Sunday, March 30, 2014

Movie Review: “The Purge”

    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 usually enjoy Ethan Hawke’s performances. I found him to be very believable in “Training Day” and although he didn’t bomb the role in this film, I felt the role itself was written poorly. I really can’t fault the guy for the shoddy writing and acknowledge that he played it well enough for what he had to work with. Now, I could be completely wrong and have missed that the point of it all was for him to play one of the most incompetent people in the history of film, disconnected with his own reality….but I doubt it.

   I can’t say too much differently about Lena Headey’s character. I guess her role was to play the woman dumb enough to marry one of the most incompetent people in the world…and produce some of the dumbest children ever. That said, she convinced me of this fact and played an excellent role if that was the goal. If not, again, I can’t really fault her for the writing of her character and have to assume she did the best she could with the material and annoyance at watching it is actually a good thing.

The Plot: 

   In the near future America has an epiphany and has come to the conclusion that we all need an outlet for all our stress and expression for those dark and recessed feelings we all push away daily, thus…The Purge.
   One a year for twelve hours the law is suspended and you can commit any crime and heinous act you can think of. You are free to kill, rape, maim, steal…whatever you want so that the rest of the year you can be a model citizen. This year The Purge has become very personal for the Sandin family as an act of compassion puts them in the crosshairs of some very dangerous people.

   What happens next is edge-of-your-seat events as the Sandin family must survive the onslaught of purgers bent on satiating their inner darkness.

The Verdict: 

      I have a lot to say about this film, more than usual as there were just so many things wrong with it (or right if we are to believe people have become this stupid in the future). Never mind that the idea of a free night of crime and barbarism will somehow satiate society into a virtual utopia is just ridiculous, but even accepting this as the premise of the film lends one to believe that people living under those conditions will acclimate to them. Joke’s on me.

      Where do I begin? How about the idea that scant minutes before the Purge period begins is when James Sandin (Hawke) decides to activate his home security? Is it me, or with a situation so dangerous would it not make more sense to do that hours before the Purge begins to give yourself ample time to check everything to make sure there are no problems with your security? This surely would have solved the problem of your daughter’s boyfriend trying to kill you after sneaking in the house just before the Purge. 

    Would it also not make sense to activate the system without your children looking on to see the passcode? I thought so even before the dumbest child in films deactivates the system to let a total stranger in the house fearing his circumstances at the hands of purgers. The same child can’t process his situation when purgers finally break in intent on killing him and his family, and he decides flashing a light in the dark is the best way to hide undetected.

      I was stunned at the philosophy of Mary Sandin (Headey) to actively search for the intruders instead of setting up at a defensible position (with your children). Instead she let the children fend for themselves against armed sadistic people trying to kill them. I also couldn’t understand why she would leave he gun behind after dropping it instead of always making sure she was armed to deal with all these crazy people in her home.

   Sigh….I tried, I really tried to like this film, but all the idiocy made it nearly impossible. I just figured a society like this would spawn people smart enough to survive, especially if they are among the privileged. Speaking of privileged, don’t get me started on the deeper undercurrent of this film of the rich preying on the poor and the Purge being used to remove those from society that are less fortunate (like the homeless). If this is where we are headed, it is not in the direction of an advanced and better society.

   Action and suspense was the hook. Stupidity and shoddy writing were the anchor that sunk this film. At times it was not only not my cup of tea (I can’t suspend my intelligence), I almost spit it out…leaving only one and a half cinnamon sticks for flavor.

1.5/ 5

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Broken System

   I hear people complain about the government all the time. I’m a frequent complainer myself as I’m astonished daily with the incompetence and outright contempt those administering order seem to have for the people. Understand, I’m not anti-government, I’m anti-bad government. I’m anti-ridiculous abuses of power. I’m anti-doing the same things that aren’t working and expecting them to work the millionth time around. I’m anti-not trying to fix a broken system.

   I can understand if you throw your hands up at the idea of fixing the system, after all…it seems like such a monumental undertaking. I feel the same way, but refuse to give into my feelings. Instead I’ll submit that we should start by making those we elect follow the rules by which they were chosen to govern. 

