Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Movie Review: "Taken 2"

  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’ll say right away that Femke Janssen and Maggie Grace played excellent roles. But if we’re going to discuss this must be acknowledged that this is quite clearly a Liam Neeson movie. Neeson returns as Bryan Mills, with all the butt-kicking skill and focus that he had in the first film. Neeson delivers (of course) and has you thinking through the whole film “Why does anybody even mess with this guy?”

The Plot:

   Bryan Mills is always on time for his appointments...especially those that are most important to him, like taking his daughter for driving lessons. After having here kidnapped before, and barley getting her back in time, he cherishes every moment. The problem is...he killed many people to get his daughter back, and the relatives of those people aren’t very happy with Mills.

   Offering to take his daughter and ex-wife away for a vacation at the end of his business trip, Mills has no idea that forces are in motion to exact revenge against him...and that revenge must take the form of nothing less than the murder of his family, before his own death.

   Once events begin to happen, there is no stopping the collision between the resolve of those that want Mills and his family dead...and his resolve to keep his family alive. Just as in the first film, somebody must get “taken”...and Mills must use every skill he has to get them back...even when he himself is among those taken.

The Verdict: 

   If you are a fan of the first film, you’ll be a fan of this one. The difference I saw is that this film spent a little more time with the development of the character relationships...and I thought it added to the tension of the film when it later showed these people is serious danger.

   The expression of Neeson at finding out his daughter has a boyfriend is absolutely priceless. Seeing him bound and helpless while his wife is hung upside down bleeding out from a partially slit throat...was heartbreakingly disturbing. This movie goes places the first film didn’t and the ride is indeed very wild.

   There is very little humor in this film, although there is some at the beginning. Once the movie gets going, it’s intense and gripping drama with mega doses of action to keep your eyes glued to the screen. I found myself wondering why anyone would continue to feed bodies into the meat grinder that is Neeson...but glad they did. It was enough to dip three and a half (3 1/2) cinnamon sticks, out of five, in this extremely tasty cup of tea.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Death of Journalism, The Rise of Spin

   News programs and papers have long ago abandoned the tenets of journalism, in favor of rallying the personal point of view of those that run them, and those that fund them. It’s become quite disgusting and really sad that you can no longer just simply get the news. I mean, just an objective report about what’s happening. Instead, you are presented with the seen through the viewpoint of those presenting it. That’s not journalism...that’s spin.

   Let me be crystal clear in the assertion I’m about to make. Newspapers should not be endorsing anyone...except the reader. The same goes for those on television reporting the news...but I’ll get into that later as there is a slight difference from what a newspaper does. In my neck of the woods, the Boston Herald has endorsed Mitt Romney. Across the country, the Salt Lake Tribune has endorsed President Obama. Both men are reeling in the endorsements of newspapers all over the country...and I’m just stunned. Has nobody ever stopped to think about what this all means? It means that every paper that has endorsed a political candidate has invalidated any claim they sought to make of doing objective journalism.

   Why is this important? Well...I remember a time, when I was a child, that I hated to watch the news because I thought it was bland and boring. They were only reporting the facts. I’d look to my mother and ask her what she thought of the reports, and she would give me here take on it. Soon we’d have discussions about what we got from the report (as much as can be had with a seven year old) as I began to form my own opinions. It was a time of being presented with the facts...then you were on your own to determine what they meant to you. Those days are long gone. Media outlets long ago realized the power they had over a now trusting public, got rid of all the real journalists...and started injecting opinions as fact. It’s disgusting.

   I hear cries all the time of the “Liberal Media” and “Conservative Spin” and both sides think the other is pulling one over. They are right, of course. This can easily be seen by watching MSM and FOX...where both clearly slant in opposite directions. It’s like you’re forced to watch both just to get a complete picture of what the heck is going on...but it’s a donut instead since the middle is still missing! To be fair...programs like  the Rachel Maddow Show or the Sean Hannity Show are supposed to be what they’s the whole purpose of their existence. Kudos if you watch these programs and understand it isn’t news you’re watching, but intense and carefully crafted spin. My condolences on the loss of your common sense if this fact escapes you.

   No...I have no beef with those shows. My beef is with MSN “news” and FOX “news” (and all other networks and newspapers that operate the same way) because that slant is how events are being reported. Where has the journalistic integrity gone? Why can’t the anchors and reporters simply sit behind the desk and tell me what’s going on...and keep their opinions to themselves (or worse, the opinions of their bosses). That’s what it really boils down to..."I own this media outlet, and I’m going to push my opinion through it." push me, I push back.

   When was the last time you saw a news program reporting negatively about a company that sponsors them? It doesn’t matter how newsworthy the story is. If Pharmaceutical Company X kills thousands of people with their latest poison, but has a commercial spot during the news...then those deaths aren’t news. Like I said...disgusting.

