Sunday, September 28, 2014

Movie Review: The Maze Runner

I’ve been lulled into another YA inspired movie, and I was almost sold, almost all the way convinced that this was better than Hunger Games, the first one that had any staying power since Potter, and then the ending came.  But let us backtrack.  The Maze Runner starts off with a bang, our hero, Thomas, wakes up in a cage which is actually an elevator going up.  He has no idea where he is going or how he got there and the plot stays shrouded in mystery as Thomas tries to figure out how he came to be in a forest with other boys, none of whom know how they got there or why they can’t find a way out.

The story unfolds with Thomas pushing the boundaries, running into the maze that surrounds the forest, trying to help and comes face-to-face with the thing that chases the boys if they remain in the maze for too long.  Somehow Thomas has more courage than the others and manages to discover something that none knew before and he leads a small group to freedom, or so they think.

The story is cramped, a lot going on in a short period of time and less and less of it makes sense, feeling more and more contrived as the hours went on.  Somewhere towards the end, I started wishing it was over, and that is usually a clear sign that I’ve lost interest in the story and no longer believe it has anything of value, which is unfortunate, as the story is actually quite interesting, though unsatisfying with the clear sequel setup at the end.  The cast was quite good, minus a few weak dialogue points, it holds its own and could give Katniss a run for her money, should the two movies ever coexist.  By itself, I still don’t count it highly, but when you step back, for $7, it was worth seeing.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

More Domestic Abuse?

I know what you’re thinking, come on, Hina, seriously, two serious posts from you after countless movie reviews no one ever reads.  Well, things angry up the blood, and the more I try not to watch or read, the angrier I get.  The NFL had a laughable press conference with Godfather Goodell, who really should have “good” removed from his name.  I can’t say there’s much good he’s done in the NFL of late.  I did enjoy the snippets I heard from the Ravens camp yesterday, defending their position and their player, trying to minimise the fact that they basically told Rice to go along with what they said and he’d be taken care of.  Is there nothing the NFL thinks it can’t get away with?  On the one hand, while it is good to see Congress getting involved, a friend (LaToya) shared this article with me about a US District Judge who is getting exonerated from beating his wife.

Yes, you read that right.  Mr. Mark Fuller, someone the Congress can control, unlike the NFL, which isn’t beholden to the US Congress, as far as I know, was giving a sweet deal, as good as Mr. Rice’s, and he has to attend some counseling and can return to work.  Now, at least Ray Rice and Greg Hardy  (the man convicted of assaulting his girlfriend) aren’t getting paid, but rest assure, Judge Fuller is on administrative leave, enjoying the lap of luxury, looking forward to the time he can get back behind the bench and…what, pass judgment on others after he has been found guilty of abusing his wife?  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the laughable justice system here in these United States of America.

If that weren’t bad enough, and to cushion the idea that I just hate men who beat women, not that I needed a reason to dislike this breed of subhuman, but we have Ms. Hope Solo who is also returning to work, again being paid by taxpayers, with her role with the US Women’s soccer team.  Did I get up on the wrong side of the bed?  I guess the takeaway I have for Ms. Solo is she hasn’t been convicted.

I just look at this litany of issues and think, if this had been you or me, the average citizen, we would be either behind bars, out of a job and uncertain where we’re getting our next paycheck.  Does a celebrity status give people the right to get away with…well, not quite murder, but it isn’t all that far off.  One hard hit and either Mrs. Rice or Mrs. Fuller could be dead.  I’d argue a pretty healthy soccer player could do some damage, man or woman.  Is there more for me to boycott?  What can we do about a judge that gets to go back to work?  Is Congress only interested in the NFL because it is big news?  Is Mr. Fuller being given a free pass because he’s in the Old Boys’ Network?

I find myself flummoxed by this and further frustrated that the internet, usually the safe haven for justice to be served, like Anonymous, but here, none of the above are getting their just desserts.  Instead we hear about Ms. Emma Watson being threatened by hackers for speaking out on equal rights.  What sense does this make, if any at all.  I struggle with all of this, the obvious injustice that isn’t being served, the justice that shouldn’t be served.  Is there an off switch to any of this?  Do I just write heated blogs and let it not bother me?  I’m honestly asking because I feel frustrated.  I haven’t watched any NFL really, besides being in a venue that I was pointed directly at it, but at least the racist Redskins lost, so that made me feel better.  I guess it is a good thing I run, I can work out my aggravation with life there.  Always open to constructive ideas that don’t involve slashing people’s tyres and rearranging files just to mess with people.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Boycott the NFL