   I really don’t get it. I don’t understand why the American people are not using their power to bring the government back under control. I don’t understand why most are still clinging to the two party system and seriously thinking either party really cares for them. I don’t understand why we all don’t rally around anyone that attempts to begin to make sense of it all, and vote out any other official that doesn’t do the same.

  Here is a test. Take this test and see where you rate on the “makes sense” meter. See if you can get behind what is being said here:
   I’m not a Republican or Democrat, I’m an independent thinker given to reason, and I think this is one of the best ideas to come along in a while. Imagine the notion that Congress would actually read the bills before they vote on them. I’d call it pure genius if it weren’t such a sad state reminder of just how broken our system is…but wait, it gets worse!

   Look here to see just where Senator Paul’s bill has gotten. Look who has supported it. Ask yourself why there are no cosponsors of this bill, then understand that it’s clear nobody else on capital hill is interested in actually doing what they were elected to do.

   Where is the accountability? Where is the oversight? The answer to both questions is reading this blog right now. YOU are the accountability and oversight. YOU will be at fault should a single senator from your state be reelected to go to Congress and break the rules. YOU will be responsible when your vote places a person in Congress that has no interest and no intention of reading any of the bill they vote on.

   I don’t understand why more independent candidates aren’t voted into office. Are we really that scared they will do worse than the people already there doing nothing at all? I’m on the verge of saying America is the greatest country on the planet but not from a current state of being, but from the potential we have to be something greater. There are those that shudder at the thought of anyone not thinking we are the greatest country on the planet…but I shudder to think messages like this are being ignored:

   We operate under a broken system and it’s up to us to fix it. Turning away and hoping somebody else gets it done only digs us deeper in the hole. Towing the line for your party at the expense of your good common sense and independent thought gets bills passed that have never been read…and makes a mockery of a once great system. The system is broken, and if you’re thinking it can’t be fixed, then you’re the reason why it’s broken in the first place.

   We can do better.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The World of Tomorrow

      The future, it’s just around the corner. Everyone thinks about it in some way. I’ve blogged about it in some form, many times, because like everyone else…I wonder about it. What type of technology will emerge? How long will we allow degradation through government? What kind of world are we leaving our children? Better yet, what kind of children are we giving the world to?

I think that’s the most important question about the future. Parenting today is shaping the world of tomorrow so we have to ask ourselves, what kind of parents are we? Everything about the future is connected to our children. They will be the ones to invent the merging technology. They will be the ones to chart the course of our government. They will be the answer to every question about the future, but we will be the problem if the future goes poorly from our parental teachings.

When we look at our society, it’s easy for some of us to judge the abhorrent among us. After all, we convince ourselves that we are normal…and they are not. We care little for the excuses of their past as we ask them to be accountable for their present. To hear that they had “mommy” or “daddy” issues is old news that doesn’t cut the mustard anymore, but is it true? If you are a child that grows up in an environment where drug abuse, violence and crime are a normal part of existence, are you not molded by your experience?

 Of course you are. It’s a tragic situation only made worse when such an experience hinders mature and responsible development, that is then passed forward by someone taking a shot at parenting, when they don’t even know what it means to be a productive person. Quite simply, you can’t teach what you don’t know. There is plenty of finger pointing to go around, but what ever gets done to rectify the situation? What is being done to break the cycle?

   It’s a rhetorical question as there are many people from all walks of life actively trying to improve the quality of the human condition in any way they can. It comes through personal intervention with, what can only be called, the damaged parent. It comes through working with the child of such a parent in an attempt to offset the damaging and disruptive input received at home. But even in our solutions, we present other problems. Who reading this would really want their child raised by “the system” as is the case when a child is removed from the home. Heck, sometimes the indoctrination from the school curriculum is enough to set a good parent on the warpath…but I digress. That’s for another post.

