Saturday, December 27, 2014

Movie Review: Into the Woods

I often jump for new movies not having any idea what I’m getting into.  For example, as I skimmed the Rotten Tomatoes page for Into the Woods, I noticed it said it was a mix between Hollywood and Broadway, implying to me, that it might have roots on Broadway already.  My initial impression was that it was a fun story, but it didn’t belong in the big screen, but live, on Broadway.  If it was a Broadway baby that Hollywood decided to release for a wider audience/profit, then I was still right, sort of.

The story behind Into the Woods takes many of the characters from the fairytale stories from my youth.  Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel (sort of) and a variety of others are repurposed.  While not one really stands out over another, the amalgamation of all of them is a bit much, making the movie feel even longer than it might have been.  The singing was, in a word, excessive.  There seemed to be more singing than speaking and while some of the stars shined, I was startled by Emily Blunt’s ability to sing, quite unexpected really, for the most part, everyone was quite able, though I felt like a musical in a movie allows the sound folks to scrub everything clean, whereas live, there is nowhere to hide.

I don’t know that I can say I enjoyed the movie.  At times I felt bored and the new versions of the stories didn’t bring me anything that made me think, oh, that’s neat. It was fun, interesting to see actors in different roles.  Chris Pine as a shallow Prince Charming was interesting, but that’s the best I can say.  At some points, it felt like the movie was making fun of itself and if that had been consistent throughout, I might feel more confident thinking that was deliberate.  It was an uneven movie, at best.  For seven dollars, I won’t complain, but I won’t be buying it on DVD or opting to see it a second time.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Movie Review: Exodus: Gods and Kings

If you’re anything like me, every year, you were forced/treated to The Ten Commandments over Easter weekend.  A few years back, I stopped telling my father when it was airing so I wouldn’t have to watch it yet again.  If given the option now, of this new version or the old one, I’d pick the old one, and I’d happily pay the $12 I paid today to see the classic rather than suffer through the new one a second time.  Like Noah from earlier this year, or last year, I can’t even remember, Hollywood has made a failed attempt at rewriting and creating a new version of what was already done as well as it could be done.  That’s like saying someone’s going to film the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Even with all the special effects advances, the story doesn’t change and the execution of it from Ridley Scott was confusing at best, offensive at worst, more so when you look at the number of white actors playing roles that could have just as easily been played by people who were closer to the Egyptian ethnicity.

I will never understand the rave reviews around Christian Bale.  He plays the exact same person in every single movie he’s in.  He delivers a handful of lines in his gravely, angry voice, perhaps to depict conviction, then he looks quiet and then he’s been overcome with emotion.  More than that, how is he supposed to be an Egyptian prince who is really Jewish with that mix of English vs. cockney accents?  I was so distracted by his accent alone I couldn’t figure out who he was supposed to be.  At some point here, someone in Hollywood has to stop buying into this.  It isn’t acting, it is playing the same character the same way over and over again.  Instead of always playing the brutish bruiser, perhaps Bale could try acting like something else, just once.

The casting of the rest of the movie was quite curious.  Everyone was white, whiter than white and it seemed out of place.  All the accents were all over the place.  I love Sigourney Weaver, I do, I’m a huge Ghostbusters fan, but why was there a random American in a movie set in Egypt who is supposed to be playing the mother of Ramses II?  Joel Edgerton seemed out of place from the beginning, but his performance, the only really stellar one, really won me over by the end. Again, though, he was almost wearing brown-face, if there is such a thing, to look Egyptian.  Am I the only one who finds this mildly offensive?  I mean, when do African American actors put on white makeup to look white?  They don’t.

While the movie had moments that were visually stunning, more so in 3D, the story brought nothing new to the Biblical tale and the delivery of Christian Bale detracted more than enhanced the movie.  Ridley Scott has had some misses lately and I can’t even think of a movie he’s done recently that isn’t basically Gladiator all over again.  This one follows suit.  Don’t waste your time or money on this.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Movie Review: Penguins of Madagascar

It is amazing to me that a standalone movie wasn’t made for these characters sooner, more so given the popularity of the TV show on Nickelodeon.  I always get a little nostalgic when I see the show on TV, and it always gives me a jolt hearing the voices that don’t match when watching the movie.  I am more familiar with the TV show than the movie version of the characters and that is mostly about the voices.

The story is absurd, at best.  The most I remember is that my mom made enchiladas last night and that was what I had before I went to the movies.  That’s right, the plot and story are that forgettable.  Did I laugh?  Of course.  Did I cry?  This is Hina we’re talking about, I cry watching feel good commercials.  That’s a yes.  The animated versions of the penguins are, of course, adorable, but the story is barely passable.  This had a mix of for kids and for adults content, but overall, it never really came together in a meaningful way, which is about what I expect from Dreamworks.

