Sunday, December 18, 2011

Movie Review: "Limitless"

   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: 
   Bradley Cooper is very entertaining as a man with no options being given a new lease on a very steep cost. He was believable and made a clear departure from the antics he portrayed in the A-Team. Robert De Niro is everything you’ve come to expect...and more. Abbie Cornish plays her supporting role well and Andrew Howard keeps popping up like a bad penny throughout the movie...with very good acting as a lone shark.
The Plot: 
   Eddie Morra (Cooper) is a failed writer that has reached the end of his rope when he is introduced to a wonder drug that changes his whole life around. The drug makes him an overnight success with his writing...and anything else he wants to do. After finding a large stash of the drug, Morra ascends to the top of the financial world drawing the attention of Carl Van Loon (De Niro). With the side effects getting worse and his supply running low, Morra must find a way to continue to break all limits...or die.
   Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro) is a self made multi millionaire that notices Morra’s abilities as an opportunity to further his own any cost. He seeks to control Morra when Morra can hardly control himself.
   With a mysterious man trying to kill him, a lone shark, Gennady (Andrew Howard ), constantly hunting him for a fix after being exposed to the drug and Van Loon trying to use him...Morra must figure out how to counteract the severe side effects while surviving the never-ending onslaught of trouble.
The Verdict: 
   Limitless is a thriller with a unique angle that is often shown from Morra’s perspective, adding to the chaotic suspense that sustains the film throughout.
   The movie was well cast and the cast was excellent. The directional pace was lethargic at times but was quickly forgotten when the thrills started their bombardment. The suspense of the constant danger and bouts with his old self in situational conflict with his new self, easily carries you to the edge of the seat.
   The film answers the question of choices for Morra, after the world has been laid out by this wonder-drug. With no limits on the thinking process, what would you do? The action and effects were good and the story was riveting...taking more turns than a revolving door...leaving an opening for three and a half cinnamon sticks, out of five, in my cup of tea.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Rap Music...A Passing Phase?

   I remember how it was in the beginning. I remember the first time I heard Rapper’s Delight on the radio and was amazed at the new sound and presentation. Rap music has been exploding and expanding ever since...despite the predictions of many that it was just a passing phase that would never be taken seriously by anyone outside the urban environment.
  To say those that thought rap music would be dead and gone today were wrong would be a gross understatement of the actual facts. This music form has evolved through many incarnations and is steadily evolving as more people experiment with it’s versatile nature. When I was growing up, there were many types of rappers being displayed in mainstream outlets. The diversity between Big Daddy Kane, Fresh Prince, Slick Rick, Public Enemy, NWA, Special Ed, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest says it all. Nothing like the virtually one subject dominated presentation of today.

   When speaking about rap in a historical sense, even looking forward as this post will shortly do, it would be a crime not to mention Run-DMC and all their innovations. Now that I have, let’s look back so that we can understand what we see when we look forward.
   Rap music is not new, at least not in the sense of it simply being poetry...just presented dramatically different from anything written by William Shakespeare or Dr. Seuss. Looking back, it’s evident that poetry has withstood the test of time. Poets exist now and will in the future...and we are continuously reading poets of the past. Style and presentation are the malleable factors and rap music is just another presentation of many different styles.

   Looking forward, rap is being used in very creative and unique ways. It is revitalizing a diverse pool of interest. We looked back at Shakespeare and Seuss without realizing that rap would have us looking forward at them as well.

   It doesn’t look to me as though rap music will be passing into the great beyond any-rhyme...uh, anytime soon. In fact, using complimentary videos to creative raps seems to be stirring the inquisitive juices of the younger minds that are exposed to them. Coming up with questions and investigating the available facts to answer those question is part of the scientific process. Although science and rap music might not seem like quite the same mix as chocolate and peanut’s this very diversity and versatility of rap that makes such a union not only possible, but extremely entertaining.
   How smart was Albert Einstein? Who is Stephen Hawking? Who is smarter of the two? Who is the better rapper? Well...I suppose that last one isn’t a serious question, but the first three are, and can be prompted by any inquisitive young mind enraptured with the video below. 

   Entertainment, message, story, teaching, dance, inspiration...and the list goes on about the various uses and effects of rap music. When I watch these videos and others like them, I see innovation and creativity...and although there are some that are better than others, I don’t see any imminent end to rap music or any indication that it is a “passing phase.” There is every indication that it is doing what it has always done...evolving.

WARNING: Other Epic Rap Battles of History have profanity and adult content.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Jobless Future...March On.

