Lester Burnham

Stay tuned this Friday when I make a major announcement regarding the direction of JackFlacco.com.

Few movies have a feeling attached to the presentation. You know the ones, Lost in Translation, Juno, Elizabethtown. Although subjective, the feeling is that of loneliness coupled with the search for meaning. At times, dark comedy screams a message so clear that no one understands it. American Beauty is that way. It succeeds with showing what happens when preconceptions turn to fear. At the same time, the film opens the mind to a world not much different from our own, but sparkles with beauty.

Kevin Spacey as Lester Burnham in American Beauty

Kevin Spacey as Lester Burnham in American Beauty

Wednesday Warriors presents Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), a middle-aged man inspired to breathe again.

No one can tell us about Lester’s life except Lester himself:

“My name is Lester Burnham. This is my neighborhood. This is my street. This is my life. I am 42 years old. In less than a year, I will be dead. Of course, I don’t know that yet. And in a way, I am dead already.”

Later on, he says:

“Both my wife and daughter think I’m this gigantic loser. And they’re right. I have lost something. I’m not exactly sure what it is, but I know I didn’t always feel this… sedated. But you know what? It’s never too late to get it back.”

From there the focus shifts to his office cubicle where he sits slouched in his chair speaking with a client on the phone. If you study the mess he calls a desk, you’ll see a small sign hanging on his cubicle wall saying, “Look closer.” The sign is a message to the viewing audience from director Sam Mendes. It’s to encourage the viewer to pay attention because there’s more to this story than meets the eye.

In the midst of Lester’s middle class family lies a disturbing isolation within its members—the domineering wife, the negligent father, the angry teen. Each have their own agenda, each want validation for their role in the family.

Lester

Lester

When Angela (Mena Suvari) finally appears in the film, Lester has all he can do to get out of the evening drive to support his daughter’s cheerleading squad, the same squad cheering for the town’s basketball team. His excuse? He says he’s missing the James Bond marathon on TNT.

After meeting Angela for the first time he doesn’t fall for the illusion that she’s self-absorbed and indifferent. Nor does he pay attention to her attitude, which hovers around “you scratch my back and I’ll accept it.” But remember the movie’s tagline? Look closer.

He sees Angela possessing the ability to move people into doing things they wouldn’t do had she not inspired the change. In Lester’s case, it’s obvious. She’s a Rockwell High award-winning Dancing Spartanette. He falls for her, his mind scrambles and all of a sudden, he’s a teenager again wanting to get to know her like all the other teenage boys her age. The only difference, he’s not a teenager. He’s a married man. For someone such as Angela to spur those feelings in someone without regard to marital status, she must really be something special.

The truth is you’ll have to look closer. Lester realizes there’s more to Angela than the outward snob moniker she wears so well. She sports a vulnerability few have seen other than Lester. That vulnerability comes to play later in the film, regardless of us having to deal with her current label as the class tease, even if she feels there’s nothing worse than being ordinary.

Lester’s change in mindset couldn’t have happened hadn’t Angela shown up in his life. Had she not given him a second breath, a second hope for the future, he would have been a recluse for the rest of his miserable existence. Angela did that—not Lester. She did it by simply becoming a symbol to what he wanted from life—hope. He gained that hope from her.

[Author’s Note: Originally posted as Angela on April 2, 2014, I adapted the piece early last week to reflect Lester’s point of view. After some thought, I wanted to kill the post but I scheduled it for today anyway to complete the American Beauty bookends.]

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What do you like about American Beauty? What do you think about Lester?

Tony Stark: Iron Man

Flamboyant. Captain to industry. CEO to a weapons firm. The self-centered Tony seems he can conquer anything. His ego is larger than life. So what is this genius doing held captive in an Afghan cave while everything around him collapses?

Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man

Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man

Wednesday Warriors presents Iron Man (a.k.a. Tony Stark), the industrialist who makes creating weapons technology look easy.

[Spoilers lie therein.]

Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is a daily headline. He along with the rest of the other superheroes protect the world from criminals determined to destroy the innocent. But with great power comes great controversy. Eventually, the superheroes would fight among themselves to produce one the greatest civil wars in comic book history.

Tony is one of those superheroes.

Dressed in designer suits, fashionable glasses and sporting a sarcastic wit, Tony can’t imagine a better place to be than performing research for his late father’s weapons company, Stark Industries. As the cliché goes, he has the bull by the horns and isn’t about to let go for anyone—especially not for anyone who dares threatens his livelihood.

Iron Man

Iron Man

Tony’s life from jet setting entrepreneur takes a turn for the worse when a mission to demonstrate his latest weapon throws him behind enemy lines—a place, days earlier, he wouldn’t have imagined possible. Compounding his problems, he creates a heart out of a car battery to keep himself alive while he devises an escape plan.

Soon, what becomes his scheme to survive transforms him into a superhero of reckoning. The classy super suit is all Tony needs to defeat his enemies and anything else standing in his way. Even if Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), his father’s former partner, attempts to stand in his way to uphold justice, Tony will do anything to ensure the super suit will not fall in the wrong hands.

