Movie Reviews from The Critic-in-Chief

My completely biased and accurate reviews of recent major films:

• 12 Years A Slave: Predictable (I kept thinking “Roots” of 30 years ago) and often implausible with a magnificent performance by Chiwetel Ejiofor but a hugely overrated performance by Lupita Nyong’o, who did not merit the Academy Award. I think this is a film people feel guilty about not liking.

• Gravity: Almost laughably ridiculous (e.g., Sandra Bullock using a fire extinguisher to maneuver in space), with George Clooney mailing it in. Fabulous effects but woefully lacking in story and acting. Truly terrible.

• Nebraska: It’s been done before (old person on a quest), whether it was that guy on the lawnmower or Don Quixote, but Bruce Dern is still a riveting actor.

• Dallas Buyers Club: Matthew McConaughey needs an easier name to spell because between this and TV’s True Detective, he’s outpacing and outacting everyone around. Jared Leno was sensational as his transexual business partner, and both richly deserve the Academy Awards bestowed on them. This was the first movie on AIDS since Philadelphia that I thought was done well.

• Captain Phillips: A little bit of Tom Hanks goes a long way these days, but the actor who allegedly simply walked in during the casting call, Barkhad Abdi, seemed to me like he had to be the real deal! Interesting movie that made me wonder why a couple of heavily armed security guys aren’t on all those ships to chase away pirates in speed boats. These guys are hardly rocket scientists.

• Inside Llewyn Davis: A great review in the Times and an interesting cast lured me to this deadly dull, self-indulgent mess about trying to make it in the 60s folk scene. I kept saying, “If I had a hammer….” Woeful and tired, like almost all folk music.

• Philomena: A movie I knew I’d dislike but my wife forced it on me and I absolutely loved it. Judi Dench engages in a tour de force in this true, utterly sorrowful yet redemptive, story of a son lost and pursued.

• The Wolf of Wall Street: Leonardo DiCaprio is ferociously good in the stereotypical role of the unethical trader (think Tom Wolfe’s Masters of the Universe in Bonfires of the Vanities). I don’t understand the negative reaction to the nudity and treatment of women since it would seem all quite realistic and in context. But the movie becomes tendentious and it’s hard to have any sympathy for anyone, including the law. It’s also 45 minutes too long. (It is amazing what people will do to appear in a major motion picture.)

• August Osage County: Meryl Streep is always great but if you’ve seen this production on Broadway (by Steppenwolf Theater from Chicago) then nothing else makes the grade. After a while the novelty of watching a dysfunctional extended family, tortured by a woman with cancer of the mouth and of the temperament, is not entertainment but just too long a stay on someone else’s couch.

• American Hustle: Perhaps THE most over-hyped movie of the year, it deservedly was blanked at the Oscars. Unrealistic scam artists, unpleasant people, and ridiculous sexual outfits on otherwise “sweet” actress Amy Adams do not a good film make. Or even a mediocre one.

• All Is Lost: What a magnificent premise, done superbly well by Robert Redford with practically no dialogue whatsoever. I was riveted by what I thought would be another survival movie but was far, far more. I had to confer with my family to make sure I understood the ending.

• The Counselor: A mess of a drug cartel film, where the lawyer trying to save himself became of interest only to see when and if he’d die. Utterly predictable and without the tension that I’m sure the producers thought would sustain it.

Sorry if I missed others you thought worthwhile, but no one has a gun big enough to force me to see something like Anchorman.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Phrases That Are Fingernails on Blackboards

Phrases that have become fingernails on blackboards*


(* Blackboard: A primitive writing surface requiring chalk and erasers with no digital component or wireless interface. It’s progeny was the Etch-a-Sketch.)


• Resonate. I don’t really care if something resonates with you. Do you like it or not?


• In this space. You’re a consultant in the non-manufacturing attrition space? How about if you make space for someone who speaks the language correctly?


• Reaching out. What do you mean you’re reaching out to them? Are you calling them or not? The zombies in “The Walking Dead” reach out.


• Like. It no longer means to find something or someone gratifying, but rather it’s an award of reciprocal banality, as in “please like my post.” You don’t have to read it to like it, you just have to click on a link.


• Final destination. Note to flight attendants: a destination IS final.


• A training. “I’m out on Tuesday doing a training.” “Really, well, I’ll be doing a washing, then a walking, then a shopping, and finally a drinking.”


• Reboot, as in “reboot your thinking.” Can I tell you where to put that boot?


• 360, as in “360-degree assessment.” A true 360-degree turn puts you right back on the track you were on before the coach showed up and you paid her all that money.


• “Cool.” People are still saying “cool.” That’s very uncool.


• We’ve noticed that your SEO ranking is low and you are not getting the traffic that your site deserves. Right, and you’re so successful you have to resort to spamming to try to pick up loose change.


© Alan Weiss 2014

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Promo Made for Shark Tank Judging at San Diego Convention

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The Adventures of Koufax and Buddy Beagle

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Regrets, I’ve Had A Few….

The title comes from a line in Sinatra’s signature, canonical version of the song, My Way, written by Paul Anka. The line finishes: “…but then again, too few to mention.”

