Liberty, Freedom, Choice

In light of some recent events, I would just like to share a few thoughts. These are just random thoughts, but they might feel more like familiar musings about the current situations in politics, sports, society, and the country. Of course, all of these categories seem to bundle together to form one long narrative.

American Flag Controversy

I’ll start with Colin Kaepernick. I’m sure everyone has heard of the latest controversy that some people and media have turned it into. His refusal to stand for the National Anthem before football games has become the topic of discussion for many. I’ve read stories and seen social media comments and posts how the quarterback despises America and is being disrespectful. According to some, he’s even being a rich, spoiled crybaby.

I understand his reasons why he is doing what he’s doing. As he has said, it’s to try to bring change to a situation that appears to have erupted over the last few years. And seemingly, that is the injustice being done towards people of color at the hands of white authority figures. It seems there has been some discussion on the matter, but mostly it is still almost hateful dialogue towards Kaepernick and his actions. I have also read, though, there are some that support what he’s doing, and some of those are even veterans.

Do I agree with what he is doing? Not necessarily. There could be other ways he could protest and try to bring about change. But I certainly do agree it is his right to do what he’s doing as provided in the Constitution. The American Flag is meant as a symbol of liberty and freedom. And if we (Americans) are to rise and honor those who have fought to provide us those freedoms, then shouldn’t we have a right to protest when some civil liberties and rights are being denied or disregarded? The way I see it (as I have mentioned this in another post) the flag represents America’s freedom. But if you also look at how we (America) arrived at that point, by basically oppressing and slaughtering the Native Americans here for nothing more than dominance, which is also what seems to be happening today – the oppression of people of color and minorities. So that red, white and blue flag that’s supposed to stand for freedom and liberty just seems hollow when we are still oppressing minorities. So, I believe until we – as a nation – can return to a civilized, caring nation where race and oppression are not relevant any longer and people can get around without being judged or oppressed, then we can all stand in honor of that Star-Spangled Banner and to those who have fought and died to give us that honor and freedom. And until then, we should be able to protest how we see fit, as long it is peaceful and not interfering with anyone or anything else, or not hurting anyone else. Let’s refrain from being judgmental and just live.

Election 2016

In a recent post, I talked about the election and political party history. We know that Trump and Clinton are in it and they will be facing off on the debate stage in a few days. Since that post, Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson is polling 15% or higher in several states and now is on the ballot in all 50 states. The National Commission on Presidential Debates has made the decision not to include the former New Mexico Governor on the first debate stage because he isn’t polling at he requisite 15% in the national polls (a number arbitrarily set by the commission).

I’ve read where some believe that voting third party is a wasted vote. That it’s meaningless. No third party has ever won. Here’s a little history: by 1860 there were four parties – Northern Democrat, Southern Democrat, Republican, and the Constitutional-Union Party. The Republican Party was considered a “third party” at the time. Republicans won their first presidency with Abraham Lincoln as the issue of slavery was at the forefront of that election.

In this election, I don’t believe there have ever been two more polarizing candidates as Trump and Clinton. As I said before, some have said they will vote for the lesser of two evils. But which on is the lesser evil? Some say it’s Clinton. Some say it’s Trump. If you ask me, voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil. Some have also said voting for a third party will take votes away from Trump and allow a Clinton presidency as it did in 1992 with Ross Perot. But really, if 62% of America want to see Gary Johnson in the debates, and those that say they will vote Trump to keep Clinton out and those that will vote Clinton to keep Trump out would vote for Gary Johnson, then he might just actually win. I haven’t done the math. But it does seem plausible. I for one cannot vote Republican or Democrat in good conscience. What needs to change is the CPD and the failing two-party system. Since the end of the Civil War, the two-party system has been in power. There have been other “third parties” but they don’t get the recognition because all the attention goes to the two major parties.

The CPD was supposed to be set up to educate America on all eligible candidates to make the choices needed to secure the next presidency. In all honesty, if a candidate is on the ballot their voice should be heard on the debate stage regardless of numbers in national polls. Plain and simple. America needs another choice. This election is too important. However, if Johnson doesn’t get in then maybe after four years of Trump or Clinton, the rules will change.

