Friday, February 28, 2014

Non Stop....Guessing Game

    It's winter which means it's time for Liam Neeson to step into the aging hero role. I don't say this as a knock. The characters that he has brought us in the last couple of years solidify him as a legit bad ass. This time around, all of the action is on a flight over the Atlantic. Neeson has become good at playing a physical, but also thinking man's hero. Non Stop is being billed as mid air thrill ride and does have some expectations to live up to.

  Liam Neeson plays Air Marshal Bill Marks who begins an investigation to find out who is putting his fellow passengers at risk. There are a series of texts that threaten lives every twenty minutes.  unless the airline transfers $150 million into an off-shore account. The situation gets worse when Neeson discovers he is being framed as a terrorist. 


   Julianne Moore becomes is unlikely ally and together they have to unravel the plot before their time literally runs out. The film does a great job of keeping you guessing. You know twists are coming, but you're never really sure where it will come from. You are introduced to several characters and even when you think you know who the villain is, you end up wrong. A decent concept and filled with more than a few political undertones. It definitely plays on the public fear of what may happen on planes. 

   I appreciate that they give Neeson's character real world problems. He is a troubled guy who is forced to do his job and we never really know who to trust. I wish his dialogue was bit more memorable Ala Taken, but the film works. The situation gets a little far etched towards the end, but it certainly isn't a bad watch. I will not say that Non Stop is a wall to wall thriller, but it does keep your attention. In a nut shell, interesting more than exciting. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What's In A Word.

Words are powerful. The right ones can make you have a better day, put a smile on someone’s face, and give the world a reason to feel better about it.  The wrong words cut worse than a knife, last longer than a bruise, and can bring anyone to a new low.  One word in particular has been associated with negativity for longer than most of us have been alive. I will not type it because it isn’t one that has really ever been a part of my vocabulary.
                I am a white male and the fact that I am choosing to write about this issue might irritate some. The NFL would like to begin penalizing players for using the,”N,” word. I have heard several arguments from both sides and some are compelling. One being that it is still a place of work and respect should be shown. The other side feels they shouldn’t be told how to talk to their peers.  In most cases, it’s a discussion that we white folk shouldn’t touch. I have never been much of a rule follower.
            We give words power based on reaction to them.  I am not saying that we should ignore bad words. I am saying that we should all grow tougher skins.  This word in particular has puzzled me for a while, but here is the reality. We will never eliminate racial type slurs from society. Too many people speak without thinking and use freedom of speech as their excuse.  I do have a problem with this word more than a lot of others.  I think my biggest problem with it is actually simple.  Black people can’t seem to figure out if it is a bad word or not.  Try and follow me.
                If I as a white man use the word I am considered an offensive racist. If a black person refers to another black person by the same word, he isn’t racist or offensive. This is where the problem starts. If we are going to deem a word bad, then it should be universal.  Rappers and athletes should pick a different word to wear like a badge of honor. Most of us, the younger generation, have little concept of respect. We should all respect those who came before and appreciate the negative connotations of their struggles. In the last few days, the older generation finds the word offensive and the younger doesn’t.
                To the younger generation, regardless of skin color, I say get a clue.  Learn from what has come before and respect them by doing better. I have little sympathy for the NFL, NBA, or any professional athlete. You are blessed with the ability to attain a job that less than 7% of the world will ever attain. Like it or not, a different set of rules come with those positions.  Do it better than the other guy. You are a role model whether you would like to be or not. Period.  All of us mimicked the behavior of those around us when we were young. Lead by example. If your parents or siblings referred to people by negative words, than you most likely did the same at some point. Break the damn cycle. Accept that every work place has codes of conduct and follow them.
                The world needs a reality check.  The black community needs to figure out what’s offensive and make it universally so. We judge success based on money and not behavior. We excuse things that we shouldn’t and we have lost touch with the word respect.  I am offended when I hear that word because I think we can do better. We forget that people don’t always find the same things we do funny. The world would be an amazing place if we could just learn to respect the people around us. No matter how different they are.  I am so amazed that we still have issues based on skin color in 2014. It scares me to think that after all the struggles, strife, and victories that we haven’t really learned a thing.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Pompeii: An Eruption Of Mediocrity

    Reading the title makes you think seeing this film is a waste of time. I wouldn't go that far, but I think that it's billed to be a more epic movie than what you will get. If you went to school, you were told the story of Pompeii. A city of greed built at the base of a volcano. One day the volcano erupts and the city and it's people are destroyed. Not spoilers. Just the facts. It seems like a group of people were sitting around a table and said, "what if we put Spartacus in the middle of Pompeii?" They of course did this without the sex, gore, and character development that Spartacus offered. That being said, you get a toned down gladiator film.

