Movie Reviews: 500 Days of Summer

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Boy meets girl.

Boy falls in love with girl.

Girl breaks up with Boy.

We’ve seen this all before, but not quite in this non-linear way. Many times, movies are told in a total flashback, where the beginning of the narration is really the end, but that isn’t the case here at all.

We see the highlights and the low points and know mostly one side of the story. It’s ultimately his story, and his journey, so it works, despite being a somewhat sad watch.

The famed “expectations vs reality” scene reflects something we’ve all gone through. Life sometimes doesn’t measure up to what he wanted. Outcomes are not quite achieved. Hope is sometimes lost.

But as long as we get through that dark tunnel, we might find some hope again.

Seasons change, and time heals.

It could be the best Zooey Deschenal film before her move to TV. She plays it as cold and irrational as you’d expect, or as you remembered from your own experiences, when you are not the one.

Movie Rating: 8/10 Shower Curtains

Coincidental Circumstances (Part 4)

For three days I toiled with the greatest case of writers block known to man. Maybe it was the girl in the red truck. Her hair. Her eyes. Her mysterious offer.

The killer robot was wreaking some serious plot issues. Where did it come from? What was its motive? Who was behind it? I first tried to replace it with a clown, but it seemed too similar to a recent hit movie, that was really a remake of another movie that was based on a book based on a common childhood nightmare. Scratch one. Imitation isn’t the best form of flattery; its a case of immovable writers block.

There was only one thing to do.

Desperate times called for desperate measures.

I had to go to another Starbucks. Not just any Starbucks though, I needed to hit this case really hard, right in the bullseye. That’s right. I was at the last stop.

I headed for a Starbucks within a Target. A literal riddle within a riddle.

This isn’t a place for any normal writer. This is only a place for the most bourgeois of writers. And it was a place with unlimited gum supply and selection of average people to watch.

My second idea was a straight cop-out. I’ll admit it. Creative writing doesn’t always spark ideas that make us feel like talented artists. I replaced the killer robot with a drone with hellfire missiles. It gave the story an espionage type feel. There were only like 37 movies in the last 5 years using drones. Where did the drones come from? I had no idea. I was already 5 sticks of gum in, and it made little sense why the drone would destroy the cops. I’m not a Tom Clancy ghost writer dammit. Government conspiracies are not my thing.

I went with it. I made up some tin foil Illuminati deep state conspiracy theory that went back to the founding of America. Yeah, there hasn’t been enough books on that. I didn’t want to quite pigeon hole the narrative into an established genre quite yet. I was free flowing. My keyboard needed to hear my lyrical rhymes.

But something still didn’t make sense.

What was Miranda’s backstory then? Where did the knife come from. Was she part of the Illuminati? Was she a double agent? How did she just so happen to be driving right by the tracks at the right time? Chills ran down my spine. Was her meeting with Zeek by happenstance or was it a covert operation? I needed to reach deeper, dig deeper, and travel to depths I’d never known.

I snapped my fingers and pointed at my macbook.

Maybe, just maybe, she needed a kick ass prologue.

CONTINUED

Movie Reviews: Logan Lucky

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If I was to assemble a dream team to rob a Nascar race, what would be my top 3 draft picks?

1)Thomas Crown

2)Danny Ocean

3)The Joker (Dark Knight version)

I understand what happened. Instead of one James Bond, they replaced him with a newer James Bond. Instead of one heart throb, they replaced him with Magic Mike. Instead of one over-the-top villain, they replaced him with Kylo Ren.

I’m sure the movie pitch was something like “Magic Mike plus James Bond plus Star Wars meets Nascar meets Oceans 11 meets Little Miss Sunshine. “Cinematic gold,” the group of producers would exclaim before high fiving each and heading off to their lunch meetings at Nobu.

