Saturday, February 23, 2013

Allen to retire instead of taking NATO

Earlier in the week, exonerated Marine General John R. Allen who until recently commanded the International Security Assistance Force and US Forces Afghanistan has submitted his notice to President Obama of his intention to retire.

On February 10th, Allen relinquished command to another Marine 4-Star General Joseph F. Dunford who is expected to be the last commander of the U.S.-led international military coalition. In October last, General Allen was nominated to lead NATO forces as Supreme Allied Commander Europe but this nomination was put on hold in November due to the Pentagon investigation of questionable email exchanges with Jill Kelley, a Florida socialite linked to the sex scandal that led CIA Director David Petraeus to resign.


Allen was completely exonerated of any wrongdoing but there still remained a question whether the While House would re-nominate him for the NATO appointment.

Defence Secretary Leon Panetta wrote: “Gen. Allen’s selfless dedication to our troops and to their mission was a source of inspiration to those who served with him, as well as to those of us here at home.  He has earned the lasting thanks of this nation for carrying the heavy burden of leadership with utmost professionalism and courage.  I wish him and his entire family all the best in the next chapter of their lives.” 

Allen said retiring from the military was “the only choice I could make.” Although he did not explain his reasons in detail, he said “my primary concern is for the health of my wife, who had sacrificed so much for so long.” He served 38 years in the Marine Corps.

U.S. Army General Carter Ham, currently Commander, U.S. Africa Command was speculated this week to be nominated in Allen's place but the Washington Post claims U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, Commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe will get the nod.

It's a trying time for the Obama administration who are still embattled with the senate on it's nomination of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defence and John Brennan as CIA Director.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Meteorite Strikes Russia

On February 15th, a 10-tonne meteorite streaked across the sky and exploded over central Russia, sending fireballs crashing to earth which shattered windows and damaged buildings, injuring more than 1,200 people.


The meteor strike halted traffic in Chelyabinsk,an industrial city as residents poured out on the streets to watch the cosmic show before sreaming in panic as a sonic boom shattered glass and set off car alarms. Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov stressed that no fragments had been discovered anywhere in the region so far despite some 20,000 rescuers and recovery workers being dispatched there.

While NASA's eyes were on 2012 DA 14, an asteroid which whizzed safely past Earth at the unprecedented distance of 27,000 kilometers, UNETIDA were tasked with handling the object that would actually collide with the planet. "We were damn lucky with how this turned out" said Colonel "Whopper"Creedon speaking personally from the point of impact at Lake Chebarkul, 80 kilometers west of Chelyabinsk. "If this had actually hit a city there'd be a lot more than a thosand folks doing a lot more than picking shards of class ot of their faces." The Colonel added "It's not really our mandate to do this kind of work, a more permanent solution is needed."


NASA scientists estimated that the energy released from impact with the atmosphere was about 30 times greater than the force of the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima. "We would expect an event of this magnitude to occur once every 100 years on average,” said Paul Chodas of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office.

“Instead of fighting on Earth, people should be creating a joint system of asteroid defence,” wrote Alexei Pushkov, Russian parliament’s foreign affairs committee chief  and close ally of President Putin. "Instead of creating a (military) European space defence system, the United States should join us and China in creating the AADS – the Anti-Asteroid Defence System.”

Source: Dawn.com / BBC / FOX News

Bullet to the Head - and a couple through the centre of mass

I find it unlikely that Sylvester Stallone has had either an elocution lesson or a speech-therapy session in his life, and if he has, then I dread to think what he sounded like before. His indistinct sometimes incomprehensible slurred speech during Bullet to the Head is more pronounced by the fact that HE'S THE NARRATOR! It's difficult enough when you can SEE him talking but when he's a disembodied voice... ...well good luck to you. Stallone is 65 years old. You get free public transportation for that milestone here and Medicare where Stallone is. It was a little noticeable in Rambo IV alright, not so much in The Expendables or its recent sequel because there are so many other screen-gods present but when you see the big man in this movie you just have to admit, and he probably should too, that he's just too fucking old for this shit!

