November Man: Marty and I liked it and give it a “B-” but we urge you to wait for home viewing.


If you like Pierce Brosnan you will like November Man. We hadn’t seen him in some time and he still looks great and moves like a forty year old! What I wouldn’t give for his head of hair. We have no idea who any of the supporting cast are but they generally did a good job in their roles – especially the female lead – Olga Kurylenko as Alice/???

If you like espionage – action – adventure – surprising plot twists – a few good car chase scenes and several good sniper kills all capped off with a fast paced ending you will like November Man.

Then why didn’t we give this film a better review and why are we telling you it’s not worth the hassle of going to the theater to see? Because it’s not! It’s a good movie and about on par with some of HBO’s good cable TV shows. The November Man starts out fast and furious for about twenty minutes and we were excited about what was yet to come. Then as the writers and cast fleshed out the plot and details the film became laborious and felt like walking a soggy trail where every step was an effort.

The final twenty minutes, however, are great. There is one major plot twist and two character surprises and a good ending. Pierce, the first twenty minutes and the last twenty minutes will make this an “A+” home rental. It will be worth five bucks On Demand or how ever you get your home movies. Then when it slows down in the middle you can hit pause, get a snack, go the bathroom and if you remember I told you the middle was slow also remember not to hit the delete button because the ending is very good.

Larry and Marty

The Expendables 3 – A mixed vote in our family: Marty A, Larry C


Of the movie goers who choose to see “The Expendables 3″ my guess is 50% will be glad they saw it and half of that number or 25% max will really like the film.

Marty gave it an A because she “really liked seeing” the Male Actors she knows: Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Banderas, Gibson and Ford. She wasn’t the least bit put off by the totally unrealistic and often impossible action scenes. She liked the action and the men and one woman doing it and that made her happy so she left smiling and gave it an A.

Personally I too enjoyed seeing the old guys and felt their chemistry and male bonding came across naturally. It was hard to miss the fact that Arnold was the only male actor dressed in loose fitting clothing and most often wearing a jacket. My guess is Maria Shriver is in much better shape and doesn’t miss Arnold much these days. I was particularly impressed with newcomer Ronda Rassey, the reigning and dominant Female Mixed Martial Arts Champion. We are not MMA Fans and I’m sure she was in the make up trailer like all the actors but she not only looked good – her fighting scenes were the best of the lot. The next time she’s on cable in a MMA fight we’ll check it and her out.

What bothered me most about the film was the absolute total and complete ridiculousness of most of the battle scenes and in particular the big shoot out in the end. Ten good guys armed with only pistols and rifles hold off an Army – literally an Army of several hundred men – supported by tanks, helicopters and all manner of heavy firepower and explosives. Throw in the traditional twenty minute dead zone an hour into the film and I sadly have to say that I am in the 25% who are glad they saw The Expendables 3 but I wish I had waited for home viewing.

Unless you are a big fan of the Expendables Series I recommend you wait for home viewing. That way when the movie drags like a rusted out tail pipe in the middle you can hit the fridge or the bathroom.

Larry

The New Word of the Week: SCROOMED – Screwed and Doomed


While recently reviewing the statistics from various Federal Government Departments it seems that at present approximately forty percent (40%) of the population of the USA is on some form of Welfare Payments and this percentage grows substantially each year.

Taking this sobering reality into account and considering the Economy and our National Leadership, my friend Damon sent me a one word response that expressed his outlook for our future – SCROOMED. As you know from the title this is a reflection of two scenarios. You, as a member of the working class of America – those who contribute to those who don’t – we are Screwed and we may be Doomed. If it wasn’t so damned true it would be funny.

I communicate with a lot of my peers – retired or almost retired folks who feel like things are going to hell – BUT not so fast that life here in America will change dramatically for them in our life time. However, when they really open up they say their greatest fear in life is the death of the American Dream and what that means for their Children, Grand Children and Great Grand Children. What haunts them even more is that our generation is powerless to do much if anything about it. We are SCROOMED and it appears it may be worse for each successive Generation.

When I think think of America I am reminded of the Presidents we have had over the past fifty years or so and how I remember them. For your review they are:

President – – How I remember them

John F Kennedy – – Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country
Gerald Ford – – Perhaps the worst Presidential Golfer of all time
Richard Nixon – – I would not lie to you! We are not in Cambodia (actually I was there at the time)
Jimmy Carter – – Stagflation
Ronald Reagan – – Tear Down That Wall
George HW Bush – – One Thousand Points of Light
Bill Clinton – – Monica
George “W” Bush – – The War on Terror
Barack Obama – – SCROOMED

Well there it is friends. If you disagree – and I hope you do – please let know how I can look on the brighter side of life. For Marty and I our only real hope is the Coming of Messiah!

