Monday, July 29, 2013

Movie Review: “Bullet to the Head”

   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

   Sylvester Stallone is a movie icon. One of the most recognizable names in film, he often delivers exactly what you expect him to after all the years of watching him. As he gets older, he does a little less physically (not too much less though) and seems to put a bit more into his characterizations. In this film, it was easy. All he had to do was lay back, be cool...and deliver a cold line every now and then. Sung Kang surprised me...I thought he would be better after seeing him in the Fast and Furious films. I was annoyed by what looked to be a half-hearted effort to the role, which just ended up making Sly look even better.

The Plot: 
   James Bonomo (Stallone) is a gun for hire in the city of New Orleans. He and his partner have done many jobs together and have never had a problem...until now. After their last job, instead of collecting their fee, they are targeted for extermination. While his partner is sent on his way into the afterlife, Bonomo survives the attempt, and is bent on revenge on the ones that have crossed him. The problem is he doesn’t know who hired them...and has no way to find them.

   Taylor Kwon (Kang) is a Washington DC detective investigating the murder of his ex-partner as part of an ongoing case of corruption in his own department. As it happens, his ex-partner was the latest assignment of Bonomo. Putting all the pieces together he approaches Bonomo with an offer of cooperation to find those ultimately responsible for his ex-partners death...the same people that are responsible for crossing Bonomo.

   A partnership made in hell is formed, and with Kang’s technology and connections, and Bonomo’s brutality and area knowledge, what follows is a blood soaked manhunt through New Orleans that can only end with...a bullet to the head.

The Verdict: 
   The beginning of the film is reminiscent of Pulp Fiction as Stallone and his partner look like they come from the same pool of hitmen as Jackson and Travolta. It is established very quickly that there is a point to the title as their mark recovers (go figure) from two to the chest...and must ultimately be put down by one to the head.

   Stallone establishes his character early as being a hitman doesn’t take much range, especially if you’ve been desensitized to the life. Speaking of which, it was kinda cool to be treated to a version of “Stallone through the years” in the opening in the form of mug shots from when he was a teen...until present day. Kang, on the other hand, never once came off as convincing and always seemed as though he was an actor, pretending to be an actor, that was pretending to be a cop, instead of selling me at really being a cop. I’s really bad when you look like an actor pretending to be an actor.

   There was no over-the-top action, which was good, and instead was more gritty realistic action that helped sell the film. Keegan (Jason Momoa), the enforcer for the bad guy, was better in his small part here than all of Conan! The entire film sets up for a showdown between him and Stallone (as if that was a surprise), and it’s actually a pretty good match.

   This film had some great parts to it, but didn’t have me emotionally vested in any way that was good. I wasn’t glued to my seat waiting to see what happens next...indeed, I spent most of the time annoyed at the terrible performance of Kang. The saving grace of the film were the gratuitous number of head shots, and a well deserved gut shot delivered by Stallone that I took as meant for Kang’s much as Kang himself. When I weighed all of this, the film could only lock and load 2.5 cinnamon sticks, out of 5, in my cup of tea.

Rating: 2.5/5

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

It’s Not Rocket Science

   Politics. It’s very simple. It’s a bunch of people seeking to manipulate another bunch of people, by attacking, yet, another bunch of people. Sound confusing? It’s not really. It’s stupid, underhanded, and disingenuous, but it certainly isn’t rocket science.

   I was reading the July 5th edition of the Boston Herald when I came across an article about Secretary of State, John Kerry. Now let me caveat this entire post by saying that I’m neither a Republican or Democrat. Instead I’m an independent thinker that refuses to be manipulated by the snakes on either side. Anyway, the article was about the Republicans calling for Kerry to be put on a plane bound for Washington, instead of having a vacation while unrest and turmoil plague Egypt.

   I’m no expert on foreign affairs or world events, but I’ve lived long enough to know that there is always some sort of unrest and turmoil somewhere in the world, particularly the Middle East. I’ve also lived long enough to know that everyone needs a vacation every now and then. Dare I say that in the position and capacity of the job of Secretary of State, there really is no ideal time to take time for yourself and your family.

   Now as I read all this, I thought to myself that perhaps they (Republican critics) expect me to be stupid. Perhaps they expect me to be unfamiliar with the technology of today and think that Kerry is truly out of contact with anyone in the administration regarding current events. Heck, I’m a low level city official and can’t escape the problems of work when I’m not on the I’m reasonably sure the scenario is a bit worse on such a higher level.

