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