Monday, June 30, 2014

Movie Review: “Homefront”

   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

   Jason Statham has graciously accepted the torch passed to him as “action star” by friend Sylvester Stallone (who also wrote the script for this film). Although this film has action, I hesitate to cal it an action film and applaud Statham for trying to show he can be more than just punches and kicks (although he does that very well). Phil Broker (Statham) may be an ex-DEA agent, but he is also a dad and Statham tackles the material well.

  James Franco is a very versatile actor and he shows that versatility here as Morgan ‘Gator’ Bodine…local drug lord and creepy slime bucket. I didn’t have any trouble confusing Franco’s role for what it was versus what it was not. He was superb as an unhinged townie that used his own supply, bullied drug addicted kids, but in the end, was nowhere near the caliber of dangerous person as those he tried to deal with or tried to intimidate. Franco projected this very well.

The Plot: 
   After an undercover operation goes awry for Phil Broker resulting in an avoidable death of the son of a leader of a dangerous biker gang, Phil Broker resigns and takes his daughter away to live life in a small town with small issues. A chance encounter with a bully at his daughters school puts him on a collision course with the local drug dealer.

   Gator Bodine is the local drug dealer that stays in business by ratting out the competition and paying off the sheriff. Strictly small time, he is drawn into confrontation with Broker after his nephew is soundly beaten up for trying to bully the new girl in school…who happens to be well trained by her ex-DEA dad. 

   After sending some local muscle to deal with Broker, it becomes quickly apparent that Broker is a lot ore than he seems. Gator digs further only to find out the secret past Broker is keeping to himself and thinks that secret is a perfect opportunity to expand his drug operation. Gator will reveal Broker’s whereabouts to the leader of the biker gang Broker helped imprison (who also lost his son in the operation) in exchange for distribution of the drugs he cooks.

   What follows is mayhem and pandemonium as Broker will go to any lengths to protect his daughter and preserve the new home they have made for themselves.

The Verdict: 
   There is a lot to like about this film starting with the story. Although the movie is filled with “cliche” moments (those events you can predict with 100% accuracy since you have seen them in countless film before this), it still seems to deliver a good showing.

   Word is the screenplay for this film was originally intended to be another Rambo sequel, I’m glad that it wasn’t. Statham is an action star, but the script of this film called for very little action in comparison to what I am used to seeing from Statham. Instead, his role as a father is highlighted more and that helped to make a solid foundation for a good film.

   A man moves to a small town and runs afoul of the locals and has to put them in place so that he can live in peace in his new surroundings. It’s not a new story, but made endearing by some unique elements like the special moves of Statham, fun performance of Franco…and a few appearances by one of my favorites, Clancy Brown (we need to see more of him Hollywood!). I could have done without the constant screaming of Broker’s daughter when the action heated up…and it made no sense that she seemed to advocate Broker starting a relationship with her teacher while still freshly dealing with the loss of her mother just after a year, but no film is perfect.

   This movie really seemed to thread the line between serious drama and action film and I think both sides of that equation lost out because of it. It certainly could have been better, but it also could have been a lot worse. Overall, it was still entertaining and able to hold the attention of a diverse audience (my family) and thus, relocate three cinnamon sticks, out of five, in my cup of tea.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Oh Arizona….

   I recently had the pleasure of traveling to Arizona. I don’t know what you've heard about this state, but I had some general ideas about what I might expect when visiting and was pleasantly surprised by my experience. There are pros and cons to every endeavor, and this trip was no exception, but let me explain what Arizona was like…for me.
   Let me get right to the heat since that is undoubtedly the first thought that comes to mind when thinking about Arizona (unless you’re a regular purveyor of the news, then it might be immigration). Arizona is hot, but it’s the kind of heat I absolutely love. Coming from the Easy Coast, hot days in the summer come with high humidity which makes the “heat” very stuffy and sticky…completely uncomfortable (for me). The dry heat of Arizona was made with me in mind, I couldn't get enough and was angry that I was leaving right before the start of a 110 degree week. 105 degrees just wasn't enough for me. Call me crazy, but heat without moisture is just…relaxing.

