Thursday, May 30, 2013

Movie Review: “Fast and Furious 6”

   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.

   Vin Diesel reprises his role as Dominic Toretto, a tough-as-nails street racer leading a crew now living on easy street after ripping of a drug czar. Paul Walker also returns as Brian O’Connor, a cop turned criminal that has found a home as part of Toretto’s crew. Dwayne Johnson returns from the previous Fast film as CIA agent Luke Hobbs, needing Toretto and his crew to take down the untouchable Shaw (Luke Evans). Now having amnesia, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) runs with Shaw’s crew. Tyrese Gibson returns as Roman, in a role that sees him hit the nail on the head for comic relief. If you’re a fan of the Fast & Furious films, then you know exactly what you're getting...and everyone not only lives up to your expectations, but exceeds them! If you’re not a fan, watch this film and become one.

The Plot: 
   CIA agent Luke Hobbs is after one of the most powerful and elusive criminals to ever turn a wheel, Owen Shaw. Always a step ahead of the authorities, Hobbs needs help and turns to the only people good enough for the task, Dominic Toretto and his crew. .

   Toretto, now living a worry free life abroad after heisting 100 million dollars in the previous film, won’t be easy to convince. Fortunately for Hobbs, he has the perfect carrot...surveillance photos of Letty, Toretto’s lover who is supposed to be dead. Sticking together like a true family, the entire crew agrees to help Hobbs provided they receive full pardons for their crimes...a move that could let them all go home again.

   What happens next is a flurry of high octane action with amazing stunts, and surprising plot twists that will have you on the edge of your seat, unwilling to miss a single frame.


The Verdict: 
   From the very beginning this film screams “fun.” It opens with the character credits, taking you on a montage of cut scenes from the previous films leading right into the remnants of carnage left by Shaw. Dwayne Johnson’s onscreen presence is formidable and a great segway into the personalities of Toretto’s crew.

   The crew’s chemistry really adds the extra flavor to the film. As good as it has been in the past films, it seemed more refined in this they really all had been together for a very long time. Kudos to the writing that had Tyrese getting all the laughs as he became a punchline that wasn’t silly, just entertaining.

   The story was a bit complicated, but the chase made that aspect of it irrelevant. The raw action underscored the fact that the crew was dealing with an absolute criminal genius with ample resources. I expected scene after scene of ridiculous stunts, but instead there were only two parts that really strained credibility...which says a lot about how the presentation was packaged as I’m sure looking at it objectively, every stunt probably wasn’t credible.

   This movie does just what it was intended to do, pump your adrenaline,  tickle your sense of humor, and keep you enthralled. With maximum RPM’s, it never runs out of gas and chases down 4 cinnamon sticks, out of 5, in my cup of tea.

Rating: 4/5

On November 30th, 2013, Paul Walker was killed in a car accident. It is tragic to lose such a young talent that has given so much joy through the dedication to his craft. Rest in peace Paul Walker, you will be missed.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Thin Line

   Job dedication seems to be a rare occurrence in most occupations. Perhaps I’m looking at the wrong jobs or are just being showed bad examples...all the time, but it seems to be the rare occasion when someone steps up to the plate, and bats a home run in the name of just doing the job.

   Now, before I even get into the meat and potatoes of what I’m going to talk about, let me take note that there are exceptions to the rule...and indeed, the rule may not even be an accurate measure, especially if you look at the recent response and professionalism of Boston’s Finest (and all our first responders) during, and in the wake of, the recent tragedy in Boston. No...I’m talking about the ordinary facing extraordinary circumstances (and no...I don’t consider those that serve to protect us ordinary people).

   I read a recent article about a reporter that is facing serious jail time for being a good journalist. My initial response was astonishment that there are reporters still practicing journalism (especially considering this particular reporter works for Fox News). My next response was profound contemplation about the moral and ethical dilemma this situation presents.

   In a column that originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times, I read it in the April 12th (2013) edition of the Boston Herald. Judith Miller wrote about Jana Winter and the possibility that she could be ordered by a state judge to reveal the confidential sources she used in reporting about the Colorado movie theater shootings...or spend time in jail if she refuses to do so once ordered.

   Revealing her sources would be a career ending act. Think about it...who is ever going to talk to a reporter that promises confidentiality, but then doesn’t deliver? Nobody, that’s who. A reporter that can’t get people to talk to them isn’t a reporter anymore. So here we are, teetering on a very thin line between the freedom of information, and the law as defined by a state judge, and to a larger extent, our government.

   I’ve said before how dubious “news” has become, and this is a large part of the reason. Accurate reporting by dedicated journalists are becoming a thing of the past (or has already become perhaps?)because of the controlling of information by those that have interests other than that of informing the public. I’m also aware that this particular sword cuts both ways as I’ve also said that some stories just aren’t news (in my opinion)...but those cases were also motivated by the desire to inform the public. It cuts deeper when the freedom to inform comes up against the right to privacy...but that’s for another post.

   I think it should all be reported and we, the public, should be able to decide if it means anything to us or not. I worry when I see things like...

Fewer and fewer news organizations can afford to fight for the right to publish information in the public interest that the government does not want them to know” - Judith Miller’s disturbing, to say the least, as our right to information is eroding before our very eyes. It’s bad enough when news organizations refuse to cover certain stories. It’s worse when they try and aren’t allowed to.