Bullet to the Head pairs Stallone playing aging New Orleans hit man Jimmy Bobo with Det. Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang of the Fast and the Furious franchise) a D.C. dickhead cop out of his jurisdiction. Now this is supposed to be the movie's main hook. Director Walter Hill has come out of a 10 year exile to deliver a formula for which he has had pretty memorable success - he previously paired Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte in 48 Hours as well as James Belushi and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Red Heat. However his winning formula has diluted somewhat since he last used it and it's some very weak sauce now.


The "banter" between hi-tech goody-two-shoes nerd Kwon and grizzled old anti-social hit man Bobo is some of the most forced camaraderie I've ever witnessed, it does not work and in fact fails spectacularly. To be honest with Stallone, you know what you're getting. It's not his fault, it's not like you have a muscled version of Alan Rickman delivering dialog as if nominated for an Oscar, it's just Stallone and his angry/sad/happy expressions are distinguishable only by the length of his side lip droop at the time. Kang however is irredeemably shit. Kwon is the absolute worst movie cop in the history of useless movie cops. He's an uncharismatic dickead devoid of any charm or likability and you know that if he was the recipient of the movie's title early on, you'd not shed a tear.

Sadly, the protagonists are paired for the whole movie, one seeking to solve a case and bring perpetrators to justice, the other wants to exact revenge for being set up and having his partner killed. This leads them down a woefully pathetic and flimsy plot path [it's an adaptation of a french graphic novel, go figure] to Morel, a dime-store villain, land developer (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) whose dealings are being covered up by snivelling lawyer Baptiste [Christian "Hey everyone! I'm back doing movies" Slater] and guarded by 6' 4" of blunt force trauma in the form South African mercenary Keegan [Jason Conan The Barbarian Momoa]. It's actually Momoa who steals the show when he's on screen regardless of whoever else is there and his final showdown with Stallone is unique in so far as they throw down their guns in favour of an impressive melee with large fireman's axes.

Final Verdict: Fuck-it, this is complete and utter shit but I thoroughly enjoyed this very aptly titled movie.

Colonel Creedon Rating: ***1/2

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Boy saves world but rewarded with suspension

In Loveland, Colorado there was little love shown to Captain Alex Evans, U.S. Army Special Forces who single headedly saved the entire world and the future of mankind by lobbing a MK140 High Explosive Fragmentation Grenade with flawless military precision into Pandora's Box itself! His costly mistake however was to do so on school property putting the lives of civilians and schoolchildren at risk.

At least this is how it may look to poor little Alex Evans if he could even understand why he was being suspended from school. But because you're SEVEN YEARS OLD you can't fathom why you'd be punished for being a hero!

Confused? Let me elaborate. Evans is a 2nd grader at Mary Blair Elementary School and he was suspended from the school because he violated the school's insane rules against the use of weapons - either real or imaginary. That's right - imaginary. The boy was playing a game during recess and threw an imaginary grenade into a make-believe box with pretend 'evil forces' inside.

 

Evans explained to FOX31 “It’s called ‘Rescue the World,’ I pretended the box, there’s something shaking in it, and I go ‘pshhh.’" as the boy widens his arms as if to simulate an explosion “So nothing can get out and destroy the world. I was trying to save people and I just can’t believe I got dispended,” he added, obviously not even able to pronounce his punishment - something that the school should probably be more concerned with than trying to act as totalitarian 'thought police' restricting imagination.

Mary Blair Elementary lists “absolutes” designed to keep a safe environment. The list includes absolutely no fighting, real or imaginary; no weapons, real or imaginary. Alex Evans did not even throw a physical object [like the dangerous weapon carried to school by Melody Valentin] or make any threats against anyone [like the 5-year old terrorist did in Pennsylvania] but the Orwellian school authorities insist he broke a key rule during his pretend play.

But Mary Blair Elementary isn't the only institution to have a ridiculous knee-jerk reaction in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Other school authorities all over the U.S. have made some similarly unfathomable decisions recently and have gone too far:
I was really hoping at least one of these stories linked to The Onion, but no, all real.

If I had been subject to these 'laws' when I was at school, I'd have been expelled as opposed to suspended as I'm sure a lot of folk reading this would be. I'm not unaware that some children of these ages are capable of crime and can wield dangerous weapons. I also acknowledge that every school is within it's rights and certainly even has a responsibility to ensure that it's teachers or students can't be in a position to cause harm or be harmed by one another. 