   Sadly, this garbage passes for news, and some actually consider it a talking point. I’d like to offer everyone agreeing with the attack on Kerry to bypass taking a vacation...forever. I mean, if it’s the work that stops him from taking a vacation, kindly explain how you deserve one when your job continues to produce work, even when you’re not around. No...we all take vacations from work because the work never stops...and somehow I don’t think Kerry or any high level politician or diplomat really has that option, despite being out of the office.

   Fast forward to the July 10th edition of the Boston Herald, and I’m reading an article about Kerry again. This time he is returning to Washington to talk to the Chinese, while his wife is laid up in the hospital after having a seizure. Umm...where are those Republican critics that balked about the man having time to himself? They were very quiet as I suspect they approve of the idea of work coming before family. I don’t subscribe to that philosophy. Family is all we have, and they always come first.

   I’m not easily manipulated. I’d like to think that I’m not manipulated at all, but that would be foolhardy of me to believe my own hype. I don’t think less of the man for taking time for himself and his family...nor do I think more of him for making the job a priority over family. I just think it’s all silly and the time invested in trying to paint a picture of Kerry, other than the one everyone paints for themselves, is absolutely wasted.

   This is not a Republican slamming post, although the story centered on their idiocy, let me be clear that the Democrats do the same thing. Shame on politicians for their simple-mindedness and insulting opinion of our intelligence...and shame on the media for transporting their garbage from their lips to our eyes and ears.

   One day, we the people, will decide that we have had enough...and perhaps on that day will emerge true statesmen, and journalists with integrity...after all, none of this is rocket science.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Everyone’s a Critic

   With the onslaught of summer blockbusters (and a few duds) it seems like everyone has become a movie critic these days. I don’t exempt myself from all of this, since I actually review movies here on this blog...and do so to the exclusion of all else over at The Boxed Office. Not being a professional (meaning nobody pays me to do these reviews), take everything I say with a grain of salt. However, don’t take that to mean that I think a person getting paid to do reviews should be looked at as speaking silver screen gospel. Some of the worst reviews I’ve ever seen have come from “professional” critics...which has me wondering why anyone is paying them at all!

   I’ve always wondered who the critics are reviewing these films for? It seems the more accolades they heap on some film about some person with emotional problems struggling with a love interest, the less the masses seem to care. People are going in droves to movies the critics see as a waste of film...mainly because they have no deeper life meaning than to just entertain the audience. I find this disturbing and odd...I mean, isn’t that the whole point of movies? Aren’t they supposed to entertain us? Perhaps I’m a part of the wrong “us” as I still haven’t figured out who these critics are catering to.

   Don’t misunderstand me. I have seen some great films that do not involve large explosions, wild stunts, or gratuitous amounts of blood. In fact, I’m an advocate for watching IFC (Independent Film Channel) as there are some excellent films to be seen from very talented people with unique vision. My point is that although these films are as profound as they are entertaining, they take nothing away from those films that are made, intentionally, to bedazzle the eyes and numb the senses.

   I think much of the problem is these professional critics enter every film, regardless of what type it is, with the same mindset they use to evaluate the more cerebral genre. I mean, if you’re watching “Schindler’s List” with the same mindset and expectations that you’re watching “Fast and Furious 6” with, then it’s no wonder your critique of the latter is unfavorable, in direct opposition to the majority opinion. It’s my belief that every film should be viewed through open eyes...meaning, judge it against what it intended to do, not against something it was never meant to be.

   Perhaps I need a degree in film watching to really know what I’m talking about? After all, the masses of moviegoers must be wrong in liking popular films because a critic, with a degree in film watching, knows better than the rest about what we should like, and what entertains us. Maybe that’s the mentality of some I have observed that read a review and decide, instantly, about the merits of the film being reviewed. I’m the type that must see a film in order for me to form an opinion about it. What someone else writes about it might be interesting, but I need to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to making up my own mind.

   I suppose that’s why I still read the movie section of the Boston Herald. I’m interested in how wrong their critic is when it comes to films. Now, of course there are some people that agree with his opinions, but when I see him give the “Lone Ranger” a B+ while giving “World War Z” a C+, I know he’s not playing from the same deck as me. Heck, he’s not even sitting at the same table. More disturbing than that is getting facts about occurrences in films totally wrong (I’ve seen this on more than one occasion).