The origin story of the penguins is where the movie starts and it goes through a somewhat laughable plot of a jilted Octopus (played by John Malkovich) who is trying to make all penguins ugly so he won’t seem as grotesque in comparison.  Along the way, the penguins meet up with another covert team led by a dog (Benedict Cumberbatch) who is only mildly amusing.  I thought the whole additional team was boring and I’m not sure why everyone raves so much about Cumberbatch.  The best I can say is, if you’ve got kids, you’ll probably end up seeing this.  If you’re an adult, then you can probably wait for the DVD or TV showing of it.  I enjoyed some of the jokes, but it just felt forced throughout.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Movie Review: Hunger Games Mockingjay

Books turned into movies have a funny way of either breaking your heart or surpassing your mildest expectations.  This one didn’t really do either for me.  While the book was mediocre (to me, think Breaking Dawn level of story), the movie pulled away from that, delivering a mix between chaos and organized annoyance from the movie’s marque characters.  With weak source material and flimsy premises, this movie still delivered some type of punch while still making women seem both weak and in need of being saved.

If you aren’t familiar with Hunger Games, the premise is pretty simple, on the surface.  The world was torn apart by war years ago and to teach those that had rebelled a lesson, the victors hold an annual ‘game’ in which children from each area of the world ‘volunteer’ to play in a fight to the death.  As you might expect, the character we are introduced to defies all odds and manages to subvert the government and win, possibly winning her freedom.  It isn’t that simple, of course.  The government thinks she has become a symbol for being rebellion and does what they can to eliminate her, even to have her return in a second game even though she should never have to.  The second game doesn’t see an outright winner, but she survives and is now being used as a tool for the rebellion to overthrow the government.

Seems dense?  Yeah, try nonsensical.  What makes the movie compelling also makes it unattainable.  At every turn, something unrealistic gets in the way, a contrivance that gets more and more unbelievable as the story progresses.  To me, what makes it worse, is that the movie does stick to the book, which is really a blueprint for what, exactly?  I don’t’ know what ‘we’ as a society are supposed to take away from this movie.  Katniss (the main character) only seems to show strength at prescribed moments and it feels so reactive.  While I do realize the character is being portrayed as mentally drained, having lived through two life-death situations, at the tenth breakdown of the movie, it just got old and annoying.  I argue that if Katniss had died, the movie and story would have been better off.  A martyr for the cause would have been much more effective than the loose cannon that Katniss is.

The movie has merit, don’t get me wrong, but from a story perspective, it was maddening.  The mother of four kids who sat next to me seemed to have the same opinion as we glanced at each other periodically as Katniss had one of her dozens of meltdowns.  If you’re a fan of the Hunger Games, you’ll like this, if not, then save your money and go watch the Hungry Games with Cookieness Evereat.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Movie Review: Whiplash

I don’t always find time to see those ‘off the beaten path’ movies and this is one of them.  The story isn’t one that we encounter in real life, perhaps.  I feel like most of us are happy with continuing with the status quo, pushing to a place of comfort and then coasting along, as needed.  This story places an aspiring drummer, who wants to be great, against a teacher who will stop at little to push him past any sense of self to be something more, no matter the cost.

On the surface, it seems like it might be one of those feel-good movies, but with the first profanity laced tired from Fletcher to young Neiman makes it clear to the viewer that the road will be anything but smooth.  The story quickly devolves into a struggle between Fletcher being almost inhuman in his attempts to push Neiman, though in the context of the story, it looks like a terrorization and little more.  What makes the story come together is how Neiman begins to respond.  Both he and Fletcher share the belief that to be great, you must push yourself, push yourself past any reasonable line that most of us back off from.  Fletcher finds a way to, ultimately, make Neiman better, even if it looks terrible and Neiman borders on all kinds of troubling personality traits.

While I didn’t intend to spoil the movie, I do feel like the movie can connect with a wide audience.  What would you risk to be great?  If there could be a guarantee to be the best of this generation at something, anything, what would you be willing to give up?  Neiman is faced with this quandary throughout the movie and at every chance to give up, he doesn’t, he never backs down.  That dogmatic persistence makes the movie churn, more so as JK Simmons chews everything up in his wake in what is by far the best performance I’ve seen from him next to his stint as J. Jonah Jameson from the ‘original’ Spiderman movies.  Miles Teller plays a quiet character, but there are a lot of little things he does that make you somehow root for him and against him for Fletcher.  The entire movie set me on edge in a way I hadn’t been thrown for quite some time.  This movie is one you do not want to miss.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Movie Review: Nightcrawler