It's perfectly reasonable for school authorities to act and punish if physical harm is done to faculty, students or property but the act of prohibiting the development of simple thought and imagination is the most disturbing thing I've read in quite a while [and I read ramblings by Glen Beck earlier in the week!]. The fact that these rules are being enforced on 5-7 year olds in learning institutions in the 21st century is unfathomable and would only be conceivable to me in a Dystopian science fiction movie.

The world is a dangerous place. Educate the little brats on what to do if they encounter a real weapon and they just might listen. Yes there must indeed be measures in place to protect children but they must not come at the cost of their childhood.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Cock-Up has EAS warn of Zombie attacks!

An internal investigation began Monday concerning a serious and embarrassing malfunction of UNPASID’s control of the United States’ Emergency Alert System [EAS] which would in theory be used only in the event of a Zompocalypse.

On Monday afternoon, a CBS affiliate KRTV in Great Falls, Montana, which was broadcasting the Steve Wilkos talk show, had it’s sound temporarily replaced by the EAS. The audio signal alerted: "Civil authorities in your area have reported that the bodies of the dead are rising from the grave and attacking the living." And warned not "to approach or apprehend these bodies as they are extremely dangerous."


The incident is suspected to have arisen due to an effort to merge the UNPASID control with the UNETIDA control of the EAS which would be deployed in a similar manner should local authorities be unable to contain a sudden Extra Terrestrial landing before the arrival of UNETIDA.

A UNETIDA/UNPASID Counterintelligence team quickly fabricated a convincing story about a group of hackers attacking TV stations to post “hoax messages” about a zombie scare. “We have ways of convincing people of anything we need to to avoid revealing the truth,” said Colonel “Whopper” Creedon, Director of Intelligence, UNETIDA/UNPASID. “Hackers are in the public conscience and there are thousands of nerdy fanboys with access to the Internet and watching stuff like The Walking Dead on TV, Zombieland in the cinema and playing Left for Dead on their games machines. So it’s very easy to implicate them in something like this as they’re well known for their mischief.”

Most news outlets in the areas affected carried stories concerning what is, due to UNETIDA/ UNPASID’s actions, now considered a hoax which, as one law enforcement officer who received a 911 call put it, "Gave us a chuckle".

Source: USA Today / Youtube /  I09

Lincoln

I do my best to allow myself to see one beard-stroking non-violent movie per year if only to prove to myself that I’m not completely mentally lost in a sea of endless pain and suffering while haunted by the screams of the men I’ve sent or led to their deaths. So this year I went to see Lincoln, Senior Spielbergo’s epic biopic of a man troubled by nightmares and haunted by the screams of the men he sent to their deaths. Thankfully for my own mental state perhaps, Steve focused his sight on the internal political wrangling of January 1865 as Abraham Lincoln tried to get the House of Representatives to ratify the 13th amendment to the constitution, abolishing slavery as well as bringing an end to a terrible civil war and reunifying the troubled nation.

This is a talking film. There’s a lot of talking, posturing, arguing, storytelling and speech-making. One copy of the script could be used instead of log or two on the fire for the evening. There must be at over 60 speaking roles from start to finish. The most ‘exciting’ moment in the movie is where they go through the entire House of Representatives individually getting them to vote by saying 'yay' or 'nay', which some do more colourfully than others, but even this is still more talking! All that aside, what they are actually saying on whole is worth listening to and you’ll be glad you heard it.


Daniel Day Lewis gives us the performance of his career as the man himself and without hesitation I’d hand him the Oscar for his warm, kindly yet deeply intelligent portrayal of a truly troubled man. Tommy Lee Jones gets as much screen time as Republican Congressional leader Thaddeus Stevens who rallied his people to the cause. An ageing Sally Field, without a single dollop of make-up for the role, portrayed Mary Todd-Lincoln, broken-hearted wife, daily coping with the loss of one of their sons. There's far too many other roles to detail here but I will commend Jared Harris as General Grant, James Spader as William Bilbo and Bruce McGill as Secretary Edwin Stanton.

