Archive for March 29, 2010

Brooklyn's Finest

Brooklyn's Finest

Directed by: Antoine Fuqua

Written by: Michael C. Martin

Produced by: Elie Cohn, Basil Iwanyk, John Langley, Avi Lerner, John Thompson

Starring: Richard Gere. Don Cheadle, Ethan Hawke, Wesley Snipes

Run Time: 132 Min

The best way to accurately describe Brooklyn’s Finest is every bad cop movie rolled into one film, with all of the personality, intrigue, comedy and likable characters sucked out of it. Brooklyn’s Finest offers nothing but stereotypical characters, bad dialog and a story that’s so predictable that the ending wouldn’t catch a 5 year old off guard. Now some people would describe this story as a tragedy but in all of those memorable stories and plays there’re actually characters that the viewers like. When you make a movie it’s important to remember that in every story you need to have a protagonist that the audience can identify with but that basic fact was forgotten by the writer Michael C. Martin. You’d think that since this really is a story about 3 police officers, that at least one aspect of the story characters would be interesting but Brooklyn’s Finest strikes out each time.

The story starts out with Sal, the bad cop, talking to a man who explains the “righter and wronger” reasons why people do the bad things (which may be the plot of the whole movie). The writer of this movie would like you to believe that Sal is a good guy who’s in a bad position in order to justify his actions but that doesn’t really stick. The problem with Sal is that he’s just a dumbed down version of an interesting character. His whole story revolves around his poor family that lives in a house with wood mold in the walls which endangers their health. Sal already has 2 children and has twins on the way because he isn’t smart enough to use birth control when he already can’t support the kids he has. Since a police officer can’t make money by taking side jobs or working overtime; the only solution to Sal’s problems is for him to rob drug dealers and to buy a new house with the fruits of his labor.

Things to look for in Sal’s story:

His confessional, he talks to a priest about how he needs help from god.

The lamest poker game scene in a movie ever made.

Next we’re introduced to Tango, the undercover cop who’s in way over his head. Tango is the closest we have to a likeable character but he still falls short in that department. After a short stay in prison, where he gains street cred, Tango’s back on the street tasked with infiltrating the cities inner city gangs posing as a drug trafficker. The stress of working undercover starts to effect his view of the world and his job to the point where he’s worried he’ll become a criminal himself. His boss gives him a deal where he can get off the street but he has to get evidence about a man who saved his life while he was in prison, leaving him struggling between loyalty and his desire to leave the undercover life behind.

Things to look for in Tango’s Story:

He’s in too deep maaaannnnnn.

The shady FBI woman.

His friend dies as a result of their drug dealing.

His supervisor gives him a “This is what you wanted” speech.

As if two lackluster characters weren’t enough, enter Eddie, the 22 year police veteran who’s about to retire in 7 days. Eddie is quite possibly the most useless and uninteresting cop character ever created. His own boss tells him that he’s basically a failure and Eddie only proves that to the viewer throughout the whole movie. In his first scene, Eddie wakes up and puts his revolver in his mouth but the gun doesn’t go off as he slowly pulls the trigger back(later we learn that he doesn’t keep his gun loaded). How lame is that? Why would anyone care about a boring, unmotivated depressed police officer who isn’t even man enough to shoot himself? It’s pathetic. You might be thinking to yourself that since he’s suicidal, he’s going to end up proving himself in some blaze of glory that will make up for having to watch him for 2 hours but, even in his shining moment at the climax of the movie he proves himself to be quite frankly, worthless and unexciting. Maybe the audience is supposed to be moved by his staring into space and walking away from conflict. Eddie is one character whose role would be better left in a garbage can next to the writer’s desk.

Things to look for in Eddie’s story:

The stupid look on his face which makes him look like he’s constantly in deep thought but we all know he’s completely useless.

He’s assigned to teach a rookie cop the basics of the job but the rookie course messes something important up like all rookies do.

His only love is from a hooker who doesn’t even want him.

He can’t even kill himself.

The presentation of this whole movie is horrifically bad. Throughout the entire movie there’s always some dramatic music playing which is meant to emphasize the internal conflict that the characters are supposed to have. If you can get past the music, you’ll have to deal with the story itself which is full of holes and defies logic. Even if by some strange miracle you can stand the story, the characters come to your aid and quickly ruin anything that’s likeable left in the movie. Just for a bit of overkill, if you try look past all of the flaws with the music, the main characters and the bad story the writer has an ace up his sleeve: all the supporting actors who are all rip offs of characters in better movies.

