Saturday, August 30, 2014

Movie Reviews: Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, Let's Be Cops

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (hereafter referred to as Sin City 2) stars Eva Green's breasts in the leading role. I think they ought to win an award. They dominate every scene they're in. Seriously. In the rare moments when Green is not topless or completely nude, she's usually braless in diaphanous clothing. Acting in support were Rosario Dawson's full lips and Jessica Alba's perpetual motion waist and hips. Some people may be impressed by this; others may yawn. The target audience for Sin City 2 likely includes many people who would be dazzled by Green's mammary glands which probably explains why they get so much screen time. Once you get past the "They're real and they're spectacular" aspects of Green's performance you realize that this noir cartoon has less going for it than its predecessor did. So if you have low expectations this film is for you. Green's sneering, red lipped, exaggerated, femme fatale performance would have been almost as enjoyable had she not spent the entire film showing what her mother gave her. There's nothing subtle here.

Dangerous men and even more dangerous women populate the corrupt hellhole of Sin City. Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) presides over the city with lip curling sadism and diabolical demeanor. No good deed goes unpunished. Everyone considers revenge to be the highest moral virtue.

Friday, August 29, 2014

St. Paul Police Use Taser On Black Man For Minding His Own Business

Although this blog has discussed the issue quite often, over the past few weeks thanks to the events in Ferguson and elsewhere, there has been a great deal of media spotlight on the negative attention police give to black people, particularly black men. Whether it's a black man choked to death for allegedly selling unlicensed cigarettes or a black man shot and killed in Wal-Mart for considering purchasing a BB gun or a black woman brutally beaten for walking close to traffic it appears that police generally have a very low threshold for initiating and escalating violence against black people. Now we learn that in St. Paul, Minnesota back in January 2014 (the video was just released) the police tased and arrested a black man who refused to show them id. It is not necessarily a crime to refuse to show police id. Police can't demand id without some sort of "reasonable suspicion" that you're involved in criminal activity. Minnesota has declined to enact a "stop and identify" law. The police were originally called because the black man, one Chris Lollie, was sitting in a chair in a downtown skyway. A security guard claimed the chair was on private property and ordered Lollie away. Lollie left but apparently not as quickly as the security guard desired. When the video starts Lollie has already left the chair and is having a tense conversation with an officious female police officer. Lollie was waiting in the skyway (as he thought wrongly as it turned out) to pick up his children from daycare. Video below the jump.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Don't Shoot: The Game, Diddy, Rick Ross & Others Release Track In Honor Of Michael Brown & Ferguson

Let us know in the comments what you think of this track.

Jon Stewart, Fox News and Ferguson: Race Matters

The all too predictable thing about many conservatives is that whenever there is a situation in which there is an abuse of power by state agents and the alleged victims are Black, conservatives, with very few exceptions, rush to defend the state agents, insult and smear the victim, and go out of their way to do to the alleged victim what a police dog allegedly did to the Michael Brown memorial.  In defending alleged or even proven abusive state agents on hidden or not so hidden tribalistic/racial grounds they often will claim no bias. In their view they are being objective. Obviously conservatives aren't the only people with blind spots and unchallenged assumptions. Liberals, libertarians and people of other political persuasions and ideologies have their own hypocrisies and instances of moral myopia. I just don't care to discuss those today. What I find fascinating about the normal conservative stampede to defend the police, provided the victim is Black, is that these are often the very same people who will work themselves up to a high dudgeon about overreaching government when it comes to the IRS, or Obamacare or bossy TSA agents or the EPA or nosy census questions or Common Core standards or any number of other instances of government bigfooting that usually fall far short of a policeman beating or shooting someone. These folks will wave the Gadsden flag and opine about "freedom loving Americans" but won't criticize police who wrongly harm someone provided that someone doesn't look like them. Such actions say everything about who's considered a "real American" and why the President has been dogged with false claims about his nationality, race and religion.

Ultimately though, we're all in this together regardless of race.  As Angela Davis said it they come for me in the morning they will come for you at night. Police who are comfortable insulting, harassing, abusing, assaulting and killing black people will do the same things to any "unworthy" white people. We've talked about that before. You let some dogs get off leash and they will bite whoever they see.  Unfortunately some conservatives, say Bill O'Reilly, can't see this.  Such conservatives assume that if a black person got hurt, that thug/thugette had it coming. These folks glory in their privilege even as they deny it. In his own inimitable manner Jon Stewart tried to explain this to Fox News watchers/hosts in general and Bill O'Reilly in particular.

