Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Movie Reviews: Thick As Thieves

Thick as Thieves
directed by Scott Sanders
This 1999 movie was directed by the same man who went on to direct Black Dynamite. It featured a few of the same actors, many of whom would go on to bigger and better things.
Although the movie is not based on an Elmore Leonard book or a Quentin Tarantino script it definitely is designed to put one in mind of some of the quirkiness often found in some of those creations. 
If you are familiar with movies like Get Shorty or Pulp Fiction, this movie will feel like a slightly toned down version of those films. It's not as violent or as explicit as those movies but Thick as Thieves does feature a number of self-consciously idiosyncratic characters, all of whom have their own interests and cool dialogue. 
It also has a few similarities to Michael Mann's Thief. With a few exceptions, this movie is more interested in looking good and finding the humor in outrageous scenarios than in being gritty or scary. This can make some of the violence, then, more shocking, when it does occur. This film tends more towards drama than action.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Movie Reviews: The Haunting in Connecticut

The Haunting In Connecticut
directed by Peter Cornwell

This is another film that claims to be based in part on some of the experiences of Ed and Lorraine Warren or stories that they heard. And that is about the only similarity it has to the much better, scarier, and more convincing The Conjuring. Imagine every single horror movie cliche that you've ever seen crammed into one film. Now imagine a plot that makes no sense. And just for good measure throw in a few performances by actors/actresses who seem to believe that they were in a different movie from the rest of the cast. 
Well you probably won't have much left. The problem with haunted house movies is that the plot needs to come up with some reason as to why the people impacted by the presence at a specific location just don't leave. Maybe there are serious financial considerations. 
Maybe the people in charge (usually the parents) don't believe in the supernatural. 
Maybe the people in charge have been infected by the supernatural and aren't willing to leave or let anyone else do so. Maybe someone has cut off contact with the outside world and so no one can leave. 
Maybe the presence has bonded with someone in the family and leaving would set it loose upon the rest of the world. Maybe the secret to destroying the entity can only be found in the home. Whatever the case may be the question of not just leaving must be raised and addressed adequately. 

Monday, June 28, 2021

Movie Reviews: The Asphalt Jungle

The Asphalt Jungle
directed by John Huston

How many heist movies have you watched where there is a snitch, doomed love, people being hunted separately by cops or other crooks, a brainy mastermind, or an initially successful crime caper that goes wrong because of greedy backstabbers? 

Many of those films are descended from The Asphalt Jungle. 
I enjoyed watching this 1950 film because it featured some leading actors with whom I was only familiar with from much later films as character actors, most notably Sterling Hayden from The Godfather (1972), and James Whitmore from Shawshank Redemption (1994) and Tora Tora Tora (1970). 

The Asphalt Jungle was also notable for being one of Marilyn Monroe's early roles. This is a typical film noir in that the so-called bad guys have all of the positive and negative traits found in all humanity. Some are loyal and trustworthy; others can't be trusted any farther than you could throw them. Some cops protect the innocent. 

Other police want to bully crooks or bring down men who offend their personal ideas of moral behavior. Still others are totally corrupt and shake down "bad guys.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Movie Reviews: Nobody

directed by Ilya Naishuller
There is a trope known as "Mugging the Monster" that is popular in various forms of art: visual, written, and musical. 
Usually this involves stupid or dangerous people insulting, messing with or (per trope) literally mugging someone who is far more dangerous, competent, and most importantly, malevolent, than they are. 
The monster proceeds to demonstrate to the unfortunate dummies how critical their mistake was and why they won't live long enough to regret it. The monster may kill, alter, maim or even eat the offenders.
This trope is older than dirt. In Greek mythology the human hunter Actaeon sees the goddess Artemis nude and considers assaulting her. Unworried, Artemis turns Actaeon into a stag who is then attacked and devoured by his own hounds. In the TV series Supernatural a man makes the mistake of bumping into Death. In The Legend of Wooley Swamp the musician Charlie Daniels sings of "white trash" who attacked and killed the old man Lucius Clay only to find that his ghost had some plans for them.
In The Terrible Old Man, H.P. Lovecraft wrote about three would be robbers who learn that the titular character can defend himself and isn't human.
Has someone ever said or done something unpleasant to you without you making an immediate response. Maybe the person made a nasty joke at your expense. Maybe someone went out of his way to step on your blue suede shoes

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Movie Reviews: Feral State

Feral State
directed by Jon Carlo
This is a film by a first time director. I decided to watch it because the subject matter seemed promising and because the best known actress in the film, AnnaLynne McCord, whom I last saw in 68 Kill, was here playing a role quite different from her performance in that earlier film. 
Feral State was sufficiently gritty and "realistic" in that people get hurt, lots of action takes place at night time or in dark areas, and there are plenty of people with questionable or flexible morals. However if 68 Kill turned up the volume on stereotypes of rural low class red state Caucasians to cartoonish levels, Feral State tries to be a little more serious. It's not as entertaining. 
There's a lot of "why" that could have put into the movie, maybe not all in one or two obvious information dumps, but perhaps scattered throughout the narrative. 
I don't think this took place. As a result it was really difficult for me to care about many characters or sympathize with them when they do bad things or need to make tough decisions. I don't think the actors were bad. I just think the film should have been a little longer to give the viewer a chance to tell apart the various characters, learn what makes them tick, and give them some background.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Movie Reviews: Den of Thieves

