Thursday, November 28, 2013

"The War At Home"

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When it comes to movies about the Vietnam War, Charlie and Martin Sheen got the action; Emilio got the aftermath. This was truly Emilio Estevez's most powerful performance since his portrayal of Billy the Kid in the Young Guns movies. The War At Home takes place in small-town Texas in 1972. Emilio plays Jeremy Collier, a young Army soldier who's just returned from two tours of duty. He was decorated in combat and received one of his medals for killing a Vietnamese sniper.

For the most part, it's a very serious, sometimes dark, drama, but it has a hilarious opening scene: Jeremy has come downstairs to eat breakfast and his mom is talking about the family's plans for Thanksgiving. She says she wishes it was a more religious holiday, the way it was with the Pilgrims. Jeremy asks, “What about the Indians?” His mom, Maureen, laughs and says there were no Indians at the first Thanksgiving. Jeremy patiently explains to her that Indians are the reason we have Thanksgiving in the first place. Maureen insists that this must have been after the Indians were Christianized. She reworks history a lot and Jeremy knows it’s useless to argue with her, so he gives up on trying to tell her she’s wrong.

Jeremy didn't have a job or any money saved up before he went to Vietnam, so when he was discharged, he had no choice but to go live at his parents’ house. He doesn’t get along with his family very well anymore because he feels like they don’t understand him. Maureen treats him likes he’s eight years old. His dad, Bob feels that Jeremy needs to get over what happened in the war and get on with his life. His attitude is a bit contradictory, as Bob himself served toward the end of WWII. Jeremy’s little sister Karen turned into a hippie while he was gone. She makes no bones about the fact she thinks he’s a killer, yet she still tries to pretend that she’s concerned about Jeremy’s problems, even attempting to psychoanalyze him.    

Jeremy is using his GI Loan money to take music classes at community college. While in class one day, he sees Melissa, the girlfriend he left behind when he joined the Army. They talk after class and go out to get some coffee. Melissa tells Jeremy how much she missed him and that she saved all his letters. In the same breath, she blurts out that she’s living with another man now. She never officially broke up with Jeremy, so he is understandably hurt.

As if Jeremy didn’t have enough problems already, his parents announce that Bob’s sister, brother-in-law, their son, and their son's wife are coming over for Thanksgiving dinner. Jeremy’s cousin David literally dodged a bullet because his number mysteriously never came up in the draft card lottery. He's a few semesters away from a college degree and already married. David feels very smug about the fact that it was Jeremy who had to go to Vietnam and not him. 

During the beginning of the movie, Maureen expresses some worries about Jeremy.  He’s been screaming in his sleep, and when he finally falls asleep, she thinks he wakes up too late. He’s grouchy and he has no appetite. Bob doesn’t think it’s anything to worry about; he says Jeremy will get over it if they give him time. By the end of Thanksgiving Day, Bob wishes that he’d paid more attention to Maureen’s motherly intuition.   
The War At Home is very suspenseful. Even when normal household stuff is going on, the tension never leaves; Jeremy's become so unpredictable that you never know what is going to happen next. The casting is superb. Kathy Bates is perfect as the well-meaning but sort of confused, overbearing mother. Of course, you cannot go wrong with Martin Sheen as Bob. The father/son moments would not have been as believable if any other actor had played this role. This movie shows that Emilio is not only a versatile actor, but a solid writer and director as well. It’s an enthralling and heartbreaking emotional study of what war can do to an otherwise happy family. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Guest Review: "Never Forget"

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Frank, played by Lou Diamond Phillips, awakens in the woods, dangling from a rope by one leg. He also has some sort of bleeding head injury. Alone in the woods, he manages to sever the fraying rope that is holding him captive, but he was hanging in the air from a tree limb about 15 feet up. Thankfully, it is fall so there is a mattress of dried leaves to keep him from breaking his neck. He starts yelling to see if anyone is around.

Eventually, his wife Natasha's coworker Andy comes along in his office attire. Frank doesn't remember who he is and he needs help. Andy isn't there to help; Andy is angry and Andy has a gun. He starts yelling, "Where is she?" and pushing Frank.

All Frank has been able to discover is that he's holding a bloody knife with the name Tom Martin on it; he found his driver's license in his wallet and knows his name is Frank Hill. He's having flashbacks of shooting and blood back at a cabin. Andy keeps yelling at Frank that he murdered people and that he has done something with Andy's wife Natasha.

Frank and Andy stumble around the woods for hours. Frank's hurt leg is slowing him down. Andy's dress clothing is slowing him down. They finally find a half-dead park ranger. The name plate on his jacket matches the name on the knife Frank is carrying. The man's throat is slit and he is spurting blood. Andy keeps telling Frank, "You did this."

Since no medical help is available, Frank begs Andy to shoot the ranger to help him die. Andy starts looking really uncomfortable. We learn there are no bullets in the gun. Having been terrorized with that gun for hours, Frank snaps and kills Andy. He backs him against a weathered barn and slits his throat. An arterial spatter extravaganza follows and then Frank walks away from the scene. The viewer is left wondering whether Frank or Andy did the killings at the cabin and stabbed the ranger.

Andy wasn't dressed for a vacation in the woods and had a car one would not take camping. Andy had no wedding ring and couldn't find his way through the woods, though he claimed to have been there before; he also had the gun. Andy kept telling Frank, "You did this" when referring to the murders at the cabin and the death of the park ranger.

Frank had a wedding ring and pictures of his wife Natasha in his wallet. His leg was injured. The only weapon he had was Tom Martin's knife, which was probably planted on him. Frank, even with his amnesia, had an easier time finding his way through the woods. He later remembered that Andy had been stalking Natasha at work.