Nine Year Old Girl Armed With Uzi Kills Arizona Shooting Range Instructor

I believe in the individual right to keep and bear arms. I tend to be skeptical of many new gun control proposals. That said I am aghast that anyone would permit a child to attempt to operate an Uzi submachine gun in automatic mode. That makes about as much sense to me as letting a child drive a semi-trailer, fly a Boeing 777, represent someone in a death penalty case, or do anything else where the life of that child or the lives of others around the child will be put at risk by the child’s actions. Unfortunately not everyone agrees with me. You may have heard about the nine year old girl who apparently wanted to fire an Uzi.  Her parents took her to Bullets and Burgers Shooting Range in Arizona where instructor Charles Vacca assisted her in shooting the machine gun in single shot mode.  He then switched the weapon to automatic mode and moved to the girl's left. Unfortunately the recoil of the submachine gun was far more than a nine year old girl could handle. That's unsurprising.  I mean it's not like she was a veteran member of Spetsnaz or Shayetet 13. The Uzi's muzzle drifted upwards and to the girl's left. Vacca was shot in the head and died. It's a tragedy. But it's also a quite preventable one.  While gun safety experts, police or military veterans can review the video to determine if Mr. Vacca was in the proper area and/or can check the gun to determine if there was anything wrong with it, the rest of us can make an even simpler fix. Preteens don't get to fire automatic weapons. That's so freaking simple isn't it? If you wouldn't let a nine year old command a nuclear submarine then why would you let them operate an Uzi. The Uzi will still be there when that child grows up.  There's no rush. Ultimately the blame here must rest with the parents and with anyone else who thinks that children should be playing with guns. Guns aren't toys. Video below (it cuts off before the death).

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The 2014 Emmy Awards

The Winners from last night:

Breaking Bad
Bryan Cranston, Vince Gilligan, Mark Johnson, ...
Outstanding Drama Series
Bryan Cranston
Breaking Bad
Outstanding Lead Actor - Drama Series
Modern Family
Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd, Ben Karlin, ...
Outstanding Comedy Series
Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Outstanding Lead Actress - Comedy Series
Julianna Margulies
The Good Wife
Outstanding Leading Role Continued Performance - Dramatic Series
Allison Janney
Outstanding Supporting Actress - Comedy Series
Jim Parsons
The Big Bang Theory
Outstanding Lead Actor - Comedy Series
Aaron Paul
Breaking Bad
Outstanding Supporting Actor - Drama Series
Anna Gunn
Breaking Bad
Outstanding Supporting Actress - Drama Series
Ty Burrell
Modern Family
Outstanding Supporting Actor - Comedy Series
Jessica Lange
American Horror Story
Outstanding Lead Actress - Miniseries or a Movie
Benedict Cumberbatch
Outstanding Lead Actor - Miniseries, Movie
Cary Fukunaga
True Detective
Outstanding Directing - Drama Series
The Colbert Report
Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, Paul Dinello, ...
Outstanding Variety Series
The Amazing Race
Jerry Bruckheimer, Phil Keoghan, Bertram van Munster, ...
Outstanding Reality-Competition Program
Louis C.K.
Outstanding Writing - Comedy Series
Glenn Weiss
Tony Awards
Outstanding Directing - Variety Special, Outstanding Directing - Variety Special
Kathy Bates
American Horror Story
Outstanding Supporting Actress - Miniseries or a Movie
Steven Moffat
Outstanding Writing - Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special
Warren Littlefield, Noah Hawley, John Cameron, ...
Outstanding Miniseries

Watch the highlights after the jump:

Saturday, August 23, 2014

James Brown Song Test

Some critics have argued that in making rhythm so important and de-emphasizing melody and harmony as much as he did that James Brown routinely created or sang songs that all pretty much sounded alike, regardless of what the actual lyrics or title said. I disagree with this but even I must admit that on some tunes it could occasionally be a task to ascertain what James Brown was actually saying. Some relatives have even jokingly had the audacity to tell me that once you got past the "Maceo will you blow?" and constant "Uhhhh!" and "Hit me Fred!" exhortations nobody actually knew lyrics or titles to James Brown songs because they were too busy dancing to try to decipher Brown's grunts. Hmm. It's not well known but actually James Brown and I were very close friends. You could say that he was a godfather to me. It's only now that I can share the story of the night that James Brown and I had dinner together. You might say we had a funky good time. Ahem. How funky are you? Every single sentence in the (100% accurate, completely true to life and certainly not at all entirely made up from whole cloth during a remarkably boring mid afternoon conference call) story below the fold has at least one James Brown or related artist song title/lyric embedded within. There are over 35 songs/lyrics contained. How many can you find? Are you on the One? Are you a true Godfather devotee with plenty of funk in your trunk or are you just moseying through life faking the funk (or using Google)? Are you Sir Nose D'voidoffunk? We'll see. ;-))

