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Monthly Archives: January 2011

Hello, all.

Well, the Oscar nominations are officially announced.  And now, the mad scramble begins to try to see as many of the nominated films as possible.  I have a good head start, but definitely have my work cut out for me.  And, of course new stuff just keeps rolling out on top of that.

Well, my congratulations to all of the nominees and my condolences to all those snubbed (and there are a few).  But, let’s try to keep a little current and look at this week’s national releases…

“The Mechanic”

Trailer

Synopsis: Arthur Bishop is a ‘mechanic’ – an elite assassin with a strict code and unique talent for cleanly eliminating targets. When his mentor and close friend Harry is murdered, Bishop is anything but detached. His next assignment is self-imposed – he wants those responsible dead. His mission grows complicated when Harry’s son Steve approaches him with the same vengeful goal and a determination to learn Bishop’s trade. A methodical hit man takes an impulsive student deep into his world and a deadly partnership is born. But while in pursuit of their ultimate mark, deceptions threaten to surface and those hired to fix problems become problems themselves.

MovireDruid’s Comments: In any other week this would likely be a shoe-in for pick of the week.  First off, it’s a remake of what was a pretty solid 1972 Charles Bronson film.  Second, director Simon West (“Con Air” & “The General’s Daughter”) knows his way around both the hardcore action movie and the solid thriller.  And, finally there’s the cast.  Ben Foster (“3:10 to Yuma” & “The Messenger”) and Donald Sutherland (“Backdraft” & “The Puppet Masters”) would be solid enough, but this one features one of the great action stars of the current generation, Jason Statham (“The Transporter” & “The Italian Job”).  For fans of the action genre, Statham rarely disappoints and this one should be no different.

“The Rite”

Trailer

Synopsis: Seminary student Michael Kovak is sent to study exorcism at the Vatican in spite of his own doubts about the controversial practice and even his own faith. Wearing his deep skepticism like armor, Michael challenges his superiors to look to psychiatry, rather than demons, in treating the possessed. Only when he’s sent to apprentice with the unorthodox Father Lucas — a legendary priest who has performed thousands of exorcisms — does Michael’s armor begin to fall. As he is drawn into a troubling case that seems to transcend even Father Lucas’s skill, he begins to glimpse a phenomenon science can’t explain or control… and an evil so violent and terrifying that it forces him to question everything he believes.

MovieDruid’s Comments: The idea of possession and exorcism have always fascinated me.  And, thus, some of my favorite films (“The Exorcist” & “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” to name two) have dealt with the subject.  As a Catholic, exorcism is a strange concept, it has both a forbidden quality and an importance in the church.  One coin, two sides, I suppose.  This film has the added weight of Anthony Hopkins (“The Silence of the Lambs” & “The Human Stain”) behind it.  The film looks to be shot beautifully with the vast history of Rome used to great effect in creating an atmospheric menace that is so important in this sort of film.

As most who read this post know I unabashedly consider myself a geek.  I wear the label proudly.  And, one of the things I indulge in as a geek in a little pen-and-paper gaming with a few groups of friends using the legendary Dungeons & Dragons gaming systems.

Now, D&D has taken its share of criticism over the years.  It has been called everything up to and including satanic.  I thought I had heard every possible attack upon what is really just a game that promotes social interaction among its players.  But, I should have known better, this world always comes up with new and creative ways to be ridiculous.

In this case, the ridiculousness is coming straight out of the greats state of Wisconsin’s prison system of all places.  Apparently, the courts of this great country have decided that D&D leads to……wait for it…..gang activity.

That’s right, gang activity.

Now, I am generally of the opinion that prison’s may be in the process of becoming a wee bit too soft at times.  And, I grant you that the argument could be made that there is no reason that convicted felons need to have access to D&D.  But, come on.

According to this ruling Dungeon Masters might as well be gang leaders and criminal Godfathers.  The organization of a D&D, especially the fact that a game has <gasp> rules, makes it mimic a gang, thus making that level 12 paladin a true menace to society despite that Lawful Good alignment.  I don’t know about you, but I’m going to think twice the next time I’m near a comic or gaming store. 

