Enough with the ice bucket challenge, or at least do it right

I don’t know how it started, and I don’t really care. But what may have started out as a fun way to raise funds and awareness for ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) aka Lou Gehrig’s disease has just turned into yet another social media fad that has lost its purpose. Yes, I’m talking about the ice bucket challenge.

ice01If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t been online the past few weeks, the ice bucket challenge is an Internet sensation where people dump buckets of ice cold water on their heads, then challenge others to do so, supposedly to raise awareness of ALS. The concept is that you if you don’t accept the challenge you have to donate $100 to the ALS Association. If you do accept, then either you don’t have to donate the money or you just donate $10 (I’ve seen both versions), and you also get to nominate three of your friends to do the same.

This initially may have been a fun way to get people aware of the disease and to donate money to the cause, but the more I see these videos flooding my social media stream, the more I think people don’t get what it’s supposed to be about. People claim they’re doing it to raise awareness of ALS, but do they really know anything about the disease themselves? How about you tell me what the effects of the disease are or how many people are affected by it? Or maybe at least give me a website address I can look up to get more information on my own? How about providing a link where I can donate my money? Sadly, most of the ice bucket challenge videos I’ve seen don’t do any of the above or even mention the monetary choice that is the whole basis of the challenge in the first place.

ice02That’s because this challenge has turned from raising awareness of ALS to raising awareness of individual egos. I see people dumping water on themselves and challenging others, but honestly, if the cause is indeed the reason for the challenge, wouldn’t it benefit more from a $100 donation for not accepting the challenge than a measly $10 donation or no donation at all? I did some research and learned that the ALS Association has raised over $31 million from the ice bucket challenge and that’s terrific. So overall the challenge has been effective and the money will hopefully be used in an effective manner.

But I just don’t feel it’s about the cause anymore. It’s about getting your social media profile more exposure. The ice bucket challenge is a perfect opportunity for the, “Hey, look what I did!” social media generation to pimp themselves out under the ruse of charitable cause. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as narcissistic as anyone else and love to share my experiences on social media as well. But you won’t see me doing the ice bucket challenge. If you really want to help raise awareness and/or money to fight ALS, go ahead and give them some money, then contact your friends, share some information on the disease, and encourage them to do the same. But don’t challenge others to donate less money by dumping water on themselves while not even sharing the slightest bit of information about the very cause you’re supposedly trying to help.

I’m sure the ice bucket challenge won’t go away anytime soon, especially with celebrities jumping on the bandwagon too. But if you’re going to do it, please don’t lose sight of its original purpose and actually attempt to shed some light on why you’re doing it.

RIP Robin Williams

rwposterCelebrities pass away all the time. Usually, we hear the news, post about it on social media, express some sorrow about it, then get back to our life routines. But when I heard about the death of Robin Williams from an apparent suicide, I took a moment to mourn. You see, I don’t normally mourn the deaths of celebrities. Why would I? I don’t know them personally, and while I am sometimes saddened by their passing because I was a fan of their work, I usually just brush it off with a quick, “Oh, that’s too bad” and maybe post a quick note about it on Facebook, primarily to share the news with those who may not have heard yet.

But this time it was different. The last I remember being this emotionally affected by a celebrity death was when I heard of Brandon Lee’s unfortunate accident in 1993. To die by natural causes is one thing. It’s inevitable, and you’re usually not surprised when it happens. But learning that Williams’ suicide was caused by depression truly makes his death tragic. Williams gave the gift of laughter to the world through his stand-up acts, TV shows and movies. Known for his frantic comic style and over-the-top antics, he left nothing to spare when it came to entertaining audiences. He was so generous with his passion, joy and laughter that maybe he didn’t leave enough for himself, and that is truly unfair.

rwpopeyeMy first memory of Williams is in the film “Popeye.” It’s not a great film by any means, but even back then he showed his commitment as an entertainer, giving a dead-on performance as the iconic cartoon character. Williams then truly hit it big with “Good Morning, Vietnam,” earning his first of four Oscar nominations. He went on to star in some of the biggest comedy blockbusters, including “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Jumanji” and “The Birdcage.” He was a pro at delivering the laughs, but what impressed me most about his performances was how he filled them with so much heart. Never a mean streak in his performances, his infectious smile lit up theaters and warmed the hearts of audiences for decades. Has there been any actor as effective as Williams in delivering both laughs and tears?