In the end, Andy is a much more likely suspect. He eventually drove Frank to murder him. I think Andy did all the killings at the cabin because he couldn't have Natasha for himself and was jealous because Frank did. He wanted to ruin Frank's life and possibly send him to prison by manipulating Frank's fragile memory until Frank thought he was responsible for the string of murders.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fire Safety Day

Submitted this to another website and publishing it here in case it doesn't make the cut. I don't usually publish personal stuff on here, but I'm making an exception.

For the past 3 months, I've been a member of one of my county's volunteer fire departments. I'm one of 2 female firefighters at our station. Last week was the annual Fire Safety Day our department puts on to teach kids the basics (when to call 911, stop drop and roll, don't play with matches, etc). We took a crew to the elementary school in our district (preK-5) for the whole school day, talking to each grade individually.

As the least senior person on crew that day, I was content with my role of passing out plastic fire helmets and goodie bags to the students. The last group before lunch was arriving when a captain pulled me and another firefighter aside. He let us know that we would be taking over instructor duty after lunch.

We ate in the school cafeteria with the kids. (Don't even get me started on how nasty the government-mandated healthy lunches are). Eating with the kids was kind of fun anyway just seeing their reaction to these big firemen crammed into seats at the little tables. We returned to the gym to set up for the next lesson.

As the kids filed in, I asked my partner, "Who's taking lead on this?" I'm still a probie (rookie, for those that don't know) and my partner has about 6 months of seniority on me. Imagine my surprise when he shrugged and answered, "It's all you." Fortunately, I was not born with the gene that makes one fear public speaking. I knew more or less what I had to say from watching the earlier lessons. I spent 2 summers working at a day camp when I was in high school, so I have experience wrangling kids. However, I was still slightly apprehensive about how this would turn out.

These were first-graders. (Second-graders had been a horror show behavior-wise, to the point where the teachers told them the kindergartners probably behaved better. Sadly, the teachers were right). As a general rule, I anticipate more problems the younger the wee ones are. Another reason is I admit to being impatient. There's a reason I didn't major in education; I would've lost my mind and quit long before it was time for student teaching.

I stepped up in front of the 40-some-odd first-graders and warmly introduced myself. I told them in friendly but no uncertain terms that my partner and I were teaching them about something important; they needed to pay real attention to what we had to say. Then I was off and running. My partner jumped in on certain topics and acted as a safety net when I was unsure of what issue to cover next. The first-graders blew me away with how attentive and polite they were during the presentation.

At the end of my talk, I called for questions. A shy little girl raised her hand and said, "Can I hug you, Miss Firefighter?" The question was unexpected, but for me, there was only one answer: "Of course you can." That set off a chain reaction of wide grins and excited squirming. And that's how my 5-foot-nothing self got tackle-hugged by every kid who walked by me on their way out of the gym. They barely even noticed the goodie bags their teachers were carrying because they were so focused on me.

By the end of the day, I was more comfortable with teaching. I took the time to talk to a preschool girl who was terrified to the point of tears by how the firefighters looked in full gear. I told her that firemen had scared me too when I was her age. But if there's a fire or emergency, she shouldn't be scared of us because we're her friends and want to help her. She gave me a weak, watery smile and I think she understood.

Spending the day with those kids warmed the depths of my snarky little heart. I sincerely hope and pray that my brothers and I won't be showing up at their front door anytime soon. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Pats Nation: The Decision

I tend to overthink almost every decision I have to make, including trivial ones like which sports teams I'll follow. Granted, not all "my" teams; I found the Braves at the tender age of 9 and never looked back. Both my parents are diehard New Jersey Devils fans, so I never had much of a choice when it came to hockey. I'm still a proud member of the Devils Army, though, with a framed picture of Marty Brodeur on my bedroom wall to prove it.

Pro football is another story altogether. 5 days ago, I was left wondering yet again where to place my loyalties after a severe disappointment. I've thought long and hard about it and decided that I will be maintaining my citizenship in Pats Nation for the following reasons:

1. Family. I always say I'm Southern merely by accident of birth. My relatives are all from various places in the Northeast: Brooklyn, Massachusetts, upstate New York, and New Jersey. My favorite baseball team (Braves) and favorite college team (Gators) are from the Deep South, so this kind of balances things out.

2. Bill Belichick. I don't know why, but I've always had a thing about crotchety old coaches/managers. This is probably because the majority of my life as a Braves fan was during Bobby Cox's tenure as manger. He was just fun to watch; you never knew when he'd start ranting and raving at the umpires. He had a record-breaking number of ejections. Say what you will about Bobby; the man was passionate about his job and knew how to field a winning team. Although, personally, I think Bill should've taken a page out of Bobby's book and knocked down Brady's ego several pegs a long time ago.

3. Rob Gronkowski. No pun intended, but Gronk is my biggest reason for sticking around. I've always had a weakness for large, bearlike men and Gronk makes me swoon. I've watched and read several interviews with him and there's just something about his personality that I love; he reminds me of about 70% of my guy friends from college. Sure, he's made some questionable decisions this off-season, like riding roller coasters and slam-dancing while in a cast. But hey, at least he's not currently on trial for murder.

Watch the infamous "Yo soy fiesta" interview and tell me the big guy doesn't have a certain charm.

Party on, Gronk!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Pats Nation: To Defect or Not to Defect?

Early yesterday morning, I woke up to find my phone flooded with headlines courtesy of my SportsCenter app. One of these did not bear good news: Tim Tebow had been released at the very last minute by the Patriots. To quote a very dear friend of mine, seeing that "hurt my heart." Tebow gives himself wholly to every team he's a part of, only to have his dreams slip through his fingers (his playoff season with Denver being the exception). He's tweeted that he refuses to give up on being an NFL quarterback.

