Saturday, June 13, 2015

In the Cut

Year 7, Day 164 - 6/13/15 - Movie #2,063

BEFORE: See, I told you I'd get back to serial killers, which I now find only slightly less creepy than angels.  Both will hide in your room and spy on you, but at least you know what to expect from killers after that.  Meg Ryan carries over from "City of Angels".

THE PLOT:  New York writing professor Frannie Avery has an affair with a police detective who is investigating the murder of a beautiful young woman in her neighborhood. 

AFTER: This was the film released in 2003 where America's Sweetheart Meg Ryan appeared in a very shocking way - with brown hair.  Seriously, a lot of people probably rented this just for the nude scenes, and I'll admit I've seen them, but it's time for me to watch the whole movie, not just those parts. 

The mood here seems reminiscent of "Jacob's Ladder", not just because it shows NYC at night as a dangerous place, but also because events seem to happen more or less at random - which for a straight narrative presents something of a problem.  I need to see a sequence of events that is (more or less) logical for me to believe in the story that's presented to me.  I also need to have some believable dialogue, which this film has very little of.  Over and over, I kept thinking, people just don't TALK that way, do they?  Like if a woman's sister wants to thank her for letting her sleep over, she'd probably say, "Hey, thanks for letting me crash at your place" and not "Thanks for sharing your bed."  

Next problem - believable actions.  I had a hard time believing a lot of the things people did in this film, starting with the fact that the NYPD detectives seem to treat murder cases like their own personal dating services.  Is it OK for a cop to date a possible witness?  I'm guessing this is not cool until the case is closed.  Does it happen in real life?  I don't know - but showing a detective falling into bed with a witness after knowing her for what, 2 days, seems to do a disservice to police in general.  

Now we come to our writing professor, who's doing research for a book about slang (this is iffy, every English teacher I've ever had would hate modern slang) and is obsessed with unusual words and the poetry excerpts they post on the subways (also suspect - the MTA's choices would probably seem to a teacher to be to poetry what Big Macs are to real hamburgers) and she also hangs out with her half-sister, who lives above a strip club for some reason.  There seems to be an attempt to make a well-rounded character by just placing a professor in some sleazy bars and clubs, and that's not enough.  

I think what's worse is an attempt to create a strong female character (from a woman director, no less) who does nothing but wander around the city aimlessly, talk about men with her sister (failing the Bechdel test over and over) and once she becomes a sexual being (through voyeurism), she's nothing but submissive.  She can't get rid of her creepy ex-boyfriend, she's attracted to the hard-nosed cop with the foul mouth, and even has inappropriate contact with one of her students.  OK, I know there's a killer on the loose and this is a very traumatic time for her, but that's no reason to lose one's standards.  

Worse yet, one of these men could be the killer - or none of them, that's always an option, though that would mean that all of these men are just creepy and/or horrible and/or sexually agressive for no other reason.  I can't decide which gender is portrayed in a worse fashion here.  

Also starring Mark Ruffalo (last seen in "Avengers: Age of Ultron"), Jennifer Jason Leigh (last seen in "The Machinist"), Nick Damici, Kevin Bacon (last seen in "R.I.P.D."), Sharrieff Pugh, Patrice O'Neal (last seen in "25th Hour"), Michael Nuccio.

RATING: 4 out of 10 line-up photos

Friday, June 12, 2015

City of Angels

Year 7, Day 163 - 6/12/15 - Movie #2,062

BEFORE: I faced another linking dilemma today - do I follow the Angelina Jolie link, which would lead me to "Original Sin" and "Maleficent", two films recently added to the list?  My tendency is to stick with the chain I've already planned, because it's going to get me all the way to my Comic-Con break and beyond, and the Jolie track links to a few other films, but then for all I know, it could turn into a dead end.  I haven't checked - but I'm letting about 10 or 12 films linger at the bottom of the list, without linking them to anything, because it seems like those will be the films I push off until next year.   I've got a secondary plan for how I want to end THIS year, and it involves clearing films like "City of Angels" first - so Nicolas Cage carries over from "Gone in Sixty Seconds".

THE PLOT:  Seth, an angel watching over Los Angeles, begins finding his job difficult as he falls in love with Maggie, a beautiful heart surgeon.

