Author Archives: Brandie Torres

Pineapple Express Review

Southern-inspired video artist and director David Gordon Green directed this action/buddy/stoner comedy flick. And one of the biggest faults of the movie was its attempt to combine all those genres; to be more specific, in the buddy/stoner part, it does really well but in the comedic action sequences, it totally loses its way.

Seth Rogen plays Dale Denton, a process server that likes to toke up with his dealer, Saul Silver, played marvelously by a (finally!) approachable James Franco. In the first part of the movie we are introduced to these characters: Dale likes talk radio, and Saul likes to smoke dope. Then, after Saul sells Dale some of the rarest strain of weed in the city, dubbed “Pineapple Express”, Dale goes to serve another subpoena. Little does he know,  he will be witness to a murder.  From then on, there is a full-on buffet table of chaos, paranoia, stupidity, yelling, screaming, explosions, love, and “bromance.”

The relationship between Dale and Saul is really a highlight of the first half of the film. The chemistry between Seth Rogen and James Franco keep the jokes coming through their hyperactive ‘talky’ style of dialogue. The dialogue works on one level, since it’s a stoner comedy, but still nearly two hours of this gets old really quickly, and in all that talk I nearly missed out what a wonderful job Franco and McBride did.  They did well.

Unfortunately, the movie destroys itself multiple times as the action scenes get more and more ridiculous. The laughter gets replaced by silence and even, at one point, downright rejection. It’s unfortunate because if the first half had constituted the entire movie, it would have been stellar; unfortunately, the excessive random violence and bad jokes that were prevalent in the second half just got to be a bit too much. The jokes start to miss (much like the bullets), the plot forgets itself, and everything wonderful that was built up, in the beginning, gets destroyed in a big ball of flames. It reminded me a lot of 2006’s Hot Fuzz in that respect; a perfectly good set-up, before it degenerated into something nonsensical and ridiculous.

As the plot got more and more away from what it built up, the slower and slower time seemed to pass; and the 111-minute runtime begins to feel like double that. It’s a sad day when an Apatow comedy isn’t funny (like the day that I saw Drillbit Taylor). Pineapple Express was much better, on the whole, then Drillbit, but there were still enough silent moments that left me wondering: how did Seth Rogen get typecast so quickly?  Unfortunately, it does not end well either. It was one of the worst endings I have seen and it made the nearly two hours feel like a real drag.

2 ½ / 5 stars

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Why Sales Skills are Necessary for Women in the Workplace

The Mad Hatter: “What a regrettably large head you have. I would very much like to hat it. I used to hat The White Queen, you know. Her head was so small.“

The Red Queen: “It’s tiny. It’s a pimple of a head.”

(Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland)

 

The Mad Hatter then goes on to winning the possibility of hatting the Red Queen because he accurately accessed the Queens motivation.  The Mad Hatter had great sales skills.

 

Learning basic selling skills is essential to every career woman’s success and advancement. Most people, unless they are in sales, pay very little attention to sales skills. Most of us recognize good sales skills when we come across them but do not consciously assess them. Someone who has good sales skills will always leave a lasting impression or image on those whom they come into contact with. A man’s size and stature automatically aids him in creating this lasting image. Combine this with the workplaces’ tendency to be more male oriented, especially in management, means that men have a far easier time at leaving a lasting impression or image than women do. Having good sales skills are therefore essential for women no matter what position they are in, especially if they want to leave a lasting impression.  Good sales skills can also make women more effective, I have observed this many times in my career.  Here is one example.

 

I once had two project managers, both who were responsible for the reporting of critical projects and communicating them to the CEO in the form of tracking reports, project milestone reports, and critical open ticket reporting. Their essential task was tracking projects to ensure we were moving the company forward. Their success was based upon the cooperation of the entire management staff that was providing them with status reports.

 

The first project manager was a young male 6, feet 2 inches in his late 20’s and who had a pleasant personality. We will call him Mike for the purposes of this story. As part of his job he used an open communication style utilizing both e-mail and personal contact. He never had any difficulty getting the needed information for his reports. His size and mare presence along with his communication style contributed to a working relationship where automatic cooperation from the staff was the result. His was an instant success, he did not have to sell the importance of his job to the staff.