     We are taken back to 79 A.D. and to a time of Roman dominance. Milo (Kit Harrington) watches his people massacred and is sold into slavery and eventually becomes a gladiator. He encounters the daughter of a wealthy merchant, Cassia (Emily Browning). She has been offered to a corrupt senator named Corvis (Kiefer Sutherland). He befriends another gladiator fights for his freedom and to save his love while the city literally comes down around him.

   It sounds good, but it just doesn't play as well on the screen. The love story is a little rushed. It doesn't have the epic feel that you would like. The friendship between the gladiators is fun, but in the end just doesn't come across as well as on Spartacus: Blood and Sand. I was never really swept away by Pompeii. It's a shame because I really liked all of the actors.

  Kiefer Sutherland was great as the conniving senator. He was charming and ruthless. He had a little John Kendrick mixed with Comonus and it really plays well. Sutherland is a great bad guy. He was a highlight for me. I wish the script was less rushed and we saw a bit more of his back story. He seemed like he was having fun with the movie and it was refreshing. Good villain is a requirement for me. 

  I am a fan of Game of Thrones and Kit Harrington. He doesn't do anything wrong per say. He is beyond believable as a gladiator. The fight scenes are very cool, but not quite as epic as the need to be. He is the one character who is completely understood. He lost his family, his people, and has nothing to live for. It's not a complex character, but we do see multiple sides of him.

  The destruction is there, but it wasn't as epic of a visual as I expected. I was more disturbed by the destruction of Metropolis in Man of Steel than here. The film tries to be historically accurate and while I appreciate that, I would have rather seen liberties taken. The movie borrows from Gladiator and Spartacus, but feels like a cable TV movie. It has some good moments, but it lacks enough depth to make it great. The 3D isn't necessary and in the the end Pompeii erupts with disappointment. 

Monday, February 10, 2014


    Hollywood is either out of ideas or they just feel like they can do better at everything that has come before. Sometimes this is true, but in most cases the remake fails in comparison. We are now served up a helping of Robocop. A very violent, cheesy, yet cult favorite action flick.  This time, the big, awkwardly moving, machine with a conscience gets revamped for a modern audience.

     Much of the basic story is the same. Evil corporation, crime plagued Detroit, and an honest cop in the middle. Alex Murphy is our hero played this time by Joel Kinnaman (The Killing.) He and his partner Jack Lewis (Michael K. Williams) are on the trail of arms dealers and the bust goes very wrong. Omni Corp, led by Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), is a company who wants to put robots on the streets to save lives. The U.S. Government will not allow it and the company is bleeding billions. A marketing plan is put into place to put a machine with a conscience on the streets. When family man and honest cop (Murphy) is wounded, he becomes the candidate to be rebuilt into Robocop. Murphy's wife (Abbie Cornish) gives Omnicorp and Dr Norton (Gary Oldman) permission to save Alex and make him into a corporate weapon. He learns to use his new hardware, but struggles with the lasting impact it will have on his son and wife. Murphy will need to battle his programming, the corrupt system, the company that built him, and the heartless Maddox (Jackie Earl Haley) to save his family and his soul.

  The violence is toned down. The original is one of the most violent movies of all time. Kinnaman is good Alex Murphy and looks more comfortable than his predecessor, Peter Weller did. The original painted a very horrific picture of Detroit. In the original, crime ruled the streets and this time around it's not quite as obvious.

  I did miss Clarence Boddiker and his gang from the original. Jackie Earl Haley is the closest fans of the original we get, but it is a pale comparison. It's not that Haley is bad, but more that this is a different kind of Robocop. In the original, the criminals were the bad guys. This time it's hard to tell the difference between the cops and criminals and it some ways, it's a closer picture to today's reality.

   Political undertones are still present, but this time we get Samuel L. Jackson as a extremely left wing talk show host. This Robocop exists in a world much closer to ours. Media influencing politics and people believing everything they see. Jackson looks like he had fun, but he's really not needed. I think he is more a nod to what came in the original.

    I was a little let down by Michael Keaton. He is a great villain and a fantastic actor. He doesn't always get the credit he deserves. He is good a psychotic. Watch Pacific Heights and you will see what I mean. He looks like he never really found his way into his character. I would've loved to see him and Gary Oldman reverse roles. Fans of the original will definitely miss Dick Jones. Murphy's partner is no longer female in this version, but I understand their reasoning for the change. The original focused more on his relationship with Lewis than is wife and this one goes in the opposite direction.