AFTER: Yesterday I mentioned the categories I use to keep track of my watchlist films, which might be different from the ones a video store or IMDB might use.  Some would file this film under drama or romance, but I had it under sci-fi/fantasy.  That's because I'm treating the appearance of angel characters the same way I'd treat aliens or monsters - an angel's just the opposite of a demon, right?  Anyway, I don't have a "religion" category.  There's sort of a fine line between "Starman" and this film - both have cosmic beings taking human form, and then relying on a woman to help them understand the world.

The way angels are portrayed here, they're mostly invisible, unless they choose not to be, and they're essentially spying on us all the time, even when we're undressing or showering.  How is this not as creepy as having a stalker?  People can't feel their touch, but they're somehow influenced by them - so, can they touch us or not?  There are more rules about how the whole thing works then you'd see in a vampire or werewolf movie, and a lot of them seem contradictory.  They don't show up on photos, they don't bleed, people can't become angels when they die, etc. etc.

I realize that to make a film about angels, you've got to establish how they function, but to me this all seems rather arrogant and ill-advised, so I'm thinking Hollywood should just stay out of the religion issue, because once you open the door with angels, you're saying that there's a higher power, and THIS is the way the universe works, and THIS is what happens after you die, and you don't in fact know that at all.  Movies should probably stick to monsters and elves and such, so as not to turn off segments of the audience that don't adhere to the Judeo-Christian philosophies.

As I said before, I'm not an atheist - I probably identify as agnostic, though I know to some people this is like keeping one foot dry while going for a swim.  I just don't think religion can properly explain itself, and while I admire science, there are many things science can't explain either - like what was here before the Big Bang?  What space did the universe get created into?  And science can't even fall back on that whole "mysterious ways" crap that religion uses - but in both cases, there are so many unanswered questions about life and death that I tend to think we're not asking the right ones.

What if, instead of asking, "What happens after we die?" we started asking ourselves, "How can I make the best use of my time, just in case there's nothing after I die?"  Wouldn't that be a more powerful motivating tool?  I mean, pray if you want, but hedge your bets.  Get those items crossed off your bucket list, whatever they are.  And stop asking the higher power for help, unless that's your way of identifying the things in life that you want to work for yourself.

Anyway, back to the film - how many NITPICK POINTS am I limited to?  How come the angels represent some kind of higher power, but they just don't seem to be able to do much?  And if humans have free will, then what happens to the free will when the angels do intervene in emergencies?  Doesn't that run contrary to humans being able to learn from their mistakes?  And if the angels have been watching people for thousands of years, why does it seem like they still don't understand us very well?  Shouldn't they have figured out why people do certain things by now?

And if the angels are higher beings, then why would one want to lessen himself by becoming human?  That would be like me wanting to become an insect or something.  And even if I did want to do that, that doesn't make it possible.  Now we get into whether God is as perfect as we're supposed to think he is, but if there are little loopholes, then he's not perfect, is he?  And if God's got a plan for us, and we each have a "time to go", and we're supposed to respect that plan, then we shouldn't have heart surgery or any life-saving procedures, because that interferes with the plan, right?  Ridiculous.

Overall I reject the premise, because it just assumes too much.  Same with "What Dreams May Come" or "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" - they all start from a point of assumption, taking for granted that there IS a heaven, when we have no evidence other than what we've been told.  So that's why I take this as fantasy, like I would a film about aliens, since we've got no hard proof of UFOs or alien visitations either. 

This film was a Hollywood remake of "Wings of Desire", and I've got a copy of that film, too.  For a long while that film was next to this one in the line-up, so I could watch them back-to-back, but I've since reorganized the list - so I'll watch that film in about a week and a half.

Also starring Meg Ryan (last seen in "When a Man Loves a Woman"), Andre Braugher (last seen in "Primal Fear"), Dennis Franz (last seen in "Popeye"), Colm Feore (last seen in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"), Robin Bartlett (last seen in "Dangerous Minds"), with cameos from Amy Brenneman (last seen in "The Face of Love"), Nick Offerman, Elisabeth Shue.

RATING: 3 out of 10 library books

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Gone in Sixty Seconds

Year 7, Day 162 - 6/11/15 - Movie #2,061

BEFORE: It might seem like an odd leap from serial killers to car thieves, but I'm going where the linking leads me.  And I'm staying in the same category, which is crime (I've got the watchlist separated into 8 or 9 categories).  I do have another film about a killer coming up, but it's going to take 3 days of clever linking to get there.  Tonight Will Patton carries over from "Copycat".  