Many a time I get upset, angry, frustrated, downright furious.  In rare cases I get introspective.  In February of this year, once again, we were audience to another popular athlete taking it to his girlfriend/fiancĂ©e/woman.  The incident took place in a casino in New Jersey and the two were arrested and charged with assault.  They were both arrested.  Sources in the NFL, at the time, claimed that the NFL, the most powerful sports group in this country, couldn’t get the video from inside the elevator, but the one outside the elevator.  In retrospect, that video should have been enough, but it wasn’t.  As is often the case in these things, the truth came out.

Fast forward to last week.  The football season was finally back and all was forgotten, except it wasn’t.  TMZ released another tape, this one with the actual shot of Rice not only hitting his girlfriend, but also seeming utterly unaffected by the fact that she was unconscious on the floor.  The video of him dragging her out of the elevator becomes that much more damning given the fact that he, a huge man, didn’t have the decency to lift her in his arms and see if she was okay until a security guard came on the scene.  The entire incident and the NFL and Ravens’ handling of this debacle proves what many of us already know but refuse to accept: women are less than second class citizens in this country and in the world are viewed as worthless.

Strong statement?  Yes, absolutely.  Yesterday morning I watched the Sports Reporters on ESPN (one of the few things I will subject myself to on that biased network) and listened as the group assembled talked about how foolish the fan bases were for supporting their suspended players (Adrian Peterson for beating his kid, Hardy from Carolina for beating his wife and the list goes on).  Instead of outrage and comradery for a fellow woman, many are apathetic and disinterested in noticing what is really going on.  Do I blame Ray Rice, etc., for what happened?  No.  He is a victim of the lifestyle and culture that plagues this country.  No matter your colour, the message is still the same, women have no value.  Just this morning I had to listen to my mother, once again, tell me I was basically a failure at life because I hadn’t found a man, because my life can’t have value unless I have a man.  Is this what we want little girls to grow up to think?  Do boys deserve to grow up with this pressure either?

I’m beyond disgusted and appalled and I am sure I’m not the only one.  I read a lot of different news sites and Deadspin and Jezebel are great resources for actual facts as opposed to the views as spewed through filters on ESPN.  I don’t usually blather so much, but my basic message, plea, really is to stop.  We all need to stop.  We need to stop supporting these brands.  The only way people in this world are going to change their view is if we all take a step back and realise what we’re saying, how we’re acting, speaks volumes to those who are the most impressionable.  If you think for one second that kids aren’t seeing this and seeing what you can get away with, what is socially acceptable behaviour, you’re being obtuse.  If you support the NFL, you are a hypocrite.  Right now, the NFL, just on its stature in this nation, makes it the largest, most effective target and I am imploring everyone to stop and realise what I have come to realise.  Supporting the NFL sends a clear and concrete message that we are all too quick to satisfy our needs rather than doing what is right.  For the second weekend in a row, I haven’t watched one NFL game, one NFL highlight.  Nothing.  I am not going to waste my time on their company and if we, as women, as a whole, do the same, we can affect a change.  Many people don’t care about anyone but themselves, but this is never going to stop, never going to end unless we catch the attention of the world, if we don’t stand up and say, no, beating women is not a culture we should support.  If I don’t give one dime to the NFL this year, I hope many of you can match that challenge.  Don’t wear the jerseys, the t-shirts, don’t support one team.  

Join me in my boycott.  If you can’t manage the entire season, the then entire month of October.  The month is supposedly dedicated to breast cancer awareness, to women.  Well, then let’s make a statement.  Take your kids out and do something else, anything else, for a couple weekends.  The only thing people in this capitalist country respond to is not making money.  Let’s make the NFL a lot less money.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Movie Review: No Good Deed

Sometimes I like a movie to be philosophical, challenge my beliefs and make me see something I’d never see.  In other cases, I sometimes just want to stare at some eye candy and forget everything else going on.  This movie is the latter.

The story of No Good Deed is hardly remarkable.  A dutiful woman stays at home in a terrible storm while her husband goes off to celebrate his father’s birthday.  An escaped convict decides to pay her a visit and wackiness ensues.  I’m amazed at how much physical punishment Elba’s character could take, getting conked on the head countless times. If he were a professional athlete, he would not survive a concussion test, but being a professional athlete, he would pass the test of hitting women (you know I wouldn’t be able to resist that one).  The story revolves around a man who was convicted of murder and decides to break out once not getting paroled.  He exacts some sort of revenge on a seemingly unknown woman.  Without giving the ending away, the twist was obvious in retrospect, it made the ending slightly more bearable.