Book Reviews: Under the Dome, Black Pulp, No Hero

Under the Dome
by Stephen King
When you're one of the world's greatest writers sometimes even your older ideas are still golden compared to everyone else's. Under The Dome, as King explains, is an idea he had way back in the 70s if my memory of his author's note serves correctly. He published it a few years ago. I just recently got around to reading it a few weeks ago. A television miniseries has also been made from it. My understanding is that the TV series is quite different from the book.
As usual King has a tremendous and unerring capacity for creating believable characters who are mixes of love and hate, good and evil. He's quite the people observer. 

Many of his characters have ugly little resentments mixed with their moral constraints and beliefs. With a few exceptions most of the "good guys" also have some bad mixed in them, whether it be a woman preacher who's unsure if she still believes in God but KNOWS she has a holy terror of a temper or an Iraq war veteran who's a decent enough guy back home but turned a blind eye to some horrible things during the war. 

There's a specific shout out to Lord of the Flies. That whole Things fall Apart element suffuses the entire story. Some people are walking monsters. Others didn't recognize their neighbors' evil because the law hindered their ability to do harm or forced them to confine their malice to smaller or secret misdeeds. How would such people behave in an enclosed environment with no rules or responsibility? What would you do if money, logic or decency no longer matter but viciousness and brute strength are what count? I read this story in two parts: two softcover books that were each around 600-700 pages. Even by King standards this was quite a lift. It reminded me of his earlier sagas like The Stand or The Talisman (with Peter Straub). However I thought that there were way too many characters (King has gotten almost like George R.R. Martin in this regard). The story sagged in the middle somewhat. 

After thinking about it I still dislike the ending although the penultimate catastrophe was diabolical vintage King. I thought the book was well researched though a person with a physics/science background might find a few holes. There are some warnings, subtle and otherwise, about the dangers of bullying, of hurting people just because you can, of going along to get along, environmental degradation, and of the Bush-Cheney regime.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Whatchu Gonna Do When Ferguson, MO Comes To You?

Ferguson, MO has become ground zero for the modern day civil rights struggle here in America, after the death of 18 year old, unarmed Michael Brown. The small town has become a spectacle, reminiscent of what we are accustomed to seeing on network news, but always in a foreign country, most prominently the middle east. Tear gas, rubber bullets, and other assaults on Americans have become the norm almost overnight. Journalists, self proclaimed peace makers, and even 90 year old Jewish Holocaust survivors are not exempt from arrest, detainment and mistreatment.

As a result of the actions of this out of control police department, droves of activists have poured into the St. Louis area to show solidarity with the people of Ferguson, and to offer support in many ways.

What seems like an endless amount of stories on the town of Ferguson, coming from media, bloggers and social media activists, have detailed just about every aspect of what is happening and given us all much to think about concerning the state of race relations in America, the militarization of our local police departments, and what an individuals life — particularly a black persons life is actually worth.

But what makes Ferguson such an outlier?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Lauryn Hill Dedicates New Song "Black Rage" To Ferguson

Lauryn Hill released a new song today on her Sound Cloud page called "Black Rage" which she says is dedicated to the people of Ferguson, MO.

According to Hill, via Twitter, the song was created in her living room and is a remix of sorts to the song "My Favorite Things," which she has performed in the past.

Take listen and share your thoughts in the comments.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Michael Brown Shooting in Ferguson, Missouri - How Far Has America Come in Race Relations?

France Francois (pictured) last week at a vigil in Washington, D.C. holding a sign regarding the Michael Brown shooting
For the first time in world history, Amnesty International has deployed a human rights team onto American soil in the town of Ferguson, Missouri where just days ago an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, was fatally shot 6 times by a Ferguson police officer.  United States Attorney General Eric Holder will visit the scene tomorrow and over 40 FBI agents have already begun the their own investigation into the shooting. That's how bad things have gotten in the 10 days since the shooting.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ferguson Video: Michael Brown Shooting

The sobering thing about life today is that so much of what we do for good or for bad is captured by video, whether it be private, business or governmental.