THE PLOT: A retired master car thief must come back to the industry and steal 50 cars with his crew in one night to save his brother's life.

AFTER: I admit, I was all prepared to dislike this film, and I was ready to treat it as another feat of endurance - it's just a silly film about stealing cars, right?  But then it kind of won me over in the end.  Not because it has "heart" or anything ridiculous like that - it tried for sentiment, but such attempts were laughable.  Putting the main character's brother's life in jeopardy was such an blatantly obvious way to turn a despicable set of actions into something noble.  What if he had to go out and kill people to save his brother's life, would that be OK?  What if he had to blow up a bank?  Wrong is wrong, you can't go changing the rules of what's right just to save one person - otherwise there's just no moral code any more.

But this film features two things I love - making lists, and crossing things off lists.  You might think those actions are the same thing, but I disagree.  Anybody can MAKE a list, and it's easy as pie to never get around to the things on your list, but then there's the going out and DOING, whether that's errands or job hunting or stealing cars.

The big boss behind the theft has a very specific list of 50 high-end cars, some of which are commonplace and some of which are extremely rare.  Why these specific 50 cars?  Who knows?  He may have clients all over the world who have always wanted a 1967 Shelby Mustang GT 500, or a 1962 Aston Martin DB1.  Which leads to the question - if those clients are so rich and powerful, why don't they just BUY whatever car they want?  But let's assume that all of these cars go for less on the, umm, secondary market.

I want to point out here that I'm NOT a car guy.  I don't own a car, I've never owned a car.  I have a license, but barely ever need it.  Most of the time I take the subway or a taxi or just hoof it, otherwise I'm dependent upon my wife's car and the kindness of my friends to get me where I need to go.  But I am an ardent fan of the "Grand Theft Auto" video-games, though I haven't had time yet to get into GTA4 or GTA5.  I got stuck somewhere in the San Andreas version, never finished it and lost my motivation - but I go back and play GTA 3 or Vice City sometimes for fun.  And within those games are missions where the player is presented with a similar list of cars to be stolen and delivered, and those are always my favorite parts of the game.

When you consider this film was released in 2000, and the breakthrough game "GTA 3" was released in 2001, it's not hard to draw connections between the two - though the video-game drew inspiration from films like "Scarface", "Taxi Driver" and "The Dead Pool", with references to "The Godfather", "Easy Rider" and "Pulp Fiction", among others, at heart it's about stealing cars, and that leads me back here.  When Cage's character sees a truck with a tilted flat-bed and he's got a long, clear straight bridge between him and the truck, I immediately recognized the potential of a "Stunt Jump" from the game. Other similar elements involve the high-profile car crushers, and all those scenes shot in warehouses down by the docks.

Cage's character has four days to steal the 50 cars, but instead of splitting up the list over four days, he figures that after the first day, the heat will be on, so the time is best spent with three days of research and one day of actual theft.  As I always say, without deadlines, nothing would ever get done.  So they round up enough people to do the research - finding the cars, planning the heists, and then the thefts.  See, this supports my theory - three days to make the list, one day to do the task.

And there are hurdles - there's a rival gang of car thieves that claims the territory for their own (though they're dispatched by a trick straight out of "The Dukes of Hazzard"), and there's a couple of L.A. cops who are staking out the Mercedes Benzes on the list, who always seem to be one step ahead of things, at least until they're not.  Plus there's that constantly looming deadline...

I haven't watched any of the "Fast & Furious" films, and that's intentional.  So comparisons will not be made here, because I choose not to.

Also starring Nicolas Cage (last seen in "8MM"), Angelina Jolie (last seen in "Alexander"), Giovanni Ribisi (last seen in "Perfect Stranger"), Robert Duvall (last seen in "The Chase"), Delroy Lindo (last seen in "A Life Less Ordinary"), Timothy Olyphant (ditto), Christopher Eccleston (last seen in "Thor: The Dark World"), Chi McBride (last seen in "The Kid"), Scott Caan (last seen in "Friends With Money"), Vinnie Jones, T.J. Cross, James Duval, William Lee Scott, with cameos from Grace Zabriskie (last seen in "My Own Private Idaho"), Jaime Bergman, Frances Fisher (last seen in "True Crime"), Arye Gross (last seen in "Tequila Sunrise"), Michael Peña (last seen in American Hustle"), John Carroll Lynch (last seen in "Shutter Island"), Ken Jenkins.