   Food is plentiful there although if you’re like me with a limited palate, you have to be a bit judicious in where you choose to eat. I’m not much of a “fast food” person, but if you are, then there is no shortage of places to indulge in. It was interesting to see food chains, well known, not present in my part of the country like Red Robin, Jack-in-the-Box, and In-and-Out Burger. I even saw a few Church’s Chicken which enjoyed business in my section of the world for only a brief time. Restaurants indigenous to the area were my wheelhouse of eateries and none did I enjoy more than Pita Jungle. Nowhere have I had better Spanakopita than there. It figures that my very last meal in Arizona would be the best. 

   There is plenty of land in Arizona…like miles and miles of desert under development. So much so that they don’t build “up” there, they build “out.” Coming from a place of tall buildings and residences typically three to four stories high; I wasn't used to all the space. Given that there was a lot of space, I didn't understand why the homes were being built so close to each other. Nor do I get why there is no variation of color…everything is just sandy brown. I think I would have fallen over if I came across a blue or red house in Arizona. I guess the thing to do is to own your own home out there and not be a part of any housing association if you want a bit of pizzazz to your home.

   Of course, with money, nearly anything is possible and this rang true when, from the highway, I saw homes built on top of large hills and carved into the side of mountains (whoa!). 

   If ever I was to consider moving to “The Grand Canyon State” (and believe it or not, I didn't visit the Grand Canyon) I’d certainly get familiar with the laws of the land first. Like the fact that killing the indigenous cactus will cost you a fine of $250,000 (who’s got that just laying around?). Your first DUI offense will cost you a fine of $250…along with a year revocation of your license, and 30 days in prison! Yes, you can have fun in Arizona, but understand Arizona doesn't play around with you.

   Having friends and family in the area made it less of a tourist type of vacation and more of a visit to the real parts of Phoenix, Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert and Scottsdale. They do things big in Arizona (high schools that graduate classes of 4000 seniors, movie theaters with 48 screens) and issues are multifaceted (you didn’t really think immigration was as clear cut as they make it out to be on the news did you?) but enjoying the sun while not being bit by a rattlesnake, Black Widow Spider, Brown Recluse Spider or stung by a scorpion was very pleasant.

   So there is my brief assessment of Arizona. Despite whatever I have said here, the best measure of Arizona is the one you take yourself…so take a trip and experience something new and different, and hopefully come away from it more than when you went into it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Soulmate Blues

   Perhaps you’ve heard the saying “There’s someone out there for everyone.” While I like to believe it’s true, the reality is it may not be. Worse than that, I think, is if the saying is absolutely true, but the vast majority of us fail to find that special someone meant for us. The idea that we all have a “soulmate” is not new and regardless if this is true or not, many people believe it and shape a good portion of their life in pursuit of that special someone connected to them in a profound way or on a metaphysical level. It doesn’t matter what your favorite color is, when the search comes up empty, the color of the day is blue.

   What do you do when you reach your late forties or early fifties and you still haven’t found “the one.” I don’t have an answer for that, but I’m sure many look back on their life with a very different set of eyes. Perhaps they were too stringent in their type selection? Perhaps they spent too much time entertaining dreams instead of dealing with reality? Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…and the answer may still elude them.

      I’ve seen the soulmate blues manifest in desperation and depression. It’s a fact that your attitude changes for the worst when sexual tension isn’t addressed. It’s arguably worse when you feel your emotional needs and yearning for companionship go unfulfilled. One might even find themselves posting “Who wants to marry me” on Facebook…as a serious post! All this might seem funny or tragic (depending on your state of mind and capacity for empathy), but I find the truth of it all very sad, especially if that person just simply waited for their soulmate to fall out of the sky and into their lap. Life just doesn’t work that way (for most).

   So how can all this be avoided? I really don’t know, life isn’t scripted and is different for everyone. I’m of the mindset that soul mates don’t just manifest, but are created. I think we create the bond with someone that connects our soul. It’s not some magical happenstance, but the result of years and years of painstaking work. The idea that you will one day meet that person meant for you and afterward live a life full of bliss and problem-free is just a heinous lie. Falling in love is much easier than staying in love, and staying together is much harder than splitting apart.

