Fast and Furious 7 Review

Furious 7 is having a ton of success among critics and fans alike.  It is outperforming the previous movies and is getting set to have the 9th biggest opening of all time.  I went to the movie Thursday and had a great time, but  it seems not everyone liked it.

Chris Sawin, Houston Movie Examiner isn’t a fan of the movie, his scathing review,

“This franchise has always been about being outrageous or just flat out stupid and “Furious 7” somehow manages to out-dumb the six ridiculous films that came before it.”

“…Furious 7 thrives on attempting to make the impossible plausible. It is louder and crazier than the previous films, but crazy in a sense that is borderline mentally ill. Its brainless and senseless action is almost as offensive as its terrible jabs at humor. This sequel is without a doubt the most obnoxious film to hit theaters this year, but is guaranteed to make an unbelievably excessive amount of money due to its sleak, sexy, destructive, and action packed packaging.”

Currently at 82% on rotten tomatoes Wesley Morris from Grantland said,

“…physics are to the Fast & Furious movies what term limits are to dictators: something to be flouted. That transfer is but one of the dozen or so incidents in this movie that drop your jaw, steal your breath, and make you want to say “I do.”

You can spend a lifetime watching movies and see very little that approximates the craftsmanship and ingenuity of the stunt work in these films.

Does it strain plausibility that Letty could hold off the high-octane arm-and-leg work of Ronda Rousey and that Brian could go forearm-to-forearm with Tony Jaa twice and live to tell? It does, indeed. But that’s just part of the magic.”

Molly Eichel, Inquirer staff writer, described her experience,

“In Furious 7, the seventh film in the mega-popular car-racing, international-action series, the complications come in the form of plot. But as soon as we might begin to question how little sense it makes, we’re treated to an opulent party, epic hand-to-hand combat between two women in full-length ball gowns, and a car that flies through the air.

Furious 7 is layered in such a way that there’s actually quite a bit going on, but these plot points are really just excuses to set up the next action set pieces.”

Fast 7 is an entertaining movie start to finish.  It has amazed me the overall acceptance of this movie among main stream America and the world.  The super cars, the one-liners ,and the mind blowing action scenes are the reasons why I loved the first Fast and Furious and the reason that I love the last installment.  I am just surprised that most critics are able to put the movie in proper context.  They seemed to overlook the choppy storyline and overboard action scenes and enjoy the Furious 7 experience.

“I don’t have friends, I got family”, says Dom Toretto in the film.  The history and chemistry of the franchise let’s the screenplay push this theme and make it believable.  The most entertaining parts are when they are playing off one another.  This gives the film more than just action, but some heart.  Which brings us to the tribute given to Paul Walker.

Molly Eichel

“We don’t show up exclusively for the fast cars and explosions (of which there are many), either. As reiterated over (and over and over) again by each character, the Fast & Furious series is as much about family as it is about cars. And Furious 7 marks the end for one its family members: Paul Walker, who died in a car crash in 2013 while filming was still going on.

Walker gets a farewell worthy of the series: overwrought, overly long, and exactly what we want.”

Wesley Morris

“Who would have thought that a series addicted to the high of movement could also summon a solemnity that leaves you moved?”

Even Chris Sawin wrote

“…the way that Walker and his character Brian O’Conner are honored in the film is both a blessing and a curse for the film. The final sequence in the film is the perfect way of sending off the character and is emotionally satisfying in every way. Even speaking as someone who isn’t a fan of the franchise, it’s incredibly sentimental.”

Many people wondered how Paul Walker’s death would impact the movie and how the filmmakers would deal with it.  I think most agree that they did a fantastic job dealing with the tragedy.  They were able to portray their own personal feelings of Paul the person, through their characters in the movie, it was fitting, emotional and genuine.  None of us would prefer a Fast & Furious without Paul Walker, but because we don’t have a choice this was a perfect goodbye.

How ‘Fast & Furious’ Won By Losing

Scott Mendelson for Forbes explaining how the Fast and Furious franchise came into its own:

“Maybe it would have just continued on as the Dom and Brian Super Racing Hour. But I suspect that the very thing that kept the franchise alive and then led it to turn into what amounts to an All Avengers only Avengers team-up action spectacular, is that Universal had to keep changing the game as a result of their inability to lock down what would have been a standard sequel template. The failure to make a proper sequel for the first eight years created the kind of expanded universe that Hollywood now craves. That partially explains why the expanded universe model that everyone envies is such a challenge and perhaps not the best way to attempt to fashion franchises. Without taking anything away from the filmmakers and the respective marketing departments, Universal lucked into a goldmine, when their glorified B-movie street racing adventures grew into an ensemble A-level action franchise that every would-be action hero wanted to be a part of.”