rwawakeningsWilliams was also truly gifted as a dramatic actor. Other funny men such as Adam Sandler, Jim Carrey and Will Ferrell have tried their hands at dramatic roles, and while all have been successful, they eventually returned to their comedic roots. Williams, however, had a career filled with noteworthy dramatic appearances and has the Oscar hardware to prove it. His career has been an effective balancing act between comedy and drama, and it’s a testament to his work that he’s equally known for his roles in “Dead Poets Society,” “Good Will Hunting” and “Insomnia.” Personally, my favorite Williams performance was in “Awakenings” with Robert De Niro. His earnestness and compassion in his role of Dr. Malcolm Sayer for me epitomizes what Williams brought to his art. That film still makes me tear up to this day.

I don’t know Robin Williams personally nor do I really know anything about his personal life. But to me, he was one of the most giving actors out there. Not only did his acting and stand-up comedy bring happiness to many, but he did so much for charity by hosting Comic Relief for so many years to assist the homeless. If only the millions of us who were entertained by him could have given even a micro fraction of that back to him, perhaps he would still be with us today.

Read a review of Robin Williams’ 2010 show at Blaisdell Center

‘Into the Storm’ won’t blow you away

Is it wrong to think that “Into the Storm,” the new movie about tornadoes could use a good dose of sharks?

stormposterComing almost 20 years after the blockbuster tornado movie, “Twister,” “Into the Storm” has a lot to live up to considering the advances in CGI over the years.

The film truly does only have its special effects to rely on to draw audiences since there is absolutely no characterization so you don’t care if any of them live or die. In fact, there was a scene where I wished a couple of characters would just die already because I didn’t give a crap about them and wanted to get back to the tornado destruction. That’s the huge obstacle disaster movies face – how to balance characterization with the action scenes. The good ones succeed at making you care whether or not people live or die. “Into the Storm” is not one of the good ones.

The film isn’t helped by its confusing storytelling style. Some parts are filmed with the overused “found footage” style with characters shooting video of what’s happening around them. Other parts are filmed with a traditional camera style. It’s frustrating enough to try to understand why characters continue to tape footage while all hell is breaking loose around them, but what’s even more puzzling is the director’s decision to jump back and forth between the two techniques.

storm2As for the special effects, I will admit that there were a few shots that were kind of cool, but overall they weren’t that impressive. I kept hoping to see something I hadn’t seen before in films like “Twister,” but the film never delivered.

Perhaps “Into the Storm” could have worked if it didn’t take itself so seriously. All of the characters are so grim and somber (except for these two idiots who are supposed to provide comic relief) that they suck all the fun out of watching the action. Movie audiences have seen so many disaster films by now that any new ones would really have to introduce something new to be memorable. Maybe if the film was willing to poke a little fun at itself I could’ve enjoyed it more.

So where are those sharks again?

 

‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ rocks!

Back in April of this year I proclaimed “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” to be the best Marvel film to date.

Well, that was a really short run.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” is easily the most fun I’ve had in the theater this year. While I was a big comic geek growing up, I hardly knew anything about the Guardians of the Galaxy. They were always this wildcard group of characters on the fringe of the Marvel Universe, popping in from time to time in other various Marvel titles. So it was an interesting and quite honestly puzzling decision to feature this group of characters as Marvel’s next film franchise. Since I knew almost nothing about this group, I entered the film with a blank slate, ready to be at least amused, hopefully entertained. Little did I know that I’d leave the theater with a big smile on my face, high on the joy that this film brought to me.

gog1In fact, I believe that this film has the potential to be the “Star Wars” of this generation. It’s a lot lighter in tone than “Star Wars,” but that suits well with this generation of millennials who don’t really take things that seriously anyway. I know that comparing “Guardians of the Galaxy” to “Star Wars” is a bold statement and could be considered a nerd no-no, but that’s how memorable this film will always be for me.

First, the characters are so well-rounded. They’re a gang of misfits, and while we’ve all seen their character types before, the screenplay and performances really bring them to life.

Chris Pratt is the Han Solo of the bunch as Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord. He’s a reckless thief who initially only looks out for himself, but right from the opening scene, his haunted past is revealed and we immediately empathize with his pain. Zoe Saldana is a pro at playing strong female characters by now, but still knows how to deliver a performance that goes beyond the clichéd tough chick. Her Gamora only has one mission, to steal a cosmically powerful orb from Quill, but quickly reveals sides to her character beyond kicking butt.