 

When he moved on, a new project manager took over this position. She was highly qualified, overly efficient, and extremely smart women and in her early thirties. We will call her Sally for the purposes of this story. Although Sally had been in the company for some time, she had difficulties taking over Mike’s position because she approached the job in the same way Mike did.

 

Sally would send out thousands of e-mails asking people to provide her with the critical information needed to complete the reports. She would lock herself away in her office trying to put the information together, but people were not responding to her requests. She began to miss deadlines, critical tickets, and critical information because it was not being provided to her. So what went wrong? Why did people not behave the same way with Sally as they did with Mike?

 

Sally wrongly believed that since her job was basically only gathering and reporting information, she did not need to motivate people to do this. Mike’s, physical presence alone was able to motivate people but if Sally wanted to be successful, she would need basic selling skills to make people want to deliver that same information. She was not going to be successful without selling her job to the others.

 

Unfortunately, this example is more the rule than the exception.  In management, we need to motivate people to deliver.  Good sales skills help us learn how to motivate people.  We sell them their own ideas so that they motivate themselves.  This is good management and this is a sale.  Use the example above to help you understand why sales skills are critical in almost every position for women.

 

Women want to achieve, move ahead and do their jobs but they do not live in an isolated world. Success often does not depend on your own skills alone but on the getting others to deliver what is necessary to do the job.  Good sales skills can help achieve this.

 

  1. Good sales skills begin with understanding the needs and motivations of others, no matter if it is a customer, colleagues or your boss. Open-ended questions, observation of the environment, body language and noticing other small aspects will help to determine the needs of others. As in the situation above, understanding the needs means understanding someone else’s job and priorities are. Sally was never going to be successful without understanding what the driving factor behind the others failure to deliver was.

 

  1. Knowing and believing in the value of what you have to offer is essential in sales. You cannot sell without the belief in your product. Sally had to believe that her reports were critical to assessing how the company was moving forward. She needed to communicate that belief and e-mail was probably not the best way to do this. Her e-mails probably said, “I need your status reports because the boss wants them,” but it would have been more effective for her to say “I need your status reports because without them we cannot support you in achieving your targets and moving the company along.”  This kind of passionate message brings more influence than a simple message.  It also brings more influence when done in person.  Mike probably made the importance of delivery transparent through his position, as well as his presence, whereas Sally needed to communicate the importance to others.

 

  1. Good listening skills are essential in the selling process. A good listening skill not only helps to understand the needs and motivation of others, but also helps one understand what the roadblocks and objections are.  What is blocking the ability to reach fulfillment? For example in the true selling of products and services, price is often used as an objection, but it is seldom a real objection. The real objection is often value, or the relationship between product and needs. In our story, Sally’s colleagues often told Sally that they did not have time to do the reports. She was puzzled because this was not the case when Mike was in the same position. Had the workload changed? Probably not, Sally just had to use additional selling skills and understand that time was probably not the objection, perceived value was.

 

  1. Without proper communication, one cannot sell. While Mike used e-mails in his communication, he also made sure to use one on one communication. His mare presence when he walked into someone’s office would help to motivate people to act. Sally, on the other hand, used very little one on one communication which was a big mistake when trying to sell. Sally needed to do more one on one communication to help establish her role and be more effective. She also needed more frequent communication because she did not have the lingering presence that Mike had.

 

  1. Begin with a good impression and the rest is easy. Good sales skills begin with a good presence and introduction. Looking and communicating the part will open doors. Mike’s being male (and automatically part of the club), as well as his size, automatically opened the doors for him. To be successful Sally had to make up for both of these characteristics by giving a different impression. She needed to be more professional in her communication, better dressed and demand control in her first meeting or she would begin at a disadvantage.

 

  1. Good negotiation and argument skills are part of successful sales. One’s ability to turn objections into questions and give solutions are an essential part of selling and cannot be done by e-mail; sally probably failed on this point.

 

  1. Closing at the buying signal and leaving with a lasting impression makes the sales process successful. The sale is only complete when the product, service or the awaited delivery is agreed upon and that all parties have a lasting good impression. Mike always closed the deal and left a lasting impression, one that would make people cooperate each and every time. Sally would need to use good sales skills to accomplish the same thing.

