Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Movie Review: Apparition

Apparition does little to bring anything new to the genre of horror, but avoids obvious pratfalls that doom better stories.  The cast is made up of B-level actors from powerhouse franchises, such as Harry Potter and Twilight, but you wouldn’t know it.  With even a mediocre script I would expect more from both Ashley Greene and Tom Felton, but was disappointed at their stereotypical acting.  I was more terrified by the trailer for the upcoming Paranormal Activity 4 than I was throughout the entire movie.

The story revolves around a move into a new house, the happy couple, Kelly and Ben, the latter played by Sebastian Stan, begin to discover strange things going on in the house.  Ben seems to be unfazed by this, but Kelly becomes increasingly troubled.  Things come to a head when Kelly discovers found footage on Ben’s computer of he and his friends trying to bring a ghost into our world.  Of course, things don’t go according to plan and Ben’s then-girlfriend vanishes into thin air.  The ghost is continuing to haunt the last remaining people who tried to bring the being to life, including Patrick, played by Tom Felton.  Once he joins them, they try to send the entity back where it came from.  They perform an anti-séance and think the trouble has vanished, but it hasn’t.  It consumes Patrick and goes after Kelly and Ben.  To avoid giving away anymore of the tepid story, the ending lacks punch, but wraps up in under an hour and a half.

What this movie lacks in ingenuity it makes up for in boredom.  There were scares, don’t get me wrong.  I covered my eyes at varying intervals, but scares that you don’t expect are the only thing the movie truly delivers.  The story never truly resolves itself, the ending leaving the audience in the throes of wondering what happened, and possibly realising it was the villain that won.  As I said before, I expected more from Greene and Felton.  They both delivered textbook wooden performances, showing little range outside of what I imagine was a mediocre script.  I know I shouldn’t throw stones in a glass house, but this is one of those movies where you look at the cast, the budget, which wasn’t meagre, and wonder what went wrong.  The story had potential, but fell flat.  Who’s to blame?  I blame myself for hoping that Greene and Felton would deliver great performances in their first really outings outside of Twilight and Potter, but that didn’t happen.  This is a rental, maybe.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Can’t Put the Fun in Funeral

It seems to happen more often than not, but people are born, people get married and people die, the major events that litter all our lives.  While I could discuss the where and why I was at a funeral, I think it would be a disservice to the person who passed.  The tone of this blog is, hopefully, much more conversational.

Attendance: Just Show Up

One thing I noticed in the audience was how many people not in my age group were there.  I realise that most people who die are old, which is such a flawed statement I can hardly stand looking at it, but it has some truth to it.  If people are allowed to lead a rich, full life, then they die towards the end of said life.  It stands to reason that most people who would attend a funeral are the person’s peers.  In this case, the woman worked at a non-profit that had quite a few young people in it, myself included.  She sat next to me for several years, tolerated my silliness and lack of professionalism with grace.  She was well liked and well known.  But when I looked around the church, I could count on one hand who many young adults there were that weren’t related to the family.

I don’t know if this is an issue with all of my peers, but it needs to be fixed, rectified and acknowledged.  Just because you feel uncomfortable or don’t ‘like’ funerals isn’t a reason to be rude or disrespectful.  Swallow your pride, take a deep breath and pay your respects to someone, be kind and be giving.  Funerals aren’t fun for anyone, and I saw a great outpouring of support from the company I had been with, and it made me feel good.  It made me feel good that I’d taken the time that not one of my friends did and pay respects to someone who had been kind and comforting, a great contrast to the turmoil that still plagues the association.

Get over yourself and attend a funeral!

It Isn't Baseball, so Crying is OK

I realise that some people hire mourners to make appearances at these sorts of events, but that isn’t necessary, not really.  Funerals are sad, you’re celebrating the fact that you will never see someone ever again.  Funerals are permanent and forever, and it is sad.  We don’t go because we want to grab onto the casket and go under with them (though movies and TV would make you think so).  It is okay to cry, to be upset, to lament what you should have said or done that you can’t change now.

