Saturday, February 16, 2019

Movie Reviews: The Heartbreak Kid

The Heartbreak Kid (2007)
directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly
This was a remake of an early seventies film. It's a dark romantic comedy. The film has some low rent humor, typical for the Farrelly Brothers. 

Unlike most genre films this movie didn't shy away from making at least two of the people in the love triangle somewhat unlikable. YMMV on this but it's essential to the story. This movie reverses the usual "..and then they lived happily ever after" motif  to investigate what happens after two people meet and fall in love. It's a different challenge/question. 

It's easy to fall in love with someone when they are clean, sharp dressed, and shaking their tail feathers. It's more difficult to stay in love and accept someone else's occasional bad moods, unpleasant biological functions and chronic irritating habits that could drive even the most patient spouse into sputtering incoherent rage. The first is infatuation. It may not last that long. The second is real love, but usually takes more time to develop.

Eddie (Ben Stiller) is a San Francisco sports shop owner. Eddie is lonely but afraid of settling down and getting married. His married friends treat Eddie with pity and contempt. Eddie's widower father Doc (Jerry Stiller-Ben Stiller's father) is a playboy. 

Friday, February 15, 2019

Glendale Police Tase Man 11 Times Just For Fun

Although the most charged scenarios of police brutality which get the most community attention often involve white cops and black citizens there is a deeper problem with police across the United States that sees far too many of them ready, willing, and eager to harass, bully, brutalize, sexually assault, humiliate, and even kill anyone who is not a police officer, race not withstanding. This recent example of white-on-white police violence in Glendale came to light. The disturbing things are 
  1. How the police are wrong on the law and attempt to breeze past that by resorting to the "Because I said so! " response (passengers in traffic stops are not required to give id)
  2. How quickly the police move from semi-aggressive language to ultra-violence. For too many police any response that doesn't start and end with "Yassuh boss" is reason for beating, tasing and/or arrest. 
  3. How sexually sadistic the police are in this incident-pulling down the man's pants and underwear to apply the taser to his behind and genitals. Think about it. A police officer who is sworn to uphold the law decided that it would be a good idea to tase someone's genitals.
This was rough to watch and even more frightening to experience I am sure. It is critically important that Americans stop hero worshipping the police. Some police are just thugs with badges. We must demilitarize the police. We must train police better on knowing the law and following the law. And we must harshly punish police when they break the law. Perhaps the fact that in this case the victim was Caucasian will convince some people to get their head out of their fundament as far police violence goes. The victim is not an angel. But he did not deserve what happened to him. Of course if Wheatcroft had been Black the police would probably have just shot him thirty times and called it a day. So there's that I guess. State sponsored brutality that is encouraged and tolerated against Black people often ends up being employed against white people.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Movie Reviews: Wetlands

directed by Emanuele Della Valle
Adebisi and Rollergirl come together to make a middling modern noir.
How many movies feature an oncoming storm as metaphor and warning for the changes that are about to impact the characters and alter their life forever. More than I can remember right this instant. It's a pretty common plot device. 

This film uses that device. It is reminiscent of the pseudo noir Key Largo, recently reviewed here. In Key Largo, a gangster trying to recover past glories holds the guests of a hotel hostage while a powerful hurricane threatens to make landfall. In Wetlands, a troubled cop is held hostage by his past failings and must try to move beyond them--while a powerful hurricane threatens to make landfall.

I thought the movie might have gone a little too far in making the protagonist so morally dark. A lot of the dialogue was meh. There is violence but it's not shown as anything other than something which is horrible. It leaves marks on people-both the people who suffer it and those who commit it. 

Unfortunately the director and cinematographer made a very visually dark movie. It can be difficult to see what's going on in many scenes. Obviously they likely did this on purpose to impress upon the moral murkiness of the goings on in the story. I just thought they overdid it.

Movie Reviews: Mr. Brooks

Mr. Brooks
directed by Bruce Evans
Sometimes actors can get bored doing the same type of roles. This 2007 movie was a definite step away from the serenely moral aw shucks folksy patriarchs that make up a lot of Kevin Costner's filmography. 

However, this film still lets Costner play a protective decent family man, although a very twisted one.  

It was a fine piece of acting and perhaps something you should watch if you've never seen Costner portray wicked characters. This wasn't really a hit IIRC. Some would argue that's because Costner isn't a very compelling actor. I would disagree with that. It is true that this film wasn't what most people wanted to see from Costner. But Costner's alleged lack of range works for this role as his character is very tightly wrapped indeed.

Earl Brooks (Costner) is the middle aged CEO of a packaging/boxing company. Earl is a good man, or so it seems. Earl is a philanthropist. He's solicitous of his workforce; Earl has so far resisted selling out to East Asians or outsourcing work overseas. Although Earl is a multimillionaire he's still married to Emma (Marg Helgenberger), a woman in his own age range, instead of a much younger lady. Earl is faithful to Emma. 

Florida Woman Harasses Men

Often when there are news stories about a (usually attractive) female teacher or corporate exec harassing, seducing, or propositioning the teen boys or men that she instructs or supervises, we'll see a sizable proportion of comments apparently from men wondering where the hell these teachers were when the men were young or suggesting that if their female boss or supervisor looked that good she could harass them to her heart's content and then some. I don't think this particular incident will bring out too many comments of that type.

MADEIRA BEACH — In a move that echoes national #metoo headlines, former City Commissioner Nancy Oakley was strongly censured and reprimanded by her former colleagues for violating state ethics rules by groping and licking the face of a former city manager. In issuing the reprimand, the City Commission Wednesday night also accepted Oakley’s resignation submitted to the city the previous day.The incident that led to Oakley’s resignation occurred more than five years ago during a prior term in office. Oakley apparently objected to a growing relationship between Crawford and his assistant, Cheryl McGrady, who are now married.