Those geeks and their gangs might make me roll for initiative!

I am a creature of habit.  My routines are like a warm security blanket for me.  With the establishment of habit and routine I manage to impose order onto the chaos of my world.  It helps me do everything from knowing where my keys and shoes are to coping with the stresses and bumps in life.  I cling to my routines.  Sometimes I might feel like I’m in a rut, but it is very hard for me to sacrifice that security.  It has created a very well established and delineated comfort zone.

That neat little comfort zone….I’m not there right now.

All my well established routines and habits have been tossed out the window.  Circumstances in my life have forced that change upon me.  And, while the reason for it is a positive, the resulting chaos in my mind can be a little overwhelming.  I have stepped far afield from my normally established boundaries and taken up residence in a new mental landscape.

I know that some of you are rolling your eyes and telling me to get over it.  And, generally I agree with that assessment.  The problem is that my coping mechanisms have never been my strongest asset and the lat few months have delivered a few blows to my self confidence and ability to deal with unknown quantities.

So, for now I just power through the day any way I can.  I try to expand the borders of that comfort zone a bit each day, hoping it can come to encompass where I am now.  I’ve felt out-of-place and out of sync most of my life so this feeling isn’t exactly new.  I recognize it and can deal with it.

It just sucks feeling a tingle of fear curled up in the back of your head all the time.

Hello, everyone.

I apologize for another lapse in posting.  Life has been a bit crazy since the first of the year and my posting schedule has gotten a little out of whack because of it.  Unfortunately, it may get worse before it gets better, but I promise to endeavor to post as often as possible.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at this week’s releases…

“No Strings Attached”

Trailer

Synopsis: A guy and girl try to keep their relationship strictly physical, but it’s not long before they learn that they want something more.

MovieDruid’s Comments: I have mixed feelings about this film.  My first reaction is one of mild….disgust, perhaps?  After all, with all of the issues abounding in this world in regard to broken relationships, infidelity, and casual sex this film feels fairly irresponsible.  It almost seems to champion the cause of casual sex for the purpose of establishing something more, a strategy that I feel results in tenuous relationships that are simply disposable.  But, there I go a-preachin’ which is not why you’re here.  On the other side of the coin, is the pure entertainment value here.  And, from that standpoint this film seems to have some value.  Fist off, it is directed by veteran Ivan Reitman (“Ghostbusters” & “Jack”), a man who knows his way around comedy of all types from slapstick to heartfelt.  Add to that Natalie Portman (“The Professional” & “V for Vendetta”) and Ashton Kutcher (“The Butterfly Effect” & “What Happens In Vegas”), two performers with true talent, and you have the makings for a solid film.  Of course, many guys will balk at the romantic comedy nature of the film, considering this a chick flick, but this one seems a bit more gender-universal than most “chick flicks” that come out these days.

“The Way Back” – MovieDruid Pick of the Week

Trailer

Synopsis: Based on a true story, prisoners of a Soviet Union labor camp flee their Siberian Gulag and begin a treacherous journey across thousands of miles of hostile terrain.

MovieDruid’s Comments: Peter Weir (“Dead Poet’s Society” & “Master & Commander”) doesn’t direct as often as he used to.  But, the man is a legend, five of his films having been nominated for Oscars.  Here, he has taken on a film that is both a survival film and a journey film as he tells the true story of a group of prisoners who escape from a Russian gulag in Siberia circa 1940.  The film appears to have been breathtakingly shot to take advantage of the beautiful, but harsh, wilderness the group had to traverse, but also appears to have solid character work and plotting that will carry it through and keep you glued to the screen.  Weir has also cast well with Colin Farrell (“Phone Booth” & “Minority Report”), Ed Harris (“Apollo 13” & “Absolute Power”), Jim Sturgess (“Across The Universe” & “21”), and Saoirse Ronan (“Atonement” & “The Lovely Bones”).  Any fan of historical drama, which I am definitely known to be, should definitely be checking this one out, but it should be the type of film that anyone can be intrigued by.

