Movie Review – Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014)

In honor of tomorrow night’s premier of Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! on Syfy, today we’re taking a look at the second film in the series, Sharknado 2: The Second One.

Back in 2013, the made for television film Sharknado created a media frenzy with its completely ridiculous plot of deadly tornadoes filled with killer sharks.  The film was aired for three nights in a row on the SyFy Channel, with each night having a larger number of viewers.  This was a film that was so bad and corny that you just had to watch it not just once but several times.

So what do you do when a low-budget film is a hit?

You make a sequel!  You strike quickly while the iron is hot!

Sharknado 2: The Second One premiered on July 30, 2014 on the SyFy Channel.  The sequel returned some of the original cast and transferred the action from Los Angeles to New York City.  Another superstorm filled with sharks strikes, and it’s up to a small group of people to figure out a way to stop the deadly storm and save an entire city.

Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014) - movie poster

Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014) – movie poster

Directed by Anthony C. Ferrante, Sharknado 2: The Second One returns Ian Ziering and Tara Reid in the lead roles of Finley Shepard and April Wexler.  Supporting them is Vivica A. Fox as Skye, Fin’s childhood friend, Judd Hirsch as Ben, a taxi driver, and about a dozen cameos featuring a variety of celebrities.

Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014) - (c) The Asylum

Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014) – (c) The Asylum

Sharknado 2: The Second One begins with Finley “Fin” Shepard (Ian Ziering) and his ex-wife, April Wexler (Tara Reid) flying to New York City to visit some old friends as well as promote April’s book covering the events from last year’s sharknado in Los Angeles.  A flight attendant (Kelly Osbourne) is a fan of April’s and gladly accepts an invitation to join her at an event in New York City.

When the airliner begins its approach into New York City, the plane flies right through a strong storm filled with airborne sharks.  The sharks repeatedly attack the airliner and break into the aircraft, killing the pilot (Robert Hayes) and co-pilot (Rachel True).  The flight attendant is also killed by a shark along with a passenger (Wil Wheaton).

Fin makes his way to the cockpit and takes control of the doomed airliner.  While he’s trying to bring it down for a landing, one of the aircraft’s doors is ripped open and April is nearly sucked out into the storm.  She uses an air marshal’s (Austin Priester) pistol to shoot at a flying shark, but the shark reaches her and bites off half of her arm.  Somehow Fin is able to land the damaged airliner at the airport (nowhere was it mentioned in Sharknado of Fin having *any* flying experience), saving the lives of the remaining passengers.  April is then whisked away to a hospital to be treated for her amputated arm. Read more…

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - July 21, 2015 at 3:35 pm

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Movie Review – The Producers (1968)

What if it paid to be a failure?

What if you could get away with it, too?

That’s the premise behind today’s movie review, the 1968 classic comedy film, The Producers.

Written and directed by comedic legend Mel Brooks, The Producers tells a tale of a failing Broadway producer who, with the help of his account, figures out a way to scam investors by creating a show that’s bound to fail on opening night.  The only problem is that the play that they think will fail miserable, instead turns out to be a smash hit.  Can the two producers scramble and find a way to pay back their investors, or will they be sent to prison for their crimes?

The Producers (1968) - movie poster

The Producers (1968) – movie poster

As it was mentioned, The Producers was both written and directed by Mel Brooks.  This was the first film that he directed.  Starring in The Producers is Zero Mostel in the role of failed Broadway producer Max Bialystock.  Co-starring in the film are Gene Wilder as accountant Leopold Bloom, and Dick Shawn as Lorenzo St. DuBois.

The Producers (1968) - (c) Embassy Pictures

The Producers (1968) – (c) Embassy Pictures

The Producers begins with aging and washed out Broadway producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) womanizing wealthy old ladies and trying to swindle money out of them.  Although Max has found success in the past, these days he’s down on his luck, miserable, and he’s also behind on his rent.

One day Max is visited by his accountant, Leopold “Leo” Bloom (Gene Wilder), to go through his books and put his money in order.  Leo soon discovers that there is an overcharge of $2,000 from Max’s last play.  He had raised more money than he could repay by accidentally selling more than 100% of the shares.  This is a small oversight and Leo is able to disguise the $2,000 in other parts of Max’s business.  Leo makes a comment that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) isn’t interested in a show that flops. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - July 19, 2015 at 9:30 pm

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Movie Review – A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

Today we’re taking a look at the 1964 western film, A Fistful of Dollars.

Released in Italy in 1964 and the United States in 1967, A Fistful of Dollars has been credited for launching the movie career for television actor Clint Eastwood.  The film also brought a tremendous amount of success and fame to Italian director Sergio Leone.  This movie is also responsible for starting the genre of spaghetti western, western films that were produced and directed by Italians.

