Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Movie Review: “Premium Rush”

   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

   Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a very good actor, as seen in the recent hit Looper. Although this role doesn’t call for much range, he is convincing as a New York bike messenger and his riding skills were very impressive. Dania Ramirez has never really impressed me with any of her roles, and this film certainly didn’t give her a great opportunity to do so...even though it looked like she was trying, which made her performance seemed forced. Michael Shannon was exciting to watch as he always looks like he’s just about to go over the edge...and the fact that he plays a cop exactly in this state of mind was a win/win for everyone.

The Plot: 
   Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Wilee (yes, as in the coyote), a bike messenger on the edge and very much in love with his job. His bike only has one gear...and no brakes, as he darts in and out of traffic to make his deliveries. He’s recently broken up with Vanessa (Dania Ramirez), a fellow messenger that doesn’t have her whole heart in the job as she has dreams of better things. Life is a series of deliveries, the life of a messenger...until Wilee gets a call for an envelope that will turn his day upside down.

   Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon) is a cop with a gambling problem...exacerbated by the fact that he doesn’t know when to stop, and can’t figure out how to pay. In debt to the mob and the Chinese mafia, his hole only gets deeper as he sets his sights on a score that will make him break even. All he has to do is get his hands on a certain envelope...and all his troubles will be over.

   Unfortunately...that envelope is in the hands of Wilee, so his troubles are just beginning as Wilee strictly adheres to the messenger code, and won’t give the envelope up. What follows is a cascading series of unfortunate events, bike gymnastics and high speed shavings as both men race against the clock, and no matter who comes out on top...somebody will have their life changed forever.

The Verdict: 
   This isn’t the type of movie where great acting skills can be displayed, so I give kudos to Gordon-Levitt and Shannon for being able to sell their roles...especially Gordon-Levitt. Shannon, who will play General Zod in the upcoming Man of Steel film, plays a cop that is simply out of his mind....and looks completely natural immersed in such a role. I kept waiting for him to go too far (which he does) and was amazed at how nonchalantly he shrugged off responsibility. Every time he proclaimed to be a cop had me thinking to myself “ you’re not.”

   Ramirez fell flat for me due in part to the fact that her role just didn’t have any meat on the bones. I was never interested in what happened to her (until she went over her handlebars) and then my only excitement was how hard she it the ground. Despite the sparse script and forced acting, this film did have some redeemable qualities.

   The film engages in the familiar format of telling the story from different time points, and converging them in the end to put all the pieces together. This actually works well and adds some spice to it as it never really seems to bring you to any payoff as the riding scenes are sometimes long and anticlimactic. I was heavily amused though by a few scenes where Wilee is confronted by traffic and must make split second sequences that slow time down and present several possible options, and their painful outcomes. I actually laughed out loud as I’m amused to no end by calamity (don't judge me).

   This film wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be, but never quite got as bad as it could’ve been. If I was looking for a movie to view in a Friday night pinch, this film was adequate...and delivered 2 1/2 cinnamon sticks (out of 5) in my cup of tea.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Critical Mass

   No matter how regimented we are in our daily routine, there comes a time when life puts the screws to us...and we feel every turn. Nobody is immune to the unpredictability of living...nor the daily grind of what makes us tick. It’s really a wonder why more of us don’t flip that switch buried deep inside. Everyone is capable of achieving critical mass and you’re fooling yourself if you think you’re immune or above it all. Sometimes...all it takes is the acknowledgement that a vacation is needed, then the fortitude to follow through and just take time away from it all.

   Of course, the assumption that everyone is able to take a vacation is also wishful thinking. Worse than that, somebody that can take a vacation...but the bruises of life would make it a meaningless endeavor. I love to take vacations, even though I’ve haven’t had too many in my life, I enjoyed nearly every one I took. I learned that occasionally being able to get away from it all can be very useful in recharging the emotional batteries. I also learned that serious life problems don’t disappear or go away just because you do. do we avoid critical mass?

   People will look at those that go critical as being mentally unbalanced from the beginning. While this may be true, I’m not convinced everyone that has a mental implosion was always mentally unfit and headed for one. I believe there are some that just weren’t equipped or prepared for that one moment...or series of unfortunate events, that pushed them to a place we are all capable of going. Let me tell you right now...if you are even entertaining the idea that you are some superhuman rock that can’t be thus effected, you are fooling yourself in the worst way.

