Friday, May 30, 2014

Movie Review: “Escape Plan”

  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

   Sly Stallone has been the pinnacle of “the action star” for a very long time and as he’s gotten older he’s been more thoughtful in how he characterizes himself in these roles. At least he did in this film. There was more depth to his character here and I think it was by design as the point was not to just be inundated by gratuitous violence, but to understand the motivations and machinations of a character that can throw down, but uses his brain as the first line of offense. This is what he delivers in Ray Breslin, a man that makes his living on testing the security of prisons by escaping from them

   Arnold is in the same boat as Sly, but not necessarily rowing in the same way. He too is the consummate action star that isn’t escaping the reality of age and in this film, although he can’t totally capture the vigor of his youth in this role, he does give us some very familiar looks at the Arnold of yesterday. He also shows us that his character Rottmayar, is not to be underestimated just because he can physically give as good (or better) than he gets. An inmate being kept until he delivers information to the warden (Hobbes), he is more than he appears. 

   Jim Caviezel is very good as a bad guy, and he should really do it more often. He can deliver a very sinister and sadistic side that is both convincing and menacing. Here, in his role as Hobbes, the warden of an illegal ultra-max prison, he shows the levels of which absolute power can be so absolutely corrupting.

The Plot: 
      Ray Breslin is the worlds foremost expert in security analysis when it comes to testing the worlds toughest prisons for escapability. After completing a recent job, he is approached by the CIA to do an off-the-books job in testing a prison that is super secret and touted as being inescapable.

   Ray agrees to take the job and is set up with a new identity and put in play…only to later find out that everything isn’t as it should be. He has been set up and trapped in a prison made by his own career of observations and analysis, by a warden that knows who he is, but is being paid to make him disappear.

      Not knowing who he can trust or who set him up, Ray has to make alliances and take risks in order to formulate an escape and solve the mystery of his incarceration. To this end, he needs the resources of an inmate named Rottmayer, who has his own agenda afoot and is also intent on using Ray’s expertise to escape. What follows is a technical based action thriller that leaves you in awe of Ray’s capability, while keeping you excited by the seemingly insurmountable obstacles.  

The Verdict: 

   An action film featuring just Stallone and Schwarzenegger is long overdue and although I would have liked to see one when they were in their prime, I’m glad they did one. As with many films that feature big stars acting opposite each other, this film suffers from not living up to the chemistry audiences would like to see between them...but delivers in giving us an interaction that we would not otherwise experience.

   Although the script is not too profound with the motivations of Ray’s incarceration being one of the oldest motivators in the world, money, and Rottmayar’s motivation being freedom, the way it all is strung together is very entertaining.

   It was also a boost to have some pretty good talent round out some of the other smaller and supporting parts. For example the leader of the Muslim faction in the prison, Javed, being played by Faran Tahir (first noticed by me for his role in Iron Man and later, Star Trek). Or Dr. Kyrie, played by Sam Neil (best known for his role in Jurassic Park). Vincent D’Onofrio, best known for his role on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, plays Lester Clark, co-owner of Breslin-Clark turned bad guy for money. Lastly there was Vinnie "I'm the Juggernaut, Bitch!" Jones playing the head prison guard, Drake. 

   All told, this wasn’t the best film I have ever seen, but it certainly wasn’t the worst one either. It was just about as I expected it to be given the nitch aging action stars like Arnold and Sly are trying to find. I think both men could have benefited from better scripts, which could have enhanced their scenes together…but this film still locked up three cinnamon sticks in my cup of tea.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Parenting: Spare the Rod?

   When talking extensively about parenting, the subject of child discipline is sure to surface. It’s been a hot topic over the years and deserves some serious discussion.The question of spanking a child is not easily answered definitively and will continue to be the subject of debate. Core to that debate is the point where spanking becomes abuse. Looking further into this subject, we should also note the point where discipline (non-physical) becomes abusive.