A Fistful of Dollars involves a mysterious man arriving in a small town in Mexico, and discovering that the town’s two largest families were rivals with each other.  The two families continually fight for power, wealth and control of the town.  The mysterious man figures out a way to manipulate the two families and use it to his advantage.

A Fistful of Dollars (1964) - movie poster

A Fistful of Dollars (1964) – movie poster

Directed by Sergio Leone, A Fistful of Dollars stars Clint Eastwood as the Stranger.  He’s a man with no name and no information about his past.  The film’s music was created by Italian composer Ennio Morricone.

A Fistful of Dollars (1964) - (c) United Artists

A Fistful of Dollars (1964) – (c) United Artists

A Fistful of Dollars begins with a mysterious Stranger (Clint Eastwood) arriving in a small town in Mexico.  Although he doesn’t know or speak to anybody, he knows that some of the people in town do not want him there.  At one point he’s teased and harassed by four gunmen.  The Stranger then visits the town’s inn keeper, Silvanito (Jose Calvo), and learns that there are two families vying for control of the town — the Rojos and the Baxters. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - July 18, 2015 at 10:11 pm

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Movie Review – The Towering Inferno (1974)

During the early 1970s era of “shake and bake” disaster films, one of the biggest and best was 1974’s The Towering Inferno.

Set in San Francisco, California, The Towering Inferno tells a story of the opening of the world’s tallest building, and a party that celebrates its completion.  Faulty wiring causes a fire to start halfway up the building, and it’s not long before the party guests discover that they’re trapped at the top of the glass tower.  As the flames continue to grow and climb their way up the skyscraper, the people are forced to deal with the threat as they try every way possible to escape from the deadly fire.

The Towering Inferno (1974) - movie poster

The Towering Inferno (1974) – movie poster

Directed by John Guillermin and with music by John Williams, The Towering Inferno stars Hollywood legends Steve McQueen as a battalion chief for the fire department, and Paul Newman as the architect of the skyscraper.  Supporting them are a group of familiar actors and actresses including William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Richard Chamberlain, Robert Vaughn and Robert Wagner.  Also in The Towering Inferno is O.J. Simpson in one of his first acting roles.

The Towering Inferno (1974) - (c) Warner Bros. Pictures

The Towering Inferno (1974) – (c) Warner Bros. Pictures

The Towering Inferno begins with Doug Roberts (Paul Newman) returning to San Francisco for the dedication ceremony for the Glass Tower, the world’s largest building, a building that he designed himself.  The Glass Tower is owned and was built by James Duncan (William Holden), a wealthy person who is looking forward to showing off the prestigious building to the top members of society.  He insists that Roberts be there later that evening for the dedication ceremony. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - July 17, 2015 at 8:31 pm

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Movie Review – Terminator Genisys (2015)

Released to theaters this weekend is Terminator Genisys, the latest film in the Terminator franchise and (hopefully) the beginning of a new Terminator series of films.

Terminator Genisys returns to the origins of the Terminator story, but it’s not what you’re expecting.  This isn’t simply a reboot of the original film.  Instead, Terminator Genisys pays homage to the original film while also offering people a new story as part of an alternative timeline.

Terminator Genisys (2015) - movie poster

Terminator Genisys (2015) – movie poster

Directed by Alan Taylor, Terminator Genisys returns Hollywood legend Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role of the T-800 (Model 101) / Guardian.  Co-starring in the film are Jason Clarke as John Connor, Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor, and Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese.  Also in the film are J.K. Simmons as Detective O’Brien and Courtney B. Vance as Miles Dyson.

Terminator Genisys begins with a voiceover of Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) explaining how life has changed drastically since Judgment Day, the moment when the machines declared war against humanity and launched a surprise nuclear attack, wiping out most of humanity.  The survivors were forced to band together and fight for their lives.  The leader of the Resistance is a soldier named John Connor (Jason Clarke).

In the year 2029, John Connor leads the Resistance in a final assault in the Los Angeles offensive.  The attack, coordinated with an attack in the Colorado offensive, is aimed at striking at Skynet‘s secret new weapon, a weapon that could change the outcome of the war.  Hidden underneath a remote storage facility is Skynet’s ultimate weapon — a time machine.

The final attacks are launched against Skynet.  The Colorado offensive is successful at stopping Skynet’s main defense grid, but Connor’s Los Angeles offensive is unable to stop Skynet before it sends a lone T-800 cyborg back in time to 1984 to kill John Connor’s mother.  If the cyborg is successful in its mission then Sarah Connor will die and John Connor, the leader of the Resistance, will never be born.

