First Drive: 2014 Corvette Stingray Convertible

Last summer I had the opportunity to drive the all-new 2014 Corvette Stingray on the backs roads of Monterey. It was a thrilling experience and you can read about my impressions of this amazing sports car here. The Corvette team more than met the challenge of creating the seventh-generation Corvette that would also be worthy of reviving the Stingray name. The new design is striking and the performance surpasses the already high standards achieved by the Corvette team.

With the removable hard top, any new Corvette owner can enjoy the experience of driving this great vehicle while enjoying the fresh air and beauty of the surrounding scenery. But the Corvette convertible makes that experience even more convenient of course, and I recently got to experience the thrill of driving this beast of a sports car with the top down in the mountains surrounding Palm Springs when we were invited to test drive the new convertible.

All convertibles are fun on a nice day, but the experience in the new Corvette Stingray is quite different when you consider the 455 horsepower engine with 460 lb.-ft. of torque. The Z51-equipped models are able to accelerate from 0-60 in 3.8 seconds, run the quarter-mile in 12 seconds at 119 mph, achieve 1.03g in cornering grip and stop from 60 mph in 107 feet. Factor in the incredible handling and the various drive modes, having the top down with this vehicle gives you quite an experience as you navigate the roads. I had a beautiful day in the area near Palm Springs and it was a challenge to keep my eyes on the road with the stunning scenery surrounding me.

The Corvette Stingray convertible features an all-new, fully electronic top that can be lowered remotely using the key fob. With the all-new folding mechanism the top can be lowered in just 21 seconds. For even more convenience, the top can also be opened or closed as you’re driving at speeds of up to 30 mph. I tested it at low speeds and it worked great. The Corvette is also pretty quiet when the top is up. The designers focused on luxury and comfort with this new model, and the thick fabric top, along with sound-absorbing padding and a glass rear window, contributes to a quiet cabin and premium appearance.

As you can see from the photos, this beautiful vehicle looks fantastic as a convertible with the top down. The profile view looks great along with views from all other angles. I also liked the Stingray’s signature “waterfall” design which brings the car’s exterior color into the interior in the valley between the seats.

The coupe and convertible share identical chassis tuning and performance technologies along with nearly-identical curb weights, as the only structural changes for the convertible model are limited to accommodations for the folding top and repositioned safety belt mounts. With the all-new aluminum frame structure, no structural reinforcements were needed in the convertible. You’ll sacrifice some cargo space in order the have the convenience of the convertible, and it costs $5,000 more than the coupe.
“An important goal for the team was to create a more intimate and connected driving experience for the new Corvette Stingray,” said Mike Bailey, chassis vehicle system engineer. “Because they share common chassis tuning, power-to-weight ratios and structural rigidity, the coupe and convertible feel almost identical behind the wheel.”

As I said when I reviewed the coupe, the Corvette team hit a home run with this new Stingray, and now with the convertible buyers have another great option to choose from along with the Z51 performance package. And it doesn’t end there. The Corvette team just unveiled the new 2015 Corvette ZO6 for those enthusiasts who want to take their track experiences to an even higher level. But for most buyers, the base Corvette or the Z51 will offer a driving experience that will far exceed their expectations.

  

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Movie Review: “Labor Day”

Starring
Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Gattlin Griffith, Clark Gregg, Tobey Maguire
Director
Jason Reitman

For a moment, it seemed like Jason Reitman could do no wrong, following up his excellent directorial debut, “Thank You for Smoking,” with one great movie after the next, and earning a quartet of Oscar nominations in the process. But even the best filmmakers are capable of making bad movies, and though “Labor Day” isn’t a complete failure, it’s the director’s weakest film by a country mile. Based on the 2009 novel by Joyce Maynard, the movie represents a major departure for Reitman, who’s made a name for himself telling stories with a dark comedic bite. That trademark humor isn’t present in “Labor Day,” instead replaced by the kind of gooey sentimentalism that you’d be more likely to find in a Nicholas Sparks adaptation, which leads me to wonder what Reitman was even thinking.

Set in a quaint New England town during Labor Day weekend in 1987, the film stars Kate Winslet as Adele, a shut-in single mother on the verge of a nervous breakdown. During a rare excursion outside to take her teenage son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) clothes shopping for the new school year, they’re approached by a wounded stranger named Frank (Josh Brolin), who takes Adele and Henry hostage and holes up in their rundown house with the intention of making a run for it at nightfall. A convicted murderer who escaped from the hospital while recovering from an emergency appendectomy, Frank insists that there’s more to the story, and as they spend more time with the supposedly dangerous fugitive, he turns out to be a pretty nice guy. So when Frank ends up staying the next day to do some repairs around the house, Adele and Henry don’t complain, and before long, he’s accepted as a part of the family, serving as a father figure to Henry and passionate lover to the fragile Adele.

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Car Review: 2014 Kia Forte EX

kia_forte_1

When a car company redesigns an already great-selling sedan, there’s a lot of pressure to get it right. The new 2014 Kia Forte EX sits on an all-new chassis that is longer, wider and lower than the previous-generation Forte, offering more room, performance and premium amenities than previous models. We had the chance to test drive the new Forte and came away with some of the following impressions.

