Nov 132005
 

Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

Balian of Ibelin travels to Jerusalem during the crusades of the 12th century, and there he finds himself as the defender of the city and its people.

Directed by
Ridley Scott

Genres
Action, Drama, War

Cast
Martin Hancock, Michael Sheen, Nathalie Cox, Eriq Ebouaney, Jouko Ahola, David Thewlis, Liam Neeson, Philip Glenister, Orlando Bloom, Bronson Webb, Kevin McKidd, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Steven Robertson, Marton Csokas, Alexander Siddig

We rented this movie Friday night. Much is said about how the film portrays religion, given the sensitive subject of the Crusades, but I feel that Ridley has achieved a wonderful balance between how Christianity and Islam are portrayed. Both are given fair airtime on their ideologies, and the film tries to preach (pardon the pun) about tolerance, yet highlights the dangers of fanatical followers of both religions, of misguidance from men in search of worldly power.

Christianity took a beating – where senseless battles are waged in the name of Christ, where insensitivity breed contempt. Priests are cast in negative light and given lines like “convert to Islam, repent later” when all around seems lost. It is emphasized in the show that what matters is in your head and in your heart – that noble actions speak louder than mere empty and repetitive “praise the Lord” chants, as if that will protect you during Judgment Day.

The script is no revolution of coherence or cohesion, yet it works rather well for this type of movie. Because this is more pure entertainment than anything else. In the press material Ridley Scott stated himself that this should be seen more as entertainment than historical facts. Which is absolutely fine by me i might add, at least as long as he states this beforehand. Perhaps the most disturbing things is for instance the way that Orlando Bloom goes from clueless blacksmith to full-fledged sword-wielding knight in 15 minutes movie-time.

And the actors? Orlando Bloom is in my opinion one of the most over-rated actors around today. Here though he’s better than I’ve seen him before. I think the main thing is that he manages to act and look more like an adult this time, while in most previous movies he has felt almost childish. The rest of the cast consist mostly of quite well-known names and they all do a fine job, making this movie quite well-acted although it’s not exactly Shakespeare…

All things said and done?I found this movie to be very entertaining. It’s visually stunning, reasonably well acted with a decent script and some nice characters. What it lacks in coherence and story it makes up for with a strong and quick pace (for the genre) and some truly impressive action scenes.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (1 votes, average: 6.00 out of 10)
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Jarhead

 Culture, Movies, Movies I Own  Comments Off
Nov 112005
 

Jarhead (2005)

Based on former Marine Anthony Swofford’s best-selling 2003 book about his pre-Desert Storm experiences in Saudi Arabia and about his experiences fighting in Kuwait.

Directed by
Sam Mendes

Genres
Action, Comedy, Drama, War

Cast
Jake Gyllenhaal, Scott MacDonald, Lo Ming, Kevin Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Damion Poitier, Riad Galayini, Craig Coyne, Katherine Randolph, Rini Bell, Dendrie Taylor, James Morrison, Arman Zajic, Brianne Davis, Jamie Foxx

I’m behind a movie review here. We went to see this movie last weekend.

While it isn’t the film that has been so brilliantly advertised, it’s a very solid film. It feels a lot like “Full Metal Jacket” early on, but with more humor. Then, it becomes an entirely new animal. More of a psychological study in that you (and the characters) know the Boogeyman’s “out there,” you’re just waiting for him to strike. And the longer you wait, the more stir-crazy you become within your own mind.

The acting is superb and the cinematography is stellar. It’s an anti-war film without being distinctly liberal about it. It’s a true story, and for the most part, Mendes tells it like it is. So, you can make your own judgment about it. But based off what you see, and all that happens, you have no choice but see the absurdity, not only in war, but perhaps in some of the USMC’s tactics as well. It’s heartbreaking to see what an experience like this can do to young men.

If you’re looking for action, this is not the film you’re looking for. No heroism, judgments, insight, or hope. Just the documentation and reflection of build up, the destruction of lives, psychological torment, boredom, camaraderie, and…waiting.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (1 votes, average: 6.00 out of 10)
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Lord of War

 Culture, Movies, Politics  Comments Off
Oct 292005
 

Lord of War (2005)

An arms dealer (Cage) confronts the morality of his work as he is being chased by an Interpol agent (Hawke).