The first time I heard about this movie, I thought, wow, Jake Gyllenhaal doing a stand-alone X-man movie?  Yup, nope, that wasn’t what it was.  Not at all.  The first trailer didn’t really give me a good idea of what I was getting into until the very first scene finished.  The story is one I couldn’t quite get the scope of until about halfway through the movie, when the lead character truly reveals his life vision.  If nothing else, this movie will make you begin to question your own motives and the motives of others.  And for those who work with me, the lead character resembles a certain someone we work with – quintessential sociopath.  POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD

The movie begins with Gyllenhaal’s Lou Blume stealing fencing from one site only to attack the security guard, steal his watch and sell the ill-gotten goods to a construction site.  It is clear that Blume has no actual job, doing whatever he can to get by.  After witnessing a man recording a fiery crash, selling the footage for a tidy sum, Blume decides this is the next way to make money.  He steals an expensive bike and pawns it for a video camera and a police scanner, now trying to make easy money.  Blume finds a way to get his footage onto the morning news and he becomes consumed by this goal, a goal to sell his footage, have a reputable business and will seemingly stop at nothing to see this dream come true.

After hiring a man who was practically homeless, Blume has a corporation and starts to see the fruits of his labour.  Blume is befriended, to some degree, by a local news director, Nina, played by Rene Russo.  Blume goes to great lengths to manipulate all those around him, soaring higher and higher, making more and more money and making questionably ethical decisions.  It is that latter starts to make the movie almost uncomfortable at times.  Blume has little to no regard for anyone else, using people, as the character even states, “he doesn’t like people.”  The idea that his business is something he stumbled upon makes him that much more despicable.

I can’t quite put into words how turned off I was by Blume, yet Gyllenhaal kept you engaged, almost rooting for this ne’er-do-well character.  It also kept me fascinated that someone would live his life with no sense of how to live among people.  His only goal is to get ahead, there is no concern for anything else.  Currently, I work for someone like this and watching this movie was quite a clinic.  No matter what you do, it will be wrong because it wasn’t the sociopath’s idea, or isn’t directly related to the sociopath getting ahead.  That sort of lifestyle is foreign to most of us and for good reason.  The movie is well worth a watch, no matter the price.  The only detraction I had was that I really disliked the lead character, as I was supposed to.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Movie Review: Before I Go to Sleep

Up for contention for this weeks’ movie was either Nightcrawler or Before I Go to Sleep.  The decision was made based on which movie started earliest.  While the reviews for the former movie were better, it is all about timing.  After I discovered that the mall Cinnabon wasn’t open until 11, I might have changed my vote, but it’s too late now and I didn’t get to smuggle, or eat, a Cinnabon today.

This movie is another movie based on a book.  I didn’t know this beforehand and I’m not sure that knowing that, after seeing the movie, that I want to read the book.  The story was interesting.  Nicole Kidman’s character, Christine, suffers from daily amnesia, waking up each day not knowing what had happened for the last fourteen years.  Needless to say, the acting was superb, more so given Colin Firth played opposite Kidman and both are quite gifted actors.  With the main character searching for answers to her own past, makes the story move quickly and hastens the pace of the suspense.  Not long into the movie the audience learns that Christine had a child that died years earlier and that her husband had been hiding that and her other friends to, supposedly, spare her the turmoil of forgetting and remembering them over and over again.

The plot felt like it devolved in the last twenty minutes, but after sticking with Kidman for that long, it would have cheated the story to not give her, or the audience, closure.  I wanted to enjoy the movie more, and I was surprised by some of the twists and turns, even if the story was giving ample hints as to what is an obvious sort of plot point.  I would hate to spoil the movie, but I will say that for $7, it was well worth seeing, not to mention the fabulous cast.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Movie Review: Ouija

If this is the last horror movie I see this year, it will be quite the letdown.  I can’t say I went in with high expectations, even though the movie won the box office this past weekend.  The story is something I hadn’t seen, specifically before.  A group of friends use a spirit board to try to talk to their recently deceased friend.  From the very beginning, you could tell the movie was going to be a clinic on what not to do in horror movies and how to misuse what could have been halfway decent actors.

The beginning of the movie shows a girl, Debbie (who I thought was Sara for about half of the movie, I don’t know why), not letting her close friend in and then proceeding to leave her dinner uneaten on the kitchen table and hanging herself, really without warning, and decoratively, by using Christmas tree lights.  The next day she doesn’t show up for breakfast and the friend who came to see her the previous day, Lane, is devastated.  The audience is soon introduced to a bevy of friends, all of whom you suspect may not be alive by the end credits of the movie.

