Ten Things You Probably Don’t Know About Me

ImageThe other day I was finally catching up on my blog readings and I came across NDP’s post, “Ten things you may not know about me…”  It is a great piece.  Oftentimes, writers, bloggers, and artists create these blogs, but as they become more successful and larger than their original roots a new persona is created.  Readers begin to lose sight of the blogger and the blogger loses sight of his or her readers.

A simple post titled, “Ten Things You Probably Don’t Know About Me,” brings it back though.  It closes the gap between the writer and the reader.  I find this to be important.  I write for those to read, and I read to engage those that write.  I should never expect any less of myself.

Check NDP’s blog, “NDPworld.”  It’s a regularly updated and fantastic blog featuring the thoughts and poetics of NDP.  He is acutely aware of social and cultural beats and it is shown within his poetry.  I always gain a new perspective when reading his work.  I urge you to check it out.

Here is my blatant ripoff, “Ten Things You Probably Don’t Know About Me”:

  • I’ve worked as a grocer for the past six-years in various departments and positions.  A jack-of-all-trades if you will.  I enjoy it because it provides health insurance and stories.
  • My favorite band is the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and my favorite album of theirs is “By The Way”; however, my favorite track is “Under the Bridge” from their “Blood. Sugar. Sex. Magik” LP.  *As an aside: vinyl is the only way to go.
  • I enjoy longboarding a great deal.  One of my closest friends and I are building our own longboards, and are considering starting a ‘Spokane Longboarding Group’ for amateurs.  We’re working on several Spokane longboarding guides.
  • I am an atheist.  I appreciate theological and religious scripture from a historical and literary standpoint, but I have difficulties believing in a God.  However, that being said I rarely ever bring it up and it doesn’t bother me to hear of other people’s faith as long as they aren’t trying to indoctrinate me.
  • I have an obese ten-year-old Black and Tan Dachshund named Norman.  I’ve had him for over five-years now and he is the first dog I’ve ever really owned.  He is my best friend, and I don’t know what I would do without him.
  • I am a coffee addict.  It seems cliche, especially coming from a Washingtonian, but I enjoy coffee immensely.  My French Press is my friend.  Luckily for me I work right next to a Starbucks.
  • My best friend and I are currently writing a television screenplay called, “Baggage,” that is about the dark humor found when working in a retail industry, the macabre found in higher education without a job, and crazy girlfriends and boyfriends.
  • I grew up in and around Spokane, WA, USA.  I ended graduating from high school in Cheney Washington and tried to finish a bachelor’s degree at Eastern Washington University, but inevitably found writing to be my calling, rather than academia.
  • I have an immense love of comic books.  I find them to be an ‘American Mythology’ of sorts.  I started my writing career writing reviews about comics books and I still trek down to Merlyn’s Sci-fi and Fantasy Shop every week and pick up my haul.  Funnily enough, my fiancée also enjoys them a great deal and it is a hobby that we started together when we first started dating.
  • I’ve often been described as eccentric.  I try to be a student of all. I love all-types of philosophy, literature, film, and games.  I can be fairly moody, and I think that this plays into my interests.  It has to match my mood, but at the end of the day I will try anything once just to say I have.


“Jack Reacher”

Jack Reacher” with Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, David Oyelowo, Werner Herzog, Joseph Sikora, and Robert Duvall

Directed by Christopher McQuarrie 

The Official UK Poster for "Jack Reacher."
The Official UK Poster for “Jack Reacher.”

Originally my review was dry, terse, and immensely boring.  Not the Jason Schwartzman and Ted Danson type of ‘Bored,’ but fairly deathly in its own right.  However, after placing some “Black Keys” on hi-fi and letting the caffeinated beverages fill in where the creative juices left off I began to coalesce a much clearer picture of Tom Cruise’s latest picture, “Jack Reacher.’

Essentially, the film “Jack Reacher” is plays out like a throwback to older movies of the same genre.  It is incredibly reminiscent of older action films and it leaves much to be desired when considering the stellar source material in which it was derived.  “Jack Reacher” is based off of Lee Child’s famous character and series of novels (specifically his novel “One-Shot”), which detail the interesting happenings of Jack Reacher–an ex-MP who wanders the States looking for…well..something.  He always ends up in a predicament, but he always manages to help those in a jam and move on to the next place and task.

