Thursday, November 29, 2012

Movie Review: "Skyfall"

   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: 

   Daniel Craig borders on the best Bond for me. I just like his gritty, no-nonsense approach to the role and it’s a nice departure from the suave, cool as ice-water, modus operandi of the past actors that have been Bond. Craig makes Bond human by making him fallible. The best part is that he doesn’t just do this...he delivers everything else that audiences have come to associate with Bond. 

   Javier Bardem is an excellent actor and it seems as though he has fulfilled something destined to be...when he steps into the shoes of Silva, the latest Bond villain. Very few people were born to be a Bond bless Bardem for answering his calling. 

   Naomie Harris is the latest installment of one half of the Bond girls in the film...and although not portrayed as glamorous as Bond women have been in the past, the utility of her role is perfect for the plot, and sets up a nice surprise for longtime fans.

The Plot:

   Really? It’s James Bond, who needs a plot? much as that question might ring true for some, the basic Bond formula was present. Mad villain seeks to cause chaos and destruction, with a side of revenge to round the dish out. It’s pretty straight forward, but let me get into all the explosive details.

   A drive with a list of all the MI6 agents has been stolen and Bond must recover it before it gets into the wrong hands. In the process of recovering the stolen drive, Eve (Harris) has Bond and his adversary in her crosshairs as they fight on the roof of a moving train, and is ordered, by M, to take a shot that has an equal chance of striking Bond. It does, and Bond falls from the train and presumed killed.

   Now in enemy hands, MI6 agents across the world are being executed, and the Prime Minister of England calls for M’s resignation. With agents being killed and computer systems being compromised, M’s office within MI6 headquarters is bombed...the icing on the cake to show that nobody is safe. Enter the return of Bond.

   Bond is put back to active duty and tracks down the man behind all the chaos, Raoul Silva, and ex-MI6 agent with an axe to grind against M. Bond recovers the drive, captures Silva and learns the past history behind the attacks. A prisoner within the new headquarters of MI6, Silva is exactly where he planned to be all along...within striking distance of M. When Q tries to access Silva’s top secret files, the tables are turned...and things get very interesting as Bond must protect M from a rogue agent that is always three steps ahead, with all the bases covered.

The Verdict: 

   Any fan of James Bond will be a fan of this film as well. It is being advertised as the best Bond film ever, but that is a stretch considering the body of work the Bond series covers (25 films). There are hints of a new direction, while paying homage to the classic foundations

   The most visible aspect of Bond in this film is his vulnerability. He is shot, can’t make the grade for active duty, and has trouble compensating for his shortcomings. This is something not really shown in Bond films as he has not been this vulnerable since the beginning of Die Another Day.

   Missing also are the plethora of gadgets, opting instead to keep it very simple and focused on Bond himself. Although Q’s bag of tricks is missing (replaced by his updated hacking ability), the original Aston Martin DB5 makes an appearance and hefty contribution.

   The fact that Bond isn’t the can-do-anything slickster works for this film. It puts it in a place not normally traveled by the (Bond) material. That said, it might have gone too much in this direction since being a Bond film carries with it a certain amount of expectations. Even so, this film was able explode, shoot and poison three and a half (3 1/2) cinnamon sticks, out of five, in this extremely tasty cup of tea. Shaken, not stirred...of course.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Past Forward

   The past should never be forgotten, especially for avoiding a repeat of valuable lessons learned the hard way. There is an old saying that those that forget the past are doomed to repeat it. “Doomed” giving a negative connotation to the saying, with a positive spin of not repeating the negativity. Some might argue, depending on their particular experience, that the past is best forgotten. I suppose there is merit in both philosophies...but how does one go forward if their constant fixation is on...or in, the past?

   If my recent observations are any indication of an answer to this question, then someone living within this situation is having a very hard time indeed. Life is change. Wait...let me amend that, life is constant change. With every moment that passes there is some kind of change taking place. People are a part of that change and those most cognizant of the changes effecting them tend to adapt a bit better than those that are unprepared or unconcerned. Then there are those willfully resistant to the inevitable changes of life...and when a fixation is developed on a point in the past, the contradiction to the present is troublingly evident.