RATING: 6 out of 10 slim jims

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Year 7, Day 161 - 6/10/15 - Movie #2,060

BEFORE: This time Sigourney Weaver carries over from "Eyewitness" - it's another case where two films on a similar subject aired the same week on cable, and since they shared an actor, I couldn't resist putting them together on a DVD. 

THE PLOT:  An agoraphobic psychologist and a female detective must work together to take down a serial killer who copies serial killers from the past.

AFTER: Another problem tonight with sub-plots that don't go anywhere.  I guess I should expect a few "red herrings" from a murder mystery - but when they're so prominent and then so useless, it still makes me wonder why they're in the film at all.  Best example, there's a female reporter shown here, who asks annoying questions from the police, and they all clearly know her and try to avoid her, but then after a while she's never seen again.  Why is she so prominent in the beginning of the film, and then non-existent? 

I also would have liked to see a little (OK, a lot) more character development on the serial killer.  Having him copy other famous killer's methods is a unique idea, but it also leaves him as something of a blank himself.  If he copies other people, then what's he all about at the core?  What gave him the desire to kill in the first place, and what led him to imitate others?  And what, specifically, pointed him at his targets?  

The lead character, Helen Hudson, seems pretty accepting of the fact that she's become a "magnet" for serial killers.  OK, now that we've identified the problem, can you maybe take steps to prevent this from happening?  Like, I don't know, move to Montana, or live anonymously somewhere?  Or maybe stop getting involved in cases where you help track down serial killers?  Just tossing out some ideas here. 

Because of her experience with another serial killer, Dr. Hudson has become agoraphobic, meaning that she hasn't left her house in over a year.  I'm not entirely sure that this concept is the most logical path for her character to be on - or perhaps the terminology isn't 100% accurate.  But a phobia is an irrational fear, by definition, while her fear seems to be completely justified.  What she has is a genuine belief that if she leaves the apartment, she'll be killed - but that's not a fear of open spaces, that's a fear of serial killers, which again, is completely justified if you have proof that they ARE out there, and they ARE targeting you.  Perhaps she'd feel better if someone just told her that she's got a right to be afraid.

Instead, she's saddled with a bunch of inept, easily distractable security guards, so that the killer can get into her apartment and the plot can advance.  There's plenty of action here, and plenty of moments that may cause you to sleep with the lights on for a few nights.   I know I'm probably going to have trouble watching the final season of "American Idol", because after seeing Harry Connick Jr. in this film, it's going to be hard to think of him as a nice guy again.  (this doesn't count as a spoiler, because he plays a killer here, not "the" killer.)    

For practical purposes, they played a little fast and loose with the details of some famous killers' crimes - obviously the filmmakers didn't want viewers to think about re-enacting the crimes themselves.  But I think it's still a glaring NITPICK POINT that when re-creating a killing done by Jeffrey Dahmer, the villain here doesn't dispose of the body in an accurate way.  We all know that Dahmer had a tendency to save body parts and later consume them - so I guess being committed to the cause of doing tribute killings only goes so far, huh?  Not willing to go full cannibal?  That's actually an indication of a somewhat sane person, so is our killer sane or insane?  Committed or wishy-washy? 

Also starring Holly Hunter (last seen in "A Life Less Ordinary"), Dermot Mulroney (last seen in "My Best Friend's Wedding"), William McNamara, Harry Connick Jr. (last seen in "Hope Floats"), Will Patton (last seen in "Entrapment"), John Rothman (last seen in "Prime"), J.E. Freeman,  Shannon O'Hurley.

RATING: 6 out of 10 "squirrel covers" 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


Year 7, Day 160 - 6/9/15 - Movie #2,059

BEFORE: So many ways I could have followed up "White House Down" - "Olympus Has Fallen" would have been the obvious choice, but "22 Jump Street" (Channing Tatum plays a cop) could have worked too.  Or Jamie Foxx could have carried over into "Horrible Bosses 2", or Jason Clarke could have carried over into "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" - certain films are like actor-linking nexuses, and I can go in almost any direction from them.  But then I have to think about films like this one, that don't have as many linking opportunities, at least not on my watchlist, so I'm sticking with James Woods, who was in tonight's film 32 years before he was in "White House Down".