Am I my brother’s keeper? Should society be responsible for the people it produces, or is every parent solely accountable for the shaping of their offspring? If it takes a village to raise a child, what then happens to that child when the village absolves itself of that responsibility? There are many question, and probably more answers…and yet the damaged parents of today were once the innocent children of yesterday. Are we not asking the right questions, or are the answers simply not working?

I don’t have any answers except to say that I have done my best to raise my children to be productive people and contributing members of society. I know many others that have done and are doing the same. I also know that there are still a lot of damaged parents out there that will unleash chaos into the future if left to their own brand of parenting. You may ask me “Who am I to judge?” and I’ll tell you that I’m a man that has raised other men who do not sell drugs and indulge in regular law breaking as a career choice. That doesn’t make me qualified to judge, but I’m amply qualified to observe.
I see the future everyday when I see children…and I wonder if the world of tomorrow is ready for them, or were the parents of today ill prepared by the world of yesterday?  Regardless of the answer, we can do better.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Viewer Discretion Advised

   Television can be very entertaining, fun…and sometimes even educational. Much of the time though it’s just a tool to push the latest in propaganda and although it may not seem like it, some of those thirty second advertisements are downright dangerous. Let me clarify that last statement…they’re dangerous if you don’t pay attention to the information stream creeping into your brain.

   I haven’t researched the the statistics about how many people pay attention to commercials, what time of day the most attention is paid, or how many people, overall, are influenced by them. I do know that tons of money and research has gone onto making commercials the way they are today…so there has to be some positive outcome for it on the corporate side, or else they wouldn’t waste either the time or the money.

   Ever just take a moment to analyze some of these commercials? I did. It was so fascinating that I now take a moment to analyze any new commercial I haven’t already seen numerous times. Don’t get me wrong, some of these ads are hilarious (to me anyway) in their presentation, even if the underlying subliminal message is not. The drone of sarcasm delivered by Mark Strong in the new Miller Fortune commercial has me in stitches (“Oh no, they’ve put up a sign. Capital letters mean business.”). However, you might be in stitches (real ones) if you let the subliminal message to drink up enough courage to trespass sink in. 

   How about all these credit card commercials offering reward points for using them? I love how they make it seem like getting the reward points is the entire point of using the card, ignoring the fact that you have to make purchases to get the points…producing a bill that has to be paid. It had me questioning if people are really out there just looking for opportunities to swipe their card just to score points? It’s no wonder we are a nation in debt.

   How about these insurance companies battling over quote times? Have we truly become a “now” nation that fifteen minutes is just too long to deal with a company to lower your insurance cost? The competitor now can do it in seven minutes, and save even more! Yeah…sure. Personally, if I could save even more at a time cost of twenty minutes, then twenty minutes is what I’d be spending on the phone for my quote. After all, isn’t it the savings I’m looking for, not how much time I can save getting those savings?

   Some of these commercials are just ridiculous. All of them have the “small print” at the bottom of the screen, but who can actually read it? I’ve tried, but they flash it so quick, and make it so small, I barley understand that it says they have the legal right to lie to you, as long as they say they are lying to you in print you can’t read. Too funny.

   Although the above examples are ridiculous, I was serious when I mentioned that commercials can be dangerous if you let them influence you. There is no better example than prescription drug commercials. I used to laugh at the long list of side effects the announcer goes through at professional auctioneer speeds until those effects went from mild inconveniences to the possibility of death.

   Umm…when did it make sense to risk death for a problem that isn’t life threatening? I’ve dealt with this before, but now it’s being pushed in nearly every drug commercial. As if the audience is too stupid to understand this (are we?) or worse yet, the drugs have all just become that much more lethal. It’s no wonder 100,000 Americans die each year from prescription drugs…used as directed. But is it only the fault of the industry, or do we, the public, share some culpability for not using our ability to think critically about our health?

   Responsibility for your health and finances rests with you first, and if you drop the ball, then expect someone else to pick it up and play you.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Movie Review: “Rush”

   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

   Chris Hemsworth isn’t just a long-haired muscle bound deity from Asgard, he actually shows himself, in this film, to be a very good actor. His portrayal of Formula 1 race car driver James Hunt is excellent. He sells the persona of a man living life on the edge and enjoying everything that comes with a successful racing career. In those moments where real life catches up with him, Hemsworth sells the emotion of it.