I saw how the other half steals. To me, it seemed just like how regular criminals steal: with a bad plan. In movies, bad plans are often replaced with overtly ambitious plans executed by underachievers. This is because boring plans by overachievers is too serious. It’s Heat. It’s the opening of The Dark Knight. The protagonist is typically the authority chasing them.

The movie itself is worth a watch. The gimmick is watching Daniel Craig play an American down on his luck. Channing Tatum does a serviceable job in his performance but it was hard to believe Adam Driver was his brother. Part of me thinks the movie would have worked better if Adam Driver was the main POV. The obstacles would have been even more challenging, and maybe with the war backstory there would have been a more clever ending.

Movie Rating: 7/10 John Denver songs.

 

Coincidental Circumstances (Part 3)

I slowly panned my view all around me as if I was in a Michael Bay film, hoping to spot my gum benefactor. This was no mere coincidence. In my moment of greatest need, she was there for me just like Miranda was there for Zeek.

Except she didn’t need a knife to save me as writer’s block barreled down toward me.

I slapped my macbook shut, unplugged the charger and darted out of Starbucks. Where was Miranda … I mean, the purple haired girl. Sometimes my mind mixes reality and my imagination. I can’t help it. I’m a writer. This is a bane and blessing rolled into one delicious mix.

Disappointingly, there wasn’t any purple hair in sight. I immediately scanned the parking lot for a befitting car but didn’t see a purple Prius hatchback. Damn. I stood on my toes and frantically looked for a hatchback of any color and couldn’t find a single one in the Starbucks lot. The astounding odds of this baffled me.

I walked past the green-umbrella protected islands of conversation and glanced at three tea-patrons sipping on their half empty drinks.

“Did you see a girl with purple hair walk past here?” I asked.

“Purple hair?” answered a guy with a red beard.

“Yes. She had a nose-ring too. Not too big though.”

The guy with a red beard glanced around. “No buddy. Can’t say that I did.”

“I’m serious. It was like thirty seconds ago.”

A skinny girl with straight, black hair chimed in, “Did she forget something?”

“No … well, I mean … maybe. She left me some gum.” This elicited only silence from the potential witnesses. Nobody understands life as a writer.

This would not be my denouement. I paced around the corner for a better view of cars on the other side.

Then I spotted her.

In a red truck. What? This made zero sense to me.

She was backing up and about to shift gears back into drive. I needed to get to her. I picked up speed and started to jog to her car but it was too late. She didn’t even glance in my direction. She exited the parking lot with a right turn.

Fate couldn’t even give me one long left turn at a busy intersection.

CONTINUED

 

 

Movie Reviews: Logan

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Logan is the movie everyone wanted to see at the beginning, not the end of the series. There is probably the least amount of special effects in this time than its predecessors that used it extensively in trying to hide poor acting, writing, and directing.

Logan is a adult film. Maybe not the first comic book adult film as many bandwagon fans seem to point out. At the core of the story, it is a character study of one man.

A broken man.

A man with claws. A Weapon X survivor. A man cursed by his healing powers.

He didn’t need to fight some old Samurai or Deadpool on top of a nuclear reactor to show who he was. He simply needed to fight for a reason. Something beyond himself. To become bigger than one character.

Wolverine needed to become Logan.

The film is great. The acting is great, even including the teenagers in the film. Just because it is a comic book movie doesn’t mean it is automatically made for easy translation and worldwide markets for teenagers around the world. Themes can still be dark. Acting can still trump special effects.

Maybe this is the last time we see Wolverine on screen. With Disney buying 20th Century Fox, I see it going two different ways. Either a full character reboot, or a boatload of cash for a couple more with Hugh Jackman.

For me, it will kind of be like Han Solo. There is only one in my book. It takes nearly flawless writing, acting, and directing to make us forget the previous role. The last time this happened for me was Christian Bale supplanting Michael Keaton as Batman. Then, in the sequel, Health Ledger supplanting Jack Nicholson. This was astounding to me. In the J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot, this didn’t quite happen with Chris Pine and Captain Kirk. I’d describe the feeling as a cool rendition of the old man in the Captain’s chair. The movie was still good.