Larry

There is sadness in the Stephens Family at the Passing of Robin Williams


Our son Tony and I played tennis late today after the sun set and the temps fell below 90. When we were done Tony checked his iPhone and we were taken back when he read that Robin Williams had died.

I was particularly sad because in my mind – my perception – therefore my reality – Robin Williams left this life without having personally accepted Christ as the One who died for our sins. As I sit here and type this note I truly, truly hope that my perception is wrong – that the Amazing Grace of God reached out and called one of His most talented yet troubled creations home.

Marty, Tony and I spent ten days in Hawaii in 1987 at the Kapalua Bay Club on the Big Island. It was perhaps the finest family vacation we ever took. It had been a great year for our firm and we went all out on an Ocean View Home which also bordered the golf course. Tony brought his Football and Wrestling friend George and as the two biggest kids on the block they made some interesting friends – one being Billy Crystal’s daughter – a young adventuresome teenager about his age – apparently in need of a friend and super sized body guard or two for the week.

Each morning I was up at 5:00am local time – 10:00am in Chicago – waiting on the first tee for the sun to rise just enough for us to see our tee shots rise into the golden light of a Big Island Dawn. While I was golfing Marty relaxed and later in the day we would take our rental jeep into places we hope Hertz never finds out about and had some great fun snorkeling in Horseshoe Bay.

It seems that no matter how much money you spend for accommodations and privacy there is always a “pool side buffet” where the rich and famous stand in line with the folks from Chicago. It was there that I met Billy Crystal, Gary Shandling (The Larry Sanders Show) and Robin Williams – standing in line waiting for waffles and eggs. Being the shy retiring type I introduced myself and began to banter with the real professionals. Billy, Gary and Robin were all extremely approachable and friendly. However, Robin was “on stage” even as he waited for brunch. He entertained us all with incredibly spontaneous humor and turned what could have been a long twenty minute wait into our personal Robin Williams Comedy 1/3 Hour.

Like strangers in the night we passed and nodded now and then and they asked for our permission for Tony to join them for the New Year’s Eve Party at The Club. Since I’d been up since before sunrise and Saint Marty was stuck with me for better or worse we had our NYE celebration around seven and were sound asleep by nine.

Maybe it was just being in the warm sunny breezes of Hawaii in December but somehow or another in our minds we “connected” with Billy, Gary and Robin and they made us feel like we really knew them.

For those of you who know us well you will remember that upon arriving home in Chicago we found our “home” totally burned to the ground. That is the subject of another day but even in the midst of that challenge we still enjoyed the memory of that time in both the short and long term.

Tonight we are saddened in our spirits that one of the great comedic genius’s of out time took his life so young. We pray for his soul and his family without judgement and with very, very fond memories.

Larry

Guardians of the Galaxy: Marty gives it “P” – for Pathetic


Have you ever been to a movie that started unbelievably slow and then as the characters were introduced you had hope that it was going to pick up and be entertaining if not good? There is NO HOPE for Guardians of the Galaxy.

My only regret is that it took me 35 minutes to figure out it was never going to pick up and another five to pull the trigger and hit the exit. I would like to write something cogent or clever that would reward you for opening the blog but I am so sorry to tell you I can not.

Like my dearly, beloved and departed Mom always said – Larry if you can’t say something good about someone then “run them down the country” and spare your other Red Neck friends from wasting their time going out with them.

Don’t do it! Don’t go to see it! Don’t pay for it on home delivery! Don’t even waste your time when it hits STARZ because surely HBO will have the good sense not to pick this “raccoon” – make that DOG up.

Lucy – A Cognitive Fantacy and a Feast for the Mind: B +


When a Woman controls the action, adventure and violence in a futuristic and evolutionary film it will be called Lucy.

When a human develops their cognitive powers and ability to process and think like no person that ever lived it will be a woman and her name will be Lucy.

If you are creative, adventuresome and the idea of elevating your ability to think and control your environment and those around you excites you then you will really like Lucy.

On the other hand if your World View controls your ability to enjoy an intellectual fantasy then you will not like Lucy.

Uncle Larry gave Lucy a strong B+ and worthy of sitting in a sticky seat where a nine year old sat yesterday and spilled butter from his popcorn to see Lucy on the big screen with the big surround sound. On the other hand Saint Marty gave Lucy a C- because she found it boring as she has no desire to be unrealistic and to delve into a world where one’s cognitive powers can reach levels never before dreamed of.

