Sunday, May 31, 2009

Note To Blogger And Google: Human Customers Deserve Human Support

When I was introduced to Google's Blogger, I thought it was a wonderful site: easy to use, convenient, reputable. Then two days ago a received a rude awakening. The following message from Blogger popped up when I tried to access my blog:

"Possible Blogger Terms of Service Violations
This blog is currently under review due to possible Blogger Terms of Service violations.
If you're a regular reader of this blog and are confident that the content is appropriate, feel free to click "Proceed" to proceed to the blog. We apologize for the inconvenience.
If you're an author of this blog, please follow the instructions on your dashboard for removing this warning page."

I soon discovered that Blogger had mistakenly flagged my account as a possible spam blog. At first, I just laughed. But once I learned that Blogger does not provide its customers easy and direct access to human support, I stopped laughing.

As I understand it, Blogger is part of the Google family. However, when I tried to contact Google customer support to find out why my simple, little blog had incurred their wrath, I discovered that Google, like Blogger, seems to have little interest in hearing directly from its customers.

Why else would they hide behind this blanket statement:

"Need to contact our support team? We provide email support for specific issues that may prevent you from accessing your account. Listed below are troubleshooting suggestions that may help you quickly resolve your problem. If your problem persists, and there are other possible solutions we can offer, you'll be able to report the issue to our support team. While we do read each email, you'll only hear from us (generally within a few days) if we need more information from you."

Notice the part about "you'll be able to report the issue to our support team". Really? How exactly are customers supposed to report their problems when Google does not offer a phone number for customer support? Google does not even offer an e-mail address for support issues. At least, not one that I could find after nearly an hour-long search.

So, while I've spent a considerable amount of time over the last 5 days writing articles for my new blog and putting the word out to people who might want to follow said blog, Google's Blogger has sabotaged my efforts by plastered a huge WARNING notice on my front door. Why would a company like Google go to such extremes, tarnishing the reputation of the innocent, without providing measures by which customers can seek an immediate reconciliation?

I think I present fair questions. Unfortunately, I am forced to post them here, on my blog, rather than give them to Blogger or Google directly. I guess Blogger and Google prefer generic and automated help- topics over a live support team that would actually aid customers.

Well friends, while I had hoped to use this service to bring you movie reviews and various musings, I will be forced to close up shop and go somewhere else. Somewhere that actually provides person-to-person support, especially on issues that falsely accuse members of being possible violators in front of the entire web community.

I can't help but feel that Blogger and Google are abusing the automated help features which have been implemented in the guise of offering "faster service". I fear they are really in place to cut costs and avoid having to deal with customers directly. It is a cowardly and obnoxious way of conducting business.

In the end, I am just a small fish and Google is a mighty cyber-empire. But like Rome, all empires crumble- not from a lack of leadership or savvy infrastructure, but by losing touch with the individuals who roam within its walls.

For the record, I understand that mistakes happen. I am glad that Blogger and Google take spam seriously and have set measures in place to try and stop spammers. But what I can not abide is the fact that they have made it so difficult to get real help for real problems. Supplying a list of generic help topics is not sufficient. It is give up.

In the past two days there is no telling how much damage Blogger's warning has done to my reputation, or how many perspective followers turned away for fear that The Teague Report is a spam blog.

Sure, to an extent I can manage damage control by contacting my family and friends and letting them know about Blogger's awful mistake. But what about the link I published on another movie forum? I have no way of knowing how many people tried to access my blog only to turn away for fear that I was a dreaded spammer. Most people do not give blogs that have the potential of being spam a second chance. This is why I am so angry. This is why I am abandoning Blogger and why I will do everything possible to let people know my story so that they do not fall prey to the same shabby treatment.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Movie Review: Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

As far as family films go, they don't come bigger or more packed with star power than Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (Is there a marquee in the world that can fit that title?).

I found this sequel far more exciting and enjoyable than the original. I do miss the lovable Micky Rooney and Dick Van Dyke. Such a shame the producers did not find roles for these two legends.

That said, NATM2 has so many fun and wild characters as to please even the most cynical viewer. Ben Stiller leads the cast as night guard Larry Daley and is charismatic as ever. Hank Azaria plays the lead villain, Kahmunrah, with scenery-chewing delight. Robin Williams and Owen Wilson reprise their characters, Teddy Roosevelt and Jededia Smith, from the first film.

However, the show-stealing performance by Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart is earns this installment its must-see status. Adams is at once endearing and unforgettable as the dynamite, speak-easy spoken heroine.

From start to finish NATM2 earns its wings as one of the few sequels to far surpass its predecessor.