Directed by
Andrew Niccol

Genres
Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller

Cast
Nicolas Cage, Bridget Moynahan, Jared Leto, Shake Tukhmanyan, Jean-Pierre Nshanian, Jared Burke, Eric Uys, David Shumbris, Stewart Morgan, Jasper Lenz, Kobus Marx, Stephan De Abreu, Jeremy Crutchley, Ian Holm, Tanya Finch

Lay and I went to see Lord Of War several weeks ago. I don’t why I forgot to review it here. We thought it was an interesting movie. Not great, but worth watching. Many people might walk away from this one not feeling “entertained” because it’s not your typical Hollywood thriller. It’s not a “Feel Good” movie you should take a date on in the hopes of coming away high on life and hand in hand. It’s a movie that’ll make you think and might disturb the uninformed viewer who knows little about the politics of war.

This is a movie based on actual events (that means it’s a movie that has some truth to it). From what I heard the director made quite a bit of research of the gun running world when creating this movie.

This movie takes a look at the gun running business through the story of one particular trafficker played by Cage. It goes through two decades of wars & conflicts and how the business and politics of gun running works. Cage is the middle man in that world, who navigates through it very professionally and coolly. Cage’s character is made to be likable, but not a hero by any means.

Many people may think that this movie depicts certain cultures and races in a bad light, but if you know anything about history and keep up to date with world events you’ll understand the truth behind these portrayals.

The movie is interesting because it is as close as to a realistic look to arms trafficking as Hollywood could produce without making a documentary. It’s refreshing because of this.

I hope people see this movie because it very much shows the truth behind how wars are supplied and how the richest nations in the world have done this for the ultimate prize? that thing that makes the world go round ? Money.

The movie as a whole is produced very well and the acting and cinematography is up to par with the type of film it is (as mentioned before, don’t expect a big production Hollywood action flick).

Don’t expect your typical Hollywood ending here either.

Sep 282005
 

I have, several times in the past, called on the U.S. Bishops of the United Methodist Church, to write George Bush and denounce the practice of government sponsored torture. To the best of my knowledge, only five have done so. In light of the recent revelations, I am, again, calling on these Christian leaders to denounce toture. I will be much aggressive this time in that I plan to make a phone call to each.

I have previously posted the contact information for the fifty U.S. Bishops in PDF and Excel format. I ask you to join me in calling on them to write the White House, and take a stand against torture.

Dear Bishop:

Most Americans agree that torture should not be permitted. Few seem aware, though, that although President George W. Bush says he is against torture, he has openly declared that our military and other interrogators may engage in torture “consistent with military necessity.”

Are we, as Methodist charged by our founding principles to be socially responsible, going to continue to close our eyes – even as this behavior continues to be exposed?

We have come a long way since Virginia patriot Patrick Henry loudly insisted that the rack and the screw were barbaric practices that must be left behind in the Old World, “or we are lost and undone.” Can the leaders of Methodism consult their own consciences with respect to what Justice may require of them in denouncing torture as passionately as the patriots who founded our nation?

On September 24, The New York Times ran a detailed report regarding the kinds of “routine” torture that US servicemen and women have been ordered to carry out (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/24/politics/24abuse.html). This week’s Time also has an article on the use of torture by US forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo. Those two articles are based on a new report from Human Rights Watch, a report that relies heavily on the testimony of a West Point graduate, an Army Captain who has had the courage to speak out. A Pentagon spokesman has dismissed the report as “another predictable report by an organization trying to advance an agenda through the use of distortion and errors of fact.” Judge for yourselves; the report can be found at (http://hrw.org/reports/2005/us0905/). Grim but required reading.

See if you can guess the author of the following:

“In this land that has inherited through our forebears the noblest understandings of the rule of law, our government has deliberately chosen the way of barbarism…

There is a price to be paid for the right to be called a civilized nation. That price can be paid in only one currency – the currency of human rights…When this currency is devalued a nation chooses the company of the world’s dictatorships and banana republics. I indict this government for the crime of taking us into that shady fellowship.

The rule of law says that cruel and inhuman punishment is beneath the dignity of a civilized state. But to prisoners we say, ‘We will hold you where no one can hear your screams.’ When I used the word ‘barbarism,’ this is what I meant. The entire policy stands condemned by the methods used to pursue it.

We send a message to the jailers, interrogators, and those who make such practices possible and permissible: ‘Power is a fleeting thing. One day your souls will be required of you.”

