The 2011 Summer Movie Preview

2010 was a season of remakes, sequels and superheroes. So what’s in store for 2011? You got it: more remakes, sequels and superheroes. We run through the summer movie lineup and tell you which films look worthy of a trip to the theater.

Super 8
Release Date:
June 10
You don’t expect a train wreck when J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg collaborate, but that’s how Super 8 opens: Some local kids shooting a movie next to a railroad cause an almighty crash. And then things turn strange. Dogs go missing. The military moves in. Apparently the train was on its way from Area 51, and Elle Fanning and Kyle Chandler (Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights) are caught in the thick of it. Abrams knows his way around a crash (“Lost”) and an alien invasion (Cloverfield). This will be a wreck worth watching.

Green Lantern
Release Date:
June 17
In a strong field of superhero movies, Green Lantern does its best to shine. Ryan Reynolds receives a mysterious green ring and finds himself embroiled in an intergalactic struggle to preserve peace in the universe. Equipped with tight pants, a breakneck script and a zillion dollars’ worth of special effects, he jets off into a world of elaborate aliens and extremely high stakes. Warner Bros. threw everything at the wall for this one, and it appears that most of it stuck.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Release Date:
July 1
Reviewers hated Transformers 2, and yet it made more than $800 million worldwide. If you listen really carefully, you can still hear director Michael Bay having the last laugh. In part three of the trilogy, he dares to tamper with his winning formula. Not only has Megan Fox been replaced by Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, but Dark of the Moon incorporates something that Transformers 2 did perfectly well without: a proper story.

Horrible Bosses
Release Date:
July 8
Audiences were roaring at the screenings of this one -- a hard R comedy caper, in which three friends decide to get together and murder their bosses. Cue much bungling, hilarity and (if you liked The Hangover), a great night out. It’s seemingly one of those rare times that a stellar cast lives up to its billing. Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis (“SNL”), and Charlie Day (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) are the hapless killers. Look out for a degenerate Colin Farrell as one of the bosses.

Captain America: The First Avenger
Release Date:
July 22
America could use a hero about now, and if the buzz is to be believed, The First Avenger will not disappoint. For years, Marvel junkies have debated the choice of director Joe Johnston (The Wolfman) and the casting of Chris Evans (Scott Pilgrim vs the World) in the title role. But then they saw the trailer in the Super Bowl commercial break, and all doubts were set aside. Evans plays a weakling -- too puny for the army in World War II -- who is transformed into a muscle-bound, Nazi-bashing superhero. Tommy Lee Jones plays the drill sergeant.

Cowboys and Aliens
Release Date:
July 29
Fresh from Iron Man II, director Jon Favreau had a question: What if aliens landed in the Wild West? It’s the sort of question that writers mull over in coffee shops instead of working. Like: What if zombies took over Nazi Germany? Or: Who would win in a fight -- vampires or the Mafia? Except this time, Favreau actually made the movie. And with a cast that includes Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde, Cowboys and Aliens may just have “blockbuster” written all over it.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Release Date:
August 5
Between earning his Ph.D., debuting his art installations and sawing his own arm off with a tiny knife, James Franco has somehow found time to play the lead scientist in the prequel that explains how Planet of the Apes came about in the first place. A drug test on chimpanzees leads to a dramatic increase in their intelligence until they escape their laboratories and vie against humans for supremacy. Forget the Charlton Heston movie of 1968 -- this time, the apes look like apes.

Conan the Barbarian
Release Date:
August 19
For years, the story of Conan has been inextricably linked to another myth -- that of a young Austrian muscleman who became governor of California. It was Conan that launched Arnie more than any other movie. So Jason Momoa, the former “Baywatch” star, has his work cut out for him. But he has the muscles, he wields a good sword, and his lines are juicy: “I live, I love, I slay, and I am content.” Worth a look, if only because Momoa may be headed for bigger things.

Photos: DreamWorks Pictures & Warner Bros. Pictures/ Wikimedia Commons

Olympic Hopefuls: A Roundtable Discussion (Part 2)

Last week, we talked to three U.S. Olympic hopefuls, all affiliated with the New York Athletic Club, about their training regimens. This week, we talk to them about the challenges of being Olympic-caliber athletes; what their individual sports demand of them; and how they motivate themselves to compete at such a high level.

