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Friday, December 19, 2014

The Good Guys Don’t Wear Badges (Part 3)

   
   The fact that I had to write a “Part 3” to this topic is extremely disheartening. I have always known, and spoke about, an element that exists within the police departments of America that has eroded trust and garnered fear when dealing with the public. To say the police are out of control is becoming an understatement. They seem to be operating by an entirely different set of standards, sanctioned by the powers that be, to enforce their will…regardless of the law.

  
   The narrative now is that they care nothing for the lives of young Black men. The truth is even worse…they care nothing about the lives of anyone under their authority. To frame this problem as solely a race issue is fallacious. Are there racist cops enforcing the law under by their own worldview? Of course. The recent outing of two Florida cops revealed to be members of the Ku Klux Klan is proof enough that this element still exists. So I really can’t blame anyone of color when they see the recent rash of deadly incompetence as merely an extension of a racist agenda carried out behind the badge. But we can also never forget Kelly Thomas and all the other non-Black victims of a police force gone wild.

   That said, the dominating stories of recent discussion are painting a picture that is tragic and inexcusable by nearly everyone’s standards (except, of course, the police).

  
   The death of Michael Brown is mired in controversy, even though there are people that refuse to acknowledge it. The basis of the controversy is the conflicting eyewitness testimony. The assumption of one side or the other being true is just that. Could there have been witnesses coerced into or racially motivated to supporting testimony of Darren Wilson? Sure. Could there have been witnesses willing to incriminate Wilson because he was not liked within the neighborhood he patrolled? Sure. While answers still come to light, one thing remains clear…the death of Brown and process that followed after, has not helped the public mistrust of police or the system that seemingly refuses to hold them accountable.

  
   The death of Eric Garner is a lot less controversial thanks to the reliable eyewitness testimony of video. Although people will still look at it and see different things (it’s just the nature of people), there is simply no question, in my mind, that a jury should have been deciding the issue…especially with a coroner’s ruling of death by homicide. In the current climate sweeping the country where the people wearing the badges are not seen as the good guys, I just don’t understand the blatant disregard for human life and equitable distribution of due process.

  
   The death of John Crawford III is another example of the blatant disregard law enforcement has for the lives taken under questionable circumstances. In this case there is a clear misrepresentation of Crawford from the very 911 call that brought the police into action. Video shows he was not threatening anyone with the gun. Further, if he had been the menace as described by the caller, with so many people in the store in periodic proximity to Crawford, there would likely have been multiple calls to 911. Where is the prosecution of Ronald Ritchie for this? Why is there no accounting for the difference in testimony with the video evidence by both Ritchie and the police? In an open carry state, why was this situation not handled in a manner that reflects this law? Too many question without adequate answers can only serve to inflame the unpopular narrative representing law enforcement. 

  
   The death of twelve year old Tamir Rice, again caught on video, is probably the most heinous of these incidents given the age of the victim and manner in which he was killed. Now that there is some back story to the cops involved (they were incompetent), it makes sense, but is no less tragic or excusable, the way it all unfolded. No lights and sirens from the cruiser. No warning by police from a safe distance to give Tamir a chance to comply. No common sense used at all by the police or by those charged with regulating them.

   Speaking of regulation, take note…then take action, against any legislature outlawing the filming of the police. There is absolutely no sane reason to prohibit the filming of police except to hide those instances where they abuse their authority. While some politicians might think prohibiting the gathering of evidence “solves” the problem, intelligent people know better.


  
   The question of racial motivation inducing the above referenced deaths is really not the issue. The issue is the “good guys” don’t seem to be all that good anymore and when their actions are questionable, nobody in a position of power is holding them accountable for the answers. If this is going to be the modus operandi of those charged with our safety, then it’s time to exercise some people power and make sure we are safe from those in charge.









Friday, November 28, 2014

Movie Review: “John Wick” 

    I am an ardent fan of the cinematic arts. Although I have certain genre preferences, I don’t let that stifle my curiosity and close myself to different flavors of entertainment. That said...I am a huge fan of science fiction, super hero and action movies! Please visit my other blog The Boxed Office for reviews, exclusively, on these types of movies.