EXTERIOR

The crimson red paint color on the skin of the Forte looked as good as just about any finish on a car in this class. With an aggressive stance, broad shoulders and a windshield rake that can only be described as sporty, the all-new Forte looks as good parked as it does at speed. Influenced by European sport sedan styling, the Forte’s modern aesthetics were born in California at Kia’s American Design Center in Irvine. Dramatically swept headlight lenses cut deeply into the front fenders and incorporate projector headlamps. LED positioning lights create distinct eyebrows, making the Forte instantly recognizable in a crowd. Gentle sculpting along the Forte’s lower flanks taper the sheet metal inward, affording the car a taut, nimble appearance without diminishing its road presence. Around back, the up-kicked fender line and trunk design, with its deep horizontal crease, lend width and charisma while allowing the complex curves of the tail lights to flow over the car’s haunches.

INTERIOR

Opening the wide doors reveals a cabin sculpted in organic curves. Gentle character lines evoke ripples radiating from a pebble dropped into a pond. The driver-centric cabin is canted 10 degrees and features high-quality materials and soft touch points. Large, easy-to-read instruments dominate the binnacle, and secondary controls fall easily to hand. The optional 4.2-inch color LCD screen nestled between the white-on-black gauges in the EX provides trip and ancillary vehicle information front and center to the driver. Tasteful chrome bezels ring the HVAC rotary knobs and the optional push-button start. Additional chrome accents, standard Bluetooth hands-free phone integration and power windows, mirrors and door locks enhance the all-new Forte’s premium feel. Optional leather seating trim, power sunroof, and dual-zone automatic climate control with rear seat vents and HID head lights take the Forte to new levels of sophistication. Although our test vehicle came with cloth seats and no sunroof, we were more than pleased with the quality of the materials and the fit and finish of the interior space. Speaking of space, the roominess is plenty and quite deceptive until one sits inside the 2014 Kia Forte EX.

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New Year’s Resolutions: Tools to Up Your Fashion Game in 2014

wingtip

The dawn of a New Year has a habit of shedding light on those parts of ourselves that we’d like to tweak and change. “A New Year, a new you:” a common mantra in support of creating and going after attainable New Year’s resolutions. Are you looking to dress the part of a new and improved version of yourself?

I am going to give you some tips on developing your style for the workplace without radically altering your look that will make keeping your New Year’s Resolution simple. The name of the game is accessorizing. Most men balk at the term, but accessories are one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to really polish off your style, and I know of a few essentials that you’ll be glad to have stowed in your arsenal.

Shoes

Surprisingly enough, shoes tend to be one of the first things women notice about a man. If you’re shuffling around in a beat up or scuffed pair of department store kickers, you’re drawing far too much negative attention to yourself. When it comes to dress shoes, stick to natural colors and patterns – you can’t go wrong with plain, laced up leather shoes in black, brown, or cordovan (burgundy). I prefer shoes without buckles, because I feel buckles limit the versatility of the shoe. To add some flare I like wing tips: think Mad Men style. High quality shoes do not necessarily have to be expensive. Consider shopping at places like Nordstrom Rack for great deals on designer shoes such as Johnston and Murphy Wingtip Oxfords for around $150.

Watches

The style of a man’s timepiece gives a brief but in-depth look at his personality, and a good watch makes a fine first impression. Trust me; watches are the one subtle accessory that will always get noticed. Not to mention, whereas other accessories will wear out and require replacing over time, a real high quality wristwatch will serve dutifully for a lifetime, after which it can be passed on as an heirloom. Even if you can’t afford to drop a few G’s on a timepiece, a watch at an entry level price will still make a great statement in the workplace.

A professional-looking watch should be understated and classic. I like watches where the dial matches the wrist band, but have seen many beautiful pieces with a leather strap and silver/stainless dial. It all comes down to personal preference. As a rule of thumb, stay away from brightly colored faces and straps – unless they are refined, elegant, and match your suit well. And unless you are in a high up executive position with a large company, a wristwatch in solid gold will make you look ridiculous. Stick to stainless steel and silver; rose gold for more casual work environments, and classic leathers.

While it is true that some entry-level watches from brands like Omega can cost upwards of $2,000, a good quality watch like Stuhrling from ShopHQ, will suit your purposes well and set you back only a few hundred dollars. A price frame between $300 and $1,000 usually implies that the pieces are mass-produced, but that’s not to say that they aren’t well made. In general, a watch made in Switzerland, Japan, or the USA can be trusted to be of higher quality and good value.

Tie

There are many distinct ways to wear a tie – numerous tie variations, knots, sizes, and diverse situations in which a tie could be worn – that giving general tie advice is the best course of action here. First, make sure you are able to tie multiple knots, from half Windsor to Full Windsor to a Shelby knot. The best way to learn is have someone who knows teach you, or watch YouTube videos and practice. A few general guidelines for dressing with a tie at the office:

1) Do not wear loud colored ties to work or, more importantly, a job interview, and stay away from bright reds exclusively.
a. Bright, obnoxious ties in general are just annoying; it is better to wear a subtle tie that will get you taken seriously.
2) Do not wear novelty ties. Ever.
3) Ties should fall to just above the beltline, no shorter or further.
4) The tie should not match the shirt’s color exactly. Experiment with contrasting colors that go well together, like black and white, or patterned button-up where the tie’s color can be found in the shirt’s details.