AFTER: This was a weird one for me, I'm not sure if the pieces all came together right - for that matter, I'm not sure I know what most of the pieces even look like.  I don't think the film is even named properly, because the janitor in question wasn't even an eyewitness, he was in the building when a Vietnamese banker was murdered, but that hardly makes him an eyewitness.  

Sure, he claims to know something, and he may even think he knows who did it, but look at the definition of "eyewitness", please.  Did he see it happen, with his own eye?  Hardly.  It seems more like he's just pretending to know something so he can form a connection with a pretty reporter - who's seen on TV reviewing a play, so what the heck even puts her on the crime beat?  Jeez, at least Clint Eastwood's reporter character in "True Crime" was a little more believable writing about crimes - but, ironically, he was sent to Death Row to write a human interest story, so go figure.  

There's so much unclear here - and nearly every plot synopsis I've found doesn't even get it quite right.  But it relies on coincidence so much, that viewers might get the feeling that there are only 10 or 20 people living in the borough of Manhattan?  Plus there's a subplot about soliciting donations to save Russian Jews, and that whole sideline sort of seems to go nowhere.  According to IMDB, this script was a hybrid of two screenplays that Steve Tesich was having trouble with, and the end result is so disjointed, I can easily believe that.

New York City is sort of the unmentioned co-star of the film - I didn't move to the city until 1986, so I was watching and saw a few landmarks I was familiar with, like the Blarney Stone, but not very many. But then, I haven't spent too much time on either the Lower East Side or the Upper West Side, which they seemed to sort of toggle between.

Also starring William Hurt (last seen in "Syriana"), Sigourney Weaver (last seen in "Gorillas in the Mist"), Christopher Plummer (also last seen in "Syriana"), Pamela Reed (last seen in "The Best of Times"), Morgan Freeman (last seen in "Last Vegas"), Steven Hill, Kenneth McMillan (last seen in "Cat's Eye"), Alice Drummond.

RATING: 4 out of 10 wastebaskets

Monday, June 8, 2015

White House Down

Year 7, Day 159 - 6/8/15 - Movie #2,058

BEFORE: Today I finally got my watchlist back down to 150 films, which is where it was at the end of regulation play in 2014.  It took me over five months of daily viewing to get back there, so the last few months must have been a really productive time for adding things to the list - even if I've added only one film for every two I've watched, that still makes the progress agonizingly slow.  But now that I'm back to 150, every time I can bring that number down by one, it will count as positive progress for this year.  It's still impossible for me to finish within calendar year 2015, but I can try go get close, and for the rest of the year, I can be happy that the list has never been smaller than it is at any given time.

Today I'm in the middle of a James Woods triple play, as he carries over from "True Crime" - but with "Against All Odds" last week, he's really showing up four times in a 7-day period.  And if you want to drive a guy with OCD crazy, just put 4 James Woods films on his list, but make it impossible for him to get them all next to each other.  Same deal with Matt Craven, today he makes his third appearance in a week, but only two of them are together.  Aarrrrgh!

THE PLOT:  While on a tour of the White House with his young daughter, a Capitol policeman springs into action to save his child and protect the president from a heavily armed group of paramilitary invaders.

AFTER: This seems a little bit off topic, but it's really not.  It's got military action, like "Starman" did, it's got terrorism, like "Arlington Road" did, and a divorced father trying to re-connect with his daughter, just like "True Crime" did.  Of course, Clint Eastwood's character just took his daughter around the zoo, and Channing Tatum's character drags his daughter along when he interviews for a job with the Secret Service.  

This puts both of them in the White House at the worst possible time (Hey, while we're here, let's take the guided tour - what could possibly go wrong?), which is just before a terrorist attack.  But let's be politically correct here, these are not international terrorists, not a Muslim in the bunch - they're Americans, but they represent - well, that would be telling.  Let's just say they work for a faction that wants to keep us in a state of war, because that's good for business.  Something tells me that there are not only better, easier ways to accomplish this, but also that most American businesses would be able to re-adjust if a Middle East war suddenly ended.  Taking the White House hostage to further these goals seems a bit like chopping off a foot when you only need to trim a toenail.  

Anyway, while it's not the first film to depict an African-American president, I think it may be the first to show one so obviously based on Barack Obama.  Oh, they call him President Sawyer, but he's clearly Obama, right down to the nicotine gum.  