   You are looking at the extreme cases and swearing that it could never be you. It may never be. That lady you cut off in traffic that had a meltdown right after...or that man in line at the bank that kept looking at his watch until he finally began shouting expletives about the situation...thought the same thing. It could never be them. As you look at them and judge (it’s hypocritical, but very human) you should remember that you know nothing about their life.

   You have no idea that that crazy lady in the car having a meltdown because you decided to change lanes has just lost her husband and children in recent accident. You have no idea that the man shouting in line has just lost his home and now has no way to take care of his elderly parents. You have no idea the circumstances or tragedy of another person’s life that led them to behave in a way you are swearing could never happen to you. Be careful in your doesn’t discriminate if you are among the living...and has many ways of bringing anyone to critical mass.

   I know what you’re thinking. No...I really don’t, but I’ll tell you what I think. I think we should all cut each other some slack while we all navigate the roller coaster of life. There’s just no telling who is going to puke...and who will be caught in the splatter (too graphic...but metaphorically accurate). So with all this left to chance, what are we to do to avoid critical mass?

   I’ve asked that question twice now, in hopes that you the reader are taking the time to answer it. I don’t think there is a simple answer...but a series of them reinforced by a philosophy that it can happen to anyone. You may not grab a gun and make the eleven o’clock news...but you might act way outside what anyone that knows you considers “normal.”

   Take a vacation (if you’re able). Take a break every now and then and find some quiet time. Learn to meditate. Exercise to relieve stress. Talk to someone about what’s bothering you (a family member, a friend, a stranger, a professional counselor). Talk to God (pray...although this should probably be first, this has a way of becoming the last resort). Do...whatever works for you (excluding drugs, excessive alcohol, and illegal activity) to stay positive, keep moving forward and helps you avoid your version of critical mass.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A “Perk” By Any Other Name...

   Haterism is alive and well...and being propagated by our media (big surprise). The news seems to be recently inundated with stories highlighting the “haves” only to stir the have-nots. It sure makes for great news (not really) except, everyone is a “have” in some way or another. The real crime here isn’t the media (ok...I’m stretching that), but the masses of news watchers that refuse to really think through the stories being presented. Fortunately...I’m not that type of watcher.

   Let me start with a story by the Boston Herald dated February 15, 2013 entitled “Tale of 2 Cities!: Guess who gets preferential treatment near State House.” It details how the free parking spaces for state officials were plowed out within hours after the snow storm ended...but residents on the same street and surrounding neighborhood didn’t get plowed out till much later. I suppose this is “news” and an “outrage” because it was done by “taxpayer-funded plows.” Big deal.

   It really gets old, this “My taxes pay your salary” mentality. In my personal case, I actually pay my own salary by that definition. Instead of balking about what your taxes pay, why not balk about having to pay taxes first? The article goes on to say “A quick drive around the State House clearly shows the special treatment that lawmakers get...and city residents don’t.” Again I say...big deal. Some of these people complaining about this issue would also be the first to complain that state officials aren’t doing their job if they couldn’t report to work for lack of parking due to snow. It’s a catch 22 situation...highlighted by the hater mentality of someone getting something that you are not...and I don’t buy into it.

  If you really want that type of perk, then run for state office...and win. If you really can’t understand the idea of having certain perks attached to certain positions or jobs...then welcome to the real world. How long have you been here?

   Then there was this story I saw on the news. Apparently there are some Massachusetts State police and local Boston police bypassing the toll coming back into the city. Whoa. Stop the press. You mean to tell me that they are getting over on the toll...and I’m not! Quick, call the President...send in troops. Somebody get the red phone...and call Batman. This has to be the crime of the century. Oh wait...scratch all that because I really don’t care.

   I love how they spin it by saying that these few people not paying the toll is costing me money. Hmmmm.....taking a look at my pay stub....nope, nothing changed. They spin it as if making these cops pay is going to somehow make the slightest difference in my financial bottom line. Guess what people? The toll price will not come down if we make these guys pay. Nope...not even a nickel. So then, why stir the pot on this? Sensationalism...that will stimulate haterism, which will lead to more viewership and more papers sold (they hope). I’m not buying it.

