Monday, January 31, 2011

Movie Review: "Takers"

   I love watching movies and watch them as much as time permits. In my heyday, I was the movie of the biggest fans of the screen art to ever grace the seats of a theater. I think it a natural progression, for myself, to start officially reviewing films as only my twisted mind can view them.
   Since this is the first review I’ve ever done publicly, I should probably lay down some ground rules of how I operate. I like to be entertained, so that is the main basis for how I rate a film. There are however, certain elements of a film that will kill the experience for me even though it was an entertaining view. We’ll explore these elements together. If you haven’t seen the film and don’t want to know anything about it beforehand...don’t read anything I write about a film. If I have issues with the film, I’m gonna say so. The more I like a film, the less I’ll say about it. I want you to have the same experience I did, if at all possible...and also want to spare you any agony I’ve endured (Clash of the Titans). That about sums it let’s begin!
The Cast
Matt Dillon, Paul Walker, Idris Elba, Jay Hernandez, Michael Ealy, Tip “T.I” Harris, Chris Brown, Hayden Christensen, and although she didn’t star, I will always mention the good work of my friend Zoe Saldana.
   The cast was put together well and I have no major complaints about anyone’s performance. Even the singers/ rappers turned actors did what I expected of them given the difficulty of the transition. Matt Dillon is a seasoned veteran and his performance carried much of the load of the simplistic script. There wasn’t much room in the script for anybody to nail the audience with lifelong buzz...but Idris Elba is always a joy to watch and in this film we get the bonus of hearing him in his native British accent. I was impressed with the athleticism of Chris Brown and pined for the days of my own youth.
The Plot: 
A bunch of guys get together and commit robberies for a living to support their lavish lifestyle. If that sounds cut and dry...that’s because it is. The saving grace is the subplots that run underneath that hook you into what it’s all about. T.I. is fresh from prison with a scheme to make a score...but every move he makes is part of a larger, undisclosed plan. His being alienated from the rest of the group because he was caught and incarcerated from a previous heist only heightens the tension and curiosity of his master plan. 
   Matt Dillon must catch the robbers, but at the same time, is dodging the Internal Affairs Division because he thinks his excessive approach to his work is catching up with him. With few leads and thin hunches, he struggles to put all the pieces together. Idris Elba’s problem is personal and very touching and grounds us to the idea that we are still watching real people even though they are engaged in a very unreal (for most of us anyway) process. All this collides together in an array of chases, a hail of bullets, and a lot of money!
The Verdict: 
Although I was thoroughly entertained by this film, one of my make-or-break gripes with a film is the ending. After the ride, I was let off at the nearest bus stop while the ending rode away...with me throwing rocks behind it. I felt that after all I had been through with the cast and their issues, they could afford me the courtesy of a package worthy of the cost of shipping. I’ll mention now that this was a rental...and because of the ending, I only saw it once (in contrast to the A-Team which I saw four times).
   Action, explosions, bullets, chases...these are the things that get my blood circulating. This was the type of movie that was certainly my cup of tea...but as fond as I am about cinnamon...this movie only gets two sticks, out of five, in my cup.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Don’t Eat the Cake

I’m sure we’ve all heard the expression “have your cake and eat it too”...probably as “You can’t have your cake and eat it too”...or “You’re trying to have your cake and eat it too.” It’s a very old saying, probably older than me, and I’ve never given it much thought...until now (uh-oh).
The expression recently came up regarding a friend of mine having issue with married men or men in committed relationships making passes to her in secret. Let me be clear right from the start...I don’t have an issue with her having an issue. I’m also not going to discuss morality and ethics in this post. I just want to examine the reality behind the expression...because it never occurred to me to do so...until now.