Otherwise, this is really just "Die Hard" set at the White House - but you do get to learn a lot about the White House, assuming that the sets they built are accurate.  You get to see the West Wing, the pool, the Rose Garden, even the high-security areas, and you pretty much get to see them all get blown up, or otherwise trashed. 

There's so much action here, but that's a tricky thing to champion.  It's definitely a non-stop thrill ride, but if you put TOO much action in a film, it starts to seem illogical that so much can happen in the span of one day, plus it turns the regular people into cartoonish superheroes.  Plus there are a lot of familiar action-movie clichés here, like having villains that can shoot hundreds of bullets and miss the hero nearly every time, and heroes who can take out multiple bad guys with just one magazine.  That and a few other things I've seen before, kept this from scoring higher.  

I haven't seen "Olympus Has Fallen, nor do I have a copy yet, so I'll have to do a comparison between that one and this one, some time in the future. 

Also starring Channing Tatum (last seen in "This Is the End"), Jamie Foxx (last seen in "Jarhead"), Maggie Gyllenhaal (last seen in "Hysteria"), Jason Clarke (last seen in "The Great Gatsby"), Richard Jenkins (last seen in "Random Hearts"), Joey King (last seen in "Oz the Great and Powerful"), Jimmi Simpson (last seen in "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter"), Lance Reddick, Matt Craven (last seen in "Jacob's Ladder"), Michael Murphy, Jake Weber, Peter Jacobson, Gabrielle Beauvais (last seen in "Flight"), Rachelle Lefevre, Nicolas Wright, Kevin Rankin, with a cameo from Ben Mankiewicz (one of the hosts on TCM). 

RATING: 6 out of 10 javelin missiles

Sunday, June 7, 2015

True Crime

Year 7, Day 158 - 6/7/15 - Movie #2,057

BEFORE: I think what struck me most on my little trip this weekend was just how darn entitled everyone seems these days.  Traveling up and back on the train, and going to the Chowderfest, I kept seeing evidence of people who all want more, who believe that the rules don't apply to them.  Standing in Penn Station on Friday evening, people were DEMANDING that the Amtrak personnel tell them which gate the train to Boston would be departing from, just so they could get close to it, and board it before everyone else.  Bear in mind that there's a proper time for them to post the gate, and then obviously once they do, there would be a rush of people toward that gate, but if you ask any Amtrak personnel which gate it will be, they'll just say, "Sorry, the gate's not posted yet."  But they KNOW, they're just not telling, one loud snide female passenger was sure of it, and kept pestering the porter.  

This is not the way to get the information, it only annoys the staff.  Now, I was already standing close to what I believed was the right gate (while trying not to LOOK like I was standing next to the right gate) because I checked the arrivals board, and I saw that the train from Washington was coming in on Gate 9, and the safe bet would be that it would be leaving from Gate 9 as well, and this info appeared on the Arrivals board 10 minutes before it was posted on the Departures board.  So, I naturally wanted to get there first myself, but the difference was, I did the research, so I deserved to be ahead of those who didn't.  I found myself standing with a group of people who knew the gate just because they travel that route very often, and that's fine too.  Prior knowledge trumps whiny last-minute questioning.

It's all done so we can each get the best seat, which ideally would be on an otherwise empty train car, or to find a set of two seats that no one is sitting in, so we can each have extra space for our coat (or bag, or snacktray, or whatever) and not have to sit next to a stranger and make awkward conversation.  Again, most people somehow feel that they're entitled to more, to have the use of two seats when they've only paid for one.  Now, I happened to get a spare seat both ways, but at least on the way up, I worked for it.  I earned it, unlike anyone who was too lazy to track down the Arrivals board.  That said, if anyone had requested the seat next to me, I would have gladly moved my bag or newspapers for them.   OK, maybe not "gladly", perhaps "begrudgingly", but I would have done it.  

Something similar happened at the Chowderfest - since they reduced the number of competing restaurants while increasing the event's capacity, naturally this led to long lines.  And separate long lines for each booth, or at least at the ones that were serving acceptable clam chowder.  I spotted a man who waited in a long line for Booth #2 (there's no Booth #1, that would prejudice the voting) and he felt this then entitled him to walk over to grab a sample from Booth #4, and then proceed to Booths 5, 6 and 7 without waiting in each individual line.  Not only was this rude, it was expressly forbidden in the "Chowdering Etiquette" section of the brochure. (I'm not kidding)

I tracked the guy down and informed him he could not do this, he had to wait in each individual line to sample all of the chowders.  His response to me was, "Who are you, the line police?"  Yes.  Indeed I am the line police, though I may not appear like an official, perhaps I'm undercover, and what you have done is unfair to the good citizens of Newport and surrounding area, who are waiting patiently in line on a hot day to enjoy hot soup.  Said citizens failed to back me up and kind of left me hanging, but that's all right.  I took a stand for what I believed in, and against irrational entitlement.

