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You Don’t Have To Be A Millionaire To Make A Difference


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A lot of people operate under the silly belief that you have to be extremely wealthy to be able to help people. While it is true that the people who produce astonishing wealth tend to have the habits that make charitable efforts the most effective, you don’t need to be rich to make a big difference. In fact, if you take on and model some of the habits that wealthy people tend to have, both your giving efforts and your earning efforts will receive a boost.

Thinking Ahead

When you think ahead, as Christine Gibbs does, you can plan for things that may happen instead of thinking only about what has happened and what is happening right now. While a lot of people don’t put a lot of thought into the future beyond preventing problems, with a little bit of positive foresight you can accomplish some great things.

What a lot of folks don’t realize about the wealthy is that this is one of their biggest advantageous traits over most other people. Instead of just focusing on today, focus on what your contributions can be doing tomorrow; even next year or several years down the line. With a long term goal, today’s efforts seem like time well spent.

Providing Value to Others

Some people believe in the zero sum mentality that comes out of scarcity. If you think scarcely, you’ll naturally believe that everything you give to someone else will hurt you in some way. Interestingly enough, the wealthiest members of almost every society in the world understand that when they give to others, they’re also helping themselves to gain more in life.

Providing value is the same as giving to others. When someone starts a business with the intention to serve others, that individual can make a fortune simply by providing value. When you give to others, you can experience the same emotional benefit, and possibly advance society as a whole. While there’s no guarantee that giving to a charity will make you or society richer, it almost never hurts.

Sticking it Out

One of the other major advantageous traits that wealthy people have is the above average ability to stick it out regardless of initial failures or problems that come up. Life is full of problems and no one has ever been able to escape all of them. This is a fact of the adult world. However, the more problems you can push through and overcome, the better you tend to do in life.

Maybe you aren’t making as much money as you’d like to make. Maybe you aren’t experiencing much fulfillment at work, and you feel like a zombie. But when you give to other people and keep making the effort, ultimately it pays off.

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SXSW 2011: Girl Walks Into a Bar

Sebastian Gutierrez’s new comedy, “Girl Walks Into a Bar,” may not be the third installment in the director’s much-talked about “Women” trilogy, but it very well could be considering the talent involved. Instead, it’s an entirely separate movie with a twist of its own – the first major motion picture produced exclusively for the web. It’s an interesting experiment that could revolutionize the way that independent cinema is distributed in the future, especially for those not fortunate enough to live in a major city. But while the movie makes good on its promise of delivering big stars and high-level production values, “Girl Walks Into a Bar” is Gutierrez’s weakest film to date – a movie that most people will probably only watch because it’s free.

The film begins, fittingly enough, with a girl walking into a bar. The woman in question is undercover private detective Francine (Carla Gugino), who’s there to meet with a nervous dentist named Nick (Zachary Quinto) under the pretense that she’s an assassin hired to kill his cheating wife, completely unaware that Francine is recording the entire conversation. But when she loses the evidence after a modish pickpocket (Aaron Tveit) makes off with her purse, Francine sets off a chain of events that connects a seemingly unrelated group of people, including an exotic dancer (Emmanuelle Chriqui), a retired criminal (Robert Forster), and a sex-starved student (Rosario Dawson) working part-time at a nudist ping pong club.

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It’s essentially just a series of vignettes that take place in different bars and clubs throughout Los Angeles, with Gutierrez relying on the relationships between his characters to form the connective tissue of the story. He’s used a similar structure before in films like “Women in Trouble” and “Elektra Luxx,” but with “Girl Walks Into a Bar,” the breaks in between each section feel less like a transition than an opportunity for advertisers to plug their product. Granted, the movie wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for these advertisers, but if the viewing experience is marred as a result of forced commercial breaks, then what’s the point of changing the system?

Gutierrez’s obsession with exploring the psyches of his characters via theatrical fantasy sequences also messes with the flow of the film. They look great in comparison to the static two shots that populate most of the movie (especially one featuring Chriqui as a stripper with a unique insight into the minds of men), but they’re a distraction at best. “Girl Walks Into a Bar” is much better off when it just lets its characters talk, because as Gutierrez’s sharp-witted script proves once again, he’s a far superior writer than a director. It’s no wonder he’s able to assemble such talented ensemble casts, because his dialogue is outstanding, and it makes the performances feel really natural. Unfortunately, it takes more than just great dialogue to make a good movie, and though “Girl Walks Into a Bar” isn’t bad for a film being offered for free, filmmakers will need to adopt a much better attitude than that if online distribution is going to succeed.