Movie Review: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is an entertaining, exciting film that delivers in telling the origin story of Hugh Jackman's ill-tempered, fast-healing alter-ego.

Gavin Hood steps in to direct this 4th installment of the 20th Century Fox lucrative franchise. He manages to infuse the action with great character-driven moments. Through his expert eye we get a picture that delves into Wolverine's past from point at which he is a small boy, to the point leading up to the events of the first X-Men picture.

Jackman carries the entire picture upon his chiseled soldiers and he is more than up to the task. This is a man who takes his fanbase seriously and gives every once of himself to craft as compelling a comic book hero as has ever graced the silver screen.

Liev Schreiber plays Wolverine's nemesis and half-brother, Sabertooth. Schreiber rattles the screen with unabashed menace. He has a real presence and provides our hero a worthy adversary. Schreiber, like Jackman is brilliant in every role I've ever seen him play, and continues that tradition here.

Gavin's feat of summer fun is made more extraordinary when you consider he and the writers were tied to the events of three previous films. Gavin smartly stays in line with the mythology laid down by Bryan Singer in X1 and X2. While some fans are bound to cry foul over the fact that this film was not a direct adaptation of the comic book Weapon X, it must be pointed out that the film series exists in its own universe, independent of the events found in the pages Marvel's magazines.

XO:W stands tall in a month that has brought us Star Trek and Terminator Salvation. This is shaping up to be a great summer at the cineplex!


Movie Review: Angels and Demons

Angels & Demons Should Be Exorcised. This film is a huge letdown plain and simple. Tom Hanks seemed to be woefully underutilized for a man of his talents. The script was bland, lackluster, and passable only as a poor, Lifetime Channel melodramatic wannabe. There was no suspense beyond that which would barely captivate a 12 year old. The pacing was sluggish in a film that was already a belt-busting bloater.

This is the first Ron Howard film that I haven't liked. Howard is usually at the head of the class when it comes to suspense, pacing, and compelling characterizations. As much as it pains me to say, this film did not live up to the talent involved.

I cannot recall the last time I was so displeased with a film. All I can say is you have been warned. This is rental fair at best, and then only if there is absolutely no other form of entertainment available.


It's Pixar's World, We Just Watch It

November 22, 1995- I remember sitting in an AMC theatre off Richie Rd in Houston, TX and watching Toy Story. What an amazing experience. Who could have guessed the success and pure magic that would follow this flawless debut? But here were are, 14 years and 10 films later, and not one misstep in the bunch! To honor Pixar's monumental achievements in digital cinematic history, I'd like to hop into Uncle Rico's time machine and revisit all 10 films of Pixar pixel perfection:

1. Toy Story (1995)- The 1st and still my favorite.

2. A Bug's Life (1998)- An inventive retelling of Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai but with bugs instead of bandits.

3. Toy Story 2 (1999)- A rare sequel that is as good, if not better than the first adventure. With the smashing success this film enjoyed, it is hard to believe Disney wanted to slap it out as a cash-grab direct-to-video sequel like Aladdin 2 or Cinderella III (poor Uncle Walt, how far your company has fallen from your ideals).

4. Monsters Inc. (2001)- If I had to pick my least favorite of the bunch, this would be it. However, it is still superior to any animated fare put out at the time.

5. Finding Nemo (2003)- Easily one of the greatest animated films of all time. In fact, FN is one of the best films period.

6. The Incredibles (2004)- Forget Batman, Superman, and Spidey- This is the best comicbook hero film of all-time. Absolutely amazing and far better than 95% of its live-action peers.
yep, I'm staring at you Fantastic Four!

7. Cars (2006)- Ties with Monsters Inc. as my least favorite Pixar gem, but a diamond in the rough nonetheless.

8. Ratatouille (2007)- A cinematic feast! My compliments to the pixel chefs!

9. Wall-E (2008)- I appreciated this one a lot more the second time around. This film proves that Pixar is always ahead of the curve. Outstanding.

10. Up (2009)- As I said in my review, another instant classic. Ed Asner is such an incredible actor!
It is inevitable that one day, when the original brain trust passes on, Pixar will fall into less capable hands who will trade on the Pixar name for mega profits. It happened to Disney, it will happen to their newest acquisition. But until the day that shareholder interests demand a direct-to-DVD Wall-E 2.0 and Toy Stories: Toy Story 5, I will rush to my local megaplex and watch each new Pixar classic with kid-like enthusiasm!

As a matter of fact, I have seen every Pixar film in the movie theatre and I will continue to do so until the day I die (and even then I'll do my best to earn a day-pass from the great beyond!).