I thought Scarlett Johansson did a great job and Morgan Freeman was Morgan Freeman and who can complain about that?

Some of you will like Lucy and some of you will not. I suppose that’s why Studebaker with their futuristic and radical design went out of business and Buick survives with comfort and what the majority call style. Raise your hand if you are too young to remember Studebaker!

Uncle Larry

Hercules – C+


It takes a Herculean effort to sit patiently through the special effects loaded “Hercules” movie with The Rock – in a food, exercise and steroid enhanced body.

However, Marty and I felt the wait was worth it for the ending. It was a long time coming and no surprise but was good nonetheless. No one in this flick is going to be nominated for anything other than getting a big check.

If you aren’t a Dwayne Johnson fan or like to look at men with big pecs and arms wait for home rental.

Uncle Larry

Jersey Boys – The Movie. Marty and I give it a luke warm B Minus.


Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons had some great songs. However, when I looked at the 672 downloads in my iTunes Library there is nothing there by him/them. I guess you could say we like his hits but we aren’t big fans.

If you’re a fan of the Four Seasons and you have NOT seen the live show on Broadway you will really enjoy this movie and I highly recommend you see it soon. I love Clint but it is so very difficult to take a huge stage hit like Jersey Boys and keep it fresh, personal and feeling live on FILM. It would help if you were a fan and you really cared about their life story.

Marty and I were fortunate enough to see Jersey Boys when we were in London for our 35th Anniversary. I can still remember now how pumped up we were at the close of the show. Speaking of the “close” – that is the very best part of the movie. Please don’t jump up and run out until the screen goes black. While they run the credits they bring all the cast together for a big song and dance number that reminds us so much of the stage show.

There really isn’t a lot more to be said. With the constant going back and forth between “the story” and the “singing” the film doesn’t present the Actors the opportunity to get deep into their character.

One thing is for certain – at 2 hours and 14 minutes if you aren’t a Four Season fan you can definitely wait for home viewing. As it was I took a bath room and walk outside break about two thirds of the way through the film. If I would have had a Margarita before the film I probably would have stayed in my seat and got a short nap.

Larry

The Problem in the VA Medical System – An Imbalance of Supply and Demand


What is the long term solution to the Problem with the VA Medical Care System?

Before I begin to give you my answer – in case you don’t know me personally – let me give you my qualifications to have an opinion. I served in the US Army from 1968 to 1970 and spent one year of that in the Infantry in Vietnam as a Platoon Sergeant – did a classified long range patrol in Cambodia observing the Ho Chi Min Trail and was on one of the first birds in the Cambodia Invasion. I was awarded the Bronze Star, Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Medal, ARCOM, RVN Service, Campaign & Civil Action Medals, CIB and Purple Heart. By definition I am a “Combat Wounded Veteran” and have Partial Disability status with the VA and receive the grand sum of $101 per month. I am a Card Carrying Member of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

When my wife Marty and I lived in Chicago I regularly visited the Quadriplegic Ward at West Side VA with my local VFW Troop. As a retiree in Florida we serve as volunteers for Christ Fellowship Church calling on people in the local hospitals and in particular the Riviera Beach VA Hospital and Nursing Home – which is among the VA Hospitals mentioned in the press coverage of this issue.

Over the years we have known some of the very best and caring VA Medical Professionals you will meet anywhere. We have a very close friend who was Chief of Oncological Surgery at West Side VA in Chicago and a life long friend who is an Internist in a Regional Outpatient Clinic in New Jersey.

All that said is there a problem in the VA Medical System? Of course there is! Should the Head Man have been fired? Absolutely! When a company fails to serve its customers and its systems are broken the leadership has to be changed. If an investigation by the Administration or Congress or any legitimate body turns up specific departments and or individuals who falsified documents to cover up the failure to serve our Vets – should those Department Heads and the individuals named be fired? You bet your Purple Hearts on it!

Will The President and or Congress’s preening and strutting in front of any available camera – giving “face” and talking in serious tones about what we owe our Veterans really make any long term difference? I doubt it very much.

Do I favor the Bills I have read about being served up in Congress to increase eligibility and services which will add Billions of Dollars to our annual budget? NO I do not!

WHAT? How could a Veteran be against increasing care for Veterans?

This is my thesis. Supply and Demand – almost all of life comes down to supply and demand.

If we have learned nothing in the past decades surely we know that our “supply” is not unending.

First – Supply. There are limitations as to what our Nation can spend – though the Special Interest Groups and Liberals among us seem to have missed this message.