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Red carpet chatter with some folks from “Backwash”

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If, like me, you grew up a weird kid compulsively watching the Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy and, yes and alas, the Three Stooges, then you might well enjoy “Backwash,” an enjoyably dippy web series with its final episode to be uploaded on Crackle this Monday night, December 20. The series stars Joshua Malina, who also wrote it, as the grumpy and conniving Val, who is, for whatever reason, charged with the care of the childlike and lovably idiotic Jonesy (Michael Panes). When they accidentally rob a bank with a sausage — you kind of have to be there — and hook up with a flamboyant ice cream truck driver, Fleming (Michael Ian Black, who I was unable to nab for a quick interview), the on-the-lamb trio begins a cross-country odyssey of sorts.

The enjoyably lowbrow but sometimes surreal silliness is book-ended by introductions from a rogues gallery of comic and acting talent, the funniest being a mysteriously bearded Jon Hamm, Allison Janney, John Cho, Dulé Hill, and Sarah Silverman. Somehow, Victorian author William Makepeace Thackeray is maligned as being the originally author of this more or less contemporary travesty lovingly directed by Danny Leiner, who also helmed “Harold and Kumar Go to Whitecastle.”

It was my privilege to chat with with some of the actors and creators of “Backwash” at the theatrical premiere of a somewhat shortened feature-length version of the web series. I started with Josh Malina, an actor I’ve been rather fond of since I stumbled over “Sports Night,” the show that convinced me that the writer of “The Social Network” was something more than an entertainingly glib semi-hack, actually a lot more.

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“Sons of Anarchy” rides onto the Apple iPhone with new mobile app

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“I think you’ll dig it. If not, what the hell, it was only a buck.”

That pretty much sums up creator Kurt Sutter’s feelings on the release of the new “Sons of Anarchy” app for the iPhone and iPad, and while it’s hard to imagine any fan of the show not drooling over the prospect of getting more background info on the show’s rich mythology, the fact that it only costs 99 cents makes it well worth the risk. Or you can just take my word for it, because I’ve spent some time with the app over the last 24 hours, and it’s something that most fans would gladly pay more than a dollar for.

The core of the app is dedicated to exploring SAMCRO’s roots, offering back stories on everything from the origins of SAMBEL, to the history of the IRA and its relationship with the Sons of Anarchy. There’s also a Bonus Material section that includes pictures and scripts from deleted scenes of recent episodes, with ones for the season premiere and Episode Five already available, as well as access to direct feeds of Sutter’s personal blog and the official production blog, which are ripe with behind-the-scenes info.

The app itself has a simple yet slick interface that accommodates future updates, and this is where it really shines. Though there are only two story sections available at the moment (the aforementioned “Belfast and SOA” and “The IRA”), the app is scheduled to be updated every Monday and Wednesday – although presumably only when the show is in season – with brand new content that often supports the episode airing that week. Future updates promise more deleted scenes, sections on SAMCRO’s early years and John Teller, information on the bikes of “SOA,” and cast bios.

It’s like a digital Bible for the diehard “Sons of Anarchy” fan, and although there are a few issues that need to be fixed in a future software update (the lack of an icon letting you know when new content is downloading makes it seem unresponsive), it’s nothing too major. More shows should really adopt this model when creating their official app, because while you don’t necessarily need it to watch the show, it gives you the inside track on what the writers know and makes for a much richer viewing experience.

Click here to buy the “Sons of Anarchy” app on iTunes

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If Zach Galifianakis got a perfect body, and a perfect soul, what would he do with them?

So, what’s funnier than “Between Two Ferns” the (I hope) fake web interview program from comic madman Zach Galifianakis? That would be “Between Two Ferns” blended with the now legendary trailer for, what else, “The Social Network.” Yet another demonstration of the miracles of editing.

“The Social Network” Trailer – watch more funny videos

Ah, the wonders of a choral rendition, sung by what sounds like nothing but angelic 11 year-olds, of Radiohead’s “Creep.” I miss that great pop guitar lick from the original, however. You know that “chu-chuh” — not to be confused with the “Law & Order” “cha-CHUNK” — that comes in just before “I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo…”

H/t Cinemablend.