I foolishly only brought 2 tissues, and paid for it, but I think there really should be standing boxes strewn about, it isn’t like they won’t be needed.  It is totally reasonable to cry your eyes out and be fine as soon as you exit the church.

The only caveat I’d bring to this is there doesn’t need to be overly demonstrative crying going on.  It is distracting, I grant you, but it is probably not always appropriate.  I know this might be a touchy subject, but at least I’ll do my part to keep it to silent crying, and maybe we all can give it a try?

How Long Should a Service Be?

I sometimes wonder when I’m sitting in really long services if secretly the person who passed is chuckling at how silly we all are crying for hours on end.  This is more of – if you’re about to die or host a funeral, it doesn’t need to lag on.  People are already upset that are there, to make them sit through tearful speeches without ‘assistance’ is slightly unkind.  Being Muslim, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy that anyway.

I have only attended a few funerals, the Muslim ones I’ve gone to have been short and sweet, in and out and at someone’s house enjoying eats within an hour.  Christian funerals are much more orchestrated and requiring a lot of standing up and sitting down, and also singing.  I won’t lie, I didn’t sing, but I did get up and down countless times.

I can’t say that if a loved one has died you don’t have the right to make a speech, and I was treated to some great speeches today, but on the whole, they are usually depressing and involve a lot of crying by the speaker.  I was pleasantly surprised when the kids of the woman who passed had some hilarious stories that weren’t denigrating, but just were, and they made me smile.

All in all, a funeral shouldn’t be something to make people even sadder.  We all know what we are facing and we will cope in our own way, the key, to me, is to make the transition for everyone that much more bearable.  Tell a funny story, an anecdote, a quote, something embarrassing, but don’t make people cry even more than they already are!

The one thing I want to really highlight was how nice it was to see so many familiar faces supporting one another.  Family doesn’t just mean the people you’re genetically related to.  Family can be anything, as wide-reaching as a university experience and as tight-knit as a small department.  You spend more time at work than you do at home, to deny that you care about the people you work with might seem ‘cool,’ it is childish.  I’m glad I went and I wish more people my age would understand the importance of attending funerals.  Funerals aren’t about having fun, but paying your respects to someone who deserves it.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Movie Review: The Bourne Legacy

The Bourne series is based off of a book of the same name, the first piece of the trilogy featuring Matt Damon.  The profitable franchise expanded its scope and added a new operative, Aaron Cross, played by southpaw Jeremy Renner.  The sequence of events for the latest Bourne movie takes place during the previous Bourne movies, if I was following the story correctly.

Aaron Cross is one of several operatives that are out in the field, taking medication to continue to be physically and intellectually superior to all others.  Cross is in the wilderness when the whole operation back in the States begins to go nuclear, and everything is being shut down, meaning they are killing all the evidence, operatives included.  Of course, Cross gets away, but realises he needs his meds to continue to survive or he will certainly be killed.  Enter Dr Marta Shearing, played wonderfully by Rachel Weisz.  Cross remembers her at the lab and seeks her out, only to find her embroiled in a serious situation with a co-worker shooting everyone in the lab except her.  Given the greater cleansing occurring, Shearing is set to also be eliminated, but Cross swoops in at the last second, saving her and concisely telling her it’s either his side or death.

The two embark on an adventure to get Cross the medicine he needs, flying to Manila.  The varying scenes in Manila are beautiful set pieces, bringing the action to a subtle high with various chases and shootouts.  Shearing manages to get Cross what he needs, but the agency sends another operative after Cross and Shearing, creating a wonderful series of action sequences that are supposed to eclipse those in the first Bourne movies.

During the action sequences with Cross and Shearing, the offset scenes in offices with Edward Norton intensify the tension that is occurring far away from them.  While the story continues onward, there are slight inclusions of the larger story with Jason Bourne, as if to tie the series back together, but created more confusion than anything for those not familiar with series, such as myself.

