Thursday, June 30, 2011

Movie Review: "Skyline"

   I have to come up with a generic tagline that explains my love of watching movies. I have said it many times before...and if I don’t come up with a nice tagline, I’ll say it many times again: 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 movies!
The Cast
   Eric Balfour is a good actor and although he is not a twenty-million-dollar-demanding leading man, he has accumulated a decent body of work and gives a good performance in this movie. The movie, being what it is, was never going to reveal the next Oscar nominee. Donald Faison is also a good actor with a decent body of work representing his career and gives a good performance for the limited material there was to work off of. The female lead in this film was Scottie Thompson and there really wasn’t much for her to do but immerse herself in the role of a screaming woman scared spit-less. With not much of a resume before doing this movie, she nailed the part.
The Plot: 
   Jarrod (Eric Balfour) and his girlfriend Elaine (Scottie Thompson) travel to Los Angeles to meet up with an old and uber successful friend Terry (Donald Faison) for the weekend. Terry has plans of offering Jarrod a position in his company and does so during a wild party he is throwing. Though the job offer is nice, Jarrod has other issues to deal with when he learns that Elaine is pregnant. 
   Scary as that may seem to a young unemployed man, things get progressively worse when an alien invasion begins later that night into early the next morning. As blue lights begin to appear and snatch people away after infecting them through sight, everyone quickly realizes that all their problems are meaningless compared to their present situation. Well...almost everyone...Terry’s wife, Candice, actually manages to stay angry with him for cheating on her the night before.
   As the days pass and increasingly different manifestations of the invaders appear, our heroes, now turned victims, hatch plan after plan trying to survive the ordeal...even as it becomes increasingly evident that humanity has nothing in the way of technology or weaponry that is little more than a minor inconvenience to the alien invaders.
The Verdict: 
   This movie is not what I expected while being exactly what I expected at the same time. I have seen many movies that depict a doomed humanity struggling to survive against a superior alien invader, but I have never seen it done quite this way before. 
   I have seen similar material in such movies as Battle Los Angeles, Independence Day, and War of the Worlds but none of these prepared me for the twist and turns this movie delivered. The one element all the aforementioned movies shared was resoundingly absent in this film leaving me speechless, dejected and in an utter state of shock.
   This movie was unique and a refreshing departure from the norm I’ve come to expect from movies similar to this one. Even after the end credits started rolling, I was still sitting dumbfounded trying to process everything I had seen. This reaction alone is enough for me to recommend this film. I very much enjoy science fiction films...I like them even more when they leave me feeling as though I need to reevaluate myself and my perceptual process. 
    This movie started out as something familiar, then took on a flavor all its own, earning three and a half cinnamon sticks, out of five, in my cup.

For reviews on movies in a theater near you, visit

Monday, June 27, 2011

Unwritten Rules...(Of the Road)

   Everyone should go to driving school...and then forget almost everything they learned...almost. Perhaps I’m being too critical and too simplistic, but there are just some certain aspects of driving that people need to pay more attention to. This post wasn’t written to promote bad driving practices...but let’s be honest, not everyone drives according to the text book, and the textbook doesn’t address the reality of the way people drive.

  There are certain specifics I think people should pay attention to that I think would lessen the potential for accidents and eliminate the reaction of road rage. I’d like to address lane changing, indicators (probably better known as turn signals), using the passing lane, and traffic lights.
   Lane Changing: Why? Sometimes I ask myself why when I see someone change lanes...and nothing else changes. I’m not one for doing things “just because” and I just don’t see the logic in that mentality when driving. I’m a fast driver, I’ll admit it. I’ll do five or nine miles over the speed limit. When I’m on a two lane road and I see a line of cars ahead of me in the right lane doing five or nine miles below the speed limit, I’m grateful that they’ve left me an unobstructed path to travel. Then, as if planned by the universe itself, one of the cars changes lanes. With no increase in speed at all, I find myself asking...why? Why not just stay where you were since nothing has changed for you besides the lane? What was the purpose of the lane change? I change lanes for one of three make a turn, to pass someone or to let someone pass. If none of those events are happening, then I don’t see the purpose of changing lanes...and are left with one question when I’m held hostage by needless maneuvers...why?
   Indicators: Most people call them turn signals although they are used for more than just turning. I call them indicators because their use indicates something is happening or about to happen. Ever come to a red light behind a car in the left lane with no flashing signal...and the second the light turns green, they signal that they want to turn against oncoming traffic? Why? Why didn’t you already have your indicator flashing so as I was driving up I knew not pull up behind you because you’re not going anywhere? Instead, I become a hostage again as traffic in the right lane zooms by, and oncoming traffic continues as if you don’t exist, making it impossible for you to turn. Also, how about turning the show some intent. Keeping it straight with the indicator flashing isn’t taken least not in Boston.