   I see it all the time...and they have the audacity to slam anyone seeking information from the internet. I think it’s amusing that they try to drill us with mantra’s like “Fair and Balanced” when it’s as obvious as rain being wet, that they aren’t. I’d call it sad, except the really sad part is the millions of people that still buy into all this...that have never known a time, like I recall, when news was boring because it was just the facts, or have forgotten (or missed the great switcheroo) the days of respectable journalism.

   When did journalism die? I’ll tell you when it died. It died the day we became willing receivers of propaganda, instead of seekers of truth. It died when we stopped taking personal responsibility for the information we chose to feed ourselves. It died when we supported those that were spinning us...instead of turning the channel on them, or leaving their “news” rag on the shelf, to show them that our brains won’t be washed...and the spin cycle is over on their machine.

   Now...the only question that matters in all of this is...when will journalism be resurrected?

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Credit Score Scam

   Credit cards and the companies behind them have hoodwinked the public into believing they are more important than they really are....and doing so at unbelievable profits. It’s gotten to the point that everything is hooked into your credit score. Soon, buying the simplicities of food and clothing will depend on your credit score. I’m exaggerating, but I really won’t be surprised if this becomes true soon.

   A credit score is a snapshot of the risk you pose to a lender should they decide to lend to you. Now, the very fact that if you live without having to borrow from anyone and pay all your bills on time gives you a zero rating should show how flawed the system is. Further proof is reflected in your score from the three credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and’s never the same. Heck, they don’t even have the same information most of the time...and much of the information they do have is often wrong.

   I really shouldn’t have to say this but...these companies are NOT on your side. I mean. Let’s be real, when has the big company or corporation ever been on the side of the little guy?

Despite what most people think, the credit bureaus don't work for consumers, they work for creditors. They will not accept any information from a consumer without indisputable proof, while the creditor just simply needs to make a claim and it is slapped onto your report unverified.”   
                                                   - The Real Truth About Finance

   So wait, they can say anything, possibly causing a negative effect on your score, which in turn causes lenders to raise the interest rate on you? Uh...yeah, a higher rate means the company gets more money...and it’s all about the corporate profits (duh). It’s getting ridiculous now. There are rates being levied as high as 79.9%. Granted, for a rate that high they are considering you an extremely high risk investment, but really, this is just legal loansharking. The system is bad, but what’s got me really concerned is the application of that system.

   Every time you seek to borrow money, your credit score is going to come into play. Ok...fair enough, but now your credit score is becoming the standard for everything, and it shouldn’t. This system should not be further validated by becoming the guide for other situations. Landlord’s use it to determine if you’re a good candidate for rental. Sounds like a great idea on the surface, but what about that person turned down because of a score on the lower end, that absolutely ranks putting a roof over the heads of them and their children above all else? They may have been late on that credit payment because they paid the rent. I know the mortgage is the most important bill I have because all those other bills don’t matter if I’m homeless.

   How about your credit score being a determining factor in whether you get a job? Essentially, the credit industry has the determining power (with some help from you) over you regarding employment. I think that’s absolutely ridiculous. You pay your cards off, don’t use them for a a consequence, your credit score goes down, and some nitwit looks at this score and decides you’re not going to be able to earn a living? Huh...? Let me be clear, a private company can do as they please, but it’s a reflection on how far gone society is when it has come to this point.

   Just follow the money. It’s all about the money. The Credit Card Act of 2009 was supposed to help the consumer from unfair and predatory practices by the lenders. Somebody should have told lawmakers that the industry would find a way around this...but I suppose it got lost in the sauce as they added an amendment to guns in national parks to the act. The only correlation I can make to guns and credit cards is who you might want to shoot when you get your bill.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Politics of Common Sense

   If your candidate is Barack Obama, keep reading, he’s in here. If your candidate is Mitt Romney, keep reading, he’s in here. If you are concerned with the direction the country is going, keep reading...that concern is explored. If you’re looking to make sense of the whole political process and fix it...beware, such sentiments will get you labeled as radical, out of touch, and dangerous...but keep reading, it’s in here.

   First topic on deck, the two political parties. Now, I’m sure you’re aware that there are more than two political parties, but if you only get your information from the news (oh, the horror), you would never know this. The three other major political parties, Libertarian, Green and Constitution might as well be straw in the passing gusts of the storms kicked up by the Democratic and Republican parties. Should I even mention the other thirty-three parties? I think it’s ridiculous that in an age where a growing number of people are displeased with the “big two” and moving their affiliation toward “Independent”...that more people aren’t looking for alternatives to open the discussion about what is the greatest good for our country.