In order to stop the cyborg and save the future, then somebody from the Resistance will have to travel back in time to save Sarah Connor.  Several soldiers volunteer for the dangerous mission, and John Connor selects Kyle Reese.  The Resistance gets the time machine operating and they send Reese back in time.  Just before he travels through time, Reese notices one of the soldiers (a Terminator in disguise) grabbing and attacking John Connor.  Reese then travels through time and has flashbacks to an alternative version of his younger self. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - July 1, 2015 at 10:38 pm

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Movie Review – Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

Back in 1968, the film Planet of the Apes introduced people to a concept of a world where apes rule society and human beings are feral creatures.

Planet of the Apes followed along as astronaut George Taylor (Charlton Heston) was forced to deal with being on a strange and hostile planet.  He was ultimately successful in proving to the apes that human beings are smarter and more resourceful than the apes gave them credit.  Planet of the Apes had a shock ending where Taylor discovered that he was really on planet Earth the whole time.  At some point in the past humanity destroyed itself in warfare, and apes evolved to become the dominant species on the planet.

We know that there’s more to the story of what really happened on planet Earth.  We know that there must be more human artifacts out there.  And we know that there’s more to be discovered.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes was released two years later in 1970.

In Beneath the Planet of the Apes, a second spacecraft (one that was sent to search for Taylor’s spacecraft) travels through a time warp and crash lands on the same planet that’s now ruled by apes.  Astronaut Brent meets Nova, he is shocked to witness the ape’s society, and he ultimately discovers a hidden underground city inhabited with mutant human beings, descendants from the war that destroyed humanity.  It’s a race against time as an army of apes advances and aims to crush the underground city once and for all.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) - movie poster

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) – movie poster

Directed by Ted Post, Beneath the Planet of the Apes stars James Franciscus as Brent, an astronaut who accidentally travels through time while he’s sent on a mission to rescue George Taylor.  Charlton Heston reprises his role of George Taylor, and so does Linda Harrison as Nova, Kim Hunter as Zira, and Maurice Evans as Dr. Zaius.  This time around David Watson plays the role of Cornelius.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) - (c) 20th Century Fox

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) – (c) 20th Century Fox

Beneath the Planet of the Apes begins at the ending of Planet of the ApesGeorge Taylor (Charlton Heston) and Nova (Linda Harrison) find the remains of the Statue of Liberty, and Taylor realizes that he’s been on Earth the whole time, just several thousand years into the future.  Humanity is virtually extinct and apes are in control of society.  Depressed, he and Nova ride on horseback further into the Forbidden Zone, hoping to find other signs of life.

A short while later, Taylor and Nova discover a wall of flames that appears and just as quickly disappears.  This is followed by a few quick bolts of lightning.  Taylor suspects that there’s more to the story of these phenomena, so he grabs a rifle and takes a closer look.  Just as it looks like Taylor discovers the secret behind the apparitions, he suddenly disappears into a rocky wall.  Nova is terrified by the sight, and she flees on Taylor’s horse. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - June 30, 2015 at 11:27 pm

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Movie Review – Planet of the Apes (1968)

Imagine suddenly being placed in a world where things were the opposite, where human beings were running wild and apes were in control of society.

That’s the premise for 1968’s hit science-fiction film, Planet of the Apes.

In Planet of the Apes, George Taylor and two other astronauts crash land on an alien planet where human beings are wild with no permanent homes, no form of communication, and no real society.  They live in packs and stay on the run from the apes, advanced creatures that can speak, they have clothing and weapons, and they have a functioning society complete with their own city.  When Taylor is captured by the apes, the apes are shocked to see that he’s very different from the other human beings.  Some apes believe that Taylor is a missing link that explains their society, while other apes believe that Taylor is a mutation that must be destroyed.

Planet of the Apes (1968) - movie poster

Planet of the Apes (1968) – movie poster

Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, Planet of the Apes stars Hollywood legend Charlton Heston in the lead role of astronaut George Taylor.  Co-starring in the film are Roddy McDowall as Cornelius, Kim Hunter as Zira, Maurice Evans as Dr. Zaius, and Linda Harrison as Nova, one of the human beings.

Planet of the Apes (1968) - (c) 20th Century Fox

Planet of the Apes (1968) – (c) 20th Century Fox

Planet of the Apes begins out in space as astronaut George Taylor (Charlton Heston) readies their spaceship for their trip back home to Earth.  Joining him are astronauts Landon (Robert Gunner), Dodge (Jeff Burton), as well as a female astronaut already asleep and in stasis.  Although there’s no mention of the spaceship’s name in the 1968 version of the film, a 2008 Blu-ray edition of the film includes a short film where it’s mentioned that the ship is called Liberty 1.

Liberty 1‘s mission left Earth in 1972, and it travelled faster-than-light through a wormhole to distant galaxies.  As a result, while the mission itself has only lasted for six months, it’s theorized that 700 years have passed back on Earth.