   Some time ago, I had a terrible thought. When I first witnessed the automated cashier in the supermarket, I wondered how many jobs it had cost to implement the device. In my local store, there were three such of which had clearly replaced a register were a person had been. I started thinking of the calculations the corporate executives had made in saving some overhead of the company by replacing humans with machines. As it turned out, the automated cashier’s were just passing through...since they hardly ever worked correctly and no matter how simplistic they were, some people just couldn’t operate it. I thought we had dodged the bullet of technology aimed at the human workforce...but I was wrong.
   Technology is a wonderful thing. It makes our lives easier and overall convenience to have. However, there are some instances where technology can be costly...especially to the person being replaced by a machine, or out of work because technology has made their industry obsolete. I’m a keen observer...of just about everything, and what I have observed lately is a mixed bag. Stepping into the future is leaving some people behind.
   I wrote earlier about the great strides and stunning changes that have occurred in my lifetime thus far in “Then, Now and Far Beyond.” I made some very interesting observations...and now I must add to that, but it isn’t good news for some.
   Direct video streaming and electronic reading has had a direct impact in those respective markets. Getting instant video streaming of your favorite movies is putting the neighborhood video store out of business...and eliminating the jobs of everyone that works there. In the case of a franchise like Blockbusters, that picture is exacerbated. Even sending movies directly to your mailbox can’t compete with it coming right into your computer. Technology is marching forward...while some are marching into the job search market.
   Reading a book isn’t what it used to be...and doesn’t look to be so ever again. Bad news for me as I write my third...but I’ll just have to step up and learn the electronic market. Bad news also for the local book store...and surprisingly worse news for the bookstore franchise. My local Borders has just closed it’s doors for good...and technology isn’t blameless. With Kindle and other electronic reading devices exploding on the scene, was there ever a chance for the old fashioned book? March on technology...march on.
   Truly, I’m surprised the U.S Postal system hasn’t taken a bigger hit...since I haven’t received a real letter from a real person, seeking to convey information to me, in years. Email replaced “snail mail” and with instant messaging and texting, I’m shocked they even make pen and paper anymore...cause I don’t know anyone that uses them with the intent of sending a thought through the mail. How many jobs will be lost when this aspect of technology finishes marching...?
   The advances in technology that we are making are wonderful...if all they do is enhance your life. Those same advances are terrible, if they set back your livelihood. It’s a sad fact that technology is forcing many people into a jobless future. With no easy answers, all we can march on.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Pay It Forward

   A while back there was a movie called “Pay It Forward.” I have never seen this post isn’t about that movie. However, it is about a derivative of the main idea of the story...the idea that a good deed or opportunity given, should be paid forward to another instead of back to the source. If only my posts were that simple...

   I was in a recent conversation (isn’t that how most of these get started?) about our society today and the idea was put forth that to build a better society, the children coming up need to be educated in the way of understanding the opportunities given to them...and pay back, by way of paying forward, the benefits they receive from the hard work of their parents. As a parent...this was starting to sound good already.
   I listened intently at the idea that was being shared, looking at the conversation as an opportunity to learn, and therefore improve, my own understanding of the world. Without recounting every detail, I’d like to pass on the most profound parts...and hope that sharing this, in some way, pays forward the opportunity I had to expand my horizon.
   It has been my experience that very few people volunteer for anything, unless it’s a chance to get he cost of nothing. We are a give and take society, with an emphasis on the “take.” Again, just my experience and I acknowledge that it’s not shared by everyone. It was, however, shared by the participant in my conversation.

  The offered solution for this was that children should be taught to volunteer. Specifically, to do so periodically in three ways:
1.) Volunteer for something that has a direct effect on your family or community. This will instill a very real and personal sense of self worth and drive home the reality that you are an important part of your surroundings. You matter...and the things you do impact those you care most about.

2.) Volunteer for something you always wanted to do, but never did. Too many times we let our dreams and gaol slip away without ever knowing if they were even something we really wanted. I always wanted to be a veterinarian...and volunteering at an animal shelter would have been an amazing experience as a young person thinking about entering that field. I would have found out much earlier that I’m not the animal guy I wanted to be.
3.) Volunteer for something that you really don’t like. It’s amazing, the self insight that can be achieved by willingly stepping outside your comfort zone. Just as it’s true that this process can reveal that we don’t like some things we thought we can also show that we like some things we thought we didn’t.
   The idea of all of this is that if a child is taught and continues this process early in life, that the result will be a better citizen in adulthood. I admit it sounds very good and seems like an enlightening process...but it remains to be proven until it’s applied on a large scale over a time. However, I remain optimistic that this idea is better than most..and have witnessed how “paying it forward” can be contagiously positive. 
Thanks for the conversation L.D.