Dave Bautista also does a nice job giving depth to a potentially one-dimensional character. Bautista plays Drax the Destroyer, a man who seeks revenge against Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) for murdering his family, but surprisingly delivers some of the film’s funniest and most touching moments. Then there’s the bounty hunting duo of Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). Rocket has a perpetual chip on his shoulder and is angry at the world, yet he’s the brains of the group and has the best one-liners in the film. I really liked how Cooper gave Rocket a unique voice, and as a result, sounded nothing like the actor’s real voice. I didn’t want to go through the entire film thinking of that guy from “The Hangover” whenever Rocket spoke. Diesel only has three words to say the entire film – “I am Groot,” but delivers each three-word sentence with just the right emotion so that you can tell what he’s saying even his words don’t tell you the story.

gog2I knew absolutely nothing about director and writer James Gunn prior to this film, but he instantly becomes a major Hollywood player with “Guardians of the Galaxy.” His ability to perfectly mix together sci-fi, drama, comedy, action and emotion is very impressive given that this is his first major studio film. But most importantly, he knows how to incorporate the fun element. Comic book movies nowadays tend to take themselves a bit seriously, but Gunn brings such a refreshingly light tone to “Guardians of the Galaxy.” He’s also quite adept at pacing and choreographing action scenes, balancing them with the right amount of suspense and emotion. There are so many scenes that stand out after the first viewing that I can’t wait to see the film again to relive those moments.

If “Guardians of the Galaxy” does have a weakness, it’s that the villain isn’t memorable. Unfortunately, this is not unusual for Marvel films as the villains tend to serve more as plot devices rather than a nemesis to the heroes. Ronan the Accuser is fine as the power hungry cosmic warlord, but nothing about his character particularly stands out.

Despite that, “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a fantastic film that has already established a spot as one of the best films of the year. Now, when is that Guardians and Avengers crossover going to happen?

 

Wave bye to sign waving

“Beep beep!”

“Alright! That’s another vote for my candidate!”

I can only assume that it’s this kind of outdated thinking that drives political candidates and their supporters to clutter up sidewalks and intersections all over the island during election season. Like it or not, roadside sign waving is part of Hawaii’s election culture.

touseBut when I see candidates and their supporters on the streets waving at me, frantically trying to draw my attention so I might acknowledge them with a shaka or a honk of my horn, the first thing I think of is how distracting they can be to drivers and pedestrians. Not only do sign wavers clutter up our sidewalks and force pedestrians to walk around them, but they often also stand perilously close to the road and could cause confusion to drivers looking out for traffic signs or pedestrians. The only good thing is the next time I get a ticket for running a red light at a busy intersection during rush hour, I know which candidate’s office to ask to pay my fine.

Isn’t a candidate’s time better spent doing their current job rather than trying to win their next job? Especially if they’re an incumbent, I’d much rather have them in their office earning my tax dollars than waving hi to me on the roads. In fact, a politician is more likely to get my vote if they don’t participate in sign waving.

The whole practice of sign waving screams of obsolescence. It might have been an effective back in the days of TVs with only three basic channels and before the creation of the Internet, but with all the social media tools available now, there really is no reason to stand out on the road waving to drivers. I understand that its intent is to achieve name recognition the voters so that they’ll remember the candidate on election day, but if people truly are voting based on which candidate gave them a friendly smile and shaka instead of their stances on the issues, I don’t think those people should be voting in the first place.

I actually have been a sign waver in the past, but only when strongly encouraged to do so by an employer with substantial financial interest in a certain candidate. I did so begrudgingly and hated every minute of it as I tried to fake a smile at drivers who mostly just wanted to get to home as soon as possible without having to send a half-hearted greeting my way. Now, when I see sign wavers, I keep my eyes on the road (as every driver should anyway) and ignore them, hoping to get past them as quickly as possible.

I understand that we have a need to hold on to old-time local customs. They keep us grounded and provide a nostalgic link to the past. Honolulu has become a major metropolis and those who don’t consider that to be progress are desperately trying to hold on to any down-home type traditions they can. But it’s time that this small-town folksy tradition is laid to rest.

The truth is, these candidates aren’t much different than their evening counterparts standing on street corners. Their wardrobes may be different, but whether they’re wearing aloha attire or mini-skirts and pumps, they’re all pimping themselves out and desperately seeking your attention. If I had my way, I’d get rid of them all.