Taylor is the last astronaut still awake before going into stasis.  He records his thoughts into the ship’s recorder before climbing into his sleep chamber and entering a form of hibernation.  The Liberty 1 continues on autopilot and continues its journey back to Earth. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - June 23, 2015 at 11:09 pm

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Movie Review – Piranha (1978)

Back in 1975, Jaws not only proved to be an extremely successful film in the theaters, but it also gave the audience a reason to think twice before swimming in the ocean.

Of course, the odds of being attacked by a shark are extremely slim, but you *really* don’t know what’s swimming underneath you.  Those might be some harmless fish tickling your toes, it might just be some seaweed, or it could be a sign that something much fiercer is about to attack your legs . . .

1978 saw the release of Piranha, a B-movie that’s partial parody, partial comedy, and partial bloody horror film involving swarms of aggressive fish with razor sharp teeth.  The film involves a school of genetically-modified piranha that are accidentally released into a river.  It’s a race against time to stop the fish before they attack a summer camp and, further downstream, the grand opening of a brand new water park.

Piranha (1978) - movie poster

Piranha (1978) – movie poster

Directed by Joe Dante, Piranha stars Bradford Dillman and Heather Menzies as Paul Grogan and Maggie McKeown.  Supporting them are basically a bunch of obscure actors and actresses including Kevin McCarthy, Barbara Steele, Melody Thomas Scott, and iconic 1980s actor Dick Miller.

Piranha (1978) - (c) United Artists

Piranha (1978) – (c) United Artists

Piranha begins with two teenagers who discover a seemingly abandoned swimming pool inside of a former military research base.  It’s late at night and nobody is in sight, so the two teenagers decide to go skinny dipping.  That turns out to be a fatal mistake as the pool is actually filled with carnivorous fish, and the two teenagers are brutally killed. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - June 20, 2015 at 4:49 pm

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Movie Review – Deep Blue Sea (1999)

Back in 1975, the movie Jaws proved that not only are sharks fearsome creatures, but they can also prove to be formidable monsters in Hollywood.

Jaws was so successful that not only did it spawn its own series of films, but for the most part, Hollywood didn’t use sharks as villains.  Other sea creatures have attempted to terrify the audiences, but sharks were overlooked.  It was almost like nobody wanted to make a shark movie because everybody would keep comparing it to 1975’s Jaws.

That notion changed with the release of 1999’s killer shark movie, Deep Blue Sea.  In Deep Blue Sea, research scientists increase the size of sharks’ brains in an effort to study diseases.  However, this increase in brainpower makes the sharks smarter, and they use their sharpened thinking skills to attack the researchers.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) - movie poster

Deep Blue Sea (1999) – movie poster

Directed by Renny Harlin, Deep Blue Sea stars Thomas Jane and Saffron Burrows in the lead roles of Carter Blake and Dr. Susan McAlester.  Supporting them is a cast that includes Samuel L. Jackson, Jacqueline McKenzie, Stellan Skarsgard, and LL Cool J.

Deep Blue Sea begins with four teenagers having fun on a boat while out at sea.  Suddenly the boat is attacked by a shark, and the teenagers are knocked into the water.  Just before the shark can attack and kill them, the predator fish is captured by a mysterious man.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) - (c) Warner Bros.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) – (c) Warner Bros.

In Los Angeles, California, Dr. Susan McAlester (Saffron Burrows) is called to an emergency meeting at Chimera.  The company’s leaders are upset that one of Susan’s test sharks had escaped from the research facility and attacked a small group of teenagers.  None of them were killed or seriously injured, but the incident is still bad news for the company.

It turns out that Susan is using three genetically modified mako sharks in an attempt to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.  These three sharks have larger brains (the brain fluid is used in the research) than their counterparts in the wild, and it’s made these particular sharks smarter and more aggressive.  The recently escaped and recaptured shark is a sign that perhaps the researchers don’t have everything under control at their research station. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - June 18, 2015 at 1:13 pm

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Book Review – Larry Bond’s “Red Phoenix”

Recently I finished reading Larry Bond‘s Red Phoenix, a military novel depicting the outbreak of open war on the Korean Peninsula.  The war involves North Korea crossing the demilitarized zone and attacking the South Korean and American military forces stationed throughout South Korea.

First published in 1989, the action in Red Phoenix takes place in that same time period.  Naturally, when reading the book today, you have to remember which types of weapons were available back then as a lot of technology has changed throughout the military.

Larry Bond --- Red Phoenix

Larry Bond — Red Phoenix

Red Phoenix begins with the discovery of a North Korean tunnel passing underneath the demilitarized zone (DMZ) and reaching into South Korea.  To the surprise of the Americans and South Koreans, this tunnel is one of the largest ones yet.  The tunnel itself is as wide as a road, and numerous tanks and other army vehicles are being stored there.