The film Iron Man highlights what happens when an ordinary man comes to acquire superhuman strength. Among the funny scenes resides a powerful story built on the simple premise that good overcomes evil. Within the sarcastic dialog comes the character Iron Man. He’s strong, resilient and difficult to get rid of. His power though, does not come from his super suit but his will to do good, even if it means dying for what is right.

That is the mark of a true hero.

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Have you seen any of the Iron Man movies? What did you think of Tony Stark?

Real Steel: Max Kenton

Every now and then, everybody needs a hero. But what if that hero is an 11-year-old boy who believes in the impossible? Is it possible? What if that same 11-year-old boy sets the standard to win so high that not even those older than him would believe in him? Would you trust a kid to lead a charge to win? Will he be your hero?

Dakota Goyo as Max in Real Steel

Dakota Goyo as Max in Real Steel

Max Kenton (Dakota Goyo) is Real Steel‘s hero and today’s Wednesday Warrior. And if you haven’t seen the movie, therein awaits spoilers.

Unwanted, rejected by those who he thought loved him, Max is a kid who decides to take his fate in his own hands in the futuristic battle bot movie Real Steel.

In a junkyard, as the rain pours and thunder threatens Max’s very survival, the boy falls into the hands of an equally rejected character called Atom. At first, Atom is nothing more than a pile of junk the kid hauls out of a heap to call his own. In a world where robots fight one another, Atom is the lowest grade of robot ever made. It doesn’t have a life, neither is it ready for anything beyond walking.

Through his perseverance though, Max manages to put Atom back together again. Piece by piece Atom becomes whole. All that is missing is a heart.

Atom

Atom

When Max turns Atom on, he is not so sure what he is in for. Atom doesn’t seem like the robot that could stay in the ring one round, let alone go the distance and win a fight.

Yet, something magical happens. Max believes. He believes Atom is capable of greater things than what others think of it. He believes in the impossible.

Max’s first fight with Atom becomes a lesson in humility when Atom falls to a knockout. In spite of this, Max doesn’t give up on the little robot. He believes. On his hands and knees, he dips his head next to Atom and screams, “Get up, Atom.” Within a matter of seconds, Atom rises as the little robot that could. The second round becomes the proving ground for Atom’s eventual first win in the bot wars.

The story of Max and Atom is well known. It is a story familiar to many. Only this time, it makes Max the unlikely hero.

Max took a robot that no one wanted, Atom, built it back into shape and believed the machine could perform miracles. And miracles it did perform. As Atom’s opponents became large and faster, Max would not give up on his robot. Right from the start, he knew Atom would be a champion among rivals.

Imagine that. How could a kid’s faith have turned a small machine into a winner?

What others don’t seem to understand is that as the world viewed Atom as a robot, Max viewed him as a friend. And if Max believed in his friend, his friend could win any fight—even if the opponent in the fight was impossible to beat.

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Have you seen Real Steel? Do you find Max’s friendship with Atom unique?

Michael Scott

He’s the boss no one really wants. He’s the guy who we try to avoid during parties. He’s the one who comes up with brilliant ideas only to backfire in the most miserable way. To whom am I referring? Michael Scott, of course. And Michael Scott is this week’s Wednesday Warrior.

Michael Scott quote

Michael Scott quote

I’ve been binge watching The Office episodes on Netflix lately. I can’t get enough of the show. It has fast become one of my favorites, not only because of its ridiculously talented cast but also because of the awkward moments each episode presents and how the characters make you squirm in your seat hoping the situations would never happen to you.

Part of the cast is Steve Carrell who plays Dunder Mifflin‘s branch manager Michael Scott. As crazy a character as you might think Michael is, he actually means well.

So he may be a tad crazy at times, but that doesn’t mean he’s the worst boss in the world. Just misguided. With all that goes on at his branch, or rather, with everything he puts his employees through, Michael should have had a pile of resignations on his desk long ago. Surprisingly, with every weird and wacky idea he comes up with, he manages to survive unscathed.

How does he do it? How does he serve up one cringe-worthy moment after another and live to tell his story?

Steve Carell as Michael Scott

Steve Carell as Michael Scott

I mean, how can I forget the time when he was planning to jump off his building into a blowup castle usually reserved for kids’ birthday parties, all in the name of safety? Or how about the time he organizes a beach party requiring everyone to walk across a bed of burning coals? That really went well. Or the time when he gave out golden tickets as coupons for free paper. I won’t tell you how that went.

Michael Scott certainly is brilliant. And yes, I may be saying it sarcastically but he’s proven repeatedly that he can still pull a rabbit out of a hat and surprise everyone. I’ll reference the fifth season’s episode Broke. I’m not going to get into the details for fear of spoiling it. In that episode, though, he is the boss everyone wants. He wasn’t cringe-worthy. He wasn’t embarrassing. He acted like a real boss who had thought things through right to the very end. Like I said, I can’t tell you about the episode, but I was pumping my hands in the air celebrating his awesome win.