I could spend time talking about the story (which reminded me of the Ring), but really, what’s the point?  This is your template horror movie.  Good-looking people do something foolish, are stalked by something they don’t understand and tricked into setting it upon them (by the woman from Insidious, the good one who is the medium).  There was not much to this movie.  And while there were so many places where the story could have shined, perhaps even letting the dead friend help them solve the murder, have a heart-wrenching sequence with the friends saying goodbye in person to their dead friend as they thwarted some evil, but that didn’t happen.  Instead, it was an hour and a half of predictable scene after predictable scene.  At least I ate well, and that’s something.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Movie Review: John Wick

There was a time where I would see almost anything.  As I get older, and have season tickets to far too many teams, I find myself being slightly more discerning when choosing a movie to watch.  When my movie friend, Lay, and I saw this trailer the first time, it was a definite ‘meh,’ at best.  This is one of those movies I can honestly say I would have enjoyed seeing and wouldn’t have grudged the now $7.50 at AMC for.  While there is nothing new, nothing original to be had, it is still Keanu Reeves being an unretired killer, running amok through NYC.

The story is on a shoe-string, if that.  The whole production is over the top.  I had a ‘movie talker’ sitting next to me, you know the type.  Throughout the movie I had “Now you know that ain’t right” being spoken among other various unoriginal gems.  It was a task just to tune this out.  Does there need to be a standing rule on not interacting with the screen during movies?  This isn’t your home.  The theatre was packed, as this was a free preview for AMC Stubbs members, and man, that woman had a comment for everything.  Part of the low score to the movie, for me, might come from the fact that I had to listen to this for an hour and a half.  But I digress.

The movie begins with Reeves’ character…I don’t even remember his name (that should tell you something), oh, John Wick, right…mourning his wife’s death.  He goes out for a ride in his prized Mustang and when he stops for gas, some Russian mafia members give him a hard time.  When he gets home, there’s a delivery and his dead wife sent him a puppy.  The scene is supposed to be touching or something, but I thought to myself, great, you die and you give me the gift of mayhem in the house?  Speaking of, the actor who plays Mayhem for All State was in this movie, very entertaining to see that.  I hope we see Flo in something soon too.  It’ll be quite an out-of-body experience for me.

Needless to say, the Russians didn’t take kindly to him not selling the car and they come and beat him up, kill the puppy and take it.  When they go to a chop shop, John Leguizamo recognises it and the plot devolves into a ‘try to kill him’ sort of story.  There isn’t much to this, save for lots of action sequences of Keane Reeves beating or shooting people at close range.  The jokes are forced and yet the audience was roaring with laughter, as if they’d never heard those same jokes before two dozen times in every other action movie ever.

Despite all that, for $7.50, or even $10, I will say this, you will be entertained.  For an hour and a half, you can just watch Keanu Reeves get the better of random people and be sort of pithy about it.  The movie wasn’t great, the story laughable, and not in a good way, but it kept me entertained and wanting to drive really, really fast.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Movie Review: Annabelle

It doesn’t take much for me to watch a scary movie.  I love the idea of being surprised, of seeing something that defies logic, defies common sense.  This movie, Annabelle, was spawned from the Conjuring, a horror movie that came out last year and follows the work of Ed and Lorraine Warren.  The movie doesn’t show them at all, and teases the same beginning from the last movie.

The story of this movie isn’t as exciting as it could be, perhaps, but it isn’t based on any true story, as far as the audience knows.  A young couple, expecting their first child, live next to an older couple who has lost their daughter.  Lost is a loss term as the girl ran off to join a cult.  Her final initiation into the cult is to spill the blood of her family, her parents.  When she does this, it is inadvertently heard by the young neighbors and when the husband goes to investigate, the crazed daughter and accomplice attack the young wife.  Though the two survive, baby included, they move out of the area and try to start a new life.  The wife has a respectable doll collection and one of the more disturbing looking dolls begins to exhibit strange behaviour, even though the husband had thrown it away.

This horror story varies little from most stories, keeping up with the same cadence and scenes that any fan has come to expect.  The largest complaint I would have of this movie is that it shows, on screen, the image of what is ‘haunting’ the woman and her child.  The one thing I love about most horror movies is when they don’t show anything, having leading camera angles and letting the audience imagine what shouldn’t be put into words.  This movie had a lot of promise, but too early gave away what was coming after the family and while I covered my eyes through most of those sequences, I might feel less scared later knowing that it was something real that was seen.