Cell phone video taken by Ferguson resident Piaget Crenshaw and shown by CNN on Monday provides more footage of the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting. Crenshaw described the scene to CNN, in which she said that police officer Darren Wilson shot Brown multiple times after Brown had ceased running and turned around.
“I knew this was not right, I knew police should not even have been chasing this young boy and firing at the same time,” Crenshaw told CNN. “That fact that he got shot in the face, it was something that clicked in me, I thought, somebody else needs to see this. This isn’t right.”
Crenshaw said there was a struggle at the police car in which it seemed Wilson was trying to draw Brown in. Brown took off running, and Crenshaw said Wilson began firing; when Brown turned around, he was shot multiple times. Crenshaw said that her accounting of the incident concurred with what she knew of the autopsy report, which found that Brown had been shot from the front. “When [Brown] turned toward the cop was when he let off the most shots,” Crenshaw said.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Movie Reviews: Get on Up, Clue

Get on Up
directed by Tate Taylor
Like Ray Charles but only more so James Brown was a larger than life musical figure who would likely be worshipped as a demigod if we lived back during pre-Christian times. There are very few people who had the influence that he did on popular music, not only in America but across the world. From Africa to Central America, the Caribbean to the Middle East, Europe to the Pacific there weren't very many people who didn't know who James Brown was. There weren't many popular or even more esoteric musicians who weren't influenced by him in ways great or small. People like Prince, Fela, Michael Jackson, vast numbers of soul and funk musicians, The Talking Heads, and many many more people or genres would not exist as they did then or do now without James Brown. James Brown had a pretty long run as someone making original music, maybe even as someone making high quality original music. I would argue that he was doing it to death for at least fifteen to twenty years, maybe even longer. That's unusual, in a music business that has always tended to reward the new, fresh and young. 

James Brown's impact went far beyond the musical of course. Along with such people as Miles Davis and Nat King Cole, Brown made it clear that a dark skinned black man could be not just a musical icon but a pop culture one, in a non-demeaning and even sexual manner. This was revolutionary stuff.

Friday, August 15, 2014

President Obama and Foreign Policy: Et tu, Hillary?

I could never ever ever be a politician. There are just too many times that you must smile and eat a big bowl of crap while pretending that it tastes good. And if you're good at pulling off that trick you can expect that many more such bowls will be delivered to you. h/t The Wire. You must occasionally pretend to be all things to all people, be on all sides of any issue at once and come up smelling like roses even as you're wading knee deep in the sewage of backroom deals and donor stroking. One of the most important skills you must have as a politician could be to never take anything personally. It's just business, after all. Everyone is self-interested. Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama are consummate politicians. And Mrs. Clinton is basically running an as yet so far formally undeclared campaign for the 2016 Presidential election. I think that with two years and change left in the Obama Administration it's a little early for her to be getting her name out there but she apparently operates on the principle of don't put off until tomorrow what you could be doing today. 

As a key member of the Obama Administration, former Senator, and Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton, should she run, would be wise depending on the President's popularity around 2016, to keep her options open on whether her Administration would represent a break from the Obama Administration or a continuation of Obama policies. Recently, Mrs. Clinton sent a very deliberate message that at least as far as foreign policy is concerned, she would do things differently than President Obama.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tupac Private Phone Conversation Reveals His Plan To Help Black Children

Tupac was one of the greatest emcees of all time, not necessarily because he was the greatest lyricist -- in fact several deceased rappers could quite possibly be considered lyrically superior to Tupac.

What made Tupac such a great hip-hop artist though, was not just his content, but it was his role as a black leader.

I know that sounds like a contradiction, considering some of the late rappers content, but Tupac was a revolutionary. With the blood of the Black Panthers in his veins, he wanted to use hip-hop as a tool to empower his generation and his plans to do this could not be more evident than in this phone conversation.

What stood out most to me in this conversation, besides his plan to organize communities across the country, were his thoughts on the revolutionary movement, vs gang life, which he was surrounded by much of his life. He talked about how as the son of a Black Panther, the revolutionary movement was a first thought to him and the unification of black people through gang life was an after thought, yet he complained that his mindset as a revolutionary would have him thinking that all black people were his friends, contrary to gang life, where you only trusted those who were part of your set. His blind trust for his people was shattered after he was shot outside Quad Studios, leading him to believe that gang affiliations might be more beneficial to his plight.