Then, as unbelievable as it is, Michael has his moments when he shows his soft side. He’ll sit with his employees, lending an ear to all their problems. He quickly becomes the most sensitive human being on earth. Big kudos goes to Steve Carrell for being able to bring Michael Scott to life. Had anyone else played him, I’m sure the character wouldn’t have had the impact on the show as it did.

Whatever anyone thinks of Michael, whether his is the biggest buffoon, or the smartest guy in the room, he knows how to call his troops to action. Even if he sometimes appears misguided, his enthusiasm is infectious enough that others will go ahead and follow him. Few people in this world possess that talent.

But you know something? What I like most about Michael is that he makes me laugh. And that is the biggest reason I watch The Office.

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Have you watched The Office? Who is your favorite character? Do you like Michael? Why? Why not?

Ethan Hunt

When I think of Mission: Impossible, I think of the old sixties series with Mr. Phelps, played by Peter Graves, as an aging leader to a crack team of secret agents given the missions no one else can accomplish. I also think of Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt. And although Hunt works best alone, he would give his life for any member of his team.

Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt

Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt

For today’s Wednesday Warriors, I’d like to have a look at Ethan Hunt: his strengths, his weaknesses and why he always makes the Mission: Impossible franchise a treat to watch.

A long time ago, I once saw Tom Cruise on Oprah—no, not the couch-jumping episode. In this episode, he described Mission: Impossible as one of his most successful movies he had made. Many folks have their opinions about Tom Cruise the man, but I have my opinion of Tom Cruise the actor. Say what you will, the man can act. I use Magnolia as one of the best films he had ever starred. No one can convince me that after watching the quietly-judging-you scene he didn’t deserve an Oscar for that performance.

Yet, as much as I admire his dramatic roles, his action roles, including his role in the film Edge of Tomorrow, is where Cruise really shines as a big audience draw.

Mission: Impossible - Rogue NationEnter Ethan Hunt, the Impossible Missions Force‘s (IMF) top agent and leader. His expertise lies in virtually everything. He has an extensive background in explosives, weaponry and stealth. He can get in and out of a target’s home and before anyone knows what is happening, the target will have met its fate.

Ethan is also a master of disguise. One time he posed as an elderly man taking his enemy by surprise, disarming and capturing him. He also has a good command of languages, useful for when he needs to get himself out of a jam.

Martial arts? Ethan knows that, too. Whenever an adversary presses Ethan for a fight to the death, it isn’t difficult to know who will win.

But the best thing I enjoy about Ethan Hunt is not so much his mastery of disguise, command of languages, or him being a martial arts expert. No. What I like about Ethan is his ability to get out of one jam after another while showing his humanity along the way. Whether he’s fighting for his life on a speeding train, racing down a highway on a motorcycle at 140 MPH, or latching his fingers on the belly of an aircraft with the intention of securing its cargo, Ethan Hunt does the impossible. He will take the shots, in not only opportunities but also punches to the face, and fight the bad guy until the end.

Lastly, Ethan Hunt possesses a will never to surrender. In every mission he picks himself up, dusts the dirt from his clothes and continues his fight against the enemy, whoever that enemy is.

If I can say anything more about Ethan Hunt, it’s that he will do his best in whatever assignment he has going at the time. To me, such a character is a great lesson for any of us facing challenges greater than ourselves.

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Have you seen any of the Mission: Impossible movies? What are your thoughts on Ethan Hunt?

Mitch McDeere

Whenever I think of superheroes, I think of Batman and his ability to pass through the shadows undetected; Superman, and his power to repel bullets; Captain America and his super strength; Iron Man and his flare with a super suit; and finally, Black Widow, who is an expert at stealth and deception.

Tom Cruise as Mitch McDeere

Tom Cruise as Mitch McDeere

And whenever I think of heroes—movie heroes—I think of the ones people would least likely chose. For instance, Ray Kinsella fits perfectly in the mix as the farmer who builds a baseball field in the middle of nowhere in the film Field of Dreams. And then there’s Lester Burnham who rebels against a midlife crisis to find his way back in the drama American Beauty.

But of all the fictional heroes I enjoy watching over and over again on the small screen, Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise) of the film The Firm has to be the most fascinating of them all.

For those wondering who Mitch McDeere is—he’s one of the top Ivy League graduates of his class, lands a position at the prestigious law firm Bendini, Lambert and Locke in Memphis, and is a faithful husband to a beautiful wife.

Tom Cruise is Mitch McDeere

Tom Cruise is Mitch McDeere

During the time of his recruitment, the firm offers him a position as a junior lawyer. They don’t stop there. They give him a brand new Porsche, which he chooses black as its color, a new house to live in at the cost of a no-interest loan, a new office complete with his own secretary, and all sorts of other delights I can’t remember offhand, but I’m sure they are also top of the line frills.

Everything seems perfect to Mitch. The perfect wife. The perfect car. The perfect house. And the perfect job.

What Mitch doesn’t know, however, is all that goodness comes at a price.