Regrets are ubiquitous. We all tend to say, “What I should have said….,” or “What I should have done….,” or “I wish I had never….,” and so on. That’s human nature. But to carry them around like accretions through our lives is human torment.

A regret is very much like a grudge, in that someone else who has no idea of his or her involvement in your stress is the only one who can release you if you don’t release yourself. So here’s the key to get out of this jail.

Either make it right or forget it. Fix, correct, or renew the relationship or deed. Or simply learn from it, don’t do it again, and move on. A regret can be a wonderful learning experience or a lifelong agony.

Not much of a choice there.

You may have a few lingering, deep-seated regrets, like not betting on number 25 just before it came up or not asking that special person for a date when you had the chance, but let’s hope that they’re rally “too few to mention.”

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Alan’s Monday Morning Memo – 3/17/14

This week’s focus point: Remember the book and movie “Fail Safe,” where we were powerless to recall our own bomber from dropping a nuclear bomb? Malaysian military people at their posts specifically charged with identifying encroaching planes failed to identify the currently lost passenger plane which showed up on their radar. Credit card records are hacked frequently. Computer passwords are stolen. Weapons are smuggled through airport security. There are no perfectly secure systems. Our craving to automate and computerize often seems to subordinate the critical role of judgment. I find people pausing and losing time when they should be assertively moving. I find others “asleep at the switch.” We need to have our heads in the game. If you can’t trust your own judgment and talent, then you’re simply running on fumes. And even if you’re attentive, if you don’t know why you’re looking or what you’re looking for, you might as well be asleep.

Monday Morning Perspective: Don’t ever be sure of anything–not even if I tell you. — Bertrand Russell

Today Is Not Over Yet: Overcome the obstacle that’s stopping you and use the model to overcome all others:

Rational, powerful consulting delivery methodology:

In the moment with the buyer: Improv in the morning with an equity actor, role play in the afternoon with the rock star:



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Alan’s Thought For Today: Where’s Your Power Going?

It’s tough to coach people who create their own fears. They’re afraid of failing but don’t appreciate succeeding. They are always afraid of the worst, never confident of the best.

Fear soaks up energy, diverts attention, masks talent, and creates a very dismal and uninteresting persona.

Is your power going to waste in anticipation of invented and unlikely problems, or are you using it to fuel your potential? Every day, that choice is yours.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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The Adventures of Koufax and Buddy Beagle


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Have you ever tried to leave a theater and found that a small group of people have paused in the doorway to chat about the play, blocking everyone behind them? Have you experienced people getting off an escalator and stopping dead to try to get their bearings on the new floor, creating a potential human pileup? Have you experienced the terribly clever person who usurps all of the server’s attention, while others are waiting for their meals?

These are the terminally self-absorbed, those who are oblivious to the world around them.

And so it is in business, with too many people paying no attention to the customer, or the quality, or the opportunities, but merely focusing on their particular task and needs at any given time.

That’s no way be admired by others, and it’s no way to run a business.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Guest Column: Banish The Smug Voice Telling You You’re An Imposter


Banish the Smug Voice Telling You You’re an Impostor

By Susan Trivers

Have you ever tried affirmations to help you get through a challenging situation? You say “I am smart, I am knowledgeable, I am successful” before going to see a client or giving a speech. Before the last syllable has left your mouth that smug voice in your head pipes up with “Do you really believe all that? Aren’t you afraid they’ll find out you’re an impostor, a wanna-be?” The problem with affirmations is that they have no substance. They’re puffs of air, wisps of wishes, evaporating as soon as they’re formed.

I’ve been thinking about this since reading Daniel Pink’s book To Sell is Human. He offers the technique of ‘Buoyancy’ by which he means maintaining consistent energy and willingness to eagerly and confidently make phone calls, request referrals, meet as a peer with buyers and close business on terms that are favorable to both you and your client.

Pink refers to social science research that has proven that we need interrogative self-talk, instead of affirmations, to give ourselves a lift. He suggests that when we need a confidence-builder we should ask ourselves “Can I do it?” The theory is that this question will elicit self-talk that reminds you about your track record of success.

I am troubled by this question. It is a classic closed-ended question which may be answered by a simple yes or no. If that’s where we end our self-interrogation, I don’t think we’re any better off than we would be with affirmations.

I suggest that instead we ask ourselves this open-ended question: “How can I do this?” The presumption is that you can do it and takes you further into articulating steps that will make the outcome likely. Examples:

  1. I will start the conversation with pleasantries focused on the other person.
  2. I will ask probing questions in a tone that is friendly and curious.
  3. I will follow up points made by the other person with my own “Tell me more about that” until the other person has shared in depth.
  4. I will ask the other person about their personal objectives:  “What would the successful completion of this initiative mean to you?”
  5. I will set a date and time for our next meeting or discussion.

With these and similar answers to the question “How can I do this?” you’ve created a simple list of actions that you’re already comfortable taking. When you follow this list in your mind, you’ll be a buoyant and successful professional.

Susan Trivers is the leading voice on growth and opportunity. She helps her clients find hidden opportunities that generate new profits from existing infrastructure and resources.  Twitter @speakandgrowbiz


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