 Daniel Brühl gives an excellent performance and what I assume to be an accurate portrayal of Formula 1 race car driver Niki Lauda. I say this because the real Niki Lauda has hailed it as such. Niki is a man committed to excellence, always serious about racing and doesn’t have the best personality for making friends. 

The Plot: 
Based on real events, the 1976 season of the Formula 1 racing circuit was one to never be forgotten. It was the year that culminated the rivalry between the popular and wild Englishman James Hunt and the genius of the calculating Austrian Niki Lauda.  

Hunt and Lauda first meet in the Formula 3 circuit and become instant rivals. Eventually each finds their own path to Formula 1 and renew their rivalry, but with much more on the line to gain.and lose. Both men continuously push each other to wild and dangerous extremes in the quest to becoming world champion.

When Lauda suffers horrific burns in a crash on the most dangerous track in the race circuit, putting him off the track for a while, Hunt seizes upon the opportunity to earn points and close the gap between the two men. Lauda has amassed a health point lead driving for Ferarri while Hunt has struggled with the McLaren car. Seeing Hunt win from his hospital bed, while undergoing procedure after procedure to save his life, Lauda is motivated in a way very few people ever are.

What follows is a an astonishing display of determination, will and skill as Lauda returns to the track, not even close to fully healed to renew the infamous rivalry and secure his place as world champion. Hunt will also not be deterred and the last race, taking place under worse weather conditions than the race that caused Lauda to crash…will determine who will be the 1976 world champion.

The Verdict: 
I think films that are based on real events weigh a bit heavier on me when I watch them. The thought that I’m watching a slice of someones life is fascinating to me. This film was exciting, entertaining and interesting…all at the same time.

   Of course the race scenes will keep you glued to the screen, and being a child in the 1970’s, this film also had a nostalgic feel to me. The parts this film really shines though are the parts away from the race track. I expected to be bored as Director Ron Howard explored the lives of these two men, apart from their rivalry but I was very wrong. The depiction of these men’s lives was interesting and brought them to life for me. Once that connection was formed, the race sequences became that much more intense.

   With great acting, great directing, great cinematography, and an interesting story, this film roared from start to finish and sped across the finish line with three and a half cinnamon sticks, out of five, in my cup of tea.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Good Guys Don’t Wear Badges (Part 2)

   The police are out of control. I have been of the mindset that this is something that just happened, but I now have to face the distinct possibility that it has been going on all along, and that the advent of better video technology and availability is simply showing us something that has always been present.

   Not all police officers are negligent in the performance of their duties, but the blue code of silence makes all of them culpable since all it takes for evil to prevail is for good people to do or say nothing. I know well the label any officer will get for speaking out, but also understand that watching a crime being committed as a sworn protector of the community and upholder of the law makes you just as culpable as the officer committing the crime.

   Watching bad guys with badges is becoming the norm, especially if you’re a regular viewer of You Tube. It makes you wonder if there are any police officers left that don’t feel they have a sense of entitlement attached to their position. 

Not to pick on the state of Oklahoma (but I’m going to), but it seems they are a shining example of what police culture has become. The case of Pearl Pearson has the word “allegedly” attached to it, since the dash camera footage hasn’t been made available to the public, but given what other footage of other officers are doing in that state, the credibility of his case is not a stretch.

   The short version goes like this: 64 year old Pearson allegedly refused to comply with verbal commands and resisted arrest resulting in a seven minute struggle that left him looking like he lost a championship boxing match. The catch in all of this is that Pearson is deaf and thus, never heard any verbal commands and while allegedly trying to produce his license (which affirms his disability), took a beating…allegedly. All this, despite the fact his car has a placard on it informing anyone that will read it that he is deaf.

   Pearson is said to have a son that is a police officer and a son-in-law that is a sheriff and thus knows how too handle police encounters. Obviously his information is outdated because the police these days deal in brutality and bullying and the only role left for the average citizen is that of victim.

