Friday, June 28, 2013

White House Down Right Predictable and Cheesy

   It will probably feel like you have seen this movie before and you may have. It has a lot of familiar things from some very big action movies. It's a little Lethal Weapon, Air Force One, and Die Hard. The problem is almost too much familiarity and a lot of the same old same old. It's not a bad movie. It's just not a good movie.

While on a tour of the White House with his young daughter, a Capitol policeman (Tatum) springs into action to save his child and protect the president (Foxx) from a heavily armed group of paramilitary invaders. This of course is after failing to get a job with the Secret Service and trying to overcome a career full of mistakes and lack of follow through. The film is directed by Roland Emmerich who is most famous for Independence Day. This guy loves destroying our nation's capital on film for some reason. There is plenty of destruction. It is tough to see D.C. in such ruin. Suspend some disbelief and there is certainly an audience who will be into the film.

My biggest problem with the film was too much cheese and predictability. I was never surprised or on edge. I was entertained. Jamie Foxx added little bits of Obama to his portrayal of the president, but he never really won me over. The Jordan's were a nice touch, but he never came across as a believable politician to me. I like Foxx, but just not in this role. The cheese and no so subtle political messages were a bit much. Channing Tatum was the other problem. He is not a hero type. He has an OK look, but he plays better in things like romantic comedies, dramas, and movies about male strippers. I had a hard time buying him as the hero of the free world.  James Woods, on the other hand, was a really solid villain. He is showing his age, but he commands the screen when he is on it.

 There are some twists, but you see most of them coming. It isn't a bad movie and women will probably love it for Tatum. In a summer filled with huge block buster movies, White House Down falls short. It is entertaining and at no point did I feel like leaving the theater. I just liked this movie better when it was called Olympus Has Fallen.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Do We Have A Problem?

   Paula Deen apologized multiple times for using "racial slurs." People have crucified her, but not literally. She lost millions and jobs. People now dislike her and others finally figured out who she is. People bought her cookbooks and rose to support her. All of this has brought a word back to the forefront of conversations. Racism. I am not an expert. I am fortunate enough to encounter all walks of life in my job. It is so sad that a dream that began so long ago has not moved as far as we think. Sure, we no longer make blacks ride in the back of buses or drink from different fountains, but we are not in a country that tolerates all colors and creeds. I am getting ahead of myself. Let's define the word first.

  Does that make Paula Deen racist? I don't know. People say that the south looks at things differently. They do, but that is something that should have changed a long time ago. I think whether it was 1986 or 2013, a "plantation style" wedding is a very insensitive thing to do. America has a very bloody history that we should learn and move on from. Behavior is learned and sometimes passed to people without even being realized. I am not related to my late step father, but once in awhile catch myself imitating his mannerisms. Scary. Conversations have been had about racism more frequently in the last few days and regardless of what side your on, this country has a problem.


   We have a tolerance problem. It goes beyond skin color. Kids are bullied and so are some adults. We have become desensitized to so much and we blame anyone, but ourselves. I don't understand how we strayed so far. Most of us are guilty of telling a "black joke," or in some cases a "white joke."
I was very fortunate to have grown up surrounded by different colors. I am guilty of stereotyping and am ashamed of it. A lot of people probably are and just chalk it up to," that's just what we do." That is the problem. Regardless of color. We give words power. We make jokes and make fun of people for humors sake. We do this without thinking of how other people feel. Some people will go through life never knowing the sting of a word. Other people have felt them and in some cases probably wish it were a fist instead. Words can hurt way worse. We haven't learned a thing in over forty years. We make our comments and go on with our lives. We have no regard for what others pick up from our actions. We simply continue and do not break the cycle. I am not saying that everyone should always smile and that we should love one another. It is the way it should be, but it simply isn't practical.

  I don't know how to fix it. I can only try to live my life and be a better person. God knows I have not always done the right thing. My blog may offend people from this moment on and I make no apologies. Let's start with the elephant in the room. We don't publicly talk about it, but being a lower to middle class white male is the worst thing to be. On the outside we are considered lucky, but in reality fewer scholarships, less financial aid, and not always the first choice for jobs. Other people get more opportunities thrown their way, but it is all in how you use them. The problem today is that people think they are owed something and a lot of us would rather it be handed to us. Which brings me to the next group.