Brooklyn’s Finest is the worst cop movie I’ve ever seen. There’s absolutely nothing original or interesting about the characters and while the writers should be sued for plagiarizing every aspect of the story from better movies, they even manage to ruin the stereotypes we’ve grown to love over the years. Even the ending to the movie was disappointing. Why this movie is getting a 7.4 rating with 3353 votes on IMDB mystifies me. We all know how the movie ends, all the characters end up in the same place at the same time. If you want to watch a cop movie you’d be safer going on Netflix and renting Lethal Weapon, where the suicidal cop does something exciting, or Dirty Harry instead of a two hour long bore fest like Brooklyn’s Finest.

(1/5)

The Mark of the Beast

“And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.” Revelation 13 (King James Version)

The fight over a National Identification Card isn’t anything new. In 2005 the passage of the Real ID Act, which standardized state drivers licenses and identification cards to new federal regulations, was fought tooth and nail by privacy advocates and even by the states themselves. The opposition to the then proposed National Id Card grew resulting in some states refusal to comply with the new federal standards which in their eyes violated a person’s privacy, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Once again, new National Id Card legislation is rearing its ugly head in the name of immigration reform and it’s more invasive than ever before.

Details of the newest plan, that makes every person in America completely dependent on the good will of the government surfaced in the Wall Street Journal on March 8th. The article is already creating a firestorm of outrage in independent media circles and conservative talk radio and will become more controversial as the debate continues. The bipartisan push by Senators Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) stipulates that in order to work people must have a government issued identification card complete with biometric information, like fingerprints or a scan of veins on the top of a workers hand. Every person in the country will have their own card saying that the federal government approves of that person’s right to make a living.

The plan is being marketed to both pro-amnesty groups and the suffering working class who are worried about competing with the influx of illegal immigrants who offer cheap labor which in turn suppresses wages in fields like construction. On one side legal workers should welcome the card because it will verify who is eligible to work and on the other the card will provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who work with the system. Everybody wins, the everyday workers, immigrants who want to become legal citizens and especially the government which will solve one of the most politically divisive issues in recent years.

What the Card Is Really For

The greatest chess players in the world, as we all know, don’t think of what they do in terms of the present. Professional chess players see the larger picture using their present moves as a means to achieve a future goal. Governments operate much in the same way. When an unjust law is passed, like the Patriot Act, it isn’t used to its full potential right away. Instead, the laws are gradually tested on a small scale so that people slowly become accustomed and accept them no matter how unjust they are. The concept of a National Identification Card starts off exactly the same; addressing a problem but not showing the true motive until the time is right. If something on its face looks ominous, what’s not being said is often much worse.

The future possibilities for a card that gives people the ability to live an everyday life are endless. While the card starts off by giving people the luxury to work, it will inevitably be used for more than employment. On the off chance that someone can get a job without the approval of the shady overlords in government, new uses for the card will be put in place so there is no escape. Picture having to swipe a card every time you shop for food or clothes, having your friendly neighborhood police officer scanning it making sure you have the privilege of moving from place to place or having to biometrically log onto the internet like bill gates has proposed. From cradle to grave, every part of a person’s life can be monitored and tracked.

The Real Beast System

While a National Identification Card is one of the most high profile fronts in the battle over privacy and government control, a larger more covert system is already in place. Massive databases have already been created saving every persons in the modern world financial, medical, employment, purchases and locations. Cell phones have already been used to track traffic conditions, fast track keeps track of every time a person goes through a toll booth, as credit cards begin to replace cash a record of purchases is stored by credit card companies and don’t even think about how much information people willingly reveal about themselves on social networking websites like Facebook. As all of the technologies spread and improve it becomes increasingly difficult to live anonymously in ones daily life.

To capitalize and network all of the information that has been collected on people and stored in various databases DARPA created the Total Information Awareness program in January 2002. The head of the program was the trustworthy Admiral John Poindexter, who in 1990 was convicted of multiple felonies for his involvement in the Iran Contra Affair (the felonies were later overturned due to an immunity clause relating to his testimony). The purpose of Total Information Awareness was to track every aspect of citizen’s lives and make a profile based on their activities to “protect” America from terrorists. To achieve its stated goal; TIA would use credit card information, emails, phone calls, social networking, surveillance cameras and any other source of information it could find creating a massive web were nothing could escape its eyes. As it turned out, the American public wasn’t ready for the Total Information Awareness program and after a massive public outcry, congress was forced to revoke the program’s funding in 2003.

