RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET | Movie Review

Ralph Breaks The Internet

by REGGIE WOLTZ

It took six years for a Wreck-It Ralph sequel to take shape, and it quickly proves why. Ralph Breaks the Internet mostly eschews the video game cultural mash-up of the original to tell a kid-friendly story set inside the Internet. It’s such a different beast than its predecessor, and yet it’ll likely reach a similar adult audience as the original, as the barrier between gamers and memers isn’t too high, if it exists at all.

As far how the plot handles that transition, screenwriters Phil Johnston, also serving as co-director, and Pamela Ribon simply have the arcade owner plug in the establishment’s first Internet router. But an overlong first act has the unfortunate job of setting up the circumstances that bring Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) into the world wide web. There are too many scenes that exist to re-establish their friendship while they play in the same world as the original. It feels like a lifetime establishing Vanellope’s reason for going into the Internet (they have to find a spare part for her arcade machine on Ebay), and the script doesn’t clue us into Ralph’s arc until hers is ending.

But things pick up significantly when the pair starts exploring the Interweb. The jokes are largely simple, such as birds in a tree tweeting primarily photos of cats, and yet just clever enough that they feel fresh. The smart personification of pop-up ads (Bill Hader voices J.P. Spamley, get it?) breathes some life into the early Internet scenes, but the story really comes alive when Vanellope enters an online racing game far more violent and hardcore than her candy coated arcade machine. She’s inspired by that game’s popular racer Shank (Gal Gadot), and thus begins a journey of finding her true home. Splitting from Ralph, their individual journeys give Ralph Breaks the Internet some surprising emotional power in its second half.

Still, the animated sequel feels very much mass-produced and corporate-approved. When the entity doing the approving is Disney, the result is more often than not a mixed bag. When Vanellope visits a family friendly Disney fan site, it’s hard not to feel directors Johnston and Rich Moore sucking up to their corporate overlords. Nods to Marvel and Star Wars aren’t so much hidden as they drive the plot and humor. But then, sometimes the Disney brand is just undeniably strong and, when manipulated in clever ways, can be used effectively. Ralph Breaks the Internet‘s best scene sees Vanellope entering a room filled with all of the classic Disney princesses, from Snow White to Moana. It is an extended sequence written out of pure joy with not an ounce of cynicism. It’s one of the best moments of popular cinema this year, and gives way to one of the film’s other transcendent moments: a hysterical yet poignant song sung by Vanellope about finding where she belongs in a gritty, ultra-violent racing game.

The film draws her arc so smartly, that when it starts wrapping up as Ralph’s is getting started (far too late), the story at large starts to feel like overkill. And yet, the script still weaves in a powerful message about the nature of friendship that, while not wholly original, is relatively unexplored in children’s media.

So while the rough first half could definitely have been shorter, a lot of Ralph Breaks the Internet ends up being worthwhile. As a visual send-up of some of the Internet’s most popular corners, the film is clever and inventive, even if the jokes themselves likely won’t age well by the midway point of the 2020s. But this being as it may be, there’s an artfully written sequencing for the film and a strong heart rooted in friendship. By no means a classic, or capable of making much of a stir on the actual Internet, this animated sequel is coded to entertain, and that it does.

© Copyright 2017 – 2018. ALL Rights Reserved.
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Protecting America’s Natural Wonders | The Future

Spaceship interior with view on the planet Earth 3D rendering el

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
~Albert Einstein

It’s July 2018, the height of summer vacation season, with millions of American families across the country piling into cars, boarding planes and trains, and trekking the distance to our country’s mesmerizing natural wonders.

gallantBlog7.22.2018a.jpg

Families arrive at each destination, bright-eyed with sublime awe, enthralled with the dazzling displays of pristine landscapes seemingly untouched by humans prior to their arrival.

Most beautiful Falls in United States--Havasu Falls,Supai, Arizo

We’re all extremely proud of our nation’s natural beauty. For 200 years, ever since the Lewis & Clark Expedition (May 1804 to September 1806), when we first discovered these abundant natural resources, we’ve eagerly sacrificed whatever is necessary to preserve our most valuable treasures.

Yosemite Valley

American tourism is a $1.5 trillion industry, employing 7.08 million Americans. An economic powerhouse that features some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world.