Our athletes:

Jake Herbert, wrestler, age 26, from Naperville, Ill.; 2009 World Freestyle, silver medalist

Seth Kelsey, fencer, age 29, from Colorado Springs, Colo.; 2010 World Championships, silver medalist

Jarrod Shoemaker, triathlete, age 28, from Maynard, Mass.; 2008 Olympian, USA Triathlon 2010 Elite National Champion

 

MLT: What’s your biggest challenge as an Olympic athlete?

Kelsey: “It’s always a struggle to balance everything. I’m in the [Air Force] Reserves and work one weekend a month. I’m really fortunate in that my unit has been supportive of my Olympic dreams and working around my travel and training schedule.”

Shoemaker: “The biggest challenge is definitely balance. Training can’t become everything in your life.”

MLT: Name one thing about your sport that most people probably don’t know.

Herbert: “Olympic wrestling is different than high school or collegiate. In the Olympics, you could win -- or lose -- a match in 40 seconds.”

Shoemaker: “People hear triathlon, they think Iron Man. In that kind of really long-distance event, your goal is to stay under your anaerobic threshold -- basically to be as comfortable as possible for the time you have to be out there. In the Olympic triathlon, the distances are a little shorter, so our goal is to go hard. It’s all about power and speed.”

Kelsey: “Fencing is like a game of tag, except with sharp weapons.”

MLT: How do you perform your best when the pressure’s on?

Kelsey: “I’ll be a little nervous before competition, and that’s a good thing. It means I care. It’s when I’m not nervous that it’s time to worry. But I think one way to keep your poise during competition is by having a routine. Before each match, our warm-up is the same. Having a routine helps focus you.”

Shoemaker: “I know where I am, and I know there are still people better than me. So what motivates me is figuring out what I have to do to make myself that much better -- to achieve that small percentage of improvement I need to win that race.”

MLT: Do you have a quote that epitomizes your philosophy on training and competition, something that helps you stay motivated?

Kelsey: “I go with my favorite [paraphrased] quote from Teddy Roosevelt: ‘Ease in the present is due to great effort in the past.’ If you put in the hard work, you can make it look really easy.”

Herbert: “The one I like best I heard from Tom and Terry Brands, Olympic wrestlers and [University of] Iowa wrestling coaches: ‘You have to hate losing more than you love winning.’”

Shoemaker: “‘There is no such word as ‘can't’!’”

Photos: Courtesy of New York Athletic Club


Switching Jobs in Bad Times: Should You Make the Leap?

Have you lost that lovin’ feeling when it comes to your job? Do you daydream about your boss’s stunned expression as you triumphantly tender your letter of resignation? We’ve all been there. Just like staying in a long-term relationship that has run its course, showing up every day to an office when your heart is not in it can be a recipe for resentment. Yet with the Federal Reserve predicting that the unemployment rate will remain around 9 percent throughout 2011, upping and quitting seems like a dicey proposition. So what’s a guy to do?

Stay Close to Home
“I always counsel people to look within before looking outside,” says Stella Angelakos, a New York City­-based career adviser. “Before you leave, explore opportunities within your existing company.” To do so, she says, become friendly with people in the departments that are of most interest to you. Let co-workers whom you trust know you’re seeking a new position. If you have a good relationship with your boss, he can be your ally too. On the other hand, if you fear retribution once you admit you’re itching for a change, talk with a member of your company’s human resources department instead. If you’re a good worker, it’s in their best interest to try to retain you.

Look Before You Leap
But what if you’re at a small firm with little room for movement? Or perhaps you want to change industries entirely? Don’t be afraid to take those steps, but take them wisely. Do your research, says Angelakos. Plan to make your move at a time of year when your industry does most of its hiring. Talk to recruiters. And make sure you know where you’re headed: “You don’t want to take a job that’s worse than the one you left,” warns Angelakos.

