Review:The Magnificent Seven

The Magnificent Seven

Not the best movie of the year. Probably not the best western you have ever seen. But still, it somehow manages to finds it’s way into becoming fairly entertaining for well over two full hours. That in itself is pretty amazing, or magnificent, if you prefer.

     Seven mismatched misanthrope’s meet up to save a town. Each one comes with his own baggage and his own specific s(kill) set. The main cowboy gunslinger dude is played by none other than Denzel Washington, and he is as smooth a sharpshooter as you have never seen. He naturally has his own reasons for taking on this impossible job, but we don’t find that out until after the conflict plays itself out. He just didn’t seem like the kind of cowboy that would take on a suicide mission just for the sake of gold. Yes, he has his reasons, and he also is a damn good recruiter, because he manages to pull together a nice little party of murderous misfits to help him tackle the task. The task at hand, is to take back a small mining town from a sociopathic land baron with gold nuggets for eyes and the blackest of coal for a soul. Naturally our bad guy isn’t giving up without a fight; he hires an army. This is the story in a nutshell. It is mostly a bit predictable, with the possible exception of the audience (us) not knowing which one of the magnificent seven is going to make to the sequel. They all can’t, where’s the suspense in that?

     Lot’s of killing. Quite a variety of manners of killing, but lot’s and lot’s of killing nonetheless. It almost reminds you of the evening news, with a different setting, time zone, and instead of Lester Holt we get Denzel and the boys. One of the seven is an Indian, who looks about as Indian as my hairy Italian grandfather, but who am I to fact check. The whole thing quickly turns into one big chaotic murderous brouhaha. The entire massacre and back story take place in what appears to be your typical hollywood simulated western mining town. I suppose that’s one way to keep the budget in check; when you gotta pay the big bucks to Denzel, you have to skimp somewhere. Occasionally, we do get the grand vision of big sky country, thus justifying the I-MAX designation, but this is no “Dancing With Wolves”.

     I don’t know, go see the damn thing if you like cheesy westerns, if you’re really bored, or if you want to impress your date with how much money you are willing to waste on movies that are mediocre. Nothing impresses an insignificant other more than a movie with a predictable plot, and a box of overpriced popcorn with simulated butter particles. Throw in some gummie clusters…and you’re getting to second base faster than a washed up rodeo clown on crystal meth. It ain’t bad… it just ain’t really great…one thing it definitely ain’t….is magnificent.

This is the Wisdom of the Smyth.

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Edward Snowden has to be one of the most polarizing people to come along in the last century. Is he a hero whistleblower patriot, or an evil brilliant hacker from hell? Your call. The problem I have with most people’s assessment of things like this, is their willingness to give a  strong opinion, is directly proportional to their unwillingness to investigate both sides thoroughly. The more adamant, the less educated; kind of scary really. This movie doesn’t actually give both sides either.

      Considering the sensitive nature of the information, that would be impossible. In all fairness, the narrative does include certain representations of the government’s position, just probably through a more Snowden friendly lens.

     So, in case you are wondering…yes, this is an Oliver Stone movie, and yes, it is very pro-Snowden, the troubled patriot, not the traitor hacker spy version. He is  portrayed as a man who just could not take what he saw and knew to be true, that is, the NSA’s systematic illegal monitoring of every bit of information in the entire country without the public’s knowledge. He saw a beast he helped create, turn into something nobody ever imagined, or seemed capable of stopping. A man who eventually sacrificed everything he knew and loved, for the sake of letting the world know just how completely out of control this system had become.

     The other thing this movie does is present an Edward Snowden to the world, who is absolutely brilliant. I figure I got has to be damn crafty just to elude the grips of the U.S. government, let alone all the computer geek stuff he taught himself. Pretty amazing character. The timing of the movies release and the new push to pardon Snowden, may not be an accident.

    One thing you may find discomforting, as I did, was the extent of what our government can do to infiltrate your private circle. It can’t even be called a private circle, if you have any form of communication device…it aint private Sonny! This truth is enough to make you want to drown your laptop and burn your smartphone. It is literally that disturbing. I think everyone should see the movie, it might be your patriotic duty to keep up with what your very own government is doing to keep tabs on you. If you ignore it, that is your choice, but at least by making yourself aware of it, you have some clue to the realities of the modern hardwired world, and how scary this shit really is.

