Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Heisenberg's Second Date


You said, "Yes." I don't know why.
The first went, I thought... bad.
To say the least. Your grace,
my clumsy humor not matched
so much as all opposed and all that
wine spilled on and in your shoe.
Why would you say, "Yes" to more?
I thought I knew before I called.
I thought I knew half way through
the first. All the awkward
silences. The food sent back.
The mention of the film
your ex was in. All that
and still the magic, unhoped... "Yes."

The joy of being wrong
is in me like a flare of burning paper.
And now I do not know
where this will go
but I am glad, so glad,
I so fucked up
the measurements.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Taking education from information to knowledge

THIS article is the antidote to the stupid "Google is making us stupid" article I posted about yesterday. In the hierarchy of learning, we move thusly (mostly my definitions, blending some stuff I've picked up):

 1. Noise (undifferentiated stimulus). 2. Data (differentiated stimulus with understood measures). 3. Information (relationships between data). 4. Knowledge (how to use information usefully). 5. Wisdom (how to apply knowledge more usefully over time).

Schools used to be about teaching kids how to find and memorize information. Then they'd go to work and develop knowledge skills (and hopefully some wisdom). In a world where information seeking is much less frictional, we can either make the grotesque error of trying to add friction back into information finding ("Google is making us dumber") or we can move "up" one level in how and what we teach, seeking to impart knowledge -- the ability to *do useful and interesting things* -- to students rather than fill them up with information that is trivially obtained in most cases now.

I've said this for years: artists get it (it's one reason I love teaching at CCAD). You can't learn to draw, paint, sculpt, design, etc. by reading books about it. You have to DO THINGS to learn to do them. A lot of the new-ish pedagogy of entrepreneurship and leadership in business is built on understanding this ("fail early, fail often," etc.). In the arts and music, this is known as "practice." You don't pick up a guitar and expect that a knowledge of musical theory will make you a great player. You have to play for thousands of hours.

My brother John had a great book about the business of acting that he loaned me many years ago. Not the craft, but the biz; how to get an agent, when to join a union, etc. etc. At one point, the author says that there will be times when you'll be the most talented person at an audition, but you still won't get the gig. Because they need someone taller to match the romantic interest. Because they need someone who is less handsome or more quirky looking or can ride a motorcycle. His summation of this is profound:

"As children, we are rewarded for being 'good.' As adults, we are rewarded for being 'useful,' and nobody teaches us that transition."

Education needs to train people to be useful. And I don't mean in the "trade skills" kind of way. We need to train kids to be useful as thinkers, inventors, creators and cognizant citizens. We need them to understand not just how to learn, but how to learn to *do* things. How to move from being good information gatherers to knowledge hunters.

Articles about how Google is making us dumber are making us dumber

Read this article and then come back.

[rant on] I AM SO TIRED OF THESE "TECH IS MAKING US STOOPID" ARTICLES! The wrong-think in here is extraordinary. First there's this gem:

"The gap between a question crystallizing in your mind and an answer appearing at the top of your screen is shrinking all the time. As a consequence, our ability to ask questions is atrophying."


Is it? It is? How do you know this? Is there research that suggests that we're less able to ask questions? Is there a link you could share? Or did you not know how to ask Google the right question to find some research on the subject?

 And this fun bit...

"But knowledge doesn’t just fill the brain up; it makes it work better. To see what I mean, try memorizing the following string of fourteen digits in five seconds: 74830582894062. Hard, isn’t it? Virtually impossible. Now try memorizing this string of fourteen letters: "lucy in the sky with diamonds." This time, you barely needed a second. The contrast is so striking that it seems like a completely different problem, but fundamentally, it’s the same. The only difference is that one string of symbols triggers a set of associations with knowledge you have stored deep in your memory."

AAARGHHH!!! So much wrong! So very not! First of all, let's please not conflate "information" with "knowledge" or "memory." Three different things! And the lyrics to "Lucy in the Sky" were already in my head! ARRGGHHH! So I didn't need ANY TIME to memorize it. But even if it were, memorization is also not information or knowledge.

