Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Movie Review: "Body of Lies"

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: 
Leonardo DiCaprio is all over the place with a performance that is very gritty and intense. He plays very well at always being on the edge ready to fall apart, while being in control. Russell Crowe isn’t given any Oscar material in this film, but certainly makes the role work as he brings every quality needed for the character for us to hate his guts. Mark Strong plays a very good role here as head of Jordanian Intelligence...being both mysterious and menacing.
The Plot: 
   Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe) is an armchair quarterbacking CIA handler out of Langley that conducts nearly all his business from and earpiece in a cell phone. Things get dicey when he interferes with the operational dealings of DiCaprio...while having total disregard for human life and the manner in which things are done in the local hotspots.
   Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) is the agent always in the thick of the situation. Ferris must track down the leader of a terrorist cell before more attacks happen...while walking a fine line of trust and cooperation with his own boss, Ed Hoffman, and the head of Jordanian Intelligence, Hani (Mark Strong).
   Ferris develops a plan to lure his target out, but must deal with the behind-the-back dealings of his boss and hide the truth from Hani, even though Hani has a better intelligence network and is insistent on only one rule for full cooperation...honesty. The action and espionage heat to a full boil when Ferris’s plan backfires, putting an innocent woman at risk, and potentially blowing the only chance he’ll ever have at capturing the leader of a deadly terrorist cell.
The Verdict: 
   Body of Lies is filled to the brim with...lies. The art of deception is alive and well and it begins with how great this movie was despite the way the trailer presented it. There is no room for humor and the movie takes itself very seriously, never letting up on the projection that the situation is dire...and danger is always imminent.
   The action is explosive and sometimes graphic adding to the experience of bringing to life some very real elements we live with in the world daily. Although the humor is absent, at least for me, there are some very gratifying moments of exploration between two different cultures in the pursuit of romance that I found to be very interesting.
   This movie thinks outside the box on several levels, from the elaborate plan to capture the antagonist, to the ways in which the terrorists deal with the superior technological advantage of those out to get him. The intensity is constant and once grabbed, I was never let go...putting three and a half cinnamon sticks in this very intense cup of tea.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Clueless Intent in the Mysteries of Life

   Your belief or disbelief in God is not the point of what is about to transpire. If you are reading this, then you are alive...and since that is the case, then at some point you will find the next line to hold some truth. Sometimes the clues we find are for mysteries we never intended to solve. Let the realization set in that your intentions are irrelevant...and God's plan is on your agenda. 

   There are many types of people that occupy the planet. Without going into detail of all the types there are, just know...that you are one of them. That said, we can all find ourselves in a situation that we never intended to be in. Sometimes we don’t even realize what is happening around, or right in front of us, and our only link to this realization comes as small clues. You may be the type of person that analyzes your daily existence with a sharp eye or a kind of person that doesn’t sweat the small stuff. It really doesn’t matter...when that light “clicks” in your head, the calculations begin.

   We all have that moment...when we read something, see something or hear something said that flips that switch in our heads and suddenly, it all starts coming together. We find ourselves in that Detective Dave Kujan moment at the end of “The Usual Suspects” after Roger "Verbal" Kint leaves his office...a 

moment where, like dominoes carefully lined up and set into motion, clarity collides with reality in perfect order. Though unlike Detective Kujan, who was actually trying to solve a mystery, we can find ourselves having this experience with a mystery we never intended to solve...primarily because we never even knew it existed.

   Sometimes the clues we find are for mysteries we never intended to solve. Then, we are faced with two choices: solve it...or ignore it. Having no intent on solving the unknown is completely irrelevant to the fact that what was once unknown, has become known. The question of what will be done next is answered by choice. There will either be brave realization with acceptance or willful ignorance. Again, you need only be living to experience this, and your beliefs to this point matter not in the least.

   However, if you do ascribe to a certain belief...if you do believe in God, then it’s at this point that the realization sets in that what you intended is not only irrelevant because of the enveloping clarity...but because there is a plan...a design, and you are neither the planner nor the designer. You realize that your

 agenda has been usurped by forces that cannot and will not be ignored and acceptance will expedite the matter, while willful ignorance will just prolong the inevitable.

   The only other piece of this life puzzle is: Will clarity come in time to effect change...or will it come seconds too late, and like Detective Kujan, leave you with the knowledge that you couldn’t have been any being so very far away.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

On the Road Again...(the Horror)

   Why do I drive? Why do I consistently subject myself to the lunacy that is the road? Oh...wait, I have to get around and walking the distances I have to travel isn’t practical, although probably great for my health, and taking a bus or train would subject me to a different brand of lunacy just as distasteful...or worse. So I drive...all the while wishing feverishly to be done with my trip and off the road that seems to be infested with people that display all the intelligence of a soap dish.
   I’m optimistic a well educated soap dish can figure out some of the stuff I’m going to rant about. I say rant because after this is written and read...nothing will change (woe is me). Why can’t some people figure out what to do at yield signs?  I’ve seen some make it spin by how fast they are they careen into traffic like they are in a movie car chase...and others stop and break out a blanket and picnic basket. Sometimes I see them yield to right-of-way traffic...but that’s like seeing a bald eagle in the wild, rare bordering next to impossible. It’s a simple idea really...the right-of-way traffic has the right of way, and you must merge into them. If there is no traffic at all...not so much as a sign that a vehicle has ever come through, there is no need to stop and wait for fifteen minutes to make sure your lying eyes are not deceiving you again.
   Most of the craziness I see with yield signs happen at rotaries....but rotaries are also a place I see another phenomenon that simply baffles me as well. In Massachusetts (I realize not everyone reading this is from my home state), the law states that you must yield to traffic in the rotary. Let me explain this another way...vehicles already in the rotary have the right-of-way. I’m certain everyone with a license has gone through the same test I did and read from the same why, oh...why do some people not only yield while in the rotary, but STOP for traffic to enter? Someone told me a theory about this and said that in other states, cars in the rotary do not have the right-of-way and that many of the offenders of this are college students that don’t know any better. This might be true...but I say ignorance of the law is no excuse and if you’re coming from out of state to educate yourself, then start with our motor vehicle laws.
   Here’s a’re driving along and your cell phone rings...what do you do?
         A.) Ignore it because you are driving.
           B.) Pull over and answer it because driving while on the phone can be dangerous.
        C.) Answer it, get into a conversation, the subject of which hinges the fate of the world causing you to quickly get into the fast lane (without any indication that you were going to do so) and just as quickly slow down to the approximate speed of a five year old on a rusty scooter. 