  The privileged. They will tell you that they work hard and some do, but the richest people of this country all came from money. Rags to riches stories are few and far between. Some these people believe that they are members of a special club and throw what they have in the faces of the,"have nots." I know a few that have said that they have had to work and it's true they did. While they had a job, mommy and daddy continued to pay credit card bills, student loans, and were around to clean up any messes that were made. The American Dream has changed. People now judge success by dollar signs and the standards have become impossible to live up to. This breeds envy which turns to jealousy and in some cases hate. I feel like I just channeled Yoda. The upper percentile has forgotten that you can't take it with you when your gone. I don't believe that means they should constantly give it to the poor. Equal distribution should be a case by case basis, but if you make more, you should pay more. Simple math. We spend so much time trying to buy the dreams that other people sell, that we forget how to live our own lives. This began in the 90s and has gotten worse.

  Gay people won a victory today and they deserved it. Next to African Americans, I think the gays population sees the most persecution. I don't understand why this country spends so much time hating someone for who they sleep with. Has anyone taken a look around at all the bigger problems?
We grow up hearing words like "fag" and "queer," and they find a way into our vocabulary. It boggles my mind that parents want their children to be better than they were, but still pass on the same ignorance that they learned. We use them and they become normal. The anthem at one time was , "We're here. We're queer. Get used to it." The word was used as armor, but it was still derogatory. I am not gay so I can't say how that it feels, but I'll revisit that theory in bit. I will say this. I don't understand the need to persecute people for who they sleep with. People will say the Bible defines marriage as a union between man and woman. It does, but let's leave the judgment up to God. Oh wait we can't. This country only allows the use of religion when it benefits the majority. The country was founded on the Freedom of Religion, but we separated church and state. Anyone else confused?

  The hip hop/urban culture has a lot of beautiful elements. Music, style, art, food, and in a lot of cases a strong sense of family. Different isn't always bad. I will probably offend here and again I am sorry, but it needs to be said. If a word is bad, it is BAD. It is not right that some blacks can refer to each other by one of the most negative words in the American vocabulary, but it is wrong if whites, Mexicans, Asian, or Indians refer to them by the same term. If it is to be deemed a "racial slur," which it is. STOP USING IT YOURSELVES. The cycle has to break somewhere. The current group of people living in this nation were not alive in the Civil War. Most white people living have never owned slaves and black people living have never been slaves. Learn from the history and get passed it. There shouldn't be a "Black History Month," every month should be black, white, Indian, Asian, and American History Month. We live in a world of stereotypes. Not every black man is a criminal, not every white person is handed everything, not every Asian is incredibly smart, and not every person of middle eastern decent is a terrorist. You would think that we could look past stereotypes and get to a place where we are all truly equal.

  Is Paula Deen racist? She may be I don't know. I know she makes excuses like a lot of us do. Where you are from doesn't give you the right to be insensitive. I wish that we all could see the other side of things. Live in someone Else's shoes for a day or more. Words hurt. We may find them funny, but other people might not. Freedom of Speech isn't an excuse to say whatever regardless of who it hurts.
Burning crosses at Christmas is still unnecessary and backwards. We are a country that was created as a melting pot. If we are truly trying to make this land a better place, than something needs to change now. We are all in this together. It is our job to be able to see people as individuals regardless of color. Equality is a dream and we have not achieved it yet. If you think we have, then you're part of the problem and you should take a good look at things. We give words power and we could all stand to think a little more before we speak.  It's OK to say hi to strangers, not a crime to ignore stereotypes, a beautiful thing to love things outside of your own comfort zone, and magical to be the a person isn't afraid to take a different path from time to time. You can't please everyone and you don't have to like them, but could you imagine the kind of world it would be with a little more toleration.



Thursday, June 20, 2013

World War Z....Deserves to be a World Wide Hit.

  The Zombie Apocalypse is upon us, or at least what World War Z would lead you to believe. The movie has gotten a lot of bad press for being over budget, production delays, and negative reaction from some movie goers. It looks like Walking Dead on an epic scale, but it is not The Walking Dead. It is something entirely different. Political undertones, zombies, destruction, and family. Sounds like the recipe for a summer movie, but does World War Z deserve your money at the box office? Yes, yes it does.

