Archives 2019

A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: "UNCUT GEMS" – 1.0

 
“Uncut Gems” – 1 out of 10.
 
In a word:  Frenetic
     If you like good movies don’t bother seeing “Uncut Gems.” It’s the greatest waste of viewer dollars I’ve seen in a long time.
     The premise of the plot:  A crime thriller about Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler), a New York City jeweler always on the lookout for the next big score. When he makes a series of high-stakes bets that could lead to the windfall of a lifetime, Howard must perform a high-risk and dangerous act, balancing business, family, and adversaries on all sides in his pursuit of the ultimate victory.
     The movie had way too many implausible scenes. For  example, the bad guys kidnap Ratner, drive him around then bring him to where his own car is parked. There, the bad guys strip him nude and deposit him into the trunk. Minutes later, in the darkness of the trunk, Ratner is using his cell phone to call his wife, who, in fact, comes to help him out.
     Cell phone in the darkness of an auto trunk? Naked?
     If you like the sounds and optics of New York City, viewers will get plenty of that. People who are concerned about crime and vulgarity, prepare for an overdose, particularly the “F” bomb and “MF” that seems to adorn every sentence of dialogue. In some spots, the dialogue is lost in all the frenzy because we cannot hear over the relentless screaming by people or the blaring of backdrop music which would be better used as a “hands off” torture technique at Gitmo.
     We walked out after an hour. 
     Pure junk film.
     I give it a 1 out of 10, only because Sandler is a surprisingly adept actor. 
Uncut Gems (2019) – IMDb

HOW TO REFORM LAW ENFORCEMENT – OP-ED – M. FRANK

(This article appears in news OpEd, Florida Today, this date.)
 

After serving 30 years in Miami-Dade County law enforcement — plus managing a major national security company for four more — I’ve seen my share of problems concerning life, death, crime, security and justice. There is so much to overhaul and streamline, it would exceed the limits for newsprint so I’ll narrow my views to a sampling of ideas.

If I had the magic wand, I would…

  • Do away with electing sheriffs in counties by appointing chiefs/directors much like what’s done in municipalities. It has worked effectively in Miami-Dade County since 1966. Such a system diminishes politics and does away with good-old-boys, or its perception.
  • Renovate the system of small city/town departments by merging local governments for efficiency. This would be more effective with the focus on services, training, and coordinating criminal matters. The four municipalities along 15 miles of Highway A1A is patrolled by four small departments under four police chiefs and its mini-bureaucracies. That could be reduced to one.
  • Reduce jail and prison populations by invoking the European model, which hands out far shorter or lesser sentences while converting savings into funds for training and education.
  • Help prisoners re-adapt to society after being caged for decades. A huge number of prisoners who return to society have no support system or opportunities to survive, particularly with criminal records. This often results in choice recidivism, i.e. convicts who commit crimes in order to return “home.”
  • Decriminalize prostitution and establish laws that protect the consumers. This would legitimize, sanitize and control such unenforceable “crimes” that have been in the service business for centuries, regardless of laws.
  • Reestablish a method by which we could identify people suffering from serious psychotic issues, even insanity, and rebuild our sanitarium systems as welcoming medical centers to treat the mentally ill — before they commit a crime, not after. This would include reserving space for prison inmates who are suffering from severe mental disorders.
  • Abolish the death penalty, which is not a deterrent. It is an outrageous cost to taxpayers while the risks of killing an innocent are far too great even if only one in a thousand. The system is too flawed, as we’ve seen locally in Brevard County alone with too many innocent men being wrongfully convicted (that we know of). The state should not be in the business of killing
  • Invoke a compromise in the abortion dilemma.  Keep abortions legal for women in the first trimester, or fourth month, but prohibit late terms except to save the life of the mother. This should keep everyone happy without re-igniting the abortion black market, which was a nightmare for cops and courts. I know. I was there.
  • Appoint a civilian committee made up of legal, social and law enforcement personnel, to redesign drug laws that would put more emphasis on control, treatment and mental health, rather than banishing users into prison cells for mega-years. That would also impact the supply side by decriminalizing many laws, thus paralyzing the black market that destroys lives indiscriminately while filling prisons.
  • Do away with minimum-mandatory sentences. Statutes generally come with a certain number of years to serve if found guilty in court regardless of mitigating circumstances. Prosecutors use these laws to an advantage, often threatening defendants with long sentences while securing a guilty plea in exchange for a reduced sentence. Meanwhile, judges are stripped from exercising judicial discretion.
  • Restart policies for community policing throughout America, establishing productive, eye-to-eye relationships between citizens and businesses. Just check where such programs have been enacted with success and follow that lead.
  • Within strict procedural and social limits, states should allow for “stop-and-frisk” policies. It’s a policy that was enormously effective under two New York City mayors, saving hundreds of lives.