   I swear...eighty percent of the people that travel the same roads I do pick “C” every time! I never get to say this when it happens, mostly because I’m usually driving in my official capacity, but if you are one of these people that do this, I’d like to take this opportunity to kindly...and with love and respect, tell you to SHUT UP AND DRIVE!
   Believe me when I tell you that the phone is not the only self imposed distraction with calls and texting. It seems that putting on make-up is best suited for the sun visor mirror or rear view mirror while traveling at rusty scooter speed in the fast lane instead of the safety and comfort of that huge bathroom mirror that is such a bother to use before leaving the house. Believe me again when I tell you that some people are such awesome writers...I mean, beyond best seller material, that their books have to be read...behind the the fast lane...traveling at...yup, rusty scooter speed. 

If I said all this was driving blasphemy, pure road madness...I fully expect someone would kick me in the stomach and scream "!" Where is King Leonidas when I need him?
   Which brings me, again, to traffic lights...but this time my beef isn’t with the drivers not understanding the lights and how they work, but me not understanding the mindset of the programmers that program them to be red, in alternating succession, during rush hour...and green, in succession, between 2 and 4 A.M. Really? This made sense to them? So traffic is packed and bottled up while the next section of road has a green light...but not a single car to travel through it. When it turns red, packed traffic then gets the green travel seventy-five feet to another red light. I’m sorry....who thought that this going on for miles was good idea again?
   Ok, I’ll concede somebody somewhere must have gotten a huge laugh as they programmed the lights knowing they were getting a pink slip. After all, revenge is a dish best served in traffic...but after all this time nobody has gotten a clue to do something about this? As if dealing with the lower lifeforms behind the wheel wasn’t bad enough, now I’m a victim of bureaucracy and budget cuts? 
   Will the horror ever end? Will people realize they’re doing it all wrong and finally learn how to drive? Will I write another post about the epic failure that is Massachusetts drivers? Stay tuned...

Friday, August 12, 2011

For the Sake of Amusement

   Summer is a wonderful time of year and brings with it exciting outings and activities. Many people visit amusement parks...and I must admit to being something of a connoisseur of getting the most “amuse” from any park I visit. On my last visit, I took time to make some interesting observations that I never noticed before. Perhaps that’s not an accurate statement...I noticed, I just never gave it any thought beyond my visual observations.
   There are different types of park goers, as varied as people can be, anywhere you find them. In a park built for profit through amusement, specific types stand out be they a couple or in groups. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone frequent this type of park alone...and would find it unsettling and frankly, suspicious, to see. As a parent, this is just the way I’m going to view that subject. There are certain objectives that are looking to be met depending on the type of park goer you are. For example there is the ultimate thrill junkie that will seek to get on all the best roller coasters as many times as possible before the park closes. Then there are the passive enthusiasts that enjoy a thrill here and there, but are most interested in the quality time spent with friends and family.
   It doesn’t matter to which of the extremes you belong to or what group in between these extremes you fall’s parks cater to everyone. It’s noteworthy that at a glance, such places are not built for the very young, or very old...and yet both can still be seen among the crowd. That’s because these places are still family destinations and despite the different type of park goers that make up a family, we just like to be with our loved ones having a good time however we define it.
   If you are like me, a passive enthusiast, that has come to view these outings differently than I did in my youth, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. I have a great time watching my children have a blast and enjoy certain aspects of the park I completely ignored in my youth as I searched for the next coaster. Where I would carefully map my way through the park for the best rides, I now map my way through it for the best places to eat. Running by the skill stops for prizes on my way to the next thrill has given way to stopping and trying to figure out the scam...convincing myself that science and added maturity can overcome the “fix” that has worked for decades.
   The smells, the screams, the music...the kaleidoscope of sounds and sensations is always enough to put me in the mood..or “park mode.” There is something about going to an amusement park as a child that will always stick with me, no matter how old I get. Perhaps this explains the “very old” that I see in the park? Perhaps this is why there is something there for everyone, even if that something is the family you came with.
   I would be remiss if I talked about an amusement park and didn’t give any insight on how to best be a roller coaster and thrill seeking junkie. First, always grab a park map and become familiar with the names and locations of all the best rides you want to go on. You’ll know which ones they are since, as a thrill junkie, you’ve already researched them online ahead of time. If you’re really hardcore, then look into whatever program the park you’re at has for bypassing the long lines that come with going on the best rides. There’s nothing like getting off an awesome ride...and getting right back on it again. 
   Once that is all set you simply go from one end of the park to the other hitting the rides in succession until you’ve gone on all the ones you’ve targeted...then go back the way you came repeating the method. As the day winds away and evening falls, you will find that your route has internalized itself and you’ll know exactly where you’re going. 
   No matter what park type you are...there is plenty of fun around for everyone, just waiting for you to acknowledge you define your own amusement.