I deeply respect and admire him as a person, but I can't help but think that's not the best of ideas. For whatever reason, no team seems to want to touch him (even his hometown of Jacksonville...traitors). He has been screwed over time and time again. Tim still thinking there's a team that will appreciate what he has to offer rides that thin line between optimism and delusion. However, I tend to root for the underdogs, so I really hope someone picks him up.

I have to commend Tim for always looking on the bright side of things and continuing to try; I took his example to heart. If I had seen my lack of physical endurance as an insurmountable obstacle and given up exercise, I wouldn't have been the first-ever female on my college firefighter combat challenge team. (I didn't make the competition squad, but I packed on about 5-10 pounds of muscle that semester and almost never missed practice). And I most certainly wouldn't be just over a month and a half into my probationary period as a volunteer firefighter.

The unexpected removal of Tim from the roster has left me in a bit of a situation. First of all, over the summer, I bought tickets to a Patriots/Bengals game in October. Far from the best seats in the house, but I was worried that having Tebow on the roster would make the game sell out even faster. Honestly, his signing was the main reason I wanted to go to the game in the first place. My extreme dislike of Tom Brady has me debating on still attending. I could probably offload the tickets pretty easily, either via the Internet or in person. My best friend loves the Patriots and I have several friends in Who Dey Nation. Also, it's a Sunday afternoon game, so nobody will be in class.

The second issue concerns the number of different loyalties I've had in the last 23 years: gold and red, green and yellow. Green and white put a dent in my bank account last season: keychain, purse, ballcap, and 2 different T-shirts (not to mention the Tebow jersey my mom paid a chunk for as one of my Christmas presents). I'm just grateful at this point that I didn't go ahead and get a Jets sorority letter shirt because those definitely aren't cheap and I wouldn't have been able to wear it much. I'm ready for a monogamous relationship with an NFL because switching all the time A) has me feeling like a bandwagon jumper and I don't especially like that feeling and B) is expensive.

I guess the best thing to do is take a few days to think things over and also feel out whether anyone I know might be in the market for upper-deck tickets on the visitors' side of Paul Brown Stadium. Thoughts, anyone?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Top 10 Quotes: "National Lampoon's Vacation"

Next week, I'll be on vacation in the setting of a few of my favorite movies (Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, Just Visiting, and Backdraft): Chicago. In honor of that, here are the best quotes from the movie that started the Vacation franchise. NSFW language ahead.

1. Clark: I think you're all fucked in the head. We're 10 hours from the fuckin' fun park and you wanna bail out. Well, I'll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation; it's a quest. It's a quest for fun. You're gonna have fun and I'm gonna have fun. We're all gonna have so much fuckin' fun we're gonna need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles. You'll be whistling "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" outta your assholes! I must be crazy! I'm on a pilgrimage to see a moose! Praise Marty Moose! Holy shit!

2. Ellen: Oh, spare me, Clark! I know your brand of family fun. Tomorrow, you'll probably kill the desk clerk, hold up a McDonald's, and drive us 1,000 miles out of the way to see the world's largest pile of mud.

3. Lasky: Has your father ever killed anyone?
Rusty: Just a dog. Oh, and my Aunt Edna.
Clark: Hey, you can't prove that, Russ.

4. Motorcycle Cop: Do you know what the penalty is for animal cruelty in this state?
Clark: No, sir, I don't.
Motorcycle Cop:'s probably pretty stiff.

5. Ellen: I hope at least you kids have learned something about life and death.
Audrey: Yeah, don't die unless somebody's home!

6. Rusty: That guy was a crummy Wyatt Earp, Dad. He was wearing jogging shoes.
Clark: They used to, Rusty.

7. Ellen: (The family is lost in a bad neighborhood) Clark, this is so dangerous. We have no business being in an area like this.
Clark: Well, look at it this way, honey, this is a part of America we never get to see.
Ellen: That's good!
Clark: No, that's bad. I mean, we can't close our eyes to the plight of the cities. Kids, are you noticing all this plight?  This'll just make us appreciate what we have. (There's a gunshot somewhere near the car, followed by a scream) Roll 'em up!

8. Aunt Edna: Don't you tell me what to do! I'll do what I want! I should never have come on this trip with you. I should've taken an airplane. And he...he shouldn't even have a license to drive an automobile! He should be behind bars!
Ellen: Sit down and shut up! Move outta that seat and I'll split your lip!

9. Clark: O God, ease our suffering in this, our moment of great despair. Yea, admit this good and decent woman into thine arms in the flock in thine heavenly area up there. And Moab, he layeth down by the band of the Canaanites. And yea, though the Hindus speak of karma, I implore you, give her...give her a break.
Ellen: Clark, this is a serious matter. I'll do it myself.
Clark: Honey, I'm not an ordained minister; I'm doing my best.
Ellen: Lord, we loved this woman with all our hearts--
Audrey: Let's not overdo it, Mom.

10. Clark: Pardon me. I wonder if you can tell me how to get back on the expressway.
Pimp: Fuck yo' mama!
Clark: Thank you very much.
Did I leave out your favorite? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tebow Time in New England: A Football Fan's Reflection

Two days ago, I heard that Tim Tebow has finally found a team after being cut by the Jets in April. I'm really happy for him because I think he's a talented player who's gotten a pretty raw deal in the NFL. His bouncing around kind of reminds me of myself. In college, I had to try out an assortment of clubs and activities before I found where I fit in. And I too have had commitment issues when it comes to NFL teams.

Living in a state that has no professional football team (or pro teams of any kind) has its perks; you aren't a leper if you don't root for the home team (that's reserved for college sports). When I was very young (around 4-5 years old), I had a set of 49ers pajamas. By the time I was in 3rd grade, Brett Favre had come along. That meant a Packers jersey and sweatsuit. I've been a baseball and hockey fan for most of my life and those became my passions after Brett retired from the Packers.