Listen closely as he talks about who shot him, the release of his upcoming album "All Eyez On me" as well as how he planned to bring hip-hop's biggest talents together to help black children.

Enjoy this never before heard conversation, and gain insight into the late, great, veteran's profound thoughts.

Why it's Hard to Be Black in America

When I was in high school I used to work as a dishwasher at a nice restaurant. Most of the guys who worked in the "back of house" area with me were young high school or college students like myself, trying to make some extra cash to help pay for school.  We'd often shoot the breeze to help pass the time.  I'll never forget one day when one of my White co-workers, frustrated with his financial aid situation, told me that he wished that he could trade places with me in order to get minority-based scholarships.  "Let me get this straight," I asked, "you want to be Black because you think it will help you get more financial aid for college?"  He answered with a resounding "Yes!"  Even at the age of 17, I knew he was missing the larger picture of what it truly means to be Black in America.  But he was convinced that if he were Black then he would be on easy street.  Finally, I said something to the effect of "even if that were true, what good is extra financial aid money if you can't get a job after you graduate?"  But that line of questioning doesn't even begin to capture the reality of the Black experience.  Given the fact that every time I turn around another Black youth is gunned down for "being up to no good," apparently what I should have been asking my fellow dish washing colleague is why he would be willing to trade his life over a few extra dollars.

By now you've (hopefully) heard about the latest police shooting of an unarmed Black teenager (Michael Brown) in St. Louis county.  If you haven't, here's the gist:

Monday, August 11, 2014

Breaking News: Actor Robin Williams Dead at Age 63 (Suspected Suicide)

Breaking News: Actor Robin Williams Dead at Age 63

Actor and comedian Robin Williams has been found dead in his California home in a suspected suicide, according to a sheriff’s press release.

The 63-year-old actor was found unconscious around 12 p.m. inside his unincorporated residence in Tiburon, according to a report by the Marin County Sheriff’s Office.

“Robin Williams passed away this morning. He has been battling severe depression of late," his publicist said in a statement. "This is a tragic and sudden loss. The family respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time.”

An investigation into his cause of death is underway while the coroner suspects that it was a suicide caused by asphyxiation. A forensic examination is scheduled for Tuesday.

The late actor's wife also released a statement expressing how "utterly heartbroken" his death has left her.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Music Reviews: The Coasters, Valerie June

The Coasters
The Coasters were a 50s era black rock-n-roll/doo-wop singing group who had a wonderful mix of tenor, baritone and bass voices. Musicians who were associated with The Coasters included people like later saxophone R&B god, King Curtis and guitarist Adolph Jacobs. Although they were not strictly speaking band members, it is impossible to discuss or appreciate The Coasters without giving tremendous credit to their primary songwriters and producers, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Similar to Greek-American R&B/blues musician Johnny Otis, who assimilated into black culture and black music so thoroughly that he married a black woman, described himself as black and lived on the black side of the segregation line, Leiber and Stoller had a keen appreciation of the popular black music and culture of their time. Some people, even members of The Coasters themselves, were surprised that the duo had such a pulse on black humor and musical stylings. Perhaps this is because to a lesser extent Jewish Americans were also cultural outsiders and had their own rich tradition of using sardonic humor to mask social commentary. In any event The Coasters' voices and instrumentation were a perfect fit for Leiber's and Stoller's lyrics and music. Stoller often composed at the piano. He played piano on some recordings. The band name came from the fact that the members were all from the Los Angeles area but did not achieve success until they signed with New York based Atlantic records. Some of the early Coasters' music was actually recorded by the group The Robins, two of whose members became founding members of the Coasters. Leiber and Stoller wrote for the Robins as well. They also wrote Hound Dog and quite a few other pop, rock, and soul songs.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Black Progress? Not Very Much Since 1970 **RANT**

As a black person in America, when you attempt to analyze in your mind how much progress we have actually made in the fight for equality there are several factors to include — and since the first law of nature is self preservation, it makes sense to begin measuring this progress by how we as a people are able to create a sustainable life for ourselves, our families and other loved ones.

You may take for granted certain luxuries that 40+ years ago we may have been excluded from, but how likely are the majority of our people to be able to seriously pursue happiness? How many of us are safe and can live freely to pursue our life’s goals, In comparison to white people and other races in America?