 The author closes with ye olde chestnut that humans should do what we're good at, and computers what they are. He says, "Wikipedia and Google are best treated as starting points rather than destinations." RIGHT. THEY ARE. ALMOST ALWAYS. Because the answer to my question (the information) is going to relate to one of two kinds of situations.

1) Casual, impact-free curiosity. This is the realm of IMDB and a lot of Wikipedia queries. "Who was that guy in 'Home Alone' with the shovel?" or "What was the name of Herod's wife?" These are questions for which the information itself is, generally, the desired end result. I'm not going to do anything with that information besides just know it. Maybe it's for something that will stick, maybe not. The only difference between doing this online vs. old school is speed and convenience.

2) Questions asked because you will be using them to accomplish something. For example, "Recipe for gluten-free birthday cake," "Directions to Pittsburgh from Columbus," "How to get grease out of a tie," "Where to shop for ladders," "What should I weigh?" etc. etc. In each case, the information (if used) will be part of a series of activities that will, together, generate knowledge. Because knowledge is information in a useful format. For example, if I get a good recipe and don't make the cake, I have not increased my knowledge. I cannot tell you if it is truly a good, gluten-free cake. Nor if it's a cake at all. Nor how hard to bake, how expensive, how nice it smells. Once I bake it, though, I have knowledge of the value of the recipe.

And that's a good way to understand the difference between what Google can do for you and what it can't. Google can find recipes. Only you can bake a cake. Google can give you some information (some good, some better, some awful, some wrong). Only you can turn it into knowledge.
Here's what I resent about articles like this, however. The conflation of these very different mental tasks absolutely ignores the cost (in time and money) of acquiring information in the pursuit of knowledge. Now, I'm not talking about "question 1" type stuff above. If you want to be an expert on a certain type of information, memorization and long-form research will be key. If you want to lecture on a topic, you need to know it in your own widdle haid. But if I don't know that there are (for example) freeware alternatives to Photoshop, I might spend a LOT of time and money saving up for Photoshop, only to find that it doesn't help me. The quick answer to the question, "Are there free alternatives to Photoshop" will free up a lot of my resources to actually DO THE KNOWLEDGE GATHERING THING (image editing) that I'm interested in.

Yes. There are types of thinking that we should all pursue. Yes. Curiosity is important. Yes. Deep, frustrating, interesting problems require that you practice doing deep, frustrating, interesting research. But helping me find the nearest gas station or the expected weather in Chicago is not going to atrophy my creativity or invention.

FWIW, they said the same stuff about teaching "regular people" to read back when the printing press came out. Since farmers and peasants etc. have no need for school learnin', why would they waste their time on books? I translate this sentiment into modern times by asking, "Since many working people's jobs don't require deep knowledge of arcane details and trivia, why should they have access to a tool that allows them 'easy' answers they don't know how to earn on their own? They should have to be scientists and inventors to know that stuff."

In closing, if you think you can learn how to play an instrument, drive a car, have better sex, etc. from the Internet, you're already dumb without Google. To learn things, you have to do things. All Google, Wikipedia, IMDB et al do is remove some of the friction from gathering the necessary parts to START learning. [/rant]

PS: I've NEVER been any good at memorization and I've never had a bit of trouble (either pre- or post-internet) doing creative, layered, long-form thinking. The two are categorically different activities IMHO.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Safe Words: A Zombie Sonnet

Deep down inside, we knew we were bad.
All of us. Everywhere. Everyone had
a cellular knowledge of what we had done
to all of our victims. And now we have come

to a drought of fresh blood. To a desert of flesh
where the ground is a stone, where the wind just a breath
of enmity, apathy, memory, dawn.
Alone with our horror. Our hunger now gone

to sleep with its victims, now marrow and hair.
The scent of them absent. No trace of them where
there once was a bike path, a playground, a mall.
We wait for a sign. We'll wait here while all

of the stars flicker out. Until time itself ends.
To reunite, finally, for dinner with friends.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Medium


Deep winter made Amelia Jesus.
"Mimi" to her friends, she skates the lake behind the farm
where no cows graze and no corn grows.
Walking on the water where
she'd dived last summer, touched the bottom,
swam to shore, kissed Donnie Blake
while they both dried in sun and breeze.