Final Thought

It just seems to me what is lacking is appreciation for human and societal differences. I’ve said this time and time again. We (America) need to put a little love back in our lives. Sometimes it just seems that until someone says something is offensive or controversial, no one really notices or is aware of it. But because someone said something, then all of a sudden it’s a countrywide (or in some cases a global) offensive controversy. It looks as though the country (world) is regressing to a more tumultuous time of racial tension, oppression, and righteous judgment. Let’s love each other and get along.

Emotions are dug up in ‘The Lovely Bones,’ but don’t get past the surface

Rating 2/5

With a mixture of drama, a little suspense and mystery, and a dab of humor, The Lovely Bones presents a story that could be interesting and engaging, but it misses on a certain level. Writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens wrote the script based on the book by Alice Sebold. Some of the blame for the finished product might be put on them as they tried to adapt the book to film. Partial blame could also go to director Peter Jackson.

The story is about 14 year old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) who is murdered and then seemingly lives in a sort of purgatory state as she looks down on her family as they deal with her loss. Caught between taking vengeance upon her murderer and allowing her and her family to move on in peace, she looks back on the events that led up to her demise and attempts to make sense of it all.

Her mother, Abigail Salmon (Rachel Weisz) is trying to move on, but her father, Jack (Mark Wahlberg), is having trouble letting go. He frantically pieces together anything that might be able to shed some light as to where she is. He really never gives up the hope that Susie is still alive. During his “investigation,” his oldest daughter, Lindsey (Rose McIver) begins to believe and tries to help her father. Meanwhile, Jack brings Abigail’s mother, Lynn (Susan Sarandon) in to help during their tragedy to help take care of the kids, especially the youngest boy, Buckley (Christian Ashdale).

The other key players are the serial killer George Harvey (Stanley Tucci), Len Fenerman (Michael Imperioli), the detective who investigates the case, Susie’s love interest Ray Singh (Reece Ritchie), and Ruth Connors (Carolyn Dando), a clairvoyant who helps Susie and later becomes involved with Ray.

While I liked the premise and story, it just seemed, at times, the film didn’t know what it was supposed to be – a drama, mystery, or fantasy, or maybe something else. That was a major setback for me. Because really, it had just enough to keep me into the narrative of the film but not enough to thoroughly enjoy it for what it was. The characters intertwine in this story that has promise but just misses the mark. That is to say the performances were adequate for the story, but it appeared the focus was on little Susie as she attempts to make sense of what happened and find her own peace and so that her family would be able to move on. In that, the action moved along well but seemed to abandon a lot of time to deal with the emotions from the family.

During the course of The Lovely Bones, the audience is on a journey with Susie (who also narrates throughout the film) to see how her family is coping and to see if they discover the identity of her murderer. It was one of those films where you would like to see everything wrapped up nice and neat with a happy ending. But even the ending, although there was some satisfaction, didn’t fulfill the needed emotions to be fully satisfied from watching Susie’s journey. It left me with some mixed emotions and I just wasn’t sure what to feel.

‘R. I. P. D.’ shows promise, but fails to deliver

Rating 2/5

The story surrounding the film may have looked good on paper, but did not seem to translate well to the finished product. The film had a somewhat interesting concept, but never seemed to build enough traction to really execute a great picture. The premise is we have Roy (Jeff Bridges), an old West law enforcement officer, and Nick (Ryan Reynolds), a member of the Boston Police Department, come back in different bodies and now are members of the Rest In Peace Department (R. I. P. D.). Their job is to capture people who have cheated their judgments and return them for their final judgment.

Robert Schwentke directed the screenplay by writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi. And it doesn’t appear there is clear evidence as to why this film did not succeed more. It seemed to fail with a majority of critics and the general movie-going public. Some may have felt the film was unfunny and uninteresting. I tend to agree – to an extent. Perhaps the real problem with it was the direction. Through most of the film, I felt the pace of the film was slow. It was like watching a live theatre performance when the actors have low energy and the play just seems to drag.