   Passing Lane: I know I’ve touched on this already, but I have to say it again. The passing lane is for passing. That means you passing someone or...and hold on to your hat here...someone else passing you! I don’t understand somebody that travels in the passing lane (the far left lane for those that don’t know) and refuses to move over for a vehicle that clearly is traveling faster in the same lane. I mean, everyone moves for the state trooper that pulls up behind you, why not anyone else that does the same thing? The fact is, you are driving too slow. Too slow is simply relative to how fast the person behind you is going. You might think 70 MPH is fast enough, but the vehicle behind you doing 85 MPH has a different view. Just move. Human nature will make that person try to pass on the right lane, something they shouldn’t do, because you wouldn’t move to the right lane for faster traffic...something you should do!
   Traffic Lights: Traffic is backed up, the intersection looms in front of you and the last car through hasn’t fully cleared the intersection. Why, oh why...would you pull out into the intersection and come to a stop and block traffic? Don’t tell’re light was green...uh-huh. Could you not understand that if traffic is not moving when your light is won’t be moving when your light is red?  So now the light is red, opposing traffic has a green light...and you’re blocking traffic because you can’t figure out this scenario before it happens. I’ll make it easy...if the car in front of you can’t clear the intersection on a green light, STOP before the intersection so that you are not blocking traffic when your light turns red. 

   I think the really sad part to all of this is that nobody that needs to read all this is going to see it. Those that don’t understand what to do when they get behind the wheel will still make driving miserable for those of us that do. It’s a shame really. I implore anyone reading this that knows somebody that does any of these egregious acts of ridiculousness to get this information in front of them. Bring them I can explain the unwritten rules...of the road.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Real Men are Fathers

   Just as we set aside a day for mothers, so too do we for fathers. I usually like to write something special for these occasions, but this time, I’m going to write something much more personal as a man that is a father...and grew up without one.
  By any means necessary, be a father to your child - Michael O’Neal, Father’s Inc.
   I consider myself to be fairly intelligent and although I understand much in life, I will never understand the heart and mind of a man that has no desire to take care of his children. It’s almost akin to a man not taking care of himself, since his children are an extension of him...almost. It’s worse, since the children are not on this planet by their own choice but the choice, in part, of the absent father. As the saying goes “Any man can make children, but only a real man can be a father.”  Taking care of a child has, unfortunately, be reduced to financial obligations. There is much more to a child’s well being than just the financial obligation. If a man is able to share the most precious commodity any of us have, then I think he should. The money is important...but is no substitute for time.

   There are many issues that occur in relationships and while the details are important, to a small child, they really aren’t. I was that child growing up with an absent father. Looking at other children with two parent families, I wondered who my father was and where he could be, all the while shying away from the fathers of my friends because of an uncomfortableness I developed never having grown up around a man. It was my best friends father that told me to always look a person in the eye and shake an extended hand with a firm grip. I would get many such lessons from the fathers of my closest friends that took it upon themselves to impart some of the lessons they were teaching their own sons, as fathers do, because I had no such teacher. I will always be grateful for the compassion of the Laines and Climers...families that took me in as their own.

   Responsibility was an ongoing lesson my mother taught me, so it was with no hesitation at all, that I answered a poignant question posed to me in my youth by a host of the show “60 Minutes” about my participation in the Young Father’s Program, later to become Father’s Inc. I was asked, as an inference, if without the program I would not be a father. My answer was quick, decisive and shocking to what they were expecting to hear. I enjoyed the program and got much from it, but I was committed to my responsibility of fatherhood from the moment my wife (then girlfriend) informed me of her pregnancy, and I was not going to allow any child of mine to experience the vacuum an absent father creates. Without the program, I was going to be a father to my child. As fate would have it, the night that episode father was watching.