When I was in high school, I discovered my favorite college team: the Florida Gators. I'm not especially religious, but I developed an immediate fondness for their quarterback Tim Tebow. He stands up for his beliefs and seems like a genuinely nice guy (not to mention he's pretty cute). I followed his career closely and adopted the Broncos as my favorite team when he was drafted into the NFL.

When the Broncos decided to replace him with Peyton "career-ending, life-altering neck injury imminent" Manning, I took my loyalties to the New York Jets. My parents grew up about an hour from the Jets' home base of East Rutherford, so I had kind of an attachment to them anyway. Rex Ryan also coached football for a season at my alma mater. However, Mark Sanchez's ineptitude and Rex's stubborn refusal to bench him ground away at my nerves. Passing Tebow over in favor of the even-worse-than-Sanchez third-string QB was an insult to the first sophomore to win a Heisman. I severed ties with them when he was released.

And now Tebow has found his way onto the New England Patriots' roster. As glad as I am that there's a head coach that appreciates what he has to offer, I still have mixed feelings. New England was the last place I expected (or wanted) him to end up. Something about Tom Brady has always rubbed me the wrong way. I think it's either his smug "I'm God's gift to football and women" attitude reinforced by his Victoria's Secret model wife, his bizarre metrosexual fashion choices (Uggs? Really?), or both.

My best friend is from Massachusetts and is a lifelong, diehard Pats fan. His reaction to the Tebow decision was one word: "yuck." We gave each other all kinds of crap over our respective favorite teams last season. He finds it hysterical that I'm now having to trade in my hunter green and white for blue, silver, red, and white.

Regardless of my feelings about Brady, I'm still excited about the upcoming season. Tebow helped turn the underperforming Broncos around and led them to the playoffs in the 2011-2012 season. He probably could've done the same for the Jets if the upper management staff hadn't just been using his name to sell tickets, something they've basically admitted to doing. And don't get me started on Rex Ryan's mismanagement. Imagine what Tebow could do for a team that's already good.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Fire SUV

Now for some classic fire service humor

Man Pregnant With a Dinosaur

I just spent the weekend at Kentucky's annual State Fire School taking a required refresher course for my EMT certification. Sitting there in the classroom, I thought back to an interesting behavioral call I saw on an episode of Vegas Strip. 

Sir, all due respect, I think you were smoking something other than cigarettes.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Guest Review: "Boondock Saints"

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Irish-Catholic Americans could be offended by this movie.

The twins, Connor and Murphy MacManus, attend Mass celebrating Saint Patrick's Day. Next, they celebrate with alcoholic spirits at the neighborhood pub. At the pub, Murphy and Connor end up defending their favorite bar and bar owner from three Russian gangsters. Two of the attackers end up being killed the next morning while the brothers are defending themselves.

FBI agent Paul Smecker, played by Willem Dafoe, determines that the Russians' deaths were not a professional hit. In the meantime, the brothers turn themselves in at the local police station and are hailed as heroes by reporters. Connor and Murphy decide to avoid further media attention by camping out in a jail cell overnight. While in jail, the brothers have a holy visitation. God tells them to hunt down wicked men so the just can thrive. Presumably, God will direct them to those who must receive divine retribution. And we thought being cast into hell was the province of God and angels.

Connor learns there is to be a meeting of Russian syndicate bosses at a Boston hotel; he gets this information from a pager recovered from one of the dead Russians. The brothers recite their family prayer and kill each mobster. They place coins on the Russians' cold dead eyes, presumably to pay their toll to cross the River Styx. The twins' friend and mob errand boy Rocco joins them in their mission after finding out that the mobster he is so loyal to has been using him.

Next, Connor, Murphy, and Rocco hunt down Vincenzo Rapazzi of the Yakavetta crime scene. "Papa Joe" Yakavetta is the mob boss Rocco works for; his henchman Vincenzo played a big role in Rocco's betrayal. After more killings, Papa Joe contacts a hitman known only as Il Duce to kill the vigilantes.

Murphy, Connor, and Rocco are eventually caught breaking into Papa Joe's house. The three are locked in the basement. Papa Joe shoots and kills Rocco. The brothers escape their chains and say the family prayer over Rocco's body. Their backs are to Il Duce, who recites the prayer with the brothers, and it becomes clear that the twins are Il Duce's sons. Dear old Da joins the boys on their mission to eradicate wrongdoers. Agent Smecker has become the twins' ally because he's come to understand their calling. The MacManus family boldly kills Papa Joe in the courtroom during his trial.

The Boston media dubs the three "The Saints." We as the audience are left to ponder this question: Were The Saints ultimately good or evil?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Guest Review: "The Arrival"

Charlie Sheen felt himself being sucked into this project by the vortex of the Heidi Fleiss scandal. He was trying to distract his loyal fan base from his addiction to illicit drugs and prostitutes, so he chose this unfathomable story in which he is cast as an astrophysicist. He knew it wouldn’t be a hit; he was in need of money. His brother Emilio Estevez appears to have been the perfect son, so Charlie had to make his mark somewhere. He accidentally scored with, like, 5 good movies to finance his more…artistically edgy choices.

Charlie’s boss at the university turns on him when Charlie announces that he has intercepted signals from intelligent life in outer space. (We eventually find out his boss is one of THEM!). Charlie is fired and splits for Mexico with his girlfriend, who thinks Charlie is paranoid (no kidding). Charlie is headed south of the border because he’s following the signals from his home laboratory, which are guiding him in the direction of the aliens. He arrives during the Day of the Dead celebration, setting a spooky tone for the rest of the movie.

