Friday, May 31, 2013

Early Summer Movie Blast

Warning: minor spoilers follow.
None of these are new movies,  but they are films that I either had never heard of, or had not bothered to watch, and a couple were surprisingly good.

Sniper: Reloaded, 2011
The "reloaded" trope is the taking of a popular older movie and remaking it with new actors, sometimes a rewritten script, and modern special effects.  Sniper: Reloaded is not actually one of these movies, as it happens years after the events in Sniper, a movie with notable strong points mixed with Hollyweird drama- reloaded is just a semi-clever play on the reloaded trend. 

I have never seen another movie that gets so many things right and wrong as Reloaded.  Towards the beginning of the movie, correct information is given about the AK-74, with year of adoption and correct bullet weights.  At the same time, we are treated to the scene of training service members firing .50 rifles with no hearing protection.  This type of thing continues throughout the movie.  I can think of two possible explanations.  The script writers might have received expert advice, and refused to follow some of it.  The other explanation is that the writers might have searched for information, and included it without realizing all the things they were missing and getting wrong. 

I'll give this four stars for getting so many things right, and good acting, and take back two of them for getting so many things wrong. 
2 of 5 stars.

The Dictator, 2012

I read a review some years ago that said Sacha Baron Cohen specialized in characters with silly accents, and this is true.  Even when he is not starring in a movie, every role seems to have a ridiculous accent.  Cohen also makes movies that are meant to both shock and amuse.  The Dictator is no exception, with jokes about rape, torture, murder, and terrorism, to name just a few.  At the same time, these jokes are presented in a way that makes the viewer aware that such horrors do exist, but we do not believe for an instant that the character we are watching actually committed them. 

Towards the beginning of the movie, Cohen's character "Admiral General Aladeen" competes in a sprint in his own national sports games.  He cheats by beginning to run before he fires the starting shot himself, and then, as the other runners begin to catch up, he shoots the closest in the legs.  Seeing their leader tiring quickly, the officials holding the tape across the finish line run towards him, so he can win.  In another scene,  Aladeen gives torture tips and encouragement to John C. Reilly before Reilly's character begins to torture him.  These tiny little sketches of comedy gold are the only redeeming feature of Cohen's work,  not the ridiculous excuse for a plot, or the campy acting of his female lead.  (Well, okay, this particular movie also features some old romantic US classics sung in real or pseudo Arabic, which is just hilarious.)  Whether you will find these worth tolerating the often juvenile humor, gross-out visual gags, and just plain offensive nature of much of Cohen's brand of humor will be a personal choice.
2 of 5 stars.

End of Watch, 2012

Like several of these movies, I had never heard of End of Watch before noticing it on Netflix. It stars Jake Gyllenhall and Michael Peña as young partner cops.   There is a plot, which isn't bad, but the movie is about the special bond between those in occupations that depend on their partners for their lives.  Unlike Sniper: Reloaded, I only noticed one factual error, and that was identification of some random knife as a Spyderco.  The characters act like people, not two-dimensional representations, and the acting is on point.  I'll take away half a star for the unlikelihood of a single pair of cops themselves stumbling into all of their discoveries, but this movie is perhaps the best buddy or cop movie I've ever seen.
4.5 of 5 stars

London Boulevard, 2010
Colin Farrell plays a parolee who is trying to go straight.  I am not a big fan of Colin Farrell, but he seems to be at his best playing quick-tempered Irishmen, like his role in In Bruges.  The acting is superb, and the story is interesting.  I'll take away half a point because I'm not a big fan of gangster movies.
3 of 5 stars

The Veteran, 2011

"Dead paras never die, they just re-org in hell."  The Veteran is another movie I had never heard of before seeing it on Netflix.  I don't think it even has music, but it has a real plot, impeccable acting, and Toby Kebell moves like a real operator.  If you don't know what that looks like, watch this movie- my sole complaint is once when he moves down the center of the street.  Not big budget, but definitely worth a watch.
4 of 5 stars

The Factory
Cusack does what Cusack does in movies.  Good acting, but lackluster storyline and very little surprising.  Not bad if you have nothing else to do, and time to kill.
2.5 of 5 stars

Meeting Evil

Some reviewers have suggested this is worth watching, just to see how bad Samuel L. can be.  Everyone except for co-star Luke Wilson plays their role perfectly, and some things are really well done, such as director Chris Fisher's leaving most of the violence off camera, where the viewer's mind must fill it in.  Unfortunately, the plot is just really damn unlikely.
2.5 of 5 stars

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Walking...In Memphis?

The last few days have been pleasantly mild, but a damp heat is stalking this way. It will be choking us in Maryland by the weekend.
The sweltering humidity of the Southeast is my least favorite part of the package, I think. But the South has some unique, and I usually think, valuable characteristics that I think are rarer in other parts of our country.

