Thursday, September 10, 2020

Tips For Buying a New Car

This article is going to relay some things I learned about buying a new car.  First, let's discuss a couple of terms. The dealer's invoice is the price the dealer paid for the car. The  dealer holdback  is a refund that the dealer gets for selling the car from the manufacturer. Obviously, these are two pieces of information that would help you negotiate.. I'm not an expert in those and there are good websites that can help you with it. You can Yahoo or Google for them.  There is a website that will help you with developing bids. 

I will  mildly recommend First Consumer Reports has a relationship with the site and it does give you an idea what somebody paid for the car that you are looking for in the area where you live. I just don't trust it completely since dealers contribute to the site.  You have to play with the website and click around to get all the great information. If you shop online, be prepared to be inundated with dealers especially if you give out your phone number. Just "deal" with it.  Sorry for that.

Using the site, you obviously want the "excellent" or "exceptional" price. By the way, you never want to pay MSRP (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price). Okay,  where I started my opening bid was in the lower range of  the excellent price. And don't worry if you don't get accepted on the first bid. You've got room to go up. 

I will put my tips into rules. These are things I learned with dealing with two Japanese car brands that I will call Car A and Car B  My tips are here to help lessen your suffering because buying a new car stinks.So, here we go.

1. ".Calculate the "out the door pricc."    This is the amount of money you pay to drive the car off the lot. It usually includes dealers fees, the price of the car and taxes. Use the internet to calculate the price. You need this because dealers will play around with the price of the car and you'll need to know exactly how much you need to pay for the car completely. How do I  know this? Because it happened to me.  Which leads to ...

2. Beware of the bait and switch  This is not where they advertise one car and try to get you to buy another. What happened to me was that I emailed and called Car A dealership. Made my offer.. Car A  said okay. One day later, the dealer called me and gave me an out the door price that was higher than my calculation. I said you raised the price of the car after we agreed on the price. And he said I needed to come up. Now, since I had the out the door price, I knew he raised the price of the vehicle.  Yeah, the dealers think you're dumb.

And by the way, I'm a lawyer and this is not how we negotiate. When it comes to numbers for settlements, I may send an offer. And if the other side wants a different number they counter until we eventually reach an agreeable number. The same thing for criminal cases in negotiating prison sentences. 

Dealers for some reason try to trick you. I don't get why we can't throw numbers around but that's the way they act.

3. Read the fine print of any offer especially in emails.  Okay, so I got pissed and told Car A that I would get back and shop around. I went to Car B. Contacted them through their website. They called me.  I made a reasonable offer that was good for me but not insane. The dealer agreed.  We set a date to meet so I could bring the money and buy the car.. We were buying the car with cash.  We even worked out that we could pay for the car with a check. So, I had the out the door price already calculated and that was going to get the car. Except....

When I got to the dealer, I asked to test drive the car. They said okay. I said it was fine. We went inside and then the manager told us there was a problem. To buy the car for the agreed upon price, I would have to take out a loan. They said the fine print in an email said any offer was subject to Car B financing.  I told the dealer, "Hey you told me to bring in this amount of money to buy the car."They informed me that either take out a loan or come up with a higher bid for the price of the car. So what did I do?  See Rule 4.

4. Be ready to walk out and walk out if you have to.  I said to Car B dealer . "I'm going to go. The loan was not what we agreed to. And you led me to believe that if we brought in the money, we could buy the car." At that point, the manager and dealer put a number higher that would buy the car. It was within the range that I was willing to pay and still an excellent price. I agreed. The manager was irate because he thought we were paying too little. I mentioned that he is still making a profit because of holdbacks etc. That got him annoyed even more.

Conclusion..  I will note that I didn't discuss financing. That's another topic beyond my expertise. But note that your bank will give  good advice and maybe a better interest rate.. And frankly, if I was going to finance the car, I would gone through my bank. 

Buying a car should be fun. It's not. Dealers are still playing games when you reach the dealership. You have 2 things going for you. You know the out the door price. Any increases in the price of the car from the dealer will be apparent. And always remember that you have the money. That means "be ready to walk out." You don't need that dealer.  They need you, You can always leave your phone number. They will call you back.. But perhaps you've made a better deal with another car dealership. Good hunting.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Irresistible review

Satirist and former host of the The Daily Show, is the writer and director of Irrestible. And he doesn't stray from his talent and expertise. As it is a comedy about politics in the twenty first century.

    Irresistible starts out in 2016. Democratic political operative Gary Zimmer (Steve Carrell) has just endured a crushing upset after he tried to get Hillary Clinton elected. Yeah, you remember. It feels like ions ago but Trump won. His Republican nemesis Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne) is obviously in much better position. Gary has become despondent.

 Gary is exposed to a viral video of Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper) a former Marine, who's seen standing up for immigrants in a town hall meeting of Deerlaken, Wisconsin. Jack's a farmer who lives with his Terminator daughter Diana (Mackenzie Davis). She's is an augmented soldier, back from the future to protect Sarah Connor. And the last two sentences about the Terminator is from Terminator:Dark Fate. You see Davis was in that one and the joke fails as nobody saw that film. Sorry. Anyway, Gary decides Jack would be a great Democratic candidate who could speak to the middle of America about liberal ideas. He goes to Deerlaken to recruit him. The first election for Jack would be the mayoral contest in DeerLaken.