For the most part, the movie was passably entertaining.  I never felt truly compelled by Cross’ story, though Renner was more than believable as a pitiable character prior to his inclusion in the program.  Shearing was your typical scientist, pretending to focus on the science and not the consequences of her actions.  Neither are terribly interesting, but the chemistry between the two main characters makes the story worth watching.  Renner and Weisz are fantastic together, Norton plays the usual stuffed shirt, with much of the previous Bourne cast in the wings.  I have never found the Bourne stories all that interesting and am sad to say that this followed that pattern.  I had wanted to give the franchise a second chance with a new leading man, but it was the same idea, with nothing to make me want to come back.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Poor Customer Service: Ford

Normally I wouldn’t take my blog down this path, mostly because it can open up a can of worms, but I think the key is to get the word out, however I can.  In the grand scheme of things, I realise this is a blip on most radars, the fact that I own a car and took it to a dealership are things some people can’t afford, and before any of you harp on me about taking it to the dealership, they did have the best rate, though the price was one I didn’t quite fully appreciate until later.  I realise that complaining doesn’t change things, but I hope that this will prove as a good lesson for car buyers out there.

About two months ago, I took my car in for the state inspection.  As expected, they came back telling me something else is wrong with the car.  Of course they do, this is why, as a whole, people don’t trust mechanics.  There’s always something more and it is never covered under any warranty or maintenance plan.  They asked me to bring it back in, which I did the following week.  I had initially decided that if it were a couple hundred dollars, to just get it fixed and be done with it.  The quote came back at over $500.  In this instance, they got the car back to me quickly when I made it clear I couldn’t afford that much on my car.  It was an oil leak of some sort, but they used enough technical jargon to keep me from understanding it fully.

I took my car back, calling BS on their assessment.  My father has a friend who isn’t really a great mechanic, but a somewhat reliable one.  I figured, if Ford was charging me $500, this guy should be less, right?  Wrong.  He didn’t have the right equipment and was asking for $1200.  My father warned that I needed to get it fixed.  I do want to digress here enough to say that if this had been my sister, he would have paid for it and moved on, but since it’s me, my parents don’t offer to pay for things, because I’m well off or whatever they tell themselves to justify always helping her and never helping me, but I digress.

I waited a few weeks more, then called Ford up and dropped my car off on the 31st of July, at 7.30, as I always do and took the shuttle back to my office.  Scott, my team lead or whatever, told me he’d let me know when the car would be ready.  I grant you, that is enough of an ambiguous sentence to absolve him of some responsibility.  I wait and wait and wait.  At about 12.30, I call and ask him what the status is, but I have to leave a message.  At 3.15 I get a call back.  Math isn’t my strong suit, but isn’t that more hours than it should be for a call back?  Scott says the car won’t be ready today, but should be ready tomorrow, do I need to make arrangements to get home?  Of course I do, you have my car and now the only ride I had home is gone (my mom) – so I ask him to have the shuttle come get me.  He does offer a rental car, but I assume the car will be done the following day, so I decline.  Besides which, the added hassle of having the rental car is rarely, if ever, worth it.  As per usual, the shuttle shows up at 4.10.  Mind you, I get off of work at 3, so I’m waiting an extra hour because Scott can’t return phone calls in a timely manner.  Imagine how annoyed I am at this point and we’re only halfway through the story.

Wednesday rolls around and I’m thinking, surely my car will be done by midday.  Once again, I call at noon, this time it only takes Scott 2 hours to call me back, a nice change of pace.  He says the work is really complicated and he hopes to have the car done by the end of the day today.  When he says that, he means 5.30 PM, not my business hours.  So I grab a ride with someone else and get a phone call after 5.30 telling me the car is ready.  I bite my tongue to say anything at this point, knowing Scott has been less than helpful and rather passive aggressive in his dealings with me.

I pick the car up the following afternoon, carless for almost three days, thank you very much, and much to my surprise, the car actually does work properly.  On at least one occasion I’ve had to return the car immediately because something else didn’t work.  It’s a crapshoot when you drop your car off at the dealership, especially Cowles Parkway Ford.

