Thursday, December 26, 2013

Movie Review: “Red 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

   Like the first film, the cast has some heavy hitters in terms of talent. Bruce Willis, a bonafide action star returns and continues to look cool as a cucumber while killing the bad guys. Helen Mirren also returns as the lethal British agent and is reunited, again, with her Russian spy lover, the very talented Brian Cox. John Malkovich is once again awesome...and once again,kept me glued to the screen with hefty anticipation of what he was going to say or do next. It is worth saying again, when it comes to playing crazy or imbalanced characters, few do it better than him. Mary-Louise Parker enjoys a larger and more relevant role this time around, bringing a stream of laughs. 

   Byung-hun Lee plays the world’s deadliest assassin turned ally and delivers a fun, if not altogether believable, performance. Catherine Zeta-Jones plays Russian agent and ex-lover of Bruce Willis’s character and while I was never sold that she was Russian, was entertained at how her character was used to enhance Parker’s role. Dorchester native, Neal McDonough once again plays that “you know somebody is about to die when you see him on screen” role, and does it very well. Of course, Anthony Hopkins delivers, big time, in any roe he plays…and this one was no exception.

The Plot: 
   Bruce Willis is retired, extremely dangerous (R.E.D.) CIA analyst Frank Moses, trying to live a normal life with Mary-Louise Parker after all the death and mayhem of the first film. Unfortunately, Marvin (John Malkovich) shows up and more mayhem soon follows as he and Frank have been outed as knowing the whereabouts of Nightshade, a portable nuclear device. Of course they don’t and must now hunt it down before they are hunted down.

   Neal McDonough is sent to kill Frank and retrieve Nightshade. Helen Mirren is sent by British Intelligence to kill Frank and retrieve Nightshade. Catherine Zeta-Jones is sent by the Russian government to retrieve Nightshade (beginning to see a patter?). Byung-hun Lee is contracted to kill Frank, and is all too eager for the job as he has a personal vendetta to settle. With all the pieces in motion, Frank must track down the creator of Nightshade, Dr. Edward Bailey (Anthony Hopkins).

   To find Dr. Bailey, they must first find The Frog and somehow convince him to reveal information that will lead to the whereabouts of Bailey. Finding Bailey is only part of the problem, after finding him, they must then find Nightshade…but things can only get worse as Bailey has his own agenda for Nightshade that has been on hold for 34 years. What follows is an array of car chases, explosions, unbelievable stunts, betrayal and misdirection as the very world sits on the brink of destruction.

The Verdict: 
   Once again they deliver a film that is a nice action-comedy that didn’t feel like a waste of time. However, once again, I was sitting through it seemingly in anticipation for something more to happen, and was mildly elated that the film delivered somewhat in this area. I think the key difference between this film and the first was the expansion of the cast which gave the film a little more depth and area to expand on what was missing from the first.

   Also, I think it is forgotten that this is indeed a comic book film as it is based of a comic of the same title. I was reminded myself when I saw the DC comics logo in the opening. Technically, this film should have been reviewed in my other blog, The Boxed Office, but it’s all good.

   I’m an action junkie and love a good laugh mixed in with explosions, car chases, and a hail of bullets…and this film had a good dose of all of those, especially the comedy spurred by the romance between Willis and Parker. This movie was again, my cup of tea…and even though it was a slight improvement over the first...this film still only gets two and a half sticks, out of five, in my cup.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Regrettable Life or Unforgettable Living

   Recently I came across a post that linked to a webpage that outlined the five top things people regret when on their deathbed, as revealed by a hospice nurse. I found it to be an interesting read that struck profound thought within myself…particularly about the way I’m currently living my life.

   Of the five regrets listed, three of them stuck with me more than the rest, probably because they have the most relevance to the situations life brings my way. 

   Now, there may be some people reading this that have never once wished they made an alternate decision ever in their life. Kudos to the perfect among us that get it right all of the time. I’m certainly not one of those people, try as I might. However, I certainly don’t want to be one of the people having such profound regret about certain aspects of my life just when it’s on the verge of ending.