The Cast: 

 
    I wouldn’t call this a comeback for Keanu Reeves (I’m not even of the opinion he needs one) but this is certainly a great start. His portrayal of John Wick brought me back to his “Matrix” days, sort of, with a touch of “Equilibrium” but without any of the science-fiction, just the guns blazing. There isn’t much range in the role, but there doesn’t need to be for what it was meant to deliver. From the beginning his character is revered as the most dangerous of the dangerous and Reeves makes sure he delivers every bit of this.

   
   Michael Nyqvist plays Viggo Tarasov, the local Russian (it’s always Russians these days) crime boss, enjoying the title because of the past efforts of Wick. Nyqvist does well in the role, although nothing outstanding revolves around his character, he plays the role well enough as far as Russian crime bosses go. He struck me more as being a man that simply had to do what was expected because of his position…and the fact he wanted his idiot son to keep living.

   The relationship between the two seemed more like predator versus prey…with the prey being much more powerful and dangerous than what one would expect of the station. In the end, neither actor detracted from the film and delivered good performances.


The Plot: 
   
   John Wick is an ex-hitman/enforcer that has gotten himself out of the life and into normal life like the rest of us. Either by fate or happenstance, his wife falls terminally ill and passes away, leaving Wick to ponder the empty hole her passing has left in his heart and grieve, ironically, with her help via the parting gift of a puppy.

   
   Just days after her passing, Wick is accosted by Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen, the perfect person for this role), Viggo’s son, over a car (1969 Mustang 429 Boss to be exact) he initially wanted to purchase from Wick, but after being denied a sale, decides to take it. No big deal, it’s just a car. The problem starts (for Iosef) when he decides to also kill the puppy (what idiot does this?). 

   
   After the deed is done, Iosef quickly learns he has made a huge mistake (culminating in leaving Wick alive). He has given Wick a focus to unleash all his rage revolving around his current circumstances while simultaneously taking away his only avenue to grieve his wife.

      Viggo, understanding exactly who Wick is and what he is capable of reaches out to try to divert the coming storm, but finds that some things just can’t be avoided. Pulling out all the stops and calling on all his resources, he prepares (as best he can) for the carnage that is sure to happen, all the while hoping that somehow Wick has lost his edge.

   What follows is an intense and insane display of focus and carnage through raging determination from the barrel of many guns.


The Verdict: 

   
   Understand, this is not a film designed to compete for the Oscars. This is a film designed to drop your jaw and say “holy crap” at all the different and efficient ways one man can kill many other men.

      That said, the script was simplistic and the film moved along very quickly and sustained a strong pace throughout. I personally would have enjoyed it a bit more if Wick really was as invincible as everyone believes he is, but I understand this small human element the writers injected in having him not be totally invincible and needing to improvise to reach his goals.

      Taking all that into account, this film still delivers the action it was supposed to and although the melee combat is not over-the-top like many other films similar to this, the gun choreography is absolutely top notch and had my eyes wide open. 

      The film boasts the talents of Willem Dafoe (as a friend of Wick and fellow hitman) and John Leguizamo (as the owner of a chop shop and the first to let everyone know what a mistake it was to rouse the sleeping Wick). Adrianne Palicki is, yet another, hitman…er hitwoman, trying to make a name for herself by eliminating Wick (she was surprisingly good in this role). Lastly we are treated to an appearance of Ian McShane as the owner of a hotel that is secretly (or publicly depending on what circles you run in) a safe haven for hitmen.

   Despite the simplistic script and story, this film had me riveted to the screen at all times in anticipation of what was going to happen next. I’m very glad I didn’t blink as this film killed four cinnamon sticks, out of five, in my cup of tea.

“Everyone keeps asking me if I’m back…yeah, I’m thinking I’m back!” - John Wick




Rating 4/5

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Together Forever: The Ultimate Relationship Question

   
   The very foundation of human existence hinges on our ability to pair off and procreate. However, that which sits foremost in our minds is not the scientific fact of perpetuating the species…that’s going to happen anyway. No, the burning question remains “Is there anybody out there…for me?”
  
   The answer of course is yes (I’m an optimist) but the question isn’t as simple as previously stated. Anybody can find someone for themselves…for a night (at the very least), but how many can find someone that will be with them for a lifetime? Call it the perfect person or soul mate if you must, but the absolute truth of what it really is…is work. I say that with absolute conviction and many reading this already know it to be true, regardless of the length of time you are with someone…if you’re serious about it, it’s work.
  
