Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Good Views: Don't Believe The Critics, Everybody's Fine!

Normally I would be the first to call out a worn out family values film full of cliches and predictable scenarios, which is just what critics did to Kirk Jones' holiday family tearjerker. "Everybody's Fine" goes beyond the traditional family reunion movie, mostly thanks to Robert De Niro's memorable performance as Frank Goode, a widowed father of four. His children, played by Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell and Austin Lysy, don't add as much substance to the film as De Niro, but certainly don't take away from the emotional intensity.
As Frank Goode prepares himself for the holiday season, excited to finally bring the whole family together, he receives the saddening phone calls from his sons and daughters with the usual excuses of why they won't be coming home this Christmas. Determined to reverse the ongoing avoidance, Frank sets out on a cross country trip to check up on all of them on his own, despite his doctor's advice.
What follows is a bit more depressing and gloomy than one might expect from this genre of film. De Niro's characterization and ability to suck the audience through every subtle facial expression remains constant throughout the film, right up to the conclusion.
Jones' directing style and use of symbolism is on point and terribly effective. Every metaphor has significant meaning and was well thought out. Without giving too much away, I will say that one symbol in particular was cleverly integrated during the course of the movie, and hits your hard towards the conclusion, right when you're praying for a joke to lighten the mood before you soak your shirt. By the end of the movie I found myself choking up to the point of bawling in the middle of the theater.
After watching the movie, and drying out my eyes, I was eager to see what the other critics had to say about this touching family portrait. I was appalled and shocked to see such poorly thought out reviews. I felt as if the critics didn't even bother to watch the movie, or must have saw something completely different. So please, if you even considered watching this one, don't hesitate because of some poor man who thought that by predicting the end of a movie he can take away all other substance from it. This is not an unpredictable film, but it is emotionally powerful and effective. If you judge a movie by how well it plays with your emotions, then this should be at the top of your "must see" list.

Don't let the critics get to you on this one, you won't regret it!

Happy viewing!
-Dave Theisen

The last time I cried at a movie was after the first fifteen minutes of Disney Pixar's "Up." Wow... Now that was intense.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Hard News: The Best Christmas Present Of All Was The One That Wasn't Received

Less than two weeks after the failed terrorist attack, a multitude of concerned citizens remain unaware of the causes and effects of this potentially deadly incident. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded the Detroit bound airliner on Christmas Day, December 25th, with an assigned mission from al-Qaeda to detinate an explosive hidden in his underwear. The explosive device was not detonated properly, and instead set part of Abdulmutallab's pants and some of the plane on fire. Once it was clear what was happening, passengers and crew members acted with speedy determination to subdue the 23 year old, and extinguish the flames. The young suspect was quick to admit acquiring the explosives from al-Qaeda linked terrorists in Yemen. According to the FBI the explosive was created using PETN, or pentaerythritol, which was also used by the infamous shoe-bomber in December 2001. Abdulmutallab obtained a two year US visitors visa in June of 2008, and did not evoke any uncertainty when boarding the flight at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, known for being one of the most secure in the world.
The ability of the young man to be seated on a plane to the United States became controversial when authorities acknowledged Abdulmutallab's name appeared on Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, also known as TIDE.
TIDE's data contains over half a million names, of which only 4,000 are sent to the Transportation Security Authority to be placed on a no-fly list. Another 14,000 of those names are placed on a "selectee" list, which calls for more scrutiny when searching those individuals before they are allowed to board. Abdulmutallab's name remained only on the TIDE database, despite his father's, Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, discussions with the US embassy in Abuja, Nigeria warning them of his concern over his son's increasingly radical religious beliefs.
Heavy controversy has begun on whether or not the current administration has been putting enough emphasis on anti-terrorism efforts. President Obama has stated publicly his disappointment with the handling of intelligence, "This was not a failure to collect intelligence. It was a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had... We have to do better, we will do better, and we have to do it quickly. American lives are on the line."
As a result of the attempted attack, airports across the globe are tightening their security measures. Extra baggage checks, increased police presence, bomb-sniffing dogs, and full body scans are among some of the more serious increased tactics. These measures are also causing great controversy on whether or not these are violations of privacy.