Sixteen soon, by next December she will drive
to see him weekends, stay the night, and maybe
maybe maybe maybe let him let him let him...

She slides a thin skin of change. A scant few inches
held between the piercing blue of Christmas sky and
a black like swollen pupils, grown to try
and catch the last pale winking light.

It never broke before.

"Wait until Christmas," was the rule. But whether
Mimi was a little heavier with muscle mass
from soccer and a lot of yoga
or the ice was thinner... still remembering a long
long Spring.

It didn't hurt. She wasn't even scared.
Couldn't feel the cold. Body soaked with shock
and chemicals and vertigo and
all she sees is white above. The pale
thin skin of change.

Her mother's shouts of, "Mimi! Mimi! Mimi!"
the last sounds heard as fingers tap
one last time
on something solid
and Amelia remembers,
"Oh, yes... Jesus dies."

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Review: Disney's Maleficent -- Pure Girl Power Magic

[NOTE: There will be massive spoilers after I do the review part, but there will be an angry wall of asterisk thorns, so you'll know when to stop.]

I'm an unabashed Disney fan. Love the movies and the parks. And they've done some really great retellings and revivals of classics in ways that I've generally found pleasing. But nothing, to me, really compares with the truly awesome and inspiring redux of "Sleeping Beauty" that is "Maleficent."

For those who know me, let me say this: I am not being sarcastic; there is no dagger hidden behind this review. No bloody prick of irony. I promise on my black, ribald heart that I truly enjoyed this film and was actually quite moved by it. Both by the very different take on the story itself, and by the sheer guts it took somebody/somebodies at Disney to attempt such a radically and beautifully feminist retake on what is, arguably, one of the weakest of the original Disney classics and, frankly, a pretty horrible original tale from the Grimm Brothers' dank vault. As much as I never liked the original nor the Disney film, I loved this movie.

If you see it for no other reason, do so because of the 100% pitch-perfect casting of Angelina Jolie as Maleficent. I loved that she was cast as Lara Croft in the "Tomb Raider" franchise, but was deeply disappointed by those movies. She was great in them, but they basically sucked. In the case of "Maleficent," she's super, the writing is solid, the action is good and the story/message succeeds on at least two levels at all times, three if you count the frisson between the original and this retelling. There is a minimal amount of cheesy cuteness, mostly limited to the three fairy god-aunts who aren't horrible. Yes... we need Happy Meal toys to pay for these movies, so it's a fair exchange. If they'd had about two more minutes of screen time, they'd have been annoying, but managed to feel more "Rosecrans and Guildenstern" than Jar Jar Binks.

The king (Sleeping Beauty's Father), Stefan, played by Sharlto Copley was somewhat uninspired and blocky and I wished they'd gone for someone with a bit more... elan... for lack of a better word. He was serviceable, but I couldn't really fathom the "why" behind the casting when there are so many other folks who could have done better. To be fair, I didn't like him in either "District 9" or "Elysium," either. If you did, then you'll be fine with his take on the role here.

Elle Fanning was lovely and did what she was supposed to do, which was to make us all fall in love with her. They could have held back a bit on the glorious, glowing nimbus of hair and ripe, apple cheek make-up a bit... but we need those signals and the movie is ostensibly for kids, so there you are: she needs to look like a princess, even when hiding out in the woods.

Maleficent's steward/crow/dragon, played by Sam Riley, was a pleasant surprise. A little humor, a little gentle nudging, excellent special effects during transitions... he was lots of fun to watch.