To me, the best horror movie is one that leaves the mind misgiving, wondering what is real and what isn’t.  The mind is powerful enough, and audiences are smart enough.  There need not be spoon feeding of any sort.  Let the story carry without any assistance.  Nowadays, Hollywood thinks there needs to be great show, great pomp and circumstance, but sometimes the simplest of ideas can have the largest effect.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Racing Wrap-up – Disney vs. Rock and Roll

I’ve been bitten by the racing bug.  It started innocently enough.  A temp at work (Ann) heard about all the running I was doing and said, “Hina, you should totally run a race.”  I didn’t think too much of it at the time, this was late last year, November 2013.  I kept increasing my mileage and feeling fine and thought, I could handle a half marathon, after all, it is on my bucket list.  Without really training (big mistake, by the way), the week of the DC Rock and Roll race, I signed up for the half marathon.  A few grueling hours after it started, I was done, with a fancy medal and some calf strains for my trouble.  You would think after that I’d learn my lesson, and I did, instead of not training, I started training, like insane for someone who didn’t really do organised running before.  The night of that race, March 15, I remember it well, I signed up for the Tower of Terror run in Disney, to be held on October 4 of this year, this past Saturday.  Well, now I’ve done two different types of races and I’m here to give you my two cents, which in Hina currency is like three and a half.  Don’t try the math, it only makes sense to me.


There are a few things to consider when debating doing a race.  The first thing I think about is, how accessible is it?  And what I mean by that is, is it hard or easy to get to or fly to?  The race I did over this weekend was in Orlando, the haven of a certain mouse, there are flights in and out of there from practically every single airline.  Yes, it does cost more to stay outside your house, but if you book a flight way out in advance, then you’re okay.

I have spoken to at least one other runner, Farrah, who has commented that she doesn’t like out-of-town races because it takes you out of your normal routine.  I’m all about structure, I admit it, and this race over the weekend had me completely discombobulated.  I had gotten up way early, earlier than usual, couldn’t get the requisite meals at the right times and didn’t get to bed until after 2 AM (and after the Nats immolated in that 18 inning marathon).  If you aren’t a fan of traveling, then your best bet is to do a race close to home.  I live in DC, so I’m lucky enough to have quite a few races going on in the area, and have yet only done one DC-based race.


So you think you’re a runner?  As I ran at this last race, I can tell you, we come in all shapes and sizes, or as my father likes to say, extra small to quadruple extra-large.  It doesn’t matter who you are, how old you are, what colour you are, if you root for a terrible team that’s cursed with bad luck, anyone can run.  If you can put one foot in front of the other for several hours and make a slow plod through a course, you can run.

The larger question I think people need to tackle is how far can they run.  I overheard, far too many times this weekend, people commenting that they should have trained.  Yeah, you think?  Don’t be stupid, which might be a challenge for some.  Unless you’ve been running track since high school, you can’t roll out of bed and do a half marathon.  I mean, I was up to a high of eleven miles and ran a half marathon (13.1 miles) and was a hot mess afterwards, and I had trained.  Some people like to learn lessons the hard way, but not me, I’m good, learned and moved on from that lesson.  If you can’t find time to run a few times a week, then you can’t commit to a race.  I mean, at an average of $100 for a registration (on the low end for some races, Disney races are almost always at least $200, not counting their ‘challenges’ which can net you upwards of $500 for registration), you don’t want to register and waste that money, do you?  Or worse, and my fear also, register and not be able to keep the pace or finish and end up not getting a medal or have Goofy behind you in a golf cart laughing hysterically as he picks you up for not maintaining race pace.  I would be furious with myself if I dropped $500 and didn’t get the medals I should have earned because I was too foolish to train.


And so, we’ve gotten the basics out of the way there, nutrition aside (I’m still trying to figure that one out myself – a steady diet of Cinnabon is not the answer, for those curious).  If you’ve passed my litmus test above, then let’s talk about races.  Now, if you’re new to racing, start small.  A 5K is only 3.1 miles.  Yes, only 3.1 miles.  Don’t jump in with a long race if you’ve never done a race, you won’t know what you’re getting into.  Now, you don’t have to heed my advice, but I know a little something about making bad decisions.  If you still think you’re the boss, then by all means, sign up for a marathon, but you’d best be ready to train.  The easiest training schedule is in excess of six months.  That means three days a week, for six months, you need to lace up your trainers and head outside, rain or snow, sleet or shine, dogs or butterflies (!).  

For me, the decision of which race came to availability.  What could I race in that was open?  The Rock and Roll series are pretty massive.  I’ve done two of their races and there are runners for miles and miles no matter where you are in the pack.  I just did a Disney race and while I might be able to say the same here, they cut off registration when they’ve reached a certain number.  I am curious what that number is, but I feel like people probably register and don’t show, so the numbers might not be totally right.  I do wish Disney had a way of letting people not just defer, but pull out and free spots up for others, like a wait list.