-Dave Theisen

Are we in for another administration blame game, are we not tightening up security measures enough, or way too much? Share your opinions below!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Sweet Tunes: Something Old, Something True, Something Down and Dirty Blue

Still think Rock and Roll began with Elvis Presley? It's time for some re-education on the origins of modern music. To truly explain these roots, I'm going to have to take you back to the early decades of the twentieth century, when a slide wasn't something you found on a playground and blues was deeper and blacker than a white kid with long hair from the 70s bending strings on a guitar.
I'm talking about the legends of the uncompromising Charlie Patton and Robert Johnson, the unforgettable and haunting voices of Blind Willie McTell and Son House, and the pure force of Bukka White.
These are the great grandpas of Rock and Roll, and the fathers of the blues as we know it. From creating and perfecting the turnaround, to writing some of the most covered lyrics and music in modern history, the blues musicians of the 1920s-30s Delta region set the stage for the blues rock revival of the 50s and 60s, of which mainly white rock and roll musicians would take advantage of, leading to the scenes of the late 60s and 70s with bands like Led Zeppelin, Cream, and the Rolling Stones. All of these bands covered songs of the old blues artists, Cream's "Crossroads" is a cover of the Robert Johnson tune, Led Zeppelin's "Traveling Riverside Blues" covers the same artist, and the Rolling Stones earlier music was almost completely composed of blues covers, including "Honest I Do" by Jimmy Reed, and "Love in Vain" by Robert Johnson.

This brings me to my album recommendation: "Robert Johnson: the Complete Recordings."
In his short life, Mr. Johnson recorded only twenty nine songs, all of legendary status. The two disc CD set from Columbia Music also includes a forty eight page booklet with extensive research for some terrific biographical information, and thirteen alternate takes, totaling forty-two tracks all together. The collection truly shows Johnson's ability as a blues guitarist and singer, which led many of his fellow players to believe he sold his soul to the devil. The blues seems to pour out onto the listener as he howls and croons over lost lovers and evil women and jealous men. His chord figurations and guitar tuning have baffled many guitarists for almost a century now, and are still being debated over today. One thing is for sure, the genius is clearly audible throughout all 42 songs and alternate takes. A listen through this collection and it is sure to go on any music fan's top shelf. For the true music enthusiast, one listen may not be enough to dissect through every bit of subtle, yet deliciously tasteful, licks and phrases that Johnson presents through his heartfelt pieces.

Here are ten of my favorite tunes off the album, although all of them emanate the heart and soul of the blues:

Crossroads Blues
Hell Hound On My Trail
Milkcow's Calf Blues
From Four 'Till Late
Preachin' Blues (Up Jumped The Devil)
If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day
They're Red Hot
Last Fair Deal Gone Down
Come On In My Kitchen
Kind Hearted Woman Blues

Enjoy this Gem like I did!
-Dave Theisen

"I have never found anything more deeply soulful than Robert Johnson. His music remains the most powerful cry that I think you can find in the human voice, really."
-Eric Clapton

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Good Views: Renting a Flick? Get Some Brick!

Pressed to think of good movies from 2006? Chances are you missed a whole lot of them. Some of the most innovative films of the year challenged genres and set precedents, such as Del Toro's enchanted Pan's Labyrinth, the endearing Little Miss Sunshine, the witty and satirical Thank You For Smoking, and the magical, mystical tones of The Prestige and The Illusionist.
Other films simply blew us away from the edge of our seats with heart pounding action, intriguing story lines and convincing performances. Everyone remembers the first time they saw The Departed and couldn't budge for two-and-a-half hours, sympathizing with Denzel Washington and trying to guess their way through Inside Man, (one of Clive Owen's two great performances for that year along with the thought provoking Children of Men). One of my personal favorites for the year remains The Proposition, a breathtaking Australian western. Even movie-musicals set the bar higher, with Dreamgirls, which introduced the formidable talent of Jennifer Hudson.

However thrilling, exciting or funny all the above movies may have been, one film from 2006 stands out as unique and more genre defying than any other: Rian Johnson's "Brick."
An infinitely clever and witty combination of 1940s detective film noir with a Californian high school blends into a highly entertaining and constantly surprising movie night.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt's biggest appearance since Third Rock From the Sun establishes him as a capable and impressive acting force. His persistent, interrogating and seemingly unstoppable character reminds the audience of a Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade performance. Other lesser known, but comparably enjoyable actors present themselves as the expected film noir characters: the damsel in distress, the femme fatale and the dangerous kingpin with his right hand muscle.
Gordon-Levitt's character, Brendan Frye, begins the film determined to make his way into the high-school drug culture underground with an intent of making sure his ex-girlfriend, who has been MIA, isn't in any danger, or threatened by her new lifestyle. His endeavor leads him in deeper and deeper until he begins discovering disturbing truths about the darkness of this unfamiliar world.