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“Star Wars Uncut” — “The Escape”

Three horribly written, indifferently made prequels couldn’t kill it, nor widely disliked “special editions,” nor rampant over-commercialization. “Star Wars” mania appears to be stronger than ever in the hearts and minds of DIY filmmakers of all ages.

The stitched together, 15 second long efforts of people all over the country have now been combined into a feature length recreation of the George Lucas movie that, for better and for worse, changed the course of the movie business until this very day. In a funny way, at least this portion of the multi-media recreation brings back some of that seemingly long lost excitement and magic.

Star Wars Uncut “The Escape” from Casey Pugh on Vimeo.

H/t Peter Sciretta. You can watch the whole dang blasted thing here.

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A roundtable chat with Kevin Pollak of “Middle Men”

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A highly entertaining character actor, stand-up comic, and now also a screenwriter and Internet talk show host, Kevin Pollak will nevertheless remain forever in the shadow of three men. One is wise-guy crook Todd Hockney from Christopher McQuarrie and Bryan Singer’s slambam 1995 debut, “The Usual Suspects” (currently at #24 of all-time most popular films on IMDb); the other two are, of course, William Shatner and Christopher Walken. So powerful are the Pollak impressions of these two men, I’d venture that when most of us attempt to impersonate either actor, we’re really not doing Shatner or Walken, we’re doing Pollak doing Shatner or Walken. (Though, personally, my extremely bad Christoper Walken is really a very bad impression of Kevin Spacey‘s Walken but, for all I know, Spacey got his from Pollak while shooting “Suspects.”). Indeed, I can remember a time when it seemed like nobody did Shatner and I’m pretty sure it was Pollak who kind of opened to door for all the other impressionists into the voice and mannerisms of the man Pollak calls “the Shat.”

Among the nearly 90 or more productions he’s been involved with as an actor, Kevin Pollak’s latest release is “Middle Men,” a black comedy-laced drama owing more than a little bit to Martin Scorsese. The film stars Luke Wilson as straight-arrow businessman Jack Harris who falls in with a pair of highly inventive cokeheads (Gabriel Macht and Giovanni Ribisi) and would be Internet porn kings during the late 1990s. The pair have developed the first really viable method for collecting money over the ‘net in a reasonable amount of time. Of course, things get massively complicated from there and Pollak turns up later in the film as an FBI agent who comes to Harris and his porn star girlfriend (Laura Ramsay) with a startling new reality. The film, co-written and directed by George Gallo, best known as the screenwriter of “Midnight Run,” is actually just part of an ongoing collaboration between the director and the actor-comic and now screenwriter.

As is often the case, I was one of a number of scribblers who were participating in a roundtable with Pollak during the “Middle Men” press day at L.A.’s Four Season’s hotel. Pollak arrived in a friendly but highly subdued mood. He was a late addition to the press day and obviously has been keeping very busy. Among many other projects, he had a new stand-up special ready premiering, and an increasingly popular podcast, Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show, with recent guests including Neal Patrick Harris and John Slattery of “Mad Men.”  Pollak frankly seemed a little tired at first, though going out of his way to be funny — because that’s what you expect from Pollak. Things perked up as it went.

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Blu Tuesday: Dr. Horrible, Spartacus and Fullmetal Alchemist

This week’s major releases are a couple of real downers, so instead, I decided to choose a few other titles that might not seem like obvious choices, but surely have their share of diehard fans. And when it comes to the first Blu-ray on my list, I just so happen to be one of those fans.

“Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” (New Video)

Who said nothing good ever came of the writers’ strike? While most of Hollywood was forced to sit on their asses (or stand around in a picket line) waiting for the studios to strike a deal with the WGA, Joss Whedon decided to take advantage of his newly earned free time by producing a free-to-the-public internet short that just so happened to be a musical. It was pretty ambitious stuff, but nothing out of the ordinary for Whedon. Still, even with a fanbase as loyal (and some might even say cultish) as his, no one could have anticipated that “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” would turn into the pop culture phenomenon it is today. From the casting of Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion and Felicia Day, to the smart writing and memorable music, “Dr. Horrible” is certainly a one-of-a-kind experience. It might seem strange that a show originally conceived to be viewed on a computer screen would be released on Blu-ray, but it looks good in high definition, and its 42-minute runtime makes for brisk and enjoyable viewing. The inclusion of a making-of featurette and cast and crew commentary beefs up the single-disc release, but it’s “Commentary! The Musical” – a secondary track where the cast and crew sing about everything from the writers’ strike to an iPhone game called Ninja Ropes that they played during production – that is the real gem. It’s all very meta, and of course, very Whedon.