The first thing to go is his time with his wife. He’s the first to show up at work and the last to leave. He works on weekends and doesn’t have the time to even study for the bar exam, which, incidentally, the firm guarantees he will pass if he maintains the strenuous pace he’s been following.

Of course, there’s one thing the firm didn’t tell him, and that’s the fact that they will supply all the rewards, luxuries and services, but in return Mitch is theirs. The firm integrates with every aspect of his life from his professional life as a lawyer to personal life, picking the furniture that goes into his home. What’s more? The firm takes an active interest in ensuring they have their hooks in him completely by encouraging him to have a child. In their view, he’s less likely to leave if he has a family to look after.

Now, before you begin thinking that Mitch got a raw deal and can’t get out, which I happen to agree with, he devises a plan. The thing is, the plan is so intricate and so complex, that he becomes that which he never thought he’d become—an enemy of the firm.

When I think of Mitch McDeere, I think of a character trapped in a life that looked great on the outside, but rotten to the core on the inside. It took him time to figure that out and a resolve few people possess. Yet, when he did figure it out, he escaped his old life and began anew. A new life. A new identity. And a new goal that doesn’t lead to a superficial victory.

Mitch McDeere is today’s Wednesday Warrior.

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Have you seen The Firm? What do you think about Mitch McDeere?

Colonel Hogan

I have to admit, you may not recognize this character unless you grew up when Hogan’s Heroes was playing for decades in reruns. Then, if no one recognizes this character, why would I choose him to be part of my Wednesday Warriors section on my site?

Bob Crane with Sigrid Valdis in Hogan's Heroes

Bob Crane with Sigrid Valdis in Hogan’s Heroes

The truth of the matter lies in Colonel Hogan (Bob Crane) and his genius for coming up with a plan at a moment’s notice.

If you’re not familiar with the show Hogan’s Heroes, it came out in 1965, ended in 1971 and soon after landed in syndication making a pile of money for CBS. Back then, there was a real demand for war shows, and given the show is nothing short of hilarious, I can see why. The characters are solid, the stories are simple, but overall, the cast is what makes this show unique.

Without Hogan though, the show would not have been the success it still is today in reruns.

Hogan's Heroes

Hogan’s Heroes

The show is about a Prisoner of War camp set in World War II Germany. The leader of the multinational team is an American prisoner named Colonel Hogan. Now, you might think, what’s the big deal? Sounds like an ordinary show. On paper, it does. But the originality behind the show is Hogan’s knack for coming up with a plan within moments of a problem surfacing, overcoming setbacks, and delivering end results that resolve the problem.

Oh, and as I’ve mentioned, this all takes place while slapstick and humor rules the airwaves.

Much of Hogan’s talent lies in his quick thinking, his charm and his ability to influence those around him simply by suggesting ideas that would benefit him and his team. Also, to make things even more interesting, Stalag 13, the camp where he resides as a prisoner, has never had a successful escape. That is no coincidence. He keeps it that way in order to maintain control of the camp, unbeknownst to the German commanding officer Colonel Klink (Werner Klemperer).

The most memorable moments with Hogan are not when he succeeds with his plans over his captors, but when a plan so easy to execute turns into a farce—like the time when the prisoners steal a tank and hide it in the camp. It could never happen in real life, but it does in the show, and it makes for fun TV.

I grew up with Hogan as someone I admired, not because of his way with women, or his ability to get himself out of trouble more than once, or his loyalty to his men, but for his unwillingness to surrender in the face of absolute defeat. Somehow, he manages always to come through with a plan.

That seems to me as someone anyone would want to have as a role model.

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Have you seen any of the Hogan’s Heroes episodes? If you have, what do you think of Hogan?

Nick Persons

Have you ever wanted something so much that it actually becomes a quest? And no matter what anyone says, the determination wells up in you to ignore the obvious in order to push forward—even if it will kill you.

Ice Cube as Nick Persons

Ice Cube as Nick Persons

No one fits the description better than Nick Persons (Ice Cube) from the movie Are We There Yet? If anyone deserves a medal to commemorate his willingness to do anything as a means to prove he can, it’s Nick. What better way to introduce today’s Wednesday Warrior than to say Nick Persons deserves that medal?

Not many people liked the film Are We There Yet? On IMDB.com the movie comes in with a piddly 4.5 rating, and its critic Metascore is even worse at 27. Awful, is how some viewers found the movie.

However, my kids and I have found the movie so funny, at the same time, so outrageous that we watch it at least once a year during this time between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Why? The story is thin, the characters are abrasive and the plot is wanting. But the situations are so darn hilarious that if you were a parent, you’d know that in hilarity there is always an ounce of truth.

Are We There Yet? promo

Are We There Yet? promo

Okay, enough with the intros. Let’s get to Nick and his passion to get things done.

As the owner of a fine collectibles shop, Nick takes pride with his new ownership of his dream Cadillac. The truck is his reward to himself for all those years working late into the evening and on weekends to make his business a success. So, why not flaunt his success with a new Caddy?