Look, I don't want special treatment, I just want what I feel I deserve.  The world doesn't owe me anything, I'm willing to put in the time and the effort on things, provided there's a payoff.  I'll stand in line, I'll do the research, I'll pay my bill, I'll work long hours, as long as I'm getting something in return.  It just grinds my gears when I see someone, or everyone, trying to game the system.  Most people at the event were taking two samples of chowder instead of one at a time, and I'll admit I sometimes did too, but at least I acknowledge that if everyone does that, it makes the lines move slower, not faster.  I would have been willing to limit myself to 1 sample per booth visit as long as everyone else agreed to that - but that just wasn't going to happen.  And it would have taken three hours that way to consume the equivalent of a small bowl of chowder, which is available at most area diners more quickly, for less effort and at a lower cost.  

I know this probably sounds hypocritical - everyone believes they're special, including me, and they're all wrong and I'm right, but it's really not like that.  I just want everyone to have an equal chance at enjoying life's little pleasures, and if I see someone who isn't me getting special treatment, I'm inclined to call them out, that's all.  But if good fortune or special treatment comes MY way, I'm fairly inclined to convince myself that I earned it somehow.  Is that so wrong?

Clint Eastwood carries over from "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot".  That's it, I'm out of Eastwood, so another actor has to pick up the slack for linking.

THE PLOT:  Can an over-the-hill journalist uncover the evidence that can prove a death row inmate's innocence just hours before his execution?

AFTER: If that plotline seems a little familiar, perhaps it's because it could almost exactly describe the premise of "The Life of David Gale", which I watched just 6 days ago.  It's a riff on the same conceit, that perhaps everyone in both the justice system and the court of public opinion believes that a condemned man deserves to die, but this ONE journalist, unwilling as he or she may be, is going to find the evidence that proves otherwise, ticking clock be damned.  

It's too bad that this premise relies so strongly on clichés.  Reprieves, if they come, tend to come at the last second - because the state's governor has nothing better to do at 11:59 pm.  The reporter's evidence is found at the last minute - it's never found the week or the month before the execution, now, is it?

At least the lead character here isn't too much of a stereotype - one would perhaps expect a hero, a noble journalist with the best intentions to free an innocent man.  But Eastwood's character is not perfect, in fact he's a bad husband, a terrible father, and he's only doing the interview with the condemned man as a last-minute substitute.  In fact, he's on the cusp of being fired if he can't deliver this story as a simple "human interest" story, about what it's like to serve on death row.  But the newsman in him takes over, and he smells there's something wrong with the conviction - he's not even sure if he's right, nor does he particularly care, he just wants to find out if his instincts are still sharp.  

That's a bit refreshing, if he'd been on an anti-capital punishment crusade, like the characters in "The Life of David Gale", this would have been way too preachy.  Clint's character just knows B.S. when he smells it, and then he wants to expose it.  Not because it's the right thing, but because that's his job, and that's what he's good at.  If he were the least bit noble, he wouldn't sleep with so many of his co-workers' wives, and then where would he be?  

NITPICK POINT: Tthe California Penal System is depicted as having switched their method of execution from gas chamber to lethal injection, and for some reason, the prison decided to still place the condemned man inside the old, non-working gas chamber.  Sure, looks great on film, but otherwise there would be no practical reason to do this.  The injection could be given just as easily, if not more easily, on a simple hospital table or gurney.  

Also starring Isaiah Washington, James Woods (last seen in "Against All Odds"), Denis Leary (last seen in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"), Bernard Hill (last seen in "Gandhi"), LisaGay Hamilton, Diane Venora, Michael McKean (last seen in "The Words"), Michael Jeter (last seen in "Patch Adams"), Hattie Winston, with cameos from Mary McCormack, Frances Fisher (last seen in "Laws of Attraction"), Christine Ebersole, Tom McGowan, Lucy Liu (last seen in "Payback"), William Windom. 

RATING: 5 out of 10 animals (seen while playing "Speed Zoo")