Horseshoe Bend, Grand Canyon

But what will we the future hold for these iconic pillars of our American identity after the Trump team has completed their destruction agenda of these remarkable national assets?

Sunset at Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park in Arizona, Utah, U

The current reality of recently resigned EPA Director Scott Pruitt’s, and Office of the Interior Director Zinke’s, swift and determined effort to rollback the safeguards that our previous presidents fought so hard to implement and maintain… is alarming.

PRUITT is RESPONSIBLE FOR:

  • Undoing the Clean Water Act implemented to protect wetlands and streams, many of which run through our millions of acres of National Parks
  • Dismantling Obama’s clean power plan
  • Halting the scheduled ban on chlorpyrifos which negatively impacts development in children
  • De-prioritizing the clean-up of superfund sites
  • Failure to focus on the Flint water crisis
  • 700 EPA employees leaving their jobs Pruitt’s first year in office
  • and so much more…

ZINKE is RESPONSIBLE FOR:

  • Canceling the freeze placed on coal companies for new leases on public land
  • Slashing the size of national monuments in an effort to promote mining and drilling, despite the fact that the world is shifting to clean energy at a rapid pace (Trump announced that Bears Ears monument will be cut by three quarters, and that Grand Staircase-Escalante monument will be cut in half)
  • Eviscerating the plan to save the endangered sage grouse, potentially opening up these thousands of acres to mining
  • Deleting Obama’s regulations against fracking on federal property
  • Opening up all US coastal shorelines to gas and oil drilling, destroying the lifeline of our immense tourism industry (again, this despite the fact, the world is rushing to shift to clean energy)

Tuesday November 6, 2018 is right around the corner. Let’s express our horror at these seeming crimes at the voting booth.

Tropical sunset with palm tree silhouette panorama

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Nicky Scarfo, Donald Trump, James Comey | Perspective

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With James Comey’s long awaited book “A Higher Loyalty” being released today Tuesday April 17, 2018, and with the leaked excerpt making headlines the Friday before the official release (April 13, 2018), which was followed immediately by the bombing of Syria Friday – a news story that ran parallel to publisher Macmillan’s unofficially disclosed excerpts, with some outlets implying that the two were connected in a cause & effect kind of relationship – it may be worth drilling down on one of the critical talking points of Comey’s leaked excerpt.

“Flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the Mob. The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.” ~ James Comey, ‘A Higher Loyalty’

This pretty much sums everything up in a pinpointed nutshell.

It’s 100% how I’ve felt these past fifteen months… it’s the impression the vast majority of Americans have had ever since Trump was inaugurated. In short, I find Comey’s leaked excerpt particularly significant. It validates our unsettled feelings and concerns about all things Trump. It seems to be the very reason why the book is entitled A Higher Loyalty, and the explanation behind why Comey was fired. But most importantly, this specific paragraph might have otherwise gotten drowned out by the many thousands of other paragraphs that will soon be discussed for days, weeks and months to come.

Isolating the exact pinpoint around which all the conflicts circle, is what I’d hope for from the fired Director of the FBI with a higher loyalty who’s releasing his memoir while Tump is still in office, while we’re still battling the many immense polarized issues, all while the Russia hurricane is thrashing our nation from coast-to-coast. Comey’s mastery of skills, and his prowess, which led him to become the Director of the FBI, a career that was cut short because of his patriotism and deep moral convictions… is still incredibly valuable. Comey may have lost his job, but he didn’t lose his skills and knowledge. The above paragraph makes this very clear.

“The center point of the circle is the origin of the coordinate plane. It belongs to a multitude of circles, an unimaginably large group of concentric circles that share this point as their center. An infinity of circles share this point as their center.” ~Martin Hauser

So then, the answer to our many contentious, grave national concerns while Trump is still our President, is to understand how the Mafia operates. Sadly, the methods prosecutors and law enforcement rely on to deal with the MOB are perhaps the same ones we’ll be forced to use with Trump.

Thirty plus years ago, when Trump schemed of being the king of Atlantic City Casinos, he was mentored by Mob Boss Nicky Scarfo and mobster Daniel Sullivan. Nicky Scarfo’s influence over Trump appears to have been substantial and permanent. Decades later, Scarfo’s techniques are now Trump’s trademark. Comey’s statement, noted above, seems 100% accurate. But the most interesting part about Comey’s book, is that it’s written very directly. You immediately process that you’re reading a truthful statement. You don’t doubt that it’s a fact.