Apple is rudderless at the moment.  Steve Jobs has taken another medical leave of absence, leaving the company without its great prophet.  There is, of course, much speculation about the reasoning behind his decision and the effect it will have on Apple as a company and a stock performer.

But, worry not, the Jungle Gym is here to assuage all of your worries and fears.

After much probing and research I have determined something that may very well be something that possesses at least a passing similarity to something that may or may not be true. As always, I will share this bountiful knowledge with my loyal readership at absolutely no cost whatsoever, mainly because no cost whatsoever is more or less the value of my insight.

It is my firm belief that Steve has been working on a secret project that is now entering its final phases.  His previous medical leaves were all used to take the first steps towards this ultimate goal.  If successful, this project could guarantee Apple’s dominance and leadership indefinitely.

It will be called iJobs.

Yes, that’s right.  iJobs.  Steve has been slowly replacing his body with android like parts designed by a crack team of Apple engineers.  My guess is that the iLiver, iKidneys, and iLungs have already been installed.  This final leave will see the installation of the iHeart, a device which can circulate the necessary fluids through iJobs to the rhythm of any song on his playlist, and the iBrain which will be fully WiFi capable and have a data transfer rate that will be the envy of all competitors.

Look out, Research in Motion.  Move over, Motorola.  Apple is back yet again.  And this time, it’s very personal.

For Steve, anyway.

Many people around the country will be enjoying a day off work or school today, a rare treat on the long road from New Year’s Day to Memorial Day.  I hope that they have a nice relaxing day, but I also hope they take a few moments to remember why this day was made a holiday 25 years ago.  After all, today we honor a giant in the realm of freedom and equality.

Today we honor Marin Luther King, Jr.

Perhaps Shakespeare said it best when he had Hamlet utter the words “What a piece of work is a man.”  We are an imperfect species.  With our sentience seems to have come a strange unreasonable streak that has far too great a tendency to judge another based solely on what you see in them physically rather than the content of their character.  Many people have rebelled against such things, few have done it with the grace and dignity of Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is easy to meet prejudice and tyranny with violence.  It is the simple path to oppose those who would do violence to you, whether directly or through political and social means, with violence of your own.  Violence, after all, begets violence, as Moses noted.  True strength. true character is revealed when a man faces down injustice and violence with passionate, non-violent action.

This is Martin Luther King’s legacy, the dogged pursuit of justice and equality without becoming what you behold.  The maintaining of one’s moral integrity while resisting that which we know to be wrong.  This is not pacifism, this is dignified action measured to bring about change by demonstrating the foolishness, even the evil, that hate, violence, and prejudice bring to the table.

The days of the Civil  Rights Movement were dark days.  Many people suffered for what they believed in.  Many took up arms and fought back.  But, no matter how dark the night became, King was a steadfast island in the stormy sea beckoning all to shelter in the shelter of equality and brotherhood.  He is a man who is sorely missed and was taken from us far too soon.

I remember the man well.  I do my best to love up to his example and oppose what I know to be unjust, but do so in a manner that does not make me as bad as those I oppose.

Remember Dr. King today.  Remember his message that he both talked and walked.  Perhaps someday we will well and truly realize his Dream.

Hello, everyone.

Well, award season has begun.  The nominations for the Golden Globes have been announced and the ceremony is just around the corner.  And,of course, the Academy will be announcing this year’s Oscar nominations on January 25.  This time of year is always interesting because the late year releases that hit just New York and L.A. begin to hit nationwide and sometimes earlier films return to the screen ahead of the Oscars.

Of course that also means the cinemas are flooded with quality films and it becomes easy to miss some of them.  Feast or famine in the movies these days I suppose.