I only enjoyed (if you can call it that) this film for the fairly decent concept. But there appeared to be several similarities with Men in Black. It almost succeeded in being a bad rip-off of Men in Black. Or, it did succeed in being a bad rip-off of the aforementioned film. It depends on how you look at it I guess. The climax of the R.I.P.D. just appeared uneventful as the heroes try to stop the “bad guys” from operating a device that is to open a gateway to unleash actual “hell on Earth.”

Although, the film did have some varying characters, they mostly appeared as weak, dull, two-dimensional characters. One might expect more from the likes of Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Bacon. That’s not to say the performances were necessarily bad, but they just didn’t seem to have much to work with in the script and direction. The seemingly sole character with any sort of redeeming qualities was Mary-Louise Parker’s Proctor, the “manager” of the Rest in Peace Department. She seemed to be a simple and straight forward, while still being a tough leader who runs a tight ship in the department. You might believe the actors had fun with the material (which appears to be what the film was meant to be – a fun, summer flick), but that just didn’t work for me completely.

R.I.P.D was released in the summer of 2013. It is evident the filmmakers were trying to make this a summer blockbuster with action, comedy, and a strong use of CGI. However, they lacked in story and character development, efficient use of comedy, and an apparent waste of time and talent with its lead actors. In R.I.P.D., we find a film that struggles with itself and leaves behind a skeleton of a potentially good film.

 

 

Another horror classic remade with ‘The Wolfman’

Rating 3/5

In 2010, Joe Johnston directed a remake of the 1941 horror classic The Wolf Man, written by Curt Siodmak. New writers Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self penned this remake and instead of updating to a more contemporary time, they set it in late nineteenth century England.

It can be said that The Wolf Man is to werewolves what Dracula is to vampires. So this remake is not just another horror film, it’s the Wolf Man. In that, there appears to be some big acting shoes to fill from Lon Chaney Jr’s performance in the 1941 classic. The role went to Benicio Del Toro, a fine actor in his own right, in this remake and did a fair job with the portrayal of Lawrence Talbot.

The story begins as Sir John Talbot’s (Anthony Hopkins) son has disappeared. Ben’s fiancé, Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt) writes to Ben’s brother, Lawrence, and pleas for him to return home to help find her fiancé. Upon arrival home, a body has been found. Lawrence sees his remains and then embarks on a hunt to find the beast responsible for his brother’s death. He is led to a gypsy camp and is soon attacked by a creature, which is half-man/half-wolf. A gypsy woman tends to his wounds, but pronounces Lawrence to be cursed. And, at the time of the next full moon, Lawrence transforms into the creature and goes on a bloody rampage.

Del Toro played the part of a tortured soul, caught between a normal life and a sort of living hell. He brought those characteristics to the character with a quiet desperation of needing to escape the hell in which he was living. The great Anthony Hopkins brought the right amount of caring and sentiment to the role as a man who has lost a son and wife. But he also had the mystery about him that were revealed in the climactic moments of the film. Blunt’s Gwen Conliffe had the spirit of the “damsel in distress,” but also a strong, courageous woman trying to uncover her fiancé’s disappearance.

What worked here in this film were the performances set against the time period and Danny Elfman’s music coupled with Shelly Jonson’s cinematography. It is settings like these that really bring more life into these horror stories with the vast countryside, foggy moors and a rocky waterfall. And although the performances were nothing extraordinary, they did have a sense of purpose and believability.

The CGI however, is what missed for me in the film. There’s something to be said for the old makeup special effects instead of the use of modern CGI. It does seem that CGI is used a lot in today’s filmmaking process, but sometime it can be overdone, and when not done right, it can appear sort of ridiculous. As with the case in this film, the effects made the werewolves appear more grotesque in nature and didn’t appear to fit in with the style of the film. This made the CGI a bit clumsy and out of place. But even with its flaws and average performances, the film did keep me entertained and hold my interest.