The film is fast-paced, with cutting and snappy dialogue, and to fully appreciate it you must be as quick with your wits as the characters are. Watch it with the mentality and attention to detail of a detective and you'll be sure to enjoy Johnson's film work. Watch it expecting a predictable teen drama, and you're wasting your time.

Happy Viewing!
-Dave Theisen

Quick List to Rent for 2006:
Pan's Labyrinth
The Departed
Inside Man
Little Miss Sunshine
Children of Men
Thank You For Smoking
The Prestige
The Illusionist
The Proposition

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Hard News: Could Abortion Abort Health Care Progress?

One of the key issues in the highly controversial Health Care Bill, which was approved by the Senate December 24th, 2009, and earlier that month by the House of Representatives, remains the abortion amendment. The House passed it, the Senate tabled it, and soon both must come to a compromise if any further progress will be made on the groundbreaking bill.
The amendment to the health care bill for the HOR, proposed by Representative Bart Stupak, Democrat, would deny coverage to women requesting federal funding for an abortion under the new government health insurance plan. The exception to this amendment allows covering abortions only in cases of rape, incest, or where the life of a mother is threatened.
Stupak cited federal law already in practice as reason enough for keeping abortion away from federal funding. The Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, prohibits government funding of abortions.
Federal subsidies used to purchase insurance from private insurers, one of the benefits of the proposed bill, would also have the same limitations as the aforementioned. Customers needing insurance coverage would have the option of purchasing separate insurance riders at their own expense.
Sixty four democrats and 176 Republicans ultimately voted in favor of the amendment.
With only one Republican vote in favor of the health bill in the HOR, several democrats cited the anti-abortion amendment as necessary for leading to the success of the bill, which barely passed with a 220-215 vote.
Another view on Capitol Hill claims the amendment is too restricting, as the Senate has decided to pass the bill without adding a similar proposed amendment, sharing ideas with the House. The amendment for the Senate was proposed by a dual-party team of Democratic Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson and Republican Utah Senator Orrin Hatch.
Among the several reasons for rejecting the amendment, Democratic California Senator Barbara Boxer claims women are being singled out, as men have no operational procedure that can be denied when using private funds. The amendment would deny the right of abortion, even with use of private funds, under federal subsidized healthcare.
Without the amendment passed the states have the right to accept or reject the option of abortion coverage through private funds.
The Senate ultimately passed the bill after tabeling (ruling out) the proposed amendment, the healthcare bill came through with a 60-39 vote. Fifty eight Democrats and two independents voted yes, while Republicans unanimously voted no.
If ultimately passed, the law would be the biggest expansion of federal healthcare since Medicare and Medicade, over forty years ago.

I ENCOURAGE EVERYONE TO READ THE BILL FOR THEMSELVES, AND READ IT WELL! There's plenty of strongly biased websites out there from both sides claiming terrible and miraculous things that this bill will do that are flat out lies.

A version of the house bill can be found here

The Senate bill in pdf form

Stay well informed!
-Dave Theisen

Friday, January 01, 2010


To whom it may concern,

As one of my several new years resolutions, I have vowed to keep a blog and update it daily. Despite getting a late start on my first entry, I plan on keeping this a fruitful project, providing non-biased insight and shedding light on current events. Readers can also look forward to movie and music reviews, weekly anecdotes and other mediocre publishings. So if you have stumbled onto this page by some grave and unforgivable mistake, I ask you not to run off so quickly, because there might just be something here for you!

Wondering if that conspiracy theory video you saw on Youtube is true?
The answer is no! But I'll tell you exactly why, and how to never get sucked into such mindless hooliganism again.

Tired of blindly listening to your parents, friends and professors about why you should or shouldn't support politicians?
Start blindly listening to me! Just kidding, but as a journalist (that doesn't work for Fox) I will give you neutral details on which to base your own opinions... remember those wonderful things?

Looking for movies to rent?
I'll fill you in on the classics and overlooked modern films, as well as steer you clear of heavily advertised, putrid excuses for entertainment.

Searching for something to add to your iPod, or one of those fancy new iPods that apparently makes phone calls? (Personally I've never seen it happen).
Look no further, my wide musical variety will sure to titillate your ear buds with whatever you're in the mood for-from 1920s blues to 2010s best pop acts. My mission is to remind everyone why they should stop using Glee or American Idol as their main source of melodies.

And anything else I can think to throw up on here later will undoubtedly be at the peak of everyone's interests.
I hope you are looking forward to this as much as I am!

-Dave Theisen