If there is any fault with this movie it's that Spielberg is literally reaching out and demanding Oscars. It's very interesting to compare this to the last movie that seemed to do the same thing - The Kings Speech. The main difference is that the British are much nicer about making their demands, insofar as you can practically hear them saying 'please' and 'thank you' after making them. Spielberg doesn't have the same manners and it's borderline vulgar. I'm by no means saying Lincoln is not deserving of it's accolades but I think audiences who elect to see this are intelligent enough to know it's worthy without a speech or John Williams reminding us every five minutes.

Final Verdict: It's unlikely anyone could 'enjoy' this more than Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter but it's seemingly a little more historically accurate if that's your thing. I can at least acknowledge that the acting overall is far better in this movie which truly humanizes a man of legendary status.

Colonel Creedon rating: ****

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Monday, February 11, 2013

POPE BENEDICT XVI RESIGNS!!!

German born Joeseph Ratzinger, formerly of the Hitler Youth who ascended to the papacy in 2005 following the death of his predecessor Pope John Paul II, has become the first pope in 600 years to resign his office.

In his letter of resignation Pope Benedict cited a 'lack of strength' and 'ill health'. However as all popes since Pope Gregory XII in 1415 have grown old, fallen ill and died in office it seems prudent to assume that his hand was forced somehow by someone influential, for reasons which may never be revealed...


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Django 'Unhinged'

Quentin Tarintino’s latest offering is Django Unchained, the story of a slave [Jamie Foxx] who is freed by Dr. King Schultz [Christoph Waltz] a bounty hunter, himself on the trail of a group of thugs whom only Django Freeman can identify. Schultz offers Django both freedom and money in return for his assistance but also trains him in his art of bounty hunting - skills that Django wishes to use to free his wife Broomhilda Von Shaft [Kerry Washington] from her own slavemasters at Candieland, a famously reprehensible slave plantation.

If you had no problem with the Inglorious Basterds shooting Adolf Hitler in the face with machine guns then the anachronistic events of Django [which is certainly even more loosely based on its period in history] won’t even faze you. I mentally accepted this element before taking my seat and I enjoyed the movie’s offering as a result. The violence quotient on screen was somewhat typical of Tarantino’s direction and many scenes left torrents of blood everywhere. Actually, some scenes were, I’m surprised to say - a little too over-the top even for Tarintino – I guess you can actually go too far with violence when it physically distracts you from telling the story. The movie is easily at least half an hour too long and the final half-hour drags the movie into the territory where you start looking at your watch. There is an incredible shoot out scene about -30:00 from the end and if the movie’s final “explosive” scene was tacked on there instead we’d have a more cohesive and satisfactory presentation [without an ‘Australian’ Tarintino! – don’t ask].


Then there is of course the script. Tarintino is an excellent writer, he’s proved it many times but what he does here, while thematically brilliant, falls short in execution. When a small child discovers a new curse-word, depending on the reaction of its supervisors, it may continue to populate it’s speech with said word. While Django’s script is great for the most part [practically everything written for Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio is gold], it’s really as if little Quentin had just discovered the n-word and he obviously got the reaction that drove the infantile portion of his mind to repeat the word over 100 times in the script. I’m sorry, but if you’re going to claim that the constant use of the n-word is appropriate for the time, citing a desire to stay true to historical accuracy, then don’t say it about a movie set in 1858 where the protagonists are using Sharps Model 1874 Buffalo rifles and Dynamite which was invented in 1867!! Using the n-word in the manner he did is totally understandable and even expected from him at this stage but using it in the sheer amounts he did per minute was excessive and attention-seeking and deserves admonishing rather than a Golden Globe win or the Oscar nomination.

Foxx may be an Oscar winner in his own right but even as the title character, he’s nothing more than a rank amateur when acting alongside Waltz. The German actor steals the show and deserved the admiration of not only the audience but every award that he’s eligible for, he’s that good. Blood Diamond, Inception and The Departed mean that DiCaprio is no longer considered to be a fucking twerp and his turn as the eccentric slave-owner Calvin Candie is excellent but unlike Waltz his performance isn’t worthy of award. Of Samuel L. Jackson’s character Steven, I can only ask “What the fuck?” There are some interesting appearances by Don Johnson, Walton Goggins and Tom Wopat but sadly a criminal under use of Bruce Dern as well as an audience-insulting [mis]use of James Remar playing two different characters.