Movie Review: Drag Me To Hell

Sam Raimi has returned to his horror roots with Drag Me To Hell and I proudly give his latest effort 5 pitchforks.

No one but Sam can make a horror film that is both outrageously fun and bone-chilling scary. The man knows how to fashion a tight scare-fest while developing characters an audience can care for and identify with.

This particular tale revolves around a good-hearted and good-looking loan officer who incurs the wrath of an old gypsy woman.

Horror, like comedy is best served in the dark, both figuratively and literally, so I will shut up and step aside so you can get in line and buy your ticket!


Movie Review: Up

Up, Pixar's 10th feature film is yet another instant classic from the studio that has maintained a straight A average since 1995 when they introduced Toy Story, the first full-length digitally animated film.

Up is a masterwork that tells the story of an old man who refuses to let his dreams pass him by. The adventure that ensues as he tries to fulfill a promise to his late wife is all at once funny, emotional, and thrilling.

While other animated studios rely on low-brow humor and worn out sight gags to draw in audiences, Pixar simply strives to tell tales of substance. Every pixel on screen is packed with imagination and intelligence.

Up continues Pixar's tradition of quality storytelling where original ideas meets strong character development. You never get the feeling that you are watching a product of stunt casting or a checklist of executive demands predicated on toy sales. Up has a talented cast made up of legendary talenta like Ed Asner (voicing lead character Carl Fredricksen) and Christopher Plummer (voicing the dashing adventurer, Charles Muntz), mixed with lesser known, but exceptional talent like Jordan Nagai (voicing Carl's boy sidekick Russell). It is clear that Pixar understands that it is the voice talent, not the actor's star power that makes for memorable characters.

Pixar has developed such a fabulous reputation that I wonder if the public even bothers to read reviews on their movies. Nevertheless, this reviewer is proud to proclaim, "Two thumbs UP!" for Pixar's latest masterpiece.

Tonight I Looked Up Then Got Dragged To Hell

Just a quick note to say that I spent Friday night, 5/29/09, watching Up in 3-D and Drag Me To Hell.

I will do full reviews of both films tomorrow, but I just wanted to drop a quick recommendation for both films which were fantastic- Up is another Pixar instant classic, while Drag Me To Hell is the best horror film I've seen in 10 years.

Run, don't walk to your nearest cinema and see these fun flicks!


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Movie Review 2.0: Star Trek

Because some movies are so awesome that one review just isn't enough, I give you the birth of the review sequel- Movie Review 2.0:

Star Trek is back and it is better than ever. J.J. Abrams has delivered a crackerjack adventure that details the origins of Captain Kirk, Spock, and their fellow crew members who boarded the original Starship Enterprise.

This is the summer popcorn movie/blockbuster extravaganza at its best. Every aspect of Star Trek works amazingly well from script to cast to crew. It's all here. And this movie was lovingly made for non-fans and uber-fans alike. You don't need any prior knowledge of the franchise to enjoy this film. Still, there are plenty of gifts waiting for Trek fans.

Personally, STAR TREK is my pick for Best Film 2009. How dare I make such a claim so early in the year? Well, some movies are just so well made that you can recommend them to anyone, at any age group, and with the utmost confidence that a great time will be had by all. Star Trek is one of those rare movies. Trust me, you won't see another perfect crowd-pleaser like this for a long, long time, possibly even in a galaxy far, far away!


Movie Review: Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past was not a movie I rushed out to see on opening weekend. In fact, there were only two reasons it was even on my radar:

1. The supernatural element of the story
2. Michael Douglas

What I originally thought would be a merely passable, if not forgettable, entry in the chick-flick genre turned out to be a great and memorable tale that even left me teary-eyed by the end.

I'm not sure if being a child of the 80's is essential to fully appreciate this gem, but as I am a proud 80's baby, I thoroughly enjoyed the filmmakers nod to the Fun-Decade.

I really have nothing more to add except to say that I highly recommend GOGP to anyone looking for a humorous, romantic, and touching night at the cinema.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Movie Review: Star Trek

I was lucky enough to get to see an early screening of Star Trek on April 23, 2009. I had to sign a waiver promising not to review the movie online prior to its official release date on May 8,2009 (it actually opened at 7:00 PM on May 7). So, I sat on my hands for two weeks, patiently waiting for the day I could revisit this masterpiece of popcorn cinema. As of today, May 28, 2009, I have seen Star Trek three times and I can't wait to pay it a 4th visit. It is movies like J.J. Abrams Star Trek that makes me so passionate about cinema. Not only is this film an excellent rebirth of a legendary TV and film franchise, it is silver screen storytelling at its finest.