Oakley, who has admitted she had been drinking, demanded at one point that McGrady leave a public event. Later, Oakley took a swing at McGrady, who had complained that she was sexually harassing Crawford, including licking his face starting at the base of his neck. Crawford did not file a formal complaint until much later, when Oakley ran for office again.

Trump Tax Hike on Middle Class

Some Trump voters are shocked and upset that the Trump Tax Cut is hurting them.

It’s February which means it’s officially everyone’s favorite time of year: tax season! And while most of us will be putting off tracking down our W-2’s until early April, some people have already managed to file their taxes. And among those early birds, many in the middle class have been shocked to find that instead of the nice little chunk of change they were expecting with their return, they actually owe money to Uncle Sam. What’s the reason for this financial switcheroo? 

It stems from President Trump’s tax reform, which was passed in 2017 and was touted by Trump and the GOP as a win for the middle class. However, with the new tax system now in place, Americans are discovering that most of the tax relief from the bill is actually being experienced by corporations. 

Meanwhile, many people are seeing an increase in taxes due to the bill eliminating many of the deductions that were used by middle-class families in order to lower the amount of taxes they were required to pay. Most notably, the tax reform placed a cap on deductions for taxes on both state and local levels.

Michigan Fan Keeps It Real

It's very important that from an early age a person learns how to stand up for his beliefs, no matter how many people say that he's wrong. After all as the possibly apocryphal saying goes, one man with courage is a majority.

ANN ARBOR, MI – It’s an unspoken rule that wearing maize and blue is a no-no in the heart of Buckeye country. That didn’t stop second-grader Jackson Winters from fearlessly dressing head to toe in support of his favorite team, the Michigan Wolverines, during a recent “dress in your favorite team colors” day at Tree of Life Elementary School in Columbus, Ohio.
Seeing him rocking a fleece Michigan blanket as a cape to show his powerful love for the Wolverines amid a sea of scarlet and gray, made Jackson’s father, Kyle, beam with pride.
“It’s a total battle of nature vs. nurture,” Kyle Winters said. “We are trying to train him in the way we believe he should be brought up - as a Wolverine - but obviously living in a town that is saturated with Buckeyes.” Jackson’s courageous maize and blue ensemble was rewarded with a first-place prize during the recent spirit day. “They were pretty nice about it, but they gave me a hard time,” Jackson said. LINK
Good for Jackson for having the courage to be himself and good for the other children who are secure enough not to try to bully everyone into thinking and behaving as they do. Likely some people on twitter could learn a thing or two from these kids.

Homelessness, Poverty and Groundcover

How are we going to solve the problem of poverty. Is it just a question of bad individual choices? For some people, it certainly is. For others it's not. An overemphasis on individual decisions can lead people to miss the big picture. 

MLK wrote that "True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring." Doing the work of "restructuring" is very dangerous and very tiring. Sometimes it is easier to concentrate on the small changes that you can make. And there's nothing wrong with that I think.  Although it is good that this non-profit organization is taking individual steps to assist people I still think that the entire society must make institutional changes so that people who have reached advanced age or who have fallen on hard times have a more robust safety net.  

I'm not sure that selling papers in freezing weather is all that different from panhandling. But if this project has helped some people transition into business owners or higher paid employees I can't say anything negative about it. We all just need to do more, that's all.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Bud Light Super Bowl Commercial/NFL 100 Commercial

Super Bowl 53 wasn't that exciting unless you are into defensive struggles. Most viewers probably aren't. And it was questionable as to whether the defenses were that good or the offenses were that bad. The New England Patriots won 13-3 over the Los Angeles Rams, giving Patriots QB and University of Michigan alum Tom Brady his 6th championship ring, possibly cementing a claim to be the best QB of all time. 

I thought most of the Super Bowl commercials were blah and boring, just like large portions of the game. There were two commercials which I thought were amusing. Both of them required that the viewer was familiar with famous events/people from NFL history or iconic dramatic moments from HBO's current signature series. I liked that. At least in that way neither commercial insulted the viewer's intelligence.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

IRS Scammer Prank Call

For at least a decade and a half if not longer there has been an apparently lucrative scam business originating primarily from various locations in the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh) in which telemarketers call American citizens and pretend to be the IRS or Social Security Agency or some other federal agent. The script is unvarying. 

The fake agent claims that the citizen hasn't paid his taxes or that his SS# has been used in a fraud and cancelled. The fake agent may not even have the citizen's real SS# which is why they are usually quite eager to get it from the citizen. The scammer threatens the citizen with immediate arrest. Of course the scammer can fix this problem if the citizen will transfer some money into an account, give the scammer access to his or her bank account, or best of all transfer money onto gift cards. But the citizen had better do this quick because the police are on their way right now. 

This is of course all bs. But evidently enough people still fall for it for people to keep on doing it. The obvious foreign accents, horrible pronunciation, and utter unfamiliarity with the basic facts of American life and culture should be enough to clue anyone in on the fact that this is a scam, let along the fact that the FBI, IRS or SS Administration do not call people and shake them down for gift cards. But every year, particularly at tax time, people get these calls.

(WXYZ) — Authorities in Novi and Northville are warning residents of an ongoing phone scam circulating in the area. Police say an individual claiming to be an IRS representative demands that you transfer money in the form of gift cards to avoid being arrested. The scammers are able to generate phone numbers with local area codes, increasing your likelihood of answering.

Police departments will not call residents to discuss tax issues. Also, the IRS will never demand immediate payment or threaten to arrest you. Do not give out your personal information, police say.