   See...the past is fixed. A past event cannot be changed. The people we knew in the past, have already changed (such is the nature of life) so if a choice is made to fixate on a past event, or person of the past...then focus is lost and distorted. How many times has it been said and heard of a desire to have a person “back?” To have them return to a point they were at in the past. Just think about that for a moment. It really doesn’t make any sense. None of us can become exactly who we were in our past since every moment between then and now has only served to do exactly one thing through our experiences...change us.

   What becomes of all the energy put into a past fixation?’s wasted, on a fixed unchanging point. My personal philosophy is such energy would be better used exploring that same person, in the present (provided that’s something that is desired). It’s more of a “I remember who you were, but who are you now?” After all, any interactions with that person will be an interaction in the present with whomever they have become...not who they used to be. Some reading this might think this is all very elementary, and it is...for some of us. Sadly there are those that are having a hard time grasping this fundamental reality.

   Nostalgia...we all get a taste of it at some point, for something. Every now and then a backward look is given and invites warm and welcome feelings. Sometimes that look invites a renewed sadness. Whatever the case, for our own mental and emotional health, it must remain a “look” and not become a thousand-yard stare. When that happens, like staring in real time, things are still going on around us that we might miss because we aren’t paying attention. Sometimes those things are things we really didn’t want to miss. That’s why a glance in every direction serves very well to paint a complete picture of what is going on around us.

   Let me put it another way. Before crossing the street, we were taught to look both ways. It is good advice, especially if traffic flows in both directions. Now imagine keeping your gaze fixated directly ahead of you (or worse, just walking backwards) while you step off the curb and continue into a busy intersection. Needless to say, bad things will happen. It’s the same when someone stays fixated on a point in the past, as they step off the curb and continue into the busy intersection of the present. Bad things happen.

   Being blindsided by a speeding truck is, more often than naught, fatal. Being blindsided by the speeding conditions of the present, while not normally fatal, can be very unpleasant. Yes, if my observations are any indication, I would have to say that you could fast forward, and look toward the future...while keeping an eye on the present. You can’t past forward...that’s like walking backwards off a cliff you never saw coming. It’s not the fall that kills’s the sudden stop.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A House Divided

   The nation is divided, but we need not be at odds with each least not to the disturbing extreme some seem to be taking the issues. Clearly there are differing opinions on a variety of issues facing our great nation. It gets murky when people start talking of officially dividing the nation...a step back in time, and start enacting violence upon their fellow citizens, even family! We have seen brother-against-brother before and it was as tragic then as it is now.

   Everybody is never going to agree on every point of any candidate that runs for the highest office in the land. There will always be those that think differently. It’s this diversity in thinking that makes this country as great as it is. When I was growing up, it was taught that America was the melting pot of the world. Now it seems that pot has been simmering too long, and some of the good stuff has started to burn. This last election cycle has revealed some disturbing ingredients.

   There is currently a call by a few, and by “few” I mean in comparison to the total population of the country, to secede from the union. There are some that dismiss this, since it’s only a “few”...but that number ranges in the hundreds of thousands collectively, and that has never been a small number from my point of view. Despite that, the inception of this is a divided country, so although the majority of those at odds with the half of the country that were victorious are not seceding, we are now living in a house...divided.

   Politics is a passionate subject. I’d say this is quite obvious now as it seems to trump passion associated with finding a mate. I know emotions are still running high, but let me just say that the world is not coming to an end just because the President won a second term. I mean, if the world comes to an was always going to happen anyway right? That’s what the Mayans said...and don’t get me started on the Book of Revelations!

   I heard the story of Holly Solomon, the woman that made headlines by running her husband over because of her disdain for President Obama...whom her husband didn’t even vote for. The worse tragedy here is the people (and there are surely some) that agree with her actions and her motives behind them. Daniel Solomon sustained life-threatening injuries for a vote he never cast, and even if he had, would have ultimately failed to get President Obama the win in the state of Arizona. Holly’s fear was that the President’s second term was going to create hardship for her family. The reality is she herself has created that hardship by nearly killing her husband. The real point is that despite political differences, we still need to be one nation. The Solomon family was a house a house destroyed.