In exploring progression it makes sense to begin by looking at employment rates, incarceration rates, also public safety and public health matters and education must also be considered. dealt with the incarceration and employment rates in a piece they published a couple of weeks ago on the topic, citing a working paper, by University of Chicago researchers Derek Neal and Armin Rick:

“The growth of incarceration rates among black men in recent decades combined with the sharp drop in black employment rates during the Great Recession have left most black men in a position relative to white men that is really no better than the position they occupied only a few years after the Civil Rights Act,” the study reads.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Obama's Economy: How Does It Compare To Other Presidencies?

We hear a lot of rhetoric these days on the talk news shows about how good or how bad Obama's economic policies have been for America.  The Right would have us believe that Obama is the worst President ever and has destroyed America, while the Left would have us believe that Obama has been the best President ever and has done more for the middle class than any of his predecessors.  The truth, as usual, is somewhere in the middle.  So let's look at the facts:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Man Who Recorded the Death of Eric Garner Arrested on Gun Possession: Legitimate Arrest or NYPD Retribution?

The young man who is responsible for recording the video of Eric Garner's death has been arrested on a gun possession charge. 22 year-old Ramsey Orta was arrested on the evening of Saturday, August 2nd on Staten Island. According to reports, a Staten Island narcotics unit officer witnessed Orta hand a .25 caliber handgun to a young woman as he was exiting a hotel. The young woman was 17 year-old Alba Lekaj, and she was charged with criminal possession of a weapon and unlawful possession of marijuana.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Cane Corso Dogs Kill Livonia Jogger

I have a dog. She's a German Shepherd. She's about average size for a female German Shepherd, weighing in at around 72lbs or so, but she is still extremely aggressive, protective and selfish of what she thinks of as her territory and pack. She's big enough to make unwanted solicitors go away which is fine by me. It's highly unlikely she is anywhere near as dangerous as she thinks she is. But she still has a high prey drive and loves to chase smaller creatures. She becomes agitated when someone she does not know approaches me or other humans she's accepted as part of her pack. And though my dog is smart for a dog, the smartest dog is still downright dumb compared to a human. So, with all that said I never ever ever let my dog run free off leash outside of my fenced backyard. And since she's figured out how to open the gate, I still have to keep an eye on her if she's in the back yard. The world is full of dangers, whether it be other dogs, trigger happy police or other armed people "standing their ground", cars, kids, etc. For both my dog's safety and my own it's best if she's on the leash and I do all the thinking for both of us. Because otherwise if she's off leash and trying to figure out the world on her own, each of us could get into a lot of trouble. A dog, even a midsize animal like a Shepherd, can under certain circumstances be quite dangerous. Responsible dog owners know this and take steps to ensure everyone's safety. But irresponsible dog owners don't take the proper steps to do that, whether it be training, control of the animal, or even better making sure that they have the correct animal for their needs. This is what happened in Michigan recently.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Movie Reviews: Hercules, Sabotage, Transcendence

directed by Brett Rattner

While this graphic novel adapted film starring Dwayne Johnson was better than the other Hercules movie that recently appeared (you shouldn’t see that film unless you are trying to kill your brain cells) it wasn't quite a must see film for a few reasons. This film is still under the spell of Zack Snyder’s 300. I am too but does that mean I want to see it made over and over again by every single director? Probably not. Also 300 had a well deserved “R” rating. Because it’s aiming for the family crowd, Hercules has a “PG-13” rating. It has a few iffy scenes but despite war and death this is not a supremely graphic film. Second, maybe we just live in a cynical age but the mythical Hercules was a great tragic hero of supernatural origins. As the half-human son of Zeus, king of gods and men, Hercules attracted special hatred from Zeus’ sister-wife, the goddess Hera. It didn't help matters that Hercules' mother gave him the name "Glory of Hera" to try to mollify the goddess. Hera was not mollified. Hera tried to murder Hercules in his cradle. She later drove him to a fit of madness during which he murdered his wife and children. In repentance Hercules performed the 12 labors. Hercules once impregnated 50 women in a single night. Hercules was the ancestor of the Spartans. Eventually Hercules was killed by his jealous wife who was either wrongly convinced Hercules was having an affair, trying to prevent Hercules from having an affair, or manipulated into doing so accidentally by an enemy, depending on which myth you prefer. The human Hercules died. The demigod Hercules ascended to Olympus. 

But this film has few supernatural elements. Almost every myth is revealed as people exaggerating, lying or simply being mistaken about key events. Unlike the movie King Arthur, which also showed a grittier deglamorized version of a central Western myth, Hercules suffers from this approach. There’s a resulting loss of majesty which limits the film. Dwayne Johnson is literally larger than life. Why not give him a film that measures up?