Some loose ends are never completely woven into the story. For example, there didn’t seem to be a point to the character of the old Mexican man who walked his skeleton marionette around the streets. There was a puzzling scene involving scorpions and the death of a female professor who had been hitting heavily on Charlie.

Another character worth mentioning is Kiki, a young black boy who lives with his grandmother in the same neighborhood as Charlie. He ended up crossing the border with Charlie and his girlfriend, but didn’t feel like he had to tell his grandmother that he was leaving the country for an indefinite amount of time with a neighbor they barely knew. These days, the whole pedophile thing is pretty much out in the open. So would you let your grandson visit a bachelor in his sci-fi workshop and never check up on him?

Charlie, ya gotta start reading the scripts before you agree to do the movie. The talent is there, as we’ve seen from your handful of hits; consistency can be achieved! Learn to read. Pay someone to read the scripts to you! Most of all, listen to that little voice inside that is screaming: “NOOOOOO!”

The departure doesn't come soon enough!

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Sunday, March 17, 2013

"The Boondock Saints"

In honor of Saint Patrick's Day, I'm reviewing my favorite Irish-themed movie.

The main characters in this 1999 cult classic are Irish-Catholic fraternal twin brothers living in Boston named Connor and Murphy MacManus. The action begins on Saint Patrick's Day. Connor and Murphy, fresh from morning Mass and a shift at the local meat-packing plant, are drinking in their favorite bar when a couple of hulking thugs come in and tell everyone to leave. The Russian Mafia has moved into the neighborhood, taken control of the pub, and refused to renew the owner's lease.

The Russian street soldiers learn a very valuable lesson: Never mess with an Irish bar, especially not on Saint Patrick's Day. The MacManus brothers, their Italian friend Rocco, and a bunch of other bar patrons mercilessly beat up the Russians. The next morning, the Russians are found dead in an alley. The Boston police arrive on the scene and call in an FBI agent named Smecker, who works in the organized crime division.

Smecker quickly reveals that "eccentric" is not nearly a strong enough word to describe his personality and just as quickly assesses the crime scene. He says this was no mob hit; it looks too personal. He follows a handful of clues to the 5th floor of a warehouse that's been converted into illegal loft housing. It just so happens that the occupants of this loft are Connor and Murphy, which makes them prime suspects.

Back at the station house, Smecker is furious because someone involved in the investigation leaked information to the press. The homicide detectives are beginning to think catching the Russians' killer or killers will be next to impossible. Suddenly, the MacManus twins appear in the squadroom. They're covered in blood, bruised, and wearing nothing but boots, underwear, and shabby bathrobes.

Over coffee and doughnuts in the interrogation room, Connor and Murphy explain about the bar brawl. Somehow, the now-dead Russians figured out where the brothers lived and came looking for revenge. They handcuffed Connor to the toilet and dragged Murphy outside, intending to shoot him in the head and throw his body in the dumpster. But Connor managed to break free and the brothers sent the Russians to their doom. 

Connor tells Smecker he only killed the Russians to save his twin's life. Smecker doesn't push for charges to be filed because the confession, when coupled with the rest of the evidence, points to a textbook case of self-defense. An article on the MacManus v. Russian Mafia case appears in the next day's newspaper; the writer has dubbed the twins "The Saints of South Boston."

More Mafiosos begin to turn up murdered. Smecker knows Connor and Murphy are responsible for these deaths. He believes they're doing the right thing in ridding the city of filth, yet he is duty-bound to uphold the law; he must hunt the brothers down and put an end to the killings.

The movie has a typical shoot-'em-up action plot, but it also deals with complex themes and issues such as the true nature of evil, media sensationalism of crime, the definition of justice itself, and vigilantism. The deeper issues are not forcefully crammed down the audience's throat, but rather conveyed in an almost passive manner. It doesn't tell you whether to think of Connor and Murphy as heroes or villains; that's something you have to decide for yourself.

Symbolism plays a big role in this movie, particularly religious symbolism. If you are Catholic or just know quite a bit about Catholicism, you might enjoy the movie more. There are subtle touches that you might not be able to pick up on or understand if Catholicism is a complete mystery to you.

I really enjoyed the movie. All the actors performed solidly in their roles, especially Sean Patrick Flanery as Connor. Sean was born in Louisiana and raised in Texas, but he executes a flawless Irish accent that never wavers. The characters were compelling. The script offered an interesting new take on the archetypes of outlaw folk heroes and "avenging angels." 

However, this isn't a movie for everyone. It's violent and bloody with no shortage of foul language. Catholics may be offended by some of the depictions of Catholicism. Whether or not you like the movie, your reaction to it will be strong. Rare is the action movie that makes you think. The Boondock Saints will and it accomplishes the task with plenty of excitement and style. 

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Bon Jovi "Because We Can" Tour 2013

I went to Louisville last night to see one of my favorite bands live for the first time. After standing in a long line to get into the KFC Yum Center and an equally long one for a souvenir T-shirt, my dad and I settled into our seats in the upper deck. Kentucky is not known for its love of '80s arena rock, so I expected only about half the seats in the arena would be full. I seriously underestimated the lure of Bon Jovi; the place was nearly sold out. Every age bracket was represented, from elementary school kids with their parents to the elderly.

The show ended up starting at 8:00 PM instead of 7:30 as printed on the tickets. Not sure why as neither Jon nor anyone else from the band explained the delay. There was no opening act, so Bon Jovi came right out and opened the show with their perennial favorite "You Give Love a Bad Name." A spectacular light display accompanied them, swirling their trademark heart-and-dagger logo into the crowd.