 

The moral of the story is that sales skills are not just for sales people. Some people like the Mad Hatter are just born with intuition and good sales skills. If you are not fortunate to be one of those people, sales skills can be learned. Sales skills are the necessary skills that can help one be successful in their job. The degree, to which they will be needed, depends on the particular job. Not everyone has to have super sales skills in every job although anyone managing projects and people need good sales skills to an extent. Sales skills are also more necessary for women then they are for men.

 

It is easy to become aware of what skills are related to sales and how these skills can help you be more successful. There are plenty of books about developing basic sales skills and how to use them.  Check out the bookstore, the Internet or look for a sales skill workshop near you or just ask The Mad Hatter for his advice!

Milk

Milk begins with the title character Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) speaking into a tape recorder telling his life story in the event of his assassination.  Which turned out to be prophetic:  on November 10, 1978, Milk was shot and killed by fellow San Francisco city supervisor Dan White at the age of 48.  His biopic, written by Dustin Lance Black and directed by Gus Van Sant, is as effective, informative and real as any biopic I have seen over the years.

Only Martin Scorsese could have directed Mean Streets. Only Steven Spielberg could have helmed Schindler’s List.   And likewise, only Van Sant could have presented the story of Harvey Milk in the manner it needed to be told. He brings a unique passion from behind the camera but at the same time is careful not to once ever get melodramatic or push anything in our face.  In his script, Black includes various anecdotes and provides details that helps not only bring Harvey Milk but the surrounding characters to life.

None of the characters here are caricatures, they are real people. This helps the audience understand the events more personally and feel like they are right there in the Castro when the events of the film are unfolding. Surely it is also pivotal that these characters are played on screen by an astonishingly talented cast. What more is there to say about Sean Penn at this point?

It is almost impossible to believe that the man playing Harvey Milk is the same actor in Mystic River, I am Sam and, yes, Fast Times at Ridgemont  High. There is a scene in this film where his character breaks down emotionally that is entirely different than his breakdown in Mystic River and other films. A lot of actors only know one way to show anger, sadness and despair. Penn literally becomes a new person in every film. He is a legendary actor.

The supporting turns are all outstanding. James Franco (as Milk’s lover Scott Smith) gives the best performance I have ever seen from him. Franco has a lot of potential and will hopefully be getting more in depth roles from now on. Emile Hirsch, another underrated actor, is great as Cleve Jones, and Josh Brolin who has been on an absolute tear for the last two years (No Country For Old Men, American Gangster, W.), is spot-on perfect as the bigoted Dan White.

Van Sant has been very up-and-down over the years (To Die For and Good Will Hunting being the up and the Psycho remake being the down). With Milk he has surpassed anything he has done before. The costume design is highly accurate and Danny Elfman provides a score that, like Van Sant’s directing, is potent but not over-the-top.

Milk is obviously coming out at a politically relevant time for its subject matter. Despite anyone’s thoughts on the topic and what’s going on nowadays, this is a moving and well-told story. It is as important artistically as it is politically.  An absolute must-see.

4 ½ / 5 stars

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

I’ll admit it; I never would have seen this on my own.  It was the decision of my significant other.  I am not too big a fan of animated movies.  I watched the first Madagascar, and it was decent enough, entirely saved by Sacha Baron Coen’s Julien, King of the Lemurs, and even more so by the penguins.  It was a passable cartoon.

So I went into Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa  expecting more of the same, and I was actually pleasantly surprised.  It clearly surpassed the first in both story and humor.  All of the characters you loved from the first are back (including my penguins!) and there are lots more to be added.  The gang attempts to fly from Madagascar back to their home in New York on the crashed plane hanging above the Land of the Lemurs.  Well, the trip doesn’t exactly go as planned and they end up crash landing on the savannahs of Africa.

They end up back where Alex the Lion was born, reuniting him with his parents, as well as Marty with other zebras, Melman with other giraffes and Gloria with other hippos.  From there the storyline unfolds mostly around Alex and his attempts to be accepted as a wild lion and impress his father (voiced by the late, great Bernie Mac).  It has all the ups and downs of a typical family film, but the humor is spot on.

Between Julien’s crazy ideas, to the return of the crazy old woman who fights like a black belt, to the struggle between the penguins and the “thumbs” (as they refer to the monkeys) over maternity leave, there is something here for both kids and adults to enjoy.  It’s even heartwarming without going too far, which is difficult to pull off for a non-Pixar cartoon.