Even though one head of the surveillance hydra had been removed others, like the NSA wiretaps and Echelon, still remain. Microsoft has admitted to letting the NSA help them develop their popular Windows operating system; leaving the question of how much private information is accessible to government eyes. Google has also come forward stating that it has plans to use the microphones on computers and webcams to monitor how people surf the internet and to direct advertising to each specific person related to their surfing. Google has worked with the intelligence agencies to help organize their databases as well. In Greek mythology, a hydra grows two heads for each one that is cut off and modern surveillance programs seem to do the same. Has the head of the Total Information Awareness program regrown under a different more secretive name? We may never know but judging from the support of all the other surveillance programs its spirit is still alive and well.

The combination of a National ID card and the programs which we already have in place paints the picture of a dark and uncertain future. The information gathered in all of the secret databases could very well control the food you buy in the name of protecting your health, your ability to keep and bear arms since you could be labeled a domestic terrorist for your political beliefs or select what kind of work you do. The one thing that is certain, if all the puzzle pieces come together, freedom of choice will be a thing of the past.

This leaves us all with the question: How do we stop the government from infringing and controlling our lives? While it is true that without the systems and databases we are all a part of modern life wouldn’t be possible, we can however step in to curtail the abuses of them. One of the easiest ways is to get involved and write a letter to your congressmen and senators telling them that you won’t stand for a National ID Card or massive government databases. Another is to support organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation who expose the misuse of public information and technology by government. Hold government officials accountable when they promise transparency and don’t deliver. Remember, never to let a slick politician trick you into signing over your way of life into their hands when they promise a quick fix to society’s ailments. The end isn’t near and there’s no reason not to fight the evils of big government.

Astroturf Wars

“I don’t use a teleprompter. I just use notes written on my hand.” I like to picture the new darling of the co-opted Tea Party movement Sarah Palin saying. It isn’t a big secret that Republicans and Neo-Conservatives have been trying to take over the Tea Party movement for quite some time and to channel the distrust of our current government into getting them elected. While the Tea Party movement was created without leaders, that hasn’t stopped people like Palin from clamming they identical values. What was once a grassroots movement has quickly become the famous Astroturf that Nancy Pelosi has grown to know and love.

In order to combat the racist, gun toting, anti-government Tea Party a former Obama campaigner has created a Coffee Party. The Coffee Party movement states that government is a reflection of the people it represents and therefore isn’t in itself evil. It all sounds logical; after all if people don’t cooperate no progress can be made. The Coffee Party claims that it will hold people accountable who obstruct their idea of positive change(I wonder what they think of Obama reauthorizing parts of the Patriot Act). The whole Coffee Party mantra is similar to a video I once saw where a preacher explains that we must follow the government since it is the government god gave us( the Romans 13 speech).

One can’t help wonder if any legit group stands a chance in the modern political world. All of the rage and passion that grass root organizations have are quickly bottled once they reach a certain popularity by new leaders who pervert the message into a dumbed down, fit for the extremist ideology that permeates our political spectrum. These groups all start with regular people organizing so they have the feel of legitimacy but as they grow, the beliefs that they were founded upon fall to the wayside as so called leaders begin to appear.

The truth is that there is no real mainstream group that actually represents the wishes of the people they claim to represent. The Tea and Coffee party refuse stand up to those big corporate interests which have become hopelessly entangled in the political system. For example, the so called leaders of the Tea Party shamelessly supported the pro-Nafta highway, force vaccination supporting globalist Rick Perry in his reelection for Governor of Texas. If our patriot leaders rush to openly support a trader to their own cause what’s to stop them from misleading us on other issues? Keep in mind that the Coffee Party was created as a direct resistance to the Tea Party by one of President Obama’s campaigners so the thought that this group is anything other than politically controlled is laughable.

Now days it seems as if political groups are only in the spotlight for a mere second until they outlive their political usefulness then disappear into the static of our daily lives. Remember during the last election how involved the grass root organizations were with the election? That enthusiasm for politics and change has sadly disappeared after the election of President Obama. Maybe they vanished because we only got more of the same after Obama’s election or maybe it was because Obama told people what they wanted to hear in order to get elected so after he won, the game was over and America went back to business as usual.