Now... if you want to watch it without knowing basically everything about it that makes it truly interesting, stop here and go see it and then come back and either agree/disagree with me on the stuff below. This is your warning... Beyond this point, there by prickly spoilers.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* SPOILER ALERT *  SPOILER ALERT *  SPOILER ALERT *  SPOILER ALERT * 
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If you've ever studied folklore with any seriousness, you know that Grimm's Fairytales are full of sex, mayhem, psychological darkness and some truly heinous social shite that really didn't deserve to be handed down for generation after generation. Good writers? Sure. Sometimes. Important work in terms of the canon of western entertainment and culture? Of course. But, lord almighty, read any deeper than a wishing well and those are some weird, troubling messages down in the depths.

"Sleeping Beauty," or, as the Grimms titled it, "Little Briar Rose," is simply awful. Again, if you've done any exegesis of folklore (especially the Grimms), you'll know that it's chock full o' sexual symbolism. Go read the original (well, the translation) at the link above. It's short.

The message? In brief, the "curse" of the thirteenth fairy (the one in black) is, of course, the "curse" of menstruation. That horrible, ugly, filthy, burden that God has placed on the daughter's of Eve ever since she caused the fall of man. The curse arrives, of course, with blood and the arrival of adulthood. This curse sets up a wall of thorns that, for 100 years, protect the sleeping beauty from men who would claim her as their own. Eventually, the curse is broken -- interestingly, in the original, NOT by the kiss of true love, but simply be the odometer of time -- and the kingdom can go on about its business while the random hero whose timing was right gets to marry the princess and enjoy her post-thorny beauty.

Classic stuff. Girls as victims of nature and whim. Exploration as danger. The discovery of "women's work" (spinning) as the trigger for a fugue state between pure childhood and the sexual duties of a grown-up. Men -- even a random man whose only virtue is being there at the right time -- as the answer.

It's a crappy narrative from a misogynistic time that didn't deserve the effort the 1959 Disney film put into it. But it was free, public-domain writing for Disney to pilfer (that's another rant), and so we got a decent animated classic with a bit more meat on the bones, spruced up for the American audience of the time. But the central message was left largely the same, more's the pity.

Not so with today's "Maleficent."

So much better. So, so, so much better. So much more complex, so much more heart, so much more thoughtful and -- if I had a daughter -- so much more appropriate for a modern look at some of the themes treated casually and superficially (and sexist-ly) by the original. Here come the spoilers, kids...

In this version, Maleficent starts with wings. Great, big, beautiful wings that let her fly all over her the fae lands of which she is not the queen... but sort of the leading cheerleader. The kingdom next door is run by a king who's a simple, European flavor of conquering asshole, and he wants the moorlands (the faerie kingdom) for his own.

Maleficent, a girl at the start of the film, meets a young boy from the human world, and they become friends. When he learns that the iron in his ring can hurt her, he throws it away as a gesture of his friendship. Over time, they become closer, and share what Maleficent believes is "true love's kiss" at the age of sixteen.

However... The king, having tried once to overthrow the moorlands (serviceable action-set-piece Ents vs. Knights), promises that whomever vanquishes Maleficent will be his heir. And so Stefan, eager to rise from his place as a servant, drugs the trusting Maleficent. At the last moment, he cannot quite kill her... but cuts her wings from her instead, bringing them back to the evil old king as proof of valor and coin of reward. He is made king, and given the princess' hand in marriage.

The scene where Maleficent wakes up and realizes her wings are gone is shockingly stark and brutal for a Disney film. We do not see the actual butchery, but Jolie's shrieks of, first, shock and surprise and, eventually, horror and pain over what has happened to her are, essentially, those of a rape victim. She has had the source of her joy and power severed by the man she thought loved her, and she descends into darkness and revenge almost immediately.

Hearing those screams, you know, "This ain't your daddy's Sleeping Beauty."