   We all hear the stories of couples that are together for 20, 30, 40, and 50 (or more) years, and think to ourselves how great that is while wondering how the heck they did it. After 26 years of being with the same woman (19 years of marriage), I’m not wondering anymore…I’m being asked to shed some light on how it’s done. Before I get into it though, let’s all understand that every relationship site, forum, and show will give you the exact same answers when it comes to maintaining a healthy and productive marriage (well, maybe not exactly the same, but close enough)…and all of them true. So then what really separates a couple for life from everyone else?

   I don’t know…when I get there, I’ll write another post, for now all I can say that doesn’t seem to be highlighted anywhere is that I have no doubt that every couple to see so many years of marriage till death does them part…has been through every relationship problem-issue-situation under the sun.
  
   I chuckle when I see these shows and they talk about spouses like clothes on an assembly line. If one doesn’t work out, just go out and get another one. I chuckle because that simply makes no sense to me to have that kind of attitude, but still be wondering why you can’t have a marriage that lasts a lifetime. It’s not simple, but understanding that people will always defer to their humanity, and thus make mistakes, is (imo) the first step in the right direction of a lasting marriage. If you’re going out to the “spouse rack” to change up every time something happens then you’re going to have a lasting relationship with that rack…or yourself when you finally get tired of the fitting room.

   Now would be a great time for me to shed some light on having a lasting relationship based off my personal experience…except, my personal experience isn’t going to help you in the slightest. This is always my answer and advice because what has worked for me is absolutely unique to who I am, who my spouse is…and how we have grown together.
  
   If I said there weren’t times that we didn’t want to be together, I’d be lying (and I won’t do that to you). However, it was in those times (note the plurality) we realized that more than not wanting to be together, we didn’t want to be apart. It seems today that kind of bond is getting lost within a generation that wants perfection now (not realizing that it’s a journey, not a destination) and sees the strong emotional attachment that energizes this bond as nothing more than a “thirst” that should be frowned on and ridiculed. Ok…but now tell me how your tenth relationship (this month) is working out for you?

   “Together forever” isn’t candy out of the sky, but if it were, it would include black licorice…and you would have to eat it along with all the other candy. The ultimate relationship question doesn’t have an answer, it has a commitment from you to do better everyday while understanding everyday is not going to be better.
  
   Is there a line you need to recognize that shouldn’t be crossed? Sure…you need to accept and understand when the one your with isn’t going to be with you. It’s not always easy to do that, especially considering you might be turning away from the very thing you have been searching for. Kirk Douglas has just celebrated sixty years of marriage…to his second wife. When asked how he did it he replied "I just told my wife, if you ever leave me, I'm going with you!" That’s cute, but trust me when I say there was much more to it than that.

   Trust me when I also say that his abbreviated answer is absolutely on the money…hitting the nail on the head. Now…marinate on that!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Black Friday: A Showcase of Insanity

   
   So.…I’m wondering how many people actually enjoy Thanksgiving when they plan on being out in the cold waiting in (or perhaps starting a) line to be the first into a store to shop? I mean, I get the hook…deep savings on items you want, but it seems not many understand the bait. I always say that human nature never ceases to amaze me, and the insanity of Black Friday is just another example of humans still in need of a little more evolution.
 
   The masses have been trained like obedient sheep to placate the corporate industry with their time and money. Too much? Ok, how about the pegs have been shaped perfectly to fit the wheels of corporate greed as they roll over the last vestiges of higher intellect? No? Well…no matter, like all things, there is more to Black Friday than meets the eye. Ok, maybe not…insane is as insane does.

   Firstly let’s take a gander at the “savings” (yes, I used “gander” in a sentence). Suppose you budget yourself for $500 and think that you can come home with everything you wanted, but with some of that money in your pocket. The good news will be that you got everything on your list for less than normally available. The bad news is your pockets are still empty because with all the savings, you didn’t stop at what you intended to get and came home with more than planned for.
  
   It’s not necessarily a bad thing, after all you’ve come back with more…stuff. However if, like a good gambler (and by good I mean bad), you went to the well for more funds because if not, this or that item you spotted won’t be there later for the same price…so you had to get it immediately. Insert hook…reel in human fish. Looking at your account on Reality Saturday reveals just how "black" Friday really was and how great the “savings” were.
  