This week we see two films that probably don’t really fall into award category, but are interesting in their own right.  Let’s take a look…

“The Dilemma”

Trailer

Synopsis: Since college, confirmed bachelor Ronny and happily married Nick have been through thick and thin. Now partners in an auto design firm, the two pals are vying to land a dream project that would launch their company. With Ronny’s girlfriend, Beth, and Nick’s wife, Geneva, by their sides, they’re unbeatable. But, Ronny’s world is turned upside down when he inadvertently sees Geneva out with another man and makes it his mission to get answers. As the amateur investigation dissolves his world into comic mayhem, he learns that Nick has a few secrets of his own. Now, with the clock ticking and pressure mounting on the biggest presentation of their careers, Ronny must decide how and when he will reveal the truth to his best friend.

MovieDriuid’s Comments: On any other week this might have landed the Pick of the Week spot.  In fact, it very nearly got it this week despite being a comedy.  The reasons are simple: the cast and crew.  This is a film that seems almost destined to rise above the bar for comedies.  First off, it was directed by Ron Howard (“Ransom” & “Parenthood”), a man who I personally consider one of the Hollywood greats.  And, of course, when you have a director of that caliber you will attract talent in equal measure.  In this case Howard got Vince Vaughn (“The Break-Up” & “Swingers”), Kevin James (“Hitch” & “Paul Blart: Mall Cop”), Jennifer Connelly (“A Beautiful Mind” & “The House of Sand and Fog”), and Winona Ryder (“Star Trek” & “Reality Bites”) among others.  Howard has a fantastic track record that crosses genre boundaries with ease, so it is not a stretch to assume this will be a solid and entertaining film.

“The Green Hornet” – MovieDruid Pick of the Week

Trailer

Synopsis: As the son of LA’s most prominent media magnate, who dies mysteriously, Britt Reid inherits his father’s vast empire. Striking an unlikely friendship with one of his father’s more inventive employees, Kato, Britt sees a chance to do something meaningful in his life: fight crime. To get close to the criminals, Britt and Kato plan to pose as criminals themselves. Britt becomes the vigilante Green Hornet, and Kato builds the ultimate in advanced retro weaponry, an indestructible car, equal parts firepower and horsepower. The Green Hornet and Kato quickly make a name for themselves. And, with the help of Britt’s new secretary, Lenore Case, they begin hunting down the man who controls LA’s gritty underworld: Benjamin Chudnofsky.

MovieDruid’s Comments: When I first heard that this film was being made I was a little concerned, especially with the casting of Seth Rogen (“Pineapple Express” & “Knocked Up”) in the titular role.  I feel a little better knowing that a mind as creative as Michael Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) is at the helm.  I am a fan of the old Van Williams/Bruce Lee television series and so the idea of a feature film with today’s effects technology is appealing.  The trailer seems to have enough comedic material to allow Rogen to truly shine, but enough comic book action to allow the film to do its source material justice.  And, or course, you can’t go wrong with Chrisoph Waltz (“Inglorious Basterds”) as your villain.

I moved around quite a bit growing up.  And, while I spent a large chunk of my childhood in the Southern states, I did live in the Chicago area for a fair number of years.  And, of course, I live in Central Pennsylvania now.  Thus I am no stranger to snowfall.  I have sledded my share of hills, hurled my share of snowballs, and shoveled my share of driveways.

Of course snow is a bit different in North Carolina or Tennessee than in Northern Illinois or Central Pennsylvania.  What we would sneer at around here could shut down some of the towns I grew up in for days.  However, there is one thing I have seen that seems to be a universal thing whether I was in Cary, IL or Irmo, SC.  One behavior that seems to transcend the regional boundaries.

People clean out the grocery stores when the snow’s a-comin’.

It always seemed a bit silly to me regardless of where I lived.  But, I can at least understand the panic that can grip a lifelong Southerner when the forecast calls for a couple of inches.  Around here, though, you would think they would be a bit more cool-headed.

You would be wrong.