   I didn’t meet my father until I was in my mid twenties and didn’t develop a relationship with him until after that. My late mother said that he was much like me and that I would like him...and she was right. He is more active now with his grandchildren than he ever was with me, and that’s a good thing. I believe there is always an upside, and in this situation that upside is that my father wasn’t absent for my entire life...and his absence drove me to seek out and connect myself and children to the rest of our family. 
   That’s my story, but I realize that Father’s Day holds a different story for everyone. Many people have been blessed to always have had the love and guidance of a father.  I wish I could write something meaningful along those lines as I did for mothers on Mother’s Day, but I can only write what I know. I know being a father brings me joy. I know it was the best decision I ever made to make sure respectful and responsible children become productive adults filled with love and compassion...and strength of character. I know that my purpose is derived from their needs and that I can have no greater accomplishment in life. I know that if they choose to have children and pass on everything that I have learned, I have been and they have become...that my blessing has truly taken root and the fruit of it will be enjoyed for generations to come.

                                  Happy Father’s Day

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Play It Again...and This Time Listen

   I love music. Music can be one of the most wonderful experiences to have...just sitting and listening. I consider myself fortunate to have been exposed to different varieties of music at an early age and throughout my life, giving me a very broad acoustic pallet and many options for listening pleasure. As is my way, I started thinking profoundly about something I’ve never considered before. My thoughts went to music and the impact it’s had in my life. I furthered that thought and started thinking generally about the impact music has on most of us and how that influence translates into our interactions with others.
   "Music has an influence on our minds and feelings...and therefore our interpersonal relationships. If you are what you eat...then you reflect what you listen to. Listen carefully my friends..."   - The Pontificator (6/4/11)
   Ask yourself, how many times have you been in a certain mood and picked a musical selection based on how you feel? I’m sure it’s happened...feeling a little down and so you select a sad song. Feeling vibrant and full of energy, and so you select an upbeat, fast tempo song. Having a special someone coming over late at night for a visit...and so you select some music to fit the mood and set the tone. Some of us even classify  music with some interesting labels like “driving music,” “elevator music,” “gaming music,” “running music” and the list goes on. Music is so varied that what may be elevator music to me might be driving music to you or the song I use for running is the same song you use for gaming. The point being that our personal classification is just our preference and music really doesn’t have the limitations that we place on it.
   Now ask yourself, do certain songs or types of music change your mood? Again, I’m reasonably positive it’s happened although maybe it wasn’t observed. Maybe you were driving, in a neutral mood, and a song came on the radio that gave you a “that’s my favorite song” type of reaction or just pumped you up...and pushed your foot a little harder on the gas. Maybe you were angry at your significant other and you heard a song that softened your disposition because it reminded you of a special time. Music has the power to change how we feel and then, by extension, how we act. If music influences how we act, then it influences how we interact. 
   Many people I know listen to music and hear different things...even from the same song. There are people that are lyric oriented and others that are more melodic listeners. A melody might be so grabbing that the words of the song are never even heard to the point of understanding. I don’t think this is too bad, it just sets up a scenario for someone negatively affected by the words to question another whom they thought would feel the same way...only to find that the words really weren’t being listened to...just the melody. The flip side to this is the lyrical listener that really develops profound thoughts and feelings to the message the song is giving. A message received can be acted upon and if emotionally stimulated, is very likely to be.
   So becomes important, especially to the impressionable...usually the youth, to be very cognizant of the messages being received. Let me also stress that even though the words of a song may not be intently listened to, there is evidence that suggest the message is still subconsciously being received. Without singling out a particular genre of music, I will simply say that when it comes to a positive and negative message...any message that, when acted upon, brings harm to oneself and others, is a message with no usable content and should be ignored. The harm I speak of isn’t always physical, but can be mental, societal, and spiritual. 
   Since music has an influence on behavior, many of us are reflections of what we regularly listen to. It only makes sense that if you wish to reflect differently, changes have to be made...and one of those changes should probably be the messages you melodically subject yourself to. At the very least, this has all been something to think about...while you listen to your favorite tune.