They played a few tracks from their new album What About Now: "Because We Can," "That's What the Water Made Me," and "What About Now." They also played some songs from what was, in my opinion, an ill-advised foray into expanding their sound to country. But mostly they stuck to their hits. In fact, their setlist included every song I posted this week with the exception of "Let It Rock". There were little surprises, like when they paused "Bad Medicine" to sing the entirety of "Old Time Rock and Roll" (weird since it's not even their song) and jumped back into the end of "Bad Medicine." The concert lasted about 3 hours and there were a total of 7 (!!!) encores.

I've been to my share of classic rock concerts in my life: Elton John, Billy Joel, Cheap Trick, Def Leppard, and Poison. Bon Jovi absolutely blew me away. Jon Bon Jovi is far and away the most energetic, upbeat performer I've ever seen. He barely stopped moving the entire show. Even when he was standing at the microphone, he was tapping his heels, clapping, or doing jazz hands. Jon's enthusiasm is contagious. The majority of the audience remained standing through the concert, dancing and shouting out the lyrics. More than once, Jon either stopped singing entirely to conduct the audience or yelled, "Help me out now!" so we would sing louder.

On a side note, few men Jon's age could (or should) attempt to wear black leather pants, but he manages to pull off the look. Women in the audience (myself included) went wild every time he started shaking his leather-clad behind.

Jon has quite the sense of humor and played around with the crowd. The band appeared on last night's American Idol, which Jon referenced by saying, "The real me is right here in Louisville. Stunt Me is in Los Angeles with all the crazy people." When Jon started to play the opening chords of "Wanted Dead Or Alive," the audience went wild, their hit having been given a new life thanks to the movie Rock of Ages. He grinned roguishly and asked, "You guys know this one, right?"

One of the reasons I've always been such a big Bon Jovi fan is because a lot of their songs have deep meanings. This becomes even more clear once you see them performed live. Jon sings every note from the heart, which caused me to tear up during "Someday I'll Be Saturday Night" and "Blood On Blood." He also makes the upbeat songs even more fun than they already are.

I left the arena with ringing ears, a sore throat, and a huge smile on my face. Bon Jovi is definitely giving their audience their money's worth. If there is any way it is humanly possible for you to catch this tour, I highly recommend you do it. You won't regret it.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

SHOWTIME!!!: "Let It Rock"

Could I have found a more appropriate song for tonight? Stay tuned for a concert review. (rock hands)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

2 Days 'Til Showtime: "Blood On Blood"

I don't have any biological siblings. But throughout my high school and college careers, I've been lucky enough to meet people who've turned into an assortment of "adopted" brothers and sisters. Mostly brothers, although that's changed a bit since joining my sorority. Some people I know would swear we actually are related.

I see a lot of my "brothers" and "sisters" all the time; some of us have drifted apart for one reason or another. I'm graduating this May and it's gonna hurt leaving them behind. The following lyric speaks volumes about the bond that I have with my "adopted siblings":

"Through the years and miles between us
It's been a long and lonely ride
But if I got a call in the dead of the night
I'd be right by your side"

3 Days 'Til Showtime: "Wanted Dead Or Alive"

When I saw the movie version of Rock of Ages last summer, I knew this song was in it. I was very worried that Tom Cruise would butcher one of my favorite songs of all time. I ended up being pleasantly surprised. He didn't just do justice to the original, he rocked it! Judge for yourself; both versions are below.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

4 Days 'Til Showtime: "Someday I'll Be Saturday Night"

Whenever life gets rough, I put this song on, cry out my feelings, and remind myself that I'm just experiencing a temporary setback. It's gotten me through so much: my grandmother's death, losing pets, struggling to find a job, and times when I've just felt utterly alone. The chorus in particular is what really speaks to me: 

"Tuesday just might go my way
Can't get worse than yesterday
Thursdays, Fridays ain't been kind
But somehow I survive

Hey, man, I'm alive
I'm takin' each day and night at a time
Yeah, I'm down but I know I'll get by
Hey, hey, hey, hey, man, I'm gonna live my life
I ain't got nothing but this roll of the dice
I'm feelin' like a Monday
But someday I'll be Saturday night"

Saturday, March 9, 2013

5 Days 'Til Showtime: "Runaway"

For Christmas, my dad got me tickets to Bon Jovi's upcoming concert in my home state. I've been waiting at least 5 years for one of their concerts to come anywhere close to me, so you can imagine my excitement. I'm gonna be counting down 'til Thursday by posting my favorite songs.

First up is this song from 1983. It was the band's first hit single and won a radio contest for best song by an unsigned band. When most people think of Bon Jovi, they think "Wanted Dead or Alive", "Livin' On a Prayer," or "You Give Love a Bad Name," all absolute classics. But without "Runaway," those songs most likely wouldn't exist.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"

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Or as I call it: "That terrible Western with Brad Pitt." The title itself is the first of many things wrong with this movie; it's too freakin' long. I’m amazed that they were able to cram it all onto the DVD case. It also takes away any real reason to watch the movie by telling you from the start: “Jesse James dies. Robert Ford killed him.” I know that people do know how certain movies like this will end (Titanic and Zero Dark Thirty come to mind), but this story isn't nearly as well-known.

The movie’s running time is about 3 hours. That wouldn’t have been so bad if the director had made any effort to make the movie somewhat entertaining. The characters are forgettable and the story goes in too many different directions.

The movie took itself far too seriously; others have dealt with Wild West-era outlaws in a far better fashion. Young Guns and its sequel Young Guns II are perfect examples. Screenwriter John Fusco did a terrific job of making Billy the Kid and his gang of Regulators into people that we as the audience could root for. It had action and humor, but had its serious moments and was honestly somewhat historically accurate. Judging by the finished product and the DVD commentary, the cast had a lot of fun making the movie. By comparison, every actor in Jesse James looked bored to death the entire time.