It’s thought that the vehicles are being positioned for an invasion of the south.  Before the soldiers can investigate too much, the forces encounter a patrol of North Koreans.  There’s a brief but bloody gun battle as the two sides engage each other.  The South Koreans scramble to wire demolitions to the tanks and vehicles just as a larger company of North Koreans attacks them again.  It’s a quick dash back to the surface before the explosives are detonated, destroying the vehicles, the tunnel, and all of the North Koreans still underground.

Although the North Korean vehicles were unable to be captured, the message of discovering them was still clear —— North Korea is planning on invading South Korea, and the invasion may happen very soon.

That’s just the action-packed introduction to Red Phoenix.

The first part of Red Phoenix is mostly politics as a U.S. Congressman schemes to gain political power by taking advantage of civil unrest and college students protesting throughout Seoul, South Korea.  The protests are being instigated by North Korean spies, and the South Koreans deal with the protesters harshly.  This only further motivates the U.S. Congressman to put political pressure on the U.S. President, and begin a withdraw of the U.S. military forces stationed in South Korea.

When it looks like the U.S. is beginning to remove its military forces from South Korean, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il launches an all-out war against South Korea.  It’s viewed as a war of “liberation” for their fellow Koreans living south of the DMZ.  North Korean terrorists strike at key targets throughout the south as the main brunt of the North Korean army rolls across the DMZ and attacks everything in sight. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - June 16, 2015 at 11:23 pm

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Movie Review – Jurassic World (2015)

Released to the theaters this weekend is Jurassic World, the fourth movie in the Jurassic Park franchise.

Back in 1993, Jurassic Park ruled the theaters with its story involving a high-tech theme park filled with dinosaurs brought back to life through advanced technology.  This was followed by The Lost World: Jurassic Park in 1997, and then Jurassic Park III in 2001.

And now, after waiting fourteen years, the next Jurassic Park film has finally been released.

Enter Jurassic World.

Jurassic World (2015) - movie poster

Jurassic World (2015) – movie poster

Directed by Colin Trevorrow and starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Vincent D’Onofrio, Jurassic World goes back to the franchise’s roots and returns us to the original ideas set in Jurassic Park.  A new team has taken over John Hammond’s operations and the theme park (now named Jurassic World) is open to the public.  New dinosaur attractions have been added over the years, and now it’s time to open another one.  The latest creation, a hybrid dinosaur named Indominus rex, is guaranteed to terrify the visitors and boost the audiences at the theme park.  Of course, you know what happens next . . .

Jurassic World begins with two brothers, Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray Mitchell (Ty Simpkins) at their home.  Although Gary is still young, he has a keen interest in dinosaurs and science.  His older brother Zach is more interested in girls, and he’s practically counting down the days until he can move out of his parents’ house and live on his own.  Their parents need some time alone to sort out their own problems, so they send the boys on a vacation to Jurassic World.  The boys’ Aunt Claire happens to work at the dinosaur theme park, and she’s going to look after them and give them a personal tour of the place.

Zach and Gray catch an international flight to Costa Rica, and then they board a high-speed ferry with other guests bound for Isla Nublar, a.k.a. Jurassic World.  After that they board a monorail that takes them through the famous Jurassic Park gate and ultimately to the visitors’ complex.  While Gray is excited to see the dinosaurs, Zach is more interested in looking at the young ladies. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - June 13, 2015 at 7:23 pm

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Gay Adoption — Is It Right For Children To Be Raised By Gay Parents?

As some of you may have already noticed, Coca-Cola has started a new marketing campaign focused on happiness.

Using the Twitter hashtag #choosehappiness, people can talk about what makes them happy along with happiness in general.  It’s meant to be a positive and uplifting message, something that people can proudly share on social media.  Naturally, the message of happiness is supposed to occur when said person is drinking a Coca-Cola product, but that’s optional.

Choose Happiness. What Are You Waiting For?

What brings us here today is that this new marketing campaign for Coca-Cola isn’t limited to the United States.  People in Europe have been seeing the same advertising.  That’s also where things have become very controversial.

Coca-Cola #choosehappiness advertisement featuring a gay couple with a child.

Coca-Cola #choosehappiness advertisement featuring a gay couple with a child.

In the Netherlands, some of Coca-Cola’s #choosehappiness posters have featured gay couples with (presumably) adopted children.  The message on the poster states, “We choose happiness ~ over ~ tradition.”  Of course, that’s not the only message being portrayed in this latest advertising campaign.

Statements like this are going to make people talk about not only gay marriage, but gay people adopting children as well.  Are we going to be seeing more messages like this soon?  More importantly, is gay adoption going to be the next movement to sweep across the country? Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - June 1, 2015 at 9:41 pm

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Book Review – Larry Niven’s “Lucifer’s Hammer”

Today I finished reading Larry Nivven‘s post-apocalyptic novel, Lucifer’s Hammer.

