Saturday, November 23, 2013

Catching Fire (Movie Review)

 So in keeping with my unofficial and spontaneous tradition, on Thursday I saw the new Hunger Games movie on opening night. As with before, Catching Fire was played to a packed house... and didn't disappoint.

In the time since Katniss and Peeta (Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutchinson) won the last Hunger Games, they've had to live in isolation as a fake couple. Their contrived romance from the first movie -- done solely to keep each other alive -- as well as their open defiance to the government, has inspired outbreaks of dissent across Panem; so much so that open revolt is all but inevitable. President Snow (Donald Sutherland) has threatened to wipe out Katniss and Peeta's hometown if they do not subdue this with their "Victors' Tour", but when their appearances only inspire more defiance, and with it more brutality, Snow concocts a new tournament: Katniss and Peeta are forced to compete with past competitors from the last 25 years of the games, and if they survive their district will be wiped off the map.

While the storyline is relatively thin, there was a lot going on in this movie, in terms of subtext and commentary. One of the things I loved about the previous film was its jab at reality TV. In this one, it's dialed up to 11; not only are Katniss and Peeta basically doomed to live a false romance for the rest of their conceivable lives -- even having to fake a marriage -- solely to placate the masses, but every last victor we have ever seen from these games has serious mental damage. Unlike the previous story, Suzanne Collins' inspiration of a clash between Survivor and Iraq War coverage actually makes a sick amount of sense, as these "best of" games are effectively forcing badly wounded war veterans to back into another battle, and the whole thing is treated as a game show.

So, long story short, I loved how the characters' actions throughout the story are basically designed to be a giant middle finger to Snow and the society he nutures.

There really isn't much more that I can say, to praise the movie. The story is very tight (if a bit rushed), the action scenes better, THEY GOT RID OF THE DAMN SHAKY CAM FROM THE FIRST MOVIE, and the characters have visibly evolved from the previous movie. This is particularly evident with Effie (Elizabeth Banks), who gradually acts like... well, a real and thoughtful person... as it really sinks in what these games are making people do (by the way I also like that they didn't really preach about this to the audience). Even Peeta, who came off as a bit of a wimp in the first one, shows some steel and smarts the sequel.

There are really only two criticisms that I can make. First, I don't particularly care for Liam Hemsworth as an actor. It's not like his readings are inhuman or anything, but they aren't particularly engaging, either (not helping is that he's never had anything to do in either of the movies released so far). The other is one that was suggested to me by Andrew Carter; the movie has PTSD as an element among the survivors -- Woody Harleson's Haymitch is an alcoholic, some of the other victors are said to be substance abusers, others still are visibly traumatized or psychopathic, and even Katniss is shown to have flashbacks in the first three minutes of the movie -- yet they really could have done more with it. One of the few things that the first movie did better than this one, was that the final minutes before the games actually start are REALLY suspenseful, and you can see the plain terror among everyone as it becomes all too real what they are about to do. This movie -- despite having a cast of competitors that has been through it all, with scars to prove it -- just seems to brush it off as if it's... well, a Bond movie.

But those gripes don't take away from a pointed and thrilling movie, with fantastic twists and a shocking ending. Don't miss it.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

(Now) Admitted Crackhead Rob Ford Refuses to Resign

Those of you who were on Twitter today, probably noticed that not only was #TOPoli trending, but it was absolutely EXPLODING. All over the news -- around the world -- was that Toronto's far-right mayor Rob Ford admitted to having used crack cocaine on at least one occasion.

This is on the heels of a week that has shadowed his office -- and by extension, his family, given his brother Doug is a councillor -- with arrests made in relation to a videotape showing him smoking from a crackpipe, in the company of known drug dealers. A video that, for a long time, Ford insisted didn't exist. A video that publicized frame grabs clearly shows Rob Ford himself. A video that has been so damaging to his image, that some of his associates -- people whom he has described as "good guys" -- have been arrrested on charges of assault and extortion, in connection to efforts to find and suppress it.

A video that it has now been alleged, Ford's Press Secretary hired a hacker to try to destroy. A video that the Fords have insisted Police Chief Bill Blair resign for investigating.

Oh, and this is on the heels of it being revealed that Rob Ford has given glowing reference letters to friends of his who are convicted murderers. On top of the very real possibility that he arranged the murder of at least one of the people he was seen partying with, in the original video.

At around 4:20 this afternoon -- no, I'm serious, that really was the time -- Rob Ford came out to a scripted press conference, to follow up on his admission that he not only lied SEVERAL times to the city he claims to love and represent, but that he committed a fairly serious crime. Everyone outside of Ford Nation (ie. everyone with basic moral and ethical standards) hoped he would resign. Instead, he simply apologized, and had the gall to announce HE IS RUNNING FOR RE-ELECTION.

Allow me to give my thoughtful response: Mr. Ford, you piece of shit!

I don't want to attack the man just for his addictions -- they are a genuine illness, and to give Ford SOME credit, he looked genuinely mortified during the press conference. However, that doesn't change the fact that he not only broke the very same laws that he has PUBLICLY championed throwing the book at common folk over, but that on MANY OCCASIONS this past year, he flatly denied that he even had a problem in the first place! In fact, even this morning, when he finally admitted to having smoked crack, he claims that he said otherwise up to this point because not one person in the media or public "asked him the right question".

Are you fucking KIDDING me? If any of us working-class slobs that Ford claims to be one of -- even though he isn't -- pulled any of this, they would not only be FIRED IMMEDIATELY, but they would be arrested. Especially when there's a lot of evidence that he tried to block the police from ever finding out about it, AND YOU FLAT OUT ADMITTED IT TO THE MEDIA, IN THE FREAKING INTERNET AGE! You can't take this stuff back, Rob!

Oh and you had the cojones to DEMAND (through your big brother Doug), that Chief Bill Blair resign for doing his job. The very same job you encouraged him to do, when running for office. You fucking cockshit, you have NO place to call for anyone's resignation, after what you have pulled! You, who demanded that city workers be fired for having their heads on their desks (allegedly sleeping on the job -- which you've been caught doing, yourself), have NO INTEGRITY WHATSOEVER.

It's already appalling that Ford has gotten away with this much. If he makes it to next year's election, and SOMEHOW gets re-elected -- this guy who was already awful at the job he supposedly loves so much -- then Toronto 100% deserves what happens. This is the SINGLE WORST CANADIAN POLITICAL SCANDAL -- at least in local politics -- that has happened in my lifetime. Even if they don't normally vote, THE PEOPLE MUST VOTE NEXT YEAR. Put a stop to this -- stand up for yourselves, and your city. Rob Ford has personally made it into a terrible joke, and right now you are letting him get away with it.

No more!