This movie was entertaining enough for a $7 movie, but given the talent, there was more that could have been done.  If it was slated as a horror movie, it would have been more fun to see Elba’s character exact psychological horror instead of an apparent stupid thug.  There were so many different ways the movie could have been made to be more compelling, but the theatre was pretty packed, so I guess all you really need is a shirtless sexy man (Idris Elba) and story is water under the bridge.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Movie Review: The Hundred Foot Journey

When I first saw this trailer, I thought, Helen Mirren, my mom is going to want to see this.  In addition to having the gifted Brit, the movie also featured an Indian family as the focus of the plot.  The story centers around an Indian family the emigrate to Europe after a catastrophe hits their family in Bombay (Mumbai).  After first settling in London, the father decides to move the family elsewhere, settling on a French village, across from a very well-to-do restaurant.

The family is not accustomed to life in Europe and while the children urge their father not to be foolish, he stubbornly refuses their please and opens an Indian restaurant across from the ritzy French restaurant.  There is a great deal of tension between the two establishments and the plot shows the French restaurant being very unwelcoming, at one point attacking the Indian restaurant.

The movie was light-hearted at times and serious at other times, all in equal measure.  Mirren was outstanding, as usual, her French accent perfect.  The Indian family was very easy to identify with, more so because I’m Indian and I took my mom to see the movie.  If you speak Hindi at all, there are a lot of little comments made by the dad that enhance the movie.  While I felt like the plot was weighed down unnecessarily by romance, the story was strong on its own without it.  The love story between two of the younger actors was really not adding much to the story and the movie ran long, as if it could have ended a good fifteen minutes earlier.  It is a fun movie.  For $7, I felt like I got my money’s worth.

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Good Reading Weekend

A day at the beach, or two, often leads me to have less time to whittle away watching TV or playing video games, of which I also finished a game I’d been struggling with since March, Thief.  I have to give it to Square Enix, they know how to make a game I end up liking even when I start out hating it.

The two books I slogged through this weekend were The Aladdin Factor, for book club, and The Name of the Rose.  The books really couldn’t be any more different and yet I found them both diverting and thought provoking in their own right.  The first book is a self-help book, one I was less than excited about when I saw it was from the same group who wrote the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.  The second book was recommended to me by a friend, so I didn’t know what to expect.

The Aladdin Factor is your typical self-help book.  I read Chicken Soup for the Soul at least a decade ago, and yet this book still seemed familiar.  The book is not really a book, so much as a series of small vignettes that are composed of all kinds of fonts, making it slight eyesore as you plod through the text.  There are lots of little stories, one of every variety and in that vein, the authors capture lightning in a bottle by doing a little bit of everything.  Like most self-help books, this one promises that anything can be done and you just have to ask. What is not really discussed is all the failures that are comprised of all the asking.  The idea is, ask and ye shall receive, which is ‘plagiarized’ from the Bible (so to speak).  There isn’t anything in the book that gave me an ‘ah ha’ moment, but there were a few areas that I thought could be reflected upon.  In all self-help books, I find it is more what the reader brings than what the author puts forth.

The second book I finished was The Name of the Rose.  When I first started reading this book it was a few months ago and I mentioned it to a cousin, who commented that it reminded her of Da Vinci Code.  While I can say it isn’t quite like that book, it has a lot of similarities to it.  The book was written in 1980 and what I found most striking about it was how dated the book seemed by the prose alone.  The book was originally written in Italian and I almost want to believe something was lost in translation, but that isn’t the case.  Mr. Eco wrote a riveting story about murder in a monastery in Italy in the 1300’s.  The time and location of the story made it interesting by itself, but the story came to life through the eyes of the protagonist, Adso, a novice monk following behind a master monk, so to speak. The murders continued to become more confounding as the novel went on and the ending left a little to be desired.  I found myself wanting to read more and more, yet my attention broke many times and I ended up skimming long chunks of passages.  I wonder now if Mr. Eco would have written so eloquently knowing the audience has a much shorter attention span.

Both books were interesting in their own right, but I can’t give either a true ringing endorsement.  I like to read and any reading enhances your life.  Giving a book a chance is the best thing any of us can do.