There is more, but that’s a start. Anyone listening?

How to reform law enforcement, from a retired cop 

A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: "RICHARD JEWELL" – 7.5

“RICHARD JEWELL” – 7.5
In a word:  Awakening
     This is a Clint Eastwood film, who at the age of 89, is one of the great wonders of the world, delving into the depths of the actual story then making it come alive in film. This was a good movie, but not one of his best. That’s saying a lot, because most of his films have been first class.
     Fans going to see this film must first know that it is intended to be a docudrama, based on a true story that focuses around an overweight frumpy security guard who was a police-wannabe, working for a company which assigned him a guard role at the 1996 Olympics in Atanta where – amid the throes of thousands of citizens – he (Jewell) discovers a suspicious backpack under a bench in Centennial Park. His frenetic actions warning everyone in the area, caught the attention of police and other security personnel, though his allegations about a package with a bomb inside was doubted by many. Shortly after he began screaming at people to get back, “Get Back,” sure enough a bomb exploded. Two died, scores were injured. There would have been more victims if not for Jewell’s actions.
     Without revealing the most important aspects of the investigation, suffice to say that the law enforcement community, headed by FBI, focused entirely on Richard Jewell as the prime suspect, to the exclusion of anyone else. With all the interrogations and searches and humiliation, it changed his life forever.  
     Besides what happened to Jewell, a strong message in the film depicts how investigations should not be conducted and how media, in the hunt for the big story, can get it wrong. When authorities form a narrow focus on one individual based on unsupported circumstances that prove nothing, and refuse to expand the probe elsewhere, they are violating the rules of evidence and recklessly stomping on the rights of individuals. This reminds me of the Bill Dillon and Wilton Dedge cases in the early 1980s in Florida that stripped innocent men of their freedom for decades by concocting false evidence for no other reason than “winning.”
     Paul Howser deftly plays the key role of Richard Jewell, while veteran actor, Sam Rockwell plays an Oscar-worthy performance as Jewell’s lawyer. What I liked the least about the movie, were a number of scenes and dialogue that seemed amateurish, departing from reality in depicting police conduct and procedures. As a former career cop, those scenes felt like the proverbial “fingernails on the blackboard.”  For that, we’d have to call out the writers, and I suppose, the director.
     Regardless, it’s a movie worth seeing and a story worth knowing about. In real life, this was about selecting a target, then contriving evidence to support an untruth. This, according to the film, was clearly the fault of the prime FBI investigator and a story-thirsty reporter.
     I give this a 7.5 out of 10.  
Richard Jewell (2019) – IMDb