Co-written by Jerry Pournelle, Lucifer’s Hammer is a haunting tale of survival after the Earth is hit by a comet.  Billions of people are killed instantly, and the survivors are forced to fight for their own survival in ways that they never imagined.

Larry Niven --- Lucifer's Hammer

Larry Niven — Lucifer’s Hammer

Lucifer’s Hammer begins with the discovery of the Hamner-Brown Comet, named after an amateur astronomer and a kid who was using a telescope and looking at the right place at the right time.  The comet is approaching the inner part of our solar system.  According to astronomers, the Hamner-Brown Comet is going to pass by the inner planets, swing around the sun, and head back out into space.  The odds of the comet striking the Earth are so small that it’s not even worth mentioning.

Life continues as the comet continues on its path.  But when scientists continue to monitor it, and when a TV documentary gives it more attention, people can’t help but wonder just how close the comet will be when it passes the Earth a second time when heading back out into space.  It’s not going to hit, right?

As the days pass, more and more people believe that the comet is really going to impact the Earth and wipe out everybody, just as an asteroid ended up killing off the dinosaurs.  Some people see this as a sign from above.  Others begin to stockpile supplies to help ride out whatever happens.  A smaller percentage think that since everybody is going to be killed, then nothing at this point matters, and it’s okay to commit crimes.  And still other people believe that nothing will happen and that everybody else is crazy.  Those people cannot wait for the comet to pass so that life will get back to normal again. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - May 2, 2015 at 9:09 pm

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2015 Baltimore Riots — Politics, Racism, and Pure Hatred

For almost a week now, news reports have been focused on the city of Baltimore, Maryland.

City of Baltimore - 1797

What began as organized protests against police brutality and the recent death of Freddie Gray turned into a day and night of violent rioting and looting.  Thugs basically had free reign over parts of the city as the police stood by and watched it happened.

So what really happened in Baltimore?

THE ARREST AND DEATH OF FREDDIE GRAY

On April 12, 2015, Baltimore police officers encountered Freddie Gray, a known criminal with a long history of being arrested.  It’s not known why the officers stopped or wanted to speak with him.  For whatever reason, Freddie took off running and the police gave chase.  Freddie was captured, placed under arrest, and put into a police wagon for transport to a nearby police precinct.

New video shows arrest of Freddie Gray in Baltimore

Notice in the arrest video that Freddie is not (or just barely) moving his legs.  The officers have to pick him up by the arms and literally carry him into the police wagon.  Was Freddie injured during the capture and arrest, or was he just being uncooperative and refusing to walk into the wagon? Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - April 30, 2015 at 2:09 pm

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Movie Review – Little Caesar (1931)

Today we’re taking a look at Little Caesar, a 1931 gangster film that introduced the world to Edward G. Robinson.

Credited as one of the films that launched the gangster genre in the 1930s in Hollywood, Little Caesar is a classic tale that follows Caesar Enrico Bandello and his rise from a petty criminal into a powerful gangster.  The film Little Caesar is based on William R. Burnett‘s novel of the same name.

Little Caesar (1931) - movie poster

Little Caesar (1931) – movie poster

Directed by Mervyn LeRoy, Little Caesar stars Edward G. Robinson as Caesar Enrico Bandello, and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. as Joe Massara, Rico’s close friend.  Supporting them are Glenda Farrell as Olga Stassoff, Sidney Blackmer as “Big Boy,” and Thomas Jackson as Sergeant Flaherty.

Little Caesar (1931) - (c) Warner Bros.

Little Caesar (1931) – (c) Warner Bros.

Little Caesar begins with criminals Caesar Enrico “Rico” Bandello (Edward G. Robinson) and Joe Massara (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) robbing a gas station.  The two of them then casually eat dinner in a diner while Rico reads a newspaper.  When Rico sees a story about the underworld paying its respect to a gang leader, Rico realizes that that is the lifestyle that he wants.  He desires to be powerful and respected, and not some two-bit criminal that nobody knows.

However, Joe doesn’t have that same passion for being a criminal.  He tells Rico that he would rather be dancing on stage with a woman, and living life in the spotlight.  Rico seems disgusted that Joe would rather be a dancer and around women.

The two of them head to Chicago to pursue their dreams. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - April 15, 2015 at 10:27 pm

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$15 Minimum Wage Protests

It’s April 15th and you know what that means . . .

No, we’re not talking about how the high tax rates continue to push average Americans to the breaking point.

These days the focus is on the opposite end of the spectrum, towards those people working entry-level jobs and expecting to receive high rates of pay.  We’re talking about the MINIMUM wage.

Protests, protests, protests, and yet more protests.  These have occurred all across the country today.