“Spartacus” (Universal)

Stanley Kubrick’s historical epic celebrates its 50th anniversary with a digitally restored edition of the film available for the first time on Blu-ray. Though I’m not exactly a fan of the movie (it’s incredibly cheesy at times, about an hour too long, and Kirk Douglas just rubs me the wrong way), there’s no denying that it played a major part in Kubrick’s evolution as a director. In fact, you can even spot some of his trademarks if you look hard enough. “Spartacus” is also terribly uneconomic with its use of time – from the overture and intermission to the numerous montages – but it’s still worth seeing at least once. It isn’t exactly the best restoration on the market, but it is a much-improved print that should please fans who’ve become accustomed to watching the film on cable.

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Hitler is right!

Yes, this avid and genetically predisposed consumer of matzoh balls and knishes knows a strong argument when he hears it. And, while I usually like to consider the source, as the saying goes, even a racist genocidal maniac is right two times a century, or something like that.

Anyhow, in case you haven’t heard about it yet, Constantin Films, the company that released the excellent historical drama, “Downfall,”  has been going after those often extremely funny videos drawn from that film in which the great German actor Bruno Ganz as Hitler reacts — as only a fascist with serious, serious anger issues really can — to all kinds of pop cultural events.  PopEater summarizes the situation quite nicely.

Of course, we’ve already seen the inevitable meta-rants in which Hitler complains about all those videos of him saying stuff he surely would never say and caring about things he would never care about. Yesterday, the usually very cool Karina Longworth was apparently so tired of this ‘net meme that she all but sided with that particular “Downfall” Hitler and the cutting-nose-to-spite-face tactics of Constantin.

Anyhow, today she returned to form and saw the sweet reason of an argument posed by, of course, Adolph Hitler, who really describes the situation far better than I can.  Let’s see how long it stays up. (I’m hoping they’ll keep the audio up at least.)

I’m sorry, but at least 50% of these make me laugh quite a bit. Guess I’m a sucker for a Hitler joke.

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The League of Quality Superhero Animation plugs “Crisis on Two Earths” at Paley Center

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It’s an old story. You’re a superhero minding your own business and then you bump into someone who looks very familiar but, well, something’s just not right. Gee whiz but this person looks a lot like you and is even wearing similar clothes, but then you notice your new acquaintance looks like he or she is made from rocks, uses terrible grammar and does everything the opposite of you. (“Me want to not save world!”) Or the newcomer looks like one of your deadliest enemies, but turns out to be no Bizaaro, but as heroic as you are. What’s a superhero to do?

It’s an old superhero comic story that has yet to find its way into a big-time costumed-hero flicks — but at least it’s finally been used in a solidly entertaining and often slyly funny direct-to-DVD animated production. Rated a mild PG-13 for non-deadly “action violence,” Warner Home Video’s “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths” shows us the fall-out of an alternate universe where the equivalents of our most famed superheros are essentially costumed Mafioso, while a bald guy named Luthor and a joker named the Jester vainly fight the power of organized caped crime.

When the alternate Luthor (Chris Noth) manages a reality jump into the original DC Comics Universe, he enlists the aid of  most of the Justice League. And so, Superman (Mark Harmon), Wonder Woman (Vanessa Marshall), and a less than cooperative Batman (William Baldwin), become involved in a desperate quest to free Good Luthor’s universe from super-powered criminal domination by the vicious Crime Syndicate and it’s Jersey-thug-like leader, Ultraman (Brian Bloom) — and also to stave off the possible destruction of all existence by an off-his-evil meds Dark Knight of the Soul, Owlman (James Woods), and his only slightly more sane GF, Super Woman (Gina Torres).

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The 72 minute direct-to-video feature was premiered at both of the coastal outlets of the Paley Center, and I attended the one located on Earth Prime’s Beverly Hills. Us members of the local geek press were allowed to commune with members of the cast and crew and, in my case, that started with the extremely busy animation casting and voice director, Andrea Romano. The loquacious performer and voice director, whose work includes everything from “Animaniacs” to “Spongebob Squarepants” and “Ben Ten,” is held in as high esteem by super-animation fans as any actor, writer, or director. Her work on DC superhero projects goes back to the early nineties and “Batman: The Animated Series,” which revolutionized superhero cartoons with quality writing from creators like Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, animation, and, thanks to her efforts, acting.

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