   I know what some of you are thinking. “It’s not fair.” certainly isn’t, but very little in life really is when you consider the fairness application. Every job has some sort of perk associated with it. Should we make firefighters stay up all night and not sleep because we are not getting paid to sleep...and they are? What do you suppose a perk is of an employee that works at a baseball or football stadium? What about a hospital worker that might have access to free advice or treatment because of their job? The fast food worker is getting over on the rest of us because we have to pay for the food...that they take home for free at the end of the day. Call Batman.’s all different because our tax dollars are being wasted, but when are our tax dollars not being wasted? I think the minute they take the tax out of my check, it’s a waste. I could certainly do more for myself than they are doing for me with the money they are stealing.

   I say, instead of complaining about the perks of a job or position, be grateful for those perks you enjoy. Seek employment in the field of the chosen perk you want. Want to bypass the toll...commit to the life of a public protector, and put your life on the line for it (they do). Want to sleep and get paid for it...? Become a firefighter and sleep all you want at night (until the bell goes off and you are called to risk your life). Want free food? McDonalds is hiring. The next time I see a news personality interviewing a celebrity, I’m going to scream foul because it’s not fair that I can’t meet that celebrity. Oh wait...that’s one of the perks of their profession.

   Life is already a struggle...for most, so I’m not going to be another crab in a barrel trying to pull somebody else down. I’m too busy trying to pull myself up...and enjoying what little perks life brings my way. I think I’ll let others enjoy theirs.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Propaganda is not Useful Information

   Within our reality exists some cold hard facts of life. There are just some things that are absolutely true, proven by our own experience, or by the observations of the experiences of others. There just isn't any getting around this. However, there also exists, within the scope of reality, that which is presented as fact...but upon further investigation, doesn’t hold up to the standard of being fact. The most common type of such a representation is a lie. Well...the only type of such a representation is a lie. The only degree of which is how much truth it’s being hidden in...and if that truth remains, true.

   Truth, while being absolute, isn’t always enduring. When the game is played along these lines, the water gets muddy on what is technically a lie...and what is simply outdated information. Welcome to the wonderful world of propaganda. Let’s formally define it before delving into a specific subject of interest.

prop·a·gan·da [prop-uh-gan-duh] 
1. information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.
2. the deliberate spreading of such information, rumors, etc.
  1. the particular doctrines or principles propagated by an organization or movement.

   Now that we have a clear understanding (at least a description of such) of propaganda, let me address a particular case of the egregious usage of making a statement many regard as true: There are more Black males in prison than in college.

   Understand that if you agreed with that statement, that you have been misled to believe something that is currently not true. To state such as the current state of a lie. Although it was certainly true at some point in the recent past (remember... truth, while being absolute, isn’t always enduring) to make such a blanket statement, or use of this information without any accurate context is just...propaganda. While the use of such may be on the agenda of those with nefarious machinations...for Black males and the positive development of society, it is not useful information. Anyone believing this misinformation has been, in a word, hoodwinked. The statistical fact of more Black men being in jail than in college hasn’t been true since 2001

   So...what does this mean? I hope it means you take my example, and don’t just take my word, but verify this claim for yourself. Second, I hope it means that you examine ANY source that still reports this erroneous condition as a current fact...and discern for yourself why the reporting entity would spread this particular piece of propaganda. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you’re no stranger to the fact that I’m leery (at best) of the media...and downright hostile in obvious (to the enlightened) cases of misdirection.

   Why...? Because tremendous harm is being done when untruths are presented and accepted as facts. Most Black youth today are believing this propaganda, and what is such a belief doing to them? Depriving them of hope and painting a picture that prison is an inevitable path while college is an unrealistic dream. The reality is they should be more hopeful today than ever before knowing that prison is completely avoidable and college is a real and achievable goal.

   So where do we go from here? What will you do now? I ask because I’m not some guru or ridiculously educated scholar. I’m just a regular guy that excitedly makes observations about the world around him...that was just as much a victim of the propaganda as nearly everyone that will read this post. I decided that this information was urgent (because it is) and that I would use this humble resource as a vehicle for doing what I can to reverse the damage being done by the propaganda. So...the question remains: What will you do now...that useless propaganda has been converted into useful information?