At this point, I’m patiently waiting for the survey.  At no point during any of this inconvenience did Scott, or anyone, at the dealership offer any compensation for the extreme delay in getting my car back.  One could argue that they were ‘doing a thorough’ job or something along those lines, but I don’t buy it.  I checked my odometer, and while it didn’t look like they’d been joyriding, they’d know how to adjust it if they had.  The whole episode just stunk of dirty dealings.

The survey shows up a couple days later and to say I body slammed Scott would be putting it mildly.  I used the 500 character limit as best I could and gave them the worst review I could.  And what was the dealership’s response to this?  Not one, not two, but three different phone calls and a promise of something I don’t know that I’ll ever get.

The first phone call is from Richard, I have no idea who Richard is.  But he asks me if I have concerns.  No, I don’t have concerns, you idiot, I have a complaint that you’re not dealing with.  Richard hems and haws, but doesn’t really offer anything, nor does he seem all that interested in what I’m saying, just doing his due diligence in making the call.

The second call comes from Matt (he’s a ginger).  I’ve actually known Matt for several years since I’ve brought this car in here for check-ups over the course of its lifetime.  Matt’s a little more reasonable to talk to and agrees that waiting for a return call for an excess of two hours is unreasonable and he didn’t make excuses, unlike Richard, who cited being very busy.  Guess what, we’re all busy, it’s called work for a reason, Richard.  Matt offers me a full detailing.  Given how I’ve seen them clean my car before, I think, fine, that’s the best I’ll get, there’s a 20% chance they might actually a) remember and b) do it when I drop the car off again.

And then there’s the third call, from our antagonist, Scott.  Why Scott would call me and why either Richard or Matt would tell him to call me is beyond me.  The call was yesterday morning, but I was too angry to write anything then, but have since calmed down (yes, this is calmed down) and am able to get my thoughts together.  As Richard had intoned, Scott too asked me what concerns I had.  What my response is, I couldn’t tell you, but needless to say at no point was Scott apologetic in any way.  The word I’d use would be righteous.  He was right, I was wrong, and he proceeded to let me know why I was so very wrong.  When I brought up the fact that he’d had my car for three days, he countered with, I offered you a rental car.  But you see, Scott, that’s not the issue, I continued, I didn’t think I’d need the rental car because I expected to have my car back in a timely manner, but you never returned my calls in a timely manner, so I never knew how to plan.  I then went onto suggest that if he couldn’t return calls in a timely manner, maybe he should ask the girl at the front desk to help.  To say that this was the wrong thing to say would be an understatement.  Scott raised his voice to tell me ‘we don’t do things that way’ and ‘she doesn’t call customers.’

The only interpretation I can make from any of this discussion is a) Scott is a misogynistic, womaniser who thinks women can’t handle this simple task and b) Scott has no integrity or accountability to speak of.  At no point during any of our brief conversation did he apologise for not calling me back or holding my car hostage for days on end.  To him, it was clear, he had done everything right and I was utterly wrong and stupid.

This isn’t a discourse on who is right and wrong, though I know it looks that way.  My issue now is, what kind of customer service did I receive?  I think the answer is pretty clear.  After spending in excess of $30,000 on a car, I now know, without any ambiguity or doubt, what Ford thinks of me and my money.  They don’t care about it.  To employ someone who reacts in this manner is unprofessional and inappropriate.  This incident has affirmed what many of us all knew about dealerships and mechanics, and it makes me sad to think that I’ve fallen into that stereotypical trap.  Scott was disrespectful and rude, but more than anything, he was condescending and rude, treated me like a ‘stupid woman’ and that is where I draw the line.

Ford has now joined Comcast and Verizon in my mind for terrible, terrible customer service.  Any daydreams I ever had about buying or owning a Shelby Mustang (white with blue racing stripes, oh yes, that much detail) are long gone.  I don’t know if Ford will ever take the time to read this, or care, I’m not optimistic, but I can at least warn the few people that read this that Ford is not a brand you want to support.