Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Review for Red

If you just had an action movie with a bunch of retired spies, it would be a pretty stupid movie.
Add a dash of comedy, however, and you’ve got yourself a winner.
Red takes the best of both the action and comedy genre. The best person to put a action/comedy?
Bruce Willis.
Add in Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a fun time.
Frank (Willis), Joe (Morgan Freeman), Marvin (Malkovich) and Victoria (Mirren) used to be the CIAs top agents but the secrets they know have now made them targets for the government they once served.
Now framed for assassination, they have to “get the band back together” and use their old-school techniques to clear their name and blow stuff up.
Like I said, it sounds like an action movie and it kind of is, but it also knows not to take itself seriously. There is a great balance of laughs and gunfights. No one believes anyone can do the things the characters do, but if someone could, it would be Willis and his pals.
The only thing unbelievable about the movie is the romantic relationship between Willis and Mary Louise-Parker. Louise-Parker is about half his age and is for lack of a better term — weird. The only reason the audience puts up with her is because Willis’ character likes her.
Because the Willis essentially vouches for her, you don’t get too annoyed and hope they end up together. If not for him, however, Louise-Parker would just be an annoying nuisance (which she sort of is anyway.)
The movie’s action is a bit over-the-top, which seems to be a draw in movies now-a-days. People don’t believe it if a movie tries to make the action realistic, but if you make it grossly over-the-top, people love it. I can’t explain it, but I’m on board with it.
Movies are a magic place where people can do anything. If a movie allows that to happen, audience members can let go of reality and have a good time. This is the perfect example of an opportunity to let yourself go and have a fun movie-going experience.
Willis is a pro at action/comedy and audience members are used to seeing him in that role. Freeman and Mirren, however, are both mostly known for their serious roles. It adds an extra layer of enjoyment to see them cut loose and play a silly part.
For the most part, the whole family can enjoy the movie. Younger audiences will enjoy it, as will older audiences. Kids might not find it as entertaining or get bored (it is a little long at just under two hours), but it’s not like there are many films you can take your whole family to watch these days.

Luke Harris is the movie reviewer for the Star Group Newspapers. He often wonders how he would be as a spy. Then he remembers that he gets winded packing for a trip and would probably not do so well. He can be reached at

State Fair State of Mind

I always love this time of year because the State Fair of Texas is in town for a few short weeks and that means good food and pig races.
I am a native Texan and have attended the state Fair every year of my life except for the year I proposed to my wife and the year we had a family emergency and couldn’t attend. Other than that, the Harris clan could be found every year eating corn dogs and turkey legs.
Through the many years of going to the fair, my family has formed several life-long memories. There is the time I bought a plane being sold at one of the many booths of merchandise and had it immediately break when we got home.
There is the time we were walking down the Midwalk and saw a girl from school and waved at her — just in time for her to get sick all over the Midwalk. Everyone just sort of stared at each other before the girl said, “Well, that was awkward” and moved along.
And then there was the time the robot read my mind.
I want to start off by saying I am not a stupid person. I do stupid things and say stupid things, but I still consider myself a sharp guy. But this day, I was about as sharp as a marshmallow.
Anyone who has been to the State Fair knows there are several buildings filled with attractions and new inventions. In one of my trips to the state fair with my mother and brother, we were walking through one such building when a robot approached me.
“Hello, Luke.”
I was impressed that the robot could read my name tag and say my name — until I realized I was not wearing a name tag. I was wearing a shirt with my old soccer team’s name on it and no signs of identification. At first, I thought it was only strange, until it started talking about my life.
“So, are you enjoying the fair with your mom and brother?”
OK, now things were getting weird. I turned around and looked at my mom and brother only to have them shrug, looking equally shocked and amazed.
“How are you enjoy Mrs. Litzenberger’s algebra class? Need to be doing a little better, huh?”
Mrs. Litzenberger was the name of my eighth grade algebra teacher — yes, I was in eighth grade — and I was doing badly in her class.
“Are you going to buy that Mindy a corn dog while you are here?”
Mindy was the name of the girl I had a crush on in the eighth grade. I was now officially freaked out. I knew there was no such thing as a robot who could read minds, but how else was this thing doing this to me? I knew the State Fair always had new and exciting attractions and I figured, “this is the year they got a mind-reading robot.”
I thought this new invention was being showed off to the public by making spectacles of eighth-graders like myself and I decided it was time for me to leave.
My mom and brother were both eager to stay and hear more about me, but I wanted to leave right then. I wanted to leave the fair, the state and the country. I wanted to go to a third-world country where there wouldn’t be mind-reading robots for years to come.
For two hours of walking around the fair, I was mortified and trying to figure out what had happened to me. I knew robots couldn’t read minds — they just couldn’t — but this one did.
And that is when my mom started laughing, and my brother joined in. That is when I discovered the truth.
It turns out that, as I suspected, there was no such thing as mind-reading robots. There were, however, remote-controlled robots with a microphone installed inside them connected to a headset.
The headset being on the man who was standing next to my mom and brother and gathering information about me from them to freak me out. Every time I would turn around to look at my mom and brother, the man would take a step away behind a column and out of my line of sight.
My family thought about not telling me for a long time, but they could see how traumatized I was by the whole situation and decided to let me in on the secret.
To this day they still give me a hard time about how gullible I was and we can all share a big laugh about it. I couldn’t really get mad about it because you have to give props for a good prank and they got me good. I mean, they got me to believe a robot was reading my mind.
It was a great prank, but it was also a great memory. I am glad my family does something together every year that I can count on for a good time. I hope I can make memories like that one day with my children — and convince them of something to terrify them for a good little while.