Powerful people have always known that their biggest threat to their way of life is the awakening of the American public to their looting of our country. Each person has a vote and each person has a voice which lets them express themselves in any way they see fit. While the Tea Party was formed to express that voice of the frustrated, like most groups, it has been take over by special interests in order to silence decent. The new Coffee Party, as much as it tells you otherwise, it was borne out of the hearts and mind of the special interests themselves and is completely a fraudulent group.

There is a way to have you voice be heard even with all of the co-opted groups out there. Express yourself with your money and way of life. If you want change, start with yourself and your community. Spend your money on local businesses and get to know the people in your neighborhood. That cheesy “think global act local” quote is true. If you want to change the world the change starts with and not with a new trendy political group in the news. The only person that can use or silence your voice is you.

3/26/10 UPDATE
Check out the speech Sarah Palin made today!!!!

Alice in Wonderland

Alice In Wonderland

Directed by: Tim Burton

Written by: Linda Wolverhampton(screenplay), Lewis Carroll

Produced by: Tim Burton, Jennifer Todd, Suzanne Todd, Joe Roth, Richard D. Zanuck

Starring: Mia Malinowski, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonhomie Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crisping Glover, Matt Lucas, Stephen Fry

Run Time: 108 min

Most of us remember the old Disney version of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland from the simpler time when we were much younger and for most people it would difficult to picture the story in any other way then that early animated version. When I saw the ads for the new version, directed by Tim Burton, I was openly bothered with the bill board sized pictures of Johnny Depp as the mad hatter and the overly large balloon head of the red queen which to me at least, was as annoying as a festering mosquito bite that I couldn’t scratch. Honestly, I didn’t want to see this movie from the moment I saw the first advertisement.

For those people who’ve lived under a rock for the last 100 years and don’t know the basic story; Alice in Wonderland follows a young English girl through a psychedelic underworld after she falls down a magical rabbit hole. The underworld is full of strange and curious creatures, like the Cheshire Cat, waging a war between the good white queen and the evil red queen who currently rules over wonderland with an iron fist. The story itself is simple enough but what makes it unique is that the characters and world in which it takes place are a mixture of a fairy tale crossed with a hefty dose of hallucinogens.

This movie is everything you’d expect if you mixed the Alice in Wonderland with the direction style of Tim Burton. The imagery is extremely dark and twisted like in all of Burton’s movies but he still managed to keep the innocent Disney feeling that the Alice character should personify to the audience. Burton is quite possibly the only modern director who could attempt to make Alice in Wonderland and make it work.

Alice in Wonderland features an all star cast who are, quite frankly, amazing at what they do. Mia Wasikowska, who isn’t well known compared to the rest of the cast, delivered a stunning lead performance as the innocent and pure Alice. Johnny Depp, who has always excelled at playing eccentric characters, was the perfect fit as the Mad Hatter and one can’t forget Helena Carter as the Red Queen.

One big problem with the movie is that character and set design relied heavily on the inconsistent quality of the computer animation. Sometimes the animation was done extremely well and other times I couldn’t ignore the way the characters looked which left me debating their artistic merit rather than suspending my disbelief and enjoying the story. On the other hand, I was surprised that I was able to enjoy the hated Red Queen, giant head and all, even though my first impression of her from the advertising had made her the bane of my small world.

Does Alice in Wonderland live up to the legacy of the earlier animated movie? No. The first Alice in Wonderland was a movie that could be watched by anyone, especially children, but this version left me struggling with the question of whether a younger audience or even someone who wasn’t a fan of the story could enjoy it. Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland seems as if it was made for those hardcore fans who have grown up and want a darker version of the original movie.

After seeing the movie it became incredibly apparent to me that Disney was relying on the name, since most of us grew up with this story, and the stars to sell the tickets instead the movie itself. In the end, I’m still trying to figure out if I liked the movie and I’m sure most people who see the movie will ask themselves same thing as well. There aren’t any memorable moments that stick out in one’s mind upon retrospect nor are there memorable characters, since we already knew them from older versions of the movie. Alice in Wonderland isn’t a movie you’ll like or dislike; this is just a movie that is there.

(3.5/5)