Movies. Real Quick Reviews.

Here’s a list of movies I’ve seen recently and my quick reaction afterwards. No film school critics analysis-paralysis. Just quick impressions. I find that I have to see a lot of turkeys to find a gem worth watching twice.

I’m using a 10 star scale, like IMDb. Its just that I don’t know what a “10” star movie is. In the interest of not over thinking this, I generally go with these ratings:

  •  9 Stars – Yeah, these are really, really good, clever and well done. From story to dialogue to twists to cinematics (whatever that is). I’ll remember these and expect they are on the Oscar-watch. Yeah, I’ll see this one again because there are details I probably missed and its so worth a second look.
  • 7 stars – solid, entertaining and enjoyable. I really liked it. These are where I rate most of the Marvel Universe. Despite their familiar storyline, they are simply well done; so cheers to them.
  •  5 stars – yeah, basic and average. Covers the check list for a movie but isn’t special. Follows a pretty obvious flow; so, nothing special. Take it or leave it. Generally, I should save my money. As I leave the theatre, I’m feeling disappointed. Maybe it was over-hyped, but it just didn’t work.
  •  3 stars – wow, definitely bad from start to finish. What were they thinking? Who let this movie get released? I’m pissed I sat through this. But maybe the cinematic qualities and/or actors made me stay. I feel bad for them.
  •  1 star – OMG! Now I’m pissed. Hey Producer AND Theatre Operator! You stole my money! This is awful! But I’ll give you a star for spelling.

If I rate it in between these levels, its because its just a bit better/worse than my rating scale. Here goes, in order of when I saw them (most recent on top):

BRIAN BANKS [7 stars]

Interesting story. I was familiar with Banks,  a  USC football recruit falsely accused of rape and his struggle to clear his name and reclaim his life in football. Just sad he lost a critical 10 years, which in football is nearly impossible to overcome.

SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK [6 stars]

Decent but familiar scary stuff of childhood. Probably will play well to the 12-14 year olds. Good tension and frights at times. But saying “boo!” gets you only so far.

HOBBS AND SHAW [6 stars]

Good jokes. Good banter. Good action. Over the top. But not really in the Fast and Furious tent. Where’s Dom? Just an excuse for a buddy movie and follows that path. Ryan Reynolds needs to expand his range. Getting tired of the schtick. Sorry.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD [8 stars]

Well I loved it. Interesting story. Great acting by DiCaprio and Pitt. I expect Oscar noms for them and the movie. Typical Tarantino, except less gore, until later in the movie. Clever. If you like Tarantino, you’ll like this.

STUBER [5 stars]

Both clever and boring, wrapped into one story. Clever idea but dragged. Nanjiani as the Uber driver was very good. I’m going to keep an eye on him. And Bautista (of Guardians of the Galaxy), as the big loveable dimwit was alikewise good. So, yeah, I guess the casting kept me watching this one.

THE ART OF SELF DEFENSE [5 stars]

Man, sort like Stuber, both clever and boring at the same time. Jesse Eisenberg was perfectly cast, as if they writer wrote it with him only in mind. At the end of the day, forgettable, just as a 5-star movie should be. Oh well.

CRAWL [6 stars]

It teases me with tension but at the end of the day, its just a spin on the Sharknado movies, except with gators. Enjoyable and forgettable, but I felt I got my money’s worth for this carnival ride.

MIDSOMMAR [2 stars]

Kinda disgusting. Definitely disturbing. Completely immoral. It revolted me to my core. Wish I didn’t see this one! Trying to forget it. I’m so pissed. Any questions?

SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME [7 stars]

I’m a Spidey going back to Toby. Liked this one very much. A lot of promise with this new cast. The movie was thoroughly entertaining. Delivered what you expect from this Superhero. Also, explained the world after Avengers and what happened. So there is a bridge story back to clarify things a little.

YESTERDAY [6 stars]

Music was the star of this and really showed the depth of what the Beatles did and the music sounded fresh today. The story was clever with this nobody pub singer singing covers of the Beatles songs, except in his world, the Beatles magically didn’t exist. Strange idea but entertaining and fun to imagine. “Imagine if there were no Beatles… Its easy if you try…” Groan… but you get it.