With that in mind, a Rock and Roll series race is pretty much all over North America.  This year they expanded to Canada, into Vancouver no less, and the medal looks quite impressive.  The Disney races are limited to Orlando and Anaheim (Disney World and Disney Land respectively).  If you can’t get to either, then you really can’t race there.  The Rock and Roll series offers a variety of price points and registration options and gives you a lot of activities to do while there.  When I registered for the DC race, they gave us a discount code for Wizards tickets in addition to the race and hotel basics.  The options that Disney gave for other activities was spending practically full price on an admission ticket or going to a Mickey Halloween party, also not free.  One feeling I got throughout the Disney weekend was that it wasn’t enough for them that I had registered for a race, flown down, stayed in a Disney hotel and ate at Disney locations, they kept pushing more and more things in hopes that I would spend more and more money.  I don’t know if this is their normal practice, but I was pretty fed up with it early on and it didn’t get much better as the weekend went on.  I would think a place like Disney wouldn’t have to push the hard sell, but that was pretty much all I heard for about twenty four hours.

Despite that, there was nothing wrong with anything I did get or pay for.  With the Rock and Roll series, I was always able to bring my own things, food, water, whatever.  Since I had to travel to the Disney race, I was forced to purchase everything there and while paying over $2 for a bottle of water is obnoxious, it wasn’t bad and I didn’t get sick.  The interesting thing Disney had going for it, which I was fascinated by, was the Magic Band.  Yes, you read that right.  For those of you who have been to Disney in the last few years, this won’t seem new, but imagine my surprise and muted delight when I was given a box with a band with my name on it (example below):

The Magic Band is used to pretty much do anything and everything and was ‘free.’  I use the word free loosely here.  Free is relative in the sense that I was paying for everything.  They very happily offered to connect my credit card to my Magic Band.  I declined.  It was a very snazzy addition to what became a rather exhausting weekend.


I’ve run two Rock and Roll races, one Disney race and without a doubt, if you’re a new runner, and you want to go on an easier route, Disney is the way to go.  The majority of the 10-mile course was on straightaways on Disney’s private highway in Buena Vista.  There were few hills and the openness of the track kept a very nice breeze blowing through.  The Rock and Roll races are tough.  The DC race had a hill that felt like a steep incline and the buildings blocked any breeze from coming in on an overcast morning.  The Virginia Beach race was like Chinese water torture.  The heat was unbearable, the humidity made it feel like you were plodding through walls.  How anyone completed that race in a ‘good’ time I’ll never know.  I was never happier to see the finish line then when I crossed there.  Hydration was a major issue in VA beach and an IV wouldn’t have helped.

If you’re a seasoned runner looking for something challenging, go with a Rock and Roll race.  If you want something fun and easy, a Disney race is for you.


The Rock and Roll series does an interesting thing at their races.  They invite local high schools or college cheer groups to compete to see who can motivate and cheer on the runners more.  The incentive for a reward, I think, makes them work a lot harder.

The Disney races have their employees out there.  Needless to say, I could tell they were getting paid and I don’t think it was enough.  People waving at you and saying you’re almost there at mile six isn’t helping me.  I couldn’t read a lot of the signs that were made because it was night and the characters that were promised came once every two miles and had a queue with each.  If you didn’t care about your finish time, by all means, stop and take a pic with Captain Hook or Jafar or whomever.  I was underwhelmed by the characters, but I do realise it is a Halloween race.  If you’re not a fan of the bad guys (pronounced bad giys), then this might not be a great place to showcase character interaction.


Let’s face it, we all want a trophy.  We all want something that says we’re fancy.  

The first medal I got was from the DC race, then three at VA Beach and one more this past weekend.  I stand to accumulate a whole slew more, but training is key.  On the ride to the airport (on the Disney Magical Express, which is not so much magical as slow and free), they had a short feature on creating medals.

The weight of each medal is pretty impressive and displaying them on your wall, or wherever, is pretty snazzy.  I am going to have a larger wardrobe of exercise shirts as well.  So far, I think I like the Tower of Terror shirt the best.  It has orange in it and is an interesting Buccaneers grey (Tampa football).


I don’t have answers, the header lied.  I have signed up for a lot of races, all Disney, through the next year.  For me, I wanted to try something, and I’m a bit of a completion-ist.  What I failed to verify is if you get any extra bling for doing all the Disney races in one calendar year.  They award a coast-to-coast medal for doing a race in both Disney World and Disney Land in one calendar year, but so far, that’s all I’ve found.  Whereas Rock and Roll has a Heavy Medal section of their site.  Do two races, get an extra medal, and so it goes, up to eight, skips nine for some reason, and then ten, which is one big honking medal.