   So…I’ve decided to examine closely these regrets had by others so that I can learn from their experiences instead of repeating them.

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

   Said to be the most common regret (and thus #1) due to dreams going unfulfilled. I take it a step further to mean actually determining your actions, both minor and major, based on the opinion others may have as a reaction. Living life in fear of the opinion of others not responsible for your happiness (since you are) is just no way to live for me. 

   I have also taken a measure of how close my reality has thus far come to my dreams and find myself in need of more concentration and commitment to those things I wish to accomplish. Not an easy task (considering my dreams), but I have zero chance if I give zero effort, and that just won’t do for me.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

   Said to have primarily happened to keep peace with others (and #3 on the list), this one is particularly a tough one for me, being a Capricorn, suppression of emotional expression is par for the course. The irony is that Capricorns are among the most emotional. I’m often called a Vulcan, which is not an insult since it is such an apt description. Many associate Vulcans with having no emotions, but the truth is their emotions run even deeper than Humans and thus, the suppression a greater and more tasking undertaking.

   The bottom line is living in suppression probably brings more problems than it solves, and I could do with less problems. Thus the voicing of how I feel will be taking a more prominent role in my personal interactions. Dare I say many people will be surprised at getting a real look at someone they think they know, but I’d rather that than having this as one of my deathbed regrets.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. 

   Happiness is a choice that everyone should make long before they are at the end of their life (although # 5 on the list). The comfort zone and familiarity of patterns and habits, while having a stability effect, doesn’t always bring true joy and the free expression thereof. Sacrificing being content because of a fear of change is a price that will surely seem too high when the grim reaper comes calling.

   Again, I have many desires, but wishing I had let myself be happier when the opportunity to do so is no longer available is not one of them. There are many things that can make me angry, sad, and depressed…but I can always choose to smile in the face of those situations, accepting that I have a full range of emotions and the negative ones need not be sustained.

   I have had many lifestyle changes…most recently the cessation of eating meat, all animal protein really (not really feeling fish anymore…the last bastion of my guilty desires) and feel much better. After digesting my thoughts about those things most regretted by others at the end of their lives, I see another lifestyle change for me looming on the horizon.

   Switchfoot said it best…”This is your life, are you who you want to be?”

   Hopefully this post has inspired some “kreative” thoughts for those that read it, and positive effects thereafter.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Bunch of Animals: Political Monkey Business

   We must see the game for what it is. If we remain blind to the process, then it’s our own fault for where we find ourselves and where this country ends up. I didn't write what you’re about to read next, but it bares analysis because there must be some understanding of the process before we can effectively change it into something that works. We have been divided on purpose, while the animals run amok in the House and Senate:

“If you start with a cage containing five monkeys and inside the cage, hang a banana on a string from the top and then you place a set of stairs under the banana, before long a monkey will go to the stairs and climb toward the banana.

As soon as he touches the stairs, you spray all the other monkeys with cold water.

After a while another monkey makes an attempt with same result... all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Pretty soon when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it.

Now, put the cold water away.

Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one.

The new monkey sees the banana and attempts to climb the stairs. To his shock, all of the other monkeys beat the crap out of him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original five monkeys, replacing it with a new one.

The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment...with enthusiasm, because he is now part of the "team".

Then, replace a third original monkey with a new one, followed by the fourth, then the fifth. Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked.

Now, the monkeys that are beating him up have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs. Neither do they know why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.

Finally, having replaced all of the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys will have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, not one of the monkeys will try to climb the stairway for the banana.

Why, you ask? Because in their minds...that is the way it has always been!

This, my friends, is how politicians operate... and this is why, from time to time:

ALL of the monkeys need to be REPLACED AT THE SAME TIME.”

   What are we really afraid of? Have we been so conditioned that the thought of improving the system terrifies us, just on the idea that our way of life will change? Even if that change is for the better? 

   I watch and marvel, and despair, at how brainwashed we all have become to be so polarized into “conservative” and “liberal”…Republican and Democrat. Why can we not all be Independents and use our good sense to realize that politics has become all monkey business, but we are the ones having the banana dangled in front of us?