If we examine the expression at face value and literally...we are left with a cake that we can have and eat, but to do both is a bad thing. So then we can have the cake so long as we don’t eat it. Don’t eat the cake. Hmmm....I can picture a room full of children all getting a slice of cake and having no desire to eat it (yeah right) and one child following the human course of action (more on this later) and another pointing and yelling out “He’s eating the cake! He’s eating the cake!”  An adult quickly comes over and delivers the classic “’re trying to have your cake and eat it too.” 
Don’t eat the cake. Really? Who does this? Who has a cake, with no intention of eating it too? Who buys a cake for themselves or for another with no intention of either eating it or having it eaten? I would say nobody...but in this wacky world, I’m sure someone actually does...but my point is that it’s not even close to the norm. Indeed it’s very human and logical to eat a cake that you’ve gone through the trouble to have or by circumstance have come into possession of.
Now lets examine the humanity behind the saying now that the literal examination has produced slices that make no sense. The expression is used as a euphemism for wanting it all and let’s be honest...who doesn’t? If given a choice between having everything you want and having only some of what you want, who really opts for having some? Now...if nobody (do I really need to mention that there are always exceptions) settles for some, then why do we get angry at another when they try to get all...or better still, actually have it all! Seems like hater-ism to me (uh-oh).
Barring the moral, ethical and societal implications associated with the expression (that will be another post), I don’t see the problem of wanting or having it all. It’s what most of us work so hard for and what most of us dream about. To want it all is human and to have it all is blessed. I applaud anyone that can eat the cake they have and am a fan if they give me a slice. So the next time you’re accused of having intentions of eating the cake you have, become a mirror so the accuser can see the frosting around their lips.
Sometimes we just need to accept the fact that we are human.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hating Snow for All the Wrong Reasons

If I start this piece off by saying that I don’t like snow, it would be one of the most malicious acts of understatement to be committed within the last century. It would be like calling Antarctica a “little nippy”...saying touching molten lava is “bad for your skin”...being trapped in a cage full of hungry lions seen as “an unfortunate turn of events.” I think you get my drift but just in case my point isn’t hitting the nail on the head...I REALLY don’t like snow.
It seems I’m not alone in my feelings toward the endless inches of frozen water we get every year. There are many people that agree with the sentiment. Being a born rebel and generally one that doesn’t like to flow with the crowd...simply because they’re flowing, I had to step back and analyze why I had such a...ahem...disdain for snow. I was shocked that I found myself vexed at the natural expression of winter for all the wrong reasons.
If you are a hater of snow, ask yourself why? I asked myself and came to some interesting conclusions. 
Cold: Is cold really an issue for me? I like ice in my drinks...liking cold drinks. On a hot day I love jumping into a cold pool of water. Ice cream...cold. Needing an injection of painkiller recently had me loving the cold spray applied before the shot. I never roll around butt naked in why should I have an aversion to it being cold? No...I can’t hold cold as an issue against snow.
Shoveling: The physical exertion of shoveling can be a pain in the keister...but is this really a good reason for my ire? I’ve been into working out for almost all of my adult life...and though I don’t always enjoy it, I do enjoy the results of it. I’ve come to realize that exercise is a good thing, even when you don’t “feel” like doing it...and I’ve done it all. From long walks to bench pressing small vehicles...done correctly, the body benefits. So can I hold an opportunity for my body to benefit against snow? I can’t.
Driving: There’s no doubt about it, snow makes a mess. A simple drive to the corner store can become a saving throw against your vehicle skill. Surely this is reason enough for my pain? Well...I love mountain biking and off road driving, both of which I can do easily under normal conditions...but choose adverse conditions for the thrill and challenge. Although the snow conditions are never of my choosing, the driving conditions are no less challenging than conditions I choose anyway. So...not really a good enough reason.
Well...if these reasons are the staple of why snow makes so many enemies, then what’s my problem? What’s my real issue with snow? What’s the deal? I don’t get stumped often...but this really had me marinating. Then I figured it out. My problem with snow isn’t because of what it is, but because of what it isn’t.
Snow doesn’t smell like cinnamon...and I like the smell of cinnamon. I despise snow because it doesn’t smell like cinnamon (there, I said it). If every time it snowed, it permeated the soothing, warm smell of fresh cinnamon...I think I’d love it! 
So I no longer...ahem...”dislike” snow for all the wrong reasons...but for the only reason that matters to me. What's your reason?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Empty Spaces