   I’m no expert on films. I like what I like, and talk about the films I watch with a very simple criteria. I think the best films are those that draw everyone in, by providing something for the perfect ratio. A balanced mix of humor, drama, and action have proven successful with audiences. In the end, you must be your own critic and evaluate based on your own personal preference. Hopefully, we read from the same script and you find my reviews useful.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Three Edged Sword: Trayvon & George

   I’ve read and heard a lot about the Trayvon Martin tragedy and thought long about my personal position on the matter. I understand that emotions are running high on both sides of the equation, but if reason doesn’t rule the day, then we learn nothing from all of this...and are doomed to repeat the cycle. At the end of it all, there is a 17 year old young man dead. We must ask why...and assign some culpability once we have the answer.

   To determine this, we should let our power of reason uncover the exact moment, the very beginning of wrongdoing, that set in motion the chain of events leading to death. So where do we begin to decipher this? 

1.) Trayvon is walking through the neighborhood. There is no wrongdoing here.

2.) George is following him because he perceives Trayvon to be suspicious. There is no wrongdoing here.

3.) George confronts Trayvon. This is the beginning of where things go wrong. As a neighborhood watch, the job is to observe and report...which George was doing when he was following (observing) and talking to dispatch (reporting). This should have been the end of his duties, with any further action being continued observation. Instead, “observe and report” was abandoned in favor of “approach and confront,” and this is the beginning of an action that was contrary to the duties of his position.

   From this action stemmed further actions, most notably the altercation between the two...and if we are to believe the testimony, Trayvon attacking George. Assuming this is true, this action is also wrong, but is not the catalyst of the event. For an attack by Trayvon to be the full catalyst of the events leading to his death, he would have had to approach George while he was still in the car, observing and reporting...and doing absolutely nothing wrong in doing that, and attacked him without any provocation at all. That is not what happened...but had that been the case, then Trayvon alone would be responsible for his death.

   I believe that both Trayvon and George are responsible...if events unfolded as described (and we will never truly know). So if culpability is indeed shared, then where is the punishment? Trayvon has already paid, with his life. George has rendered no payment for his role in this tragedy. I believe he is guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

Involuntary manslaughter is the unlawful killing of another human being without intent. The absence of the intent element is the essential difference between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. Also in most states, involuntary manslaughter does not result from a heat of passion but from an improper use of reasonable care or skill while in the commission of a lawful act or while in the commission of an unlawful act not amounting to a felony.”

   Nobody can say for certain that George intended to kill Trayvon, but a death has happened, and there is a cause. That cause is the “improper use of reasonable care or skill” displayed by George when he went outside the confines of his duties. 

   It is my belief that in order for George to be completely free of all culpability in the death of Trayvon, for the “stand your ground” law to apply and render him innocent, he would have had to be in his car performing his duties correctly, when he was accosted by Trayvon. All other facts in this case, in my opinion, are moot. Life is cause and effect. We already know the effect, and I think the jury dropped the ball when determining the cause.

   For all those saying that George is guilty of second degree murder, and all that it implies...there is just no way to determine this through the burden of proof. Being negligent in your duties does not automatically equate to malice.

   For all those saying George is innocent, I think I’ve already addressed the question of culpability as seen through the equation of cause and effect. Innocence would mean he had no part, whatsoever, in the cause.

   For those that go the extra step and affirm that Trayvon “deserved” to die...I caution you on the heavy hand by which you judge. There are very few people, when compared to the total human population, that are, or have been, deserving of death. Being an impressionable 17 year old that obviously didn’t have all of life’s answers does not qualify as being deserving of death. Who among us didn’t make mistakes at that age?

   Perhaps I myself was deserving of death when I was 17...and doing a lot worse than Trayvon ever did? Perhaps my life was a waste because of the bad decisions I made at that age? I think history will prove that position wrong since today I serve my fellow citizens in a capacity that offers my life in the performance of that service. Trayvon will never have the opportunity to make a similar contribution.

   As we all struggle to understand this tragedy, we should remember that understanding is a three edged sword consisting of your side, their side...and the truth. There are extreme opinions and feelings in all of this, and somewhere in the middle is reason, and the truth. The jury got it right the first time...but didn’t understand the model of which I’m speaking of, and therefore didn’t recognize the truth.

   In their first vote they were three for not guilty (one extreme), one for second degree murder (the other extreme)...and two for manslaughter (the middle where reason was...and ultimately, the truth as far as culpability for cause and effect). 

   So the system doesn’t always get it right, everyone already knows this. What needs to be addressed now is how to fix this, so we don’t have more of the same regarding the actual incident...and the lack of understanding that followed. Blind fury and bitter rebuttal as an answer to that fury, are not the answer. Reason must be the rule of the day...or we will forever be in the endless darkness of that tragic night.