Final Verdict: While it should never have been considered for most of the accolades it’s earned; Django Unchained this generation’s answer to Blazing Saddles in so far as it should be taken just as seriously but just as thoroughly enjoyed.

Colonel Creedon Rating: ****

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Walmart Shoplifter Plugged by Deputy Sheriff - Part 21 in my "Shoot First, Questions Never" series!

27 year old Shelly Frey, mother-of-two, was shot and killed by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy at a Walmart in Texas.

Louis Campbell, a 26-year veteran of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, is employed as a security guard at Walmart. He was notified by store security that Frey and two accomplices had placed some items in their purses while shopping.

As there were exiting the store Campbell who was in his uniform, stopped the women and identified himself as a law-enforcement official but the trio fled to their vehicle. Campbell gave chase and opened Frey’s car door, ordering her to exit the vehicle, an order she refused to comply with. Tisa Andrews, another of the suspects, then put the vehicle in reverse while Deputy Campbell was standing between the open door and the driver’s seat.

“She threw it in reverse and tried to run over the deputy,” said Harris County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Deputy Thomas Gilliland. “He confronted the suspects at exit of the store before they left. One female wouldn’t stop, struck the deputy with her purse, ran off.” He added, “I think it knocked him off balance and, in fear of his life and being ran over, he discharged his weapon at that point.”

Even with Frey wounded in the neck, the women still fled, but they stopped on Greens Parkway. Frey was pronounced dead at the scene when paramedics arrived. “Shelly was the perfect mom, perfect friend, perfect daughter,” said her father, Shelton Frey. “Why couldn’t you just shoot the tire, shoot the window?” said her mother Sharon Wilkerson. “Was it that serious?”

Verdict: RIGHTEOUS KILL! That's right! Although the crime itself was certainly not one to be answered with a bullet to the neck. The trifecta of Assaulting a Police Officer, Evading/Resisting Arrest and Attempted Vehicular Manslaughter means you deserve to get dropped. The real question is why was there only one shot fired? You're unlikely to take down three perps with one shot Campbell! More training for you!

Gangster Squad doesn't shoot straight

Gangster Squad is the story of a group of the toughest cops in L.A. who dispensed justice without their badges on and fought to keep East Coast Mafia types out of Los Angeles in the 1940s and 50s. It was to have been released in September, but Warner Bros. decided against releasing film with an explosive cinema shootout/massacre just a couple of months after the Aurora, Colorado shootings and there was some frantic reshoots and editing required to deliver a finished product.

The performances from Josh Brolin as dedicated squad leader Sgt. John O'Mara and Emma Stone as sultry Grace Faraday, moll to crime boss Micky Cohen were above their average. Sean Penn [Cohen] seemed to relish in his slightly over the top villain and despite the fact I despise Penn himself, his performance was faultless despite his distracting make up. Ryan Gosling however perplexed us with an extraordinarily effeminate whiny voice for his Jerry Wooters that did not sound convincing whatsoever and while Robert Patrick may be getting on a bit alright he’s not old enough to be playing Max Kennard a role that would have better suited Sam Elliot 10 years ago. I was also left wondering how many of the people in the audience would have even recognised the once great Nick Nolte playing legendary LAPD chief William H. Parker?


I really wish I could have seen the original cut because I think I'd be here singing Gangster Squads praises in a longer, better review than I can write about this. I think what we got has the makings of a masterpiece that would sit on a shelf just beneath L.A. Confidential and The Departed but the changes made literally castrated the film. As it stands now, it’s fair to good rather than the excellence it exudes from its best moments. Sadly now there’s as much wind in my sails about it as I assumed was in Ruben Zombieland Fleischer's as he signed off on the final deeply flawed cut. 

It’s easy to see where the movie was altered from the multitude of glaring plot holes that manifested themselves in the last 40 minutes or so with characters apparently developing both powers of deduction and psychic abilities not out of place in a superhero flick. I'm unsure if it was due to these changes the made it seem like the Gangster Squad was basically running about without a cohesive operational plan or what the O'Mara/Wooters friendship didn't seem to be in any way genuine, but I guess we'll never know.