For me, I’ve signed up for races, I’m going.  But, I may want to do one year of straight-up Disney, then one year of straight-up Rock and Roll.  That might be a better assessment of who really is ‘better,’ if there is such a thing.  One thing that might be getting lost in my ramble, and boy what a ramble (!), is that you’re supposed to be enjoying yourself, having fun, competing against yourself and all that jazz.  When I did my race this past weekend, I wasn’t paying attention to the people around me (save for the extra-large that kept passing me in her walk-sprint-walk and it was starting to get annoying), I was trying to shuffle my little Hina legs and keep moving.  The key is, it is an accomplishment, despite anything your mother (or mine) might say.  Running a race doesn’t make you a failure, though I won’t go so far to say you’re a winner either.  You committed to something and saw it through.  Hats off, until the next race.

Currently signed up for the following races:
-Avengers Half Marathon November 14-16
-Walt Disney World Marathon Dopey Challenge January 7-11
-Star Wars Half Marathon Rebel Challenge January 15-18
-Disney Princess Half Marathon Glass Slipper Challenge February 19-22
-Tinker Bell Half Marathon Pixie Dust Challenge May 7-10

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Movie Review: The Maze Runner

I’ve been lulled into another YA inspired movie, and I was almost sold, almost all the way convinced that this was better than Hunger Games, the first one that had any staying power since Potter, and then the ending came.  But let us backtrack.  The Maze Runner starts off with a bang, our hero, Thomas, wakes up in a cage which is actually an elevator going up.  He has no idea where he is going or how he got there and the plot stays shrouded in mystery as Thomas tries to figure out how he came to be in a forest with other boys, none of whom know how they got there or why they can’t find a way out.

The story unfolds with Thomas pushing the boundaries, running into the maze that surrounds the forest, trying to help and comes face-to-face with the thing that chases the boys if they remain in the maze for too long.  Somehow Thomas has more courage than the others and manages to discover something that none knew before and he leads a small group to freedom, or so they think.

The story is cramped, a lot going on in a short period of time and less and less of it makes sense, feeling more and more contrived as the hours went on.  Somewhere towards the end, I started wishing it was over, and that is usually a clear sign that I’ve lost interest in the story and no longer believe it has anything of value, which is unfortunate, as the story is actually quite interesting, though unsatisfying with the clear sequel setup at the end.  The cast was quite good, minus a few weak dialogue points, it holds its own and could give Katniss a run for her money, should the two movies ever coexist.  By itself, I still don’t count it highly, but when you step back, for $7, it was worth seeing.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

More Domestic Abuse?

I know what you’re thinking, come on, Hina, seriously, two serious posts from you after countless movie reviews no one ever reads.  Well, things angry up the blood, and the more I try not to watch or read, the angrier I get.  The NFL had a laughable press conference with Godfather Goodell, who really should have “good” removed from his name.  I can’t say there’s much good he’s done in the NFL of late.  I did enjoy the snippets I heard from the Ravens camp yesterday, defending their position and their player, trying to minimise the fact that they basically told Rice to go along with what they said and he’d be taken care of.  Is there nothing the NFL thinks it can’t get away with?  On the one hand, while it is good to see Congress getting involved, a friend (LaToya) shared this article with me about a US District Judge who is getting exonerated from beating his wife.

Yes, you read that right.  Mr. Mark Fuller, someone the Congress can control, unlike the NFL, which isn’t beholden to the US Congress, as far as I know, was giving a sweet deal, as good as Mr. Rice’s, and he has to attend some counseling and can return to work.  Now, at least Ray Rice and Greg Hardy  (the man convicted of assaulting his girlfriend) aren’t getting paid, but rest assure, Judge Fuller is on administrative leave, enjoying the lap of luxury, looking forward to the time he can get back behind the bench and…what, pass judgment on others after he has been found guilty of abusing his wife?  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the laughable justice system here in these United States of America.

If that weren’t bad enough, and to cushion the idea that I just hate men who beat women, not that I needed a reason to dislike this breed of subhuman, but we have Ms. Hope Solo who is also returning to work, again being paid by taxpayers, with her role with the US Women’s soccer team.  Did I get up on the wrong side of the bed?  I guess the takeaway I have for Ms. Solo is she hasn’t been convicted.

I just look at this litany of issues and think, if this had been you or me, the average citizen, we would be either behind bars, out of a job and uncertain where we’re getting our next paycheck.  Does a celebrity status give people the right to get away with…well, not quite murder, but it isn’t all that far off.  One hard hit and either Mrs. Rice or Mrs. Fuller could be dead.  I’d argue a pretty healthy soccer player could do some damage, man or woman.  Is there more for me to boycott?  What can we do about a judge that gets to go back to work?  Is Congress only interested in the NFL because it is big news?  Is Mr. Fuller being given a free pass because he’s in the Old Boys’ Network?