In this particular plot, Jack Reacher (played by Tom Cruise) is called by name by an old military ‘buddy,’ Barr (played by Joseph Sikora), who has requested his help.  Barr has been charged with gunning down five people at a park with a sniper rifle.  This scene opens the film and normally would not be troublesome to watch, but after the recent shooting in Connecticut I found this difficult to view.  This most-likely is reactionary and on the whole I do not support film censorship.  Forewarning though…my gut did react.

In between Barr’s supposed shooting, holding, and Jack’s trek, Barr is brutally beaten during transport that renders him useless and leaves him in a coma, so by the time Jack reaches Barr his primary witness/suspect is out of commission.  In pursuit of the truth, Jack Reacher teams up with Barr’s lawyer Helena (played by Rosamund Pike), and begins a thread-lined journey that will eventually lead him to the heart of the truth.

The acting of the supporting cast and large portions of the script (specifically the dialogue) really disappointed me.  Save for Tom Cruise’s portrayal of the idiopathic character, Richard Jenkins as the DA, David Oyelowo as the lead detective, and the incomparable Robert Duvall of the case the acting was atrocious.  Helena’s dialogue was choppy and cliche, which resulted in a flat, inconsistent character that could have been anyone off the streets.  However, that being said, there were far worse performances and writing to be had.  The film’s villain, ‘The Zec’ (played by Werner Herzog) was so incredibly cliched and not at all frightening that I thought for a majority of the film that the casting director had taken head shots from all the worst Bond-villain throwaways that he or she could find and finally settled on the worst of them, The Zec.  Not only was the villainous Zec not imposing he was nonsensical, frightfully dull, and had absolutely no purpose besides being fodder for Tom Cruise in the closing moments.

All-in-all, I thought Tom Cruise was great as Jack Reacher.  His lines were impeccable and the action sequences were tightly shot and added to the tone of the overall film.  However, even Tom Cruise cannot hold up an entire film, and in this instance he proved this sentiment wholeheartedly.  The writers had excellent source material and chose to butcher much of Lee Child’s writing in favor for the old and the cliched…this coupled with the fact that the supporting cast was truly awful really took what could have been a great film and transformed it into a ‘meh’ film.

I give Jack Reacher three-out-of-five stars, and recommend that you wait for this to make its way to DVD before watching it.


Looper” with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Paul Dano, Noah Segan, Jeff Daniels, and Garret Dillahunt

Directed and Written by Rian Johnson

I love action films; the cheesier the better. Obviously much depth cannot be gleaned on the whole from those sorts of movies, but I enjoy them because they are cheap, nonsensical thrills. The bulk of my childhood was in the 90‘s, and Stallone and Schwarzenegger were in their prime; action movies were in abundance. Action movies, nowadays, have evolved slightly, but the same nonsensical eye candy is still prevalent…it’s just flashier.
Personally I expected “Looper” to fit this bill–a flashy, new age action flick with little depth, but a great ride regardless of the stigma. However, I was pleasantly surprised by its depth, wit, and stunning cinematography–it was better for it, and by the end of the film I was better for it.
Essentially, the film follows Joe. He is a Looper in the year 2044. He explains to the audience that thirty-years from his present, time travel will be made possible with the invention of a time machine. The device will be instantly outlawed by the government, but organized crime syndicates will get a hold of it and use it as means to kill off anyone they want. In the 2070s everyone is easily tracked, and it is impossible to ‘whack’ someone and get away with it. However, with the use of a time machine the mob can send back their enemies and have them executed and disposed of in 2044 without anyone the wiser in their own time.

This is where the Loopers come in.

The Loopers are hired hitmen. They wait at a predetermined location at a specific time everyday, and when their mark pops into existence (from the future) they immediately kill them and dispose of the body. The body is always laden with silver, which the Looper can then trade for cash and other goods. For the most part it is a a fairly easy gig, except it has one immense drawback: If the Looper is still alive thirty-years in the future the mob will eventually round them up there, send them back, and have their past selves “Close their loop.” Essentially, they assassinate themselves. They get a huge paycheck, they celebrate, get released from their contract, and they have a guaranteed thirty-years of life, but they are the device of their own demise.