  The film is based off a book that a lot of us haven't heard of. I've never read the book, but I am told that the film strays from it. Brad Pitt is a former United Nations employee whose job is now to be a stay at home dad. It's never explained what he does, but he has skills that allow him to operate in dangerous parts of the world. He and his family are caught in the middle of chaos when a zombie pandemic breaks out. Gerry (Pitt) is recruited to accompany a scientist around the world to find the source and a possible cure. His family is left in the care of what's left of the U.S. Government and he sets off to save the world.

 World War Z is very well thought out. It plays much like you would think a real world zombie plague would be approached. Denial. Governments ignore words like 'zombie," until it's too late.
The cast beyond Pitt is relatively unknown and I think that is why the film does work so well. No stereo types and good performances all around.

   Pitt is the heart of the movie. He is more than believable as the rugged hero, but it is the time he shares with his on screen family that really pulls you in. He is a father and a husband. He has the weight of the world on his shoulders, but at the end of the day he is simply a father doing all he can to save his family. Brad is certainly showing his age, but he still captures your attention and has a magnetism that few others command. He is a movie star in every sense of the term.

  The zombies are pretty cool and the film has it's share of intense moments. It never uses the gore like other films have. It is smarter than that. The plot is simple and yet effective. It is epic in scale and does a great job of showing how much society would/could breakdown if something like this were to happen. The plane scenes are terrific and may be the scariest. World War Z answers the question of being stuck on a plane with zombies.

  Summer movies offer a wide variety of choices with action usually winning out. World War Z has it's share of action, but it is also smarter than people will give it credit for. It's a little Walking Dead and Resident Evil mixed nicely with National Treasure and Contagion. It doesn't need the graphic violence because it has something a lot of films seem to lack, plot. I am not sure it needs to be in 3D , but it is still worth checking out either way.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Man of Still Not Quite Right, But A Lot Closer....



    Superman is back! He looks fantastic. The story is different than previous incarnations. Man of Steel is probably one of the most anticipated movies of the summer, but does it deliver? It does and it doesn't all at the same time. Superman is a tough character to handle. We know the origin story, the weakness to kryptonite, and the love for Lois Lane. It has all been done before, but many would say only Christopher Reeve got it right. He did, but he was a Superman for a different time and that being said, still the greatest to wear the cape.

   This version begins on a much different Krypton. A very advanced civilization that is on the brink of destruction. Children on Krypton are genetically pre determined. They are bred for certain things. Science, politics, and in Zod's case....war. Jor El and Lara give birth in conventional means and intend to use their son to save the future of their dying world. Zod disagrees, but they send their infant son to our world. Zod is imprisoned in the Phantom Zone. It may sound familiar, but it's done in a completely different way. Jor El knows his son will be a god among us and hopes that he will lead us into a better world.

 Kal lands in Kansas and is found by the Kent family who encourage him to keep his powers a secret. Jonathan knows how lost and angry Clark is, but encourages his son to figure out who he is and more importantly who he wants to be. Martha is still the loving mother who demonstrates unconditional love for a child that isn't hers. Jonathan feels that people will fear their son if he reveal himself to them. His theories prove correct, but when Zod shows up and threatens the planet, Clark has little choice. He finds a friend in Lois Lane and strives to become the hero his fathers hoped he would be.

 Man of Steel takes what we have seen before and recreates it beautifully. The redesign of Krypton is incredible. The crystals are gone and instead we are left with a bug like, very advanced, yet Camelot styled design. It's hard to explain , but it really works. The rumors about Superman's fortress being a scout ship are true, and the Phantom Zone is totally different. They manage to redesign the ship that brings Kal El to earth yet find away to pay homage to the Donner design at a certain point in the film.

  The supporting cast is very good. I loved Fishburne as Perry White. He does a great job as the seasoned news vet with morals and character. There are nods to the myths with Pete Ross, Whitney Fordman, Lana, and Dr Lang all showing up in the movie. There are cool references to Batman and Lex Luthor, but you have to look for them. Christopher Meloni is good, but a little under used. Russel Crowe is a very good Jor El. He has the balance and temperament to play a character that we finally got to see some depth added to. Kevin Costner was just OK to me. He plays a very different kind of Jonathan Kent, but we see little of what kind of man Jonathan is. You are given the sense that he is a hard worker, but I never felt like we understood the pressure and strife that Jonathan dealt with.