Don’t panic. The economy is fine. Everything is going well. no attention to the empty spaces. What spaces? ask. didn’t notice? I can understand that. Life being what it is distracts us from the little things and they go unnoticed as we hustle and bustle to our next appointment. 
The “rush” is on and if we’re not a part of it, then we’re not doing something right. I know this well...especially when I’m behind the wheel, but was a very different day. Today I actually slowed down when the little things finally jumped out at me and took my attention. I had always noticed it...but like a lingering dream, it hovered just outside my conscious view...until today.
Today the empty spaces screamed at me...and I couldn’t ignore them any longer. They begged to be noticed and thought about...pondered...and now reported on. As I made my way from Brighton to Hyde Park via Brookline, Jamaica Plain and Roslindale...they refused to be ignored. My usual lead foot became just a foot...and I took notice, for once, of what was right in front of me. I saw the sign...and it read “trouble”.
I noticed it when I entered Jamaica Plain and the whole corner of Huntington and South Huntington Ave read “Retail For Lease”...and just up from there the market was gone. The Pets Resort was gone on Centre Street...and Donna K Cleaners was gone on Hyde Park Ave. Further up, KFC had also went out of business. I’d like to stay politically correct here...but if chicken and french fries won’t sell, we’ve gone way past politics...and landed smack dab in economy.
It didn’t end there though. Even further up, Park Ave Lounge is gone as Cleary Square begins to look like a ghost town. Riverside Flower Shop, the Tuxedo Place, Capri Salon, Hyde Park Learning Center...the kids...the kids! Kings House Chinese Restaurant...really? Chinese food, the staple of late night cheap eats can’t do enough business to stay open after years of flourishing? Like I said in the beginning...don’t panic.
The economy is fine. Everything is going well...but I would advise you, wherever you may be, to take a measure of the empty spaces. Slow down and take note of what isn’t there. Pay attention to the signs because trouble begins with a void...and economic trouble screams to be the empty spaces.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Crash Against Me and Be Broken

Life is replete with unexpected situations...some a great source of joy...others a prelude to pain. When faced with the latter, stand tall and strong asking life the only question that really matters: "Is that all u got?". Be the rock that withstands the water, be the mountain that endures the wind.
What would life be worth if everything came easy? We all dream of better days and simple solutions, but the universe doesn't always consult us before changing the tide of life. Being human is our greatest blessing and the root of our fragile nature. Often times to endure, we must become more than we ever wanted to be or less than we thought possible. For those that cannot make this adjustment, the purity of oblivion often engulfs their world.
In every situation, there are only two directions from which to approach: strength and weakness. Ambiguity as an option only lets other forces decide the direction. All things being equal, the path of least resistance is usually the default and not much fortitude is required to travel it. However, to travel along the other path, either by choice or circumstance, one must embrace an unyielding nature to have any hope that the universe might notice.
Life is choice...whether you want it to be or not. We must all choose for ourselves, even if that means letting others or circumstance choose for us. I choose to be that rock that sits on the eternal shore. I choose to face every wave that crashes against me...looking toward the next before the first has even finished breaking. I choose to be that mountain among the everlasting clouds...enduring the cutting wind and becoming more embolden with every chip. I choose to have the fragile nature of my humanity to be an illusion, unseen and unnoticed until challenged.
These words loom before all as a reminder to be considered or dismissed. There are many aspects to our existence...some lay within our power to control...many do not. To all such circumstances looming outside of my influence seeking a suitable course for collision, I affirm daily: crash against me and be broken!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Problem and The Solution are The Same Coin