This is where the main conflict arises for Joe. His future self is not on the same page as him, and this results in some…let us say, ‘issues.’ The film unfolds from this complication in a flurry of mob secrets, time loops, telekinetic powers, and bloodshed–all resulting in a unique science fiction film that is more than what it seems. I found the plot to be ingenious. The time paradox is explained relatively simply through the cinematography, rather than complex exposition. It cuts away at the precise moment and explains the timelines succinctly and without ambiguity. Besides using the cinematography to explain the multiple timelines and loops, Director Rian Johnson also creates some truly beautiful scenes. Whether the shots are action sequences or drug trips the scenes represent a type of creative cohesiveness not seen in film terribly often.

The acting is top notch as well. Even with a facial prosthesis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt manages to capture many of the mannerisms in speech and gestures that Bruce Willis is know for. This creates a sub-realm of believability that adds credence to the plot. Two actors playing the same character could easily go awry, but in this instance it worked superbly. However, I think that it is a rare occurrence and could only be achieved with a certain caliber of actor. Paul Dano plays a fellow Looper and has unfortunately fallen into the whiney, screw-up character that he always seems to play. For granted he is good at it, but I would love it if he played a character outside his abilities. I am hoping that it is a typecast issue and not of his own doing, but after his role in “Cowboys vs. Aliens” and now this film I am a bit worn out. Jeff Daniel’s role of the mob boss sent from the future (Abe) completely threw me off guard. I haven’t seen him in ages, but he manages to fill the role perfectly. I honestly forgot how much I missed him! And, finally a special mention to Garret Dillahunt. He is a personal favorite of mine. I love him from the television show, “Raising Hope,” and I am excited to him in a large-scale, feature film. I am crossing my fingers that this indicates a blossoming career on the big screen.

Besides the stellar lineup of actors I also noticed a fairly deep and blatant allusion to the story of Judas. Small facets of the allusion include that the Loopers are paid in silver and that a near mystical individual singlehandedly unites all the crime syndicates in the future. Once you get to the ending the story comes full circle–fully realizing the Biblical parallels.

Overall, I found “Looper” to be a layered and powerful film. It touches on numerous topics including child murder, addiction, and time travel while staying grounded under the guise of science fiction and the traditional action movie archetype. “Looper” is a truly splendid film that should be enjoyed and watched repeatedly. At the end of the day, it may not be the happiest of films, but it is a profound one.

“The Debt”

The Debt” with Sam Worthington, Marton Csokas, Jessica Chastain, Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, and Ciarán Hinds

Directed by John Madden

“The Debt” is deeply flavored in the style of John le Carré, and it is natural to draw comparisons to the wonderfully shot film, “Munich.”  “The Debt” primarily centers around a cast of three and their shared experience while on a covert mission in East Berlin in 1965, and its subsequent repercussions that fully unfold in 1997.

In 1965, Mossad agents David Peretz (Sam Worthington) and Stefan Gold (Marton Csokas) have been working together for the past two years to track down the infamous war criminal, the Surgeon of Birkenau.  The trail finally pans out, and the two have all but confirmed the surgeon’s whereabouts in East Berlin.  To shore up the details (and the rest of the plan) a third agent is required, specifically a female agent.  This is where translator turned field agent Rachel Singer (Jessica Chastain) comes onboard.  Being her first time in the field David and Stefan are a bit weary at first, but as the plan comes together with Rachel’s confirmation of the target their trust in her begins to grow.

Interspersed throughout the core narrative taking place in 1965 there is another subplot consisting of the same agents, but thirty-years later and in direct response to the conclusion of the original mission to capture the Surgeon of Birkenau.  Now in their late fifties/early sixties the three agents have all gone their separate ways and lived very different lives with very different purposes.  However, with the release of a book detailing the three’s covert mission, penned by Rachel’s daughter, old feelings and mistakes rear their ugly head and the three must again take a journey together—this time to the past.

The three protagonists are split amongst two actors (respectively), and when considering the time jump in plots this of course makes sense from a casting as well as a writer’s perspective.  Helen Mirren does a masterful job (as always) of portraying the 1997 version of Rachel Singer along with Tom Wilkinson and Ciarán Hinds as Stefan and David.  Both Tom Wilkinson and Ciarán Hinds are fantastic actors and hold their own, but there was definitely a disconnect between the physical appearances of their 1965-selves.  I almost felt that it would have been more believable if they had Tom Wilkinson play David and Ciarán Hinds play Stefan, but all in all it is most-likely a personal preference, and doesn’t detract from the acting in any shape or form.