Then he meets the woman across the street, Suzanne Kingston (Nia Long). I wouldn’t call it a meeting—it’s more like a lightning bolt struck him several times to remove his sense of intelligence. He comes back to reality when he sees the worst thing ever hitting his vision. In his words, “She’s a breeder.” Two kids belonging to her appears in his sights.

So far, Nick isn’t the most admirable person in the world. However, it isn’t until he offers to take Suzanne’s kids on a cross-country jaunt in his prized Cadillac that he becomes a true hero.

Through several incidents, such as little Kevin (Philip Bolden) crashing the passenger door into a metal pylon, spilling grape juice all over the white interior, the kids locking Nick out of his car and driving off with his prized possession in the heat of a wild chase, does Nick continue with his trip, never surrendering. He simply rises to his feet and continues on his way, in spite of the fact his Cadillac looks more like something that belongs on the top of a junk heap.

Oh, yes, Nick will do anything for the woman who makes his heart melt.

Yet, when it comes down to measuring Nick’s progress as a human being, his relationship with the kids provides him with the greatest growth as a character. If it isn’t for the kids, he wouldn’t have known what being a parent actually means.

For this reason, Nick is an admirable man—for changing and realizing there’s more to life than being a self-centered egotist.

Besides, no one other than Nick could have withstood the mess the kids made of his new Caddy. There’s a medal in there somewhere.

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Have you seen Are We There Yet? What do you think of Nick?

Hero Boy

It’s five minutes to midnight. The train pulls into the street as whips of snow follow behind. Surprisingly, no one other than a little boy awakens to greet the mechanical beast. When confronted by the conductor with an, “All aboard!” the boy doesn’t know what to do. He sees the train as a curiosity. He doesn’t intend to hop aboard for a ride.

Hero Boy

Hero Boy

When the conductor (Tom Hanks) says it is the Polar Express heading to the North Pole, the boy’s willingness to abandon his apprehension escalates. After all, the North Pole is where Santa Claus supposedly lives. He’s at the point where he thinks Santa’s a fake. But it isn’t until the train begins to chug-chug-chug away that the boy calls to take him with them.

The film The Polar Express is the perfect Christmas movie. The cold atmosphere captures the essence of the Holiday season. A view inside the train offers the audience a warm setting featuring a comfy front seat with other kids eager to see Santa’s home.

Filled with adventure, the story carries Hero Boy from his home, somewhere in America, to the desolate tundra at the top of the world. All of it happening while the clock’s big hand rests at five minutes to midnight.

The Polar Express

The Polar Express

For Hero Boy though, aside from being a stranger on the train, he sees things with open eyes—not as how he’d like to see it. Ghosts would frighten other ten-year-olds, but not Hero Boy. To him, ghosts are like regular people. He can talk to them and not feel the need to run away, regardless of what anyone else says.

Halfway through the trip, Hero Boy plays a key role saving the Polar Express from utter destruction. He also attempts to aid one of the other kids less fortunate than he by lending a helping hand.

Hero Boy’s main purpose, however, is to disprove Santa. He hasn’t seen Santa. All he’s seen is a mechanical Santa in the window of a department store dropping presents in a fake loot bag. Then there is the time where he researched that the North Pole is barren and desolate. No way could anyone live there, let alone make all the world’s Christmas presents. Certainly, someone ought to have seen Santa by now.

The purity with Hero Boy’s character lies with his genuine need to find the truth. He does not take the first explanation as the truth. He digs, scours, examines carefully what he finds, then makes a logical decision of whether Santa does or does not exist.

And in spite of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Hero Boy extends his faith to believe. It is only then Santa becomes real to him.

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What are your thoughts about The Polar Express and Hero Boy?

The Grinch

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is not a film one would typically view during a summer vacation. If the title isn’t a hint enough, the story is a Christmas movie with all the frills intact. You have decorations. You have presents. You have a tale about a place called Whoville and its villain, a greedy creature that lives in the mountains preparing an assault on an unsuspecting populace.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

I’m one of those people who doesn’t pay attention to reviews before watching a movie. If anything, I ignore what people say about a film until I see it and make up my own mind about whether I like it or not. How the Grinch Stole Christmas is one of those movies you either love or hate. After reading the reviews on IMDB.com, I’m glad to have watched it first in order to form my own opinion. I love the film. Some may disagree with me, but that is an opinion.

We can agree to disagree.

The Grinch (Jim Carrey) isn’t the kind of creature you’d find in any ordinary story. Then again, this story isn’t ordinary. The plot focuses on the Grinch finding fulfillment in hate. The Grinch hates Christmas. But there is more to it than simple hate. He despises Christmas. He loathes it.

With that knowledge, how on earth would I even consider the character the Grinch a Wednesday Warrior?

The Grinch

The Grinch

He lives in the town’s dump. He eats rotten onions as a snack. He has all sorts of bugs running around his teeth—if you’ve seen the movie then you know what I mean. He sabotages children’s toys.

Oh, the Grinch is a real winner, for sure.