   Not enough people caring enough about other people...THAT is the problem.
There are many situations and issues we deal with, read about, or watch others deal with that we erroneously think is the actual problem...when in fact they are just a product of a single underlying deficiency.
   The world is a rough place to be and it doesn’t look like it’s going to become any less of a rough place anytime soon. People shuffle and push their way from one event to another, blasting through situations and leaving little in the form of concern, in their wake. If ever we took the time to examine ourselves and our effect on the world around us, indeed, if we cared enough to even make such an effort...I think we would find that there simply isn’t enough of us caring enough about those around us. The examination though, would only be the beginning and we would have to continue to care enough to actually do anything to reverse our findings...and change our world from what it is, to what we lament it isn’t.
   For some, “change” is a dirty word and invokes fear of losing comfortability and familiarity. Instead of fear though, we should apply understanding...and realize that life itself is change, and since change cannot be avoided, it should be embraced as a universal constant. This knowledge should actually empower us to invoke the changes we want to get the results we seek. 
   We seek to solve a least, we should. Many of us, far too many of us, simply voice our distaste while leaving the problem for others to solve...or worse still, defeat ourselves by conceding that our nature is to blame and our higher intellect is powerless to mount any kind of opposition. The truth is...lack of caring equals to little more than cowardice. We are afraid to put ourselves on the line for another. The extent of our fear is so great that even the smallest concession often escapes us.
   We are all well aware of the extremes presented to us...from heinous acts of unbelievable acts of charity. How aware are we of everything else in between? Sure, we might stop to help someone in an accident...but do we think twice as we cut them off in road rage because we have somewhere to be and couldn’t care less about their scheduling conflict. Perhaps a small act of caring might get us both where we want to go...and not possibly cause the accident we then, might feel compelled to help. Maybe we’ll just “rubberneck” as we drive by...thinking that someone else will help...or at least dial 911.
   What would happen, if we started to understand that “someone else” is actually us? Perhaps we would no longer be outraged when we here of a woman beaten to death in broad daylight by a sick excuse for a human...because we would be one of the fifty bystanders that didn’t just stand by, but put boots to head and attached accountability to an egregious act. Perhaps the police could return to real community service since policing ourselves just leaves them to come pick up the trash and haul it away to jail. Perhaps real examples of unity, responsibility and respect will be passed to our youth and a “brighter day” will cease to be a slogan, but instead be the logical progression of our society.
   We don’t need extreme examples to achieve this because opportunities to show another that you have the courage to actually care present themselves all the time in our everyday hustle. I bet if you sit back and recount your day carefully, you will find some examples. Perhaps you passed on the chance because there was no immediate benefit to you...but if enough people cared enough about other people, THAT would be a solution and the repercussive benefits to yourself would be well worth the effort.

Just a thought.

Monday, January 10, 2011

So...the Recession Doesn’t Effect You?

Did you wear your seatbelt today? It doesn’t weren’t going to get into a car accident anyway. Or were you? I don’t know...I certainly hope you didn’t and won’t anytime soon...but did you wear your seatbelt? Do you take this simple step in safeguarding yourself in the event of an accident? I hope you don’t just depend on airbags alone and luck of nothing happening as the only precautions you take.

Talking about precautions...what sort of precautions are you taking for the recession? There are many people out there under the impression that the recession doesn’t effect them. They have a house. They have a car. They have a good job. So what’s the big deal with the recession anyway? The recession just effects people that don’t have anything right? Wrong!

Many just don’t realize that they are one paycheck away from the recession crashing down their world. Notice the picture at the top of this page. The trap is in thinking it could never happen to you. That your money will always be there. That your job will always be there or even that you will always be working. That your house will always be there...whether it be mortgage or rent. I hope these things never change for you, except for the better...but the reality is that you could lose your job tomorrow and the house of cards, as it were, could follow shortly after.

A traffic accident, with or without your seatbelt, could rob you of your ability to do your job. The recession could rob your employer of the means to employ you. Heck, heaven forbid you make an error that gets you fired. There are many ways to lose a job...and easy is the last word you can use in describing finding one. Are you prepared? Do you have enough money in the bank to sustain your lifestyle? Do you know what and where the resources are to help you? Do you have a plan “B”? 

I would recommend you get a plan “B”, “C”, and “D” because if there is one thing life has shown me in the short time I’ve been around, it’s that anything can happen...and often does. Tough times are in effect...and if you’re not taking notice, shame on you. If you haven’t noticed that box of cereal or bag of chips getting smaller, while the price stays the same...then you’re just the kind of consumer corporations love.

Ever take note of the small print that appears on the shelf in the supermarket? You should. Not thinking about the times we live in is the worst thing you can do...especially if these times force you to notice them later on. So...still think the recession doesn’t effect you? Think again. I could write a book about the many ways it does and what you should be doing before and after...wait a minute...I did.