Her pain and anger transform the faerie kingdom from a land of bright, amusing hi-jinx into a dark, sinister wood of grief and shame. When, years later, she hears that Stefan and his queen are expecting a daughter, she goes and lays upon the girl the curse we know so well from the original. Although, in this case, she (not another fairy) is the one who mitigates it with the codicil, "The curse may be broken by true love's kiss." This, she makes clear to her crow-familiar, is irony: there is no such thing as true love, and so the curse will remain in place forever.

The king, trying to prevent fate, adheres to the original, hiding the spinning wheels and sending his daughter, Aurora (an interesting name choice, compared to "Briar Rose" from the original) to be raised by the three "good" (read: charmingly eccentric) fairies so that she won't be able to prick her finger and trigger the curse.

Maleficent, of course, cannot help but spy on the baby/child/teen's life, and, over time, becomes more and more enamored of the girl. She brings her food when the three ninnies give the baby raw vegetables, saves her from wandering over a cliff, and generally keeps trouble off the girl's path. When, at sixteen, Aurora goes to the wall of thorns and calls out to her unnamed benefactress, she (Aurora) claims that she has known all along that her "fairy godmother" was the "shadow" watching over her. Maleficent acknowledges the fact, and the two become, openly, friends.

Skip forward a bit through some emotion-building scenes... and a prince from another land wanders by to be smitten by the girl's beauty. Check. Set up for true love's kiss.

Maleficent tries to break her own curse a few days before the girl's sixteenth birthday, but can't... her original need for revenge was too strong. Instead, after Aurora (discovering that Maleficent is the source of the curse) goes back to the castle, Maleficent magics the prince behind her (ironically, in a spell-bound sleep which lasts far longer than the eventual nap Aurora will take) and deposits him in the castle.

The prince, prodded by the good fairies, kisses Aurora and... nothing. "You see?" says Maleficent to her crow... "It is as I told you. There is no such thing as true love."

You see where this is going, don't you? Of course you do.

Maleficent, truly saddened by her own earlier act, bids goodby to her god-daughter, promising to keep her safe and "miss your smile" every day of her life. Tears in her eyes, she kisses the girl on the cheek and... yup. That's true love's kiss.

Not the random act of prince-ness. Not the man who waded through various symbolic brambles and menstrual yuckiness. Not the guy in charge of providing the next generation's batch of little princes... the woman whom her father had disfigured and raped before she was born.

Cue big fight, which, well... we need, of course. The crow becomes a dragon, King Stephan is even more brutal and awful. Aurora discovers the case where Stefan kept Maleficent's wings and frees them. They reattach and she is restored to her flying prowess. She and Stefan fight on the tower of the castle, and, in defeat, he grabs her in a bear-hug and jumps off the edge. If he can't win, at least they will both lose. Maleficent frees herself at the last minute and hovers, somewhat sad, over the lifeless body of the man who had once set aside iron in the name of friendship.

Aurora moves back to the woods, which go back to being colored like a Disney movie instead of an Edward Gorey book. She's made queen of both lands, the briars come down, and everyone lives happily ever after. I was a little disappointed that the new prince showed up just long enough to make a kind of, "Hey... Maybe later?" face at Aurora, who batted her eyes a bit and looked OK with the idea. Yeah, yeah... Princess needs a prince... I guess. But I'm sure, at one point, the idea was tossed around that there didn't need to be a prince, really.  The End...

SO, SO, ***SO*** MUCH BETTER THAN THE ORIGINAL!!!!

I'm going to assume that we owe all this chunky, girl-power, feminist goodness to Linda Woolverton, the main writer on the film. She's worked on a number of Disney films, and so knows her oeuvre very well, almost meticulously sticking to language and plot that, while new to the story, never feel out-of-place or non-Disney. That's a hard row to hoe, people. Many props to her for really, really hitting this one out of the theme park.