I walked into our local Giant a few days ago on a day we were forecast to receive 2 – 4 inches of snow overnight.  It’s a good thing I was only there to grab a few small things to round out dinner for the evening.  If I had wanted eggs, milk, or bread I would have been hard pressed.  And this was with a forecast as small as 2 – 4 inches in Pennsylvania.  That barely qualifies as accumulation for us around here (particularly during Farm Show week).

I have never understood this mad rush.  And it always seems to be eggs, milk, and bread.  The only thing I can imagine is that snow gives a large portion of the American populace an unexplainable desire to have French Toast. Get a grip people.  A little snow isn’t going to cause all city and government services to simply cease and society to degrade into a mad, post-apocalyptic hell reminiscent of Mad Max only with snow.

At least that won’t happen in Michael Bloomberg isn’t you mayor.  New York, you’re on your own.

Like everyone else in America these days I have been following the news out of Tucson, Arizona.  Somehow tragedy seems to get us all glued to our favorite news sources whether they are on television, the radio, or online.  I, as I would suspect most, am mourning the dead, praying for the wounded, and admiring the actions of the brave souls who stopped this maniac from causing more damage.

I am also regarding with disgust the ridiculous politicization of the circumstances.

It is amazing to me how quickly some have jumped to blame anyone for this tragedy besides the mentally unbalanced young man who walked into that crowd and opened fire.  I certainly understand the human need to have someone to blame when something like this happens, but I certainly don’t understand why so many felt the need to condemn certain figures and political persuasions as the root cause, especially so quickly after the incident when we barely had the name of the shooter available much less his motives.

The truth is that the only one who truly knows why he did what he did is the man who carried that gun into that situation.  And, given the information that has been coming out regarding his mental issues I’m not sure he even completely understands his reasoning.  But, despite that fact pundits and talking heads all over the continuum that is the 24-hour news cycle are quick to invoke names like Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh as guilty.

I don’t care what your politics are.  We can agree or disagree on anything from healthcare to what color the latest tax forms should be.  But, I think that any reasonable person needs to step back from this and realize that to blame the rhetoric is to absolve the shooter of his guilt.  He made the choice to pick up a gun and go to that event.  He made the choice to open fire and kill or wound all of those people, including a nine-year old girl.

He is ultimately responsible.

Is there a problem with venom, vitriol, and hate in the political discourse of the day?  One could certainly make that argument.  But, for any individual to point fingers at the other side and yell “J’accuse” as if their hands are clean is the very definition of hypocrisy.  There is venom, vitriol, and hate on both sides of the aisle, whether some want to admit it or not.

This is a case of a disturbed person.  This is a tale of a man who committed a heinous act.  He didn’t do it for any viable political agenda.  According to reports his politics were as much left as they were right.  This was a man whose mind was broken and a broken mind cannot be blamed on any talking head, pundit, or politician.

Stop making this about the politics.  Start making it about the victims and the man who victimized them.

There have been many tales in cinema and print about machines taking over the world.  It is a fear that seems to dwell in the deep recesses of our subconscious where we ask the question: “When have we gone to far with technology?”

Today I have begun to wonder if perhaps that line was crossed long ago.  I am beginning to think we may already be thralls of our machine masters.

I say this because today I have recognized the extent to which I am enslaved, so to speak, by certain machines in my life.  If any of these, particularly ones like my car or my computer goes down, I have no choice but to take direct and immediate action to remedy the situation.

My ability to function is dependent on these devices.

So, when my HHR decides to give me trouble and need repairs that I am going to have to struggle a bit to pay for, I have no choice.  And, I can’t help but look at the grill of the vehicle and wonder if that is some sort of sadistic smile.  I couldn’t afford not to fix it, but the repairs are a bit more than I can truly fathom at this point.  Oh, they will be done, and they will be paid for.  But, my car has taken me hostage and proven that he is in fact my lord and master.

Machines.  They’ve become so much a part of our lives that we don’t even know how to do some tasks without them.  Computers, television, wi-fi, smartphones.  I tell you, we have seen the face of our enemy and we have lst the war without firing a shot.

God help us all.

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