When someone writes or speaks this way, the burden is placed on the reader. It’s the equivalent of hearing the train sound and knowing that a tornado is spiraling toward you. If a “train” can be heard, no one ever doubts that a tornado is near…or yells “Fake news.” Instead, we simply run for cover. We don’t have to be told to hide in the basement. Rather, we’re keenly aware of the next steps to take.

That’s the impact of Comey’s writing style. That these are alarming facts. All Americans should be gravely concerned. We MUST quickly take the next step, which Comey makes very clear involves voting for ethical leaders, thus voting Trump and those like him out of office. Morality matters.

In the mean time, all three branches of government, the DOD, every single US agency… in fact, every single solitary American needs to get the 101 on the Mafia if we’re going to weather this storm. I re-watched The Godfather this weekend to get a better handle on it.

© Copyright 2017 – 2018. ALL Rights Reserved.
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Getting a Handle on the Russia Danger | Perspective

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How do we stay three steps ahead of Russia (it’s tricky when our president is the enemy and he’s working so hard to fend off our nation’s traditional defense, the FBI)? To further thwart our defensive line, Trump/Russia has a loyal group of Russia surrogates, the GOP House Intelligence Committee, who’ve sold their soul to the devil – Putin.

So what are American citizens supposed to do now to protect ourselves?

STEP 1 (for me anyway): watch as many Russia/CIA spy thrillers as possible. Below are a few, but there are many more. I find that this really helps in broadening my understanding about the way Russia operates which helps with projecting into America’s future /our future.

  • Red Sparrow – 2018, Excellent film, helped me “imagine” the possibilities of what Russia is capable of; great because it’s present day
  • The Assets, My Name is Aldrich Ames – 2014, Highlights how easy it is for someone to get away with selling our nation’s secrets to a foreign enemy, this because colleagues don’t want to believe their coworker – who’s supposed to be a patriot, protecting our country and our allies – is actually busy undermining it. Very insightful considering our president appears to be in overdrive accomplishing this very thing.
  • The Sum of All Fears – 2002, Seems so real it’s terrifying. I can totally picture this happening; in fact, I envision someone plotting this right now
  • Hunt for Red October – 1990, One of my favorite movies of all times
  • No Way Out – 1987, Best Kevin Costner film. Movies were so riveting back in the day

The most gripping Cold War book I ever read was Nelson Demille’s The Talbot Odyssey. Eye-bulging books like this are mesmerizing, this one is impossible to put down. I’m going to re-read it now that Mueller has uncovered so much proof of collusion and the White House seems to be in melt down mode, last night Friday March 16, 2018 with Sessions firing FBI Deputy Andrew McCabe just 26 hours before he was supposed to retire. See? That’s such a cruel “Russia” thing for Trump Team to do.

STEP 2: Be on the lookout on Social Media. Turn it into a “Find Waldo” exercise. Find the Russia Troll and call them out. I see them everywhere. They have markers.

STEP 3: Russian trolls are actually easier to locate than they realize. They might look and sound like us on Social Media, but they don’t think like us. Instead what they do is deflect by screaming and shouting and attempting to humiliate. They’ve softened their approach a little bit this year, but if you get into a discussion with one on a comment board for a major News site like New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal etc, you soon realize they don’t understand how to think like an American. They can’t reason the same way American’s can. Instead, their tactic is to storm Social Media as abusers, much like Trump, attempting to get viewers/readers to not believe in what someone is stating by attacking the one posting. But this is actually their achilles heel. And it’s not something they can easily correct…which gives us the upper hand.

STEP 4: Trust your instincts. When you get that unsettling 6th sense type of feeling about someone online, learn to stay far away from them. Avoidance is a great defensive strategy

We can do this. This horror is unlike any war we’ve ever been in before. We’re all trying to make our way through the jungle on this. We have to help each other, and work diligently to create light in the midst of all this darkness.

© Copyright 2017 – 2018. ALL Rights Reserved.
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Russia & The Black Swan Theory | Perspective

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“Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predicable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment – that which they cannot anticipate.” ~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Trump’s news this week of steep tariffs on steel and aluminum blindsided our allies, and Americans as well….particularly the GOP leadership. Oh, and Trump’s economic adviser Gary Cohn too, who in light of Trump signing the tariff proclamation, has resigned.