ANNABELL COMES HOME [4 stars]

Just barely above a waste of time. Nothing new here. They got me in the door because I sorta like this kind of movie. But actually, I’m tired of it. Absolutely nothing new. They are beating a dead doll here. Save your money.

THE DEAD DON’T DIE [3 stars]

OMG. What a waste of time. Cameos. Weak jokes by Bill. Everybody dies. Typical zombies movie only worse. It was trying to be funny. Put a stake in this one. Walk away. Bad. Bad. Bad.

ANNA [5 stars]

Good. Spy movie where a super-model gets the bad guys. Okay, maybe unrealistic in every way. But the movie had a good pace, kept me interested and the Anna is, well, hot.

MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL [5 stars]

A lot of people didn’t like this one. I guess that’s why I didn’t think it was bad. It was okay, watchable and … shrug.

SHAFT [6 stars]

Its got Samuel L. Jackson bringing the attitude. He’s so good, and lifts this average installment in the series. The original Shaft is the grandfather. And Sam’s kid is, well, “violence averse”, but Samuel brings him up to speed in the family business – a$$ kicking bad guys. Fun movie. No masterpiece though.

DARK PHOENIX [6 stars]

Really didn’t get a lot of press; so I didn’t know it was coming up. In the Marvel X-Men series. Men? Well, or course, this is a woman-driven hero. Or is she the nemesis? I enjoyed discovering who these character are. After years (decade really) of Avengers, the X Men story seems to have slipped away. Thing was a good movie, but who really cares. Where’s Ironman, etc.? Not here.

MA [4 stars]

My, my, my. Crazy story but decent. Didn’t know what to expect. Watchable. Forgettable too. But not the worst thing I’ve seen.

GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS [3 stars]

I may be a little harsh in my grade, but I just didn’t like it and I don’t care at all about Godzilla. What was the point here? Why do we care? Good special effects though. 3 stars for that.

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 [6 stars]

And you wonder why there is such violence in society? Wonder no more after you see guns, violence and carnage glorified. Hey, Hollywood? Hello? But this one gave me heart palpitations. Pure adrenaline. And, yes, I enjoyed it. But I don’t own a gun.

ROCKET MAN [4 stars]

I love Elton John music. And this movie, of course, was satisfying to listen to. But, I’ll be honest, the story made me cringe a little. I’m not the target audience for this one. I’ll stick to Spotify for my Elton John fix.

THE HUSTLE [3 stars]

Oh wow. So bad. Embarrassing. I’m a Rebel Wilson fan, but this one didn’t work. Pairing her with Anne Hathaway. Zero chemistry on top of lameness in everyway. Aptly named move; I was hustled in seeing this. $8? Sure, here you go. You’re welcome.

POMS [4 stars]

Complete waste of a talented cast. They did what they could with this tur…key. Man, I never want to end up in a retirement village. Just a sad story.

 

 

What Is? Defining Financial Terms and Concepts: Financial Ratio Analysis

LEVERAGE RATIOS:

Businesses use debt to finance operations. Financial leverage ratios measure the extent to its use. More leverage becomes problematic in a business downturn if profitability (or operating losses) are not sufficient to cover debt servicing requirements (periodic repayments of the debt and loan agreement covenants).

It is a risk to carry too much debt. However, the use of debt can act as an earnings accelerator when times are good. In addition, financing operations with debt preserves the use of the company’s ownership equity, which is an important consideration to shareholders and the value of their shares in the business.

Some well-known ratios:

  • Debt to Equity = [Total Liabilities] / [Shareholders’ Equity]
    • Generally, a ratio greater than two is considered risky to investors in the stock, and to lenders; but this varies by industry.
  • Debt to Capital = [Total Liabilities] / [Total Liabilities + Shareholders’ Equity]
    •  Measures the % of debt in the company’s capital structure.
    •  Operating leases are capitalized and counted as debt, and preferred shares and minority interest are counted in equity to get a complete picture of the company’s leverage.
  • Degree of Financial Leverage = [% Change in EPS] / [% Change in EBIT]
    •  EPS = (Net) Earnings Per Share
    •  EBIT = Earnings Before Interest and Taxes (generally, operating earnings)
    •  Measures the sensitivity of EPS to operating earnings, which is affected by the use of leverage.
  •  Debt to EBITDA = [Total Debt] / EBITDA
    •  EBITDA = Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization
    •  EBITDA is a measure of cash generated by the business which is available to pay the debt servicing requirements.
    •  Banks often use this measurement (and set specific targets) in the loan agreement (called covenants) with the company.
    • The higher this ratio, the greater the risk to the lender. So it is watched and is important in banking.