Guys, take it from me, don’t run away from this one when she wants to go see it, you will find yourself laughing right along with her.

A very welcome 4 / 5 stars.

Henry Poole is Here

If the Wilson brothers were the Baldwins, then Luke Wilson would be Stephen Baldwin.

While he has certainly held in his own in some quality films (Old School, 3:10 To Yuma, Idiocracy), a majority of his work appears to be motivated by the almighty dollar (Charlie’s Angels, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Vacancy, and the lowest of low – the Jessica Simpson vehicle Blonde Ambition). So it’s startlingly surprising to see that his latest film, Henry Poole Is Here, is one with heart, warmth, and even some ideals to think about on the ride home.

Wilson plays the titular Poole, a sloppy, depressed man hell-bent on not caring about anything that crosses his path. He’s rude to neighbors, supermarket cashiers, and realtors that are simply trying to engage him in conversation or even trying to help him. It’s extremely difficult to sympathize with Henry, or even like him, until we find out about his situation, and what has caused him to behave like this.

The story picks up rather quickly when his neighbor, Esperanza, believes that she has found the abstract face of Jesus Christ on the side of his house. Henry refuses to acknowledge this, even staring down several outright miracles just to dismiss them as coincidence or flukes. Before long, though, and with the help of an overly depressed little girl living next door, Henry finds it tough to turn a blind eye towards these happenings. It all eventually leads to a finale that is both predictable and indulgent, but also happens to be very enjoyable, which is very rare these days.

Luke Wilson is acceptable in this role, although he doesn’t do too much outside of his usual range. The real stars of this film are Adriana Barraza as Henry’s neighbor Esperanza, who acts as the counterbalance to his skepticism, and Morgan Lily as Millie, the mute neighbor girl who inspires and eventually discourages Henry’s belief in the powers of the Jesus face. Radha Mitchell plays Dawn, Millie’s mother and the object of Henry’s affection in a wholly unnecessary romantic sub-plot. George Lopez makes a cameo appearance as Esperanza’s priest and plays it low-key enough to make it believable.

Director Mark Pellington (The Mothman Prophecies, Arlington Road) deftly walks the tightropes between simply provoking emotion and manipulating it for most of the film’s run time.  At times, he overdoes the “indie rock” soundtrack and the panning shots of clouds to portray deep thinking, but mostly he keeps the balance in check. Henry Poole Is Here is a film about faith and skepticism and what happens when you indulge too much in either, and it’ll have you wondering where you are and where you might want to be in the middle of the two.

4 / 5 stars

How to have a cheap tour in Hong Kong with super saving $500

Hong Kong tour is notoriously expensive, but if you know how to save money, you will have a cheap, thrifty, fun and memorable experience trip to Hong Kong.

Tips for saving money when making visa: $100

Tourist visa fee is currently USD 55 Hong Kong (around $60) but you will take a period to wait and prepare documents, while some cases do not get a visa because records have problems.

Many backpackers, who are ‘poor’ instructions of backpacking and cheap Hong Kong tour, recommend hiring a full-service travel company or service company specializing in visa. Package costs are $95 rapidly and less risky.

Depending on the economic possibility that you choose one of two ways to do the visa. You do it by yourself can save $35, but the majority of tourists choose package service.

Share how to save money when eating, playing, sleeping in Hong Kong: $150

One of the ways to save money for hotels when traveling backpacking, cheap and cheerful in Hong Kong that you should book room before travel, book as soon as possible and should reserve through the online hotel booking websites … especially those of you travel backpacking Hong Kong first time.

However, experience of cheap tour in Hong kong for super savings with $500 recommends that you should stay at affordable motels or guest house with the bunk bed, especially when you go alone. Reference price for this room type is approximately $ 20 – $ 30 / person / night. Or you can stay in a single room at cost of less than $20 / person / night. Additional surcharges, service, cleanup is about $55 / person / 2 nights.

Like other expensive activities, eating while traveling in Hong Kong is a challenge for tourists. However, the Hong Kong phượt professional players have a word of advice, guidance phượt, backpacker Hong Kong super savings of 10 million is you should go to the dining center, or enjoy street food to cost savings and eating just enjoy culinary richness of Hong Kong.