To prepare for your jump, get your references in order and make sure your resume is ready to rock and roll. Put out feelers with your network of friends, family members and former colleagues, letting them know you’re exploring new options. Finally, says California-based recruiter Margo Morgenlader of Professional Recruitment Solutions, “Clean up your online brand.” This starts first and foremost with Facebook, which most employers will look at when researching your background. “You should have a spotless online presence -- even if your presence in life is not so spotless,” advises Morgenlander. Unlike Facebook, a website that can really shore up -- rather than sink -- your job prospects is LinkedIn. “It’s a great way to deepen your connections,” she says, pointing out that it can take a lot of the heavy lifting out of networking.

If You Have to, Leap Before You Look
What if you’re so overworked or in despair that you can’t get in the right head space for a job search? If you can afford the loss of paycheck -- potentially for six months or more -- then go for it. “I would never advocate people being so miserable in a job that they can’t go another day,” says Morgenlander. But when you start going on job interviews, she warns, “Don’t air dirty laundry about your old place of work.” Keep the tone positive. You don’t want to give prospective employers any reason to doubt your integrity or commitment.

The fact is you may actually find it a whole lot easier to remain positive if you cut your ties to your old job before looking anew. Many individuals, freed from the fear of losing the paycheck that kept them at a job well past its “sell-by” date, are surprised to discover they can get actually get by on less. “Once people get over the shock of not having money, as long as they’re doing something they really like, they tend to be happier,” says Angelakos.

In retrospect, whenever you determine the time has come to tender a resignation, the act should be a true declaration of independence -- a chance to reclaim your life, liberty and yes, your pursuit of happiness.
 

Kinect Games to Collect Now

There once was a time when video games were the anti-workout, the kind of thing guys who didn’t give a hoot about their physiques did in their free time. Sure, you could argue “Super Mario Bros.” gave your fingers a workout (and perhaps rescuing the princess set your heart racing), but for the most part, gaming was right up there with hitting the McDonald’s drive-through when it came to keeping fit. The Nintendo Wii, released in 2006, changed all of that, forcing us to get off the sofa if we wanted to play along. Tech being tech, it stands to reason something hotter would eventually come along -- and sure enough, Kinect for Xbox 360, introduced late last year, has taken gaming to a stratospheric new level.

Using 3-D imaging, voice and face recognition and motion-sensing technology worthy of a James Cameron movie, Kinect watches and relays your every pitch, sway, kick and hop. You lift your virtual ski poles or throw a sucker punch, and Kinect displays your avatar doing the same on screen. Liberated from a controller, you become so lost in the action that you forget you’re breaking a sweat. (As a courtesy, the Kinect occasionally reminds you to take a breather and hydrate.)

Although game releases are still trickling out, what we’ve seen so far has got us pumped (literally). Below are our current faves and future releases that have got us just as excited.



Feats of Daring

Ride roaring rapids, fly through outer space and navigate an alpine obstacle course in “Kinect Adventures!” (Microsoft Game Studios; bundled with Kinect). These whimsical outdoor adventures will likely be your introduction to Kinect-style gaming, and after a few twists and turns, you’ll be hooked. Once you get good, post your score on Facebook, along with the Polaroid-style digital photos the Kinect snaps of you during game play.

Shake It

So you think you can dance? Pick up a copy of “Dance Central” (Harmonix; $49.99) and learn routines that will earn you major props -- and maybe a phone number or two -- the next time you go clubbing. Break-it-down on-screen instructions (which you can watch in slow motion) and an impossibly patient instructor’s encouragement keep hope alive even for those with two left feet. Songs range from old school (The Commodores) to new (Cascada).

No Pain, No Game

If you relate a little too well to the contestants on “The Biggest Loser” (pre-weight loss, that is), “The Biggest Loser: Ultimate Workout” (THQ; $49.99) is for you. Among our favorite features: the ability to work out simultaneously with fellow Kinect-owning friends (via Xbox LIVE) and a function that will track and record your physical progress as you whip yourself into shape over time. Best part of all? You don’t need to embarrass yourself on national TV to do it.

Become a Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Harry may still wave his wand, but in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” (Electronic Arts; $39.99), you won’t need one. At first, this homage to the last book in the series by J.K. Rowling may leave you feeling as though you need a degree from Hogwarts, but with some practice, you’ll be using spells and potions to battle Death Eaters and Snatchers like a true wizard. (Of all games reviewed here, this is the only one that can be played without Kinect, though doing so is certainly less magical.)