 Steve Carrell, Rose Byrne and the whole cast have great comic timing. It helps that Director Stewart understands comedy. I've got to give a shout out to Chris Cooper. As in any role he understands the character and plays him perfectly. I'm thinking about a couple of films I have around the house and just marvel at those performances. The Bourne Identitiy. Seabiscuit.

 Knowing Jon Stewart, I was expecting a funnier version of The Candidate (1972) with broad laughs and something to say. And the movie does have something to say. It's also pleasant in the laugh department. But it's Stewart's writing that has a big flaw. The film has a huge plot twist which I won't give away here . And Stewart hints at it in a scene but it goes by so fast that you don't think of it. Look, the audience can love a surprise. But it is so huge or yuge as Trump would say that it is a shock to the audience. And I don't mean that it in a good way. The movie moves along and the plot twist comes out of left field or make that right field depending on your political orientation.

 When you're writing a screenplay, you should show not tell. There are exceptions. Exposition is one of them. And if you're going to do some giant plot twist, you should hint at it but not so subtle that it feels as if you didn't. This foreboding applies to comedy too. Irresistible does such a bad job at setting up the twist that if feels like it came from another movie. In fact, Stewart puts an end credit interview with a real political expert to explains the plausability of the plot twist. I won't name the expert to save the surprise. But yeah, you can see how huge the plot twist was. Stewart should have put another scene setting up the twist and also have an exposition scene explaining the mechanics of the twist. Trust me, we're not talking nuclear physics here. That exposition could be like Jack watching TV and a news story explains the device that will drive the twist.

  Irresistible is not irresistible. It's got some great jokes, not enough to be gut busting funny. And the plot twist is too much of a jolt for the audience to find believable. Wait for this one to reach cable. The grade is B.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Best Film of the Year for 2019.

Unlike the Oscars, you don't have to wade through 3 hours of bad comedy and boring songs to get the Basement Blog Film of the Year for 2019. I know you all have been waiting breathlessly. 😊 Drum roll please:

The Basement Blog Film of the Year for 2019 is JoJo Rabbit. The movie was an sxcellent essay on antisemitism, bigotry, hatred and the human condition.

Science Fiction Film of the Year for 2019

I looked back on the year of 2019 and it was crappy year for science fiction movies. But there was one movie that deserved the prestigious 😊Basement Blog Science Fiction Film of the Year. It won because it took risks. The movie is Avengers: Endgame. The risks it took was that the movie took a sharp left hand turn to comedy ala Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. (1986) That took the film out of your run of the mill superhero flick.

1917 review

1917 is a simple film about two British soldiers during World War I and yet it's revolutionary. In contemporary filmmaking, the directors and editors use a technique called fast cutting. It consists of cutting shots of a scene to 3 seconds or less. And if you read my blog, you know that I really hate it.

Fast cutting reduces film to appeal to an attention deficit audience. It's for one that grew up with commercials and music video. Many times it turns movies into a confusing mess as action is hard to follow. Too often it's used to convey action rather than a director taking the time to choreograph the shots. These are the reasons I hate it so much. In 1917 is a totally different take on filmmaking and film editing. Director and writer Sam Mendes uses long shots, tracking shots and smart editing to create a movie that follows one British soldier on his journey to save his brother.

1917 takes place during World War I France. British Corporals Thomas Blake (Dean- Charles Chapman) and William Schofield (George MacKay) are ordered to cross enemy territory to deliver a message to a battalion to halt an advance as they are walking into a trap. It's personal for Blake who has a brother in the battalion. The journey is a hellscape of death, destruction and an occasional respite of humanity.

Dean Charles Chapman and Goeorge MacKay may be unknowns but they turn in sincere, and realistic portrayals. The other more famous  actors, Richard Madden, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott and Colin Firth are good but their parts are so small that they feel like cameos. That's okay since the film is about the journey of the two corporals.

Mendes' film is an anti-war war movie like Saving Private Ryan. (1998) The difference is 1917 is more of a one man's view of war. You won't see big armies fighting each other in big action set pieces. It's a personal  journey across dead bodies, animals, destruction and death to not kill but to save lives. And of killing, 1917 makes it intimate. The combat is at times  hand to hand.

I thought the way the camera followed Schofield gave us an almost a first person look at war. You got a "you are there" feel without the gimmick of first person camera shots. The result is tense and riveting. You are not going to be bored by this film.

1917 is a radically filmed movie with a goal to make it look like one shot. The effect is compelling. I hope that future filmmakers will consider less fast cutting and use technology to create movies with longer scenes that will create less confusion. The grade is A.

Friday, February 7, 2020

JoJo Rabbit review

If you look at the trailers for JoJo Rabbit and know the director-writer Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) you would think that it was a comedy. Well it's kind of. It's a dramedy. I mean the boy protagonist's imaginary friend is Hitler. And Hitler is not portrayed as a mustache twirling villain but a goofy racist.