Trump’s extremely flawed notion that tariffs are a winning solution for the 21st Century American economy – especially following the steep corporate tax cuts in December which enrich steel and aluminum companies by 14% – seems flat out delusional. In fact, so delusional that it begs to question what the real motivation is behind this destructive policy.

History has shown us over and over again that Trade Wars lead to World Wars. Thus, who would benefit from such a ruinous course?

An arch enemy, of course…

Russia!

When we factor in the timing of Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs, Thursday March 8, 2018, which happens to be within days, possibly hours of Trump meeting with Emmet T. Flood, President Bill Clinton’s impeachment attorney, it’s abundantly clear that the tariff move was reactionary.

Or was it so much more than that?

Trump’s meeting with impeachment attorney Flood, was on the heels of news breaking about Trump ally, George Nader, who has close ties to Russia through the United Emirates, agreed to be a cooperating witness against Trump. Nader gave testimony to a grand jury for Mueller’s Russia Collusion Special Investigation this past week. The timing of Nader’s testimony was apparently particularly worrisome for Trump in light of the fact that Kushner recently had his security clearance down-graded. Hope Hicks had just announced that she’d be departing the White House. Rob Porter resigned on February 7, 2018. So Trump had to find a way to manage the fallout of the scathing news releases about Nader’s testimony, without his supportive inner circle, which this week looked more like an inner dot than a team of skilled advisors. (Is 32 year old Stephen Miller the only one left?)

Did I forget to mention Stormy Daniels? Yes, Stormy Daniels was also drowning the news cycle. By the middle of the week, Wednesday March 7, 201, her attorney had filed a lawsuit claiming that the nondisclosure agreement was invalid because Trump didn’t sign it.

So again, by the end of this week of extreme mayhem, Trump meets with impeachment attorney Flood, then springs the shocking announcement about trade tariffs which the majority of experts agree will result in a dark and damaging Trade War, that will wreak havoc across the global economy. One economist predicted the stock market will drop 40% within the next 18-24 months, millions will lose jobs.

It’s therefor time to be proactive and get out in front of this dire crisis.

I’m left to conclude that:

  • Yes, Trump did collude with Russia and Mueller will be able to prove it (Mueller probably already is able to prove it; it’s likely that much of the testimony and evidence is sealed)
  • When Russia and Trump began colluding back in 2013, it appears Russia crafted an Exit Strategy (in case the plot was ever uncovered and could be proven… setting up a back channel between Trump and Russia during the pre-inauguration Seychelles meeting is now provable and appears to be the tip of the iceberg)
  • Russia is America’s arch enemy, and any potential Exit Strategy is going to be painful. Sure there’s many weapons that could harms us, but a true warmonger like Putin would likely have several creative aggressive alternatives up his sleeve. Like how about economic ruin?
  • Interestingly, that’s what all the experts were predicting this week…economic  ruin from steel and aluminum tariffs.
  • Seems like a pretty sound Scorched Earth military strategy for an aggressor like Putin and his puppet, Donald J. Trump.

By the way, following 9/11, Congress immediately established the 9/11 Commission, directed by former NJ Governor Thomas Kean, to investigate how our intelligence community missed the red flags with the 9/11 terrorists hiding in plain site. After nearly two years, the Commission concluded that the fault lay with our “failure at imagination.” Our inability to imagine or predict the possibilities.

Which now brings me to The Black Swan Theory...

Quoting from Wikipedia: “The theory was developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb to explain:

  1. The disproportionate role of high-profile, hard-to-predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history, science, finance, and technology.
  2. The non-computability of the probability of the consequential rare events using scientific methods (owing to the very nature of small probabilities).
  3. The psychological biases that blind people, both individually and collectively, to uncertainty and to a rare event’s massive role in historical affairs.

Thus, I’d like to imagine the following possibility…that Trump did collude with Russia. That warmonger Putin masterminded a horribly devastating Exit Strategy that would bring catastrophic economic ruin to America. That this was woven into the fabric of the Trump campaign and presidency years ago, and became part of Trump’s campaign nucleus. And that Putin’s grand scheme for thwarting the potential consequences when the collusion became provable, and Trump’s ouster certain, was that Trump would set the Exit Strategy in motion by kicking off the Trade War.