Second – Demand. My perception, therefore my reality is there is too much demand for VA Medical Services! Have I completely lost my mind? Do we not owe a debt of gratitude to our Veterans? Yes, of course we do. However, it’s also my perception that we have offered full medical services to too many men and women who have served in the U.S. Military Services – safely at home stateside who do not fit the profile of the Combat Wounded Veteran that we see on the news and know from our personal encounters has physical and emotional and mental scars from COMBAT that really, really needs our help.

Yet when a WWII, Korean War, Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan Combat Veteran goes to his local VA for medical or psychological services he stands in line behind men and women who served two years training and possibly training others here in the good old USA five, twenty five or fifty years ago. Please hear this: 90% of the services provided by the VA are to men and women (mostly men) who never served in a combat zone and whose medical needs have absolutely nothing – nothing at all to do with their military service.

Please allow me to repeat what I feel is a key point we need to at least think about and discuss publicly. Fully ninety percent of the “demand” for VA Medical Services is not related in any way, what so ever to service related issues.

Like it or not, the VA Medical System that we have today has become another poorly run social transfer payments system.

What do I propose?

First and foremost – anyone who “qualifies” at present from prior Military Service will continue to receive the VA Medical Benefits they were promised. I am not suggesting that we break our promises to the men and women who served state side and or just off the shore line of America of the benefits we promised them. Benefits that 90% of the time are not at all related to their Military Service.

However, going forward I propose that we begin a National Dialogue about creating various classes of “Veterans” and prioritizing who will be guaranteed full VA Medical services and scale it back from there.

What is my starting point or Class I Veterans? Members of all our Military organizations who were deployed to an active combat theater. They would be Class I.

Classes II and III and however many there are and what services they receive could be a part of the Public Debate and Administration/Congressional negotiations.

If you take the time to open the site below – and there are many others like it on Google – it can be seen that:

1. From 1950 to 2,000 there were 118,800,000 active duty military personnel

2. Only 22% of them were stationed “overseas.” Please note this does not mean they were assigned to a combat zone such as Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan – just overseas.

If foreign duty assignments that were not in a combat zone were defined as Class II Veterans and they were not given full medical benefits but something less – prescription drugs, emergency care, etc. – the demand for full VA Medical Services would be cut significantly – at least by 78% or approximately 92,600,000 persons going forward.

Think of how much money and demand for full medical services would be saved. This kind of reduction on the demand side would make it more likely for the current “private” medical services industry to absorb the remaining patients with vouchers and or what ever form of payment is decided on – thus lessening the need for an entrenched bureaucratic monstrosity like the VA Medical System we have today.

Finally, please allow me to address an issue that may be raised by some critics of this multi-level system for full VA Medical Care. I do not believe that the loss of full medical benefits would be that great a deterrent to the recruitment of young men and women so long as they are still promised and given things they can more readily relate to now like: training in a specific area of expertise that will assure them of a civilian job when their service is complete – college education assistance – technical school training – etc. What percentage of 18 to 20 year olds are thinking about long term medical care when they get old?

If you are still with me I look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments and especially your ideas on how we can improve the balance between a reasonable amount of supply and seriously needed demand.

Larry

http://www.vetfriends.com/us-deployments-overseas/

Maleficent – a wonderful film for children, families, romantics and those who still believe in true love!


Marty and I enjoyed Maleficent. There was about thirty minutes in the middle of the film when I thought I was not going to like it but the very strong and surprise ending saved the day. We highly recommend Maleficent for children, families, romantics, anyone who enjoys fairy tales and those who still believe in true love. Cynics should forget this film ever existed because there is “make believe” in almost every scene and detail.

Maleficent is Angelina Jolie! This movie must have been made for her. I can’t imagine anyone else in the role nor can I say that any of the supporting actors added much to the film. Her make up and hair/head-dress artists will definitely be nominated for awards. Angelina’s face showed all her natural beauty combined with flawless skin and just enough evil to understand why she married Billie Bob Thornton. Once during the 97 minutes I thought Billy Bob would have been better cast as the King instead of the bumbling block who lifelessly played the role.

The visual effects/make believe and audio specialists should also be nominated. In fact all I can really remember from the film is Angelina, her “wings”, the three Fairies, the Dragon, the ending and how believable the wonderland was that they created where Maleficent was born.

Maleficent is the first “PG” movie I can remember seeing in years. There is absolutely nothing sexual – except the Angelina “look” – zero bad language and the violence is about 10% of that which we see in the eight o’clock TV time slot.

Try it – I’m sure Mikey would like it if he had a chance to see it.

Larry