Monday, June 24, 2013

L.A. Fitness deal: $34.99 a month and no initiation

Visitors to my blog are reporting success in getting a good online deal at L.A. Fitness $34.99 a month and zero initiation fee. True, that's not as good a deal as before   $29.99/zero initiation but it looks like L.A. Fitness doesn't offer that anymore.
Update on this topic: Want a deal on joining L.A. Fitness? Call Paul
Important update: See "How to Save Money Joining L.A. Fitness"

Here's what to do to get this deal:

Go to the L.A. Fitness "Friends and Family" page.  You may find that this link only takes you to the L.A. Fitness home page. So you have to trick them a little bit.  At the L.A. Fitness home page, look for a "Join Online Today" ad to appear (it's one of the scrolling ads). Click on it. On the next page, you'll see a button that says "Join Now." Click on that.

You should then be looking at a page that says "Join Now Online" and "Find by State or Zip Code." At that point, come back  to this article and click on the "Friends and Family" link again. This should take you to the page where you enter a code.

As of Sept. 5, 2013, these codes work:




As of Aug. 2, 2013, these codes work:




If none of those work, try some other numbers in the sequence. Also check the comments below, my other pages, here and here, where helpful readers are posting tips all the time.

Keep in mind that L.A. Fitness sometimes offers other deals at its clubs, so you might want to see what they're offering. If they can't beat $34.99 a month and no initiation, come back here.

Update: See my post "How to get $29.99 per month and no initiation fee at L.A. Fitness"


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Movie review: "The Grey"

Marooned in the frozen Alaska wilderness, punished by a raging blizzard, and surrounded by a vicious pack of hungry wolves, a group of men have the same thought:

"Where's Bear Gryllis when you need him?"

OK, maybe they didn't think that. But I did, as I watched "The Grey," the 2011 movie starring Liam Neeson. This is an intense survival story, and if you're like me, you put yourselves in the characters shoes and wonder, "What would I do in this situtation?" And what would Gryllis, host of Discovery Channel's "Man vs. Wild," do?

"The Grey" isn't a great movie, but it's still good entertainment, especially if you like survival stories. The plot keeps you engaged throughout and has a fair share of surprises.

The story involves a group of oil workers whose plane crashes somewhere in Alaska. Most on the flight are killed, but seven survive, including Neeson's character, John Ottway, who becomes the group's de facto leader.

Things look bad for the group, especially when one of them is soon eaten by wolves. But they manage to make it even worse by squabbling and fighting among themselves.

Some of the men in the group are irritated by the way Ottway takes command, and so was I. Sure, he's the most capable and level-headed of the group, but he has a habit of spitting out directives ("We figure out which way is south and then start walking") without the slightest discussion. Maybe, just maybe, someone else might have a good idea?

Fortunately, we're distracted from Neeson's leadership qualities by getting the chance to hate the designated loudmouth jerk in the group, Diaz, played nicely by Frank Grillo.

Director Joe Carnahan is going for deeper meanings here, as Ottway muses on the nature of life, death and lost love, but I'm not sure it's needed. There's plenty of drama in a pack of blood-thirsty wolves circling your campsite.

Spoiler alert! I'm going to discuss the ending below.

There are two elements in the ending that bugged me.

Near the end, Ottway and another man end up in a river together and the other man dies in a way that's awfully similar to a scene in "Sometimes a Great Notion." I'm not sure if the writers really stole the idea, but it struck me as so similar that it disengaged me from the action.

Ottway then leaves this Alaskan river where the water is certainly close to freezing his clothes soaking wet. Anyone who has ever watched "Man vs. Wild" knows what he has to do immediately strip off his wet clothes and build a fire, or he will certainly freeze to death. But he doesn't, and what's worse, he's not even shivering. 


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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Movie review: "The Dictator"

Torture. Terrorism. Rape. Decapitation.

What? You don't find that stuff funny?

These are just some of the topics for jokes in Sasha Baron Cohen's 2012 comedy, "The Dictator," an over-the-top film that fires its comics grenades so widely it's hard to imagine that you won't find some part of the movie tasteless or offensive.
Sasha Baron Cohen as "The Dictator"

But that doesn't mean it's a bad movie.

Parts of "The Dictator" are extremely clever and funny. One of the best is a scenic helicopter tour in which two characters (Cohen and Jason Mantzoukas) from the fictional African country of Wadiya trigger a New York City terrorism scare after inadvertently mentioning perilous words "Porsche 9-eleven,"  for instance in their foreign language conversation.

The plot centers on the despotic leader of Wadiya, played by Cohen, who comes to New York City, loses his trademark beard and suddenly find himself an average powerless person. The rest of the story follows him falling in love with feminist store manager Zoey (Anna Farris) and trying to get his power back. It's not a deep plot, but it keeps things moving.

"The Dictator" probably has the funniest torture scene you're not going to hear that phrase very often you'll find at the movies. Tied and bound, Cohen's character manages to frustrate his tormentor by pointing out that his torture tools have all been eclipsed by newer models.

On the offensiveness front, there's jokes targeted at nearly everyone Jews, blacks, feminists, vegans, lesbians, Arabs, TV news hosts, and well, all of America. (Now that I think of it, there are no Mexican jokes. What's the deal, Sasha??)

Some of these jokes hit the mark, others miss so badly you might want to leave the room. There are cringe-inducing scenes involving a cellphone in a woman's uterus and the dictator's discovery of masturbation.

The question becomes: Are you willing to endure the bad stuff to get the good stuff?


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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Movie review: "End of Watch"

Anybody remember "Adam-12"?  In that 1970s TV police drama, officers Reed and Malloy patrolled the mean mild streets of Los Angeles, politely settling disputes between spouses and neighbors, and outsmarting crooks while rarely firing a shot. And they did it all without a whiff of profanity by anyone.

"End of Watch" is the same idea -- two buddy cops fighting crime in LA.. -- except there's about 10 times the violence, 20 times the blood and 300 times the f-bombs.
Jake Gyllenaal and Michael Pena in "End of Watch"

This 2012 movie, directed and written by David Ayer, is a gritty, impassioned look at officers Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) as they try seemingly single-handedly to shut down the gangs and drug cartels of South Los Angeles.

In the world of Taylor and Zavala, even routine traffic stops or a seemingly benign visit to the home of an elderly woman turn into life-or-death drama. Is every house in South Los Angeles filled with drugs, bodies or a deeply disturbed criminal?  You would think so from this movie.

Ayer accentuates the realism of his scenes by choosing to show some of the action from the perspective of video shot by the participant, giving the film a semi-documentary feel.

It's an engaging and dramatic story, and Gyllenhaal and Zavala are terrific in the lead roles.  For a movie with so much action, the dialog is surprisingly important and Ayer's script succeeds in building a believable relationship between the two officers.

Still, the movie follows a familiar story arc, and you can see the ending coming a long way off.

Also, amid the flying bullets and obscenities, it gets hard to discern the point. Is "End of Watch" simply a portrait of two cocky but all-too-human policemen? Or are the filmmakers making a broader point about the hard work of law enforcement officers everywhere? Or is the film intended as a way to shed light on a criminal cesspool in South Los Angeles?

A movie like this that attempts to capture "reality" leaves me with some questions:

Do Los Angeles Police officers stick together as partners for years at a time? Seriously, I would like to know. I would think that they occasionally rotate who they patrol with, but in this movie Taylor and Zavala are always by each other's side.

How often, really, do officers in this neighborhood become involved in a violent situation?  How often do they shoot their guns?

Are the drug gang members of L.A. really such bad shots?


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