   Why are we constantly doing the same thing year after year, but complain when we don’t see a different result? Why is the idea of following the Constitution such a tough pill to swallow? Why are we not holding our elected officials to their appointed task of representing us instead of representing the corporations and special interests?

   This post is full of questions, but very few reading will take the time to honestly answer. We purport ourselves to be the greatest country on Earth, but when it comes to fixing our political landscape and replacing the politicians, the monkeys sitting around in the cage, with statesmen…people that reject what the farce has become in deference to the truth it used to be, we cower in fear.

   We are willfully blind to the game being played, and are losing without ever knowing we are participating…and now, there is no excuse.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

’Tis the Season

   It’s that time of year again. The hustle and bustle of people filled with “joy.” The colorful lights and festive decorations. The financial orgy of the corporations. The systematic continuation of mass lying to the prepubescent. The intolerance of anyone reflecting anything non-traditional. Yes…the holiday season is here again and it doesn’t get any better (literally).

   Bah Humbug! My personal opinion about the holiday season, but probably not for the reasons you think. I’m not old, bitter…or rich. I’m a bit selfish, but everyone that’s a part of the human race is also, even if it’s just a little bit. No, my reasons are many and will become clear as I paint a picture using bright greens, reds and yellows…trimmed in silvers and golds, with a hint of wood brown for that home and hearth feel.

   The holiday season, a time for giving, a time for joy. However, go downtown…any downtown, and do a bit of shopping and you will see that most of what is being given is attitude and the only “joy” to be had is from that giving. Perhaps I’m being cynical or I’m just a bit jaded from my own experiences but it seems like the festive mood is not so festive these days. I blame the world, which means I blame you…and me, since it takes the shape of our own molding, and the way it looks these days isn’t very pretty at all.

   Let’s be honest, the holiday season has become a corporate dream. People losing their minds en masse as they spend what little they have, and often more than they can afford to. Everywhere you look, the season is descending upon us in the form of commercials, savings, deals, and special offers. I remember when Thanksgiving was digested before the buzz of Christmas began. Now, the very next day after you eat, the madness begins.

   Speaking of madness, am I the only person in the world that thinks the systemic and organized lying to children is a bad thing?  The very first people they put their trust in are their parents, and in return they are led to believe a magical fat man in a red suit squeezes his ass into every chimney in the world…in one night, via reindeer that fly…without wings (I just think someone should have at least added wings to the reindeer). People say it’s all harmless and the joy the children get outweigh the fact that they are lied to…for years. I say it’s just conditioning for the future rationalization of telling lies…and accepting them when they are told to you. No wonder Christmas is good for government.

   Now we have a war on Christmas. Really? I see it as an indulgence in intolerance. Why does everyone have to believe, partake, or perpetuate the event? I agree that if one belief is publicly represented, then all should be as well (it’s that whole melting pot idea we call America), so the stories I hear of Christmas now being left out is just wrong (purely from a principled point of view…remember, I’m “Bah Humbug”). I’m talking more about this madness that ensues when somebody returns the “Merry Christmas” greeting with “Happy Holidays” or “Happy Hanukkah” or “Happy Kwanzaa” or the one that invokes the 360 degree “Exorcist” head spin…”I don’t celebrate Christmas.”

   Somehow that phrase carries so much more weight than the others. Perhaps it carries an underlying meaning that nothing is celebrated during the season? The rest of the dynamic body stunts from “Exorcist” follow when the inquiries of why are met with “I’m a Christian”…but that discussion is for another post.

   My thoughts are simple, and sometimes simply complex…but on this issue, everyone should do whatever it is they do, and let others do the same. Perhaps this is the first step in bringing the “joy” back to the season…not finding offense for something that has nothing to do with you. Unless you come across the Grinch in the process of stealing your Christmas, what does it matter? The joy in your heart is best reflected by the smile on your face. Heck…even I say “Bah Humbug” with a smile, even though people think I’m kidding at first, the smile still remains.

   This holiday season, like all the others that came before and those that will come after, people have a personal choice to make. It’s not very difficult, but it is decisive…be jolly or be a jackass. ’Tis the season…