LIQUIDITY RATIOS:

  •  Quick Ratio = [Cash + A/R + Marketable Securities] / [Current Liabilities]
    •  Measures a company’s most liquid position. Used to evaluate the company’s ability to quickly pay off any and all its current bills. Its also known as the “Acid Test” and provides a general indicator of how well the company is prepared to service its operating needs.
    • A ratio of 1.0+ is considered healthy. However, too much in Accounts Receivables (A/R) could artificially bump up this ratio. If a lot of that A/R is with a few customers, there could still be problems to liquidity if certain customers delay their payments to the company. SO the “age” and payment terms of the receivables should be considered as well when determining what a healthy Quick Ration might be for the company.

 

 

Baby Steps: The Benefit of Micro Savings

A while ago, I read something that really struck me. It was about a comedian, W.C. Fields. He was a successful guy but he lived during the Great Depression and, it seems, was very concerned about saving a few bucks whenever he could. A sensible thing. And of course, one learned the hard way during the worst of economic times.

W.C. toured many cities and towns with his comedy act. And everywhere he went, he would open bank accounts to deposit his earnings, so that he always had some money handy no matter where he was. Of course, there was a problem after a while –  keeping track of where the cash was. It is said that when he died, there were a bunch of these accounts scattered around the country abandoned.

Well, that is what the Great Depression can do to you I suppose. You can never have enough cash stashed to feel a little secure.

If W.C. was alive today, he would surely love how easy it is to set up savings accounts and keep track of them – all from your phone!

I think I have that ‘insecurity’ gene that W.C. carried. I feel the constant need to put a few bucks away. For emergencies or unexpected needs.

So I have really embraced some of these financial services (banks, brokers, funds) that allow you to start with any amount (spare change really) to open an account, and then have regular deposits automatically pulled from your bank account – all before you see it or spend it.

I’m a firm believer it the ‘out of sight-out of mind’ approach to saving. So these services have allowed me to set up what I call little micro-accounts, all drawing little amounts out of my bank account, weekly and/or monthly. Its truly painless and I don’t even miss the money I’m saving because I set the amounts so low and it all happens automatically.

In short order, these accounts are now beginning to grow, which gives me further incentive to continue, or even increase these little savings programs.

The services I am using for this purpose are:

  •  Acorns. This service rounds-up to the next dollar all transaction activity in my bank account, and invests this spare change into a stock fund. So, for example, when I buy groceries and the charge is $34.75, Acorns with take $0.25 and move it into my little savings account with them. All they do is round up all my spending and save the difference for me automatically.
  •  Robinhood. This service allows me to buy stock with money I deposit in this account. No commissions too; except I suspect they take their cut from the price I pay for the stock. Anyway, I have been socking away a few dollars through an auto-deposit each week into this account, and buying stocks, even only 1 share, based on my own research, or impulse. I like this account because it allows me to but only a few shares so I can start to watch a stock before I really commit bigger amounts to it. And I must admit, I do occasional buy stocks on impulse, like LYFT after its IPO. Yikes! But at least the damage is contained.
  •  Marcus Bank (which is actually Goldman Sachs). This is a straight savings account which offers 2.15% (as of Aug. 1, 2019) interest on your savings. This is a better place to sock away my “safety net” money that leaving it in my regular bank with its 0.15% annual interest! So, again, I have set up a simply weekly automatic swept from my bank to this bank.

All three of these accounts were set up online and linked to my current bank account to pull out automatic investments and to draw back money should I need to. There are others, of course. These work for me for putting away money that might have been in a cookie jar in my kitchen. And, as I see the balances grow in these three accounts, it spurs me to add more and more savings to reach savings goals, which I continue to revise higher.

I think W.C. Fields would love this new way of saving.