I don’t know exactly when this trend started, but for the past couple of years now people are walking out of their jobs (the vast majority of these people are hourly workers at fast food restaurants) and DEMANDING the government to simply raise the minimum wage to that of $15 an hour.

Raise the minimum wage.

That’s right.

These are low-level, hourly workers who are demanding that they receive not just a good wage, but a damn good wage for doing extremely simple work that literally any idiot can do.

All of these businesses are owned by greedy rich people, right?

Why shouldn’t they simply pay their hourly workers more money?  Aren’t all of those business owners being greedy as the hourly people break their backs doing the physical work?  Why can’t they pay the hourly workers a lot more money?

Believe it or not, but those are very real questions that people are asking when they talk about wanting to raise the minimum wage.  Unfortunately, they have no clue about what such a raise in money like that would do, especially a jump that high in wages.

MINIMUM WAGE ≠ LIVING WAGE

First of all, these hourly, entry-level jobs are *not* meant to be full-time jobs.

Unless you’re sixteen years old and have a desire to work your way up through the ranks and be a fast food general manager, that job you take at McDonalds or Burger King is not going to be your job for the rest of your life.  You’re going to work there for a little while, prove you’re a responsible and a good worker, and then you’ll move on to a better job.

That’s how it is supposed to work in a good economy. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - at 6:21 pm

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Movie Review – Bullets or Ballots (1936)

Today we’re taking a look at Bullets or Ballots, a classic gangster film released back in 1936.

Bullets or Ballots is a crime film that involves gangsters looking for a new racket and source of income.  While they look to expand their empire, a top New York City police officer is willing to do anything it takes to stop them, even if it means risking his life and infiltrating their gang.

Bullets or Ballots (1936) - movie poster

Bullets or Ballots (1936) – movie poster

Directed by William Keighley, Bullets or Ballots stars Edward G. Robinson as Detective Johnny Blake, a cop who wants to rid New York City of its notorious gangsters.  Supporting him in the film are Humphrey Bogart as Nick “Bugs” Fenner, and Joan Blondell as Lee Morgan.

Bullets or Ballots (1936) - (c) Warner Bros. Pictures

Bullets or Ballots (1936) – (c) Warner Bros. Pictures

Set in New York City, Bullets or Ballots begins with Al Kruger (Barton MacLane) and his underling, Nick “Bugs” Fenner (Humphrey Bogart), going to a theater and seeing a news report about the extent of gangster activities (primarily involving racketeering) in the U.S.  The extent of the racketeering goes as far as installing arcade machines so that kids can play games and lose their lunch money.  The news clip ends with footage of Kruger’s racketeering trial, to which he was acquitted by the jury. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - April 11, 2015 at 10:58 pm

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Book Review – Vince Flynn’s “American Assassin”

The other day I finished reading American Assassin, Vince Flynn‘s twelfth book, and the eleventh in his series of novels featuring Mitch Rapp.

American Assassin is a prequel to the other books in the series.  We all know that Mitch Rapp is a fearless killer who enjoys outsmarting his enemies, but how did he get started in the CIA?  This book showcases Mitch Rapp’s training at a secret CIA training center, and then his first mission as a covert ops warrior.

Vince Flynn --- American Assassin

Vince Flynn — American Assassin

American Assassin begins at a secret training center near Lake Anna, Virginia.

CIA agent Irene Kennedy drives recent college graduate Mitch Rapp to the training center.  There he is to survive the intense training and compete with six other candidates to be a member of Orion Team, a secret band of covert warriors in a program designed by CIA Director Thomas Stansfield.

Of course, he has to survive the training first, and that’s not an easy task.  Immediately upon arriving at the training camp, the lead instructor, Stan Hurley, challenges Mitch Rapp to a fight.  The fight is brutal, and just when Mitch is about to win, Stan cheats and defeats his opponent.  What Stan didn’t know is that Mitch is highly skilled in martial arts, and that he’s far more dangerous than he looks.

The other candidates discover that as well.  Mitch Rapp has superior intelligence as well as athletic abilities.  The only thing he doesn’t know how to do is shoot a gun, but that’s overcome with some simple instructions by the camp’s instructors.

Mitch’s biggest challenge during the training is when competing against a candidate named Victor.  From the beginning, Victor is a loudmouth who keeps testing his fellow candidates.  He tries to fight them, and he tries to get them kicked out of the unit.  At one point he even breaks a fellow candidate’s nose during a routine fighting session.  Mitch figures out Victor’s secret (he really an instructor) and ultimately fights him, getting the best of the arrogant jerk. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - April 7, 2015 at 8:18 pm

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Movie Review – Furious 7 (2015)

Released this weekend is Furious 7, the seventh and what might actually be the final film in The Fast and the Furious franchise.