For those of you who didn't spend four years doing postmodern, textual deconstruction, here are the main, symbolic points of the new version that make me inordinately happy:
  • Maleficent's power is not, originally, evil. She is a natural creature, using her magic to help heal and inspire others. She is the joy of being a girl with wings.
  • An act of male-power-base barbarism and really brutal violence causes her to lose the part of her power that provides freedom, perspective and the ability to move among worlds. That's a big deal. She still has lots of magic... but now it's all about protection (from the evil kings) and revenge.
  • Stefan does this solely for worldly power. Maleficent, upon hearing that he's been made king, cries out in rage and confusion, "For this you stole my wings!"
  • The second victim -- the daughter, Aurora -- becomes the vehicle by which Maleficent lets go of her hatred. Watching and protecting her, as mother-to-daughter, is what heals her heart.
  • Aurora herself isn't just a stick-figure. She asks questions, makes conclusions and takes some action.
  • Aurora's actual mother sickens and dies when her girl is removed from her life. For the king, a daughter is only as good as her ability to whelp heirs and attract suitable suitors. The mother of the princess is, in the absence of the political vehicle of her daughter, useless. 
  • The king becomes obsessed with killing Maleficent, although that won't break the curse. Knowing what he does of the power of iron to harm the fae folk, he turns over the entire production of his economy to the creation of iron weapons. While the visual imagery used isn't (thankfully) too phallic... "hard iron" being cast to kill the powerful she-witch isn't exactly subtle stuff, either. 
  • The "evil" faerie queen isn't a Man-Hating-She-Bitch. Her familiar is, while not an equal, a friend who eventually seems more like a buddy than a servant. The Ent-like tree warriors have a fairly male vibe, and Maleficent respects them as the guardians they are. The new prince is heralded as a possible way to save Aurora, and Maleficent treats him... well... not with much respect, but certainly with some affection.
There's all kinds of chewy, allegorical goodness in here. We truly sympathize with Maleficent's anger and wish for revenge. We see Stefan's lust for power as a destructive thing, both at the personal and kingdom-level of badness. We like watching Maleficent's heart melted by the baby/girl/teen and enjoy her interplay with her crow.

It's truly great stuff. And has, at its heart, the benefit of being true to the way the world actually works, rather than a simplistic, moralistic, misogynistic (ahem) fairy tale. The world is a worse place when men let their lust for power drive them to acts of violence and degradation. The reward is never worth the price, personally. There is healing to be had in forgiveness. There is, finally, "true love" for those who care for their daughters beyond keeping them pure as a vessel for the next generation of cruel tyrants.

You don't have to watch this movie as a feminist recast of the original to enjoy it. There's plenty of Disney-style fun and emotion to be had regardless. But if you give yourself just a moment to examine the delta between the female roles in the original and those in this remake... well, if you're anything like me, it will go from being a PG, family-friendly action-romp to a new classic with some important and relevant messages for mothers and daughters to share.







Monday, June 16, 2014

This tastes awful... try it. My review of "3 Days to Kill."

I was at a restaurant once with Neil, one of my best friends of all time. I used to drink cola, so I ordered one and when it came, I was surprised that not only did it not taste like good cola, it did not taste like cola. It did not taste like food/beverage substance. It tasted like something that shouldn't be in your mouth at all. Like when you're a kid and you suck on a battery or if you inadvertently pop a piece of chalk in your mouth thinking it's a mint (note: I once saw an MD/PhD do that, so it's not so far-fetched).

I basically retched a bit, made a really bad face and a noise of some kind. Neil asked if I was OK and I said that, yes, I was, but... "This is awful! Try it!" And I pushed the cola across the table to Neil.

Who looked at me and said, "I'm your friend. Why would you want me to try something awful?"

Which is an excellent point. And one that I conceded to him immediately. There is no earthly reason why I should want someone I like to do something that I already know is bad/wrong or taste something that has more in common with cleaning products than actual beverage.

And yet... and yet...

There's something there, right? When you see or hear or smell or taste something that isn't just bad... but out of the realm of normal for that thing. To make sure that you're not insane. To confirm with someone whose opinion you value that, yes, indeed, that cola tastes like the inside of a a shoe that's been used to house a hamster for a couple months.