    The acting was excellent by main characters and secondary characters alike. The progress of the story moves along at a steady pace, not leaving any moments of sudden boredom, or disjointed narrative. Nobody does political enigma or conspiracy like Oliver Stone. This flick proves he continues to be at the top of his game, and I think is much better than a few of his previous offerings. Well worth your time and a perhaps even a smidgen of your gold. Do your country a solid….go see this and support the pardon of Edward Snowden. It’s time to let him come home.  This is the opinion of The Smyth and may, or may not, represent the opinion of the entire staff at ….The Smyth has spoken…

Peace, love, and onions. Subscribe, share, like, and live a love centered life.


Review: Sully


This movie is a must see for a whole lot of truly great reasons. One reason is the man playing Sully, the pilot who landed a large passenger aircraft loaded with people on the Hudsen river, saving them all from certain catastrophy, is none other than Tom Hanks–arguably one of the best in the business. Once again he is brilliant. So much so, that if you never met or saw the genuine Sully, you know a whole lot about his character and personality just from watching this rendition. Extremely convincing. He may actually have made a better Sully than the real one.

     Clint Eastwood directed this film, when you add this to some of his other gem’s, it becomes easy to see his second career as a director is as impressive as his acting resume. Since Sully is an obvious protaganist, and the whole world knows he is a genuine hero, they needed to build into the story some type of antagonist in order to create a struggle. I believe some critics thought the stories treatment of the NTSB was slightly unfair and unrealistic. This may be true, but in order to tell a story and keep it interesting somebody has to play the bad guy, somebody has to create a problem in need of a solution. After all, if you just want to watch a tale of how great Sully is, then revisit CNN tape in your spare time.

   One thing that resonated with me was the fact that they replayed the scene of the crash enough times to give the audience a real vision of what these 155 individuals went through on that fateful day. It is powerful. Emotional. Epic.This story is profoundly uplifting, and it came at a time shortly after 9/11, when, as one character says “New York could use some good news.” The different angles of the crash itself are brilliantly done. You are left so much detailed visual input, it is like getting a boatload of answers in need of some questions. The way the story travels back and forth in time with smooth transitions, makes it very easy to follow and compelling for the entire journey. You won’t be running for the restroom in the middle of this little ditty. At only an hour and thirty-six minutes, your crusty old bladder should hold, even after all those years of hard drinking and that nasty little meth lab incident you managed to keep under wraps…until now. Oops.

    The real Sully is an amazing pilot and incredibly humble human being. The way Tom Hanks portrays him, not only does justice to this unbelievable true story, but also to the essence of the genuine hero that he was. The only special effects are the recreation of the crash, and a simulation of what could have happened had Sully not followed his instincts. The back story does include some explanation of how he got to be such a skilled pilot, by briefly exploring his flying history.

     Easily one of the best, if not the best picture of the year. I highly recommend it. Sure, you can wait for the DVD or just steal a bootleg copy off some sketchy web sight, but good movies deserve support, because it was starting to seem like  complete garbage movies are ubiquitous, at least this year. That’s it..great flick…..the Smyth has spoken.

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On the Nature of Addiction: An Addict Speaks

On the Nature of Addiction–An Addict Speaks.  

         The worlds scientific, psychological, and medical professionals have spent countless untold hours, and endless amounts of grant proceeds to try and answer one simple question–What is the root cause of addiction? Modern technological advances in M.R.I.s and computer models got us closer for sure, but still only told us part of the answer.

       Now a new study seems to suggest that connectedness, or a lack of it, is one thread that runs through every addicts experiences, and therefore could be a defining piece of this very allusive puzzle. As you already know, people from all walks of life can be defined as addicts–rich, poor, older, younger, it doesn’t discriminate and it doesn’t play favorites. Although I believe this study is important in our understanding of “the making of the addict” it still seems a little vague and general and might be more of an indicator than an actual cause.

   Others may look for the secret sauce of addiction in the chemical make up and interconnectedness of brain function, and in that way find the next million dollar drug to peddle to the masses. While others still are searching the psychological landscape for common experiences, in that way pointing the problem in the direction of nurture instead of nature. Every one of these, and countless other approaches, are valid in their desire to unlock the dark mechanism that makes one person in a family an addict, while siblings from the same household all remain free of the scourge. But yet as of this moment, the question still has no real definitive answer.