JoJo Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis) is a ten year old boy living in Nazi Germany and a member of the Hitler Youth. His mother (Scarlett Johansson) resides with him and is his primary caretaker. Her husband and JoJo's father is missing on the Italian Front. Life for JoJo is a struggle with the rationing and his clumsy physicality. JoJo is far from the Aryan model and eventually he is tasked to work for the local Hitler Youth
commander Captain Klenzendorfm (Sam Rockwell) doing odd jobs. One day he discovers a Jewish girl, Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) living and hiding in the house. JoJo learns that his mother is hiding her. The conflict is whether to turn her in. Oh, yeah I forgot JoJo has an imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler. (Taika Waititi) And well Hitler tries to indoctrinate JoJo about Jews and Elsa.

The cast is wonderful. Roman Griffin Davis shows us that children can act. At times he is a dyed in the wool Nazi yet he keeps somewhat of an open mind after meeting Elsa. Thomasin Mckenzie's Elsa is lonely, hurt and scared. Scarlett Johansson is the loving and moral mother that is the model of best of humanity. Sam Rockwell is his usual great stuff. He's a German officer who's sidelined because of having only one eye that works. He's bitter as he's not the perfect Aryan anymore. Taika Waititi's Hitler is goofy and as expected is a plain old antisemite.

Waitti's always had great comic timing. Here he makes Hitler almost likable. But Waititi's screenplay based on Christine Leunens's novel Caging Skies has some serious fish to fry. It's an essay on bigotry, antisemitism, loneliness and love. JoJo's difficult relationship with Elsa is also a study of the human condition. Waititi has crated a funny, warm and human film. I laughed and I cried.

JoJo Rabbitt is one of the best movies of 2019. It's a beautiful study of the weaknesses and strengths of humans. The grade is A.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker review

If you're a Star Wars fan, you've probably seen that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has been getting mixed reviews. As I write this it is scoring 53% at Rotten Tomatoes. Is it as bad as some critics say or is the Force with this film? If I may paraphrase Maz (Lupita Nyong'o) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it's a "good question" for today.

The Rise of Skywalker opens with your classic Star Wars crawl. And right away, we learn Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is still alive and broadcasting something on a podcast. Okay, the podcast thing is not in the movie. Leia (Carrie Fisher) has sent Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Finn (John Boyega) to gather intelligence about him and the threat he poses. Rey (Daisy Ridley) is training with Leia in the ways of the Force. And Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is having trouble with his marriage... um, that's Marriage Story. Ren is also looking for the Emperor but for different reasons. Perhaps to join forces?

The performances are pretty good. Great to see Ian McDiarmid back as Palpatine. He doesn't seem to have aged but of course he has played an old wrinkly old man since Return of the Jedi. Oscar Isaac and John Boyega both know their characters well and adeptly play off each other. The late Carrie Fisher's role was supposedly cut out of other films and pasted here. I frankly didn't notice. Yeah, I'm no fanboy but her performance was seamless. Adam Driver is a tortured and conflicted Kylo Ren. And Daisey Ridley is magnetic. There are some great reveals and she is wonderful.

Okay, you might think The Rise of Skywalker is pretty good. Not so fast young Padawan. The screenplay by director J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio based on their and Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow's story has some problems. The first being the above crawl. Maybe I missed it but I don't recall a hint of the Emperor in The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi. While some critics liked learning of Poe's backstory and the introduction of Zorii played by a helmeted Keri Russell, I thought it distracted from where the story needed to get going. There's another character introduced who seems to be the focus of Lando (Billy Dee Williams). She's Jannah (Naomi Ackie). Again, this is a character who interacts with Finn but it takes away from the momentum of the story. And there is another cute robot introduced named Cone. But what is this for? Other delays include too much time spent on a flooded world where Rey must obtain an artifact. No problem with where it's at but do we need so much film to show her finally get to it? Now all these lesser characters could be a setup for another movie or Disney Plus TV show. Still, this is a film not a mini-series. The movie is also a little too reminiscent of Return of the Jedi. One more thing, this movie is not science fiction. Characters are in outer space without spacesuits. Think space fantasy.

Where the screenplay works is the humor and its depiction of the goals of the characters. You'll have to see the movie to get the jokes in context. But I had to laugh at the jab this movie takes at The Last Jedi and a certain lightsaber. The motivations and reveals of the characters all worked logically. And there's warmth here too. Finn, Poe and Rey make a fine trio of friends.

Director J.J. Abrams thankfully keeps his penchant for lens flares at bay. And he doesn't let the fast cutting interfere with the action. Those scenes make sense and are exciting and easy to follow. he does falter on some of the scenes that take place on a dark planet interior. Look we get it. This planet is spooky, dusty and dark. But it's very hard to determine what the action is when it's so dark and he uses fast cutting. The movie does have some stunning special effects. 

Another reason to see this film is to hear legendary John Williams score and how it works wonderfully with the action. Let's face it. Williams is in the twilight of his career. His score for this film is regal, heroic and triumphant.

I was captivated by Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. It held my interest. Is no where as bad as the The Phantom Menace nor is it as great as The Empire Strikes Back. Still worth seeing if you are a Star Wars fan. The grade is B.