Yet, despite the relative evil twinkling in his eyes, the Grinch has more going on in that noggin of his than few may suspect. Somehow, little Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen), the daughter of the town’s postmaster, has grown quite fond of the menace and believes he has a heart—even if it is two sizes too small. She sees something in the Grinch others can’t comprehend. It may have to do with him having rescued her from the jaws of the mail-processing machine. Or, it could be that she finds him to be someone willing to make a change for the better.

Now, if you’ve seen the film, I won’t spoil it for anyone else. We know what happens. If you haven’t seen it, the Grinch is a character worth studying. His traits at first may appear unsettling, but there’s a reason for that. Not everything is what it seems, and this is the reason why critics either love or hate this film.

The Grinch is a reflection of those lost before found, taken before brought back, hated before loved. Whatever anyone thinks of the Grinch, it is nothing in comparison to his redemption, which ultimately deals with the changing of that heart two sizes too small to a real heart.

But really, isn’t that the essence of good character—to change after realizing what once was, was wrong?

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Have you seen How the Grinch Stole Christmas? What do you think about the Grinch?

Kevin McCallister

One man, alone, abandoned by the country he loves. Oh, wait, we’re talking about that Home Alone character who sets traps throughout his house to keep the thieves at bay.

Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister

Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister

Yeah, okay, I’ll go with the “One man, alone…” quote.

Or how about if I make up my own? One warrior stands alone, grappling with destiny, vowing to defend the land he loves.

Maybe not.

Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) is the troublemaker. The set-apart. The brat. The night before leaving on vacation, he becomes a sore spot for the rest of his family. In a moment of anger, he says to his mother that he wishes he could wake up and find everyone gone.

The next morning, Kevin’s words turn into reality. He awakens to an empty house and with nothing to do other than to call for a major party.

Kevin McCallister

Kevin McCallister

Cue the required jumping on bed, eating anything and everything he can get his hands on, splashing aftershave on his face for the first time, using the stairs as a toboggan route, playing with firecrackers, and watching all the stuff on TV his parents would take a conniption if they found out.

As fun as it seems, and as happy, as Kevin is to know that he doesn’t have his parents or his obnoxious brother to deal with, he has another problem on his hands. Thieves, who have been casing the neighborhood, have marked his home for a score. In spite of the lights going on like clockwork every night, The Wet Bandits (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) have left Kevin’s house last on their list of homes to burglarize.

Yet, Kevin isn’t dumb. He knows a threat when he sees it. The Wet Bandits are a threat. His first round meeting his foes, he uses his intellect and some good ol’ fashioned fun to distract the pair from entering his home. His technique is a simple one: use mannequins to scare off the intruders.

Of course it worked. Who would stick around with a house filled with guests dancing to the groove of 50’s Christmas music?

It doesn’t end there. After a failed attempt at casing the joint once more, the crooks promise they will be back. And Kevin vows he will be ready.

Well, that’s a short summary about Kevin McCallister, the little boy who defends his house from intruders during Christmas time.

The other part of the story, which is more personal, is that the movie is also one of the first films my wife and I went to see before getting married. Every year now, my family and I sit down to watch this treat of an extravaganza as a wonderful tradition and reminder of our courtship.

All right, back to Kevin. He’s smart, funny, and quick on the draw. He’s your regular kid, but with a bit of an attitude. If I were to ever want someone to defend my home against intruders, I’d certainly get Kevin to do it for me.

Having said that, I want to watch Home Alone once more.

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Have you seen Home Alone? What do you like most about Kevin?

Buddy the Elf

From the North Pole, where Santa prepares for another Christmas, the elves’ manufacturing machine churns out toys 364 days in the year. That fateful day, Christmas Day, the elves receive a few hours of rest as their reward for a year well done. From there, they begin the cycle again, pressing toward another tight deadline, another joyous Christmas with all its splendor intact.

Will Ferrell as Elf

Will Ferrell as Elf

What better way to usher in another Season’s Greetings than to focus attention on Buddy (Will Ferrell), the holiday warrior in the film Elf who sees things differently than the rest of us?

Buddy isn’t a normal Santa little elf. In fact, he isn’t little at all. At the height of well over six feet, he’s got his brothers and sisters beat. His feet are too big for his bed. His appetite is even larger, consuming a vast amount of candy that would choke anyone into an early grave. And his spirit for the season is equal to that of Santa’s.

Buddy is a warrior for Christmas.

Elf's version of the Christmas spirit

Elf’s version of the Christmas spirit

However, one day Buddy realizes he’s not like the other elves. Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) tells him he’s not an elf at all. That’s when he sets out to find his true parents across the northern tundra, through the great Canadian Rockies, traveling to New York where he finds clues that lead him to his real father.

Only, his real father, Walter (James Caan), is not who he imagined him to be. As a big publishing executive, Walter’s goal with his book company is to make as much money in the industry, despite if he has to cut a few corners—or throats—to get there. The spirit of Christmas definitely does not live within Walter.