I’m confident there’s an army of intelligence agents who are busy projecting and imagining. But in light of all this stunning news the past four weeks, and with midterm elections around the corner, the American public, particularly the GOP, has to take off its blinders and “imagine” the possibilities as well. Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Ryan, it’s time move into high gear to block this Trade War.

 

© Copyright 2017 – 2018. ALL Rights Reserved.
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Corruption is the Root of Sensible Gun Control Inaction | Perspective

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To not be moved to the core of our beings over the senseless slaughter of 17 American school children on a bright and beautiful, cheerful February 14th – the universal day of LOVE – is a litmus test that measures the depth of corruption in the GOP.

The fact that GOP lawmakers are more beholden to the NRA than they are to their own children, reveals how dehumanizing corruption is.

The GOP gladly accepted $17,384,437 from the NRA in the 2015-2016 election cycle. Trump was funneled $21 million from the NRA.

We’ve seen the way rotten trees fall in a vicious storm. The Oak may look high and mighty from the outside. But when the forceful winds howl, and consistent pressure is applied against the weakened trunk…that tree will fall. And when it does, the rotten center becomes visible.

“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar with his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the heart of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic to that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear.” ~ Cicero, 50 BC

So that’s where we’re at today, Sunday February 18, 2018. Corruption rots the body politic and becomes treasonous. We can either succumb and lose our country, or keep resisting to the max with everything we have within us.

Every corrupt GOP (any who received NRA $ that are now refusing to bring to the floor sensible gun laws) MUST be removed from office. Again, their corruption has become treasonous. And until they can be replaced, they must be quarantined so they can’t infect.

The only sensible next step following the #Parkland massacre is to reinstate the assault rifle ban…by March 1, 2018!

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Newton’s 1st Law of Motion – Passing Common Sense Gun Laws | Perspective

perspectiveNewton’s 1st Law of Motion – the Law of Inertia

“An object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction, unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”

The heart-wrenching trauma of a violent massacre in a suburban American high school in Parkland, Florida – the “safest town in Florida” – on Valentine’s day 2018 that left 17 innocent heroic Americans dead MUST be the turning of the tides.

Gun Violence, specifically massacres in American schools, has to stop immediately.

Reading and watching the first-hand accounts of students, dads, moms, teachers in Parkland brought me to tears. It’s the most powerful instrument for prodding inert lawmakers into action and passing common sense gun laws.

There are no adequate words to express the anger I feel toward cement-headed GOP who rationalize away all legitimate arguments for stemming gun violence. Their indifference to the trauma they inflict is the ultimate testament to the fallout of their altered reality. The fact that it’s the GOP lawmakers who have succumbed to this strange and surreal existence in an imagined universe, lawmakers who directly influence our quality of life, is a forceful wake-up call for all of us. We don’t have to settle for this. We can make sure they’re REMOVED from office.

If the Berlin was can fall, so can the NRA and the GOP. They are NOT a permanent barrier to gun safety.

The final straw for me yesterday, Thursday February 15, 2018, the day after the Parkland High School massacre, when all the first-hand stories began pouring onto Social Media, was the student who in the midst of the chaos and fear and mayhem, slipped on the bullet proof vest that his dad had stuffed into his backpack. THIS, in the safest community in Florida.

A decade ago, the only thing that mattered was making sure our children had an iPod. Then we elevated to making sure our child had his or her iPhone. Now parents are running out and buying bullet-proof vests for their child’s backpack. GOP, WAKE-UP! And worst of all, the student actually had to rush to use it one beautiful cheerful afternoon, February 14, 2018.

GOP lawmakers hide behind their protective security checks installed in every Legislative Office building in every state, making them immune to their own inertia. All security checks must come down until common sense gun laws are passed. GOP lawmakers don’t get to hide while we get slaughtered.

Of course we Americans can own guns. The majority are NOT against that. But as with everything since the beginning of time, gun ownership must evolve. The answer is in the middle.

COMMON SENSE GUN LAWS, one step at a time, in order:

(1) Immediate ban on assault rifles, specifically AR-15. This ban was in force for a decade, 1994-2004. The GOP allowed is to sunset during all the chaos following 9/11, the War in Iraq, the War in Afghanistan, and all eyes on Guantanamo. Senator Feinstein revived the ban, creating a new Bill on November 8, 2017. It’s collecting dust on a GOP desk somewhere. We MUST demand it be debated, passed and enforced.