Every aspect of Star Trek- the script, direction, cast, costumes, set design, special effects, music- is sheer perfection. As a writer I am in awe over the never-a-wasted-moment craftsmanship utilized by the film's writers, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman.

Ultimately, the legacy of this film will not be any of the virtues you see on screen. Rather, film historians will note that Star Trek was able to pull in fans and non-fans alike. Yes, dear reader, you do not have to understand one tiny bit of Trek lore to enjoy this film. Of course, if you are a long-time fan, you will be rewarded in many wonderful ways.

I will close by saying this about Star Trek: It is not only the best movie I have seen this year, it is the best movie I have seen in many, many years.

May this new iteration of Captain Kirk and crew live long and prosper.


Movie Review: Terminator Salvation

This is my first posted review on TTR, so let me start off by saying you will NEVER find a single spoiler in any of my movie reviews. I think any reviewer worth his or her salt should be creative and intelligent enough to discuss the merits/mistakes of a movie without giving away plot details. With that said, here we go:

Terminator Salvation is an action-packed, thrill-ride sequel that respects the past while boldly taking the franchise where it has needed to go for some time now- The future!

McG shows skillful restraint in this A+ Summer blockbuster, and the story is better for it. Refraining from using the once trendy, now nauseating shaky-cam/quick-edits mash-up which mires most action films today, McG has fashioned a credible addition to the franchise. One that tonally matches the first trilogy.

TS is not a masterpiece nor should it be. That heavy lifting was successfully completed years ago by series creator and legendary director, James Cameron. No one will ever be able to duplicate or surpass the achievements of T1 and T2. But just because Cameron abandoned his Terminator universe doesn't mean other skilled storytellers like Jonathan Mostow and McG should be denied entrance into such a fertile playground.

I for one am grateful that someone had the guts to give the fans what James Cameron only teased them with: The actual war between man and the machines! Bravo, McG. I hope you'll be back to bring us parts 5 and 6 very soon.

Hurry Up And Wait

Last night, as I was on the road in search of fast-food treasure, I found myself at a traffic light that preceded an overpass. Its steep incline made my inner-child shout, "I wanna be king of the mountain!".

Being no stranger to this particular stretch of road, I knew what awaited me on the other side of this "mountain" was yet another red traffic light. So, I decided to go easy on my little 4-cylinder chariot and slowly make my way up and over. The driver behind me did not appreciate my strategy. Were I proficient in speaking Horn, I surely would have blushed at the expletives laced within the high-pitched battle cry of my latest bumper-buddy.

The offended driver swerved into the next lane and sped around me. The crimson glow that washed over the seething driver, as he waited at the next light, afforded me a glimpse of a 20-something white male steeped in unbridled contempt for my lethargic pace. This got me thinking:

Are we, as a society, in a rush to hurry up and wait? Is the unknown so unbearable to our NOW-centric brains that we feel compelled to reach every "red light" in our daily lives with utmost haste? Or, is this simply yet another example of cumulative frustration being vented on the open road?

I am not innocent. I have had my share of traffic violations, some cited, most not. I am fully prepared to admit that I experience fits of road rage from time-to-time (is it really so difficult to use a blinker?) and those times seem to increase as I get older. But I have never persecuted slow-starters at traffic lights, nor do I tailgate those who choose to drive the speed limit. In fact, the only time the word, "rush" pops into my consciousness as being a positive is while listening to the tune, "Tom Sawyer" on the radio.

Oh, well, I guess I should end this rant and embark on my latest hunt for fast-food booty!



Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Beginning

As the title of this first post suggests, I am a newbie to the world of Blogging.

Apparently I went into an analog coma at some point and woke to find myself living in a world where every living human being with access to electricity and a keyboard suddenly had a voice. Not just a voice, but a global-reaching pulpit!

So, here I am, World! I look forward to sharing my views on everything from entertainment to the wonderfully bizarre mine field most call the human condition. I will expound upon my successes and failures as I continue on this madcap journey through adulthood in the chosen guise of actor/writer.

I've never been comfortable giving others advice as I feel I have so much to learn myself. I am religious and I do vote in elections from time-to-time, but you will scarcely read a word on this forum regarding religion or politics. I find these subjects are deeply rooted in individualistic privacy, and I have no desire to debate what others choose to or not to believe.

No, my friends, this is the TEAGUE report. And as that heading suggests, I will focus on my life and the misadventures contained within.

Feel free to drop by whenever you wish. The door is always open.