There's something there. Right? Right. And that's why I want you to go, right now, and watch the movie "3 Days to Kill." To confirm for me that, yes... it's that strangely awful. That it's not just a kinda sad excuse for an old man's spy flick... but that it really, truly is differently bad.

If you need a bit more convincing, my wife agrees with me. This tastes awful. You should try it.

Our boy is out of the house for five nights at camp, so we got Chinese food and streamed the movie from Amazon. I figured... Kevin Costner. OK. He's easy to watch. I usually like him. Luc Besson was one of the writers. OK... he's done some fun stuff. But what started out as a kind of... disappointingly cookie-cutter old/ex spy flick turned into something very, very close to theater of the absurd. Please note: I am now going to spoil the movie. So if you want to watch it and be surprised, stop reading. I guarantee, however, that your enjoyment will not be diminished by knowing what's coming. Because, like finding a post-it note on your plate beneath the piece of key lime pie you just finished, knowing it's there only makes you more curious about... what the hell? Here are some thing that happen in this movie, in no particular order:
  • He is diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer that has metastasized to his lungs. I don't know if this is a real thing, and I'm not sure why it wasn't just lung cancer. There was no reason why it shouldn't just be lung cancer, except...
  • A sexy CIA agent (who seems to be 22 or so) offers him an expensive, experimental drug that might save him or give him more time than the 3-5 months the doctor predicts.
  • The experimental drug causes seizures that can be alleviated with vodka. 
  • I am not kidding.
  • The main bad guys are "The Albino" (who is an albino), and "The Wolf," (who is not a wolf). 
  • Still not kidding.
  • Elevator decapitation
  • A family of charming Jamaican (I think?) squatters living in his house. Whom he threatens, then allows to stay. Until the grown daughter has a baby. That is then named after him; Ethan.
  • Subway decapitation.
  • Going on a nice daddy/daughter date on carnival swings and for cocoa, followed directly by daughter going to a club where she's roofied and nearly gang raped. After which dad teachers her how to ride a bike.
  • After which, at some point, dad teaches her how to dance in preparation for her prom... to the song, "I'd like to make it with you."
  • Applying a car battery to a fellow's ears to torture information out of him, and later asking the same man for advice about how to raise a daughter. 
  • Threatening to torture another man and then asking him to describe, over the phone to his daughter, a recipe for Italian spaghetti sauce.
There's more. There's a very odd moment where the sexy CIA agent is telling him that, "You must not stop until you kill the Wolf," but the words, "the Wolf" are really, really badly dubbed in. Like, you can see her saying, "My koala bear," but the sounds that come out are, "The Wolf."

At some point, I began hoping that this whole film was an "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" thing. Or an art piece. That there'd be a bit at the end where we'd find out that it was all a fever dream while he's in the hospital waiting to die. Because he gets his wife back, of course. After killing 20 or so guys at his daughter's boyfriends father's partner's pre-prom party while she (daughter) blithely has romantic eye-contact with the boyfriend in a room two doors down from the killin'. Because, of course, his daughter's boyfriend's father's partner is... The Wolf!

But there's no twist. It just ends like so many other thrillers, with a kind of shrug/grin about all the killing, a promise to try harder, and a pull-away shot of the sexy CIA agent watching over the beach house and nodding knowingly. 

It's fantastically bad. Partly because the actors are really quite good. The cinematography is good. It's got budget. It's got well choreographed fight scenes. For fuck sake, it's got Kevin Costner. Who, while not 1982 Kevin Costner, is still not 2014 Mickey Rourke.

So... I honestly suggest that while this tastes awful... you should try it. I'm truly glad I watched it all the way through. It's like an outfit you see on a mannequin that you think must be a joke... but you need to spend 15 minutes finding a clerk to reassure you and... no. No joke. The ensemble is available for purchase.

On a scale of 1-5 stars, I'd rate this movie "Frosted Donkey."