Sure to Be a Thriller
“Michael Jackson: The Experience”
(Ubisoft; $49.99), scheduled for an April release, is a game that will have you singing and dancing like the King of Pop. With both a karaoke feature and an immersive music-video format, it’s the sort of game we predict you won’t stop playing till you get enough. Or till your family tells you to beat it. (Sorry, we can’t seem to stop ourselves.)

Will the Force Be With You?
If the Darth Vader boy from those great Super Bowl ads got you spinning your own sci-fi dreams, “Star Wars Kinect” (LucasArts; $49.99) promises to have you saber-wielding on behalf of the Rebel Alliance in a world so immersive you just might forget you don’t live on planet Tatooine. Sadly, this game feels like it comes from a galaxy far, far away -- its release date is December 31, 2011.

Photo: Getty Images

Take Your Resume to the Next Level: Video

You’ve likely seen video resumes spoofed on YouTube. And certainly, if you’re a fan of “How I Met Your Mother,” you’ll recall the episode where Barney Stinson (played by Neil Patrick Harris) unveils his own MacGruber-worthy version  -- much to the horror of his friends. But for an out-of-the-box job-seeker, and a surprising number of employers, video resumes and interviews are getting some serious attention.

After a boomlet in the video resume industry a few years ago, the practice seemed destined to die before its time. The legal considerations -- that job applicants might wage Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuits against companies if they suspected they were eliminated due to discriminatory reasons -- led companies to shy away from them.

But in the fall of 2010, the EEOC weighed in, essentially saying that as long as the company used the same good practices for screening a candidate via a video resume as they are legally required to use during an in-person interview, there should be no problem with using video.

To be sure, today’s video resume is nothing like the one on “How I Met Your Mother,” which featured Barney pretending to hang glide, surf and fly a fighter jet (among other feats), all while a rock soundtrack wailed in the background to the lyrics, “That guy’s awesome! He’s awesome!” No, if you want to land a job without making a fool of yourself, you’ll need to be a little more professional. And though many people worry about how they might come off on camera, the advantage with video is that you can do it again if you don’t like how it turns out the first time. (On the other hand, mess up an in-person interview and you can usually kiss the job bye-bye.)

TalentRooster, an Ohio-based business launched last June, claims it is second only to YouTube as a home for video resumes. “We did about 5,000 videos in 2010 and are adding as many as 300 new ones each week,” says David DeCapua, the company’s founder. These videos (which can be done at a participating recruiter’s office or via webcam using TalentRooster software) are meant to be concise and compelling and help candidates showcase their talents and enthusiasm. The aforementioned recruiters have reported that candidates using videos have a 30- to 50-percent greater chance of getting hired than those who don’t, according to DeCapua.

Companies are increasingly relying on video as well. “We grew nine-fold in 2009 and experienced a tripling of our growth in 2010,” says Chip Luman, COO of HireVue, a Utah-based company that was founded six years ago to help Fortune 500 and Global 1,000 corporations conduct remote interviews with candidates via video.

Although his company’s clients are businesses and not job-seekers, Luman says that interviewing by webcam has many benefits for applicants. For starters, since it can be recorded, a video interview eliminates having to answer the same question posed by multiple individuals during a long day of meet and greets. Another advantage is that they shorten the amount of time needed for companies to see candidates. For the would-be hire, that means less waiting between the first interview and (fingers crossed!) a job offer.

Whether you’re using video to snag an initial interview or to land a second one, it behooves you to prepare for your close-up. Here are some tips from the experts:

  • Your video resume does not belong on YouTube. Maintain tight control over where your resume is seen and by whom.
  • Dress and act on-camera as you would for your interview. If you’re targeting a hip advertising company, a funkier look and approach may be appropriate. If you’re an accountant, not so much.
  • Webcams don’t have the best optics, so to look your best, make sure you have good lighting when you film.
  • Don’t start recording until you’re sure you won’t be interrupted by barking dogs, a blaring stereo or crying children.
  • Practice makes perfect. Don’t read from an off-camera cue card -- it won’t appear natural. But do plan and rehearse what you will say, just as you would for an in-person interview.
  • Unless you are Barney Stinson, don’t ever sing about how awesome you are.