I wish that I could be more detailed in my synopsis, but a lot of the plot centers upon the perceptions of events and their subsequent ‘truths,’ so by revealing plot details I would effectively ruin a bulk of the film.  I can say this though:

At its heart, the plot deals with espionage and love.  The three agents, who by necessity come together for justice, end up leaving in a morale gray area and in skewed love triangle.

I highly recommend this film.  It is a bit macabre, and does not have the traditional ‘happy ending.’  So, make sure that you are in the right frame of mind before diving into this one, but when you do you won’t regret it.  If you enjoyed watching “Munich,” or are an avid reader of Graham Green or John le Carré, than “The Debt” will be right up your alley.

Courtesy of YouTube, check out the trailer below to get a feel for the film:

“Man on a Ledge”

“Man on a Ledge” with Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Jaime Bell, Genesis Rodriguez, Anthony Mackie, Ed Harris, and Kyra Sedgwick

Directed by Asger Leth

Man on a Ledge” focuses on Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) as he stands atop a ledge (who woulda guessed it), and feigns to be suicidal.  As expected in New York City, a crowd begins to develop and most of the immediate city’s attention is diverted to Nick.  Police psychologist (and Chelsea Handler doppelgänger) Lydia Mercer played by Elizabeth Banks is called in at the request of Nick due to her recent infamy in the local newspapers.  Essentially, he wants someone that he can relate to and will ultimately believe him no matter what the rest of the world believes.  With everyone focused on Nick, no one realizes that one of the biggest diamond heists of all time is taking place in the building across the way.  Nick’s brother, Joey (Jaime Bell), and his girlfriend, Angie (Genesis Rodriguez), tackle this part of the job, and keep in contact with Nick via headsets and ear pieces as they break into real estate mogul, David Englander’s (Ed Harris) vault.

The movie transitions nicely from the expository to the action sequences, which keeps a nice brisk pace to film.  It is definitely one of those movies that you get done watching and you don’t even realize that almost two hours has passed.  I felt that overall the acting was top notch, and I particularly enjoyed the connection that was developed between Sam Worthington and Elizabeth Banks.  It is believable, and as an audience member you can see visibly see the connection.  “Man on a Ledge” also concentrates a lot of its attention on the heist, and I thought that Jaime Bell and Genesis Rodriguez’s coupling was as believable and well acted as Sam Worthington’s and Elizabeth Bank’s.  The two banter back and forth like a couple would while working together, but not to such a degree that they get into a fight; it is all very playful and in jest, which makes the film more believable.

Jaime Bell as Joey Cassidy and Genesis Rodriguez as Angie

The supporting cast sports some heavy hitters, and like aforementioned, the acting in this film is its strong point.

Anthony Mackie plays Nick’s friend, Mike Ackerman, and I absolutely loved his performance.  I have seen him in a couple movies recently, and even though he has acted for a while I think he is definitely one to look out for in the coming years.  He does an excellent job of playing that character that is stuck between friend and foe.  You are never quite sure where his allegiance lies, or even if it is flip flopping throughout the narrative.

To be expected, Ed Harris plays an excellent villain.  He is essentially the man behind the diamond, and he acts wonderfully as always.  Even though Ed Harris is not a physically imposing man, throughout the movie you are scared of him due to Ed Harris’ portrayal of this morally imbalanced character.

The only odd duck out was Kyra Sedgwick.  She is an amazing actress, and she did a wonderful job in “Man on a Ledge” as the spunky, but hard-edged reporter.  But, it felt as-if her role was incredibly diminished from the original part.  It seemed like she could have had a bigger role in the film, but due to edits or re-writes she didn’t in the final cut.  So, by the end of the film her character merely seems tacked on, rather than actually integrated into the film as a plot device.  This is by no means her fault, and is a writing/editing issue.

I thought that “Man on a Ledge” was an intelligent heist film, and I was happy that I picked this one at the end of the day.  It was a fun two hours–it was smart when it needed to be and gritty at other times.  There are a couple of plot holes, but nothing that ruins the film and can be overlooked.  If you enjoyed movies like F. Gary Gray’s “The Italian Job” or Spike Lee’s “The Inside Man,” then you will like “Man on a Ledge.”

Click here for more movie reviews found in the ‘Flick It’ section of this blog!

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