   “Spare the rod, spoil the child” is a phrase found in the Bible. Thus the idea that spanking has biblical roots, has already alienated every segment of the population that does not believe in the Bible. So lets have this discussion in a more practical sense and not fall back on “God said so.” 

   I grew up in a house where spanking was the norm (more norm than I enjoyed, but I was a particularly active youth). I can remember vividly, the sessions I got myself into by doing what every child that has ever lived has done…not listening. Today there are some that contend that I was abused as a child. To even begin to answer this, we need to first define exactly what abuse is. The proper definitions of it are:

1abuse noun \ə-ˈbyüs\
1 :  a corrupt practice or custom
2:  improper or excessive use or treatment :  misuse <drug abuse>
3: obsolete :  a deceitful act :  deception
4:  language that condemns or vilifies usually unjustly, intemperately, and angrily
5:  physical maltreatment

   Now one can argue that spanking is physical maltreatment. In fact, it’s rather difficult to argue against it. One could also say that depriving a child of a meal as a disciplinary measure (going to bed without dinner) is also improper or excessive (and thus abusive). Now, lets keep going down this rabbit hole and look at the practice of “time out.” A child does something wrong and as a disciplinary measure, they are deprived of privileges (or physical items) and told to go stand in the corner. All that needs to happen in that scenario is for enough people to think such a practice as “improper or excessive” and we have abuse (at least in their minds). Can you see how even the definition, applied as written (but probably not as intended) can be made to fit nearly any scenario? 

   So, was I abused as a child? I guess that now depends on how you choose to apply, or even define, abuse.

   I can say that for everyone saying that spanking doesn’t work, like anything in life, it works for some, but not for all. Did I consider that I would be spanked before I did something wrong? Yup. Did I do it anyway? Yup…if I calculated in my head that it was worth the risk. See, I never planned on getting caught, no child really does. The point was, I thought about it and it was thus, a deterrent. But my question in all this is…if not spanking, then what? The idea that physical force is never needed doesn’t seem to stand up to scrutiny.

   In the bigger picture of life, conflicts…taken to their extreme resolution, always end with force. It doesn’t matter if it’s between individuals, groups or entire countries. Now consider that child, when told to go to the corner for “time out,” decides instead to tell his parents to f@#k off. Where do you go when the child simply refuses to comply because the consequence just isn’t severe enough to induce obedience? I got news for those traveling this road…when you grab the child and physically put them in the corner or empty room, you have just applied force. Will a spanking be consequence enough in this child’s mind to induce obedience? I don’t know…only a spanking will tell.

   Which brings us back to the original question…do we spare the rod?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Parenting: Teacher or Santa Claus?

   So it seems parenting has become a recurring theme this month, and why not? Without a doubt, it has to be the single most important job in the world. Everyone alive today doing whatever it is they are doing, was shaped in part, by a parent or the guidance of someone other than themselves. What we teach those that will inherit the Earth will determine what kind of world future generations live in.

   Speaking of teaching, is this not the second most important job in the world? Without starting a rant into how important teachers are and how serious we should be taking the curriculum being presented to our children, the two most fundamental influences on the youth (besides each other) are parents and teachers. 

   There are many different approaches to parenting, as seen everyday if you just stop to observe. I’m not going to break all of it down in detail (at least not in this post), but instead narrow the focus on those parents that take every opportunity provided to prepare their children for the world they will inherit (through teaching) and those that practice gifting as a way to prepare the youth for tomorrow.

   I know, some of you are scratching your head now and wondering what the heck I’m talking about…but there are parents out there that absolutely give their child everything they desire, and think they are doing their children (and the world) some good by it. I personally think that spoiling your children will only produce, well, spoiled children…and when has ingesting (as the world will later) anything spoiled done anyone any good?

   Growing up with a sense of entitlement (through spoiling) will only make the lessons of the real world that much more unpleasant to learn. Of course, if you actually are among the uber wealthy, that sense of entitlement will simply keep you separated from the reality of the majority of the world…making you only suitable to be a politician. No, really…some of the most disconnected people on the planet are those that have nothing better to do than insert themselves into positions of deciding things for other people they know nothing about (and care even less), while convincing those same people they are just like them. If you think all this has nothing to do with parenting, then you’re not paying attention to the world you’re living on.