   There is a thin line that our society is performing a balancing act on and should we fall off, there is no safety net to catch us. We have to decide now, together, the importance of free information or the matter will be decided for us and I doubt we’ll like that decision.

   “A nation cannot remain free if the government alone decides what information it’s citizens are entitled to have” - Judith Miller.

Let that marinate...

*Boston Herald quotes taken from the April 12th edition

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Big Brother is Looking to Watch

   The unspeakable horror of the terrorist acts of the Boston Marathon bombings have had profound and lasting effects on all of us...especially those of us here in Boston. Inevitably, the question arises about the preventability of similar acts of terror in the future...which of course, sparks a debate that has been around long before the recent events brought it back in the forefront. 

   I remember having to read a book in high school (and also being lucky enough to be required to watch the movie class!) called “1984.” What I remember most from the book is that “big brother is watching.” The government surveillance was everywhere in this future (now distant past in reality) society and was instrumental in the control of human behavior (although it’s virtually impossible to curb the human factor). I remember the movie more than the book, since I was a very visual child. I remember being freaked out by the movie, and the seeds of being against absolute government control (as seen in the movie) were firmly planted.

   Living in an open society as we do, leaves us open to all sorts of heinous acts by deranged individuals and groups. The question of what can be done to protect ourselves is asked daily, and it seems the response, in the passing of prohibitive and infringing laws, is also done daily. With all the laws passed that restrict the rights of the average citizen, have we become more safe? It doesn’t seem like it.

   So if the laws being passed aren’t working, what’s next? What is the answer to keeping us safe? Some have suggested that more surveillance will do the job. After worked in “1984.” I should note, it worked to catch the “criminals” after the crime was committed. Read the book...see the movie, and understand what passes for a criminal and a crime in that society. We are not quite there yet, but I have to wonder if the road to that society starts with the increased surveillance that is being proposed.

   Not only is it being proposed, it’s being made business friendly. The suggestion is that local businesses be given tax breaks to install surveillance equipment outside their establishments. Sounds like a great idea, considering recent events, to catch criminals. Again though...that would be after the crime is done, and cameras, as a tool to catch the bad guys when they’re finished doing bad things, don’t have a great track record.

   The Boston Herald has quoted Glenn Reynolds (law professor at University of Tennessee) as saying “The record of cameras in catching terrorists has been really lousy.” He goes on to say “If in fact they caught these guys through the cameras, it’s pretty much the first time.”

   He isn’t alone in this opinion. The Boston Herald also quoted Matt Welch of Reason Magazine “You can’t sneeze in London without being on six cameras, but that didn’t stop the bombings.”

   So cameras as a preventive tool...just doesn't make sense. Taking away my privacy, won’t stop crime. Of course, after realizing this, the next logical suggestion has been to deploy domestic reconnaissance drones. I have nothing against the Boston Police Commissioner for suggesting this, he thinks it’s a good idea. I just want to know where we draw the line at the beginnings of a totalitarian society?

   I know some of you reading this might think my views extreme. Surely we are not even remotely reflective of such a lifestyle. I would caution you against willfully putting your good sense to sleep...and ask you to simply think back to how things used to be, and how they are today. Growing up, I never dreamed things would be as they are now...and I just hope that when my great-grandchildren grow up, their view isn’t one of never imagining having all the freedoms we do today.

* Boston Herald quotes taken from the April 24th edition

Sunday, May 19, 2013

When Pigs Fly

   I may not consider myself old...but I know I’m getting older. I know I seem old when I remember and use sayings that were old when I was young. In particular, I remember being told that something would happen “when pigs fly.” Essentially being told that whatever it was I was enthralled with at the time, just wasn’t ever going to happen...since pigs will never sprout wings and fly. I used to think the same about cars, but now it seems I have to change my thoughts as such a thing has gone from just around the corner!

   Imagine my surprise to open the local newspaper and read a small blurb about the development of a flying car. I felt a small swell of pride to hear the company developing the TF-X, Terrafugia, is from my home state of Massachusetts (Woburn to be exact)...but then a sense of dread as I imagined all the people that can’t seem to understand the basic tenets of driving (and yet have a license), flying around in the air!

   I can only surmise that if such a car ever becomes available to the general public, it would be with serious restrictions. Driving is a privilege, not a right...and I would suspect that driving a car that can fly would be a privilege reserved for those that are also pilots. I would love to own a flying car, and fly around and away from traffic and bad drivers, but I honestly can’t see myself becoming a pilot. Fortunately for me...the good people at Terrafugia have thought of nearly everything.

   According to their website, the TF-X will be able to fly and land...all by itself! I suppose this is the way they must go if they plan on making it available to “everyone.” Dare I say, if such technology exists, then why not put it in cars right now? I can’t believe the number of drivers I come across that could benefit from not being the one in control of the vehicle!

   Really though, I’m impressed with the number of safety features this vehicle is purported to have. They should just say “idiot drivers welcome” as it seems that someone is paying attention to the things I see, and are thinking smartly of how to avoid that behavioral replication in the sky.

   I remember I used to watch The Jetsons as a child and I never dreamed, not for a second, that I would be alive to see the beginnings of that cartoon begin to come to life. That’s what this is...the future made real. Fantasy made into reality. A bold step to  make what could be into what is. Kudos to the brilliant minds working on this idea...and may they have continued success at thwarting the one thing they really can’t control or even rightly prepare for: human nature.

   Flying cars...what will they think of next?