(2) Firearm ownership must have appropriate safety protocols: training/education, testing, licensing, and mandatory insurance. There’s no reasonable argument that can block this. It’s rudimentary.

(3) Ban bump stocks. Rudimentary.

(4) Close all loopholes in existing gun laws. Rudimentary.

(5) Limit all magazines to 10 bullets or less. Rudimentary.

(6) Reverse GOP’s new concealed carry reciprocity. Unconstitutional.

(7) Gun violence research. New Trump administration canceled the existing Gun Violence research being conducted by CDC.

Done. Basic. Simple. Easy. We MUST Make America Safe Again!

Copyright 2017 – 2018. ALL Rights Reserved.GOLD8small

The Post | DoubleTake by REGGIE WOLTZ

Mrs. Streep Goes to Washington

by REGGIE WOLTZ

In this era of movie making, with expansive franchises and retreads running amok as studios increasingly prefer sure things over more risky investments, a crucial step in getting an original film greenlit is the opening pitch. How good does a movie sound when you boil it down to one sentence? Some of the most recent Hollywood favorites have excellent pitches. Want Emma Stone to sing and dance her way to the Oscar’s podium? Sounds good. Can I interest you in Jordan Peele directing a horror movie about a black guy visiting his white girlfriend’s family? Sure, why not. How about an animated film that follows the daily lives of those little pictograms that you use in texts? Sign me up!

The Post has an inarguably better pitch than any of those. It’s a Steven Spielberg-directed drama about the Washington Post’s printing of the Pentagon Papers. The timing couldn’t be better as it arrives while the country’s political and social climates are not all that dissimilar to those of the Nixon-era United States. Oh, and it stars Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, the king and queen of Hollywood. It’s almost like this movie was created in a lab to dominate the film awards circuit.

The thing about The Post that stands out the most is its incredible ensemble cast. Yes, the film centers around its binary star system, but the orbiting planets shine in their own way as well. Bob Odenkirk nails his role as lead journalist Ben Bagdikian–at times seeming like he is the real protagonist of this story. Bruce Greenwood does a tremendous job of emulating Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara without vilifying his character or creating undue sympathy for the man that had as much to do with the Vietnam War as any of the Presidents that he served. Matthew Rhys, Sarah Paulson, Carrie Coons, Bradley Whitford, and Jesse Plemons give noticeable performances in their limited screen time. But the real unsung hero of the film, Michael Cyril Creighton, gives us the film’s best thirty seconds in his one scene as the junior reporter who gets several pages of the Pentagon Papers mysteriously dropped on his desk.

Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep earn their top billings in this one. They make the most of their massive portions of The Post’s runtime and the scenes they share buzz with the chemistry of two professionals at the top of their games. The problem is that they aren’t given much to work with.

Hanks’ Ben Bradlee isn’t a human so much as he is the imagining of what a pirate running a newspaper would be like. He bursts with personality and swagger but doesn’t appear in three dimensions. For being just as vital to the plot as Streep’s Kay Graham, Bradlee is never exposed or shown in his weak moments the way that she is. And boy, do we get a lot of weak moments from Graham.

Streep’s character is the thematic linchpin of the movie, drowning the audience in her internal conflict and cultivation of an authoritative presence.  Many of her scenes amount to her pondering the same thing, over and over again. There are two concurrent conflicts in the movie, both having to do with Graham. The first is her questioning “Should I print the story even though it would hurt my relationship with McNamara?” The second is her questioning “Should I print the story even though it would possibly result in my newspaper dying and me going to jail?” If it seems like these are effectively the same question, it’s because they are. This makes it tedious for the movie to answer them one after another for the better part of two hours and makes Streep’s scenes frustrating to watch.

This weakness in storytelling is endemic to the true failure of The Post, its try-hard feminism. This movie was clearly designed to be a celebration of women, a distinction that it fails to earn the more the viewer thinks about it.

Spielberg is deft with the camera, using his frames efficiently, but the times that he does get fancy are used to accentuate the presence of a woman. Some examples include tracking shots that follow Bradlee’s daughter counting her lemonade stand proceeds, Graham moving past a picture of her father in the newsroom, and Graham moving through crowds of admiring women (one outside a room of the New York Stock Exchange, one outside the Supreme Court). Scenes centered on Streep hit us over the head with her point of view, which makes her unimpressive character all the more encumbering.