   Everything is going down the crapper because we fail to recognize that the biggest problem with politics is money. No, I’m not talking about the economy (yet), I’m talking about the allowance of financial influence in politics. Why do you have to be wealthy to run for office...especially the highest office in the land...? Is it that if you don’t have much money, then you’re unqualified to make decisions, your ideas are automatically useless, and that you obviously lack the intelligence of the worlds smartest mouse? Why is the system designed so that if you don’t have reams of cash, you will never get heard nationally? It’s probably for the same reason our politicians vote on and introduce bills that favor the special interest groups greasing their palms...we’ve let our government go rogue while we get hammered off the spiked kool-aid it gives us.

   So how should our government be run? Mitt Romney thinks running a nation like a business is the way to go. The good in that is if it’s successfully run, the business prospers. The bad is if it isn’t, the business fails. In between all that there are always hard decisions and choices that have to be made in the quest to make the business successful. The real questions are who really prospers when the business does well...and who suffers when it hands out “pink slips” to satisfy the bottom line? A very scary question when applied to the nation as being the business. I’m not sure the example of Wall Street is the way to go with people’s lives.

   Recently Governor Mitt Romney has been accused of “jumping the gun” when he spoke out about Libya as those events were unfolding. To be fair, he is not the first, only...nor will he be the last person to do this on a national stage. I just fail to see why we need to discuss the humanity of being human. I fail to see why we hold our candidates to a higher standard than ourselves...when they are just like us, in every way. This high expectation has them never wanting to admit when they are in error...when that is exactly what they need to do, and then move on.

   Let me quickly highlight a scene from the second Presidential debate, then move onto our President’s bag of woes. I want to clear this issue up...since nobody seems to be able to make sense of what they watched...or just can’t believe their lying eyes. Mitt Romney said...quite clearly, that the President didn’t call the Libya attacks “acts of terror” until two weeks after the attack. He was absolutely wrong in that specific assertion as there is video footage of the President calling the attacks just that (acts of terror) the very next day after the a press conference, about the attacks. I say “about the attacks” because the idea going around that the term was just generally used in passing and not associated with the event in question is just...ridiculous. But enough about Governor Romney...the President has got some explaining to do.

   A man makes a video about Islam, and the President goes before world leaders and apologizes for it. Somebody help me...cause I don’t get that. Unless this man was a government official, I fail to see what it has to do with the President. THIS country, we have something called freedom of speech and freedom of expression, two of our core values, I don’t ever see a place where an apology must be levied in the exercise of either. Let me even stretch for the President on this one...even if he felt the need to apologize, where was the acknowledgment, to the world, of our free speech values...?

   So...Libya is the new hot spot. Our embassy is attacked, and our compatriots are killed. The President calls this “acts of terror” the very next day...but thereafter for two weeks, those words, and terms are not associated with the attack by the administration. I asked for help a little while ago, and I still need it now...because I just don’t get it. Now, to be fair to the President (as I was with Mr. Romney), this gaffe (and right now, I have no other way to describe it) is not a sum reflection of the entirety of his foreign policy. We are out of Iraq and Bin Laden is dead. Presumably, going after those that killed some of ours is on the agenda, but none of this explains the two week video pitch.

   Now President Barack Obama wants to push forward. He believes we have gained much ground, but there is still much more work to do. I don’t think anyone would dispute this as an understatement. The question is will the President be the best option to get that work done? In contrast to running the country like a business or corporation, is continuing to push forward with the policies that have been implemented...and new ones from the same house of ideas. If the policies are starting to show gain, then is it wise to change captains now? Then again, what certainty is there that the next four years will continue to gain at all? Tough questions with very few answers.

   Let’s take a quick look at this debacle we have called the political system, again with specifics that pertain to what is happening right now. The President’s ideas are introduced as  legislature in Congress (House of Representatives and Senate) to be enacted into law should both of them vote favorably. The Republicans, when holding a majority in the House vowed to block the matter what. A fact many forget when pointing the finger at the President for what hasn’t been done. However, when the Democrats held a majority in both the House and the was the same result.

   See...I can do this all day. I can write hundreds of posts about the failings of both Republicans and Democrats. I think the more important point is that we all should understand the process and insist on some political straight talk. Nothing happens quickly with government. Nobody can correct an economic downturn as severe as ours in just four years...nobody. Even President Clinton, touted as being an economically successful president (debatable), didn’t do so until well into his second term...and even then, the economic woes of President Bush’s terms didn’t start when he took office. They were already underway from the previous administration’s policies. Are we still feeling the effects of Bush?...absolutely, and Clinton. What will be the effects of Obama? Stick around until 2017 to find out...regardless if he’s re-elected or not. That’s how the process works....or doesn’t work, depending on your point of view and patience.

   This post is noticeably longer than usual, but...a little common sense goes a long way.