Luke Harris is the editor of the Burleson Star. He is afraid that when mind-reading robots really do take over the world, he will think it is a prank and be vaporized. He can be reached at

Tales from the Gym: Paying for my own torture

I knew there was something wrong with me when I realized I was at the gym on a Saturday morning.
As I have written in the past, you would not look at me and think of me as an athletic person — and you would be right.
However, I recently had two realizations concerning my life. One: I needed to work out because, although I saw a fairly normal looking person in the mirror, to others, I appeared to be the second “pregnant man.”
The other realization was, although I have gone to the gym on my own before, it was too rare a thing to make any difference. I have mentioned before that my friends run the Burleson Athletic Club and have given me tips on how to lose some weight.
One of those suggestions was to cut back on the amount of soda I drank on a daily basis. That was hard because I was up to around 10 a day. However, I cut back and I immediately shed around 10 pounds. Now, all I needed to do was go to the gym and walk and lift some weights.
Walk. It seems simple enough, but when you are carrying as much weight as I do on a regular basis, it can be a bit of a hassle. I did a fairly good job of regularly attending the gym for a few months, but then fell back into the though of “why go walking when I can sit?”
That is when I decided to do something about my revelations. I called my friend and set up a time to have a training session at the gym. I figured I would go, learn some new things, and — after a few sessions — walk out with washboard abs and a career in male modeling.
How silly I was.
As I said, I’m not an athletic guy so I didn’t know things like you should eat or drink something before you go have a vigorous workout. Therefore, about 15 minutes into my first session, I began to question my decision-making skills.
Not only had I volunteered to put my body through this, but I was paying for it. I also decided this was a good time to get right with God because at the rate the workout was going, I would be seeing him very soon.
Luckily, however, my friend has the experience to recognize when my face matches my white shirt, it is time to lie down and end the session.
For the next few days, I walked like a fat penguin who had been beaten with baseball bats. People that saw me thought I had been in a car accident or in a vicious beating. It hurt to sit, stand, walk and think. Luckily, thinking has never been my strong suit, so that relieved me of some pain.
The craziest thing, however, is that I went back. Two days later, I went back to the place that hurt me and allowed it to hurt me more. I did it because I needed too — and I already had the check written out for two sessions.
I am happy to have friends who are willing to kick me in the rear and work me until I hurt because they know I need to be healthier. I don’t need to be told that I look fine and I don’t breath that heavily. I need to be healthy.
I have made the decision in my mind to stop justifying the things I’m doing as enough and decided what I can do to go further.
That is how I knew something was wrong with me when I realized I was at the gym on a Saturday morning, but I was happy to be there.

Luke Harris is the editor of the Burleson Star. He thinks he could probably currently make it as a plus-sized male model, but is too modest to go into a career like that. He can be reached at