The story of The Post could be great, but the movie gets too caught up in trying to tell us that “Women are awesome!!” for that to actually happen. Instead of focusing on the courage of those who actually worked to bring the Pentagon Papers to light, it focuses on the courage of one person making a relatively easy decision. As such, it loses the dramatic appeal of having people sacrifice their lives in order to create an opportunity for the greater good to prevail (an appeal that Spotlight rode to win Best Picture at the Oscars just two years ago), in favor of telling the story of the woman who is only tasked with giving the okay to execute on that opportunity. This misappropriation not only engenders the aforementioned redundant double conflict that bogs the movie down, it creates a load of forced themes and hypocrisy.

Who is it that risked being convicted of treason to steal the original documents? Who called the shots for the team that was responsible for bringing the Pentagon Papers to light? Who did the digging in order to find the leak and gather the resources that allowed the news story to be printed? Who made the final call for all of their hard work to pay off?

I’m not saying that Kay Graham wasn’t brave in making her decision or that women don’t add much to this story. I just want to make it clear that it is a reach for a film about the printing of the Pentagon Papers to congratulate a woman as if she made it all happen. That is just not the truth of the reality and, as a result, The Post takes a great pitch and throws it in the dirt.

© Copyright 2017 – 2018. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Closing In, The Russia Investigation | Perspective

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Trump’s Russian Collusion Developments

The House Intelligence Committee released the 312 page transcript of their interview with Glenn Simpson Thursday January 18, 2018. Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal investigative reporter who specialized on Russia, is the founder of Fusion GPS, the research organization that created the Steele Dossier. A key take away from the interview is that if Trump was laundering money with the Russians, which it’s fairly certain he was, after all, Trump has a 30+ year track record of laundering money, and was fined $10 million by FinCen in 2015  for “Significant and Long Standing Anti-Money Laundering Violations”…but according to Simpson, if Trump was laundering money with the Russians, then the Kremlin would be aware of this, and would use it as “powerful leverage” over Trump.

There were many moments across 2017 where the public questioned “what Putin had on Trump,” which seemingly made Trump such a strong Putin advocate and ally. There was speculation that it was the Pee Tape with Trump and prostitutes in a Russia hotel, which we all assume to be true. Especially now after learning about Stormy Daniels. So, money laundering and the Pee Tape? Is there more than that? Much more perhaps?

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Regulations = Consumer Protections

Trump is strongly anti-regulation, despite the fact that regulations are established and enforced for consumer protection. In fact, regulations are a vital cornerstone in developed countries. Third world countries generally don’t have any regulations.

Trump’s extensive history of being fined and sued for breaking laws and regulations may be one reason why he views regulations as his nemesis. During his campaign in 2016, it was revealed that Trump was engaged in  3,500 lawsuits. And Trump has suffered many hefty blows with fines. A few examples: $10 million; $750,000; $21 million; and more.

Trump’s hatred for regulations also might stem from the fact that he has no moral character. He has no patience. When constructing a tower on 5th avenue, or a casino in Atlantic City, regulations make everything take longer. Trump, an instant gratification kind of guy, and developer, views regulations as an obstacle to his immediate success.

Do you recall the 1974 film Towering Inferno?  The horror movie that was released before all the 1979 building codes were established? Trump has thrown us back that far. Massive skyscrapers blanketing the American landscape, and now no regulations. We were traumatized on 9/11 when the towers fell. Is this now what’s in store for use? Falling towers? Or at the very least, towering infernos especially in light of the fact that Mr. Anti-Energy Rick Perry was confirmed as Secretary of DOE.

This week’s deregulation focus was Mulvaney and his $0 budget for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Mulvaney feels the current $145 million reserve fund is sufficient. He’s supposed to have an operating budget + reserve fund, but he feels the reserve fund is enough as he begins plans to repeal regulations.

 

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Scott Pruitt, an Immediate Threat

EPA Scott Pruitt just enacted a very controversial, immediately life-threatening policy where new chemicals can swiftly move to market without being properly tested “undermining new laws and regulations that Congress passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2016.”

 

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Health

Attitude affects health. A positive attitude can effectively make you healthier. Positive emotions trigger the release of happy hormones – endorphin, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine – that strengthen the immune system.