  Amy Adams as Lois Lane was just OK for me. I think she was better than Kate Bosworth's version, but I loved the way Erica Durance captured the sexy and stubborn sides of Lois. Adams is allright, but becomes little more than the damsel in distress. In the sequel, they really need to add some depth to Lois. There will be many who disagree, but I feel this Lois was just average.


 The villains were anything but. Zod and Faora are ruthless, but at the same time feel they are in the right. They are pre-determined to protect their world even though they are killing others. Faora is pure evil and incredibly sexy at the same time. She is relentless and completely obedient to Zod.

   I can't say enough about how good Michael Shannon's Zod is. The best villain is the guy who believes he is the hero and that is Zod. He really embraces the character without any form of over the top cheese. Terrance Stamp was a great Zod, but this is a completely different take. In his eyes, Zod is saving his world and nothing will stand in his way.

 Henry Cavill looks the part. He wears the suit well and treats us all to a Clark Kent that is on a journey to discover who he is. He has heart and plays a different Superman than we have seen in the past. He isn't Chris Reeve and doesn't try to be. A big mistake made in Superman Returns a few years back. He flies angry and really brought the comic to life at times. Cavill says he was born to be Superman and he might be right.

 There is a lot good , but there were some miscues as well. SPOILERS AHEAD. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

 They explain a few things, but leave others unexplained. The suit being one of them. He does a lot as Clark Kent which would make it hard to hide his identity in the future. They destroy the scout ship and any traces of Krypton which I found strange. The biggest mistake that was made is the one that angered me the most.

 Superman kills Zod. There are references to him killing in the early comics, but I didn't like this at all. Superman is the greatest of heroes. He is the best of them and that is his power and his burden.  Superman is an example of all things good. He is not an example of it being OK to kill to save others. In the manner in which he killed Zod, he could have found a way to not kill him. Batman didn't kill Ras, but he didn't save him. Superman kills him and while he may have visible remorse after the fact, it doesn't change the fact that they made him a killer. Superman isn't dark and edgy and doesn't need to be. If you were going to get something wrong, it shouldn't have been that. I feel like it goes against the core ideal of the character, but fan boys love Goyer and he can do no wrong. Goyer is the writer for non fan boys reading this.

   Man of Steel is visually stunning. The fight scenes are epic and they definitely brought Superman to life bigger and better than previous films. Massive destruction, larger than life hero, and story that is familiar, but unlike anything we've seen before. Zack Snyder did a great job of creating a Superman that felt like he belonged in our world. Realism and fantasy blended together perfectly. I can forgive the critical error and would hope for a directors cut. On our world it's and "S" and in Kryptonian it means hope. I hoped Superman would finally be done correctly and Man of Steel was as close as anyone has come yet.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Purge it worth binging on?

  This week at the box office could be called the calm before the storm. Man of Steel is set to dominate, but this week we get scared. Sort of. The Purge introduces us to an America ten years from now. Crime is down and so is unemployment and the homeless problem. In this America one night a year for twelve hours all crime is legal. Murder, assault, rape, theft, etc. Society needs to give in to it's animal instincts to create a better country the rest of the year. That is the theory, at least. People in well to do neighborhoods lock themselves indoors with state of the art security systems. What would happen if the "purge," got inside?

Ethan Hawke and Lena Headly live in a huge house, the biggest on the block, and are secretly resented by their neighbors. They have a somewhat rebellious teenage daughter and a very smart son. Hawke has made a bunch of money selling security systems to everyone, including his neighbors. His family has issues and when they go on lock down for the purge, they really come out. His son feels sorry for a homeless man and disarms security and lets him in. A jealous boyfriend and a strange in the house isn't enough so the freaks come out at night. Literally.

 The movie is a little predictable at times. It doesn't make it less intense. The people outside of the house are truly frightening at times and there is a twist that you may or may not see coming. We all have had the fear of someone either in or trying to get in to your home. Creepy. Most of the actors are relatively unknown and that makes it better.

 When watching you can't help but wonder if this version of America could happen. Rich are getting richer and poor are getting desperate. There is a lot of political innuendo throughout the film. There are are questions left unanswered, but overall The Purge is an intense thrill ride that is creepy yet entertaining. Check it out, but sleep with a light on.