   Perhaps you are familiar with the saying “Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man how to fish and he eats for life.” This is a perfect example of the difference between a parent that teaches, and one that thinks being Santa Claus is a daily occupation. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to giving children things, I just think those things should not always be the latest game system, communication device, or recreational object (better known as a toy). Instead it should be integrity, fundamental citizenship, self-esteem, kindness, self-defense and cooking (among other things).

   Parents that are focused on giving “things” to their children need to understand the “thing” they will be giving to the world after they are finished with the job they thought they were doing well…but were barely scratching the surface of. I’ve seen it and heard the philosophy behind it and can safely say that giving love is how love is taught and returned, not by giving Xbox One. Trust me, there isn’t an app for this.

   I’m not an expert on parenting. The experts are the people that have all the degrees and letters after their name, but no children. Yeah…listen to them if you like. I’m just a parent (to the tune of five children) that has learned a thing or two in my triumphs and mistakes in trying to raise children to be responsible and productive adults. I’m also a keen observer of life and have an excellent memory, and can tell you that parenting isn’t an exact science…but it’s pretty scientific in that every action has a reaction, and the cause you put forth is the effect you will get.

Teach your children responsibly…

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Parenting: Role or Responsibility?

   Let me start off quickly and put forth that I think it’s a responsibility, not a role. There is truth in the saying that anyone can make a child, but it takes a parent to raise one. Just to be clear from the beginning, I’m certainly not saying that parents have to be linked to children through biology…I’m simply saying that the process of raising a child is what makes you a parent. 

   The counter argument is that anyone that has a child, or was part of the biological process, is a parent and technically that is correct, but I’m going deeper…and let me tell you why. This past Mother’s Day, a co-worker took a moment to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day. This was most unusual, since I’m a father. After pointing this out, he retorted that as a dad, he has had to play the role of both mother and father to his children at times. He further commented that all single dads and mothers play both roles. I can only suppose that since I’m the family cook, he must take it that I too play the mother role in some way.

   But hold on…is parenting a role or a responsibility?

   I gave this situation a great amount of thought as I’ve seen single women claim Father’s Day sighting the same reasoning as my co-worker. The idea that since there is no father present, the mother plays both roles.This sounds good except…I don’t buy it.

   Let’s start with the meaning of both mother and father as seen in the dictionary (Merriam-Webster):

1 a :  a female parent

   b (1) :  a woman in authority; specifically :  the superior of a religious community of women (2) :  an old or elderly woman

3 : maternal tenderness or affection

   So clearly the term is reserved for a certain gender, indeed based and focused specifically for those able to bare children. 

: a male parent
: a man who is thought of as being like a father
: a person who was in someone's family in past times

1 a :  a man who has begotten a child; 
   So again, gender specific and nothing indicative of any “role” one plays other than being of a certain gender and having children. So where is all this claiming of days coming from when we celebrate the mothers and fathers of the world?

   Now I haven’t done a scientific study here, just used the good common sense given to me, and it seems that people are still clinging to old stereotypes pertaining to parental roles. The women stay home to cook and clean, while the men go to work and support the family.

   The problem with that is that it’s now 2014, and many two parent families need to have both parents working. Women earn just like men do, and men take care of the house if that’s what’s needed to take care of the family. The idea of a “role” is a fallacious one, replaced by parents, single or married, doing whatever is needed to raise their children (and thus, earning in my book, the title of “parent”).

   I don’t get a “Happy Mother’s day”…I’m not a mother. A mother doesn’t get a “Happy Father’s Day”…she’s not a father. Any single parent is either a single mother or father, raising their child, absolved of any outdated stereotypical role that is no longer reflective of reality.

   The only real role of a parent, is taking responsibility...and raising your child.