Once Buddy meets his real father, he doesn’t let his dad’s preoccupation with his job get to him. Determination sets in for him to show his dad what a wonderful time of year it is instead. Selfless acts of kindness, like staying up all night to decorate the apartment, comes easy to Buddy. Hauling a tree into the apartment and decking it from from top to bottom with homemade decorations is what Buddy’s good at.

Yet, Walter doesn’t appreciate his son’s passion for the day. He wants nothing to do with his son other than for his son to disappear from his life.

Unaffected by his dad’s rejection, Buddy carries forward to bring back the spirit of the season to shoppers everywhere. His sudden interest with a department store and the endless possibilities he has at his disposal to create a Christmas wonderland excites Buddy to pull another all-nighter. The next morning, the entire children’s department becomes a wonderful destination for parents and kids everywhere.

The story doesn’t end there. Buddy’s unwavering belief in the spirit of Christmas, and its effect on those it comes in contact, to change them, provides him the inspiration to spread cheer toward everyone, including his father.

Buddy is more than a two-dimensional character. Buddy represents someone with absolute faith in the power to move crowds into a call for action. As lighthearted as the film Elf is, the underlying message it delivers, that of tolerance and forgiveness, makes for fun moments of entertainment laced with a few lessons for those in need of a positive role model.

The film is correct in saying Buddy isn’t an elf. He’s more than an elf. He’s a character filled with hope—hope for the future, and hope for a time when the spirit of the season will flow year-round.

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What do you think of the film Elf? What do you think of Buddy’s positive attitude?

The Men of Friends

Has anyone else watched Friends and said, “I know those people, they’re my friends!” I’ve done that. In fact, I’ve watched episodes of the sitcom thinking, “Gosh, has someone peeked into my past to document my life in a comical way?” The television show, which was a hot commodity in the late 90’s, early 2000’s, is now a syndication gold mine. What better way to celebrate Wednesday Warriors than to include the men of Friends?

Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer

Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer

Each male character in the Friends universe has his quirks. Ross (David Schwimmer), for instance, is never quite sure where he stands in a relationship. Chandler (Matthew Perry) is the wisecracking joker of the group. Who doesn’t have a sarcastic buddy in their group of friends? Then there’s Joey (Matt LeBlanc), the struggling actor who doesn’t seem to have much luck landing a job in his profession. Together, they make up the men of Friends.

Let’s go deeper.

Friends

Friends

Ross Geller—He works with dinosaur bones. He knows a lot about science. Ask him about carbon dating and he will tell you everything there is to know about the subject. Unfortunately, Ross’ problem is not his job but the women with whom he falls in love. His first wife left him after becoming a lesbian. Divorce soon followed. To make matters worse, at the time of the split, she was pregnant with his child, which she carried to term with her new wife by her side. His second marriage lasted a day. She was English and the sweetest thing, but also a control freak he luckily shook from his life with a second set of divorce papers. His third marriage was with Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston), the love of his life, but we won’t count that since they hooked up in Vegas and were drunk to high heaven while doing it.

In spite of Ross’ affinity to falter in his relationships with women, he really is a nice guy. Rachel once fixed him up with the pizza delivery chick and said that once she got to know him, she’d find he was kind, considerate and gentle. She would realize what a good heart he had.

Chandler Bing—Crazy Chandler. Nothing but sarcasm spews from his mouth, but in a good way. Quick-witted, funny and wise beyond his years, Chandler rules every scene. His problem? He uses humor to hide his insecurities about his present state. The more awkward the scenario, the funnier he gets as the humor rolls from his lips in buckets. Chandler also has one other slight problem that gets in the way. He’s been dating Janice (Maggie Wheeler) since, like, forever. Janice is, what you would call, annoying. Her laugh can cause any man to drive an icepick through his skull.

Yet, Chandler’s good qualities are his tolerance for his goofy friends and his perpetual willingness to help those in need. Can anyone forget the $1,500 he wanted to give Joey as a way to help him ride out a glut in his acting career? Generous is what makes Chandler special.

Joey Tribiani—He’s Italian. He loves food. And it’s a guarantee he also has forgotten how many sisters he actually has. His issue is that he’s been looking for work in acting for such a long time that he’s numb with the silly jobs he’s held in the meantime. Wait, Joey did have one job as a doctor in Days of our Lives, but it blew his head so big that he trashed the writers. The writers did one better. They threw his character down an elevator shaft. It was a dark day in soap opera history.

Joey’s biggest attribute is his big heart. He’s the traditional naive character with the generous eyes. He loves the women, but he’ll drop them in a second if it meant helping a friend.

And those are the men of Friends, folks. In some strange and wonderful way, each character in that show reminds me of my very own friends. How about you?

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Have you seen the show Friends? What do you enjoy most about the show?

Raymond Barone

A lot of folks will disagree with me for choosing this lovable television character as a Wednesday Warrior. After all, he doesn’t strap on a shotgun to kill zombies, nor does he sport a muscular physique that would deter criminals from robbing banks, nor is he some kind of superhero ready to save the planet from alien invaders. He’s simply Ray Barone (Ray Romano), the father of three growing kids and the husband to Debra (Patricia Heaton), the woman who does it all.