TO WIN THE WAR ON DRUGS: LEGALIZE

(This Op-Ed by yours truly appears in today’s issue of Florida Today)
On Nov. 8, just 70 miles south of the U.S. border into Mexico, drug cartel savages opened fire on three American adults and six children, burning and killing them all. Murder is commonplace. It’s not so unusual in Mexico to see bodies hanging from bridges. 
Why? It’s all about messages.
It’s no mystery. Cartels have been killing for years. No matter how many authorities claim they are fighting the drug war, too many — here and abroad — are beholden to warlords, in fear for their lives and the lives of loved ones, so the carnage continues all for money and drugs.
Mexico’s president was criticized recently after he declared a policy of “hugs not guns” in fighting the drug war. He’s too smart to be that stupid.
Arresting drug chieftain El Chapo was good news, though it accomplished nothing. No more than believing that radical Islamic Jihad is stunted because Bin Laden was killed. Great news, perhaps. Nothing changed. Drugs continue to flow. People die.
There are some who have suggested that domestic wars would be over if drugs were legalized. Hmm. Interesting thought. In fact, there is an organization called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) in which present and former police officers have banded together to further that idea. Crushing black markets via legalizing puts a new face on the situation. It might be worth thinking about this. LEAP is an organization of criminal justice communities who oppose the “War on Drugs” to be replaced with a system of legalized regulation as more efficient in dealing with drug use, abuse and addiction.
According to the Drug Policy Allowance, the U.S. spends $47 billion a year fighting the lost drug war. In 2018, that translated to 1.6 million drug arrests. That’s a lot of court dockets and prison cells. Over 200 thousand people have been killed in Mexico’s drug wars since 2006.
Whatever happened to the old adage about doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results? Why don’t we have leaders who think outside the proverbial box?
Black markets drive crime rates, in many modes, not just drug wars.
Does anyone really think that keeping prostitution illegal is going to stop prostitution? The black market has been driving prostitution for centuries. The world’s oldest profession is doing just fine under the radar, where police do their share of expanding criminal records and jail terms. If a hooker gets lucky she can opt to become an informant for other crimes. Las Vegas has the right idea. Legalize, license, tax, zone and medically control. It works fine in Nevada. Why put people in jail? What good does that do, America?
If former presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke had his way with criminalizing the sale and ownership of firearms, he would have created the mother of all black markets. He should be the poster boy for naivety. Americans may tolerate some form of firearm regulations, but they would never cede to erase Amendment 2. 
What happened when Uncle Sam restricted the consumption of alcohol during Prohibition from 1920 to 1933? The black market thrived while people drank themselves silly. Organized crime was in seventh heaven, thank you Congress. It was another failure in trying to control what cannot be controlled in a free society.
If we made all abortions illegal, we’d spark another black market where novices and butchers conduct the procedures in animal vets and backroom parlors. That’s the way it was prior to Roe v. Wade. I know. I was there.
Some behaviors simply cannot be legalized. Like it or not, deterrents are necessary in order to control and prevent dastardly activities such as child pornography, sex trafficking or slavery. But if we didn’t need to deploy 800,000 cops in the U.S. to fight unwinnable crime wars, we’d have far less than 2.2 million people wasting away in prisons, therefore creating a windfall of savings to the taxpayer.
Perhaps if we diverted the gigantic cost savings from eliminating drug wars into programs that aid and treat drug addicts and the mentally ill, tax money would be better spent. We might actually safe lives.
 

A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: "MIDWAY" – 8.5 (M. Frank)

“MIDWAY”  –  8.5
 
     In a word: Deja Vu
Here’s the short version. “Midway” is a well-made war movie, but if you’re a middle-aged (or older) you will think you’re seeing the 1970 version, “Tora Tora Tora” all over again. It’s a remake, a la, scene after scene of American pilots flying, bombing and diving over Japanese war ships.
Just as in “Tora,” Yamamoto is often featured as the Japanese leader aboard his battleship leading the enemy into an invasion of Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, and later, reciting the same phrase “I fear we have awakened a sleeping giant.”
Certainly, with technology advanced over nearly 50 years, the action shots are more spectacular and frightening. And, while the Pearl Harbor raid is well-recreated at the beginning of the film, the later objective is to defeat the Japanese air and naval forces at a crucial setting at the Midway atoll, in the Pacific. The movie certainly highlights the bravery and valor of the American military heroes as they finally claim victory over the enemy but not before thousands lose their lives. Without a doubt, some filming shots are visually spectacular, as the American commanders and soldiers fight with valor.
Acting is good, though some of the lines in the early part of the movie, I thought, were too corny and amateurish for such an epic film. Main roles, such as Admiral Chester Nimitz and General Jimmy Doolittle, were deftly played by Woody Harrelson and Aaron Eckhart. But the Oscar nominations are more likely to be assigned for Cinematography, Editing and Special Effects. In a technical sense, some scenes were simply head-shakers.
I couldn’t help but think of other movies made about the Midway Atoll conflict, including a 1976 release, same title, same story, starring Henry Fonda and Charlton Heston.
Yet, seeing another “Tora” movie brings the rating down a couple points. Even the back-and-forth cross-sections of dialogue is the same, with the focus on shifting points of view from Japanese military leaders, with sub-titles, and then American men in the fighting mode. That’s a carbon copy from “Tora.”
If a revived Gone With The Wind were to be remade, I would certainly go see it. However, I hesitate to think any man in the modern era would tell his woman, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
In the modern era, advances in special effects, filming and sound, such as sensurround, can blow your eardrums off. Regardless, this is a tremendous motion picture. Very little profanity issues, no sex, but … violence?
Darn right.
I give this movie a rating 8 ½ out of 10.
 
Midway (2019) – IMDb