  This Robocop has a couple of things the original didn't have. Better effects for sure, but in my opinion it has more heart. The center of the story is a man who is afraid of what he has become. A wife that has condemned him to a life as a machine and a son that is caught up in the middle of it. It's got a doctor struggling with morals and what he's created. It's not as violent as the original and some will be disappointed in the simplicity of the fight scenes. It's not as campy. It will not be a cult favorite. The black armor isn't bad, but the silver is present. It makes nods to the original, but tries to go in another direction. We didn't ask for this, but we might have actually got a better Robocop.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Little More Human....

    I don't have a good reason for a blog beyond the word, "human." It doesn't make much sense, but I've had a lot on my mind for a few weeks now and haven't really had a way to express myself. So here goes. Anyone who knows me knows that I am an observer of people. In the last couple of years, even more so. I made a commitment when I walked away from my job to be a better person. Stop sweating the little things. Smile more. Road rage less. It's work in more ways than one.

   Pressure is a word that most of us know pretty well. I actually like pressure. I see it as a challenge. I have learned to accept challenges. Crave them in most cases. Most of the time, we never stop moving long enough to notice the stuff around us. We all get caught up in our own pressures and challenges. Guilty.
Lots of things are happening in the world. I think we try and ignore it, but sometimes when you actually listen you hear things you might have missed. I think it took a rough week at work for me to learn to listen a little closer. Don't misconstrue, I still love my company, my job, and the people that I am fortunate enough to work with. Not a day goes by that I don't laugh with them. Not a day. I just need to realize that I need to walk before I run. Lord I wish that were easier to do.

  I think we are all in a funk. Maybe it's the weather. I don't know,but I do know that sometimes we let pressure get to us. The Super Bowl came and went and people became angered over a coke commercial. Bad song choice, but the message wasn't bad. Coke was trying to paint America as a place of tolerance. I know what were they thinking? I have never seen so many people throw there opinions out so quickly regardless of error. Some didn't even know the actual National Anthem. Hint. It's not America The Beautiful. People swearing to never drink coke again. OK. It's probably a healthier choice because soft drinks can sure do some damage. Is a coke commercial worth getting angry over? At the end of the day, doubt it.

 CVS has decided to eliminate tobacco products. People are furious. I saw someone ask what the government will do if all the people left the country and they'd be no one left for them to control. CVS not selling tobacco isn't a government mandate. Smell your clothes after being around a smoker. It's a disgusting habit, but it's the choice of the individual. Just like it's CVS choice, as a business, to not sell those products in there stores.

  I have been looking at people when I have been out shopping. You'd be amazed what you can learn by what's in their carts. I look at the total package and at one time probably would have had some kind of nasty comment. The world is so appearance based now and that is disheartening. You don't have to look a certain way to be happy. People forget that happiness is different for everyone. The world attributes success and money as the same thing. It's almost like if you're not rich, you 're not allowed to be happy. How did the world get so off track?

  I was in the 'Nati last week and drove through some places that reminded me of different times. Not better. Just different. I thought of my sister and how we used be friends. I haven't truly known her for years and that does suck, but I am not good at forgiveness. I have tried, but addiction is brutal to the addict and their families. The death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman made take a closer look at this and I have been trying to put it out of sight for too long.

  We live and learn. We make mistakes. The world has become a place that seems to put more pressure on us daily. The world tells us we need to be rich. The world says we need to look and act a certain way, but what does the world show us? The rich need not obey the same laws. Freedom of speech is an excuse to fly off at the mouth about everything. The world has made us all the judges of one another. The world says to fit a mold and live life as fast as you can. I say differently.

  I say that you need to step out of line. Find what makes you happy and do it. If that is climbing a mountain? Go for it. Breaking the speed limit once in a while? Let it rip. Eating a whole pint of ice cream? Dig in! Start noticing the things you missed. Do things because you want to and let some of the pressure go. Appreciate the small things and live life based on YOUR happiness. Not your friend's. Not your family's. Yours. Some times things won't go the way you want. A losing streak might last a while, but it's OK! You will stumble, fall, an almost certainly fail. You need to do them all in order to appreciate the feeling of winning.

  We only get one ride on this train. The world needs to be a better place and it starts with us being allowed to be human. To be different. Tolerate the opinions of others even when we don't agree. Take the time to find laughter in situations and not always anger. Treat people a little better. Stop sweating the small things. Smile a little more, even on the bad days. It's my advice to myself feel free to take it. They say that life is a poem. You don't have to earn millions of dollars or climb mountains to contribute a verse.