   All I’m saying here is take the magic out of it, and put the work into it.

   Does this mean that everyone that has gone through a rocky relationship just didn’t put any effort into making it work? Certainly not. Sometimes all the effort in the world can’t make a square peg fit into a round hole. I’m saying that when the road of being a couple gets rough, that’s not an automatic soulmate killer and when a relationship ends, that's not an automatic soulmate search killer.

   Not finding that special someone could be as much, or more, your fault than that of the universe. I’m reminded of a funny picture of a woman asking God why he didn’t send her a man like she asked…and God replying that he did, but she said he was just a friend. This is just an example of that person you could end up spending your life with being a great conversationalist (something very important in the golden years) instead of a shallow clone of your favorite music or movie star.
   Happily ever after is something that happens in fairy tales. Lifelong companionship is something that happens in real life…after a lifetime of hard work. Talk to any couple that has been together for thirty or more years and you will find that there is very little they haven’t endured as a couple. The difference between them and other couples (and I’m being a bit simplistic here) is that they made a decision to share their soul with their mate, instead of waiting for their soulmate.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Just Like Everyone Else

   I remember watching the movie “The Untouchables” and particularly that scene where Al Capone gives the speech about teamwork. “A man steps up to the plate. This is the time for what? Individual achievement. But in the field, part of a team.” Then he bashes another guys brains out all over the dinner table with a baseball bat. Not the most eloquent way to prove a point, but probably pretty effective for the benefit of everyone else there. The nature of my employment demands that when the time arises, teamwork is the only way to go as lives, mine included, depend on it. That said, in the face of accusations that I’m not a team player (in non-emergency situations) I stand proud and proclaim that I am certainly NOT just like everyone else.

   I subscribe firmly to the philosophy that if you want to be better and do better, you must first believe that you are better. Without a resolute belief in yourself, you have not a solid enough foundation to weather storms of life. The rains of self doubt and winds of depression will take hold of you and the first casualty in that perfect storm of despair will be your dreams. That’s something that I can’t get behind…I just can’t support such an existence, so I don’t.

   Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) there are many people that find satisfaction, comfort…even insist upon living a life encompassed by “going along to get along.” That’s not really a problem, until they insist that upon everyone else…until they force everyone else to abide by their choices, despite the very foundation of this country being built on freedom of choice. I’m absolutely flabbergasted by this, and more so disturbed, when they veil such a dangerous philosophy under the guise of “teamwork.”

   People like that often look for fairness in life, not understanding that the natural order of life is not to be fair, but to instead be balanced. They don’t understand the difference (and there is a profound difference) and all they have to do to “get it” is take a day to watch any wild animal program on television to see how life naturally is not fair, but very much balanced. Thinking there is a difference when dealing amongst ourselves in a civilized world, that somehow our awareness and intelligence trumps the natural order of life, is just the height of hubris.

   Recently I was approached and told that I have to be just like everyone else. After a quick look around (with no offense to anyone) I just had to decline such an offer. I do not, in fact, have to be just like everyone else. I can, indeed, be just as I wish to be and if I wish to aspire to be something greater than I already am, and in the process…perhaps, be greater than those around me, then the crabs in the hater bucket will simply have to deal with another of life’s realities.

   Another example of “just like everyone else” has arisen with regards to doing something that really, cannot be done in accordance to policy, and should not in accordance to good common sense. Instead of realizing this, I’m inundated by how they “feel” about the issue. Now, while I respect the feelings involved, I simply will not go along to get along when I know it’s wrong. I choose to do what’s right instead of making sure feelings are not hurt. That may sound callous to some, but the beauty of being an individual is being able to make that decision and let others hold that bag of reservation.

   Sometimes the sub-cultures that we operate in, be it work, clubs, or any type of social setting we immerse ourselves in can take on a life of their own. Sometimes we lose sight of what can be clearly seen if we take a moment to separate ourselves from the links of accepted etiquette within these sub-cultures. Sometimes we need to remember that if we settle for being just like everyone else, that is exactly all we will ever be, regardless of right and wrong…and to the detriment of our individuality. Love me, hate me, ignore me…but I will always be…me.