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 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 into 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 barely 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.