The movie’s worst offender as far as wooden performances goes was Brad Pitt. He sucked even more than he did in Interview With the Vampire; at least that time, he had Tom Cruise to back him by sucking even worse. Speaking of Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, is it somewhere in their contracts that every other movie they star in must have homoerotic overtones? Top Gun and Interview With the Vampire, I’m looking at you.

The homosexual subtext in Jesse James feels terribly awkward and out of place. It is often hard to tell whether Robert Ford is obsessed with Jesse Jame’s legend (much like Tommy O’Folliard and Billy the Kid’s relationship in Young Guns II) or if he’s actually obsessed and in love with Jesse James himself.

There was a particular scene that really bothered me in this regard. Robert was staying with the James clan and wandered into Jesse’s bedroom. In a voiceover, he describes how he admired the suits in Jesse’s closet and drank from the water glass Jesse had left on the vanity. Get ready for this; Robert also “smelled the aroma of talc and lilac on Jesse’s pillowcases.” We’re treated to the visual of Robert rolling on the bed, rubbing his cheek again the bedding.

Casey Affleck plays Robert Ford as a very whiny, annoying, and creepy character. If the real Robert acted that way, he’s extremely lucky that Jesse didn’t put a bullet in his head within a few days of knowing him. According to, Casey Affleck’s portrayal of Robert Ford earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Further proof that all Oscar judges care about these days is how artsy and pretentious a film is rather than if the actors actually do a good job in their roles.

I cannot emphasize enough that if you watch this movie, you are merely an observer. Nothing draws you in or makes you care about any of the characters. The movie feels like a dry, heartless documentary produced for PBS. In fact, they should have sent the movie straight to public television rather than ripping off those who went to see in theaters and/or rented the DVD.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Name That Quote #2 Answers

  1. "I think you're so blinded by inconsolable rage that you don't care who you hurt. When you can't tell your friends from your enemies, it's time to go."-Casino Royale
  2. "Oh, this is Hill Valley, although I can't imagine hell being much worse."-Back to the Future: Part II
  3. "As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster."-Goodfellas
  4. "No one will go near it. People think it's 'aunted. And who's to say they're wrong? You see, years ago, somethin 'appened up there. Somefin not very nice."-Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
  5. "I gotta be crazy! I'm on a pilgrimage to see a moose! Praise Marty Moose!"-National Lampoon's Vacation
  6. "I don't bend over. It's too hard to stand straight again."-Mobsters
  7. "Does Aunt Ginny have barn? Maybe we could have the trial there. I can sew the costumes and maybe his Uncle Goober can be the judge."-A Few Good Men
  8. "You could kick the shit outta me in a fair fight; I know that. You're a little faster 'n me, strong enough. But I'm always gonna win. See, you fight schoolyard rules. Every time I lay down, you're done. Me, I fight 'til I'm dead...or the other guy is."-Lone Hero
  9. "What is my goal? To make you a happy, well-adjusted gangster?"-Analyze This
  10. "Me? I'm scared of everything. I'm scared of what I saw, of what I did, of who I am. And most of all, I'm afraid of walking out of this room and never feeling for the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I'm with you."-Dirty Dancing
  11. "Comin' up is Diehard Night. Free admission to anyone who was actually alive the last time the Indians won a pennant."-Major League
  12. "I got a judge just achin' to throw me in jail, slaughtered pigs, giant loud whistles. I ain't slept in 5 days. I got no money, a dress code problem. And a little murder case, which in the balance holds the lives of 2 innocent kids."-My Cousin Vinny
  13. "Are you a Mexi-can or a Mexi-can't?"-Once Upon a Time In Mexico
  14. "Oh, I have my dark days. I suppose that everybody does. The difference is that most people don't kill their husbands with an ax."-Shutter Island
  15. "When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only 2 things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home."-The Outsiders
  16. "There are several sacred things in this world that you don't ever mess with. One of them happens to be another man's fries. You remember that and you'll live a long and healthy life."-Men at Work
  17. "You m-m-m-make me happy."-Tropic Thunder
  18. "I'm not complaining. How am I complaining? When do I ever complain about you practicing the violin at 3 in the morning, or your mess, your general lack of hygiene, or the fact that you steal my clothes?"-Sherlock Holmes
  19. "I'll make you famous!"-Young Guns II
  20. "No, I'm not okay. I've just been violated by a barnyard animal."-Shanghai Noon

Friday, January 25, 2013

Name That Quote #2

This new interactive feature for my blog didn't work so well the first time I tried it. Gonna try again to see if I get responses. Listed below are random quotes from 20 different movies. Comment with your guesses. Answers will be posted a week from today! Good luck!