This franchise has come a long way and hit their stride with Fast Five.  It was a great fit adding Jason Statham, from The Transporter and finally gives us a villain worhty of the crew.  These movies are as entertaining as any.  The filmmakers and actors are comfortable with the over-the-top action scenes and timely one liners.  Everyone has bought in and the result is a wildly entertaining franchise, even for the critics. (86% on rotten tomatoes)

Apple Watch Edition Pricing

Apple Watch Edition PricingApple has the ability to launch new products without the Tech God.  The critics are wrong.  The Apple Watch will sell way more than any other smart watch.  As an Apple savant I am certain.  The nice thing about being an Apple enthusiast every argument I have had about the success of an Apple product has left me looking further right than the tea party.  That tends to happen when a companies market cap rises to over 700 Billion dollars in 10 years and it’s products are adored all over the world.

There isn’t a month that goes by that I don’t try to bring this up with the doubters.  Now that Apple is launching a new product category I would like to find as many people possible that think the Apple Watch will fail so I can go back in 5 years and serve crow.

Imagine if Apple had a Kickstarter to drum up demand for an Apple Watch.  You would see a millions and millions of dollars coming in to draw interest.  Making my point, the Apple Watch is coming and it will be a hit.  The Apple Watch, the Apple Sport  and the Apple Edition are the three types of watches Apple is releasing.  The Apple Watch Edition is the watch that piques our interest.

Tech Crunch, was representative of early Apple Watch Edition expectations:

“A jewelry contact familiar with the matter told TechCrunch that the gold, 18-karat version of the Apple Watch could cost around $1,200 retail…”

The first report I read back in September ’14 that expectations of $1,200 were extremely low was Daring Fireball.

John Gruber wrote:

“In short: hundreds for Sport, a thousand for stainless steel, thousands for gold.

Most people think I’m joking when I say the gold ones are going to start at $5,000. I couldn’t be more serious. I made a friendly bet last week with a few friends on the starting price for the Edition models, and I bet on $9,999.”

After Gruber’s original analysis people’s are now expecting a luxury watch with the Edition model.  It is now pretty difficult to find an argument out there that the Edition Watch will be less than $3,000.

These are the latest estimates.  Going on record with his prediction, John Gruber writes:

“I now think Edition models will start around $10,000 — and, if my hunch is right about bands and bracelets, the upper range could go to $20,000. I was off by a factor of two…”

Analyst Piper Jaffray, via Apple Insider reports:

“On the high end, the analyst forecasts base model Apple Watch Edition devices to start at $4,999, but classifies segment ASP closer to $7,500 after adding in straps made from precious metals.”

Greg Koenig (@gak_pdx) tweeted:

“If anyone thinks Apple is charging less than $5k for the Edition, they are smoking crack.  Based on the gold content alone, $5k easy.”

Ian Morris contributing for Forbes writes:

“It is quite important that Apple gets the pricing right on the Watch Edition though, because reducing it later would be a really bad move from a perception point-of-view. I suspect that Apple will want to come in under $10,000 but at significantly more than $5,000. So my estimate is $8,000.”

The Koenig group said via Venture Beat:

“Koenig’s group believes the Edition-series Watches will be priced between $3,000 and $7,000, but no more. “Based on the fact that the product lifetime of the Apple Watch will be 1 to 3 years, any ‘reasonable’ buyer (and that is what Apple is looking for) would probably not spend more than this,” Koenig says.

After my findings I find it very hard to believe that Apple will sell a watch for $10,000.  If in fact the cost just to make the Apple Watch Edition is around $1,200.  I can see the starting retail price around $3,000.  Which is more than what I would have originally guessed.  A watch that costs the same as Apple’s 5K Retina iMac doesn’t seem like you are getting value.

I also agree, that I don’t understand the luxury market.  It is a fact that people pay well over $20,000 for watches that are far less functional than the Apple Watch, but also expect the timepiece to last for time.