   Secondly, let’s look at the cordial and respectful behavior Black Friday induces on the patrons. I mean, nothing says “Tis the season” like knocking over any and everyone in your path to get to what you want to buy. They really need to start making Hallmark cards with all the colorful and metaphoric language being thrown about. Nothing says Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas like a card that says “Get the f@#k outta my way!”
  
   Ok, sarcasm aside, Black Friday has become a huge event…bigger even than Thanksgiving. I remember as a child seeing all sorts of Thanksgiving decorations in the stores and about the city. Now I hardly see any. Instead we have Black Friday advertising everywhere you look (and in many places you don’t). I get that Black Friday is “sold” as some sort of great day for the customer…but even a little common sense will tell you that it’s an even greater day for the corporations. If it wasn’t profitable, it wouldn’t be so heinously advertised to the point of actually eclipsing Thanksgiving.
  
   Is it too much to imagine that Black Friday will become an official holiday in the future? Maybe…but there seems to be no hurdle corporate America can’t overcome as long as it’s a profitable jump. People are already finagling their way out of work to join the insanity. It’s the biggest subject for Thanksgiving, not being thankful for all you’ve been given. Heck…I bet if you asked people what they’re most thankful for they’ll say Black Friday.

  
   While I’m thinking about it…why is it called “Black” Friday anyway? Is it because it puts the companies in the black, instead of the red of low sales? Is it a subliminal remnant of white being good while black is bad? I think that now, it is a combination of both since the history of the name has now evolved into the reality of the day it is for both consumer and corporation.

   Regardless of what you think about Black Friday, I will remain sane on that day and observe the human herd…with both disdain and amusement. Enjoy!


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Declare Your Independence

   
   So.…the mid-term elections are over and Americans have once again proven they are unfit for the sacrifice made by the founding fathers. Too harsh? Ok, how about they have proven once again they are mindless sheep willing to follow people that systematically lie to them? Wait…let’s back track a moment. This is not a post ranting about the overwhelming Republican victories, but a post sounding the horn about a two party system that repeatedly gives us exactly what we don’t want…but always ask for.

      Let’s not sit here and act like there’s a huge difference between the Republicans and the Democrats. All you have to do is look at the first things Obama did when he got in office to see which way the wind blows. C’mon…keep acting like bailing out the banks wouldn’t be the first thing the Republicans would have also done. That aside, lets look at a much simpler comparison…show me a single politician sitting in office that makes the same amount you and I do. It doesn’t matter which party they belong to, government is made up of millionaires setting policy for the poor and middle class.

   Personally, I’ve had enough of the shenanigans. I’m flabbergasted at the ineptitude of the general public to not see the vicious cycle they have locked themselves into. The very people not happy with Bush voted for Obama…then vote Republican again when they aren’t happy with that. Later, when they aren’t happy with the Republicans, they’ll vote Democrat again…and the cycle continues.
   Since my values don’t line up with every single tenet of either party, I’m proud to declare myself an Independent…and thus a participating intellectual trying to break the status quo so progress can be made.
  
   Now let’s get to the meat and potatoes of all this so the message can be delivered loud and clear. People need to stop voting in candidates presented from both the Republicans and the Democrats and start voting in candidates that have no affiliation with either party. I hear the same argument all the time for not doing this. A vote for the independent candidate is a “wasted” vote. However, seeing as how there is a vicious cycle going on wherein both the Democrats and Republicans can’t get the job done (by design I’ll add), it seems to me the wasted vote is the one that perpetuates this dumb cycle of those with means setting policy for those with lesser means.

   Let’s not pretend that the lobbyists aren’t sitting outside the doors of politicians from both parties…cause they are. How else do you think these laws protecting big corporations while screwing the average citizen get passed? One party can’t do it alone.
  
   Also…how about we stop being so gullible and closed minded in our thinking? Let’s stop acting like the government hasn’t lied to us before (while under the control of both parties) and that a media run and funded by private corporations doesn’t have a self-serving agenda. This would be hilarious, if it wasn’t destroying our country.
  