    The medical community decided to classify addiction as a disease, which had a very meaningful effect on treatment options and probably helped funding purposes, this is progress and should be commended, but still the core of the quagmire remains as elusive as dark matter. The religious community might tell you it’s the devil and leave it at that. Thanks for your help…but no thanks. Maybe there is no single root cause we can point to for the ah-ha moment. Maybe every individual reaches the same place by taking a different path, their own path.

    The way I see it, there is one thing that all these expensive studies are missing. The fact that power and money are as much an addiction as drugs and gambling, and sex, and any other activity classified as negative. The way most people see it, is an addiction is only an addiction if it is causing negative consequences. I say, who’s to judge whether my activities chosen by my own free will are negative, for all we know they could lead to something (most people) would consider fantastic.       Allow me to present this example: A person who loves to play poker, decides he wants to try to become a professional. Unfortunately for our player, he is just not as good as he thought, and he loses consistently. Some people would say he is addicted to gambling and needs help, he on the other hand figures it’s just the learning curve and eventually he can turn things around. So the definition of addiction mandates that he is no longer in control of his behavior because the urge to gamble is too strong. Who is judging that? In his eyes, he is evolving, in the eyes of the so-called professionals, he is clearly addicted to gambling. Sure maybe he needs to take a break and re-evaluate his game plan, but don’t we all need this from time to time.

     I honestly feel my experience with heroin and other drugs were a necessary part of my spiritual evolution. Maybe I was never an addict at all, maybe I a was a spiritual work in progress. Really though, this is two sides of the same coin, labels can change, and it doesn’t change the misery of addicts and their families, so you might conclude this is not helpful, and I would probably have to agree.

      One thing that we do know is helpful, simply because of the track record, is groups like AA, NA, and others following the same formula. One of their most basic requirements is that the individual concedes that they have lost control of their life and need to surrender to a higher power. This group therapy idea does indeed speak to the desire for connectedness, while the letting go part speaks to the power of the universe, or god if you choose, to heal our sometimes self inflicted wounds. These principles work because they address something conventional medicine does not, and I believe it is this, that is the genuine root cause of addiction.

    When you start to expand your idea of what constitutes addiction to include people addicted to power and money, and even religion, then you have to rewrite the entire narrative of who is an addict and why. Yet there is one common denominator that is a fundamental part of our emotional construct–the ego.The ego wants us to be noticed, to be somebody. The constant bombardment of ever pervasive media attempting to drill into our psyche this product driven definition of what success should look like doesn’t help, this only leads to frustration for a whole lot of people who subconsciously compare themselves to that unattainable ideal, leaving them with feelings of frustration, anger, resentment towards the haves, and in some cases depression and loneliness. My intent here is not to blame the media or anybody else, but to understand the ego’s part in the problem of addiction as it is currently defined.

    Some might argue that since attaining power, status, and money, are considered productive activities they can not be classified as addictions. Addictions don’t have to be only negative, they can certainly work in our favor, in which case they may be called obsessions or hobbies. So am I saying we are all addicts on some level? The only answer I can give is–yes and no. Everyone does indeed have an ego, and it is that ego that desires to define us, while our minds, the problem solver, will look for problems to solve, and if it doesn’t find enough, it very well may just go ahead and create some. We don’t all have to have unresolved childhood trauma, or any of the other standard indicators, some of us are just risk takers who don’t find enough adrenaline rushes throughout the course of the typical work week. Some of us don’t fit into any profile at all. But we do all have egos and since we live in the land where “anybody can make it with hard work or a good idea” if for whatever reason we aren’t “making it” then I guess we are just too stupid, or too damn lazy. Obviously I am saying this to make a point.

    Have I answered the question–what are the root causes of addiction? Probably not. Hopefully what I have done, is helped those of us fortunate enough to have illuded the beast, to understand that an addict is a person going through something. It is not who they are, no more than a person with cancer is just a walking tumor, or just a cancer patient. They are people, just like the rest of us. Shame, and stigmatisation are products of fear. We see someone with an issue such as this, and something in our subconscious knows how easily that could be us, that we are sometimes just one bad decision away from being in that exact spot, it is this reality that creates fear as a defensive response. Again…the ego. The cure for all that ails us is really quite simple my friends–live a love centered life. That is a topic for another time, so for now, just try to remember….let’go of that ego…

                                                                         This is the Wisdom of the Smyth.

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