– Bishop Peter Storey, Central Methodist Mission, Johannesburg, June 1981

The various rationalizations for torture do not bear close scrutiny. Intelligence specialists concede that the information acquired by torture cannot be considered reliable. Our own troops are brutalized when they follow orders to brutalize. And they are exposed to much greater risk when captured. Our country becomes a pariah among nations. Above all, torture is simply wrong. It falls into the same category of evil as slavery and rape. Torture is inhuman and immoral, whether or not our bishops and rabbis can summon the courage to name it so.

You forfeit your moral authority when you keep your heads down and eyes averted to this behavior. The question is this: Are we up to the challenge of confronting the evil of torture, or shall we prove Patrick Henry right? Is our country about to be “lost and undone?”

I once again call on each of you to decry the government sponsored torture that is clearly taking place. We, as Christians and Methodists can do no less. It is, as a leader of the Church, your obligation to speak up loudly and denounce these activities. As Bishop Story noted, one day too, our souls will be required of us.

Yours in Peace,
John Masters

Sep 272005
 

Time magazine yesterday revealed new allegations of "systematic abuse" of Iraqi detainees made by a "decorated former Captain in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division." For months, Capt. Ian Fishback said, U.S. soldiers were directed "to conduct daily beatings of prisoners prior to questioning." In one instance, "a soldier allegedly broke a detainee’s leg with a metal bat." Other prisoners had "their faces and eyes exposed to burning chemicals." Fishback says he told Army superiors of the abuse several times, but was met with "repeated brush-offs." Finally, he reported his charges to Human Rights Watch (read HRW’s full report). Now that the abuse is public, the Army says it has launched a criminal investigation.

Sep 262005
 

You will be happy to know that the President’s appeal for private contributions to help Iraq has been met with a grand total of about $600.

You won’t find anything about it in the American press, but Britian’s The Observer International says:

An extraordinary appeal to Americans from the Bush administration for money to help pay for the reconstruction of Iraq has raised only $600 (£337), The Observer has learnt. Yet since the appeal was launched earlier this month, donations to rebuild New Orleans have attracted hundreds of millions of dollars.

The public’s reluctance to contribute much more than the cost of two iPods to the administration’s attempt to offer citizens ‘a further stake in building a free and prosperous Iraq’ has been seized on by critics as evidence of growing ambivalence over that country.

This is the first time our government has ever made an appeal to taxpayers to privately contribute foreign aid money, and it looks like quite the flop. I guess all those war supporters aren’t too keen to pony up, evidently having used up their tax breaks to slather Support the Troops magnets on their bumpers. I mean, those are each a couple of bucks. Not only are the freepers unwilling to put their neck’s on the line, neither are they going to put their money where their mouth is.

Sep 212005
 

Not only did Halliburton’s KBR subsidiary serve U.S. troops in Iraq spoiled food (sometimes a year past the expiration date), but also contaminated water from Iraq’s Euphrates River, containing "numerous pathogenic organisms" at nearly two times the normal contamination levels of untreated water. "[R]aw sewage is routinely dumped less than two miles from the water intake location." KBR water quality specialists reported their concerns, but were told by their superiors that their claims were "erroneous" and "corrective measures" had been taken, with no evidence anything had been done. Two whistleblowers resigned because of "unsafe water and pressure to cover it up" (one became sick from the drinking water) and another expects to  be terminated soon.

So now they’re being unleashed on the citizens of the Gulf Coast as well. Ya know, quite frankly, in words of our Vice President, to all of you that voted President Cheney and W into office, "Go fuck yourselves."

Sep 212005
 

The Iraq Defense Ministry is the victim of one of the largest thefts in history. One billion dollars meant to buy arms from Pakistan and Poland was siphoned off, resulting in overpayment for inferior equipment such as "armoured cars…so poorly made that even a bullet from an elderly AK-47 machine-gun could penetrate their armour." The deals that resulted in lost money and inferior equipment were quick, awarded without bidding, paid up front, and signed with a Baghdad-based company, instead of directly with a foreign supplier. Officials are unclear where the money has gone, but have put out an arrest warrant for Ziyad Cattan, the defense ministry’s procurement chief at the time, whose appointment was approved by Paul Bremer, then US viceroy in Iraq. Iraqi officials say that, "[t]he carefully planned theft has so weakened the army that it cannot hold Baghdad against insurgent attack without American military support…making it difficult for the US to withdraw its 135,000- strong army from Iraq." 

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