   As if petitions for secession and family turning on family isn’t enough...there are actual cries for civil war. To clarify, every petition I’ve have seen about secession has been worded as a peaceful act of separation. The problem there is the last time it happened, it was anything but peaceful. Outright acts of civil war are downright insane (in my opinion) and although I’ve had to face the election of a president I did not vote for, did not want...and ultimately (and arguably) was bad for the country, I have never considered the option that my state should not be a part of the country. I never considered committing acts of violence on anyone that didn’t vote as I did...not even when we didn’t find any weapons of mass destruction. Now...the suggestion to take up arms en masse against other citizens...over an election? I'm going to have to pull the insanity card on this one.

   No matter what the future holds, every American is now in the boat together, with one President and one Congress to hash things out. We should do all we can as citizens to facilitate that...and continue to let the process work in the next election cycle. Today, we may be a house divided, but that’s no reason to be a house destroyed tomorrow.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Men and Women: Common Ground

   There has to be a middle ground where the two sexes can meet to really start to understand each other. I mean, men may be from Mars and women might be from Venus, but that doesn’t mean we can’t meet somewhere in the middle here on Earth. With all our differences, there must be some similarities or at least points of reference where we can begin to build a real understanding about each other beyond “all men this” and “all women that.”

    Ok, lets start there. All men are dogs. No...not really, but it’s a common saying among women. It’s not totally without merit since the nature of men to seek out gratuitous sex is more fact than myth, but sweeping generalizations are rarely accurate or advance the cause of understanding. So the first thing than needs to happen is to take “all” out of any statement that blankets the sexes (snicker) and replace it with either “some” or “most” depending on what it is and the available data to support the assertion.

   Now, let me be clear, I’m not an expert on this subject. In fact, I’m severely unqualified since I’m a man (hear the women roar), but I do have some ideas about the subject I’d like to share. My personal observations have led me to a hypothesis that most women are generally more emotional than men...and most men are more intellectually grounded. I’m NOT saying that men aren’t emotional (of course we are), and I’m NOT saying that women aren’t intellectual (of course they are). I’m simply saying that women generally approach things from an emotional view and men generally approach those same things from an intellectual one. Are there exceptions to this...of course!

   Once I came to this conclusion (most unscientifically I might add), I went about exploring the effects of this within the simple conversations and complex communications men and women have. A simple question of “What do you think about this” takes on very different implications depending on who is asking the question...and who is answering. If a woman is asking another woman, or a man another man, then this is a safe question and the conversation will progress in a forward direction. However, if either sex is asking the other...then the miscommunication door is swung wide open, and both parties step through.

   A man asks that question wanting to know the thoughts, the actual intellectual process. A woman asks it also wanting to know the thoughts, but not driven by the intellectual process, but by an emotional one. It would simply be easier for her to ask how does one feel...but those words are interchangeable for a woman. Thoughts and feelings blend for them like peanut butter and chocolate. On the flip side...if she asks a man how he feels about something, he seems to be clueless that she is asking for him to tap into his emotional reservoir, and not call upon his intellectual reasoning. Seems to me that if both sexes take each other literally...a lot of issues need not arise.

   Now...all that said, it’s unlikely anything will change between the least not overnight in large numbers. The common ground is not to take each other literally either. That was just a simple observational effort in problem solving. No, the real answer to all this, the real common ground both sexes should meet on is simply an understanding of where each is coming from. Men must understand and remember the emotional base a woman comes from, and interact with her on that base. Tell her what you think, but then go on to tell her how you feel AND ask her how she feels (especially about your response). Women must understand and remember the intellectual base a man comes from and interact with him on that base. Easier said than done to put aside how you feel, but the gains in actual communication will be great.

   Of course, I could be totally wrong in this whole post...but I’ll take the “A” for effort in trying to bridge the gap between the sexes.