   Then there’s the story of Oklahoma State Trooper Daniel Martin who decided it was a smart decision to pull over an ambulance to give the driver a piece of his mind for not yielding and allegedly making an obscene gesture…resulting in his supervisor being arrested, all the while ignoring the FACT they had a patient that needed transport to a hospital!

   As a first responder myself, it’s absolutely mind boggling to me why any officer would act this way. I suppose we can all chalk it up to human nature but when does that excuse become too convenient for abhorrent behavior becoming normal? We see police plant evidence, beat already unconscious suspects after they horrifically crash after pursuit…and lord knows what else as you peruse the internet in the video age. Where will it end?

If the good cops don’t force the bad ones to do better, if juries don’t find police guilty when the evidence is obvious, and judges don’t uphold the law when corrupt cops are brought before them…then where can we begin to fix this broken culture? Why hasn’t anyone figured out that there would be no need for a blue code of silence if everyone were doing exactly what they were supposed to do? Why hasn’t anyone figure out that people cannot comply with orders when they are getting the crap beat out of them…and raising your hand to protect yourself, to save your life, is not resisting.

   I know what some of you are thinking, not all cops are bad. My only response to that is…how can you tell?

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Perfect Person

   The perfect person. Do you think such a person really exists? I’m not talking from a religious point of view (I’m sure Jesus Christ was the first thought for many) but from the point of view that you look at someone and think…"wow, that’s perfection."

   An obvious response to that question from men would probably be every time a Sports Illustrated Swim Suit edition is available, or from women perhaps the People Magazine Sexiest Man Alive…but how often does that happen in everyday life with real people? How often does that reaction happen while you’re shopping, or getting gas, or out getting a bite to eat? 

It probably doesn’t happen very often in our everyday travels quite the same way it does when we look at celebrities or models, but I’m willing to bet you might view certain attributes of other people and give them the “perfection” label. I’m also probably talking more to men now than women…but since I don’t think like a woman (I really can’t), I have no way of knowing exactly what they think about.

   Maybe they do look at a man and think his hair is perfect, or his teeth, or his shoulders. I’ve heard women comment about looking at a man’s crotch and judging the bulge…so who am I to say how far down the rabbit hole the thoughts of women go when discussion or thinking about men.

 I know how men think. I know men see women all the time that have a some semblance of perfection. They have a perfect face, perfect breasts, perfect buttocks, perfect lower half, perfect upper half, perfect body, perfect eyes…it happens. At this point I’d expect any woman reading this to become self conscious of how they look (as if you aren’t always), but I assure you I’m going somewhere with this.

   Where I’m going is some place you’ve always been, but might never knew you were at. Many of us look at ourselves and see only the flaws, or at the very least, see areas we think could use some improvement. Very few of us, if anyone (but there has to be someone…the odds don’t favor a vacuum) see themselves as absolutely perfect. That said, I’m betting that most of us have been looked at by another, and even if not thought of as being a perfect package, have had some attribute thought of as perfect. It might not even be a physical one, but something about us…something about everyone, is seen as “perfect.”

I know it’s a bold statement to make, and many reading this are waiting for me to back it up. Well, wait no longer because the math on this is real easy. There are seven billion of us sharing this planet, all diverse in our thinking, diverse in our particular taste…all beholding beauty as seen through our own eyes.

   Perfection isn’t some unwavering standard we all share, but more of a ambiguous preference we each have at any given moment. This makes all of us “perfect” people in the eyes of someone else at some time in our life…even if it’s through the eyes of our parents the day we were born.

So the next time you look in the mirror and think what you are seeing can’t possibly appeal to someone else, think again. The next time you see someone looking at you for a second longer than usual and think to yourself that they must be critiquing you…or perhaps they’re just weird (both of which could be true, at the same time even), it might just be that they are taking a few extra moments to view perfection.

   So go ahead and make whatever improvements will make you happy with yourself, but also know that you are perfect…just the way you are, and will continue to be perfect when you become the way you want to be.