I can’t believe that, as far as hardware goes, that an Apple Watch in 5 years won’t be significantly better than the one that is 5 years old.   Look at the iPhone.  The shape is remarkably similar, but there are huge differences.  So how can someone see the long term value in what they are buying.

In the world of self-help there is a triangle to make money.  At the first tier you have a book for $20.  Then you have a website with a monthly subscription for $10.  Then you create audio books for $100, then you have a 3 day seminar for $900.  After your seminar then you have a retreat for $1,000’s.  Then you pay for a personal life coach for a higher monthly.  Some see this as a rip off for the higher priced events, the ones who pay for it are glad that it exists.  The reason why those exists aren’t because these self helpers are trying to squeeze every penny out of the “suckers”, but because the consumer wants more.  Where there is demand, you should create supply.

The idea is that whether or not the vast majority of people you reach will pay for each tier is irrelevant, what is relevant is that there are enough people that are willing to.  I believe the demand has existed for a while.  Now Apple has a product that matches that demand.

Apple has the brand and the customers to make this work.  There is no way that people are getting great value on watches that cost over $20,000, but enough people have bought into this notion.  The luxury watch market exists and is thriving.  This is how Apple can sell watches for $10,000.  This is how Apple will sell watches for $10,000.

Apple Watch Wins Design Award

Wednesday, March 4, 2015Apple Watch Recognized with the iF DESIGN AWARD 2015

“The iF DESIGN AWARD 2015,Discipline Product – Gold” goes to…Apple Watch Edition!

“The idea of combining classic materials such as leather and metal with state-of-the-art technology to create a very individual fashion accessory has resulted in a delightful product offering a holistic user experience. The Apple Watch scores highly for each design detail and is an altogether extraordinary piece of design. For us, it is already an icon.”

According to “The largest design exhibition on the internet” the Apple Watch is iconic and fashionable.  This can’t be said of most smartwatches. Not sure how accredited iF Design Award is, but the Apple Watch is by far the best designed smart watch.

What to Make of Brian Williams

Brian Williams Fiasco Should Brian Williams be able to report news to America in the future?

Ruth Marcus from the Washington Posts makes her case:

“I doubt that the six-month suspension the network announced Tuesday night is enough, and I think he needs to step down.”

…”This analysis misperceives the role of news anchor — as NBC itself recognized: “As Managing Editor and Anchor of ‘Nightly News,’ Brian has a responsibility to be truthful and to uphold the high standards of the news division at all times,” Deborah Turness, the president of NBC News, said in a statement.

To the extent that the job is more than merely reading words off a teleprompter, it is to be the institutional voice of trust and reason, reassuring in a crisis, the ultimate reliable narrator. When issues of trustworthiness become a distraction, the anchor loses his credibility, and therefore his perch.”

Verne Gay for NewsDay.com has come to the conclusion that she can not trust Williams again, and neither should NBC:

“In fact, the one hard, undissolvable core value that an anchorman or woman must have is trust. Of course, anchormen and women, being humans, will err, and they will make mistakes and they will be imperfect.

But viewers know that. What they won’t tolerate is a lie. When trust is shattered, it is impossible to reassemble the pieces. Something else then replaces that badge of “trust.” It’s called “doubt.” In its own strange way, “doubt” is as powerful as “trust,” but impossible to shake. For a professional anchor, it’s a scarlet letter.”

Manuel Roig-Franzia, Scott Higham and Paul Farhi, also from the Washington post, reported that the pulse among peers he was known for embellishing stories:

“NBC officials were suspicious of the on-air apology, particularly the anchor’s statement that he had “made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago,” a network source said.

“Ninety percent of the people knew it was not misremembering, it was making it up,” the source said.

..But inside NBC, the Iraq fabrication was seen as the most damaging. “When helicopter crew members get shot down and you attach yourself to what they went through, it’s pretty outrageous,” a person familiar with internal discussions said.

“It kept piling up, and his story seemed less and less credible,” a network official said.

…”They also said they were not surprised by the allegations that Williams had inflated his involvement in news stories and what he supposedly witnessed while on assignment. They said his exaggerations were an open secret at 30 Rockefeller Plaza and became an inside joke, mostly because they were not made on “Nightly News.”

…NBC reporters and producers said:

“There are few people who talk to Brian in an authoritative way,” a former top NBC news manager said. “There really wasn’t anyone over him to say anything to him or to question his facts. There was no one managing him. There was constant changing to his whims.