   It’s time to start weighing the damage folks. If you’re voting for a candidate because he/she supports a certain issue you rally behind (guns, abortion, gay rights, immigration) it’s time you start looking at the rest of the platform to see what you’re giving up for the support of that position. What good are your beliefs if you’re dead? If you’re candidate won’t stop the poisoning of the people through food and drugs, for a profit, then what good is he/she? If you don’t realize that above all, your health is all you have…and once its gone, you are as useless as a strainer standing in for a cup, then what good are you now…really?

  
   Let me simplify it even more for you. If your candidate is unwilling to sign into law, legislation mandating each member of Congress be given time, and read, every page of every bill voted on…then you’re dealing with a scummy politician, and it’s time to replace him/her with a statesman. 

Declare your independence!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Movie Review: “The Equalizer” 

   
   I am an ardent fan of the cinematic arts. Although I have certain genre preferences, I don’t let that stifle my curiosity and close myself to different flavors of entertainment. That said...I am a huge fan of science fiction, super hero and action movies! Please visit my other blog The Boxed Office for reviews, exclusively, on these types of movies.


The Cast: 

   
   
 
Denzel Washington is one of the biggest names around and at 59 years old, he is showing that he still can pack the theater and deliver on the silver screen. Taking on the role of Robert McCall from the television series “The Equalizer,” he sells himself as a man dealing with loss, but a complete servant to his nature to do what’s right by helping people in need.

   
   Marton Csokas is the antagonist in the film playing a Russian enforcer, the kind called in when things have gotten really bad, and need to be permanently fixed. He also sells his role delivering a character that sends chills down your spins as you never know what he’s going tot do next….but you know it’s going to be bad.

   
   The interaction between these two was tense and very interesting as I watched them take a measure of each other, while I was taking a measure of them both trying to figure out the standard they were using for each other. It’s always interesting to see the cat and mouse game being played by two cats.


The Plot: 
      
   Robert MCall is a simple man that lives alone, goes to work, and likes to read books. He has something of a compulsive disorder, but he also has a big heart as he is always willing to help his fellow workers. With all that, there is certainly something more to him that lies just beneath the surface.

   
   Unable to sleep at night, he frequents a twenty-four hour diner where he regularly, but in a very controlled way, interacts with a local hooker called Teri. Always encouraging others, one night Teri breaks protocol to interact with Robert more profoundly. It’s here we learn a bit more about him and that he is a man suffering from the loss of his wife.

   While walking Teri home, a couple of Russian men intercept them and take Teri away. Robert continues his regimented lifestyle, but can’t shake the feeling that something bad has happened to Teri.

      One night when he goes to the diner, the bartender tells him that Teri is in the hospital and has been beaten up very badly. Robert goes to see her and extracts some information from one of her fellow associates about the exact nature of the business they are forced to be a part of. Robert decides to do something about it.

   
   What follows is a riveting and tense look at the other side of Robert, a side we are shown throughout the film, but not nearly as intense as what he is called on to do to extract Teri from her service to the Russian mob…by eliminating their entire East Coast hub.


The Verdict: 

   
   First, I gotta say that as a lifelong resident of Boston, it’s always exciting to see my city on the silver screen. Recognizing the places and noticing the way they film to make the city look bigger than it really is amuses me to no end.

   This film is very story driven and it slowly builds, but never seems to come to a head equal to the buildup. The action was very intense and meticulous and I enjoyed the attention to violent detail both for the hero of the film, and the villain.

   
   That said, this film could have been a two hour premier of a television series (sans some of the graphic nature of the violence) and that is due mostly to the overall pace of the film. I liked the fact that Robert’s exact military  and/or agency past was never revealed. We know he is good at what he does, perhaps even the very best as eluded to in a scene where it’s queued up like he needs help, but in actuality, he is simply looking for permission to unleash holy hell. 

 
   I very much enjoyed how every book Robert read was analogous to how he lived his life. Well, they only revealed one book and the plot of another, but both were exactly what and who he was…a knight living in a time where knights don’t exist anymore, and an old man that has to be true to his nature and face one go the greatest adversaries of his life…at a time when he thought such things were past him.

   Despite the feel that this film wasn’t as “big” as it could have been, instead focusing more on story and character development, it still killed three and a half cinnamon sticks, out of five, in my cup of tea…equating to a very good film.




Rating 3.5/5