson veterans, others are virgins in this film, but you can be sure they will make more appearances in future projects.

Anderson crafts “Budapest” to be a homage to Euro-inspired comedies and dramas of the 30s. He even frames the film in an old-fashioned aspect ratio, giving “Budapest” the look of these old classics. The works of Stefan Zweig are also credited as inspiration. Zweig, who died in 1942, was a Hungarian writer who worked on many films in the 30s. Strangely, his IMDb profile shows that films and books are still being made from his works; a new Patrice Leconte film is also based on his writing. He was involved in many films, many of which are not that well known, but if you are a film fanatic, you have at least heard of them. These films were set in European countries and featured countesses and fading royalty dealing with their lives. When you look at the inspiration, it is easy to see the ties to this new Anderson film, and the quirkiness of the connection is also trademark Anderson.

Gustave is named in the will of Madame D. (Swinton), one of the many elderly, rich, female guests who frequents the Grand Budapest for the ‘personal’ attentions of M. Gustave. But her son, Dmitri (Adrien Brody), will not hear of it and accuses Gustave of many crimes. Dmitri and his hired gun, Jopling (Willem Dafoe) begin to follow and eventually chase Gustave and Zero throughout the Alps. Gustave realizes he must use his skills and the assistance of his friends to allude the two men and clear his name.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a delightful, unusual, quirky blend of humor and homage creating a TOUR DE FORCE, hopefully one of many we are likely to see this year. Right? Right?

Well, it looks like I was able to come up with EIGHT different ways to say GREAT. I should really try to come up with more… You go and see “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and I will work on that while you are gone. We’ll meet back here later.

Off you go…

The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook
The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook
by Editors at America's Test Kitchen
Edition: Paperback
Price: $22.25
61 used & new from $15.86

4.0 out of 5 stars No Longer Skeptical, April 17, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I should've given the folks at America's Test Kitchen more credit. With every cookbook, they do meticulous research and present only the best recipes they can find.

The "How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook" is no exception. They start with a comparison of store-bought gluten free mixes and then provide a recipe for their own.

This is the basis for most of the recipes.

Each recipe I tried was better than the last and has made me a convert.

Lipton Tea and Honey Liquids, Summer Peach, 2.43 Ounce
Lipton Tea and Honey Liquids, Summer Peach, 2.43 Ounce
Price: $3.48
8 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good in some ways, not others., April 3, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I love Peach flavored iced tea and order it regularly when out at restaurants.

This is not a great alternative, but it works for the home and office, to save the time of making a huge batch of iced tea and flavoring it as you want. Actually, scratch that. This doesn't beat that at all. A huge batch of fresh made tea, sweetened and with real fruit added would be a fraction of the cost of this bottle.

For some reason, this flavor is listed for $4 more than the other varieties on Amazon.

As with any of the recent liquids designed for the consumer to add to water, it is all about getting the ratios right.

If you get the ratio right, you will have a glass of tea that tastes like a bottle of pre-made Lipton tea. In otherwords, adequate, but hardly the best thing for a summer day.

Philips Norelco BT5275/41 5100 Beard Trimmer
Philips Norelco BT5275/41 5100 Beard Trimmer
Price: $59.99
13 used & new from $56.09

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Really Love This, April 3, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I had a much cheaper, battery operated trimmer which was adequate.

This Norelco beard trimmer is replacing it permanently. I love the adjustment dial and the fact that it stays where you set it. The shave is extremely comfortable and it does a great, quick job.

It is also nice to have a rechargable unit.

The one drawback would be that there is no stand included.

But all in all, a great find, worthy of your dollars.

The Monuments Men
The Monuments Men
DVD ~ Cate Blanchett
Price: $17.49
17 used & new from $12.49

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Monuments of Stone, March 12, 2014
This review is from: The Monuments Men (DVD)
George Clooney regularly uses his clout as one of the most bankable movie stars to write, produce and/or direct more interesting, more challenging projects. This practice has created an impressive group of films that keeps his fans happy and eagerly anticipating his next works.