  1. "I think you're so blinded by inconsolable rage that you don't care who you hurt. When you can't tell your friends from your enemies, it's time to go."
  2. "Oh, this is Hill Valley, although I can't imagine hell being much worse."
  3. "As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster."
  4. "No one will go near it. People think it's 'aunted. And who's to say they're wrong? You see, years ago, somethin 'appened up there. Somefin not very nice."
  5. "I gotta be crazy! I'm on a pilgrimage to see a moose! Praise Marty Moose!"
  6. "I don't bend over. It's too hard to stand straight again."
  7. "Does Aunt Ginny have barn? Maybe we could have the trial there. I can sew the costumes and maybe his Uncle Goober can be the judge."
  8. "You could kick the shit outta me in a fair fight; I know that. You're a little faster 'n me, strong enough. But I'm always gonna win. See, you fight schoolyard rules. Every time I lay down, you're done. Me, I fight 'til I'm dead...or the other guy is."
  9. "What is my goal? To make you a happy, well-adjusted gangster?"
  10. "Me? I'm scared of everything. I'm scared of what I saw, of what I did, of who I am. And most of all, I'm afraid of walking out of this room and never feeling for the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I'm with you."
  11. "Comin' up is Diehard Night. Free admission to anyone who was actually alive the last time the Indians won a pennant."
  12. "I got a judge just achin' to throw me in jail, slaughtered pigs, giant loud whistles. I ain't slept in 5 days. I got no money, a dress code problem. And a little murder case, which in the balance holds the lives of 2 innocent kids."
  13. "Are you a Mexi-can or a Mexi-can't?"
  14. "Oh, I have my dark days. I suppose that everybody does. The difference is that most people don't kill their husbands with an ax."
  15. "When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only 2 things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home."
  16. "There are several sacred things in this world that you don't ever mess with. One of them happens to be another man's fries. You remember that and you'll live a long and healthy life."
  17. "You m-m-m-make me happy."
  18. "I'm not complaining. How am I complaining? When do I ever complain about you practicing the violin at 3 in the morning, or your mess, your general lack of hygiene, or the fact that you steal my clothes?"
  19. "I'll make you famous!"
  20. "No, I'm not okay. I've just been violated by a barnyard animal."

Sunday, January 13, 2013

"Gangster Squad"

Image source

To paraphrase the most famous line from Goodfellas: "Almost as far back as I can remember, I was always fascinated with gangsters." I think it started when I was about 7 or 8 and saw a special on the Discovery Channel about Alcatraz, which featured interviews of former inmates and guards. It was how I was introduced to the names Machine Gun Kelly, Al Capone, and Alvin "Creepy" Karpis. I bought a kids' book on the infamous 1960's escape attempt with my allowance and read everything else I could get my hands on.

The interest carried over into my teenage years and adulthood. High school friends would exchange odd looks as I read novels like The Last Don over lunch period. Two of my top-10 movies are The Godfather and Goodfellas. I harbor no romantic illusions about the Mafia lifestyle, having heard some brutal stories from my born-and-bred-in-New Jersey parents and grandparents. The point of this tangent is I was immediately sucked in when I saw the trailer for Gangster Squad and knew I had to see it opening weekend.

The movie was inspired by the true story of the efforts exerted by the Los Angeles Police Department to eradicate mobsters' influence from the city in the 1940's and 1950's. Chicago and New York had almost been brought to their knees during Prohibition and the Great Depression. Los Angeles's neighbor to the east, Las Vegas, was becoming Bugsy Siegel's empire.

In 1949, L.A.'s biggest organized-crime threat is Jewish gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn). The opening scene involves WWII veteran Detective O'Mara (Josh Brolin) raiding a motel that Mickey Cohen has turned into a brothel; many of the women are being held there against their will and had been lured to the place with promises of Hollywood screen tests. O'Mara conducts the raid despite local understanding that Mickey isn't to be touched.

The police chief, tired of the gangland violence and political corruption, calls O'Mara into his office. The chief wants O'Mara to put together a secret squad, which will be allowed to terminate the Mafiosos and their businesses with extreme prejudice. The detectives won't carry badges while they do this since it's not strictly on the up-and-up. The chief is extremely aware that this could cost everyone involved their jobs.

With the help of his pregnant wife, O'Mara recruits a motley crew of L.A.'s finest. Max Kennard (Robert Patrick) aka "Hop-Along" is a grizzled, Wild West-style lawman. Hop-Along brings with him a rookie named Navidad Ramirez (Michael Pena). Jerry Wooter (Ryan Gosling) is a WWII fighter pilot and something of a functioning alcoholic. Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie) is a beat cop brought in from a mostly black section of Los Angeles. Conway Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi), former Army intelligence circa WWII, is a family man who does most of the squad's work behind the scenes.

After some target practice in the desert, the guys suit up to take on Mickey Cohen and his crew. Jerry gets himself into trouble almost right away by bedding Grace (Emma Stone). For all intents and purposes, she's Mickey's moll. Mickey learns of the tryst and vows to find whoever dared to touch Grace. Jerry isn't the only one with off-the-clock issues. Hop-Along is staring down his impending retirement (forced or otherwise). O'Mara doesn't like being away from his wife for extended periods when she's on the verge of giving birth.

Having only seen him in Remember the Titans, I wasn't optimistic about Ryan Gosling's ability to pull off playing the rogue cop/action hero. I snickered at the early scenes involving his hard-drinking and perpetually horny character. However, as the movie wore on, I had to admit that he has some serious talent. Jerry's cool, street-smart demeanor makes for an interesting contrast when paired with Ryan Gosling's boyish good looks.

And Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen, holy hell, his name needs to go on the Oscar ballot for this. Mickey is terrifying to watch in just about every scene. His temper is volatile and he used to be a boxer. So even though Mickey has "associates" to do his dirty work for him, he's not above landing a few punches to get a point across. Everything he does is coldly calculated; he hasn't survived this long in organized crime by being stupid.

Gangster Squad is a great addition to the Mafia genre, on par with Martin Scorsese's body of work. There aren't nearly as many "F" bombs in this movie as, say, Goodfellas. The trade-off for this movie is that the violence is more graphic, if you can believe that. I'm not squeamish by any means, but there were a lot of scenes that made me wince; the worst involved coyotes and the Hollywood sign. (Must be seen to be believed). I highly recommend this for my fellow fans of gangster movies and anyone who enjoys action movies.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

"Because We Can" by Bon Jovi

Been waiting for this single to come out for a long time. I'm relieved that it's lived up to the advertisement that the band is going back to its rock roots. I've found their country-fied sound to be grating and intolerable. This makes me even more excited for March; my dad got me tickets to Bon Jovi's concert at a local venue for Christmas.