I find myself flummoxed by this and further frustrated that the internet, usually the safe haven for justice to be served, like Anonymous, but here, none of the above are getting their just desserts.  Instead we hear about Ms. Emma Watson being threatened by hackers for speaking out on equal rights.  What sense does this make, if any at all.  I struggle with all of this, the obvious injustice that isn’t being served, the justice that shouldn’t be served.  Is there an off switch to any of this?  Do I just write heated blogs and let it not bother me?  I’m honestly asking because I feel frustrated.  I haven’t watched any NFL really, besides being in a venue that I was pointed directly at it, but at least the racist Redskins lost, so that made me feel better.  I guess it is a good thing I run, I can work out my aggravation with life there.  Always open to constructive ideas that don’t involve slashing people’s tyres and rearranging files just to mess with people.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Boycott the NFL

Many a time I get upset, angry, frustrated, downright furious.  In rare cases I get introspective.  In February of this year, once again, we were audience to another popular athlete taking it to his girlfriend/fiancĂ©e/woman.  The incident took place in a casino in New Jersey and the two were arrested and charged with assault.  They were both arrested.  Sources in the NFL, at the time, claimed that the NFL, the most powerful sports group in this country, couldn’t get the video from inside the elevator, but the one outside the elevator.  In retrospect, that video should have been enough, but it wasn’t.  As is often the case in these things, the truth came out.

Fast forward to last week.  The football season was finally back and all was forgotten, except it wasn’t.  TMZ released another tape, this one with the actual shot of Rice not only hitting his girlfriend, but also seeming utterly unaffected by the fact that she was unconscious on the floor.  The video of him dragging her out of the elevator becomes that much more damning given the fact that he, a huge man, didn’t have the decency to lift her in his arms and see if she was okay until a security guard came on the scene.  The entire incident and the NFL and Ravens’ handling of this debacle proves what many of us already know but refuse to accept: women are less than second class citizens in this country and in the world are viewed as worthless.

Strong statement?  Yes, absolutely.  Yesterday morning I watched the Sports Reporters on ESPN (one of the few things I will subject myself to on that biased network) and listened as the group assembled talked about how foolish the fan bases were for supporting their suspended players (Adrian Peterson for beating his kid, Hardy from Carolina for beating his wife and the list goes on).  Instead of outrage and comradery for a fellow woman, many are apathetic and disinterested in noticing what is really going on.  Do I blame Ray Rice, etc., for what happened?  No.  He is a victim of the lifestyle and culture that plagues this country.  No matter your colour, the message is still the same, women have no value.  Just this morning I had to listen to my mother, once again, tell me I was basically a failure at life because I hadn’t found a man, because my life can’t have value unless I have a man.  Is this what we want little girls to grow up to think?  Do boys deserve to grow up with this pressure either?

I’m beyond disgusted and appalled and I am sure I’m not the only one.  I read a lot of different news sites and Deadspin and Jezebel are great resources for actual facts as opposed to the views as spewed through filters on ESPN.  I don’t usually blather so much, but my basic message, plea, really is to stop.  We all need to stop.  We need to stop supporting these brands.  The only way people in this world are going to change their view is if we all take a step back and realise what we’re saying, how we’re acting, speaks volumes to those who are the most impressionable.  If you think for one second that kids aren’t seeing this and seeing what you can get away with, what is socially acceptable behaviour, you’re being obtuse.  If you support the NFL, you are a hypocrite.  Right now, the NFL, just on its stature in this nation, makes it the largest, most effective target and I am imploring everyone to stop and realise what I have come to realise.  Supporting the NFL sends a clear and concrete message that we are all too quick to satisfy our needs rather than doing what is right.  For the second weekend in a row, I haven’t watched one NFL game, one NFL highlight.  Nothing.  I am not going to waste my time on their company and if we, as women, as a whole, do the same, we can affect a change.  Many people don’t care about anyone but themselves, but this is never going to stop, never going to end unless we catch the attention of the world, if we don’t stand up and say, no, beating women is not a culture we should support.  If I don’t give one dime to the NFL this year, I hope many of you can match that challenge.  Don’t wear the jerseys, the t-shirts, don’t support one team.  

Join me in my boycott.  If you can’t manage the entire season, the then entire month of October.  The month is supposedly dedicated to breast cancer awareness, to women.  Well, then let’s make a statement.  Take your kids out and do something else, anything else, for a couple weekends.  The only thing people in this capitalist country respond to is not making money.  Let’s make the NFL a lot less money.