Logan was great. Maybe it’s the last time we see Hugh don the claws.

Maybe he saved the best for last.

Movie Rating: 10/10 Claws

I sold $110K on Amazon in December

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Why is retail imploding before our eyes? The statistics of brick and mortar bankruptcies are alarming. Compounded with the launch of Amazon Go with a cashierless experience and an entry into pharmaceuticals, there is major displacement on the horizon.

Or is this just pie-in-the-sky thinking for people who don’t truly understand the mechanics behind Amazon’s success with their FBA (fulfillment by Amazon) program.

To sum it up, Amazon essentially was fighting in the low margin inventory discount business for the first ten or so years. They had buyers of all background scouring inventory channels to keep them stocked on a losing game of “demand prediction.”¬†They were competing against the well funded rise of big box empires of any niche category. Toys. Pet supplies. Office supplies. Books. Food. Movies. Whatever you want. Instead of ma and pa shops imploding through an invasion of big box stores, a revenge is now happening.

As they entered the web services business, they understood the scale and profitability of becoming a services company. The technology would be the strength. Now, Netflix goes through Amazon to stream and store all their catalog of content, despite being a direct competitor.

For the retail portion, Amazon outsourced inventory risk to individual sellers. At first, this caused some price spikes with shortages in supply, especially at key times of the year like Black Friday. After a few years, competition has become so fierce, there is massive discounting that happens from inexperienced sellers as the gold rush to join the program continues. Now, over 60% of what is sold on Amazon is sold via FBA. Our products are shipped and stored and ordered from an Amazon warehouse. Many small sellers, with no business acumen or credit, get slaughtered in their first deep Q4.

The fees are high. In all, about three times as high as Ebay.

We pay to have items shipped to an Amazon warehouse. We eat the returns and pay for storage in the warehouse. Then, Amazon takes a hefty fee on top of that.

FBA has essentially paid for the massive warehouse expansion the last 8 years. Sellers are getting more savvy. We scour price disparities between vendors and arbitrage the difference. We hunt for clearances and buy in bulk. Many, who want scale, go for private label dreams and search on Alibaba and AliExpress for cheap products to “brand” and ship to the US.

This is a gold rush and it is killing brick and mortar. Call it the uberization of retail and nationwide clearances.

In my first full year of Amazon, I learned a ton. As a business major, I’d say more is learned in the first year of a startup operating under your own capital than business school. Application always trumps theory.

There are so many mistakes a I made through the year, so even though I sold $110K in just one month, I felt like I didn’t do enough. I could have scaled so much bigger. On Facebook reseller groups, there are people doing ten times the amount every month, which creates a followership cycle of business envy. It’s almost like Reseller Porn. “Hey, look at my sales!” We all have secret tricks. Amazon has gated so many categories and brands that there is an actual economic moat for many small sellers.

How can a brick and mortar store compete against an army of small business with extremely motivated and savvy sourcers who look for the smallest of price disparities on Jungle Scout? How can it fight whispers of special nationwide deals on social media? It can take six weeks for a department store to source a T-shirt in a rush. Now, a teenager in their basement can be the largest t-shirt designer in their state by uploading a design to Merch by Amazon. They don’t have to take on any inventory. They get paid a royalty when it sells.

This is sort of the concept behind self publishing. Anyone can do it. There is no barrier to entry.

There are a few safe places. Large items in particular are insulated. So furniture stores are okay for now. As Tesla knows, there is a dealership network that makes it difficult to do direct sales in the auto market. Walmart remains the only colossus that stands in Amazon’s way to win the last mile.

2018 is here. I’m still sourcing part time, on top of a full time job and other projects. I already have a list of SKUs to go deep on for next christmas season to 10X my sales. Do you?