Final Verdict: It’s a cinematic tragedy that this felt like a 4.5/5-Star movie that had to be butchered down to 3. As such Gangster Squad deserves to be listed as one of those wounded in the Colorado shooting.

Colonel Creedon Rating: ***

Friday, February 08, 2013

SETI targets belligerent aliens with scanning beams!

The Green Bank Telescope [Image CMU.EDU]
UNETIDA today blasted SETI for the institute's instance on performing targeted searches on inhabitable solar systems in deep space. Apparently the reckless organisation has been using the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia to scan 86 different stars, chosen because Kepler data indicated they host potentially habitable planets by our standards.

SETI surveyed each star for 5 minutes by searching radio bands in the 1-2 GHz range for alien cell phones and Television signals as well as the spectrum beneath 5Hz which can't be produced by anything in nature. However, due to the vast distances involved in the scanning, the only signals that could have been detected were those that were intentionally aimed in our direction — which would be a deliberate effort by ETIs to signal their presence.

Unsurprisingly, the researchers noted that no signals of extraterrestrial origin were found. Despite this they remain hopeful for the future. SETI intend to expand the list of signatures they will scan for to include laser pulses and to consider civilisations on different levels of the Kardashev scale.

UNETIDA are opposed to SETI's efforts and Colonel "Whopper" Creedon, Director of Intelligence was quick to admonish the recklessness of the SETI researchers. "Goddamn fools is what they are! Sure it's infinitesimally remote that there will be some kind of signal from these places back and they are at least 1000 light years away but we've got our own issues to deal with before we start inviting ET over for coffee!"

UNETIDA resources are believed to be stretched wafer thin following a major military and scientific highly classified operation which prevented the destruction of the planet on December 21st last. At the most recent UN General Assembly, the Security Council was encouraged to put steps into motion that would see the permanent merge of UNETIDA and it's sister service UNPASID which had it's command staff wiped out in a series of unfortunate events last year. Looming U.S. defence budget cuts will likely have a detrimental effect on future operations and it's believed that unlike in the past, UNETIDA will not be able to fund operations to prevent SETI or independent researchers from their misguided and irresponsible efforts.

Source:  io9

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Reaching for Jack

One of the world’s finest actors, wacky Scientologist Tom Cruise, adopts the mantle of literary character Jack Reacher in Christopher McQuarrie's adaptation of One Shot by Lee Child. A former major in the U.S. Army Military Police Corps, Reacher has since bizarrely eschewed an identity, permanent address, drivers licence and now only seems to own only the clothes he’s wearing. Despite his eccentricities however, he’s also a highly skilled investigator and when another former soldier whom Reacher failed to convict years earlier, becomes prime suspect in a multiple homicide - he demands Reacher himself assists his lawyer in investigating his case.


Cruise is joined on screen by Rosamund Surrogates Pike, Richard Killing Them Softly Jenkins, Jai Spartacus Courtney and the legendary Robert Duvall. The latter puts in the most convincing performance an an old-timer US Marine who won't walk away from a fight and relishes the chance to open fire on human beings again. And then there's Werner Herzog, the villain of the piece to which I can only bury my face in my hands in disbelief. The man is one of the worlds most prolific documentary filmmakers but he's no actor. For his [thankfully] few scenes he does nothing but sit in a chair sprouting sheer nonsense in his trademark emotionless monotone.

McQuarrie [who wrote The Usual Suspects and will helm M:I-5] has the movie play out bizarrely like a common 80’s thriller. It’s a mishmash between a bog-standard conspiracy tale at its best and a predictable Steven Segal movie at its worst. Despite the sheer nonsense of this combination, when melded with the absurdity of the Jack Reacher character and Cruise’s professional performance as well as Duvall's, this has far more a credible pedigree of an action-thriller than most movies that make such a claim these days and in fact the end result is thoroughly entertaining.

Final Verdict: They don’t make them like this anymore. Not sure of that's a good or a bad thing yet.

Colonel Creedon Rating: ***1/2