Well, 'next' is "The Monuments Men" about a group of men commissioned o save the world's leading artworks from Hitler's war machine and the dictator's voracious appetite to take everything the world has to offer as his own.

"Monuments" was originally scheduled to be released last December, in prime Awards competition season, ready to compete with the Best of the Best. Them the studio abruptly changed the release date to February. Hmmmmmmm. That is NEVER a good sign. But the studio PR machine began to spin a good tale; Clooney wanted and needed more time to finish the polish, the effects on the film. It worked. It convinced me.

Now, after watching "Monuments", I see the correct phrase should be "They fooled me."

Studios do not change release dates for films they have confidence in. They don't move films out of Awards competition if it has a chance of winning an Oscar.

"Monuments" is not a bad film, but it is a mediocre film. Given he cast and crew involved, it is also a disappointment.

Clooney, morphing into a late-career Clark Gable, plays Frank Stokes, the architect of the mission , the leader of the seven American men, beyond their prime to fight, tasked with heading to France and Germany to save thousands of artworks from Hitler in the final days of the war. He rounds the men up and they head to France. They soon split up and follow different leads about different pieces of art before meeting up again, trying to stay one step ahead of the Germans, who are trying to destroy everything in their path as they retreat, and one step ahead of the Russians, determined to sweep everything they find into the Communist machine.

Each character gets a brief introduction and each makes a reference or a joke about someone else, giving us the indication they have a history together, but the relationships are assumed, not illustrated. Then, they begin working on the plan to save artworks by splitting up. This serves to create an episodic storyline, concentrating on smaller groups and does nothing to help us get to know any of the characters in anything more than a superficial way.

Because the film doesn't really create characters, they simply 'are', we don't really get to know them. And this makes us care less about them. As the groups split up, chasing specific masterpieces, they encounter danger, but the result is surprisingly suspense free. When the danger surfaces, your attention is held but because you are waiting for something to happen, something to move you, something to cause you to sit on the edge of your seat, when this doesn't happen, you begin to lose interest.

The lack of character development is a shame because Clooney is a talented writer/director and he is a good actor. But the characters regard each other much like the cast of an "Ocean's" film, all jokes and kidding. In "Monuments", there is a definite feeling these characters are an extension of Danny Ocean and his crew pulling off another heist. This almost seems to be a sequel, or a sequel created by a less accomplished writer/director, who just assumes you know what you need to know about the characters.

It is also a shame because Clooney has rounded up a pretty terrific cast. Matt Damon plays James Granger, a restorationist enlisted to go to Paris and meet with Claire Simon (Cate Blanchett), a French woman who worked with the Germans to catalog the artwork they stole. These two characters are the centerpiece of the film and they actually have a few moments throughout to establish a relationship. Bill Murray plays Richard Campbell, an architect from Chicago, who gets paired off with Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban), a stage director. John Goodman's Walter Garfield is teamed with Jean Dujardin's Jean Claude Clermont. Hugh Bonneville plays Donald Jeffries, a disgraced British officer given a second chance with this new assignment.

The lack of suspense is particularly evident in a few scenes. Late in the film, the story becomes a game of cat and mouse; the Americans are trying to stay ahead of both the Germans and the Russians, each for their own, very different reasons. As each of the three groups begins crisscrossing Germany, we watch, but the filmmakers fail to engage us and we simply don't feel the suspense. At one point, they discover a barrel filled with gold fillings. The characters who make the discovery seem shocked when they realize what it means, but they don't feel the horror that we now know. Maybe they didn't know about the extent of the death camps. But if that is the case, why mention it at all. There is a confrontation with an SS officer, an officer who was involved in an earlier confrontation with one of the stars. But when he is confronted, there is simply nothing there, nothing to make use feel suspense or horror.

And because we don't really feel any suspense, watching the film becomes akin to watching a documentary on the History Channel. One of those documentaries filled with reenactments.

Check out John Frankenheimer's 1964 film "The Train" starring Burt Lancaster, Paul Scofield and Jeanne Moreau. It is a much better film depicting a very similar story.

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