“No one said, ‘No.’ ”

John Gruber from Daring Fireball doesn’t seem to give any sympathy:

“Not sure how he recovers from this. Humiliating, but he has only himself to blame.”

Not everyone is out to see Brian Williams banished from the news media.  There are plenty that recognize the mistake and think the media are making too big of a deal out of it.

Paul Waldman writing for TheWeek.com sees it as a misstep not a career ender:

It should be noted that Williams’ inaccurate stories weren’t failures of his journalism, but failures in how he talked about his journalism off-camera.

…That’s an important distinction, but it may not be enough to exonerate him.

Roger Simon for Politico thinks people are over reacting:

Williams falsely claimed he was in a helicopter that was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq a dozen years ago. In reality, he was in a different helicopter that could have been shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade, but wasn’t.

…So I think we should just chill about Brian Williams. Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.

Bill O’Reilly on Jimmy Kimmel thinks the outrage is not a concern for integrity in news but in the delight of the fallen:

“Every public person in this country is a target,” he said. “With the Internet — you know what it is, it’s a sewer. And these people delight in seeing famous people being taken apart.

I just think it’s wrong. I mean, we’re human beings just like everybody else.””I don’t like this taking and destroying people for sport business,” he said. “I don’t like it.”

Joe Scarborough also throws in defending Williams:

“If he exaggerated, if he puffed his chest out a little bit — news people do that,” Scarborough said, after quoting scripture about casting the first stone. “Politicians do that. Guys do that. We’ve all done that at times. You have to ask the question, where was it done? Was it done at David Letterman, or was it done when he was reporting the news?”

Jon Stewart seems to think it was merely an indiscretion:

It’s more sin that crime, don’t’ you agree?”

Stewart also points out the irony of the media’s coverage:

“Now, this may seem like overkill, but for me, no, it is not overkill, because I am happy, finally, someone is being held to account for misleading America about the Iraq War, finally it might not necessarily be the 1st person you’d want held accountable on that list…”

So where do we stand on this?  Is this a career mistake or an indiscretion?  The questions hinge on what our standard is for our news anchors.

Colin Cowherd made a case on his radio show that news anchors have changed.  America wants to enjoy watching the news, not just getting the news.  Brian Williams did that better than anyone else.

Gone are the days where we choose our news anchors based on their journalistic credibility.  Originally, there were 5 channels and anchors could afford to be reporters of news and not personalities.  Now days we watch the news that caters to us.  So we enjoy Brian Williams the personality, he won’t be as straight laced as the boring guy full of standards and journalistic integrity.  That guy is respected, but not adored.  He is for a place where substance is more important that show.  That is not TV, maybe a documentary.

You think Walter Cronkite, the standard bearer, would be leading the news in ratings in 2015?  His key demographic is 70+ and would have been canned as fast as Conan’s stint on the tonight show.

Fabricating stories for more viewers is one thing, embellishing your story for entertainment is another.  What Dan Rather did is unforgivable, what Brian Williams did is forgettable.

We shouldn’t make this bigger than it is.  Lets get past the facade of what we think the nightly news is and call it for what it is.  Brian Williams was hired for ratings, not credibility.  We now know what colleagues have known for years—he likes to embellish stories to entertain those around him.  He is still the same guy.  Until he pulls a “Dan Rather” this indiscretion is far from irreparable.  I say let him continue, if America still enjoys the brand despite the imperfections, ratings will show.  If it is irrepairable, ratings will show.

Horse Racing has a Rivalry

California Chrome loses to shared beliefShared Belief’s Jockey, Mike Smith:

“I can’t even describe that performance,” Smith said. “He ranks right up there with the top five horses I have ever been on, with room to grow. It really was so impressive. There’s no telling what this horse can do or the potential that he can reach. I think he still has room to grow.”

Horses, California Chrome and Shared Belief clashed last Saturday at Santa Anita and the race lived up to the hype.  California Chrome was winning coming off the last turn but was passed by Shared Belief in the last stretch making an exciting finish.  It was great to see the matchup after the last race was spoiled at the Breeder’s Cup Classic.  View the race here.

I understand it is February, but Horse racing was the best in sports entertainment this weekend.  It’s great when rivalry match ups deliver, and it did.

*Fyi— Radio Great, Jim Rome, is part owner of Shared Belief.

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