Gone, but Not Forgotten

Another Memorial Day has come and gone, leaving our departed comrades in the peace that sometimes escaped them in life.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

What If Our Government Was Corrupt and Despotic?

Jon Stewart has frequently poked fun at some things I believe in, but his analysis here is spot on. (H/T to Matt.)

Small Impact Tool Basics

I frequently suggest 2-cell AA or 123 flashlights as being one of the best small weapons to carry if firearms are not an option.  It is easier for someone with little or no training to stop someone quickly with a small blunt object than with a small knife.

BUT, some people have no idea where to start.  It really isn't enough to know how to hit someone with a flashlight or a pen.  You have to consider factors, like knowing where trouble is likely to be, and not being there.  I wrote an article about it here.  I also reluctantly added some video for illustrative purpose.  There was a lot of wind, but at least the point should be clear.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Bitty Sharp

This is a somewhat more traditionally-styled Daily Kiri.  This one is in coated 3V.  The GunKote reduces the chance of rust, however it will show wear eventually, and this one does show some wear from the tight friction fit of the kydex. 

Traditional kiridashis are "chisel ground", but this one, like all the Daily Kiris so far, has a symmetrical grind.

Ssssslitherin' Along

It was an absolutely gorgeous day to take a boy and dog for a walk. We encountered an example of Opheodrys vernalis as we made our way back through the woods. 

Oh, and I ate a bug.  Oh, well.  Add 5 calories.

Met this little guy on the way back.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Friends and Tools

I like knives.  I like talking about knives, and I like designing knives.  I suggested to Sam Owens in late 2010 that he consider making knives, and that was towards the beginning of what has become a very valuable friendship and enriching continual learning experience.  Sam is a genuinely great guy, patient and kind, appreciative, dependable, and hard-working.  It is a pleasure to know him, and an honor to be able to design tools with such a promising craftsman. 

Before Sam and I worked together, I had a relationship with Eric Draven.  I met Eric through my moderation of the Non-Firearm Weapons forum on  Eric and I began corresponding through PM and email, and even began speaking frequently on the phone.  I gave Eric advice on how to better market his products, ideas for new products to exploit niches he was covering, and designed several knives with him.  Eric and I sent each other gifts- I sent him a Himalayan Imports kukuri, and he sent me a hat, and a few small knick-knacks he'd made. 

I was hoping to help Eric make a series of small knives that would be priced within the range of most "knife people".  I suggested names for the knives, and we hashed the details of what the knives should look and feel like.  I finally sent him a total of $410 for four small knives and shipping.  Eric claimed a few problems in production, my last email from him being in February of 2011...and then, I never heard from him again. 

The four on the left of the top pic I designed with Eric.
I'm sad about how this ended.  I considered Eric a friend.  Outside of my personal feelings, our working relationship seemed like a good way for him to get some badly needed advice and perspective, and for me to see some neat items brought into the world.  I've lost a lot more from some friendships, though, so I suppose I was lucky to only lose $410.

On a happier note, here are some Daily Kiris.  :-)   The left is the first Daily Kiri-EC (Extended Choil).  It's been used quite a bit, so the GunKote is starting to show some wear.  The middle Super Daily Kiri is 35VN steel.  The right knife is a 3V Daily Kiri with GunKote and paper micarta scales.

With 87mm Persian 2 for scale.
Sam, you're a great friend.  Thanks.

Home from the Hill

I know I've been quiet for a longer-than-usual time.  I had a four day battle assembly, and drove in two days early to assist in last-minute prep for the exercise.

I find it funny that the preparation for the exercise was more stressful than the actual exercise.  Also, I freaked out a staff sergeant on the last full day of the exercise.  I was playing a displaced civilian, angry because my family was hungry and without shelter.  I had no weapon, and was not even moving especially fast.  The rules for the exercise mandated no physical contact, so I was annoyed when the SSG gave me a very hard shove.  I knocked his arm off me while I stepped to the side, and advised that if he touched me again, I would subdue him.

His eyes got wide.  "Are you serious?  Index!" ("Index" indicates the end of the exercise, which the SSG did not have the authority to call.)

Anyway, I'm in the "recovery phase", which involves HALO and beer.  I did have some hard truths brought home once again.

1.  Be prepared.  I brought almost no "snivel gear" out with me because it was so late in the season, but temperatures were in the 40s most of the time.

2.  Bring (and drink) water.  My E5 got dehydrated after spending a good part of the day out of the range.  Just because it's not hot doesn't mean you shouldn't be hydrating.

3.  Protect yourself at all times.  It is easy for emotions to get out of hand when practicing against an opposing force, especially if soldiers have not performed this type mission before.

4.  Give yourself time.  This is especially important when it comes to convoys.  Moving large groups of people simultaneously can be frustrating.  Try to figure out all the ways things can go wrong, and plan for them.