As with other accessories, creating a stylish wardrobe shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. In reality, a $200 Armani tie will not function better than a $50 Donald Trump tie from Macy’s. I have had great luck in scoring some really nice ties from thrift stores for under $5!

Pocket Squares

Pocket squares aren’t for everyone, but maybe that is because not everyone is capable of pulling them off. Your pocket square should carry a color from either your shirt or tie, but not both. As with a neck tie, there are multiple ways to fold the fabric, including the Straight Fold, One Corner Fold, and Puff Fold, all of which are incredibly straightforward and can be demonstrated on Youtube. Again, cost hardly depicts the quality of a pocket square; go for one that is a stunning match to your suit, not one that boasts a designer label. If you really want to save money, you can even try making your own. This way, you get to select the fabric that best complements your suit shirt or tie.

Fountain Pen

My personal favorite accessory is one that can really set you apart from the crowd: a good fountain pen. Nearly every time I bust out my pen to sign a receipt or write a note, I get compliments and questions. It is a great conversation starter, especially as most people have never even seen a fountain pen! Like watches, fountain pens can be very pricey – some Mont Blanc fountain pens cost over $3,000, and fine heirloom quality pens are abundant around a price point of $500-1,000. Most pens in the $500 and up price range will have at least a 14K gold nib; that being said, an impressive-looking pen with a stainless steel nib, like the Cross brand at Office Depot, can be had for as low as $50 at most office supply stores. Though stainless steel nibs do not write as well as gold nibs, the stainless steel nib does write much better than an everyday roller ball or gel pen.

Take your look to a new level this year by adding some subtle accessories that will set you apart in the workforce and show a little bit more of your personality. Use these guidelines as a starting point as you develop your own tastes and preferences. If you have suggestions on where to get high quality pieces or if you know of lesser known brands, leave a comment!

  

Blu Tuesday: Captain Phillips, Blue Jasmine and More

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on Facebook and Twitter with your friends.

“Captain Phillips”

WHAT: While on a routine trip around the Horn of Africa, Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) orders his crew to practice prevention tactics against possible hijackers, only for the drill to become a real-world situation when a group of Somali pirates (led by Barkhad Abdi) boards the commercial freighter and takes Phillips hostage.

WHY: Based on the incredible true story of the 2009 hijacking of an American-flagged cargo ship, “Captain Phillips” is a gripping hostage thriller that boasts some of the year’s finest performances. Director Paul Greengrass has a knack for dramatizing real-life events (as evidenced in “Bloody Sunday” and the excellent “United 93”), and that success continues here, throwing the audience right into the middle of the action docudrama-style in order to best capture the intensity of the situation. But while Greengrass excels at creating a sense of claustrophobic tension (especially once the story moves into the lifeboat, where he really ratchets up the suspense), it’s the acting that makes “Captain Phillips” work as well as it does. Barkhad Abdi is particularly impressive as the leader of the pirates, while Tom Hanks delivers his strongest performance in over a decade in the title role. The final five minutes alone pack such an emotional wallop that it should have guaranteed him another Oscar nomination, and his work throughout is a stark reminder why he’s one of the best actors in the business.

EXTRAS: In addition to an excellent audio commentary by director Paul Greengrass, there’s a three-part featurette running just under an hour long that tells you pretty much everything you’d want to know about the making of the movie.

FINAL VERDICT: BUY

“Blue Jasmine”

WHAT: When her husband (Alec Baldwin) is arrested for investment fraud, New York socialite Jasmine French (Cate Blanchett) is forced to give up her glamorous lifestyle and go stay with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco. Mentally unstable and on a steady diet of booze and prescription drugs, Jasmine attempts to put her life back together, with disastrous results.

WHY: Woody Allen is one of the most prolific filmmakers in history, but it’s hard to maintain any level of quality with that sort of productivity, and moviegoers have witnessed the hit-and-miss nature of the director’s work first-hand over the past two decades. “Blue Jasmine” falls somewhere in between, mainly because it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be: a biting dark comedy or a drama. A modern-day retooling of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” the movie has its share of laughs in the opening act, but it gets darker by the minute, especially since Blanchett’s character is more of a schizophrenic than the typical Allenesque neurotic. The problem with that, of course, is that Jasmine is a lot less likable as a result, and though the actress turns in a mostly good performance, it borders on parody at times. In fact, there aren’t many characters in the movie that are very likable, and that’s the biggest obstacle standing in the way of “Blue Jasmine” being as great as it could have been.

EXTRAS: Woody Allen movies are always light on bonus material, and this one is no different. Apart from a press conference featuring actors Cate Blanchett, Peter Sarsgaard and Andrew Dice Clay, there’s a brief collection of red carpet interviews.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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