Tuesday, November 29, 2016

“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back”

   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: 

   Cruise is back as Jack Reacher (sparking up the Reacher versus John Wick debates) and delivers more of the same we saw in the first film. There will be no Oscars going out for his role, but Cruise is consistent in bringing Reacher to life and does well with the material both in acting and action.

   Smulders (Major Susan Turner) is used to playing the military woman-in-charge type of character from her role as Agent Maria Hill in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She does it well although the chemistry between her and Reacher seems to get lost later on after being built up so nicely. Kudos to her for doing her own stunts (a page taken from Cruise himself no doubt).

   Danika Yarosh nails the rebellious Samantha, who not only has a huge chip n her shoulder for life in general, but is also street savvy, observant, and a proficient thief doing whatever needs to be done to get by. 

The Plot: 
   Reacher is still drifting from place to place doing good wherever he can, but now has a military connection (Major Turner) feeding him information to resolve cases and helping him out with amenities from time to time. Of course their interaction begins to lead in a romantic direction…I mean, how could it not (sarcasm).

   When Reacher finally decides to drop in personally and finally meet Turner, he finds she has been arrested and locked up. His inquiries about her case draws attention and inadvertently lead to Reacher finding out a paternity suit has been filed against hm.

   Reacher begins to investigate the paternity claim while digging deeper to prove Turner’s innocence and finally get to the bottom of what is really going on. This puts Samantha in the cross hairs of those that are trying to stop Reacher as he must free Turner from prison and expose a conspiracy involving top brass in the military.

   As the players and their machinations are revealed, Reacher is marked for death by The Hunter (Patrick Heusinger) and must protect both Samantha and Turner while battling elite forces for survival. What follows is tirade of busted skulls and broken bones as Reacher shows why he is one of the best of the best.

The Verdict: 
   I very much enjoyed the first installment of “Jack Reacher” and thought this sequel was almost just as good. Whereas I found the first film to have a great story that unfolded smoothly, this story wasn’t as interesting nor did it unfold quite as smooth. 

   I realize these films are loosely adapted from the Jack Reacher novels, but perhaps more attention should be paid to the actual content of these novels to avoid making films that are just “good” and instead make films that are “great.”

   I was very pleased though with the increased combat action as it really showcased Reacher’s abilities against trained and elite personnel instead of regular and ordinary people whom you’d expect Reacher to dismantle with ease.

   The film tried to make an interesting character out of Espin (Aldis Hodge) but I never felt that interested in him as it first seemed he would be an antagonist only to later fall into the role of hero support…without ever making the transition feel real.

   Overall this film was just good although still quite entertaining. It could have benefited from a better script and better direction, but despite that, was still able to deliver more of those elements of Reacher I wanted to see…revealing three (3) cinnamon sticks in my cup of tea.

Rating 3 / 5

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Changing Childhood

    Being a child isn’t what is used to be, especially with the interjection of current technology. I can remember having quite a bit of fun growing up. Sure, there were some times when it was not so fun, but overall my memories are good ones filled with the excitement and joy of discovering my abilities and finding out my boundaries. Now, maybe not everyone can say that about their childhood (in fact there are certainly those that obviously can’t), but I don’t see that as a reason to so drastically change the school recess experience of being a child today.

   There are many games and activities that are increasingly being banned from schools. The result of which has yet to be fully determined (we’ll have to wait to see the full impact as these children grow up) but what is clear is much of the joy and discovery I experienced in my youth is being denied to the youth of today.

   Take for example “Dodgeball” being banned for being too violent and promoting a bully mentality. Sure I can remember times when we had to be reminded not to “head-hunt” but overall it was great fun to dodge the ball (especially if you were good at it) and to throw it at someone. Did I want to beat someone up because throwing a ball at them gave me a thirst to conquer those weaker or slower than me? Certainly not…it was just a game.

   “Kickball” is another game going the way of the Dodo. Having to hit someone with the ball to get them out is too violent apparently, but not only that, if it is allowed you can’t keep score (because nobody ever loses in real life right?). I can remember amazing kickball games we used to have in the schoolyard…the stuff of legends when certain kids were up to kick with seemingly a bionic leg that could launch the ball into the stratosphere, eclipsed only by the occasional  catch by that one kid that, at that time, developed and iron nerve and a laser-like focus. Good times some children today will never experience.

   Of course “Tag” is banned. Heaven forbid a child have emotional distress over being “it” and of course touching another child is certainly out because…touching. Never mind the fun variations you can make to the game like freeze-tag or team-tag. Sure some kids can’t run as fast as others, but how does a child learn to cope with their own limitations if you do not allow them to find out what those limitations are and discover how to improvise to compensate?

   Banning “Duck, Duck, Goose” threw me for a loop until I read the continued skewed reasoning behind it. I just can’t cosign that being the goose is emotionally distressing when it’s the most exciting part of the game, instead of just sitting there being a duck. Always being one of the fastest kids was certainly an advantage since if I didn’t feel like exerting myself I could “goose” the slowest kid, but that didn’t stop any of the slower kids from “goosing” me in hopes that they might finally outrun me and make it back in the circle (and some certainly did). I can tell you from experience, it was an esteem booster for those kids and took nothing away from me personally since I knew I was still actually faster (just not fast enough in those instances).

   “Red Rover” is another banned game that is depriving children of fun and developing strategy. Sure…I loved becoming a human missile that few could stop and some actually let go at the last minute, but I had my share of surprises when I hit those sets of arms that would not yield, no matter how fast I was. Of course this game is banned since learning to work together and be stronger together to thwart the machinations of a lone abhorrent is something we never do in real life…as a nation or otherwise (smh).

   “Musical Chairs” has been added to the list. The emotional stress of being that person without a chair is just too much. The potential for argument and confrontation over a chair is too great. This game wasn’t one of my favorites since it had less to do with actual physical ability and more to do with the anticipation of being in the right place at the right time…but isn’t that a skill set we use in real life? Why are we depriving children an early look at what they’ll need when they get older?

   Winning is also being banned. The very point of most games, the icing on the fun cake, is now a bad thing. We teach children now that there are no winners or losers…and that’s just an outright lie, and setting them up for the hard truth later on. Everybody should not get a trophy just for participating (a ribbon maybe, but the trophy should be for those that go above and beyond). Winning makes the losers feel bad, and of course nobody ever feels bad in real life (sarcasm).

   Hey, I get it. Children could get physically hurt playing some of these games. That’s a part of life though, getting hurt actually happens. Children might feel bad playing some of these games. That’s a part of life though, feeling bad actually happens. How do we prepare our children for these parts of life by trying to remove them from their childhood? We don’t…we just create a generation of people that will be disillusioned by reality, to the detriment of society. If this continues, methinks it won’t end well.

   For our future…marinate on this one.