Furious 7 received a ton of attention two years ago when actor Paul Walker was killed in an auto accident not related to the filming of the movie.  At that point the movie itself was about halfway finished being filmed.  The rest of the filming was delayed and parts of the script were re-written to accommodate his loss.  Through the use of look-alikes and the magic of CGI effects, Paul Walker’s character is still featured throughout the final version of Furious 7.

Furious 7 follows the stories in Fast & Furious 6 and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.  Owen Shaw is badly injured from the events at the end of Fast & Furious 6, and his brother, Deckard Shaw, seeks revenge against Dominic Toretto and his crew of drivers.  The driving crew is assembled for one final mission to help a covert agency acquire a key piece of technology that will allow the drivers to track Deckard Shaw and stop him from his personal vendetta.

Furious 7 (2015) - movie poster

Furious 7 (2015) – movie poster

Directed by James Wan, Furious 7 stars Vin Diesel and Paul Walker in their respective roles of Dominic Toretto and Brian O’Conner.  Supporting them are the usual team of actors including Michelle Rodriguez as Letty Ortiz, Tyrese Gibson as Roman Pearce, Ludacris as Tej Parker, Jordana Brewster as Mia Toretto, and Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs.

New faces this time around include Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw, Kurt Russell as Frank Petty, Nathalie Emmanuel as Megan Ramsey, and Djimon Hounsou as a terrorist named Jakande.

Furious 7 begins with Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) visiting his badly injured brother, Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), in the hospital.  He swears to his brother that he’ll get his revenge to those who nearly killed him.  As Deckard leaves the hospital, we see that he has left a trail of wreckage and carnage, with many dead police officers and hospital workers.

Over in California, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) takes Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) to Race Wars in hopes of finding something to help Letty regain her memory.  Letty is still suffering from amnesia.  She follows Dominic’s advice and easily beats her opponent at Race Wars.  However, when the crowd is celebrating with Letty, she’s overcome with anxiety, punches Hector (Noel Gugliemi) by accident, and flees from Race Wars.

Later, Dominic finds Letty at the grave where “she” was buried years ago.  Dominic wants to use a sledgehammer to break the gravestone, but Letty stops him.  She sees the grave as a transition point where her old self died and this new version with amnesia was born.

At the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service office, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) catches Deckard Shaw illegally using his personal computer.  Luke tries to arrest him, but Deckard refuses and the two of them have a lengthy fight sequence.  The fight ends when Deckard uses a hand grenade to effectively “blast” Luke and his partner out of an elevated window.  The two officers fall several stories and crash land on top of a car.  The landing seriously injures Luke, and he’s taken to a hospital for treatment.  Although most of Luke’s office has been destroyed, we see that Deckard was able to learn the name of one of Dominic Toretto’s accomplices —- Han Seoul-Oh.

Dominic visits Luke in the hospital, and he learns that Deckard is out for revenge.

Remember Han’s fatal car accident in Tokyo, Japan? Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - April 3, 2015 at 4:26 pm

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Movie Review – Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

Pop quiz!

What comes after Fast Five?

If you guessed Fast & Furious 6, then you’re correct!  Congratulations!

Fast Five ended with the gang successfully stealing the $100 million in cash from Hernan Reyes, and the gang going off in their own directions.  It was a happy ending that could have ended the franchise right there.  However, a short clip during the credits showed that Letty Ortiz is actually alive, and that she is part of a gang of street raiders in Europe.

You know what that means.

Onward to Fast & Furious 6.

The sixth film in The Fast and the Furious franchise revolves around the gang seeking Letty Ortiz, and them going up against one of their most dangerous opponents yet.  All of your favorite characters are back again for another thrilling ride full of fast cars, plenty of gunfire, and some pretty ridiculous action scenes.

Fast & Furious 6 (2013) - movie poster

Fast & Furious 6 (2013) – movie poster

Directed by Justin Lin, Fast & Furious 6 stars Vin Diesel and Paul Walker in their respective roles of Dominic Toretto and Brian O’Conner.  Co-starring in the film are a cast of actors including Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs, Michelle Rodriguez as Letty Ortiz, Jordana Brewster as Mia Toretto, Tyrese Gibson as Roman Pearce, Ludacris as Tej Parker, Sung Kang as Han Seoul-Oh, and Luke Evans as the villain Owen Shaw.

Fast & Furious 6 (2013) - (c) Universal Pictures

Fast & Furious 6 (2013) – (c) Universal Pictures

Fast & Furious 6 begins with Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) racing each other on a tropical island.  It turns out that they’re in Spain’s Canary Islands, and they were actually racing to a local hospital.  Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) is about to give birth to her and Brian’s child.  Before Brian goes inside to be with Mia, Dominic warns him that once he steps inside, then his past life no longer exists.  It’s time to focus on the future and of being a responsible father. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - April 2, 2015 at 7:58 pm

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