Everybody Loves Raymond's Cast

Everybody Loves Raymond’s Cast

If you haven’t watched Everybody Loves Raymond before, then let me summarize the show with one word–family. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s all about family.

When I first began watching the show back in the early 2000’s, I thought Raymond was nothing more than a wuss. He complains a lot. He fixates on insignificant things an ordinary person would dismiss as minor. And, in some miserable but lovable way, he’s annoying. In other words, he’s the typical dad with all the bad habits intact, including watching TV when he should be out doing the lawn.

Which reminds me, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ray cut the lawn, despite the perfectly shaped hedges and manicured plants. Then again, he could have a service do the job for him. He is a sportswriter, therefore he can splurge on the nice things in life while everyone else slogs away at holding the line on the family budget.

Ray Romano and Patricia Heaton as Ray and Debra

Ray Romano and Patricia Heaton as Ray and Debra

As I’ve mentioned earlier, the show is about family. What family wouldn’t be complete with the parents living across the street? They appear when Ray and Debra are eating, sleeping, taking showers, taking the kids to school, cleaning, working, painting and in between all the other little errands that make up The Barone’s ordinary lives. Without Frank (Peter Boyle) and Marie (Doris Roberts), Ray and his family would be normal, but then there wouldn’t be a show.

Ray’s brother Robert (Brad Garrett) also plays a part in driving Ray crazy. He shows up at the most inopportune time always asking the question “Is this about me?” If you thought Ray has a problem with a mind for detail, Robert has him beat. If he’s eating, he touches his chin with his food. The habit stacks up next to all the other bad habits he has, like overthinking things, moping around the house without a girlfriend, and having a hidden crush for Debra, Ray’s wife. Of course, he’ll never admit it, but that’s another element to Robert’s character that makes him endearing to the audience.

As for Debra, I’ve always said this to my friends–she reminds me so much of my wife. She’s strong-willed, tough and incredibly intelligent. The other thing about Debra is that no matter what happens with Ray, the screaming matches, the fights, the slapstick humor, Debra loves Ray with all his flaws and all his little quirks intact.

But then there’s Ray. I can’t say much more about Ray except he’s your typical father trying to make it in today’s world with an above average income and a family who he loves very much. Is he a wuss? Sometimes. But as annoying as he can get, Ray’s heart is with his family. That’s what’s important above all else.

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Have you seen Everybody Loves Raymond? What do you think of Ray?

Owen

Hunter. Trainer. Soldier. Owen fulfills the roll of the every-man. He leads by instinct and deals with problems in a way that is reminiscent of Indiana Jones. His only flaw is he cares too much, which leads him into situations that may cost him his life. That is a good thing.

Chris Pratt as Owen in Jurassic World

Chris Pratt as Owen in Jurassic World

Today’s Wednesday Warriors highlight is Owen (Chris Pratt) of Colin Trevorrow‘s movie Jurassic World. Spoiler free.

Years ago, when the idea took hold that science could spawn a dinosaur from DNA preserved in amber, it seemed like the most extraordinary Peter Pan fantasy anyone could ever devise. However, when John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), a rich investor, took the notion a step further and built an island off the coast of Costa Rica, giving birth to the lofty creatures, a dream evolved into reality.

That dream soon became a nightmare once life, in all its primal form, turned against its creator and transformed the island into a feeding ground. The Tyrannosaurus Rex reigned as the dominate beast and the food chain that sat dormant for millions of years awakened. Humanity was no longer at the top of the mountain.

Jurassic World's Owen

Jurassic World’s Owen

In 2015, John Hammond’s dream of a park that would spark the imagination of children everywhere comes to full realization. No longer should anyone fear the dinosaurs running amok among the people. Fences are up. Controls are in place. And millions of dollars pour into the pockets of the park owners. Only this time, there will be no mistakes to jeopardize human life.

This is where Owen makes his appearance. He lives alone, away from any form of civilization, preferring the comfort of jungle life. Rugged. Strong. He’d rather fight with the terrors of a Jurassic jungle than to get into a spat with a woman. At least, he knows he can win a few against prehistoric beasts.

Owen is also the voice of reason. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the park’s delegated leader, may have a problem no one else can fix, but Owen knows level-headed decisions are the only way to go when things don’t make sense. In spite of resistance by others, and an overwhelming sense of duty, he doesn’t allow those in positions of authority to influence his natural inclination to get involved. He sees ten steps ahead before it’s too late.

Owen’s only flaw is his inability to step aside. It has nothing to do with courage or being a hero. He simply sees an opportunity to lend aid and can’t prevent himself from jumping in. It’s within his nature to do so, much like it is for carnivores to hunt and kill for food. They can’t help themselves.

And this is how Jurassic World begins—as a place fit for the whole family that soon looks to Owen for help.

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Have you seen Jurassic World? What do you think about the main character Owen?

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