 

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Molly’s Game | DoubleTake by REGGIE WOLTZ

MOLLY’S GAME

by REGGIE WOLTZ

Aaron Sorkin Goes All-In

*SPOILERS*

Aaron Sorkin is a master of screenwriting. Even if you don’t know his name, you probably know his work. The Social Network, Moneyball, and Steve Jobs (the Michael Fassbender one) are just his last three films – the first two of which were nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Academy Awards. Ever since his work on A Few Good Men and West Wing, Sorkin’s name has been synonymous with on-page prestige. As a result, it’s only natural that a movie with his name attached would be worth keeping an eye on.

In Molly’s Game, however, it’s not your eyes that matter. Sure, there are important visuals. From the opening moments, overlaid diagrams are used to aid the viewer’s comprehension. In the movie’s poker scenes, these diagrams are especially important to helping the viewer to understand the dramatic tension without having to know the game itself.

Jessica Chastain, as the titular character, characterizes Molly between two timelines that show her progression through an eventful career as a host of high roller poker games. The most striking difference between these two Mollies is how they are represented through outfits and make-up. Chastain’s performance itself is also very eye-catching, using facial micro-expressions and powerful body language to convey meaning in every scene.

For all that the editing and acting give you to look at, Molly’s Game is much more interested in making you listen. This is what Sorkin is good at. The cerebral and quickly paced dialogue is laid on impressively, particularly in the Word Olympics scenes that Chastain and Idris Elba share. The supporting actors and actresses in the movie are also at their best. Michael Cera’s Player X, Bill Camp’s Harlan, and Chris O’Dowd’s Douglas do well to help the movie along for the final half of the movie. From a dialogue and character performance perspective, this movie really showcases Sorkin’s skills.

Narration is present throughout the movie. The surprisingly consistent use of Molly’s internal voice felt like a guided tour through the halls of her memories. Chastain gave life to the movie from scene one, and along the way her narration tied together three timelines to tell us Molly’s story. That’s no minor feat, considering that narration in movies is usually a five minute introduction and rarely heard from again.

The style of the dialogue and the use of narration are major positives in their own right, but together they destroy the balance between sound and silence. It’s not like in another movie where rampant dialogue would be washed out by a musical transition or a change of pace. This counterpoint, instead, was narration.  And all of that exposition causes a fair amount of mental fatigue by the end of the 140 minute runtime.

The cause of this seems obvious. Sorkin isn’t just writing this time, he’s directing. And whatever hold on Sorkin’s dialogue that a David Fincher, Bennett Miller, or Ridley Scott utilized to achieve a proper balance is gone. Leaving the preponderance of dialogue in a film up to Aaron Sorkin is like giving the green light to a kid in a candy store. You think that kid is going to take his time, carefully meditating on the most elegant sugar pairings before making an enlightened and refined selection? Nah, that kid’s gonna go straight for what he knows he wants and get as much of it as he can.

But there’s more. The gummi bear that broke the camel’s back comes at the end. Kevin Costner, Molly’s father whom we know by now is a psychologist with a background in Sigmund Freud’s theories, gives us “Three years of therapy in three minutes.” Not only is Sorkin interested in telling us the entire movie, he wants to go one step farther. We get the story of a vital experience from her early childhood (that manifested subconsciously because Freud) and a call back to her worst memory. As such, Aaron Sorkin has explained the movie as the ending to that movie. Aaron Sorkin just won a Triple Crown in exposition that I didn’t even know existed.

In a vacuum, the idea of a explaining everything, making literal the themes and plot of the movie, is a cool concept. It isn’t attempted very often and it definitely isn’t done well, hardly ever. But that’s because it’s a stretch, even in a movie that doesn’t use exposition as much as Molly’s Game does. Here, it feels contrived and slightly condescending. Sorkin doesn’t let the viewers figure anything out, which feels like an infringement on our rights.

All in all, Molly’s Game is still an impressive debut. Sorkin knew what he wanted to do and then executed, also getting great performances from his actors. The fault of the film is that what he wants to do is to test your hearing and attention span. This doesn’t necessarily come through upon first viewing – the material and style are great while everything is new. But on the second time around, the magic trick is over and the sleight of hand feels more like sleight of sledgehammer.

 

© Copyright 2017 – 2018. ALL Rights Reserved.