Den of Thieves
directed by Christian Gudegast
This is a heist/action film which references movies or shows such as Heat, Animal Kingdom, and Now You See Me. It's more intelligent than it looks. 
The ending may cause you to rewatch it. My only quibble was that as is common with many such stories the viewer will likely have seen many of the scenes and plot points before. There are a few actors who I thought didn't quite convince but generally this was an entertaining movie. I thought the actor who had the best role was Pablo Schreiber as Ray Merrimen, a veteran and former Marine Special Operations operative. I didn't recall until much later that back in the day Schreiber had also appeared on HBO's The Wire as Nick Sobotka.
Schreiber is also Liev Schreiber's little brother, though since he is now taller and more muscular than Liev, perhaps younger brother is a better description. Something similar happened to me with my younger brother. So it goes.
Anyhow, Ray is being released from prison. See, what Ray does is rob. He goes wherever the money is, but what he specializes in are banks. As many people have noted, California prisons are segregated by race. In prison Ray was one of the white supremacist gang leaders, but now that he's out, Ray leaves that nonsense behind. Ray's putting the band back together, which includes people of various races: White, Black, Asian-Pacific Islanders, etc. 

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Bo Schembechler and Sexual Abuse At University of Michigan

If you grew up in the state of Michigan in the seventies or eighties, the University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler was something akin to a demigod. You might not have cared for Bo if you were a Michigan State or heaven forbid Ohio State fan but Bo was an icon. 

He restored the U-M football team to prominence and won thirteen Big Ten Titles. Bo was, at least as far as the public could see, a tough mean SOB with a hidden heart of gold who turned boys into "Michigan Men".  For much of the time Bo was at U-M, there weren't many other winning local teams, professional or collegiate. More than anyone before or since, Bo Schembechler was Michigan. 
If you were searching for a stereotypical hard nosed masculine football coach who preached and lived doing the right thing, if you wanted to find a man who drank TNT and smoked dynamite, then Bo Schembechler was him.
Be tough. Stand up for yourself. Be a man. Put the welfare and safety of your peers and those under your protection before your own well being. Always do the right thing no matter what it costs. The team, the team, the team. That's what Bo was all about. Or so we were led to believe. Apparently, allegedly, there was another side. Just 10 years old at the time, Matt Schembechler said that he summoned the courage to tell his new stepfather a horrific, uncomfortable and humiliating truth: During a physical examination he’d been fondled and digitally penetrated by a doctor, Robert Anderson.
Anderson was the team doctor for the University of Michigan football team, which Matt’s stepfather, Bo, coached. This was 1969, and as Matt tells it now, Bo told him he didn’t want to hear about the incident and even struck the child hard enough to knock him across the kitchen in the family’s Ann Arbor home.“

Friday, June 11, 2021

Domestic Violence Against Black Men

Based on my own experience, logic, research, and history I have always believed that the differences that exist between men and women are not moral or ethical ones. 
I have known women who have any or every moral failing imaginable. I've also known selfless angelic women. Women as a group are no more moral than men. I'd like to believe otherwise but the evidence doesn't support that conclusion. 
Women may express themselves on average differently than men but anyone who holds on to Victorian ideals of female moral superiority is either deluding themselves or trying to trick other people. This even extends to the evil of domestic violence.
Professors like Dr. Tommy Curry and Dr. T. Hassan Johnson, who have actually done the research, have found that domestic violence, particularly in the Black community, is more bidirectional than many of us would like to admit. In other words men and women initiate domestic violence at close to the same rates and for many of the same reasons. 
The assumptions that philosophers hold about IPV and child physical and sexual abuse are really universalized descriptions derived from what social scientists and feminists asserted as causal amongst white families and in white communities. When we look at racial groups, IPV victimization rates between Black, Latino, and Indigenous men and women in the U.S. are roughly equal and have a much different etiology than IPV victimization between whites. Much of the intimate partner violence in racial groups is bidirectional, not unidirectional, as Duluth assumes, meaning that both partners are abusers and victims.
I was reminded of the truth of this statement by two recent hideous instances of domestic violence in which Black men were the victims.

Asian Man in Ypsilanti Michigan Shoots Six Year Old Black Boy: Gets Low Bond And Is Released

Do you remember when you were six years old? Do you remember playing outside with your friends, siblings, and other relatives? Maybe you liked to jump rope. Maybe you liked to play hopscotch and drew multicolored squares on the sidewalk. 
Maybe you played tag. Maybe you played red rover or dodgeball or stickball. Maybe you played with dolls and had tea parties. Maybe you picked flowers. Maybe you played with legos or blocks. Maybe you even rode your bicycle or tricycle. 
Chances are, no matter what you did, you likely got on some adult's nerves at some point in time. But the chances are also very good that no adult ever physically assaulted you or tried to shoot and kill you over your play. Unfortunately a six year Black boy named Coby Daniel can no longer make that statement.

YPSILANTI, Mich. (FOX 2) - An Ypsilanti boy is recovering after being threatened with a sledgehammer and then shot as he retrieved his bike from his neighbor's front yard. Arnold Daniel says his kids were outside on their bikes on Candlewood Lane in Ypsilanti when they stopped their bikes and left one of them in front of a neighbor's home. 
When Coby went back to get his bike, Daniel said the neighbor came out with a sledgehammer in his hand and said something to the boy. Daniel said he didn't know exactly what was said but knows his son said something back. After that, the neighbor went back inside and Daniel said he shot a gun through the front window, hitting Coby in the arm.
Ring doorbell footage captured children screaming and scattering down the sidewalk of a residential street after a single gunshot is heard.
“He tried hitting me with a sledgehammer but that’s not going to work because I’m too fast,” Coby Daniel told Fox 2. “[Then he] got a gun and BOOM shot me right here.”